Quebec’s Independent Investigations Bureau (BEI), the unit that examines police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the in custody death of David Tshiteya Kalubi, a 23-year-old Black youth. Kalubi, who was arrested by Montreal police in his own neighborhood of Hochelaga, was declared dead less that 12 hours after his arrest.
Little information has been released publicly. Police say Kalubi was stopped by officers in Hochelaga and arrested on an outstanding warrant after police ran a background check. The BEI has not stated publicly what the outstanding warrant was for, only that it involved a municipal offense.
Community activists in the city, which has seen many cases of lethal police violence against civilians, and disproportionately against Black people, are raising concerns about Kalubi’s death and the actions of police. Racial profiling and so-called carding, where people are stopped by police and subjected to interrogation and/or background checks, have been strongly condemned by community members in cities across Canada. Carding goes hand in hand with profiling as Black people are disproportionately stopped for carding checks in Canadian contexts. Kalubi is of Congolese background.
Montreal police reportedly took Kalubi to the station, where he spent the night before being transferred to the municipal courthouse in Old Montreal to appear before a judge, according to the BEI. The transfer took place at 7:35 AM. Only a little more than an hour later, at 8:55 AM, a guard noticed that Kalubi was on the floor and appeared to be unconscious. He was then taken to the hospital and declared dead at 9:55 AM. Community members are raising concerns that Kalubi was subjected to differential, discriminatory, treatment because of histories of police racism in Montreal. The family, for its part has not raised the issues of racial profiling. According to the family’s lawyer, Virginie Dufresne-Lemire: “For the moment, there’s not enough information to know if it’s a case of racial profiling, but with a young black man arrested it can look like racial profiling” (quoted in MacArthur 2017).
Dan Philip, the executive director of the Black Coalition of Quebec has said publicly that it took police seven hours to notify his mother and family of Kalubi’s death. Even then, police took the opportunity to first interrogated the family about Kalubi, before telling them he was dead, according to Philip. Said Philip, in an interview with CBC News: “They felt it was a travesty. They felt there was no compassion. They felt that there was no concern about either the death of the young man or the family themselves who have to mourn the situation” (quoted in MacArthur 2017).
Community advocates have little confidence that the BEI will provide satisfactory answers to the family’s many questions. Critics have long pointed out that the BEI includes several former police officers among its active members. As Philips suggests: “It’s the police investigating the police. They have no interest in finding out why did he died and what negligence caused his death” (quoted in MacArthur 2017). It has also been pointed out repeatedly that the BEI lacks any meaningful diversity. It is expected that their report will not be released for another year yet.
MacArthur, Cecilia. 2017. “After a Young Man Dies in Custody, a Family Searches for Answers.” CBC News. November 24 http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/david-tshiteya-kalubi-montreal-police-1.4416153