Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Human Rights

Issue 8 - Evidence - February 13, 2012


OTTAWA, Monday, February 13, 2012

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 5 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.

[Translation]

The Chair: Honourable senators, I now call to order the ninth meeting of the Forty-first Parliament of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights.

This committee has been mandated by the Senate to conduct reviews of issues related to human rights, both in Canada and abroad.

My name is Mobina Jaffer and I welcome you to this meeting.

[English]

The Chair: Before I continue, I would like my colleagues to introduce themselves to the panel.

[Translation]

Senator Brazeau: I am Senator Patrick Brazeau from Quebec.

[English]

Senator Ataullahjan: I am Senator Ataullahjan from Toronto, Ontario.

Senator Meredith: I am Senator Don Meredith from Ontario.

Senator Martin: Senator Yonah Martin from Vancouver, B.C.

Senator Oliver: Don Oliver from Nova Scotia.

Senator Hubley: I am Senator Elizabeth Hubley from Prince Edward Island.

[Translation]

The Chair: Honourable senators, today we are reconvening to study the hiring and promotion practices in the federal public service.

[English]

The committee has been authorized to examine issues of discrimination in the hiring and promotion practices of the federal public service. We have been studying the extent to which the goals of the Employment Equity Act have been fulfilled within the public service.

The purpose of the act is to ensure federally regulated employers provide equal opportunities for employment to four designated groups: Aboriginal people, women, 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.

The act also identifies the three key agencies that have responsibilities for its implementation: the Treasury Board of Canada, the Public Service Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The Treasury Board and the Public Service Commission perform the obligations of the federal government as the employer under the act, each operating further to their other responsibilities under the Financial Administration Act and the Public Service Employment Act respectively.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is responsible for ensuring compliance with the act, such as through conducting audits to determine whether employers subject to the act meet the statutory requirements and by imposing corrective measures if required.

In her 1984 report on equality in employment for the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, Justice Rosalie Abella wrote: "Equality in employment will not happen unless we make it happen."

While the word "we" implies that employment equity is a shared responsibility among all of us, it is these three key agencies that we look to for leadership in making employment equity a reality in the federal public service.

[Translation]

In the past, the standing committee has tabled reports on these issues. In 2004, the committee 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 Federal 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 Federal Public Service.

[English]

The committee's major concern is that employment equity in the federal public service is not 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 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.

Before I call on the panel today, I want to recognize the work that Maria Barrados of the Public Service Commission did for many years. She was a very welcome witness to our committee and helped us with these issues. I know Ms. Robinson will have big shoes to replace Ms. Barrados, but I wanted to take the time to acknowledge the work she has done for the Public Service Commission, for Canadians, and with our committee.

From our first panel, I would like to welcome, from the Treasury Board Secretariat, Daphne Meredith, Chief Human Resources Officer; and Angela Henry, Director, Workplace, Policies and Programs.

I understand you have introductory remarks for us, and then we will have some questions of you.

[Translation]

Daphne Meredith, Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat: It is an honour to appear before this committee to speak about employment equity, a subject I know you have studied at considerable length over the last seven years. I am aware committee members continue to have concerns about the government's employment equity goals. I want to devote my time today to addressing them.

[English]

The committee recently expressed regret that employment equity in the public service remains unrealized for the four groups at which the Employment Equity Act is aimed: women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities.

Let me describe how I see this issue, as the Chief Human Resources Officer.

I want to refer to the latest report on employment equity in the public service, tabled last Friday by the President of the Treasury Board.

The report underlined that respect for human dignity, valuing every person, and treating everyone with fairness is fundamental to the public service and to the values that support the way the government recruits, promotes and evaluates its employees. Our values require us to make appointments based on merit, to open public service employment to all qualified Canadians, and to make efforts to ensure that processes are free of systemic barriers.

The Clerk of the Privy Council continues to communicate the need for all levels of the public service to reflect the diversity of the Canadian population.

[Translation]

In his agenda to renew the public service, the clerk has stressed the importance of departmental integrated business and human resources plans, which include concrete strategies to address representation and development of employment equity groups.

His agenda also requires deputy heads to provide managers with a set of best practices and practical approaches to improve diversity.

[English]

I would now like to discuss specific numbers from our latest report on employment equity.

In fiscal year 2010-11, three of the four employment equity designated groups continued to be well represented relative to their availability in Canada's workforce. Those groups were women, Aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities. Representation of employees in a visible minority group increased to 11.3 per cent. However, visible minorities remained under-represented relative to their workforce availability.

As of March 31, 2010, women comprised 54.8 per cent of the core public administration. This was the same rate as last year. The representation of women was above the general workforce availability of 52.3 per cent.

Aboriginal peoples made up 4.7 per cent of the core public administration, a marginal increase from the previous year at 4.6 per cent. Again, this level was above the workforce availability of 3 per cent.

The representation of persons with disabilities in the public service was at 5.6 per cent, a slight decrease from the previous year at 5.7 per cent. Nevertheless, this figure was still above the workforce availability of 4 per cent for this group.

Between 1996 and 2010-11, members of visible minorities experienced the largest growth in public service representation of the four designated groups. During that period, their representation has more than doubled; and yet, the representation of employees in a visible minority group remained below their workforce availability of 12.4 per cent.

[Translation]

Clearly, this reflects the need for more work on this front. The Human Resources Horizontal Review of 2009 and the shift to a more streamlined governance of human resources management have led the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer to rethink how best to provide services to the human resources community.

In 2009-10, the Interdepartmental Network on Employment Equity was created. The network was based on a new model of shared departmental responsibilities, rather than a centralized top-down approach. Members themselves are responsible for setting the agenda, as well as coordinating network meetings and activities. They share information and ideas on the most effective ways to achieve employment equity objectives.

[English]

For example, the working group on self-identification continues to work on identifying and sharing best approaches on self-identification. This new way of doing business will lead to the development of a more relevant agenda. It will be driven by an active and engaged community.

The Interdepartmental Network on Employment Equity is a great example of organizations using collective knowledge and resources to work differently and share the responsibility of finding better solutions for common issues. The working group on self-identification is an example of successful collaboration driven by an engaged community of practitioners.

Another effort is the work of the new Employment Equity Champions and Chairs Committees. They represent a governance model that presents many advantages in support of meeting public service employment equity objectives. They allow for better networking and sharing of best practices among departments; offer a common approach for all four groups; and allow better and more direct access for employees to employment equity, deputy minister champions and departmental management who are in a position to act on the recommendations.

The Public Service Modernization Act and the recent shift toward more streamlined central agency roles have transferred more responsibility to deputy heads and given them more flexibility in managing their organizations and tailoring them to their business needs and environment.

[Translation]

It is true that in order to achieve our goal of a diverse public service, one truly reflective of Canadian society, more effort will be needed in recruitment over the next few years.

And yet, there are examples across government that show departmental plans and strategies have recognized the need to increase representation for the designated groups.

There is a real opportunity today to work differently and more collaboratively on issues of employment equity.

[English]

The Chair: Thank you very much. Ms. Henry, do you want to make any remarks?

Angela Henry, Director, Workplace, Policies and Programs, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat: No, thank you.

The Chair: One clarification before I go to the questions. For the figures you have given us, you are relying on 2006 statistics; am I correct on that?

Ms. Meredith: The 2006 Census in terms of workforce availability. I mentioned for example the 12.4 per cent for visible minorities, the 4 per cent for people with disabilities and the 3 per cent for Aboriginal peoples, yes.

The Chair: We have had a recent census, but I know it takes a while to compile the results. When do you expect the new census results to come so you can work with the new figures? My concern is that six years have passed, and we know many things in Canada have changed. Certainly, with the visible minorities that figure is very low, and presently we are not meeting the 2006 workforce availability data.

Ms. Meredith: Yes, and that is a very valid question. We know that the census results are in now, and it is up to Statistics Canada to determine when we will have data from which we can get workforce availability numbers. I am afraid we would have to address that question to Statistics Canada.

The Chair: Ms. Meredith, before you came, I am sure you read Ms. Barrados's remarks from the last time she was here. She stated she was not confident about the reliability of the numbers representing numbers of the visible minorities currently working in the government. She believed that the numbers were inaccurate and indicated that there were problems in tracking employee statistics after they were hired.

She also informed the committee:

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.

When you address questions from us, I would like to point out that Ms. Barrados left us with the impression that the data collected is not very accurate, so we have a concern with that.

I have many other questions to ask, but I will go on to Senator Ataullahjan.

Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you, chair. With the recently publicized downsizing in the public service, what will we do to ensure that representation targets are met and we do not lose a large proportion of individuals from the four target groups?

Ms. Meredith: Thank you for the question. Even in the event of downsizing of the public service, departments are still accountable for meeting the objectives in their employment equity plans, so we expect that to the extent that they are looking at their workforces into the future, they will look not only at the numbers overall of the people they will be employing, but also representation among the four equity groups. That is a design of the Employment Equity Act. Departments will be attentive to that and will be attentive to how reduction in the workforce will affect their numbers.

Senator Ataullahjan: Are there any strategies in place to recruit individuals from the four target groups?

Ms. Meredith: I think all departments have recruitment strategies of their own, and they have, of course, objectives relative to their employment equity plans, so even in a world of downsizing, they will be interested in achieving their objectives, then as now.

Senator Oliver: I have questions that are designed to request the protection of documentation because I do not understand everything that you said.

On page 2 you said the clerk has stressed the importance of departmental integrative business plans and human resource plans, which include concrete strategies to address representation. Could you produce some of these concrete strategies so that we can review and study them and collate them to others?

Second, you say this agenda requires deputy heads to provide managers with best practices. Could I also have you produce some of these best practices so we could see and understand what specifically is being done and not being done?

Later on you said that in 2009-10, the Interdepartmental Network on Employment Equity was created. Could you give us some information and tell us what that creation is? Could we see the constitution and the structure? Could we know the mandate, the personnel involved in it and how often they meet? Could we see the budget and minutes of their meetings so we can understand what, if anything, it does?

The final thing is this committee did extensive work on these matters, and they did a report in June 2010, less than two years ago. In it there was a whole series of recommendations that touch on many of the things that you touched on today. However, nowhere today did I hear you comment on what was done about the various recommendations of this committee on the salient points.

Could you, therefore, take the report of the Senate Committee on Human Rights and give us a report on what has been done to implement many of the suggestions that this committee made in the report of 2010? Thank you.

Ms. Meredith: Thank you, senator. I think your questions relate to providing documentation following the meeting. We will commit to providing that documentation.

Senator Oliver: If the committee, on receipt of your documentation, had a follow-up, could the committee clerk and the chair send you further letters requesting follow-up information if that was not sufficient?

Ms. Meredith: Yes. I should expand a little bit on some of the things that you have asked for. Certainly, there is a question of the response to the Senate committee's report and what has been done in relation to the recommendations that you directed toward the Treasury Board Secretariat. We will be most happy to follow up on that.

There is a terms of reference of the interdepartmental network and the meetings held. That is, obviously, something that we have been involved in convening, and we are happy to follow up on that.

Senator Oliver: Are you the chair of that?

Ms. Meredith: I am not the chair of that. That is held at the director and director-general level, so Ms. Henry would be more involved in the workings of that committee, not me personally.

You referred to departmental plans. Departmental plans, I do not believe, come to my organization when they are created. I think it was the clerk who asked for those plans. I would just mention that there is a delicacy around that, to see how those would be made available. I can certainly acknowledge your interest and look to the appropriate means for you to get that information.

Senator Hubley: Welcome, and thank you for your presentation.

I have a question on the term "visible minorities." At what point in time does a visible minority become a visible majority?

While you are thinking about that, I will tell you why I was asking it. We may be grouping a large portion of the population under "visible minority," where, in fact, we maybe should be targeting some specific communities, whether it be the Italian community or the Chinese community, where we know in certain areas there are large populations of those nationalities.

I guess the questions that I would be looking for you to answer would be what can be done to increase the representation from visible minorities in the federal public service? What will bring them in? I am also interested in knowing who gets into that description of "visible minority," and should they be there?

Ms. Meredith: The definition is in the Employment Equity Act, and perhaps Ms. Henry could expand on that.

Ms. Henry: The definition has a legislative history and a history, I believe, going back to Justice Abella's report. That report identified certain groups that were disadvantaged in employment in the Canadian federally regulated workforce, so that the term "visible minority" made its way into the legislation as a result of that.

We do not have any evidence of under-representation or disadvantage of them in employment with respect to the groups that you mentioned. We have a legislative definition, and people self-identify according to that. The census uses the same definition, I believe, and that is why we compare their representation in the internal workforce to the Canadian labour force externally.

Senator Hubley: If you were English — and all of what that entails — or French, you would be within the majority group. Would that be correct?

Ms. Henry: I believe, at the time the act was drafted and that Justice Abella did her report, that was the case, yes. It has to do with whether those groups represented inside the public service are proportionate to their representation in the Canadian workforce. I think, if you look at the proportion of people who self-identify, those groups are still less represented than the other groups that you mentioned.

Senator Hubley: Are there any initiatives, then, to increase the representation of any of those groups within the public service?

Ms. Henry: I think that would involve an amendment to the legislation, because we really would not ask people about their ethnic origin, except under the authority of the Employment Equity Act. We would probably have to ask for an amendment to the legislation.

Senator Meredith: Thank you for your presentation, Ms. Meredith.

Following up on what Senator Oliver has requested already, one of the questions that I had for you, and I think Senator Hubley touched on it as well, with respect to the report that was done in 2010, highlighting a recommendation that the government ought to take a system-wide approach to individuals who were being hired in the public service to self-identify, or identify these individuals. Can you elaborate as to what has been done on that front?

Ms. Meredith: Departments ask their employees to self-identify on an annual basis. They do so, in part, because they are developing their employment equity plans and they want to know where they are in relation to those plans.

Any self-identification is voluntary, and confidential, of course. The question is how to encourage, as we very much want to, individuals to self-identify. There is a question as to whether we are getting all appropriate self-identification. There are different, perhaps, practices that we learn from some of our colleagues in different departments as to how they get people to respond to the invitation to self-identify. That is discussed among departments in an active way through this working group on self-identification.

For example, I came out of a meeting just this afternoon where we were looking at representation among assistant deputy ministers. Some of the leaders of organizations were saying we have a problem, we think, with self- identification, because we perceive that we are probably not getting the numbers that we think we should. There is great interest in how to encourage the voluntary self-identification of individuals against the three groups: Aboriginal peoples, visible minorities and people with disabilities.

We have had various conversations with the Public Service Commission as well, who ask for self-declarations, of course, with people coming into the public service, and there is a question of whether you are getting the same kind of identification at that stage as you would once individuals are already employees and launched into their careers.

Senator Meredith: Thank you, Ms. Meredith.

The Chair: Senator Meredith, do you mind if I ask a supplementary?

Senator Meredith: Not at all.

The Chair: Ms. Meredith, because there are people watching us, I want to clarify. "Self-declaration," if I understand clearly, is that when a person applies for a job, they do a self-declaration. "Self-identification" is once a person has a job and over the years they self-identify. Am I correct in that?

Ms. Meredith: Self-identification is, yes, with existing employees; people already employed within the public service.

The Chair: Since 2004, the committee has been looking towards you, the Public Service Commission and the Treasury Board, to create a climate where people feel comfortable to self-identify. We have had many people say they stopped self-identifying for many reasons. I would like to hear from you what you are doing to create a culture where people do not feel threatened and will feel comfortable to self-identify.

Ms. Meredith: We certainly have to emphasize the voluntariness of the self-identification and, of course, the confidentiality of the self-identification. That is critical to allowing people to feel comfortable. That is what every organization tries to do. I know in my organizations — and it is reported through the interdepartmental group that this is how they do this — this involves a discussion at the highest executive levels of the department as to how to encourage employees, without being intrusive with particular employees. This is voluntary. Clearly, we do not want to pinpoint anyone in asking them to self-identify. It is creating the right climate.

Perhaps, Ms. Henry, do you have any observations from the working group activity?

Ms. Henry: It really is a major communications exercise to tell people why they are being asked to self-identify and to reassure them of the confidentiality. I know that a couple of departments, the Department of Justice being one of them, did not feel that their return or response rate was sufficient, and they had a major communications exercise at all levels in all regions and really improved their self-identification rate so that it was better. However, remember that the Employment Equity Act prevents an employer from approaching a particular employee and saying, "I think you should self-identify in one of these employment equity groups."

Therefore, it is difficult to target people you think should be self-identifying without violating the act. As I see it from departments that have done a good job increasing their response rates, they have had a good communications strategy where they have made clear to the employees why they are doing it, that it will be held in confidence, and that they are helping the organization and the climate of the workplace in general.

Ms. Meredith: If I could expand on that, we do have executives who are members of those groups. They are almost the best people to persuade employees that it is a good thing to do, that it actually leads to proper assessment of the workplace and its representativeness and that it can only lead to good things. Therefore, deploying executives who have the corporate interest at heart and who can be good, compelling marketers, let us say, of self-identification is certainly something we try to do.

We have communities that we can mobilize in that respect. I met just last week with a self-started community of visible minority executives who were very interested in talking to me about how they could help colleagues in the government deal with downsizing and its issues. We do have a group of enthusiastic members of the three groups who can participate in encouraging. I think that is also a good strategy.

Senator Oliver: At the EX level?

Ms. Meredith: Yes.

The Chair: Ms. Henry, I am glad you mentioned the Department of Justice because if you were following the hearings last time, after they heard from a former member working in the Department of Justice, they did a lot of soul searching. We commended them in our report because they made great improvements after meeting with our committee.

However, where I am still lost — and I appreciate Senator Meredith allowing me to do supplementaries — you have not given me an example of how you are creating a climate where people feel they can self-identify. You have talked in general, but are there any specific programs? Are you doing anything specific to enable people to feel comfortable self- identifying?

Ms. Henry: Employment equity is implemented at the departmental level, so while we provide the guidance and general policy advice to departments, the departments themselves are the ones that implement things like self-identification surveys, et cetera.

What we can do is present departments with best practices, and I could canvass best practices among departments in this regard. However, to point to a general communication, apart from the fact that the message is regularly conveyed to her colleagues by the Chief Human Resources Officer or by the clerk, I would not be able to provide examples right now.

Senator Meredith: Thank you, Ms. Henry. You talked about communication. My next question would have been around the education tied to encouraging it. This goes back to our chair's question with respect to creating that environment where people feel comfortable to talk about the challenges they are facing and whether this communication is tied to opportunities for promotion and for advancement within the various departments and how that is actually being communicated. Can you talk about that? You talked about communication, but I want to know about specifically the education of the fact that this is a good thing. Ms. Meredith, you alluded to the fact that this is good for departments, and so on. We are trying to gather government-wide statistics here to see how we can move this low ratio of 12.4 per cent higher. Are there specifics that you can provide to us?

Ms. Henry: Do you mean communication to the employees as to how this will assist them in terms of advancing in the public service?

Senator Meredith: Yes.

Ms. Henry: I would have to go to the department.

Senator Meredith: There are no specifics around that?

Ms. Meredith: Maybe I should add some context. I think if members of those three groups see improvements in their workplace as a result of a sort of systemic approach, where management is listening to their concerns and making real improvements, then I think that can generate an environment where they will feel it is to their advantage to be self- identifying. They see actual action; it is not just a question of taking a survey. It is part of an approach that will lead to improvement.

We have been pushing, learning from others and learning from departments that do it well so that we can expand communication efforts and use executives to try to encourage colleagues to self-identify. We have also worked on how we mobilize employees in departments to work with us to figure out what works in helping members of these groups feel a sense of belonging and a sense of career progression in their departments. I think we have a promising structure to engage representatives from departments at an interdepartmental table where they can say, "This is what we care about and this is how we want to improve our life in this department."

I can go on, but I think that seeing improvements and seeing issues raised and addressed in a real way by management can also be encouraging to those self-identifying.

Senator Meredith: If I may just continue on, I have two questions. You talked, Ms. Meredith, about the Employment Equity Champions and Chairs Committees. How are those established? Are you actively looking at visible minorities to head up these committees? You talked about them coming forward and saying, "We want to help." What is the recruiting process for these individuals to help gain those best practices you talked about?

Ms. Meredith: We called them Employment Equity Champions and Chairs Committees because each department identifies a champion who is chosen by the deputy head of the department and a chair who has been selected by employees in the department. Then they sit as representatives on the interdepartmental committee, which is chaired by the deputy minister champion, who is selected by the Clerk of the Privy Council. These are very special roles where the clerk will say, "Deputy X, you are to be the champion of this visible minorities council." They then are supported by my organization in running the meetings, doing the terms of reference and providing what is needed in communications support and other things.

These are the fora in which issues and best practices are identified and any priorities are set and acted on in common. It is quite crucial to have an effective deputy minister champion of these committees because they have access to the whole community of deputy ministers, which I convene regularly, once or twice a year, so that the issues raised in those fora for visible minorities, Aboriginal people and people with disabilities are brought to the broader table of deputy ministers. Then they can hear about what is working in other departments as well. I think that is quite a powerful recipe for change and improvement.

Senator Meredith: You stated that in order to achieve our goal of a diverse public service, one truly reflective of Canadian society, more effort will be needed in recruiting over the next few years.

My final question to you is this: What are the challenges to seeing Canadian society reflected over the next five years, and what changes are needed? Obviously, you and Ms. Henry have both contemplated departmental challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome. How can this committee ensure that some of those challenges are addressed?

Ms. Meredith: I did not mean to put the Employment Equity Act Annual Report in at the last minute. I thought it would be useful, though, to have it tabled before this discussion.

If you look at the annual report, you will see all the various departments and organizations reporting where they are with respect to each of the four groups. I was struck by the variation in some of the representation numbers for different departments. It made me think that there can be issues of how to attract members of certain groups into certain professions.

I think it is appropriate that each department has an obligation, under the Employment Equity Act, to develop its plan and meet its targets because I think each of them must think through how they will do that given the different nature of the jobs they have to offer. Each market can be different for each organization, and they have to address it individually.

When it comes to people with disabilities, we have seen a slight decline in representation, as I reported. I know Ms. Barrados mentioned her concern about that particular group, and I would share that concern. In fact, she and I went to visit our American counterparts not long ago, and they have the same issue there. The question is how to encourage representation in your workforce of people who are severely disabled. That can be a particular challenge we should be looking at how to address.

My organization has put a real focus, in the last two years, on what we call "managing for wellness in the workplace." It deals with a range of issues around disability and accommodation. I think this is an area we will want to focus more attention on in the future as well. That is one broad brush area I would say we need to focus on to improve representation in that particular group. Otherwise, I would suggest that each department and the community it is bringing into the organization would have to think through some of their special challenges.

Senator Martin: Thank you. With respect to your focus on people with physical disabilities, I mentioned to Ms. Barrados, when she appeared previously, a national organization that works with people with physical disabilities, the Neil Squire Society. The head office is in British Columbia, and I know that one of their mandates is to provide information, education and equipment to increase accessibility for people with physical disabilities. I think a group like that would be a very good community organization to partner with.

That leads to me to my first question. In reaching out to these four target groups, have you done community consultation with regard to how some of those barriers can be broken down to address the silo effect? I think all community groups or regional groups suffer from the silo effect just because of the sheer geography of Canada and regional differences. With ethnic visible minority groups, that can also be one of the effects. We can bridge those gaps by consulting with community groups on how best to communicate to the prospective workforce. It is about breaking down those barriers and communicating more effectively.

Have you done those kinds of consultations with community groups to talk about good strategies for recruiting and increasing the participation of visible minorities or other target groups in the public sector?

Ms. Meredith: I have personally talked to some groups, including Hire Immigrants Ottawa, which is especially targeting new immigrants to the country and how they can get their first job, with several federal departments helping them get a job. I have talked to that group, as well as to other groups involved in disability management, one from British Columbia. I do not think it was the Neil Squire group, but there was another group that we have been talking to, more about how we accommodate employees with disabilities and how we train disability officers in departments. Yes, we have talked with certain people whom we believed would be useful to talk with to promote these objectives, but perhaps doing more of that would be useful.

Senator Martin: I think the key is who is at the table to strategize, as well as who may also be out there during these recruitment events, if there are such things, on university campuses, for instance, or even, perhaps, within the community groups. Whether it be in Toronto or Vancouver, there are large community organizations.

Each of the ethnic community groups I have worked with has its own central umbrella government or organization — a government within Canada. These umbrella organizations work with hundreds of community organizations and would be best positioned to be able to help with promotion and dissemination of information in an effective way.

I think having these stakeholder groups engaged in the process of strategizing and implementation would be a good approach.

The question I will end with is once you have a recruitment of these four target groups and they are hired, that first year can be very important as to whether they will continue and be successful, or just the first few years of that transition period. Are there programs in place — whether it be a mentoring program or support network — that create the kind of environment that you would want to ensure greater success?

Ms. Meredith: In terms of the support environment, one thing I should note is that you may have heard that we had the Public Service Employee Survey. Results have just been quantified and were made public on February 2. This survey was done in the month of September 2011, more or less. We had specific questions in the survey on perceptions of discrimination in the workplace — something we care a lot about. We found that while survey results overall for the public service were quite stable in areas such as employee engagement, in perceived discrimination the results went down quite markedly. This is as reported by people who identified themselves as women, Aboriginals, visible minorities or people with disabilities.

Relative to the survey we did in 2008, we have seen quite a substantial decline in perception of discrimination in the workplace. The number went from 18 per cent having perceived discrimination in 2008 overall to 14 per cent in 2011. As well, respondents were saying they felt their departments were trying to actively address any discrimination in the workplace. This is something that we can never be complacent about and have to keep working at. It is not where we want it to be, but the trend is a good one. The confidence they have that the departments are working on this is also very reassuring. I think we can put that in the window to people looking for career opportunities and say we do have a workplace where you can have assurance you will not be discriminated against.

Senator Brazeau: I have to share what my colleague whispered in my ear a while ago. If you are ever looking for a strategy session, look on this side of the table; we are all visible minorities.

My question deals with Aboriginal people in the public service. As I understand it — correct me if I am wrong — if an Aboriginal individual applies for employment in the public service, they can identify as Aboriginal, North American Indian, Metis or Inuit. If someone decides to identify as Aboriginal, they are not required to provide any proof of Aboriginal ancestry. If this is in fact the current practice — because I know that is how it was several years ago — can there be situations where non-Aboriginal people are checking the Aboriginal box, are hired and getting counted in the Aboriginal category but in fact are not Aboriginal?

Ms. Meredith: That has been a concern in the past about people identifying as Aboriginal who were not actually Aboriginal. That is something is that the Public Service Commission in particular — I do not know if you talked to Ms. Barrados about that — has done some work on, especially when it comes to self-declaration for those people coming into the public service. Attention has been paid to that.

Senator Brazeau: Is there anything being done today? The way I see it, perhaps there are individuals who do not want to open up a can of worms with this by requesting documentation to prove someone's Aboriginal ancestry. However, either you do it or you do not. If you do not, you can have statistics that are skewed and are demonstrating that more and more Aboriginal peoples are slowly being employed by the public service when perhaps that might not be the case.

Ms. Meredith: Yes. I do not want to speak for the Public Service Commission, but they did want more rigour in terms of directing people to declare accurately as to their Aboriginal ancestry. When it comes to self-identification, we are back to the issue that it is voluntary and confidential. There is a limited amount that we can do to verify. We have to be realistic about that.

Senator Brazeau: Thank you.

Senator Zimmer: Thank you. I apologize for being late. I thought the last question from Senator Meredith was very good. He talked about the challenges of visible minorities, but I want to come from the other end of the culvert and rephrase it.

To the best of your knowledge, what would you say is the biggest obstacle preventing an increase in representative rates for visible minorities in the public service? What is the biggest obstacle that must be overcome?

Ms. Meredith: From what we hear from the group of visible minority representatives that meets — the Champions and Chairs Committees — they want help with career development, mentoring, and getting ready for promotional opportunities. They are looking for that kind of soft help in advancing their careers. I think the focus of the visible minority committee at this point is to provide that kind of networking assistance and career development.

Senator Zimmer: The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer recently announced a change to the governance of employment equity obligations to the public service for Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and visible minorities. In the past, these groups were represented by three national employment equity councils: the National Council of Visible Minorities, the National Council of Federal Employees with Disabilities, and the National Council of Aboriginal Federal Employees. Now, they will be represented by a Champions and Chairs Committee — each chaired by a deputy minister champion, — which will identify developing strategies, report on results to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and on employment equity.

Why was the decision made to adopt a new governance model for these three employment groups? What are the differences between the new model and the old model?

Ms. Meredith: Thank you for the question. I think it was some time ago — probably four years — when the model then in place to fund councils to do work was put in place. There was a requirement to review that model when it was put in place. We were reviewing as a matter of course, as had been anticipated, so it was a three-year review of the model, and we did broad consultations with all of those communities affected to determine where they wanted it to go.

I had a certain view, which was that I did not see that that governance had produced a set of priorities and management actions that I could see was leading anywhere. I thought there was an issue of accountability with that particular model that I felt, being from the Treasury Board, I wanted to tighten up.

I also saw deputy minister champions who were named by the clerk in that role but being a bit disconnected from the governance that was there, and my put to the community was that there could be great value in tying them in more strongly to the representatives from various departments, so in a sense I was bringing my view that we could gain something in terms of solid management improvements by bringing it together in a tighter umbrella, having all three groups supported by the Treasury Board Secretariat in terms of uniformity of secretariat functions. I would fund that and they would all have similar terms of reference. There would be a certain rigour to the whole thing.

After quite extensive consultation, the groups supported the new approach, and that is what we have been in the train of implementing since the fall of 2011.

Senator Zimmer: Thank you.

Senator Oliver: I have been in the Senate for 21 years and have appeared before an awful lot of committees. One thing that has struck me about appearing before committees is that a number of the witnesses who come are mostly white and not visible minority and not Aboriginal.

It was always distressing to me and it remains distressing that we can have senior officials from the public service of Canada appearing before parliamentary committees who do not represent the mosaic of Canada, and today is no exception.

Can you tell us what the breakdown is in Treasury Board of the four target groups? What is the representation within Treasury Board? Second, I do not know, but if there are 79 deputy ministers in the public service of Canada and only three visible minorities, what can you say to this committee about whether that is adequate and proper representation of visible minorities at the top of the EX category as a deputy minister? Finally, if you, like me, find this is not acceptable for Canada, do you think that if we had a diversity commissioner who was responsible to Parliament and had to account to parliamentarians both in the House of Commons and in the Senate for the lack of representation that it might help move the yardsticks for representation, particularly for visible minorities?

Ms. Meredith: The first question, as to the representation within the Treasury Board Secretariat, according to the employment equity report for 2010-11, we have 62.5 per cent women, 2.7 per cent self-identified Aboriginal employees, and 7.5 per cent persons with disabilities; and some 14.3 per cent are members of a visible minority group.

Although I am not sure, I can tell you that at the most senior level within the secretariat, the ADM level, the representation is quite good with respect to people with disabilities and visible minorities, so we do have representation at the ADM level in those groups.

The Privy Council Office is in charge of the deputy ministers' group. There are currently 72 people at the deputy minister level and within that group there is one person with a disability, self-identified; three visible minority deputy ministers; and three Aboriginal deputy ministers.

In terms of the question that you raised around whether it would be useful to have a diversity commissioner, I would just point out that I think the Employment Equity Act provides quite an excellent structure to keep departments focused on where they are at odds with the workforce availability and what their plans are for improving their representation against the groups outlined in the act.

I would say that over the years we have seen quite marked improvement in representation in the three groups in the public service. I think there has been substantive progress not only in terms of representation but also in terms of the perception of discrimination, as I mentioned earlier, which I think is very important and useful. I would also say, because I am very much involved in looking at promotions in the public service, whether to the assistant deputy minister level or the deputy minister level, I can assure you that because of the focus in this area we are constantly looking at representation. It is certainly on our radar whenever those issues of promotion and the senior ranks are discussed.

Senator Oliver: The intentions are good, but it is not there in the actual numbers.

In Treasury Board you said you have 14.3 per cent visible minority and yet you say you have 72 deputy ministers, three of whom are visible minorities.

Ms. Meredith: That is for the public service at large.

Senator Oliver: I understand that.

The Chair: That is 4 per cent.

Senator Oliver: It is inadequate. Is it that there are not competent visible minorities within the public service of Canada to rise to these levels? Is that the issue?

Ms. Meredith: I think we have seen improvements in representation and as reported in the annual report, so there is a question of speed, perhaps, but there has been improvement.

Senator Meredith: Ms. Meredith, to Senator Oliver's point with respect to a diversity commissioner, what if these departments knew that they had some sort of responsibility, that every year there would be a report by this commissioner, sort of keeping their feet to the fire so to speak to ensure there are improvements in these numbers? You referred back to the act, but in terms of accountability factors for the department, in terms of responsibility and reporting stating the extensive work within the departments, would that make a difference? It is not that the departments are not doing it. Do not get me wrong, but in terms of having someone looking for some marginal improvements or substantial improvements, we are looking at over the course of years, and they just crept up. We need some sort of sustained effort by the department heads to ensure these numbers are being met, going back to the environmental factor of increasing the number of visible minorities or women or Aboriginals within these departments. Therefore, do you not think that would be of some impetus to say we may need to go in this direction?

Ms. Meredith: I think, to go back to the point, you have the Employment Equity Act that sets out responsibilities for departments to create their plans and to report to Parliament on their plans. You have the Canadian Human Rights Commission doing audits and compliance. You have the Treasury Board reporting and departmental achievement against the plans. I guess I would just ask the question whether you may have enough in place to get improvements.

Senator Hubley: At the deputy minister's level, of the 72 you gave us numbers for disabled, visible minorities and the Aboriginal. What was the number for women?

Ms. Meredith: Women were 27 on 72.

Senator Hubley: Thank you.

The Chair: We used to have the National Council of Visible Minorities working with you before. For me, that was a council that was working outside in the sense that it was independent and working as a group. I think you related why that council does not exist anymore and that we now have champions who work within the system.

Some of the concerns that I have heard from the champions is that when you are working within the system it is very difficult to really make a difference or have the loud voice with which the National Council of Visible Minorities was working.

Many people feel that it is a loss that we do not have the National Council of Visible Minorities working within the federal public service. How strong a voice will these champions have and how are you empowering them?

Ms. Meredith: As mentioned, we have champions who are nominated by their deputy head, which I think is a good thing. This means that they have a direct bridge; they have the ear of the deputy head coming out of these discussions. That is kind of important, to make progress.

As well, we have the chairs, as we call them, who are representatives of their communities within departments. We would expect them, together, to have both the ear to deputies as well as the ear to the communities that they are representing in the departments.

I think, structurally, we have a good recipe, and I think you would find that many of the active members of the National Council of Visible Minorities would be representatives at the table today as well.

The intent was not to eliminate any bodies but rather to give the management structures that we have some clout, some access and the machine to actually generate improvements.

The Chair: May I ask for a clarification? I do not understand when you say "their communities." What do you mean when you say they represent their communities?

Ms. Meredith: Within departments, employees who have an interest in visible minority issues within a given organization.

The Chair: One of the concerns that I have heard wherever I have gone is that the champions are appointed by the deputy minister. The deputy minister is going to appoint a like-minded person as a champion, not a person who is going to agitate for change. One of the main complaints I have been hearing is that the champion is someone the deputy minister can manage and therefore there will not be the change that is wanted.

I am saying this to you because there is a lot of concern that the champions are not speaking for the four groups. They are speaking to what the deputy minister wants. I share this with you openly, because I am sure you have heard it. I am now publicly stating that there is real concern that the voice of especially the visible minorities has been silenced by taking away the National Council of Visible Minorities. Bringing champions within the department, appointed by the deputy minister and who report to the deputy minister, seems to be a problematic structure.

Ms. Meredith: I think that is partly why we would have the chairs attending the meeting as well, and they are not appointed by the deputy head and are, therefore, independent voices in that group.

I am not disputing that could be a criticism, but it is not one that I have heard. I would have to say that in the forum of deputy ministers, which I co-chair with the secretary of the Treasury Board, where we discuss those issues, the dynamic is very much one of deputy ministers wanting to engage their employees from those communities and to determine what is needed. It is not a question of a top-down approach. It is much more engaging.

I would say that the race is to try to make those really good instruments and to learn from practices elsewhere. I think that is why we see a perception of discrimination going down in the survey and why employees themselves have said they think the departments are making a real effort to reduce discrimination. This is what employees have told us through those survey results.

To me, it is not surprising. In the community of deputy ministers I have seen in those meetings, they want to engage their employees and respond to their needs.

The Chair: I know the champion program is a new one, but you did say you were doing some training. What evaluations do you have from the employees as to how the champions are faring? What do you have in place to hear from the four designated groups as to how these champions are working out? How is change being made?

Ms. Meredith: As my first point, we have the three groups that are represented. Women do not have a council.

I would say that it is very early days. They only started meeting in the fall of 2011, so we do not have a report card yet. This is something that is quite new, and we are trying.

Senator Meredith: Ms. Meredith, of the four groups mentioned we talked about visible minorities. Are they the only ones being affected by foreign credentials not being recognized in Canada? Is that something you have contemplated as an issue? If it was recognized, would this increase the number of individuals within the public service being escalated to higher positions? Would this increase those numbers, the foreign credentials? Have they been across your path? Has it been considered?

Ms. Meredith: This is not something I have heard come out of that committee yet as an issue to focus on. I would have to find out to what extent it is an issue.

Senator Meredith: Could you do that and get back to us? I know it is an issue as folks come to this country and try to get into government services and advance in terms of their credentials. I think that would be helpful to this committee as well.

Senator Martin: When you said this is new, I am assuming you were referring to the champions program?

Maybe the best, most accurate word would be "disappointed" to hear about this very slow progress. Living in Vancouver, where a visible minority is like a visible majority in my neighbourhood, and as a teacher I was always conscious of the kinds of novels that you bring into a classroom, because you want to ensure the protagonists reflect the diversity in the classroom.

I do think this is an important point, this 14 per cent visible minorities within the public sector across Canada, often you would hardly see them. I know I have seen very few visible minorities myself, working in Ottawa. Feeling like a minority is a very odd experience for me, going back and forth to Vancouver.

I do hope that the champions program, the kinds of strategies that you are using, that there is the kind of consultation that I talk about. We need to break down those are barriers, because they do exist. That is why the progress has been so slow.

I do applaud you and others for making the effort, but I really believe there needs to be progress. We need to see that progress more visibly.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Meredith and Ms. Henry, for being here with us. We look forward to receiving your documentation and we would ask, as Senator Oliver has asked, that you provide us with the status of the recommendations that the committee has made. Since we have not had an opportunity to look at your employment equity report, once we have had an opportunity to study it, we may have to ask you to come back. We look forward to working with you.

Ms. Meredith: Thank you very much.

Ms. Henry: Thank you very much.

The Chair: We will now begin with our second panel. From the Public Service Alliance of Canada, we have Patty Ducharme, National Executive Vice-President; and Seema Lamba, Human Rights Officer.

Welcome. We are happy you are here. We understand that you have some introductory comments to make.

Patty Ducharme, National Executive Vice-President, Public Service Alliance of Canada: Thank you for inviting us. We are always pleased to come and share with you our perspective.

I think it is really important that we acknowledge your work from your 2010 report, Reflecting the Changing Face of Canada. Our union, Public Service Alliance of Canada, certainly supports your recommendations, and we continue to advocate for those changes to be made within the federal public service.

Just today, we received the Treasury Board's annual report on employment equity in the federal public service for 2010-11, so I have tried to incorporate some brief parts from that report. You will see that as a result, some of the statistics that I have quoted in our submission have actually changed.

Before I address these changes, I want to raise a very serious concern about the report itself.

The 2010-11 report is significantly different from past reports. Unlike previous reports, it is much shorter — in fact, it is 19 pages long where the last report was 68 pages long — and lacks any analysis of the actual data collected. In addition, there are now six tables with employment equity data instead of 16, which were printed in the previous report. Crucial data is now missing, including information about term employees and employment equity data based on occupational groups.

Our immediate reaction is that this report will do very little to advance employment equity in the federal public service. We are not in a position to provide a detailed critique of the report today, but will be pleased to provide you with our analysis once we have had an opportunity to thoroughly review the report.

According to the latest statistics from the report, racialized workers now represent 11.3 per cent of federal public service workers. That is up ever so slightly from the previous 10.7 per cent in the 2009-10 report but is still below workforce availability. However, the hiring rate was down significantly from the previous year, which was also below the workforce availability rate.

The hiring rate for persons with disabilities into the federal public service has increased in the last year, after having decreased for three years in a row, but it is still below their workforce availability and their separation rate.

Aboriginal workers are still not represented across the public service. In seven of the 25 largest departments, they are below their workforce availability rate.

Women are still clustered in administrative jobs and represent fewer than 25 per cent of employees in the technical category, and this is actually on the decline.

We also very recently received the 2011 Public Service Employee Survey, and discrimination is still being reported by a large portion of respondents from the various equity groups.

PSAC currently has hundreds of members with grievances and human rights complaints related to discrimination at work. These days, there seems to be very little political support for equity initiatives. There is certainly no financial support or political will to implement your committee's recommendations from 2010. We are in an era of uncertainty amid looming cuts to the public service. Government departments have prepared plans to cut program spending by up to 10 per cent across the board. We have asked for information about these proposed cuts and asked the government to consult Parliament before making decisions that will so drastically affect public services and our members' jobs, so far with no success.

While this committee has focused on bringing equity group members into the public service, which is still an area of ongoing concern, the bigger issue now is what we may lose given significant job cuts. We believe that these cuts could disproportionately affect women, workers with disabilities, Aboriginal workers and racialized workers. Any progress that has been made over the past several years could be lost very quickly if cuts are made without regard to how they will impact these groups.

During the last round of severe cuts to the public service made in the 1990s, Aboriginal workers and workers with disabilities left the public service at rates that were significantly higher than those for other workers.

The former President of the Public Service Commission has reported that, for a number of years, workers with disabilities have not been hired into the public service at a rate consistent with their availability. Workers with disabilities are more likely to be older on average. If these workers continue to leave the public service at higher rates, what will this mean for the overall representation of persons with disabilities in the public service?

We know that the rate of unemployment in Canada is higher for workers with disabilities, Aboriginal workers and racialized workers. Barriers in discrimination continue to exist for these workers in and outside of the public service. Across the board cuts will make the situation worse.

These are important questions, and, as Justice Rosalie Abella pointed out, equity is not something that should only be reserved for good economic times; all members of society should have equal access to jobs regardless of the economic climate.

There is another major obstacle to the implementation of employment equity — the loss of important data collected through the long-form census and other surveys.

What this committee may not know is that in addition to the long-form census, another important survey, the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, or PALS, was also cancelled in 2010. The PALS collected data on persons with disabilities, data used for employment equity and for important services provided by all levels of government. The PALS was conducted every five years after the census, using a sample from the data provided by the long-form census. The loss of these important tools means that we do not know what kind and what quality of data we will have on which to base employment equity goals.

Numbers are important. Without them, employment equity is like a house without a foundation.

I would like to also briefly address the recommendations made in this committee's 2010 report. After the report was released, we had the opportunity to meet with the President of the Public Service Commission and the Chief Human Resources Officer to discuss the recommendations. We were assured that there was support for the recommendations and that a plan would soon be put in place. Since then, Treasury Board has not addressed the committee's recommendations for a new employment equity policy, on-the-job language training, foreign credential recognition or concrete means for ensuring accountability of managers with respect to meeting their employment equity goals, et cetera. To our knowledge, very few of the recommendations have been put in place, and we do not know of any plans to actually implement them. In fact, the decentralization of human resources and the dismantling of Treasury Board's role to develop and monitor service-wide policies have weakened the central oversight for employment equity in the Federal Public Service.

In summary, the PSAC believes it is critically important that the government provide information about its plans for cuts to the Federal Public Service. I urge this committee to add its voice to those asking that the proposals from departmental management and the consulting firm Deloitte be made public and then passed on to the standing committees of Parliament. We recommend, more specifically, that Treasury Board and the departments consult bargaining agents at the national and departmental levels with respect to changes to staffing levels, workforce adjustment measures and the effects that these may have on members of the designated groups; that Treasury Board, as the employer for the federal public service, issue a directive to all departments to take employment equity into consideration when carrying out any changes to staffing levels and workforce adjustment measures; that specific measures of accountability be put in place to ensure that Treasury Board and the departments are accountable for any disproportionate negative impacts that public service cuts have on members of the four designated equity groups; that the government reinstate the long-form census or, at the very least, include on the short form the questions that provide data for employment equity; that the government reinstate the funding for the PALS; and that HRSDC continue to administer it.

Finally, I would like to thank you again for the opportunity to provide our views. Of course, we are here, and we welcome any questions that we can answer.

The Chair: Because there are people watching your presentation, may I please have you clarify what PALS is?

Ms. Ducharme: PALS is the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey. PALS was conducted every five years, and it was a survey conducted using a sampling from the long-form census information collected for people with disabilities.

The Chair: When you talk about the workforce availability figures, you are relying on Census 2006. Am I correct?

Ms. Ducharme: I believe so, yes.

The Chair: You were in the room when I was asking about the dismantling of the National Council of Visible Minorities and the bringing in of the champions. May I ask both of you to comment on how you see the federal public service being affected by the dismantling of the National Council of Visible Minorities, and how you see the champions working?

Ms. Ducharme: We certainly had members of the PSAC who participated in the NCVM across Canada. It is my understanding that they no longer have that opportunity to champion employment equity for racially visible members through that conduit.

I think that having champions cross-organizationally, at all levels of organizations, is incredibly important. Although it was an employer-funded and driven initiative, it certainly was an initiative that PSAC members and members from other bargaining agents participated in and embraced as their own.

The Chair: The Employment Equity Act came into effect in 1986. It has been 26 years since this act was put in place, and we still have issues. We are still struggling with representation.

You may not have this answer now, and maybe you can supply it to us later, but if there were two or three things you could tell us that would make this act effective and bring the proper workforce availability, what would those be? What barriers could be removed to make employment equity a reality in our country?

Ms. Ducharme: I think there are many barriers, but if you were going to make changes to the act to have the stated desired results from the Employment Equity Act, having accountability written into the act and an enforcement mechanism would certainly push employers' hands with respect to employment equity.

I was listening to the questions about accountability. I am aware that the federal government has made the decision to provide, for example, senior managers up to $15,000 per annum in performance pay for streamlining and reducing the size of the federal public service. I have to question why it is that government has not seen fit to base performance pay in part on employment equity objectives and ensuring that departments and department heads meet their employment equity obligations under that act. That would be one example.

With respect to barriers, certainly issues around foreign credentials, Canadian experience and language training are all factors that play into barriers for racialized workers, foreign-born workers. Issues related to accommodations for workers with disabilities likewise present huge barriers to workers being able to participate fully in the workplace.

Seema Lamba, Human Rights Officer, Public Service Alliance of Canada: To add to that, if you give us the opportunity to make a perfect Employment Equity Act, there needs to be a strong role for bargaining agents. There is a role for bargaining agents, but it is quite weak; it is about consultations. There needs to be a voice in the process around employment equity that can actually counter what is going on and provide a critique to push it further to actually make it better.

I would also add that the enforcement mechanisms are very, very weak. The Canadian Human Rights Commission is supposed to be playing the auditing role, and with a lack of resources and the delays in auditing, departments can get away without having to meet their employment equity objectives. That needs to be strengthened as well, as well as meaningful resources put forward for employment equity initiatives. That is crucial. We hear from the top that there is a commitment to employment equity, but centralized resources need to be there as well. With the decentralization, Treasury Board from our position basically tells us, "It is not our problem anymore; it is departments' problem." They just play this overseeing role. There needs to be a centralized monitoring role as well, more so in looking at the Employment Equity Act.

As Ms. Ducharme just mentioned, the new employment equity report is not that meaningful any longer. With so little information in it, it is hard for us, for example, to bring forward a meaningful critique because we do not have the data any longer.

Those are a few suggestions.

Senator Zimmer: When representatives of the Public Service Commission appeared before the committee in October 2011, they indicated that some slight progress had been made in broadening the representation of Aboriginal people across federal government departments. However, Aboriginal persons are mostly only working in a few federal government departments.

What should the federal government be doing to increase our representation of Aboriginal people across the public service in general?

Ms. Ducharme: That is probably the million-dollar question. There are huge issues with regard to accessing education opportunities for young Aboriginal people, off-reserve Aboriginal people and people who do not have status, such as Metis or Inuit; and issues related to poverty and access to opportunities are huge. Recruiting Aboriginal youth, be it in high school and facilitating their entry into post-secondary education, or recruiting Aboriginal young workers when they are at university and promoting to them meaningful opportunities in the federal public service in communities would be one concrete way of doing so.

Looking at the statistics that came out of the employment equity survey that we got our hands on today, the hiring rate for Aboriginal workers at present is 3.5 per cent and the separation rate is 4.4 per cent. We are losing Aboriginal workers at a rate higher than we are recruiting them.

We also need to look at issues related to harassment and hostility in the workplace, where people make allegations about whether a worker is or is not Aboriginal, and whether workers were hired only because they are Aboriginal. We have to break down some of those barriers that currently continue to exist in workplaces and find ways to support Aboriginal workers.

Senator Zimmer: Thank you for your candour on that.

When representation from the same commission appeared before the committee at the same time, they also indicated there was a decrease for a third straight year in the rate of external appointments for persons with disabilities. Treasury Board Secretariat's most recent report on employment equity matters likewise indicates a decreased representation rate in the federal public service of persons with disabilities and an increased separation rate.

In your view, what are some of the reasons why external appointments for persons with disabilities are decreasing, and what should the public service be doing to ensure that representation rates for persons with disabilities remains in excess of the workforce availability numbers for this group?

Ms. Ducharme: For workers with disabilities, there are many barriers, depending on what a person's disabilities are, quite frankly, to getting information about actual positions. Given the casualization of the federal public service at this time, I believe that many members do not voice to their employer accommodation needs that they may or may not have. They do not feel they are able to do so. They do not want to put their heads up, as it were. As a result, they may not be in a place where they can fully produce what they are capable of producing in the workplace for the employer.

Certainly, in situations like that, and again with term employment being more the norm now than it was historically, if there are performance issues and the employer does not know someone has a disability, or the person offers up the fact that they have a disability after a performance issue has been identified, the employer may be less willing to try to resolve the issue — namely, accommodating the disability — and be more willing to let that person's term lapse. I think that is one significant barrier.

We know that for workers with disabilities from inside — I will say this in this room — as we age, people do get sick and develop disabilities or chronic illnesses, and people seem to be more willing, when they have indeterminate employment status, to come forward and share that information with their employer and to be more candid about their limitations, whatever they may be. I think it is quite understandable, when people are in precarious employment as term employees, that they are less willing to do so.

Ms. Lamba: The only thing I would add is that sometimes our members with disabilities — not all of them — go on disability insurance and leave, and at some point they have to come back into the workplace. In addressing these issues with our members, we find it is difficult to actually facilitate their integrating back into the workplace properly or their being reasonably accommodated, and often they end up staying outside of the workplace, sometimes for years, until eventually their employer tells them their employment will be terminated. Often it is because of a lack of accommodation, or they may just need some more time to deal with their disability before coming back into their workplace.

That is a significant issue and quite a concern for us now, with the cuts, because there are members on disability insurance who, as a way of saving funds, may be terminated.

Senator Brazeau: What is the Public Service Alliance's position? I think you were here earlier when I asked the question about hiring practices with self-declaring Aboriginal people. What is the alliance's position with respect to perhaps individuals who falsely claim they are Aboriginal, are then hired, but they are not Aboriginal? What types of representations have you made with respect to this issue?

Ms. Ducharme: We have certainly had discussions at our National Aboriginal Peoples' Circle about Aboriginal identity. We have had discussions around Aboriginal citizenship and Aboriginal affirmation, if that is what you are referring to, the Public Service Commission's Aboriginal affirmation for people who apply for jobs on Aboriginal- specific postings.

Our position has been that the employer has always had the opportunity to have a discussion with workers with respect to their self-identification related to Aboriginal identity and that, quite frankly, setting Aboriginal people apart from other employment equity groups is not necessarily the most inviting or open process. Certainly for First Nations members who have cards, the process is far more direct to establish that you are a First Nations person. If you are a Metis person in B.C., the B.C. Metis council asks that you establish, through seven generations, your family lineage. It makes it far more difficult to establish your Aboriginal identity and your obligations to do so.

We have questioned the commission with respect to the fact that, for example, a person could likewise claim that they have a disability. I have not heard of an affirmation for a worker with disabilities. We have talked about the fact that Aboriginal people are yet again being treated differently from others, and we question the rationale for that.

I certainly appreciate that there have been circumstances where people have misrepresented their heritage. We think there are ways to deal with those directly, and having a blanket policy for all workers who self-identify as Aboriginal is not necessarily the most appropriate way to do so.

Senator Brazeau: You talk about the responsibility of employers and the responsibility of the federal government, what they should be doing, but what is the responsibility of the Public Service Alliance of Canada? In reality, if an individual self-declares as Aboriginal and they are not, they are employed within the public service, the Public Service Alliance represents that employee; is that not correct?

Ms. Ducharme: Say it one more time.

Senator Brazeau: If a non-Aboriginal person self-declares as an Aboriginal person, because of the fact that they do not have to provide any proof of Aboriginal ancestry, they fall under the umbrella of representation by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, do they not?

Ms. Ducharme: We certainly have an obligation, as the union representing workers, to represent them under federal legislation, as the bargaining agent. We certainly make every effort to ensure that when we are representing members in grievance hearings or being disciplined, that we do what is appropriate. Quite frankly, suggesting to an employer that a member is not what they say they are would certainly put our staff in a difficult situation.

We have tried to do work around Aboriginal issues. Our members set up a national network. We have a National Aboriginal Peoples' Circle. I think we are the only union in Canada that has had national Aboriginal peoples' conferences. You know that we have worked on issues related to the day of reconciliation, and we have a campaign under way around justice for Aboriginal workers. We are certainly mindful of ensuring that Aboriginal workers have access to employment opportunities. That certainly does not mean that we support people going forward claiming to have Aboriginal ancestry who are not entitled to do so.

Senator Brazeau: All I am suggesting is that it is possible that you represent such people.

Ms. Ducharme: We certainly have a positive obligation to represent a member of the PSAC, just in the same way that we would have an obligation if a member of the PSAC did something that was unacceptable on the job, such as had an accident in an employer car or did something inappropriate to a member of the public. We would have a positive obligation to represent that member.

Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for your presentation.

I would like to know what should be done to encourage the promotion of individuals from the four target groups into the upper levels of management.

Ms. Ducharme: I am laughing because I chose going the union route rather than going through the employer channels to be promoted organizationally.

I think there are many things that we need to do. This includes opening up opportunities for equity group members. We talked about issues around language training, recognition of foreign credentials, ensuring people have opportunities for developmental assignments, and acting assignments. A way for people to develop skills, or being able to participate in some type of a mentorship or partnering program with managers or the next level of management — so that people can test out their skills and abilities — are all ways that I see as increasing capacity for targeted employment equity groups moving up within the federal public service.

Senator Ataullahjan: Does a glass ceiling still exist, and is anything being done to combat it?

Ms. Ducharme: I was listening to the statistics that Ms. Meredith was sharing with you earlier on. There is a ceiling. I am not convinced it is a glass ceiling because if it was glass, you could sort of see through it. If you could see through it, it would be transparent.

I think the issues related to discrimination in the workplace are incredibly complex. I do not think it just comes down to opportunities. I think that we have to be honest. There are issues of racism, classism, access, poverty, and there continues to be sexism. When we look at the occupational group information from this latest report that came out, in the executive cadre for women, it is 44.9 per cent. When we look statistically, 80 per cent of women are clustered in the administrative groups in the federal public sector. Aboriginal peoples in the executive cadre is 3.8 per cent. If we go to administrative support, it is 5.6 per cent, and market availability is significantly higher for Aboriginal people. For members with disabilities, the executive level is 5.4 per cent, and I would be curious — I do not have access to the same information that you in this room do — about that 5.4 per cent, and if they were promoted from within or if they came in from outside. Likewise, with the visible minority, the executive level is 7.8 per cent and the overall figure that I used earlier on was 11.3 per cent.

Certainly, there are significant barriers for the equity target groups for promotion, and not just to the executive level but throughout the public service. Table 3 in the annual report has some pretty interesting statistics.

The Chair: Thank you.

Senator Oliver: One of the things that you have done a lot of work on is workplace representation and the obstacles to representation. You have talked a bit about it today.

I wanted to ask you about one area you have not mentioned too much. When a person is an employee with the public service, they can be full time, determinate, indeterminate, casual or term and so on. In the past you made representations about what happens if you are a visible minority and are hired on a casual or term basis.

Could you tell us what the disadvantages would be of visible minorities being hired in the public service as a casual employee? Is that in any way prejudicial, or does that somehow hurt their chances of promotion?

Ms. Ducharme: I would not say it is prejudicial. Getting equity group members into the federal public service is a good thing. What I was always taught is if you get your foot in the door you can keep moving on, right? What we are seeing is that that does not necessarily happen. I will look at Ms. Lamba because I know I saw a statistic in my massive binder of information related to term hires and the percentage of employment equity group represented workers who get hired as terms and are later released. It seems to me that the release rate for employment equity groups is significantly higher than for folks who fall outside the target groups.

I am not sure if Ms. Lamba is —

Senator Oliver: She is looking.

Ms. Ducharme: She is looking and so am I.

The Chair: Ms. Ducharme, if Ms. Lamba continues to look you can answer the next question.

Ms. Ducharme: Certainly.

Senator Hubley: I have a supplementary, and it may or may not be along the same line.

I was waiting for that number but I will assume that visible minorities will have a higher percentage within the casual and term employee rate. How does that skew the figures that we received today, which I assumed were for full- time employees, but 4.7 per cent were Aboriginal people?

If there were more of our target groups among those casual or term employees, those figures are somewhat skewed to me. Although there may be 4.7 per cent Aboriginal people, they are not necessarily full-time jobs as we would think of them. Would the casual and term employee numbers be in with that number?

Ms. Ducharme: With the term numbers they certainly could be, and it could account for some of the higher departure rates that we shared, the departure rates for promotions into the public service by designated group and separations. Again, this report no longer has data that deals only with terms.

In the past, there were tables specific to term employees. That data no longer exists in this report. It is merged data.

Hirings are lower than separation rates for Aboriginal people and persons with disabilities. Those are the two groups where you see the departure rate is significantly greater than the hiring rate.

Senator Hubley: In a downsizing situation, would the casual or term employees be the first to leave?

Ms. Ducharme: Yes, they would be. Term employees and contracts would come to an end and presumably would not be renewed. Casual employees would go first, in theory; term employees would go next, and then the discussion would be around indeterminate employees.

Senator Hubley: In fact, the Aboriginal people, disabled workers or the visible minorities would very likely be the first ones to be leaving.

Ms. Ducharme: That is certainly one of our concerns, yes.

Senator Hubley: Thank you.

Senator Meredith: Ms. Ducharme, you touched on a couple of areas that my colleague Senator Ataullahjan asked about with respect to engaging and empowering these employees to seek higher positions and the education around that. How do you go about actually engaging these employees to look at seeking these positions?

As well, you talked about racism and discrimination. There are particular cases where one of your members has said they were denied a position and felt discriminated against. How have you dealt with those particular cases?

Ms. Lamba: Those types of cases do come up. One thing with racism and allegations of racism is that they are very difficult to prove. There was a change to the Employment Equity Act a few years ago where you cannot use employment equity data to put forward a complaint to the human rights commission, for example, around discrimination. You have to be able to prove it in other ways.

Now, racism in Canada is not as overt all the time. It is subtle, so that is one of the issues we constantly struggle with. You can feel that there has been some wrongdoing, but it is often difficult to prove.

Sometimes for us, when we try to explore that by trying to see what the process was, whether it was a staffing process or other processes, trying to get that is very difficult.

Challenging staffing processes happens under the Public Service Employment Act, and so there is a particular avenue to do that, and we find it very challenging to successfully make cases of discrimination under that process. It is an abuse of authority process that you have to use. It is a very narrow definition to be able to pursue that avenue.

Ms. Ducharme: On the other front, for providing people with opportunities for advancement, I am looking at some of the statistics I have been able to put my fingers on, and in 2007-08 it is of note that 73 per cent of racialized applicants had a university degree compared to 50 per cent of other workers coming into the federal public service. If I were a manager in the federal public service, I would be talking to staff who are competent, good employees, who are demonstrating that they want a career in the federal public service, and I would be making those personal connections to ensure that we make a career path, developmental paths for people to have opportunities and, if needed, to have language training, to be able to check out what their competencies are so that we can help them advance and, quite frankly, so that we can make use of people's skills.

I am not an employer in government, but I certainly am an employer representative. I am a boss as a union vice- president with our staff, and we certainly try to ensure that people have opportunities. We invite people to ask us what type of opportunities they would like to have when jobs open up. People are given the opportunity to have acting assignments and to demonstrate an interest and to exercise their muscles at different positions.

Government there has the same responsibility as an employer to do so, and we certainly know that there are many opportunities in government for people to innovate, to be creative and to come forward with good, solid ideas.

I certainly appreciate that government and managers in government are likewise under sort of the threat of downsizing, but there are opportunities here for us as the public and you as the Senate Human Rights Committee. I hope that you would be encouraging Treasury Board Secretariat and other management bodies of the federal government to be out there innovating.

Senator Meredith: You heard me ask Ms. Meredith earlier about foreign credentials and the opportunities that exist within the public service for potential employees to enter and climb. You talked about the glass ceiling. You said it is not transparent. It is a brick wall that a lot of these employees are running into, and they are feeling, obviously, frustrated.

What are you doing to accommodate the foreign credentials and allowing people to get that Canadian experience that they need to move up? Can you elaborate on how your service is dealing with those individuals who come to you or want to be members?

Ms. Ducharme: Again, not being the federal government, Canadian experience is a critical part of being able to get your foreign credentials ultimately recognized in Canada. From an organizational perspective, we have done work with a host of the organizations here in Ottawa and across Canada, quite frankly. Hire Immigrants Ottawa is an organization that is working very hard through the United Way to try to ensure that new immigrants to Canada have opportunities to get Canadian experience. Depending on the regulatory body, they may not actually have their credentials recognized per se, but they may be able to go with Canadian experience and rewrite exams of whatever nature or redo some type of abbreviated form of training.

I do not think it serves any of us well when we have doctors and engineers driving taxi cabs, people with significant technical training, scientific experience, expertise that we as a country could be benefiting from, but we have not figured out how to lift the roadblocks so people can do that.

Ms. Lamba: The PSAC is part of a larger labour movement, so through the Canadian Congress of Labour, they have done a lot of work with respect to foreign credentials as well. As a labour movement, we try to push the policy and advocacy around getting foreign credentials recognized, within the federal public sector obviously but also other sectors as well because it impacts more broadly.

Senator Meredith: Thank you.

The Chair: I have a few questions. When PSAC appeared in June 2009 in front of us, you expressed concern about restricting the office of human resources to a more corporate structure, a corporate role in human resource management, and giving the discretion and accountability to deputy heads of government and decentralization. We heard some of it today when they were saying that is not their role now and it is the deputy minister's answer. Will we bring 72 deputy ministers to answer us? Is this where we are going with this, the delegation of this responsibility of the enforcement of the Employment Equity Act to the deputy ministers?

You expressed your concerns at that time. Do you feel your concerns at that time have been realized?

Ms. Ducharme: I certainly think that the statistics on hiring, promotions and separations that are in the report that was provided to us today on employment equity in the public service certainly support our concerns, fears and reservations. Again, with several of the designated groups, the departure rates are significantly higher than the hiring rates.

Ms. Lamba: I would say our concerns are still there. Our concerns are about consistency and the lack of accountability. Basically, what we hear from Treasury Board is that we do not have that role anymore, so there is really no one in charge. It is the individual department, it is the deputy heads, and that is what we hear.

The accountability is supposed to be built into their management accountability frameworks, but employment equity is just one criterion among many. As Ms. Ducharme pointed out, if a deputy head is good at making cuts or doing something else with the budget, they will get their bonus — because that is what the management accountability framework is about — then employment equity could be on the bottom of their list.

As long as they tick off maybe they did something with employment equity, met somebody or did something, they met have their employment equity criteria, perhaps.

It is still a big concern with us with the devolution of responsibilities. In our opinion, Treasury Board is still the employer, but Treasury Board is not playing that role as much as they ought to, in our opinion.

The Chair: They have given up their oversight role.

Ms. Ducharme: Yes.

The Chair: The other thing that concerns me is when we talk about people with disabilities. Often people join the public service and unfortunately then become sick, and then they become a statistic that the public service has met their quota of people with disabilities.

How actively are we recruiting the person who has a disability into the public service?

Ms. Ducharme: I cannot answer that question. I think it would be a question better put to Treasury Board Secretariat. Again, the statistical data shows that the departure rate is more than double the hiring rate for workers with disabilities, from the latest data.

I think that is very significant. I have information that says that in 2010 and 2011, 2.6 per cent of new hires into the federal public service were people with disabilities, as compared to the workforce availability of 4 per cent.

I think it is of note that, in the 2008 Public Service Employee Survey, about half of the employees with disabilities reported that they had experienced harassment in the workplace, 49 per cent of them reporting that they had experienced harassment in the past one or two years.

The Chair: Thank you very much. We look forward to receiving your observations on the report that was released by Treasury Board today. I do not mean to put a terribly onerous task on you, but if you are able to comment on some of our recommendations, where they are — as we have asked of human resources and the Treasury Board — then we would have some way to compare.

Ms. Ducharme: We will certainly do that. We are very happy to have the opportunity to interface with this committee and to provide you with our thoughts and perspectives on these issues. We see these issues as incredibly important, not just for people who are our members but for the public. If we truly want to see a reflective public service in Canada we, globally, have a huge amount of work to do. Anything we can do to help you in that process we will undertake.

The Chair: The last thing I would ask is on the issue of the champions. It is a new program, so if you are able to share feedback with us, after you have spoken to your members, on this program, we would find that very useful, or if there is a member who would want to share with us their observations, we would like to get his or her name.

We want to thank you. You are always available to us and we could not do this work without your partnership. We very much appreciate your giving us your time and your always thoughtful presentations.

(The committee continued in camera.)