Radio Canada |  Yolande James pursues diversity and inclusion goals

Radio Canada | Yolande James pursues diversity and inclusion goals

Yolande James has not been idle since she was appointed Radio-Canada’s Director General of Diversity and Inclusion in June 2021. And there are no signs that she will experience a hiatus anytime soon, as she will have to ensure that at least one LGBTQ+ person, visible minority, disabled or indigenous people will occupy a key position in all programming on public broadcasters by 2025.

This is how the former deputy minister and provincial minister remembered it this Monday during our interview. Announced in 2019 by Catherine Tait, president, and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, this goal is certainly ambitious, especially as it refers to the producer, writer, director, and lead actor jobs.

But like all of the station’s other diversity and inclusion goals, it is of great importance, insists Yolande James. “Diversity is not an opinion; is a reality “

Yolande James took her time before accepting our interview request. Twelve months, to be precise. During our meeting, our interlocutor justified her radio silence by alleging that she had “a lot of work”.

“I wanted to do my homework, put together my team, and establish my action plans. »


The creation at Radio-Canada of leadership, diversity, and inclusion position raised many questions last summer. Today, Yolande James seems delighted to set the record straight and explain her role, which still seems unclear to some viewers.

“As a public broadcaster, we have given ourselves the mandate to reflect the public, not only in our programming but among our employees. My role is to make it happen. And for this, I have to work in coordination with all sectors: information, television, communications, finance, etc. »

When asked to list her accomplishments since arriving, Yolande James begins by talking about a minority-only accelerator internship program. She then mentions an initiative that will ensure we see and hear more new voices on the air. “Competent” people with vast “expertise”, specifies who leads a team of seven people.

Yolande James also points to the target of 22% hiring, that is to say, that in hiring one in five people comes from an underrepresented group.

At the same time, he is planning a program for “emerging leaders”, which will accompany his career on Radio-Canada. “We were told in 2020 that underrepresented groups felt they didn’t have a chance to advance in the organization. »

The station has also set itself a mission to double its retention rate of the indigenous, racialized, and disabled people it hires. “We have to make sure their integration goes well,” says Yolande James. We must also ensure that all employees share these values, whether they are members of a minority or not. »

To ensure that the vast majority of workers adhere to Radio-Canada’s inclusive policies, Yolande James encourages all those who have concerns to come forward and voice their concerns. She says that she has no problem holding difficult conversations. “You have to have the courage and humility to answer the questions. »

No, Radio-Canada’s new measures regarding promotions do not mean that a white person no longer has any chance of being promoted, he swears. These rules are simply intended to correct past injustices.

“Representation is very important. You have to see it to believe it. In front of and behind the camera”, she stresses.

in the face of criticism

Yolande James ignored the critics when Radio-Canada created the position of general manager, diversity, and inclusion. Observers were surprised at the arrival of such a feature, arguing that the former politician would be paid to speak out about systemic racism.

Today he is proud to defend the existence of the position he inherited.

In this new role, I am at the service of all audiences. I have to make sure everyone can be seen, heard, and valued. I’m not ashamed of what we do. I am extremely proud of it. We don’t count the hours. We know where we are going. I am very comfortable with everything. I sleep very well at night.

Yolanda James

Radio-Canada, with a reputation as a giant slow-moving ocean liner, Yolande James will probably have to be patient before she sees real and lasting changes. But since she has worked in government before, she knows what to expect.

“You don’t come to an organization like Radio-Canada thinking it’s going to transform everything at once. But I feel that we are in a favorable context. We are making progress. One day, it may no longer be necessary to have a person in charge of inclusion. But until that day I will continue working for the elimination of my position. »

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