Nova Scotia

Rachel Brothers wins human rights case for wrongful firing

An independent human rights board of inquiry has found that an employee of the Black Educators Association in Nova Scotia was discriminated against, in part, because of the colour of her skin.

Woman gets $11K in wrongful dismissal case against N.S. Black Educators Association

Rachel Brothers filed a human rights complaint and claimed she was wrongfully fired from her position in 2006 as a regional educator with the Black Educators Association. (Facebook)

An employee of the Black Educators Association in Nova Scotia was discriminated against, in part, because of the colour of her skin, a human rights board of inquiry has determined.

Rachel Brothers filed a human rights complaint in 2008, claiming she was wrongfully fired from her position in 2006 as a regional educator with the association because of "discrimination based on age, race and colour," according to a news release.

Donald Murray, chair of the Board of Inquiry formed by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, said Brothers was "undermined by association staff whose 'colourist thinking' and behaviour created a toxic work environment at the head office in Halifax and the Annapolis Valley regional office in Kentville, where Ms. Brothers was employed as a regional educator."

Jeff Overmars, a spokesman with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, said he can't say too much about Tuesday's decision.

"We understand this is a very sensitive issue in the African Nova Scotian and other communities," he said.

"It's an issue we have to look into, to meet with the communities, to gain some insight and to better understand the history and complexity of the issue."

The Black Educators Association is funded in part by the Nova Scotia Department of Education. Minister Karen Casey issued a release Tuesday afternoon saying the situation was "very unfortunate."

The Black Educators Association in Halifax was at the centre of the case. (Google Streetview)

"We take issues of discrimination very seriously at the department," Casey said in a statement.

"It is important that the BEA, and every other organization funded by the department, ensure they are respectful and equitable to their employees and clients at all time. I expect that the BEA will learn from this as they move forward and ensure that they create a workplace where discrimination will not be tolerated."

'Not really black enough'

The woman named in the report for discriminating against Brothers was Catherine Collier. According to the report, Collier and Brothers were up for the same regional educator job, a job which Brothers landed.

"It is clear to me that Ms. Brothers was undermined in part because she was younger than, and not as black as, Ms. Collier thought Ms. Brothers should be," said Murray in his report.

"In Ms. Collier's eyes, Ms. Brothers was not really black enough."

The association has been ordered to pay Brothers $11,000, plus interest, for general damages and lost income.

Murray said colourist thinking suggests that access to jobs and opportunities will increase the closer a person's skin tone is to white, while the potential for discrimination increases for those who are darker or visibly black.

"This decision addresses an important human rights issue," said Tracey Williams, director and CEO of the commission.

"The commission needs to explore this sensitive subject to better understand its impact and identify ways we can be of assistance."

The Black Educators Association was founded in 1969 to help African Nova Scotian communities develop strategies toward an equitable education system.

Rachel Brothers declined to speak to CBC News.


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