PSAC faces complaints of discrimination, harassment from Jewish members

Union's agenda 'anti-Israel/anti-Jewish,' says lawyer representing complainants

PSAC faces complaints of discrimination, harassment from Jewish members

The largest union in the Canadian federal public sector is facing 14 discrimination and harassment complaints from its members. 

Fourteen Jewish members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) are suing their own union for creating a “culture of discrimination and harassment” following the attacks in Israel by Hamas-led armed groups from Gaza.

“Immediately following Hamas’ October 7, 2023 terrorist attack against Israel, PSAC began advocating unbalanced and biased views towards Israel and creating a culture of fear, discrimination and bias towards Jewish PSAC members,” according to the complaints.

The complaints – filed before the Canadian Human Rights Commission – detail how, on Oct. 14, 2023, PSAC published “a bulletin briefly condemning the attacks, followed by a more comprehensive condemnation of Israel’s alleged actions,” according to the complaints. 

“The manner in which PSAC presented its views was harmful and offensive towards Jewish members, particularly the complainants,” according to the complaints detailed in this document.

‘Solidarity with Palestine’ webinar

Also, on Oct. 28, 2023, PSAC published its “Solidarity with Palestine” webinar. In it, PSAC “accused Israel of colonialism, and of committing apartheid and genocide, common antisemitic tropes used to delegitimate the Jewish presence in the middle east,” according to the document.

“Jewish members of PSAC, specifically including the Complainants, were offended and shocked at the lack of impartiality,” according to the document.

In conjunction with its webinar, PSAC also disseminated to its members several “antisemitic ‘fact sheets’ touching on subjects” like the following, according to the complaints: 

  1. accusing Israel of committing apartheid,
  2. encouraging its members to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (“BDS”) movement, which “falsely accuses Israel of being a settler colonial state, thereby denying Jewish people’s ties to their indigenous homeland,”
  3. rejecting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism (which has been adopted by the Government of Canada and many of its Provinces), and
  4. severing the relationship between Judaism and Zionism.

The complaints also detailed how, in November 2023, “shortly after reports that an Israeli hostage was held captive by a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) teacher, PSAC pledged $25,000 to the UNRWA, together with an additional $25,000 to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society”. 

Union promises ‘full support’ for those experiencing antisemitism

Meanwhile, PSAC, in a statement, said they oppose all forms of oppression, racism, and discrimination.

“The unrelenting bombardment of civilians in Gaza and mounting death toll – along with the lack of water, electricity, medicine and food – has created a humanitarian catastrophe that must not be ignored. PSAC will continue to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian relief,” the statement read, according to the National Post.

“Members experiencing antisemitism, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia or any other form of discrimination in their workplace will receive the full support of their union.”

When employers issue an internal company statement and carry out manager outreach regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, many employees report higher confidence in company leadership (59%), according to a previous study.

Lawyer cites union’s anti-Israel/anti-Jewish agenda

UNRWA has been plagued by allegations that agency employees took part in the Oct. 7 attacks, according to a report from the National Post.

“PSAC has made no comment in response to the global investigation in which a significant contingent of UNRWA workers participated, or were complicit, in Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack. PSAC similarly failed to pledge assistance to the victims of the October 7 terrorist attacks and their families,” according to the complaints.

Daniel Lublin, founding partner of Whitten & Lublin Employment Lawyers and one of two lawyers representing the complainants, put into question PSAC’s motives behind its moves.

“The union’s agenda, which we say is an anti-Israel/anti-Jewish agenda, is not something that improves working conditions for the membership,” Lublin told the National Post. “We believe that the union has exceeded its mandate in delving into what’s obviously a very contentious political, religious and international issue that really isn’t related to why people pay union dues.”

Richard Marceau, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ (CIJA) vice president of external affairs and general counsel, said that unions need to start better representing their Jewish members.

“We’re seeing in the labour movement, including PSAC, an atmosphere where Jews feel marginalized, feel unlistened-to, and feel unrepresented by the organizations that are supposed to defend and protect them,” he said in the National Post report.

“And even then, when Jewish members try to engage with union leadership, they are being ignored — it says a lot that they feel they have no other choice but to take their union in front of tribunals to make their grievances heard.”

In 2022, a federal task denied requests from Muslim and Jewish public servants for them to be included in a list of groups recognized by the federal government to be facing systemic workplace barriers, according to a previous report.

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