Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 27 - Evidence - May 27, 2013
OTTAWA, Monday, May 27, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day, at 4 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 call this meeting of the Standing
Senate Committee on Human Rights to order. The committee is tasked, by the
Senate, with examining issues related to human rights, both in Canada and
Today, we are continuing our study on employment equity in the federal public
service. For the purposes of this meeting, the Standing Senate Committee on
Human Rights has been authorized to examine issues of discrimination in the
hiring and promotion practices of the federal public service. So far, we have
been studying the extent to which the goals of the Employment Equity Act are
being fulfilled within the federal public service. The purpose of this act is to
ensure that federally regulated employers provide equal opportunities for
employment to four designated groups — women, aboriginal peoples, persons with
disabilities and members of visible minorities.
The act imposes obligations on employers to assess the degree to which
employment equity is a reality in their workplace and to implement policies to
produce the necessary changes. It also provides guidance as to how to make
assessments by comparing how the representation of members of the four
designated groups — women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and
members of a visible minority — within the workplace compares with their
availability in the Canadian workforce.
In 2004, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights first began to examine
the hiring and promotion practices of the federal service and to study the
extent to which employment equity targets are being met. In 2007, the committee
further studied the hiring and promotion practices of the federal 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 Privy Council Office is the hub of non-partisan public service support to
the prime minister and the cabinet and its decision-making structures. The Privy
Council Office helps the government implement its vision and respond effectively
and quickly to issues facing the government and the country.
The Privy Council Office acts as an adviser to the Prime Minister;
facilitates the smooth, efficient and effective functioning of the cabinet and
the Government of Canada on a day-to-day basis; and seeks to ensure that
Canadians are served by a quality public service that delivers services in a
professional manner and strives to meet the highest standards of accountability,
transparency and efficiency.
Today, we look forward to hearing from the Privy Council Office about the
direction and support they provide to federal government departments, in
particular to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, with regard to
employment equity policy.
I am Mobina Jaffer, a senator from British Columbia and Chair of the Standing
Senate Committee on Human Rights. I welcome you here today; we look forward to
hearing from you. However, before we start, permit me to have the members
introduce themselves. I will start with the Speaker — we are privileged to have
the Speaker here today with us.
Senator Kinsella: Thank you. I am Senator Kinsella from New Brunswick.
Senator Oh: Senator Oh from Ontario.
Senator Greene: Steve Greene from Nova Scotia.
Senator Ngo: Senator Ngo from Ontario.
Senator Hubley: Elizabeth Hubley, Prince Edward Island.
Senator Munson: Senator Munson from Ontario.
The Chair: This is the first time we have succeeded in having the
Privy Council make a presentation to this committee. I understand you want a
little longer than we normally allow for presentations, and we are happy to do
that. We will ask Ms. Wilma Vreeswijk, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, and
Filipe Dinis, Assistant Secretary to Cabinet, Business Transformation and
Renewal Secretariat, to make presentations.
Wilma Vreeswijk, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Business Transformation
and Renewal Secretariat, Privy Council Office: Thank you, Madam Chair. I am
pleased to join the standing committee this afternoon to discuss a commitment we
all share: ensuring a public service distinguished by excellence and reflective
of the rich diversity of our country.
Before I dive into my specific remarks on this issue, I would like to briefly
explain my role.
I lead the Business Transformation and Renewal Secretariat at the PCO. Among
other things, it supports the Clerk of the Privy Council in his role as head of
the public service and advises him as he sets the direction for the overall
management and renewal of the public service. This includes helping him prepare
annual reports to the Prime Minister on the public service.
While I know you have met with representatives from the Public Service
Commission and from the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, in order to
provide some context, I would like to recap the structures, roles and
responsibilities in place to advance employment equity and diversity in the
Achieving a representative and inclusive workplace is a shared challenge.
Deputies have primary responsibility for day-to-day operations, staffing and HR
management in their departments. They therefore have primary responsibility for
ensuring the representativeness of their organizations.
Deputies also select departmental champions for the three designated
employment equity groups. Each champion, along with a departmental employee
network chair, sits as a representative on the interdepartmental Champions and
Chairs Committee for their respective group. Each of these committees is then
chaired by a deputy minister champion selected by the clerk.
The committees establish priorities, take stock of progress against
employment equity objectives, and develop strategies to address identified
issues. Additional checks and balances are also integrated into the system.
The Public Service Commission is accountable for the appointment of qualified
persons to and from the public service and strives to ensure the recruitment and
appointment policies are barrier- and bias-free. As the employer, the Treasury
Board Secretariat — in particular, within the secretariat, the Office of the
Chief Human Resources Officer — is ultimately responsible for promoting and
monitoring employment equity performance in departments and for reporting to
Parliament each year on the results. It establishes the policy framework,
provides program coordination and shares policy advice and best practices with
As well, the Treasury Board's Management Accountability Framework, a key
performance tool to rate how well departments are being managed, includes
representativeness as part of its people management indicators. Furthermore, the
Canadian Human Rights Commission works to ensure that departments adhere to the
Employment Equity Act. The commission monitors departmental progress against set
hiring promotion goals for designated groups and seeks corrective action when
progress falls short.
This framework of roles, responsibilities and oversight serves to effectively
advance employment equity and diversity in the public service.
In his role as head of the public service, the clerk also has a key role to
play in ensuring the public service reflects and benefits from the diversity of
the Canadian population. He does so in a number of ways. Diversity is an
important theme in the clerk's annual reports to the Prime Minister each year.
In his most recent report, released earlier this month, he wrote:
Canada's diversity is a source of great strength and pride. I am proud that
we continue to build a Public Service that reflects this richness of
His annual reports draw attention to representation data for the federal
public service, which show that representation of all four employment equity
groups has increased over the past several years.
In addition, the clerk provides advice to the Prime Minister on senior-level
appointments, including deputy ministers, and strives to ensure a diverse
leadership cadre for the public service.
He also encourages deputies to continue increasing the representativeness of
their organizations. To support this, the Canadian Human Rights Commission
provides the clerk with an annual assessment of the performance of departments
in adhering to the Employment Equity Act. This is one of the elements considered
in a deputy's performance rating.
As previously mentioned, the clerk is responsible for appointing the deputies
to lead the three committees, champions and chairs. In addition, the clerk
monitors diversity and employment equity-related issues and, from time to time,
provides an update to the prime minister.
Given the strong commitment to diversity and the extensive structure put in
place to advance diversity, there have been significant gains in the
representation of all four designated groups over the last decade.
The most recent figures provided by the Treasury Board Secretariat for the
federal public service, comprising the core public administration as well as
some large separate employers like the Canada Revenue Agency, Parks Canada and
the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, show that the representation in all
designated employment equity groups exceeds their workforce availabilities.
As of March 31, 2012, women are 2.5 percentage points above the target of
52.8 per cent; Aboriginal peoples are 1.6 percentage points over the target of
2.9; persons with disabilities are 1.7 percentage points above the target of
4.0; members of a visible minority group are 30 basis points above the target of
In the executive category, where data is available for the core public
administration, workforce availabilities are being exceeded for women, persons
with disabilities and members of visible minority groups, while representation
of Aboriginal peoples falls short of workforce availability by 80 basis points.
In terms of internal activities in the Privy Council Office, the PCO
recognizes the interdependence between the high quality of its services and the
diversity of its workforce. As the deputy head, the clerk is responsible for
demonstrating leadership and commitment to equity and diversity within PCO.
Employment equity and diversity are core values, which are part of the Privy
Council Office's operational and human resources plans and strategies.
The clerk also selects the PCO employment equity and diversity champion and
co-champion for each group to further foster a culture of respect and openness
in the workplace. As well, PCO has an active employment equity and diversity
advisory committee, which advises and advocates on the issues.
In January of this year, Justice Canada, in partnership with PCO, hosted a
national session on removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible
society for all. This was to mark the International Day of Persons with
In 2009, PCO was subject to a Canadian Human Rights Commission audit. The
commission expressed that they were impressed with our efforts to integrate
employment equity goals into human resource planning and recruiting strategies,
and with the monitoring of results.
These ongoing efforts to promote diversity are achieving results, and as of
October 2012, based on self- identification, PCO exceeded workforce
availabilities for all four designated groups. Women are 1.7 percentage points
above the target of 55.1; Aboriginal peoples are 1.7 percentage points over the
target of 2.3; members of visible minority groups are 2.0 percentage points
above the target of 10.2; persons with disabilities are 2.3 percentage points
above the 3.9 per cent target.
For executives, PCO is above workforce availability for all designated equity
groups, with the exception of Aboriginal peoples, where only two additional
employees are required for us to meet our workforce availability numbers.
To continue to deliver on its mission with excellence in the years ahead, PCO
will maintain its efforts to ensure its workforce reflects the changing fabric
of Canadian society and that its workplace is a welcoming environment for
members of employment equity designated groups.
Thank you for this opportunity to take part in the committee's important
dialogue, and I would welcome questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I am assuming, Mr. Dinis, you have no
remarks to add at this point?
Filipe Dinis, Assistant Secretary to Cabinet, Business Transformation and
Renewal Secretariat, Privy Council Office:
That is correct, thank you.
The Chair: Thank you both for being here. May I ask you to turn to
page 6? I want a clarification. You set out different numbers at the top of the
page. You have, for example, set out 1.6 percentage points over the target for
Aboriginal and the target of 2.9, and then at the bottom you have members of
visible minority groups are 30 basis points above the target. Why are you using
different ways of describing it, and what does 30 basis points mean?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Thirty basis points means that we are 0.3 per cent
below the target. In terms of the figures, we are basing our numbers on the
numbers produced by the Treasury Board Secretariat.
The Chair: It is just that it is like apples and oranges. I wanted to
clarify that. I also want to clarify before we go into questions that the
numbers you are relying on are from Census 2006. Is that correct?
Ms. Vreeswijk: In terms of workforce availability, yes.
The Chair: We have had another census since that date, and I imagine
that we will soon have those figures as well. You do not have them yet, I
respect that, but I am saying that there has been another census since 2006.
Ms. Vreeswijk: There has been, and we await the data.
The Chair: One of the other things I want to clarify is that there are
champions for different committees for Aboriginal people, people with
disabilities and members of visible minority groups. There has been no champion
appointed to create Champions and Chairs Committees for women. If that is
correct, why not?
Ms. Vreeswijk: No champion has been appointed for women. I believe
part of the reason is that in terms of workforce availability numbers, women are
above. It is 52 per cent and women comprise 55.3 per cent of the positions
within the public service.
The Chair: Is that why a champion has not been appointed?
Ms. Vreeswijk: I cannot comment on why. I am postulating that that is
the reason why.
The Chair: May I please ask you to find out and let the clerk know?
Ms. Vreeswijk: We will get back to you on that.
The Chair: Yes, why a champion for women has not been appointed.
We will now go on to questions.
Senator Kinsella: Thank you very much for appearing today and helping
the committee on its study on issues of discrimination in hiring and promotion
practices of the federal government. The paradigm of a couple of questions that
I want to raise is the pan-Canadian perspective. In that context, I wanted to
find out whether mobility is an issue or obstacle to hiring and promotion
practices within the federal public service, given that we are a large
confederation with great distances, and to ensure that Canadians from all parts
of Canada have equal opportunity to participate in the Public Service of Canada.
I am wondering whether you would speak a little bit to the question of
participation in the public service by the members of the four target groups in
terms of province of origin and province of residence. Are there, for example,
large concentrations of citizens who fall within the four designated groups for
employment equity? For example, in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, parts of
Saskatchewan, Windsor, Ontario and Montreal, there are very large and important
what some call indigenous Black communities that go back to pre-Loyalist times.
I am curious as to whether you have done any studies as to the place of origin
of province and whether there is a disproportionate participation or an under
level of participation from the members of the four target groups depending on
what province you happen to come from.
We do know — and it has come up in debates in the Senate from time to time —
that the honourable senators, many who represent the interests of provinces
pursuant to our Constitution, are concerned that there is not sufficient
participation from a given province in the public service, and that it seems
more centric to the Montreal-Ottawa- Toronto axis. One can understand that there
is a very high and vigorous, healthy multicultural community in the larger
metropolitan areas, but are any steps being taken to ensure that members of the
multicultural community, women, persons with disabilities and First Nations
people in other parts of Canada are fully participating?
I raise my questions under the rubric of mobility. Of course, the Charter
recognizes the mobility right of all Canadians. Has the government mined down
sufficiently to understand the participation — we want to grow the participation
of members of these four target groups — and how that it impacted by place of
provincial origin or provincial residence?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Certainly, I think if you look at workforce
availability of different groups across the country, there is variability. When
staffing, deputy ministers are responsible for the hiring process and HR
management process. Each organization faces its own challenges and opportunities
in terms of how to ensure that their departments and operations take advantage
of and offer opportunity to designated groups.
If you were to look at the annual report on employment equity from the
Treasury Board Secretariat, you would see that certainly if you were in
Newfoundland it might be more difficult to achieve the employment equity
objectives with respect to visible minorities versus perhaps if the department
had larger operations in British Columbia. Each organization has its own
challenges and opportunities.
I think that quite recently you had before you the head of Parks Canada, and
he spoke about the fact that they do a lot of their management of parks in
collaboration with Aboriginal groups, and as a result they have a larger
representation of Aboriginal people in their executive ranks, at 12 per cent. It
offers both challenges and opportunities as deputy ministers do their hiring.
Within the public service, once hired, there is mobility, and there are
opportunities for people to move and to seek different work with different
departments. That is part of the benefit of being a public servant, the ability
to shift, obtain new experience and advance that way.
The whole mobility issue is both on the recruitment side — yes, there are
channels and opportunities — but once within there are also opportunities to
advance. There are public servants who move across regions and there are public
servants who move within organizations as well.
Senator Kinsella: Are the deputy ministers given any guidance as to
how they can improve the participation of members of the four target groups
either in recruiting or in promotion with a specific focus on the availability
in given provinces?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Deputy ministers are held accountable for the hiring
and promotion, how they hire and how they promote their employees. They produce
HR plans and, within that, employment equity plans. They are held accountable
for how well they are meeting those. The Treasury Board Secretariat, as part of
their Management Accountability Framework, does an assessment of deputies and
how well they are performing against the workforce availability numbers, and it
provides them with feedback on that so they can take corrective measures, if
necessary. That information is also factored into deputy ministers'
accountabilities and performance assessments.
Senator Kinsella: Have you or your colleagues across government had
discussions on another instrument in the availability, namely contract
compliance, given that the Government of Canada is a major leaser of contracts?
Have you had discussions on using contract compliance to promote employment
Ms. Vreeswijk: I am sorry, I do not quite understand the question. Are
you saying contract compliance with respect to deputy ministers?
Senator Kinsella: No, if there is a major contract being let either by
a corporation or by the government, that one of the factors that is evaluated in
determining who gets the contract is what kind of an employment equity program,
for the life of that contract, the person who submits the contract is proposing.
If one bidder says here is our plan and we are going to increase the
participation of women throughout the life of this contract by following these
steps, and the competitors do not have very good contract compliance, have you
considered using the tremendous power available through the issuance of
contracts to promote the social objective that Parliament has deemed to be in
the national interest?
Ms. Vreeswijk: In terms of whether and how that would be used, the
lead on procurement is the Public Works and Government Services Canada, and they
would probably be able to comment more fully on that than I can.
Senator Kinsella: There is a pan-government policy on employment
equity, and therefore are we safe as parliamentarians to assume that all would
be sharing in that same public policy? Therefore, whatever instruments are
available, if Public Works is the major department that deals with the granting
or awarding of contracts, they, like your department, are equally committed to
the policy of employment equity, no?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Public Works is held accountable and committed to
employment equity objectives. The deputy minister has to meet the Employment
Equity Act, just like all the other deputy ministers. In terms of how they
factor that into their procurement process and the awarding of contracts, they
would be better placed to answer that than I am.
Senator Andreychuk: When we were first studying the Public Service
Commission and some of the problems implementing what Parliament had indicated
was desirable in the target groups, we found a lot of it might have been
circumvented by using contracts. When you have a vacancy in personnel you can
put in someone by contract. Those people then seem to have an edge into the
Public Service Commission when a job came up. We pointed out that Canada, being
as large and broad as it is and the new face of Canada, that you would have to
reach into a different way of promoting employment within the public service if
you wanted to get ahead.
Equally, we found we have all these agencies now that are somewhat at arm's
length and we are not sure how they are following through or whether they have
to. I think, just following up on what Senator Kinsella has said, when you
tender out large contracts, you can put in terms of the contract, and you are
saying you do not know whether there are terms in those contracts that say that
you should be reaching for the same target standards, or at least trying to
reach those standards as the Canadian government itself is. I guess you answered
that you are not sure and we should go to the human resources, et cetera, and
that is a point well taken. However, have you not had discussions like that with
all of these players?
In the public eye, whether you are working for the Canada Revenue Agency, on
a short-term contract or have full- time employment, it is sometimes lost on the
public. They just want to know a simple thing: Are we all working towards the
Ms. Vreeswijk: To start, I can say that we are all working towards the
same goal. Certainly in terms of reviewing the Public Service Commission's
review of hiring and promotions, the vast majority of employees are hired on an
indeterminate basis. I think you are asking me the question whether departments
use contracting to get around the employment equity, and I cannot say —
Senator Andreychuk: No, I am not implying any negative motives. I am
trying to say that there are all these mechanisms. Are we sure they are applying
the targets process?
Some of them may not have a legal responsibility, but are you using other
methods to encourage them? That is why I am asking: Is there an environment
informally, if not formally, where you discuss this, in the best interests of
Canada, to move forward?
Ms. Vreeswijk: The labour market has changed in terms of demographics.
All senior managers would like to have the largest possible pool to draw from,
so that they can have the most competent and the best employees. When a deputy
minister is looking at their department, they are looking at it as a whole in
terms of whether it is inclusive and welcoming, and asking, ``Are we developing
talent and encouraging our employees to learn, to advance?'' They reflect these
in their human resources plans, which have an employment equity aspect to them.
Senator Andreychuk: I am not questioning the public service or the
deputy ministers at this point. I am simply asking, on a broader point of view,
are you sitting down with other groups — not ones you are responsible for but
the groups all around the government — and talking with them about what Canada
needs, what the issues are, and encouraging them to address the issues of
targets? Those are the informal things we do to make our objectives met.
Really, I am not questioning what is done inside; I am questioning how you
work in the broader community — all of those parts that are not necessarily
under your purview, legally.
Ms. Vreeswijk: I think Mr. Dinis can give you an example from CRA.
Mr. Dinis: I would just like to build on Ms. Vreeswijk's response in
terms of the separate employer. In my previous life, I was part of a separate
employer, that being the Canada Revenue Agency. I can tell you that the
objectives of employment equity that are applicable within the public service
are also very much applicable within the context of that separate employer. I
believe Ms. Vreeswijk highlighted some others.
The objectives and the efforts that are applicable from the core public
service perspective are just as applicable and are pursued within the context of
a separate employer like that particular organization. Therefore, the objectives
and goals of the deputy ministers across the federal public service and the
commissioner of the CRA have the same objectives and work towards the same
targets, if you will, when it comes to managing employment equity.
Senator Andreychuk: My question still is this: How do we, as oversight
of the process, know that the CRA and all these others are following it without
calling each and every one of them? Is there no coordinated way to be assured
for the public that this is happening?
Ms. Vreeswijk: I think that you would probably find some report on
this in the Report on Plans and Priorities that each department tables in
Parliament. You would probably also find it in the Treasury Board of Canada
Secretariat employment equity report, which goes through each and every
department and examines how well they are doing with respect to the designated
There is also the Management Accountability Framework, which assesses each
department's performance with respect to people management each and every year.
That provides an opportunity to get a pretty good snapshot, when you look at all
three of those, of how well departments are preparing for, through their HR
plans, and achieving the targets in and around designated groups.
There are opportunities to take a look at — and I have looked at some, myself
— how each department is doing. There is a significant amount of variability,
reflecting the occupations and reflecting the regions. They each have their own
challenges, but that information is made public.
Senator Andreychuk: It would cover all the agencies?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Yes.
Senator Andreychuk: All the agencies that are created by Parliament?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Yes.
Mr. Dinis: That is correct. The reporting requirements are very much
similar to a normal department, if you will.
The Chair: Just for clarification, is this found in the employment
equity in the Public Service of Canada 2011 annual report to Parliament?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Yes, that is what I was referring to. You can look at
Table 1 in the appendix. This is prepared by the Treasury Board of Canada
Secretariat — the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer.
The Chair: I am looking at that and I do not see figures for the CRA.
I might be missing it; I have to admit I have been looking fast.
Ms. Vreeswijk: It is a test now for me to find it.
The Chair: It is not meant to be a test. I just do not see it, though
it may be there. I just wanted to clarify if that is what you meant.
Ms. Vreeswijk: That is what I meant.
The Chair: CRA is not on it.
I have some questions on the confusion I have with the Treasury Board of
Canada Secretariat's annual report. Some witnesses have complained that the
Treasury Board's most recent annual reports are much shorter than in previous
years and do not contain sufficient information for service and labour unions to
provide constructive commentary in response.
What directive is the Privy Council Office giving to the Treasury Board of
Canada Secretariat as to what to include in these reports?
Ms. Vreeswijk: In terms of what is in those reports, it is the
accountability of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat to determine what
they report on and how to structure those reports.
Senator Munson: Thank you very much for being here. In a previous
life, when working in the Prime Minister's Office with Prime Minister Chrétien,
I had the opportunity to have weekly meetings with members of the Privy Council
Office, and I found it very interesting, engaging and insightful. I do not think
Canadians understand when you say ``PCO'' exactly what the PCO does and who the
PCO is. It is a bureaucracy that is close to the Prime Minister, and it does a
very effective role.
In the interests of accountability and transparency — which seems to be a big
phrase around here these days — we are studying the employment equity in other
departments, but within your own department, how many employees do you have?
Does it reflect the mosaic that we see in other departments? Are you leading by
Ms. Vreeswijk: Thank you. The Privy Council Office in its entirety is
just over 800 employees. Of the 800 employees, about 56.8 per cent are women; 4
per cent are Aboriginal people; and 6.2 per cent are persons with disabilities.
In terms of visible minority groups, 12.2 per cent are visible minority
representatives. For executives, we have about 100, and 50 per cent of those are
women. In terms of Aboriginal people, we start getting into small numbers. It is
very difficult to report on a population of 100 while maintaining the
confidentiality of employees, so on Aboriginal peoples I cannot report, except
for my opening remarks. Persons with disabilities, in terms of the executives,
are at 8.7 per cent and visible minorities are at 7.7 per cent. The latter two
are just over workforce availability. Workforce availability for persons with
disabilities in the executive category is about 4 per cent and we are at 8.7 per
cent. We tend to exceed within the executive group for all designated groups.
This is a core commitment of the Privy Council Office. The clerk is the head
of the public service, and we take very seriously the importance of leading by
example. As I reported, we are above workforce availability on all designated
Senator Munson: Do you have champions as well?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Yes, we do.
Senator Munson: I have never heard that word. Is that something new or
has it been around for some time?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Since 2011. Government-wide, not only in the Privy
Council Office, we have organized to have deputy minister champions that bring
together champions appointed by deputy ministers in each department, as well as
the chairs of the networks of employees from the designated groups. You had the
three champions before you just a few weeks ago. It is a very important
mechanism to promote dialogue and share best practices. Some issues were raised
on regional representation and availability, and that kind of experience is very
important in terms of enriching the dialogue across departments and in raising
awareness. The three deputy minister champions are appointed by the Clerk of the
Privy Council, and this is a key process of raising awareness and taking action
on employment equity groups.
Senator Munson: You have probably seen some of the other testimony
before us over the last number of years. I would like to get your point of view
on this. Treasury Board always claims it gives out detailed statistical reports
and paints a reasonable, rosy picture. However, the Public Service Alliance has
a different view, claiming the Treasury Board was withholding statistics,
criticizing the outdated and under-representative workforce availability from
these benchmarks for the four employment equity groups.
When you see these two conflicting points — they both claim to be telling the
truth as they see it — how does PCO view it? To give you an example, Aboriginal
women are hired less often than Aboriginal men. How do you view all of these
Ms. Vreeswijk: Each year, the individual departments report on their
employment equity information to the Treasury Board Secretariat. It then rolls
all of that up and it forms part of their annual report to Parliament on how
well we are doing both in individual departments and also collectively.
In terms of workforce availability, they rely on the census data. Yes, we are
waiting for the new census information to come so that we can ensure we continue
to be in line and take note of what is happening within Canada. The data comes
from deputies providing that information to the Treasury Board Secretariat and
StatsCan providing information to help inform the workforce availability
analysis. They are coming from third parties, and in that way, I think that one
could say they are reliable. We certainly rely on that. Deputies are held
accountable in terms of how and what they are reporting to the Treasury Board
Secretariat. Apart from that, I cannot comment on what the bargaining agents are
Senator Munson: I presume you cannot comment on whether we are getting
the right census information and timely census information.
I have one other question. For someone watching this committee and listening
to you, when you do the statistical business — talking about women and 2.5 per
cent above the target of this 52.8 per cent and Aboriginal people is 1.6 per
cent and it goes on with disabilities and visible minority — can you paint a
real picture for us of humanity in this country of what these numbers really
mean? Who are they? Is this a good thing? Can we do better? As we said in our
report, we must do better than our previous report of 2007, I believe. I would
like to get a picture of what this really means, the hiring practices of
Canadians in the public service.
Ms. Vreeswijk: First, the public service has a fundamental principle
of merit which underpins all of our processes. It is about trying to have a high
performing, non-partisan, professional public service. This is our ultimate
objective. Like other employers in the country, the labour pool we are drawing
on is changing and is highly competitive. We are seeking to have a labour pool
that is as inclusive as possible, such that we can take advantage of excellence
wherever we find it. We believe that we will find the best and the brightest in
all walks of Canada.
Our commitment is to try to make sure that our processes favour that and we
are able to encourage a wide swath of Canadians to apply for and take advantage
of opportunity within the public service. A number of departments are taking
different strategies in doing that, and all of this is welcomed because we are
trying to build a strong, diverse public service. Like other employers — a paper
was recently released by the Conference Board — we recognize that by having a
diverse workforce, we are better able to relate to Canadians and to citizens as
clients. We are better able to engage in terms of partners, whether in Canada or
elsewhere. We are also more innovative. For senior management, a key priority of
any senior manager, whether in the private sector or the public sector, is to
have a creative, dynamic workforce, and part of that is having a diverse
workforce. That is how we will get new ideas and be creative into the future.
Beyond the numbers, it is the best strategy to have a high performing public
Senator Munson: Thank you.
The Chair: I have a supplementary question on that. I understand no
one wants us to have anything but merit, but we do have a law that says the
public service should reflect the diversity of Canada, so we also have to take
that into account.
How involved is the Privy Council Office in providing direction to and
working with the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada with regard to employment
equity and discrimination in the federal public service? How often does the
Privy Council Office meet with the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada and
other departments to discuss employment equity? What direction do you give?
Ms. Vreeswijk: We are in constant dialogue with our colleagues at the
Treasury Board Secretariat on a wide swath of issues. Renewal of the public
service is a key part of that.
The Chief Human Resources Officer reports to the Clerk of the Privy Council
office, so that relationship is a direct one. As he discharges his duties, that
dialogue is ongoing. To say how many times, I really could not comment on that
because the dialogue is continuous.
All deputies are held accountable for how they exercise their
responsibilities; so, too, are the Secretary of the Treasury Board and the Chief
Human Resources Officer.
The Chair: How many women deputy ministers are there?
Ms. Vreeswijk: I can provide you the numbers from a percentage
perspective. About 35.4 per cent of deputy ministers are women.
The Chair: Aboriginal people?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Aboriginal people, 2.6 per cent.
The Chair: People with a handicap?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Persons with disabilities, 1.3 per cent; and visible
minorities, 3.9 per cent.
I should back up a little bit, because I am very sensitive to the point that
was made, that we can talk about statistics but it is very important to get the
context as well.
When we are looking at the deputy community, we have between 75 and 80 deputy
ministers. The key feeder group, about 90 per cent of our staffing of deputy
ministers comes from the assistant deputy minister group. When we are pursuing
talent management, which we do for each and every assistant deputy minister and
succession planning, we are looking at opportunities to see what development is
required for those ADMs to become deputy ministers. It is in this way that we
are trying to move toward a higher level of representation.
When you are dealing with a population of about 80 individuals, a shift of
one or two individuals for personal reasons, for professional reasons, can shift
your statistics significantly. That is just by way of explanation.
We do, from time to time, if you have three or four individuals who have
self-identified as a person with a disability, if one of them leaves, our
statistics change quite significantly. Where we place our focus is really on
making sure that the feeder groups are well prepared and that we develop them.
We want the widest possible pool when staffing deputy ministers so that we can
ensure we have the best available.
In terms of the scope of the deputy ministers, each and every year the
committee of senior officials meets, they look at the ADM cadre, they look at
the talent management and succession planning and provide advice to the clerk on
The Chair: How many ADMs do you have?
Ms. Vreeswijk: As I recall, the number is around 300. I think the
Chief Human Resources Officer has indicated it is about 300.
The Chair: Of the 300, how many are women?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Women, 39.5 per cent.
The Chair: The rest of the groups?
Ms. Vreeswijk: I will go through them systematically. The ADM feeder
representation: 3.5 per cent. We have, within deputy ministers, 35, so we have
an opportunity to increase that. The ADM feeder group also has 1.8 per cent
Aboriginal, 2.8 per cent persons with disabilities and 5.8 per cent visible
minorities. That is compared to workforce availability. I should probably give
those to you at the same time.
Workforce availability for women is 42.1 per cent, and representation is
39.5; workforce availability for Aboriginals is 6.7 per cent, and representation
is at 1.8 per cent; persons with disabilities is at 4 per cent, and
representation of ADMs is at 2.8 per cent; and visible minorities is at 5.1 per
cent, and representation is at 5.8 per cent.
The Chair: I am lost. When you talk about workforce availability, what
do you mean? You must have other figures on workforce availability.
Ms. Vreeswijk: Workforce availability takes into account the
occupation and the level of the individuals. We do not tend to draw from entry
level executives when staffing ministers. Workforce availability in this
instance is at the assistant deputy minister or at the VP kind of level. That is
the population we would draw on for staffing deputy ministers. That is why the
numbers are different.
Senator Hubley: Thank you for your presentation. The former President
of the Public Service Commission of Canada previously stated before the
committee that she did not have a great deal of confidence in the number used to
calculate the number of visible minorities currently working in the Government
of Canada. She claimed it is under- representative. Do you agree with this
statement? If so, what implications does it have for monitoring employment
equity in the federal public service?
Ms. Vreeswijk: It is very difficult for me to comment on the former
President of the Public Service Commission's comment because I do not know in
what context it was provided.
I can say that, whether at entry levels or at the deputy level, we rely on
employees' self-identification in order to ascertain how well we are doing. I
believe the same methodology is used in the private sector: self-identification.
That is voluntary and confidential, as it should be and as is indicated in the
act. We cannot then approach people and say to them, ``please self-identify.''
As a mechanism for assessing how well we do, what experience shows us is the
way to encourage employees to self- identify is to do a significant amount of
outreach. While we cannot do the outreach to individuals, we can do the outreach
to public servants more widely. At various points, departments are doing that
kind of outreach, communicating, engaging their executives who may be members of
designated groups in trying to reach and encourage employees to self-identify.
The Public Service Commission also encourages it at the point of hiring, at
appointment stage, and then the Treasury Board Secretariat and deputy ministers
within their departments encourage it at various junctures, at the stage of
promotions, so when a job offer is made. The champions and chairs are also very
much involved, and I think there is also a working group on self-identification.
It is very important as a key data source for us in understanding how well we
are doing. It is important that we make employees as comfortable as possible
with the self-identification process, and part of that is the confidentiality
and the voluntary nature of it.
The Chair: Senator Ngo, I think you had the same question.
Senator Ngo: Yes, you already asked the question regarding fair
representation at the executive level, and she has answered that.
Do visible minority groups tend to be employed only by a few departments and
not represented equally throughout the public service?
Ms. Vreeswijk: No, the table that I referred to earlier — my
apologies, it does not include the core public administration or Canada Revenue
Agency — lists the percentages by department of visible minorities. You will
find the number varies on a per-department basis.
The Public Health Agency, 17 per cent of their employees are members of a
visible minority group; Treasury Board Secretariat, 14.7 per cent are members of
a visible minority group. I am trying to go over the workforce availability
numbers. PCO is at 12.9 per cent and Canada School of Public Service at 13.5 per
Therefore, if you look at this table, while the numbers vary, there are many
departments that are well over the workforce availability levels that are
developed, following the census.
The Chair: National Defence has 6.8 per cent and there are many that
have less. I will not go through the whole table.
Senator Andreychuk: As a follow-up, we had the target groups —
designated groups, as we call them — and this was put in place some time ago. Do
you feel confident that working on designated groups and identifying the best
way to make an inclusive Public Service Commission is still the same way? There
was a lot of discussion before that as to how to do it to be representative.
Targeting is one way of doing it; designating it is another way. Do you feel
comfortable that our act is reflecting modern tools for a modern society?
Ms. Vreeswijk: It is very difficult for me to comment on a whole piece
of legislation. There are a number of different ways that we try to create an
environment that is both reflective of the diversity of Canada but also
welcoming to Canadians. Purely as a business decision, it is a wise business
decision to do so.
By focusing on the designated groups, it gives us an opportunity to ensure
that we keep an eye on the multiplicity of actions that are taken in
departments, both individually and collectively, and that we give it focus and
Having said that, there are Canadians who do not view themselves as
necessarily being members of a group. They identify with who they are as
individuals and will happily compete. Our view is that the pool of excellence
extends right across all designated groups and extends to a wide swath of
Canadians. Our focus is on merit. Having said that, we keep an eye on the
Senator Andreychuk: We heard throughout our previous reports that
there needed to be cultural changes within the bureaucracy to be more welcoming.
Are you addressing that?
Ms. Vreeswijk: We are continually mindful of the fact that there are
the numbers, and it is important to keep an eye on the numbers, but there is
also the matter of creating an environment that is respectful, healthy and
Senator Andreychuk: I did not really look this up fully, and I should
have, but we use the term ``visible minorities'' and we use the concept of
self-identification. At one point we were faulted by a subcommittee of the
United Nations Human Rights Commission for using the term ``visible minority;''
namely, that it in itself is discriminatory. When you identify Canadians as
visible minorities, you are separating them from being part of the majority.
The pushback in Canada was that the minority groups — at least those that
spoke out — were comfortable with the term ``visible minority'' and it did have
that lever of self-identification, so that was helpful.
Have you received any comments that the term should not be used, or that it
is a practical and good definition?
Ms. Vreeswijk: I cannot say that I have received any commentary on
whether the term is in and of itself discouraging. Some individuals and people
do not think it is inclusive enough. I can say that there are sensitivities and
sometimes they do vary, depending on the age group as well.
Whether people are hearing it differently perhaps than it is intended, it is
intended to be a positive measure, to try to ensure that we are inclusive. If
people are hearing that as exclusive, as something that is not welcoming, that
is certainly not the intent.
The Chair: You know we have done a number of studies, and in the
studies we have done on this subject, the issue of self-identification has come
up a number of times. If I am not mistaken, I have understood that when people
apply for the job, they self-identify. However, once they have been in the
public service for a while, they are reluctance to self- identify further.
I would like to hear what the Privy Council Office is doing to create a
culture where people feel proud to be able to identify. We have heard people
saying they do not want to self-identify because they do not want to hurt their
chances of promotion.
Ms. Vreeswijk: In terms of self-identification, it is really important
for us to have the two dimensions, the voluntary and confidential nature of it.
Part of that is creating the right environment such that employees feel
comfortable to self- identify.
I know that there have been departments where they have seen their
self-identification numbers and they do not seem to line up with their sense of
where their departments are going. They have then done a significant amount of
outreach and communications and really placed a priority on self-identification.
Following on that, they have seen a positive response from employees.
It seems to me that the key is to communicate that it is voluntary and
confidential, and to respect that, and to do so on a regular or periodic basis.
As I indicated to you earlier, the Conference Board of Canada has a study on
the business case for hiring visible minorities. They talked about there being a
wide variety of reasons why visible minorities may or may not self-declare. We
are all grappling with the same thing. As I indicated earlier, each deputy
minister has the accountability for HR management and planning, but they can
also reach their employees much, much more easily than centrally.
Having said all of that, each and every year, the clerk has included
direction and has commented on the importance of diversity. There is a section
in his annual report this year, as in prior years, that talks about the
importance of diversity in bringing the richness of experience and perspectives
to the public service, and how that is valued. We know that public servants read
this, and I think that is a signal from the top as to how important it is. It
can help put people at greater ease with respect to self-identification.
The Chair: Besides what the clerk puts in his report, what is the
clerk doing proactively to encourage people to feel comfortable enough to
self-identify? What is he doing with the deputy ministers to make it comfortable
for people to identify? We have heard from people who said they do not feel
comfortable to self-identify.
Ms. Vreeswijk: As I indicated at the start, with respect to
accountabilities, it really is the deputy ministers who are involved in the
day-to-day operations of their departments, and they can reach employees in a
very direct way. They can send the signal with respect to their senior
management teams of the importance of ensuring the participation of designated
groups. They can send a signal about providing a welcoming work environment, and
they can encourage employees to self-identify.
It is through the means of having the dialogue with the deputies that the
clerk provides that direction and encouragement to deputies to exercise these
Senator Munson: I am sure the wise minds inside PCO and Treasury Board
have thought of this question on strategy. As I am beginning to understand, it
is a boomer time and people are leaving the public service by the thousands
because they have reached that time in their life when they just want to retire.
In new strategic plans within the public service, could you give us some
insights how this would work with visible minorities, Aboriginals and women? Is
there something new afoot that would be put into place to make it even easier
for these groups to join the public service, since you will have many gaps to
fill in the next few years?
Ms. Vreeswijk: It is true that, like the rest of Canadian society, the
public service is aging, and that is something we have to keep in mind when we
look at workforce composition. We do not want to lose the gains we have made. We
must make sure that we monitor both the numbers that are leaving as well as the
numbers that are arriving.
In terms of hiring and the appointments as reported by the Public Service
Commission, I will run through the full list of designated groups, if that is
We are appointing about 53 per cent women, and the separations are at about
55 per cent, so we are losing more women than we are appointing, but marginally.
In terms of Aboriginal people, 5.3 per cent of appointments are of Aboriginal
persons, and the separations, the people who are leaving, is at 3.8 per cent, so
we have a net gain still; we are still hiring more than are leaving.
In terms of persons with disabilities, 3 per cent persons with disabilities
are being appointed but separations are 6.8 per cent. That probably reflects the
aging of the population and the fact that there is an increase in disabilities
as people get older.
Then with respect to visible minorities, the Public Service Commission number
at the point of hiring is 22 per cent hiring of visible minorities, with
separations at 7.7 per cent. In that instance, we are hiring certainly more than
Overall, when we look at the composition of the public service, we tend to
just look at the margin, the individuals who are coming in and the individuals
who are leaving, but it is important to keep in mind the stock as well. What we
have now in terms of composition of the public service reflects 35 years of
individual hiring and promotion decisions, at a time when workforce availability
might have been different. We are always mindful of that, that we have to take
positive measures to ensure that we keep an eye on workforce availability and
how that is changing into the future, but that we also keep in mind the
individuals who are already with the public service and how our hiring and
promotions are affecting them.
Senator Munson: I do not want to interrupt, but the question was, is
there a new strategy in place as a result of losing so many public servants in
attracting visible minorities, the four employment equity groups? Is someone
thinking about this?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Each deputy minister is thinking about how they ensure
that they have, within their HR plan, a robust succession plan. That is part and
parcel of all the integrated HR plans and business plans of departments. They
know their population and they need to have succession plans in place to ensure
that as people retire, there is a cohort behind them.
Globally as well, across departments, within the assistant deputy minister
ranks, we are also looking at talent management and succession planning and have
been doing that for a few years, to ensure that we have at the leadership level
the right succession in place for people to be replacing those who are retiring.
In fact, we are now extending that into the director general level so that the
feeder group for assistant deputy ministers is managed as actively as the ADMs.
The Chair: Talking about figures, we had the Treasury Board
Secretariat and saw their recent annual report, including statistics pertaining
to hires in the federal public service. These are defined as numbers of persons
added to the employee population in the past fiscal year, including
indeterminate and seasonal employees, students and casual workers. For members
of visible minority groups, the number is 10.7 per cent, as compared to 22.3 per
cent of appointments administered by the Public Service Commission as per their
Can you please explain the difference in these two statistics, how are they
developed, what is included in them and what we can infer from the difference
Ms. Vreeswijk: I understand that there are differences in the point
that this analysis takes place. The Public Service Commission does so at the
point of hiring when individuals self-declare. The Treasury Board Secretariat
does it at a later stage based on self-identification. My understanding is that
the differences between these two numbers — and it was a preoccupation for me, I
can tell you, before I came to this committee — are methodological differences,
and both the Public Service Commission and the Treasury Board Secretariat are
looking to, within the next year, ensure that there is one number that they can
report and that that can give you the assurances that there are not competing
Because we were talking about hiring, which is the intake function and the
responsibility of the Public Service Commission, that is why I quoted those
numbers to you.
The Chair: We heard from the Canadian Human Rights, and they spoke
about how well represented visible minorities were in the private sector
compared to in the public sector. I was very interested in what you said about
building succession planning and attracting people to work in the public service
because the private sector has not found it difficult to attract visible
minorities. Apparently, what the Canadian Human Rights, if I am not mistaken,
said to us is that the visible minorities are doing very well in the private
sector, but have challenges in the public sector. You were talking about
succession planning and how to attract people into the federal service.
Ms. Vreeswijk: It is true, when we look at the federally regulated
private sector, those are the figures I have. In December 2010, they were
achieving 17.8 per cent in terms of representation from visible minorities,
whereas the public service at that time was at 10.7. Our numbers have improved.
We are trending in the right direction, so that our numbers for the core public
service are at 12.1 per cent.
Generally, there is a recognition that first and foremost we have much to
learn, and we are constantly looking at best practices both within the public
service as well as with other groups, and the work of groups like the Conference
Board of Canada and what they bring in terms of increased understanding of
different strategies, whether it is for self- identification, whether it is for
creating a culture that is a welcoming culture, we are always examining those
lessons to ensure that we can take advantage of them. We are trending in the
right direction, but at this point in time, with respect to the federally
regulated private sector, we are certainly lagging.
The Chair: One other thing that has come up in our work over the years
is the situation with non-advertised positions. Not so much now, but in the past
it has given us great concern wherein policies and tools had been developed to
ensure that the Public Service Commission and the Treasury Board are able to
review all appointments of the federal public service, including non-advertised
positions. I am wondering what the Privy Council Office is doing to better track
progress in meeting the goals of the Employment Equity Act and to ensure that
managers and deputy ministers are abiding by the most appropriate hiring
policies and practices.
When we were looking at this, I have to admit a few years ago, we were very
alarmed with the number — I think it was 25 per cent — of non-advertised jobs,
so I would like your comments on that.
Ms. Vreeswijk: Certainly it is the role of the Public Service
Commission to track the proportion of advertised and non-advertised
appointments. I think that the President of the Public Service Commission was
here recently commenting on that in particular.
They have a policy that provides guidance to departments on the length of
time for advertising. They noted that advertising normally takes place over a
period of about a week or more, and most of the advertisements are like that.
Certainly they are the best place overall to be commenting on that.
I do not have much more to add on that, except to say that from time to time
— and I think the president commented on this when she was here — managers will
use non-advertised processes. They will take advantage of other competitions
that have been advertised and draw from people who have been qualified from
that. They can use that process also to ensure that they improve their standing
with respect to designated groups.
It is not necessarily a straight line between a non-advertised position and
the results in terms of designated groups. From time to time, managers use that
as a tool to make progress on employment equity.
The Chair: When you say it like that, it gives me a lot of confidence,
but that is not how it has been said to us in the past. I would encourage to you
look at this for next time, as to what the situation is for non-advertised
There is one other thing that I would like to publicly bring to your
attention. As you know, with the cancellation of the National Employment Equity
Councils — the National Council for Visible Minorities, the National Council for
Federal Employees with Disabilities and the National Council for Aboriginal
Federal Employees — there was, as Senator Munson was saying, the creation of the
chairs and champions. We were not able to encourage chairs and champions to
appear and make a presentation of how it was working. We had challenges with
having them make a presentation. To be candid, I did not push it because there
was this feeling of not being comfortable with independently speaking about how
chairs and champions would work, so that part of our study has been left without
I would encourage you to help this committee find out how that process is
working because Privy Council sets the trend; in the end, the buck stops with
you. Therefore, we would encourage you to find ways for us to talk to the
champions and chairs. In the past, we never had any problem with the National
Employment Equity Councils coming before of us. We have not been able to get the
chairs and champions to come, so I reach out to you to help us because that part
of our work is being left out in the open.
My last question to you is on gender-based analysis. What is the Privy
Council Office doing in setting the trend on gender-based analysis to promote
tolerance and understanding? How are you encouraging departments to do gender-
based analysis in their work?
Ms. Vreeswijk: Departments will undertake gender-based analysis when
they are considering new proposals. That is part of the analysis that underpins
some of their advice.
In terms of female representation, I think I have cited to you the results on
that. Certainly over the past 20 or 30 years, when you look at the trends in
terms of female representation within the public service, we are doing well. I
think your question relates to gender-based analysis and the impact of policies
as they affect Canadians.
The Chair: Absolutely.
Ms. Vreeswijk: I have to say that that does not fall within my
purview. Certainly Status of Women has a role on that front and would be better
placed to answer that than me.
The Chair: Thank you very much to both of you for being here and
answering our questions. As I said, this is the first time we have been able to
get the Privy Council Office to come and make a presentation. I cannot tell you
how hard our previous chair, Senator Andreychuk, tried in the past, so we are
happy to start this working relationship with you. I would encourage you to help
us hear from the champions and chairs as to how that is working. We look forward
to working with you in the future.
Ms. Vreeswijk: Just a question of clarification. My understanding is
that the deputies that are the DM chairs of the chairs and champions tables have
The Chair: Yes, they have, but not the chairs themselves.
Ms. Vreeswijk: I see.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Colleagues, if we can please look at the budget, there is in front of
honourable senators a budget for cyberbullying with an explanation for the
budget items. As you know, our cyberbullying report has had a lot of interest;
we have run out of copies and we need to apply for monies to be able to print
more copies of the cyberbullying study.
The steering committee has approved that we apply for $5,000. I wanted this
to be put in front of you as to whether we can apply for $5,000 to print further
reports of our cyberbullying study.
Senator Andreychuk: So moved.
The Chair: Senator Andreychuk has moved and Senator Munson has
seconded. Are there any questions?
Senator Andreychuk: Just a clarification for the board — the same
thing asked in the steering committee: We understand that we are not expending
the $5,000; it is if the publication requests warrant it, you will expend the
money up to $5,000?
The Chair: That is right. Exactly. We will obviously not go and print
the reports; we will only print reports as and when we need them, as we have
done in the past.
So that we do not keep coming back to the whole committee, we will apply for
up to $5,000. The clerk is very careful; he will get as many reports printed as
and when we need them. Can I apply for this $5,000?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: All those in favour?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Anyone opposed? Thank you very much.
While I have everyone's attention, I wanted to give notice that we are
working on two reports, one is this report on employment equity and the other
one is, as we have agreed, the off-reserve study. We are waiting for both of
those reports. As soon as we get them, the steering committee will look at them,
and we are hoping to have them in front of you before we rise in June. Are there
any questions on that?