Montreal has been all talk, no action on racial profiling, says Quebec's human rights commission


Philippe-André Tessier, president of Quebec's human rights commission, said for years, the city has talked a good game when it comes to addressing systemic racism.

But, he said, it's done next to nothing to deal with it — especially when it comes to racial profiling by police.

Tessier presented the commission's brief Wednesday, the last day of public hearings during the first-ever consultation on systemic racism and discrimination.

The commission made 19 recommendations, including measures to guard against discriminatory employment practices and access to affordable housing. It also called for an end to police street checks.

Tessier said the commission is encouraged by the language the city is using around street checks — last month, city council adopted a motion last month calling for police to put an end to the practice.

However, such a move requires the approval of the province — something Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said will require further study. 

The SPVM has no plans to do so in the meantime and says it is creating a policy on how to better conduct street checks.

Tessier wants the city to come up with a policy to address systemic racism and discrimination, and then measure how well it's being implemented.

He said collecting data about racial profiling would be a useful tool, and the commission has suggested the city do so in the past — to no avail.

"While the city does say they want to tackle that issue… we're still waiting on an actual result on the very specific matter of data analysis and data collection."

A grassroots movement

Activist and McGill law student Balarama Holness helped gather 20,000 signatures in favour of holding the public consultation.

He said the consultation was the definition of a grassroots movement — citizens coming together to force the city to address an issue.

Holness said he feels as though the city's public consultation body, the OCPM, did a "phenomenal" job during the five-month process.

The OCPM will submit its final report to the city some time next spring. That, he said, will be when the real work will begin.

"Can we get civil society, elected officials, organizations to actually implement the recommendations? That will be the challenge," he said.