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By Ellen Ormesher | Reporter

December 8, 2021 | 3 min read

A community of Canada’s D&I advocacy groups – including The Black Business and Professional Association, The Canadian Congress on Diversity and Workplace Equity, Pride at Work and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute – have collaborated to create an online tool to address the prevalence of microaggressions in culture, media and professional settings.

Research has shown that while less obvious than overt discrimination, microaggressions take a significant toll on physical and mental health. Those small, everyday put-downs, assumptions and comments can be, regardless of intention, hurtful and damaging.

Microaggressions can take many forms and are part of the ongoing experience of discrimination many individuals experience regularly. A high rate of microaggression happens daily and the impact is extremely harmful. Research reveals that:

  • 60% of Indigenous Peoples report feeling emotionally unsafe at work.

  • More than half of those identifying as Black in the Greater Toronto Area say Canada is no better than the US when it comes to anti-Black racism.

  • 1 in 4 sexual minority people have experienced unwanted sexual attention while at work, the most common behaviour after inappropriate sexual jokes.

  • University graduates with severe disabilities on average have worse employment outcomes than high school dropouts.

  • Only 32% of women believe Canadian workplaces treat men and women equally.

  • 60% of Americans have witnessed or potentially witnessed microaggression in the workplace.

To increase awareness of the hidden issue of microaggressions, agency Zulu Alpha Kilo has collaborated with some of Canada’s leading D&I advocacy groups to create The Micropedia of Microaggressions – a tool that aims to drive understanding of the issues as well as support training and education to eradicate it from the workplace.

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“Drawing inspiration from other community-driven wikis, The Micropedia can be a helpful tool for documenting these instances and connecting people to relevant resources in a judgement-free way. This is especially important when conversation emerges around clear examples of microaggressions in wider culture and in our everyday lives. We can’t change what we don’t know,” says Stephanie Yung, head of design at Zulu Alpha Kilo.

A user submission component on The Micropedia will let anyone contribute new entries so this can become a robust, go-to tool for individuals and organizations.

Supporting the launch is a documentary-style video where individuals invited to share their first-hand experiences of microaggressions were then introduced to The Micropedia for the first time. Their reactions demonstrate and reinforce how our collective ability to change our day-to-day behaviors can make a world of difference for so many Canadians.

“Microaggressions are part of the daily experience of many women, non-binary people, Black and racialized people, Indigenous people and persons with disabilities, as well as those in the LGBTQ+ community. But unlike, for example, overt anti-Black racism, microaggressions are often more subtle. Often, they are harder to ’prove’ and we second guess ourselves, adding to the negative effects,” said Nadine Spencer, president and chief exec of the Black Business and Professional Association.

“It can also be exhausting to decide what to call out and when or how to explain why something is harmful, especially when comments may be the result of ignorance rather than malice. This resource explains the harm a person might unknowingly cause and includes real-life examples. We hope that it will help individuals to become more aware of bias, stereotypes and offensive comments and behaviors.”

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