Understanding BLM in a Canadian context

posted on January 22, 2021

January 12, 2021

By Keith Jeffers, HR Reporter

As we look to 2021 and the hope that a COVID-19 vaccine will roll out smoothly, it’s important to reflect on another important event that shaped the lives of Canadians and our workforce in 2020: The Black Lives Matter movement.

While BLM has existed for some time, events in 2020 pushed this organization front and centre. We sat down with Keith Jeffers, president of Employment Matters Consulting, and an expert in helping organizations improve diversity and inclusion in the workforce. In this article, Keith tackles the racial divide that affects Canadian perceptions on racism.

Political leaders and organizational leaders are being pressured to respond to worldwide demands for anti-Black racism change. The Prime Minister of Canada “takes a knee” and admits again that systemic racism and anti-Black racism do exist. The RCMP Commissioner is ambivalent. Many others in Canada and in the U.S. are having their ‘’come-to-Jesus’’ moments. Amazon agrees that Black lives matter. Corporations are either waiting it out or are yet to respond. Many leaders remain uncertain.

Why the uncertainty? There is a deep racial divide in perceptions about racism. In our consulting practice, we find that while racialized employees report that they experience racism in the workplace, the employer perspective typically is that racism is not a problem in their organizations.

Race is a taboo topic. When racism is not openly acknowledged, it remains underground and the issues remain unresolved. Black people and other racialized individuals report that they experience race as a key determinant of employment decisions that impact them. “When I see you, I do not see race’’ and other avoidance strategies are a refusal to engage in meaningful, problem-solving conversations about bias, exclusion, marginalization and disadvantage in the workplace.

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