OTTAWA – The Speaker of the House of Commons has condemned a “racial profiling” incident involving a group of black visitors to Parliament Hill on Feb 4 last.
“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 Tuesday.
The incident happened 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.
The visitors 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
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: (20172024) 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.”
The PPS has issued an apology and launched an internal investigation of the incident, insisting it has “zero tolerance” for any type of discrimination.
Regan said 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.
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