The Black Employee Network: connecting Black employees across CSC


Let's Talk: Sharing the stories and voices of CSC
Illustrated collage of Black people with text that reads "Black Employee Network" and "Réseau des employés noirs". Two speech bubbles that read "BEN" and "REN"

Makenzy Ricketts,
Makenzy Ricketts, Acting Senior Project Officer on the Employment, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion team

“The first thing people need to know about the BEN is that we are a group of employees who are looking to create change in the lives of our Black colleagues, and a cultural transition within our organization,” said Makenzy Ricketts, A/Senior Project Officer on the Employment, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion team. 

The BEN—short for Black Employee Network—is a virtual safe space to support an inclusive workplace where the diversity of backgrounds, ideas, and abilities is valued and respected—a place where every Black employee can reach their potential.

Makenzy has been an active and dedicated member of the BEN since 2021.

Addressing equity, diversity and inclusion at CSC

In May 2021, the Clerk of the Privy Council put out a Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service. In response to this, CSC established the Black Employee Network. Together with a diverse group of Black employees representing a range of sectors, levels, and regions, it launched in August of 2021. 

The BEN is dedicated to fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and combating anti-Black racism and systemic barriers within the organization. Its goal is to foster a greater sense of belonging for all Black employees at CSC, create opportunities for connection and professional development, and promote mental wellness.

Jennifer Walcott
Jennifer Walcott, Acting Senior Project Officer in the Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Directorate

The network also facilitates discussion on commitments to preventing racism and discrimination and fosters meaningful dialogue for Black employees. It acts as a conduit between Black employees’ voices and the organization, including senior leadership.

The first event the BEN hosted was Ask Me Anything, a national open mic forum with the Assistant Commissioner of Human Resource Management whose purpose was to spread awareness of the network. The virtual meeting had a big turnout. Employees spoke openly, asked questions, and discussed issues commonly faced by Black employees at CSC.

“We need organizations or networks like the Black Employee Network,” said Jennifer Walcott, A/Senior Project Officer in the Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Directorate. “Because that's one of the key ways we're gonna change the culture. You reach out to the people that it's going to affect.”

Kicking it with the BEN

In November 2022, the BEN launched ‘Come kick it with BEN.’ It was an informal opportunity for Black employees to meet new people and get involved in the network. The popular meet-up, which takes place on Teams the first Friday of every month, is now in its second year. Between 25 and 30 Black employees come to meet, chat, and reconnect. 

At these informal gatherings, they can share experiences, ideas, opportunities, and take part in an environment where they feel safe. Come kick it with BEN has evolved into a space where Black employees can express their authentic selves while networking and having fun.

“Come kick it with BEN is just this place where you kick off your shoes and you, just like, chill,” laughed Jennifer. “We have fun things and sometimes it's just a really in-depth discussion about one topic, such as Black mental health.”

Maxime Kalifa Sanou
Maxime Kalifa Sanou, Senior Project Officer, Community and Stakeholder Relations at National Headquarters

Jennifer joined the BEN in 2021 when it was first organized and is now the interim BEN chair. She noted that the network has “bloomed” with about 150 members from across the country.

“When we created the platform, senior employees who have 20 something years at CSC said they’d never believe that at some point in their career they would see a network connecting Black employees together on MS Teams,” said Maxime, Senior Project Officer, Community and Stakeholder Relations at National Headquarters. “Those people went through difficult times and had to deal with racism. For them to see this happening and to connect with other employees—they’re not feeling alone anymore.”

This, Maxime noted, makes the network worthwhile. 

The Voice of Black Employees

Guedyo Guire Robler is a newer member of the BEN. The information analyst in Front-line Planning and Recruiting joined in June 2023 when a colleague friend introduced her to the group.

It's a group that wants to see you win and they want to support you, and they're not judging you, said Guedyo. 

Guedyo Guire Robler
Guedyo Guire Robler, Information Analyst, Front-line Planning and Recruitment

“If you have something to say. If you want to ask a question. It's a safe space and we are more than happy to help you and respond—and no judgment.”

“As someone who is a Black employee, it was nice to connect with a group that understood  me without explaining myself and what struggles I'm going through in life, whether it be outside of work or at work itself,” Guedyo said. “I feel like I have a community. And I just feel like I'm being heard.”

“The BEN aims to identify and implement tangible and sustainable solutions to change   the existing landscape for Black employees at CSC,” said Makenzy.

In 2022, the BEN had a virtual “fireside chat” with renowned author Lawrence Hill. The network also hosts a monthly book club. In 2023–24, the network identified and organized projects funded by the National Employment Equity and Diversity Network, including second language training for Black and other racialized employees, as well as information sessions on equity, diversity, and inclusion for employees.

The BEN is organized by a “working committee” that plays a crucial role in facilitating the Network. It meets every Friday for an hour to brainstorm events and plan sessions. Employees do this work voluntarily, in addition to their regular duties. As Jennifer noted, this is a testament to how dedicated and committed they are to providing a supportive, safe, informative, and fun network made up of Black CSC employees.

CSC is grateful for the work of the BEN and especially the members of the working committee, which has been supporting the viability and sustainability of the network since the beginning.

All Black employees are encouraged to join the network, whether they work in administrative or frontline positions. 

Let's Talk

Let’s Talk is a publication of Correctional Service Canada (CSC). Let’s Talk shares stories new and old of the people and programs at CSC. These stories provide an engaging window into how CSC fulfills its mission of contributing to public safety and assisting in rehabilitation. Let’s Talk is your home for informative articles, podcasts, and videos about CSC.

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