Who gets into Canada could be affected by racism at Immigration Canada


Immigration Canada

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) employees remain skeptical of the measures in place to tackle racism at their workplace, according to a new report.

The “experiences of racism at IRCC include micro aggressions,biases in hiring and promotion as well as biases in the delivery of IRCCs programs, policies and client service,” the report states.

Sabreena Ghaffar-Siddiqui, a steering committee member for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), said the report’s findings do not surprise her, but expressed worry about the fact people with racist attitudes may be deciding immigrants’ fates.

“This is (a) power imbalance because people in power are making decision(s) about peoples’ lives,” she told New Canadian Media.

In an email statement, IRCC’s spokesperson, Julie Lafortune, recognized that racism exists in the Public Service, but emphasized that within the department there is “zero tolerance for racism or discrimination of any kind.”

Sabreena Ghaffar-Siddiqui

According to the report, in 2020, an IRCC’s employee survey revealed that “significant proportions of racialized employees consider racism to be a problem within the department,” which led to extensive research of racism within it.

The research was conducted from Feb. to June 23 this year. The focus groups included both racialized (Black, South Asian, East Asian, BIPOC, mixed origin) and non-racialized employees across various sectors such as operational roles, client service, policy and program development and Human Resources.

The purpose of the $59,000 study was to understand current experiences of racism within the department as well as perceptions of management’s handling of racism within it, and to gather suggestions for changes in policies and practices moving forward.

Among the large number of specific examples of racism within the IRCC, the study found “microaggressions ranging from well-intentioned comments with hurtful impacts to blatantly racist tropes” as well as discrimination in hiring practices such as screening requirements that are biased against racialized candidates.

Due to “what are perceived to be blatant examples of subverting selection criteria to disadvantage racialized employees,” it also found that there was discrimination in access to professional growth opportunities.

Ghaffar-Siddiqui, also a professor of sociology & criminology at Sheridan College, said in order to tackle this racism, a fundamental change is needed in the way

From her point of view, if IRCC wants to tackle this issue, there needs to be further investigation. She added that focus groups are good, but it is better to have one-on-one interviews to help workers be more comfortable in sharing their experiences openly.

In this regard, Lafortune clarified that the anonymity of the focus groups allowed IRCC’s racialized employees to “express their views in a safe and anonymous fashion.”

“We have started to explore potential bias entry points in policy and program delivery, and new approaches to how risk is balanced in an operational context,” Lafortune said in the email statement. “This reflection is being done internally, but we are also engaging external stakeholders on how to identify and address systemic barriers”

Participants also reacted with skepticism towards potential solutions like establishing an Anti-Racism Secretariat or requiring intercultural competency to become an executive because it could have very little concrete impact against systemic racism.

The study states that most participants remain skeptical because “they believe the problem is so deeply rooted in the organizational culture and in the values of people in power who have held it for a long time and are not likely to change.”

Other workers said the resources deployed towards anti-racism so far this year are “temporary and insufficient” and that “initiatives are poorly funded.”