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Black Class Action Secures Major Victory for Workers

Updated: Dec 16, 2023


L-R Alain Babineau, Bernadeth Betchi and Nicholas Marcus Thompson at the United Nations HQ, New York, May 2023.
L-R Alain Babineau, Bernadeth Betchi, and Nicholas Marcus Thompson advocating for Black workers at the United Nations HQ in New York. May 2023.

OTTAWA, December 14, 2023 – In a monumental step forward for equity and inclusion in Canada, the Black class action lawsuit, and the work of the Black Class Action Secretariat (BCAS) have achieved a significant victory. The Government of Canada announced that it will recognize Black people as an employment equity group in the Employment Equity Act, accepting the recommendations from the Employment Equity Act Task Force Report, chaired by Professor Adelle Blackett. This victory represents a significant milestone for the entire nation, as it aligns with Canada's commitment to justice and equity.

 

Since its creation in 1986, the Act has aimed to promote equal employment opportunities for Indigenous Peoples, Women, Visible Minorities, and People with Disabilities. However, Black individuals have been consistently excluded from employment opportunities within the 'visible minorities' category, facing ongoing systemic anti-Black racism and discrimination. The Blackett Report proposes measures to ensure substantive equality for all underrepresented groups, including the creation of a new equity group for 2SLGBTQI+ people.

 

In December 2020, Black federal workers filed a landmark class action against the federal public service, challenging the constitutionality of the Employment Equity Act. They pointed out its failure to recognize and protect Black employees' rights under the Charter of Rights. At the same time, the BCAS advocated for distinct recognition of Black people, leading the government to set up the task force in July 2021.

 

While celebrating today's victory, the BCAS acknowledges the ongoing journey towards justice and equity. Committed to advocating for all Canadians, the Secretariat aims to build a Canada rooted in justice and equity. We acknowledge the many organizations and individuals who have been advocating for change long before we have. The class action continues, focusing on dismantling barriers for Black workers and addressing the historical injustices that have affected Black federal public service workers and their families. This effort is key to correcting systemic discrimination faced by generations of these workers.


Quotes:

 

 “Today we celebrate this historic accomplishment, which paves the path for Black Canadians to receive the full protection and benefits of the Employment Equity Act. I thank the legal team, the thousands of class members, and many organizations including Amnesty International, Michaëlle Jean Foundation, African Nova Scotian Justice Institute and labor unions: CLC, PIPSC, PSAC, NUPGE who have stood with us on this historic journey. We express our profound gratitude to the Government and to Professor Blackett and the other members of the Task Force for their unwavering dedication to ensuring that no one is left behind.Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Executive Director of the Black Class Action Secretariat

 

This announcement is a victory for Black people who endured discrimination for years and courageously advocated for change. Black women in particular have experienced the highest rates of racial discrimination and can now thank Dr. Blackett, a Black woman herself, for righting the wrongs of the Federal Public Service. We commend the government for implementing her recommendations and urge the House to legislate these new measures without further delay.” Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

 

“This moment is historic and long overdue. History will once again record the power of possibility when voices for human rights unite - millions of Canadians will benefit. This policy makes Canada stronger, ensuring that all Canadians can realize their full potential.” Tyler Boyce, Executive Director, The Enchanté Network

 

Background:

The Black Class Action Secretariat is a non-profit organization under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, with a mandate to combat systemic anti-Black racism and discrimination.

 

For further information, contact:

 

Black Class Action Secretariat:

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