Office of the National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces Ombudsman
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion
Summer 2021 update
Dear Ms. Charette,
This correspondence summarizes the efforts the Office of Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces has taken to implement the Call to Action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the Federal Public Service. Over the past 12 months, we have acted to remove barriers and create opportunities for equity-deserving groups, in line with the Call to Action.
While creating a diverse and inclusive workplace has been a long-standing priority for our office, we acknowledge that we still have work ahead of us. The significant events that unfolded around the world in 2020, including the increased public focus on the systemic racism affecting many Black, Indigenous and racialized people, caused our office to become especially focused on anti-racism and inclusion. The Call to Action strengthened our efforts to effect positive change for equity-deserving groups and to drive diversity and inclusion within our organization. Over the past year, we have modified our approach to advancing anti-racism, equity and inclusion. As a result, we have made significant advancements in several areas. I am pleased to report that our work has only begun and we continue to incorporate diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality considerations in both our internal- and external-facing work.
The following demonstrates our progress in implementing the Call to Action:
- Acknowledging and commemorating emerging societal issues and incidents. Myself, the office Champion for Diversity and Inclusion, and our Gender Based Analysis (GBA) Plus Committee shared messages, dedicated resources, and hosted 32 events and speakers over the last six months related to mental health and education on topics specific to Black, Indigenous and racialized groups;
- Further promoting the professional development and career advancement of equity-deserving groups. Our office has implemented a virtual second official language training program. Nearly half of the participants (47%) self-declared as a member of an employment equity group;
- Increasing representation of equity-deserving groups by leveraging student programs, including the Indigenous Student Employment Opportunity, and using employment equity as a criteria when hiring through the Federal Student Workplace Experience Program;
- Collaborating with federal organizations within the Canadian Forum of Ombudsman Offices (CFOO) community. The Champion for Diversity and Inclusion launched a CFOO Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and an initiative to create diverse pools for selection boards for staffing processes at all classification levels;
- Opening meetings with an Indigenous territorial acknowledgment. Senior leaders use internal meetings as an opportunity to discuss the importance of reconciliation and to raise awareness around racism, accessibility, equity, and inclusion;
- Engaging and consulting employee communities and networks, both internal and external to our office, such as our internal GBA Plus Committee and the external Defence Team Black Employees Network, on numerous fronts such as communication and staffing;
- Continuing to support our robust employee-driven committees in the important work they do on diversity, inclusion, mental health, and morale, such as our GBA Plus Committee, Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) Committee, and Healthy Workplace Committee;
- Working to eliminate systemic barriers in staffing processes, including proactively removing the word count limits within applications;
- Prioritizing employment equity, 100% of our staffing actions since 1 April 2021 involved hiring or promoting an employee that self-identified in one or more employment equity groups;
- Introducing and mandating various training and courses including unconscious bias training, plain language training and trauma-informed training; and
- Continuing to promote diversity and inclusion by publishing products in five Indigenous languages, using gender-inclusive language in our reports, and providing videos on our website in American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language.
2. Performance measurement and results:
In 2020, our office conducted an anonymous internal workplace assessment to provide a snapshot in time of the overall health of our office. The survey generated some positive responses and revealed several areas for improvement. We are developing an action plan to mitigate these areas.
In terms of employment equity, our office has a gap in our goal for the recruitment of persons with disabilities and Indigenous peoples. Moving forward, we will establish a robust performance measurement system allowing us to track results, gaps and areas for future improvement.
From the employee workplace experience perspective, we had, once again, highly positive PSES 2020 results in the areas of mental health, diversity and inclusion, and leadership. In these domains, our results ranged from 94% to 100%, with a response rate of 80% for our office.
3. Challenges and barriers:
Changing mindsets and resistance to change remain challenges in recruiting talent into our organization, especially when looking at recruitment from across Canada. The use of National Defence’s network as it operates on a regional model, causes challenges in equipping and supporting users within different regions, especially those without National Defence facilities.
Official language requirements have been identified as a potential systemic barrier for equity-deserving allophone groups or those without access to language training. As a proudly bilingual organization, proficiency in both English and French is a requirement for majority of employees. We will be engaging with the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer moving forward to consider options to reduce barriers to those equity-deserving groups proficient in only one of Canada’s two official languages within our hiring processes.
4. Employee Response:
The Office has stood up several internal employee-driven working groups and committees focused on wellness, diversity, and inclusion. High employee engagement in these groups has provided equity-deserving employees with the opportunity to engage with senior leaders and directly contribute to positive change within our organization. Employees must include Gender Based Analysis Plus considerations in all aspects of their work.
As a client-focused organization, we will continue to strive towards the provision of barrier free, accessible service offerings and an inclusive environment. This includes expanding upon the efforts listed above and working towards eliminating employment equity gaps through the targeted recruitment of persons with disabilities and Indigenous peoples.
Our priorities specific to diversity and inclusion over the coming year include:
- consulting, engaging and finalizing the development of an accessibility strategy;
- enhancing efforts to reconcile with Indigenous peoples by raising awareness of and encouraging learning and training opportunities of critical issues, continuing recruitment of Indigenous peoples and tendering contracts to Indigenous-owned businesses;
- working towards removing the barriers involved with recruitment outside the NCR.
- bringing more awareness to the benefits of self-identification in the recruitment process;
- reviewing staffing processes and position requirements to eliminate systemic barriers;
- conducting targeted recruitment campaigns of persons with disabilities and Indigenous people;
- ensure that all initiatives within our office include an intersectional lens; and
- publish our systemic investigation into diversity issues within the DND and CAF including employment equity.
Our office has identified a gap in data and metrics to measure performance in many of these areas. While we have metrics on self-identification, as a micro-organization, we must remain conscious of the need to balance publication of performance metrics with privacy. Currently, we are developing a quantitative method to demonstrate our progress moving forward.
To conclude, my office and I firmly commit to continue working towards the key areas in the Call to Action. Anti-racism, equity, and inclusion can only be achieved through coordinated, collective, and ongoing efforts at all levels in our organization and within the public service.
We must continue to strengthen our collective commitment to our Indigenous, Black, and racialized employees as we move forward in addressing remaining gaps, removing barriers, and improving their wellbeing. The steps we have taken so far begin the work of long overdue changes. Diversity and inclusiveness remain a priority.
Gregory A. Lick
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