EDITORIAL: Laws, education needed to expunge workplace racial discrimination

Nov 10, 2023 | Editorial, OP-ED

With more than 26 per cent of Canadians identifying as visible minorities, according to Statistics Canada, we must improve their quality of life at work.

With work being mandatory, one cannot easily escape any afflictions that come from it by just “walking away.” A worker would likely find another job where they would probably experience the same thing. Thus, we must make internal changes so workers are safe from harassment everywhere.

According to a 2023 survey by Catalyst, an organization fighting for equality in the workplace, 54 per cent of surveyed Canadian employees have experienced racism in their careers, and 37 per cent have experienced it in their current job.

Because of this, according to a 2022 survey by the same organization, 61 per cent of employees from visible minorities are on guard against workplace racism.

It is most important to address the primary cause of the problem, workplace leaders, who make up 41 per cent of instigators, according to Catalyst. Holding them accountable for maintaining a safe workplace environment is the best place to start.

Catalyst‘ findings suggested multiple negative effects on the mental health of workers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) because they are constantly on guard against workplace racism.

This ultimately affects the business and employees as a whole. Employers would also benefit themselves by reducing discrimination since there are more and more BIPOC workers.

As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Therefore, there should be legally mandated annual education on these impacts. This education should be given to all management, union leaders, and employees.

Emphasizing that workers can report discrimination is also important. And since the Catalyst study showed employers were equally not likely to act as they were to act in response to reports, workers must be educated on how to go over their heads.

They can report incidents to the Ontario or Canadian Human Rights Commission (OHRC, CHRC) along with their union.

This kind of education, done by employers and unions, should be enforced by Human Rights commissions. Representatives should assess workplaces in person, including speaking to BIPOC workers since bosses can’t be trusted on their own, as they can be the source of the problem.

Employers should be required to assess their workplace, policies, and practices and look for negative impacts on marginalized employees. They should also identify solutions to these, and if applicable, report these findings to the CHRC.

Employers, businesses, and organizations should be categorized in a list as compliant or non-compliant with these policies so that BIPOC workers can identify workplaces in which they would be less likely to experience discrimination.

If experiencing discrimination, workers can file a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario via phone at 1-866-598-0322 (teletypewriter): or 1-866-607-1240.

Workers can also make a complaint to the Canadian HRC online, or via email: complaint.plainte@chrc-ccdp.gc.ca.