Remarks by Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council, at the Deputy Ministers’ Seminar on the Accessible Canada Act


October 26, 2018

Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council

Check against Delivery

Good afternoon everyone. 

I would like to say a few words about leadership and our role as heads of organizations and as deputy ministers, but first, I would like to thank Taki (Sarantakis, President, Canada School of Public Service) for hosting this discussion. I also want to give a shout-out to the School for its role in helping this community wrestle with changes in our society, our economy and our legislative framework. It is definitely paying dividends and getting us ready.

Yesterday, Bill C-65 received Royal Assent. This is the bill on harassment and violence in the workplace that is going to change things in many different ways. The School has helped us think it through, both in terms of shaping the legislation and implementing it. Monday afternoon, you will see the introduction of the second Budget Implementation Act. It contains little gems like proactive pay equity, legislating gender-based budgeting and so on, all of which are going to affect your role as leaders of your organizations. This kind of learning suite is very important and no doubt, the world will give us other subjects to learn about in the coming months and years.

I also want to acknowledge the leadership of Yazmine (Laroche, Associate Deputy Minister, Infrastructure and Communities, Infrastructure Canada). Yazmine has not only eagerly and energetically taken on the role of champion, but also assumed real responsibilities for getting us ready for this legislation. She is a great source of expertise and guidance.

I strongly encourage you to invite Yazmine to meet with your management teams and to attend staff retreats, or any kind of gatherings, to help you think through what this means for your organization. I am sure today's session will give you all kinds of ideas and Yazmine can help you work through some of these issues.

This is a societal change that is a lot like the “MeToo’ and “Time's Up” movements.  It is also a lot like the national conversation on mental health or the national conversation on climate change. As the largest institution and employer in Canada, we have to be at the front of shaping and implementing change. We are well into a national conversation about accessibility, which began years ago and still has miles to go as the legislation comes in.

The Government has set a very ambitious target, which is to make Canada the most accessible country in the world, and I want to make the Canadian public service the most accessible public service in the world. That is a high target, and today is the beginning of it. In fact, today is a great opportunity to talk about some of the opportunities and challenges we face in getting there.

I will not go through all of the details of accessibility. I think you have to become literate and fluent in ideas and concepts like inclusive by design, and accessible by default.

I hope that today's session will give you a sense of what those terms mean and the kinds of attitudes and mindsets that are needed. The art of being a deputy minister or a leader of an organization involves asking your people the right questions, and today should help you to do this by giving you many ideas along those lines.

Let me turn it over to Yazmine, who will then turn it over to our guests. I hope you will have some time for a back and forth with our guests today.

Thank you all. Thanks Taki.

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