Summary Report – Independent Workplace Review of IRCC Humanitarian Migration Integrity Division (HMID), Etobicoke (February 2022)

Summary Report – Independent Workplace Review of IRCC Humanitarian Migration Integrity Division (HMID), Etobicoke (February 2022)

Office of Internal Disclosure

February 2022

The purpose of this report is to provide a summary and recommended next steps emerging from an Independent Review and Lessons Learned exercise conducted by the Office of the Senior Officer for Internal Disclosure between July and November 2021.

Background

Employees and management in an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) work unit of over 100 people expressed interest in conducting an independent workplace review.

The stated objective of this review was to assess IRCC’s systems, procedures, policies and dynamics within the work unit, and to identify lessons learned from past and current experiences, in order to develop forward-looking recommendations aimed at increasing organizational and individual health, inclusion, communication and understanding.

An independent consultant with expertise in diversity, inclusion, equity and anti-racism was retained to lead this exercise and report back to the Senior Officer of Internal Disclosure (SOID) on the information gathered through this process. Over the course of four months, the consultants conducted their review and analysis based on one-on-one interviews with people of various backgrounds, both racialized and non-racialized, including current and former employees and management.

Participants were informed that the information they provided would be confidential and that their identities would not be disclosed. Therefore, while the full report cannot be released since it contains extensive protected and personal information, we are pleased to share the key lessons learned and recommendations that emerged from this exercise.

The scope of this review did not include a formal investigation or a validation as to the accuracy of information provided to the consultant. However, information about potential misconduct or wrongdoing was seriously considered and, where appropriate, referred for follow-up through separate recourse processes.

Lessons Learned

The following points describe what employees and managers identified as lessons they have learned from their experience and participation in this exercise: 

Recommendations

The following points summarize the recommendations put forward by the independent consultant to build a safe, diverse, equitable, inclusive and anti-racist workplace that respects the diversity of all employees and clients regardless of intersecting identities such as race, ethnicity, place of origin, identity, sex and gender:

  1. Launch a facilitation process involving management and employees of the office that participated in this review. The process should be designed and delivered in a way that everyone feels a part of the process and embraces the change desired for a transformative and inclusive workplace culture. This process should be led by a human rights practitioner with strong equity, diversity and inclusion competencies. The outcome of this session should include concrete actions to be taken.
  2. Anti-Racism and discrimination learning and development (training) should be provided to all management and employees of the workplace in question. Training should focus on the following areas:
    • Individuals’ obligation and responsibility to uphold the tenets of the Canadian Human Rights Act and other federal policies including, but not limited to, the prohibition of racism in the workplace and in the delivery of services;
    • Building awareness and changing attitudes;
    • Recognizing, intervening and reporting racism and discrimination, including awareness of available resources and recourse mechanisms; and,
    • Creating a healthy, equitable and inclusive workplace.
  3. Implement an integrated departmental framework to guide employees and managers in addressing issues of racism and discrimination, harassment, favoritism, lack of transparency, wrongdoing and inequitable treatment of employees in the workplace. The framework should:
    • Review and update departmental policies and procedures to align with standards governing human rights, discrimination and harassment legislation that is applicable for the federal public service; design and implement measures to ensure a workplace that is respectful and inclusive of the identities and cultures of all, and that provides equal opportunities to perform roles and duties in the workplace; and demonstrate leadership in addressing issues of inappropriate behavior, comments and conduct that constitute discrimination and harassment under the Canadian Human Rights Act;
    • Establish a consistent, integrated approach for assessing reports of potential racism, discrimination, harassment and other misconducts or wrongdoing to ensure employees are referred to the appropriate authority and recourse mechanism from the outset;
    • Define the steps employees can follow when faced with racism and/or discrimination, as well as steps for management when an issue is brought to their attention including reporting back on the outcomes/results; and
    • Include information about different types of support options available to employees and managers, including contact information and recourse mechanisms.

    An integrated departmental approach will contribute to building trust and transparency within the workplace and will clearly define accountabilities.

  4. Support and training for managers to help them support employees who have suffered mental anguish due to traumatic work related incidents should be considered. In addition, employees who have experienced workplace-related trauma, and those experiencing vicarious trauma arising from witnessing or otherwise being affected by such events, should be informed of resources available to support them.

Response to Recommendations

The senior management team at IRCC, led by the Deputy Minister and the Associate Deputy Minister, agree that it is essential to ensure a safe, diverse, equitable, inclusive and anti-racist workplace that respects the diversity of all employees and clients regardless of intersecting identities such as race, ethnicity, place of origin, disability, identity, sex and gender.

Recommendation 1 – Facilitation process

Within the work unit that participated in this exercise, the management team will work with employees to collaboratively design and deliver a facilitation process as recommended by the consultant, in a way that encourages participation and enables the changes needed to achieve a transformative and inclusive workplace.

The management team is committed to initiating this work by Summer 2022, with the resulting action plan to be developed in collaboration with employees within 10 weeks of completing the facilitation process. These activities will enable a safe, healthy, respectful and inclusive culture.

Recommendation 2 – Anti-racism learning and development

In terms of anti-racism and discrimination learning and development opportunities, the Department has put in place an Anti-Racism Coaching Program for Executives and Middle Managers Anti-Racism training.

In addition, there is mandatory workplace harassment and violence prevention training for both employees and managers, mandatory unconscious bias training for all employees, an anti-racism virtual library on the intranet, and a series of virtual learning events offered through Executive, Middle Managers and All-Staff Town Halls.

These ongoing activities will enable development of the knowledge, skills and empathy required to effectively support racialized employees and to respond promptly and appropriately to incidents of harassment, discrimination or racism in the workplace.

Recommendation 3 – Streamlined, consistent and clear recourse mechanisms

The departmental processes involved in responding to issues of discrimination, racism, harassment, inequitable treatment of employees, misconduct and wrongdoing are complex: they differ depending on the nature of the incident, and can involve many participants. For example, allegations of harassment, discrimination and violence in the workplace are managed by the Occupational Health and Safety Unit (Human Resources), while allegations of misconduct or wrongdoing may be managed by the Workplace Investigations & Ethics Unit (Human Resources) or the Office of the Senior Officer for Internal Disclosure, depending on factors such as the complexity, severity, breadth (pervasiveness) or potential impact of the issue from an individual and organizational perspective. Also, different authorities, policies, procedures, confidentiality limitations and disclosure requirements may apply depending on the nature of the issue, recourse mechanism, and relevant legislation.

As an alternative, the Office of Conflict Resolution (OCR) offers confidential support to help employees explore available options, including informal conflict resolution, such as coaching, mediation, and group interventions, if appropriate.

In addition, the Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF) is dedicated full-time to guiding the Department toward eliminating racism in all its forms at IRCC. In collaboration with existing departmental networks, the ARTF offers an array of advice and services to departmental employees and managers including open data analysis, anti-racism coaching programs, and guidance on community engagement approaches such as trust circle conversations, facilitating conversations on racism, and hosting engagement events.

Through collaboration between these offices and engagement with partners such as Security, Legal Services, Privacy, Communications and Learning, the Department will establish a consistent, integrated and simplified departmental approach for receiving reports of racism, discrimination, harassment and other misconduct or wrongdoing and providing guidance on available recourse mechanisms.

Information about this integrated approach, including associated tools and resources, will be developed and communicated to all IRCC employees to ensure they are aware of the options available to them, understand the implications of various recourse mechanisms, and can access support, training and information through a well-defined, accessible process. This work will include clearly defining roles and responsibilities of all employees and managers, including their rights and obligations related to ensuring a workplace free of harassment, discrimination and racism.

This integrated departmental framework will ensure employees and managers have access to, and understand, the information and support required to promptly, safely and effectively address incidents of harassment, discrimination, racism, misconduct or wrongdoing in the workplace.

Recommendation 4 – Trauma-related support and training

The Department will work with external partners, including Health Canada, to inform IRCC employees of training, information and resources available to help them deal with the effects of work-related trauma on themselves and their staff, and to provide support in response to traumatic workplace incidents.

Additional Comments

Canada’s diversity is its strength. We all benefit when we include the right people, reflecting Canada’s full diversity, putting their talents to use. Unfortunately, the reality is that far too many people and communities continue to face systemic racism and discrimination in our country and in our workplaces.

At Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, there is zero tolerance for racism, discrimination, marginalization or harassment of any kind. Yet that’s not enough – we must actively fight racism and continue to work tirelessly to foster a culture of inclusion, openness and respect. This is in line with efforts across government to end all forms of oppression, challenge our own biases, and create an environment where employees feel empowered, safe and free to speak up when they see or experience racism. While this work is crucial across all departments, IRCC has a unique and important role to play in it given our nation-building mandate.

In addition to supporting the Clerk’s Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service,Footnote1 the IRCC Anti-Racism Value Statement Footnote2 is our pledge and commitment to significantly advance our efforts on anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion. It is our way of demonstrating our dedication to advancing racial equity for our employees and for our clients. It is just one step in a long series of steps to bring real and lasting change and ensure our actions speak louder than our words.

IRCC has already taken a number of steps towards making real and lasting change within the Department. Some of these include:

These concrete actions support anti-racism efforts with respect to IRCC’s shift in our culture and mindset, people management, and building accountability. 

The IRCC response to the Clerk's call to actionFootnote 3 acknowledges that, while we have made strides toward a workforce readying itself to mobilize, we still have work to do. For example, our employee networks and business areas are often held back by: a lack of dedicated people resources (often working on initiatives “off the side of their desk”), a lack of funding, and limited expertise in addressing systemic inequities. The pressure to meet business priorities still tends to overshadow equity concerns or considerations.

And while some managers still experience discomfort in holding practical and beneficial conversations about racism with staff due the sensitive nature of this subject, we have seen an increase in confidence with the support of anti-racism coaches, ongoing training and learning opportunities, and advice from the Task Force and the Advisory Board.

Through frank conversations on how to build an equitable and inclusive organization, broad engagement with employee networks and allies, grassroots efforts of employees motivated to make a difference, development and reinforcement of accountabilities, continuous communication, and the leadership of many at all levels of IRCC, we are increasingly building positive momentum for change.

True and lasting change begins with acknowledging the difficult reality that harassment, discrimination, marginalization and racism still exist all around us, including in the Public Service. We have an obligation to our employees, and to all Canadians, to listen and do better – and we will.

Conclusion

On behalf of the IRCC senior management team, the Senior Officer for Internal Disclosure wishes to thank employees and managers for their participation in this independent review, and to acknowledge their expressed commitment to work together towards a healthy, productive and inclusive workplace where all can contribute and participate.

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