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Black Montrealer says police racial profiling cost him his job

Carl Luberisse says he was pulled over for no reason and given two unwarranted tickets outside his workplace, which led his employer to fire him. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)
Carl Luberisse says he was pulled over for no reason and given two unwarranted tickets outside his workplace, which led his employer to fire him. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)

Carl Luberisse didn't anticipate a short drive to the depanneur would lead to racial profiling, hundreds of dollars in fines and the loss of his job.

While on a lunch break this September from his job as a forklift driver at Bveggie in Laval, the 41-year-old decided to get chips at the nearest convenience store.

On his way back, Luberisse said, he was parking his car when police stopped him and demanded to see his identification.

Luberisse declined, saying they didn't have a reason to stop him and he was now late.

Under the Quebec traffic code, police officers can stop a vehicle they find suspicious. But Luberisse was already out of his car and was back at his workplace, where — according to a video obtained by CBC — a police officer prevented him from entering the building.

Police told Luberisse the vehicle he was driving belonged to a 30-year-old — his brother. Luberisse was given a fine of $494 for "obstructing a police officer" and a fine of $173 for "failing to signal a change of lane."

"Psychologically, I'm affected," he said. "When I see the cops now … I always think they're going to arrest me, which is crazy."

The interaction between Luberisse and the police officer was witnessed by several of his colleagues. Some even asked him what he had done wrong, he said, as people were talking.

Luberisse said he was let go from his job about two weeks later, along with the coworker who gave him security camera footage of the incident.

Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC
Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC

Bveggie claimed there wasn't enough work for them. However, its website says they are hiring, with a posting for Luberisse's old job.

The company said the site hasn't changed for years and that it's always recruiting, but not actively looking for a forklift driver.

It said it couldn't keep all of its employees due to changes within the company. When asked about Luberisse's case the company said they "couldn't comment too much."

But Luberisse isn't convinced, as he had seniority in his position.

"When they told me I was fired I went in my car and cried, I called my mother and said, 'What did I do wrong? I respect everything,'" he said.

"What am I going to do? I have two kids."

Legal action against police, workplace

The Red Coalition, a Montreal-based anti-racism group, is helping Luberisse take legal action against Laval police and his former workplace.

"As a Black person, you know what's going on with this story," said Red Coalition founder Joel DeBellefeuille.

Luberisse and the coalition are filing complaints against Laval's police chief for discrimination and racial harassment, saying complaints against individual officers don't go far enough.

They will also file for wrongful dismissal and discrimination against Bveggie.

Former RCMP officer and Red Coalition spokesperson Alain Babineau says it's "absolutely necessary to take systemic measures to deal with racial profiling."

"What we want is for them to go and look at the police service," he said.

"We're all about repression of criminality, that's not an issue … but we don't want the oppression of the community and right now that's happening in Laval."

Babineau says the Red Coalition is also demanding an end to article 636 of the traffic code, which allows police to stop vehicles.

"The point is what we're seeing here is the stereotyping of Black men as members of street gangs, facilitated by article 636 of traffic code," he said. "We're saying enough is enough."

The group also submitted a proposal for the publicly accessible collection of race-based data on all police interceptions to document racial profiling.

"We're not going to budge with what we're trying to accomplish here, which is a breath. We need to give these men and other victims a chance to breathe," said DeBellefeuille.

Laval police did not respond to CBC's request for comment.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.