Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion

Summer 2021 update

Dear Interim Clerk,

In March 2021, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) wrote you a letter outlining how we would contribute to making the public service more equitable, inclusive and reflective of the nation it serves. Today, we are pleased to inform you of our progress and how CIRNAC is further implementing the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the federal public service.

We know that our goals are not possible if we do not engrain equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism into every facet of our department. Within CIRNAC, a collaborative and interconnected model is employed to achieve these objectives. It consists of:

This model also includes an organized and deliberate set of conversations designed to identify both the costs that our lack of diversity has had and the sometimes very difficult environments that far too many of our colleagues have lived. They were victim of inappropriate, discriminatory and harassing behaviours, while they were simply seeking to contribute fully within Canada’s public service. We have engaged with these key players in order to prepare this update.

Collaboration, as well as sharing of information and resources with our partners is a key approach to our efforts to respond to the call to action. On many fronts, CIRNAC works closely with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) through the use of joint programming, policies and shared services to ensure employees in both departments will benefit from these efforts. This partnership is a key strength towards making both departments and the federal public service as a whole, employers of choice.

We are asking that senior managers and executives within CIRNAC focus their efforts to address 3 main questions:

  1. where have we not served Canada and Canadians as well or as effectively as we could have because of who we have not brought to the table as part of our organizations
  2. who are we consistently failing to attract or retain in our organizations and why
  3. what is going on inside our organizations that makes it difficult or impossible for those who we need to be attracting, retaining, and asking to join or remain in our organizations or to encourage others to do so

Our efforts need to not only be focused on specific initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion in our ranks but most importantly to look at fixing what is broken in our system. For this to happen, all senior managers must be held accountable to answer these questions, commit to real reform and report on concrete improvements. Only then can our efforts truly lay the groundwork for employees from all walks of life to feel safe, respected and valued at CIRNAC.

Employee response

Including employee voices

Over the past year, CIRNAC employees have taught, inspired and delivered a new sense of hope throughout our organization. Their advocacy has highlighted inequality affecting all underrepresented public servants. The words and the voices of all CIRNAC employees, including those from racialized and marginalized communities, are actively guiding our path forward.

Employees support the call to action by leading organizational initiatives and celebrations that incorporate diverse histories and lived realities into the workplace. Dialogues in celebration of accessibility, Black history and Two-Spirit and LGBTQQIA+ inclusion were led by employees across the organization to address racism and systemic barriers. CIRNAC has an employee-led, positive space initiative and training with facilitators and ambassadors to support Two-Spirit and LGBTQQIA+ staff members and allies by providing 9 hours of training as well as activities designed for all staff to participate and learn from.

As of August 2021, 17 Positive Space sessions have taken place and it is anticipated that a total of 40 sessions will be held by the end of December (including 4 sessions for senior management). We have also committed to support our Two-Spirit and LGBTQQIA+ network in working towards implementing the recommendations of the LGBT Purge Fund’s report: Emerging from the Purge. A new Peer Support Program at CIRNAC also provides a supportive relationship between employees who have lived experiences in common. The Peer Support Program's objective is to support and empower employees coping with mental health issues to find their path to wellness.

Each of our employee networks (Annex A) amplifies the voices and unique perspectives of underrepresented groups. They work towards changing the culture and structure of our organization for the betterment of all, including those whom the call to action is specifically targeted to.

Under the guidance of our diversity and inclusion executive champion, employee co-champions support each employee network and can bring their insights directly to senior management. This relationship gives network members direct access to senior officials and helps to ensure that a diversity and inclusion lens is applied to policy and program development. In addition, CIRNAC's Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, which includes members from all diverse networks, provides an intersectional forum that promotes collaboration and information sharing. This working group’s governance is set out in a charter and terms of reference that inform development of annual action plans to promote diversity and inclusion.

We have heard directly from staff that immediate action that touches on people and structural change is needed, not more plans to act. Therefore, our department is working with employee networks to fundamentally rethink the impact of diversity and inclusion on the delivery of CIRNAC's mandate. 


Enabling employee communities

CIRNAC will advance diversity and inclusion goals by providing grassroots networks and communities necessary resources and access to senior executive tables to inform decisions. CIRNAC's internal service providers support departmental efforts to meet the Government of Canada's commitments on diversity and inclusion.

Human Resources and Workplace Services Branch (HRWSB) being one of the shared services is working on making both organizations fully compliant with the Accessible Canada Act and with the changes to the Public Service Employment Equity Act and the Public Service Commission’s Appointment Delegation and Accountability Instrument. HRWSB also houses the Corporate Indigenous Workforce Directorate, which is currently working towards improving Indigenous recruitment and retention. At this time, CIRNAC continues to ensure it stays fully compliant with the new Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention Regulations under Part II of the Canada Labour Code. The department shared its new policy with all employees in early January, all required workplace assessment were conducted with measures identified by each sector and tools are now available to support employees and managers to understand their rights and duties.

In October 2020, CIRNAC established a new Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Secretariat, now housed within HRWSB. The secretariat is a strong coordinating body that provides support across the organization and ensures that our department's diversity, inclusion and anti-racism goals maintain momentum and focus. The secretariat actively liaises with other government departments and all internal partners, including employee groups, to provide senior management recommendations and support departmental initiatives. The executive leadership of the secretariat is a permanent member of all senior management tables, bringing vital, inclusive employee perspectives into our organization's management.

The Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Secretariat continues to work to create more formal channels of communication within all sectors and regions and work with the middle manager communities to include voices from diverse backgrounds to help identifying systemic racism, discrimination and barriers to inclusion within the department.

Other coordinating bodies include the Indigenous Employee Secretariat, which serves CIRNAC and ISC employees. This shared service supports the work of Indigenous Advisory Circles and Indigenous employee networks in each sector and region, while serving as an information centre through which Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees can inquire about various Indigenous-related programs, initiatives, and events. These units play critical roles in promoting the hiring and retention of Indigenous employees and making CIRNAC an employer of choice.

A proposal to add a new independent and impartial Ombudsperson office to our department's governance structure has been adopted and the creation of the office is currently in development. We will engage in consultations with various departmental partners and underrepresented groups on the functions and overall strategy of engagement within the organization. This office would provide CIRNAC with a new venue to track, report and resolve instances of harassment and discrimination experienced by employees in the workplace to a greater degree. It is anticipated that the Ombudsperson office will be established by March 31, 2022.

An example of collaboration between our employee networks, departmental service providers, senior management and accountability bodies was the endorsement of implementing universal accessible washrooms throughout the Les Terrasses de la Chaudière complex, where our headquarters is located. This initiative gathered together 2SLGBTQQIA+ employees and the various Diversity and Inclusion Working Groups of Canadian Heritage (PCH), the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), CIRNAC as well as ISC, Accommodation Services and the various departmental senior management tables. As a result, all 4 departments have committed to include universal accessible washrooms as part of their GCWorkplace retrofits. 

As a department, we continue to engage at all levels to make our work more equitable, diverse and inclusive in its approach. There is no path to reconciliation without making real structural changes to combat racism, harassment and discrimination. To this end, Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) continues to be applied on all cabinet documents, including memoranda to cabinet, Treasury Board submissions, and budget submissions. The inclusion of this intersectional lens ensures that the impacts of our departmental initiatives on diverse groups of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, men, women, 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, youth, Elders, and persons with disabilities are considered.

The department engages directly with Indigenous women’s organizations on GBA Plus through the Indigenous Women’s Well-Being Advisory Committee. The committee is an interdepartmental forum that includes CIRNAC, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Women and Gender Equality Canada and ISC. The committee is working to support Indigenous Women’s Organizations to create Indigenous-led, distinctions-based, GBA Plus frameworks and tools that will inform culturally-competent GBA Plus within and outside the Government of Canada. The CIRNAC GBA Plus Centre of Expertise launched an internal network to share information and build capacity for GBA Plus in the department, and all sectors across the department have nominated a GBA Plus focal point to support the consistent and robust inclusion of an intersectional, culturally-competent GBA Plus lens across all policies, programs and initiatives. We are also piloting Anti-Racism Framework resources developed by the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat throughout our department. These resources will enable staff to apply an anti-racism lens to their work in real time.

Committing to personally learning

CIRNAC has taken significant steps to advance our commitment to learning about racism, reconciliation, accessibility, equity and inclusion and fostering a safe, positive environment that encourages these conversations throughout our workplaces. For example, CIRNAC has introduced an Indigenous Cultural Competency Learning Policy to better combat all forms of discrimination. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that all staff working for CIRNAC acquires the knowledge, skills, and attitudes reflective of a culturally competent organization, which then translates into all aspects of their work interactions.

Each year, employees will have to complete 15 hours of mandatory cultural competency learning through various possible courses and activities. The Learning and Development Plan section of the employee's Public Service Performance Agreement will reflect the learning opportunities selected to meet these hours. This policy contributes to CIRNAC's continued implementation of Many Voices One Mind: A Pathway to Reconciliation.

In line with the 2020/2021 Deputy Minister Commitments on Diversity and Inclusion, CIRNAC is currently engaged in the roll-out of anti-racism and unconscious bias training for all executives in the department. CIRNAC's senior management has already participated in a 1 hour facilitated anti-racism and unconscious bias discussion. In addition, executives continue to take courses from the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) as we move towards a more inclusive leadership at CIRNAC. We have also officially partnered with the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI), making resources and facilitated workshops on diversity, inclusion and anti-racism available to all CIRNAC employees. The CCDI will also be providing training workshops for all CIRNAC executives throughout fall and winter 2021 to 2022.

Sponsoring employee futures

CIRNAC will be adopting the Mentorship Plus program developed by the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer. Launched in December 2020, the program will address persistent gaps in the representation of designated employment equity and underrepresented groups, particularly in the senior ranks. By pairing members of designated employment equity and underrepresented groups with executive mentors and sponsors, the Mentorship Plus toolkit will support leadership development. This program was unanimously endorsed by CIRNAC senior management in August and CIRNAC aims to launch its first intake into the program over the coming months.

Supporting leadership development

CIRNAC actively supports the participation of Indigenous employees, Black and other racialized employees in leadership development programs and career development services. CIRNAC will be joining ISC, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to launch the Indigenous Management Development Program (IMDP). The program will support indeterminate, self-identified Indigenous employees of the 5 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 features 2 one-year hands-on learning assignments, complemented by formal training. Participants may also receive language training, if necessary, to reach the bilingual (BBB) level in their second official language.

Work is currently underway to review CIRNAC's Staffing Framework to include a module dedicated to recruiting and retaining Indigenous employees, with a diversity and inclusion lens in mind. In addition, we have launched language training for Indigenous employees for another full year to increase the eligibility for career progression. Finally, CIRNAC must improve representation in leadership and recruitment, and leaders within our organization are moving swiftly to see to it that we do.

We encourage senior leaders and departmental committees to incorporate and reflect the diversity, inclusion and intersectional lens into everyday practices. In line with the Deputy Minister Commitments on Diversity and Inclusion, CIRNAC will examine the recruitment process and our department's ability to retain a diverse set of qualified employees, reflective of the populations they serve. Based on our data outlined in Annex B, CIRNAC is aware of the challenges in retaining underrepresented groups such as Indigenous employees, employees with disabilities and promoting members of visible minority communities. We will ensure that we develop concrete steps to close the staffing gaps at all levels, especially among executive positions. We are also actively encouraging hiring managers to recruit students from underrepresented communities as part of our overall succession planning strategy.

CIRNAC is working to incorporate diversity and inclusion-related corporate commitments in performance management agreements for executives. In March 2021, we included a new diversity and inclusion category as part of the annual Deputy Minister’s Recognition Awards, and the CIRNAC 2SLGBTQQIA+ network was recognized for its efforts towards implementing universal accessible washrooms in retrofit designs. The network was also awarded the 2021 Workplace Pride Initiative of the Year Award for this initiative. These actions will align staff management and departmental work with CIRNAC's diversity and inclusion goals.

CIRNAC is committed to achieving the goals under the Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada. We are promoting the Lending Library and Accessibility Passport and are working actively with the Office of Public Service Accessibility to develop ally-ship initiatives across the department. CIRNAC is committed to achieving the goals under the Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada, and creating a more accessible and inclusive workplace, which includes the recruitment, and advancement of persons with disabilities. In addition, we will move towards the “yes by default” approach proposed in the strategy, by examining our accommodation processes, addressing and 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.

Measurement and results

CIRNAC is using data to track the effectiveness of our efforts to change. Our department is working diligently to improve the quality and availability of disaggregated data. To support equity, better understand and document the experience of staff, CIRNAC is updating the staff retention questionnaire and will reintroduce it this year.

The transformation of the former Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada into CIRNAC and the creation of ISC over the last several years entailed a significant reallocation of staff which required adjustments to CIRNAC’s normal reporting process. We now have a more reliable access to the data compilation that outlines our workforce's representativeness and the department’s rate of appointments, promotions, and departures among employment equity groups.

As of March 31, 2021, our current representation rates are:

Public Service Employee Survey results also informed us that 57 of responding employees identified as members of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community.

At CIRNAC, workforce availability estimates in our staffing are baselines that we must meet while encouraging leaders to go beyond them, particularly with regard to Indigenous employees. Based on our employee representation rates, as of March 31, 2021, CIRNAC surpassed workforce availability estimates for women by 6.4% and for Indigenous Peoples by 9.3%. CIRNAC’s staff representation for persons with disabilities and visible minorities was below workforce availability estimates by 4.1% and 1.1% respectively as of March 31, 2021.

If CIRNAC and the public service are to succeed in reflecting Canada’s population, all leaders must raise their sights to ambitious possibilities. That is why CIRNAC has actively recruited students with disabilities from a Carleton University program to staff summer 2021 student positions throughout the department. We are also encouraging managers to make use of CIRNAC’s targeted pools for Indigenous employees and existing Government of Canada hiring programs to support persons from all underrepresented groups. 

Even though we surpassed workforce availability estimates for women and for Indigenous Peoples, the percentage of the workforce representation of Indigenous employees has been in decline at CIRNAC since the department’s separation from ISC. On the other hand, the proportion of visible minority staff is growing at a steady rate. If this trend continues, CIRNAC will meet and possibly surpass the workforce availability for visible minorities by the close of this fiscal year. An overview of our department’s employee representation data can be reviewed in Annex B.

Beyond workforce availability estimates, the Government of Canada also has certain specific employment targets. Article 23 of the Nunavut Agreement contains a number of extensive and unique treaty employment obligations. The Government of Canada is required to undertake, maintain, and update a detailed analysis of the labour force of the Nunavut Settlement Area and use this data to inform decision-making. In addition, the Nunavut Agreement also requires both the federal and territorial governments to make best efforts to establish and maintain a public service that is representative of the Inuit population of Nunavut, within all occupational groupings and categories, as stipulated in Article 23. Both the federal and territorial governments are further required to develop Inuit employment plans and a pre-employment training plan. Following the signing of a settlement agreement in 2015, Pilimmaksaivik (CanNor) has been established as a permanent, central coordinating body for these plans.

Disaggregated data is an integral part of evidence-based decision-making and will be invaluable as CIRNAC tracks its progress towards our equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism aspirations. It has already proven to be an essential tool in identifying and highlighting inequalities within our workforce that have previously gone unrecorded. Senior management will ensure that appropriate actions promptly follow in response to the findings and consultation with underrepresented communities at CIRNAC.

Appoint and recruit top talent

Indigenous employees continue to face many barriers to career progression such as high rates of harassment and discrimination, as well as challenges meeting second language requirements. Black and racialized employees also remain severely underrepresented in our workforce, particularly in the executive ranks. CIRNAC is planning to launch a rotational assignment opportunity that aims to increase developmental and sponsorship opportunities within senior leadership roles. Employees from underrepresented communities will have the opportunity to apply for a 6 month assignment in the office of the deputy minister at CIRNAC. The option will provide employees with professional development and networking opportunities to support career growth in the public sector.

Challenges and barriers

In January, the Public Service Commission published an Audit of Employment Equity Representation in Recruitment and reported significant barriers across the public service in the staffing process that disadvantage persons with disabilities, visible minorities and Indigenous Peoples. As a result, CIRNAC is in the process of reviewing and updating its staffing framework with the aim of making the hiring process more inclusive through its various stages.

Managers need greater guidance on how to develop and assess flexible and inclusive statements of merit criteria. We have worked with the Canada School of Public Service to ensure that training required to receive sub delegated staffing authority uses inclusive hiring techniques and approaches to mitigate bias.

As a department, we continue to face significant capacity constraints, limiting our ability to respond to the Call to Action to the extent we would like. Our HRWSB, Communications Branch, Information Management and Technology Branch, Facilities Management Branch and other units are shared services with ISC. These areas of the department are still growing to meet their new mandates. We are working creatively with limited resources to advance our diversity and inclusion goals.

Proficiency in both official languages continues to be a barrier for Indigenous employees and employees with cognitive disabilities and racialized persons. CIRNAC occasionally seeks, when appropriate, Official Languages Exclusion on medical grounds for employees with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from reaching the language requirements of a given position for career advancement purposes.

Many Indigenous employees or candidates did not have the opportunity in school to learn another official language. Therefore, some do not have a sufficient mastery of both official languages to access entry level, supervisory or managerial positions. Currently, to mitigate this barrier, non-imperative staffing is an option that can be feasible when a hiring manager is staffing a position with an Indigenous candidate. CIRNAC managers are also encouraged to make second language training available to employees through their individual learning plans. This provides Indigenous and other groups adversely affected by official languages requirements, the opportunity to learn a second official language.

The department offers part-time second language training to Indigenous employees at CIRNAC and ISC through a centralized fund. In this year’s Official Languages Training for Indigenous Employees (OLTIE) program, 49 Indigenous employees are taking French language training and seven Indigenous employees are taking English language training.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has required us to be innovative and leverage technology for the promotion of diversity and inclusion, it also had a number of negative consequences to our employees. Employee networks have been invaluable in supporting the mental wellbeing and wellness of their respective communities during this unprecedented time. Impacts from such notable and devastating events as the murder of George Floyd, the death of Joyce Echaquan, rising rates of incidents of anti-Asian racism and the discovery of unmarked graves in former residential schools have taken a heavy toll on employees and all Canadians. The differential impacts these events have had on the wellbeing for certain employee groups cannot be understated.

Employees at all levels of the organization have voiced concerns about the awareness of the link between equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism and the business our department undertakes to fulfill its mandate. We recognize the importance and the need to formalize approval channels that empower employees to implement more inclusive practices in their work. As we roll out training and educational initiatives throughout our organization, we are providing managers with resources to embrace inclusive leadership styles. Our Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Secretariat is also working with various sectors to implement more robust communication channels between employees and management. These channels will ensure that ideas on more inclusive business practices are acted upon to serve Indigenous and northern communities better.


Last year, Deputy Minister Quan-Watson shared his personal experiences in response to questions on racism in Canada to encourage greater dialogue on these important matters. Since that point, we have had many deeply troubling moments of reflection.

The momentum of change that has cumulated at this moment is not spontaneous. Instead, we have arrived at this opportunity for sustainable structural actions after the battles for justice and equality long fought by marginalized and racialized individuals and communities. CIRNAC will not remain idle in working towards establishing a culture of inclusiveness that values diversity. No public service organization can.

CIRNAC's next challenge and priority over this next year will be taking what we have learned on equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism and put it into practice. We will be combatting all forms of racism, discrimination and other barriers to inclusion in the workplace by taking action on what we have learned, acting on employees' words when they speak up about bias and oppression and better-equipping managers to address these issues.

To sustain momentum and address challenges identified, CIRNAC has named a senior official within our HRWSB responsible for developing a comprehensive action plan that will explain how barriers to inclusion will be identified, removed and prevented. The plan will meet and go beyond requirements set out in the Employment Equity Act and Treasury Board’s Directive on Employment Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. The plan, slated to be released before the end of this year will be designed in collaboration with employee groups and its progress tracked and monitored by senior management.

CIRNAC's Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Secretariat is developing a framework to set out our organization's vision for equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism. The Secretariat will begin consultations on this framework this fiscal year in collaboration with employee groups and internal service providers.

As an organization, we cannot be a partner for reconciliation in Canada if we refuse to actively decolonize the damaging systems that continue to permeate our workforce. As staff have said, and the Clerk has reiterated, "the time to act is now."

Daniel Quan-Watson
Deputy Minister, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada;
Deputy Minister Champion for Visible Minorities

Paula Isaak
Associate Deputy Minister, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

Annex A - List of Employee Networks, Communities, and Strategic Committees at CIRNAC

List of Employee Networks, Communities, and Strategic Committees at CIRNAC

Employee Networks

Employee Communities

Strategic Committees

*In addition to the above, there are also a number of committees that support senior management governance in addition to program areas.

Annex B - Representation Data from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

Data annex


The data in this report is based on employee self-identification form provided to all employees. Employees may voluntarily self-identify as belonging to 1 or more of the designated groups, but it is not mandatory. As such, the numbers below may not be an accurate reflection of employment equity groups.

The employee self-identification form does not currently capture data for members of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community. The 2020 Public Service Employee Survey results did inform that 57 of responding employees identified as members of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community.

Intersectionality of data: it should be noted that some employees may fall into more than one employment equity category (such as an employee may self-identify as a visible minority and a person with a disability).

As a result of the dissolution of the former Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), and the subsequent creation of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), historical statistics prior to 2019 to 2020 are not available.

Employment equity categories and workforce availability estimates



Indigenous Peoples

Persons with disabilities

Visible Minorities

March 31, 2021





Workforce availability estimate





Visible minorities by sub-groups (total count and by percentage of employees)



Mixed origin


South Asian and East Indian

Non-White West Asian, North African, Arab

Other visible minorities

Total visible minorities

Fiscal year 2019 to 2020

41 (2.4%)

25 (1.4%)

38 (2.2%)

59 (3.4%)

27 (1.6%)

52 (3.0%)

242 (13.9%)

Fiscal year 2020 to 2021

55 (2.8%)

33 (1.8%)

38 (2.6%)

55 (2.9%)

30 (1.6%)

54 (3.4%)

282 (15.0%)

Hiring, departure and executive appointments of Indigenous employees, black and racialize employees

Fiscal year 2020 to 2021

Total number of employees

Indigenous employees

Black employees

Other racialized employees











Appointed to executive positions (non-EX to EX)





Appointed within executive positions (EX to EX)






Fiscal year 2019 to 2020

Total number of employees

Indigenous employees

Black employees

Other racialized employees











Appointed to executive positions (non-EX to EX)





Appointed to executive positions (EX to EX)





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

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