Nova Scotia

Trudeau to apologize to black Nova Scotians for racial profiling incident

Black Nova Scotians who say they were racially profiled on Parliament Hill earlier this month are expected to receive a personal apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his visit to Halifax.

'I'm looking for a legit man-to-man apology and 100 per cent respect,' says Halifax man

Trayvone Clayton is one of several black Nova Scotians expecting to receive a personal apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a racial profiling incident Feb. 4 on Parliament Hill. (Jill English/CBC)

Black Nova Scotians who say they were racially profiled on Parliament Hill earlier this month are expected to receive a personal apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his visit to Halifax.

Trayvone Clayton, a Halifax student who travelled to Ottawa for the Black Voices on the Hill Day, said he and others are scheduled to meet with Trudeau behind closed doors Thursday at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook, N.S.

Trudeau travelled to Halifax on Wednesday to attend a vigil in memory of seven children who were killed in a house fire.

Clayton, 20, said he received a call from Halifax MP Andy Fillmore to meet with Trudeau in response to his earlier request for an apology.

"I'm looking for a legit man-to-man apology and 100 per cent respect," Clayton, a second-year criminology student at St. Mary's University, said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at the Black History Month reception in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Clayton was part of a coalition of black, human rights, labour and youth groups that visited Parliament Hill on Feb. 4 for a series of meetings with eight federal cabinet ministers. 

The visitors later reported that a government employee complained to the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS) about them, taking their picture and referring to them as "dark-skinned people."

A member of the PPS who responded to the complaint also used the term "dark-skinned" and told them to leave the parliamentary cafeteria even though they had valid passes allowing them to be there, the group said.

Clayton said he and another member of the coalition were getting ready to do a media interview when complaints were made that the group waiting in the cafeteria were being too loud.

"But they weren't though, they were just — it's a cafeteria. You're obviously going to hear talking in the cafeteria anywhere you go," Clayton said.

"We're not coming to the Parliament building to disrespect anyone or cause any ruckus or a bunch of noise. We're coming here to basically share our thoughts and get things off our chest to speak ... and get the chance to speak to ministers."

Trayvone Clayton (left) and his father, Marcus James, were among about 150 black members of a coalition of black, human rights, labour and youth groups who attended the Black Voices on the Hill Day on Feb. 4. (Steve Lawrence/CBC News)

In a statement, Fillmore said he was "deeply troubled" by the allegations.

"Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable, anywhere in Canada. But that is especially true in the halls of Parliament, the heart of Canadian democracy," he said.

"When constituents from Halifax brought this unfortunate incident to my attention, I quickly raised it in the House of Commons and called for an internal investigation."

PPS mum on investigation 

Fillmore said he raised the issue with Trudeau, who offered to meet with the individuals involved. 

"I believe this is a positive step which demonstrates our commitment to the shared goal of ending systemic racial discrimination in Canada," Fillmore said.

The Parliamentary Protective Service issued an apology and launched an internal investigation of the incident. Joseph Law, chief of staff to the director of the PPS, said the investigation has since been completed, but he would not elaborate on the findings nor say whether disciplinary action had been taken.

Earlier this week, House Speaker Geoff Regan publicly condemned the incident, saying it "cannot be condoned and must be dealt with swiftly and purposefully." 

About the Author

Sherri Borden Colley has been a reporter for more than 20 years. Many of the stories she writes are about social justice, race and culture, human rights and the courts. To get in touch with Sherri email sherri.borden.colley@cbc.ca