Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montreal, February 5, 2013 --- An English-speaking Black special education professional, Ms. Yvette Christie, employed at the Riverside School Board since 1990 and currently on sick leave, has won her first round against her union in her union misrepresentation complaint before the Labor Relations Commission (LRC).

The LRC decision, issued last month, rejected the preliminary motion filed by her union, the Syndicat des employées et employés professionnels-les et de bureau, section locale 576, SIEPB CTC-FTQ, that sought to have her complaint against it dismissed.

The Black employee originally complained of harassment on the job, and the union argued that at conciliation session held with the LRC in April 2012, a settlement between the parties was reached. At the hearing that took place at the end of November 2012, where the union sought to have her complaint dismissed, the issue was whether there was an “agreement” at the conciliation regarding the settlement offer, which the employee did not sign as she stated that she “needed time to think about this.” The final English text of the “agreement”, or the “offer”, took one month to be delivered to Ms. Christie, although the union promised during the conciliation that it would take one week to send to her the English version to review and agree to the terms.

In light of the parties' contradictory testimonies, the LRC decided that the union did not meet the test of preponderance of evidence to the effect that a settlement agreement was reached and that the hearing into the complaint should go ahead later this year.

Me Melissa Arango, a lawyer associated with CRARR, represented Ms. Christie before the LRC.

Racialized workers who are discriminated or harassed on the job often complain of inadequate representation by their unions. Due to several Supreme Court decisions since 2003, unionized workers who are victims of civil rights violations at work cannot avail themselves of human rights commissions' protection but must go through the grievance procedure, except in some circumstances. A union's refusal to file a grievance on behalf of discriminated or harassed employees represents a form of “double jeopardy”, as these employees will have to complain against union misrepresentation in addition to dealing with discrimination at work. The burden of proof which an employee must meet under 47.2 of the Labor Code is very onerous. There have never been racialized members on the LRC since its creation.