Commissionaire loses his job, but target of his racist comment didn't want that for him

·3 min read

A parking commissionaire who told an Arab business owner to come back when she's learned English will no longer be working with the city of Saint John, or any city until a further investigation is done.

Saint John Mayor Don Darling said the commissionaire, who's employed by the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires through a third-party contract, will "no longer have any role with the city."

The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires confirmed the man will not be reassigned while the organization conducts an internal investigation.

However, the target of his racist comment didn't want to see him lose his job.

On Monday morning, the commissionaire was writing a ticket for Yamama Zein Alabdin, who was parked in a loading zone. She tried to explain that she was unloading supplies for her Syrian restaurant, Mashawi Zein, on Germain Street and would move the car shortly, but he still wrote her the $100 ticket.

As she continued trying to communicate with him in English and French, she said the commissionaire said, "Come back when you learn English" and walked away.

The incident gained attention after a witness posted about it on social media.

On Tuesday evening, Zein Alabdin said she is upset that someone would lose their job because of what happened to her.

"I am the one affected and I forgive him," she said in Arabic. "There are millions of unemployed people, I don't want them to increase even by one because of me."

She said she started working in Saint John "to make the community better."

"I feel conflicted and frustrated when someone loses work because of me."

Matthew Bingley/CBC
Matthew Bingley/CBC

Mishelle Carson-Roy, the co-owner of a store across the street, said she was nearby and heard the exchange. She wrote a letter to the parking commission and posted it in Twitter because the city's website has been down because of a cyberattack. The tweet garnered a response from many people, including Darling.

In an interview Monday, Zein Alabdin said she wasn't expecting people's response to Carson-Roy's letter and was thankful the city reversed the ticket. However, she said she didn't want to see the commissionaire fired or punished.

"What happened was shared everywhere, but I don't want him to be hurt by this," she said. "I came to Canada in search of safety, and I don't want to see anyone be harmed."

City asked for removal

Saint John spokesperson Lisa Caissie said the city takes "acts of racism and discrimination very seriously."

She said as a result of an investigation started Monday, the Parking Commission told The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires the contracted employee "can no longer perform duties on behalf of the City of Saint John."

The Corps complied, and is now conducting its own investigation, according to Bob Ferguson, CEO of the New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island division. He said any additional actions will be decided by the outcomes of that investigation.

"The comments made by the commissionaire are unacceptable by any measure," he said in an email.