FIRST QUARTERLY RESULTS: $65,000 IN SETTLEMENT FOR VICTIMS OF RACISM
Montreal, May 29, 2015 — In the first three months of 2015, CRARR obtained $65,000 for its clients whom it helped to challenge racial discrimination in different sectors. In the last quarterly period of 2014, it obtained $67,000 for other clients.
This amount represents damages obtained through negociated settlements before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, the Labor Relations Commission, and the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission. All clients who obtained compensation are Black workers who experienced different kinds of race and gender discrimination in their employment and in interactions with the police, except in one case involving a Muslim man who was the target of discriminatory language by a professional.
The specific details of all settlements remain confidential, including that of Farid Charles, an English-speaking Black male who was violently arrested in 2010 and fined for “not being able to justify his presence” while waiting for take-out food in front of a Caribbean restaurant in Lasalle. Another major settlement involves the case of five security guards of Haitian background who worked in a federal detention center who were sanctioned or threatened with sanctions under a policy was adopted to prohibit the use of non-official languages even in private conservations during lunch breaks.
During the first quarterly period of 2015, CRARR received a mandate from many individuals who consider themselves victims of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, language and disability and who sought help in bringing their cases to human rights commissions and other public protection agencies.
Some noteworthy cases, which will likely set precedents for civil rights in Quebec and in Canada, include:
❏ The case of Aisah Forsythe, an English-speaking Muslim single mother on social assistance who experienced bias from an Emploi Quebec civil servant during a job counseling meeting, in part due to her wearing a hijab. This turned out to be the second documented case involving Emploi Québec employees who showed religious and sexist bias in serving Muslim women. The Department having refused mediation, the case is now under investigation by the human rights commission.
❏ The case of Tia McNickle, a young English-speaking Black hostess at the Madisons’ restaurant in downtown Montreal who was negatively treated in her job due to her cornrow hairstyles. The case may be the first of its kind in Quebec where Black women’s hair is at the heart of race discrimination complaints, although litigation over this issue is common in the United States;
❏ The case of “Mei-Li”, a biracial student at Concordia University who was the target of racist and sexist slurs as well as sexually violent language in a Facebook conversation involving the President and a Vice-President of the student association of which she was an executive member. The student also experienced ostracism other negative differential treatments by the executive of the association as a whole. The case, which also raises the issue of the University’s duty (and liability for failure) to protect its students from racism and sexism, may be the first case in which rape culture on campus is brought before a human rights commission.
❏ The case of a Muslim woman, whose hijab was forcibly removed by a Montreal police officer in full public view during a police operation in the East end of Montreal. Due to a false report, the woman, who was visiting her son from Morocco and who was coming home from a mosque, was detained and subjected to a body search in the street near her son’s home. During the search, one police pulled off the woman’s hijab in front of other male officers. The case could potentially lead to new rules concerning police searches of veiled Muslim women.
As the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States picked up steam due to numerous fatal incidents involving police interaction with African American males, the issue of racial profiling and excessive use of physical force on Black Montrealers was also raised in several cases taken on by CRARR, such as:
❏ In a Driving While Black case, well-known Black singer Freddie James was stopped in the West Island while driving his partner home after a soccer game in his BMW at night. The incident ended with Mr. James being violently pulled out of his car seat by two Montreal police officers, roughed up, and handcuffed. Afterwards, he was released and given a fine for failing to provide his papers when asked by the police.
❏ Coming out of a concert at the Olympia Theater in downtown Montreal, the granddaugther of legendary tap dancer Ethel Bruneau, Majiza Philip, was violently hit and arrested by the police as she was attempting to talk to her roommate who was being detained in the back of a police car. Her arm was badly broken and required surgery to insert a metal plate and six screws. Despite having broken her arm, and the fact that she was in obvious agony, she was kept handcuffed in the police car and station before the ambulance arrived. The case is presently under investigation by the Police Ethics Commissioner.
Of the new files opened during this period, CRARR also received mandates from several individuals who filed complaints of discrimination on their own and who had to solicit CRARR’s assistance due to the complexity of their case and/or problems with the complaint process.
The most challenging case in this category is that of systemic race and gender discrimination in employment at Concordia University, where Anthropoligy professor Sima Aprahamian was terminated in 2013 due to an employment system and labor relations framework that appear to create disportionately adverse consequences for women and minorities who make up a significant number of limited-term appointments within one faculty union.
Aprahamian first went to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission to file a complaint on her own, which faced rejection due to the agency’s failure to fully assess the systemic nature of her case. CRARR’s intervention led to the Commission’s decision to further investigate her file.