Thursday, April 25, 2013 (Halifax, NS) – A human rights complaint against HRM and its fire service is being resolved today with a jointly shared commitment to eradicate racism from the workplace.
A milestone plan was signed today between the fire service, the Halifax Association of Black Firefighters (HABFF), HRM, the commission, and the firefighters union. This plan recognizes where the fire service fell short, but also demonstrates a strong commitment to ensuring mistakes of the past are not repeated.
“On behalf of Halifax Regional Municipality and Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency, I apologize to any black firefighters who experienced racism within the fire service,” said Fire Chief Doug Trussler. “As an employer, we should have done more to prepare the work environment to be inclusive and protect you as employees and as people.”
Trussler also wanted to take this opportunity to correct a misconception in the community that there are lower recruitment standards for blacks, women, and other minorities. “We have unquestionably high expectations from all our firefighters and the bar for acceptance into our service is the same for everyone. Everyone who completes our process should be very proud of their accomplishment.”
In 2007, the Halifax Association of Black Firefighters presented to management several instances of racism dating back to 2002. The fire service investigated, but a satisfactory resolution was not achieved. As a result, the matter was referred to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.
Over the past 15 months, the parties have worked collaboratively through a new restorative process to find constructive ways to resolve the complaint. Trust between the black firefighters and management is being built through this process and this plan is a significant step in closing a disappointing and painful chapter in the history of HRM and Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency.
The Halifax Association of Black Firefighters was founded to bridge the disconnect that existed between Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency and its minority members. “The action plan we’ve created gives those most intimately affected a say in what is needed for change and healing,” said Jermaine Mombourquette, acting president of the HABFF. “Crafted by members of the fire service, it’s a vision that reflects a commitment to diversity and inclusion within the municipality.”
One of the fundamental goals for the Halifax Professional Firefighters Local 268 is to help improve working conditions for its members. And the union believes this plan provides the framework for that kind of change. “Our organization has dealt with contentious issues over the years and it is nice to see this one come to a final conclusion,” said Paul Boyle, vice-president of the union.
HIGHLIGHTS OF PLAN:
· HRM and HRFE will work with HABFF to give public recognition to the first black firefighters through a lasting commemoration. HRFE will also recognize the contribution of “trailblazers” within the fire service who were among the first to enter HRFE from designated groups – including African Nova Scotians, women and First Nations people. The HRFE boardroom will be renamed and a plaque erected describing these brave men and women.
· A restorative dispute resolution plan will be implemented for all appropriate conflicts at HRFE.
· HRM commits to review corporate policies, systems, processes and structures to ensure alignment with the goal of building a safe, respectful & inclusive workplace culture.
· HRM directors will report annually to the CAO on diversity and inclusion goals and initiatives.
· All HRM leaders will receive training in areas of diversity/inclusion, workplace rights, respect in the workplace and conflict resolution.
· HRFE, with support of HRM Human Resources, will complete a workplace assessment to determine where the organization is with respect to diversity and employment equity.
· HRFE, with support of HRM Human Resources, will conduct an audit to identify if there are any barriers of racism and discrimination that exclude or disadvantage employees or applicants. Barriers will be removed if any are found.
To read Fire Chief Doug Trussler’s full apology and the complete restorative plan, visit: http://www.halifax.ca/fire/Firechiefissuesapologytoblackfirefightersapril252013.html