(Ottawa) The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has found a practice of discrimination against workers in a Canadian institution specifically designed to eradicate it.
The agency discovered last week that the Canadian Human Rights Commission, whose mandate is to protect the fundamental principle of equal opportunity, has discriminated against black and racialized employees.
A ruling dated March 6, obtained by The Canadian Press, says the commission violated the “non-discrimination” article of its collective agreement with three major public service unions.
“I encourage the parties to participate in mediation to find a meaningful resolution to the issues outlined in this policy grievance,” Carole Bidal, associate assistant deputy minister at the agency, said in her decision.
“As federal institutions, we seek to create a workplace that is diverse and inclusive, and where every public servant can make the best possible contribution to serving Canadians. »
The Association of Justice Counsel (AJC) said in a statement that the decision is an “important step for members” and will have implications across the federal public service.
The union, which represents government lawyers, had filed policy grievances in 2020, working with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Canadian Association of Professional Employees.
The grievances alleged that the “policies, procedures, practices and attitudes” negatively impact black and racialized people and constitute “barriers to their advancement, health, safety and general well-being”.
In a press release, the lawyers’ union said it was unhappy with the commission’s response when employees told management about their experiences after the commission made a public statement supporting the Black Lives Movement. Matter.
“We have tried to work together with the commission to help it improve the workplace and regain the trust of its black and racialized staff,” the association said in a press release Thursday.
But the commission responded by “conducting unilateral, non-inclusive investigations involving external third parties, without fully consulting employees or their bargaining agents,” she said.
“Racism has absolutely no place in our institutions,” Justice Minister David Lametti said in a statement, adding that the information from the grievances is “both concerning and disappointing, not least because of the institution involved”.
Mr. Lametti noted that the position of chief commissioner is currently vacant and said: “We are working to appoint new leaders. »
He said he had a “frank conversation” with current leaders to discuss the steps the institution is taking to address the issue.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission said in an email late Thursday that it has an updated action plan to address the effects of systemic racism and discrimination in society as an employer, service provider and regulator, and human rights advocate.
“As an employer, we are committed to creating an open, healthy, safe and inclusive workplace that is grounded in the principles of anti-racism and equity,” the commission said.
“We value and respect the diversity of our commissioners, leaders and staff. We are aware of the various historical and structural inequalities that have created societal barriers for Indigenous, Black and other racialized people.
“We are committed to ensuring that anti-racism and equity measures continue to promote the full participation of our diverse workforce. »
The decision of M.me Bidal said the board has already taken “proactive steps to address these issues” and indicated its interest in working with bargaining agents and employees to find a solution. She did not detail the actions taken by the commission.
The lawyers’ union said Thursday that in light of the Treasury Board decision, it hopes commission leaders will now join calls for a formal audit. He had written to parliamentarians and the federal auditor general with such a request in 2021.
The union added that following the Treasury Board decision, it is “examining its options” in consultation with its members and bargaining agents.
The Treasury Board Secretariat said in a statement that it is “committed to ensuring access to a robust grievance process that addresses issues as they arise.”
He said he “remains available, at the request of the parties, to support the parties as they continue to work towards achieving a workplace free from harassment and discrimination.”