Hair salon owner alleges racial profiling by Montreal police

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Hair salon owner alleges racial profiling by Montreal police
WATCH: A hair salon owner in Ville-Émard is wondering if she'll be able to remain in business following an incident that took place at her salon last week. She claims her rights were violated after police barged in unannounced. Global’s Phil Carpenter reports. – Jun 15, 2021

A Black hair salon owner in Ville-Émard is wondering if she’ll be able to remain in business at her current location.

This, after an incident June 10 when, according to her, police barged into her business on Monk Avenue.

She says as her brother was putting the garbage out in front of the salon, he was approached by two Montreal police officers who asked about alcohol bottles that were outside the premises.

According to Stephanie Odia, the bottles did not come from the salon, and she said her brother told them so. Still, she said, both officers followed him into the building and she stopped one of them.

“He said, ‘Are you guys selling alcohol here?’ and I said, ‘No, this is a salon,'” she told Global News. “He said, ‘Do you have a terrace in the back?’ and I said, ‘No.’ ”

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The salon owner said as the officers looked around the salon they asked her for identification, something her lawyer Kwadwo Yeboah pointed out they had no right to do.

“A police officer cannot just walk up to people and ask for ID,” he told Global News. “They need probable cause that a crime has been committed or that somebody is on their way to committing a crime.”

He insisted that his client was at work at the time and no crime was being committed, so the officers broke the law.

“This is a classic case of racial profiling, which is also illegal in Canada,” he said.

Eric Kibi, a client who was getting his hair done at Odia’s salon when the intervention happened, agrees.

“To come in like that and kind of proceed to degrade her a little bit, that’s what it felt like,” he said.

Odia claims it’s not the first time police have treated her with suspicion, and says she’s fed up with being treated as a citizen with fewer rights.

“Microaggression like that we live through it all the time,” she said, alleging that often police slow down their cruisers in front of her store and look inside.

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Yeboah believes that Black-owned salons are targeted by police often. He’s gotten at least five similar complaints from Black-owned barbershops about elevated surveillance by police.

“It’s harassing but we’ll let the courts deal with it,” he said.

He noted that it’s ironic that police asked about alcohol bottles outside Odia’s premises, since the place is sandwiched by a liquor store on one side and a bar on the other.

He plans to take the case to the Police Ethics Commission and the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.

Montreal police have not yet commented on the case to Global News.

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