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Montréal, Canada, November 4, 2008 --- CRARR has requested in writing this week that the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission reassess and even rescind its decision regarding the complaint of racial discrimination filed by CRARR on behalf of a Filipina mother whose son was exposed to discriminatory remarks and treatments for eating with a spoon and a fork in a west-end school of Montreal.

In September 2008, the Commission ruled that while the comments of the boy's educator were discriminatory and violated the boy's rights (she asked him whether “in (his) country Filipinos washed their hands before they eat”), the Commission considered it an isolated incident and found no evidence that Luc, the then seven-yearold Grade 2 student, was reprimanded because of his cultural habit of eating with a fork and a spoon at the same time. Luc was born in the Philippines but came to Canada at the age of 8 months. Furthermore, the Commission ruled that Luc was actually reprimanded by his educator, for his “inconvenient” eating manner at lunch and his acting like a clown, rather than for his culture-based practice of eating with a fork and a spoon.

In the end, the Commission only partially upheld the complaint, chose not to bring the case before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, and suggested mediation for the parties.

Upon receipt of the decision, CRARR made an access to information request for the file. After reviewing the file, it found several procedural anomalies which may have affected the decision rendered by the Commission. For instance:

  • The Commission's Investigator met with and took written statements from two individual Respondents, as well as two employees of the School Board. However,no meetings were held nor interviews conducted with Ms. Gallardo,her husband,their son, or any of their witnesses on the Complainant's side. In fact, the Commission never contacted the family to obtain additional information;
  • During the investigation, the Commission failed to reveal to CRARR that it had received from the Respondents certain documents about Luc's evaluation by his educator, which undoubtedly influenced the decision. By not disclosing the documents, the Commission prevented Ms. Gallardo and CRARR from responding to the documents and addressing them;
  • The investigation did not take into account key evidence presented to the Commission. Particularly, it ignored a newspaper article in which one Respondent, the school principal, was reported to have made discriminatory comments similar to those complained about by Ms. Gallardo which she considered to be offensive to the Filipino community as a whole (such as “you are here in Canada... you should eat the way Canadians eat”). During the investigation CRARR repeatedly raised this evidence and urged the Commission to examine it; the Commission did not even address this issue.

“I can't understand how the human rights commission expects to provide a fair investigation when it chose to interview representatives of the School Board but not even me, my son or my husband, at all.” said Ms. Maria Gallardo, who mandated CRARR to represent her before the commission.

“The commission's decision to completely ignore our claim (that the school principal's statements to her and in the newspaper are discriminatory) certainly raises the specter of bias and unfairness,” she added.

According to CRARR's Civil Rights Advocate Leila Jawando “Procedural fairness is the cornerstone of the human rights commission's investigative process. If these rules are not obeyed during the commission's investigation, then the Commission ought to address the administrative unfairness by rescinding its decision and correcting its errors.”

The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission is a public human rights agency that has the mandate to protect and promote civil rights in the province ofQuebec that are guaranteed by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.Reporting to the Quebec National Assembly (the provincial legislature),the Commission is independent of government although its Commissioners are appointed by the legislature and its budget, approved by the government. Unlike the Ontario Human Rights Commission and despite CRARR’s urging in recent years, the Quebec Commission still does not have policies regarding systemic racism in education and discrimination in school discplinary measures against disabled and racialized students.

Comm. Gallardo Review 11-08.pdf122.33 KB