Ottawa Council’s ethnocultural liaison doesn’t see strict vaccine policy as a barrier to increasing diversity at city hall


Council’s liaison for anti-racism and ethnocultural relations doesn’t believe a new COVID-19 vaccination policy will be a barrier to increasing the diversity of the municipal public service.

Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King said he doesn’t believe the policy, which came into effect this week, will challenge the city in achieving its diversity goals.

“I don’t see that specifically it will actually detract people from joining the public service at the city. I see them as two separate issues, really,” King said Tuesday after a meeting of the finance and economic development committee, which received a new report on the diversity of the municipal workforce.

“The issue that we’re having, or at least what I think in Overbrook or areas of Manor Park, is the fact that people have a lot of life challenges that are getting in the way of them getting vaccinated.”

The City of Ottawa has made progress in diversifying its workforce over the past year, though it has a long way to go when it comes to changing the composition of management, according to the report by Suzanne Obiorah, the city’s director of gender and race equity, inclusion, Indigenous relations and social development.

Meanwhile, the City of Ottawa’s new mandatory vaccination policy requires all members of the municipal public service to be full vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1. The policy also requires a full COVID-19 vaccination to be hired by the municipal government.

The Black Opportunity Fund, African-Canadian Civic Engagement Council and Innovative Research Group released national survey results in July that suggested 33 per cent of the adult Black population showed some form of vaccine hesitancy. The rate compared to 19 per cent of adult white Canadians and 25 per cent of non-Black visible minorities who showed vaccine hesitancy.

King said the factors for people not getting vaccinated relate more to income inequality. “And, of course, who suffers disproportionately from that? Black and racialized people,” he said.

City manager Steve Kanellakos said the municipal government wants its workforce to represent the community it serves, while also advocating for high vaccination rates to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“The City is aware of the barriers certain residents may encounter when accessing health care and continues to work with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) to identify and remove those barriers, address questions, and make accessing a vaccine as easy and convenient as possible for our residents and our workforce,” Kanellakos said in a statement sent through the communications department.

“The City has followed OPH guidance on making the vaccination requirements uniform for all employees to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and make our workplace healthy and safe for all.”

Based on information the City of Ottawa collected in workforce surveys, the rate of visible minorities was 16.27 per cent in July 2021 compared to 12.6 per cent in September 2020. The city’s target is 20.7 per cent. When it comes to the rate of Aboriginal Peoples in the workforce, city hall improved to 1.99 per cent in July, up from 1.4 per cent (the target is 3.2 per cent).

The city has also improved its rate of employees with disabilities. The rate was seven per cent in July, up from 2.4 per cent in September 2020. The target rate is nine per cent.

The rate of women in the municipal public service was 39.16 per cent in July, with a target of 43.3 per cent.

The city has been exceeding its target for women in management (49 per cent compared to a target of 43 per cent), but its rate of visible minorities in management is 9.9 per cent compared to a target of 20.7 per cent.

King said more senior staff could be retiring in the next year or two, presenting a big opportunity to improve diversity in the management ranks.

“This, for me, will be the litmus test to whether an equity employment initiative at the city is a success,” King said.

Source: Council’s ethnocultural liaison doesn’t see strict vaccine policy as a barrier to increasing diversity at city hall

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: