House of Commons Hansard #240 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-64.


Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

York West Ontario


Sergio Marchi LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

It should be first mentioned that as a result of a memorandum of understanding between the former departments of National Health and Welfare and Employment and Immigration Canada signed on March 1, 1993, resources relating to the interim federal health, IFH, program, formerly the non-insured health benefits, NIHB, program were transferred to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, CIC, from Health Canada, HC, effective commencing in 1993-94. It was also agreed at that time that HC would continue to deliver the program on the department's behalf. Subsequently, CIC assumed responsibility for the delivery of the IFH program on April 1, 1995.

In fiscal year 1994-95, under the interim federal health program, Citizenship and Immigration Canada spent $7.1 million in providing health care services, mainly to refugee claimants across Canada. Until January 1, 1995, Ontario was the only province which provided health care coverage to refugee claimants. As a result of the recent decision of the Ontario government no longer to provide health care coverage to refugee claimants and given that, starting April 1, 1995, only emergency/essential services will now be provided under the IFH program, it is estimated that total program costs will increase by $15.0 million for a total of $22.5 million in program spending in 1995-96. This level of spending is expected to continue in future years.

Pending Treasury Board approval, additional program funding will be obtained through the supplementary estimates process as a result of Ontario de-insurance of refugee claimants. Specifically, the department's 1995-96 reference levels will be increased by an amount of $15.0 million as will the future years' reference levels.

The projected amount for this line of spending in the 1994-95 main estimates and supplementary estimates was $7.5 million.

At present, in light of CIC's additional appropriations as a result of Ontario de-insurance, no shortfall exists within program funding. Should costs exceed available funding due to an increased number of program beneficiaries and the health status of these persons or as a result of amendments to provincial fee tariffs upon which IFH payments are based, it is planned that additional resources will be obtained through the estimates process.

Questions Passed As Orders For ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, if question No. 146 could be made an order for return, that return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed As Orders For ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed As Orders For ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker


Questions Passed As Orders For ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-64, an act respecting employment equity, be read the third time and passed.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec


Sheila Finestone LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism) (Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-64, the new employment equity act, was designed to resolve longstanding problems with the existing legislation and meet our government's red book commitments. It is part of the government's work toward achieving an open and inclusive society.

The legislation reflects the values of the government. It reflects the values of respect and understanding. The legislation is about fairness. It is about providing an equal playing field. Above all, the legislation is about making sure that all self-identified, qualified Canadians have a fair chance to compete for federal public sector jobs based on their merit.

The legislation continues to cover a total of 350 private sector employers and crown corporations that operate in federally regulated industries such as banking, communications and transporta-

tion. The legislation expands coverage of the employment equity act to the public service immediately. It also includes the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP.

There are four designated groups which continue to be designated: aboriginal peoples, members of visible minorities, women and persons with disabilities. The principle of self- identification is reaffirmed and definitions of the groups are in the legislation.

The legislation carries enforcement measures. It ensures that the Canadian Human Rights Commission has the mandate to conduct on site compliance reviews. It also confirms the administrative responsibility for the federal contractors program to the Minister of Human Resources Development. It makes use of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal which when hearing employment equity complaint cases will be called the employment equity review tribunal. This body will hear appeals from employers and referrals from the CHRC and ensure the final enforcement of the act.

With regard to the designated groups under the legislation they continue to be under represented as well as under valued in federal agencies and in federally regulated industries.

A recent study conducted by Krishna Pendakur of Simon Fraser University and Ravi Pendakur entitled "Earning differentials among ethnic groups in Canada" found that similarly qualified Canadian born visible minorities earn about 11 per cent less than Canadian born white people and that immigrant visible minorities earn 15 per cent less than Canadian born whites.

We are also familiar with the term glass ceiling, barriers to upper level management faced by many women and minorities in companies and agencies. This issue is addressed in applying more effective employment equity legislation.

We also found through partnership with the Canadian Advertising Foundation, the Asia-Pacific Foundation and the Conference Board of Canada that being sensitive and responsive to diversity is good for business. It makes economic sense and it is the fair thing to do. Companies that are sensitive to the diversity of the reality of Canada, that is the Canadian population, and companies that have made a commitment from the top down that they will be reflective of the people of this land have the key to the future: economic security. This is real at the local, national and international level.

Fairer access, meritorious advancement and equality of opportunity are key for all corporations that want to compete in the global marketplace. Our Canadian people often reflect and know the cultures of the new global markets. Why not use our diversity as a valued competitive edge to our mutual benefit? Global business is multicultural, multilingual and multiracial. Anyone travelling would know that; anyone in international business knows that.

Applying the rule of self-identified employment equity laws is an important tool to effect real institutional change, which is in the best interest of all Canadians and is an incentive for people to self-identify or to identify themselves.

This is a bill with a heart, one that recognizes the reality of Canadian business life. It clarifies existing obligations and helps to widen the circle of inclusion in our workforce at all levels. It does not force employers to create new positions, require the hiring or promoting of unqualified individuals, or contradict the merit principle in the public sector. It is about fairness and merit. It would be worthwhile if members opposite would keep all these issues in mind when speaking to this matter and tell the truth about what is in the bill.

It is about fairness and merit. It is about quality, not quantity. The bill does not call for nor is it about quotas for non-qualified members of designated groups.

Since the bill on employment equity was tabled for first reading, the members of the Reform Party have had a great deal to say about it.

In fact, it would be more accurate to state that they have had a great deal to say against it. They are rejecting the bill and the reason for their rejection is either that they are against measures in favour of employment equity or that they do not grasp the nature and scope of this bill.

Hon. members must recognize that this will simply not happen by crossing our fingers and hoping that we will achieve our goals of access, equity, fairness and a starting chance for self-identified minorities who wish to have consideration and to be included in the enlarged circle of the family of Canada.

In order to reach this goal some of the CHRC's responsibilities are education, awareness and sensitization to our multicultural reality. It will enable companies touched by this law to effect institutional change over time. We broadened the circle of representation through encouragement and education rather than through coercion. We do it because it is the right thing to do for Canada's qualified population by addressing whatever systemic barriers may be present that inhibit the representation of our diversity.

Before I close I highlight the Bank of Montreal as an example of a corporation that has demonstrated its commitment to create both an equitable workplace and a workforce that reflects the community it serves and a leadership that believes in fairness and a widened circle of service to the grassroots, the people they want to do business with.

It has published a report of its task force on the advancement of visible minorities. I would recommend close reading of the report. The main purpose was to identify barriers to advancement faced by members of visible minorities who were in business by the way and were earning well, and to develop action plans to eliminate those barriers for further upward mobility.

The task force recommended that the bank refine its workforce planning process to foster a workforce that reflects the diversity of the community at all levels. It recommended increased participation of visible minorities in leadership roles and the removal of barriers to the advancement of these persons and all other employees. It recommended the bank take action to further enable employees to take charge of their own career advancement and to increase competency based on non-subjective candidate selection. Its final recommendation was to enable employees from all backgrounds to develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviour critical to success in a diverse workforce.

When one wants to look at employment equity and when one wants to examine the fairness of the approach in the bill, the self-identification, the reality of who we are as a people, the greatness of our diversity and the differences from place to place across the land, it makes more and more sense that more and more Canadians will want to report origins other than British or French because that is who we are. Most of us have origins different from British or French.

The legislation will help set a framework within which all Canadians will have a fair and equal chance to participate in the economic prosperity of our country and in which all Canadians have an interest and a purpose to participate.

I wholly support the legislation. I hope all members of the House join me in ensuring a truly just, fair, equitable and prosperous society, one with which Canada can continue to be the world model it is today.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to address the House on a topic that has thus far provoked spirited discussion.

As its preamble states, Bill C-64, an act respecting employment equity, was introduced by the government with the intention of achieving equality in the workplace and amending the disadvantages experienced by certain groups.

Underlying the bill is an approach to equality which suggests we measure success in terms of results or outcomes. Herein lies a difference in definition as we disagree on the bill. There are two opposing ideologies in the debate: one focused on equality as a process and the other on equality as an outcome.

Process people of which I am one direct their energies to the supply side. They encourage people to train and educate, to deal with values and habits, to promote an open environment where specialization is fostered, to reward merit and to reject discrimination on the basis of extraneous factors. Process people accept the results of a world operating in this fashion, one where the outcome is not predetermined but where individuals have the capacity to manufacture their future. Process people believe in remedial action but choose to limit their response to those truly in need.

Outcome people, such as those who support the bill, are not satisfied with creating equal opportunities for this is not enough. They prefer to manipulate a process, to consciously intervene and to create the results they believe are justified. They construct laws to ensure their overt interventions are safeguarded against legal challenges. The government has already done this, providing a constitutional guarantee that the principle of equality can be supplanted for intrusive and sometimes coercive state goals. I am speaking to section 15.2 of the charter which rejects in plain language the brave assertion of its companion clause 15.1 guaranteeing to all Canadians equal treatment before the law.

The question of defining equality lies at the heart of this debate, I believe. Unlike the equality of outcome as described in Bill C-64, the equality of opportunity nurtures an environment where outcomes are predetermined, allowing society to reward enterprise and initiatives. Opportunity is the cornerstone of a prosperous, creative and thriving culture. It provides a foundation for personal fulfilment and self-actualization. Most important, it enables people to believe in themselves in the sense that they alone control their destiny.

Bill C-64 corrupts this conceptualization of opportunity by placing a higher premium on premeditated intervention to fashion outcomes. This wounds all Canadians and cannot be supported.

Let us focus on the goals of employment equity for a moment. The very goals on which this legislation is premised are flawed, confused and contradictory. Notions of equality, numerical targets and diversity are fraught with problems. Bill C-64 offers equality for some at the expense of others. Numerical targets are flawed by their very design. Establishing targets obscures numerical goals with the idea of equality.

There is a substantial difference between recognizing that certain groups have encountered historical barriers and assuming that all social inequalities are attributable to discrimination.

We must ask ourselves whether men and women would fill occupations in equal numbers in a world of perfectly free choice.

The answer is probably not. Similarly, would ethnic minorities appear equally in all work environments? Again, most likely no. A numbers game simply circumscribes choice and counters any notion of equity.

Searching for the ideal of diversity is yet another confused goal. Does anybody know what diversity in this context really means? As someone aptly suggested, it merely reflects a language of willed ignorance in which the words mean only that the speaker has good intentions.

How can we even begin to consider seriously such legislation when its foundation is constructed on such faulty principles? There is a serious danger in beginning a task when its objectives are distorted by contradiction and imperfection. If I measure a value and our sense of direction is unclear our efforts will surely be wasted.

Another concern relates to the basic question of whether a need for employment equity exists at all. Evidence has surfaced in recent years which calls into question the reasons on which employment equity is based. By making reference to this evidence it is not my intention to disavow the existence of racism and discrimination. Instead I wish to make clear that discrimination and gender alone are not enough to explain the vastly dissimilar outcomes different groups experience in the course of their lives. Culture, religion and family patterns are other reasons which keep people out of certain occupations.

For example, economist Thomas Sowell found that teen marriages are more prevalent in certain ethnic populations. He maintains that women who marry at very young ages do not pursue post-secondary education and therefore limit the range of jobs for which they might qualify. The answer then is not numerical goals and timetables but one of culture and education.

Recent data from a 1995 Statistics Canada study reinforced these ideas further. While it was found that visible minorities were less likely than any other Canadian to be employed in managerial occupations, most likely explained by the fact that they are on average younger than other adults, members of visible minorities were as likely as other Canadians to be employed in professional occupations. In essence the report is confirming that at all levels of the economy visible minorities enjoy rates of employment comparable to those of other Canadians.

How then do we justify Bill C-64? Like other employment equity legislation it treats members of visible minorities of homogeneous groups having the same character, composition and history. This is fundamentally wrong. For example, data reveal that 13 per cent and 19 per cent of Japanese Canadians are employed in managerial and professional categories respectively, while only 8 per cent and 9 per cent are found in manual and service categories. This type of breakdown will necessarily be different when compared with the experience of Filipinos and East Indians for example. All groups are different with compelling reasons explaining their variable representation in the workplace.

Are there alternatives to employment equity? There is considerable evidence to suggest policy alternatives based on equality of opportunity do exist. Many are already an entrenched feature of the Canadian work world. The systemic discrimination found in many areas of an organization's structure suggest we can approach problems without the use of quotas. For example, we can do more as federal legislators to foster equitable hiring in both public and private sectors through the improvement of education which includes special training programs for target groups, academic upgrading, pre-apprenticeship programs, training of all staff in cross cultural awareness to promote a positive working environment.

We can look at dismantling systemic barriers, which would include policies promoting flexible hours which can be of particular benefit to women with young children, people with disabilities who need special transportation systems and workers whose religious requirements may conflict with typical hours of work, and support measures dealing with employment problems including daycare facilities and revised rules for parental leave.

We can emphasize individual achievement so that an individual's training, performance and knowledge, skills and ability are considered paramount in all workplace decisions.

My remarks have addressed equality of opportunity, the confused goals of Bill C-64 and the question of need, highlighting the inherent problems with employment equity and Bill C-64. Social democrats have historically sought to forge links across race and gender lines in pursuit of a common citizenship with equal rights.

In contrast, the government's policies reinforce the notion that the interests of males and females and diverse ethnic groups are distinctive and competitive. Does Bill C-64 really lead us toward the better society to which we aspire? I think not.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement, Government Orders will be extended today by 20 minutes.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Beryl Gaffney Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to address Bill C-64.

While listening in the House today I worry that some of the members opposite have not really understood the vision for Canada or the intent of the bill.

I have followed with great interest the developments in employment equity over the years and it is my contention that employment equity is a fundamental building block for creating a better Canada.

Bill C-64 went before the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons. This committee heard from a very broad section of witnesses and in its report endorsed the new features of Bill C-64 and recommended additional amendments. The act covers all federally regulated companies with 100 or more employees. Bill C-64 will bring the federal public service, its departments, agencies, boards and commissions, into line with standards already set for federally regulated corporations.

The changes Liberals will implement to strengthen the Employment Equity Act include the federal public service and federal agencies and commission under the Employment Equity Act. We will also give the Canadian Human Rights Commission the legislative authority to initiate investigations of employment equity issues.

Efforts to eradicate discrimination in the workplace and in hiring practices have been underway at the federal level since the enactment of the 1970s human rights legislation. In 1993 it became evident to the Liberal government of the day that voluntary measures toward achieving equity in the workplace were failing to bring about significant changes for women, aboriginal peoples, visible minorities and persons with disabilities. That is the key because they tried to achieve it through voluntary measures and it did not work.

On December 12, 1994 the human resources minister tabled in the House Bill C-64. He stated: "This initiative is a significant step toward ensuring equitable employment opportunities for women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities".

Most of us come into the House with a prepared speech, but sitting in my office and watching the TV monitor I heard so many nefarious statements from across the floor that I am going away from my prepared notes to address some of the things that were said. One that concerned me was with regard to quotas.

The bill is not about quotas. They kept referring to the charter of rights and freedoms and quoting it. The bill is certainly not in conflict with what is being said in the charter of rights and freedoms.

The merit principle in the bill should be and is the sole basis of hiring. I think anyone who sees anything different within the bill is really not understanding what is being said.

I refer to the member from Beaver River, who went on at great length saying she is a woman in the House and she came here because she is competitive and because of competence. I do not argue that point at all. I would like to think I got here that way as well.

One works hard, does as one has to do, does the same as anybody else running for public office and gets elected. What about all the people who want to run for public office who are just as competent as I am? Maybe this is what the feminist movement is all about, I do not know. Is it not my responsibility to assist if I see someone who would make a wonderful member of the House of Commons? If that person is competent, has the merit and a reason to be here and yet does not have the confidence to project himself or herself on the floor of the House of Commons, does that person not deserve some assistance from someone? I say they do. I am using this in simplistic language to point out not everybody has the competence to get into the House of Commons.

Getting back to strong women, I want to relate a story in my life before I became an elected official. I was an elected official for 10 years before I came to the House of Commons. Working in an administrative capacity I applied for a position within my organization. I did not get the position. The human resources person said to me: "You are more qualified than the person who is getting the job. You have longer service than the person who is getting the job but we must give it to him because he has a wife and two children".

I had a husband and five children and I could not understand the reason the job was being given to him over me. There was no valid reason why he should get the job. Let us consider a visible minority. In that same organization I was asked by the human resources director to short list the people who were applying for jobs in the department I was in. I gave my list of three people. One was a Jamaican woman. The director's comment to me was: "I am not sure whether our organization is ready for a black woman". That is why we need to offer our assistance and our support for this.

That was not too long ago. I have not been here forever. We have come a long way. We have all had examples in our lives of being held down or held back for the wrong reasons.

Somebody from the other side of the House had said that white young males will rise up in anger. My goodness, white young women or black young women or whomever should have been rising up in anger for years and years and never did until now. It is about time they did.

I sat on the committee on human rights and the status of disabled persons. We heard from people with disabilities about how their rights are constantly being violated. I will tell a little story about a Saskatchewan farmer.

This farmer had lost both his arms in a farming accident. He had prostheses from the elbows down on both arms. He relied on his son and his wife to help with the farming. When he appeared before the committee he said: "When I buy a huge harvesting machine I have to pay about $60,000 more for this machine than what my able

bodied neighbour has to pay because I need to have equipment that my two prostheses can handle". Is that fair?

That man was in business and he was being discriminated against through the cost of the machine because he had two artificial arms. That man needs our help. We should offer him our help. I love telling all these little stories but I sure have strayed away from my speech.

Canada today is a very different society than it was 50 or even 20 years ago. Today we as women want and need to look after ourselves financially. At the same time we want to know those who cannot are being treated equally. Our aboriginal peoples are demanding self-determination and persons with disabilities want to be fully integrated throughout society. New Canadians want to fully participate in all aspects of Canadian society.

Canada is a changed society, one where these four groups are expressing specific needs that must be addressed. It is a society that requires the contribution of all our citizens and this piece of legislation addresses this changed society.

It is through employment equity that we will ensure that the skills and abilities of all Canadians will be fully utilized. It is through employment equity that we will one day eliminate the social and economic costs of marginalizing big numbers of Canadians. By ensuring that these four groups take their rightful place in the Canadian labour force, a more vibrant and productive society will emerge.

This bill will lead us toward a fair and just society by making us examine our assumptions of what is the right way to do business. It will make us question hiring procedures that have in the past always found qualified individuals for the job. I will give you an example of where it does not always work.

It will lead us there by teaching us through awareness training to feel what it is like to be excluded from the workplace simply because your disability stops you from getting up the stairs to the work site.

It will lead us there by encouraging us to make accommodations for mothers and fathers who take the needed time from work to look after their youngsters. It will lead us there by teaching us that those people whom we thought would be difficult to manage are many of our most valuable employees.

For this reason I encourage all members of the House to vote with a resounding yes for this legislation, a resounding yes to a better nation.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Colleagues, I would ask you please to put your remarks to the Chair. The Chair feels very lonely often in some of the debates that go on.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-64. I want to preface my remarks by making a comment on behalf of all the members of the Reform Party. We do not support in any way, shape or form discriminatory hiring practices. We do not support the premise that a person from one of the four groups mentioned in Bill C-64 be denied a job based on the fact that he or she is within one of these four groups. To have some of the previous speakers of the Liberal Party allude to that is utter nonsense.

At the same time, I do not support and I know many of my colleagues do not support the fact that someone would be hired specifically because he or she is part of one of those four groups. Let us be very clear about what the Reform members are trying to say in the House today.

I was really pleased that I was present today when we saw Ms. Alexa McDonough presented to the Chamber today. She was just elected president of the New Democratic Party, not because she was a woman but because she had the confidence of the delegates of the NDP convention that she was the best person for the job. I congratulate her for that.

We heard today in the House from the hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona about a Mrs. Chicoine who was awarded a Canada Volunteer Award Certificate of Merit not because she was a woman but because of the efforts that she put into doing the things that she truly believed in.

We heard earlier today from a member opposite about a woman who had just received an entrepreneurship award of merit in an international competition for a process that she created and developed regarding the use of furs. She did not receive this award because she was a woman. She received it because of the creativity, the training and the work she put into her business.

We heard about the women from Alberta who were honoured today in Ottawa for their service to their country. They were honoured, not because they are women but because they believed so passionately in something that they readied themselves for the task and they succeeded. They succeeded not because they were women but because they wanted to succeed.

If the principles of Bill C-64 were applied to the women who were honoured today in the House, they might very easily find it insulting. There could be the allusion that they received these awards or accomplished their tasks simply because they were women and not because of their own individual efforts.

All members in the House, including Liberal members even though they will not admit it, are aware that Bill C-64 will impose employment equity provisions on the public service and on those firms that have over 100 employees and do business with the federal government. I use the word "impose". They use the term "employment equity". The term "employment equity" was coined by Justice Rosalie Abella in 1984. It is a convenient term for our Liberal social engineers since it is much more deceptive and less threatening than the term "affirmative action".

In the United States people call it like it is, affirmative action. That is exactly what employment equity really is but it is called employment equity to make it a less threatening term.

We are all aware that affirmative action or employment equity, whatever one you choose, is not working in the United States. Recently the U.S. Supreme Court dealt affirmative action a severe blow. It ruled in favour of a Colorado company that brought an action against the U.S. government because the government had awarded a contract to an Hispanic controlled company despite the fact that the Colorado company submitted a lower bid and was more qualified to do the work. This was because of affirmative action or employment equity. Naturally the U.S. government's rationale for taking such a course of action was rooted in its affirmative action policy.

While this recent decision in the states does not spell the end of affirmative action in the U.S., I and those who believe employment would be better based on merit would hope that it signals a return some day to common sense and fairness.

The Americans have gone through the process and have experienced the detrimental effects of affirmative action policies. Here we are in Canada, with a Liberal government that is hell bent on pursuing it. Do we not learn from the experiences of other countries?

We cannot even find common sense and fairness in our Constitution. Section 15.2 of the charter of rights and freedoms entrenches employment equity in the Constitution. However, if we read the section we note that it specifically overrides section 15.1, which is intended to promote equality among all Canadians.

The charter of 1982 is drafted in typical Liberal fashion. It promises something but only if the state can have absolute control over it. That is a scary thought. Promise equality but deliver on the promise only when the state decides where and when equality will exist. Is that not a scary thought, that the state will decide where and when equality will exist? This is the effect of section 15.2 of the charter.

Now we are facing Bill C-64, a manifestation of section 15.2, a bill which arbitrarily discriminates against one group in favour of another. However, these Liberals will tell us that discrimination will not result from this bill. Just because some groups are being promoted over other groups is not discrimination. It is equity. That is the Liberal's definition of the word equity. Their social engineer's vocabulary does not end there. It goes much further. The Liberals argue that Bill C-64 will not set quotas but rather numeric goals.

As David Frum wrote recently, speaking of numeric goals and deceptive wording: "It is also true that undertakers say casket instead of coffin and loved one instead of corpse. Does it make Aunt Tilly any less dead by changing the words around so that they sound a little less threatening?"

We must ask if we really need Bill C-64. Where is this systematic discrimination that is constantly referred to by the proponents of employment equity Bill C-64? Where is the proof? Where are the statistics and hard numbers? There are none. In fact the Economic Council of Canada, which I am sure the Liberals recognize as a respectable body, did studies in 1991 and 1992 which found Canada successfully assimilates its newcomers and that there was no evidence of systematic pay discrimination. Furthermore, a Statistics Canada report this summer demonstrated that visible minorities enjoy rates of employment and rates of pay comparable to that of other Canadians.

Therefore, we ask where is the proof. Systematic discrimination is in no way entrenched in the Canadian workplace as these Liberal social engineers would have us believe. Indeed, in pushing Bill C-64 without any hard evidence to back it up, it seems that the Liberal government and its special interest group cohorts that helped it get elected, would declare Canadian firms simply guilty by accusation.

I forget that these Liberal members have proven that they know little about law and order. Therefore, such concepts as innocent until proven guilty would simply mean nothing to them.

Ultimately, employment equity or affirmation action as it is more correctly known, is in fact a lose-lose situation. People who have become victims of employment equity legislation demand that it be scrapped and merit be returned as the sole principle for hiring and promotion.

Typical of the government, it tends to march to the beat of a "we know what is better for you" attitude, in economic, judicial and social matters and therefore it will continue to dictate to us. This Liberal government and Liberal governments for the past 30 years have been intent in getting in the face of free and independent Canadians. I say Bill C-64 is another attempt to do just that. I therefore must oppose it.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake-Endangered species; the hon. member for Mackenzie-Agriculture.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak today. I have gathered up some comments from the speeches of the members for Beaver River and Calgary Southeast and the member for the Reform Party who just spoke. What they have done is typical of what the Reform Party does in debate, particularly on this legislation. They have refused to either read it or, if they have read it, to acknowledge the actual content of the bill.

If the bill were operating in a vacuum, if we were making no effort in any other area of society or in any other form of legislation to improve the lot of Canadians, I might oppose it as well. The bill is part of a package. It is part of our platform set out in our red book. Beyond that it is part of a package of legislation we intend to use to improve the lot of Canadians. By improving the lot I mean by making our communities healthier, economically healthier and safer.

We have tried to take other steps to assist people who do not have the same advantage as the last speaker. We have improved our student loan programs so that we are offering funds to encourage women into areas where they have not traditionally sought training in the past. We have a student loan program which encourages the participation of persons with disabilities.

We are revamping our social programs in order to take away the systemic barriers that exist for single mothers who are untrained and also unable to go back to work because they have no one to take care of their kids. We are taking a look at child care as a form of social program which will support our effort to get Canadians back to work.

Bill C-64 is a clear example of how the Liberal Party delivers on its promises. In the red book we said we would strengthen the Employment Equity Act and that is exactly what Bill C-64 does. This legislation is deeply rooted in our country's conscience. In our Constitution every individual has "the right to equality before and under the law and equal protection and benefit of the law".

The Reform Party in general and certainly the last speaker do not like the charter very much because they think protection of the individual should be limited, that the application of the charter should be narrow and that only those they say are deserving of its protection should receive that protection.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifically recognizes the rights of the individual and specifically recognizes that special programs are needed and that they are allowed in order to benefit those who are discriminated against in our society. That is what this bill addresses after all.

At the end of the day the bill is there because there are people who suffer in employment today because of accidents of their birth or accidents of their lives, accidents like colour, race, sex, disability.

We believe employment equity is about building a more caring and a more just society. It holds up a mirror to the fundamental principles that we all hold dear and it seeks to create a level playing field while providing practical and reasonable employment plans for employers.

Employment equity was conceived under a Liberal government initially drawing on the work of Madam Justice Abella and her commission. It reflects our party's long history of commitment to justice and equality for all Canadians, not just for the privileged classes.

Yet many insist on making the false assumption that federal employment equity is a carbon copy of the American affirmative action policy or of the Ontario bill. This was apparent in the comments of the last speaker and also in the comments of the member for Beaver River.

These speakers claim that Americans and Ontarians are now rejecting legislative efforts out of hand in the area of employment equity. That is simply not true. Bill C-64 is not affirmative action U.S. style. It is not the severe imposition of regulations put forward in the NDP Ontario bill.

Bill C-64 is really about fairness in the distribution of jobs. It is not about quotas. It is about levelling the employment playing field. It is not about preferential treatment. It is about fairness in human resources administration. It is not about complex regulations or greater administrative burdens for business.

This is a made in Canada, made in Ottawa bill that has none of the earmarks of the anti-discrimination legislation we might find in other jurisdictions. It certainly does not seek as its goal to attribute blame or to right past wrongs.

Reformers like to draw parallels to the American experience, but our bill differs from American affirmative action bills because our experience and our history differ from America's in significant ways. Our law has none of the excesses of the American program, excesses like inflexible quotas for jobs, quotas on college admis-

sions, quotas on bidding preferences and minority set asides in procurement programs. That is not what is in the bill.

Bill C-64 is not punitive. Instead of penalizing citizens it encourages employers to recognize and use the largely untapped talents of women, persons with disabilities, aboriginal persons and members of visible minorities, members of the so-called special interest groups the prior speaker mentioned. These four designated groups account for 60 per cent of Canadian citizens.

Reformers also cited the Ontario experience but they play fast and furious with the facts. There are no quotas in the bill. Ontario has a third party complaint scheme which is central to the operation of its bill. Ours is more like a planning document for human resources development.

The Ontario bill has very broad regulatory powers which are not present in our bill. The threshold for being caught by the Ontario bill in the private sector is 50 employees. That catches 17,000 employers in Ontario. In our bill the threshold is just over 100 employees and catches only 350 employers. The Ontario bill develops new agencies and tribunals to enforce its act. Ours has no such new agencies.

Just after the Ontario election an omnibus polling of businesses showed they have supported employment equity but not that particular bill. Our bill, which is on a much different model, is much more satisfactory.

Another central feature of our system is our firm belief in flexible targets businesses can reasonably achieve. Under the bill the law is streamlined and clear. There is none of the complex or overlapping regulatory channels found in the United States, nor are there the tremendous regulatory burdens which one would find under the Ontario bill. Enforcement is streamlined, cost effective and relies on negotiated solutions rather than expensive litigation.

One of the main criticisms of the other systems has been their adversarial nature. Bill C-64 takes a consensual approach, an approach of compromise; another great Canadian tradition of helping to bring people together to work in harmony. It is practical. It is well thought out. It addresses inequality in the workplace. It is a uniquely Canadian solution to the challenge of getting the most potential from our highly diverse workforce.

What I am referring to here is the same ethos of fairness which is now driving many private companies to diversify their hirings. Some of those employers have told us how well this can work. Bob Sutherland, executive vice-president of Human Resources for the Royal Bank of Canada, said: "The Royal Bank has undoubtedly benefited by gaining access to some very talented members of the workforce, many of whom we might not have discovered otherwise".

Dan Branda, CEO of Hewlett-Packard Canada, told a Globe and Mail reporter that diversity ``is an absolute business imperative because it gives us the edge in attracting the best and brightest people''. Are they afraid of the employment equity bill? No.

Employment equity is about every Canadian having the opportunity to know that dignity and security come with a salary. Most of all we are putting into practise the very values which make each of us proud to be a Canadian: fairness, justice and equality not just for a chosen few but for all Canadians.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the third reading debate of Bill C-64, an act respecting employment equity.

The hon. Minister of Human Resources Development has described the new employment equity legislation as follows: "This initiative is a significant step toward ensuring equitable employment opportunities for women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities".

The President of the Treasury Board has echoed the minister of HRD, suggesting the legislation is necessary to ensure equity and fairness in the workplace.

I suggest this is a snow job by the Liberal government which is masquerading as a beacon of light when it is moving us back toward the dark ages.

I suggest this because governments that have experimented with employment equity have found it does not work and it does not matter how you couch the term. It does not matter whether you say it is not exactly the same as the American employment equity program or not exactly the same as Bob Rae's legislation. The principle is whether it is working. It has not worked in the United States. It was rejected by the voters of Ontario. It was rejected even by the Liberal Party of Ontario.

Meanwhile its elder brothers and sisters in Parliament are pushing ahead Bill C-64, a bill respecting employment equity. It talks about numerical targets or goals. It simply is talking about quotas and it is federal legislation which means it is the law of the land.

It is wrong. It is draconian. It is against the will and wishes of the Canadian people and it is against the prevailing wisdom of those who have experimented with employment equity in its various ways, shapes and forms and who have found it does not work.

The Liberal government has couched employment equity in terms that mask the true intent of the legislation. I heard the hon. member before me saying it is not what we think it is, it is sort of a wishy-washy, mishy-mushy-wushy piece of legislation.

It is employment equity. That is what the bill is called and that is what we are talking about here. I wish hon. members on the other side would have the courage to say they are proposing employment equity rather than saying it is something new that we have never tried that we do not really understand.

The government is going about to ensure equity and fairness in the workplace for all Canadians? I doubt it very much. I believe it is imperative to provide the House with a non-biased, general definition of employment equity. We picked one that members on both sides of the House should agree is fairly accurate.

Employment equity could be defined as results oriented actions that a government department or contractor by virtue of its contracts with the government must take to ensure equal employment opportunity. An employment equity program includes such goals as correcting underutilization and correction of problem areas. In addition, it may also include relief such as payback, retroactive seniority, make-up goals and timetables.

I could speak on a lot of these but I want to briefly talk about the unprogressive manipulation this legislation includes, the goals and timetables the government will surely be following to implement and cement the numerical targets it talks about.

This definition outlines the intent of the legislation. The Liberals undoubtedly have timetables to indicate that certain percentages of employees must be appropriate to women, aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities by a certain point. The employment equity policies can be viewed as results oriented, which indicates the results of proportional representation, regardless of qualifications, are the main focus of the legislation.

The Reform Party's position on this legislation is that an employment equity policy is unnecessary. It is ineffective. It is very costly. It is unpopular. Governments lose because they have tried to implement employment equity. It is discriminatory. It is intrusive. It is harmful to designated and to non-designated groups. The equality of all Canadians is recognized by affirming that hiring and promotion should be based solely on merit rather than on gender, race or other distinguishing factors of that nature.

Employment competition based on the merit principle is the key to both equality and productivity. The Reform Party has no qualms with encouraging the recruitment of qualified visible minorities and women through advertising and training programs. Visible minorities and women should then compete on a non-discriminatory, colour blind, gender neutral basis for jobs, promotions or educational positions.

The Reform Party believes discrimination is a heinous offence that needs to be rooted out of our workplace. However, this will not be achieved through employment equity legislation being orchestrated by the federal government. I believe private companies doing contract work with the government and government departments have the proper mechanisms to deal with discriminatory practices. Any problems not addressed by the company or the government department can be appealed to either provincial or federal human rights commissions under the human rights code.

Private companies in particular have a vested interest in maintaining a representative workforce because it makes good business sense. According to Fazil Mihlar of the Fraser Institute:

The market solution of the problem as it stands is discriminatory employment costs firms money; therefore if an employer refuses to hire the best candidate for a particular job, the productivity of the discriminating employer is bound to fall and consequently produce less profit. The more competitive the industry, the less likely firms are to engage in discrimination.

The bottom line is that companies are capable of achieving employment equity without governments imposing legislation.

I could talk about the American experience. We have already been criticized in the House for doing that, but if time permitted I would.

We did a bit of research on the breakdown of electoral success in the House of Commons by gender as calculated from the 1993 federal election. The numbers are interesting and also a bit revealing.

I will start with the Reform Party. We were successful in electing 29 per cent of the female candidates our party had nominated. This was without any manipulation or any intervention whatsoever. We only elected 25 per cent of our male candidates. In other words, one quarter of the men who won nomination in our party were elected to the House. A higher percentage, 29 per cent, of the women who were nominated at the riding level by the Reform Party of Canada were successful in the 1993 federal election. This is with no manipulation by the leader of the party, no directives from our party office telling the constituencies: "Make sure you nominate women. We want a lot of women nominated from our party."

The members of our party who selected female candidates chose excellent candidates who garnered the support of their constituents. They were more successful than the male candidates.

If we look at the Liberal numbers, they are about even. They were actually a little less successful in electing female candidates than they were in electing male candidates. Now, as we know, the Liberals elected a lot more MPs to the House, so the percentage of successful male candidates was 60 per cent. That is why they have a majority government.

With all the manipulation, with the bypassing of the constituency nomination process and the anointing of star female candidates, they elected 59 per cent of the females, one per cent less than the male candidates they elected. So the wisdom of the Liberal Party

hierarchy was not the same wisdom as the constituents in the ridings, who voted for who they felt was the best candidate.

This indicates the whole concept of employment equity, the playing around with quotas and jiggering around with results not based on merit but based on numerical targets does not work and is not effective. It even hurt the Liberals in the last election.

I see my time is running out. I want to talk about the party that has made the most noise about employment equity in Canada, the NDP. Of course, they have suggested very stringent quotas. They suggest that there has to be an equal number of women on their party councils and committees from top to bottom, inside and outside and around the corner.

They had 100 female candidates and they elected one, who happened to be their leader, the highest profile candidate they put forward to the Canadian electorate. So one per cent of their females were elected. They did not do so well on the male side either, but they did elect four per cent of their male candidates. This is from a party that has indicated that there must be employment equity, that it must be legislated and written in stone.

Instead of having the government on this side and the opposition on that side, they would almost want to have men on one side and women on the other and make sure it was equal. That is the approach they have taken to employment equity, and it just does not work. It has not worked for that party.

Why would the Liberals, who are intelligent people and a party that has been around for over 100 years, want to give us Bill C-64, which would try to impose upon companies and government departments what does not work in practicality, does not even work in their own party, which has been a failure everywhere it has been tried and which is disgusting and discriminatory by its very nature and is demeaning to the very people it is supposed to help?

I like to see visible minorities and female members in the House of Commons and in business, who are there because they are darned good, the best at what they do. I have a lot of respect for those people, whether they be black, white, yellow or red, whether they are male or female or whether they are handicapped in some way. I have a lot of respect for those people who made it on their own. If they are being given numerical quotas by a federal government and are given a position just because they happen to fit a certain category, it is demeaning to them.

I suggest this government should withdraw this legislation. It is wrong, it is immoral, and it does not work.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to Bill C-64, which would amend the current federal Employment Equity Act principally in the matter of introducing an enforcement regime. It is targeted at private sector enterprises of 100 employees or more that do business with the federal government. That encompasses hundreds and possibly thousands of private sector companies, any in fact who get a government contract.

I want to speak as a government MP because I am unhappy with this bill. I feel it is my duty to do so, even though I am but a single voice perhaps among my government colleagues. I must express my deep, deep reservations about this legislation.

In my view, Bill C-64 is seriously flawed. It is being rushed into law without the benefit of the careful consideration that is due any legislation that comes before this House.

First let me say that I do not doubt the government's nobility of purpose and sincerity of motive in bringing Bill C-64 forward. Strengthening the federal employment equity legislation was a red book commitment made by the Liberal Party prior to the last general election. A government that tries to live up to its promises cannot be faulted for trying to do so. Indeed, being faithful to one's promise is something all Canadians admire and applaud. Moreover, who is to argue against the desire to see that all Canadians have equal opportunity for employment and that no one is discriminated against on the basis of gender, non-relevant disability, or race? The noble purpose is noble indeed.

However, the fact that Bill C-64 springs from a promise is possibly one of the reasons it has come this far without adequate consideration of the huge problems it seems likely to create. It goes absolutely against some of the most basic concepts of justice and fair play, and in seeking to eradicate discrimination sets the stage for encouraging it.

I have to believe-and I do-that it has come this far because the government bureaucrats who framed it clause by clause did so more with a view to satisfying the government's desire to fulfil its promises quickly than to writing competent legislation. I find it hard to believe that professionals could have drafted something so obviously faulty.

I am not a lawyer, but it does not take a lawyer to see what is wrong with Bill C-64. Any Canadian knows the very essence of our democracy and our freedoms is predicated on the concepts that all are equal before the law and that everyone is entitled to a fair trial. When Bill C-64 is tested against these two principles it fails.

Let us consider the fair trial aspect. Bill C-64 requires that the target employers prepare equity employment plans and give an accounting annually of their progress in fulfilling these plans. I will spare the details, but suffice it to say that Bill C-64 describes

minutely what it expects of employers when it comes to trying to achieve balance in the hiring of aboriginals, women, visible minorities, and the disabled.

To ensure these employers are fulfilling the requirements of the act, Bill C-64 provides for the creation of compliance officers, a kind of equity police administered by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, who are given the power to enter a company's premises and demand to see its books to ensure the company does have an appropriate equity plan and that it is acting upon it. Right here there is a problem. Mr. Speaker, I would remind you of the outcry that swept the nation when Bill C-68, the gun bill, proposed similar entry and search provisions to ensure compliance. Here we are apparently doing the same thing.

I suppose the argument, which I can hardly say is being debated either through public hearings or in this House, is that these compliance officers are equivalent to inspectors who come onto your premises to inspect elevators or read a gas meter. However, Bill C-64 gives these compliance officers extraordinary powers. If a company tries to deny them, the company can be taken to court, but not to any court as Canadians have come to understand the term. The court, which decides the guilt or innocence of a company and which ultimately decides on fines of up to $50,000, is a sub-tribunal of the existing human rights tribunal panel, whose president can name from one to three people to hear a case. There is no bar exam for these people to pass, no vetting by the elected representatives of the people. The president of the human rights tribunal panel gets to select whomever he pleases.

Tribunal is an appropriate term in this case. The word is very ancient, going back to Roman times, but it was in the Middle Ages and during the French Revolution that it acquired the connotation of drum-head justice, of people being hauled before citizen adjudicators who meted out punishment according to the temper or the distemper of the times.

The only real requirement to be a judge on the equity tribunals that Bill C-64 sets up is that the person so named be familiar with the equity employment theory and practice. Is that not the most eloquent invitation to bias you have ever heard? Will not the temptation to appoint employment equity activists simply be overwhelming? Will these tribunal judges not have more of an eye toward being politically correct rather than fair to the accused, to the company contesting the assessment of a compliance officer?

It gets worse. The equity tribunals that Bill C-64 sets up are courts of no appeal. The legislation specifically states that a company convicted by the tribunal has no recourse to another court unless on a technicality. There is no appeal. Whoever heard of such a thing? Even convicted murderers have the option of trying to appeal, but not an employer who fails to file an equity employment plan to the satisfaction of an equity employment tribunal.

I should note, however, that the action of initiating the levying of a fine against a company is to come from the Minister of Human Resources Development. The tribunal's role is to concur or not concur. Let us be candid here. The Minister of Human Resources Development we are talking about is not the political minister but the bureaucrats under him. If action leading to a fine is taken it will be by the deputy minister or an assistant deputy minister or an assistant to the assistant deputy minister. It will be a decision of the bureaucracy based on the recommendation of the human rights commission.

While I am entirely confident that the current Minister of Human Resources Development will always stay on top of his department and will personally review any proposal for a penalty against a private sector employer, how can we be sure that some future Minister of Human Resources Development will not get preoccupied and leave such decisions to the deputy minister or the assistant deputy minister or so on? This could be even worse than the tribunal. The ultimate decision to penalize a company will rest with the bureaucrats. They will decide. Although I believe that Canada's federal civil service is the best in the world, I question its understanding of and sympathy for the problems of private sector employers.

There is another reality. I hate to sound cynical, but these employment equity amendments may give even low-level bureaucrats a big stick. Companies vying for lucrative government contracts could be stopped in their tracks by the threat of employment equity complaints. They could be held to ransom by the unscrupulous. This may never be, but while 95 per cent of the people are honest, we have to watch out for that 5 per cent who are not.

If a company is trying to land a $100 million contract and a compliance officer suddenly says its employment equity plan is inadequate, what will occur? Bill C-64 makes no provision for policing the equity police.

The other major area of difficulty in Bill C-64 has to do with the fact that it exempts employers who would hire only aboriginals. I could speak at equal length about this problem, as it is equally fundamental and crucial. Suffice it to say that a bill that purports to try to eliminate discrimination actually condones it when it exempts a large group of Canadians solely by virtue of race. This is entirely contrary to the concept that we are all equal before the law. It is better to throw out a law entirely if it requires a clause that treats one Canadian differently than another based on birth rather

than merit. This is exactly what Bill C-64 does. This is unfortunate. It sows the seeds of anger and conflict.

This all appears so obvious to me. I have to acknowledge that I am only a layman in legal matters, as was the majority of MPs who considered this bill in committee. Naturally I want to know what Canada's legal community has had to say about this legislation. Does it share my misgivings? There is no way of knowing. Other than the National Association of Women and the Law no lawyers' groups testified before the committee. I suspect they were never invited. Government funded special interest groups however were well represented.

There is my dilemma as a government MP. I see fundamental problems with Bill C-64 of a legalistic nature but little evidence that the legal experts have been consulted. It is wrong to leave it to the courts to decide after a bill has passed. We are supposed to iron out the problems beforehand.

I do not believe this has been done. The trouble is I can do nothing but stand here and speak. The bill went to committee after first reading, enabling it to be flipped through report stage and second reading to a vote in five consecutive sitting days of this House of Commons. Five consecutive days, that is all.

There were no committee hearings following second reading as normally is the practice. There has been no chance for me to see my misgivings put to rest by asking the standing committee to summon expert witnesses who could comment on my concerns.

I would like to have heard the opinion of the Canadian Bar Association on this legislation. No chance now. I would like to have lobbied my fellow MPs to get them to study the bill and express their opinions. No chance now. I would like to have heard from retired judges of long experience. No chance now.

It is curious. I am a first time MP. I never dreamed, ever, that laws were created in this fashion.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I must say that it is refreshing to hear a Liberal talk about some of the concerns in a bill rather than just glowing over the top saying there are no problems at all. I applaud the member for putting forward his comments with the moral fortitude of speaking his mind.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-64, an act to implement employment equity. Bill C-64 aims to legislatively entrench employment equity for the federal public service and businesses of 100 or more employees doing business with the federal government by setting up racial and sex based hiring quotas.

Canadians have several concerns with the proposed bill and so they should. It is contradictory. It is discriminatory. It is patronizing. The underlying principles undermine the values in which Canadians take the most pride, fairness and equality for all.

In my view, public service hiring and promotion should be guided by one principle and one principle alone and that is merit. The government clearly has a role in ensuring equal opportunity and employment competition based on merit. In this bill hiring and promotion based on race or sex is in direct conflict with merit. If the best candidate is to be hired, race or sex should not matter.

The bill patronizes designated groups. It assumes their mediocrity and presupposes that certain groups of individuals will not be hired or promoted in the workforce on their own merit, so the only way they are going to get hired or promoted is to give special favour to their race, gender or disability. This is nonsense.

Employment equity assumes that if people fall within a particular category they need assistance. This is not the case. Whether a person is male or female, a visible minority, disabled, does not define a person's need for assistance and when we jump to such conclusions it is called racism or sexism. Clearly entitlement to government positions should be based on individual merit, not the colour of the applicant's skin or gender.

In addition, race and sex based policies can be detrimental to the workplace. They create tension and bad feelings among co-workers. Equal opportunity means allowing the same opportunity to each individual regardless of race, sex or religion, not rewarding one group over another because of basic characteristics.

Employees should have the right to be free of discrimination in the workplace. This right should be protected by government, not withdrawn as the bill attempts to do. The bill is not about equality, fairness or hiring the most qualified people for the job. It is about giving special status to one group over another based on race or sex.

All Canadians should be equal before and under the law. This bill violates those basic Canadian rights. On that basis alone, the bill should not be allowed to pass.

Rights and privileges should not be based on race or gender. These ideas went out in the 19th century with the growth of universal democracy and individual rights and freedoms. The government talks about equality of opportunity but at the same time is introducing affirmative action legislation that is fundamentally opposed to equality. How can Canada claim to be in the forefront of human rights legislation with such discriminatory legislation?

Governments have mandated preferential policies toward designated groups in the past. Bill C-64 establishes laws and regulations that mandate Canadians treat people differently, to consider race and gender when hiring or promoting. In so doing, the government

takes away individual respect and dignity and replaces it with a racist or a sexist hiring policy. This is going the wrong way.

No one should be accepted or rejected for a job based on race or gender. It is simply wrong to classify an applicant on the basis of these characteristics. Employees should be judged on the merit of their individual day to day accomplishments.

Blanket hiring of employees on the basis of race and gender is simply not acceptable to Canadians. More fundamentally, it is not the business of government to influence employment decisions in the private sector. Governments should not be imposing their bill on private business. Canadians do not need or want the influence of a big brother government watching over the private sector. Once again, the Liberals have underestimated the Canadian public. Canadians do not want this big brother approach meddling in their hiring practices.

In addition, I am concerned with the cost of the legislation. The government is proposing a program that could cost taxpayers billions. The total cost both direct and indirect of employment equity could amount to over $6 billion or nearly 1 per cent of the gross domestic product because it is going to affect a lot of businesses and people.

Where are the priorities of the government? It cannot guarantee seniors' pension funds, but it is prepared to throw $6 billion into employment equity. That is fundamentally wrong.

The legislation is misplaced by a government priority. Canadians will be most concerned by the enormous amounts of money that are going to be poured into this program because employment equity is unnecessary. The government claims it is eliminating barriers with this bill. It does not eliminate barriers, it creates them.

Obviously no one should discriminate against women, visible minorities or the disabled in hiring practices. I fail to see why we have this over reaction on the part of the government in an attempt to correct a problem that Canadians agree simply does not exist.

The Ontario election was fought on the issue of employment equity and the Liberals were defeated because they tried to force it down the throats of the electorate. In addition, this legislation is contradictory.

Bill C-64 states that no person should be denied employment opportunities for reasons other than ability. Yet the very essence of this act contradicts this statement. The bill promotes discrimination and legislates race and sex bias in the workplace.

All Canadians must be able to compete equally for jobs irrespective of race, gender or disability. Canadians should not be denied employment opportunities for reasons that have nothing to do with their abilities.

I must also point out that two wrongs do not make a right. Many young people today have enough strikes against them as they search the job market for whatever employment they can find. Employment equity will freeze out more opportunities for young people who do not fit into the preferential hiring practices, not because they lack the skills or ability but because of their personal hereditary characteristics. Any young person who has the misfortune of not falling into those categories is left out in the cold.

Applicants should not have to disclose the colour of their skin, their ethnic background, their gender or their religion. It is illegal to ask a person's age or marital status but to ask a person's race is all right? What is wrong with this picture?

Recently a Gallup poll showed that 74 per cent of Canadians oppose employment equity. If we were to poll Canadians today I am sure we would get the same results. In fact, the Ontario election is the latest and strongest indication that Canadians reject employment equity and are prepared to reject any government that proposes it. When will the government stop listening to special interest groups and start listening to Canadians?

In conclusion, I have to ask why the government insists on pushing legislation which is contrary to the views of most Canadians. This is the same mistake the last government made. We all know the price it paid for not listening. The real question is: Are the Liberals listening or are they going to force unwanted legislation on Canadians and suffer the same fate as the Conservatives? Time will tell.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Eugène Bellemare Liberal Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House to participate in the debate on Bill C-64, an act respecting employment equity.

When I listen to hon. members opposite, I sometimes have the impression that to them, employment equity is just a numbers game. That is not the case, The government has taken a holistic approach to employment equity. Contrary to what members of the Reform Party seem to believe, we are not just in the business of adding or subtracting numbers.

To the contrary, passage of Bill C-64 will enhance implementation of the Employment Equity Act so that we can continue to fight systemic discrimination and build a federally regulated workforce that reflects the diverse composition of Canadian society.

It is important to note it is not just the government which is concerned about diversity in the workforce. We know there are a growing number of employers who are getting behind employment

equity. They are not treating it as some kind of statistical exercise, which seems to be the way members of the Reform Party look on it.

Employment equity is helping us to build a harmonious society. Employers are learning how to manage diversity. Being able to manage a diverse labour force will help business to draw on the broad expertise of people from many different social and economic backgrounds.

There are some fine examples, such as the employer's leadership skills course, which is helping managers to understand individual differences and how to lead teams made up of diverse members. Another employer gathers information on his employee's negative experiences to determine the best way to improve their situation.

Some employers are providing video training to upgrade the computer skills of employees with learning and visual disabilities. Some employers are introducing flexible holiday arrangements for employees who wish to participate in their own religious ceremonies on specific days each year.

The point I am making is that employers are working with all of their employees to create a productive and harmonious workplace which represents the diverse nature of the Canadian population.

I submit it is the Reform Party that has a fixation with numbers, not the government. The bill refers not to quotas but to equal treatment. For example, let us look at the amendment on self-identification that the government accepted during the report stage of the bill. The amendment accepts the right of the employer to make the case that under-representation of a group is due to a lack of self-identification and there is a requirement for compliance officers to take such information into account.

I want to tell the House something about self-identification. Self-identification has encouraged individuals in the designated groups to come forward. In the past many of these individuals have tried to hide their minority status from society. We must remember that for years people have felt that they had to keep their disability secret and their racial origins to themselves. That is now changing.

Since 1987 more people in the designated groups are self-identifying because they feel more comfortable about doing so.

We know that representation of women and members of visible minorities in the labour force has increased considerably. In the case of aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities, the process has been slower but there has been an improvement.

Employment equity is not about adding a bunch of numbers and throwing them into a statistical report. The Reform Party is misleading Canadians by referring to employment equity in that way.

Bill C-64 accents reality. Its implementation will help us to use scarce resources in a way that will enable all Canadians to contribute their knowledge and skills to making a better Canada.

Many companies are already taking positive steps in that direction. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a wide range of measures to reach a representative workforce, including special initiatives for aboriginal people and for persons with intellectual disabilities.

Orth-McNeil, a drug company in Don Mills, Ontario, introduced flexible hours so that its female employees can either work at home or work part time after their maternity leave. York University in North York, Ontario, is always trying to increase representation of designated groups on its campus.

Even small and medium businesses recognize the importance of employment equity. On my way to the House of Commons from my riding office in Orléans at noon I stopped at a fast food restaurant for a quick lunch. The lady who served me had a speech impediment. I was served with politeness, speed and in a business-like manner. I commend the manager for recognizing employment equity and putting it into practice in the frontline of his business.

Bill C-64 is not about adding up a bunch of numbers and patting ourselves on the back because they look impressive. It is about doing the right thing and allowing all Canadians to feel they belong and can participate actively in a just and caring society. It is about ending systemic discrimination in the workplace and opening the labour force to all who are deserving based on ability. That is the thrust of the legislation and I am pleased to give it my wholehearted support.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I believe Canada is a cultural mosaic made up of citizens with various ethnic and religious backgrounds. Many of these people have overcome tremendous adversities to be able to reside in Canada where all citizens are supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law.

This sentiment has not always been shared or fostered across the land. At various times in our history certain groups have been the target of discrimination and persecution. These have scarred our past and from these times we have grown to be a much more tolerant and a much more civilized society.

I am not in favour of a homogenized Canada. I am in favour of equal access for all Canadians. Bill C-64 is an impediment to such access. By ensuring access to some, Liberals block access to others.

It is important to ensure Canadians from traditionally disadvantaged groups are given access to education and all the other benefits of Canadian citizenship, but this should not mean that special employment provisions are given to any group or individual in lieu of merit.

The opinion of the government is that these disadvantaged groups need special government legislated programs to be represented in the workforce. However legislation is overkill. Liberals will never achieve employment equity through divisive means even if it is imposed by the heavy hand of the law.

As an employer I am looking for a person who will do the job best. There is no race or gender attachment to that criterion; only merit. Under the government's plan I no longer have to find the best person for the job. I now have to find the best candidate from a designated group. This is not equal opportunity under the law. It is an enforced quota system.

The legislation states that employers with a workforce of at least 100 persons who are in the service of the federal government must comprise their workforce proportionately to the make-up of the population. The government has a fixation with numbers, quotas and statistics, which is why the Minister of Industry is going ahead with a census based on race, even on the nation of origin of Canadian citizens.

The Reform Party believes in an immigration policy that is colour blind and says that immigration based on race or country of origin is racism. If that is the case, what is legislation that is based on race or country of origin? I suggest respectfully it too is racism.

The government would lead us to believe that under representation of disadvantaged groups in the workplace is the result of discrimination. This is preposterous. In Canada citizens are free to choose the career of their choice. How could the government impose a plan on Canadians which quantifies access to certain jobs? If discrimination is wrong for one designated group, it is wrong for all Canadians.

To select someone for a job based on race or gender is just as wrong as not selecting the same person for the same reasons. All people must be equal regardless of race, language, creed, religion or gender.

Canada's employment practices have evolved to a level where we recognize the wrongs of the past. I would hope that we have also evolved to a level where we recognize that redemption for the oppression of one group should not be the oppression of another group. There is still considerable room for improvement. However Bill C-64 is clearly not the answer.

I should not expect the government to grasp the concept of equal opportunity. Its party has passed some of the most divisive legislation in Canadian history. According to Liberal dogma we as a country are supposed to find unity and strength by focusing on our differences and making exceptions for those differences.

Unfortunately we live in an intolerant world. We only have to watch the nightly news to see the atrocities that occur daily in the name of difference. Why would we in Canada, a country of incredible opportunity, focus on the differences of the population and legislate employment policies based on race, gender and disability?

To identify a specific group as disadvantaged gives a perception that it is incapable of succeeding on its own. This is clearly untrue and is a disservice to those groups.

I should mention that many women in my constituency have approached me on the issue. Uniformly they see quotas as demeaning their personal value, developed skills and work ethic. They want government meddling in the workforce eliminated, not enhanced.

When will the government realize the ramifications of its actions? The people of Ontario clearly voted against the unwanted employment equity legislation. Does it not see the divisions and animosity created by its policies? I wonder if the government has taken into consideration the long term effects of its quota systems, because they are quota systems. At what point do we reverse the discrimination angle and again promote those who have been kept down? This is a cyclical effect and the only solution is to end it now.

The government should be proactive, advocate equality in the truest sense of the word, treat all Canadians the same, tax them the same and educate them the same. As utopian as that may sound it is a positive step for the future.

As long as the government keeps legislating discriminatory ideology there is no possible means of attaining what is guaranteed under the charter, that we are all equal in the eyes of the law.

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5:35 p.m.


John Murphy Liberal Annapolis Valley—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-64, an act respecting employment equity.

I support the bill. I believe it is an important step in ensuring fairness and equity in the workplace. This is especially true for women, aboriginal people, persons of disability and members of visible minorities, all of whom represent segments of our society that have not always been given a fair opportunity. These groups continue to experience higher than average unemployment rates, lower than average salaries, and are concentrated in the lower paying jobs.

In recent weeks we have had a valuable debate about employment equity. It has allowed us to discuss an initiative that will help ensure all Canadians have equal opportunities in the workplace.

However throughout the debate there has been one recurring and unsettling element: the consistent effort of the Reform Party to practise the politics of polarization.

As I have listened to the debate, far too often members of the third party have chosen to misrepresent the intent and practice of employment equity. In so doing they have chosen a dangerous course. Instead of taking an important step forward they have opted for the status quo. Instead of making our society stronger and more inclusive they are spreading misinformation aimed at dividing people.

Before I deal with their politics of polarization, let me begin my remarks by noting other elements of the position of Reformers on the bill. The key element of their position is that infallible market forces are enough to address employment barriers. That was summarized in their minority addendum to the report of the standing committee. They stated quite clearly that the market would punish an employer whose employment practises had systemic discrimination built into them. Yet market forces alone cannot eradicate systemic discrimination. Voluntary measures toward achieving equity in the workplace have not brought about significant changes for many people.

There is another dimension to the Reform position, that is the denial of systemic discrimination in the workplace, discrimination that not only results from a conscious bias but from inadvertent practices and systems. In other words a seemingly neutral policy can have adverse impact on certain groups and individuals based on race, gender and disability.

The term systemic discrimination refers to this type of unintentional barrier to equality. However, when I listened to the arguments made by members of the third party, they believe only one kind of discrimination occurs when an employer says that he will not hire a person because she is a woman, a visible minority, an aboriginal person or has a disability. Systemic discrimination has nothing to do with any intention to discriminate. Canadian employers are fair. Many organizations have already recognized the existence of such discrimination in their workplace and are working hard to eliminate it.

That brings me to my final point, the politics of polarization. Time and time again hon. members in the third party have chosen to debate the issue in terms that can only create confusion and division. They talk about quotas when the bill explicitly rejects them. They claim the bill promotes a new kind of discrimination when it clearly does not. They harp on this as an attack on merit, yet the bill explicitly states that no employer will ever be forced to hire an unqualified person. That bears repeating because the third party is trying to confuse the people of Canada. The bill explicitly states that no employer will ever be forced to hire an unqualified person.

I advise my hon. colleagues across the way to take some time to sit down and read through the bill. They should read section 5 where they will see what employer obligations really are. They should read section 6 where they will see what is not an obligation. They should read section 10 where they will see what an employment equity plan really is.

Bill C-64 is about making all reasonable efforts to build workplaces that respect people. In listening to the arguments of my colleagues across the way it is clear they have chosen to ignore the experience of many employers covered under the existing legislation. They are making employment equity work the right way. They see it as a human resource planning pool. They know that a key element of an effective equity program is communication. People need to know what equity is and conversely they need to know what it is not.

When members of the Reform Party suggest that the legislation is about stealing legitimate opportunities from some to give it to the undeserving, what kind of a response do they expect? It would seem that they want a backlash. Rather than focusing on the issues of real equity in the workplace, they instead focus on misinformation about what the bill really stands for. They are trying to capitalize on genuine concerns many Canadians have about their jobs and their future.

Let us be clear. The Reform Party wants short term political gain based on the politics of fear.

This bill responds to a real problem. It reaffirms our government's commitment to equity for all Canadians. Our government is living up to its responsibility and we are working to make positive changes for Canadians. We realize that denying this problem will not make it go away.

In closing, Bill C-64 is not about giving unfair advantage to certain designated groups; it is about equality and removing barriers to employment. When this bill comes to final vote I will be on the side of building a stronger and more inclusive society in Canada. I will vote in favour of Bill C-64 and I encourage all members of this House to do the same.

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5:45 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back in the House after a week's break. Things have not changed too much. I heard Reform mentioned quite often which is music to my ears. We must be saying something right.

I always say that the proof is in the pudding and to practise what you preach. For example, we have tried to be employed as committee vice-chairmen in this House for a number of years. For some reason it has not held true that we have been equally treated to that extent. We have capable people who should be employed as vice-chairs in the committees but it does not seem to work that

way. That is democracy Liberal style, I heard an hon. member say, but let us get down to the basics.

It is a pleasure to address this bill, an act representing employment equity. I would like to add my voice to those of my colleagues in opposition to this offensive piece of legislation.

This bill sets out to achieve numerical equity by occupational groups in the following workplaces that employ 100 or more people: the federal public service; federally regulated private business; and businesses that undertake contracts with the federal government. The bill sets out to do this by correcting conditions of the disadvantaged experienced by certain groups through the use of racial and gender based quotas.

Under this bill all affected businesses would have to comply with extensive reporting obligations, including filing detailed analyses of their hiring practices and racial breakdowns of their staffs. This is a costly imposition.

The Reform Party believes that all Canadians are equal under the law and all Canadians have the right to be free from discrimination in the workplace. No one should be denied an employment opportunity for reasons that have nothing to do with inherent ability. The Reform Party also believes that merit should be the sole hiring criteria in the workplace. To pass over the best qualified candidate in order to fill a racially based quota is a denial of the merit principle and in itself is racist.

We believe in a system that is colour blind and gender neutral. Canadians who wish to pursue a certain vocation should not face barriers of discrimination. Those with ability and discipline deserve the rewards of their hard work.

The key assumption underlining the notion of equality in Bill C-64 is that equality means equality of numerical representation in the workplace. Even in a perfect world it seems unlikely that people from designated groups would enter each segment of the workforce in numbers precisely equal to their representation in the workplace. Yet this government persists in depending on numerical equality as the standard of justice.

A 1993-94 report on employment equity in the public service says that self-identification is the backbone of the employment equity program. This raises a serious concern over the reliability of the self-identification process. Many people may refuse to identify themselves as a member of a designated group because they fear they would be seen differently by co-workers. This avoidance could then skew the statistical base. If enough people refused to self-identify, then the appearance of discrimination would be elevated.

For example, the Clerk of the House of Commons appeared with the result of a self-identification survey before the standing committee studying this bill. This survey was sent to 1,700 House employees. Just 23 per cent returned the survey. Of that number, less than 50 identified themselves as a member of a designated group. Clearly the appearance of non-compliance can be created by inadequate data.

A 1992-93 report on employment equity in the public service stated that the number of visible minority employees may be underidentified by one and one-half times and the number of disabled by two and one-half times. This has serious implications for employers. If some members of designated groups fail to identify themselves as belonging to a designated group, the employer would have to consistently report an unrepresentative workplace. In this case the employer would be forced to report non-compliance when in fact he or she might be complying.

There is also the aspect that employees would be tempted to falsify self-identification surveys. Since no verification is ever attempted, no studies have been conducted on the possibility of abuse in this regard. However, the 1994 report of the Employment Equity Act notes that in 1991, 2.3 million Canadians reported having a disability, an increase of 30 per cent over 1986. Only part of this can be explained by an aging population.

This bill gives Canadians a strong motive to count themselves in as disadvantaged. Even more confusing is the fact there is no uniform definition of disability used in Canada and disabilities are often determined on a case by case basis.

This type of legislation results in reverse discrimination. It attempts to fight racism or sexism by racist and sexist means.

For a while in 1992 the RCMP in Alberta stopped accepting applications from white males. The RCMP now operates several preferential hiring programs. Out of the 426 cadets in training this year, 74 per cent must be selected from three of the four designated groups.

Polls in Canada have consistently shown that Canadians do not want employment equity programs. A 1993 Gallup poll showed that 74 per cent said that qualifications should be the sole criteria for hiring for management positions. The question is: When will this government start listening to Canadians instead of forcing legislation on them that they do not want?

This seems to have been the Liberal agenda for the last couple of years: "Do as we say or you will not do as you should be doing according to your constituents". This is another prime example of the Liberal government trying to force through legislation that will be detrimental not just to this country but to the economy of the

country. It is time we recognized that we have to listen to the grassroots people, that we have to listen to the grassroots businesses. They have the answers for this country and that is what the people of Canada want.

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5:55 p.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba


Ronald J. Duhamel LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, on October 3 in this very House at the start of the debate on the amendment motions to Bill C-64, the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest said: "The private sector by and large is light years ahead of the government in its relationship with minority groups".

That comes from one of the more enlightened members of the Reform Party. Imagine what the rest of them must be thinking when such a glaring error has been made. That is incorrect and false information. It was not intended to be. It just happened to be because that member did not know as his colleagues do not know the truth of the matter. I want to set the record straight.

Our latest annual report was tabled in the House by the Minister of Human Resources Development and the President of the Treasury Board. It shows that for three of the designated groups, that is, women, aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities, in representation levels the ratios of designated group members to the entire workforce are higher in the federal public service than in the whole federally regulated private sector. Those are the facts.

The lower representation of visible minorities in the public service as a whole is due in part to the fact that the public service does not have an equivalent to the banking sector where representation is 13 per cent.

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5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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5:55 p.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

The Reform Party does not get its facts straight because when we attempt to put the facts on the table, Reformers will not listen. I am going to continue to give them the facts and perhaps some day they will sink in.

Jobs in the public service in contrast to the federally regulated sector are not as concentrated in large Canadian metropolitan areas. These are the urban centres where the vast majority of Canadians of a visible minority are residing. However, visible minorities make up 8.3 per cent of the relatively well paid scientific and professional category of the public service.

It should also be noted that right now, one out of five executives in the public service is a woman. What is it in the private sector? One in ten. I suppose the Reform Party is going to tell me that is better. I suppose Reform members are going to tell me that is because women have been favoured. No, it is not because they have been favoured. It is because there have been open policies which have recognized the systemic discrimination and in part it has been corrected.

Professor Andrew Hede of the University of Southern Queensland in Australia published a comparative analysis of women executives in public services. Drawing from the experience in Britain, the United States and Australia he wrote: "Canada is the clear front runner in the equity stakes". Why will my colleagues from the Reform Party not admit that we are leaders? I know why. It is because they cannot possibly admit whenever the government does something right.

Make no mistake about it. There is still a lot that needs to be done, but we are making progress. These are sound policies. It is unfortunate that some people would want to peg them as discriminatory for political gain.

Now for my comments on Bill C-64. Some people have a poor perception of employment equity and of Bill C-64 in particular. They believe, and in my opinion they are wrong, that these are radical social experiments. One wonders whether there is no awareness or appreciation of the past and present policies of this government which are aimed at helping the most vulnerable members of our society and thus increasing employment equity.

Let me present the facts so that these people will understand the historic background of this bill. I hope this will improve their perspective and give them a better appreciation of employment equity.

I will provide a history of the development of employment equity at the federal level, with some specific examples of the situation, past and present, in the public service.

What I am about to say will make it abundantly clear, and it may even be understood by those who do not want to see it, that employment equity is not a revolution that would target and punish groups which may have benefited from the employment system in the past. Rather, I want to paint employment equity in Canada as an evolutionary social policy initiative consistent with the tradition of fairness and dignity for all that is so prevalent in the mainstream of Canadian society. That is what it is all about.

Let me give some examples of a few very significant historical milestones.

The Royal Commission on the Status of Women was a stimulus for early efforts by the federal government in the 1970s to deal systematically with issues of representation in the public service.

In the early 1980s the federal government introduced a program to bring about the equitable representation and distribution of

women, aboriginal peoples, and persons with disabilities in the public service. In 1985 visible minorities were included in the program.

The government also launched the special measures programs to encourage the recruitment of designated group members. A service-wide self-identification survey was carried out to provide the numerical information for the program.

And in 1986, following the 1984 report of the Royal Commission on Employment Equity, sometimes referred to as the Abella Report, the federal government passed the Employment Equity Act. The government also introduced Treasury Board's policy on employment equity.

In 1988, the government appointed the Task Force on Barriers to Women in the Public Service whose report Beneath the Veneer was published in 1990. The report recommended a broad range of measures to attract, train and maintain women in positions at all levels. It provided the inspiration for a number of important proposals made in the White Paper on Public Service Renewal, Public Service 2000, and in the Public Service Reform Act tabled in the House of Commons.

In 1989, Treasury Board introduced an annual program of employment equity merit awards to celebrate outstanding achievements by departments with respect to various designated groups. That same year the Canadian Centre for Management Development opened its doors. Among other things, the centre encourages the implementation of key employment equity objectives, including diversity management.

Also in 1989, Treasury Board adopted a policy on services available to persons with disabilities.

In 1990 the secretary of the Treasury Board, with advice from a deputy ministerial committee, set goals for the achievement of equity for the four designated groups, reviewed accountability mechanisms, monitored developments with respect to national strategies and initiatives, and gave advice to departments on communications strategies and efforts.

In May 1992 the government announced its intention to legislate employment equity in the public service through amendments to the Financial Administration Act, thereby confirming by statute obligations on the public service that were comparable to those placed on federally regulated employers under the Employment Equity Act.

On June 18, 1992 royal assent was given to a bill modifying six federal laws pertaining to persons with disabilities, two of which were a Treasury Board responsibility. These were the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The acts were modified to facilitate access to government records and to have personal information in an alternative format for persons with a sensory disability.

In December 1992 Parliament passed the Public Service Reform Act which amended various federal acts, including the Financial Administration Act. As a result of these revisions, the President of the Treasury Board is now required to table in Parliament an annual report on the state of employment equity in the public service during the immediately preceding fiscal year.

In 1993, the framework for better employment equity in the public service in the 1990s was published. This framework was the product of reflection by the secretary of Treasury Board with the support of a group of deputy ministers. It described a new approach to employment equity at a time when resources were few and managers and employees were increasingly being asked to be accountable by focussing service on the client and coming up with their own ways to promote a positive corporate culture.

In April 1994, Treasury Board approved the implementation of a new program of special measures replacing previous special measures programs. This new program advocated more innovation and flexibility in increasing representation by members of the designated groups and changing corporate culture within the public service.

Finally, in December 1994 the government introduced Bill C-64, an act respecting employment equity. It brings private and public sector employers, including the public service, under a single legislated regime. Employers would be subject to identical obligations to implement employment equity and a uniform process. The Canadian Human Rights Commission would be authorized to conduct compliance audits.

This is the reality. I have just described it. I hope my colleagues opposite will stop using this expression and this program in an attempt to claim they hold the key to the truth. I hope that, finally, they will stop and look, open their eyes and their heart, and admit that, without such programs, women, aboriginal peoples, members of visible minorities and other inadequately represented groups would not be given favourable treatment.

I could go on at length, but I feel I have nevertheless set out the facts. If they keep an open mind, something all members should have, these hon. members will approve and support a government bill in the end.

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6:05 p.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is not a pleasure to stand and address this bill. I know it is customary for people to stand and tell the Speaker and the House that it is a real pleasure to be here. However, I can say quite honestly that this is a horrible piece of legislation. I cannot believe that members across the way would stand in support of legislation that started under the Conservative government. I guess we can see that they truly are soul mates.

I listened with interest to the hon. member from Manitoba describe with religious fervour how much he supports the legislation. He listed statute after statute, suggesting that somehow this was great legislation that would bring about equity and we would all be drinking free beer and there would be food and happiness across the land. Unfortunately, that is not the way it works.

The hon. member talked about the need to have all kinds of legislation and the wonderful things the government has done with respect to employment equity. Long before the government got involved in the game, people from different countries came to Canada and somehow over a period of time they got along and worked together and eventually they all worked together in government.

I am certain my hon. friend from Manitoba could tell us stories about the experiences of his family and growing up on the prairies. My family came from the prairies. When the prairies were settled 75 to 100 years ago there were people who came from all around the world. They all spoke different languages and had completely different heritages. After a while, as they got to know each other, which took some time, they started to work together and they became not only co-workers but friends. Eventually, of course, it finds its way up the system and it is now seen in government.

I would like to point out to my friends across the way that society is almost always ahead of the government on these issues. I believe it is truly the case, even in the situation we had where a few years ago the government started legislating through employment equity in those industries that fell under federal jurisdiction. I point to a study that was done a few years ago of the broadcast industry, where it was found that the CBC was actually far behind some of the private sector broadcasters. I refer to CITY-TV in Toronto, where it has always reflected that community in the make-up of the people who went on the air. The CBC was way behind. Of course everyone panicked, because the government was not following the legislation. CITY-TV was well ahead on that issue.

I worked for the same company that CITY-TV actually belonged to. We ran into all kinds of problems with the legislation because, among other things, people had to self-identify. Other members have spoken on that issue.

In the little radio station I ran there was someone who was aboriginal but who refused to identify as an aboriginal. And hair on him. I think that is great. People do not want to be seen as victims. They say "I can make it on my own". In fact, they were already in our employ, so obviously we did not discriminate.

People have the capability of doing these things on their own. They do not need the government standing there at every step, saying: "You are a victim, so we are going to step in; we are going to stand on everybody else's fingers just so we can make sure you get into the workforce".

I would argue that society is always way out ahead of government on these issues. If people want to see rough equalities, give it a few years. People will eventually realize it is in their best interest to hire people on the basis of merit alone. In fact we see that in many successful companies today.

I would argue that it is very hard for the government to micro-manage people's businesses to the point where they can say that it is in the best interests of a company to hire these people from such and such a group. The reason I would make that argument is because people who are coming from a visible minority of some kind perhaps are coming from another country where they have not yet had training in a particular area, and until they have been in the country for a while they perhaps do not have all the necessary skills. But that is a function of education; it is not a function of legislation by the government. Let those people find the education they need and eventually they will find their way into those industries.

We do not need the government to stand there and crack the whip and say that because 40 per cent of the population in your area is made up of blue people you have to have blue people, even if those blue people are not necessarily qualified. That is crazy. I think you will find that most people would regard that as degrading. It is absolutely degrading. I think people will rise on their own merits. We do not need to have some kind of a quota system, such as is being proposed here.

My friends across the way shake their heads and say no, it is not a quota system. If you were told that you have to hire from these particular groups to fulfil this legislation, then of course ultimately it is a quota. The numbers may not be on there, but as my friend from Lisgar-Marquette has pointed out, in 1992 the RCMP in Alberta were hiring all of their people out of employment equity legislation, which means that nobody else had a chance to apply. The numbers may not be written down specifically in the legislation, but if the scope of the legislation is such that it suggests that these are all you have to choose from, then ultimately people do not have a choice. They do not have the ability to hire the people they want to hire based on merit. That is ridiculous. That is absolutely crazy.

I would argue that public debate is always the answer in these things. Not very long ago, and I could not believe it, we had people suggesting we should have a speech code in the House of Com-

mons, that we should have some little kangaroo court passing judgment on whether or not what people say in here is appropriate.

Public discourse and public debate will always be the ultimate arbiter when it comes to these things. For all the improvements we have seen in the country in terms of being tolerant to other groups and that kind of thing over the last 125 years, the credit does not belong to this place. The credit belongs to intelligent men and women over the course of history who have realized that the person next door may not be the same as me, but they are my equal and therefore I accept them. That is an education process. It is part of the public discourse. It is part of the public debate. And in every case I can think of where we have brought legislation in here, including in 1929, when we finally decided that women would be recognized as persons, I would guarantee you that the politicians were behind the public.

Certainly in 1929 men and women who worked side by side on the farm on the prairies respected each other. They recognized each other as people. In this place it took us until 1929 to figure that out. That is ridiculous. Again, I say we are way behind the times in this place on this particular piece of legislation.

Let us talk about sauce for the goose and sauce for the gander. Let us talk about the fact that the House of Commons, while it suggests this is good legislation for federally regulated industries and contractors who do business with the government, would never bind itself by this legislation. I do not see my hon. friends across the way advocating that they should be bound by the legislation and should have to hire people from particular groups. I see them shaking their heads and looking nervously about.

Here we go again. This is just like the MP pension debate. The Canada pension plan for seniors has to be cut but MPs are different. Somehow the legislation should apply to everybody else but us. Now they are shaking their heads. However, they cannot for a moment justify why this legislation does not apply to them. Look at those guys over here. They are reduced to heckling because they cannot justify their position. They cannot justify why this legislation would not apply to themselves. That speaks volumes about where they stand on this issue when it comes right down to their offices. They think it is good in theory. They think it is good for the general public in abstract but when it comes to their offices there is just no way.

Actions speak louder than words. The government by not applying this to the House of Commons has shown that it really is not as committed as it claims to be. It believes it is good in theory for others but not for itself.

I believe Canadians have shown that they will reject this. Seventy-four per cent of the people across Canada, according to Gallup, do not want this type of legislation. We saw it hammered down in Ontario. It is time the government woke up and smelled the coffee and decided that it is going to get in touch with the Canadian agenda, not its own agenda and not the agenda of some special interest group or some bureaucrat who is completely out of touch with what people think. We would not have this crazy kind of legislation in this place any more if it did.