Employment Equity in Canada: A Government Program under Siege

Prof Joseph Mensah
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Since the mid-1990s, Canada's Employment Equity program has become a target of intense debate and contestation, attacked by not only White Canadians but also by members of the designated groups, including visible minorities, women, disabled people, and Aboriginals. Drawing primarily from the affirmative action debate in the United States, some critics contend that the program fosters inferiority and victim complex among its beneficiaries, and reinforces White prejudice against ethno-racial minorities, while others denounce the program as a form of reverse discrimination against Whites. This paper examines the background and rationale of the program, identifies the common criticisms against it, and offers a spirited response in its defence. The paper is organized around four main problematics: employment equity as reverse discrimination; employment equity as an institutionalized inefficiency; employment equity as a source of inferiority and victim complex; and employment equity as a useful program for only the well-educated members of the designated groups. The paper does not belabor old-fashioned White supremacist doctrines and the exclusionary tactics they espouse. Rather it scrutinizes the subtle racism — or the 'new racism', to borrow Martin Barker's concept for a moment — that underpins much of the prevailing opposition to Employment Equity in Canada.

Keywords: Employment Equity, Discrimination, Visible Minority, Canada
Stream: Politics of Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Prof Joseph Mensah

Assistant Professor, School of Social Sciences, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies , York University

Joseph Mensah completed his Ph. D. in Geography at the University of Alberta and currently teaches human geography courses at the Atkinson School of Social Sciences at York University. He is also cross-appointed to the Graduate Program in Geography at York. His current research interest is in critical development theory; race, space, and employment; and socio-spatial dialectics. He has published in several reputable journals including the Canadian Geographer; Canadian Journal of Urban Research; Transportation; International Journal of Environmental Studies; International Journal of Canadian Studies; Regional Development Studies; and Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie (TESG). He is the author of Black Canadian: History, Experience and Social Conditions.

Ref: D05P0173