The #CancelCanadaDay Movement

In recent months, headlines about hundreds of unmarked graves at residential schools have reignited national discourse about ongoing oppression of the Canadian Indigenous communities. The Indigenous people of Canada have faced many atrocities throughout history. The systematic removal of children from their homes is often referred to as a “cultural genocide”.

Approximately 150,000 Indigenous children are believed to have been forced into the residential school system before it was abolished in 1996. Recent discoveries of the bodies of 1,100 children prove that the “genocide” extended beyond simply destroying their culture. As many as 15,000 children might have died in these schools, and some claim this number is much larger.


With a backdrop of government sanctioned atrocities, celebrating Canada Day adds insult to injury for Canadian Indigenous people.

The first of July is a patriotic day for most Canadians. But for the Indigenous community, it is an annual reminder of the oppression that they continue to face. The country is celebrating the same government that only a few decades ago tried to eradicate their culture.

Indigenous activists collectivized and voiced their disdain for the celebration of Canada Day, and the hashtag #CancelCanadaDay was trending on twitter. Peaceful demonstrations took place on June 30th and July 1st. Allies to the movement wore orange rather than the patriotic red and white to show their support.

The events taking place are an important component of the discussion surrounding reconciliation. Too often, empty promises are delivered in lieu of tangible change. This begs the question: how can we as a society create an inclusive culture that empowers Indigenous people?

What Now?

Here are three steps all companies should take to improve indigenous representation:

  1. Establish a system that measures, tracks and reports on D&I
  2. Set interview quotas prior to any recruitment efforts to reduce biases in hiring and ensure a more diverse talent pipeline
  3. Assign accountability at the leadership level

#1: Establish A System That Measures, Tracks And Reports On D&I

It is important for companies to assess where they are now before they benchmark themselves against where they want to be. Inclusivity surveys will help organizations see the gaps in experiences between their Indigenous employees and the rest of their workforce. After understanding where inclusivity problems stem from, companies can begin implementing policies to target those pain points. For example, after deploying Diversio’s pulse survey, clients report an average increase of 0.2 inclusion points.

#2: Set Interview Quotas Prior To Any Recruitment Efforts To Reduce Biases In Hiring And Ensure A More Diverse Talent Pipeline

Creating a recruiting pipeline that is reflective of the diversity goals of the organization is the first step in achieving them. A goal of 10% indigenous representation will require at least 10% of candidates that receive interviews to be from this community. This can be achieved by partaking in recruiting activities such as approaching diverse university associations and applying filters on LinkedIn searches.

#3: Assign Accountability At The Leadership Level

Organizations should appoint a leader with the task of managing the recruitment process and guiding the company to achieve its inclusion goals. This ensures the top levels of management echo the commitment to the company. Similarly, this individual will hold the organization accountable to achieve these goals.

To find out how you can help make these changes, visit

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Ekua Quansah
Head of EDI, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

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