April 21st, 2024

Survey shows Indigenous people feel discrimination in the workplace

By Theodora MacLeod - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 14, 2024.

A recent survey has found that more than half of Indigenous Canadians who participated say they have experienced discrimination in their current workplace.

Canadian not-for-profit charity ComIT.org has released the findings of a survey of 500 self-identified indigenous Canadians to better understand the experiences of Indigenous people working in the IT sector.

The responses paint a grim picture with 64.4 per cent of participants stating they have experienced bias when applying for a job because of their Indigeneity and 58.6 per cent saying they have faced discrimination in their current workplace.

As a result, more than a third of respondents said they intentionally do not include their ethnicity on social media, and 56.2 per cent say they have minimized their cultural ties to better assimilate in the workplace.

According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, “discrimination is an action or decision that treats a person or a group differently and negatively for reasons like race, age, or disability. Discrimination happens when someone is denied an opportunity, benefit, or advantage, such as a job, promotion, service, or housing, because of race, age, disability, or another ground of discrimination.”

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, race, national or ethnic origins, religion, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation, and several other criteria are protected as grounds for discrimination.

With this, employers within the jurisdiction of the federal government – federal agencies and Crown corporations, airlines, television and radio stations, communications and telephone companies, and federally regulated industries among others – are held to a standard that prohibits discrimination.

Other employers may fall under provincial jurisdiction and therefore adhere to regulation such as that outlined in the Alberta Human Rights Act.

Despite the legislation, the results of ComIT.org’s survey indicates that racial discrimination remains a concern for Indigenous Canadians.

Sixty per cent of respondents believed they were not as likely to receive a promotion in their workplace due to their indigeneity. Moreover, a combined 97.2 per cent of Indigenous Canadian participants feel there is a lack of representation of Indigenous employees in executive and managerial positions within the tech industry.

However, only seven per cent of those respondents felt it to be a ‘serious problem.’

“In many ways, the stats around bias and discrimination are the most concerning,” says Pablo Listingart, Founder and Executive Director of ComIT.org in a release from the company.

“If Indigenous Canadians are being cast aside or locked out of even applying for jobs, we clearly have a long way to go to ensure an even playing field.”

Access to education economically and physically, lack of opportunity, and connectivity issues remain among the main barriers respondents indicated when it comes to finding a career in digital skills.

On top of the logistical roadblocks, the survey indicates “a combined total of 96 per cent of Indigenous Canadians surveyed believe there are ‘systematic biases’ against Indigenous individuals in the Canadian IT job market.”

With that, 75 per cent of surveyed individuals “believe stereotypes about Indigenous communities impact perceptions of their capability in the IT sector.”

When asked what can be done to encourage more Indigenous Canadians to join the ID profession, responses ranged from deep government intervention to self-determinism with one respondent saying, “It should be up to each person to decide what they want to do without being coerced. I prefer to earn my way without handouts and incentives as I am a proud person.” Another felt “The government can provide financial support to help Aboriginal people pay school fees and other related costs.”

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