POLL: Is it fair to reserve some government jobs just for Aboriginal people and visible minorities?

Canada’s employment equity policies (known as “affirmative action” in the U.S.) could be headed for a major overhaul after an Ontario woman was blocked from applying for a job with the federal government because she’s white.

Sara Landriault was filling out an application for a job as an administrative assistant with Canada’s Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

But when Landriault indicated that she was white on the online application, she was blocked from submitting a resume because the position was designated exclusively for Aboriginal or visible minority candidates.

The position was listed on a website hosted by the Public Service Commission of Canada to manage over 20,000 federal government hires.

Now, Canada’s Conservative government has ordered a review of such ‘affirmative action’ policies, saying the federal public service should hire based on merit, not race or gender.

Opposition parties in Canada say any measures that close the employment equity gap are necessary, but according to an article in the Toronto Sun, the woman at the center of the controversy disagrees:

“I think that’s only the leaders saying that because they are in opposition. If they really feel like that then I’d like them to explain to my children why they won’t get a job one day because they are white.”

As it turns out, though, these kinds of hiring restrictions on the job Landriault sought are exceedingly rare. According to CTV Ottawa: “The [Public Service Commission] says job postings exclusively for aboriginals or visible minorities make up about one per cent of all [20,000] jobs available.” That works out to roughly 200 jobs.

What do you think? Is Ms. Landriault right to criticize the federal practice of reserving some public service positions for Aboriginal candidates or candidates belonging to a visible minority group? Or is it still the case that, as the Employment Equity Act states, “correct[ing] the conditions of disadvantage in employment experienced by women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities … requires special measures”?

One way you can let us know how you feel is to vote in our newest poll below!

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16 thoughts on “POLL: Is it fair to reserve some government jobs just for Aboriginal people and visible minorities?

  1. The “best qualified,” could and should mean that Native people have to be the ones who deal with their own people. There has to be more natives serving/helping native people because they are the most qualified. But this is one thing that has not been recognized in the great debate of who is best qualified. Natives helping natives makes more sense than getting, non-natives with degrees. I feel natives are often overlooked when the government deals with them. When you hear people gripe over a small number, you know it has nothing to do with equality but rather its all about domination. If equality was a big factor in this country they should all be fighting for the inequality that native people have had to face these past hundred or so years. Reserves and the Indian Act, have been nothing but a system of exclusion; not to mention that non-natives can turn on native people at the drop of a hat (with their racial sentiments). I'm thinking that very few people who do post that negativity will refuse to recognize these factors. There really is a strong undercurrent, and things have a long way to go before we actually see real equality in this country.

  2. I agree. I am astonished that most employees at Health Canada First Nations and Inuit Health Branch are non-Aboriginal. I understand there have been improvements made at the federal level particularly at INAC but much more strategic human resource planning will be necessary to: (1) develop ongoing hiring policies (2) hire and train First Nations, Inuit, and Metis staff; and; (3) assure the percentage of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis staff are at acceptable levels.

    I think only then Aboriginal peoples, if you will, can rise in the ranks within government and work in senior management posts; making decisions that will have lasting impacts on First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.

    W.Clark (Inuk)
    Ottawa, ON

  3. A newer study shows the situation was not much better last year: the Urban Aboriginal unemployment rate (ages 15-24) was 13.9% in 2009; it had been as low as 10.4 % in 2008. (Non-aboriginal rates were just over 8% in 2009, 6% in 2008. See the story here: http://indgn.us/a29WBd

  4. These policies were created as a means of dealing with the repetitive discrimination deployed against designated groups, if there were ethical hiring practices maybe these wouldn't exist. It is to cease differences for an underrepresented group. Further, these things happen everyday, employers set criteria or requirements all the time, whether based on race, language proficiencies, to residency. Clearly, Landriault constitutes one Canadian (of many) who does not value a diverse workforce.. .

  5. Equality is a self statement. Regardless of the context. There is no doubt that there is a lot of ignorant people in this country. And in most circumstances its hard to avoid some level of interaction. But when people treat you negatively its more about their own ignorance. I often don't consider myself equal based on race even though I am bicultural. I'm realistic about what I excel and what skills I have as well. There are some skills which I outperform others on, based on this reality I am hired, skills, talent and ability. However, our society does not always allow for people to access opportunties based on these identifiers. We like to think we live in a meritocracy because it helps people feel more secure and safe when they go to sleep. But the reality is that this nation was colonized and structured under European rule. Now with the changing demograpics those structures are still in place. In most government sponsored organizations the old guard is being replaced by the new postmodern reality of intelligensia being from diverse communities. To promote equity in the workplace representation of culture and diversity certainly has a role. However some formula must be put in place to sure fair distribution of opportunities and access to those opportunities. In the absence of bonafide skills holders based on racial quotas, the decisions to give these positions then should be offered to qualified individuals. Why does the woman need to apply to a positions that is set aside for 1% of the population. Kind of reminds me of the fellow who went to a conservative dutch college in the bible belt of Canada without disclosing his homosexuality and wanting to retain his professorship. Was it the institutions fault or should the individual disclose and carry some measure of responsibility to find a suitable position? The more appropriate question is to answer the question “why does mommy not apply for work she is qualified for rather than cry over systemic inequalities and complain about being passed over a position she was not designated for her when there are other many jobs she could apply for”. Alternately, she could explain race relations in Canada over the past 100 years to her offspring and provide them with that valuable information. Perhaps we will get to the point where we will have to reserve employment opportunities for caucasions in this country….i just don't think our quota system is constructed that way. Its interesting when that there is such a focus on this woman's experience of structured and purposeful allocation. She perceived it as discrimination. Yet it is not popular media food to cover the expereinces of many people who are outed from jobs based on race and culture.

  6. enjoyed your comments Rey, so true Landriault would apply for a position designed for the 1%, with purpose? Although ten pages long (exaggerated) on Sister Sage's Musings blog {sisterssagesmusings.ca}, this Montrealer blogger quite frankly and in a rather comedic manner raises the same questions as you, 'why does she not apply for work she is qualified for', or even so as this blogger asks, was Landriault even qualified in the first place (forget about the race issue). There are plenty of jobs for Landriault, perhaps there is a point and I quote 'the white girl who won't start at the bottom of the wadder- a lesson for a Sara and other princesses.. '- ouch!

  7. http://indgn.us/byHZ9G
    Outlines the preexisting fiduciary responsibilities of the federal governement to First Peoples, and even comments on the special status predating minority and multicultur…al mandates. Lumping these interests together without providing the background creates the illusion that they reflect similar interests and histories. Guerin v R.(1984) roots fiduciary responsibility in Aboriginal title unlike any other group, a breach of which, carries legal consequence. R.v Adams establishes that Canada cannot act arbitrarily and with Guerin…must act in the interests of Aboriginals…its the law.

  8. One of the most underrepresented groups in any kind of permanent employment in this country is aboriginal people. Employment equity programs were absolutely necessary in order to address the very real imbalance at all levels of government, particularly in those departments that supply services to Indian country. This is purely a reform conservative initiative designed to garner them votes in areas where white people feel “disadvantaged”, which is hardly the case in this country. The wage gap statistics alone should make people disgusted by the very real economic strata that exist. As far as I'm concerned, they are making a poster child out of a whiny overprivileged person who was probably applying for something far above her head and using it as the wedge to strike down all of the existing employment equity legislation.

  9. The idea of a ‘color-blind’ society, ‘race shouldn’t matter’, and ‘reverse racism’ is all simply new neo-conservative rhetoric for those who wish to remain in power. Of course race SHOULDN’T matter, but the bottom line is, it does. Of course, our society should BE color blind, but it ISN’T. How quickly some speak up when they feel it is THEY who are experiencing injustice. Example: The protesters against the mosque being built at the 911 site. When it comes to land, aren’t Aboriginal people told to ‘share’? Talk about hypocrisy and irony! What is more, racism is defined as the unequal power relations between two societies and in my opinion, we ain’t in no power, so how can these policies be attributed to ‘reverse racism’? Clever comedian, Chris Rock, said it well when he said: If ya’ll are losin, who’s winning? So until we do live in a color-blind society we DO need these policies (which in reality don’t even work because the government does not want to hire EDUCATED Aboriginal people because they fear that they know how to question authority).

    Recently, a person in my class said: Us white guys can’t even get a job anymore because women, Aboriginal people, minorities, and immigrants get all the jobs. To this, my professor replied: Well, although I do not think that is accurate, I will say it is about time the tables are turned because for true equality to happen in our society an unbalance for those in power has to happen, they need to begin to empathize with those who’ve endured racism & injustice for generations; so to that I say suck it up princess.

    Well said.

  10. When do you hear of jobs exclusively to whites? Visible minorities expect everything handed to them, and will NEVER hire a white. Want proof? Go and apply to a government job, and good luck! I have no beef with aboriginals since I am half aboriginal myself.

  11. When do you hear of jobs exclusively to whites? Visible minorities expect everything handed to them, and will NEVER hire a white. Want proof? Go and apply to a government job, and good luck! I have no beef with aboriginals since I am half aboriginal myself.

  12. I am amazed that almost all the GBA+ or DEI people that I have met in the federal government are white straight women. They talk about diversity advancing but what they really mean is that white women have gained traction in the upper echelons of power. These same women who decry sexism are actively denying qualified and bilingual visible minorities jobs . Ironic that the same people who decry injustice are perpetuating so well to retain their power in society. From what I’ve seen in my many years of government, the white men are less racist than the white women. Someone needs to address the enormous issue of white women withholding power from more disadvantaged groups…it’s rampant. The other aspect is the best fit, I’ve noted that when I do interviews over the phone I get triple the jobs offers. When I do them in person, I often wonder notice white women being surprised about about my non whiteness then promising to contact me then never doing so. The other problem is the glass ceiling for visible minorities it hit much sooner in our careers — even when we are more educated and have much higher French levels than the women hiring. Coincidence, I think not. We need to track data and statistics then follow up otherwise white supremacy will continue to prevail unabated in the federal government.

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