Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion

Summer 2021 update

Dear Clerk:

I’m writing in response to the Call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the Federal Public Service issued by the Clerk on January 22, 2021 to highlight the efforts undertaken at the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor).

CanNor, established in 2009, is the regional development agency for the North. As President of the Agency, I am fortunate to lead a small and diverse staff of approximately 120 employees, situated in 4 offices and Headquartered in Iqaluit, Nunavut (see Annex A). CanNor works with Northerners, Indigenous groups, communities, businesses, organizations, and other federal departments to help foster long-term, diversified and dynamic economic sustainability in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Yukon, while also contributing to Canada's economic prosperity.

As well as being the President of CanNor, I also have the privilege of leading the Northern Federal Council, a collaborative network that brings together senior officials for each department with programs and activities in the North - to communicate and collaborate on government-wide priorities, to support the Government's capacity in delivering coordinated programs in the territories as well as to advance strategically on key regional issues.

Finally, I am including in this letter reflections as the Deputy Head responsible for Pilimmaksaivik, the Federal Centre of Excellence for Inuit Employment in Nunavut. Pilimmaksaivik plays a leadership role in coordinating a government-wide approach to building a representative public service in Nunavut and supporting Canada’s commitments to implement Article 23 of the Nunavut Agreement, including identifying and removing barriers to Inuit employment. Given similar Treaty obligations exist in the Yukon to develop a representative public service in that territory, I recently added an oversight function for the Yukon activities to the Pilimmaksaivik ADM Committee.

I am fortunate to experience firsthand the benefits that come from collective efforts to build a diverse and inclusive public service representative of the communities we serve in my role as CanNor President, Chair of the Northern Federal Council and Deputy Head responsible for Pilimmaksaivik. Building a diverse and inclusive workplace, free of discrimination and harassment is a journey and I am pleased to provide you with an overview of actions taken to date as well as information on the path forward.


Importance of being representative of the communities we serve - Indigenous Representation at CanNor

As an organization headquartered in the North, a key strategy to supporting our mandate and respecting obligations relating to Indigenous land claim agreements is to focus on Indigenous recruitment and retention. I am very proud of the achievements of Pilimmaksaivik and CanNor in this regard.

For example, in Nunavut, under Article 23 of the Nunavut Agreement, Canada has specific responsibilities to build a representative public service ( 85% Nunavut Inuit). To achieve this obligation, CanNor has a multi-year (2017-23) Inuit Employment Plan (IEP) which outlines the Agency’s commitments and initiatives aimed at building a representative workforce in Nunavut.

CanNor’s Inuit representation has steadily increased over the years and is now at 55%; the Government of Canada in Nunavut has also made some impressive gains to 48% in 2020-21, up from 46% the year before (as of March 31, 2021). Similarly, the percentage of Inuit occupying intermediate-level positions had climbed from 29% to 34%. In order to reach these targets, we have developed and implemented best practices in the recruitment, development, and retention of our Inuit employees. Some the practices I am most proud of include:

CanNor also recognizes the importance of engaging staff in the development and implementation of workplace initiatives and programs. Over the last four years, CanNor has conducted an annual survey of Inuit staff in Nunavut to help assess the Agency’s progress against our IEP commitments. Last year the Agency saw a 100% response rate. The results and feedback gained via the survey are incorporated into forward looking plans and activities. This year’s survey will be held in the Fall.

CanNor’s Inuit Employee Network has played a key role in establishing a welcoming environment for Inuit. The network is co-chaired by our Senior Advisor of Inuit Community Relations and an employee co-chair selected by the network. The network works to promote training opportunities, offer peer support, discuss mentorship opportunities and identify innovative activities to promote cultural awareness across the Agency.

Additionally, Pilimmaksaivik (Federal Centre of Excellence for Inuit Employment in Nunavut), established in 2016, is the office responsible for coordinating a government-wide approach to building a representative public service in Nunavut across all groups and levels. The Director of Pilimmaksaivik, who sits at the CanNor senior management table also leads the work of the Federal Centre of Excellence to support the implementation of Article 23 of the Nunavut Agreement by establishing partnerships, developing strategies, sharing best practices, raising awareness and helping to deliver specialized staffing services to support federal departments and agencies, as well as travelling to Nunavut communities to raises awareness to promote the Government of Canada as an employer of choice among Nunavut Inuit. Some of Pilimmaksaivik’s key achievements include:

Building an Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Plan

In many ways CanNor has been at the forefront of establishing hiring practices designed with a diversity and inclusion lens for many years, and continues to expand on its best practices to support the Agency in making essential strides in addressing representation gaps in other areas. However, there is much more work to be done, building on our solid foundation of initiatives and approaches.

Diversity and inclusion are recognized as essential elements of a fair and respectful workplace and it is important that additional steps be taken to reduce or eliminate systemic barriers and gaps for all employees, but especially for those from under-represented communities. In this context, the Agency has begun work on building a comprehensive Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Plan:

An Indigenous Free Agent was hired to help develop the EDI plan which will include the CanNor Inuit Employment Plan (IEP) and the Indigenous strategy.

In addition to developing an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Plan, CanNor launched new Learning Roadmaps (LRMs) in June 2020 to help employees navigate mandatory training and optional professional development opportunities. The LRMs help to communicate and solidify a corporate culture that values diversity and inclusion through mandatory training such as unconscious bias, gender-based analysis+, and Indigenous awareness and reconciliation.

Challenges and Barriers


Our ultimate goal is to be representative of the communities we serve. In order to do this, we will need to better understand the demographics and labour markets of our northern communities to design practices to attract and retain individuals of diverse backgrounds. Since its creation in 2009, CanNor has recognized the importance of recruiting from outside the federal public service as a key strategy, and we have seen the success of this in Nunavut, where representation of Inuit employees continues to increase.

Most of the focus in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut is on Indigenous People, both from a workforce availability perspective and due to specific legal obligations in Nunavut and Yukon. It can be difficult to obtain northern-specific data on workforce availability of all underrepresented groups given the proportionally small numbers.

The Nunavut Inuit Labour Force Analysis (NILFA) developed by Employment and Social Development Canada with support from Pilimmaksaivik provides extensive information about Inuit in Nunavut. Unfortunately, no other similar information exists in the other territories or for other underrepresented groups.

This lack of baseline data complicates the implementation of successful strategies to recruit underrepresented employees as well as making reporting on progress more difficult.

Self-identification is key to understanding our workforce and monitoring results. OCHRO has been working on a new modernized approach to employee self-identification and more timely data sharing that will improve our ability to understand our population and measure progress. We look forward to implementing the new approach however the small size of CanNor’s offices, and in fact many federal offices in the North, may impact the willingness of employees to self-identify for fear that it will have a negative impact on the employee’s situation or future promotions.

CanNor and Pilimmaksaivik have significant experience in addressing some of the data issues by working with OCHRO to develop a tailored approach to self-identification and release of disaggregated data for all Inuit employees in Nunavut in order to meet our constitutional obligations in the Nunavut Agreement. Similar approaches for other underrepresented groups in the North could be useful as we collectively strive to build a more diverse workforce across the North.

Employee engagement:

Employee networks are more difficult to establish in small departments and agencies given the small numbers of potential employees in each network. And those employees who belong to underrepresented groups in a small organization like CanNor can often face burnout, participation fatigue, tokenism and loss of privacy given the small numbers. To overcome this, partnerships between departments are being developed. For example:

Policy barriers:

Attitudes and approaches to developing a workforce in the North have changed significantly over the decades. In the past, the federal workforce was largely made up of individuals who came from southern Canada, often for short periods of time. Federal policies often reflected that reality and in fact were designed to encourage that approach. The current workforce in the north is much more dynamic and includes: Northern Indigenous people; people who came from the South and made the North their home; and, Northerners who have worked in a variety of sectors. In my role as CanNor President, as well as Chair of the Northern Federal Council, we have been actively working with Treasury Board on updates to policies to reflect this reality and ensure that policies are inclusive and respond to the needs of a modern Northern workforce. 

An issue we share with departments such as CIRNA and ISC is around official language proficiency for Indigenous employees. While CanNor is Headquartered in a region that does not require many positions to be bilingual, many of our EX positions do require proficiency in both official languages as employees can be located in the NCR as well as the North. In addition, proficiency in indigenous languages, particularly Inuktut, is not recognized and is often valuable in the day to day work.  Pilimmaksaivik has been active in discussions with partner departments and OCHRO to analyze these issues and develop options. We look forward to continuing that work.

What’s next for CanNor – Building on the Momentum

The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion plan remains a key priority for me. I look forward to continuing to engage CanNor employees on its development and implementation in the coming months. The plan will include specific objectives and commitments and will leverage existing practices including the recent changes to the Public Service Employment Act and OCHRO’s work on modernizing the self-identification process.

Pilimmaksaivik will be working with CanNor to broaden the Nunavut Inuit talent management process developed by CanNor and which can be used across all federal departments and agencies operating in Nunavut.  This process would see departments identify Nunavut Inuit ready for career advancement or development and determine whether there are specific job opportunities to meet the employees’ interests / needs.

Building on the lessons learned from pandemic and our ability to work from a distance to an even greater extent, CanNor will be looking at ways to recruit and retain people from smaller communities across the north so that they can work and live in their home communities.


I believe the Public Service is stronger and most effective when we reflect the diversity of the populations we serve. It makes for a more resilient and insightful public service that can understand the current political, economic and social situations and better anticipate the challenges and opportunities of the future.

At CanNor and in my roles as President, Deputy Head responsible for Pilimmaksaivik and Chair of the Northern Federal Council, I will continue to engage with leaders in my organization, in the public service across the North and with CanNor employees to increase our work in building a diverse, equitable and inclusive public service where everyone has the opportunity to contribute their full potential and talents. I will encourage leaders and staff to continue to examine  processes and practices to see if people or ideas are being excluded. And I will continue to share the lessons we have learned as a small organization across a vast geographic space, and be open to listen to the experiences and lessons of others.

Thank you for this opportunity to provide an glimpse into the work that has been taking place at CanNor as we continue on this very important journey.

Paula Isaak
President, CanNor

Annex A: CanNor Employment Equity Statistics as of Aug 2021

CanNor Employment Equity Statistics as of Aug 2021:




Persons with disabilities

Visible Minorities

CanNor’s representation:



Low percentage not included


Workforce Availability for CanNor:





Workforce Availability for Public Service:





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