June 7th, 2021

NDP calls on Ford government to take racism in Ontario Public Service seriously

QUEEN’S PARK – The Ontario NDP is calling on the Government of Ontario to take the mental health impacts of racism and the physical illnesses that result when the trauma of racism is left unaddressed seriously following the discovery of a report by INDsight Consulting that uncovered "a toxic culture of fear, harassment, discrimination and reprisal” in the Ontario Public Service.

“The legacy of the previous Liberal government was to not take anti-racism in the workplace seriously,” said Laura Mae Lindo, the NDP critic for Anti-racism and Chair of the Ontario NDP Black Caucus. “Rather than creating strong accountability mechanisms and concrete solutions, the Liberals threw together talking points to pretend they were addressing racism within their own governmental structures. That Liberal legacy meant that when the Conservatives took power, they had permission to not take it seriously, either."

The report follows an investigation into the workplace culture and policies at the 63,000-person provincial bureaucracy and found a “toxic culture of fear, harassment, discrimination and reprisal,” and that “many employees spoke of either being made victims of or witness to workplace discrimination and harassment, overt racism and/or microaggressions.”

"The Ford government made cuts and dismantled the Anti-racism Directorate, has refused to take the anti-racism policy for public service seriously and has no minister responsible for anti-racism," said Lindo. “I’ve heard from many in the public service for whom this has real-life consequences and causes real-life harm.”

QUOTES

Iosko Assenov, Corrections Officer at Southwest Detention Centre:

"The government can completely disregard your complaint without sending a response, leaving you open for retaliation from the manager you are reporting on. I have been treated as a second-class citizen, with nowhere to turn, no sense of justice, no accountability, despite following policies and codes set out by the employer. Everything has been swept under the rug and my trauma means nothing."

Sgt. Glendon Thomas, employee at Toronto South Detention Centre (TSDC):

"Over the past two years, this process [i.e. suspensions] was utilized systemically to break and destroy the career of Black Correctional Officers and Sergeants.... [U]njustifed suspensions have led Black Correctional Officers and Sergeants being out of the workplace, who are labeled as 'troublemakers.'"