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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proposed suit raised in Question Period

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addressing systemic racism played large role in Throne Speech 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Rare’ for speeches to have hard timelines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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