Class-action lawsuit claims French police discriminate often

Indeed:

In a first for France, six nongovernmental organizations launched a class-action lawsuit Wednesday against the French government for alleged systemic discrimination by police officers carrying out identity checks.

The organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, contend that French police use racial profiling in ID checks, targeting Black people and people of Arab descent.

They were serving Prime Minister Jean Castex and France’s interior and justice ministers with formal legal notice of demands for concrete steps and deep law enforcement reforms to ensure that racial profiling does not determine who gets stopped by police.

The organizations, which also include the Open Society Justice Initiative and three French grassroots groups, plan to spell out the legal initiative at a news conference in Paris.

The issue of racial profiling by French police has been debated for years, including but not only the practice of officers performing identity checks on young people who are often Black or of Arab descent and live in impoverished housing projects.

Serving notice is the obligatory first step in a two-stage lawsuit process. The law gives French authorities four months to talk with the NGOs about meeting their demands. If the parties behind the lawsuit are left unsatisfied after that time, the case will go to court, according to one of the lawyers, Slim Ben Achour.

It’s the first class-action discrimination lawsuit based on or supposed ethnic origins in France. The NGO’s are employing a little-used 2016 French law that allows associations to take such a legal move.

“It’s revolutionary, because we’re going to speak for hundreds of thousands, even a million people.” Ben Achour told The Associated Press in a phone interview. The NGOs are pursuing the class action on behalf of racial minorities who are mostly second- or third-generation French citizens.

“The group is brown and Black,” Ben Achour said.

The four-month period for reaching a settlement could be prolonged if the talks are making progress, but if not, the NGOs will go to court, he said.

The abuse of identity checks has served for many in France as emblematic of broader alleged racism within police ranks, with critics claiming that misconduct has been left unchecked or whitewashed by authorities.

Video of a recent incident posted online drew a response from President Emmanuel Macron, who called racial profiling “unbearable.” Police representatives say officers themselves feel under attack when they show up in suburban housing projects. During a spate of confrontational incidents, officers became trapped and had fireworks and other objects thrown at them.

The NGOs are seeking reforms rather than monetary damages, especially changes in the law governing identity checks. The organizations argue the law is too broad and allows for no police accountability because the actions of officers involved cannot be traced, while the stopped individuals are left humiliated and sometimes angry.

Among other demands, the organizations want an end to the longstanding practice of gauging police performance by numbers of tickets issued or arrests made, arguing that the benchmarks can encourage baseless identity checks.

The lawsuit features some 50 witnesses, both police officers and people subjected to abusive checks, whose accounts are excerpted in the letters of notice. The NGO’s cite one unnamed person who spoke of undergoing multiple police checks every day for years.

A police officer posted in a tough Paris suburb who is not connected with the case told the AP that he is often subjected to ID checks when he is wearing civilian clothes.

“When I’m not in uniform, I’m a person of ,” said the officer, who asked to remain anonymous in keeping with police rules and due to the sensitive nature of the topic. Police need a legal basis for their actions, “but 80% of the time they do checks (based on) heads” — meaning how a person looks.

Omer Mas Capitolin, the head of Community House for Supportive Development, a grassroots NGO taking part in the legal action, called it a “mechanical reflex” for French police to stop non-whites, a practice he said is damaging to the person being checked and ultimately to relations between officers and the members of the public they are expected to protect.

“When you’re always checked, it lowers your self-esteem,” and you become a “second-class citizen,” Mas Capitolin said. The “victims are afraid to file complaints in this country even if they know what happened isn’t normal,” he said, because they fear fallout from police.

He credited the case of George Floyd, the Black American whose died last year in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, with raising consciences and becoming a catalyst for change in France.

However, the NGOs make clear that they are not accusing individual police of being racist because “they act within a system that allowed these practices to spread and become installed,” the groups said in a joint document.

“It’s so much in the culture. They don’t ever think there’s a problem,” said Ben Achour, the lawyer.

Source: Class-action lawsuit claims French police discriminate often

‘Always a rolling target to bring about big change’: Fergus says he’s optimistic in feds’ anti-racism strategy progress, ‘but we’re not there yet’

Would be interesting to hear the perspectives of the other parties beyond the NDP as well.

The increased funding and programming is significant, as are initiatives like breaking down visible minorities into the different groups in employment equity )What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service …) and the Public Service Employee Survey (What the Public Service Employee Survey breakdowns of visible minority and other groups tell us about diversity and inclusion):

Nearly 18 months following the introduction of the federal government’s anti-racism strategy and nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger says although the government is making progress, “there’s a lot of work to do here and it’s going to take some time.”

In an interview with The Hill Times, Ms. Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.) says “racism did not take a pause during the pandemic—on the contrary, COVID-19 has affected all Canadians and certain segments disproportionally.”

“If you look at every single minister and the work we’re doing, we are peeling these systems back in a way that we haven’t done before to ensure that the very people that are underrepresented and underserved are actually part of that decision-making and are informing our decisions” said Ms. Chagger. “There’s no minister that’s on the sidelines when it comes to this issue—[Justice] Minister David Lametti is having these conversations, [Public Safety] Minister Bill Blair is having these conversations, the prime minister is having these conversations.”

“Every single minister is consciously having these conversations and ensuring that these voices are being invited to the decision-making table and conscious about who’s not being invited, to ensure that these voices are also being heard,” said Ms. Chagger.

Liberal MP Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer, Que.), who chairs the cross-party Black Parliamentary Caucus that was first established in 2015, was also optimistic that progress is being made—but said that “it’s always a rolling target to bring about big change.”

“I would even go back further than a year-and-a-half ago, I’d go back to the budget of 2018, where for the first time ever in Canada’s history, you saw some investments which were directed at the Black community,” said Mr. Fergus. “With regard to mental health, with regard to, most importantly, disaggregated data, with regards to some community support and programming, as well as capital costs.”

“And the creation of course of the [Anti-Racism] Secretariat,” said Mr. Fergus, alluding to the unit established within the Heritage department in Oct. 2019 to the tune of $4.6-million.

“We had the election, and then we had the creation of the new ministry of diversity, inclusion, and youth, so that’s great” said Mr. Fergus. “We saw mandate letters, which laid out what we should be doing.”

“And then we had the pandemic hit, and then we had the brutal videos that came out from the United States,” said Mr. Fergus, alluding to the May 25 killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis that was caught on video, an event that sparked outrage and mass demonstrations in the United States and in Canada, including on Parliament Hill on June 5.

“What have we seen since that time? We’ve seen a firm commitment from the prime minister to deal with this, and that was reflected in the Speech from the Throne, which delighted me to no end because it took every single one of the large subject areas that the Parliamentary Black Caucus had identified.”

In a statement release June 15, the caucus outlined a series of proposals that governments should act on to redress historic injustices in the areas of public safety, justice, representation in the federal public service, race-based data collection, as well as arts and culture.

There are some important steps which are being taken by Clerk of the Privy Council Ian Shugart and the community of deputy ministers within the federal public service to affect change as well, according to Mr. Fergus.

“All this to say—we’re making progress,” said Mr. Fergus. “Is it at the speed I want it to be? I would prefer faster. All parliamentary caucus is working on that and I daresay that the government is working on that.”

“We will get there, but it’s important to remember where we came from,” said Mr. Fergus. “When you look back at the journey, you can say there’s some pretty big progress. But if you were to compare it to where we know we should be, we’re not there yet.”

The anti-racism strategy, designed to unroll from 2019 to 2022, has a $45-million price tag.

Most recently, Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden (Milton, Ont.), who is parliamentary secretary to Ms. Chagger, along with Liberal MP Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre, Man.) highlighted 13 projects in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta that are part of 85 projects coast-to-coast that have already received $15-million in funding as part of the government’s new Anti-Racism Action Program.

Addressing systemic racism played large role in Throne Speech 

“For too many Canadians, systemic racism is a lived reality,” read Governor General Julie Payette in the most recent Speech from the Throne on Sept. 23. “We know that racism did not take a pause during the pandemic. On the contrary, COVID-19 has hit racialized Canadians especially hard.”

“Many people—especially Indigenous people, and Black and racialized Canadians—have raised their voices and stood up to demand change,” she said in the speech drawn up by the government. “They are telling us we must do more. The government agrees.”

But NDP MP Matthew Green (Hamilton Centre, Ont.) said he thought most of the work that has been proposed by the Liberals have been based on announcements and aesthetics, and not tackling the actual institutional form of systemic racism.

“While it is small steps in the right direction in terms of the announcements of programs, this goes beyond buying your way out of deep organizational, cultural, and institutional racism,” said Mr. Green. “There is actual legislative work within the House of Commons under the purview of the federal government, from institutions like the RCMP, to the judiciary to their own public service sector, that still clearly suggests significant challenges around anti-Black racism.”

“And there just seems to be ongoing reluctance for this government to go beyond the aesthetics of big-ticket announcements and into the actual work of dismantling anti-Black racism and racism within their government,” said Mr. Green.

When asked about the tumultuous events of the summer and the effect the mass demonstrations had on anti-racism initiatives within governments, Mr. Green said the saddest part of that moment is that it was borne of the suffering and subjugation of Black people.

“Until we dismantle white supremacy, that suffering will continue, so the saddest part about that moment is that it will never pass and it will only ever continue,” said Mr. Green. “For every George Floyd, there are dozens and hundreds of countless, unnamed Black, Indigenous and racialized people who are brutalized by police.”

“That has not stopped—in fact, in the ensuing months, we know it to be true that the police have continued at all levels to be caught on camera brutalizing people,” said Mr. Green. “And it’s not just police—we’re seeing it in our health care systems, we’re seeing it in our long-term care homes, we’re seeing it in the way that workers are brutalized in the front lines who are essential but are not paid essentially.”

“These are the ways in which systemic and institutional racism play out in Canada, and this is a moment that will never pass,” said Mr. Green. “Tackling systemic racism is more than just announcing big dollar funding for programs.”

Ms. Chagger said she understands the call for legislation to address the matter, “but no law is going to change us.”

“We have to change us—we have to look within ourselves and in our own backyards. But this federal government under this prime minister recognizes that there is a need for federal leadership, and we will continue to display it, we will continue to act upon it, and we will continue to keep an open door and work with everyone, so that we are being inclusive in the way we are developing these policies so they work for all Canadians.”

Source: ‘Always a rolling target to bring about big change’: Fergus says he’s optimistic in feds’ anti-racism strategy progress, ‘but we’re not there yet’

Quebec immigration minister skips federal human rights meeting addressing systemic racism (along with Alberta, Saskatchewan)

Sigh:

Quebec’s immigration minister Nadine Girault pulled out of a virtual meeting among provinces about human rights, drawing criticism from federal government officials who say it is because of the province’s refusal to acknowledge systemic racism.

Girault sent a bureaucrat to observe, instead of participate in the meeting, citing scheduling issues. Alberta and Saskatchewan also sent observers, rather than participating.

But Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault says he was told by Quebec provincial officials Girault’s absence was because of the meeting’s portion on systemic racism, which Premier François Legault has refused to say exists in Quebec.

Source: Quebec immigration minister skips federal human rights meeting addressing systemic racism

Le racisme systémique sera exclu du rapport du groupe d’action, prévoit Legault

Consistent but misguided:

Le groupe d’action contre le racisme ne demandera pas au gouvernement du Québec de reconnaître le racisme systémique, a conclu avant même la fin des travaux le premier ministre François Legault.

Il répondait mardi aux questions sur le sujet lors d’une conférence de presse à Montréal, visant principalement à faire le point sur la situation du coronavirus au Québec.

Interrogé sur la question de savoir s’il allait reconnaître le racisme systémique si le groupe d’action le lui demandait, M. Legault a d’abord laissé entendre que la question était hypothétique.

Puis, se ravisant, il a répondu qu’il ne s’attendait pas à ce qu’une telle recommandation apparaisse dans le rapport final, car il en avait déjà discuté avec les membres du groupe.

Le groupe d’action contre le racisme a été formé par le gouvernement Legault en juin dernier dans la foulée de la mort de l’Américain George Floyd.

Il est composé uniquement d’élus caquistes, qui doivent réfléchir à des façons concrètes d’enrayer le racisme et déposer un rapport au premier ministre au plus tard cet automne.

Refus

François Legault a toujours refusé de reconnaître le racisme systémique, même après que de nombreux politiciens, dont les maires de Québec et de Montréal, et le premier ministre du Canada, Justin Trudeau, l’eurent reconnu dans des termes très clairs.

Mardi, M. Legault a continué de marteler qu’il existait deux groupes de Québécois : un groupe qui reconnaît le racisme systémique et l’autre qui ne le reconnaît pas.

« Mon rôle comme premier ministre du Québec, c’est de rassembler les Québécois, de poser des gestes, d’agir enfin […] pour lutter contre le racisme, [y compris] chez les policiers et dans les hôpitaux », a-t-il déclaré. « Pour moi, c’est ça la meilleure approche. Ce que je comprends, c’est que M. Trudeau en a une autre, c’est son choix. »

Ce serait une « erreur » de « se mettre à dos une bonne partie des Québécois qui pensent qu’il n’y a pas de système de racisme au Québec, comme le propose M. Trudeau », a poursuivi M. Legault.

Plus tôt, à Ottawa, le premier ministre Trudeau avait réitéré l’importance de reconnaître le racisme systémique, notamment en ce qui a trait aux peuples autochtones.

« Au gouvernement fédéral, nous savons depuis longtemps que de reconnaître le racisme systémique, c’est la première étape nécessaire pour marcher sur cette voie de réconciliation, d’éliminer ces barrières réelles et cette violence qui est trop souvent faite contre les peuples autochtones à travers le pays et aussi d’autres minorités visibles », a-t-il déclaré.

Il a également encouragé toute personne en position d’autorité, dont les chefs d’entreprise et les leaders communautaires, à reconnaître « la réalité du racisme systémique et à s’engager à lutter contre cette injustice qui dure depuis trop longtemps dans notre pays ».

Douglas Todd: More rigorous study needed on ‘systemic racism’ in Canada’s justice system

Looking forward to the more detailed report correlating crime rates by ethnic status is scheduled to be released on Sept. 30 by StatsCan that will help avoid some of the broad generalizations in the article:

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti has been emphasizing to journalists that it’s time to weed out “systemic racism” in the Canadian police and court system.

“It’s part of a larger foundation of colonialism that sadly has played an important part in our history,” Lametti told Postmedia News in the midst of sweeping anger and debate about police violence against Blacks in the United States.

The report found over a 10-year period that Canadian whites accounted for 61 per cent of the serious crimes that warranted federal custody and a mandatory minimum penalty, even as whites in 2011 made up 76 per cent of the population.
The study revealed that Indigenous offenders were incarcerated for 23 per cent of the serious crimes, despite accounting for only 4.3 per cent of the population.

Blacks were jailed for nine per cent of the serious offences, despite comprising 2.9 per cent of the population.

In contrast, other visible minorities were responsible for just nine per cent of the offences involving firearms, sex with minors and drug trafficking, even though they make up 16 per cent of all Canadian residents.

The 2017 StatsCan report on mandatory minimum penalties provided no analysis or commentary related to whether the incarceration imbalances based on Indigenous or ethnic status had anything to do with racism.

Justice Department media officials, in addition to highlighting the single report on mandatory sentencing, also suggested asking Statistics Canada about relevant data that would back up Lametti’s claims about “shocking” systemic racism.

Statistics Canada media officials, in response, provided links to data on homicide rates, which showed the overall murder rate was going down but in 2018 Indigenous people were disproportionately its victims — in 21 per cent of all 651 homicide cases.

While the homicide data compiled by Statistics Canada shows that nen are the most common victims of murder, it didn’t track homicide rates based on whether someone is white or a visible minority (also referred to as a person of colour.)

However, the Statistics Canada media official highlighted how, for the first time in Canadian history, that data correlating crime rates by ethnic status is scheduled to be released on Sept. 30.

That should be an important improvement, because Canada is far behind Britain, Australia and the United States in providing comprehensive analysis of how crime data relate to ethnicity.

Associate Prof. Rick Parent, who has taught criminology at SFU, The University of the Fraser Valley and elsewhere, says the big problem in Canada is that there is no central entity probing the “deeper meaning” of crime data.

“Statistics Canada just sort of throws things on the wall,” he said. It normally publishes police and crime-related data without putting it in broader, relevant perspective.

“The situation does a disservice to marginalized groups,” Parent said, pointing to how Britain, the U.S. and Australia have research teams devoted to understanding how ethnicity relates to arrest rates and other aspects of the justice system.

The problem in Canada, Parent said, is that elected officials and others tend to fling out their positions on crime rates mainly in response to “the loudest voices” on social media and elsewhere.

The justice minister, for instance, used charged concepts, including “colonization” and “racialized,” when he maintained discrimination based on ethnicity is rampant in Canada’s legal system. (“Racialized” is a new term in sociology that refers to ascribing ethnic or racial identities to a group that did not identify itself as such.)

The term “systemic racism” is also disputed. For many it means that racism is a fixed, often subconscious practice within an organization. As some say, a system can be racist even when the individuals in it are not. The term has become so hotly contested that The Oxford Dictionary this summer acknowledged it’s working on clarifying what exactly it means.

For his part, Parent, a former Delta police veteran, says: “Nobody can really say” what contributes to higher incarceration rates for Canada’s Indigenous and Black people.

“Wealth distribution” and lack of adequate housing, he said, may have a more significant correlation to high crime statistics than membership in an ethnic group.

Studies by researchers such as UBC’s Haimin Zhang have consistently shown, for instance, that most immigrants to Canada, three out of four of whom are people of colour, have low arrest rates, Parent said.

“There are lots of well-off and extremely well-off immigrants in North Vancouver and West Vancouver and they’re not committing many crimes. Broad generalities about race and the justice system just don’t fly,” Parent said,  adding people of different economic classes tend to engage in different times of crimes.

Parent also doesn’t believe choices made by specific police officers, prosecutors and judges can explain the disparities in Canada’s incarceration rates. “It’s naive to say individuals have that much power in the justice system.”

Rather than blaming systemic racism, Parent said Canada should follow the lead of other countries that have developed more rigorous ways to examine why Indigenous, Black people or others are more likely to be jailed.

“We have to be more proactive and figure out why these things are happening.”

Source: Douglas Todd: More rigorous study needed on ‘systemic racism’ in Canada’s justice system

Sunnybrook Hospital pledged to ‘listen’ to employees about discrimination. Two workers say they’ve been speaking out about racism for years — and nothing has been done

These types of stories continue to emerge from many organizations:

Angela Lindow, a part-time worker at Sunnybrook Hospital, received a company-wide email in June after George Floyd’s killing and the resulting racial unrest. The hospital was committing to “address inequity,” “eliminate racism,” and “listen.” She thought, “Listen? We’ve been right here for years.”

Lindow and 11 other racialized Sunnybrook employees in the communications department, which co-ordinates calls made to the hospital and activates emergency response teams by managing codes, first made allegations of systemic racism in their hospital department in January 2016. Some have still been fighting through multiple channels to get a satisfying response from the hospital.

The original allegations pointed to instances of discrimination in hiring decisions, discrimination in decisions to reorganize shifts, changes that seemed to remove racialized staff from visitor-facing positions to less visible work locations and unequal accommodation and treatment between white staff and racialized staff.

The workers brought these complaints to management, and a five-month external investigation concluded that each claim was “unsubstantiated” with no further explanation in the summary provided to them.

After the investigation concluded, the staff filed claims with the Human Rights Tribunal in July 2016. This fall, they are expected to have a summary hearing. From there, it will be decided if the applicants have enough evidence to move on to a full hearing.

Emily Shepherd, a lawyer who works at Human Rights Legal Support Centre which is representing Lindow, said generally, racial discrimination and systemic racism cases can be difficult to prove because the instances, often, are not overt. It’s not uncommon for complex cases like this to take a long time to go through the process, Shepherd said.

The remaining complainants are hoping to receive monetary compensation for pain, suffering and lost wages, as well as have the hospital form an anti-racism department and new practices for dealing with discrimination cases.

The Star asked Sunnybrook about the original 19 allegations, the internal investigation and the current Human Rights Tribunal cases. The hospital responded with a written statement that said Sunnybrook is following the tribunal’s process and that the original complaints “were addressed in accordance with the hospital’s policies.”

The statement went on to say that “Sunnybrook has a number of policies specific to ensuring a safe and respectful work environment and one that is free from harassment, discrimination and violence. Sunnybrook takes any allegation of this nature seriously.”

Like many organizations, Sunnybrook has internally made commitments to address racism and diversity issues within the hospital, but Lindow is still disappointed, especially with the work racialized staff have contributed throughout this pandemic. She felt dismissed when these complaints were originally filed and again now, while trying to have the hospital revisit the issue.

Janet Getten, who has worked at Sunnybrook since 1989, was one of the complainants. She has found the process of trying to be heard demoralizing.

Despite waiting for years for this fall’s hearing, Lindow and Getten, as well as some of the others they say, still feel the need to pursue it.

“I want the hospital to acknowledge that we were treated badly,” Lindow said. Especially during a time where COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Black and brown people, she says it’s all the more important for the hospital internally to address cases of inequality.

Getten had nothing but positive things to say about the quality of care Sunnybrook has the capacity for, but emphasized that the hospital should still address how she, and other racialized staff, were treated.

“Amazing people work at this hospital,” Getten said. “But they’re not always treated fairly.”

For Lindow this is true not only for them as staff, but the patient care. “This is a structural, systemic issue” and she wonders if racialized staff is treated like this, how can racialized patients feel “confident” that they will “receive equal treatment” from the hospital.

“The tone is set from the top. The CEOs, the executives,” Lindow said. “This was a huge case that [the hospital] continues to ignore.”

Much of the complaints from 2016 had to do with staff being passed over for new positions for which they were qualified, based on documents reviewed by the Star.

As a unionized job, current employees with seniority and qualifications can often change roles with ease. Four of the complaints involved racialized staff members who were passed over for new roles and instead either external applicants or applicants with lower seniority, who were white, were hired.

In 2015, Getten applied for a position at St. John’s campus as a front desk operator. A typing test requirement was added, which Lindow and Getten say was not usual for internal applicants given the experience they already had within the department. Getten had been working at Sunnybrook for over 20 years at that point, and said in her time she had trained other staff and covered for section leaders.

Despite her experience, Getten’s typing score was below what was listed as required in the posting and she was not granted an interview at all. Instead, the job was given to a recently hired white co-worker. The same white co-worker was also mentioned another time in the complaints, when management granted her a position over a racialized man, who successfully grieved the seniority issue with the union and was given the position.

A former section leader in the department who spoke with the Star under the condition of anonymity, said that he had conversations with the hiring manager and shared Getten’s typing ability and practice test scores with the manager. Afterwards, the job was posted with a requirement that was out of Getten’s range.

Getten has since transferred to another campus at Sunnybrook, but the circumstances around losing out on that last job due to typing ability “still hurts,” she said.

The same section leader, who is a white man, was originally hired externally as a call operator. When he applied for the section leader position, he said the same manager cited in the complaint about the typing requirement gave him the opportunity to write his own job description for the role, and told him to include criteria that only he could meet. By doing this, it would result in excluding current staff with seniority from being successful at applying, including Lindow who was also interested in the role.

Several attempts by the Star to reach the manager in question went unanswered.

In addition to this instance, Lindow alleges in the Human Rights Tribunal claim that she was passed over for another management position in 2015. Lindow started working at Sunnybrook after being a stay-at-home mother for a number of years since it was walking distance from home and would be a path to re-enter the workforce. She applied for a management position after working as a part-time operator for a year and with previous experience working in emergency management as well as the anti-racism secretariat for the Ontario government. An external white male applicant was hired instead.

In 2015 under the new management, shift times were changed, making the overnight shifts start at 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. rather than 11 p.m., so that there would be more overlap between operators in the morning. While shift changes are said to align with call volume and help mitigate absences, Lindow says that since much of the staff is older racialized women who do not drive, these times posed safety issues for them and would ultimately impact whether they could stay with the job. She also says the shift changes were only implemented at the Bayview campus, not other campuses where staff was predominately white.

Another staff person with over 25 years of experience had her schedule changed and was required to work every weekend, rather than alternating weekends. The employee worked a second job, and as a result of the new schedule, had to change her work status from permanent part-time to casual in order to maintain both jobs, which made her lose out on seniority and pension contributions, the original claim alleges.

Combined, these work changes and lack of job mobility felt like an attempt to force out racialized employees while hiring more white staff in the department, Lindow said, which is why they filed complaints as a group.

Thinking back to hearing that the claims were unsubstantiated after the external investigation, Lindow said, “At the end of the day, you had 12 racialized people go to their white manager and say, something’s amiss here. We’re feeling the weight of discrimination. All white people investigate and come back and say, there’s nothing to see here.”

“You really do hope that they would have looked at it and said, ‘All of this, all of these things are happening. Let’s pick this up and really look into it because 19 of these things happened,’” Getten said. “How is it possible to find that it was their opinion or decision that none of these things happened?”

Lindow continued, “If management treats us like this, how is a Black patient supposed to feel confident?”

Eight of the staffers including Lindow and Getten took the cases to the Human Rights Tribunal in July 2016. Two complainants have since abandoned their cases, so as of now, six continue to await a hearing.

When going through the Tribunal process, cases first go through a summary hearing stage, which is the stage this case is awaiting in the fall. This is when the Tribunal hears some points of the case and decides whether to move forward with a full hearing where evidence will be heard in detail.

Shepherd, the lawyer familiar with Lindow and Getten’s tribunal claim, said for cases of systemic discrimination, a chance to present all the evidence is best.

“Dismissing it at that early stage actually, for cases with those types of allegations, often isn’t appropriate, because it doesn’t give the tribunal [the opportunity] to look at the full picture,” she said. “And often you need the full picture to really assess these kinds of allegations.”

Source: Sunnybrook Hospital pledged to ‘listen’ to employees about discrimination. Two workers say they’ve been speaking out about racism for years — and nothing has been done

Be prepared: The road to any change in policing will be long and arduous

Good thoughtful and realistic commentary by Richard Fadden,former national security adviser to the prime minister, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, deputy minister of national defence and deputy clerk of the Privy Council:

It is now beyond reasonable debate that the issue of systemic racism in our law-enforcement institutions must be seriously addressed. This is not to suggest that every police service is equally flawed, or that every officer acts unacceptably, consciously or not; indeed, we must avoid ascribing all of society’s ills to the police who serve us, lest we throw the baby out with the bathwater, and ignore how other social institutions also contribute to systemic discrimination. But clearly, the current model of policing needs to change.

Political leaders, legislators, police board members, city councils and police chiefs in Canada and the United States have acknowledged as much, and with various degrees of specificity, have said that something must be done. What that might look like remains difficult to discern. Some have suggested the abolition of some police forces altogether; that is a non-starter, and will only divert attention away from more effective ways of dealing with the issue. Defunding is a more complicated proposal; most police forces are already underfinanced, but a careful look at how public funding is being used would be a worthwhile undertaking. Some police practices likely need to be more strictly limited or forbidden, including chokeholds and carding, while new ones should be mandated. And police-training curricula should be reformed so that they’re about more than just firearm requalification and criminal-law updates; it must be disseminated repeatedly over the course of all levels of a police career, and must send the message that the coercive power of the state should always be the last resort.

But whatever the solution is, it will be important to understand that change will be profoundly difficult – indeed, far harder than any simple message being delivered – because of the closed-personnel nature of these police services.

Closed-personnel organizations are ones in which young men and women join as recruits, plan to stay for their entire careers and work toward promotion within that force (some entry at mid-level is possible, but is relatively rare). Such systems aren’t the exclusive domain of police forces; they can also be found in intelligence agencies, foreign services, the military and in many religions.

All organizations develop a culture that determines not so much what they do but rather how they carry out their work, and police services are no exception, with the culture pervading widely across this closed loop. But while police culture varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and is a function of many factors, a crucial commonality is that officers spend the majority of their time dealing with a small part of the population that the rest of us would often rather not hear about. This gives rise to a we-versus-them mentality – one that’s amplified by the closed-personnel systems and their practical requirement that members strongly support one another, often against any outsiders. The pressures of this culture of conformity and mutual support also make it difficult to operate within the structure. Policing’s hierarchical, command-and-control approach to managing and standardizing behaviour – as is required by the considerable power held by individual police officers – should make it easier to discipline “bad apples.” Instead, police culture tends to counterbalance the ability of chiefs to act.

Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with police officers from many forces. Virtually all of them impressed me with their dedication, work ethic and belief that their role was central to peace, order and good government. But I remember that most only ever wanted to discuss their good qualities; areas where improvement might be possible were rarely ever raised. With some notable exceptions, usually at the chief level, they were professionally very conservative and resistant to any suggestions from outsiders such as myself, my colleagues, or cabinet ministers.

Without a shadow of a doubt, statements to press for change by political leaders, legislators and police chiefs are necessary, but they’re far from sufficient. Consider the challenges in dealing with sexual abuse among the Roman Catholic clergy despite the views of the Pope, or the Canadian Armed Forces’ sexual-harassment crisis despite the efforts of the Chief of the Defence Staff. Indeed, it is telling that front-line officers and their unions or associations are often missing from the list of those agitating for change.

To get officers on board, organizations that work with the police should, at minimum, transparently acknowledge their own complicity in policing’s problems. To suggest that police boards, city councils, responsible ministers, Crown counsel and criminal law courts knew nothing of these appalling practices is to suggest either gross negligence or incompetence, when neither view is warranted. This broader insensitivity to systemic racism is part and parcel of the issues in our police.

Systemic discrimination or racism anywhere is an assault on what most Canadians believe and what the Charter demands. Because of how police services are organized, however, transformation is going to be arduous and slow. Police chiefs working inside their organizations cannot do this alone: a considerable amount of political capital, structural untangling and society-wide patience is going to have to be expended if the long mission ahead has any hope of succeeding.

 

Sullivan: The Cascading Complexity Of Diversity And why the New York Times still doesn’t get it.

Sullivan has a point. While measuring and tracking representation is essential, there is also a need to recognize the complexities involved, not least of which are the intersectionalities among race, gender, LGTBQ, education, place of birth etc.

So while in a broad sense organizations and institutions should broadly reflect the diversity of society and diversity, an exact match is virtually impossible and tracking over time can assess progress.

Representation gaps are useful indicators of systemic barriers and racism. But like many indicators, they should be used to further understanding of the nature and time period that influence those indicators. For example, underrepresentation of Blacks in government policy positions may reflect a lower percentage of Black university graduates which in turn reflect systemic racism in streaming Black kids away from academic programs:

In a fascinating series of tweets, and a memo, the News Guild of New York — the union that represents 1200 New York Times employees — recently set out its goals for the newspaper, especially with respect to its employees of color. Money quote: “Our workforce should reflect our home. The Times should set a goal to have its workforce demographics reflect the make-up of the city — 24 percent Black, and over 50 percent people of color — by 2025.” It also recommends “sensitivity reads” at the beginning of any story process, and wants a pipeline for jobs with a minimum of 50 percent people of color at every stage of recruitment.

It’s a very thorough attempt to ensure that antiracism, as it is currently understood, is embedded into every individual’s job, every story, every department, every decision in the paper of record. But what I want to focus on is the core test the Guild uses to judge whether the Times is itself a racist institution. This is what I’ll call the Kendi test: does the staff reflect the demographics of New York City as a whole?

I’m naming this after Ibram X. Kendi because his core contribution to the current debate on race is the notion that “any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups” is racist. Intent is irrelevant. I don’t think many sane people believe A.G. Sulzberger or Dean Baquet are closet bigots. But systemic racism, according to Kendi, exists in any institution if there is simply any outcome that isn’t directly reflective of the relevant racial demographics of the surrounding area.

The appeal of this argument is its simplicity. You can tell if a place is enabling systemic racism merely by counting the people of color in it; and you can tell if a place isn’t by the same rubric. The drawback, of course, is that the world isn’t nearly as simple. Take the actual demographics of New York City. On some measures, the NYT is already a mirror of NYC. Its staff is basically 50 – 50 on sex (with women a slight majority of all staff on the business side, and slight minority in editorial). And it’s 15 percent Asian on the business side, 10 percent in editorial, compared with 13.9 percent of NYC’s population.

But its black percentage of staff — 10 percent in business, 9 percent in editorial — needs more than doubling to reflect demographics. Its Hispanic/Latino staff amount to only 8 percent in business and 5 percent in editorial, compared with 29 percent of New York City’s demographics, the worst discrepancy for any group. NYT’s Newsroom Fellowship, bringing in the very next generation, is 80 percent female, 60 percent people of color (including Asians), and, so far as I can tell, one lone white man. And it’s why NYT’s new hires are 43 percent people of color, a definition that includes Asian-Americans.

But notice how this new goal obviously doesn’t reflect New York City’s demographics in many other ways. It draws overwhelmingly from the college educated, who account for only 37 percent of New Yorkers, leaving more than 60 percent of the city completed unreflected in the staffing. It cannot include the nearly 19 percent of New Yorkers in poverty, because a NYT salary would end that. It would also have to restrict itself to the literate, and, according to Literacy New York, 25 percent of people in Manhattan “lack basic prose literary skills” along with 37 percent in Brooklyn and 41 percent in the Bronx. And obviously, it cannot reflect the 14 percent of New Yorkers who are of retirement age, or the 21 percent who have yet to reach 18. For that matter, I have no idea what the median age of a NYT employee is — but I bet it isn’t the same as all of New York City.

Around 10 percent of staffers would have to be Republicans (and if the paper of record nationally were to reflect the country as a whole, and not just NYC, around 40 percent would have to be). Some 6 percent of the newsroom would also have to be Haredi or Orthodox Jews — a community you rarely hear about in diversity debates, but one horribly hit by a hate crime surge. 48 percent of NYT employees would have to agree that religion is “very important” in their lives; and 33 percent would be Catholic. And the logic of these demographic quotas is that if a group begins to exceed its quota — say Jews, 13 percent — a Jewish journalist would have to retire for any new one to be hired. Taking this proposal seriously, then, really does require explicit use of race in hiring, which is illegal, which is why the News Guild tweet and memo might end up causing some trouble if the policy is enforced.

And all this leaves the category of “white” completely without nuance. We have no idea whether “white” people are Irish or Italian or Russian or Polish or Canadians in origin. Similarly, we do not know if “black” means African immigrants, or native black New Yorkers, or people from the Caribbean. 37 percent of New Yorkers are foreign-born. How does the Guild propose to mirror that? Ditto where staffers live in NYC. How many are from Staten Island, for example, or the Bronx, two places of extremely different ethnic populations? These categories, in other words, are incredibly crude if the goal really is to reflect the actual demographics of New York City. But it isn’t, of course.

My point is that any attempt to make a specific institution entirely representative of the demographics of its location will founder on the sheer complexity of America’s demographic story and the nature of the institution itself. Journalism, for example, is not a profession sought by most people; it’s self-selecting for curious, trouble-making, querulous assholes who enjoy engaging with others and tracking down the truth (at least it used to be). There’s no reason this skillset or attitude will be spread evenly across populations. It seems, for example, that disproportionate numbers of Jews are drawn to it, from a culture of high literacy, intellectualism, and social activism. So why on earth shouldn’t they be over-represented?

And that’s true of other institutions too: are we to police Broadway to make sure that gays constitute only 4 percent of the employees? Or, say, nursing, to ensure that the sex balance is 50-50? Or a construction company for gender parity? Or a bike messenger company’s staff to be reflective of the age demographics of the city? Just take publishing — an industry not far off what the New York Times does. 74 percent of its employees are women. Should there be a hiring freeze until the men catch up?

The more you think about it, the more absurdly utopian the Kendi project turns out to be. That’s because its core assumption is that any demographic discrepancies between a profession or institution and its locale are entirely a function of oppression. That’s how Kendi explains racial inequality in America, and specifically denies any alternative explanation. So how is it that a white supremacist country has whites earning considerably less on average than Asian-Americans? How does Kendi explain the fact that the most successful minority group in America are Indian-Americans — with a median income nearly twice that of the national median? Here’s a partial list of the national origins of US citizens whose median earnings are higher than that of white people in America: Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Pakistani, Iranian, Lebanese, Sri Lankan, Armenian, Hmong, Vietnamese. One group earning less: British-American.

You can argue that these groups are immigrants and self-selecting for those with higher IQs, education, motivation, and drive. It’s true. But notice that this argument cannot be deployed under the Kendi test: any inequality is a result of racism, remember? Cultural differences between groups, class, education, IQ, family structure: all these are irrelevant. So how is it that immigrant Nigerian-Americans have a slightly higher median household income than British-Americans in the US? The crudeness of the model proposed for hiring and firing at the New York Times can make no sense of this at all.

It’s true, of course, that historical injustices have deeply hurt African-Americans in particular in hobbling opportunity, which is why African-Americans who are descendants of slaves should be treated as an entirely separate case from all other racial categories. No other group has experienced anything like the toll of slavery, segregation and brutality that African-Americans have. This discrimination was enforced by the state and so the state has an obligation to make things right.

But it is absurd to argue that racism is the sole reason for every racial difference in outcome in the extraordinarily diverse and constantly shifting racial demographics of New York City or the US. And it’s ludicrously reductionist to argue that oppression is the exclusive cause of differing outcomes for various groups, including women. America is too complex to be fit into these tidy, unifactorial boxes. It has far too many unpredictable individuals, defying odds, redefining identity, combining races and cultures, exercising agency, and complicating every simple narrative you want to impose on it. In fact, to reduce all this complexity to a quick, crude check of race and sex to identify your fellow American is a kind of new racism itself. It has taken off because we find it so easy to slip back into crude generalizations.

America is also a much more hopeful place than the woke left would have you believe — a country with a nearly unique mix of races, religions, and identities, in which whites are just one part of a kaleidoscopic whole, and not the most successful. And for all those reasons, attempting to categorize people in the crudest racial terms, and social engineering them into a just society where every institution looks like every other one, is such a nightmare waiting to happen. It’s a brutal, toxic, racist template being imposed on a dazzling varied and constantly shifting country.

But of course, this explicit reintroduction of crude racism under the guise of antiracism is already happening. How many institutions will it tear apart, and how much racial resentment will it foment, before it’s done?

Source: https://andrewsullivan.substack.com/p/the-cascading-complexity-of-diversity?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjoxMDcxOTUwNywicG9zdF9pZCI6ODA0NTU3LCJfIjoid0lWOUgiLCJpYXQiOjE1OTY5NzY1NjMsImV4cCI6MTU5Njk4MDE2MywiaXNzIjoicHViLTYxMzcxIiwic3ViIjoicG9zdC1yZWFjdGlvbiJ9.R0S5B8Yo3I3cBh8mi46svTpPqnIf3PxeWEntMqATRiA

Justin Trudeau promised action ‘very soon’ to tackle systemic racism. Seven weeks later, where is it?

Very soon is a relative concept to politicians. For the opposition, the shorter the better, even if largely symbolic.

For government, which actually has the responsibility to develop, implement and manage policies and programs, a longer timeframe is involved except under exceptional circumstances such as the various COVID support measures.

The symbolic is easy and can often be meaningful. But tackling long-term structural issues is hard and requires longer-term commitment and effort:

It has been seven weeks since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised action “very soon” to address systemic racism in Canadian policing and other institutions.

For Matthew Green, an NDP MP and member of the cross-party Parliamentary Black Caucus, “very soon” is now long past due — and can’t come soon enough.

That’s especially the case, he says, after more than 100 Liberal MPs and half of Trudeau’s cabinet signed a declaration from the Black caucus in mid-June that called for a wide range of reforms.

“If these ministers are not serious, then they ought not have signed on,” Green told the Star by phone on Wednesday.

“What we’re asking for is not radical. It is actually basic justice principles of applying policy and the legal system in an equitable way,” he said.

Responding to questions from the Star on Wednesday, Trudeau spokesperson Alex Wellstead provided a quote from the prime minister after the Liberal cabinet retreat in early July. Trudeau pledged at the time that his ministers would craft a “work plan” for the summer to build “strong policies” to tackle racism. This would include reforms to police and the justice system, improved protections for temporary foreign workers and legislation to expand First Nations policing of their own communities, Trudeau said.

In 2019, the Liberal government unveiled a $45-million strategy to tackle racism in the public service and federal policies. The party also promised during the election last year to increase funding for the strategy.

But in mid-June of this year, Trudeau pledged further action on systemic racism would come “very soon.” At the time, much of the Western world was roiling from widespread demonstrations denouncing police brutality and racism against Black, Indigenous and other racialized people.

In Canada, demonstrations were fuelled by a series of incidents in which people died during interactions with police. These included Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old First Nations woman shot and killed on June 4 during a wellness check at her apartment in Edmunston, N.B., and 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, an Afro-Indigenous woman who died in Toronto after falling from an apartment balcony during a police visit.

On June 16, the Parliamentary Black Caucus released its declaration that called on governments to “act immediately” on a wide range of demands to address systemic racism in Canada. The document called for Ottawa to end mandatory minimum jail sentences, create programs to support businesses owned by Black Canadians and improve the collection and release of race-based data. It also called for more Black and Indigenous judges, and to shift money from police budgets to health and social services.

The document was signed by at least 25 cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Justice Minister David Lametti.

Greg Fergus, a Liberal MP from Quebec who is a member of the Black caucus, said Black Canadians have been waiting for decades for reforms and that he is confident the Trudeau government will take significant steps to address racism. He said he has spoken with Trudeau directly about the issue and that he has been assured actions are going to be taken — though he declined to discuss specific plans because he doesn’t want to “scoop” his own government.

“I know that everybody would like this to be done yesterday, but I’m glad they’re taking the time to get it right,” he said.

“For the first time in my life I actually really feel that, Wow, we’re going to get at this, we’re really going to give this a real say — because Canadians will want things to be done.”

Green was less optimistic, and said he believes the Liberal government has already missed opportunities to implement change. He said several demands in the Black caucus declaration could have been pursued immediately, including the elimination of mandatory minimum jail sentencing and amnesty for people convicted for cannabis-related crimes before it was legalized.

The federal government was also criticized this spring for delaying its promisedresponse to the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which probed the systemic causes of disproportionate violence against these groups and concluded in June 2019 with a list of demands for change.

Green said he will be looking to Aug. 12, when the House of Commons is next scheduled to sit, as the next chance for the Liberals to follow up with the action they promised.

“This government can move immediately — immediately — within weeks to award their insiders and their friends a contract that would have resulted in the benefit of $43 million,” Green said, referring to the controversy over the Liberal government’s decision to outsource a student grant program to WE Charity.

“They did that without any drawn out or protracted incremental approach. So why can’t they make those same investments in the Black community?” he said.

Source: Justin Trudeau promised action ‘very soon’ to tackle systemic racism. Seven weeks later, where is it?

@KonradYakabuski François Legault’s denial of systemic racism reveals Quebec’s great divide

Good commentary on the new “two solitudes” of Quebec::

When Dominique Anglade became the Leader of the Quebec Liberal Party last month, a historic step forward for equality was buried under an avalanche of sad statistics as the province grappled with Canada’s worst COVID-19 outbreak.

Ms. Anglade, who won the job by acclamation after the only other candidate in the race dropped out, is the first woman to lead the party in its 153-year history. She is also Black and the daughter of Haitian immigrants in a province whose top institutions are still dominated by white men descended from 17th-century French colonists.

Still, Ms. Anglade’s odds of winning next election remain low. The QLP holds no ridings outside of non-francophone Quebec. Recent polls place support for Premier François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec at more than 60 per cent among francophone voters. The QLP barely cracks double digits. Although all but two of her 15 predecessors as leader went on to serve as premier, Ms. Anglade faces a steep challenge if she is to avoid becoming the third.

Such is the extent to which Mr. Legault has come to dominate Quebec politics since the party he founded in 2011 won power 20 months ago. His approval rating was slightly dented as the coronavirus death toll mounted in long-term care homes, but it remains through the roof. Not since René Lévesque have Quebeckers seemed to like their premier this much.

This explains why Mr. Legault was in no hurry last week to concede that systemic racism exists within Quebec society. Unlike Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who quickly changed his tune after initially denying the existence of systemic racism in Canada, Mr. Legault has continued to insist there is no “system of discrimination” against visible minorities in Quebec.

Although thousands of people marched in Montreal on Sunday to argue otherwise, Mr. Legault’s own political base is with him on this one. While his refusal to state the obvious drew guffaws among many Montreal-based media commentators, others defended the Premier.

“This murky concept [of systemic racism] has no scientific value. Its principal function is to associate all forms of resistance toward multiculturalism with racism,” prominent Quebecor Media columnist Mathieu Bock-Côté wrote last week. “When you search pseudo-scientific literature on systemic racism, you find that the main proof [offered for] its existence lies in the fact of [others] not recognizing it.”

Quebec nationalists have always dismissed Ottawa’s official policy of multiculturalism as a political strategy aimed at winning votes among ethnic Canadians. So, it should hardly come as a surprise that the concept of systemic racism so eagerly embraced by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau would be a harder sell in Quebec than the rest of Canada.

This was clear in debate over Bill 21, the law Mr. Legault’s government passed last year to ban public-sector employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols. The law might easily be held up as an example of systemic discrimination, since it institutionalizes barriers faced by certain Muslim women. But it remains extremely popular among francophone Quebeckers, most of whom live outside Montreal.

The political divide between Montreal, long the home of the province’s anglophone elite, and the rest of Quebec has always been a large one. But it has grown in recent years as the city became the destination for thousands of immigrants from North Africa and Haiti. White francophones who live in Montreal’s hip Plateau Mont-Royal or Rosemont neighbourhoods tend to be far more progressive in their politics than their relatives in the suburbs.

This clash in values between Montrealers and other Quebeckers risks putting the province on a path toward the extreme political polarization that has destabilized the United States and many European countries. Mr. Legault may not need to win over voters in Montreal to keep his job in 2022. But unless he wants his province to descend into civil war, he will need to make greater efforts to bridge the political gap between Montreal and the rest of Quebec.

He took a tentative step in that direction this week by promising to soon release an action plan for combating racism that could include police reforms. But in calling for “quiet evolution” of Quebec society, in contrast to the province’s Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, Mr. Legault appeared to minimize the importance of the issue. He will need to do much better than that.

Source: François Legault’s denial of systemic racism reveals Quebec’s great divide