Les Ateliers de l’Ethique (May 2006)

Broyer du noir. Manifestations et répression policière au Québec

  • Francis Dupuis-Déri

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 1, no. 1
pp. 58 – 80


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Since 1999, more than 2500 political arrests have been filed in Quebec, the great majority of which took place in Montreal. This raises stakes in the domain of sociopolitical ethics, since one must determine if police officers act in a rightful way with regard to demonstrators whom they arrest in mass. This kind of police intervention would be unjust and discriminatory insofar as it could be shown that the police officers are not motivated in their practice of mass arrest by the illegal behaviors of the demonstrators, but rather on the basis of the real or imagined political identity of the demonstrators. If this is the case, then police officers are in breach of the liberal principle of legal neutrality. My analysis demonstrates that it is indeed, in the case of Quebec, a political situation of discrimination which undermines the respect of fundamental rights associated with contemporary political liberalism. To conduct this demonstration, I will bring in social psychology with the approach of deviance labeling, as developed by Howard Becker. I will then show that the ascription of deviating and marginal identities to a class of demonstrators is the most important factor explaining the repression by the police force of which they are regularly the target.