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The Montreal police have violated women's rights by removing the hijab in research, says the human rights commission

Aicha Essalama said she feared for her life after she and her son found themselves surrounded by the police, who handcuffed and removed the outer tunic and scarf she wore, without her permission.

The November 2014 incident is described in detail in a brief presentation by the Provincial Human Rights Commission to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, recommending the Moroccan woman to get $ 19,000 in compensation for the way it was treated.

The Center for Research-Action on Racial Relations (CRARR) has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, which calls on the Montreal police service to modernize their research procedures in order to better respect religious minorities.

In the legal brief, the commission says that Essalama was in Montreal visiting his adult son at the time of the accident. The couple had just left a mosque in Laval when his son received a call from the police informing him that there was a warrant for his arrest for losing an appearance in court the previous spring.

The man made sure to leave his mother at his home in the Ahuntsic neighborhood in Montreal, asking for him to be arrested at a nearby street corner.

The lowered faces, the batons

According to the brief, the officer agreed to this plan, but before they arrived home, Essalama and his son found their car surrounded by police cars. More than 10 officers got out of their vehicles, their visors lowered and batons in their hands.

The summary describes how Essalama got out of the car and ran to his son's house, in fear. A police officer used a megaphone to order her to return to the vehicle. His son, meanwhile, was handcuffed and put in the back of a police vehicle, where he saw what happened to his mother.

Although Essalama stopped when he was ordered, the document says that the officers seized her and handcuffed her hands behind her back.

Looking for her, an official woman, Const. Annie Brazeau, asked to know if she had a knife or another weapon. Essalama said he didn't.

The legal summary claims that Brazeau removed the shoes of the Moroccan woman, the robe she had worn over her clothes, called an abaya and her veil, before male officers and spectators and without Essalama's consent. She is also accused of having searched Essalama's hair and raised her sweater, exposing her belly and bra.

A few minutes later, having found nothing, the police officer removed Essalama's handcuffs, returned her abaya and her hijab and apologized.

While it was being searched, a second officer pointed a gun at her, while a third looked in her bag, the legal document says. At no time, the commission said, the police explained to the alleged victim why she was detained and did not read her rights.

The brief claims that the officer violated the victim's right to freedom of religion, "removing the victim's hijab in a way that exposed his hair to the public, and in particular to the men present, and raising the victim's sweater in the middle of the road ".

Essalama was left humiliated and frightened that she could not leave her son's home for the duration of his trip to Montreal. It had to be medicated and treated by a psychiatrist on his return to Morocco.

The human rights commission is recommending that the SPVM pay a total of $ 16,500 in damages to Essalama, to cover the cost of its medicines and its suffering. It is recommended that Brazeau, the police officer who conducted the research, pay $ 2,500 in punitive damages.

The SPVM declined to comment on the case, saying they did not want to interfere with the legal process.

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