Few Federal Employees Participate in School of Public Service Indigenous Training Sessions

The federal government offers its employees a variety of Aboriginal cultural awareness and awareness programs through the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS), but attendance at optional sessions is relatively low.

The CSPS offers 15 different training sessions on Indigenous issues known as the Indigenous Training Series, but less than a fifth of public servants attended a single session, according to CSPS figures, which were included in a response to a submitted order paper question. by NDP MP Bonita Zarrillo.

The most followed session, called Reflecting on Cultural Biases: Indigenous Perspectivessaw 51,430 public servants participate in June this year.

According to the Treasury Board of Canada, the federal government employed up to 319,601 people in 2021, meaning that the most attended training session had about 16% public servants.

Other sessions, including Taking steps towards Indigenous reconciliationsaw turnout rates below 1%, with just over 1,000 attendees.

“Disappointing, but not surprising,” says former bureaucrat

According to a ministry spokesperson, employees of Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada are required to complete 15 hours of culturally appropriate learning each year.

But there is no government-wide directive for mandatory training on Indigenous topics, the Treasury Board of Canada said in response to the same question on the Order Paper.

Low attendance rates for training sessions are “disappointing, but not surprising,” said Letitia Wells, a former federal employee and plaintiff in a class action lawsuit alleging systemic discrimination in the federal public service.

“Confronting racism when you are part of an organization that has that same racism embedded in its culture is painful,” Wells said in an emailed statement.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 57 states that governments should provide public servants with training on the history of Indigenous peoples, including residential schools, Indigenous law and Crown relations.

A statement from the office of Treasury Board President Mona Fortier says the CSPS provides a number of training resources on Indigenous topics, but departments are responsible for determining what is made mandatory. The release also says that some organizations have tenure-specific training.

WATCH | Progress on the TRC Calls to Action is progressing slower than expected:

Progress on TRC calls to action progressing slower than expected

Progress on the 94 calls to action outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report, released in 2015, is progressing more slowly than many had hoped. Today, only about 10% of those calls are answered completely.

But Chris Aylward, national president of the PSAC, Canada’s largest public service union, said the Treasury Board had refused to accept mandatory training on Indigenous issues at the bargaining table in the past.

“These low participation rates reinforce our call for mandatory training on systemic racism, Indigenous issues and harassment for all federal public service workers and managers,” Aylward said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the national organization representing Inuit, said it was working with the CSPS to develop mandatory training for civil servants.

“We are working with the Canada School of Public Service to develop and deliver mandatory training for all public servants and provide essential information about Inuit in Canada and the role public servants must play in fostering and supporting partnership between Inuit and the Crown. said a statement from ITK.

New Democrat MP Lori Idlout stands during Question Period in the House of Commons on Thursday, June 16, 2022. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

New Democrat MP Lori Idlout said it was “unfortunate” the optional sessions weren’t more popular and she was surprised to hear that the government-wide mandatory sessions aren’t already in place. square.

“For too long, the history of how Indigenous peoples in Canada have been treated [has] hidden or ignored,” Idlout told CBC.

“These kinds of statistics show that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that there is a better understanding of why these relationships [between governments and Indigenous people] are so important.”

RCMP among the lowest in terms of participation

The RCMP recorded some of the lowest turnout rates of any government department and agency, with even lower rates among uniformed officers.

Out of 19,000 RCMP regular members, only 61 have taken the cultural bias training mentioned above, while 223 out of more than 8,300 RCMP officers have taken the same course. Only four ministers’ staff have taken the same cultural bias training.

Idlout said she often hears the government say it is committed to reconciliation, but commitment is not enough.

“[Reconciliation] is so important now that we cannot just expect to hear about levels of commitment from governments,” she said.

“We need to go beyond empathy and make sure we’re working on action.”

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