COMMUNITY COALITION CALLS ON QUEBEC GOVERNMENT AND UNIONS TO END DISCRIMINATION AGAINST IMMIGRANTS IN EMPLOYMENT
Montreal, March 17, 2016 — The Quebec Government and unions should walk the talk by taking concrete actions to end legislated discrimination against non-citizens in the Professional Syndicates Act (PSA) and to make discrimination based on citizenship status illegal in Quebec.
This is the call launched by CRARR with the support of eleven community organizations serving immigrants and minorities in Quebec.
The PSA, which was originally adopted in 1924 contains three explicitly discriminatory sections. Section 8 of the PSA states, “only Canadian citizens may be members of the administrative council of a syndicate or form part of its personnel”. Section 26 states that the enterprise registrar can order the termination of a union or association in which “the number of their members who are Canadian citizens and in good standing is reduced to less than 15 in the case of a syndicate and to less than three in the case of a union, federation or confederation.”
Major labor unions, such as the CSN, the FTQ, the CSQ, and their local affiliates, as well as non-profit groups such as the Association des cadres municipaux de Montréal and the Fédération québécoise des directions d'établissement d'enseignement, are incorporated under this law. It is estimated that more than 1,700 unions and non-profits in Quebec operate under this law, which means that they cannot employ immigrants without Canadian citizenship.
In a letter addressed last month to Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée and Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion Minister Kathleen Weil, as well as Opposition MNAs Maka Kotto (Parti Québécois) and Amir Khadir (Québec Solidaire), CRARR asks the Quebec Government to act rapidly to change the law and end barriers in employment and participation in associations for Quebec's permanent residents.
CRARR made the call for reform while assisting an immigrant woman of Haitian background. As a permanent resident with more than 10 years living and studying in Quebec, this woman was fired from a position in finance with a major provincial non-profit on the grounds that she did not possess Canadian citizenship. CRARR filed last Fall, on her behalf, a complaint of discrimination with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.
Last month, a Commission's lawyer recommended the dismissal of the complaint because citizenship is not one of the explicit prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, and that citizenship discrimination is not discrimination based on race, and/or ethnic or national origin. Although CRARR has yet to receive the final decision, it is expected that the Commission will close the file.
Ironically, the Human Rights Commission's union is affiliated with the CSN, which illustrates the legal and moral quagmire in which the Commission finds itself.
Annually, more than 50,000 immigrants arrive in Quebec. Between 2010 and 2014, more than 260,000 immigrants arrived in Quebec. As it normally takes three to four years to apply for citizenship, it is estimated that up to 200,000 permanent residents are denied, each year, equal employment opportunities in the union and non-profit sectors. More than 70% of immigrants to Quebec are racialized persons who are adversely affected by this restriction.
In 1989, the Supreme Court, in the Andrews case, struck down the requirement that lawyers admitted to the B.C. Bar be Canadian citizens on the basis that it violated s. 15 (the “Equal Protection” Clause) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The citizenship requirement was not saved by s. 1 of the Charter (known as the “reasonable limit” clause).
“We call upon all Quebec unions and the Government to end this best-kept secret discrimination with all deliberate speed, either through legislative amendments, or by challenging its constitutionality in court,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.
“The maintenance of these antiquated, pre-Charter provisions harms the Quebec union movement's stand on social justice, and the Quebec Government's message in light of its recently released plan of action on immigration and integration. The plan includes numerous measures to promote immigrants' access to jobs, but it sadly makes no mention of removing obstacles to employment such as the PSA,” added Mr. Niemi.
Only Ontario and Nunavut's human rights legislation specifically prohibits discrimination based on citizenship.
The eleven organizations support this position are:
• Black Community Resources Center
• Black Law Students Association of McGill
• Canadian Council of Muslim Women
• Centre culturel algérien
• Centre des femmes sud-asiatiques de Montréal
• Centre des travailleurs immigrants
• Concordia Student Union
• Institut du monde arabe
• Justice Femme
• Regroupement d’intervenants et intervenantes d’origine haïtienne de Montréal-Nord