The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission has dismissed a complaint from an English-speaking black girl with intellectual disabilities who was kicked off a Montreal transit bus after asking for help with the schedule.
Michaella Bassey filed a human rights complaint after claiming she was mistreated by a transit bus driver and a Montreal police officer following an incident on board a bus in June 2012, when she was 12 years old.
She was standing at a bus stop when she requested help in English with the bus schedule from the driver. Bassey, who is dyslexic, could not read the schedule due to her disability.
Michaella Bassey, 16, speaks at a news conference in Montreal
Wednesday, April 6, 2016.
The driver replied in French and pointed to the printed schedule.
Bassey boarded the bus, and after she spoke to the driver again, asking him to speak to her mother on her phone, he stopped the bus and called a transit supervisor.
The supervisor boarded the bus and told Bassey to leave. But at the time, Bassey was talking to her mother and sister on her phone, who told her to stay put.
Police were called, and the officers hauled Bassey off the bus.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Bassey said that at the time she was being removed from the vehicle, she felt helpless.
"I literally felt like they thought that I was a bad person and that I was a delinquent, but I didn't do anything," Bassey told reporters on Wednesday. "I tried to explain, I said, 'Can I explain myself,' and they didn't listen to me at all."
Michaella's sister Danika Bassey told reporters on Wednesday that the whole incident happened very fast, "from the moment the supervisor got there, to the moment that we heard her scream because she'd been grabbed roughly by one of the police officers."
The human rights commission refused to comment Wednesday about the case. In the ruling, issued last month, the commission said: "The evidence gathered by the commission does not show that the bus driver, nor the supervisor, racially profiled her nor did they base their actions on race, age, or her disability."
The Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRAAR), an organization that is working with the family, faults the commission's investigation process, saying it didn't interview two strong witnesses. They also said the commission only took written statements from the police officers on scene. CRAAR executive director Fo Niemi said that first responders need sensitivity training, "so that a 12-year-old child asking for help will not be reduced to a child with disorderly conduct."
In a statement posted on their website, CRAAR also said the commission's decision "raises serious questions about the handling of complaints of racial discrimination and profiling from English-speaking Black Montrealers. CRAAR added that the decision also sets "dangerous precedents" for Montreal public transit and police in how they handle black children, "particularly children with disabilities."
Michaella's mother, Sophia Bassey, said the commission should have considered what her daughter was going through at the time of the incident. "Nothing was ever examined from the perspective that this was a 12-year-old child," she said.
The family may now appeal the commission's ruling but it would cost $7,000, which CRAAR says is a hefty sum that many Quebec families can't afford. The centre added that's another flaw in Quebec's justice system that needs to be fixed.
Karolyn Coorsh, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, April 6, 2016
NOTE: When I appealed to the Human Rights Commission for help in the Dawn McSweeney Crime Case, the answer was that my rights had been violated but I was too late for justice. This was after I had pleaded for justice to every level of government and been refused again and again. I was in nobody's jurisdiction. - http://dawnmcsweeney.blogspot.com