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'I'm hiding to eat a banana': Montreal labourers say city isn't doing enough about workplace racism

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"I'm hiding to eat a banana because I know those jokes are going to come," said Maxime Charles, a Black Riviere-des-Prairies blue-collar worker, on Sunday.

That's just one example of the kinds of casual racism workers experience on the job, he says.

"They're saying, because of your ethnic origin, your food that you put in the microwave smells like [expletive]," said Gino Clifford Liberisse, who works in Montreal North.

A group of workers, represented by anti-racism group CRARR, say their complaints to the city aren't being taken seriously.

"People (are) making jokes because he's Muslim, he's Arab -- that's why he's taking Friday off, to go pray," said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi at the Sunday news conference.

"These are the kinds of jokes they crack," he said.

Back in June, The City of Montreal changed the way it handles complaints, saying employees would be able to track their file's progress from beginning to end.

"Now that we are giving them those extended powers, we believe that it's going to help with the confidence in the system," said Dominique Ollivier, Montreal's executive committee president, back on June 14.

But on Sunday, workers said they haven't become more confident, because they weren't consulted on how the city should respond to their claims.

"How can you solve a problem if you do not talk to the people who have the experience of the problem?" asked Liberisse.

They want those review capabilities to extend to older complaints as well, so that more people can track the progress of their files. They also want the city to introduce more robust accountability measures for people who make racist comments at work.

Workers also called on the city to offer more support resources for complainants.

"You need help, and you need to talk, and you're all by yourself," said Charles. "We are tired. We are tired." 

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