Racism in Canada and the Importance of Unions | National Union of Public and General Employees

Racism in Canada and the Importance of Unions

Canada  was built on the back of colonialism, genocide, and slavery. When discussing racism in the workplace, our history of discrimination and dehumanization of people of colour can not be ignored. Racism in Canada is not openly discussed. It is subtle, but is undeniably having a huge impact on African and Caribbean Canadians. Past Censuses have shown that Black Canadians are more likely to be unemployed, as well as having lower employment incomes than the Canadian average.

Name-based discrimination in the workplace is very common, with employers across Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto showing preference for candidates with European sounding names despite equal qualifications (Oreopoulos and Dechief, 2009).  Hygiene and dress codes used to excuse blatant discrimination against Black women who wear their hair naturally (Estrada, 2015).

This coming February is Black History Month, during which many Canadians unions will renew efforts on stopping racial discrimination in the labour market, and working with governments and employers to create a safe working environment for Black Canadian Union Members. Racism in the workplace is real in Canada, and it is necessary awareness to be raised about the discrimination Black Canadians face, as well as concrete steps taken to reduce and eliminate the discrimination in the first place.

Black Canadians were not permitted to even join labour unions for almost 70 years after the first Canadian unions were established (Historica Canada). Now, unions play an important role in maintaining safety, fair pay, and workplaces free from discrimination for all Canadians, regardless of race. However, racism is still widespread in Canada, and unions are still the most effective way for people of colour and their allies to come together and make their voices heard about the unacceptability of racism in the labour market and the workplace. 

Works Cited

"Black History Canada - Timeline 1900-Present." Black History Canada - Timeline 1900-Present. Historica Canada. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 

Cole, Desmond. "Subtle Racism Is the Real Threat." Thestar.com. The Toronto Star, 17 Sept. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 

Estrada, Sheryl. "Hairstyles of Black Women: Cases of Discrimination." DiversityInc. 09 Apr. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 

Galabuzi, Grace-Edward, and Sheila Block. "Whatever You Call It, Discrimination Is Alive and Well in the Workplace." The Globe and Mail. 13 June 2013. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 

NUPGE. "Black History Month: Fighting for Equality and Justice." National Union of Public and General Employees. NUPGE, 04 Feb. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 

Oreopoulos, Philip, and Diane Decheif. "Why Do Some Employers Prefer to Interview Matthew but Not Samir? New Evidence from Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver." TRIEC. Toronto Region Immigrant Employee Council, 2009. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 

Phillips, Pattie. "Highlights in Canadian Labour History." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 04 Sept. 2009. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 

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Natalie Blecha
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