Where to report racism in the workplace
Racial discrimination and harassment are against the law in Canada. Despite this, incidents occur in the workplace, and knowing what to do in these situations as an ally and advocate, or as someone directly affected, can help make the workplace safer and more inclusive. According to the Environics Institute for Survey Research, a third to a half of Canadians of colour report being discriminated against, and 40% of those who say they experienced racism said that it occurred at work, making the workplace one of the most prevalent locations of racial discrimination.
Whether it’s making a formal complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, accessing the resources of the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat, or knowing the rights of your colleagues and yourself under the Canadian Human Rights Act, there are options available to secure a workplace free of discrimination. These include:
Know that there is help available
Canada has a system of laws and regulation in place to prevent and address on-going discrimination. While navigating this system may seem daunting at first, there are experts and guidance available to help you submit the correct complaint, or to address the ongoing aftermath of racism.
Reporting mechanism may vary province-to-province
Look up the guidelines available from your province’s Human Rights Commission. The guidelines and requirements for reporting may vary from province to province, and knowing the specifics of your province and its Human Rights Code will be helpful.
- For federal complaints with the Canada Human Rights Commission, see here.
- For BC, see here.
- For Alberta, see here.
- For Saskatchewan, see here.
- For Manitoba, see here.
- For Ontario, see here.
- For Quebec, see here.
- For Newfoundland and Labrador, see here.
- For Nova Scotia, see here.
- For New Brunswick, see here.
- For Prince Edward Island, see here.
- For Yukon, see here.
- For Northwest Territories, see here.
- For Nunavut, see here.
Complaints are called applications
To file an application (complaint), you can contact your appropriate Human Rights tribunal through phone or email, and occasionally via post. Often they have legal help available too, so you can inquire about the possibility of receiving additional support. Additionally, all provinces allow for the submission of Bystander Complaints, if you witness a case of racism firsthand.
Be aware of the requirements
Most provinces require you to report the case of racism within one year of the incident occurring. They might require additional paperwork, including an intake form, or further face-to-face meetings. Be prepared to tell your story multiple times and providing supporting details if needed. If you need assistance in reliving these traumatic incidents, talk to your provincial Human Rights Commission about receiving professional support, or bring a close personal contact as support to relevant meetings. Know that the process may take time and involve Pre-complaint Resolution, Mediation and Settlement, Investigation, and/or an official Hearing of the Cases, or referral to an alternate process. You are free to withdraw your complaint at any time.
After filing an application, you may be connected to support networks or resource centers. Take advantage of these connections if you feel you need additional support. Often made for and by people of colour, these community resources are a good place to start healing and reflecting in a safe space.
Know that it’s not your fault
Racism is system and pervasive, and all employees should be subject to a workplace free of discrimination, harassment, and racism. As someone who has observed or experienced racism, this is not your fault, and submitting a complaint is the best path currently available to getting formal recompense. Look after yourself and be kind to yourself in the process of filing a complaint.
For bespoke diversity and equality guidance, contact Canadian Equality Consulting and begin a discussion on how to make your workplace more responsive to the needs of your diverse employees.