Damning senate report of anti-Black racism at the Canadian Human Rights Commission: Unions react
Thursday, December 14, 2023
On Monday, December 11, 2023, the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights (RIDR) released its report on anti-Black racism at the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). The RIDR undertook the study last Spring after three bargaining agents —the Association of Justice Counsel (AJC), the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) —jointly filed policy grievances with Treasury Board to address systemic anti-Black racism and anti-Black sexism.
On March 6, 2023, the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) rendered its decision and found that discrimination and systemic racism occurred at the CHRC and invited the parties to engage in mediation to seek a meaningful resolution.
The Senate report re-affirms and recognizes that discrimination and systemic anti-Black racism occurred at the CHRC and makes 11 recommendations to address the problems at the CHRC and to meaningfully confront the broader issue of systemic racism across the federal public service.
The RIDR further agreed with unions that the CHRC must do more to change its workplace culture and practices to regain the trust of its own Black and racialized employees, as well as the trust of communities that rely upon it for justice.
“Anti-Black racism and other forms of systemic discrimination are unacceptable in any institution. The committee was therefore concerned to hear that anti-Black racism is pervasive in the federal public service and was particularly troubled by its presence within the CHRC, a body designed to be a watchdog for human rights. People who have experienced discrimination deserve a human rights system that is fair, timely, and effective. The CHRC has fallen short of that standard.” – Anti-Black Racism, Sexism and Systemic Discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Commission report, page 43
Many of the recommendations – including more mandatory anti-racism training for all federal public service workers and stronger recourse under Canada’s human rights system for victims of discrimination – echo what the Black Class Action and unions have been calling for as long-overdue changes.
This report further strengthens our resolve to eliminate racial discrimination in the workplace by pushing for fundamental systemic change at the CHRC, and by taking active steps to advocate for the elimination of systemic barriers in every workplace our members are present.
We recognize and are inspired by the courage, resilience and professionalism of our affected members in bringing these concerns forward despite significant risks to their careers as well as to their health and wellbeing, and that of their families.
On December 5 and 6, 2023, unions and the employer commenced two days of mediation with the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (FPSLREB), with further dates to be scheduled in early 2024.
All three unions urge parliament to adopt the report and its recommendations and calls on the Government of Canada to implement all necessary changes without delay.
On October 19, 2020, the Bargaining Agents presented a joint policy grievance in support of Black and racialized employees who have, and continue to experience systemic anti-Black racism, anti-Black sexism and systemic discrimination.
On March 6, 2023, the Treasury Board Secretariat issued its decision finding that the “CHRC has breached the “No Discrimination” clause of the LP collective agreement, namely, article 36.”
Article 36 of the collective agreement stipulates:
36.01 There shall be no discrimination, interference, restriction, coercion, harassment, intimidation, or any disciplinary action exercised or practiced with respect to a lawyer by reason of age, race, creed, colour, national or ethnic origin, religious affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, family status, mental or physical disability, membership or activity in the Association, marital status or a conviction for which a pardon has been granted.
In light of its findings of discrimination, TBS encouraged “the parties to engage in mediation to seek a meaningful resolution to the issues outlined in the policy grievance.”