WE Charity’s former workers are expressing their concerns about the oppressive incidents against racialized people in the organization. Amanda Maitland, the former WE worker, posted a video to her Instagram last month, saying she was employed in 2018 to speak on racism during a tour of schools in Calgary. Maitland flew to Toronto for a feedback meeting with members of the charity after a few presentations in Calgary. In that meeting, which had a panel of predominantly white employees, handed her a re-written speech for her to use rather than the one she had written to use.
Maitland said in the video that she almost fell off her chair when she was handed over a new speech to read. She added that she felt like there was so much misunderstanding, which made her angry as there was no heads up or dialogue that the team on the back end felt the need to change her speech. WE, which was founded by brothers Marc and Craig Kielburger, is the largest youth empowerment organization in Canada. Maitland told CTV News that the new speech removed much of the personal experiences she had been speaking about as they wanted her to talk about just stuff like the Oscars and cornrows.
Maitland said during a town hall about the work culture at WE that she brought up some of her issues with the organization and was shut down by Marc Kielburger. According to her, Marc silenced her completely. The problem with diversity and silencing of people of color’s voices made Maitland resign from the charity shortly afterwards. The Kielburger brothers apologized for her experience at WE. The brothers wrote in the letter that that was just the beginning of the work ahead of them to ensure they are an inclusive and diverse organization. They are hoping that dialogue will continue, and they are willing to participate in a formal process underway in the organization led by a diverse group of staff to channel learning into tangible actions.
Several other former WE employees have come forward with their own stories when it comes to the culture at the organization since Maitland posted the video. For example, former employee Sarah Koff in an Instagram video, stated that the overall culture of WE charity is deeply oppressive. To hire women of color to help transition the charity toward anti-racism and to offer free support services to any person of color who has been impacted by the charity’s practices, past and present, about 1,200 people have signed a Change.org petition, which calls for a formal apology from the Kielburgers.