Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


crarrinfo - Posted on 14 July 2013

Montreal, July 18, 2013

Recently, local media reported that City Councillor Marvin Rotrand addressed the under-representation of Anglophones’ employment in the City of Montreal’s public service, by taking some steps such as allowing applicants to use a dictionary during the written French language test and loosen French language proficiency requirements for some jobs.

These steps are indeed positive and welcomed, but they can create counterproductive consequences for Anglophone employment if they are not part of a carefully planned process similar to the present legally approved employment equity programs for women, minorities and Aboriginal peoples.

Some may qualify Councillor Rotrand’s action as a pre-electoral measure. Indeed, Councillor Rotrand is an elected official who has been with the party in power for the last decade and who did not do much to deliver tangible changes on minority representation both inside the City’s civil service and the personnel of the Montreal Transit Authority (or the STM), of which he is the Vice-Chair.

Political or electoral considerations aside, the issue is of crucial importance for the long-term vitality of the English-speaking community of Montreal in all its racial and ethnic diversity, the quality of overall city programs and services, and the integrity of our municipal democracy.

It is a widely accepted democratic principle that the legitimacy and effectiveness of a government depends on its ability to reflect and respond to the needs, interests and aspirations of the governed. That ability greatly depends on the representation, participation and input of citizens as well as residents at all levels of a public administration.

Since 2000, under a mandatory employment equity law adopted by the Parti Québécois government (known as Law 143), all provincial and municipal public and parapublic organizations, including school boards, municipalities, health institutions, colleges and universities and Crown corporations (except the Quebec civil service), must adopt measures to eliminate obstacles to equal employment opportunities for ethnic minorities, visible minorities, women, and Aboriginal peoples.

Contrary to a similar law that exists at the federal level and that applies for all federally regulated employers, the Quebec law specifically adds “ethnic minorities” as a beneficiary group, which is defined as “persons whose mother tongue is neither French nor English and who are not members of a “visible minority”” (i.e. non-white group).

Although it is designed to address employment discrimination of designated groups, the Quebec mandatory employment equity does not include “Anglophones” or “English-speaking” persons for a host of reasons, including the fact that under the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101), the English language was and is still not seen by policy makers as a factor leading to discrimination in employment in the same way as race, gender or non-official language has historically been perceived and acknowledged.

When Law 143 came into force in 2001, many public organizations were given a transition period by the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission to set in place the infrastructure to implement employment equity programs. There are specific organizational steps to follow, such as an internal survey of staff composition in all job categories; a review of employment systems, criteria and procedures, to detect and eliminate discrimination; the establishment of quantitative objectives to correct under-representation of each group in all job categories; and the development of equal opportunity, redress and support measures to ensure these groups’ fair representation in all job categories.

In determining fair representation, analysts must examine data of each group’s internal representation and compare them to those of the same group’s availability rate in the external active labor market (not in the general population, as many people often mistakenly do).

This complex employment equity planning requires a fundamental shift in the way an employer manages its human resources (HR). It must establish a set of clear short and long-term goals, actions and timetables, as well as a coherent and accountable commitment to fair representation so that within an established timeframe, change occurs and internal staff reflect the very people they are supposed to serve and represent in society at large.

The recent court decision involving Mr. Olthene Tanisma, a Black professional who ironically failed to obtain promotions to management positions in Mr. Rotrand’s own borough of NDG-Côte-Des-Neiges, shows that systemic racism in municipal employment is often a result of an organizational culture and standards of staffing practices that unintentionally exclude minorities.

The shift in HR management requires, therefore, a shift in the way of running the City. Some call this a “business case” for inclusion. For democracy’s sake, we can call employment equity a tool to lend credence to the notion of “no taxation without representation.”

It is through this systemic process that according the most recently made available figures from the City of Montreal (see Conseil interculturel de Montréal, Avis sur le programme d’accès à l’égalité en emploi de la Ville de Montréal, 2011), we know how different groups fare within the civil service. For instance, data from this document show that between 2006 and 2010, visible minorities' representation went up from 6.1% to 8.5% and ethnic minorities, down from 4.9% to 4.7%; for women, the number actually dropped from 38.7% to 38.2% during the same period.

Interestingly, data from the Montreal Transit Authority show that in 2009, none of the senior managers of the public transit agency was from a visible minority group, that most of the employment equity hires were all for entry positions and that internal promotion to senior positions did not occur for this group.

What matters most in this process is the legality of group designation and data collection along race, ethnicity and gender lines, which effectively shields the process from legal challenges of reverse discrimination, among other things. It is only through data collection that one can determine, with greater certainty, areas and causes of under-representation, and remedies.

Consequently, any serious attempt to address the fair employment of “Anglophones” in the City’s public service is fraught with challenges, two of the most serious being:

1. Definition: who is an “Anglophone”? Should the criterion be “English as mother tongue”, which effectively discriminates against many Arabic, Asian, Black and South Asian Montrealers who use English and who still speak another mother tongue; and

2. Legal Status: without legislative or regulatory addition of “Anglophones” to as a designated group in employment equity laws, any special measures for this group can be subject to a legal challenge under the provincial human rights Charter.

Furthermore, the City cannot operationally proceed to a head count, voluntary or otherwise, of its present employees on the basis of (the English) language, which in turn makes any examination of fair representation in all job categories impossible.

There are no data on Anglophones’ representation in all city job categories and at different stages of the employment process, from pre-selection and hiring to promotion and departure. Worse, there is presently no formal mechanism or structure inside City Hall for Anglophones’ input on issues and strategies of fair employment.

There have been recent talks of doing politics differently at City Hall. Public hearings on collusion in city departments and the recent Tanisma case provide a rare opportunity to address Anglophones’ underrepresentation in city jobs from a new approach. We need to avoid quick-fix solutions, fishing for causes and solutions in the dark, and raising both false expectations and inevitable resistance to a laudable democratic objective: full and fair employment opportunity for all, without discrimination.