Why diversity and inclusion make CBC/Radio-Canada a better public broadcaster

September 7, 2017, Montreal

Speaking Notes for Hubert T. Lacroix at the Barreau de Montréal

Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, was invited by the Barreau de Montréal to deliver a speech during the ceremony of the Journée du Barreau.


Good evening, Chief Justices,

Mr. Bâtonnier (my friend Brian!),

Members of the Barreau,

Dear friends,

Thank you for inviting me to be here with you today to celebrate the reopening of the courts. Your invitation made me realize that I’ve been a member of the Barreau de Montréal for a whopping four decades! Ouch!

I still remember the exams I took in the Fusiliers Mont-Royal building on Des Pins Avenue (what a bizarre place to hold exams – I still have dreams about it!) and my first memos and research for Justice Fauteux, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, when I was articling at O’Brien, Home, Hall and Saunders.

If you had told me then that I would end up leading CBC/Radio-Canada, our country’s largest cultural institution, I would have said you were non compos mentis. Law is really the only setting where you can still put your Jesuit Latin to good use. So, I couldn’t resist!

Which brings me to two things I would like to share with you today.

First, that none of us knows where we will end up, but the training and versatile skills we have acquired as lawyers are of tremendous value to organizations far beyond the law. There are some incredible opportunities out there for law graduates.

And second, it’s not just your skills that matter but your perspective. Your background, your experiences, the things that shape you. Organizations that understand that, and that actively search for a wide range of people with different backgrounds and experiences, those are the ones that will thrive because they reflect who we are as a society.

I wasn’t surprised when our new Bâtonnier, Brian Mitchell, committed this organization to becoming a “Barreau inclusif.” I have worked for years with Brian on the Board of Directors of CBC/Radio-Canada. I know how important this issue is to him and we have both seen what it has meant for the public broadcaster to be fully engaged in these issues.

Today, I believe CBC/Radio-Canada is better connected to Canadians than ever before – in large part because of the efforts we have been making to ensure that we reflect Canada.

Our vision is to include a range of faces, voices, experiences and perspectives in both our content and our workplace.

And we need to remember that there is an important distinction between diversity and inclusion.

Diversity is the mix. It’s what differentiates each of us (ethnicity, gender, how we think, our values our backgrounds, etc.). It’s about people.

The concept of inclusion is about ensuring, as an organization, that all of these people work well together, in an environment that values differences. It’s about culture.

According to Statistics Canada, 19% of Canadians belong to visible minorities. So, two years ago we set an ambitious target – that by 2020, just over 23% of new employees hired will be from diverse backgrounds. And we’re on track to hit that goal. Out of 653 new hires last year, 120 were diverse – that’s slightly over 18%.

We also want to include more people from diverse backgrounds in leadership positions. Currently, five of the eight members of my Senior Executive Team are women, and half of these people are from the LGBTQ community.

We also have a Diverse Emerging Leaders Program, which seeks out and supports visible minorities, Indigenous Peoples and persons with disabilities.

But watch out. This is not about numbers and quotas. And these people aren’t brought in just to “represent a given cultural minority” or because we have statistics showing that companies whose employees hail from diverse ethnic communities are more likely to perform better than others.

These people are recruited because they reflect our country. They reflect the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives of Canadians. And we want them as commentators and experts on the subjects we all care about, and not just on topics specific to their cultural communities. We want their perspectives on air, in story meetings and in strategic planning sessions.

This is how we ensure CBC/Radio-Canada is the home of Canadian culture – by seeking out, training, and working with the best creative minds in the country, from all walks of life, and from all cultural communities.

Every year, a quarter of a million immigrants make their new home in Canada. About 30,000 come to Montreal. They have a broad range of experiences that have shaped their outlook. But they share a dream of Canada.

How do we make sure they are participating in the life of this country, in its democracy? How do we make a place for them and their children – at CBC/Radio-Canada and at le Barreau de Montréal?

Today, as you pointed out, women make up half the lawyers in Quebec – the highest proportion in North America. And among members with less than 10 years of practice, women make up over 60%. At CBC/Radio-Canada, women currently account for 48% of our workforce, and 57% of our new hires.

Other areas are still a challenge. Lawyers from ethnic groups are still underrepresented in medium and large law firms. In Montreal, about 17% of the population belongs to a visible minority but they make up only about 9% of Montreal’s lawyers.

And how do organizations like ours support inclusion while making sure we’re not excluding the people who are already here? Another key issue.

We have lawyers too at CBC/Radio-Canada, besides myself. Twenty-five lawyers work in our legal services across the country; 17 of them are women.

We also have 15 members of the Barreau du Québec, many of whom work in other parts of the company – for our news services or in copyright.

The bottom line is that we never know where our skills will take us. But I can tell you that one of the most rewarding experiences is to work in an organization that is truly inclusive; that seeks out and welcomes people with an incredible range of backgrounds and experiences – people who reflect the Canadian mosaic.

Quite simply, diversity and inclusion make CBC/Radio-Canada a better public broadcaster.

Our Bâtonnier’s priority of being a “Barreau inclusif” will make us a better Barreau, too.

Great initiative! Well done!

Thank you.

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