Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion
Summer 2021 update
Dear Ms. Charette,
In response to the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service released by Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, on January 22, 2021, the Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat (CICS) has been engaged and committed to take practical actions that will form the basis for systemic change within the agency in combatting racism and ending all forms of discrimination and oppression. This letter outlines concrete actions taken within CICS on this critical issue and the early impacts they are having.
CICS Context and commitment
CICS is a micro-organization of 32 full-time employees including one executive position and the Secretary’s position. Although CICS may not have access to the same amount of resources as larger departments, the organization uses innovative and creative initiatives to achieve meaningful results.
Given the limited number of resources available to the agency, CICS’ first step was to focus on three key elements: recruitment, commitment to personal learning and increased self-awareness as well as support of leadership development programs for Indigenous, Black and other racialized employees.
To recruit highly qualified candidates from Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities, CICS focused on advertising job opportunities externally in order to have a more diverse pool of candidates. CICS Management is also reminded regularly of the diversity gap and the need to promote the appointment of Indigenous, Black and other racialized employees. Mandatory training on unconscious bias in recruitment is now required of all CICS hiring managers.
CICS is fully committed to increasing personal learning and awareness about racism, reconciliation, accessibility, equity and inclusion among its personnel, and fostering a safe, positive environment within the organization through various platforms and forums. To promote personal learning, CICS’ internal monthly newsletters include articles on diversity and inclusion and raises awareness with links to videos, podcasts, arts, publications, etc. Employee engagement sessions with guest speakers from the Federal Speaker’s Forum on Diversity and Inclusion and open and honest group discussions during all-staff meetings take place regularly in order to have meaningful conversations, share concerns and suggestions on this key subject matter.
Mandatory training has also been added to employees’ learning plans, such as training on unconscious bias in recruitment for hiring managers and overcoming unconscious bias in the workplace.
CICS is committed to support the participation of Indigenous, Black and other racialized employees in leadership development programs and career development services. Even though the organization only has one executive position and very limited resources, CICS leverages and adapts current tools and practices to meet its commitment. For example, the organization’s current Mentoring Program has been modified and tailored to specifically approach individuals from designated groups who are underrepresented in senior ranks and have a lot of potential for career progression.
Measurement and results
In the 2020 Public Service Employee Survey (PSES), CICS employees’ satisfaction rate on how the organization promotes diversity and inclusion was 92% (compared to 81% for the Public Service as a whole. Satisfaction rate on anti-racism practices was 88% compared to 78% for the Public Service1. Even though CICS’ employee satisfaction rate internally is higher than the average rate for the Public Service as a whole, there is still room for improvement. Consequently, engagement sessions with employees will take place to discuss those results and Management will table an action plan.
CICS’ current Employment Equity Report shows that Indigenous employees represent 10% of employees while visible minorities represent 5%. Although both groups are slightly underrepresented, CICS hopes to continue increasing these numbers as positions become vacant within the Secretariat. CICS also encourages self-declaration for its employees on a regular basis.
Challenges and barriers
Challenges faced by CICS in implementing the Call to Action are mostly related to the small size of the organization which results in a limited number of management positions available for promotion opportunities, challenges in maintaining employment equity ratios and limited resources to implement various initiatives. Employee self-declaration is also a challenge the organization is currently working on.
To address these challenges and issues, CICS uses and leverages government common tools and platforms such as GCconnex, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Center on Diversity and Inclusion, etc. The Secretariat also participates in intergovernmental meetings to learn best practices from others and find innovative and creative ways to implement these internally. Through confidential surveys and employee engagement sessions, CICS will investigate the reason(s) why employees do not self-declare and we will take necessary steps to identify and meet employees’ concerns.
Employees participate actively in discussions during all-staff meetings and engagement sessions on racism, diversity and inclusion. These exchanges are always fruitful and valuable and they offer an excellent platform where ideas are shared and discussed. The response rate to the PSES for CICS was very high, 91% compared to 61% for the Public Service as a whole, which demonstrates employees’ interest in sharing feedback and concerns.
To sustain momentum and address identified challenges, CICS will focus on improving the current three key actions undertaken and measure progress. In the coming year, additional work with human resources specialists will be done to review current assessment tools in order to ensure accessible, fair and bias-free recruitment and assessment processes.
CICS will explore pairing up with larger departments who can assist with developmental programs and opportunities for Indigenous, Black and other racialized employees. This also includes sharing pools of qualified candidates from designated groups underrepresented within the organization.
To offer its employees a brave and safe spaces and an anti-racist workplace, CICS will facilitate more sessions and offer an exchange forum to empower employees to speak up freely about bias and oppression. To facilitate this approach, the agreement with Health Canada’s Employee Assistance Services and Alternative Dispute Resolution Services will be renewed. This agreement gives CICS employees a confidential access to Informal Conflict Management services, Ombuds services and the Harassment and Violence unit. Managers will also be better equipped by having access to more training sessions on anti-racism practices and how to manage a diverse and inclusive team.
As the Secretariat’s Deputy Head, I am fully committed to taking direct and practical actions to achieve significant change in this critical area of personnel management. Although much work remains to be done, my agency has already undertaken several key initiatives which are the first steps on this important journey.
André M. McArdle
Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat
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