Black Class Action Secretariat expressing sharp disapproval of new Canadian Heritage hire for multiculturalism, anti-racism

Suspect this is driven as much by the need to keep the organization and its issues in the public spotlight as substantive concerns. Not a political appointee unlike Amira Elghawaby, the special representative on combatting Islamophobia:

An organization working to eliminate systemic discrimination in Canada’s public service is concerned about a new hire for the Department of Canadian Heritage’s acting director general of multiculturalism and anti-racism.

Melanie Mohammed, a former leadership member at the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), took on the job at Canadian Heritage in April.

The Black Class Action Secretariat (BCAS) is expressing sharp disapproval of the decision to appoint Mohammed to the role, as the CHRC was recently found to have discriminated against its Black and racialized employees.

Mohammed’s hiring came less than a month after Treasury Board made a ruling that the CHRC, the mandate of which is to deal with complaints of discrimination, had itself breached the “no discrimination” clause of a collective agreement between the Treasury Board and the Association of Justice Counsel, the bargaining agent for approximately 2,600 lawyers employed by the government.

BCAS executive director Nicholas Marcus Thompson said last month that the appointment of Mohammed, who was the CHRC’s chief of staff, is “disturbing” and “reckless” as it sends a message to Canadians that there is no accountability or consequence for discrimination.

“If the government has moved an employee from an organization that was deemed to be discriminatory to now an even bigger organization to address anti-racism, it’s not only hypocritical, but it’s a farce,” Thompson said. “There’s zero credibility in this type of leadership.”

The role of the director general of multiculturalism and anti-racism is not only to provide funding to organizations led by Black and racialized people but to address racism and hate through federal multiculturalism and anti-racism strategies, including Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy and the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat.

“Employees report being harassed and facing retaliation from Ms. Mohammed after speaking up,” a statement from BCAS stated. “Therefore, it is completely unacceptable for the Government of Canada to appoint this individual as Director General of anti-racism for the entire government.”

This newspaper reached out to Mohammed, who declined to comment on the matter via her lawyer.

Dominique Collin, a spokesperson for Canadian Heritage, said in an email statement last month that the department was taking BCAS’ statement “very seriously” and was looking into the organization’s concerns.

“We remain committed to improving the experiences of Black public servants, but while progress is being made, we know there is still more to do to make our workplaces inclusive and equitable for all equity-seeking employees,” Collin said.

Canadian Heritage confirmed Monday that Mohammed remains in the position.

Thompson added last month that he’d like to see the prime minister take ownership of the issue, and re-affirmed his concern about the lack of accountability within the government in an address to the Senate last week regarding anti-Black racism, sexism and systemic discrimination in the CHRC.

“We have this vicious cycle within the federal public service where there’s no accountability, wrongdoers are often either transferred when it comes to discrimination or promoted,” Thompson told the Senate.

In its statement, BCAS called on the government to rescind Mohammed’s appointment and issue an apology. The group also urged the feds to appoint someone with no connection to CHRC’s leadership and who has demonstrated “an understanding of systemic anti-Black racism.”

BCAS said the appointment also speaks to the “urgent need” to transfer the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat to the Privy Council Office in order for it to have independence and power to implement its mandate.

The organization also called for Mohammed’s appointment to the Federal Executive Leadership Development Program to be revoked and said it would like to see the government mandate that senior Canadian Heritage executives undergo anti-Black racism training and meet with Black employees and address their concerns within the department.

“This appointment is completely counter to the government’s promise and commitment to create a diverse and inclusive workspace that is free from discrimination and harassment,” Thompson said.

Source: Black Class Action Secretariat expressing sharp disapproval of new Canadian Heritage hire for multiculturalism, anti-racism