Blue Line

Anti-discrimination efforts falling short in public service, RCMP: auditor general

October 19, 2023  By The Canadian Press

Oct. 19, 2023, Ottawa, Ont. – Canada’s efforts to combat racism and discrimination in major departments and agencies are falling short, the federal auditor general found in a report released Thursday that said bureaucrats are failing to use data to understand how racialized employees are feeling.

This results in “missed opportunities” for change, the report says.

“I hope that the findings in our report will serve as an alarm bell for the entire public service and perhaps for other organizations,” auditor general Karen Hogan said at a news conference in Ottawa after her fall performance reports were tabled in Parliament.

Hogan’s office examined departments and agencies focused on public safety and justice, which account for about one-fifth of federal workers.


The audit included the Department of Justice, Public Safety Canada, the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency, Correctional Service Canada and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

It covered a period from January 2018 to December 2022, but the auditor general also examined relevant matters before 2018.

“Although the six organizations we audited have focused on the goal of assembling a workforce representative of Canadian society, it is only the first step,” said Hogan’s report.

The work that has already happened has mainly focused on meeting representation targets, Hogan said.

“And that just changes the face of the federal public service. It doesn’t mean that racialized employees feel more welcome or valued in their workplace.”

While all of the bodies have established equity, diversity and inclusion action plans, the report says bureaucrats have no way to know whether they are working, and there is no comprehensive reporting on outcomes.

None of the departments examined performance rating distribution or tenure rates for racialized employees.

Only some of them examined survey results or data on representation, promotion and retention. Even then, those evaluations were happening in silos rather than as part of a big-picture look at how employees were faring.

“Not using data to understand the lived experiences of racialized employees in the workplace means that organizations and the public service as a whole are missing opportunities to identify and implement changes that could yield improved employment experiences for racialized employees,” the report reads.

“One of the biggest things I would like to see all departments do is better engagement with racialized employees,” Hogan told reporters.

“That will help you understand their lived experiences and bring that qualitative factor that is needed to drive a culture change.”

The audit found that managerial accountability for behavioural and cultural change was also “limited and not effectively measured.”

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the government agrees with and accepts Hogan’s findings.

“There is more work to be done, particularly with respect to the use of data to track our progress,” he said. “Over the coming months, our government will work to address and implement those recommendations.”

About one-fifth of employees in the core public service identified as a member of a visible minority as of last year.

Hogan found that none of the departments analyzed complaint data from employees to inform how they handled complaints of racism or power imbalances, despite racialized employees having concerns about the processes that exist.

“As well, organizations were not always using performance agreements for executives, managers and supervisors to set expectations for desired behaviours to foster inclusion and create accountability for change.”

Some employees volunteered to be interviewed for the audit.

They said they see the gaps as a “lack of commitment” to equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and shared the “impression that meaningful change was not being achieved.”

The report says that in all six departments and agencies, results from the Public Service Employee Survey from 2018 to 2020 found that people who identified as members of visible minority groups were more likely to say they faced discrimination on the job.

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