Latif: Looking for a promotion? You may not get one if you are BIPOC in Canada

Of note, focussing on the public service, rather than broader society.

The public service figure of only 1.6 percent of executives being Black ignores the fact that Chinese EX are also only 1.6 percent and most other visible minority groups have lower representation.

While the “government is simply not doing enough or moving fast enough,”  one also needs to acknowledge the extent to which the public service at all levels has become more diverse following the Employment Equity Act and how reporting has improved through disaggregated data for visible minority and other groups:

Imagine being stuck in the same position for 30 years with no upward movement, despite having consistently good performance reviews and upscaling your learning with advanced degrees. Wouldn’t that inequity have a negative effect on your mental health and well-being?

Well, this is a reality for many Canadians of colour. 

2021 Edelman survey on business and racial justice in Canada found that a majority of those surveyed (about 56 per cent) have either witnessed or experienced racism in their organization. 

What makes this so concerning is that we have both federal and provinciallegislation that prohibits this type of discrimination. For example, the Ontario Human Rights Commission clearly states that every person has “a right to equal treatment in employment without discrimination because of race.” 

Racial discrimination can happen at either the individual or systemic level. At the individual level, biases lead to decisions about who is invited and valued; at the systemic/structural level, existing policies and practices in an organization can continue to perpetuate racial inequities.

This has many serious implications. Even after 400 years, Black Canadians are still not granted equal participation in society, and this extends to the workforce. For example, there is a disproportionate underrepresentation in management positions for Black federal public service employees, with only 1.6 per cent of Black workers in executive roles. It’s a staggering figure. A class-action lawsuit was filed in 2020 on behalf of Black federal employees, seeking long-term solutions to address systemic racism and discrimination in the Public Service of Canada. 

Remember the scenario I mentioned in the beginning? Kofi Achampong, a strategic and government relations adviser to the Black Class Action Group, echoed this unfortunate situation in an interview with me. He said scenarios like these “have many implications — loss of income, pension calculations and certainly the mental health toll.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly acknowledged existing inequities, committing to “a better future for Black Canadians, a future where they experience full and equal participation in society across political, social and economic life.” But Achampong finds that government is simply not doing enough or moving fast enough. 

“The government has a positive obligation as an employer to address these kinds of issues in the workplace,” said Achampong. “If you know for a fact — and they’ve known for decades — that we aren’t recruiting diverse people, especially at senior levels, then we have to examine who is getting interviews, who is ultimately getting hired or appointed, and ask: Have we taken appropriate corrective action? To be fair, it’s not just the federal government. Successive governments across the country and jurisdictions have long known about these issues, and have done little to nothing. It’s really a form of negligence that’s completely inconsistent with the Canada we’re trying to create and the wealth of diverse talent that exists in this country.” 

The lack of upward employment mobility in racial groups is troublesome. This risks the continuation of generational poverty within our communities: We keep people — especially Black people — down, and prevent them from seeking better opportunities to elevate their social and economic positions in society.

Tomorrow marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Government statements of solidarity are not enough; Canada is still failing to achieve equality and equity in the workplace. Marking the day with statements acknowledging the discrimination Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities and religious minorities face in Canada every day is important. However, if governments and organizations do not provide tangible change, these are simply words dying a slow death on paper.

Source: Looking for a promotion? You may not get one if you are BIPOC in Canada

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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