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Discrimination found at human rights body: union

Darpan News Desk The Canadian Press, 16 Mar, 2023 03:48 PM
  • Discrimination found at human rights body: union

OTTAWA — A union representing public service lawyers says the government has found there was discrimination and systemic racism in an institution specifically designed to root it out.

The Association of Justice Counsel said Thursday that the Canadian Human Rights Commission, whose mandate is to protect the core principle of equal opportunity, discriminated against Black and racialized employees.

It said the Treasury Board Secretariat found the commission breached the "no discrimination" clause in its collective agreement, and has invited parties to engage in a mediation process to seek a meaningful resolution. 

The union is calling the March 6 decision an important win, and one that will have consequences across the federal public service.

"Racism has absolutely no place in our institutions," Justice Minister David Lametti said in a statement, adding that the information arising out of the grievance is "both concerning and disappointing, not least because of the institution involved."

The union had filed grievances with the Treasury Board in 2020, alleging that policies, procedures, practices and attitudes had a negative impact on Black and racialized people and were barriers to their advancement, health, safety and well-being. 

It did so because it was dissatisfied with the commission's response when employees told management about their experiences after the commission made a public statement supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. 

"We attempted to work with the commission to help improve the workplace and help the commission regain the trust of its racialized and Black employees," the justice counsel association said in a press release on Thursday.

But the commission responded by "conducting a unilateral, non-inclusive investigative processes involving outside parties without fully consulting with employees or their bargaining agents," it said.

In 2021, the union also wrote to parliamentarians and the federal auditor general, saying that a formal audit of the Human Rights Commission could help the institution rebuild trust.

The union said it now hopes that in light of the Treasury Board's decision, the commission's leadership will join the calls for an audit, along with taking other steps. 

"If the CHRC is to maintain the trust and confidence of Canadians to protect them from systemic racism, then it must first look inwards and reform its internal practices," the press release said.

The union added that following the Treasury Board decision, it is "considering its options" in consultation with its members and sister bargaining agents. 

In his statement, Lametti noted that the chief commissioner's position is currently vacant and said "we are working to appoint new leadership." 

He said he had a "frank conversation" with the current leadership to discuss the steps the institution is taking to address the issue.

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