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Montreal, January 10, 2018 — The complaint filed last year by the former President of Concordia University's Graduate Students Association, Alex Ocheoha, against the organization and three Directors who actively engaged in verbal and other acts of discrimination, harassment and intimidation against him during his term of office, has been sent to investigation by Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.

Ocheoha, who is of Nigerian background, began his term as President of the GSA in June 2015 until May 2016. During this period, he faced numerous problems and attacks from three GSA Directors in particular. The problems included frequent attempts to impeach him and deprive him of his executive salaries. Many of these attempts were later repudiated by the GSA Council as a whole.

In addition, Ocheoha was often targeted in numerous email communications sent by the three Directors in particular to all Council members, in which there were explicit insults, offensive jokes and intimidation directed at him. Many of the openly hostile slurs and disrespectful comments aimed at Ocheoha involve his age (he is older than many other GSA Directors), race and perceived mental disability.

These abusive email communications and the organization's apparent failure to prevent and remedy the situation over a long period created a “toxic culture of contempt” within the GSA during Ocheoha's tenure, leading to his experiencing humiliation, stress, and loss of dignity and integrity.

CRARR has filed, on behalf of Ocheoha, a complaint with the human rights commission, in which it alleges discrimination and harassment based on the intersectionality of his race, age, civil status and perceived mental disability.

CRARR is seeking $15,000 in moral and punitive damages against the GSA, for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent and stop the harassment and abuse directed at Ocheoha. In addition, CRARR claims between $12,000 and $15,000 in moral and punitive damages from each of the three Directors who were behind the acts.

CRARR also seeks systemic remedies that include a zero-tolerance policy against discrimination and harassment involving prohibited grounds such as race, age, and disability, and mandatory training on civil rights and respectful conduct for three consecutive years, for all GSA Directors and Executives.

Although Ocheoha was open to mediation to settle the case, the GSA declined the option, which led the Human Rights Commission to send the case to investigation.

According to Ocheoha, this is not the first time that there have been allegations of discrimination and harassment within the GSA. There have been indeed complaints by GSA employees of abusive conduct and sexual harassment involving some Executives, resulting in grievances and litigation. GSA employees are unionized under the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).