Canada’s federal security and intelligence establishment encouraging employees to self-identify

Further to the earlier Hill Times story. Having gone through some of the recent reports (still awaiting a few), my general observation is the lower the representation numbers, the longer the reports and the more words describing the various initiatives underway). That being said, their cultures are different from elsewhere in the public service and thus the challenges greater:

A number of organizations in Canada’s security and intelligence establishment, including the Communications Security Establishment, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Community, the Department of National Defence, and the Canada Border Services Agency have been conducting campaigns to encourage employees who belong to one of the four designated groups listed in the Employment Equity Act—women, Indigenous people, members of a visible minority, and people with a disability—to self-identify, as part of their efforts to improve data collection and hiring practices.

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 on diversity and inclusion issues in the security and intelligence community in its most recent annual report.

The report notes that one of the challenges in the security and intelligence committee surrounds voluntary self-identification.

But the report also notes that “self-identification campaigns and internal communications are [a] way organizations try to increase awareness on these issues,” and that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), and the Department of National Defence (DND) have conducted campaigns to “demystify the self-identification process and encourage employees to self identify.”

The Hill Times reached out to the four organizations noted in the report for more information on how they have done that.

Communications Security Establishment

Diversity and inclusion is an important element in ensuring that the Canadian security and intelligence community can effectively protect Canada, said Ryan Foreman, a media relations representative with the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).

Mr. Foreman outlined a number of initiatives undertaken by the CSE to encourage self-identification, including a 2017 push to increase organizational awareness of the requirements of the Employment Equity Act, and to explain how a diverse workforce strengthens CSE’s ability to deliver on its mandate.

“This included providing data to managers, and developing strategies to attract job applicants from underrepresented groups,” said Mr. Foreman, who also noted that CSE launched a self-identification campaign called “Show us what CSE is made of,” which was designed to encourage employees to self-identify.

“The messaging for this campaign communicated the importance of employment equity data and its impact on other organizational initiatives, such as recruitment and training,” said Mr. Foreman. “Both the 2017 initiative and the self-identification campaign started in 2018 are on-going.”

Canadian Security and Intelligence Community

“As Canada’s security and intelligence service, it is critical that CSIS reflects the communities it protects, wrote CSIS spokesperson John Townsend in an email to The Hill Times. “To this end, CSIS has implemented an ongoing internal communications campaign to encourage employees who belong to one of the four designated groups listed in the Employment Equity Act to self-identify.”

“The campaign includes an annual Employment Equity questionnaire among other tools to advise employees on the importance of self-identification.”

Ninety per cent of CSIS employees have engaged with these tools, according to Mr. Townsend.

“The work of making CSIS more representative of Canada is never finished but our commitment is steadfast and our efforts continue,” wrote Mr. Townsend.

Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces

Staff at the Department of National Defence and members of Canadian Armed Forces have returned self-identification forms at a greater rate this year than in the past, thanks to organizational efforts to spread the word about the importance of self-identification, according to Major Smyth, spokesperson for DND.

The Employment Equity Act requires that every member be provided the opportunity to self-identify as a member of a designated group, but it remains voluntary to do so.

As such, employment equity representation rates are based on a voluntary process and may not represent the actual employment equity representation in CAF, according to Mr. Smyth.

“Overall, the CAF continues to improve upon its self-identification return rates,” said Mr. Smyth. “The first part of the self-identification form is a personal identification portion. For this portion, the regular force achieved its highest return rate yet with 97.5 per cent of [members] having had the opportunity to self-identify as a member of a designated employment equity group.”

“While the return rates are lower in the primary reserve units, the CAF saw an overall increase in self-identification as designated group members from both regular force and primary reserve members compared to 2017/18.”

“Current representation rates, as of July 2020, for the regular force and the primary reserves combined, were as follows: women, 16 per cent; visible minorities, 9.3 per cent; and Indigenous Peoples, 2.8 per cent.”

DND/CAF did not identify the representation of persons with disabilities as of July 2020 in their response to The Hill Times.

The CAF works closely with Statistics Canada to ensure that “labour market data they provide, and upon which the CAF sets its employment equity representation rate goals, is reflective of the unique occupations and employment criteria of the CAF.”

“DND/CAF is committed to reflecting the Canadian ideals of diversity, respect and inclusion. Both long and short term goals have been created, based on the labour market analysis provided by Statistics Canada. We review our progress regularly to ensure that we are always working towards increasing representation rates,” said Mr. Smyth.”

Canadian Border Services Agency

The Canada Border Services Agency’s campaign encouraging self-identification began in 2017 and was repeated in 2018, according to Jacqueline Callin, spokesperson with the agency.

“They stressed the importance of understanding our workforce composition and reinforced that employee information would be protected. Recognizing that the Agency’s manual process might be contributing to response rates of 61 per cent, an online form was piloted with success in 2019 and was set to be launched in March 2020 as part of our ‘Your Voice Matters’ campaign. It has been postponed due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and current efforts are focused on how best to virtually promote self-identification,” she said.

Employment Equity Act ‘has served Canada and the public service well,’ says expert

Andrew Griffith, who is the former director general for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad, told The Hill Times that the Employment Equity Act has served Canada and the public service well, and that the diversity of virtually every group has increased since the act was introduced.

“So the basic structure of the act, I think, has worked in the reporting structure and the data collection, and the publicity that comes with the results,” said Mr. Griffith, who is a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Environics Institute.

“But if you re-open the act, I’m just not sure that it’s worth all that much effort, time, and invariable divisiveness and controversies that it will raise,” said Mr. Griffith. “I’m thinking that if you want to use government time wisely, it would be more effective, I would think, [to look] at specific anti-racism initiatives and look at some of the specific barriers rather than a wholesale of revision of the act, because I think the challenge is less with the act and more with some of the practical stuff.”

Source: Canada’s federal security and intelligence establishment encouraging employees to self-identify

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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