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Protesters want municipality to address racism in the workplace

Activist Raymond Sheppard said African Nova Scotian municipal workers are being passed over for promotions and have to endure racial slurs
050818-diversity protests
(Andrew Pinsent/

Municipal employees gathered in Grand Parade Tuesday afternoon to protest employment inequalities in Halifax Regional Municipality.

Activist Raymond Sheppard said African Nova Scotian municipal workers are facing systemic racism on the job.

"People in back of me have been passed over for promotions, there's racial slurs in the employment environment, there's anti-Black sexism when it comes to people of different orientations," he said.

Sheppard said there's a lot of diversity in Halifax, but that isn't being reflected in municipal workplaces.

A 2016 review by Turner Consulting Group of HRM's Municipal Operations Programs (MOPS) entitled HRM Employment Systems Review showed an overwhelming number of African Nova Scotian employees had experienced racism.

"The consultations with employees and interviews with supervisors suggest that the business unit is caught in a self-sustaining cycle of prejudice in which African Nova Scotians continue to be negatively impacted by experiences of harassment and discrimination, and supervisors and other employees dismiss these concerns or blame the victim for their response."

The report made a number of recommendations and Sheppard said he wants to see all of them implemented. He also wants African Nova Scotians to be either consulted on or included in the process.

In a news release, HRM's chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé said the municipality is committed to building a more inclusive workforce but admitted it isn't happening fast enough.

"Creating meaningful change takes time, and building a more diverse and inclusive culture and an equitable and safe environment for our employees remains our priority, he stated. "We know we can do better than our past and we are committed to making it happen." 

He said not many supervisory MOPS positions have opened up in the last two years, but none of the successful candidates have been African Nova Scotian.

"We're systematically addressing the recommendations of the Employee Systems Review (ESR), including employment equity, workplace respect and behaviour, diversity and inclusion, and other issues raised by all employees including those in the former municipal operations (MOPS) group," he said.

Dubé said an updated progress report on the implementation is expected within a month.

Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the community editor for
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