Nearly 6 in 10 Indigenous Canadians have experienced discrimination

Most perceive workplace discrimination, bias when applying for a job, seeking promotion, finds report

Nearly 6 in 10 Indigenous Canadians have experienced discrimination

The employment experience has not been fair for Indigenous Canadians, based on findings from a recent study.

Overall, nearly six in 10 (58.6%) of these workers have experienced discrimination in their current workplace, reports ComIT.org.

This happens to the extent that 56.2% of respondents have played down their Indigenous backgrounds to “fit in better at the workplace”.

Specific to the IT sector, 96% of Indigenous Canadians surveyed believe there are “systematic biases” against Indigenous individuals in the Canadian IT Job Market: 33.40% say “to a large extent”, 33% say to a moderate extent and 18.2% say to a small extent. 11.4% say they believe they are “very common”.

Also, 83% believe that indigenous IT workers likely face challenges not experienced by their non-indigenous counterparts, and 75% believe stereotypes about Indigenous communities impact perceptions of their capability in the IT sector.

Indigenous youth face racial bias at work, according to a previous report.

What inequalities do Indigenous people face in Canada?

Discrimination against these workers happens right from the start of their employment experience, according to ComIT.org’s survey of 500 respondents who identify as Indigenous Canadians.

Over six in 10 (62.4%) say they have experienced bias when applying for a job because they are Indigenous.

To address this, 52.6% say they have “played down” their Indigenous background to get a job, with 33.8% saying they choose to not list being Indigenous on their social media profiles.

"In many ways, the stats around bias and discrimination are the most concerning," says Pablo Listingart, founder and executive director of ComIT.org. "If Indigenous Canadians are being cast aside or locked out of even applying for jobs, we clearly have a long way to go to ensure an even playing field."

Indigenous workers also experience inequality later on in their career.

Over six in 10 (61.60%) of Indigenous Canadians think they are less likely to be promoted simply based on being Indigenous.

And a total of 97.2% of Indigenous Canadians say there is a lack of representation of Indigenous voices in C-Suite positions in the tech industry: 37.4% say to a large extent, 36.6% say to a moderate extent, 16.2% say to a small extent and 7% say “it's a serious problem”.

One Indigenous influencer claims that "in order to be an effective leader, you have to listen.”

What are the barriers to Indigenous employment in Canada?

But to get to the root causes of Indigenous workers’ difficulty in entering and rising the IT workforce, we have to go back to their origins, according to the ComIT.org survey.

This is because Indigenous Canadians say that the main barriers to following a career in digital skills are:

  • lack of access to education for economic reasons (54%) 
  • having to move away from my community / Lack of remote job opportunities (52.2%)
  • lack of support from my family to pursue that type of career (43.8%)
  • lack of access to remote alternatives of education (38.2%)
  • unreliable connectivity / No internet in my area (31.8%)

"In recent years, significant attention has been devoted to addressing the connectivity infrastructure challenges faced by Indigenous communities in remote areas," says Listingart. "While this remains a crucial issue requiring attention in North America, our survey highlights a broader range of concerns perceived as more pressing by those who responded. These include the absence of remote job opportunities and remote education options, which are crucial for enabling people to remain in their communities and actively contribute to the well-being of those around them."

HRD previously listed 10 ways to support Indigenous employees in your organization.

Indigenous Corporate Training also advises employers to provide educational programs that will allow Indigenous employees the opportunity to upgrade basic skills if needed. 

“The lower levels of numeracy and literacy and substandard levels of education are barriers to workplace success. Opening the window to skills upgrading opportunities and career advancement is a good indicator that a worker is considered a valued member of the company,” it says.

“Always, always remember that the legacy of the Indian Residential School system has resulted in many generations of Indigenous people who may not be comfortable with authority, who may have struggled with succeeding in the school system, who may have substance abuse in their community and family, and who may not come from a family or community that has positive work-related role models.”

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