Civil liberties group joins court challenge to end unfounded traffic stops in Quebec

·2 min read

MONTREAL — The Canadian Civil Liberties Association announced Tuesday it will join in a constitutional challenge in Quebec of police powers to carry out roadside checks without reasonable cause.

The case involves Joseph-Christopher Luamba, a Montreal man in his early 20s who is seeking a judgment to amend or declare unconstitutional the common law rule granting police the right to stop a motor vehicle without any suspicion an offence has been committed.

The plaintiff alleges before Quebec Superior Court that the practice violates a number of rights guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The CCLA said it has received intervener status in the case, which means it will be able to bring evidence and support Luamba when the case goes to trial. A trial date has not been set.

Luamba's attorney did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. The CCLA said in a statement that police powers to carry out roadside checks without suspicion are excessive. "This power is unjustified, arbitrary, and represents a significant violation of individual rights guaranteed by the Charter," the group said.

Luamba alleges in the court filing that since receiving his driver's licence in March 2019, he has been pulled over based on his race in April, October and November 2019 and again in May 2020. Three of the alleged stops took place in Montreal and the last one was in Gatineau, Que. None resulted in any charges.

The filing alleges the police powers contravene the rights to liberty, dignity, equality, as well as protections against unreasonable searches and arbitrary detention. Luamba is seeking changes to both the Criminal Code and the Quebec Highway Safety Code, and his filing lists the attorneys general of Canada and Quebec as defendants. The document, originally filed with the court in November 2020 and revised in February, gives Luamba's age as 20 at the time of filing.

The document cites a 2019 independent report by Quebec academics that found Montreal police displayed “systemic bias” in conducting street checks, with people from certain racialized groups much more likely than others to be stopped. Among the findings were that Black and Indigenous Montrealers are between four and five times more likely to be subjected to so-called street checks.

The filing argues that in the face of a police power that discriminates against some Canadians and impacts the human dignity of many citizens, "it seems undeniable that the common rule law challenged in the current case gives rise to a situation of abuse that the Superior Court must redress."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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