Madam Speaker, today I am highlighting the question I asked on March 25 about the federal government’s position regarding the Black civil servants lawsuits where claimants have courageously come forward to expose the wrongdoing and systemic discrimination they face throughout their careers.
In the weeks since I asked that question, we have learned that over the years some public servants were offered money to keep quiet and withdraw racial discrimination complaints. It is never easy to confront racism. It should be uncomfortable. We cannot ask people to push aside their injustice, to sweep things under the rug. This is gaslighting. We cannot ask them to be silent and we cannot be complicit with our own silence.
My goal tonight is not to place blame and to wag my finger, rather it is to better understand exactly what the government is doing to fight systemic racism. I wish to be a partner in this work. I wish to highlight the incredible voices from my riding and from the Maritimes that are changing the conversation and driving real actions in my home community.
We are now coming to a sudden realization that Canada has a problem with racism. People of colour, Black and indigenous peoples have been telling us for so long that our society, our institutions, our collective behaviours and biases continue to cause harm, even kill.
So far, the performative gestures from the government are accomplishing nothing. In just the last few weeks, I read the following headline: “RCMP is losing Indigenous officers—and some former Mounties blame racism in the ranks”.
The Nova Scotia government balked at paying for extra RCMP during the fisheries conflict where Mi’kmaq fishers were attacked, their possessions set on fire and their catches destroyed. The army strategies to promote diversity and inclusion were ineffective. Temporary migrant workers working in fields across the country helping to ensure our food sovereignty are working in unsanitary and dangerous conditions, living in overcrowded rooms, some sleeping on the floor.
Symbolism does not target the root cause of the problem. Canada must institute specific reparations and strategic actions with measurable outcomes. I know that my colleague will point to the implementation of the Anti-Racism Secretariat and I am thankful for that division and I am fully in appreciation for the minister and her commitment. However, this would be the time to let Canadians know about the concrete work being undertaken to dismantle systems of oppression. I would argue that there should be a full ministerial department dedicated to the mission of anti-racism.
Many Canadians do not even have a basic understanding of what racism is, how it operates, what gives it power. Some still debate its existence and shy away from comparison with our neighbours to the south. Our children must learn the critical thinking skills to ask tough questions, challenge narratives and deconstruct the lies that support white supremacy.
We are told that change is slow, that these things take time. As a suggestion, if I may, perhaps we could listen to the Black voices showing us the way right here, right now. The class-action lawsuit seeks long-term solutions to permanently address systemic racism and discrimination in the Public Service of Canada, which would undoubtedly create ripple effects across the communities. Damages include the wrongful failure to promote, intentional infliction of mental suffering, constructive dismissal, wrongful termination, negligence and in particular, violations of employment law, human rights law and charter breaches.
In the fulfillment of the goal of workplace equality, Canada has failed to correct the conditions of disadvantage and employment experienced by Black Canadians. Will the Anti-Racism Secretariat commit to addressing specific wrongs?
Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for his efforts in these adjournment proceedings. It has been a busy night for him.
If members can tell, I am extremely passionate about anti-racism, and I come to this as a cis, white ally. I will never know the full extent of the pain inflicted upon indigenous peoples, Black peoples, people of colour or 2SLGBTQIA+, and I live, work and learn with this immense privilege.
During the past weeks we have been hearing the difficult testimony, trying to piece together the death of Joyce Echaquan. I will not repeat the myriad of insults flung at her by staff who were supposed to be caring for her while she was fighting for her life. Then, of course, there are the 215 little souls whose remains have finally been discovered. There are not enough words in the English language to account for such horrors.
These are not dark chapters in Canadian history. These realities are woven throughout the whole story, and the consequences continue to play out today. This is not about guilt. It is about responsibility.
Will the government stand up and recognize the immense responsibility we have in addressing racism in all its forms? Will it stand up for the Black civil servants? Will it stand up for Joyce and all the children who never came home from residential schools?