National Film Board of Canada
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion
Summer 2021 update
Dear Ms. Charette,
I am writing in response to your letter of June 28, 2021, to report on the measures and actions taken by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) to implement the Call to Action on Anti-racism, Equity and Inclusion.
The NFB’s mandate is to create distinctive and original audiovisual works that reflect Canada and its diverse perspectives, and to share these works with Canadians and the rest of the world.
We collaborate with filmmakers and creators from across the country to produce outstanding documentaries, animated films and interactive and immersive projects rooted in Canadian experiences and realities.
The NFB unveiled this year its commitments and objectives toward diversity, equity and inclusion in a plan aimed at bringing about lasting and meaningful change, and creating an egalitarian, open and diverse organization.
Launched in February 2021, the plan contains tangible measures and objectives that will have repercussions throughout the organization’s culture, in particular on its recruitment, production and distribution methods.
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. NFB Commitments and Objectives, February 2021:
The objectives outlined in our plan are to:
- eliminate systemic racism and unconscious bias;
- reflect the Canadian population;
- prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion;
- lead by example;
- ensure lasting change at the NFB.
In concrete terms, the NFB is committed to ensuring that its programming equitably includes the voices of artists from underrepresented groups (Indigenous, Black, racialized and LGBTQ2+ communities, and people with disabilities).
The NFB is in the process of establishing a formal dialogue and feedback process in order to include the perspectives of directors and co-producers from underrepresented identities across the country. Priority actions include ensuring that creators from underrepresented identities are included on the various NFB Creation and Innovation committees.
Additionally, in its plan to redefine its relationship with Indigenous Peoples, the NFB made a commitment to implement strategic and concrete actions that will respond to the work and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the concerns of Indigenous creators regarding systemic inequities in Canada’s current production environment.
One of the commitments in this action plan is to ensure that Indigenous‐led production at the NFB represents a minimum of 15 percent of our overall production spending.
In practical terms, the NFB has committed to:
- create a senior position (Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) responsible for equity and anti-racist practices;
- create the position of Director of Indigenous Relations and Community Engagement to forge closer ties with Indigenous communities, improve representation among NFB employees and advise the NFB on issues related to the production and distribution of NFB works;
- improve hiring practices to ensure that by March 31, 2023, the workforce across the organization and within various levels is more diverse and reflective of Canadian society;
- provide an equitable space within the NFB’s programming for Indigenous, Black, racialized and LGBTQ2+ communities, and people with disabilities;
- implement a governance structure in matters of diversity, equity and inclusion; establish an annual action plan with measurable targets; and produce annual reports on these targets;
- provide training and awareness sessions for NFB staff.
The NFB also signed up for the 50–30 Challenge in January 2021, a Government of Canada initiative for companies and organizations that support diversity. The NFB is firmly committed to fulfilling the program’s objectives.
The NFB’s various actions are guided by the nine measures of the Call to Action. Recruiting two new senior managers, who will be central to all strategic decisions made by the organization, will be a catalyst in this regard.
Measures and results
In achieving the hiring targets announced in its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan, the NFB will:
- develop the cultural expertise needed to forge closer ties with Canada’s various Indigenous and ethnocultural communities;
- improve the representation of these communities among its workforce so that it can make informed decisions regarding the numerous issues related to the production and distribution of its works.
NFB teams are collaborating on and taking part in various initiatives with organizations that represent equity-seeking groups, as well as with underrepresented communities in Canada’s audiovisual industry, to increase the organization’s sensitivity and openness to diversity, equity and inclusion issues.
Such actions allow us to plan equitable programming that includes the voices of artists from underrepresented communities, and to help ensure that these voices resonate and connect with a growing number of people across the country and around the world.
The NFB is also tapping into the multilingual capabilities (other than English and French) and the cultural skills and expertise of its workforce (including external freelancers and partners) in its production and distribution of audiovisual works.
Challenges and barriers
We have encountered challenges and, quite obviously, are facing constraints in the implementation of the Call to Action. A shortage of executives and senior managers from underrepresented communities is a major obstacle in this matter.
To mitigate this situation, the NFB is ensuring that all of its directors general, directors, executive producers and producers are representative of Canadian diversity, and that they include members of underrepresented groups (Indigenous, Black, racialized and LGBTQ2+ communities, and people with disabilities) at all times.
To achieve this objective, starting in March 2021, at least half of new hires must come from these groups.
Response from staff
We have engaged our workforce in implementing the Call to Action.
In focus groups on systemic racism, our employees communicated that they felt as though there was a glass ceiling, limited career-advancement options and different treatment by managers.
To remedy this matter, we paid special attention to this situation in developing our plan. Engaging our workforce has hinged on the following initiatives and working groups:
- The Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which includes staff members from various NFB departments and offices.
- The BIPOC working group, an advisory committee made up of executive producers and producers from the Creation and Innovation division, tasked with advising on diversity and representation issues within the division and on related NFB-wide initiatives.
- Discussion workshops on systemic racism
- Held virtually on a collaborative platform, these workshops were aimed at starting a discussion about systemic racism and its repercussions on the NFB’s workforce, and at providing a forum for victims of racism to talk about their experiences within the organization.
- The sessions took place on July 29 and 30, August 19 and 20, October 14 and 21, and November 18 and 25, 2020.
- A three-part training program for members of the NFB’s Creation and Innovation division to raise awareness about the realities of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples:
- The sessions were held on February 1 and 11 and March 15, 2021, over Zoom. They covered the following topics:
- Indigenous history and circumstances;
- awareness of the Indigenous world;
- collaboration between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people (interactive workshop).
- The sessions were held on February 1 and 11 and March 15, 2021, over Zoom. They covered the following topics:
- Numerous online activities in 2020–2021, including the following:
- Building Diversity and Inclusion for Managers in the Public Service (session offered by the Canada School of Public Service, February 2021);
- Understanding Anti-Black Racism and How to Be an Ally (discussion held by the Canada School of Public Service, July 2020);
- Black Canadian history (interactive game on the Language Portal of Canada, February 2021);
- Diversity and Inclusion Marathon (sessions offered by LifeSpeak, November 2020);
- Cultural Reclamation and Creating Positive Space for Two-Spirit Persons (webcast by the Canada School of Public Service, October 2020);
- An online screening on professional development and cultural competency for federal civil servants across Canada, held on March 4, 2021, in association with the Prairie Federal Council and Indigenous Services Canada. Led by Deputy Minister Daniel Quan-Watson and facilitated by Deputy Minister Dylan Jones, the three-hour session was attended by 1,200 people, who watched the NFB film nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up and took part in a post-screening discussion with special guests Jade Tootoosis, Eleanore Sunchild and Sheelah McLean.
- An Interunion committee is being created to facilitate and support the implementation of the NFB’s diversity and inclusion commitments. The committee includes representatives from three NFB unions (the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Syndicat général du cinéma et de la télévision).
With its 2020–2023 Strategic Plan, the NFB wants to be an agent of change and a leader in its field by setting some of the highest goals in terms of diversity and inclusion.
Many of the actions set out in this plan will help maintain momentum and address the challenges that have been identified.
To this end, our priorities for the coming year are as follows:
- We are committed to combatting systemic racism at the NFB and within Canadian cultural institutions.
- We are developing procedures and channels for speaking out against discrimination and racism.
- We are working actively with the BIPOC community, both internally and externally.
- We continue to work with our Indigenous Advisory Committee.
- We remain committed to achieving our gender-parity objectives.
- We continue to promote the coexistence of English- and French-speaking cultures, each of which has their own realities, and to provide a voice for minority-language communities; and we continue to champion Canada’s linguistic duality, the cornerstone of our national identity.
Our programming already reflects our relationship with BIPOC or otherwise diverse artists. But we have much further to go, which is why we intend to:
- work on tangible mechanisms;
- make and adhere to clear commitments;
- make racialized groups more visible, both in front of and behind the camera; and
- with the greatest respect, embody the slogan, “Nothing about us without us.”
To this end, we are being more dynamic in our search for new talent by moving outside of our usual circles:
- We are seeking out artists to whom the NFB seems inaccessible.
- We are being proactive in recruiting both internal and external production teams, paying special attention to retaining staff.
- We are adapting our production practices and approaches to the specific natures of the creative groups, whatever they may be.
Additionally, the NFB is working to implement new self-identification methods and establish respectful, clear, practical and transparent data-collection mechanisms to ensure that all service contracts are accessible to a wide range of people and businesses with diverse backgrounds. These measures will allow us to respectfully monitor, and work toward improving and reaffirming, our commitment to increasing representation from artists and partners from equity-seeking groups.
This, in a nutshell, is what the NFB is doing in various areas to implement the Call to Action on Anti-racism, Equity, and Inclusion.
I remain available to provide any further details you might find helpful.
Commissioner and Chairperson of the National Film Board of Canada
Employment equity (Self-identification)
Persons with disabilities
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