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Most recent Canadian immigrants have experienced or witnessed ‘overt’ racist remarks at work: Survey

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March 18, 2024
By Talent Canada

Photo: Adobe Stock

About seven in 10 (70.4 per cent) recent Canadian immigrants said they have witnessed or experienced overt racist remarks from colleagues or superiors in their workplaces, according to a new survey.

“While we know anecdotally that new immigrants suffer bias and discrimination in the Canadian workplace, it’s both jarring and disappointing to see that it happens so openly and frequently,” said Pablo Listingart, founder and executive-director of ComIT.org, the company behind the research. “Clearly there is a new culture crisis in Canadian workplaces, and we all have to work together making sure racism and bias don’t become even more prevalent.”

The frequency of the racist remarks is also concerning, with 27.4 per cent stating it happened “frequently” while 43 per cent said “occasionally.”

Nearly two-thirds (60.8 per cent) said they have experienced microaggressions or subtle forms of discrimination — 22.4 per cent said weekly; 21 per cent monthly; and 17.4 per cent daily.


Perception of unqualified bosses

The survey of 500 immigrants who had come to Canada recently uncovered some other interesting data, including that about one-half said they report to bosses who are “less qualified” than them.

It found 51.4 per cent said they report to a manager who is “less qualified but Caucasian.” A similar percentage (50.8%) said they report to someone who is less qualified but second or third-generation Canada.

Uncomfortable confrontations

More than half (50.8 per cent) said they have “looked the other way” when a recent immigrant colleague experienced racism in the workplace.

More than one-third (35 per cent) felt “uncomfortable” speaking up about instances of bias or discrimination in their workplaces, while 12.2 per cent said they’re “very uncomfortable,” and 22.8 per cent are “somewhat uncomfortable.”

About one-third (31.4 per cent) also report a lack of adequate support from HR or management when addressing bias or discrimination in the workplace.

Other findings

Promotion purgatory

  • Well over half (61.8 per cent) of immigrants say they have been passed over for a promotion or job at least once in favour of a less-qualified Caucasian candidate.
  • A combined 63.2 per cent of working immigrants say they have been passed over for a promotion or job opportunity in favour of a LESS QUALIFIED candidate who is second or third-generation Canadian.  33.2 per cent say this has happened multiple times, and 30% say it has happened once.
  • A combined 63% of working immigrants ‘agree’ (42.8 per cent) or ‘strongly agree’ (24.0 per cent) that there are systematic barriers within their workplaces that hinder the advancement of individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Culture crisis

  • Over half of working immigrants (57.8 per cent) say they consciously play down their ethnicity at work ‘to fit in better.’
  • 69.6 per cent of working immigrants have had cultural traditions or practices misunderstood or ridiculed by colleagues or supervisors. 41 per cent ‘occasionally’ and 28.6 per cent ‘frequently.’
  • 74 per cent of working immigrants have felt pressured to conform to cultural norms in the workplace that do not align with their own values or beliefs. 30.4 per cent say ‘strongly’ pressured and 43.6 per cent say ‘somewhat’ pressured.

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