Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion

Summer 2021 update

Untitled Document

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has always recognized the importance and need for a whole-Agency approach to diversity and inclusion. I am pleased to provide this update on ways in which the CFIA is implementing the actions outlined in the Clerk’s Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service.

Our commitment to learning about racism, reconciliation, accessibility, equity and inclusion

The CFIA committed to building a more agile, inclusive, and better equipped public service through Beyond2020 and has worked to enhance learning about racism and reconciliation, accessibility, equity and inclusion. Through storytelling, the CFIA is fostering a safe, positive environment where conversations are encouraged and shared across the Agency, and where voices of diverse backgrounds can be heard. To date, the CFIA has developed and shared 29 Beyond2020 stories.

The CFIA also has a well-established equity, diversity, and inclusion program, supported at all levels of the Agency. Over the past year, worldwide events such as COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the tragic residential school discoveries have brought to light the importance of representation and listening.

While many of the actions in the Call to Action were already underway at the CFIA, we have shifted our focus from educating and raising employee awareness to fostering accountability and directly engaging employees in advancing these initiatives.

Focused actions

The CFIA is pleased to note that the tangible, focused actions listed in the Call to Action have helped this Agency to educate and engage senior management, leaders and employees in new and engaging ways. 

For example, while the CFIA has traditionally conducted awareness and diversity activities for all staff, the call for leaders to commit to personally learning about racism, reconciliation, accessibility, equity and inclusion prompted us to further engage senior management and all employees through a variety of new learning activities.

Some of these new activities include:

For example, a well-received joint event was held to recognize Asian Heritage Month in May 2021. The event included employees from CFIA and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) speaking about their lived experience with anti-Asian racism, both before, and because of COVID-19. We have had very positive feedback from this session and plan to provide more opportunities to listen and learn from the experiences of employees from diverse backgrounds.

It is clear that CFIA employees and senior leaders are committed to learning. In fact, our diversity team has experienced an increase in the number of requests for learning sessions across all branches of the CFIA. We have increased the number of internal branch events, panel discussions, and awareness observances and communications. CFIA executive town halls have been hosted with focused discussions about how to address anti-racism and inclusion at the Agency.

The CFIA is now working to have unconscious bias training made mandatory for all employees and is exploring the CSPS’ unconscious bias ready-to-use workshop and train-the-trainer model to increase our capacity for in-house training.

Our commitment to enabling and advancing the work of grassroots networks and communities

While the CFIA has always had a Chief Diversity Officer and executive-level Champions for our diversity networks, this year, we ensured that all positions were filled.  The accountability and reporting requirement for Champions was also formalized, with more frequent updates at the senior management table.

The Diversity Chairs and Champions play a key role as the voice of our employee-led networks. They have responded to the Call to Action in many ways, including:

The CFIA has always encouraged partnerships and collaboration. Now, our Champions, Chairs and employee networks are more consistently planning and working together on initiatives of benefit to multiple groups. We are also expanding our diversity networks to find intersectionality and create partnerships with other key groups, such as Synapse (the CFIA’s professional network), our Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) team, and our Wellbeing and Mental Health teams. Examples include:

Our commitment to including voices from diverse backgrounds

Since the Call to Action, the CFIA has increased efforts to include voices from diverse backgrounds in the identification of systemic racism, discrimination and barriers to inclusion. Several coffee chats and informal discussions have been held with employees to hear their stories first hand.

Our commitment to combatting all forms of racism, discrimination and other barriers

On a larger scale, the CFIA is committed to making sure all voices are heard and stories told, so that we can truly move forward in combatting all forms of racism, discrimination and other barriers to inclusion in the workplace and taking action on what we have learned.

The CFIA is pleased to share that the Agency is developing a dedicated Anti-racism Task Force. As a start, we are embarking this summer on a series of listening sessions for our BIPOC employees. We are keen to gather feedback, to build the Secretariat the right way and make sure we are truly responding to our employees’ needs.  

Our commitment to recruiting qualified candidates from Indigenous communities

Several of the calls to action focus on increasing representation through the recruitment, development, and retention of BIPOC employees. Our focus over the last several years has been on increasing the CFIA’s representation among Indigenous Peoples.

We have traditionally done engagement and outreach to recruit qualified candidates from Indigenous communities. This includes a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the University of Guelph to hire Indigenous students in subject areas such as agriculture and veterinary medicine. 

To support Indigenous students, our Indigenous Summer Student Program, now in its fifth year, conducts outreach directly to Indigenous communities. The Program offers onboarding and unlimited contact with an Indigenous mentor. It also positions the CFIA as an employer of choice for the Indigenous staff who come to us as students, ideally with a view to bridging these students into permanent positions upon graduation.

Our commitment to supporting participation in leadership development programs

For our full-time Indigenous employees, the CFIA supports participation in leadership development programs including programs run by Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), designed to prepare employees for advancement at working and management levels:

Our commitment to recruiting, appointing, hiring and supporting racialized persons

While the CFIA has always monitored representation rates, and has historically been successful in hiring, promoting and retaining racialized persons, the Call to Action has led us to look more closely at our workforce. We are now gathering more disaggregated data, specifically looking to improve the representation of Black and other racialized employees at the CFIA.

One of our main focus areas moving forward will be on how we recruit, appoint, hire and support these employees through training and development, and other means such as mentorship.

We have already started to review and analyze our current hiring systems, policies, and practices with a view to identifying and eliminating barriers. We have engaged a third party to conduct an Employment Systems Review, with work taking place during summer and fall 2021.The results of this review will be invaluable in identifying areas for improvement and will be incorporated into our Diversity Framework.

The CFIA is taking meaningful action to support diversity, inclusion and equity in staffing by updating policies and procedures. In September 2021, we are launching an updated Staffing Program that has been reviewed in line with GBA+ and Diversity and Inclusion. The update includes amended CFIA Staffing Values that reflect the Clerk’s Call to Action and the recent proposed changes to the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) (for example, use of the term “equity-seeking groups”).

The Staffing Program will identify cascading roles and responsibilities related to building and promoting a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion. The Program exists to:

We will be working inter and intra-departmentally to determine how we can train managers and Human Resources Advisors to support barrier-free qualifications, advertisements, and assessment tools as well as how to implement diverse assessment boards.

To date, we have had several quick wins and small but meaningful changes, such as:

Representation at all levels

The CFIA is looking at representation at all levels, including the Executive group. We are exploring career development options to provide our BIPOC employees with not only the training but also with opportunities they will need to advance in their careers at the Agency. The CFIA is building a more diverse, respectful, and inclusive executive management community through:

Important discussions have been taking place with executives at management tables and, as mentioned earlier, executive town halls. We have been sharing best practices, encouraging open dialogue and putting into action what leaders are looking for and need to do to make an impact for BIPOC and Indigenous employees.

The executive community is learning – in many ways, and from each other. We are learning how, as leaders, we can and will do better together when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

As part of measuring our progress, we conducted an employee survey and asked employees how committed they felt the CFIA was to establishing diversity and inclusion.  Over 3 in 4 (77%) rated the agency as a 5 or higher on the scale from 1 to 7. This is a key performance indicator we will measure over time to help assess the impact of our action plan.

The CFIA recognizes that we have challenges ahead. We are committed to:

The CFIA has seen positive changes already in the CFIA’s culture. We will build on this momentum by involving all CFIA staff to help continue creating our diverse and inclusive workforce we are all proud to be part of.


Siddika Mithani, Ph.D.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Data annex

How many Indigenous employees and Black and other racialized employees joined your organization in 2020/2021 compared to the total number of employees who joined in 2020/2021?

How many Indigenous employees and Black and other racialized employees left your organization in 2020/2021 compared to the total number of employees who left in 2020/2021?

How many Indigenous employees and Black and other racialized employees were appointed to executive positions in 2020/2021 compared to the total number of employees appointed to executive positions in 2020/2021?

Although disaggregated data for Black employees is not available at this time, the CFIA has recently updated their Demographic Questionnaire to collect information on racial groups or origins.

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