Social Justice Tool or Pathetic PR Move? The STM Announces a New Oversight Committee

In light of the video going viral of Juliano Gray being brutally beaten by STM security at Villa Maria metro, the STM announced their plan to set up a committee to investigate complaints their security. As one of the witnesses to come forward about the Villa Maria incident, I have a unique perspective on their actions and I am here to share them.

A lot has happened since the incident on March 7, 2019. I’ve been on the news a few times, I’ve spoken to a city counselor, and I’ve had people point at me and say they saw me on the news. I’ve seen a copy of the STM’s report about the incident, forwarded to me by City Councilor Marvin Rotrand, and it reminded me of a quote from the comedian Groucho Marx:

“Who you gonna believe?! Me or your own eyes?!”

Though the report claims that they investigated the incident, not ONCE did the STM reach out to ask me about it, despite the fact that everyone from CTV to TVA somehow got my phone number. I am certain that the level of violence to which Mr. Gray was treated with had everything to do with his race.

In response to the notion that Gray was racially profiled, the STM’s report boasted of the ethnic diversity of their employees and the fact that they hardly get any complaints of racial profiling anymore, to which I say the following:

Having people of colour working for you does not mean that your white employees aren’t racist.

Montreal’s black community no longer bothers to file complaints of harassment and racial profiling by security with the STM anymore, because the STM almost always sides with their people. Instead, they tend to go directly to the Quebec Human Rights Commission, where they have a better chance of having their complaints taken seriously and treated fairly.

That said, the STM had better think REAL hard about how this committee will be set up, who it will be made up of, and who will be in charge of oversight.

If the STM is really determined to fix relations between their security and the public with this committee, the first act of good faith would be to ensure that they are NOT the ones in charge of overseeing it. If they are truly committed to showing that their security is there to help not harass, they need to make sure the committee is diverse. That means a committee that is made up of representatives of groups who feel they’ve been targeted in the past and is diverse in terms of ethnicities, faiths, ages, and genders.

It also means that the STM should not be paying the salaries of committee members, so members don’t feel that their paychecks are reliant on pleasing the STM. If they are truly committed to social justice, they need to make sure that the committee’s recommendations and decisions have teeth, so that any legitimate complaints against security result in actual suspensions and dismissals.

Many groups, including the Center for Research Action on Race Relations, a Montreal-based non-profit civil rights organization, have called for an external, independent complaints examination system to investigate complaints against STM security and they are right to do so. As long as the STM is handling complaints against their own people, there will never be justice for those harassed, assaulted, endangered or otherwise abused by their security.

Montreal police have informed me of what powers STM security guards actually have and the answer will shock you. They have as much police-like power as you or me, meaning that they can make a citizen’s arrest and detain anyone committing a crime.

The second the real cops arrive, they are legally bound to hand over the suspect. People have been highly critical of the STM’s demands to give their security more police-like powers, but at the same time people want STM security to be subject to the Code of Ethics of Quebec Police Officers.

Unfortunately, only those considered peace officers under the law can be held accountable under the Code, so we can either have STM security recognized as peace officers so they can be subject to the Code, or we can keep using other laws to hold them to account for their actions.

The STM is claiming that they are determined to improve relations between their people and the public.

I say: prove it.

Hand the establishment and oversight of this committee to people who will treat it as a real tool for social justice and not just as a pathetically meaningless PR move.

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