Tag Archives: Aboriginal

The Danger of Terminology

18 Oct

Yesterday morning I was listening to The Current on CBC radio. The topic Anna Maria Tremonti and her guests were discussing was whether or not the Canadian Government’s treatment of our First Nations people should be considered genocide.

In addition to annihilation, genocide can also be about destroying a people’s culture, language, history, religion, books, etc. so that their identity is extinguished, even if the group in question still exists. This, in Bernie Farber (and Phil Fontaine’s) opinion, would qualify the Canadian Governments treatment of our First Nations peoples as a genocide.  

William Schabas disagrees. While he certainly agreed that the many heinous acts towards and decisions regarding First Nations people here in Canada since colonization are crimes against humanity (residential schools, refusing treatment for tuberculosis at some of those schools causing the death of thousands of Aboriginal children, testing the effectiveness of vitamins on Aboriginal children by denying them food are a few examples he gave), he stopped short of using the term genocide.

One thing he said, in particular, gave me pause. As he was explaining his position he stated that he thought that the debate over the use of the term genocide was unfortunate, as it was overshadowing the discussion about the report that was just released by James Anaya (the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), and the importance of the content of that report.  Case in point was the very interview he was participating in – focused on the terminology debate, not the recommendations for Ottawa. 

Ah. How often do we miss the opportunity of a deeper conversation that will increase our awareness, challenge our perspective, and open our eyes because we are too busy swimming in the shallower waters like what word to use? True, it helps to be on the same page, but if we get hung up on semantics we can easily miss the richer heart of the matter where the truth and pain as well as the opportunity for growth, understanding and healing lie. 

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copyright 2013 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.




Corporate Social Responsibility – what about inside the organization?

30 Sep

This week I was forwarded the list of Canada’s 50 Best Corporate Citizens (2011). It’s a list that Corporate Knights (“the Magazine for Clean Capitalism”) started about 10 years ago.

Who knew there was such a list? I was amazed!

I discovered  through Madelaine Drohan’s article in the report (entitled Big country, small steps) that corporate social responsibility can mean very different things;  from making sure child labour isn’t used in the supply chain, to building schools in Africa, to preventing high school drop outs right here at home.  Not bad, I thought. Good to know that there are large companies that are looking at more than profits. Hooray!

Further into the report, I came across a scorecard which tracks “the environmental, social and governance performance of the S&P/TSX60 Companies on the 2011 Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada.  I thought I would find some great stats about what these companies are doing internally as well, to match their social responsibility externally.

I was disappointed.

A few things stand out in particular among these stats about corporate citizens who are up to some great things:

  • the number of female company directors in 2010 was 14.61% (UP from 14.49% in 2009, but still low)
  • the number of company directors who were either visible minorities or aboriginal  in 2010 was 2.92% (DOWN from 4.06 in 2009)
  • and the ratio of CEO salary to the lowest paid employees salary INCREASED by 8.70%


I’m not sure why I’m surprised. I often see companies making efforts in diversity and inclusion outside their walls (arguably where it looks good and they get kudos) before tackling any change inside. I guess I thought that with the corporate halo shining brightly for these 50 companies, that maybe, just maybe, they would be different.  I know it’s just a graph and I don’t have the whole story by far, but it suggests a lot.  

Would it be great if corporate social responsibility included creating an inclusive, welcoming workplace  that valued diversity and inclusion – with representation at all levels and smaller pay gaps (for example) to prove it?

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Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion

The Devastating Impact of Discrimination

22 Aug

In today’s Toronto Star, Ashante Infantry writes about the longest running human rights case in Canadian history (23 years). It has finally been settled, but the plaintiff has not won.

Despite the fact that the Ontario Human Rights Commission ruled in his favour 3 times over the past 23 years, the directives were ignored by his employer and Michael McKinnon has had no relief. In fact, his supervisor, the ring-leader of the racial taunts against McKinnon for being Cree, has been promoted with a salary increase during this time. McKinnon, by contrast, is on anti-depressants.

It’s a sad reality that racism (and all the other “isms”) are still occuring in our society and workplaces. Sadder still is that directives from the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) can go unheeded.

The images we see, the news we read, and the stories we here – as well as those we don’t, by omission in schools, media, family and communities etc. – all teach us who has value in our society.  When we don’t challenge these messages and assumptions, they are allowed to continue  – and escalate.

Not heeding a OHRC directive speaks of how pervasive these beliefs must be in the jail that McKinnon worked at, for management to not even be swayed by a human rights ruling. It also speaks of a work environment that is poisoned – not just for McKinnon and other First Nations or Aboriginal peoples (and possibly for other “minority groups” as well), but also for their colleagues who may have wanted to speak up, but didn’t (or couldn’t).

Michael McKinnon is a broken man, because he proudly celebrated his cultural heritage at his wedding, and invited colleagues he thought were friends. For 23 years he has been fighting for his right to dignity, respect, and a safe workplace. No one should have to endure that.

Many of us take a safe and respectful workplace for granted, and can’t even imagine what that is like. It is our vigilance, and willingness to speak up, that can make a difference for those for whom work is not a safe or respectful place. Hopefully Bill 168 will help to ensure that happens more and more.

Fingers crossed.

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copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder

Founder, Building Equitable Environments

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