Judgement of the Court
Last October, a judge of the Superior Court of Quebec ordered in a decision the end of random arrests. This practice, described in the judgment as an “underhanded form of racism”, is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, he asserted.
In a report signed in 2020, ministers and elected officials from the Coalition avenir Québec — including Mr. Skeete — also wrote that “police stops can be perceived as harassment and a form of racism.” This document, containing 25 recommendations, called for an end to “random police stops”.
The government has since reversed course. Arrests are a “tool” for police forces, said François Bonnardel last year, when appealing the court's decision. This is not “a departure from principle,” added Christopher Skeete on Wednesday. “We're just banning random stops on discriminatory grounds, which is basically the problem,” he said.
[Even though there is] no racism in the system [in the police services of Quebec], there may be cases of profiling coming from certain members
— François Bonnardel
The bill is “far from being up to par”, lamented the League of Rights and Freedoms on Wednesday. “Arresting is an arbitrary practice that must be prohibited everywhere in Quebec, and not supervised as [the] government provides,” said the organization in a press release.
The project of Law 14 provides for more ongoing training for police officers in the fight against racism to limit the number of discriminatory arrests. It also provides for the transformation of the Police Ethics Committee into an administrative tribunal and the establishment of a conciliation process between people who claim to be victims of discrimination and the police officers targeted by a complaint.
The text de loi caquiste is the new version of a bill tabled in the last legislature by Minister Geneviève Guilbault, who was then at Public Security. In addition to the measures on arrests, it includes new powers for the police in the event of a disappearance. If the bill passes, for example, it will allow them to get a judge's order to access a missing person's phone information — including GPS data.