Department of National Defence
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion

Summer 2021 update


Further to my letter of May 2021, I am pleased to update you on the continued progress which the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) has made in support of the Clerk’s Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service.

As Deputy Minister, I am personally committed to leading DND/CAF’s cultural transformation and building diverse, inclusive and respectful workplaces for all members. I am also committed to strengthening the DND/CAF’s relationship with Indigenous peoples and contributing to government-wide reconciliation. I am working in concert with the Acting Chief of the Defence Staff as co-Champion for culture change as these priorities encompass both the military and public servant workforces.

The Call to Action complements Canada’s 2017 Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, which commits the DND/CAF to ensuring military members and public servants are well-supported, diverse and resilient. The Prime Minister has also tasked the Minister of National Defence to address systemic racism and gender-based discrimination, as well as establish and maintain workplaces free from barriers, harassment, discrimination and violence.

The message is clear: we all must do more to build institutions that reflect the fabric of Canada.

To do so we are rebuilding trust by engaging in meaningful conversations and listening to the experiences of those that have experienced exclusion, misconduct and systemic barriers. DND/CAF members have expressed several areas for improvement in various forums, including at the most senior ranks: increasing diverse leadership, supporting victims of misconduct, simplifying complaint and investigation processes, and encouraging self-identification across military and public service workforces.

As a senior leadership team, we are working towards creating the organizational conditions to foster equity and inclusion, and to eliminate unacceptable conduct: racism, discrimination, sexual misconduct, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and white supremacy. This year DND/CAF established the Chief Professional Conduct and Culture (CPCC) organization – led by Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan and Associate Assistant Deputy Minister Marie Doyle – to build and implement a comprehensive plan for long-term culture change that tackles unconscious biases, systemic barriers to inclusion, and harmful behaviours. CPCC will be the institutional focal point for professional and culture change efforts and will elevate the voices of employment equity networks and advisory groups for Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ2+ communities, and Black employees, as well as Defence Champions within decision-making spaces. The new organization will also develop a framework to track, measure and report on progress.

Leading by example in support of the Call to Action remains one of my top priorities. In my role as Deputy Minister, I will continue to support the representation, development and recognition of Black executives in senior leadership positions across the public service. This year, alongside my colleagues, this year I became an Ally Champion for the Federal Black Executive Network. In July I also participated in an anti-racism panel hosted by the Canada School of Public Service which examined the harmful impacts of systemic racism, discrimination and hatred on Black, Indigenous and racialized communities. These discussions – while complex and uncomfortable at times – are necessary to challenge participants’ biases and serve as an important reminder of our common humanity and commitment to public service for all Canadians.

The Visible Minority Recruitment Campaign continues to meet its objective of increasing the representation of racialized executives in the public service. Twenty appointments have been made across the Government of Canada to-date, and two more appointments are pending at the time of writing. The campaign piloted innovative platforms which provided objective and equitable candidate assessments and removed bias from the selection process. The campaign challenged traditional approaches and guided the way towards improved hiring practices. Given the success of the campaign, we will continue to innovate hyper-personalized recruitment approaches to increase representation among other equity-seeking groups in an equitable, meaningful and inclusive manner.

In support of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action (#57), DND/CAF is partnering with Indigenous peoples to develop an Indigenous learning curriculum. DND/CAF’s Indigenous Affairs group recently concluded a needs assessment survey which will inform a consultative approach to providing education about First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities while improving members’ cultural competencies. DND/CAF is also working with Indigenous partners to develop a Civilian Indigenous Recruitment and Retention Strategy to increase the representation and inclusion of Indigenous peoples within the public service workforce.

Our institutional efforts have been punctuated by grassroots leadership from the DND/CAF’s employment equity advisory groups and networks, bargaining agents, employee groups and individuals. They have been exceptional partners in furthering the Call to Action and revealing the complexity and intersectionality of the DND/CAF’s barriers and the effects they have on employees and military members. Recognizing the continued need for their contributions, I have approved permanent funding for the DAGs within DND/CAF’s policy and decision-making spaces. I am also working with my Deputy Minister colleagues at Global Affairs Canada, the Department of Justice, and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to find opportunities for learning, collaboration and sharing promising practices.

Culture change is a non-linear journey for an institution as large and complex as DND/CAF. Our efforts in 2020-21 will lead to bigger and bolder actions and a more inclusive Defence Team for years to come. Though some DND/CAF’s members and communities continue to view our progress with skepticism, I will continue to hold myself and my team accountable through objective performance measurement and by listening, learning and reflecting upon the lived experiences of those deeply and personally affected by exclusion, misconduct and systemic barriers.

I look forward to our continued collaboration in leading this important and transformational change in the public service.

Jody Thomas
Deputy Minister of National Defence

Annex A: Update on Actions Underway in Support of the Clerk’s Call to Action

1. Ensuring diverse and inclusive leadership to establish a culture of inclusiveness that values diversity, will combat racism and address systemic barriers  

2. Promoting diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organization 

3. Eliminating systemic racism through reviewing and updating workplace programs as well as policies

Annex B - Program Guide: Executive Development Program

“Every single one of us has a responsibility and a role to play in eliminating racial discrimination and I expect all of you to help. The first step to take in order to create a workplace that welcomes and encourages diversity is to listen to our employees.”
   - Jody Thomas, Deputy Minister of National Defence



… we strive to be a more AGILE, INCLUSIVE and EQUIPPED workforce to meet our current and future challenges and realize our full potential. Diverse perspectives and approaches contribute to better programs and stronger policies for the benefit of all Canadians.

- Privy Council’s 27th Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada.

As Canada’s largest and most complex organisation, DND and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) work side-by-side to fulfill the Government of Canada’s mission to defend Canada and Canadian values at home and abroad, while contributing to international peace, security and stability efforts. In order to deliver on this mission, the organisation strives for excellence by upholding Canada’s diversity and serving the public with integrity. As stated in the Clerk of the Privy Council’s 27th Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada, we strive to be a more AGILE, INCLUSIVE and EQUIPPED workforce to meet our current and future challenges and realize our full potential. Diverse perspectives and approaches contribute to better programs and stronger policies for the benefit of all Canadians. Given Canada’s demographics, DND, as an employer of choice, cannot afford to overlook the strategic opportunity provided by a diverse workforce. As such, DND is committed to achieving representation, while championing diversity and inclusion in all areas of the organisation, including the executive cadre.

With the support of the Deputy Minister, the Executive Development Program (EXDP) is being launched to ensure the department is ready, equipped and agile as well as supportive of diversity and inclusion to address underrepresentation of minority groups among the EX cadre. The EXDP will assist diverse, high-potential and high-performing DND employees develop the knowledge, skills, and executive level leadership competencies required to take the next step into the executive cadre. To ensure this program embodies diversity and inclusion values, key stakeholders were engaged in the development of the program and continue to be a central pillar of its ongoing continuous improvement. By supporting the EXDP, participating organizations will contribute to departmental priorities & objectives by developing talent in the leaders of tomorrow while complementing existing leadership succession planning, talent management and recruitment strategies as well as improving retention rates of feeder groups.


The intent of the EXDP is to increase representation among the EX cadre at DND and to create a strong internal talent pipeline for diverse talent. Through experiential learning, exposure to senior leaders, mentoring, assignments and coaching, participants will be equipped with insights, tools and strategies to skillfully advance their careers to the next level with confidence and purpose. The program also intends to enhance the employee experience and retain key diverse talent for succession. The EXDP Program will be evaluated annually to ensure its effectiveness. Adjustments to the Program will be recommended to the Program Sponsors by the EXDP Steering Committee and DCES.

The EXDP will concentrate on increasing representation of the designated employment equity (EE) groups as defined by the Employment Equity Act: Women, Aboriginal Peoples, Persons with Disabilities and members of Visible Minorities. Consideration will also be given to members of the LGBTQ2+ communities and to candidates who represent other dimensions of diversity. The program will aim to create an inclusive environment focused on engaging all candidates, L1s and stakeholders in the successful delivery of the program. (See Annex A).

About the EXDP

The initial EXDP intake of participants will be determined through analysis of existing vacancies, attrition rates, expected retirements and succession plans, within each L1 organizations, and adjusted to meet projected organisational needs. The program is intended for EX equivalent, EX minus-1 and EX minus-2 employees who demonstrate talent, leadership potential and aspiration to become future executives, and who represent dimensions of diversity. The EXDP will be initiated with a call for nominations by L1 and self-nominations. The DCES team will rate and review candidates and the Steering Committee will select the successful participants.

Participants will be assessed using reputable leadership assessment tools against the Key Leadership Competencies and Character-Based Competencies at the start and at the end of the program. Their results will guide the development of their Personalized and Progressive Leadership Development Plan and guide the evaluation of their leadership development within the program.

This personalized plan will be composed of three modules: Foundational Leadership, Professional Leadership and Personal Leadership expected to be pursued throughout the program until graduation (see Annex B). These components will be incorporated into an individualised learning plan for each participant based on leadership assessments and developmental needs. The duration of the program is expected to be on average nine to twenty-four months according to the developmental needs of the selected participants. Upon graduation, participants will be placed into an EX-01 pool.

Selection Criteria

EXDP Steps to becoming an EX

Ongoing communication, feedback & engagement are key:

  1. Nomination
  2. Acceptance into EXDP
  3. Establishment of personalized leadership development plan
  4. Progression through leadership development plan
  5. EXDP graduation and placement into EX-01 pool
  6. Appointment to EX

Nominees must meet the following selection criteria to be considered for the program:

  1. A substantive DND employee in a group and level equivalent to EX, EX minus 1 or EX minus.
  2. Career advancement potential as demonstrated by 1 or more of the following performance indicators: a.) leadership excellence and achievements, b.) recent assignments, c.) a demonstrated commitment to leadership development.
  3. Personal career trajectory and their career advancement intentions; how they see themselves contributing to DND and what they aim to gain from the program.
  4. A member of the designated employment equity groups as defined in the Employment Equity Act. Consideration will also be given to candidates who represent other dimensions of diversity, such as members of LGBTQ2+ communities. Participants are encouraged to complete the self-ID in HRMS, however, this is not a mandatory requirement.

*To address historical systemic barriers, requirements for EX education criteria as well as requirement for a CBC/CBC language profile are not required for entry into the program.

Program Completion Criteria

Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council delivered a powerful message on the sacrifice and humility required to be an effective leader, but underscored that “the sacrifice is worth it. The challenges, the opportunities we face, the problems that we are called upon to solve cannot be paralleled anywhere else in any other sector. And we do this for our country and for our fellow citizens. We do this for our children and for children we have not yet met.”

The Clerk also spoke to the overarching challenge of addressing systemic racism, and the role that every part of the public service must play.

“Let us arrive as soon as we can at the place where we are no longer tolerating or inadvertently or consciously accepting mistreatment of others because of their color, because of their ability, because of their faith, because of their sexual orientation, because of anything about them. Diversity, inclusion: these are not just ideas, these are not just things to check a box, this is about making room for any and all who want to serve, and who can.”

- From the Apex November 17, 2020 virtual Recognition of Entry to the Executive Ranks ceremony.

EXDP participants will be assessed and supported with coaching throughout the program. Participants will graduate from the program upon successful completion of the elements of the program. The Program duration is not fixed, but will vary depending on the entry level of the participant’s knowledge, skills and ability, the outlined exposure the participant needs and the progress made by each participant.

Criteria for completion:

  • Completion of 360° assessments on Key Leadership Competencies (KLC).
  • Completion of the Personalized and Progressive Leadership Development Plan.
  • Meeting the EX education criteria as well as the required CBC language profile. If the participant is unable to complete this requirement within the span of the program, an extension may be granted.

Upon successful completion of the EXDP, graduates will be placed in a qualified pool and will be eligible to be selected for a promotion through internal staffing processes to EX-01 positions at DND. L1s will have to consider candidates in the EXDP pool for EX-01 opportunities before considering other staffing options.

Unsuccessful Completion of the Program: Throughout the EXDP, participants will be provided with the required training, developmental experiences and coaching to assist them with progressing within the program. In return, participants are expected to fulfill their responsibilities by actively participating and meeting all of the requirements of the program. Despite all reasonable efforts made to support the participant, which includes regular feedback on performance, there may be occasions where the participant may not succeed within the program. The EXDP Chair, with recommendations from the Steering Committee, may remove a participant from the program who is not meeting all requirements. All such cases will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Roles and Responsibilities

L1 or L1 Designate

L1 or L1 designates roles and responsible include:

Program Participants

Program participants’ roles and responsible include:

DCES Program Management

DCES roles and responsible include:


The EXDP has a four-fold governing structure consisting of the following.

1. Program Sponsor

Consists of the Deputy Minister and the Assistant Deputy Minister HR-Civ.

The Project Sponsor will serve to:

2. Steering Committee

Consists of the Director of Executive Services, the Director of Workforce Programs and Services and other executives within L1 organizations.

The steering committee will serve to:

3. Advisory Groups and Functional Expertise Centers

Includes consultations with Defence Advisory Groups, communities of interest, and subject matter functional experts in order to:

4. Working Group

Consists of EXDP leads from the Directorate of Executive Services (DCES) in collaboration with the Directorate of Workforce Programs and Services.

The working group is responsible to:

Annex A: Defining Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity: The EXDP will concentrate on decreasing gaps in the designated employment equity (EE) groups as defined in the Employment Equity Act: women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities in addition to members of the LGBTQ2+ communities. Consideration will also be given to candidates who represent other dimensions of diversity.

Inclusion: Inclusion is the creation of an environment that is collaborative, supportive and respectful of all members, and encourages full participation and contribution. Inclusion aims to help remove barriers and support program participants to reach their full potential. As such the program will be open to all with a clear and distinct focus on diversity.

Annex B: Personalized and Progressive Leadership Development Plan

1. Personal Leadership

Leadership Assessment

  • Leadership Competency Assessment and 360 Leader’s Assessment
  • Focused on KLCs, Character-based Competencies and DND’s unique brand
  • Participant’s motivation for advancement into the EX cadre will also be assessed

Individualised Leadership Development Action Program

  • Development of a SMART, progressive and personalised leadership development action program
  • Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) and Canadian Armed Forces courses
  • Supported with regular one-one-one coaching sessions

Integration of DND’s Leadership Brand

  • Internalisation of Corporate Priorities - Briefs by ADMs
  • Self-guided awareness plan on how they plan to manage the pressures and challenges of EX level positions

2. Professional Leadership

On-the-job Work Experience

  • Challenging Work Assignments
  • Cohort Innovation Lab

Core EX Competencies

  • Key Leadership competencies + customized character-based competencies
  • CSPS’ Aspiring Director course & Canadian Defence Academy courses

Influence & Network

  • Participation in Committees to develop area of influence
  • Learning conversations conducted by mentors

3. Foundational Leadership

Life-Long Learning

  • Second language assessment and training
  • Post-Secondary Education Prior Learning Assessment
  • Self-learning training
  • Pay-it-Forward Leader Engagement

Knowledge: Governance and Polices

  • Structure and Policies
  • Machinery of Government
  • DND’s Governance

Custodian of DND’s Culture

  • Doctrine, Mission and Corporate Priorities
  • DND / CAF relationship
  • CAF Site visits and briefs

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