….[this book] deserves a wider view, if only because it confirms what so many of us in Ottawa have been hearing, anecdotally, about the dispirited state of the public service in a hyper-partisan government…. If we want to know why Kenney has managed to become one of Harper’s top ministers, we should probably take a close look at what Griffith is telling us about how things unfolded in terms of citizenship and multiculturalism.
Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star
The Harper government vs. the public servants, 12 July 2013
The changes to policy making were so fundamental, Mr. Griffith said, that “In many cases, officials had to work through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief and loss—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—in dealing with the traumatic challenge to their role, as well as to the long-standing consensus between previous Liberal and Conservative parties on citizenship and multiculturalism issues.”
He called this period “an intense and interesting time of policy change and political-bureaucratic interface challenges.”
Bea Vondouangchanh, The Hill Times
Heard on the Hill, 9 September 2013
Andrew Griffith was a director general of multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration at a time when significant shifts in policy were being introduced by the Conservatives.
“Kenney did make a major shift towards integration … I would argue he brought multiculturalism back to its roots, as it was always about making various communities more comfortable about integrating into the Canadian ‘mainstream’, while preserving their culture, all within the common framework of Canadian laws [and] regulations,” said Mr. Griffith.
John Ivison, The National Post
13 September 2013
He spent years as a senior civil servant, sometimes butting heads with the minister’s office.
Now Andrew Griffith is offering advice for other public servants on how to deal with the Harper government, in a new book.
Ottawa Morning Interview, CBC, 17 September 2013
Mr. Griffith’s conclusion is a surprising admission for a former public servant: “All of us, including public servants, have our biases and prejudices, which influence our evidence base, networks, and advice,” he writes. “…Public servants did not have the complete picture and were often too disconnected from the realities on the ground to understand the limitations of their analysis and advice.” ….
That does not mean that Mr. Kenney in particular or the Harper government in general were without blame. Mr. Griffith’s decries the cutbacks that have degraded the bureaucracy’s ability to create and test policy, the rush to decision and implementation and the mistakes that resulted.
John Ibbitson, The Globe and Mail
18 September 2013
For these reasons, Griffith writes, “officials had to learn to listen to — and respect — the key messages and insights coming from the minister, reflecting his anecdotes and conversations from his extensive community outreach.” It was a wrenching adjustment for many to have their expertise challenged and world views dismissed. ….
Writing as a loyal civil servant, Griffith doesn’t say it explicitly, but the lessons of his book are clear. Anecdote is a lousy basis for policymaking, and modesty and self-reflection are not virtues to be expected only on one side of the relationship between the public service and politicians.
Natalie Brender, The Toronto Star
19 September 2013
“My intent was actually to provoke a bit of a discussion initially within the public service about the relationship issue between the government and the public service because my sense was that we didn’t manage the relationship very well at the beginning,” Mr. Griffith said about writing the book. “We weren’t responsive enough to the change in direction of the government so we appeared obstructive at best or resisting or even disloyal perhaps to the incoming government so I think there were some lessons learned for the public service in terms of how we manage that transition that hopefully by having a more open discussion about how we actually deal with a situation where we have an incoming government that has a very different worldview from our worldview in a way that actually doesn’t exacerbate tensions, but actually sort of helps develop a more normal working relationship.”
Bea Vondouangchanh, The Hill Times
23 September 2013
Para Griffith, autor de un ensayo y un blog sobre el multiculturalismo, los signos religiosos deben permitirse “mientras no interfieran en las obligaciones del servidor público. Voy a un hospital. La enfermera me saca sangre. Lleva hiyab. ¿Y qué?”, dice. Impedir a alguien trabajar para el Estado y practicar su fe “excluye y ofrece a las personas menos oportunidades”.
Marc Bassets, La Vanguardia (Barcelona)
29 September 2013
This former director general responsible for the federal government’s multiculturalism portfolio gives readers a glimpse into the sometimes uncomfortable gap between public service expertise and ministerial direction. Mr. Griffith says he witnessed a fundamental reset of multiculturalism policies and programs between 2007 and 2011 under Jason Kenney’s direction (who was first secretary of state and then minister responsible for the file). “Given the sharp nature of the policy reset, and the entrenched views of many public servants, this book aims to provide a small case study of how public servants adjusted to the new reality—one in which their expertise was fundamentally challenged, discounted, and at times ignored,” he writes. Mr. Griffith’s book is making waves in the Ottawa bubble.
Kristen Shane, Embassy Magazine, 9 October 2013
What happened inside Griffith’s department does, in its own way, reflect some of the experiences faced by new immigrants when they arrive in a new setting. In this case, public officials, like people newly arrived in Canada, had to adapt to unfamiliar ways of thinking about issues and different ways of doing things. In one chapter, Would that be Evidence or Anecdote?, Griffith writes: “In general, ministers and their staff draw heavily on anecdotes, stories and what ‘people on the ground’ are saying.” By contrast, “A professional bureaucracy draws on more impersonal, large-scale studies and research, or evidence-based policy, to have a wider base of information.” The result? A tension-creating level of distrust between both parties.
Griffith acknowledges that different governments have “different flavours” and that within a short time Canada’s new federal government declared its particular taste preferences. It “tightened up the citizenship process” and introduced a new guidebook for citizenship candidates, Discover Canada. This new guide presented “a different national narrative, a more Conservative focus on military and the crown, on responsibilities versus rights, and a selective use of the charter provisions, which is a valid alternative narrative.” Griffith continues, “But if most Canadians read it they would probably find that it does not quite resonate with what they have been used to hearing.”
Kevin Burns, Hungarian Presence, 1 December 2013
Third, and most important, are the dual mental prisons that appear to cast their shadows on the whole book, and to be the source of failures of critical thinking that have underpinned both (1) an incapacity to marshal meaningfully the evidence about the disloyalty of the bureaucracy that managed to find its way into the book – a sort of blindness I would ascribe to the weight of organizational culture and the ‘idol of the tribe’; and (2) an unwillingness to follow through on what was an insouciant acknowledgement of disloyalty (even when it was flagrant) by indicting the members of the bureaucratic tribe – something I would ascribe to an extensive experience in diplomacy – a profession that generates a propensity to viscerally shy away from ever casting any situation in sharp and stark ways, as a result of some dominant professional commitment to keeping all options open always, and to get to a compromise at all costs in order to not create an incident.
Gilles Paquet, Optimum Online, Vol 43, No. 4, December 2013
“We’re human beings. We’re a combination of our background, our training, our professional experience, so we actually have a fair number of built-in biases and views that we don’t normally think about. So it’s almost for the public servant at the individual level and the public service at the collective level, to know thyself and to know the limits of what just saying you’re part of the impartial neutral public service doesn’t make you automatically impartial and neutral. You actually do have your biases and you have to find ways to be more open with yourself in terms of when you’re providing advice or when you’re thinking through an issue, okay, am I being objective here, or is my objective analysis being coloured by some of the biases that are part of me. It’s a hard process to do.”
The Hill Times, 16 December 2013
Other media interviews:
Michael Powell, CKCU (Carleton Community Radio), Ottawa
24 September 2013
John Gormley Live, NewsTalk 650 CKOM, Saskatoon
18 September 2013
Kenney’s determination to drive the bureaucracy and not be driven by it shines through. What emerges is this minister’s strong sense of purpose, which precipitated trauma among his officials. They were surprised the Conservatives assumed power with ready-made answers and conclusions rather than questions. Civil servants did not appreciate the Conservatives’ discomfort with long-standing multiculturalism and citizenship policies. For decades, bureaucrats had internalized the multicultural regime established by Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals and extended by Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives and their Liberal successors. The “sharper ideological edge” (21) of the new Conservative vision harkens back to some Reform party posi- tions of the 1990s: doing away with the Department of Multiculturalism and thus deemphasizing Canadians’ racial, cultural, and linguistic differences, i.e., dehyphen- ating Canadians. However, the Conservatives did break with Reform’s proposals to scale back immigration levels and give priority to “traditional” (i.e., European) sources of newcomers.
Canadian Ethnic Studies No. 1 2015