They allege systemic discrimination in the way the government hires and promotes public servants. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
Ottawa – A group of black federal officials are filing a complaint with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, accusing the Canadian government of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.
New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh and Amnesty International Canada support this latest action by black officials who filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government back in 2020. In this petition, they denounced the government’s systematic discrimination in hiring new civil servants and granting promotions.
It has become clear that the federal government is not acting in good faith on this matter, said Nicholas Marcus Thompson, black class action director behind the lawsuit. “The reason we are raising this issue is because Canada remains reluctant to use its vast resources to deny black workers the ability to argue this in court,” he said.
“Black Canadians will be waiting a long time for justice in Canada, so we have reached out to the international community to hold Canada accountable for its international obligations.”
Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board, is due to meet with Mr. Thompson this week. In a written statement, she acknowledged that far too many black Canadians still face discrimination and hatred.
“The government is actively working to address harm and create a diverse and inclusive public service free from harassment and discrimination,” she said. We have passed legislation, created support and development programs and published disaggregated data, but we know there is still work to be done.”
In the motion to register a class action lawsuit in federal court, the group alleges that since the 1970s, some 30,000 black government employees have lost opportunities and benefits afforded to others because of their work identity.
The group is reportedly seeking damages to compensate black civil servants for the psychological and economic hardships they have endured. Plaintiffs are also demanding a plan to finally diversify the federal workforce and remove obstacles that even worker equality laws have failed to remove.
MM. Singh and Thompson in particular claim that the federal government is deliberately reluctant to go to court. “This liberal government keeps saying one thing to black Canadians and then ends up doing another,” Singh said.
For her part, Ms. Fortier assures that Ottawa will meet the federal court’s timetable in this case.
Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada, believes that by failing to address systemic racism, Ottawa violates its international human rights obligations, including the right to non-discrimination.
“Under international law, Canada has a positive obligation to combat discrimination,” she said. This means Canada must take specific and concrete action to eliminate discrimination in the workplace.”
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