Announcement on diversity in the federal public service

The President of the Treasury Board, the Honourable Scott Brison, and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, welcome an important initiative by the Public Service Commission of Canada to test the sustainability and effectiveness of applying name-blind recruitment techniques in the federal public service.

Important announcement regarding diversity in the federal public service - Transcript

Mohamed Lachemi: Good Morning, welcome everyone to Ryerson University. My name is Mohamed Lachemi, I am the president and vice chancellor at Ryerson University.

I’d like to acknowledge that today’s event is taking place on the traditional territory of the Mississauga (inaudible) First Nations and I want to thank them for allowing us to use their land. A very special welcome today to many guests from our Parliament, Minister Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, Minister Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and we are also very pleased to have a number of members of the Canadian Parliament, Arif Virani, Ramesh Sangha, Adam Vaughan and Michael Levitt. Thanks all for being here.

We are honoured at Ryerson University to host an announcement that speaks to enhancing opportunities for all Canadians. We’re especially pleased to be hosting here in the place that we call the Sandbox. The Sandbox was opened a couple of months ago. Actually, it was created to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in our very diverse community. Ryerson is known to be an innovation university with great focus on innovation and thinking out of the box.

We are a hub for innovation, for our city, for our province and for our country. Three conditions are necessary for a hub, an innovation hub to be successful and to have a positive impact on society and the economic growth around us. Richard Florida (ph) will describe this as a three-T rule. The first “T” is for “Technology. The second one is for Talent. And the third one is for Tolerance and Diversity.

At Ryerson, we pay attention to all three, but today I’d like to briefly talk about the third one which is Tolerance. We want places like this to be an incubation for equity and diversity. And at Ryerson, equity, diversity and inclusion are core values in everything we do. And we are pleased once again this year to be recognized as one of Canada’s best diversity employers. Immediately (ph) we share the goals of the federal government to ensure opportunity is open to people of all backgrounds. And I can tell you that our world-class incubator, the DMZ has more women than any other incubator in North America.
That brings us to today’s announcement. Scott Brison is the Member of the Parliament for Kings-Hants riding in Nova Scotia. He has been elected to the House of Commons in seven general elections between June, 1997 and October, 2015. Prime Minister Trudeau appointed him to the federal Cabinet as President of the Treasury Board in November, 2015. He was named by the World Economic Forum of Davos, Switzerland, as one of its “Young Global Leaders.” Mr. Brison has had extensive private sector experience as an entrepreneur and an investment banker. We are extremely pleased to welcome Mr. Scott Brison at Ryerson University.

Hon. Scott Brison: Thank you very much, President Lachemi. I’m delighted to be here with you today as President of the Treasury Board. The Treasury Board of Canada is the employer of the Canadian public service and we have a world-class diverse Canadian public service, and today we’re going to talk about how to strengthen further our public service and make it more diverse as well.

I’d like to invite some of my colleagues and friends from the House of Commons to join me up here today. This is an important announcement and I want Michael Levitt and Adam Vaughan and Arif Virani and Ramesh Sangha to join us today along with Minister Hussen. We have a government and a Parliament that reflects the diversity of Canada. We want to do more to ensure that our public service reflects the diversity of Canada.

We are on a mission that touches on so many themes today that are central to our government’s mandate: diversity and inclusion, policy innovation, experimentation, evidence-based decision making, public service renewal and modernization, and providing the most efficient, effective and dynamic government services to Canadians that we possibly can.

Today’s announcement reflects all four themes, and in fact in terms of diversity in 2016 the Treasury Board formed a partnership with our public sector unions, the Joint Council to establish a task force on diversity which will be reporting back with an action plan to our government in the coming months.

I’m particularly pleased to be here with my colleagues of course from the House of Commons and Minister Hussen. Back on February 24, 2016, as a Member of Parliament prior to his being named to our government’s Cabinet, Minister Hussen stood in Parliament to suggest that the federal government could better ensure the public service reflects the people it services by adopting a name-blind recruitment policy.

Before being named to Cabinet, Minister Hussen stood in the House to suggest the federal government adopt a name-blind recruitment policy to ensure the public service accurately reflects the people it serves. His proposal dovetailed with thinking already taking place within the Treasury Board Secretariat, and helped spur a working relationship that is bearing fruit here today.

Ahmed’s proposal dovetailed very well with some of the work and thinking within Treasury Board at that time, and it helped spurred a working relationship that is bearing fruit here today with a pilot that will really move the needle in terms of the Government of Canada. I want to thank Ahmed for his important leadership and partnership. Today’s announcement is proof that Members of Parliament can drive real change for Canada. And Ahmed’s personal story inspires us and informs (ph) his thinking as a Member of Parliament and our decision as a government. And it’s another example of how diversity at decision making tables creates better decisions and better government for Canadians.

Name-blind recruitment, of course, is the practice of removing names from job application forms. To remove unconscious bias against people with ethnic sounding names during the hiring process. I am delighted to welcome the news that we are undertaking a pilot program in this area within the Government of Canada.

I’m honoured also to be in one of the most diverse cities anywhere in the world, in Toronto, to be making this announcement. With half of its population born outside of the country, Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities anywhere in the world and its people have enriched the whole country by the many economic and cultural benefits that diversity brings.

Indeed, you show how diversity can be a tremendous source of strength, not only in this city but also in Canada and its federal public service.

In a country as richly diverse as ours, name-blind recruitment is not simply a progressive affectation. It’s about a clear-eyed, hard-headed effort to get the best out of our population and to recruit individuals to public service that can benefit all Canadians.

Just over a year ago, another small local university, University of Toronto, reported on a two-year study into what researchers termed “resume whitening.” Their research found that English-speaking employers in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver were about 40% more likely to choose a job applicant with an English-sounding name. Just 10% of Black applicants received call-backs for job interviews if they included their African-sounding names, compared to more than 25% if their names were anglicized and their Black community experiences removed from their resumes.

That’s why it’s important for us to take concrete steps to explore the mechanics of name-blind recruitment. The results of this pilot project will help inform our thinking on potentially expanding the use of name-blind recruitment of hiring across the federal public service. Our department, Treasury Board, and the Public Service Commission of Canada have been working together over the past months to identify the best way forward for name-blind recruitment.

The Public Service Commission will lead this pilot supported by Treasury Board to explore the effects of concealing applicants’ names, email addresses, country of origin and employment, equity information from some externally advertised jobs. Six departments, including the Department of National Defence; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; Environment Canada; Treasury Board Secretariat, as well as Global Affairs and Public Services and Procurement Canada will test the effectiveness and sustainability of these name-blind recruitment techniques.

The pilot project will compare the way managers screen applications either with or without the name of applicants. And the final report will be released by the Public Service Commission in October of 2017. We believe that the public service should reflect the idea that our diversity is our strength and should be a model of inclusion for employers across Canada and around the world.

Every Canadian who wants to serve their country as members of its public service should have the opportunity to do so, no matter what their name is.

Each of us should be able to serve our country no matter what our name is. In fact, that the public service already has made strides when it comes to employing women, visible minorities, Canadians with disabilities and Indigenous People. We have made diversity an inclusion a touchstone for our government, and we’ve taken a lot of actions on this front.

As you know, the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed the most diverse Cabinet in Canadian history and created a new Cabinet Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. The Minister of Justice introduced legislation to guarantee the protection of gender identity and expression of transgender people across Canada in the Prime Minister’s name. Member of Parliament Randy Boissonnault is a special adviser on LGTBQ2 issues to advise him on the development and coordination of our LGTBQ agenda. However, there is always more to do.

Research has shown that name-blind recruitment can help knock down barriers to employment for minority and economically disadvantaged groups.

Research has shown that name-blind recruitment can help knock down barriers to employment for minority and economically disadvantaged groups.

To some people, diversity and inclusiveness may seem like the soft stuff of governance. In reality, these are the hallmarks of a high-performing public service.

To some people, diversity and inclusion may seem like the soft stuff of government. In reality, these are the hallmarks of a high-performing public service. As President of the Treasury Board, it’s my responsibility and I’ve got to tell you it’s my privilege to help deliver on this commitment and to help deliver a more diverse public service that reflects the diversity of our country. And this will benefit generations of Canadians to come.

We believe that diversity and inclusiveness will lead to a more effective government for all citizens. We believe strongly in fairness and equality of opportunity, and no one in one of the most advanced societies on earth should be denied the chance to contribute their best efforts for the benefit of all. And for those of us who seek change, who are working hard for change, equality has to begin here at home. So greater diversity and inclusion is about more than building a world-class public service, as crucial as that is. It’s about who we are as Canadians and it’s about what we stand for, and is one of the most critical strengths that we project as a country to the world in the 21st century.

As our Prime Minister has said, “Our commitment to diversity and inclusion isn’t about Canadians being nice and polite, although of course we are. In fact, this commitment is a powerful and ambitious approach to making Canada and the world a better, safer place. We are here today to continue this march into the future and I’m tremendously excited about this new pilot project and the potential it opens for future innovations based on the best evidence possible. We owe it to ourselves, to all of us, to recruit the best public service possible to serve Canadians.

I’m delighted to be here with my colleagues today. I’d like to ask the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to speak. As I said earlier, he was one of the MPs who had done quite a bit of work on this and when he spoke to me about it I said, well, that’s something we’re actually talking about within Treasury Board, and why don’t we work together and get it done. It shows that members of Parliament can really drive positive change, real change for Canadians. But his personal story exemplifies the very best of a modern and diverse Canada. Thank you very much.

Hon. Ahmed Hussen: Thank you so much, Scott, Minister Brison for that kind introduction, and for that important announcement. I remember on February 24, 2016, as a newly elected member of Parliament for York South-Weston, I approached  Minister Brison with this idea of name-blind recruitment being included in his efforts already underway to modernize and enhance the diversity and inclusion and effectiveness of our civil service.

Before I begin, I also want to thank all the members of Parliament who are with me here today. I spoke to a number of them about this issue very early on and throughout this journey they have been very encouraging and supportive of my efforts toward implementing and testing out name-blind recruitment in our public service.

I’d like to begin by naming Arif Virani, the Member of Parliament for Parkdale-High Park for his support for this initiative and for his encouragement during the early days during which I was exploring this idea. Michael Levitt, my friend from York Centre and Member of Parliament for York Centre; Ramesh Sangha, Brampton Centre, a Member of Parliament; and of course Adam Vaughan from Spadina-Fort York. Thank you all for joining me here today.

And this wouldn’t have been possible without the encouragement and leadership of Minister Brison, and it wasn’t just encouragement. When I first brought the idea to him he seemed intrigued but he challenged me and he said, “Show me the evidence. Show me the research.” He didn’t just take my word for it and he made me work hard and produce the evidence and the necessary documentation and research that enabled him to look further into this issue and see how it can contribute to his already ambitious plan to modernize our civil service.

And I’m proud of the fact that on February 24, as I embarked on that journey, that subsequent to that and in the announcement today, he shows me that there is space in our government under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for members of Parliament to bring innovative ideas forward and to be heard by our government, and to be engaged in their ideas and to be embraced for that, for their suggestions and their creative ideas.

“Name-blind recruitment,” I came across it first through reading about what happened in the United Kingdom a number of years ago where Prime Minister, former Prime Minister David Cameron issued what he called the “name-blind challenge” and he challenged the private sector. He said, “We in the government of the UK will implement “name-blind recruitment” as a way to level the playing field for applicants and to enable more people to get access to job interviews. And he challenged the private sector to respond and they did.

Because of that crucial leadership by government, other orders of government as well as the private sector were able to respond to that. And in this announcement, it’s the same process. We hope that the pilot project involving six of the biggest departments in the Government of Canada will enable us to get research and findings that will inform us for the rest of the government, but also hopefully create that positive challenge to other levels of government, and also the private sector, to examine name-blind recruitment as a way to diversify and include more people in their hiring process.

So I’m very excited about that. I just met with Minister Brison earlier with a group of students from – who are here from the Ted Rogers School of Management, and listening to their stories, listening to their field experience in terms of entrepreneurship and experiential learning and so on, and the disruptive nature of the economy today that they face as they embark on their careers. It tells me that these are exactly the kinds of people that we need in the Government of Canada so that they can come in with the enthusiasm, with the ideas and with their innovation.

And it would be a shame if we couldn’t give them an equal chance at getting that first interview with the Government of Canada. And if name-blind recruitment goes a long way to enabling us to do that, to welcome these young people into our civil service, then we should definitely explore it and that’s why I once again thank the leadership that Minister Brison has shown in this. He has been a champion for looking at innovative ideas, and we are here today in large part because of his efforts to really push this through, and I really thank him from the bottom of my heart for doing that. Thank you very much.

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