Deterrent or Discriminatory? Quebec defends random police checks

Dissuasive or discriminatory? Quebec defends random police checks

A Quebec government lawyer believes that random checks are not a problem, but that they can be abused by some police officers.

The power of police officers to ;randomly stopping motorists would be an important deterrent to prevent dangerous behavior on the road, argued a lawyer for the Quebec government on Wednesday during a constitutional challenge in court.

Lawyer Michel Déom told Superior Court Judge Michel Yergeau that the problem does not lie in this power per se, but rather in its abusive exercise by certain police officers.

Me Déom delivered his final plea in a case initiated by a black man from Montreal and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. According to them, the random stops violate the right to equality protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to the government lawyer, it is up to police forces and oversight bodies, such as ethics committees, to combat racial profiling among police officers.

Montrealer Joseph-Christopher Luamba says he was intercepted by patrol officers, without valid reason, nearly a dozen times. It is he who, along with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, challenges the constitutionality of these practices of stopping drivers without reason to believe that an offense has been committed. On the other hand, the plaintiffs do not object to structured police operations such as roadblocks to identify drunk drivers, for example.

Joseph-Christopher Luamba says he was intercepted by patrol officers, without valid reason, nearly a dozen times.

For lawyer Bruce W. Johnston, who represents the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the power of police officers to randomly stop motorists opens the door to arbitrary and discriminatory use of this power.

This power is not used randomly, but rather in a discriminatory and highly detrimental way against black and racialized people, is written in a summary of the arguments presented by Mr. Johnston and his colleague Me Lex Gill.

For the plaintiffs, the fact that random checks affect black drivers, and more particularly black men, should reconsider the argument that this constitutes a serious limitation on freedom of movement .

If Judge Yergeau agrees with the plaintiffs, he will also have to quash a Supreme Court of Canada decision dating back to 1990. In this judgment, the court determined that random stops were the only way to dissuade people from driving without license or commit other offenses such as driving with a defective seat belt or under the influence of alcohol.

Me Déom n'a did not submit new evidence arguing that the onus to reverse the Supreme Court's decision was on the plaintiffs.

In contrast, with respect to the reality of the racial profiling in Quebec, many police officers testified that police forces were taking the issue seriously and were tackling it.

Judge Yergeau, however, seemed to postpone doubt that virtue.

How many generations will it take to ensure that this Charter right e to black people be respected when they drive their car?, asked the magistrate.

The trial which began on May 30 is due to end this Thursday after a final day of pleadings.

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