As a group of people, we, the employees and board members of CMHC are enraged about the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer who swore to protect him. This shocking event, as well as the ignorant statements by white apologists and the police brutality that have followed protests, have focused our attention on this brutality and injustice. We reject the racism that persists against Black and Indigenous people, as well as others, here in Canada every day.
We are recognized as one of Canada’s Top Diversity Employers and we haven’t done nearly enough. CMHC must set a high standard. As colleagues, we must all stand together with our Black co-workers and the victims of murder, oppression and the systemic racism that exists everywhere.
We want to highlight racism against Black people as well as discrimination against Indigenous persons, people of colour, women, LGBTQ2+ and other groups. We maintain our commitments to address those wrongs while racism demands our focus right now.
We acknowledge that:
- Racism is a system, not an event.
- Racism isn’t limited to the intentional acts of bad people. It includes unintentional and subtle acts.
- Racism is a socialized condition that begins in our homes and hides behind how we see others and in the implicit biases we must all confront and address.
- Whiteness is not the human standard, nor are variations in skin tone deviations from that norm.
- Colour blindness is a lie that denies people of colour and Black people their own identity and amounts to a “witness protection program” that attempts to absolve us of our racism.
- We also have an ethical duty to speak up against racism or we are complicit in racist violence.
- Eliminating racism will be hard work: it requires grace and courage, and most of all a safe environment for people to speak up.
At CMHC, we would once have congratulated ourselves for our diversity. This is however no achievement when too few of our people leaders are Black or Indigenous — none among senior management. And diversity isn’t enough: it’s where we start.
Racism has been built up and reinforced for centuries, whether against Black, Indigenous people or people of colour. Only a sustained and focused effort will eliminate it. For our part, we will start our own journey by committing to the following so that CMHC becomes a place where it is easy for us all to be ourselves:
- Supports — We will work with CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals and similar organizations elsewhere in Canada to secure stronger support for our Black colleagues;
- Conversation — We will work with Monumental, a new initiative to promote fairness, justice and an equitable recovery, in supporting our commitment to a continuing conversation;
- Accountability — We already measure and publish targets for representation of Indigenous persons and people of colour; we will add targets for Black and racialized people among our people leaders and senior management;
- Policy Review — We will re-assess our policies and practices through a racialized lens to eliminate discrimination, specifically including the following with the help of those with lived experience:
- ensuring the enforcement of the anti-racism standards in our Code of Conduct,
- proactive use our programs (including NHS initiatives) specifically to help Black and racialized Canadians; and
- help ensure that Black and racialized people have equal access as tenants in CMHC-funded buildings and recourse against discriminatory landlords.
- Mental Health — Reinforce our support for the unique mental health of Black and racialized colleagues — ensuring that they receive counselling from people who are similarly affected;
- HR Practices — We will involve people with lived experience of racism in a re-assessment of both our recruiting, evaluation and promotion processes and our Diversity and Inclusion efforts to eliminate barriers to Black and racialized colleagues;
- Training — We will (a) offer leadership training and professional development to support the progress of Black and racialized employees at CMHC and (b) provide mandatory anti-racism training for all staff; and
- Atonement — We reject racism, white supremacy and wish to atone for our past racism and insensitivity, including our role in funding the forced resettlement of Black people, most notably from Halifax’s historic Africville and Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver.
George Floyd’s name is one of thousands; we have already squandered our indignation too many times. Think of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor — and most recently in Canada Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Chantel Moore, Eishia Hudson, D’Andre Campbell, Randy Cochrane, Sean Thompson, Machuar Madut … Until we take responsibility to eliminate racism, and commit to equity and justice, the long list of names will keep growing.
As we look forward to a period of recovery post COVID-19, we commit to make it a time of redemption.
Members of our Board of Directors and Our Employees