Province’s apology for discrimination in Ontario Public Service an important first step

Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas commends the provincial government for its apology to Black, Indigenous and racialized communities and for acknowledging that systemic racism, discrimination and employment barriers continue for people of colour, LGBTQ+ employees and employees with disabilities, but says there’s much more work to be done.

“The province’s apology is an important first step,” said Thomas. “But racism and discrimination are deeply-entrenched and long-standing issues in Ontario’s public sector. We’re glad to see this third-party review reflect some of the key issues we’ve been raising for years. It’s about time community concerns are taken seriously.”

For years, the union, which proudly represents thousands of OPS workers, has raised its concerns about the systemic barriers faced by Black, Indigenous and people of colour workers and those with disabilities working in the public service, including in OPS practices for hiring and promoting staff.

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says the government, as an employer, has not taken complaints about workplace discrimination and harassment seriously in the past. He’s hopeful that their apology and pledge to address these concerns changes the tone of labour relations.

“You cannot solve a problem if you won’t admit you have one – it’s the very first step,” said Almeida. “Acknowledging that the OPS is rife with racism and discrimination signifies this government’s willingness to listen – to the OPS workers who’ve endured harm, and the unions, like OPSEU/SEFPO, which represent their interests and concerns.”

Almeida says he looks forward to positive change in the OPS, but it’s going to take concrete action, not just nice words.

“After decades of inaction, from governments of all stripes, OPS workers have reason to be hopeful,” said Almeida. “There’s lots of work ahead to turn the province’s pledge into a reality; to create workplaces free from all forms of discrimination and harassment. As the OPS bargains its next collective agreement, the government will have a real opportunity to remove barriers to employment.”

“This apology and pledge can’t be the end of the story, but just the beginning,” added Thomas. “We look forward to working closely with the province to bring about meaningful change in the OPS, to remove barriers in our collective agreements and to ensure transparency and accountability through it all.

“OPSEU/SEFPO will continue to stand guard and stand up against all forms of racism and discrimination in our workplaces, our union and our province.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931

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