By Yvonne Sam
The Commission has proffered the defense that privacy will ensure that those testifying, will feel open to relaying their experience. No way! Poor say!
From the outset of its notification in July, the public consultation was expected to probe systemic discrimination and racism in Quebec. All Quebecers were urged to participate, with the hearings being touted as an occasion to find tangible and permanent solutions to the issues at hand.
Now, local consultations will be held behind closed doors, hidden from the eyes of the media and the general public (montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/public-consultation-on-racism-to-be-held-mostly-in-private).
According to Émilie Tremblay-Potvin, spokesperson, for Immigration Minister, Kathleen Weil, “The people who wish to be heard will be heard.”
Once again, the government is doing what it has done well over the years — being an ace at deceiving the populace.
The Quebec Human Rights Commission, currently embroiled in its own issues, and the agent mandated to oversee the hearings, have corroborated that the majority of the testimony will take place behind closed doors, away from the public setting that was expected by the public.
The plan was strongly supported by Immigration Minister, Kathleen Weil, who said that keeping the testimony behind closed doors will protect the privacy of participants.
“Where people want to testify or explain situations of racism or discrimination (it was felt) that it was better if that was private and that there was no media there,” Weil told reporters.
“I don’t want to say too much because it is the Human Rights Commission that is leading this exercise. They thought that formula was very important because they understand these issues very well, and not everybody wants to personally talk about their experiences of discrimination in front of a camera,” she added.
A question worth asking or one that also begs a response is: what mode of thinking did the Commission employ in determining, and deciding, to conduct in private, the hearings on such a volatile matter?
The history behind the beleaguered Human Rights Commission speaks volumes, in itself, and stands as the primary reason for public consultation.
The very concept of closed doors, would set in motion a new mode of thinking for likely victims of racism and discrimination, giving the impression that their testimony should be skewered in a certain manner, as the public would not be present during their testimony.
Let us not forget, that there are many who already have poor faith in the government and their previous handling of racism and discrimination, and now are being called upon to sit with them, behind closed doors, to discuss their sufferings and injustices.
This is similar to the fox declaring that he is now a vegan so that he can overlook the hen house.
It is as plain as falling rain, that hearings behind closed doors are for the benefit of the Commission and not the victims. The whole concept smacks of an absence of logic. In fact the entire concept may have been DOA (dead on arrival).
It is not too late for the government to clean the slate for, at the end of the day, the objective is to have a better Quebec — where racism and discrimination would be sent into remission.
The closed doors should now be opened wide, if the Commission is to be transparent, with nothing to hide. Open doors would evoke a truth emission from all participants, including the Commission on Racism and Discrimination.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.