Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Human Rights

Issue 18 - Evidence - June 4, 2015


OTTAWA, Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 8:01 a.m. to study issues of discrimination in the hiring and promotion practices of the Federal Public Service, to study the extent to which targets to achieve employment equity are being met, and to examine labour market outcomes for minority groups in the private sector.

Senator Mobina S. B. Jaffer (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Honourable senators, welcome to the 33rd meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights in the Forty-first Parliament.

[Translation]

The Senate has given our committee the mandate to study matters pertaining to human rights, both in Canada and abroad.

My name is Mobina Jaffer, and I am chair of this committee.

[English]

Before I continue, I would like to welcome you all here and also have the members introduce themselves, starting with the deputy chair.

Senator Ataullahjan: Senator Salma Ataullahjan from Ontario.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Nancy Ruth from Ontario.

Senator Eaton: Nicole Eaton, Ontario.

Senator Eggleton: Art Eggleton, senator from Ontario.

The Chair: In 2004, the Human Rights Committee first began to examine the hiring and promotion practices of the federal service and to study the extent to which employment equity targets are being met. In 2007, the committee further studied the hiring and promotion practices of the federal public service and published a report entitled Employment Equity in the Federal Public Service — Not There Yet.

In 2010, the committee published a second report entitled Reflecting the Changing Face of Canada: Employment Equity in the Federal Public Service.

On December 10, 2013, the committee finalized its third report, Evaluating Employment Equity in the Public Service: Staying Vigilant for Equality, which included two recommendations: One, that the federal government support greater monitoring and evaluation to achieve the goal of employment equity in the federal public service, and, two, that the federal government expand its efforts to promote greater advocacy and employee participation on issues concerning employment equity within the public service.

In response, the President of the Treasury Board, the Honourable Tony Clement, and the President of the Public Service Commission of Canada, Ms. Anne-Marie Robinson, addressed the committee's recommendations in written submissions. We have invited officials from both departments to appear before the committee today. We will also be hearing from officials for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

We will start with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, from which we have two witnesses today: Ms. Baldwin and Ms. Lamba. We welcome you. You are always very supportive of our work. We want to hear from you today as to whether we are there yet.

Jeannie Baldwin, PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President (Atlantic region), Public Service Alliance of Canada: Good morning. Thank you for inviting us to appear before the committee.

Our reaction to the Treasury Board's 2013-14 employment equity annual report is that it still contains too little information and lacks critical data and analysis. Other than the six tables listed in the report, there is very little information.

In 2013, this committee recommended that Treasury Board include specific information with respect to employment equity in the future annual reports. We haven't seen that information, and you will be able to ask them about it when they appear.

From the few tables in the annual report, we do see a troubling trend. The data shows that persons with disabilities are leaving the public service at a rate five times higher than their hiring, yet the representation rate for persons with disabilities overall in the public service was only slightly less than the previous year. A similar trend was occurring the year before, with separations being seven times higher than the hiring rates.

We have to ask: Why is the overall representation rate staying the same if there is such a disproportionate number of persons with disabilities leaving the public service? What is occurring in the public service that is forcing these workers to leave?

We don't have the answers, but not because we haven't been asking. Treasury Board seems to be unconcerned with this trend, so long as the overall representation rate seems to be consistent. We have repeatedly asked for greater detailed data and analysis on the impact of the deficit reduction plan on equity groups, but it has been impossible to get.

Elsewhere in the report, we see that women continue to be under-represented in 11 of 23 of the largest departments. Racialized workers are under-represented in nine of the 23 departments. The report says that all four employment equity groups exceed their workforce availability, as determined in the very outdated 2006 census.

While the 2011 data will soon be out, researchers have found that single parents and one-person households, as well as renters, had lower response rates. So did those living in the poorest census tracts. We know that employment equity groups have higher rates of poverty and low income. So the question is: Will the census accurately capture the representation rate of the equity groups?

We repeat our concern about the lack of meaningful analysis in the annual report. Treasury Board said it didn't have the resources to undertake this analysis. Due to cutbacks, there are no longer specialized people or a section within Treasury Board solely responsible for employment equity. Employment equity is no longer a priority.

There is a valuable source of information about equity groups. It is the Public Service Employee Survey. In the 2014 survey, we see that workers with disabilities have significantly higher rates of negative answers to the survey questions. These questions range from materials and equipment to do their job, to training and equipment needed to ensure their health and safety at work, to receiving meaningful recognition for work well done.

Workers with disabilities were more likely than workers without disabilities to have a negative experience in being accepted as an equal member of the team or being selected for a position. They were also twice as likely to have suffered harassment on the job in the last two years.

The survey also showed consistently higher negative responses by Aboriginal workers.

Visible minorities experienced a higher rate of discrimination. Women experienced slightly higher rates of harassment and discrimination on the basis of sex and family status.

All equity groups had higher rates of fear of reprisals if they filed a grievance or a formal complaint. There is a climate of fear in the workplace.

This brings us to the government's Employment Equity Champions and Chairs Committees. We believe these committees are being used to circumvent the employer's obligation under the Employment Equity Act to consult and collaborate with bargaining agents. We know employees are very afraid to make formal complaints, because they fear reprisals. Employees are also reluctant to raise issues with senior management, especially in this political climate of deficit reduction and downsizing.

A question to ask Treasury Board is: How are these committees reaching ordinary employees to address their issues in a safe, confidential way? We know that bargaining agents have not been approached to be part of these committees or the process.

Finally, a word about the lack of consultation. Treasury Board has delegated its employment equity responsibilities to deputy heads of departments. Our union representatives tell us it is inconsistent across departments. There is very little information provided and little, if any, collaboration or consultation.

We have asked to be consulted at the National Joint Council Joint Employment Equity Committee on your recommendations in the last Senate committee report, but have received no commitment from Treasury Board that bargaining agents will be consulted in any meaningful way.

Thank you for considering our remarks. We're pleased to answer any questions you may have.

The Chair: Thank you very much. Before I go to anybody else, I have a question. Besides the annual reports, do you have access to information you need for government action to employment equity in the federal public service? Can you explain that?

Seema Lamba, PSAC Human Rights Officer, Public Service Alliance of Canada: It's at different levels. At the national level, we get the information through the NJC Joint Employment Equity Committee. I'll be honest. In the past, it was a very useful committee where we collaborated and consulted on issues that were identified and moved forward. We don't find that anymore. It's more information-sharing and sometimes we find out about things after the fact.

I'll give you one concrete example. In the past, before Treasury Board would table their annual report, bargaining agents would have had an advance copy to look at and examine. We're not even given notice anymore. We find out after the fact that it has been tabled. It has changed.

So, no, I would say we don't get the information we need to be properly consulted and collaborate on employment equity.

The Chair: I have many other questions, but I will go first to committee members.

Senator Eaton: I'm wondering, because it sounds like a terrible workplace, where does it start? Does it start with HR in the way they hire people? Is it management that needs re-education? Where would you start? If you two had to start fixing this problem, what would you do? What would you recommend?

Ms. Lamba: Employment equity has two parts, the qualitative and the quantitative. The quantitative is about getting people in and retaining them.

Senator Eaton: I suppose that depends on who applies for the job.

Ms. Lamba: Right. There's that piece of recruitment and retention. At the hiring level, you would need to have that. The selection committee would have to have that.

As we're seeing, Treasury Board is saying that there are no more gaps, or there are very few gaps, at the overall levels. There are still some gaps at the executive level. So the hiring practices have to be examined, where we're recruiting from.

The question I would pose involves persons with disabilities and the problem of recruiting people with disabilities. But with our retention, and the representation rate staying pretty much the same, it doesn't look like there are any gaps. So that's part of it and then it's also education. It has to come from the top up. I understand the leadership has to really buy into employment equity and then it has to be integrated into everything that they do, such as human resources planning. There also must be education among the staff themselves because some staff are reluctant to self-identify as they buy into the myths of employment equity. Someone is only being hired because it's a designated position. It's not based on merit. There are a lot of myths.

Senator Eaton: So there are positions designated for persons with disabilities or a non-White person? Is that what you meant by designated position?

Ms. Lamba: If there's a gap, there are targets to recruit people. It's not a requirement to do so, but there are targets to recruit from certain groups of people to make it more representative. Sometimes there's targeted recruitment, if that's what you mean.

Senator Eaton: I guess I'm asking you, is it sort of affirmative action? If there are not as many women as men being hired, do I still look for a woman when I'm trying to fill that position?

Ms. Lamba: There is a difference between affirmative action and employment equity. Affirmative action is about required numbers. Employment equity is about targets. You aspire to that. You plan to recruit people from that area. Wherever women may be, you try to recruit them, but it's not required. It's aspirational.

Senator Eaton: It's aspirational.

Ms. Lamba: Yes.

Senator Eaton: We are talking about re-education. What else would you recommend?

Ms. Lamba: We have always recommended that there be an accountability mechanism, starting with whoever is doing the hiring at the lower levels up to senior management, and that there be a framework in which they're accountable as to whether or not they're meeting their targets. You will hear from Treasury Board that they have it in their management accountability framework — the MAF, I'm not sure if that's what it's still called — but it's hidden in there.

There's a checklist. If you're in senior management there are 10 things that you do. Employment equity might be one of them, but that may not impact the end result of whether they've met the requirements for senior management. There actually needs to be more transparency and accountability about what managers are actually doing in order to make them accountable. We don't know which managers are doing a good job and which are not. That's a big piece.

We're told there's an accountability mechanism, but it's not really transparent. We don't know what happens if managers are not meeting their targets. What's the accountability around that?

Senator Eaton: I think what bothers me more is the atmosphere you work in rather than the numbers of people hired in any specific category.

Is it a false thing to have targets of how many women have to be hired, how many people with disabilities and so on? Why are we doing it that way? How do we know if people that have the qualifications are presenting themselves for those jobs?

In other words, if you're a manager and you have a choice between two people and one has a disability but is not as qualified as the other, how do you choose?

Ms. Lamba: That's a good question and it goes to one of the myths of employment equity. It's not about hiring somebody who's less qualified. Just to be clear, it's based on merit. Employment equity is merit-based.

It removes the barriers that these equity groups have faced, historically and currently, to allow them to have the same playing field to get a job. It's those biases that come in during the selection process. Oh, this person has a disability; they're qualified, but you start perceiving that they have lesser qualifications sometimes. The stereotypes around persons with disabilities come into play — their productivity and what they can and cannot do. That attitude can be conscious or unconscious.

That's important to remember. Employment equity is not about giving unqualified people jobs. It's about giving qualified people an equitable playing field they may not otherwise have. We've seen that historically through studies constantly showing that there's this number of people from an equity group in the workforce but they aren't represented in the workplace. Does that clarify it?

Senator Eaton: Yes, very much so. Thank you.

Senator Ataullahjan: I'm just looking at my notes from the last meeting, which was April 22, 2013. It seems nothing has changed. We are still hearing the same things about self-identification. The numbers I have are that 4.9 per cent Aboriginals were hired, 5.7 per cent people with disabilities, 12.1 per cent minorities. Are those numbers still the same? Has there been any upward movement?

Is there a glass ceiling that exists for people from the four groups? Are any being appointed to executive positions?

Ms. Lamba: In the annual report, the representation rate is basically the same. What happens is that there's a target number, which is the labour market availability rate, and Treasury Board is saying they've met those.

There are some gaps in the executive. You'll have to ask Treasury Board how they calculate that. Their report lacks justification on how they do it. They just say, "We've met the targets.'' That would be a good question to pose to them.

It's really hard to actually dig deeper to find out what some of those issues are when you're just looking at it from a superficial level. We've noticed, when we look at the tabulation by department, that women are under-represented in some areas, and some of the other equity groups are under-represented in departments. What's going on there? Some of those departments are fairly large.

You'll also see some of the groups "clustered,'' as we call them, in particular types of jobs. There are more Aboriginal people working at Aboriginal Affairs, for example. There are more racialized people maybe in statistics. Those can skew numbers and the overall rate, because there could actually be a big problem somewhere else where there's under-representation.

So I would say it still exists, but it's really hard to get at it because we're not getting that information in their annual report.

In 2009-10, the Treasury Board actually did that kind of analysis. Then they would have good ways of dealing with that, "here are some strategies, and here's what we're doing.'' They would actually have detailed information about each of the equity groups: How are the persons with disabilities doing? What are their issues?

We don't have that anymore, but those are questions you could ask Treasury Board to dig deeper into.

Senator Eggleton: You mentioned that a climate of fear exists in the workplace. Can you give some examples of that? That's a very heavy suggestion. Please elaborate.

Ms. Lamba: Sure. The Public Service Employee Survey has questions on harassment and discrimination. They asked how a person dealt with harassment questions. One of the questions was something along the lines of fear of reprisal for filing a grievance or human rights complaint related to either harassment or discrimination, and it was alarmingly high.

I have the one statistic here for persons with disabilities: 55 per cent who answered that question felt fearful of reprisal if they filed a human rights complaint, versus 45 per cent of people without disabilities. That's pretty high. That's probably one of the higher ones, but they're pretty high for the other groups, as well.

So there's a consistent theme in there that people are afraid to speak up when they see human rights issues.

Ms. Baldwin: Further to that, I'm the elected officer in the Atlantic region, and we have members who probably need special equipment to be able to do the work they need to do because of their disability. Sometimes they're afraid to come forth because of the downsizing within the federal government. They feel it would be a cost to the department, and they would be the first to go. Those are some of the things that happen.

Also, as you know, two years ago, they brought in performance measurement. The Treasury Board minister had said that they want to get rid of deadwood within the organization. People wonder what that means. The downsizing by this government isn't like it was in the mid-1990s, if you can remember. We had a really good process then.

This time the process is not transparent, it's inconsistent. People are afraid they're going to lose their jobs. It's true. That's why some of them aren't coming forth to put in those complaints.

Senator Eggleton: I was President of the Treasury Board in 1994.

Ms. Baldwin: You did a great job.

Senator Eggleton: Thank you. The category you've told me of — this 55 per cent of people with disabilities — are other groups saying such things, as well?

Ms. Lamba: I was just looking it up. In the summary that's on the website for the Public Service Employee Survey, reasons for not filing grievance or formal complaint — this is overall — fear of reprisal is 45 per cent. Reasons for not filing a grievance or formal complaint on, I would say, discrimination, fear of reprisal 44 per cent overall.

Usually the numbers are higher for the four equity groups than the overall number. Is that helpful?

Senator Eggleton: Yes, but downsizing, as you say, also comes into this.

The consultation process involving PSAC or any other employee group has changed, hasn't it? You're saying you're not consulted.

Ms. Baldwin: It's changed. There's no consultation.

Senator Eggleton: When did this change occur, and what is the extent of the change?

Ms. Lamba: May I give you a concrete example?

Senator Eggleton: Sure.

Ms. Lamba: Previously — the Joint Employment Equity Committee deals with the quantitative and the qualitative — we were consulted on policies, for example, to accommodate policy harassment. We would consult our membership and provide meaningful input and see that reflected.

In the last processes of the policy review, when Treasury Board was consolidating a lot of their policies into a policy review, we found it very difficult to provide input and see it reflected. For example, we've asked that the employment equity policy remain a stand-alone policy, because there's legislation, it's important and should be priority. Treasury Board has reduced it to about four to six sentences in a policy that will be dealing with a variety of things. It really has changed.

We're often given information. We may be allowed to give some input. It may or may not be reflected in the end product. In fact, for the last two years, we haven't even known where those policies have been.

Senator Eggleton: You mentioned two groups that are still under-represented. You mentioned women are under-represented in 11 out of 23 departments and visible minorities in nine out of 23 departments. You didn't mention the other groups. Is the under-representation just in those two groups of the EE target groups?

Ms. Lamba: There's some under-representation in a few, but they weren't as stark, so we just put those two forward.

Senator Andreychuk: We did some studies and the question at the time was whether we should do it by targets or otherwise. The method chosen had been targeting four groups. Are you still in favour of that approach toward the public service?

Ms. Baldwin: Yes.

Ms. Lamba: I want to say that we still believe in the Employment Equity Act. We think it's necessary and required. It needs some improvement with respect to enforcement and accountability mechanisms, but we strongly still support the need for an act.

Senator Andreychuk: That was one of the debates we entered into a while back.

I'm a little confused with some of the comments, questions and answers. How did you gather your data?

Ms. Lamba: We look at the Treasury Board annual report, as limited as it is, and we review it. We also looked at the Public Service Employee Survey. We also have internal consultations and discussions about what's going on around this issue.

Senator Andreychuk: You were saying that employees fear reprisal if they make a formal complaint. Is the pressure top down, or is some peer pressure involved, as we study the whole issue of coming forward and making an allegation? It is a very difficult issue. Is it fear of reprisal by those who evaluate you, of getting or not getting a promotion, of action that might be taken, or is peer pressure also involved?

Ms. Lamba: I don't really know how to answer that question because I didn't look at that particular issue. But when you look at the Public Service Employee Survey,, at where the harassment and discrimination comes from, there is a place where it says supervisors or people who manage them. That's usually a higher number. I could check and get back to you about that. There is one on co-workers as well. I would say it's probably a combination because there is pressure from your co-workers to do well.

There is one thing I can tell you, because I have more detail on the survey for the persons with disability. There was one question about whether unsatisfactory employee performance is managed effectively, it's about workplace performance, and 47 per cent of persons with disabilities answered negatively to that question. So there is something going on at the management level as well, but I don't know the exact numbers. I could get back to you on that.

Senator Andreychuk: Sure, that would be helpful.

One of the other things we spend a lot of time talking about is that if you want to overcome some of the inequalities, you have to understand your target group. If you are going to recruit, you have to go to where they are, and a lot of them are not in Ottawa. If you're looking at new immigrants and pools and targets of people, they don't necessarily live where the jobs are. There was some assurance that we would be looking at ethnic press when we advertise rather than The Globe and Mail type of thing.

Has that happened or are we still stuck in the old mold?

Ms. Lamba: That would be a question for the Public Service Commission.

Senator Andreychuk: There were no answers about that in your analysis?

Ms. Lamba: No, I don't have that information.

Senator Andreychuk: From your own work within your organization.

Ms. Lamba: Where should you be recruiting? I would say that it depends on the equity group. There are different barriers for different communities, like for Aboriginal communities. Sometimes you can just go to universities and recruit, but that may not work for some of the equity groups. You have to figure out where we can access them, how we can bring them in. We know there have been barriers, even educationally, for them. You have to look at it systematically group by group.

For visible minorities, you're suggesting "ethnic newspapers'' would be a useful place to recruit. Yes, it would be.

Senator Andreychuk: Do you do any of that analysis on your own or are you relying on the information you get from the Public Service Commission and Treasury Board?

Ms. Lamba: As to where to recruit?

Senator Andreychuk: Analyzing the target groups, how to improve our targets, et cetera. Do you do any of your own analysis or do you pick up information from the Public Service Commission itself or from the Treasury Board? In other words, do you do your own independent research, questionnaires or surveys? That would be helpful to know.

Ms. Lamba: We gather that information because we do that work, but I'm not sure we analyze in the way you're suggesting. I can get back to you about what we have if that's better.

Senator Andreychuk: All right. One criticism in the past was self-identified by Public Service Commission, which was the issue of contracts. You don't move ahead in the public service as much as you can because of these contracts. So if you're in one of the target groups, it's more difficult to break in because someone who knows someone gets a contract, and when they apply for the job, they already have some capabilities that others from outside don't have. There was supposed to have been some concerted effort to overcome that. Have you done any analysis on that?

Ms. Lamba: We are aware of that issue. Those are questions for the Public Service Commission. That was identified as an issue of circumventing employment equity. People would be coming in as terms or under contract, and then they would apply and get the job, but it was who you knew and not necessarily equity. That has been identified, but what the Public Service Commission has done is a really good question to ask them.

Senator Andreychuk: Your association has not done that? You haven't specifically delved into that issue?

Ms. Lamba: We've identified that as being an issue.

Senator Nancy Ruth: I want to put on the record that the so-called targets for hiring are related to percentage of population — if there is 7 per cent disability then there should be 7 per cent hired and working in the federal civil service.

I also wanted to correct what I think is a misinterpretation of what affirmative action is. It's not about numbers; it's about affirming action and that's all it is. We don't have quotas in Canada per se. That's an American phenomenon.

On this business of increased sexual harassment; I'm not sure that you said that, but it's either about reporting or increasing in numbers?

Ms. Baldwin: Yes.

Senator Nancy Ruth: I don't know that I have a question. I want to know more about it. I can understand how it's related to people's fear of losing their jobs when there are going to be 10 per cent cuts. Have you anything more to say about it?

Ms. Baldwin: We've noticed there is an increase of mental illness in the workplace. It's there and prevalent, and we are finding there is a stigma associated with that. The harassment comes sometimes because of individuals who have mental illness. We've also talked about family responsibilities because we do have an obligation to look after our families, those who are single parents and even those parents looking for child care. We are finding that kind of harassment.

Lately, it has to do with fewer individuals at the workplace. It's all about production and everything is watched, and members are afraid to speak out or even file a complaint. I'll give you an example: I go down to some of the offices. I walk through the offices and I talk to membership. Dealing with mental illness myself from a family responsibility, I'm out there talking about it. It's important to eliminate the stigma attached to it.

After I leave, you would be surprised how many individuals come to me and tell their story, how they become manic at that workplace and how their employer watches them come into a manic state and all of a sudden they are on sick leave. You may not think that happens, but it does. It's a sad thing what's happening in the workplace right now.

Senator Nancy Ruth: How is the sick leave granted? Is it forced sick leave or is it mutually agreed?

Ms. Baldwin: They're not off on sick leave. A person sometimes comes to work, and some may be bipolar and they are on their medication. There is a lot of pressure in the work environment to do more with less. You have an individual who works and all of a sudden becomes manic. Sometimes the employer looks at just the work that has been done, not realizing the person has gone into a manic state. The next thing you know they are on sick leave, and then they come back into the workplace and the same thing happens all over again.

Ms. Lamba can give you more information on the harassment that has been identified in the survey.

Ms. Lamba: No, I think that's covers it.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Thank you.

The Chair: This committee, as you know, has been looking at this issue of hiring and the practices of the public service for a very long time. When we started, we had representation from the racialized groups, from Aboriginal peoples — but there were separate groups that came, and that was disbanded, for want of a better term, and champions were brought in.

I want you to explain to us how champions are working out. My frustration has been that we have never been able to get a champion to come and talk to us. There is a hesitancy to talk to us even privately or to give testimony as to how they are working, what is their ability to work within the group, whose cause they're championing, whether it be women, racialized groups, Aboriginal people or persons with a disability. You did touch on it, but I'd like you expand.

Ms. Lamba: You are correct. In a previous model, it was three groups — the three other equity groups, not women. It was grassroots; if you self-identified in that group, you could go to meetings and have your voice heard. Then that group would bring if forward to senior management, and there would be discussions.

That doesn't exist anymore. The champions are senior managers who have committees, and then I guess there are managers on that committee. So it's very "top-up.''

We don't actually know, because we're not involved with them. But our members aren't even necessarily aware of them or what they do. They would be kind of afraid to go and talk to them and raise their issues, as we've said.

We have no idea if there is a commitment or anything, because that information isn't necessarily shared, even at the NJC JEEC, where we sit, until recently. Only recently have we said, "Hey, this group is doing what this committee is supposed to be doing — the bargaining agent.'' That's why we're asking if they are trying to do our work without our input.

It is confusing. Probability a good question would be around the outcomes of what these champions are doing. What kind of commitments do they have, and how do they seek the input of the ordinary worker, which the other committees used to do?

The Chair: Since this committee has been looking at this issue for a long time, we have continuity and a bit of background on it. Before the champions, when the organizations used to come, as you said, they were from grassroots.

I may be wrong, but my understanding was that those groups were not answerable to a deputy minister; they were answerable to the group; for example, to the Aboriginal community or the disabled community they represented. Their bosses, to put it in a wide sense, were the group they represented.

If I'm not mistaken, now the champions answer to the deputy minister; they don't answer to the group they represent. Am I correct on that assumption?

Ms. Lamba: Yes, you're right. In those other groups, there were elections to be the representative for that group, like NCVM.

The Chair: If the champion is a senior manager sitting with the deputy minister, answerable to the deputy minister, his allegiances would be different when representing the group. Am I correct in saying that?

Ms. Lamba: That's an assumption we would share with you. That's our concern.

The Chair: We've had difficulty getting champions to talk to us. Before, it was easy to communicate and understand the challenges the groups faced. Except for you, it's difficult — you are important don't get me wrong — but we are not able to hear from within the group itself. We had a separate group.

The Treasury Board in its last report said that women did not want a committee champion. Can you expand on that, please?

Ms. Lamba: I find that interesting, because, as bargaining agents, we have a lot of women in our union. We have said that if they're going to have champions, they should have one for women, as well. So I really don't understand the comment that women have not self-organized to come forward.

But clearly, within our own union, we have identified the need to deal with women's issues.

The Chair: I'm very concerned about the issue you brought up about mental health. I think Ms. Baldwin you clarified that mental health is not as a result, that people had those challenges before in their work. It's just that it's exacerbated. Is that correct? And is there any help within the department for people besides taking leave?

Ms. Baldwin: There are a couple of things. We've gotten a lot of pressure from our membership to make this one of our priorities. With Treasury Board, several years ago through collective bargaining, we came through a joint learning program that we're able to negotiate. This time around, with the pressure we received from our membership, they have developed a first responder for mental health, which means we have members in the workplace who are qualified to be the first responders when a mental health issue happens.

That's one of things that we find that has worked, and it alleviates some of the issues happening right now. Of course, during these negotiations, we are able to put forth a task force memorandum on mental health, and we're hoping it will not be pushed to the side but at the forefront.

As you know, we are seeing such an increase in mental illness in the workplaces right now. People want to work; they don't want to go off and disability. They want to be able to work and to provide the meaningful employment at the workplace.

Also we are finding that we, the PSAC, have been in the forefront and championing a lot of work on mental illness, trying to eliminate the stigma attached to it. We have a long way to go, though, I'm afraid.

The Chair: There is one other thing that we were very preoccupied with: the workforce availability. The stone in my shoe for the longest time has been that we are still relying on the 2006 figures, which I think is a real travesty. This is 2015, and we are relying on 2006 statistics of workforce availability. I find that irritating, because that's not the real picture of what Canada is like now.

I have a question for you. We know the current statistics pertaining to the four designated groups within the federal public service are not reliable, in particular with regard to appointment rates, representation rates, advancement rates to the executive level, retention rates, attrition and the drop-off rate during the application process. I would like to hear if you have any concerns raised by data methodology used in generating the statistics.

We do have people watching, and I should have clarified at the beginning that the groups we are looking at are women, people with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples and racialized groups.

Can you expand on that, please?

Ms. Lamba: Is your question about when the new census data is released and our concerns with that?

The Chair: We are still relying on old data. I can see the Treasury Board coming and saying that they have met all the tests, because they are relying on 2006. If you rely on 2006 data, they have met all the requirements, and that's a concern.

Ms. Lamba: It is problematic, and I think Ms. Baldwin mentioned that in her presentation. The data is from 2006, nine years ago, so it is problematic.

The Chair: Canada has changed in nine years.

Ms. Lamba: Right. We are also concerned with the new census that will be coming out, because we are not convinced it will accurately reflect what we need for employment equity. The long-form census was very important for employment equity in being able to track the labour market availability rates. We were concerned before, but there has also been a study done that low-income or poor areas that we know are over-represented in the equity groups didn't participate, so we're not sure how that will skew the labour market availability rates for the equity groups.

It's a big concern.

The Chair: Have the statistics improved for women in executive positions?

Are there more women in executive levels?

Ms. Lamba: According to Treasury Board, there seems to be some improvement, but we don't have the data to show where the executives are in the departments to determine where the problems lie. That's part of the lack in the data from Treasury Board. For us to examine what is going on with women, we need more information than just the rate of where women are.

The Chair: I understand you used to get that information, but now you don't.

Ms. Lamba: Yes, it's harder.

Senator Eggleton: I have a question on your statistic that there are about five times as many people leaving the public service who have disabilities than are being hired, and yet the overall representation in statistics shows just a slight difference. What is the source of that information?

Ms. Lamba: That would be Treasury Board's annual report. I'll be more specific. For example, there were 238 hires according to their annual report and for separations, which is what they call people who leave, it was 1,348. That's five times. That is what we calculated.

Senator Eggleton: What is the net number they are showing — the representation number — in the same year?

Ms. Lamba: The accurate number for persons with disabilities is 5.7.

Senator Eggleton: It's 5.7?

Ms. Lamba: Yes. There is obviously something going on. Are people starting to self-identify as persons with disabilities while they are in the public service? Are they developing disabilities? There is something going on where we're seeing this number not necessarily decreasing and yet we're seeing a lot of people leaving. Why are they leaving? Those are some of the questions.

Can I add something along those lines as well?

We've been asking for a lot of information about the impact of workforce adjustment and whether or not that is one of the reasons. We've been able to do some preliminary work, because we don't get the concrete numbers or anything. I'm going to give you an example of what we have seen.

We get a little information from the Public Service Commission, because again Treasury Board has not given it to us. The Public Service Commission has been providing us with information about people who were in the workforce adjustment process and went through the priority, if you are familiar with that. What we found was that as of May 1, 2015, of the total active priority population employees who had been laid off under that category, 19.0 per cent were visible minorities. So basically it's almost one in five. For persons with disabilities it was 4.7, Aboriginal peoples was 4.7, and women was 43.6. There is definitely something happening with visible minorities.

To prepare for this, I went back a bit to look at some of the other things. When we look at the peak category of layoffs, which was October 1, 2014, in that category, 21 per cent of people on that list were visible minorities, persons with disabilities was 7.7, Aboriginal 6.0 and women were 53. Visible minorities are higher during this process, either in the layoffs or in one of the other priorities, but not high for the guaranteed job offer, which is the person who gets to keep the job.

There is definitely something going on, but we are not able to get that information to dig deeper. I don't think it's impossible because in the 1990s when there was a downsizing, there was a commitment from Treasury Board, and bargaining agents were involved, to examine what happened, who was impacted. There was a conclusion that there was some adverse impact but they knew why. That could be part of it; we don't know.

Senator Ataullahjan: The last time, we heard that some people were afraid to self-identify. Each time you got promoted or moved you were asked to self-identify again and there were some people who would not self-identify. Is that true still?

Ms. Lamba: I think that's still there because the myths of employment equity are still there. There are two parts to it. If people in a workplace think somebody got a job because they belonged to an equity group, there is the backlash. People have experienced it, and they don't want to experience that, so there is a fear to self-identify. There is a belief that they didn't get the job based on merit or qualification but because they belong to an equity group.

There is that fear. We still hear from people that this is why they don't self-identify; I got the job because of merit. And that's still there.

The Chair: I have been reflecting on what you've been saying and I have great concern for the people with disabilities. My concern is that when we first studied this, we were told that the rates or numbers were made up not of people being hired who had disabilities, but people who became disabled on the job. Then they were being numbered in the disabilities group.

Now you're telling me that those people are leaving faster. Are others being hired? What is happening? My understanding was that it was not as if the federal service made an effort to go and hire people who had challenges but that people became disabled on the job and then became part of that quota or that number of disabled persons in the federal service. I'm concerned when you say more are leaving. What is happening?

Ms. Lamba: We don't know. Those are questions we have, too.

The hiring rate is 3.3 per cent. The separation rate is 8.9 per cent of all separations, so it's still higher. They are being hired at a lower rate than their labour market availability rate, and I think the Public Service Commission recognizes that but you'll have to ask them. The question is what is going on in the workplace.

I will give another example because it's a case we had dealing with workforce adjustment. We had a member who was going through this process, received a letter and then had to go through the competition, the SERLO process, and she didn't get the job. It went to adjudication and the adjudicator found that in assessing her for not getting the job, there was discrimination. Her references were not great, but they didn't take into account her disability and the accommodation that she had. Those factors weren't taken into consideration and that's why there was the negative reference and this person didn't get the job.

That's just one example we're seeing, but we have anecdotally heard from our members with disabilities that they're feeling like they are being targeted. It's anecdotal. We can't say with substance whether that's true or not, but there is that feeling.

The Chair: That's of great concern. You are always helpful to us in our work. I know how much other work you have and we appreciate you making yourselves available. This time it was particularly difficult because you have other challenges, and you had to testify in the House of Commons as well.

We appreciate you making time for us and we look forward to working with you in the future.

We are very happy to have as our next witnesses Treasury Board. I want to put on the record that they asked to meet with us, and they've been waiting for a while to talk to us. We would like to welcome to our committee today Daniel Watson, Mary Anne Stevens, Christine Donoghue and Jacqueline Bogden.

I have asked Mr. Watson to please take his time in his introductory remarks, because it's been a while since we've heard from you, and we would like to hear what's happening in the Treasury Board. In your remarks, if you can — I don't know if you heard some of what the earlier panel was saying — but we are concerned about the issue of people with disabilities. Also, how are the champions doing? I'm very concerned about that.

[Translation]

Daniel Watson, Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat: I am very happy and honoured to be joining you this morning. Thank you for the invitation.

I am here today with Mary Anne Stevens, Director, Policy and Legislation (Values and Ethics), Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer.

[English]

It's a pleasure to talk about the very important issue of employment equity in Canada's public service and the initiatives we have underway inside that institution that reflect the diversity of Canada. I'm pleased to note that our efforts are being rewarded. I think as I said at our previous appearance, we believe firmly that the talents, skills and contributions that Canadians rely upon out of their public service are found throughout the entirety of the Canadian population. That's a starting principle where we begin this journey, and we believe that pursuing it is getting us to the places that we want and need to be.

Our most recent annual report for the fiscal year 2013-14 demonstrates that all four designated employment equity groups are fully represented within the core public administration in relation to their workforce availability. More specifically, we find that the representation of Aboriginal peoples has increased slightly, from 5.0 per cent to 5.1 per cent. Obviously, with the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the events going on in the National Capital Region this week, that is something we all take particular note of.

The report shows that the representation of members of visible minority groups increased to 13.2 per cent from 12.6 per cent, surpassing their workforce availability for the second year in a row. As well, the representation of persons with disabilities and women continues to exceed their workforce availability.

Of importance to us is not simply the question of whether, in the broader population, we have people from different employment equity groups, but, as we look vertically throughout the hierarchy of the federal public service, whether we have the same types of representation at different levels in the institution as well. We're pleased to say that as we look at the executive cadre, the report shows that representation rates continue to exceed workforce availability for three of the four designated groups.

As you've already alluded to, Madam Chair, the area where we are having some issues is with persons with disabilities. There are also some challenges in the area of ensuring that we have the right number of Aboriginal executives within those ranks. These are issues that we are very well aware of and are proceeding to work on the recognition of the challenges.

An important part of our success is due to the strong commitment of deputy heads, who are accountable for achieving excellence in all aspects of people management and who have made employment equity and diversity issues priorities in their organizations.

In fact, this was one of the key things that we had hoped to achieve when we made the move in 2011 to a new governance structure; namely, to ensure that inside departments, the types of conversations were going on with all of the senior leadership that needed to be seized with these issues and who have the accountability for fashioning in their organizations the face of Canada's public service that we seek to achieve.

[Translation]

As for my office, which is part of the Treasury Board Secretariat, we continue to play an enabling role in assisting federal institutions to meet their employment equity targets. We do that, for example, by providing them with detailed departmental employment equity workforce analysis tables each year, and preparing an annual report, which I just discussed.

We also continue to set expectations for people management each year through the management accountability framework assessment exercise, which includes employment equity indicators.

[English]

So this is perhaps the most well-known of management tools that we have in the stable of tools that we bring to reviewing the public service and its performance. Chief among many of the issues that we look at in people management is how deputy ministers are doing with their own personal accountability in shaping organizations that reflect Canada's population. That is a core part of what we look at, and it is data that we have for every single department that we review and for every single one of the four employment equity groups that are considered.

In short, we represent the employer and we're accountable to the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer for promoting and monitoring employment equity within the core public administration.

While we work very closely with our colleagues at the Public Service Commission of Canada on a broad range of issues, our role contrasts with theirs in that they have responsibilities for recruitment and staffing. You'll be hearing from them later.

But sometimes even within the core public administration, the differences between our abilities are not always perfectly understood.

Although our mandates differ, we work closely together. For example, we share a common methodology for data collection and reporting. This was an improvement made a number of years ago that made sure when data came from departments, we were looking at it in the same way so that when we were reporting on it there were no differentiations in the methodologies, definitions or approaches that we were using.

Over the last year, my office, the PSC and Employment and Social Development Canada's office for disability issues have also been working with universities and colleges to engage students with disabilities on the importance of pre-graduation work experience.

These events have raised awareness of the Government of Canada's student employment programs, such as the Federal Student Work Experience Program. We want employees at all stages of their careers to think of the federal public service as an option they want to pursue, and we think it's particularly important when people are making their first career choices that they think of their national public institutions and Canada's public service as a place that they want to contribute to in building the Canada that they want to see.

[Translation]

My office also continues to work closely with the Joint Employment Equity Committee of the National Joint Council, which provides an excellent forum for representatives of the public service and bargaining agents to consult and collaborate on issues related to employment equity.

This includes consultations on the 2014 Public Service Employee Survey, which once again reflected positive results in the areas of equality and diversity.

[English]

We're very proud of the Public Service Employment Survey and the response rates. When we compare the response rates in the survey that we just ran to any other country around the world, it beats those by an order of magnitude. We had over 70 per cent of all federal public servants respond to the survey. If we look at other countries, they're frequently well below 50 per cent and sometimes in the 30s and 40s as well. When we've consulted with private sector entities, a number of them said anything that even got into the 40s in their world, with regard to participation rate, is something they would be happy with.

It provides us with excellent, sometimes challenging information, but nonetheless, we've deliberately gone out and sought information that would identify not only where our strengths are but also where the challenges are.

The survey showed, for example, that 73 per cent of employees believe that every individual in their work unit is accepted as an equal member of the team. As well, 79 per cent of employees indicated that their organization implements activities and practices that support a diverse workplace. Both of these questions, again to the importance of how we take these issues seriously, were new questions that we added in 2014 because we believe the answers to these questions will tell us important things about our organizations and public servants.

The survey also showed that 78 per cent of employees felt that their organization respects individual differences, which was a more positive response than three years earlier in 2011 when we last did the survey and that number was 72 per cent.

In closing, I'd like to thank the committee for the invitation to discuss the important gains we've made in ensuring Canadians are served by a representative public service that reflects Canada's society today.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Watson.

You and I have had the conversation before publicly, that you rely on very outdated figures. You're relying on 2006 workforce availability. We're now in 2015. That's not your fault. You haven't got the latest data, but I believe you just have to look at our cities to know that Canada's workforce availability figures have changed in nine years. I'm very concerned that we are not meeting the targets, but that's all you have to rely on.

As people watch these programs, I want to make sure they understand that you are relying on 2006 statistics. We will now go on to hear from Ms. Donoghue, who is from the Public Service Commission of Canada.

Christine Donoghue, Acting President, Public Service Commission of Canada: Thank you, madam chair. I'm happy to be here today, accompanied by Jacqueline Bogden, Vice President, Audit and Data Services Branch.

We are pleased to be here today to provide an update on the information provided to the committee last summer with respect to its December 2013 report on employment equity in the federal public service.

[Translation]

The Public Service Commission is responsible for promoting and safeguarding merit-based appointments that are free from political influence and, in collaboration with other stakeholders, for protecting the non-partisan nature of the public service.

We also administer programs on behalf of departments and agencies that recruit qualified Canadians from across the country.

We report annually to Parliament on the staffing performance of the 80 organizations that come under the Public Service Employment Act, whose preamble underlines the value of a public service that is representative of Canada's diversity.

Madam Chair, this morning, my comments will focus on recruitment data, outreach activities, accommodation assessment and the use of technology to provide greater access to public service jobs, and I will also discuss some areas where we are conducting research.

[English]

Our annual report provides information on the recruitment of four groups designated under the Employment Equity Act, namely Aboriginal people, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and women.

As my colleague indicated, in 2013-14 we saw that members of visible minorities and Aboriginal people continued to apply at a rate exceeding their 2006 workforce availability, as was outlined by Madam Chair. Three out of the four designated groups — women, visible minorities and Aboriginal peoples — are appointed to the public service at a rate that is presently, with the numbers we have, exceeding their workforce availability. We are therefore closely monitoring the application and appointment rates of the fourth group, persons with disabilities, which continues to be lower than their workforce availability, also outlined by Mr. Watson.

Should it persist, this trend may have longer term implications for the representation of persons with disabilities in the federal public service population.

The Public Service Commission is responsible for identifying and eliminating barriers in recruitment and staffing, and for developing policies and practices that promote a more representative public service. That's why we need to have a better understanding of the issues facing persons with disabilities with respect to the employment process in general and in their recruitment in particular.

Over the last year and a half, we have collaborated with other federal departments and agencies, as Mr. Watson also indicated, including Treasury Board Secretariat, Employment and Social Development Canada and Shared Services Canada, to reach students with disabilities. We wanted to talk to them about opportunities in the public service and to address the issues or concerns they may have about the hiring process in order to best inform hiring managers about how to deal with questions that people with disabilities may have and to also raise further awareness about the types of accommodations they may have within the federal system.

We began at the Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities at Carleton University, and since then we have conducted similar outreach at the University of Ottawa, Dalhousie University and Algonquin College. We plan to do more outreach to raise awareness about the federal public service and to encourage more students with disabilities to apply for jobs.

[Translation]

We also conducted outreach to hiring managers and human resources specialists on assessment accommodation to ensure they are aware of how candidates with disabilities can be assessed so that they have equal opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications without being limited or unfairly restricted due to the effects of a disability. We provided seminars to more than 36 different organizations, and we recently developed a webinar to extend our reach.

We have experts in our personnel psychology centre who provide advice and recommendations for assessment accommodations for persons with disabilities. These assessment accommodations can vary from providing Braille and large print version of exams to the use of assistive technology such as screen readers.

In 2013-14, the commission received more than 1,600 requests for assessment accommodation from hiring managers. While these requests were up by 22 per cent over the previous year, we have seen that the requests, as a proportion of total staffing and hiring activities, have remained relatively stable. We believe that technology and innovation will help us remove barriers and provide greater access for persons with disabilities to jobs in the public service.

[English]

We have expanded the use of Internet testing. Applicants can take a test at a location of their choosing, no matter where they live in the country. Persons with disabilities use their own adaptive technology at home to do the exams.

In addition, we are simplifying and standardizing our tests using plain language and formats that would remove barriers; for instance, those related to visual scanning and detection. These formats will allow more people to access the tests without special accommodation, since they're using their own technology or using more adaptive testing. We can continue to look for ways to improve user experience and expand access to opportunities in the public service.

As mentioned by my colleague, we also conduct research activities using data we collect on hiring and staffing activities in the federal public service.

Madam Chair, we are updating two studies that look closely at how being a member of the employment equity designated groups affects both chances of promotion and perception in the staffing process. These updates are now being finalized.

We are also examining whether there are any differences between the career progression of members of the four EE designated groups as compared to those who do not self-identify as an Aboriginal person, a member of a visible minority group or a person with a disability.

Finally, we are undertaking a study to better understand the issues surrounding the application and appointment of persons with disabilities. The study will apply different methodologies to explore the rates of application and appointment of persons with disabilities and the factors that might influence these rates. We plan to use these findings to better target areas for specific action, and we will be sharing the results with stakeholders, including the Employment Equity Champions and Chairs, and definitely with union representatives.

Madam Chair, the Public Service Commission is committed to working with Treasury Board Secretariat and all stakeholders to ensure that the federal public service is representative and reflects the increasingly diverse society that we are.

Thank you. I would be happy to respond to any questions.

The Chair: Ms. Donoghue, thank you for your presentation. You certainly addressed some of the issues that we talked about earlier.

Could you please also address a particular issue regarding persons with disabilities? When we previously studied this area, it was our understanding that often it was people who became disabled while they were working that formed part of your numbers rather than just the active recruitment of people with disabilities. I'm pleased to see that has changed, so that's good news.

We heard earlier that more people with disabilities are leaving, at five times the rate than before. Would you please address that?

I'm glad you're recruiting at universities, but those of us who come from outside the Ottawa area are always concerned. It's a good start, but it's very Ottawa-centric, so I would encourage you to look further out as well. If you could please start with that.

Ms. Donoghue: Thank you, Madam Chair. You're right to say that a lot of the numbers are in fact for public servants who become disabled during the course of their careers. That is why, based on previous discussions, we have turned our focus towards the recruitment aspect.

For us to be good at recruiting people with disabilities, we have to better understand what their expectations are, where they see the barriers and try to ensure that we're providing the best training and the best information to hiring managers so that there's a meeting of minds between people with disabilities and people doing the hiring.

A lot of people we talked to at different universities — our plan is in fact to expand the scope beyond the Ottawa-centric area — and the impressions we formed from students with disabilities would suggest that many of them did not understand the possibilities of accommodation that exist within the federal public service. That led us within the commission to work with our psychology centre to find ways to better promote the different types of things that we can do to assist people with disabilities.

Are they in fact leaving the public service in the course of their careers? Yes, and that is something that is worrying us as well. We're trying to identify whether or not these are issues within the scope of people with disabilities themselves, or is something happening within the public service that is actually discouraging them from pursuing their careers? We are pursuing work on that front.

The notion of retention lies within the policies and the work of the Treasury Board. As my colleague indicated, we work closely together to try to compare the information we have. Whether it's in the process of the programs that we administer on behalf of the government or providing information to the board so they can review their policies or form new ones, we try to ensure that we have the best information to make the best decisions.

There are a lot of myths out there. We need to do myth-busting and be better at promoting the opportunities within our system.

Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for your presentation. Are there any initiatives in place to combat discrimination in the federal public service?

Ms. Donoghue: To combat discrimination?

Senator Ataullahjan: Yes, within the public service.

Ms. Donoghue: Definitely the whole notion of discrimination is not accepted within the public service. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist. We're very cognizant of that, and basically we have some numbers from the survey that indicate there were some issues.

I know that many deputy heads are very concerned with this, and often it's the targeting within the departments and the responsibility of deputy heads that allow for better measures to be put in place.

When we do recruitment in the public service, in order to eliminate discrimination, we have what we call a preference, which is allowed within our legislation. In the view of certain Canadians, it's deemed to be positive discrimination, whereas an employer is allowed to basically say that within the context of a certain job, it will be targeted to a person within the employment equity group.

So hopefully, when we're looking at making sure that we have the right representation and diversity within our system, the preferences for people on employment equity are utilized. We do have numbers. I do not have them on hand right now, but we could provide them to the committee. We do have the number of processes where employment equity preferences have been used. We are hopeful that through that process, discrimination will be dismissed and demystified as well.

Senator Ataullahjan: We had previously heard that women were lagging behind men in terms of being appointed to executive positions as well as being clustered into certain occupations or departments. Does this still hold true? What about visible minority women?

Mr. Watson: Thank you for the question. In fact, women are exceeding labour force availability for executive positions.

I don't have the department-by-department data with me today. As one would expect, there is not an absolutely uniform number across every single department. There is some variation, but within almost half of the entire executive population there is a very strong distribution across the public service.

If I may, Madam Chair, I'd be pleased to respond a little more to the question asked previously on the initiatives in place.

In terms of discrimination, to start with, where we set out what it is that we expect and in some cases what Parliament expects, obviously the Canadian Human Rights Act is foundational. Our code of values and ethics and how we treat each other is foundational. The key leadership competencies against which leaders in the public service are assessed and considered, even up to the point of termination if you breach those matters, are core in setting out our expectations of the respect with which we treat people. The collective agreements also state that there can be no discrimination as well. Those are our expectations.

Above and beyond that though, should we need to get into mechanisms to enforce those things, they start with things like our informal conflict management system where, if it's a lower level issue that people want to try and resolve in that way, you can bring it to the structures in place in departments, and almost every department and agency has that regime in place.

You can go from there to complaints under the Canadian Human Rights Act that may end up all the way to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. There's the grievance process under the questions of the Public Service Labour Relations Act, and there are some provisions that might even come to apply under the Canada Labour Code.

Now, having said that, the most important aspect is the leadership of all individuals, persons of authority in the public service and being very clear about what our expectations are, what our values are, and it is not only about speaking to the positive things we expect people to achieve but acting if they find instances where those things may have been transgressed.

The Chair: Mr. Watson, from what I understood you have really good policies, and I commend you for that, and then you have responses. How are you raising awareness to implement those policies, what education, training are you doing, and how are you fostering?

Earlier Senator Eaton talked about the environment and we heard that the environment is difficult at the moment. It is the same everywhere so I'm not criticizing you. When there is recession there are always these tough issues. I get it that you have set the policies and monitor the responses, but what is the education and what is the training piece?

Mr. Watson: Excellent question, Madam Chair.

Let me say it starts at minute one as part of the orientation process when you join the federal public service. This is something we talk about right away. And the Canada School of Public Service has been an excellent partner on this front in designing their courses at the orientation level. This is something they've built into what we achieve and talk about there, but then they actually have a series of further courses in addressing these issues and making sure managers and leaders and others are aware not only of their rights and responsibilities as individual employees, but also what they need to do in the roles they take on throughout the course of their careers.

We also have a harassment prevention policy that's in place and that applies to everybody in the public service. Training around that is provided, again, to those who fulfill the responsibilities that come under the governance of that policy. We have the initiative for a respectful workplace as well.

These are all things that we bring together. I come back to the Public Service Employment Survey. We added a series of new questions this time around dealing with when there were perceptions of discrimination and harassment. We asked not just, "Did you feel it or not,'' but went on and asked in the first instance, "Did you file a complaint,'' and then we asked, I think very importantly, "If you didn't, why didn't you?''

I would argue, based on the review that we have seen, that we have a deeper, richer and broader compilation of information around those issues than any employer in the country. Any time you do that type of research you will find things that you need to take on because maybe you didn't understand exactly how significant they were in the past. Certainly we will be mining that data, and the clerk's report on the public service released recently noted the importance of dealing with these issues, and we will be.

The Chair: I'm more interested in the courses for management, for deputy ministers. Are they mandatory, how long are they and how often are they?

Mr. Watson: The orientation is mandatory. Training is provided to new managers and to new executives as well. We have leadership development programs that aren't mandatory for everybody that many of our aspiring leaders would take. There is a mix of things that are mandatory and things that you may choose to take depending on what type of responsibilities are being asked of you and your career path.

The Chair: Are there any courses for deputy ministers on these issues?

Mr. Watson: The Canada School of Public Service runs a broad range of learning events for deputy ministers. It covers a broad range of topics. Issues around harassment and mental health, which is sometimes related, are all things that the Canada School of Public Service is doing courses on, and they are very well attended by deputy ministers.

The Chair: Are there issues around employment equity?

Mr. Watson: We've in fact had specific employment equity sessions with deputy ministers and with assistant deputy ministers as well.

Senator Nancy Ruth: The PSAC people said that they see that women continue to be under-represented in 11 of 23 of the largest departments, and racialized workers are under-represented in nine of the 23 departments. Can you comment on that?

Mr. Watson: Sure. Again, I don't have the specific department-by-department figures here. There is some unevenness across different departments. It tends to change from time to time. There are some that historically have sort of differing quadrants of measures there.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Can you give examples? Are you talking about Public Works or who are you talking about?

Mr. Watson: I don't have a department-by-department list with me. I'd be happy to get that information to you, but I don't have it with me today, sorry.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Part of my question is this: Does it seem necessary to try and change this? If so, what efforts are you making?

Mr. Watson: Certainly when I talk about the management accountability framework and the reviews that we do there, they all include the question of where are deputy ministers in every department at in relation to employment equity hiring. That's one of the things we look at.

It turns out my colleague does have the numbers here on a department-by-department basis.

There is a range. There would be some that would be a very high proportion and some that would be a lower proportion. We're interested in some of the questions that my colleague from the Public Service Commission has talked about — what are the application rates in those departments and what is behind the reasons that people choose to apply or not apply to different departments.

Where we start, obviously though, is with the results, so every year we look at individual departments to see what the results have been. Certainly, as you point out, there is this unevenness across departments.

Senator Nancy Ruth: If I was a woman in management and was looking for a switch in a federal department I wouldn't be inclined to go to Defence right now.

Mr. Watson: It's a great department.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Well, not particularly for women from what we hear. What are you obligations to change it? I guess the other question is this: If deputy ministers aren't meeting the so-called targets, is there any penalty? What do you do? How do you push them?

Mr. Watson: We would note that in the management accountability framework.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Well, noting isn't very useful. How do you push?

Mr. Watson: Again, the expectation for every deputy minister is meeting labour force availability and reflecting Canada's population in their labour force.

Ensuring that they are taking steps to find Aboriginal executives and employees in nonexecutive ranks, and persons with disabilities, and women and members of visible minority groups is an expectation for every deputy minister in the system.

In aggregate, we are meeting that expectation not only in the total population but, for the most part, in the executive ranks as well. But as you say, within individual departments, there is that variance. In aggregate, though, we are meeting the labour force availability that we find in Canada's population.

Senator Nancy Ruth: What happens if they are not taking those steps?

Mr. Watson: If you are not meeting the obligations that you've got to pursue a representative workforce, that's something that will be noted in the world of performance and in the reports that are made public, how you have stacked up against the expectations.

Senator Eggleton: Mr. Watson, the Public Service Alliance of Canada was here earlier, and they painted quite a different picture. They talked about a climate of fear in the workplace. They particularly noted that all equity groups had high rates of fear of reprisal. So you've designed the various policies that are in place, but if people have a fear of reprisal, of losing their job or whatever the fear is, and that is a factor as to whether they will file a grievance or a formal complaint.

They say that when it comes to disabled persons — you mentioned the survey and the positive results you felt came from the survey — but they say that 55 per cent of the disabled indicated a fear of reprisal. Can you comment on that? That doesn't sound like a very good statistic at all.

Mr. Watson: I will break down that number a bit. That was their percentage of people who, in the first instance, had answered "yes'' to the question that they had been the victim of harassment or discrimination, depending on the case. The subset of that answered the question, "So why did you not provide a complaint?''

If you do the math, it's too high a number. Any number of people who are concerned about harassment is a number that's too high to start with. But that number is a percentage of the population. Then you take a subset of that who said that they didn't file a complaint. Then you take a subset of that again to determine who actually felt that they were concerned about reprisal.

I'm not trying to minimize the fear of reprisal, but it's not 55 per cent of that population. That's the point I'm making.

Senator Eggleton: You're saying it's 55 per cent of people who say they are experiencing some harassment.

Mr. Watson: And who didn't file a complaint.

Senator Eggleton: Right. Do you have other numbers that would put that in context?

Mr. Watson: First, it is of deep concern that any public servant is concerned about reprisals. That is a problem, first and foremost. It's a problem to the point that the clerk has mentioned it in her report when she talks about the need for us as public servants and the senior leadership to look actively at this area.

This is the first time we've actually asked these questions. As far as we can tell, there is not another employer in the country that has actually gone out and looked for this data. We looked for it for a specific set of reasons; namely, because we didn't think that when we asked the questions in the past about discrimination or harassment and stopped there that that was telling us what it is.

To be clear about the data we have found, if anybody was imagining that the harassment or concerns about it were pointed outward at people who were crossing borders or people coming to pick up passports, that's not what people have identified. They have identified their fellow public servants, in particular the people with authority over them. Those are the numbers.

Senator Eggleton: What will you be doing? You say the 55 per cent has a certain subset, but you said, and I agree, that even that is one too many. So what will you be doing about that to overcome the fear?

Mr. Watson: We will be going to do a broad range of things. To link back to a previous question, we will have conversations and be working directly with deputy ministers on their accountability for addressing these issues.

Some organizations, for example, have already begun to do what are called "skip step interviews,'' where a boss will go two or three levels below direct reports and start hearing directly what some of the issues are. We are able to cut the data in ways that allow us to pinpoint with a certain degree of precision where the higher rates of concerns are, because we can look at levels and sub-groups within departments and task individual assistant deputy ministers responsible there with finding out what the challenges are and making sure they are addressed.

Again, we can track where these concerns are more prevalent, and we will be asking deputy ministers who in turn will be asking their senior leadership teams to address this very specifically. That all goes all the way from the clerk.

Senator Eggleton: What about consultation with employee representatives as you go through this? The Public Service Alliance of Canada feels that there is a lot of information they don't get it, they get it late, it is too minimal, or they don't get an opportunity to feed into the process beforehand; they just sort of get, "Here's the decision, and that's it.''

It doesn't sound like a good way to deal with the employee representatives.

Mr. Watson: No, and I would not characterize it the way they have characterized it, which might not surprise you. We feel we have worked closely with them on a number of issues and recognize that they would have a view that differs from mine.

Having said that, we have worked very closely in a number of committees. We have had different consultations on different policies with the bargaining agents. But, when it comes down to it, this is an issue that affects every single public servant out there. One of the findings of the survey is that, if one in five public servants is saying that they have experienced something that they feel is harassment, if one in 12 is concerned that they have dealt with discrimination, this is something that needs to concern all of us. And all of the talents and skills that we bring to it are going to be important parts of the resolution.

Senator Ataullahjan: Are we making people aware that standing up for their rights will not affect their positions?

Mr. Watson: Absolutely. To be clear, retaliation and reprisals are absolutely unacceptable. It is something that every executive and every leader in the public service has a duty to ensure is understood by all those who report to them, particularly those in leadership or management positions around them.

It is something that we will come at with some renewed effort as a result of the findings of the survey, which, again, are of concern to all of us in leadership positions in the public service.

Senator Eaton: Right now, are the unions feeling particularly pushy? Are they in a bargaining position or about to go into bargaining? If you listened to them this morning, the public service has become a snake pit. Could you comment on that?

Also, Senator Andreychuk asked an interesting question. I would gather that most day-to-day work in the department is with union members, is it not? So if there were harassment issues, fear and people not self-identifying, would that not involve the union as well as management in the day-to-day workplace environment?

They also talked very strongly about mental health; that they are being driven to produce at such a rate that they are breaking down and becoming mentally ill, and that there is a stigma. Could you comment on that aspect of their complaint, as well?

Mr. Watson: Absolutely.

I think one of the most impressive numbers out of the public service survey, without detracting from some of the more challenging numbers, is that, I believe, 93 per cent of public servants said that they were willing to put in the extra effort to get the job done. I believe 79 per cent of the 141,000 who answered said they were proud to be public servants.

Senator Eaton: Is it the fear of God that you are putting into them?

Mr. Watson: I don't know that fear is a great way to induce pride, so I suspect it's not fear that's driving people to that pride.

In a couple of weeks we will have National Public Service Week. During National Public Service Week, the Public Service Awards of Excellence is given. Any public servant — and I would suggest any Canadian — who looks through the list of recipients who have been online for the last number of years will find that public servants do extraordinary work day in and day out and that it touches almost every single aspect of Canadians' lives. And I find that the public servants who do that work take enormous pride in it and do it in environments that are often very challenging because of the very nature of the work we do. We perform this work in places across this country that is unparalleled in terms of any other institution trying to do the same. We touch a range of things that nobody else comes even close to. We are present in parts of the world that no other Canadian organization can match in terms of its breadth.

We bring a range of skills. We found the remains of the Franklin Expedition at the bottom of the ocean, and we supported people in the International Space Station and did a whole lot of stuff in between.

Public servants are generally very proud of the contributions they make to those things, but it is very hard work because at some point or other in time, all of the most difficult issues in this country come to some part of the public service, and it's not easy work to do.

Is it a challenging environment? Yes, it is, by the nature of the work and the unique environment when you're in the public eye as much as any public institution ever is.

I'm buoyed by the response we have gotten in pride of people's work and people's willingness to do the extra work, even while I recognize there are important issues that we need to take on. We cannot and will not ignore what we have heard about harassment, and we cannot and will not ignore what we have heard about discrimination. But the idea that all is seen as challenging, as some might describe, I don't think is supported either by the pride that public servants demonstrate in their work on a daily basis or the results of the Public Service Employee Survey.

Senator Eaton: How are your relations with PSAC on a day-to-day basis? Are they fairly cordial or are they adversarial?

Mr. Watson: They are a very important partner in the work going forward. We have issues that we disagree on strongly and issues that we work on very closely, regardless of what's going on around us.

Senator Eaton: You're not answering my question. Are they cordial or adversarial?

Mr. Watson: For example, on mental health, we work very closely with them, and we have an excellent relationship. On other issues, the relationship is more challenging.

The Chair: Mr. Watson, we will stop there because there are many people who still have questions.

Senator Andreychuk: The previous panel talked about harassment and discrimination. The issue of harassment is now a topic on Parliament Hill and in other workplaces.

Have you done any analysis to see if the comparisons in your survey are in line with this emerging issue that's being addressed in our society? Are you on the higher end or the lower end of statistics with respect to harassment?

Mr. Watson: It's very hard to tell because we can find almost nobody else that keeps the type of data we do. We couldn't find a single other employer that went out and asked, "If you felt that you were being harassed, can you please tell us why you didn't file a formal complaint?'' There is just no comparison we can find to the data we have gathered.

Having said that, it is clear in society generally that the awareness of harassment issues and the willingness to step forward is different from what it has been in the past. I think that the advent of social media has helped in that regard in that it sometimes provides a safe space for people to share stories that lead them to act when they find they are not the only people who have felt what they perceive as either discrimination or harassment.

Having said that, it's not something we've necessarily needed to rely upon in the federal system. We have robust structures that are present in every organization, including the unions, where people can go and submit grievances if they believe their rights have been infringed on under either a collective agreement or some other legislation. Obviously it has grown over time, but there is the awareness of the ability to complain and the standards that people find acceptable or not.

Senator Andreychuk: On one other area, this committee had talked about the deputy ministers and their equivalents being very important because the feedback that we had been receiving from other evidence here was that if you don't take ownership at the top, it's not going to create a culture of fairness for any of our target groups or for any of these workplace issues.

We suggested that it be tied to performance. Is that being done now? Because you've said it's taken into account, et cetera, but is it directly now a category that if you're not addressing this issue and if you're in the department having difficulties, it will reflect on your pay?

Mr. Watson: I can talk to some of the inputs. I'm not the person who has the responsibility at the end of day. As one deputy minister, I'm not the one who has the responsibility for performing the final decisions around the performance management of my colleagues, but I play an important role of input, and I can say that input includes all of these questions around people management, which is a core part of what we talk about. If you look at our key leadership competencies, how you manage your people is at the core of what we consider, and we ask whether or not you're doing what we expect of you.

Senator Nancy Ruth: I wanted to ask a question about disability. The government announced a policy that more or less said that veterans who were disabled would have priority hiring. Has that had any impact on your hiring numbers for the disabled?

PSAC had said workers with disabilities are more likely than workers without disabilities to have a negative experience in being accepted as an equal member of a team or being selected for a position. I'm curious if you would like to comment on that.

Mr. Watson: If I could answer the second question first, I'd say on the numbers cited that five times more frequency of departures is not an accurate methodological comparison. If you take one of the lowest years of hiring on record at the time you have one of the highest years of departures on record, of course you will have imbalance for everyone. In fact, the point that was not made there is there are two times as many departures as arrivals. While I'm not saying there is no issue we should be looking at there, it's nothing like what was described.

We are concerned because the Public Service Employee Survey, by a wide margin, indicated that the highest sense of dissatisfaction came from persons with disabilities, so we take note of that. Again, we've had these results for just a couple of months, so we are thinking about how to respond. But we have taken note of that, and we note that it is a significant difference from every other part of the public service.

Next year when I come back, if you invite us, I would be pleased to speak on what we have pursued on that front.

Ms. Donoghue: On the first part of the question, if I may, when we were talking about veterans, in all our data from the past we have been extremely successful in putting veterans into the public service. We have followed their careers and demonstrated they do have very successful careers and progression within the public service.

When the outflow situation occurred with the spending review, we noticed those numbers were going down because other priorities were taking precedence over veterans. In order to correct that, the new legislation will come into force very soon. That way, in the context of veterans, they will have the highest priority in the system so we can continue to onboard these veterans who have been medically released on duty, from a legislative standpoint.

From a regulatory standpoint, for those who have been released from duty due to medical reasons not due to service, there will be a preference added to all these veterans so if they are qualified for positions, they get a first look at the postings.

So in that context, yes, we're hopeful and confident that we will be able to continue to onboard these medically released and some handicapped or disabled veterans.

The Chair: I want thank you for your presentations and for the answers to our questions. As you can see, there are still a lot of questions senators want to ask. We will have to invite you earlier the next time. I want to thank you for always making yourselves available.

Senators, we will continue with the meeting. Let's finish the budget. Last time in my rush I did not get proper permission from the committee for the budget.

The budget is in front of you. There is $1,000 for a graphic designer for our report on the Hague abduction convention. I need a mover.

Senator Ataullahjan: So moved.

The Chair: Is this budget acceptable?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

(The committee adjourned.)