QUEBEC HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DECLINES LEGAL REPRESENTATION BEFORE TRIBUNAL TO CHINESE VICTIM OF DISCRIMINATION
Montreal, June 26, 2015 — A Chinese man whose complaint of racial discrimination in employment was upheld by the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission has been forced to abandon his case due to a lack of financial means to bring the case before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.
The Commission’s decision may be seen as a serious setback for victims of racial discrimination who are poor, and especially those who speak neither French nor English fluently, and thus require the assistance of interpreters.
The case involves a Chinese victim who suffered years of discriminatory treatment from his superior, including long-standing salary inequality and unequal treatment, as well as verbal or even physical aggression. As a result, he had to take a medical leave and later quit the job. In 2011, CRARR filed a complaint on his behalf with the Human Rights Commission.
Two other Chinese employees from the same company also complained of arbitrary denial of salary increases; their cases were settled before the Labor Relations Commission before the Human Rights Commission completed its own investigation.
After four years of investigation in the victim's case, the Commission ruled in March that it found sufficient evidence of discrimination to refer the case to the Human Rights Tribunal. However, it exercised its discretionary power to decline legal representation for the worker before the Tribunal.
Although the Commission stated in its decision that “the evidence relating to the allegations of discrimination and harassment based on race and ethnic origin is sufficient to proceed to the judicial stage,” it argued that “the questions of fact and law raised by the case are simple” and that as a result, the victim “is himself capable of asserting his individual rights” (our translation).
Since the complainant, who is now in his sixties, is unable to find work and dependent on a meager pension, he cannot afford to bring his case before the Tribunal. He cannot even afford the cost of an interpreter before the Tribunal, as his mother tongue is Mandarin and his English is elementary.
“I am very disappointed that after taking all this time to investigate, the Commission decides to let me go at my own expenses,” the victim said. “I can’t even afford a Chinese interpreter, much less a lawyer, while my employer has much more financial means.”
“In my experience, Chinese immigrants are often more willing to endure racism in silence, partly because they are hesitant to challenge discrimination, and partly because they don’t know their rights under Canada’s legal system. Decisions like this may further discourage Chinese people from fighting for their human rights in Quebec,” said Ms. Jing Yi Xu, a law student from l’Université de Montréal who worked at CRARR on the case.
“When a discrimination victim’s age, economic disadvantage and limited language skills are not considered by the human rights commission to be factors of vulnerability which warrant public legal representation before the Human Rights Tribunal, one has to ask questions about the accessibility of the human rights system itself as we mark the 40th anniversary of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms this year,” noted CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.