Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Human Rights

Issue 3 - Evidence


OTTAWA, Monday, October 31, 2011

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 4:03 p.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, today we are reconvening our meeting to study the hiring and promotion practices in the federal public service.

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights has been authorized to examine issues of discrimination in hiring and promotion practices of the federal public service. We have been studying the extent to which the goals of the Employment Equity Act are being fulfilled within the federal public service.

The purpose of this act is to ensure that federally regulated employers provide equal opportunities for employment to four designated groups, namely, women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities.

The act imposes obligations on employers to assess the degree to which employment equity is a reality in their workplace and to implement policies to produce the necessary changes.

It also provides guidance as to how to make such assessments, such as by comparing how the representation of members of the four designated groups within a particular workplace compares with their availability in the Canadian workforce as a whole.

In the past, the standing committee has tabled the following reports:

In 2004, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights first began to examine the hiring and promotion practices of the federal public 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 Public Service: Not There Yet.

In 2010, the committee published its most recent report, entitled Reflecting the Changing Face of Canada: Employment Equity in the Public Service.

[Translation]

The committee's major concern is that employment equity in the federal public service is not yet a reality for the four designated groups.

Aboriginal employees mainly work in only three departments: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the Correctional Service of Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

Women generally still occupy lower paid administrative support positions and still lag behind men in appointments to management positions.

The recruitment rate for persons with disabilities is below their level of representation in the labour force.

The committee is particularly concerned to see that persons belonging to visible minorities are not yet represented in the public service in a manner that reflects their availability in the labour force. It is also concerned that changes are slow in coming.

The Public Service Commission just published its 2010-11 Annual Report this month. We would like it to tell us about its annual report and to provide us with its opinion on our report, Reflecting the Changing Face of Canada.

[English]

We welcome Maria Barrados, President of the Public Service Commission of Canada. Ms. Barrados has always made herself available to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, and we have very much appreciated her willingness to work with us. With her today are Hélène Laurendeau, Senior Vice-President, and Paula Green, Director General, Equity and Diversity.

[Translation]

Maria Barrados, President, Public Service Commission of Canada: Thank you, Madam Chair and honourable senators. I am here with Hélène Laurendeau, Senior Vice-President, Policy Branch, and Paula Green, Director General, Equity and Diversity, to discuss the Public Service Commission's 2010-11 Annual Report and its audit reports for 2011, which were tabled in Parliament last week.

The PSC has also published a special paper on the history of employment equity in the federal public service; copies have been distributed.

We read your June 2010 report on employment equity in the federal public service with great interest, and we agree with your recommendations.

PSC is an independent body responsible for safeguarding the integrity of staffing in the public service and the non- partisanship of the public service. The PSC is free from ministerial direction in the exercise of its executive authorities for hiring and non-partisanship, but it is accountable to Parliament. We report annually to Parliament on our activities and results, and we welcome the opportunity to discuss them with your committee.

The PSC's 2010-11 Annual Report covers the fifth year of operation under the current Public Service Employment Act. More detailed information on the demographics is available in the report, but what we saw essentially is a slowing down of hiring and staffing, less recruitment, and practically no growth.

[English]

Based on our oversight activities in 2010-11, we have concluded that, overall, merit is being respected in the staffing system. Our audits show that managers are doing a better job of applying the merit test. Organizational performance in the management of staffing continues to improve. However, we have concerns with the quality control of appointment processes, the lack of appropriate assessment and documentation of merit, and the poor rationale for non-advertised employment processes.

We continue to track how organizations are applying the core values of merit and non-partisanship, as well as the guiding values of fairness, access, transparency and representativeness in their staffing. In a time of fiscal restraint, those values will be as important as ever. There continues to be high interest in public service jobs, but it will be for fewer jobs.

Our annual report provides information on the external recruitment of four groups designated under the Employment Equity Act, namely, Aboriginal peoples, women, members of visible minorities and persons with disabilities. We are doing well in three out of the four groups, but we saw a decrease, for the third straight year, in the rate of external appointments for persons with disabilities, from 3.1 per cent last year to 2.6 per cent in 2010-11.

We are concerned that the continued low rate of external appointments will have negative consequences for their representation in the public service over the long term.

The special paper on employment equity provides an overview of the PSC and the government's efforts, during the past five decades, to ensure equality of opportunity for disadvantaged groups. The PSC is responsible for identifying and eliminating barriers in recruitment and staffing and for developing policies and practices that promote a more representative public service. Significant progress has been made, but the paper highlights a number of areas that need ongoing attention.

Although there appears to be a widespread acceptance of the goal of achieving a representative public service, the concept of merit, and how it is applied to achieve representativeness, is not always understood, particularly among hiring managers, employees and designated group members. We will continue to work to ensure that hiring managers fully understand merit and how it is applied in achieving a representative public service.

Improved methodology and more reliable data are essential for getting a more accurate picture of employment equity in the public service and for reducing the reporting burden on organizations. The PSC and the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer will continue to monitor the results and work towards a common long-term methodology for calculating and reporting employment equity appointment and representation rates.

After extensive consultations with internal and external stakeholder groups, on January 1, 2010, the PSC introduced, for government-wide implementation, a new approach for confirming Aboriginal declaration. Evidence to date suggests that the approach may be an effective way to deter Aboriginal false self-declaration. The PSC will continue to work with organizations to see if additional support is needed to ensure consistency in implementing this approach.

In 2010-2011, the PSC conducted detailed analyses of the application and recruitment rates of employment equity groups by organization and by occupational group. The PSC will also undertake further analysis to help identify and develop more effective strategies for attracting persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups. We plan to share the results of our work with departments and agencies in 2011-12 and to engage them in collaborative efforts to achieve representativeness in the public service.

As you may know, my term as president has been extended until a replacement is found. The PSC is committed to supporting a smooth transition to a new commission over the coming months and will continue to ensure that Canadians benefit from a professional public service in which merit and non-partisanship are independently protected.

[Translation]

Thank you, Madam Chair. I would be pleased to respond to any questions that you may have.

[English]

The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Barrados. I will start off with some questions. The last time you were in front of us, you were aware that we are very concerned with the hiring of visible minorities. I would like to hear from you: Do the appointment rates and the representation rates continue to differ for members of visible minority groups? Senator Oliver spoke in the Senate last week and informed us that there is almost 20 per cent minority in Canada. Is the representation in the federal public service reaching 20 per cent? Are there signs, since you last spoke to us, that the representation is improving? What initiatives are being taken to improve the representation rate, assuming it is still below the workforce availability numbers?

Ms. Barrados: There are a number of elements to your question. On the first element, I do not have a great deal of confidence in the number that is used to calculate the number of visible minorities currently working in the Government of Canada. It is under-representative. I say that because, for the last five years, we have been measuring the numbers that have been coming in. They have been coming in at a very high rate, well above what is in the public service and well above workforce availability. The population number we are seeing is not really changing very much, so there is something wrong. I know they are not leaving; I know they are staying. We have been on about this quite consistently. We have to do better with that number. I can talk a little bit about some of the things we are doing, but we have not got a better number. We are using a number. Senator Oliver is quite correct in using the number, because it is the official number, but it is under-representative.

We have measures of workforce availability going back to 2006. We know from everything we see that immigration is continuing and numbers are going up. That is a five-year-old number. For visible minorities, we are seeing a workforce availability of 12.4 per cent. For the last five years, we have been hiring well above that — I should say four years, to be sure I have the numbers. In the reports, we are showing in 2008-09, 18.8 per cent; in 2009-10, 21.2 per cent; and last year, 18.6 per cent. We are consistently bringing in more than workforce availability. That is all very positive. My challenge to government ministries and departments is that as we go into downsizing, there will be a smaller government, but there will still be a need to recruit. It should be targeted recruitment, and we should not forget our objectives on representativity as we move to a smaller public service.

The Chair: I want to clarify something with Senator Oliver today. Senator, if I have said something that is incorrect, please correct me now. I understood you to say that the workforce availability was more than 20 per cent, not the representation in the federal service. Am I correct, Senator Oliver?

Senator Oliver: Yes.

The Chair: Ms. Barrados, I was reading a newspaper article about this. When you gave the press conference, you said that things would be tighter, which you have expressed here to us. You said that a preoccupation of the commission will be to make sure that what jobs there are assigned fairly. I would like to hear about how you see the jobs being assigned fairly to the four targets groups, which include Aboriginals, women, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities.

Ms. Barrados: The question we always face is the extent to which we have to take special efforts and special measures. Our paper that we distributed gives a history of special efforts and special measures taken over time. Two parts of our system allow managers to manage what they need and to make sure they maintain a representativity for the employment equity groups: first, limiting area of selection; and second, using other assets to define what it is specifically you are looking for that you would want to have. I believe those two should be used. There is some difference of opinion as to when they should be used. I believe they are statutorily available and should be used. However, they rely on people doing an analysis of their workforce. Hopefully, they will improve the number so they are working to true numbers.

What is required then is to make a determination of special needs you have, whether it will be an asset in the merit test, or whether you need a particular population for what you are doing. I would say that justifies limiting the zone of selection. However, whatever you do, the applicant must meet the merit test. Even if you come through a selection process limited, you still have to meet the merit test and the language and education requirements. It is not lowering a standard in any way; it is just ensuring that you get the special population in.

For the disabled, we really have a challenge because we are not even getting the applications in at a workforce availability rate. We have to do more in that area.

The Chair: Were you saying that 12.4 per cent of visible minorities are represented in the federal public service?

Ms. Barrados: No. The 12.4 per cent is the 2006 workforce availability number, although there is another number. In fact, there are several different kinds of numbers. Senator Oliver and I are probably using the same data sources, but at somewhat different times. There are numbers and projections of how many visible minorities will be in the population; and that is rising. There are other projections on what that workforce availability number will be as time goes on. When you have a higher visible minority population, your workforce availability number will be higher.

Senator Oliver and I are probably using the same data sources, but I suspect we might be using different time frames. My number is 2006 workforce availability of 12.4 per cent. My population number is 9-something. I do not even put it in my book because I do not trust that number. I do not think it is that low. It is a better number. I think it is higher.

The Chair: What is the number of visible minorities that you think is represented in the federal public service?

Ms. Barrados: I know that the 9-point-something number that is used is under-representing. I have been trying to get my colleagues to agree to model it for me, because we should be able to model the applicants, the flow-in, and get a better estimate.

Senator, I am sorry to say that we have not done that.

Senator Zimmer: Thank you, Ms. Barrados, for your presentation.

Senators, you should know that we had a discussion before the meeting. We both came from the University of Saskatchewan in the 1960s, so we compared university roots. Although we may have passed like ships in the night, I think we determined that we did not date.

Senator Andreychuk: On a point of order. There are three of us who were there at the same time.

Senator Zimmer: Right; I am sorry. I did date you.

Senator Andreychuk: You wanted to. That is different.

Senator Zimmer: True. She is right. I will stop there, Madam Chair.

Previously the Public Service Commission informed this committee that it had created an employment pool of pre- qualified candidates at the executive level, which had resulted in appointments to fill many executive positions.

How was this pool created? Has creating this pool caused a disadvantage in any way?

Ms. Barrados: We did two such pools. From the first one, we qualified about 41 and appointed 26 or 27. We did a lessons learned on that and decided that we had to improve on two things that we had done in that pool. One was that we had to include the language requirements so that we would not be disqualifying people on language. We also had to be clear on mobility, that is, whether people were willing to move.

We did a second pool from which we qualified 30, and we appointed 17 or 18. The ones appointed out of that pool were appointed in the executive ranks, which was positive. The ones who were not appointed out of that were disappointed, obviously, because there was an expectation that they would move ahead. In the executive ranks, they are beginning to look for specific positions. Some of the organizations had committed to positions being available but either no longer had the positions available or were looking for something specific, not general.

We addressed that by limiting the area of selection, that is, saying that we were looking only for visible minorities who we felt were qualified for EX level. We put them through stringent testing. They went through the psychology assessment centre and language testing. It was a very thorough examination.

Senator Zimmer: How rapidly are women catching up to men with payroll and executive positions? Is it just a matter of time before it is somewhat equal?

Ms. Barrados: Women comprise 55 per cent of the public service. We are running around 43 per cent in the executive ranks, including the senior public service. We are doing very well, but we should not get complacent about it. We have done very well very quickly, so we have to continue to work it.

Senator Andreychuk: Before I ask my questions, I want to commend the work you have done with the Public Service Commission of Canada, not only in your present position but in your past positions. You have been steady, consistent and persistent in trying to achieve equity in employment in the Public Service Commission. Canada is fortunate to have had you at the time we did. I know of your overseas work. Your expertise and work in Canada is now being recognized around the world. I know that when you leave the Public Service Commission we will not lose you as you will continue in your other capacities.

This committee has studied a number of the issues having to do with employment equity, and we have produced a number of reports. You have already talked about some of the ways that you have tried to ensure that we do have employment equity. One of your concerns was that contracts were a problem, that people come into the Public Service Commission by short-term contracts and then, when the position is advertised — surprise surprise — the people who have been working on contract seem to do better than others, which works in favour of the status quo rather than enlarging the pool of possible candidates from across Canada, which would address all of the four target areas.

I know that you have been vocal on that issue. Have we made progress in limiting contracts where necessary? As you said, a downsizing could happen in the Public Service Commission, in which case that would become even more crucial.

You said that you had to change the methodology of advertising, that going to national newspapers, et cetera, was not the way to go. You said that we needed to advertise in ethnic newspapers across Canada and to avail ourselves of the new technologies. You also pointed out some of the limitations of that.

Looking back, are the issues of reaching out to the new Canadians who could be part of this pool and the contract issue still areas of concern?

Ms. Barrados: There are a couple of parts to the contracting issue. I am really worried about people who come in as casual employees, become term employees and then end up being permanent employees. That happens as they get to know the system and know what is required, and it is a real advantage. That worries me because it works against representativity and against giving everyone a fair chance.

There has been improvement here over the last five or six years. When I first started reporting about that, 84 per cent came into the public service via that route. It is now at around 60 per cent. That is still too high, but there is clear improvement.

There is a whole other set of people, to which Senator Andreychuk is referring, and they are those working on contract and those who have done temporary help assignments. There is nothing wrong with using contracts and temporary help assignment or using casual workers. In fact, a government bureaucracy that needs flexibility probably needs to have these people and maybe more of them than they have. However, this should not be viewed as the entry into the public service, because that creates a system that is not that fair. It will exercise favouritism and you will not get the representativity that we are achieving. We are getting there. We are doing a lot better.

On the methodology of advertising, we do not advertise that much in the main papers. Occasionally we do, but we tend not to. We have relied heavily on the Internet and specialty newspapers. We have succeeded in getting a very healthy application rate from visible minorities. When we do the analysis, we find that they tend to be better educated. This is a good pool of people.

We have found that we had to do extra work for our First Nations Aboriginal people. We have put in place a centre of excellence that works out of Winnipeg that does a lot of outreach to different groups to try and make contact with them and make them aware of the public service jobs, and we have been able to get good pools of people for managers to look at.

We are not doing so well on the disabled. Here, we have to take the lessons learned from our work with the other groups and apply them to reach out more with them, because they are not even applying in the numbers that we would like to see them apply.

Senator Andreychuk: It is interesting, because at one point you said the disabled were the best group in your projections, and that has not turned out.

There has been some discussion, if I can call it that diplomatically, about the term "visible minority." It is a term that Canada has used and developed but is not finding favour elsewhere. There are certainly discussions in Canada about the term and around the human rights council, et cetera. Do you think that we need to change our terminology? Is it time to have a different approach to the four target areas, or do you believe that the methodology we put in place some years ago is still the best that we can produce?

Ms. Barrados: I think it is always appropriate for Parliament to take a look at statutes and see if they speak to the environment of today as opposed to a past time. I do not have any difficulty with reviewing these things.

I use the term "visible minority" because it is in the statutes. It would have to be a parliamentary decision to make the changes. What I am not clear about is whether people who are members of that group find it offensive or not. I am one of those people who get stuck on a label and will use it for a long time. I am slow to change, without intending offence, but it might be an interesting question for this committee. Does that label give offence? If it does, then it is time to consider a change. If it does not give offence in this country, then I would leave it.

Senator Andreychuk: On the Aboriginal issue, my concern was that while we are attracting people, we are attracting them to the Indian Affairs ministry. There is great talent across Canada, and it should be utilized in all our departments. Have you made any inroads in having Aboriginal candidates to positions throughout the federal civil service?

While I think the statistics on women are good, it is the upper echelons, the EX positions, that we have struggled with increasing. Has that improved? Our suggestion to you at the time was that it be tied to bonuses or increases for managers. If they wish to continue their promotion, they must take this into account seriously — not just a tick mark on a sheet, but they need to show results.

Ms. Barrados: I will ask Ms. Green to dig out the numbers for you on Aboriginal people. Of the ones that we have been recruiting in, 41 per cent are going to the top five departments, so we are getting 60 per cent going outside of that. She will dig out the numbers for you. We are seeing an improvement, and we are seeing them not only going to those main departments.

On women, we are 43 per cent in the executive group, including the senior, so the deputy ministers, which is the most senior group. This is where I think we have a challenge for visible minorities. We do not have enough diversification in that group. Happily we have the women, but we do not have enough other diversity in that group. Again, there are some steps being taken, but this is where there is a bit of a challenge.

On the bonus, I have found that my colleagues in the departments are really quite responsive. I have not encountered resistance, which I think is a very good thing. The progress we have been making over the last five years has been in that delegated model, so we encourage, and we have response on the part of departments. I think we have had good cooperation. It is one of the elements in our evaluation of departments, and it is one of the elements in the overall accountability framework. It is one element, but it is not the only one that deputy heads are held accountable for.

Paula Green, Director General, Equity and Diversity, Public Service Commission of Canada: In our paper on employment equity, we have looked at that, and 41.7 per cent of Aboriginal employees work in three organizations: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Correctional Service Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, partly because of the business or their mandate.

However, the latest report published by Treasury Board has found that now 50 per cent of the Aboriginal employees work in four departments: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Correctional Service, HRSDC, and now they have added National Defence. Of the four departments, they found that they represent about 36 per cent of the core public administration. Really, the picture has not changed very much. It is still concentrated on a few departments.

Ms. Barrados: I would say it is a glass half full and half empty. When you have 36 percent of the population, and you have a 50 per cent/36 per cent ratio, that really is not too bad. That is better than it has been.

Senator Andreychuk: I agree it is better than it has been but, to truly satisfy me, I would want those statistics to start changing to see Aboriginal people throughout the service. There are highly qualified Aboriginal people coming through our universities who can be in health, in justice or in any of the rest. It is encouraging that they are in DND, but there are many other ministries and departments, including Foreign Affairs, et cetera, that we should be reaching for. We still have work to do.

Ms. Barrados: Senator Andreychuk, if I may, you made a comment about how a few years ago the disabled were better off than the others. I think it is an indication that you can never be complacent about any of these numbers. When you are seeing something looking pretty good, you better watch, because it can change very quickly.

The Chair: Ms. Barrados, I have a supplementary question to what Senator Andreychuk asked you. She asked you about the representation in executive positions, and you pointed out, if I heard you correctly, that there are 43 per cent women in executive positions. It would be helpful if you could tell us what percentage of people with disabilities, Aboriginal people and visible minorities were in executive positions.

Ms. Barrados: We can come back with those numbers.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Senator Martin: Good evening. I was here two years ago listening to your presentation at that time, and it is very helpful to be here again to hear of the progress and have the opportunity to ask some follow-up questions, in essence, about some of those areas that I was keenly interested in. I want to echo the words that Senator Andreychuk spoke in terms of the good work that you are doing.

I have a few questions regarding the time when I last heard your presentation. I see in the report some tables, table 47 specifically, regarding post-secondary improvement campaign applicants. I remember that was one of the questions at the time about the recruitment challenges. It was very competitive. Young people are actively being engaged on campuses. One of the areas of focus for recruitment of these capable individuals, especially in these targeted areas, was to do some active campus employment days and engagement on campuses.

I wanted to ask, what recruitment strategies and processes have been developed in the last few years that have been successful?

Once someone is hired, there is also the challenge of retaining employees in the first few years. There could be an exit of highly capable individuals just because, perhaps, the working environment is not as inclusive as it might be. There may also be other barriers that they encounter.

Another area that I recall having discussed was the kind of professional development and training that would be done, within the departments, to foster teamwork, inclusivity and cultural sensitivity. At the time, if I recall correctly, the ministries or departments did not necessarily do the same thing across the board. Instead, individual departments did their own kinds of activities. Have these best practices been shared, or are there some strategies that are sent to various departments to really develop the kind of teamwork, cohesiveness and inclusivity that would help with the retention of these employees?

Ms. Barrados: As for the recruitment strategies, we do not lack for interest. We had over 800,000 applications at the public service last year, and that was in response to about 3,000 job posters. One job poster does not necessarily advertise one job. On average, they might lead to about four jobs, but it varies.

All that to say, there is a continuing high interest. Not to say that there are not some jobs in which we have shortages. We are actively thinking of ways to develop strategies to go after the particular groups where we have shortages. In our post-secondary recruitment program, for example, we had allowed for general applications, to develop a general inventory. We are not doing that anymore. Now, we are developing specific job streams, saying we are looking for these kinds of jobs, and then seeking applications for those types of jobs. It reduces the number of applications and gives the applicants a much more reasonable, fair idea of what their chances are of getting a job. We have had the number of applications significantly reduced because of that. It is a bit of a different strategy than saying, "We have to do outreach, " but we are doing outreach for those areas of shortage. Health care, for example, is an area of continual shortage.

In this environment where there will be fewer jobs and, obviously, fewer resources for us and for departments to do our work, we are looking at technology as a way to have the same result at a lower cost. We are doing things like experimenting with, and looking to pilot, a virtual career fair. That means that instead of having groups of people go to different universities and campuses, we would actually do it on the Internet. It does involve a commitment on the part of public servants because they do actually have to be there to answer questions for people.

We are now in the process of doing that, making sure we meet all the government requirements. It has become a bit of a joke in our organization because I want it before I retire. Happily, the government has extended my term somewhat. They are not quite there yet, but we hope they make it.

As for retention, we will look at our numbers and come back to this committee as to what the retention rates are in the first two to three years. Overall, the retention rates in the Government of Canada are very low compared to the private sector. We tend to have a departure rate of about 5 per cent, and over 3 per cent of that is retirement. The number leaving for other reasons is less than 2 per cent. You are right, there is a concentration of that in the people who just start. We will pull those numbers out for you, so you have an idea. If the numbers are not too small, we will see if we have any information about membership and equity groups. We may not have it, but we will do what we can to give you some information.

Senator Martin: What about the cultural-sensitivity training, understanding the different cultural values and approaches to interacting with one's employers or supervisors? In British Columbia, I know a gentleman of Asian descent who, in his culture, would consider it rude to look eye-to-eye to his superior. There are those cultural differences. In a work setting, it would be important for supervisors to have that cultural sensitivity and understanding. Therefore, it could be discussed, or there could be a day where these kinds of things are openly explained so that there can be a levelling of the playing field and the understanding to move that team along. These are just specific examples, but I could see how that could come into play in various departments.

Ms. Barrados: I think that is a very important part of changing how our workplace functions. The Government of Canada does appoint deputy minister champions for the different equity groups. This is something that they are very concerned about, so there are special days and training. It might be something that the committee might want to follow up on with the visible minority champion or the Canada School. It is actually not my responsibility, but I know there are things going on.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Ms. Barrados, always nice to see you. I understand that women make up 43 per cent of the EX category. I am curious to know if there has been any discussion. There is a piece of legislation in the Senate at the moment, a private member's bill from Senator Hervieux-Payette, that is following decisions of countries like Norway, France, Australia and some of the other Scandinavian countries, that there should be a minimum of 40 per cent, either male or female, on boards of directors of certain corporations. In the instance of Canada, it would be federally regulated corporations, such as insurance companies, banks and so on.

In countries like France, Australia and Norway, it had to become mandatory. It had to be legislated to make it happen. Though we may have 43 per cent women in the EX category, did you ever think it would be kind of fun to have 52 per cent? What would be the advantage of legislating such a thing?

Ms. Barrados: We have done very well, in this country, with the kind of legislation we have had, which assigns people responsibilities to remove barriers and, basically, gives them an obligation, without legislating specific targets. I think that is really the story behind our historic overview. If you can achieve it that way, I think that is the better way to go. We have accomplished a lot that way.

However, if parliamentarians feel that we are not making rapid enough progress, then I think alternatives have to be examined.

I have said, at various times, how proud I am, having been a bit of a radical feminist in the past, of the progress women have made in the public service. I have been reminded that that is not the case in all sectors. My pride in the public service does not mean that it is fine for women everywhere, and particularly immigrant women who have a double challenge. It is a very interesting discussion.

I have no responsibility for appointments to boards, so I would leave it to the Senate to have the discussion.

Senator Nancy Ruth: I am not advocating such a law but just playing with the idea. In the EX category, there is a rigorous testing process that includes psychological and language testing and so on. If parliamentarians were to deem it necessary to implement such a law, how would those standards be maintained?

Ms. Barrados: The question really is whether there is a sufficient pool of people, whether women or visible minorities, who can meet the requirements. In the larger pools of men and women, I am sure you could get enough people who meet the requirements, whether men, women or visible minorities. With the kind of population we have, I am quite sure the requirements could be met.

The Personnel Psychology Centre, which designs the test, has an obligation to ensure that they contain no bias. They are designed to give people a fair opportunity and are culturally sensitive. There is no bias towards men or women and there is continual review of our material to ensure that is the case.

Senator Hubley: My question has to do with the fact that persons with disabilities are not being appointed to the public service in proportion to their workforce availability. You had indicated that there was more work to be done in that area. You also mentioned the Aboriginal Centre of Excellence located in Winnipeg. Could you describe the centre for us? Why was it placed in Winnipeg? Should other centres be placed in other parts of the country that might help to address that issue?

Ms. Barrados: The PSC has regional offices across the country. We try to even out the work. Because of the large Aboriginal population in Ontario and the West, we felt that Winnipeg was a good place to locate a centre of excellence for Aboriginal recruitment. As well, we had a core of people in Winnipeg who were actively involved in that and were Aboriginal.

We have discussed whether we should have other centres of excellence, and it is in our response to the needs of departments. A number of departments came to us and to organizations like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. They were highly anxious to get a large number of people very quickly. That is what we did in response.

We have to move forward on the disabled. Certainly, I hope that the new commission will have discussions with government in terms of the best way that we can support that. I know from the discussions that I have had with senior bureaucrats that they are equally engaged with that and feel this is something that must be improved on.

Senator Hubley: You mentioned that we are using 2006 statistics. How does that affect your work?

Ms. Barrados: We use the workforce availability numbers given to us via Statistics Canada and Human Resources Skills Development Canada. It is a technical estimation because we have an estimate of the number of visible minorities. We really want to know how many of them could be employees in the Federal Public Service and are available to work in the kinds of jobs we have in the public service. That is the estimate.

Again, when we know the rate of immigration and the rate at which people become citizens — we give preference to Canadian citizens — that number will go up. I would say that number is a little on the low side. You would want to shoot over that, I would think.

Senator Oliver: As the chair said in her introduction, we are here today because the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights has been authorized to examine issues of discrimination in hiring and promotion practices in the federal public service. The issue that is before us today is discrimination. There have been very few questions about that, so I want to put some questions on discrimination.

I have been in the Senate for more than 20 years, and I have had an opportunity to deal with the public service at many different levels. It is my opinion, having seen them here and seen them around the world, that in Canada we have the best public service in the world. Our public servants are there because of merit, and they do a superb job. I also want to echo the comments of Senator Andreychuk and Senator Martin that you, Ms. Barrados, have been a true champion for the four target groups, and it is too bad that you are leaving because you will be missed.

I have some specific questions to put. You might not have answers for all of them now, so you could send them later. A number of visible minorities, in particular of the four target groups, whom I know have been in the public service for many years and are still in the same job. White people all around them are being promoted above them and advanced beyond them, while they tread water. It seems to me that it is probably the result of discrimination. What programs are in place to remove discrimination from promotion and advancement? Why are there so few visible minorities in the executive categories, in particular as deputy ministers?

I would like to know the total number of deputy ministers we have in Canada. I would like to know how many of that total number of deputy ministers in Canada today are visible minorities; how many are Aboriginal; how many are disabled; and how many are women.

In your statement today, you said that the public service is responsible for identifying and eliminating barriers in recruitment and staffing and for developing policies and practices that promote a more representative public service. Could you list some of those policies and practices and tell us a bit about them: How they are set up; how they are working; and what specifically is being done for visible minorities, Aboriginals and the disabled, in particular, to make the public service a more representative place.

One of the systemic problems in discrimination that I have read about in the federal public service in Canada is that hiring people will not promote one of the four target groups, in particular the disabled, visible minorities and Aboriginals, because they do not look like us, sound like us, dress like us and speak like us. What programs do you have in place, apart from what Senator Martin said about cultural sensitivities, to overcome these systemic discriminatory barriers to advancement in the public service?

Ms. Barrados: Thank you, Senator Oliver. I agree with your comment about our public service. My job as President of the Public Service Commission in representing the commission is to always bring forward things we can do to improve. Sometimes when you are in the role of critic, you forget to say how good our public service is. Certainly, my work abroad makes me realize how we are envied and emulated around the world; but that is not to say we are perfect. There are still areas that we have to work on. I know my staff will cringe a little bit because I will make some commitments in terms of information that we will get for you, although some that is more complicated may take a little longer.

Your first set of questions was about what are we doing to ensure that everyone gets an equal chance at promotion and why visible minorities are still languishing in the same jobs while white people are moving around. I think that assumes that the rate of movement is very different between visible and non-visible minorities, and I am not sure that is the case. We have had quite a bit of movement, but it tends to be in certain occupational groups.

Senator Oliver: Is that lateral movement?

Ms. Barrados: Changing jobs. Deployments is harder for me to measure. I talk to a lot of people who are frustrated about their position in the bureaucracy and they come in all colours, so it is not unique to visible minorities.

If lateral movement is a deployment, I cannot get at the numbers, but we can certainly look to see if the promotion rates are different for visible minorities and non-visible minorities.

In fact, following up on one of your questions, we did look at whether the requirement to be bilingual created a greater barrier to promotions for visible minorities than for non-visible minorities, and that was not the case. In fact, the visible minorities had a bit of an advantage. Language was not a barrier. It means that they have a common set of problems, that everyone who does not have both languages has problems learning another language as an adult.

I will undertake to have my people determine what those promotion rates are and whether there is any difference. We will do as much as we can to find out correlations such as type of occupational group or large departments. We will get back to the committee on that. I will get my folks to estimate fairly quickly how long this might take them because it tends to be complicated in terms of working with the different databases, but we should be able to get you some information.

That leads to whether there are practices that are really unfair. I would like to think that all our promotions are merit-based and have to meet the merit test and that we have not put something in place that works to the advantage of some and disadvantage of others. We will go on from the first set.

The Chair: When you are looking at those figures, Ms. Barrados, would you also provide us with how many assistant deputy ministers there are in those four categories and how many director generals there are in those four categories, please?

Ms. Barrados: We can try to do that. We run into a small number of problems, but we will break it down as much as we can. In the case of visible minorities, we know we do not have enough. The numbers are very small in those groups.

Your second question was why there are so few deputy ministers. I am not responsible for appointing DMs. I have suggested that the Public Service Commission or the Public Appointments Commission should have more scrutiny of this, but that is not the case. We can certainly get you the numbers. I can tell you without giving you the exact numbers that they are small.

Senator Oliver: Are there any deputy ministers in Canada today who are disabled, Aboriginal or from a visible minority?

Ms. Barrados: I personally know of two who are Aboriginal and two who are from visible minorities.

Senator Oliver: I am asking about deputy ministers, not ADMs.

Ms. Barrados: I am talking about deputies and associates.

Senator Oliver: Deputies.

Ms. Barrados: In the system there is a classification of four levels of deputy minister. Level 1 is an associate deputy. They are the ones who are positioned to become deputies, which are levels 2 and 3. Level 4 are some of the very senior ones like the deputy minister of finance.

Of the deputies level 2 and above, I know of one Aboriginal and one visible minority.

The Chair: Of how many?

Ms. Barrados: There are a total of 76 deputies, which includes deputies and associates. Those are roughly the numbers.

As to what policies and practices the commission has undertaken to improve the promotion of visible minorities, we have actually done a lot. Ms. Green, who will be retiring soon, has been leading much of this. Perhaps she could go through some of those.

Senator Oliver: I hope we get the answer before she retires.

Ms. Barrados: We have put out a lot of guides and done a lot of workshops. We have taken some very firm positions.

Ms. Green: I will talk briefly about how the approach to employment equity has changed. When I started in this field about 10 years ago, we had a lot of special measures and special programs with extra funding. You will see from our paper on employment equity that there has been impact on the four groups, but these programs are short-term. They have fulfilled a need. We wanted to get that into the mainstream of hiring, into the regular staffing system.

We have accomplished that through the Public Service Employment Act and the Employment Equity Act. As Ms. Barrados explained, we can now use the legislative means of restricting areas of selection, targeting a process for visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples or persons with disabilities.

We can also use the so-called merit criteria as asset qualifications or as organizational need. All of that is tied to the employment equity plans of departments, which is a mandatory requirement for all departments and agencies under the Employment Equity Act and also part of human resources planning. We have seen some success with the public service renewal efforts where some benchmarks were set by the clerk in the past.

In terms of what specifically the PSC has done, we have looked at what the community needs. We find that in explaining merit and representativeness we have to do something practical with each level of management. We have published a practical guidance tool that lays out what types of questions should be asked and what considerations should given by deputy heads all the way down to ADMS and hiring managers on the representativeness of their department. It also deals with how they can retain the equity groups once they are attracted to work for the department.

We have had good feedback from departments on the tools used. For example, we have just completed a literature review on persons with disabilities. We found that the outreach to this community is a bit different. We might have to target the groups starting from the community college or the university level. Some departments that we are partnering with are beginning to do that, providing specific employment services for persons with disabilities. We will probably be able to report on this in next year's annual report.

Ms. Barrados: Your last question, Senator Oliver, was in terms of systemic problems. We do have a system whereby individuals who feel they have not been given a fair chance and have not been fairly treated through promotion or staffing process can complain, and they should complain if they feel that they have not been given a fair chance. There are a number of mechanisms available to them.

The public service has just completed an employee survey, and the response rate of that survey is very good. It is sitting there, I believe, at around 70 per cent, if I remember correctly. That should give us a very good read on how many people we are dealing with who feel they are really badly treated.

I know that, in our staffing surveys, I have about 25 per cent of employees who feel they are not fairly treated. This concerns me. It is a pretty high number. We have been looking at what makes up that 25 per cent. People who tend not to win a competition feel they have been badly treated. Is it only because they did not win or because they feel the whole process was not fair? It is a concern for me.

There are other things, though, that we are finding. If a process takes a long time, people feel they are not well treated. That is a different issue. People are not as comfortable with collective processes, which we are doing more and more. Much of this has to do with information and making better use of the kinds of tools that we have available that allow more of a communication to people so they know where they are in the process and they know how that is working. We are hoping that we can get that fully automated and used. That process has started and is under way. This is one to watch, I think, with the results of the survey.

Senator Oliver: What was the name of that survey? What was it called? A survey to do what?

Ms. Barrados: It is a public service employee survey. It is run by Statistics Canada, and it is employee engagement. That is exactly what you are talking about. There is strong literature that if you are a satisfied and more engaged employee, you will be a more productive employee. That is what the point of that survey was.

Senator Oliver: Could I ask for one other set of statistics? Could you tell me the total number of employees in the Public Service Commission itself, and what is the breakdown of the four target groups, the number of women, the number of visible minorities, the number of disabled and Aboriginal, and the number in the executive ranks of the Public Service Commission?

Ms. Barrados: We have about 968. Our representivity is good. We will send you all the details. I will beat you to it, Senator Oliver. We do not have a visible minority member of our commission.

Senator Oliver: Oh, my goodness.

Senator Martin: I just wanted to add to the record and ask you whether you have in any way worked with non- profits to access and communicate with the physically disabled community. For instance, the Neil Squire Society is B.C.-based, but they are a national, not-for-profit organization that specifically works with people with physical disabilities and to assist with employment and training. They do R & D. They are a fabulous organization. You said you need to increase that pool. Perhaps not for profits like a Neil Squire Society would be excellent.

Ms. Barrados: Thank you for that.

Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for your presentation. I am relatively new to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. I was appointed last year. Just going back to the report that the committee had last year, in June of 2010, they indicated that visible minorities were under-represented. Your report of October 25 indicates that people with disabilities are lagging. What changed in this just over a year? Were more visible minorities hired for you to come to this conclusion? I do not know if you will have the answer for this, but what percentage of visible minorities hired are women?

Ms. Barrados: On the representivity number, there are two sets of numbers and they cause confusion. There is the number that says, of the public service today, how many people in that public service are visible minorities. That number is running at 9.3 or 9.8 per cent. That is a snapshot of today, if you ask people in the public service to put their hand up, how many are visible minorities. The numbers I have are the rate at which they are coming in. I know that, with the high rate they have been coming in for the last five years, there is something wrong with that number not changing. I have a number problem.

We did a piece of work looking at departments. We took about seven departments, and we took the two numbers. We took the number that came in and the number you say is in your population, and I tried to match them. Some were very good. The flow-in and their actual population number were very close.

The Department of Justice was one that was very close. We asked them: How did you manage to get this very close? It is because of the sources of the numbers and what the Department of Justice did. The source of my number is for all the advertisements we have in the public service. We ask people, when they apply, if they are a member of a designated group. You are forced to deal with the screen. You can say you are not, but you are forced to deal with the screen. The population count in terms of what does the public service look like is a survey that is given to employees as they come into the public service. No one tracks it down. It is just sort of another piece of paper to fill. You get paid, you get your computer, you get everything and, if you do not fill it in, no one will come after you. The Department of Justice goes after people and asks them to fill it in, so their numbers are pretty good.

One of the organizations that did not have a good number, to my shock, was the Public Service Commission. I wanted to know the reason it did not have a good number. I called the people responsible for this and said, "What is going on?" They said, "We cannot make people fill this in." They would just drop it and, if people did not fill it in, it would not get counted as a number.

We have a number problem. I have good inflows, and that population is not changing. It does not make sense. That number must go up. We have not done a good job in providing you a better number. We went through quite a bit to get agreement on everyone's part that my inflow number could be used as a population number. For everyone who applies, when they get into the public service, I know I have what they are designated, and we put all the template information on so people know how it will be used, and it can now be used. However, we still have not righted the number. There is an issue on the number, and that is where the confusion is. I think that number is unrepresentative. I just do not think it is a good enough number.

On the hiring of visible minorities, if my recall is correct — and we will send you the number — there are more women than men, with 54 per cent of these appointments being women and 45.3 per cent men.

The Chair: If I misquote you, please correct me. If I remember last time you were before us, you made a statement that people tend to hire people like themselves. I know for a fact that you are working hard to change that. What are you doing to change the tendency of managers to hire people that are representative of Canada?

Ms. Barrados: It is one of the reasons I worry and harp on about not using the pool of people you know, like your contractors or your casuals, to come into the public service. That is not the way you recruit. I am continually on about that. The other thing is that I really want to see advertised processes as opposed to non-advertised processes, because advertised processes is what opens it up and gives everyone a chance to apply.

We are pretty demanding in terms of how we expect people to apply the merit test. We have audits. We audit the departments, and we actually do draw statistical samples to see how people are doing. We look to see whether merit was met, whether merit was not demonstrated and whether merit was not met.

We are seeing improvement. Again, I am gratified that the system is moving the way it should. However, I am running, on average, at about 38 per cent "merit not demonstrated." That is a very high number. What does this "not demonstrated" number mean? A good chunk of it means mere sloppiness, that people are not very good at doing the job. It could also mean that someone is not going to tell us what they actually did. We are pushing hard on that.

My auditors also look to see if they have a sense that there really was not a respect for the values. Were people really disregarding fairness? Were they not sensitive to representivity? Where the auditor senses there is an issue, we send it to investigations, which is a quasi administrative tribunal type of approach, with all due regard to procedural fairness. We do this for sure for "merit not demonstrated." We can order corrections, which means we can redo a process. We can restart a process, and we can take someone out of a job. We do that as well. We are putting a lot of pressure on the system to do it correctly.

The Chair: The new way you are trying to count is by the inflow, the recruitment. I have had a number of people call me and say that that is good, but that it does not take into account, as you have said many times today, the unadvertised and casual jobs. It may look good that the recruitment rates are high, but it is not the whole picture because of casual and unadvertised jobs.

Someone approached me and said that what they found really difficult is when a recruitment process starts and then, without any notice and for whatever reason, is cancelled. They have their reasons — I do not want to state them publicly — as to why, suddenly, the process gets cancelled. I just share that unfairness that is being perceived.

This person said to me that when a person needs to be hired a position is identified, there is a budgeting of the position, and then there is the first screening. If the person meets the criteria, they look at all their qualifications, including their language skills. Then there is another screening. There may be an exam, an interview, or a writing sample. Then there is another subjective interview. Then the candidates are put in a pool for the manager to decide. The perception of unfairness is that it used to be — correct me if I am wrong — that the person who had achieved the highest marks in this pool was the first to be hired. I understand that the rules have changed now, so that any person in that pool can be hired. The manager has the ability to say that the eighth person in that pool, say, fits better into his work area than the person who has achieved the highest marks.

I would like you to comment on the way the selection from the pool happens. I have heard from a number of people who feel that it is really unfair when you achieve the highest marks but are not the first to get the job.

Ms. Barrados: One of the issues that we have is that there are many more people who want public service jobs than there are jobs. We do have an issue of managing volume, and we have that additional obligation to be very fair in how we do it.

As for unadvertised positions, there are about 28 per cent of positions for external recruitment that are unadvertised. When we do our audits, we ask for justifications as to why the positions were unadvertised. In some cases, unadvertised is quite acceptable. In other cases, it is not. We are pushing very hard to make sure that it is acceptable use. Acceptable use is, for example, that you have run a process to look for a particular kind of specialist and have not succeeded, and then you find someone. There is no point in running another process.

As for a process being cancelled, and the suspicion some people may have that this may not be justified, it could be perfectly justified. You could have no budget. Even if someone won the competition, you would have no job for them. Why you cancelled it would be very justified. You could also have made a mistake in the job poster. You could look again and find that poster with some change on it. We would be pretty adamant that you cannot change the requirements during the process. You have to change the requirements by starting over again. That could happen.

If, however, people feel that there is an element of unfairness in any of these external processes, they can complain to us. We will look at it and see if there is a basis for the complaint. We can certainly investigate these things.

It is true that when we did public service modernization, we went from a merit test that took the best in rank ordering to a merit test meeting the essential requirements of the job and other asset requirements. You give the flexibility to the managers. If you have something generic, like an AS, a CR or a PM, where there are large volumes, you can use those asset requirements to get what you may want. You may want to have someone who might have some experience in, say, a regulatory function, particular kinds of word processing or some other specific kind of experience. If someone feels that this is unfair and is to get a specific individual who is a friend, or something like that, there are grounds for complaints. They should make them. I encourage people to complain. We would follow through and look at them. As I say, we have very good jobs and an interesting place to work, so we have a lot more people wanting those jobs than we can provide for.

The Chair: You do have very good jobs, but the thing that preoccupies me is that the rates of visible minorities are so low in the Public Service Commission compared to in the private sector. I know you were trying to find out why that continues, but that also perplexes us.

Senator Andreychuk: Just a broad question. Maybe you and I have been at this table too long. When I first heard your reports here, you said that people were looking for an acceptable environment to work in, one that nurtured them as well as gave them a paycheque. Security was a factor in coming to the public service. However, they also wanted somewhere where they could be creative and use their skills.

Shortly thereafter, I think you came and said that the jobs had competition in the private sector, which had not been the case for some time before. I have lost track of the years that you and I have sat here. Now, there seems to be a certain insecurity in the country, and the security of the jobs in the Public Service Commission, as opposed to in a corporation is still attractive, even when you are downsizing. Some of the options, in other words, have dried up.

What is the feedback as to why people want to go into the Public Service Commission today, as opposed to into all of the other opportunities in a globalized world? People can set up businesses from their office; they can go anywhere. We have law firms that have branch offices around the world. These things were not heard of 20 years ago. What is the compelling reason people give you for coming into the Public Service Commission and into the departments?

Ms. Barrados: The main reason why we get people coming is two-fold. Some come for a specific job. It is a specific opportunity to work on pensions or on some technical area. Search and rescue is a suggestion. Some people want to be an ambassador. Some people want to be in the military. There are such elements because some people have always wanted to have a certain kind of career. The largest inflow of people is those who want to work in the public sector in the public interest. This is the kind of response we get from post-secondary students in our recruitment. They have looked at different options and are interested in the public sector and working for the public interest and the public good. There are other levels, and I am not sure whether it is the public service, looking for a job, whether in labour or a non-professional jobs. Professional jobs are very much public interest jobs; the others are mixed.

Senator Andreychuk: In the four target areas that we are concerned about in our reports, do post-secondary education institutions meet with you? When people apply, is there a seamless process whereby universities talk to target groups and encourage them to go into the Federal Public Service? Is that conduit of applicants working well?

Ms. Barrados: My sense by the number of applicants is that it is working well. Frankly, my biggest problem in dealing with the universities is that last year we hired about 1,200 post-secondary recruits through the post-secondary recruitment program, which is a big number when considered in isolation. However, you look at the number of people at the universities who are interested. There are many very bright, talented people who all want jobs, but they cannot all get them.

The proportion of applications we have from visible minorities is very high. They are good quality candidates. We have that kind of interest. I understand, from a lot of post-secondary institutions, and Senator Oliver would know these numbers better than I do, that it is a changing face in terms of their population. There is a group of visible minority young people who are committed to higher education and going to higher education institutions.

Senator Martin: You spoke about post-secondary institutions. How much is the ability to speak French a realistic barrier for any of these target groups, for example visible minorities, in certain parts of the country? In order to advance to the highest levels in the public service one must be bilingual. In B.C., being bilingual could mean speaking English and a language other than French. For example, I am bilingual in that I speak English and Korean. As well, seven heritage languages are approved by the Ministry of Education in B.C. Is that one of the obvious barriers? Parents must be willing to put children in French immersion school at a young age but in my case, my daughter refused. When I am in Ottawa and people ask me if I am bilingual, I say, no. When I am in B.C., I say, yes. Is that a real barrier for certain people? For some capable, qualified individuals in certain parts of Canada, bilingualism would be a real barrier to being able to have access to jobs in the public sector that are mid- to high-level positions.

Ms. Barrados: By our statutes we are a bilingual country of French and English. We have statutory requirements followed through by policy that service to the public be provided in both languages and that supervision be available in both languages. The public service recruitment rate of people who enter the public service is about 70 per cent unilingual. Without a doubt, they aspire to a higher level job in the executive ranks with the expectation that they would learn French.

The public service provides a lot of opportunity for people to take language training and be exposed to the other language. My mother tongue is neither English nor French. I took some French in school, as my other colleagues in Saskatchewan did. I really learned it in the public service.

Senator Martin: In your experience, there are enough opportunities to acquire French language skills so you would not necessarily deem it a barrier. Some of the most capable individuals that I know are, in some respects, linguistically challenged. No matter how much they try, it is difficult for them to acquire English as a second language, or the other official language, French. I have a great deal of respect for the duality of languages that is Canada, but I speak to what I have seen in the school system. I was a public school educator. I taught FSL, and I am not fluent. I am learning, but it is a huge challenge for me as an adult. How much of the language requirement continues to be a barrier for highly skilled individuals but for that one quality and subsequently who are unable to serve Canada in the public service? It is what we have. It is good to know that 70 per cent of people coming in are unilingual, so we know that those opportunities are there.

Ms. Barrados: I would add two things. We give medical exemptions for someone who has a medical reason for not being able to learn the other language. Exemptions are given by the Public Service Commission. We then have to charge the departments to ensure that there is appropriate compensation for that.

As I mentioned earlier, we looked at promotion and whether the requirement to be bilingual was a greater barrier to visible minorities; and it proved not to be a barrier. In fact, it showed that visible minorities were promoted a bit faster than non-visible minorities.

Senator Oliver: I want to ensure that I got the right number when you talked about merit not demonstrated. I heard you use a figure of 38 per cent.

Ms. Barrados: I did.

Senator Oliver: If you had said 8 per cent, I would have said that it is not too good, but we are getting there. However, 38 per cent is extremely high. I would like to know whether discrimination is part of the root of 38 per cent merit not demonstrated.

Ms. Barrados: That has been one of my questions to my auditors when we go through the numbers. The good thing is that it is getting better on the merit demonstrated. We are doing better than we were. I believe we were at 56 per cent, or something like that. It is improving. With regard to merit not demonstrated, one of their challenges is to do more work on what this actually is. We know our systems are not good and that we have had a lot of turnover. However, as I suggested and you are suggesting, Senator Oliver, it could be a mask for things that are highly inappropriate. This is an area where we have to do some more work.

Senator Oliver: You have told us that you take this to investigation and that you can order corrections and so on. I would like to know what your data shows when you take this 38 per cent of merit not demonstrated to investigation. What has your investigation shown with respect to discrimination as the allegation?

Ms. Barrados: They would not conclude on discrimination. They would conclude on error, omission, or improper conduct in applying the merit test. The facts of the case would explain what type of improper conduct occurred.

Senator Oliver: When you have sent in your investigators, a form of tribunal, you have not found evidence that discrimination was part of the 38 per cent of merit not demonstrated. Was discrimination not a factor?

Ms. Barrados: We have evidence that we have a mixture of errors, omissions and improper conduct.

Senator Oliver: Could the improper conduct be discrimination?

Ms. Barrados: It is possible. I will have them review. No case comes to mind that could be characterized that way. We will look to see if there is.

The Chair: The last time you were before us we talked about drop-off rates, and we have not touched on that much today. What efforts have been made by the Public Service Commission and the Government of Canada to address the drop-off rate for members of visible minorities who have been eliminated from job competitions between the time that they apply for the externally advertised job and the time that someone is hired to fill the job?

Ms. Barrados: We have two sets of numbers. The first set said that there was a very high drop-off rate, and that is because we were looking at applications. We do know that members of visible minority groups apply in greater numbers and more frequently. We then looked at appointments and found a drop-off rate of 2 or 3 per cent. We do not have a more recent number than that.

Ms. Green: We can do a subtraction from the applicant rates versus the appointment rates. In 2010-11 the applicant rate of visible minorities was 22.8 per cent, and they were appointed at the rate of 18.6 per cent, so there is a slight drop-off of 4.2 per cent.

The Chair: That is much better than the last time.

Ms. Barrados: Yes.

The Chair: You have undertaken to provide us with the current statistics for the four designated groups within the federal public service on advancement rates to the executive level and on retention rates. You have already told us about attrition in the drop-off rate.

My last question is on statistics. I am very concerned that we are still looking at 2006. The world and Canada have changed a lot since 2006, and it really bothers me. You may not be able to answer these questions today, but what statistics does the Public Service Commission have available currently regarding workforce availability for the four designated groups? Is that still 2006 figures?

Ms. Barrados: Yes. We rely on the Statistics Canada/HRSDC calculations, and we have nothing more recent.

The Chair: Will the most recent census provide accurate information with which the public service will be able to develop new workforce availability statistics?

Ms. Barrados: It should, but there is quite a lag in us getting that number.

The Chair: How long is the lag?

Ms. Barrados: It is two to three years.

The Chair: There is no other way to do it; you just have to wait for those statistics?

Ms. Barrados: I think so.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Barrados. You have always been very accommodating to all our requests. We always feel that we are all working toward the same goals. We hope that your time will be extended so that we can have yet another meeting with you.

Senators, I spoke to Ms. Barrados earlier. I did not feel it was appropriate to get her to respond to all of our questions on the report, so I have given her a whole set of questions. We hope to be able to have her come back and answer our questions on our report. I will circulate the questions that I gave her.

Thank you very much, Ms. Barrados, Ms. Laurendeau and Ms. Green, for coming here. We appreciate your attendance on very short notice.

(The committee continued in camera.)