AFN's Quebec and Labrador chief tells Viens inquiry 'systemic discrimination' must be addressed

Quebec and Labrador Assembly of First Nations Chief Ghislain Picard told the inquiry looking into discrimination against Indigenous people that Quebec has a “two-tier” system: one for the majority, another for the Aboriginal minority.

Politicians, SQ in 'collective denial' after allegations of police abuse raised in Val-d'Or, says Picard

AFN-QL Chief Ghislain Picard told the inquiry commissioner, Jacques Viens, Indigenous people in Quebec are so conditioned to being discriminated against they consider it 'normal' behaviour. (Viens Commission)

The second witness at Quebec's inquiry into the treatment of Indigenous people says half the First Nations and Inuit people in the province consider discrimination against them to be "normal" behaviour.

Ghislain Picard, the chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec and Labrador (AFN-QL), gave the example of a woman who recently took her young daughter to an emergency room because the child's face was partially paralyzed.

Picard said she was yelled at as if she didn't speak French, because it's the woman's second language.

"Many members of our communities, without exaggerating, would consider that type of situation normal, even acceptable," Picard told retired Superior Court justice Jacques Viens, who is presiding over the inquiry, on the second day of hearings in Val-d'Or, Que.

Retired Superior Court justice Jacques Vien, who is presiding over the inquiry, listens to testimony from AFN-QL Chief Ghislain Picard. (Viens Commission)

'Collective denial'

Speaking to Radio-Canada after his testimony, Picard also addressed what he called the "collective denial" which struck provincial politicians and the Sûreté du Québec following allegations of mistreatment of Indigenous women in Val-d'Or by police officers.

"There was a stubborn refusal to recognize there could be discrimination and racism. And the Sûreté du Québec was defending itself tooth and nail," said Picard.

He said the SQ's response stood in stark contrast to the way the RCMP handled similar allegations elsewhere in Canada at around the same time.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said openly there were "racists" in the force, calling on people to come forward to expose them.

Picard said he will return to the Inquiry with concrete examples of discrimination in the health, education and employment sectors.

He said Quebec must find solutions to correct what he called a "two-tier system" in which the Indigenous minority is treated in "unacceptable and inappropriate" ways, compared to the majority.

With files from Radio-Canada