Montréal, April 30th, 2019 – After receiving important media exposure, becoming viral on social networks and being strongly criticized by the public, the violent intervention by two inspectors from the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) at the Villa-Maria metro station on March 7 towards Juliano Gray, a young 21-year-old Montrealer, requires an independent, thorough and immediate investigation according to the Official Opposition.
On March 18th, a coalition of advocacy organizations supported by elected officials Lionel Perez and Marvin Rotrand, demanded an independent investigation into the incident, as well as the creation of an independent civilian oversight body to handle complaints against transit agents. After the STM and Mayor Plante dismissed the request, the elected officials have decide to carry the fight to the City Council, where the Official Opposition will table a motion on May 13th, calling again for an independent inquiry.
“When I hear the STM board chairman, Philippe Schnobb, say that the standards and the protocol have been respected and that no fault has been committed by his agents, I understand the feeling of injustice that many Montrealers feel. Mayor Plante is trying to rule out an independent inquiry, which is the only way to shed light on this story. We will therefore double-down on our efforts to make the administration listen to reason and protect the public from the abuse of power by STM inspectors,” said Lionel Perez, leader of Ensemble Montréal.
An incident pushed aside by the STM and the Plante administration
The STM held its own internal investigation, which lasted only three days, without meeting or interviewing the victim of the assault or certain key victims of the incident.
“After this so-called investigation, held without regards for the basic rules of transparency, the STM simply declared that the inspectors acted in accordance with protocol and that there would be no sanctions. This rushed, unacceptable decision was taken after following a flawed process. Regardless, the decision was immediately backed by Mayor Valérie Plante, with the obvious intent of sweeping the Villa-Maria incident under the rug’’, said Abdelhaq Sari, spokesperson for Ensemble Montréal on public safety issues.
Once again, several organizations, including the Black Coalition of Quebec, the Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association, the Playmas Montreal Cultural Association, Montreal in Action, the Association of South Asian Communities, the Filipino Golden Agers Association of Montreal and Suburbs (FILGA), the Chinese Business Persons Association, the Pangasinan Association and the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) support the elected officials’ process and give their blessing to the motion of the Official Opposition.
“The young man in question had his rights violated, was treated inhumanely and paid the price, since he was diagnosed with post-traumatic shock. I do not believe that the common good has been protected by doing so,” said Marvin Rotrand, City Councilor for the district of Snowdon.
A clear motion
The Official Opposition’s motion states that a mandate for an investigation into the March 7 incident be given to an independent and external party and that the resulting report be tabled in full at City Council, as well as at the Board of Directors of the STM.
“Our motion implies that an independent inquiry is not only the most reasonable, but also the most effective approach. Our duty is to restore the public’s confidence and to ensure that this never happens again. All citizens of this city, without exception, have the right to feel safe when using the metro,” concluded Mr. Perez.
Motion Requesting the Immediate Initiation of an Independent Inquiry on the Incident at the Villa-Maria Station
Whereas this past March 7, at the Villa-Maria Metro Station in Montréal, Mr. Juliano Gray was the victim of a violent intervention by inspectors of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), who in particular struck him several times with their batons;
Whereas several human rights defence groups, including the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), the Black Coalition of Quebec, the Jamaica Association of Montreal, the Alliance of South Asian Communities and the Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association, have denounced this incident as a case of excessive use of force and racial profiling by STM inspectors;
Whereas Mr. Gray received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder from a psychiatrist, forcing him to take 30 days’ sick leave;
Whereas the STM has conducted a so-called internal inquiry of three days’ duration without meeting or interviewing either the victim of the aggression or witnesses to the incident in question;
Whereas no report has been published as a result of this inquiry and the Chairperson of the STM’s Board of Directors, Mr. Philippe Schnobb, simply said publicly and in a letter, “that [the] inspectors acted according to the standards and procedures put in place by the STM”;
Whereas the STM has recognized the problem of the lack of accountability of its inspectors, but refuses just the same to launch an independent investigation into the March 7 incident;
Whereas there is a lack of transparency, equity and impartiality in the STM’s procedures regarding the handling of user complaints about the work of the inspectors and this lack of transparency, equity and impartiality may undermine public confidence in the STM;
Whereas incidents involving the use of excessive force by the inspectors and agents of public safety upon racialized users have adverse consequences on race relations and social cohesion in Montréal;
It is proposed by Lionel Perez, Leader of the Official Opposition and City Councillor for the Darlington district;
and seconded by Abdelhaq Sari, City Councillor for the Marie-Clarac district;
and Marvin Rotrand, City Councillor for the Snowdon district;
That the City of Montréal launch without delay an inquiry into the incident of last March 7 at the Villa-Maria station and that this inquiry be entrusted to an independent, external party;
That the report of the said inquiry be tabled in its entirety to the Municipal Council of the City of Montréal and to the Board of Directors of the STM.