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

‘Be an ally’: Black public servants facing ‘trauma’ amid class action, says organizer

Thompson is an effective communicator and advocate.

Unfortunately, the employment equity data for the public service does not indicate that Black public servants representation are disproportionately under-represented at the EX and other levels compared  to other visible minorities for the most part.

However, the public service employee survey does show higher perceptions of discrimination than most other visible minority groups.

One of the organizers behind the class action lawsuit filed against the federal government by Black public servants says he wants Canadians learning about the experiences of claimants in the case to “be an ally” amid a process that is causing “trauma” for those involved.

In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Nicholas Marcus Thompson said the government is “speaking from both sides of its mouth” when it comes to squaring the treatment of claimants in the lawsuit in court with the comments officials make publicly about dismantling racism.

“They’re saying one thing publicly and they’re fighting Black workers in court,” he said, adding federal lawyers keep bringing forward motions “to delay the case.”

“The government has fully acknowledged that this issue exists in all of its institutions and that the pain and damage that it causes is real. And then it shows up in court fighting Black workers, forcing Black workers to recount the trauma that they’ve endured at the hands of the government for decades.”

The class action lawsuit filed last year alleges systemic discrimination by the government when it comes to hiring and promotional decisions in the federal public service, dating back decades.

Plaintiffs in the case are seeking $2.5 billion in compensation for lost income, opportunities, and lost pension values as a result of systemic discrimination that prevented qualified Black public servants from being promoted into higher paying and more senior jobs.

Federal public service pensions are calculated based on the averages of an individual’s highest earning years, meaning those who get paid less throughout their careers get smaller pensions when they retire.

“There has been a de facto practice of Black employee exclusion from hiring and promotion throughout the Public Service because of the permeation of systemic discrimination through Canada’s institutional structures,” the statement of claim says.

The statement of claim also says that equity measures taken to date have “merely masked the increasing disparity, exclusion and marginalization of Black Canadians” from equal opportunities in the public service, and that there remains a “pernicious” underrepresentation in the upper ranks.

Thompson said he wants to see the government come to the table and commit to working towards the solutions that plaintiffs say would help fix the problem, and to make legislative changes to the Employment Equity Act as well.

“We’re seeking to create a separate and distinct category for Black workers under the legislation to ensure that Black workers are not left behind when it comes to hiring and promotional opportunities,” he said. Thompson also added there needs to be a commission formed to track concrete progress on preventing future discrimination.

“Black people want to fully participate and they’re being denied that opportunity at the highest level and the largest employer in Canada,” he said.

“So listen to us. Be an ally and let’s work together because we want to make Canada a better place and to fully participate in Canada.”

Source: ‘Be an ally’: Black public servants facing ‘trauma’ amid class action, says organizer