CHRC under review by UN oversight body for discrimination against Black, racialized workers

'This now puts us among the ranks of Russia, Iraq and Venezuela who have faced special review'

CHRC under review by UN oversight body for discrimination against Black, racialized workers

The United Nations’ oversight body will be investigating the Canadian Human Rights Commissions (CHRC) following reports that the Canadian body has discriminated against Black and racialized workers.

That oversight body – a subcommittee of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) – reviews the accreditation of national human rights institutions. GANHRI is not a UN body but oversees the relationship between human rights institutions and the UN, compliance with the UN's Paris Principles and access to UN committees, notes CBC.

"Canada has long been seen as home to many nations, a champion of diversity and a global leader of human rights," says Nicholas Marcus Thompson, executive director of the Black Class Action Secretariat, in the CBC report.

"But our country is at risk of having that reputation irreparably damaged, with its human rights status now being examined by a United Nations oversight body."

This comes after in February, a coalition of Canadian human rights groups and unions filed a systemic discrimination complaint against the commission.

The complaint is rooted in the agency’s “failure to comply with the Paris Principles and violations of international human rights law,” according to the coalition, which includes the Black Class Action Secretariat (BCAS), the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance (CBNA), The Enchanté Network, the Red Coalition, the Federation of Black Canadians (FBC), 613-819 Black Hub and the Black Canadians Civil Society Coalition (BCCSC).

In March 2023, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) found that the government body that was supposed to protect workers from discrimination has, itself, discriminated against its own Black and racialized workers.

The TBS came to the conclusion after investigating policy grievances filed by the AJC and other bargaining agents in October 2020. The legal claim alleged “Black and racialized people working at the Commission continue to experience the adverse impact of policies, procedures, practices and attitudes that serve as barriers to their advancement, health, safety, and overall wellbeing”.

The Senate of Canada also launched an investigation of the commission and found that Canada's human rights system faces a crisis of confidence, according to the CBC report.

Those findings form the basis of GANHRI's special review, says CBC.

GANHRI notes that national human rights institutions that receive a "B" status cannot participate in sessions of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), take the floor on any agenda item, or submit documentation to the council.

The Canadian government is running to sit on the UNHRC from 2028 to 2030 through a vote that will likely take place in 2026, notes CBC.

CHRC has made ‘significant progress’ 

CHRC, meanwhile, looks forward to participating in the review, according to the CBC report.

"Our submission will show that over the past six years, the Commission has made significant progress on how it supports people filing discrimination complaints based on race," says Véronique Robitaille, intermediate director of communications for the commission.

"We will also provide GANHRI with information on the Commission's efforts to create a diverse, healthy, safe, and respectful workplace through its anti-racism action plan.''

Following TBS’s findings that racism is rampant within the commission in 2023, CHRC reassigned staffers behind anti-Black racism at the commission from their previous posts – although they still had their jobs.

Previously, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decided in favour of a First Nation in a wrongful dismissal hearing.

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