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Ontario university under fire for salary offered on Indigenous Director job listing

The University of Waterloo can be seen above. (Facebook) The University of Waterloo can be seen above. (Facebook)

The salary range offered along with the role of Director of Indigenous Relations at an Ontario university is drawing attention after it was discovered to be lower than comparable job listings at the institution.

Eagleclaw Bunnie Thom, an Indigenous man and communications officer at an Ottawa-based non-profit, said he recently came across the University of Waterloo’s job posting on Facebook.

“I just got curious, then went to their website and looked at all their director postings and I got a little concerned,” Thom said in an interview with CTV News Toronto Tuesday.

Thom said, while browsing the listings, he found himself comparing two – one for the Director of Indigenous Relations, which requires a master's degree, and another for the Director of Internal and Leadership Communications, which requires an undergraduate degree in English or a communications-related field.

However, the listing for Director of Indigenous Relations, which has higher education and qualification requirements, offered a lower salary range ($89K to $112K) than the position with lesser requirements in the communications department ($97K to $122K).

“Of these jobs, the one I qualify for is the job that pays higher, and the other job, which I don’t qualify for and has a higher requirement of education, pays less,” he continued. “I just kind of find that a little funny.”

According to 2023 data compiled by GlassDoor, Canadians in general director roles make, on average, about $134,000 annually, while those in academic director roles make an average of $108,000 a year.

After noticing the difference in salary ranges, Thom said he reached out to the university via Facebook. But, after receiving one response, the university stopped responding.

That’s when he said he decided to take the issue public on social media, posting his exchange with the university and publicly comparing the listings on Facebook.


In response to Thom’s post, one user called the salary “inappropriate,” with another calling the move “pretty blatant.”

A Waterloo resident who re-shared the post, adding her own words, asked, “Do we not value Indigenous cultural knowledge and skills or their contribution to the University as a whole as much as we value a peer leadership role in Communications? Is this another example of systemic bias and discrimination?”

When reached for comment, Jean Becker, the associate vice-president of the Indigenous Relations department, said the university is committed to its mandate of indigenization and decolonization, and that posting was designed and created by the school’s Indigenous Relations department.

Becker said the role of Director of Indigenous Relations’ “purpose, accountabilities, responsibilities, qualifications and compensation rate were designed by the Office of Indigenous Relations and are in line with [the department’s] needs at this time.”


At the University of Waterloo, human resource specialists use an “industry-standard job evaluation system for grading all staff positions at the institution,” according to a statement issued to CTV News Toronto.

This process considers position requirements, including minimum qualifications of education and experience as well as the scope of responsibilities, and specific accountabilities, the statement said, adding that ‘director’ role salaries can fall anywhere between $88,000 to $191,000 on the university's pay grade scale. Salaries are then decided in conjunction with the department and in line with their grade.

“Education is one of the many factors considered when human resources is assigning the ranges,” Becker said.

“A role’s education requirement is also dependant on the person who creates the role and what they identify as necessary to do the work [and] these roles were created in two different departments by two different teams, so there is a human element here in what each job creator wants and/or needs.”


Thom points out that, according to StatsCan’s most recent data, the median income for First Nations families is just over $32,000 a year – about $7,000 lower than the median national average.

“I like keeping track of Indigenous employment data across the country,” Thom said. “And this statistic hasn't changed that much or that drastically since I've been a working adult."

In January 2022, the employment rate of Indigenous people not living on a reserve surpassed 58 per cent – a two per cent increase over the pre-pandemic rate from January 2020, Thom noted.

“First Nations people not only get hired significantly less, but also get paid significantly less and when I came across this posting, it just doubled down on what I already know, which makes me sad,” he said. “Especially considering the university’s President’s Anti-Racism TaskForce and the push for employment equity – to not see positions paid equitably is just kind of wrong.”

The University of Waterloo launched its President’s Anti-Racism TaskForce in 2020. The initiative is meant to provide a foundation of “ongoing collaboration, conversation with, and leadership from Black, Indigenous and other racialized community members, [while] driving additional actions and long-lasting and meaningful change.”

Since its inception, the taskforce says it has begun to implement a system that diversifies applicant pools for employees and addresses barriers in recruitment and hiring, developed new curriculum and educational content, and served cultural, social, and scholarly needs of our Indigenous colleagues and students.

Ultimately, Thom said he wants to see the salary range “corrected” and updated to reflect a more equitable wage.

“It seems like the university really has its heart in the right place with its President's Anti-Racism TaskForce, and I just hope this was an oversight on their behalf and that they're willing to correct what is an inequity in their system because it really seems like they're trying to tackle systemic inequity,” Thom said.

“I hope this can be a learning experience more than anything.” Top Stories

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