Repentigny police seek to build bridges with its black community

The target of allegations of racial profiling for years, the Repentigny police department appointed a liaison officer in 2018.

And while Jean-Francois Fortier's role is to build a rapport with the city's burgeoning black population, it's a job he readily admits isn't always easy.

"It's a big challenge; it's a beautiful challenge. It's hard, and it's not easy. But I like it," he said, as CTV News Montreal took part in a ride-along with him.

In the past few years, there has been an influx of Haitian refugees – leading to the inevitable question, why was Fortier, a white man, hired into this position?

"I have a lot of background because I was a paramedic in the past," he said.

That past included a stretch with Urgences-Sante in Montreal North. He was covering that area when the Fredy Villanueva riots broke out in 2008.

"That's good experience. It's a lot of background I can use every day in the police job," said Fortier.

But the department has a long road ahead. By its statistics, there have been 28 racial profiling complaints since 2011.

Last month, Quebec's Human Rights Commission told police forces they need to investigate systemic discrimination, and human rights complaints are separate.

One complainant, Francois Ducas, said police pull him over once every two months, so he installed a dashcam.

While he believes Fortier is a good person, Ducas questions the position.

"Yes, he's a really nice guy, but is it going to change things?" he said.