Montreal man wins ‘cleaning while Black’ racial profiling case against police

 “When these things keep happening, I’m going to keep fighting,” said Kenrick McRae, a Montrealer who won a racial profiling case of 'cleaning while Black' against Montreal police at the Quebec Human Rights Commission. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

By News Staff

Kenrick McRae, an English-speaking Black man in NDG, won another civil rights case against Montreal police and two of its officers, as the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission upheld his racial profiling complaint.

He and the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations have called the case an incident of “cleaning while Black.”

“When these things keep happening, I’m going to keep fighting,” said McRae, who adds, “it’s an ongoing problem.”

“It’s like a routine,” he said. “What is going to happen to me today, is going to happen to somebody else in the Black community tomorrow.”

In August 2019, McRae was collecting garbage in his Mercedes Benz, that was parked in front of his building.

Two police officers drove by and seeing an empty stout bottle protruding from his garbage bag, demanded that he identify himself.

McRae says he was threatened with arrest and eventually fined for “being the driver of a road vehicle, having consumed alcoholic beverages.”

“I said, ‘Madam, if you suspect me of committing a crime now or drinking alcohol beverages, I need you to do a few sobriety tests right here, right now or a breathalyzer test,'” he said. “I said, ‘you could even take me to the hospital on my blood just to see if there’s any alcohol in my system.’ ‘No, no,’ she don’t have time for that.”

Last month, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission concluded that there is sufficient evidence of racial discrimination and profiling in this case.

The Commission asked the City to put in place a comprehensive policy on racial profiling, to train SPVM officers at all levels on racial profiling, and to collect race-based data for all kinds of police checks.

“Once the Human Rights Commission issued the decision, usually the Montreal police did not comply because the decision of the Human Rights Commission is only a recommendation. So the case will go to the Human Rights Tribunal,” said CRARR’s Executive Director, Fo Niemi.

“The system is very oppressive because it’s going to take years and then I got to be living through this horror over and over again and the only thing you’ll is that they’re going to focus on training. They’re going to focus on sensitivity. But then at the end of the day, it’s the same thing. It just keeps happening. So where’s the training?” asked McRae.

The commission ordered Montreal and the two police officers involved to pay McRae $18,000 in moral damages, and each officer to pay him $4,000 in punitive damages.

“What hurts me is that racial profiling and racial discrimination, I think it should be a crime,” he said. “When these officers are found guilty, they’re just relax, but we’re found guilty of similar, smaller crimes, and we’re sent away right away.”

The Police Ethics Commissioner also upheld his complaint of racial profiling.

(CREDIT: Alyssia Rubertucci/CityNews)

‘Driving While Black’

This is not the first time McRae has filed complaints against Montreal police. In 2021, he filed his fifth complaint after he was pulled over while driving to buy his daughter a birthday gift.

McRae says officers told him he matched the description of a suspect they were investigating. But he believes it was really for “Driving while Black.”

That came less than a year after the police ethics committee ruled in his favor and sanctioned two Montreal police officers for racial profiling.

“I want to know if indeed there was a Black man looking like me driving a black Mercedes on that day at that hour, because I swear that was just another bogus reason they come up with just to harass me,” said McRae in May of 2021.

McRae was parked and ready to go to the store when two cops walked up to his passenger and driver’s window and knocked on his window.

He said both officers had their hands on their guns, after which the officers told McRae that he matched the description of a suspect they were looking for .

“At this time I had my mask on and my glasses this is how I was, so I was wondering how can I fit that description.”

McRae said he called 911 after he was intercepted, but the emergency responder told him to go to a nearby police station to file a report.

McRae had said he didn’t trust police anymore and filed a complaint with the police ethics commissioner and a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission for race-based profiling with the help of the Centre for Research Action on Race-Relations.

CityNews had reached out to Montreal police in May 2021 and they said the SPVM does not comment on specific cases.

For McRae, he said it’s important to not only fight this battle for himself, but for others just like him in his community. “When I speak for myself I speak for a lot of Black people, because I know a lot of Black people that live this thing and they just let it go but I’m going to stand up for my rights.”


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