The Black Class Action Secretariat and several major unions are renewing calls to settle the lawsuit on behalf of tens of thousands of Black federal public service workers in the wake of the government’s admission the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) discriminated against its Black and racialized employees.
“It is inconceivable that the federal government would spend millions of dollars fighting Black public service workers in court, when the government itself has concluded that the very institution designed to address discrimination, is discriminatory," said Nicholas Marcus Thompson, executive director of the Black Class Action Secretariat.
The recent ruling by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBCS) is a scathing admission that the CHRC – the government’s own human rights watchdog mandated to fight racism and discrimination – is itself plagued by anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination.
The federal government has been trying to dismiss the Black Class Action since it was launched in December 2020, arguing that the workers should pursue other avenues for redress such as filing a human rights complaint with the CHRC. This recent revelation puts the CHRC’s credibility into question as the appropriate avenue to achieve justice for Black public sector workers.
“Enough is enough. Our members deserve justice, they deserve respect, and they deserve to be made whole," said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. "It’s time for this government to make things right so we can move forward in creating a more equitable and diverse federal public service, free of anti-Black racism.”
The CHRC’s own figures also show the watchdog has been dismissing racism-based claims at a higher rate than any other human rights complaint.
In the 2022 federal budget, the government committed $3.7 million over four years to create a mental health program to address racial trauma and discrimination experienced by Black workers in the federal public service. However, the government has been accused of discriminating against Black workers developing the Black Mental Health Action Plan. Earlier this year, Treasury Board terminated the employees it hired to work on the plan after they raised serious concerns about experiencing anti-Black racism. PSAC has also filed grievances on behalf of those workers and has requested transparency from Treasury Board on how the Action Plan is being developed.
The Black Class Action Secretariat and Canada’s unions are calling for the government to cease its efforts in dismissing the lawsuit, and instead actively work towards redress for the workers who have been harmed and end systemic discrimination within its ranks.
"This important legal action shines a light on systemic racism and discrimination within our workplaces, and it is a vital step towards fostering a more equitable and inclusive environment for all employees," said Jennifer Carr, national president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. "It is our collective responsibility to ensure that every individual is treated with fairness, respect, and dignity, and we must address the root causes of inequality in order to build a more just and compassionate society. We demand the government end its delay tactics and work with Black Class Action to bring equity and justice to public service workers."
“The CLC stands in solidarity with Black workers and against all forms of racial discrimination," said Larry Rousseau, executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress. "We support Black workers pursuing equity, equality, and full, fair participation in the labour market. We strongly urge the federal government to uphold the human rights of its workers and redress the injustices faced by Black federal public service employees.”