Communications Security Establishment
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion

Summer 2021 update

Dear Ms. Charette,

As the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) celebrates 75 years of serving Canadians, we are proud of the community we have built and recognize both the societal and operational imperatives of fostering an equitable, diverse and inclusive organization. The Clerk’s Calls to Action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the Federal Public Service are an important reminder of our responsibility as stewards of national public policy. Our institutions must reflect and effectively serve Canada’s diversity and work to remove systemic racism and discrimination. CSE has taken concrete steps, building on solid foundations of community, to implement the calls to action.

Our efforts focus on increasing representation of excluded racialized communities and women in leadership positions, and fostering a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion. These efforts are works in progress and involve deliberate actions on the part of the organization and its senior leadership. It has included changes in senior personnel, the establishment of new governance structures, the establishment of new employee networks, learning opportunities, communications and the implementation of new administrative tools to ensure that CSE is increasingly diverse and responds to the aspirations of our workforce and the needs of all Canadians.

Increasing representation

As a result of the restructuring, our senior leadership team – members of CSE’s Executive Committee – is far more diverse than at any time in our history. Comprising six men and five women, the committee includes three individuals from racialized communities, as well as a member of the LGBTQ2+ community. This spring, a senior official from CSE’s operations branch was assigned the role of Assistant Deputy Minister, Senior Advisor for People, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to support me and our colleagues in a focused effort to bolster a welcoming and inclusive community at CSE, to identify and break down systemic barriers to full participation, and to help empower historically discriminated against groups within the Public Service. Over the last six months, this has helped focus and advance important corporate initiatives, has increased the lens of equity, diversity and inclusion in all CSE Executive Committee discussions and decisions, and has reinforced the idea that everyone at CSE—regardless of role in the organization—is responsible for helping to create the best workplace conditions, in tandem with more traditional Human Resource (HR) leads.  

CSE is working toward the establishment of a Sponsorship Program to focus on creating opportunities for progression into more senior ranks – particularly the Executive group. Consultations are already underway on developing a program that meets the calls to action set out in the Clerk’s letter, but also reflects the needs and context of CSE. We have been working closely with the OCHRO as we develop a tailored approach. We are mindful of other cohorts that are under-represented – women, persons from the neurodiverse community, LGBTQ2+ persons – and will consider how to support their development and advancement through sponsorship, mentorship and other forms of career development. Members of CSE’s Executive Committee have already taken individuals from the Black and other racialized communities at CSE as protégés while the more formal program is developed. 

CSE is modernizing its HR infrastructure and will soon launch Workday. Over the past number of months our Corporate Services Branch has taken a Public Service-wide leadership role in implementing Workday, replacing several existing HR systems and enabling CSE to make more informed decisions based on higher-fidelity data and more accurate information about the composition of our workforce. Workday will provide our employees an automated tool, available from any place at any time, to self-identify for the purposes of the Employment Equity Act and will enable individual managers and the organization to more effectively identify systemic barriers to Indigenous Peoples, Black and other racialized minorities from serving at CSE.

In the coming weeks, CSE will launch an awareness campaign encouraging our current staff to self-identify. Consultations have taken place with Indigenous, Black and other racialized community members – seeking their views on how to effectively engage colleagues about the importance and value of self-identification. The pandemic affected our 2020-2021 submission regarding the Employment Equity Act as our legacy, on-premise systems required manual data entry by employees physically on site. With limited access to CSE facilities in 2020-2021, a decision was made to defer continuing to update manually in favour of waiting for the launch of Workday. Once the initial phases of Workday are implemented, we will be able to more accurately identify the number of women, Indigenous persons, persons with a disability, and racialized community members, and where they are at in the various levels in the organization. The software will allow us to more accurately and transparently measure progress toward increasing representation. Workday is key to us driving improvements in the workplace experiences and will allow us to monitor disaggregated data and act on the business intelligence generated.

We have heard from employees from Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities that representation does not necessarily build community, but that an inclusive, welcoming and respectful community does contribute to better representation of marginalized and historically disenfranchised Canadians. That is why many of our efforts have focused on fostering that sense of community. It is at the heart of our vision document – CSE2025 – that aims to truly build an inspired workforce.

Building inclusive leadership and establishing a sense of belonging and trust

As part of building that inspired workforce, CSE has made some important changes to its governance structure. The first is the establishment of the People Committee that is chaired by the Chief, CSE. Bringing together a diverse group of leaders from across the organization, the Committee has aimed to initiate, review and promote policies and practices that are focused on the wellbeing of our colleagues. The Committee is a place where the voices of various equity-deserving and affinity groups are heard and recommendations are made to eliminate systemic racism, discrimination and barriers to inclusion. It embodies the principle of “nothing about us without us” by codeveloping strategies to make CSE a truly diverse and welcoming community.

The Committee has an Advisory sub-group that provides input and serves as a leadership incubator for numerous members of equity deserving and affinity groups. It continues to encourage the creation and development of a wide range of equity deserving and affinity groups to ensure that people are empowered to affect change. These groups include:

In recent months, the People Committee has heard from these communities and has mandated the development of several important initiatives, including:

These efforts have tapped into a very successful online environment exclusively dedicated to conversations about diversity and inclusion. Over 1,000 CSE employees are now members of our Diversity and Inclusion MS Teams Chat channels. Over the course of the pandemic, these channels have flourished as dynamic places to exchange views, experiences and concerns. They have become grassroots incubators of ideas that empower our colleagues to develop effective strategies to counter all forms of discrimination and build the inclusive community we seek.

We have also undertaken learning initiatives specifically targeted to address racism, homophobia, antisemitism and other forms of discrimination. Over recent months, employees have participated in a number of important initiatives, including:

CSE continues to invest in building a high-functioning, inclusive organization. Whether it is the mainstreaming of GBA+ across our organization through dialogues and training, or joining forces with international partners on diversity and inclusion, we understand that these activities are central to our mission. As an organization dedicated to the security of Canadians and to providing Canadian decision makers with an information advantage, our effectiveness is directly tied to our being an equitable, diverse and inclusive organization. 

Our staff need to dedicate their energies to mission, not to fighting microaggressions or systemic discrimination. We need policies and operations to cater to the full diversity of Canadian society and we need to draw on the broadest range of experiences, perspectives and views to avoid blind spots and provide insightful and relevant products and services.

In the PSES 2020, 87% of CSE employees surveyed felt that CSE implemented activities and practices that supported a diverse workplace. Please rest assured that we remain dedicated to being a leader in fostering equity, diversity and inclusion, and committed to having a representative workforce where Indigenous, Black and other racialized community members can thrive and take on senior leadership roles.  We are eager to work with colleagues across the Public Service to make this vision a reality.


Shelly Bruce

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