December 15, 2023 – This week, the Hon. Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Labour, announced the government’s commitment to make immediate changes to the Employment Equity Act including the recognition of Black people and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people as designated groups under the Act.
The announcement followed the release of the final report by a Task Force led by Professor Adelle Blackett. The final report: A Transformative Framework to Achieve and Sustain Employment Equity, is a victory for those who endured discrimination and advocated for change in the federal public service for decades.
“Amnesty International and community advocates have been calling for the creation of distinct categories under the Act and we applaud Minister O’Regan for immediately adopting Professor Blackett’s recommendations,” said Ketty Nivyabandi, Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary General.
We urge the government to legislate these new measures without further delay and work with impacted groups to fully implement the Task Force’s recommendations to harmonize the Employment Equity Act with Canada’s international human rights obligations and labour standards commitments”.
For years, Indigenous, Black, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals, community organizations and disability justice advocates have raised awareness and worked tirelessly to end systemic and institutionalized anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, gender-based discrimination and ableism in the federal public service. This historic win is theirs.
We also recognize and commend the extensive work of Dr. Adelle Blackett, a Black woman herself, in reforming discriminatory gaps in Canadian public institutions. Her impact will be felt by many for years to comeKetty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada
Recognizing Black people and 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities as distinct groups facing systemic workplace discrimination, is a pivotal first step toward acknowledging the historical harms, inequities and unique challenges experienced by these communities. The Task Force review, which was launched in April 2021, followed a Black Class Action lawsuit filed by Black employees of the federal public service in December 2020.
Aligning the definition of “persons with disabilities” with the Accessible Canada Act, which was inspired by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and developed in consultation with accessibility communities, recognizes a social model of disabilities and focuses on barrier removal.
A lot more, however, needs to be done to address these critical issues. Essential to this work is the collection of disaggregated and intersectional data. As recommended by the Task Force, research must be intersectional and grounded in community-based approaches to better understand the experiences of marginalized groups and advance employment equity.
We look forward to continuing to amplify the work of communities to ensure meaningful implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations and to foster more inclusive and equitable workplaces for all.
Header photo: Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (2nd, L) joins people as they take part in a St Andrew’s Day anti-racism and anti-fascism rally on November 25, 2023 in Glasgow, Scotland. Trade unions and community activists march together to protest against the Far Right in Scotland and their attempts to capitalize on what they see as the UK Government’s unwelcome approach to asylum and anti-refugee rhetoric. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images).