Equity, Inclusion & Human Rights

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Equity, Inclusion & Human Rights

Frequently Asked Questions

What is diversity and inclusion?

There are many definitions of ‘diversity and inclusion’ and numerous terms are used to describe essentially the same thing. In a pragmatic sense, diversity and inclusion includes:

  • Acknowledging the reality that individuals within communities and communities within larger populations differ in many ways;
  • Identifying implications for the workplace and/or society that arise because of the diversity; and
  • Strategies that create work environments which are inclusive and welcoming.

Diversity and inclusion contributes significantly to the bottom line. The main methods diversity and inclusion produces results are through:

  • Streamlining, centralizing and providing a transparent complaint process for all human rights, diversity and inclusion issues;
  • Improving the efficiency of human resource utilization;
  • Fostering more effective and efficient decision-making, problem-solving, creativity, and innovation;
  • Creating knowledgeable organizations that shares experience and skills;
  • Developing cross-cultural capabilities that facilitate operations in culturally complex environments; and
  • Implementing innovative service deliveries and strategies for diverse communities.

Diversity and sustainability

Traditional approaches to diversity used to primarily refer to how organizations addressed legislative and regulatory issues of human rights and employment equity related to race, gender and disability; among others. Today, organizations have expanded their understanding and approach to diversity.

Firstly, organizations have broadened their understanding of what constitutes difference so that diversity is about acknowledging any difference that can impact on the fair or equitable treatment of people — this can include differences in gender, race, age, culture, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that helps to shape a person’s perspective. Diversity in this context can encompass the many ways that make each person different from the other, and how we deal with individuals within communities.

Importance of Diversity

Diversity and Inclusion is important to organization s such as the Toronto Police Service because changing demographics makes it more important to select, retain and manage a diverse workforce that is not only reflective of the communities we serve, but also harnessing the talents, experience, knowledge and skills of all members.

The key for employers is to make diversity an asset within the organization. Diversity is different from affirmative action.

Diversity and Inclusion has been described as looking at: 1) the mind set of an organization; 2) the climate of an organization; and 3) the different perspectives people bring to an organization due to race, workplace styles, disabilities, and many other differences.

What is the intent of Human Rights Legislation?

The main intent of human rights legislation is to remedy the situation for the person or group discriminated against and prevents further discrimination-the intent is not to punish the individual or company who has discriminated.

The Ontario Human Rights Code provides for civil remedies, not criminal penalties. Persons or companies found to have discriminated are not sent to jail but can be made to compensate a complainant or make changes in the way they conduct their affairs.

One major difference between human rights legislation and criminal law lies in the different standards of proof applied to evidence at a board of inquiry. In criminal law, allegations must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt; whereas, the standard of proof under the Code, as in civil law, is on the balance of probabilities. In other words, did the discrimination more likely occur than not? The Commission, which has carriage of the complaint at a tribunal hearing, has the responsibility to prove the allegations. Once discrimination has been proven to occur, then the respondent must prove that there is a bona fide reason behind the actions and that to make accommodation would result in undue hardship.

How is Diversity and Inclusion different from employment equity or affirmative action?

Employment Equity

Originally, employment equity commenced in the 1970’s to address the imbalance of pay wages between men and women in many developed countries. This concept was then modified and expanded to address social inequities in employment around gender, race, and disability issues.

What women and disadvantaged groups are arguing for is a culture change when is comes to issues of employment. Apart from being paid similar wages for similar work, at the core of this thinking is the ideology of including and valuing diversity in the workplace, backed by legislation against discrimination on the basis of difference or not 'fitting in'. It recognizes the reality of the large number of minority groups in the workplace and the fact that the under utilization of their skills is counterproductive. It aims for “equity” (meaning appropriate different treatment and minimum, unreasonable differentiated impact) rather than “equality” (in the sense of identical treatment and the application of the same rule for everybody regardless of disparate effect).

Currently, there is no legislation in Ontario that requires employers to implement employment equity. However, the principles of employment equity that address systemic barriers, culture change and diversity initiatives are incorporated into TPS procedures and practices.

Affirmative Action

Originally developed through legislation in the United States in the 1960’s, the term ‘affirmative action’ has had two meanings. The first emerged in the era of two American presidents, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and involved an attempt to ensure a level playing field. President Johnson expressed it as an effort to ensure that all Americans could engage in the meritocratic race for success. Policies would remove the shackles which at the time prevented Black Americans from competing equally.

As time passed, there were concerns that these policies were not working quickly enough and this led to the second meaning of affirmative action, which stressed equality of result for groups and involved the introduction of quotas and special preferences.

Canada has never implemented policies or strategies around affirmative action. Instead, Canada has utilized employment equity policies that address barriers to accessibility and created a level playing field for all. An example of this is the creation of job descriptions that outline the specific responsibilities and requirements of the job and not the skills that the manager or supervisor would prefer the individual to possess.

Summary of Diversity and Inclusion Goals

  • Compliance and adherence to legislation through a transparent complaint process, streamlining and centralization of human rights complaints and the development of an inclusive approach to human rights processes.
  • Represents the unique and inclusive values, culture and characteristics of all individuals; not just specific groups or individuals.
  • It is not about human rights laws that guarantee all people the right to apply and be evaluated for employment, regardless of their: race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability.
  • It is not about affirmative action, which creates quotas and profiles of certain groups within the population and targets these groups for recruitment, selection, promotion and opportunity.

In some ways, we can say that:

  • Human Rights Legislation = Requirements
  • Affirmative Action = Representation
  • Diversity and Inclusion = Relationship