UNUSUAL HIGH NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS RECEIVED IN FIRST QUARTER OF 2017
Montreal, April 14, 2017 — The first three months of 2017 saw an unusually number of requests for assistance from victims of discrimination based on race and other prohibited grounds.
Thirty nine (39) of the 46 new requests for CRARR’s assistance involve three main sectors: employment and labor; law enforcement, and education.
Education-related cases signal a rising and disturbing trend that is called in the United States as a “school-to-prison pipeline”: unequal and disproportionately harsh treatment directed at racialized children and youths by school authorities that resulted in these students being unfairly sanctioned, suspended, stigmatized, expelled and criminalized. Six (6) cases involving Black, Arab and Asian students (the youngest being barely 9 years old) came to our attention; they involved, among other things, institutional failure to protect and prevent racism, and racial disparity in school discipline, an issue that seems to worsen due the zero-tolerance approach to the new Quebec law on bullying. CRARR will go public on this issue in mid-April.
Sixteen (16) cases of employment discrimination and failure in a union’s duty of fair representation (DFR), at both federal and provincial levels, required CRARR’s intervention. Of these, six (6) involve complaints against a union for its failure to support, inform and represent the victim of race and gender discrimination.
DFR is increasing an issue that seems to worsen with time as the Parry Sound effects begin to take shape in labor relations in a multiracial economy. Parry Sound is a 2003 Supreme Court decision ruling that union workers must go through labor arbitration, instead of a human rights commission, to protect their civil rights on the job. Complaints will be filed with labor relations boards in these cases.
The growing number of DFR complaints, in which racialized workers (many of whom are women) complain of “double jeopardy” or being twice “under-protected” by their own unions, can no longer be kept under the radar. They will require CRARR to develop new legal as well as political strategies and techniques to overcome systemic barriers in grievance arbitration.
One of the employment cases raises a new challenge for job-related litigation. The case involves a young Black man who was arbitrary terminated by his employment, a major gym downtown. After mediation failed in the employment standards complaint process at the CNESST, the case proceeds to the courts. His employer used information obtained during mediation in a counter-civil lawsuit, while its lawyer announced his plan to call the mediator to testify at the trial.
Finally, during this period, CRARR received a total of calls for help from 23 individuals about racial discrimination and profiling in law enforcement, 18 of whom are Black and involve the Montreal Police Service. Eight (8) of these individuals were caught “Driving While Black”, and five (5) were victims of race-based mistaken identity. Anglophones represent 14 of the 23 people who had contacted CRARR. This is the highest number of cases received during a three-month period.
Also during this period, CRARR is helping a biracial couple who was intercepted and fined in a racial profiling incident back in 2011, file a civil lawsuit before the Small Claims Division of the Quebec Court. In Fall 2016, both individuals rejected the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission’s decision that, coming after five years since the filing of the complaint, recommended that the City of Montreal award each of them a paltry amount of $2,000 in damages.
The couple rejected the Commission’s “miserable” recommendation and decided to sue the City and its police officer in the Small Claims Division of the Quebec Court, where the limit is $15,000. This forum may become an alternative recourse for victims of racial profiling who consider the Quebec human rights commission to be ineffective in protecting them from police racism. Among other issues, the commission is known to claim very modest amount of damages that do not increase over a period of years.