Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion
Summer 2021 update
Dear Ms. Charette,
You have asked us to report to you on the situation in each of our departments and agencies following the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service.
Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions (CED) is a regional economic development agency with about 400 employees divided between the headquarters in Montréal and 12 business offices in Quebec. The context of the past year and a half, with the challenges it has brought and the need to adapt to an unprecedented health crisis, has provided us with an opportunity to think more deeply about what inclusion means in our culture and our organizational practices, as well as about the outcomes we want to promote for Canadians in delivering our mandate.
How do we shape the new face of the workplace so as to create conditions that will enable all groups in society to contribute? How do we make our workplace safer and more attractive so that Black people and other racialized groups, Indigenous people and people from the disability community, can thrive and grow within it? How do we ensure that regional economic development is inclusive?
We have attempted to address all of these interrelated questions. In such matters, there is no finish line, and gains previously made cannot be taken for granted. The work that has begun must continue.
CED is committed to fighting racism and discrimination in all its forms, as well as any other barriers to an inclusive workplace, by encouraging employees to report unacceptable situations and equipping managers with better tools to deal with such issues. In keeping with its mandate, CED has focused on a few key elements in response to the Call to Action:
- Leverage the new virtual proximity of the Deputy Head and senior management to engage employees directly on these issues;
- Exercise leadership in Quebec through the Quebec Federal Council;
- Build on a strong integration of the GBA+ lens across the Agency to gain deeper insight and lower barriers to access to our programs;
- Ensure that our support for inclusive growth takes into account the structural barriers experienced by Indigenous communities and under-represented groups; and, of course,
- Further strengthen inclusiveness in our hiring process.
This is reflected in key commitments to diversity and inclusion in executive performance agreements and in our efforts to increase employee participation in various discussion forums. We are focusing on the potential of telework and videoconference meetings to create a sense of proximity with senior management and encourage ongoing dialogue. Since March 2020, CED staff has been participating in bimonthly meetings with the Deputy Head. This makes it possible, for example, to identify situations where the isolation created by the pandemic or the remote onboarding of new employees may be having an impact on certain people and to react quickly.
Under the leadership of our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Champion and our Values and Ethics Champion, we are organizing awareness-raising activities with guests from the various groups in order to bring their expertise and lived experiences to the centre of the discussions. Employee committees support the implementation of targeted initiatives, providing members of the groups mentioned in the Call to Action with the opportunity to respond and make relevant recommendations. CED is making greater efforts to identify barriers to inclusion and has created a working group of employees with disabilities to develop a three-year action plan that seeks to eliminate as many as possible of the barriers our staff experience in this area. The move to hybrid work will provide additional opportunities to discover how to create conditions that will promote the hiring and career advancement of employees with disabilities.
CED has also established a mental health ombud service, providing mental health support for all employees, and also providing to anyone feeling affected by racism and discrimination safe spaces and concrete tools in which to respond and generate change.
Since the coming into force of Bill C-65, on January 1, 2021, CED has developed and published its Policy on Prevention of Harassment and Violence in the Workplace, and all managers and employees must complete mandatory training to raise awareness of unconscious attitudes and biases and thus contribute to a diverse and inclusive workplace.
CED is recruiting highly qualified employees from Indigenous communities, and Black communities and other racialized groups; it wants its workforce to be representative of the population it serves. To prioritize equity group members, hiring managers are supported in the staffing options available to them (Indigenous Career Pathways, the Federal Internship Program for Canadians with Disabilities, etc.) and are required to provide a rationale for their hiring decision when candidates from these groups have qualified but have not been selected for the position. We still have work to do to achieve this representation in the various job groups and at all levels.
In addition, the participation of executives in interdepartmental networks and communities of practice on the subject of the elimination of systemic barriers such as the Federal Interdepartmental Round Table on Aboriginal Issues and the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer Community of Practice on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is promoted. In its role as the lead organization for the Quebec Federal Council (QFC), CED encourages the implementation of good practices and the promotion of interdepartmental activities, thereby promoting the flow of information within the organization. For example, the QFC’s Diversity Action Group was created in the last year to advise members on these issues.
CED is committed to continuing its efforts to create a healthy, stimulating and inclusive workplace, to identify barriers to inclusion and to implement strategies to address and prevent them. It is important that employees be proud of who they are and of their expertise and contributions. One of our initiatives has been the self- identification campaign, which destigmatizes self-identification for all employees, provides an accurate picture of the workforce and allows us to better target our employment equity and diversity efforts.
We will continue on the path of inclusion by implementing inclusive hiring practices linked to our 2019–2022 Integrated Human Resources Plan, which identifies all of our strategies in support of diversity hiring and is updated regularly.
It is important to note that in 2018, CED adopted a statement of intent committing to integrate and support the implementation of Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) across the organization to ensure that the principles of diversity and gender equality are integral to policy development, program design, internal practices and client services. CED is making the necessary efforts to deepen its understanding of the reality and socio-economic disparities in Quebec, in order to identify possible accessibility gaps in its programs and the communication needs of various target groups.
CED has also set up a GBA+ Coordination Centre to facilitate, plan, monitor and report on GBA+ practices. GBA+ roles and responsibilities have been developed for each functional entity to ensure that the principles of diversity and gender equality are an integral part of in-house practices and client services. Training sessions on plain language and inclusive writing have also been offered to Agency employees to support this objective.
CED also ensures that the tools it uses to communicate with the public are inclusive. For example, we will soon be launching a new version of our website that has been completely rewritten in plain, inclusive language. In developing this site, we went above and beyond the accessibility requirements by testing the site’s features with people with disabilities. Of course, CED’s current website is already fully compliant with WCAG 2.0 (AA) standards. In addition, our visuals reflect the richness of Canadian society, from body diversity to gender diversity, to Indigenous communities, and Black and other racialized groups.
CED fosters inclusive economic growth. As a federal organization on the ground for Quebec businesses and communities, we strive to tailor our interventions to the realities of Quebec’s regions and target groups.
CED is aware of the structural barriers faced by target groups, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and incorporates into the development and strategic delivery of its interventions, measures and incentives promoting those groups’ full participation in regional economic development. In this sense, disadvantaged regions, including rural and remote regions with Indigenous communities, benefit from more flexible program terms and conditions to support their full participation in the economy.
Through its 2021–2022 Departmental Plan, CED has committed to fostering inclusive prosperity and equal opportunity for all by supporting an increase in the number of business owners among various underrepresented groups. The promotion of inclusive prosperity and equal opportunity for all will be achieved through the implementation of targeted programs and initiatives, including the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, the Black Entrepreneurship Program and the Economic Development Initiative – Official Languages, which is aimed at supporting Quebec’s official language minority communities, i.e., the English-speaking population. In addition, each business office has identified an ambassador who will be trained over the next few months to improve their knowledge, skills and know-how in supporting businesses and non-profit organizations in developing and incorporating an equity, diversity and inclusion plan into their day-to-day operations.
CED measures its progress through a number of mechanisms, such as the new obligations in executive performance agreements, the analysis of Public Service Employee Survey results, the Annual Report on Multiculturalism, and the Summary Report of Departmental Progress Scorecard Findings – Many Voices One Mind: A Pathway to Reconciliation, which assesses the representation and advancement of Indigenous employees in the organization.
I am aware of the magnitude of this challenge. While I am proud of the significant efforts made by committed, motivated CED employees, the PSES results and our in-house work confirm that ongoing attention and leadership are required. I am committed to continuing to work toward this end.
Thank you for this opportunity to reiterate CED’s commitment to implementing concrete and measurable strategies in support of the actions set out in the Call to Action to combat racism in the workplace and to continue working toward equity and inclusion.
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