Muslim Workers Reveal Their Struggle With Discrimination In Quebec

“I was fasting but did not want to mention it ... and I think that's the reality of a lot of Muslim workers,” said a Montreal-based lawyer.

Just like America, Muslims in Canada also face discrimination. They have to work harder to prove their worth and maintain a CV and are subjected to many racial or discouraging slurs throughout their career.

Dania Suleman, who worked as an articled clerk to become a lawyer at the Court of Quebec, faced discrimination just because of her Muslim faith, she recalls.

She used to work while fasting but didn’t let anyone know, to avoid all sorts of prejudices. "I was fasting but did not want to mention it ... and I think that's the reality of a lot of Muslim workers," the Montreal-based lawyer revealed. "You don't want to mention it because it'll become a door for people to say: 'Oh that's why you're not good at the job,'" she continued.

When Suleman first started her training as an articled clerk, she stood out from a number of candidates for her credentials. But she feared that Islamophobia in the country would affect her career.

After she joined the working force, her fears started getting real.

She worked with a small team who often had lunch together. People around her eventually discovered Suleman was a practicing Muslim who fasted in the month of Ramadan. One day one of her supervisors said, “Had we known that you were Muslim, [I'm] not sure we would have hired you."

“It's one thing it's already hard getting the job but then once you're in that job there is a lot of — sometimes you have to do a lot of white passing,” said Suleman explaining how women who wear the hijab take it off just to get work, or how women with curly hair would straighten their hair to ease into the workplace culture.

In Quebec, a woman who chooses to wear a veil can’t work as a provincial civil servant without removing her face covering.

A law professor at McGill University, Adelle Blackett, recounted Suleman’s ordeal as she explained how she used to think that workplaces could connect people with different backgrounds and break racial biases. But a study dashed those hopes.

As part of a study conducted by the Human Rights Commission in 2012, many resumes and cover letters were sent over to employers. All the CVs were almost the same and the only difference was the fictional applicant’s name.

"It was really striking to have a contemporary study that basically confirmed that there was a difference on the basis of nothing more than the name, and at the very initial stage: the CV being sent out," explained Blackett.

"These folks did not even get through the door," she continued.

Community organizer Will Prosper believed the government isn't doing much to solve the racism problem. “the Quebec government is more sensitive about white people’s feelings than consequences we face from racism,” he said.

"We're not really getting equity," said Philippe-André Tessier, the vice-president of Quebec's Human Rights Commission (HRC). "We think if we have one or two people powdered around in organizations, that we've done diversity."

"But diversity is substantive, it's about having real critical mass in the institutions that matter so that we can arrive at change."

Thumbnail/Banner Image: Reuters, Mark Blinch

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