Hair salon owner accuses Montreal police of racial profiling, after officers suspect her of selling liquor

·3 min read
Stéphanie Odia, owner of a salon in southwestern Montreal, says police need to take racial profiling more seriously. (Hugo Lalonde/CBC - image credit)
Stéphanie Odia, owner of a salon in southwestern Montreal, says police need to take racial profiling more seriously. (Hugo Lalonde/CBC - image credit)

The owner of a Black hair salon plans to file racial profiling complaints against Montreal police after two officers showed up to her business unannounced and without a warrant — and asked if she sold liquor on the premises.

Stéphanie Odia, who owns a salon on Monk Boulevard in the city's Southwest borough, says the officers came in last Thursday evening, while her brother was taking black garbage bags from the back of the shop and putting them out front.

Much of the interaction was caught on Odia's security camera. At one point, when Odia's brother walked back into the shop, the officers trailed him.

"I saw two police officers come in. Nobody told me anything and the first one starts following my brother to the back of the shop," Odia told CBC Montreal's Daybreak host Sean Henry.

"I stop them and I ask them 'Excuse me?' and then he kind of dismissed me and then I said 'It's my business, can I help you?"

Odia says the officers told her they wanted to see what was in the back of the salon. Then, she says they asked her if she sold liquor in the shop.

Steph_odia_le_salon/Instagram
Steph_odia_le_salon/Instagram

She says she accompanied them to the back of the store to show them she wasn't selling anything illegally. They asked her for a piece of ID and took notes before leaving.

"I was just really scared," Odia said.

"[One officer] was following him really close," she said, referring to her brother. "So I was just scared that he might do something to him because we never know."

Salon located between SAQ and a bar

According to Kwadwo Yeboah, Odia's lawyer, there were several empty liquor bottles around the trash bin near the salon's entrance.

Submitted by  Kwadwo Yeboah
Submitted by Kwadwo Yeboah

But he says that alone does not provide officers with enough probable cause for a search, especially considering the kinds of businesses the salon has for neighbours.

"Mind you, there's a SAQ and a bar next to her and they chose to go into her store," Yeboah said. "There's more probable cause that those bottles either came from the SAQ or the bar than from her hair salon."

A Montreal police spokesperson told CBC News that officers patrolling the area saw something that could "possibly" be linked to an infraction related to the province's liquor board. The spokesperson also said an investigation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, Yeboah will help Odia file two racial profiling complaints, one with the police ethics commission and the other with the Quebec human rights tribunal.

"If you look at what the definition of racial profiling is, this is exactly what happened," the lawyer said. "It went from suspicion to 'we're doing an investigation' in a matter of two seconds."

Odia hopes that by holding the officers accountable, Montreal police will take the issue of profiling more seriously.

"They should stop trying to silence our voice, they should stop diminishing what we have to say," she said.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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