The Human Rights Tribunal of Quebec has ordered the city of Repentigny, Que., to pay a Black man $8,000 in damages after he was racially profiled by police.
"On the one hand, they recognize that I was the victim of racial profiling but at the same time, the police get away unscathed," said François Ducas.
Back in November 2020, the Quebec Human Rights Commission ruled that three Repentigny police officers had racially profiled Ducas, a high school teacher, when they stopped and arrested him in 2017.
Ducas was driving to work in his BMW when police pulled him over.
He asked why he was being stopped and the officers handcuffed and searched him. He was issued two tickets, one for obstructing police work and the other for insulting an officer.
The tickets were later dismissed.
"Never in my life did I think I would be handcuffed like a criminal one morning on my way to work in Quebec," Ducas has said.
Now, all these years later, he said he still gets nervous every time he leaves the house and relies on his wife to drive because he's worried about being pulled over.
Human Rights Commission supports Ducas
After filing a complaint with the help of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), Ducas got a ruling in his favour from the Human Rights Commission in November 2020.
The commission said the city of Repentigny and the three officers should pay Ducas $35,000 in moral and punitive damages.
That decision was nonbinding, but the Human Rights Commission represented Ducas as his case went before the Human Rights Tribunal.
"This is an important victory in the fight against racial profiling and the stigmatization of Black communities," said Myrlande Pierre, a vice-president with the commission.
"Systematically intercepting Black people while driving, and for no reason, is unfortunately a phenomenon that continues to be widespread and must be eradicated."
More needs to be done, says anti-racism advocate
Fo Niemi, head of CRARR, said this is a small victory for Ducas but more needs to be done.
"This is the first judicial confirmation of the existence of racial profiling in Repentigny — judicial confirmation because there's been so much denial and pretension on the part of the police," said Niemi.
In a statement, the city says it will not appeal the judgment and will continue to focus its efforts on its action plan.
"Our community expects deep and thought-out changes and a community police that responds to its needs. Which is why we are pursuing the actions identified in the "Evolving with our community" action plan," the statement said.
Since the ruling, the city and the Repentigny police department say they have put in time and resources to ensure that their practices are free of any form of racism and discrimination. The judgment, issued on July 20, acknowledges the city's efforts to address the issue.
But the city's statement admits that no matter what it does, conscious and unconscious biases will not be eliminated as there "is no instant solution."
"Therefore, we are continuing, together with the community and its organizations, the initiatives already in place as well as those to come," the statement said.
Regardless, Ducas said that's not enough. He said he is still waiting for the mayor and police to make a public apology. He has since moved away from the city to avoid another incident.
"I feel like I don't belong so instead of defending myself all the time, I want to leave that behind and start my life over and become the François Ducas that I was before."
Ducas said he is donating the awarded money to an organization that fights racial profiling.
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.