Recognized as one of National Capital Region's Top Employers (2023):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 6, 2023)
Here are some of the reasons why Ottawa, City of was selected as one of National Capital Region's Top Employers (2023):
- City of Ottawa has added hybrid work to its existing alternative working arrangement options, including flexible hours, compressed work weeks, job sharing and reduced work weeks
- City of Ottawa supports employees through various stages of life, from maternity leave top-up payments for mothers-to-be and flexible work options to help balance personal and family commitments to retirement planning assistance for those in the later stages of their careers
- City of Ottawa offers comprehensive development opportunities for the next generation of employees, including an extensive summer student jobs program, in-house apprenticeships and skilled trades programs, and formal mentoring and coaching programs
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2023):
By Kristina Leung and Stephanie Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 6, 2023)
Here are some of the reasons why Ottawa, City of was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2023):
- City of Ottawa's Women and Gender Equity Strategy includes a systemic framework that sets corporate and departmental targets and defines commitments -- priorities of the framework include gender-based analysis and gender lens on city policies and strategies, and awareness-raising and training on women and gender equity
- City of Ottawa established an Anti-racism Secretariat, which is drafting the city's first anti-racism strategy, and consulted the community extensively through various engagement sessions, resulting in a "What We Heard Report" released in November 2021 that consolidated community feedback and recommendations -- an anti-racism advisory table with members from Indigenous, racialized and faith-based communities will provide subject-matter expertise and advise on recommended actions
- City of Ottawa developed the Leverage Equity and Achieve Diversity and Inclusion Targets (LEAD IT) strategy to support the organization's pursuit of its workforce representation goals -- the strategy challenges systemic barriers to employment through two streams of hiring, the Comparative Merit Model (tracks candidates through each step of the hiring process to ensure groups are proportionally represented at each stage) and the Designated Positions Program (allows managers to identify designated positions to be competed and filled by members of employment equity groups)
Making sure everyone belongs at the City of Ottawa
After consulting with staff about their experiences of racism in the workplace, the City of Ottawa took the findings to heart and did something. In June 2022, Council approved the City’s first anti-racism strategy – a five-year plan with an important vision: systemic racism and discrimination will no longer be barriers to safety, resources and opportunities.
“The organization always had zero tolerance,” says Suzanne Obiorah, director of the Gender and Race Equity, Inclusion, Indigenous Relations and Social Development Service Area, which is part of the Community and Social Services Department. “The challenge is that barriers, as a result of that systemic racism, are oftentimes deeply entrenched, nuanced and very complex. The strategy allows for an intentional proactive approach to identify and remove barriers to ensure inclusion and full participation of all staff.”
Part of the strategy involves training and various learning opportunities, helping staff at all levels understand anti-racism principles and identify the barriers. One aspect of the robust strategy is to help remove bias in the hiring process and advance the representation of Indigenous, Black and other racialized staff in the City’s increasingly diverse workforce.
Jacklyn St. Laurent, a psychotherapist of Haitian descent, joined the City as an anti-racism specialist last year. One of her jobs is to look at existing policies to make sure they’re inclusive, as well as to create learning modules that address racial biases.
“We want to train supervisors and managers so they can help to have those difficult conversations,” says St. Laurent. “It also means looking at workplace violence and harassment policies and making sure there’s a component dedicated to racism, racial discrimination, racial profiling and all of those elements.”
She is also part of the City’s Black History Month committee. That celebration will not only involve Black history education events but also showcase the accomplishments of African, Black and Caribbean Canadians who enrich the community and the culture.
“Black History Month is not just a month,” St. Laurent says. “I’m Black every day, so it has to go beyond that. We want to make sure we’re working on shifting attitudes and creating the awareness that we’re Black every day, not just on specific occasions.”
The City’s strategy contains a strong health and wellness component as well, out of recognition that many employees have experienced trauma and need the right supports. Within each existing peer support network, there will be a group dedicated to and trained specifically for Black employees, though all peer support staff will be trained in culturally sensitive intervention, St. Laurent explains.
“The way racialized people explain their issues is different,” she adds. “The way they understand mental health is different, their symptoms are different. There’s not just burnout; there’s racial burnout. So we have to understand those differences.”
In addition, equity, diversity and inclusion champion teams will help facilitate culture shifts in each department. “Individuals from across various levels of a department will come together not only to talk about their experiences of the workplace but also about the sort of initiatives they want to implement to meet their departmental equity and inclusion commitments,” Obiorah explains.
At the City, the receptivity and commitment to the new strategy are high. “It’s really about wanting to ensure that all staff have these opportunities and a recognition that’s based on the multiple identities that we occupy; there are barriers we need to identify and remove to achieve that goal,” Obiorah says. “We strive to achieve a thriving workforce, we are concerned about employee wellness, and we are aiming to take a varied approach to ensure that all our staff experience a sense of belonging.”