The federal government has already spent nearly $8 million fighting to dismiss the Black Class Action lawsuit ten times more (in French only) than it has invested implementing the mental health fund for Black federal public servants promised in the 2022 federal budget.
The ballooning legal costs underscore how the federal government continues to publicly claim it is addressing racism and discrimination in the federal public service while continuing to deny justice for Black, racialized and Indigenous workers.
“It’s disheartening to see the government spending millions fighting Black workers in court, despite having harmed them, rather than investing significantly in implementing solutions to combat discrimination,” said Nicholas Marcus Thompson, executive director of the Black Class Action Secretariat.
The Liberal government set aside $3.7 million over four years in Budget 2022 to develop a Black-led Mental Health Fund for Black federal public service workers, with an additional commitment of $45.9 million in Budget 2023.
However, order paper documents requested by the NDP show that Treasury Board has so far only spent $787,207 to develop and implement the plan. Black public service workers who face systemic barriers have yet to see actual support provided to them or a concrete plan outlining how the government plans to establish dedicated career development programs, including initiatives to prepare Black public service leaders for executive positions.
Millions to fight Black workers in court
Instead, released documents confirm the government spent approximately $7.85 million since 2020 for services by Department of Justice lawyers, notaries, and paralegal professionals to fight the class action lawsuit.
Those legal costs are likely just a fraction of the cost the government will ultimately spend fighting the lawsuit since the Black Class Action has yet to be certified. A certification hearing date has been set for May 3, 2024.
“Despite multiple measures announced over the past three years, there’s been no tangible change for these workers; discrimination persists, and the harm continues. We strongly urge the government to come to the table with these workers and cease wasting taxpayers’ money on prolonged legal battles,” said Thompson.
PSAC has repeatedly called for the government to settle the Black Class Action lawsuit, and directly address decades of anti-Black discrimination in the public service.
“It is devastating for Black workers to find out that this government – their employer – has spent millions fighting to deny them justice in court while at the same time dragging their feet implementing programs meant to eliminate systemic barriers for Black public service workers,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president.
As Canada’s largest federal public service union, PSAC represents the largest portion of the nearly 1,500 plaintiffs. PSAC has contributed $80,000 to the Black Class Action and is committed to seeing justice carried out for Black federal public service workers.