Indigenous Inclusion - Our Country has a Long Way to Go
Past studies have documented a rise in racism correlated to downturns in the economy. When money is tight and jobs are scarce, the fabric of a person, community or country can quickly unravel to reveal weaker and less favorable human traits.
Recently, the Globe and Mail published an article titled Aboriginal people harder hit by economic downturn. In fact, more Indigenous workers were displaced than non-Indigenous people – a situation that begs the question “why?”
In addition, the online comments that followed the article were disturbingly negative and, in a few cases, supportive and enlightened. They paint a clear picture of how far our country still has to go to create a better understanding of our social and economic realities.
I had the opportunity to share this article and its comments with a group of employers who are committed to workplace inclusion. For many, the comments represented the type of opinions and attitudes that foster exclusion. For others, there was shame and disappointment but, fortunately, it only strengthened their resolve to create an inclusive Canada.
I see this article as a revealing glimpse into the attitudes that shape our communities and workplaces. It’s also a golden opportunity for dialogue. Losing your job is hard on any Canadian, especially at Christmas. Whether you’re Indigenous or non-Indigenous, you can empathize with the tremendous pressure and burden an unemployed person would face trying to provide for their family and community. This underscores what every Canadians needs – full, gainful and meaningful employment.
How, then, does our society share in the good and bad times? A principle of fairness must surely guide our actions and outcomes and, during these unfortunate times, economic cutbacks have to be applied fairly. All Canadians should share in the abundance of good times and all Canadians should share in the pain of economic setbacks. No one group should be forced to carry the burden of an economic downturn.
If the situation were reversed and a disproportionate number of workers, such as women, immigrants or youth, were losing their jobs, I would be advocating on their behalf in the same way I am for Indigenous workers. Nothing could be more Canadian than sharing our burdens and celebrating our successes equally.
I encourage you to read the full Globe and Mail story and to look at the 230+ comments. Decide for yourself, if we, as a nation, still have a lot of work to do? I think we do.
The next question, of course, is what will you do to start that work? Be part of the dialogue and join our Leadership Circle membership to share your voice and ideas, and learn from others.
Kelly J. Lendsay
President and CEO
Editor’s Note: Since this story and the comments aired, the Globe and Mail are looking at how they can help educate Canadians on Indigenous issues to help erase ignorance and racism and grow Canada’s economy.