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.
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