In 2020, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) began looking deeper into the departments’ internal environment through an anti-racism lens. An employee survey found that significant proportion of racialized employees considered racism to be a problem. In response to this, focus groups were held to gain greater insight into the problem. A total of 54 employees participated in the focus groups.
The findings of the focus groups can be summarized as:
- Experiences of racism at IRCC include microaggressions, biases in hiring and promotion as well as biases in delivery of IRCC’s programs, policy and client service.
- IRCC is fraught with challenges at the level of workplace culture, with unclear guidelines or training on how to handle reports of racism, a history of racism going unchecked and a deep imbalance on racial representation in management.
In response to this report, IRCC launched their Anti-Racism Strategy for 2021-2024. During the first few months of 2022, suggestions were gathered from IRCC employees about the direction of the Strategy.
IRCC’s Strategy first proposes overarching suggestions regarding the new Strategy compared to its first version. It then puts forward thematic pillars of its action plan.
The overarching suggestions include:
- Emphasize a multi-prong and dedicated approach at all levels, anti-racism work will not just be a box-ticking exercise.
- Make the strategy approachable by inviting conversation and encouraging new ideas.
- Continue hammering anti-racist commitments, dedicating resources to track progress and make sure the issue is not just “talk.”
- Start with smaller, more concrete steps and establish clear objectives and timelines to how milestones will be achieved.
- Add historical context about Canada’s immigration past, including the continued impact of immigration on Indigenous peoples.
- Address Canada’s role regarding racial equity globally: does IRCC have an obligation to support racial equity in countries from which Canada invites or does not invite immigrants and refugees?
- Pay close attention to multiple forms of racism such as Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism.
- Clarify how staff doing anti-racism work will be institutionally embedded and who employees will turn to seek guidance.
- Consider having owners of anti-racism files who reach out to sectors for data and measure progress.
In addition, IRCC lays out five pillars of the Strategy’s action plan. According to IRCC, each pillar identifies a stream of work that will be confronted as a priority in the short term.
Pillar 1: Ensure leadership accountability
This pillar relates to making sure there are formal accountability mechanisms in place to advance anti-racism goals. The goal is to ensure that anti-racism work is permanently embedded into IRCC’s structure, and that senior management will be responsible for results.
Pillar 2: Equitable workplace
This pillar relates to aspects of people management that will help create a workplace where everyone feels welcome and respected. The goal is to remove barriers to career advancement for racialized employees and promote inclusiveness in the work culture.
Pillar 3: Policy and program design
This pillar relates directly to addressing the systemic racism and bias in IRCC’s policy and program design. The goal is to understand the biases and gaps within the existing policy and program design and improve the anti-racist approach to developing new policies and program designs.
Pillar 4: Service delivery
This pillar relates to address the systemic racism and bias in IRCC’s implementation of policy and programs with applicants and external partners. The goal is to understand the racism and bias within the program delivery operation and decision making of IRCC officers, while developing and integrating tools to integrate anti-racism in service delivery process to address bias.
Pillar 5: Data and research
This pillar relates to producing strong evidence to support anti-racism work. The goal is to increase the availability of data in connection to government-wide standards in support of anti-racism analysis.
IRCC’s recognizes the presence of racism in Canada and within their organization. Their goal is to be an equitable and anti-racist institution and to increase the benefits of IRCC programs to Canadians and newcomers through the elimination of racism in policies, programs, service delivery and people management.
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