On November 8, 2018, the Honorable Dr. Donald H. Oliver delivered the opening remarks at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s 2nd Inclusion Symposium. Read the Conference Agenda: ENG | FR

Hello / Bonjour. I am honoured to welcome you all to ISED’s 2nd Inclusion Symposium, and I would like to thank Deputy Minister John Knubley for this opportunity.

I am very pleased to see that the importance of diversity and inclusion – the business case for diversity – is top of mind for our leaders today. It is inspiring to know that you have come to join in and learn how to apply a diversity and inclusion lens when it comes to staffing and recruitment, as well as developing policies, programs, initiatives, events, and activities in your departments.
In the early 1980’s, when I was an Advisor to the President of the Treasury Board, Robert De Cotret, on the employment of visible minorities in the public service, we made recommendations that the employment equity groups needed “special measures” to help equalize employment opportunities for all. Today, we don’t need “special measures”. What we need is common sense. We need open minds and hearts.

We need compassionate understanding of the true value of Inclusion. We need to promote, in all possible ways, the business case for Diversity, that in all our differences lies our strength, and the sooner we recognize that the sooner we will grow stronger and more successful.

What, in a practical sense, can be done to break down the systemic barriers to diversity and inclusion? Some of you may think that it’s necessary to “bend” the merit principle. That is not now and never has been necessary, because “merit” applies to All irrespective of their race, gender or sex. So what we need is fairness in the adjudication of the staffing and recruitment process. I am strongly urging you all to apply merit to everyone without discrimination. We need to believe with confidence that those who are different from us, not just those who are “like us”, are capable of being the best qualified candidate for the position. Promoting favorites and insiders must stop.
In the largest Diversity project ever conducted in Canada that I funded for a study by the Conference Board of Canada, called: “Business Critical – Maximizing the Talents of Visible Minorities”, we concluded that “valuing diversity goes beyond business necessity to business survival itself”. Diversity is no longer just another Public Service HR program to be managed – it is truly a business imperative.

When diversity is working, organizations get diversity in thought and perspectives, innovative ideas, better team performance and new tools for better responsiveness to customer needs.

The talent is here. Just look at your feeder groups that are teeming with incredibly able target group talent, some of which has been languishing and treading water for years just below the entrance to EX. This is no longer acceptable in Canada. Your managers must simply encourage their engagement.

Employees at all levels are looking for representation, including the various layers of diversity, in their leadership; and by leadership, I mean at all levels – starting with managers, supervisors, Directors, DGs, Deputy Ministers, ADMs, and Presidents. It is particularly important for our colleagues, the public, as well as the world to see the faces of diversity and inclusion in the EX ranks of every department and agency, every Crown Corporation, and every other organization relying on government support because by demonstrating that members of the Canadian mosaic can professionally manage the challenges of these important jobs, this will be a substantial catalyst in breaking down systemic barriers on the road to fairness and equality and inclusivity.

As McKinsey & Company reminded us in their 2018 report, “Delivering through Diversity” means attracting, developing, mentoring, sponsoring, and retaining the next generation of leaders at all levels of the Public Service.

These are the changes we need to implement the business case for Diversity.

The Agenda for today’s event outlines an engaging and informative day on how we can all help to build a more diverse, respectful, healthy and inclusive public service. Change cannot happen without the support from all of you. You all are our change agents to help make our dream of true Diversity a reality.

I wish you all the best for a successful Inclusion Symposium. Thanks again for this opportunity to speak with all of you.