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Montréal, August 6, 2020 - A Black mother of two young boys who are victims of repeated acts of racism at a Rosemère school is speaking out against the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission’s failure to protect her children and to address anti-Black racism in schools.

In Winter 2017, Adrienne Charles publicly denounced acts of racist bullying directed at her two sons by their classmates. Frequent racial slurs and jokes (such as the N-word) and aggressive acts by other students created a toxic environment for her sons, one of whom has special learning needs. According to Charles, despite the frequency of these acts, the school and the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board refused to take effective measures to combat and prevent anti-Black racism.

In May 2017, CRARR filed a complaint on her behalf with the Human Rights Commission for discrimination based on race and disability. In its complaint, CRARR asked the Commission to examine acts of racial harassment and violence towards her sons, and to assess the school’s response from a perspective of systemic racism.

It took the Commission three years (during which the file was left dormant for more than a year) to produce an investigation report that shows an egregious mishandling of the case. Key flaws of the investigation include:
● The failure to examine the impact of racism on the son with learning needs;
● The failure to interview the two sons and their witnesses despite their legal obligation to do so and CRARR’s requests. In contrast, and in what is clearly a bias, four witnesses on the respondents’ side were interviewed;
● The failure to take into account recurrent racist incidents in 2018 and 2019, even though they were brought to the Commission’s attention;
● The failure to address the systemic dimensions, such as the failure to examine school board policies on racism and discrimination (except for a general plan against bullying), and whether or how they were applied in her sons’ case.

When pressed to correct these flaws, the Commission indicated last month that it would proceed to the next stage, which is to send the report to the Complaints Committee, made up of three Commissioners, for decision. The Committee receives only the investigation report but not the parties’ comments. They will not know of the serious flaws with the investigation and they may make a decision on the basis of incomplete information.

“It’s incredible that the Commission chose not to interview my two sons, not to document the continued racist bullying in the last two years and not to correct the problems with the report,” Charles said.

“This is a gross violation of my children’s rights and gross negligence in confronting anti-Black racism in schools. It is a massive failure by the Commission to fulfill its role,” Charles added.

”Why the rush now when for three years, it did not do anything to protect the children? Why the rush now when it did not do anything for 14 months in the file?” asked CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.

“The highly disturbing handling of this case may explain why since 2010, there has not been any case of racism in schools or public services brought by the Commission before the Human Rights Tribunal,” he added.

“I’m shocked by all of this. It’s a sham, and I’m calling on the Premier and other political leaders to do something about the way the Commission is failing my children and maybe other Black children,” Charles said.

In addition to the refusal to interview Black children and their witnesses, the case reveals a second shocking fact about the Commission’s record on systemic racism. Contrary to what it preaches, the Commission has no policy on the handling of cases of systemic racism.

“It is misleading to give the public and victims the impression that the Commission investigates systemic racism, when it doesn’t. The Commission should stop talking the talk and start walking the walk by adopting a policy on systemic racism now,” Niemi concluded.

CRARR has sent a letter detailing the serious flaws of the Commission’s handling of Charles’s case to the Commission’s President and Members, Premier François Legault and the two ministers and co-chairs of the Government’s Action Group against racism, Immigration Minister Nadine Girault and Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant.

In addition, CRARR is asking the Commission to send the case to an external investigator who is competent on systemic racism. It is also calling on the Commission to hire more Black lawyers within the Investigations Unit and lawyers in the Legal Affairs Unit, who have first-hand experiences with and a solid understanding of racism and discrimination.

UPDATE: Another Black mother whose case was mishandled in a similar manner by the Commission will demand a public inquiry into the Commission's handling of complaints of racism involving Black children. As in the present case, the matter was brought to the attention of the President and Commissioners who never responded.