Incidents of Racism Towards IRCC Employees Highlighted In Report

Incidents of Racism Towards IRCC Employees Highlighted In Report
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A report highlighting racism faced by employees of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), its views on racism in policies, programs and practices, and ways in which it could improve has been released by the federal immigration ministry.

It found that although IRCC has made progress, 63 per cent of participants gave a rating of seven or more when asked how much of a problem racism is at the ministry.

Experiences of racism in IRCC’s foreign postings are much more prevalent than at its local office.

Participants reported incidents of managers mocking the accents of Locally Engaged Staff (LES, who are involved in IRCC’s foreign offices), asking them to repeat themselves, and pretending not to understand them and ignoring them at work.

Managers at foreign postings also made demeaning comments and hurtful jokes about employees’ racial or ethnic origins, and made derogatory associations between employees and applicants.

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“What I encountered overseas was outright racist Canadian staff in a way that I was shocked,” said one IRCC employee.

“In Canada, you don’t vocalize those things. But if you have been overseas a long time or posted in places where it wasn’t a big deal, you develop a level of comfort expressing these things.”

Participants in the study also feel that the small and somewhat hierarchical organizational structure in foreign postings means that managers shy away from removing problematic employees, as that could cause a disruption in operations.

The research in question – titled IRCC 2022-23 Anti-Racism Employee Qualitative Research – was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights. It was designed to allow the IRCC to further explore employees’ experiences with racism outside of departmental anti-racism surveys.

A total of 62 IRCC employees – from various levels of the department – were surveyed through 15 two-hour online focus groups and an additional six, 20 to 40 minute online interviews. These sessions were conducted from February 6 to 21.

The participants included two indigenous or aboriginal employees, 21 black employees, 26 non-black racialized employees, and 11 white employees. Two of the participants were non-specified.

Incidents of systemic racism in the IRCC have surfaced in the past too, with African students having been subject to unfair selection criteria when applying to study permits. This further showcases the need for strong intervention going forward.

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The study falls under IRCC’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2.0 (2021-2024), which outlines the government’s many commitments towards continuing to identify the unjust and harmful impacts of systemic racism in IRCC and to remove barriers to equity and inclusion.

Although the employees involved in the study believe that there are “numerous signs of progress” since 2021, the organization still needs critical transformation in order to achieve better racial equality at the workplace.

For one, they feel that IRCC needs to ensure a baseline level of bias awareness and intercultural competency throughout the organization, which – along with a commitment to upholding the Department’s anti-racism values – is a pre-requisite for hiring and promotions.

They also feel the need for an independent body which can anonymously receive and investigate complaints and is given the power to impose consequences and report on case numbers, case progression, and high-level outcomes.

Lastly, employees believe that there needs to be an urgent requirement for bold action to investigate and deal adequately with employees and managers in the International Network whose racist behaviours and communications continue to create a toxic work environment in offices abroad and impact how the Department is represented in foreign postings.

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