Nova Scotia

Notify us about discrimination complaints: Halifax council

Halifax regional council wants to be told immediately about any discrimination complaints against a municipal service.

Racism complaints by black firefighters prompt council to change notification rules

Halifax regional council wants to be told immediately about any discrimination complaints against a municipal service.

The issue came up Tuesday as council discussed a human rights complaint against the regional fire department.

Several black firefighters have complained that they were discriminated against. Last summer, they filed a racism complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, claiming several incidents of name-calling and bullying.

Their complaints go back two years, but neither the mayor nor council heard about them until earlier this month.

"Council now wants to be apprised, and rightly so, as to when events occur [or] at least be advised of what's transpiring," said Mayor Peter Kelly.

Under the current rules, council isn't required to be told about such an investigation until a judgment has been handed down. Municipal staff were told Tuesday to recommend a better approach.

"There was a request that council be informed once complaints come forward. So staff are taking that information back and trying to define or determine a process in which to be able to respond to that request," Kelly said.

Council met behind closed doors with fire Chief Bill Mosher to discuss the human rights complaint. Kelly said he couldn't discuss the details because it's a personnel issue.

In a document titled The Struggle for Acceptance, which was obtained by CBC News, black firefighters allege a number of discriminatory incidents going back seven years. For example, they said a poster in the washroom of a fire station in Sackville was defaced with racial epithets, and instructors humiliated and intimidated the 2004 class of black recruits.

Once a complaint is filed, the human rights commission must decide whether to send it on to a board of inquiry for a hearing. Only a board can decide if the complainant has been discriminated against.

Municipal officials say they are hiring additional conflict resolution consultants to help the municipality handle these kinds of issues.

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