INAC 2016 Report to the Clerk of the Privy Council on Public Service Renewal

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Respectful Workplaces

Indigenous teachings form the foundation of our approach to workplace well-being and mental health in our department. Humanity, humility, compassion and empathy are key drivers to achieve our healthy workplace. This year, we are working towards the development of our workplace well-being and mental health strategy, which will be informed by the suggestions of our employees and endorsement of our leadership.

"To do their best for Canadians, public servants need to work in a healthy environment that is characterized by respect, that embraces differences and diversity, and that supports with compassion individuals struggling with mental health challenges.."

Twenty-third Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada by the Clerk of the Privy Council

A number of employees within the Department have a deep understanding of the cultural context that affects our work. They are sharing that knowledge with colleagues. For example:


  • Tim O'Loan, a policy analyst in the Policy and Strategic Direction sector (Intergovernmental and International Relations Directorate) participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's hearings for a year with Justice Murray Sinclair. During this time, he heard stories from intergenerational survivors of residential schools and developed a deep understanding of the impacts of colonial policies that shaped our country. This experience has shaped Tim's role in the Department and set him on a personal path to share the knowledge he acquired with employees throughout the Department.
  • Dr. Nadia Ferrara has been passionate about reconciliation throughout her career, making it her life's work. Her cultural sensitivity to and knowledge of these issues is apparent in her third book, Reconciling and Rehumanizing Indigenous-Settler Relations, as well as in her popular FedTalk on the same subject. She has facilitated countless workshops with more than 1,300 employees across departments, urging staff to consider the principles of Indigenous community development in their daily work, regardless of their policy or program responsibilities, creating the conditions for whole-of-government action on the national priority of reconciliation.

The renewed sense of purpose within the Department has led to a strong desire to understand and recognize Indigenous principles of respect and the value of Elders' teachings. Employees have developed their own Indigenous cultural awareness activities based on their needs and the recognition that they must understand the culture and incorporate these principles into their work in order to "live reconciliation".

Indigenous Cultural Awareness

  • The Chief Financial Officer's Indigenous Culture Awareness Learning Day offered 14 different workshops and activities for employees to choose to attend. Most of the workshops were hands-on and practice driven. From an Indigenous Culture initiation session to an INAC Art Collection tour to Medicinal Plant Pouch crafting workshops, the events extensively covered the traditions and protocols of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. The initiative was created to provide a learning opportunity for all CFO sector employees with different levels of knowledge of Indigenous cultures.
    • Result: Over 300 employees participated. After attending the event, employees felt strongly that they had been brought together and were more connected to the community that the Department serves. The workshops tapped into a real need by corporate services staff to understand and feel directly engaged in facilitating the Department's mandate of improving socio-economic outcomes for Indigenous people and to participate in reconciliation.
  • The Lands and Economic Development (LED) sector established an Indigenous Advisory Committee made up of employees from across the sector dedicated to making LED culturally inclusive and a workplace of choice for Indigenous employees. The sector developed a strategic plan to promote cultural inclusiveness within the sector, along with tangible measures to improve the recruitment, retention, development and advancement of all employees in LED.
    • Result: Employees have a better understanding of the context in which they work, a stronger sense of belonging and an understanding of each other, as well as a strong sense of purpose and career orientation for employees in the branch.
  • Indian Oil and Gas Canada (IOGC) developed a relationship with the Tsuu T'ina Language Centre to promote the Tsuu T'ina language with IOGC staff and help build a more respectful workplace. Indigenous cultural awareness and appreciation is a strong element of a respectful workplace, especially in IOGC's case (their office is physically located on the Tsuu T'ina Nation).
    • Result: Staff recognize that a respectful workplace extends outside of their interactions with one another and promotes Indigenous cultural awareness.
  • The Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat held sessions with Indigenous Elders, as well as one-on-one sessions. Elders also participated in all staff meetings.
    • Result: Employees got a better understanding of Indigenous principles of respect and the importance of recognizing Elders as a valuable source of knowledge and wisdom.
  • Quebec Region's Indigenous cultural awareness program is comprised of two internal training sessions on Indigenous history and Quebec's Indigenous nations. These are provided by a regional employee in collaboration with the Canada School of Public Service during Indigenous Awareness Week in May. Other activities were offered that week, such as an Indigenous lunch and film viewings.
    • Result: Employees in the Quebec regional office have a better understanding of Indigenous issues, the historical context of the Indian Act and the role of federal departments on Indigenous issues. The program also creates awareness of the shared role of various federal departments in delivering programs and services to Indigenous communities and promotes a better collaboration and sharing of information between departments.

Mental Health and Workplace Well-being

Mental Health and Workplace Well-being have also become a focus for the public service, as we try to find a better balance between the demands of work and a healthy life. In June 2016, the Deputy Minister at INAC appointed the Associate Deputy Minister as Champion for workplace well-being and mental health, lending visibility to this subject as one of the key priorities for the department. Creating respectful workplaces is not an aspirational goal: the Government of Canada's mandate for Indigenous people means that we have an important job to do and we need people to feel engaged in order to succeed. In September, we introduced an innovative approach to employee engagement: 14 members of the INAC Workplace Well-being and Mental Health Steering Committee were appointed, representing their community – officers, middle managers, Indigenous employees, executives, administrative support and millennials were tasked with engaging and leading discussions with their own communities. In addition, a made-in-INAC survey was launched in November for employees to have their say on issues that matter to them.

Concurrently, within individual sectors, a number of initiatives are taking form to address the needs of employees and managers to support well-being and promote a healthy workplace.

LED and IOGC Mental Health Framework and Mental Health Managers' Toolkit

As part of the Federal Workplace Well-being and Mental Health Strategy, working groups in the Lands and Economic Development (LED) sector and at Indian Oil and Gas Canada (IOGC) developed strategies and frameworks to build awareness of mental health issues in the workplace and to provide skills and tools to employees to promote positive mental health. These efforts led to the development of the LED Sector Mental Health Framework and the IOGC's relationship building with the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

These initiatives have contributed to creating a respectful and healthy workplace, opening dialogue on a wide range of mental health issues, and developing tools and training that seek to promote positive mental health among LED employees. Widespread engagement and communication on the Framework are crucial for staff and management buy-in.

As a result, the IOGC has seen an increased use of tools to manage and resolve conflicts.

Cultivating a safe atmosphere and earning trust among colleagues who participate in activities and events is key to having open and honest dialogue.

In response to the 2014 Public Service Employee Survey results, which found that interactions in the workplace were suffering as a result of technology, the Workplace Engagement Committee within INAC's Northern Affairs Organization came up with a "civility matters" campaign. The campaign features a set of four posters based on daily office interactions. The posters were developed to create a simple yet effective visual with the overarching goal of getting people to talk about issues regarding incivility in the workplace and its detrimental effects.

Civility in the Workplace

The "Civility Matters!" workshop was offered by Craig Dowden, Ph. D., and proved to be another popular learning opportunity. It was delivered to seven different groups in the Department over the course of the year. This session provides information on how to cultivate a respectful public service, informs attendees on how incivility affects the workplace and productivity of employees, and provides information on the impacts of incivility on teams, physical and mental health, clients, commitment and engagement of employees. Attendees learned about the most common mistakes that lead to incivility, such as the use of mobile devices, the language in emails and how we treat each other.


Spirit: A quarterly magazine to connect employees


The Internal Communications team has created a dynamic and relevant employee magazine focused on health and well-being. It makes smart use of new technologies by promoting the ability to share the articles among colleagues and to start discussion on the various topics within the magazine by means of a comment section for each article.

The content is also presented using a variety of media such as podcasts and videos, encouraging employees to connect to each other using different platforms.

The magazine is highly collaborative, calling upon employees in all sectors and regions to contribute articles on a regular basis. It is also a way to share ideas and best practices, and to showcase the work of colleagues across the department.

Spirit makes use of linkages with other government departments to promote resources available across Government. (Example: iHireaboriginal toolkit for hiring managers on GCpedia). Through Spirit magazine, employees are bringing the issue of Indigenous culture, history and contemporary issues to the forefront for employees, and engaging staff in a conversation about the issues that affect us all, creating a strong sense of community at INAC.

Recruitment and Onboarding


"Each and every time a government employee comes to work, they do so in service to Canada, with the goal of improving our country and the lives of all Canadians. The Government (…) is committed to (ensuring) that it is innovative, agile, collaborative and high-performing."

Budget 2016

At INAC, as in every government department, there is a constant need to recruit and retain employees, as well as develop talent within the organization. As with every government department, we face the current reality of hiring millennials who have a non-traditional view of what constitutes a career, as well as capturing the vast knowledge of baby-boomers before they retire and leave the public service.

In addition to these realities is the fact that the Indigenous population in Canada is the fastest growing segment of the population, which represents an important opportunity for government departments to increase their efforts to attract and hire Indigenous employees.

At INAC, we strive to ensure that the department has a workforce that is culturally sensitive and representative of our Indigenous partners. To that end, a number of initiatives are taking place to seek out and attract Indigenous employees.

Other initiatives are happening across the department, for example:

Other Actions to Renew the Public Service

The role of the public service has shifted from one of advising the government of the day to being a full partner with Government and Canadians to develop programs and policies.

Land Claims

At INAC, in the context of reconciliation, this means bringing more people around the table to develop innovative ways of working together to reach the best possible outcomes for all.

One of the ways we are innovating is through Exploratory Tables with regard to advancing self-determination. Canada’s primary policy tools for addressing Aboriginal rights and advancing reconciliation have been the Comprehensive Land Claims and Inherent Right policies. While these policies have guided negotiations to reaching a number of modern treaties and self-government agreements, they have also been largely criticized for being inflexible and unresponsive to the unique circumstances of First Nations, Inuit and Métis groups.

In response to calls from Indigenous groups for alternate and more flexible tools to address their rights and interests, Canada has established Exploratory Tables with a number of First Nations, Inuit and Métis groups across the country to advance their journey to self- determination as a partnership that is premised on recognizing rights, respect, and being more responsive.

These discussions are concrete ways of expressing the Crown’s commitment to renewing the relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis through dialogue and jointly setting priorities at the community level. These Tables also offer concrete examples of areas for future policy reform. As discussions evolve, Canada and Indigenous groups move closer towards reconciling and renewing nation-to-nation relationships based on the recognition of the rights and interests of Indigenous groups, but as important in a spirit of respect, cooperation and partnership.

Similarly, through a collaborative self-government fiscal policy development process, the Government is working in partnership with Indigenous self-governments and negotiating groups to jointly revise and update the policy framework underlying self-government fiscal arrangements. This exercise of joint policy development allows the parties to explore and develop solutions for realizing the full potential of self-government agreements.

In addition to these historic new ways of working with those we serve, we are doing other innovative work. For example:


Communications Component:

The launch of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ website was led by INAC in collaboration with Status of Women Canada and Justice Canada, with support from Public Safety Canada and the RCMP. It adopted a "digital-by-design" approach whereby all content was created primarily for the website and user needs shaped the design of the website. Some of the results stemming from this work are:

  • More people visited the website as a primary source of information
  • The MMIWG pages were the most visited INAC web pages ever
  • We increased social media traffic on INAC channels #MMIWG
  • Minister Bennett made herself available for over 60 interviews
  • The on-line survey was accessed 10,000 times
  • There was continuous promotion through social media and carousels

Social Media

INAC’s social media team completed an analysis on the evolution of INAC’s Facebook and Twitter followers. What they found is very interesting:

As of August 2014, INAC had 1,459 followers on the English Facebook channel and 334 on the French channel. As of November 30, 2016, we now have 13,762 followers on the English channel and 13,788 on the French channel. That’s an increase of 843% on the English side and 4028% on the French!


On Twitter, we had 9,510 English followers and 1,626 French followers. We now have 18,100 people following us on the English channel and 3,074 people monitoring the French channel. This represents an increase of 90% in both English and French audience ratings.


That means that we have increased our followers in the last two years by well over 35,000 people. Our messages are reaching three times more people than they were just two years ago!

Kudos to the social media team and to everyone who provides us with engaging content!


INAC is changing the way we work with government, with other departments, with Canadians and with Indigenous people. We are changing the way we work, period. We are trying new ways and new things; focusing on working with those we serve to develop these new approaches. We have made some exciting progress, and there is a lot more to do going forward in writing a better history. This is work that we are excited to take on.

Blueprint 2020 is a great catalyst for departments to examine, with a critical eye, how they carry out their work, to share best practices from within public service and beyond, and to broaden their horizons with regard to how we can better serve Canadians today and in the future.

We look forward to continuing this exciting transformation and sharing our successes and failures to help advance everyday excellence in the public service.

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