Advocating for diversity and inclusion in the public service

The government is planning legislation to ensure greater diversity and inclusion in the federal public service, including at the highest administrative levels.

Racism, discrimination and lack of action are nothing new to many federal public service employees. A long-standing history of alienation among BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) public servants needs to be recognized and addressed.

The Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC) has just published its audit report on employment equity representation in recruitment. The report reviewed the representation of employment equity groups at 5 key stages of the recruitment process: job application, automated screening, organizational screening, assessment and appointment. 

Its key findings are:

  • The representation rate of Indigenous candidates decreased at the assessment stage
  • The representation rate of persons with disabilities decreased at the assessment and appointment stages
  • The representation rate of visible minority groups declined at the organizational screening and assessment stages
  • Of the visible minority sub-groups examined in the audit, Black candidates experienced a greater drop in representation than members of other visible minority groups, both at the organizational screening stage and at the assessment stage

The audit provides 3 recommendations: 

  • Deputy Heads should review their staffing framework and practices to ensure barrier-free appointment processes for all employment equity groups, including visible minority sub-groups
  • The PSC should work with other central agencies and employment equity groups to identify specific factors that impact the success of employment equity groups and visible minority sub-groups within the hiring process, and to implement solutions
  • The PSC should increase its efforts in developing and promoting systems, tools and guidance that support inclusive external recruitment processes, with a focus on the development of barrier-free assessment approaches

We have written to Clerk of the Privy Council Ian Shugart – the Head of Canada’s public service – on how to advance Diversity and Inclusion in the federal public service. He had recently sent an important memo to senior public service leaders directing them to take action on this issue.

While we welcome this long-overdue initiative, this is not the first time senior public service leaders have introduced similar projects. These have had little or no impact on public service demographics, which still do not reflect those of Canada.

Past initiatives such as the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, spearheaded by the Treasury Board, have included significant contributions from PIPSC and other union representatives. Unfortunately, these have made only limited progress since they were first introduced.

Going forward, we would like to ensure the timely introduction and implementation of Diversity and Inclusion recommendations, including the allocation of sufficient resources.

It is critical to institutionalize such work and ensure its continuation after the individuals involved have moved on. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Treasury Board and individual government departments to develop a framework that will once and for all address the structural problems that contribute to D & I problems in the recruitment and overall staffing of Canada’s public service.