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Black federal employees say creation of mental health program plagued by racism

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A group of Black federal public servants is accusing the government of racism and is threatening to pull out of the development of a mental health action plan meant for Black workers.

The Federal Black Employee Caucus sent a letter to the Treasury Board’s chief human resources officer this month saying the workers supported efforts to address racism within the public service, only to be “continuously faced with the crushing weight of it.”

In a December 2021 mandate letter, the prime minister tasked Treasury Board President Mona Fortier with establishing a mental health fund for Black public servants. The government has budgeted $3.7 million over four years for the program.

That came about as a result of a proposed class-action lawsuit that was filed against the federal government in 2020.

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Led by Nicholas Marcus Thompson, the $2.5-billion claim alleges that since the 1970s, some 30,000 Black civil servants lost out on opportunities and benefits because of their race.

The claim also includes another 15,000 people who allege they were never hired into the federal public service because of their race.

The class action has not been certified and in October, the federal government asked a Federal Court judge to dismiss the proposed lawsuit, it should instead be pursued in another jurisdiction as a labour grievance.

Thompson filed a motion as part of the lawsuit to have the government establish a $100-million mental health fund for current and former Black employees.

In their letter to the Treasury Board, the Black employees caucus said it took months to set up a working group, and they accused government representatives of “blatant anti-Black hate” in their language and of negotiating in bad faith. The group also accuses the employer of sending out incorrect, out-of-date information.

“It was clear very early on, that there were unwilling actors representing the Crown at the table,” the letter said.

The group says it will be meeting to decide whether it should walk away from the process, just six months after joining.

In a written statement, the Treasury Board said it remains committed to establishing the mental health program, and that Fortier has “met with the Black employee networks to discuss and advance these files.”

Thompson said Black employees working on the file are disappointed and feeling attacked, threatened, stressed and undervalued.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2022.

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Inflation in Canada: Finance ministers meet

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TORONTO – The two big spending pressures on the federal government right now are health care and the global transition to a clean economy, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Friday.
After hosting an in-person meeting with the provincial and territorial finance ministers, Freeland said U.S. President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which includes electric-vehicle incentives that favour manufacturers in Canada and Mexico as well as the U.S., has changed the playing field when it comes to the global competition for capital.

“I cannot emphasize too strongly how much I believe that we need to seize the moment and build the clean economy of the 21st century,” Freeland said during a news conference held at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

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“This is a huge economic opportunity.”

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Canada needs to invest in the transition in order to potentially have an outsized share in the economy of the future, she said, or it risks being left behind.

This year in particular will be an important year for attracting capital to Canada, she said, calling for the provinces and territories to chip in.

“This is a truly historic, once-in-a-generation economic moment and it will take a team Canada effort to seize it.”

At the same time, Freeland spoke of the need for fiscal restraint amid economic uncertainty.

“We know that one of the most important things the federal government can do to help Canadians today is to be mindful of our responsibility not to pour fuel on the fire of inflation,” she said.

Freeland said these two major spending pressures, which were among the topics prioritized at Friday’s meeting, come at a time of a global economic slowdown which poses restraint on government spending.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to meet with the premiers Feb. 7 to discuss a long-awaited deal on health-care spending. The provinces have been asking for increases to the health transfer to the tune of billions of dollars.

Freeland said it’s clear that the federal government needs to invest in health care and reiterated the government’s commitment to doing so but would not say whether she thinks the amount the provinces are asking for in increased health transfers is feasible.

“It’s time to see the numbers,” Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard said Friday afternoon, in anticipation of the Feb. 7 meeting.

The meeting of the finance ministers comes at a tense time for many Canadian consumers, with inflation still running hot and interest rates much higher than they were a year ago.

The ministers also spoke with Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem Friday and discussed the economic outlook for Canada and the world, said Freeland.

“We’re very aware of the uncertainty in the global economy right now,” said Freeland. “Inflation is high and interest rates are high.”

“Things are tough for a lot of Canadians and a lot of Canadian families today and at the federal level, this is a time of real fiscal constraint.”

The Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate again last week, bringing it to 4.5 per cent, but signalled it’s taking a pause to let the impact of its aggressive hiking cycle sink in.

The economy is showing signs of slowing, but inflation was still high at 6.3 per cent in December, with food prices in particular remaining elevated year over year.

Interest rates have put a damper on the housing market, sending prices and sales downward for months on end even as the cost of renting went up in 2022.

Meanwhile, the labour market has remained strong, with the unemployment rate nearing record lows in December at five per cent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

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Federal government is in a tight fiscal environment, Freeland says ahead of health talks – CBC.ca

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Federal government is in a tight fiscal environment, Freeland says ahead of health talks  CBC.ca

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Suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over Canadian airspace: sources – CTV News

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  1. Suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over Canadian airspace: sources  CTV News
  2. Canadian pilots were warned of ‘untethered balloon’ amid China surveillance concerns  Global News
  3. U.S. military shoots down suspected Chinese spy balloon off Carolina coast  CBC.ca

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