Evaluation of Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism

Executive summary

Background and context

This report presents the findings of the evaluation of Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism (CAPAR). This evaluation was undertaken by Government Consulting Services (GCS) for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) between January and April, 2010. The objective of the evaluation was to examine relevance, design and delivery, and performance, with particular emphasis on evaluating the horizontal approach and design of CAPAR.

CAPAR, a five-year plan, was launched by the Government of Canada (GoC) in 2005 with the goal of ensuring that all Canadians were included and had a role in society and the economy regardless of background, race or ethnicity; that all barriers to full and active participation and opportunity were eliminated; and that the justice system was equipped to respond to overt manifestations of racism in society.

CAPAR included more than 40 initiatives and strategies that were part of existing budgets and programs in more than 20 departments and agencies. In addition, $53.6 million in funding was allocated to nine new initiatives within four departments (Department of Canadian Heritage, CIC, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, and the Department of Justice).

CAPAR was led by the Multiculturalism Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH) and then by the Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, CIC (following the transfer of the Branch from PCH to CIC). The Initiative was supported by a Secretariat and an interdepartmental working group (IWG).


The evaluation used multiple lines of evidence to ensure the reliability of reported results. The following research methods were used to gather data for the evaluation:

  • interviews with 26 program staff, managers and stakeholders;
  • a document review;
  • a literature review; and
  • a review of six individually funded program evaluation reports

Evaluation findings


Canada’s increasingly diverse society and the existence of racism demonstrate there is a need for initiatives to combat racism and discrimination.

An array of research and statistical information shows that Canada’s society is becoming increasingly diverse, with growing populations of visible minorities and changes to its religious composition. There is evidence to suggest that minorities are experiencing racism and discrimination and recent data show that groups most at risk of being victimized by hate and bias activity are racial/ethnic minorities and religious minorities. Evidence also suggests that Aboriginal people, visible minorities and immigrants are particularly vulnerable to unemployment, underemployment, lower incomes and social segregation.

Canada has a long history of promoting human rights, equality, and multiculturalism and the GoC has a continued role in addressing issues related to racism and discrimination.

CAPAR and its funded initiatives are in alignment with departmental mandates and support federal legislative responsibilities such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Multiculturalism Act, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Employment Equity Act. These pieces of legislation call for departments to place emphasis on inclusion, equality, and access for all Canadians. In addition, CAPAR is in alignment with numerous international initiatives and commitments, such as the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racism, and work being done by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

Since the inception of CAPAR, GoC priorities have evolved to focus more on social cohesion and access to economic opportunity, rather than on anti-racism initiatives specifically.

The issue of anti-racism and discrimination was a clear priority for the GoC in the early- to mid-2000s. This is evident from Canada’s activities leading up to World Conference Against Racism (WCAR); the October 2004 Speech from the Throne, in which the GoC pledged to "take measures to strengthen Canada's ability to combat racism, hate speech and hate crimes”; and the 2005 Federal Budget, which included a five-year investment of $56 million for CAPARFootnote 1. Since that time, the priorities of the GoC have evolved, with an increased focus on social cohesion and equal access to economic opportunity.

Design and delivery

The CAPAR design was not aligned with its original intent. More specifically, what was intended to be a GoC-wide initiative to combat racism ultimately was designed to coordinate performance measurement among the funded initiatives.

CAPAR was intended to be a GoC response to racism and discrimination which was to be a broad-based, all encompassing action plan, involving many different departments and agencies and aimed towards a wide variety of target audiences. CAPAR’s subsequent design, however, did not meet these intentions. While the foundation documents called for a horizontal approach to manage the implementation of CAPAR, the precise rationale for such an approach was not clearly articulated in the documentation. Although the evidence suggests a horizontal approach may have been implemented to support a more unified government approach, the lack of clarity surrounding this rationale made it difficult to further define the nature and scope of intended collaboration. Ultimately, the design of CAPAR was limited to joint performance measurement and inter-departmental information-sharing, and these activities included only the CAPAR-funded initiatives. No communication or outreach was undertaken with the programs included in the original action plan that did not receive funding through CAPAR.

Recommendation: For future horizontal initiatives, CIC should ensure that the design of the initiative supports the intended rationale for horizontal management, the desired level of collaboration with partners, and the expected outcomes of the Initiative. In particular, the rationale and scope of collaboration need to be clearly established before developing the design.

There was little cohesion between the funded initiatives.

While the selection of initiatives for CAPAR funding was based on the identified need for programming in six priority areas, this selection does not appear to have factored in the compatibility of the funded programs. Consequently, the funded initiatives could not be easily fit into a framework of common objectives and performance reporting. Furthermore, the design of the Initiative was not consistent with the wide scope of the issue of racism, as it did not include the non-funded initiatives. As a result, CAPAR had very limited overall cohesiveness, and its initiatives did not establish partnerships or any other forms of collaboration.

Recommendation: For future horizontal initiatives, CIC should ensure that there is a sufficient level of cohesion among the included activities and partners, particularly with respect to their ability to work towards common objectives and to develop meaningful collaborative relationships. This cohesion can facilitate the development of common performance measures as well as reporting on the achievement of common outcomes for the Initiative.

The governance structure put in place for CAPAR was limited in its effectiveness.

A governance structure was put in place for CAPAR that included a lead department, a Secretariat, and an IWG. The structure was tasked with limited duties, with a primary focus on performance measurement. The Secretariat was unable to fulfill some of its responsibilities, including those related to the IWG (i.e., organizing meetings four times a year, annual stakeholder consultations). This is likely attributable to limited resources allocated to the Secretariat. The effectiveness of the Secretariat was compromised by the lack of a senior management committee for CAPAR, which meant that there was no mechanism in place for coordinated decision-making.

Recommendation: For future horizontal initiatives, CIC should ensure that an appropriate governance structure, with the necessary level of senior management involvement, is in place.


Funded initiatives undertook a wide range of activities in support of CAPAR outcomes. Some information from the program evaluations of the funded initiatives demonstrated the achievement of immediate outcomes. However, the nature and scope of CAPAR made it difficult to assess its overall impact. Delays in the implementation of certain initiatives and the cancellation of others appear to have limited the success of CAPAR.

Activities undertaken by the funded initiatives targeted a wide range of stakeholders, including: settlement organizations, newcomers to Canada, police services, law enforcement agencies, legal experts and community groups. Information from the various evaluations show that many activities were undertaken that supported CAPAR outcomes at the immediate level and some progress has been made towards those outcomes. However, the inherent challenge in formulating a cohesive set of outcomes that could encompass all the funded initiatives (e.g., multiple departments, different mandates, different target groups), particularly for an issue such as racism, made it difficult to assess the overall results of CAPAR.

The horizontal approach added limited value to either the funded or non-funded initiatives, which was primarily a result of its design.

It is likely that a horizontal approach to a policy issue as wide in scope as racism can best be used to ensure that there is a coordinated government response that avoids duplication of effort across departments and, where appropriate, promotes inter-departmental collaboration.

However, CAPAR activities were not inclusive of the non-funded initiatives and no communication, information-sharing or outreach was conducted with them. It is not known how the non-funded initiatives fit within the objectives of CAPAR or what results have been achieved. Therefore, non-funded initiatives did not benefit from the horizontal approach.

With respect to the funded initiatives, joint activities were mostly limited to performance measurement, which does not appear to have been useful (e.g., little national reporting). Further, the impact and performance of these initiatives would likely have been the same without the added horizontal approach.

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