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Tribunal asking Senators to disclosing their withheld emails in discrimination case

OTTAWA — A federal tribunal is asking senators to divulge emails that it believes are relevant to determining whether an employee was fired on the basis of racial discrimination.

A tribunal is hearing the case of Darshan Singh, who served two years as the Senate’s human-resources director and was the first person of colour join the Senate’s executive team of public servants.

The Senate’s administrative officials say that senators opted to fire Singh in December 2015 due to his “attitude and behaviour” toward his supervisor, though Singh says he was undermined by his manager on the basis of racial prejudice.

Lawyers for the Senate have conceded that two emails sent between Sen. David Wells and former Sen. George Furey discussed Singh’s firing with Sen. Leo Housakos, who at the time was speaker of the Red Chamber.

But the Red Chamber’s lawyers say those emails are protected by parliamentary privilege, a constitutional concept that gives certain rights to Parliament in order to maintain its independence from the executive and judicial branches of government.

The tribunal says the House of Commons and Senate will be asked by Tuesday to decide on whether to provide the emails, though it’s unclear if that will mean a vote in each chamber.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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