Canada has a population of approximately twenty six million people. With the introduction of the federal government's multicultualism program, the social demographic make up of Canada is quite vast, bringing together people from many different nations to join those already living here. Taking the population as a whole into account, it is no secret that historically, certain members of this social order have been denied fair access to employment system. The federal and provincial governments had undertaken steps to address the issue through a wide range of programs such as equal employment and other affirmative action programs to "promote equal opportunity in the public service for segments of the population that have historically been underrepresented there." Today those designated groups, underrepresented in the labour force include women, Aboriginal peoples, disabled people, and persons who are, because of their race or colour, is a visible minority in Canada. In October 1984, Judge Rosalie Silberman Abella submitted a Royal Commission Report on equality in employment (the Abella Report) to the federal government. "The Commission was established in recognition of the fact that women, visible minorities, the handicapped and native peoples were being denied the full benefits of employment." Based on the findings of the Abella Commission, the federal government implemented "The Employment Equity Act" in 1986. This short paper will evaluate the success of the "Act" and will argue that although some progress has been made, the Canadian Labour force still does not reflect the demographic composition of Canada as the Act had targeted.
For the purposes of implementing Employment Equity, certain individuals or groups who are at an employment disadvantage are designated to benefit from Employment Equity. The Employment Equity Act describes the designated groups as "women, aboriginal peoples; Indians, Inuit or Metis, who so identify themselves to their employer, or agree to be so identified by an employer, for the purposes of the Employment Equity Act. Persons with disabilities; are people who, because of any persistent physical, mental, psychiatric, sensory or learning impairment, believe that they are potentially disadvantaged in employment, and who so identify themselves to an employer, or agree to be so identified by an employer, for the purposes of the Act. Members of visible minorities are persons, other than aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non- white in colour, and who so identify themselves to an employer, or agree to be so identified by an employer, for the purpose of the Act."
The designated groups, in particular women, have essentially been discriminated against for a substantial period of time. A 1977 study of women in federal Crown Corporations conducted by the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, reported that the federal government is the largest employer in Canada, with almost 40% of it's employee's (excluding the Army) employed by federal Crown Corporations. At that time, employees of Crown Corporations were not subject to the Public Service Employee Act, which prohibited discrimination in all aspects of employment including personnel hiring and promotion. The study showed that women made up 37% of the Canadian labour force population and 33% of federal public service employee population. However, only 15.4% of the total employee population of federal Crown Corporations were female. The underrepresentation of women in federal Crown Corporations are clearly evident in the two charts indicated below. According to the 1981 census, women were at a disadvantage in a number of ways. In comparison to men, women have higher unemployment rates, lower participation rates and are concentrated in lower paying jobs, regardless of their level of education.