This week marks the end of an era for me!  Since Wednesday, I have been on an extended unpaid leave from the federal public service and I am very serene and happy about it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have been privileged and honoured to serve my country and Canadians for almost 30 years.  My first job in the government was the summer after my first year of university. I had been hired by Statistics Canada to code answers from the Aboriginal People Survey and to help validate the coverage of the latest Census.

Since then, I have had the privilege to work on so many issues:  population ageing, climate change, education, productivity, diversity and inclusion, employment insurance, official languages, service and the list goes on.  I was also privileged enough to work on the key functions of the public service - research, program policy, policy, operations and internal services, including HR.   I also had the privilege to be a leader at all levels of the public service (that are not politically nominated). 

As I was thinking about this blog, what came to mind were not the files, but the experiences and people I had the opportunity to live and meet during all these years.  Some colleagues became long lasting friends who continue to enrich my life on a daily basis.  Others like seasons came and left, but left behind lessons learned, a helping hand, a well placed encouragement, good memories and some thoughtful feedback that still helps me today.  In particular, I would like to highlight the following:

  • To all my teams over the years, small to big, who day in day out worked diligently for Canadians, despite less than ideal conditions at times.  I learned so much from you - you made me a better person and a better leader.  To my colleagues with whom I forge strong partnership to get things done - especially Sue - who helped navigate and understand the delivery implications of what we were dreaming up in policy to help unemployed Canadians.

  • To regional staff and management who always welcomed us with open arms and were eager to discuss what they do and how things could be improved.  Their insights were always invaluable.  I remember those flights in VERY  small planes across the Atlantic with Naomie and Robert when we were talking to employees about pension modernization and when Trevor humoured me when we rented a Ford 150 instead of a Taurus in PEI (it was the same price dear CFO friends!).  We rode in style although I think Trevor may have thought otherwise when he had to park the beast in the Summerside Tax Center parking lot!

  • To Carolyn Wilkins, my boss in my early days at the Department of Finance.  She showed me (and to other women) the way how to manage, in this boys' club, a brilliant career and a family -  representation really matters

  • To the fierce and courageous women (Christine, Marie-Josée, Tamara, Lynn, Paola, Catherine, Rose, Sonia to name a few)  who day in and day out stay true to their values and try (tried) making the public service a better place despite obstacles.

  • To the colleagues who became my inner circle over the years - a safe place to vent, talk about our challenges as leaders and brainstorm - Max, Claude, Alexis, Jean-Philippe and others - thank you

  • To Max who courageously shared his personal story with suicide with the entire organization when I had this crazy idea to organise a live event on suicide prevention for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)  at a time when we were faced with a number of deaths within our ranks, including in my Branch.  And to Hayat, Project Manager extraordinaire who made it all happen. 

  • To the service culture gang, particularly Francis, Max, Michelle, and Tony, who worked tirelessly with me to instil a culture of service at the CRA and with whom I had great discussions about culture, leadership and breaking silos.   And to Bob Hamilton, the Commissioner, for giving me the opportunity to push the service agenda, rethink governance and other levers, despite not always understanding the means by which I was going about to create cohesion and buy-in around the senior management table.

  • To most of my  bosses -  those who believe in my abilities and just let me run with the ball and those with steadfast values, rigour and integrity.  Also to those who always seemed to  have ‘unexpected dental emergencies’ or ‘other priorities’  when they had to go to Cabinet meetings or parliamentary committees, which allowed me to go and learn.  A special thought for Ian Shugart, who was my Deputy Minister while I was working on Employment Insurance and  who left us way too quickly late last year.  He was a marvel to watch and learn from, it was a privilege to work for you. 

  • To all the advisors, either in my office, the Deputy Minister’s office or the Minister’s office - oh the conversations we have had! The craziness we had to go through at times is better than the fiction being written and filmed.   To Alan and Gordon in particular, who were my partners in crime at a time when the trip to the Minister’s office was almost daily.  You kept me sane! 

If you had told me 6-7 years ago that I would take an extended step back from the public service, I would not have believed you.  But, like a relationship, people and organisations evolved in different ways and sadly, I no longer recognise the public service that was there when I started, even 10 years ago.  Much of the humanity, rigour and courage that once filled the hallways and offices seems to have gone by the wayside.  Trying to lead with vision, humanity and in a proactive manner was becoming increasingly difficult and I found myself being in conflict with my values too often to count.

I worry about the public service, particularly for the younger generations coming through the ranks.  The pandemic and the move to hybrid work arrangements has left key questions unanswered such as how do you instil a culture of (public) service, within organisations, so important to the public service’s mandate; how to you train and shape your future leaders from afar, and how will we be able to ensure that the younger generations will want to have a career in the public service when little thought has been put for instance, on how work on premise needs to be transformed; how inclusion needs to move beyond a buzz word and how corporate memory will be transferred at a time when many are leaving or retiring.

Original acrylic painting, 12 by 24 inch on a 1.5 inch deep canvas by Ottawa-based artist Mireille Laroche


So what will I be doing during this extended absence from the public service? 

I will continue to develop as an artist.  For those who do not know, I am a painter and you can see my art at www.mireillelaroche.ca  I give a portion of the sales of my art to local organisations helping those in need.   In that vein, I will be giving some of my time to an organisation that focuses, notably, on harm reductions from addictions in Gatineau.  More than ever, the way to generate change is at the local level and yes, I do think that my leadership and management skills can help them be more organised so that they can help more people.  I am really looking forward to learning about the non-profit sector.

And I will write - actually I already started.  My experience within the public service has given me a lot of food for thought about leadership and I hope that whatever I write will help people become more people-focused leaders and help them build and maintain healthy and productive organisations. 

And I will continue to be available for coaching and mentoring, or any other opportunities that may cross my path.  It is a wonderful feeling to be open to the unknown and new opportunities.  And for someone who has always been anxious, this is quite a bold statement!

No compromise, original acrylic painting (48 by 30 inch) by Ottawa-based artist Mireille Laroche  Edit alt text

I would love to hear from you - if you have ideas on what I should address about leadership, want to know more about my art or simply chat.

You can register for my email distribution list to get news about me, my art and this blog by sending me a note on social media or on my website. You can find me on LinkedIn or Instagram (@artworkbymireillelaroche).

Until then, keep your chin up and be true to yourself - life is too short to live a life that is not or no longer meant for you


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Félicitations Mireille, je suis très heureuse pour toi.


Firstly, Thank you for your service to your country. Yeah, we got remunerated for our contributions but your personal sacrifices vastly overshadowed the numbers we saw on our pay stubs. Congratulations on forging your own paths.

My story resembles yours in many ways – a varied career measured in decades, highs, lows, committee appearances, etc. etc. and like you, I worry about the future of the PS. I know that the PS is more of an industry than it is a corporation and has multiple, ever-evolving cultures. The people in it, influencing it, and guiding it will stumble along and paths will be created that will surprise, delight, and sometimes disappoint. In a way, ’twas ever thus.

Back to you – I love that you’re pursuing your art. Let’s connect in the near future for lunch.

Again, congratulations.

Dan Danagher


It is with honour and humility I write you these words. You demonstrate great courage to travel a new path which may have many challenges and obstacles. I do know you well enough to state, you will conquer the new challenges and obstacles with your determination, strength and perseverance which you demonstrated in climbing the “corporate ladder” during a time when the “old boys network” was clearly still in place.

Times have definitely changed and we now see more women in the most Senior Management positions. We now must deal with more challenging issues such as hybrid work environments and continued discrimination, racism in the federal public service.

You were a leader who epitomized leadership as people wanted to follow you rather than be lead. You will most definitely be missed in the FPS however you must always follow your heart.

Best wishes in your new endeavour and blaze that trail with pride.

With the utmost respect,

John Henri Commanda

John Henri Commanda

Bonjour Mireille

Je ne savais pas que tu étais une artiste. Que de belles peintures. J’ai bien apprécié travaillé avec toi. Je te souhaite que de bonnes choses pour le futur.


Mireille, Glad you can flex your creativity. And this means you will have time for coffee meet-ups? Best!


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