Still too few visible minorities in federal public service: Report

Less than eight per cent of employees are members of a visible minority, below goal for workforce availability.

The federal public service continues to struggle when it comes to hiring members of visible minorities, according to The 2004 Annual Report on the Employment Equity Act.

Released last month, the report is for 2004 and is based on numbers for 2003.

The Employment Equity Act came into effect in 1986 and aims to remove workplace barriers faced by four designated groups: women, Aboriginal Peoples, visible minorities and people with disabilities. It covers the entire federal public services, and federally regulated private-sector employers, including Crown corporations (with 100 or more employees).

The representation of visible minorities across the entire workforce covered by the act in 2003 was actually up slightly to 12.7 per cent from 12.2 per cent the year before. (For representation rates for all groups see chart.) But within the federal public service less than eight per cent of employees are members of a visible minority group, well below the workforce availability goal of 10.4 per cent.

Two Canadian senators were loudly critical of the federal public service’s inability to meet recruitment and promotion targets for visible minorities.

In 2000 the federal public service established a goal of “one in five” hiring targets for external recruitment and participation in management development programs for visible minorities, but those targets are not being met, Nova Scotia Senator Donald Oliver told the Senate late last month.

The Employment Equity Act in the Federal Public Service 2003-04, showed visible minorities make up 7.8 per cent of the public service, though more than 15 per cent of all Canadians are visible minorities. “This represents a shameful 0.4 per cent increase over last year,” he said.

Less than five per cent of visible minorities were promoted to executive or middle management, he added. “Even more shameful, the percentage of promotions of visible minorities actually declined in 2003-04.”

Oliver was even more critical of the representation of visible minorities with the administration levels of the Canadian Senate. “Currently, visible minorities comprise only 6.8 per cent of the Senate’s 425 employees,” he said. “In the last five years, there has not been a single visible minority candidate promoted to a senior or middle management position in the Senate.”

Ontario Senator Consiglio Di Nino also expressed his concern about the hiring record of both the Senate and the public service. “Honourable senators, this is a disgrace,” he said. “Clearly, the Senate and the public service have failed to make diversity a fundamental policy objective,” he said. “If Canada continues to ignore the talents of all its citizens, we do so at our own peril.”

There is no question there have been some improvement in the federal public service when it comes to visible minority representation, but benchmarks are not being met, admitted Wally Boxhill, director of policy planning and reporting in the public service with the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada. “We are making progress. It is slow and the pace is kind of ratcheting up a notch, but we are nowhere near where we want to be.”

He said his department is consulting with public-service stakeholders to come up with a revised strategy to make improvements to its visible minority hiring record. The new strategy could be completed and presented to the public by June, he said.

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