Canadian Charter, Quebec, Quebec Superior Court, Rulings
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Landmark ruling curbs arbitrary police stops in racial profiling case

An “obsolete” common law rule framed by a 1990 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and codified by the Quebec Highway Safety Code that allowed police to randomly conduct motor vehicle stops without cause was set aside by a landmark Quebec Superior Court decision that held it was in violation of the Canadian Charter and a “vector, even a safe harbour” for racial profiling against the Black community.

In a decision hailed as historic as it recognizes that racial profiling is a reality that “weighs heavily” on Black communities, particularly Black drivers, Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Yergeau held that the arbitrary power police have to carry out roadside stops without grounds is in breach of s. 7, 9 and notably 15.1 of the Charter, ostensibly the first time that s. 15 has been used to invalidate or declare inoperative a criminal provision, according to legal experts.

“We’re not there yet but potentially this decision will have an impact everywhere in Canada,” noted Karine Joizil, a Montreal litigator with McCarthy Tétrault who represented the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, intervenors in the case. “What struck me is the clarity of the decision, and what this judgment is not about. It’s not a judgement against roadblocks, against police work, or on the values of the police. It’s really a judgment about whether s. 636 (of the Quebec Highway Safety Code) is well drafted or has the effect of creating a prejudicial effect for a category of the population that is otherwise protected by rights guaranteed under the Charter. It’s a wise and timely decision.”

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This story was originally published in The Lawyer’s Daily.

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