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‘Gross incompetence:’ Man ticketed for contraband cigarettes says he was racially profiled

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An Iranian man in Quebec says he was racially profiled by police when they conducted a “routine stop” which he says led to over $1,100 in ticket fines for providing his insurance papers “too late,” possessing two packs contraband cigarettes and obstructing a peace officer.

Iman Niknam held a press conference on Wednesday alongside the Red Coalition, an anti-police profiling organization, detailing the “gross incompetence and troubling unprofessionalism” by Roussillon Police when the incident occurred back on July 8.

Niknam, a renovation contractor, says he was heading to meet a client at around 8 a.m. when he was pulled over for what the officers called a “routine stop” on Rue Centrale in Sainte-Catherine, Que., on Montreal’s south shore.

Once stopped, he says he asked one of the two officers why they had done a U-turn to pull him over.

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According to Niknam, the officer replied “are you smoking Indian cigarettes? I can give you a ticket for that if you want to be rude.”


Iman Niknam (far right) speaks to reporters at a press conference in Montreal alongside Red Coalition founder and executive director Joel DeBellefeuille (left) and director on issues of racial profiling and public safety Alain Babineau (centre). July 26, 2023.


Karol Dahl/Global News

She then asked for his license, registration and proof of insurance. He says he showed his license but had a hard time finding his insurance papers.

The officer then took the driver’s license and vehicle registration, returned to the police cruiser and came back with a $64 ticket for failure to provide his insurance papers. By that time he had found the documents and handed them over.

He says she told him it was too late and issued the ticket anyway.

Niknam says he continued to ask why they had done a U-turn to stop him. “She gave me a bunch of different answers. She said, ‘You have an F plate (a license plate issued to commercial and special use vehicles) and we wanted to see who the driver was. It’s a normal routine stop — we have done it to six others already this morning.’”

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Niknam says he then asked the officer for her name and badge number, and claims that escalated the incident. The officers ordered him out of his car so they could search it, which he says he didn’t consent to, and says they then found contraband cigarettes in his vehicle.

The contractor was subsequently issued with a $549 ticket for the possession of the cigarettes and a $499 ticket for obstructing a peace officer — totalling $1,112 in fines.

“The officer showed gross incompetence and troubling unprofessionalism. Not only was Mr. Niknam racially profiled, but he was also detained illegally, and his vehicle searched without a warrant,” said Alain Babineau from the Red Coalition.

“This is once again an example of the perverted use of article 636 of the Quebec Highway Safety Code that leads to racial profiling.”

Roussillon police told Global News that the department did not wish to comment, but that “verifications” regarding the incident will be conducted.

Article 636 of the Quebec Highway Safety Code states that every peace officer can require a driver to stop a vehicle, and the driver “must comply with this requirement without delay.”

“The financial burden of racial profiling seems to be beyond the comprehension of law enforcement officers whilst they intercept members of the BIPOC Community,” said Joel DeBellefeuil, founder and director of the Red Coalition.

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“Perhaps if they better understood what racialized members of the community go through on a regular basis, they would refrain from this type of illegal interception altogether.”

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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