Jewish federal employees form network to combat antisemitism in government service

Yet another group network. Sad that felt needed:

Jewish civil servants met the prime minister’s special envoy on fighting antisemitism to ask for support dealing with anti-Jewish abuse and slurs in the federal public service.

The government officials have formed a support network to provide a “safe space” where they can share experiences of antisemitism and to change the culture in the sector.

On Tuesday, they met Irwin Cotler, the prime minister’s antisemitism envoy, to relay to him the problem in government offices. Some expressed fears that anti-Jewish hatred risked becoming marginalized in the government’s fight against discrimination and racism in the public service.

Artur Wilczynski, Canada’s former ambassador to Norway, said this is the first time in his 30 years working in the public service that Jewish public servants have formed such a group, which met for the first time during Hanukkah this month.

He said while some government departments — including his own — take antisemitism seriously, some within the public service have been “tone deaf to the experiences of Jewish colleagues.”

The Jewish public service network, founded by public servant Jonathon Greenberg, met the Privy Council Office this month to voice their concerns and to try to ensure that inclusivity and diversity training in all government departments includes antisemitism. The group said the Privy Council was receptive to their concerns.

Kayla Estrin, a federal official for 30 years, said antisemitism “has caused many of us stress and anxiety.”

She said the network had been founded because antisemitism, including casually hurtful jibes at work and tropes about Jews in the office, was preoccupying many Jewish employees.

“This is very much being felt now,” she said. “There’s lots of dialogue about diversity and inclusion but antisemitism seems to be absent from that discussion. We just want to make sure that we are part of that dialogue and to raise awareness of antisemitism. We appreciate how receptive the Privy Council has been.”

The group wants to make sure that Jewish employees are not excluded from the terms of a “call to action” on anti-racism, equity and inclusion in the federal public service, published by Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council and head of the public service.

Cotler, a former justice minister, said he was concerned by a rising tide of anti-Jewish hatred and would seek to get antisemitism included in not just the call to action, but all strategies across government to combat racism and discrimination.

“I would like to see an express reference to antisemitism and its importance. If we don’t include antisemitism it relegates it to a subject of no concern at a time of an alarming rise,” he said. “What is happening is that antisemitism is being increasingly normalized with an absence of outrage when it occurs.”

The Treasury Board of Canada, which is responsible for federal public servants, said the “work of eradicating bias, barriers, and discrimination, which have taken root over generations, demands an ongoing, relentless effort.”

It said it would engage with Jewish employees along with other equity-seeking employee networks. In a statement it said its Centre on Diversity and Inclusion had a “mandate is to address barriers and challenges to a diverse and inclusive workplace and to prevent discrimination for all equity-seeking groups, including religious minorities.”

The public service has also faced allegations of anti-Black racism, with a group of former and current workers filing a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging systemic discrimination in hiring and promoting. The allegations have not been tested in court.

Wilczynski, an assistant deputy minister and senior adviser for people, equity and inclusion at the communications security establishment, says he has experienced — as a Jewish, gay man — more antisemitism than homophobia during his lifetime, including at work.

“I have never seen the community as vulnerable and concerned. People are worried,” he said. “There isn’t a good understanding of how antisemitism has permeated its way across society including the public service.”

Wilczynski said he was very encouraged that the government was devoting so much energy and resources to inclusion. But, he said, it should make sure it is “committed to creating a safe space for all its employees, including Muslim, Jewish, Black and Indigenous staff.

Doree Kovalio, a member of the Jewish public service network’s steering committee and public servant for 17 years, also welcomed the push for diversity and inclusivity training within government and outside. But she said it had become “acutely apparent” to Jewish public servants that acknowledging and addressing antisemitism was not a priority in these discussions.

Jewish federal employees have shared numerous accounts of antisemitism at work, she said.

“Thankfully we have a safe space for Jewish public servants where they feel open to share their experiences without judgment or reprisal,” she said.

Former Bloc Québécois MP Richard Marceau, of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said it was very troubling that Jewish civil servants for the first time ever had to create an association to combat antisemitism.

“I commend them for standing up to combat antisemitism in the biggest employer in Canada. This shows that antisemitism has become mainstream in Canada.”

Tory MP Marty Morantz said he is glad Jewish civil servants are able to come together to offer each other support over antisemitism which he said is “pervasive.”

Source: Jewish federal employees form network to combat antisemitism in government service

Canada’s Public Service Employee Survey: using advanced data analytics to focus workplace culture change

Good to have more people like Philip Lillies looking at the Survey and probing the meaning of the findings, whether by organization or group, along with combining findings with the Staffing and Non-Partisanship Survey (SNPS). More complex analysis than I can do!:

Since 2005, summaries of overall Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) results have been posted on the Government of Canada open portal. The summaries of overall results have facilitated the analysis of shortcomings in the culture of the workplace by human resource personnel, internal auditors, and researchers. Notably, two researchers, Andrew Griffith and Jake Cole have recently published in The Hill Times analyses that have complemented the summaries of overall results posted on the Government of Canada portal.

However, summaries of overall results have a glaring deficiency: they may indicate that corrective action is necessary, but they provide insufficient guidance as to what action might be most effective or which employee groups are most in need of this action. Comparison of variations across departments and across employee groups can make up for this insufficiency. These comparisons can be used to derive associations between responses; these associations often indicate the potential causes and consequences of the variations across groups. And causes and consequences are an important guide to action.

In 2020, I retired from my position as a senior internal auditor in the public service. During my first year of retirement, I have endeavoured to make up for shortcomings in the usual analysis tools by writing a Python program that had the capacity to use response variations to find associations between responses. It then attributed these associations to causes and consequences for particular departments and employee groups. In what follows, I build on the work of Griffith and Cole by presenting some examples of what I have found using my Python program.

Measuring and improving happiness

Cole states that the pandemic has been good for public service employees. According to him, “Whatever the reason, they are a happier bunch.” There are no questions about happiness in the PSES, but many experts, including Cole suggest that employee engagement is a good indicator of happiness. Under the theme of “engagement,” the PSES has seven questions. Across the entire public service, there are, nonetheless, variations in the level of engagement. By focusing corrective action on those groups that show the lowest scores to engagement questions and to associated questions, we can improve the efficiency of the corrective action.

So, from among these seven engagement-themed questions, here are the four that show the most variation across the public service:

  • Q11: Feeling valued at work.
  • Q50: Recommendation that my department is a great place to work.
  • Q51: Satisfied with my department or agency.
  • Q52: Prefer my workplace over others in the federal public service.

But to take focused corrective action we need to know which employees in which departments are suffering from lack of engagement. It turns out that there are eight departments that show below average scores in responses to these four questions. Questions associated with these four questions will be the questions from which we can derive causes and consequences and those groups with below average responses to these four questions will be the groups to which corrective action needs to be applied.

To take a concrete example, it turns out that border services employees are one of the most disengaged groups within the Canadian Border Services Agency and the potential causes of their disengagement can be found in the below-average scores of their responses to career-related questions, such as:

  • Q41: my department or agency does a good job of supporting employee career development.

Corrective action can be applied accordingly.

Combining results from two surveys

Another important government survey is the Staffing and Non-Partisanship Survey (SNPS), which is also directed at employees, and publishes its results on the government’s open portal in a separate cycle to the PSES. Using Python to combine results from the two surveys is both trivial and insightful.

Table 1 lists the ethical questions that show a high variation in response scores when the SNPS is combined with the PSES. Associated with all of these questions from the PSES, except one, are two questions from the SNPS:

QALL_05D: The process of selecting a person for a position is done fairly.
QALL_05B: I believe that we hire people who can do the job.

Not only does the association of these questions with so many of the PSES ethical questions highlight the importance of the work of the Public Service Commission, which is responsible for staffing practices, but one would also be inclined to draw the conclusion that these SNPS questions are two important ethical questions that should be included in the PSES rather than the SNPS.

Table 1: Questions from the PSES with High Variation when SNPS is combined with PSES

Ethical workplace
Q19: Satisfactory resolution of interpersonal issues.
Q38: Know where to go for help on ethical issues.
Q39: Promotion of values and ethics.
Q40: No fear of reprisal.
Leadership: senior management
Q31: Leadership by ethical example.
Q32: Confidence in senior management.
Q33: Effectiveness and timeliness of decisions.
Q34: Effectiveness of essential information flows.
Harassment
Q60: Satisfactory harassment resolution.
Q61: Satisfactory harassment prevention program.
Discrimination
Q63-B: Discrimination from individuals with authority over me.
Q67: Satisfactory discrimination resolution.
Q68: Satisfactory discrimination prevention program.

Empowerment of Black employees

Griffith, in his November 2019 article, reaches the conclusion that Black employees are among the least empowered. His conclusion is based on the overall scores of Black employee responses to organizational culture indicators in the PSES 2019 survey. Interestingly, my Python program indicates that there are nine departments that show not only below average scores in responses to these empowerment questions, but also below average scores in their responses to questions associated with these questions. What is surprising is that among these nine departments are the Public Service Commission of Canada, the Military Police Complaints Commission of Canada, the Courts Administration Service, Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. These are ethically oriented regulatory and research bodies that should be the first to understand the mechanisms and implications of discrimination; hence, should already be taking the necessary corrective actions. Perhaps, these results indicate that understanding is only a first step in overcoming discrimination, in which case discovering what corrective actions are required to go beyond understanding points to the need for further investigation.

Conclusion

I can only agree with Cole that the PSES provides a rich source of information that, if properly assessed and acted on, could result in positive changes for the employees and subsequently for the Canadians they are there to serve. However, assessment cannot be limited to discussion and comparison of overall results. As I hope the examples provided show, this rich source of information can only be fully exploited by making use of computerized data analytics techniques that highlight associations between responses and pinpoint employee groups where follow-up is needed. Nonetheless, associations should not be confused with definitive results; rather they should be taken as guidance for further assessment and investigation. Speaking from my own professional experience, I would say that the need for this informed cultural analysis provides an exciting opportunity for the next generation of internal auditors if they can rise to the challenge.

Source: Canada’s Public Service Employee Survey: using advanced data analytics to focus workplace culture change

May: The pandemic upended the federal workplace. What comes next?

Good overview of the issues and challenges:

The pandemic blew up the norms and structure of work behaviour in Canada’s public service and now bureaucrats want new rules and a say in how work fits into their lives as the federal government readies for a return to the office.

Everything about working in the public service is up for grabs.

After nearly two years, the pandemic proved public servants can work in many jobs from anywhere. That’s upended the conventional approach to work, including the 37.5-hour work week, endless in-person meetings, a soulless cubicle culture and how to climb the hierarchy. It’s an opportunity for change reformers have dreamed about for 25 years.

“Look, if I could press an undo button and make sure COVID never happened, I would… but it happened, and the silver lining is we have exponentially adopted telework,” said Dany Richard, a union president and co-chair of the National Joint Council, a joint union and management committee. “That allows us now to reassess how the future of work will be.”

With a global talent shortage and an economy favouring workers, public servants couldn’t be in a better position to make demands on their employer about their future work lives.

There are high hopes for a new telework policy being hashed out behind closed doors with unions and senior management. Advocates promise a new mobile workforce that would break the Ottawa-Gatineau monopoly on headquarter jobs. It would improve workforce diversity and work-life balance and reduce real estate and operational costs along with pollution from commuting.

The pandemic also picked up the pace of digital transformation of the public service by three to five years, said Ryan Androsoff, director of digital leadership at the Institute on Governance.

In a blink, public servants went en masse to work at home. After a mad scramble for enough laptops, bandwidth and network access, public servants learned to work in real time, mastering videoconferencing, text and chat software and editing documents collaboratively.

“It would have taken multiple years before departments would have reached the point where 100 per cent of their workforce could work in a distributed and remote way,” Androsoff said.

Public servants aren’t expected to return to offices until the pandemic is declared over, but everyone is braced for a hybrid workplace, a mix of working in office and at home.

Is government ready? Not quite. The Treasury Board’s Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer is putting together a short- and long-term plan for the future of work with a “spotlight on telework” that rolls out as COVID restrictions are lifted and public servants can return to in-office work.

Richard argued working remotely during an emergency like the pandemic worked because everyone is in the same boat. The challenge now is how to “optimize” remote work and make the most of it.

“I think the employer will generally be open to telework,” said Richard, who is president of the Association for Canadian Financial Officers. “I don’t think it’ll be 100 per cent of the time. But as long as an employee commits to, I’d guess, two days a week in the office, the employer will say, ‘Okay let’s try three days at home and two days in the office.’”

Not all federal jobs can be done from home. Ship crews, prison guards, border guards and meat inspectors can’t. Call centres, science laboratories and operations like the Canada Security Establishment need people at the workplace.

Most office workers, however, don’t want to return to the old ways. Surveys found most want to work from home full-time or several days a week. As one senior bureaucrat said, the “pinch point” is whether location of work is an employee’s right or preference. Or is it an “operational requirement” that managers should define?

“We just spent a year and half working from home on a mandatory basis. We had to work from home. Employees see the benefits and want the flexibility to choose where they work,” said Stéphane Aubry, vice-president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC).

As part of that flexibility, Aubry said the union wants jobs classified as remote or telework positions and no longer attached to a city or a building. It argues the government should pick up some of the cost employees bear working at home. It also wants all tasks and activities that have to be done at the office clearly laid out.

“We want a position to be officially classified as a telework job so when there’s a job opening it is put on paper as a telework job,” said Aubry. The government can then look for employees across Canada. It would change the way they do recruitment.”

At the moment, Treasury Board has left it up to departments to decide how their employees will work. The board sets guidelines but deputy ministers are responsible for how their departments run.

Some have already indicated they want workers back in the office some of the time; others are encouraging people to work from home full-time or to decide where they want to be based. Departments like Transport and Public Services and Procurement Canada have been singled out as among the most flexible. Meanwhile, unions are irked the RCMP have ordered some civilian employees back to the office before restrictions have been lifted.

That’s why some are looking for a more consistent policy. One senior bureaucrat said the approach is too “muddied” and sets the stage for expectations and conflicts between departments and unions.

“Instead of having a common approach they’ve left it scattered, which is a problem because deputy ministers are not willing to make a decision that might be precedent-setting and everybody gets stuck,” said the bureaucrat, who we are not identifying because he is not authorized to speak on the subject.

A big challenge with hybrid work is how to treat everyone equitably. The unions are worried about two tiers of employees: those who work in-office and those who don’t. It’s expected those who work in the office, where they are known by management, will have an edge for promotions and special projects.

What if deputy ministers and other senior executives return to the office? Won’t more employees follow suit and come to the office to be seen?

It could create a gender gap for women, who are disproportionately drawn to remote work to better manage parenting or other caregiving needs they juggle.

“I would love to see a situation where if government goes to a hybrid model that they actually say everybody in the organization has to work remotely two or three days a week, so that everybody’s having that same experience,” said Androsoff.

Nearly 42 per cent of public servants work in the National Capital Region. Stories abound of public servants who moved to the countryside or to the east or west coasts to work remotely during lockdown and have no plans to come back. Managers started filling Ottawa jobs with people outside the region and not requiring them to relocate.

There are far more ministers and MPs from outside Ottawa who have long tried to decentralize federal jobs to the regions. The argument for the capital’s disproportionate share of jobs was based on the location of Parliament, ministers and senior management. If the pandemic allowed MPs and Parliament to meet virtually, why wouldn’t they press for more jobs to be done remotely?

Former privy council clerk Michael Wernick says relocating Ottawa jobs is inevitable, adding it could happen in a “very conscious way” or “by stealth.” There are plenty of examples of departments operating outside the capital – Veterans Affairs in Charlottetown, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency in Moncton, National Energy Board in Calgary or the pay centre in Miramichi.

“The political pressure for geographic decentralization, plus work moving out to people’s homes, means a much less gravitational pull from Ottawa,” said Wernick.

“Maybe it won’t be the big departments and central agencies in the core public service, but there are 300 federal entities. And I think they may start maybe with some of those. Why does a tribunal, for example, have to hold hearings in Ottawa?”

Remote work would attract a more diverse pool of applicants who better represent Canada, including those who don’t live in urban centres, Indigenous people, visible minorities and people with disabilities.

A national recruitment strategy, however, will quickly collide with the public service’s bilingualism requirements.

“It opens doors for people from across the country to be part of the federal government in a way never possible before, but how to do that with existing bilingual policies is going to have to be explored,” said Androsoff.

A new telework policy assumes managers will shift to results-based management and hold people accountable for what they do and not just showing up for work.

But Wernick said the public service must sharpen its competitive edge to keep and attract employees in a global talent shortage. That shortage could worsen with an exodus of public servants, burned out and ready to leave after two years of going full tilt in the pandemic. Others put off retirement during lockdown and will leave rather than go back to the office.

Many argue departments will offer remote work to attract and retain people. That could also spark an internal war for talent as people flee to departments that offer the most flexibility and remote work.

The government’s technology is still years behind the private sector, but the pandemic brought all public servants to a basic level of digital literacy with new skills they want to use. Some argue home network and internet connections are now much better than what employees had at the office.

Canadians also have much bigger expectations of government. They are living more digitally now, banking and shopping online, and expect the same easy and rapid service from the government.

But Androsoff said there’s still a powerful pull from the traditionalists who would rather return to the old ways: nine to five, back to the office, in-person meetings and assigned desks.

“The federal government, by virtue of its size and history, has institutional inertia. In previous waves of reform, that inertia always pushes to go back to the way it was,” said Androsoff.

“I’m hoping for lasting change, but it remains to be seen whether this push is permanent or the pressure to go back to its institutional comfort zone wins the day.”

Source: http://click.revue.email/ss/c/LCzjJVqW3iU4uG4vv7g712DvWoe4-HnZ6yJuZDLvqqZTWNZA8CLYLQoJ2EVmLXJp-f6BAtGnwYi0Q6Mw3UjQsLzr_UnLo0Fnpd0RcU5oiRvFLh9yghjGFq7Vv2-uOpezpkZY7Qp04k28XTtLF5caIey_vLzyw6XWxvb_cl_CgSP9leyi9fT0NvRuqwg1SidLPh_ASB2mAAFiThIythTBpjCaMmAmtkFELrXsmCrcA48GoNCZQIxnBmAI_OU34jPWa1KBH4rBUZwH-PE9QsUBqv0NOVPBLuYWb7bspcRLb3-yovnR12M8WE2EzQoCd9yV/3ge/iqphGK5cTsG72MpEUAlaYQ/h10/DzzJWvLO7r53KBmOgWCEkBgiOISsXNZvF1iSJtuUysI

Will the removal of the Canadian citizenship preference in the public service make a difference

My latest:

In recent employment equity reports, the federal government has provided disaggregated representation for visible minorities, Indigenous people and persons with disabilities to help assess how well the public service represents the public it serves. Previously, disaggregated data for visible minority and Indigenous groups in public administration was available only through census data every five years.

The 2020 speech from the throne included a commitment to implementing an action plan “to increase representation in hiring and appointments, and leadership development” within the public service, which was later confirmed in changes to the Public Service Employment Act.

The changes include longer-term and more-complex policies to address “bias and barriers” that impact all equity-seeking groups, as well as one change that will have an early impact for visible minorities  ̶  removing the preference for Canadian citizens: “Permanent residents now have the same preference as Canadian Citizens when appointments are made through external advertised hiring processes.”

There was no debate on this change when the legislation was considered by the House of Commons finance committee  ̶  despite its impact  ̶  because it was included in an omnibus budget bill.

A recent Public Service Commission study on the “citizenship of applicants and external appointments” highlighted the impact of this policy: while visible minority citizens were 17.2 per cent of all applicants and 19.5 per cent of all hires, visible minorities who are only permanent residents formed 5.1 per cent of all applicants and only 1.2 per cent of all hires in 2018-19.

The former preference for citizens was subject to criticism by some visible minority groups because it effectively reduced the opportunities for non-citizen visible minorities. Its removal should ensure more equitable opportunities for all visible minorities at all stages of selection, although other barriers  ̶  such as education, official language knowledge and possible bias  ̶  may remain. Whether this change represents a theoretical or practical change will be known only after a few years when we can compare pre- and post-change hiring numbers.

Table 1 (below) looks at overall visible minority representation, contrasting the total visible minority population, the older citizenship-based benchmark, the 2019-20 employment equity report numbers, and the degree to which there is over-representation or under-representation, compared to the new and old benchmarks.

By way of comparison, the government estimates that the visible minority workforce availability (WFA)  ̶  the share of the Canadian workforce eligible for public service work  ̶  based on the 2016 census is 15.3 per cent based upon the citizenship preference. The removal of the citizenship preference and the inclusion of permanent residents will result in WFA being revised upward closer to the overall visible minority population number following its recalculation in the 2021 census.

https://e.infogram.com/ff0c9445-a9ba-49e9-951c-000bdeab6da3?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fseptembe-2021%2Fwill-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference%2F&src=embed#async_embed

The representation of most groups is relatively close to their share of the citizenship population and greater than WFA for all employees, with larger gaps for executives. The population benchmark shows larger gaps, particularly with respect to executives. Non-identified and mixed-origin visible minorities are relatively over-represented for all employees and executives.

Table 2 takes the same approach with respect to Indigenous representation with the exception that total and citizenship-based populations are identical. It shows relative over-representation of Métis, and under-representation of First Nations and Inuit for all employees, with all groups under-represented at the executive level. The government Indigenous workforce availability estimate, based on the 2016 census, is 4 per cent.

https://e.infogram.com/a1f9d790-ab71-4b2a-b404-c55784a9bda9?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fseptembe-2021%2Fwill-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference%2F&src=embed#async_embed

Table 3 compares the representation of each visible minority by occupational group, expressed as the percentage difference with employees who are not a visible minority and not Indigenous for 2020. Visible minorities are slightly under-represented among executives, more so among technical, with the greatest gap in operational groups. Visible minorities are over-represented in scientific and professional with some exceptions, and in administration and foreign service, although there is a mixed pattern with respect to admin support.

https://e.infogram.com/5167cfb7-82b0-4e3b-aa8c-b91d88155f8b?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fseptembe-2021%2Fwill-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference%2F&src=embed#async_embed

Table 4 highlights the change in representation from 2017 to 2020, comparing the percentage change in representation for each visible minority group with the percentage of all public servants who are neither a visible minority nor Indigenous for each occupational category. Overall, visible minority representation has increased by 35.9 per cent compared with only 11.8 per cent for those who are neither a visible minority nor Indigenous. This applies to virtually all groups and categories, with Japanese being the exception and Chinese having a relatively lower increase.

https://e.infogram.com/95552279-d527-467c-b7ab-1f19c6c393d8?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fseptembe-2021%2Fwill-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference%2F&src=embed#async_embed

Table 5 similarly compares the representation of each Indigenous group by occupational categories expressed as the percentage difference with employees who are neither a visible minority nor Indigenous for 2020 (for the executive and technical occupational groups, there are fewer than five Inuit and Other public servants and thus no reporting). All Indigenous groups are under-represented among executives, with the largest gap in scientific and professional categories, but are relatively over-represented in the admin and foreign service, and admin support areas.

https://e.infogram.com/d73da749-3aa9-46e6-894e-fe1b5c9da026?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fseptembe-2021%2Fwill-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference%2F&src=embed#async_embed

Table 6 highlights the change in representation from 2017 to 2020. Overall, the growth in Indigenous representation has been comparable to the growth of not-a-visible minority, not-Indigenous public servants, 11.9 per cent compared to 11.8 per cent. However, Inuit representation has increased significantly, as has that of Métis executives, with First Nations declining relative to not-a-visible minority, not-Indigenous employees.

https://e.infogram.com/61dccf4a-8190-47db-955e-3a91591073f1?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fseptembe-2021%2Fwill-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference%2F&src=embed#async_embed

While this analysis highlights the differences in visible minority and Indigenous representation among the different occupational categories, it does not break it down by level or salary. Census data for the federal public service shows, however, that Black, Filipino and Latin American workers had the lowest median incomes compared to not-a-visible minority. Among Indigenous Peoples, First Nations have the lowest median incomes compared to non-Indigenous.

Given political and public service focus on Black representation, Blacks are the visible minority group with the strongest representation compared to their share of the population with respect to all public servants, and Blacks have stronger representation than South Asian, Chinese and Filipinos in the EX category. Moreover, the percentage increase over the past four years has been comparable or stronger than that of most other visible minority groups. Representation of visible minority groups has increased at three times the rate of not-a-visible minority, not-Indigenous public servants. In contrast, Indigenous representation has matched only the rate of increase, suggesting more effort is needed.

The public service is clearly making significant progress with respect to visible minority representation. The removal of the citizenship preference will likely accelerate this trend toward increased representation.

Given the expected upward revision of the WFA, the gap between actual representation and WFA will increase despite the public service already hiring and promoting more visible minorities. The degree to which the removal of the citizenship preference results in greater increases in representation will be known only after a few years and further public service analysis of citizenship status of visible minority hires and promotions.

Ironically, advocates for this change and greater representation will likely focus more on the larger gap due to the benchmark change, rather than the progress in representation.

Methodology

Data was provided by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) for visible minorities, Indigenous Peoples and persons with disabilities, based upon self-identification for the fiscal years 2016-17 to 2019-20 by occupational group. 2020 data was compared to 2017 data to indicate changes over this period, with visible minority and Indigenous Peoples being compared against the not-visible minority and not-Indigenous for the different occupation categories on a percentage basis. The formula used: (2020 number of public servants minus 2017 number of public servants) divided by 2017 number of public servants. 

For example, in 2020, there were 99 Black executives compared with 73 in 2017 or an increase of 26. That is a (26 ÷ 73 =) 35.6 per cent increase. The overall increase in the number of executives who were neither a visible minority nor Indigenous was 5,244 – 4,592 or 652; 652 ÷ 4,592 = 14.2 per cent. Subtracting the percentage increase of all executives from the percentage increase of Black executives: 35.6 per cent – 14.2 per cent = 21.4 percentage points.

While the visible minority group definitions are similar to those used by Statistics Canada, TBS groups Arab and West Asians together under “Non-White West Asian, North African or Arab.” “Mixed Origin” refers to those with one visible minority parent. By contrast, Statistics Canada uses a “multiple visible minorities” category to include persons with more than one visible minority response.

While the employment equity reports also provide disaggregated data regarding persons with disabilities, the totals do not match with the disability total (10,622 persons) in the annual reports because one person can have multiple disabilities, making it difficult to perform a similar analysis by particular disability.

Source: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/septembe-2021/will-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference/

‘Enough is enough’: Black civil servants vow to press on with discrimination suit as Liberals promise change

Update on the proposed class-action lawsuit:

Carol Sip spent three decades inside the federal public service, but her retirement plaque is the last thing she wants to see on her wall.

Instead it sits stored away in the original packaging.

“Why would I hang it up? It will only bring back awful memories,” Sip said. “It should be something that you should be proud of, but I’m not proud of it because I know what I went through.”

Sip is one of a group Black federal employees involved in a proposed class-action lawsuit launched last December against the federal government alleging years of discrimination and seeking some $2.5 billion in damages.

Earlier this year, federal employee Monica Agard broke her silence about being Black in the public service after a senior colleague at the Immigration and Refugee Board’s Toronto office allegedly praised “the good old days when we had slaves.”

Since then, the proposed class-action lawsuit has become one step closer to reality after a motion was filed for it to be certified. It will fall to the newly elected government to decide whether to challenge that.

But as Canadians head to the polls, the Liberals appear to be changing course on the issue with a policy plank promising support for Black workers.

Liberals now promise support for Black workers

The federal government had maintained that its workers could find help through the employee assistance and health-care programs, which the plaintiffs have long said fail to address the specific trauma of anti-Black racism.

Now, if elected, the Liberal Party says in its platform it will “establish a mental health fund for Black public servants, and support career advancement, training, sponsorship, and educational opportunities for Black workers.”

Party spokesperson Alex Wellstead wouldn’t explicitly say if a Liberal government would support certifying the class action to go forward, but acknowledged “Black Canadians face unique challenges when it comes to mental health in the workplace.

“That is why we’ve committed through our platform to work with community partners on the design and establishment of this fund, which directly responds to calls from Black employees in the public service and will ensure that Black public servants are supported.”

As the employer of the federal public service, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat said the courts have not set a timetable for next steps on certifying the suit and that at this stage, it would be “premature” to comment.

Lawyer Hugh Scher, who’s assisting with the suit, hopes whichever party forms government will work with Black civil servants to address their needs.

“If they do, then they will have a willing partner,” he said. “If they don’t, they they will have a worthy adversary in court.”

‘A living nightmare’

Sip’s ordeal began in the early 1980s, shortly after she became an employee at the federal customs department under what is now the Canada Revenue Agency. Over a number of years spent working there, she says she experienced repeated incidents of harassment and discrimination by a supervisor who behaved with impunity.

And she says never in her 26 years was she promoted beyond her clerical position.

“It became a living nightmare,” she told CBC News. Sip filed multiple grievances and won two. But she felt blacklisted for complaining and says nothing was done.

“If they had a project with lifting boxes, only the Black ladies were chosen to lift the boxes,” she recalled.

In the late 90s, Sip was diagnosed with both breast and uterine cancer. She was off work on disability in 1999, when she was told her department was being restructured. Sip says her manager told her to resign. Believing she had no other option, she did.

In a statement, the CRA told CBC News it cannot discuss specific cases but that it is “firmly dedicated to diversity inclusion and anti-racism in the workplace.”

“The CRA has launched, and will launch further, targeted executive staffing processes for visible minorities and Indigenous peoples who are underrepresented at the leadership levels,” the statement said, noting that CRA encourages all employees to come forward if they experience or witness any discrimination or harassment.

As for why she joined the proposed class action, Sip said: “I look at the young children growing up and I don’t want them to go through what I personally went through, or the others have gone through.”

‘It kills you a little bit inside’

It’s been four months since Marcia Banfield Smith left her job at the Department of Justice.

But she says the scars from her time there run deep.

Over the years, she says she endured racist jokes at meetings and watched as non-Black colleagues rose up the ranks. Meanwhile, despite applying for higher-paying roles, she was stuck in a paralegal role at the same pay — for 19 years.

“It kills you a little bit inside,” she said.

Source: ‘Enough is enough’: Black civil servants vow to press on with discrimination suit as Liberals promise change

Remaking government: Here are the parties’ plans for a post-pandemic workforce

Will be interesting to see:

It’s one of the big questions in the dozen or so local campaigns in this federal election: when will government employees return to their offices, and under what conditions?

The answers, for one thing, will determine just how robust will be the economic recovery in the two downtown ridings. Ottawa Centre and Hull-Aylmer respectively account for 45 per cent and 20 per cent of the federal government’s owned and leased office space in the capital region.

The return to the office, if it happens, will also have a significant impact on commuting patterns throughout the city.

Pre-pandemic, the capital’s rush hour was defined by a small army of federal government workers who made their way, usually by public transit, from a handful of suburbs to the core. For the past 18 months, most of these office workers have been doing their jobs from home in the bedroom communities of Orléans, Barrhaven, Kanata and Aylmer.

The resistance to abandoning this new way of working is apparently strong.

The department in charge of the federal government’s massive real estate holdings — Public Services and Procurement Canada — said it does not have “a target date for the return to the workplace for all employees. We are currently exploring various possibilities.” This, essentially, is the Liberal Party position.

“Having done a lot of canvassing these past few weeks, I know that public servants in Orléans have different perspectives on returning to work in person,” said Marie-France Lalonde, the Liberal incumbent candidate for Orléans. “A majority seem to be leaning towards a hybrid model,” she added in reference to the arrangement that allows employees to work from home some of the time.

Lalonde stressed the government should not rush into potentially profound changes of the workplace. “The realities are not the same from one department to another,” she said, “and I know that each is working to determine the best way to proceed internally.”

Earlier this summer, PSPC launched its “pathfinder project” calling on volunteers to return to the office to test various configurations. In the first few weeks, a couple of hundred employees in the capital region stepped up.

At the beginning of the economic lockdown early last year, some 126,000 workers were directly employed locally by the federal government, representing nearly 17 per cent of the region’s workforce. Add in municipal and provincial government employees and you’ve got close to 24 per cent. Then include thousands of specialists working under contract and it’s easy to see why the region’s commuting and shopping patterns have been so radically upended during the past 18 months.

The politics associated with the mostly-closed offices is complicated. Consider the Ottawa Centre riding currently held by the Liberals. Hundreds of retailers and restaurant owners depend for their livelihood on the physical presence of government workers. But, says New Democratic Party candidate Angella MacEwan, the latter shouldn’t be pushed back to the office before they’re ready, and that means consulting the unions.

“Government offices should re-open when provincial and municipal health guidance has allowed it,” says MacEwan, “and when workers and their unions have come to an agreement that these workplaces are safe for workers.”

Which leaves the question of what to do for all those businesses adjacent to the federal towers. “We should also have targeted supports for our downtown small businesses,” adds MacEwan, pointing out these have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic-inspired lockdowns.

For suburban ridings, the economic imperative to re-open government offices is less of a force. Nepean, for instance, accounts for less than eight per cent of the federal government’s office space in the region. The same is true of Ottawa South and Ottawa West. Most other ridings in the census metropolitan area of Ottawa-Gatineau have a minuscule federal government presence in terms of office infrastructure.

Most of Nepean’s 14,000 government workers pre-pandemic commuted to other ridings, including to the downtown core. Now they are pondering whether they should ever resume that sort of regular journey again.

“The NDP would continue to work closely with public sector unions, who are already consulting their members about permanent work-from-home solutions,” says Sean Devine, the NDP candidate for Nepean, adding that “our goal would be to arrive at mutually accepted options for where and how to work, so that the Canadian public can continue to benefit from the skill and dedication of public servants, while also ensuring that workers have choices for their own health and safety needs.”

The federal public sector unions have so far not been pressured by any of the major political parties to see their members return to the office.

Nevertheless, the Conservatives’ campaign platform framed the issue in a manner that has raised suspicions within the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the largest federal government union. PSAC focused on a couple of lines in the Conservatives’ campaign playbook that emphasized achieving savings “by making government more efficient.”

PSAC interpreted this to mean a Conservative government would trim employment and contract out more work to the private sector, though the context of the policy document suggests government employees would be permitted to work from home wherever possible, thus offering potential savings from reduced office space downtown.

“We have no intention of cutting the public service,” Matt Triemstra, the Progressive Conservative candidate for Nepean stressed during the riding’s first all-candidates’ debate. “We’re going to continue to let them work remotely.”

Which leads naturally to the issue of what to do with whatever empty space emerges.

This could provide an important opening for whichever party controls the next government. Roughly half of all federal properties are in poor condition, according to Public Services and Procurement Canada. Depending on location and building type, it might be more economical to convert such properties into apartments, or sell these properties to a private developer for the same purpose.

“The post-pandemic economy presents a unique opportunity to examine new ways to address our critical housing needs,” says Devine. “If we were to support a transition of these physical workspaces into living space, this might also help address how we re-vitalize our downtown core.”

The federal government also has flexibility with a portfolio that consists of owned and leased properties in roughly equal measure. Selling off owned properties in favour of leased offices would likely allow the government to better accommodate the unpredictable demands of a hybrid or work-from-home workforce. It would also generate some gains that could be deployed for other purposes.

Source: Remaking government: Here are the parties’ plans for a post-pandemic workforce

Taking Action to Address Potential Barriers in Staffing: Public Service Employment Act amendments receive Royal Assent

Some interesting changes announced by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

I think the change that will have the earliest and largest impact will be Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents having the same preference in external advertised hiring processes.

We will see over the next few years the extent to which this has an impact through the annual EE reports and which groups, given disaggregated data, are impacted most:

Too many Canadians continue to face bias, barriers, and discrimination based on their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or other factors.

The Government of Canada has amended the Public Service Employment Actto address systemic barriers for equity-seeking groups in public service staffing.

These amendments represent foundational work that will help departments take measures in their staffing actions to reduce barriers and encourage more inclusive recruitment practices. 

Over the past several months, the Treasury Board Secretariat worked with employee networks, bargaining agents and senior officials for Employment Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to better understand the experiences of members of equity-seeking groups in public service staffing.

Amendments to the Public Service Employment Act reaffirm the importance of a diverse and inclusive workforce and strengthen provisions to address potential bias and barriers in staffing processes.

With these changes:

  • All new or revised qualification standards must be evaluated for bias and barriers for members of equity-seeking groups. 
  • Permanent residents now have the same preference as Canadian Citizens when appointments are made through external advertised hiring processes.
  • The design and application of assessment methods must include an evaluation of bias and barriers, and reasonable efforts for mitigation.
  • The Public Service Commission now has explicit authority to audit for bias and barriers that disadvantage members of equity-seeking groups.
  • The Commission and deputy heads will have explicit authority to investigate bias and barriers for members of equity-seeking groups. 

These Public Service Employment Act amendments form one part of a set of initiatives and activities to increase diversity and inclusion in the public service so that it is reflective of the Canadian population it serves and a place where all public servants feel a true sense of belonging.

The work of eradicating bias, barriers, and discrimination, which have taken root over generations, demands an ongoing, relentless effort. The Government of Canada is committed to this effort and will use all available levers to improve the experiences of public servants in their workplace and ensure that they are able to realize their full potential.

Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/news/2021/07/taking-action-to-address-potential-barriers-in-staffing-public-service-employment-act-amendments-receive-royal-assent.html?utm_campaign=tbs-sct-20-21&utm_source=lnkn&utm_medium=smo&utm_content=7-27l122-en

‘A deal to be silent’: Public servant paid to keep quiet about discrimination on the job

An annual government report on public servant NDAs would be helpful, which could provide some breakdowns on the nature of complaints, departments and amounts to help identify overall problem areas that should be addressed. Given that Liberal MP and parliamentary secretary Greg Fergus is on record as favouring more information, the government should act:

A Black federal public servant who launched a racial discrimination complaint against the Canadian government says she felt uncomfortable signing a gag order because she feared it could further entrench a culture of silence around racism within the bureaucracy.

“I was signing a deal to be silent about the discrimination I’ve been through,” said the woman, whom CBC/Radio-Canada has agreed not to name because she fears losing her job. “Throughout my entire career, I noticed colleagues, mostly white colleagues, getting privileges that I didn’t.”

The woman said the federal government paid her several thousand dollars in exchange for withdrawing the racial discrimination complaint.

Radio-Canada obtained a copy of the legal document, which was initialled by both the employer and the woman’s union. It contains a confidentiality clause preventing her from speaking out about the racism she says she experienced on the job.”They’re putting a price on it,” she said. “It’s completely inadequate, and those agreements are immoral and they need to stop.”

The woman said the agreement did resolve her specific issue, which she chose not to disclose because she worries it could identify her. However, she said the agreement did little to address the bigger problem of systemic racism within federal departments.

Around 800 current and former Black public servants have launched a class-action lawsuit against the federal government, alleging it has discriminated against Black employees for decades. It was filed with the Federal Court of Canada in December, but the government has yet to file a statement of defence.

The suit, which has not been certified, accuses the government of excluding Black employees from promotions.

‘Making the problem invisible’

Such agreements cover a range of issues from racial slurs to workplace harassment.

Doug Hill, a grievance and adjudication officer for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) in Halifax, said about 70 per cent of the complaints he handles are resolved through settlements that contain a similar confidentiality clause. He also said the compensation offered sometimes goes well beyond the maximum $40,000 that can be paid under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

“There is no maximum amount” when it comes to the federal government, Hill said.

But critics say these arrangements are problematic because they cover up the real problem instead of addressing it.

“By making the problem invisible we’re making the victims invisible, and we basically have no precedent to build on and no lessons to learn,” said Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) in Montreal.

Every year, the non-profit civil rights organization helps about 200 people who are victims of discrimination based on race, gender or disability. Niemi said often, people don’t realize the implications of signing an agreement that includes a confidentiality clause.

“Sometimes the complainant or the victim goes alone, feels very much pressured into signing something that that person may not be able to fully understand,” he said.

Need for transparency

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos directed Radio-Canada to his parliamentary secretary Greg Fergus, who said he believes these agreements are only acceptable if they are signed at the request of the complainant.

“You want to really recognize that the problem happened, you want to be transparent so you can fix the problem so that we can go ahead and create a better public service,” the Liberal MP for Hull–Aylmer said.

Fergus, who also chairs the Caucus of Black Parliamentarians, said the government needs to keep more detailed data regarding complaints that are withdrawn after the complainant signs a confidentiality clause.

“We can’t change things if we can’t measure them,” Fergus said.

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/public-servant-signs-deal-to-withdraw-racial-discrimination-complaint-1.6041139

Is it time to move Ottawa out of Ottawa?

Valid question given experience over more than a year with remote work. Some colleagues who are still working have indicated much easier to engage the regions given everyone on the same platform, rather than the Ottawa folks meeting in person and regional staff being on a telephone conference call.

And of course, the broader question of what percent of public servants, or what percentage of their time, requires physical presence compared to working remotely, along with the associated (but often overstated) management challenges:

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in much of the federal public service shifting to remote work. Ottawa invested in telecommunications and found new ways for employees to work effectively from far-flung locations.

The transition was sufficiently successful that the federal government is considering continuing some remote work, possibly reducing its office rental spaces.

This raises the question — if work doesn’t need to be done in Ottawa-area offices, does it need to be done in Ottawa at all?

The centralization of federal jobs

Canada has more than 300,000 federal employees, with over 230,000 in core public administration (CPA) and just under 70,000 employed in separate agencies like the Canada Revenue Agency. 

The proportion of agency jobs concentrated in the National Capital Region, which includes Ottawa-Gatineau and surrounding areas, has declined since 2016. The opposite is seen with CPA jobs. The concentration of CPA employees was only 33 per cent in 1995, but was up to 46 per cent in 2020. 

graph shows the number of federal public service jobs in the capital region
The number of federal public service jobs in the Ottawa region, according to the Government of Canada Open Data Portal. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, 2020

Most CPA workers are skilled knowledge workers. These are good jobs. It is time for more federal jobs, including CPA jobs, to decentralize.

The case for decentralization

Research suggests decentralizing public service jobs reduces costsstrengthens national security by spreading government functions across the country and reduces cynicism toward government

Decentralization also distributes the economic benefits of the public sector across the country. According to one 2019 British study, “the arrival of 10 civil service jobs in an area spurs the creation of about 11 jobs in the private sector,” including professional service jobs like law and consulting.

Most importantly, it gives federal governments more ability to directly engage with communities. Regional voices within government increase as career opportunities are more accessible to qualified people nationally. Advocacy and community groups across the country enjoy a more level playing field to engage in the policy process. 

This increased geographic diversity of voices working within and connecting with government can result in improved strategic policy advice. 

Creating a national strategy

Now is the perfect time to make a serious effort to decentralize Canada’s federal jobs.

The COVID-19 remote work experience demonstrates the remarkable potential of technology to overcome distance. We have learned how efficiently we can use technology to reduce unnecessary travel and connect easily across the country. We must use the disruption of the pandemic to rethink what jobs and services need to be in Ottawa at all.

We can expect growing calls for this in Canada’s economic recovery, particularly from Alberta. Just before the COVID-19 shutdown, four MPs identified the centralization of federal headquarters as an example of systemic unfairness towards Alberta. A few months later, Alberta’s Fair Deal Panel recommended western premiers request “a distribution map of federal civil servants across Canada and a list of federal government agencies and decision-making bodies that can be recommended for relocation to Western Canada.” 

Recent surveys find decentralizing jobs may be publicly popular. The 2021 Viewpoint Alberta survey, which included over 800 respondents in Alberta and Saskatchewan, found strong support for increasing federal jobs in each province.

Similarly, the 2021 Confederation of Tomorrow survey of more than 5,800 Canadians found almost three-quarters (73.5 per cent) support “moving more government offices from Ottawa to other cities in the country so that more Canadians would have access to jobs in the federal public service.” 

A graph shows support for moving federal public service jobs out of the Ottawa area.
Support for moving federal public service jobs out of the Ottawa area. Confederation of Tomorrow 2021 Survey, Author provided

The time for action is now. In fact, Canada faces an immediate decision regarding the location of the new Canada Water Agency. While the decision process has yet to be announced, Regina and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., are already vying for the agency headquarters. Other cities may also be planning to do so.

Canada already has experience in decentralizing federal jobs, including moving the National Energy Board headquarters from Ottawa to Calgary and creating regional Canada Revenue Agency tax centres. These serve as precedents for a bold new strategy.

Moving forward on a national strategy

To be sure, decentralization faces political challenges. As the benefits of job decentralization are long-term and the challenges are immediate, politicians more focused on the next election might be disinclined to take up the task.

Vested interests are loud. Strategies are needed to address relocation costs, including staff turnover and the associated loss of experience, though remote work options can reduce these.

A national strategy is required. The United Kingdom’s Places for Growth program will move thousands of London jobs, including policy advisory roles, to 13 regional hubs over the next decade and could provide ideas or a blueprint. 

Canada might also consider efforts to shift civil service work out of national capitals in Mexico, Norway, South Korea, Denmark and Malaysia

The COVID-19 remote work experience suggests that distance is not insurmountable for federal government work. No one is suggesting that public servants work from home forever, but the public’s business does not always have to be done in Ottawa. Let’s use this as an opportunity to rethink how we distribute federal work across Canada.

Source: https://theconversationcanada.cmail20.com/t/r-l-tlidhrg-kyldjlthkt-o/

When they came to power in 2015, the Trudeau Liberals promised to ‘build a government that looks like Canada.’ Now those words have slowly been transformed into actions

Nice profile of a former IRCC colleague and her leadership in anti-Black racism both within IRCC and more broadly.

The percentage of visible minority executives is incorrectly stated at 4.6%, not the 11.1% in the latest employment equity report (for the numbers, see https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/october-2020/what-new-disaggregated-data-tells-us-about-federal-public-service-diversity/):

As she watched the George Floyd story and anti-Black-racism movement unfolding worldwide last summer, Farah Boisclair emailed her colleagues at Canada’s immigration department and called a town-hall meeting to talk about racism.

“I was going through a lot of emotions showing up to work. There’s a global movement and it was plastered all over the media, but no one was talking about it at work,” says Boisclair, director of the anti-racism task force at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“Part of me saddened, part of me frustrated. Why isn’t anybody saying anything? That’s when I woke up and said, ‘You are a leader. You have the power. You have people who work with you, who look like you and who may be feeling a certain way, like you.”

With the blessing of her boss, she made her first presentation to more than 300 of her colleagues on topics such as experiences of microaggression, white privilege and racism.

Boisclair, whose mother is Haitian and father Guyanese, is now a member of the Federal Speakers’ Forum on Diversity and Inclusion, a platform where public servants share their lived experience with colleagues and management.

Trying to have a conversation about race and racism is tough, let alone at work in a professional setting. However, it’s one of the many initiatives the federal government is banking on in its attempts to make strides in creating and promoting a diverse and inclusive public service.

Earlier this year, with little fanfare, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat unveiled the government’s priorities to increase diversity in hiring and appointments within the public service — a commitment that was reaffirmed in the federal budget in April.

Collecting and breaking down its employee data by disability, ethnic backgrounds and executive roles, and ensuring the statistics are made public;

Launching the Centre for Diversity and Inclusion to lead and keep track of departments and agencies in their efforts to address systemic racism and boost diversity representation through collaboration with diverse community groups;

Revamping the government’s existing mentorship program and starting a sponsorship program to groom civil servants from under-represented groups into leadership and executive roles in their organizations; and

Setting up a speakers’ bureau, to help raise awareness about diversity and inclusion within the public service through a roster of speakers who share their experience across departments and ministries.

“There is good momentum across the government and a desire to make significant progress on diversity and inclusion,” said Paule-Anny Pierre, executive director of the new Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.

“Our actions will help ensure that decisions, initiatives and programs across the public service foster and promote a workplace that is respectful, diverse and inclusive, that represents the population it serves and that enables each employee to feel valued and contribute at their full potential.”

There’s a lot of work to be done to boost diversity in the public service, especially among those in the leadership roles. The latest government data shows visible minorities made up only 4.6 per cent of all executives and Blacks accounted for 1.6 per cent in those roles. [Note: Correct figure is 11.1 percent]

The 2020 Public Service Employee Survey, its results released in May, also added new questions to measure employees’ perceptions of anti-racism in the workplace.

Almost 80 per cent of the 188,786 respondents said they would feel free to speak about racism in the workplace without fear of reprisal and felt comfortable sharing concerns about issues related to racism in the workplace with a person of authority.

Born and raised in Ottawa, Boisclair said no one around her worked for government. However, a co-op opportunity with the federal government while studying finance at the University of Ottawa opened the door for her.

In her 13 years with the government, she has worked in various departments, including Industry Canada (now Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada), Natural Resources Canada and Infrastructure Canada.

On many occasions, she said, she would find herself one of the few or the only person who was a visible minority in her teams.

“I felt hyperaware of myself in these environments. I was constantly like, ‘Be careful what you say, be careful what you do, be careful how you interact.’ With that, I think, I held myself back a lot (in terms of) speaking up on my ideas and my thoughts,” said Boisclair.

“It’s very much like: ‘I’m here to do a job. They’re going to tell me what to do and I’m going to do it.’ … I knew I was different from the others. You don’t want to stick out too much. You try to go along to get along.”

As a Black woman, Boisclair said, she has experienced microaggression at work many times and felt invisible in board rooms.

“I will be joined by a white colleague, a woman around the same age, same group in level, both managers from the same team. I remember the treatment of my colleague when I was working with her for three years, it was very different,” she recalled.

“When we’d go to meetings together, I felt like it’s her race and even the standard of beauty in the North American context, she got very different treatment, more eye contact, more interaction with her. It’s hard and you don’t want it to get into your head.”

The experience, she said, made her feel less important and less valued.

Although the faces in the rank and file of the federal public service are changing, she said all her managers, until now, were predominantly white.

Periodically, Boisclair would have a mentor in her department but only recently was she assigned a Black woman as her official sponsor at work.

“It’s really important to have mentors from different groups and genders, because they each offer different perspectives and each can relate to you on different levels,” she said.

“I have had mentors who professionally give you really good advice but when it came to some of those deeper conversations about race and my identity in the workplace, that’s a bit tough with the white mentors,” she noted.

Dahabo Ahmed Omer, a policy development and employment equity expert, says mentorship/sponsorship and speakers’ bureau initiatives are important tools in building understanding and trust in order to create awareness and cultural change within the organization.

A former human resources specialist with the federal government herself, Ahmed Omer said government mandates, strategies and practices are set by senior leaders who play a key role in the building of an inclusive public service.

“There’s the history of slavery, anti-Indigenous racism. You build trust by listening actively and by implementing solutions that directly come from the community,” said Ahmed Omer, now the executive director of BlackNorth Initiative, an effort led by the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism.

“The voices of the most marginalized have to be at the forefront.”

Organizations must pick the right mentors, give access to as many mentees as possible and make sure the under-represented groups have opportunities to apply what they’ve learned so they can seize those opportunities when they arise at work, she noted.

From reviewing staffing plans to budget priorities and resource allocations through a diversity lens, Ahmed Omer said the effort must be “deliberate” and she is liking the federal plan she has seen so far.

Boisclair said she is grateful to have a sponsor at work, who gives her pointers in her career development, sends her articles to inspire and equip her, expand her network and champion her in the immigration department, which had 8,500 employees in 2020.

Last year, after seeing her anti-racism presentation with her staff, her sponsor invited her to speak to a couple of dozen deputy ministers from different departments in October. Since then, she has done about 25 townhalls within the federal public sector to share her experience and stories.

These conversations are difficult, said Boisclair, because they are “too raw” for a lot of people.

“You are talking about deep, deep, deep emotions, trauma and, in a lot of cases, some people just don’t know how to deal with emotions in the workplace. When some of the people are sharing some of the more intimate experiences, it’s hard,” she said.

“A lot of people don’t want to deal with the feelings of guilt. People don’t like to get uncomfortable,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense for them. Why would I put myself in an uncomfortable position?”

The experience from these candid conversations has also been refreshing and empowering.

“At the time, I was feeling like, I’m just tired of putting on a filter. I need to show my lived experience as a woman, as a Black person, as a Canadian, the full essence of who I am. That doesn’t often happen at the workplace for racialized people,” said Boisclair.

“I have had these dialogues for many, many years in close circles at home. You would never, never have these conversations at work. For me, it’s time to open people’s minds up to the reality of systemic racism and the harmful impacts of it.”

While these conversations, along with the mentorship/sponsorship program, can drive awareness of racial understanding and organizational cultural change, Ryerson University professor Wendy Cukier says disaggregated data can provide the barometer to identify gaps and measure results.

“We need good data to tracking things like what works and what doesn’t work. We need to apply the same gender and diversity lens to how government spends money and who it’s serving. There’s the inward piece but also the outward reaching piece,” said Cukier, founder and academic director at Ryerson’s Diversity Institute.

“It’s not that anybody deliberately puts up bars or gates, but you need the data to see if certain segments of the population are applying for jobs in my department and what I can do to increase engagement.”

The latest statistics on employment equity populations published by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat provide a glimpse at the diversity representation of the federal public service:

Overall, visible minorities made up 656 or 4.6 per cent of all executives;

Black people made up 96 or 1.6 per cent of all executives;

Indigenous peoples made up 239 or 4.1 per cent of all executives;

There were 1,387 persons with disabilities working in administrative support, which was 7 per cent of all these employees; and

People who are blind or visually impaired made up 767 or 0.4 per cent of all employees.

“Leaders have to represent the people they are leading, otherwise they are not going to be very effective. When organizations have leaders who look like the people they are leading, they have higher levels of engagement,” said Cukier.

“People tend to associate with people who look like them. If you’re from a racialized population, you are less likely to have a social network that will help you understand the unspoken rules that will mentor you and promote you at work.”

Cukier said the dominant group in the workforce should not feel threatened fearing that the progress for their under-represented peers will be made at their expense, given the civil service is full of boomers, many of them will be retiring in the near future.

“There is a huge challenge in digital and technological transformation in the public sector, which has one of the most acute skill shortages. This is not a question of new people pushing the established group out, this is a question of meeting concrete need for skills and new thinking,” she said.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to rely on the same kind of people if your goal is to drive transformation. We know there’s a strong link between diversity and innovation.”

Quebec MP Greg Fergus, parliamentary secretary to Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos, agreed.

“You don’t make this a ‘I win, you lose’ kind of equation. It’s not an ‘either or.’ It’s a ‘both and.’ We all benefit by growing the pie. We’re better together,” said Fergus. “This is not about cutting anybody’s career short. This is about building a more resilient public service.”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2021/05/23/when-they-came-to-power-in-2015-the-trudeau-liberals-promised-to-build-a-government-that-looks-like-canada-now-those-words-have-slowly-been-transformed-into-actions.html