Untitled Essay, Research Paper
POL 209Y PUBLIC POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION IN CANADA
The Employment Equity Act: A short paper evaluating the success of the Act.
Canada has a population of approximately twenty six million people. With
the introduction of the federal government’s multicultualism program, the
social demographic make up of Canada is quite vast, bringing together people
from many different nations to join those already living here. Taking the
population as a whole into account, it is no secret that historically, certain
members of this social order have been denied fair access to employment system.
The federal and provincial governments had undertaken steps to address the
issue through a wide range of programs such as equal employment and other
affirmative action programs to “promote equal opportunity in the public service
for segments of the population that have historically been underrepresented
there.” Today those designated groups, underrepresented in the labour force
include women, Aboriginal peoples, disabled people, and persons who are,
because of their race or colour, is a visible minority in Canada. In October
1984, Judge Rosalie Silberman Abella submitted a Royal Commission Report
on equality in employment (the Abella Report) to the federal government.
“The Commission was established in recognition of the fact that women, visible
minorities, the handicapped and native peoples were being denied the full
benefits of employment.” Based on the findings of the Abella Commission,
the federal government implemented “The Employment Equity Act” in 1986. This
short paper will evaluate the success of the “Act” and will argue that although
some progress has been made, the Canadian Labour force still does not reflect
the demographic composition of Canada as the Act had targeted.
For the purposes of implementing Employment Equity, certain individuals or
groups who are at an employment disadvantage are designated to benefit from
Employment Equity. The Employment Equity Act describes the designated groups
as “women, aboriginal peoples; Indians, Inuit or Metis, who so identify
themselves to their employer, or agree to be so identified by an employer,
for the purposes of the Employment Equity Act. Persons with disabilities;
are people who, because of any persistent physical, mental, psychiatric,
sensory or learning impairment, believe that they are potentially disadvantaged
in employment, and who so identify themselves to an employer, or agree to
be so identified by an employer, for the purposes of the Act. Members of
visible minorities are persons, other than aboriginal peoples, who are
non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour, and who so identify themselves
to an employer, or agree to be so identified by an employer, for the purpose
of the Act.”
The designated groups, in particular women, have essentially been discriminated
against for a substantial period of time. A 1977 study of women in federal
Crown Corporations conducted by the Advisory Council on the Status of Women,
reported that the federal government is the largest employer in Canada, with
almost 40% of it’s employee’s (excluding the Army) employed by federal Crown
Corporations. At that time, employees of Crown Corporations were not subject
to the Public Service Employee Act, which prohibited discrimination in all
aspects of employment including personnel hiring and promotion. The study
showed that women made up 37% of the Canadian labour force population and
33% of federal public service employee population. However, only 15.4% of
the total employee population of federal Crown Corporations were female.
The underrepresentation of women in federal Crown Corporations are clearly
evident in the two charts indicated below. According to the 1981 census,
women were at a disadvantage in a number of ways. In comparison to men, women
have higher unemployment rates, lower participation rates and are concentrated
in lower paying jobs, regardless of their level of education.
Company Men Women % of Women
CN 71,369 4,434 5.9
Air Canada 14,867 6,073 29.6
CBC 8,015 3,094 27
Atomic Energy Canada 5,000 778 13.5
Cape Breton Development 3,822 78 2.0
Number of men and women working for Crown Corporations in 1977
Company Men Women % of Women
CN 1,014 2 0.2
Air Canada 158 1 0.6
CBC 116 2 1.7
Atomic Energy Canada 78 0 0
Cape Breton Development N/A N/A N/A
Number of men and women in senior management
There is also evidence that the other designated groups were at a disadvantage
to fair access to employment. Studies have shown that aboriginal peoples,
have significantly lower participation rates and higher unemployment rates
than those generally experienced in the Canadian labour force. They also
have significantly lower levels of education and are paid lower average salaries.
The 1981 census indicate that “of the total aboriginal population, 50.4%
worked in the Canadian labour force in 1981.”
Persons with disabilities have also been at a disadvantage in the Canadian
labour force. Like the aboriginal people, they too have higher unemployment
rates, lower participation rates and lower levels of education. 1981 census
statistics for disabled person in the labour force were not readily available,
however it has been suggested that whatever the figure was, between “1984
and 1986 their participation in the labour force had increase by 11%.”
Although members of visible minority groups have relatively high levels of
education and relatively high participation rates, they are generally
concentrated in particular occupational groups
The Abella Commission found that the essence of the problem with respect
to why women and the other designated groups were not reaping the full potential
benefits from their participation in the labour force was “systemic” in nature.
In other words, “the prevailing socio-economic system in which all Canadians
worked had a set of social and political values and institutions in place
which often unintentionally discriminated against these groups.” The Abella
Commission harboured the opinion that the discriminating systemic barriers
could only be eliminated through systemic remedies, thus, “comprehensive
programs had to be adopted and put in place to enable target groups to overcome
the systemic barriers of employment. . . . . . . . .and that a new term
‘employment equity’ be adopted to describe programs of positive remedy for
discrimination in the workplace.”
In 1986, the federal government passed the Employment Equity Act. The Act
required that all “federally regulated employers with 100 or more employees
to implement equity programs and provide for minimal commitments on the part
of employers to file bare census information on their work force with the
Canada Employment and Immigration Commission and to develop their own defined
employment equity program to remedy systemic discrimination.”
On September 1, during the same year, the federal government implemented
the Federal Contractors Employment Equity Program, requiring that all contractors
with 100 employees or more, tendering for goods and services with the federal
government to implement employment equity within their organization.
The Acts essentially aimed at making the demographic characteristics of the
Canadian labour force to be representative of the demographic base of Canada.
“In it’s full sense, employment equity is a comprehensive planning process
designed to bring about not only equality of opportunity but equality in
results. Its primary objective is to ensure that the Canadian work force
is an accurate reflection of the composition of the Canadian population given
the availability of required skills. This objective is essentially an ethical
goal based on the value of ensuring equity.”
Although some progress has been made since the enactment of the Employment
Equity Act, to date the target groups are still underrepresented in the labour
force, in addition there are other difficulties facing these groups in relation
to the Act.
Provisions were made in the Act requiring mandatory reporting of progress
in the companies affected by the Act (all federally regulated companies with
more than 100 employees). From the information provided by these companies,
which approximates 350, the Minister of Employment and Immigration Canada
is required to compile an annual report, to analyse and monitor the progress
of the Act and to ensure compliance.
Although annual reports exist from 1987 to 1992, while researching this paper,
only the reports for 1989, 1990 and 1992 were readily available for examination.
As such is the case, only the data contained in these reports wsill be used
in this paper.
The 1989 report indicated their had been an increase over the previous year
in representation in the work force by each target group. Women increased
their representation from 40.90% to 42.12%. Aboriginal peoples increased
their representation from 0.66% to 0.73%. Persons with disabilities increased
their representation from 1.59% to 1.71% and members of visible minorities
increased their representation from 4.99% to 5.69%. Of the women employees
that had to be reported by employees under the Act, they constituted 42.12%
of the work force. This constituted a 1.22% increase over the previous year.
Their representation under the act remained lower than their representation
in the Canadian labour force which is 44%.
Aboriginal peoples in the work force under the Act increased very slightly
in the same period and remained underrepresented. They represented 0.73%
of the work force under the Act compared with 2.1% representation in the
Canadian labour force.
10,289 persons with disabilities were reported by employers and constituted
1.71% of all employees reported under the Act. Like the women and the aboriginal
peoples, they too remained underrepresented in each province for which employees
provided a report.
A slight increase in representation was reported for the visible minority
group, however, the report indicated that despite the increase, they remained
underrepresented in the work force under the Employment Equity Act.
The 1992 Annual Report shows that two of the four target groups exceeded
representation in the work force under the Act, compared to representation
in the Canadian labour force. Both the women and visible minority groups
achieved this mark, however the aboriginal peoples and persons of disability
remained underrepresented in the work force under the Act. Women increased
their representation to 44.11% which is about the same now as it was for
the Canadian labour force (44%) at the time of the 1986 Census. Aboriginal
peoples increased to 0.96%. The representation of persons with disabilities
increased from 2.39% in the previous year to 2.50%. And Visible minorities
increased to 7.55%, slightly higher than it was for the Canadian labour force
(6.3%) at the time of the 1986 census.
Though the government may want to pat themselves on the back and claim partial
success of the program, in reflecting on the achievements of the women and
visible minority target groups, there is a concern that factors other than
the Act may have influence the rise in the participation rate of these two
In occupations that were traditionally male dominated, i.e.: lawyers and
notary publics etc., women have been slowly but gradually playing catch up.
This is in part due to the fact that more and more women are graduating from
university. In 1987, Canadian universities granted more than 103,000 degrees
at the bachelor level. This number represented growth of more than 21 % from
1981. Female graduates out numbered male graduates for the seventh year in
a row and by 1987 accounted for 53% of those receiving bachelor’s degrees.
The question then is did the doors to accessible employment open to women
because of the Employment Equity Act or did the women provide access for
themselves by attending university. Unless there is some equity program in
place for university attendance, it would be unreasonable to summize that
the Employment Equity program was the sole vehicle for allowing women fair
access into the workplace.
But even still, there is no real success to speak of. Although gaps are being
closer to being closed, women are still underrepresented in some occupations
such as upper level managerial positions and overrepresented in traditionally
female occupations. For example, under the Act women comprise 0.21% of upper
level managers compared to 1.53% of men. And they comprise 60.97% of clerical
workers compared to 14.59% of men. Much of the indicators are similar for
that of the visible minority groups.
As indicated previously, there are other problems associated with the Act.
Complaints have be raised from “public servants and from their unions that
the equal opportunity programs violate the merit principle and discriminate
against candidates outside the target groups for appointment and promotion.”
White males in particular feel that they have become victims of reverse
discrimination. As such problems occur when they retaliate against the system
by employing candidates in the target group who are sometimes not competent
for the position hired, in an attempt at hindering that persons oppotunities
for advancement within the company.
Another problem that becomes present is that when a qualified candidate in
a target group is promoted, concerns are raised among those outside the target
group, that the candidate did not excel because of his or her merit but rather,
because of the affiliation to one of the target groups.
Employment equity was initially seen as good social policy. Most people would
agree that it is unjust and unacceptable for a society to have individuals
facing barriers to employment opportunities for reasons unrelated to ability.
These people were underemployed because they are women, aboriginal peoples,
members of visible minorities, or persons with disabilities. Despite the
governments efforts to address the issue, and although some gains have been
made, there is still a significant number in the target groups that still
face the systemic barriers. Perhaps the government has not done enough to
change the status quo. Perhaps allowing the employers to set their own goals
and time tables was an error and should be reviewed. But given the data presented
thus far in their own annual reports and the continuous controversy surrounding
the issue, the Employment Equity act as far as I am concern has only partially
attained its goal.
Kernagan,K et al, Public Administration in Canada
Scarborough, Ontario, Nelson Canada 1991
Kelly, John G. Human Resource Management and the Human Rights Process
Canada, CHH Canadian Limited 1991
Annual Report: The Employment Equity Act. 1989, 1990, 1992
Ottawa, Ministry of supply and Services Canada