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March 27, 2023

OTTAWA – The Black Class Action Secretariat and several major unions representing over 3 million workers are calling on the Government of Canada 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.

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.

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.

Unions have confirmed that neither the grievance process, Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, or the Canadian Human Rights Commission can address the systemic issues or grant the remedies required in the Black Class Action lawsuit.

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.


“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.”

- Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Executive Director, Black Class Action Secretariat

“Enough is enough. Our members deserve justice, they deserve respect, and they deserve to be made whole. 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.”

– Chris Aylward, PSAC National President

"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. 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."

– Jennifer Carr, National President, Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

“The CLC stands in solidarity with Black workers and against all forms of racial discrimination. 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.”

– Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress

Media requests:

Black Class Action Secretariat Media Affairs

Public Service Alliance of Canada

Jeffrey Vallis PSAC media relations 613-714-6610

Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

Johanne Fillion PIPSC media relations 613-883-4900

Canadian Labour Congress 613-526-7426


In 2020, The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), The Association of Justice Counsel (AJC) and the Canadian Association of Public Employees (CAPE) filed policy grievances after its members came forward with concerns that CHRC management displayed patterns of systemic discrimination. Black workers raised concerns that they and other racialized workers were routinely experiencing discrimination, sexism and being blocked from career advancement, particularly when they spoke out about how race-based complaints were being treated at the CHRC.

The Black Class Action is a lawsuit filed on behalf thousands of Black public service workers, the majority represented by PSAC and PIPSC. The class action was filed against the Canadian government in 2020, calling attention to decades of employee exclusion and discriminatory hiring practices experienced by tens of thousands spanning all government departments and crown corporations. The lawsuit is demanding a public apology, the establishment of a Black mental health fund, changes to the Employment Equity plan, an end to discriminatory promotion and hiring practices, and financial damages for thousands of Black public service workers.

The $2.5-billion claim alleges that since the 1970s, some 30,000 Black civil servants lost out on opportunities and benefits because of their race. The claim also includes another 15,000 people who allege they were never hired into the federal public service because of their race.

The class action has not been certified and in October 2022, the federal government asked a Federal Court judge to dismiss the proposed lawsuit, arguing it should instead be pursued in another jurisdiction such as the Canadian Human Right Commission.


March 17, 2023

OTTAWA – On March 6, 2023, the Office of the Chief Human Resource Office at the Treasury Board Secretariat, issued a decision against the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) in response to a policy grievance filed by the Public Service Association of Canada (PSAC), Association of Justice Counsel (AJC) and the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE). The decision held that the CHRC – the federal body responsible for resolving allegations of racism and other forms of discrimination – had itself been subjecting its Black employees to “anti-Black racism, sexism and systemic discrimination”. Among the allegations made against the institutions were that the CHRC: consistently excluded Black employees from opportunities for training and career advancement; subjected Black employees to negative differential treatment; summarily dismissed Black employees concerns about anti-Black racism within the institution; denied them access to managerial and senior roles, and targeted Black employees that spoke out against the discriminatory institutional environment.

The decision affirms much of what many Black and other racialized individuals have been saying for decades. And whilst the Black Class Action Secretariat welcomes this determination, various elements of the decision raise further fundamental questions about recourse of justice for Black public employees. Indeed, as a policy grievance, the decision is unable to remedially address the economic and health impact of a decades-long discriminatory culture that undoubtedly denied employment opportunities and career advancement for countless Black individuals. It is important to note that workers opted to use the anonymous “policy grievance” option rather than individual or group grievances due to feeling unsafe and fear of retaliation.

It also raises concerns about the CHRC’s capacity to offer justice to the broader experiences of Black workers across the entirety of the federal public service who share similar stories and experiences for over 50 years. Moreover, what’s additionally concerning is that the Treasury Board Secretariat, the very department responsible for overseeing the public service and rendering this decision, is itself mired in historic and current allegations of systemic racism against its own Black employees.

In response to the verdict, David Lametti, Canada’s Attorney General said that the decision was “both concerning and disappointing”. Mr. Lametti’s statement belies the fact he and his government have long been aware of these problems. In April of 2021, his office received a letter from the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, which had been signed by 30 other organisations, calling on the Government to implement recommendations stemming from a review of the CHRC by Justice Gerard La Forest over 20 years ago. His government has also been aware of various reports and calls from the United Nations stemming from at least 1998, which have continuously called on Canada to address its ineffectual human rights complaints system. Moreover, despite being aware of the broad reality of anti-Black racism across the public service, Mr. Lametti is currently directing Canada’s Department of Justice to seek dismissal of a comprehensive class-action lawsuit that seeks to obtain historic justice and accountability for decades of anti-Black racism against Black workers. The government insists that workers should turn to the CHRC for remedy.

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 these issues becomes a gatekeeper for systemic racism and discrimination. Undoubtedly, the processes that the government wants workers to turn to for redress are broken and plagued with anti-Black racism. In fact, former CHRC employees have expressly called on complainants to avoid attempting to seek justice through the organization to outright boycott racist mechanisms that effectively ensure race-based complaints are devalued and denied.

The Black Class Action calls on the Government of Canada to immediately begin discussions with us to find a pathway to addressing the impact of over 50 years of anti-Black racism and discrimination for thousands of workers. Indeed, the CHRC is not the only government institution or body facing such allegations. Many lives, careers and families have been left decimated by systemic anti-Black racism that permeates the entirety of the public service. Further attempts to deny and dismiss these accounts only add to the culpable negligence of our leaders and erodes the critical trust that Canadians expect from our institutions and elected officials.

For further information or media inquiries please contact:  

Black Class Action Secretariat

GENEVA - On December 4, 2022, the Black Class Action Secretariat addressed the United Nations Permanent Forum for People of African Descent in Geneva, Switzerland. The Secretariat was represented by Mr. Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Executive Director, and Mr. Alain Babineau, Director of Operations for Quebec.

The Secretariat joined various civil society groups, member states, and leaders from both Canada and around the world, to bring attention to the global scourge of anti-Black racism and to chart a path toward addressing a multitude of interconnected challenges.

Mr. Thompson took the opportunity to draw international attention to the pervasive and persistent systemic challenges Black Canadian workers are encountering when seeking to join Canada’s federal public service as well as the obstacles experienced when they seek promotions. Mr. Thompson stated the following:

We’re here today alongside Canadian non-governmental organizations to bring international attention to anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination in Canada….For decades, federal public sector workers of African descent have faced significant discrimination both at the hiring and promotional stages of employment…..All Canadians of African descent workers in the public and private sectors are disproportionately impacted by policies and practices that create systemic barriers to their hiring, promotion, and advancement – leading to their gross underrepresentation in leadership roles…

Notwithstanding its rhetoric about desiring to address the decades-old challenges of anti-Black racism in Canada, Canada chose not to send a senior Black Ministerial official from the governing party to participate in this historic meeting. Mr. Alain Babineau, the Secretariat’s Director of Operations in Quebec said the following:

It’s dismaying that Canada didn’t even see it fit to send a Black Minister of Government or a member of the Black Caucus to attend.

The Secretariat calls on Canada to establish a Black Equity Commissioner, similar to the permanent Special Envoy on Antisemitism and the new Special Representative on Islamophobia. The Black Equity Commissioner will serve as a champion and special advisor to the federal government on anti-Black racism domestically and internationally.

The Secretariat will continue to engage the United Nations and other international bodies as it seeks to bring global awareness to the reality of anti-Black racism in Canada. In October of this year, the Secretariat, with support from Amnesty International, submitted a complaint to the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance. The Human Rights Council body has acknowledged receipt of the complaint and will be responding soon.

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