DISCRIMINATORY LANGUAGE POLICY AT IMMIGRATION PREVENTION CENTER HEADING TO CANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS TRIBUNAL
Montreal, August 15, 2014 ---After three years of investigating complaints filed by CRARR on behalf of five Haitian security guards at a federal immigration detention center in Laval, Que., the Canadian Human Rights Commission has ruled that the case warrants an inquiry by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
The decision, which was made official at the end of July, constitutes a hard-fought victory for the five security guards who work or worked for Garda, which is subcontracted by the Immigration Prevention Center (IPC). The IPC is operated by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
In October 2010, Garda issued a directive on official languages in the form of an internal memo whereby the use of any language other than Canada’s two official languages while on duty “or any external site administered” by the CBSA was prohibited. Failure to comply with the directive would result in disciplinary measures ranging from suspension to dismissal.
Security guards placed at the IPC were from different racial and ethnocultural backgrounds. Guards of Haitian origin represented approximately 20% of the 150 guards. It appears that the directive affected these Haitian employees more disproportionately, resulting in a racially poisoned work environment. After being subjected to different disciplinary measures for having spoken Creole even during lunch and other breaks, some of them decided to challenge the discriminatory nature of this directive by seeking CRARR’s help.
Complaints were filed in 2012 by CRARR on behalf of these five guards with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. After the complaint was filed, some complainants were withdrawn from the IPC, which were considered as retaliation.
The case will have vast ramifications for all multicultural and multiracial workplaces where workers of different ethnocultural backgrounds often speak to one another, in private conversations, in their mother tongues. The Commission’s investigation report notes that “it is in the public’s interest that a federally regulated employer abstains from applying a discriminatory policy and that they avoid using that policy as a pretext for discrimination.”
The case will also help examine the role and position of the guards’ union, which is affiliated with one of Quebec’s largest union, the FTQ, on the language directive and the discriminatory effects that it created.