Lieutenant-Governor Janice Filmon Delivers Opening Remarks for Vanier Community Reception

On Monday, October 16, 2017, Her Honour The Honourable Janice Filmon, C.M., O.M., Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, welcomed attendees at the Vanier Institute’s annual Community Reception at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Check against delivery

Partners, supporters, leaders and friends of the Vanier Institute of the Family, members of the great extended family of Canadians, it is a pleasure to welcome you to Manitoba and to this very fitting venue for your annual Community Reception.

We are gathered here on Treaty One territory, on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe and the homeland of the Métis people.

We are meeting near the birthplace of Western Canada, on land where families and communities have gathered for millennia to meet, trade and share stories.

And tonight we are meeting in a museum dedicated to preserving lessons from the past and acting as a beacon for the future.

As we seek to build a better world, there are no more important foundation stones than knowledge and family.

Family is the first institution of health, safety and learning in most of our lives, and it’s one that can provide hope, support and understanding in every stage of life.

But supporting and encouraging families to serve all their members requires understanding of the ever-changing state of the family.

The Vanier Institute of the Family has been bringing together researchers, educators, policy makers, service providers and Canadian families throughout more than 50 years of rapid social, economic and technological change.

Thanks to the research and education efforts of the Vanier Institute, we now know that a family does not have to be composed, as the poet Ogden Nash put it, of children, women, men, an occasional animal and the common cold.

Your success as an institution has been made possible by the commitment and dedication of generations of leaders who have offered their guidance and vision. I’m delighted to be able to join you tonight in honouring the contributions of one such community leader – Manitoba’s own David Northcott, who has completed his second term on your board.

All across Canada, volunteers like David Northcott help our nation to reach its potential. To all of you who donate your time and expertise to improve life for Canadian families, I offer the thanks of a grateful nation.

And to all of those who work for or in partnership with the Vanier Institute of the Family, I wish another successful and productive year.

Thank you. Merci. Meegwich.


Published on October 20, 2017

Vanier Institute and CHRC Host Roundtable on Workplace Diversity and Human Rights

On February 28, 2017, the Vanier Institute of the Family and the Canadian Human Rights Commission partnered to host the Canadian Work–Life Leadership Circle Roundtable on Workplace Diversity and Human Rights. This collaboration brought together Canadian leaders with an interest or involvement in work–life issues to enhance the ongoing conversation on work, life and family in Canada.

The roundtable included the following catalytic presentations and discussions:

  • Human Rights Perspectives and Workplace Impacts: The intersection of workplace policy and human rights moving forward (Marie-Claude Landry, Ad.E., Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission)
  • Diversity, Inclusion and Human Rights in the Workplace: The diversity of families and employees and their impact on workplace policy (Nicole Nussbaum, Staff Lawyer, Legal Aid Ontario)
  • Leading and Promising Practices: Workplace policy and practice, such as the duty to accommodate on the basis of family status, right to request flex and extending family-related leaves

“The concept of family is evolving every day, our workplaces should too,” said Marie-Claude Landry, Lawyer Emeritus (Ad.E.), member of the Bar and Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. “Workplace accommodation is about working differently, not less. Supporting employees to meet their family obligations means that everyone wins.”

“Human rights legislation, family law, labour law, employment law and immigration law all impact families and aren’t always in alignment,” said Vanier Institute of the Family CEO Nora Spinks. “The complexity and diversity of families is being taken into consideration with informal and formal workplace accommodations in order for employees to fulfill their multiple responsibilities at work and at home.”


Learn about work–life and work–family issues, and diversity in Canada with the following Vanier Institute resources:


Published on March 2, 2017

Leaders meet to share progress on developing military literacy in Canada

(Ottawa, ON, January 24, 2017) Her Excellency Sharon Johnston, C.C., joined representatives of the Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle yesterday, engaging with members to create resources to develop military literacy among professional associations and community organizations that will have a positive impact on the military and Veteran family experience.

Her Excellency highlighted the work being done to create a circle of support for military and Veteran families. “As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the Leadership Circle illustrates the power of collaboration and community engagement across the country for the benefit of military and Veteran families,” she said.

Canada is home to 40,000 Regular Force military families, 14,000 Reserve Force families and more than 600,000 Veterans. They access a variety of programs and services in their neighbourhoods, including child care and eldercare, health and mental health, education, employment and transition support. Community programs are more inclusive and welcoming of military and Veteran families when professionals and practitioners have a high degree of military literacy – awareness of their experiences and unique “military life stressors” (i.e. high mobility, separation and risk). The Leadership Circle facilitates innovative partnerships and collaborations based on building military literacy.

Statistics on Military and Veteran families in Canada:

  • In the mid-1990s, 80% of military families in Canada lived ON a base – today, 85% live OFF-base
  • 49% of serving CAF members and 37% of Veterans have children under 18
  • The majority (54%) of surveyed children in military families say they feel pride in their deployed parent
  • 87% of surveyed CAF partners say they are able to cope emotionally with their partner’s absence during deployment
  • 3 in 10 surveyed CAF partners spouses say their career has NOT been affected by their partner’s military service
  • 8% of Veterans report living with low income, compared with 15% of Canadians

“The military lifestyle is unique and full of adventure. The effectiveness and well-being of our military members is underpinned by their strong, resilient, and proud military families who remain that way due to the programs and services delivered by the types of organizations represented in the Leadership Circle,” said Major General Wayne Eyre, Deputy Commander Military Personnel Command.

“Canadian military and Veteran families can thrive if they have access to appropriate care and support. Since military families move so frequently, they often face special challenges like finding a family doctor or continuing educational progress for their children when they relocate to a new community, or a new province,” said Colonel Dan Harris, Director, Military Family Services and Co-Chair, Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle. “Military Family Services, as a co-founder of the Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle, is happy to collaborate with our many committed partners to enhance military literacy among associations and organizations in Canada.”

“The true value of the Leadership Circle is fully realized as committed members continue to work together to produce useful resources, develop innovative programs and establish strong relationships,” added Nora Spinks, CEO of the Vanier Institute of the Family and Co-Chair of the Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle.

“When a man or woman serves in the Canadian Armed Forces, the entire family serves with them.  Sharing innovative ideas is key; and providing reliable information for professionals and community practitioners about the unique lifestyle of military and Veteran families is vital to building awareness,” said Karen McCrimmon, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, who also attended the event.  “Veterans Affairs Canada is proud to be working with so many committed organizations to enhance understanding, access, resources and care for Veteran families.”

The Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle is a collaboration between organizations and leaders from across the country that is building awareness, capacity, competency and community in support of military and Veteran families. This growing initiative is currently comprised of more than 60 individuals from over 50 organizations, including 38 member organizations, who are working with and for military and Veteran families in Canada.


Learn about the Leadership Circle Hubs.

Watch the video message to Leadership Circle members and participants from Hon. Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence.

Learn about military and Veteran families in Canada with A Snapshot of Military and Veteran Families in Canada.

Watch the CFPC video about ensuring equitable access to quality health care for military families.

Human Rights Perspectives: Emerging Issues and Workplace Impacts

Marie-Claude Landry

Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission

The following was delivered by Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, at the Canadian Work–Life Leadership Circle Round Table on February 26, 2016. Hosted by the Vanier Institute of the Family and Alterna Savings, this event brought together employers and HR professionals and practitioners to engage in conversation about work–life quality, flex and intergenerational change in workplaces.


Good morning!

I have been looking forward to this discussion all week. Thank you so much for inviting us to participate.

As the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, I’m happy to be discussing work–life balance from a human rights perspective.

I think this discussion is incredibly important, and I hope it will contribute to a better future for our children.

I must tell you that I personally have lived and understand this issue – as an employer, a daughter, a mother, and a grandmother.

Today, many employees across Canada are struggling with how to meet both their work and family caregiving obligations.

Of course, accommodating family obligations poses very real challenges for employers, too.

But the truth is, being more flexible and more proactive about accommodating family obligations is one of the best decisions an employer can make.

And here’s why – I’m going to give you three reasons.

First: because the concept of family is evolving every day, our workplaces should too.

Second: because accommodation is about working differently, not less.

And finally: because supporting employees to meet their family obligations means that everyone wins.

Before I go on, I would like to tell you a bit more about the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

We are Canada’s human rights watchdog.

We operate independently from government.

We stand up for people who are experiencing discrimination in Canada.
… people who are not receiving a fair and equal chance
… people who are not being fully included.

As you know, the Canadian Human Rights Act includes “family status” as a ground
of discrimination.

Family status – or a ground like it – is included in almost all provincial human rights codes, including the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Recently, the courts have confirmed that caregiving is a protected right under “family status.”

This means that despite workplace policies or practices, an employer must accommodate employees who are providing necessary caregiving to their loved ones.

As I mentioned, the challenge for today’s employer is that the concept of family is more complex than ever.

This brings me to my first point: The concept of family is evolving every day.

Nearly 40 years ago, when the Canadian Human Rights Act was created, the socially accepted definition of family was very limited.

Today, much has changed.

The term “family” is no longer just a mom, a dad, a brother and a sister.

It is a mom and a mom, a dad and a dad, a grandparent and a child, a friend caring for a neighbour, and so on.

So what does this mean for employers?

It means that when it comes to family obligations, employers need to keep an open mind.

Employers should review and revise policies on leave and benefits to recognize that families come in many forms.

One example of emerging family diversity issues is the increasing recognition of transgender rights.

An important change to the Canadian Human Rights Act will hopefully happen soon. It will make the rights of transgender people in Canada explicit in federal human rights law.

This is coming. And in many provinces, it has already happened, including in Ontario, which already has protections on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.

Workplace policies need to be made more inclusive to support trans employees who are transitioning, and employees with trans partners or children.

There are many agencies, including Egale and the 519 in Ontario, who can assist workplaces to be more inclusive of trans employees and their families.

Some employers are concerned. They think that as the definition of “family” expands, it will mean more accommodation requests, more absences, and less productivity.

Not true.

This brings me to my second point: Accommodation is about working differently, not less.

Accommodating employees means trying to find ways for them to meet both work and family obligations in creative and flexible ways.

Our Guide to Balancing Work and Caregiving Obligations provides some examples of various flex-work options.

It also explains that accommodation is a two-way street.

It’s about give-and-take.

Employers are not required to accommodate an employee’s every wish or preference to care for their family.

For example, leaving work to attend a child’s soccer game is, in most cases, a
personal choice.

But leaving work to bring an injured child to the hospital when no other caregiver is available is an obligation of the employee that must be accommodated.

The final solutions may not be ideal either. An employee who needs to leave early to care for a loved one may be required to make up the time.

Both the employer AND the employee need to work together to find a realistic solution that is good for both of them, and that works for everyone.

Of course, from a human rights perspective, there’s something even better than single accommodation solutions.

And that brings me to my final point today: When a workplace is inclusive and proactive about accommodating family obligations, everyone wins.

Studies show that workplaces that are open to flexible work arrangements have:
• lower rates of absenteeism,
• more loyalty among staff,
• higher morale and retention, and
• increased productivity.

A flexible workplace gives employees more options to balance their work and their family obligations.

This can actually reduce requests for accommodation.

So a flexible and inclusive workplace is better for the employee…
… which is better for productivity
… for the employer
… for the economy
… for society.

Consider this…

It was not long ago that taking a year of parental leave was not even an option.

Today, it is a given.

A change to our policies can create a culture shift in our workplaces, so that we can all work and care for loved ones.

It’s about being proactive.


… because the concept of family is evolving every day and so our workplace policies should too.

… because accommodation is about working differently, not less.

… because when we are proactive about accommodating the family obligations of our staff, everyone wins.

Thank you.

This article can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking here.

This document can also be found on the Canadian Human Rights Commission website.


Flex at Work Benchmarking Initiative

Sara MacNaull and Nora Spinks

Workplace flexibility and the use of flexible work arrangements (FWAs) continue to be topics of great interest for employers and employees alike.

Organizations across Canada have been adapting their flex initiatives in response to changing demographics (aging workforce, millennial generation), technological advancements and increasing expectations of workplace flexibility among employees. Many of these organizations have also embarked on a systematic review of their organizational philosophy, policies and practices regarding flexible work.

Sponsored by a member of the Canadian Work–Life Leadership Circle, the Flex at Work Benchmarking Initiative focused on 15 organizations (professional services, financial institutions and Crown corporations) and their approaches to flex at work from their unique perspectives.

Key Findings from the Flex at Work Benchmarking Initiative

1. Flex is no longer optional: Workplaces are dynamic, and flex is a key component of talent management, in particular the recruitment and retention of top talent.

2. Organizations may slide along or back on the continuum: Some organizations have moved along the continuum from standard work arrangements (e.g. 9-to-5) to flexible work arrangements to mass career customization to agility and fluidity, while other have slowed down their pace or decreased flex opportunities.

3. Flex has become less formal, less bureaucratic, less structured: FWAs are less likely to be formalized in writing and more likely to be based on conversations between managers and employees to determine what arrangements work best from a performance and productivity perspective.

4. Consideration and team notification vs. permission-seeking: Flex work and remote work has become more about informing colleagues about schedule changes (i.e. choosing to work from home on a particular day) as opposed to asking a manager for permission to work from home.

Key Drivers for Flex

  • Productivity and performance
  • The importance of healthy workplaces, commitment to work–life quality
  • Commitment to sustainability and environmental protection (corporate social
  • Demographics
  • Transition to team-focused performance
  • Technology (mobility)
  • Diversity and inclusion


Sara MacNaull is Program Director at the Vanier Institute of the Family, and is currently working toward earning the Work–Life Certified Professional designation.

Nora Spinks is Chief Executive Officer at the Vanier Institute of the Family.

For more information about work–family, diversity and inclusion, and workplace wellness, contact the Vanier Institute of the Family at