Speakers’ Series: Anti-Black Racism in the Workplace

CAPE Speakers’ Series


In 2020, CAPE expanded its educational program by introducing the Speakers’ Series. The series of knowledge events kicked off recently with CAPE’s very first panel discussion about anti-Black racism in the workplace. The discussion was intended to help members and the public understand the root cause of anti-Black racism, how it is likely to creep up in the workplace, and strategies for Black Canadians to protect and defend their interests in the federal public service. The speakers also touched upon the notion of allyship and ways to promote greater inclusion in the workplace. 

The event was held on Tuesday, November 24 and brought together speakers who contributed their diverse perspectives to the subject:

  • El Jones, instructor, University of King’s College – Halifax
  • Atong Ater, Core team member, Federal Black Employee Caucus
  • Michel Nungisa, Labour Relations Officer, CAPE

The event was moderated by André Poliquin, Labour Relations and Education Officer at CAPE.

The event was recorded and can viewed here.

Key Takeaways and Reflections:

Racism stems from a long history of exploitation that goes back hundreds of years and continues to be left unaddressed. 

Recent events and the response from the anti-Black racism movement around the world are making strides to hold this crucial conversation and call out the elephant in the room. 

Canada is not spared from racism and we encourage CAPE members and their communities to actively engage in the discussion to end anti-Black racism.  


  • How did we get here? In order to better understand Black racism in its current expression, past events must be brought to light. The history of slavery continues to have major impacts on the Black community’s current living conditions. These negative stereotypes still linger in our current society and nurture the systemic barriers that the community faces in the workplace and in society overall.
  • What is being done in the workplace? Initiatives and training to build a diverse and inclusive workplace can promote a healthier work environment for racialized groups and help raise awareness on the issue. Organizations such as the Federal Black Employee Caucus provide helpful resources for individuals to raise awareness of, recognize and call-out racism in the workplace. A few of FBEC’s goals are to find out where Black employees work, what is happening to them, and support their mental health by working together to end discrimination and harassment. 
  • What are some recourse options? Forms of recourse can be explored under discrimination and harassment provisions of your collective agreement, or under certain laws and government policies. However, racism can often take insidious forms such as microaggressions, inherent bias and deep-rooted systemic barriers., and therefore be challenging to prove. Good documentation of incidents is a critical first step. Institutions are slowly beginning to take action. As a matter of fact, changes to the Canada Labour Code taking effect in January 2021 will provide a much broader definition of workplace violence. You can find a non-exhaustive list of relevant laws and resources below.
  • Using your privilege to become an ally: Some members of society have inherent advantages on the basis of their race and are encouraged to use their privilege to support victims of racism and initiatives to counter racial discrimination. Racism is everyone’s problem and everyone who can should play an active role in eliminating it. Colleagues and friends can intervene actively and meaningfully using their own power and privilege to effectively uproot systemic racism.  

Do you need help? Contact us.

If you are a CAPE member and feel discriminated against or harassed because of the color of your skin, please talk to one of our labour relations officers to learn more about your rights and various recourses.

Useful links

Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC)

Canada Labour Code

Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, Part XX

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety – Violence in the Workplace

Canadian Human Rights Act

Canadian Human Rights Commission