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QUEBEC HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION'S DECISION ON CITIZENSHIP DISCRIMINATION, THE WORST SETBACK FOR IMMIGRANTS AND RACIALIZED PEOPLE



Montreal, March 21, 2017 — The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission released last week a decision that deals a serious blow to the tens of thousands of immigrants who, as a result, may now face more racial and ethnic discrimination.

In its decision on the complaint of a Haitian permanent resident who was fired from her job for not being a Canadian citizen, the Commission ruled that discrimination based on citizenship is not prohibited under the provincial human rights Charter .

K.A. was hired in September 2015 for as a technician accountant by the Association québécoise des pharmaciens proprietaries (AQPP) and fired after one week when it was discovered that she did not have Canadian citizenship. The AQPP is incorporated under the Professional Syndicates Act (PSA) a law adopted in 1924 according to which “only Canadian citizens may be members of the administrative council of a Syndicate or form part of its personnel.”

Many labor unions and their local affiliates, as well as non-profit organizations, are incorporated under the PSA. It is estimated that, in Quebec, more than 1,740 unions and nonprofits operate under this law which makes them off-limits to immigrants without the Canadian citizenship.

CRARR filed a civil rights complaint on behalf of K.A., in which intersectional discrimination based on ethnic or national origin intersecting with race was raised. It also made reference to a 1989 Supreme Court decision (the Andrews case), in which the Court struck down the requirement of citizenship as a condition of admission to the B.C. Bar because it violated s. 15 (the Equal Protection Clause) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Furthermore, CRARR submitted that the ”Canadian citizenship” provision is racially discriminatory as it has a disproportionately adverse impact on racialized people, who make up almost three-quarters of immigrants coming to Quebec.

In October 2015, CRARR also wrote to Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée and Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion Minister Kathleen Weil, as well as Opposition MNAs Maka Kotto (PQ) and Amir Khadir (Québec Solidaire). CRARR asked the Government to act rapidly to change the law and end discrimination for Quebec's non-citizens. There has been no information as to what concrete action the Government has taken.

For K.A., the decision is more than disappointing. “I am now left without protection from the Human Rights Commission,” said K.A.. Her only recourse is to challenge the law in court, at own personal expense.

“I waited for more than a year to be told that my dismissal by my former employer is not illegal just because there is a law that allows for this kind of discrimination,” she said. “It's inconceivable that the Government has not done anything in more than a year to ensure the protection of my rights and the end of this immoral discrimination.”

In its decision, taken in January 2017, the Commission states that “the non-detention of citizenship constitutes the unique ground for the [employer's] decision, without consideration to [the Victim's] Haitian origin”, and, since “the law does not allow for a broadening the meaning of article 10 to include non-enumerated grounds”, “consequently, the complaint does not constitute a case of discrimination.”

In its decision, taken in January 2017, the Commission states that “the non-detention of citizenship constitutes the unique ground for the [employer's] decision, without consideration to [the Victim's] Haitian origin”, and, since “the law does not allow for a broadening the meaning of article 10 to include non-enumerated grounds”, “consequently, the complaint does not constitute a case of discrimination.”

CRARR pointed out that the Human Rights Commission's own staff union is affiliated with the CSN, one of the Quebec largest unions, which is governed by the same discriminatory law. This places the Commission in a delicate situation when having to rule on K.A.'s complaint. Furthermore, the decision was made mostly by Youth Rights Commissioners in January 2017, as almost all Human Rights Commissioner positions were vacant at that time. Few Youth Rights Commissioners have the necessary extensive backgrounds in civil rights to be able to engage in Charter-based adjudication.

K.A. and CRARR will seek to challenge the constitutionality of the PSA in Superior Court. Major fundraising efforts are being prepared.

According to CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi, “the Commission's decision is constitutionally, economically and socially indefensible, and it is the worst setback for immigrants and racialized people in Quebec. We don't understand why the Government, the Opposition and labor unions have not done anything more than 25 years after the Supreme court's Andrews decision, and more than a year after being informed by CRARR.“

“We are now very concerned that the Decision will open wider doors to racial and ethnic discrimination against non-citizens, and that it will adversely affect the Quebec Government's efforts to reduce the exclusion of immigrants from the job market and to combat systemic racism,” he said.

Several other community organizations serving immigrants and racialized people, including the Black Community Resources Center, Black Law Students' Association of McGill (represented by Chantelle Dallas), the Council of Muslim Women of Quebec (by Shaheen Junaid), Justice Femmes (a network of Muslim Women, by Hanadi Saad), Pinay (Filipina Women's Rights Organization, by Jennifer Lockerby), the Immigrant Workers' Center and the South Asian Women's Community Center have also joined CRARR since last year in calling for legislative change to end legislated citizenship discrimination.

Watch the CTV Interview: http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/fired-for-not-being-a-citizen-permanent-resid...