Environment and Climate Change Canada
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion
Summer 2021 update
Dear Ms. Charette:
Thank you for the invitation to share with you the work that Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has been advancing on diversity, inclusion and workplace well-being since the release of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion. We are proud of what has been accomplished at ECCC on diversity, inclusion and employment equity; we also recognize we have much more to do.
At ECCC, we have a responsibility to Canadians to protect and conserve Canada’s natural heritage and ensure a clean, safe, and sustainable environment for present and future generations. It is an institution that strives to deliver the strongest policies and programs to meet this mandate, but we know that this can only be achieved if our workforce represents and understands the needs of the diverse populations ECCC serves from coast to coast to coast. A diverse and inclusive ECCC will lead to better outcomes for communities and for ourselves.
Strengthening Commitments and Taking Action
Since the Call to Action was issued across the federal public service, and bolstered by its clear vision and ambition, ECCC has shaped a new path forward for fostering an inclusive, healthy and respectful workplace where a diverse and representative workforce can achieve excellence. Launched in June 2021, Diversity, Inclusion and Employment Equity: An ECCC Strategy for 2021-2024, is the culmination of a renewed commitment to make diversity and inclusion foundational to ECCC as a great place to work.
Building on past efforts and many lessons learned, Diversity, Inclusion and Employment Equity: An ECCC Strategy for 2021-2024 focusses on three strategic outcomes:
- Increase representation for all employment equity groups to address existing representation gaps, keep up with changing demographics and continue to build a talented ECCC workforce that fully reflects Canada’s diversity.
- Bring about a culture change to improve the workplace by creating and fostering an inclusive, respectful and healthy environment where all employees feel engaged, supported and able to contribute, and where differences are embraced.
- Create and maintain a positive and accommodating workplace that is nurtured with trust, honesty and fairness, and that does not tolerate harassment, racism and discrimination.
Three key principles are guiding implementation of the new strategy: remaining evergreen to respond to emerging needs and realities; being data informed; and continuing our commitment to transparency and reporting. At its core, the strategy outlines bold and measurable actions to build a diverse and inclusive workforce by closing employment equity gaps, fostering employee development, education and awareness, and supporting key elements in our governance, including the employee networks.
Given the emphasis in the Call to Action on recruitment, sponsorship, and learning, it is worth highlighting a few of the elements of the ECCC strategy that are particularly relevant, including:
- Recruitment. Enhanced recruitment efforts for Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities and persons with disabilities. ECCC’s Inuit Employment Plan, Indigenous Recruitment and Retention Strategy and Accessibility Strategy are among the tools that will be utilized for this effort.
- Employee Development. Launch and grow the Indigenous Director Development Program, including creating opportunities for sponsorship and mentoring, and develop and implement the Director Development Program to include persons with disabilities and Black and other racialized employees.
- Learning and Culture Change. Mandatory training for managers and employees on the prevention, recognition and elimination of harassment and discrimination and on anti-racism. Senior management to facilitate discussions to address anti-racism and unconscious bias.
- Enable networks and communities. ECCC management to support and encourage employees to join an employee network and to participate in activities. Create one or more permanently funded positions to support the employee networks in managing their activities. Further promote the Positive Space Initiative (PSI) training across the Department.
The new strategy and ECCC’s enhanced efforts on diversity and inclusion are the product of extensive champion-led engagement with all employees, including members of the nine employee networks.
Throughout the development of the strategy and in the weeks since its launch, ECCC has begun to strengthen its approach to advancing diversity, inclusion and employment equity through some simple practices: more frequent and focussed discussions at senior management tables with Indigenous, Black and Visible Minority employees to discuss racism; deeper engagement with employee networks and other stakeholders; and increased communications and engagement within the Department. For example, conversations and information sharing on diversity, inclusion and employment equity are now standing agenda items at the Executive Management Committee. Furthermore, Deputy Minister-hosted conversations with ECCC’s employee networks are a regular fixture of the monthly calendar and have served to build more open and honest understanding of the issues our employees face across the Department. Early in 2021, anti-racism was on the agenda of the annual Executive Leadership Council meeting. These discussions were enriched by the participation of guest speakers and representatives from our employee networks, including Indigenous, Visible Minority and Black employees. A special Executive Leadership Council meeting is planned for later in fiscal year 2021-2022 to discuss the topics of unconscious bias and anti-racism, and to take stock.
In addition to the development of a new department-wide strategy, the Department has also been pursuing a series of focussed strategies to address key challenges and priorities. As of today, the Department is working to implement an Indigenous Recruitment and Retention Strategy, an Inuit Employment Plan, and an Accessibility Strategy. The latter focuses on concrete measures to close the overall departmental gap for persons with disabilities and is supported by two accessibility champions and the Persons with Disabilities Network. The ECCC Respect Bureau is also proving to be an important ingredient in the Department’s approach to workplace well-being by providing a safe and confidential place where employees, regardless of rank, can raise and address racism and discrimination issues without fear of reprisal or judgment.
We are committed to reviewing and improving upon the existing governance structure as part of our departmental strategy, including the creation of an implementation taskforce, to monitor and track our progress.
As a key guiding principle of our new approach to diversity, inclusion and employment equity, ECCC will measure progress on each of the twenty actions in the strategy and drive improvements through quantitative and qualitative measurements. We will take inspiration from other federal departments and those outside of government in this regard. Progress on the twenty actions will be shared annually across the Department.
While work remains, statistics published on the Treasury Board Secretariat website indicate our departmental employment equity gaps have been narrowing in some areas. Obtaining disaggregated data is a priority for the Department and efforts will continue to be made to work with the Treasury Board Secretariat to seek and report on more detailed data. This information is crucial in our efforts to reach our goals and respond to the requests from our employee networks to address under-representation in some occupational groups, particularly for Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities, and persons with disabilities.
We are also keeping a close eye on the ECCC results in the regular Public Service Employee Survey (PSES). The 2020 PSES results demonstrated that 76% of respondents feel the Department implements initiatives that promote anti-racism in the workplace. However, only 6% of ECCC employees who indicated being a victim of race-based discrimination are satisfied with how concerns or complaints about racism in the workplace are resolved by the Department.
We will use all information available as preliminary baseline data to build upon and will deepen the collection of various types of data over the next three years as part of performance measurement for the strategy. The performance indicators that will measure the outcomes of the strategy have been developed through consultation with employees across ECCC, and will provide us with important information, such as employee satisfaction with various initiatives.
Challenges and Barriers
We are committed to moving forward with conviction and humility. To make progress, it is essential to be mindful of challenges and barriers, and learn as we go.
ECCC is a large department with more than half of our employees outside of the National Capital Region. Our workforce reflects a wide range of employee perspectives, experiences, and needs – these realities can create challenges for regular and robust consultation and engagement. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major catalyst in the exploration of new means of employee engagement. We are now able to engage with employees across the country in real time and concurrently, and we have heard from many employees living with a disability that access to engagement has improved. We are committed to further exploring tools that will enable engagement of all employees. We will also further develop our subject matter knowledge, notably for those in leadership positions or who represent dominant identities holding privilege and power.
Another challenge is the need to adjust policies and practices across ECCC to be more inclusive. This will require deepening engagement with employees to address barriers, enable a culture change, and identify new ways of doing things that are inclusive of everyone. Senior management across the Department, supported by our Human Resources Branch, will continue to be called upon to demonstrate leadership as agents of change. ECCC continues to actively engage with central agencies and with other departments to learn about and share best practices and evolving resources.
Employee networks at ECCC have accomplished so much and continue to do so, but are hindered by the fact that network members contribute on a voluntary basis beyond their regular duties. Many ECCC employees provide leadership to the networks, plan and execute events, and contribute greatly to advancing diversity, inclusion and employment equity at ECCC through consultations and participation in meetings throughout the year. Going forward, two employees will be dedicated to supporting the employee networks.
Those working on diversity, inclusion and employment equity at ECCC have also identified challenges such as obtaining and analyzing disaggregated data, and sharing the appropriate information to make informed decisions. This requires knowledge and understanding of the evolving data in terms of availability and usage. Our ECCC team is engaging with the Treasury Board Secretariat on a regular basis to ensure that challenges with data are identified and mitigation strategies are appropriately implemented.
We have partnered with employees in a variety of ways to implement the Call to Action.
ECCC’s employee networks provide a safe space for members to discuss needs and raise issues that affect them, as well as promote and support diversity, inclusion and employment equity within the workplace. These employee-led communities also provide advice and recommend solutions to achieve an inclusive workplace. The involvement of all of these networks at various tables and with one another has enabled intersectional thinking and decision-making.
A solid internal communications plan is also critical to success. ECCC’s Communications team has devoted additional resources to diversity, inclusion and employment equity. Working in close collaboration with the networks, the Champions, as well as our program experts, the Communications team is developing a plan to ensure we foster dialogue and use every opportunity to educate and raise awareness on an ongoing basis.
Employees are directly involved in rethinking the impact of diversity, inclusion and employment equity on the delivery of ECCC’s mandate, in a variety of ways. For example, ECCC actively implements Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) into decision-making for policies and programs, and the Centre of Expertise on GBA+ engages with colleagues across the Department to integrate this intersectional thinking into their work. The Centre of Expertise on GBA+ has also coordinated events that directly link these principles and intersectionality to ECCC’s mandate. In March 2021, Dr. Ingrid Waldron presented her research on environmental racism to the Department. This highly attended event demonstrates a strong interest across ECCC to connect these issues internally and externally. Additionally, the Intergovernmental and Indigenous Affairs Directorate, in collaboration with the Indigenous Employees Network, hosts a multitude of events throughout the year, such as the Indigenous Awareness Week, Elder Talks, and Lunch & Learns, to enable the application of an Indigenous lens to ECCC’s work.
We hope this letter sheds light on the early work of ECCC to advance the Call to Action. According to the most recent PSES results, 85% of ECCC respondents feel they are free to speak about racism in the workplace without fear of reprisal, and 83% feel comfortable sharing concerns about issues related to racism in the workplace with a person of authority. But this is a snapshot in time and the events of the past year have revealed that the mission to dismantle systemic racism and discrimination demands persistence if we are to improve employee well-being and contribute to being an employer of choice.
We would like to acknowledge the many contributions to the Department’s enhanced effort to respond to the Call to Action, including from colleagues across ECCC, the Centre of Expertise for Diversity and Inclusion, the Diversity and Inclusion co-Champions, the Accessibiilty co-Champions, the Diversity and Inclusion senior designated official, the Communications team, the Respect Bureau, and the ECCC employee networks.
As you know, this year marks two major milestones at ECCC. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of being a department and the 150th anniversary of the Meteorological Service of Canada, we are reminded of how far we have come as an organization and we are energized about the future. This includes the important and timely work to implement our new approach to diversity, inclusion and employment equity and to working in partnership with the broader public service.
We are appreciative of your and Mr. Shugart’s leadership on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion, and for the opportunity to share our successes, challenges, and next steps with you.
T. Christine Hogan
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Associate Deputy Minister
Environment and Climate Change Canada
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