Privy Council Office
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion

Summer 2021 update

Dear Ms. Charette,

In follow up to the request sent to departments, I am pleased to report on how the Privy Council Office (PCO) has advanced the Call to Action.

PCO has been active in working to advance anti-racism, equity and inclusion across the Federal Public Service. This includes supporting the development and implementation of the Clerk’s Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service, and in continuing to emphasize the fundamental role that diversity and inclusion plays in our renewal journey. PCO has been working closely with employee networks and horizontal communities, along with key departments to help accelerate these efforts.

In collaboration with the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO), the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH) and the Public Service Accessibility (PSA), PCO developed and issued a set of measurable Deputy Minister Commitments on Diversity and Inclusion along three themes to add to the Corporate Priorities in order to assess progress and foster accountability in making real advancements regarding diversity and inclusion in the Public Service. 

In addition to that work that PCO has undertaken across the public service, the organization has also focused on advancing diversity and inclusion internally and I am sharing the early impacts we are seeing, while honestly acknowledging PCO’s achievements and the challenges to overcome in the near future.

Key PCO advancements this year at the organizational level:

PCO’s approach to advancing anti-racism, equity and inclusion over the past year

PCO has made clear its commitment to create a work environment that is equitable, diverse, inclusive, respectful, and free from racism, discrimination and harassment. Over the past year, our approach has advanced anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion, and the journey started by listening and consulting networks of employees, specifically the Employment Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee (EEDAC).

Between June and November of 2020, EEDAC met a total of 15 times. The first of these meetings was focused on the tragic death of George Floyd and the events following his death. The following meetings focused on hearing from EEDAC members on the issue of racism in the workplace and how best to continue to build a safe, respectful and inclusive workplace at PCO.

From these discussions, an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) plan was developed for PCO and endorsed by EEDAC and PCO Executive Committee. This plan included three recommendations that EEDAC put forward; increase EDI capacity, create a BIPOC Focus Group, and establish safe space mechanisms for BIPOC employees.

PCO established an EDI team within HR, with the mandate to develop, lead and implement equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives in collaboration with key stakeholders, including the EEDAC and the BIPOC Focus Group. The EDI Team is led by an Executive who is a certified coach in managing unconscious bias and improving cultural intelligence and who previously developed and facilitated a virtual course on unconscious bias with the Canada School of Public Service. The strategic approach for the EDI function includes four main pillars, whose aim is to strengthen and foster the EDI function at PCO while being aligned with the Call to Action and the deputy minister commitments.

PCO is leveraging the following four pillars in its D&I strategy.

1. Consultation, collaboration and engagement between key D&I partners

The collaboration and engagement of the Persons with Disabilities and Visible Minorities Champion, Employment Equity Champion, Indigenous Peoples Champion, the Employment Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee (EEDAC), and the recently formed BIPOC Focus Group were key to advancing D&I at PCO.

In February 2021, the organization established a BIPOC Focus Group. The role of this group is to ensure that policies and organizational decisions incorporate the perspectives and input of PCO’s Indigenous and visible minority communities and to ensure that the views and perspectives of the BIPOC and racialized communities are included when developing departmental programs and policies. The BIPOC Focus Group was consulted and involved in the development of two main projects that will be officially launched at PCO in fall 2021: the Mentorship Program for Indigenous employees, and Black and other racialized employees, and the safe space initiative.

The feedback from EEDAC and the BIPOC Focus Group indicates that PCO’s efforts to implement the Call to Action have been well received, and all key players are fully committed to collaborating on the creation and implementation of the Employment Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EED&I) plan for 2020–2023. All D&I key players will continue to work in a positive and collaborative way, respecting each person’s role and contribution.

2. Educating, opening up the dialogue about the culture and de-stigmatizing with all PCO employees

While establishing a new EDI Team and creating a BIPOC Focus Group, PCO prioritized the foundation piece of learning and engaging in conversations about racism, discrimination and systemic barriers. Since February 2021, HR has organized a series of monthly learning and awareness opportunities open to all employees during which external speakers have increased awareness of matters relating to racism, discrimination, unconscious bias, inclusion of people with disabilities, how to become allies and how to foster a culture of diversity and inclusiveness.

PCO has also organized training workshops on unconscious bias and anti-racism. In line with the requirement in the Deputy Ministers commitments on D&I, the workshops were made mandatory for all executives. PCO can report that 100% of executives participated in these sessions. On the specific matter of Indigenous inclusion, PCO hired expert consultants to facilitate and lead workshops for executives. An Indigenous speaker offered a keynote presentation to all employees on systemic barriers faced by Indigenous people and provided advice and recommendations on how to better include Indigenous employees within the public service.

Bringing external speakers to events and involving external expert consultants who not only have knowledge of the topic and expertise, but also personal and professional lived experiences have added tremendous and meaningful value to internal conversations. Those awareness opportunities were beneficial for touching and connecting minds and hearts, which is a key element of successful D&I strategies.

Finally, a dedicated intranet website on equity, diversity and inclusion was developed and launched to help increase and foster awareness, knowledge and understanding of equity, diversity and inclusion among executives, managers and all other employees within the organization. The D&I Corner is considered the cornerstone and a centralized point providing up-to-date information about the importance of D&I, ongoing and new initiatives at PCO, roles and responsibilities, as well as tools and resources for all PCO employees. It helps ensure consistency, efficiency and common understanding as PCO moves towards common goals.

3. Building and fostering the foundation of internal equity, diversity and inclusion capacity

To build and strengthen the capacity within HR to support an inclusive working environment and culture that are fair, respectful, inclusive and supportive of diversity, HR launched the Learning and Development Series on D&I on topics such as understanding unconscious bias, anti-racism and allyship, and creating human-centred spaces with a trauma-informed approach. This capacity-building initiative is ongoing and will help enhance and update HR strategies, services, policies, programs, procedures, and practices including in the fields of staffing, labour relations, conflict management and mental health.

4. Developing staffing strategies to increase Employment Equity representation

Based on a more robust EE data analysis and reporting at PCO, and in the spirit to increase EE representation, senior leaders are now systematically including EE considerations for the staffing of each executive position. Concerning all non-EX positions, HR advisors and hiring managers review and discuss EE gaps to formulate their staffing strategy. Managers are encouraged to hire candidates from EE groups and are provided with pools of candidates from EE groups from existing pools within PCO as well as being provided with the use of various EE hiring programs, such as: Employment Opportunity for Students with Disabilities and Indigenous Students (PSC), Federal Internship Program for Canadians with Disabilities (PSC), High School Students with Intellectual Disabilities (Justice), LiveWorkPlay – non-profit organization and the Federal Internship for Newcomers Program.

Further, hiring managers are systematically reminded to ensure that they have diversified and inclusive selection boards; an initiative designed to ensure that selection boards have diverse representation in order to reduce possible biases and barriers in the staffing process. In order to address representation gaps within the EC and EX groups, the PCO Executive Committee agreed to launch two staffing processes that targeted solely EE groups. In June 2021, an EC-06/07 Policy Analyst process was opened to employees within the federal public service who belong to one or more EE designated groups, specifically, Indigenous Peoples, Persons with Disabilities, and Visible Minorities. Given the goal to increase representativeness, only those applicants who self-declare as members of one or more EE designated groups will be considered. Self-declaration is voluntary and confidential, and it will help the organization achieve greater representativeness.

An EX-03 Director of Operations process was recently launched to appoint Indigenous employees, and Black and other racialized employees to positions within the Executive Group at PCO. The decision to launch a targeted employment equity process for Director of Operations was both to increase representation within the EX cadre but it was also with a view that these positions are the feeder group for Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) vacancies, which inevitably will increase representation at the ADM level. In addition, the decision was made to expand the EX-03 area of selection to all of Canada instead of the usual National Capital Region, in order to increase interest in, and the number of candidates from, EE groups for PCO leadership positions. 

The results of these two staffing processes will definitely increase statistical representation of members of EE designated groups in our workforce. While there is always room for improvement to maintain and recruit a qualified workforce that reflects the current Canadian population, PCO has made strides in trying to increase representation within the department. The organization is committed to make important staffing and recruitment efforts to ensure representation of employment equity groups at all levels across PCO.

In addition to those strategies and measures, PCO also sought external recruitment in order to increase representation in the senior ranks of the public service and issued a joint contract with Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Executive Search and Odgers Berndtson Executive Search to create and maintain an inventory of qualified and interested Indigenous People, Black and other racialized people, and persons with disabilities, to be considered for Deputy Minister and Assistant Deputy Minister positions. Working with a firm specializing in the recruitment of executives from diverse communities as well as persons with disabilities facilitated further learning on racism, reconciliation, accessibility, equity and inclusion.

Additional progress has been made with regard to Governor in Council (GIC) appointments. The current approach to GIC appointments is intended to support the identification of highly qualified candidates who reflect Canada’s diversity in terms of linguistic, regional, and Employment Equity groups (women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, Black and other racialized people), as well as LGBTQ2+, ethnic, racialized, and cultural groups. In response to the Call to Action, PCO has renewed efforts to collect self-identification data from the GIC community; undertaken a disaggregated analysis of this data to identify gaps and support Ministers to make appointment recommendations that will fill these gaps; worked with our partners to conduct targeted outreach efforts to bolster strength and diversity of applicant pools; and, required unconscious bias training for Selection Committee members and administrators involved in GIC selection processes. PCO will continue to make efforts to work with partners to promote appointment opportunities to people who self-identify as belonging to an equity-seeking community, particularly people who self-identify as having a disability. Given that applicants who self-identify with one or more employment equity groups still do not realize success in selection processes at the same rates as those who do not, sustained effort is needed to continue making progress towards the goals of the Call to Action.

Measurement and results

Further to discussions about diversity and a need for better reporting, over the past year, PCO has delved deeper on Employment Equity representation using disaggregated data to show trends over fiscal years and highlight gaps, challenges and improvements to be made.

Comparing data from completed self-identification questionnaires to PCO’s expected workforce availabilities (WFA) for each EE group, representation at the departmental level from March 2018 to March 2021 showed that PCO has consistently met its WFA for Women year-over-year, has made improvements for Visible Minorities representation and has seen slight representation declines for Indigenous Peoples and Persons with Disabilities. While continued efforts are needed, on March 31, 2021, PCO was close to meeting its respective workforce availabilities for Indigenous Peoples (gap of 5) and Visible Minorities (gap of 5). The largest representation gap continues to be for Persons with Disabilities (gap of 52), which is consistent across the public service and is largely due to the widening of the range of disabilities considered within the Canadian Survey on Disability in 2019, particularly, non-visible types of disabilities related to pain, memory, learning, developmental and mental health, and the data has not yet reflected this new definition.

Using disaggregated data, PCO conducted further analysis by branch/secretariat, classification, position level and EE subgroup. This analysis has provided insights such as:

Dashboards with a focus on Visible Minorities and Indigenous Peoples have been shared with all branches/secretariats for their respective areas with analysis on workforce availability, representation gaps, and opportunities for improvement. This analysis has also been periodically presented at PCO’s Executive Committee and has also been shared with PCO’s EEDAC.

From a learning and culture perspective, after each training session, workshop or awareness activity, surveys of participants were conducted to collect feedback so progress could be measured and necessary adjustments could be made.

In terms of improving activities offered to employees, HR always takes into account the results of post-event surveys when implementing programs and activities related to D&I. PCO has received very positive feedback from participants about these awareness activities.

Post-event surveys show that participants are increasingly aware of existing systemic barriers, and they are willing to do what it takes to foster a culture of diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace. An indication of this new mindset is that participants do not hesitate to make suggestions about the types of awareness activities they would like HR to organize and about avenues they would like to see the organization explore in order to ensure that they become good or better allies.

Challenges and barriers

There were two key challenges and barriers that PCO faced: increase the level of participation in engagement activities and employee turnover.

PCO has seen an encouraging buy-in from all its employees about the monthly engagement activities. While this is an encouraging start, our focus will continue to be on increasing participation as these engagement actives are a great way for employees to learn more about racism, discrimination, unconscious bias, inclusion of people with disabilities, how to become an ally and how to foster a culture of diversity and inclusiveness. Many employees use PCO as a career development opportunity (especially in EC and EX groups) and as a such, they tend not to stay at PCO for a long period of time. As a result, establishing and fostering an organizational culture can be challenging; however, this turnover is also an opportunity to increase representation at all levels within the organization, if data is used to inform staffing strategies.

How to sustain momentum and address identified challenges

This year, the focus at PCO has been on the commitment to learning and including voices, in keeping with the Call to Action. Now, the next step is to strengthen those efforts and move to the next level of engagement. As a result, PCO will focus on the following:

This will be achieved through the following activities:

Incorporating efforts to advance anti-racism, equity and inclusion considerations in the approach to public service renewal, including plans for post-pandemic work

HR has worked with experts to advance anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion considerations within PCO’s departmental approach to building an organization that is agile, inclusive, and better equipped.

Their proven expertise and their personal and professional lived experiences were key to developing and launching our series of workshops on unconscious bias and anti-racism for executives, which helps to foster inclusive leadership and create a workplace free from systemic barriers.

HR also reached out to great and well-known speakers both in and outside the public service to take part in panel discussions as part of the series of monthly learning and awareness opportunities open to all employees.

The ongoing initiatives mentioned above are aligned with the public service renewal Beyond2020 initiative and aim to build a more inclusive workplace with employees who:

HR will work with the Public Service Renewal Secretariat to promote further alignment and collaboration and to ensure PCO continues to apply the best practices available and learn from the experience of others.

As we are reshaping the future of our work in a post-pandemic environment, PCO will be looking at how this can be done within the context of public service renewal, and our anti-racism, equity and inclusion agenda. The goal is to ensure that our workplace is inclusive and supportive and that employees, whether they work from home or at the office, feel empowered to be themselves, feel valued for their contributions and unique perspectives, and have equal opportunities to contribute to their teams and to the organization.

In conclusion, PCO is committed to advancing and enhancing its D&I agenda – from fostering the foundation piece of encouraging a culture of inclusion to ensuring the adoption of inclusive practices, policies, strategies, and behaviours within the organization.

Yours sincerely,

Nathalie G. Drouin
Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council and Associate Secretary to the Cabinet

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