Federal government launches loan program for Black-owned businesses

Useful initiative and will be interesting to see the results over the next few years:

The federal government is opening the doors to a loan program that will provide financing to Black-owned businesses that often face a steep hill to access capital.

The Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund will provide loans of up to $250,000 for businesses that are majority Black-owned, or entrepreneurs for their startups or existing for-profit small businesses.

Social enterprises, partnerships and co-operative businesses are also eligible for the financing.

The government says applicants must have a business number, a business plan and financial statements, or project plans in the case of startups.

The Liberal government seeded the loan fund with $33.3 million, while the remainder of the $291.3 million program comes from a $130-million infusion from Business Development Bank of Canada, a Crown corporation, and $128 million split between the country’s biggest banks and two credit unions.

The Federation of African Canadian Economics will administer the loans, which will initially flow through BDC, and credit unions Alterna Savings and Vancity.

The latter two institutions will also take part in a pilot project in Ontario and British Columbia to provide microloans of between $10,000 and $25,000 to help those Black businesses that need some support to start or grow to address what the government calls a critical gap in the marketplace.

The launch of the loan program comes months after the Liberals first laid out the plan last September, and days after the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer, which sparked a worldwide reckoning with racial inequality.

In its wake, the Black parliamentary caucus, backed by multiple cabinet ministers, outlined a series of recommendations for the government to address, including financing aid.

“This is a meaningful historic step to correct a historic wrong: the systemic barriers in accessing financing faced by people of African descent,” Greg Fergus, chair of the Black parliamentary caucus, said in a statement.

“This loan fund partnership unlocks our extraordinary potential and creates economic prosperity for all Canadians.”

A recent survey of 342 Black entrepreneurs, commissioned by the African Canadian Senate Group, found three-quarters of respondents said their race makes it harder to succeed in business, with systemic racism, access to capital and the lack of a business network all cited as barriers to growth.

Source: Federal government launches loan program for Black-owned businesses

‘A deal to be silent’: Public servant paid to keep quiet about discrimination on the job

An annual government report on public servant NDAs would be helpful, which could provide some breakdowns on the nature of complaints, departments and amounts to help identify overall problem areas that should be addressed. Given that Liberal MP and parliamentary secretary Greg Fergus is on record as favouring more information, the government should act:

A Black federal public servant who launched a racial discrimination complaint against the Canadian government says she felt uncomfortable signing a gag order because she feared it could further entrench a culture of silence around racism within the bureaucracy.

“I was signing a deal to be silent about the discrimination I’ve been through,” said the woman, whom CBC/Radio-Canada has agreed not to name because she fears losing her job. “Throughout my entire career, I noticed colleagues, mostly white colleagues, getting privileges that I didn’t.”

The woman said the federal government paid her several thousand dollars in exchange for withdrawing the racial discrimination complaint.

Radio-Canada obtained a copy of the legal document, which was initialled by both the employer and the woman’s union. It contains a confidentiality clause preventing her from speaking out about the racism she says she experienced on the job.”They’re putting a price on it,” she said. “It’s completely inadequate, and those agreements are immoral and they need to stop.”

The woman said the agreement did resolve her specific issue, which she chose not to disclose because she worries it could identify her. However, she said the agreement did little to address the bigger problem of systemic racism within federal departments.

Around 800 current and former Black public servants have launched a class-action lawsuit against the federal government, alleging it has discriminated against Black employees for decades. It was filed with the Federal Court of Canada in December, but the government has yet to file a statement of defence.

The suit, which has not been certified, accuses the government of excluding Black employees from promotions.

‘Making the problem invisible’

Such agreements cover a range of issues from racial slurs to workplace harassment.

Doug Hill, a grievance and adjudication officer for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) in Halifax, said about 70 per cent of the complaints he handles are resolved through settlements that contain a similar confidentiality clause. He also said the compensation offered sometimes goes well beyond the maximum $40,000 that can be paid under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

“There is no maximum amount” when it comes to the federal government, Hill said.

But critics say these arrangements are problematic because they cover up the real problem instead of addressing it.

“By making the problem invisible we’re making the victims invisible, and we basically have no precedent to build on and no lessons to learn,” said Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) in Montreal.

Every year, the non-profit civil rights organization helps about 200 people who are victims of discrimination based on race, gender or disability. Niemi said often, people don’t realize the implications of signing an agreement that includes a confidentiality clause.

“Sometimes the complainant or the victim goes alone, feels very much pressured into signing something that that person may not be able to fully understand,” he said.

Need for transparency

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos directed Radio-Canada to his parliamentary secretary Greg Fergus, who said he believes these agreements are only acceptable if they are signed at the request of the complainant.

“You want to really recognize that the problem happened, you want to be transparent so you can fix the problem so that we can go ahead and create a better public service,” the Liberal MP for Hull–Aylmer said.

Fergus, who also chairs the Caucus of Black Parliamentarians, said the government needs to keep more detailed data regarding complaints that are withdrawn after the complainant signs a confidentiality clause.

“We can’t change things if we can’t measure them,” Fergus said.

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/public-servant-signs-deal-to-withdraw-racial-discrimination-complaint-1.6041139

‘It’s long overdue’: unions, FBEC weigh in on top leadership’s push for greater diversity, inclusion in federal public service

Some reactions (including mine):

Liberal MP Greg Fergus says he thinks the government’s launch of new priorities to increase diversity and inclusion within the federal bureaucracy ‘will make a better, stronger public service—one that reflects the richness of Canada’s diversity at all levels, and that will make more resilient policy choices and provide better options that will reach all Canadians.’

Union leaders and a Federal Black Employee Caucus representative say the steps are “long overdue,” following Privy Council Clerk Ian Shugart’s recent “call to action” to senior bureaucrats to diversify the leadership ranks in the federal public service, and Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos’ recent announcement to increase diversity and inclusion within the larger bureaucracy and address glaring gaps in staffing of Indigenous, Black and other racialized employees. 

But both Mr. Shugart’s call to “encourage and support the voices that have been long marginalized in our organizations” as well as Mr. Duclos’ recognition that “too many public servants continue to face obstacles” and it’s “time to close the gaps and eliminate the barriers that remain,” preceded an internal audit conducted by the Public Service Commission showing three equity groups—Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities—aren’t proportionally represented in public service hiring processes.

On Jan. 26, Mr. Duclos and Liberal MP Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer, Que.), parliamentary secretary to the president of the Treasury Board, announced a number of key initiatives surrounding diversity and inclusion in the public service, including a focus on disaggregated data, increasing the diversity of the bureaucracy’s senior leadership, a review of the Employment Equity Act as well as possible amendments to the Public Service Employment Act.

“As I’ve said before, I’m committed to achieving this ambitious change, and I know that co-developing our policies and programs with our partners will lead to more innovation, more experimentation, and new way to address the challenges ahead,” said Mr. Duclos in a press release. “In time, we will build a public service that is the true reflection of our pluralism and diversity.”

In an interview with The Hill Times, Mr. Fergus said that the release of these new priorities “have been in the works for a while” and that it’s “great to see it come to fruition.”

“I think this will make a better, stronger public service—one that reflects the richness of Canada’s diversity at all levels, and that will make more resilient policy choices and provide better options that will reach all Canadians,” said the Liberal MP.

“I think the overall aim is bang on, and the way to do that of course is through disaggregated data—you can’t change what you don’t measure—and we want to make sure that you have the right people in place, there will be more mentorship and sponsorship of people with talent throughout the system and making sure that they’re able to accede to leadership roles, there will be a centre for diversity within the public service to continue working on that,” said Mr. Fergus.

“I think Canadians truly appreciate how much the machinery of government is important for collective action—for our health, for income support, for making sure that people are getting what they need,” said Mr. Fergus.

‘These issues aren’t anything new for us’ 

“I think it’s great, I think it’s long overdue,” said Atong Ater, member of the Federal Black Employee Caucus’ (FBEC) core team when asked about the government’s Jan. 26 announcement.

“These issues aren’t anything new for us, working in this area for a couple of years,” said Ms. Ater. “But it’s a good first step—I think the action comes afterwards, but as an instructive or signaling piece from a central agency, I think it’s a good piece of work.”

Focusing on disaggregated data is a major priority for FBEC.

“What we’re seeing, particularly with these releases and announcements, is that the data reinforces what we’ve been hearing anecdotally from our members, and that’s why data has been so important to our work, particularly in this era of big data and how data is used to drive policy decisions,” she said. “It’s of the utmost importance, and we applaud the direction that the federal government is taking, that they’re taking this seriously, and also sharing the information.”

Atong Ater, member of the Federal Black Employee Caucus’ (FBEC) core team. Ms. Ater said ‘data reinforces what we’ve been hearing anecdotally from our members, and that’s why data has been so important to our work.’ Photograph courtesy of Atong Ater

The annual Public Service Employee Survey was conducted from Nov. 30, 2020 through to Jan. 29, 2021, and measures employees’ opinions about engagements, leadership, workforce, workplace well-being, compensation, diversity and inclusion, as well as the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Results of the survey are expected later this year.

Clerk of the Privy Council issues ‘call to action’ 

Mr. Shugart, Canada’s top civil servant, issued a call to action on anti-racism, equity and inclusion in the federal public service on Jan. 22.

“The past several months have precipitated deep reflection on the unjust treatment of Black people, other racialized groups, and Indigenous peoples in our society,” wrote Mr. Shugart. “As public servants come forward and courageously share their lived experiences, the urgency of removing systemic racism from our institutions and from our culture becomes more evident.”

In his note, Mr. Shugart called on leaders within the public service to appoint Indigenous employees and Black and other racialized employees to and within the government’s executive group, sponsor high-potential employees within these groups to prepare them for leadership roles, support the participation of these employees in leadership development programs, and recruit highly-qualified candidates from across all regions in Canada.

“This call to action represents specific and meaningful actions. My expectation is that progress will be measured and lessons shared. While senior leaders are accountable, this set of actions demands our collective responsibility—at all levels—and a recognition that the existing equity work underway must continue,” wrote Mr. Shugart.

‘Much work remains to be done’ 

On Jan. 28, the Public Service Commission released an audit report that reviewed the representation of employment equity groups throughout five stages of the recruitment process: job application, automated screening, organizational screening, assessment, and appointment, and found that Black candidates experienced a greater drop in representation than members of other visible minority groups both at the organizational screening stage as well as at the assessment stage.

The report also found that the representation rate of persons with disabilities decreased at the assessment and appointment stages, that the representation rate of visible minority groups declined at the organizational screening and assessment stages, and that Indigenous candidates’ representation rate decreased at the assessment stage.

“While progress has been achieved in making the federal public service more representative, much work remains to be done. This audit is a call to action. All Canadians applying to public service jobs should have an equal opportunity to highlight their unique talents,” according to a joint statement from PSC president Patrick Borbey and commissioners Fiona Spencer and Daniel Tucker.

The events of the last two weeks follows the release late last year 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.

Staffing one of the most common issues raised by PSAC members, according to union president  

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) president Chris Aylward told The Hill Times that his union welcomes the review—and that staffing is one of the most common issues raised by PSAC’s members.

“An overhaul of the federal government staffing system is long overdue to address the systemic barriers that impact our members, especially our members from equity groups,” said Mr. Aylward.

“We hear countless stories from our members who experience racism, sexism, ableism and discrimination during the hiring process, and the recourse mechanisms that are in place are truly insufficient. They are without any enforcement, they are without any teeth.”

But Mr. Aylward said any legislative changes to the Employment Act can’t be made without meaningful consultation with PSAC and with other bargaining agents.

“A lot of it is stemming from several years ago when the Public Service Commission basically delegated the authority to individual departments and managers, and now it’s simply viewed that managers can hire whoever they want,” said Mr. Aylward. “So we think it’s the right step forward, it’s long overdue, these issues are long-standing within the public service.”

Mr. Aylward told The Hill Times that he and other bargaining agent representatives met with the Treasury Board and with the PSC on Jan. 28, where he said he hoped that this was the beginning of an inclusive, consultative, and collaborative approach to staffing issues.

Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) National Capital Region director Waheed Khan echoed Mr. Aylward’s comments.

“Things need to change, this is long, long overdue, and [the government needs] to take action,” said Mr. Khan. “This is not the first time we’re getting excited, I’m still very hopeful that this will lead to some real changes, but I always have to be cautious.”

Mr. Khan said he had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Shugart early in January ahead of his call to action.

“It seems that senior government leaders always want to put their own stamp on things, they want to start a new initiative, and they forget about anything else that has happened in the past,” said Mr. Khan. “Because in government, everything takes time, so by the time you gain momentum and start getting things done, you have new people who want to start new things, so I pointed out to Mr. Shugart: you need to own the work that has been done.”

‘They’ve already moved the bar a fair amount’

Andrew Griffith, a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Environics Institute keeps a close eye on public service data, and said the ongoing commitments made by the Treasury Board in that area is “a really good thing.”

“I think quite frankly that they’ve already moved the bar a fair amount by actually reporting data broken down by each visible minority group,” said Mr. Griffith. “There’s obviously more that can be done there—it’s always a good idea to have better data—but sometimes you do get to the problem where you have too much data and you wonder whether we have the capacity to analyze it, but better to have too much than not enough.”

Mr. Griffith said he didn’t believe the government is just virtue-signalling on these renewed commitments to greater diversity and inclusion, and that the events of the last week have been consistent with the government’s overall commitment—however it’s implemented—to greater diversity and inclusion in all institutions.

Source: https://hilltimes.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=a90bfb63c26a30f02131a677b&id=59998b8fc3&e=685e94e554

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

‘Always a rolling target to bring about big change’: Fergus says he’s optimistic in feds’ anti-racism strategy progress, ‘but we’re not there yet’

Would be interesting to hear the perspectives of the other parties beyond the NDP as well.

The increased funding and programming is significant, as are initiatives like breaking down visible minorities into the different groups in employment equity )What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service …) and the Public Service Employee Survey (What the Public Service Employee Survey breakdowns of visible minority and other groups tell us about diversity and inclusion):

Nearly 18 months following the introduction of the federal government’s anti-racism strategy and nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger says although the government is making progress, “there’s a lot of work to do here and it’s going to take some time.”

In an interview with The Hill Times, Ms. Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.) says “racism did not take a pause during the pandemic—on the contrary, COVID-19 has affected all Canadians and certain segments disproportionally.”

“If you look at every single minister and the work we’re doing, we are peeling these systems back in a way that we haven’t done before to ensure that the very people that are underrepresented and underserved are actually part of that decision-making and are informing our decisions” said Ms. Chagger. “There’s no minister that’s on the sidelines when it comes to this issue—[Justice] Minister David Lametti is having these conversations, [Public Safety] Minister Bill Blair is having these conversations, the prime minister is having these conversations.”

“Every single minister is consciously having these conversations and ensuring that these voices are being invited to the decision-making table and conscious about who’s not being invited, to ensure that these voices are also being heard,” said Ms. Chagger.

Liberal MP Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer, Que.), who chairs the cross-party Black Parliamentary Caucus that was first established in 2015, was also optimistic that progress is being made—but said that “it’s always a rolling target to bring about big change.”

“I would even go back further than a year-and-a-half ago, I’d go back to the budget of 2018, where for the first time ever in Canada’s history, you saw some investments which were directed at the Black community,” said Mr. Fergus. “With regard to mental health, with regard to, most importantly, disaggregated data, with regards to some community support and programming, as well as capital costs.”

“And the creation of course of the [Anti-Racism] Secretariat,” said Mr. Fergus, alluding to the unit established within the Heritage department in Oct. 2019 to the tune of $4.6-million.

“We had the election, and then we had the creation of the new ministry of diversity, inclusion, and youth, so that’s great” said Mr. Fergus. “We saw mandate letters, which laid out what we should be doing.”

“And then we had the pandemic hit, and then we had the brutal videos that came out from the United States,” said Mr. Fergus, alluding to the May 25 killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis that was caught on video, an event that sparked outrage and mass demonstrations in the United States and in Canada, including on Parliament Hill on June 5.

“What have we seen since that time? We’ve seen a firm commitment from the prime minister to deal with this, and that was reflected in the Speech from the Throne, which delighted me to no end because it took every single one of the large subject areas that the Parliamentary Black Caucus had identified.”

In a statement release June 15, the caucus outlined a series of proposals that governments should act on to redress historic injustices in the areas of public safety, justice, representation in the federal public service, race-based data collection, as well as arts and culture.

There are some important steps which are being taken by Clerk of the Privy Council Ian Shugart and the community of deputy ministers within the federal public service to affect change as well, according to Mr. Fergus.

“All this to say—we’re making progress,” said Mr. Fergus. “Is it at the speed I want it to be? I would prefer faster. All parliamentary caucus is working on that and I daresay that the government is working on that.”

“We will get there, but it’s important to remember where we came from,” said Mr. Fergus. “When you look back at the journey, you can say there’s some pretty big progress. But if you were to compare it to where we know we should be, we’re not there yet.”

The anti-racism strategy, designed to unroll from 2019 to 2022, has a $45-million price tag.

Most recently, Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden (Milton, Ont.), who is parliamentary secretary to Ms. Chagger, along with Liberal MP Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre, Man.) highlighted 13 projects in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta that are part of 85 projects coast-to-coast that have already received $15-million in funding as part of the government’s new Anti-Racism Action Program.

Addressing systemic racism played large role in Throne Speech 

“For too many Canadians, systemic racism is a lived reality,” read Governor General Julie Payette in the most recent Speech from the Throne on Sept. 23. “We know that racism did not take a pause during the pandemic. On the contrary, COVID-19 has hit racialized Canadians especially hard.”

“Many people—especially Indigenous people, and Black and racialized Canadians—have raised their voices and stood up to demand change,” she said in the speech drawn up by the government. “They are telling us we must do more. The government agrees.”

But NDP MP Matthew Green (Hamilton Centre, Ont.) said he thought most of the work that has been proposed by the Liberals have been based on announcements and aesthetics, and not tackling the actual institutional form of systemic racism.

“While it is small steps in the right direction in terms of the announcements of programs, this goes beyond buying your way out of deep organizational, cultural, and institutional racism,” said Mr. Green. “There is actual legislative work within the House of Commons under the purview of the federal government, from institutions like the RCMP, to the judiciary to their own public service sector, that still clearly suggests significant challenges around anti-Black racism.”

“And there just seems to be ongoing reluctance for this government to go beyond the aesthetics of big-ticket announcements and into the actual work of dismantling anti-Black racism and racism within their government,” said Mr. Green.

When asked about the tumultuous events of the summer and the effect the mass demonstrations had on anti-racism initiatives within governments, Mr. Green said the saddest part of that moment is that it was borne of the suffering and subjugation of Black people.

“Until we dismantle white supremacy, that suffering will continue, so the saddest part about that moment is that it will never pass and it will only ever continue,” said Mr. Green. “For every George Floyd, there are dozens and hundreds of countless, unnamed Black, Indigenous and racialized people who are brutalized by police.”

“That has not stopped—in fact, in the ensuing months, we know it to be true that the police have continued at all levels to be caught on camera brutalizing people,” said Mr. Green. “And it’s not just police—we’re seeing it in our health care systems, we’re seeing it in our long-term care homes, we’re seeing it in the way that workers are brutalized in the front lines who are essential but are not paid essentially.”

“These are the ways in which systemic and institutional racism play out in Canada, and this is a moment that will never pass,” said Mr. Green. “Tackling systemic racism is more than just announcing big dollar funding for programs.”

Ms. Chagger said she understands the call for legislation to address the matter, “but no law is going to change us.”

“We have to change us—we have to look within ourselves and in our own backyards. But this federal government under this prime minister recognizes that there is a need for federal leadership, and we will continue to display it, we will continue to act upon it, and we will continue to keep an open door and work with everyone, so that we are being inclusive in the way we are developing these policies so they work for all Canadians.”

Source: ‘Always a rolling target to bring about big change’: Fergus says he’s optimistic in feds’ anti-racism strategy progress, ‘but we’re not there yet’

‘Words alone will not be enough’: Black caucus, community cautiously optimistic about feds’ Throne Speech pledges

Initial reactions (and wait for the budget for initiatives to be concretized or not):

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Throne Speech further elevates the priorities long advocated by the Black community, say MPs, Senators, and advocates, though some say the lack of specificity on certain planks gives the government too much wiggle room to follow through on its commitments.

Mr. Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) parliamentary reset last week featured a grab bag of mostly old commitments that are likely to compete with one another for resources against the immediate threat posed by the global pandemic.

It featured a separate section devoted to “addressing systemic racism,” reflecting, in sweeping terms, many of the priorities that the Black Parliamentary Caucus had lobbied for in response to the anti-Black racism rallies that hit many cities around the world over the summer. Some of its commitments include addressing standards on the use of force; implementing a plan to increase representation in public service; and finding new ways to support the “artistic and economic contributions of Black Canadian culture and heritage.”

Liberal MP Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer, Que.), chair of the cross-party caucus that includes MPs and Senators, said the attention focused on grappling with racial inequities in the speech is a testament to the caucus’ and the Black community’s drive to prevent the momentum from fading. The caucus’ statement, a document that set out policy prescriptions for achieving racial equity that was released in June, received the endorsement of nearly all cabinet ministers and more than 150 Parliamentarians.

For Mr. Fergus, who is also parliamentary secretary to the Treasury Board president and to minister of digital government, said seeing the caucus’ agenda adopted in the speech means members have a “green light” to keep pressing for reforms. Had the speech not reflected those priorities, Mr. Fergus said, there would be “screaming headlines” registering that omission—and it would have been justified.

“It’s all forward thrusters on in terms of moving on this file, and given that we are in a pandemic, for us to recognize we have to address the real fault lines that exist, and make that a priority in the Speech from the Throne, it means I got a green light for the Black caucus to continue [its work],” he said.

Mr. Fergus pointed to the “down payments” the government has made on the collection of disaggregated race-based data, which started with Statistics Canada’s move to publish, for the first time, a Labour Force Survey tracking job losses by race and ethnicity. Though such data is likely to confirm the existence of longstanding inequities linked to structural forces, having hard figures, advocates say, would help further illustrate the scope of the problems. The speech picks up on that priority advocated by the caucus, in committing to developing an approach across the government around “better collection of disaggregated data.”

Mr. Trudeau, in response to the wave of protests in June, promised action “very quickly” and enlisted his cabinet ministers to develop a “summer work plan.” A request for comment from the Prime Minister’s Office was not returned by deadline.

Independent Senator Rosemary Moodie (Ontario) said when hard data is available, it makes the inequities that have long been apparent, “much more indisputable,” and “easier for us to speak with authority.”

Independent Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard (Nova Scotia) echoed that sentiment, saying that degree of commitment on data collection suggests the government could make a push to apply an “intersectional lens” on policies. Such an approach, she noted, is already happening in the files overseen by Diversity Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.).

“Part of the problem is that, in government, change happens very slowly. Through the pandemic, it’s slowed down even more,” Sen. Bernard, a caucus member, said. “There’s a great need, in this country, for policy development to be more inclusive, and so, bringing the voices of all stakeholders in policy development is something we really haven’t been doing.”

While Sen. Bernard said the speech gave profile to the concerns of Black and Indigenous Canadians, where it didn’t “go far enough” for her was in providing specific and substantive reforms around criminal justice. During the pandemic, Canada has seen the pandemic collide with racial injustices, she said, pointing to several incidents involving police that have led to violent encounters and in some cases, the deaths of Black and Indigenous people such as Chantel Moore and Regis Korchinski-Paquet. Both women died during so-called “wellness checks” carried out by police.

“I often look at the decal on the side of police cars; it says, ‘To serve and protect,’ and there are many Black Canadians and Indigenous Canadians who don’t feel well served or well protected by police and, in fact, feel fear,” she said. “That has to shift; that requires major change, major reform, and the Throne Speech references this a little bit.”

Sen. Bernard said she had hoped the speech would have made specific references to the development of a Black-Canadian justice strategy—an acknowledgement that underscores that the community has been disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system and “state violence.” She noted that Nova Scotia has already moved in that direction. Instead, the speech states a pledge to “take action to address the systemic inequities in all phases of the criminal justice system, from diversion to sentencing, from rehabilitation to records.”

Sen. Moodie agreed that a lack of specifics would make it “harder to hold people accountable.” “I don’t think it lessens our responsibility as Parliamentarian; I don’t think it lessens our mandate to pursue that,” she added.

NDP MP Matthew Green (Hamilton Centre, Ont.) said while pledges in the speech are wrapped up in the “words of equity and the language of racial justice,” the government isn’t responding with the urgency required. He added the government doesn’t have a solid track record of implementing policies it endorses.

“The government has all the power to immediately act on the priorities outlined in the Black caucus’ statement. From procurement to policing, they have failed,” said Mr. Green.

He pointed to the government’s policy requiring that companies with more than 100 employees that are interested in bidding on contracts worth more than $1-million to set diversity targets, saying that, without audits, it’s a toothless measure.

“That is a good policy that the Liberals put forward, but how many audits have actually happened?” he said.

Federal audits of companies were scrapped under the Harper government and have not been brought back, according to The Toronto Star.

“It was not through the goodwill of the government,” he added of the government’s move to adopt priorities pushed for by the caucus and protesters. “It was the tens of thousands of Canadians led by the Black Lives Matter movement, demanding that they move beyond performative actions.”

Mr. Green cited getting rid of mandatory minimums and amnesty for those convicted of recreational marijuana possession as examples of other policies the government can move on without delay.

Even as he expressed frustration over the pace of the government’s response, Mr. Green said the work of the caucus, of which he is a member of, has been meaningful, saying it’s been an “overwhelmingly non-partisan” vehicle for change.

“We are looking at creating a governing structure to institutionalize the work we’ve done to date,” he said. “I stand by that work. My job, in opposition, is to ensure that I continue to point out the uncomfortable truths.”

‘Rare’ for speeches to have hard timelines

Sen. Moodie said the speech, which gave a “prominent place” to the concerns of Black and Indigenous communities, sends a reassuring signal that the government is serious about delivering on its commitments.

“It’s my sense there’s a will and perhaps a plan,” Sen. Moodie said. “We know the prime minister has spoken about it. He will need to follow through, or he risks losing credibility when he speaks on the issue. Words alone will not be enough for the country, for Black and Indigenous Canadians who have heard him.”

Sen. Moodie is feeling upbeat about the prospects for change, a shift from where she was at before the speech was released in late August, when she said, in an email response, “any continued delay” on responding to calls from the Black community could not be “wholly blamed on prorogation.”

Alfred Burgesson, a member of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council and founder of advocacy group Collective Action, said the main “missing piece” from the speech was the lack of “tangible targets” for measuring the pace of progress.

Mr. Fergus noted that Throne-Speech commitments rarely come with timelines.

“It’s cool to see we’re going to make progress on systemic racism, but without tangible targets, then how are we measuring our success?,” he said, speaking for himself, not on behalf of the council. “Are we just striving towards saying we’re doing it, or are we doing it to have an impact across Canada?”

He said the budget or the promised fiscal update in the fall will be indicative of whether the government is “truly putting their money where their mouths are.” Mr. Burgesson said the feds’ launch of the Black Entrepreneurship Strategy, which promises close to $221-million in partnership with banks to help thousands of Black business owners recover from the pandemic, earlier this month was a positive development, but said “that can’t be it.”

At the same time, Mr. Burgesson, who participated in a council meeting that was an hour and half long with Mr. Trudeau on Friday, said he left feeling a “great deal of optimism.”

“He’s not afraid of the criticism. …When others challenged him, he received it very well,” he said, adding that Mr. Trudeau did not respond defensively in the face of criticism about the speed of the government’s response to pressing issues.

Velma Morgan, chair of Operation Black Vote, said the speech was a “good start,” with many of the broad commitments reflecting what the community has been campaigning on for in countless meetings with government officials, but the real work has yet to begin in earnest. (Ms. Morgan is also working on Green Party candidate Annamie Paul’s leadership campaign; the two are personal friends, and Ms. Paul is the only Black candidate running for the Greens.)

“It’s time we move from aspirational to action. We need for that work to be expedited. The time should’ve been last year. There’s a little bit of catchup,” she said. “The government has been really good at speaking to the community. It has been said over and over again, ‘Let’s get it done.’ The ball is in their court.”

Source: ‘Words alone will not be enough’: Black caucus, community cautiously optimistic about feds’ Throne Speech pledges

Justin Trudeau unveils aid for Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs

Answering some of the calls for action by the Parliamentary Black Caucus:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s long-promised action to tackle systemic racism is starting to take shape with a new program that will deliver up to $221 million in public and private funding for Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.

The announcement Wednesday came almost three months after Trudeau vowed to take sweeping action “very soon” to address racism entrenched in Canadian police and other institutions. At the time, in mid-June, the Parliamentary Black Caucus in Ottawa — chaired by Liberal MP Greg Fergus — released a detailed call-to-action that was signed by more than 100 MPs in Trudeau’s caucus, including more than half his government’s cabinet.

That declaration included calls for increased supports to Black businesses, which Trudeau acknowledged Wednesday face “systemic barriers” that have been “exacerbated” by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need an economic recovery that’s inclusive and equitable for all Canadians,” Trudeau said, speaking at the Hxouse innovation “think-centre” for entrepreneurs on Toronto’s waterfront.

“An investment in Black excellence is an investment in economic empowerment, and economic empowerment is an essential part of justice.”

Billed as the Canadian government’s first “Black entrepreneurship program,” the initiative will involve $93 million from the federal government over four years. This will create an “ecosystem fund” to help Black entrepreneurs access training and capital to support their businesses, as well as a separate “hub” to collect and share data on Black businesses across the country, Trudeau said.

Financial institutions including RBC, BMO, Scotiabank, TD and CIBC will also contribute up to $128 million to a new fund that will lend out sums ranging from $25,000 to $250,000 to Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.

Trudeau said the program is needed because such institutions have a history of failing to support Black businesses, and that his government hopes the private sector will carry on lending more money after this program expires.

“It would be lovely to imagine that, with four years of working with almost all financial institutions on delivering capital, it will become very obvious to those institutions what we and so many of us in this room already know: that investing in Black businesses is an amazing way to create wealth and prosperity for everyone,” Trudeau said.

Chedwick Creightney, 56, is the owner and chief executive officer of VR Planet, a virtual-reality arcade and event organizer in Ajax. As a long-time entrepreneur who is Black, Creightney said he has experienced discrimination when trying to get loans for his businesses, to the point that he has teamed up with non-Black partners to ensure his applications are received more favourably.

“It’s exhausting,” he said, but added that it has been a welcome relief to feel more comfortable talking about his experience in the months since the global anti-racism movement began with the death of George Floyd in the United States, after a police officer was seen kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes.

“We’re not asking for anything exceptional. We’re asking for equality,” said Creightney.

There is evidence that the COVID-19 crisis has hit Black and other minority groups hard. In late July, Toronto’s medical officer of health published data that showed Black people in the city were disproportionately infected with the coronavirus. In its “fiscal snapshot” this summer, the federal government also reported that women and racialized workers are being “most affected due to their significant representation in Canada’s health care, elder care, child care, personal support work, and essential service sectors.”

Earlier this year, the Black Business and Professional Association surveyed its members in Ontario and found that 80 per cent of them indicated they weren’t able to access the federal government’s wage subsidy program — which has since been expanded and made easier to qualify for — compared with 37 per cent in the broader private sector.

Fergus, the Black caucus chair who was on hand for Wednesday’s announcement, told reporters that Black people continued to face discrimination in the 186 years since slavery was abolished in colonial Canada. He cited examples of how Black Canadians were denied land deeds and faced hurdles accessing money that white Canadians never have.

And while Fergus welcomed the new program to support Black businesses, he also stressed how the government needs to go further in its effort to address racism in Canada, calling it “the beginning” of an effort to ensure Canadians are truly treated equally.

“It will not, in one fell swoop, eliminate all systemic discrimination and the consequences, but we’ve taken a positive step forward,” he said.

Source: Justin Trudeau unveils aid for Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs

Justin Trudeau promised action ‘very soon’ to tackle systemic racism. Seven weeks later, where is it?

Very soon is a relative concept to politicians. For the opposition, the shorter the better, even if largely symbolic.

For government, which actually has the responsibility to develop, implement and manage policies and programs, a longer timeframe is involved except under exceptional circumstances such as the various COVID support measures.

The symbolic is easy and can often be meaningful. But tackling long-term structural issues is hard and requires longer-term commitment and effort:

It has been seven weeks since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised action “very soon” to address systemic racism in Canadian policing and other institutions.

For Matthew Green, an NDP MP and member of the cross-party Parliamentary Black Caucus, “very soon” is now long past due — and can’t come soon enough.

That’s especially the case, he says, after more than 100 Liberal MPs and half of Trudeau’s cabinet signed a declaration from the Black caucus in mid-June that called for a wide range of reforms.

“If these ministers are not serious, then they ought not have signed on,” Green told the Star by phone on Wednesday.

“What we’re asking for is not radical. It is actually basic justice principles of applying policy and the legal system in an equitable way,” he said.

Responding to questions from the Star on Wednesday, Trudeau spokesperson Alex Wellstead provided a quote from the prime minister after the Liberal cabinet retreat in early July. Trudeau pledged at the time that his ministers would craft a “work plan” for the summer to build “strong policies” to tackle racism. This would include reforms to police and the justice system, improved protections for temporary foreign workers and legislation to expand First Nations policing of their own communities, Trudeau said.

In 2019, the Liberal government unveiled a $45-million strategy to tackle racism in the public service and federal policies. The party also promised during the election last year to increase funding for the strategy.

But in mid-June of this year, Trudeau pledged further action on systemic racism would come “very soon.” At the time, much of the Western world was roiling from widespread demonstrations denouncing police brutality and racism against Black, Indigenous and other racialized people.

In Canada, demonstrations were fuelled by a series of incidents in which people died during interactions with police. These included Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old First Nations woman shot and killed on June 4 during a wellness check at her apartment in Edmunston, N.B., and 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, an Afro-Indigenous woman who died in Toronto after falling from an apartment balcony during a police visit.

On June 16, the Parliamentary Black Caucus released its declaration that called on governments to “act immediately” on a wide range of demands to address systemic racism in Canada. The document called for Ottawa to end mandatory minimum jail sentences, create programs to support businesses owned by Black Canadians and improve the collection and release of race-based data. It also called for more Black and Indigenous judges, and to shift money from police budgets to health and social services.

The document was signed by at least 25 cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Justice Minister David Lametti.

Greg Fergus, a Liberal MP from Quebec who is a member of the Black caucus, said Black Canadians have been waiting for decades for reforms and that he is confident the Trudeau government will take significant steps to address racism. He said he has spoken with Trudeau directly about the issue and that he has been assured actions are going to be taken — though he declined to discuss specific plans because he doesn’t want to “scoop” his own government.

“I know that everybody would like this to be done yesterday, but I’m glad they’re taking the time to get it right,” he said.

“For the first time in my life I actually really feel that, Wow, we’re going to get at this, we’re really going to give this a real say — because Canadians will want things to be done.”

Green was less optimistic, and said he believes the Liberal government has already missed opportunities to implement change. He said several demands in the Black caucus declaration could have been pursued immediately, including the elimination of mandatory minimum jail sentencing and amnesty for people convicted for cannabis-related crimes before it was legalized.

The federal government was also criticized this spring for delaying its promisedresponse to the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which probed the systemic causes of disproportionate violence against these groups and concluded in June 2019 with a list of demands for change.

Green said he will be looking to Aug. 12, when the House of Commons is next scheduled to sit, as the next chance for the Liberals to follow up with the action they promised.

“This government can move immediately — immediately — within weeks to award their insiders and their friends a contract that would have resulted in the benefit of $43 million,” Green said, referring to the controversy over the Liberal government’s decision to outsource a student grant program to WE Charity.

“They did that without any drawn out or protracted incremental approach. So why can’t they make those same investments in the Black community?” he said.

Source: Justin Trudeau promised action ‘very soon’ to tackle systemic racism. Seven weeks later, where is it?

Five years on, Trudeau’s vow to build a diverse public service still unfulfilled

I find this report unbalanced and does not reflect that the government largely met its commitment to increase diversity in appointments as I wrote in 2019 (Taking stock of Ottawa’s diversity promises) while public service diversity continues to increase for women and visible minorities for both employees and executives albeit at a slow but steady pace.

The main issue is with respect to Black Canadians at senior levels and I will be looking at data to take this concern from the anecdotal and symbolic (only one Black DM) to quantify the occupational groups and levels where this is most prevalent, as well as looking at other relatively under-represented particular visible minority groups.

I agree with Michael Wernick that while the employment equity act is ripe for a review, opening it up would indeed be a hornet’s nest. And looking back over the over 30 years of EE data, hard to argue that it has not been a success in improving representation given its focus on representation:

When they took power in 2015, the Trudeau Liberals promised to “build a government that looks like Canada.”

But their government, now in its second mandate, still hasn’t hired enough minority senior staff members to truly reflect the country’s diverse makeup.

Only four chiefs of staff to 37 ministers are people of colour — roughly 11 per cent of the total — while they constitute more than 22 per cent of the national population, according to the last census in 2016.

As protests against anti-black racism — triggered by George Floyd’s police custody killing in Minneapolis — have grown in size and spread around the globe, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been talking more about “systemic” racism in Canadian institutions. The prime minister also kneeled in a crowd of anti-racism protesters in Ottawa last Friday as a symbolic gesture of support for their calls for change.

“Systemic racism is an issue right across the country, in all our institutions, including in all our police forces, including in the RCMP. That’s what systemic racism is,” Trudeau said Thursday morning.

“Here are the facts in Canada. Anti-black racism is real, unconscious bias is real, systemic discrimination is real,” the prime minister said in a speech in the House of Commons last week, vowing that his government is committed to breaking down barriers and providing opportunities for marginalized communities.

The lack of diversity among Liberal staffers was keenly felt by Omer Aziz, who worked briefly as an adviser to Chrystia Freeland when she was foreign affairs minister.

“I would go into meetings and I’m the only non-white person there. I felt that when I would raise my voice and give my advice, that it wasn’t taken seriously,” Aziz told CBC.

“That is eventually why I left what was my dream job.”

Getting better … slowly

Other senior staffers told CBC that while being one of just a few people of colour around the table may not be an ideal job situation, diversity in the higher ranks of the federal public service has come a long way in the past decade.

The government is also responsible for appointing people to hundreds of bodies outside the core public service, such as agency boards, foreign missions and Crown corporations.

The Trudeau Liberals reformed that hiring process early in its first mandate to serve its goal of attracting diverse applicants. The result: a dramatically improved ratio of people of colour to other hires, from 4.3 per cent when the Liberals were elected in 2015 to 8.2 per cent as of June 2020.

As for the most senior civil servants (deputy and associate deputy ministers), the number coming from diverse backgrounds is still less than 10 per cent of the total — so low that the Privy Council Office won’t release the figure, arguing it would compromise privacy rights because it would be easy to work out who these senior civil servants are.

‘You have to represent’

“We are in 2020. How come it took so long? It shouldn’t have,” said Caroline Xavier, the only Black person serving as an associate deputy minister in the federal government. She was appointed to the post at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada back in February.

“Sometimes the burden is heavy because you have to represent. It’s a burden I’m prepared to take on because it’s my job to open more doors for others.”

Xavier said there’s no easy solution, but conversations about breaking down barriers “are happening” within government.”There is a recognition at the most senior levels that this has got to be rectified.”The federal government fares far better when it comes to appointing women; the ranks of deputy ministers and other high-level positions are close to gender parity now.

The Trudeau government isn’t the first to pursue greater diversity in the upper ranks of the public service.

In 2000, a task force struck to look into the participation of people of colour in the federal public service cited an “urgent imperative to shape a federal public service that is representative of its citizenry.”

Seven years later, the Senate published a report on employment equity in the public service with the title: “Not There Yet.” Ten years after that, in 2017, a Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat task force reported that “many gaps in representation persist in the executive category … the very leaders who shape and influence the culture of federal organizations are not sufficiently diverse.”

‘People don’t want to admit that’s going on’

Since 2000, there has been a slow but steady increase in the number of Canadians of colour in the public service — from just under six per cent of the total then, to more than 16 per cent today.

But annual employment equity reports and the census show that Black civil servants, along with Filipinos and Latinos, are still grouped at the lower end of the salary ladder.

Liberal MP Greg Fergus, chair of the parliamentary Black caucus, told CBC News this week that he wants to see the government address that disparity.

“It doesn’t make sense that there’s been no Black deputy ministers — you can’t convince me that there aren’t Black people who are competent,” he said. “But there’s something that went into the calculation over time, that that person didn’t make the right fit, or didn’t get that promotion. We can justify any individual decision, but when you aggregate all these decisions, you end up with a biased result.

“Those are the things that we’ve got to take a look at. But it’s hard to do the things which are hard to do. And it’s hard to see bias. People don’t want to admit that’s going on.”

Trudeau has tasked his parliamentary secretary, Ontario MP Omar Alghabra, with looking at public service renewal. While the Black Lives Matter protests have given the file more urgency, the government has no clear plan yet.

Sharon DeSousa has suggestions. A regional executive vice president with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, she served on the 2017 task force on diversity in the public service. She points out that only one recommendation out of 43 was implemented.”We keep having committees and reports and, to be honest, we’re coming up with the same data,” DeSousa said.”We’ve got systemic barriers and we need to address them,” she said, adding that if the Liberals were serious about going after unconscious bias, they would take a hard look at how data on hiring are being collected, and the problems baked into legislation like the Employment Equity Act.

A ‘hornet’s nest’

The Employment Equity Act hasn’t been updated in nearly two decades and still uses the broad term “visible minorities” — a phrase the United Nations has called discriminatory because it lacks nuance and assumes the experience of a Black employee is the same as that of a South Asian one.

Former head of the privy council Michael Wernick said he believes now is the time to look at changing legislation.

“I think to get at issues in the 2020s, you’re going to want to dig down into each of those communities and have more precise strategies for them,” Wernick said, adding that employment equity laws are still an important tool for promoting diversity.

Still, he said, opening the act up for debate could be like turning over a “hornet’s nest” and coming to a consensus won’t be easy.The Liberals also have flirted with the concept of “name blind” recruitment for the public service — the practice of concealing a candidate’s name to protect those with more ethnic-sounding names from conscious or unconscious bias in the hiring process.A pilot project in 2017 produced a report suggesting name blind recruitment made no difference to outcomes, which prompted former Treasury Board president Scott Brison to declare that “the project did not uncover bias.”

But it turned out the methodology was flawed. Departments had volunteered to take part in the pilot and knew their hiring decisions would be evaluated.

The Public Service Commission is still examining other random recruitment processes.

Some factors that serve to prevent people of colour from being hired by the federal government — the country’s largest single employer — are harder to work around, said Andrew Griffith, a former director-general with Citizenship and Immigration Canada who has written extensively about the issue.

“There’s a preference in the public service to hire Canadian citizens and not all visible minorities have become citizens yet,” Griffith said. He said he believes that factor narrows the gap between the diversity of the general population and that of the federal public service.

Other factors that could be frustrating the push for a more diverse public service, he said, are language requirements and a need for regional representation in parts of Canada that are not so diverse.

That second factor could be less of a problem in the longer term, with a pandemic crisis forcing many civil servants to work from home. But Griffith said getting into government work is “just a long convoluted process.”

Source: Five years on, Trudeau’s vow to build a diverse public service still unfulfilled

After taking a knee, the next step is being spelled out for Justin Trudeau

Three articles on expectations for the Trudeau government with respect to countering anti-black racism, starting the Campbell Clark of the Globe, followed by former Conservative Senator Don Oliver and Liberal MP Greg Fergus. Clark focusses on RCMP reform, both Oliver and Fergus stress, among other issues, increased Black Canadian representation at senior levels:

When Justin Trudeau joined an anti-racism protest on Friday, taking a knee to express solidarity, it was as though he still didn’t know the next step after kneeling.

He had already spoken, in a press conference earlier that day, about the “disturbing” videos and reports of incidents that surfaced last week. He asserted, in earnest Trudeau-esque tones, that although “we can’t solve all this overnight,” change is needed, and “we need to start today.” Yet he didn’t offer any clear notion of what a first step could be.

Those disturbing reports, though, offered at least one obvious place to start: more transparency.

On Saturday, Chief Allan Adam, who leads the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, held a press conference to present grainy videos of the night in March when, Chief Adam said, he was beaten by RCMP officers when they stopped him and his wife over an expired registration for their car.

Chief Adam’s lawyer, Brian Beresh, called for the suspension of one of the officers involved, but what was notable was the basic call for transparency in the other three things he sought.

He called for the RCMP to release their own, clearer video of the incident, taken from an RCMP dashcam. He called for a full investigation by another police force – not the RCMP. And he called for body cameras to be worn by all RCMP officers.

Independent investigations? Public transparency? Body cams? Yes to all of that. Because it’s 2020.

And stats, too – disaggregated race-based statistics, so Canadians can get a sense of who gets arrested over expired registrations.

One thing on Chief Adam’s list, an outside investigation, is now happening. Alberta’s Serious Incident Response Team, which investigates serious injuries and deaths involving the police, said Saturday afternoon that they would review the allegations. The RCMP had previously said they had reviewed their own video of the incident, and that it didn’t meet the threshold for an outside investigation.

That’s a threshold that cries out for scrutiny: If there is video of police using force with a citizen, someone outside the organization should be looking at it.

Doing those things won’t eliminate racial discrimination in policing, let alone dismantle systemic racism in the country, which doesn’t start or end with the police. Body cams don’t prevent all abuses. They just offer the potential for a record.

But if Mr. Trudeau is looking for a place to start, he might start with the obvious: Disturbing events that came to light only because of bystanders taking video on their phones. More transparency is a basic step.

Mr. Trudeau’s government doesn’t hold all the levers on these things. Local policing is a provincial responsibility, even when it is done by the RCMP, and for much of the population, the local police are municipal or provincial forces.

But he does exert control over the RCMP, including appointing its Commissioner. He can demand standards of accountability for incidents that involve the use of force, and that they be reviewed independently. He can fix the broken complaints system for the RCMP – a small reform is already proposed in legislation before Parliament. He can demand that the collection, and publication, of statistics on arrests and charges be disaggregated by ethnic background.

He has federal spending power. A national initiative to have police wear body cameras can be pushed forward with funding from Ottawa. Especially if he moves forward now. He can press provincial premiers to join him in setting basic national standards of transparency.

That is, for starters, what the symbolism of taking a knee demands. You can judge for yourself if you think Mr. Trudeau is sincere or engaged in political play-acting, or some mix of the two, but you don’t have to look further than Donald Trump to see that the opposite symbolism is bad government. Mr. Trudeau chose to acknowledge systemic racism, rather than to deny it.

There is a lot that necessarily follows from that symbolism. But if Mr. Trudeau can’t find a first step now, he can look to the things that should have been done a long time ago to bring a little more transparency to policing.

Source:   opinion After taking a knee, the next step is being spelled out for Justin Trudeau Subscriber content The government must look to the things that should have been done a long time ago to bring a little more transparency to policing Campbell Clark       

Former Conservative Senator Don Oliver:

Both Canada and the United States are each deeply embroiled in the largest pandemic of anti-Black systemic racism since the height of the Martin Luther King civil rights movement that featured vicious attack dogs, and the brutal beatings, shootings, and murders by whites and by police of unarmed, innocent Black, men, women and children.

Only now, with the internet, technology, and social media, millions and millions of eyes from around the world are watching the United States. People are also watching Canada to see if this middle-ranked world power, once recognized and worshipped for its even-handedness, compassion, understanding and respect for diversity, can rise now to its former exalted position in the world. The world is watching us in the face of the ugly and racist murder of George Floyd in the United States to see if Canada can now give hope and demonstrate once again its earned reputation for understanding and tolerance, and produce a roadmap that all can see and read for overcoming and eliminating anti-Black systemic racism.

Some would argue that there was abject failure of leadership on the part of the Trudeau government to provide more than the vacuous, “we’re in this together,” but it’s clear that words alone will not eliminate anti-Black racism. Many people, including victims of anti-Black racism in Canada, are looking for some concrete resolutions.

The prime minister, however, has clearly stated repeatedly that anti-Black systemic racism exists in Canada today, and on June 2, he said, with humility: “I am not here today to describe a reality I do not know or speak to a pain I have not felt.” That’s probably because he’s white and privileged. He was born into that and it’s not a sin.

The reality, however, for most African Canadians is that their pigmentation defines who they are thought to be by the rest of the world, and it’s usually not positive. The sad reality for many Blacks is that with every step they take and every move they make they are liable to be stopped, suppressed, held back, criticized, ridiculed, and prevented from proceeding for perhaps no reason other than the colour of their skin. Those barriers exist particularly in housing, employment, health care, and criminal justice.

But it cannot be forgotten that there are throughout Canada thousands and thousands of white people who I salute and who do not see colour when they deal with us, and many of them have been on the streets the last nine days walking with us side by side, peacefully demonstrating for an end to systemic racism and protesting the horrible death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Many more have been at their homes praying for an end to Black-based systemic racism in Canada. These are the people of good faith who help make our country strong.

In my case, I started school at the age of five, in a small university Baptist town, the only Black child in the class. For the next 10 years or so, we all had the same school teachers, the same coaches for sports; we basically all went to the same Sunday school and church, played on the same hockey teams and attended all the same parties and socials.

But sometimes when I was engaged in an interesting discussion with teachers or with people around the university, or when I was playing sports with my classmates, I would momentarily forget about the colour of my skin. It didn’t seem that important in the scheme of things; after all, we had so many things in common. Colour was not always the foremost thought in my mind.

For a glancing moment, I had a feeling that there was really no difference and that we were indeed intrinsically alike. I had completely forgotten that pigmentation always denoted a marked physical and psychological difference. It had all the shades of invoking a subtle master/servant relationship from the days of slavery, and that being Black meant being inferior and less worthy than your white counterpart. Pigmentation would always describe who I was as a physical being.

So, how could I ever forget something so fundamental, even for an instant. It was painfully and blatantly clear that I would have to be conscious of my colour at all times and be ready to defend it as well. The colour of my skin is a situational fact that has stayed with me all my life. But even though pigmentation was not something that I thought about every hour of every day, it did help orient my entire life.

When in the middle of something very important and demanding, I would often receive the strange query—“don’t you realize you’re Black”—and it would happen on some of the most unexpected occasions, and I had to be ready. The situation is called racism. That is the constant reality for most Blacks in Canada today. We encounter race hatred, intolerance, discrimination, contempt, and prejudice in virtually everything we become part of in our daily lives.

The prime minister cannot possibly fathom our reality of racism because it defies so many of our senses and it’s just there with disquieting regularity. For instance, imagine you are eminently qualified and Black, with excellent managerial skills and experience, have superior, advanced education, are proficient in three languages, are the proper age, and that you’ve just learned that you’ve been passed over for the eighth time in an executive job competition. What a shock. What else can you do? You know implicitly that racism is present and totally in control of what is happening. But it has defied all your senses. Nothing overt gave you an explanation for the result. It’s something painful and hurtful. You want to cry, to scream out. But you dare not. It’s how systemic racism manifests itself, and that’s the pain and the reality our prime minister cannot possibly ever know and understand.

And it’s just like the anti-Black racism demonstrated by the beatings, shootings, and killings of Black people throughout Canada for which there are thousands of white and Black Canadians protesting and peacefully demonstrating in the streets. Prime Minister Trudeau must understand that anti-Black racism has to stop.

The job now for public policy-makers looking for solutions is to dig deeply into the very core of systemic racism, analyze it, and produce detailed, comprehensive, and professional recommendations for change that must be acted upon by government immediately. Remember, the eyes of the world are watching Canada with hope.

The prime minister can put a lot of easy and meaningful things in place immediately, if there is the will. As I have been saying for decades, some of these helpful things are very, very easy for a prime minister to implement and to make happen quickly.

For instance, one way to start to dispel the sting of anti-Black racism is for eminent and qualified Blacks to be appointed to senior positions on boards, commissions, and Crown corporations. For example, you will recall that, as prime minister, Brian Mulroney appointed Lincoln Alexander as the Queen’s representative of Canada’s largest province; Julius Isaacs was appointed chief justice of the Federal Court of Canada, and I was Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate of Canada.

There are dozens of great Lincoln Alexanders out there today who could become significant influencers on major government boards and commissions and this would help reduce the impact of anti-Black racism. We desperately need more Black judges appointed to our Superior Courts across the country. We need Black deputy and associate deputy ministers appointed to our senior bureaucracy in Ottawa. We need more Black chiefs of staff in government offices. We need a new federal government Department of Diversity headed by a Black deputy minister. The upper echelons of power in Canada must reflect the diverse faces of Canada. A number of these things can be done by Prime Minister Trudeau with the stroke of his pen, and what a difference it would make for Canada.

In conjunction with these initiatives in boardrooms across the nation, we also need to make policy more effective. We urgently need accurate information: facts and race-based disaggregated data. Prime Minister Trudeau should pick up his pen this week and sign any prerequisite documentation from the Privy Council Office to order the immediate collection of comprehensive data on COVID-19 from every province and territory in Canada. This data should be submitted to Statistics Canada on a daily and weekly basis, possibly retroactively, to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United States now has close to 110,000 reported deaths from COVID-19 and, regretfully, a disproportionately high per cent of those deaths are Blacks and Latinos. In Canada, we have some general information that a disproportionately high percentage of those who have died from COVID-19 are also Black. We know these deaths in both countries involve socio-economic issues such as lack of a nutritious diet, access to the health-care system, employment opportunities, affordable, adequate housing and, most of all, the subtle, all-pervading yet omnipresent anti-Black systemic racism.

To examine and report on these issues, in-depth, I urgently call on Prime Minister Trudeau to appoint in June 2020 a commission of inquiry under the Inquiries Act, chaired by an eminent Black Canadian judge, to examine in detail the above socio-economic issues, call evidence and hear from those impacted by racism in the communities across Canada, and report back to Parliament with specific recommendations in each area designed to eradicate or substantially limit the reach and influence of anti-Black systemic racism in Canada. All aspects of the inquiry must involve in its membership and research a majority of eminent, qualified African Canadian men and women. The inquiry would, as well, receive all the race-based data collected by Statistics Canada, and hopefully provide recommendations to the government before the next wave of COVID-19.

No reasonable Canadian expects this prime minister to fully understand the reality and the 400 years of the pain of anti-Black systemic racism in Canada, but they do expect him to take some positive steps towards its elimination, such as those set out above.

Source: Trudeau must understand anti-Black racism has to stop, and he’s got the power to help stop it

Lastly, current Liberal MP Greg Fergus:

Greg Fergus spent much of last week in video conferences, talking to black Canadians and community leaders. The Liberal MP for Hull-Aylmer and chair of the parliamentary black caucus says many people are “traumatized.”

But, he said, they also know that this moment is an opportunity for other Canadians to “finally see the systemic barriers that are in place here.”

“Everyone says, I’m up and I’m down …  I’m angry and I’m hopeful. It’s an awful mix,” he said in an interview. “And because we have attention on the issue, everybody’s being asked about it. I’m happy to engage with this, but it’s hard to engage with it, because it’s overwhelming.

“We saw those brutal images of racism … and it triggers all those big and little things that every person of colour has been through.”

On Friday, Fergus was beside Justin Trudeau when the prime minister attended the Black Lives Matter rally on Parliament Hill and kneeled along with many others in the crowd, the symbolically powerful gesture that has become a hallmark of the protests and rallies against anti-black racism that have followed the May 25 killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis.

Trudeau’s participation was part of a week that will certainly be remembered as a significant moment in the history of protest against anti-black discrimination. But much now depends on what steps his government takes next.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an appearance at an anti-racism rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Friday. He was met with chants of “Stand up to Trump!” from the crowd and kneeled for eight minutes and 46 seconds to remember George Floyd. 1:47

“We always said we need to do more. Now we’re seeing why it’s important to do more,” Fergus said. “Racism kills.”

The list of what the Trudeau government could or should do is long. But Fergus said he is proud of what the government did in its first four years — action he believes his fellow black parliamentarians and Liberal staff were part of making happen.

Over its last two budgets, the Trudeau government committed $19 million over five years to develop mental health programs for black Canadians and support for young people, and $25 million over five years for community programming.

Statistics Canada was provided with $6.7 million to create a new Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics, which is mandated to “increase the disaggregation of various data sets by race, with a particular focus on the experience of black Canadians.” A new anti-racism strategy, including the creation of an anti-racism secretariat in the public service, was given $45 million over three years.

But Celina Caesar-Chevannes, the former Liberal MP who broke with the party last year, wrote this week that the funding committed to black Canadians for mental health was not nearly enough and “certainly [does] not speak to black lives mattering.”

In 2018, the government officially recognized the UN International Decade for People of African Descent and the prime minister publicly acknowledged the existence of “anti-black racism” — the first prime minister, Fergus said, to do so.

But a year later, Fergus also expressed frustration with how little the machinery of government had moved to match the prime minister’s words.

“It’s hard to convince people that there’s a problem,” he said.

Diversifying government’s highest ranks

Fergus has since been appointed parliamentary secretary to Jean-Yves Duclos, the president of the Treasury Board, and he is interested in promoting diversity throughout the upper echelon of the public service.

“I don’t think the public service is any different from Canada in general, in the sense that it’s hard to overcome the systemic barriers. We have an excellent public service that hires [people] in a way that reflects the way Canada looks. Where the public service doesn’t do as well is, as you go up the ranks, it becomes more and more homogeneous,” Fergus said.

In Fergus’s view, this is a textbook example of unconscious bias.

“This is an example of systemic discrimination — there are practices or assumptions or biases at play that end up having these kinds of results. You have to be conscious of these biases, and we have to really challenge the way it is,” he says.

“It doesn’t make sense that there’s been no black deputy ministers — you can’t convince me that there aren’t black people who are competent. But there’s something that went into the calculation over time that that person didn’t make the right fit, or didn’t get that promotion. We can justify any individual decision, but when you aggregate all these decisions, you end up with a biased result.

“Those are the things that we’ve got to take a look at. But it’s hard to do the things which are hard to do. And it’s hard to see bias. People don’t want to admit that’s going on.”

When the Trudeau government promoted Caroline Xavier to associate deputy minister at the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, she became the first black woman to reach that level of the public service. (Duclos’s chief of staff, Marjorie Michel, is also the first black of woman to hold that title in the federal government.)

But diversifying the public service is just one path of change and other areas crying out for government action.

Immigration policy, police reform other points of debate

Caesar-Chevannes laid out a proposed agenda that includes a review of immigration policy, increased government funding and the expunging of criminal records for marijuana possession, a charge that disproportionately punished black Canadians. She also called for the repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

The RCMP and policing reform have emerged as significant points of debate in the weeks and months ahead. The NDP has already called for bans on racial profiling and the practice of “carding,” in which police stop individuals and ask to see ID without any evidence of wrongdoing.

Questions about policing and justice can be politically difficult to navigate — for decades, the incentive for politicians has been to seem “tough” on crime. That tide could be turning, but, regardless, the Trudeau government is unlikely to be excused for failing to deal with these issues.

But combating systemic racism and improving the lives of black Canadians means going well beyond such issues.

Fergus: ‘If there ever was a time to speak, it’s now’

Fergus said there is interest among black community leaders in federal support for black-owned businesses. The federal government could, for instance, provide microcredit and organize a program to provide mentorship from black financial experts. It has also been suggested that federal procurement policy could be used to benefit black-owned companies, similar to how Indigenous businesses have been a specific focus since 1996.

An emphasis on data — to better understand how black Canadians are doing and how public policy affects them — is a common theme across calls for change, including an essay penned last week by Sen. Wanda Thomas Bernard.

“That will be the gift that keeps giving,” Fergus said of better data.

Fergus said his advice to black Canadians and activists is to capitalize on this moment.

“If there was ever a time to speak it’s now. If there was ever a time to get that story out, it’s now,” he said. “We have 15 minutes of people’s attention. Let’s try to make this something that resonates longer and leads to substantive and systemic changes. This is the time.”

What Fergus saw around him on Friday tells him that Canadians are ready for and expecting that change.

“I think Canadians expect us to do more. And looking at the people who were in the crowd — really, it was good for me. It was really good for me to so many non-blacks took part. They were clearly the majority,” he said.

“That is a good feeling. They are awake to this.”

Source: Liberal MP takes stock of government’s action on anti-black racism and says there’s more to do