As we mark Black History Month, we take a moment to recognise and honour Black culture and Black Canadians and their impact on Canada’s growth, prosperity and accomplishments. In recent decades, more Black Canadians have joined the ranks of the federal public service, giving them the opportunity to be directly involved in shaping their nation.
The theme this year is Canadians of African Descent: Going forward, Guided by the past – which reminds us that the Black Canadian community is on a continuous pursuit for equality, building on lessons and achievements from the past. This journey is at times one of hardships, with many Black Canadians often facing racial discrimination and anti-Black racism in society and in the workplace along the way.
Sadly, the federal public service is not immune to these issues. Despite strong laws, regulations and the protection of unions, many federal public service employees continue to grapple with racial discrimination and racism, and numbers now seem to show that Black employees are more at risk.
According to the 2019 Public Service Employee Survey (PSES), 15 percent of Black survey respondents reported being the victim of racial discrimination on the job in the past 12 months. This is twice as much as the percentage of federal public service employees who reported being the victim of racial discrimination in the workplace. At 15 percent, the Black community becomes the recognized minority group reporting the highest percentage of discrimination. Furthermore, 76 percent of Black respondents reported facing discrimination from individuals with authority over them, and 41 percent of them reported experiencing discrimination from their co-workers.
This is a reality we suspected but now know to be a fact thanks to changes made to the PSES in 2019, with data painting a more honest picture of the prevalence of racial discrimination faced by each minority group.
Throughout 2019, I actively advocated to Treasury Board for the collection and dissemination of disaggregated data about minority groups to address the survey’s lack of precision around discrimination, which had been heavily criticized by the Federal Black Employee Caucus as well as many of our members.
We, at CAPE, acknowledge that racial discrimination and anti-Black racism persist in all our institutions and public spaces, and we reaffirm our commitment to addressing the removal of racial barriers faced by our members.
We also recognize the important work done by the Federal Black Employee Caucus, a dedicated group of volunteers working tirelessly for Black federal public service employees to ensure they achieve professional wellbeing and fulfillment in the federal government.
Lastly, we call on our all our members to join us in taking action to fight against all forms of racial discrimination and racism (including anti-Black racism) impacting our members and our colleagues.
In the spirit of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent, during Black History Month and all year round, CAPE remains dedicated to promoting the critical and fundamentally important contributions of Black Canadians to the social fabric of our country.
We are one.
Strength in Unity. Strength in Diversity.
*Read our interview with CAPE member Richard Sharpe, also Co-Founder of the Federal Black Employees Caucus (FBEC), to talk about the work he is doing to help build a thriving Black community within the Canadian Federal workforce.