Inside Canada’s best D&I program

Inside Canada’s best D&I program

Inside Canada’s best D&I program Over the past few years, diversity and inclusion has become a top priority for most employers and many have bolstered their internal initiatives as a result – however, few have been able to match the phenomenal efforts of BC-based Island Health.

The organization – which provides health care and support services to more than 765,000 people on Vancouver Island – has won multiple national awards for its Aboriginal Employment Program, including the Canadian HR Award for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion.

“We’ve explored best practice by looking at what other industries do and what other countries have done,” says Rod O’Connell, talent acquisition and retention strategist at Island Health.

“We’ve done research and we’ve rolled out the best of all the practices into one program,” he continues. “Where other employers tend to focus on one or two initiatives, we’ve put together a much broader package.”

The team works closely with First Nations groups, Friendship Centres and Chartered Métis Communities to forge trust and empower Aboriginal people to pursue – and maintain – successful careers in the healthcare sector.

Specific initiatives include community outreach events, school affiliations, job shadowing opportunities for youth, internal and external scholarships, targeted job fairs, one-to-one career support, interview coaching, and cultural safety training – among others.

Unsurprisingly, the multi-faceted approach is working and in just five years, the organization has increased its number of Aboriginal employees from 199 to 658.

“I’m certainly not going to say we’re perfect – there are going to be instances of racism and discrimination within any workplace, particularly because we’re so large,” says O’Connell.

“We have 50 first nations that fall within our regional boundaries, six Métis charter communities and six Aboriginal friendship centres so we’re very big, very diverse but it’s interesting to see – we’re trying to take all of our employees to a new place.”


Nominations for the 2017 Canadian HR Awards are now open and HR professionals are being encouraged to nominate their organizations if they feel their diversity and inclusion program could be among Canada’s most effective or innovative.

Other awards to be handed out on the night include the Award for HR Team of the Year, Best Workplace Culture and Most Innovative Use of HR Technology. More information about these awards can be found online.