THE COMMISSION DES DROITS DE LA PERSONNE ET DES DROITS DE LA JEUNESSE SPEAKS
OUT AGAINST THE SOCIAL PROFILING OF THE HOMELESS IN MONTRÉAL

MONTREAL, Nov. 10 /CNW Telbec/ - The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Québec Human Rights Commission) urges the city of Montréal to repeal two municipal by-laws that target the homeless, and recommends that the Montréal police (SPVM) change its institutional standards and policies that have a discriminatory impact on people living on the streets.

In an opinion The judiciarization of the homeless in Montréal: A case of social profiling, published today in Montréal, the Commission makes 14 recommendations to the different levels of governments and to the Montréal police in order to counter the social profiling of people living on the streets, and outlines detailed proposals for a policy on homelessness.

"We must fight homelessness without fighting against the homeless. We cannot solve this problem by simply handing out tickets," said Gaétan Cousineau, President of the Commission.

The Commission's report states that people living on the streets in Montreal are victims of social profiling which contravenes the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

The Commission calls on the city of Montreal to repeal the Ville-Marie borough's by-law closing its remaining 15 parks that were still open at night and the sections of the by-law prohibiting dogs in the Émilie-Gamelin park and in Viger Square, two parks where street people congregate.

The SPVM standards and policies describing the presence of the homeless as "disturbing" and "causing insecurity" must be amended because they make people living on the streets designated targets for police monitoring and surveillance.

The Commission has been working with community groups and municipal officials on the issue of homelessness since 2004. It participated in the three-party taskforce which led to the implementation of a number of initiatives, such as the creation of a specialized legal aid clinic and the setting up of the Équipe de médiation urbaine. The task force also found that the issue of large numbers of tickets for minor offences affected the homeless in particular, and lead to imprisonment in a high percentage of cases. This finding prompted the Commission to examine to what extent the municipal by-laws and their application are consistent with the Charter.

In the view of the Commission, the excessive use of the courts to deal with the homeless is the result of targeted police practices aimed at removing them from the public space, rather than a neutral and impartial enforcement of the law.

The Commission demonstrates that the homeless are victims of social profiling when for example, they are ticketed for minor offences that are rarely, if ever, punished by the police when committed by other citizens such as: jaywalking or lying on public bench or yet, when they are ticketed repeatedly - five times in one day - for obstructing traffic.

Although people living on the streets make up less than 1 % of the Montreal population, they received 31.6 % of the tickets issued by the police under municipal by-laws in 2004, and 20.3 % in 2005. The number of tickets issued annually to the homeless under municipal and STM by-laws jumped by 327 % between 1994 and 2005.

If, in the case of racial profiling, skin colour is the element that triggers police intervention, in the case of social profiling, the trigger is the visible signs of poverty or marginality, states the Commission's opinion.

The stigmatization of the homeless in SPVM standards and policies as well as the ensuing police profiling, undermines the rights of the individuals concerned to the safeguard of their dignity without discrimination based on social status.

In its groundbreaking report, the Commission recommends increased funding to build social housing and for programs supporting the social reintegration of street people. The Commission also urges the government to reinforce the Charter's economic and social rights as soon as possible to ensure the protection of society's most vulnerable groups, particularly the homeless.

"This document provides the framework that will allow all those who want to deal with homelessness to work together to implement sustainable solutions", said Mr. Cousineau.

The Commission's 14 detailed recommendations are attached.

The opinion, an executive summary and fact sheets on The judiciarization of the homeless in Montréal: A case of social profiling are available at www.cdpdj.qc.ca

    
    Contact: Patricia Poirier
             (514) 873-5146, ext. 358
              patricia.poirier@cdpdj.qc.ca
    
    
    THE JUDICIARIZATION OF THE HOMELESS IN MONTRÉAL: A CASE OF SOCIAL
    PROFILING
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMISSION

    1. THAT the institutional standards and policies of the SPVM to combat
    uncivil behaviour be amended to remove any element that targets and
    stigmatizes the homeless.

    2. THAT the use of repressive methods by the SPVM against the homeless be
    based, not on a perception that their presence might be disturbing or
    threatening, but on neutral behavioural criteria applicable to all
    citizens, such as the degree of nuisance or danger created by the
    behaviour.

    3. THAT training on the social causes of homelessness and the risk of
    being profiled facing the homeless be provided for police officers
    employed by the City of Montréal.

    4. THAT each municipality and borough, as well as the provincial
    government, review all the regulatory and legislative provisions that
    punish behaviour in public spaces to ensure that they identify a specific
    nuisance and that the provision is justified. In addition, the Commission
    recommends that the enforcement of by-laws that are not consistent with
    the Charter be suspended until amended or repealed by the relevant
    authority.

    5. THAT the by-law enacted by the Ville-Marie borough to close the last
    remaining 15 parks that were still open at night be repealed.

    6. THAT the provision of the By-law concerning dog and animal control
    introduced by the Ville-Marie borough to specifically ban dogs from
    Émilie-Gamelin park and Viger square be repealed.

    7. THAT the Code of Penal Procedure be amended to eliminate the
    discriminatory impact, especially on the homeless, of the current
    provisions imposing a prison sentence for unpaid fines.

    8. THAT the State strengthens the economic and social rights set out in
    the Charter at the earliest opportunity to protect the rights of the most
    vulnerable people in society, and in particular the rights of the
    homeless.

    9. THAT a policy on homelessness be introduced to ensure that the State,
    its representatives and its service providers formally launch a joint and
    planned action to allocate targeted resources with priority given to the
    homeless.

    10. THAT as part of the policy on homelessness, the government:
        a. Implements concrete measures to improve coordination between the
        stakeholders dealing with the homeless, thereby ensuring continuity
        of services and a better harmonization of the various categories of
        intervention;

        b. Strengthens and enhances existing measures to reach the homeless
        with mental health or addiction problems wherever they are, to ensure
        that they benefit from appropriate support and medical supervision
        from the health and social services network;

        c. Strengthens and increase the resources allocated to allow the
        homeless to benefit from personalized, long-term therapeutic
        supervision;

        d. Strengthens existing measures and programs supporting the social
        reintegration of young people leaving youth centres, especially when
        enrolled in education or seeking employment;

        e. Strengthens and enhances measures and programs to support the
        homeless or individuals at risk of homelessness when enrolled in
        educational or vocational integration programs;

        f. Uses the Market Basket Measure (MBM) to set the level of financial
        support for poor individuals provided by social assistance and social
        solidarity programs.

    11. THAT the State give priority to a preventive and proactive approach
    to homelessness, in particular by providing sufficient and adequate
    housing for the homeless or individuals at risk of homelessness, if they
    so desire.

    12. THAT the government increase and make recurrent the funding provided
    for new social housing projects through the various programs administered
    by the Société d'habitation du Québec;

    13. THAT the government increase the budget of $5 million allocated to
    the Cadre de référence sur le soutien communautaire en logement social to
    match the dollar estimates made by its partners in the social and
    community housing sector.

    14. THAT the government provide stable and recurrent funding for the
    Cadre de référence sur le soutien communautaire en logement social,
    adjusted annually to reflect the actual needs of the public and private
    organizations offering community support for social housing.
    

-%SU: CPN,SOC

-%RE: 1

SOURCE Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse

For further information: For further information: Patricia Poirier, (514) 873-5146, ext. 358, patricia.poirier@cdpdj.qc.ca


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