Canada’s Black Walk Of Fame

By Ashlie Bienvenu

As there has been a lot of recognition of this historical figure in the past few years, with her inclusion in the Canadian Heritage Minutes and the decision to place her on the new ten dollar bill, I thought it would be appropriate to start our new series, Canadian Black Walk of Fame, with Viola Desmond. This series not only looks at the life and contributions of these important figures in Canada’s Black history, but also looks at the way that they have shaped Canadian society with their contributions and actions. With Ms. Desmond, we will look at her background of fighting for an equal opportunity, for herself and her community, her courageous actions when her basic human rights were violated, her impassioned battle with the courts to fight for her rights, and the rights of her community, and her lasting impact on Canada as a Civil Rights pioneer.

Viola Desmond’s dream, of owning a Black beauty salon, was not easily attained in the 1940’s. Not only was it difficult for Black people to open a business, but very few beauty schools would admit Black students. In fact, Desmond had to travel all the way to Montreal get accepted into beauty school (Annett). She then went on to open her own salon that provided services for Black women; however, she didn’t stop there. Desmond expanded her business over the years, and also created a beauty school that Black women could study in, so they would not have the difficulty of finding a school like she did (CBC News). Desmond’s sister said that this was due to her passion for people; “she inspired them and she inspires us (CBC News).”

Even though Desmond did a lot to help her community before 1946, it wasn’t until November 1946, that Desmond managed to “raise awareness about the reality of Canadian segregation (Black History Canada).” The incident that sparked this awareness began when Desmond had traveled to New Glasgow, looking to expand her business, when she encountered car trouble. Looking to for something to do while waiting for her car to be fixed, Desmond decided on watching a movie, not knowing that this theatre segregated its clients. When Ms. Desmond asked the ticket booth for a seat in the first few rows, due to her nearsightedness, the ticket-seller refused to sell her a ticket for the main floor; she could only get the balcony, even though she was capable of buying the more expensive floor tickets. Angry that she would be denied access to a seat, simply because of the colour of her skin, Desmond walked into the main floor and sat in a chair. This then resulted in the manager telling her to leave because she did not pay for a floor seat, to which Desmond responded she would be willing to pay for the extra cost. The manager refused to sell her a floor seat ticket, due to the fact that she was Black, and called the police, who brutally dragged her out of the theatre, injuring her hip and knee (Heritage Minutes). Desmond was then put into a police cell for the entire night, where she “maintained her composure, sitting bolt upright in her cell all night long, awaiting her trial the following morning (Heritage Minutes).”

Desmond was then charged with tax evasion and given a fine of twenty-six dollars, due to the fact that main floor seats were one penny more than balcony seats. Ironically, even though her “real ‘offence’ was to violate the Roseland Theatre’s implicit segregated seating rule (Heritage Minutes),” race was never mentioned. After paying the fine, Desmond tried twice, unsuccessfully to get the decision appealed at the Nova Scotia Supreme Court (Heritage Minutes). In fact, Desmond went to her grave, in 1965, “without any acknowledgment of racial discrimination in her case (Annett).” This “miscarriage of justice (Heritage Minutes)” was only acknowledged in 2010, in a posthumous pardon presented by Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant-Governor Mayann Francis (Heritage Minutes).

This, then, brings us to Desmond’s memory in current times and her impact on Canadian society. Ms. Desmond is often called the Rosa Parks of Canada, even though Desmond’s standoff occurred nine years before Parks. This is conveniently glossed over in Canadian history, due to the Country’s pattern of “whitewashing history (CBC News).” Be that as it may, Desmond was key in setting a precedent of fighting for civil rights in Canada. Even though the appeals of the trial were not won, “her story and her vigilant activism through the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People were important factors in the eventual abolition of the province’s segregation laws in 1954 (CBC News).” Desmond’s legacy of civil rights advocacy has not gone unnoticed recently. In 2018, she will be the first Canadian female, as well as Black figure, to be featured on the Canadian ten dollar bill. She is also the first Black female to get a Canadian Heritage Minute (Annett).

Therefore, Desmond was one of the first key figures to fight for the Black community’s civil rights. She may not have been successful with her appeals of the trial; however, she managed to bring to light the implicit pattern of racism in Canada. According to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, “Viola Desmond’s own story reminds all of us that big change can start with moment of dignity and bravery (Annett).”

 

Bibliography

Annett, E. (2016, Dec. 09). Who’s the woman on Canada’s new $10 bill? A Viola Desmond primer. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/women-on-banknotes-viola-desmond/article33264617/

Black History Canada. Viola Desmond. Historica Canada. Retrieved from http://www.blackhistorycanada.ca/profiles.php?themeid=20&id=13

CBC News. (2016, Dec. 08). How civil rights icon Viola Desmond helped change course of Canadian history. CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/viola-desmond-bio-1.3886923

Heritage Minutes. (2016). The story of Viola Desmond, an entrepreneur who challenged segregation in Nova Scotia in the 1940s. Historica Canada. Retrieved from https://www.historicacanada.ca/content/heritage-minutes/viola-desmond

Picture: https://heritageday.novascotia.ca/content/2015-honouree

 

For full version of Semaji March 2017 Click Here

Quebec and Racism—Time to lift her head out of the sand

By Yvonne Sam: Chairman (Rights and Freedoms Committee) Black Community Resource Centre

Ontario has set the pace and Quebec must now join in the race. But before doing so, we must try to come to a common understanding of racism, and the roots of racism in Canada. It is difficult to change what you refuse to acknowledge, and equally difficult to acknowledge what you cannot see. There is pervasive evidence in Quebec that some French leadership, even the most radical, do not believe that the French Settler classes are to be blamed for racism against Blacks, Asiatics, the indigenous peoples, or for the acts of genocide carried out against them. The radicals blame this on the dominance of British colonial capitalism in Canada. They bestowed sainthood on the working classes that they declare to be the true source of revolutionary change and absolve themselves.

In Quebec, they covered up their complicity by declaring themselves the White Niggers of America. But, also in Quebec, there are the elite French Settler classes who define Quebec as a French nation struggling against “English Canada money and the Immigrant vote” to retain its culture, language and rights over all the territories that it considers to belong to the settler nation of Quebec and essential to its pursuit of national independence and Frenchness. In this Quebec, both of these classes of leaders believe that the right to be French trumps the rights of “others” to their liberty and human rights. Hence, the “notwithstanding clause”. Hence, their annoyance when one points out that the quasi constitutional agreements between Quebec and Canada institutionalizes the practices of systemic racism and discrimination in Quebec and Canada.

The evidence is in. Ontario seems to recognize it. What hinders the Quebec government is the Protectorate of the citizens’ from forming an Anti-Racism Directorate. The demand is out. This time, with some degree of moribund urgency, there is a demand for the Quebec government to tackle the gnawing problem of systemic racism and how it adversely affects more than a million people in the province.

The government of Ontario, clearly on the ball, recently announced the establishment of an Anti-Racism Directorate, primarily geared to address racism in all its forms: individual, systemic and cultural. Such a directorate is a direct acknowledgement of the existence of systemic racism, including anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, Islamophobia and racism experienced by other communities, including the Jewish community, all of which can act as barriers to progress and opportunity.

A recent Washington Post Opinion piece, that ran three days after six men were killed at a Quebec City mosque, claimed that the province of Quebec was more racist than the rest of Canada. Members of the legislature sprang into action immediately voting unanimously to denounce the article, once again seemingly more concerned about bruised egos than dealing with the festering issue. (www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2017/02/01/why-does-progressive-quebec-have-so-many-massacres/?utm_term=.e812d542cd4c). Following the shooting, members of the Coalition for Equality and against Racism said that the shooting was an extreme manifestation of racism and xenophobia.

From time immemorial the province has been struggling with acceptance of the presence of racism, preferring to call it any other name except that which it merited. Over a decade ago, the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences, later referred to as the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, investigated the issue of reasonable accommodation of minorities in the province, hearing from experts, individuals and organizations on identity, integration and religion, all at a cost to taxpayers of $3.7 million. Now, in recent times, a petition from associations and a collective of individuals has been delivered to the National Assembly, once again demanding a public commission on systemic racism. Premier Couillard has given in to the demands for a provincial inquiry into the treatment of First Nation Women, and, in a further apparent face saving gesture, mandated retired Superior Court Judge Viens to investigate into systemic violence, racism or discrimination against Indigenous men and women throughout the health, social services and justice network. The province is also establishing a working committee with Indigenous groups to find rapid solutions to continuing problems, independent of the work of the Commission. Although, one notes that the Commission would not be disclosing its findings until sometime after the 2018 election. We note that Mr. Martineau, of the Journal Montréal (http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2017/03/29/le-paradis-des-racistes), does not like Mr. Coullard’s decision, and basically accuses him of letting down the “nation” class. He writes: “Philippe Couillard could have said: “Let’s see, systemic racism, you do not think about it! It’s insulting to Quebec society.” But no. It will leave it to the anti-racist organizations to tell us whether we are racist or not. If, in addition, it can discredit its political opponents and portray them as xenophobes, so much the better. This is called instrumentalizing a cause for its own benefit. Shame on you, Prime Minister.”

Ontario is, in no way, anymore racist than Quebec, the striking difference being, however, that the issues were important enough to merit corrective mechanisms being put in place. On the other hand, in a neighboring province called Quebec, which has a pervasive and long standing problem with racism, it has become blatantly apparent to anyone with rudimentary observational skills that Quebec needs to accept the concept of racism before setting up a bureaucracy to battle racism; and, as in Ontario, not only does similar corrective steps need to be taken, but they need to be taken expeditiously.

Racism in Quebec has been an ongoing problem, albeit shrouded in taboo-like garments. No longer can Premier Couillard continue to bury his head in the sand, for ignoring the reality of racism will only make the situation worse. The inaction must stop and action must be taken.

Yvonne Sam

 

For full version of Semaji March 2017 Click Here

Report from the Secretariat of the Black Community Forum

“The Secretariat of the Black Community urges the City to return to the earlier, and more holistic and integrative, approach that characterized its relationship with Black Communities over three City Administrations: The Dore, Borque, and Tremblay Administrations.”

Dr. Clarence S. Bayne, President of BCRC and Chair of the Secretariat of the Black Community Forum.

 

The Black Community Forum is a network of 12 Organizations that have agreed to meet as a Conference of organizations to set and approve priorities that create the framework for their operations and guidelines for activities which serve to maximize the objective and subjective wellbeing of the Black Community. Consistent with Recommendation 6.5.1.1 of the Forum Report, the conference has created an administrative structure, the Secretariat, to conduct its administration and implement its recommendations and promote the purposes of the Forum. The secretariat is located at office space in the BCRC, 6767 Cote des Neiges. The Secretariat speaks for the FORUM under the authority given to it by recommendations 6.5.1.1 to 6.5.1.13 of the Forum Report (Manual). It is directly accountable to the Conference of Member Organizations.

Members of the Conference of organization: The Black Community Forum
1. The Black Community Resource Center(BCRC)
2. Quebec Board of Black Educators (QBBE)
3. The Black Theatre Workshop of Montreal (BTW)
4. The Union United Church
5. Universal Negro Improvement Association of Montreal (UNIA)
6. The Black History Month Round Table (BHMRT)
7. La Ligue des Noir (Black Coalition)
8. The Institute for Community Entrepreneurship (ICED, Concordia)
9. The Black Writers Guilds (Kola)
10. Black Awards Scholarship Fund (BASF)
11. The Rights and Freedom Ad Hoc Community Committee
12. The BSC Black Community Archives

These 12 agencies, by their collaboration and partnership within the group and with a wide range of organizations and memberships outside the group, create a network of services that extend beyond the Black communities. This covers the arts, culture, education, health, employment and employability; youth education and development; library and archive services; immigrant settlement, diversity and anti-racism and discriminatory practices; social and economic development; and governance, human rights and freedoms.

The Black Community Forum is not a Chartered Federation. But its members work together cooperatively and in a manner consistent with Recommendations 7.2.1 to 7.2.10 of the Forum Report. In particular Recommendation 7.2.1 states:
“We recommend that the forum created by this meeting become an ongoing mechanism, which will facilitate the process of harmonizing the various agendas into a unifying programme of activities for the community.”

The Forum, consistent with Recommendation 7.2.5, functions through the legal status of the member organizations and is bound together in a spirit of “collaborative unity and existential responsibility.” Collaborative unity means that the organizations concerned agree to work together through their various specializations to represent, and achieve, the greatest good for the Black community and society, and that they intend to do this through a system of inter-organization communication and cooperation. Existential responsibility means that each organization is responsible to the community through their respective charters, mission and mandates to provide services to the community in the most effective and efficient way possible. For this reason, membership in the Forum requires that an organization provides services to the Black Community; and that they are registered or chartered in Quebec as not-for-profit social enterprises, cultural and community based agencies in good standing; and that they engage in community and social economy activities that address the priorities of the community. This legal framework of Canadian laws governing not-for-profit organizations assures the community at large that they are accountable. These organization must report annually to the Canadian government, which monitors their activities, in the interest of the citizens of all the communities that they are given a charter to serve. It is the responsibility of the Secretariat to monitor the published public reports of their members to ensure that they are in good standing.

In addition, each member organization agrees to accept and respect the following purposes and to respect and support the recommendations of the Forum in a manner consistent with their respective charters, and the principle of “Existential responsibility”.

Purposes of Forum
1. To develop a process which will identify a long-term development plan for the Black Community.
2. To ensure that this planning process is cooperative and collaborative.
3. To identify and promote a structure to support the planning process.
4. To encourage and promote the development of strategic partnerships and networks that benefit the Black community, and the larger society.
5. To provide a network of communication, the transfer of knowledge and information, and to facilitate the general expansion of social capital.

In order to fulfill the purpose of the Forum, the Secretariat sent a communique to the Borough of NDG/CDN; the City of Montreal; the office of the Premier of Quebec and the Prime Minister of Canada; the Minister of Justice; the Minister of Heritage; and the Quebec Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion. This was to seek assurance that the Black community’s presence in Montreal and Quebec would be more fully recognized and we requested a meeting to discuss the concerns expressed at the Forum of June 16, 2017. To date, we have received acknowledgements of receipt of our communique from all of the parties. But, we must openly recognize the respect and seriousness given to the communique by the Ministry of Justice, the Mayor of NDG-CDN (Russell Copeman) and the City of Montreal (Mayor Denis Coderre). We still await a response to our request to meet from the other agencies.

Meetings with the City and the Mayor of NDG-CDN
In response to our Communique, the Mayor of CDN-NDG (Mr. Russell Copeman) invited the Secretariat to organize the Cote des Neiges Black Community organizations, in order to meet to discuss the issue of the failure of the City to officially invite the Black Community to participate in the Montreal 375th; and to discuss relationships with the City. The organizations that attended were BCRC, QBBE, La Ligue des Noirs, and, to speak on the 375th problem, the Black History Month Round Table. This meeting introduced the Secretariat to the Mayor of NDG-CDN and enabled the Secretariat to engage the Mayor’s attention and support on larger issues affecting the relationship between the City and the Black community across all arrondisements. The meeting opened the channels to the City of Montreal for formal communications with the City, represented by Mr Dimitrios (Jim) Beis, Maire de l’arrondisement de Pierrefonds-Roxboro, Membre du comité exécutif Responsible de l’approvisionnement, des sports et loisirs ainsi que des communautés d’origines diverses. The Forum, represented by the Chair of the Secretariat, presented to the City a number of issues and suggested ways that the City can better serve the Black community of Montreal. The Secretariat sought a more comprehensive and long-term approach, as opposed to the current fragmented short-term approach. The secretariat presented to the City the option of returning to, and revitalizing, the systematic planning processes and agreements that existed under the Doré, Borque, and Tremblay administrations, as opposed to the presented defused system of relationships. In particular, the Forum has asked that the City return to, and review, the formal agreements reached under the Tremblay Administration, in 2004, between the City and the Black community. According to that agreement, the City, in a letter from the Mayor’s Office November 2014, agreed to undertake a plan of action that would address the following priorities: strengthening of families; addressing the problem of violence among youth; supporting programs in the community relating to the employment and employability of Black youth; improved access to better housing; promoting the socio-professional and economic integration of youth; facilitating access to the City infrastructures; fuller integration of the Black communities into the City and representation at the advisory and decision making bodies of the City; and full representation of the contributions of Black people to the history and development of Montreal. To this we added new concerns expressed at the June 16, 2017, Conference of Black Organizations (Forum), in Montreal: improved anti-racism strategies; improvements in the justice system; the strengthening of Black organizations; and sustaining the vitality of the English speaking Black community, whose growth seems to be stagnating. In particular, we have asked the city to return to the advocacy role it played during that period, on behalf of the Black community within the Boroughs and other levels of Government.

City’s Response
The response of the City has been very positive. There is a firm commitment from the City to discuss problems with the Secretariat that need to be addressed urgently, and marshalling the resources of the City and the community to help resolve these problems. The City has indicated that it has already made adjustments to its evaluation criteria for supporting community projects. While the City emphasis on the support of organization activities remain focused on sport and recreation, it recognises the need to support events and organizational activities that are social or economic in orientation. The City has agreed that it will monitor more closely the funding procedures to ensure that when, under the existing system criteria, projects do not fully meet the criteria for sport and recreational activities, that the agencies advise the organization on ways to modify the projects that they become valid for funding. It is our understanding that the City has advised civil servants in the City and Boroughs that they should actively support organizations in the planning, development, and formatting of their grant applications in order to improve their success ratios. The Secretariat is, in fact, currently engaged with the City to ensure that these new approaches are taking place; and that Black community organizations are being made aware of opportunities for support and funding at the City and in the Boroughs.

The City is, at present, responding to a number of requests made by the Secretariat to assist and support projects in the Black Community: the Pan-black Identity defining events project assigned to the Black History Mount Round Table for implementation by an alliance of Black Community Organizations; the development of a Black Community creative and cultural tourism sector involving several Black heritage sites and Black English Speaking Events; and the development of a systematic Black Toponomy strategy in collaboration with the Black Forum (Secretariat); assistance with and support for a social and economic summit to deal with the sustaining of the vitality of the English speaking Black communities; and support for the new initiatives launched by the BCRC, in collaboration with the QBBE and the BSC, to stop the brain drain of Quebec educated English speaking and bilingual Black youth from the community. This project represents the second stage of a partnership between the BCRC and the Montreal CEDEC. The first stage was a survey conducted by the CEDEC to determine the demand for the project. The BCRC has undertaken the second stage which is the implementation of a program to promote and improve the employment, here in Quebec, of Black youth graduating from Quebec colleges, technical institutions, and Universities.
For the full version of Semaji March 2017 Click Here

We’re Hiring

Position Overview

The Animator will be tasked with promotion, planning, structuring, and facilitation of workshops with either a boys or girls group in respective schools. Each group will be run within the project guidelines by the animator who will facilitate structured activities in accordance with objectives set out by the BCRC and the school they reside within. This person will report to the Project Coordinator on activities, issues, and act as an intermediary for general communication between school staff, parents and other facilitators and will be tasked with keeping detailed notes. The Animator(s) will work both in the school, and on occasion in, the community.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Plan and facilitate group workshops in accordance with the program guidelines and the participants’ skills and needs.
  • Develop monthly work plans in accordance with program objectives.
  • Serve as liaisons between students, homes, schools and other contacts to help children who face problems, such as disabilities, abuse, or poverty.
  • Interview clients individually, or in groups, assessing their situations, capabilities, and problems to determine what services are required to meet their needs.
  • Counsel students whose behavior, school progress, or mental or physical impairment indicate a need for assistance, Identifying students’ problems.
  • Assist parents with understanding social dynamics of High School, and intervening appropriately with students.
  • Encourage group participants to provide mutual assistance and emotional support to each other.

Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, Psychology or DEC in Social Service, CRLT, Special Care Counselling or related field.
  • Previous experience working with children and families.
  • Excellent oral and verbal communication skills/exceptional client service skills
  • Ability to problem solve and multi-task.
  • Detail-oriented; strong organizational skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to work under pressure while juggling several competing priorities.
  • Ability to work and problem solve independently and as a team member.
  • Excellent computer skills (Microsoft Office: Power Point, Excel, and Word).
  • Bilingualism (fluency in French and English) is an asset.
  • Crisis intervention skills an asset.
  • Cultural Sensitivity.
  • Experience (or related experience) with “at risk” youth an asset.

All interested candidates ready for this challenge are requested to send their resume to the attention of Ms. Raeanne Francis, Administrative Coordinator. Applications will be accepted until January 30th, 2017. Please note that we will only contact those candidates retained for an interview. Selected applicants must complete a background check and must provide attestation to academic study. We thank you for your interest in working for BCRC.

Job Type: Part-time

Job Location:

  • Montréal, QC

Required education:

  • Diploma/Certificate

Racial profiling: Black Civil rights also matter!

By Yvonne Sam

 

As a preliminary step before delving into this somewhat charged topic, it is useful to define racial profiling, as the Canadian populace, in general, use the term to mean different things. For this editorial, I am applying the term ‘racial profiling’ to refer to the law enforcement practice of taking the race of a potential suspect into account when deciding whether to initiate investigation of that suspect. To the more erudite, racial profiling can also be termed “racism in practice”, regardless of whether it is viewed using Heidegger’s phenomenological lens, or any other modes of optic aid. For such an overloaded term as racial profiling it is somewhat understandable that several definitions are attributable to it. To be engaged in racial profiling, race does not need to be considered to the exclusion of other factors. A profile will often contain a variety of factors; but, if one of them is race, then we have a racial profile.

As stated in its mission, and dictated by its organizational values, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, and the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) stipulate that the services provided by the entire staff in all interactions with citizens be free from racial profiling. The SPVM Executive has also made a firm commitment to promote and maintain a strong stance against any type of illicit racial profiling. It is apparent that such a commitment exists only on paper and is not effective in reality. While racial profiling may be defined as unjustified actions by authority figures toward members of a particular race, ethnic group or religion, the actions of the Montreal Police in the 2008 killing of teen, Freddy Villanueva, have served to indelibly sear the issue into the public consciousness at large. Bear in mind that racial profiling is not limited exclusively to law enforcement, but also education and youth-protection systems, where it is seen that youths are unfairly labelled with the consequent risk of being channeled into the criminal justice system.

On November 30, 2016, in a decision on a case filed five years ago by Marcus Gordon, a Black urban entertainment professional, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission has ruled that he was indeed a victim of racial profiling by the Montreal Police and awarded a meagre sum of $2,000 in moral damages. Do Black civil rights matter especially when racial profiling is acknowledged? Despite the straightforward facts, the Commission took almost four years to complete the investigation of the complaint. To further compound matters, although the investigation was completed in January 2015, the Commission’s Complaints Committee only decided the case in October 2016. Despite the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations enquiry, the Commission declined to explain the 1.5 year wait. www.youtube.com/watch?v=knV-_5AEst8).

Currently, there are no racialized managers or members at the Commission. An Indigenous Commissioner has recently resigned, leaving the Commission without any racialized or English-speaking member who, among other functions, makes decisions on cases through the Complaints Committee. According to Fo Noemi, Director of CRARR, this decision sets an extremely disturbing precedent. It fails to send a dissuasive message to police officers and departments that practice racial profiling. Also, on the converse, it can be seen as a very persuasive message to victims of racial profiling that it is not worth filing complaints. A request for a review of the decision has been made by CRARR to the Commission’s interim President, Camil Picard.

With no surprise elements, the most common recurring and familiar instances of racial profiling in Montreal is what have come to be known as “Driving While Black” or (D.W.B). Racial profiling of this kind involves police stopping motorists under the guise that they have committed a traffic violation—usually a minor one. This is where things take a different turn and shape. Although the traffic violation may be the primary reason for the motorist being stopped, the actual underlying reason might include the race of the suspect. Police often assume that African-American drivers are more likely than their white driver counterparts to be transporting illegal drugs. This assumption has been the catalyst for a large number of roadside stops.

A few years ago, an individual by the name of Joel Debellefeuille was out for a drive with his wife and stepdaughter. For the purposes of this story it is important to note that the individual is Black and that the car he was driving was a BMW sport-utility vehicle. Joel was pulled over by two Longueil (Quebec) police constables, because, after running his plates, they reasoned that his name could not possibly match his skin colour. What is of interest in this horrible situation is how misinformed and uneducated these white officers were. For instance, they must have conveniently forgotten the processes of colonization that their ancestors inflicted on people of colour, which included, for enslaved Africans, the stripping of their African names and their replacement with the names of white European slave owners. How Debellefeuille presented himself was also not the deciding factor in his subjection to racial profiling. Rather, the unifying factor is that these Black people, who would all appear to be of middle or upper class backgrounds, dared to desire nice things (“high end” expensive purchases—cars etc.) for themselves. Debellefeuille refused to pay the tickets and persevered for two years in several courts in order to finally win his case.

A similarly mundane, egregious and potentially lethal practice of racial profiling is: “Walking While Black.” This afflicts many in Montreal, as it surely does in other cities in Canada and elsewhere.

This next story is about Jimmy, a recent immigrant to Canada, and his first unhappy encounter with the Montreal Police. In May 2015, Trevaughn, a West Indian national, was walking along St. Catherine Street in the heart of downtown Montreal. He had recently emigrated from the West Indies to be reunited with his Canadian wife. Back on St. Catherine Street, he crossed an intersection beside two white pedestrians. Singled out by a white, French-speaking police officer, Trevaughn was asked to produce his identification without an explanation of his “offense.” However, this attention was not given to the other two white pedestrians with whom Jimmy had crossed the intersection, as they were not stopped and interrogated. A Spanish-speaker and recent immigrant to Quebec, he did not yet speak any French. Instead, the policeman insisted that he would only speak French and demanded that Trevaughn do the same. It is hard to comprehend the level of arrogance, malevolence, and insensitivity that motivated such a callous response on the part of a civil servant whose role it is to “serve and protect.” In conclusion, however, given the frequency of unwarranted police surveillance against Blacks, any type of racial profiling contains the seeds of potentially lethal violence. Traffic stops are a good indicator that the police must stop and evaluate their way forward. Acts such as driving, walking, shopping or banking while Black are not just mundane, they are a constant part of our daily realities in this part of the diaspora, and within the Canadian mosaic. As such, the potential for racist abuse is far too pervasive and needs to be immediately addressed.

 

Morton Weinfeld, a professor of sociology at McGill University, who holds the chair in Canadian Ethnic Studies, said that while action on racial profiling is needed, it is only the tip of the iceberg. “An even more profound problem is that of systemic racism in all dimensions of our society,” said Weinfeld, who pointed to immigration problems, cultural differences and poverty as examples of obstacles facing minority groups. “If racial profiling was eliminated tomorrow, we would still have profound racial inequalities,” he said. “And tackling those problems will be much more difficult and much more costly than simply dealing with racial profiling.” For my part, resolution lies in immediate remedial orientation in the burden of blackness for minority populations in western nations where the legacy of slavery and anti-black racism is alive and well in discriminatory practices like racist policing. There is still a great amount of denial on the part of the stakeholders where racial profiling is concerned; even after so much pain, yet so little gain. Nevertheless, Blacks must not give up the fight, but continue towards the light as victory is certainly not out of sight.

 

Aleuta—The struggle continues.

 

For Full Version of Semaji December 2016 Click Here

 

THE BLACK COMMUNITY FORUM SECRETARIAT: Some Clarifications on the Road Forward

By Dr. Clarence Bayne

Semaji has published a significant amount of information about the Black Community Forum in previous issues. However, several questions, from key organizations in our community, seem to justify the need for this extended word to the general community. The first question relates to the rationale for such an agency, and the second relates to the authority of this agency.

The rationale for this agency can be succinctly summarized by Leith Hamilton at Val Morin 1992: “We must look at specific things that strengthen and reinforce community structures. The ultimate goal is to get more resources into the community. We must determine how we can help organizations use the funding effectively once they do receive their resources.” This translates into the present set of updated purposes that need to be kept alive in our minds and at the forefront of our actions.

The purpose of the Forum

  1. To develop a process which will identify a long-term development plan for the Black community
  2. To ensure that this planning process is cooperative and collaborative
  3. To identify and promote a structure to support the planning process
  4. To encourage and promote the development of strategic partnerships and networks that benefit the Black community and the larger society
  5. To provide a network for communication, the transfer of knowledge and information, and to facilitate the general expansion of social capital

The second question is really related to governance, implementation, control or autonomy of individual organizations relative to the Forum. Simple. The Secretariat of the Forum acts on the recommendations and decisions of the Forum, which are the collective will of the organizations at the general meeting or forum. It is important to note that the Forum is not an organization with a charter. It derives its power and authority from the voluntary will and commitments of chartered organizations in good standing and formal agreement between organizations and between individuals to carry out certain missions and mandates in an efficient and most effective way possible. The autonomy of the organization is sovereign or subject only to the laws governing its mission and mandate; as well as its legislated agreements with partners and collaborators. The Secretariat acts for the Forum, and is the voice of the Forum, in this restricted way. Under Section 6.5.1 subsections 6.5.1.1 to 6.5.1.13 the updated Val Morin Forum sets the frame work for much of the authority of the Secretariat.

 

The Secretariat of the Black Community Forum

The Secretariat of the Black Community Forum is the Administrative arm of the Black Community Forum, which was created by the will of 45 Organizations at Val Morin in 1992, and re-affirmed at the Second Black Community Forum called by the BCRC Black Community Leadership Forum, June 16, 2016, attended by 50 registered delegates representing 20 organizations. The earlier functions carried out by the BCRC Black Community Leadership Forum will now be carried out by the Secretariat of the Black Community Forum. This was affirmed at the opening Plenary Session of the June 16, 2016, Black Community Forum, held at 6767 Cote des Neiges, Montreal. The Secretariat service of the BCRC, and staffed by the BCRC, works, as part of its mission, to strengthen community organizations. The management and protocols of the Secretariat are independent of those of the BCRC and vice versa. The BCRC simply provides the administrative and information services as required by the protocols, principles and recommendations approved at the Black Community Forum general meeting.

For Example, Recommendation 6.5.1.9 of the Forum plenary requires that the Forum/Secretariat puts in place a mechanism which would keep track of the performance of community organizations or “community events” to determine their strengths, weakness and sustainability, their effectiveness, and social contributions. The objective is to help organizations strengthen their structures and vitality by improving transparency in reporting, mission and mandate accountabilities, and by facilitating the provision of appropriate assistance to Black community organizations in need; especially those that are committed to the principles and purposes of the Forum and have a track record of good service in the community.

The function of the Secretariat

1.Implementation of the Recommendations and Policy Positions of the Forum and further developing the “Procedures and processes for the ongoing review and fuller updating of the recommendations of the Val Morin Forum to reflect the Black community priorities for Quebec today and the next generation.”

2.Overseeing the implementation of the recommendations and policy positions of the Forum, which are guidelines and mandates for the participating community organizations to work on in a manner that follows best practices and good management, and is consistent with their mission and mandates.

3.An important function of the Forum (its Secretariat) “is to provide a meeting place (s) for the community to identify policy issues, to review options, to attempt to develop a consensus whenever possible, and to effectively communicate this consensus”.

 

Source: Community Forum Plenary, Val Morin 3-5 1992

 

Responsibility for Protection of Community Rights and security

6.5.1.10 It is recommended that there be community input into “community events”

6.5.1.11. It is recommended that a special mechanism be developed [as part of the] Economic Development agenda to reduce potential exploitation of the community by [fraudulent and other acts], businesses and individuals

There should be a structure to identify those businesses and individuals in good standing.

The Administrators of the secretariat are:

1.Chair of the secretariat: Dr Clarence S. Bayne, President of the Black Community Resource Center.

2.Mr. Sean Seales (Administrator)

3.Ms Raeanne Francis (Administrator)

4.Member at large (to be determined)

 

Special Committees of the Black Community Forum

A) Rights and Freedoms Committee Chaired by Yvonne Sam

Participants: BCRC Rights and Freedom Unit; Fo Niemi (CRARR); La Ligue des Noirs; CDN-BCA; Michael Farkas (Black History Month Round Table, and Youth in Motion); Mervyn Weekes (UNIA)

Legal advisors: Maitres Dave La Plommeray, Rolf Francois.

B) The Economic and Community Development Committee

This Committee is responsible for rethinking and restructuring of economic development and employability strategic plan for the Black Community.

The Institutional members of the Committee are:

i. Institute for Community Entrepreneurship and Development (ICED), John Molson School of Business, Concordia University. And the ICED Journal. Editors and Associate Editors: Professors C. Bayne and Raaffat Saade; Dr Rezai Goldnaz. ICED responsible for planning a Black Community Economic Summit for late 2017, or 2018.

ii. The Black Studies Center

iii. The Black Community Resource Center

iv. The Quebec Board of Black Educators

v. The CEDEC Montreal

vi. TBA other institutions pending responses

Background of research and practice: Building on the past collaborations with ICED Research team, JMSB, Concordia; EIDMC, JMSB, Concordia and Black Studies Center research and workshops on Black business start-ups and incubation; BCRC-CEDEC collaboration and research on employment and retention of Black graduates in Montreal and Quebec; The McAndrew Study, University of Montreal; Demographic studies of Black Communities of Montreal, McGill University Consortium for Ethnicity and Strategic Social Planning; Black Task Forces of Montreal Tremblay Administration) and the Charest Provincial Liberals; Cote des Neiges Black Community Association and the Yes Montreal community business initiatives; and the Black Entrepreneurship funding initiatives of the Provincial Government (Filation).

C) The Black Community Forum on Culture and the Arts Committee: Pan-Black Identities Defining Manifesto

 Responsibility for creation of a special website for the promotion of Pan Black Identity Events, and its administration, was delegated to the Black History Month Table and approved at the June 16, 2016 Forum. This Committee will oversee admissions to and removal from the lists, and for the review of the Website in a manner consistent with the Criteria approved by the Black Forum. The chair of the Committee is Michael Farkas (President of BHM Round Table). Other members are Clarence Bayne (BSC Archives); Quincy Amorer (BTW); a representative for Festivals (TBA); and Representative for Literature ( Koyla, Black Writers Guild).

D) The Committee for Toponomy: based on Recommendation 6.5.1.7

Forum/Secretariat will create a Permanent Sub-committee of the Forum for researching, Identifying and preparing a list of those significant historic persons whose contributions to Black arts and culture, Black advancement, world peace, order and sustainable development merit recognition in a manner consistent with best Canadian practices in toponymy (A Proposal of BCRC Community Leadership Forum and BSC Joint Archives Committee).

It is proposed that the committee consist of experts and representatives named from organizations whose mission and mandates involve them in research in social history and biographical studies. The Secretariat shall seek expert advice on appoint to the committee two or more experts to be determined by their training and proven skills in this and associated studies.

 

C) The Health Care Committee

Member Groups: BCRC Health Unit and Blood Drive (Representatives TBA); and The Black Mental Health Connection (Representatives TBA).

 

For Full Version of Semaji December 2016 Click Here

 

 

Strategies that can be used to address systemic racism in Quebec

By Rolf H. François

The following is pursuant to our meeting at BCRC on May 5th, 2016 regarding the Meeting of the Ad Hoc Community Meeting on Rights and Freedoms.

During our meeting, I suggested that we identify the reasons why the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse failed to protect Black citizens of Quebec from discrimination. The fact that our struggles are misunderstood or ignored by the judicial system is because, in my humble opinion, the majority of the current judges in Quebec are unaware of our truths. As such, more diversity on the bench should be requested. It’s a shame that our first Black Attorney goes back to 1857, but we still have not had a Black Justice on the Supreme Court bench or on the Court of Appeals for this province. The Courts cannot understand what they do not know; therefore, diversity is part of the solution. Another solution is eliminating discretion. The Supreme Court of the United States, in 1964, stated that when there’s discretion there is no protection. This discretion could be eliminated by legislative action at the National Assembly.

The strategies that were suggested during our meeting, on May 5th, were the following (my suggestions are not absolute and were humbly and respectfully submitted. I do not expect everyone to agree with them):

SUGGESTED STRATEGIES

  1. Social Media:

Social media should be greatly utilized because it allows us to reach an incredible amount of individuals across the world. When speaking of social media, we mean Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, blogs, etc. For example, in 2013, when the owner of the Buonanotte Restaurant, on St. Laurent Boulevard, was required by the Office quebecois de la langue francaise (OQLF) to change all the menus at his restaurant, because of the fact that the words “pasta”, “antipasti” and “calamari” were not in French, he went public to generate a public outcry. This sad part of our history is commonly called Pastagate. With the exception of the said three words the rest of the menu could be read in French. We can imagine the cost of changing the menus for these three words. Pastagate received international attention in the media, which publicly embarrassed the Provincial Government. Quebec does not want to attract this kind of negative public attention because of the fact that American companies are principal investors in the province. The entire incident was initially fueled by a group called putbacktheflag, which shared the story over 20,000 links on its Facebook and Twitter pages within the first day of the initial story breaking.

  1. Meet with Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Couillard:

If we agree with the premise that the source of the systemic failure of the Quebec Human Rights Commission, to defend the rights and freedom of Black Quebecers against racism and discrimination, lies partly in the lack of diversity on the judicial bench, then meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau and the Premier Couillard should seriously be contemplated. Indeed, according to section 96 of the Constitution Act of 1867, the Governor General shall appoint the Justices of the Superior, District, and County Courts in each Province, except those of the Courts of Probate in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. As we already know, the Governor General makes these appointments after receiving the Prime Minister’s advice.

The justice system of Quebec is currently comprised of only three Black Justices, Justice Daniel Dortelus, Justice Magalie Lewis and Justice Guylene Beauge. Justice Beauge is the first and only judge sitting on a Superior bench of the province. The chances of the people of our community appearing before these three judges are close to none. After a few years of patience, Justice Juanita Westmoreland-Traore introduced, in Quebec law, the concept of racial profiling, which had already been introduced in Ontario years before. If not for our first Black Justice in Quebec, racial profiling would never have been part of Quebec law. This is so because she understands our truth. Indeed, just like women rights in Canada evolved with the assistance of women Justices, we cannot expect our rights and freedoms to be protected and evolve with people other than ourselves on the judicial bench. Premier Couillard advises the Lieutenant-Governor regarding Provincial nominations in the judicial system. Consequently, we would have to meet with the current Prime Minister and Premier to ensure that our people are represented on this Province’s justice system to guarantee multiculturalism and diversity. Diversity will guarantee that our rights and freedom are properly protected.

  1. Speak with our people in the United States of America:

We should inform our people in the United States as much as we can (via emails, newspapers, social media, etc.) regarding what we are currently experiencing and what our history in Quebec is. I wish to repeat that the Provincial Government does not want to attract this kind of negative public attention because of the fact that American companies are principal investors in this province. Our people in the USA will be sensitive to our experience, and might even help or participate in our struggle once they are made aware of it. The boycott of Quebec’s product of industries could very well be from the United States.

  1. Use newspapers/television such as the Gazette, CTV, the Toronto Star, etc.:

We should secure contacts within great mediums, such as the Gazette, CTV, CBC, CJAD, and others, to ensure that our messages are effectively communicated and reach the entire population. For example, Quebec’s French mediums, such as TVA or Journal de Montreal, publish every event that concerns and affects the French language. They effectively make sure that the message passes across the province. Respectfully submitted, papers, such as the Community Contact, are just that… papers for the community; this means it stays within the community. However, greater mediums will provide us with a greater power, due to the fact that our message will reach a greater audience. We should also make sure that the contacts at these mediums make sure to place our concerns as a priority, so that our messages are published in the first pages of the said newspapers, or in the first minutes of the news broadcasting.

  1. Keep a steady pressure:

The pressure on the Prime Minister and the Premier should be constant and steady once our demands are communicated to them, so that they commit themselves. A commitment from the head of government, positive or negative, will form part of our message to be published by the mediums mentioned at point # 4. If the commitment is negative, the population is entitled to know, and the Prime Minister or the Premier should face our discontent. We only get a commitment from them by applying a steady and constant pressure. For example, the UNIA has requested that the City of Montreal honors Mr. Marcus Garvey with a boulevard. Had the UNIA not applied a constant and steady pressure, the said file would’ve been forgotten, and the Borough Mayor, Copeman, would not have made a commitment that the UNIA finds absolutely inadequate. The steady pressure is to ensure that we get a positive or negative answer from the authorities.

  1. Vote and clearly express our demands:

When unsatisfied with a particular policy or response from the proper authorities, one must clearly and openly display their dissatisfaction. We are currently dissatisfied with the ways that we are being treated, but individuals outside our community are unaware. For example, racial profiling is a huge problem in our community, but the authorities are unresponsive because the problem does not affect them directly. When a situation affects the French language, the French people raise their concern immediately: it is raised in the media immediately, the situation is addressed immediately by the authorities, and, if the problem persists, the authorities will face judgment when election comes (e.g. Premier Jean Charest lost his election when the population disagreed with his new policy of raising university tuitions – the students were very vocal when they decided to start a student strike). Racial profiling affects us, and we should clearly, and openly, display our discontent in the media/social media, request corrective measures from the proper authorities (federally and provincially), and, if we are still ignored then, we shall mobilize our community before, and during, election time to make sure that the candidate who supports our demands for change is elected. We need to come out and demand change.

  1. Unity:

The need to have all Black Associations unite is extremely important. Indeed, when a particular association raises a problematic that affects and concerns our community, the said problem concerns us all without exception. Thus, we should all make a common front every time one of us (i.e. Black association) steps forward in the media/newspaper/radio to demand justice. When we will communicate to the Prime Minister and Premier, we shall all sign the letter that will be sent to them. The need for unity does not mean that we should necessarily form one association by joining all the current Black associations. Every association has its own specificity and uniqueness that it adds to our struggle in this province. For example, if CRARR makes an official statement on CTV after filing a motion in Court to bring down racial profiling, BCRC, UNIA, La ligue des noirs, etc. should all join CRARR to demonstrate our unity and will to fight against racial profiling. This requires that the said associations effectively communicate between themselves. The common front demonstrates our seriousness. Together we are stronger! Further, the concept of unity must also apply to the population itself. We should find a solution to unite us all. Language as a barrier should not exist, and we should find ways to conquer those said barriers. In other words, the Haitians on the east end of the Island should be aware that we are defending and protecting their rights as well. Unfortunately, a huge part of them are not aware of the existence of some Black associations. We are not here solely for the English speaking Blacks… Our goal is to protect our people regardless of their origins, and this protection should extend to other races as well.

  1. Speak out, not only for our community, but for injustice:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat for justice everywhere”. We should not only speak out when injustice affects our community. We must demonstrate that we are not only fighting for our people, but for anyone who is a victim of injustice. For example, when a particular injustice affects Quebec’s Jewish citizens, Muslim citizens, Aboriginal citizens, etc. the Black associations should all add their voices to the fight. We should never let the B’Nai Brith fight alone for instance. We should stand by their sides because injustice affects us all, and we should strongly demonstrate our solidarity. For when injustice affects our community, the ones we stood by will stand by us when we are afflicted. If someone is not convinced, and believes that we should only fight for our own issues, let’s not forget that amongst the Jewish people we will find many of our own people. Our people can also be found among Muslims and First Nation Members as well. In my humble opinion, when we fight against injustice there should be no specificity. If we let one injustice pass, another will surely, and eventually, come for us. We are all united against injustice. The prominent Protestant pastor, Mr. Martin Niemoller (1892-1984), once wrote a poem that clearly expresses my opinion: “First They Came for The Socialists…” –

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no none left to speak for me.

It is not right that the citizens of Quebec continuously pay (by paying taxes) to protect the French people’s rights, which they think is absolutely normal, but our monies are not properly used to protect our rights. Finally, just like at my point #7, we are stronger together than we are apart!

  1. Be visible so that our community knows where to find us:

Our community is blessed with many associations that were created to defend and protect our people’s rights. Unfortunately, some of our people are unaware of the existence and uniqueness of some of these associations. Consequently, I humbly and respectfully suggest that we should advertise and make the said associations more visible. I, for instance, know the purpose of CRARR, and, when a young Black man came to me regarding being the victim of racial profiling, I immediately provided him with Mr. Niemi’s contact information. He did not know that CRARR existed. Unlike the associations in the United States, we are not sufficiently visible. I suggest that we use social media/media/newspapers/community newspapers to advertise every association, and that we advertise often, so that our people know who we are and where to find us.

  1. We shall always speak for ourselves and we will not allow others to speak for us:

This last point is very important and speaks for itself. One of the problems that we constantly encounter is the fact that other people state what should apply for us, or what is acceptable or not. For example, Quebec’s definition of racism is one that is not acceptable in the United States. This is so because Quebec’s definition is very basic and does not cover the subtlety of today’s racism. We know what racism is and we should inform and educate other people about it. As another example, the UNIA has requested that the City of Montreal names a boulevard in honor of Mr. Marcus Garvey. The response of the Toponymy Commission was that Mr. Garvey was too controversial, as he was incarcerated for fraud and he entered into an agreement with some segregationist to deport African-Americans back to Africa. Before reaching such decision, the Commission was made aware of Mr. Garvey’s achievements and that he was honored around the world. Despite the information provided, the Commission rendered a negative decision. Mayor Copeman then stated that we should find a more suitable candidate. The UNIA immediately responded that we had submitted a suitable candidate, and that it was not for other people to tell us who was suitable or not amongst our own people. We don’t want other people to speak for us. We shall always speak for ourselves. If need be, we might consult amongst ourselves, unite, and then come out strong.

 

For Full Version of Semaji December 2016 Click Here

Standing on Their Shoulders Leaves a Lasting Impression

Standing on Their Shoulders Leaves a Lasting Impression

By Ashlie Bienvenu

On Thursday, September 28th, the BCRC was asked to present the Standing on Their Shoulders videos (a past BCRC community project), to students at McGill, for community involvement day. The videos were very well received by the McGill students who signed up for the viewing. There was a discussion period, which followed the videos, in which students got to interact with two youth who were involved in creating the videos. We were also joined by a reporter from CBC.

 

The fact that Standing on Their Shoulders is still an important and talked about project, almost a year after its completion, shows how impactful this project was on the community. We are very proud of the hard work that our youth put into these videos and how they have positively impacted the community. Great work, Standing on Their Shoulders Team!

sots-2 sots

 

For Full Version of Semaji September 2016 Click Here

Position on Amending the Bill for the Education Act

BCRC STATEMENT OF POSITION ON THE BILL TO AMEND THE BILL AMENDING THE EDUCATION ACT

By the President of BCRC

This was presented to the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) and submitted to the Montreal Hearings on Bill 105.

 

Background and Analysis

Language has become a very controversial topic in Quebec and Canada. In fact, the backlash of this controversy has directly impacted the Black English-speaking community, especially in Quebec. It forces us to pose the question, has Canada fooled itself in thinking that it could become a harmonious nation based on all God’s children, regardless of diversities? Quite simply, the English-speaking peoples of Quebec do not have the same rights as the French-speaking peoples of Quebec; nor do their institutions enjoy the same support as the French-speaking peoples living elsewhere in Canada. In a sense, it can be argued that the English-speaking peoples of Quebec were betrayed by their earlier leaders and abandoned to the fears of the French nationalism of Quebec. It all started with Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s not-withstanding clause, which the Premier of Quebec, Henri Bourassa, took full advantage of, in his quest for French nationalism. The language police sprang directly from this fear of the demise of the French language. However, in recent times they have become quite immature, and, perhaps, have reached the end of their usefulness to the changing Quebec landscape. Bill 86, for Blacks, no matter which boat our ancestors first stepped off of, is nasty business. And the fact that it is happening from within the camp of the liberals, who are supporters of Federalism, indicates the underlying misconceptions with which both sides are trying to build a harmonious diverse society.

We are quick to accuse and vilify other countries and areas for denying their citizens their basic rights; however, it never seems to register that we are living those same injustices here, right in our backyard. The Quebec Government restricts our choices of educational institutions and dictates the language that we do business in, even though, according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we live in a bilingual multicultural National entity. They also dictate how we present, or express, ourselves in terms of the literary symbols we use to brand ourselves in the business sectors, limit our employment in the public sector on the basis of mother tongue spoken in the home, limit the strength and vitality of English Educational (Elementary and High Schools) institutions by denying all immigrants choice of schools, and they have created an institution of language police to enforce the signage rules. I am having real problems seeing the difference between what Quebec and Canada are doing, under the guise of preserving the French culture in Canada, and what these other “oppressive countries” are doing in order to preserve what they see as their own culture and ideas.

The argument

Thus, based on these considerations we argue that, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Quebec language rights and culture are more secure throughout Canada than English language rights are in Quebec. Any threat to the French language now, is more imagined than real. Thus, the BCRC, and the Black Forum, urge the Government to respect the Constitutional Rights of the English-speaking peoples of Quebec. We urge the Government to use other ways of preserving and promoting the French language and Culture, without displaying the disregard that Bill 86 shows for those procedures and administrative arrangements essential to sustaining, in spirit and practice, the principles of a true democracy.

There is a tendency in both French-speaking Quebec and English Canada to confuse “equal” with “equality” when it comes to dealing with minorities. As Blacks, we are very aware of this problem, and suffer the consequences of those practices in the poor distribution of resources for sustaining the vitality of minority groups, whether it be in Quebec or elsewhere in Canada. We therefore fully agree with CQGN, when it says: “applying the same rules to everyone ensures that great sections of society will be disadvantaged. The principle of substantive equality is well founded in law, and has been proven time and again the best policy approach for achieving societal objectives. One size does not fit all.”

It may very well be that there are too many school Boards in the French sector. And that there are cost efficiencies to be gained in reducing the number of Boards. But, while that policy might be essential to a general strategy for improving the management of educational resources in the Province as a whole, it does not logically, or in any social and politically optimal sense, require that the Government reduce school Boards in the English minority sector by the same proportions. Furthermore, we agree with CQGN when it says:

“Schools are not simply places where children are instructed. They are the cornerstone of communities, and their management and control is there best effected. Centralizing the power to manage and control these institutions–separating them from their communities–reduces, and will eventually remove schools as community institutions. What region in Quebec is prepared to lose its English schools and communities?”

Therefore, we take this opportunity to strongly recommend that electoral rights of parents and the community, with respect to electing officers of school Boards, be retained as a fundamental democratic principle. But, we recommend that school Boards be required to reflect the communities they serve. Thus, we strongly recommend that school Boards be required to appoint Multicultural Multiracial Advisory Committees, similar to the system that was used by the English Montreal School Board, and which gave representation to the diverse populations in the school system under CODE: CS-13. [http://www.emsb.qc.ca/en/governance_en/pdf/BoardPolicies/CommunityServices/MCMREducation.pdf]

The EMSB terminated the function of the Advisory committee that worked with the Board in the implementation and over view of this policy. They did this in a rather undemocratic way and without consultation; because they had discretionary power to do so. We strongly suggest that this system be re-instated, and that the policy become part of the new act requiring that School Boards implement this policy. We applaud the Ministry decision to create seats for what it described as co-opted commissioners from the sport and health sectors. We urge the Ministry to expand this to include other organizations in the voluntary community sector and the racialized minority communities that are most at risk of exclusion and racial discrimination.

Dr. Clarence Bayne

The BCRC Black Community Forum Secretariat.

 

For Full Version of Semaji Septemer 2016 Click Here

Armed with the Facts

Armed with the Facts—Premier Couillard is called upon to act. Examination and Reformation of the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission requested

By Yvonne Sam.

Chairman (Rights and Freedoms Committee) Black Community Resource Centre

 

As the issue on race relations persists in this country, especially the province of Quebec, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission has, by their actions, been brought into the fray, and is now the focus of glaring racial attention. From its initial inception, the Commission was specifically mandated to ensure that Québec’s laws, by-laws, standards and institutional practices, both public and private, comply with the Charter, which prohibits discrimination based on race, colour, ethnic or national origin and religion, in the exercise of human rights and freedoms. Sadly, however, the current structure of the Commission has failed to live up to this mandate, specifically, but not restricted to, senior managers, legal affairs and employment equity where, currently, there is no racial or linguistic diversity. There is also an unprecedented absence of Black English-speaking lawyers and investigators, since the Commission bade farewell to the last Black English-speaking lawyer, Mme. Esmeralda Thornhill, over two decades ago.

 

Included in the population of Quebec are the visible minority citizens who number about 850,000, of which over 1, 000,000 are English-speaking. While the Human Rights Commission benefits all citizens, one cannot lightly dismiss the fact that the citizens most likely to require the services under the mandate of the Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission are the minority populations. In order for the Commission to be seen as being true and fair to its mission and mandate, there must be people in the Commission who are, themselves, representatives of visible minorities and/or the English-speaking population. A clear understanding of the minority populations inhabiting Quebec must be foremost in the minds of those responsible for the nominations.

 

The Premier of Quebec, Hon. Philippe Couillard, as the holder of ultimate power, is called upon to act in a manner that is reflective of, not only his sterling governance, but also his government’s commitment to diversion and inclusivity, by examining and reforming the Commission. This is of critical importance, especially in light of the four, currently existing, vacancies that are soon to be filled at the Commission’s level. At risk is the public’s image of the Commission, as well as the underlying veracity of rendered decisions.

 

Decisions affecting minorities and communities of color will always be a litmus test of race relations with the Commission. For race relations to improve, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission need to have the moral courage to acknowledge systemic racism, speak truth to power and most importantly show by their composition that they are fulfilling their mandate in fighting racial discrimination and injustice. Blacks and other people of colour should not, through the displayed composition of the investigative parties, be left with no other alternative but to conclude that the Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission are pursuing their own agenda.

 

The current situation cannot, and must not, be allowed to go unchecked or unaddressed, as it blatantly constitutes a precondition for all to understand the material realities of racism that daily scars the lifescapes and landscapes of Blacks in Quebec. To those directly empowered at the appointees/nomination level, serious attention and consideration is required to the factors already stated, in addition to tangible actions that translate into policies designed to make and maintain a difference in the human rights, freedom and liberties of the population regardless of color, language, race or creed.

 

In addition, let this fact not be overlooked, that as long as racialized minorities fear and mistrust the Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, then democracy has failed to live up to its ideals.

 

For Full Version of Semaji September 2016 Click Here