Posted on November 22, 2005

Ottawa Rescinds Hiring Ban on Able-Bodied White Men

Tom Blackwell, National Post (Don Mills, ON), Nov. 22

A federal government department has cancelled a three-day-old edict that essentially banned the hiring of able-bodied white men over the next several months.

The directive had said managers at the Public Works and Government Services Department could hire only the disabled, women, aboriginal people and visible minorities until at least the end of March.

Others could be recruited solely by written permission of senior executives, said David Marshall, the Deputy Minister, in a memo circulated on Friday and reported by the National Post.

The policy was prompted in part by a sharp drop in the proportion of people from the designated groups who had been hired in recent months, but critics warned it could create a backlash against those very Canadians.

The policy was reversed in a memo issued late yesterday.

“While the measure proposed last week was short-term and not intended to be a ban on hiring individuals from non-designated groups, it could well lead to this impression,” Mr. Marshall said in a new memo.

“As such I am rescinding this measure immediately,” he said.

“Please accept my apologies.”

The department received complaints from outside, while concerns were also expressed internally about the policy, said Pierre Teotonio, a Public Works spokesman.

“It prompted a good debate,” he said.

The department says it will work with the Privy Council Office, the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency, designated group members and unions to develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy for promoting employment equity.

A statement issued by the department yesterday suggested the policy had been “misconstrued by some as being non-inclusive. This was not the intention.”

The original memo was, however, straightforward.

“All persons recruited externally must be from designated groups (persons who are visible minorities, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and women), except for cases having received ADM/CEO written approval,” it said.

The edict came after the proportion of female, disabled, aboriginal and non-white new hires at Public Works fell from one in eight in March to only one in 20 by September, Mr. Teotonio said.

The federal benchmark for the hiring of visible minorities is one in five.