Black History Month - Interview with Atong Ater

Atong Ater

As part CAPE’s activities marking Black History Month, we spoke with Atong Ater, an EC member at Fisheries and Ocean Canada and a member of the Federal Black Employees Caucus (FBEC). She talked about her role within FBEC, how people can be allies in the workplace, what unions can do to address racial discrimination in the workplace and more.

1. Tell us about your role with the Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC) - created to support efforts at the national, regional, and local levels to address issues faced by Black federal public service employees - and why you got involved?

Atong Ater: The Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC) was founded by a group of Black employees and works to address anti-Black systemic racism within the federal public service. As a member of the core team, I work full-time on these issues with a focus on strategic planning, engagements, and education and awareness.

I became aware of FBEC in early 2019. In January 2019, FBEC held their inaugural Annual General Membership meeting. I remember seeing the promotional material for the event and realizing that in my over 10 years within the federal public service, I had never seen initiatives, groups or programs specifically focused on the experience of Black employees. The existence of FBEC went against the “colour blind” narrative that was commonplace in our workplaces – a narrative that hides the experience of Black employees. A narrative that was propped up because of the lack of disaggregated data.

I got involved with FBEC because it felt like coming home. Being able to discuss my experiences with people who could understand was so freeing but being in a position to possibly do something about anti-Black systemic racism in our workplaces – that was liberating.

2. In November 2020, you took part in our very first Speaker Panel Series on Anti-Black racism in the workplace. Why do you think such discussions are critical and what should workplaces be doing to address racism and racial discrimination?

A. Ater: As I mentioned in that talk, there is a lack of fair and accurate representation within the unions themselves and this lack of representation can manifest in different ways, but perhaps the most damaging is...To continue reading, please click here to download the PDF.