STATEMENT FOR THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACISM
Montreal, March 21, 2014 --- The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an annual occasion to reflect on the important gains in the fight against racism in all its forms, here and elsewhere around the world, and to see what future actions still need to be taken.
This Day, which marks the massacre of 69 Black demonstrators by law enforcers of the Apartheid regime in Sharpeville, South Africa, in 1960, was proclaimed by the United Nations in 1966 to underline the need to combat racial discrimination and to promote universal human rights principles.
In 2014, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination acquires special importance since the Former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandella, a key figure in the anti-Apartheid movement, left our world last December after having influenced it greatly with his extraordinary vision of freedom, justice, compassion and equality. His universal vision must endure.
March 21, 2014 also marks an important moment in this country, due to the introduction by the Quebec Government last Fall of Bill 60, the Charter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests. This Bill, which has already produced adverse effects on race relations and on members of many racialized, ethnocultural and religious minorities in Quebec, contains notions of a hierarchy of rights and upsets universally recognized human rights principles.
It is therefore essential, on this Day and in the months to come, to be vigilant towards all institutional measures that produce the consequence of limiting and compromising fundamental civil rights as protected by our Canadian and Quebec Charters and international conventions on human rights and freedoms.
Furthermore, the evolution of racial discrimination in the present social, economic, political and legal contact requires up-to-date, effective laws and means to combat systemic racism, a phenomenon that calls for a different and more sophisticated analysis. Systemic racism involves institutional and subtle dimensions of indirect discrimination that are more difficult to detect.
In this regard, CRARR is particularly preoccupied with the fact that public agencies with a human rights protection mandate are seized with cases of systemic racism, especially in employment, without having the necessary detailed policies and guidelines that enable them to handle these cases in compliance with contemporary standards of analysis.
Institutional resistance to the recognition of systemic racism could explain the quasi-absence of cases of this nature before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal and other common law courts in recent years. The 2013 Superior Court decision in Tanisma v. Montreal is thus a historic precedent created by Mr. Olthene Tanisma, a Black city employee, in his determination to fight, at his own expenses, systemic racism in job promotion at the City of Montreal, after failing to obtain the human rights commission’s protection.
This institutional resistance ultimately means that it is not only victims of systemic racism, but also victims of other forms of systemic discrimination, who are denied the full and equal enjoyment of their rights.
Finally, CRARR remains highly preoccupied with stalled actions against racial profiling. Investigations by the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission of racial profiling complaints often take up to 4 and 5 years; in several documented cases, cases are left untouched for 2 to 3 years without any investigative activity and without respondents and witnesses being interviewed. Excessive delays can lead to a high dismissal rate and eventually the loss of public confidence in the justice system.
Quebec legislators need to address the causes of long delays in investigation, including the lack of adequate resources, in their upcoming annual review of the Commission’s operations.