The Quebec government’s action group on racism (GACR), created in June to identify concrete actions to fight against racism in the province, tabled its first report on Monday.
Entitled Racism in Quebec: tolerance zero, the report was drafted after consultations with some 50 organizations and individuals and includes 25 recommendations — several of which are aimed at improving policing.
More specifically, the task force is calling for an end to the police practice of random street checks in a bid to eliminate racial profiling.
Lionel Carmant, co-chair of the task force and junior minister of health and social services, explained that when police officers stop someone, be they walking or driving, they will need to identify the reason for the stop and name it specifically to the person when they are being stopped.
“If this is not done, this will be in the ethics code of police… a complaint can be placed and blame can be put to the police for not doing their job properly, Carmant said, adding that is not currently the case in Quebec.
The task force is also recommending adding social workers to create mixed patrol teams within police forces. Carmant said the idea is that social workers can help police officers de-escalate certain situations.
“We all remember the sad end of Alain Magloire in 2014,” Carmant said.
“He was a Quebecer of Haitian origin, just like me. A researcher, just like me and (a) man dedicated to the cause of people with disabilities, just like me.”
Magloire died after being shot by Montreal police in 2014. At the time of his death, the father of two with a degree in molecular biology had recently ended up in the streets because of mental health issues.
A coroner’s report into his death recommended the use of mixed patrols.
“We’re going ahead with the coroner’s recommendations,” Carmant said.
Other salient points of the action group’s report include the launch of a provincial awareness-building campaign against racism and a focus on continuous education programs for police forces.
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Carmant pointed to an immersive training program by Longueuil police as an example of what continuing education could like. The five-week training program aims to bridge the gap between police and the community by giving officers the chance to bond and interact with different cultures, community groups and families in their jurisdictions.
On a government level, the group wants to see an increase in the representation of minorities in the public service and the appointment of a minister responsible for the fight against racism.
Carmant said the group also hopes to provoke social change through education.
“Our long-term vision is to educate to put an end to racism,” he said, adding Quebec’s ethics and religious cultures’ curriculum should be changed to include racism and discrimination as topics of discussion. Furthermore, education on racism should be mandatory for future teachers.
The task force also wants the school curriculum to include accurate information about First Nations and Inuit and their contributions — one of several actions recommended to combat racism and discrimination towards Indigenous communities.
Some who work with people who suffer from discrimination and racism are disappointed with the report.
“We’ve talked about increased representation in the Quebec civil service for at least 30 years now,” said Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations.
“This report made the same recommendation and made that commitment again without saying how we’re going to get there.”
Nakuset of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal wants to see concrete actions.
“If this is an action plan, well, let’s see what your timeline is. Otherwise it’s just talk,” she said.
GACR co-chair and Immigration Minister Nadine Girault isn’t surprised there is skepticism.
After months of consultations, what stood out the most for Girault was not the lack of measures in place to combat racism, she said, but the lack of results.
Girault insisted this time will be different.
“You’re going to see real results because you’re going to see real actions in place, you’re going to see actions that are going to be measured, that are going to be followed,” she said.
“We have the political will to make things change,” he said. “I think we’re going to name a minister responsible to follow up. We strongly all believe that all our recommendations will be applied within the next two years.”
— With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez