HALIFAX: ‘Muslim Canadian of African descent’ Mohamed Yaffa claims discrimination because of his ‘race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion’
Mohamed Yaffa, who specializes in diversity and inclusion, testified in ongoing case he faced “enhanced security screening” due to his skin colour and religion.
Mohamed Yaffa, a diversity and inclusion co-ordinator in Halifax, is demanding to know whether Air Canada trains its staff on just that: diversity and inclusion.
In a case currently before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, he alleges the airline subjected him to “enhanced security screening,” including “enhanced questioning,” on six different occasions from March to June 2010 because of his race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion.
Yaffa, who describes himself in tribunal documents as “a Muslim Canadian of African descent,” is the diversity and inclusion co-ordinator for Capital Health, which provides health services in the Halifax region. He did not return several requests for comment.
Air Canada told the tribunal that it has not discriminated against Yaffa, but was simply following requirements having to do with American and Canadian no-fly lists in its interactions with him. A spokesman for the airline declined to comment on the case as the matter is still before the tribunal.
Recently, Yaffa successfully convinced tribunal member David Thomas to order the air carrier to confirm whether it trains its front-line employees on handling complaints from customers regarding alleged security concerns, as well as whether it provides training on human rights and cultural sensitivity.
“According to the complainant, an organization’s position and approach to cultural sensitivity has direct implications on the attitudes and behaviour of its staff,” reads Thomas’ decision. “The complainant speaks of an atmosphere of fear of Muslims following the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and therefore the complainant believes it is important to know what the respondent has been doing to ensure its employees are culturally sensitive.”
Thomas also ordered on Aug. 8 that Yaffa turn over medical documents related to the treatment of anxiety, depression and/or insomnia dating back to 2008, as well as his human resources file from 2007 to 2013.
Yaffa is quoted in the decision as saying that as a result of the alleged discrimination, he has been “affected in my work and among my colleagues as I am often anxious about perceptions and stigma. I have used my vacation days from my work to pursue healing. I have taken more than average sick days at my work since this ordeal started.”
It’s unclear from the decision if Yaffa’s name or something similar is actually on a no-fly list. Public Safety Canada says it does not publicly release names on the list due to security concerns.
Officially known as the Passenger Protect Program, the no-fly list was instituted as part of a bilateral treaty with the United States in 2007 and has been criticized for making air travel difficult for passengers with similar names on the list.
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick told the Star that the airline is obligated by the Canadian government to enforce Canada’s no-fly list, as well as the American no-fly list for flights to and from the U.S.
Mohamed Yaffa, Coordinator
1276 South Park Street
V.G. Site,Bethune Building
1st floor, Room 145
Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 2Y9
Tel: (902) 473-1326
Fax: (902) 473-8499