House of Commons Hansard #236 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-64.


Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.


Stan Keyes Hamilton West, ON


Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.


Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

I hear the member opposite say: "Nonsense". My argument is that whether people are male, female, black, white, yellow, red or green as the member for Edmonton Southwest said, it does not matter. They should apply for the job. If they have the training and the qualifications they will get hired.

The employer should be free to hire. Is that not freedom? Is that not freedom of choice? Is that not in the charter of rights? What rights do employers have?

We are trying to make a better system for the country. We are trying to encourage people. It is equal opportunity that is important. It is on equal opportunity that certain members of the government are missing the point. They fail to see that we are looking for introducing and encouraging businesses to hire the best person for the job but to give the black, the white, the Indian, the yellow or whatever race, equal opportunity to be interviewed for the job. That is the kind of legislation from which we need to protect people. Those are the kinds of regulations that perhaps we could introduce into our system to make sure that everybody has an equal opportunity. If they do not, then they are discriminated against and then we should do something about it.

Employers cannot be legislated to hire certain types of people because of quotas. That is not meanspirited. That is right spirited. That is trying to put the heart and the mind in the right place to do the right thing for the right people, both employers and employees.

The government is interfering once again in corporate Canada by bringing in regulations and red tape it has no business doing. Government is better off doing other things, such as balancing the budget and getting us out of debt. That is the problem. Government wants to add to it at 3 per cent of GDP per year. The deficit is not the problem, the debt is. Legislation such as this is going to make it more difficult and more inefficient for corporations to operate and function.

In my years as an employer in the private sector, I have interviewed and hired a lot of people who are disadvantaged. I have hired people who were mentally handicapped. They did a good job in delivering internal documentation. Our encouraging them, working with them and seeing them grow in spirit, heart and mind was an encouragement and a boost for all of us. I did not need legislation to do that. Nobody ordered me to hire this gentleman.

In a company I still own, there is currently an individual who is physically handicapped. He is short and one leg is shorter than the other. He is just one heck of a good draftsman. He is a great spirit around the office and fun to have. I have hired males, females, francophones. I have hired a Czechoslovakian who can barely speak English. Nobody ordered me to do this.

I am saying this as a representative of the private sector, which I believe I am. I am about the average of the private sector. Certainly there are some people in the private sector who would take advantage of the rules but I would say the majority of people, which I represent, do not need legislation like this to tell them whom to hire and why to hire them. They are going to look for competent people, people who are going to fit into the mould of their corporations and their companies.

To have this arbitrary law that says that you must now, Mr. Silye, interview people of this nature and this type because of the census is wrong. It says this is the only classification you can look for, when perhaps the very types of people I am being ordered to hire do not have the training or the background to do that particular job.

Let us stick to the issues. Let us not bash the Liberal Party, the Reform Party. Let us talk about the merits and the demerits, the pluses and the minuses of employment equity. That is a debate. That is what the people are here to hear. That is what Canadians want to know about. Is it a good thing or is it a bad thing?

I stand today in my place to say I think it is a bad thing. If other hon. members feel it is a good thing, let them say why they think it is good. Let me say why I think it is bad. Let us not get into Reform bashing and the meanspirited kind of crap that is going on which leads to unparliamentary language. Let us just stick to the issue.

One of the biggest weaknesses of the government's argument and that of the individuals who represent employment equity is that in the name of introducing equity and equality they are, and I hope they can see this, introducing a form of inequality, a form of inequity that discriminates reversely against the very discrimination they claim they are trying to avoid.

It is the same with the Income Tax Act which is convoluted, complicated and confusing. In the name of clarification, in the name of fairness, in the name of equity the government has introduced 1,000 plus pages of rulings and amendments to clarify the Income Tax Act. By adding another 1,000 pages is that clarifying it or is that confusing it even more? It is making it worse and worse and worse. It is the same kind of thing that is going on with this bill. By preaching and supporting employment equity the Liberals are introducing more legislation, more rules that make it more confusing, more convoluted, more complicated. It is a detriment to business. It is a detriment to the hard working citizens

of the country who want to move forward and get on with the job of stimulating the economy. At every turn another government law comes in with more red tape, more regulations, more rules to follow, more auditors. Now we are going to have people auditors.

It is bad enough that Revenue Canada is checking our books every frigging month. It is bad enough that Revenue Canada is interpreting the rules for the government because we need money.

Let me remind all those people at Revenue Canada it is not the deficit that is the problem. Let me remind the Government of Canada it is not the deficit that is the problem. The debt is the problem and the government is adding to it. High taxes are the problem and the government is adding to that. It is bad regulations, lousy rules like this, terrible laws like this which are the problem. The government is not listening. It is continually adding to the problem.

I understand it is in the hearts of Liberals. I know they believe what they are saying comes from the heart and they feel it is helping Canadians. I believe when they say they are trying to eliminate discrimination that they are honest and sincere about it. But I am saying that in so doing they are not really eliminating discrimination, they are introducing a new form of discrimination. That is what is wrong. That is what I ask the government to reconsider.

This amendment deals with the private sector. I hope members opposite will agree it has been a good employer, has promoted the economy. Eighty-five per cent of revenue generated in tax dollars comes from the private sector. At least leave it alone.

If the government really believes in the legislation, then just apply it to the government sector. It can do what it wants with the bureaucracy. That is their baby. Do it, try it and see the inequities that will be introduced. But please support the amendment because it leaves one sector of the economy that can function viably well and will not in any way deter or detract from the intent of the bill. I know how the private sector thinks, acts and deals. It usually hires the best person regardless of race, colour, creed or whatever.

If the government is intent on introducing employment equity, go ahead and do it in the public sector. Go ahead and do it with the bureaucrats and watch the uprising that will occur. I know a lot of people in the bureaucracy are not happy with the form of affirmative action that is taking place right now.

I am asking the government to reconsider its opposition to the amendment and do something constructive. It can have it both ways. By accepting this amendment it can go ahead with the bill, if it is just applied to the public sector and leave the private sector alone. Then we will see which will end up being right.

I believe the bill is an intrusion into our lives. It is an intrusion which the government does not need to do. It is an intrusion it would be better off to avoid and leave alone. I believe that employers can be trusted. I know that for the most part private sector employers, the vast majority, can be trusted.

Mr. Speaker, I know you have a great interest in hockey. Does it discriminate against players from all over the world? No. It sought to change the rules, to bring in the best hockey players in the world. We have a National Hockey League that has every nationality playing on it. Was there employment equity introduced in that profession? No. We do not need employment equity. I stand against employment equity. I stand for this amendment and for equal opportunity for all.

Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the summer I spent my time in my riding of Windsor-St. Clair which is the centre of my universe.

I returned to this session of Parliament with a renewed commitment to employment equity. I am convinced more than ever that Bill C-64 is the right thing for Canada right now. I am concerned though, after meeting with my constituents over the summer recess, that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about both the intent and the implications of our improved employment equity legislation.

Distortions have resulted from a misinterpretation and frankly, a misrepresentation of the facts by a few. I have discovered that once these misconceptions are straightened out and the legislation fully understood, it gains widespread support. It seems to be essential that these misconceptions be corrected on the floor of the House.

I specifically want to address several of the arguments raised in the Reform Party's minority report. I am particularly concerned about the attitude that report reflects, the "I'm all right, I have got mine, Jack" attitude. I have mine so everyone else can go to hell. That is the tone of the Reform Party's minority report. The idea in it is that I got ahead and so everyone else should just try to get there on their own. I do not owe it to anybody to help them or to assist them or to do anything.

It is disingenuous for a woman to suggest that because she is successful, got there on her own, she owes nothing to her sisters who came before her. It is disingenuous for any of us to suggest that anyone can get to this job, can become an accountant, can become a banker or can become a painter. It is disingenuous, false and deludes the Canadian public.

The idea that as Canadians we should not acknowledge and address systemic inequities and that in promoting that view it is okay to promulgate misinformation and to promote misconceptions is anathema to the government.

The first assumption I would like to address is the assumption that women, persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities and aboriginal people are somehow enjoying special privileges that compensate for their disadvantage and that are way ahead of the general population. Informed individuals know that nothing could be further from the truth.

The 1995 United Nations human development report concluded that it is still an unequal world. Canada in practice is still in many respects an unequal country. Canadian employers agree with this.

A witness representing the Manitoba telephone system told members of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons the following:

There is very little evidence in the workforce to suggest that in the absence of affirmative measures or some intervention equality will indeed occur. We live in a society that prefers some values, some characteristics over others. The kind of legislation that employment equity represents is an appropriate intervention in the flow of business decision making.

That was stated by the private sector.

There was also the suggestion that the current Employment Equity Act has been so effective that it has eliminated employment problems for members of the designated groups. The facts speak for themselves.

The 1984 annual report on the Employment Equity Act, a copy of which all members of Parliament received, concluded that a number of Canadian companies covered by the legislation have yet to completely satisfy its intent. Of the 343 employers in the report, four employers had no female employees; 74 did not employ a single aboriginal person; 65 did not have persons with disabilities on staff; 28 employed no members of visible minority groups. This was the situation nearly eight years after the current act was proclaimed into force in August 1986.

Like other government members here today, I certainly applaud the progress that has been made over the years, but I think all members will agree that we have some distance to go.

Let us look at the suggestion that the market automatically solves inequities without government intervention, a suggestion that was heard from the last speaker. That theory was clearly addressed in the recently released United Nations report, the most exhaustive examination of the issue of inequality for women in our time. It was prepared by an international team of eminent consultants and stated:

The free workings of economic and political processes are unlikely to deliver equality of opportunity because of the prevailing inequities in power structures. When such structural barriers exist, government intervention is necessary, both through comprehensive policy reforms and through a series of affirmative actions.

I remind the House that Canada is the number one nation in the world in its human development index ranking according to the UN. However, when we look at it closer and consider women's economic positions in our society, our country drops from number one to number nine.

To add insult to injury, there are some who use women, members of visible minority groups, aboriginals and persons with disabilities as scapegoats as if we were somehow to blame for the stresses resulting from our rapidly changing economy.

We are in the midst of one of the most momentous transitions in human history. In the span of this century we have shifted through the agricultural and industrial eras and are hurtling fast forward to the information age and the knowledge economy. If the general population finds itself a victim in this vortex, imagine how much greater the impact is on Canadians who are members of minority groups, on women, on persons with disabilities.

It is not fair to suggest, as the Reform minority report does, that statistical data are skewed to make the case for employment equity. Canada's statistics and its statistical analyses are the best in world, so much so that our data is sought after by governments and by academics everywhere. It is true that no statistics are perfect, including those for gross domestic product, unemployment, or demographics. But does the Reform Party seriously suggest that we should abandon the pursuit of social justice and abandon the pursuit of economic growth just because there are numerous ways to read the numbers?

Incredibly, the Reform Party report also asserts that employment equity somehow hurts designated groups. It suggests that designation "carries with it a presumption of racial and gender inferiority". I would like to hear the Reform Party stand before Women in Trades and Technology, who organized a letter writing campaign in support of Bill C-64, and say that. Letters to the human resources minister urged the government to go further. Many letters stated that much work needs to be done to urge, coerce, educate, and assist employers and unions to increase and enhance women's opportunities to train and work in their industries.

These women are asking the government to modify policy and program interventions to support and encourage true equality in the workplace. They are not alone. In case somebody thinks they are alone, let me remind the Reform Party and this House that women are 52 per cent of the population.

The vast majority of witnesses before the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons fully endorsed the direction of our new legislation. They recognize that treating people differently in order to achieve equality has nothing to do

with inferiority. It has everything to do with ensuring each and every job applicant has an equal chance to prove his or her abilities.

Recently I saw a cartoon that showed a monkey, a seal, an elephant and a dog being told by a circus job interviewer: "For a just selection, everyone has to take the same examination. Now please, I would like each of you to climb that tree". The idea that there is some ideal to which we all must conform is ridiculous. It is also discriminatory, and Canadians will not put up with it. If this legislation does nothing else, it will finally put some of these outdated and damaging beliefs to rest. It will ensure that yet another generation does not adopt the hardened attitudes held by their elders and perpetuate systemic and overt discrimination.

Employment equity is a guarantee that every little girl and every little boy will grow up in this country secure in the knowledge that each can pursue his or her dreams, that they will some day work in a world that is fair, that is equal, that is free of racial slurs and unwanted pats on the backside, where doors are always open instead of being inaccessible. They will be assured of being citizens of a Canada where they can have a fighting chance of achieving their personal career goals.

Is that intrusive? Is it really so much to ask? Today's working Canadians and tomorrow's future parents, taxpayers, and employees expect no less. The hon. members of this House must not let them down.

I am convinced that Bill C-64 is the next logical step in our nation's progress. I am anxious to get on with the job.

Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.


Stan Keyes Hamilton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House to speak to report stage of Bill C-64, in particular the motions being given today by the third party, the Reform Party.

Some of what I have heard here in the House troubles me a great deal, which is why I thought it only appropriate that I rise and try to put down some of the myths that are being put forward by the third party through these motions. I was likewise distressed with a colleague of mine, the member for Hamilton-Wentworth.

We heard, and I will quote as closely as I can, the member for Hamilton-Wentworth say that the bureaucracy should not be intervening in the matters of private enterprise. We heard that the government is being intrusive, according to the member for Calgary Centre, and I will try to quote him as closely as I can: "I have chosen as a member myself to be meanspirited, but the government is trying to get into the face and get into the lives of private enterprise". Those are pretty meanspirited remarks coming from the member for Calgary Centre.

It is the job of government to ensure that things are done as properly as they can be, as we work as a team for Canada and what is in the best interests of the people of this great land. For example, when we talk about getting in the face of private enterprise, as the member for Calgary Centre has mentioned, yes, the government in matters of transportation got into the face of the transportation sector when it came to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway system.

Would we have a national airline if the government did not intervene? Would we have a national system of airports if the government did not intervene? Would we have a Trans-Canada Highway if the government did not intervene? Would there be a stretch of road of Trans-Canada Highway between Sault Ste. Marie and Winnipeg? Of course not. Why would we build that chunk of road? Who would use that chunk of road? Very few people would use that chunk of road. Naturally private enterprises would say they are not going to build that chunk of road, it does not make any sense.

The government is here to provide the vision in order to make things happen that we know are going to be in the best interests of Canadians, not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but in the long term in the best interests of Canadians.

I will try to explain why I believe the third party amendments, the motions, and the remarks of my colleague from Hamilton-Wentworth are quite frankly outrageous and misdirected and are totally lacking in fact.

The first myth I want to touch on is that employment equity is about hiring the unqualified. We heard the hon. member for Calgary Centre take us down that road. The simple fact is that Bill C-64 does not oblige an employer to hire an unqualified person. It does not do that. Why carry the myth? It is quite explicit in fact on that point.

Let me quote Mona Katawne of the Manitoba Telephone System who testified before the standing committee on the issue. She stated: "There is no evidence that hiring from among the designated group members is a lowering of qualifications. In fact the evidence is to the contrary. There are people from the designated groups who are both available to work and qualified to work."

The fact is that our economy has surpluses of qualified people from all designated groups for many of the jobs that are out there. However, this myth persists because of misinformation, because there is a lack of looking at the facts.

A perfect example is the Gallup poll which appeared in the December 23, 1993, Toronto Star , just after we were elected to this place. The headline blared that 74 per cent opposed job equity programs. Let us take a look at the actual question that was asked: Do you believe government should actively attempt to hire more women and minority group members for management positions, or should government take no action whatsoever and hire new employees based solely on their qualifications? The question unfairly focused on people to choose between actively attempting to hire more women and minority group members and hiring based on

qualifications. It is amazing, quite frankly, that only 74 per cent chose qualifications.

Employment equity means broadening access to all qualified people. It means giving people the chance to become better qualified.

The second myth I want to touch on is that employment equity is about redressing the wrongs of the past. When this issue has come up with constituents, I have heard people ask why today's young white males have to pay for the sins of their fathers and grandfathers. I trust that I am not the only member of Parliament who has heard that remark. The short answer is they should not. Employment equity is about today's reality, today's problems, not yesterday's.

The simple fact is that in 1993 white men without disabilities made up nearly 55 per cent of all workers newly hired, even though they only make up 45 per cent of the labour market. On virtually any scale, people in the designated groups fare poorly in today's labour market. The issue is not what happened in 1955 or in 1925 but what is happening in 1995. There are still barriers to full participation by members of the designated groups. The goal is to end those barriers, not to create a new discrimination against someone else.

Let us look at one specific group that fares especially poorly in our labour market and that is people with disabilities. Only about 60 per cent of adults with disabilities are in the labour market at all. They have unemployment rates that are almost double the national average. That costs us all.

The Canadian Association for Community Living did a study that looked at people with mental handicaps. They calculated the loss to our economy from the large scale segregation of these people from our economy in terms of lost tax revenue due to unemployment, social assistance costs, and lost consumption. They found that the cost to Canada's employment of keeping these people out of society is $4.6 billion a year. That is today's problem, not yesterday's problem.

The final myth I want to touch on is the issue of goals and quotas. We have said it before and I will say it again: the bill expressly prohibits the imposition of quotas. The goal setting that Bill C-64 calls for is driven by flexible targets based on real business assessments of what is doable. Those goals are tools that measure success in breaking down the barriers. In fact, business witnesses who appeared before the standing committee agreed. They have no problem with this approach.

If the hon. member for Calgary Centre had heard what went on at the standing committee he too would realize that. Do not get me wrong. The hon. member for Calgary Centre may be the jewel in the crown when it comes to employing people. He may have it right. But there are a lot of employers out there who have it wrong, and the hon. member has to come to terms with that.

Bill C-64 is not designated to create a numbers mentality. Employers who adopt that mentality and attempt to short circuit the process do no one any benefit. The intent is to create a climate that encourages employers to build a better, fairer workplace through rethinking how their current processes work in practice and developing better ones.

It would be easy for the government to do as the Reform Party suggests: to step back and do nothing to address the very real barriers in our labour market today. But it will not. The costs to our economy and our society are simply too high. Millions of Canadians are not prepared to accept a system that says do not do anything and let private enterprise take care of itself. They are not prepared to accept the notion that the response to the very real economic uncertainty faced by many workers is to set group against group.

Canadians are not asking for special privileges here. Most witnesses representing designated groups made that very clear. They are asking for strong efforts to push companies to end barriers to full participation. In doing so, it does not help to have the ill-informed comments made by members of the third party on this issue. They have chosen to see the world as a zero sum game where any gain by a person who is in a designated group must be at the expense of someone else. They have chosen to fan the flames of intolerance rather than trying to find the solutions that address the very real needs of more than half of Canada's workforce. It means we define merit in terms that are clear, relevant and legitimate, in terms we recognize, diversity and the different conditions under which people live and work.

Bill C-64 is about creating that kind of plan in workplaces right across the federally regulated sector based on overcoming myths through action. Who said there are none so blind as those who will not see?

I appeal to the third party to overcome these myths I have addressed. I appeal to the Reform Party to withdraw its motions. It would be the right thing to do.

Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.


Ron MacDonald Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I just found out there is a positive aspect of being moved one more seat to the left. I am a little closer to the Speaker's plane of view. I appreciate being recognized in this very important debate.

This is one of the issues that really galvanizes what our party stands for. It also makes strikingly clear what lies at the heart of the Reform Party. I have very strong views when it comes to employment equity, affirmative action and government striking the fundamental policy framework that we expect our bureaucrats, our departments, our crown agencies and those businesses within the

federal realm of regulation in setting the parameters of the type of behaviour we expect them to follow.

This is not the first time employment equity has been debated in the House. In the last Parliament on a number of occasions, be they private members' bills or motions put forward on days to eliminate racial discrimination, members put on record what they believed about employment equity.

In the last Parliament we may have differed substantially on our economic approaches and policies and on our social policies but there was almost a unanimity of agreement with the New Democratic Party and with the Conservative Party when it was in government about a couple of fundamental facts about Canadian society.

One was that systemic discrimination unfortunately does exist. It exists in the federal workplace. It exists in the provincial workplace and it exists in the private sector. Anybody who would get up in the Chamber and indicate they believe there is no such thing as systemic discrimination clearly is from another planet or has been living with their head in the sand for longer than I have been on this earth.

Systemic discrimination is as real as the air we breathe and is as alive today as the people who sit in these chairs. More than once I have talked from the perspective of an MP who represents the largest indigenous black community in Canada, in Preston, North Preston, East Preston, Cherry Brook, Lake Loon. Those communities have been established in Nova Scotia a lot longer than the community I was born in, New Waterford. Most people in Nova Scotia see New Waterford as more of a Nova Scotian community than the Prestons which were founded by blacks from other parts of the globe over hundreds of years.

Preston community is six kilometres outside the boundaries of my city. My city has an unemployment rate of anywhere from 7.5 to 8.5 per cent. In the almost entirely black community, a ghettoized situation from 250 years ago, there are unemployment rates upward of 80 per cent in the winter.

One of the first things I did in 1988 after I was elected to represent the good people of the riding of Dartmouth was go to the Speaker of the day. I asked the Speaker, Mr. Fraser, whether it was possible to use some of my budget to get a survey done. Our budgets were more restrictive.

I explained what I wanted to do. I had gone to the bureaucrats. They are good people, not racists, not bigots. I asked them what information they had with respect to unemployment levels in the black community. They said they did not have any. Why not? How can there be federal programs such as skills training, job development and re-entry programs that are supposed to help those groups most dislocated from labour if there are no statistics about the degree of the problem in a particular community?

Bureaucracies knew there were problems but did not want to quantify them. We spent $15,000 out of my budget and we quantified. There were no startling revelations except that finally somebody white in a position of authority said the facts are the facts and they are indisputable. It was only then that bureaucracies felt comfortable trying to address the problems of barriers to entry and participation by visible minorities in my area.

I am saddened to say that seven years later I am worn down from my efforts of trying to battle systemic discrimination. Daily it becomes more systemic and rooted in the way bureaucracies operate.

The bill does not seek to tell employers they have to hire a black person or a native Canadian or a Cape Bretoner, which I am, if they are not qualified. It sets down a framework and sets out a policy objective that says: "If everybody in your organization looks like me, speaks like me and acts like me, they are more likely to hire somebody who looks like me, acts like me and speaks like me". That is not individual racism; it is the way life is in most organizations.

The bill seeks to build on the previous employment equity legislation passed in 1986 and say we have come a long way but we have a mighty long way to go yet. We cannot succumb to the insane attitudes of some on the loony right of the political spectrum and say, as the member from Windsor said: "I am all right Jack. What is your problem?"

I will tell the House what some of the problems are. A good businessman came to my office a week and a half ago. He operates without a line of credit at the bank and employs 17 to 20 people in the winter. He finances his operation through a finance company at 28.8 per cent interest. He cannot access capital through the regular sources. He has been shying away from the sheriff for 20 years. He is a black businessman. There are barriers to his access to capital from banks.

Seven years ago when we did the study the banks were angry because I fingered the banks and said there was systemic discrimination in their lending practices. They wailed. The facts coming to my office told me it was that way. How could an individual that resilient, who could operate from a line of credit from a finance company and who had no cash flow to work with stay in business? That was the best entrepreneur I ever saw.

Just think what would have happened if he was a white entrepreneur who had access to capital from the banks. Banks such as the

Royal Bank have recognized that when we talk about systemic discrimination we are not pointing a finger at individuals; we are stating facts based on statistics and we must work aggressively within a policy framework to deal with it.

This bill simply sets out the framework. It says the government is still very much concerned that its crown agencies and corporations may not be working as hard as they should to ensure there are no barriers to participation in the federal public service, crown corporations and the private sector which is federally regulated, to ensure the people who do the hiring, the people in power, recognize they may have to work a little harder. If we deal on the other side of it with the people in the labour market, maybe the young black who wants to be an entrepreneur does not understand he could be welcomed as a client of the bank. He also has his own barriers to participation in the equity market or the labour market.

Sometimes that extra effort is made to say: "We will hire 12 people and we have to make sure we do not send it just to the community college". The community college in my area does not have the proper participation of minority groups. It is not proportional. If employers say they have made a commitment to hire qualified individuals, and it is all about the merit principle, they must recognize that by past practices there may be some groups in society that do not feel they are wanted at the door and do not make the application.

Employers, because they have set it out as their policy to encourage qualified members of minority groups to participate, must make sure that instead of going just to the community college they also go to the Dartmouth East Black Learners Centre and say: "We need people with these skills. Are there some people you can send for us to look at?"

That is what this bill is about. It is about setting a direction. It is about setting a goal. It is about a process whereby we remind ourselves that systemic discrimination does exist and that we can do something about it to ensure individuals are not discriminated against based on colour, language, gender, sexual orientation or any of those other things that really should not make a difference.

I hope some of the misinformation from the Reform Party's minority report is put to the test. This is not about special treatment. This is about equal treatment and equal access. The bill does not solve the problem but it is another small step in the right direction toward allowing everyone regardless of colour, race or language to develop to the fullness of their potential. Governments are setting the tone and the direction to remove the obstacles to that full participation.

Employment Equity Act
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1:10 p.m.

Vancouver Centre


Hedy Fry Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the fourth United Nations world conference on women concluded recently. I was there as a delegate. I learned that many developed and developing countries look to Canada for leadership in issues of justice, equality and human rights.

I want to place Bill C-64 in that same international context. I want to look at our international obligations and how Bill C-64 will help us meet them. I want to consider some relevant international experiences with employment equity. I want to show the bill puts teeth in our commitment to equality and shows a leadership badly needed around the world.

First I will discuss recent landmarks in understanding this issue. On August 17 the United Nations development program released its sixth human development report. Apart from the overall assessment, the report focuses on the situation facing women around the world.

I am certain every member of the House took pride when once again Canada earned the highest ranking on the human development index. It is the third year running. It told the world what Canadians already know, that this country offers a quality of life that is second to none.

I know each one of us also saw that we placed ninth on the gender related development index. Our track record on the place of women in society is not so good. Why that low? One of the factors is the economic gap between men and women. Money talks, and in Canada right now that means men shout while women whisper. Some in the House say there are very good reasons for this gap. They say we should just stand aside while the market works its mysterious forces. This is not what the authors of the United Nations human development report say. They point out that trickle down theories and laissez-faire approaches do not work particularly well to raise the economic status of women:

The free workings of economic and political processes are unlikely to deliver equality of opportunity because of prevailing inequities in power structures. When such structural barriers exist, government intervention is necessary both through comprehensive policy reforms and through a series of affirmative actions.

The government understands the need for real action. This bill addresses that need by making markets work better. It will help women enter occupations that traditionally have excluded them. It will help women make their way from lower wage occupational ghettos.

In 1993 in British Columbia women in full time occupations earned 67 per cent less than men. In 1993 in British Columbia women who had post-secondary education earned less than men with a grade 10 education. In 1993 in British Columbia, 99 per cent

of secretaries and stenographers were women, but they still earned 79 per cent less than male stenographers and secretaries.

We need this bill to remove the glass ceiling that still restricts women in many workplaces. It will do the same for aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities.

Bill C-64 is consistent with our international obligations. For many years Canada has been a signatory to international agreements on discrimination, human rights, women's rights, and labour force issues. Let me touch on a few of these.

The United Nations has a number of conventions that cover equality issues. The convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women commits us to pursue the equality of the sexes. Article 24 reads:

States Parties undertake to adopt all necessary measures at the national level aimed at achieving the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Convention.

This includes modifying, and I quote again from the United Nations:

-the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.

Bill C-64 begins to take those steps.

A similar commitment exists as a result of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Article 7 touches on that. It says that states parties to the covenant recognize the right to "equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted in his employment to an appropriate higher level, subject to no consideration other than those of seniority and competence".

Thirty-eight per cent of Canadian persons with disabilities find it difficult to achieve promotion in the workplace.

This bill is about finding and removing the barriers that prevent designated members from realizing their legitimate aspirations in the workplace of this country. Equal opportunity means removing barriers so people can get to the starting gate equally.

There are many conventions I can talk about: the international covenant on civil and political rights; the international covenant on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination; and a number of international labour organization conventions.

Article 2 of the international labour convention says:

Members must undertake to declare and pursue a national policy designed to promote equality of opportunity in respect of employment and occupation.

It says that each member must undertake to enact such legislation as may be calculated to secure acceptance and observance of the policy. This is what we are doing here with this bill.

Canada must take its international commitments seriously. We negotiate, we sign, we lead, we ratify these agreements with the intention of living up to them, or else why do we do it? It is certainly true with conventions on human rights and workplace issues.

We can and we do point with pride to Bill C-64 and the existing Employment Equity Act, because as a predecessor it is an example of how this government wants to work to make equality of opportunity a real goal, not just something that is airy-fairy that we just talk about.

Canada is not alone in this process. Other countries have signed these conventions and many are dealing with the same issues we are dealing with here today.

For example, Australia is a country with which we have much in common. We are both senior members of the Commonwealth. We share similar constitutional and legal traditions. We both have significant aboriginal and visible minority populations. Persons with disabilities have become prominent advocates for their own cause. Women are taking a lead in society. Like Canada, Australia has an employment equity act too. Like us, they recognize an obligation to break down barriers, and they are doing so.

Let us look at The Netherlands. The celebration of the 50th anniversary of its liberation by Canadian soldiers has reminded us of our close ties with The Netherlands. When the Dutch government looked for a legislated approach to promote the full integration of their immigrants into the labour force, where do you think they turned? Which country do you think provided a model of effective and appropriate legislation? Canada.

Examples such as that show why Canada can attend international conferences with real pride. Regardless of the issue, we can point to initiatives we have taken at home, co-operation with other countries, and a commitment to results. This is true on workplace issues as well as human rights issues. We have much to do in Canada, however. This country has consistently tried to do more than meet a minimum standard. We have been motivated by the caring and tolerance of our society to do better.

We realize that equality of opportunity means much more than the absence of formal discrimination. It means building a climate that encourages everyone to participate in our society and our economy. That is becoming a lesson to the world. Many countries are coming to grips with equality issues. We are leaders. They look to us for leadership.

Canada has a distinguished history in human rights in the rest of the world. Countries that are looking for effective ways to improve human rights within their own borders are also looking to Canada. Countries that want to recognize their growing multicultural nature are looking to Canada. I saw over and over in Beijing how everyone turned to Canada for leadership. Everyone felt that Canada is the country in the world they all want to aspire to become.

The Canadian approach to employment equity is a real contribution to the international community. It starts with the idea that all Canadians share a commitment to opportunity and a willingness to find solutions. It speaks to the finest qualities in our national spirit. Passing this bill will send an important message to a world that needs more of this spirit and looks to Canada to lead the way.

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1:20 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the 1980s Judge Abella coined the phrase employment equity because she rejected the term affirmative action. Employment equity is a Canadian concept.

There are a lot of myths surrounding the issue of employment equity, as some of my colleagues have already pointed out. The recent publicity surrounding the affirmative action policies in the United States and employment equity in the recent election has led some people to some inaccurate conclusions. They get the impression from the media that suddenly Americans, including the U.S. Supreme Court, are turning against affirmative action en masse. A vocal few seem ready to jump on the bandwagon, asking: "If the Americans are not going to keep it, why should we?"

Before everyone falls for the myth that fairness in the workplace has fallen into disfavour all across North America, let me quickly review the facts. The real story is that programs that affirm employment equity are alive and well on both sides of the border. The most compelling argument for employment equity is that people actually want it.

Let us look at the situation in Ontario, where roughly two-thirds of businesses responding to a poll just after the recent election reported they are in favour of reforming or keeping that province's employment equity law as it is. Only 8 per cent said they would cease implementing employment equity initiatives if the law is repealed, with 69 per cent saying that it would not have any impact on their company's equity plans. That sentiment is reflected in comments by the director of human resources policy for the Canadian Manufacturers' Association. Ian Howcroft was reported as saying that many of their members have already started employment equity initiatives and that he believes most of them will continue.

Many members of the private sector are strong proponents of employment equity. They recognize the benefits to their corporation, benefits in terms of improving quality of working life in their organization and in real financial benefits. Unlike the members of the Reform Party, these corporations are moving their companies into the 21st century. The Reform Party members think we should still live in the 1950s world of Ozzie and Harriet.

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1:20 p.m.


Peter Milliken Kingston and the Islands, ON


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1:20 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan York—Simcoe, ON

Part of the misunderstanding of the bill arises from the myths created in the recent Ontario election. Employment equity is not about quotas. Moreover, this bill specifically states that employers are not required to hire unqualified members or create new positions to satisfy the legislation's requirements.

The federal legislation takes a human resource planning approach to employment equity, relying on consultation and negotiation to achieve workplace goals. I know about this approach firsthand, as I worked as a consultant to the Ontario universities in developing training materials for employment equity.

Another prevalent and incorrect assumption is that the federal employment equity is a carbon copy of American affirmative action policy and furthermore that Americans are now rejecting it out of hand. Neither belief is true. Let us start with the most controversial features of the U.S. affirmative action program, set asides. Set asides require that a specific percentage of government contract funds go to minority contractors. These are mandatory preferences dictated by law. Polls show that although most Americans favour affirmative action, they are opposed to this kind of preferential treatment. I want to set the record straight on this point. There is absolutely no equivalent to set asides in the Canadian approach to employment equity. They simply do not exist and have never existed.

Let us look at the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. Some people have a vague notion that this decision somehow struck down federal affirmative action programs, but let us look again. First, this decision was about set asides, which do not exist in Canada. Moreover, the Supreme Court decision did not strike down any federal laws or dismantle contracting policies, nor did it decide they were unconstitutional. The court simply requires federal affirmative action programs to meet the same standards of review already in place for state and municipal affirmative action programs, namely that the program serve a compelling interest and that it be narrowly tailored to achieve that purpose.

The bottom line is that no program was struck down by this decision. On the contrary, seven out of the nine justices confirmed that sometimes affirmative action is indeed required to counter the effects of systemic discrimination.

President Clinton pointed out that leading economists and distinguished American business leaders report their companies are stronger and their profits larger because of the advantages of workforce diversity. They insist that regardless of legislation they will pursue affirmative action because it is the key to future economic success in the global marketplace. Indeed, as I stated earlier, it is the Canadian corporations and the private sector that are very strong proponents of employment equity. The Reform Party purports to be a party for business special interest groups, so why can it not listen to the leaders in the private sector?

Seeking solutions to employment inequality is precisely what Bill C-64 is about. The objective of our legislation is to ensure equality and justice for all. Canadians have an unwavering faith in values of fairness and equity. We believe heart and soul that there should be no discrepancy between our words and our deeds. We are determined that our constitutionally guaranteed rights should be a daily fact of life for every child, woman and man in this country. Equality and equity is the very foundation of our nation.

It is in fact because of our employment equity legislation that we are on the leading edge in preparing this country for the unparalleled demands of the 21st century global economy. While we still have more to do in ensuring that all Canadians achieve their potential, our experience with employment equity has made us a world leader in the field, acting as a role model for other nations designing equity legislation. That is not rhetoric, but a reality of which every Canadian can be proud.

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1:25 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands


Peter Milliken Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I was not really going to participate in this debate today in light of the excellent interventions by a number of my colleagues. Then the hon. member for Calgary Centre got into the act and started spouting the most unbelievable nonsense, so I felt it was necessary to correct some of the statements he made. Really, I was shocked. He worked himself into a real lather in the course of his speech about the evils of employment equity, which I thought most Canadians accepted.

I have some quotes which I think are going to leave him speechless. He will wish he had not spoken. He pretended he was speaking on behalf of the entire private sector in Canada in speaking to this set of amendments moved by his colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest.

I am surprised that a relatively enlightened member of the Reform Party would propose the amendments the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest has proposed. One suspects that his leader told him that this was caucus policy and since he is the critic he had better propose the amendments, so he did. I am sure in his heart of hearts he wishes he did not have to put forward such ridiculous amendments. What he is really doing is gutting this bill. He is taking out all references in the bill to the private sector.

The private sector has lived with this legislation now for many years and has functioned with it. I have spoken with constituents of mine who are bound by this legislation, not because it is binding on them specifically but because if they wish to contract with the federal government they are required to comply with it. They have been in compliance for some years, with some initial discomfort but not significant. They have found that their workplace has improved as a result of their compliance with this legislation. That has been the experience of most of the private sector employers affected by this legislation who have found that compliance is not all that difficult. Not only is it not difficult. It results in a better working environment in the places where it has been applied.

The hon. member for Edmonton Southwest must know this experience. He is a man of affairs; he has travelled around and has some businesses in the country. He must know the hon. member for Calgary Centre was talking through his hat this morning when he spouted the nonsense about the act being a bad thing for the private sector in Canada and one that stops job creation in the country. Quite frankly that is absolute rubbish.

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1:30 p.m.


Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB

He said that it was not necessary.

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1:30 p.m.


Peter Milliken Kingston and the Islands, ON

I hear the hon. member. That may be so because so many have complied with the rules already. Why not leave the rules in place? If everyone is complying and the rules are in place, fine, it does not do any harm to have them there. Yet the hon. member for Calgary Centre spouted absolute rubbish. He suggested that we did not need the bill at all and that we should scrap it. That is what these amendments do and I am not in favour of the amendments.

City police forces, national chartered banks, multinational computer companies and more and more Canadian employers are enjoying the benefits of workplace inclusiveness and fairness, with good reason. Margaret Wente wrote in the Globe and Mail that employment equity programs were ``spreading, not shrinking. Their biggest boosters are powerful, middle aged white men-.They need diversity in their work forces, not to remedy past injustices but to be more successful''.

The business argument for employment equity is straightforward. As our population becomes more racially diverse, it is essential that a company's workforce reflects the market it wants to sell to. This is increasingly true in the international marketplace. Business organizations ranging from B.C. Hydro to North American Life Assurance and the Bank of Montreal realize this reality and fully endorse equal opportunity employment. Many of those employers appeared before the committee. The hon. member for Winnipeg North who is chair of the committee heard those

witnesses. He has spoken about it and will continue to speak about it in the course of the discussion on the bill.

They and other progressive employers have instituted employment equity programs in their workplaces not out of benevolence but out of good business sense. They have discovered that the best argument for employment equity is the bottom line.

Black & McDonald, the Toronto based mechanical and electrical services contractor, is an example in point. Many of the people hired as maintenance mechanics and building supervisors over the past few years were recent immigrants due as much to a skill shortage in Canada as to the firm's employment equity efforts. The company reports that the performance of this division has improved dramatically, which it credits to its highly skilled, hard working visible minority employees and the market potential they represent. More and more satisfied customers have resulted in more and more contracts for Black & McDonald.

A recent Conference Board of Canada study found that half the employers surveyed capitalized on Canada's ethnocultural diversity to expand their market share. That trend will only increase. By 2001 visible minorities should form 48 per cent of the consumer market in Toronto, 20 per cent in Montreal, and 39 per cent in Vancouver. Firms that fail to act quickly will be left behind in a country experiencing huge population growth among designated groups.

Upwards of three-quarters of new entrants into the workforce by the turn of the next century, which is only five years from now, will be members of the designated groups. At a time when human capital far outweighs location or physical resources, it is imperative that employers maximize their people potential in the workplace.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce chairman Al Flood put it very well when he said:

The issue of underemployed intellectual capital is a major one for Canadian business in a competitive global society. A business in a complex, changing world needs more than one point of view. Those diverse views will only flourish in an environment uncontaminated by notions of ability based on gender, race, religion and so on.

The key word in that quote is ability because employment equity is really about assuring equal opportunities to individuals qualified to do the job. We are not talking, as the previous speaker said, about quotas. We are talking about ability, about assuring equal opportunities to qualified individuals. It is no coincidence then that half of all CIBC managers are women. Canada's banks have one of the best records in the economy for building diversity into their workforce. Yet never do we hear that such progress comes at someone else's expense.

While I am on the subject of someone else's expense I quote again from the little green book of the Reform. I have a quote here from the hon. member for Beaver River that will be instructive. Perhaps it explains in part the silly amendments of the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest. She said: "Women are just trying to lift themselves up to the detriment and expense of men". This is what the hon. member for Beaver River says. I presume she believes this nonsense. I suspect what happened is that she has been sitting there listening to her seatmate, the hon. member for Calgary Southwest, telling her that is what happens.

When the hon. member for Halifax or the hon. member for Nepean start speaking to me about lifting themselves up or changing their roles, I do not feel it is at my expense. I have never felt that it was at my expense. I am sure my male colleagues on this side of the House would share that view.

Our female colleagues are not getting additional rights at our expense. If they get any additional rights we are all improved by them. There is not a finite supply of rights. Rights are created because individuals are there. Because individuals get rights does not mean the rights of someone else are necessarily diminished. Some may feel that way, but I suggest it is not true that they are necessarily diminished. The extension of the rights granted by this legislation have benefited all our society enormously.

I do not know when the hon. member for Beaver River made this quote. Unfortunately the little green book, or "The Gospel According to Preston Manning and the Reform Party" as its other title reads, does not tell us when the quotation was made. Nevertheless the words are written down and I am sure the hon. member for Beaver River could not explain them away.

Another very short quote from her is: "I am basically a Tory". I do not know why she is in the Reform Party if she is basically a Tory. She should help the hon. member for Saint John. Then we have a famous quote of her leader, the hon. member for Calgary Southwest: "Deborah Grey is the prairie Margaret Thatcher". What a fire that is.

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1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. I know the member is a very experienced member, but from time to time the Chair must remind members of certain rules of the House.

Although he might be quoting from a text, those words are still attributed to whoever has the floor in the House. I would encourage the member to refer to member's ridings as the tradition and the rules of the House call for and not by proper names.

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1:35 p.m.


Peter Milliken Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was being very careful only to use the proper name when it was in the quote. I was being very careful not to use it in any other sense. That is why I said the hon. member for Calgary Southwest used the words: "Deborah Grey is the

prairie Margaret Thatcher". I do not think he said at the time that the hon. member for Beaver River was the prairie Margaret Thatcher. That is all I was doing.

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1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

On that point, I am of the understanding at this time that when any member in the House reads a quote it is just as attributable to that person as if he or she were saying it.

If I have erred I will gladly come back to the House and make that correction before all my peers, my colleagues here. However I am of the understanding at this time that any quote is attributed as if the person himself or herself is saying it. I will come back to the House if necessary.