Quebec Human Rights Commission says police stop of biracial couple was not profiling

·5 min read
Quebec Human Rights Commission says police stop of biracial couple was not profiling
An eyewitness cellphone video captured the arrest of Brian Mann in April 2018 after police accused him and his girfriend, Tayana Jacques, of
An eyewitness cellphone video captured the arrest of Brian Mann in April 2018 after police accused him and his girfriend, Tayana Jacques, of

A Montreal man who filed a complaint with Quebec's Human Rights Commission alleging racial profiling by Montreal police says the commission's investigation into the incident was flawed and incomplete.

Brian Mann and his girlfriend Tayana Jacques each received $444 tickets for excessive noise and were charged with obstruction of justice after an incident on St-Laurent Boulevard in April 2018.

The couple filed a complaint with the commission and, in a decision in January, the commission concluded there was no evidence of profiling.

Mann told reporters at an online news conference Thursday the decision was "completely bogus."

"It was a complete sham. If you look at what they wrote in the actual report, it doesn't mention anything that we submitted to them, any of the facts," Mann said.

He said the commission never interviewed him or Jacques about the incident, or other any other eyewitnesses who came forward. He also said commission investigators never watched a cellphone video that captured part of the incident.

The written decision from the commission only makes reference to a single police report as the basis for its conclusion.

"It was swept under the rug, taking one police officer's report and blanketing over a whole, very complicated situation," Mann said.

Jacques died in an accident in 2019 but Mann is continuing the fight.

'Talking too loudly'

Mann and Jacques were walking on St-Laurent on a Saturday morning to get breakfast. They said they were chatting and laughing when two police officers pulled up beside them. The officers told them they were "talking too loudly" and disturbing the peace.

Mann said that Jacques was then handcuffed and searched. He said when he questioned why officers were doing that, more officers arrived, threw him to the ground and pepper-sprayed him.

The Human Rights Commission said Mann and Jacques refused to identify themselves to officers and that Mann was "aggressive" and resisted arrest.

Tayana Jacques, Mann's girlfriend at the time of the incident, passed away after an accident in 2019.  Mann said Jacques was determined to proceed with the Human Rights complaint because she believed she and Mann had done nothing wrong.
Tayana Jacques, Mann's girlfriend at the time of the incident, passed away after an accident in 2019. Mann said Jacques was determined to proceed with the Human Rights complaint because she believed she and Mann had done nothing wrong.(Verity Stevenson/CBC)

The decision also said officers concluded that Mann and Jacques were intoxicated.

The eyewitness cellphone video that Mann submitted to the commission doesn't show the lead-up to the arrest, but it does show six officers subduing Mann and throwing him to the ground.

Commission accepts police version of events

Mann and Jacques alleged that officers overreacted because Jacques was Black, and that Mann was a victim of discrimination by association.

The commission disagreed.

"The evidence shows the officers had a valid reason to intervene with the suspect (Mann)," the decision said.

"The actions of the officers toward the suspect in the pursuit of their intervention, in particular the use of force, were linked, according to the evidence gathered, with his refusal to collaborate, his strong resistance and his aggressiveness," the report says.

Although the commission accepted at face value the police contention that Mann was behaving aggressively, that allegation was never tested in court.

All charges against Mann and Jacques were eventually dropped.

Mann said Thursday that prosecutors tried to make a deal with Jacques before she died, offering to drop the obstruction of justice charge if she'd agree to pay the fine for excessive noise. He said she refused because she believed she and Mann had done nothing wrong.

Rushed investigation?

Fo Niemi, director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, which assisted Mann with his complaint, said he's worried the commission rushed its investigation.

Niemi said the Human Rights Tribunal, which adjudicates cases when recommendations made by the commission aren't followed, has recently thrown out several complaints because of unreasonable delays.

Niemi thinks those tossed complaints may have affected the investigation into Mann and Jacques's case.

"We're concerned that because of the delays, the commission is fast-tracking its investigation to the point of intentionally omitting evidence that was brought to its attention," Niemi said.

Judicial review only recourse

Niemi wrote to the head of the Human Rights Commission asking that the commission take another look at Mann's case.

The commission responded with a letter explaining that there's no appeal process for its decisions and that Mann's only recourse would be to seek a judicial review of the decision in Quebec Superior Court.

Niemi noted that legal fees for such a review can be high but Mann insisted he wants to go ahead with it.

"I'm willing to do whatever it takes to have this case reopened or reheard," Mann said.

Brian Mann speaks to reporters via Zoom Thursday.  Mann said the Human Rights Commission's decision tarnishes his reputation because it leaves the impression that he did something wrong.
Brian Mann speaks to reporters via Zoom Thursday. Mann said the Human Rights Commission's decision tarnishes his reputation because it leaves the impression that he did something wrong.(CBC News)

"I'll find the money, it's not a problem. Who cares about money? This is about what's right and what's wrong," he said, noting that it's what Jacques wanted before she died.

Mann said he's also concerned the commission's decision leaves the impression that he did something wrong, despite all charges against him being dropped.

"It tarnishes my reputation, it makes me feel like I'm not protected by the Human Rights Commission, which is mandated to review things like this," Mann said.

Commission insists investigation 'rigorous, impartial'

A spokesperson for the commission told CBC in an email that it couldn't comment on the case because of confidentiality.

"We can state however that the Commission's investigative work is done rigorously and impartially, in accordance with our guidelines," the email said.

The guidelines include collecting all relevant information necessary to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring the dispute to court.

The guidelines also state that the decision on whether the evidence is sufficient is a "discretionary administrative decision."

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.