Employment Equity

The Employment Equity Act of 1995 was proclaimed in 1996, to replace Canada's orginal EE legislation of 1985. Only some of the changes were brought in to improve the situation of groups designated under the act (women, aboriginal people, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities). The most signifcant elements clarified for employers what their responsibilities are and are not, under the act. Practices are guided by the Act, and by Regulations which can be changed without going to Parliament. The federal department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is responsible for public education for and monitoring of the Act, with the Minister of Labour responsible for these functions. It is also responsible for the Federal Contactor's Program which is supposed to require those employers with 100 or more employees wishing to bid on contracts of $200,000 or more to implement Employment Equity programs which hire, train, promote and provide appropriate renumeration to members of the Designated Groups in some proportion to their representation in the "qualified" labour force.


The Employment Equity Act was reviewed in 2002.


The concept of Employment Equity was laid out by Judge Rosalee Abella, Chief Commissioner for the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment in 1984.


"It is not that individuals in the designated groups are inherently unable to achieve equality on their own. It is that the obstacles in their way are so formidable and self- perpetuating that they cannot be overcome without intervention. It is both intolerable and insensitive if we simply wait and hope that the barriers will disappear with time. Equality in employment will not happen unless we make it happen."

Report of the Commission Equality in Employment, Judge Rosalie Abella, Commissioner, 1984

Copied from the Canadian AutoWorkers website, 2004


While the legislation may lay out a framework within which the so-called playing field is leveled, the actual practices and results of this legislation are varied.  It would be useful to have a collection of "better" practices in a wide range of sectors to act as examples of what is possible, and how different interpretations can lead to other results. Research into what has been done across the country has been undertaken by several provinces in Canada. Some of these practices were outlined in ITAC's Equity Overview paper which was removed at ITAC's demise. (ITAC: Industrial Training and Apprenticeship Commission, BC)

Much depends on the strength and clarity of the public message. For example, Dalhousie University's Employment Equity policy has been put on the Internet in a plain language version. It would be interesting to examine the impact of this public stance.  The Columbia Basin Trust commissioned a discussion paper on employment equity to expand the understanding of its directors and distributed it to the general public to foster discussion which led to incorporating "equality of outcomes" language along with a commitment to equity policies and principles in its own work.

The construction sector has always been the biggest challenge in implementing employment equity...throughout the years of planning for and implementing the EE Act in Canada
Whether it is in Atlantic Canada, Ontario, or  British Columbia, apprenticeship seems to be one of the most difficult areas in which to achieve any real gains. Just when one province or sector, or community-based organization, makes a clear case and recommendations for activities to advance equity participation in trades and/or technology, somehow there is impedance, resistance to flow, and things do not change, or only minutely if at all.  Many excuses are made, but the result is the same.


Myths run rampant regarding what is required to implement equity.
always under construction

Last Updated: 24 July 2006

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  mbraundy@interchg.ubc.ca Questions? Comments?

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