Rights commission fines STM for racial profiling

MONTREAL - The Quebec human rights commission has sided with a 57-year-old man who says he was singled out and roughed up by métro security guards for being black. It also requested Montreal's public transit agency to stop racial profiling.

The commission proposed in a decision made public Jan. 12 that the Société de transport de Montréal pay the man, who asked that he not be named in this story for fear of reprisals, $15,000 in moral damages and $8,000 in punitive damages. The commission also requests that the STM forbid racial profiling when checking commuters for proof of payment of fares and to systematically collect data on the race of people stopped by STM security agents in order to document the use of racial profiling and "take appropriate measures" to end it.

The STM has until Feb. 17 at 3 p.m. to agree to the commission's proposals or the matter will be referred to the courts for legal action intended to implement the proposals, the commission stated.

Marianne Rouette, a spokesperson for the STM, declined to comment on the commission's recommendations. "We have until Feb. 17 so we will not comment until we decide how to respond to them," Rouette said.

The man told The Gazette on Sunday that he is satisfied with the commission's decision, but wonders if it will have any real effect. "This is not a high judgment and so maybe they will just sweep it under the rug," the man said.

He said he was on his way home from his job in a hospital and was rushing up the stairs in the Lionel Groulx métro station to catch the 211 bus about 11:50 p.m. on Feb. 3, 2010, when he was grabbed by an STM security agent.

"He was completely violent and grabbed my coat. I said 'I'm just going to get my bus' and he said, 'You're not complying.' " Within moments, five more agents showed up and the man was hustled into an office, handcuffed and thrown to the floor, he added. His bag was searched and the agents, the man said, laughed at him as they wrote him a ticket for $324 for interfering with the duties of an STM inspector. The man later successfully contested the ticket.

The man, who does not speak much French, said he did not hear specific racial slurs. "They were speaking French. Ninety per cent of me thinks they were saying them," he said, and that the arrest was racially motivated.

"After they gave me the ticket they just threw me out of the métro into the snow."

mharrold@montrealgazette.com

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