A Black man challenging a fine he received in Montreal is heading back to municipal court for a fifth time to draw attention to racial profiling.
Lincoln Kerr, 68, from the neighbourhood of Côte-des-Neiges, has been to four municipal court hearings since March, contesting a $483 fine he received for allegedly breaching the Highway Safety Code in 2019.
“I’m very much stressed out from that time until now because it keeps dragging on,” he said.
He’s been pursuing his case on principle, he says, to “show the Black public that they’re not safe with the police … and especially those [Black people] driving a car.”
Two Montreal police officers followed Kerr in July 2019 while he was driving his partner’s car to the KFC restaurant at the corner of Barclay and Victoria avenues. When he moved toward the restaurant, officers ordered him to return to his car or face arrest.
One officer said the presence of rust on the car was the initial reason for stopping Kerr, and the fact that Kerr called 911 after he was stopped made it a case of “public mischief.” The ticket was issued for interfering with the police officers’ work.
But Quebec’s Human Rights Commission said in a report that there was no reason for Kerr being stopped “other than he was driving a vehicle.” The commission found no justification for eight officers and four police cars to be deployed.
A Superior Court ruling in October changed the legal landscape for cases like Kerr’s, said Fo Niemi, the executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations.
Judge Michel Yergeau ruled Quebec police must cease making stops without cause after hearing the testimony of Joseph-Christopher Luamba, a 22-year-old Black Montrealer, who told the court he had been stopped by police for no reason about 10 times while in a vehicle, within 18 months of getting his driver’s licence.
The Yergeau ruling challenges a precedent set by the Supreme Court on police powers and further acknowledges the existence of racial profiling in the province.
“Because of Luamba, Mr. Kerr’s case acquired a dimension in which race will certainly be a factor to be debated before the judge,” Niemi said.
Kerr has won his case in the past. In December 2019, the province’s Human Rights Commission recommended Montreal police to pay Kerr $28,000 for violating his rights, but its decisions are non-binding
Kerr insists that even if he were to receive compensation, the money “wouldn’t change [his] life.”
His next hearing in municipal court is scheduled for December.
The case before the Human Rights Tribunal will go to mediation on March 23.