CRARR REMINDS ASFA'S TASK FORCE OF DUTY TO FOCUS ON RACISM AND SEXISM
Montreal, October 3, 2016 - Subsequent to an article published in The Concordian on September 27, CRARR wishes to clarify its position on some of the issues related to the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) student-led Task Force, which was set up as a part of the settlement in the “Mei Ling” case.
“Mei Ling” is the biracial ASFA student executive who was exposed during her term of office, to continuous racial and sexual discrimination and harassment, including racist and sexist slurs in Facebook chats between ASFA's President and Vice-President. CRARR filed a complaint on her behalf with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission against both men and ASFA for civil rights violations.
A settlement was reached with ASFA in November 2015. One of three conditions of settlement is the creation of a Task Force (the other two include a public apology to the student and an unspecified amount of damages). According to the settlement agreement, “the Task Force will (…) address (…) (i) violence and discrimination against women and minorities within student associations and other university bodies, and (ii) means for ensuring that complaints related to these issues are processed thoroughly and expediently in future cases, (…) determine concrete ways to combat and prevent racism, sexism, and sexual violence at every level of the university life, and to foster a culture on campus that encourages respectful behaviour. (…)
In May 2016, ASFA set up the Student-Led Task Force on Intersectional Issues of Sexual Assault, and adopted a policy and action plan that focuses mainly on sexual assault. Once informed of this Task Force and its scope, CRARR wrote, in July, to the newly elected President of ASFA to express its concern about the fact that ASFA has ignored racism, thereby violating its obligation pursuant to the settlement.
“The settlement is a legally binding accord that must be honored,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi. “Because a key part of the settlement condition was to address the racist treatment suffered by “Mei Ling”, we are of the opinion that omitting racism from the Task Force's mandate, or being ambiguous about it, is both morally and legally wrong,” he added.
“We deplore any attempt to trivialize or avoid the R-word, when there is no shortage of examples of how racism affects Concordia students,” Mr. Niemi noted, citing racial discrimination in employment, police racial profiling, Islamophobia and the rise of nativist, anti-nonwhite immigration discourse. For instance, a recent research shows that job applicants with an Arabic or African name will be three to four times less likely to receive a call-back from a potential employer in Montreal.
“We encourage ASFA to recognize each of these issues, and ensure that racism and sexism be both dealt with adequately, starting with the Task-Force mandate, which is an opportunity for ASFA to tackle these problems head-on,” Mr. Niemi added.
A failure to respect a condition of a settlement enables a party to apply to the Superior Court for enforcement.