As mandated by the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Human Rights Codes of each of the provinces and territories makes it unlawful to discriminate against people because of their racial and/or ethnic background(s).
This can make disclosing your race or ethnicity in an interview situation somewhat tricky.
With labour shortages projected for many of the provinces, it has been suggested that more work forces encourage the hiring of First Nation, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) peoples to meet the demand for skilled and educated workers in upcoming years.
Sandra MacDonald, a counsellor at the First Nations Centre at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), provides personal, group, educational and career counselling for students on campus. She believes that some of the reasons Aboriginal job-seekers may not feel comfortable disclosing their status include “fears around discrimination, previous experiences with racism and stereotypes.”
Reasons Aboriginal job-seekers may not feel comfortable disclosing their status include “fears around discrimination, previous experiences with racism and stereotypes.”
—Sandra McDonald, Counsellor, First Nations Centre at UNBC
It is important to note that it is not legal for potential employers to ask about your racial or ethnic status during an interview. You may choose to disclose this information, but it is not mandatory.
The Employment Equity Act, a federally-legislated program, aims to remedy past discrimination and employment opportunities while preventing further barriers, improve access and distribution of employment, foster a climate of equity within an organization for Aboriginal peoples as well as other people of colour, women, and LGBTQ persons and persons with disabilities. These can be attained through two federal employment equity programs: the Legislated Employment Equity Program (LEEP) and the Federal Contractors Program (FCP).
In the case of both programs, it is your choice to disclose your status, but it is not obligatory for you to do so.
If FNMI persons apply to EE-recognized companies, the companies submit a report to the government which shows how they are trying to expand the hiring, promotion, retention and development of Aboriginal employees. Similarly, the Aboriginal Human Resources Council has a Leadership Circle of employers that have made inclusion an important part of their corporate cultures, including Suncor Energy, BHP Billiton, Goldcorp, RBC, Talisman Energy, Vale, IBM, Imperial Oil, Nexen and Loblaw.
Many companies want to hire First Nation, Métis and Inuit individuals because they can meet anticipated market demands, represent a more diverse client base, can create new products, programs and services, and can help attract more potential Aboriginal employees. All of these will give companies a distinct and competitive advantage.
As an FNMI candidate, you may choose to disclose your Aboriginal status to potential employers in order to benefit from programs and career opportunities specifically for FNMI students and recent graduates, such as scholarships; internship, co-op and new graduate programs; and entry level jobs that Aboriginal candidates may be a stronger fit for, such as Aboriginal Liaison/Community Affairs/Community Liaison Officer/Aboriginal Engagement roles.
Furthermore, as Sandra notes, “Many Aboriginal organizations may prefer to employ people of Aboriginal descent.” In doing so, these FNMI individuals become role models for the community and contribute to the overall success of the organization by providing their unique and diverse perspectives to the workplace.
Photo credit: Vancouver Island University