Discrimination. The big D word. A word most readily used by many though rarely meritable in its’ use. In our contemporary world of political correctness, discrimination is one of many ‘buzzwords’ that forms a politicians’ lexicon of verbal spaghetti. Political figures love to throw around the idea that one group of people are often discriminated against by another group of people or even by a nation’s laws. It is a fantastic vote grabber for those most instrumental in the art of politics. The truth however, in this day and age, is that rarely are modern-day laws discriminatory in their practice, right?
Have you ever heard of the concepts of affirmative action or what we like to call employment equity in Canada? These are concepts that were instituted into Canadian law to help level the playing field for those who have traditionally suffered the ill consequences of discrimination; especially in the job market. Under the Constitution Act of 1982, containing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; equity legislation is detailed therein. The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) is enforced by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) and it is this commission that deals with whether or not discrimination has taken place in the workplace.
The following details the issue of Prohibited Grounds of Discrimination in Canada: (Belcourt, Bohlander, & Snell, Managing Human Resources, 5th Canadian Edition, 2008).
Race or colour
Physical or mental disability
Dependence on alcohol or drugs
National or ethnic origin (including linguistic background)
Ancestry of place of origin
Social Condition or origin
Source of income
Assignment, attachment or seizure of pay
Based on association
Record of criminal conviction
While appearing like a fair and equitable approach to the issue of fairness in hiring practices; employment equity actually creates the framework for unfair hiring criteria – whereby the best qualified person may be the most successful candidate but may not be chosen due to government imposed employment equity legislation. Case-in-point; consider the possibility of two highly qualified candidates applying for the same government or private sector industry, job. One candidate, a qualified counselor who, as a child, was raised in the atmosphere of a same sex marriage; understands the very real social challenges faced by his/her same sex parents. One could surmise that not only is this individual qualified as a counselor; but has the added experience of being raised in a non-traditional family setting, outside of the traditional nuclear family. The other candidate is also a highly qualified counselor but is a homosexual. By the very definition and reasoning for employment equity, chances are that the successful candidate will be chosen due to his/her sexuality and not necessarily for his/her skills.
Another scenario if you will. Imagine an Aboriginal couple fostering a non-Aboriginal child who is raised and immersed in Aboriginal culture. He/she has a university/college education associated with his/her chosen field; speaks an Aboriginal language, is well-versed in the culture and customs associated with the First Nation and has all the credentials required of someone who could work for a government or non-government Aboriginal organization. The other candidate also has some or most of these qualifications but has one added qualification. Their ethnicity or race is of a First Nation. Once again, by the very definition and reasoning for employment equity, chances are that the successful candidate will be chosen due to his/her ethnicity or race and not necessarily for his/her skills.
Sound like rare or improbable cases and scenarios to you? I can attest that they’re not. They’re increasingly happening everyday in Canada and Human Resources professionals have had to contend with the issue of unfair hiring criteria that these laws have created since at least 1995 with the Employment Equity Act.
If you think at this point that our Canadian employment laws are unfair and unjustified then I have even more bad news for you. Consider the above information I’ve provided about Employment Equity. Add to this the increasingly unfair bilingual language requirements as well and you can see where things are headed. A politically correct society where in the quest for fairness we’ve permitted a very unfair system to flourish unchallenged by the people themselves. We need to ask ourselves if Canada’s employment and language laws are really a reflection of what we encompass and value as a society or if our various levels of government are attempting through social engineering, to shape and mould the people’s consciousness to the system itself. In other words, do the people work for the system or should the system work for the people?
Ever heard of the concept of a ‘bona fide occupational qualification’? Believe it or not, this concept currently exists in Canada and it allows for discrimination in hiring! That’s right folks. You read that correctly. In the very ‘Act’, the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) whose existence is to prohibit discriminatory hiring practices there exists government-sponsored discriminatory hiring! As Belcourt et al. reports (2008):
The act applies to all federal government departments and agencies, to Crown corporations, and to other businesses and industries under federal jurisdiction, such as banks, airlines, railway companies, and insurance and communications companies. For those areas not under federal jurisdiction, protection is available under provincial human rights laws. Provincial laws, although very similar to federal ones, do differ from province to province. Every province and territory has a human rights act (or code), and each has jurisdiction prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. The prohibited grounds of discrimination in employment include race, religion, sex, age, national or ethnic origin, physical handicap, and marital status…Employers are permitted to discriminate if employment preferences are based on a bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQ) or BFOR (bona fide occupational requirement). A BFOQ is justified if the employer can establish necessity for business operations. In other words, differential treatment is not discrimination if there is a justifiable reason. (106)
This sounds an awful lot like Orwell’s, Animal Farm, where Commandment #7 which originally stated that:
“All animals are equal”
Was eventually changed to,
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”
Is this the kind of Canada we want to live and work in? Surely the ideology of an individual’s rights should trump group rights in all respects. Should it not? Otherwise, we need to ask ourselves if we truly live in a democracy where all citizens enjoy the same rights and privileges as all others. As of this writing, the majority of our citizenry cannot work for their civil service or hold the highest office of the land due to nothing more than a lack of knowledge of one of Canada’s minority languages.
Please keep in mind that,
“All Canadians are equal, but some Canadians are more equal than others”
Sunday August 25, 2013
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