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Canada’s unions call for federal government to settle Black Class Action lawsuit


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


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.

Quotes


“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 Media@psac-afpc.com 613-714-6610

Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

Johanne Fillion PIPSC media relations jfillion@pipsc.ca 613-883-4900

Canadian Labour Congress media@clcctc.ca 613-526-7426


Background:

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.


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