The idea for a national network originally arose from a consultation with national women's groups sponsored by Status of Women Canada in October of 1988. The first day of meetings was restricted to women's groups only and during that day, lengthy discussion on the Federal Contractors Program were held with EIC officials.

The Federal Contractors Program covers more employers than the Employment Equity Act but has received little attention from advocacy groups. It requires employers with a federal contract of $200,000 or more and having 100 employees or more to implement an employment equity plan. These employers are not required to submit the plan nor any data on their progress. They are required only to permit officers onto their premises to review their plans. The Program includes no clear guidelines for targets or timetables and the only criterion for issuing a penalty under non-compliance is a complete unwillingness on the part of the employer to develop any sort of plan at all.

ISSUES

The group identified a series of issues arising out of the experience thus far with the employment equity program. These are the following:

Self-Identification: There are no guidelines for developing a self-identification questionnaire; that is, a questionnaire {administered to employees by which they identify themselves as belonging to one of the four target groups. The lack of such a measure means the validity of statistics pertaining to target groups other than women is questionable. The women's organizations felt that EIC should develop such a questionnaire for the use of all employers and that it should make use of questions similar to those on the census so that data can be compared.

Availability: EIC is sending out "availability data", information gathered from the census which indicates the availability of persons for certain employment. Unfortunately, the data reflects occupations in which people already find themselves and since it is used by employers to set goals, the average level of discrimination that currently exists in society will only be repeated. Employment equity, then, would mean bringing your company up to the average level of discrimination rather breaking through it.

Training:The groups felt it is important to talk about qualifiable rather than qualified people in terms of hiring and promotion. Systemic discrimination impacts upon education and training as well as employment, and therefore the employer must bear a certain responsibility for training as part of the employment equity program.

Special Measures: The group agreed that without special measures employment equity was impossible. Employment equity does, in many cases, mean preferential treatment and special measures such as reasonable accommodation and English or French second language training are essential components.

The groups who participated in this meeting included:

Assembly of First Nations
Canadian Ethnocultural Council
Canadian Congress for Learning Opportunities for Women
Coalition of Visible Minority Women/Coalition of Provincial Organizations of
the Handicapped
Disabled People for Employment Equity
Disabled Women's Network
Fédération des femmes du Québec
National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women
National Action Committee on the Status of Women
Native Women's Association of Canada
Urban Alliance on Race Relations
Women in Trades and Technology

Judy Rebick has been the chairperson of the NAC Equality in the Workplace committee and a member of the executive of the Alliance for Employment Equity. She also helped to found the newly formed National Network for Employment.



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