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      Italian Congress files complaint against Union

      Oct. 8, 2013

      On Monday (October 7, 2013), the Quebec Chapter of the National Congress of Italian Canadians filed a formal complaint with the Human Rights Commission against the Montreal Blue Collar Union (Syndicat des cols bleus regroupés de Montréal) subsequent to the Union’s refusal to withdraw a video ad that the Congress deems offensive to the Italian Canadian community.

      Last month the Montreal Blue Collar Union released an ad campaign entitled Clean Up Montreal (La Campagne Nettoyons Montréal). The ad features a suited man with a rat’s tale stuffing cash into a safe to the soundtrack of Italian folklore music.

      The ad premiered just as the Charbonneau Commission, a Quebec-province public inquiry into the possible corruption in the management of public construction contracts, resumed its session.

      As soon as the ad appeared, Montreal Italians took to social media to voice their outrage at the campaign. Many people of Italian origin complained that the ad suggests that Italians are at the heart of the corruption scandal.

      The Congress sent an open letter to the president of the Union asking his organization to remove the ad from circulation and to apologize to the Italian community. The Union refused to do so.

      In an interview with CBC News last month, Stéphane Meloche, spokesperson for the Montreal Blue Collar Union, explained that the ad should be seen as a satire of some of the details heard at the Charbonneau Commission. The main character in the ad, for example, is inspired by a French-Canadian political party fundraiser who admitted to piling illegal political donations in his office safe for years.

      “Nobody can deny the fact that… some names heard on the Charbonneau commission sound Italian, but we want to assure the Italian community that it was not an attack against them,” Meloche told the CBC.

      In a statement regarding the filing of the complaint, the Congress notes that “This sort of behaviour wilfully undermines our reputation, it propagates racial stereotypes and cultural slurs which instinctively associate all Italians to corruption and organized crime. It defames Italian- Canadians; it is unethical and contrary to the fundamental equality rights guaranteed by the Quebec Charter of Rights under articles 4, 10 and 11.”

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