If you’re an Indigenous woman in Montreal, police are 11 times more likely to stop you for a street check than if you are a white woman. It’s a staggering number that Indigenous groups say is unacceptable.
“For us, we are not shocked, we know this. We have been telling you this for a long time,” said Nakuset, the executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter in Montreal.
Indigenous woman are just one of the groups that stand out in the damning report on the Montreal police force. Black and Arab Montrealers are also more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts. While the study pointed out what it called a “systemic bias,” it didn’t explicitly say officers engaged in racial profiling.
Nakuset said Indigenous women are often targeted by police and ticketed for being drunk in public spaces.
“There aren’t enough shelters for women that will let you in under the influence,” she said.
Nakuset said what is needed from police is better training with minority groups. She points to the bike patrol unit in police station 12 in Westmount. She said officers got special community training this summer, and she has noticed interaction with homeless Indigenous women is improving.
“It’s improved greatly. That’s one station but I think if more people followed station 12 it would be a good thing.”
Some say getting minority groups to trust police again could prove a challenge.
“It will be difficult at this stage for the police to come and ask people in the black community to contribute to an investigation, for them to do so without some degree of suspicion,” said Dan Philip of the Black Coalition of Quebec.
Activists say part of the problem is that people — including the city’s mayor — are out of touch with what’s actually happening. Mayor Valérie Plante said on Monday the report was troubling and “shocking.”
“Those of us who have worked a long time on this issue, we are not shocked,” said Fo Niemi of the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations.
Several times a year, Niemi draws attention to racial profiling cases in Montreal. He agrees police should adopt all five recommendations in the report but he says it’s time Montreal police management admit racism is a problem.
“Stop the denying, embrace the issue and reality and start engaging with the groups affected,” Niemi said. “We are looking for results.”