‘Alarming’ lack of clear strategy for LGBTQ inclusion practices across federal government, new report finds

There’s an “alarming lack” of a clear strategy with explicit goals for LGBTQI2S inclusion practices across federal workplaces, according to a new report, which notes the RCMP is only “at the very beginning” of those inclusion efforts. The report from the LGBT Purge Fund — released Monday to coincide with the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia — provides 23 recommendations to improve training and inclusion across the federal government, and calls on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to hold his ministers accountable for implementing those recommendations. The fund was established as a result of the 2018 settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by LGBTQI2S members of the federal civil service, RCMP and military who faced harassment, discrimination and were often fired on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.The final settlement agreement from the case required the fund to hire experts — Egale Canada and Fondation Émergence — to make recommendations on existing diversity and inclusion initiatives and training in federal workplaces, including the RCMP and Canadian armed forces. LGBTQI2S refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Two Spirit. “Thus far, much of the work to improve inclusive practices for LGBTQI2S people is coming from the victims of this discrimination themselves, and often on a voluntary basis,” the report notes. “It is essential that the government take a proactive approach moving forward, so that it can truly reconcile the harm caused to LGBTQI2S communities and move beyond the Purge.” Because there’s no clear, overarching strategy with “measurable outcomes” for LGBTQI2S initiatives across government, it can lead to a lack of resources, “with little attention” paid to effectiveness, the report found.The report noted there is “very little onboarding” for employees so that they’re aware of available LGBTQI2S resources and supports, with “significant numbers of staff” still unaware of such initiatives, including LGBTQI2S employees themselves. There are also “very few efforts” to expand LGBTQI2S representation through recruitment and retention.Aside from the RCMP and the Canadian armed forces, the report also looked at a number of other federal workplaces including the Canada Revenue Agency, Global Affairs Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Recommendations to the government include greater consultation with LGBTQI2S employees and experts, publishing explicit goals for inclusion initiatives with metrics to monitor progress, mandate and incentivize training, more resources including funding, and gender-inclusive facilities throughout government. “We’ve given them a roadmap for change, and we expect that they will want to implement these recommendations if they’re sincere in their effort of wanting to be a better employer, and therefore serve Canadians better,” said the LGBT Purge Fund’s executive director, Michelle Douglas, in an interview. A Canadian armed forces veteran and purge survivor, it was Douglas’ legal challenge in 1992 that formally ended Canada’s policy of discrimination against LGBTQI2S service members.Douglas said the “federal public service and the Canadian armed forces were much more engaged throughout this process” than the RCMP, with the report’s authors noting that the police force is “at the very beginning of efforts towards LGBTQI2S inclusion.” The report recommends, among other things, developing RCMP-specific training on LGBTQI2S issues and employing equity staff at all sites. The report’s authors noted some challenges in dealing with the RCMP, including a lack of policies being made available for review. “I don’t believe they took full advantage of the opportunity we gave them to participate in this research, so we still have a ways to go with the RCMP, but we’re not giving up,” Douglas said. “We will continue to watch what they’re doing, urge them to be better, urge them to have more accountable leadership in this area, and support them when they request it.” The Canadian military has been rocked this year by allegations of sexual misconduct going all the way to the top, with two chiefs of the defence staff currently under military police investigation for alleged inappropriate behaviour. It has sparked renewed calls for broad culture change in the armed forces, including better training and supports for LGBTQI2S service members, something the government has promised. Training in the military on LGBTQI2S issues is done primarily through its “Positive Space” program, which is voluntary and includes a one-hour session giving an overview of the issues. The purge fund report noted the reach of the training is “unclear,” its content doesn’t always draw on the experiences of LGBTQI2S service members, and there are no long-term strategies to monitor its effectiveness.Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering politics for the Star. Follow him on T

‘Alarming’ lack of clear strategy for LGBTQ inclusion practices across federal government, new report finds

There’s an “alarming lack” of a clear strategy with explicit goals for LGBTQI2S inclusion practices across federal workplaces, according to a new report, which notes the RCMP is only “at the very beginning” of those inclusion efforts.

The report from the LGBT Purge Fund — released Monday to coincide with the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia — provides 23 recommendations to improve training and inclusion across the federal government, and calls on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to hold his ministers accountable for implementing those recommendations.

The fund was established as a result of the 2018 settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by LGBTQI2S members of the federal civil service, RCMP and military who faced harassment, discrimination and were often fired on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The final settlement agreement from the case required the fund to hire experts — Egale Canada and Fondation Émergence — to make recommendations on existing diversity and inclusion initiatives and training in federal workplaces, including the RCMP and Canadian armed forces.

LGBTQI2S refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Two Spirit.

“Thus far, much of the work to improve inclusive practices for LGBTQI2S people is coming from the victims of this discrimination themselves, and often on a voluntary basis,” the report notes.

“It is essential that the government take a proactive approach moving forward, so that it can truly reconcile the harm caused to LGBTQI2S communities and move beyond the Purge.”

Because there’s no clear, overarching strategy with “measurable outcomes” for LGBTQI2S initiatives across government, it can lead to a lack of resources, “with little attention” paid to effectiveness, the report found.

The report noted there is “very little onboarding” for employees so that they’re aware of available LGBTQI2S resources and supports, with “significant numbers of staff” still unaware of such initiatives, including LGBTQI2S employees themselves. There are also “very few efforts” to expand LGBTQI2S representation through recruitment and retention.

Aside from the RCMP and the Canadian armed forces, the report also looked at a number of other federal workplaces including the Canada Revenue Agency, Global Affairs Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Recommendations to the government include greater consultation with LGBTQI2S employees and experts, publishing explicit goals for inclusion initiatives with metrics to monitor progress, mandate and incentivize training, more resources including funding, and gender-inclusive facilities throughout government.

“We’ve given them a roadmap for change, and we expect that they will want to implement these recommendations if they’re sincere in their effort of wanting to be a better employer, and therefore serve Canadians better,” said the LGBT Purge Fund’s executive director, Michelle Douglas, in an interview.

A Canadian armed forces veteran and purge survivor, it was Douglas’ legal challenge in 1992 that formally ended Canada’s policy of discrimination against LGBTQI2S service members.

Douglas said the “federal public service and the Canadian armed forces were much more engaged throughout this process” than the RCMP, with the report’s authors noting that the police force is “at the very beginning of efforts towards LGBTQI2S inclusion.”

The report recommends, among other things, developing RCMP-specific training on LGBTQI2S issues and employing equity staff at all sites. The report’s authors noted some challenges in dealing with the RCMP, including a lack of policies being made available for review.

“I don’t believe they took full advantage of the opportunity we gave them to participate in this research, so we still have a ways to go with the RCMP, but we’re not giving up,” Douglas said.

“We will continue to watch what they’re doing, urge them to be better, urge them to have more accountable leadership in this area, and support them when they request it.”

The Canadian military has been rocked this year by allegations of sexual misconduct going all the way to the top, with two chiefs of the defence staff currently under military police investigation for alleged inappropriate behaviour.

It has sparked renewed calls for broad culture change in the armed forces, including better training and supports for LGBTQI2S service members, something the government has promised.

Training in the military on LGBTQI2S issues is done primarily through its “Positive Space” program, which is voluntary and includes a one-hour session giving an overview of the issues.

The purge fund report noted the reach of the training is “unclear,” its content doesn’t always draw on the experiences of LGBTQI2S service members, and there are no long-term strategies to monitor its effectiveness.

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant

Source : Toronto Star More   

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How a workplace investigation at York University has left this Black professor and his supporters crying foul

A five-year saga between a Black York University professor and administration is reaching a boiling point.After a litany of allegations, multiple human rights tribunal filings and an external investigation, the university is now working to terminate tenured professor Aimé Avolonto based on the results of the investigation so far. At the same time, supporters are igniting a global outcry, questioning the way the investigation has been handled, and calling attention to something many feel is familiar — how difficult it is for Black workers to get due process when they speak up about racism.In a statement to the Star, York University said “following a thorough, independent external investigation, multiple reports have concluded that allegations against Professor Avolonto of workplace harassment, including gender-based and sexual harassment, were founded,” and the university is “acting accordingly.”But Avolonto, who has been an associate professor in French studies at York’s Glendon Campus since 2004 and was elected twice as department chair, says he was the one who requested the investigation in the first place. He was concerned that the scrutiny from administrators was influenced by anti-Black racism, and as the investigation wore on, his suspicions grew.Over the past five years, a long list of events have signalled differential treatment to the professor — who is one of two Black full-time professors in the department. To name a few: a speech he gave on racial profiling to the school’s senate in 2017 being characterized as harassment, scrutiny of his interactions with students that seemed different from his colleagues and assuming he supported the hiring of a professor because she is Black, when the decision was made by five professors.“Anti-Black racism is often much more subtle than someone saying the N-word, making racist jokes, or openly insulting a Black person,” Avolonto wrote in a blog post about his experience the last few years. “It is mainly about treating Black people differently from non-Black people: showing suspicion of them, not giving them the benefit of the doubt, not acknowledging or valuing their experiences, holding them to a higher standard than others, applying more scrutiny to their work, insisting on a stricter interpretation of the rules despite normal practices, or treating them as troublemakers if they ever make a complaint about anything.” Now, Avolonto, his former union rep, students and faculty around the world are publicly questioning how fair the investigation into his claims has been.Last month, students and community members created a website and social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram demanding justice for Avolonto.A Change.org petition is nearing it’s goal of 50,000 signatures. And at the end of April, more than 200 professors from across Canada and around the world signed a letter of support for Avolonto, condemning the alleged way the case had been handled and demanding due process.Co-author Kiké Roach said that in cases like this, it’s in the interest of everyone involved that the investigation be seen as fair by all parties. “Justice often lies in the investigation itself,” said Roach, a lawyer and social justice and democracy chair at Ryerson University. “We’re not coming into this situation, prejudging the situation. We’re saying there is a breakdown in the system.“We’re concerned because we know that there’s a history, a long and sordid history of Black people in particular, not being given due process,” Roach said.So far, the external investigator has submitted four reports between Avolonto and colleagues who accused him of harassment. There have yet to be reports dedicated to Avolonto’s initial complaints against the former principal and associate principal of Glendon College, Donald Ipperciel and Ian Roberge. Since last year when the situation was first made public in the media by the Star’s Shree Paradkar, Avolonto participated in a CBC Fifth Estate episode on anti-Black racism on university campuses and spoke publicly in a press conference this April. He’s also filed a total of four complaints at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, which name the university, 11 employees including president Rhonda Lenton, and the external investigator hired by York.The investigation, to now“This is one of the most egregious cases I’ve ever witnessed,” James Clark, Avolonto’s former union representative, told the Star. Clark was a representative for members at York University Faculty Association (YUFA) from 2016 until he resigned in December 2020 — mainly over the way Avolonto’s case was handled.He said he handled dozens of disputes between the university and faculty members, but Avolonto’s dispute is the most striking to him and the only others that came close were with members who were also Black. “Over that four-and-a-half-year period, I was able to see how their attitude shifted in terms of how they were treating him,” said Clark, who is white. In summary, he said A

How a workplace investigation at York University has left this Black professor and his supporters crying foul

A five-year saga between a Black York University professor and administration is reaching a boiling point.

After a litany of allegations, multiple human rights tribunal filings and an external investigation, the university is now working to terminate tenured professor Aimé Avolonto based on the results of the investigation so far. At the same time, supporters are igniting a global outcry, questioning the way the investigation has been handled, and calling attention to something many feel is familiar — how difficult it is for Black workers to get due process when they speak up about racism.

In a statement to the Star, York University said “following a thorough, independent external investigation, multiple reports have concluded that allegations against Professor Avolonto of workplace harassment, including gender-based and sexual harassment, were founded,” and the university is “acting accordingly.”

But Avolonto, who has been an associate professor in French studies at York’s Glendon Campus since 2004 and was elected twice as department chair, says he was the one who requested the investigation in the first place. He was concerned that the scrutiny from administrators was influenced by anti-Black racism, and as the investigation wore on, his suspicions grew.

Over the past five years, a long list of events have signalled differential treatment to the professor — who is one of two Black full-time professors in the department. To name a few: a speech he gave on racial profiling to the school’s senate in 2017 being characterized as harassment, scrutiny of his interactions with students that seemed different from his colleagues and assuming he supported the hiring of a professor because she is Black, when the decision was made by five professors.

“Anti-Black racism is often much more subtle than someone saying the N-word, making racist jokes, or openly insulting a Black person,” Avolonto wrote in a blog post about his experience the last few years. “It is mainly about treating Black people differently from non-Black people: showing suspicion of them, not giving them the benefit of the doubt, not acknowledging or valuing their experiences, holding them to a higher standard than others, applying more scrutiny to their work, insisting on a stricter interpretation of the rules despite normal practices, or treating them as troublemakers if they ever make a complaint about anything.”

Now, Avolonto, his former union rep, students and faculty around the world are publicly questioning how fair the investigation into his claims has been.

Last month, students and community members created a website and social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram demanding justice for Avolonto.

A Change.org petition is nearing it’s goal of 50,000 signatures.

And at the end of April, more than 200 professors from across Canada and around the world signed a letter of support for Avolonto, condemning the alleged way the case had been handled and demanding due process.

Co-author Kiké Roach said that in cases like this, it’s in the interest of everyone involved that the investigation be seen as fair by all parties.

“Justice often lies in the investigation itself,” said Roach, a lawyer and social justice and democracy chair at Ryerson University. “We’re not coming into this situation, prejudging the situation. We’re saying there is a breakdown in the system.

“We’re concerned because we know that there’s a history, a long and sordid history of Black people in particular, not being given due process,” Roach said.

So far, the external investigator has submitted four reports between Avolonto and colleagues who accused him of harassment. There have yet to be reports dedicated to Avolonto’s initial complaints against the former principal and associate principal of Glendon College, Donald Ipperciel and Ian Roberge.

Since last year when the situation was first made public in the media by the Star’s Shree Paradkar, Avolonto participated in a CBC Fifth Estate episode on anti-Black racism on university campuses and spoke publicly in a press conference this April. He’s also filed a total of four complaints at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, which name the university, 11 employees including president Rhonda Lenton, and the external investigator hired by York.

The investigation, to now

“This is one of the most egregious cases I’ve ever witnessed,” James Clark, Avolonto’s former union representative, told the Star.

Clark was a representative for members at York University Faculty Association (YUFA) from 2016 until he resigned in December 2020 — mainly over the way Avolonto’s case was handled.

He said he handled dozens of disputes between the university and faculty members, but Avolonto’s dispute is the most striking to him and the only others that came close were with members who were also Black.

“Over that four-and-a-half-year period, I was able to see how their attitude shifted in terms of how they were treating him,” said Clark, who is white.

In summary, he said Avolonto’s treatment was “completely differential to other participants in the investigation who were white or non-Black.”

For example, Avolonto had to step down as chair of the French department and forgo his second term, while others named in the investigation stepped back, but mostly maintained their positions.

Things that Clark said were common practice at the school, seemed to be characterized as inappropriate when Avolonto did them — such as requesting a fourth-year student write in French via email and contacting colleagues on cellphones rather than office phones.

“There was more and more gap between the kinds of public statements the university was making with respect to its perspective in anti-Black racism on the one hand, and what it was doing to Black employees on the other,” Clark said.

Clark resigned in December 2020 after he was removed from Avolonto’s case.

In his resignation letter, Clark writes that he started to see similarities in other disputes YUFA was handling between Black faculty and the university and said, “I can no longer be part of any practices that further normalize the employer’s behaviour.”

Clark says that from his, Avolonto’s and the union’s point of view, there were problems throughout the investigation, but they initially wanted to give the process the benefit of the doubt.

Requests for a new investigator

One big problem that went unresolved, Clark says, was that as the investigation progressed, Avolonto’s mental health declined.

The impact was so great that in February 2020 and again in September 2020, Avolonto attempted to take his own life.

But leading up to that, Avolonto and Clark sought accomodation, starting in Februray 2019.

Three medical professionals — the third evaluation being one York requested in October 2019 — confirmed that Avolonto experienced “severe anxiety” when interacting with Roger Beaudry, the external investigator from Aptus Conflict Solutions. The third opinion recommended that a new investigator be appointed so Avolonto could participate in the process.

In an emailed statement, spokesperson for York University Barbara Joy said the university offered for Avolonto to participate via a written response or interviewing with “someone other than Mr. Beaudry” — according to Beaudry, this would have been someone else at his firm, and he would remain the investigator — but the offers “were all declined.”

Clark tells the Star that these options were already available and the issue of Beaudry’s involvement as the lead investigator would still not be solved.

In an email to the Star, Beaudry emphasized that doctors agreed Avolonto was disabled from participating in the investigation “if it was being conducted in a way that was unsafe, untrustworthy and biased,” which Beaudry insists was not the case.

“It was at all times conducted normally and appropriately,” Beaudry said in an email to the Star, adding that in email exchanges and their last interview Avolonto behaved with him in “problematic ways.”

Beaudry said he collected over 250 pages of evidence from Avolonto in the times that they did meet — twice over five days total before the request for a new investigator. The four reports Beaudry delivered so far amount to over 4,000 pages.

As the investigation pressed on with Avolonto unable to participate, he received reports finding the allegations of his colleagues founded and his responses unfounded. And so far, no reports for his stand-alone claims of racism.

He also received the first of three letters from York in August 2020, and two more in February and March 2021 saying the provost would reccommend he be dismissed for cause.

Support blooms worldwide

While the investigation wraps up, termination attempts get underway and Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario complaints slog through the court, a campaign of support for the professor has grown from many branches.

Originally when administration said students had complained about Avolonto and 28 had signed a petition in early 2017, 29 students sent a letter of support to administration and some sent glowing video testimonials to “The Fifth Estate” as it produced this year’s episode.

Separately, more than 200 professors have signed and sent a letter to York president Rhonda Lenton calling for due process, but have not heard back. Organizers of the effort say that there have been so many signatures, in part because Black professors relate to the kind of systemic racism in academic institutions.

Caroline Shenaz Hossein, a professor at York who co-authored the letter, said she has had her own challenges with racism while at the school. But beyond that, Hossein has seen other similar instances play out when people in her life have dealt with systemic racism.

“The only reason why I understand that is because I have my own lived experience. Someone in my family nearly killed themselves because of systemic racism,” she said.

“It’s not surprising why I would gravitate (to) and understand Aimé’s story, because I understand the politics of discrediting people when they start to bring up issues about systemic racism, and particularly anti-Black racism,” Hossein continued.

Co-author and lawyer Kiké Roach recalls that throughout the letter, the ask is for a due process.

“The right to a proper investigation and adjudication of this matter,” she said. “Those are things that should concern, all fair-minded people, but they particularly concern racialized workers and Black workers because of the long history of systems failing to recognize our full humanity, and deal with us with respect and dignity.”

Angelyn Francis is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering equity and inequality. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: afrancis@thestar.ca

Source : Toronto Star More   

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