[lg policy] Canada: Haitian guards claim discrimination in Laval for speaking Creole

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 27 15:03:22 UTC 2011

Haitian guards claim discrimination in Laval

By Charlie Fidelman, Montreal Gazette April 27, 2011 7:12 AM

At least eight security guards of Haitian descent say they have been
fired, suspended or docked pay for speaking Creole at an immigration
detention centre in Laval. The detention centre is run by the Canadian
Border Services Agency, which subcontracts the Montreal-based Garda
World Security Corporation, a private security firm.

Garda sent an internal memo to about 150 employees last October that
it will be enforcing its official language policy: Languages other
than French or English “are strictly prohibited” and those who speak
other languages will be disciplined “right up to the end of your

Language restrictions apply on site at the centre and during the
transport of detainees to other sites, the memo says. Since then, many
guards have been penalized or fired, even when speaking among
themselves during lunch hour. They say the directive is used to
discriminate against Haitian guards. They complain that non-Haitian
colleagues snitch to supervisors, and that the work atmosphere has
since become poisonous.

“You feel like you’re under scrutiny all the time. It’s very
stressful. You’re speaking with your neighbour in the cafeteria and
you don’t know what will happen,” said Stenley Charles, who was
disciplined for speaking Creole to his colleague and later fired for
union-related activities.  The largest ethnic group, an estimated 30
of the 150 Garda guards at the centre, are of Haitian origin.

Charles, and several other guards, are taking their complaints to the
Canadian and Quebec human rights commission. The Centre for Research
Action on Race Relations is presenting their case. Other guards who
speak Spanish or Arabic are not harassed, Charles said. One man, who
asked that his name not be used because his case is before
arbitration, said he was docked four-hours pay for allegedly speaking
Creole during his lunch.

Garda spokesperson Isabelle Panella said language rules apply during
work functions for security reasons. As the centre is a federal
building, the law requires guards to speak English or French while on
duty, she said.
But no one is prohibited from speaking other languages in common areas
like the lunch room, she added. “You have to use common sense. No one
is reprimanded for using another language.”

However, the company had circulated the internal memo, signed by
senior account director Yannick Drapeau, after some guards, believing
they were being mocked by a small group of Haitian guards speaking
among themselves in their language, had complained to Garda officials.
“You know how it is. So the company asked everyone to speak French or
English as a matter of respect toward others,” she said.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Haitian+guards+claim+discrimination+Laval/4678895/story.html#ixzz1KjgtDCm2

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