The Parliamentary Protection Service has launched an internal investigation into an allegation that a member of its staff acted in a discriminatory way toward a group of black visitors to Parliament Hill earlier this week.
“First of all, we apologize to those involved for what they went through on Monday,” said a statement from Joseph Law, the chief of staff to the PPS.
“The PPS doesn’t tolerate any type of discrimination. As soon as we were informed of this incident, we took the action immediately and launched an internal investigation into the incident.
“As soon as the investigation is over, the two Speakers will be informed.”
According to statement release by a coalition of black, human rights, labour and youth groups, the incident occurred during a visit to Parliament Hill by 150 community members who were attending the Black Voices on the Hill day.
The visitors were in Ottawa for a series of meetings with eight federal cabinet ministers when they were asked to wait in the parliamentary cafeteria the statement said.
The group claimed that a government employee made a complaint to PPS about the group of black visitors, taking their picture and referring to them as “dark-skinned people.”
A member of the PPS allegedly responded to the complaint, using the term “dark-skinned” when telling them to leave the cafeteria even though they were permitted to be there because they had valid parliamentary passes.
Nova Scotia Sen. Wanda Thomas Bernard, an African Canadian parliamentarian, filed a complaint to the PPS on behalf of the group.
The visitors are asking for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, during which they hope to ask for an “end to racial profiling at the federal level.” The group also wants to meet with House of Commons Speaker Geoff Regan “to secure an official apology.”
“The incident, which violated the human rights of the victimized, is not isolated but part of a broader systemic problem,” the group said.
“It shows how at the highest levels of Canada’s public institutions, anti-black racism can flourish embedded within public institutions, how law enforcement can disproportionately criminalize black youth, and how there is an urgent need for more robust measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination from society.”
The coalition of groups that put out the statement will hold press conferences on Friday in Halifax, Montréal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto.