Alleged discrimination affirmed by Nova Scotia’s Human Rights Commission

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In 2006, a Halifax Transit mechanic, referred to as Y.Z. due to a publication ban, filed a formal complaint against his employer, the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). Y.Z. alleged discrimination related to race, colour or aboriginal origin, of persons with whom he associated. Y.Z. is reportedly a white man, married to an African Nova Scotian woman.

A Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission board of inquiry released its decision yesterday, affirming Y.Z.’s complaint. The inquiry found that Y.Z. and his Indigenous and African-Canadian colleagues were subject to racial discrimination and harassment by other co-workers. Board Chairwoman Lynn Connors stated that the behaviour went “unchecked and unchallenged,” allowing the discrimination to continue.

A number of incidents occurred which led Y.Z. to make the complaint, including:

  • Co-workers making degrading and racially discriminatory comments against African Nova Scotians and other minorities;
  • An incident between Y.Z.’s wife and Arthur Maddox;
  • A message in the men’s bathroom wall, which stated “all minorities not welcome, show you care, burn a cross” signed “a member of the Baby Hitler”; and
  • No response from HRM despite concerns being raised about racism in the workplace.

Many of the incidents allegedly involved Arthur Maddox, another HRM employee who was fired after threatening violence against an African Nova Scotian colleague, Randy Symonds. The union representing transit employees urged HRM to reinstate Maddox, which they did. However, Maddox is reportedly no longer employed by HRM.

HRM argued freedom of expression on behalf of its employees. Connors dismissed the argument, stating that the incidents have nothing to do with freedom of speech.

The inquiry held HRM vicariously liable of its employees’ actions because they did not take steps to stop the inappropriate behaviour. Damages will be decided at a hearing next Monday. Halifax’s chief administrative officer, Jacques Dubé, issued a public apology to Y.Z. and his family.

Last year, the UN Human Rights Council issued a report about persistent anti-black racism in Canada, specifically calling out Halifax to rectify its past and present treatment of minorities.

In 2016, a report on Halifax’s municipal workforce issued 90 recommendations to address anti-black racism. Earlier this month, municipal employees protested outside Halifax City Hall to push the city to take action.

This blog post was written by a CCLA Volunteer. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA.