Canada's Treasury Board President Tony Clement speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 18, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie
Imagine for a moment there was a company that had a policy of only allowing men to fill certain jobs or set aside other jobs for whites only. Now imagine that this company not only had this as policy but put it in writing and then advertised it.
Any company that did this would be hammered in the media and denounced on all sides for discriminatory hiring practices.
Yet if this is so wrong for the private sector, why is the federal government doing it?
Of course with the feds they don`t have any jobs set aside for men, just women, and there are no jobs just for white people, but white people are barred from applying for certain jobs. Why is this allowed?
More than two years ago, I wrote about an Ottawa-area woman who was applying for a job with the federal government. Like many such jobs these days, she was required to apply online and complete a questionnaire. One of the questions asked her what race she was, and once she answered Caucasian the entire process was shut down.
Stories about this event prompted the government to promise action.
"I was very concerned to read the report of a position only being open to people from an identifiable group," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said at the time.
(The woman was applying for a job with Citizenship and Immigration.)
Stockwell Day, who was then in charge at Treasury Board, promised that while the feds will continue to reach out to underrepresented groups, no one should be stopped from applying for a job based on sex, colour, creed, etc.
Despite the promise nothing has happened.
Right now there is a job at Elections Canada restricted to women, while jobs at several other departments are open only to one of the four protected groups - "Aboriginal persons, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, women."
Even as ministers Day and Kenney were denouncing the practice, bureaucrats were pushing back against their ideas. Memos were sent to those in charge of hiring at every department, telling them they were required to take "positive" steps in ensuring employment equity. Translation from bureaucratic-speak - block people from getting and, in some cases, applying for the job based on their sex or ethnicity.
Since March, Tony Clement, the minister in charge of Treasury Board, has been sitting on a recommendation from one of his top bureaucrats to fix this problem.
Daphne Meredith, chief human resources officer at Clement's department, recommended the Employment Equity Act be changed to end what most of us call reverse discrimination. Almost six months later nothing has happened.
Clement has paid lip service to the idea that jobs should be handed out based on merit and not based on someone's sex or ethnicity, but he is afraid to act.
His office tells me there are no changes planned, but at the same time say that they want to ensure jobs are based on merit. You can't have it both ways.
Right now the federal government's own reports show that women, the disabled and Aboriginals have higher representation inside the federal public service than they do within the general population. Women are now 55.2% of the federal workforce but only 52% of the available workforce.
Doesn't that mean there should be affirmative action for men and people who are not Aboriginal or disabled?
Doing that would be seen as wrong though, wouldn't it?
Hiring based on race and sex is disgusting no matter which way it is done.
The feds should come clean and change the law.