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Understanding Anti-Black Racism and How to Be an Ally: Addressing Anti-Black Racism in the Federal Public Service

Description: In this video, various experts provide information and suggestions on how to combat anti-Black racism in the Canadian federal public service.

Date: July 14, 2020

Duration: 00:06:39

Resolution: 1080p


[A white and purple background appears with the title "Understanding Anti-Black Racism & How to Be an Ally — Addressing Anti-Black Racism in the Federal Public Service"]

[A black background with white text appears with the title "Who is FBEC? (Federal Black Employee Caucus)"]

Richard Sharpe: The Federal Black Employee Caucus is a group of Black employees that formed two years ago to address

[The text "Richard Sharpe: Co-founder, Federal Black Employee Caucus" and the logo for FBEC appear at the bottom of the screen and then disappears]

some of the outstanding, systemic anti-Black racism that employees have been facing for a number of years. I was actually a union person for many years dealing with cases, and of the hundreds of cases that I've dealt with, more than half were from Black and other racialized employees. So, over the course of the last couple of years, there was really a call to address this. The United Nations Decade for People of African Descent was adopted by the Government of Canada in January 2018, and that gave us what we believe to be policy cover to look at how we can help the public service address these issues within. So, we're public servants, most of the employees that are with us are on assignment with FBEC. FBEC formed, to some extent, outside of government. We do not take government money, we're completely self-funded and, other than the loaners from departments, we are self-driven, self-led, Black-led.

So, to speak just a little bit about why we need FBEC, and I think this probably the most important part of that question, you know, we continue to hear the cries from Black employees from across the public service of maltreatment.

History has shown us that if you are not Black-led, if this work is not Black-led, then we continue as Black employees to be left at the back of the bus, the visible minority bus. And we feel that our engagement is critically necessary to keep it real. We can't go back to what we had before, and I think that that's the gift.

[A black background with white text appears with the title "How can the Public Service effectuate meaningful change to address systemic anti-Black racism?"]

What the federal Public Service needs is an anti-Black racism strategy and an action plan

[An image of 4 people in a videoconference appears. The speaker, Richard Sharpe, is in the upper left  corner]

to address anti-Black racism, not only within the public service, but also externally.

So, an anti-racism strategy that has a strong component of anti-Black racism strategy and approach is definitely what needs to be done.

[The speaker, Isaac Saney, is in the lower right corner]

[The text "Isaac Saney, Director, Transition Year Program and University Teaching Fellow, Black Studies, Dalhousie University" appears at the bottom right of the screen and then disappears]

Isaac Saney: It's time to actually implement, it's time to put these things into practice, right? We've been studied to death. I don't think we need to have another report established that racism does exist in Canada.

The Black community in Canada has not been helpless and hapless spectators as history has unfolded around them. They haven't been hapless and helpless in terms of trying to rectify their conditions and numerous organizations, or form new initiatives and programs that I could enumerate, but we don't have time, have taken place, right? So the Black community has been the centre of these struggles to expand its envelope of freedom, its claim on citizenship, and I think in a sense, involving the communities and involving these organizations is central in and of itself. If these policies aren't organically linked to Black communities, they will not succeed and in fact they will be very counterproductive.

[An image of 5 people in a videoconference appears. The speaker, Patricia Harewood, is on the right]

[The text "Patricia Harewood, Legal Officer (In-house Counsel), Public Service Alliance of Canada" appears at the bottom right of the screen and then disappears]

You can also see that there's a clear management accountability framework.

[Patricia Harewood is speaking in French with English subtitles on screen]

Patricia Harewood: So, the accountability for managers within the public service is absolutely key. So, it has to be implemented. We've had the Employment Equity Act for 25 years, we've had the Canadian Human Rights Act for decades, but anti-Black racism persists. 

[A black background with white text appears with the title "What is the best way to address racism in the workplace?"]

[An image of 4 people in a videoconference appears. The speaker, Richard Sharpe, is in the upper left  corner]

[The text "Richard Sharpe: Co-founder, Federal Black Employee Caucus" appears at the bottom left of the screen and then disappears]

What FBEC has been promoting is something called "positive measures" to address our gross under-representation at senior levels and at various tables across various shops across the public service. The majority of Black public servants are clustered at the lower levels of the organizations for no fault of their own. They just haven't had the opportunity. So, what we're suggesting that the public service do, and all the departments can actually do this, is use existing tools to help promote and advance Black and other racialized employees.

So, you need to have something that's targeted

[An image of 5 people in a videoconference appears. The speaker, Richard Sharpe, is in the upper left  corner]

and to have some difficult conversations as to why within the visible minority group, Blacks, who are just as educated if not more educated than some of their other colleagues don't get chances to move. There is discrimination and anti-Black racism that happens even within these visible minority groups. So, it means that you have to do something very different than what you're used to, it means to use positive measures to be able to force those changes onto the system and not wait for changes to take place through training and attrition. If we do that we will be having this conversation with my son and my daughters 25 years from now.

[The speaker, Hantz Prosper, is in the lower left corner]

[The text "Hantz Prosper, Senior Director, Science and Parliamentary Infrastructure Branch, Public Services and Procurement Canada" appears at the bottom left of the screen and then disappears]

Hantz Prosper: I wanted to also encourage all my colleagues within the government that have hiring authorities and delegations, that each of you can make a difference on this. It's not only from a policy, like we have all the policy coverage. It's part of our responsibility if we look at our core values and our competencies, we have to have a diverse and inclusive workplace and we're responsible for that.

Isaac Saney: So, it's all good to have well-meaning and supportive individuals who are willing to drive these agendas, but when we rely on them, it becomes extremely precarious and tenuous, right? So, that's why I welcome people who come forward, but I also focus a lot on we need policies, we need structures to change, so that when these people depart, the momentum continues. These structures exist so that these powerful initiatives can go forward.

Patricia Harewood: Again, it's about accountability and it's about power and where power resides. If you as a manager hold power, then you need to be accountable. So, what Professor Saney is saying about policies embedded in structural change, where there is an actual management accountability framework that is embedded in the structure that makes a manager's performance dependent on whether or not they have actually implemented anti-Black racism strategies, policies and practices. That's what needs to happen.

[Screen goes dark and CSPS logo appears then disappears]

[ appears then disappears]


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The Anti-Racism Learning Series provides access to tools, job aids, courses, workshops and events on topics such as anti-Black racism, unconscious bias, disaggregated data, mental health and the challenges faced by visible minorities in the public service.

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