Fact Sheet #23b) Addressing Systemic Discrimination

Level 4

Element: Leadership and Accountability

Outcome 23: Human rights roles and responsibilities are understood and are acted upon throughout the organization.

Indicator 23b): Senior leadership ensures that a process or mechanism has been implemented to address systemic issues.

Possible Measures and Data Sources:

  • Working group that reviews all policies and processes through a human rights lens to identify and address systemic issues.
  • Revision of policies and decision making processes/practices affecting employees’ careers.
  • Attainment and sustainability of full overall employment equity representation among the four designated groups by resolving systemic issues.

Indicator Description

In progressing towards a self-sustaining human rights culture, the organization will move from recognition of systemic discrimination (see fact sheet 14 c)) to changing the workplace conditions, practices, and policies that create a negative impact on employees and clients. This will enable the organization to sustain full representation of employment equity groups. To do so it has implemented a process or mechanism to address systemic issues. 

At Level 3, the organization has put mechanisms in place for identifying potential patterns of discrimination within the organization’s way of doing business, and has begun to build inclusion into its daily practices. At Level 4, the organization enhances mechanisms in place to ensure that proper follow-up and strategies are put in place to address systemic discrimination. Leaders at every level of the organization and across all business lines implement and monitor policies and practices throughout the organization to determine actions and implement activities needed to ensure full representation and eliminate barriers to employment.

For example, an organization can use an interactive spreadsheet to track complaints, analyze the data on a regular basis and determine if any new or emerging systemic issues are identified and whether employees and clients can advise of discriminatory practices and have their concerns dealt with effectively.

Suggested Approach

To resolve systemic discrimination issues that have been identified by mechanisms put in place at Level 3 (see Fact sheet 14c)) an organization can:

  • Review on a regular basis all policies, reports of complaints, and protocols that were established at Level 3 (see Fact sheet 14c)) using a human rights lens.
  • Adhere to all Employment Equity commitments that have been established.
  • Review the human rights curriculum (if put in place - see Fact sheet 14c)) and set up a mentoring program to ensure that people are trained in identifying and dealing with systemic discrimination.  
  • Continue to monitor human rights jurisprudence to stay aware of new trends.  
  • Conduct an environmental scan: To monitor activities and assess emerging issues and determine if people are working together, in all aspects of the business, to identify and address discrimination.  
  • Bring people together: A panel discussion can stimulate a discussion on policies and processes that may lead to, or address, systemic discrimination.  
  • Deal with systemic discrimination complaints in a manner that eliminates all barriers.  

Promising Practices

  • Making human rights part of business ethics: One financial institution has integrated its anti-harassment/anti-discrimination policy into its Statement of Business Principles and Code of Ethics. All employees in North America are required to read, sign and return a form indicating their understanding of, and compliance with, these principles and ethics on an annual basis. Supervisors/managers accept responsibility through this signed statement to maintain a discrimination-free and harassment-free workplace and to respond to negative situations whether or not a formal complaint is filed.
  • Including human rights competencies in the recruitment process: A Canadian airline provides training on employment equity, inclusive hiring practices, human rights and the duty to accommodate to all managers and supervisors involved in interviewing.
  • Planning succession: One organization built a tracking mechanism to ensure designated groups are fairly represented among those identified as having high potential. Also, vice-presidents and directors are accountable for achieving the organization’s diversity goals.
  • Devoting space to human rights: An organization has devoted a section of its intranet site and website to employment equity (EE). These sections contain information on each of the designated groups, EE in general, as well as learning opportunities. On the intranet site, the EE plan, the charter and the meeting minutes of the EE Consultation Committee are also accessible to users. EE has also been integrated as a permanent agenda item for Executive Committee meetings at the organization.
  • Targeting recruitment, hiring and training: A Canadian mining corporation has taken extensive measures to hire and train Aboriginal peoples, such that the overall representation of Aboriginal peoples in the company is at least 25%. For the company, this is a requirement of doing business in Western Canada. It is working with the community, with First Nations, and with academic institutions to increase the number of Aboriginal employees and to qualify Aboriginal persons as candidates for positions.

Useful Tools and Links

Employment Equity Act

Canadian Human Rights Act

Employment Equity: Frequently Asked Questions - Canadian Human Rights Commission

Racism and Racial Discrimination - Systemic Discrimination - Ontario Human Rights Commission

Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination (see, in particular, Appendix on Workplace Policies, Practices and Decision-Making Processes and Systemic Discrimination) - Ontario Human Rights Commission

Guidelines on Developing Human Rights Policies and Procedures: Barrier Review and Barrier Removal Plans - Ontario Human Rights Commission 

Corporate Social Responsibility - Export Development Canada

Addressing Systemic Racial Discrimination in Employment - J. Helen Beck, Jeffrey G. Reitz, and Nan Weiner

Ten Common Commitments interactive spreadsheet - CCMARD


Employment Equity Act

Canadian Human Rights Act

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