Government decides to dismiss class action lawsuit filed by black public service employees


The federal government has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to dismiss a class action lawsuit brought by black public service employees on jurisdictional grounds.

The proposed class action — launched in December 2020 — accuses the federal government of systemic racism, discrimination and exclusion of employees. It alleges that, since the 1970s, approximately 30,000 black public service employees have lost « opportunities and benefits given to others because of their race ».

The statement says the lawsuit is seeking damages to compensate black federal employees for their mental and economic hardship. The plaintiffs are also asking for a plan to diversify the federal workforce and remove barriers that employment equity laws have been unable to remove.

But a petition filed on behalf of the federal government this week says the court does not have jurisdiction over the case and the claim should instead be pursued through labor grievances.

WATCH | Black officials allege discrimination in government lawsuit:

Black officials allege discrimination in government lawsuit

Current and former black public servants have filed a lawsuit against the federal government alleging discrimination that led to mistreatment and being overlooked for promotion.

The motion states that all related claims should fall under either the Federal Public Sector Labor Relations and Employment Board for unionized employees or the Canadian Human Rights Act for non-unionized employees.

A statement from the Treasury Board of Canada, which oversees the federal workforce, said the government is working to create an inclusive and diverse public service, but the issues raised in the class action should not be addressed before the courts.

« There is an existing process to address harassment and discrimination in the public service, » the statement said, adding that the government’s position is consistent with previous government responses to class action lawsuits.

Nicholas Marcus Thompson is executive director of the Black Class Action Secretariat, the group that brought the lawsuit. He said he was « extremely disappointed » by the government’s motion.

« [The government] recognized those harms and now they are set to cancel the whole claim, to deprive the workers of their day in court,” Thompson told CBC.

Thompson took issue with the government’s suggestion that the claims could be treated as labor grievances.

« These systems are not equipped to deal with systemic discrimination, and within them … there are inherent biases. Systemic discrimination exists in all institutions, » he said.

NDP MP Matthew Green called the government’s motion « insensitive » in a tweet on Tuesday.

“They have worked for decades to undo the harm they have caused by perpetrating anti-black racism in public office,” he said.

The group files a complaint with the UN

Last week, the secretariat filed a complaint with the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

« With this complaint, we elevate Canada’s past failures and inability to act in the present to an international body, » Thompson said at a news conference in Ottawa last Wednesday.

Thompson said the secretariat hopes the UN special rapporteur will investigate its claims and call on Canada to meet its international obligations to black employees by laying out a plan to increase opportunities for black women in government and in developing specific targets for the hiring and promotion of black workers.

In response to the UN complaint, Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board, said far too many Black Canadians still face discrimination and hatred.

“The government is actively working to address harms and create a diverse and inclusive public service free from harassment and discrimination. We’ve passed laws, created support and development programs, and published disaggregated data, but we know there’s still a long way to go,” Fortier said. in a statement to the media last week.


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