CRARR SOUNDS ALARM ON THE UNPRECEDENTED ABSENCE OF ANGLOPHONE AND RACIALIZED HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONERS
Montreal, August 31, 2016 —CRARR has asked Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard to act immediately regarding the fact that for the first time since its creation in June 1976, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission has no Commissioners who are English-speaking, racialized or both.
In a letter addressed to Premier Couillard yesterday, CRARR points to the fact that with the resignation of Commissioner Adelle Blackett, an English-speaking Black law professor at McGill, and the passing of Commissioner Emerson Douyon, a criminologist of Haitian ancestry, in June 2016, the Commission no longer has any racialized or Anglophone among the 9 remaining commissioners (two of whom are Aboriginal).
This creates an unprecedented and critical situation that can negatively affect the Commission's image and decision-making processes, including the handling of complaints of racism. Since 1976, the Commission always had racialized and Aboriginal members. It occasionally had an English-speaking member (except for the period between 2003 and 2009, when Professor Blackett was appointed).
The Commission has a full-time President, 2 full-time Vice-Presidents and 10 part-time Commissioners. In addition to acting as members of a decision-making board, part-time Commissioners also sit on the three-member Complaints Committee to decide on investigation reports filed by Commission staff on complaints from victims of discrimination. All Commissioners are in principle appointed by the National Assembly.
“Who is at the table decides on what and how decisions are made. The absence of racialized and English-speaking commissioners does affect the kind of policies and decisions on cases that are being adopted by the Commission,” said CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi.
Among the agency's senior managers, especially those in charge of investigation, legal affairs and employment equity, there is no racial or linguistic diversity.
In its letter addressed to the Quebec Premier, CRARR also noted the fact that since 1976, all Presidents, except one, have been male Québécois francophones, a situation that is “unacceptable” as successive governments have failed to put into practice the principle of gender equality in the appointment of the Commission’s chair.
It also stressed the fact that since the merging of the Human Rights Commission and the Youth Protection Commission in 1995 into the present Commission, none of the youth rights commissioners (who examine the complaints regarding the youth protection system) appointed to date are racialized or English-speaking, despite the pool of professionals and experts coming from these communities in the Batshaw Youth and Family Centers.
CRARR calls upon Premier Couillard to act as soon as possible to implement his government's commitment to diversity and inclusion, by:
❏ Filling the four vacancies at the Commission, by appointing more people of color and Anglophones with knowledge and on-the-ground experience in human rights; and
❏ Ensuring that among the three full-time positions of President and Vice-President, there always be an Anglophone, and a racialized or Aboriginal person.
“Diversity of race, ethnicity and other backgrounds brings along diversity of competency, experience and knowledge that affects how decisions are made. In 2016, the Commission needs to be a symbol and an agency of diversity, inclusion and equity” he said.