Quebec human rights commission urges government action on racism, racial profiling

MONTREAL — Quebec's human rights commission is urging the province to act against systemic racism and says the majority of recommendations it made in a 2011 report on the subject have not been implemented.

That report studied cases of profiling and systemic discrimination experienced by racialized youth between the ages of 14 and 25 during their encounters with police, teachers or with youth protection workers.

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Philippe-Andre Tessier, head of the commission, says the 2011 study included 93 recommendations, many of which he says were partly implemented ignored.

"What we're talking about are systemic problems that need systemic answers," Tessier told a virtual news conference Wednesday, after releasing the commission's latest report.

The new report says little has been done to address an over-representation of Black children in the youth protection system or the fact racialized kids are disproportionately punished in schools. It includes a revised list of 63 recommendations.

"Our number one recommendation today is that we have a racism policy -- that's the kind of global tool that needs to be put in place so everyone (falls) under this mechanism to fight racism and discrimination in Quebec," Tessier said.

Legault created an anti-racism task force in June composed of members of his government, which is supposed to release a report this fall. The premier, however, continues to deny systemic racism exists in the province -- a view that is not shared by the human rights commission.

Tessier said one example of systemic racism in Quebec is the fact racialized people are more often stopped by police, compared with white people. Those stops, often referred to as "street checks," occur when police stop people to collect information without arresting them.

One year ago, academics studying Montreal police data found that groups such as Indigenous people, Black Montrealers and people of Arab descent were more likely to be subjected to the stops.

The recommendations released Wednesday were sent to members of Legault's anti-racism task force, Tessier said.

"What we're asking for is a stop to these street checks," Tessier said. "It's not just a Montreal issue, it's a Quebec issue."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2020.

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