Cries of racism on the Hill

Greg Fergus, Wanda Bernard and Len Carby.

An official investigation has been launched into what angry Black Canadians across the country have described as an incident of racial profiling on Parliament Hill.

Many have condemned it as anti-Black racism.

The incident happened two Mondays ago inside the Parliament building as a large group of Black people from various cities and towns in Canada were waiting to meet several government ministers for scheduled discussions.

Just the day before, members of that group had attended the closing session of  the National Black Canadians summit held February  1-3 last  at the National Arts Centre where the implementation of the Canadian Strategic Plan for the International Decade for People of African Descent: (2017-2024) was discussed.

And before leaving Ottawa to return  home, on Monday February 4 last,  they were  to meet with eight government ministers during what they called “Black Voices on  the Hill lobby day.”

According to reports the  Black gathering, which included many young people from different parts of the country, were not acting in a disorderly manner  or causing any disturbance as they waited to meet the ministers.

The Federation of Black Canadians (FBC), one of the groups which had organized the summit, said several participants in the “lobbying event,” were asked to wait in a parliamentary cafeteria ahead of their meetings with  the ministers.

In a statement  last  Thursday, FBC spokesman Len Carby said that, according to people involved, a security guard responded to a complaint from a government employee who had been taking pictures of the attendees.

“He responded by labelling the delegates ‘dark-skinned’ and telling them to leave, even though established regulations allow civilians with the appropriate pass to be in that space,” Carby said.

The  FBC said it has requested a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as it seeks a “formal commitment to end racial profiling at the federal level.”

And the matter was raised in the House of  Commons.

Liberal MPs Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer)  who heads the federal Black caucus, and Andy Fillmore (Halifax) asked   Speaker of  the House Geoff  Regan to investigate it.

“This place belongs to all Canadians,” Fergus said. “Therefore, I ask you to investigate this matter immediately and to suggest measures to make this place the welcoming and open place it should be for all Canadians.”

Regan responded that he takes the matter “very seriously,” and promised to look into it.

Nova Scotian Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, who is leading a Senate inquiry into anti-Black racism, has since  sent an official complaint to the Parliamentary Protective Services about the incident, according to a news release from the FBC.

Senator Bernard is quoted as saying that ” this incident is one example in a larger picture of anti-Black racism in Canada that creates barriers for Black youth from accessing opportunities and developing their political voice.

“Over the past year, many senators have spoken in support of an Inquiry into Anti-Black Racism, and many of us are ready for a culture shift in Parliament. We are ready for change on every level.”

A spokesman for the Parliamentary Protective Service which is responsible for security on Parliament Hill, said it is investigating the incident.

“Our security personnel must always conduct themselves with professionalism and respect towards parliamentarians, employees and visitors,” Joseph Law, the chief of staff to the director of the PPS, said in a statement.

“We need to do a better job in ensuring that this standard is maintained across our workforce. The Parliamentary Protective Service has zero tolerance for any type of discrimination.”

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