PM’s ‘Tiger Team’ meant to address diversity, inclusion in Canada’s national intelligence and security community hasn’t met since 2018

Of note. Yet another initiative without apparent follow-up.

Although somewhat dated, this overall picture is unlikely to have changed significantly (in process of requesting updated reports for the CF (non-civilian), RCMP (non-civilian), CSIS and CSE as not covered in the TBS report):


The federal government still has “much work to be done” on addressing diversity and inclusion issues within its intelligence and security apparatus, according to a recent parliamentary committee report, with one leading intelligence expert suggesting more senior leadership within the Privy Council Office with “power and clout” is needed to oversee the problem—and questioning why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s launch of the “Tiger Team” in 2017 meant to address diversity and inclusion issues hasn’t met since July 2018.

In their lengthy 2019 annual report, which was tabled in Parliament only a few days before the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown began in March, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, composed of 11 MPs and Senators and chaired by Liberal MP David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Ont.), focused considerable attention on the issue of diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community.

The review was conducted for several reasons, according to the report, most importantly because “challenges to increasing diversity and inclusion persist in the security and intelligence community even after decades of legislation, multiple reports and repeated calls for change.”

“These issues are particularly important for organizations responsible for protecting the national security of Canada and the rights and freedoms of Canadians.”

The report also notes that the “Tiger Team” established in 2017, created “with the stated aim of ‘exploring, advancing and implementing joint efforts to learn from one another and share best practices to enhance diversity and inclusion within and across [their] organizations through a variety of activities and initiatives,’” has not met since July 2018.

In January 2017, The leaders of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Border Services Agency, CSIS, Canadian Security Establishment, Department of National Defense and the RCMP established the Tiger Team.

National security expert Wesley Wark, a professor at the University of Ottawa, told The Hill Times that the initiative to create a Tiger Team was a product of a push by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) in late 2016, and ultimately resulted from a meeting Mr. Trudeau requested with the heads of agencies in the security and intelligence community as well as with the Privy Council Office.

“Sadly, the tigers seem ultimately to have gone to sleep,” according to Prof. Wark’s April 2020 working paper addressing the NSICOP’s findings. “It is time, perhaps, for the prime minister to crack the whip again.”

“This kind of Tiger Team concept moved into the lane of deliverology, in the sense that it was overseen by the deputy secretary to the cabinet, but I’m not sure that was the original idea—that’s just where it ended up in terms of maintaining some momentum and producing reports for a period of time,” according to Prof. Wark.

When it comes to the specifics of diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community, it was “probably a mistake to move it into that lane or allow it to be moved into that lane,” said Prof. Wark.

“If an initiative of this kind was going to be sustained and picked up by all the different elements of the security and intelligence community, it needed to be overseen by senior leadership in the PCO [outside] of the deliverology mechanism,” said Prof. Wark. “In other words, it should have been taken up as a priority by the national and security and intelligence advisor, and it’s that senior officer in PCO who would have the power and clout to really make sure that something significant happened in this way.”

“I don’t understand why the national security and intelligence adviser himself did not take this up, and the committee of parliamentarians notes that although it doesn’t attach any explicit criticism to this, the whole Tiger Team effort obviously just faded away all together after a period of time,” said Prof. Wark.

The deputy secretary to the cabinet resides within the PCO, underneath the Clerk, and the national security and intelligence advisor is a very senior deputy minister position that ranks almost as an equivalent position to the clerk of the Privy Council, according to Prof. Wark.

According to PCO spokesperson Pierre-Alain Bujold, the work of the Tiger Team is ongoing, and currently chaired by the Department of National Defense (DND).

“The Government of Canada appreciates the work undertaken by [NSICOP],” according to Mr. Bujold, [and] sees diversity and inclusion as an important means to making its national security and intelligence community even more effective in protecting Canadians,” according to Mr. Bujold in an emailed statement to The Hill Times.

“We have been working for a number of years to improve diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community. This is critical, not just in terms of better representing Canadian communities, but in making security and intelligence agencies more effective at doing their job.”

‘Diversity is particularly important inside security and intelligence organizations’

Mr. McGuinty, the committee’s chair, was not available for an interview, but in an emailed statement to The Hill Times, the executive director of the committee, Rennie Marcoux, wrote that although the report did not make any findings or recommendations as to the national security and intelligence adviser’s role within the Tiger Team, the committee recognizes the merit of the community approach to address diversity and inclusion issues—and that its recommendations reinforce the value of the coordinated effort.

“The security and intelligence community is best placed to determine which individual or office is best suited to lead or direct this work,” according to Ms. Marcoux.

In its conclusions, the report notes that “building diverse and inclusive workforces is essential to the effectiveness of the security and intelligence community.”

When asked to expand, Ms. Marcoux noted that in addition to the “well-documented” benefits of a diverse workplace and inclusive workforce across a large body of research, as well as the committee’s belief that Canada’s public service should reflect the population it serves, “a more diverse workforce ensures that organizations are benefitting from the broad range of perspectives and talent that Canada has to offer.”

“Finally, the committee notes that diversity is particularly important inside security and intelligence organizations because it allows them to leverage language skills, community contacts and cultural competencies, and protects against groupthink mindsets that permeate more homogeneous organizations,” according to Ms. Marcoux.

Tim McSorley, national coordinator with the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, told The Hill Times that “there needs to be a level of accountability and transparency in terms of what the words on paper mean.”

“I think a big question is that we see, year-after-year, whether it’s three-year plans or five-year plans or in line with Treasury Board recommendations, it seems like there’s a plan and then the next plan seems to repeat very similar issues around the importance of lowering barriers [around] increasing diversity and inclusion within these organizations,” said Mr. McSorley. “While it does seem that the numbers have gotten slightly better over the last 10 or 11 years, it doesn’t seem like anything new is coming out, it seems that it remains the same question each time a new plan is put together.”

“So what are they doing on the ground to actually change and to increase diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community,” said Mr. McSorley. “Who is accountable if they don’t meet those goals, and what kind of consequences are there?”

When asked about the Tiger Team, Mr. McSorley said that looking at some of the critiques within the report, the fact that it was concentrated solely of members from HR departments was part of the problem.

According to the report, the committee noted several shortcomings with this initiative, including the lack of specific objectives for diversity and inclusion as well as the development of a performance measurement framework to assess the success of its initiatives.

“The representatives from each organization were all from human resources departments and organizations did not seek out members of employment equity groups for membership or participation on the Tiger Team,” according to the report. “[Throughout] its discussions, the Tiger Team focused on short-term initiatives without considering systemic challenges raised in various organization-specific studies or class-action lawsuits (the CAF and the RCMP), such as workplace culture and discrimination.”

‘Things won’t change on their own’

The Abella Commission, which led to the creation of the Employment Equity Act, unfolded in 1984, said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of the equality program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“The first Employment Equity Act was in 1986. The current [act] is 25 years old, and that act calls for serious accountability measures, serious long-term and short-term goal setting, serious monitoring and reviews for organization accountability,” said Ms. Aviv.

“So we always need to be optimistic and hopeful and try to move things forward, but we’ve also been working on these issues for a very long time,” said Ms. Aviv. “There are clear obligations there, obligations that, according to this report, have simply not been met.”

Ms. Aviv said she believes that there is a notion that things are getting better, they get better on their own, and that patience is required to change organizational culture.

“But if you actually look at the trajectory and the amount of time that’s passed, and the amount of harm that’s been done to people in these organizations, and the ill-effect it’s having on the effectiveness of the organizations themselves, then you understand that things won’t change on their own,” said Ms. Aviv.

According to RCMP spokesperson Catherine Fortin, the RCMP has implemented a number of initiatives to increase the ratio of women, visible minorities, and Indigenous people within their ranks, with objectives to include 30 per cent women, 20 per cent of people from visible minority groups, and 10 per cent Indigenous people.

“We intend to reach these goals through a targeted approach to recruiting, using advertising and marketing to position the RCMP as the employer of choice to people who may not have considered a career in policing,” according to Ms. Fortin. “The RCMP is committed to inclusiveness and diversity of all types within the organization. We believe that the more diverse we are when it comes to gender, ethnic background, religion or sexual orientation, the better we are able to serve all Canadians.”

According to DND spokesperson Major T.A. Smyth, “DND and the CAF place unprecedented emphasis on ensuring diversity and gender equality in military human resource management as part of efforts to strengthen the operational force and to position DND and the CAF as inclusive organizations. Diversity is viewed as a source of strength and flexibility to build the capacity of the CAF and the civilian workforce.”

“DND and the CAF are working with other government departments as a community and considering the findings and recommendations of this report to inform future decision making,” according to Mr. Smyth. “Various experiences, knowledge, and skillsets contribute to our operational effectiveness. By increasing the representativeness of our Forces and our civilian personnel to reflect Canadian society, diversity enables DND and CAF to be forward-looking, resilient, and relevant.”

—-

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians made the following recommendations in it’s 2019 Annual Report, released in March 2020:

1. The committee conduct a retrospective review in three to five years to assess the security and intelligence community’s progress in achieving and implementing its diversity goals and inclusion initiatives.

2. The security and intelligence community adopt a consistent and transparent approach to planning and monitoring of employment equity and diversity goals, and conduct regular reviews of their employment policies and practices.

3. The security and intelligence community improve the robustness of its data collection and analysis, including GBA+ assessments of internal staffing and promotion policies and clustering analyses of the workforce.

4. The security and intelligence community develop a common performance measurement framework, and strengthen accountability for diversity and inclusion through meaningful and measurable performance indicators for executives and managers across all organizations.

Source: PM’s ‘Tiger Team’ meant to address diversity, inclusion in Canada’s national intelligence and security community hasn’t met since 2018

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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