Two Black public employees sue Ontario government and unions over alleged racism


 

By Lincoln DePradine

Jean-Marie Dixon               Hentrose Nelson

The Ontario government and a couple of labour organizations have been named in a $26 million lawsuit filed by two Black women, who allege that as provincial public employees they have been victims of anti-Black racism and harassment.

Jean-Marie Dixon and Hentrose Nelson claim that “anti-Black racism, and racism in general, along with white privilege and white supremacy, are pervasive and entrenched’’ inside the Ontario Public Service (OPS).

“I’ve had highly negative and traumatic experiences,’’ Nelson said at a Toronto news conference on the steps of Osgoode Hall.

Nelson, a senior administrator at the ministry of citizenship and immigration, related being asked by a manager to perform “office housework’’ and being mistaken for a member of the janitorial staff.

“It’s been very, very traumatic,” said Dixon, a lawyer with the ministry of the attorney general.

The OPS job site, Dixon charged, is a “toxic, poisoned work environment’’, where she was made to feel that she was “in a space that did not belong to Black people, Black women’’.

The 113-page statement of claim, filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, not only names the provincial government as a respondent, but also accuses two public sector unions – the Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees (AMAPCEO) and the Association of Law Officers of the Crown (ALOC) – of doing nothing to help Dixon and Nelson. The accusations in the statement of claim have not been proven in court.

Neither ALOC nor AMAPCEO has commented directly on the claim, but both said they continue to represent the two women in their grievances with the OPS.

Dixon and Nelson, who accuse the Ontario government of allowing an organizational culture that “fosters racism, dysfunction, discrimination, harassment, racial bullying, and abuse of authority/power’’, say they now are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and loss of income. Dixon is on paid disability leave and Nelson is on an unpaid leave of absence.

Dixon said there are others who have suffered as she and Nelson have, but “they are afraid to speak out’’.