Federal Court Says It Has No Jurisdiction to Hear CSIS Employee’s Discrimination Complaint

OTTAWA — A federal judge has dismissed a Canadian Security Intelligence Service employee’s discrimination suit against the spy service, saying Sameer Ebadi should have followed the internal grievance procedures available to him.

In his recently released decision, Federal Court Judge Henry Brown said the court therefore lacked jurisdiction to deal with the complaint filed by Ebadi, who uses a pseudonym due to the sensitive nature of his work.

Ebadi, a practicing Muslim who fled to Canada from a repressive country in the Middle East, began working as a CSIS analyst in the Prairie region 22 years ago. He is now on long-term disability leave.

His statement, filed in January 2020, says he was not promoted despite having an excellent work record and suffered bullying, discrimination, psychological and physical abuse, and religious persecution at the hands of these partner’work.

Among other things, his claim alleges that employees would quickly open the door to his office when he was in prayer, smashing it against his body or head. “They would then feign surprise that Sameer was praying, but laugh outside the door afterwards.”

Ebadi argued that CSIS has a history of shielding stalkers from accountability for their racially or religiously motivated behavior.

He said CSIS’s internal processes could not be trusted to provide him with a fair hearing and protect him from retaliation for raising his concerns.

“I tried several times, with different levels of CSIS management, to resolve my well-founded concerns of workplace harassment and discrimination,” Ebadi said in an affidavit filed with the court.

“With every effort I have met with resistance and, what is worse, I have faced increased discriminatory treatment for speaking out against my colleagues and managers.”

Government lawyers have filed a motion to strike the case, arguing that Ebadi’s terms of employment are subject to intelligence service procedures.

The availability of internal resolution processes precludes the Ebadis from pursuing civil action for matters that could be the subject of a grievance or harassment complaint, they said.

At a hearing last month, Ebadi’s attorney asked the judge to dismiss the government’s request, saying CSIS leadership had created and perpetuated a culture of systemic racism, Islamophobia, harassment and harassment. reprisals.

Ebadi also argued that because he challenges the adequacy of CSIS’s grievance and harassment processes themselves, his claim is not barred by any section of the Federal Public Sector Labor Relations Act. which could prevent the court from getting involved.

In her ruling, Brown noted that at no time in her career did Ebadi file a complaint under the Harassment Policy or grievance procedure.

“He cannot now plead before this Court the adequacy of the procedures which he himself has chosen never to follow.”

During the hearing, John Kingman Phillips, co-lawyer for Ebadi, highlighted comments made by CSIS Director David Vigneault during a December 2020 meeting of the Federal Transparency Advisory Group. national security.

Vigneault said he acknowledged publicly and privately to employees “that, yes, systemic racism exists here, and yes, there is a level of harassment and fear of reprisal within the organization.”

Brown said in his ruling that the statement — neither on its own nor in tandem with the rest of the court record — constitutes an admission that CSIS is systemically racist, or that Ebadi is or has been unable to obtain redress in court. crying or complaining about the issues. he alleges.

Further, Brown said, he is not persuaded that Vigneault’s statement supports the idea that the court should exercise any residual discretion it may have to accept jurisdiction over Ebadi’s action, notwithstanding the effect of public sector labor law.

Ebadi’s lawyer had no immediate comment on the decision.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 7, 2022.

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