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

Latif | Equity and diversity were shamefully ignored during the election

In the debates, yes, but the Liberal, NDP and Green parties all had substantial commitments whereas the Conservatives, inexplicably, had none:

While pandemic recovery, gun control, and even puppies took centre stage during the federal election, we failed to seize the opportunity to hold our leaders accountable on equity issues.

In the lead up to the election, we had unprecedented conversations about the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on racialized people; anti-Black racism in policing; Islamophobic violence; the unearthing of thousands of Indigenous children who died at Canadian residential schools; and a spike in hate crimes against members of the Asian community. Yet none of the political parties prioritized equity, diversity and inclusion issues in their platforms, tours or advertising.

As voters, we had the power to hold our leaders accountable by asking the hard questions, but we didn’t. Even when there was a moment on the national stage provided by debate moderator Shachi Kurl, we didn’t seize it. Instead, we allowed the conversation around bills 21 and 96 to turn into a conversation about the impact on the horse race and the polls in Quebec, rather than a conversation about values.

I spoke with Erin Tolley, Canada research chair in gender, race and inclusive politics at Carleton University, who suggests party leaders, the media and the public all play a role in sparking — and continuing — these conversations.

Tolley notes that “there is a long history in Canada of parties not seeing a focus on multiculturalism, immigration or diversity as a winning strategy. They see those issues as divisive. All parties know they need to discuss the economy because voters demand it, but these other issues are viewed as niche. If voters don’t put pressure on parties, then parties are going to ignore the issue. So when we’re thinking about who to blame, I don’t only blame parties.”

There have been many campaigns where a catalyzing moment captured media attention and turned equity issues into election issues. I recall the 2011 provincial election, when a $10,000 tax credit to hire an immigrant for their first job in Ontario got leaked before the Liberal platform launch, and became a lightning rod that almost derailed the campaign. Although it was sound policy, the Conservatives tried to make it a wedge issue. I worked with a Liberal team, behind the scenes, to ensure this did not sabotage our efforts.

Another example of an election flashpoint was the tragic death in 2015 of a three-year-old Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi, which sparked immigration, refugee and asylum debates. The Conservative’s “barbaric cultural practice hotline” was anti-Muslim and ugly but meant to grab votes. Then, the 2019 election focused on gender inequality and systemic racism as pictures of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in blackface surfaced during the election.

But in this year’s campaign, we watched as the debate moment barely scratched the surface; as the racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism faced by Annamie Paul, former leader of the Green Party of Canada, didn’t raise eyebrows; and as NDP MP Don Davies was given a pass on his unacceptable comments against his opponent Virginia Bremner, a Filipino-Canadian woman.

Source: Opinion | Equity and diversity were shamefully ignored during the election

Latif: Tokenistic photo ops are no longer enough in this election campaign

Of note:

This campaign feels a bit strange for me.

I’m not as engaged as I have been in the past, when I was involved with all the federal Liberal campaigns since the 2004 election. I started off as a field organizer, and soon found my niche in community engagement, mobilizing diverse communities. Although I enjoyed my time in politics, I’ve since paused my involvement to pursue other passions, including my academic work. Taking this step back has allowed me to reflect on my efforts, and the progress made in engaging diverse communities in federal elections. 

Nearly two decades after that 2004 campaign, it’s disheartening to see political parties in this election still using the same old tactic of photo ops, unaccompanied by real policy change. But one thing is different this time around: communities are noticing. 

A recent OMNI Filipino report showed Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole coming out of Jollibee (a Filipino multinational fast food chain) in Edmonton. Community advocate Monica De Vera voiced a sentiment that could apply to any of Canada’s diverse communities: “It’s very easy for a politician to go to a Filipino establishment, instead of passing policies that help Filipino people.” 

When I was working in politics, community engagement was about celebrating cultural diversity. I spent my time doing work that would be seen as performative today, such as having politicians attend community celebrations, placing celebratory messages in newspapers on religious holidays, and bringing members of Parliament to mosques, gurdwaras and synagogues. At the time, “showing up” was important; today, it’s no longer enough.

I got so good at my political outreach work that I was actually referred to as the “Jason Kenney” of John Tory’s 2014 mayoral campaign. I didn’t enjoy the comparison, as I prided myself on the authenticity of my community work based on my lived experience, and believed Kenney was insincere. I couldn’t understand why members of so many communities applauded Kenney’s efforts, nor why the media would call him a “kingmaker.”

During his time as minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, Kenney was dubbed the “Minister for Curry in a Hurry,” as he would often show up to Eid celebrations and dragon boat races. But the Conservative party he campaigned under pitted communities against each other, putting regressive policies like the “barbaric cultural practices” hotline in place.

The hypocrisy continues. After the 2017 Québec City mosque attack, Kenney — then a candidate for leadership of Alberta’s United Conservative Party — was quick to speak about his support of religious freedoms on social media. But in his previous role as the immigration minister, he did the opposite and “dictated” a niqab ban at Canadian citizenship ceremonies. This is yet another example of political leaders using rhetoric to win votes in the name of diversity. 

In a recent interview with the Straight, Vancouver-Kingsway NDP incumbent Don Davies decried the candidacy of Liberal Virginia Bremner, a Filipina-Canadian, as containing an “element of opportunism” because of the riding’s diverse demographics. Is it “opportunism” to have candidates that reflect our communities? Davies has since apologized, but the damage is done. Bremner responded via Twitter: “To claim that I lack agency to make my own decisions is sexist, racist, and rife with white privilege. It is an insult to me and all women and women of colour in politics.”

Back in 2004, people from marginalized communities didn’t even think we had an entitlement beyond a simple visit from our leaders. Now, communities expect real tangible change; we speak out and we run as candidates.

Over the past year, we’ve seen the Black Lives Matter protests, a terrorist attack against a Muslim family in London, Ont., anti-Asian violence, and the unearthed bodies of thousands of murdered Indigenous children. And yet, dismantling systemic racism and discrimination is still not the focus of the campaign trail.

Ruby Latif is a Toronto-based community mobilizer, Liberal strategist and a contributing columnist for the Star.


Stop stigmatizing racialized communities during the pandemic

More on stigmatization without recognizing the underlying socioeconomic circumstances but with little recognition that culture can also play a role:

Pandemics create fear — this is not new. 

The coronavirus disease has highlighted how fear and anxieties have driven racism and xenophobia as countries have dealt with outbreaks. The instinct to blame the unknown or the “outsider” is a pervasive outcome of outbreaks. Unfortunately, the blaming of immigrant communities for the rise in infections is causing more harm.

Anyone can be infected by COVID-19; in this sense the virus does not discriminate. However, it is clear that race and culture are significant factors in who gets scrutinized and who does not. We have seen some political leaders and decision-makers engage in misinformation to escape blame for how they handled the crisis.

Blaming the outsider and “othering” infectious diseases is not a new phenomenon. The “Ebola” virus and the “Spanish” influenza were both named after geographic locations. We even saw the U.S. president unsuccessfully attempt to brand COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus” or “China virus.” Words from leadership matter — Asian Americans in the United States have reported a surge in racially motivated hate crimes.

The ramifications of villainizing marginalized groups for causing or spreading the infection is significant. Data compiled by a coalition of groups shows over 600 anti-Asian incidents since the pandemic began. A third of these incidents involved assault or physical violence — and so are considered hate crimes. Contrast this with previous StatsCan data from 2016-2018, which show roughly 60 hate incidents annually targeting persons of East and South East Asian backgrounds — the data is clear.

The rise of hate crimes is not the only issue. A study by the World Health Organization noted that the stigmatization is a “hidden burden” of disease and it is costly to patients as well as societies. Studies have shown that the SARS epidemic “generated feelings of extreme vulnerability, uncertainty and threat to life during its initial outbreak phase.” This is why I am so concerned about a recent interview that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney gave where he stated large family gatherings in Calgary’s South Asian community were to blame for the rapid spread of the virus. This type of rhetoric is not helpful, and only instills fear.

Since that interview, South Asians in Calgary have demanded an apology, and brought to light other compounding factors that have increased cases in their community. Many have service jobs and do not have the luxury of working from home. As front-line workers, they are our nurses, taxi drivers, grocery store clerks and warehouse workers.

In contrast to Kenney, when reports were circulating that South Asians in Brampton were holding large gatherings for Diwali and increasing virus case loads, Mayor Patrick Brown — also a Conservative — did not blame the entire South Asian community. Instead, he reminded us that many in the community are in fact our unsung heroes, as essential workers that keeping the local economy going. This is not to discount that some break the rules, but demonizing an entire community is false and harmful.

Our leaders need to be conscious of their impact on public narrative and behaviour, and do better. As we conduct more testing in targeted communities such as Thorncliffe that have a large population of precarious workers, we will see more cases — and we must ensure stigmatization does not occur. In these difficult times it is important to remain vigilant and ensure our leaders do not use their platform to incite hysteria.

How can we do better? Recently the City of Toronto made some recommendations to help address the disparity in COVID-19 cases among racialized and lower-income Torontonians. One of the most important recommendations is to communicate sociodemographic data in non-stigmatizing ways. This needs to be applied by all government officials and health care providers — especially as the city focuses on priority neighbourhoods and potential “hot spots.”

Improving our communication on information and issues related to COVID-19 is vital. As the vaccine is rolled out, we are already seeing misinformation being spread online. By tapping into all forms of communication — including multilingual outreach — and working closely with local community members, we can ensure an inclusive approach in fighting this virus.