OTTAWA – On Friday current and former Black public servants filed a class action lawsuit against the Government of Canada on behalf of thousands of Black public service employees who have been subjected to systemic discriminatory barriers in hiring and promotional practices.
The claim, which has been filed in the Federal Court of Canada, contends that the federal government’s systemic practice of Black employee exclusion has led to economic and psychological harm to thousands of employees dating as far back as the 1970s.
“Black Canadians are overwhelmingly underrepresented in the upper echelons of the public service,” said Toronto lawyer Courtney Betty, a former Crown Attorney. “We are asking the federal government to fulfill its legal obligations of equality as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights. This systemic practice of Black employee exclusion has for decades turned the dreams of many Black employees into a lifetime of pain and suffering.”
The claim calls on the federal government to implement a concrete plan blackclassaction.ca/diversity-
“This practice of Black employee exclusion has deprived Black Canadians of opportunities, and fellow Canadians of the benefit of full Black employee participation in service of their country,” said Toronto Employment and Human Rights lawyer Hugh Scher who is also representing the employees in this class action.
Prior to this claim, the federal government acknowledged the issue of systemic racism across Canada and within government institutions. Despite Prime Minister Trudeau stating that “Canadians must now go back and reflect on the building blocks that elevated these organizations and examine whether they were built on a racist foundation,” no action has been taken to end the practice of Black employee exclusion in the federal public service.
“Canada’s public service presents itself as a ‘merit-based, representative and non-partisan organization that serves all Canadians’. While laudable as a principle, many Canadians, particularly Black Canadians, have experienced a different reality,” said Chris Aylward, National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. “The government must do what is necessary to right these wrongs and ensure that these injustices do not continue.”
“Justice delayed is justice denied. There is never a convenient time to advocate for justice,” said plaintiff and retired RCMP Staff Sergeant Alain Babineau. “Black Canadians can no longer stand by silently and allow these systemic practices to continue. It is time to take meaningful action to end systemic discrimination and racism within the public service.”
· The full statement of claim is available online at: blackclassaction.ca
· The plaintiffs have developed a series of recommendations for the Canadian government to diversify the public service. A copy of this plan is available online at: blackclassaction.ca/diversity-