What Should an Anti-Racism Policy Include?


In July 2020, the Vancouver Police Department reported that hate-related incidents are occurring in Vancouver at a higher than usual rate. As an HR professional, you have likely asked yourself what your organization can do to confront racism which, unfortunately, is not a stranger to Canadian workplaces.

One place to start is the development of an anti-racism policy for your workplace.

An anti-racism policy is like any other policy: it acts as formal guiding principle, sometimes with contractual power, about an employee’s obligations or employer’s expectations.

If your organization wants to set expectations in its workplace around racism, and specifically, how it will respond to racist conduct, then the best way to get your message out is to put it in writing.

The following are general guidelines to help you draft your anti-racism policy.

1. Why It Matters

I recommend introducing your anti-racism policy with background on the ongoing existence of racism in our society, how racism harms people and why it is important to have an anti-racism policy.

2. Definitions

Your anti-racism policy should define important terms like race, racism, discrimination and diversity and inclusion.

There are many online resources to help guide you such as the examples below.

The BC Human Rights Tribunal defines discrimination as “bad treatment based on a characteristic like race.”

The Ontario Human Rights Commission defines racism as follows:

“Racism is a belief that one group is superior to others. Racism can be openly displayed in racial jokes, slurs or hate crimes. It can also be more deeply rooted in attitudes, values and stereotypical beliefs. In some cases, people don’t even realize they have these beliefs. Instead, they are assumptions that have evolved over time and have become part of systems and institutions, and also associated with the dominant group’s power and privilege.”

The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion provides these definitions:

“Diversity is about the individual. It is about the unique dimensions, qualities and characteristics we all posses.

Inclusion is about the collective. It is about creating a culture that strives for equity and embraces, respects, accepts and values differences.

Diversity and inclusion is about capturing the uniqueness of the individual, creating an environment that values and respects individuals for their talents, skills and abilities to the benefit of the collective.”

3. Values

An anti-racism policy should reflect your organization’s values around racism. The language you use should clearly communicate those values. Examples of values include:

  1. Elimination of racism and discrimination.
  2. Promotion of equality.
  3. Increasing awareness.
  4. Modelling anti-racism practices.

4. Application and Scope

Outline who the policy applies to. You could include not only employees and management, but your organization’s board, clients, suppliers and service providers, and anyone else your organization interacts with.

5. Implementation

How will you implement your values into practice? Will your policy affect your:

  1. Hiring and promotion practices?
  2. Choice of suppliers and service providers?
  3. Tolerance of behaviours of clients and customers?
  4. Social media presence?
  5. Use of language both internally and externally?
  6. General decision making?

6. Enforcement

For your anti-racism policy to mean something, explain what happens if someone violates it. Create a complaint form to make it easy to submit a written complaint, outline a procedure for accepting and investigating complaints, and explain what could happen at the conclusion of an investigation both if a complaint is substantiated and if the complaint is dismissed.

7. Additional Resources

Provide links or contact information for additional resources, such as the BC Human Rights Tribunal, the recently created BC Human Rights Commission,Display footnote number:5 mental health resources and community non-profits involved in the fight against racism.

Next Steps

I believe that to create social progress, we should make an incremental change every day.

If your organization doesn’t have a policy, start with a simple one; don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by a monumental task. Then, set goals to review and update your policy. If your organization already has a policy, assess whether it is still current, or whether it should be improved.

And, as always, communicate clearly with your employees about the work you are doing in the fight against racism, how they can participate and what you expect from them as ambassadors of your company.

Interested in learning more about HR Law? 

CPHR BC & Yukon will be hosting the Legal Symposium 2021 Series live online. Tune in for three excellent symposiums, for one great price. Expert speakers include:

  • Jennifer Kwok, Overholt Law LLP
  • Preston Parsons, Overholt Law LLP 
  • Scott J. Marcinkow, Harper Grey LLP 
  • Melanie Samuels, Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP
  • Veronica Ukrainetz, Ukrainetz Workplace Law Group
  • Pamela Connolly, Ukrainetz Workplace Law Group
  • Melanie Booth, Kane Shannon Weiler LLP

Symposium dates are January 28th, February 4th and February 18th form 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. 



Erin Brandt is an employment and human rights lawyer, and cofounder of PortaLaw. She is innovative, creative, compassionate, hard-working and fair. She wants to help you find joy in what you do.

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