Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
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.
The Chair: Honourable senators, I now call to order the ninth
meeting of the Forty-first Parliament of the Standing Senate Committee on
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.
The Chair: Before I continue, I would like my colleagues to
introduce themselves to the panel.
Senator Brazeau: I am Senator Patrick Brazeau from Quebec.
Senator Ataullahjan: I am Senator Ataullahjan from Toronto,
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
The Chair: Honourable senators, today we are reconvening to study
the hiring and promotion practices in the federal public service.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
I would now like to discuss specific numbers from our latest report on
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Ms. Henry, do you want to make any
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Aboriginal workers are still not represented across the public service.
In seven of the 25 largest departments, they are below their workforce
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.