“The more I learned, the more concerned I became, and the more ignorant I realized I had been about DEI, a powerful movement that has not only pervaded Harvard but the educational system at large. I came to understand that diversity, equity, and inclusion was not what I had naively thought these words meant.” — Bill Ackman, Pershing Square Capital Management
My firm, throughout its history, has always been noted for its number of visible minority lawyers. I have never employed them because of their skin colour, but because they were the best lawyers available. As an added bonus, they appealed to those in their minority communities, a rapidly growing segment of Toronto that, just like all the others, had workers being fired and employers doing the firing. And that was good for business.
So, for decades, I unwittingly saw the benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion before it became a coined term. And like Bill Ackman, I naively thought the words meant, well, what they mean. And I was always proud that my firm fit the bill.
I first became concerned about DEI seminars when Jewish employees (and others) came to me complaining that the sessions that they attended were overtly discriminatory against Jews and Caucasians. And that some employers, particularly public sector ones, were holding positions open for certain groups without the potential for others to even be considered, regardless of merit or seniority. Although that purportedly breached the Human Rights Code, as it did not fall within the code’s very narrow exception for affirmative action, many employers, particularly universities and municipalities, were doing it with apparent impunity for a broad range of positions.