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BCAS Responds to Government's Announcement on Support for Black Public Service Employees

BCAS Executive Director Nicholas Marcus Thompson and Director of Advocacy Alain Babineau at a press conference in Ottawa.
BCAS Executive Director Nicholas Marcus Thompson and Director of Advocacy Alain Babineau at a press conference in Ottawa. Photo by Blair Gable

OTTAWA, February 21, 2024 – The Black Class Action Secretariat (BCAS) acknowledges the government's recent initiative aimed at supporting Black employees. Despite these steps toward addressing systemic racism within the Public Service of Canada, significant concerns remain that may hinder the success of these initiatives.

The allocated $5.9 million for the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is insufficient, given the extensive needs highlighted by the Thompson class action lawsuit and the government's unmet promises since 2021 to provide mental health support for Black employees. The creation of a Black mental health program in response to the lawsuit emphasizes the critical demand for culturally-sensitive services. Yet, the government's denial of discrimination in the lawsuit contrasts its actions, as evidenced by the dismissal motions of Black employees raising racism concerns and the expenditure of over $10 million on litigation. We urge the government to settle the lawsuit and sincerely tackle racism and discrimination in the public service.

In January 2023, during an initial phase of the mental health program, Black employees at the Treasury Board Secretariat were dismissed after raising concerns about anti-Black racism in the program. The Government of Canada must demonstrate accountability and transparency in its efforts to address systemic anti-Black racism and discrimination within the public service. The current approach to the mental health program's implementation, marked by a lack of senior Black executives in leadership positions and the omission of consultations with Black employee networks and labour unions, indicates a broader issue of systemic discrimination.

Furthermore, the obscured details about the task force leading the Action Plan for Black Public Service Employees, reportedly led by a non-Black individual, raise concerns about its capacity to address the unique challenges faced by Black public employees effectively. We urge the government to establish a well-supported Black Equity Branch committed to combating anti-Black racism in the public service, to reassess the task force's leadership, meaningfully consult with Black employee networks, labour unions and to increase funding for the mental health program to ensure it meets the needs of Black public service employees.

BCAS is committed to working with the government to ensure that these initiatives not only meet the expectations of Black public service employees but also address the deep-seated issues of racial trauma and systemic discrimination.

About BCAS:

The Black Class Action Secretariat is a nonprofit organization advocating for the rights of Black public service employees in Canada. It seeks justice and systemic changes to eliminate racism and discrimination within public services, supporting a $2.5 billion class action against the federal public service of Canada for decades of anti-Black discrimination.


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