Canadian government announces new initiatives to boost diversity and inclusion

By on 01/02/2021 | Updated on 01/02/2021
The Canadian government has announced new measures to promote inclusion in the public services. Credit: Markus Spiske/Pexels

Canada has launched a new package of measures designed to remove barriers and promote inclusion and accessibility in its public services, emphasising its commitment to improving diversity.

The recommendations were published last week by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, which oversees staff management, policymaking and value for money across government. Designed to establish “a culture of inclusiveness that will combat racism and address systemic barriers”, they include measures to increase representation through promotion and recruitment, and the establishment of a Mentorship Plus Program for “high-potential” employees.

This mentoring scheme will be run by the Centre on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). This was launched in Autumn 2020 with a budget of C$12m (US$9.4m). It aims to lead D&I initiatives and change management across the public sector, alongside monitoring progress against priorities and commitments.

The new Centre has also established the Federal Speakers’ Forum on D&I. This is a space where public servants can share their lived experiences, highlight the barriers they experienced and change mindsets.

Further initiatives

The Treasury Board announced it will also work with Employment and Social Development Canada, a government agency, on the review of the Employment Equity Act “to ensure that the public service applies appropriate benchmarks for diversity.”

The Board says it will publish more granular data about the Canadian public sector workforce too. The government already releases some information on employees who self-identify in the equity sub-groups, such as Black or Métis. But the Public Service Employee Survey will give more “detailed” results to identify “where gaps remain and what actions are required to improve representation”, according to the release. 

Professional development is also being considered. The Canada School of Public Service, which provides a standardised curriculum to support public servants through their careers, is refreshing its diversity and inclusion curriculum and has launched a series of events themed on anti-racism.

Work to be done

Canada legislated to improve public sector workforce diversity in 1995, via its Employment Equity Act. The Act (Loi sur l’équité en matière d’emploi) requires federal employers to take proactive steps to support equal representation of four designated groups: women, people with disabilities, members of Canada’s indigenous communities such as the Inuit and Métis, and visible minorities such as Black or Asian Canadians.

“While there has been progress, too many public servants continue to face obstacles,” the release notes. “It is time to close the gaps and eliminate the barriers that remain, ensuring the public service is truly representative of the people it serves.”

The Canadian government already publishes workplace diversity figures. These show that the overall representation of three of the four designated groups is slightly higher than their proportions in Canada’s working age population as a whole, according to 2019 statistics on the public sector workforce and 2016 national census data for citizens.

The exception is people with disabilities, who made up 5.2% of the public sector workforce in 2019, but formed 9% of the working age population.

However, data shows that women dominate lower-paid positions in the federal administration, and form more than 50% of the workforce in bands earning up to $75,000 (£43,000).

In the higher ranks, women make up 44% of employees in the $100,000 to $149,000 salary band (earning approx £57,000 to £85,000), and 49% of those earning $150,000 to $199,000 (£85,000 to £113,000). However, the proportion of women in the highest tier ($200,000 to $249,000, or £113,000 to £141,000) falls to 35%.   

The data is in line with the Global Government Forum’s Women Leaders Index. Canada topped the league table ranking G20 countries by the proportion of women amongst their senior civil servants, with a 48.1% figure.

About Elaine Knutt

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