Quebec launches Public Consultation on Systemic Racism and Discrimination

Yvonne Sam

Finally, Quebec is moving in step with her neighbour, Ontario, in the aftermath of a 2,662-signature petition tabled by Québec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir, which called for “the creation of a consultation commission on systemic racism.”
On Thursday May 20, Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion Minister Kathleen Weil unveiled plans for the public consultation on systemic discrimination and racism in Quebec, scheduled to commence next September.
To this end the government and the Quebec Human Rights Commission, along with non-profit groups intend to hold province-wide meetings geared towards listening to experiences of racism, and to institute action based on what it hears.
In an endeavor to garner a wide variety of responses, there will be several different ways for the public to participate in the consultation process, including a website where Quebecers can share personal stories and answer a questionnaire.
An additional four working groups will be created in areas such as work and employment, health, education, social services and housing where discrimination is a concern. On the issue of racism, Quebec was extremely slow coming out of the starting block, failing to hear the starter’s pistol due to denial.
While all these new initiatives may be regarded as long overdue moves in a much-needed direction, it is nevertheless apparent that trouble looms.
To begin with, the Quebec Human Rights Commission has no policy acknowledging the existence of systemic racism and intersectional discrimination, which lends itself to double obstacles for racialized victims who are English-speaking, or have a disability.
Of note is the fact that the proceedings of the recent unveiling session were conducted entirely in French, with nary a word – not even the minimum salutation – being spoken in English. Such an introduction speaks volumes in and of itself.
Racialized communities must be included from the get-go and be dealt with in the language that best tell their story of racism and discrimination. How does the Commission intend to cross the linguistic hurdle in order to target the linguistically alienated and increase their awareness of systemic racism?
The process has begun with the highest of hopes, but fears exist that this Commission like so many others before will end up being just more paper, more appointments, and more lip service that means absolutely nothing to an already disillusioned linguistically marginalized community.
Consideration must be given to language-specific anti-racism initiatives.
Hopefully, the first ball thrown is not indicative of how the game would be played.
The province is watching…