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Fire chief Bill Mosher summoned to council closed session 

Complaint to Human Rights Commission alleges multiple racist incidents in Halifax Fire Department

At this hour, fire chief Bill Mosher is speaking with the Halifax Regional Council in a closed-door secret meeting. Mosher was summoned to council after councillor Sue Uteck learned that a human rights complaint has been filed against the Halifax department of Fire and Emergency Services.

I've been working on this story exclusively for a week, and my questions to various councillors, city staff, firefighters, former firefighters and human rights investigators has no doubt prompted discussion of the issue, leading to Uteck's interest.

My full account of the complaint and the history of racism in the fire department, running 3,500 words, will run in Thursday's paper (and likely in this space tomorrow).

In the meanwhile, a short teaser:

Human Rights Complaint rocks Halifax Fire Department

by Tim Bousquet, news editor, The Coast

Disappointed with the results of an HRM-sponsored investigation into alleged racist activity within the Halifax fire department, a group of black firefighters is pressing forward with a complaint to the provincial Human Rights Commission.

The allegations, which are set forth in a series of documents provided to The Coast, include:

  • --- repeated use of the N word among fire department personnel and, in one case, used to describe a black person involved in an accident responded to by firefighters;
  • --- a firefighting training program where black recruits were subjected to racism, unprofessional conduct and humiliation at the hands of fire school instructors;
  • --- the assignment of a new black firefighter for on-the-job training to a fire captain who had previously been demoted in rank due to covering up previous racist behaviour;
  • --- the distribution of a racist newsletter in fire stations throughout the HRM;
  • --- a pay *decrease* for employees who had taken part in a special recruitment program for black firefighters, while white firefighters received a pay increase;
  • --- irregular grading for black firefighters taking tests to move up the pay scale.

    Of even greater concern than those specific incidents, say black firefighters interviewed for this article, is a tepid and inconsequential response to the incidents on the part of fire department management.

    Fire department management did investigate several of the allegations, but these investigations have gone nowhere, reads the preamble to The Struggle for Acceptance: The Black Experience in Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency, a 15-page document with supporting evidence that was presented to the Human Rights Commission by the Halifax Association of Black Fire Fighters.

    The results [of the investigations] have not been published, there has not been any follow up and this leaves us with no closure, continues The Struggle. As a result, we are left to question both the integrity and sincerity of these or any future investigations.

    [Clip]

    Check back Wednesday for more information, and the full, exclusive report.

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