Facial recognition : The elected get a response from the POLICE… after six months

Reconnaissance faciale : Les élus obtiennent une réponse du SPVM... après six mois

MONTREAL – municipal elected officials have had to wait six months to get a response from the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) to a simple question on the use of technologies of facial recognition, which is answered by yes or no.

In November 2019, the SPVM had refused to say to the elect if he used or not the face recognition software, so as not to reveal their investigative techniques.

Six months and many attempts later, the answer arrived. “The SPVM does not have and does not use facial-recognition technology that is part of the software company Clearview HAVE,” said the director of the SPVM Sylvain Caron, in a letter dated may 27.

This is the public safety Commission (PSC) of the town hall that had asked the question, since it has been tasked to investigate the use of new technologies by the POLICE in connection with the respect of civil rights.

Faced with the refusal to answer, the CSP has sought advice from the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec, according to our information.

On the 21st of February last, Alex Norris, chair of the CSP, has written to the director of the SPVM for that he respects “the mandate of the Commission in terms of accountability.” According to the Charter of the City of Montréal, the SPVM must provide to the Commission all information necessary for the exercise of its functions.

The police have finally responded to the question three months later.

“The organization does not exclude, however, in special situations and exceptional circumstances, use the services of a third party with this type of technology to advance a major investigation, ensuring always to conduct its operations and investigations in compliance with all laws in force”, added Mr. Caron in the missive, obtained by the “24 Hours” with the law on access to information.

The director of the SPVM stands for in the letter his silence on the use of these technologies. This was part of the logic that is sustained by rules of law, and by our concern for the protection of information and investigative methods used by our organization in order to carry out our mission.”

The context has changed since, added Mr. Caron, referring to the investigation launched in February by commissioners on the protection of privacy on the use of facial recognition technology by the company Clearview HAVE.

“We are also mindful of the importance of the protection of the privacy of citizens and the growing interest with respect to the collection and use of personal data,” wrote Mr. Caron.


The efforts that had to deploy the CSP indicated a lack of collaboration with the SPVM, and a “total disregard for civilian oversight,” according to Marvin Rotrand, councillor, independent. “It is as if we were a nuisance to them,” he said.

The vice-president of the CSP and elected the opposition party Together Montreal, Abdelhaq Sari, abounds in the same direction.

“We are always at the mercy of the POLICE. This administration [of mayor Valerie Plant] is not even able to go and get a yes or a no”, he launched.

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