The Secretariat of Black Class Action launched a French-language chapter Monday as part of its efforts to seek compensation for people discriminated against in the federal public service because they are black.
The class-action lawsuit was filed in December 2020 and seeks $2.6 billion in damages for blacks allegedly harmed by discriminatory hiring or promotion practices at federal institutions since the 1970s.
“Until now, few French-speaking voices have been heard in this country,” Quebec operations director Alain Babineau said at a news conference in Montreal on Monday.
The Secretariat of Black Class Action is therefore launching a French-language chapter so that these voices can also be heard.
“No, it’s not solved and not all cases date back to the 1970s or 1980s,” Babineau said.
Babineau is black, a perfectly bilingual francophone, who worked for the RCMP in Toronto, and describes double discrimination, as black and as a francophone.
“At one point we couldn’t speak French in the squad I was in. We couldn’t speak French because we had to ‘speak white’! That’s what we were told!” he said. “As a black person, we also experience it internally, as a racial person. This is a twofold question. Often, when you get a promotion…one of the things I was told at the beginning when I joined the RCMP, my colleagues would say, ‘You’re going to be promoted easily, because you’re black and you’re francophone, you’re bilingual.’
“It immediately became that kind of ‘you’ve got a free pass, we’re going to make it easy for you,'” Babineau said.
Amnesty International Canada Francophone supports this approach and was present at the press conference.
Amnesty does not support this cause financially, but has valuable advocacy expertise.
“We were approached by a class action lawsuit and we gave our support.” So we support them in terms of resorting to international law,” said executive director France-Isabelle Langlois.
“The people handling the case are open to negotiations,” Babineau said. “Hopefully it will be resolved before we go to court and expose to all of Canada and abroad what the federal government has done to black employees over the last 50 years.” We are always ready to negotiate, to sit down.
Babineau said the federal government had already tried to argue that it was better to go to the Human Rights Commission or pursue complaints rather than a class action.
This will be discussed in March.
As for the stock itself, it will have to go through the certification phase next May, he said.
In addition to the collective lawsuit, a complaint was also submitted to the UN Rapporteur for Human Rights.
This Canadian Press report was first published in French on October 24, 2022.