Canadian Security Intelligence Service
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion

Summer 2021 update

Dear Ms. Charette:

I am pleased to provide an update on the implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). CSIS acknowledges the significant challenges and focus on the ongoing measures being implemented to identify, confront and address systemic barriers, and acknowledges that government workplaces need to be at the forefront of addressing these. Social and administrative structures and systems have resulted in – or failed to prevent – the disadvantaging of certain people or groups, despite following best practices to promote diversity and inclusion. As an organization, we have historically acknowledged the business imperative of diversity and inclusion and we continue to work towards achieving a fully diverse workforce free of barriers. As a result, we are taking more direct steps to elicit demonstrable change. We are actively questioning our approaches and inviting feedback from employees.

As Director, I have personally committed to ensure that CSIS’ workplace is free of discrimination, bias, harassment, and bullying so that all employees can come to work every day in a safe, healthy and respectful environment, where diversity and inclusion are highly valued. As CSIS continues to integrate strategies and approaches that help to reverse systemic barriers and broaden the organization’s understanding, appreciation and valuing of diversity of all types, we understand that all this work requires the commitment and input of every employee. In short, we are looking at our people, our systems and our culture as we seek to effect this change. Given the importance of this issue, it is my deep belief that work to prevent systemic racism needs to be prioritized both at CSIS and across the Government of Canada, as we do not have a moment to lose to take concrete actions.

Actions leading up to the Call for action

Prior to the Call to Action, CSIS had taken steps towards creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

A new Code of Conduct was implemented in November 2020 to integrate cultural values that promote a healthy, respectful and harassment-free workplace. The Code is available to the public on Canada.ca. Employees must affirm their adherence to the Code of Conduct annually, as a condition of their employment.

Diverse employee-driven working groups were initiated to evaluate challenges to diversity and inclusion and recommend concrete actions that will bring meaningful changes.

An external consultant with expertise in diversity and inclusion conducted a formal review of our employment systems, policies and practices to identify employment barriers. Recommendations from this review for proactive measures to eliminate barriers are expected in Fall 2021.

Specific Executive performance objectives were implemented to strengthen annual accountability to foster a healthy and inclusive workplace.

Our Talent Acquisition team continued to build and maintain partnerships for diversity with:

Steps taken since the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service

CSIS continues to take additional concrete steps to combat racism, discrimination and barriers to inclusion in the organization.

CSIS is presently developing a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy to implement changes that will exert positive influence on the culture of our organization, our diverse makeup and our mindset with respect to inclusion in all aspects of our workplace. We are developing the strategy with employees, examining people management practices, culture, work environment, and systemic barriers. This strategy will target behaviour and culture in addition to process and policy changes and will set bold actions in motion. We have hired an external diversity and inclusion expert to advise on the selection of tools, means and methods to address barriers, prevent racism and discrimination and foster cultural competence among employees and management so that everyone is actively included in implementing the strategy.

We knew it would take considerable time and consultation to develop a strategy with actionable and meaningful recommendations. Therefore in January 2021, we implemented an “Interim CSIS Diversity and Inclusion Recruitment and Selection Strategy” comprising actions that could be implemented immediately. Some of those actions included:

As part of our plan to increase open discussion about inclusion, diversity, racism and discrimination, we engaged experts and other professionals to lead conversations on these topics within our organization. For example, senior leaders within the Government of Canada spoke with our employees in an open and honest discussion about racism and barriers to equity in federal workplaces. Another speaker event focused on positivity in leadership – being our best selves, showing empathy, and setting the stage for solutions that respect everyone’s needs. Employees were also invited to additional presentations including, Systemic Racism, What is privilege? and The Black experience in Québec.

Employee engagement

We are actively engaging employees to deepen the organization’s understanding of racism, diversity and inclusion to foster a safe, positive environment where voices from diverse backgrounds are heard and included to ensure our approaches have meaningful impacts.

CSIS collaborates with and supports the advancement of grassroots networks and communities within our organization. We work with our committees and networks such as the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion; Accessibility Committee; Women’s Network; Young Professional’s Network; Pride Network; Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) Network; and Gender Based Analysis plus (GBA+) Network to discuss issues and solutions, and to foster awareness and communication with senior management. These groups’ contributions and perspectives have informed leadership and program area decisions on a variety of matters such as the delivery of training courses, the development of a diversity and inclusion communication and awareness plan, and the direction of the upcoming Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

I invited all employees who self-identify as BIPOC to meet with an Assistant Deputy Minister and me, so that we could personally learn about their lived experiences, including racism. Over 150 employees stepped forward to talk to us. By listening, acknowledging people’s experiences and honing our focus on problem areas, this initiative has – I hope – helped increase trust with many racialized employees. I intend to continue meetings with BIPOC employees to ensure I stay apprised of the issues that affect them in our organization.

CSIS managers and employees need to have the right skills, knowledge and abilities to fulfill the organizational mandate and deliver on strategic priorities. This includes building cultural competence with respect to complex and intersectional elements of our employees and the Canadians we serve. In addition to promoting numerous courses and professional development opportunities on unconscious bias, cultural competency and anti-racism initiatives through the Canada School of Public Service, CSIS has created new training opportunities, some of which are mandatory, to encourage employees to expand their knowledge of diversity and inclusion. As part of our strategy to increase diversity and inclusion at CSIS, we will continue to review and update our learning offerings and bring new relevant, interactive learning opportunities to all employees.

External stakeholder engagement

Given the importance of building and maintaining relationships with the communities in which we work, CSIS has sought advice on best practices to ensure our external engagement reflects intersectional considerations and is sensitive to bias, discrimination, and inequity.

We continue to engage with community leaders and members to offer support and solidarity and to reinforce CSIS’ position that there is no place in Canada for racial prejudice, discrimination and hate.  These ongoing discussions also provide an opportunity to affirm CSIS’ commitment to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians and to seek input on how CSIS can build trust with marginalized and diverse communities.  Importantly, these engagements allow us to seek informed perspectives on how CSIS can better support Canadians experiencing racism, discrimination, and harassment, and to offer briefings to community groups on topics like foreign interference and extremism.

We continue to work hard to convey the message through briefings, public remarks and social media that concerns about the activities of some foreign states should not be interpreted as, or conflated with, concerns about the people of those states or those whose families have immigrated to Canada from those states.

Measuring progress

Strengthening our ability to provide meaningful and measurable data for executives and managers across all parts of our organization will help us better understand and be more accountable for diversity and inclusion.

Historically, CSIS tracked data such as representation of employment equity groups, by position groups, to identify gaps. This exercise recently informed us of specific regional disparities in visible minority representation within our Intelligence Officer cadre, and as a result, we took actions to focus diverse recruitment in that particular region. The rates of new hires, departures and promotions, in all employment equity groups, have also been monitored over time to flag trends and inform adjusted approaches. Results show, for example, we made progress by 2020/2021 regarding the promotional rate of employees who self-identify as belonging to a racialized group.

We continue to improve our use of disaggregated employment equity data. Recently, we geographically mapped out the areas from which we attract external job applicants. This exercise illustrated that the majority of our applicants were from Montreal, the Greater Toronto area, and Outaouais regions in Quebec and Eastern Ontario. While these regions have the highest number of applicants, there are other regions with higher representations of people in employment equity groups. This type of data is informing the work done by our Talent Acquisition team across the country, with promising early results.

A key focus at present is improving our data capacity to conduct in-depth analyses of disaggregated data as it pertains to the various steps in our staffing and recruitment processes. We are engaged in finding mitigation strategies while we modernize our HR information systems.

In 2020, and for the first time, CSIS participated in the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES). We are analyzing responses in a disaggregated fashion to focus attention on important gaps and implement needed actions. We will continue to engage employees through various means to understand the survey results, identify underlying issues, and explore all possible solutions.

Barriers and challenges

Increasing employment equity and supporting diversity and inclusion in the workplace are organizational priorities for CSIS, however making significant changes in this respect does not come without challenges.

Recruitment

In spite of substantial efforts to improve diverse representation through external recruitment, the increase in representation of employees who self-identify as a member of a racialized group has been smaller than desired (17.0% in 2018/19 to 18.2% in 2020/21). We predict this may fall short of the updated workforce availability when 2020 Census data is incorporated. In the same period, the percentage of employees who self-identify as an Indigenous person did not increase (2.3% in 2018/19 and 2.2% in 2020/21) as the rate of departures outpaced the rate of new hires.

Ongoing external stakeholder engagement is important to establish trust with diverse communities, ensure collaboration and respect, and build a reputation as a preferred employer of members of those communities. Our Talent Acquisition team consistently promotes the importance of a diverse workforce, encourages potential candidates to self-identify, and liaises with many diverse organizations and communities to promote CSIS’ mandate and career opportunities. As an example, of five recruiting events recently attended, two events focused specifically on Indigenous peoples.

Secure work environment

COVID-19 brought to the forefront an evolving challenge. Given the unique nature of our mandate, working from home is not always possible. This can discourage potential candidates from applying and affect our ability to retain and compete for talent with the Public Service. We continue to seek greater flexibilities that adhere to the enhanced security requirements that will always be in place.

Mindset

We have many measures in place to foster education and awareness of diversity, intersectionality and the importance of these in a healthy, respectful workplace. Nevertheless, fostering understanding of, and reducing personalization of complex constructs such as systemic privilege, especially in the context of proactive measures to increase representation in certain position groups, remains an area of focus. We have acquired external expertise to support learning around cultural competence to increase understanding and positively influence mindsets.

Continued momentum

Despite these challenges, we have made measured progress. Among other positive results, we have seen increased appointments of racialized candidates to executive groups (30% of executive appointments in 2020/21), a growing sense of empowerment among employees willing to speak up about bias and microagressions, and increased collaboration with employees at all levels to reach solutions that address ongoing concerns. This engagement and participation of employees in discussing and planning improvements reflects our headway in including more and more voices from diverse backgrounds shaping our organization’s processes, practices, mindsets and culture.

Diversity and inclusion is critical for operational effectiveness, and will make us better as a security intelligence organization. We are making steady and significant steps forward, to ensure that diversity and inclusion are infused throughout all programs in the organization. A top priority for me and my leadership team is to sustain this momentum through the implementation of the CSIS Strategy on Diversity and Inclusion, and to move forward with concrete actions.

I am proud of the work that is underway, and of the commitment shown by individual CSIS employees on this critical issue. Addressing barriers to diversity and inclusion, and preventing racism will remain a significant organizational priority and a personal priority for me, so that there is a sense of belonging for all employees, confident that differences are not only accepted but valued.

Sincerely,

David Vigneault
Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service

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