Trudeau draws protesters in Halifax as he apologizes for racial profiling incident on Parliament Hill
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau drew supporters and protesters on Thursday as he offered a personal apology to a group of youths who were racially profiled while visiting Parliament.
Trudeau was speaking during a reception at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia in Cherry Brook, a suburb of Halifax with a large African Nova Scotian population.
He was referring to an incident that took place on Feb. 4 during an event called Black Voices on the Hill.
It occurred face-to-face and behind closed doors.
“We all had our say,” he told reporters of the 30-minute meeting with the prime minister. “We respect his apology.”
Clayton, who is in his second year at Saint Mary’s University, said he was “very hurt” by the incident.
“We should be accepted for who we are and what we do. We should not be turned down just because of our skin colour,” Clayton said.
Trudeau told an audience of African Nova Scotians gathered at the Black Cultural Centre that the incident shows that racism, unconscious bias and systemic discrimination can emerge anywhere in Canada.
“A group of young people … faced discrimination and marginalization, and they faced a stark reminder that even in that one place that should be theirs … that anti-black racism exists, that unconscious bias exists, that systemic discrimination exists in this country today, still,” he said during his remarks.
“We still have a country where discrimination based on the colour of a person’s skin is all too common and we have much, much work to do.”
WATCH: Black youth speak out about alleged racial profiling
As Trudeau spoke, protesters gathered outside the building to protest the apology, saying that it should’ve been made publicly.
“We are not a photo op, racism has got to stop,” the group chanted.
Protesters said the private apology shows that Trudeau doesn’t respect the black community in Nova Scotia. The group was not allowed to get too close to the prime minister, as police had closed off the parking lot of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, forcing protesters to gather across the street.
“I think it’s interesting the prime minister is ostensibly here to apologize for an incident of racial profiling, yet there’s a security perimeter around the Black Cultural Centre,” said El Jones, a Halifax poet and community organizer.
“I guess black people are still a threat.”
In a Facebook post after the protest, Jones said protesters had tried to get a woman who fell during the demonstration inside the cultural centre to get first aid but were denied entry by RCMP.
The woman was driven to the hospital by a member of the community.
The Parliamentary Protective Service previously offered an apology for the incident of racial profiling and said the force was investigating.
In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Speaker Geoff Regan called the service’s apology a welcome first step but said it shouldn’t be seen as closing the issue or as a way to erase the unacceptable reality of what occurred.
Trudeau and others attending Thursday’s ceremony — which marked the first visit of a prime minister to the community centre — praised the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia for its role in preserving the history of the province’s black citizens.
Desmond was arrested after refusing to leave a whites-only section of a theatre in New Glasgow, N.S., in 1946.
“Canadians can see and know a part of our history that Canadians haven’t seen and recognized,” he said, adding that, unfortunately, the discrimination Desmond faced hasn’t disappeared, and such incidents continue too frequently in current times.
Source: Global News
—With files from Whitney Middleton-Oickle and the Canadian Press
Speaker of House condemns racial profiling on Parliament Hill
The Speaker of the House of Commons today condemned publicly a “racial profiling” incident involving a group of black visitors to Parliament Hill.
The incident happened on Feb. 4, when a coalition of black, human rights, labour and youth groups were attending the Black Voices on the Hill Day. About 150 members took part in meetings with eight cabinet ministers.
The visitors later reported that a government employee had complained to the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS) about them, taking their picture and referring to them as “dark-skinned people.”
We can and must do better, and we will.– Speaker of the House of Commons Geoff Regan
The group alleged a member of the PPS who responded to the employee’s complaint used the term “dark-skinned” and told them to leave the cafeteria, even though they had valid passes allowing them to be there.
“The racial profiling incident cannot be condoned and must be dealt with swiftly and purposefully,” said Speaker Geoff Regan in a statement delivered in the House today.
The PPS issued an apology and launched an internal investigation of the incident, insisting it has “zero tolerance” for any type of discrimination.
Apology ‘first step’
“The apology is a welcome first step; however, it should not be construed as either a final step or a way to erase the harsh and unacceptable reality of what happened,” he said.
“Instead, we are resolved to learn from it and to do better going forward. While one transgression does not represent the actions of all, one is too many and none can be overlooked, dismissed, or excused.”
Regan went on to say that everyone who visits Parliament Hill must know “unequivocally” that they will be treated with dignity and respect.
“To experience anything less here on Parliament Hill, the centre of our democracy, is a failure on our part and for that I offer my sincere apologies. We can and must do better, and we will,” he said.
Regan’s statement was in response to a question of privilege by Liberal MP Greg Fergus. The Speaker ruled that it did not constitute a question of privilege because it did not involve a member of Parliament or a proceeding in the House or a committee, but he said the incident was grave enough to warrant a strong rebuke.
At the time, the coalition expressed interest in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss systemic issues of racism, but a spokesperson from the Federation of Black Canadians told CBC News that to date, the PMO has not been in contact to request a meeting.
“We are not aware of any discipline and have not been contacted by the PPS,” said Richard Picart in an email.
PM to engage ‘meaningfully’
PMO spokeswoman Chantal Gagnon noted that in his remarks to mark Black History Month, Trudeau said that “anti-black racism and unconscious bias are real” and that it’s unacceptable to judge people or deny them opportunities because of the colour of their skin.
Joseph Law, chief of staff to the director of the PPS, said the internal investigation has been completed. He would not offer specific details of the outcome, or say if disciplinary action has been taken.
“Following this incident, we have taken steps to review our training and procedures to address any gaps in an effort to avoid a similar situation from re-occurring,” he wrote in an email.
Source: CBC News