Kamal El Batal wanted to work for Quebec’s agricultural co-operative so badly that he sent in his resumé 19 times, to no avail. But his sociological “experiment” into the why he was turned down netted him $15,000 from Quebec’s human rights tribunal, and became yet another example of Quebec’s battle over “reasonable accommodation” of immigrants.
El Batal considers himself as Québécois as the next guy – he’s even a PQ candidate in the coming provincial election. Nevertheless, the trained agronomist got nowhere with the Montreal-based association, despite two degrees and nearly 20 years experience. So on his 20th application, he changed his name to “Marc Tremblay” and expunged the bit about his fluency in Arabic. Result: he got a call in a matter of days, during which the recruiter complimented him on his qualifications. The co-op blamed a clerical error. The tribunal called it discrimination, and ordered the co-op – the province’s eighth-largest employer – to pay $15,000 in “moral damages (and) lost chances”.
“You can’t say that Quebec society is racist” says the Moroccan-born El Batal. The problem, he says, lies with “the deciders in management positions in the public sector, which is a desert of white faces, and where, unfortunately, there are individuals with certain views.”
El Batal announced his victory on the heels of another troubling decision, this one from Montreal’s police ethics board, that two of its officers disgraced themselves by pulling their guns on two black men in the swanky suburb of Dollards-des-Ormeaux. The officers mistook them for thieves, when in fact they were helping clean out a garage. When one of the men complained that this was a police state, officer Isabelle Nault replied, “If you don’t like it here…why don’t you go back to your country?”
As it happens, the 4,285 members of Montreal’s police force will soon undergo sensitivity training during which they will learn the difference between “racial profiling” and “criminal profiling”. The program will be paid for in part by a Canadian Heritage grant.
MacLean’s, March 26, 2007