Job offer in hospital raises concerns about systemic racism in Quebec’s public services

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On Wednesday, March 17th, LaPresse reported that the CISSS des Laurentides in Quebec posted a job offer hoping to recruit new beneficiary attendants with white skin to work at the St-Eustache hospital. In the fall of 2020, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, this CISSS tried 10 times to recruit new employees that fit the “white women only” description. This serious fault, at first considered a hoax, could result in dismissal for the person responsible.

 

When reached by LaPresse, the human resources team of the organisation tried to explain their motives behind this job post. They blamed a “difficult patient” suffering from dementia in the general medicine department who refuses to get treated by anyone other than a white woman. Thus, a heated debate followed in the Quebec media, questioning how people suffering from mental illnesses should be treated. 

 

Bharati Sethi, a professor of social work at Western University, reported to LaPresse a study that stated that black support workers at a care facility in Ontario were frequently the victims of racism from patients, their families and in some cases even their colleagues. However, this same study highlighted the fact that if these employees think that they will be replaced by white people, this could make them not report racist acts for fear of losing their jobs.

 

At a press conference on Wednesday, Geneviève Guilbault, Minister of Public Security, strongly denounced this discriminatory offer, saying that a job offer that prescribes an ethnic origin, a sex or a sexual orientation, or anything of the kind “does not make any sense”. Nonetheless, the minister wanted to express “her empathy” towards the nursing staff who are facing a “difficult situation”. She concluded her comments on this issue by pointing out that even when dealing with a situation as hard and complex as patients suffering from mental health problems, looking for one employee profile to the detriment of another is not the answer. 

 

When asked if systemic racism is present within Quebec’s healthcare network, Minister Geneviève Guilbault did not want to respond directly. She recalled that the Legault government announced last December mandatory training for all staff in the health network in order to increase the feeling of “cultural security”.

 

At the National Assembly on Wednesday, the new Minister Responsible for the Fight Against Racism, Benoit Charette, said that he believes that it is too early “to cry racism” in this story. He still denounced that civil rights of employees who could not apply were very clearly violated. He called the situation “disturbing”, but concluded that to label it as a racist gesture, one must wait for the results of the investigation.

 

In addition, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse brought the CISSS to order on Wednesday afternoon. Myrlande Pierre, vice-president of the Commission responsible for the mandate of the Charter, stated in a press release that :

The Commission considers such a job offer unacceptable and illegal and calls for the responsibility of the CISSS des Laurentides […] This job offer is shocking considering the large number of racialized people, especially women from these groups, who work in the health field and who have supported a health network severely tested by this last year of the pandemic.

 

The CIUSS has announced an internal investigation into this job posting in order to understand how such a discriminatory offer could have been written and transmitted to employment agencies.

 

Ce billet de blog a été rédigé par un étudiant de CCLA-PBSC Rights Watch. Les opinions exprimées ne reflètent pas nécessairement le point de vue de l’ACLC ou de PBSC.

 

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC Rights Watch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.