Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion

Summer 2021 update

Thank you for the opportunity to provide an update on the measures and actions that the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) has taken in response to the January 2021 Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service.

As Canada’s most populous region, southern Ontario is a key contributor to the overall Canadian economy. With headquarters in Waterloo and offices in Toronto, Peterborough and Ottawa, the Agency has a presence across southern Ontario to provide regionally-tailored knowledge and expertise. While the region’s diversity contributes to its growth and innovation, there are many groups who continue to face structural inequalities and systemic barriers. Since March 2020, these conditions were further exacerbated by the global pandemic. The Agency is committed to strengthening our efforts to ensure that our diverse workforce grows, that we focus on advancing anti-racism, equity and inclusion and that we continue to provide programs and services in a barrier-free and unbiased manner.

In my capacity as the President of FedDev Ontario, I believe this Agency and its employees are committed to respond to the Call to Action and to the challenge of building a more prosperous, innovative and inclusive future for southern Ontario.

What has changed at FedDev Ontario?

Over the past year, our approach to advancing anti-racism, equity and inclusion has gained momentum, starting with the development of a 2020–21 Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan that was launched in October 2020 and was made accessible to all staff on our Intranet.

Since then, challenging our own unconscious biases, and creating an inclusive, equitable and barrier-free Agency have been at the forefront of our priorities. The Agency conducted research, sought out best practices and reached out to experts like Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, the Federal Anti- Racism Secretariat and the Government of Ontario. The Agency also engaged FedDev Ontario employees through the Agency’s Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Managers’ Forum, its Young Professionals’ Network, smaller employee focus groups, the Executive Committee and the Network of Champions.

This internal and external engagement resulted in the development of a multi-year Framework for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which will guide us in our specific actions in the years ahead. This Framework benchmarks current actions to help measure future progress and highlights the Agency’s internal and external activities and accomplishments.

Under our Framework, the actions taken by the Agency are grouped within three pillars:

We are pleased to highlight the following actions we have taken and are continuing to take and which respond to the Call to Action, under each of these pillars.



FedDev Ontario’s entire management and executive teams have committed to lead by example. We have committed to taking action. To learning. To listening. To encouraging open and frank conversations. To ensuring that FedDev Ontario is a respectful, healthy and inclusive workplace.

“I and your executive team are committed to building a diverse and inclusive FedDev Ontario and I need all of us to share this goal together. More is needed. And more is coming. I too, like the Clerk, look forward to the progress we will make together.”

- January 26, 2021 all-staff email from President James Meddings

Specifically, the following actions have been taken within our leadership team:


Also amplified this past year were FedDev Ontario’s efforts to further increase our diverse and representative workforce and to recruit qualified candidates from Indigenous communities and Black and other racialized communities. At FedDev Ontario, we have historically met or exceeded representation based on workforce availability estimates in the four employment equity groups, meaning we have been organically diverse and representative since our inception. A more recent focus has been put on looking at intersectionality data. Of our current employees who self-identified, 27 percent did so in more than one EE group.

FedDev Ontario and Workforce Availability Estimates (WAE) – 2019 to 2021

Fiscal Year


Indigenous People

Persons with Disabilities

Visible Minorities

2019 (FDO)





2019 (WAE)





Gap (+/-)





2020 (FDO)





2020 (WAE)





Gap (+/-)





May 31, 2021
(FDO unofficial)





Our current workforce is above representation in three of the four EE groups. This year, our efforts to prioritize a diverse and inclusive workforce are reflected in a significant 41 percent increase in hires that identify as visible minorities and Indigenous peoples. Overall, 26.3 percent of current employees self-ID as belonging to a visible minority EE group1. We continue to take measures to bridge our small gap in representation of persons with disabilities – an area of ongoing focus. As an Agency, we have continued to strive to increase our diverse and representative workforce, including:

Student recruitment

We have sustained efforts to have a diverse student workforce. Close to 50 percent of all students currently employed at FedDev Ontario self-identified as belonging to an equity-seeking group. Of the 38 students we have bridged since 2017, all four employment equity groups are represented except persons with disabilities.

Executive recruitment

FedDev Ontario’s executive group was above representation in all four EE groups in 2020–21. We have made and will continue concerted efforts to identify and appoint individuals who are part of the Indigenous, Black and other racialized groups, as well as persons with disabilities to our executive cadre. Since the Call to Action, the appointments/promotions that have been made to the executive cadre, have been from these EE groups – either as an organizational requirement or from leveraging talent management.

Talent management and development at all levels

We have made strong strides in the past year in fostering a talent management (TM) culture where the management of employees’ talent is considered not only at the executive level, but has been expanded to include all employees. This year, we also introduced an inclusive TM approach that aligns with diversity and inclusion through an EE lens in identifying Agency talent. Employment equity is now included as a criterion for nominating and selecting employees for development and training opportunities at all levels.

In addition, FedDev Ontario has actively participated in the Centre on Diversity and Inclusion’s Small Departments and Agencies (SDA) Interdepartmental Group. The group is exploring how best to pool resources and implement the Mentorship+ program in SDAs, to support high-potential Indigenous employees and Black and other racialized employees to prepare them for leadership roles


Learning in a positive environment

In the past year, much attention has been focused on personally and collectively learning about anti- racism, reconciliation, accessibility, equity and inclusion; and to fostering a safe, positive environment where open conversations are encouraged throughout our workplace. Since December 2020, we have introduced various opportunities for staff to hear from others of diverse backgrounds; to share their own voices; and to learn how we can each do our part in fostering an inclusive, safe and positive environment:

Learning opportunities and open space conversations are strongly encouraged at FedDev Ontario and we will continue to offer opportunities for these to regularly take place.

Learn, listen, empower!

At FedDev Ontario, our goal is to be a workplace of choice, one where employees can speak up and feel heard, valued and respected; have opportunities to grow and develop; and where open dialogue and conversations can take place. Our employees are regularly encouraged by management and the executive team to share their stories and raise concerns. We hold a New Employee Orientation Session every other month. My executive team and I attend the sessions and stress to our new employees that we want to hear from them, as they have joined an Agency where all voices are what shapes our culture. They are encouraged to be engaged, whether it be at one of the organized open space sessions noted above, our all-staff town halls, through a guest blog, or through participation on one of the champion committees.

All FedDev Ontario managers have completed unconscious bias training and have learned about combatting racism and discrimination. A respectful workplace is embedded in our culture and our managers have pledged to uphold it. These, along with the regular promotion of resources and tools and an active values and ethics program, have allowed our managers to not only reflect and learn, but to also hear different perspectives, and to be better equipped to address sensitive and difficult issues.

Network of Champions

The Agency has implemented a Network of Champions each of which is led by a member of the executive team. Champions play an important role in the Agency and their leadership is valued. They encourage collaboration across the organization, contribute to a rewarding workplace, and their work focusses on priority areas of action.

Voices from diverse backgrounds are heard through the Agency’s Network of Champions’ committees, representing and reflecting the diversity of the Agency’s employees. Committee members are consulted and feed into Agency plans and strategies such as the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, our AccessAbility Strategy and our multi-year Framework for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The Champions’ committees also regularly share information and educational opportunities. For example, to assist in creating conditions that facilitate success for all employees, including accommodations and the removal of barriers to inclusion, the AccessAbility Champion and committee share information and awareness opportunities, such as the Lending Library Pilot Project and the Accessibility, Accommodation and Adaptive Computer Technology (AAACT) Program Learning Series. The Agency has also agreed to be an early adopter of the Government of Canada Workplace Accessibility Passport Initiative.

In addition to listening to employees’ voices, the Agency, actively sought out external expertise through Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute to help us identify any unconscious bias in our internal processes to develop and recommend Agency investments. This has led to changes in our internal policies and practices, including:

In addition, the Human Resources and Corporate Services Branches have initiated a procurement process to review and ensure hiring practices and internal services are culturally sensitive and driven to remove barriers. This Employment Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Employment Systems Review will be implemented this fiscal year, with the goal being to be informed, to adjust and to act on what we learn from this review, in order to eliminate racism, discrimination and other barriers to inclusion in the workplace.

Monitoring progress and acting on results

To measure progress and drive improvements in the employee workplace experience, we have listened to the voices of those within our organization. These voices, along with available data, tell us where we are starting from and help us set a path forward against which we can monitor our progress.

Our employees’ voices and priorities guide our planning. That is why we regularly collect insight from employees through workplace surveys, such as the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES), Guarding Minds @ Work (GM@W) and pulse check-ins as an opportunity for employees to share their feedback. 

Our action plan, Your Voice, Our Commitment, offers a suite of resources and activities developed based on employee feedback, and is comprised of four categories, each with their own set of activities aimed at addressing items raised in the surveys. This Agency plan and its activities are evergreen and we continue to evolve and adjust as needed, based on what we hear.

Our employees’ voices are also heard through the PSES. The survey results are analyzed, discussed with transparency and are used to determine our performance, measure our progress and drive improvements in priority areas. Over the past few years, the Agency has seen a positive and sustained annual improvement in our PSES results.

These positive results are further underlined by the Agency’s identification as a Top Employer in Waterloo in 2020 and our recognition in the Career Directory as an Employer of Choice for Recent Graduates in 2020 and 2021.

Below are a selection of 2020 Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) results. The results show a significant and consistent improvement over the last five years. When compared with the results received in 2016, six core questions have improved by 20 percent or more and 13 core questions have improved by 30 percent or more.

  • 100% of employees are satisfied with the workplace accommodation measures that were implemented (up 24%);
  • 93% of employees feel that they are treated with respect (up 22%);
  • 91% of employees feel that FedDev Ontario works hard to create a workplace that prevents
    discrimination (up 26%);
  • 90% of employees feel that the Agency works hard to create a workplace that prevents harassment (up 32%);
  • 86% of employees have confidence in the senior management at the Agency (up 36%);
  • 86% of employees feel that senior managers lead by example in ethical behaviour (up 31%);
  • 74% of employees would prefer to remain with the agency, even if a comparable job was available elsewhere in the federal public service (up 40%); and
  • 66% of employees feel they can initiate a formal recourse process (e.g., grievance, complaint, appeal) without fear of reprisal (up 37%).

In addition to using PSES survey results to inform us, we have enhanced our reporting and analytics by combining self-identification data with other operational data and indicators such as promotion, mobility and departures rates. The results and data of this two-pronged approach are being used to inform HR planning and decision-making.

Our survey results clearly tell us that we have excelled at creating and maintaining a positive employee workplace experience; a workplace that is respectful, healthy, diverse, and free of harassment and discrimination. Our data, based on the October 2020 baseline we created, tells us that though we have generally sustained representation, there is still room for improvement, particularly within the persons with disabilities group. Representation data is included on our new HR Staffing Planning tool (pilot) and will be used to inform staffing decisions in the months ahead.

We have also reviewed and updated our exit survey process. Its implementation is expected in late summer 2021, and it will serve as a source of information and data about the departing employees’ workplace experience.

How has FedDev Ontario affected change in southern Ontario?


From an external-facing standpoint, FedDev Ontario is committed to creating and implementing more inclusive policies, programs and services to better support the southern Ontarians we serve. To this end,

the third pillar of the Framework is focused on developing, delivering and reporting on programs, services and actions that demonstrate the Agency’s commitment to strengthening and sustaining valued relationships with diverse clients, stakeholders and partners. We are encouraged by the actions we have taken to support this pillar and are excited to build on these actions to have an even greater impact in southern Ontario.

Reducing barriers to encourage diversity

All of FedDev Ontario’s economic recovery programs focus on inclusive growth, due to the impacts the pandemic has had, particularly on racialized groups. Diversity is also a key objective in all new programming the Agency is delivering through Budget 2021.

The Agency’s core programs are open to all and we have taken steps to promote access by groups that have not traditionally accessed our programs and/or services. We are exploring new approaches and opportunities to encourage applications from underrepresented minority groups as new funding programs are launched. For example, a section was added to the webpage for the Agency’s Jobs and Growth Fund, launched on June 13, 2021, specifically encouraging Indigenous-led organizations to apply: Indigenous-led organizations and/or businesses are strongly encouraged to apply. Under the initiative, RDAs may contribute up to 100 percent of eligible project costs for projects with Indigenous clients.

The Agency held numerous information sessions with groups that have not traditionally accessed our programs and services, including Indigenous groups, to discuss funding and opportunities to improve access and additional efforts are being put in place to serve the diverse population of southern Ontario.

For example, we are seeking expert advice on how to make our application process more inviting to existing and new clients so that those we serve walk away with a better client experience. One of the concrete actions we have taken is that we have updated the Agency’s contribution agreements to reflect our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by: including enabling language, removing clauses that were viewed as barriers, encouraging recipients to implement diversity and inclusion plans and activities, instituting plain language and improving data collection and reporting. As an example, we heard from some clients (businesses and not-for-profit organizations that are small and fairly new) that our minimum requirements for insurance liability were too high and served as a barrier for some. We listened and changed the requirement in our contribution agreements.

Advocating for 50-30 and anti-racism

FedDev Ontario was an early advocate of the Government of Canada’s 50-30 Challenge. In fact, a message promoting the initiative was sent out directly to more than 500 FedDev Ontario clients,  as well as included in our external newsletter, the Southern Ontario Spotlight, which is distributed to over a thousand readers, and on our social media channels which reach several thousand users.

The Agency has been above the 65 percent parity goal for women in the executive cadre for some time. We are moving positively to meet the second goal of 30 percent of executives identifying as a member of a racialized group.

We are also participating in the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat’s pilot program to work with selected organizations to develop, test and apply an anti-racism assessment framework, prior to it being launched across the Public Service. I am happy to report that FedDev Ontario is one of ten departments and agencies actively participating in this whole-of-government initiative.

While the preceding actions are important, the Agency recognizes more can be done and that a targeted approach is necessary.

Supporting women entrepreneurs

In 2018, FedDev Ontario began delivering the southern Ontario component of the $5-billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES). The results to date have been impressive. Across the various initiatives (WES Ecosystem – National and Regional and the Women Entrepreneur Fund), the Agency invested in 53 women-led projects that supported 205 women entrepreneurs in starting a new business, provided business advisory services to more than 3,700 women entrepreneur clients, assisted 164 women entrepreneurs in growing their business abroad, creating 367 jobs and maintaining 581 jobs. Moreover, in recognition of the significant impact of COVID-19 on women and women-led businesses specifically, the Agency invested in the Rebuild Reopen Revive Initiative by providing non-repayable contributions of up to $5,000 to help more than 700 women-led businesses across southern Ontario. This $4 million initiative was delivered jointly by Invest Windsor Essex and the Northumberland Business Development Assistance Corporation.

Supporting Black entrepreneurs during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted and exacerbated existing systemic barriers faced by Black entrepreneurs and Black-led small- and medium-sized business owners in Canada, including those with intersecting identities (including Black women, Black youth, Black newcomers, etc.) that often face additional barriers. To help address the gap, the Black Entrepreneurship Program, which provides $46 million over four years to support Black entrepreneurs and business owners across the country to recover from the pandemic and grow their businesses, was launched in September 2020. It received an overwhelming response from organizations across southern Ontario.

Through the Black Entrepreneurship Program, the Agency has increased its network of stakeholders and partners throughout Black communities, businesses and organizations within southern Ontario. Together, we are co-working and co-investing in projects that will help build capacity while supporting Black entrepreneurs and businesses.

Supporting underrepresented communities in the tech sector

In June 2021, FedDev Ontario announced an investment to support Elevate Talent, the latest endeavour from the Toronto-based not-for-profit tech organization, Elevate. The funding will support a new program to help job seekers from underrepresented communities re-skill and find employment in Ontario by harnessing the power of tech and innovation to build a better future. This investment is expected to support 5,300 job seekers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Areas from underrepresented communities (Indigenous, Black, other racialized groups, LGBTQ2+ and Francophone) to upgrade their skills and matched with technology, innovation, creative and start-up job openings.

Support for Official Language Minority Communities

FedDev Ontario also provides targeted support to Official Language Minority Communities (OLMCs) through delivery of the Economic Development Initiative (EDI). Annually, we invest $800K in targeted initiatives with impacts across southern Ontario, including women entrepreneurs and newcomers to Canada.

Support for rural and Indigenous businesses and communities

FedDev Ontario is mandated to build stronger, more resilient communities - urban and rural across southern Ontario. To this end, FedDev Ontario has created opportunities for economic growth by supporting companies located in rural southern Ontario to help diversify local economies. And, since inception, the Agency has worked closely with rural communities through the Community Futures Program, including support for two Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) that are dedicated to serve Indigenous communities (Tecumseh Community Development Corporation and Two Rivers Community Development Corporation). The Agency also participates in efforts to promote Indigenous economic growth through whole-of-government initiatives like the Strategic Partnership Initiative.

Developing the lens of inclusivity

In June 2021, the Agency established an Inclusive Growth Directorate to further develop the Agency’s approach and capacity to continue to enhance the depth and consistency of our approach to economic development through the lens of inclusivity.

The Agency also recognizes that Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) is a key tool to effectively advancing diversity and inclusion. The Agency’s GBA+ Champion and Focal Points continued efforts to enhance GBA+ capacity and work to meaningfully apply GBA+ to the design and implementation of policies, programs and other initiatives so that they are inclusive, responsive to different needs and realities, and enable evidence-based decision-making related to diversity and inclusion.

Ontario Federal Council

In addition to the above actions that FedDev Ontario has taken, in my capacity as Chair of the Ontario Federal Council (OFC), supporting the 37,000 public servants from across 39 departments and agencies within the Ontario Region (outside of the National Capital Region), the OFC continued to support the collaboration and coordination of government-wide initiatives and priorities while playing a key role in the region in advancing both Beyond 2020 principles and the Call to Action.


I am proud of the steps our Agency has taken. I commend my executive team for leading by example. I commend my management team for the value they have placed in acting individually and collectively to build our diverse and inclusive workforce. I commend all Agency employees for increasing their awareness, for speaking up, and for sharing their ideas, their stories and their voices, to guide us in our planning and decisions. FedDev Ontario has made great strides in the past few years, gaining even more momentum this past year, towards ensuring that our diverse workforce grows, that we focus on advancing anti-racism, equity and inclusion and that we continue to develop and provide programs and services that meet the needs of the diverse population that we serve. As an Agency, we will continue to be steadfast in our commitment to do our part towards building a diverse, equitable and inclusive Public Service and southern Ontario.

James Meddings
President, Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario

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