Ottawa cuts off financing to Edmonton centre for newcomers over sexual misconduct allegation
Immigration Canada says centre’s 'inaction' led to decision
Immigration Canada has lost its trust in an Edmonton centre for francophone newcomers and is putting an early end to its financing agreement, according to a letter sent to the organization after a sexual misconduct allegation against a former director surfaced.
The government's decision was taken due to the "inaction" of the board of the Centre d'accueil et d'établissement du nord de l'Alberta (CAE) after it was alleged Georges Bahaya engaged in sexual misconduct toward a client.
Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the client accused Bahaya of victimizing her in 2010.
Bahaya was fired in June 2018. The CAE told Radio-Canada that Bahaya was fired without cause, in the interest of the people who obtain services from the centre.
The organization offers support and services to French speakers who have recently moved to northern Alberta.
In a letter dated Oct. 18, David Manicom, assistant deputy minister of settlement and integration, suggested that the board failed to adequately investigate the allegations.
"The actions, the statements and the inaction of the CAE's board have caused the ministry to lose its trust in the organization," Manicom wrote in the letter.
CBC has obtained a copy of the letter, which was sent to CAE interim director Béda Kaji-Ngulu.
"The board's president [Paul Dubé] publicly defended the former director [Bahaya], even though no measures were taken to verify the allegations against him," Manicom wrote.
The CAE hadn't responded to the multiple concerns raised by the ministry when allegations of Bahaya's inappropriate behaviour first surfaced last January, reads the letter.
"Consequently, the ministry is not convinced that the CAE can offer services to newcomers in an environment that is safe and secure."
Immigration Canada will end its financing of several million dollars in March 2019, according to the letter. The exact value of the current contract isn't known, but under a three-year deal, from 2013 to 2016, the organization received about $3.5 million.
Manicom wrote that the CAE should start winding down its operations and advise staff that their employment will come to an end.
Community wants to 'clean house'
Members of Edmonton's francophone community met on Tuesday to discuss how to continue offering establishment services to newcomers.
"It's important to have a welcoming organization that is run by and for francophones," said Marc Arnal, president of the Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta (ACFA), a provincial body that oversees services for the francophone community.
The members of the CAE's board must be replaced, Arnal said.
"It must be recognized that the situation was not handled the way it should have been."
Community members hope "cleaning house" will convince Ottawa to reinstate the CAE's financing.
But Dubé, the board's president, has no intention of stepping down at this time.
He maintains that the board acted in good faith, and that Immigration Canada is overreacting to the situation.
"Isn't there a disproportion between the accusations against the board and the punishment imposed?" Dubé said Wednesday at an open community meeting.
"Our intentions were those of responsible people, dedicated to their mandate."