Montreal settles with Black woman whose arm was broken by police

Majiza Philip .

What was supposed to be a fun night out for Majiza Philip and her roommate Shane in 2014, turned into a broken arm and months of depression and anxiety after being arrested by Montreal police officers.

Now, almost eight years later, the City of Montreal has reached an out-of-court settlement with Philip after she filed a $700,000 civil suit against the municipality and police officers Éric Sabourin and Steve Thibert. Philip will receive just under $95,000.

What happened to Philip is an event she won’t soon forget.

Philip and her friend went to a rap concert at a downtown Montreal concert hall in November 2014. After the show, officers arrested her friend for being drunk in public and placed him in the back of a police cruiser.

Philip tapped on the police car window to tell him she would meet him at the police station with his coat and belongings.

Fo Niemi

It was then that officers claimed Philip tried to break the cruiser’s window trying to free O’Brien. Three officers arrested her, breaking her left arm in the process. She now has a long scar after surgery to repair the injury.

Months later, while filing a complaint with the Police Ethics Commission, Philip learned to her surprise that she was facing charges in municipal court for assaulting police officers and obstructing justice.

Judge Katia Mouscardy acquitted her of all charges, casting doubt on the officers’ version of events in the 2017 trial.

“The testimony heard in prosecution gives the impression that one tried to camouflage an intervention that took a bad turn,” she wrote in her ruling. “The multiple contradictions and oversights in the police testimony force the Court to question their willingness to truthfully relate what happened with Philip.”

Philip believes officers treated her differently that night in 2014 because she is Black.

“I teach a fair amount of white children, and so it’s actually a very sensitive thing to have to bring up because they look at me with such hope and love,” said Philip.

Philip’s lawyer says he doesn’t know why the city decided to settle with his client. But Max Silverman believes the evidence in Philip’s favour was overwhelming and that may have played a role.

This is the second case in recent days that the city has settled involving police and a Black person, and where racial profiling was brought up as a contributing factor in the actions of the officers involved.

Last week, it was announced that Montreal has settled with the family of Pierre Coriolan, a 58-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by police in 2017.

Fo Niemi from Montreal’s Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) has worked with Philip on this file since her arrest.

He says it was a responsible move on the city’s behalf to settle, and avoid an expensive trial at taxpayers’ expense. But more importantly, he feels it might signal a new way of dealing with racialized communities.

“The city may be taking a new approach to resolving this situation, and also hopefully to create a new bond of trust with the Black and other racialized groups in the city,” said Niemi.

Niemi says he knows of other cases involving the city, either before the Human Rights Tribunal of Quebec or the courts, where the city appears willing to settle.