Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion
Summer 2021 update
Dear Ms. Charette:
Parks Canada is committed to implementing the Call to Action on Anti‑Racism, Equity and Inclusion. The Agency is taking a conscientious approach and concerted actions to remove systemic barriers and discriminatory practices faced by Black people, Indigenous peoples, people of colour, the LGBTQ2+ community, and people with disabilities. Striving for equity, diversity, and inclusion is a long-term commitment. Parks Canada is pursuing that commitment through engagement and collaboration, along with seeking to ensure that all communities are represented at all levels of the Agency.
Horizontally Integrating and Championing
One of the actions that Parks Canada is taking toward implementing the Call to Action is creating a new position, Senior Director, Values and Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion. The position will report to the President & Chief Executive Officer and will be a member of the Senior Management Committee of the Agency. This new position will co-ordinate an Agency-wide approach toward combating racism, racial discrimination, removing systemic barriers and implementing initiatives, policies, and programs that improve diversity and inclusion at Parks Canada.
Parks Canada has also created an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council and a new champion structure for equity-seeking groups. The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council is chaired by the President & Chief Executive Officer and is made up of co‑champions and leads for equity-seeking groups, Senior Management Committee members, the Parks Canada Ombudsperson, and the GBA+ Focal Point, as well as representatives of bargaining units and from recognized equity group networks. Some of the council’s main responsibilities are to provide advice and support to senior management on horizontal integration of efforts across the Agency’s policies, programs and activities.
The co-champions act as ambassadors to ensure that the voices of Indigenous employees, people of colour employees, Black employees, women employees, employees with disabilities, LGBTQ2+ employees and their allies are being heard, promoted and represented across the Agency. Official Languages also have co‑champions. Further, the Agency has developed employee networks, and the co-champions are responsible for ensuring that these networks are nurtured and that their voices are included in the identification, design and implementation of Agency-wide actions.
In addition to specific Parks Canada initiatives, the Agency also recognizes the importance of horizontal governmental efforts, and is participating in the steering committee comprising of different government departments for the development of the Black leaders program. Parks Canada’s Atlantic Executive Director’s office was included as the host of one participant on the pilot program.
Planning and Engaging
Parks Canada has also developed a Diversity and Inclusion vision that sees a workplace that is representative of Canada’s diversity, where employees feel welcome and can reach their potential. Right now, the Agency is developing an organization-wide Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan in consultation with employee communities and networks. This action plan is focusing specifically on a work culture that values diversity and combats racism and addresses any and all, including systemic barriers; nurturing leadership and people to reflect Canada’s diversity and promoting inclusion in the workplace; and ensuring that policies and programs, initiatives, and practices, in terms of their impact on all groups, particularly disadvantaged groups, are inclusive and free of systemic racism and barriers.
In the meantime, a number of Parks Canada field units have been putting in place equity committees and developing their action plans. Some field units have delivered awareness training, conducted or are in the process of conducting accessibility audits, adopted the principle of affirmative action in their staffing, re‑assessed their interpretive offer, established partnerships with equity organizations, and many other efforts. The approach of shared leadership and of sharing best practices will ensure that the Agency is able to move further, faster.
Parks Canada’s Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage Directorate has also launched an employee-led network this year to take immediate steps to open a dialogue on racism and promote diversity and inclusion within the workplace. This network on diversity and inclusion is composed of four working groups: Raising Awareness and Understanding; Addressing Biases in our Work; Building a More Diverse Workforce; and Building Relationships with Racially Diverse Partners. In its first few months, the network created an evergreen learning list, hosted an immersive learning activity on racism, and launched a research project into best and innovative employment practices relevant to the Directorate.
Parks Canada employees are playing a critical role in developing and implementing actions as part of the Agency’s efforts on equity, diversity and inclusion. Employees are engaged, supportive, and want to continue to make sure that the organization’s workforce represents the diversity of Canada, that the organization stands for anti‑racism, and that all employees feel included and are treated equitably. As an example, it is from consultations and employees’ feedback that a champion was named for Black employees, in addition to the co‑champions for people of colour employees.
The dialogue on racism has also been furthered at Parks Canada through a ground-up effort by staff in the Protected Areas and Conservation Directorate to develop a special theme for the 2020–2021 Conservation Ecowebinars series: Addressing racism and unconscious bias in conservation practice. Guest speakers joined the group to present and lead discussions. A special session called “Our Space” that focused on dialogue and actions to support diversity and inclusion closed the series. The event was intended to be a launch pad for colleagues to collectively grow space for authentic and welcoming conversations and actions that celebrate and respect different ways of knowing, different perspectives and different lived experiences.
Supporting and Sponsoring
Supporting the training of its employees is a priority for Parks Canada. In this regard, the Agency has developed the Indigenous Employee Training Fund. It offers support to Indigenous employees in their professional development. The fund is Parks Canada’s tangible response toward addressing barriers to retention, career development and advancement of Indigenous employees.
The Agency is further supporting the personal learning of senior management and employees on racism, reconciliation, accessibility, equity and inclusion, and fostering a safe, positive environment. All employees are encouraged to take unconscious bias training. The Agency has also launched a self-paced Indigenous Affairs Learning Series. It offers an opportunity for employees to deepen their knowledge of Indigenous matters. In complement to the learning series, Parks Canada has introduced the Elder in Residence pilot program. It provides employees, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, an opportunity to have open and respectful discussions directly with an Indigenous Elder. The program also supports increasing knowledge and understanding of Indigenous peoples’ cultures, perspectives and realities; and it provides Indigenous‑specific emotional, cultural and psychological support.
Furthermore, Parks Canada is committed to implementing the Many Voices One Mind: A Pathway to Reconciliation Report Action Plan to support transformational change within the Public Service. The Many Voices One Mind report was launched as a whole‑of‑government strategy that seeks to reduce and remove barriers to Public Service employment encountered by Indigenous peoples. The 2019–2020 Departmental Progress Scorecard is the first scorecard that Parks Canada completed. The scorecard has created a baseline for information on employment of Indigenous peoples at the Agency and highlights areas where more work is required.
As an example of Parks Canada’s commitment to supporting Indigenous employees, the Parks Canada Nunavut Field Unit is continuing to improve employment equity strategies and to implement the Inuit Employment Plan that aims to reach 85 percent representation of Inuit, an obligation under the Nunavut Agreement. The field unit is currently adapting its organizational model to improve local capacity building and increase its chances of success. Keeping with a whole-of-government approach, Parks Canada has put into place multiple initiatives supporting diversity and inclusion, including manager trainees, Inuit Employees Network, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit Day planning, and an education support fund, while continuing to working closely with Pilimmaksaivik (Federal Centre of Excellence for Inuit Employment in Nunavut).
Parks Canada is also developing a Mentorship Plus Program, comprising of both mentorship and sponsorship components. While the mentorship component of the program will be open to all employees, the sponsorship component will be for high-potential employees from equity-seeking groups that demonstrate strong competencies. Senior executives will advocate on behalf of these high-potential employees, and this sponsorship will position these employees for development and career advancement opportunities. Furthermore, recognizing that some positions within the Agency require bilingualism, Parks Canada offers in-house second language training. Lastly, as middle managers are in a particularly key position to improve diversity and inclusion, training specifically for this group is being integrated into semi-annual training to improve support at all levels.
In addition, Parks Canada is supporting its employees in other ways. An example of this is the Agency’s recent development and adoption of the Directive on Inclusive Sanitary Facility Design. It is important that all people have access to washrooms that they can use with ease and dignity. For employees, washrooms have important effects on their health, well-being and performance. Although primarily focused on the new design or major modernization of visitor facilities, the Directive on Inclusive Sanitary Facility Design will provide an inclusive washroom for some employees and has raised awareness and positioned the Agency for more advancement in facilities it does not control. The implementation of this Directive is recognized as a priority by the Agency in its annual Departmental Plan.
Parks Canada has also painted a rainbow crosswalk to connect trails at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. The rainbow crosswalk incorporates the 11 colours of the Progress Pride Flag to show support for all members of Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and beyond (2SLGBTQIA+) communities. Specifically, the Progress Pride Flag incorporates light blue, pink and white from the Transgender Pride Flag, plus brown and black to represent marginalized 2SLGBTQIA+ communities of colour and Black communities, as well as community members living with HIV/AIDS, and those lost to the disease.
Parks Canada has also empowered its employees to express themselves. The Agency has collaborated with the Orange Shirt Society to make an Orange Shirt pin available for Parks Canada team members. The pin can be worn with the Parks Canada uniform by public-facing staff. These pins allow team members to visibly stand in solidarity with residential school survivors and Indigenous communities across the country, including Indigenous Parks Canada employees, and are a tangible symbol of the Agency’s commitment to reconciliation and renewed relationships with Indigenous peoples. This pin is a complement to the wearing of orange shirts by staff who are not serving the public on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as well as other days and events where Canadians reflect on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and the legacy and impacts of residential schools.
Similarly, Parks Canada has introduced a Pride pin to wear on the uniform during Pride events and celebrations. These pins allow Parks Canada team members to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ2+ communities and celebrate that Parks Canada–administered places should be a welcoming place for all Canadians, including members of LGBTQ2+ communities.
As with all celebration and commemoration pins worn on the uniform, the Parks Canada Orange Shirt pins and the Parks Canada Pride pins are available to all Agency team members and are worn on a voluntary basis.
Reviewing and Recruiting
This year, Parks Canada has engaged a consultant to perform an Employment Systems Review of the organization. The review will be an in-depth assessment of all employment systems, policies and practices and the manner in which these are implemented. It will identify barriers to the full employment of under-represented designated groups by occupational group or category. Following the review, the Agency will take any required corrective action to ensure that identified barriers are removed.
Recruitment is another area where Parks Canada is proactively taking specific actions in response to the Call to Action. These actions include hiring new senior management executives and employees from the Black and other racialized communities, as well as the targeted appointment of an Indigenous superintendent for the Western Arctic Field Unit. Additionally, as part of its hiring process, the Agency is strengthening its existing partnerships and reaching out to communities and organizations that it may not have connected with in the past.
The Agency has also developed a Youth Ambassador Program for youth to contribute through field unit positions. Youth from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply and are engaged in delivering a variety of activities on diversity and inclusion that are to be implemented at the field unit level. Furthermore, in 2021–2022, as part of the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, Parks Canada is directly employing over 1 000 youth and has committed to ensuring that a minimum of 35 percent of those employed are youth who face barriers to employment, Indigenous youth, and racialized youth. The objectives of the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy are to help youth navigate through the labour market and to successfully transition into sustained employment. Youth are being employed in four streams: operations and service delivery; Indigenous youth stewardship/guardians; outreach to diversity communities in Canada; and a team of youth within the Agency focused on advancing diversity and inclusion within Parks Canada.
Parks Canada already has an initial baseline for the recruitment, departure and promotion of its employment equity employees, and the Agency will be developing additional performance metrics to measure the effective implementation of its diversity and inclusion measures.
While the above content is primarily focused on employees, Parks Canada is also taking significant actions to be inclusive in how it operates and to address anti-racism, equity and inclusion issues for Canadians.
In its work, Parks Canada is investing in conservation projects that support fostering the involvement of Indigenous partners in resource conservation work and exemplifying Indigenous leadership in conservation. In 2020–2021, seven pilot projects were funded that support work with Indigenous partners on conservation issues of mutual interest, and 74 percent of Conservation and Restoration projects engage Indigenous people. In 2020, Parks Canada held a collaborative workshop with Indigenous partners to co-develop the methodology by which the Agency could measure success in engaging Indigenous people and Indigenous Knowledge in Conservation and Restoration projects.
Additionally, some examples of Parks Canada’s initiatives aimed at Canadians are:
- Providing funding through a contribution agreement to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation for the commemoration of residential school history in Canada;
- Partnering with the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, Terra Nova National Park developed two social stories on staying in an oTENTik and using a washroom; and
- Refreshing the Signal Hill exhibit to incorporate new technologies and design to improve accessibility.
This letter demonstrates Parks Canada’s commitment to implementing the Call to Action. In the coming years, the Agency will continue to act proactively, taking specific and meaningful actions that showcase its leadership in advancing anti‑racism, equity and inclusion.
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