Lawsuit in the works following Montreal police arrest showing officer kneeling on neck of Black teen

·2 min read
Fernando Belton, the lawyer representing the families of the two boys. (Sarah Leavitt / CBC - image credit)
Fernando Belton, the lawyer representing the families of the two boys. (Sarah Leavitt / CBC - image credit)

The families of two boys arrested in Villeray this month have hired a lawyer and are preparing to file a lawsuit against the City of Montreal and its police department, the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM).

One of the arrests caused a public outcry — and calls for an independent inquiry — after a Montreal police officer was filmed putting a knee to the neck of a Black teen.

Another arrest a block away was also filmed, showing a boy leaning against a fence before being grabbed by officers and thrown to the ground.

"We want our kids to be safe, we want the city to be safe," said Fernando Belton, the lawyer representing the families of the two boys.

"We want the police to be doing the work, but to be doing good police work doesn't mean to brutalize children when we arrest them."

No official paperwork has been filed yet. The families are also considering filing a complaint to the police ethics committee.

Screen shot from video obtained by Radio-Canada
Screen shot from video obtained by Radio-Canada

"It's really difficult for them because something has been broken," Belton said.

"The image of their children being safe, being treated like everyone else? That image is broken forever."

It's their right to sue, says Montreal mayor

When questioned about the arrests last week, Montreal police noted officers were responding to a call from Georges-Vanier high school about a fight involving more than a dozen young people from various schools.

They claim the 14-year-old in the now-viral video resisted being searched, and pushed an officer away. Police found a stun gun in his bag.

Rowan Kennedy / CBC
Rowan Kennedy / CBC

The SPVM says the other boy ran away from officers. Neither boy has faced any charges so far.

"There are a lot of questions that need to be answered by the SPVM and as for this lawsuit, I respect their right of wanting to have answers and to pursue with a lawsuit," said Mayor Valérie Plante. "It's their right."

Plante said she is awaiting results from the investigation into the arrest promised by the SPVM.

"What we saw is very preoccupying. We want to make sure any type of techniques that are used are proper ones," she said.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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