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Racism in Hiring: Why “No Canadian Experience” is Unacceptable [Opinion]

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By Suzanne Sears, Best Retail Careers International Inc.

If we want to make meaningful change in ending racism in the workforce, we are forced to look at the unspoken, but nonetheless prevalent, racism in hiring and discrimination against newcomers to Canada.

As a Recruiter, I am often challenged with the issue of not being able to submit resumes for ‘New Canadians’ to employers, regardless of how extensive or relevant their education and experience is. I have found myself needing to argue with Human Resource professions as to why they should at least give new Canadians an interview.

As a blanket requirement, demanding Canadian experience is discriminatory and illegal under the Ontario Human Rights Code as well as other national legislation.

THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT SPELLS OUT HIRING GUIDELINES CLEARLY

“Some employers may mistakenly believe that the only way for a job applicant to show that they “have what it takes” to be effective or “fit” in a Canadian workplace is to show that they already have experience working in Canada. These employers may think that a Canadian experience requirement can be used as a short-cut, or a proxy, to measure a person’s competence and skills. “Even where employers and regulatory bodies may be acting in good faith, a candidate’s Canadian experience, or lack thereof, is not a reliable way to assess a person’s skills or abilities. And, imposing requirements of this nature may contravene the Code. A requirement for Canadian experience, even when implemented in good faith, can be a barrier in recruiting, selecting, hiring or accrediting, and may result in discrimination.”

Human Resource leaders have the ability to right many of the wrongs regarding racism in the Canadian work field, starting by granting interviews to new Canadians. We are all familiar with the stories of fully qualified teachers, engineers, doctors, marketing professionals, financial analysts, etc., who are driving buses or taxis for no other reason other than the lack of Canadian credentials or experience. Credentials may take years to acquire, but Canadian “experience” may be impossible to achieve if no firm will hire newcomers in their speciality at their previous levels.

“In some cases, requiring applicants to have Canadian experience may be disguised discrimination, and a way to screen out newcomers from the hiring process.” – Ontario Human Rights Code

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This lack of Canadian experience issue seems to be applied to more racialized populations rather than to white European newcomers. Experience gained in Britain, France, Germany, etc., is less often discounted as “irrelevant” to Canada than similar experience in India, Iran, Iraq, or the Philippines, for example. With education and experience nearly identical, a conclusion can be drawn that points to the ethnicity of the candidate.

80% of all immigrants come to Canada with post-secondary educations. That level continues to rise every year, yet their unemployment rate is nearly double that of native-born Canadians. Aboriginal people suffer about 5% higher unemployment rates than the rest of Canadians, but it is often attributed to the lack of jobs in the places they live. Whether this is entirely true or not is debatable.

The unemployment rate for immigrants of less than 5 years residency was 9.5% in 2019, while for Canadian born it was 5.7%. The total percentage of immigrants in the population is 5.9%, yet the unemployment rate for them, even 5 years of Canadian residency, was nearly double the rate for native Canadians.

Racism in the workplace is a constant and real battle for visible minorities.

“…the rule or standard itself must be as inclusive as possible of individual differences, rather than maintaining discriminatory standards with accommodation for those people who cannot meet them. Even then, there may still be a need to accommodate individual differences up to the point of undue hardship. This ensures that each person is assessed according to his or her own personal abilities instead of being judged against presumed group characteristics.” – Ontario Human Rights Code

This would mean assessing people on an individual basis, and would include considering non-Canadian experience and other qualifications. Candidates should be assessed on an individual basis rather than being screened out based on general rules.

All prior work experience should be assessed, regardless of where it was obtained. Employers should seek job-related qualifications — for example, the ability to plan a project and complete it to required timelines, or the ability to show familiarity with Canadian laws, industry norms or standards. Candidates should be given the opportunity to establish relevant skills and experience in a variety of ways. The essential question is, are they qualified to do the job?

Job ads, for example, should state clearly the specific skills and work experience that are required for each of the duties associated with the position, and job requirements must be related to the position.

While most Human Rights tribunals make it perfectly clear that an applicant should have a fair chance at every job, what they cannot mandate is employers accepting applications and interviewing new Canadians or other racial groups.

In some cases a person’s name is a giveaway to their nationality. My tests as a Recruiter have shown that submitting a resume with a “foreign” name vs. without has a definite impact on the number of interviews granted for that candidate.

Many do not realize that the only legitimate question when hiring is, “are you eligible to work in Canada” No other nationality based question is legal.

Human Resource leaders have a duty to not only ensure that new Canadian workers obtain an interview, but also receive a fair chance at being hired. It is up to Human Resource leaders to enforce the legal standards, and ensure compliance of provincial and Canadian Human Rights Codes. It’s not enough to have the policy anymore. Thorough training and hiring managers to report on progress and accountability for eliminating racism in your organization is now recommended.

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS

  1. Remove Name Bias: Applicant tracking systems (ATS) should be blind. They do not need a candidates name. No name required, and assign each candidate a number before you make contact automatically after they submitted your applicant form;
  2. Remove Address Bias: ATS systems do not require candidate addresses prior to hiring: eliminate this entirely;
  3. Remove Brand Bias: Brand bias is a huge part of racial bias in hiring. Those who do or have worked for big North American brands are far more likely to receive an interview than those who did not. Most interviewers feel it is critical to know the “brand” a candidate worked for prior to outreach. A “black out” of the name of corporation prior to reviewing the skill stack should be the initial application, specific work experience can be covered in the interview;
  4. Remove Educational Bias: It is not essential to know which school a candidate attended, or which year they graduated. Eliminate the space for the school name and date they attended. The school name can indicate North American experience vs. foreign; and the date requirement creates an age bias. All that is required is the credentials acquired (eg. Masters Degree);
  5. Remove Skill Lists: Instead of vague job descriptions that list things like “able to inspire teams”, “able to multitask”, the skill stack should be specific — intermediate level of excel, able to lead up to 50 people, etc;
  6. Stop defining jobs by arbitrary experience levels such as 3 years of this, 10 years of that. Adopt consistent standards — entry level, junior, intermediate, and senior. This is not necessarily a racist issue specifically, but it is also a huge part of discrimination overall for candidates;
  7. Ensure ATS forms only permit jobs that go back no more than 10 years;
  8. Remove all references to citizenship status and replace with: “Are you eligible to work in Canada?”

According to the Toronto Census profile for 2019, out of 6.2 million people in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), 49% are visible minorities. Bottom line: If you want the best candidates, you can no longer afford to ignore 49% of the potential talent pool. As Canada continues to become increasingly multicultural with 300,000 immigrants arriving annually, considering out-of-country experience will be crucial.

My firm, Best Retail Careers International, launched a recruit-by-membership program to help the industry retain the best talent. For luxury retailers, we also launched Luxury Careers Canada which is working with the top brands and retailers, and features a job board with available positions. We have access to over 50,000 potential candidates directly and even more through word-of-mouth.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I completely agree with the author of this article. Canada has very discriminatory practices and numerous well-educated and well-experienced individual immigrate to this country with dreams and what they get is discrimination! When the immigration process if “points based” and you have to prove your education equivalency and experience to get points to receive “ITA”, why are these not taken into consideration while hiring people? I have seen people struggling for years and then give up and keep doing the “menial jobs” they took up for survival. I’ve met people who were CEO in their home countries cleaning toilets in Canada! Is this why Canada need immigrants? To clean their toilets and wash their cars? Or to serve in restaurants and super-markets? This is so shameful. I would term this as violation of Human Rights! Canada may rob you of your dignity and waste your talent. If you aren’t ready to struggle and not give up, please do not move to this country!
    UK/USA/NZ/AUS are better countries to migrate to.

  2. Great article that addresses the real racist hiring practices in Canada – systemically designed discriminate! Just to add another dimension, recruitment firms are just as guilty of these crimes based on their own ideology. as well as instructions from the employers that hire them to recruit potential candidates. The first step of the hiring process is a phone interview. and if the interviewee has an accent, all of the above changes become irrelevant. How do we solve this? In addition to the suggested changes listed in the article. ask the interviewee to answer the screening questions by email to avoid rejection in the first step of the interview.

    • I disagree that Canada is racist in hiring. I work for a diverse box store and they are very diverse and I can count on my hands the number of Caucasians there out of like 1000 employees, so how is it racist? Lots of companies I see practically zero Caucasians.

  3. Excellent article!! Absolutely agree that CANADA is a very racist country and I have never seen such hatred and animosity towards Asians like I’ve seen in Canada, period!! SHAME on all the WHITE people who pretend to be your friends at Church, at the gym or other non-work places BUT when it comes down to employment, all the backstabbing, discrimination, racial bias, racial profiling, resume racism and inequality is rampant. The real culprits being the Canadian Government & immigration Canada – why do they even bother to allow immigrants to move to Canada when they do not have the decency to ensure these highly trained professionals can easily integrate into the job market. Immigration Canada is shameless in accepting thousands new families all the while when the ones who came in 5 or 10 years ago are scrambling to find a decent living for themselves and their children. Over and above the covid19 pandemic just revealed how corrupt and mismanaged most Canadian companies are as they could not even retain employees but closed down whereas lots of Asian companies remained operational and laidoff lost a single employee till date. Moreover, I’ve seen lots of shameless Canadian employers especially Canadian provincial city run public services department where NON-QUALIFIED WHITE people are employed for top positions – this is really a joke – examples are Edmonton city, Leduc City – there are tons of municipalities – ITS A JOKE, ONE HAS TO WONDER IF THEY EVEN WENT TO SCHOOL! Just look at their linkedin profile and look under Education – for some weird reason some are employed as technology experts BUT their background is ARTS – this is really a JOKE!! I’ve been in many parts of the world and hired numerous professionals BUT NEVER HAVE I SEEN THIS SORT OF NON-SENSE I CONTINUE TO SEE IN CANADA, ESPECIALLY IN THE GOVT. PUBLIC SERVICES. One does not have to look any further, just visit their website and try to do a little background check on the names, some public service websites try to HIDE the pictures of their employees (trying to act smart) but thanks to the internet, a little research and you could find out who they really are – NON-QUALIFIED WHITE PEOPLE working for the GOVT. PUBLIC SERVICE – this is corruption at it best! Tax payer dollars thrown to the dogs! Heck, even the Taxi drivers are probably more qualified then them! SHAME ON THEM – WHO? WHITE PEOPLE HOLDING THE POWER AND TOP POSITIONS IN CANADA EG. – CANADIAN GOVT, ONTARIO & ALBERTA MUNICIPALITIES ETC. ETC..

  4. Canada is the most racist country I’ve ever lived. If you are white even Latinos are considered whites you are good. But if you are even half white or non white you are screwed for life!!!

  5. Hello! I would really appreciate any information that you have about the other national legislation that makes it illegal/discriminatory to demand Canadian experience. I have found the OHRC policy about this already, but I’ve struggle to find anything else. Thank you so much! 🙂

  6. The govt is not bad but these privately owned firms are the problems of Canada. You are looked down on because of your race what a wickedness and evil perpetrated by men. I dont see any difference between white and other race. All humans are created equally. Both the white and non white die and fall sick. My question is what makes you think you are superior when you can die at anytime. Some of the racists who were in this same act are now in the grave and some awaiting death because of old age. Go to old people’s home you will be like wow. Please there’s nothing in this life. Let’s embrace one another. If you try to hinder other people from growing in life what did you gain absolutely nothing. You remember the time you will be old and on wheel chair and dedicating in your pants or underwear?
    Let’s be calm down. If you go to old people’s home you will see how some of them are feeling so helpless imagine. I looked and shook my head and said some of these people must have been racists but today look at the way they are. Imagine all their actions then what they they gain? Absolutely nothing. Try to learn and be reasonable in your actions. Ignorance can also contribute to some of this evil acts of discrimination and racism against others. Some of you travel to other parts of the world imagine when you get there are the people hate you , how would you feel?

  7. Racism in the workforce has been here since colonial times. We can’t seem to legislate how employers behave when so much of it is a personal preferences of the employer. The law is useless as this type of racism is hard to prove.

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