26 September 2023

CANADA: Officers shun cultural awareness training

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Canadian Federal Public Servants appear indifferent to a variety of Indigenous cultural awareness and sensitivity programs offered through the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS), with the highest Department attendance being just 16 per cent.

The CSPS offers 15 different training sessions on Indigenous issues, known as the Indigenous Training Series, but less than a fifth of Public Servants have attended any one session, according to the numbers from the CSPS.

The most-attended session, called Reflecting on Cultural Bias: Indigenous Perspectives, has seen 51,430 Public Servants participate as of June this year.

Other sessions, including Taking Steps Towards Indigenous Reconciliation, saw participation rates lower than one per cent.

While employees in Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada are required to complete 15 hours of culturally-competent learning each year, there is no Government-wide directive for mandatory training on Indigenous topics.

A former Federal employee, and a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit alleging systemic discrimination in the Federal Public Service, Letitia Wells said the low participation rates were disappointing but not surprising.

“Confronting racism when you are part of an organisation that has that very racism embedded as part of its culture is painful,” Ms Wells said.

A statement from President of the Treasury Board, Mona Fortier said the CSPS provided a number of training resources on Indigenous topics but Departments were responsible for determining what was made mandatory.

Meanwhile, a recent survey has found Federal workers are increasingly cynical, sceptical and disillusioned about the idea of reporting wrongdoing in the Public Service.

Research firm Phoenix Strategic Perspectives Inc. found that pessimism was now more “palpable and widespread” than before the pandemic, and bureaucrats have become more likely to fear reprisals for whistleblowing.

The report was delivered to the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, which investigates serious abuses within the Federal Government.

Commissioner Joe Friday said there was a maze of oversight mechanisms available to Public Servants and it could be discouraging or exhausting to figure out where to lodge a complaint.

“Public Servants are feeling more isolated and disconnected during the pandemic, making it more difficult to feel confident in coming forward, let alone to gather the sort of documentation that whistle-blowers need,” Mr Friday (pictured) said.

Ottawa, 3 October 2022

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