By TOM GODFREY
A Montreal man has filed a racial profiling complaint against the Bank of Montreal in what’s dubbed a “Any Negro Will Do” takedown that occurred outside a BMO branch in which he was wrongfully detained by police for 40 minutes.
The complaint is believed to be the first filed to the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging racial profiling against a major Canadian bank. It was referred for a hearing last week before a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
The terrifying incident has changed the life of Wayne Foster, who said he did “absolutely nothing wrong”.
Foster, 35, had just left an ATM in April 2012 when he was approached by a Laval Police officer in the parking lot with his gun drawn.
Police were acting on a 911 call placed by a BMO teller who accused Foster of being a suspected serial bank robber who was armed and dangerous.
Foster said a nervous young officer ordered him to freeze as he called for backup.
“I was so scared that I was shaking,” he recalled. “It was a young cop and he had his gun pointed right at my face.”
Foster tried to explain to arriving officers that he was “not a criminal and had a transaction record in his pocket” as proof of being a BMO client.
“The officer was going to pull the trigger as I reached in a pocket for the receipt,” Foster told Share in an interview. “This cop was told I was armed and he was expecting a gunfight.”
Foster was handcuffed and detained for about 40 minutes in the back of a cruiser.
One officer later notified his colleagues that Foster bore no resemblance to the suspect and reminded them that they were acting on information provided by a teller.
“I am still embarrassed and so insulted in the way I was treated,” Foster said. “I don’t look anything like the suspect. I am heavier and have lighter skin.”
He said police were apologetic and explained they were summoned by bank officials.
Foster was so badly shaken by the takedown that he has not returned to the area since.
“I was looking at an apartment and was going to move there,” he said. “After that, I left town and never went back.”
The former warehouse worker is pleased to have his day in front of a tribunal.
Foster, in his complaint, claim he was pointed out as a robber “despite the fact his skin tone and physical features are significantly different from the suspect”.
The “victim (Foster) was subjected to a humiliating and potentially fatal violation of his rights to equality, dignity and security of person,” the complaint alleged.
Fo Niemi, of Montreal’s Centre for Research Action on Race Relations, a community group that helped with the case, alleged Foster was a victim of a “Any Negro Will Do” practice, a form of race-based discrimination faced by Blacks.
“He was publicly shamed and humiliated in front of everyone,” Niemi told Share from Montreal. “This was a violation of his rights to equality and dignity as a person.”
The complaint alleged BMO, through its employee, engaged in racial profiling by pointing out Foster as a bank robber, despite the fact his skin tone and physical features are different from the suspect.
The suspect is described as weighing about 77 kgs and having dark skin; while Foster is 90-kgs and has brown skin.
Niemi accused Montreal Police Service officers of using excessive racial profiling practices against members of the Black community there.
No date has been set for a hearing before the Tribunal.
BMO officials refused to comment since the matter is being adjudicated.