Muslim victim of discrimination claims victory against Emploi-Quebec

A Muslim woman is claiming victory over Emploi-Quebec after the Quebec Human Rights Commission found the agency guilty of discrimination.

The Commission found that in 2015, Emploi-Quebec and employee Lise Leonard discriminated against Aisha Forsythe based on her gender, religion, language and civil status. The Commission ordered Emploi Quebec and Leonard to pay Forsythe $8,000 in damages.

“I was very relieved after waiting that long, they did find her guilty of four different types of discrimination she had done,” Forsythe said.

“I am happy that was recognized and I just hope Emploi-Quebec takes this seriously and makes some changes.”

At the time of the incident, Forsythe was a single mother to four children and was living on welfare. She was born in Newfoundland and moved to the West Island 20 years ago.

An anglophone, she struggled with French and spent all her time caring for her kids, rarely using French.


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She turned to her local Emploi-Quebec office in Pointe-Claire, hoping for help finding a job. She met with employee Lise Leonard.

Leonard started criticizing Forsythe immediately, first for not speaking better French.

“It is possible to live in Quebec and not become fluent in French. She just criticized that and (said) I should have done more, I should have taken more steps to learn French,” Forsythe said.

“I tried to explain I never expected to be in the position I was in, divorced and all that and struggling, so at that point, it seemed not very productive to talk about the past, when I wanted help to go forward and take French classes, whatnot.”

Forsyth has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

Leonard criticized her for “wasting” her degree by being a stay-at-home mother.

And then, Leonard attacked her for wearing a hijab.

“She said Quebec is a secular society, we don’t like that kind of dress. She said I put myself in a ghetto by making the choice to wear a headscarf. She let me know it would be very hard for me to find work dressed like this and said I should move to an Arab country.”

Forsythe left the interview in tears.

“I felt terrible. My heart was pounding and my face was flushed and I was shocked. I was very upset,” she told Global News.

With the help of the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR), Forsythe lodged a complaint with Quebec’s Human Rights Commission.

The Commission found Emploi-Quebec and Leonard discriminated against Forsythe based on her gender, religion, language and civil status.

They are ordered to pay Forsythe $8,000.

“This decision is basically a reminder that government employees are also accountable and have to follow the law,” said CRARR’s Fo Niemi.

Forsythe believes Islamaphobia is on the rise. She worries especially for immigrants moving to Quebec, who may use Emploi-Quebec services.

“I can only imagine how many others have faced this. And being new to Canada and being a little nervous or scared, they might not know they can speak out,” she said.

Emploi-Quebec can appeal the decision, but Forsythe says she hopes they won’t fight it, and they’ll simply accept that discrimination won’t be tolerated.

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