According to a Quebec Superior Court decision last month, police are no longer permitted to conduct traffic stops on drivers without cause. The court deemed the practice as arbitrary and promoted racial profiling against the Black community. Judge Michel Yergeau explained that racial profiling continues to exist and specifically affects Black motorists.
In this case, a Black man explained to the Superior Court that he has been subject to several random police checks. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also intervened in this case on his behalf.
He had been subjected to traffic stops by police officers in Montreal, Repentigny, Laval, and Gatineau almost 10 times in less than two years. However, none of those stops resulted in him being issued a ticket, and he had no criminal record.
He also detailed that the police often did not give him a reason for why they stopped him.
The judge declared that a police officer’s authorization, pursuant to article 636 of the Highway Safety Code and the common law rule set out in R. v. Ladouceur, to conduct traffic stops without a reason violates the rights guaranteed by Sections 7 and 9 and paragraph 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He stated that the article of Quebec’s Highway Safety Code that allows random stops need to be obsolete and inoperable.
The court has given a six-month delay before random traffic stops become illegal.
This ruling challenges a 1990 Supreme Court decision, R. v. Ladouceur. The court ruled that random traffic stops were the only way to determine if a driver has a valid license and registration. The decision also mentioned that traffic stops help to determine if seatbelts in the car are in proper working order, as well to determine if a driver is inebriated.
In this case, lawyers for the government argued that random stops has helped reduce drunk driving.
However, Yergeau explained that random traffic stops have enabled racial profiling, regardless of the police officer’s intentions and views. He highlighted that rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms should not depend on a police officer’s goodwill.
This decision is a victory for everyone who has been affected by racial profiling in Quebec. The power to pull over anyone without a reason has undoubtedly enabled systemic racism. Unfounded traffic stops have caused a considerable amount of stress for Black and Indigenous people in Quebec. This decision is a step in the right direction in terms of dismantling existing systems that are driven by racist values.