OTTAWA – House of Commons Speaker Geoff Regan has apologized for an apparent case of racial profiling on Parliament Hill, saying all who visit the precinct must be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.
The incident took place earlier this month during an event called Black Voices on the Hill, prompting a complaint to the Speaker from Liberal MP Greg Fergus.
The Federation of Black Canadians said several participants in the lobbying event were referred to as “dark-skinned people” and asked to leave a parliamentary cafeteria.
The Parliamentary Protective Service apologized at the time and said the force was investigating the incident, adding it has zero tolerance for any type of discrimination.
The service has promised to inform the Speaker when its investigation is complete.
In a ruling delivered in the Commons on Tuesday, Regan called the service’s apology a welcome first step, but said it should not be seen as closing the issue or as a way to erase the harsh and unacceptable reality of what happened.
“While one transgression does not represent the actions of all, one is too many and none can be overlooked, dismissed or excused,” Regan said.
Fergus and Halifax MP Andy Fillmore asked Regan to investigate the incident as a violation of parliamentary privilege – the rights of legislators to do their work unimpeded. Regan said the matter was not, strictly speaking, a question of privilege because it did not involve a member of Parliament, nor did it concern the proceedings of the House or a committee.
However, Regan said those facts in no way diminished the importance of the matter. If visitors are not treated with respect on Parliament Hill, which is the heart of our democracy, “it is a failure on our part and for that reason, I offer my sincere apologies,” he said.