Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Human Rights

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 internationally.

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 public service.

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 departments.

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 perspectives.

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 13.0.

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 Disabilities.

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 equity?

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 same goal?

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 groups.

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 example?

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 groups.

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 things?

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 saying.

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 service.

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 that.

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 cent.

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 attention.

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 designated groups.

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 welcoming.

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 responsibilities.

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 okay.

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 are leaving.

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 report.

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 between them?

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 numbers.

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 positions.

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 answers.

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 been here.

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?

Some Hon. Senators: No.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

(The committee adjourned.)