Madam Speaker, I want to address Motions Nos. 8, 9 and 10.
It is interesting that in speaking for the first time on this bill at report stage I have just come from a meeting of the human rights committee. The committee is reviewing the process of the national strategy for the integration of persons with disabilities.
One of the key statistics presented at that meeting was that over 70 per cent of people with disabilities are not even in the labour force, that employment is a major factor in keeping close to 50 per cent of persons with disabilities below $10,000 in incomes in a year. These are people who happen to have a disability. It does not mean they have no ability.
Employment equity goes to the very heart of why people in our country with substantial ability have not had an equal opportunity to participate in the labour force, in the economy and to be considered full, equal citizens in the matter of employment.
One only needs to look at the recent edition of Canadian Social Trends at an article on the employment of people with disabilities. More than half of young people with disabilities were unemployed.
If we look at any of the designated groups, we know that as a society we have not been colour blind. We have not been blind to disabilities. We have not been blind to race and ethnic origins. We have not been blind to gender when it comes to employment.
Bill C-64 is about getting rid of all those blinders that have somehow made us incapable of seeing the abilities of these people to contribute through employment, to earn and to be self-sufficient through employment.
Let me speak to Motions Nos. 8, 9 and 10. They go to the heart of how we as a society monitor and how employers monitor how well they are doing in taking their blinders off when it comes to employment, promotion and training opportunities and being fully equal opportunity employers.
I have great concern over these motions. I do not understand how members of the House and the public should no longer receive an annual report from the minister consolidating information that employers have already collected as required by the Employment Equity Act. It is not only the reception of that information by the minister, it is the public awareness of that information and the awareness of that information by Parliament that allows us to make good public policies.
The impact of the amendments in Motions Nos. 8, 9 and 10 would be extremely damaging to Bill C-64. If implemented they would remove the most effective tools we have to monitor employment equity performance of individual private sector employers. More to the point, they would eliminate the means for Parliament to chart progress in achieving workplace equality and to ensure accountability.
The annual reporting requirement is as much about motivation as it is monitoring. We heard from numerous witnesses before the human rights committee about their experience over the last seven years with the Employment Equity Act. They said the Employment Equity Act had led them to take a look at their hiring practices, to improve their hiring practices and to eliminate discriminatory practices of which they had not been aware. Many of them said to us it had substantially improved their human resources management and the quality of their workforce.
The reporting which the Reform Party seeks to eliminate allows employers the chance to see how they measure up against other employers. The information forms part of the criteria for targeting the advice and assistance to employers that human resources development will offer in strengthening those employers' employment equity programs. Far from being heavy handed, the reports are an invaluable instrument to help government work more co-operatively, effectively and constructively with the private sector.
Furthermore, the annual reports improve the functioning of our labour market by providing detailed information to organizations whose purpose is to place members of designated groups and other Canadians and improve their opportunity to participate in the workforce. These organizations use the information to assist their clients in targeting their job search and training programs.
Equally critical, they have been of paramount importance in enabling legislators to assess the appropriateness of provisions of the act and the practical operation of employment equity legislation in the real working world. Many of the changes the bill before us makes to the Employment Equity Act, which has been in place since 1987, are the result of the experience over those seven to eight years and of the information received not only by the minister but by Parliament and by the public as to how the previous legislation was working.
The yearly reports are our window into the workplace, providing data for research and evaluation of employment equity principles and methods. The insights we gain from this annual procedure are as useful to us as they are to Canadian employers, to labour and to members of designated groups. The major change in the bill is to include the Public Service of Canada. I hesitate to say that most segments of the private sector are doing better than the Government of Canada in their employment of people who have traditionally been disadvantaged in their employment advancement and training. We as a government have a great deal to learn from the private sector and we learn it largely through reports from the private sector.
They serve another useful function. The minister's annual employment equity report is a major tool for public education on the principles and progress of employment equity in Canada, a major tool for keeping us accountable for our progress in allowing all Canadians to participate fully in all segments of society.
Annual reports on measures taken and results achieved have been crucial as monitoring and motivational, dare I say self-motivational, measures in the private sector since 1986. They have recorded the steady progress the private sector has made in achieving a more equitable and representative Canadian workforce.
They have however also focused our attention on areas of weakness, reinforcing the need for the new employment equity legislation we have before us today. Anyone who questions the need for these provisions in Bill C-64 need look no further than the latest statistics. Annual reports indicate that despite significant progress for some individuals in the designated groups much more remains to be done. I referred to some of those statistics this
morning. I expect fully to refer to more for the other designated groups as this debate proceeds.
The reports show that even for those members of the designated groups that were employed, most did not see the same wage gains and promotion opportunities of other Canadians. Women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities continue to find themselves on the bottom rung of the economic and social ladder.
Until we see parity in the workplace there will be an ongoing need for reporting to measure progress and to further progress. I therefore urge the House to reject the amendments put forward. Perhaps we sometimes do not like what we see when we report on ourselves, but it is important that we look in the mirror and improve the situation.