Awards of Excellence

2022 Awards of Excellence Ceremony

We are very excited for this year’s Awards of Excellence Ceremony taking place on May 18th, 2022 in the afternoon. Please make sure to register for the Leadership Summit to attend the ceremony and support your colleagues’ achievements.

This year, APEX will be awarding the following Awards of Excellence:

  • Innovation Award
  • Community Contribution Award
  • Partnership AwardLogo des prix d'excellence
  • Career Contribution Award
  • Public Service Citation Award
  • Healthy Workplace Award
  • Leadership Award
  • APEX CEO Award

To learn more about each award and the criteria, please visit the Awards of Excellence Nomination Page.  If you missed the window to submit a nomination, make sure to check this site again in November of each year as we open the nomination period.


Join us for the Awards Ceremony and come support your colleagues, your mentors and your teams.

Congratulations to all APEX Awards of Excellence Nominees!

APEX received 52 nominations for this year’s Awards of Excellence. It’s a difficult task to choose an award winner for each category with such great nominations.  All nominees have been notified of their nominations. Our committee is reviewing the packages.

Canada Border Services Agengy

Kelly Bélanger

Director General, Projects & Service Management Directorate, Information Science & Technology Branch

Calvin Christiansen

Director General, COVID-19 Border Task Force

Lisa Laurencelle-Peace

Executive Director, Prairie Region

Canada Revenue Agency

Ross Ermel

Assistant Commissioner, Western Region

Canada School of Public Service

Nathalie Laviades Jodouin

Vice-President, Public Sector Operations and Inclusion Branch

Canada Coast Guard

Nicole Elmy

Director – Indigenous Relations Division – Innovation, Planning and Engagement Directorate – Operations Branch

Roger Girouard

Former Assistant Commissioner, Western Region

Anne Miller

Director for Atlantic’s response to the COVID 19 Pandemic

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Connie Abbott

Executive Director, Innovation and Design and Deputy Chief Innovation Officer

Correctional Service Canada

Alessandria Page

Regional Deputy Commissioner, Quebec Region

Department of National Defense

Luc Beaudoin

Director, Information Management Security

Troy Crosby

Assistant Deputy Minister (Material)

Seyi Okuribido-Malcolm

Director, Anti-Racism Secretariat & Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture

Leanne Pelley

General Manager of Housing Operations, Canadian Forces Housing Agency

Vivian Shih

Director General, Financial Operations and Services

Robyn Hynes

Director General, Operations, Office of the Ombudsman

Employment and Social Development Canada

Nasser Alsukayri

Director General, Enterprise Digital Solution, Information, Innovation and Technology Branch

Brenda Baxter

Assistant Deputy Minister, Compliance, Operations and Program Development, Labour Program

Nathalie Beaulieu

Director General, Business Solutions Innovation

Mathieu Leprohon

Director General, Special Project, Information, Innovation and Technology Branch

Sheri Ostridge

Chief Audit Executive and Chief Risk Officer

Global Affairs Canada

Ayesha Rekhi

Ambassador of Canada to the Czech Republic, Embassy of Canada

Health Canada

Donald Messier

Director General – Digital Enablement Transformation, Digital Transformation Branch

Kelly Robinson

Director General, Marketed Health Products Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch

Bruno Rodrigue

Executive Director, Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization; Policy, Planning and International Affairs Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Farah Boisclair

Director, Anti-Racism Task Force

Julie Chassé

Director General, Financial Strategy Branch

Daniel Mills

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations

Corinne Prince

Director General, Afghanistan Settlement Branch

Impact Assessment Agency of Canada

Steve Chapman

Director General, National Programs

Infrastructure Canada

Michael Wronski

Senior Director, Communications

Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada

Cheryl Holden

Director, Investment Attraction, Automotive Transportation and Digital Technologies Branch

Privy Council Office

Melanie Sullivan

Executive Director, Government of Canada Communications Community Office

Public Services and Procurement Canada

Simon Dubé

Director General / Chief Security Officer, Security Emergency Management Sector, Departmental Oversight Branch

Tara Hartley

Regional Director, Procurement Assistance Canada, Pacific Region

Caroline Landry

Executive Director, Strategic Policy Sector

Robin Strang Lindsey

Director General, Program Management and Financial Management Advisory Services, Finance and Administration and Real Property Services

Michelle N. Mascoll

Executive Director, Procurement Branch

Tim Palmeter

Regional Director, Environmental Services and Contaminated Sites, Ontario Region

Public Health Agency of Canada

Stephen Bent

Acting Vice President, Vaccine Rollout Task Force

Brigitte Diogo

Vice President, Health Security and Regional Operations Branch

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Gail Johnson

Chief Human Resources Officer

Chrim Lynam

Director General, National Cybercrime Coordination Unit & Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

Roch Séguin

Director, Strategic Services Branch Technical Operations

Shared Services Canada

Shereen Benzvy Miller

Assistant Deputy Minister, Next Generation Human Resources and Pay

Dan Hiel

Director General, Storage, Backup, Archives & Files Services, Data Centre Services

Statistics Canada

Josée Bégin

Director General, Labour Market, Education and Socioeconomic, Well-being Branch

Christine Léger

Director, Census Communications

Claudia Sanmartin

Director, Strategic Analysis, Publications and Training Division

Telefilm Canada

Christa Dickenson

Executive Director & CEO

Transport Canada

Françoise Dehaye

Regional Director, Security and Emergency Preparedness

Nicholas Robinson

Director General, Civil Aviation

A few words from 2022 nominees

“Thank you for this message Carl and the continued work of APEX to support government executives.  I am surprised and honoured to be nominated by such a great group of peers for this award.  During these extremely unpredictable times, recognition opportunities become so much more important to help us restore and maintain resilience.” 

“Wow! Honoured and frankly humbled that dear colleagues whom I truly admire would invest energy and effort to nominate me. Thank you! What wonderful news to get today.”

“Colleagues, I’m speechless. Humbled and honoured – you cheeky monkeys! Regardless of the final outcome, this note is one that I will keep – it is the most important recognition that I could ever have, bar none.  I am so fortunate to be able to do this work for the organization, and most importantly, for its people. It is truly the thing about my job that I love the most.

The Award goes to…

APEX logo
Picture of Donna Achimov


Donna Achimov

Deputy Director, Chief Compliance Officer, Compliance Sector, FINTRAC

The APEX CEO Impact Award celebrates and honours an individual who works with the Association of Professional Executives to deliver an outstanding contribution to the achievement of APEX’s vision and mandate in Advocacy, National Engagement, Service Excellence and Business Sustainability. The Award is conferred to an individual with distinction who leverages their leadership and influence to deliver significant impact to the executive community aligned to APEX’s strategic direction.  It also aims to recognize executives for demonstrable, sustained impacts that may result from a single influential contribution or from an ongoing commitment to the APEX mandate

Donna Achimov is an inclusive leader and has made an impact inside and outside the Government of Canada. She has been integral in helping to shape the public service innovation agenda and culture of openness, transparency, and integrity.  Respected as a credible voice in decision-making, she has a reputation for collaborating with strategic partners, federal, provincial, municipal, and territorial counterparts, as well as industry to support the public service’s goals.

In her past role as Chair of the Board of Directors for the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX), Donna was and remains a strong advocate for respectful workplaces, and actively promotes health and well-being across the federal public service. Donna’s support and dedication to the executive community is an inspiration and this Award is meant to be for leaders like Donna who continue to support APEX, the community, and individuals as a mentor, coach, and authentic leader.

NAFR logo
Picture of Roger Girouard

Career Contribution Award

Roger Girouard

Former Assistant Commissioner, Western Region, Canadian Coast Guard

The APEX Career Contribution award recognizes an Executive who is a leader in their field and who, through exemplary work over the course of their career, has made a significant contribution to the Public Service. A minimum of 20 years in the federal public service, with at least five years as an Executive, is required for this award.

Roger Girouard has devoted his entire life and very distinguished career serving Canadians. Starting his service in the Canadian Armed Forces in 1973, Roger served multiple missions domestically and internationally.   Roger joined the Canadian Coast Guard as Assistant Commissioner, Western Region in 2013. He successfully led his region through some of the most significant events in the agency’s history.  Roger is the definition of an executive who demonstrates and promotes the stewardship of resources and leads based on values and ethics. Roger leads with a “if you put people first, the mission will serve itself” approach. He is an inclusive leader, developer of talented staff and an active listener who believes that unity of effort is the only true path to success.  Roger has not only achieved concrete results and service excellence for Canadians throughout his entire career but has demonstrated a high level of commitment to public-service values and ethics.

Logo of Sunlife
Picture of Ayesha Rekhi

Healthy Workplace Award

Ayesha Rekhi

Ambassador of Canada to the Czech Republic, Embassy of Canada, Global Affairs Canada

The APEX healthy workplace award recognizes an Executive who led and actively participated in the implementation of initiatives to foster a healthy, respectful workplace. This individual leads with empathy and is committed to creating an inclusive work environment for the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of all.

Ayesha Rekhi has exemplified the leadership recognized by the Healthy Workplace Award throughout her career, and notably in her present capacity as Ambassador of Canada to the Czech Republic where her efforts and her leadership has directly fostered an inclusive work environment, conducive to the empowerment, engagement, and commitment of staff.  Ayesha’s leadership extends across Canada’s network of missions in Europe, where she supports other Heads of Mission, managers, and diversity and inclusion representatives by sharing her own experiences and identifying tools. Ayesha has actively contributed to changing the culture of stigmatization, with a particular focus on mental health and workplace well-being. During the particularly difficult pandemic period, Ayesha focussed on staff resilience with particular attention to wellness initiatives and virtual team building. With the added complexity of operating from within a socially conservative country, Ayesha took a hands-on and directly personal leadership approach to establishing diversity, a sense of belonging, and trust within the Embassy.

Raven Law logo
Picture of Leanne Pelley

Community Contribution Award

Leanne Pelley

General Manager of Housing Operations, Canadian Forces Housing Agency, National Defense

The APEX community contribution award is awarded to an Executive who has made exceptional contributions to their community, as a volunteer, while continuing to excel within the Public Service. It is a special honour as it is bestowed in the memory of Pierre de Blois, a leader who has demonstrated exemplary achievements at APEX and in the community.

Leanne Pelley has been actively volunteering to provide support to individuals requiring assistance with the Ottawa-Carleton Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OCAPDD). As a Director on their Board of Directors, Leanne has demonstrated, through multiple initiatives, a sense of care for the community and to positively affect and support individuals requiring assistance.  Leanne has also been volunteering since 2019 with the Royal Canadian Legion’s “Operation: Leave the Streets Behind” helping homeless Veterans as well as volunteering with Earthub’s Ottawa Chapter of since 2019, as part of a network of people committed to collecting and reusing items otherwise destined for landfills. Leanne leads by example, never shying away from an opportunity to get others involved. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and she can always be counted upon to be the first to volunteer and it is almost guaranteed that others around her will follow her enthusiasm.

Logo Deloitte
Picture of Claudia Sanmartin

Innovation Award

Claudia Sanmartin

Director, Strategic Analysis, Publications and Training Division, Statistics Canada

The APEX Innovation Award recognizes an Executive who has demonstrated that outstanding performance and achievement through innovative and creative approaches, resulting in new or improved programs, products, services, or initiatives.

Claudia Sanmartin’s transformational leadership has further advanced the Federal Data Strategy and Statistics Canada’s modernization agenda through forward looking steps that she took to inspire her teams and colleagues to develop a comprehensive data literacy program.   Claudia’s innovation and creation of a comprehensive and well-designed data literacy curricula allowed decision-makers across the country to take advantage of knowledge to make evidence-based choices that have positive impact on the health, quality of life and economic future of Canadians. Claudia’s collaborative approach has empowered her team of world-class data experts to share their knowledge in a cost-effective way with Canadians. Claudia’s has displayed dedication to innovation and has emulated the best qualities of an innovative public service leader such as imagination, creativity, humility, and drive.

Telfer Executive Programs logo
Picture of Gail Johnson

Leadership Award

Gail Johnson

Chief Human Resources Officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The APEX Leadership Award recognizes an Executive who continuously strives for excellence, adopts best management practices, and improves the workplace. The award recognizes outstanding leadership and presents a role model for the Public Service, resulting in improved programs, services, or initiatives.

Gail Johnson has been recognized as a beacon of authenticity and progress in the public service people management community. She is visionary and deliberate in the execution of her ideas to modernize people management and system-wide transformation and empowers those around her to act with confidence when taking new strategic risks. Whether when at ESDC, around the RCMP leadership table, as the ADM Champion for the Black Executives Network (BEN) or as the Chair of the Human Resources Council (HRC), Gail brings leaders together, helps them to rally toward a shared purpose and to act. Gail’s nomination highlighted her extensive dedication to leadership, to inclusion, and advocacy to exploring new approaches to recruitment to achieve greater representation.

Nelligan Law Logo
Picture of Corinne Prince

Partnership Award

Corinne Prince

Director General, Afghanistan Settlement Branch

The APEX Partnership Award recognizes an executive who establishes powerful and effective partnerships to achieve meaningful results for Canadians and for the betterment of the executive community. This executive works in close collaboration with a diverse group of stakeholders in Canada and outside of our borders. The winner of this award creates and maintains trust-based relationships and is mindful of partners’ needs and constraints when seeking solutions.

Corinne Prince has demonstrated the dedication to increase collaboration and to establish partnerships in her role at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.  Corinne has shown excellence in building enduring and innovative professional relationships with traditional newcomer settlement organizations, civil society, and the private sector to lay the groundwork for welcoming at least 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada. Corinne connected with large corporations, veterans’ groups, resettlement service providers, landlords, elected officials, government partners at multiple levels, media, clients, and other partners to solicit support while truly understanding their requirements and their unique constraints. She brought these groups together to translate these needs into actions. Corinne’s successful efforts have not only been premised on working with numerous partners, but also by listening to the very Afghan refugee community that she supports. Her results have equally been a product of her compassionate team leadership.

Desjardins Caisse de l'Administration et des Services publics
Picture of the Hon. Jean Augustine

Public Service Citation

The Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine P.C., C.M., O.Ont., C.B.E.

The APEX Public Service Citation Award is a very prestigious award, and it is granted to a great Canadian, who was previously an outstanding public servant and has made a transformational impact on Canada and Canadian society.

The Honourable Jean Augustine served four consecutive terms from 1993-2006 in the Parliament of Canada and is a trailblazer who has worked to improve human conditions for girls and women, diversity, civic participation, and economic empowerment.  Jean Augustine made history as the first Black Woman elected to Canada’s Parliament and served from 1993-2006.

Her tenure included distinguished service as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister; Minister of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women; Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee; and Deputy Speaker of Parliament.  Her legislative successes include the historic Black History Month Motion; and the ground-breaking Famous Five Motion, which authorized the first and still the only statues on Parliament Hill depicting women – – other than Queen Elizabeth.

The Honourable Jean Augustine legislative successes include the historic Black History Month Motion, and she has been on the forefront of the government and community’s focus on diversity and inclusion.  The Honourable Jean Augustine has been recognized as a stellar Canadian nationally and internationally has been recognized by Canada’s top 7 Universities with Honorary Doctorates for her dedication to education.

Transcript of the Interim Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet's Speech


By Janice Charrette
Interim Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet
May 18, 2022



Hello everyone! Bonjour!

I want to begin by saying that I am speaking to you today from the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin people of the Anishinaabe, and I thank the custodians who have worked so that I and my family could live and work here.  I invite all of you to think about the traditional custodians of the land where you are and the contributions they have made to this country.

I am so pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you, and to celebrate the achievements of the Executive community.  I want to start by giving special thanks to Carl who recently took over from Jacqueline as the new CEO of APEX – congratulations Carl, and I wish you all the best in your new assignment working to support this important community.  And I also want to thank the team at APEX as well as the Canada School of Public Service for providing support to this event.

For over 35 years now, APEX has represented the interests of the PS executive community across Canada through strategic advocacy services, applied research, professional development, and advisory services.  I encourage all of you to join APEX and become part of this vibrant community, if you are not already a member, today.  Thanks Carl and the APEX team for all that you do, and for putting together such a fantastic program for this conference.

While the focus of this ceremony is this year’s extraordinary award winners, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the amazing work done by the nearly 8,000 executives working for the public service across Canada – for your incredible service and sacrifice over the past year.  Your leadership, which has enabled your teams across the country to deliver so much and so well for Canadians has been remarkable.  I am so proud of all of you.  Bravo à vous tous. Merci, and thank you all.

Thank You and Congratulations

I want to pause there for a moment and underline that – if you take only one thing away from my remarks today, I hope it will be my thanks for all that you have done.

These last two years have demanded a lot of public service leaders.  And you rose to the challenge and delivered!

As leaders, you did your job and delivered while managing a workforce that had transitioned to a virtual, remote working model with almost no preparatory work.  You straddled the need for rigour with the need for agility and responsiveness.  You were creative problem-solvers who allowed government to be strategic in its responses. And, this was all happening in a governing context that is about as complex and complicated as anything I have seen in my career.

That takes leadership.  It takes extraordinary leaders who hear the call to duty and respond…who get the job done…through collaboration and innovation, and value-added advice to your bosses, to your Ministers, and to the Prime Minister.  Leaders who are thoughtful about investing the time and the effort to direct, to motivate, and to support their teams – modelling the very best of public service and of commitment, leading with heart and, at the same time, dealing with absolute unrelenting pressure yourselves.

I know that has involved a lot of hard work.  Of stress.  Of sacrifice.  And I know that it has been difficult – I have read the APEX survey results very closely.

So, thank you.  Thank you, for all you have done.  For how you have done it.  For stepping up to serve, and for your commitment to our core mission of serving Canadians and making Canada the best place in the world to work, and to raise a family.

Together with all of the Deputy Minister team, Clerk Shugart, Deputy Clerk Drouin and I are proud to be members of this community.  You have our gratitude, you have our respect, and you have our confidence.

We don’t get a chance to celebrate executives very often, so I am thrilled to have this opportunity to recognize your achievements.  The APEX Awards of Excellence are the ultimate recognition because they come from your peers.  They are one of the highest honours you can receive as an executive in the public service.

So, I want to say to the 2022 APEX Award recipients:

  • Claudia Sanmartin from Statistics Canada, for Innovation;
  • Leanne Pelley from DND, for Community Contribution;
  • Corinne Prince from IRCC, for Partnership;
  • Roger Girouard from Canadian Coast Guard, for Career Contribution;
  • The Honourable Jean Augustine, for a Public Service Citation;
  • Ayesha Rekhi from the Canadian Embassy in the Czech Republic, for Healthy Workplace;
  • Gail Johnson from the RCMP, for Leadership; and,
  • Donna Achimov from FINTRAC, for the APEX CEO Award.

Bravo and Congratulations to all of you!!

This award I think is really important. It is a testimony to your passion, to your hard work, and to your spirit.  I know that some days it feels like all we are doing is running around and putting out fires, but these awards highlight remarkable achievements that can happen even in the midst of so many crises.

I think these awards are particularly meaningful this year – to be recognized for your achievements in a year that saw remarkable work done by so many in the face of so many challenges.

So, let me just say a few words about the year in review.

Year in Review

Now, I know all of us are feeling that the last year has been a whirlwind – again!! Absolutely no one could have predicted how the second year of the pandemic would actually play out given the other extreme challenges we would face at the same time as we were dealing with a global pandemic, and the changes we would have to adapt to on short notice.  For those of you who were fans of the TV show Friends, you may remember the scene where a bunch of them were trying to move a huge couch up a very tight set of stairs when Ross yelled “PIVOT!” – some of our challenges have called for us to execute similarly impossible maneuvers.  It is remarkable how the public service delivered for Canadians at a time when they needed us the most.

Now when listing some of the accomplishments, one always runs the risk to leave something or someone out – it’s even more difficult in the face of such a demanding period.  Nevertheless, let me try to review some of the highlights.

To start, the public service delivered for Canadians on Covid. This year, we delivered on life-saving vaccines – from regulatory approvals to purchasing, distribution, public awareness and information campaigns, to international assistance and cooperation.  Oh, and a vaccine mandate for the public service and beyond, as well. We delivered on approving, purchasing, and distributing millions of test kits on therapeutics and biologics, and responding to requests for assistance from Provinces and territories.  We provided incredible supports to indigenous communities.  We continued to deliver through consecutive COVID-19 waves and new variants.  We designed and delivered support programs to help keep Canadians safe and provide financial supports to families and businesses through waves of public health restrictions.  Now employment is up even higher than pre-pandemic levels and we avoided some of the possible long-term effects on workers and our economy.  Now, after Delta, Omicron and the other variants, I for one have no desire to be reminded of any more characters from the Greek alphabet!

Together, we helped Canada to manage through this and other crises.  The PS supported Canadians during floods and wildfires, especially in Western Canada.  And now we will work with Provinces and affected communities on the rebuilding effort.  We supported extremely challenging international relief efforts including in Afghanistan when Kabul fell back into the hands of the Taliban on the same day as the 2021 federal election was called. Today, over 12,000 Afghans have already landed in Canada, able to restart their lives in safety and security, and work continues to help others to leave.  And now we are in the eleventh week of the horrific Russian attacks on the wonderful people of Ukraine, necessitating another whole of government response. Together, we have navigated the challenges of convoys, border blockades and the occupation of Ottawa, requiring the invocation of the Emergencies Act, for the first time ever.

And beyond crises PS leaders worked to support the development and implementation of this government’s ambitious agenda for Canada.  Together we worked to deliver the measures in Budget 2021 – the biggest budget in Canadian history – and deliver the stimulus programs necessary to support Canada’s economic recovery from Covid.  That includes finalizing bilateral agreements on early learning and child care programs with all 13 jurisdictions in record time.  And now that is going to make a very direct impact on the lives of parents across this country. Now we have another significant package of Budget 2022 initiatives to deliver.  Canada announced its first-ever Emissions Reduction Plan to meet the stretch goals of reducing emissions by 40-45 per cent by 2030, while working on the pathway to plans to move to a fully Net-Zero economy by 2050.

We confronted the evidence of systemic racism and oppression in our society, and our institutions.  We supported the government in helping all Canadians to advance on our journey of reconciliation with indigenous peoples and came together to grieve the pain of discovering unmarked graves of indigenous children at former residential schools and put in place ways to help heal the wounds that these findings have reopened.

Drawing on our core public service values of non-partisanship and commitment to democratic principles, we supported the government’s transition after the election.  Even though the same government was returned, we were fully prepared for all possible outcomes and it is still a lot of work to be ready for a new Cabinet, for new Ministers, and for a new mandate.

And I know that despite what seems like this long list, there were other notable challenges and achievements.  There were just too many to mention them all!

Regardless, you should all be incredibly proud of the story that it tells.  It shows the volume and range of issues that you have faced.  It shows the incredible opportunity that we have had as a public service and as public servants to be part of doing big, hard things. To help address or resolve difficult even intractable problems. To make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadians. To be a change maker.

The Future of PS Renewal

I have been so impressed about how the public service – under your leadership – adapted and adjusted to deliver in this context.

For many years, we have been working on the renewal of the public service.  Through Blueprint 2020 and then Beyond 2020, our goals have been to be more agile, more inclusive, and better equipped to deliver for Canadians.

Now over the past two years, I feel that our work on renewal has been on speed!

Think about how much we’ve learned and implemented over the past two years –

– How to deploy technology to better collaborate and modernize service delivery to Canadians;

– How to collect, use and report data including disaggregated data to better target our programs and services;

– How to move faster, mobilize our workforce and give public servants the tools they need to work effectively onsite and off;

– How to encourage diversity, equity and well-being in our teams.

I have been so inspired and so proud of how the public service has mobilized.  One important feature of this response has been our ability to come together and focus on the outcomes we needed to achieve for Canadians – the results we needed to deliver.  The government is pushing hard now for us to expand that relentless focus on outcomes and delivering results across all elements of the agenda – where success is measured on the basis of the substantive implementation of real changes and the measurement of the impact of government intervention on real people and on real families.

There have been some great innovations through the last few years that we should retain as we contemplate the future. Regions are better connected to headquarters, and we have been able to narrow that gap between operations and policy-making. We found new ways of engaging stakeholders and accelerate our processes.  In many areas, there are demands for us to go even further, and even faster. And that certainly includes in the digitization of service delivery – I think all of that on-line shopping during Covid made our paper-based processes seem even more obsolete.

We can build on this momentum.  Now is the time to integrate the best practices and lessons learned from the response during all these crises.  Each of you has a critical role to play in this regard.

Now, these reflections I consider will be essential as we prepare for the move away from the model where working remotely was our default posture.  That was the right choice during the crisis.  We need now to create the new model – the hybrid workplace that will blend the best of our traditions with emerging new models that combine in-person and remote work in order to deliver the best results for Canadians.

That has to be our guiding principle as we move forward – Canadians deserve to get value for their tax dollars and to have quality programs and services delivered to them.  That has to be our guide.  Across departments and agencies, leaders at all levels are now experimenting to determine what works best for their operational requirements, and for their employees. I am hoping that we can hit the ground running in September with whatever our new model is going to be.  Now of course I am prepared to allow for some customization to the differing needs of organizations across the public service, but we really need to avoid competition between us and aim for some alignment where it makes sense for the results that we are trying to achieve for Canadians.

Now I know that it will be challenging as always to manage this change, and I look forward to working with APEX and executives to provide the tools and support that you decide that you are going to need to lead our employees through this transition and manage the inevitable resistance and anxiety that comes with any change, particularly a change of this type after more than two years of working with a different model.

I don’t underestimate the challenges in front of us. But I know that public confidence in institutions is under pressure across our society, and that includes our public service.  We need to show that we earned their confidence.  And I am going to need your help in leading this transition, and in rethinking a management model to support a high functioning public service operating in a hybrid world.

Diversity and Inclusion

Another key factor in our ability to maintain the trust of Canadians is our adherence to our values.  For us, one of the criteria is whether we can demonstrate that our public service is committed to being representative of the country we serve and a model of a fair and equitable employer.

Together, we have made progress in advancing our anti-racism and anti-discrimination efforts, building a workplace that promotes diversity and inclusion, and reducing barriers to accessibility.

But we have much more to do.

Leaders across the public service responded enthusiastically to Ian Shugart’s January 2021 call to action.  It has inspired effort and stimulated change, but our employees and Canadians demand more from us – more action, less talk.

Let me be clear: this is a time for leadership.  We need to modernize the systems and culture of our institution to take full advantage of the talent we are privileged to work with and to give everyone the opportunity to make their maximum contribution.  That’s what living up to our values really means.

Here are three clear areas where I see more action is required:

  1. Some departments and agencies are still in the phase of building awareness and understanding and that is really important – but our efforts need to shift to taking real and meaningful action to address systemic inequities in our organizations;
  2. Individual leaders can act in their own right to address systemic challenges in their own organizations around things like: access to language training; sponsorship; allyship; who gets promoted; how we offer promotion and development opportunities for development; and, culturally informed mental health supports. Look around you at your own tables – are there voices missing? Are you setting clear expectations for your managers on these issues? How are you modelling the behaviours that you expect of them?
  3. I think that we can learn from our work on GBAplus to incorporate more sophisticated intersectionality into new policies, programs and initiatives – be they internal or external. Think about how we can better support and include persons with disabilities; LGBTQ2+ folks; members of religious minorities as well as indigenous, black and other racialized employees who often experience racism in addition to the discrimination and challenges that they face as members of those groups.

Mental Health

Now, I recognize that despite my enthusiasm for all of the progress that we have made on renewal and on our diversity and inclusion challenges during the last few years, not all of the changes that were made for a crisis are optimal for our work going forward.

And as gratifying and rewarding as our work is, the speed of change, the volume of work, the pressure of complexity and numerous priorities has been significant.  Many employees have been going flat out for the past two years.  Many are struggling for balance.  Many are worried about burnout for themselves and for their teams.

The list of achievements and successes of the last year are remarkable – but it is a long list of big, hard things. It is hard to do hard things. And doing hard things while leading through the second year of a global pandemic is really hard. So people are tired. No, people are exhausted and no wonder. As fulfilling as it may be to be a change maker, and to lead in challenging times it is hugely demanding.

I told you earlier that I had looked carefully at the 2021 APEX Executive Work and Health Study.  And I saw the struggle there.  Our executives have high levels of pride in their work and a strong dedication to serving Canada and serving Canadians.  The cost is high though – too high.  The reports of extreme burnout and off-the-chart stress levels are very worrying to me.  Long hours, a blurring of work and home lives, and few if any holidays taken partly due to the inability to travel during COVID. I am convinced that working remotely without the usual connections and support of colleagues also aggravates this situation.

This is not a problem confined to the public sector.  But it is a wake-up call for all of us.

Leading organizations is demanding.  Leaders need energy and personal resilience to be able to lead effectively.

There are no simple solutions to this problem.

The good news is that we are in a better position than we were 10 years ago because now we are talking about these things.  There are better resources available to us.  In general, people are more aware and, as a result, I think there is less risk of being stigmatized for seeking help.   But clearly, we have a long way to go to create a culture that is based on clearer expectations and provides more space for recovery, including more deliberate use of office time.

To get there, we need to take care of ourselves and each other.  In fact, taking care of yourself should be part of your job description! It is the only way to be truly present for your teams.  Each of us needs to be aware of what we are doing and ask for help when we need it.

All of this reinforces for me the importance of approaching others with empathy.  Mental health is a fundamental human issue.  There are easy things that can help create a healthier environment, such as: greeting each other in the morning; checking in on an employee or colleague who has been struggling; and acknowledging and recognizing the good work of employees.  It may not completely solve the problem, but it is the least we can do. By participating in this conference, you have already taken an important step in finding tools, resources and solutions, working with the entire leadership community.

Think about how you want to take control of your own situation, know that your employees are still looking to you as a role model, and ask for help before it’s too late. Please.


Now I know taking control and asking for help takes courage.  For my part, I am committed to working at my level to improve planning, to reinforce the need to set clear priorities and stick with them and give people the time necessary to do the work that will be required in order to get the big hard things done and do them well.

I have to warn you though. The context we operate is unlikely to get easier, or the pace relent.  The world is uncertain and the crises just keep coming.

What I can tell you is that we are all in this together.  We are going to figure it out together.

You are leaders in the public service during one of the most demanding and tumultuous times in modern history.  We can’t use our old models of leadership in the face of disruption.  But we can invent new ones.  You have done that – consider everything you have accomplished in the last two years.  And you have led with such heart, and with such grit. The significant and meaningful impact that you have made on the country, amazing!  No wonder we are all exhausted – but I hope that you are also incredibly proud.

Renewal presents a tremendous opportunity to create a first-class public service that is innovative, diverse, representative and leading edge.   We are on the precipice of change in our public service, in our society and in the world.

I invite you to seize this moment.  To be part of it.  And to lead with courage and humanity.  Each of us has the power to lead us into a brighter future. Congratulations again to the 2022 APEX Award winners – you inspire us all.  Enjoy the awards ceremony.  Take some time today to celebrate success and all that you have accomplished.  Enjoy the conference.

I am proud to work beside you as my colleagues.

Thank you, merci, megweetch.

Thank you to our awards sponsors

for helping recognize the great work that executives achieve

Sunlife logo
Healthy Workplace Award Sponsor
Deloitte logo
Innovation Award Sponsor
Raven Law logo
Community Contribution Award Sponsor
Telfer Executive Programs logo
Leadership Award Sponsor
Nelligan Law Logo
Partnership Award Sponsor
Career Contribution Award Sponsor
Desjardins Caisse de l'Administration et des Services publics
Public Service Citation Award Sponsor
APEX logo
Follow by Email