Clash over article by black manager leads to high profile PSAC quits

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Canada’s largest public service union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), is in turmoil over the resignation of two senior leaders over the handling of allegations of anti-black racism.PSAC National Executive Vice-President Magali Picard resigned her election post on September 16, a week after Markai Laryae resigned her leadership role as interim director of the Directorate of representation and legal services.

CBC obtained an email from Laryae on September 9 to her colleagues explaining her decision to step down from management and return to her original job at the union.

Amarkai Laryae has resigned his position as Acting Director of the Representation and Legal Services Branch of the PSAC. (Amarkai Laryae / Facebook)

He said he was approached by Picard and PSAC National President Chris Aylward “raising concerns” about an article he was asked to write for an internal newsletter.

Laryae said the article referred to “micro-attacks on PSAC.”

The comment had the effect of telling me that when I’m a director, I have to leave my ‘Blackness’ at the door…– Laryae command

“During this discussion, Magali told me that ‘I’m talking to you as a director, not as a black man,’” Laryae wrote.

He said his comments “had the effect of telling me that when I’m a director, I have to leave my ‘darkness’ at the door; that my experiences are not always welcome; and that my experience as a black person shouldn’t always impact my role as a director. ”

He said it was “hurtful and ironic” that in discussing his article on the experience of microaggressions, “I was subjected to another microaggression”.

CBC reached out to Laryae for comment, but he did not respond to requests.

Picard: ‘This is not true’

The following Saturday, Picard attempted to clarify his version of events during an appearance on a Facebook Live event called Union Matters.

“I know you have information, but unfortunately you have partial and light information,” Picard told program host Nicholas Thompson, who is not a PSAC employee but a federal worker and president of a local union.

On September 12, PSAC National Vice President Magali Picard, right, addressed the issue of anti-black racism during a Facebook Live broadcast hosted by Nicholas Thompson, left. Picard resigned four days later. (The Web)

Without mentioning Laryae by name, Picard denied that there had been any “micro-attacks” perpetrated against anyone because of what he wrote in the newsletter.

“I can assure you 200 percent that is not true, never, ever,” she said, noting that the post was supported and paid for by the union.

“We need to ask questions before we leave with assumptions,” she said of the private discussion.

Picard, an Indigenous woman, said she would never try to muzzle someone, and said that as an organization the union tries to advance the issue of fairness for black, Indigenous employees. and racialized.

Calls Picard to resign

However, his comments seemed to be igniting things for a number of PSAC employees, with at least three widely circulated letters sent to the executive urging them to right the damage caused by Laryae’s resignation.

One of the letters called on Picard to resign.

Three different groups of PSAC employees have called on the union executive to redress the damage caused by the resignation of Amarkai Laryae. (THE WEB)

A day later, the PSAC posted a press release on its website announcing its decision to do just that.

“The past month has been difficult, personally and professionally,” Picard said in the statement. “It’s a good time for me to focus on the needs of my family. ”

She did not directly address the growing tensions around her leadership, but noted that the resignation “comes at a difficult time for our organization as we struggle to build a more inclusive union.”

CBC spoke with Picard, who declined an official interview. She explained that she couldn’t share details of what happened during the meeting with Laryae due to employee confidentiality, but said she admits he was hurt by their exchange.

She said the timing of her resignation, which she explained was necessary due to the urgent needs of the family, is unfortunate, and said she was heartbroken to think that after a long career at working for indigenous and women’s rights, she could be remembered for this incident.

Aylward: ‘I take full responsibility’

Chris Aylward declined CBC’s interview request, but made a statement suggesting that when it comes to tackling systemic racism, “we keep making mistakes.”

Aylward acknowledged “a recent incident” which led to the resignation of “a director who is a black person”.

PSAC National President Chris Aylward said in a statement following the resignations: “I accept full responsibility and I am committed to putting the union on a path to begin a healing process. (Robyn Miller / CBC)

“I deeply regret the course of events which led to his decision. Our whole organization is in a worse situation, ”he wrote.

I take full responsibility for it and I am committed to putting the union on a path that will begin a healing process …– Chris Aylward, AFPC National President

“The circumstances of this senior leader’s resignation shocked union staff, but Blacks, Aboriginals and other racialized staff suffered particularly – they are hurt, angry and disappointed.

“As National President of the PSAC, I take full responsibility for it and I am committed to putting the union on a path that will begin a healing process.

Promising to turn words into action, Aylward said the PSAC will create a “well-staffed oppression prevention team” to strengthen the work of the current “oppression prevention coordinator”. He said the effort will lead to more training and education, adding that the union will also create an “anti-racism committee”.

‘Nobody wins’

Nicholas Thompson, who hosted the event on Facebook Union Matters, said federal public service employees represented by the PSAC – especially black, Indigenous and racialized workers – were alarmed to see their own union struggle in as an employer to recognize and combat systemic racism within their organization. own organization.

“I think it’s a sad day for work,” Thompson said of the two resignations.

“We still face these issues, and two racialized managers are the victim, so I don’t consider this a victory. ”

Thompson said marginalized groups in the federal public service rely on their union to learn from them so they can tackle the same issues faced by the workers he represents in the public service who in turn serve all Canadians.

“We cannot achieve a better, representative workplace if our own union fails to mobilize around systemic racism and systemic barriers.

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