House of Commons Hansard #185 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Readjustment Act, 1995Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Readjustment Act, 1995Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I always like to hear the hon. member speak about the head office and his leader in Quebec, the head of the provincial government, whom he praises and says he has guts, courage, etc.

I ask my colleagues to ponder over these few questions. Is that the same leader as the one who refuses to hold a referendum because he knows he will lose? Is that the provincial leader who postpones the referendum until next fall? Is that the leader who broke the formal promise he made to Quebecers during the election campaign? Is it another person? It must be. It certainly cannot be the same one.

I know the hon. member from the other side is only a member of a local branch of the Parti Quebecois, the one they call the Bloc, and that the head office is far away. But I would suggest he makes a conference call to talk to other representatives of the head office. And when he gets his information from that head office, he will find out something we all know already, that is, the Parti Quebecois does not have the courage to call the referendum immediately. They say they must wait because people are not ready, but in fact it is because they do not want to lose.

Readjustment Act, 1995Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, there were several things in the speech of the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell that I agreed with and a few that I did not agree with. He said one thing, perhaps inadvertently, and I would like to give him a chance to elaborate on a particular comment he made that if we do not pass this bill we will not have a redistribution before the next election.

Is it not in fact the case that the present electoral boundary redistribution process is under suspension and if we do not pass this bill we simply resume with the process as it is virtually now completed and could be completed fairly quickly? Is that not a more realistic option than restarting the process all over again at the cost of some $5 million to $6 million?

Readjustment Act, 1995Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting question. This same electoral redistribution that he refers to, the bill we have put under suspension in order to get this better one, would not have the measure of providing quinquennial redistribution to increase the number of seats in British Columbia, which some of his colleagues have said was under-represented by not proceeding with a bill like this. This is the same party that advocates both positions.

I say to the hon. member, he may be from the next province over, but he should discuss this issue with his friends from B.C. if he wants to go back to the bill that is under suspension as opposed to Bill C-69. Bill C-69 is far better in terms of providing more even redistributions in a quicker way and that are fairer to all Canadians. Surely he knows that, but if he does not, the people of British Columbia-

Readjustment Act, 1995Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Mercier.

Readjustment Act, 1995Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to say that we have just heard a prime example of contempt for the Quebec people as they are known now, after having been for a long time the French Canadian nation.

In this Parliament and the previous one, if other members had respected the people of Quebec, Quebec's history would have been different, and I would like to talk about that, because after all, we will have to live together in any case as neighbours.

I may recall that Daniel Johnson senior was descended from Irish immigrants who spoke no French. In 1965, he gave his party a fresh start with his book, published under the title Égalité ou Indépendance , which became the slogan for his convention and his election campaign.

Daniel Johnson wrote the following: "Our English Canadian compatriots refer to a nation consisting of two peoples, while according to our French concept of the Canadian fact, we say there one people consisting of two nations. The confusion arises from the fact that English puts more emphasis on the political connotation of the word, while French uses the word in its sociological context. If we go by the description I just gave, there is no doubt Canada has two nations. Canada has two communities that are distinct by reason of their language, religion, culture, traditions, history and finally, a common desire to live together. Even in provinces where they are a minority, they have a natural tendency to regroup on a regional or local basis so as to create an environment in which they can flourish". As Daniel Johnson said in 1965: "The fundamental

characteristic of a nation is not race but culture. Whatever one's name or ethnic origin, one belongs to one of the two nations depending on whether one's roots, education, choices, lifestyle, and philosophy lead one to identify with one cultural community rather than another. And I am thinking", he said, "of all the new Canadians who chose to become a part of French Canadian culture and to contribute to its development and growth".

He goes on to say that "the French Canadian nation is trying with all its might and with every fibre of its being to realize its potential as a nation and that its aspirations are entirely normal and legitimate. Later on I will explain how and why French Canadians try to identify with the State of Quebec, the only one where they can claim to be masters of their own destiny and where they can develop the full potential of their community, while the English Canadian nation tends to make Ottawa the centre of its community life".

If Canada had recognized the French Canadian nation, we would not be where we are today. And we are there because after being denied equality, the French Canadian nation became the Quebec nation and now seeks its sovereignty, as Daniel Johnson explains here.

I have very little time, Mr. Speaker, but I will go on. However, in this vote on the position of the Bloc Quebecois, Canada and the Liberals could have shown a minimum of respect for this people, this nation with whom, in any case, they will have to find a modus vivendi , as neighbours or otherwise.

Readjustment Act, 1995Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Readjustment Act, 1995Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The hon. member for Mercier will have 15 minutes, next time.

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to consideration of Private Members' Business as indicated on today's Order Paper.

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should immediately end employment equity programs and the inclusion of employment equity requirements on employment or training forms because such requirements encourage candidate selection to be made on the basis of sex or ethnic origin rather than merit, and, as a result, foster a sense of resentment among applicants.

Mr. Speaker, this motion has been deemed not votable. Because it covers such an important topic, I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to make it votable.

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent of the House?

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion is refused, but the hon. member has the floor.

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is noted that the government members do not want to vote on this issue.

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member across the way has just impugned motive to government members because he says a committee of this House has unanimously decided that his motion was not votable. It is right in our standing orders. Members across the way know it is in our standing orders. Therefore, I submit that it is a valid point of order.

The matter is that this is simply a motion that was addressed by a committee of this House. To say that refusing this is somehow the fault of the government as opposed to the committee that unanimously did so is simply and factually incorrect.

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

With respect, I do not think that is a point of order.

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, over the next hour this House will have the opportunity to discuss what some members will see as a politically incorrect motion.

I made the decision to prepare this motion after receiving complaints from constituents that they may have missed out on being selected for taxpayer-funded training or job creation programs solely because they did not fit into a designated target group on an application form.

It is appalling that the government of a democratic country has a policy condoning the selection of workers or trainees based on their gender or ethnic origins. It makes the government guilty of promoting sexism and racism, and it is particularly bad policy when there simply is no statistical evidence to support the claimed need for employment equity programs.

For example, figures from Statistics Canada indicate that the unemployment rate for young males ranges between 20 per cent and 23 per cent, while the unemployment rate for young females ranges from 14 per cent to 15 per cent. While both figures are far too high, clearly it is the young men who are the disadvantaged group. Their unemployment rate is consistently twice the national average, and it probably is contributing to their higher suicide rate and an increase in youth crime.

Some interesting material comes from a research paper by Dr. John T. Samuel of Carleton University, which cites statistics from the 1986 census, showing that 72.1 per cent of visible minorities over 15 years of age are in the workforce while only 66.5 per cent of the general population over 15 is in the workforce. The same census shows that the average personal income is $17,500 for the general population and almost $1,500 more for visible minorities. The REAL Women organization has also confirmed these figures in their own investigation of the representation of visible minorities and women in the Canadian workforce.

Well-meaning people are chasing ghosts, because there is no evidence that employment equity programs are needed. This is not to say that every employer out there is a saint. But the best

way to handle individual cases where there is improper treatment of employees is for those cases to be dealt with in the courts and the employers properly punished.

Unfortunately, government-enforced provisions start with the assumption that all employers are guilty, even though 1993 Nobel laureate and economist Gary Becker notes that discrimination poses internal as well as external costs on a company. In other words, discriminatory employment decisions cost firms money. If they do not select the best person for the job, that translates directly to a drop in productivity and a drop in the bottom line. Since the overriding objective of a company is to make money, discrimination will be short-lived and the marketplace will police discrimination. This theory is borne out by the statistics I have already given and the ones that will follow in the rest of this speech.

In terms of public support for employment equity, a December 1993 Gallup poll showed 74 per cent of Canadians to be opposed to such programs. This high percentage is not a surprise to me because to this day I have never met a person who wanted to get a job or be promoted on the basis of their gender or their race rather than the skills or merits they have brought to the job.

Sadly, this government, as usual, is not the slightest bit interested in what the majority of Canadians think and is bound and determined to stick to an agenda of social engineering that will unfortunately have the opposite effect to that which is intended.

I correspond on a regular basis with a young lady in Vancouver named Kim Oliver. Kim has a disability called Fragile X Syndrome. Despite having this disability, Kim has a great sense of humour, she has great ambition and quite an artistic flair. Kim has indicated in her letters that she wants exactly what any other young person wants. She wants to be able to support herself through the skills that she can bring to the workplace.

I would like to read from one of Kim's letters. I quote:

The United Farm Women of the 20's and 30's were western women who withstood the hardships of life on the farm alongside their husbands. They were responsible for lobbying for the vote, universal social programs, and pensions for widows and orphans. They also helped their men form unions and collectives. I identify with these women because, unlike today's feminists, they took matters into their own hands, using printing presses to spread the word via a women's newspaper, travelling to the Geneva Convention in the 40's and most impressive of all-got men to let us vote! Unlike NAC, Vancouver Status of Women and other special-interest groups, the UFW didn't have the media nor did they have millions in government funding-So why keep funding ethnic groups or women's groups? All they do is tell women, especially poor `visible' minority women with disabilities, that we are the victims of racism, sexism, white male imperialism-and that we will never be equally paid, heard, educated because of men and men's cultural symbols. Makes you want to scream, doesn't it?

Kim identifies with people who had to work hard for what they achieved. She also makes it clear that she does not want to be treated like a victim by special interest groups.

Kim also writes that she has found that members of the Reform Party treat her like a fellow Canadian instead of putting her into a box labelled "disabled" or "disadvantaged".

I wish I could hold up some of Kim's drawings to show to the House her artistic flair, but unfortunately we cannot use props in the House, so I would ask members to believe me when I say they are very good. I think Kim will eventually find a place in the workforce to utilize her artistic skills. I know she wants to achieve that not through employment equity but through her own hard work.

This should not be interpreted as meaning that the disabled do not need any assistance to gain skills or that the government should not be involved in helping them gain access to the workplace. However, it does mean that we should not insult their intelligence and their abilities by artificially pushing them to the front of the line for employment. Like everyone else, they just want the chance to prove their worth and their true value through open and unbiased job interviews.

Obviously, there are fewer opportunities in the job market for someone with Fragile X Syndrome, and that is where every one of us as caring Canadians can help. We must be aware of the problems and we have to do what we can to support them. For Kim, I would like other members of this House to give me some examples, or perhaps the public who become aware of this debate, of where there have been successes in Canada achieved by people with Fragile X Syndrome. What sort of jobs have they managed to fill? How have things worked out for them? I hope they will write to me so I can pass these successes on to Kim, to give her even more encouragement for the future.

In wrapping up, I would like to read one more piece from a letter she wrote to me last September:

We have a ministry responsible for women's equality, plus multiple feminists groups who are government-funded. As well, `visible' minorities and natives have just as much government attention.

So why does the Ministry of Social Services and Human Resources still classify women, minorities and natives as disadvantaged?

She also mentions:

Why is it that our social services and human resources departments have no `Ministry of the Disabled'? If we are to be Foster Children, couldn't the Provincial/Federal governments acknowledge our special needs?"

I know that Kim is not alone in feeling this way. She represents a very large group of thoughtful people with disabilities who really feel that the government is not representing their needs.

In their well-meaning attempts to promote the equality of opportunity that we all support, the government is actually fostering legislative racism and pitting identifiable groups against one another.

In their pursuit of social engineering they are inadvertently sowing the seeds of racial conflict by forcing employers to emphasize differences in race and gender instead of the differences in skills and suitability that should be the basis for employment.

I have here a letter and a questionnaire from the Chief of Defence Staff to all regular force and primary reserve members, announcing a survey of Canadian forces to identify the representation of aboriginals and visible minorities.

Is it not racist to be carrying out a survey specifically designed to identify persons by race? Is it really appropriate for a government to have a database identifying its employees by racial background?

Respondents have to identify themselves as black, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, South Asian, East Indian, Southeast Asian, non-white Latin American, non-white West Asian, Inuit, Métis, First Nation, or mixed race and colour.

If anyone except this Liberal government had asked for such a survey, they would be labelled as racist and accused of planning some sort of racial persecution. As it happens, all available statistics indicate that young Caucasian men are the ones who are in the disadvantaged group.

When we take a look at the employee make-up of several prominent groups that promote employment equity, we find some very disturbing situations. The Ontario government's office of employment equity in 1994 had a workforce made up of 90.5 per cent women, 52.9 per cent racial minorities, 5.6 per cent aboriginals, and zero able-bodied white males.

The workforce of the Ontario Rights Commission is 67 per cent women, 38 per cent minorities, even though these minorities represent just 9 per cent of the general population; there are no white males in the senior management group or the policy branch of this commission.

In an article she wrote for the August 26, 1994 edition of The Toronto Sun , Christie Blatchford said: ``It is quite clear that if the commission is a glimpse of the future for Ontario under employment equity, the face of the future is female and non-white''.

The Employment Excellence Organization asks whether the only difference between the racist agendas of the Heritage Front and the Ontario Rights Commission is that the latter is funded with taxpayers' money. That is a pretty extreme statement, but that is the sort of thing these employment equity provisions are making people say.

The government does not want to hear these things because their entire argument is based on emotion rather than facts. The fact is that one cannot fix discrimination by imposing a different type of discrimination.

The Sri Lankan-born author and economist of a 1992 report from the Economic Council, Arnold deSilva, found no correlation between wage levels and a person's country of origin. He also concluded that there is no significant discrimination against immigrants in general and that there is no systematic employment discrimination on the basis of colour.

Another study done for the Government of Canada in 1992 by Daniel Boothby involving a sample size of 115,000 people and entitled "Job Changes, Wage Changes and Employment Equity Groups", concluded that: "Visible minority status had no significant effect on the probability of job loss and, all else being equal, women are less likely to lose jobs than men".

In 1992 Statistics Canada reported that 56 per cent of all undergraduate degrees earned at Canadian universities go to women. In 1990 they took 45 per cent of the degrees in traditional male territories of business management and commerce. They accounted for 47 per cent of the law degrees, 46 per cent of medical diplomas and 63 per cent of those in veterinary medicine. Fazil Mihlar, a senior policy analyst with the Fraser Institute says that evidence of discrimination in the workplace is scant and isolated.

In my riding of North Vancouver I have been unable to confirm a single case, even though each time someone has called or written to me in support of employment equity, I have asked for any specific example of discrimination in North Vancouver so that I could make that situation public.

I challenge other members of the House to do the same before they support the ongoing use of employment equity programs or the inclusion of those requirements on government employment and training forms.

Bell Canada falls under the Federal Employment Equity Act of 1986. In 1989 Bell Canada had 61 more female employees than males. On a numbers basis that is pretty well balanced. Just two years later there were 2,058 more females than males employed by Bell Canada and the number of males employed had dropped by almost 2,000. No one could possibly argue that women are not adequately represented at Bell Canada but the trend in male employment with that company should be a cause for grave concern for believers in forced employment equity. They had better start insisting that Bell Canada place a special category on employment forms for the under-represented group, in this case males.

While I am talking about job loss I should mention that a number of my constituents have been asking me whether there will be affirmative action firing practices during the downsizing of the civil service announced in the budget. Will this whole exercise end up distorting the civil service employee base with enforced equity quotas that fail to recognize individual skill levels and the value to the taxpayers that are picking up the cost?

I already receive complaints from constituents who say that some employees at the front counters and on the phones at federal government departments hardly speak English and cannot be understood. Some of the members opposite will not like hearing that message but I have an obligation to pass on the concerns of my constituents to the House.

The federal government in the United States is considering the introduction of legislation to end affirmative action and an initiative has been started in California to place affirmative action on the ballot at the next election.

Polls indicate that affirmative action is going down to defeat in the United States in the interest of a fair and open marketplace. As one man put it on an interview on CNN, employment equity is a bit like the Vietnam war. It seemed like a good idea when we started it, but it turned into a nightmare.

Sadly, the government is still living in the past, trying to enact an agenda that is 20 years out of date, well-meaning and soft-hearted, but definitely soft-headed at the same time. On top of that it discriminates against skilled people who cannot label themselves as a visible minority.

I wonder how many Liberal members would be prepared to step down from their seats today, right now, so that a member of a visible minority could step into their place. I see no volunteers, no doubt because each of them would take the position that he or she has earned the right to be here. Why should they give up their seat to someone else who has not been through the election process? That is exactly what it is like in the real world job marketplace too.

People all across Canada oppose employment equity programs and every MP on the government side should admit that the programs are unfair and discriminatory. At the very least, they should admit that they would not like to see such programs applied to their own MP jobs. They should also agree to put an end to discrimination by refusing, as I do, to approve any grants or job creation programs which make employment equity a condition of the project.

Finally they should show courage and give their constituents true representation in the House by voting against any future employment equity bill.

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

April 6th, 1995 / 5:50 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario


Jean Augustine LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the chance to debate this motion. I want to say this loudly for the Canadian public. I am sure those who are watching the debate today or who will be reading Hansard will mourn the occasion this member stood in the House to ask the government to immediately end employment equity programs and the inclusion of employment equity requirements on employment or training forms because such requirements encourage candidate selection, et cetera.

What a sad opportunity it is to stand in the House to debunk some of the myths we heard a few minutes ago. The public record presents a completely different picture. It suggests hiring practices have very little to do with ability but a lot to do with discriminatory attitudes toward women, visible minorities, aboriginal people and people with disabilities.

I frankly believe the focus of the debate is on the wrong side. Rather than questioning why we need the employment equity we should be asking: Why do visible minorities, women, aboriginal people and persons with disabilities experience significantly higher rates of unemployment, sometimes twice the national level, even when they prove themselves to be eminently qualified for jobs? That is the question.

Documents and research tell us these individuals are frequently better educated and trained at proportionately higher levels than the general population to take on work opportunities. In addition to their advanced university degrees, they often come equipped with special knowledge or personal attributes that can also contribute to the job.

Let us look at it from a strictly pragmatic, business perspective. Visible minority members, for example, may be immigrants from other parts of the world. They bring with them firsthand knowledge of foreign market conditions which may be invaluable to Canadian exporters.

We heard quite a few businesses cited and we heard some misinformation given in terms of statistics. Women who make up more than half the population know better than anyone the needs of Canadian consumers, their families and themselves. Aboriginal people have a wealth of experience in traditional approaches to a multitude of disciplines, from the earth sciences to holistic healing to dispute resolution. With advanced education they are well positioned to marry traditions with the best of the contemporary economy.

Who better than persons with disabilities to offer insights into the specialized needs of people who are physically or intellectually challenged, one of the growth markets of the next century.

The member across the way threw out a case study. In that diatribe we were subjected to, the member mixed so many things together, the apples and the oranges and the myths. Too many employers continue to erect barriers to employment of these talented, work-ready people.

We can take statistics from Max Yalden, the Canadian human rights commissioner. He has publicly stated his concern about a growing mean-spirited attitude in Canada. He has warned of a backlash against members of society's most vulnerable groups by critics that claim they enjoy special workplace and hiring advantages. The statistics clearly show nothing could be further from the truth.

Mr. Yalden noted that while white male Canadians make up just 45 per cent of the workforce, they account for 55 per cent of all hirings. Men constitute nearly 95 per cent of corporate board members and more than 90 per cent of senior managers. They also earn an average of 20 per cent more than female workers. A study was recently done and published in the local media.

A study recently completed by Statistics Canada also concluded systemic discrimination explains much of that wage gap. Many women consider themselves lucky just to be hired.

Women's share of all hiring declined from 1988 to 1992 and has improved only slightly since then.

Women are frequently members of more than one designated group, what we call the double disadvantaged and maybe in my case triple disadvantaged. Imagine how much more difficult it is for women to compete who are aboriginal, a visible minority or someone with a disability. People in these groups are particularly subject to prejudice in hiring.

Bias is the only apparent explanation for the fact that the unemployment rate among visible minorities, aboriginal people and people with disabilities with university degrees is much higher than for white males with the same education. In fact, it can be more than double.

Reports submitted by employers under the Employment Equity Act show some worrisome trends in the hiring rates of individuals in designated groups. The same reports show that the situation for persons with disabilities is even worse. I can go on and cite other instances, but I ask the House if these figures suggest that members of designated groups enjoy preferential treatment? The answer is self-evident.

The hon. member cited the fact that in his riding he could not find one individual who was subjected to inequity. I would remind the hon. member that the Employment Equity Act is designed to ensure that an employer's hiring and promotion decisions are based solely on the bona fide requirements of an occupation and not on any other job related criteria.

The Employment Equity Act ensures that only qualified individuals be considered for a job, but most important it requires employers to remove barriers to employment for capable candidates who are members of the designated groups so we can turn these unacceptable unemployment figures around, which is only fair.

The Canadian human rights commissioner, Mr. Yalden, has reason to be concerned. The anachronistic thinking associated with this motion certainly will do nothing to advance us toward our goal of preparing Canada for the global economy of the 21st century.

It ignores the reality that we will soon experience a severe skills shortage in the country that will demand that we put every capable Canadian to work. It disregards the fact that two-thirds of new entrants to the labour market will be members of the designated group by the year 2000, a large percentage of whom are more than qualified to meet the challenge. It overlooks the importance of capitalizing on these people's diversities in an increasingly specialized, interconnected and international economy.

It is lucky for us that this is not a votable motion because it would have been voted down by members on this side of the House. The motion could have had the opportunity to, if, heaven forbid, there was an opportunity for it to be a votable motion, condone racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, all of which we know exist in the workplace. It would permit prejudice to go unchecked and may even encourage outright acts of physical or sexual harassment of the most vulnerable.

The Employment Equity Act is not about counting numbers as the member would have us believe. It is about instituting irritating rules and regulations that somehow stand in the way of individuals in this society from being contributing members and full participants in Canadian society.

I ask every member of the House to stand firm the Employment Equity Act.

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am both disappointed and disturbed that today members are asked to consider a motion which seems to be totally removed from reality and that, with all due respect for its author, appears to be based on a completely erroneous interpretation of the Employment Equity Act.

I would like to point out that the hon. member seems to associate the existence of the Employment Equity act with a tendency on the part of some employers to hire incompetent people. To make this kind of connection encourages prejudice and is entirely absurd.

Before going any further, I would like to recall for the benefit of our listeners and of our colleagues in this House that the sole purpose of the Employment Equity Act, which has existed since 1986, is to ensure that our labour force is more representative of Quebec and Canadian society.

To achieve this, we ask employers to try, as part of their hiring practices, to include four so-called designated groups, namely women, aboriginal people, visible minorities and disabled people, in view of the fact that in the labour market, people do not all have the same opportunities, and there are people who are discriminated against and who have trouble getting the jobs for which they are qualified. To think that because we have an Employment Equity Act like the one we have had since 1990 and which we are in the process of reviewing, there is some connection between the existence of this Act and the practice of some employers to hire incompetent people, is patently absurd.

I may recall that section 6 of the old and the new Employment Equity Act clearly says:

the obligation to implement employment equity does not require an employer a ) to take a particular measure to implement employment equity where the taking of that measure would cause undue hardship to the employer; b ) to hire or promote unqualified persons.

That is made very clear in the Act.

We believe it is important to have an Employment Equity Act because we know perfectly well that the labour market alone is not likely to provide this equality between various groups. My proof is our colleague for North Vancouver, who began his remarks by saying that legislation on employment equity was no longer necessary. Let us have a look at the comments of groups that have studied the legislation, specifically, the Canadian Human Rights Commission. It is almost dishonest to say that Whites are victims of reverse discrimination. This prejudice must be stopped, fought from the start.

I sit on the Standing Committee on Human Rights, and, since January, we have been trying to improve the Employment Equity Act, as we realize there are gaps in it. Let us remember what Commissioner Max Yalden, who is as critical as a person can be before the government, said. As you know, he is well versed in the workings of government, having been in government since 1956, even before I was born. He said that, in 1993, able bodied caucasian males accounted for approximately 55 per cent of all workers newly hired for permanent full time positions by employers covered under federal legislation on employment equity. This is significantly higher than the proportion of able bodied Whites on the labour market; the figure in this case is 45 per cent.

So, people who try to convince us that Whites without disabilities are discriminated against are not aware of the statistics or of the reality of the labour market.

The Employment Equity Act says that some people are systematically discriminated against. That means that, if corrective measures are not taken, some groups will continue to receive unequal treatment. What form does this inequality take? It works by forming the five following groups: groups with higher than average rates of unemployment; groups with lower than average incomes; groups which are over-represented in lower paying professions and groups with less opportunity for advancement.

This is particularly true, as we will see, for aboriginal people and handicapped people. Lastly, there are also groups which are under-represented in higher paying professions, with good job prospects and which are in expansion. That is the general picture of discrimination that the designated categories face, groups like handicapped people, aboriginal people, members of visible minorities and women.

Let us take a look to see whether discrimination against these groups has really ceased over the last few months, as the hon. member claims. Let us look at each category. Women make up 52 per cent of the population of Canada, but in 1993-that is not very long ago-they accounted for only 45 per cent of the Canadian labour force. Last year, women continued to be paid about one third less than their male counterparts. This means that, in the labour market of 1993, a woman doing a job of equal value, for which she was equally qualified, earned two thirds of what a man earned to do the same job. If that is not discrimination, I wonder what the hon. member for North Vancouver calls it.

Second, 52 per cent of the time, women, who, as we know, make up 52 per cent of the population of Canada and 45 per cent of the Canadian labour force, end up in jobs in the lower service echelons, as office clerks or secretaries, jobs which are naturally lower paid.

It should also be pointed out about career women with a university degree that 18 per cent of White females who graduated in commerce, business administration or industrial management and were hired in the past few months were assigned positions below their professional qualifications. That is 18 per cent of women university graduates whose positions are below their professional qualifications, as compared to only 5 per cent of men, according to Statistics Canada.

I think it is to refuse to recognize the reality of the target groups, i.e. the female population, to think and to tell us that labour market equilibrium has been reached and that we no longer need an act like the Employment Equity Act.

Another situation is that of the aboriginal people. The Employment Equity Committee heard many witnesses on that issue. Our friend from the Reform Party certainly did not mention it, and I am sure you will be very surprised to learn about this, but the native people represent 3.8 per cent of the total population of Canada. Up until now however, they have succeeded in getting only 1.4 per cent of all the jobs available to the workforce. These are recent data and they show clearly that, not only do native people have a hard time entering the labour market, but their unemployment rate is exactly twice as high as the national average.

These data also show, Mr. Speaker, that the income of native people is $10,000 below that of other Canadians. I will conclude by saying that these examples of discrimination are still very much current and that Parliament must pass a legislation as this one on employment equity to promote a better balance within the Canadian labour force.

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to address this House regarding Motion No. M-372 proposed by the hon. member for North Vancouver. This motion advocates that employment equity programs and the inclusion of employment equity requirements on employment or training forms be terminated.

In the recent past a backlash has occurred against employment equity. This is unfortunate because the principle behind employment equity is a noble and valid one. It aims to correct discrimination, both intentional and systemic, directed toward designated groups, in other words, persons with disabilities, aboriginal people, visible minorities and women.

Critics of employment equity charge that it is reverse discrimination against white males. They argue that it lowers standards and promotes mediocrity. This is clearly a simplistic and unfair assessment of employment equity.

This is not to say that employment equity programs are perfect and are not in need of some refinement and fine tuning. Presently there are some potential negative consequences which may result from employment equity policies. These concerns need to be taken into account and addressed.

An example is the instilling of deep resentment among non-designated groups. Another one is the decrease of the workplace morale for employees from non-designated groups when the mistaken belief occurs that designated groups receive preferential treatment for promotions.

The above are some factors which need to be overcome in order to ensure that employment equity is implemented in an equitable and fair manner. It is very clear that in order to correct these backlashes more public education and workforce education programs are absolutely essential. Also, we should attempt to implement enrichment programs for disadvantaged persons from designated groups at all levels of formal education so that they may obtain the tools to become more competitive.

When implementing an employment equity plan, we need to keep in mind that the existing workforce did not create the discrimination that employment equity is attempting to eliminate. If the rights of the existing workforce are respected, one can avoid resentment upon the implementation of an employment equity policy.

An alternative solution which could be employed to fine tune employment equity would involve instituting a program that would be representative of how qualified persons from designated groups are distributed in the local labour market.

For example, if 5 per cent of the country consists of persons with disabilities and only 1 per cent of a local community consists of disabled people with engineering degrees, it is clear that only 1 per cent of the workforce in a local engineering company should consist of disabled engineers. Certainly, it would not be fair to non-designated groups if 5 per cent of the engineering company's workforce included disabled persons drawn from other communities, unless of course the very best people were available in this specific group 5 per cent of the time during hiring.

By keeping the above in mind, it could be ensured that local communities are not prejudiced, that the most qualified are always chosen and that discriminatory hiring practices are eliminated.

Despite some very minor fine tuning, the evidence clearly indicates that employment equity is beneficial to both employers and Canadian workers. Studies have demonstrated that substantial gains have been made by members of the designated groups since the introduction of the federal Employment Equity Act. We will continue to work toward full employment parity for these groups.

The intent of the act is not to provide preferential treatment. It is designed to ensure equal access to opportunities for all qualified work ready Canadians, regardless of their race, physical attributes or gender. It is about removing, not erecting, barriers to employment.

The act was not developed overnight. It was a product of a comprehensive review of the Canadian workplace in 1984 by the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment headed by Judge Rosalie Abella. In the course of its review the commission looked closely at affirmative action programs in the United States. Canadian commissioners wanted to learn from the American experience in order to avoid some of the problems associated with that legislation.

Judge Abella quite correctly concluded that Canadians would resist the American approach, given its overly interventionist government policies and the imposition of quotas. She recommended instead that Canadians adopt the employment equity model which focuses on the elimination of discriminatory employment barriers.

In the United States, affirmative action targets particular groups for special treatment because of a previous history of discrimination. Employment equity, on the other hand, attempts to ensure in Canada that all qualified job applicants receive a fair shot at available jobs. The employment equity program in the United States, and rightly so, is to be destroyed simply because it is a destructive model, a model that has been introduced based on a former model that was introduced regarding the discrimination of certain classes of people, a model of desegregation that tore the very fabric of American society, a model that destroyed community after community, all because of a quota system.

Our approach to achieve equality is far more progressive than the American model. It has led to greater partnerships among groups pursuing fair access to employment opportunities and has also led to far greater success.

For example, often workers, union leaders and employers will work together in unison to establish a fair equity plan. In this way, employment equity works as much to the advantage of employers as it does for the members of the designated groups.

Organizations that take advantage of and capitalize upon the rich composition of Canadian society will come out ahead. Organizations that are able to manage a diverse and dynamic workforce are bound to be more competitive in today's marketplace. Given demographic trends we cannot afford to overlook any under-utilized source of talent.

By the year 2000, the very time when we will experience a severe skill shortage because of an aging workforce, two-thirds of the entrants to the Canadian labour market will be women, visible minorities, aboriginal peoples, and persons with disabilities. This is the face of the future workforce and we must integrate them, whether the Reform Party likes it or not.

In conclusion, I do not believe that government should base their policies on the media coverage of the backlash against employment equity. In reality there are no losers under Canada's employment equity legislation. There are only winners when each and every citizen is given a fair chance for employment and then given equal opportunity to advance within the organization.

Ensuring that qualified minorities are not discriminated against is a worthwhile and noble goal. As a nation of caring, compassionate people dedicated to dignity and justice, we are determined to build a country where all Canadians can take pride in employment and their contribution to the community.

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure indeed today to rise to speak on the motion presented by my colleague from North Vancouver. I would like to congratulate my colleague for his speech, which outlined the purpose of his motion.

The motion deals with a sensitive issue, the practice of employment equity. I am pleased to have seconded the motion and to support the motion, which calls for the immediate end to employment equity programs and the end to the inclusion of employment equity requirements on employment or training forms. Such requirements encourage candidate selection to be made on the basis of sex or ethnic origin rather than merit and as a result foster a sense of resentment among applicants. The whole concept of employment equity is flawed. As my colleague pointed out, it advocates the hiring of individuals based on designations, not merit.

The hon. member for Fraser Valley West also expressed it quite well. He said the concept of employment equity will subordinate the principle of merit to the politics of race and of gender. This is made clear by a number of factors, one being the sense of dissatisfaction with employment equity by those it claims to help.

Members of targeted groups who supposedly benefit from employment equity face two difficult questions, the first from themselves. Were they chosen for the position they now hold because of the target group they belong to, or was their hiring based on merit? It is a question that is always there.

Second, there is a question from their colleagues. Do the individuals they work with have doubts about whether they were hired based on the fact that they are a member of a visible minority or a member of a disadvantaged group, or did they truly deserve the position?

This brings me to my second point. When people in a workplace really do not know why they or their colleagues were hired, whether it was based on merit or because of a specific category to which they belong, it fosters a sense of inequality and divisiveness among co-workers. This sense of inequality, as a result of astute hiring practices and quota filling, can lead to a split in the workplace because they create an atmosphere of distrust and doubt. This does not make for a productive or a happy workplace.

I would like to tell a story that was told to me by a staff member of a member of Parliament on the Hill. She had a friend at university, a very bright individual and a member of a visible minority group, who often spoke out very strongly against employment equity programs. Many people questioned his position. They asked why he, one who could obviously benefit from such programs, was so vocally and so strongly against these programs. His reasons were that he did not know, and was afraid that he would not know, if he was hired based on his skills or his skin colour. His co-workers would not know either. This individual said he wanted to be judged solely on the basis of merit and on nothing else.

Indeed, even hon. members opposite have expressed similar views and have shared similar stories. The hon. member for Waterloo stated in committee, with regard to the government's employment equity legislation, that an individual from his own riding did not want people to think he got his job based on preferential treatment. This constituent was also speaking out against employment equity.

Looking at this concern from another point of view, from a point of view based on productivity in the workplace and from the employer's point of view, I would like to tell another story. This story was told to me personally by a gentleman who owns a fairly large business that he built from scratch in my constituency.

This gentleman's company bid on government contracts on a fairly regular basis. He had been very successful in winning these contracts over the years. He was expressing a deep concern to me that his company was no longer eligible to bid on these contracts. The reason was that he did not have the proper quota allocations within his company. More than 50 per cent of his employees were women. He had always hired a considerable number of women because they could do the job best. He had some members from visible minority groups. But his company could not successfully keep enough employees from the aborigi-

nal group to be able to bid on this contract. Because of this, this business person was disqualified from bidding on these contracts. Any way one looks at that, it is discrimination.

Why does the government then feel that we need employment equity? I guess its reason is to correct perceived injustices in the workplace, an honourable motive. However, when we look at numbers we see that these injustices are often only perceived, and mostly perceived by government.

I would like to present a few more stats to add to those presented by the hon. member for North Vancouver a little earlier.

There are 570,000 people currently regulated by the present Employment Equity Act. Women make up 45.6 per cent of those covered. When looking at women in the overall Canadian workforce, we find that 45.9 per cent of the workforce is female. There is a difference of .03 per cent between those who work under the bodies that are covered by the Employment Equity Program and those in the greater workforce. That is .03 per cent. We have to ask ourselves if this .3 per cent is enough of a difference to warrant the cost and the damage done by these employment equity programs.

According to StatsCan for example, in 1992 single women made about 99 per cent of the salaries of single men. Many salary differences between men and women can be explained by lifestyle choices, for example, the choice to stay at home and raise a family. Of course, that is a very honourable choice indeed.

As well, the Economic Council of Canada released a study in 1992 that found no correlation between wage levels and a person's country of origin. The same report also found that immigrants have a lower unemployment rate than Canadian-born workers. The conclusion reached in the council's report was that there is no significant discrimination against immigrants in general.

In 1994 the employment equity report said that in total, women occupied 47 per cent of government jobs while 47.3 per cent were available to work. Jobs held by women increased by a full percentage point in 1993-94. They took a full per cent more of the top jobs despite the fact that the executive category declined by 6 per cent. Again, would government have us bring in costly programs to adjust for a difference of .3 per cent?

I have a few more statistics. The civilian staff at the RCMP is 82.6 per cent female. At Citizenship Canada, 74 per cent are female. However, in Transport Canada more than 75 per cent are male. Are we to assume that this under-representation of women in the transport department is caused by discrimination? I would say no. However, that is what the report wrongly assumed and this illustrates the fundamental flaw in the report. It is difficult to determine why there are differences, but we cannot automatically assume that it is due to rampant discrimination.

Again I ask the question: Why do we need employment equity programs and legislation? The answer is: I do not think we do. Then why do we have them? I believe we have them because the Liberal government's agenda has been and in fact is set too much by special interest groups and these special interest groups support employment equity. They are not driven by public interest.

We have had too much government based on the vocal input from a minority and too little government based on the less vocal input of the majority. We have had government by the minority instead of the majority. What we have with employment equity is a playing field that is tipped in favour of special interest groups. That is not what Canada is all about.

The motion today calls for the immediate end to employment equity and I fully support the motion. In keeping with the Reform practice of proposing positive alternatives, I will explain the Reform Party's position on employment equity by making five short statements:

One, all Canadians are equal before and under the law and all workers have the right to be free from discrimination in the workplace. Two, the market will provide solutions to a representative workplace in the private sector. Three, it is the role of government to ensure equality of opportunity rather than to determine equality of employment outcome in the public sector. Four, the workplace should be free from arbitrary obstructions to hiring or promotion. Merit must be the sole hiring criterion. Five, employment equity legislation is coercive, discriminatory, unnecessary and costly. It should be discontinued.

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have very little time and I will use it as well as I can.

To quote a longtime good friend: "I will be happy that equality has arrived when an unqualified, incompetent woman has as good a chance of getting hired and promoted as an unqualified, incompetent man". That is equality.

Employment equity is not about special treatment; it is about equality of opportunity. History proves and the figures prove that in fact a minority in our population have had preference in hiring and promotion. How else does one explain that 84 per cent of clerks in the federal government are women, the lowest paid? Even within that category of clerks, men rise to the top more often than women.

Numerous statistics demonstrate clearly to us that the merit principle has not been applied in hiring and in employment in this country and, shamefully, in our own public service. The statistics make it very clear that women have been at a disadvantage and have been kept at low levels of employment. People with disabilities are totally under-represented in our workforce, notwithstanding their qualifications. Aboriginal people are shamefully under-represented in our workforce. People who are visible minorities are also shamefully under-represented and in fact have far less chances of getting hired, one-quarter of a chance just a couple of years ago, compared to a white applicant.

These are not necessarily conscious discriminations. They are built into our system and our value judgments. I say to the white males of this country: "You have nothing to lose but your privileges". This Canada of ours is not about privileges. It is not about preferential treatment for a minority of the population which has existed for a long time. It is about using the full, rich-

Employment EquityPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry, the time provided for Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 96(1) the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Employment EquityAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, last month I had the honour of leading a delegation to Turkey to look into the very serious situation of human rights violations in that country. In particular, I was looking at the appalling human rights violations affecting the Kurdish community in Turkey.

Some 12 million Kurds live in Turkey. They have been denied any democratic rights whatsoever to express their fundamental cultural and linguistic heritage.

Following my return from that delegation, I raised a question in the House last week. I asked the Prime Minister to explain why the Canadian government is seriously contemplating sending a delegation led by a minister of the government to celebrate 75 years of Turkish parliamentary democracy.

It is absolutely appalling that the government would seriously consider sending a delegation of that nature when six members of the Turkish Parliament are locked up in the Ankara prison solely for have spoken out for human rights, democracy and justice.

When I had the privilege of meeting with these members of Parliament, including a Kurdish woman, Leyla Zana, who has been sentenced to a term of 15 years, they were astonished and deeply concerned that our government would seriously contemplate sending that delegation.

Second, I raised the issue of the possible sale of 39 CF-5 fighter aircraft to Turkey. We know of the human rights abuses. We know of the burning and destruction of villages. We know of over two million Kurds who have been made homeless in southeastern Turkey. We know of the attacks on journalists. We know of the very profound attacks on many other minorities in Turkey.

This arms deal is fundamentally immoral. I call on the Government of Canada to join with Norway and Germany, two of our strong NATO allies, in imposing an arms embargo on Turkey. Far from selling fighter aircraft, we should be imposing an arms embargo. Look at Turkey's record in Cyprus for example: the illegal invasion, as well as its current appalling human rights record.

Canada's policy is supposedly not to sell weapons to areas of conflict and not to sell weapons to countries with questionable human rights records. The government says: "No problem, we will get a promise from Turkey that they will not use this against civilians". The Turkish government made a similar promise with respect to tanks sold to them by Germany. That promise was broken as well.

I call on the government to say now, categorically, that it will not participate in this charade of the celebration of Turkish democracy, that it will cancel the Canadian delegation, that it will not sell CF-5 fighter aircraft, that it will impose an arms embargo and call on the Turkish government to arrive at a peaceful solution through political dialogue and peaceful means instead of attacking the Kurdish community.

Finally, the PKK has called on the government to recognize that the time has come for dialogue, not for separation but as General Secretary Ocalan said: "The time has come to live side by side on free and equal terms". The way to achieve this is to be open and honest.

I hope the parliamentary secretary will take the opportunity to set the record straight on this issue.

Employment EquityAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Jesse Flis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I wish to set the record straight. The hon. member has raised three important issues. One is the Canadian delegation participating in the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Parliament on April 23. The other is the human rights violations against the Kurds in northern Iraq and against some parliamentarians, that he explained in detail. The third issue is the sale of the CF-5 aircraft to Turkey.

I would like to begin by addressing the first two issues. The hon. member received an excellent answer from the Prime Minister when he asked the question on March 28. The Prime Minister in his reply said: "It might be a good occasion for the ministerial delegation to raise the issue of human rights with the government when it is there". He also said: "Perhaps one way is to cancel the delegation or the other way is to send the delegation with a mandate to talk about it".

It is interesting what the member does when he sees human rights violations. He hops a plane and gets out there, whether it is the Middle East, China, Africa. He makes the headlines. He is the champion of fighting human rights violations. I compliment him for it.

In this case, for other Canadians, he says: "Don't go there. It's okay for me to go there, but don't go there. You Canadians stay home; don't go there". I think the hon. member would agree with me that the best way to address these human rights violations with Turkey is to go and present it to them face to face.

We have continually made representations to the Turkish government through our ambassador in Ottawa, through the embassy in Ankara. As far back as last June the Minister of Foreign Affairs raised the issue with his then Turkish counterpart, Mr. Çetin, who is now the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey.

I am sure these kind of direct interventions, face to face interventions, go a long way. Boycotting that country and not talking to them is not going to give them the message. We have to get there and approach them eyeball to eyeball on this situation. That addresses the first two issues.

As far as the sale of the CF-5s is concerned, again I do not know why the member is making such a fuss over the issue. Just after question period today I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs about this. There is no sale of CF-5s to Turkey. That is as recent as today. I hope the hon. member will pass that on to his constituents and to other Canadians. Yes, we have surplus planes. Yes, countries are interested in purchasing them. The price is a little lower because they are surplus and used. As of today, there is no sale of CF-5s to Turkey.

I thank the hon. member for his intervention, but I hope he will not be hypocritical-

Employment EquityAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Your time has expired.