When current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked after his election why his cabinet was 50% male and 50% female, he replied, “Because it’s 2015.” This response, which showed that the head of a major Western state is actively trying to end gender inequality in the workplace, prompted reactions around the world. Most were supportive, while some questioned whether Canada wasn’t taking things a bit too far.
The approach to transforming organisations in this way has become a trend in Canada, both in the private and public sectors. Workplace diversity and inclusion policies are no longer just seen as “beneficial” but also “essential”, according to a September 15, 2020 report by the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario and others.
Although some may think otherwise, Canadian HR professionals remain well informed about current trends. In the past decade, so-called land acknowledgments have become widespread in Canada. They are usually spoken at the beginning of events with the reading of a text clarifying that as an organisation – usually made up of people of European descent – they are standing on stolen indigenous land. They also take place in written form, for example on websites of organisations such as the City of Toronto.
Another principle, which has recently found its way into Europe, is to indicate with which pronoun people want to be addressed. In recent years, it has become common for people to put their preferred form of pronoun in brackets next to their name on their LinkedIn profile. For example, someone who feelstheyare neither a man nor a woman can put “they” next to their name as a pronoun. The name badges that people wear at events also contain their first and last name, and increasingly often theirpreferred pronoun. Until recently, driver’s licences in the province of Ontario, as in other Canadian provinces, could only indicate either male or female as the gender. For the past few years, however, several Canadian provinces have offered a third option for non-binary people.
If you want to experience for yourself how diversity and inclusion are experienced in Canadian society, you should first apply for aneTA Canada, the special travel permit to enter Canada for UK and European citizens. You are better off applying for an eTA compared to a visa, since an eTA is (far) cheaper and is approved faster. If you want to work for a Canadian company as a result of positive experiences in Canada, you will likely require a specific type of work permit. There are some requirements for this, but they are fairly easy to meet.
It turns out that implementing diversity and inclusion starts at the top. After Justin Trudeau uttered the telling phrase “Because it’s 2015”, it was visible that this message resonated across Canada. Yet the Canadian workplace still has a long way to go, as centuries of gender imbalances are not easily corrected in just a few years. As a relatively young country, Canada owes its rise not only to its tolerance, but also to its continuous drive to improve, even in fields where it is considered a leading figure compared to the rest of the (Western) world.