- Download our Moving to Canada Guide (PDF)
Canada is one of the world's most progressive countries and is home to a diverse populace made up of people from all over the globe. That being said, there is still room for more progress in certain areas. Read on to learn more about inclusion and diversity in Canada.
Accessibility in Canada
The Canadian government prioritises accessibility – in 2019, the country adopted the Accessible Canada Act, which aims to make the country a barrier-free environment by 2040. The legislation identifies several critical areas for identifying, preventing and removing barriers, including the built environment, technology, communications and transportation. Though this is a work in progress, continual improvements are being made.
The Canadian Transportation Agency has a comprehensive guide for travellers with disabilities, while Parks Canada's website lists accessible trails, camping and activities across the country.
While many buildings and attractions around Canada are easily accessible, transport can be challenging to navigate in some locations, such as Toronto and Montreal. On the other hand, numerous cities in Canada, such as Vancouver, have well-designed public transport systems allowing easy access.
LGBTQ+ in Canada
Canada is one of the world's most progressive nations when it comes to protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. In 2006, Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples are allowed to adopt, and conversion therapy is banned. There are no surgical requirements for changing one's legal gender, and there are provisions for non-binary or intersex individuals, who can choose 'X' as their legal gender rather than 'F' or 'M'. Discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is prohibited. The country recognises LGBTQ+ discrimination as grounds for seeking refugee status in Canada.
Though Canada provides more legal protection for LGBTQ+ individuals than most other governments, the community remains vulnerable. A slow rise of right-wing conservatism in the general population has led to some pushback against the country's progressive policies. This attitude has been bolstered by the recent success of anti-trans laws being passed in the USA. Though Canadian laws are highly unlikely to be rolled back, this does mean that anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments may be encountered in day-to-day life.
Gender equality in Canada
Canada is considered a world leader in gender equality, with organisations such as the UN praising the country's commitment to empowering women. Gender equality is well protected under the law in Canada, most notably under the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Other significant laws include the Employment Equity Act and the Pay Equity Act.
That being said, the reality of gender equality in Canada is somewhat different. Despite laws promising pay equity, for instance, working women in Canada earn 89 cents an hour for every dollar a man would make. When it comes to climbing the job ladder, women are 30 percent less likely to be promoted than men.
Women in leadership in Canada
Though there are a fair number of women in leadership positions in Canada, there are still noticeably more men in such positions. Roughly a third of management positions are held by women, occupying just over 30 percent of senior-management-level roles. Board membership remains predominantly male, with 18 percent of board members being female.
In politics, just below one-third of the House of Commons comprises female representatives. Although this is the highest rate of female representation in Canada's history, it's still a long way from being a true reflection of the general population, which is made up of roughly equal numbers of men and women.
Mental health awareness in Canada
Mental illness in Canada is a serious problem, with one in three Canadians being affected by mental illness in their lifetime. Although the country's universal healthcare system covers various forms of treatment for mental illness, waitlists can be extremely long, ranging from weeks to years in extreme cases. Timing is vital when it comes to treating mental illness, as early intervention is associated with better patient outcomes. On the other hand, delayed treatment often leads to worsening symptoms that cause a disruption in everyday function, a longer recovery period and, in the worst cases, the increased risk of suicidal behaviour.
Expats worldwide have higher incidences of mental illness than local populations, with a higher risk of depression and substance abuse. This is largely due to the stress, loneliness and isolation that tends to come with major life changes like moving to a foreign country.
It's imperative for expats to be adequately insured, allowing them to seek immediate treatment in private healthcare rather than enduring the wait times of the public system. As employers are becoming more aware of the importance of good mental health, it's becoming more common for company-supplied health insurance to include provision for mental healthcare. Expats should check the details of the supplied policy to ensure coverage is adequate – especially if they are already diagnosed and in treatment for a mental illness.
Unconscious bias education in Canada
Unconscious bias is an implicit set of stereotyped ideas that an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These ideas are not usually purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with. As a result, these perceptions are often inaccurate and based on assumptions.
Unconscious bias can profoundly affect both personal and work conditions. In the workplace, unchecked bias undermines vital aspects of the company, negatively impacting employee performance, retention and recruitment. In a bid to create a better work environment, many companies are beginning to institute unconscious bias training. There are also a number of online resources that can be used to improve self-awareness regarding bias.
Diversification of the workforce in Canada
More than a quarter of Canada's workforce is made up of immigrants, most of whom hail from Asia and Europe. Immigrants play a crucial role in Canada's industrial growth, contributing to innovation and economic development across various sectors, and the portion of immigrants working in the country is continually increasing. By 2031, it's estimated that a third of Canada's workers will be immigrants. In certain cities – namely Toronto and Vancouver – half of the core-aged working population is already made up of immigrants.
Studies show that workplace diversification is hugely beneficial to companies and employees. In recognition of this, many of the largest companies in the country are setting up diversity and inclusion programmes, ensuring that a wide variety of people is represented among employees.
Safety in Canada
Canada is considered one of the safest countries in the world, and expats will have little cause for concern when it comes to their day-to-day safety. The country has a low crime rate and a trusted police force with fast response times.
As with any location, petty theft can occur, so it's always best to take standard precautions such as locking doors, keeping valuables out of sight and remaining aware of one's surroundings.
Calendar initiatives in Canada
4 February – World Cancer Day
March – TB Awareness Month
8 March – International Women's Day
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Pride Month
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
10 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
1 December – World AIDS Day
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