Black History Month is an annual celebration of the achievements and contributions of Black People in our communities and in our history. Did you know that in its early days, Black History Month also served as a political strategy? The goal was for Black People to be seen and treated as equal to other citizens. With equality achieved, Black History Month would no longer be necessary. Today, it's clear that there’s a lot more work to be done in order to achieve that goal.
As a public sector union representing a diverse set of members, we need to uplift, support, and celebrate our Black peers. We also must reflect on how racism continues to show up and influence how Black People are treated in the workplace. The fact is that racism is still rampant, and we shouldn’t pretend that it isn’t. The fight against discrimination and unfair treatment in the workplace continues.
For Black History Month, we’re highlighting the work of the dedicated activists of the Black Class Action Secretariat (BCAS). They’re doing incredible work to address and rectify the issues of systematic discrimination against Black People in the federal public service. We’re witnessing Black history in the making.
Black Class Action Secretariat
The Black Class Action Secretariat (BCAS) is a non-profit organization committed to combating anti-Black racism and discrimination in Canada. The organization originated from the Black Class Action Lawsuit filed in 2020 against the federal public service on behalf of 45,000 Black federal public service professionals. This lawsuit came from decades of Black workers having to navigate the systemic challenges of breaking into public sector jobs and getting the promotions they deserve.
The BCAS has become a beacon of hope – not only in reshaping the standard of equity in the federal government but also in getting justice for public servants who have suffered racism in the federal workplace. With exceptional leaders, such as Executive Director of the BCAS, Nicholas Marcus Thompson, the organization is leading the way to the changes that we need to see in the federal public service. The lawsuit is still ongoing, and we have already seen the fruits of its labour. Here are some of the significant changes brought to the federal public service as a direct result of the Black Class Action Lawsuit:
- We saw a modernization of the language used in the Employment Equity Act. Black People are now recognized as their own equity group, separate from visible minorities. This is a huge win for Black public service professionals because it acknowledges the unique challenges that Black People face in the workplace.
- We also saw the BCAS shed a bright, international light on the issue of systemic anti-Black racism and discrimination in the federal public service. They submitted an official complaint to the UN on the human rights violations of Black federal public service professionals in Canada. This action helped to hold the Government of Canada accountable and increased the pressure on them to settle this lawsuit.
- In the fall of 2023, we saw the government announce a new panel to develop a Restorative Engagement Program. The goal of this panel is to foster a diverse and inclusive public service that is free of workplace discrimination and harassment. This includes acknowledging and addressing the experiences of current and former employees.
The work of the BCAS is not easy or nearly close to being done. The federal government has spent nearly 8 million dollars in legal fees to dismiss the Black Class Action Lawsuit. Investing in the denial of justice for their Black employees is disheartening. We need to see the federal government put their money where their mouth is and rectify the decades of anti-Black discrimination perpetrated in their workplaces.
Join the PIPSC Black Caucus
Unions and their memberships have a role to play in setting the standard for the progress and inclusion of all federal public service workers. One of the best ways to foster an inclusive workplace for federal public servants is to hear from and work with our members.
Our Human Rights and Diversity Committee (HRDC) invites our Black members to join our Black Caucus. No matter your level of experience in the public service, we welcome all walks of life. All feedback and experiences are valuable to hear to help modernize your workplaces. The Black Caucus is a space for us to work collaboratively to achieve equity.
The fight against anti-Black racism and equity in the workplace isn’t just a February action for Black History Month. It’s a year-round effort to enact a strategy against anti-Black racism and achieve employment equity. We must listen to each other and work together to address systemic racism in our workplaces. You can make a difference. Email Blackcaucus@pipsc.ca to learn more about the Black Caucus.