I experienced racial profiling
Joel DeBellefeuille's story
As a victim of racial profiling on several occasions, Joel DeBellefeuille filed a complaint with the Commission. The Commission took his case to the Human Rights Tribunal, which ruled against the police service.
Joel DeBellefeuille recounts his experience of racial profiling
My name is Joel DeBellefeuille and I am the CEO of Mariana Naturals. For many years I've been a victim of racial profiling. For many different types of reasons.
Most recently, I won a racial profiling case against the city of Longueuil because of the car that I drive, which is a BMW. I had been driving my son to daycare with my wife, back in 2012, and I was followed for 11 blocks. When they pulled me over, they basically told me that it was a random verification and I said if it was such a random verification, how come I wasn't pulled back a kilometer and a half ago?
With that issue, I mandated the services of the Commission. They helped me win my case against the city of Longueuil and proove beyond a reasonable doubt, through the Tribunal, that the police department and city of Longueuil violated my rights. (news release)
So I encourage everybody to pick up the phone, send an email or call the Commission, if you have any problems with racial profiling.
Here is the story of Pierreson who, like many other racialized young people, has experienced racial profiling.
Pierreson recounts his experience of racial profiling (French only)
What happened? What did you do?
Well, I was walking behind this woman who must have lived near me, and, you know, I’m dressed like a young person, wearing my usual get-up. Suddenly, a police car pulls up from a crossroad and starts following me. When I turned up the stairs to my house, I saw the police car stop in front of my building. I had forgotten something in the car, my mother’s car. The police called me over, so I went over and said, “Yes, how can I help you?”
They asked me, “Is that your car?”
I said, “It’s my mother’s car and, by the way, that’s where I live,” before they could ask me that question too.
The police told me, “We’re just checking, et cetera, et cetera...”.
And then, the woman who had been walking in front of me turned around and thanked the police! I mean, to me, by thanking the police for stopping me, she was approving of their behaviour. She was saying, “You did what you had to do. We’re afraid of kids like him; we need you to protect us from them.”
How did you feel?
That was just one example, one time... it may seem trivial, but it’s that these things happen again and again. That’s what’s so painful, that’s what’s so hard. You start to notice that there’s all this talk about police officers and profiling, but nobody’s talking about how there’s also this entire society that surrounds and upholds this behaviour.
How has profiling affected your life?
Young people wonder a lot about whether society will allow us to develop as people and contribute to it... When things like this happen, over and over, you start doubting yourself, you start doubting your legitimacy as a young person or as a citizen.
And I’ve noticed that these questions stay with people as they grow up, as they become adults. Even if they are healthy, balanced people, they’re still asking themselves this. They ask it about themselves, they ask it about their children if they have any.. and then one day, they decide to get involved, they decide to take action to prevent this treatment and to find a solution.
Did you ask for help to report the incident?
[No, but I realize] the importance of taking action, and of organizations like the Commission that really play a formal role in society to guarantee, or try to guarantee, equal rights and equal treatment.
What is profiling?
Profiling is when a person in a position of authority (e.g. a police officer) intervenes in the name of safety or security, but without just cause or reasonable suspicion, and:
- targets a person because of their race, colour, religion, ethnic or national origin, or social condition
- treats that person differently
Do you believe you’ve experienced profiling?
Find out whether you can file a complaint.
If the racial profiling incident involved a municipality or the police, it is important to file a complaint as soon as possible: you have 6 months after the fact to do so.