Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale


Montreal, October 31, 2017 — A former assistant director at the Laval Municipal Housing Authority (LMHA) has spoken out against a prohibition imposed by the agency's management on Latin American and English-speaking staff forbidding them from speaking to one another in Spanish or English during office hours, even in private conversations.

Walter Romeo Rivera Tamacas worked at the LMHA from June 2014 to May 2017, as Assistant Director in charge of Development and Special Projects. Trilingual (speaking Spanish, French and English), he is of Salvadorian background, and has completed studies in urban planning and geography in Montreal. In the last 12 years, he has held positions of inspector and supervisor in different municipal administrations, including Mirabel, Rigaud and Hampstead, before joining the LMHA.

At work, some staff members speak to one another in Spanish or English in private conversations. While some Québécois employees have periodically criticized and complained about the use of Spanish and English in private conversations, the previous director general did not support these negative comments and complaints.

Beginning in August 2016, the LMHA administration underwent changes with the arrival of the new director general. In November 2016, LMHA management, including three directors, issued a verbal directive forbidding Latin American employees from using Spanish amongst themselves during work hours, including in private conversations; the only exception to this rule was during lunch break. The targeted staff experienced an increase in disapproving looks and comments.

The use of English was also restricted but tolerated in communications with suppliers. Employees who spoke English received a direct warning from one of the directors.

Rivera Tamacas met individually with each of the three directors to express his view that such a restriction is illegal and discriminatory and that as Assistant Director, he should have been consulted before the ban was introduced. As the workplace climate did not improve and became increasingly toxic, Rivera Tamacas resigned in May 2017.

Last August, he wrote to the LMHA Chair, City Councillor Nicholas Borne, and Vice Chair, City Councillor Sandra Desmeules, about the reason for his departure, including “discriminatory repression” at work. He viewed the language ban as a violation of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the LMHA's mission and values. He also deplored the absence of a Code of Ethics for LMHA managers and employees, similar to that for the City of Laval.

“I deeply deplore that Laval Municipal Housing Authority staff still have to live this kind of racism at work, in 2017, where there is a great number of LMHA tenants and residents from ethnic minorities, racialized groups and the anglophone community,” said Rivera Tamacas.

“Such a ban, accompanied by management's warnings and other intimidating actions on the part of some employees, show that the LMHA, under the City's watch, have yet to practice equity and diversity in employment, ” he added.

According to CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi, the situation is concerning, since the city administration received, last August, $ 1 million from the Quebec Government to build a “more welcoming and inclusive society in Laval.” (

The City of Laval is bound by Law 143 to implement employment equity for ethnic and visible minorities.

CRARR will help Rivera Tamacas file a civil rights complaint with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, citing discrimination based on ethnic origin and language.

According to 2011 Census data, Anglophones made up almost 21% (82,200) of the Laval population of 401,500, while 24.6% (96,600) of Laval residents were listed as “immigrants”, half of whom were members of visible minorities. Arabs, Blacks and Latin Americans respectively made up 15.8 %, 13.7 % and 7.4 % of the city's visible minority population.