Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion
Summer 2021 update
Dear Ms. Charette:
The purpose of this letter is to respond to your request for a summary of the actions we are taking at Transport Canada in response to the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service.
Diversity and inclusion are core values of who we are at Transport Canada and are central to our strategy to modernize the department. We are striving to become an organization where everyone feels that their voice, views, values and life experiences are heard. Having a department that is both reflective and representative of the demographics we serve enables us to incorporate various perspectives, opinions and experiences to help deliver stronger policies, programs and services that are important for a diverse public.
Recent events have made clear the depth of the challenge we still face with systemic racism and discrimination. Our employees, especially our Black colleagues, were heavily impacted by the murder of George Floyd. The more recent confirmation of the unmarked graves of Indigenous children in residential schools and community attacks on Muslims in Canada added to the weight of systemic racism affecting Black, Indigenous and other racialized minorities in the department. In addition, we have just been through a reckoning with racist incidents from our past here at Transport Canada.
As a first step, Transport Canada’s leadership led an honest and open dialogue about systemic racism and broke new ground in addressing it head on. Following each of these major events above, we created space for discussions regarding systemic racism through a series of meetings at all levels, where various speakers were invited, then focused on driving action and change. Further, we have seen leaders emerge from across the department to help drive change; we have listened and started changing how we work and how we manage.
While we have made many positive steps to show our commitment to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, we know we have a lot more to do. We still have a ways to go in improving our workplace and in applying a truly inclusionary lens when developing and implementing programs, policies and initiatives when managing our work, when hiring people, and when developing our employees to take on more leadership roles in the future.
In the aftermath of this summer’s wildfires, the need to improve our engagement with Indigenous communities on the response and preparedness process was clear. We remain committed to working to advance a shared path to reconciliation and to renew the relationship with Indigenous peoples across all of our lines of business.
The following is a summary of what we have done so far – and the important work that remains to be done – to implement the key elements of the Call to Action: committing; enabling and including; combatting; support and sponsorship; and measuring.
Transport Canada has demonstrated its commitment to raising awareness about racism, reconciliation, accessibility, equity and inclusion by systemically promoting honest and open conversations about these issue and building them into the resources to support learning programs and management practices for all employees. Some key examples are:
- We led a department-wide virtual town hall on diversity and inclusion attended by over 2,100 employees. We launched a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan and communicated to all employees the collective responsibility of each to make diversity and inclusion part of Transport Canada’s culture, and take positive action to address the impact of systemic and institutional racism within the department and our communities;
- We organized a discussion panel of women senior leaders in the Transportation Industry on International Women’s Day, attracting over 1,700 participants;
- We provided awareness training to Staffing Advisors on the Nothing Without Us: An Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service to better support our efforts to hire persons with disabilities, and we provided managers with a Manager’s Toolkit on Hiring Persons with Disabilities;
- We organized three events during National Indigenous History Month, totalling over 1,500 attendees, for employees to learn from Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers about their history and how we can contribute to reconciliation at Transport Canada;
- We launched the Indigenous Learning Hub on National Indigenous Peoples Day to provide centralized access to training within the department;
- We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Indigenous Services Canada and Canadian Heritage to provide access to Indigenous Learning Circles and other activities to promote cultural awareness and diversity, including advice from Elders; and
- We have offered over 40 awareness sessions over the last two years via the Positive Space Group at Transport Canada on gender and sexual diversity, and organized events during Pride Season, such as Parenting a Trans and Gender Diverse Child, presentations on 2SLGBTQIA+ history and an Ask Me Almost Anything event that attracted over 700 participants who posed questions to panelists.
Enabling and Including
Employee input and feedback has been key in identifying systemic racism, discrimination and barriers to inclusion, and in designing and implementing actions to address them. In addition to two Diversity and Inclusion Co-Champions, 10 Executive Leads and co-leads have been identified to help drive change to address the needs of the following groups:
- Indigenous peoples,
- Black and other racialized persons,
- Persons with disabilities and accessibility concerns, and
- Positive Space/2SLGBTQIA+.
The Executive Leads have put in place active networks of engaged employees as a safe space in which to discuss experiences and systemic barriers they face, and develop ideas for change. In addition, the department reallocated funding to create a Diversity and Inclusion Secretariat with a dedicated team of employees to support the Champions and Executive Leads to better translate ideas into concrete action and change across the department.
Other specific examples of advancement over the last year include:
- We, along with the two Co-Champions and the Executive Leads, drove consultations with executives, managers and employees across the department to establish Transport Canada’s new three-year Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan;
- Monthly virtual coffee chats have been created for women, Black and other racialized persons, Indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities to identify issues, discuss impacts and propose solutions. This forum is design to maximize gains from intersectionality. The most recent coffee chat was attended by over 800 participants;
- A National Advisory Committee for Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities has been established with 39 members with participants from all five regions and the National Capital Region;
- The department is assisting the Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC) in addressing the unique challenges facing Black employees within the federal public service by loaning a Transport Canada employee to the Caucus via an Interchange Canada agreement;
- We held an inaugural meeting establishing Transport Canada’s Indigenous Employee Network (TCIEN) exclusively for First Nations, Inuit and Métis employees;
- We are establishing the practice to add gender pronouns to email signature blocks to make it easier for persons in the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities to express their gender identity and how they prefer to be addressed, which also contributes to the creation of safe and positive spaces;
- Making sign language interpretation available at all staff meetings and all accessibility related meetings;
- Establishing the practice that all meetings begin with a land acknowledgement in recognition of the presence and stewardship of Indigenous people on the land and the harmful history of settlers and colonialism and the impacts on Indigenous communities;
- Naming a boardroom in the National Capital Region Mȃwandòseg Gamig, or Gathering Room in Algonquin language, during a virtual ceremony with an Algonquin Elder.
An important step we took last year in addressing systemic discrimination is honestly facing up to and addressing a case of egregious racist behaviour at Transport Canada from the past. In 2019, a CBC article reported allegations of employees circulating racist emails around Transport Canada a decade ago. The department followed up with a thorough investigation.
Following the investigation, we took unprecedented action to establish accountability and transparency related to the incident. We imposed disciplinary action of unpaid suspensions against six employees for breaching the Values and Ethics Code of the Public Service, and we communicated the results to all employees. In doing so, we have established a new standard for accountability and transparency in dealing with incidents like these. We made it clear that racist behaviour is never acceptable, and the department is committed to addressing harassment and discrimination openly and rigorously.
Some other examples of concrete actions include:
- We required all executives to take mandatory Unconscious Bias training, which was included in all performance agreements;
- We developed a conversation tool to assist managers in having conversations about racism and discrimination; and
- We tailored internal resources supporting mental health and wellness to specifically address systemic discrimination and the impact it can have on employees.
Support and Sponsorship
Transport Canada has made progress in supporting the development and promotion of racialized, Indigenous employees and persons with disabilities. As a first step, we prioritized enhancing the representativeness of the executive cadre, especially at the most senior ranks. Transport Canada successfully used public service-wide programs and staffing processes to hire qualified candidates of equity-deserving groups throughout the organization. As part of our talent management process, we have identified leadership development and learning opportunities for Indigenous, Black and other racialized employees. We are also leveraging existing internal career development programs and increasing the representation of equity-deserving groups. In addition, we recently renewed our internal Middle Management Development Program to better integrate diversity and inclusion as a core leadership principle.
This past year we established the Black and other racialized persons (People of Colour) Network as a safe space for employees and allies to listen to and support each other, identify challenges and barriers, advocate for culture change and raise awareness, and learn about professional development and education.
Further, in the upcoming year, we will build on the momentum we have achieved through the following measures:
- We will build into our recruitment efforts specific channels and initiatives aimed at achieving greater representation, which will be supported by career and leadership development programs specifically designed for current and future employees from the Black, Indigenous, racialized and persons with disabilities communities;
- We will implement a program designed to increase Indigenous recruitment and career development. We will work with Indigenous employees to determine how best to provide opportunities for advancement and create a safe and inclusive workplace culture; and
- We will develop an Inuit Employment Plan to support Transport Canada’s work in Nunavut this coming year, in collaboration with Pilimmaksaivik, to ensure the plan aligns with Nunavut’s Land Claims Agreement.
While we have taken concrete steps to advance the Call to Action and generated significant momentum, we recognize the need to measure our progress. At this point, we are relying on existing data sources such as the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) to measure representation and workplace satisfaction progress. In the latest PSES, 80% of employees indicated that Transport Canada promotes anti-racism and that they support a diverse workplace. Transport Canada also saw noticeable increases in employee satisfaction with how the department prevents and resolves matters of discrimination, again bringing the department’s score above the public service average.
But we recognize that we need to do more to measure and be accountable for progress. To that end, we are developing:
- A performance measurement framework to track progress of our Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. We will include measures related to recruitment and retention of equity-deserving groups, self-identification, and enhanced accessibility of our workspace and tools. Further, we are working on being able to compile intersectional data.
- Diversity and inclusion priorities have been woven into performance management, with every employee having a diversity and inclusion-related performance objective.
While we have made significant progress at Transport Canada in dealing with systemic barriers, racism and discrimination honestly and as transparently as possible, we need to do more to make more employees comfortable to self-identify, and to come forward to report concerns about incidents of discrimination.
One of the key challenges we anticipate is our ability to generate desegregated data. Many employees are reluctant to self-identify for a variety of reasons, which limits our ability to measure progress and inform our responses to the Call to Action. In the coming months, Transport Canada will conduct a self-identification campaign to generate an updated demographic profile better aligned with the actual composition of Transport Canada.
In addition, we are making diversity and inclusion a factor in our planning and priorities for internal audit and evaluation work. Internal Audit and Evaluation Services will provide recommendations on issues ranging from data strategy, performance measurement and the integration of GBA+.
Over the past year, Transport Canada has actively responded to the Call to Action. These actions are making a difference for our employees, and feedback from employees has been positive. Many from equity-deserving groups feel their lived experience is finally being acknowledged and validated and that Transport Canada is becoming a more welcoming place for them.
At Transport Canada, people are valued and celebrated because of—and not despite—their differences. This has become a corporate priority, and we know we have to do more. As part of our Diversity and Inclusion plan we will be developing additional actions through the continuum of recruitment, development, and fostering the next generation of senior leaders in the department. We will continue to push forward a collective effort—to share lived experiences, confront our unconscious biases, eliminate barriers, and increase representation – to lock in momentum for positive and enduring change to create a stronger and more diverse Transport Canada for the future.
Michael Keenan (he, him, il)
Deputy Minister of Transport
Arun Thangaraj (he, him, il)
Associate Deputy Minister of Transport
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