Quebec proposes reforms aimed at countering racial profiling by police
The Quebec government is promising changes that would help put an end to racial profiling by police on the province's roads — though advocates say it doesn't go far enough.
Quebec Public Security Minister François Bonnardel tabled a bill on Wednesday that includes a commitment to establish guidelines for stopping motorists.
"Let's be clear: Quebec is a welcoming society where racial profiling has no place," said Christopher Skeete, the minister responsible for combating racism, who was on hand for the announcement.
"It is important to have the necessary mechanisms in place to make it the easiest possible for those who are victims of it to denounce it."
The proposed legislation would oblige police forces to provide annual information on their road stops under Section 636 of the Highway Safety Code.
If their arrests do not respect the guideline that will be established by the ministry, disciplinary sanctions could even be imposed.
The bill, however, stops short of eliminating random street checks altogether. (Last year, a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled the practice was unconstitutional. The province is challenging the ruling.)
The legislation also includes reforms to the way complaints about police are handled by the police ethics commission, giving it power to impose new sanctions.
Critics have said the police ethics commission is too slow and lacks the power to discipline officers.
Changes are 'modest' in scope: civil rights group
The legislation is similar to a bill put forward by the Coalition Avenir Québec government prior to the last election.
The bill is based on recommendations established by the CAQ's anti-racism task force — though it doesn't go as far as suggested in abolishing random stops.
Fo Niemi, the executive director of Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, said the changes are welcome but "modest" in scope.
He said his organization plans to participate in the hearings on the bill to push for stronger measures to counter racial profiling, and for further amendments to the disciplinary system.
The Ligue des droits et libertés, a Quebec civil rights group, also said the changes don't go far enough.
At his news conference Wednesday, Skeete said the legislation is designed to strike "a balance" between protecting citizens who are targeted for "driving while Black" and giving the police the tools to do their job.
"We think we've struck that balance in this new law," he said.
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