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Standing Up Against Discrimination and Racism

UNACTO’s Human Rights Day event on 14 December at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University gathered guest speakers Andrea Migone, Dr. Rupa Banerjee and Commissionaire Rabia Khedr to discuss Combating Discrimination & Racism in the 21st Century.

The Co-Chairs of Human Rights, Hamza Ansari and Hyona Park, opened the event quoting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, stating, “It’s time for each of us to step up for human rights. There is no action that is too small: wherever you are, you can make a difference. Together, let’s take a stand for more humanity."

They explained that the purpose of the discussion was to raise awareness of human rights issues globally and locally concerning discrimination and racism.

Hamza Ansari went on to moderate the discussion, which focused on three topics: Aboriginal Issues in Canada, Workplace Discrimination and Ontario Human Rights Issues.

Before launching into a shared panel discussion with questions from the audience, each speaker briefly shared a bit about their backgrounds and answered some questions about their work and viewpoints on key issues relating to one of the three topics.

Andrea Migone, Director of Research and Outreach at the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) kicked off the discussion, addressing the importance of policy in ensuring Aboriginal communities are respected and are given equal human rights as that of all Canadians. He outlined three stages that defined the status of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian politics and the struggles they face: the first being the Royal Proclamation in 1763; the second, assimilation; and the third, reconstitution. He highlighted the importance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC)’s final report within the current phase of reconstitution, which calls for more action towards protecting Aboriginal peoples and their rights.

Wrapping up his segment, he encouraged everyone to step back and reflect on their own biases, and become more informed about Aboriginal communities.

Next to speak was Dr. Rupa Banerjee, an Associate Professor of Human Resource Management and Organizational Behaviour at Ryerson University. She shared a rundown of her research into workplace discrimination, which looked at the way employers viewed incoming resumes. Along with her fellow researchers, she created resumes for job postings that had either an Anglo or Asian sounding name, but were identical in experience and education. They found that the resumes with an Asian sounding name were discriminated against the most, receiving fewer callbacks. Through more experiments, they also found that there was a distinct disparity against racialized women and that non-white immigrants were discriminated against the most, due in part to the devaluing of foreign experience.

After detailing the findings of her research, she emphasized that it demonstrated a particularly hard form of discrimination to trace or prove since a job applicant will likely never realize they were discriminated against. One way to fix this, she proposed, was to ensure that there is more diversity in senior level positions within companies and organizations.

​Lastly, tackling the topic of human rights issues in Ontario was Rabia Khedr, an activist and consultant who was recently appointed to the Ontario Human Rights Commission in September of this year. She discussed how her experience with being visually impaired in addition to being a Muslim woman has been the motivation behind her work in advancing human rights, since she fits into groups that are often discriminated against. She encouraged all to “educate each other and learn from each other” in order to build a better, inclusive society for everyone, pointing out that it is especially significant that people recognize the power they have been granted due to their social location over marginalized groups.

Together, all three speakers took questions from the audience, which wrapped up the event.

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