Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale


Montreal, August 6, 2010 --- Hearings on the appeal brought by a federal Crown prosecutor against the Department of Justice regarding systemic discrimination in employment will resume from September 27 through October 1 at the Federal Court, located at 30 McGill Street, Montreal.

The complaint of Mr. Yacine Agnaou was filed before the Public Service Staffing Tribunal (PSST) two years ago. The hearings began last May. In his complaint, the Montreal lawyer contests a job criterion that excluded him from Justice Canada’s hiring process for three management jobs in the department’s Quebec regional office.

According to Mr. Agnaou, the criterion—“recent human resources management experience in the federal public service”—has a discriminatory effect on members of disadvantaged groups such as visible minorities, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities and women. Indeed, these groups are under-represented in positions where this experience can be obtained.

Open to the public, the hearings will begin at 1:30 pm on September 27 and then resume at 9:30 am on subsequent days. Representatives from Justice Canada and the Public Service Commission of Canada will be called as witnesses before the PSST to discuss how employment equity is implemented - or is not implemented - in the staffing of the federal public service. These stories should highlight the underlying reasons why visible minorities are still underrepresented in all job categories of public service and, in particular, supervisory positions in this institution, which is meant to be one of the pillars of Canadian democracy.

Meanwhile, the Government of Canada has recently launched a review of practices regarding employment equity in the federal public service. This decision follows a complaint of "reverse discrimination" by a citizen, who claims her application was rejected by a federal department because she is white and the position she wanted was reserved for citizens of Aboriginal ancestry. Although the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to achieving a public service truly representative of the diversity of Canadian society, many think the main motivation behind the review is the eventual abandonment of this principle.

A few weeks before the announcement of the review, a Canadian Senate Committee issued a lengthy report on the problems associated with the implementation of employment equity in the federal public service, of which visible minorities only compose 10% of the workforce, despite the fact that this group, which is historically disadvantaged in employment, constituted 16.2% of the total population of Canada as of 2006.

The recommendations of the Senate Committee stressed the main challenges facing the achievement of employment equity in the public service. The Committee recalled that, in this matter, "employment equity is unlikely to advance concretely until measures are in place that can be used to ensure compliance." The Committee affirms what is now an obvious fact: to move from words to action on employment equity, real “accountability " among hiring of managers in the public service is necessary.

It is precisely this accountability that is being sought in the case of Agnaou v. Deputy Minister of Justice. The complainant seeks to effectively establish a legal precedent that would make hiring managers accountable for their staffing decisions in accordance with their responsibility to implement employment equity.

To read about the Senate Committee report: