Posted on July 21, 2010

Woman Denied Government Job Because of Race

Brian Lilley, Ottawa Sun, July 21, 2010

A stay-at-home mother trying to re-enter the workforce after nine years away says she can’t understand why the federal government would stop her from applying for a job simply because she is white.

Sara Landriault, a sometime family activist, says that with her kids in school full time she decided to start looking for work outside of the home.

While surfing on the federal government job website, Landriault says she found a position at Citizenship and Immigration Canada she felt she was qualified for but was blocked from submitting her resume because she was not an aboriginal or visible minority.

“I was flabbergasted,” Landriault said in a telephone interview from her home in Kemptville, Ont., just south of Ottawa. “It was insane. I’m white, so I can’t do it?”

Landriault says she has seen job postings in the past that encourage certain groups to apply.

“Which is fine, it’s an equal opportunity position,” Landriault said. “But an equal opportunity employer does not stop one race from applying.”

A CIC spokeswoman takes a different view.

“We are under-represented by aboriginal employees in our work force,” said Melanie Carkner. “At this point in time, the department does meet requirements for visible minorities; however, given the department’s mandate, we make a concerted effort to hire individuals in this group.”

The Employment Equity Act, first introduced by the Mulroney government in 1986 and updated by the Chretien government in 1995, allows for certain groups to be favoured when it comes to hiring.

The federal government’s policy on employment equity states that the goal is to “ensure that designated group members achieve equitable representation within the public service.” The policy also says that hiring should respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states that “every individual is equal before and under the law,” but also contains a clause allowing for affirmative action programs.

Some prominent Conservative MPs, including Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl, have spoken out against this kind of discriminatory hiring practice in the past. In 2005, then public works minister Liberal Scott Brison called his department to task for issuing a memo stating that only certain groups would be hired.

“I support the whole policy of inclusion, but I do not support discriminating against any group in hiring practice,” Brison said at the time.