Quebec police to pay $61K for profiling Black mother and son

Malik Spaulding-Smith

Quebec’s human rights commission has called on a suburban police force in the province to pay a young Black man and his mother more than $60,000 in damages, after arresting and detaining him and searching their home four years ago.

Malik Spaulding-Smith, who was 20 at the time of his arrest in June 2017, had been sitting in his car smoking a cigarette a couple of blocks from his home in Saint-Constant, Que., on Montreal’s South Shore, because his parents did not know about his nicotine habit.

The neighbour whose home Spaulding-Smith was parked in front of came outside and asked him to leave, which Spaulding-Smith said he did soon afterward.

But moments after the 20-year-old returned home, he opened his front door to a formation of police officers pointing guns at him.

At the time, Spaulding-Smith said he counted 12 squad cars and nine officers who had pistols pointing at him, and another officer across the street with an assault rifle pointed in his direction.

Spaulding-Smith was arrested and held alone in a jail cell for nine hours. He was ultimately released, but says he was left emotionally scarred and believed he was racially profiled.

The Quebec Human Rights Commission wrote in its decision that the evidence in the case is strong enough to show Spaulding-Smith was a victim of discrimination and racial profiling.

It is recommending Roussillon police, which is responsible for several South Shore communities, pay $44,000 to Spaulding-Smith for moral damages and $17,000 to his mother.

If the police service does not follow the commission’s recommendations, the case will be submitted to the province’s human rights tribunal.

The Montreal-based Centre for Research Action on Race Relations, which has assisted the family, said Spaulding-Smith’s arrest wasn’t his first or last experience with racial profiling by police.

“My Black friends and myself have been so often stopped by the police, as if we don’t belong and that we don’t have a right to drive the kind of cars we want and go freely where we want,” he said in a news release.

Spaulding-Smith said his house was searched in the incident and that he was told by police that someone had called 911 to say that a man in a suspicious vehicle had fired a gun outside his home.

Police later revealed they had called Hydro-Québec and found out an electrical problem made the sound, not a gunshot.

While Spaulding-Smith was being handcuffed, he said he told police they were being racist, but that they just laughed in response.

As police were searching their home, Spaulding-Smith’s mother, Suzette Spaulding, was not able to return before 8:30 that night.

The Quebec human rights commission decision reveals the neighbour who called 911 when Spaulding-Smith was parked outside was an off-duty police officer.

The man told police in the call that his daughter had connections to street gangs and that one of their members had fired a gun at his home.

“We are, of course, happy because we feel vindicated, although no amount of money could repair the trauma my son has experienced in the last four years,” Suzette Spaulding said.