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Montreal, September 22, 2016 — Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée failed to show sensitivity and leadership on racial diversity in the provincial judiciary and should act to correct the lamentable under-representation of Black and other racialized judges in the province.

According to Yvonne Sam, Chair of the Black Community Resource Center (BCRC) Rights and Freedoms Committee, Justice Minister Vallée has avoided the issue when a political staffer responded to Sam’s letter and article sent last May regarding the lack of racial diversity among judges and human rights commissioners in Quebec.

Four months after her letter was sent last May, Sam received, on September 8, a letter from the Minister’s office, which explains the judicial appointment criteria and process.

The letter also says that the Minister cannot interfere in the independent appointment process and hints that it is up to interested lawyers to apply.

“This is a most disappointing, nonchalant response to a major preoccupation of Black Quebecers and everyone concerned about the need for a representative, inclusive and equitable judiciary,” said Sam.

“The English-speaking and French-speaking Black communities are grossly underrepresented in the Quebec justice system, except as criminalized and incarcerated people, and it’s not normal.”

“The Minister refuses to even take a position of principle and commit to achieving a racially representative judiciary. She could have reiterated what is considered in 2016 an essential notion of the administration of justice: that is, to be fair and seen as being fair, the judiciary must be diverse and reflect the population,” added Sam.

CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi points to the example of federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s active and concrete leadership on diversity on the Supreme Court, the Federal Court and courts under federal jurisdiction.

“We are also preoccupied with the message that it is up to individual lawyers to apply. If this is the same message sent by the Quebec Government to racial and ethnic minority applicants for jobs in the civil service, it shows a deep lack of understanding of systemic discrimination,” noted Niemi.

“Our Quebec judiciary needs to be integrated”, he added.

Both organizations will continue to press the Minister to meet Black community leaders on this issue.

There are presently one Black judge at the Superior Court and two Black judges at the Court of Quebec. There are no other racialized and Aboriginal judges among the more than 550 full-time judges at the Municipal Court (88), the Court of Quebec (270), the Superior Court (145) and the Court of Appeal (20) in Quebec.