Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Anne Westhues

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


Employment discrimination has been a challenge in Canada for many groups and for government agencies who propose to adhere to a human rights agenda. To address this concern, the federal government initiated various anti-discriminatory policies and programs to counteract employment discrimination for four designated groups: Aboriginal people, “visible minorities,” women, and people with disabilities. The Employment Equity Act and the Canadian Human Rights Act were the legislation, and the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal the institutions designed to deal with employment discrimination for federal employees. When employees file a claim, it is initially processed at the Canadian Human Rights Commission; if the Commission is unable to deal with the complaints due, for example, to the complexity of the claim, it is forwarded to the Tribunal. Although these policies and programs have been in place for more than 10 years, “visible minorities” continue to experience racial discrimination in the workplace, and some who have filed a claim feel that the institutions that were created to protect them have instead perpetuated discrimination.

The purpose of this study is to identify the mechanisms through which racism is reproduced at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal level. Using a critical race theoretical framework and the methodology of critical discourse analysis, I uncover the ways in which racism is reproduced by the Tribunal. I draw upon two categories to identify how racism is reproduced at the Tribunal when visible minorities bring their complaints to be heard in the quasi judicial process: institutional practice and institutional discourse. The research indicates that the perspective of the Tribunal adjudicators, which deeply influences how they hear and respond to complaint cases, allows them to ignore everyday racism in the workplace, normalize racist action and policies, and blame the complainants for their experiences. I conclude that until the way in which these cases are heard changes, including the standard for accepting evidence, visible minorities will continue to be re-victimized in the Tribunal adjudication process as the majority of cases are dismissed.

Convocation Year


Included in

Social Work Commons