Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Training Gives Newcomers Tools to Succeed in Canada’s Diverse Workplace
By Ilaneet Goren
While the vision and promise of a better life have brought many of us to Canada, research shows that skilled immigrants continue to face barriers to employment due to bias and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, language, religion and other grounds. And yet, in their first months, and often years, in Canada, newcomers seldom receive opportunities to learn about their human rights and how to access support around discrimination and inequity in the workplace. Equally important is the conversation on how to insist that our chosen workplace culture values diversity, promotes belonging, and ensures equity, allowing us to bring our whole self to work.
So, when Community Connection Mentorship Program reached out about delivering just this type of training to internationally trained newcomer professionals, I knew I wanted to be part of it. As a CultureLink volunteer for many years, I was already a huge fan of the organization’s innovative ways of responding to newcomers’ needs.
I remember my own experience when I came to Canada 20 years ago – I was learning English and job search skills while also navigating a new identity as a queer woman. I wished I had a safe space to learn about my rights and gain tools to better respond to the expectations and realities of a diverse, multicultural context. With that, I also didn’t realize that despite my challenges I was still benefiting from what I now know is white privilege in our society. When I learned more about how systems of power and privilege operate, it helped me be a better ally in the fight for social justice.
Titled Diversity, Equity and Human Rights in the Workplace, this three-part training has been delivered to three cohorts of 10-12 newcomers as part of the ‘Interview Squad’ training program.
Participants had diverse professional and ethnocultural backgrounds, making the discussions that much richer and informative as group members shared their own experiences and perspectives around identity, culture and belonging in the workplace.
The training covered a range of concepts and topics, aiming to empower newcomers to have informed conversations about human rights, equity, diversity, and inclusion in their places of work and learning. The group also discussed systemic racism, unconscious bias, and what it means to be an ally. After completing some e-learning modules offered to the public by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, participants engaged in interactive exercises and explored real-life examples and scenarios. Each session included practice responding to interview questions relating to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, which are becoming increasingly common across sectors.
Most of the participants rated the sessions as “helpful.” One participant who started a new job at one of Toronto’s major hospitals shortly after the training said: “This training has positively impacted me to become an active part to support and understand people in my workplace, and society.” He also commented on his experience in the group: “It was a very good time to learn about a lot of things, new definitions, and concepts, history, a belonging feeling that has been developed in a brief time.”
A participant from another cohort said she appreciated the practice and the additional resources provided after the sessions: “Thanks to it I improved my soft skills. Plus, I enjoyed the interview practise, the feedback was very useful. I think this needs to be a prerequisite to all settlement in Toronto.”
Ilaneet Goren is a long-time CultureLink volunteer and an Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Educator and Consultant.
For more program details from CultureLink please click here.