Submission to the Government Consultation on Anti-racism

Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada
Submission to the Government Consultation on Anti-racism
November 28, 2018



The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) represents some 60,000 public service professionals across the country, the majority of which are employed by the federal government. The Institute appreciates this opportunity to participate in this important public consultation on anti-racism in Canada.

Given our unique perspective on employment in the federal public sector, the focus of our comments is on promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the federal workplace, with a particular emphasis on addressing racism, discrimination and promoting Respect in the latter.

Diversity in the public service is an important issue because Canada’s demographic landscape is changing and the public service must keep pace with this evolution to provide better services and be a model for other employers. All employees deserve to be treated with respect and must be provided with a safe work environment that is free from harassment and discrimination. Wherever disrespectful behaviour, harassment and discrimination are tolerated, condoned or ignored, minority and marginalized groups are disproportionately and negatively impacted.

While the government of Canada has the necessary policies and framework in place, they are not effective. The Deputy Minister Task Team on Harassment, in its “Safe Workspaces: Starting a Dialogue and Taking Action” report, stated: "We are acutely aware that many cases of workplace harassment are never reported. It can be difficult for victims of any form of harassment to come forward. Victims may not know who to turn to, do not always feel safe, and, in many cases, fear reprisal."

Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion

On December 11, 2017, the federal government released “Building a Diverse and Inclusive Public Service,” the final report of the Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion.

The Task Force was launched in November 2016, with a one-year mandate to define, establish the case, and make recommendations towards a framework and action plan for diversity and inclusion in Canada’s public service.

It was made up of a Steering Committee that guided the work of a Technical Committee of 14 members, co-chaired by employer and bargaining agent representatives. There was equal representation of the employer and of bargaining agents on each committee. PIPSC’s Diversity and Inclusion Champion Waheed Khan was Co-Chair of the Technical Committee.

The Task Force identified the following four areas for action and recommendations:

  • People management;
  • Leadership and accountability;
  • Education and awareness; and
  • A Diversity and Inclusion Lens.

The implementation of the recommendations in the final report will facilitate a fundamental culture shift in Canada’s public service toward a more diverse, inclusive and innovative workforce and workplace.

Key Report Findings and Recommendations in the context of this consultation

Given the significance of the work of this Task Force, this document will quote extensively from the final report. While Section 8 of the report provides a comprehensive view of its 44 recommendations, we have identified its following elements as being particularly relevant to the present anti-racism consultation. 

  1. Racism, discrimination and harassment

Racism, discrimination and harassment in all their forms have been identified as workplace challenges in Canada’s public service. Results from the 2017 PSEAS and the Public Service Employee Survey for more than a decade provide evidence that the public service has challenges in welcoming and including members of emerging and long-standing equity-seeking groups. Efforts to address racism, discrimination and harassment in the public service have not been centralized, coordinated or designed to measure results. To address these gaps, the Task Force recommends:

Recommendation 24: Undertaking deliberate, centralized and measurable action to address racism, discrimination, harassment and bias in the public service, including:

  1. establishing, measuring and reporting on ongoing deputy head accountabilities for:
    • ensuring a safe space to report issues of discrimination, racism and harassment
    • reporting on how workplace complaints are addressed
  1. naming a qualified senior-level officer who reports to each deputy head and is impartial and independent of labour relations units and human resources units, and whose responsibility it is to:
    • track incidences
    • be accessible to confidentially help employees and bargaining agents who have concerns related to racism, discrimination or harassment to access the appropriate avenue of resolution
    • facilitate access to the deputy head when needed
  1. ensuring timely resolution of allegations and issues of racism, discrimination and harassment
  1. reporting annually on incidences and resolutions

Recommendation 25: Establishing ongoing commitments in performance management agreements that hold deputy heads, executives and managers accountable for achieving employment equity and diversity and inclusion goals, and for tracking progress on these objectives.

  1. Staffing

The Task Force heard concerns that the self-monitoring and self-correcting aspects of the current staffing regime limit opportunities to identify and proactively eliminate systemic barriers to achieving public service representativeness.

As demonstrated by the results of the Survey of Federal Indigenous Employees (2017) and during the Task Force’s consultations on diversity and inclusion, there is a lack of confidence in the fairness of staffing processes. There is also a perceived lack of trust that hiring managers are executing their people management responsibilities consistently in support of diversity and inclusion.

The issue of how partially or fully pre-qualified pools are used in the staffing system arose repeatedly in the Task Force’s consultations and in the Survey of Federal Indigenous Employees (2017). In both, participants indicated that members of equity-seeking groups qualify for positions after overcoming several barriers and then languish in pre-qualified pools at disproportionately high rates, with no recourse.

Additional barriers identified by employees include:

  • “right fit” assessments, which they assert are being used to disqualify candidates who meet all other requirements
  • the absence of opportunities to discuss and resolve the difficult issues of bias and discrimination
  • the fear of reprisal that prevents employees from raising issues of discrimination and harassment

The results of the Public Service Employee Survey consistently validate these concerns.

The current public service staffing regime needs to strengthen its efforts to proactively support diversity and promote inclusion. Elements of existing legislation, regulations and policy that pertain to the use of employment equity flexibilities (such as limiting or expanding the area of selection to employment-equity designated groups, establishing and applying employment equity, or using it as a criterion for non-advertised staffing) to achieve a diverse and inclusive workplace should be promoted to hiring managers. The Task Force therefore recommends:

Recommendation 26: Applying the diversity and inclusion lens to staffing and people management policies, programs, services, practices and workplace assessments.

Recommendation 27: That deputy heads institute rigorous human resources planning to:

  • ensure diversity and employment equity representativeness within their departments
  • monitor the representativeness of appointments, including all acting appointments
  • monitor the use of pre-qualified pools through the diversity and inclusion lens

Recommendation 28: That the Public Service Commission of Canada perform periodic system-wide thematic audits on the use of “right fit” criteria and existing employment equity flexibilities under the Public Service Employment Act, including:

  • limiting or expanding the area of selection to employment-equity designated groups
  • establishing and applying employment equity as an organizational need
  • using employment equity as a criterion for non-advertised processes

(3) The Diversity and Inclusion (D & I) Lens

Similar to environmental impact assessments and gender impact assessments, all current and new policies, programs and practices should be analyzed from the perspective of promoting diversity and inclusion.

Using the proposed D&I lens will help analyze situations from the perspective of all groups and help ensure that they benefit fairly and equitably as decisions are made. The D&I lens does not replace current government tools such as gender-based analysis “plus” (GBA+) and other reviewing protocols but rather:

  • complements them
  • promotes thoroughness
  • is designed to be used in conjunction with other existing tools

Integrating the D&I lens will support progress in people management, leadership and accountability, and education and awareness. The D&I lens is a “thinking cap” of sorts that encourages consideration of the impact of decisions on policies, programs and people management on diverse groups, with the objectives of:

  • creating a positive and equitable workplace for everyone
  • making better decisions for the people of Canada

The Task Force recommends:

Recommendation 44: That the proposed D&I lens be developed further as the tool that the public service will adopt to:

  1. support cultural transformation in the public service
  2. inform program design
  3. support policy development
  4. design and evaluate practices for people management
  5. review current policies, programs and practices


We need to identify and address systemic barriers that keep certain groups of talented Canadians from joining the federal public service and advancing to positions and levels where they can make optimal contributions to the health of public service institutions and serve all Canadians with excellence. We need to develop leadership that is capable of and committed to changing the culture of the public service to become more representative and inclusive; a public service that rewards talent, professionalism and dedication, and where the background, culture, religion and any other identities are valued and respected. Every Department and Agency must create a safe workplace, in consultation with bargaining agents and Employment Equity networks, where employees can bring forward their concerns without fear of reprisal, and senior leadership “walks the talk”.


Waheed Khan
PIPSC Diversity and Inclusion Champion
(819) 938-3752