Canada News

Stanford Amofa’s Canadian experience

20 February 2008 at 12:03 | 849 views

Africans living in Canada face a lot of problems like immigrants all over the world.Some have been able to overcome those problems and lead a very happy and prosperous life. Others find it extremely difficult, if not impossible to do so. One of these problems is racial profiling. Our sister publication, Afri-Can magazine, recently talked about racial profiling and other issues with Stanford Amofa Mensah(photo),who emigrated from Ghana 22 years ago. Here is Stanford:

Afri-Can Magazine: Please introduce yourself to our readers.

SAM: My name is Stanford Amofa Mensah. I was born in Ghana in West Africa.I completed Presbyterian Middle school in 1974 then attended Secondary School in 1976 for four years which is equivalent to high school in Canada.

AM: When did you arrive in Canada and what happened?

SAM:I arrived on the Canadian soil in November 1985 in Montreal about 22 years ago. Due to some difficulties with the French language, I
decided to move from Montreal to Toronto in June 1986.

Until present time,I resided and had always called
Toronto my home. I took Toronto as my home where I also started a family and now have four beautiful children. I have always worked and supported my family while at the same time I was pursuing my
education.

AM: Tell us more about your educational career.

SAM: My career started at the community college level, at George Brown college where I graduated with a diploma in Computer Programming. From
there,I pursued a bachelor’s degree at York University in Toronto. I graduated from York U in 1998 with Bachelor of Administrative Studies or BAS. Right now, I am working towards my MBA degree.

AM: What were your experiences as an immigrant in Canada?

SAM: One of my experinces has to do with racism.Racism against black people comes with many faces. There are multiple accounts of racism against black people
in Toronto and in British Columbia. I mean white
racism against black people and also other people of colour.

I saw fatal shooting of black
males in Metropolitan Toronto by the Toronto police constables. Every now and then I have heard that the
Special Investigation Unit(SIU) had cleared the officers involved in those shootings of any wrongdoings.

Sometimes it’s mind boggling. It’s very depressing when you are a black male in Toronto and you see other black males being murdered on a frequent basis as
sacrificial cows. It also sends a lot of signals that black males are not protected in a white dominated society.

Twenty two years in Canada has also been translated to twenty two years of fears of being shot and killed one day due to racist policing, discrimination, racial profiling together with employment discrimination towards many immigrants, people of colour, particularly,
black males.As an African I had always felt vulnerable in a system where no respect is given to black persons either in the school system or any
other social settings.

Aside from all that has been seen, heard and read through the news media, I have my own personal, physical experience with the Peel Regional and Toronto police on issues of racial profiling and discrimination.

Let me give you one an account of what you would agree is
a typical racial profiling incident:

After recovering from Motor Vehicle accident in October 2002, I had a cheque of lump sum of $9000.00 from my insurance company to cover my medical expenses and also my loss of income due to the accident.

I then went to the Bank of Montreal at Square One Mall in Mississauga, Ontario, to deposit the cheque into my account which I had opened for a few months. At the bank, I
joined the queue to wait for my turn.

Now when it came to my turn, I was called upon by one of the tellers. The female teller asked me what she can do for
me. I told her I have a cheque to deposit into my account and also I wanted to know if I could receive some cash back in the amount of $500.00. She then
said "wait for me please".

She quickly took my cheque and went to the back office. Several minutes went by and she had not returned with my cheque. I was very frustrated by such delays. At long last, she came back and told me that she was sorry the bank could not give me cash back as I was
expecting, therefore they can just deposit the cheque and
place a hold on the whole amount ten days to clear the cheque.

I then asked her whether there was any reason for her to keep me waiting for that long? She then replied that they had to make sure the cheque was good. And also she was waiting for an answer as to my request for cash
back. Then I said to her that I would no longer deposit the cheque with that bank but I would like to get it back so I could take it to my other account at the Scotia Bank. She quickly returned the cheque to me.

From there I went to talk to one of the managers concerning the long delay of the teller. So I moved to the other counter at another side of the
bank. I spoke to another female staff member who said she was a financial services manager.
Her reply to me was that they have recently had bad cheques coming to their branch, therefore they have to do a thorough checks on cheque
items before depositing or cashing.

When she was talking to me she requested
for my ATM
card to identify me on their system. However when exiting the bank after the
contact I realized that I did not receive my card back from her. Therefore I
quickly went back to the counter to request the card.

Another female staff member
offered to go inside the back office to contact the manager for me. Within
one minute or so, another female staff came out from the back office and
introduced herself as the branch manager.

Then she said to me "Oh!
are you the man with the big cheque? Then I answered back to her, what big
cheque?
Then she replied oh! the $9000 cheque. Then I replied yes, then I said, is
there any problem?

Then she said I understood you were not happy with information from the
teller. I told her
again it is fine, I have decided to take the cheque to another bank.

Then
she
said can I see the cheque? I showed it to her and she quickly took it from me
and went straight to their office behind the teller’s counter.
Within a few minutes while still waiting there for her to return my
cheque I saw two police officers, a male and a female standing by
my side, shoulder to shoulder. Ready to arrest me.

They told me that they
had been called by the bank with the information that I was trying to cash a fake cheque, so
they were there to place me under arrest. To cut the story short they insisted that I should accompany them
to the police station. I then said this is ridiculous, I also asked whether they had verified to know the validity of my cheque first before they could arrest me.

They replied, we
will talk to you when we get to the station. Without them even verifying
whether my cheque was fake or genuine,the police officers already had
pre-conceived
beliefs that yes, as a black man, there was no doubt that I am possessing a fake
cheque. This is where racial profiling comes in.

After keeping me at the
police station for at least one to two hours the female police officer came
back and said we have made some phone calls and the insurance company has
confirmed the cheque, therefore you are free to go home.

I became very upset
and informed them they are racist and do not respect black people. Therefore
I was ready to start a legal suit against the Peel Regional police
department and the BMO Bank of Montreal.
I subsequently sued them as I said.

Finally, all odds were against both the bank and the Peel
Police Dept. They quickly realized they were at fault and acceptance they apologized to have treated me like a criminal.

At this point, both
parties then decided to settle the legal suit out of court. And they requested that I accept out of court settlement.

The reason why this was seen as racial profiling is that by the time of
the arrest when I was thrown to the back of the police
cruiser, the officers started matching another black male’s photo with me to see if it fits my looks.

Now I can say that very often,
most white people think that all black men are
criminals or they can become criminals. This shows what the police officers
are made to believe from childhood and therefore there seems no respect for black men’s
lives.

In Vancouver here too, I have already experienced the same systemic racism and
prejudice as I had in Eastern Canada.

I moved to the Vancouver area in the
middle of 2005 to pursue my graduate studies
at Simon Fraser University. I was new in the area, and therefore I decided
to look for any job which will help temporararily while I still attend the university.

Therefore, I went to Paladin security company in Burnaby to
apply for a job. I was hired and then
I was told to attend a training program in order to work for the company. The
training was ongoing. One section ended while another section
started. So I was asked to be there on a Saturday morning to start the training which runs for one week. And it started from 8.00am to 6.00pm
daily for a week.

Since I was new in Vancouver area I did not know the bus system very well so I was late for about 15 minutes on the first day. As a result
of that I was removed from the training by the training manager. Then he directed that I go and speak to the HR manager who sent me to the training.

I then went and spoke to the HR manager and explained everything to him, then the manager
said he would speak to the training manager so that I could start again the following week.

The following week I was early for class because I knew my
direction at this time. I sat in the class on that day.I was the only black or African. There were also some Chinese and others Asians. Around 8.15 AM when class had started there walked in another Asian guy. The
manager did not remove this guy as he did in my case.

Now class had started we were
up to filling the necessary forms for the training. Then I wanted
to ask the instructor a question. She pretended as if she did not see my
hand raised.

She quickly went outside the room. On her return, she was accompanied by the training manager.
This time the manager stood at the classroom door and
stared at me for a minute. Then he said to me "I want you to come with me. Take your belongings and follow me
to my office." I went to his office.

He then said to me I was told you were asking
to be late tomorrow. I quickly replied to him that, I have not said that. Then he said,
"we cannot work with you. So I want you to take your belongings and leave the
training. You can talk to
the man who hired you."

I was angry and frustrated at this time. Knowing
that I had not done anything to deserve such treatment.
I had no choice but to leave the premises. I went ahead and
talked to the HR manager the following Monday. He too told me he could not do anything
about it. I saw that their behaviour was discriminatory.

Therefore I went
and filed a Human Rights complaint against the security company at BC Human
Rights Tribunal. My case was accepted and filed by the Human Rights Tribunal.

The parties
including myself and Paladin training staff met to mediate and to try and resolve the issue. The company
did not agree that they had discriminated against me. Then they decided to file an application for dismissal of my complaint. However, a tribunal board member
rejected their application. He ruled in my favour and stated that my case has
merits and has to proceed to hearing.

At the hearing, because the company
hired a high profile lawyer, and I was representing myself I received no justice from a member of the tribunal who was a female. She then went ahead and
ordered that I pay the manager who viciously discriminated against me based on my colour an amount of $3000.00 for putting them through stress.

Surprisingly, the white woman (Tribunal member) who decided the case did not see anything that says I was denied an employment opportunity, therefore I had suffered some form of discrimination and suffered stressed also.

She did not find under the
Canadian charter of rights and freedom that my basic rights were violated and that
I was entitled to file a
complaint in the Human Rights Tribunal.

However, she used her power as the
Tribunal member
assigned to make a judgement on my case and ruled against me in the light of all
the evidence. The white woman who had never suffered any racism or
discrimination before had no feeling for what I went through at the Paladin
company as a black man. Not only my case, there was also similar incidents that my fellow black friends are going through.

A friend mof mine who is also African and black male has
been treated unjustly by the Human Rights Tribunal here in BC. As I said earlier it is systemic form of discrimination or what one could also call institutional racism.

The courts never see anything that says a person has been discriminated against due to his colour or race. They are all people of the same values and beliefs.

If you ask me I will loudly say that, the type of judicial systems here in BC is not different from that of other parts of Canada, same treatment given to
black people. It is systemic, and it is based on their belief system.

Decisions on racial cases are biased, unfair and unjust in Canadian courts.

AM: What is your general perception about the immigrant situation in Canada?

SAM: My general perception about the immigrant situation in Canada can be described as closed doors to professional immigrants by the system. Most black children,
have no hopes of equal opportunity as their white counterparts. Many immigrants I have known for years including those from India, the Middle East and Africa,
all have some regrets in Canada which promised them great
opportunities during their immigration interviews in their respective point of entry. I met one
black guy in Toronto some years ago and he told me about his
experiences. This guy told me he was a chartered accountant in Uganda with many years of experience in the field. During his Canada immigration interview he
was given assurances of a brighter future in Canada due to his professional background. However, after arrival in Canada no accounting firm was prepared
to offer him the promised opportunities.

I do not think the Canadian government will come to the aid of black people and their
situation here. This is because they will tell you governments do not create jobs,
individuals create jobs.

Therefore the governemnt does not have much to say or the government cannot legislate for companies to hire immigrants particularly black people.

However, one thing
government as an employer in the public sector could do to assist is by hiring immigrants or minorities in a quota system. This way many immigrants who
lack the so-called Canadian experience and are constantly facing barriers could benefit from it.

Having said that, I can
cite myself as an example of the employment barriers. I have faced some years of such barriers in Toronto when I tried to access governement jobs
after university. The reality is that they have always hired through whom
you know.

Your somebody has to be working somewhere for one to be lucky.Some one like me who does not know anyone in the public sector has always faced the challenges and uphill battles.

Although I had my university
education in Canada, I
have been told time and time again that I don’t have Canadian experience. What is Canadian experience if I was trained by Canadian
professionals who are about 80 pertcent of the time working lecturers also
holding top management positions in huge corporations in Canada?

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