Black while driving: Longueuil man wins $12,000 racial profiling ruling against police

In a landmark decision, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal has ruled in favour of a Black man who says he was racially profiled by a local police service.

“I'm glad it's finally over,” said Longueuil man Joel Debellefeuille, who has been fighting the case against the Longueuil Police Service for eight years. “It's been painstaking.” 

In 2012, Debellefeuille was driving his son to daycare in his BMW and police followed him for 11 blocks before stopping them and asking for identification.

The Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ruled that police had no valid reason for the stop and that it was motivated by systemic racism in Quebec.

It has ordered the city and one of the officers involved to pay Debellefeuille $12,000 in damages.

“I could call it a landmark ruling, not only on racial profiling [but] also on race discrimination,” said Fo Niemi, who is the executive director at the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations.

The decision also includes an order for the police service to collect race-based data on police stops.

"The collection of the race-based data is so important to educate the force and the community in regards to what's happening to visual minorities. Everybody is going to know what going on,” said Debellefeuille.

He said his experience was humiliating and he fears his son could also one day be targeted because of the colour of his skin. 

Debellefeuille said he hopes this ruling means that his son will never have to experience what he did behind the wheel.

“'My dad is constantly getting stopped by the police because of his colour’ -- it's not something you want to hear from your 10-year old,” he said. 

In the 68-page decision, the tribunal is also demanding training on racial profiling for officers and their supervisors.

“Certainly the decision will help give some more thought to the need for reform for police departments all over Quebec, to serve all people without discrimination,” said Niemi.

The also calls for these changes be implemented without excessive delay.

“The tribunal said this kind of delay undermines public confidence in the administration of justice, so the tribunal set itself out to be the one to restore people's faith in the justice system,” said Niemi

It’s so far unclear if the City of Longueuil will appeal the decision. 

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