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How can we as individuals empower marginalized groups to have their human rights respected?

June and November are graduation/convocation months for colleges and universities. Bright graduates of all ages are eagerly going out into the world of work as well-educated, well-trained professionals.

Their first task is to secure employment and take care of their families financially.

Finding the right career can take a while and we covered some of the tips regarding the job search and interview processes in earlier articles.

However, once you are securely ensconced in your professional job and have figured out your role and the politics of your organization, would you consider starting slowly to make a difference in your organization with regards to equity of opportunity for all employees regardless of race, gender, mental or physical ability, station in life, sexual orientation, age, creed, place of origin?

Empowerment of marginalized people and communities is an important contribution to society that professionals can, do and will make.

It is so encouraging to see so many people so involved in organized movements to improve the quality of life for marginalized groups all over the world.

For a new employee of an organization there are ways to start small to do this for vulnerable workers.

First of all you can begin to learn as much as you can about the kinds of policies that your organization has regarding the groups identified in our Ontario Human Rights Code.

For instance, is there a policy regarding persons with disabilities?

Is there a policy governing how harassment is handled?

You can also take a look to see how diversity is represented in your organization.

Are there employees who reflect the community?

Are the high paying positions occupied by a diversity of people?

Some organizations have excellent diversity statements that they publish and to which they strictly adhere. Does your organization have one?

Are there guidelines or published frameworks for such variances as religious accommodations, disability accommodations, childcare needs and other inclusionary accommodations?

Doing this homework is very important to be effective as a change agent.

However, as a new employee, I would not recommend that you dive into demanding changes right away. Most organizations have a probationary period during which your work and your professional traits are scrutinized. So concentrate on doing your job well but know the lay of the land by doing your homework on the policies of the organization – it will serve you well throughout your career.

In terms of where to do your research – a good place to start is in your own organization’s intranet where policies are usually housed. Then you can branch out and look at the public government websites at all three levels. These websites will give you a good idea of what inclusionary practices, equity principles and equity outcomes should look like because governments are expected to adhere to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and provincial human rights codes.

Other sources of good inclusionary practices and policies are organizations like public broadcasters such as cbc or other publicly funded organizations such as school boards, universities, colleges and judicial systems. Surprisingly, some private organizations like Google and Royal Bank have progressive equity principles. Knowing how other organizations implement good equity principles and respect peoples’ human rights will serve you well as you begin to make suggestions for positive changes in your own organization.

In follow-up articles we will take a look at how you can bring about organizational change for equity in a gradual and incremental manner regardless of where you are situated in the organization.

• Dr Vicki Bismilla is a retired Superintendent of Schools and retired college Vice-President, Academic, and Chief Learning Officer.

Posted: Nov 1, 2017

November 2017





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