Quebec civil servant tells mom with hijab to find work in 'Arab country'
Published Friday, January 30, 2015 10:18AM EST
A Canadian-born, English-speaking Muslim woman and mother of four says a Quebec civil servant told her to move to an "Arab country" to find work.
Aisha Forsythe says she was shamed and insulted at an Emploi Quebec office earlier this week when she went in to explore job opportunities. The female employee allegedly scolded Forsythe for trying to find work as an English-speaking Muslim woman in Quebec.
Forsythe is now considering a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal.
"She said, 'Why don't you speak French, you're in Quebec,'" Forsythe told CTV Montreal on Thursday. Forsythe says she explained that she is not a Quebec native, and that she moved to the province from Newfoundland 15 years ago.
The woman allegedly told Forsythe her traditional Muslim hijab, or headscarf, is not appropriate to wear in 'liberal' Quebec. "She said 'In Quebec, we don't accept that type of dress,'" Forsythe recalled. "'We don't accept the headscarf. It's a liberal society,'" the woman allegedly said.
The Emploi Quebec employee then allegedly instructed Forsythe to "go to one of those Arab countries" to find work, and told her she "chose" to be in a "ghetto."
Forsythe converted to Islam 10 years ago while living on Canada's East Coast.
Forsythe says the Emploi Quebec worker made her feel like a child called into the principal's office. "I didn't know what to say," she said.
Forsythe's sister, Layla, was waiting for her outside the Pointe-Claire, Que. employment office where the incident took place. Layla says Aisha Forsythe was crying when she came out. "I've never seen my sister cry," Layla Forsythe said.
The head of a diversity advocacy group says Forsythe was the victim of three types of discrimination.
"She's an Anglophone, she is a single mom trying to get back to the labour market, and she is also a Muslim woman," said Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations.
Niemi says Muslim women continue to be targets for racism in Quebec.
"We hear a lot of stories about these people being threatened, being insulted, being assaulted," Niemi said.
Religious discrimination has become a hot topic in Quebec recently, particularly after the Quebec Charter of Values bill was shot down last year. That bill would have barred public sector employees from wearing overt religious symbols such as a hijab, crucifix or the Star of David.