Board of Directors Statement
The Board of Amnesty International Canada (English-Speaking) acknowledges that systemic racism, anti-Black racism, discrimination, and oppressive practices have been operating within our organization. We recognize the pain and harm unduly caused to current and former staff.
We thank racialized staff who, over the years, have come forward with their personal stories and recommendations to move the organization towards a more equitable movement. As we acknowledged in our April 9, 2021, statement, these issues are not new. Much work has been done since, and much more remains to be done to challenge oppression, dismantle the inequitable systems and structures that are entrenched within our organization, and to build racial equity and create a truly inclusive community. The path forward to being an anti-racist organization requires an intentional, purpose- and data-driven approach to bring real change.
We remain resolute and committed to align our practices with our mission, to do the hard work, to be accountable and hold ourselves to the same standards of equity and justice we demand of others.
For several years, past and present staff—particularly racialized staff—at our section of Amnesty International have shared that they have experienced or witnessed racism and other forms of oppression in the workplace.
We deeply regret that these issues were not adequately addressed in the past.
This is unacceptable in our movement. The Board and management take full responsibility for our collective failure to hold ourselves accountable and acknowledge the harm that these practices have and continue to cause to current and former staff.
In 2021, the new leadership of Amnesty International Canada commissioned extensive participatory organizational equity reviews to determine the prevalence of systemic racism, oppression, and white supremacy within our organization. The findings and recommendations from the review, outlined below, informed the creation of an organizational Equity Roadmap, to guide our collective path forward.
“Prevalence of systemic racism and other forms of oppression within AICES’ workplace.”
The Workplace Review highlighted a series of past experiences from staff, including:
We asked the expert reviewers to provide us with clear, actionable recommendations to move forward. Here is what they told us:
- Acknowledge past harms, practice transparency, and work to restore trust.
- Prioritize a culture that renounces blame and focuses on empathy, improvement, and life-long learning.
- Improve the complaints and investigations processes and ensure adherence.
- Continue revamping training to ensure complaints are consistently triaged.
- Provide regular updates on Equity roadmap progress.
Improve Recruitment, Support, and Development of Staff
- Review, revise, and roll out improved policies.
- Continue improving the recruitment, retention, and advancement of racialized employees through data-driven efforts.
- Clarify expectations, duties, and responsibilities for various roles.
- Establish, articulate, and execute clear organizational strategies and objectives.
- Establish clear strategies and policies for equity, diversity and inclusion and anti-racism and anti-oppression initiatives and clarify new benefits for racialized staff.
- Encourage a culture of collaboration between teams.
Collect Robust Data
- Engage in comprehensive data collection related to complaints to determine trends and proactively identify areas of improvement.
Provide Relevant and Consistent Education and Training
- Conduct clear and regular training on the policies, as well as on harassment and discrimination generally.
As we undertook these critical reviews, we also began to initiate steps towards transformation to build a solid anti-racist and anti-oppressive foundation to our work. Here are some of them:
In September 2020, our Board appointed Secretary General, Ketty Nivyabandi, as the first Black woman to lead the section. With the support of the Board she has driven a renewed vision for the section rooted in equity and feminist leadership practices.
In May 2021, the Board and Secretary General recruited Frida Kruijt as interim Executive Director in May 2021, with anti-racism and anti-oppression (ARAO) and change management expertise to implement immediate steps towards organizational change.
In 2021, we proactively invited Board candidacies from diverse communities resulting in 6 out of 10 Board directors identifying as either Indigenous or racialized.
In September 2021 we launched a series of organization-wide trainings for all staff, Management, Senior Leadership and Board members to build common language and understanding of racism and oppression.
In May 2021 we commissioned an extensive, independent workplace review to diagnose internal challenges and inform the creation of an organizational Equity Roadmap to guide our work forward.
In September 2021 we retained an equity firm to evaluate our organization’s equity policies, and conduct tailored anti-racism training sessions for Management, Staff and the Board.
People-Centered Support and Policies
In April 2021 we introduced a series of equity-informed supports for staff:
- Paid Racism Leave (10 working days per year for all staff who self-identify as racialized)
- Racialized Staff Support Fund to provide racialized staff the flexibility to access mental health services of their choice
- Access to racialized mental health practitioners
- Increased mental health coverage for all employees
In July 2021 we recruited an equity-informed Interim HR Manager to lead the revision and creation of new equitable processes including inclusive hiring, onboarding, offboarding, performance management, leave-taking, policy development, complaint mechanisms, and compliance
In November 2021 we created an Equity, People and Culture Director position to support our transformative vision for an equitable organization.
Building Capacity, Resilience and Accountability
In 2021 we focused on building robust equity capacity across our teams by:
- Completing collective and mandatory ARAO training series for all staff, management and the Board
- Incorporating ARAO across leadership and staff performance evaluation
- Holding regular team-building and strategic retreats to increase team cohesion and ARAO competencies.
Data Informed Equity
To better measure, track and monitor equity in our workplace we:
- Commissioned an equity assessment of our membership base
- Began to collect staff demographics data reflecting the 30 year diversity history of the organization, to better address current gaps
- Conducted an audience/donor research analysis to build a more inclusive donor base, with the support of an Equity in Philanthropy firm.
Our Immediate Plan for: April 2022 – March 2023
Transparency – we have shared the findings of our reviews with our staff while being mindful to protect the identity of all involved
Restorative Circles – we have and continue to offer thoughtful spaces for all staff to process the reviews, acknowledge, repair – and jointly build and lead.
Public accountability – As a human rights organization public accountability, accessibility and trust matter greatly to us. We share our equity journey our website to hold ourselves accountable, regularly track our progress, and encourage similar practice across our sector
Former staff – we are committed to making space for former staff who had a harmful experience at our section. If this was your experience, we encourage you to reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Development of organizational-wide Core Values
Anti-Racism Employee Code of Conduct
Build common anti-racist and equity-based language
Overhaul of internal Complaints and Harassment Policy and Conflict Resolution Policy
Development of Community and respectful communication guidelines
Develop an organization-wide five-year equity strategy and policy
Development of Conflict-of-Interest and Conflict Resolution Policies
Organization-wide trainings on new policies
Roll out change strategy to realign structure with mission and core values
Review human rights programs, campaigns, fundraising, communications and vendor policies with our anti-racism, anti-oppression and equity values
Revision of Management job descriptions to include obligations to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace
Review of all benefits and pay equity
Ongoing equity-informed update of human resource processes
Embed racial equity and intersectionality across all programmatic areas
Anti-racist and feminist indicators, metrics and targets for Monitoring and & Evaluation
Roll-out of our Organizational Change Strategy and staff restructure to align operational structure with our Vision and Values.
One experience of racism and harm is one too many for Amnesty and the values we uphold around the world. Today, more than ever, we must come together to create a world in which human rights can be enjoyed by all. For this work to be effective and authentic, we must start within, at the heart of our movement and align practice with purpose. I hope you will join us as we work to actively dismantle the residues of white supremacy, racism, and colonialism and inequity within our organization and soar together to more just heights. Thank you for supporting us on this critical journey.Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General Amnesty International Canada (English-Speaking)