Black public servants’ lawsuit will force public service ‘to look deeply inside its structure,’ says former senator who’s fought for diversity in the PS for decades


While the concerns are legitimate, this focus on Black public servants as being unique and thus needing unique measures downplays the fact that other visible minority groups also are under-represented and some more so than Black public servants (yet again, see my What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service …). Without situating these concerns in relation to other visible minority (and Indigenous) groups, and with minimal data to support these claims, an opportunity is missed for a more evidence-based and fulsome discussion:
 
 
Plaintiff Kathy Ann Samuel, who has worked within the department of public prosecutions as a legal assistant for the last 19 years, said she’s ‘tired of being tired’ and that ‘change has to start from the top, it has to start with the government.’

Former Senator Don Oliver, who has argued for decades that the government needs to appoint more Black judges, deputy and associate deputy ministers, and chiefs of staff in government offices, says he was not surprised to read about a planned class action lawsuit on behalf of current and former Black employees within the public service, and that he had “predicted and warned about one for 20 years.”

Twelve plaintiffs are involved in the proposed class-action lawsuit by former and current Black federal public servants, which alleges that Black employees have been systematically excluded from advancement and subjected to discrimination within the government for decades. They are seeking $900-million in damages.

“It’s happening now,” said Mr. Oliver. “I am not part of the lawsuit. But having fought hard for 22 years while a Senator to teach diversity in the public service to ‘simply accept difference,’ I was often a lone voice in the wilderness. But given what facts in the planned suit we know to be true, because they are backed by data, I accept and support that.”

“I have deep respect for the public service of Canada,” said Mr. Oliver. “Over two decades I have worked very closely with several eminent deputy ministers and clerks of the Privy Council trying to find ways to change the culture of some 300,000 employees and root out systemic black racism.”

Mr. Oliver said that the class action lawsuit immediately reminded him of a class action lawsuit filed by current and former African American employees against Coca Cola in the United States, something which Mr. Oliver addressed in 2000 in a major speech to the Senate.

“As in the Canadian suit, they alleged racial discrimination that produced lower pay, less promotions, and poor performance evaluations,” wrote Mr. Oliver in an emailed statement to The Hill Times. “The Black employees won the largest settlement ever in a corporate racial discrimination case, $192-million.”

Mr. Oliver also said he’s warned that given the systemic racism that exists in our largest corporations and institutions in Canada, the same thing could happen here. The former Senator now chairs the Black North Initiative committee on public relations and the public sector.

“I can state that the clerk [of the Privy Council], Ian Shugart, has been extremely open and forthcoming in helping us meet our 3.5 per cent targets looking to the future,” said Mr. Oliver. “That is most encouraging. The planned lawsuit looks to actions in the past.”

In regards to the highly publicized death of George Floyd, a Minnesota man who was killed by a police officer who pinned him down with a knee to his neck in June 2020, Mr. Oliver called it a “pivotal moment” that “brought to light the insidious but painful truth in Canada about white privilege.”

“The ‘perk’ that white people get by virtue of their colour,” said Mr. Oliver. “The lawsuit is a logical and natural next step after the necessary data has been secured.”

“The lawsuit will force the Public Service to look deeply inside its structure and systems to find ways to eradicate white privilege in performance evaluations and all other known forms of systemic Black racism,” wrote Mr. Oliver. “It must start with some profound personal soul searching that will require all white managers to learn to accept some uncomfortable truths.”

“The machinery of government, i.e., getting a new government department, is something directed from PMO and when that directive comes to PCO one way or another, the Clerk of the Privy Council and all the deputy ministers must fall in line. The ongoing work we are doing in the Black North Initiative to find ways to break down systemic Black racism is going well,” wrote Mr. Oliver. “We have been working with a number of senior bureaucrats of good will. This will continue.”

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, who works for the Canada Revenue Agency as a collections contact officer and a plaintiff in the suit, told The Hill Times that the lawsuit started with the Canada Revenue Agency, calling it a “focal point” of this issue last week.

As a union president in Toronto, representing 800 workers in two offices, Mr. Thompson said he’s been advocating around this issue for years.

“In one of my buildings I have 1,100 workers, and there’s 20 Black people,” said Mr. Thompson. “I asked them to address this issue, to provide developmental opportunities to Black people so when staffing processes come out, they have the experience to apply.”

“They are giving the experience to other visible minorities and Caucasian employees, who are getting that opportunity,” said Mr. Thompson. “So that’s why we say ‘Black employee exclusion,’ and that’s why it’s not about visible minorities, because by far, they are allowing other visible minorities to move ahead and get into the management program and into the executive program.”

Duane Guy Guerra, a full-time employee at the Department of National Defence as a heavy equipment technician for more than 20 years, told The Hill Times that the class action lawsuit “is the next step in doing what I can do, and what seems to be happening now is that people are actually listening.”

Mr. Guerra said that when he first began working for the department in 1999, he was very excited and happy to be there and considered it the next step in his automotive career.

“I worked at General Motors for 13 years, I was proud of that, and I was really good at my job, and I figured, why not take my skills to the next level and try to do something better to serve my country?” said Mr. Guerra. “So I moved to [DND], and I was well received there until I started to try and advance, even though I had the support of my military supervisors.”

Kathy Ann Samuel, who works within the Department of Public Prosecutions as a legal assistant for the last 19 years, said she’s “tired of being tired.”

“Throughout the years, we have marched, we have come together, we have asked, we’ve begged, we’ve done different actions, and no change has been done,” said Ms. Samuel. “The change has to start from the top, it has to start with the government and the law has to be changed.”

“It’s just time, it’s the right thing to do,” said Ms. Samuel.

When asked about the brutal death of George Floyd in the summer, an event caught on video that galvanized thousands of people in Canada and in the United States, Ms. Samuel said the spirit of that moment is still alive.

“For what other people think, it may have passed for them,” said Ms. Samuel. “For us, for the Black community it has not passed. I have children—I have a Black son and I have a Black daughter, and anything can happen—they can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it’s very troubling.”

“When it happened with George Floyd, every single video made me cry, because I put my son in that situation, I put my nephews in that situation, and it could be anybody, and it’s disheartening that in 2020, the Black community is still going through these types of incidents that have happened in the past,” said Ms. Samuel.

Courtney Betty, a Toronto-based lawyer involved in the proposed class action suit, told The Hill Times that “immediately, we would like to see the government prepared to enter into a dialogue with the parties to come up with a resolution.”

“It would avoid litigation and what I would say, is also some incredibly embarrassing stories of the pain and suffering that so many individuals [have experienced], and I think it would be a public embarrassment for Canada internationally when these stories become public,” said Mr. Betty. “It is just really beyond description in terms of the pain and suffering that these plaintiffs have faced.”

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment for this story.

Source: Black public servants’ lawsuit will force public service ‘to look deeply inside its structure,’ says former senator who’s fought for diversity in the PS for decades

Erica Ifill also misses this opportunity for a more informed discussion:

If the makeup of an organization is such that Black employees are ghettoized at the lower ranks with a mostly white managerial class, that’s not equity; that’s segregation, intentional or not. And yet, for months, we’ve seen many such institutions perform the equivalent of just taking a knee – proclaiming their commitment to resolving anti-Black racism generally without admitting its existence within their structure or committing to concrete action.

But for some institutions, chickens are coming home to roost. That includes Canada’s federal government, which is quick to crow about diversity but apparently needs to clean up its own coop first.

Last week, 12 Black public servants launched a class-action lawsuit against the federal government, claiming it “failed to uphold the Charter rights of Black employees in the federal public service, shirking its responsibility to create discrimination- and harassment-free workplaces, and actively excluding Black bureaucrats”.

Systemic racism has become the new buzzword, one that many leaders are happy to throw around, but few actually know how to define. That includes RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, who said earlier this year that she was “struggling” with the term and had denied its existence in her organization. It should be no surprise that the RCMP is named among the departments accused in the lawsuit.

To fill folks in, systemic racism is discrimination perpetuated by a system that produces disparate outcomes based on race, despite the racial composition of those within the system, or whether the participants themselves are racist or not. Diversity does not resolve racism. Rather, without equity, it’s just an act of glorified window-dressing. Claiming diversity as your strength – as the organizations named in the lawsuit are wont to do – is not a get-out-of-jail-free card against the possibility of perpetuating systemic racism, just like having a Black friend does not permanently absolve someone of any act of racism.

A spokesperson from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat insists the federal government has taken steps to address anti-Black systemic racism across the country, citing that “the fall economic statement committed $12-million over three years toward a dedicated centre on diversity and inclusion in the federal public service. This will accelerate the government’s commitment to achieving a representative and inclusive public service.” However, recruiting more Black people will not solve the systemic problem of anti-Black racism in the public service. Effectively, the government has offered a solution to the wrong problem.

The government’s response makes clear only that no attempt has been made to review the existing structures and systems of accountability that prevent the promotion of Black people to the senior ranks, where other racialized groups are more represented. Treasury Board Secretariat’s own data show that Black employees’ salary ranges coalesce at the lower ends of the spectrum compared to those of other racialized groups and white employees, with miniscule representation at the higher ends, which would indicate management levels. The problem is the distribution of Black employees, who tend to occupy more administrative roles than analytical ones, which would enable them to move into management positions. Black executives make up only 1.6 per cent of the executive class (96 out of 5,887) yet comprise nearly 5 per cent of the administrative support staff (971 out of 19,900). This indicates that Black people are either not recruited at higher levels or they are not promoted into higher levels.

Dismantling systemic racism necessitates a genuine and effortful cultural shift in organizations that are stubbornly reticent to change. Expecting change from those who have benefitted from the existing structure is a near-impossible feat, which is why much of the work is usually left to a racialized third party.

The way forward includes anti-racism training that features critical race theory and leadership development, instead of the kind of vanilla anti-bias and diversity training that is mostly focussed on reducing legal liability. According to Harvard Business Review, that kind of training has been offered for decades with little effect: “laboratory studies show that this kind of force-feeding can activate bias rather than stamp it out.” Policies, procedures, processes and accountability systems need to be audited for equity and remedies executed. As well, internal communications must be overhauled – not to hedge against liability, but to speak to employees with the intention of transparency and accountability.

Without a systemic and systematic makeover, businesses and organizations all over the country will face a reckoning that could have them spending more time and money in a courtroom, instead of the boardroom. If the federal government can be sued, anyone can, making inaction on dismantling systemic racism a potentially expensive liability.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-ottawa-claims-diversity-is-our-strength-so-why-is-it-being-sued-by/

Black civil servants’ $900-million proposed class action lawsuit against feds a ‘logical, natural’ next step, says NDP MP Green

Again, the lack of reference to employment equity disaggregated data to provide context or justify their arguments is disappointing. The data now exists for the distinct visible minority and Indigenous groups and thus it is negligence not to refer to it, suggesting that many have not done so (see What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service …):

A proposed class-action lawsuit by 12 former and current Black federal public servants alleging that Black employees have been systematically excluded from advancement and subjected to discrimination within the government for decades is a “logical, natural next step, given that it’s clear that many people feel like their issues haven’t been resolved or dealt with in a meaningful way,” says NDP MP Matthew Green.

The representative plaintiffs are seeking $900-million in damages as well as a mandatory order to implement a Diversity and Promotional Plan for Black Public Service Employees related to the hiring and promotion of Black employees within the public service.

“Racism is expensive, is the lesson to be learned. Racism costs people who face it, and, in a just world, it ought to cost the people who perpetrate it,” said Mr. Green (Hamilton Centre, Ont.) in an interview with The Hill Times. “Within a justice framework, compensation for harm done is something that is considered in every aspect of the law, and so if people have worked their entire careers subjugated to systemic anti-Black racism, then they have retired with lower pensions presumably, with lost opportunity cost of having equal and equitable compensation, and that’s a considerable thing in labour practice.”

“That is a fundamental claim within labour law, so I’m not surprised by the number,” said Mr. Green.

 The proposed class proceeding, which has not yet been certified, includes plaintiffs from a wide range of government agencies, including the Canada Revenue Agency, Employment and Social Development Canada, Corrections Canada, the Department of National Defence, and the RCMP.

Many of the experiences of class members delineated in the court document centre on their lack of promotions within the public service after many years on the job—promotions which have been made available to other members of visible minority groups.

The proposed suit alleges that the Employment Equity Act has “failed in its goals and mandate to Black employees,” as it “fails to break down the category of visible minorities and thus ignores the unique, invisible and systemic racism faced by Black employees relative to other disadvantaged groups that are covered by the categories established by the Act.”

“I think what we’re seeing in this statement of claim is a very clear, step-by-step definition and expression of the ways in which systemic anti-Black racism impacts workers in Canada,” Mr. Green said.

“And [there’s] the disconnect that we have between [those] experiencing this, and those in power, for instance, the government, which will talk about systemic racism [and] use expressions of individual experiences to individualize stories that they can then pretend to remedy in a way that never seeks to address the systemic barriers to begin with,” said Mr. Green. “For a government that seeks to benefit from identity politics without the class analysis, this is a wake-up call and a reckoning that people will no longer be managed by the shallow words of things like reconciliation and things like Black Lives Matter if there is not a meaningful movement towards actual justice.”

The NDP MP said he’s 100 per cent in solidarity with the lawsuit, and that it’s “a beautiful act of solidarity that 12 individuals have begun this claim, which takes a tremendous amount of courage in an environment where going along to get along is perhaps a much better tool for survival within systems of anti-Black racism.”

“These folks have certainly shown courage, and this is also not about 12 individuals,” said Mr. Green. “My hope is, people reading this story, people reading this news, will find the courage to file their own claims.”

Proposed suit raised in Question Period

Mr. Green highlighted the class-action claim during Question Period on Dec. 4, asking “if the majority of the Liberal cabinet agrees that anti-Black racism exists within the federal government, what specific measures within the federal workplace, if any, has the government taken to actually address it?”

Liberal MP Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer, Que.), the parliamentary secretary to Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos (Québec, Que.) and Minister of Digital Government Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra, B.C.), replied by saying “we cannot ignore that racism is a lived reality for Black Canadians, Indigenous peoples, and people of colour” and that “we have to make sure that our public service is not only representative of the population it serves but that it offers an opportunity for all employees to express their full potential.”

Mr. Fergus also noted the $12-million over three years that was recently committed by the federal government in the fall economic statement to a dedicated centre on diversity and inclusion.

“This will accelerate the government’s commitment to achieving a representative and inclusive public service,” said Mr. Fergus.

The Liberal MP declined to comment further following an interview request from The Hill Times, as the matter is before the courts.

In an earlier emailed response to The Hill Times, a spokesperson from the Treasury Board Secretariat said “systemic racism and discrimination is a painful lived reality for Black Canadians, racialized people and Indigenous people,” and that the most recent Speech from the Throne announced an action plan to increase representation and leadership development within the public service.

“As the matter is currently before the courts, the Treasury Board Secretariat cannot comment on this suit at this time,” according to the spokesperson.

Federal Black Employee Caucus stands in solidarity, PSAC to serve as intervener

Atong Ater, member of the Federal Black Employee Caucus’ (FBEC) core team, told The Hill Times that although her organization is not part of the class-action suit, FBEC stands in solidarity with anyone who’s working to give voice and address issues of anti-Black systemic racism within the federal public service.

Atong Ater, member of the Federal Black Employee Caucus’ (FBEC) core team, says her organization will ‘continue to work in collaboration with senior public officials and different employment, equity and diversity groups to advocate for measures.’ 

“We continue to work in collaboration with senior public officials and different employment, equity, and diversity groups to advocate for measures,” said Ms. Ater. “We stand in solidarity, and we’re going to continue to work with the federal public service to address the same issues that were brought about and highlighted within this class action.”

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Canada’s largest federal public service union, supports the legal action taken on behalf of nearly 30,000 past and present federal public service workers who identify as Black, Caribbean or of African descent, according to a Dec. 4 press release.

PSAC intends to serve as an intervener in the proposed lawsuit.

“Canada’s public service presents itself as a ‘merit-based, representative and non-partisan organization that serves all Canadians,’” said Chris Aylward, PSAC’s national president in an emailed statement to The Hill Times. “While laudable as a principle, many Canadians, particularly Black Canadians, have experienced a different reality. The government must do what is necessary to right these wrongs and ensure that these injustices do not continue.”

Former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who represented the riding of Whitby, Ont.,  as a Liberal from 2015 before sitting as an Independent after resigning from the Liberal caucus in March 2019, told The Hill Times that after “years and years of saying the same thing and getting promise after promise of action in some kind of way, shape, or form—that doesn’t materialize—to seeing either changes to the federal public service or appointments or anything, I think it’s brilliant that they’re finally saying ‘enough is enough.’”

Former Liberal and Independent MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes says ‘one would hope that the government takes it serious enough that it doesn’t need to be drawn out for years and years of legal proceedings.’

Ms. Caesar-Chavannes, whose book Can You Hear Me Now? is scheduled to hit bookshelves in early February 2021, also said “one would hope that the government takes it serious enough that it doesn’t need to be drawn out for years and years of legal proceedings.”

She introduced a private member’s bill in the dying days of the last Parliament to change the Employment Equity Act. The bill called for a requirement of the Canada Human Rights Commission to provide an annual report to the minister “on the progress made by the Government of Canada in dismantling systemic barriers that prevent members of visible minorities from being promoted within the federal public service and in remedying the disadvantages caused by those barriers.”

“One would hope that the prime minister, in all his take-a-knee glory, would actually sit down with the plaintiffs or sit down before it even gets that far and say ‘let’s deal with this,’ like he’s done with other issues with the RCMP and with Indigenous people,” said Ms. Caesar-Chavannes.

“If the prime minister does not take it upon himself to lead from the top and say that we’re going to sit down in trust, like we’ve done with other communities with the plaintiffs or the lawyers of the case, and deal with it before it has to go through the legal system, if he doesn’t do that, then it will absolutely show his true colours on this one.”

Mr. Green also said he was reminded about “all the theatrics that this prime minister has undertaken from taking a knee, to the language of reconciliation with Indigenous people. And yet, time and time again, has failed to actually address the systems which oppress these peoples.”

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment, as this is before the courts.

Source: Black civil servants’ $900-million proposed class action lawsuit against feds a ‘logical, natural’ next step, says NDP MP Green

Black civil servants allege discrimination in proposed class-action lawsuit against Ottawa

EE - Disaggregated Data, Representation and PSES.010

EE - Disaggregated Data, Representation and PSES.013

There is a real disconnect in the proposed class action lawsuit in its broad assertions regarding widespread assertions regarding systemic racism and the reliance on the disturbing personal experiences of 12 Black public servants to justify such broad assertions.

The statement of claim uses no data beyond these personal experiences to justify their claims, surprising given the availability of data from the Census and more recently, TBS employment equity reports and Public Service Employee Surveys as seen in my analyses What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service … and What the Public Service Employee Survey breakdowns of visible minority and other groups tell us about diversity and inclusion, selected data tables above.

The former shows that overall Blacks are over-represented in the public service but that a number of other minority groups have comparable under-representation to Blacks among executives, i.e., the issues are not unique to Black employees.

On the other hand, Black public servants are more likely to experience discrimination than other groups but even these differences are relatively small.

There are, of course, likely wider variations at the departmental level.

None of this is to discount the experiences of the 12 public servants but underline that calls for systemic change should be evidence-based, not just examples and anecdotes, no matter how strong:

A group of current and former Black civil servants has issued a proposed class-action lawsuit against the federal government alleging it discriminated against Black employees for decades.

They claim the government has excluded Black federal employees from being promoted.

“Our exclusion at the top levels of the public service, in my view, has really disenfranchised Canada from that talent and that ability and the culture that Black workers bring to the table and that different perspective,” said Nicholas Marcus Thompson.

Source: Black civil servants allege discrimination in proposed class-action lawsuit against Ottawa

Text of proposed class action suit: 486848991-NICHOLAS-MARCUS-THOMPSON-ET-AL-v-HER-MAJESTY-THE-QUEEN

A longer more in-depth account of the experiences of the 12 employees can be found here:

The Canadian government has failed to uphold the Charter rights of Black employees in the federal public service, shirking its responsibility to create discrimination- and harassment-free workplaces, and actively excluding Black bureaucrats, allege plaintiffs in a proposed class-action lawsuit.

“There has been a de facto practice of Black employee exclusion throughout the public service because of the permeation of systemic discrimination through Canada’s institutional structures,” said the statement of claim filed with the Federal Court in Toronto on Dec. 2.

The class action, which has not been certified, is being led by 12 former and current Black public servants, who have been employed in a variety of federal departments and agencies, including the RCMP, Canadian Revenue Agency, Canadian Human Rights Commission, Canadian Armed Forces, Statistics Canada, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, and Employment and Social Development Canada.

The representative plaintiffs, seeking $900-million in damages on behalf of public servants since 1970 and their families, claim Black employees have been systemically excluded from advancement within the public service and that the court should impose on the government a mandatory order to implement a “Diversity and Promotional Plan for Black Public Service Employees, related to the hiring and promotion” of Black bureaucrats.

“Canada owes Black employees a duty of care,” the 45-page statement of claim said. “This duty entails an obligation to promote Black employees based on merit, talent, and ability, as is the case for any other employee.”

The suit alleges that Canada’s application of the Employment Equity Act violates the Charter equality rights of Black employees. The act designates women, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and visible minorities as requiring special measures and accommodation in the public service.

“In particular, the act fails to break down the category of visible minorities and thus ignores the unique, invisible, and systemic racism faced by Black employees relative to other disadvantaged groups that are covered by the categories established by the act,” the statement of claim said, adding that decisions on hiring and promotions are governed by enabling legislation for the public service, and not subject to union grievance.

By not hiring and promoting Black employees in a manner proportional to their numbers in the public service or the overall population or to a degree consistent with the treatment of other visible minority or white public servants, “Canada has treated Black employees in an adverse differential manner and has drawn distinctions” between Black bureaucrats and those of other races.

Requests for comment from the federal Attorney General’s Office were referred to the Treasury Board Secretariat.

“As this matter is currently before the courts, the Treasury Board Secretariat cannot comment on this suit at this time,” said an email from a department spokesperson.

“The government has taken steps to address anti-Black racism, systemic discrimination, and injustice across the country. Most recently, the fall economic statement committed $12-million over three years towards a dedicated Centre on Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service. This will accelerate the government’s commitment to achieving a representative and inclusive public service,” the email said, also highlighting the September Throne Speech where the government “announced an action plan to increase representation and leadership development within the public service.”

“Early in its mandate, the government also reflected its commitment in mandate letters, in the establishment of an Anti-Racism Strategy and Secretariat, in the appointment of a minister of diversity and inclusion and youth, and in the creation of the Office for Public Service Accessibility,” said the Treasury Board Secretariat statement.

In February, Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos (Québec, Que.) told The Hill Times that “the fact that Black employees tell us they are unable to be at their full potential is something of great concern to us. I will certainly address those concerns and make sure that every federal employee, including Black employees, has the ability to make the fullest impact on our society.”

NICHOLAS MARCUS THOMPSON ET AL. v. HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN by Charelle Evelyn on Scribd

Plaintiffs outline alleged mistreatment, exclusion

One of the representative plaintiffs, Nicholas Marcus Thompson, a union leader who was named activist of the year in January by the Public Service Alliance of Canada in Toronto, works for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Mr. Thompson has “repeatedly been denied promotions as a consequence of his race and due to his advocacy on behalf of other Black employees,” the statement of claim alleges.

One of the representative plaintiffs, Nicholas Marcus Thompson, says in the statement of claim that ‘merit was not a guiding principle for project assignment or advancement’ of Black public servants.

Mr. Thompson, who ran as an NDP candidate in Don Valley East, Ont., in 2019, said in the statement of claim that Black employees “were ghettoized in the lower ranks” of the public service and that “merit was not a guiding principle for project assignment or advancement.” Prejudice and indifference that “made the world polite, cool, and lonely to the point of permanent exclusion” are “Canadian-style systemic racism,” the claim said.Jennifer Philips has worked for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for more than 30 years, during which she has only been promoted once, according to the claim. “She watched as fellow non-Black colleagues, some of whom she had trained, climbed the ranks and enjoyed the benefits of a system designed to lift them up while holding her down.” The claim said she and other Black colleagues were also subject to “explicit and demeaning comments” made about their race, national or ethnic origin, as well as “attitudes and comments dismissing their ability to carry out their duties because of their race and ethnicity.”

Shalane Rooney was one of two Black employees in a roughly 300-person Statistics Canada office. Ms. Rooney began working for the agency in 2010, and in addition to being denied promotions and raises, said, according to the statement of claim, she was subject to comments “regarding [her] hair, [her] skin being too fair to have two Black parents, [colleagues] confirming with [her] if it is okay to say the ‘N’ word,” and more.

Other plaintiffs, such as Yonita Parkes, said that after complaining about race-related treatment by co-workers, the perpetrators were shuffled out laterally instead of being held accountable, while she was ostracized.

Daniel Malcolm highlighted in the statement of claim that Black employees like himself can be overlooked for permanent roles, despite acting in them for some time, because management can set their own criteria to make their preferred appointments from candidate pools, despite qualification or competition score.

Alain Babineau—a 28-year RCMP veteran who served on the protection detail for prime ministers Jean Chrétien, Stephen Harper, and Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) before leaving the force in September 2016—alleges in the statement that his first attempts to join the force in the early 1980s included being asked “What are you going to do if you get called a ‘nigger?’” during his recruiting interview, and later being racially profiled and falsely characterized as a drug dealer. Once he made it into the force, he was referred to as “Black man” instead of his name by the head of the drug section in which he worked. “This is the type of microaggression we endured as Black officers, but we shut our mouths and endure, on the belief that we can help to bring about change,” he said in the statement.

Bernadeth Betchi, who at one point was employed by the Prime Minister’s Office as a communications assistant to Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, alleges in the statement that her employment at both the CRA and the Canadian Human Rights Commission ultimately caused her stress, anxiety, and trauma. “As a consequence of the experiences of mistreatment and Black employee exclusion, [Ms.] Betchi lost faith in the commission’s ability to execute its mandate, seeing as it could not even promote equity within its own teams.”

Liberal MP Greg Fergus chairs the Parliamentary Black Caucus, which highlighted ‘systemic discrimination and unconscious bias’ in the federal public service in its June 16 statement and recommendations.

Repeated calls for change

The hiring, promotion, and overall treatment of people of colour within the public service, specifically Black people, has been a long-standing issue.

A 2000 report by the Treasury Board-created Task Force on the Participation of Visible Minorities in the Public Service noted that the federal public service, “which can be inhospitable to outsiders, can be particularly so to visible minorities,” and recommended, among other things, that the government set a benchmark for one-in-five “for visible minority participation government-wide” within the next five years.

The most recent report on employment equity in the core public service, covering the 2018-19 fiscal year, said that of the 203,286 employees tallied in March 2019, 54.48 per cent were women (compared to an estimated workforce availability of 52.7 per cent), 5.1 per cent were Indigenous persons (against an estimated workforce availability of four per cent), 5.2 per cent were people with disabilities (compared to nine per cent workforce availability), and 16.7 per cent were visible minorities (compared to 15.3 per cent). According to the report, 19 per cent of those who identify as a visible minority in the public service are Black.

Since its establishment in late 2017, the Federal Black Employee Caucus has been pushing to get disaggregated employment equity data collected so that employees, employers, and policy-makers can all understand the landscape for Black federal bureaucrats, and to provide an element of support and unity for Black employees who are facing harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Former senator Donald Oliver has long championed the idea of a new federal government Department of Diversity headed by a Black deputy minister, and former Liberal-turned-Independent MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes introduced a private member’s bill in the dying days of the last Parliament to change the Employment Equity Act. The bill called for a requirement of the Canada Human Rights Commission to provide an annual report to the minister “on the progress made by the Government of Canada in dismantling systemic barriers that prevent members of visible minorities from being promoted within the federal public service and in remedying the disadvantages caused by those barriers.”

There are so few people of colour at the deputy and associate deputy minister level that the government won’t release numbers, for privacy reasons. Caroline Xavier, became the first Black woman to work at that level of the public service when she was appointed associate deputy minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada in February.

In October, the government awarded a contract worth $164,415 to executive recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson to “establish and maintain on an ongoing basis an inventory of qualified and interested Black people and other racialized groups, Indigenous people, as well as persons with disabilities, from outside the federal public service for the Government of Canada to consider for the deputy minister and assistant deputy minister cadre.”

In its June 16 statement, the Parliamentary Black Caucus also highlighted “systemic discrimination and unconscious bias” in the federal public service. Signatories called for measures that included improving Black representation in the senior ranks of the public service, implementing anti-bias training and evaluation programs, and establishing an “independent champion for Black federal employees through the creation of a national public service institute.”

Source: ‘Canadian-style systemic racism’: Black public servants file suit against federal government

What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service diversity

My latest in Policy Options, taking advantage of disaggregated employment equity data:

Just how diverse is the federal public service? This question recently has attracted more scrutiny, particularly when it comes to the inclusion of Black Canadians in the bureaucracy. Before February, no Black person had made it to the deputy minister rank of the public service – Caroline Xavier is now associate deputy minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship. The speech from the throne included a commitment to “Implementing an action plan to increase representation in hiring and appointments, and leadership development within the public service.”

Now, for the first time, the federal government is providing disaggregated data related to the diversity of the public service as part of its Employment Equity Report. The Treasury Board Secretariat’s (TBS) report looks at the three fiscal years from 2016-19 by occupational group. Previously, disaggregated data for visible minority and Indigenous individuals employed in federal public administration (excluding the military) was only available through census data every five years. We now have the tools to do a more granular analysis of visible minority representation in each occupational group and see where work remains to be done. Table 1 looks at the overall visible minority representation in Canada, the visible minority population that are citizens, and the numbers shared in the government’s equity report. The citizenship number is taken here as a benchmark, since citizens are given preference in government staffing processes. This gives us a picture of the degree to which there is under-representation of certain groups compared to the citizenship-based benchmark. A note about the terminology: I have used the term visible minority, as do Statistics Canada and the Treasury Board Secretariat. Indigenous Peoples are their own category for data purposes, and do not fall under visible minority. While the visible minority group definitions are similar to those used by Statistics Canada, TBS groups Arab and West Asians together under “non-white West Asian, North African or Arab.” “Mixed Origin” refers to those with one visible minority parent. The representation of most groups is relatively close to their share of the citizenship population, with South Asian, Chinese and Filipino public servants less represented.Table 2 takes the same approach with respect to Indigenous representation with the exception that total and citizenship-based populations are identical, showing relative under-representation of First Nations and Inuit people.Table 3 compares the representation of each visible minority by occupational group, expressed as the percentage difference with non-visible minority, non-Indigenous employees for the three-year period 2017-19. For most groups, relative representation has not shifted dramatically from 2017 to 2019, with general under-representation in the executive, technical and operational categories.Among executives, no group has improved its representation by one percent or more from 2017 to 2019, with only individuals of mixed origins showing an increase of 0.6 percent, and Black, Filipino and Southeast Asian people showing marginal increases (0.1, 0.3 and 0.1 percent respectively). Table 4 similarly compares the representation of each Indigenous group by occupational groups, expressed as the percentage difference with non-visible minority, non-Indigenous employees for the three-year period 2017-19 (for the executive and technical occupational groups, there are fewer than five Inuit public servants, and thus the federal government does not provide numbers out of concern for privacy).While this analysis highlights the differences in visible minority and Indigenous representation among the different occupational categories, it does not break it down by seniority level. TBS declined to provide a disaggregated breakdown for assistant deputy ministers (level EX4-5) and directors and directors general (level EX1-3) given that breaking down the numbers to those subgroups would present a privacy risk. But TBS did say that of the 335 ADMs, 30 are visible minority (9.0 percent) and nine Indigenous (2.7 percent). Black Canadians are the visible minority group with the strongest numbers in the public service compared to their share of the citizen population, but their representation is overwhelmingly in the two administrative categories. This is not unique – there is significant under-representation among Latin American, Chinese, Filipino and South East Asian groups in the executive ranks of the public service. A similar general pattern can be found with Indigenous public service representation. With this type of disaggregated data in hand, policy discussions and responses can be based more solidly on evidence rather than relying on examples and anecdotes about who works in the public service. With better data, the government can hopefully build a more representative and inclusive public service at all levels.

Source: What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service diversity

For those interested, the TBS dataset used can be found here: Employment Equity Sub-Group Population in the Public Service of Canada

Feds creating ‘inventory’ of racial minorities to fill senior public service posts

Reasonable approach. I recall when I worked for Global Affairs in the 90s, that a similar practice existed, run by HR, to identify promising women foreign service officers for development assignments and advancement. Some 20-30 years later, most of the names became senior officials:

The Liberal government wants to create an “inventory” of Black, Indigenous and other racialized people who could play high-ranking roles in the federal public service.

It is looking for an executive search firm to create and maintain the list of candidates from minority groups, as well as people with disabilities, who could be considered for deputy minister and assistant deputy minister positions.

Details of the planned database are contained in a request for proposals posted on the federal government’s procurement and public tenders website.

They were first reported by the True North Centre for Public Policy on its news site.

The call for the staffing consultant to do this work was put out by the Privy Council Office, a bureaucratic operation that supports the prime minister and cabinet.

The request for proposals does not disclose how much the contract will cost.

“The federal public service is stronger and most effective when it reflects the diversity of the Canadians it serves,” says the request for proposals.

“While progress has been made in recent years to achieve gender parity in the senior leadership community, there is more progress to be made in increasing representation of Black people and other racialized groups, Indigenous people, as well as persons with disabilities.”

Ordinarily, public servants rise through the ranks before attaining the most senior executive posts of deputy minister and assistant deputy minister.

However, the Employment Equity Act, which applies to federally regulated industries, Crown corporations and some portions of the federal public service, designates women, Indigenous Peoples, other visible minorities and people with disabilities as groups requiring special measures to overcome barriers to employment.

According to an analysis by Andrew Griffith, a former director general at the Immigration Department, in the October 2017 issue of Policy Options, less than four per cent of executive positions in the federal public service were Indigenous and less than 10 per cent were other visible minorities.

Caroline Xavier is the only Black assistant deputy minister, appointed in February at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“We are in 2020. How come it took so long? It shouldn’t have,” she told the CBC in June.

The winning bidder will be required to update the list every two months.

Source: Feds creating ‘inventory’ of racial minorities to fill senior public service posts

Canada’s federal security and intelligence establishment encouraging employees to self-identify

Further to the earlier Hill Times story. Having gone through some of the recent reports (still awaiting a few), my general observation is the lower the representation numbers, the longer the reports and the more words describing the various initiatives underway). That being said, their cultures are different from elsewhere in the public service and thus the challenges greater:

A number of organizations in Canada’s security and intelligence establishment, including the Communications Security Establishment, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Community, the Department of National Defence, and the Canada Border Services Agency have been conducting campaigns to encourage employees who belong to one of the four designated groups listed in the Employment Equity Act—women, Indigenous people, members of a visible minority, and people with a disability—to self-identify, as part of their efforts to improve data collection and hiring practices.

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, composed of 11 MPs and Senators and chaired by Liberal MP David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Ont.), focused on diversity and inclusion issues in the security and intelligence community in its most recent annual report.

The report notes that one of the challenges in the security and intelligence committee surrounds voluntary self-identification.

But the report also notes that “self-identification campaigns and internal communications are [a] way organizations try to increase awareness on these issues,” and that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), and the Department of National Defence (DND) have conducted campaigns to “demystify the self-identification process and encourage employees to self identify.”

The Hill Times reached out to the four organizations noted in the report for more information on how they have done that.

Communications Security Establishment

Diversity and inclusion is an important element in ensuring that the Canadian security and intelligence community can effectively protect Canada, said Ryan Foreman, a media relations representative with the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).

Mr. Foreman outlined a number of initiatives undertaken by the CSE to encourage self-identification, including a 2017 push to increase organizational awareness of the requirements of the Employment Equity Act, and to explain how a diverse workforce strengthens CSE’s ability to deliver on its mandate.

“This included providing data to managers, and developing strategies to attract job applicants from underrepresented groups,” said Mr. Foreman, who also noted that CSE launched a self-identification campaign called “Show us what CSE is made of,” which was designed to encourage employees to self-identify.

“The messaging for this campaign communicated the importance of employment equity data and its impact on other organizational initiatives, such as recruitment and training,” said Mr. Foreman. “Both the 2017 initiative and the self-identification campaign started in 2018 are on-going.”

Canadian Security and Intelligence Community

“As Canada’s security and intelligence service, it is critical that CSIS reflects the communities it protects, wrote CSIS spokesperson John Townsend in an email to The Hill Times. “To this end, CSIS has implemented an ongoing internal communications campaign to encourage employees who belong to one of the four designated groups listed in the Employment Equity Act to self-identify.”

“The campaign includes an annual Employment Equity questionnaire among other tools to advise employees on the importance of self-identification.”

Ninety per cent of CSIS employees have engaged with these tools, according to Mr. Townsend.

“The work of making CSIS more representative of Canada is never finished but our commitment is steadfast and our efforts continue,” wrote Mr. Townsend.

Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces

Staff at the Department of National Defence and members of Canadian Armed Forces have returned self-identification forms at a greater rate this year than in the past, thanks to organizational efforts to spread the word about the importance of self-identification, according to Major Smyth, spokesperson for DND.

The Employment Equity Act requires that every member be provided the opportunity to self-identify as a member of a designated group, but it remains voluntary to do so.

As such, employment equity representation rates are based on a voluntary process and may not represent the actual employment equity representation in CAF, according to Mr. Smyth.

“Overall, the CAF continues to improve upon its self-identification return rates,” said Mr. Smyth. “The first part of the self-identification form is a personal identification portion. For this portion, the regular force achieved its highest return rate yet with 97.5 per cent of [members] having had the opportunity to self-identify as a member of a designated employment equity group.”

“While the return rates are lower in the primary reserve units, the CAF saw an overall increase in self-identification as designated group members from both regular force and primary reserve members compared to 2017/18.”

“Current representation rates, as of July 2020, for the regular force and the primary reserves combined, were as follows: women, 16 per cent; visible minorities, 9.3 per cent; and Indigenous Peoples, 2.8 per cent.”

DND/CAF did not identify the representation of persons with disabilities as of July 2020 in their response to The Hill Times.

The CAF works closely with Statistics Canada to ensure that “labour market data they provide, and upon which the CAF sets its employment equity representation rate goals, is reflective of the unique occupations and employment criteria of the CAF.”

“DND/CAF is committed to reflecting the Canadian ideals of diversity, respect and inclusion. Both long and short term goals have been created, based on the labour market analysis provided by Statistics Canada. We review our progress regularly to ensure that we are always working towards increasing representation rates,” said Mr. Smyth.”

Canadian Border Services Agency

The Canada Border Services Agency’s campaign encouraging self-identification began in 2017 and was repeated in 2018, according to Jacqueline Callin, spokesperson with the agency.

“They stressed the importance of understanding our workforce composition and reinforced that employee information would be protected. Recognizing that the Agency’s manual process might be contributing to response rates of 61 per cent, an online form was piloted with success in 2019 and was set to be launched in March 2020 as part of our ‘Your Voice Matters’ campaign. It has been postponed due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and current efforts are focused on how best to virtually promote self-identification,” she said.

Employment Equity Act ‘has served Canada and the public service well,’ says expert

Andrew Griffith, who is the former director general for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad, told The Hill Times that the Employment Equity Act has served Canada and the public service well, and that the diversity of virtually every group has increased since the act was introduced.

“So the basic structure of the act, I think, has worked in the reporting structure and the data collection, and the publicity that comes with the results,” said Mr. Griffith, who is a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Environics Institute.

“But if you re-open the act, I’m just not sure that it’s worth all that much effort, time, and invariable divisiveness and controversies that it will raise,” said Mr. Griffith. “I’m thinking that if you want to use government time wisely, it would be more effective, I would think, [to look] at specific anti-racism initiatives and look at some of the specific barriers rather than a wholesale of revision of the act, because I think the challenge is less with the act and more with some of the practical stuff.”

Source: Canada’s federal security and intelligence establishment encouraging employees to self-identify

Employment Equity in the Public Service: 2018-19 Numbers and report

The latest employment equity report shows a slight uptick in representation compared to the previous year of women EX (from 49.1 to 50.2 percent, visible minorities (all, from 15.7 to 16.7 percent and EX, from 10.1 to 11.1 percent) and Aboriginal (Indigenous) EX (from 3.7 to 4.1 percent).

This year report provides breakdowns within each group (intersectionality):

  • Women: 17.0 percent visible minorities, 5.8 percent Indigenous
  • Visible Minorities: 55.6 percent women, 2.4 percent Indigenous
  • Indigenous: 61.5 percent women, 7.7 percent visible minorities

TBS is also providing sub-group info, with the chart below summarizing the breakdown among visible minority groups:

Historical charts below:

Source:  Annual Report Publication

Public Services and Administration: What does the Census Say?

To what extent do public services and administration reflect and represent the population they serve? 

To start with, representation matters. The degree to which visible minority populations see themselves in public institutions both fosters and reflects integration, and facilitates how these institutions serve their citizens. This article uses census 2016 data to review how effectively education, healthcare, social services, police services and public administration at the national and provincial levels reflect diversity. Police services and public administration are also reviewed at the municipal level.

Overall, the analysis presents a mixed picture of visible minority representation, whether by area or government:

  • Significant under-representation at the elementary and secondary levels of education in contrast to comparable representation at the university level. Given that visible minorities are less likely to have degrees in education (only 7 percent of all 25-34 year olds are Canadian-born visible minority education graduates), this trend is unlikely to change quickly.
  • Healthcare and social services are broadly representative of the populations they serve. While median income data indicates most groups are reasonable well-represented at the professional level, with the exception of Filipinos, Blacks and Latin Americans, Canadian-born 25-34 year old visible minorities form 16.6 percent of those having healthcare degrees in this age cohort.
  • There is serious under-representation in the police of visible minorities among junior and senior officers, particularly of note in our largest cities. Of particular concern is the low level of “except commissioned” officers in Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa-Gatineau, indicating that under-representation is unlikely to be addressed soon. This under-representation likely contributes to some of the tensions between communities (i.e., Black Canadians) and police. The lack of effective employment equity reporting by most police forces is symptomatic of a lack of attention to this issue.
  • The federal public service is reasonably representative of the number of visible minorities who are also citizens, while the provinces and municipalities are less so in most provinces. Median income data shows considerable variation by level of government and visible minority group, particularly for Blacks, Filipinos and Arabs.

Charts and analysis 

Chart 1

Chart 1 provides the gender breakdown in education, healthcare and social services using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The percentage of women declines as the level of education increases; the percentage of women is similar in ambulatory services (doctors and dentist offices) and hospitals, and somewhat greater in nursing homes. For social services (individual and family services), the percentage of women is similar to healthcare but childcare is 92 percent women.

Chart 2

Chart 2 illustrates the median employment incomes for all generations of visible minorities  working in these sectors. Given standard public sector pay scales, the variation reflects a combination of whether visible minorities are professionals or in support positions along with seniority (ambulatory excepted). The relatively low median inco mes of visible minorities compared to not visible minority (NVM) in all levels of education is striking, as is the higher median incomes in hospitals and nursing homes in healthcare. Median income of visible minorities in social services is largely comparable to NVM, likely reflecting relatively low salary bands and classification levels.

Chart 3

Chart 3 takes a closer look at visible minority representation in the education sector, contrasted  with the overall diversity of the population. 792,000 persons work in elementary and high schools, by far the largest area (11.7 percent visible minority), 92,000 in community colleges and CEGEPS (13.7 percent visible minority), and 224,000 in universities (23.7 percent visible minority). Women comprise the majority at all three levels: elementary and secondary schools (73.6%), community colleges and CEGEPs (57.9%) and universities (54.1%).

 In essence, students at the elementary and college levels are less likely to be taught by visible minority educators. In all provinces, the higher the level of education, the greater the number of visible minorities, with Canada-wide university representation (professors and support staff) reflecting the overall population levels.

Median income data provides insights on the extent to which visible minority groups are in professional or support positions. For elementary and secondary schools, all groups, save Chinese (8% lower) and Japanese Canadians (8 percent higher), have a disproportionate share of support positions and/or lower seniority (10 percent difference) compared to not visible minority (NVM). For community colleges and CEGEPs, all groups have significantly lower median incomes than NVM with Japanese Canadians having the least difference (6 percent). For universities, despite the overall greater diversity, median income data suggest that visible minorities are concentrated in more junior positions and support staff.

Chart 4

Chart 4 provides the provincial breakdown, once again contrasting provincial populations with representation in the education sector where the overall pattern of greater university level representation and relative under-representation at the elementary and secondary levels can be  seen. In the largest provinces, university representation is broadly reflective of the population; in smaller provinces, university representation is significantly greater than the population.

Chart 5

Chart 5 compares the overall visible minority population with those working in healthcare and  social services. 

Approximately 1.5 million persons work in healthcare: 564,000 in ambulatory services, 632,000 in hospitals and 328,000 in nursing homes. About 344,000 work in social services, of which 149,000 in individual and family services and 194,000 in childcare.

Starting with healthcare, group representation varies by sector. The major visible minority groups are represented in all sectors shown with some relative over-representation of Chinese in ambulatory services, Blacks in hospitals, nursing homes, and social services, Filipinos in all sectors and Arabs dramatically so in childcare.

Median income data indicate that South Asians, Chinese, Arabs and Southeast Asians are more likely to be in professional positions in doctor offices; Chinese, Southeast Asians, Korean and Japanese in dental offices. Hospital median income data highlight that South Asians, Chinese, West Asians, Korean and Japanese are more likely to be in professional positions. Groups that tend to be more in support positions are Filipino, Black and Latin American.

Chinese, Arab, West Asian and Korean are over-represented by men compared to not visible minority (10 percent difference), with the relative gender gap particularly high for Arabs (23 percent).

Chart 6

Chart 6 provides the healthcare visible minority representation by province, reflecting the overall pattern of representation comparable to the visible minority population, with noticeable over-representation of visible minorities in nursing homes.

Visible minorities are over-represented in Manitoba and Saskatchewan (hospitals and nursing homes only), and the under-representation in Quebec ambulatory services likely reflects the low visible minority population outside of Montreal and environs. 

Chart 7

Chart 7 contrasts the visible minority workers in social services and childcare, again reflecting the overall  national pattern, with the striking over-representation of visible minorities in childcare in most provinces.

Chart 8

Chart 8 provides the national breakdown of visible minority police officers, separated out by commissioned (senior) and “except commissioned” (junior) officers, again contrasted with the overall visible minority population. There are 2,015 commissioned officers and 75,670 non-commissioned officers. Given mixed to limited reporting by police forces, this provides the best measure of police force diversity.

As one would expect, not commissioned officer diversity is greater than the senior ranks, providing a feeder group to increase commissioned officer diversity over time.

Chart 9

Chart 9 looks at the diversity of police forces in six of Canada’s largest cities. It is a mixed picture: while the overall pattern of under-representation remains, in some cities the percentage of visible minority commissioned officers is greater than not commissioned, suggesting a conscious decision to ensure greater representation at senior levels (e.g., Toronto, Edmonton).

Equally striking is the relative lack of visible minority police in Montreal (both commissioned and except commissioned), Calgary (no visible minority commissioned officers) and Edmonton (except commissioned). 

The integrated numbers for Ottawa Gatineau disguise significant differences: whereas in Ottawa visible minority commissioned officers form 8.7 percent, except commissioned 8.5 percent, in Gatineau there are no visible minority commissioned officers and only 2.9 percent of except commissioned officers are visible minorities

Chart 10

Census data provide a useful counterpoint to the annual Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) employment equity reports. TBS reports have a richer dataset than the Census (regional, occupational group, salary, age and other breakdowns) but they only cover Schedule 1 bodies and do not include Schedule 2 bodies (e.g., CRA, CFIA, CSIS, NRCE, Parks Canada) or Schedule 3 (Crown corporations) and do not provide a breakdown by visible minority groups. Census data also provide consistent data at the provincial and municipal levels. The population benchmark used is that of visible minorities who are also Canadian citizens, given the preference in hiring citizens.

Chart 10 not only provides the overall visible minority representation, but breaks this down by the different visible minority groups. About 317,000 persons work in federal public administration (all except defence), 269,000 in provincial public administration and 340,000 in municipal. Significantly more women than men work in federal and provincial public administration (55.6 and 58.9 percent respectively) whereas municipal public administration is majority male (60.6 percent), reflecting the nature of municipal services (e.g., garbage collection, road maintenance).

At the federal level, only Chinese, Arabs and Japanese public servants reflect or are greater than the overall visible minority citizen population. All other groups are under-represented by 10 percent or more. 

Chart 11

Chart 11 contrasts provincial and municipal public administrations with the overall number of visible minority citizens. Provincial visible minority public servants largely mirror the overall number of visible minorities with the notable under-representation in British Columbia and slight overrepresentation in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Municipal pu blic administration visible minority public servants are under represented in all provinces save Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada, and in some cases, significantly as is the case in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

All groups, save Black, are underrepresented at the provincial level and all groups save Japanese are under-represented at the municipal level.

Chart 12

Chart 12 compares the median income of visible minority groups compared to not visible minority for each level of government, providing an indication of whether groups are in more senior or junior positions.

Only Chinese and Japanese public servants have higher median incomes for all three levels of government. South Asian provincial public servants, Black and West Asian municipal public servants and Korean provincial public servants also have higher median incomes. The greatest gaps in median incomes are for Black (save municipal), Filipino, Latin American and Arab (save federal). 

Employment Equity Promotion Rate Study

Summary from the Public Service Commission’s report on promotion rates of employment equity groups, showing women have greater promotion rates than men, comparable promotion rates of visible minorities compared to not visible minorities, and lower rates among Indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities.

Curious to see if and how the government implements recommendation 2 to breakdown the data into sub-groups such as visible minority without either asking public servants to self-identify or using name recognition technology to approximate the groups:

Part 1: Analysis of recent employment equity promotion rates

Part 1 of the study is based on 172 125 promotions from 230 310 indeterminate employees. Our findings present a mixed picture in terms of promotion rates across employment equity groups. Our public service-wide results indicate that women have a higher promotion rate when compared to men. This contrasts with Indigenous people and with persons with disabilities, who both experienced lower promotion rates than their respective counterparts. We found no appreciable difference between members of visible minorities and their counterparts.

Results also show variations for some employment equity groups across occupational categories. For example, despite having a higher overall promotion rate when compared to men, women have a lower promotion rate in the Scientific and Professional and the Technical categories. These lower promotion rates are offset by higher relative promotion rates for women in the Administrative Support and Administrative and Foreign Service occupational categories.

Part 2: Analysis of promotion rates of employment equity new hires across 2 time periods

Part 2 of the study relied on 74 762 promotions from 112 667 indeterminate employees and 97 856 promotions from 141 836 indeterminate employees for the first and second time periods respectively. Our results on the promotion rates of new hires across time periods (from April 1991 to March 2005 and from April 2005 to March 2018) suggest an improvement over time in the relative promotion rates of women, Indigenous people and persons with disabilities. However, promotion rates for Indigenous people and persons with disabilities remain below those of their counterparts. For members of visible minorities, there are no appreciable differences in promotion rates relative to their counterparts in either of the 2 time periods.

Part 3: Employment equity applicant representation and shares of promotions

Our analysis suggests that women and members of visible minorities apply at a higher rate than their rate of representation in the federal public service. Women’s share of promotions is roughly equivalent to their representation as applicants, while members of visible minorities exhibit a share of promotions that is lower than their representation as applicants.

A different pattern emerges for Indigenous people and persons with disabilities, whose representation as applicants is below their representation rates in the federal public service, while their share of promotions is on par or above their representation as applicants. This may, in part, explain differences in the promotion rates of these 2 employment equity groups as compared to their counterparts.

In response to these findings, we are recommending that, in consultation with stakeholders and employment equity community members:

  • Recommendation 1: further research be conducted to better understand underlying barriers that contribute to lower promotion rates for some employment equity groups
    • for example, the upcoming Staffing and Non-Partisanship Survey (Spring 2020) should be leveraged to gain insight into employment equity group views on barriers to career progression
  • Recommendation 2: work be undertaken to break down employment equity category data by sub-groups to allow for a more comprehensive and accurate identification of barriers that are unique to individual sub-groups, including their intersectionality
  • Recommendation 3: further outreach be provided to federal departments and agencies in order to increase awareness of the range of policy, service and program options aimed at supporting a diverse workplace
  • Recommendation 4: public service-wide approaches to career progression be explored including broadening access to existing successful programs and services such as the Aboriginal Leadership Development Initiative and the Accommodation and Adaptive Computer Technology Program at Shared Services Canada
  • Recommendation 5: concerted efforts across central agencies be undertaken to explore how we can learn from the Aboriginal Leadership Development Initiative and extend similarly targeted services and development opportunities to all employment equity groups, including development programs and career support services that are specifically designed with, and for, employment equity groups

We extend our thanks to Professor Marcel Voia and Statistics Canada who have reviewed this study and provided insightful suggestions, comments and feedback.

Non-advertised appointments on the rise in the public service, PSC data show

I have been hearing about the impact of this policy change for some time and PSC was kind enough to send me an incredibly rich and detailed dataset that I will be analyzing the change by occupational group and department over the next few months, along with the impact on the representation of employment equity groups.

One striking initial finding, not covered in this article, is the relatively high number of “unknowns” in the data, compared to advertised and non-advertised positions, about 30 percent compared to 23 percent previously, raising questions regarding the quality and consistency of data entry:

An increased proportion of federal public servants is being appointed directly to positions that have never been advertised as vacant.

Since the launch of a new policy framework for public service staffing in 2016, the use of non-advertised processes for internal appointments has increased, new data show, raising concerns about fairness and transparency.

According to data released by the Public Service Commission, the federal bureaucracy’s staffing watchdog, 34 per cent of internal appointments — promotions and acting appointments longer than four months — were non-advertised in 2015-16. Two years later, in 2017-18, that figure had increased to 47 per cent.

At the executive level, the increase is even steeper. Between 2015-16 and 2017-18, non-advertised processes jumped from being used in 28 per cent of internal appointments, to 55 per cent.

Statistics were not provided on the use — or not — of advertisements for external hiring.

The Public Service Commission readily admits that the uptick in non-advertised appointments can be linked to its New Direction In Staffing, explaining in an emailed statement that it “has noted an increase” since the policy framework’s implementation in April 2016.

Before that time, “a preference for advertised processes was established,” said the PSC, though both were and continue to be allowed under the Public Service Employment Act.

Now, “the PSC no longer sets a preference and leaves deputy heads with the discretion to determine the appropriate balance between advertised and non-advertised processes.”

Billed as “the most significant change to the staffing system in 10 years,” according to the PSC’s 2016-17 annual report, the New Direction in Staffing sought to streamline and simplify staffing policies and offer federal departments and agencies more room to customize staffing approaches to meet their varying needs.

“At its core, the New Direction in Staffing represents a shift away from a focus on rules to a system that encourages managers to exercise their discretion when making staffing decisions, while meeting the simplified policy requirements in ways adapted to their organizations.”

For example, reporting requirements were reduced under the new framework. Departments were to conduct their own ongoing monitoring of staffing, rather than having it prescribed by the PSC. And hiring managers were allowed more room to apply their own judgment.

But public service employee representatives are raising red flags. They expressed concerns last week that the New Direction’s provision for flexibility is leading to opaque and inequitable hiring and promotion practices. And it’s demoralizing for many public servants, they say.

“What I’m hearing from my members and my representatives is the deputy head basically has a free and clear right to make a choice on the process, advertised versus non-advertised, and they don’t have to consider anything other than their convenience and ease of process and getting what they want,” said Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, one of the largest public service unions.

“The result is that you may not actually be getting the best candidate in those positions. You’re just getting the person that that person (directing hiring) likes the best.”

Michel Vermette, chief executive of the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada, said he’s hearing frustration from executives he represents that they’re being sidelined from opportunities for promotion without even being given the chance to throw their hats into the ring.

“I can promote you through a non-advertised process, and not to have to tell anybody that I’ve considered you, or that there was an opportunity here.”

“That’s what’s happening more and more. Those processes are simply publications of appointments,” Vermette said.

“Our community is saying, ‘I never had an opportunity to apply for that.’”

Asked about these concerns, the PSC pointed out that it completed a system-wide staffing audit in 2016, after the New Direction framework came into effect. “Both advertised and non-advertised processes were merit-based and compliant with staffing legislation and policy in the vast majority of cases,” the PSC said.

The Public Service Employment Act requires that all appointments be based on merit. That means the person being appointed must at least meet the essential qualifications of the work they’re to perform, plus any “asset qualifications, operational requirements and/or organizational needs,” when applicable, the audit report explains.

“The PSC recognizes that organizations are adjusting to the new policy framework and we continue to encourage managers to consider their staffing choices and communicate their decisions,” the PSC said, in an emailed statement. “Additionally, we are continuing to monitor the staffing system — both in terms of compliance and perceptions — and are working with organizations to improve both.”

Vermette points to the Staffing and Non-Partisanship Survey, commissioned by the PSC for the first time in 2018, to illustrate his belief that concerns about merit, fairness and transparency in public service staffing have become widespread, and are potentially linked to the increased use of non-advertised staffing processes. More than 100,000 employees completed the survey, an overall response rate of almost 48 per cent, and the PSC said results can be generalized to the federal public service population across the vast majority of departments and agencies.

More than half of employee respondents indicated that, in their work units, appointments depend on whom you know. A similar proportion — 54 per cent — said that people hired in their work units are capable of doing the job they were hired to.

Less than half said that in their work units, staffing activities are conducted fairly and carried out in a transparent way.

Meanwhile, more than 90 per cent of managers believed that appointees meet the performance expectations of the positions for which they were hired, and that appointees are a good fit within the team.

Asked about these survey results, the PSC said an analysis was conducted to look specifically at the connection between employee perceptions of merit, fairness and transparency and the use of non-advertised appointments in departments and agencies, and found they weren’t linked.

Rather, there appeared to be an association between organizations that had more hiring managers with a good understanding of the New Direction in Staffing, and employees with a higher perception of merit in staffing, “irrespective of percentage of non-advertised appointments,” PSC said.

The analysis pondered whether better understanding of the staffing framework allowed managers to better explain their choice of appointment process and appointment decisions to employees — who would then, presumably, have more faith in the process.

“The PSC will be conducting further research to better understand what is contributing to these perceptions. We will also continue to work with departments to support them in improving their staffing systems,” the watchdog promised.

For his part, Vermette thinks concerns about merit and fairness in staffing go deeper than public servants failing to comprehend hiring policies. He called the PSC’s conclusion, “a bit dismissive.”

“If half the employees who took the time to answer say they’re worried about merit in a professional public service, is there fire under that smoke?”

Daviau, the PIPSC president, also referenced statistics she thinks reflect issues with the new approach to staffing since 2016.

In its 2017-18 annual report, the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board noted that the past two years had seen “a significant increase” in the number of complaints about non-advertised staffing processes. Of all staffing complaints received in 2015-16, complaints about non-advertised processes accounted for 24 per cent. That figure rose to 47 per cent the following year, and remained similar at 44 per cent in 2017-18.

“It has been surmised that this surge can be linked to the Public Service Commission’s new appointment policy, introduced in 2016, to modernize, simplify, and streamline the public service staffing process,” the report concludes.

The PSC pointed out that in addition to complaints to the labour relations board, employees who take issue with internal appointment processes can also request a departmental investigation. The PSC said it has the authority to investigate external appointments “when there is alleged errors or improper conduct.”

Staffing is not a new area of focus for the Government of Canada. Last fall, two days of testimony at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates were devoted to looking at the public service hiring process.

PSC president Patrick Borbey pointed out that it takes, on average, 197 days to hire a new employee using an external advertised competitive process and that as a result good candidates are often lost along the way.

“The cumbersome staffing culture that has developed over time will not change overnight, and it is something we are committed to improve in every way,” he said, after referencing the 2016 New Direction in Staffing.

“I’m convinced … that we can modernize and speed up the hiring process while maintaining and, in fact, strengthening merit, transparency, fairness, diversity and regional representation.”

Doing so will also support “efforts to improve diversity and inclusion within the public service,” Borbey said.

Daviau, meanwhile, believes non-advertised appointments, while reasonable in some circumstances — positions that require highly-specialized skills for example — typically run counter to all of these public service values.

“The Government of Canada ought to be a leading employer when it comes to things like employment equity, and individual managers can’t possibly have the right perspective to know what the Government of Canada as a whole needs,” she said.

“They’re sort of seeing the world through a very tiny lens, and they know what they need to get Project A done, but that starts to undermine an entire system that’s designed to be fair and transparent and merit-based and with proper oversight.”

Further, Daviau added, “People hire people like themselves. We know this.

“The government needs to be a leader in breaking down those barriers.”

Source: Non-advertised appointments on the rise in the public service, PSC data show