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Group calls for inquiry into racism, bullying at City Hall

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Equity Watch, an organization of victims of workplace bullying, misogyny and systemic discrimination and their supporters, wants an inquiry into racism and bullying at City Hall.

The call was prompted by yesterday’s decision by a Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission tribunal, that found that the City allowed racist practices at Halifax Transit to continue unabated.

Members of Equity Watch rallied at the NS Human Rights Commission office earlier this year. Photo Robert Devet

“We believe it needs to be an independent inquiry, it should be a third party putting this together, says Judy Haiven, co-founder (together with former firefighter Liane Tessier) of Equity Watch.

“I don’t know about the logistics. I believe the province has to call the inquiry. Council has done absolutely nothing. If we left it up to council I don’t think they could do it,” Haiven tells the Nova Scotia Advocate.

The call for an inquiry is about more than just what was covered by yesterday’s decision, Equity Watch argues.

That decision “must be seen combined with a larger terrible record of incidents across the various components of HRM for at least 20 years. Taken together, they show that HRM as an employer is no longer capable of handling these matters ‘in house’,” a press release issued by the organization states.

In its press release the organization mentions not just the recent Transit case, but also the Halifax Fire Service. The City issued an apology to former firefighter Liane Tessier last year, as well as a 2013 apology to a group of African Nova Scotian firefighters in 2013 for the discrimination they were made to endure. There were other cases as well.

The inaction of Halifax Police in terms of street check bias towards Black residents is also referenced.

And in 2016 an internal report found widespread bullying, racism, homophobia and misogyny at the Municipal Operations Program.

“In terms of the City’s inside workers we frequently hear about ongoing bullying,” Haiven says.

Haiven does not believe an inquiry should be conducted by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. an organization Equity Watch has been highly critical of.

But somebody has to do something, Haiven says.

“The sheer volume of complaints and the ongoing talk about harassment is shocking. HRM is supposed to be an employer of choice, where employees can expect a fair deal. But that is absolutely not what’s happening, as we can see from the Transit cases, the Halifax Fire cases, and what is going on with the police,” says Haiven.

See also: Putting bad bosses on notice. No more bullying and no more discrimination, says new organization

For more information, contact Judy Haiven (902) 718-7445 or workwonks@gmail.com

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