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 says the Canadian Human Rights Commission, whose mandate is to protect the core principle of equal opportunity, discriminated against Black and racialized employees.
It says 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 calls the March 6 decision an important win, and one that will have consequences across the federal public service.
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.
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.
“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 Association of Justice Counsel said in a press release on Thursday.
“While the CHRC previously declined our invitation to join us in the request for an audit, we hope that in light of the (Treasury Board Secretariat) findings, that they will take all the necessary steps to regain the trust not only of Black and racialized Canadians, but of all Canadians.”
The union said that following the Treasury Board decision, it is “considering its options” in consultation with its members and sister bargaining agents.