What is project x?
Project X is a Head and Hands program created to equip youth with knowledge of their rights when confronted with racial profiling and policing. Through workshops, research and advocacy, Project X aims to assist youth navigating racist institutions, and give them tools to better advocate for themselves and others.
what is the research project?
This research project was conducted to examine the state of Montreal youth’s relationship with the public security sector, referring here to public transit security officers (STM), commercial security guards, and the Montreal police service (SPVM). Youth were surveyed about their experiences of racial profiling with members of public security organizations when partaking in everyday activities, such as driving, using a public space like a park, walking down the street or taking public transportation.
How was the project administered?
This research project was conducted by Head & Hands then Project X coordinator in collaboration with the legal team and other staff at Head & Hands. The methods chosen to obtain data were a survey questionnaire including some open-ended questions, and three long form qualitative interviews.The questionnaires were administered in the fall of 2019. The survey questionnaire contained 23 questions, and the long form interviews 25. 128 survey questionnaires were completed, both online and in person. Surveys were available in both French and English to increase accessibility.
Who was the primary demographic?
Research on racial profiling in Canada is not novel, but few studies focus on the experiences of youth specifically. The project was created to highlight the particularities of racial profiling experienced by those between the ages of 12-25.
What were the findings?
The Project X research project demonstrates that racial profiling in Montreal is heavily experienced by the city’s youth. Participants saw profiling as a consistent issue they are confronted with in their everyday lives. 61% of respondents stated they had been victims of profiling, and 78% said they had witnessed it occurring to someone else.
Research findings also showcase the relationship between racial discrimination and youth mental health. Participants surveyed reported feelings of severe anxiety and stress when crossing paths with police officers and STM officials.
A crucial finding for the project is that youth are often uncertain of their legal rights, and unsure of how to effectively utilize them when confronted with situations of profiling. Moreover, youth are not likely to formally report their experiences as they see mediation and legal processes as lengthy and time consuming. Participants shared they have little confidence the legal system will provide them with justice or satisfactory outcomes.
What do we go from here?
In the past year, public conversations concerning community safety and policing have shifted drastically, and initiatives related to defunding and abolition have gained more traction. Project X staunchly believes that the elimination of racial profiling requires an in depth and holistic overhauling of current systems of security and radical reallocation of police funds towards community centred solutions for safety and wellbeing. Other suggestions stemming from the report are as follows:
1) that race-based quantitative data be made available on street checks, arrests, and detentions in Montreal;
(2) that an independent supervisory office be created in each borough to monitor their respective police station;
(3) that all police practices that unfairly target racialized youth and result in them being forced to undergo arbitrary and involuntary contact be eliminated;
(4) that the SPVM publishes an annual report on violent interactions by SPVM officers against civilians. The report would focus on reporting each time an agent used or pointed a firearm against/at a civilian;
(5) that a separate page for filing complaints be created and that the procedural steps included in the complaint process be clearly laid out on the SPVM and STM websites.
These suggestions alone are not enough. They are simply tools of harm mitigation that can be taken while communities continue to fight for long term solutions based in community needs through defunding and resource reallocation.