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Apology a start towards stomping out oppression in OPS

Publish date: Wednesday, June 09, 2021 update

Navy graphic of image of the third party review overlaid on top of image of Queen's Park

AMAPCEO, the union representing more than 14,000 professionals in the Ontario Public Service (OPS), welcomed the OPS Employer’s apology last week following damning reports about systemic racism and discrimination in the province’s civil service. But it is only the first step towards dismantling oppression in the OPS, union leadership said.

Last Thursday, Secretary of Cabinet (and head of the OPS) Steven Davidson issued an apology to all OPS staff, acknowledging that OPS employees who are Indigenous, Black, racialized, LGBTQ+, and/or with disabilities continue to experience harm to their wellbeing and their careers within the civil service.

The apology follows the release of reports from the Third-Party Review of OPS Inclusive Workplace Policies and Programs, which found that systemic racism, discrimination, and employment barriers exist within the OPS.

“The reports confirm what too many in the OPS have known for some time: more must be done to ensure workplaces are safe and free from racism and other discrimination,” President Dave Bulmer said. “While welcome, the Employer’s apology to all OPS staff is an acknowledgement of this fact.”

AMAPCEO Vice-President Cynthia Watt, who also chairs the union’s Equity Committee, thanked those who participated in the review, and especially those who came forward to share their experiences.

“The stories that we have heard over the years, and those included in the reports, are infuriating,” she said. “I stand in solidarity with these employees, past and present.”

Watt said she knows the stories in the reports only begin to scratch the surface. “And for all of those that go untold, AMAPCEO will continue our fight for equity,” she said.

The Review’s reports contain a long list of recommendations to address the root causes of racism, discrimination, and harassment in the OPS.

AMAPCEO has been actively engaged with the Third-Party Review throughout the process. Its most recent submission, authored last November, provided many recommendations of its own to the OPS Employer. They included updates on the Respectful Workplace Policy, the Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Prevention (WDHP) program, and the Policy on Preventing Barriers in Employment (PPBE) that the union believes would more effectively address these pervasive issues to create and sustain respectful workplaces.

The union noted that harassment, discrimination, and bullying have been the most frequently disputed issues for its members in the OPS for each of the last five years. AMAPCEO has been advocating to address these issues through individual cases and directly with the OPS Employer on systemic trends.

Bulmer and Watt were pleased to see the Secretary and his team of Deputy Ministers pledge to take further action to create a more “inclusive, diverse, equitable, anti-racist, and accessible workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment.”

“We’re going to hold the OPS Employer to it,” Bulmer said. “Because everyone has the right to be treated equitably and with respect at work.”

Bulmer vowed that the union would continue to be part of the change that is so long overdue in Ontario.

More about AMAPCEO and our Members: Established in 1992, AMAPCEO is a bargaining agent that represents 14,000 professional and supervisory public servants, most of whom work directly for the Government of Ontario in every ministry and in a number of agencies, boards and commissions; in 130 communities throughout Ontario and in 12 cities outside Canada. We also represent employees outside the Ontario Public Service in: the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario; the Ontario Arts Council; Ontario Health (Quality Unit); Public Health Ontario; the Waypoint Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene; and in the former Offices of the Ontario Child Advocate and the French Language Services Commissioner (now part of the Ontario Ombudsman).