‘Driving while Black’ demonstration hits the streets of Montreal

Two Haitian Canadian queens take part in the Driving While Black protest in Montreal

MONTREAL – Long lines of  motor vehicles driven by Black drivers hit the streets here on Sunday as part of a demonstration to denounce racial profiling, and to bring awareness to the phenomenon of “driving while Black,” in which members of the Black community are frequently stopped by police.

The demonstration took place a few days before the Montreal police service (SPVM) is  due  to unveil its new policy on street checks, in response to an independent report published last October that found visible minorities are more likely to be stopped than white people by Montreal police officers.

 The report found there were “significant, widespread and persistent disproportions” of racialized people who are stopped by police officers, and pointed to the “presence of systemic biases” linked to race during police interventions.

It included five recommendations for the police department, including creating a policy around stopping individuals and addressing the issue of racial profiling in its plans, programs and practices.

The new policy is set to come out Wednesday.

Kenrick McRae, whose racial profiling complaint led to a police ethics committee decision in December that found two Montreal officers acted unlawfully when they detained and arrested him, participated in the demonstration.

 McRea who drives a Mercedes-Benz, said he’s been stopped by police so many times in Montreal, it’s like a routine.

“Sometimes they ask me where I got money to buy this car, or what kind of job I have.”

Tiffany Callender, a community worker in Côte-des-Neiges, said many Black mothers she works with are scared to let their sons and husbands drive distances due to the dangers of being racially profiled.

“They actually try to recommend that the young drivers in their family take public transport, and that’s not normal,” Callender said.

Callender hopes the  new policy will be effective, hold the SPVM accountable, and create a process that people can trust.

“We need something that is going to be concrete and has real impact to change that experience that black drivers have, because it has an impact on our wellness, on our mental health,” Callender said, adding that it’s also a financial burden to fight these instances in court.

It’s time for action, borough councillor says

Two motorcades with Black drivers, one that left from the west and one from the east end of Montreal, gathered near Namur Metro station at 3 p.m.

Miss Haiti Canada 2019-2020 Soukaïna Tropnas-Lahens attended the event, and Mme Haiti Canada 2019-2020 Maddana Calix-Antoine of the Du Jireh Gospel of Montreal sang O Canada.

Several city and borough councillors also attended the demonstration.

Pierre-Antoine, borough councillor for Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles, said it’s time for action to combat systemic racism in the city’s police force.

“There have been charters, reports, many committees that have put down reports, made recommendations to stop racial profiling and discrimination and racism. But enough is enough. We are tired with words,” she said.

Pierre-Antoine said in order for change to happen, there needs to be better representation of racialized communities in city council.

 A more recent report by the city’s public consultation office (OCPM) says major changes are needed to combat racial profiling in Montreal’s police force.

It calls for two experts on racial profiling to be added to the city’s public security committee and for changes to police training.

The report says an “understanding of the phenomenon of racial and social profiling” and “the necessary skills to bring about a change in the culture of the organization” should be requirements for hiring the city’s chief of police