An Inclusive Culture: We All Have a Role To Play

The National Arts Centre’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism 2023-2026 Action Plan

“We believe the performing arts are vital to the human experience. A house of dreams for the Canadian performing arts, the National Arts Centre will work with artists and arts organizations from across this land to revitalize our sector. We are on a journey, committed to ensuring that equity, diversity, inclusion, anti-racism, accessibility, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples will guide our actions.”

Vision Statement from The Journey Ahead, the NAC 2023-2026 Strategic Plan

Message from the National Arts Centre

Creating a sense of belonging is fundamental.

Each person who comes to the National Arts Centre – an audience member, an artist or an employee – needs to feel at home. They must feel safe.

Only then can people from different communities and backgrounds experience and share in the magic that takes place at the NAC.

In February 2023, the NAC invited members of the Black community to attend a special performance of the award-winning play Is God Is, a Black story created by Black artists. After the show, the actors spoke of how the energy coming from the predominantly Black audience was completely different than it was on other nights. They could hear audible gasps and spontaneous comments during certain scenes. Some actors even felt the audience reaction had transformed the telling of the story – that they were somehow in a different play. That feeling was electric.

In the performing arts, authentic connection between artist and audience is essential. The diversity of exchange is also important. We know that when a community is represented on stage, its members will identify and connect more strongly with the story being told. When an audience member identifies with the actor, singer, or dancer in front of them – feeling what they’re feeling –, empathy becomes possible. And when the stories being told and the songs being sung come from a variety of lived experiences, they have the power to inspire everyone and move our society forward.

If the National Arts Centre is to continue to be relevant to Canadians, it must be relevant to ALL Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Everyone needs to feel welcomed.

That is the goal of this Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism 2023-2026 Action Plan. The impetus for this roadmap emerged over the last few years through a series of consultations and conversations with various communities, artistic collaborators, and staff. We took the time to listen to them and get their honest feedback on how we’re doing and what needs to change in order for the NAC to be a welcoming and safe environment for everyone.

In this document, we outline how we will give ourselves the strategies and tools to overcome the longstanding barriers to an equitable workplace and culture. The transformation of the NAC into a more diverse and inclusive space starts with us – our employees and our leadership team.

We all have a role to play to ensure that everyone feels welcomed here, whether they be on stage, behind the scenes, in the seats or in our public spaces.

Join us on our journey.

Christopher Deacon
President and CEO
National Arts Centre

Executive Summary

We at the National Arts Centre believe in the necessity to embrace diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion, as well as creating a welcoming and respectful space for everyone. We envision a vibrant, renewed performing arts ecosystem that includes a wider spectrum of stories, cultures, and artists.

In order to realize this vision, the NAC has created its first-ever three-year Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism (EDIAR) 2023-2026 Action Plan, outlined below.

The Plan is based on qualitative data gathered through employee surveys, employee focus group discussions and consultations, as well as one-on-one interviews with stakeholders. The document provides a list of 29 concrete actions to be implemented by NAC employees with the leadership and commitments of its Senior Management team to create inclusive working environments while overcoming all barriers, including administrative policies and processes.

The EDIAR Plan seeks to transform the organizational culture, build internal capacity, attract more diverse talent and develop diverse partnerships. We have adopted a collaborative approach that acknowledges the distinct nature and unique lived experiences, perspectives, and viewpoints in a way that will strengthen the Centre’s ability to create and deliver the best value to artists, audiences, partners, and other stakeholders.

The NAC EDI and Anti-Racism Action Plan has three primary internal goals:

  1. To foster an environment that attracts the best talent, practices inclusivity, values diversity of life experiences and perspectives, and encourages innovation in pursuit of the organization’s vision.
  2. To build a diversity-rich culture that values belonging, and in which everyone can strive and realize their full potential.
  3. To ensure that all employees feel valued, included, and empowered to do their best work.

Most importantly, the NAC’s EDIAR Action Plan aims to be people-centric, holistic, and flexible, with a strong focus on co-development.

Oversight for this Plan, which is an evolving document, is the responsibility of the NAC’s President and CEO, and its Senior Management team.

NAC Statement of Commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism

Through it 2023-2026 Strategic Plan, the NAC commits to create and sustain a workplace that is inclusive, accessible, welcoming, anti-racist, and representative of the Canadian diversity. We value and recognize identity, wellness, and a sense of belonging for all employees. We honour our employees, artists, patrons, visitors’ individual lived experience and perspectives.

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism: the NAC’s Journey so Far

In recent years, the NAC has undertaken a number of concrete actions and initiatives to improve institutional EDI and Anti-Racism:

  1. The Next Act: The NAC’s 2020-2023 Strategic Plan
    • In August 2020, the NAC launched a three-year Strategic Plan called The Next Act. Its vision was to lead and support the renewal of the Canadian performing arts sector, and to shape a more diverse, equitable and inclusive future for the performing arts in Canada. The Plan stated that the NAC will identify and dismantle racist structures within the institution; embrace diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion; and create a welcoming and respectful space for everyone. It also included commitments to engaging with equity-deserving groups, diversifying the artists with whom the NAC works, and providing professional development opportunities for the next generation of IBPoC artists.
  2. A Strengthened Commitment to Diversity in Artistic Collaboration and on the Stage
    • Through The Next Act, the NAC has committed to diversifying the artists and organizations it works with to create, produce, co-produce and disseminate art.
      • NAC French Theatre is led by Mani Soleymanlou, a Montreal-based Iranian-Canadian theatre artist whose work centres on questions of identity. With major financial investment from the NAC, he produced Un. Deux. Trois, featuring a diverse cast of nearly 40 artists predominantly from official languages minority communities (OLCMs). This epic creation toured in Fall 2022 in nine Francophone theatres across Canada;
      • NAC English Theatre is led by Nina Lee Aquino, an award-winning Filipino-Canadian director, dramaturg and teacher who has advocated tirelessly for the representation and flourishing of IBPoC voices in Canadian theatre;
      • NAC Indigenous Theatre showcases Indigenous artists, stories and languages on the national stage, supports the creation of Indigenous work from throughout the land, strongly engages through education and outreach, and supports the next generation of Indigenous theatre professionals throughout the land;
      • In November 2020, NAC English Theatre partnered with Black Theatre Workshop,Canada’s oldest Black theatre company, as the NAC’s inaugural Co-Curating Company in Residence for two-years, which was extended until 2023. With half of English Theatre’s programming budget, the idea was not only to showcase Black theatre artists, but to share power and decision-making ability with the company;
      • NAC Dance, the NAC Orchestra and Popular Music and Variety all feature IBPoC and 2SLGTBQI+ artists and companies more prominently in their seasons.
  3. Supporting Diversity through Professional Development in the Performing Arts
    • The NAC is working with partners to help the next generation of equity-deserving arts professionals through training and professional development opportunities. For example, the NAC is partnering with Why Not Theatre, a Toronto-based, national theatre company and leading voice on breaking down barriers to IBPoC theatre professionals, on the ThisGen Fellowship. This national initiative is supporting IBPoC women and non-binary theatre practitioners who are moving to the next stage of their careers, through training, mentorship, hands-on work placements and peer-to-peer connection;
    • In 2021, the NAC launched the Leadership Exchange Program as part of the NAC’s strategic commitment to create new opportunities for skills development in the performing arts and the advancement of IBPoC arts professionals. In its first year, the program recruited a cohort of 18 participants (9 mentors and 9 mentees), of which 12 identified as IBPOC and/or 2SLGBTQI+, and 13 identified as women. The program is currently in its second season.
  4. Creation of an EDI Office in May 2021
    • In May 2021, the NAC created and staffed two positions to improve internal EDI: a Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Senior Advisor on Engagement and Outreach. Together they form the EDI Office, which has since played a central role in helping to shape a more diverse, just and inclusive environment for NAC artists, audiences and staff through consultations, surveys, workshops, training, leadership advice, and by reviewing policy and practices. The EDI Office works closely with the NAC’S Senior Management team, as well as employees at all levels of the organization, to guide and advance EDI-related matters. It is involved in reviewing policies, processes, and systems to address systemic barriers and foster a safe and welcoming work environment and culture.
  5. First NAC Employee Survey to Benchmark Work Culture
    • In Fall 2021, the NAC undertook an Employee Survey to gain insight into how its employees view the organization’s work culture. The survey found that while most participants appreciate the NAC’s equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility efforts, many suggested the institution needs to do more. One-third of respondents expressed frustration with systemic barriers to their inclusion and representation. The NAC and its Senior Management Team has unpacked those results and taken action to improve its internal culture. The survey also informed the EDIAR Action Plan.
  6. EDI Circle
    • In 2021, the NAC established an EDI Circle, made up of 10 employees from diverse backgrounds and representing various NAC departments, with a purpose of supporting the organization’s meaningful and focused engagement on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Their advice and input help to create a supportive and welcoming work environment in which NAC employees of all backgrounds feel empowered to do their best work.
  7. Diversifying the NAC Workforce
    • The NAC has made a concerted effort to increase diversity across its leadership. Today, eight members of Senior Management and Artistic Leadership come from equity-deserving communities (a third of the NAC’s Leadership). In addition, the NAC has re-examined its recruiting practices and prioritized diversity in the hiring of new staff. For example, all selection committees now include a member of 2SLGBTQI+ or IBPoC communities. The NAC workforce is more and more diverse, enriching the organization with a broader set of backgrounds and lived experiences.
  8. EDIAR Training
    • The NAC has offered training sessions on EDIAR-related workplace issues to its Board of Trustees, Senior Management, and staff. In the fall of 2022, the NAC offered a workshop on Emotional Citizenship, which included discussions about racism and discrimination. In addition, NAC staff now has access to the full roaster of training offerings available on the Canada School of Public Service website.
  9. Research and Engagement with Equity-Deserving Groups
    • In 2020-2021, the NAC undertook an Audience Development Plan, with a goal of transforming the audience to be more representative of the Canadian population. The NAC consulted members of five equity-deserving groups — Indigenous, Black, people of colour, 2SLGBTQI+, and people living with disabilities. Participants shared valuable insights on how the NAC may better serve diverse communities.

NAC Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism 2023-2026 Action Plan

Pillar 1: Leadership Commitment and Accountability

The NAC leadership is committed to, and accountable for:

  • Implementing the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism Action Plan
  • Bringing changes at a system level by ensuring the plan guides and informs NAC decision-making processes.
Actions Key Contributors Timeframe
Adopt and promote the NAC EDIA-R statement and action plan affirming commitments, with designated financial and human resources. EDIA Unit 2023-2024
Continue to advance on the path of reconciliation by implementing TRC Call to Action #57. EDIA Unit 2023-2024
Develop an NAC-wide approach to embed EDI and anti-racism lens in programming, policies, practices, financial and human resources planning. EDIA Unit 2023-2024
Continue to strive to enhance diversity/representation within NAC’s management ranks. Human Resources Ongoing
Establish and promote an effective safe, neutral, and confidential reporting mechanism for racism, discrimination, and bias, and ensure prompt response. Human Resources
Support the work of the NAC’s Health and Wellness Committee to continue to deliver much needed mental health related activities and events to employees. Human Resources
Support and sponsor the creation of Employee Affinity Groups (e.g. Indigenous Network, PWD Network, Black Employees Network, 2SLGBTQ+ Employee Network, etc.) and promote inclusive and supportive spaces. EDIA Unit 2023-2024
Develop and implement an accountability consequential framework which will include integrating equity and anti-racism objectives into annual review process and using feedback mechanisms to actively identify areas for improvement (e.g., 360 and upward feedback, additional EDIA-R training, etc.). Progress to be tied to annual performance review as well as performance pay. Human Resources

Pillar 2: Human Resources

The NAC is committed to:

  • Identifying, developing, and implementing policies, processes, and practices that aim at removing barriers and creating an effective workplace where everyone feels safe, valued, included, and respected.
  • Ensuring that better work-life balance and flexible work options are available and accessible to all, subject to operational needs and financial context.
Actions Key Contributors Timeframe
Conduct an NAC Employment System Review to understand systemic barriers that impact expanded employment equity members (Women, Indigenous, Persons with Disability, Black, People of Colour, 2SLGTBQ+, etc.); i.e., recruitment, retention, promotion and career development, HR policies and processes, etc.). EDIA Unit 2023-2024
Review, update and promote the NAC’s Code of Conduct by including an anti-racism/anti-oppression framework. EDIA Unit 2023-2024
Continue to conduct targeted recruitment, retention, and promotion strategies to increase representation at all levels of the NAC. EDIA Unit 2023-2024
Enhance the NAC new employees onboarding process to be more welcoming and inclusive. All departments 2023-2024
Implement and promote the NAC’s newly updated Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy and ensure ongoing training for managers and employees. All departments 2023-2024
Train management on inclusive hiring practices, reducing potential of unconscious bias and employment barriers in hiring and employee promotion decisions. EDIA Unit 2023-2024
Make significant efforts to retain and support the representation and career advancement through talent management of equity-deserving employees. All departments Ongoing
Be mindful of employees’ mental health which can significantly be triggered by racism and discrimination, by promoting and increasing awareness of wellness and mental health resources, by fostering inclusive and responsive psychological safety. Employee Wellness Committee Ongoing
Build and promote an NAC-wide approach for self-identification, improving the collection, analysis, availability, inclusive language, and publication of disaggregated data. EDIA Unit 2023-2024
Develop HR metrics and employment equity representation benchmarks. Establish corporate goals to increase the percentage of equity-deserving groups in management. EDIA Unit 2024-2025

Pillar 3: Learning and Professional Development

The NAC is committed to:

  • Building and fostering an inclusive and welcoming culture through education, knowledge and awareness on EDI and anti-racism.
  • Supporting equity-deserving employees in their career development
Actions Key Contributors Timeframe
Conduct targeted outreach to foster dialogue and advance the understanding of racism at all levels of the organization. All departments Ongoing
Provide inclusive leadership and trauma-informed training for management to support them in their EDI and anti-racism efforts, plans and activities. EDIA Unit 2023-2024
Develop, implement, and promote mechanisms to reduce official languages barriers in hiring, retention, development, and promotion of equity-deserving groups. EDI Unit
Human Resources 
Official Language Committee
Organize and promote events to raise awareness and mobilize staff at all levels of mental health, wellness, and well-being in the workplace. EDI Unit
Health & Wellness Committee
Establish a targeted career development program (including a talent management plan) for equity-deserving employees; as well as learning plans for all employees. Human Resources 2023-2024

Pillar 4: Outreach, Communication and Reporting

The NAC is committed to:

  • Enhancing communication and transparency on its EDI and Anti-Racism Action Plan, and related impacts and progress.
Actions Key Contributors Timeframe
Develop and implement a communication strategy that keeps the NAC employees, stakeholders, artists, and patrons informed regarding EDI and anti-racism initiatives, accomplishments and enables their input. EDIA Unit
Continue to develop, implement, and promote opportunities to listen to employees for ideas to improve NAC’s work environment. Management
Establish an EDI dashboard with data points/metrics to track and report on results of the Action Plan by measuring the impact of change initiatives in order to continuously adapt and enhance how the NAC positions itself as a leader in EDI and Anti-Racism in the performing arts sector. EDIA Unit 2023-2024
Develop a sense of belonging internal campaign to increase employees’ engagement with the NAC and create and inclusive and welcoming culture where everyone knows they belong. Audience Engagement
Human Resources
EDI Unit
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