A coalition of Canadian tech companies and investors has pledged to combat hate and intolerance in the workplace amid the global response to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
The pledge’s initial signatories include BenchSci, Ada, Cohere, and Vital Bio, as well as venture capital firms Golden Ventures, Inovia Capital, and Staircase Ventures. Since the pledge went live earlier this week, Percs, ScaleHR, and Two Small Fish Ventures have also signed, bringing the total number of signatories to 10 as of Friday afternoon.
Published by BenchSci on Monday, the pledge says it is a response to the rising concerns of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hate, which it notes are not only global issues but are also being felt in Canada. The pledge states the rise in these forms of hate was “triggered by the horrific October 7 attack on Israeli civilians by the terrorist organization Hamas.”
“While we cannot control or influence the frightening and rapidly unfolding events in Israel and Gaza, which have already taken the lives of thousands of innocent Palestinian and Israeli people, we are determined to take steps to reduce the potential second-order impact of these events on our employees,” the letter notes.
The pledge’s initial signatories include BenchSci, Ada, Cohere, Vital Bio, Golden Ventures, Inovia Capital, and Staircase Ventures.
The pledge holds signatories to four commitments aimed at fostering safe and inclusive workplaces, the first being a “zero-tolerance policy for Islamophobia, antisemitism, and other forms of hate” within the coalition’s organizations.
The pledge’s second commitment is to respect the rights and opinions of individual employees, whom it notes “may hold disparate views about events that are polarizing communities around the world.”
The coalition pledges to protect its employees from hate, intolerance, or incitement, with a strict “zero tolerance” stance towards support for federally designated terrorist organizations, like Hamas.
Finally, the coalition pledges to support employees whose families are impacted directly by the conflict.
The letter comes amid a noted uptick in hate crimes amid the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza. Last week, Toronto’s police chief Myron Demkiw claimed hate crime reports have increased by 132 percent in the city since October 7, while Montréal police said they have received reports of 16 hate crimes since October 7.
“I believe that every organization has the responsibility to do whatever it can to ensure the safety of its employees,” BenchSci co-founder and CEO Liran Belenzon said in a LinkedIn post Wednesday.
Bryn Knox, CFO at BenchSci, told BetaKit that while he could not speak on behalf of other organizations, he believes his company has a responsibility to stand up for and speak out against social injustices.
“The increase in antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate around the world, and in Canada is deeply troubling and leaves a significant number of our team members at risk,” he added. “Our employees’ safety and well-being are our top priority, and this pledge reinforces our commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive workplace for all.
Knox said BenchSci is holding to its pledge commitments by establishing an emergency fund to provide financial assistance to our employees and their families directly impacted by the conflict. He noted employees will be able to access this financial assistance starting October 31. The Toronto-based startup is also providing confidential short-term counseling to staff through its employee assistance program.
Feature image courtesy BenchSci.