Concordia University, Security Firm to Head to Quebec Human Rights Tribunal

Both Deny Case of Racial and Social Profiling

  • Lapointe is woman of Haitian origin, who said she was harassed by Concordia security guards while walking through the EV building in July 2013. Photo Brian Lapuz

Concordia University and the Montreal division of the Quebec security firm Commissionnaires will be heading to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal sometime in 2018 for an allegation of racial and social profiling.

Concordia and Commissionnaires are being asked to pay Chantal Lapointe $33,000 in damages. Both are challenging the case.

Lapointe is woman of Haitian origin, who said she was harassed by Concordia security guards while walking through the EV building in July 2013.

“I would say that it’s been our position that the university did not commit any misconduct of any kind,” said Concordia President Alan Shepard.

The Montreal Division of the Commissionnaires was responsible for training the Concordia security guards involved.

A report by the Human Rights Commission said Lapointe was forced off campus by police officers after she was unable to provide ID to security guards. In a report compiled by the security guard given to the Commission, Lapointe was described as a “black female homeless” and as “Mrs. Voodoo.” The guard also said that Lapointe threatened to cast spells on them.

Lapointe believes she was harassed because of her race, and because the security guards and police believed she was homeless, which she is not and has never been. At the time, Lapointe was carrying a number of bags, and says she sometimes get misidentified as being homeless. She was not a student at the time.

“She’s not surprised,” said Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, which is representing Lapointe. “There is so much institutional resistance and denial of the concept.”

Combined instances of social and racial profiling are rarely confirmed in the Human Rights Commission. The first time it happened was in August.

That case was against the Montreal Police, but Niemi argues this case is particularly noteworthy since it affects a private security firm whose behaviour is harder to regulate.

When launching the case, CRARR demanded that Concordia remove the part of its security policy that allows guards to ask for ID, since carding could be used to target homeless people who often don’t carry ID.

But Shepard said that part of their policy will remain the same.

“I think it’s dangerous to call it carding,” he said, while mentioning that people on campus are only asked for ID if they’re causing a disturbance.

“Our security guards are not randomly stopping people and asking for ID,” he said.

“Obviously there’s a certain organizational set of values that has to be reviewed, to see to what extent the rhetoric matches the practice, when it comes to inclusion, equality and diversity”–Niemi

Shepard also said that their security guards get their own training with a focus on anti-discrimination, but the university’s security policies available on their website has no explicit mention how their security guards are trained.

“I don’t know the specific details of that, but I know that we do,” Shepard said.

Spokesperson for the Montreal Division of the Commissionnaires, Francis Giguère, wasn’t able to directly comment on the case, but said all their guards’ training is based off provincial law.

The Bureau de la sécurité privée mandates that all Quebec security guards not “commit injurious acts or use injurious language based on race, colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap.”

It also mandates that they not intimidate or harass people they come in contact with.

“We’re aware of the social aspect of our business,” Giguère said. “So we have to go by those rules, and that’s what we do.”

Giguère said their guards only receive extra training if they’ll be working for an organization that demands it.

In late October, CRARR said they wanted to see a report of Concordia’s progress in anti-discrimination training of its security guards sent to the Commission next year.

“Obviously there’s a certain organizational set of values that has to be reviewed, to see to what extent the rhetoric matches the practice, when it comes to inclusion, equality and diversity,” said Niemi.

When asked, Shepard couldn’t confirm if Concordia would meet that demand, saying he couldn’t comment on the case.

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