THE POLICE – What’s new in Montreal?

…..picking up from the October 23 posting.

Police in Montreal seem somehow different than in Toronto. Are Montreal cops less retrained, more aggressive, militaristic and cocky, as if there is an ultra-alpha police culture at work in the force? At the same time, self-ennoblement allows a level of benevolence missing elsewhere. Or do we in Toronto miss subtle cultural influences that are only perceptual?

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In the early 1960s, the writer befriended a family transplanted to Toronto from Montreal when the husband’s employer promoted him to a position in their Bay Street head office. The couple, originally from the Maritimes, moved to Montreal for a job opportunity and raised a family there. Driving in downtown Toronto one day and passing a police traffic stop, this man recalled a Montreal habit he abandoned after arriving in Toronto. Montreal drivers, he said, were wise to tuck a five-dollar bill into their wallets with their license. That sometimes avoided a summons if the police pulled them over.

Later, in the mid-1970s, while visiting a Toronto friend living in Montreal, the writer was driven on a tour of the old city. Slowly cruising downhill on a quiet Sunday morning, the distracted friend didn’t notice a red light and braked as the car skidded into the intersection. He had no choice but to coast through the intersection; luckily there was no opposing traffic, but a police cruiser was parked at the opposite curb in full view of the infraction. We continued cautiously and slowly, the cruiser did not move, and finally the friend said quietly, “You must remember that in Montreal, red lights are only a suggestion.”

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“The Montreal police force engages in systemic racial profiling that targets Arab, black and Indigenous people, a report by independent academics and commissioned by the city has found.”

So began the account by Montreal reporter Les Perreaux published in Toronto’s Globe and Mail on October 8, referring to a comprehensive study released the day before.

Described as the most exhaustive study of police racial profiling in Canada, sociologists Victor Armory and Mariam Hassaoui along with criminologist Massimiliano Mulone assembled data from tens of thousands of incident reports from 2014 to 2017. They found police stops increased 143 per cent during those years, even though the level of crime in the city remained constant. Indigenous people and Arabs accounted for most of the increase. Overall, black people are four times more likely to be stopped than whites, indigenous people 4.61 times more likely, and an Arab person twice the rate for a white person.

Black and Indigenous advocacy groups have been calling for action on racial profiling for years, and a Quebec inquiry on Indigenous people released at the beginning of October supported the claim of “systemic discrimination” against that community. As the Perreaux article continued, “Other advocates were startled by the scope of the problem, which has not improved after a series of incidents, reports and police promises over a decade.” Instead, the Montreal police force has denied a problem exists.

With the release of this report, Montreal’s police chief and the city’s mayor have committed to take “concrete” and “vigorous” action on its recommendations, and to make solutions a priority. In the meantime, various community groups have called for an end to street checks….an end to carding.

Quoted in the Globe, Nakuset, the director of the Montreal Native Women’s Shelter said, “We’ll see what they do this time.”

Reprise: Note there are ‘good cops’ in all police services who work in the best interests of the people they serve and respect their badges of office and what they represent. Unfortunately, that formidable police blue wall silences these men and women, shackling them to a corrupt code that challenges good order and threatens community safety.

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