Transcript: A Conversation with the Former Clerk on the Importance of GBA+ (Full version)
Erica Nahm: Hello everyone! I am pleased to be here today with the Clerk of the Privy Council, Mr. Michael Wernick. Mr. Wernick, a warm welcome to you. Thank you so much for coming to see us at the Canada School of Public Service and for taking some time out of your very busy day to share with us your perspectives on Gender-based Analysis Plus, or GBA+. As the Clerk, can you share with us your views on how we as a public service can ensure that we do GBA+ better?
Michael Wernick: I'm very glad to be here and talk about these issues. I think, to state the obvious, public service is made up of people, human beings. And human beings have ways of thinking about issues, of looking at the world, of interpreting what they see, of making decisions full of conscious and unconscious biases and go-tos and so on. And what GBA+ gives us the opportunity to do is be more rigorous about surfacing those, identifying them and mitigating them so that we can approach the design of programs, policies, regulations, procurement decisions and have a better chance of landing in the kind of outcomes that we're looking for.
Erica Nahm: Is there any way to understand which federal agency is truly responsible for the application of Gender-based Analysis? Would it be departments or central agencies or Status of Women Canada?
Michael Wernick: I think there is a role for just about everyone. For people who develop policies and work in departments or agencies well before a proposal is submitted to Cabinet, there are ways to apply the analysis. Certainly, for those who have challenge functions in central agencies, it is a way to ask the right questions, to test or adjust proposals, etc. But even in very operational organizations that decide which uniform to buy for the Mounties and so on there are implications. It is often rather subtle or hidden, but nearly everyone can benefit.
Erica Nahm: You raise a very good point. And I guess for us here at the Canada School of Public Service, I wonder what do you think we can do better here at the School to make sure that all of these roles are well understood and that everyone can make sure we apply GBA+ as you've noted?
Michael Wernick: Well, it's a moving subject and people will learn as they go and we will develop the kind of techniques. I'm certainly persuaded that a lot of this is teachable and learnable, and so our learning institution can play a big role in reaching public servants, whether it's online or in classrooms. And the feedback from the people that come to the School or use the School will simply make the courseware better in years to come.
Erica Nahm: Let's look at a scenario in the future. Imagine that the year is 2030. For Gender-based Analysis, what do you see as the way to go for the future of GBA+, and how can public policy be shaped, and subsequently, our programs, our services in the future?
Michael Wernick: That is a very good question. I think that practice and analysis must develop with the country and society. The importance or profile of issues change. Even during my career, there is fortunately a great deal more emphasis on reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. The way of thinking about LGBTQ issues and various types of diversity is completely different than 20 years ago. The real art of analysis will be the intersection of all these components of diversity. It isn't straightforward. We are not a simple country. We are an extremely complex, extremely diverse country and we are going to continue to change in the future. Our governments must therefore not only follow these trends but show leadership as well.
Erica Nahm: Do you have any sort of advice on GBA+ for the public servants watching today's interview?
Michael Wernick: I can only underscore how important it is to be more mindful and more conscious of the assumptions and go-tos and biases that we bring to our work. And so whether it's GBA+ or in other aspects, we should never feel too comfortable, and we should be listening, and we should be thinking about how our laws and policies and programs feel when they're experienced by Canadians. And always trying to get that feedback, and it'll make us better at serving them.
Erica Nahm: The user experience is very important. I think I would agree with you wholeheartedly. That's all the questions we had today, Mr. Wernick. Thank you for coming here today to talk to us.
Michael Wernick: Thank you very much.