Quebec failing to implement recommendations from racism report says ombudsman

The Quebec government has implemented fewer than a third of the 142 recommendations made by the Viens Commission – a multi-million dollar panel investigating relations between Indigenous Peoples and public services in the province.

Quebec ombudsman Marc-André Dowd released a follow-up report and said that although the government has made efforts to improve relations with Indigenous peoples vis-à-vis public services, many priorities remain unresolved.

“I think that recognizing systemic discrimination on the part of the Quebec government would be an important element to move forward,” Dowd said. “Now, in our work with First Nations and Inuit partners, we’ve clearly felt the importance of the concept of systemic racism.”

The Viens report, tabled in 2019, concluded that First Nations and Inuit people faced serious and systemic discrimination at the hands of public services, including police forces.

Moreover, the ombudsman noted that the inequities identified by the Viens Commission, named after justice Jacques Viens, have still not been addressed.

The follow-up report highlights the government’s overall lack of strategy developed jointly with First Nations leadership as one of the main reasons why progress has been so slow.

Additionally, it emphasized the fact that the opinions of Indigenous leadership are not taken into account.

“Quebec saying ‘Well moved on a number of key call to action,’ we said ‘No. It’s not true,’” said Ghislain Picard, head of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec and Labrador. “What is encouraging today is the fact that we are hearing from a more neutral voice, from the Quebec ombudsman saying ‘well we are coming to the same conclusion.’”

According to the report, only 11 recommendations have been fully implemented, and another 34 are in progress.

During the press conference in Val d’Or, Que., Dowd said that he recognizes systemic discrimination but that he did not speak for the government, which has yet to do the same.

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