Joint Statement on the New CHRC Chief Commissioner by Human Rights Groups

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July 3, 2024

On June 14th, the Governor General of Canada appointed Birju Dattani as the new Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). Recent allegations against him have led to calls for his resignation by the Block Québécois, the Conservative Party of Canada, and the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs. The attempts to have Mr. Dattani – the first Muslim and racialized person appointed to this position – vacate his position without due process is deeply concerning.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has been plagued by discrimination for decades, both against its staff and the Canadian public seeking justice. This has been well documented by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and the Senate Human Rights Committee, which found extensive evidence of anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination within the CHRC. Those findings led the CHRC to be investigated by an international accreditation body, who is now reviewing Canada’s human rights status. It is disappointing that these same groups who claim to be concerned about human rights, have been completely silent on this ongoing issue, failing to advocate for Canadians.

While the allegations against Mr. Dattani are concerning, this campaign against him highlights the heightened level of scrutiny he, like many Canadians, faces because of his faith and ethnic background. Mr. Dattani has responded comprehensively to the media about allegations related to his academic activities as a student 12 years ago. In the face of these allegations, he has also received an endorsement from his previous employer, the Yukon Human Rights Commission, underscoring his qualifications and lifelong dedication to advancing human rights, as well as his “unquestionable impartiality.”

It is imperative that Canadians have renewed confidence in the CHRC, which is long overdue for systemic change to address issues of discrimination. But as Canadians dedicated to upholding human rights, we know that cannot be achieved by perpetuating racist double standards, and a lack of due process. We welcome the Department of Justice’s investigation into this matter, and implore outside groups to reserve judgment until it is completed. We call for the investigation to be promptly concluded so that the new Chief Commissioner can get to the important work of implementing much-needed and long-awaited reforms. We invite all Canadians to work together to combat the discriminatory practices that persist at the CHRC today.
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The following organizations are part of a coalition formed in 2023 to combat systemic discrimination at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and the wider public service of Canada. The coalition filed a formal complaint against the CHRC in February 2024 at the Global Alliance for Human Rights Institutions, which led to the unprecedented decision by the UN-affiliated body to review the CHRC’s human rights accreditation in June 2024. The coalition also welcomed the appointment of a new Chief Commissioner after two years of the CHRC being without a permanent leader.

National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE)
The Enchanté Network
Red Coalition
Federation of Black Canadians (FBC)
Black Canadians Civil Society Coalition (BCCSC)
Black Class Action Secretariat (BCAS)
613-819 Black Hub

 

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