Working Toward a Bias-Free Workplace at the PPSC


Working Toward a Bias-Free Workplace at the PPSC

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (“PPSC”) is a national, independent and accountable prosecuting authority whose main objective is to prosecute federal offences and provide legal advice and assistance to law enforcement. Nationally, the PPSC has more than one thousand employees with offices across the country. The PPSC’s mission is to “to promote the cause of justice” and serve the Canadian public interest. Fulfilling this objective involves ensuring that the PPSC reflects the Canadian community it serves — diversity and inclusion initiatives are the mechanisms used to reach these goals. Diversity and inclusion in practice is not just about the PPSC “looking” more like the public it serves — it is something that encourages a wider perspective and range of discussion on how the PPSC operates, including, but not limited to, promoting cultural sensitivity amongst Crown counsel, managers, and employees, removing barriers to advancement, increasing workplace engagement, and attracting and retaining diverse talent.

The PPSC has taken steps to become a more inclusive workplace, including in September 2020, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel announcing the “Bias Free Workplace Initiative” and appointing two Champions to work with the National Diversity and Inclusion Committee to engage with employees across the country on issues such as the PPSC’s recruitment, development and retention practices and how the leadership team at all levels can better reflect the diversity of the organization as a whole and Canadian society more generally.

The Champions were given independence regarding how the initiative should be implemented. One of the most challenging aspects of this initiative was devising a strategy on how to engage with staff given that employees were located all across the country and travelling to each regional office was not going to be possible. Since most employees were working at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual round table discussions for employees, supervisors, bargaining agents, and senior management across the country were undertaken. The Champions created a safe space for employees to engage in discussions without management present and a separate platform was created to allow participants to communicate anonymously.

Having had their own lived experiences relevant to this discussion, the Champions knew that it would be difficult for participants to speak openly about systemic discrimination and racism. For many racialized Canadians, fear of reprisal and being stigmatized can prevent them from speaking out. In practice, the level of engagement was dependent on individuals being comfortable enough to share their own lived experiences of working at the PPSC. For example, in one instance, when an employee shared an experience of being overlooked for promotions because that person did not fit in with the office culture, others became more comfortable to speak up and share their own experiences, including offering feedback and solutions for change. Since October 2020, twenty-two round table discussions have been held and significant one-on-one discussions and anonymous communications have taken place.

The key themes arising from the round table discussions were ensuring the PPSC attracts, hires, and develops diverse talent, and creates and maintains a culture of awareness and belonging. The Champions will embark on writing a final report offering recommendations relating to these key themes. The recommendations will include actions for immediate implementation as well as long-term goals to be implemented both regionally and nationally. The goal of the Champions is that the engagement at all levels of the PPSC and the recommendations in the final report will be the catalyst for positive change toward making the PPSC a bias-free workplace, where everyone feels they belong and can advance in the organization regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, ability, or sexual orientation.

Workplaces that encourage diversity and inclusion are generally more successful and healthy organizations that perform better and an inclusive PPSC that reflects the public it serves will strengthen the legitimacy of the judicial system, which is part of the effective functioning of our society.