COURT HEARING INTO RACISM AT THE CITY OF POINTE-CLAIRE STARTS THIS WEEK, FORMER AND PRESENT MAYORS SUBPOENAED
Montreal, June 14, 2016 — After more than twelve years experiencing racial discrimination and harassment on the job, a Black blue-collar worker with the City of Pointe-Claire will have his day in court this week.
Mr. Alrick Bowen, a native Montrealer, began working in December 2001 with the Parks department and then with the Public Works department of the City of Pointe-Claire. He soon experienced racial slurs (being often referred to “le Nègre”), threats, marginalization and physical intimidation from white co-workers on a regular and at times, daily basis. The harassment encountered during his work as day laborer in the Asphalt team in Public works was particularly denigrating.
Hoping to obtain protection, he reported these racially discriminatory acts to management, on numerous occasions, but without any result. Prior to his hiring in December 2001, a report done by the Regional Council of Health and Social Services, had confirmed physical and psychological harassment in the department of Public Works.
Mr. Bowen sought help from his former union, which in 2006 folded into the Syndicat des cols bleus regroupés de Montréal, local 301, FTQ. The management-union relationship at the City at the time, made it difficult for him to obtain effective protection from racism. A grievance was finally filed in 2008. In addition, the union's President wrote to the City about the discrimination and other rights violations, demanding corrective measures, to no avail. Between 2008 and 2013, the union filed 3 grievances, although they did not bring any result. In 2013, he learned that two grievances were disposed of subsequent to a discussion between the City and his union without his knowledge or consent; since 2014, he has had no news about the third grievane.
In 2008, Mr. Bowen went on sick leave due to the effects of a racially poisoned work environment on his mental and physical health. The City made representations to Service Canada to deny him his employment insurance claimed during his sick leave. A Service Canada Board of Referees for employment insurance later ruled in his favor, recognizing that according to medical evidence, he had a valid motive to leave his work as the only reasonable solution to the situation of the “inertia and the recklessness (“insouciance”) on the part of the employer in (…) preventing all forms of discrimination and harassment within the framework of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.”
Mr. Bowen returned to work in 2009 and continued to experience ongoing harassment and other unfair treatment on the job. In March 2013, he went on extended sick leave and received health and safety benefits granted by the CSST for a back injury, but his claim of harassment-related injury has been rejected by the CSST. The City challenged his CSST harassment benefits claim. The hearings before the Administrative Labor Tribunal this week address legal challenges on the part of Mr. Bowen and the City regarding these benefits.
“The appalling toxic environment, the unspeakable racism, the repeated attacks on my dignity and humanity, and the City's overall actions in my case categorically violate my fundamental rights as a Black man and as a blue-collar worker, ” said Mr. Bowen. “But I refuse to be treated as a N- at work and outside of work, because this is Montreal of 2016, not Montgomery of 1956, and I refuse to be trampled upon.”
“It is deplorable that this kind of racism still exists inside a city like Pointe-Claire, and that it is allowed to last this long, without any accountability or any corrective or preventive action on the part of the authorities,” noted CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi.
“Mr. Bowen's situation fits the textbook definition of systemic racism and it surely shatters the image of Pointe-Claire as a well-off, bilingual and multicultural town where racial discrimination is not supposed to exist.”
In April 2015, CRARR addressed a letter to Pointe-Claire Mayor Morris Trudeau and members of the City Council to call on the Council to “ examine Mr. Bowen's case as well as the broader issue of systemic barriers for racial equality in employment inside the City's administration and compliance with Law 143, and that it will take appropriate action to solve the problems.”
Mr. Bowen is among the handful (less than five) of racialized employees who work at the City of Pointe-Claire. According to a 2015 demographic study by the Table de Quartier Sud de l'Ouest-de-l'Île (based on 2011 Census data), visible minorities make up almost 18% of the 30,790 residents of West-Island municipality. The top three racialized groups are Chinese, South Asians and Blacks.
The hearings, open to the public, will begin on June 16 and 17 and will continue in July and August 2016. They will be held at 500 René Lévesque West, 18th floor, Montréal (corner of Beaver Hall).
A total of 25 witnesses have been called for six days of hearings. Both former Mayor Bill McMurchie and Mayor Morris Trudeau have been subpoenaed to testify.
Read: Summary of the 2001 Report of the Regional Health and Social Services Council
|Rapport Régie Régionale 2001.pdf||330.41 KB|