top of page

Kareem Sadiq | Ottawa | Build Racial Equity From The Ground-Up

I worked for 14 years as a Senior Policy Analyst and Assistant Director with the Government of Canada. After years of targeted racism and harassment, I stood-up for my human dignity, quit my $100K+ job with the government in 2018, and went public with my experiences. My objectives in speaking out were :1) to seek justice and accountability for years of harassment; 2) warn nonwhite public servants about networks of abuse; and 3) effect change to achieve racial equity and make the Government of Canada a better place to work for nonwhite public servants.

The stigma of speaking out against workplace racism rendered me professionally unemployable. My wife works on a modest income as a front-line supervisor of a supported living program for people with intellectual disabilities. With a small pre-school daughter at home at the time, and unable to afford daycare, I became a full-time Dad and part-time racial equity advocate. Life wasn’t easy leaving a well paying job, and it was difficult to make ends meet. My family experienced food insecurity, and we had to rely on our local food bank to get by. An article about our food insecurity was published in the Huffington Post in May 2020, which can be accessed here:

Between 2018 and 2020 I spoke with current and former nonwhite public servants about their experiences with racial discrimination, and filed a human rights submission to the UN in July 2019. COVID-19 exposed deep racial inequities across the globe, and in 2020 the social media floodgates opened; more nonwhite people in the public and private sectors came forward to share their experiences with workplace racism, and clear patterns of abuse emerged. What happened to me happened to countless others. I was not alone. Situating these experiences in published labour market statistics, research and policy — and contrasting that to workplace diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) and employment equity (EE) policies — I identified a major disconnect: Decades of DEI and EE initiatives had failed to advance racial equity.

In fact the opposite happened, and racial wage gaps widened dramatically since the 1980s. For example, in 1980, 18.5% of nonwhite people in Canada were in the lowest income quintile; by 2015 it was 28.7%. In my hometown of Toronto, nonwhite people earned on average $0.52 for every $1.00 earned by white people in 2015.

It was clear that DEI programming amounted to little more than performative allyship, and that its failure to advance racial equity was rooted in a refusal to acknowledge that if leaders, executives and hiring managers are racist, their behaviour is difficult to change, and they cannot be convinced to hire people they do not value. There has to be another way to advance racial equity. I realized that if systemic racism can’t be eliminated from within established organizations and workplaces, the solution is to build new, equitable, antiracist workplaces from the ground-up.

That’s when I developed the Antiracist Workplace HR Plan. Its objectives are to create opportunity, close racial wage gaps, and build wealth for nonwhite people of colour while increasing productivity, innovation, and profitability for employers through opt-in antiracist workplaces committed to racial equity at every organizational level. Antiracism is about taking action to produce equitable opportunities and outcomes for nonwhite people. Antiracist workplaces are grounded in accountable codes of values, ethics, and conduct, where hard, uncomfortable colour brave conversations happen, and where issues surrounding racism and harassment aren’t taboo — they’re openly discussed. Transformative solutions are required to advance racial equity. My Antiracist Workplace HR Plan can help small, medium and large employers close racial wage gaps, achieve pay equity, and promote authentic cross-racial connections by creating new, multiracial antiracist workplaces where people who value people from different racial backgrounds make a conscious choice to work together.

What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?

As of June 2021 I’m still at the “humble” stage of this humble beginning, having just developed the Plan over April and May. One hurdle is finding courageous leaders to back my idea. But the biggest hurdle is the difficulty people face having frank, uncomfortable conversations about racism, and by extension the denial of racism. Antiracist workplaces provide the safe space to have these tough conversations.

What books are you currently reading?

Between being a stay at home dad to my JK aged daughter, and working on business models to help employers implement the Plan, I don’t have much time for reading. Having said that, I am trying to slowly work through two books: Caste (Isabel Wilkerson), and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Reni Eddo-Lodge).

Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your pursuits?

How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?

The uncomfortable truth is I’ve lost most friends since speaking out publicly about workplace racism. It happens often to whistleblowers who call out racism. But family and the few friends I do have are 100% supportive.

What would you say was the single most influential factor in your success?

It is impossible for me to answer this question as I’m just getting started!

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started?

Authentic antiracist allies are very, very hard to find.

What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?

Always support your arguments with facts and evidence, and never compromise your integrity or human dignity for a pay cheque.


bottom of page