Montreal police will unveil a new policy in July after an independent report published last year found there is systemic bias when it comes to street checks and as calls for change in the department continue.
Police Chief Sylvain Caron said on Friday that the police force wants to ensure that its practices serve the public, and it is continuing to work on improving its relationships with different communities in the city.
“Have we had incidents of profiling and incidents of racism? Yes, probably. We don’t want it,” he said. “The SPVM (Montreal police) says no to discrimination, to racism.”
Caron also said he understands Montrealers’ feelings of turmoil following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis — which has sparked protests in the United States and Canada. Floyd, a Black man, was held down by a white police officer who kneeled into his neck while he pleaded for air.
The new policy comes following a report released in October 2019 that found visible minorities are more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts by officers with the city’s police force.
The report found there is “significant, widespread and persistent disproportions” of racialized people who are stopped by police officers in Montreal and pointed to “the presence of systemic biases” linked to race during police interventions.
It included five recommendations for the police department, including creating a policy around stopping individuals and addressing the issue of racial profiling in its plans, programs and practices.
After the report was released, the police chief promised to take action. At the time, Caron said he was humbled and alarmed by the numbers but insisted that it’s a reflection of a lack of policy.
In Montreal, protesters also called for change at an anti-racism rally last week in the wake of unrest in the U.S. Organizers said it was an opportunity to express their own anger at the treatment of racialized people in Quebec, and some of the names invoked included names of Black men killed during Montreal police interventions in recent years.
Caron said that he would like to be invited to this weekend’s upcoming protest in downtown Montreal.
More community outreach needed
The police department will unveil its new policy on July 8 and it will be enacted over the following months, according to Caron.
“What we want to do is turn the page and look ahead,” he said.
Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, said it was about time for such action but that more details about police are needed, such as how it will be applied and monitored.
Different communities in Montreal also want a say on reforms in the department and insist police must have better contact with them, he added.
“I believe the police have to develop a community outreach,” said Niemi.
— With files from Global News’ Amanda Jelowicki and the Canadian Press