Last Updated: July 23, 2010 5:52pm
OTTAWA – Should the federal government have jobs that essentially say “whites need not apply”?
That’s the question in Ottawa this week with the Conservative government saying affirmative action programs should encourage women, minorities, the disabled and aboriginals to apply for jobs but not exclude others based on race.
The opposition parties see things differently.
Campaigning in Quebec, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff blasted the government’s call to review a policy that sets aside some jobs for certain races.
“We cannot understand why Mr. Harper keeps creating problems where there aren’t any,” said Ignatieff. “Public sector hiring should be based on merit, but it should also be based on giving everybody an equal shot.”
But that’s exactly what the government says it wants to do – give everyone an equal shot at government work.
Reacting to a QMI Agency story about an Ottawa woman who was barred from applying for a job because she’s white, the government asked for the policy to be reviewed.
“We want to ensure that no Canadian is barred from opportunities in the public service based on race or ethnicity,” said Treasury Board President Stockwell Day, the cabinet minister responsible for government workers. “The wheels of Ignatieff’s bus have clearly fallen off and he’s trying to distract Canadians.”
Day says the government’s preferred policies of encouraging minority groups to apply are working. He pointed out that 54% of civil servants are women and 18.8% of new hires last year were visible minorities. The cabinet minister says the media have sensationalized the story.
“The media took one case and exploded it across the nation,” Day told QMI Agency.
Despite Day’s complaint, the issue is about more than one job and more than one woman.
Personal stories from readers have been pouring in via e-mail and there are currently several federal government job postings across Canada that restrict people of certain races from applying. Some are only open to aboriginals and visible minorities, some only to aboriginals. The jobs range from communications advisors in Halifax and Montreal to legal assistants in Calgary and Winnipeg.
Day says as part of his review he will ask the departments using racial quotas why they are blocking people from applying based on race rather than just encouraging minority groups to apply.
The minister points out several departments have met employment equity targets without discriminating based on ethnicity.
Still the review goes too far for the Liberals.
“New Canadians and other minorities are directly threatened by Stephen Harper’s decision to cut workplace diversity and the census,” said Liberal multiculturalism critic Justin Trudeau in a statement.
The Liberal support for hiring based on racial quotas is at odds with what the party said during its time in power.
A 2005 memo from the top bureaucrat at the public works department said all hires from outside the department were to be from the designated groups.
The reaction from Scott Brison, the then Liberal minister for the department, was swift. Brison overruled the bureaucrat.
At the time, Brison said, “I support the whole policy of inclusion but I do not support discriminating against any group in hiring practice.”read more