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'Driving while Black' case brings reform to race-based policing

Last Updated Nov 23, 2020 at 5:15 pm MST

MONTREAL (CityNews) – A Montreal man has won his racial profiling case against south shore police for a “driving while Black” stop.

Joel DeBellefeuille was driving in Montreal’s south shore in 2012 when he says he was followed by Longueuil police for 11 blocks. They intercepted him for a random street check as he dropped his son off at daycare.

He immediately filed a civil rights complaint but the police ethics committee closed the file in 2016, after a commissioner dropped the case. In 2018, the Quebec human rights and youth rights commission awarded DeBellefeuille 12-thousand-dollars in damages and that Longueuil police enact training on racial profiling, but they refused to comply.

WATCH MORE: Driving while black: a years-long battle

The tribunal has now issued a 68-page decision ordering the city and officer involved to pay the initial sum awarded and must implement training – as per the 2018 decision – but Longueuil police must also collect and publish annual race-based data

Quebec’s human rights tribunal ordered the city of Longueuil, a former, and a current Longueuil police officer to pay DeBellefeuille $12,000 in a fight he hopes his son won’t have to face.

“With him carrying the last name DeBellefeuille in the area he may targeted as well but at least he knows what to expect from it,” DeBellefeuille said.

The decision is a big win says Fo Niemi from the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations, which has been fighting for this data collection for decades.

RELATED: Racial profiling case heard by Quebec Human Rights Tribunal

“A long time discussion whether it’s possible whether its desirable or legal. Now the tribunal says it’s legal and it’s mandatory so it will have universal consequences not only in policing but many areas in public services,” explained Niemi.

“This is about being able to drive the car of your choice without being stopped without being controlled at every stop,” added Niemi.

“I would rinse, wash, repeat and do the exact same thing again. You know because it has to stop. There has to be a time where everybody throws in the gloves and stops the fight and wave the white flag,” said DeBellefeuille.

CityNews reached out to Longueil police, which said in an email that they are analyzing the judgment and will not comment further.