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Montréal, August 31st, 2018 - CRARR is launching an urgent appeal for public funding for Harrold Acquah, a disabled English-speaking Black victim of a racist hate crime, who has been left by the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission to seek justice before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal by himself and at his own expense.

In June 2013, Acquah was delivering newspapers in the Pointe-Saint-Charles district of Montreal when a group of white men verbally and physically attacked him. One of the attackers, Garry Wheatley, viciously punched him and kicked him in his face and body, while calling him “N----r”. Wheatley was arrested and charged with assault causing bodily harm and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to community service and two years of probation.

With the assistance of CRARR, Acquah filed in 2013 a civil rights complaint against Wheatley before the Human Rights Commission, citing violation of his rights to equality, security, and dignity.

In May 2018, five years later, the Commission finally released a decision on Acquah’s complaint. It concluded that Acquah, now 63 years old, was a victim of a race-based discrimination and aggression, and that Wheatley should pay him $30,000 in damages. However, while stating that the case can go to the Human Rights Tribunal, the Commission used its discretionary power to decide not to represent Acquah before the Tribunal.

The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms grants the Commission the discretionary authority to decide whether or not it will represent a person before the Human Rights Tribunal. When the Commission represents a person, it bears all the legal costs of the action while these costs must be borne by the victim if not represented by the Commission. The Commission makes this decision on the basis of the public interest of each case, but it also has a policy guideline that allows it to represent a victim of discrimination who is in a state of vulnerability.

In additional to being unilingual English-speaking, Acquah had to stop working due to poor health. He has undergone knee surgery and he has been relying on disability assistance. He is therefore indisputably in a state of heightened vulnerability, which would have justified the Commission in representing him before the Tribunal. However, the Commission decided otherwise.

In the meantime, since one of the aggressors, Wheatley, had not complied with the Commission’s recommendation to pay him damages, Acquah had to bring his case to the Tribunal to obtain justice and compensation. CRARR assisted Acquah file legal papers last month and paid from its own budget for court and bailiff fees that Acquah cannot afford, which amounted to $500.

“What message is the Commission’s decision sending? When one is poor, disabled, senior, racialized or unilingual English-speaking, access to justice against racism through the Commission is not guaranteed? And that it can take five years to find this out?” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.

“It is a terrible message to victims of racist violence sent by a Human Rights Commission whose key decision-makers are lily-white,” he said. “It defeats the essence and purpose of a human rights commission.”

“This is not the first time that we see racialized victims of discrimination who are economically disadvantaged, disabled or unilingual English-speaking being left by the Commission to go to the Tribunal at their own expense,” Niemi concluded. At least two other racialized victims abandoned their case before the Tribunal as a result of non-representation and insufficient access to justice.

CRARR has launched a GoFundMe campaign for Acquah to raise $5,000 for his court case. To support the GoFundMe campaign for Mr. Acquah, visit:

Tax-deductible receipts for donations are also available.

CRARR will also bring Acquah’s case, as an example of barriers faced by victims of hate crimes in Montreal, to the public consultation on systemic racism and discrimination in Montreal, the launching of which was the focus of CRARR’s work in the previous months.