Birth tourism dad from China suing B.C. hospital, doctors and ‘birth hotel’

First case like this that I have heard of. Not totally unexpected given the pre-pandemic numbers at Richmond Hospital mean that such disputes could have been expected:

The father of a child born in B.C. via Canada’s controversial “birth tourism” route is suing the doctors who delivered the baby and the so-called “birth hotel” which brought the family from China.

Peng Chen, on behalf of his now four-year-old son Stephen, alleges that two doctors — Brenda Tan and Balbinder Gill — as well as Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), were negligent in the provision of medical care to Stephen and his mother, Rang Heng, at Richmond Hospital.

His lawsuit makes references to complications at the time of Stephen’s birth, resulting in his son being in the intensive care unit for several days afterwards.

Chen, a resident of China, claims that, as a result of their negligence in 2018, his son suffered brain damage, seizures, delayed growth and development, cerebral palsy and cognitive impairment.

He further alleges that Jie Zheng and a Ms. Liang — who operated or worked at ABC, a birthing house on Ash Street in Richmond — misrepresented the level of antenatal and/or perinatal care and expertise that his wife and child would receive in Canada.

Chen claims that, because he had “little or no knowledge of the health-care system in Canada” he was “particularly vulnerable” to the alleged misrepresentations from Zheng and Liang.

He alleged that ABC was negligent in misrepresenting the level of care, both in its adverts in China and to the family when they arrived in Canada.

Chen said he entered into an agreement with ABC for Stephen to be born in Canada and that they arrived at the Richmond birth house in January of 2018, three months before the birth at Richmond Hospital.

Two other unnamed doctors and two unnamed nurses working at Richmond Hospital on the day of Stephen’s birth are also named in the suit.

All named defendants in the lawsuit have denied any negligence.

The allegations are more than four years old, but Dr. Tan’s legal team recently won a court application to have a video conference with Stephen’s mother, because her husband has, thus far, been unable to answer any questions with regard to Tan’s care of his wife and child.

Child suffered ‘hypoxia, ischemia’ to brain, father claims

With regard to the specifics of the day of the birth, Chen claims his wife attended Richmond Hospital in the early hours of April 18, 2018, but was discharged with instructions to return when labour had progressed.

Later that day, according to the lawsuit, Heng returned to the hospital and, at some point not specified, was given oxytocin – which promotes the progress of labour.

Chen claims that, between his wife being given oxytocin and the actual birth, Stephen “suffered hypoxia and ischemia to his brain.”

He said his son required resuscitation and several days of intensive care.

Chen claims that the unnamed nurses failed to ensure timely medical intervention to prevent brain damage and they failed to properly investigate, assess or evaluate his wife’s medical history prior to the birth and failed to alert other health professionals of fetal distress in a timely fashion.

He alleges that doctors Tan, who he says was the family’s assigned GP, and Gill and the two unnamed doctors failed to provide adequate prenatal care to his wife and failed to assess the risk factors in view of his wife’s medical history and “physical presentation.”

Chen claims that the doctors also failed to properly advise his wife of the risks of vaginal delivery or discuss the options to it.

And he alleges that, as a result of his son’s injuries, he, his wife and family members have to provide care above and beyond what would be reasonable out of “natural love and affection.”

Chen, on behalf of Stephen, is seeking unspecified general and special damages and health-care costs.

Vancouver Coastal Health denies negligence

VCH, which runs Richmond Hospital, has denied any negligence on its part or that of its employees and is disputing many of Chen’s claims, including Stephen’s injuries.

In its version of events, VCH claims Chen’s wife was admitted to hospital at around 12:15 a.m. on the day of the birth and that the second stage of labour started at around 7 p.m, almost two hours before the birth.

It states in its response to the claims that all care of Chen’s wife was “appropriate” and “in accordance with a reasonable standard of practice and procedure,” adding that nothing it or its employees did or failed to do contributed to the alleged injuries to Stephen.

VCH is seeking a dismissal of the lawsuit and seeks its costs associated with defending itself.

Birth doctors claim they did their jobs

Dr. Tan, in her response to the claim, denies that she was an agent of Richmond Hospital or that of the birthing house business ABC and is also disputing the alleged injuries suffered by Stephen.

She said she became Chen’s wife’s GP two months before the birth for the purposes of providing antenatal care and met with her several times in her office.

Tan has denied negligence and that the care she provided to Chen’s wife and son was appropriate and in accord with standard medical practice.

She added in her response that Chen’s wife was informed of the risks associated with the treatment received and gave consent.

Dr. Gill, meanwhile, denies that he assisted with the delivery of Stephen, claiming that he only helped Chen’s wife push the baby out, when it became apparent there was an emergency.

In response to Chen’s claims that Stephen suffered hypoxia and ischemia to his brain prior to being born, Gill said the child was born with “no respiratory effort and no heart rate detected.”

He said that, once the baby was delivered, “best efforts were made to provide resuscitation” until the child was transferred to a “higher level of care.”

Similarly to Dr. Tan, Gill said the care and assessment given to Stephen were “reasonable in the circumstances and consistent with that expected of pediatricians practicing” in B.C. and that nothing he did or did not do contributed to any alleged injuries or loss to the child.

And if there were any injuries to the child, Gill said it was not his fault and could have been caused by other defendants or unknown parties.

Gill further alleges that the injuries in question could have been caused by the negligence of Chen and his wife by failing to take reasonable care of their own health and failing to seek medical attention at the “onset of signs or symptoms,” failing to provide a complete and accurate history of health-care providers and failing to follow the advice of health-care providers.

Both Tan and Gill are asking for the claims against them be dismissed and they be awarded costs.

What is ‘birth tourism?’

So-called “birth tourism” is when pregnant, non-Canadian women fly to Canada in order to give birth and secure citizenship for their babies.

In addition to receiving benefits, like healthcare and education, when the children become adults, they can also sponsor their parents to immigrate to Canada.

The Canada Border Services Agency has said previously that pregnancy is not a reason in itself to refuse entry to the country to a tourist.

However, if a foreign national is seeking entry to Canada for the purpose of undergoing medical treatment and can’t show he or she has the money to pay for it, then that person could be deemed as a potential excessive demand on health service.

The practice has been a hot topic for many years, especially in Richmond, due to its Chinese population and proximity to Vancouver International Airport.

Earlier this week, the Richmond News’ parent company Glacier Media reported how birth tourism rates — which plummeted during the pandemic — are expected to spike again when the Chinese government lifts pandemic travel restrictions.

Between April 2021 and March 2022, B.C. hospitals recorded 110 non-residents of Canada who paid to give birth, based on data obtained from the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI). Last year, 194 such births were recorded.

However, in the year prior to the pandemic, a record 868 self-paying non-residents — the vast majority of whom are understood to be Chinese nationals on tourist visas — garnered automatic citizenship for their newborns.

Richmond Hospital has been, for many years, at the epicentre of the industry, with 502 non-resident births in 2019-2020.

And the so-called “birth hotels” in the city are not breaking any laws.

Source: Birth tourism dad from China suing B.C. hospital, doctors and ‘birth hotel’

Jamil Jivani sues Bell Media, alleging he was fired for not fitting ‘Black stereotype’

Interesting case to watch, given political dynamics at play (Jivani is the current President of The Canada Strong and Free Network, the former Manning Centre) and his lawyer is Kathryn Marshall, similarly on the right of the political spectrum.

Not sure how strong or effective case he has but as his lawyer tweeted, “I like a challenge” we shall see:

A former talk show host is suing Bell Media Inc. claiming he was fired as the media conglomerate’s only full-time Black talk radio host because his views didn’t match a stereotype the company expected from a Black man.

Jamil Jivani was dropped from the airwaves of Bell’s iHeartRadio network and fired in January. He claims it became clear he was hired as tokenism and fired as wokeism.

“There was an expectation that because he’s Black he should have been saying and doing certain things — because in Bell’s mind he was checking this token box, and when they realized they weren’t getting the kind of Black man they wanted, that’s when he was out the door,” said Jivani’s lawyer, Kathryn Marshall, a partner at Levitt Sheikh.

“They really wanted him to espouse a certain liberal worldview they thought he should be espousing as a member of the Black community.”

Jivani filed a lawsuit Thursday claiming breach of contract and wrongful dismissal.

The company denies the allegations.

“Bell Media does not comment on matters before the court. However, we can confirm that we will be defending ourselves against these false claims,” a Bell Media spokesperson told National Post.

Jivani, 34, of Oshawa, Ont., is a lawyer and author known for conservative views. He is a regular contributing columnist for Postmedia, including National Post.

His daily show on Newstalk 1010 in Toronto and other stations in the Bell radio network launched at the start of Black History Month in 2021, amid racial protest over the police killing of George Floyd. His show highlighted his experience and connections in the Black community.

“As news stories around Black Lives Matter and other racial issues faded from the news, Bell no longer had the same use for a Black employee. Tensions increased from Bell management when the Plaintiff would share his perspectives, views and beliefs,” he alleges in his statement of claim.

“It became clear that Bell had a rigid but unspoken vision for how Black people should fit into the company. Bell wanted the Plaintiff to be a token beholden to the company’s identity politics,” he alleges.

Jivani first appeared on Bell radio shows as a periodic guest before he hosted a show focusing on Black Lives Matter, on a trial basis in 2020, and as a fill-in host that same summer, his statement of claim says.

The next year he became full-time staff with a daily 7 to 10 p.m. show on Newstalk 1010 and several stations in Bell’s network.

“His first guests included the first Black Attorney General, Kaycee Madu, and the first Black championship CFL coach, Michael Pinball Clemons,” his statement of claim says.

“The plaintiff was excited to join one of Canada’s largest media companies and to share his views and perspectives, not just as a member of the Black community, but as a free-thinker and activist. Bell was excited to have the plaintiff on its programming, as he was a member of a racialized community and it was beneficial to them for both optics and content.

“Little did the Plaintiff know, Bell expected the Plaintiff to espouse only certain kinds of views — ones that fit a stereotype that Bell thought a member of the Black community should conform to,” he claims.

Jivani’s lawsuit alleges he was pressured by management to record a radio segment denouncing Canada as a racist country in the lead up to Canada Day. He declined.

“Bell was disappointed by his refusal to espouse a specific set of social and political views, and the company was disappointed that he did not fit the mold of a Black stereotype that they had expected him to,” his claim says.

He said his show included diverse voices including academics, authors, comedians, journalists, and athletes, including Toronto Raptors basketball star Fred VanVleet. Several guests were Black conservative commentators.

In late 2021, a manager told him there had been “complaints and concerns” about his show’s “divisive and contrarian topics,” his claim says. A note from a manager read: “I want to be sure we are reflecting the company’s strong commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, and that we are building passion in our audience and growing our ratings.”

A meeting was scheduled for the new year. When the meeting arrived, however, the agenda seemed to have shrunk.

He was told he was terminated as part of organizational changes; the manager then hung up, leaving him on the call with a human resources consultant, he claims.

Marshall called it “outrageous” that white media executives used diversity as a wedge to fire their only Black radio host.

ani’s claim seeks compensation of $42,500, the amount he was expecting to be paid over six months, additional damages of $500,000, and a declaration Bell Media breached its duty of good faith and honesty.

Bell Media calls itself “Canada’s leading content creation company” and “Canada’s largest radio broadcaster.” The company owns CTV and more than two dozen speciality TV channels.

The company’s personnel decisions have made headlines recently over its sudden and secret firing of Lisa LaFlamme, the CTV news anchor, which was greeted with anger and dismay.

LaFlamme’s messy termination prompted a wave of complaints from inside and outside the company and sparked international condemnation of perceived sexism and ageism. Her decision to allow her hair to grow out grey during the pandemic prior to her firing seized public attention.

In June, Danielle Graham, the former host of CTV’s flagship entertainment show, eTalk, sued Bell Media.

Graham claimed she was fired in retaliation for challenging gender discrimination against women at the company where she was skipped over for promotion, paid less, given fewer perks but more requests for free work than male colleagues.

Source: Jamil Jivani sues Bell Media, alleging he was fired for not fitting ‘Black stereotype’

Immigrants are suing the U.S. government over delays in citizenship process

Of note. Comparable delays as in Canada, although initial progress on reducing backlog. Canadian applications are stored in the IRCC Sydney processing centre (unless changed since my time), certainly more accessible than a cave in Kansas city:

A group of immigrants is suing the U.S. government, claiming that unreasonable delays have kept their citizenship applications on hold for years. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is the agency responsible for processing applications. But the recent lawsuit alleges that the agency moved a mass amount of applications to a storage facility at the beginning of the pandemic and never retrieved the documents, stalling the immigrants’ hopes of becoming U.S. citizens. Now that the agency is working at full capacity again, the applicants are demanding prioritization.

We wanted to know more about what’s going on here, so we called Kate Melloy Goettel. She is the legal director of litigation at the American Immigration Council, the legal nonprofit bringing this lawsuit on behalf of immigrants. Kate Melloy Goettel, welcome.


NADWORNY: So first, can you give us the background on filing this lawsuit?

MELLOY GOETTEL: Yeah. So we started hearing a couple of months ago that people were really frustrated that they had filed for naturalization about two years ago and that their applications were stuck. For a lot of people, they were looking towards November and want to be able to vote in the election then. Others just want to be a bigger, fuller member of U.S. society. And so they were getting frustrated that their applications were stuck, and they had learned that it was because their immigration files needed to be retrieved from the National Records Center that operates a limestone cave in the Kansas City area.

NADWORNY: So the crux is that the files are not in the place they need to be.


NADWORNY: And is that what the government is saying is the reason for these delays? Have they provided a response?

MELLOY GOETTEL: Well, so a lot of the applicants know through their attorneys that their immigration files need to be retrieved. Some of them have heard, in fact, that they’re at these National Archives cave in the Kansas City area, while others have just learned that they’re not moving forward because their immigration files are delayed, and they need those immigration files to go forward with scheduling the naturalization interview and then continuing with the sort of bureaucratic processes that have to happen before the final step of swearing the oath as a naturalized U.S. citizen.

NADWORNY: Can you tell me about some of the clients you represent?

MELLOY GOETTEL: One of the clients is Thomas Carter (ph). He’s filed suit because he’s very fearful that he and his husband could be separated if they don’t share the same citizenship. He also has an infant child, and I think that that has really encouraged him to want to have roots in the United States with his newly growing family. He’s also anxious to participate in the electoral process and to put down roots, so he’s one of the applicants who has been waiting since 2020 to be naturalized.

NADWORNY: What are you asking the court to do?

MELLOY GOETTEL: So we’re asking the court to tell the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as well as the National Archives to prioritize these naturalization applications and to go in there and try to get these applications out so that they can move forward with processing the applications. As you can imagine, there’s a number of steps and bureaucratic process that has to take place in order to approve someone for naturalization, and that process takes many months. And so we’re really down to the wire now to get people naturalized for November’s election.

NADWORNY: So some reports say that it can take up to 24 months to complete the naturalization process. I’m wondering, how is what’s happening here different than the wait times applicants typically experience?

MELLOY GOETTEL: Well, the wait times that USCIS has recently published have been around 11 months. But what we also know more anecdotally is we’re hearing many, many stories of people who filed after these 13 plaintiffs getting scheduled for their naturalization interviews and actually going forward and taking the naturalization oath. So we know that they’re not processing these in any sort of systematic line but rather that there are people who applied in 2020 who are just stuck because, frankly, their immigration files are stuck.

NADWORNY: Yeah, because these are stories, you know, that – they have implications for their family, for their life. You know, it’s…

MELLOY GOETTEL: That’s right.

NADWORNY: …This ripple effect. Your organization is representing 13 named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but how many are actually impacted here?

MELLOY GOETTEL: Well, we don’t know the exact number of how many are impacted, but I can tell you that since we filed our lawsuit, we have heard so many stories from individuals and from their attorneys that are stuck in the same position. So we do think this is a fairly widespread problem, and we’re hoping that, through this lawsuit, that we can really encourage the agency to prioritize naturalization and prioritize getting those files out and getting them scheduled.

NADWORNY: You’ve mentioned there is kind of a looming deadline. Your clients want to be able to vote in this year’s election this fall. Tell me about the timeline. Is that going to be possible?

MELLOY GOETTEL: With prioritizing naturalization applications, it totally could be possible. And what we want to point to is this administration, their own words and their own commitment to naturalization. In the early days of the Biden-Harris administration, they issued an executive order specifically calling out better processing of naturalization applications and, you know, talking about how important naturalization is. And so we really want them to live up to those words that they said in the early days of the administration and make this a priority. We think if it can be a priority, that that is a realistic timeline to get this done in the next six months.

NADWORNY: That was Kate Melloy Goettel. She is the legal director of litigation at the American Immigration Counsel. Kate, thank you so much for being with us.

Source: Immigrants are suing the U.S. government over delays in citizenship process

US-based academic faces lawsuit for research into Uighurs

Of note:

Companies in China’s Xinjiang province are said to have filed a domestic civil lawsuit against a high-profile United States-based academic whose research into the treatment of China’s Turkic minority Uighur population, including alleged forced labour, has angered the Chinese authorities. 

The reported lawsuit, which the Chinese government has said it supports, appears to be a new way to attempt to silence scholars and critics abroad, experts said.

Chinese official media said this week “a number of enterprises and individuals” in Xinjiang “have directed lawyers to sue German national Adrian Zenz”, the official Global Times newspaper and China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday without naming the companies or individuals. 

The companies and individuals are said to have filed a civil lawsuit with a local court in Xinjiang, demanding that Zenz apologise, restore their reputation and compensate them for their losses.

“Local people said that Zenz spread ‘forced labour’ and other rumours related to Xinjiang, which damaged their reputation and caused them to suffer economic losses,” official media said. 

Zenz, formerly from the European School of Culture and Theology in Korntal in Germany but now a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in the US, and other academics and journalists have written several hard-hitting reports since 2018 based on satellite imagery and official Chinese documents on the treatment of Uighurs, including documenting rights violations and the detention of up to a million Uighurs in huge camps in Xinjiang.

Mass internments in Xinjiang are believed to have begun in 2017. The Chinese government has repeatedly denied such reports, referring to the camps as “re-education centres”.

Sheena Greitens, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who has researched censorship and self-censorship among China academics at overseas universities, said “a lawsuit vs a researcher in a Chinese court is a new tactic” in China’s policing of the boundaries of academic research. 

Greitens said via Twitter that she was interested in who claims damages and how, “but [the] bigger issue is a potential deterrent effect on academic research”.

Forced labour

More than 570,000 Uighurs have been pressed into forced labour in Chinese cotton fields, which are a major supplier to the Western textiles industry, according to a research by Zenz published in December by the Washington-based think tank, the Center for Global Policy. Zenz said his research was based on Chinese official documents available online.

“Anybody who cares or who claims to have anything ethical in their business and supply chains has to divest,” Zenz said in December, referring to the textile industry’s sourcing of Xinjiang cotton. Xinjiang produces a third of China’s cotton.  

Zenz also published a report last week based on previously untranslated documents in Chinese including the so-called Nankai Report, written in 2019 by three academics at Nankai University’s China Institute of Wealth and Economics, including the institute’s dean. 

The Nankai Report is unprecedented in its details, according to Zenz, and implicitly reveals the impact of state coercion from the Nankai researchers’ own field work and surveys. The report talks about security guards accompanying the Uighur labourers, the labour recruitment quota set by the government, and other details in one document.

“The authors’ access to government information and relevant sites was privileged, far exceeding that which could be expected by regular academics,” Zenz noted. Zenz said his assessment on forced labour was supplemented by other reports from Chinese academics and former senior government officials.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative on 1 March said US President Joe Biden’s administration had made it a top priority to address the abuses of China’s forced labour programme targeting Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. 

The previous US administration of former president Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Chinese companies acquiring US technology, saying they were complicit in human rights violations against Uighurs in Xinjiang. Other sanctions were imposed on Chinese government officials and a major government department in Xinjiang. 

Chinese government supports legal action

In a 9 March press conference, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, indicated that the government supported the private legal action against Zenz. 

“Many companies and residents in Xinjiang suffered heavy economic losses after Zenz’s rumour of ‘forced labour’ came out of nowhere,” Zhao said, describing Zenz’s reports as “malicious smearing tactics”. China’s official media have frequently sought to discredit Zenz as a Christian “religious extremist” and “pseudo-researcher”.

“Their decision to seek legal redress against Zenz reflects a stronger awareness among the Chinese citizens to safeguard their rights through the law. We support this,” Zhao added. 

Zenz has said it “seems that the lawsuit threat is part of a well-prepared propaganda offensive”. 

He told the Washington Post newspaper this week: “It is the first admission that they really are suffering major economic losses” in China, adding that the lawsuit against him in China shows that US sanctions are beginning to bite.

Jurisdiction and arbitrary detention

Donald Clarke, a law professor specialising in Chinese law at the George Washington University Law School in the US, said in a blog post that jurisdiction for the lawsuit would first have to be established for any case involving Zenz, a foreigner living outside China with no connection to China. 

Since the lawsuit reportedly seeks damages, arguably it could only apply to Zenz’s assets in China, and he has none. But Clarke also raised important issues of arbitrary detention which could affect other academics. 

“People with their assets in the US do not, I think, need to be seriously concerned about this kind of lawsuit. They do, of course, need to be concerned about going to China, because they can be prevented from leaving the country until they pay off the judgment. But if they have already drawn the attention of the Chinese authorities to this extent, they shouldn’t be going in the first place, regardless of whether someone has sued them.

“Moreover, at least in this kind of case they’ll know they’re a target. You can be kept from leaving the country even before a judgment issues against you, merely because you have been sued. You might not even have received notice; the first time you find out is when you show up at the airport and can’t get on your plane.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proposed suit raised in Question Period

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EE - Disaggregated Data, Representation and PSES.010

EE - Disaggregated Data, Representation and PSES.013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Plaintiffs outline alleged mistreatment, exclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repeated calls for change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In court documents, Trudeau defends decision to call out Quebec heckler for ‘racism’

Interesting case. PM comments come across as reasonable and thoughtful:

In the wake of Justin Trudeau’s blackface scandal, his comments in a recent lawsuit give an illuminating insight into how the prime minister thinks about racism.

In August 2018, Trudeau made headlines when he called out a woman for “intolerance” and “racism” after she heckled him at a rally in Quebec and asked him about “illegal immigrants.”

That incident led to an ongoing lawsuit that has received little public attention since it was filed by the heckler last December. In July, Trudeau was questioned in Montreal as part of the lawsuit.

In the court documents, obtained by the National Post this week, Trudeau said he believed the intolerance had to be addressed clearly and also pointed to a particular brand of Quebec nationalism he found troubling.

In videos that circulated widely of the altercation — during a speech Trudeau gave to Liberal supporters at an event in Sabrevois, Que. — the prime minister can be seen telling the heckler that “this intolerance regarding immigrants does not have a place in Canada,” and later that “your racism has no place here.”

At the time, commentators and Conservative politicians were quick to accuse the prime minister of berating an elderly woman without justification, a narrative that changed somewhat after it was revealed that the woman, Diane Blain, had connections to far-right nationalist groups.

In December, Blain filed a defamation lawsuit against Trudeau, demanding $90,000 for psychological distress and damage to her reputation and her right to freedom of expression.

Trudeau’s defence argues that it was “perfectly legitimate” for the prime minister to “note the intolerance expressed by the terms used by Ms. Blain.”

During his examination, Trudeau told Blain’s lawyer the context of her comments made it clear she was intolerant. But he also said he doesn’t believe Blain was a racist, despite having accused her multiple times of racism.

At the event, Blain called out multiple times from the crowd, asking, “When will you give us back the $146 million that we paid for your illegal immigrants?” Her question was in reference to the Quebec government’s demand at the time to be reimbursed for costs incurred by the influx of asylum seekers entering Quebec at Roxham Road, between official entry points.

In examination, Trudeau said he didn’t initially understand Blain’s question, but realized what she was asking when he heard the words “your illegal immigrants.” He told Blain’s lawyer that the way she asked the question, referring to “your illegal immigrants,” proved it was not in good faith. “It was a context in which the goal was to disrupt and push an agenda that was either anti-immigrant or that simply wanted to spark fear and concern about immigrants,” he said. “So for me, it was important to respond firmly and clearly.”

He also said he felt it was necessary to speak out swiftly because the crowd was very diverse and many of his supporters at the event were immigrants.

He went on to discuss Quebecers’ concerns about asylum seekers at Roxham Road, saying there are “very reasonable people” who worry about illegal border crossings. “But there’s a point where it goes beyond concern and (becomes) a desire to preserve a historic Quebec identity against immigrants,” he said. “And unfortunately, it’s not something we hear often, but it’s common enough to be part of a pattern.”

At the August event, Blain asked Trudeau if he was tolerant of “Québécois de souche,” a term that refers to white Quebecers who are descendants of the original French colonists. He responded by saying he was tolerant of all perspectives and accused Blain of being intolerant. Later, when she confronted him again as he was moving through the crowd, he told her, “Your racism has no place here.”

Blain’s lawyer, Christian Lajoie, asked Trudeau during the examination about Quebec nationalism, after Trudeau said he didn’t like the term “Québécois de souche” because of its “connotations of intolerance.”

Trudeau referred to René Lévesque, the founder of the sovereigntist Parti Québécois, saying the former premier envisioned a “civic nationalism,” not one based on ethnicity. “I think a little bit for some people in recent years, we’ve been missing that desire to bring people together that Mr. Lévesque had,” he said.

Still, asked directly if he believes Blain is a racist, Trudeau said no. “I was speaking about her comments… that I associated with intolerance,” he said. “There’s a wave of thinking that has racist elements.”

In the days after the altercation, Trudeau stood by his response to Blain’s questions, telling reporters that “Canadians deserve to know that they have a prime minister that will always underline when these dangerous tactics are used in politics.” At the same time, media reports revealed that Blain had connections to far-right nationalist groups Storm Alliance and Front Patriotique du Québec and that she had once refused to be served by a Muslim woman at a dental clinic in Montreal.

In her lawsuit, Blain claims the event and subsequent media coverage caused “serious damage to her dignity, honour and reputation,” and that her family has been divided by the incident. She is asking for $90,000 in damages. She initially wanted an additional $5,000 for the pain caused by an RCMP officer grabbing her arm, but that has since been dropped. Blain did not respond to the Post’s request for an interview, and her lawyer declined to comment.

Trudeau’s defence claims that Blain came looking to confront him and his responses to her questions were reasonable under the circumstances. It points out that Blain identified herself as the woman in the videos after the fact, and has given several interviews about the incident. A spokesperson for Trudeau declined to comment.

During his examination, Trudeau indicated he believed his lawyer had approached Blain to try and reach a settlement. Blain recently told right-wing news site The Post Millennial, which has reported on the examination, that no settlement has been reached. According to court documents, preparation of the file will not proceed until November, after the Oct. 21 election.

Source: In court documents, Trudeau defends decision to call out Quebec heckler for ‘racism’

Federal government could face new lawsuit over family reunification program

A challenge for any government given the demand and the quest for balance between the economic, family and refugee classes:

The federal government is facing an angry backlash and the prospect of more legal action by Canadians trying to bring their parents or grandparents into the country.

Outraged applicants are considering their next steps after learning the government made a secret settlement with more than 70 litigants and granted them coveted spots to apply to sponsor their family members.

CBC News reported on the lawsuit resolution this week, which included a confidentiality clause barring the parties from publicly disclosing details. Legal actions were launched in Toronto and Vancouver after the new online application process went live on Jan. 28 — a process that left tens of thousands of people frustrated and furious because they couldn’t access the form or fill it out fast enough.

Shishir Shivhare, who has been trying unsuccessfully to sponsor his parents in India for seven years, is one of those now considering legal action. He said this year’s application process came down to how fast someone could type.

He said he thought that process was unfair — but he called the government’s move to quietly settle with some applicants “outrageous.”

“What I felt personally was shock,” he told CBC News. “Happy … for those people, but I felt it’s unfair and it felt like a third world country, where things can be manipulated and deals can be reached on something which was a government process.

“In a way, they invalidated their own January process, because if they’re reaching a deal with someone that means they admitted there was a flaw to it.”

This year, the federal government offered 20,000 spots for sponsoring parents or grandparents, and confirmed that more than 100,000 had attempted to access an online form to express interest. The online form opened Jan. 28 at noon ET, and closed less than nine minutes later.

Erind Shkurti, who has been trying to sponsor his mother from Albania for three years, was among those who lost out. He’s also considering legal action — not to “undo” the spots the 70 or so litigants received from the settlement, but to challenge what he called “conflicting and contradictory messaging and rationale” from the government.

He has written to his local MP,  Liberal Omar Alghabra, expressing concern about the settlement — noting the irony in the fact that the changes to the application process were designed to ensure people weren’t disadvantaged because of their geographic location, or because they couldn’t afford courier fees.

Frustration over ‘secrecy’

“It seems to me that what our government has done with this settlement is just state that being able to pay a few hundred dollars for a lawsuit can actually get you a spot in the program,” he wrote. “This is very frustrating to hear, especially with all the intended secrecy and justification behind it.”

NDP MP and immigration critic Jenny Kwan said her office has been on the phone non-stop recently with people outraged by the settlement. She said the fact the government offered a “side deal” proves its system is inherently flawed and unfair.

“With this side deal, the minister is effectively telling Canadians that you have to take the Liberal government to court to be treated fairly,” she said. ” And it shouldn’t have come to this. All the families want to do is be reunited with their loved ones. They should have a process available to them that is fair, and people should not have to go through such pain and anguish.”

Kwan said some people bought new computers or upgraded their internet connections to take their best shot at filling out the online form. They’re now angry the government tried to keep its “fix” under wraps.

‘Inappropriate, troubling’

Kwan said the government should lift the cap on the spots for family reunification. She said it’s a myth that parents and grandparents are a drain on the economy, since many bring financial assets and the ability to help with child care.

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the legal settlement is an admission the process was flawed and criticized the government for using entry to Canada as a legal bargaining chip.

“It’s not a prize to be given away. It’s not a settlement, and I find this very inappropriate and very troubling,” she said.

A government official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, said the government opted to settle the legal challenges because the number of applicants was relatively small, because they included plaintiffs with disabilities and because a court proceeding could have suspended the entire set of applications.

Plagued with problems

The parent and grandparent sponsorship program has been plagued with problems for years.

The Liberal government moved to a first-come, first-served online application system this year after scrapping a controversial lottery system for reuniting immigrant families. The lottery system was contentious, with critics claiming it essentially gambled with peoples’ lives.

The lottery process had replaced another first-in system which itself was unpopular because it led to a “mad rush” every January, with people lining up overnight at the doors of processing centres or paying placeholders to stand in line and deliver applications prepared by consultants or lawyers.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office said the government is committed to family reunification and will continue to listen to a variety of stakeholders to ensure it moves forward with the program in “a thoughtful and responsive way.”

“Any specific comment on the litigation would be inappropriate at this time,” reads a statement from Hussen’s office.

Source: Federal government could face new lawsuit over family reunification program

Passed over, bullied, mistaken for janitorial staff. Black women sue Ontario public service alleging systemic racism

A case to watch:

Two Black women employed by the Ontario public service (OPS) are suing their unions and the provincial government, alleging they suffered years of systemic racism and discrimination while their complaints were ignored, disbelieved or met with reprisals — and ultimately led to them being suspended or forced from the workplace.

In a statement of claim filed Feb. 25 with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Jean-Marie Dixon and Hentrose Nelson accuse the provincial government of allowing an organizational culture that “fosters racism, dysfunction, discrimination, harassment, racial bullying, and abuse of authority/power.”

“Anti-Black racism, and racism in general, along with white privilege and white supremacy, are pervasive and entrenched within the OPS,” they allege, referring to the government workforce of more than 65,000 public servants employed by ministries, agencies and Crown corporations. (According to a glossary in their lawsuit, they define white supremacy as a “racist belief that white people are superior,” which is “ever-present in our institutional and cultural assumptions” and confers structural advantages to white people.)

They further allege that despite ongoing efforts to seek help from senior management, “Black and racialized employees, particularly Black women, continue to be subjected to individual, systemic, and institutional racial discrimination and racial harassment.”

Their unions, meanwhile, have failed to adequately represent them because they are influenced by the same “culture of systemic and institutional anti-Black racism,” according to their statement of claim.

Dixon and Nelson’s legal action comes one year after they organized a meetingbetween several OPS employees and government officials that triggered a temporary halt on the suspension of racialized employees — a moratorium that was quietly lifted in July.

Their lawsuit also intends to challenge the way these kinds of allegations are handled in Canada. Many of their claims relate to issues covered by their collective bargaining agreements, but the “law is designed to keep these sorts of disputes … out of the courts and sent instead to expert labour and human rights tribunals,” says David Doorey, a labour and employment law professor with York University who is not involved with the lawsuit.

But Dixon and Nelson allege their many attempts to seek justice — including through their unions, internal workplace processes and the human rights tribunal — have been “ineffective” so their “only viable recourse” is through the courts.

“It’s been very, very traumatic,” Dixon said in an interview. “When you’ve worked so hard, as I’ve worked — I put myself through school, I got here on my own and on my own merit. And someone can take that from you.”

“No dollar amount could fix the irreparable damage,” Nelson said. “I think about how my life has been altered; I can’t get it back.”

The lawsuit’s allegations have not been tested in court and the respondents — the provincial government, Association of Law Officers of the Crown (ALOC), and Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees (AMAPCEO) — have yet to file statements of defence.

When reached by the Star, government spokesperson Craig Sumi with the cabinet office declined to comment on a matter subject to legal action but said “ending system (sic) racism” is a top priority.

“While the organization has made a lot of progress, we continue to hear that OPS programs and policies are not addressing the concerns of racialized employees, particularly Indigenous and Black employees,” Sumi said in an email. “The organization is committed to working with our employee networks to make significant progress toward building a more diverse, inclusive workplace where everyone feels comfortable and welcome and is able to fully contribute.”

Both unions named in the lawsuit said they take discrimination complaints “very seriously” and will continue to represent Dixon and Nelson, who remain members. But ALOC “strongly denies” allegations that it discriminated against Dixon and “will defend itself before the courts,” president Megan Peck wrote in an email.

“In representing Ms. Dixon, ALOC has always acted, and will continue to act in accordance with its legal responsibilities, which include the duty to represent Ms. Dixon without discrimination,” Peck said.

A spokesperson for AMAPCEO, Anthony Schein, declined to comment on Nelson’s case but said as a policy matter, the union’s view is that the OPS “continues to struggle with systemic discrimination.”

“For decades, AMAPCEO has been advocating for the OPS employer to end systemic discrimination within the OPS and promote equity in our members’ workplaces,” he wrote. “To this end, AMAPCEO ably responds to individual members’ situations through our dispute resolution process. We also push the employer to address systemic issues.”

In their 113-page statement of claim, Dixon and Nelson allege a pattern of anti-Black racism and harassment that followed them across departments and persisted throughout their public service careers.

Dixon and Nelson, both in their 40s, joined the OPS in 2002 and 2004, respectively. Dixon is a single mom and lawyer with the Ministry of the Attorney General whose office deals with seized property stemming from illegal activity. Nelson, a married mother of three, most recently worked for the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, where at one point she was “the only Black employee in an administrative role,” she writes in her claim.

Both women allege the racism they experienced took many forms, everything from bullying and micro-aggressions to racist comments, including from a white female manager who said she “feared” Black women and a colleague who complained about the “face” of the office changing after racialized women were newly hired.

Despite being diligent employees, they were denied professional opportunities, over-scrutinized and subjected to “anti-Black stereotypes and tropes,” according to their claim. Nelson, whose most senior role involved financial reporting and budget management, alleges she was once mistaken for janitorial staff and routinely given “office housework” that wasn’t assigned to non-Black staff — for example, cleaning a dirty basement storage room, or ordering taxi chits and monitoring print supplies, “while a white woman, junior to Hentrose, assumed more meaningful responsibilities.”

Dixon alleges she was also treated with unnecessary suspicion (for example, she was not trusted to maintain custody of valuable credit cards that had been seized for a case she was working on) and “unwarrantedly” labelled as “loud,” “rude” and “aggressive.” At one point, according to her claim, another Black lawyer told Dixon her office colleagues were “organizing or orchestrating acts of discrimination and harassment against her” and told him to “participate in marginalizing Jean-Marie or he would receive the same negative treatment.”

Both women sought help from managers, filed complaints with an internal workplace discrimination program, and grieved through their unions. But according to the claim, none of these measures were effective and speaking up only made matters worse.

Nelson alleges that “as a result of anti-Black racism,” she was demoted to a junior position in 2015 and ultimately forced from the workplace by “mobbing, harassment, discrimination, hostility and ongoing mistreatment.” According to her claim, she also became critically ill in 2011 and delivered her baby prematurely at six months.

Dixon alleges her complaints of anti-Black racism were interpreted as “reverse racism” against Caucasian people and caused her displacement across four ministries. According to her claim, managers eventually “engaged in reprisal” by initiating a workplace complaint against her on behalf of staff who “made false allegations” about her conduct — a complaint that led to her suspension in 2016.

Neither have since returned to work. Nelson is currently on an unpaid leave of absence and Dixon, despite being reinstated in October 2017, says she has been unable to return to work due to a workplace-induced disability. She is still being paid, however.

Both women allege they are now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, loss of income and other harms, and are seeking $26 million in damages, along with several public interest remedies.

When reached by email, their lawyer Ranjan Agarwal with the firm Bennett Jones, declined to comment on active litigation.

In recent years, OPS leadership has acknowledged the equity challenges within its own ranks, where racialized workers comprise 23 per cent of the workforce but only 17 per cent of directors, 12 per cent of assistant or associate deputy ministers, and 9 per cent of deputy ministers, according to a 2017 “diversity and inclusion” report. “To create an equitable OPS, we need to recognize that there are systemic racism barriers that prevent people from reaching their full potential,” the OPS stated in its anti-racism policy, released last year under then-secretary of cabinet Steve Orsini, who retired in January.

The anti-racism policy found that 23 per cent of Indigenous employees and 25 per cent of Black employees reported experiencing discrimination, compared to just 13 per cent of the general OPS population. Employee survey results have pointed to systemic issues as well and in 2017, Black employees reported discrimination at nearly twice the rate of OPS employees generally. Last year, according to more than 3,600 survey respondents, race was the leading cause of discrimination next to age.

A Star analysis of data obtained through freedom of information legislation also shows that provincial ministries were named in at least 136 complaints filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario between mid-2008 and 2017, where someone alleged employment discrimination based on race, ancestry, colour, ethnic origin or place of origin. These accounted for roughly a quarter of all employment-related human rights complaints filed against the Ontario government during this time period.

Black employees have been particularly vocal in raising concerns through various forums, including town hall meetings organized by the Black Ontario Public Service Employees Network. On Jan. 18, 2018, more than 20 Black employees, including Dixon and Nelson, also confronted government officials face-to-face, including Liberal MPP Michael Coteau, who was then leading Ontario’s anti-racism directorate.

During the emotional meeting, the group of mostly Black women described experiencing racism on the job and being systematically passed over for opportunities. They said their concerns were ignored or mishandled by senior managers and, in many cases, led to their own suspensions or firings.

“These people that are putting us through this … none of them are ever demoted. We are fired,” one woman said in a video of the meeting posted online. “There’s a lot of Black people in the same position as I am, where they have ambition and they want to be promoted, and they’re not promoted at the same levels as our white counterparts.”

At the meeting, the group demanded a moratorium on the suspension of racialized employees — which was publicly announced the following day by Orsini. Behind the scenes, his office also emailed government ministries to request a list of cases where “someone we presume to be a racialized employee is suspended or off work,” according to internal documents obtained through a freedom of information request. About a week later, 52 cases had been identified.

Sumi said the moratorium allowed the government’s Public Service Commission to “assess the scope of the issue” while providing a central mechanism to assess new cases involving possible suspensions. It was formally lifted on July 27, 2018 after the government completed its review, he said.

In their statement of claim, Dixon and Nelson point to numerous reports, surveys and investigations that suggest the government’s efforts to address systemic racism within the OPS have “proven futile.”

Among them is a confidential 2017 report leaked to the Star, which described a “toxic” work culture within the Ministry of the Attorney General’s civil law division, where Dixon’s office is based. According to Leslie Macleod, a lawyer and former bureaucrat hired by the government to conduct the report, racialized staff within the division reported being marginalized, over-scrutinized, and “perceived and treated as less able than their white counterparts.”

Some racialized staff were told they “got in” because of their race and people felt “unsafe and targeted by colleagues and insufficiently supported by management,” Macleod found. Racialized women felt particularly disadvantaged, she added.

“It was said that when racialized women do get good files, there is an undercurrent of ‘why is she getting good files?’ — something that is not questioned when a senior white male is assigned a high profile case,” Macleod wrote.

In November, the government also publicly released an external review of the government’s workplace discrimination and harassment prevention (WDHP) policy and program “through an anti-racism lens.”

The program is meant to resolve cases of workplace discrimination within the OPS but in their statement of claim, Dixon and Nelson — both of whom launched WDHP complaints — criticized such internal processes as “ineffective in addressing racism.” Lawyer Arlene Huggins, who was hired to conduct the external review, said the government triggered the probe because of its “strong perception” the WDHP program was actually “exacerbating or perpetuating the challenges” of employees struggling with racism.

For her final report, Huggins examined 72 cases and related files; she also chose 13 cases for closer examination, which primarily involved Black women with “significant years of service.” She said employees reported several issues, including WDHP advisers who did not seem to understand the program, lacked training in unconscious bias and anti-Black racism, or pressured employees into excluding important details from their complaints. Some people said they were “yelled at, interrogated and treated like a criminal,” according to Huggins’ report.

Employees also described negative experiences that were “particular to them being Black women,” Huggins wrote; for example, labelled “argumentative, difficult and unco-operative” when they articulated career goals, accused of playing the race card when they complained about unfair treatment, and perceived as ineffective managers.

The WDHP policy does not apply to systemic barriers, yet those barriers played a “material role” in these WDHP complaints, Huggins concluded. Participants she interviewed complained of an “inherent and unconscious bias and anti-Black (or anti-racialized) animus.”

“One complainant with almost 20 years experience reported 58 unsuccessful (job) competitions since 2008,” she said.

In their lawsuit, Dixon and Nelson write that the provincial government is one of Canada’s largest employers, “entrusted with extraordinary power and influence that affect and impact the lives of all Ontarians,” so its actions are particularly consequential.

“Racism is a public health emergency,” they write. “But based on the actual and lived experiences of Black people, there is much skepticism about the commitment or ability of current institutions to address systemic and structural anti-Black racism in Canada.”

Source: Passed over, bullied, mistaken for janitorial staff. Black women sue Ontario public service alleging systemic racism