With certification pending, a class action lawsuit filed last month against Correctional Service Canada (CSC) will find a lot of support.
The claim was filed on Jan. 11 on behalf of two Indigenous officials who worked for the Saskatchewan and Alberta Prison Authority, Jennifer Sanderson and Jennifer Constant.
The couple allege systemic racism in the CSC workplace.
While nothing has been proven in court, plaintiffs claim they and other racially motivated colleagues were treated as “inmates and not equals” by both CSC staff and management. As a result, the claim statement alleges that she created an “us versus you” mentality within the prison authorities.
Since the lawsuit was filed last month, Aden Klein, the Vancouver-based attorney who represents plaintiffs, has said his law firm has received more than 30 calls from other former and current racially motivated CSC employees who wanted to be a part of it.
“They claim similar things – they claim racist ridicule and inappropriate jokes at their expense. They claim never to be considered for promotions, even though they have met all the necessary requirements,” explained Klein. “Really, it boils down to treating these people differently.”
The afternoon edition – Sask5:59Proposed class action lawsuit against Correctional Service Canada is gaining momentum
Late last month, CSC spokesman Kyle Lawlor told CBC News in a statement emailed that the prison authorities were aware of the lawsuit but would not comment directly on it as it was on trial.
However, Lawlor noted that measures to prevent and eradicate racism and discrimination were in place at CSC. As an example, a “Strategy for the well-being at work and the well-being of the employees” implemented last autumn, which aims to simplify the handling of such complaints for CSC employees, was cited.
“CSC does not tolerate these behaviors and is committed to creating a workplace that is healthy, supportive and free from harassment and discrimination,” wrote Lawlor. “Promoting a safe and inclusive work environment for everyone is our top priority.”
“We will make it as a group”
Sanderson, a former correctional officer at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary and a leading suggested plaintiff on the case, said it was comforting to see others join in.
“I think if there are enough people who come together and understand that we can get through as a group, there will be positive results [outcomes],” She said.
Jennifer Sanderson, a mother of six from the Wahpeton Dakota Nation, claims to have experienced several “targeted racist remarks” and insensitive questions while serving as a correctional officer in Saskatchewan Prison between 2009 and 2017. (Jennifer Sanderson / Facebook)
At this point in time, Klein said, the CSC Council was still examining the case. However, he noted that the certification process for class actions can take anywhere from months to years.
With more past and present CSC employees ready to board, Klein hopes to prove how widespread the problem is should it get certified.
“When you look at each and every circumstance it feels individual – it could possibly be linked to that one person – but when you start collecting all of these stories and seeing that they are all so similar, it shows that it is a systemic problem. ” he explained.
Sanderson, a mother of six from the Wahpeton Dakota Nation, noted that she ultimately chose to launch the suit to set an example for her children and in honor of her late mother, a survivor of the Duck Lake residential school.
“You never think you have to keep fighting after your family member leaves,” said one Sanderson with tears in his eyes. “They think society is advancing and government agencies are advancing, but they fail.”