Former head of Senate HR fights for job after 'improper' firing
The Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, January 6, 2016 4:53PM EST
OTTAWA -- The first executive of colour in the Senate's history is fighting the upper chamber for his job and reputation after what his lawyer says was an improper firing.
Darshan Singh was fired as the Senate's director of human resources on Dec. 2 after two-and-half years on the job.
Internally, senators were told Singh was fired for insubordination, according to multiple Senate sources who were not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
Singh's lawyer Paul Champ said the termination letter his client received from the Senate administration said he was being let go without cause.
Champ said such a move runs afoul of labour laws governing the public service that includes members of the Senate administration and is unprecedented.
Singh filed a grievance with the Senate last month and should find out by early February about his future.
"He's been enjoying a career on an upward trajectory in the public service," Champ said. "He's highly skilled, educated and (a) bilingual, visible minority and he's received only excellent performance appraisals.
"He has to provide for his family like anyone else and obviously it doesn't look good for your career prospects when you're terminated by your previous employer."
A spokeswoman for Sen. Leo Housakos, chairman of the internal economy committee that oversees the Senate's administration, declined to comment. Jacqui Delaney said employee privacy rights precluded the upper chamber from commenting on personnel matters.
Singh started working at the Senate in October 2013, just after the Senate spending scandal first broke, after leaving a similar position at the Canada School of Public Service, according to his publicly available LinkedIn profile.
"Darshan has been doing a very good job in that position, but of course there have been a lot of changes in the Senate administration in the last year," Champ said.
Those changes started when Gary O'Brien retired after six years as clerk of the Senate. In his place, senators appointed three people to take over at the top of the Senate's administration: an interim clerk in charge of legislative services; a corporate services director in charge of finance, auditing, communications and human resources and a law clerk in charge of parliamentary and building services.
What followed was what Champ described as a cascade effect of different staffing actions where Singh was supposed to be involved.
"Unfortunately, there have been some frictions over the past year with the executive and the Senate administration and it appears that's what led to this dismissal," Champ said.
Champ said he sent a letter on Dec. 14 to senators on the internal economy committee outlining what happened. Champ declined to provide a copy of the letter, but said he had confidence that once senators read it, "they'll do the right thing."
"The Senate has been very well known in speaking out about discrimination and employment equity in the federal public service. They've issued many reports over the last 10 years noting with concern that visible minorities remain significantly under-represented in senior and executive level positions in the public service," Champ said.
"And then here we have a situation of a very highly unusual termination of the first visible minority in the history of the Senate at an executive level."