The family of a 12-year-old girl who was forced off a public transit bus in Ville St-Laurent, Que., last month is filing a civil rights complaint against Montreal’s public transit authority and the Montreal police department.
According to a release by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), which has taken on the case, Michaella Bassey —a black girl who suffers from dyslexia and an attention deficit disorder —had asked a bus driver for help understanding the route system. The driver allegedly ignored her.
CRARR said Bassey was then asked to leave the bus by workers of the Société des Transports de Montreal (STM). After refusing the request, two Montreal police officers “violently pulled Michaella by the arm and pushed her out of the bus,” the group alleges.
The STM, in a statement, said the young girl was “acting in an arrogant manner.”
Now Michaella’s family is filing a $60,000 civil rights complaint for damages and is demanding that police and the STM change the way they deal with disability and discrimination.
The CRARR said witnesses have agreed to testify in Michaella’s defence concerning the employee’s actions and the police officer’s “excessive use of force, bias and lack of competencies to deal with youths with intellectual disabilities, especially those of a young, black girl.”
Brady Donahue, a law intern with the CRARR, is helping the family with its complaints.
“We’re hoping for some preventative measures so that this doesn’t happen again, so that the police and the STM interaction with racialized youth — especially those with disabilities — is improved in the future,” Donahue said.
Donahue said she hopes the transit authority will create a sensitivity program for its employees.
The Quebec Human Rights Commission (CDPDJ) will now review the case and decide whether to hold a hearing.