Rosie Awori- (Local Journalism Initiative)
As restrictions slowly started easing in late May, nine young men took to the courts to enjoy a game of basketball. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a de-stressing activity resulted in them being slapped with a fine of nearly $12, 000 in total for apparently violating COVID 19 measures in the Repentigny area.
Many are saying that it is more evidence of racial profiling that has been on the rise in a borough where Black residents have been complaining about bias treatment at the hands of the police.
At a news conference on Sunday July 26, the Black youth spoke out expressing their anger and confusion at being singled out by the police.
“There is still much work to be done,” Allan Babineau of the Center for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR) is quoted as saying.
“It’s not about the money. It’s about the discrimination,” said Nathan Derry, 20, who received a $1,500 ticket.
Derry and eight others were stopped by Repentigny police as they left a basketball court in Parc de la Seigneurie on May 22.
Quebec’s public-health rules related to the pandemic were in flux at the time. Non-contact sports were authorized a few days earlier and, that day, small outdoor gatherings were allowed.
But police nevertheless fined Derry and his friends totalling to $11,500.
The youth found it curious that later on in the same day a group of white youth playing basketball at the same place in the park were approached by police, but they were given a warning instead.
“I was mad. We talk about equality and 30 minutes later there was not the same treatment,” Derry fumed.
The Repentigny police service says it has taken concrete steps to improve relations with the Black community, including launching pilot projects involving body microphones and dashboard cameras.
The police maintain that the incident did not amount to racial profiling.
“The officers simply applied the rules that were related to COVID-19,” Lison Ostiguy, the deputy head of the strategy and prevention division was quoted as saying.