Employment Equity Policy in Canada and the Politics of Regional Context
Two Case Study Reports:
- "Ontario: Lessons of the Fall of Employment Equity Legislation from the Perspective of Rights Advocacy"
- "Nunavut: Lessons of an Equity Conversation for Anti-Racist Activists"
The selection of two cases as diverse as Ontario and Nunavut within a single research agenda may strike the reader as a curiosity. However, it was precisely this diversity that compelled the authors' interests. Extensive previous research had made it clear that across Canada the relationship between employment equity and the broader human rights environment had received limited attention, particularly from employment equity advocates. In selecting these two case studies, the authors had the opportunity to explore very distinct elements of the interface between employment equity and human rights, each rooted in their specific regional political culture though operating in the wider context of the Canadian federal state.
The authors' primary analytical objective in these studies is to attempt to trace the assumptions rooted in specific regional political cultures that underpin current policies and policy debates, and to link those assumptions with the specific historical conditions of oppression experienced by particular target groups. The aim is to direct these findings towards equity advocates and practitioners.
The Ontario report, "Ontario: Lessons of the Fall of Employment Equity Legislation from the Perspective of Rights Advocacy", examines the recent rise and fall of employment equity in the province. Specifically, the study considers the activities of the Alliance for Employment Equity (AEE) as a grassroots challenge to the backlash policies of the Ontario Tory goverrment during the height of debate in the 1990s. The research agenda included organizing a community workshop on employment equity, involving members of the Alliance and other employment equity practitioners. This report combines indepth policy analysis with findings based largely on discussions and dialogues arising from this workshop.
In a very different context, one of the most advanced expressions of successful advocacy for minority rights and equity is indicated by the establishment of the territory of Nunavut in 1999. This report, "Nunavut: Lessons of an Equity Conversation for Anti-Racist Activists" is approached as as a dialogical exploration. It combines indepth interviews with equity advocates in Iqaluit and Ottawa with analysis informed by the interface between employment equity policy and a broader human rights agenda. The authors found in this research an inspiring example for all those familiar with systemic oppression in the establishment of a territory which explicitly recognizes the interests of its majority Inuit community in the context of redress for the historic exclusion within the federal Canadian state.
The weight of local context suggests that employment equity policy recommendations, if they are to be effective, need to be expanded beyond the traditional parameters of labour market adjustment to include an anti-racist and human rights agenda. It is hoped that these reports will be useful in offering some modest lessons, and perhaps in advancing constructive debates among equity advocates in the struggle to challenge the barriers of systemic racism, sexism, and all forms of oppression.
The views presented in these studies represent those of the authors alone, and do not reflect those of the many people interviewed, or of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation which generously supported this research.