Association of Justice Counsel files grievance against Canadian Human Rights Commission, amid ongoing complaints of racism, discrimination

Of note and to watch:

The Association of Justice Counsel filed a grievance against the Canadian Human Rights Commission last week on behalf of its Black and racialized members, and, according to a number of sources with information about the commission’s operations, they say there is ongoing systemic discrimination and a disproportionate dismissal of race-based complaints at the commission.

The AJC, which represents around 2,600 lawyers employed by the federal government who work for the Department of Justice, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, and provide in-house legal services to various federal agencies, tribunals and courts across the country, also includes members who are lawyers with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The AJC says it reactivated its policy grievance on Dec. 17, which it previously filed with the Treasury Board on behalf of their Black and racialized members at the CHRC, in October, after employees raised issues of system racism with CHRC management and after CHRC Chief Commissioner Marie-Claude Landry issued a statement on June 2 in support of Black Lives Matters.

The AJC says Black and racialized employees took the CHRC chief commissioner up on her statement in support of Black Lives Matters and provided the CHRC with a list of recommended actions to address “the complaints process, practices, and operations as well as shared Black and racialized employees’ experiences,” but said the CHRC responded by conducting a “unilateral, non-inclusive investigative process.”

The policy grievance argues that a contract has been breached. Following the filing of a policy grievance and when the employer responds, the parties involved negotiate to understand if compensation is possible. The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board administers the collective bargaining process and the adjudication of grievances and complaints for the federal public sector and parliamentary employees.

“Together, the AJC and other bargaining agents representing Black and racialized members at the CHRC, have been pressing the CHRC to revisit its plans to ensure meaningful collaboration, transparency, fairness, inclusivity, credibility and psychological health and safety in their approaches,” according to the AJC’s Dec. 17 statement. “While the AJC and other [bargaining agents] have been engaging with the CHRC over the past few months, it’s apparent that trust in management’s ability to appropriately deal with the challenges before them has been put to the test as management appears to have lost the trust of those Black and racialized employees who have come forward.”

The AJC originally filed the grievance relating to racism and systemic discrimination at the commission in October, according to David McNairn, president of the counsel.

“We asked for that policy grievance to be held in abeyance while we tried to work on this issue, and recently, we’ve decided that it’s appropriate to move ahead with that,” said Mr. McNairn in an interview with The Hill Times last week.

“That policy grievance, unless it’s resolved, it would end up going directly before the board,” said Mr. McNairn, who also said that the AJC has had discussions with the management of the CHRC and have communicated about a number of items which they believe need to be done to address the situation.

“It’s a very sad and tragic story where the Canadian institution which is entrusted with protecting Canadians from racism and discrimination is itself, apparently, a source of racism and discrimination,” said Mr. McNairn. “There cannot be a greater tragedy than that, in my view. Obviously the commission has an incredibly important leadership role in setting standards for eliminating racism and systemic discrimination and has a mandate to protect Canadians.”

“So it’s extremely difficult to understand, but we have members who are employees there who are raising these issues with us, and we obviously want to stand behind our members and bring about some sort of meaningful change,” said Mr. McNairn.

According to the AJC’s website, earlier this year, employees at the commission raised issues of systemic racism with CHRC management and sought the assistance of their unions.

“When the CHRC issued a statement in support of Black Lives Matters, Black and racialized employees took the chief commissioner up on her invitation in that statement and provided the CHRC with a list of recommended actions to address the complaints process, practices, and operations as well as shared Black and racialized employees’ experiences,” according to the AJC’s website. “The commission responded by conducting a unilateral, non-inclusive investigative processes involving outside parties without consulting employees or their bargaining agents.”

‘The CHRC needs to be reformed’

Billeh Hamud, a lawyer who has represented clients at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Divisional Court, the Federal Court of Canada, and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, told The Hill Times that “as someone who has practiced in this area, [the CHRC] needs to be reformed.”

“Based on my experience, part of the problem with the commission’s complaint process is their application of the case law with respect to racial discrimination,” said Mr. Hamud. “The commission applies a stricter test of racial discrimination when reviewing complaints than the courts and tribunals. As a result, cases with merit are being rejected by the commission.”

“It’s always subtle,” said Mr. Hamud.

Mr. Hamud also said the current system is contrary to our adversarial system of justice in Canada and that specifically, complainants do not have direct access to a third party decision maker who has heard the evidence, the merits of the complaint and can make a decision.

“What’s happening with the commission right now is because you have people who do not understand the case law in terms of racial discrimination when it comes to employment, for example, and they’re making decisions [and] not referring it to the Tribunal when in most cases, they should,” said Mr. Hamud.

According to documents obtained by The Hill Times, which outline the complaints referred to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal by ground of discrimination from 2014 to 2020, 18 complaints were received from 2014-2017 on the grounds of race, with 56 referred between 2018-2020, for a total of 74.

Accepted complaints by grounds of discrimination from January 1, 2020 to November 11 2020, came to 261, with national/ethnic origin complaints coming in at 263.

Complaints referred to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal by grounds of discrimination between January 1, 2020, to November 11, 2020, came to 47. Complaints referred as a function of national/ethnic origin came in at 44.

The Hill Times requested an interview with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, a request which was originally granted with a scheduled discussion with Chief Commissioner Marie-Claude Landry shortly before spokesperson Véronique Robitaille informed our paper that “because of shifting circumstances around the litigation process, we are unable to provide an interview for you today.”

According to the CHRC’s statement, “more than two years ago, we began a commission-wide process of internal reflection to strengthen the commission and its processes. Like many organizations, we recognize that there is much work to do to fully achieve equality and inclusion. That is why the commission has been examining how racism may manifest itself within our organization and what steps might be needed to address it.”

“While we’re pleased that the Treasury Board Secretariat reported this year that the commission was the only public service organization of its size to meet or exceed the Government of Canada’s targets for representation of all employment equity groups, we are committed to doing even more. We recognize that the Employment Equity Act, which is the basis for the TBS evaluations, needs to be modernized, and the CHRC will continue to advocate for this,” according to Ms. Robitaille.

“We know that Indigenous, Black and other racialized people face many societal, institutional and structural barriers to equality. That is why work is underway to ensure that the views and perspectives of Indigenous, Black, and other racialized employees on barriers that may exist within the Commission are heard and addressed.”

Ms. Robitaille also told The Hill Times that regarding the commission’s complaints screening process, they have solicited advice from experts over the past year, including from racialized communities from across the country, on how we can improve our complaints processes.

“Based on this and staff feedback we are making significant changes to the complaints screening tools that we use. We have also brought in experts to train our employees and commissioners, including specialized training on handling of race complaints, and launched a project to collect disaggregated data on our race-based complaints, a key recommendation which has been put forward by staff and stakeholders,” said Ms. Robitaille. “Early indications are that these changes are having a positive impact on the treatment of race-based complaints.”

Current model of the commission as ‘gatekeeper’ of complaints should be eliminated, according to report

Former Supreme Court of Canada judge Gérard La Forest, who was appointed to the top court in January 1985 and retired in 1997, chaired a panel’s report called Promoting Equality: A New Vision in June 2000 that was tasked with reviewing the Canadian Human Rights Act, decades following its passage in 1977.

According to the Canadian Bar Association at the time, “the current model of the commission as a ‘gatekeeper’ of complaints should be eliminated.”

“Victims of discrimination should be able to pursue their complaints even if the Commission does not want to be involved. We suggest a model for individual complaints which gives less of a role to the Commission as an investigative body and more to the Tribunal as an adjudicative body. The Commission should be the first point of contact for a complainant, and the Commission should make a quick determination as to whether it wants to be involved,” according to the report.

Finally, according to the Coalition for Reform of the Ontario Human Rights Commission who were cited in the report, “the existing commission style model does not reflect this fundamental distinction between public and individual interests.”

“By forcing all individual complainants to pass through the gatekeeper, there is no opportunity to directly present evidence to a decision-maker with the power to issue an enforceable order. This model creates a system that is paternalistic, disempowering and ultimately discriminatory because the only people in Canada who are forced to go through the system are the ones who are already identified as disadvantaged,” according to the report.

Atong Ater, member of the Federal Black Employee Caucus’ (FBEC) core team, told The Hill Times that “given what we have been hearing from within the Commission, particularly over the past summer, we couldn’t necessarily, in good faith, continue to engage with them.”

Ms. Ater said they informed the commission that in September, they would be putting a pause on engagements until there was progress that adequately recognized and meaningfully addressed the concerns of their Black and other racialized employees that they were bringing forward.

The AJC’s resumption of the policy grievance comes on the heels of a proposed class-action lawsuit by 12 former and current Black federal public servants alleging that Black employees have been systematically excluded from advancement and subjected to discrimination within the government for decades.

The representative plaintiffs, who have or continue to work for a number of federal departments, are seeking $900-million in damages as well as a mandatory order to implement a Diversity and Promotional Plan for Black Public Service Employees related to the hiring and promotion of Black employees within the public service.

Source: Association of Justice Counsel files grievance against Canadian Human Rights Commission, amid ongoing complaints of racism, discrimination

RCMP Quietly Releases Race-Based Data Showing Number Of Black Employees

Now that this data is available, good to see it becoming requested. One suggestion for requesters, whether parliamentarians, journalists, academics or others: ask for data for all visible minority groups in order to have needed context for each visible minority group, as knowing whether Black public servants are over or under-represented compared to not visible minority can either overstate or understate representation issues:

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) quietly released employment statistics showing 1.5 per cent of regular members in officer roles identify themselves as Black.

The data was disclosed in a document tabled in the House of Commons last week in response to a written question submitted by NDP MP Jack Harris in October.

Harris sits on the House’s public safety committee currently studying systemic racism in policing in Canada. In an order paper question, he asked the RCMP to provide demographic details about employees and asked for statistics about staff who self-identify as Indigenous, Black or “another visible minority.”

According to the document, of the permanent, regular RCMP members, 1.6 per cent described themselves as being of “mixed origin” as of Oct. 27, 2020. Slightly more employees who self-identified as Black hold non-police officer roles.

There are two categories of non-officer roles: civilian members and public service employees. Though both are considered public service workers, the distinction between them is determined by the conditions of their employment.

Civilian members, such as psychologists and 9-1-1 dispatchers, are hired under the RCMP Act, while public service workers are hired under the Public Service Employment Act.

Approximately 19,000 police officers are employed by the RCMP, according to the national police force. As of last year, just over 3,400 people were employed as civilian employees and nearly 7,700 people as public service employees.

Among public service employees, slightly more people (1.8 per cent) identified themselves as Black. One per cent of respondents self-described as “mixed origin.”

Among civilian members, the number is lower. Less than one per cent (0.9 per cent) of civilian members self-identified as Black, and 1.2 per cent as “mixed origin.”

The disaggregated data gives new insight into the RCMP’s demographics.

Source: RCMP Quietly Releases Race-Based Data Showing Number Of Black Employees

Unfunded: Black Communities Overlooked By Canadian Philanthropy

While revealing, hard to assess given the absence of comparative data with respect to other visible minority and Indigenous groups. A missed opportunity, IMO, one that weakens their arguments and case:

The COVID-19 pandemic and contemporary anti-Black racism movements have shone further light on the systemic racism and hardships faced by Black people in Canada. The experience of Black people in Canada points to the inadequacy of public policy in addressing the concerns of Black communities. It also suggests that Canadian philanthropy has not sufficiently invested in the well-being of Black communities and Black community organizations.

This research report provides the first systematic, empirical examination of the extent to which Canadian philanthropy has responded to the unique and intersectional challenges facing Black communities. In establishing the social context and lived experience of Black community members, the report makes apparent that the needs of Black people in Canada are both specific and urgent. Despite the clear case for investment, Canadian philanthropy has largely been absent in supporting Black people in Canada. Evidence that illustrates how Canadian philanthropy has failed to meet the needs of Black people in Canada is drawn from the analysis of two sets of original data:

1) Semi-structured qualitative interviews with ten Black and non-Black philanthropic leaders from across the Canadian philanthropic sector; and 2) a review of the funding portfolios of 40 Canadian foundations.

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

Our research and analysis suggest that the Canadian philanthropic sector has failed to support the urgent and specific needs of Black communities in Canada. As the philanthropic sector stands, it lacks the tools and knowledge to support Black communities effectively. Our key findings are:

  • Both public and private foundations underfund Black-serving and Black-led community organizations. Only six of the 40 public and private foundations we reviewed funded Black-serving organizations over the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years, and only two foundations funded Black-led organizations in the same timeframe.
  • Compared to private and other public foundations, community foundations have a better record of funding Black-serving organizations, but both Black-serving and Black-led organizations remain under-funded.All but one of the community foundations we reviewed funded Black-serving organizations over the 2017
    and 2018 fiscal years, but only six funded Black-led organizations in the same timeframe. Across all community foundations we reviewed, grants to Black-serving organizations represented a meagre 0.7 percent of total grants during the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years. Grants to Black-led organizations were only 0.07 percent of total grants made in the same period.
  • The total amount of grant funding going to Black-serving and Black-led organizations is miniscule. Moreover, grant funding is sporadic, unsustained, and does not invest in the long-term capabilities of Black community organizations.
  • Philanthropic and nonprofit leaders see the need for and the potential of a Black-led philanthropic foundation. Such a foundation would allow for the self-determination of Black communities, build the capacity of Black community organizations, ensure collaboration with other foundations to share resources and networks, and challenge the current philanthropic paradigm that wields ‘power over’ people with a top-down flow of resources. They assert that inadequate data, a lack of representation of Black communities in philanthropy, and systemic barriers, including anti-Black racism, have led to a severe underfunding of Black communities in Canada. This has resulted in the philanthropic sector not understanding the needs of Black communities, nor the extent to which they are being supported by the sector.

Source: https://www.forblackcommunities.org/

Black public servants’ lawsuit will force public service ‘to look deeply inside its structure,’ says former senator who’s fought for diversity in the PS for decades


While the concerns are legitimate, this focus on Black public servants as being unique and thus needing unique measures downplays the fact that other visible minority groups also are under-represented and some more so than Black public servants (yet again, see my What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service …). Without situating these concerns in relation to other visible minority (and Indigenous) groups, and with minimal data to support these claims, an opportunity is missed for a more evidence-based and fulsome discussion:
 
 
Plaintiff Kathy Ann Samuel, who has worked within the department of public prosecutions as a legal assistant for the last 19 years, said she’s ‘tired of being tired’ and that ‘change has to start from the top, it has to start with the government.’

Former Senator Don Oliver, who has argued for decades that the government needs to appoint more Black judges, deputy and associate deputy ministers, and chiefs of staff in government offices, says he was not surprised to read about a planned class action lawsuit on behalf of current and former Black employees within the public service, and that he had “predicted and warned about one for 20 years.”

Twelve plaintiffs are involved in the proposed class-action lawsuit by former and current Black federal public servants, which alleges that Black employees have been systematically excluded from advancement and subjected to discrimination within the government for decades. They are seeking $900-million in damages.

“It’s happening now,” said Mr. Oliver. “I am not part of the lawsuit. But having fought hard for 22 years while a Senator to teach diversity in the public service to ‘simply accept difference,’ I was often a lone voice in the wilderness. But given what facts in the planned suit we know to be true, because they are backed by data, I accept and support that.”

“I have deep respect for the public service of Canada,” said Mr. Oliver. “Over two decades I have worked very closely with several eminent deputy ministers and clerks of the Privy Council trying to find ways to change the culture of some 300,000 employees and root out systemic black racism.”

Mr. Oliver said that the class action lawsuit immediately reminded him of a class action lawsuit filed by current and former African American employees against Coca Cola in the United States, something which Mr. Oliver addressed in 2000 in a major speech to the Senate.

“As in the Canadian suit, they alleged racial discrimination that produced lower pay, less promotions, and poor performance evaluations,” wrote Mr. Oliver in an emailed statement to The Hill Times. “The Black employees won the largest settlement ever in a corporate racial discrimination case, $192-million.”

Mr. Oliver also said he’s warned that given the systemic racism that exists in our largest corporations and institutions in Canada, the same thing could happen here. The former Senator now chairs the Black North Initiative committee on public relations and the public sector.

“I can state that the clerk [of the Privy Council], Ian Shugart, has been extremely open and forthcoming in helping us meet our 3.5 per cent targets looking to the future,” said Mr. Oliver. “That is most encouraging. The planned lawsuit looks to actions in the past.”

In regards to the highly publicized death of George Floyd, a Minnesota man who was killed by a police officer who pinned him down with a knee to his neck in June 2020, Mr. Oliver called it a “pivotal moment” that “brought to light the insidious but painful truth in Canada about white privilege.”

“The ‘perk’ that white people get by virtue of their colour,” said Mr. Oliver. “The lawsuit is a logical and natural next step after the necessary data has been secured.”

“The lawsuit will force the Public Service to look deeply inside its structure and systems to find ways to eradicate white privilege in performance evaluations and all other known forms of systemic Black racism,” wrote Mr. Oliver. “It must start with some profound personal soul searching that will require all white managers to learn to accept some uncomfortable truths.”

“The machinery of government, i.e., getting a new government department, is something directed from PMO and when that directive comes to PCO one way or another, the Clerk of the Privy Council and all the deputy ministers must fall in line. The ongoing work we are doing in the Black North Initiative to find ways to break down systemic Black racism is going well,” wrote Mr. Oliver. “We have been working with a number of senior bureaucrats of good will. This will continue.”

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, who works for the Canada Revenue Agency as a collections contact officer and a plaintiff in the suit, told The Hill Times that the lawsuit started with the Canada Revenue Agency, calling it a “focal point” of this issue last week.

As a union president in Toronto, representing 800 workers in two offices, Mr. Thompson said he’s been advocating around this issue for years.

“In one of my buildings I have 1,100 workers, and there’s 20 Black people,” said Mr. Thompson. “I asked them to address this issue, to provide developmental opportunities to Black people so when staffing processes come out, they have the experience to apply.”

“They are giving the experience to other visible minorities and Caucasian employees, who are getting that opportunity,” said Mr. Thompson. “So that’s why we say ‘Black employee exclusion,’ and that’s why it’s not about visible minorities, because by far, they are allowing other visible minorities to move ahead and get into the management program and into the executive program.”

Duane Guy Guerra, a full-time employee at the Department of National Defence as a heavy equipment technician for more than 20 years, told The Hill Times that the class action lawsuit “is the next step in doing what I can do, and what seems to be happening now is that people are actually listening.”

Mr. Guerra said that when he first began working for the department in 1999, he was very excited and happy to be there and considered it the next step in his automotive career.

“I worked at General Motors for 13 years, I was proud of that, and I was really good at my job, and I figured, why not take my skills to the next level and try to do something better to serve my country?” said Mr. Guerra. “So I moved to [DND], and I was well received there until I started to try and advance, even though I had the support of my military supervisors.”

Kathy Ann Samuel, who works within the Department of Public Prosecutions as a legal assistant for the last 19 years, said she’s “tired of being tired.”

“Throughout the years, we have marched, we have come together, we have asked, we’ve begged, we’ve done different actions, and no change has been done,” said Ms. Samuel. “The change has to start from the top, it has to start with the government and the law has to be changed.”

“It’s just time, it’s the right thing to do,” said Ms. Samuel.

When asked about the brutal death of George Floyd in the summer, an event caught on video that galvanized thousands of people in Canada and in the United States, Ms. Samuel said the spirit of that moment is still alive.

“For what other people think, it may have passed for them,” said Ms. Samuel. “For us, for the Black community it has not passed. I have children—I have a Black son and I have a Black daughter, and anything can happen—they can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it’s very troubling.”

“When it happened with George Floyd, every single video made me cry, because I put my son in that situation, I put my nephews in that situation, and it could be anybody, and it’s disheartening that in 2020, the Black community is still going through these types of incidents that have happened in the past,” said Ms. Samuel.

Courtney Betty, a Toronto-based lawyer involved in the proposed class action suit, told The Hill Times that “immediately, we would like to see the government prepared to enter into a dialogue with the parties to come up with a resolution.”

“It would avoid litigation and what I would say, is also some incredibly embarrassing stories of the pain and suffering that so many individuals [have experienced], and I think it would be a public embarrassment for Canada internationally when these stories become public,” said Mr. Betty. “It is just really beyond description in terms of the pain and suffering that these plaintiffs have faced.”

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment for this story.

Source: Black public servants’ lawsuit will force public service ‘to look deeply inside its structure,’ says former senator who’s fought for diversity in the PS for decades

Erica Ifill also misses this opportunity for a more informed discussion:

If the makeup of an organization is such that Black employees are ghettoized at the lower ranks with a mostly white managerial class, that’s not equity; that’s segregation, intentional or not. And yet, for months, we’ve seen many such institutions perform the equivalent of just taking a knee – proclaiming their commitment to resolving anti-Black racism generally without admitting its existence within their structure or committing to concrete action.

But for some institutions, chickens are coming home to roost. That includes Canada’s federal government, which is quick to crow about diversity but apparently needs to clean up its own coop first.

Last week, 12 Black public servants launched a class-action lawsuit against the federal government, claiming it “failed to uphold the Charter rights of Black employees in the federal public service, shirking its responsibility to create discrimination- and harassment-free workplaces, and actively excluding Black bureaucrats”.

Systemic racism has become the new buzzword, one that many leaders are happy to throw around, but few actually know how to define. That includes RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, who said earlier this year that she was “struggling” with the term and had denied its existence in her organization. It should be no surprise that the RCMP is named among the departments accused in the lawsuit.

To fill folks in, systemic racism is discrimination perpetuated by a system that produces disparate outcomes based on race, despite the racial composition of those within the system, or whether the participants themselves are racist or not. Diversity does not resolve racism. Rather, without equity, it’s just an act of glorified window-dressing. Claiming diversity as your strength – as the organizations named in the lawsuit are wont to do – is not a get-out-of-jail-free card against the possibility of perpetuating systemic racism, just like having a Black friend does not permanently absolve someone of any act of racism.

A spokesperson from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat insists the federal government has taken steps to address anti-Black systemic racism across the country, citing that “the fall economic statement committed $12-million over three years toward a dedicated centre on diversity and inclusion in the federal public service. This will accelerate the government’s commitment to achieving a representative and inclusive public service.” However, recruiting more Black people will not solve the systemic problem of anti-Black racism in the public service. Effectively, the government has offered a solution to the wrong problem.

The government’s response makes clear only that no attempt has been made to review the existing structures and systems of accountability that prevent the promotion of Black people to the senior ranks, where other racialized groups are more represented. Treasury Board Secretariat’s own data show that Black employees’ salary ranges coalesce at the lower ends of the spectrum compared to those of other racialized groups and white employees, with miniscule representation at the higher ends, which would indicate management levels. The problem is the distribution of Black employees, who tend to occupy more administrative roles than analytical ones, which would enable them to move into management positions. Black executives make up only 1.6 per cent of the executive class (96 out of 5,887) yet comprise nearly 5 per cent of the administrative support staff (971 out of 19,900). This indicates that Black people are either not recruited at higher levels or they are not promoted into higher levels.

Dismantling systemic racism necessitates a genuine and effortful cultural shift in organizations that are stubbornly reticent to change. Expecting change from those who have benefitted from the existing structure is a near-impossible feat, which is why much of the work is usually left to a racialized third party.

The way forward includes anti-racism training that features critical race theory and leadership development, instead of the kind of vanilla anti-bias and diversity training that is mostly focussed on reducing legal liability. According to Harvard Business Review, that kind of training has been offered for decades with little effect: “laboratory studies show that this kind of force-feeding can activate bias rather than stamp it out.” Policies, procedures, processes and accountability systems need to be audited for equity and remedies executed. As well, internal communications must be overhauled – not to hedge against liability, but to speak to employees with the intention of transparency and accountability.

Without a systemic and systematic makeover, businesses and organizations all over the country will face a reckoning that could have them spending more time and money in a courtroom, instead of the boardroom. If the federal government can be sued, anyone can, making inaction on dismantling systemic racism a potentially expensive liability.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-ottawa-claims-diversity-is-our-strength-so-why-is-it-being-sued-by/

Black civil servants’ $900-million proposed class action lawsuit against feds a ‘logical, natural’ next step, says NDP MP Green

Again, the lack of reference to employment equity disaggregated data to provide context or justify their arguments is disappointing. The data now exists for the distinct visible minority and Indigenous groups and thus it is negligence not to refer to it, suggesting that many have not done so (see What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service …):

A proposed class-action lawsuit by 12 former and current Black federal public servants alleging that Black employees have been systematically excluded from advancement and subjected to discrimination within the government for decades is a “logical, natural next step, given that it’s clear that many people feel like their issues haven’t been resolved or dealt with in a meaningful way,” says NDP MP Matthew Green.

The representative plaintiffs are seeking $900-million in damages as well as a mandatory order to implement a Diversity and Promotional Plan for Black Public Service Employees related to the hiring and promotion of Black employees within the public service.

“Racism is expensive, is the lesson to be learned. Racism costs people who face it, and, in a just world, it ought to cost the people who perpetrate it,” said Mr. Green (Hamilton Centre, Ont.) in an interview with The Hill Times. “Within a justice framework, compensation for harm done is something that is considered in every aspect of the law, and so if people have worked their entire careers subjugated to systemic anti-Black racism, then they have retired with lower pensions presumably, with lost opportunity cost of having equal and equitable compensation, and that’s a considerable thing in labour practice.”

“That is a fundamental claim within labour law, so I’m not surprised by the number,” said Mr. Green.

 The proposed class proceeding, which has not yet been certified, includes plaintiffs from a wide range of government agencies, including the Canada Revenue Agency, Employment and Social Development Canada, Corrections Canada, the Department of National Defence, and the RCMP.

Many of the experiences of class members delineated in the court document centre on their lack of promotions within the public service after many years on the job—promotions which have been made available to other members of visible minority groups.

The proposed suit alleges that the Employment Equity Act has “failed in its goals and mandate to Black employees,” as it “fails to break down the category of visible minorities and thus ignores the unique, invisible and systemic racism faced by Black employees relative to other disadvantaged groups that are covered by the categories established by the Act.”

“I think what we’re seeing in this statement of claim is a very clear, step-by-step definition and expression of the ways in which systemic anti-Black racism impacts workers in Canada,” Mr. Green said.

“And [there’s] the disconnect that we have between [those] experiencing this, and those in power, for instance, the government, which will talk about systemic racism [and] use expressions of individual experiences to individualize stories that they can then pretend to remedy in a way that never seeks to address the systemic barriers to begin with,” said Mr. Green. “For a government that seeks to benefit from identity politics without the class analysis, this is a wake-up call and a reckoning that people will no longer be managed by the shallow words of things like reconciliation and things like Black Lives Matter if there is not a meaningful movement towards actual justice.”

The NDP MP said he’s 100 per cent in solidarity with the lawsuit, and that it’s “a beautiful act of solidarity that 12 individuals have begun this claim, which takes a tremendous amount of courage in an environment where going along to get along is perhaps a much better tool for survival within systems of anti-Black racism.”

“These folks have certainly shown courage, and this is also not about 12 individuals,” said Mr. Green. “My hope is, people reading this story, people reading this news, will find the courage to file their own claims.”

Proposed suit raised in Question Period

Mr. Green highlighted the class-action claim during Question Period on Dec. 4, asking “if the majority of the Liberal cabinet agrees that anti-Black racism exists within the federal government, what specific measures within the federal workplace, if any, has the government taken to actually address it?”

Liberal MP Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer, Que.), the parliamentary secretary to Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos (Québec, Que.) and Minister of Digital Government Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra, B.C.), replied by saying “we cannot ignore that racism is a lived reality for Black Canadians, Indigenous peoples, and people of colour” and that “we have to make sure that our public service is not only representative of the population it serves but that it offers an opportunity for all employees to express their full potential.”

Mr. Fergus also noted the $12-million over three years that was recently committed by the federal government in the fall economic statement to a dedicated centre on diversity and inclusion.

“This will accelerate the government’s commitment to achieving a representative and inclusive public service,” said Mr. Fergus.

The Liberal MP declined to comment further following an interview request from The Hill Times, as the matter is before the courts.

In an earlier emailed response to The Hill Times, a spokesperson from the Treasury Board Secretariat said “systemic racism and discrimination is a painful lived reality for Black Canadians, racialized people and Indigenous people,” and that the most recent Speech from the Throne announced an action plan to increase representation and leadership development within the public service.

“As the matter is currently before the courts, the Treasury Board Secretariat cannot comment on this suit at this time,” according to the spokesperson.

Federal Black Employee Caucus stands in solidarity, PSAC to serve as intervener

Atong Ater, member of the Federal Black Employee Caucus’ (FBEC) core team, told The Hill Times that although her organization is not part of the class-action suit, FBEC stands in solidarity with anyone who’s working to give voice and address issues of anti-Black systemic racism within the federal public service.

Atong Ater, member of the Federal Black Employee Caucus’ (FBEC) core team, says her organization will ‘continue to work in collaboration with senior public officials and different employment, equity and diversity groups to advocate for measures.’ 

“We continue to work in collaboration with senior public officials and different employment, equity, and diversity groups to advocate for measures,” said Ms. Ater. “We stand in solidarity, and we’re going to continue to work with the federal public service to address the same issues that were brought about and highlighted within this class action.”

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Canada’s largest federal public service union, supports the legal action taken on behalf of nearly 30,000 past and present federal public service workers who identify as Black, Caribbean or of African descent, according to a Dec. 4 press release.

PSAC intends to serve as an intervener in the proposed lawsuit.

“Canada’s public service presents itself as a ‘merit-based, representative and non-partisan organization that serves all Canadians,’” said Chris Aylward, PSAC’s national president in an emailed statement to The Hill Times. “While laudable as a principle, many Canadians, particularly Black Canadians, have experienced a different reality. The government must do what is necessary to right these wrongs and ensure that these injustices do not continue.”

Former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who represented the riding of Whitby, Ont.,  as a Liberal from 2015 before sitting as an Independent after resigning from the Liberal caucus in March 2019, told The Hill Times that after “years and years of saying the same thing and getting promise after promise of action in some kind of way, shape, or form—that doesn’t materialize—to seeing either changes to the federal public service or appointments or anything, I think it’s brilliant that they’re finally saying ‘enough is enough.’”

Former Liberal and Independent MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes says ‘one would hope that the government takes it serious enough that it doesn’t need to be drawn out for years and years of legal proceedings.’

Ms. Caesar-Chavannes, whose book Can You Hear Me Now? is scheduled to hit bookshelves in early February 2021, also said “one would hope that the government takes it serious enough that it doesn’t need to be drawn out for years and years of legal proceedings.”

She introduced a private member’s bill in the dying days of the last Parliament to change the Employment Equity Act. The bill called for a requirement of the Canada Human Rights Commission to provide an annual report to the minister “on the progress made by the Government of Canada in dismantling systemic barriers that prevent members of visible minorities from being promoted within the federal public service and in remedying the disadvantages caused by those barriers.”

“One would hope that the prime minister, in all his take-a-knee glory, would actually sit down with the plaintiffs or sit down before it even gets that far and say ‘let’s deal with this,’ like he’s done with other issues with the RCMP and with Indigenous people,” said Ms. Caesar-Chavannes.

“If the prime minister does not take it upon himself to lead from the top and say that we’re going to sit down in trust, like we’ve done with other communities with the plaintiffs or the lawyers of the case, and deal with it before it has to go through the legal system, if he doesn’t do that, then it will absolutely show his true colours on this one.”

Mr. Green also said he was reminded about “all the theatrics that this prime minister has undertaken from taking a knee, to the language of reconciliation with Indigenous people. And yet, time and time again, has failed to actually address the systems which oppress these peoples.”

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment, as this is before the courts.

Source: Black civil servants’ $900-million proposed class action lawsuit against feds a ‘logical, natural’ next step, says NDP MP Green

Black civil servants allege discrimination in proposed class-action lawsuit against Ottawa

EE - Disaggregated Data, Representation and PSES.010

EE - Disaggregated Data, Representation and PSES.013

There is a real disconnect in the proposed class action lawsuit in its broad assertions regarding widespread assertions regarding systemic racism and the reliance on the disturbing personal experiences of 12 Black public servants to justify such broad assertions.

The statement of claim uses no data beyond these personal experiences to justify their claims, surprising given the availability of data from the Census and more recently, TBS employment equity reports and Public Service Employee Surveys as seen in my analyses What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service … and What the Public Service Employee Survey breakdowns of visible minority and other groups tell us about diversity and inclusion, selected data tables above.

The former shows that overall Blacks are over-represented in the public service but that a number of other minority groups have comparable under-representation to Blacks among executives, i.e., the issues are not unique to Black employees.

On the other hand, Black public servants are more likely to experience discrimination than other groups but even these differences are relatively small.

There are, of course, likely wider variations at the departmental level.

None of this is to discount the experiences of the 12 public servants but underline that calls for systemic change should be evidence-based, not just examples and anecdotes, no matter how strong:

A group of current and former Black civil servants has issued a proposed class-action lawsuit against the federal government alleging it discriminated against Black employees for decades.

They claim the government has excluded Black federal employees from being promoted.

“Our exclusion at the top levels of the public service, in my view, has really disenfranchised Canada from that talent and that ability and the culture that Black workers bring to the table and that different perspective,” said Nicholas Marcus Thompson.

Source: Black civil servants allege discrimination in proposed class-action lawsuit against Ottawa

Text of proposed class action suit: 486848991-NICHOLAS-MARCUS-THOMPSON-ET-AL-v-HER-MAJESTY-THE-QUEEN

A longer more in-depth account of the experiences of the 12 employees can be found here:

The Canadian government has failed to uphold the Charter rights of Black employees in the federal public service, shirking its responsibility to create discrimination- and harassment-free workplaces, and actively excluding Black bureaucrats, allege plaintiffs in a proposed class-action lawsuit.

“There has been a de facto practice of Black employee exclusion throughout the public service because of the permeation of systemic discrimination through Canada’s institutional structures,” said the statement of claim filed with the Federal Court in Toronto on Dec. 2.

The class action, which has not been certified, is being led by 12 former and current Black public servants, who have been employed in a variety of federal departments and agencies, including the RCMP, Canadian Revenue Agency, Canadian Human Rights Commission, Canadian Armed Forces, Statistics Canada, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, and Employment and Social Development Canada.

The representative plaintiffs, seeking $900-million in damages on behalf of public servants since 1970 and their families, claim Black employees have been systemically excluded from advancement within the public service and that the court should impose on the government a mandatory order to implement a “Diversity and Promotional Plan for Black Public Service Employees, related to the hiring and promotion” of Black bureaucrats.

“Canada owes Black employees a duty of care,” the 45-page statement of claim said. “This duty entails an obligation to promote Black employees based on merit, talent, and ability, as is the case for any other employee.”

The suit alleges that Canada’s application of the Employment Equity Act violates the Charter equality rights of Black employees. The act designates women, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and visible minorities as requiring special measures and accommodation in the public service.

“In particular, the act fails to break down the category of visible minorities and thus ignores the unique, invisible, and systemic racism faced by Black employees relative to other disadvantaged groups that are covered by the categories established by the act,” the statement of claim said, adding that decisions on hiring and promotions are governed by enabling legislation for the public service, and not subject to union grievance.

By not hiring and promoting Black employees in a manner proportional to their numbers in the public service or the overall population or to a degree consistent with the treatment of other visible minority or white public servants, “Canada has treated Black employees in an adverse differential manner and has drawn distinctions” between Black bureaucrats and those of other races.

Requests for comment from the federal Attorney General’s Office were referred to the Treasury Board Secretariat.

“As this matter is currently before the courts, the Treasury Board Secretariat cannot comment on this suit at this time,” said an email from a department spokesperson.

“The government has taken steps to address anti-Black racism, systemic discrimination, and injustice across the country. Most recently, the fall economic statement committed $12-million over three years towards a dedicated Centre on Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service. This will accelerate the government’s commitment to achieving a representative and inclusive public service,” the email said, also highlighting the September Throne Speech where the government “announced an action plan to increase representation and leadership development within the public service.”

“Early in its mandate, the government also reflected its commitment in mandate letters, in the establishment of an Anti-Racism Strategy and Secretariat, in the appointment of a minister of diversity and inclusion and youth, and in the creation of the Office for Public Service Accessibility,” said the Treasury Board Secretariat statement.

In February, Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos (Québec, Que.) told The Hill Times that “the fact that Black employees tell us they are unable to be at their full potential is something of great concern to us. I will certainly address those concerns and make sure that every federal employee, including Black employees, has the ability to make the fullest impact on our society.”

NICHOLAS MARCUS THOMPSON ET AL. v. HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN by Charelle Evelyn on Scribd

Plaintiffs outline alleged mistreatment, exclusion

One of the representative plaintiffs, Nicholas Marcus Thompson, a union leader who was named activist of the year in January by the Public Service Alliance of Canada in Toronto, works for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Mr. Thompson has “repeatedly been denied promotions as a consequence of his race and due to his advocacy on behalf of other Black employees,” the statement of claim alleges.

One of the representative plaintiffs, Nicholas Marcus Thompson, says in the statement of claim that ‘merit was not a guiding principle for project assignment or advancement’ of Black public servants.

Mr. Thompson, who ran as an NDP candidate in Don Valley East, Ont., in 2019, said in the statement of claim that Black employees “were ghettoized in the lower ranks” of the public service and that “merit was not a guiding principle for project assignment or advancement.” Prejudice and indifference that “made the world polite, cool, and lonely to the point of permanent exclusion” are “Canadian-style systemic racism,” the claim said.Jennifer Philips has worked for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for more than 30 years, during which she has only been promoted once, according to the claim. “She watched as fellow non-Black colleagues, some of whom she had trained, climbed the ranks and enjoyed the benefits of a system designed to lift them up while holding her down.” The claim said she and other Black colleagues were also subject to “explicit and demeaning comments” made about their race, national or ethnic origin, as well as “attitudes and comments dismissing their ability to carry out their duties because of their race and ethnicity.”

Shalane Rooney was one of two Black employees in a roughly 300-person Statistics Canada office. Ms. Rooney began working for the agency in 2010, and in addition to being denied promotions and raises, said, according to the statement of claim, she was subject to comments “regarding [her] hair, [her] skin being too fair to have two Black parents, [colleagues] confirming with [her] if it is okay to say the ‘N’ word,” and more.

Other plaintiffs, such as Yonita Parkes, said that after complaining about race-related treatment by co-workers, the perpetrators were shuffled out laterally instead of being held accountable, while she was ostracized.

Daniel Malcolm highlighted in the statement of claim that Black employees like himself can be overlooked for permanent roles, despite acting in them for some time, because management can set their own criteria to make their preferred appointments from candidate pools, despite qualification or competition score.

Alain Babineau—a 28-year RCMP veteran who served on the protection detail for prime ministers Jean Chrétien, Stephen Harper, and Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) before leaving the force in September 2016—alleges in the statement that his first attempts to join the force in the early 1980s included being asked “What are you going to do if you get called a ‘nigger?’” during his recruiting interview, and later being racially profiled and falsely characterized as a drug dealer. Once he made it into the force, he was referred to as “Black man” instead of his name by the head of the drug section in which he worked. “This is the type of microaggression we endured as Black officers, but we shut our mouths and endure, on the belief that we can help to bring about change,” he said in the statement.

Bernadeth Betchi, who at one point was employed by the Prime Minister’s Office as a communications assistant to Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, alleges in the statement that her employment at both the CRA and the Canadian Human Rights Commission ultimately caused her stress, anxiety, and trauma. “As a consequence of the experiences of mistreatment and Black employee exclusion, [Ms.] Betchi lost faith in the commission’s ability to execute its mandate, seeing as it could not even promote equity within its own teams.”

Liberal MP Greg Fergus chairs the Parliamentary Black Caucus, which highlighted ‘systemic discrimination and unconscious bias’ in the federal public service in its June 16 statement and recommendations.

Repeated calls for change

The hiring, promotion, and overall treatment of people of colour within the public service, specifically Black people, has been a long-standing issue.

A 2000 report by the Treasury Board-created Task Force on the Participation of Visible Minorities in the Public Service noted that the federal public service, “which can be inhospitable to outsiders, can be particularly so to visible minorities,” and recommended, among other things, that the government set a benchmark for one-in-five “for visible minority participation government-wide” within the next five years.

The most recent report on employment equity in the core public service, covering the 2018-19 fiscal year, said that of the 203,286 employees tallied in March 2019, 54.48 per cent were women (compared to an estimated workforce availability of 52.7 per cent), 5.1 per cent were Indigenous persons (against an estimated workforce availability of four per cent), 5.2 per cent were people with disabilities (compared to nine per cent workforce availability), and 16.7 per cent were visible minorities (compared to 15.3 per cent). According to the report, 19 per cent of those who identify as a visible minority in the public service are Black.

Since its establishment in late 2017, the Federal Black Employee Caucus has been pushing to get disaggregated employment equity data collected so that employees, employers, and policy-makers can all understand the landscape for Black federal bureaucrats, and to provide an element of support and unity for Black employees who are facing harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Former senator Donald Oliver has long championed the idea of a new federal government Department of Diversity headed by a Black deputy minister, and former Liberal-turned-Independent MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes introduced a private member’s bill in the dying days of the last Parliament to change the Employment Equity Act. The bill called for a requirement of the Canada Human Rights Commission to provide an annual report to the minister “on the progress made by the Government of Canada in dismantling systemic barriers that prevent members of visible minorities from being promoted within the federal public service and in remedying the disadvantages caused by those barriers.”

There are so few people of colour at the deputy and associate deputy minister level that the government won’t release numbers, for privacy reasons. Caroline Xavier, became the first Black woman to work at that level of the public service when she was appointed associate deputy minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada in February.

In October, the government awarded a contract worth $164,415 to executive recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson to “establish and maintain on an ongoing basis an inventory of qualified and interested Black people and other racialized groups, Indigenous people, as well as persons with disabilities, from outside the federal public service for the Government of Canada to consider for the deputy minister and assistant deputy minister cadre.”

In its June 16 statement, the Parliamentary Black Caucus also highlighted “systemic discrimination and unconscious bias” in the federal public service. Signatories called for measures that included improving Black representation in the senior ranks of the public service, implementing anti-bias training and evaluation programs, and establishing an “independent champion for Black federal employees through the creation of a national public service institute.”

Source: ‘Canadian-style systemic racism’: Black public servants file suit against federal government

BlackNorth Initiative calls for ‘too white’ Order of Canada to ‘reflect the deep cultural mosaic of our country’

While the overall point of under-representation of visible minorities and Black Canadians in particular is factually correct, Wes Hall does not appear to understand how the Order selection process works. It is based upon nominations, which are reviewed by the selection committee which makes the recommendations, for the formal approval of the Governor General.

Rather than calling on the Governor General, the correct and more effective approach is to ensure more nominations of visible minority and other under-represented groups.

Proposing the nomination of dead Canadians is a non-starter as this would have to be open to all and most award programs are for the living, not the deceased, the most prominent being the Nobels.

Recognition of Viola Desmond on the $10 bill is both more significant and more appropriate.

In doing the background research for the chart above (and associated deck https://multiculturalmeanderings.files.wordpress.com/2020/12/order-of-canada-2013-20-diversity-1.pdf ), the Governor General’s office provided with earlier gender data that showed that the selection committee made an effort to improve women’s representation: while only 26.9 percent of nominations were women, 32.6 percent of appointments were women (2010-14 data):

The BlackNorth Initiative has spoken out about the racial gap in home ownership among Black people, the lack of Black people in boardrooms — and now it has turned its attention to one of the country’s highest civilian honours: The Order of Canada.

In a letter to Julie Payette, Canada’s Governor General, whose office hands out the awards, the initiative points out that only one Black Canadian was included out of the 114 recipients in 2020.

“If the Order of Canada is truly meant to reflect our country, then why do we not honour, dignify and celebrate the contributions of countless Black Canadian leaders who have pre-eminence, national and international service, and achievement?” asks the letter, signed by the initiative’s founder and chairman Wes Hall.

“The problem is that the vast majority of those 7,000 people who have received the Order are white and do not reflect the deep cultural mosaic of our country, especially Blacks.” 

Hall is also the executive chairman and founder of Kingsdale Advisors, which advises many of Canada’s large publicly traded companies. Hall says his experience working as a Black man in Canada led to many business leaders reaching out to him, resulting in the BlackNorth Initiative.

“I’m curious to see the reaction to this letter,” he said in an interview with the Star. “Our job is to keep shedding light on the systemic racism in our society, and hope they change their process.” 

The letter makes a number of recommendations, including the investiture of five Black Canadian leaders: businessman Michael Lee-Chin; athlete and Olympic gold-medallist Donovan Bailey; lawyer Robert Sutherland (born in Jamaica in 1830, died in Toronto in 1878); businesswoman and activist Viola Irene Desmond, who died in 1965; and social worker and Canada’s first Black MLA, Rosemary Brown, who died in 2003. The latter three have died, and the Order of Canada isn’t awarded to people posthumously — they’re given to living people. 

Hall says this was deliberate. He points out that the only 2020 Black recipient, B. Denham Jolly — who was awarded for his contribution to the promotion of equality and opportunity within the Greater Toronto Area — is already 85.

“I could die tomorrow, and no one would know about my accomplishment to society,” said Hall. 

He points out in the letter to Payette that, since 2013, only 4.8 per cent of the Order of Canada appointments are made up of visible minorities, “well below the 30 per cent of the population who identified as visible minority.”

“71.4 per cent of appointees in 2019 were men. The low number of women among the 2019 appointees — just 28.6 per cent of the total — and the low number of visible minorities — just 5.4 per cent — show the Order of Canada falling short of representing Canada’s diverse population,” the letter reads. 

Accusing the Order of Canada of forgetting countless Black Canadians, the letter urges Payette to do the “right thing.” 

“This chronic lack of recognition of Black Canadians must end. The time is now to set a path forward to equality, equity and justice for Black Canadians.”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/12/01/blacknorth-initiative-calls-for-too-white-order-of-canada-to-reflect-the-deep-cultural-mosaic-of-our-country.html

‘A pandemic of grief’: StatCan’s first-ever data on Black victims of homicide prompts calls for targeted trauma services

Important to have this data and the findings to drive home the need for change:

For the first time ever, Statistics Canada has released race-based homicide data that reveals a stark representation of Black Canadians among homicide victims in 2019, prompting calls for targeted mental health programming for members of the Black community.

StatCan’s 2019 homicide data, released on Oct. 29, shows one-third of homicide victims were visible minorities — 44 per cent of whom were identified as Black, yet Black people account for only 3.4 per cent of the Canadian population.

In Toronto, the numbers are more stark: 51 per cent of the city’s population identify as visible minorities, yet visible minorities made up 75 per cent of homicide victims.

The numbers come amid a year marked by more than 425 shootings to-date in Toronto that led to 201 deaths or injuries, many of which occurred in Black Creek and York University Heights, where a large population of African, Caribbean and Black Canadians call home — and where a shooting on Saturday claimed the life of a 12-year-old boy, who succumbed to his injuries Wednesday.

StatCan’s data are the first federal numbers released on the race of homicide victims in Canada specific to Black Canadians — information that has long been readily-available in the United States.

But it affirms what many have known all along, researchers say: there is disproportionate and widespread grief among African, Caribbean and Black communities in Canada that must be addressed.

“This is a pattern of inequity that has created a pandemic of grief, and we have a responsibility to address those structures that are contributing to this,” said Dr. Tanya Sharpe, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and the Factor-Inwentash Chair in Social Work in the Global Community.

Sharpe said the stark homicide rates have had a “devastating impact” on the mental, physical and spiritual well-being of communities of colour who are disproportionately forced to cope with the murder of their loved ones. She estimates that, on average, each homicide leaves behind seven to 10 friends and family members struggling with grief.

“It often presents itself in the form of complicated, elongated grief of emotional numbing, lack of motivation and traumatic stress reactions, depression, hypervigilance, anxiety and insomnia,” Sharpe said.

Research Sharpe has done on African-American communities in the United States found the homicide of a loved one leads to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It also ignites feelings of shame and guilt, both for the inability to protect the victim and due to stigma and racism Black communities face as a whole.

Sharpe, who is from Baltimore, has dedicated the last two years to researching and studying the impact of homicide on Toronto’s Black population. She said initially, the lack of race-based data collection in Canada astonished her.

“That blew me away,” Sharpe said. “In the U.S., we can only just open our Bureau of Census Statistics and find all kinds of data relevant to homicide victims, where they are and who they are, so we can easily paint a picture and have it inform our research, policy and practise.”

In Canada, she said, the lack of race-based data equals erasure of the experiences of Black Canadians who are disproportionately impacted by homicide. “Race-based collection of data matters,” Sharpe said. “If you’re not counting it, then people feel as if they don’t count.”

For this reason, Sharpe founded The Centre for Research and Innovation for Black Survivors of Homicide Victims, or the CRIB — the first centre of its kind in Canada dedicated to projects researching the traumatic impact of murder on surviving family members and their communities, and how best to address it.

Through a study done by the CRIB alongside the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Sharpe found there is a lack of understanding by mental health professionals to address the issue of trauma in communities of colour, and that 65 per cent of Ontario service providers, from probation officers to psychologists, don’t feel they have the culturally responsive skills to best serve Black and Indigenous populations.

Informing better policy is one of the reasons Statistics Canada announced its intent to publish homicide data on ethnocultural groups in July, but it also aligned with broader calls for racial equality from the public.

Warren Silver, the national training officer of the Policing Services Program at StatCan, said the federal agency had collected data specific to Indigenous people since 2014 because of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girlsmovement.

While StatCan was already working on providing homicide data on other ethnicities, Silver said calls for racial equity in 2020, specifically for Black communities following the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by Minneapolis police, have “definitely pushed” the needle forward.

Sharpe said the release of the data is a “step in the right direction.” What’s still missing from the numbers, however, is the context behind how African, Caribbean and Black Canadians are impacted by it.

Sharpe said the CRIB hopes to unearth some of that by launching Canada’s first study focusing on the experiences of African, Caribbean and Black Canadians after the homicide of a loved one, called the Invisible Wounds Project. The research project will begin in April 2021.

The data collected, with the help of the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and CMHA, Sharpe said, will inform the development of policy and intervention that can help support organizations meet the needs of those families.

The presence of official data from Statistics Canada marks a beginning, Sharpe said.

“But we have got to contextualize the experience of homicide for Black communities to better be able to respond.”

Source: ‘A pandemic of grief’: StatCan’s first-ever data on Black victims of homicide prompts calls for targeted trauma services

Black Canadians fought racism, discrimination to serve in Second World War

Good reminder of one of the unfortunate parts of our history:

When one starts asking questions about the experience of Black Canadians during the Second World War, it doesn’t take long to land on the name Allan Bundy.

That’s because at a time when the Canadian Armed Forces is promising to crack down on systemic racism, as well as individual acts of discrimination in the ranks, Bundy’s story speaks to both.

He was one of many Black Canadians who had to overcome discrimination and racism to fight during the Second World War, says Canadian War Museum historian Andrew Burtch.

His story also highlights the long presence of racism in the Canadian Armed Forces, even as it strives today for more diversity, including by promising to end hateful conduct in the ranks.

“One of the top bullets in the most recent Canadian defence policy is looking at leveraging the diversity of the country as a strength and creating better circumstances to allow for that to happen, which would include making sure that people are supported,” Burtch said.

“Obviously there wasn’t that support before.”

Air force, navy quietly barred Black and Asian Canadians

Bundy was 19 years old when he and a white friend named Soupy Campbell went to the Halifax recruiting centre to join the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as pilots. It was late 1939, Germany had just invaded Poland, and Canada and its allies were mobilizing their militaries after declaring war on the Nazis.

When Bundy and Campbell walked out, however, only Soupy had been accepted to join the RCAF. Bundy, according to the stories, felt like he had been rejected because of the recruiting officer’s own racist attitudes. Such incidents had been common during the First World War, in which Bundy’s own father had served in Canada’s only all-Black unit, the No. 2 Construction Battalion.

What Bundy didn’t know at the time was that the entire RCAF, as well as the Royal Canadian Navy, were quietly barring Black and Asian Canadians from all but the most general positions. The policy wasn’t publicized, but most jobs could only go to British subjects who were white or of “pure European descent.”

When conscription was introduced a few years later, the Canadian Army came calling for Bundy. But he wanted to fly, and he wasn’t afraid to say it when an RCMP officer visited a short time later to ask why he hadn’t responded to the Army’s summons.

“I told him that I had gone to join the Air Force in 1939 and if the bullet that kills me is not good enough for the Air Force, then it is not good enough for the Army either — so take me away,” Bundy later recalled telling the Mountie.

Soon afterward, Bundy visited the recruiting station again. By now, because of a shortage of trained pilots and aircrew, the RCAF had started to open its doors to Black Canadians and others.

Even after being accepted and trained, Bundy faced a new form of discrimination. None of the white navigators wanted to serve on his Bristol Beaufighter.

It was only after a sergeant by the name of Elwood Cecil Wright volunteered that Bundy became the first Black Canadian to fly a combat mission during the war.

During their first mission, the two sank a pair of enemy ships off the coast of Norway. They would fly 42 more missions together before the war ended and Bundy returned home to Halifax.

Service changed attitudes in Canadian society

The Canadian War Museum credits Bundy and dozens of other Black Canadians who served with the RCAF during the Second World War as having helped “change attitudes toward visible minorities in the military, and in Canadian society.”

Kathy Grant is the founder of the Legacy Voices Project, which seeks to share the stories of Black Canadians who served during the two world wars. One of those was Grant’s own father, Owen Rowe, who travelled to Canada from Barbados to volunteer for the Second World War and asked her to start the memorial project.

Grant believes the war helped pave the way for more rights and freedoms for Black Canadians.

Some such as Lincoln Alexander, who went on to become lieutenant-governor of Ontario, were able to take advantage of the benefits offered by Ottawa to veterans. Many also felt empowered to fight for those rights, and found allies in former comrades-in-arms who were white.

“They wanted things to change,” Grant said. “They were thinking: ‘Well, why are we fighting? Here it is, some of us are dying and they’re out of line by just denying us these rights.’ But it was a large shift for Canada as a whole.”

Source: Black Canadians fought racism, discrimination to serve in Second World War

When white Canadians think of racism, they think of America. These Black MPPs know better

Good conversation and discussion:

“Five Black politicians have changed the face of Ontario politics.

They’ve formed the first Black Caucus in the history of Canada’s most diverse province — which still has a mostly white legislature.

In the worst of times, their timing couldn’t be better. In the wake of the 2018 election that vaulted them to the provincial legislature, in advance of the violence-plagued summer of 2020 that sparked public protests, five New Democrats came together to speak out.

Now, they are being put to the test. We all are.

When white folks confront racism, their first thought is usually slavery or strife in America — with Canada as an afterthought. For the Black Caucus, the reality of racism is closer to home, here and now.

“When I as a Black person am thinking about racism, I don’t actually see a difference between the U.S. and Canada in the same way that a lot of white community members seem to believe is true,” Black Caucus chair Laura Mae Lindo told a Ryerson Democracy Forum I hosted Thursday on the NDP Black Caucus — why it matters.

“What I see is a similarity about how quickly we stop talking about racism in the U.S. and Canada — how quickly we accept people’s apologies for racist comments or denial of my history or denial of my humanity.”

Lindo, who spent much of her career before politics educating people on diversity — as a researcher and university administrator — has a keen eye for Canadian blind spots. And an ear for classic Canadian excuses.

“There’s a subtlety and a politeness in which Canadians perpetuate their anti-Blackness,” she muses. “And much of that is linked to their ability to just say, ‘I’m sorry,’ when somebody calls them on it.’”

Lindo came face to face with that in her Kitchener riding when she asked a gathering of Black students from the school district if the N-word was thrown around by white folks in their presence. Every single hand went up.

Not in America, not decades ago, here and now.

“I cried — I’ll be honest — because it’s shocking,” Lindo recalled. “It was overwhelming.”

And a life lesson for the mostly-white teachers in the classroom. Racism isn’t just accidental or incidental in Canada, it’s ingrained — even if sometimes invisible.

To cope with deadly serious racism, Lindo has resorted to humour as a teaching tool. Studying for her PhD in education, she focused on standup African American comedians for her doctoral thesis.

Diversity training for white folks too often tried to “guilt them and shame them into doing better.” She wanted to get their attention by harnessing humour, after realizing that “the people who were doing that best were the standup comedians.”

She coined the academic term “race-comics” to analyze their ability to “keep people in that room.” Laughing can make listen and learn the lessons of racism.

“I need to laugh…. We can’t do that if we’re angry all the time. Racism makes me rage-y, right?”

Fellow MPP Faisal Hassan recounted his own life story as an immigrant, experiencing homelessness, hardship and harassment on his way from the Horn of Africa to his Toronto riding of York South—Weston: As a Black male, he was carded a half-dozen times by local police.

But he described his journey in surprisingly resilient terms.

“My story is a happy story — I am an immigrant, I came here, and I have been welcomed,” Hassan told the students, many of whom wanted to know not just how he got to Canada, but how he got where he is today — in the legislature.

“Nobody’s going to give you anything,” he replied to student Stephen Mensah. “You have to be competitive, you have to be working hard with others, you have to show that you are going to be the voice of your community.”

Ontario needs more Black, Brown and Indigenous politicians so that people feel reflected in their institutions, added Jill Andrew, who represents St. Paul’s and proudly describes herself as the first Queer and Black elected representative in any provincial legislature.

“There’s a subtlety and a politeness in which Canadians perpetuate their anti-Blackness,” she muses. “And much of that is linked to their ability to just say, ‘I’m sorry,’ when somebody calls them on it.’”

Lindo came face to face with that in her Kitchener riding when she asked a gathering of Black students from the school district if the N-word was thrown around by white folks in their presence. Every single hand went up.

Not in America, not decades ago, here and now.

“I cried — I’ll be honest — because it’s shocking,” Lindo recalled. “It was overwhelming.”

And a life lesson for the mostly-white teachers in the classroom. Racism isn’t just accidental or incidental in Canada, it’s ingrained — even if sometimes invisible.

To cope with deadly serious racism, Lindo has resorted to humour as a teaching tool. Studying for her PhD in education, she focused on standup African American comedians for her doctoral thesis.

Diversity training for white folks too often tried to “guilt them and shame them into doing better.” She wanted to get their attention by harnessing humour, after realizing that “the people who were doing that best were the standup comedians.”

She coined the academic term “race-comics” to analyze their ability to “keep people in that room.” Laughing can make listen and learn the lessons of racism.

“I need to laugh…. We can’t do that if we’re angry all the time. Racism makes me rage-y, right?”

Fellow MPP Faisal Hassan recounted his own life story as an immigrant, experiencing homelessness, hardship and harassment on his way from the Horn of Africa to his Toronto riding of York South—Weston: As a Black male, he was carded a half-dozen times by local police.

But he described his journey in surprisingly resilient terms.

“My story is a happy story — I am an immigrant, I came here, and I have been welcomed,” Hassan told the students, many of whom wanted to know not just how he got to Canada, but how he got where he is today — in the legislature.

“Nobody’s going to give you anything,” he replied to student Stephen Mensah. “You have to be competitive, you have to be working hard with others, you have to show that you are going to be the voice of your community.”

Ontario needs more Black, Brown and Indigenous politicians so that people feel reflected in their institutions, added Jill Andrew, who represents St. Paul’s and proudly describes herself as the first Queer and Black elected representative in any provincial legislature.

She noted the impetus for creating Black Caucus — its two other members are Kevin Yarde (Brampton North) and Rima Berns-McGown (Beaches—East York) — came from members of the Black community who pointed out that the Official Opposition NDP now had enough MPPs to make it happen (two Black MPPs in the Liberal caucus, Mitzie Hunter and Michael Coteau, have not been invited to join the New Democrats).

Now the challenge is to get more outsiders inside the halls of power — and inside voting booths. Getting engaged, and getting elected, can be doubly hard for Blacks and Indigenous peoples, Lindo added.

“When you have been subject to the realities of a political system that has never seen you, kept you invisible, ignored your needs, used you — it’s very difficult to trust that the politician knocking on your door, asking for your vote, or putting her name forward is going to be any different,” the caucus chair told students.

“The formation of the Black Caucus at this point in history has pushed us to really look deep into our souls, too, and decide: ‘Are we going to push?’””

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2020/10/04/a-black-caucus-at-queens-park-is-an-idea-whose-time-has-come.html