Politics

Transport Canada reopens investigation into 'racist' email

Transport Canada has reopened its investigation into a racist song allegedly shared a decade ago in the department office that oversees Canada's no-fly list.

Marc Garneau calls song allegedly shared in department office "racist, intolerant and divisive"

Transport Minister Marc Garneau: 'When I was made aware of the alleged incident, I immediately asked my deputy minister to take appropriate actions.' (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Transport Canada has reopened its investigation into a racist song allegedly shared a decade ago in the department office that oversees Canada's no-fly list.

The move comes after CBC News reported a former employee's allegation that a worker sent an email linked to a racist song parody with lyrics suggesting people who wear turbans are terrorists and violence against them can be justified.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau called the email link "absolutely unacceptable."

"I was horrified," he told CBC News. "There is absolutely no room in Transport Canada for racism or discrimination. There's no room in the public service. There's no room in Canada for this.

"Our government is committed to ensuring an environment free of discrimination and intolerance for all Canadians. When I was made aware of the alleged incident, I immediately asked my deputy minister to take appropriate actions."

Renée Soeterik, the woman who first brought the incident to Transport Canada's attention a decade ago, told CBC News she watched her 17-year career as a federal public servant fall apart as the coworker who shared the song was promoted.

CBC News has viewed a copy of the email in question, which states that it was sent by Mark Haynes on Sept. 3, 2008. According to Soeterik and a LinkedIn profile under the name Mark Haynes, he was a superintendent at Transport Canada's aviation security office in Toronto.

She said Thursday she's relieved to hear the department is investigating.

"I'm enormously relieved that they are going to revisit this extremely racist event that I've been trying to bring to their attention for 10 years," she said. "It is unfortunate, but telling, that it took media intervention to finally bring attention to something that they should have actioned immediately."

CBC reached Mark Haynes by email earlier this week. In his reply, he refers to "'the alleged email' from 2008, which has previously been reported to Transport Canada by others."

He declined CBC's repeated requests for an interview and did not confirm or deny authoring the email. Haynes, who now works for Global Affairs Canada, also confirmed he was never disciplined.

In a memo to all staff Thursday, Transport Canada Deputy Minister Michael Keenan cited the CBC story and said he was "outraged by the video and allegations."

Keenan wrote that other people may have information about the allegations that wasn't disclosed to Transport Canada investigators. The department said it became aware of the allegations as part of a larger investigation in 2017 and a second probe in 2018.

"We are reopening the investigation and departmental investigators will be approaching these parties," Keenan wrote. "Simply put: discrimination will never be tolerated at Transport Canada."

About the Author

Ashley Burke

Reporter

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. Have a story idea? Email her at ashley.burke@cbc.ca

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