A group of supporters took what they call a “united stand against racism” on Friday, after an apparent incident of racial profiling on Parliament Hill this week.
The Federation of Black Canadians said the incident took place when about 150 participants in Monday’s Black Voices on the Hill event in Ottawa were asked to wait in a parliamentary cafeteria ahead of their meetings with federal cabinet ministers.
In a statement Thursday, federation spokesman Len Carby said that, according to people involved in the incident, 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.
Halifax’s Trayvone Clayton was one of the young people attending the lobbying event. He says he confronted the person who made the alleged racially charged remarks.
“I didn’t approach the man with no threats, no aggressiveness, just as a calm guy and said: ‘What did you just say? Can you repeat that?’ And when I asked that question, he didn’t want to repeat it ‘cause he knows we heard what he said,” Clayton said.
Joseph Law, chief of staff to the director of the Parliamentary Protective Service, says the service is investigating and that it has zero tolerance for any type of discrimination.
Kate MacDonald, the co-founder of a non-profit in Halifax that works to bring marginalized communities to the forefront, also attended the event. She says Canada needs to do better.
“It felt dehumanizing so I think it was apparent that our value as humans was not equal at those moments,” MacDonald said.
“The fact that there were youth around absorbing that kind of vibe, that kind of energy, absorbing that kind of information really made me feel for generations to come and for the youth that we are trying to love and uplift right now.”
Clayton agrees, adding that he expects more from Parliament.
“I don’t want no apology through media, I don’t want an apology through no letters, I want it to be face-to-face,” he said. “I want Justin Trudeau there myself because he’s the one who has the power for everything in Canada right now. He makes the rules around here.”
The federation said it has requested a meeting with Trudeau as it seeks a “formal commitment to end racial profiling at the federal level.”
Halifax MP Andy Fillmore says for him, this has been a week of learning.
“As good as we feel about Canada being an open, sharing and diverse country, we still have racism and we experienced what we believe is some of that this week in Ottawa,” Fillmore said.
The group of young people hopes their united stand will force Parliament to change the way it addresses black Canadians, putting a stop to systematic racism.
—With files from the Canadian Press and Whitney Oickle