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January 3, 1999

Fired duo win back fed jobs

Claimed racism in milestone case


  OTTAWA (CP) -- Two public servants who sued Canada's foreign aid agency for discrimination have won their jobs back in an out-of-court settlement.
 Fred Bloch and Frank Boahene launched a lawsuit against the Canadian International Development Agency in 1992 seeking $1.6 million in damages. They claimed CIDA fired them because of their race. The agreement also gives the two men cash settlements.
 A third plaintiff in the suit, CIDA employee Ranjit Perera, is still seeking a settlement. He wants CIDA to promise visible minorities will be better represented in the agency.
 The case marks the first time public servants have been able to sue the government over Charter of Rights issues.
 
 CAUSED TERMINATION
 The plaintiffs claimed they were victims of "systemic and covert racial discrimination on the part of management." They said this resulted in poor performance reviews, denial of promotion and foreign postings, and ultimately, caused their termination.
 Bloch, who is of Latin American descent, worked for CIDA for 18 years before he was dismissed in 1992. Boahene, of Ghahanian descent, worked with CIDA for a year before he was terminated in 1991.
 In the settlement, CIDA agreed to pay their pension contributions back to the time they were fired. The government also paid $30,000 in damages to Boahene and $20,000 to Bloch. They received a letter of regret from CIDA director Hugette Labelle.
 
 RETIRED
 Peter Engelmann, lawyer for the plaintiffs, says the case will give government employees another option besides complaints to the Human Rights Commission.
 He says the appeal court decision extends beyond public servants to anyone who believes they were discriminated against by government, including people dealing with immigration officers or police.
 Bloch retired as soon as he was reinstated.
 Boahene returned to work as a program officer in CIDA's central and eastern European branch.
 Perera, of Sri Lankan origin, has not reached a settlement agreement because he wants CIDA to put an employment equity program in place to ensure representation of visible minorities among management.
 Although still employed by CIDA, Perera has waged a 10-year legal battle with the agency over discrimination allegations. He said he was once told by management he should "not expect to be treated like a white Canadian."

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