African-Nova Scotians who were at Parliament Hill on Monday are demanding a face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after they say they were called “dark-skinned” and asked to leave the building.
Kate Macdonald, 27, was part of a group attending Black Voices on the Hill in Ottawa as part of the National Black Canadian Summit.
“Being that it is black history month, our ancestors did not fight this hard and did not die for us to be silent or for us to be wrangled,” she said Friday at a news conference in Halifax, as supporters crowded behind her.
Trayvone Clayton, 20, was one of the African-Nova Scotians representing Uniacke Square and Halifax on Parliament Hill that day.
“I don’t want a paper apology,” Clayton said at the news conference. “I can recycle that.”
Macdonald described what happened on Monday — a day they were gathered to discuss anti-black racism in Canada.
She said a security guard informed the group that when they were done their meetings, they had to leave the building to get refreshments because of a “high-volume” of people in the cafeteria.
She said the security guard said there were only 60 people registered, but there were about 150 people in the cafeteria, based on a picture he had been shown by a government employee earlier. When asked how he knew it was the Black Voices on the Hill group, the guard told them that he had seen “dark-skinned” people in the picture.
Halifax MP Andy Fillmore heard about it from some of the visitors from Nova Scotia. He and Hull-Aylmer MP Greg Fergus, chair of the Black Caucus, raised the issue in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
“This place belongs to all Canadians,” said Fergus, in the House. “Therefore, I ask you to investigate this matter immediately and to suggest measures to make this place the welcoming and open place it should be for all Canadians.”
Fillmore attended the news conference in Halifax to show his support.
“The thing that we can all learn from this is that there’s still a lot of work to do around discrimination, and in this case anti-black racism,” he said in an interview Friday.
Sen. Wanda Thomas Bernard filed an official complaint with the Parliamentary Protective Service, which provides security at Parliament Hill. It has since launched an investigation.
“We have zero tolerance for any type of discrimination,” Joseph Law, chief of staff to the director of the Parliamentary Protective Service, said in a statement. “We took immediate action upon learning of this incident and launched an internal investigation into the matter.”
Macdonald believes that this incident highlights the importance of proper training led by black Canadians.
“I understand that everybody needs an opportunity to learn and bounce back,” said Macdonald. “But I think that looks a lot different to the way it’s going down.”
The group also wants to meet with Trudeau to address ending racial profiling on a federal level.