Since June 2003, I have been involved in a Canadian Charter Rights case involving discrimination, harassment and the non-payment of my salary against Les Ailes de la Mode (Les Ailes), a retail chain with stores in Montreal and Laval Quebec, Canada.
In 2005, Les Ailes was purchased by an Ontario corporation, named in Canadian newspapers as the INC or Fairweather Group. As far as I know, it is a private company that also owns several other stores and chains across Canada. The legal firm that the owners of Les Ailes have hired, to defend their desire not to pay me my salary, use racial slurs and harass me, is the prestigious law firm of Heenan Blaikie.
I have been through a great ordeal over the past six and a half years=eighty months. How long is that? Well, these are just a few of the events that have occurred, since I first filed my complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
April 2003 – Current Quebec Premier, Jean Charest, won his first election. For the previous nine years, the Parti Quebecois had been in power in Quebec, Canada’s second largest province.
The Invasion of Iraq was into its second month.
George Bush was still in his first term as President of USA.
Claude Julien was the head coach of the Montreal Canadians.
June 2003 – Premier Jean Charest takes office.
Jean Chretien was Prime Minister of Canada.
Since June 2003
The Montreal Canadians have had five head coaches.
The USA has had two Presidential elections.
Quebec has had two Provincial elections.
Canada has had three Federal elections.
Quebec had its Bouchard-Taylor hearings, concerning the rapidly changing, visual demographics of Quebec and how the various, new linguistic and cultural communities are integrating, into the Quebec culture.
From June 2003 to August 2006, my case was transferred 5 times. The Quebec Human Rights Commission (QHRC or CDPDJ in French) agents assigned to my file were (in order):
Ms. G (for the 2nd time)
In October 2004, I agreed to and participated in a mediation session, which ended when Les Ailes made a offer for settlement, that was completely unacceptable and rejected my attempts to settle the case, for a more reasonable amount.
In June 2009, I received a decision/judgment, which supported my allegations and statements that I was discriminated against by Les Ailes and that my case had enough proof to be sent to the Human Rights Tribunal. However, in a very strange twist, the decision of the QHRC did not assign damages to Les Ailes (in their terminology, also known as the respondent, I am noted as the complainant or the “Haitian” – more about that a later date) but referred the case back to mediation.
I was now dealing with my 7th agent. Mr. G was the mediator assigned to my case, supposedly with a mandate to bring this case to a successful conclusion in mediation, as my Charter Rights were clearly violated.
In September 2006, after three years of transfers and unexplained delays by the QHRC, I hired the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) as my advocate, to help me win my case. As many in the Province of Quebec know, CRARR is often cited in the Canadian media, particularly in the Montreal region, for its efforts in dealing with cases involving discrimination, racial profiling and other Charter Rights cases.
CRARR’s strategy succeeded in my case getting some minor media attention but no real movement from the QHRC in terms of improving the efficiency, with which they handled my case. In fact, there have other cases submitted to the QHRC after June 2003 (including cases submitted by CRARR) which have been settled before mine, sent to the Tribunal and have had damages assessed, while my case still lingers, in some sort of strange limbo.
Following the QHRC’s and the corporate world’s 7th summer vacation, the second mediation session was finally held on Tuesday, September 15, 2009. That session, while starting with much more promise, quickly degenerated. I am going to reserve commenting on what happened on September 15, 2009 – for now. But what I will say is, that I was more than disappointed, at the end of the session.
There was no agreement signed. But a promise of continued negotiations was agreed upon.
On Monday, September 21, 2009 I fired Mr. Niemi, who is listed as the Executive Director and co-founder of CRARR and sent a copy of the email dismissal to the mediator, Mr. G, on the same day. Mr. Niemi had been personally working with me on my case versus Les Ailes, since I first hired him and his agency CRARR, in September 2006.
Since October 9, 2009 I have contacted the QHRC mediator, Mr. G, four times for an update on my case, following his promise to inform me of Les Ailes’ position, after a meeting with Mr. G on September 21, 2009 where he asked me to resubmit an offer to Les Ailes, after I fired Mr. Niemi and a phone conversation between Mr. G and myself on October 6, 2009. He has not replied to any of my attempts to contact him.
Following a letter I wrote to him on November 26, 2009, someone from the QHRC finally decided to contact me. I received a message from Mr. G’s superior Mr. B, as well as a phone call and email from the assistant to the President of the QHRC. A meeting was scheduled and held on Thursday, December 3, 2009. Mr. G was not present and I met with his supervisor Mr. B, ironically in the very same office, where my mediation session on September 15, 2009 took place.
During the meeting, Mr. B said that I was discriminated against and that my offer was reasonable – albeit the offer I made in his office was substantially lower, than what I believe I deserve but higher than what anyone has previously offered to me, to settle the case.
The following day, I received an email from the Heenan Blaikie lawyer assigned to the case who sent me a copy of a letter that he had sent to the mediator, Mr. G, dated November 13, 2009. Apparently, they had a meeting on November 5th, where Mr. G and the lawyer discussed my new offer, as well as some of the other things that I am not going to mention – for now.
The letter dated November 13, 2009 stated that Les Ailes were withdrawing from the mediation session.
Despite the fact that I received a letter in Mr. B’s office on Thursday, December 3, 2009 from the QHRC, stating that they wanted to try mediation again with another agent (the same one who was involved in the 1st mediation session of 2004 – Mr. M) Les Ailes had already clearly indicated, through their Heenan Blaikie lawyer, that they no longer wished to be involved in any further mediation session with me…
Now the question I have is, when was the QHRC planning on letting me know that?
Thus far, I have not been impressed with the lack of efficiency and transparency from CRARR and the QHRC. There are also some questions I have regarding any influence, a prestigious legal firm like Heenan Blaikie, may have over the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
Richard Colvin’s testimony and the personal attacks he has endured, while he was trying to keep all of us informed of serious international abuses and neglect, under the leadership of the current Federal government, has opened the door to questioning Canada’s international image, versus its reality. It seems as though Canada’s reputation for fairness and respect for Human Rights, should not only be examined abroad but here at home as well.
Over the next few days and weeks, I will be sharing my experiences with all of you (unless the QHRC, Les Ailes or Heenan Blaikie contact me with a respectable offer), including some very curious behaviour and responses from Mr. Niemi of CRARR, other strange encounters with the QHRC and the evidence I have, that supports some of my suspicions, that something is indeed rotten in this state of ……
Those of you who know me, also know that I am not someone prone to hotheadedness. I am only interested in justice and respect for the Charter. I have sought through many different channels and attempts to meet with Les Ailes and their current owners, to settle this case, in a respectful manner, without acrimony. I have been constantly rebuffed, or the offers from Les Ailes or their lawyers, have been below what common sense would allow me to accept.
As always, I remain open to receive any sincere offer of settlement that takes into consideration both my material losses and my violated Canadian Charter Rights.
Former Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien, have always been men that I admired. I do not believe that I have ever voted for any other party than the Liberals, whether it be in Federal or Provincial elections. I do not think that any other party running for office, has the vision of the Liberal Party nor its commendable record in dealing with our diverse, multicultural country over the past 45 years. For almost 30 years, both Trudeau and Chretien have led a country, where despite its obvious challenges and stumbles, has seen considerable improvements over what our parents, grandparents and older ancestors, have had to endure to survive.
Nevertheless, the legislative freedoms we are supposed to enjoy as citizens and respect for the Canadian Charter, which those two men had a personal hand in creating, are the fabric of our nation. The defense of those principles and values, have to remain forever in the minds, responsibilities and actions of elected officials. If they do not use their authority, to ensure that the statues and laws, their former leaders argued over and negotiated over for years, are respected and upheld, then all of us (men, women, minorities: religious, linguistic, sexual or others) are weakened and diminished.
Those who stand on the shoulders of Trudeau and Chretien, who use the names and legacies of Canada’s two pivotal Prime Ministers to further their own political and commercial endeavours, must be very careful that they do not sully nor tarnish the reputation of a nation, for a few favours from corporations.
More to come…