Indigenous Services Canada
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion

Summer 2021 update

Dear Interim Clerk,

We are writing in response to the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service that was issued on January 22, 2021. Established in 2017 on the foundational values of reconciliation and a vision of self-determination through the transferring of services to Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is well positioned to deliver on your call to action. We are pleased to report on the steps we have taken and the early progress we have made.

Collectively, we have continued to engage at all levels to make our work and workplace more equitable, diverse and inclusive and accessible in its approach. We work closely with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), through the use of joint-programming, policies and shared services to ensure employees in both departments can benefit from our efforts. We acknowledge that there is no path to reconciliation without making real structural changes to combat individual, institutional and systemic racism and all other forms of discrimination and harassment.

We heard clearly from Indigenous employees the importance of ensuring we recognize the critical roles that Indigenous cultures and languages play in transforming the public service towards meaningful and sustained reconciliation. The ISC Strategic Plan goes further to articulate the concrete actions we must take that reinforce and support your call to action. We now have the roadmap and it is time to move towards bold actions.


Support to Indigenous employees

Human Resources and Workplace Services Branch is a shared service between our department and CIRNAC and houses the Corporate Indigenous Workforce Directorate. In the spirit of renewed relationships with Indigenous Peoples, the directorate will provide functional leadership and innovation to advance the recruitment, retention, career development and well-being of First Nations, Inuit and Métis employees.

To complement our existing suite of Indigenous programming (Annex A), the department established a rotational assignment opportunity in the Deputy Minister’s Office for Indigenous employees open at the EX minus 1, 2 or 3 level. The rotational assignment will be offered for a duration of up to 6 months and will demonstrate meaningful action in the department’s commitment to Indigenous career advancement and learning opportunities. Assistant Deputy Minister Offices will be doing the same, leveraging a common Expression of Interest.

Continuous learning and building awareness

Education and awareness are important steps to addressing discrimination in the workplace, especially as it relates to conscious or unconscious bias. We have requested executives within our department to complete the self-paced Unconscious Bias Training series offered by the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS), as well as the employee-led, Champion-endorsed Positive Space training.

We expect to bring forward a trained facilitator in the coming months to our senior management table to start to destigmatize discussions on racism and unconscious bias for senior leaders in the department. Similarly, we will look to build culturally appropriate, safe spaces for our employees to provide an opportunity to speak without judgement or fear of reprisal, potentially surface and resolve issues through early intervention, discussion and dialogue, as well as providing the necessary aftercare resources and supports to impacted employees.

We have recently implemented a mandatory Indigenous Cultural Competency Learning Policy, a unique policy that establishes a common approach to ensuring that all employees, regardless of their position, continue to build Indigenous cultural competencies by requiring 15 hours annually of culturally competent learning. We will also be launching a baseline survey that will be repeated on a cyclical basis to monitor progress.

This policy contributes to ISC’s continued implementation of Many Voices One Mind: A Pathway to Reconciliation and aligns with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action #57. The policy and survey were developed through an Expert Advisory Committee made up of Indigenous experts reporting to the Consultation Committee on Child Welfare established as part of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision towards long-term reform of the public service in eliminating discriminatory policies and practices.

Enabling grassroots networks

We are investing in increasing supports to our Departmental Champions, including for members of Visible Minorities, 2SLGBTQ+, Accessibility and Person with Disabilities, GBA Plus and others, in order to resource the important work being done by these employee networks. We know that these networks will be key in identifying and dismantling barriers to inclusivity within our organization, and be integral in fostering a workplace that welcomes, values and embraces diversity and inclusion. A recent example was the joint commitment with CIRNAC to include universal accessible washrooms in all our workplace modernization projects starting with 3 floors being renovated in our headquarters location. We must ensure that those who are part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community can work in an environment that respects and embraces the diversity of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation and provide a safe work environment free of harassment and discrimination.

We have been learning from actions of other departments to identify synergies and address common challenges, and are pleased to announce the creation of the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, Equity, and Anti-Racism that is made up of our employee networks and will report directly to a Deputy Minister and Associate Deputy Minister co-chaired Leadership Council on Diversity and Inclusion, Equity, and Anti-Racism. We have held 2 meetings of the Leadership Council to date, with terms of references recently approved and work plans currently in development.

Diverse recruitment

Recruiting, developing and retaining top Indigenous talent is central to realizing our department’s vision and the development of a workforce that represents the communities that we serve. To that end, in January 2020, ISC’s Staffing Framework was revised to include a module on Indigenous recruitment and retention. In addition, the Aboriginal Peoples’ Employment Program offers flexibilities and strategies to recruit and retain Indigenous Peoples. We also recognize that to be truly as diverse as the population of Canada, as well as to maximize the benefits of integrating diverse perspectives in our work, we must not limit our efforts and leverage these best practices and innovative approaches and apply them to Black and other racialized employees, and any underrepresented communities.

In alignment to our strategic plan, the department has adopted a comprehensive strategy relating to the workplace of the future, which fully considers diversity and inclusion as a horizontal factor. Through this initiative, we seek to increase our ability to recruit and retain talent from Indigenous and any underrepresented communities by providing flexible employment opportunities and bringing the work to where the talent is located in an effort to modernize our approaches to attract and retain talent, while ensuring an ongoing focus on culture and support mobility, engagement and employee development.

The department has launched collective and specific staffing processes with multiple classifications tailored to the recruitment of Indigenous employees. These processes often have expanded areas of selection intended to attract Indigenous talent outside the National Capital Region, and to provide opportunities for individuals to keep close ties to their communities. Additionally, in alignment with our Strategic Plan, we continue to explore the use of Interchange Canada to attract and exchange talent from Indigenous organizations outside the public service to facilitate relationships between our department and partners to further support our vision of transferring services to Indigenous communities.

Diverse recruitment must be at all levels. To that end, we were pleased to have piloted an EX-04 and EX-05 staffing process that saw the co-development of competencies to reflect Indigenous values, knowledge and perspectives, as well as the use of an inclusive selection board composed of our Indigenous partners to mitigate unconscious biases during the assessment phase of the process.

We have learned from these activities to inform further targeted recruitment activities and initiatives that can be broadened to prioritize assessment of individuals from the other employment equity groups. Our most recent example is a current EX-03 process where the first round of candidates being assessed are those who have self-identified as belonging to employment equity groups.

Including diverse voices

We have launched an initiative to bring departmental diversity and inclusion champions and members of their employee networks to attend and participate at our most senior management meetings to ensure that a diverse set of voices are heard and considered at our table. We believe this is a first and tangible step in elevating the voices of those that may feel silenced and providing them an opportunity to be heard in the internal decision-making process. We acknowledge that it is only a first step and are committed to demonstrating the value of these voices by having them meaningfully integrated into our governance structures on an ongoing basis.

Measurement and results


The vision, values and mandate of ISC will serve as the foundation to hold the department accountable in ensuring it efficiently and effectively supports First Nations, Inuit, and Métis partners on their path to self-determination. To realize these goals, ISC has a specific interest in ensuring we have strong Indigenous representation throughout the department, at all levels, across distinctions and throughout our geographically diverse footprint. At the same time, we are conscious of the need to be reflective of Canadian society as a whole, which includes ensuring the voices of Black and other racialized employees and any underrepresented communities are heard and reflected in our internal decision-making processes.

Annex C details our workforce representation statistics, including rates of hiring, promotion and departure, as well as appointments to executive positions. We are committed to responding to the first 4 calls to action, and changing the conversation towards work force availability estimates becoming the floor and not the ceiling, and also exploring alternative benchmarks that are informed by considerations such as labour market availability. In early fall, we intend to have a fulsome discussion on representation targets, at all levels, recognizing the important role they play in producing measurable, concrete change and holding us accountable to our decisions. If our department is to truly succeed in reflecting Canada, all leaders must raise their sights to ambitious possibilities.

Employee workplace experience

We will continue to monitor our disaggregated Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) results to inform our approaches and take stock of our collective actions to advance the call to action, with particularly attention paid towards the diversity and inclusion, anti-racism, as well as harassment and discrimination responses.

Harassment and discrimination have no place in any workplace. We have made it clear in our internal messaging to employees that we have zero tolerance for such conduct, but recognize that there is still work to be done based on our 2020 PSES results. Members of visible minorities and persons with disabilities report facing significantly higher instances of discrimination at ISC than in other federal departments and agencies. These results reflect an unacceptable reality in any workplace, and the department is taking steps to address this matter.

We acknowledge the importance of intersectionality and the need for disaggregated data to inform the design and delivery of our internal programming, as we know experiences of those subjected to harassment and discrimination cannot be easily categorized under one group, and that many factors may be at play. Aligned with the GBA Plus approach, an intersectional lens must be applied to our data collection efforts. To that end, we recently completed a 5 week promotional campaign that encouraged employees to revisit the definitions of the employment equity groups and to consider whether they would like to self-identify. We plan to launch, in collaboration with employee networks, a larger and more focused campaign once the new definitions are released by the Treasury Board Secretariat.

We were pleased to report that ISC is fully compliant with the new Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention Regulations under Part II of the Canada Labour Code. Following consultations with union representatives, our policy was shared with all employees in early January and tools were made available to support employees and managers to understand their rights and duties. Through significant engagement of employees and managers across the department, we completed branch-level workplace assessments to identify the risks, highlight areas where additional prevention measures could be applied and to reinforce existing best practices.

Challenges and barriers

Acknowledging our past and present

We recognize that the voices of Indigenous employees must be heard and demonstrably valued in order for our department to break through the legacy of the past and rebuild trust and credibility. As our department is co-leading national dialogues on anti-Indigenous racism in healthcare with CIRNAC and Health Canada, as well as playing a role in other areas such as policing, our department must exemplify an environment that is safe and racism-free.

Moreover, we also recognize there is work to be done to address inequities as they relate to Black and other racialized employees, as well as any underrepresented communities, and we will continue our work to engage our departmental champions to advocate, support and advance employee initiatives and co-develop solutions that meet the needs of employees. For example, as we develop our next departmental workplace well-being and mental health strategy to be launched in the fall of 2021, we will ensure that respect for diversity and inclusion is reflected as key elements to mental wellness in the workplace.

Data limitation

As a new department, formed by the dissolution of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, there are areas of improvement in our data collection efforts. We will look to leverage our existing datasets to inform our decisions and explore new opportunities to improve data collection efforts in consultation with our employee networks.

We also recognize that there are diverse individuals who are not adequately captured in the current results due to limited categories for self-identification or for fear of reprisal, and it is imperative that we address the risk posed to those that are not represented within the existing data, as well as remain committed to identifying and developing other data sources to capture information as it relates to these groups to inform our approaches.

Dynamic and evolving climate

Recent events surrounding anti-Indigenous, anti-Black and anti-Asian racism in Canada have sparked an unprecedented need for change, and our institutions must be able to quickly pivot and respond to these societal shifts and not become indifferent to the status quo. We know racism respects no boundaries and that our workplace is not immune, and as such we look forward to continuing the conversation with our employees, and providing them with the resources they need to feel respected and supported. We know that racism can take many forms and can be explicit or implicit and that we must better equip employees and managers to handle these instances by leveraging and promoting CSPS’s Anti-Racism training series and grassroots initiatives like the Middle Managers Network’s Safe Space discussion on Diversity and Inclusion.

Employee response

Employee networks

We believe strong and vibrant public service communities play a key role in advancing our mandate and the call to action. Our department has a diverse range of employee networks (refer to Annex B) that are led by passionate and dedicated executive champions. As our organization continues to mature, we expect to adapt our champion and employee network structures to better respond to the needs of our employees.

Task force

Our approach to advancing the call to action is unique and grounded in the realities and structures of our department in order to pave the way forward for an organization that truly embraces and values a culture of diversity and inclusion, equity and anti-racism and that is centered around the voices and informed by those with lived experiences. We must also recognize the vast geographic footprint we have across Canada, and the decentralized models, employee networks, and systems we already have in place.

As such, we recently created an inter-network, cross-functional task force to provide direct support and advice to us in identifying, dismantling and preventing barriers by reviewing new and existing programs, policies, and services, as well as developing and implementing accessible diversity and inclusion, equity and anti-racism initiatives to support culture change, and to address individual, institutional and systemic racism and other forms of discrimination in the workplace by way of an intersectional approach.

Indigenous Employee Secretariat

The Indigenous Employee Secretariat was created to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to reconciliation. This secretariat supports First Nations, Inuit, and Métis employees of our department and CIRNAC and the work of Indigenous employee groups that can be found throughout the department. In addition, it serves as a one-stop shop where employees can inquire about various Indigenous related programs (refer to Annex A), initiatives and events.

The secretariat plays a critical role in ensuring Indigenous employees feel supported, empowered, and resourced to deliver on Indigenous employee-driven initiatives, while furthering our goal of making ISC an employer of choice. This year the secretariat is undertaking an environmental scan of all activities underway within the department to ensure we maximize coordination and leverage successes.


Our ISC/CIRNAC 2SLGBTQ+ network works actively to provide a forum for those who self-identify within the 2SLGBTQ+ community so that they can work in an environment that respects and embraces the diversity of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. The network focusses on employee engagement and continues to bring attention to the systemic barriers and systems of oppression they encounter through the promotion and support of organized events. As part of Public Service Pride Week, the network will be hosting panel discussions on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit experiences and identities.

Visible Minorities Working Group

Through the work of our champion for visible minorities, we have created a working group with the objective of creating a safe space for those that self-identify to engage in open, honest dialogue on discrimination and harassment in the workplace, as well as to share their lived experiences to inform the development of our departmental programs and policies especially as they relate to identifying and dismantling barriers to recruitment, advancement and retention of visible minorities, while recognizing and understanding the unique experiences and challenges of Black and other racialized employees.

Accessibility and Person with Disabilities Employee Network

Our department is committed to achieving the goals under the Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada and the Accessible Canada Act, which also includes the recruitment and advancement of all persons with disabilities. We are working actively with the Office of Public Service Accessibility to promote tools and services, and develop ally-ship initiatives across departments. In doing so, we will also be moving towards the “yes by default” approach proposed in the strategy, by examining our accommodation processes, removing barriers and obstacles and increasing the timeliness of those services. We will continue to engage with persons with disabilities to inform our departmental programs and policies and ensure that we appropriately address the barriers they face in the workplace. To that end, we have launched a joint Accessibility and Person with Disabilities employee network to leverage consultations with this network in the development of accessibility plans.

GBA Plus

Our department created a GBA Plus Responsibility Centre, as well as an informal community of practice to support GBA Plus adoption. The network shares information, highlights best practices, and discusses barriers to implementation, as well as enhancing employee capacity for GBA Plus. We believe GBA Plus is a foundational tool, that when applied rigorously and consistently, can support us in achieving our diversity and inclusion, equity and anti-racism goals.

Our work on GBA Plus is informed by the Indigenous Women’s Well-Being Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Pauktuutit and the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives, which has been broadened to an interdepartmental forum that includes Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Women and Gender Equality and CIRNAC. We are supporting National Indigenous Women’s Organizations to develop Indigenous-led, distinctions-based, GBA Plus frameworks, which will inform advice, tools and training developed for ISC and CIRNAC as well as the Government of Canada’s approach to GBA Plus and associated learning products developed by CSPS.


As part of our Leadership Council on Diversity and Inclusion, Equity and Anti-Racism, we have identified 3 key guiding principles, which are:

These principles will help support and guide the collective efforts of the task force, employee networks and champions, Human Resources and Workplace Services, as well as middle managers and senior management in responding to the call to action.

With the recent approval of the task force’s terms of reference, we look forward to the development of a work plan reflective of the needs of employee networks and to develop meaningful indicators to monitor, track and report on our results over the medium to long-term.

ISC will be adopting the Mentorship Plus program developed by the Treasury Board Secretariat. Members of designated employment equity and any underrepresented communities are matched with executive mentors and sponsors in order to support leadership development. ISC aims to launch its first intake into the program in the coming months.

We have heard clearly from employees that a safe space is desired to raise workplace issues without fear of reprisal. As such, we will be creating an Ombudsperson Office in order to help employees and managers navigate existing systems, services and resources, and provide impartial advice on options for resolution. The ombudsperson will also be mandated to provide upward feedback in order to raise awareness of systemic issues and trends, promote fair and transparent practices, and help effect change, including through recommendations to senior management.

We have developed a Respect Charter with union representatives that has been shared with all employees for feedback and hopefully be endorsed by our senior management team in the fall of 2021. We will be co-hosting a town hall with our union partners to profile it over the coming months.

We would like to recognize the tremendous work of the department in mobilizing to support Indigenous communities in navigating the pandemic, and particularly our front-line workers who have demonstrated their commitment to excellence and community service, truly demonstrating the values of the public service. Although we may be living through this unprecedented and trying time, we have not lost sight of your call to action and remain committed to its advancement. That said, we recognize the limitations of a top down approach, and as such we must ensure that we engage and garner the support of our teams, from coast to coast to coast, through continuing the dialogue, targeting our investments and taking measurable actions to bring about the change that so many Canadians expect of us and our department. We look forward to reporting on our progress.

Yours sincerely,

Christiane Fox
Deputy Minister, Indigenous Services Canada

Valerie Gideon
Associate Deputy Minister, Indigenous Services Canada

Annex A: Indigenous Career Development – Programs Suite



First Nations and Inuit Health Branch Indigenous Navigation Team

The Indigenous Navigators support ISC Indigenous employee recruitment, retention and advancement within the department. The navigators are available to assist Indigenous employees, located across the country, with mapping out career paths, creating learning plans, advising on how to be successful in staffing processes, drafting resumes and cover letters, preparing for interviews and exams, finding new opportunities and more. The navigators also assist managers looking to staff Indigenous candidates.

Indigenous Career Management for Employees (ICME)

ICME enables Indigenous employees at the EX minus 3 level and lower to:

  • improve career opportunities
  • develop and enhance leadership skills
  • broaden their experience
  • be more effective in their current position
  • be better prepared to take on new challenges.

The program uses a mix of job training, coaching and self-assessment exercises to help participants develop their skills and knowledge. A 2-year learning and career development plan is mapped out and tailored to individual developmental objectives. ICME will cover all program-related courses and training costs for employees of ISC.

Indigenous Management Development Program (IMDP)

The IMDP is designed to increase Indigenous representation at senior levels. This program supports indeterminate, self-identified Indigenous employees of 5 participating departments who occupy a position at the EX minus 1 level, EX minus 2 or EX minus 3 level in a regional office. The program focuses on the development of practical leadership and managerial skills through challenging, hands-on assignments covering program, policy and operations. Candidates will each have a customized career plan, supported by coaches and mentors with networking opportunities. Candidates will also have the opportunities to take on different roles and experience different aspects of management and accountability for projects. The program consists of 2 one-year assignments and classroom learning. It is complemented by up to 1 year of language training to reach the bilingual (BBB) level in their second official language, depending upon each candidate’s linguistic profile.

Aboriginal Peoples Employment Program (APEP)

The APEP is a pathway to reconciliation. It is a best practice fulfilling the commitment to increase Indigenous representation as prioritized in the Many Voices, One Mind report. It serves to increase Indigenous cultural competency for all employees, creating a necessary paradigm shift that improves the lives of Indigenous Peoples and brings us closer to the objective of devolution. Rooted in genuine inclusiveness, it was created by the Aboriginal Employee Network and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch. It is governed and managed with Indigenous expertise, a key to its success. Launched in 2015, it is now confirmed for the whole of ISC.

Indigenous Student Employment Program (ISEP)

The ISEP seeks to recruit and develop Indigenous employees by providing students with opportunities to expand their job skills and develop the cultural competencies required to work with First Nations and Inuit. It also provides managers with access to a pool of highly motivated and culturally aware individuals who can be bridged into full time employment once they graduate. The ISEP is open to First Nations, Inuit and Métis students.

Indigenous Cultures and Learning Program

Introduction to Indigenous Cultures Course is a dispersed training where participants gain cultural knowledge of the 3 distinct groups of Indigenous Peoples in Canada: First Nations, Inuit and Metis. Participants will learn about their histories, cultures, traditions, values, health issues, socio-economic concerns, beliefs and the current challenges they face.

Official Languages Training for Indigenous Employees (OLTIE)

Part-time language training is available for Indigenous employees. ISC and CIRNAC support their employees in the achievement of their language skills objectives, whether these relate to statutory requirements, to development, or to maintain their level. This training is offered annually and is a key component to build a strong, vibrant and diverse workforce to meet current and future human resources and departmental needs.

Aboriginal Leadership Development Initiative (ALDI)

ALDI further develops the leadership competencies of talented Indigenous employees at the aspiring director’s level. It is based on a 2-eyed seeing model which uses the strengths of the ways of knowing, being and doing, of both the public service and Indigenous Peoples. It also leverages Indigenous experiential learning, wise practices in Indigenous leadership, and cultural competency, with contributions from Indigenous and non-Indigenous public service executives as well as Indigenous community leaders.

Annex B: Employee Networks – Overview

Annex C: Data Annexes


Employment equity (EE) categories and workforce availability estimates



Indigenous Peoples

Person with disabilities

Visible minorities

March 31, 2021





Workforce Availability Estimate





Visible minorities by sub-groups



Mixed origin


South Asian or East Indian

Non-White West Asian, North African, Arab

Other visible minorities

Total visible minorities

March 31, 2020








March 31, 2021








Hiring, departure and executive appointments of Indigenous employees and Black and racialized employees

ISC - fiscal year 2020 to 2021

Total number of employees

Indigenous employees

Black employees

Racialized employees











Appointed to executive positions (non-EX to EX)





Appointed within executive positions (EX to EX)





ISC - fiscal year 2019 to 2020

Total number of employees

Indigenous employees

Black employees

Racialized employees











Appointed to executive positions (non-EX to EX)





Appointed within executive positions (EX to EX)





*Note: Numbers supressed due to protection of privacy concerns (number less than 5)

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