Class-action lawsuit launched against Correctional Service Canada alleges systemic racism in the workplace

A class action lawsuit for systemic racism in the workplace of Correctional Service Canada (CSC) has been launched on behalf of two Indigenous officials who worked for the prison authorities.

In the lawsuit filed in Vancouver on January 11th, plaintiffs Jennifer Sanderson, 44 and Jennifer Constant, 46, alleged that they and other racially motivated colleagues were treated as “inmates and not equals” by both management and company employees CSC that creates an “us versus you” mentality.

The statement went on to say that Sanderson and Constant “suffered a grave violation of their constitutional equality rights, as well as serious physical and psychological damage, expenses and loss of income.”

In a statement emailed on Friday, CSC spokesman Kyle Lawlor said the prison authorities are aware of the proposed class action lawsuit but would not make any further comments as it is being done in court.

Lawlor noted that measures to prevent and eliminate racism and discrimination were in place at CSC. Last autumn he led the implementation of a “Strategy for Wellbeing at Work and Employee Wellbeing”, which aims to make it easier for CSC employees to process such complaints, for example.

“CSC does not tolerate these behaviors and is committed to creating a workplace that is healthy, supportive, and free from harassment and discrimination,” he wrote. “Promoting a safe and inclusive work environment for everyone is our top priority.”

“Stand for many others”

Aden Klein, the Vancouver-based attorney who represents plaintiffs, said the lawsuit arose after years of pain for his clients and many others in their position.

“There are countless cases of racism outside of the CSC across Canada, but it is still viewed with skepticism and not always believed,” he said. “”[Sanderson and Constant’s] Voices represent many others who do not feel comfortable because the traumatization would be too severe. “

Sanderson, a mother of six and a member of the Wahpeton Dakota Nation in Saskatchewan, claims she faced several “targeted racist remarks” and insensitive questions during her time in Saskatchewan prison between 2009 and 2017.

Some of them were, “Why aren’t you a drunk?” and “Why don’t you wear feathers to work?”

Jennifer Sanderson, a mother of six from the Wahpeton Dakota Nation, claims to have witnessed several “targeted racist remarks” and insensitive questions during her time as a correctional officer in Saskatchewan Prison between 2009 and 2017. (Jennifer Sanderson / Facebook)

Constant, a member of the Deh Gah Gotie Dene Band of the Northwest Territories, is currently on leave from her job as Indigenous Peoples Liaison Officer at the Edmonton Institution with Maximum Security. Before that, she worked there as a correction officer from 2011 to 2016.

“Your years at CSC have been exhausting,” claims the suit. “During her tenure at CSC, Ms. Constant experienced, experienced and endured racism, discrimination, and verbal and abusive behavior that was malicious, vengeful and willful.”

The lawsuit goes on to say that Constant was eligible for promotions as “watching other non-racialized colleagues climb the ranks,” including a position “intended for indigenous CSC employees”.

the next steps

Before the lawsuit can proceed, the proposed class (all racialized employees who have worked for or with CSC) must be certified by a judge. Klein said the certification schedule is still in the works but will likely be delayed due to the pandemic.

When it goes to court, Klein hopes the claimants will be financially compensated and, as a result of the compensation, a “behavior change” by CSC and the federal government.

“We want a more appropriate representation of racially motivated people in management and leadership positions,” he said. “If there are subordinates who endure racism, they have someone to complain to who will take it seriously.” . “

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