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#anti-racism

Highlights: 2021 report on the public service

By Clerk Report

The Clerk’s annual report to the Prime Minister on the public service was released last week.

Every year the Clerk of the Privy Council (the most senior public servant in the federal public service) issues a report to the Prime Minister on the state of the federal public service in Canada.

Reports generally tend to highlight achievements across departments over the past year but also acknowledge areas where more work needs to be done.

Reports are also usually written and presented in the style and tone of the Clerk of the day.

For example, Janice Charette’s report as Clerk was described as being one of the most memorable for presenting content on the public service in new, dynamic and engaging ways.

The 2021 report from Clerk Ian Shugart described where much of the public service’s external efforts were focused on last year: “COVID-19 and Canada’s confrontation with racism and intolerance.”

The report also described the public service’s internal efforts to, “tackle systemic racism and advance the work on diversity and inclusion” within the federal public service.

While the report may have had little surprises in what the public service focused on last year, what may have been surprising was the Clerk’s honesty about:

  • the lack of representation in the public service;
  • the health and well-being of public servants over the last year; and,
  • the future of the public service and an acknowledgement that things will never go back to the way they were before COVID-19.

Lack of representation and broken systems in the public service that perpetuate it

Clerk Ian Shugart’s report was honest in that despite many actions being taken at the top, not enough is being done overall and not fast enough.

Earlier this year, Clerk Ian Shugart sent a message to Deputy Ministers on a “call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the federal public service.”

Then at the end of November, Interim Clerk Janice Charette posted the letters from all departments describing what and how they are answering that call to action.

However, public servants have been vocal that they want to see less committees and task forces but rather real, tangible change.

The Clerk’s report cited some examples of departments taking steps toward meaningful action but at the same time, Clerk Ian Shugart acknowledged the broken systems within the public service that continue to act as barriers toward real change.

This includes human resources and staffing, as Clerk Shugart referenced the findings from the Public Service Commission’s Audit of Employment Equity Representation in Recruitment, “members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and Indigenous peoples do not remain proportionately represented and experience a notable drop-off at various stages of the recruitment process.”

“Our recruitment and promotion processes are based on the merit principle but if we are systematically barring large numbers of people with different backgrounds, identities, and other differences, we are excluding people of merit. Rules, processes, and practices that deny people opportunities because of differences do injury to the merit principle.

We must ensure that everyone has the opportunity to demonstrate their merit. Thinking about these concepts with a new perspective and taking concrete corrective actions must be part of our journey towards equity and inclusion. If we want different outcomes, we need to try different things.”

– Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council

This extends to language requirements in staffing processes, and that a growing number of public servants in social media circles say the current language requirements for staffing and the language testing is exclusionary, unfair and perpetuates a system of inequality and divisiveness.

This was highlighted in a 2017 report to the Clerk that Patrick Borbey, President of the Public Service Commission wrote with then Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Matthew Mendelsohn to, “conduct a review of the state of bilingualism in the federal Public Service and provide recommendations to ensure that we are evolving to meet the needs of public servants, and Canadians, in both official languages,” as it had been 15 years since the previous review of official languages in the public service.

“Some current practices need to be questioned because, in the opinion of a large number of public servants consulted, they no longer meet the needs of a modern and dynamic public service.”

– Patrick Borbey, President of the Public Service Commission

However, the report was published towards the end of 2017, nearly five years ago with Patrick Borbey and the Public Service Commission having largely been silent on this since then.

A tired public service

Clerk Shugart acknowledged that public servants are tired and like most Canadians, “have been continually sprinting for over a year.”

Whether on the front lines of COVID-19 or behind the scenes trying to sustain and improve IT capacity to support public servants working virtually, the demands and the pace have taken a toll.

While the report didn’t tackle questions around workload, it did reference the Mental health and COVID-19 for public servants: Protect your mental health web page, as well as the great work the Federal Youth Network has been doing to, “ramp up programming to connect public servants on topics such as mental health and inclusion through their virtual learning series.”

There was also an acknowledgement by the Clerk that, “the ongoing mental health of our employees is going to require sustained attention after the pandemic.”

The future of the public service

Clerk Shugart ended this year’s report on an optimistic note.

The Clerk acknowledged that, as a result of COVID-19, the public service will likely never return to working the way it did before COVID-19.

“While the future is not yet clear, we do have a good sense of where we are likely to see lasting change. Our business models will be more digital, our workforce more distributed, and the path from idea to delivery shortened. Management practices will need to evolve alongside those changes. The question is one to do with extent.”

– Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council

It’s clear that the federal public service is going through a period of change, likely as many other public service institutions are around the world.

However, for the Canadian federal public service, the Clerk said it will mean taking a hard look at existing processes and procedures, and pursuing reconciliation and justice the workplace.

Other links:

28th Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada

Letter from the Clerk to the Prime Minister

News release from the Prime Minister welcoming the 28th report from the Clerk

Changes to the Public Service Employment Act (June 2021)

By Anti-racism

Before rising for summer break, Parliament made changes to the Public Service Employment Act in June in order to, “address systemic barriers for equity-seeking groups in public service staffing.”

Treasury Board said this was a result of, “too many Canadians continuing 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.”

These changes were outlined in April’s federal budget but because the Public Service Employment Act is a law, legislative changes have to go through the Parliamentary process first, being passed by both the House of Commons and the Senate.

The list of changes are:

+ 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.

+ All new or revised qualification standards must be evaluated for bias and barriers for members of equity-seeking groups.

+ The design and application of assessment methods must include an evaluation of bias and barriers, and reasonable efforts for mitigation.

+ Permanent residents now have the same preference as Canadian Citizens when appointments are made through external advertised hiring processes.

A permanent resident is someone who has been given permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada, but is not a Canadian citizen. Permanent residents are citizens of other countries. Refugees who are resettled from overseas become permanent residents through government programs. A person in Canada temporarily, like a student or foreign worker, is not a permanent resident.

Treasury Board said these latest changes are meant to, “help departments take measures in their staffing actions to reduce barriers and encourage more inclusive recruitment practices. They are just 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.”

An action plan to to increase representation and leadership development in the public service was first announced in the 2020 Speech from the Throne with $12 million being committed over three years towards these goals.

Then earlier this year, Clerk Ian Shugart sent a message to Deputy Ministers on a “call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the federal public service.”

Most recently, Interim Clerk Janice Charette sent a message last month to departments, notifying them that they have until the end of August to submit departmental reports to the Clerk outlining the concrete actions they’ve taken to implement meaningful change around anti-racism and also equity and inclusion in the public service.

Other links:

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

Call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the Federal Public Service

Budget 2021

2020 Speech From the Throne

Public Service Employment Act

Understanding more about permanent resident status

Message from Clerk to departments: departmental progress reports on anti-racism due August 31

By Anti-racism

On Monday, the Interim Clerk issued a message to departments: they must submit a report outlining the concrete actions they’ve taken to implement meaningful change around anti-racism and also equity and inclusion in the public service.

This follows the “Call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the Federal Public Service” from the Clerk to departments earlier this year, which “set common expectations for leaders across the public service to take practical actions that will be the basis for systemic change. It is about getting going on actions that are long overdue.”

For their reports, the Interim Clerk asked departments to apply an intersectional lens, considering the interconnected dimensions of identity (e.g. race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identification and expression, and physical or mental ability).

These reports will be made public for all to see and determine which departments have been advancing real change and which ones have the most work to do.

The Interim Clerk said the purpose of this is to be authentic and transparent but also, “to learn from each other, surface key challenges, and identify best practices to tackle barriers and generate and sustain the momentum necessary to achieve meaningful results. Success requires us to do things differently, and this extends to the way we share our progress.”

“I have also heard that barriers remain and entrenched mindsets are obstacles to necessary progress.”

– Janice Charette, Interim Clerk, June 28, 2021

At a Canada School of Public Service virtual event back in April titled, “Systemic racism and the public service,” the Interim Clerk gave opening remarks and acknowledged the slow, uneven progress on anti-racism efforts and recognized that the public service doesn’t look like the public it serves, in terms of representation.

Public servants have been speaking in the media about their truths and about their experiences of racism and discrimination in the federal public service, specifically at: Rideau Hall; the Canada Revenue Agency; Indigenous Services Canada; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and; even the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

In addition to her message on Monday, the Interim Clerk also provided departments with guidance on how they could structure their reports with questions to answer, specifically about Indigenous, Black, and other racialized employees.

The Interim Clerk suggested departmental reports could be organized into the following sections:

  • Actions
  • Measurements and results
  • Challenges and barriers
  • Employee response
  • Momentum

The Interim Clerk also encouraged departments to provide a “Data Annex,” a section based on facts with metrics to clearly show how departments have been increasing representation and to answer questions such as:

  • How many Indigenous employees and Black and other racialized employees:
    • joined your organization in 2020/2021 compared to the total number of employees who joined in 2020/2021*;
    • left your organization in 2020/2021 compared to the total number of employees who left in 2020/2021*; and,
    • were appointed to Executive positions in 2020/2021 compared to the total number of employees appointed to Executive positions in 2020/2021*?

* A comparison to the previous fiscal year may also be illustrative, if available.

  • What department-specific recruitment approaches do you have that are geared towards Indigenous employees and Black and other racialized employees?
  • What department-specific sponsorship, leadership or other career development services are available to Indigenous employees and Black and other racialized employees?

Departments have until August 31 to submit their reports to the Interim Clerk.

Other links:

Message and guidance for letters on the implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion

Call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the Federal Public Service

Clerk admits slow, uneven progress on anti-racism efforts in the public service

By Anti-racism

Interim Clerk Janice Charette recently spoke about systemic racism towards Black, Indigenous and other racialized employees in the federal public service at a virtual event titled “Systemic racism and the public service” for public servants.

Public servants have been speaking in the media about their truths and about their experiences of racism and discrimination in the federal public service, specifically at: Rideau Hall; the Canada Revenue Agency; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and; even the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

There is currently a class action lawsuit against the federal government being led by 12 representative plaintiffs on the basis of, “wrongful failure to promote Black employees in the Public Service, and for unjustly subjecting Class Members to the systemic, unlawful practice of Black employee exclusion.” More than 500 current and past Black public servants have joined the claim.

The claim seeks long-term solutions to permanently address systemic racism and discrimination in the public service of Canada:

  • Apology: the Prime Minister of Canada shall issue a formal apology to all present and past Black employees of the Public Service for the injustices suffered in the past;
  • Self-declaration: the federal government shall amend the self-declaration of ‘Visible Minority’ to create a separate category for Black employees;
  • External reporting mechanism: the federal government shall establish a mechanism to ensure that Black employees in the public service have access to an external and independent body to report harassment or misconduct. This body should have the power to investigate and make binding recommendations;
  • Black Equity Commission: the federal government shall appoint a Black Equity Commission to serve as the central coordinating entity to carry out an investigation of the challenges facing Black employees as well as the power to implement solutions and hold all Government entities accountable. The Commission will also provide a strategy for the development of a “Diversity Lens” model for the public service as it relates to the hiring and promotion of Black employees. The Commission will also be tasked with creating a framework for present and past Black employees to have their stories and voices heard with the goal of providing recommendations to address historic injustices and eradicate systemically racist practices;
  • Compensation fund: the establishment of a fund to address the psychological, pain and suffering and financial losses of both past and present Black employees, within the past 50 years.

Black public servants have said that they believe, “the situation is hopeless” for Black employees in the public service and have detailed specific examples of mental abuse, physical abuse, racism and discrimination across the federal public service.

Earlier this year, Clerk Ian Shugart sent a message to Deputy Ministers on a “call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the federal public service.”

However Clerk Janice Charette admittedly pointed out that there is still a lot of work to do, progress has been too slow and too uneven across the public service, and recognized that the public service doesn’t look like the public it serves, in terms of representation.

Nearly 8,000 public servants across the country tuned in to this virtual event on systemic racism and the public service.

Public servants can also visit the Black Class Action website for “Canada’s Public Service in 2021” for a visual snapshot of the underrepresentation and lack of diversity at the senior levels across the public service.

Budget 2021 also proposed legislative amendments to the Public Service Employment Act in order to help address potential bias and barriers in staffing processes.

Watch:

UPDATE: The Canada School of Public Service had made a recording of the virtual event on systemic racism and the public service available publicly on their YouTube page: https://youtu.be/HEo26YngHmg which we had embedded here but has since made the video private.

CBC’s The National: Black federal public servants allege discrimination in government lawsuit

Other links:

Black Class Action

Civil servant says he was assaulted on job and faces discrimination because he is Black

Black civil servants allege discrimination in proposed class-action lawsuit against Ottawa

Call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the Federal Public Service

Message to deputy ministers, heads of separate agencies, and heads of federal agencies

An open letter to federal Black employees

Federal Black Employee Caucus

Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat

Budget 2021