Feds order review of public service affirmative action policy

Woman says she was prevented from applying for a job because she's white

The federal government has ordered a review of the public service's affirmative action policies, saying the public service should hire based on merit, not race or ethnicity.

The review of the Public Service Employment Act, as well as any related policies and practices, comes on the heels of Sara Landriault's complaint she couldn't apply for a public service position because she's Caucasian.

While completing an online application for an administrative assistant job with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Landriault was asked if she was white, Aboriginal or a visible minority. When she answered white, she said a message informed her she did not meet the criteria and could no longer proceed.

Treasury Board President Stockwell Day and Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney jointly called for the review.

"I strongly agree with the objective of creating a public service that reflects the diversity of Canada, and with fair measures designed to reach that goal. But we must ensure that all Canadians have an equal opportunity to work for their government based on merit, regardless of race or ethnicity," said Kenney in a statement.

The Employment Equity Act applies to the federal public service, as well as federally regulated private employers with more than 100 employees, and aims to increase the representation of women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities and Aboriginal people.

"While we support diversity in the public service, we want to ensure that no Canadian is barred from opportunities in the public service based on race or ethnicity," said Day.

From time to time, eligibility for certain positions is limited to members of certain employment equity groups, according to the Public Service Commission of Canada. However, this is only about one per cent of job openings, according to government figures.

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