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Longueuil police vehicles are parked in Longueuil, Que., on March 4. Longueuil is one of only three police forces in the province to collect and share race data.Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press

Black and Arab people are overrepresented in police stops in Longueuil, Que., and neighbouring areas, according to data obtained by The Globe and Mail, years after a court ruling forced the collection and publication of this information.

It’s one of only three police forces in the province to collect and share race data after long-term advocacy by human-rights and anti-discrimination organizations.

The largest discrepancies in the Longueuil area occurred in arbitrary police traffic stops conducted under a provision – invalidated by the Quebec Superior Court in a landmark 2022 racial-profiling case – that continues to be used pending appeal.

The data, acquired through an access to information request, include monthly breakdowns of two types of police stops by race from January, 2023 to January, 2024. Over that period, 45 people were subject to arbitrary traffic stops and 1,101 to street checks, which occur when police ask individuals to provide ID or other information without detaining or arresting them.

In 2020, the province’s human-rights tribunal ordered the City of Longueuil to collect and publish racial data starting in 2021, after a Black man was found to have been a victim of racial profiling during a traffic stop.

Longueuil, a Montreal suburb, is Quebec’s fifth largest city, home to more than 253,000 people. But the Longueuil police cover a broader area, known as the Longueuil agglomeration, which also includes Brossard, Boucherville, Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, and Saint-Lambert, for a total population of nearly 450,000 people.

Overall, Black people represent 14.1 per cent of police stops in the agglomeration, almost double their share of the population, which is 7.6 per cent, according to the 2021 Census. Black people also make up 24.4 per cent of traffic stops based on section 636 of Quebec’s Highway Safety Code, more than three times their share of the population.

Section 636 allows police to “require the driver of a road vehicle to stop his vehicle” without any justification and provides that drivers “must comply with this requirement without delay.” In 2022, Quebec’s Superior Court invalidated this disposition, saying that arbitrary traffic stops pave the way for racial profiling. The province appealed the decision.

“It’s egregious, but it’s not surprising,” said Alain Babineau, a spokesperson for the anti-racism group Red Coalition, speaking of the overrepresentation.

Longueuil police said in late February in an unsigned statement that “following the decision of the Quebec government to appeal, article 636 remained, in the meantime, in force.” Their officers “have all been informed that this article does not under any circumstances allow a vehicle to be intercepted for reasons other than those related to road safety,” the statement said.

The force said the low number of traffic stops under 636 results from the fact that “in the vast majority of interceptions, there is a real reason for interception and/or the issuance of a statement of offence and/or warning which results from this interception.”

Mr. Babineau said the province, by appealing the Superior Court decision, and police forces, by continuing to use 636, are telling racialized communities that “their daily reality doesn’t matter.” He said his organization regularly receives calls from all over the province from Black and other drivers of colour subject to traffic stops that they say result from racial profiling.

People of Arab descent were subject to 7.7 per cent of all police stops in the Longueuil agglomeration, the data show, while they represent just 4.4 per cent of the population. They also make up 15.6 per cent of traffic stops, almost four times more than their share of the population.

White people were subject to 69.8 per cent of all stops and 53.3 per cent of traffic stops, which is less than their 72.8 per cent share of the population in the agglomeration.

Quebec’s human-rights commission recommended in 2011 that police departments “systematically collect and publish data related to the presumed racial identity of individuals during police actions” to document and fight racial profiling.

In a 2020 follow-up report, the commission noted that none had done so.

Despite the human-rights tribunal order in 2020, there is no indication that Longueuil started collecting data before January, 2023. Joel DeBellefeuille, the victim in the 2020 case, filed a contempt of court lawsuit against the city, but it was rejected in June of last year by the human-rights tribunal, which said it did not have jurisdiction to rule on this issue. City of Longueuil lawyer Philippe Chaput-Langlois said the shared data represents “all the available data.”

Longueuil police said they “did not carry out an in-depth analysis of the collected data,” and were unable to explain the overrepresentation of minority groups. The statement says that since the 2020 decision, training and other initiatives have been put in place to raise awareness of racial profiling and that the force “has always been mindful that all of its staff intervene in compliance with laws and regulations.”

Longueuil, other Quebec police slow in implementing race-based data framework

In January, 2023, Quebec’s Ministry of Public Security said that 12 of the province’s 30 municipal forces had implemented the collection of racial data during police stops. The Globe sent access to information requests to each of those 12 forces, but only two departments shared their data last year: Gatineau and Granby. They sent information on a total of 122 police stops. Black, Latin and Arab people were overrepresented, compared with their proportions in the local populations.

Other departments did not respond within the one-month legal access deadline, said that the data did not exist, or said it was incomplete and could not be shared, contrary to what the ministry had told The Globe.

Longueuil police initially did not answer, so The Globe filed a complaint with Quebec’s Access to Information Commission. A response came in late February, more than one year after filing the initial access to information request. Access to information complaints regarding data from other police departments are still pending.

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