Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montreal, May 12, 2010 --- A student of Arab descent has brought UQÀM and two internship supervisors before the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission after being subjected to arbitrary and discriminatory treatment during the evaluation of her internship.

A native of Algeria, Mrs. LM is 40 years old and Muslim (she wears the hijab). She registered for a Bachelor's program in Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) at UQÀM in 2003. She has seven years’ experience teaching ESL at the secondary and university level in her native country, and speaks Arabic, French and English. In her first two years at UQÀM she successfully completed two internship courses, earning a B and an A, respectively.

In her third year, in 2007, LM completed a required 5-week teaching internship at a Montreal secondary school. Her two internship supervisors failed her for this practical course. LM noted that the supervisors often displayed negative and biased attitudes towards her; further, they did not follow certain assessment procedures. She therefore filed a petition for a grade review with her Program Director in February, 2008.

A Review Panel was scheduled to meet on March 25, 2008 to review her case. Almost a month later, LM received the Panel’s decision upholding her failing grade, in the form of an application form, signed by the Director of the Department of Linguistics and Language Teaching, and a summary of the Panel’s review of her petition. However, the form is signed March 23, two days before the scheduled Panel meeting. In addition, the summary provides no justification for the decision. It also indicates that the Panel violated UQÀM regulations that parties must be heard separately and in private.

In September 2008, LM asked the UQÀM Ombudsman to intervene. The Ombudsman suggested that LM propose resuming her course with the same teacher she was alleging had been biased. Doubting the Ombudsman’s impartiality, LM decided not to follow the latter’s advice. The Ombudsman made no follow up with her.

CRARR became involved in July 2009 and requested a meeting with the Ombudsman to discuss these irregularities in the evaluation and revision process. On seeing the date on the Review Panel’s decision form, the Ombudsman requested another Review Panel for LM. The second Panel was convened for October 2009.

Two days before her Panel appearance, LM received by mail further documents on the contested 2007 assessment. On reviewing them for the first time, she noted more comments by the two supervisors made in 2007 that further confirm their bias. She also spotted other procedural flaws in the evaluation itself and the processing of her grade review. Tellingly, the first Review Panel had used these documents, without LM’s knowledge, therefore without her being able to access the documents in order to challenge the decision. The evaluations contain criticisms in language that according to LM, reveal a blatant lack of professional objectivity, cultural bias as well as inaccurate applications of course rules. She finds one comment in particular discriminatory and an affront to her personal and professional integrity:

I suspect that an adult anglophone could have come in off the street and, with a copy of the grammar rule in hand, given the same lesson, and perhaps in a more intelligent, sensitive way.

Shocked by this information, received almost two years after the failing grade, LM mandated CRARR to file a discrimination complaint against UQÀM. She claims physical, moral and punitive damages for discrimination and loss of chance, and that UQÀM reform the procedures around internship evaluation, revision of grades, as well as the role of the Ombudsman.

"The biased and unfair evaluations, coupled with the irregularities in the grade review proceedings, say a lot about the attitudes of some people towards an ethnic minority person like myself and the integrity of procedures involved," LM said.