Employment Equity Act Review: My submission

It’s Time to Abolish the Absurd (and Slightly Racist) Concept of “Visible Minorities”

Apart from some of the hyperbole, without some system of classification, it becomes difficult if not impossible to assess socioeconomic and political outcomes and thus inclusivity. Visible minorities, like Indigenous peoples, have disaggregated data which is increasingly more widespread (e.g., public service).

It is one thing to criticize how activist use the data, another to argue for not collecting and analyzing the data.

In my analysis of public service employment equity, I find many activists have not taken a serious look at the data in making their case for change (see Will the removal of the Canadian citizenship preference in the public service make a difference?, where I provide occupational and group breakdowns, which interestingly, for example, that Blacks in EX positions were under-represented to a lessor degree than South Asians and Chinese).

But data, in highlighting similarities and differences, provides a frame under which one can analyse and hopefully understand some of the underlying reasons for those differences, as Skuterud does (some of which may reflect historically patterns of discrimination).

As to repealing the Employment Equity Act, hard to see any government doing so or abandoning the collection of disaggregated data minority groups. But Woolley’s point of shifting the focus towards socioeconomic measures of disadvantage is not incompatible with attention to minority groups as a means of analyzing and assessing differences in outcomes.

No other country in the world divides itself along racial lines as we do in Canada. According to federal legislation, our country consists of three distinct race groups: Indigenous people, whites and everybody else. Members of this final catch-all category are officially deemed “visible minorities” and defined in law as “persons, other than Aboriginal people, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.” Canadians can either be native, white or non-white. How’s that for inclusivity?

The term “visible minority” was invented in 1975 by black activist Kay Livingstone, founder of the Canadian Negro Women’s Association, as the means to unite disparate immigrant groups at a time when Canada was overwhelmingly Caucasian. By 1984, the phrase had gained sufficient currency to play a starring role in the final report of Judge Rosalie Silberman Abella’s Commission on Equality in Employment, and was later enshrined in law via the federal Employment Equity Act of 1986. This law requires all public and private sector employers to improve the job prospects for visible minorities, women, Aboriginals and people with disabilities through the elimination of barriers and creation of various “special measures,” such as targeted hiring. Today, this dichotomy of “able-bodied white males versus everyone else” still forms the basis for myriad policies and regulations meant to impose greater diversity in the workplace and throughout society.

While Abella’s report was instrumental in cementing the concept of visible minorities in federal law, she recognized at the time that lumping everyone who isn’t white into a single generic category could create complications. “To combine all non-whites together as visible minorities for the purpose of devising systems to improve their equitable participation, without making distinctions to assist those groups in particular need, may deflect attention from where the problems are greatest,” Abella wrote. That said, the future appointee to the Supreme Court of Canada figured a solution would eventually appear. “At present,” she observed, “data available from Statistics Canada are not sufficiently refined by race…to make determinative judgements as to which visible minorities appear not to be in need of employment equity programs.” (Emphasis in original.)

The term ‘visible minority’ was invented in 1975 by black activist Kay Livingstone, founder of the Canadian Negro Women’s Association, as the means to unite disparate immigrant groups at a time when Canada was overwhelmingly Caucasian.Tweet

Nearly four decades later, Canada no longer suffers from an absence of race-based data. We are, in fact, inundated with it. And the evidence arising from this flood of racially-focused statistical work is clear and unambiguous: the entire concept of visible minorities – along with the superstructure of policies and laws that support it – makes no sense in our pluralistic 21st century Canada. It’s time to abolish this outdated, imprecise and subtly racist idea.

The Data Speak Volumes

Among the Trudeau government’s many indulgences to the cause of social justice has been the creation of the Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics at Statistics Canada. Reports from this branch of our national statistical agency focus almost exclusively on dividing Canadian society up into ever-smaller slices by race, gender and other attributes (a recent effort tracks the educational attainment of bisexual people) and frequently serve as fodder for activists intent on claiming Canada is rife with systemic discrimination and racism whenever a gap is identified. Yet a gap-filled study released last month examining how various racial groups within the visible minority category are doing in Canada’s labour market received surprisingly little attention from the media or within activist circles. This may be because most of the gaps it reveals aren’t the sort that give rise to claims of racism.

The results of the study by Statcan researchers Theresa Qiu and Grant Schellenberg will come as a shock to anyone expecting to find whites sitting atop the labour market. Rather, the best earners are Canadian-born Japanese males, who earn an average $1,750 per week. This compares to $1,530 earned by white men. Chinese, Korean and South Asian (from India, Pakistan etc.) males also take home more than whites. Among women, whites are out-earned by a majority of groups within the visible minority category, including Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, South Asian and Southeast Asian (from Vietnam, Thailand etc.). At $1,450 per week, the average Canadian-born Korean woman earns $330 more per week than the average white woman. For both men and women, the two lowest-earning categories are blacks and Latin Americans.

Source: The weekly earnings of Canadian-born individuals in designated minority and White categories in the mind-2010s by Theresa Qiu and Grant Schellenberg, Statistics Canada, 2022

While clearly contrary to current narratives declaring all of North America to be a bastion of white supremacy, these findings are not unusual for either side of the border. The latest American data on full-time workers similarly shows Asian men to be the highest income earners among full-time workers in the U.S., at US$1,457 per week, exceeding the US$1,108 per year earned by white men. 

Asian women also out-earn American white women, by nearly US$200 per week. Other data from the Pew Research Center on household income point to South Asian-born families as the top earners in the U.S. by a substantial margin.  It bears notice that Qiu and Schellenberg wisely avoid confusing the immigrant experience, which entails numerous challenges of language, culture and credentials, with that of being a visible minority in Canada. They do so by focusing only on Canadian-born visible minorities aged 25 to 45 (that is, young second-generation immigrants) and comparing them with similarly situated whites. 

Source: Facts on U.S. Immigrants, 2018 by Pew Research Center, 2020

The researchers further refined their work by adjusting for university education and other demographic characteristics. Here South Asian men were found to do significantly better than white men. Blacks and Latin Americans again did worse. Among women, several visible minority categories statistically outperformed whites, and no group – not even black women – did worse.

The results illustrate the pre-eminence of a university education in explaining job market success. ‘Nearly three-quarters of Canadian-born Chinese women have a university degree,’ marvels Skuterud. ‘That’s amazing.’Tweet

A Good News Story for Many, but not All

Do such results bolster the loud and widespread narrative that Canada is a systemically racist country? According to one labour market expert, such a declaration is impossible to make despite the large gaps in performance seen across the visible minority subgroups. “There is absolutely no way to infer any conclusion from this data about whether there is racial discrimination in the labour market,” says Mikal Skuterud, an economist at the University of Waterloo, in an interview. “Some groups are clearly outperforming whites, but no one would interpret that as evidence of discrimination against whites, or for Canadians with Chinese, Korean or Japanese ancestry.”

To Skuterud, the fact many Asian groups outperform the rest of Canadian society is a “good news story” since these segments comprise a large and growing share of Canada’s current immigration intake; this bodes well for the integration of future immigrants from these countries in coming years. The results also illustrate the pre-eminence of a university education in explaining job market success, as the strong performance across many Asian groups is closely linked to their high rates of university completion. “Nearly three-quarters of Canadian-born Chinese women have a university degree,” marvels Skuterud. “That’s amazing.”

Skuterud is troubled, however, by the poor results for blacks and Latin Americans, something that also appears in his own research. It is conceivable, he notes, that such persistent gaps are the result of labour market discrimination specifically targeted towards certain groups, rather than across the entire visible minority population. Such a possibility requires further investigation, he says. There are, however, numerous other explanations for this phenomenon, including broader cultural or socioeconomic factors not captured by the recent study. For example, another Statcan report found the rate of lone parenthood, a factor strongly associated with poverty and poor educational outcomes, is nearly three times more common among black mothers than in Canadian society at large. “Black immigrant populations stand out for their prevalence of lone mothers compared to the rest of the Canadian population,” the 2020 report observed. It is hard to imagine this not being a significant factor when it comes to the jobs market.

Taken at the broadest level, Qiu and Schellenberg’s results can be seen as a thorough dismantling of Livingstone’s nearly half-century-old claim that the term “visible minority” describes a single coherent category unified by the lack of whiteness of its members. This “group” now includes both the highest and lowest-earning racial categories in Canada, a fact that stretches diversity to the point of absurdity. The exceptional outcomes for Canadian-born Asian men and women strongly suggest factors other than discrimination – primarily education, family and socioeconomic status – are driving the divergence in earnings across race. And if skin colour is not a useful explanation for performance in the labour market, using it as a basis to set employment targets, as is the case within the federal public service, becomes a perversion of good policy.

“Did it ever make any sense?” 

In a column in the Globe and Mail nearly a decade ago, Carleton University economist Frances Woolley declared that, “There is something almost racist about the assumption that whites are the standard against which anyone else is noticeably, visibly different.” Her opinion hasn’t changed much since then. Asked today if it still makes sense for Canada to enshrine the concept of visible minority in law given the recent Statcan results, she shoots back, “Did it ever make any sense?”

The current system, Woolley observes in an interview, is entirely arbitrary in its binary conception of people as either white or not. “The word white is very imprecise,” she notes. According to Statcan, for example, Greek Canadians are European and part of the dominant white, mainstream society. Yet anyone who traces their roots to Turkey, right next door, is considered West Asian and hence a visible minority. As a result, one neighbour is eligible for special measures and one is not. Plus, “a lot of people who consider themselves white – such as Lebanese Christians – are identified as visible minorities by the Census,” Woolley adds. The U.S. classifies most Arab ethnicities as Caucasian.

The rise of individuals with multiple or competing racial identities due to the rapid growth in interracial marriages further complicates the notion of colour-coding Canada’s population. The share of mixed-race relationships has more than doubled over the past decade and now comprises 7.3 percent of all marriages and common-law relationships in this country. As these couples have children, it will get progressively more difficult to sort Canadians into separate racial baskets of white and non-white. (Aka oppressors and victims.)  

Then there is the issue of how nearly everyone can end up being considered part of a minority group and thus deserving of special treatment. Visible minorities currently comprise 22 percent of Canada’s total population, based on 2016 Census data, a figure that will undoubtedly rise with the release of updated 2021 Census data later this year. In some urban centres such as Surrey, B.C. or Markham, Ontario, visible minorities already constitute a clear majority. Indigenous people make up another 5 percent of Canada and people with disabilities are estimated at 22 percent. Finally, women represent 50 percent of all other groups. “Designated groups [under the Employment Equity Act] are now an overwhelming majority in the labour market,” says Woolley. “Surely we can all agree that’s problematic.”

The only slice of the Canadian population not offered special treatment under this framework is that of able-bodied white men. Yet the notion that white men stand astride the Canadian economy like a Colossus is both outdated and unfair. As Qiu and Schellenberg reveal, white men have one of the lowest rates of university completion across all racial groups, at 24 percent. This is significantly lower than black women at 36 percent, and only slightly higher than black men, at 20 percent. Given the importance of education to future earnings, low rates of university education in any racial group should be a troubling matter for fair-minded policy-makers.

Whites, both male and female, are also much more likely to live outside urban areas, another factor Qiu and Schellenberg found to be associated with lower earnings. And as a group, whites are noticeably older than those within the various visible minority subcategories. All of which suggests whites, and in particular white men, are likely to face strong headwinds in the future. They may, in fact, be more deserving of government attention than many other identity categories. “The real question,” insists Woolley, “is how can we make the system fair for everyone, not just designated groups.”

A Better Way Than Racializing Everything

Faced with the obvious folly of the entire visible minority concept, the progressive activist community appears focused on changes of nomenclature rather than substance. Linguistic constructs such as BIPOC or “racialized individuals” are more commonly used these days than the term visible minority. But such changes raise more questions than they answer. Consider BIPOC, an imported American acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. But aren’t black people also people of colour? And if so, why include them twice? As for “racialized,” the word appears derived from an invented verb: to racialize. But that suggests identity is dependant on the views of others, rather than a permanent, self-conceived state.

Any real commitment to tackling the inconsistencies inherent to the uniquely Canadian concept of visible minority must do more than just fiddle with terminology. In its 2020 Fall Economic Statement, the Trudeau government announced plans to review and modernize the Employment Equity Act. The most attractive solution would be to scrap it altogether and recuse the federal government from any further involvement in private-sector hiring practices. A competitive job market driven by need and focused on merit has no apparent problems hiring well-qualified candidates regardless of race, as the Asian experience ample demonstrates. Yet such a hands-off, market-driven and colour-blind approach seems extremely unlikely.

In the absence of simple economic logic, one immediate remedy would be to stop using whites as the reference group. Given evidence that whites no longer command the highest wages or best jobs, it makes more sense to shift to a simple Canadian average in future Statcan reports. This would resolve Woolley’s complaint about the implicit racism of making whites the standard by which all others are measured. “If you tested everyone relative to the Canadian average rather than whoever is considered ’white,’ I think that would be a good thing,” she says. “It would mean we are no longer taking the white experience as aspirational, or the norm.”

Achieving a colour-blind labour market would require shifting away from our current preoccupation with race to focus on more important factors. Poverty would be a good place to start.Tweet

Then again, any system that continues to examine performance by race, regardless of the comparator, perpetuates the fiction that racial identity is the ne plus ultra of the job market – if not personhood itself. While a fixation on skin colour has lately come to define public policy in many troubling ways, doing so embeds the concept that Canada is a collection of disparate racial groups constantly in conflict with one another. It would be far healthier for society to simply accept that we all share a common identity as members of a pluralistic Canada. Full stop.  

Plenty of evidence suggests Canadians don’t care nearly as much about race as the media or political classes constantly claim they do. Consider the 2019 federal election, which featured those potentially damning images of a young Justin Trudeau in blackface. Most Canadians simply shrugged it off. As author Christopher Dornan observed in his book recapping the election, “The issue of racism – overt and latent, deliberate and unwitting, systemic and extrinsic – simply did not take hold in the election discourse.”

Achieving a colour-blind labour market would require shifting away from a preoccupation with race to focus on more important factors. Poverty would be a good place to start. Says Woolley, “If your family income is a million dollars a year and both your parents have PhDs, then the colour of your skin doesn’t matter. The same goes if you grew up in foster care and have struggled all your life.” Disadvantage and hardship can occur in families of all races and ethnicities. Yet under Canada’s visible minority framework, needy individuals can be ignored while others with a different skin tone get a leg-up they don’t deserve. “We need a fair process and fair procedures,” Woolley asserts.

A fairer system, Woolley says, should “try to get at socioeconomic measures of disadvantage rather than assuming that identity” is the crucial factor. As an example of such a system, she points to the fact many universities around the world that now use socioeconomic status (SES) measures such as family income, rather than race, to determine entrance qualifications for disadvantaged students. Such “class-based” or “race-neutral” standards have a successful track record in Israel.

SES factors are also widely used in the U.S., although they remain a work in progress. The reason many American schools rely on SES is that they’ve been forbidden from accepting students based solely on race due to court rulings on constitutional grounds. In many cases, however, the universities manipulate their allegedly colour-blind SES rankings in order to sort students by colour regardless of what the courts say. This has led to numerous lawsuits objecting to such subterfuge, including one well-publicized case involving Asian students denied entrance to Harvard University because of their race. (They lost in 2019, but the case is now heading to the Supreme Court.) Regrettably, even plans meant to ignore race somehow end up becoming fixated on race.

The final word on ending to racial employment laws should go to the great human rights advocate Martin Luther King, Jr. King strongly opposed race-based quotas and other affirmative action measures because he anticipated their divisive effect on social harmony. In 1964 he wrote, “It is my opinion that many white workers whose economic condition is not too far removed from the economic condition of his black brother, will find it difficult to accept…special consideration to the Negro in the context of unemployment, joblessness etc. and does not take into sufficient account their [own] plight.” He argued against different treatment based on race because he thought help should be provided to all who need it, regardless of their skin colour. In other words, he dreamt of a truly just and fair world. We’re still waiting.

Source: It’s Time to Abolish the Absurd (and Slightly Racist) Concept of “Visible Minorities”

Will the removal of the Canadian citizenship preference in the public service make a difference

My latest:

In recent employment equity reports, the federal government has provided disaggregated representation for visible minorities, Indigenous people and persons with disabilities to help assess how well the public service represents the public it serves. Previously, disaggregated data for visible minority and Indigenous groups in public administration was available only through census data every five years.

The 2020 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, which was later confirmed in changes to the Public Service Employment Act.

The changes include longer-term and more-complex policies to address “bias and barriers” that impact all equity-seeking groups, as well as one change that will have an early impact for visible minorities  ̶  removing the preference for Canadian citizens: “Permanent residents now have the same preference as Canadian Citizens when appointments are made through external advertised hiring processes.”

There was no debate on this change when the legislation was considered by the House of Commons finance committee  ̶  despite its impact  ̶  because it was included in an omnibus budget bill.

A recent Public Service Commission study on the “citizenship of applicants and external appointments” highlighted the impact of this policy: while visible minority citizens were 17.2 per cent of all applicants and 19.5 per cent of all hires, visible minorities who are only permanent residents formed 5.1 per cent of all applicants and only 1.2 per cent of all hires in 2018-19.

The former preference for citizens was subject to criticism by some visible minority groups because it effectively reduced the opportunities for non-citizen visible minorities. Its removal should ensure more equitable opportunities for all visible minorities at all stages of selection, although other barriers  ̶  such as education, official language knowledge and possible bias  ̶  may remain. Whether this change represents a theoretical or practical change will be known only after a few years when we can compare pre- and post-change hiring numbers.

Table 1 (below) looks at overall visible minority representation, contrasting the total visible minority population, the older citizenship-based benchmark, the 2019-20 employment equity report numbers, and the degree to which there is over-representation or under-representation, compared to the new and old benchmarks.

By way of comparison, the government estimates that the visible minority workforce availability (WFA)  ̶  the share of the Canadian workforce eligible for public service work  ̶  based on the 2016 census is 15.3 per cent based upon the citizenship preference. The removal of the citizenship preference and the inclusion of permanent residents will result in WFA being revised upward closer to the overall visible minority population number following its recalculation in the 2021 census.

https://e.infogram.com/ff0c9445-a9ba-49e9-951c-000bdeab6da3?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fseptembe-2021%2Fwill-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference%2F&src=embed#async_embed

The representation of most groups is relatively close to their share of the citizenship population and greater than WFA for all employees, with larger gaps for executives. The population benchmark shows larger gaps, particularly with respect to executives. Non-identified and mixed-origin visible minorities are relatively over-represented for all employees and executives.

Table 2 takes the same approach with respect to Indigenous representation with the exception that total and citizenship-based populations are identical. It shows relative over-representation of Métis, and under-representation of First Nations and Inuit for all employees, with all groups under-represented at the executive level. The government Indigenous workforce availability estimate, based on the 2016 census, is 4 per cent.

https://e.infogram.com/a1f9d790-ab71-4b2a-b404-c55784a9bda9?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fseptembe-2021%2Fwill-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference%2F&src=embed#async_embed

Table 3 compares the representation of each visible minority by occupational group, expressed as the percentage difference with employees who are not a visible minority and not Indigenous for 2020. Visible minorities are slightly under-represented among executives, more so among technical, with the greatest gap in operational groups. Visible minorities are over-represented in scientific and professional with some exceptions, and in administration and foreign service, although there is a mixed pattern with respect to admin support.

https://e.infogram.com/5167cfb7-82b0-4e3b-aa8c-b91d88155f8b?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fseptembe-2021%2Fwill-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference%2F&src=embed#async_embed

Table 4 highlights the change in representation from 2017 to 2020, comparing the percentage change in representation for each visible minority group with the percentage of all public servants who are neither a visible minority nor Indigenous for each occupational category. Overall, visible minority representation has increased by 35.9 per cent compared with only 11.8 per cent for those who are neither a visible minority nor Indigenous. This applies to virtually all groups and categories, with Japanese being the exception and Chinese having a relatively lower increase.

https://e.infogram.com/95552279-d527-467c-b7ab-1f19c6c393d8?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fseptembe-2021%2Fwill-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference%2F&src=embed#async_embed

Table 5 similarly compares the representation of each Indigenous group by occupational categories expressed as the percentage difference with employees who are neither a visible minority nor Indigenous for 2020 (for the executive and technical occupational groups, there are fewer than five Inuit and Other public servants and thus no reporting). All Indigenous groups are under-represented among executives, with the largest gap in scientific and professional categories, but are relatively over-represented in the admin and foreign service, and admin support areas.

https://e.infogram.com/d73da749-3aa9-46e6-894e-fe1b5c9da026?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fseptembe-2021%2Fwill-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference%2F&src=embed#async_embed

Table 6 highlights the change in representation from 2017 to 2020. Overall, the growth in Indigenous representation has been comparable to the growth of not-a-visible minority, not-Indigenous public servants, 11.9 per cent compared to 11.8 per cent. However, Inuit representation has increased significantly, as has that of Métis executives, with First Nations declining relative to not-a-visible minority, not-Indigenous employees.

https://e.infogram.com/61dccf4a-8190-47db-955e-3a91591073f1?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fseptembe-2021%2Fwill-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference%2F&src=embed#async_embed

While this analysis highlights the differences in visible minority and Indigenous representation among the different occupational categories, it does not break it down by level or salary. Census data for the federal public service shows, however, that Black, Filipino and Latin American workers had the lowest median incomes compared to not-a-visible minority. Among Indigenous Peoples, First Nations have the lowest median incomes compared to non-Indigenous.

Given political and public service focus on Black representation, Blacks are the visible minority group with the strongest representation compared to their share of the population with respect to all public servants, and Blacks have stronger representation than South Asian, Chinese and Filipinos in the EX category. Moreover, the percentage increase over the past four years has been comparable or stronger than that of most other visible minority groups. Representation of visible minority groups has increased at three times the rate of not-a-visible minority, not-Indigenous public servants. In contrast, Indigenous representation has matched only the rate of increase, suggesting more effort is needed.

The public service is clearly making significant progress with respect to visible minority representation. The removal of the citizenship preference will likely accelerate this trend toward increased representation.

Given the expected upward revision of the WFA, the gap between actual representation and WFA will increase despite the public service already hiring and promoting more visible minorities. The degree to which the removal of the citizenship preference results in greater increases in representation will be known only after a few years and further public service analysis of citizenship status of visible minority hires and promotions.

Ironically, advocates for this change and greater representation will likely focus more on the larger gap due to the benchmark change, rather than the progress in representation.

Methodology

Data was provided by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) for visible minorities, Indigenous Peoples and persons with disabilities, based upon self-identification for the fiscal years 2016-17 to 2019-20 by occupational group. 2020 data was compared to 2017 data to indicate changes over this period, with visible minority and Indigenous Peoples being compared against the not-visible minority and not-Indigenous for the different occupation categories on a percentage basis. The formula used: (2020 number of public servants minus 2017 number of public servants) divided by 2017 number of public servants. 

For example, in 2020, there were 99 Black executives compared with 73 in 2017 or an increase of 26. That is a (26 ÷ 73 =) 35.6 per cent increase. The overall increase in the number of executives who were neither a visible minority nor Indigenous was 5,244 – 4,592 or 652; 652 ÷ 4,592 = 14.2 per cent. Subtracting the percentage increase of all executives from the percentage increase of Black executives: 35.6 per cent – 14.2 per cent = 21.4 percentage points.

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. By contrast, Statistics Canada uses a “multiple visible minorities” category to include persons with more than one visible minority response.

While the employment equity reports also provide disaggregated data regarding persons with disabilities, the totals do not match with the disability total (10,622 persons) in the annual reports because one person can have multiple disabilities, making it difficult to perform a similar analysis by particular disability.

Source: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/septembe-2021/will-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference/

Does Canada’s census undercount visible minorities?

A relatively minor issue IMO compared to other priorities given only affects less than 3 percent of Census respondents (but likely to increase over time given mixed unions).

The separate issue of Blacks being counted only as part of visible minorities applies only to the federally regulated sectors (banking, communications, transport) and TBS now provides disaggregated data for visible minorities, Indigenous peoples and Persons with disabilities for the last four years (summaries in the annual employment equity groups, detailed tables on open data – https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/services/innovation/human-resources-statistics/diversity-inclusion-statistics.html).

And of course, the census data has these breakdowns that allow a wide range of analysis of socioeconomic status and other issues:

Statistics Canada is working to improve how it collects and analyzes data about people who belong to more than one visible minority group, as critics fear the federal agency’s current methodology has led to an “undercount” of racialized populations.

Ever since questions about visible minorities were added to the census in 1996, people belonging to those population groups have been classified in several ways.

At issue are those who check off more than one group out of the listed options: Chinese, South Asian, Black, Arab, West Asian, Filipino, Southeast Asian, Latin American, Japanese and Korean. Those individuals are lumped together in one group — which Statistics Canada calls “multiple visible minorities” — and are not broken down by the pairs or combinations of groups to which they belong.

Someone who checks off Black and Arab, for example, is included in that catch-all category, instead of being counted as part of Canada’s Black or Arab population. In contrast, people who identify as part of a visible minority group and the white population are counted, in most cases, as a member of whichever minority group they endorsed.

In the 2016 census, 232,275 people — or 2.7 per cent of the total visible minority population — were identified as multiple visible minorities.

That’s led some people, like Toronto lawyer Courtney Betty, to question whether the true number of people belonging to specific communities is being counted inaccurately.

“The whole idea of the census is to know how many individuals are within the population of our society, and potentially get a breakdown, so that we can do proper planning as to how we’re going to look at growth and also allocate economic resources,” Betty told the Star. “If you don’t have a proper count, that can’t happen.”

Betty is one of people leading the legal team representing hundreds of current and former Black public servants involved in a proposed class-action lawsuit, which alleges decades of discrimination and harassment within federal departments and agencies.

The multiple visible minorities category is being considered in the context of the lawsuit as part of an argument that the federal government won’t be able to claim that specific racialized communities, like the Black population, are adequately represented in the federal public service if it doesn’t have precise counts of those populations in the first place.

“I think there’s something that has to be adjusted, whether it be on the intake side … or on the analysis side,” Betty said. “Even if it’s a matter of …‘We recognize that there may be 50,000 Blacks that may not have been counted, and therefore, as we’re planning our policy decisions, we’re going to take that number into account.’”

Statistics Canada says it’s an issue the agency is actively studying.

“I know there’s an appetite to have more information,” said Hélène Maheux, a senior analyst with the agency’s diversity and socio-cultural statistics department. “Right now, we are looking at different alternatives, providing more disaggregated information for the multiple visible minority (category) for the 2021 census.”

Part of the problem is that counting a single individual as part of several populations muddies the data. There are also some who would prefer to be identified as a combination of groups instead of being counted as part of separate populations, the Star has previously reported.

But another reason, Maheux says, is that Statistics Canada’s database doesn’t actually allow for more detailed analysis of census data.

“It is not possible to distinguish all the various combinations of the visible minority groups included inside the multiple visible minorities. I had this challenge when I was doing this analysis. I wanted to include them, but it wasn’t possible because the database was not processed in a way that allowed me to make that distinction.”

When the Star asked Statistics Canada to provide, as one example, data on the number of Black people who were included in the multiple visible minority count, the department said the information was not “readily” available. The only way to obtain the data would be through the creation of a “custom tabulation,” which would need to go through a writing, testing and verification process.

Maheux said in the past, analysts have not typically received requests to dig into the category.

“But with the current context, we are receiving more requests. We are looking at avenues to improve our database,” she said.

It’s not just Statistics Canada that knows changes must be made.

On Tuesday, Ottawa launched a 13-member task force set to modernize the Employment Equity Act, which was first introduced in 1986, to improve “the state of equity, diversity and inclusion in federally regulated workplaces.”

Among the issues the task force will examine is whether visible minority groups should be updated, expanded or redefined.

Any changes would directly impact the way Canada’s census poses questions about race; the purpose of asking people to identify with certain population groups is tied to the act, which necessitates collecting information about visible minorities.

Liberal MP Greg Fergus said the work the task force is undertaking is critical to changing how Canada thinks about race. He hopes it will lead to a better snapshot of what’s really happening on the ground.

“For the Black community, it’s very clear that when Blacks are lumped into a visible minority, we actually end up becoming invisible,” Fergus told reporters following the announcement.

Adelle Blackett, a McGill University law professor who chairs the task force, said there have long been warning signs that the way racialized groups are categorized could lead to valuable data being lost.

She cited the 1984 Equality in Employment commission led by Judge Rosalie Abella, who wrote in her final report that combining “all non-whites together as visible minorities … may deflect attention from where the problems are greatest.”

The task force plans to conclude its review and present its recommendations to the federal labour minister in early 2022.

Source: Does Canada’s census undercount visible minorities?

Ethnic makeup of Buckingham Palace workforce not ‘what we would like,’ says senior source

Smaller gap than I would have guessed but perhaps London would be a better benchmark than the UK as a whole (40 percent ethnic minorities):

Buckingham Palace has for the first time released figures on the ethnic makeup of its staff, following the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s allegations of racism in the Royal Family.

The Royal Household said Thursday that 8.5 per cent of its staff come from ethnic minorities, compared with a target of 10 per cent by next year. The latest census data shows that ethnic minorities account for about 13 per cent of the U.K. population. The staffing figures were released as part of an annual report on royal finances.

A senior palace source said publishing the figures was an effort to ensure greater accountability because there would be “no place to hide” if diversity goals aren’t met. The source acknowledged that much more needed to be done.

Source: Ethnic makeup of Buckingham Palace workforce not ‘what we would like,’ says senior source

Rosie Abella said she’d answer questions when she turned 75

Good long interview by Paul Wells.

Money quote regarding her 1984 employment equity report:

What Abella knew was that she didn’t much like examples from American jurisprudence. “It was based on the individual. No concept of membership in groups as defining identity, as defining equality.” The more she thought about it, the more Abella decided that one concept of equality—simply treating everyone the same—constituted a dead-end path. “I thought, equality, to me, is not sameness. Civil liberties are sameness. Everyone should have the same right in their relationship with the state to be treated as well as the leaders. There is no such thing as ‘more rights,’ vis-à-vis the state, for one individual over another.

“But that’s different from human rights, where you are treated a certain way because of the groups you belong to. So if you are a woman, if you are a Muslim, if you are Jewish, if you are disabled, people treat you based on your identity. And so I thought, you can’t say, ‘Treat everyone the same.’ If you treat everyone the same, the person in a wheelchair is treated like the person who’s able-bodied, and there’s no need for a ramp, if you’re going to treat everybody the same.

“So it occurred to me that what equality really was, was acknowledging and accommodating differences. So people could be treated as an equal and not excluded arbitrarily for things that had nothing to do with whether or not they could contribute to the mainstream.”

This philosophy is encapsulated in a quote from the French poet Anatole France that opens Abella’s commission report, which she has cited frequently in her work since: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread.” She would define a different law, less majestic and more alert to nuance. She coined a new term, “employment equity,” to describe “programs of positive remedy for discrimination in the Canadian workplace.”

The first surprise was when Flora MacDonald, Brian Mulroney’s employment minister, called Abella and said the Progressive Conservative government would implement the report’s recommendations. Another surprise came when countries around the world began to adapt elements of the report to their local circumstances.

Source: Rosie Abella said she’d answer questions when she turned 75

When they came to power in 2015, the Trudeau Liberals promised to ‘build a government that looks like Canada.’ Now those words have slowly been transformed into actions

Nice profile of a former IRCC colleague and her leadership in anti-Black racism both within IRCC and more broadly.

The percentage of visible minority executives is incorrectly stated at 4.6%, not the 11.1% in the latest employment equity report (for the numbers, see https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/october-2020/what-new-disaggregated-data-tells-us-about-federal-public-service-diversity/):

As she watched the George Floyd story and anti-Black-racism movement unfolding worldwide last summer, Farah Boisclair emailed her colleagues at Canada’s immigration department and called a town-hall meeting to talk about racism.

“I was going through a lot of emotions showing up to work. There’s a global movement and it was plastered all over the media, but no one was talking about it at work,” says Boisclair, director of the anti-racism task force at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“Part of me saddened, part of me frustrated. Why isn’t anybody saying anything? That’s when I woke up and said, ‘You are a leader. You have the power. You have people who work with you, who look like you and who may be feeling a certain way, like you.”

With the blessing of her boss, she made her first presentation to more than 300 of her colleagues on topics such as experiences of microaggression, white privilege and racism.

Boisclair, whose mother is Haitian and father Guyanese, is now a member of the Federal Speakers’ Forum on Diversity and Inclusion, a platform where public servants share their lived experience with colleagues and management.

Trying to have a conversation about race and racism is tough, let alone at work in a professional setting. However, it’s one of the many initiatives the federal government is banking on in its attempts to make strides in creating and promoting a diverse and inclusive public service.

Earlier this year, with little fanfare, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat unveiled the government’s priorities to increase diversity in hiring and appointments within the public service — a commitment that was reaffirmed in the federal budget in April.

Collecting and breaking down its employee data by disability, ethnic backgrounds and executive roles, and ensuring the statistics are made public;

Launching the Centre for Diversity and Inclusion to lead and keep track of departments and agencies in their efforts to address systemic racism and boost diversity representation through collaboration with diverse community groups;

Revamping the government’s existing mentorship program and starting a sponsorship program to groom civil servants from under-represented groups into leadership and executive roles in their organizations; and

Setting up a speakers’ bureau, to help raise awareness about diversity and inclusion within the public service through a roster of speakers who share their experience across departments and ministries.

“There is good momentum across the government and a desire to make significant progress on diversity and inclusion,” said Paule-Anny Pierre, executive director of the new Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.

“Our actions will help ensure that decisions, initiatives and programs across the public service foster and promote a workplace that is respectful, diverse and inclusive, that represents the population it serves and that enables each employee to feel valued and contribute at their full potential.”

There’s a lot of work to be done to boost diversity in the public service, especially among those in the leadership roles. The latest government data shows visible minorities made up only 4.6 per cent of all executives and Blacks accounted for 1.6 per cent in those roles. [Note: Correct figure is 11.1 percent]

The 2020 Public Service Employee Survey, its results released in May, also added new questions to measure employees’ perceptions of anti-racism in the workplace.

Almost 80 per cent of the 188,786 respondents said they would feel free to speak about racism in the workplace without fear of reprisal and felt comfortable sharing concerns about issues related to racism in the workplace with a person of authority.

Born and raised in Ottawa, Boisclair said no one around her worked for government. However, a co-op opportunity with the federal government while studying finance at the University of Ottawa opened the door for her.

In her 13 years with the government, she has worked in various departments, including Industry Canada (now Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada), Natural Resources Canada and Infrastructure Canada.

On many occasions, she said, she would find herself one of the few or the only person who was a visible minority in her teams.

“I felt hyperaware of myself in these environments. I was constantly like, ‘Be careful what you say, be careful what you do, be careful how you interact.’ With that, I think, I held myself back a lot (in terms of) speaking up on my ideas and my thoughts,” said Boisclair.

“It’s very much like: ‘I’m here to do a job. They’re going to tell me what to do and I’m going to do it.’ … I knew I was different from the others. You don’t want to stick out too much. You try to go along to get along.”

As a Black woman, Boisclair said, she has experienced microaggression at work many times and felt invisible in board rooms.

“I will be joined by a white colleague, a woman around the same age, same group in level, both managers from the same team. I remember the treatment of my colleague when I was working with her for three years, it was very different,” she recalled.

“When we’d go to meetings together, I felt like it’s her race and even the standard of beauty in the North American context, she got very different treatment, more eye contact, more interaction with her. It’s hard and you don’t want it to get into your head.”

The experience, she said, made her feel less important and less valued.

Although the faces in the rank and file of the federal public service are changing, she said all her managers, until now, were predominantly white.

Periodically, Boisclair would have a mentor in her department but only recently was she assigned a Black woman as her official sponsor at work.

“It’s really important to have mentors from different groups and genders, because they each offer different perspectives and each can relate to you on different levels,” she said.

“I have had mentors who professionally give you really good advice but when it came to some of those deeper conversations about race and my identity in the workplace, that’s a bit tough with the white mentors,” she noted.

Dahabo Ahmed Omer, a policy development and employment equity expert, says mentorship/sponsorship and speakers’ bureau initiatives are important tools in building understanding and trust in order to create awareness and cultural change within the organization.

A former human resources specialist with the federal government herself, Ahmed Omer said government mandates, strategies and practices are set by senior leaders who play a key role in the building of an inclusive public service.

“There’s the history of slavery, anti-Indigenous racism. You build trust by listening actively and by implementing solutions that directly come from the community,” said Ahmed Omer, now the executive director of BlackNorth Initiative, an effort led by the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism.

“The voices of the most marginalized have to be at the forefront.”

Organizations must pick the right mentors, give access to as many mentees as possible and make sure the under-represented groups have opportunities to apply what they’ve learned so they can seize those opportunities when they arise at work, she noted.

From reviewing staffing plans to budget priorities and resource allocations through a diversity lens, Ahmed Omer said the effort must be “deliberate” and she is liking the federal plan she has seen so far.

Boisclair said she is grateful to have a sponsor at work, who gives her pointers in her career development, sends her articles to inspire and equip her, expand her network and champion her in the immigration department, which had 8,500 employees in 2020.

Last year, after seeing her anti-racism presentation with her staff, her sponsor invited her to speak to a couple of dozen deputy ministers from different departments in October. Since then, she has done about 25 townhalls within the federal public sector to share her experience and stories.

These conversations are difficult, said Boisclair, because they are “too raw” for a lot of people.

“You are talking about deep, deep, deep emotions, trauma and, in a lot of cases, some people just don’t know how to deal with emotions in the workplace. When some of the people are sharing some of the more intimate experiences, it’s hard,” she said.

“A lot of people don’t want to deal with the feelings of guilt. People don’t like to get uncomfortable,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense for them. Why would I put myself in an uncomfortable position?”

The experience from these candid conversations has also been refreshing and empowering.

“At the time, I was feeling like, I’m just tired of putting on a filter. I need to show my lived experience as a woman, as a Black person, as a Canadian, the full essence of who I am. That doesn’t often happen at the workplace for racialized people,” said Boisclair.

“I have had these dialogues for many, many years in close circles at home. You would never, never have these conversations at work. For me, it’s time to open people’s minds up to the reality of systemic racism and the harmful impacts of it.”

While these conversations, along with the mentorship/sponsorship program, can drive awareness of racial understanding and organizational cultural change, Ryerson University professor Wendy Cukier says disaggregated data can provide the barometer to identify gaps and measure results.

“We need good data to tracking things like what works and what doesn’t work. We need to apply the same gender and diversity lens to how government spends money and who it’s serving. There’s the inward piece but also the outward reaching piece,” said Cukier, founder and academic director at Ryerson’s Diversity Institute.

“It’s not that anybody deliberately puts up bars or gates, but you need the data to see if certain segments of the population are applying for jobs in my department and what I can do to increase engagement.”

The latest statistics on employment equity populations published by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat provide a glimpse at the diversity representation of the federal public service:

Overall, visible minorities made up 656 or 4.6 per cent of all executives;

Black people made up 96 or 1.6 per cent of all executives;

Indigenous peoples made up 239 or 4.1 per cent of all executives;

There were 1,387 persons with disabilities working in administrative support, which was 7 per cent of all these employees; and

People who are blind or visually impaired made up 767 or 0.4 per cent of all employees.

“Leaders have to represent the people they are leading, otherwise they are not going to be very effective. When organizations have leaders who look like the people they are leading, they have higher levels of engagement,” said Cukier.

“People tend to associate with people who look like them. If you’re from a racialized population, you are less likely to have a social network that will help you understand the unspoken rules that will mentor you and promote you at work.”

Cukier said the dominant group in the workforce should not feel threatened fearing that the progress for their under-represented peers will be made at their expense, given the civil service is full of boomers, many of them will be retiring in the near future.

“There is a huge challenge in digital and technological transformation in the public sector, which has one of the most acute skill shortages. This is not a question of new people pushing the established group out, this is a question of meeting concrete need for skills and new thinking,” she said.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to rely on the same kind of people if your goal is to drive transformation. We know there’s a strong link between diversity and innovation.”

Quebec MP Greg Fergus, parliamentary secretary to Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos, agreed.

“You don’t make this a ‘I win, you lose’ kind of equation. It’s not an ‘either or.’ It’s a ‘both and.’ We all benefit by growing the pie. We’re better together,” said Fergus. “This is not about cutting anybody’s career short. This is about building a more resilient public service.”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2021/05/23/when-they-came-to-power-in-2015-the-trudeau-liberals-promised-to-build-a-government-that-looks-like-canada-now-those-words-have-slowly-been-transformed-into-actions.html

Sunshine lists have helped narrow the gender pay gap, but Ottawa won’t commit to one

While I understand the attractiveness of sunshine lists, I find this places too much emphasis on the individuals rather than systemic trends and gaps.

There is a wealth of government employment equity data for the four groups – women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples and PwD – that can be disaggregated by occupational level. For example, an earlier analysis I did with TBS data:

While situations are different in universities, crown corporations and the like, where individual salary differences can be greater, in the federal public service it is the group and level that determine salaries, not individual negotiations. It would however, be useful for someone to request anonymized EX performance pay data to see if any significant gender and other differences:

The federal government does not release an annual “sunshine list” – a document outlining the name, compensation and often job title of its high-earning employees – unlike almost every province. And the Trudeau government has no plans to change this practice.

The Globe and Mail asked Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos if the Liberals, who ran on a platform of government transparency and gender equity in 2015, would consider passing legislation on public-sector salary disclosure. Spokesman Martin Potvin replied that the board is “not currently working on any changes to how it reports” employee compensation.

This is despite years of feedback from equity advocates and researchers, who say sunshine laws have helped narrow the gender wage gap, as well as pressure from stakeholder groups concerned about a lack of transparency.

Beyond the issue of taxpayer accountability, sunshine laws around the country have revealed inequities in hiring practices, promotion and compensation.

For example, Anita Kozyrskyj, a professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Alberta, was part of a group of female professors who used the university’s disclosure list to expose pay inequities within the faculty of medicine and dentistry. The academics found a $5,000 gender wage gap after accounting for factors such as rank and years of experience.

“[It] would not have been possible had we not had the sunshine list,” said Prof. Kozyrskyj, who learned she personally was making about $20,000 less than her equivalent male peers. (A similar report by academics at the University of Alberta used the sunshine list to reveal pay and representation gaps between men and women professors, as well as white and racialized faculty.)

Other research, such as a study from economists at the University of Toronto that examined the impact of sunshine laws on gender pay imbalances in academia, suggests disclosure leads to reduced inequities.

“The gender pay gap, in general, has been shrinking over time, and these laws have accounted for about 30 to 40 per cent of the closure since these laws were passed,” said one of the authors, Yosh Halberstam.

Universities that were unionized showed the clearest improvement, he added, suggesting progress requires both a mechanism to expose inequities, as well as a framework for staff to advocate for themselves.

Since January, The Globe has been publishing a series called the Power Gap, which looks at gender imbalances in the modern work force. By collecting sunshine lists from hundreds of employers across the country, the project produced an unprecedented look at where women stand within vital public institutions.

The data revealed how women’s careers are stalling out in mid-level management and how, on average, women made less than comparable male colleagues. But The Globe could not analyze federal employees, includingthose who work for the RCMP, public health, the Canada Revenue Agency or for federal Crown corporations – such as the Bank of Canada or Via Rail Canada – because the information is not available.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has been calling for Ottawa to introduce sunshine legislation for many years. “I think it’s a very simple transparency argument. There’s no reason that – if [almost] all the provinces are doing it, the federal government shouldn’t follow suit,” said Aaron Wudrick, the federal director of the organization.

The federation’s interest in the issue is centred around taxpayer accountability, which was then-premier Mike Harris’s motivation when his Progressive Conservative government passed Ontario’s sunshine law in 1996.

Other provinces followed suit over the past quarter century. Sunshine laws require government-owned or funded entities – such as schools and universities, Crown corporations, hospitals, the core public service and usually municipalities – to release data for all employees who earn more than a certain threshold, usually six figures. Today, every Canadian jurisdiction except Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, the territories and the federal government requires some form of disclosure for top earners. (In Quebec, only senior managers are subject to compensation disclosure.)

These lists are not without controversy. Politically, they have been used to shame well-compensated civil servants. But in daily practice, they are a vital tool of information for women and other equity-seeking groups.

Lorna Turnbull, a feminist legal scholar and law professor at the University of Manitoba, has spent decades studying and writing about the legislative attempts from government to narrow the economic inequality between men and women. A common thread in her research has been that laws alone are not enough to protect against discrimination. For example, it’s been illegal for decades to pay equally qualified men and women different salaries for the same job because of their gender, but it still happens.

In 2011, she encountered her own real-life example. Prof. Turnbull competed for – and won – the position of dean in the faculty of law. She was to be the first woman to hold that position in the school’s nearly 100-year history. But when discussions turned to salary, Prof. Turnbull realized she was being offered less than her male predecessors.

“I was able to discover this because Manitoba has a sunshine list,” she said. Prof. Turnbull used intel from the disclosure list to negotiate a higher salary. She served as the university’s dean of law until 2016.

Prof. Turnbull said modern-day discrimination is very rarely the kind of overt, easy-to-spot bias that was typical decades ago when governments began passing anti-discrimination laws. Without access to the hard numbers, women and other marginalized groups might never know they’re not being properly paid.

Sarah Kaplan, director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, said sunshine lists are not without drawbacks, but on the whole they are useful.

“The downside is that if you are on the sunshine list and you can see that others of your peers are paid more than you, it can be very demotivating. Often, there is little possibility to negotiate pay adjustments once you are in the job,” she said. “But over all, the transparency can increase pressure for long-term change, such as promoting more women to the higher-paying roles and paying women more fairly when they are hired.”

The most recent province to pass sunshine legislation is Newfoundland and Labrador, after efforts from former St. John’s Telegram reporter James McLeod.

In 2015, the Progressive Conservative government promised to introduce salary-disclosure legislation, but after it lost power, the Liberals were indecisive about doing the same, Mr. McLeod says.

“I thought, if the government won’t do a sunshine list, I’ll do it myself.”

Mr. McLeod filed freedom of information requests with large public agencies and the issue ultimately ended up in court. With public pressure building, the government passed sunshine legislation on its own in 2016. (Also, Mr. McLeod’s case won on appeal.)

Gordon Scott Campbell, an information and privacy lawyer at Aubry Campbell MacLean, said one advantage that Mr. McLeod’s case had is Newfoundland’s freedom of information legislation actually states the public is entitled to know a civil servant’s salary. The federal act, on the other hand, states the public is only entitled to a salary range. As a result, it would almost certainly require a legislative change to release specific salary amounts.

Mr. Campbell said there is always tension between access and privacy.

“Privacy legislation seeks to strongly protect Canadian privacy … access-to-information legislation seeks to broadly free government information,” he said. “I think most Canadians would support [both]. So it’s a balance.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-sunshine-lists-have-helped-narrow-the-gender-pay-gap-but-ottawa-wont/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Morning%20Update&utm_content=2021-5-17_5&utm_term=Morning%20Update:%20Israel%20vows%20to%20continue%20attacks%20as%20ceasefire%20negotiations%20falter&utm_campaign=newsletter&cu_id=%2BTx9qGuxCF9REU6kNldjGJtpVUGIVB3Y

Canada must formally apologize for its historic role in the enslavement of Africans in this country and acknowledge the contributions of Black Canadians

From one of the more prominent plaintiffs in the proposed class action lawsuit against the Canadian government for past and current discrimination.

Question the need for a separate category under the Employment Equity Act for Black Canadians, given that the disaggregated data already includes Black Canadians, and government employment equity reports are now including that data.

And, as I have written elsewhere, disaggregated government employment and public service survey data highlights the similarities and differences between the different visible minority groups (https://multiculturalmeanderings.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=48735&action=edit), with some groups being comparable to Black Canadians, others doing better.

Hopefully, the federally regulated sectors will start to collect comparable disaggregated data, as agree this would be helpful. But it should be collected for all visible minority groups, not just Black Canadians:

American civil rights activist James Baldwin once asked, “how much time do you want for your ‘progress.’ ” Canadian Black politicians, leaders, professors, civil rights activists, and associations have for years called upon Canada to formally apologize for its role in the enslavement of Africans in this country. This long-awaited apology would bring about acknowledgment, recognition, and much-needed healing of the effects of slavery still reflected in the treatment and the experiences of Black Canadians. Canada’s long overdue apology for the treatment of the No. 2 Construction Battalion and recognition of Emancipation Day are not enough.

For too long, Black Canadians have been fighting anti-Black racism symptoms by calling for changes in the criminal justice system, employment, housing, and education sectors. We have also been calling for changes in the same organizations that are meant to bring about equality, specifically amendments to the Employment Equity Act (EEA) to establish a category for Black Canadians, as well as to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), which is more often than not dismissive of anti-Black racism. As of March 2021, more than 600 former and current Black public service employees are suing the federal government over the unjust practice of Black employee exclusion due to systemic discrimination dating back from the 1970s. More than 12,000 Canadians have signed a petition calling on Justin Trudeau and the Government of Canada to end systemic discrimination and Black employee exclusion within the federal public service.

Black Canadians lack capital power and political representation; thus, our calls for change are dismissed and our demands shoved for another day, promises of change are never realized. The Canadian government itself practices discrimination against Black Canadians and is thus unwilling to force change. In addition to the above mentioned lawsuit by Black government of Canada employees, Canada has officially apologized to several indigenous peoples, apologized over the Chinese head tax, and for sending Japanese-Canadians to internment camps during the Second World War. The government has also rightly apologized for its discrimination, criminalization, and the injustices endured by the Canadian LGBTQ community members. Yet, Black Canadians are still awaiting such turning points and are disheartened to repeatedly ask a prime minister who himself repeatedly wore a Black face and contributed to our dehumanization. So, long as the Canadian government discriminates, it cannot in good faith and with the same breath implement equal rights and progress.

In a 2019 survey, the Canada Race Relations Foundation found that Black Canadians and Indigenous peoples are the most likely groups to report racial discrimination experiences, and they are also the groups widely understood by others to experience such treatment.

The government is aware of the pervasive nature of anti-Black racism in Canada. In 2017, the federal government invited the United Nations Human Rights Council working group of experts on people of African descent to examine the legal, institutional and policy framework and measures taken to prevent racial discrimination and related intolerance faced by Black Canadians. While acknowledging Canada’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, the UN expressed deep concern about Black Canadians’ human rights situation.

It noted that Black Canadians faced disproportionately high unemployment rates and forced to take low-paying jobs with little security and poor prospects when working. The UN cited the multiple and intersectional forms of racism at play against Black Canadian women who make 37 per cent less than white men, and 15 per cent are less than white women, with over one in four living below the Canadian poverty line. The UN working group recommendations included that Canada recognizes Black Canadians as a distinct group who continue to make profound economic, political, cultural and spiritual contributions to Canada. Additionally, it proposed a mandatory nationwide policy on collecting data disaggregated by race and other identities to determine if and when racial disparities exist for Black Canadians. Furthermore, it remarked that the category of “visible minority” obscures the degrees of disparities in Black Canadians’ treatment and specific human rights concerns.

In January 2018, Canada officially recognized the UN International Decade for People of African Descent, stipulating that the international community acknowledges that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected. It also calls for adoption or strengthening of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and ensuring its effective implementation.

Amid COVID-19, Statistics Canada indicated that the pandemic had hard-hit Canada’s Black population (approximately one million people aged 15 to 69). Data revealed that in the three months ending in January 2021, the unemployment rate among Black Canadians (13.1 per cent) was about 70 per cent higher than that among non-visible minority Canadians (7.7 per cent). Additionally, almost one-third of employed Black women (31.7 per cent) worked in health care and social assistance in January 2021, bearing the brunt of response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Groundbreaking research by the Edmonton-based African Canadian Civic Engagement Council and Innovative Research Group unveiled how COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting the health and finances of Black Canadians. It showed that Black communities are experiencing layoffs, reduced work hours, and reduced household incomes at higher rates. Fifty-six percent of Black respondents said their job, or the job of someone they knew, had been affected, compared with the national average of 46 per cent.

The government’s ongoing initiatives and resources to address systemic racism and anti-Black racism in Canadian institutions and the privately regulated sectors are welcomed. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Bardish Chagger, minister of diversity and inclusion and youth, acknowledge that racism is one of the root causes of social and economic gaps for Indigenous peoples. The more recent 2021 Privy Council call to action to deputy ministers, heads of separate agencies, and heads of federal agencies to reflect deeply on the unjust treatment of Black people and other racialized groups and Indigenous peoples is helpful. It is encouraging that the Privy Council statements distinctly recognized and named Black Canadians in its call to eradicate systemic racism and appropriately used the words racialized communities rather than visible minorities and Indigenous Canadians, rather than aboriginal peoples. This is in stark contrast to the outdated federal legalization meant to eradicate systemic racism and take positive measures towards employment equity in the federal government and federally regulated private sectors, namely the EEA. The Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC), established in 2018 to support efforts to address issues faced by Black federal public servants, is also a positive development in the governments’ efforts towards engaging Black employees and learning about their first-hand experiences with systemic racism as it relates to barriers to career to advancements.

The Employment Equity Act requires that federal jurisdiction employers take proactive measures to measure progress on the programs it puts in place. The Public Service Commission (PSC) collects and analyzes hiring, promotion, selection process, survey response and other data for these designated groups. In its January of 2021 audit report on employment equity representation in recruitment, the Commission found that the representation rate of visible minority groups declined at the organizational screening and assessment stages. Of the visible minority sub-groups examined in the audit, Black candidates experienced a more significant drop in representation than other visible minority groups, both at the organizational screening stage and at the assessment stage. Additionally, according to the Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC), Black people encounter more significant challenges and obstacles than their mainstream counterparts in their efforts to be recruited and promoted in the federal public service.  The FBEC further state that Black federal employees report above-average levels of harassment and discrimination and are over-represented in the lower ranks. They note ongoing marginalization and underemployment affect the health of some Black employees and force others to leave the public service and that current and former diversity initiatives aren’t solving the problem. The FBEC called on the government to collect disaggregated data on the experiences of the Black public servant and noted that the currently visible minority category masks the representation, recruitment and advancement challenges of Black people. The collection and analysis of disaggregated data have also been made by Liberal MP Greg Fergus, the Canadian caucus of Black Parliamentarians’ chair.

Where is the political will for real change?

In a missed opportunity, in November of 2020, the government passed amendments to the Employment Equity Regulations under the EEA and introduced new pay transparency requirements that came into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Had there been a prioritization of anti-Black systemic racism and its painful impact on the Canadian Black populations, indeed, the government could have enacted the above recommendations.

As former senator Donald Oliver outlined, the legislation can be amended in two weeks, should the government so wills. As such, the minister of labour is encouraged to consider the Canadian Black population as a separate and distinct group within the EEA and take immediate steps to collect disaggregated data along racial and intersectional identities to understand African Canadians’ experiences in the labour market and associated human rights concerns. Future amendments to the Act should also include a robust accountability model akin to the Canadian Official Languages Act. Under OLA the duty of each federal institution to take positive measures is enforceable. This means that the public and the commissioner of official languages may seek court remedies if they feel that the duty under Part VII of the act has not been met.

Profound demands for justice have been enlisted following the tragic murder of George Floyd, which sparks international demands for justice, and equality including in Canada. This will continue until measurable progress is achieved and history shall keep recording. With COVID-19’s devastating impact on Black Canadians, their families, children, and communities, the time to act and take measurable action is now.

Huda Mukbil is a national security expert and a former senior intelligence officer with Canadian Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Source: https://hilltimes.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=a90bfb63c26a30f02131a677b&id=64bcc7c44b&e=685e94e554

Public Service Disaggregated Data for Visible Minorities and Indigenous peoples, Citizenship status

Over the past few months, I have been analyzing the various datasets breaking down public service employment and employee survey data by the individual visible minority and Indigenous groups.

The three articles, What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service diversity (Policy Options, October 2020), What the Public Service Employee Survey breakdowns of visible minority and other groups tell us about diversity and inclusion (The Hill Times, November 2020) and Diversity and Inclusion: Public Service Hirings, Promotions and Separations (The Hill Times, March 2021) allow for a more comprehensive view of visible minority and Indigenous groups in the federal public service. Moreover, recent Public Service Commission studies analyzing recruitment of employment equity groups add an important element to discussions on public service staffing and recruitment practices.

Much of the debate and discussions have understandably focussed on Blacks in the public service. Yet public service data indicates that their situation is not unique in terms of representation, hirings and promotions and the employee satisfaction, with many commonalities with the other groups. A more granular analysis within each occupational group (i.e., comparing representation at each level by occupational group, as some departments are conducting, may very well provide such evidence).

Key findings are:

  • Overall EE analysis shows considerable variation among the different visible minority and Indigenous groups
  • Visible minorities
    • Correlation between lower educational attainment and representation for most groups save Chinese
    • Overall under-representation common to most groups
    • Blacks, West Asian/Arab small over-representation
    • EX: All groups under-represented save Japanese with Filipino, Latin American and Blacks having the largest gaps
    • Hirings: Hirings of visible minorities have increased for all groups in most occupational groups save for technical and administrative support. Hirings at the EX level have increase for Black, Chinese, South Asian/East Indian and West Asian/Arab, with other groups showing no increase.
    • Promotions: While promotions have increased marginally for virtually all groups at the agregate level, promotions by occupational category provide a mixed picture, with most groups and most occupational categories experiencing a marginal decline in promotions.
  • Indigenous peoples
    • First Nations under-represented, Métis and Inuit over-represented
    • Hirings: While hirings at the EX level have increased slightly, this is less the case for the other occupational categories. Hirings of Métis have increased the most in the operational category, hirings of First Nations the most in the technical category, while hirings of Inuit the most at the EX level.
    • Promotions: A marginal decline across all Indigenous groups and occupational
  • Harassment/Discrimination experiences vary
    • Harassment: Japanese report the most as do First Nations and Métis, Chinese and Filipino least satisfied with resolution as is the case with Métis
    • Discrimination; Blacks report the most, but all groups encounter discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic origin or colour. Black, Japanese and Latin American least satisfied with resolution. All Indigenous groups report having been discriminated against, mainly based on race or ethnic origin, with Métis also least satisfied with resolution

The recent PSC Audit of Employment Equity Representation in Recruitment provides some interesting data and analysis of the staffing process and how the different employment equity groups, and visible minority largest sub-groups, fare at each of the five stages in the staffing process: job application, automated screening, organizational screening, assessment and appointment (FY 2016-17 data).

The most significant stages were organizational screening and assessment where most filtering took place as shown in the table below:

The next table breaks down visible minorities by the largest groups:

As noted in the audit, Blacks have the largest decrease in representation at all stages save for appointment, with a non-negligible being screened out by automatic screening. Chinese are screened out more by organizational screening whereas West Asian and South Asian are more likely to be screened in as the assessment stage.

The audit provides the following explanation for visible minority groups. Overall, visible minority women have higher success rates than visible minority men at the organizational screening and assessment stages. Visible minorities screened out at the organizational screening stage due to citizenship status (Canadian citizens are given preference over non-citizens) and experience qualifications. Those with public service work experience were more likely to be screened in at this stage but overall “experienced less success than their counterparts regardless of whether or not they had federal public service experience.”

At the assessment stage, visible minorities were less successful when written tests were used, particularly the case for Black candidates.

A separate PSC report addresses the Citizenship of applicants and external appointments. While Canadian citizens have a hiring preference, the share of non-citizen applicants has risen from 9.4 percent in 2015-16 to 14.5 percent in 2018-19, with the share of hires has increased to 2.5 percent from 1.5 percent over the same period

Non-citizen visible minority applicants account for 22.9 percent of all visible minority applicants, for non-visible minorities, the share is only 12.1 percent.

The table below contrasts applicants and appointments by citizenship status for the past four years. For Canadian citizens, the percentage of applicants and appointments are comparable, for Permanent Residents and others, appointments are significantly greater than applicants suggesting that citizenship may be less of a barrier than commonly believed.

Visible minority Canadian citizens represented 17.2 percent of all applicants and 19.5 percent of all hires (2018-19).