Just as it has in the United States, the concept of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) has become a political target in Canada.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of the “anti-wokeism” campaign in an effort to undermine the workplace EDI efforts undertaken by many organizations across the country. These efforts recently culminated in the right-wing’s use of the suicide of a school principal to bully and target an EDI consultant.
Over the past few weeks, hundreds of tweets and several newspaper articles and opinion pieces have commented on this incident. One opinion piece in the Financial Post  referred to EDI as:
The opinion piece shares the false narrative that EDI “is finally encountering a massive backlash.”
This narrative is not true. EDI is encountering a massive backlash from a small group of people.
The facts and our experience tell a very different story from the one being spun by opponents of EDI.
At every organization where we have conducted an Equity Audit, employees have consistently expressed to us that they welcome their employer’s efforts to create a more fair and equitable workplace. Employees want an employer that values them and what they can contribute to the workplace. They want a workplace where they feel welcomed and heard. They want a workplace where they are hired and can advance based on their skills and abilities rather than who they know or their personal characteristics. They want their leaders to understand the oppressive systems, practices, and attitudes that continue to impact certain groups of employees and the organization’s service users.
When we conduct focus groups with employees, we repeatedly hear the following:
Is it a “radical political agenda” to require that all employees be treated with dignity and respect? Or expect to come to work and not experience harassment and discrimination?
Is it an “ideological tryst” for organizations to ensure that they hire the best people for the job and support them to do their best work?
Is it “wokeism” to want the diversity of staff within an organization to reflect the diversity of the community? Is an organization “too woke” for recognizing and capitalizing on the talents of employees from diverse communities, backgrounds, and identities?
Rather than being a political tool, EDI initiatives are underpinned by legal, demographic, and business imperatives. EDI is not a lavish expenditure; instead, it is critical to the operation of all organizations in Canada.
All organizations in Canada are required to comply with human rights and health and safety legislation to ensure that their workplaces are free from discrimination, harassment, and violence. Many jurisdictions also have legislation to proactively promote accessibility for persons with disabilities. EDI helps ensure that organizations are in compliance with these pieces of legislation and that workplaces are free from discrimination, harassment, and violence.
The facts tell us that baby boomers continue to age and retire, that they are leaving behind vacancies that are becoming increasingly hard to fill. In addition, as the economy grows and changes, organizations require more employees with different skills. People filling these positions increasingly come from groups that experience barriers in the workplace, namely women, racialized people, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, 2SLGBTQ+, and immigrants.
According to Statistics Canada: 
Organizations from the largest corporations to the smallest non-profits understand that the increasing diversity of the Canadian population has implications for their human resources practices, and who they hire and how they treat their employees impacts the experience of customers and service users. EDI helps organizations hire people from diverse communities, backgrounds, and identities; create equitable employment policies and practices; and foster inclusive workplaces.
Various studies also point to the positive business outcomes from EDI efforts, including:
Rather than a waste of “limited resources on extraneous social initiatives,” EDI initiatives will ensure that organizations have qualified, competent, and capable employees to fill their job vacancies, and that they get the best from these employees. Rather than a “peril of wokeism,” EDI is key to a healthy economy. It is a wise and necessary investment in our collective future.
Download a summary of this blog post here: The Case for EDI
 Levitt, H. (2023, July 28). Employee's DEI experience a cautionary tale for companies on the perils of wokeism. Financial Post. financialpost.com/fp-work/employee-dei-experience-cautionary-tale-companies-wokeism
 Statistics Canada. (2022). Canada at a glance, 2022. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/12-581-x/2022001/sec6-eng.htm
Statistics Canada. (2023). Census profile, 2021 Census of Population. https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2021/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&DGUIDList=2021A000011124&GENDERList=1,2,3&STATISTICList=1,4&HEADERList=0&SearchText=Canada
Statistics Canada. (2022). Immigration, place of birth, and citizenship – 2021 Census promotional material. https://www.statcan.gc.ca/en/census/census-engagement/community-supporter/immigration