THE BASSEY FAMILY LAUNCHES ONLINE FUNDRAISING TO PREPARE LEGAL ACTION
Montreal, April 8, 2016 — After the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission dismissed their complaints of discrimination, Sofia Bassey and her daughter Michaëlla have launched online fundraising (https://www.gofundme.com/yxy25rvv) to prepare legal action.
In 2012, Michaëlla, then 12 years old, was violently pulled out of the Montreal Transit Authority (STM) bus she took because the bus driver refused to assist her with the information on the bus schedule she needed. Michaëlla has dyslexia and other intellectual disabilities and often took the bus, but with other children. On that day, she finished her exams later than the other children at Lauren Hill Academy in Ville Saint-Laurent so she took the bus alone for the first time.
As he considered her request for assistance a threat to “his safety”, the driver called a STM supervisor who ordered her off the bus but who offered to drive her home, which her mother, who was on the cell phone with Michaëlla, told her not to get off a bus with a stranger. Within minutes, the supervisor called the Montreal police. Two officers came on the bus and in less than a minute, used force to take her out of the bus. Both Ms. Bassey and her other daughter could hear, through the phone, Michaëlla scream in pain as she was violently pulled off the bus.
Ms. Bassey mandated CRARR to file two complaints with the Human Rights Commission on her and her daughter’s behalf, against the STM and the SPVM, with discriminatory treatment based on disability, race and age. The Commission rejected both complaints last month, ruling that the STM and police officers acted in accordance with procedures and did not discriminate against Michaëlla.
The Commission’s handling of the complaints and decision, however, revealed troubling aspects, including its refusal to interview two witnesses on the bus who offered to help Michaëlla; privileged treatment of the two police officers named in the complaint by accepting their lawyer’s statement instead of interviewing them directly, and failure to apply the intersectional analysis in a case involving multiple grounds of discrimination such as race, age and disabilities.
During the investigation, CRARR brought these issues to the Commission investigator’s attention but the Commission ignored them.
“Not only did the Commission deliberately omit key witnesses, but it also ignored key facts such as the driver’s refusal to help my child with a simple answer before the bus even started. It also gave the police officers involved a preferential treatment during the investigation”, said Ms. Bassey.
“The Commission must be held accountable from the top down to the investigator who handled my case. Things cannot go on as if we’re second-class citizens and that the Commission ignores the law, while the Government does nothing about it,” she added.
The Bassey family is considering a judicial review before the Superior Court, plus a lawsuit for gross negligence against the Commission.