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, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights is tasked by the Senate to examine issues related to human rights, both in Canada and internationally. Today we are starting our meeting to review employment equity in the federal public service.
In the current session, 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. 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 the Employment Equity Act is to ensure that federally regulated employers provide equal opportunities for employment to four designated groups; namely, women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities. The act imposes obligations on employers to assess the degree to which employment equity is a reality in their workplace and to implement policies to produce 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 Public Service.
The committee’s main concern is that, within the public service, employment equity is still not a reality for the four designated groups: women, Aboriginal peoples, visible minorities and people with disabilities.
My name is Mobina Jaffer, and I am a senator from British Columbia. I am Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. The other senators will introduce themselves.
Senator Ataullahjan: I am Salma Ataullahjan, and I represent Toronto, Ontario.
The Chair: She is the deputy chair of the committee.
Senator Oh: I am Senator Oh and I am one of the newest senators, appointed in January of this year. It is nice to meet all of you.
Senator Ngo: I am Senator Ngo, and I represent Ontario.
Senator Harb: Mac Harb from Ontario.
Senator Hubley: Senator Elizabeth Hubley
from Prince Edward Island.
The Chair: The Public Service Employment Act states that the public service must be representative of Canada's diversity. Under this act, the Public Service Commission of Canada is responsible for implementing the requirement of merit in a way that achieves a representative public service.
The Public Service Commission of Canada is an independent body that is free from ministerial direction but is accountable to Parliament. The Public Service Commission monitors, among other things, how federal government departments and agencies exercise their responsibilities under the Public Service Employment Act, including those pertaining to employment equity. The Public Service Commission also provides support to public-sector organizations and develops policies and guidelines.
Under the Employment Equity Act, the Public Service Commission is responsible for identifying and eliminating barriers in the appointment system for the four designated groups. The Public Service Commission published a supplemental report on October 25, 2011, entitled
History of Employment Equity in the Public Service and the Public Service Commission of Canada.
In her last appearance before the committee, the former president of the Public Service Commission, Maria Barrados, stated she had read the committee's report, Reflecting the Changing Face of Canada, and agreed with the recommendations. At this time, I want to particularly thank Ms. Barrados for working with the committee on these very difficult issues. We found that she worked with us in partnership and we were really able to relate to each other.
Ms. Robinson, I know we will have the same relationship with you. The work we do here is not headline grabbing, but it truly changes the lives of people, so we look forward to working with you as well, Ms. Robinson.
Now I would like to welcome our first group. From the Public Service Commission of Canada, we have Anne-Marie Robinson, President, Hélène Laurendeau, Senior Vice-President, Policy, and Stan Lee, Director General, Personnel Psychology Centre.
I understand you have remarks for us, and then we will have some questions for you. Ms. Robinson, please go ahead.
Anne-Marie Robinson, President, Public Service Commission of Canada: Thank you very much for your introduction. We are very pleased to be here today to discuss employment equity in the federal public service.
The Public Service Commission of Canada is responsible for promoting and safeguarding merit-based appointments that are free from political influence and, in collaboration with other stakeholders, for protecting the non-partisan nature of the public service. We report independently to Parliament on our mandate.
We also administer programs on behalf of departments and agencies that recruit qualified Canadians from across the country. Under our fully delegated staffing system, the PSC provides overall policy guidance and supporting tools to assist deputy heads, managers and human resources advisers in making staffing decisions based on merit and that are consistent with the values of the Public Service Employment Act.
Through our monitoring, audits and investigations, we gather information on how departments and agencies are exercising their responsibilities. We report annually to Parliament on the staffing performance of 82 organizations under the PSEA, including recruitment and appointments with respect to the four designated employment equity groups.
Under the Employment Equity Act, the PSC is responsible for identifying and eliminating barriers in recruitment and staffing, and for developing policies and practices that promote a more representative public service. More specifically, the PSC conducts research and studies on employment equity to better understand staffing issues and challenges, to take stock of lessons learned from initiatives and practices in both the private and the public sector, and to identify possible opportunities for improvement.
For instance, we used the information gathered in our 2011 literature review on the recruitment of persons with disabilities to engage the top six recruiting departments in a dialogue focused on identifying best practices.
We also disseminate information to departments and agencies to help them improve their staffing practices and processes. In addition to posting our research on the PSC’s Web site, we also highlight initiatives taken by organizations in our annual report. For instance, Correctional Service of Canada created advisory committees, developed staffing strategies specific to each designated group and conducted outreach, which all contributed to achieving a diverse and representative workforce.
We also conduct detailed data analysis using the PSC's data holdings on hiring and staffing activities in the federal public service. This year, we are conducting a study on the rate of promotions from the employment equity perspective and on how members of designated groups perceive the appointment process. We are nearing completion of this study and its findings will be reported and published in our 2012-13 annual report. The PSC also provides expertise and services in the area of assessment accommodation. We have experts in our Personnel Psychology Centre who provide advice and recommendations for assessment accommodations for persons with disabilities. These accommodations provide equal opportunity for those candidates to demonstrate their qualifications without being limited or unfairly restricted due to the effects of a disability. These assessment accommodations can vary from providing Braille and large-print versions of exams to the use of assisted technology, such as screen readers.
In 2011-12, the PSC received more than 2,000 requests for assessment accommodation from hiring managers. During that same period we also conducted outreach to increase awareness on assessment accommodation by delivering 15 seminars to HR practitioners in the public service.
Madam chair, I would like to now turn to the recruitment and staffing of the four designated groups for the year 2011-12. Overall, we are finding that employment rates, even with reduced staffing levels, are largely consistent with the trends observed over the past few years.
We are finding that members of three of the four groups continue to apply and to be appointed to the public service at a proportion exceeding their respective workforce availability. The exception is for the recruitment of persons with disabilities, who continue to be under-represented in terms of applications and appointments.
In our 2011-12 annual report, we found that their share of external appointments had increased slightly from the year before, from 2.6 per cent to 3 per cent, as compared to their workforce availability of 4 per cent. However, the percentage of applicants with disabilities continues to fall, from 2.7 per cent to 2.6 per cent. This is important because recruitment into the public service should reflect workforce availability for all of the designated groups.
Madam Chair, the PSC has undertaken a number of initiatives to respond to this challenge. We continue to provide specific assistance on a range of services to hiring managers to support the appointment of Canadians with disabilities. More departments are consulting our experts on accommodation measures.
We are continuing further research to better understand potential barriers that may help explain why application rates for Canadians with disabilities are still low. Those findings will also be incorporated into our outreach as we work with organizations on best practices to attract more applicants from members of this designated group.
Madam Chair, as the public service reduces in size through the implementation of workforce adjustment, departments and agencies must continue to meet their obligations under the Employment Equity Act.
We worked in close collaboration with the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Canada School of Public Service, as well as bargaining agents, in order to provide as much upfront support as possible to organizations in their preparations for implementing workforce adjustment as a result of Spending Review 2012.
We updated our guides and tools to provide concrete guidance on how to run merit-based, structured processes in selecting employees who would be retained or laid off. Along with our partners, we provided intensive training to some 3,700 managers and human resources advisers based on specific workforce adjustment situations and decisions.
With sound planning, organizations can meet their obligations under the Employment Equity Act while implementing work force adjustment. For instance, when an organization clearly identifies the need to increase the representation of a designated group within its planning, this organizational need can then be used as part of the process for selection for retention or layoff.
As members may know, the implementation of work force adjustment has also resulted in an increased number of surplus employees and laid-off individuals who are eligible to be appointed ahead of all others to vacant positions in the public service, provided they meet the essential qualifications of the position.
We have a priority administration program, which allows the public service to redeploy skilled and experienced employees.
We have put in place a series of measures to provide greater access, fairness and transparency, with the objective of placing as many priority persons as quickly as possible. Priority persons can self-identify as a member of a designated group. Organizations seeking to increase the representation of a designated group can use this information in meeting their employment equity obligations.
There are currently about 2,900 priority persons, an increase of 60 per cent over last April when 1,800 persons had priority rights. Since April 2012, 956 priority persons have been placed into new positions, most of them, around 70 per cent, were employees affected by workforce adjustment. We are closely monitoring placements among the designated groups and continue to collaborate with organizations to rigorously manage this program.
The Public Service Commission is committed to working with the Treasury Board Secretariat, as well as stakeholders, to ensure that the federal public service reflects the diversity of Canada.
We will continue to adapt our policies, programs and services to support deputy heads and managers, and promote a federal public service that is representative of all Canadians and draws on their talents and skills.
Thank you, madam chair. I would be pleased, with my colleagues, to answer any questions that you may have.
The Chair: Thank you Ms. Robinson. Did either of your other colleagues want to make any opening statements?
I would like to start off by thanking you for your presentation. We supplied you with what information you wanted, and we would like to focus on those things that we asked you to focus on. To start off with, what do you say is the workforce availability of Aboriginal people?
Ms. Robinson: Thank you for the question. Workforce availability is calculated by the Treasury Board Secretariat, so the data that we worked with in our annual report for the year 2011-12 — the workforce availability in terms of 2006 data — was 3 per cent of the population.
The Chair: For persons with disabilities?
Ms. Robinson: Again, using the 2006 data, 4 per cent.
The Chair: For members of visible minorities?
Ms. Robinson: 12.4 per cent.
The Chair: Women?
Ms. Robinson: 52.3 per cent.
The Chair: How many are currently being represented in the federal service, using your 2006 figures?
Ms. Robinson: Yes. I am sure you are aware the Treasury Board Secretariat will report overall on the population data. The Public Service Commission measures the inflow into the public service in terms of appointments to the public service. I can share that data with the committee.
What we saw in 2011-12 and published in our annual report was that in three out of the four groups, we saw that both the application and appointment rates exceeded the workforce availability statistics. That was the case with all groups except for persons with disabilities.
The Chair: What is the representation of Aboriginal people?
Ms. Robinson: Overall in the public service?
The Chair: Yes.
Ms. Robinson: I believe it is 4.9 per cent. I would have my colleagues at Treasury Board Secretariat confirm in the next session.
The Chair: Persons with disabilities?
Ms. Robinson: 5.7 per cent.
The Chair: Members of visible minorities?
Ms. Robinson: 12.1 per cent.
The Chair: You would agree that that is not the workforce availability as of 2013?
Ms. Robinson: Yes, senator. We are all waiting for the new data to come out at the end of this year by Statistics Canada based, I believe, on the 2011 census. We do expect changes in those statistics.
The Chair: Substantially, right? What is the women's representation?
Ms. Robinson: Again, citing Treasury Board's data, 54.6 per cent, with labour market availability of 52.3 per cent.
The Chair: Before you started speaking or making your presentation, I set out the mandate of the Public Service Commission. You did cover some of those things. Can you please tell us if you are meeting public service employment equity? What is the status now? It is not so much about you because it is not just you who does it, but are we meeting that mandate?
Ms. Robinson: Thank you for the question, Madam Chair. I would say that, overall, we are making good progress with respect to employment equity, but, certainly, we still have work to do.
The Chair: Where?
Ms. Robinson: I could describe some of our activities, but, for each group, you have to, of course, look vertically to ensure there is representation at all levels. Then, we would look horizontally across the public service in different occupations. For each group, you find gaps, vertically and across different occupations.
The Chair: Can you tell us what the gaps are for the women?
Ms. Robinson: For women, it is generally at the senior level and in certain occupational groups, for example, in some of the professional areas.
The Chair: And Aboriginal people?
Ms. Robinson: It would be focused, again, on certain senior levels for all of the employment equity groups and then, in some cases, certain occupational groups. I do not have that detail with me, but I am sure my colleagues from Treasury Board can provide that.
The Chair: Are you not concerned that Aboriginal people are concentrated in just three departments: the Correctional Service, Aboriginal Affairs and Human Resources?
Ms. Robinson: Thank you, Madam Chair, for the question. We did a bit of work on that question prior to coming, and I can give you some broader statistics on where the Aboriginal population is located within the federal public service.
If I look at the entire Aboriginal population, what our data is showing is that 16 per cent of the population is at the Correctional Service of Canada; 16 per cent of the Aboriginal population is at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development; 11 per cent at HRSDC; 9 per cent at National Defence; 7 per cent at Health Canada; 4 per cent at Public Works and Government Services; 4 per cent at Fisheries and 4 per cent at the RCMP.
We are seeing some progress in having Aboriginal employees working in a number of departments across government.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I will go on to have my deputy chair ask questions.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for your presentation. We previously heard that women were typecast in certain jobs, such as administrative roles, and, in general, they had lower-paying jobs and fewer executive positions than men. Has anything been done to improve this, and does this also hold true for minority women?
Ms. Robinson: In the federal public service, we have, overall, done well in terms of meeting labour force availability, based on the 2006 data. Having said that, we do have gaps, at some of the senior levels, for both of the groups mentioned. That is where I think we need to focus our attention and ensure that we meet our obligations at all levels in the public service.
Senator Harb: Thank you for your presentation.
When you mentioned Aboriginal people, you gave us a percentage of where they are. I noticed that no one seemed to work at Finance, Justice or Treasury Board. Is that correct?
Ms. Robinson: No, I would not say that. I was just showing you the top seven or eight departments. I think there would be employees in probably every department, but we could verify that.
Senator Harb: Okay. My question is the following: Overall, you seem to be more or less there in terms of workforce availability versus how many people are in the public service. You said yourself that some of the challenges we have are in terms of positions, where they are in terms of the hierarchy of the public service. Has your commission undertaken any kind of study or analysis in terms of the various departments in the public service to find the good departments that are making a concerted effort to meet the requirement as set out by your mandate and the departments that are behind and not meeting the mandate? Have you developed some tools in terms of incentives, penalties and those kinds of things, in order to meet the requirement that is set out by your mandate?
Ms. Robinson: Thank you for the question. The Treasury Board reports on progress by department for employment equity, but, of course, we look closely at that data, given that we have the responsibility for the appointment authority. We do work closely with departments. A good example is a study we did in 2011 on persons with disabilities. We took best practices and lessons learned and targeted and reached out to those departments that were the biggest employers at the time. We continue that work to ensure that they can take those best practices and adapt them to their work environments. We also do a lot of outreach vis-à-vis the appointment itself because it is really critical to our responsibilities to ensure that the appointment process itself is barrier free. As another example, with respect to persons with disabilities, a key to ensuring a fair and equitable appointment is having available services around accommodation. We do a lot of that work. As I mentioned before, we continue to try to understand what the problems are. We talked a little bit about upward mobility of persons in employment equity groups. We have almost completed the study that we will report on in the fall looking at how members of employment equity groups are proceeding in terms of promotions within the public service and also wanting to better understand their experience with this staffing system to find out whether there are any additional barriers, for all four groups, that need to be addressed.
Senator Harb: As to representation in terms of those groups, when you put out statistics, do those statistics normally include the casual workers, like people who are on contract, or are we talking about full-time positions in the public service?
Ms. Robinson: When we report in our annual report, we include both term and indeterminate positions. I will go to my data people to see whether we could send the committee a breakdown for both casual appointments and students as well. We do report on term appointments and on indeterminate, full-time appointments.
Senator Harb: It is a concern that one would find that the overrepresentation, for example, is in the casual workforce. It is not fair because you want to have it across the board — those who are casual and those who are long-term.
My final question is dealing with the successive government hammers falling on the public service. Every time there is a problem with debt or deficit, we seem to turn on the public service and eliminate as many positions as we possibly can, sometimes a little too much. My question is the following, if you can answer. You may not be comfortable answering. How did the latest government cut to the public service impact those four groups that we have? First, how did it impact the public service in general? How many positions have we lost as a result of government action? Out of those positions that we have lost, how many were out of the groups?
Ms. Robinson: Thank you for the question. I do not have a specific answer to your last question in terms of the numbers. The number that the commission is working with is the 19,800 that was published in the budget. We have two important roles to play during the downsizing exercise in the public service. One is that, through the commission's regulations, we set out the policy for choosing who will be remaining in their post and who will be laid off. As part of that process, where there is a gap in one of the employment equity groups, managers can use that to meet their future needs, so it can be part of the criteria for selection. That is important. We got out early when the downsizing exercise started and trained 3,700 managers to ensure that they understood that they needed to still meet their employment equity obligations while implementing that and that they knew that they had that tool available to them.
The second part that I think is really important to your question, senator, is the priority administration system. When public servants are declared surplus and wish to stay in the public service, they have the right to go into our priority system and be redeployed to other jobs. My colleague, Ms. Laurendeau, has statistics on the employment equity representation within that group and how we are doing in terms of placing.
The Chair: Do you want to share those statistics?
Hélène Laurendeau, Senior Vice President, Policy, Public Service Commission of Canada: Indeed. One of the things that we have done with respect to the priority management system is that we have been producing statistics and tracking the representation of the four designated groups within the priority system. So far, on aggregate, we have not seen any disproportion of people joining the priority system.
It does give us an indication that the proportions remain similar except perhaps when we talk about time-limited priorities where certain groups seem slightly over represented and joining the priority system in greater numbers. The other thing that we have been tracking is the number of appointments made from the priority system, i.e., people that have been reappointed in the public service. There again, we have seen that the figures are comparable to the normal appointment rates and are slightly above availability, which means that people are being reappointed in the priority system a little bit above the work force availability, except maybe visible minorities who are at par with their representation.
We are concluding that departments are keeping an eye and, with good planning, are using the tools available to ensure that they rehire people and maintain their figures on representation. We are not in a position to talk about whether it has succeeded. It will be for Treasury Board Secretariat at the end of the year to compile those figures. The indications from the movement of the priority system are that we do not see anything overly worrisome. We are tracking them monthly and sharing them with the bargaining agents and departments to ensure that they are aware of the activity as it pertains to the four designated groups.
Senator Hubley: It is quite clear that the focus would be on the four designated groups you have identified. Does that group change from time to time? I believe that a minority group has to self-identify. Is a person who identifies this year as being a member of a minority group still a member of a minority group in the years to come or does that change?
Ms. Robinson: That policy around self-identification is the responsibility of Treasury Board. My understanding is that it is voluntary, but they put out some guidelines to help people to understand what groups would be eligible to apply for different categories.
Senator Hubley: You had mentioned the information from the 2006 census. I believe you are awaiting the 2011 information.
Ms. Robinson: Yes.
Senator Hubley: You do a lot of detailed data analysis and things through the departments. Is that catalogued and assessed in your department? Is that who would come up with that information for different departments?
Ms. Robinson: Generally, in terms of the whole population, Treasury Board would work with departments and publish the overall data. However, the Public Service Commission of Canada tracks the appointment data for indeterminate and term hires into the public service annually. It is basically the inflow to the public service. That is important because these are the new folks that are coming in and changing the population within the public service.
I am happy to report that in 2011-12, for example, the appointment rate of members of visible minority groups was at 22.3 per cent, which is well above the 2006 labour market availability. Aboriginal people were at 5.3 per cent above the 3 per cent labour market availability and women were at 53 per cent. The overall appointment of persons with disabilities was below labour market availability in that year. That is where much of our effort is focused.
Another important thing about the data and a good trend we saw last year, and I do not have the data for women, was that for the other three groups, the percentage of applicants is lower than the proportions of people appointed. It means that persons with disabilities, Aboriginal people and visible minorities were appointed at a higher rate than the rate at which they applied. It is a good proxy for what we used to refer to as "the drop-off measure" and signals to us that the appointment mechanism is functioning effectively. This is one year's data only, so we have to be vigilant and continue to watch the data as we go forward. We saw that positive trend in the 2011-12 data.
Senator Andreychuk: Following up on this question, we heard from members of the Public Service Commission, who said that the drop-off rate was when people applied perhaps not correctly to the categories. There was a lot of drop-off with people withdrawing their applications, et cetera. You are saying today that we have one year of statistics that show it is better.
Have you done any analysis as to why? Our concerns were that the Public Service Commission needed to reach out to ethnic newspapers and the rest of the country to do its advertising rather than in Ottawa all the time and to make an intense effort. Ethnic, Aboriginal and visible minority communities did not gravitate to urban centres necessarily.
Are you attributing this growth rate to the fact that you done some positive things and people are staying in with their applications all the way through or is there another phenomenon?
Ms. Robinson: I could not be precise in terms of saying exactly why; and I think we need to study this further. Much of the effort by the commission over the past few years is around the appointment process to ensure that from beginning to end it is barrier free; so I think that has had a positive effect. As well, there has been some outreach by departments to the four groups in our communities.
I would cite that is the area where we could do more. We have identified for ourselves going forward that in order to increase the application rate of persons with disabilities, for example, the commission and departments need to do more in terms of outreach to those communities. That is where we are seeing the application rate below labour market availability.
Senator Andreychuk: The other concept we had been looking at is the fact that deputy ministers have to take ownership and be committed to these target groups. Have you done any investigation? What kind of education or consequence have you put on deputy ministers in that position as opposed to personnel officers only?
Ms. Robinson: We work closely with deputy ministers. We have delegation agreements with each department that are monitored under a staffing management accountability framework whereby departments have to report to us on progress. We also do audits and investigations from time to time. If something comes up within the context of those, we have specific measures that can be taken. Overall, we approach the challenge of working with departments and helping them by enabling them and providing education, tools and information so that they know how to use the tools available to them to increase their representation.
All of the research has shown that planning is core. The departments need to know where their gaps are and to incorporate that into their human resource plan; then they have the tools available to them under the act to improve their representation.
Senator Andreychuk: You are saying that positive reinforcement has been the tool that you have been using most with the departments as opposed to consequences.
In one of our reports, we indicated that perhaps reaching the targets should be tied some way to the bonuses of the people who are supposed to be administering it in the departments. Has that happened or are you simply providing information and encouragement?
Ms. Robinson: The Public Service Commission of Canada does not have jurisdiction over pay and bonuses for public servants or deputy heads. That is the purview of Treasury Board.
Our oversight authorities relate to the functions of investigations and audit, which I mentioned before. We use those tools if we find problems with any transactions.
It is not uncommon in one of our audits, for example, to find that a department did not emphasize the value of representativeness in their policies. Therefore, we would take corrective measures through the audit and then follow-ups to the audit.
Senator Andreychuk: Has that been done on a regular basis or is it occasionally done? Is there a response already within the departments that this is in their best interests, or do you still have to encourage them and point it out?
Ms. Robinson: We have a seven-year audit cycle where we audit every department over a period of seven years. Then we do follow-ups with the departments to ensure that our recommendations have been implemented. That is the mechanism we use to ensure that the policy structures are in place.
The outreach is an ongoing thing; there are always new public servants in jobs — new, younger people coming into the public service or people changing jobs. Outreach is a part of our job, such as informing managers. We recently did outreach on our accommodation services, and we find afterwards there is an increase in demand for the service when people are aware of it.
It is an ongoing job to inform people about their ongoing obligations and responsibilities are, and what tools are available, within their departments and the commission.
As you said, it is ultimately the deputy heads' responsibility, and their departments, to implement it. I am speaking about what the commission does, but each department has a responsibility. I have seen many good examples — and we published some in our annual report — where departments are very specifically doing their own plans in terms of achieving the objectives.
Senator Andreychuk: With respect to persons with disabilities, is there any way that you are reaching out differently to this target group than you might have in the past? It would be interesting to know if it is a limitation of what we have done to reach out to them, or if it is their inability to apply for certain positions, in their own frame of mind.
Ms. Robinson: I would say there are a number of things that have been done to improve access; there has been some information sharing around accommodation. There was a lot of work done by many departments, including our own, to ensure our websites, for example, are fully accessible. Websites are important because many of the job applications are automated.
I would acknowledge that this is one area where I think the commission can do more. We have to get out and speak more to groups, particularly about this issue. It will be a feature of our research plan going forward. As part of that, we need to get out more and talk to people to understand this better.
We have made progress in the appointment rate, because we saw for persons with disabilities that the proportion appointed exceeded the proportion that applied. That is a good trend. However, I still do not think we understand well enough the lower application rates, so we must do more there.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
I want to clarify something for the people who watch these programs. Senator Hubley was talking about minorities. The act specifically covers visible minorities. Can you define "visible minorities," please?
Ms. Robinson: I do not have that definition with me. That definition is under the responsibility of the Treasury Board, and I believe they have a detailed definition.
The Chair: We will ask them.
There were a number of things. I read out your mandate. It says the government and department and agencies exercise their responsibilities under the Public Service Employment Act, and you said you do the audit.
Senator Andreychuk talked about the role of deputy ministers, and we have commented on that before. You have already said that you have put plans in place and we will have to wait to see how those plans are working.
I know you may not be directly responsibility for self-identification, but you have spoken about it, and the culture around self-identification. How are you encouraging people to feel comfortable to self-identify? How are you encouraging the deputy ministers to build a culture where people feel comfortable to identify who they are?
Ms. Robinson: There are a number of activities going on, and my colleagues from Treasury Board who meet on this will have some useful information to provide to you. I can talk about what the PSC is dong.
For example, we have revised the consent section of our public service recruitment system to ensure applicants understand how their self-declaration information will be used. We believe this clarification encourages people to use and self-declare more often.
As part of our guides and tools when we do department outreach, we also ensure that managers, HR advisers and EE coordinators understand, encourage and have systematic ways within their departments to encourage people to self-identify. In many departments, they have integrated it into their orientation program; when new employees come into the department, it is talked about and there are opportunities for people to self-identify.
The Chair: Maybe I did not clarify. I believe one of you responsibilities is to have a culture where people feel comfortable to self-identify. How are you doing that?
Ms. Robinson: We ensure that the tools and the information available to people are readily accessible. We are very clear when we communicate to and encourage people to self-identify that they understand, for example, how the information will be used. It is used in an aggregate way; the information is protected under privacy. If you provide people with that information and they understand how it is being used and why it is being put in place, it creates a culture.
That is one of the things. Building it into things like orientation programs is important because it reminds and encourages people to self-identify.
The Chair: You brought up appointment rates, as have some of my colleagues. Having read our reports, you know we are very concerned about the drop-off rate, and you have addressed the issue of appointment rates.
I would like you to address the other issue, which is the issue of separation rates. We found that people were appointed, but then there was a great separation rate. Can you tell us what the separation rate is, and what are you doing to encourage people to stay?
Ms. Robinson: The retention rates in the public service are the responsibility of Treasury Board, and so we do not have data on retention rates. Again, my colleagues who I think will appear next may have that data to share with you.
Having said that, we work in partnership with Treasury Board, because we see this as a system. While they run the programs related to that with departments, it is important that we are aware so we can do anything that possible to support people after the appointment.
The Chair: I am a little confused. You are very articulate about appointment rates. Then I am a little confused as to why you would not be so articulate about the separation rates. Would it not part of your mandate to see that people continue to be represented in the PSC?
Ms. Robinson: Generally speaking, all of the areas related to the well-being, wellness and other aspects of the work force beyond the appointment are the responsibility of the Treasury Board. The commission does not have jurisdiction, per se, or the mechanisms related to retention. The Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada has those.
I did not want to signal to the committee that it was not part of our interest, because it is part of the overall picture in terms of the public service's ability to retain a representative work force. However, any policies around retention would flow from the Treasury Board.
The Chair: I have to admit to you I feel you are living by the letter of your mandate and not the spirit of your mandate. Would not the spirit of your mandate be to ensure there is a representation of all the four groups in the Public Service Commission, and would you not be interested in knowing the separation rates?
Ms. Robinson: We are very interested. I do not happen to have the data.
The Chair: Can you provide it?
Ms. Robinson: Yes. We do look at this, because we want to understand that we are maintaining progress.
The Chair: There is another thing that came up, and it may be something that is with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. However, I would like your point of view on the non-advertised jobs. We were concerned about that last time. Almost 25 per cent of the jobs were non-advertised. From the work that our committee has done, we understand that has improved. However, I would like you to comment on it. It was something Ms. Barrados informed us of.
Please let us know what you are doing about the non-advertised rates. I know there has been some improvement, but I would like your comments on that.
Ms. Robinson: Yes, this is an area that is a focus of attention for us. I do have the data from the 2011 survey of staffing. If you look at the share of advertised appointments for Aboriginal persons it was 4.1 per cent, and they had a higher share of non-advertised appointments at 5.3 per cent. We saw the same trend for persons with disabilities where their share was 3.9 per cent and their share of non-advertised appointments was 6.6 per cent.
We think that for those two groups, managers are using non-advertised appointments to some degree to help them meet their employment equity objectives. There may be other reasons they are choosing these candidates, but one may be to meet those objectives. However, we are seeing that non-advertised appointments are having a positive impact in those two groups.
For persons in groups of visible minorities, we saw a slightly different trend.
We see the percentage of advertised appointments at 11.6 per cent and the percentage of non-advertised appointments at 8.1 per cent, so it is a slightly different trend for persons who are visible minorities.
Again, both of those are below work force availability. This is an area where we ensure, in our policies and in our outreach to people, that they understand one of the criteria you can use a non-advertised appointment for is as part of your employment equity plan to meet your obligations under the act.
The Chair: I know you have this concern — and our committee certainly has the concern — that when we look at work force availability, we all know that the elephant in the room is, especially for visible minority. 12.4 per cent is not the work force availability and because of the challenges we have, we are stuck with that. However, we know that is not the right figure.
I would like you to tell our committee what you are doing to ensure that this federal service is representative of the new figure. I accept that you do not know what the new work force availability will be, but we all know it will be more and we know that visible minorities are not well represented in the federal service. What proactive work are you doing to get better representation? By that, I mean that when your predecessor was in front of us she went — you know about this — in a very elaborate way to ensure people were ready, all the training that was done.
What are you doing to ensure that happens?
Ms. Robinson: We have a list of five or six things that we have been working on over the year to ensure we continue to make progress and I do take your point that we anticipate that the targets will be higher in the fall.
One of them relates to the appointment, inflow and all the programs around that. Notwithstanding your comments, we are seeing that persons with visible minorities and others are exceeding so that is a positive trend, but we have to be vigilant and proactive.
In addition to the research around persons with disabilities, we are doing another study to help us better understand the appointment process and perceptions that employment equity group members have about the appointment process. That will give us another generation of potential tools or parts of the appointment process that we can develop policy and direct initiatives around to help people.
The last year and a half has unusual year in the public service because, as committee members would know, we have been in a situation of downsizing the public service. We wanted to put the emphasis on ensuring that we continue to respect our obligations, so those tools are used in a positive way to achieve employment equity objectives. There was a lot of emphasis put on that.
The Chair: You talk about appointments and increasing appointments. My angst, which we will speak to the next witness on, is about the separation rates, so I do not think that it quite balances the way you say it.
I would like to comment on one thing and then Senator Andreychuk has a question. Can you comment on Champions and Chairs is working and if it is helping the under-represented groups in the Public Service Commission?
Ms. Robinson: My colleague would have to comment because it is Treasury Board who put that structure together. However, I have attended some of the meetings, both for visible minorities and Aboriginal people. I did that in the early stages of development so it was premature for me to have a strong view at that time, but I am hopeful the structure will help as long as it comes to some sort of action.
You talked about retention and career progression for persons in the four equity groups and I think you are right. It is not just people coming into the public service; it is what happens when people are here. I think some critical components are developmental opportunities, access to mentors and the normal good structure that you put around strong programs to develop individuals so they can succeed in the public service.
Senator Andreychuk: It is a question to the chair.
I did not quite understand. You seemed to say that the Public Service Commission, through its representatives here, was only dealing with the law and not the spirit. I did not get that from the testimony, so I was not sure what you were indicating.
I want to be fair to the witnesses and fair to your question and —
The Chair: I am not a witness is here and I think Ms. Robinson understood because she was talking about the appointment rates and I wanted her to comment on the whole thing of separation because they go hand in hand.
You have appointments but if people do not say in the Public Service Commission then the representation goes down.
Senator Andreychuk: You did not mean that they were not implementing to the best of their ability?
The Chair: I did not say that. Did you understand that, Ms. Robinson?
Ms. Robinson: I am fine, thank you.
The Chair: If there are no other questions, I have a number of other questions. The former president of the Public Service Commission of Canada, Maria Barrados, previously stated before the committee that she did not have a great deal of confidence
"have a great deal of confidence in the number that is used to calculate the number of visible minorities currently working in the Government of Canada." She also claimed it was "under-representative."
Do you agree with that statement? If so, what implications does this have for monitoring employment equity in the federal public service and what efforts are being made and should be taken to obtain a better estimate?
Ms. Robinson: I would agree that there was historically a challenge in providing good data because there were two sources. There was data that came from the Public Service Commission that we would gather when people entered the public service and applied for our jobs through our jobs data bank system. Another set of data was generated by Treasury Board Secretariat. They would ask persons, when they were in the public service, to fill out forms to self-identify so we had two different data banks.
We implemented a methodology — my predecessor — in May 2010 to try to have the self-declaration and self-identification data merged.
That work has continued to progress. It has had a few setbacks because it was very difficult to do technically, but I am happy to report that we think we have found a methodology to merge the data. We would have just one set of data to report so Public Service Commission and Treasury Board will have much more reliable and accurate numbers.
The Chair: Can you tell me what the difficulties —
Ms. Robinson: The difficulty was they were taken at two points in time. The PSC would collect the data as soon as the individual would self-declare on their job application whereas the data on self-identification collected by Treasury Board was delayed, so there was a timing problem.
We think, based on some of the research, that people may have had different reporting tendencies depending on when they were asked the question. If we can simplify it to one process and have one integrated set of data, we think we can take out any bias and ensure we report to Parliament. Our fundamental obligation is to make sure we provide accurate information to Parliament.
The Chair: The way I understood it, and I would like you to clarify if I am wrong, is there was one data collected when a person applied and that is what you were looking at. Human resources would look at somebody who had started working and there was, if I understand correctly, hesitancy to self-identify once you had the job.
Was that the issue?
Ms. Robinson: That was the issue and I am not sure if it was hesitancy or an administrative issue, but there were differences. We believe that the data obtained on applications had a higher proportion than the data when you asked someone already in their job to self-identify. I think fixing that will make the difference going forward.
The Chair: I thank all three of you for being here today.
As I said to you privately and would now like to say publicly, we always had a good relationship with your predecessor, Ms. Barrados. We see this as a partnership. Our committee is working on the same objectives as you are — to get the public service representation as per the law — and so we look forward to working with you in the future.
Thank you very much.
Our next panel is from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, part of the Treasury Board Secretariat, is responsible for, among other things, monitoring the compliance of deputy heads of federal government departments with the human resources or "people" component of their Management Accountability Frameworks, of which employment equity targets form a part.
The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer has been given a mandate to play a slightly more hands-off role than previously with respect to ensuring employment equity targets, a fact made clear from the Prime Minister's first news release announcing the creation of this new office, in which he stated that the new agency was designed to simplify the organizational structure for human resources management in the public service, reduce overlap and duplication and provide deputy ministers with the primary responsibility for managing the people and resources in their own departments.
I would very much like to welcome: Mr. Daniel Watson, Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat; and Ross MacLeod, Assistant Deputy Minister, Governance Planning and Policy Sector.
Welcome. We are looking forward to working with you now and in the future, and I understand that you have some opening remarks to make to us.
Daniel Watson, Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada: Thank you, Madam Chair.
I am pleased to be here before this committee today to speak about employment equity and the initiatives underway to ensure that the public service reflects the diversity of Canada. As you mentioned, Madam Chair, I am here today with my colleague, Mr. Ross MacLeod, Assistant Deputy Minister at the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer.
Achieving a representative and inclusive workplace is a shared responsibility that involves key stakeholders, such as my office, other federal institutions and bargaining agents, and, of course, working closely with the previous witness, President of the Public Service Commission of Canada.
Madam chair, let me assure you and the committee that the government takes this responsibility seriously; and issues surrounding employment equity and diversity are top-of-mind for deputy ministers across government.
I am pleased to report that we have made significant progress. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the workforce in the federal public service reflects the diversity of today's society, and is innovative and responsive to address the needs of all Canadians.
The latest annual report on the state of employment equity within the core public administration shows that women, Aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities continue to be fully represented in the core public administration, based on their workforce availability.
It also shows that members of visible minority groups have increased their representation, attaining almost their workforce availability of 12.4 per cent. As for the executive cadre, the representation of women, persons with disabilities and visible minorities continues to exceed their workforce availability.
These numbers are impressive, but especially so when taken in a historical context. When I began my career in the federal public service in the late 1980s, not so long ago, the percentage of women executives had been about 5 per cent not too long before. That number has increased to nearly 50 per cent today. I remember in the early parts of my career people taking me aside and saying, "If you work there, you will have a woman manager." No one today would say that in the Public Service of Canada of 2013 and beyond.
This not only speaks to a changing work environment in the public service but also one that has evolved with and is reflecting the shifting attitudes of Canadian society.
Key to this shift in attitudes is our fundamental approach, in which deputy heads play a leading role in employment equity and diversity issues within their own departments.
Deputy heads are accountable for achieving excellence in all aspects of people management in their own organizations.
As for my office, which is part of the Treasury Board Secretariat, we play an enabling role and have continued to work closely with all federal institutions to help them meet these requirements.
In order to ensure that this issue remains top of mind for our senior leaders, my department provides institutions with detailed departmental employment equity workforce analysis tables each year. This helps them to integrate employment equity considerations into their integrated human resources and business planning. In addition, my office holds deputy heads accountable for excellence in people management. We do that by setting expectations for people management and measuring the result achieved each year through the Management Accountability Framework assessment exercise, which includes employment equity indicators.
I would also like to highlight the progress being made in the implementation of the new employment equity governance model, which was created in 2011 to strengthen accountability and financial authority. This structure consists of three new champions and chairs committees that respectively represent the interest of visible minorities, Aboriginals and persons with disabilities. These equity groups were previously represented by three national employment equity councils. I understand that you will also be hearing from the champions as part of your study in a later session.
But allow me to say how pleased we are with their progress in these early days. Each of the three committees, headed by a deputy minister, is now in place and has been working on identifying its priorities and sharing best practices.
Common concerns and challenges have also been raised across the three committees, such as career development, the creation of a healthy workplace to address harassment and discrimination in the workplace, accountability and the implementation of workforce reductions.
Working groups have also been struck to provide recommendations to each committee on these issues and others.
This model is working. It is the model that, of course, has shown success in financial management as well. It is a fundamental shift from more telling towards more doing; which is leading to better results. In this structure, deputy heads are accountable as they are better and more directly placed to take the most effective, immediate and local actions to address the employment equity needs in their departments. This new governance model gives employment equity groups more access to senior leaders. These committees are made up of practitioners and interested employees, who are directly involved in developing the innovative action plans that are relevant for their respective groups. My department acts as a centre of expertise and will continue to support this model and this direction. As we have seen, it is delivering better results.
I would also like to note the excellent work being done through the Disability Management Initiative, which has generated a number of tools and services to support departments better in supporting ill or injured employees, and to contribute to the participation of persons with disabilities in the workforce. This includes resources such as disability case management workshops, training programs for disability management advisers and advisers with responsibility for disability management. To date, we have trained nearly 400 of these people.
Once again, we are pleased with the progress that has been made through all of these approaches. The common concerns and challenges have also been raised in all three committees, including career development and the creation of a healthy workplace by addressing the problems and challenges we face.
Madam Chair, I would be delighted to answer your questions.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Watson. Mr. MacLeod, do you want to add anything to the comments?
Ross MacLeod, Assistant Deputy Minister, Governance Planning and Policy Sector, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat:
No further statements, madam chair.
The Chair: Mr. Watson, one thing came up in the previous discussion when you were present. For clarification, what is your working definition of "visible minorities?"
Mr. Watson: In the act, the one we are governed by, a member of a visible minority group is a person other than an Aboriginal person who is non-Caucasian or non-White. That is the definition we use from the act.
Senator Ataullahjan: Is voluntary self-identification still an issue? What are the current hurdles you face? What is being done to encourage self-identification of persons from the four designated groups?
Mr. Watson: Many steps are taken. Perhaps some are more mechanical and others more qualitative.
On the more mechanical side of things, when people apply for jobs they are asked if they wish to self-identify. That is an important first step. It means that the first time the person is in contact with the federal government and thinking of working with us, it shows that we think this is an important issue and that we are interested in knowing these answers. My colleague, the President of the Public Service Commission of Canada, referred to those processes earlier.
However, later on if you get a letter of offer, whether it is your first in the federal public service or your seventeenth over the years, chances are very good that it will be accompanied by a form offering you the opportunity to self-identify. That happens each time you get a letter of offer because you have been promoted or changed positions. In fact, when I took on my new role in September, I got the form, as does every other employee who joins Online Registration and Credential Administration, OCRA, asking if I had self-identified. That process takes place. Departments have different campaigns at different times to encourage self-identification.
One important part of the work is simply the conversations that go on in the workplace making sure people that feel comfortable in self-identifying. People often wonder why they might be asked to self-identify on those forms. Before people start volunteering that information, they want to know how it will be used, who will use it and who will see it. Demystifying those questions is an important part of the process.
The Chair: Are most people willing to self-identify?
Mr. Watson: It is hard to say. I have met many people over the course of my career who have expressed deep reservations about self-identifying. However, clearly a significant number of public servants — in the tens of thousands — self-identify every year. It is impossible to estimate exactly what proportion that might be. However, we certainly know there are people who do not self-identify because sometimes they tell us that they will not do so.
The Chair: I have a supplementary question on that. Now that you are in a leadership role heading this up, what are you doing to make it possible to build a culture where people feel comfortable? It is not easy; I accept that completely. How do you build a culture where people feel comfortable to self-identify?
Mr. Watson: I think it is important in that context to look at how Canada has changed, even in the course of my career. As I say, I remember vividly someone taking me aside in the early stage of my career and telling me that I should be thinking about going to a particular area because I would have a woman manager. We would not have that conversation today.
When we go onto campuses and talk about visible minorities, people look at us with blank stares. They have no idea what we are talking about. It is a different dialogue than when I entered the public service, for example. Sometimes I worry with some of the younger people that we talk to that we are introducing a conversation that has not yet been a part of their world and it might actually be doing the job of separating them from what they see as being a part of mainstream society. Other times it is important to people.
I think having an approach that respects that broad range of perspectives that people bring to this personal and important question is an important part of actually making people feel comfortable in the public service.
I also think that the most important part of it is ensuring that those of us in the public service do our very best to be good public servants, no matter who we are. There is no example like watching people who come from backgrounds from all over the world or from all parts of Canadian society succeed and do brilliantly.
I had an interesting experience in Edmonton a while ago. I had the privilege of speaking at a citizenship ceremony. There were people from 29 countries around the world. I concluded by saying, "I hope each and every one of you will at some point in time think about working for the federal public service, the provincial public service or the City of Edmonton's public service." What amazed me was the number of people who came up to me afterwards and said, "Really? Do you think it would be possible?" I said, "Not only would it be possible, but we would welcome you as citizens."
I think those conversations are important. They need to be open and we need to be clear that we are open and that we are being explicit. Most important, we need to show the types of results in that people from any background in Canadian society can have successful careers in the federal public service.
Senator Andreychuk: Thank you, Mr. Watson, for putting the issue forward. It is something I think this committee has wrestled with, and perhaps Canadians have, too; namely, how to make any Canadian with merit get into the public service.
I think we started with target groups because we needed to include these target groups to get enough self-confidence to be accepted by the broader community. Therefore, your comment about whether you would work for a woman would not be there. It is to change the culture to make it more open, but the ultimate goal is to get good public servants. I thank you for putting it out that way.
Are you thinking about what happens at another stage? First, it was to identify the pluralism in our society and to ensure everyone is included. However, at some point, as you say, it might become about counterproductive when other people are now getting their confidence in different ways than when you started the target programs.
Are you looking at how to adjust or change the public service and to include everyone without using target groups?
Mr. Watson: The way you phrase it — how to include everyone — includes people who come from a variety of perspectives on this. There are people who never thought of themselves as belonging to a particular group, who want to build a better Canada, do that through joining the federal public service and do great things doing it. There are other people who wonder if they see the right examples and who wonder if there are reasons behind them not getting promotions or particular jobs that may not be related to competence or other things.
Regardless of what the answers are to those questions, I think it is important that we work with all of them. It is important that we recognize that we should not expect to see different rates of success from different parts of Canadian society, as long as people meet the fundamental tests of merit we have built into our system.
Whatever challenges we may have from time to time in our system, the concept of merit is firmly and rock-solidly embedded in that, and it is something that every public servant who hires has had drilled into them. It is useful to look at these touchstones to see if there is any reason to believe that we are not reaching that merit.
The underlying philosophy, of course, is that if we do everything in the open, on the up and up, we will see similar rates of success from all aspects of Canadian society. I think that is where the numbers can be useful. However, they are they are not, in and of themselves, very useful.
Senator Andreychuk: Are you finding your use of these target areas is reflected in our institutions within our society; in other words, in business and provincial institutions, et cetera. Is the use of these targets understood, and is it the tool that Canada uses to get at inclusiveness and the merit principle, or is it time, as I say, to look at other factors and look at it in a different way?
Mr. Watson: I have worked for the Government of Saskatchewan, the Government of British Columbia and have had dealings with many other governments across the country, as well as a number of private-sector entities. They all use some form of metrics around this, and the metrics are an important component of it.
However, if the metrics are the sole story, that creates the question for a number of people: Do I want to be part of building a better Canada and a better public service, or do I want to be part of a story of metrics? If it is a binary conversation like that — and let us go back to the question of self-identification — we can find there will be people who say, "I would rather not to be part of a story about metrics but part of the story about building a better public service and a better Canada."
Senator Andreychuk: Targets are sometimes misunderstood as being something special. I think what you are trying to say is that the targets are how to get everyone into the equation, not how to make anyone special or different. Is that understood that the target groups are to get you into the service, to have you stay in the service and to be a competent public servant but that it does not give you any special benefits; it just allows you to reach the bars that all of us are expected to reach in the public service?
Mr. Watson: Let me answer that by going back again to the earlier part of my career. Was there any legitimate reason to believe in the early 1980s that 95 per cent of managers should just statistically not be women? I do not think there was any rationale behind that from a pure competence and ability perspective.
In the Government of Canada, we typically deal with some of the hardest questions that Canadians face. All of the public servants we need have to be special. They have to bring a range and a nature of skills to their jobs that few other jobs in the country require. Those skills reside in the entire breadth of the Canadian population, and we need to go look, relentlessly, to find them wherever they are in Canadian society. There is no reason to believe that you would find them in only one or two parts of Canadian society.
However, if we do find that we are not doing it in rough proportions, we know there is some issue behind it that goes back to an earlier day in my career, and beyond.
Senator Harb: Thank you, Mr. Watson and Mr. MacLeod, for coming. What percentage of assistant deputy ministers and deputy ministers are visible minorities, whether men or women?
Mr. Watson: I do not have the exact numbers with me today, but I know in the executive ranks, the visible minority population is actually higher than workforce availability. I know the numbers for the EX-01s, 02s and 03s, which are the levels of director and director general, are higher than for the EX-04s and 05s.
It is important to remember when you EX-04s and 05s that this is an incredibly small number of people.
Out of 210 or 211,000 people, this is about 300, so, when you start talking about numbers like 4 per cent of 300, one or two people makes quite a substantial difference on that front.
The numbers are reasonably close there, and we would be happy to provide any data that we have on that front.
The Chair: When you rely on that, are you relying on the 2006 census of 12.4 as being higher than the work force availability rate?
Mr. Watson: The only number we have for workforce availability is the 2006 number, and the only other number that we have available for employees is the self-identification number, plus any information that we might have from our work with the Public Service Commission. That is the data set.
The Chair: It is the 12.4 number.
Mr. Watson: Yes.
Senator Harb: As you go along and map out your sort of list in terms of the work force availability versus how many from the target group you have, you bring them in and do all of the wonderful stuff you are doing, have you done any work — and I am sure you have — to order to say, for example, "The Department of Finance is meeting its target in the four identified target groups." All across the board in the public service, have you done that analysis, and, if so, can you share some of the challenges that you are faced with and what you are doing to overcome those challenges?
Mr. Watson: We have the Management Accountability Framework, which is an important part of every deputy minister's performance assessment in any given year. It specifically looks at the extent to which deputy ministers have a representative workforce in their departments.
We look closely at what departments do, and there are a couple of things that we look at. On the one hand, we look at the challenges but also, on the other hand, the things that are going well.
I am pleased to say that there are many more stories of success and things that are going well than there are things that have represented challenges.
The numbers across the system are, generally speaking, very good, and the trends are headed in the direction that we want. We recognize the limitation on the data — not having the 2011 data yet — and yes, we will have to look at that.
However, a number of departments are doing interesting things. Health Canada, for example, was named as one of Canada' best diversity employers this year, which is something that I think all public servants are proud of and that Health Canada is justifiably proud of.
Environment Canada, for example, set up the Employment Equity Express Lane Recruitment Initiative, something that specifically makes it easier for managers to not only understand what is going on but to help everyone understand what it means and does not mean to be working in the area of employment equity.
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, for example, has developed a specific mentoring program in its Nova Scotia regional office.
The Chairs and Champions process that has been set up is designed to talk specifically and candidly about what is working and not working and to do it not at the level of theory but at the level of practice.
I tried to mention, in my remarks, the idea of ensuring that there is less talking and more doing because, at the end of the day, it is action and results that will be important here.
Senator Harb: My final question deals with best practices. Obviously, organizations look inward, but they also look outward and find out who is doing what and what they can learn from A, B or C organizations.
Have you done any kind of an outside search in order to see how we compare to Australia, the United States and other countries that are similar, in terms of demographic makeup, to Canada, which is very unique, to a large extent?
You mentioned Alberta; you mentioned Edmonton. How do we compare if we look at a provincial level or even at municipalities? Have you done any study of that sort? If so, can you share the results with us?
Mr. Watson: I do not have any of that information today. My colleague might have some background on that. We would be happy to take a look for what we do have.
I am generally familiar with some other governments I have worked either for or closely with. The general approaches are similar in that respect. I have worked with a lot of governments from around the world in terms of meeting with them and with members of their public service and had general conversations on that front.
It is fair to say that a country that has such a diverse population and that manages to mirror the data that we have available is not something that I have seen in many other jurisdictions.
Senator Harb: It might be useful to do such a study because, at some point in the future, you might appear before the committee again to give us an update, and you can say, "That is how it is done here, and that is how it is done there in order to meet the target." You could say that we are at the forefront of trying to meet those targets or objectives and that no one is doing it or some are doing it. It might be a useful exercise.
Mr. MacLeod: The experience of Canadian jurisdictions is largely similar. They use different methods and metrics, but their methods are fairly similar to what we do.
Other countries, like the United States, take a more affirmative action approach, which is a heavier hand on the targets, as you are probably aware.
Other countries we have experience and interaction with — and I am thinking of United Kingdom, Holland, France and so on — are just beginning to grapple with this, and sometimes diversity there is actually expressed as a problem rather than as an opportunity, the way we see it.
In the fora where we have been able to interact with those countries, we can actually present employment equity and diversity as a success story that they are eager to learn from. However, I think it is an excellent suggestion that we do a bit more international research because there are always good practices available there.
Senator White: I appreciated the comments. Thank you both for being here.
I want to thank Mr. Watson in particular. He participates in moving people through what is called the Vision Awards for human resource excellence. You have been successful at helping other people to be successful, so congratulations.
I appreciated the comments on metrics. However, I was involved in a recruiting strategy in Nunavut to recruit Inuit into the RCMP. It was thirteen years of failure. In other words, we had not recruited one Inuit officer, through mainstream recruiting, for 13 years. We did not succeed until we actually excluded non-Inuit applicants. Talk about heavy handed; that is about as heavy handed as you can get. If you look at the success in Northern Ireland around religious recruiting, it has also been successful because they excluded one religious group for another religious group.
I have not seen us do that in Canada as a practice. I think we have identified positions, every now and then, where we must.
By the way, I am pleased that, here, we have four out of eight representatives who are women and five out of eight who are visible minorities. That is great to see.
However, we have not done it to get that leap frog effect in Canada.
Would you suggest, Mr. Watson, that it is something that we should consider in certain areas, from an operational perspective? We have done it for francophones, but we have not done it from a visible minority or Aboriginal perspective.
Mr. Watson: We do have that available as a tool. It is in the system that the area of selection, as we refer to it, can be limited to a particular group. It is at the far end of the spectrum. From the perspective of ensuring that people have the opportunity to showcase their skills and demonstrate that they actually compete with the best that Canada has to offer and that their entry into the public service is on the same basis as any other public servant, we often run competitions that are open to all Canadians.
There are other approaches that are available too. Appointments without competition are sometimes possible and used to assist in some cases where there are representation issues at higher levels.
Occasionally, there have been competitions where the applicants have been limited to a particular group, but we exceed in three of the four areas today. We are very close to the data that we have available for visible minorities, and, in fact, we exceed the numbers available for executives, according to the data that we have, without having had major widespread use of that approach.
Is it a tool that is available in the system? Yes. Are there times where it could be appropriate under particular circumstances, like the ones that you have described? The system recognizes that. Is it the preferred approach? No. It is at one end of the spectrum. However, have we been able to achieve the results we wanted to achieve without using it on a widespread basis? Yes.
That question of having everyone understand that the skill sets we need reside in entire breadth of the Canadian population is actually one of the most fundamental, good things we can achieve from this. However, from time to time, as you described, there are circumstances where the use of that tool at one end of the spectrum may be the way that people need to go.
Senator Hubley: Thank you for your presentation.
You touched briefly on your outreach and on speaking to universities. I would like you to expand on that a little.
In your sharing of information process with young people, do you make them aware of the goals that you have as a government to hire certain of our four target groups? That is something that I would like to know.
Mr. Watson: Thank you very much for the question.
One of the things we talk about is having a representative work force, so that is one of the things that we talk about.
Generally speaking, my own personal practice has been that I do not ever tell somebody that I am aiming to meet certain employment equity targets. It changes the nature of the conversation with the person I am trying to hire, and not for the better. That is my own personal experience.
Certainly, the importance of a representative work force is something we talk about a lot, not just in terms of the concept of the employment equity groups but the diversity of ideas that we bring to a set of issues. It comes to regional diversity in the country and understanding how decisions will play out that way. However, there is a specific conversation to be had about representative in terms of the employment equity groups. We talk about a representative work force as being something we mention explicitly, that we believe in, pursue and hope to achieve.
Senator Hubley: In hoping to achieve that, because you are dealing with different minority groups, do you recognize in any tangible way that they may have different culture and practices that they would want to be assured would not be jeopardized by working for government?
Mr. Watson: Absolutely. In terms of the Canadian Human Rights Act, there are a number of provisions require for reasonable accommodation for any number of purposes and sometimes these are religious, sometimes they are cultural. That is very important to us.
I have spent a lot of my career working in the field of Aboriginal policy and negotiations. Many things in that environment are important to have as part of the conversation with employees, both as they consider whether to join us and ensuring we get the right type of retention as well. Just because people sign on it does not mean they have to stay. In an environment where Canada's labour force is actually shrinking and the demand for skilled people is getting more competitive than the past, we have a duty, need and desire to ensure we are an attractive place for someone to work, no matter their background or where they come from.
The Chair: I have a few questions. On page 1 of your presentation you talked about diversity in top of the mind for deputy ministers across the government.
I know I speak for all my colleagues here by saying we have been pleased with your presentation. We see that we will be working with you in the future.
I would like to hear from you as to what leadership you are giving so that it is top of the mind. Deputy ministers have a lot of responsibilities. We are aware this is not the only thing they think about every day.
How are you maintaining that interest?
Mr. Watson: It is not difficult. Some of the reasons are very basic.
Canada has a labour force that is shrinking in absolute size. For people graduating from university today perhaps in a particular year the economy is not as strong as others, but they have more choices than I ever had when they come out of university. The importance of being able to attract, keep and retain every single person that has the type of skills, background and experience that will make the federal public service, and as a result Canada, a better place is that much more important.
In the periods where we had great labour surpluses you could be picky and choosy about whom you took. Today you have to ensure you are always keeping, retaining and attracting the people that you need.
The work we are doing is harder than in the past. The skill sets we need are different. The expectations of the public in terms of how we interact with them, and the innovation around the service, are different than the stability that marked our services a couple generations ago.
When a deputy minister is confronted with the need to respond to very high demands and be innovative in doing so to turn around different policies and programs in short order, having the right people is critical. They come from all sectors of Canadian society and we are in fierce competition for those people with other Canadian employers so it is important that we be ready to do that and be seen as attractive.
The Chair: For a number of years I have been working with the previous version, when you had the three different groups, and now we have the champions and the chairs.
For me, I think the jury is out as to how effective that is. I have some basic questions before I ask you for more specifics.
How many champions are there in the federal public service and you appoint them, correct? What is a champion, how do you appoint them and how many are there?
Mr. MacLeod: There are a number of answers to that question. There are three deputy minister champions for the three champion and chair councils, one for people with disabilities, one for visible minorities and one for Aboriginal people. Those are deputy minister level and for the first time there is a direct deputy minister to community interaction happening.
For each of those particular EE groups there is a champion per department. It is a large number because we have about 70 large organizations in the core public admin, so you would see around 200 champions if there is one per group, per organization.
The Chair: When champions were first announced, I was optimistic and still am because it means there is direct power, someone who has authority, credibility — not that the previous people did not.
I understand there are main champions. I will take one deputy minister for visible minority and then you have, if I understood Mr. MacLeod, around 200 champions from various departments. Did I understand you correctly?
Mr. MacLeod: Yes and there are chairs of the various EE —
The Chair: I will come to that in a minute. There are 200 champions. How do they give input to the main champion? How does that work?
Mr. Watson: Two things will happen. Inside each department there will be a person who is chair on behalf of each of the four groups. They will talk regularly inside a department and one of the things they know — and that we have relearned — is that many of the issues are similar. There are some differences and things go on their own particular way, but there are many things in common.
The good news is they are having a conversation inside that department where hiring decisions are taken, where accommodation issues are discussed and where there is access to deputy ministers and a senior person in each of those areas.
Then together all of the individuals representing, for example, members of the visible minority group, will meet with the deputy minister chair on that front. They will meet on a regular basis.
Mr. MacLeod and his colleagues support that process. I work closely with the champions and I understand they will be here at a future session to talk about their work. There is a lot of cross-pollination and discussion both inside individual departments and across the system as a whole. We are a key congregating point in supporting that conversation.
The Chair: There are chairs in each department from the employees and then there is a champion in each department that works with the deputy minister. Is that correct?
Mr. MacLeod: Typically, that is the case. The champions within the department are typically members of the senior executive table, so they have direct access to the deputy minister. We modeled that on our successful official languages champion program, the champions for official languages across all federal institutions.
The Chair: I am sure that we will hear more about this in the future. I compliment Natural Resources Canada because they have done a good job of opening up the culture.
As you know, I asked the question about appointments and separation. I am concerned about the drop-off rate. In the appointment process, there are a number of issues. I will put them on the table and you can help me.
First, we understood in the past through our studies that people have been selected but not identified for a job and, before the job comes to them, there is a drop-off rate. Second, someone is appointed to that job and then leaves for whatever reason. There is a great separation rate.
Mr. Watson: The latest data we have are encouraging for 2011-12. For visible minorities, overall representation was 12.1 per cent, but the separation rate was 7.7 per cent. The President of the Public Service Commission of Canada reported on the hiring side. I believe that she said the numbers of new hires from a visible minority group were 22 per cent. The departures were about 7.7 per cent for last year, which is below availability and is a net gain. For persons with disabilities, the separation rate was slightly higher. The overall representation was 5.7 per cent, and the separation was 6.8 per cent — a difference of 1.1 per cent. For Aboriginal persons, there was a net increase with the overall representation at 4.9 per cent while the separation was 3.8 per cent. Fewer were leaving. For women, the largest group, it was reasonably close. The overall representation was 54.6 per cent and the separation was 55.6 per cent — out by 1 per cent.
In two cases, we were on the net positive side, and in one case, it was reasonably close, given the numbers. Obviously, we are interested in following up on persons with disabilities.
Statistically, we know that disabilities have a tendency to onset with age, so there may be some correlation between the fact that on average people tend to be older, have more disabilities and be closer to retirement. We do not know for a fact that is the case, but if it were something other than that, we would want to look into it to determine whether any steps should be taken to address that. Overall, these numbers are either positive or close, with the one exception, to where we want to be.
The Chair: What is the exception?
Mr. Watson: Persons with disabilities is out by 1.1 per cent. Given the small numbers, it would be of particular concern. When you get to the statistical size of the population of women in this group, to be out by 1 per cent has a different statistical significance than any other has.
The Chair: The other concern that the committee has had from day one is that you may have met the representation rates, but where are the women in leadership roles? I guess we are getting there. The issue with Aboriginal people is that they are concentrated in a few departments. I am sure you are addressing that as well.
You have addressed one of my concerns a bit: people with disabilities. My perception is that often representation happens because people sadly have become disabled while public servants, not that they were hired in spite of their challenges. I would like to hear from you as to what you are proactively to enable people who already have disabilities to come into the public service.
Mr. Watson: On the recruitment side, the President of the Public Service Commission of Canada would handle many of those pieces. You raise an important point. The work force availability overall is 4 per cent and the representation is 5.7 per cent. If we were even close — if it were 4 per cent and 4.1 per cent, then I would be much more concerned knowing that people tend to acquire disabilities over time. There is a substantial difference on that front.
It is important to show that we are an accommodating workplace and that we will do what we need to do with our work space organization to deal with people with any range of disabilities they might have. The importance of simply talking about this with people, not only with people who have disabilities but also those who might hire them and work with them, needs to be part of our workplace conversation.
The Chair: The other thing we spoke about in our report was non-advertised jobs. If I remember clearly, the impression was that it was 25 per cent for non-advertised jobs. I know that things have improved. Can you comment?
Mr. Watson: I do not have that data. Those appointments are run by the Public Service Commission of Canada. Generally speaking, appointments without competition is not the norm, obviously, as the public service is built firmly on the principle of merit and transparency. Competitive processes are by far the most frequent way of appointing positions. There is a place in the system for non-competitive processes, but it is clearly a much smaller proportion of the total.
The Chair: Mr. Watson, the elephant in the room is the data. You do not have to be an economist or a data collection specialist to know that the visible minority population in our country has substantially increased from what it was in 2006. The best you can do is the 12.4 per cent in 2006, and we know that will change.
What proactive work are you doing to make the public service more representative of all Canadians?
Mr. Watson: Today's public service is the result of several layers going back about 35 years of hiring and, in some cases, a little longer. The composition of each of those years of hiring has changed significantly over time. The numbers that the President of the Public Service Commission of Canada was talking about earlier are substantially different than they were in the past.
In part, that is our ongoing presence on campuses and our ongoing demonstration that no matter where you come from in Canadian society, you can make an important contribution to Canadian, make a better public service and be very successful here. There are the supports we talked about in terms of employment equity hiring, committees to have dialogue on the issues and the simple education of all public servants about the importance of this issue and with why it is critical.
Those are the key pillars that will bring about change. Each year we will see the same kinds of trends that we have seen in recent years, which are significantly different numbers in terms of who we hire than we would have found at the beginning of my career.
The Chair: Thank you for being with us today. We hope to continue this dialogue and we look forward to working with you again in the future.
We see this as the beginning of the dialogue.
Our next panel is from the Canadian Human Rights Commission. One of the roles of the Canadian Human Rights Commission is to ensure compliance with the Employment Equity Act through such procedures as conducting audits in order to determine whether federal employers are meeting their statutory obligations under sections 5, 9, 15 and 17. If audits indicate that employers are not meeting these obligations, the Canadian Human Rights Commission may negotiate agreements with them that set out remedial measures to be taken.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission also receives complaints regarding matters of non-compliance with the act. If complaints are not resolved or the negotiated agreements not properly implemented, then these cases may proceed before the Employment Equity Review Tribunal, which is empowered to order these departments and agencies to take more remedial steps.
The commission normally audits employers with more than 500 employees or those that have previously indicated a below-average employment equity result.
Today we are looking forward to hearing from you as to how the federal service is doing and what more needs to be done so that we meet the requirements of the act. I understand that you have some remarks, Mr. Langtry. We look forward to hearing from you.
David Langtry, Acting Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission: Madam Chair, thank you for inviting the Canadian Human Rights Commission to contribute to your study of discrimination in the federal public service.
I have three main points. First, the Canadian Human Rights Commission promotes the core principle of equal opportunity and works to prevent discrimination in Canada’s federally regulated workplaces.
Second, the commission's employment equity compliance audits contribute to breaking down barriers to employment. And finally, equality of opportunity in the workplace is a very realistic and attainable goal.
We are responsible for administering the Canadian Human Rights Act and ensuring that federal organizations are in compliance with the Employment Equity Act. We receive discrimination complaints regarding employment and services provided by organizations under federal jurisdiction. This includes the federal public sector as well as private-sector companies involved in industries such as transportation, telecommunications and banking.
The commission also works to prevent discrimination, and promotes the development of sustainable human rights cultures. We do this by providing organizations with research, policies and tools to promote understanding and compliance with the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The commission's Human Rights Maturity Model is one example of our work in this area. Collaborating with employers, unions and other stakeholders, the commission developed a comprehensive roadmap for building better, healthier workplaces. The model encourages organizations to be proactive and prevent discrimination through policies and processes that consider people's individual needs.
This brings me to my second point. Employment equity audits contribute to breaking down barriers to employment. As mentioned, the commission is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Employment Equity Act. Employers are required to look at their policies and practices to see if they create barriers for people belonging to any of the four designated groups: women, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities and Aboriginal peoples.
At first, this can be challenging. Employers are often reluctant to believe that there are barriers to employment in their workplace. However, after reviewing their employment practices, most organizations identify systemic barriers affecting people from one or more of the designated groups, and they are able to correct the problem.
When we look at the latest employment equity statistics, the numbers tell different stories in the public and private sectors. As this committee has heard, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, women and Aboriginal people are well represented overall in the federal public service. While this is very encouraging, it is important to note that we say "overall" because we are speaking for the public sector as a whole. This means that these groups are not necessarily well represented in each occupational category or each department, so there is still room for improvement.
Holding management accountable for employment equity, as recommended by this committee a decade ago, has contributed greatly to these results. The commission provides the Clerk of the Privy Council with a progress report for each department and agency that was audited in a given year. This information can be used by the PCO during its performance assessment of deputy heads.
The private sector can learn from the advances made by the public sector in this area. In the private sector, members of visible minorities are the only group that is fully represented overall. Persons with disabilities, women and Aboriginal people remain under-represented in the private sector.
After consulting and collaborating with several employers, the commission changed how it goes about auditing organizations. It now focuses on employers that are having difficulty achieving adequate representation for members of the four designated groups. With our new approach, we can follow up with less successful employers within three years. This is crucial as many underperforming employers need to continuously monitor their results and update their employment equity plan.
While there is still work to do, the effect of the Employment Equity Act and the efforts of all organizations in the federal public sector demonstrate that achieving equality of opportunity in the workplace is a very realistic and attainable goal.
Thank you. We would be happy to take your questions.
The Chair: Thank you kindly for your presentation.
Mr. Langtry, I would remind you that we are here reviewing employment equity in the federal public service, and we would like your comments to stay within that. I will now go to the deputy chair.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for your presentation.
What I would like to know is the following: What procedure is followed should it be found that employers are not meeting obligations? What types of agreements are negotiated with the said employers, and what type of guidance is given?
Mr. Langtry: As you might be aware, our responsibility, under the Employment Equity Act, in doing compliance audits is to negotiate and try, by way of persuasion, to have employers meet the requirements of the act. It is only as a last resort that we would issue a direction and proceed to tribunal for a hearing. We have not had to go to a tribunal since 2002. It is usually through persuasion and negotiation that the undertakings are met.
Our statistics would show that when we begin the audit process, when we notify an employer that we are going to be conducting an audit in the federal public sector, only 29 per cent of the federal public sector is fully compliant with the act. The numbers are worse in the private sector, but I will restrict this, of course, to the federal public sector. It is only 29 per cent, and that is even if they had been previously audited by the commission. The numbers are not good. Of course, by the time we complete an audit, they must be 100 per cent compliant.
Let me also say, though, that one of the issues — and hopefully we will get into this further — is that when we say "compliant with the act," as this committee will no doubt be aware, being in compliance with the act and our compliance audit saying that you are fully compliant does not mean you have representation. It simply means that you have undertaken the nine elements that are set out in the act of conducting your review, having an Employment Equity Act, maintaining statistics and so on and so forth. We are able to get them to meet the audit requirements, but that does not necessarily mean they have the representation.
Senator Ataullahjan: Is there any kind of follow-up beyond that, or is that it, then?
Mr. Langtry: No, there is follow-up. At one time, we commissioners were being presented with compliance audits, simply saying that we approved them and saying, "This employer is fully compliant," even if they had very poor representation numbers. This was a frustration, and it was in working with employers and with unions that we redesigned the process to say that we should be more concerned with the results being achieved rather than simply checking off if they have met the conditions. Not to say that those conditions are not important; obviously, if they have an employment equity plan in place, then, presumably, that will address the shortcomings. The audit process is also to identify the barriers to employment and the reasons why there is not representation and to provide advice and assistance as to how the employer might address the gaps in representation.
Now, as I mentioned, just in the last couple of years, with the change in our focus, in addition to doing the compliance audits, where an employer is relatively good, both in terms of the results and in comparison with their own industry or their own sector, we treat them and give them what we call a status report and say, "Of course, there is room for improvement, but let us focus on those that we would describe as less successful employers." For those, we are going back three years later to do a follow-up compliance audit.
There is the monitoring. The undertakings must be complied with to be brought into compliance, and then, as I say, we do the follow-up, particularly with the less successful employers.
Senator Hubley: Thank you very much for your presentation.
Is the current legal framework and policy structure for employment equity in the federal public service proving to be effective? Further to that, does CHRC have sufficient powers under this framework to effectively fulfill its role as the body that ensures compliance with the Employment Equity Act? If not, what would help you to fulfill this role?
Mr. Langtry: I would have to say that, in my view — and I would certainly look to others — the act has the legal framework in place for us to conduct a role. Parliament set out what our role is, which is to do compliance audits to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Employment Equity Act.
Whether or not it is through negotiation and persuasion and only as a last resort, the act does provide that last resort if an employer does not comply.
Again, just to repeat: If, in fact, the intention was to have full representation — because there is nothing in the act, and I am certainly not advocating it — it is clearly no quota issue. It is by persuasion and encouragement to have a reflective workplace. The act does not require that measures be put in place that end up with us being able to enforce to ensure that the results are there, that they in fact are representative.
The Chair: Mr. Langtry, if I understood you when you appeared in front of us before and now, if the employer says that they have a plan in place, then they are in compliance, right?
Mr. Langtry: Correct.
The Chair: How long do you give? I imagine it is in the plan, whether it is two years, three years. How long do you give before you revisit the employer? How does the process work once you find them to be in compliance?
Mr. Langtry: I should say that it is obviously not simply that the employer says, "We have a plan." It is a fulsome and sometimes lengthy process to do the full compliance audit. We would look at each of the indicators in doing an employment system review. We look at return rates of identification. If we find that there has only been a 70 per cent rate of return of declarations, we encourage the employer. We would note to them that, while they cannot make the disclosure mandatory, if they could require their employees to complete the declarations and send them in, then, in fact, their numbers would be better. It is a number of things we look at in terms of recruitment — whether there are any barriers in their process and that kind of thing.
We would then review the employment equity plan that is being developed. Under the act, there is a requirement to consult and collaborate with union representatives in the development, the implementation and the revision of the employment equity plan. We would look at that and satisfy ourselves that the plan, as developed through the audit process or otherwise, will address those gaps, in our view. For the less successful employers, we are going back three years later to do another review to see if they have achieved progress and we would do another compliance audit. However, that would only be to say they are in compliance with the act.
The Chair: Say you have done the first audit. You and the employer have come to an agreement, you say they are in compliance and then a few years later you again go and do the audit. I do not know if it has happened, so I am just guessing. If they have not achieved what was agreed, what happens?
Mr. Langtry: Then we would be working with them to revise their employment equity plan — which they should be doing on an ongoing basis — to address and identify the shortcomings. Much has been talked about. For example, as a new census comes out, the numbers of availability have increased. Therefore, we might find, going back three or five years later, their numbers are worse, even though they have been implementing the plan. We would try to identify what.
I should also say that to address, in part, that concern of availability rates, we do that as part of our audit reports as well as speaking to the employer. They should not be taking the availability numbers — which as you know are currently 2006 — and be complacent and say, "Well, look, we have met availability." For example, we say that you should take the availability and add, in the case of members of visible minorities, 2.7 per cent as being the real availability based on the difference that we experience between the 2001 and 2006 census. It may be different again, but we are saying to employers, "Do not feel necessarily so good. You may be a bit under, but you may be way under once the 2011 numbers come out."
The Chair: We know that the workforce availability rates will be different soon. Is the Canadian Human Rights Commission doing any proactive work with the employer to meet those targets?
Mr. Langtry: We are, in terms of bringing to their attention the fact that these numbers will be higher in each of the categories, based on our past experience. Again, in each report, we tell them.
We are also encouraging employers to develop a culture of human rights through, for example, the Human Rights Maturity Model that we launched February of last year. It is a voluntary self-assessment tool, but it is to work with employers to talk about the benefits. Previous witnesses have talked about the benefits. This is not to force employers to be reflective of the population for any other reason than it will benefit the employer. It is reflective of the population and certainly in these days of more competition for people with skills and development that can contribute to the workforce, if there is a culture of human rights within the workforce, not only will they be recruiting but also retaining the people. There have been concerns about that.
We have a number of policies and programs that we develop which are to address some of the issues we would see on an ongoing basis in terms of our complaint-handling process. For example, last year 36 per cent of the complaints we received were on the grounds of disability. In terms of persons with disabilities and their representation under the Employment Equity Act, it would be very important to have accommodation policies in place. The commission does a lot of work in terms of accommodation policies and training, as well as in each of the other designated groups.
The Chair: I still am a little confused. There is an audit. Both sides agree there is compliance. Then there is another audit, perhaps on the same kinds of issues; not exactly the same, but the same kind. Then there is compliance and another audit. Does this go on forever? What happens if — I am saying non-compliance — the plan is not being followed?
Mr. Langtry: Again, the short answer would be yes. It may be differing reasons that are given. It is hard to say. As I said, they are not in compliance at the beginning; by the end of the audit process, they are. Again, the way the act is framed is to ensure that the systems are in place to eliminate barriers to employment and that kind of thing. However, there is nothing beyond that, so it would not matter how many times we go in if they still have gaps, as long as they have developed.
We do provide a challenge function, so it may be to say, "Well, are you advertising in ethnic media in order to attract?" Employers may tell us that they do not have members of visible minorities on their selection boards, as an example. We would say, "Well, that could be a barrier, and so you should ensure that there are members of visible minorities." We do that kind of work with them. However, when all is said and done, as long as they have done the things that are required of them under the Employment Equity Act, the result of our compliance audit is that they have complied. Often times it is both the letter as well as the spirit, but they still have gaps and we work with them to try to develop a plan that will address them.
The Chair: One of the things I have been giving a lot of thought to when preparing for these hearings is this issue of systemic. Let me tell you what I mean by that. For me, it is systemic when women are not in senior positions. I understand and I hear that is changing. For me, it is systemic when a majority, or a lot of people who are part of the representative group of disabled people, are people who have become disabled while at the job rather than being hired with a disability. For me, it is systemic when Aboriginal people are only in certain departments.
I wonder if the Canadian Human Rights Commission is looking at these systemic issues on the whole. I understand you do one-to-one work, but are you addressing this with the treasury? There are some systemic issues that one manager or department cannot necessarily handle.
Mr. Langtry: Sure. To take it even broader, we are focused and spend a considerable amount of time on dealing with what we are identifying as systemic discrimination issues. Many times there are policies or programs in place that may not even be recognized or appreciated as perhaps being a barrier to employment for groups of people. That is why, between our policies, programs, and employment equity division and so on, we have the benefit of receiving the discrimination complaints, whether it is sexual harassment, disability, Aboriginal peoples.
As you know, we can now receive complaints on matters done under the Indian Act. These are all fundamentally important issues, and so we are developing. Even apart from the Human Rights Maturity Model, we do the accommodation training. We have developed a gender integration framework within the commission where we can analyze policies and programs to see if there is any gender bias inherent in it that may not have been intended — pregnancy, human rights in the workplace policy. We are currently working on a family caregiver policy in the workplace which disproportionately affects women in the workforce. Yes, we are addressing those systemic issues. We are working together with many of the stakeholders, groups, both unions and employers, to address these and have policies and programs in place that can eliminate systemic discrimination issues and barriers, which we have responsibility for under both acts.
The Chair: Your presentation was clear, and we have a better understanding of what you are continuing to do. We look forward to working with you in the future. Thank you.
Our next witness is Ms. Carol Agócs, Professor Emerita, University of Western Ontario, Department of Political Science and a researcher in the field of public administration. She has published numerous articles concerning employment equity, including Representative Bureaucracy? Employment Equity in the Public Service of Canada.
Ms. Agócs, I understand you have some remarks for us, after which we will ask questions.
Ms. Carol Agócs, Professor Emerita, University of Western Ontario: Thank you for inviting me to speak with you. As an academic who has studied the career of Canada's employment equity policy since the publication in 1984 of Madam Justice Abella's report on the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment and who has observed both its strengths and limitations over 25 years, I appreciate your committee's long-standing commitment to the success of employment equity in the Public Service of Canada.
I have reviewed the preparation document for witnesses and noted the questions that you are interested in addressing in your hearings. I am not privy to the inside operations of the public service, so I am unable to address some of these questions except in a general way. I can offer an outsider's perspective — an overview based on my analysis of information from government reports on employment equity in the public service. During questions, I can offer a comparison of my findings with what theory and past research have shown about factors that may contribute to the effectiveness of employment equity implementation and conditions that may impede it.
Last year, I initiated a research inquiry into the question: Is the Public Service of Canada a representative bureaucracy? A representative bureaucracy is a public service whose membership reflects the demographic composition of the population it serves and to which its policies apply. The idea of representativeness is not limited to the overall reflection of society's various groups within the public service. Representation is not only about being there but also about participation in decision-making, equity in career advancement and pay, and an inclusive and respectful culture. An effective employment equity implementation process is the means through which a representative bureaucracy can be achieved.
There is evidence that a representative bureaucracy is a key element of good governance in a diverse society. While there is little Canadian research on this topic, research in the United States has shown relationships between the quality, responsiveness and inclusiveness of policy-making, and service delivery as perceived by women and minorities and their representation in the public service, particularly in leadership roles.
There is also evidence that the knowledge and competencies that members of ethno, cultural or racialized groups bring to their work as public servants can help them to understand and communicate with these communities and to provide more sensitive and appropriate service delivery. As Canada's population becomes increasingly diverse, knowledge of diverse languages and cultures represents merit in the public service. In the eyes of a diverse citizenry, a representative bureaucracy can contribute to the perception that government is both legitimate and accessible. There is a parallel here to the business case for diversity in the private sector, where it is understood that a diverse work force is a competitive advantage that contributes to business success in a diverse society.
Representativeness is important in a democratic society as a demonstration to citizens that they and their children have access to government and to the careers it offers, which their taxes support. A representative public service also helps government to meet its responsibility to be a model employer that exemplifies progressive human resource management and development practices, thereby showing the way to the private sector. It is not reasonable to expect private sector employers to invest in progressive approaches such as pay equity, employment equity and work-family balance if the public sector is not leading by example.
The concept of representative bureaucracy has a rather long history in Canada. Following the 1969 publication of the report on the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which documented the underrepresentation of francophones in the public service, the federal government introduced and extended programs to improve recruitment and career development for francophone Canadians. These initiatives included establishing language requirements for public servants, language training and ensuring the provision of services in French. Success in this endeavour required that the traditionally narrow construction of the merit principle be broadened to encompass facility in both French and English. As a result of these measures, in the 1970s the public service made strides toward becoming a more representative bureaucracy with respect to male francophone Canadians. By 1983, French was identified as the first official language of 27 per cent of public servants, rising to 29 per cent in 2010, roughly in line with the representation of this group in the Canadian population. The representation of public servants whose first official language was French also grew among the executive echelon from 20 per cent in 1983 to 30 per cent in 2010.
The progress of francophones in public service employment inspired other under-represented groups — women, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal people and members of visible minorities — to advocate for changes that would open employment opportunities to them as well. The Employment Equity Act introduced in 1986 was in part a response to these demands, which were backed by research demonstrating discrimination and patterns of inequality faced by these groups. The success of the public service in becoming a representative public service for francophones is a powerful example of what can be accomplished when there is determined commitment to change and appropriate investment in making it happen, but as reports of this committee have demonstrated, we are not there yet for visible minorities, Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and women. My research provides evidence of this. I will briefly summarize this evidence now.
The data that I used covered the core public administration employed by the Treasury Board, which includes nearly 180,000 people working in over 70 departments and agencies. My analysis tracked change over time, starting with 1997, the first year the Treasury Board was required to comply with all requirements of the 1995 Employment Equity Act and including data from 2002, 2007 and 2011. Some important changes have taken place since 2011, but my study does not include these. My data came primarily from the employment equity reports of the Treasury Board and other government agencies and census data. My analysis used availability data from the census whose dates match the public service study dates as closely as possible; that is, availability data for 2006 to examine representation in 2007 and 2011, and availability data for 1996 for 1997 comparisons.
There were a number of limitations in the data, such as some gaps and inconsistencies for various years, and a lack of disaggregated data for women and men within the visible minority and Aboriginal populations and among persons with disabilities.
I will now summarize the trends I observed for each of the four designated groups under the Employment Equity Act, beginning with women.
The representation of women in the public service increased gradually over the study period and remained in excess of their workforce availability, suggesting that with respect to access to employment, the public service is representative of women. However, patterns of inequality persist. Women tend to be under-represented in indeterminate positions and overrepresented in term positions. While their representation in the executive group has increased substantially, it is far from matching their presence in the public service as a whole. Women have consistently been well represented among hires and promotions, but overrepresented in the lowest salary group — less than $50,000 — and under-represented in the highest salary group — $95,000 or more.
Women continue to be concentrated in administrative support jobs. To summarize, women have access to public service employment but they have not achieved equality, even though they have long constituted a majority of federal public servants.
As is the case for women, the representation of Aboriginal people in the public service has increased gradually, and consistently exceeded their labour force availability. In 2007 and 2011, their representation in indeterminate positions was slightly higher than that of the public service as a whole, and from 2002 forward their representation in term appointments was lower.
These are all positive indicators. However, throughout the study period Aboriginal people were under-represented in the executive group and in the highest salary category, and generally overrepresented in the lowest salary group.
In 2007 and 2011, the trend in the hiring of Aboriginal people turned negative: Hires were less than availability and the rate of separations exceeded the rate of hires. In 2011, Aboriginal representation among employees promoted was less than their representation in the public service. Throughout the study period, Aboriginal employees were clustered in departments that provide services to Aboriginal peoples.
In summary, the public service is a representative bureaucracy for Aboriginal people if we focus only on access to employment, but they do not have equal access to senior management or the top salary group, and the hiring of Aboriginal persons is trending downward. The representation of Aboriginal persons will not be sustained if separations continue to exceed hires.
Furthermore, Aboriginal representation in the external labour market is increasing, which means that the representation bar will be progressively higher.
The representation of persons with disabilities exceeds their labour force availability throughout the study period and they are well represented in indeterminate positions and in the executive group.
From 1997 to 2007, their representation increased, but 2011 brought a slight drop. It is likely that their representation rate has been sustained not by new hires but by public service employees self-identifying as having a disability as they age. The data show that public service employees with disabilities experience inequality. Their promotion rate is lower than their level of representation in the public service, and in 2007 and 2011 they were overrepresented in the lowest salary category and under-represented in the highest salary group.
In 2007 and 2011, the separation rate of persons with disabilities increased significantly to more than double their representation among hires, and their hire rate has been below availability for 10 years. The trend is negative, and the representativeness of the public service for persons with disabilities will not extend into the future if this continues, particularly since employees with disabilities are older and more likely to retire than other employees.
In addition, the representation of persons with disabilities in the external labour market is increasing, which again raises the standard for achieving representativeness.
The representation of visible minorities in the public service has consistently lagged behind their workforce availability. Given that the availability data for 2011 are five years out of date and the visible minority population is increasing rapidly, the indicators for 2011 understate the current gap between representation and availability. Among public servants who are members of visible minorities, patterns of inequality are clearly evident. They are under-represented in indeterminate appointments and overrepresented in term appointments. They are notably under-represented in the executive group and in the highest salary category and slightly overrepresented in the lowest salary category. Positive indicators include a rate of promotion that exceeds their representation level and their hiring rate exceeds their separation rate, although it falls short of their level of representation.
Given their overall under-representation, the public service has not been a representative bureaucracy for visible minorities in any respect, and this situation will not improve if present trends continue.
The under-representation of visible minorities is probably not due to a shortage of applicants. Data from the Public Service Commission showed that from 2008 through 2011 the percentage of visible minority applicants was considerably higher than their percentage of appointments — a pattern not shown for the other equity groups.
The commission undertook a survey to investigate whether applicants who are members of equity groups are eliminated during the appointment process to a greater degree than other applicants. The study found that this was true for visible minority applicants but not for members of the other three equity groups, suggesting that systemic barriers affect hiring for visible minorities.
Responses to the 2011 and 2008 Public Service Employee Survey contained evidence that members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities and persons of Aboriginal identity experience discrimination and harassment more than employees who are not members of these groups.
In conclusion, my analysis showed that access to employment in the federal public service and representation rates have increased over time for all four equity groups. In terms of presence alone, the public service as a whole is considered by some to be a representative bureaucracy for women, Aboriginal persons and persons with disabilities, but not for visible minorities. However, the representation of Aboriginal people and persons with disabilities is unlikely to keep up with increases in the representation of these groups in the external labour market. Moreover, if we consider factors beyond mere access, including representation in the executive group and indicators of inequality in salary and appointment status, all four equity groups face persistent inequality.
In this more meaningful sense, the federal public service is not currently a representative bureaucracy, and recent and planned government actions provide no reason to hope this will change. These negative actions include staff cuts, reductions in hires into indeterminate positions, lack of tangible government commitment to employment equity implementation and cancellation of the mandatory long form of the census, which is the source of labour market availability data which employers use to set their goals. Looking ahead, the journey toward a representative public service appears to be getting longer.
Thank you for your attention. I would be pleased to respond to your questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Professor Agócs, for your detailed presentation.
We will go to questions.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you, professor.
I am curious about the upper levels of management. Do you feel the glass ceiling still exists for the four designated groups to be appointed to the executive levels?
Ms. Agócs: That is what the data suggests to me, yes.
Senator Ataullahjan: Do you believe the situation has improved for women but not minority women?
Ms. Agócs: It has improved for women, but there is not adequate public data available for the breakdown of women versus men in the three designated groups, including Aboriginal peoples, visible minorities and persons with disabilities. We do not know where women stand versus men in terms of access to the executive group for each of those populations.
Senator Ataullahjan: Does age play a factor?
Ms. Agócs: I am not sure that age would be a consistent factor for any of the groups. I believe that the population of persons with disabilities would be on the older side probably, and they are also under-represented in the executive group.
I am not sure what the age distribution is of visible minorities and Aboriginal people, but that could be tested if we had the data to be able to look at the distribution of the age groups.
Senator Ataullahjan: Could you share some best practices for employers to ensure a culture of equity and human rights in the workplace?
Ms. Agócs: Yes, I think it is very important to examine the systemic barriers that all four groups face in terms of access to career development opportunities, including promotion into the executive group, as well as the culture of the organization, whether it is inclusive and welcoming, and also whether the low numbers of some groups in certain parts of the bureaucracy affect the climate for those groups.
One way to look at the identification of systemic barriers to equality is to use three diagnostic ideas. One would be employment systems, which are the decisions made about human resources management throughout the career development of individual members of the public service. The Employment Equity Act provides for employers to do an employment systems review, which is a valuable tool for identifying systemic barriers for any particular category of employee in terms of their job and for any designated group.
It becomes an empirical process to look at how people progress. Let us say, if we are looking at promotion, what are the decision points during the promotion process and are there any barriers at any point in that decision process? An employment systems review that is well done can answer that kind of question and can identify systemic barriers that might get in the way of full access of qualified people to the jobs that they are qualified for.
If we look at organizational culture, this is something that is not covered specifically in the Employment Equity Act. We know from research that organizational culture is an important factor in whether a workplace is inclusive, whether people have opportunities to progress in their careers and whether decisions are made that are fair.
There are cultural audits done by some employers to look at whether there is harassment in the workplace, whether the environment is inclusive for all groups, whether there is an informal culture that is welcoming and whether information is equitably passed around in the organization. All those kinds of important parts of the culture of an organization can be assessed, and barriers can be identified.
When it comes to numbers, we have data on the representation of the different groups within different parts of the public service, and those numbers themselves can change the culture, in a sense. If there are very few members of a particular group, let us say at the executive level, it might become difficult for members of the executive group that are from designated groups to feel supported and welcomed within that environment.
Senator White: Thank you for your presentation, it was very interesting.
From a representation perspective, have you given any thought to the reality of the representation? I will use as an example the Aboriginal representation, where some large tracts of Aboriginal communities would show that 50 per cent of the population of that community is under the age of 20. In fact, in Nunavut 50 per cent of the population is under the age of 17.
Has any research been done allowing for those differences so that we have a true picture of who is available to be employed, versus a population base, against the opportunity?
Ms. Agócs: There are two important points here. One is that because the Aboriginal population tends to be younger than the population of Canada as a whole, we are looking at the future labour force of Canada. We need to get on this idea of including Aboriginal people in the jobs that are available because they will be the labour force of the future.
In terms of ability to take the age distribution into account now, availability data does that. The data that we get from Statistics Canada that are used by employers to look at availability generally refer to the population of working age that are in various job categories and in various locations from which the organization generally recruits.
That age factor is taken into consideration in availability data.
Senator White: Taking that into account, we had some good presentations this evening talking about appropriate representation, some higher, some lower, and some departments much higher. Aboriginal Affairs is a great example when it comes to representation.
Is the picture better or gloomier today? I am not talking about the future, because I understand that has a lot to do with education and training, and that can go on. Is the picture better or worse than we would think today?
Typically we just hear the statistics that 3.8 per cent of the Canadian population is Aboriginal, and then we are told what percentage of the federal public service is Aboriginal. The numbers might sound okay but, in fact, based on availability they might be higher than some would expect. Would that be correct? I do not know the answer. This is not a trick question.
Ms. Agócs: Aboriginal representation in the federal public service is at least as good as the availability of that population in the working age population, but they are not equitably distributed.
Senator White: My background is policing, and I was RCMP for 25 years and mostly in the Arctic.
The challenge faced in some of those departments is that their expectation of representation is higher than the 3.8 per cent. In fact, Nunavut has legislation that requires the percentage of federal government employees to meet the population base. If it is 74 per cent Inuit then they expect that, over a certain period of time, you will have 74 per cent Inuit working in federal government employment.
It is almost like we have agreed to a policy, or in this case a legislation, when Nunavut was formed that would set us up to actually fail in some cases, since the vast majority of the federal positions would also fit within Aboriginal Affairs and Parks Canada in the North, as an example.
Should we not have agreed to that? Should we have looked for a more even distribution across departments, or should we instead take over overrepresentation in some departments and push for even distribution down the road?
Ms. Agócs: It seems to me Nunavut is a special case because of the very high representation of Aboriginal peoples within the population from which employers in Nunavut would be recruiting.
Senator White: However, each province might have the same argument. Saskatchewan in policing has the same challenges right now of much higher First Nations population in the RCMP in Saskatchewan than some other provinces because of the pressure they get politically, both provincially and from First Nations. I accept that we probably are overrepresented in some departments. I am challenged, though, to suggest that it is wrong, I guess. From my perspective, it is about satisfying those we serve, and if the people we serve are telling us they would like more Aboriginal people in their area, working in their communities, I am not sure that is the wrong way to go either.
Ms. Agócs: Yes. It would seem to me that in a province like Saskatchewan, especially in urban areas where there is a fairly large Aboriginal population that is becoming more educated all the time, that there is an opportunity to recruit from that population for jobs in the public service or in policing or other parts of the economy.
Senator White: Thank you. I was thinking out loud more than a question. I apologize, Madam Chair.
The Chair: As a supplementary to what Senator White was saying about younger people, can you define "workforce availability"?
Ms. Agócs: Generally, it would be the data that is made available by Statistics Canada. That is the usual source of workforce availability data. The population of working age would be defined, as I understand it, somewhere between the early 20s and age 54, or something of that nature, in large job categories from which employers would be recruiting.
For example, let us say you want to recruit for a specialized kind of professional role in an organization. You might have a nationwide recruiting pool for that job because you do not have a lot of local people who would be qualified to serve in that kind of position. However, you might have a localized availability pool for, let us say, tradespeople or administrative employees.
The Chair: When we are looking for jobs in the federal service, we are only looking at workforce availability numbers; we are not looking at the population? Is that correct?
Ms. Agócs: That is right. When employers do their employment equity analysis, they are comparing their own workforce representation with the representation of the designated groups in the availability pools from which they draw when they hire.
Senator Andreychuk: Thank you for your perspectives, somewhat gloomy, that we are going the opposite direction than the legislation intended. In other words, you do not think we will reach the targets that were set. Given that, and given that it is a changing field all the time, what would you suggest we recommend to the government, other than what we are doing?
We have talked about targets, changing the culture, working with communities, reaching out to the disadvantaged communities if they are not in the mix, going beyond Ottawa. If you read our reports, we have heard from many people suggesting a lot of shortcomings but also recommending how to move ahead. In one of the previous questions I asked if our targets are out of date now and should we do something else to encourage full inclusiveness in our public service without detracting from merit, which should be our goal in professionalism.
What would you suggest we do to reverse what you seem to be saying are negative trends? Is it to be more consistent or is there something else we should be doing?
Ms. Agócs: The recommendations contained in the two reports of this committee are very strong, and if they were followed, you would see some real improvements. Also, the targets that were included in the Embracing Change initiative, which comes from the year 2000, could have produced some change. This report was endorsed by the government but then not implemented.
My feeling is that employment equity is very strong in terms of the legislation that we have, except that we are not implementing it with real vigour and with real determination. If we were to implement employment equity as the law requires, I think we would see results. However, it becomes difficult when we are going backwards now. As I mentioned, the cancellation of the long-form census is a concern because that is the data from which availability data come, and if we do not have meaningful availability data, then it is impossible for employers to set employment equity goals that are realistic.
That is one example, in my view, of how we are going backwards. If we had the mandatory long-form census back, we would have that tool which is important in terms of goal setting for employment equity.
You mentioned the possibility of not having targets, but that proposition worries me in terms of employment equity effectiveness, because if you look at how businesses make a success of their operations, they set targets. They set targets for marketing, market share, for profit and so forth. We know that we are more likely to pay attention to targets that we are accountable for achieving. If we have no targets and are not accountable for achieving any targets, we will probably put our energy into other areas in which we do have targets to meet and are accountable for success.
One of the recommendations of this committee that I really believe in is that decision makers need to be held accountable for employment equity results, and I do not think that has generally been the case.
Senator Andreychuk: You put some weight in for this information source of the long-form census data. I do not want to get into that because I think all information is helpful. My concern is more that the public service is representative of the community; and so, if there are impediments, I would think they are not just in the public service; they are within the community, within our attitudes, the broader scope. Do you have any recommendations for how we can speed up the process of integrating these groups, not just into the public service but everywhere, so that it is no longer a target but is a normal process of having all people achieve and be part of the constituency of Canada?
Ms. Agócs: That is a beautiful aspirational goal that I think we all share. We are a long way from being there. We are not in a place right now where we have equitable opportunities for everyone in society. Until we do, it is helpful to have employment equity policy and pay equity policy to help us to make progress toward that aspirational goal, which is ultimately what we envision for Canada.
Senator Andreychuk: Do you take other laws, attitudes, societal attitudes, all as important to try and change to make the differences? The Public Service Commission is of particular interest; it represents Canada, the Government of Canada, so it is important to set targets and to work at achieving inclusiveness, but is it not equally important to work on the other factors in the society? We are not going to succeed if we do not do a little bit here and a little bit there. We will move the yardstick.
Ms. Agócs: Yes. I think we cannot put too much responsibility on any one institution to change the whole of society. We have many different institutions in Canadian society and each has a role to play. We look to our public schools, our schools in general, to try to ensure that children grow up with inclusiveness as part of the way they look at the world around them. We have various other institutions that work in their particular ways, whether it is not-for-profit organizations that try to create a level playing field for persons with disabilities or various other enterprises like sports and so on. We have so many institutions that are all working to make the contribution you are talking about, to try to change society as a whole, and every bit helps.
However, having said that, I think employers have a special responsibility because so much of the quality of life for families and for individuals depends upon their integration into the workforce and into employment. Employment is a particularly important area where we need to make all the progress that we can.
Senator Hubley: Thank you for your presentation. In it, you offer to us a comparison of your findings with what theory and past research have shown about factors that contribute to the effectiveness of employment equity implementation and conditions that may impede it. I know the answers you have given to us have contributed to that. Is there anything else you would like to add to that?
Ms. Agócs: I think there are some perhaps particular things that some employers have done that are particularly helpful in terms of removing barriers and integrating visible minorities into the workforce. One of those things is to really invest in management training, development and mentoring to prepare members of designated groups for promotion, and at the same time to learn their capabilities and what they have to offer.
Large changes are important, but also one-on-one opportunities to be mentored, to develop one's capabilities and to prepare for career advancement is an important thing that progressive employers do. That is one small example. It is not so small, I guess, if we are talking about really boosting opportunities for progression into senior roles, like the EX group. It is important to have that management training development and mentoring structure available.
Senator Hubley: Were there any conditions that you felt might impede it, which was the latter part of the question?
Ms. Agócs: One of the things happening in our economy right now is the greater use by many employers, including the federal public service, of term appointments, part-time work and term-limited work, which ultimately leads to turnover and a lack of retention. Because of our population right now, it is probable that visible minorities, women and Aboriginal peoples would be among the groups most likely to be employed on a term basis. It is a difficult situation that we are facing now, and if we are going through a period where recruiting into indeterminate positions is less and recruitment into term positions is more, that creates an issue.
The Chair: I have a few questions. The challenge many times is changing attitudes. One hires people who look like you, who think like you, that you think are homogeneous. I see one of the barriers, especially when the responsibility moves to deputy ministers and managers — I am not being critical of them; it is just the way one hires. There needs to be some systemic changes.
One of the barriers to achieving employment equity, I believe, is the belief that attitudes of hiring managers do not recognize the value of diversity. How do you change these attitudes?
Ms. Agócs: I think attitudes are important, but I believe that behaviour is more important. I do not know whether we can count on changing all of the attitudes that decision makers have in a big organization, but we can hope to change some of the behaviours that create barriers for the progress of the designated groups.
How does one change behaviour? Direction from the top of the organization, all the way from the PMO and the ministers down through the organization, putting an emphasis on the importance of diversity in the public service, why it is important, and the expectations attached to achieving more diversity will influence behaviour, especially if there are rewards and sanctions attached to progress in having greater diversity or the failure to achieve greater diversity. Those kinds of measures create changes in behaviour.
It is good to have efforts to change attitudes to go along with that, to have training and opportunities where people in decision-making positions can learn to be comfortable with diversity, but the main thing is to change behaviour.
The Chair: The other thing that really preoccupies me is the issue of self-identification. I myself very much struggle; if I were an employee in the federal service, I would not self-identify, so I do not criticize those people who do not do so for 101 reasons. How do you change that?
Ms. Agócs: Influencing the propensity to self-identify depends on the culture of the organization. Does it feel safe to self-identify? Is it a culture of respect and inclusiveness where a person expects to be accepted for who they are? If it is not, then it is not a favourable environment for people to self-identify.
Another factor that I think might be helpful would be to ask employees themselves whether they feel comfortable self-identifying, and if not, why not, and doing so in a safe way so that people do not feel put upon.
Much of the task of barrier removal depends upon learning from members of the designated groups what the barriers are. People who are not members of the designated groups and who have not experienced discrimination are often unable to see the barriers, unable to feel them. Therefore, it is important to get help from members of the designated groups themselves, including advocacy organizations representing designated groups, not necessarily people who are now in the public service, although they could be helpful as well, to learn what it is that contributes to a safe environment for self-identification.
The Chair: It is very difficult when one talks about creating safety and changing culture. Earlier today, the Public Service Commissioner, Ms. Robinson, was here, and she spoke about letting employees know how this information will be used and making them feel that it will be used in the best possible light. How do you change culture? How do you create that safety?
Ms. Agócs: By demonstrating that the culture is safe. The main way to create a feeling of safety is by demonstrating over time that the information will be used in appropriate ways and not abused, by demonstrating that no one will suffer because they have self-identified and by creating support systems and a sense of inclusiveness. Doing that is a long and sometimes rather complex process, but it begins with respecting the diverse employees who are now present in the organization and calling upon them to give their ideas about what needs to be done to make culture change happen.
The Chair: Earlier this evening we heard witnesses from the Canadian Human Rights Commission. They told us that if they find non-compliance when they audit a department, they reach an agreement that there will be compliance. A few years later they revisit, and if there is not compliance they come to another agreement.
Employees in that department would find it difficult to see non-compliance on a regular basis, agreements reached to comply and yet further non-compliance. What kind of a culture does that create?
Ms. Agócs: It is a culture in which employment equity is clearly not valued; a culture which does not send a message of inclusiveness and that employment equity is important.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your very detailed presentation, upon which I can assure you we will be reflecting. You brought up many things. We will certainly read your paper as well. We hope that we can continue to work with you in the future.
Ms. Agócs: Thank you very much. It was a great pleasure to meet with you.