Question Period: Federal Public Service Jobs

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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CN Tower, Toronto

Hon. Jane Cordy: Senator Gold, recent data released by Statistics Canada shows some positive progress when it comes to higher education levels for Black Canadians, and this is good news. Statistics also show that the percentage of Black Canadians who achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher from a university is on par with the national average, and this is also good news. However, when it comes to employment, the statistics show that 16% of Black Canadians are overqualified for their job, so, Senator Gold, they’re underemployed. Black Canadians are still facing real barriers within the labour market.

Senator Gold, in the Government of Canada’s capacity as the largest single employer in Canada, with close to 320,000 public service employees across the country, what steps have been taken to remove these systemic barriers to equal access and equal opportunities within the public service for Black Canadians?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, Senator Cordy, for raising that. The government knows that there are still barriers, biases and systemic obstacles in the way of Black Canadians and others. It’s too regular a feature of life, frankly, for too many of our citizens. These have taken root over generations, and eradicating them will take some time.

To your question, the government has launched programs to support departments in addressing barriers to recruitment and promotion at every level, including the executive level. In that regard, the government is releasing disaggregated data on equity-seeking groups, which will help us to understand the nature of the problem and, I hope, over time, to track progress in addressing the problem. Indeed, the government has amended the Public Service Employment Act to strengthen its provisions to address potential biases and barriers in the staffing processes, and the Clerk of the Privy Council recently issued a call to action for public service leaders to fight racism within the public service. One hopes that this is at least the beginning of progress in that important area.

Senator Cordy: Thank you, Senator Gold. I think these are steps that are going in the right direction, and tracking is certainly a strong first step.

You spoke about government departments, but has a specific government department or departments been tasked with tracking the progress on these initiatives to eliminate what are real barriers that Black Canadians face in the labour market? Are they being assessed regularly to determine their effectiveness? Sometimes we have programs that no one is ever assessing, so we don’t know whether they’re working or not. To follow up with that, are there specific markers, milestones or timelines that the public service is aiming for in meeting employment equity?

Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. I don’t know the answer to the specifics. The data is important. Measuring performance and tracking progress are important. All of those things are necessary if we’re going to actually sustain progress over time. I’ll have to make inquiries and report back as soon as I can get an answer.

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