Saint John wants racial discrimination made a punishable offence
Motion urges federal government to amend the Criminal Code of Canada
The City of Saint John will push the provincial and federal governments to make racial discrimination a punishable offence.
The council motion, introduced Monday by Mayor Don Darling, calls for changes to provincial law and to the Criminal Code of Canada.
He referred to it as a "community led" initiative.
"If we're going to have a highly functioning, growing, thriving, inclusive city then we have to drive the kind of change that we're talking about tonight," said Darling.
Councillors earlier heard a presentation by Timothy Christie, a former member of the Saint John Police Commission and currently the regional director of ethics services for Horizon Health.
Racial discrimination cases are handled by the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission and can take years to be resolved.
The commission has the power to order restitution but cannot punish offenders criminally.
Christie described the province's Human Rights Act as legislation "corrupted by systemic racism."
"An essential first step in rectifying systemic racism in New Brunswick is to make racial discrimination a punishable offence," said Christie.
"If I catch a salmon illegally or if I kill a moose illegally in New Brunswick I can be arrested for that, I can have my belongings searched, I can have my property seized, I can be fined, and I can also be imprisoned.
"I want to submit to you that no such penalty exists for racial discrimination."
Christie has an as yet unresolved personal complaint before the Human Rights Commission dating back to 2017.
It alleges discrimination based on race and colour, in a case involving the University of New Brunswick.
The motion approved by city council will see letters sent to the provincial government asking for amendments to "appropriate legislation" to make racial discrimination punishable.
Letters will also be sent to all other New Brunswick municipalities urging them to likewise press for legislative change.
The city will simultaneously send a letter to the federal government urging changes to the Criminal Code to make racial discrimination an illegal act.
The city solicitor is also ordered to investigate whether the municipality has powers to impose penalties on people who racially discriminate.