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Anti-poverty campaign defends employment equity

Two federal politicians are being targeted by an anti-poverty campaign for allegedly attacking federal employment equity policy.

Comments made by treasury board president Stockwell Day and minister of citizenship and immigration Jason Kenney regarding the public service Employment Equity Act are the focus of an open letter to the federal government written by the Colour of Poverty Campaign (COPC).

The letter claims that Day insinuated that the policy, which is designed to ensure that disadvantaged groups have equal opportunity to jobs in federal public service, is preventing qualified Canadian citizens from obtaining such opportunities.

It also alleges that comments made by Kenney, that merit should trump racial background when hiring for the federal public service, were akin to saying that people from racialized communities without merit are taking jobs from “qualified white candidates”, according to a Canadian Arab Federation press release.

The comments were made on July 21 when Stockwell Day ordered a review of the equity policy. This was prompted when a Caucasian woman applying for an administrative assistant job with Citizenship and Immigration Canada had her online application stopped because she didn't identify as a minority.

The COPC was founded by the Colour of Justice Network in 2007 to bring attention to poverty in racialized communities and was initially funded by the Department of Heritage, according to the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition.

An excerpt from the letter:

In a recent report of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, Reflecting the Changing Face of Canada: Employment Equity in the Federal Public Service, the Senate Committee examined issues of discrimination in the hiring practices of the federal public service and found that employment equity targets among the four designated groups were not fully being met, especially for visible minorities. Based on data available for the core public service in 2008-2009, visible minorities were represented at 9.8%, a figure that was much lower than their workforce availability rate at 15.3%. The fact that discrimination persists despite governments’ best efforts should motivate our political leaders to redouble their resolve to advance policies and programs to make our workplace truly inclusive.

Read the full letter here.

Justin Langille reports on the landscape of work for The Tyee.

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