Veterans Review and Appeal Board
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion
Summer 2021 update
Thank you for providing us with the opportunity to respond to this important Call to Action.
The Veterans Review and Appeal Board (“VRAB”, “the Board”) is a federal, quasi-judicial tribunal providing redress to Veterans and RCMP who are dissatisfied with disability benefit decisions rendered by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).
The Board is a small organization as federal agencies go, comprised of 24 Members and 73 employees. Given our size, Human Resources services are provided through VAC’s Human Resources (HR) division under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding. For our own staffing matters, we therefore work very closely with VAC HR on the development and implementation of Government of Canada staffing practices and initiatives aimed at countering systemic racism and greater inclusion and diversity.
The Board supports career development and talent management of all employees and the same approach applies with respect to racialized employees, recognizing talent and helping to prepare employees for leadership roles. The Board does this through mentoring, through both formal and informal training, and through knowledge transfer from senior leaders within the organization to their employees.
It is very important to us that all Veterans coming to us for redress see themselves reflected in the Board. The Board currently has six employees who self-identify as racialized (this represents eight per cent of our staff). Among our Members, 12 per cent self-identify as visible minority, LGBTQ2, and Indigenous. We are proud of this diversity as it makes us stronger as an organization and we continue to strengthen our efforts to bring diverse staff and Members to the Board.
Results of the most recent Public Service Employee Survey showed that 84% of those surveyed reported that they thought the Board respects individual differences (culture, work styles, ideas and abilities) and 80% reported that at the Board, every individual is accepted as an equal member of the team. Further, 81% reported that they would feel free to speak about racism in the workplace without fear of reprisal, and 86% responded that they would feel comfortable sharing concerns about issues related to racism in the workplace with a person in authority.
Of the nine actions in the Call to Action, the VRAB has focused on:
- committing to equity and inclusion;
- fostering a safe, positive environment; and
- combatting all forms of racism, discrimination and other barriers to inclusion in the workplace.
In order to further these goals, we took the following steps:
- The Board has representation on the Veterans Affairs National Employment Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee, the Veterans Affairs Accessibility Working Group, and the Veterans Affairs GBA+ Network, among other groups working towards greater diversity and inclusion.
- The Board initiated a Diversity and Inclusion Committee comprised of both Members and staff, whose role is to consider issues touching on diversity and inclusion at the Board and make recommendations to senior management.
- In 2020, the Board worked on a “Vision for a Healthy, Inclusive and Diverse VRAB” and held a workshop for staff and Members of the Senior Executive to brainstorm on priorities and pillars for the Board’s framework on diversity and inclusion.
- In 2021, the Board added diversity and inclusion to our statement of Values. This commitment is noted on our public facing website, making clear that this commitment applies not only in the service we provide to Veterans but also in striving to be a workplace of choice.
- The Board is working with VAC HR to contribute to the development of an Employment Equity Strategy that will guide us as we move forward. This will include diversity and inclusion workforce initiatives developed by VAC HR to recruit, promote, sponsor, develop and retain Black people and other racialized groups, indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and equity-seeking employees.
- The Board celebrates Black History Month, Diversity and Inclusion Week, Accessibility Week, and others through positive messaging to staff and encouragement to participate in related activities and online webinars and sessions (Ex: FEDTalk “Diversity is a Fact”).We will continue to support employee participation in networks, commemorative events and activities, and anti-racism and anti-discrimination learning and development activities.
- Board staff (employees and managers) have taken diversity and inclusion training and Harassment Prevention training available through the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) and other providers. Staff have also been encouraged to take the Gender Diversity training offered through the CSPS.
- Staff were encouraged to, and several staff have participated in, virtual training sessions and presentations regarding racism, Indigenous and Black history or culture. The Board will also be working with VAC HR on potential mandatory training for managers that deal with topics such as unconscious bias and overcoming it in the workplace, and anti-racism training for employees and for onboarding newly hired employees.
- The Board’s Members have participated in a KAIROS Blanket exercise, which explores the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, as well as other diversity and inclusion training
- In April of 2021, Board Staff received a “Diversity and Inclusion Message” sent out by the Executive Committee that addressed the issues of racism, discrimination, harassment and violence. It outlined actions taken by the Board towards greater diversity and inclusion, and its ongoing commitments.
- The Board has a dedicated staff resource responsible for Workplace Wellness and directors and middle managers have taken a three-day training workshop entitled “The Working Mind” aimed at keeping all employees healthy and supported in their mental health. This training is being extended to all Board Members and staff providing everyone necessary tools to maintain a respectful, inclusive, safe and positive workplace.
- The Board has both employer and employee representatives who participated as members on the Bill C-65 working group on prevention of harassment and violence in the workplace, and the mandatory training under that initiative.
- The Board has been developing a more diverse and inclusive approach when administering the oath for all Veterans, CAF, RCMP members and their families who appear before the Board, permitting broader opportunities for personal preferences in choosing those appearing and testifying wish to proceed prior to quasi judicial hearings.
- We believe that inclusion and diversity also touches on accessibility and are working closely with VAC on an ongoing basis to develop our own Accessibility Action Plan.
- In fall 2021, there will be a Senior Management Strategic Planning session that will address the Board’s ongoing response to this Call to Action and many other important government initiatives and priorities.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to provide information on how the Veterans Review and Appeal Board is responding to this Call to Action.
Christopher J. McNeil, Chair
Veterans Review and Appeal Board
- Date modified: