The Big Three: Key inclusion principles for Canadian businesses

Speaking Notes
Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E.
Chief Commissioner
Canadian Human Rights Commission
"The Big Three: Key inclusion principles for Canadian businesses"
Making Global Goals Local Business - UN Global Compact Canadian Conference

Video address

October 5-6, 2021

10 minutes

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Hello everyone!

It is such a privilege to be invited to help open this esteemed conference. The work that Global Compact does to help businesses in Canada build a more inclusive society is so important.

My only wish is that our circumstances were different so that we could all be together in person.

Yet, as everyone here knows, one of the keys to a successful business is to adapt quickly to change and keep on going!

Before I go further, I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land from which I am speaking today is the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabè Nation, and the land and waters of what is now known as Ottawa.

And since this is mainly a virtual conference this week, I would also would like to honour all the various Indigenous territories represented here.

These land acknowledgements are much more than formality. They are an essential part of the business of our meeting. And they are an essential part a larger effort towards reconciliation and understanding of our collective past, present, and future.

We are living in historic times.

There is a paradigm shift happening in our society, and it is a permanent one.

The global pandemic has rewritten everything — how we live, how we work, how we conduct business.

Along with the pandemic, we can no longer ignore, in Canada, as elsewhere, systemic racism and gender equality, and globally a shift has been initiated in favor of inclusion.

There have been renewed calls for action on these vital human rights issues as Canada continues to adapt to the new realities created by the pandemic. ensure that Canada comes out of this crisis better than it went into it.

...and to ensure that no one is left behind.

For Canadian businesses, this shift means that to be a leader in your fields, you must also be a leader in anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion.

The UN has challenged us all — governments, civil society, businesses —to transform our world in the next ten years.

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals provide a vision to end poverty, to rescue the planet and to build a peaceful world.

It is an crucial vision.


Some businesses in Canada are just trying to keep the lights on.

The pandemic has brought many small- and medium-sized enterprises to their knees.

From my experience as a business leader myself, I know those pressures can become unsustainable.

I ran my own law firm for 26 years. Some years we came out ahead; other years we struggled.

I know the stress of keeping a business running.

I know what it is to be watching the financial results, staying competitive and relevant.

So knowing that, my main message for you today is this: that if you work to become inclusion leaders in your fields, you will see positive financial results, you will stay competitive, and you will be more relevant than ever.

I want to invite you to see that inclusive practices are not only the right thing to do, they are the smart thing to do.

Being more inclusive will help your competitive edge, will help you attract top talent, will help you be more innovative and creative in your organization, and will help you contribute to Canada’s economic recovery and economic prosperity.

The key is to find a way to make these principles a permanent part of the way you work and the way you run your business, so they become an integral part of your organization and new normal.

That is what we are doing at my organization, in our work to transform ourselves to a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace.

Bit by bit, we have incorporated concrete actions into our workplans and into our policies so that they are now permanent and sustainable.

But I know that culture change can be difficult.


That is why it might help to think in terms of "The Big Three" of Inclusive Business:

  • One: anti-racism values and practices,
  • Two: accessible service and accessible business, and
  • Three: a culture of pay equity and gender equality.

Those are "The Big Three." The big three principles we all need to consider when transforming our workplaces.

The pay-back will be huge. These principles are going to be imperative to Canada building back better, and imperative to your remaining leaders in your fields.

I will give you some concrete examples of the kinds of actions we are taking right now at the Canadian Human Rights Commission:

  • We are ensuring diversity in the composition of our hiring boards.
  • We are investing in training for our entire staff, including our executives. Training on issues such as how to avoid harm when discussing racism, how to keep our implicit bias in check, how our colonial history informs present-day trauma and systemic racism.
  • We are improving our mentoring and career-nurturing for employees.
  • We have conducted "pulse check" surveys to look at how accessible our physical and digital spaces really are.
  • We had a third-party company conduct an employment equity audit of our workforce to see where the gaps are with respect to equal representation of women, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, and Racialized groups.
  • And, we have developed a comprehensive, Anti-Racism Action Plan that highlights these transformative efforts we are taking across our organization.

You can visit our Anti-Racism section of our website for more information and helpful examples of what we’re working on to fight against racism, and to find new ways to improve inclusion and diversity inside your organization.

For now, I want to leave you with some final thoughts to help you kick-off this great conversation.

Canada's economic recovery will need EVERYONE.

Our country and our economy will be strongest when we ensure diversity to its fullest.

That means allowing the opportunity for everyone to contribute, and to have a seat at the table.

We are strongest when the decisions we make and the direction we take are inspired and influenced by a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives and lived experiences.

That's when the magic happens.

Because the more diverse the perspectives around your decision-making table, the stronger your decisions will be. The more successful your business, and the more attractive you will be to top talent.

Everyone wants to be able to say with confidence that they work for an organization that treats everyone with dignity and respect — whether it's career advancement opportunities, or the embedded principles of anti-racism, diversity and inclusion.

Remember: Building back better and incorporating "The Big Three" inclusion principles into the way we ALL do business is not just the right thing to do; it is imperative to Canada's recovery and our national prosperity.

So start today. One concrete action at a time.

Thank you.

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