Restorative Engagement Program: Recommendations on How to Achieve a Successful Program

Note to readers

The Recommendations Report has not been edited to maintain the integrity of the panel's recommendations and as such, some of the language used may differ from the language contained in the Report on Written Submissions.

The Government of Canada is now assessing these recommendations and will conduct further meaningful consultation with key partners and communities of practice to ensure the program design meets the needs of public servants.

Submitted to the Honourable Anita Anand, President, Treasury Board of Canada

By the panel of experts: Jude Mary Cénat, Linda Crockett, Gayle Desmeules, and Robert Neron

January 22, 2024

This document outlines the recommendations for the principles and design of a restorative engagement program in the federal public service following the engagement phase.

For more information, contact:

Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

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In the workplace context, restorative engagement refers to an inclusive and proactive approach aimed at dismantling the barriers that facilitate the perpetration of workplace harassment, bullying, racism, discrimination and violence (WHBRDV). It embodies cultural and systemic change to address WHBRDV experiences by focusing on healing, repair and the establishment of healthy relationships within the work environment. In recent years, the federal public service has faced various public denunciations and collective legal actions on alleged cases of WHBRDV.

In response to the urgent need for implementing restorative measures to bring about necessary change within the federal public service concerning WHBRDV issues, a panel of experts from diverse backgrounds with personal experiences was contracted by the Treasury Board of Canada.

The recommendations presented in this document result from the work conducted by the panel, that is, the ways and means to develop and implement a Restorative Engagement Program (REP). They are based on their respective expert opinions, on the key findings of consultations with various networks and stakeholders within the federal public service, and the results achieved by restorative initiatives in various fields in Canada and elsewhere for an effective REP.

These extensive consultations initially revealed that various groups still describe the presence of numerous WHBRDV cases within the federal public service and the lack of equity for women, Indigenous people, racialized individuals, persons with disabilities and the 2SLGBTQIA+Footnote 1 communities.

Similar consultations and best practices observed in Canada and elsewhere advocate for a centralized, independent, and inclusive REP with binding authority, new legislation enabling responsive and effective treatment of WHBRDV cases, facilitating care for victims, and holding perpetrators accountable to provoke systemic and cultural change within the federal public service to address immediate concerns related to WHBRDV while ensuring sustainable, transparent, and equitable treatment in the federal public service.

While some recommendations may seem repetitive at first glance, it is a strategic approach we have chosen to employ deliberately. Our intention is to emphasize the importance of our perspective, particularly in specific areas of recommendations.

By reiterating these recommendations in different sections of this report, we aim to underscore their significance and ensure they are not overlooked. We are confident that these recommendations will enable the REP to create a safe, inclusive, and equitable environment for employees and promote psychological safety by addressing the various needs and challenges related to WHBRDV.

Executive summary

Establishing an REP across the government is crucial to addressing systemic barriers rooted in history. It would provide a safe space for employees to share their lived experiences, support aggrieved parties by repairing harm and arriving at meaningful resolutions, and empower those who have experienced workplace harassment, discrimination and violence by allowing them to contribute to significant systemic change.

After hearing the insights, experiences and suggestions for REP development and implementation by federal public service employees, representative groups, leadership, and stakeholders, we see a need for a well-defined REP with a clear mandate, rules of engagement and specific framework for cultural change.

We have also found that the REP should not duplicate what has already been done by other WHBRDV programs but rather complement those efforts. An independent entity should manage the REP centrally, situated at arm's length from the public service.

The REP should focus on eliminating inequities and take an integrated approach to ensure a clear, cohesive and coordinated strategy for tackling discrimination, harassment, and violence in the workplace. We recommend that the REP should be able to issue binding recommendations to departmental and agency heads to foster systemic and organizational transformation.

Finally, all equity-seeking groups must be consulted and be part of each level of development and implementation of the REP, based on the principle of “Nothing about Us without Us”.

About this report

Based on the analysis of written submissions, our collective expertise and experience, and in collaboration with the interdepartmental working group, this report provides recommendations for a potential REP framework within the federal public service and also includes suggestions on the design and implementation of a successful REP.


The panel of experts would like to thank all the participants in the engagement process who provided valuable insights and suggestions for designing an REP for the federal public service.

The panel dramatically appreciates the contribution of all key parties - networks, bargaining agents and department leaders - in this initial initiative stage.

We would also like to thank the Litigation Risk Management and Compliance unit and the interdepartmental advisory working group for their ongoing support. Their assistance helped us conclude this engagement process and this recommendation report.


The objective of this report is to provide concrete recommendations for the successful implementation of an REP within the federal context. To outline key considerations for a successful REP program concerning governance, structure and design, desired outcomes and the risks and challenges associated with not implementing an REP in the federal public service.

Engagement process

Overview of the Phase 1 engagement process

Phase 1 of the engagement process comprised input received through written submissions from stakeholder networks and organizations, and verbal engagements with the Interdepartmental Advisory Working Group. The methodology was designed in collaboration among the panel of experts, the Interdepartmental Advisory Working Group and the Treasury Board of Canada. This approach was selected to balance the need to gather specific information, the desire to engage as many stakeholders as possible, and practical constraints.

Seventy-seven networks and organizations shared their input through written submissions, representing 44% of those invited. Participants were asked to provide their input via an online form hosted on SimpleSurvey from October 31 to December 8, 2023. The form included primarily open-ended questions asking for stakeholders to communicate their priorities regarding an REP: desired outcomes, structure and design governance, risks, and challenges.

To supplement written submissions, each Interdepartmental Advisory Working Group member was invited to participate in one of six discussions facilitated by the panel of experts. These discussions covered the same questions asked in the written submission form.

The following table shows the response rate by stakeholder groups.

Stakeholder group Number invited Number responded Response rate
Networks and organizations representing federal public servants from equity-seeking groups 51 26 51%
Bargaining agents 18 4 22%
Networks and organizations representing key subject matter experts 14 9 64%
Federal public service departments & agencies 92 38 41%

Panel of experts recommendations

Based on what we heard and our collective expertise, following are our recommendations to ensure REP fosters inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible workplaces and addresses harassment, bullying, racism, discrimination, and violence.

Governance recommendations: where it should be housed

Creation of a centralized structure responsible for finalizing the development and implementation of the REP. Based on the main findings and conclusions, we strongly recommend the creation and establishment of a new centralized structure specifically dedicated to the development and management of the REP within the federal public service. No current structure within the federal public service has met with the support of the various groups to implement the REP.  On the contrary, they supported the creation of a new structure. A centralized REP structure will promote the standardization of procedures and consistent application of norms and principles across departments and agencies while ensuring a systemic approach to changes in laws, practices, and procedures to prevent and respond to WHBRDV conduct issues. In addition, it will facilitate the sharing of expertise and resources and enable more effective management of reported WHBRDV cases. It will also ensure more equitable dissemination of information and processes and greater accessibility to the REP. It has also been demonstrated that a centralized REP structure will facilitate the collection, analysis, and use of data to identify trends, evaluate the effectiveness of implemented measures, and adapt the REP according to the results obtained and the real needs of public servants. Finally, in addition to reducing costs and facilitating the REP’s operational efficiency, a centralized structure will guarantee transparency and fair treatment of WHBRDV situations in the federal public service. This structure could take the form of a Special Operating Agency reporting directly to Parliament. However, it will need to be developed with a framework law to guarantee its sustainability.

Alternative options

As an alternative to the above-recommended structure, we proposed the following options:

  • Option 1: Parliament appoints a legislative ombud to oversee the implementation and the operations of the REP. It must be a legislative and not an organizational ombud to ensure independence from the public service and have the authority to investigate and order remedial actions, and report directly to Parliament and not to a Departmental or Agency Head.

  • Option 2: In the short term, while the above-proposed structure is in place, we recommend giving the task of developing and implementing the REP to an already existing structure: the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada. To start the REP, the Government of Canada can easily add this responsibility to the commissioner. This avoids the need to develop and finance right away an expensive structure.

In summary, based on our expert opinion and result of the consultation, the centralized organization overseeing the implementation and operations of the REP must be completely independent of the government. In other terms, the Public Service Commission should not oversee it, and the independent organization overseeing the REP should be at arm’s length from the Public Service Commission and must uphold the scrutiny of those availing themselves of the REP.

Guarantee the independence of the REP structure. The observations recorded elsewhere and the near consensus on the need for the neutrality of procedures, trust and credibility of the body responsible for the REP argue for creating an independent structure. This independence will provide the REP with the necessary capacity to adapt its measures to the real needs of public servants who are victims of WHBRDV, increase the credibility and confidence of public servants in restorative mechanisms and interventions, reduce the fear of reprisals and reinforce the protection of those engaged in the REP, support fairness through objective and impartial processes, and facilitate communication as well as the development of education awareness and prevention programs in order to bring the necessary systemic change within the public service.

Ensure that the REP structure has binding authority. Success of the systemic change needed within the federal public service to address WHBRDV issues necessitates an REP structure with binding authority. These binding powers should also ensure the effectiveness and accountability of the REP structure to achieve its mandate for systemic change within the federal public service.

Ensure that the REP’s management structure is inclusive. It is crucial that the structure that will manage the REP is as inclusive as possible. The conclusions of the various consultations and the best practices observed elsewhere have shown that the REP structure should include people from equity-seeking groups (for example, racialized people, persons with disabilities). They should have qualifications and skills related to an REP rather than based on inclusion in terms of numbers to avoid tokenism. The structure should also include professionals with diverse skills and expertise, including conflict management, harassment and bullying prevention in the workplace, human resources, labour relations, law, conciliation, consequences of WHBRDV on mental and physical health, restorative approaches, inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility, Indigenous issues and racism, and so on. The complementary nature of all these areas of expertise and competencies should help the REP be more effective, with the ability to consider WHBRDV from various angles and propose more appropriate solutions.

Engage in a broad consultation aimed at listening to equity-seeking groups. First, the panel of experts recognizes that the processes of consultation that led to these recommendations failed to listen to the voices of enough representatives of the equity-seeking groups and victims of WHBRDV within the public service, independently of its will. Second, consultation with the various networks has revealed that this need is even greater than we had hoped. It is, therefore, urgent that the first task of the proposed REP authority is to engage in broad consultation of the various equity-seeking groups within the public service. The panel of experts has developed a plan to organize this broad consultation (see Appendix B: Phase II engagement process). This plan should enable these consultations to be successful and inclusive so that these groups can be heard and engaged in the systemic change needed within the public service and inform REP operational components to achieve desired outcomes. In our view, implementing a REP cannot be done without broad consultation of these groups and WHBRDV victims and their representatives.

Create a framework legislation or amend existing laws to better address WHBRDV. There is a need for new or amended legislation to address WHBRDV issues. The current laws framing WHBRDV procedures, regulations, and interventions have proven ineffective. This requires the inclusion of this issue in the consultation to be organized during the second phase, as well as consultation with bargaining agents, government lawyers, and other experts to determine the need to revise existing laws or develop new ones to provide a solid, clear and effective legal framework for the resolution of WHBRDV within the federal public service.

Take strong measures to end the current impunity for WHBRDV in the public service. An REP may not significantly reduce and eliminate WHBRDV in the public service. An REP cannot replace the victims’ need for justice and the need to take strong measures against perpetrators of WHBRDV to engage their responsibility and managers’ accountability. Strong measures will promote a safe and respectful work environment, help build employee confidence, and demonstrate the federal public service’s commitment to high ethical standards. The measures may also positively impact public servants’ productivity and well-being and serve as an example for introducing a zero-tolerance policy toward WHBRDV cases while encouraging the reporting of abuse without fear of reprisal.

Include care in the REP. It is important to recognize that restorative engagement is a voluntary process and that not everyone will be ready to benefit from implementing an REP. While some need justice, others need immediate, mid and long-term care. Indeed, it has been widely shown that WHBRDV cases are associated with mental and physical health problems (for example., depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideations and behaviours, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease). It is crucial that care is provided in cases of WHBRDV. It can be included in the REP or be provided outside the program or both. This care must be specialized, and that provided under Health Canada's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) has been considered inadequate and inappropriate to the needs of WHBRDV sufferers. Therefore, the REP should be charged with the responsibility for enhancing EAP and consult with equity-seeking groups in the Phase II engagement process regarding the merit of developing a separate EAP for cases of WHBRDV.

Structure and design recommendations: what it should look like

REP structure

We propose an independent structure with Governor in Council (GIC) appointees. A commissioner and at least four deputy commissioners who oversee research and policy, human resources, workplace restoration, and communications should be appointed for five years. A hiring committee comprised representatives of all diversity and equity groups and the Prime Minister's Office should recommend the candidates for these appointments. The commissioner and the deputy commissioners should be trauma-informed, well trained in REP, and have at least 10 years of experience in WHBRDV public service prevention or resolution. In addition, all the REP staff should be well trained in REP and have at least three years of experience in WHBRDV public service prevention or resolution.

The Governor in Council’s appointees should manage and supervise a team of public servants who work for the REP organization. The head office should be in Ottawa, with at least four sub offices across Canada led by the deputy commissioners, with public servants having direct access. During the first year of the REP program, the commissioner and deputy commissioners should meet with the representatives of the diversity equity groups monthly and, thereafter, quarterly. In addition, the REP commissioner should report annually to Parliament about their activities. The commissioner and deputy commissioners should have jurisdiction over all federal public sector organizations, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Armed Forces.


The proposed REP should review existing legislation to identify overlaps and gaps, and subsequently, Parliament is urged to enhance or introduce a section within the existing legal framework that establishes an REP with the authority to mandate restorative measures and hold accountable public servants causing harm, all while emphasizing a commitment to safe, inclusive, and equitable workplaces and putting in place protection to prevent abuse.

Legislation establishing the REP must clearly outline the responsibilities of the public service’s leadership regarding WHBRDV and the consequences of not respecting the REP mechanisms.

REP design

The REP should cover a wide range of topics and be inclusive, considering different needs and challenges, primarily focusing on WHBRDV and the harm it causes to people’s mental well-being. REP is being recommended to demonstrate a full commitment to psychological safety. Therefore, it must support public servants who have already been hurt, create confidential safe options for reporting concerns, provide different options to assist the different injuries experienced, be easily accessible, promote cultural sensitivity and encompass the critical aspects listed below.

Intake: A first-stop assessment able to provide a range of assistance from information gathering to crisis intervention tailored to meet the unique needs of employees accessing this resource, assess for risk and determine next steps. Elements to build resource capacity include:

  • training: include “train the trainer” specialty areas as mandatory, such as WHBDRV, Cultural Sensitivity, Diversity and Inclusion, along with non-mandatory courses (a portfolio of topics, for example, emotional intelligence, self-care, work-life balance, assertiveness, dealing with conflict, dealing with difficult situations, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout)
  • investigations: ensure all investigators are trauma-informed and culturally sensitive
  • restorative practices: restorative and trauma-informed leadership, facilitation, and mediation
  • psychological safety experts: such as clinical specialists to facilitate best practices for injury cases (past or current cases) and department risk assessments
  • trauma-informed therapists: certified specialists should be available to all parties (respondents, complainants, witnesses, leadership, and so on)
  • case coordinators must be part of the intake team, and they would assess and develop strategy along with the workers to ensure smooth and supportive transitions between each of these processes, as well as pubic service existing resources.
Programs streamlining

The REP should not overlap or duplicate work from other WHBRDV resolution mechanisms. A program review should occur to ensure the REP efficiently complements work accomplished by the Ombud offices, informal conflict management services, and other formal and informal resolution programs. Facilitating a seamless transition from one program to another is crucial for the REP's collaboration with existing programs, because it ensures that injured public servants are not subjected to the distressing experience of repeatedly recounting their stories. Empowering public servants to oversee their own documents, such as their dossier, is essential in this regard, enabling them to manage their information and experiences more effectively.


The Government of Canada must undertake and complete the Phase II engagement process to hear public servants from various equity groups experiencing WHBRDV to consider their experiences when drafting an REP to ensure it is inclusive and tailored to their needs. The finalization of the REP cannot occur without consultation with the public servants who have experienced WHBRDV in the public service or without having representatives from the equity-seeking groups directly involved at all levels of the development and implementation of the REP.

In other words, each level of the development and implementation of the REP should be based on consultation with each equity group, and it should also strictly adhere to the “nothing about us without us” principle.

REP must incorporate a user-friendly process that allows public servants to navigate it easily. This process should encompass universal components applicable to various areas, simplifying the reporting of workplace issues such as harassment, bullying, racism, discrimination, and violence. Furthermore, the REP must actively encourage a proactive approach to inclusivity, focusing on all minority groups. Ensure that all voices and concerns are promptly heard and addressed.

REP Intake and Assessment would be first contact, offering the option of in-person, phone, or virtual access. This role is critical to the success of the REP; therefore, this position will require a minimum of a master’s degree level combination of trauma-informed, mental health, systems theory, and restorative justice qualifications, experience or specialization.

The one-stop triage intake model should be designed as an easy-to-access, confidential, and safe method that supports individuals in identifying their needs based on a spectrum of inquiries, from early information gathering to crisis intervention, so that an action plan can be developed to meet those needs.

First contact: intake and assessment. Empowering employees accessing REP involves granting them full control over their electronic file, allowing them to select the information shared and determine access permissions. This secure platform, akin to Alberta Health Services Connect Care system, prioritizes data privacy. During intake, employees review and consent to access permissions, with their file only accessible or closed upon their signature. This approach mitigates the need for repetitive retelling, minimizing potential triggers and fatigue for injured employees. It bolsters data security, upholds consistency, and fosters effective collaboration between REP and other programs, facilitating comprehensive support for individuals throughout their recovery journey.

Intake would enable quick decision-making with immediate, concrete solutions to support, guide, advocate, prevent, intervene, and promote healing and restoration for public servants who have experienced WHBRDV while currently employed. This includes those who are still struggling or who have recently experienced WHBRDV.

Specialized repair, recover and restoration services should be available to all levels of public servants who are complainants, witnesses or respondents involved in workplace incidents. Incorporating these elements demonstrates an organization's dedication to fostering a workplace that values inclusivity, psychological safety, and respectful conflict resolution, benefiting individual public servants, team dynamics, morale, and overall productivity. Such a program promotes a healthier, more harmonious and supportive work environment.

All government EAP programs must offer mandatory trauma-informed training certifications involving best practices regarding the treatment of WHBRDV injuries.

System overlap can be prevented by using system navigation tools, for example, a 1-800 call centre line, website map or trauma-Informed REP services.

Education and training: In-depth trauma-informed training will drive meaningful and timely systemic changes to prevent the recurrence of similar harm. Training will enable knowledge transfer, including a deeper understanding of the complainants, witnesses and respondents; reduce stigma; and identify potential biases.

The cultural shifts facilitated by a practical REP training program should transform the workplace experience for public servants who are from equity-seeking groups, allowing them to bring their genuine selves and maximize their potential in a safer and more equitable environment.

The goal is to foster an atmosphere where public servants feel valued and fully included at work, without the burden of daily microaggressions that make them feel inferior, isolated, or excluded from group conversations. REP consultants will recruit qualified public servants for a “training the trainer” program specific to restorative leadership for prevention and psychological safety to address harassment, bullying, racism and discrimination.

This course would need to involve in-person training. In addition, the trainers should be able to provide a portfolio of learning sessions on, for example, intersectionality, the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, needs of people with disabilities and cultural competency.

A requirement for courses to be completed within a certain time for all public service workers should be implemented. Upon hiring, all new public servants must attend mandatory training before they begin employment. Data collection would inform this portfolio. Training will be delivered to all public servants, including leadership and human resources. This training will include a human-centric, holistic perspective on strategies for prevention, intervention, and the repair and recovery options for harassment, bullying, racism, and discrimination, and it will encourage violence-free, non-retaliatory workplaces, emphasizing legal protections:

  • prevention: build safer, more connected, caring workplace environments and identify early warning signs, risk factors, and profiles or characteristics.
  • intervention: build awareness of pre- and post-injury types and appropriate interventions for each stage.
  • repair, recovery and restoration: build awareness of trauma-informed resource options.

To ensure that diverse learning styles are supported, the REP training component will incorporate various methods for employee professional development. These could include activities such as engaging in cultural sensitivity training, merging it with other mandatory training, dedicating a separate training topic, and organizing staff lunches and information sessions with guest speakers for face-to-face learning, discussion, and question and answer sessions.

Document incidents: Training in required documentation helps all levels of the public service keep records of incidents. Good documentation not only supports the complainant’s credibility when a complaint is in process, but it is also good for preventing mental health problems such as self-doubt, confusion, sleep disturbance and loss of self-confidence. Documentation helps protect public servants against scapegoating and acts of retaliation and assists with clarity, confidence, courage, consistency and credibility.

The above training requirements can include added components specific to the following:

  • train the trainers
  • leadership, at all levels, in all departments, and agencies
  • human resources and labour relations
  • investigators
  • facilitators and mediators
  • health and safety committees

Leadership training includes identifying the trainee’s leadership and conflict management style, barriers to addressing WHBDRV, leading with emotional intelligence, and mindfulness. Training should decrease risk factors of authoritarianism, laissez-faire leadership, nepotism and favouritism, and address lack of confidence to empower leaders to feel competent. This will include tools to support staff, such as empathy, listening skills, acknowledgment of successes, transparency, consistency, fairness, being present, self-care and work-life balance.

Health and safety Committees should be more involved in the sharing of information regarding an REP and other resources that assist WHBDRV. Information can be shared via monthly communications such as staff meetings and electronic communications (newsletter) sent to the public servants they represent.

It is essential to provide remote, isolated public servants, such as those working on ships, with access to essential resources, including satellite phones and a self-help library with diverse materials, such as audio and video recordings, to support their well-being and self-improvement.

Regarding past unresolved or current cases involving a psychological and physical injury due to WHBRDV, public servants will require access to a trauma-informed psychological safety consultant. This will be part of a psychological safety consultant triage system, including intake, assessment, recommendation and referral:

  • Return-to-work planning should involve collaborative discussions with trauma-informed psychological safety consultants, the human resources unit, leadership and affected individuals, prioritizing well-being and considerations of any duty to accommodate.
  • Confidential reporting mechanisms, awareness campaigns, continuous training and legal compliance are essential components of a comprehensive program. A zero-tolerance policy against discrimination reinforces the organization's commitment to a safe and respectful workplace.

Public servants frequently identify their supervisors or managers as sources of discrimination and harassment. Consequently, the REP must earn the trust by being beneficial and practical and demonstrating impartiality and neutrality. The REP must not be perceived as a tool for the government or as acting on behalf of the employer to shield its representatives (managers and supervisors) from accountability for their shortcomings and the harm they cause.

Desired outcomes recommendations: what does success look like

Proceeding with Phase II engagement process involving equity-seeking groups, employees, managers, and senior-level officials across the public service is strongly recommended to affirm and refine desired outcomes (qualitative and quantitative measures) and develop a comprehensive evaluative framework consistent with restorative principles (see Appendix A: restorative principles).

Four key areas emerged that require feedback for further refinement: from the perspective of a person experiencing harm, witnesses, the person or department responsible, and cultural change from a systems perspective.

From the perspective of a person experiencing harm, REP services are easily accessible, user-friendly, voluntary, timely, confidential and tailored to meet their unique needs as described in the following:

  • safety: attend to their psychological, emotional, physical, cultural, spiritual and/or financial concerns
  • reprisal: not subject to reprisals, such as stigma and other harming behaviours
  • empowerment: the ability to make decisions about the type of support and resolution services that are accommodating, adaptable and flexible
  • voice: have a voice, feel heard and share their lived experience
  • validation: an acknowledgment that the injury or hardship suffered was unfair and underserved, for example, receiving a personal and/or an official apology
  • restitution: compensation for loss or damages
  • consequences: the person or department responsible receives appropriate consequences
  • fair process: a procedurally fair (omni partial) resolution process, get emotional closure and move forward feeling the issue is resolved
  • prevention: contribute toward meaningful, observable positive changes to address root issues and prevent similar kinds of harm from recurring
  • recovery: heal and recover from the emotional injury or trauma to restore well-being
  • dignity: self-esteem and self-confidence restored through reconciliation
  • workplace restoration: a pathway for restoring levels of trust and a healthy workplace environment

Witnesses have many of the same needs as above. Two examples, from their perspective, are as follows:

  • validation: receive assurance and acknowledgment that the injury or hardship suffered by the employee harmed and the impact on them as a witness was unfair and underserved
  • prevention: influence concrete actions to address culture or systemic change and prevent recurrence so they or other public servants aren’t subject to the same type of harm

From the perspective of the person or department responsible, REP services are easily accessible, user-friendly, voluntary, timely, confidential and tailored to meet their unique needs, including but not limited to the following:

  • fair process: a procedurally fair (omni partial) resolution process
  • an opportunity to make it right, such as expressing genuine remorse and apologizing for their actions, benefiting themselves and other involved parties, for example, to promote healing and reconciliation
  • learning and growth: gain a better understanding of the lived experience, barriers and impacts for personal, professional development and organizational learning
  • timely resolution: a swift and timely process for resolution so the issue and stress levels don’t escalate, affecting things such as mental health, job performance, or workplace safety
  • a way to put the incident behind them: the ability to make significant and appropriate amends, gain emotional closure, and move forward, feeling the relationship is repaired and the issue is resolved
  • address root issues: be supported when ready to share extenuating circumstances to reach a common understanding of the root issues to make concrete changes, and access support on an individual and/or systems level to prevent recurrence
  • reprisal: not subject to reprisals, such as stigma or other forms of harm
  • institutional trust: restore reputation, levels of trust, faith in the system (federal public service).
  • workplace culture: create a safer, more caring, connected workplace environment

For the desired cultural change, several qualitative and quantitative measures surfaced in the initial consultation process, providing substantive preliminary insight into system-wide mechanisms pertaining to inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility, as follows:

  • workplace restoration: restorative culture audits to measure levels of engagement, empathy and trust characterized by the following examples:
    • public servants feel valued and engaged in authentic conversations by openly and honestly sharing their feelings and ideas to positively influence norms, behaviours and practices
    • different abilities (ways of knowing and working) are valued and accommodated
    • empowered to take calculated risks for innovation, develop expertise, and hone skills for desired career advancement
    • confidence and skills to engage in difficult conversations in climates of mutual respect
    • Indigenous culture, language, values, and belief systems are respected

Shift from adversarial approaches to collaboration: recourse mechanisms to prevent the need for litigation, such as anti-Indigenous and anti-Black class action lawsuits, to address issues such as career stagnation, stigmatization, cultural safety, work-related stress leave, and absenteeism; also, to address reverse discrimination experiences by the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and Jewish, Muslim, Indigenous, and Black public servants.

Employment equity and accessibility: increase in the visibility and accessibility of marginalized public servants and those with multiple marginalized identities working at all levels within the federal public service, including Indigenous persons, visible minorities, the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and persons with disabilities. 

Management accountability: restorative leadership (inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible) performance competencies are embedded in the performance management process for across-the-board impact, such as:

  • equity groups: target measures in the different occupational categories, equitable access to onboarding, talent management, sponsorship, and mentoring
  • institutional trust: managerial positions awarded based on inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessible experience and restorative leadership demonstrated competencies

Streamlined services: provision of an REP policy instrument to ensure consistency and accessibility across the federal public service. Leverage and enhance what currently exists, prevent overlap, fill gaps, and make corrections for large-scale system improvements (for example, legislation, policies, training, support services), and ensure accountability through robust reporting and quality improvement measures.

In conclusion, a system-wide, comprehensive REP Evaluation Framework must be developed as a first step and properly resourced to allow a range of inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible engagement mechanisms at all levels within the federal public service. Reliance on top-down imposed change, although important, falls short of building and maintaining relational accountability frameworks needed for workplace restoration.

What’s unique about restorative engagement is it infuses positive energy and instills voluntary commitment by forging meaningful connections to foster the transformative cultural change needed to address WHBRDV.

“Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” – Albert Einstein

Potential Risks If the REP Is Not Designed or Implemented

Recommendation 1: We must address detrimental workplace cultures, dismantle systemic barriers, and effectively address harassment and discrimination. Failing to do so not only diminishes the dignity of public servants and hinders the public service’s ability to represent Canadian society accurately but also imposes significant financial burdens through settlement payouts. Furthermore, the recruitment of top talent is compromised in an environment tainted by these barriers, which include biases in hiring and promotion and policies that prevent equal access or fair treatment for all public servants.

Recommendation 2: The federal public service workplaces are at risk to provide a safe and supportive environment for public servants. The consequences of unsafe environments extend beyond emotional and health-related costs, including increased sick leave and persistent or chronic physical injuries for the victims of WHVRDV.

Recommendation 3: We must address and rectify injustice and unfairness within any workplace that allows WHBRDV to persist unchecked or that violates the fundamental principles of human rights and the core values and ethics of government service. We must actively combat these harmful acts and reduce their prevalence.

Recommendation 4: For the REP to achieve effectiveness, it must tackle fundamental issues such as power imbalances, biases and bigotry, which recent return-to-occupancy mandates within the public service have exacerbated. Moreover, the REP should contain an enforcement component that empowers federal public service organizations to take necessary actions.

Recommendation 5: All professionals involved in leading and managing the REP (for examples, trainers, coaches, restorative practitioners, therapists) must be trauma-informed. Without this, serious-life threatening mistakes may be made.

Recommendation 6: There is the risk of having an REP that does not have binding authority to direct structural changes. If the REP is unable to recommend binding changes to heads of departments and agencies to eliminate the harm experienced by individuals and to address the root causes, it will be ineffective.

Therefore, the REP should also have policy authority to influence and direct structural changes while remaining rooted in the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. Without this authority, the REP will only duplicate efforts currently undertaken and led by employee networks and other resolution mechanisms within the public service without impactful outcomes.

Potential Challenges of Not Designing or Implementing an Effective REP

Recommendation 1: A policy instrument is necessary to create an effective REP. This policy instrument must be flexible and adaptable to meet the unique needs of individual workplaces within the federal public service, including various agencies, departments, worksites and work environments. Currently, legislation is needed to establish or implement the REP. Therefore, this policy instrument should clarify the priorities, objectives, standards, and effectiveness indicators for the REP.

Recommendation 2: The successful operation of the REP hinges upon adequate funding and resources. This includes resources for managers, supervisors and employee mandatory training on racism, racial discrimination, and harassment; safe work environments; and trauma-informed management practices. Furthermore, essential restorative resources, such as access to trauma-informed mental health counselling and the availability of therapists and experts in accommodation measures, should be readily accessible.

Recommendation 3: Public servants frequently identify their supervisors or managers as sources of discrimination and harassment. Consequently, the REP must earn the trust by being beneficial and practical and demonstrating impartiality and neutrality.

The REP must not be perceived as a tool for the government or as acting on behalf of the employer to shield its representatives (managers and supervisors) from accountability for their shortcomings and the harm they cause.

Recommendation 4: To be effective, the REP should respect the strict confidentiality of the participants and should have clear objectives. It should also align with other diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, including education, culturally sensitive support, and contributions to a safe workplace culture.

Recommendation 5: To be inclusive, the REP should consider the unique needs of a diverse workforce while acknowledging and addressing potential biases or barriers. The REP must also seek input from all equity-deserving groups to be culturally appropriate and flexible. In addition, the REP should incorporate anti-racism principles and have a clear and universally definition of anti-racism within the federal public service.

Recommendation 6: The REP should not be another option, but it should promote a new way of relating to one another in the workplace, with clients and stakeholders. It should not be just another conflict resolution or workplace restoration program, and it should receive high-level support from the government and from senior leaders and management.


Based on what was heard, several key themes are evident:

  • There is a great need for an REP in the federal public service, and the REP should be a well-defined program with a clear mandate, program values, ethics, rules of engagement and a framework for cultural change.
  • The REP should not duplicate what is already done with other WHBRDV programs. It should rather be complementary and work together with the other programs already in place.
  • The REP should be seamlessly integrated into each federal department or agency culture and values and actively supported by senior leadership. 
  • An REP should also be flexible enough to accommodate unique needs, lived experiences and psychosocial factors to ensure a fair and practical approach.
  • The REP should possess the authority to issue binding recommendations aimed at fostering systemic and cultural transformation, with requisite incorporation into legislation to substantiate and reinforce the authority vested in the REP.

Key findings

We found that:

  • The development of a centralized and independent REP within a unique entity should be implemented. The REP should also be established as an independent entity separate from existing programs and resolution mechanisms and be an “arm’s length” stand-alone from the federal organization so individuals do not have to go through human resources for access.
  • The REP should possess the necessary authority to issue binding recommendations aimed at fostering systemic and cultural transformation, with requisite incorporation into legislation to substantiate and reinforce the authority vested.
  • All equity-seeking groups have shown the need to be consulted, included and integrated at each level of the development of the REP, referring to the “nothing about us without us” principle.
  • There is fear of reprisals and breach of confidentiality while using the REP. Therefore, measures should be taken to avoid any reprisal and breach of confidentiality.
  • To be effective, the REP should align with other inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility initiatives, including education, culturally sensitive support, and contributions to safe workplace culture. Continuous improvement remains crucial, informed by disaggregated employee satisfaction surveys and diverse stakeholder feedback.
  • To be inclusive, the REP should consider the unique needs of a diverse workforce that acknowledges and addresses potential biases or barriers. The REP must also seek input from all equity-deserving groups to be culturally appropriate and flexible. In addition, the REP should incorporate anti-racism principles and have a clear and universally definition of anti-racism within the federal public service.
  • The REP should not be another option, but it should promote a new way of relating to one another in the workplace with clients and stakeholders.

This is a strong desire:

  • To have an REP that is led by an organization that is independent of central agencies and that offers services that address and meets the needs of all public service employees. To also have an REP that is transparent and accountable.
  • To have senior leaders and trauma-informed specialists representing all diverse groups to be part in the development of an effective REP.

Several potential barriers were defined throughout the consultations, including the mistrust of equity-seeking groups in senior management and in the mechanisms already in place to effectively resolve WHBRDV issues and ensure inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility in the workplace:

  • Also, the lack of an independent structure to address WHBRDV raised the fear of reprisals and retaliation for those experiencing it in the workplace.
  • The lack of funding is also another potential barrier that should be overcome to have an effective REP in place.

Finally, participants have identified a need for the REP to foster effective restorative programs that meet the needs of all federal public servants and that address in a safe and inclusive manner the WHBRDV that is presently being experienced in the workplace by public servants.

Appendix A: restorative principles

The following principles collectively guide restorative practices on a transformative journey of change, emphasizing the profound shifts in thinking, beliefs, behaviours, and systems needed to create lasting and equitable transformations in individuals and communities. 

Restorative engagement is based on the following principles: 

Accountability and reparation: Transformative change includes acknowledging and repairing the harm caused by past actions. Restorative practices focus on accountability and reparation, encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their actions and make amends. This principle promotes not only positive change but also a transformation of one's values and actions. 

Do no more harm: At the heart of restorative practices is the commitment to "do no more harm." This fundamental ethical guideline emphasizes avoiding actions or interventions that may cause additional harm or worsen situations for individuals or communities already experiencing harm. Through this principle, restorative practices aim not only for positive change but also for transformative change that addresses the root causes of harm and promotes deep healing and growth. 

Nothing about us without us: Restorative practices adhere to the principle that no program or policy should be decided by any representative without the participation of members of the group(s) affected by that program or policy. It recognizes that individuals and communities most affected by decisions or issues have valuable insights and lived experiences that can contribute to more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable solutions. Transformative change is achieved when those directly impacted are empowered to shape the processes that affect them. 

Meaningful engagement: Transformative change requires meaningful engagement that actively involves stakeholders in ways that respect their perspectives, values their contributions, and influence decision-making or outcomes. This goes beyond positive change by fostering a deep understanding of the lived experiences of those involved and creating spaces for open dialogue and collaboration. 

Respectful histories and contexts: Transformative change is rooted in acknowledging the historical and contextual factors that influence an individual's well-being. Restorative practices consider these factors and avoid actions that might harm or disrespect cultural values, beliefs, and practices. This principle ensures that the transformative journey is sensitive to the unique histories and contexts of those involved. 

Compassion and Healing: Beyond positive change, restorative practices prioritize compassion and healing. Transformation often requires individuals and communities to confront and heal from past wounds. This principle emphasizes providing safe spaces for emotional, cultural and spiritual healing, ensuring that participation in the restorative process does not result in further harm. 

Trauma-informed and culturally responsive: Transformative change involves recognizing the impact of trauma and the importance of cultural sensitivity. Restorative practices are trauma-informed, taking into account the trauma histories of participants, and discrimination experiences. They are culturally responsive, respecting diverse backgrounds and experiences. These considerations are essential for deep, lasting change.

Education and reflective learning: To achieve transformative change, restorative practices prioritize learning and growth. This means providing participants with comprehensive information about the potential benefits and risks associated with the restorative process. Empowering individuals with knowledge is a crucial step toward transformative change. 

Collaborative and non-adversarial: Transformative change requires a shift from adversarial approaches to collaboration. Restorative practices bring parties together to collaborate, communicate openly and honestly, and actively participate in decision-making. This collaborative ethos is essential for breaking down barriers and fostering transformation. 

Forward focused: Restorative practices aim to be forward focused and preventative rather than punitive. Transformation involves a shift from punitive measures to problem-solving, prevention, and proactivity. By embracing this principle, restorative practices promote a culture of growth, empathy, and ongoing transformation. 

Appendix B: Phase II engagement process

The intent of this phase is to provide federal public service employees, leadership, stakeholders and equity-seeking groups with the opportunity to contribute valuable insights, experiences, and suggestions for REP development and implementation. The panel of experts recognizes that the processes of consultation that led to this report failed to listen to the voices of all the equity-interest groups, representatives and persons impacted by WHBRDV within the public service, due to time constraints and lack of adequate resources.

The purpose is to refine program design elements, ensuring alignment with principles of REP, trauma-informed practices, and cultural responsiveness while promoting a diverse and inclusive public service free of harassment, discrimination, racism and violence. 

The panel proposes a questionnaire and online and in-person individual and group input methods, as follows:

  • Provide safe platforms for employees and all levels of leadership to share insights, experiences and suggestions for a successful REP program.
  • To employ different methodologies to ensure cultural sensitivity and trauma-informed practices. Also, to ensure accessibility for hearing and/or visually impaired, cognitive or neurodivergent persons. For example, written or audio surveys, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups to engage leaders at all levels and stakeholders to contribute ideas for tangible systemic changes within the federal public service.

Considerations for Online and In-person Focus Groups

Phase II Engagement Process is best served by expanding the Interdepartmental Advisory Working Group responsibilities to inform specific aspects of the focus group process to include a cross-section of federal public service at all levels, from front-line employees to senior leadership to design and attend focus group sessions, review gathered data, and provide valuable insights to contribute to the design and implementation of an REP and inform a comprehensive evaluative framework.

Organize focus groups to provide feedback about the operational aspects concerning REP implementation within the Federal Public Service. Focus groups provide a platform for in-depth discussions, allowing participants to share personal experiences, insights, and perspectives. Measures will be taken to ensure participants feel safe to openly share and are not subject to reprisals.

Those who prefer not to participate in focus groups to have the opportunity to answer a questionnaire or access other platforms to share their personal experiences, insights, and perspectives.

Equally important is listening to the voices of senior leadership regarding their perspectives on the challenges they are facing and how an REP can support and enhance inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility in the workplace.

Focus Group Logistics

  • Number and Size of Focus Groups: Consider small groups with a range of 8 to 12 participants. For town halls or more extensive sessions, opting for a larger size of up to 200 participants to accommodate the broader format and engagement levels to be considered. To facilitate the involvement of the participants, the town halls will address specific themes.
  • Timeframe: Customized agenda and timeframe for each type of focus group, ensuring sufficient time for in-depth discussions and meaningful contributions to be developed. Ensure that this phase is carried out within a reasonable timeframe, to give the different groups enough time to participate fully express themselves and be heard.
  • Registration and Participant Selection: Define a process for registration and participant selection, ensuring diversity, inclusivity and representation.
  • Materials preparation: Prepare and circulate relevant materials in advance to facilitate informed engagement.
  • Facilitator preparation: Ensure that focus group facilitators are sufficiently trained, prepare them in advance for the different situations that may arise, and make sure engagement does not contribute to the re-traumatization of those affected by harm, violence, bullying, harassment and discrimination in the federal public service.
  • Post-session support: Establish mechanisms for participants to access post-session support to address potential conflicts or repercussions.

Follow-up activities

Consider post-focus group activities to support continued learning and engagement for ongoing development of REP.

Timeline, reporting, and continuous improvement

The engagement process should unfold over a specified timeline, allowing for thorough data collection, analysis, and integration of feedback into the program design and evaluative framework.


Compile insights and recommendations into a comprehensive report outlining key findings, common themes, and specific recommendations for refining the REP's detailed program design, implementation, and evaluation (outcome measures).

Key focus areas

  • Learning and development: Solicit input on incorporating and defining the components of mandatory training and effective learning strategies that empower participants for ongoing personal and professional development.
  • Trauma-informed practices: How to ensure trauma-informed approaches in program design, seeking input on addressing and processing past harms.
  • Cultural responsiveness: Ensure program design respects and integrates diverse perspectives, making it culturally responsive and inclusive.
  • Positive interpersonal relationships: Engage participants in providing the skills and tools to create a public service with constructive working relationships built on respect, safety and an inclusive and diverse space that contributes to the development of each employee.
  • Accountability and responsibility: Urges individuals involved in bullying, harm, violence, and discrimination to not only acknowledge their actions and the resulting consequences (accountability) but also actively engage in finding solutions and repairing the harm caused (responsibility). By fostering ownership, understanding impact, and actively participating in solutions, this will promote healing, restore relationships, and facilitate constructive resolutions.
  • Well-being, safety and support: Gather feedback on supportive and therapeutic elements, ensuring safety, and the well-being for participants by providing adequate supports.
  • Concrete systemic changes: Engage participants in discussions on how the REP can contribute to tangible, long-lasting systemic changes for a public service free of harassment, discrimination, racism, and violence.

Engagement principles

  • Direct engagement: Ensure the direct engagement of individuals and communities affected by the issues, placing their perspectives at the core of consultation and program development.
  • Collaboration: Emphasize collaboration between government entities, leadership, stakeholders, community representatives and panel members, creating synergies that enrich understanding and enhance program development.
  • Inclusivity: Value the insights and lived experiences of individuals.
  • Representativity: Ensure the engagement of all groups affected by harassment, bullying, discrimination, racism, and violence, as well as people in leadership positions, to gather a broad perspective and identify the real needs of different groups.
  • Action-oriented: Maintain a strong focus on action and change, translating consultation findings and stakeholder inputs into impactful programmatic actions.

Role of the authority responsibility for the Phase II engagement process

Develop data to inform an REP: The finality of this phase is to collect data as a foundation for the REP to address specific issues and meet the actual needs of federal public servants. To validate employee experience and ensure the effectiveness and relevance of the program in creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment. This includes:

  • Data collection: Gathering information on employee experiences, concerns, and perspectives regarding harm, violence, harassment, and discrimination within the workplace.
  • Data analysis: Reviewing and analyzing collected data to identify patterns, root causes, and areas needing attention or improvement and develop an REP rooted in the real needs of people affected by harm, violence, and discrimination within the federal public service.
  • Informed program development: Integrating the insights gleaned from the collected data into the design and implementation of the REP. This involves tailoring interventions and care, communication strategies, conflict resolution methods, accountability, and responsibility, measuring outcomes, implication of employees’ network and senior management based on the identified needs and concerns.
  • Determine Ongoing Engagement Mechanisms for accountability and collective learning.

Develop measures to assess the outcomes of the designed REP. Establish methodologies, strategies, and measures to assess outcomes and allow continued progress to include:

  • Establish clear objectives: Develop specific, measurable goals for the REP. These objectives should align with the program's purpose and desired outcomes.
  • Select relevant metrics: Determine the metrics and indicators that best evaluate the outcomes and the success of the program. To receive feedback from Phase I and further refinement and development such as improved relationships, reduced harm, violence, discrimination, harassment, and bullying in the federal public service, increased employee satisfaction, and so on.
  • Data collection: Suggest ways and means to gather data throughout the program implementation phase using various methods such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, or feedback mechanisms. Collect both quantitative (statistics on the number of people who use the program, rate of satisfaction, data on reduced harm, discrimination, harassment, violence, and bullying in the federal public service) and qualitative (narratives, testimonials) data to provide a comprehensive view of the progress.
  • Analysis and evaluation: Proposes ways to analyze the collected data to assess how well the program met its objectives. Compare the data against the established metrics and benchmarks to evaluate the program’s impact at different stages of its implementation.
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses: Propose ways to reinforce identified strengths and correct areas that need improvement or adjustment in the program based on the assessment.
  • Report and communicate findings: Propose clear ways to compile the assessment results into a comprehensive report and communicate the findings to stakeholders, including program participants, management, and relevant teams.
  • Iterative improvement: Propose ways to use the assessment outcomes to make informed decisions for program improvements or modifications and implement changes based on the assessment findings to enhance the effectiveness of future restorative engagement initiatives.
  • Continuous monitoring: Proposes mechanisms for ongoing monitoring and evaluation to continuously track the program's progress and make adjustments as needed.

By following these steps, the federal public service can effectively assess the outcomes of the developed REP and make informed decisions to enhance impact and effectiveness.

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