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Ethics complaint filed against Montreal executive committee chairperson

Groups representing Black community say Dominique Ollivier violated her code of ethics as a municipal elected official by downplaying racist incidents.
Jason Magder  •  Montreal Gazette Published Mar 21, 2023  •  Last updated 1 hour ago  

Groups representing the Black community said Tuesday the Plante administration’s attempts to root out systemic discrimination and embedded racism within the city’s workforce are merely symbolic.
“It’s a dog and pony show; it’s a smokescreen,” said Alain Babineau, the director of racial profiling and public safety of the Red Coalition and a former RCMP staff sergeant.
The coalition filed a complaint on Tuesday with the Municipal Commission of Quebec against Montreal executive committee chairperson Dominique Ollivier for comments she made to Le Devoir in an article published March 13.
Ollivier was reacting to an email obtained by Le Devoir and written by diversity councillor Nathalie Carrénard, who complained that she felt targeted by racist remarks comparing Black people to monkeys during a sensitivity workshop she was conducting with city of Montreal employees.
Ollivier responded that a good animator has to create an atmosphere of trust so that people don’t feel judged. She added that it is the animator’s role to then confront those employees. Ollivier also beseeched those who have filed complaints about racism in the past to file them again, promising that the city now has a zero-tolerance policy.
“She’s gaslighting my ex-colleague,” said Babineau, who worked for a year tackling racism in Montreal’s police force before quitting out of frustration.
He added that he believes Ollivier violated her code of ethics as a municipal elected official by downplaying the racist incidents.
On Monday, the city’s opposition called for the Plante administration to put in place an independent inquiry into the workplace climate for city employees after a report in Le Devoir outlined complaints from about 30 employees and a dysfunctional complaint system. However, a motion to discuss the idea of inquiry was quashed by Plante’s Projet Montréal party in council.
The coalition called for an apology by the Plante administration for the alleged climate of racism and systemic discrimination within the city. Opposition Ensemble Montréal should also apologize, as the situation dates back to before they were in power at city hall and they did nothing to change it, the coalition said.
It is also asking for an independent non-partisan body to investigate all complaints of harassment and systemic racism by city of Montreal employees.
The coalition, along with the Black Class Action Secretariat, will bring the issue of racism among Montreal municipal employees to the United Nations at the next session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, to be held in May.
Finally, the coalition is asking Montreal police to open an investigation into claims by former city employee Carl Moise, who said that he was continually harassed with racist comments by city blue-collar workers when working for the city between 2007 and 2009. Employees allegedly posted pictures of monkeys and a picture of a Black man being lynched. He also reported that the bolts on the wheels of his car were loosened and that his car nearly broke down on the highway as a result. His supervisor at the time refused to file a complaint but reimbursed him for the repair bill.
“I’m denouncing the racism, but also the city’s lax attitude after I reported them,” Moise said.
Kethlande Pierre, the associate director of the Outaouais division of the Black Class Action Secretariat, said it’s emotionally difficult for someone to file a complaint of discrimination against their employer.
“When I filed a complaint in Ottawa at the federal level, my union told me ‘are you sure you want to do this? Your workplace climate will become hell,'” she said.
Moise said he took leave from the city of Montreal in 2020, and while the overt racist comments eventually stopped, he’s not sure that there has been a change in the culture.
“Maybe today it’s more a systemic problem compared with a few years ago when people were much more open with their racism,” he said.
Marikym Gaudreault, a spokesperson for Montreal’s executive committee, said the city would not be making a comment about this specific case, “out of respect for the complaint process of the municipal commission.”
However, Gaudreault said the city takes the issue of systemic racism within its workforce very seriously. It plans to outline the progress it made on the file during a March 28  annual report card that the Plante administration has pledged to unveil annually. The administration will also outline its action plan for the coming year, which will include simplifying the complaint process.
“One thing is clear: we won’t spare any effort to accelerate the change of culture everywhere that is necessary,” Gaudreault wrote in a statement.



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