The Employment Equity Act: A Short Paper Evaluating The Success of the Act.

Canada has a population of approximately twenty six million people.
With the introduction of the federal government's multicultualism program, the
social demographic make up of Canada is quite vast, bringing together people
from many different nations to join those already living here. Taking the
population as a whole into account, it is no secret that historically, certain
members of this social order have been denied fair access to employment system.
The federal and provincial governments had undertaken steps to address the issue
through a wide range of programs such as equal employment and other affirmative
action programs to "promote equal opportunity in the public service for segments
of the population that have historically been underrepresented there." Today
those designated groups, underrepresented in the labour force include women,
Aboriginal peoples, disabled people, and persons who are, because of their race
or colour, is a visible minority in Canada. In October 1984, Judge Rosalie
Silberman Abella submitted a Royal Commission Report on equality in employment
(the Abella Report) to the federal government. "The Commission was established
in recognition of the fact that women, visible minorities, the handicapped and
native peoples were being denied the full benefits of employment." Based on
the findings of the Abella Commission, the federal government implemented "The
Employment Equity Act" in 1986. This short paper will evaluate the success of
the "Act" and will argue that although some progress has been made, the Canadian
Labour force still does not reflect the demographic composition of Canada as the
Act had targeted.
For the purposes of implementing Employment Equity, certain individuals
or groups who are at an employment disadvantage are designated to benefit from
Employment Equity. The Employment Equity Act describes the designated groups as
"women, aboriginal peoples; Indians, Inuit or Metis, who so identify themselves
to their employer, or agree to be so identified by an employer, for the purposes
of the Employment Equity Act. Persons with disabilities; are people who,
because of any persistent physical, mental, psychiatric, sensory or learning
impairment, believe that they are potentially disadvantaged in employment, and
who so identify themselves to an employer, or agree to be so identified by an
employer, for the purposes of the Act. Members of visible minorities are
persons, other than aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-
white in colour, and who so identify themselves to an employer, or agree to be
so identified by an employer, for the purpose of the Act."
The designated groups, in particular women, have essentially been
discriminated against for a substantial period of time. A 1977 study of women
in federal Crown Corporations conducted by the Advisory Council on the Status of
Women, reported that the federal government is the largest employer in Canada,
with almost 40% of it's employee's (excluding the Army) employed by federal
Crown Corporations. At that time, employees of Crown Corporations were not
subject to the Public Service Employee Act, which prohibited discrimination in
all aspects of employment including personnel hiring and promotion. The study
showed that women made up 37% of the Canadian labour force population and 33% of
federal public service employee population. However, only 15.4% of the total
employee population of federal Crown Corporations were female. The
underrepresentation of women in federal Crown Corporations are clearly evident
in the two charts indicated below. According to the 1981 census, women were at
a disadvantage in a number of ways. In comparison to men, women have higher
unemployment rates, lower participation rates and are concentrated in lower
paying jobs, regardless of their level of education.

Company Men Women % of Women
CN 71,369 4,434 5.9
Air Canada 14,867 6,073 29.6
CBC 8,015 3,094 27
Atomic Energy Canada 5,000 778 13.5
Cape Breton Development 3,822 78 2.0

Number of men and women working for Crown Corporations in 1977

Company Men Women % of Women
CN 1,014 2 0.2
Air Canada 158 1 0.6
CBC 116 2 1.7
Atomic Energy Canada 78 0 0
Cape Breton Development N/A N/A N/A

Number of men and women in senior management

There is also evidence that the other designated groups were at a
disadvantage to fair access to employment. Studies have shown that aboriginal
peoples, have significantly lower participation rates and higher unemployment
rates than those generally experienced in the Canadian labour force. They also
have significantly lower levels of education and are paid lower average salaries.
The 1981 census indicate that "of the total aboriginal population, 50.4% worked
in the Canadian labour force in 1981."
Persons with disabilities have also been at a disadvantage in the
Canadian labour force. Like the aboriginal people, they too have higher
unemployment rates, lower participation rates and lower levels of education.