Halifax says its taking new measures amid mounting claims of both historical and ongoing racial harassment and discrimination within the municipal workforce.
Jacques Dube, chief administrative officer of the Halifax Regional Municipality, says the city will be engaging an external consultant within 75 days to review the city’s approach on racial harassment and discrimination.
He says Halifax will also be implementing a confidential employee hotline by mid-July for employees who are experiencing harassment but are not comfortable going to their supervisor or human resources.
His comments come in the wake of a Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission board of inquiry decision that found a city bus mechanic was subjected to a poisonous work environment riddled with unchecked racial discrimination and harassment.
The former Halifax transit worker is seeking more than $1.4 million in general damages, lost earnings and pension.
Dube says although that case concerns incidents that took place many years ago, it serves as an important reminder that all employees deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
“Issues of racial harassment and discrimination exist in our society and the HRM is not immune,” he said in a statement Monday.
The senior bureaucrat said Halifax has long recognized that ongoing efforts to improve the workplace environment are critical for both residents and city staff.
“I pledge that this important work will continue and that new measures will also be taken to address the serious issues of racism, discrimination and harassment within our organization,” Dube said. “We remain unwavering in our commitment to continuously improving our policies, practices and workplace culture.”
Dube said the municipality has taken a number of steps to eradicate racism at city hall, including updating corporate diversity and inclusion training — now mandatory for all supervisors and aspiring leaders.
Also, the city is training staff on the importance of engaging with the African Nova Scotian community.
He also pointed to recommendations in a 2016 employee systems review that Halifax is ushering in, including employment equity, workplace respect and behaviour, and diversity and inclusion.
Meanwhile, the city plans to require business unit managers to identify what they’ve done to stop and prevent harassment and discrimination in the case of any future complaints. The response will be included in a final report to the chief administrative officer.