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Canadian government announces first step in action plan for Black public servants

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The federal government announced support on Wednesday for Black public servants, but it comes amid a proposed class-action lawsuit suing the government for discrimination.

"To be frank, we haven't done enough and we haven't done it fast enough," said Treasury Board president, Anita Anand.

It's the latest step to create a workplace free of racism and discrimination within the federal public service.

The federal government is creating an action plan targeting career development and mental health supports for Black public servants, something that was requested in 2021 on the heels of a proposed class action lawsuit.

"Our concern is that the change isn't happening fast enough and workers still do not have access to the support," said Nicholas Marcus Thompson, executive director of Black Class Action Secretariat.

The lawsuit was filed in 2020 against the federal government. The $2.5-billion claim alleges thousands of Black civil servants faced decades of discrimination that kept them from advancing in their careers.

"We have the minister on one hand telling the Canadian public, saying they are working to address discrimination, and the same department is appearing before the court saying they are not aware of any discrimination that Black workers face," said Thompson.

The announcement includes $5.9 million for Health Canada to fund counselling resources, money for the Canada School of Public Service to launch a leadership program for Black executives and funding for the public service commission for assessment, counselling and coaching.

"Why is the government not proceeding to settle this class action suit, which is being requested from basically everyone," said vice president of the Canadian Labour Congress, Larry Rousseau.

The number of Black executives in the federal public service has grown from 68 in 2016 to 168 out of more than 7,000, representing about 2.3 per cent of executives.

A certification hearing date for the lawsuit has been set for May. 

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