IRCC Anti-Racism Strategy 2.0 (2021-2024) – Government of Canada and IRCC’s Anti-Racism actions in context

Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022 (Canadian Heritage, July 2019) and the Clerk’s Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion in Federal Public Service (Privy Council Office, January 2021) identify the unjust and harmful impacts of systemic racism on Indigenous Peoples, Black people and other racialized groups, and outline how the Government of Canada will begin to work toward removing barriers to equity and inclusion for racialized people in Canada. These overarching initiatives complement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, including 94 Calls to Action (June 2015), the government’s recognition of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (January 2018), and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (June 2021).

The ministerial mandate letters, including the letter addressed to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Mandate Letter (Prime Minister of Canada, December 2021), clearly articulate that the government’s priority is “to continue to address the profound systemic inequities and disparities that remain present in the core fabric of our society, including our core institutions,” and to this effect, “actively seek out and incorporate in [our] work, the diverse views of Canadians, [including] women, Indigenous Peoples, Black and racialized Canadians, newcomers, faith-based communities, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ2 Canadians, and in both official languages.” In this work the government is committed to “ensuring that public policies are informed and developed through an intersectional lens.”

IRCC’s strategic Anti-Racism actions are at the forefront of Government of Canada initiatives to combat racism and discrimination in their various forms. The creation of the Anti-Racism Task Force in Summer 2020 has been pivotal to kick-starting coordinated Department-wide action. The Anti-Racism Value Statement (Annex A), publicly released in May 2021, acknowledges the impacts of our colonial legacy and historical racist policies that often work through the immigration system on Indigenous, Black and other racialized people. The openness to speak about racism has ushered in a series of Anti-Racism efforts at all levels of the Department, making our organization more inclusive with regard to people management, and improving the equity outcomes of policies, programs and service delivery practices (for a succinct overview of the Department’s Anti-Racism journey as of summer 2021, see its response to the Clerk of the Privy Council in the IRCC Letter on the Implementation of the Call to Action on Racism, Equity and Inclusion).

Key accomplishments of Strategy 1.0 in 2021-22

  • Release of the value statement and sector commitments for departmental Anti-Racism initiatives
  • Inclusion of equity objectives in performance agreements of managers and executives
  • Setting higher workforce targets to increase the representation of Black, Indigenous and racialized employees
  • Establishing groups and networks of collaboration, communication, learning and trust-building among Indigenous, Black and racialized IRCC employees and their allies
  • Development of racial impact assessment and bias identification tools and frameworks for policy development, risk management and operational decision-making
  • Collection of race-related data in annual client surveys

The Department’s actions of self-examination and identifying accountabilities to support Anti-Racism work have catalyzed immediate action, demonstrating both the timeliness of the initiatives and the significant challenges ahead to advance on the path toward racial equity. IRCC’s first-ever Anti-Racism employee survey, conducted in fall 2020, provided a wealth of quantitative data regarding race-based discrimination experienced among different segments of our employees. The independent report, IRCC Anti-Racism Employee Focus Groups (PDF, 443 KB), prepared on behalf of the Department by Pollara Strategic Insights and published in June 2021, reveals key insights into the impact and nature of racism witnessed within the Department and the gaps in the current mechanisms to address discrimination.

More recently, in spring 2022, media attention directed at IRCC’s call centre in Montréal regarding an independent study of the work environment and various concerns raised by employees put the spotlight on how Anti-Racism initiatives can be brought to bear on employees’ day-to-day issues with the workload, nature of work, training, turnover and employment status. Regarding the policy and service delivery context, concerns raised over potential bias in the identification of special measures for refugees and displaced people (e.g. those fleeing war in Ukraine compared with refugees from Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa) starkly reveal that the Department needs to be open-minded and self-critical in a more vigilant way—this, notwithstanding the significant advances made thus far in understanding the extent and nature of racism in our workplace, and in our policies, program design, service delivery and broader society.

Strategy 2.0 (2021–2024) (the Strategy) presents an increasingly integrated view of the Anti-Racism initiatives recently completed and currently under way. This iteration of our Strategy offers an overarching structure, that when viewed against the backdrop of the Government of Canada’s and IRCC’s Anti-Racism initiatives of the last few years, provides a refinement to our Anti-Racism work through a more focused and deliberate effort. Our intent is that this effort will build a model for systems change that includes concrete, actionable steps and a monitoring framework, which will generate increased momentum for the Department’s Anti-Racism work and lead to a sustainable culture shift.

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