Canadian police detain thousands of racialized persons in suspicionless roadside stops each year. These police powers enable racial profiling and we believe they are unconstitutional.

The CCLA will fight for the right of every person to be free to live their lives without the risk created by arbitrary exercise of police powers.

Why Police Vehicle Stops are an Issue

Police across Canada have been granted the power to randomly pull over cars, question the occupants, and demand identification from drivers. The police do not need to have seen someone driving erratically, or have any suspicion of wrongdoing, in order to stop and question people. It is an arbitrary detention power that is unnecessary and has resulted in decades of racial profiling, discrimination, and harassment- and we believe it is unconstitutional. There is nothing truly ‘random’ about suspicionless roadside stops. They provide an opportunity for discriminatory policing and harassment—whether as a pretext or due to unconscious bias. There is no doubt that the practice disproportionately affects Black individuals and members of other racialized groups. It undermines public confidence in law enforcement and the justice system as a whole.

Learn more about your rights during police stops here.

Read our primer on anti-Black racism in the Canadian justice system here.

Racial profiling has serious and pervasive negative impacts on individuals and communities. Heightened visibility and more encounters with law enforcement subject racialized individuals to an increased risk of police violence and abuse, which can lead to serious injury, long-lasting trauma, and death. Arbitrary, discriminatory police stops, even very short ones, are a serious interference with individuals’ dignity, safety and mental well-being.

The fact that racialized individuals are more likely to be targeted by these police powers also means that their activities face greater visibility and exposure to police scrutiny, surveillance and intervention. This heightened visibility is one of many contributors to the overrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and racialized individuals in the criminal justice system—for example, because these individuals are more likely to be charged with administration of justice offences or other offences as a result.

Laws that facilitate unjust treatment also erode the perceived legitimacy of the police, the state, and the justice system as a whole. They make trust in and voluntary cooperation with public authorities less likely. The practice of racial profiling in particular undermines the belief and expectation — fundamental to any democratic society — that all individuals are equal before the law.

CCLA's Response

CCLA has been fighting against discriminatory policing since its inception – fighting racial profiling at the Supreme Court, in the legislatures, and through community education. This case is a crucial step in that decades-long fight.

We are alleging that the legal authority Canadian police have been granted to carry out suspicionless roadside stops is unconstitutional – an unjustifiable grant of arbitrary police power. It is used in a manner that disproportionately impacts racialized and marginalized individuals, and represents a significant violation of individual rights guaranteed by the Charter. Its use by police forces must cease.

CCLA has been granted conservatory intervenor status in the case – which means that it has joined the applicant to support his claims, and by bringing evidence and fully participating in the trial. The case will be heard by the Quebec Superior Court in June 2022.

CCLA is grateful for the support and pro bono contribution of our outstanding litigation team and their firm: Bruce Johnston and Lex Gill of Trudel Johnston & Lespérance.

The Timeline

2022

May 30, 2022

First Day of Trial

The first day of trial in Quebec Superior Court; proceedings are expected to continue throughout June 2022.

2021

May 18, 2021

CCLA Files Materials

CCLA files materials to participate as a conservatory intervenor.

February 2, 2021

Amended Originating Application Filed

An amended originating application is filed in Quebec Superior Court. 

Click here for the French copy. 

Click here for the unofficial English translation. 

2020

November 9, 2020

Case First Filed in Quebec Superior Court
Materials & Documents

Trial Viewing Info

You can watch the trial online – just find the Microsoft Teams link for court room 16.05 in this document.

Please note that when attending court virtually all observers should remain muted with cameras off at all times.

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