OTTAWA, Monday, April 29, 2013

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 4 p.m. to study issues of discrimination in the hiring and promotion practices of the Federal Public Service, to study the extent to which targets to achieve employment equity are being met, and to examine labour market outcomes for minority groups in the private sector.

Senator Mobina S. B. Jaffer (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, I call this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights to order.

The committee is tasked, by the Senate, with examining issues related to human rights, both in Canada and internationally. Today we are reconvening our committee to review employment equity in the federal public service.

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights has been authorized to examine issues of discrimination in 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 this 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 the necessary changes.

The act also provides guidance in 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 visible minorities — within a 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 also to study the extent to which employment equity targets are being met. In 2007, the committee further studied the hiring and promotion practices of the federal public service and published a report entitled Employment Equity in the 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 the fact that employment equity is not yet a reality in the federal public service for the four following designated groups: women, aboriginals, visible minorities and the disabled.


I understand that, originally, there were three separate employment equity groups, which were: The National Council of Visible Minorities, the National Council of Federal Employees with Disabilities and the National Council of Aboriginal Federal Employees. Since September 2011, there have been three national champions. Further, there are Champions and Chairs Committees in each department, which will identify issues, develop strategic and report on results, through the Treasury Board Secretariat's annual Employment Equity in the Public Service of Canada report. It is my understanding that a woman's champion has not been appointed.

In her 2012 appearance before the committee, Daphne Meredith, former chief human resources officer of Treasury Board Secretariat, suggested that the employement equity Champions and Chairs Committees would allow "for better networking and sharing of better practices among departments and more direct access for employees to employment equity deputy minister champions and departmental management, who are in a position to act on the recommendations."

We are pleased that, today, we have three champions, and we now want to hear what they have been doing since 2011 to make the public service truly representative of the Canadian public.

My name is Mobina Jaffer, and I am a senator from British Columbia and chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights.

I will ask my colleagues to introduce themselves, and I will start with Senator Hubley.

Senator Hubley: Welcome. My name Elizabeth Hubley, senator from P.E.I.

Senator Oh: I am Senator Oh. I am representing Ontario.

Senator Buth: Senator Joanne Buth, from Manitoba.

Senator White: Vern White, Ontario.

Senator Ngo: Senator Ngo, from Ontario.

Senator Oliver: Don Oliver, from Nova Scotia.


Now I want to welcome our first group from the Government of Canada, Mr. George Da Pont, Employment Equity Champion for Visible Minorities (President, Canadian Food Inspection Agency); Mr. Alan Latourelle, Employment Equity Champion for Aboriginal Federal Employees (CEO, Parks Canada); Ms. Linda Lizotte-MacPherson, Employment Equity Champion for Federal Employees with Disabilities (President, Canada School of Public Service).


I understand that all three of you will have statements, and we will start with Ms. Lizotte-MacPherson.

Linda Lizotte-MacPherson, Employment Equity Champion for Federal Employees with Disabilities (President, Canada School of Public Service), Government of Canada: Thank you, Madam Chair. Good afternoon. We are the deputy minister champions for the three employment equity Champions and Chairs Committees. I am the deputy minister champion for persons with disabilities. Alan Latourelle is the DM champion for Aboriginal Peoples, and George Da Pont is the champion for visible minorities.


I will provide an overview of the committees. Each one of my colleagues will then discuss how the committees are working and the impacts seen so far.


Achieving a representative and inclusive workforce is a shared responsibility that involves a number of key stakeholders, including deputy heads, policy centres and the employment equity Champions and Chairs Committee. Madam Chair, the three deputy minister employment equity champions and the government take this responsibility seriously. Issues surrounding employment equity and diversity are foremost in the minds of all deputy ministers.


As you are aware, the new governance structure for the employment equity committees was implemented in the fall of 2011, following a review in 2010-2011.


The purpose of that review was to explore ways to improve the overall governance and to clarify accountability, planning and decision making. During the review, each of the three former employment equity councils was consulted, including the National Council of Visible Minorities, the National Council of Aboriginal Federal Employees and the National Council of Federal Employees with Disabilities. In addition, members of the Human Resources Council and the bargaining agents were also consulted.

The highlights of these consultations were that the EE groups really wanted more direct access to deputies, to DM Champions and to the policy centres. They wanted to influence the agenda and raise issues with those in a position to act on the recommendations. They also needed a mechanism that gave them the ability to hear the unfiltered messages from the grassroots of the community.


The membership of each committee consists of departmental champions and chairs from about 49 departments and agencies. There is one interdepartmental committee for each group which is chaired by a DM champion, the three of us.


The mandate of each of these interdepartmental committees is to support the government's employment equity objectives by serving as a forum for networking and sharing of EE best practices among departments and agencies. Our role, as DM champions, is to set the agenda for respective EE meetings. We also chair those meetings. We act as a key liaison with the deputy minister community by, for example, reporting back to the deputy ministers or by raising issues at various DM tables or with the policy centres. In essence, we are acting as spokespeople for our EE community, and we are the government-wide champions.

Each department is responsible for establishing committees, in their own organization, for each of the three employment equity communities. Departmental champions are usually at the senior management, assistant deputy minister or director general level. The chairs represent employee networks in their department. The role of the departmental champions is to bring issues and best practices to the senior management table in their department for discussion, decision and implementation.

They are also responsible for promoting EE within their immediate surroundings in order to eliminate barriers that impede progress. They also represent the views of the regions, based on discussions with their members, and they attend their departments’ EEC meetings and actively participate in, and share information at, the interdepartmental committee meetings. Finally, they are responsible for submitting an integrated vision to their deputy head, managers and staff.

The departmental chair, on the other hand, has a slightly different role. The departmental chair is often a person from the EE community. They are also responsible for attending departmental and interdepartmental meetings, and bringing forward issues and best practices for discussion. They also liaise and consult directly with their departmental champion on issues impacting their department or organization, and they represent the views of their networks or their communities.


In June 2011, the former Chief Human Resources Officer sent proposed guidelines to deputies to consider when selecting departmental representatives to sit on these committees.


In guidelines that she proposed for the committees to be effective, legitimate and representative, she outlined the qualities that these individuals need to demonstrate, and she recommended to deputy heads that, when selecting their departmental representatives, every effort should be made to ensure that individuals are members of the designated group they represent.


Representatives should be selected through a process that will be seen by the department or agency as credible and legitimate, and that allows for good regional input.


The current membership of our three interdepartmental committees varies between 90 and 100 individuals, and participation in meetings has been good.

I know you heard from representatives of a number of organizations last week, but here is a short reminder of their key roles, because we work very closely with them. I will start with the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada and the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer. They represent the employer and, subject to the role of the PSC, are ultimately responsible for promoting and monitoring employment equity performance in core public administration departments. They are also responsible for reporting to Parliament on the results. They establish the policy framework, provide program coordination and give policy advice to departments, and they coordinate the exchange of best practices. They also monitor and evaluate the implementation of employment equity initiatives, as well as the progress achieved.


The Public Service Commission is accountable for the appointment of qualified persons to and from within the public service.


They are also responsible for conducting activities related to the implementation of employment equity and for reporting on those activities. The PSC is also responsible for developing new, and examining existing, public service-wide recruitment and appointment policies to ensure they are barrier- and bias-free.

Finally, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is responsible for undertaking audits of all government departments and agencies, and to seek correction in areas of noncompliance. They also monitor departments and agencies for reasonable progress to ensure the departments are achieving progress in the hiring and promotion goals, which were set out as a condition of compliance. They may also assess employment equity plans where progress is not being achieved, and they can also apply enforcement measures, as appropriate.

Each deputy head is responsible for promoting and supporting employment equity within his or her organization.

My DM colleague Alan Latourelle will now provide more information on how the new model is working.


Alan Latourelle, Employment Equity Champion for Aboriginal Federal Employees (CEO, Parks Canada), Government of Canada: I am pleased to report that collectively 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.

Based on our collective experience in this first year, we can say that this new model is working. It has increased financial management accountability and generated reduced costs but more importantly has created a government-wide forum where senior executives and departmental chairs of employment equity groups are provided the opportunity to have meaningful discussions on common challenges, opportunities and learn together from best practices.

There has been a shift from discussing issues and challenges to identifying clear priorities and working collectively on potential solutions which lead 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.


However, the new model allows for a different kind of government-wide dialogue, such as responsibility for issues, advancement of solutions and the sharing of best practices. Each committee will establish priorities and take stock of progress against employment equity objectives.

Areas of focus across all three committees include recruitment, retention, career development, mentoring and advancement. In addition, all three groups have been discussing the effects of the implementation of the deficit reduction action plans on employment equity groups in the federal public service.


I now yield the floor to my colleague George Da Pont.

George Da Pont, Employment Equity Champion for Visible Minorities (President, Canadian Food Inspection Agency), Government of Canada: Like my colleagues, it is a pleasure for me to be a part of your meeting. I am going to discuss the impacts of the new model. We are now just into the second year of this new governance model so it may be too early to draw definitive conclusions on how well it is working.

However the initial indications are promising. There are several areas where I feel it is an improvement and where we are beginning to see some positive benefits. First, it has strengthened the mandate and role of the various champions and chairs. They have better and direct access to their deputy heads and their senior management teams who are accountable for employment equity and who are in a position to act on recommendations and advice.


Second, I think the new model is more inclusive, as my colleague mentioned. All departments and agencies are represented, and there seems to be far better representation and participation from individuals outside the National Capital Region than was previously the case.

Third, it is a larger forum at which to share best practices, and it brings a broader range of views and perspectives to the table. In addition, it is supported by better electronic tools to enable communication and to keep information up to date.

Finally, as the deputy minister champion, I have to say it gives me confidence that, when I am bringing forward their ideas and their advice, it is indeed reflective of the views of the broader community. Still, I want to emphasize that while I believe the new model is off to a good start, we still need to work to further strengthen and consolidate these improvements.

I also believe that the new governance model has already had an influence on broader government directions. Perhaps I can give the committee one example to illustrate the point. One of the early concerns that came up in all three of the employment equity groups was that the implementation of the government's deficit reduction measures might impact negatively on the gains that have been made in representation in recent years.

As champions, we collectively took this concern to our colleagues and to the Chief Human Resources Officer. The result was a letter to all deputy heads that emphasized the overarching importance of employment equity, asked all deputy heads to undertake active monitoring of the impacts and outlined some actions that could be considered if negative impacts were observed. I believe this action drew the concern on representation to the attention of all deputy heads early in the process so they could take it into consideration as they were working out their implementation plans. In addition, we champions meet twice a year with the chief human resources officer to report on the work of the committees and to reflect on progress in emerging issues. We also report to our deputy minister colleagues and to the clerk.

As my colleagues have noted, much of the early focus of the departmental champions and chairs committees has been on organizing the new structures, agreeing on priority areas for focus and clarifying the roles. Over the next year, we expect the focus will be on providing advice on those key priorities. I believe that the more frequent and more structured mechanisms for reaching into the deputy minister community will prove to be very helpful in ensuring that advice is heard.

That concludes our joint opening remarks. We would be pleased to take your questions.

The Chair: Thank you for your remarks and for making yourself available today. I speak for the whole committee when I say that we are looking forward to working with you. We see this as a partnership as we have the same goals, and we look forward to working with you in the future. There are some things that I want to clarify. One phrase used often was "best practices." Can you explain what you mean by "best practices?"

Mr. Da Pont: Since my colleagues are looking at me, perhaps I will start.

At each session of all Employment Equity Champions and Chairs Committees, and I will speak for the one that I chair on visible minorities, we ask a department or an agency that is seen as having a best practice that is working effectively in a particular area to come to the committee to share their approach and to disseminate it; and then there is follow-up in terms of posting it on an electronic site. I will give you two very good examples: We had an excellent presentation from the Department of Justice on how they could put together a good, sustainable mentoring program that met the needs of not only visible minorities and the employment equity groups but also all employees in the Department of Justice. There have been many experiences over the years, but the Department of Justice has an approach that is more systematic and seems sustainable. They have evaluated it, as it has been used for several years, and it shows good results. That is one good example of putting out a best practice that interested a number of other departments.

A second very interesting example was from Treasury Board Secretariat. From reading some of the transcripts of this committee, I know that there is always concern about how to get good data and how to set good, forward-looking goals. Treasury Board Secretariat's approach was to set goals that go beyond labour market availability. They shared their approach with all of the other departments and agencies. It struck a real chord. We are meeting again next week and one of the key agenda items is to drill down into that approach to see if it is transferable to other departments and agencies.

Those are two concrete examples of real practices that seem to be working very well in those departments and agencies. We will see if they can be adapted across the rest of us.

Ms. Lizotte-MacPherson: If I may expand, another term we often use is "leading practices." In some cases, clearly best practices are head and shoulders above what other organizations are doing. In other cases, there may be some leading practices that are exemplary, but whether we can say they are the best practice is not always 100 per cent clear. For example, at our last meeting for persons with disabilities, the theme was accommodation and duty to accommodate. Eight departments shared their leading practices from their organizations; and all of those practices were posted on the electronic platform.

The Chair: For clarification, the other phrase that has come up quite a bit is "deficit reduction measures." Do you mean last in first out?

Mr. Da Pont: No. It was in my presentation that those were the decisions that the government took.

The Chair: I know the government took those decisions, but what does that mean on the ground?

Mr. Da Pont: On the ground it meant that the employment equity committees were concerned that as those were implemented and various departments and agencies reduced some of their staff, there might be a disproportionate impact on visible minorities, people with disabilities and Aboriginal employees for a variety of reasons, possibly last in, last out. However, the concern was whether it would have an impact and reduce the gains. That was the issue. In response, we moved to much more active monitoring to try to ensure that that is not the case and that deputy ministers, as they implement the plans, take that into consideration.

Senator Hubley: I would like to know the role that statistics play in the decision-making process. Who would be responsible for collecting the statistics and how is that done?

Further to that, are the findings that you come forward with supported by those statistics? In your view, how reliable are current statistics pertaining to employment for the four designated groups within the federal public service, in particular with regard to appointment rates, representation rates, advancement rates to the executive level, retention rates, attrition rates and the drop-off rate during the application process? Do you have any concerns about the data or the methodology used in generating these statistics?

Mr. Latourelle: I will use the champions and chairs committee for Aboriginal employees as an example. We have been using a lot of the information generated by Treasury Board or the Public Service Commission. The point I will make is that it is supplemented by the experience and knowledge of the champions and chairs from all participating departments. We use the data provided in terms of retention, executive representation and so on; but that is only one part of the information. The other part is from the knowledge that each member brings to the committee or to the circle our case. In our case, that information base is traditional knowledge, in some aspects, and the data provided by central agencies. We have identified key priorities or areas for further inquiry.

Senator Hubley: Are you comfortable with the availability of statistics to meet your needs?

Mr. Latourelle: Yes. In our committee, we look at the impacts of the changes to budgetary levels for each department. Once we get that information, we want to look at that to see if there are additional actions we need to take as a circle. As Mr. Da Pont mentioned earlier, the three of us worked with the chief human resources officer to ask that a letter be sent to the deputy ministers to monitor the situation across the public service and in each agency.

Mr. Da Pont: I would offer some thoughts on that. I believe the committee is aware that Statistics Canada sets labour market availability upon which various departments and agencies base their plans. The collection of data is largely departmental, so that is done within the departments and within the agencies, and then it is reported to the Treasury Board and to the office of the Chief Human Resource Officer and is reflected in the various reports that I think you have seen.

In addition, the Public Service Commission collects data on new entrants into the public service, and I know this committee has already had some discussions about those data sources.

The issues around data are certainly ones that have been raised in the visible minority champions and chairs committee, for a variety of reason. Obviously, it is largely based on self-identification, and several concerns have come out. One is that, increasingly, younger people are not always comfortable with the concept. From the committee, there is a desire to see whether there are better data sources that could be put together that would be more accurate.

The other concern is in the data itself. I can certainly speak from my own personal experience, but I think many of the departmental champions and chairs have said the same thing. When they conduct self-identification campaigns in their respective organizations, you generally see, for a period of time, a jump up in the statistical data, but it is often not sustainable. One of the things that visible minorities champion and chairs committee has identified as something that they would like to work on together is to look at the data sources and options and see if there is some advice and suggestions that they could provide on how to improve them.

Senator Hubley: Thank you very much.

Senator Buth: Thank you for your presentations today. I have a couple of questions.

Mr. Latourelle, you commented in your speaking notes that there has been a shift from discussing issues and challenges to identifying clear priorities and working collectively on potential solutions. Could you or your colleagues please give some examples of identifying clear priorities and solutions?

Mr. Latourelle: Yes, I can. As an example, I was the DM champion before the new structure for Aboriginal employees in the federal public service in the former council. In that role, we had a lot of discussions and a lot of progress, but often we may focus on some of the challenges and issues. The change that I have seen, by bringing the champions from every department and the chairs together across all government, is that we are identifying these issues but we are also creating working groups where, again, different participants from every department participate to find solutions and share outcomes.

For example, in the case of the circle for Aboriginal employees, executive representation is a challenge, so the discussion that we have had through the working group that has been established is we have identified some areas for solutions, for example, creating a role model and a mentoring program of Aboriginal executives, because we do all want to see that increase over time. That is one practical example of the solutions that are coming forward.

We have also had discussions about the Aboriginal leadership development programs that are effective and best practices. We had a presentation by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, which is more the middle manager, one level below the executive development programs. Parks Canada was asked to present our Aboriginal leadership development program. We are looking at what is out there and what the creative solutions are, and then bringing that into a strategy that we can bring forward.

Ms. Lizotte-MacPherson: At the first meeting for the committee of persons with disabilities, we actually spent time coming up with our priorities for the committee, and that has been influencing what we have been working on. They needed to get to know each other, first of all. I was surprised at how few knew each other, so the networking was important, as was the sharing of best practices.

They wanted to be consulted early by the policy centres on potential policy or legislative changes that were being contemplated. For example, the Department of Labour consulted them on the review of the modernization of the Government Employment Compensation Act.

Another priority for them was issues around mental health in the workplace, and there we brought in the expert, Bill Wilkerson, and he shared his latest research with the group, because evidence and data is very important to this group. That is a priority they identified.

They also want to increase their understanding around duty to accommodate and accommodations. They wanted to hear from the policy centres on the disability management initiative and some other government-wide initiatives.

That has been the focus, and now we are starting to shift gears and coming up with some working groups. We focused on solutions, but we have already identified the topics that, for example, the Public Service Commission is going to come and the consult the group on. We can see from the data that the intake numbers, the inflow for persons with disabilities, is lower than work force availability, so the PSC wants to consult with the group to see if they have any insight into that. We want to look at Web 2.0 and how we can use it creatively. Another area is some myth busters to help deal with some of the invisible barriers, such as other people's perceptions. It is a structured agenda based on how the participants want to work and what the priorities are to help them back in their organization.

We have an ever-growing list of priorities and speakers coming in, but the agenda is the really set by them.

Senator Buth: Thank you. That is helpful. Have you set up performance measures for the committees, and what might those be?

Ms. Lizotte-MacPherson: In my committee, we have not set up performance measures specifically. We have talked about whether we should be looking at that. We do monitor the statistics, if you will. When there is new data that comes out, we would have the experts come in and share, but it is probably something that will come up as part of our planning for the next year and whether we feel we should be developing over and above some of the performance measures that TBS and PSC keep.

We definitely track our work plan and attendance and participation, which we think is really important to keep the participation really high. The other key measure for us is, do the individuals have access inside their department? That is something. Are they meeting at least once a year with their deputy head, and do they have access to their executive table? That is as far as we have gone in my committee, but those are big indicators.

Mr. Da Pont: I think they are similar in terms of the visible minority committee. The focus has been on many of the same things that my colleague was mentioning. Are we getting good solid participation at the meetings? Do the deputy champions and chairs indeed have effective access to their deputy ministers and to their senior management table? I think the third performance item that we have focused on, or the committee is focused on, is more in connection with can we get better performance measures to assess overall progress, and it is tied to the issue of better data that I spoke about a few minutes ago.

Senator Buth: Can you remind me again how often you are meeting?

Mr. Da Pont: For the visible minority committee, it meets four times a year, for one afternoon each.

Mr. Latourelle: For the champion and chairs circle of Aboriginal employees, we met five times in the last year.

Senator Buth: Thank you very much.

Senator White: Thank you very much for your presentations today.

I wanted to focus on whether, under employment equity, you have designated positions. For example, career development is one of the areas you are focusing on. Have you designated positions within career development, for example, education, training, language training in particular, for the target groups, and in particular, Mr. Latourelle for Aboriginal target groups?

Mr. Latourelle: Every department and agency has a different challenge or opportunity, so it really is at the departmental level that the objectives and the specific positions are identified.

Again, what we have looked at, in our committee, at this point, is really what the challenges are, and executive representation is one. We have come up with some solutions that can then be adopted by several departments and agencies. Within Parks Canada, for example, different parks have different realities, but 50 per cent of them were cooperatively managed with Aboriginal Peoples. In several cases, we have land claims and obligations that are very specific in terms of numbers. We have development programs, in those cases, and several other programs.

Currently, as an example, 12 per cent of our executives within Parks Canada are Aboriginal.

Senator White: Thank you.

The Chair: Before I go to our next questioner, I want to recognize Senator Oliver's work on this issue. He has worked very hard on issues of employment equity and was a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights when this study was originally suggested in 2004. We welcome you to this committee again, Senator Oliver, and you had some questions.

Senator Oliver: Thank you very much, Chair, for those remarks.

The question that I wanted to ask has already been started because the areas of focus, for all three committees, are recruitment, retention and so on. I know what recruitment and retention are, and I understand mentoring and advancement. However, the key, to me, of all the things you have said, is career development. Each week, I receive a number of emails and calls, from visible minorities in particular but also from other target groups in the public service, telling me about how they have been left behind and how others who are less qualified have been given a chance to have their careers develop and have been promoted. I read two very bad cases last week, which were very depressing.

For all the categories, what is specifically being done for the disabled, visible minorities and Aboriginals for career development? What types of programs are there? I do not mean just for language but also for other things in their career development. For me, it goes to the key to having a more representative public service in Canada.

Mr. Da Pont: I will start with that, Senator Oliver, because the sorts of situations that you have talked about have actually been highlighted and are reflective of two of the four priorities that the visible minority committee has set.

The points you made have been expressed in two different categories. One is the issue of fairness and staffing, and you raised that issue, I think, in one of your examples of someone being promoted.

First of all, the visible minority committee has set up a working group to focus on that particular issue, but, from the discussion to date, a lot of the sentiment is that we have, over the years, developed some good tools to ensure fairness in staffing. There was an objective eye exercise a number of years ago, and a lot of the tools are there. The most important one that has come out of the committee discussions is to try to ensure that the boards that are being set up to select people are, in fact, diverse and reflective of diversity.

I think the sentiment is that we have the tools but that they are neither necessarily being used consistently by all departments and agencies nor necessarily being used all the time.

Obviously, we will see what the working group comes up with in specific recommendations. However, I think the sentiment is that we have the tools and are not using them, so how do we improve that?

In terms of career development, it is a bit different in the sense that we have had several presentations of good practices from a variety of departments and agencies, and they all have models that have had some result. There are two that come to mind very quickly. One is from Natural Resources Canada, which had, a couple of years ago, put in place an exercise to develop and prepare people for entering into the EX community. Another was from the Public Service Commission, which had a similar exercise to create a visible minority EX pool that was applicable across government.

Each department and agency is looking at its own internal situation and what areas to focus on. The group that has been set up, again through the visible minority Champions and Chairs Committee, is really focusing on sort of going through all of these and seeing if there are some real leading or best practices that they would want to recommend, government-wide, in that area.

I think the other sentiment that has come out on the career development side is that visible minorities are not a homogenous group. There is a lot of diversity within the visible minority community, and, when developing some of these tools and programs, you have to take that into account as well. That is the stage they are at at the moment.

Mr. Latourelle: I will echo Mr. Da Pont's initial points. In terms of practical examples of what is being discussed in our committee, language training was identified as a challenge in terms of advancement. If you do not have access to language training how do you become a supervisor or a manager? That has been identified, and the working group will be looking at whether this is perception or fact. I am not downplaying it. I think it is a serious issue, but they will just be getting the facts in terms of who has access and who has not and what we have to do differently in the future so that these individuals and communities can seek advancement. Often, the position might have a bilingual requirement. That is one practical example.

In terms of recruitment, for example, science departments have collectively raised an issue. They have made numerous attempts and have spent a lot of energy trying to increase representation for Aboriginal people, for example.

In the scientific field, they are having some challenges, so what we are seeing through our working groups is these departments working together trying to find collective instead of individual solutions and to build on each other’s strengths.

Ms. Lizotte-MacPherson: If I may also expand in terms of some of the work of the school, it can, as the common learning organization, help to build capacity. We work really closely with OCRO, the PSE and the different functional communities. They really determine the learning needs, and they help in terms of developing the learning products that we deliver.

We are continuing to expand our lists of courses that deal directly with employment equity-related topics. There are a number of courses, but, for example, this year, we partnered with Canada Revenue Agency and TBS to offer a course on duty to accommodate in disability management. That is focused at HR specialists.

We also offer a course on orientation to employment equity and diversity. That is also targeting HR specialists.

We are also continuing to offer a course, Leading a Diverse Workforce, which is looking at the leadership competencies that you need to have to lead diverse teams.

We also have an online course on the Employment Equity Act to help enhance the knowledge of employment equity.

This year, we have also been working with TBS. It is a new version of the disability management case workshop. It used to be delivered by TBS, but, because there is such as a demand, it has been brought into the school and will be a regular offering. That will also include a module on workplace accommodation.

The principles of inclusiveness and fairness in hiring and people management practices are really interwoven throughout the leadership development programs that we have for all levels, but, in particular, there is an emphasis in our management and human resources curricula.

The other thing that we are doing with TBS is the Disability Management Initiative. They are coming to the end of this phase of the work. They have heard a lot from departments and from the committee that they need some learning and development so we will be working with them on some learning products.

As a school, we are also developing an accessibility strategy. That means looking at all of our delivery and the online content to the physical access to our different locations; there are seven areas that we are looking at. I have asked them to come in and consult with the disability committee, as well.

There is a wide range of activities going on at the school.

Senator Harb: Thank you very much for your presentations.

I guess my question to you is with regard to visible minorities. First, are you satisfied with the representation at the executive level, and could you share with us some statistics? I am talking director general level and up, not at the lower level.

Mr. Da Pont: We do have statistics for the executive category. The work force availability is set at 7.6 per cent. Overall in the public service, we are at 8.1 per cent, so we do exceed the work force availability overall in the public service.

That varies from department to department; some still have issues while others are in pretty good shape. Overall, as a public service, we are doing well in that area.

Senator Harb: Work force availability for visible minorities is over 15 per cent, from my understanding.

Mr. Da Pont: It is 12.4 per cent overall, but work force availability is set. It varies depending on which part of the country you are in. To use an example for visible minorities for British Columbia, the work force availability is much higher than the availability in Newfoundland, for example.

We are talking about government-wide statistics, but when you go into each department or agency, or you go to their locations, it can vary a bit.

Senator Harb: What about at the executive level — director general and up? What percentage of people do we have who are ADM or deputy ministers who are visible minorities? Can you give us numbers?

Mr. Da Pont: I cannot give you numbers for that because I have it for executives as a whole. I do not know if it is available by level, but I will check with our colleagues at the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer. If it is available by level, we will forward to the committee.

Senator Harb: My last question deals with the number of departments and representation of visible minorities in various departments. Out of the 51 or 52 departments we have, would you say the visible minorities are well represented all across? Are there some departments doing better than others? If so, can you share that with us?

Mr. Da Pont: It varies by department, but you can find all of the statistics by department and agency regarding employment equity in the Public Service Commission Annual Report, and I am sure it is available to the committee. That report breaks it down by department, region of the country, occupational categories and by age.

I think you would find that a very comprehensive set of statistics that would give you the exact ratings for each department and agency, and where they stand. It does vary.

Senator Harb: The previous Public Service Commission representative appeared before this committee some time ago and stated that she was not satisfied at all with the number of visible minorities who are in executive positions, as well as in terms of the capacity to retain and so on.

From information that I have, out of the 51 departments, there are 26 departments in which we have an under-representation of visible minorities.

Do you agree, first, with the statement of the former President of the Public Service Commission that the numbers are not as accurate as we are led to believe, and do you agree that we still have a lot of work to do for visible minorities in the public service?

Mr. Da Pont: Not knowing exactly what she said, I would say that the overall statistics as I just presented to you do seem to suggest that we are doing reasonably well in the public service overall. We are doing reasonably well.

I think you are right: It varies considerably by department and agency. Some are very strong and others are not so strong. I would say very much that there is significant work to do. I would not be complacent about the overall numbers, because I think the variation among the departments and agencies is an important consideration.

I would say that all of us should be pleased that there are good signs of progress, but I would not declare victory in any way, shape or form.

The Chair: Mr. Da Pont, you are looking at figures but the statistics that we are relying on are from the 2006 census. Hopefully we will have new data soon. I would imagine that will make the situation look even worse, because you are relying on 2006 data; is that correct?

Mr. Da Pont: Yes, the work force availability comes from Statistics Canada, and so the last overall availability targets were set in 2006. We are expecting actually very soon a new set of targets based on the recent census, and I would expect that they should be higher.

There is one thing that gives me some encouragement. In talking to my colleague at the Public Service Commission — and I think she made the point at this committee when she was here last week — their statistics show about 22 per cent of new entrants into the public service are visible minorities. I think that is the number she put out. If that is the case, I think it certainly would suggest that in terms of new entrants, we will be able to accommodate an increase in labour market availability.

The Chair: With the greatest of respect, she did say that there was 22 per cent. However, the representation at the moment in the public service is 12.4; it is not 22 — it is 12.4.

Mr. Da Pont: I agree. I think she said the new entrants.

The target overall on the 2006 work force availability is 12.4 and the actual representation is 12.1, so we are not yet at what the availability rates that were set at a number of years ago.

The Chair: We have a long way to go.

I wanted to ask you a question, Ms. Lizotte-MacPherson. I have a real concern when it comes to issues of representation of people with disabilities. From what I understand, the statistic for appointments to the federal service is 3 per cent now. If you look at the representation, it is 4 per cent, so my concern is that it is decreasing. That is my first concern.

My second concern is that, from everything I have read, there is not necessarily an active hiring of people with disabilities. Sadly, people become disabled while working with the public service and then they become part of that number. I have concerns that we are not actively hiring people who already have disabilities. That is one area where the hiring is weak, where it has gone to 3 per cent.

Ms. Lizotte-MacPherson: I think overall the aggregate number for the work force availability for persons with disabilities, based on the latest numbers that we have, is 4 per cent, and the overall representation is 5.7.

You are right that in the case of hiring, the number is below the work force availability. I have had a discussion with the head of the PSC to try to understand what is going on. They need to better understand why the inflow is low. They have started work on that, and they have also asked if they can consult and come and meet with the committee of persons with disabilities.

I think that will be helpful, but they have more research to do and some consultations to do to understand why the hiring is where it is. Is it simply that people are not aware? Is there an issue in the recruiting process? Perhaps it is an accommodation issue. They do not really know. It is an area where they are very focused and involved.

In the case of separations, the number is higher. Anecdotally, we see it later in age as people have more health problems. That may be part of the explanation for the higher separation rate; but we are not sure. The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer is looking at that.

The Chair: Mr. Latourelle, I have one question about something that bothers me a lot in terms of the representation of Aboriginal people. The best way I can describe it is to use the word "clustering." It is my belief that in some departments where Aboriginal people are being serviced, there is a representation of Aboriginal people just in those departments. They are clustered in areas rather than across the federal public service. What is your committee doing to address this issue?

Mr. Latourelle: I must say that it has not been raised at our committee; but I think you are right because Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Correctional Service of Canada and Parks Canada are the four largest employers of Aboriginal people. Like all employment equity groups, every department and agency has a different result so far.

For example, across Canada we are doing well with Aboriginal peoples because of where our places are located and the regional availability of the workforce. We have more challenges in terms of visible minorities, so we are developing strategies and programs and working with others, such as Canadian Heritage, which has had much success. It is about learning from other results on how we can improve our performance. There is a cluster, but each department has a plan as they move forward. More and more in the Public Service of Canada we are seeing solid human resource planning. In the past, we did a lot of recruitment, but today we have some solid human resource plans that will assist all of us to achieve our objectives.

The Chair: I thank all of you for being here today. It takes a lot of passion to do your work. The committee certainly appreciates that these issues are about changing people's attitudes and having more representation for the values we believe in as a country. I thank all of you on behalf of the committee for the work you are doing on the Employment Equity Champions and Chairs Committees. We look forward to working with you in the future.

Our next witnesses, from the Public Service Alliance of Canada, are Robyn Benson, National President; and Seema Lamba, Human Rights Officer; and from the Professional Institute of the Public Service, are Al Ravjiani, Ontario Regional Director; and Ryan Campbell, Policy Analyst. We look forward to hearing from you how to make the public service more representative of our population. I hope you will address two issues: representation in terms of the numbers we have in the public service and where we are in the public service because just sitting at the desk is not enough. I would appreciate it if you address those issues. Ms. Benson, please proceed.

Robyn Benson, National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada: Thank you. On my right is Ms. Lamba, Human Rights Officer.

I thank you for inviting us to appear again before the members of the Human Rights Committee. I will not read our entire submission, but I will highlight some of the key points. I believe you all have a copy of our submission.

The most current data in the latest Treasury Board annual report on employment equity does not give us any reason to celebrate. In our written submission, we have outlined the data showing the under-representation of equity groups in the public service, including some age-related data.

If we were going to have a fully inclusive federal public service and build on the gains made in employment equity, we need to have accountability and transparency. Unfortunately, these two important factors have gone by the wayside. Treasury Board's last two employment equity reports contain too little information and lack critical data and analysis. It is hard to have a meaningful discussion about employment equity when their reports contain the bare minimum required by the act. While this committee has asked the office of the Chief Human Resources Officer to publish more statistics, such as retention rates and trends, this has not happened.

An example of how employment equity is no longer a priority is the way in which the government has dealt with it in the workforce adjustment process. PSAC and other federal bargaining agents have asked Treasury Board for data on all aspects of workforce adjustment, including the number of affected, surplus, opting and laid-off workers by equity group. Treasury Board has said they do not have the information and rely on the departments, who only provide it sporadically. Treasury Board refuses to direct the departments to actually provide us with the data.

The Public Service Commission is only responsible for overseeing staffing and maintaining priority lists, so their information on the impact of workforce adjustment is very limited. Simply put, we do not have the numerical evidence to show whether there is discrimination when it comes to workforce adjustment. We do have anecdotal evidence from our members of situations where the workforce adjustment process has been used to discriminate against them.

Other developments are also having an impact on employment equity in the federal public service. In 2009, Treasury Board started a review, and it was the review process of all of its existing human resources policies. Current policies outline in detail the obligations of deputy head and Treasury Board and the processes that are needed to comply with the policies. Treasury Board has told PSAC that a workplace policy and a workforce policy would replace existing policies, including those on harassment, duty to accommodate and employment equity. These more comprehensive policies will be reduced to a few paragraphs. While deputy heads have been given more responsibility for human resource management, the draft workforce policy also reduces their responsibility for employment equity to a few broad principles. Where is the direction? Where is the accountability?

Another critical development for employment equity is the management of employees with disabilities under the disability management initiative. In 2011, Treasury Board produced the Disability Management Handbook for Managers in the Federal Public Service. In 2012, they launched the Workplace Wellness and Productivity Strategy.

We believe Treasury Board's strategy is simply to reduce costs and deal with employees who are seen as a financial and productive burden on the public service. Here is an example: Under the Public Service Employment Act, managers have had the option to backfill a position if an employee has been on leave without pay for over a year. If the position is backfilled, the employee has no job to come back to when they are able to return to work. They are placed on a priority list for leave of absence. In the past, most managers would wait until the person was able to return to work and actually accommodate that person on their return, if required. Now, anecdotally, we find there is less flexibility, and employees are either forced to retire, to resign or to return to work before they are ready. Employees who cannot come back to their substantive positions due to their disability are placed on a leave of absence priority list.

These days, disability management is not focused on the prevention of illness or improving accommodation in the workplace so that workers with disabilities can be integrated productively. Instead, it encourages pushing workers back into the workforce before they are ready or forcing them to retire or resign. If they want to remain employed, they wait on priority lists, wondering whether they will have a job when they are ready to return because their job has been backfilled.

From our experience, the largest number of our members' discrimination grievances and complaints are from members with disabilities who are not properly accommodated back into their workplaces. This committee may wish to find out whether the high rate of separation of employees with disabilities is related to the lack of accommodation or to problems with reintegration into the workplaces after an absence.

We are also very concerned about the large increase in the number of disability insurance claims related to mental health issues. We believe these numbers will only grow as public services and jobs are cut, while demands and workloads increase. Even the increase in claims does not provide a true picture. Many employees with mental health issues will not report them or seek assistance because of the stigma and, more recently, the fear of being targeted during the workforce adjustment process.

In closing, we have a number of recommendations that are outlined in our submission, and I would like to touch on a few of them.

We are very concerned that the decentralization of human resources and the dismantling of Treasury Board's role to develop and monitor service-wide policies have weakened the central oversight of employment equity in the federal public service.

We are also very concerned about the change in shift of the Canadian Human Rights Commission from proactively conducting audits to allowing employers to do a self-assessment and then basing their decision on whether to conduct an audit on that assessment.

We need to know how the cuts in the federal public service are affecting the members of the equity groups. We believe there needs to be a stand-alone, comprehensive employment equity policy, and Treasury Board and departments must be accountable.

Treasury Board must examine the impact of forcing people with disabilities out of their jobs because they have been away from the workplace for a period of time.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to appear here today. We welcome any questions you may have.

The Chair: Ms. Benson, we will ask you questions in a minute, but because there are people watching you speak as well, can you please clarify what you mean by "backfilled?"

Ms. Benson: When an individual goes off on disability, for example, or they are going to be away for more than a year, an employer has an opportunity to hire someone else in their place. If they hire that person indeterminately, it has been backfilled indeterminately, and the person who is on disability now does not have a job and must go on a priority list.

The Chair: We will now hear from Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, Mr. Al Ravjiani, who has been here many times before the committee. We welcome you again.

Al Ravjiani, Ontario Regional Director, Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada: Ryan Campbell, who is also our economic analyst, will be speaking to some of this, but I will start.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada is a union representing approximately 55,000 public sector professionals across Canada. Over 45,000 work directly in federal public service. We represent IT professionals, scientists, engineers, architects, auditors, doctors, nurses and a variety of other professionals.

The institute appreciates the opportunity to participate in this forum to discuss the status of employment equity within the federal public service. The institute values the work of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. We participated in this process in 2008 and stand behind most of the committee's past recommendations.

The empirical data represented in the most recent employment equity report shows much positive movement toward more equitable workplaces. The statistics clearly show that the federal government has significantly improved the representation of all designated groups. In 2012, the percentage of representation for women and persons with disabilities far exceeded the representation of these groups in the Canadian labour force. Despite significant progress, visible minorities still are under-represented in the federal public service, especially in the executive, technical and operational occupational groups. There are also lower proportions of Aboriginal women and women with disabilities being appointed.

Improved representation within the scientific and professional occupational category has been a particular high point in our opinion. Today, the representation of three of the four EE groups exceeds their respective workforce availabilities in this category. Five years ago, only 42 per cent of the people working in scientific and professional occupations were women. Today, this number has risen to 50.4 per cent. It is undeniable that the employment landscape of federal public service has become fairer over the last two decades. That being said, many improvements remain to the made, including the need for vigilance to prevent a return to less equitable practices. We will now turn our focus to a few issues that, in the institute's opinion, represent significant challenges that must be addressed to ensure that the public service remains a truly representative place.

Ryan Campbell, Policy Analyst, Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada: Thank you. I will briefly go over some of the concerns that have been brought to us from our members and staff.

The first one is outdated statistical benchmarks. The government's annual employment equity reports no longer represent an entirely objective picture. In fact, due to the lack of data resulting from the cancellation of both the mandatory long-form census and the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, the government's employment equity reports still refer to 2006 census data for the four employment equity groups.

Because the Canadian labour force is constantly changing, using 2006 data means that the government's 2012 employment equity report is not a true representation of the current situation. The Treasury Board should use rigorous statistical estimation techniques to determine the percenatges of the four employment groups in the Canadian labour force.

Our next issue is discrimination and harassment. Despite is the positive results achieved by the federal public service showing continuous improvement in the representation of all EE groups, more effort needs to be dedicated to fight the rise in workplace harassment and discrimination. The results of 2011 Public Service Employment Survey show the continuation of a troubling trend, where a disproportionate number of EE workers feel that they have been victims of discrimination and/or harassment. The failure to properly respond and reduce harassment and discrimination might result in a drop of representation rate of all designated EE groups in the medium- and long-term. In addition, management's failure to address ethical problems in the federal public service might also lead to mental health problems, such as depression, stress and burnout.

In terms of workforce adjustment, the positive results achieved during the last 10 years might be severely affected by the recent government workforce adjustment process. Some of the latest figures show that employment equity groups seem to be strongly affected by the job cuts. The current workforce adjustment directive does not require the employer to maintain representation of employment equity groups. This increases the vulnerability of these groups and could lead to a significant decrease in their rate of representation in the federal public service.

As for pay equity, in our opinion equitable pay leads to equitable representation. In 2009, the government introduced the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act, also known as PSECA. The intent of PSECA is to replace the existing complaint-based system, wherein the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal handles disputes. There is a great deal of fear that PSECA is imposing unfair and restrictive definitions that will disqualify many potential complainants before the process even starts. In the past year, PIPS has stood behind members during the resolution of a $150-million pay equity complaint. It is unlikely that this is the last group of workers whose claim deserves fair review.

Another issue we have is with contracting out. The abuse of contracting out provisions remains one of the biggest threats to the integrity of the federal government's equitable hiring practices. In 2010, the Public Service Commission reported that government managers are overusing these provisions, which circumvent established staffing principles. In 2012, the Auditor General echoed the sentiment of the PSC, further criticizing departments for not abiding by established policy. As long as the loopholes that facilitate these practices exist, the assertions made in the annual employment equity reports should be suspect. The lack of available information makes it impossible to know the extent to which tens of thousands of temporary staff skew the demographic makeup of the public service.

Our last point refers to political pressure from external forces. Employment equity legislation and regulation, in our opinion, is necessary in order to correct a systemic bias against certain groups. The end result is that deserving individuals get paid more. Anti-public service advocates use this added cost to exaggerate certain gaps between the wages and benefits in the public sector and those in the private sector. In reality, most gaps can be explained by more equitable pay for groups that are marginalized in the private sector. If these interest groups are successful in advocating for public sector practices that align more closely with those in the private sector, the result will be a less equitable federal government workplace.

Mr. Ravjiani: I will go over the recommendations that we have. The first recommendation we have is that workforce availability statistics from 2006 are no longer relevant. The Treasury Board must adopt updated statistical benchmarks to replace information lost with the elimination of the long-form census.

We request more transparency and consistency when dealing with harassment and discrimination cases. It is essential that offenders are held accountable for their actions and that victims feel as if their grievances are taken seriously and dealt with appropriately. Workforce adjustment directives should include strategies to ensure that employment equity objectives are being upheld. In general, more information needs to be available to stakeholders throughout the adjustment process.

There needs to be a mechanism in place that forces departments to abide by existing contracting out policies. The federal government needs to actively defend the benefits of equitable employment to the public and protect these good practices by encouraging more equitable employment within the private sector.

Thank you. We will now take your questions.

Senator Harb: Thank you for your presentation.

I take it from your presentation that, despite what management has told us so far about the fact that everything is so rosy, you take the opposite view that everything is gloomy or not as rosy as they have put it. Would that be your position?

Mr. Ravjiani: One of the discussions I had with Senator Oliver, before he left, was about the fact that, being on the ground in the public service, I work 50 per cent of my time with my employer. I see a lot of cases that take a significant amount of time — our time, the time of the union, the time of the personnel involved. We go through hoops and through these cases, and, in the end, be it five years, six years, seven years down the road, what happens is that these guys come up with a mediated settlement. That is what I told Senator Oliver. In the end, it is a gag order. You do not hear any jurisprudence, and it is settled. That is the frustrating part about some of these things. If you are going to settle it that way, you will not be able to hear too much more information. Being on the ground, we are able to know the process that the cases involved. This is why it is very intimidating that, in the end, there are these kinds of settlements that create a rosy picture, if I may say so. I just want to give you that. I will let my colleagues speak, but we have the same kind of problems. I am not just talking about CRL. I have been on the board of directors for PIPSC for eight and a half years, and I have been on the ground for 15 years. Therefore, believe me, we have seen these cases and it is frustrating.

I just wanted to give you that.

Ms. Benson: In the presentation from PSAC, right on the first page we give statistics. This information is data from the 2011-12 Treasury Board annual report on employment equity. If you look at that, you will see that women are under-represented in 11 out of 20 of the largest departments. Racialized workers are under-represented in 26 out of 51 departments. Treasury Board uses 12.4 per cent as the work force availability rate for the racialized group even though the work force availability rate is 15.3, according to HRSDC.

You can look through at the various statistics. Having worked on employment equity for many years as a local representative — and this is going back years, I think, when departments actually paid attention to employment equity — we as the union had meaningful consulting at a local level, at a regional level and at a national level. I do not see that now with just having employment equity champions.

Senator Harb: Whenever there is a dispute or an issue between the employer and the employee, and there are grievances and people come to you, perhaps you can give us a little synopsis in terms of the demographics of those people in terms of percentage of women, visible minorities and persons with disabilities. Who are the people that normally come to you with complaints?

Mr. Ravjiani: Complaints come from everyone — from the mainstream, from visible minorities. The important thing to remember is that employment equity protects people who are in the disabled group. The key that we have to remember is that disabled group includes everyone, including the white male, because the disabled group is the group looking after everyone who has an accommodation problem. Therefore, we find there are issues from all categories.

The problem is really significant when the person is disabled. Then the question comes up as to which medical practitioner do these people go to to be able to comply with the procedures of the department. The frustration comes into the picture when, initially, you have gone to your own doctor and your doctor has declared that you have an issue. It does not matter which group you are from. Then they want to send you for a Health Canada assessment, and even at that point there is an issue and the process becomes more intimidating, depending on who you are dealing with. It is a tricky process.

When it comes to staffing for complaints, you see a lot of people with merit — how do you qualify merit, especially when you talk about best fit? Who defines what is what best fit is? When the job posters are put out there, they put terminology such as "employment equity may be used as a placement criterion." To me that is a frustration right there, because now you are getting everyone excited on something that will not even happen.

These are the points I wanted to bring across. These kinds of loosey-goosey stuff are not good when you go out and do your working procedures on a daily basis, because it frustrates everyone out there.

Ms. Benson: I will turn it over to Ms. Lamba because we have statistics from the PSAC.

Seema Lamba, Human Rights Officer, Public Service Alliance of Canada: We have close to 400 disability-related grievances at the national level. There could be hundreds more that do not ever come to us that we are reviewing. Disability is the biggest area that we are seeing, whether through the grievance process or even the human rights complaint process.

We have grievances related to harassment. Again, this is just at the national level, so there are many that we never see. Harassment is a big area.

We are starting to see more grievances around family status, for example; that is an emerging area. That is related to women but it could be related to other groups, as well. We are seeing more of that.

Those are the statistics.

Of course, we are still seeing discrimination cases based on race and ethnicity, but the largest one is still really with the disability group.

Senator Hubley: Could you share with us the process of making a grievance and how it is handled, from the initial grievance until — is there a time limit that it has to be dealt with? Who deals with it and what are the steps it would go through?

Ms. Lamba: If discrimination happens, there is a time limit in the collective agreements as to when you can file it from the last incident of discrimination — if we are using discrimination — in the collective agreement. You have to file the level one. There are a number of levels — level one, two and three. It goes to your manager and then it goes up.

Then there is a final level, which is usually a senior manager. I am generalizing here. That senior manager would make a decision. If they did not allow the grievance to go forward, then it would come to the national office and we would review it to see if it would go to arbitration and whether we will recommend it.

We believe a lot of the grievances do get dealt with at the more local level. That is where we would like to do it; we do not want to necessarily go through arbitration and adversarial processes, because it can take years. It can cause a lot of hardship for that particular member we may have.

Senator Hubley: The initial steps could move reasonably quickly, though, could they not?

Ms. Lamba: If the timelines in the grievance process were followed, they could be processed very quickly. However, we do have members whose grievances — accommodation, for example — that have not been dealt with for a long time, to a point sometimes where they are forced go out of the workplace and go on sick leave or DI.

It could be reasonably quick, if there is a good process and the manager is willing to process that, but we have seen the opposite as well.

Senator Buth: Thank you very much for your presentations.

My question is for Mr. Ravjiani. You commented that improved representation within the scientific and professional occupation category has been a particular high point, and that representation of three of the four employment equity groups exceeds the respective work force availabilities.

Can you comment on the fourth group, and what do you think could be done to change the situation to bring it up to a higher representation within your categories?

Mr. Campbell: The fourth group is women, and it is still slightly below the work force availability figure — the ones presented at least. Even though it is below and that is troubling and we want it to be higher, over the last five years, it has gone up considerably. We are hoping that the trend will continue. We will have to wait until the next year's results come out, but we are hoping that the momentum will carry that number over or to the work force availability figures.

Senator Buth: Do you look at what would be the issues that would result in women being under-represented, and do you then develop recommendations to the government in those particular cases?

Mr. Campbell: I think the major issue with a certain group being under-represented is that they are likely undeserving to be under-represented and they should be there in higher numbers.

Mr. Ravjiani: I will give you a follow-up. We have similar instances in CRA where women are under-represented in certain EE categories, and it is the same with science. I have been working with some of the science groups at the employment equity level. Normally, they have specific competitions for women only. They do it by bringing in a feeder group. They then try to mentor these women into categories so they can move up the ladder. That is similar to what they have done at CRA. They hire at the universities and work their way through so they can get the statistics.

The challenging part, and not just for that particular group, is that we cannot rely on the data we have. Everyone is struggling over whether the data are good enough. We need to continue, and the only way we can do that is to ensure that we recognize that we have these gaps because the gaps will only get bigger. We need to do more work at the entry level, which we have been doing.

We do lectures at universities and different institutions or work in a forum where we see science-based opportunities. At these lectures, we encourage people from different groups to attend. It encourages and it works.

We have a science conference at PIPS, for example. We invite prominent speakers, like David Suzuki, Preston Manning, and others, as well as groups from academia. We let them know what kinds of programs are being used and they take that information back to their universities. They have scientists out there who work for almost nothing because they are passionate about what they do. They have many connections with schools and universities because they do papers and mentor students. That is the only way this particular employment group can grow and the gaps can be decreased. That is what we do.

Senator Buth: That is helpful. Some of the issues are complex in terms of who is available and what their background is. I come from a science background. The issue that I have experienced over the years is that there are not as many women in a particular profession or coming through a particular faculty. If you are talking about workplace availability, does it go down to that level? Are there particular issues with the number of women coming through some of the professional programs and university?

Mr. Ravjiani: The frustration with the feeder groups is that it takes almost three to five years before you see the results. We saw that in the auditing group at CRA, a similar type of situation, so we increased our numbers significantly in that area.

Senator Buth: It is a good example of something where you are starting to see progress.

Senator Hubley: My question falls under the paragraph headed "Workforce Adjustment." For clarification, the Public Service Commission of Canada figures show that some employment equity groups appear to be strongly affected by job cuts. It says that the current workforce adjustment directive does not require the employer to maintain the representation of employment equity groups. Is that absolutely the way it happens? Is there a sense of discrimination in those two sentences?

Mr. Ravjiani: I will give you a good example of what has happened. I was at a conference in Saskatoon last year. The key to workforce adjustment is: When you make a decision about how to adjust the work force, the question comes up about who will decide. Decisions normally come from the top. We have been hearing at active workforce committees that if a decision is made in Ottawa on the ground, they will try to say, "We need to go in and reduce people at the offices that are not in Ottawa." That is just one example.

However, we have heard comments and there has been a lot of discussion on cutting jobs at lower levels. At the lower levels we have had the highest representation in the public service for these groups; and that is our worry. If you are not willing to provide us any kind of data or you are not using employment equity, the frustration comes up when you start cutting these jobs because you will have skewed data.

We need to be proactive in trying to promote this at the lower levels so we can get the adequate documentation and take measures to ensure that everything we worked for — the equity numbers — is relevant. That is the frustration we are experiencing.

Ms. Benson: I am a co-chair for the National Workforce Adjustment Committee with Treasury Board because I am president of the largest federal government union. We have asked many times at our meetings for statistical data with respect to equity members and with respect to the workforce adjustment.

 SERLO, Selection of Employees for Retention or Lay-Off, is how every department determines who will stay and who will leave. We have heard from our members because each department can do it differently. I have had discussions and sent examples to Mr. Clement with respect to what we believe is discrimination. We have difficulties where individuals who have been with the government for 21 years have actually come out and said they have an invisible disability, are fully bilingual and have secret security clearance; yet they are unable to be successful at SERLO.

I have members, young women expecting their first child, who are afraid to tell their employer that they are expecting because it will impact them in the SERLO process. Some individuals wonder why they are unsuccessful in the SERLO process if they have to have workplace accommodations. I believe we have a few statistics.

Ms. Lamba: This is an important issue for us so we have been asking the PSC for some statistics. As we said, they cannot give us the full picture because they capture only certain priorities. Once a person is affected and made surplus, there is a process that they go through.

We know that in Option A, a person is made surplus and is in 12 months or plus status. We know that three of the equity groups, visible minorities, Aboriginal and those with disabilities, are more represented than the workforce availability in taking that option. That is concerning, but to analyze that, we would need more data. It is incomplete.

How many in the whole group are choosing that option? We would need to know who is choosing the other options and who is not choosing those options. We have incomplete data. However, from the data we have, it appears that there may be discrimination with three equity groups because they are overrepresented in taking that option than their working force availability rate.

Senator Hubley: Why are you lacking data?

Ms. Lamba: Treasury Board refuses to give the data to us. They say they do not have the resources. They say it is not their responsibility. They give us a variety of reasons when we ask for the data. We think they are capable of getting it and being able to analyze it.

They have told us to wait until the 2012-13 Treasury Board annual report, which usually is issued at the end of this year or next year. Almost one to two years after the process, we will find out how equity groups have been impacted when we actually see the representation rates go up or down or how they are impacted. We do not think that is good enough. We want them to be proactive and to be doing it and monitoring it as they go along.

The Chair: One of my concerns is that there are the three champions for three groups, but not for women. I find that difficult. Why would there not be a champion for women? Women have many issues. I would like both panels to comment on that.

The second question is related to that. Are the champions and chairs able to present an independent voice?

Ms. Benson: I will start, and Ms. Lamba can continue for me.

Certainly many years ago, and I do not want to age myself but it is 20 plus years ago, the very first employment equity committee, if you will, was for women, so it is very disconcerting to hear now that there is not a champion for women. You need only look at the statistics that we have provided and that PIPSC has provided to show there is an underrepresentation. Certainly the work needs to continue to be done.

From my perspective, having a champion for all four of the groups is very interesting in that I do not see it at the grassroots level. I do not see the committees how they used to be, in the individual workplaces where that information flowed up. I look at this, and I can be corrected, but it looks very much top down. For us, our membership is certainly wanting to be able to have their voices heard.

Ms. Lamba: I will add to that. The previous committees, the NCVM, the NCAFE and the NCFED, were employee-driven, so they had a space where they could air their issues as a group. If they had issues, they could come and talk about it and have speakers. Often they would invite people from senior management to come. They had conferences, and they were accountable to themselves, in that essence.

We did not hear that. Even in the previous speakers, it is all about it being at the top. They are talking among themselves. Where is the employee input? We do not see very much bargaining agent input in that process either, so I think they are talking amongst themselves. Not that there is not a forum for that, because there needs to be accountability and you want them to be doing something, but there needs to be a link from the ground up with the top so there can be a discussion that happens.

Under this current climate with the work force adjustment processes and the fear of people losing jobs, employees are afraid to actually voice their concerns. They could be stigmatized or labelled, so why would they actually approach their champion or whoever is taking that leadership role and talk about the issues they might have? It may not make that department look good, so there is a fear going on at well at the same time.

Mr. Ravjiani: We need to keep a couple of things in mind, and one is that when you look at the work force adjustment and start analyzing some of the information, you find that even though there is no link between under-performers or people who are perceived to have issues with the employer, you could see some kind of links, but you cannot really point it out because statistic are not given to you. As the previous speakers said, it is very difficult when you have to deal with an environment where it is top down.

When we had the NCVM and organizations of that sort, together with other stakeholders like the alliance, we went out there on our own sometimes and created what we called workshops and seminars, without even using the unions. We went out there, and we used our own talents. We called in people like Senator Oliver and Senator Jaffer. We had those forums because public service 2017, and we are not there yet, was created by advocates like myself. We wanted to ensure that we were ready for that particular occasion because we knew a lot of retirements were going to be taking place.

What is the obstacle? Well, it is at the Senate, Bill C-377. The Rand formula will be under attack. These kinds of scary things that take place withdraw us back from doing this kind of work because everyone is fearing for their job. Right now, even though we know that Canada is prospering, as far as the banks with their profits and everything else, they went the other way. Instead of going for growth, they went the opposite way and went for workforce adjustment.

To me, I find it frustrating, sitting here in front of a body and saying we were doing all this good work, trying to build momentum for 2017, and where are we today? We are talking about workforce adjustment.

As far as I am concerned, it is not about statistics but the reality of trying to suppress the bargaining agents from doing good work such as looking after Bill C-377. We are now so worried about Bill C-377 that our focus on going into all these other issues is lost, and that is the frustrating part.

The Chair: Ms. Benson, one of the concerns I have is we have workforce availability of women at 52.3, and there is representation of women at 54.6, and yet 79.1 per cent of the administrative support positions are held by women. It looks like there is a good representation of women in the federal public service, but it is very much at the bottom end. Can you comment on that?

Ms. Benson: I certainly will, because the majority of them will be PSAC members. I think we are 60 some odd per cent women within our union. That has been the discussion, and I am disheartened that there is no committee for women. For years we have talked about enhancing women's careers and having them come out of clerical and program administration into the management and the EX category, and that certainly has not been what we have seen of late.

Ms. Lamba: One of the statistics we have is around the mental health issue and disability insurance claims. We have seen an increase of mental health related disability claims. It was close to 50 per cent in 2011, and close to 70 per cent of those claims are women. There is something going on with respect to women. We need to dig deeper and have a place to be able to address those issues.

The Chair: Can you clarify for me? If the Treasury Board were to revise the employment equity policy, what would it look like and how would it differ from the present? You did speak about accountability and transparency, but what more should we be recommending?

Ms. Lamba: Right now, we are just in a place trying to convince Treasury Board to have a stand-alone employment equity policy because they are getting rid of it into two or three broad principles in this workplace/workforce policy. Our focus has been trying to maintain what we have.

If we were going to make it stronger with the current policy, we would definitely want stronger employment equity committees and stronger consultation and collaboration with bargaining agents, because that is inconsistent across departments and across the country. Some departments do it better than others, and some regions will do it better even within departments. We think that is an excellent forum to deal with employment equity issues that come up. That would be one. We would like to see more direction on that.

You have already talked about the strong mechanisms and accountability. Those are really important. Currently the direction is to go under the MAF, the management accountability framework, as you heard last week, and we do not think employment equity is a strong enough criteria under that, so the policy should be strengthened, the accountability and consequences.

There needs to be detailed resources, financial and human, that needs to be outlined. It cannot be just an issue that someone deals with off the side of their desk. They might even have the title "Employment Equity," but what they do with that, we are not sure. For example, Treasury Board does not even a section any more dealing with employment equity themselves. If you actually went to GEDS, you would not find an employment equity officer for Treasury Board any more. Different people do different parts of that work.

It is really outlining in greater detail what should be there in respect to implement systems review or workforce analysis. That would be helpful. Yes, it is in the legislation, but it is nice to have it in the policy to strengthen that and to add to that.

Mr. Ravjiani: I want to make a quick comment. From the 2011-12 report, we went in and further broke down some of the statistics. We have it in our article, which we have brought for your reference. We find that the statistics are really good when we talk about certain employers, like the RCMP, for instance. It is excellent, with 72 per cent representation. HRSDC is around 69 per cent. Then we get into Fisheries and Oceans, and it is 36 per cent. National Defence is 39 per cent and Natural Resources is around 44 per cent. We recommend that perhaps we should be going and looking at the best practices of these departments that are doing really well and seeing what they do well.

We will share that document with you, because we have it as an article in our spring magazine. It is all broken down into different categories for different groups. I thought it was really good information, and this is where we need to go with it. I know the previous speakers who were here were talking about 8.9 and 12.1 when it came to the executive, and we have all this stuff.

It is important for us to be able to look at the best practices in different departments and try to go in and share those with the departments that are not doing so well and perhaps maybe mentor them and perhaps go out and find out what their problems are.

The Chair: Please forward that article to the clerk. I thank all four of you for coming this afternoon. We really look to you for guidance, and you balance some of the things we hear. We count on your support on a regular basis. You are very supportive of our work. I know I speak on behalf of the whole committee in thanking you for your continuing support. Thank you very much.

(The committee adjourned.)