In the summer of 2020, there was an incident involving a City of Toronto Municipal Standards Officer, Michael Rushton, and two Black women, Eva Amo-Mensah and Deborah Ampong (the “complainants”).
Like many of you, over the last couple of years, I have been hearing the buzz around the ban of the now controversial critical race theory (CRT) from some of our neighbours south of the border.
In October 2021, my colleague Dana Campbell-Stevens wrote a blog in which she addressed how the law views an individual’s gut feeling about being a victim of discrimination. A recent case from the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, Thomas v. Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority Inc., raises issues respecting the potential implications of an individual voicing such a gut feeling.
The nature of discrimination is such that it is often based on an individual’s “gut feeling” about an experience or interaction, rather than anything that is overtly said or done. The courts have recognized time and again that discrimination is often subtle and not overt.
Maintaining mental health and wellness will be challenging during this school year. COVID-19 pandemic restrictions kick in again, deepening changes to schools and campus communities. Fraying individual and collective health will be compounded by the unequal treatment and discrimination traditionally experienced in security and policing on university and college campuses.
We are often asked to determine whether systemic issues exist in workplaces, focussing on issues like sexual misconduct, harassment, racism, and alcohol and substance use. Unlike investigations, systemic reviews don’t examine isolated error or fault. Systemic reviews don’t uncover misconduct or wrongdoing of a particular person, or flag potential civil or criminal liability. Systemic reviews are different. Designed to identify issues involving an institution’s systems, policies, and practices, they can also scrutinize group behaviours, norms, and actions – in ways that an investigation or a court proceeding can’t.
One of the most off-putting questions I have ever been asked is, “Do you consider yourself to be Black?” To say that I was flabbergasted would be an understatement. The irony is that the question was asked in the midst of the individual communicating to me how much they detest racism and microaggressions. In response, I inquired why they would ask such a question. They proceeded to say, “I don’t consider you to be Black. I consider you to be Brown.” My struggle in the moment was that I knew that the individual meant no harm.
Call it a job perk? As a workplace investigator, I not infrequently get questions from friends, family, people I’ve just met, about whether Situation XYZ may be an example of discrimination and/or harassment. A recent discussion about digital blackface led me to think of other possible examples of how anti-Black stereotypes and microaggressions can manifest in the modern workplace.