How Reconciliation and Inclusion Could Shape the Future of Work in Canada

How Reconciliation and Inclusion Could Shape the Future of Work in Canada

A wave of anti-Black racism protests in the US last year served to increase calls for change in Canada, where anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism remain prevalent
Heather Russek
Collaborator, Innovation Design + Futures
Jessica Thornton
Collaborator
Darren Elias
Collaborator
February 10, 2021
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As 2020 has seen a wave of anti-Black racism protests all over the United States, many Canadians have highlighted the persistent anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism that is also prevalent in Canada. For example, the 2015 The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released 94 Calls to Action; however, as of 2019, only 9 have been enacted. But with a significant increase of diversity and inclusion–related job postings, a boom in support for Black-owned businesses, and growing demand for Indigenous authored content, it is possible that Canada is heading towards a more racially just and inclusive future.

In our new report, Yesterday’s Gone: Exploring possible futures of Canada’s labour market in a post-COVID world, produced in partnership with the Future Skills Centre, we’ve identified 34 meso-trends that could impact the future work in Canada. This report uses futures research and expert workshops to explore a broad range of trends—many of which have been accelerated, disrupted, or created by COVID-19—that have the potential to impact Canada’s labour market over the coming decade. This report is not meant to be a comprehensive overview, a prediction of the future, or a deep analysis of any one trend. It’s meant to explore and consider the potential for different trends to interact in ways that are not always obvious, as well as how these trends may impact populations and demographic groups differently. Here, we explore meso-trends related to reconciliation and inclusion that could shape Canada’s labour market in the decade ahead.

1. Road to Reconciliation

First Nations, Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit have been impacted by a history of genocide, discrimination, and racism that extends into the present day. In 2005, the TRC identified 94 calls to action. While limited progress has been made towards these calls, there are signals pointing towards an increased emphasis on Indigenous rights and reconciliation, as well as a heightened appreciation of Indigenous arts, culture, and knowledge, including a wave of Indigenous stories and film gaining traction at events like TIFF. Significantly, the Mi’kmaq First Nations joint acquisition of Clearwater Seafoods for $1 billion in November 2020 represents a groundbreaking opportunity for Indigenous communities that may motivate similar ventures and build towards the call for an annual $100 billion dollar national Indigenous economy. A greater focus on the goals of reconciliation in Canada could give rise to Indigenous-inspired design, governance structures, and changes in our relationship with one another, land, and resources.  

However… Indigenous communities are at increased risk during the pandemic, and only 9 of the 54 TRC calls to action have been implemented.

In 2030 this could mean:

  • There may be a shift in mainstream understanding of knowledge and evidence that prioritizes individual experience and the role of elders, wisdom, and storytelling.
  • Indigenous history might become a key component of the Canadian education system as well as a professional prerequisite.
  • Use of Indigenous governance systems and decision-making frameworks could become the norm.
  • There could be significant progress made on resolving the 54 calls to action.

Potential labour market implications:

  • There may be an increase in Indigenous-owned businesses and Indigenous labour and Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit in leadership positions.
  • Tapping into the potential of the Indigenous economy could increase overall economic prosperity in Canada.
  • There might be greater demand for settlers who appreciate and respect Indigenous ways of life and are skilled cross-cultural communicators.
  • There could be greater demand for Indigenous artists and musicians.
  • There might be a strong push for employers to decolonize the workplace and work cultures.

Signal Maturity: Emerging

2. Land Back

As the Yellowhead Institute writes, one of the loudest and most frequent demands of Indigenous peoples in the relationship with settlers is for the return of stolen land. Large portions of the Maritimes, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec sit on unceded land—territory that was never signed away by the Indigenous peoples. There have been impactful recent land agreements made, including a historic land back deal for the Grey County and Saugeen Ojibway that was 25 years in the making, and a new historic Lands Act that Chief Doris Bill of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation says will greatly enhance its path to self-determination. The Land Back movement has also been incorporated by Indigenous artists and even inspired an entire exhibit in Victoria. One BC resident is voluntarily paying retroactive land rents to the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, and Te’mexw Nations for living on unceded land, and a Quebec developer offered to give the land that was at the heart of the Oka Crisis back to the Mohawks of Kanesatake. While this is still limited progress, this evidence could signal a movement towards reclamation that would fundamentally restructure ownership of land in Canada.

However… according to First Nations communities in Ontario, COVID-19 recovery has trampled Treaty rights through resource extraction and forestry.

In 2030 this could mean:

  • It may become common practice for non-Indigenous, non-Inuit, and non-Métis people in Canada to refer to themselves as settlers.
  • Settlers living on unceded land may pay rent to the original inhabitants of the territory.
  • If the Land Back movement continues to gain momentum, there could be violent pushback from settlers.
  • There could be greater action taken towards the climate crisis as land and resources are managed more sustainably.

Potential labour market implications:

  • There may be demand for new organizations and positions focused on settling land claims.
  • There might be a reduction of mining and other extraction-based industries that tend to operate on Indigenous lands—or a shift of these sectors towards more Indigenous ownership and benefit.
  • Regions with high amounts of unceded territory, such as BC, could be disproportionately impacted economically by Land Back movements.

Signal Maturity: Weak Signal

3. Anti-Racism in the Workplace

Systemic racism—that is, racism embedded as normal practice within society or an organization—exists in Canada, including in the workplace. Recent movements including Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police have put the spotlight on race-based discrimination and led to anti-racism commitments across numerous sectors. Yelp, for example, is now labelling businesses that are accused of racist behaviour, and many organizations are hiring for Directors and Managers of Anti-Racism, including George Brown College and St Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto. Meanwhile, the Federal government has committed $15 million to fund 85 anti-racism projects that target economic barriers and online hate. This could impact recruitment and workplace policies, while more broadly shifting structures of privilege and power dynamics.

However… there has been significant backlash to anti-racist movements, with a rise in online racist hate groups across the country and back-tracking in anti-racist education.

In 2030 this could mean:

  • There could be more BIPOC individuals in leadership positions in top companies and organizations.
  • Top talent may seek inclusive places to live, potentially creating a polarized country of inclusive and non-inclusive regions.
  • There might be a greater drive for accommodations and mainstream inclusive design to be normalized.
  • White supremacy may become more vocalized and overt as backlash to anti-racism movements

Potential labour market implications:

  • Regions that have a reputation for strong anti-racism policies and programs might be more successful at attracting valuable talent, gaining a significant economic advantage.
  • There may be demand for new positions that deal directly with anti-racism, equity, wellness, and conflict, and investment in training and learning
  • Efforts to address barriers to starting and growing a business may lead to more BIPOC entrepreneurs and founders.
  • There could be increased demand for consultants and members of senior leadership teams responsible for diversity and inclusion.

Signal Maturity: Emerging

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For media enquiries, please contact Lianne George, Director of Strategic Communications at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.

Heather Russek
Collaborator, Innovation Design + Futures
Jessica Thornton
Collaborator
Darren Elias
Collaborator
February 10, 2021
Print Page

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