Inclusion and Antiracism

Becoming an inclusive and anti-racist organization

Since our founding, Vancity has been committed to the principle of inclusion. Our founders believed that everyone should have access to economic opportunity and prosperity. We uphold the same beliefs today and are committed to doing our part in removing financial barriers that stem from systemic exclusion and inequities that affect women, Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (IBPOC), LGBTQ2S+, and people living with visible and invisible disabilities.

As one of our key actions, we’re committed to becoming an anti-racist organization. It means we believe Black lives matter. It means Reconciliation is one of our core values. And it means continuing to use the tools of finance and banking to expand economic opportunity because nobody, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or ability, should be left behind.

In practice, the legacies of systemic discrimination frequently translate into barriers to financial access. These systems are often invisible to more privileged groups, for which many standard banking processes were created. As a financial institution it means taking a hard look at ourselves, our own systems, and our procedures to see whether and how we might be unintentionally perpetuating barriers faced by our members and employees.

We're doing the work to become an anti-racist organization.

It’s no longer enough to be “not racist”, to achieve equity we must be anti-racist by challenging the embedded inequities. This is the work we’ve set for ourselves as a credit union, and our commitment is to listen, learn and drive meaningful change through concrete actions. Before we commented on the challenges around us, we believed we had to first take a hard look at ourselves as an organization.

  • In 2017, a group of IBPOC Vancity employees came together informally in response to events unfolding in Canada and the U.S. The group is now formally called the Vancity Racial Equity employee resource group and provides our executive leadership with direct input on shaping Vancity’s action plan. They have been and will continue to add their insights and lived experiences to our journey on becoming an anti-racist organization.
  • Last year, we organized three townhalls and invited employees to come together for difficult but important conversations about race and racism, at the personal, procedural and structural levels. As an organization, it helped us establish a common language and understanding about how to talk about these issues in a meaningful way as we work to become an anti-racist organization. Thousands of employees attended the townhalls and we’ll continue the conversations and the work this year.
  • We launched an anti-racism training program to help employees recognize racism and subtle microaggressions, to provide member-facing employees with the tools to handle situations in the moment, and to encourage open and healthy discussion about racist incidents with members and each other.
  • We’ve improved our policies and response framework to protect our frontline coworkers in harmful situations. Additionally, our call centre has messaging and our community branches have posters that affirm that we do not tolerate any form of discrimination, harassment and racism towards our employees and other members.

We made a commitment to reflect the diversity in our communities.

As part of our commitment to represent the communities we serve, we’ve set a goal to have 2.5% of Vancity’s workforce that are from Indigenous communities. In 2020, 78.2% of Vancity employees participated in our optional yearly diversity survey. Among those who participated, 37.2% identify as a member of a visible minority and 1.4% identify as an Indigenous person. We’re actively working with community partners to support recruitment efforts to meet our employee diversity goal.

Vancity also joined the 50 - 30 Challenge, which calls upon organizations to reflect community diversity by ensuring at least gender parity and at least 30% presence of IBPOC, LGBTQ2S+ and people living with disabilities on boards and senior leadership teams. But we want to go further than these targets because we already exceed some of them, having had more than equal female representation in management and leadership roles for decades, and with 26% of our senior leaders and managers identifying as IBPOC. We’ll continue to strengthen the diversity of perspectives and lived experiences in the decisions that shape Vancity. We’re continuing to do the work and by the end of 2025, we’re aiming to have a senior leadership team with at least 40% who identify as IBPOC, LGBTQ2S+ and people living with disabilities.

We’re working with industry and government to address systemic barriers.

Vancity and its members use finance as a force for change to build a clean and fair world. It’s critical to understand that the legacies of systemic discrimination continue to permeate societal and financial structures that affect decisions in both obvious and subtle ways.

To be part of meaningful change means both leading and being part of industry and corporate initiatives. It also means having a seat at the table with government, to reshape the structures that uphold systemic inequities. In 2020:

  • We signed the BlackNorth Initiative pledge to take action by committing to end anti-Black systemic racism and creating opportunities for underrepresented groups.
  • We’re among the first organizations in Canada to sign up for the federal 50 - 30 Challenge.
  • We partnered with the federal government on Canada’s Black Entrepreneurship Program. The program aims to ensure Black entrepreneurs have equitable access to loans and support to grow their businesses.

We still have work to do.

Becoming an inclusive and anti-racist organization is an ongoing process. While we’re proud of our history and the progress we’ve made the past year, we know there’s still more for us to do.

  • We’re currently working with an external expert to thoroughly review our decision-making processes for visible and invisible systemic bias, starting in areas such as recruitment, promotions, our work in our communities and how we show up and reflect the communities we serve in activities like our marketing. We’ll use their findings and recommendations to address existing blind spots that exist in our processes.
  • We’re updating our optional employee diversity survey to include a more comprehensive list of identifiers.

Vancity was founded on the vision of inclusion when a small group of citizens couldn’t get their needs met by existing banks in 1946. While we take pride in our innovations and firsts in the field of diversity and inclusion, we know we still have work to do. Our commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization is a journey, so we’re listening and learning as we go to ensure nobody, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or ability, is left behind.

Jan O’Brien

The COVID emergency has revealed and worsened many deep inequities that exist in our society. This underscores how a successful response to a global crisis requires rethinking our approach to the economy.