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Black Class Action: fighting systemic anti-Black racism

What is the Black Class Action?  

After experiencing anti-Black racism within the Public Service of Canada, Black workers are pursuing justice in the courts through a proposed class action. The claim is brought on behalf of current and former workers and job applicants who allege they were excluded from hiring and promotion opportunities throughout the Public Service because of systemic discrimination.  

What does the Black Class Action Seek?  

The Black Class Action is seeking compensation for discrimination, the implementation of a Justice and Equity Promotional Plan for the hiring and promotion of Black employees, and the implementation of a mental health fund to support people dealing with the devastating effects of discrimination.  

How does this relate to Canada’s obligations under international human rights law? 

International law protects the right to equality and non-discrimination, and has specific protections in the context of employment, including: 

  • The right to just and favourable conditions of work and remuneration 
  • The right to equal opportunity to be promoted based only on seniority and competence 
  • The right to equal pay for work of equal value without discrimination 
  • The right to equality of treatment in work evaluations 

Under international law, Canada has an obligation to take “special and concrete measures” to eliminate discrimination, including in hiring and promotion. Canada has taken some measures to address this obligation, but the measures fail to account for the unique and intersecting forms of discrimination that Black workers face.  

People who experience rights violations are entitled to an effective remedy. This includes financial compensation. Canada has a duty to ensure that rights violations are not repeated.  

What is the Status of the Case? 

Before the case can proceed, the court must determine whether the case should be certified as a class action. The court will consider whether the claims of the class members are common, and whether a class action is preferable to other methods of advancing the claim.  

The Government of Canada has filed a motion to strike, which means it has asked the court to dismiss the entire case on the basis that people subject to discrimination in the Federal Public Service should use a union grievance procedure or file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.  

What is Amnesty’s Role? 

Amnesty has asked the court for permission to make submissions on Canada’s international legal obligations that are relevant to determining whether the case should be certified as a class action and whether the court should grant the motion to strike. At the international level, Amnesty supported the Black Class Action Secretariat’s complaint to the United Nations on anti-Black racism faced by Black workers.   

Stay tuned for more information on the case!