Thank you, Madam Chair, honourable members, for inviting me to your committee today as you start your study on systemic racism and religious discrimination.
I'm a member of Parliament in one of the most diverse ridings in Canada. I like to say that the whole world is represented in my city of Mississauga. We live beside each other as Canadians. We all, in our different ways, contribute to the building of Canada. We all form part of this beautiful Canadian fabric.
When it comes to the reality on the ground, I often find myself wondering how it is that we can come from so many different places, be of every colour, practise different faiths, and yet collectively be one of the most peaceful countries in the world? Balancing the interests of such a diverse and dynamic group of people as Canadians requires a lot of work. It requires partnerships between our policy-makers, our civil society that acts as watchdogs, our grassroots organizations that provide the programs and services required, and our individual Canadians and the respect they have for one another.
Madam Chair, racism and religious discrimination have no place in Canadian society. We value the differences among Canadians, and we know that diversity is our strength.
A recent survey commissioned by The Globe and Mail and conducted by Nanos Research in 2016, suggests that seven in 10 respondents said there's still a lot of racism in Canada. One in five have had racist remarks directed at them, and more than a third have said they have made a racist remark in the company of others.
In 2016 alone, there were cases of discrimination and racism in almost every community in Canada.
On September 20, 2016, the University of Alberta woke up to posters put around their campus, depicting turbaned men of the Sikh faith with racist insults written above them.
In December 2016 in Edmonton, a man went up to two women wearing hijabs, proceeded to pull out a rope from his pocket, tied the rope into a noose, and said, “This is for you.”
On August 18, 2016, Andre Bear, a student from Little Pine First Nation in Saskatchewan said, “I remember having white friends when I was growing up, but their parents didn't like me or they would tell me to go home. People weren't allowed to play with me because I was native.”
In November of the same year, swastikas and racist slurs were spray-painted on a church with a black pastor in Ottawa.
“Go home” was spray-painted on the Ottawa Muslim Association front doors, and anti-Semitic slurs were spray-painted on synagogues.
On January 29, 2017, six Canadians were gunned down in their place of worship.
Statistics Canada's most recent hate crime data shows that the number of police-reported hate crimes against Muslims increased by 60% in 2015, compared to the previous year. Many Muslim Canadians have told me personally that they do not feel safe practising their faith here in Canada. Statistics Canada data also shows that the number of incidents targeting Jewish Canadians remains the highest among religions targeted, at 178 incidents in 2015 alone. In addition, reported hate crimes targeting black Canadians still made up the largest percentage of the total number of incidents, at 224 incidents in 2015.
Madam Chair, systemic racism and religious discrimination are real. I listen to many stories from people every day. Early last year, an e-petition came to my attention that had over 69,000 Canadians coming together to call on our government to combat Islamophobia.
I was astonished by the numbers. This must be real, I thought, so I decided to do more research. I was even more astounded—and frankly disappointed—to find out that data on this issue was very limited. I struggled to find real numbers. Thus, in light of the limited statistics, the media reports, the concerns raised by Canadians, and the personal stories I heard, I felt that something needed to be done.
As a parliamentarian, I felt the need for more concrete data to reflect on the problem of systemic racism and religious discrimination as a whole in Canada. What could be a better place to study the issue than our own House of Commons, the house of the people? On December 1, 2016, I had the privilege to table motion 103. The motion builds on the support from e-petition 411 and uses the example of Islamophobia to make a larger point about the problem of all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination, which is that we have to find ways to tackle that broader problem in Canada as a whole.
Allow me to state on the record that I am not an expert on the subject matter but rather a believer in our parliamentary process. I trust that this committee will bring the best experts to the table and provide us—Canadians—with a more substantive look at the status of the systemic racism and religious discrimination issue in our Canada.
Due to this, my recommendations to your respected committee will be merely regarding the focus and direction of this committee as you move forward with this study. My recommendations are that this committee take a unified approach to study all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada; that this committee direct experts to testify on best ways to collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and conduct needs assessments for impacted communities, and, more specifically, how we as parliamentarians and government can support this; and, that this committee direct experts to testify on the best methods of reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada.
I would hope that the outcome of your study provides more concrete recommendations to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I'm happy to take questions.
Okay. What I might try to do, then, is get a copy of the report we did. At the time, the study looked into anti-Semitism, obviously, as the name implies, and how to deal with anti-Semitism. One of the bases on which we were looking at it was the assumption that anti-Semitism has historically been a kind of canary in the coal mine for religious or, in some cases, racial discrimination, because as you know, the very worst anti-Semites of all conceived of Judaism not as a religion but a race.
At any rate, we were looking at this as the canary in the coal mine for other forms of discrimination, hatred, and hate-motivated violence. We had a few recommendations that I think might prove useful in the context of the report that your motion could lead to from this committee. In terms of what was included, I want to ask you what you think about these recommendations as potential ideas, given that you've thought a lot about this general subject matter over the past few months.
We felt that there was room for improvement in better unified police reporting on statistics of violence and other hate-motivated acts.
We were dealing, of course, with synagogues, because this was about Jews, and we recommended better federal funding for security around synagogues. I'm expressing a prejudice here, I guess.... I think there's a very strong case for this in the context of mosques as well, given the fact that we saw those terrible events, those murders in Quebec City, at a mosque.
Do you think there would be profit in us pursuing this kind of security-related research as part of our agenda in response to your motion?
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you very much, Ms. Khalid, for bringing this motion before us.
The issue before us is a very serious one, particularly in this climate of hate, I would call it, especially looking south of the border where so much effort is being made to normalize hate and discrimination. It is extremely disheartening to me as a person of colour, a woman, and someone who has lived experiences of discrimination in the past and continues to from time to time as well. To see how far we have come and the setback that we're now experiencing.... Some days, thinking about the situation that we face today literally makes me want to weep. With that being said, I think the work before our committee is very important, and I think there is much to be done.
In terms of addressing the issue of how, as we see in our community, some are working so hard to normalize hate and discrimination—I'm sure you have experienced that as well—do you have any suggestions on how the government can tackle that? None of us are experts per se, but that said, I might add that those with lived experiences are perhaps the best experts. I would love to hear what actions you think the government should take, from a lived-experience point of view, to deal with this issue.
There's no question that we need to collect data. I would agree with that. I think that's one aspect of it, although not the only aspect.
Just on the question around data, of course, I've come across data that indicates, for example, that for people who come here, who are racialized immigrants, if you will, the economic impact for them is quite significant. In fact, even as of today, from my understanding, immigrants make less than their counterparts, male or female. We still have some ways to go to equalize that. There are some issues around institutionalized discrimination, if you will, or racism, embedded within our system, which has created this outcome.
Would you agree, then, that part of the work of this committee, in terms of recommendations to government to take action on this, is also to address those kinds of institutionalized aspects in impacting a very important component for people of colour, that being their financial opportunities?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank the committee for inviting me to appear today to support their efforts.
My name is Jenifer Aitken, and I’m the assistant deputy minister of strategic policy, planning and corporate affairs at Canadian Heritage.
The main focus of my remarks will be on providing the committee with an overview of the different tools and initiatives that Canadian Heritage employs to counter various forms of racism and discrimination.
To begin, let me highlight the extent of the diversity of our country. According to Statistics Canada's population projections, by 2036 Canada could see between 34.7% and 39.9% of individuals among the working-age population belonging to a visible minority group, compared with 19.6% in 2011. Additionally, the number of people affiliated with non-Christian religions could almost double to between 13% and 16% of the population, compared with 9% in 2011.
As the previous speaker mentioned, recent police-reported hate crime statistics demonstrate a 5% increase in reported incidents from 2014 to 2015. While hate crimes targeting black and Jewish populations remain the most common types of hate crimes related to race or ethnicity and religion, hate crimes against those of the Muslim faith increased by 61%, from 99 in 2014 to 159 in 2015.
While there are challenges, there is room for optimism. For instance, 87% of Canadians 15 years of age and older report that they are proud to be Canadian, and visible minorities express very high levels of pride in Canada. That comes from the general social survey of 2013. Furthermore, in a 2011 report, Canada was found to be the top-ranking OECD country on a measure of tolerance with respect to community acceptance of minority groups and migrants, with a score of 84% compared with an OECD average of 61%.
Taken together, this information provides the context for the Canadian Heritage programs that promote inclusion and address racism. The mandate of the Department of Canadian Heritage is centred on fostering and promoting Canadian identity and values, cultural development, and heritage. Canadian Heritage is proud to have contributed to Canada's 150th anniversary celebrations, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to inspire a new and ambitious vision for a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive Canada, and to recognize the rich and unique contributions of a diverse population.
In fact, one of the four thematic areas of the commemorations is diversity and inclusion. The Government of Canada is supporting hundreds of initiatives across the country that highlight this important theme—for example, celebrating the presence of people of African ancestry in Saskatchewan; a digital storytelling project by the Afghan Women's Counseling and Integration Community Support Organization, which conveys the journeys and settlement experiences of refugees from different parts of the world; and a festival called We Are Canadians, Too!, in which first-generation Asian Canadian youth share their experiences and perspectives.
The mandate of Canadian Heritage specifically includes responsibility for the Multiculturalism Act, which is grounded in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is part of a broader legislative framework that includes the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Citizenship Act, and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
The Canadian Multiculturalism Act recognizes the diversity of Canadians in regards to race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society and outlines the government's multiculturalism policy.
To implement Canada’s multiculturalism policy, the program strives to fulfill three key objectives. These objectives are to build an integrated and socially inclusive society; to improve the responsiveness of institutions to the needs of a diverse population; and to actively engage in discussions on multiculturalism and diversity at the international level.
Inter-Action, Canada's multiculturalism grants and contributions program, has an annual budget of $5.5 million in funding for projects that promote respect for diversity by encouraging positive interaction between cultural, religious, and ethnic communities in Canada. An additional $3 million is allocated for community-based events that foster intercultural and interfaith understanding and raise awareness of the contribution of minority groups to Canadian society.
Since April 2015, Inter-Action has supported 26 projects that were approved for at least $9 million in total funding for initiatives that target interfaith and intercultural understanding and/or racism and discrimination. More than 200 community-led initiatives were supported in 2016-17.
In February of this year, the announced a new call for applications for the multiculturalism Inter-Action program with funding priority given to projects that work toward the elimination of discrimination, racism, and prejudice; provide opportunities for youth community engagement; and bring people together through art, culture, and sport.
Public outreach and promotion activities are also a key component of the program. Key activities include the celebration of Asian Heritage Month in May and Black History Month in February. To commemorate and launch Black History Month and Asian Heritage Month, the program organizes events featuring community and political leaders, which honour the legacy and significant contributions of these diverse groups to Canada.
The multiculturalism program also publishes an annual report to Parliament on the operation of the act, which highlights activities undertaken by federal institutions to apply multiculturalism principles in the previous year.
The program also supports the nationally standardized data collection strategy on hate-motivated crime. To promote a better understanding of the extent to which hate crimes are occurring in Canada, Statistics Canada produces annual analytical “Juristat” reports, examining the nature and extent of police-reported hate crime in Canada.
Canadian Heritage also coordinates and supports the government's participation in a number of international bodies and initiatives, including the 2010 Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Antisemitism, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The department has also recently announced the reinstatement of the court challenges program, in collaboration with the Department of Justice. This program will provide funding to advance test cases of national significance related to Charter rights, including language and equality rights, as well as the Charter's fundamental freedoms, democratic rights, and life, liberty, and security of the person.
The Canadian government is also looking forward to the upcoming inauguration of the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa. Implemented through the National Holocaust Monument Act, which received royal assent in March 2011, the monument will serve as a symbol of Canadian values and diversity. It will be erected in memory of the innocent men, women and children who perished during the Holocaust.
Finally, I'd like to mention the portfolio agencies with which Canadian Heritage works.
Canadian Heritage benefits from engaging with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, an arm's-length crown corporation that reports to the in her role as the minister responsible for the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. The work of the foundation contributes to the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination.
Another portfolio organization that I would mention is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. Its purpose is to explore the subject of human rights, promote respect for others, and encourage reflection and dialogue.
Madam Chair and committee members, in conclusion, Canadian Heritage fully supports the government’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and to countering all forms of racism and discrimination. This is a key priority for both the multiculturalism program and other departmental initiatives.
As such, we look forward to this committee's findings as we continue our efforts to promote an equitable Canada with respect for diversity and inclusion.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this committee as part of its study of motion 103.
My name is Gilles Michaud. I'm the deputy commissioner of federal policing for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The RCMP has a long-standing commitment and adherence to bias-free policing. In practice, this means that in the performance of their duties RCMP employees treat all individuals equally in accordance with the law and without abusing their authority, regardless of an individual's race, nationality, ethnic origin, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, citizenship, family status, socio-economic status, or a conviction for which a pardon has been granted.
Creating respect and valuing diversity is essential for the RCMP, as it is for any law enforcement agency. The RCMP places a high priority on building and developing effective partnerships with communities and other law enforcement agencies to build trust. These relationships are all the more important given that there remain individuals in the country who do not share our values of inclusion and diversity and hold views that are rooted in bigotry and prejudice. Holding and/or espousing these views is not of itself illegal; however, when such beliefs lead to or inspire violence, law enforcement must and does act.
The process by which individuals become convinced that violence against others is a legitimate way to advance their cause is known as “radicalization to violence”. In Canada, this most often manifests as acts of violence against some type of identifiable group, referred to as hate crime. The Criminal Code contains specific offences related to hate: sections 318, 319, and 430. Common offences include, but are not limited to, intimidation, harassment, mischief, and uttering threats against persons or property. There are no Criminal Code provisions for violent hate crimes, just sentencing requirements.
Section 718.2 of the code encourages judges to treat violent offences such as murder as hate crimes if there is evidence that the act was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor. Therefore, some type of primary activity must be investigated for hate sentencing requirements to be considered.
Given the nature of these offences, the responsibility for these investigations falls to the police force of jurisdiction in communities across the country. As you know, the RCMP acts as the provincial or territorial police of jurisdiction in eight provinces, three territories, and over 150 municipalities through our contract and aboriginal policing services. Contract policing is provided through police services agreements, which are negotiated between the federal government and the provinces, territories, and municipalities.
As the police of jurisdiction, the RCMP leads hate crime investigations. The RCMP also provides training and education. For instance, the RCMP national youth services program offers a variety of education and awareness resources on topics relating to ideological violence, as posted on the website of the Centre for Youth Crime Prevention. Resources are designed for police officers, parents, and persons working with youth to engage and empower them to make positive decisions.
Education programs such as this are essential in combatting hate crimes, as they encourage victims to report incidents so law enforcement can initiate investigations. Reporting of hate crimes is essential in order for the RCMP and all law enforcement agencies to respond to and disrupt acts of ideological violence, as well as to understand the magnitude of the problem in our communities across the country.
In areas where the RCMP is the police of jurisdiction, reported hate crimes went up from 160 in 2014 to 206 in 2015, an increase of 46 incidents. The majority of the cases reported appear to be motivated by race, ethnicity, or religion.
The priorities of the RCMP’s federal policing program include some of the more sophisticated and complicated types of criminal activity in Canada relating to serious and organized crime, cybercrime, national security and protective policing.
Given the role of the police force of jurisdiction and the need to act within the parameters set out in the Criminal Code, federal policing’s role in investigating ideological violence is largely limited to instances where an individual or group moves toward acts of terrorism as defined in section 83.01 of the Criminal Code.
Our investigations are guided by the definition of terrorism as outlined in section 83.01 of the Criminal Code. The definition is important to note. Section 83.01 of the Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause” with the intention of “intimidating the public, or a segment of the public with regard to its security, including its economic security.”
Therefore, for federal policing personnel to pursue a terrorism investigation, there must be an indication of an ideological basis and motivation for the act, as well as potential intent.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair, for the invitation to appear and to discuss Public Safety Canada's role in addressing systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia.
Specifically, I will be speaking about the role of the Canada Centre for Canadian Engagement and the Prevention of Violence, which was formally launched by the this June. I'll be talking about our role in the context of addressing radicalization to violence and issues of hate, and also about some research outcomes and programming.
The Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence was established to coordinate a more effective approach to countering violent extremism, which can include hate crimes and hate incidents.
Canada is viewed by many around the world as a model of peace, stability and diversity. However, our country isn't immune to racist violence and hatred. The tragic shooting at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec in Sainte-Foy; efforts to stop a potential bomber in Strathroy-Caradoc, Ontario; and the people who have been motivated to travel to conflict zones to support terrorist groups show us that there is no single ideology or cause of radicalization to violence.
In our view, radicalization to violence is a process through which a person adopts a belief or ideology that justifies violence to achieve a political, religious, or ideological objective. Violent beliefs or ideologies can be premised on intolerance or hatred towards an ethnic, religious, or cultural group. In this context, radicalization to violence may not only lead to terrorist activity but may also lead to hate crimes against certain groups. The Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence provides national leadership and coordination on efforts to prevent radicalization to violence in three areas: first, we try to advance key policy priorities, such as the development of the national strategy to counter radicalization to violence; second, we support action-oriented research; and finally, we look to invest in local-level programming through the recently launched community resilience fund. To support its mandate, the centre has commenced engaging broadly with different levels of government, civil society, academia, the private sector, and most importantly Canadians, to discuss its work and help shape the development of this national strategy to counter radicalization to violence. Deep and meaningful engagement will help inform programming, research, and policy priorities. Coordinating efforts across all levels to ensure that Canadians have the full range of tools and mechanisms to address the array of threats facing our communities, including hate crimes and violent extremism, is our key priority.
Over the past few years, the department has funded research initiatives to improve our knowledge and evidence base on a range of issues related to extremist violence, including both terrorist activity and far-right violence. Several studies have examined best practices in developing alternative narratives aimed at diminishing expressions of hatred and violent extremism online. Examples of best practices include the use of humour and the building of empathy between speakers and recipients of hate speech to shift the conversation away from expressions of hate and de-escalate the risk of violence. Other best practices highlight the need for alternative narrative campaigns to be sustainable, to use appropriate platforms to reach the targeted audience, and to better understand the needs of a particular audience.
Public Safety Canada has also funded and supported a number of studies pertaining to right-wing extremism in Canada. In 2016, academics Barbara Perry and Ryan Scrivens published an in-depth portrait of the right-wing extremism movement in Canada. One of the findings of the report recommends using a multi-agency effort by partnering law enforcement with anti-hate community organizations to better address the threat. A second study on “The Future of Right-Wing Terrorism in Canada” was authored by Richard Parent and James Ellis as part of a working paper series by the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, also known as TSAS. The study points to Canada's democratic institutions, its support for diversity, and its policies of multiculturalism as resources against extreme right-wing ideas and movements. These studies provide critical information to inform on how best to design our approaches to counter violent extremism, including violence motivated by hatred.
Budget 2016 provided ongoing funding to create the community resilience fund, which gives financial assistance to organizations undertaking programming and research to address radicalization to violence in Canada.
The fund will be a key element of the Canada Centre's efforts to build domestic capacity at the local level and develop research. Four key priority areas for the fund have been identified. These are intervention programming; performance measurement and evaluation tools; action-oriented research; and youth engagement and the development of alternative narratives.
The fund’s current call for proposals is open until October 1, 2017. We hope to receive many proposals.
The centre is currently supporting a number of programming initiatives to help build local resources and services. One example is Project Someone, and that means “social media education every day”. It's based out of Montreal, and provides tools and training for educators who want to promote discussions on and awareness of hate speech through art and multimedia platforms.
Other examples of programming include support to multi-agency hubs to conduct interventions with at-risk individuals, and developing needs assessments on capabilities, vulnerabilities, and skills gaps in communities in the online space.
We are funding the development of the Canada evidence-based practitioners' network, which aims to support the growing community of professional practitioners and civil society actors in Canada who are involved in assessment, prevention, and intervention with individuals at risk of violent radicalization. Our approach is to support local solutions to local problems using local actors, as we feel this is a more effective way to support communities.
We are working with partners across Canada and internationally to share best practices, increase understanding of violent extremism, fund innovative projects and initiatives, and improve our ability to measure and evaluate results to demonstrate accountability to Canadians.
In addition to the community resilience fund, Public Safety Canada also has the communities at risk: security infrastructure program, which is commonly referred to as SIP. SIP will invest $10 million over the next five years with $2 million annually to help support not-for-profit organizations with their security infrastructure improvement needs. This can help communities that feel they are at risk of hate crimes improve the security of their places of worship, community centres, and educational institutions.
In conclusion, I'd just like to reiterate that hatred and radicalization to violence are interconnected issues that require many perspectives, a strong evidence base, and firm commitment on the part of all levels of government and Canadians to address them. Ongoing engagement with Canadians will help us better understand how we can best support and improve capacity at the local level to overcome the influence of violent ideologies and hateful beliefs. We are committed to working extensively with Canadians and with colleagues at every level of government to address this issue. I look forward to discussing this issue with you today and reading the outcomes of your study.
Thank you for inviting us today to speak to you about recruitment retention programs and all the best practices the Government of Canada has to promote and support the diverse workforce and inclusive workplace.
The office of the chief human resources officer where I work supports the Treasury Board Secretariat as the employer. It is responsible for workplace and workforce policies, and terms and conditions of employment. It provides institutions with data, information, and advice on a range of HR-related issues. The work we do assists federal organizations to fulfill their responsibility for HR management, including recruitment and retention.
The Public Service Commission of Canada plays two major roles. One is the role of oversight to ensure the integrity of the hiring process. The other consists of providing a range of recruitment and assessment services to organizations.
Finally, the Canada School of Public Service has a full suite of learning and development programs, including orientation training for new recruits and other courses that incorporate information on employment equity.
A number of policy instruments also help reduce barriers and support the full participation of all groups in the workplace. These include the employment equity policy, the policy on the duty to accommodate persons with disabilities in the federal public service, and the policy on harassment prevention and resolution.
As part of our accommodation strategy, we also offer employees quiet rooms, which may be used for prayer.
All four employment equity designated groups, meaning women, aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities, continue to exceed their workforce availability for the public service as a whole for the fourth year in a row. However, more remains to be done to reflect the people we serve and to strengthen a culture of diversity and inclusion. To that end, we have certain initiatives under way.
This past summer, 99 students, including 19 from outside of the national capital region, and 20 departments and agencies participated in the indigenous youth summer employment opportunity. Developed through a partnership established last year with the Assembly of First Nations, the program places indigenous, post-secondary students from across the country in meaningful summer jobs in a variety of departments and agencies. Through the youth with disabilities summer employment opportunity, 18 students who self-identified as having a disability were hired by seven departments.
In April 2017, the office of the chief human resources officer released tools that highlight best practices and guidance related to the onboarding experience. These tools, developed with the Canada School of Public Service and 12 departments and agencies, aim to help make the deputy minister's student pledge a reality and to reflect the government's commitment to improve how we recruit, onboard, and develop our student workforce.
More than 13,000 students were hired this summer across Canada by the public service. All of these students were invited to complete a new student exit survey. The analysis of the survey will be used to improve the experience for students in the future.
We are also partnering with LiveWorkPlay, a Canadian charitable organization that, among other things, connects people with intellectual disabilities with work. LiveWorkPlay has 18 successful pilot projects in eight public service organizations.
The Treasury Board Secretariat also supports deputy head champions who help advance specific priorities for the employment equity groups.
These deputies lead the work of departmental champions and chairs. Their work includes identifying barriers and priorities for action, education and awareness, and sharing their best practices. They are at the various stages of developing recommendations and action plans to support employment equity objectives.
When we looked at the challenges faced by each of the designated groups, there are some clear overarching themes, such as inclusiveness, engagement, respect, and particular opportunity for development and advancement.
We acknowledge that we have low representation in the executive category among three of the designated groups. These groups are women, aboriginal people and members of visible minorities.
Our executive leadership development programs optimize diversity and accelerate the development of high-potential leaders within the executive ranks. Diversity is leveraged to every extent possible when selecting cohort participants.
Last November, the President of the Treasury Board announced the creation of a joint task force to bring together both government and union representatives to explore new ways to strengthen diversity and inclusion in the public service. The task force mandate goes beyond employment equity to focus on how we can build a more diverse workforce and an inclusive workplace. The task force has consulted with employees and stakeholders across the public service. A progress update was issued in June 2017. The final report with specific recommendations for diversity and inclusion is expected to be released this fall.
One approach we're taking to reduce barriers to hiring minority and economically disadvantaged groups is to implement a new name-blind recruitment strategy. We’ve been working with the Public Service Commission of Canada on this pilot, which will provide insight on the effect of name-blind recruitment in the federal public service context.
The pilot will compare outcomes associated with the traditional screening of job applicants versus screening in which managers are blinded to the applicant’s name. The pilot will involve external selection processes from 16 participating departments. The pilot’s final report will be released by the Public Service Commission of Canada at the end of 2017.
I know time is limited, so I'll stop there and allow for questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'll start, and then share my speaking time with my colleague Dan Vandal.
Thank you everyone for being here today to contribute to this important study.
I'm interested in the multiculturalism policy, Ms. Aitken. I live in a rural region. In my constituency, 119 nationalities are found and 40 languages are spoken. We consider this an asset. It's extraordinary that all these nationalities are found in our region.
I want to know whether the multiculturalism policy is applied differently in the regions, in comparison with the major centres. If applicable, I want to know how the policy is adapted to the reality of rural regions.
In our region, immigration has increased significantly only in the last 10 to 12 years. Things are proceeding relatively well.
That said, I have the impression that much more effort is made to raise awareness in the major cities. In rural regions, we hear much less talk about the matter.
I want to know how people outside the major centres will be informed of the multiculturalism policy and how the policy will be adapted to the regions.
I'm going to take the opportunity to ask a couple of questions.
In the 1990s, Canada took intersectionality to the world stage. We talked about the various discriminations that occur because of the various components that make you a minority. I am surprised that there is no study, working with the RCMP, etc., when you have a case, to look at whether intersectionality is a big part of that. That would give us a lot of data. I'm hoping that you would start working on this. We have been using the term intersectionality in the last two years; we need to put some teeth into it and get some data. Maybe Ms. Banerjee, and Statistics Canada, and even Treasury Board, can start looking at this, because it would be able to tunnel down into the nature of systemic discrimination.
Ms. Aitken, you said that you didn't have an action plan. Ms. Kwan asked you that. I know that when I was minister for multiculturalism, we had a very active action plan. You are governed by the Canadian Multiculturalism Act per se. You're supposed to make sure that the Canadian Multiculturalism Act is carried out. Programs and projects are fine, but what are you doing in your department within Heritage Canada, under the act, to ensure that minorities, regardless of their ethnicity, race, religion, etc. are able to participate fully? The mandate of the act is to participate fully in the economic, social, political, and cultural life of the country. Is anything proactively being done to ensure that happens?
When I was the minister for multiculturalism, we worked very closely with Statistics Canada, not just to find out what they are finding out, but to actually put questions to Statistics Canada, so that they could again tunnel down to intersectionality to get at the root of it. Systemic, institutionalized racism and religious discrimination is quite often propagated by institutions, unwittingly or otherwise. When we hear people say that the RCMP, especially in certain parts of this country, pick a fight with aboriginal people, and will racialize them, as they do with certain black communities, we need to be able to find out if that is actually true and if so, how are we getting information on that.
I wonder if multiculturalism programs should be more proactive in terms of getting information and working closely with others.
By the way, I want to say, Ms. Banerjee, I love what you're doing in your sector. I think it's important.