Canada’s Department of International Affairs needs to cut senior manager positions and reallocate resources to staff recruitment and training to better respond to crisis situations, a new Senate report says.
reportis the first extensive review of Canada’s diplomatic services in more than 40 years, examining whether Global Affairs Canada (GAC) is doing its job.
“The committee’s answer is yes, but a conditional yes,” Sen. Peter Boehm, a former diplomat, said at a press conference Wednesday.
The Senate committee’s report makes 27 recommendations. Boehm said that with these in place, GAC’s “already has significant capabilities and is ready and able to do the important work for Canada today, tomorrow and for decades to come.” said.
GAC’s suspension of entry-level post-secondary recruitment from 2009 to 2019 created lingering staffing problems, the report said.
During those years, GAC became reliant on short-term contract workers and students as recruitment efforts essentially ceased, the paper said. Boehm called the measure a “band-aid solution” and “less than ideal for developing the experienced workforce that will help Canada become a global leader in the 21st century.” Stated.
According to the report, in the early 1990s, half of GAC’s employees based in Canada were foreign affairs officers. They now make up just over a quarter of the workforce.
The report says that unfilled positions are forcing foreign service personnel to increase their workloads, and that certain positions become inoperable when key personnel become ill or leave the service.
Loss of “surge capacity”
GAC began recruiting efforts in 2019 and 2021 and plans to update its efforts every two years, but the report concluded that staffing shortages led to a loss of “surge capacity” that needed to be rebuilt. ing.
“Canadians are being evacuated from conflict zones such as Lebanon, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Sudan and Gaza, largely thanks to the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Boehm said. “However…surge capacity, the ability to quickly focus resources to deal with events that occur constantly, may increase.
“Canadians abroad should be confident that the diplomatic service will help them when they need it.”
To address staffing shortages, the report calls on GAC to launch an annual entry-level recruitment campaign to fill vacancies and increase headcount surplus to meet surges in demand for services.
Top management, aging workforce
The report says the recruitment campaign will also help lower the average age of Canada’s diplomatic staff, which is 47 years old in 2021. The average age of GAC’s non-foreign employees is 43 years old, the report said.
The report also criticized what it called GAC’s top-heavy structure and recommended that the department “examine its current senior management structure and evaluate options to reduce the number of senior staff” in order to reallocate resources. .
The report notes that the Foreign Service Alumni Association of Canada told the committee that the number of senior executives should be halved.
Reducing senior staff will also allow GAC to delegate authority to lower-level staff, which will help them gain valuable experience, the report said.
language and skills training
The report also says GAC needs to do a better job of providing language training and helping employees maintain language and geography expertise throughout their careers.
“GAC’s budget constraints have reduced resources for specialized training, particularly language training, to the extent that specialization in language and geographic expertise has been discouraged,” the report said.
The report says GAC needs to do more to promote equal use of French and English within the department by expanding language training to all employees.
The report says the ministry does not have enough staff who speak Mandarin, Russian and Arabic, and recommends providing training to build expertise in these areas.
The report says a lack of funding for specialized training has led to more people being appointed to managerial positions in areas in which they have little experience.
Boehm said Wednesday that consistent language training requires sustained funding.
The committee’s report also said management decisions that “questioned the value of maintaining a functional bureau of legal affairs” led to the bureau’s loss of legal expertise.
The report notes that GAC lawyers have made important contributions to arms control and landmine treaties, and says the department should have lawyers in its main offices at the United Nations, The Hague, Geneva and New York.
“The committee strongly encourages GAC to maintain a functional legal affairs office and general counsel within the department,” and “establish an assistant secretary-level general counsel within the department,” the report states.