Bernier, one of the Montreal's most celebrated players, said the incident took place a few months ago at Quartier DIX30, a mall in his hometown of Brossard, Quebec (a suburb of Montreal), where he was with his daughter and driving his wife's BMW. He was stopped and parked when he was approached by two police officers, who knocked on his door and asked for his papers.
“They told me they were doing an identification," Bernier recalled. "They tell me that there was a situation that had occurred in the region. They told me the car was in another name. I did not understand why they were checking my plates. I had my child in the car, I was not going to drive a stolen car. It was profiling.
"Clearly, there is profiling and we label everyone. If you’re a Black man in a nice car, it’s not normal, it’s not yours."
The local police told TVASports in an email that the department "does not advocate that kind of practice" and that they "have a directive on preventing racial and social profiling."
Unfortunately, Bernier said, it's an all too common scenario.
“Obviously it happens regularly, not just once in a while," he said. "What you experienced when you were young, you see it hoping things will get better as you get older, and there are still incidents, and in the era of social networks, it does not go unnoticed anymore. When you are a person of color, it reminds you that you are judged by the color of your skin rather than by the content of your character.
“My little girl, who takes the school bus, has already received comments and she did not understand. I was younger that that when it first happened to me.”
With the killing of George Floyd sparking protests against police brutality and institutional racism throughout the world, Bernier said his hope is that the issue will remain at the forefront and lead to the changes necessary to put it to an end.
“It has to change," Bernier said. "I am not in favor of violence, but we have to make people aware. I can’t say I’m happy or reassured, it shouldn’t just be a trend. Sometimes, we don’t want to talk about it so that it is not seen as an excuse. We have to raise awareness, educate, and that doesn’t just mean people of color who explain to their child how it will be for them. You have to educate to remove ignorance, because I don’t think racism will be eradicated for a long time. If we can win one person at a time, that’s it.
“The remedy, unlike a virus, it’s us who have it.”
Bernier, 40, played in MLS with the Impact for six seasons from 2012-2017 and currently works for the club as an academy coach as well as an assistant to first-team manger Thierry Henry. He also started his career with the impact, playing three seasons with them in the then-second-division A-League from 2000-2002 before embarking on a 10-year European career that took him to Norway, Germany and Denmark.