Terms of Reference - Employment Equity Act Review Task Force
On this page
- List of abbreviations
- Scope of work
- Operating structure
List of abbreviations
- Employment Equity Act
- Employment and Social Development Canada
- Gender Based Analysis+
- Labour Market Availability
- Non-governmental Organizations
- Workforce Availability
Canadians have the right to be treated fairly in workplaces free from barriers and inequalities. One of the ways the Government of Canada promotes equity and diversity in federally regulated workplaces is through the Employment Equity Act (EEA).
The purpose of the EEA is:
- “to achieve equality in the workplace so that no person is denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability”Footnote 1, and
- “to correct the conditions of disadvantage in employment experienced”Footnote 2 by the designated groups:
- Aboriginal peoples
- persons with disabilities, and
- members of visible minorities
The EEA places the onus on employers under federal jurisdiction to:
- analyze their human resources systems, policies and practices to identify barriers and inequalities
- develop and implement a plan to remove these barriers and inequalities, and
- be accountable for results
Employers make progress toward achieving equity in the workplace when they close the representation and wage gaps experienced by members of the designated groups in their workforce.
State of equity
Federally regulated private sector
According to the Employment Equity Act: Annual Report 2019, the representation rate of:
- women, after peaking to 45.5% in 1993, has declined to 39.4% compared to 48.2% labour market availability (LMA) in 2018
- Indigenous peoplesFootnote 3 remains low, accounting for 2.3% compared to 4.9% LMA in 2018
- persons with disabilities remains low, accounting for 3.4% compared to 9.1% LMA in 2018
- members of visible minoritiesFootnote 4 remains high, accounting 23.8% compared to the 21.3% LMA 2018
Federal public service
According to Employment Equity in the Public Service of Canada for Fiscal Year 2018 to 2019, the representation rate within the core public administration of:
- women (54.8%) continues to exceed the LMA (48.2%) and the workforce availability (WFA) (52.7%)
- Indigenous peoples (5.1%) exceeds the LMA and the WFA (4.0%)
- persons with disabilities (5.2%) is under the core public administration, compared with LMA (9.1%) and the WFA (9.0%)
- members of visible minorities (16.7%) is under the LMA (21.3%) and slightly greater than the WFA (15.3%)
Economic and social changes
Since the EEA passed in 1986, the Government of Canada has made some progress in creating fairer workplaces. The Government recognizes that key economic and social changes have occurred; however, more work is necessary.
The ageing population and shifting immigration patterns are resulting in a workforce that is older and more ethno-culturally diverse. This is:
- increasing the need to address accessibility barriers (since older workers are more likely to have a disability), and
- resulting in the need to address systemic racism in workplaces
Nature of work
Non-standard work relationships are now a persistent and a substantial feature of the Canadian labour market:
- about 37% of Canadian workers were in non-standard work relationships in 2019, and
- some of these non-standard work arrangements, such as part-time and temporary work, are gendered, featuring more women than men
Evolution of diversity and inclusion in the workplace
There is an evolution in how Canadians understand and perceive diversity and inclusion in the workplace, such as:
- greater recognition of barriers experienced by members of the LGBTQ2+ communities
- an emphasis on the distinct employment circumstances of different Indigenous populations (First Nations on- and off-reserve, Inuit, and Métis), and
- a nuanced knowledge of various forms of disability and recognition of different labour market outcomes among different visible minority groups
Challenges to the federal employment equity framework
These economic and social changes have highlighted challenges to the federal employment equity framework.
- Calls to include other members amongst the EEA’s designated groups, including LGBTQ2+ communities
- Renewed attention to systemic racism. It has highlighted:
- calls by stakeholders to retire the term “visible minorities” and rethink the category, and
- the need to gather disaggregated data for different groups that currently fall under this designated group
- Adoption of a distinctions-based approach to government programs involving Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis). This raises the question of how employment equity could reflect the unique interests, priorities and circumstances of each people
- Persistent gaps call for a joint approach with employers, stakeholders and partners. It is essential to identify key barriers and to promote best practices to close these gaps. This could include:
- improving compliance and enforcement practices to support employers that work on achieving equity and hold accountable those that do not, and
- moving beyond annual reporting of metrics to help get the full picture in federally regulated private sectors and the federal public service on the state of:
- diversity, and
In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges for many workers, and has affected certain groups more than others:
- Indigenous peoples
- recent immigrants
- members of visible minoritiesFootnote 5, and
The mandate of the Task Force is to advise the Minister of Labour on how to modernize and strengthen the federal employment equity framework by launching a review of the Employment Equity Act Footnote 6 and its supporting programs.
The Task Force will:
- study issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace
- engage with stakeholders, various partnersFootnote 7, and Canadians to hear their views on equity
- undertake research and analysis using a range of sources
- examine other existing practices in Canada and other countries
- apply a Gender Based Analysis+ (GBA+) lens and consider intersectionality throughout its work, and
- submit a report to the Minister of Labour, through the Deputy Minister of Labour
Scope of work
With a focus on improving and building upon the foundation of the EEA, the Task Force will study the following areas:
Area 1: Equity groups
- What changes should be made to the current EEA designated group names and definitions, such as “Aboriginal” and “visible minorities”?
- What changes should the EEA include to reflect current understandings of Indigenous peoples, disability, ethnocultural diversity and gender equality?
- Should the EEA reflect the various experiences and labour market circumstances of populations within the visible minorities group, such as Black Canadians?
- If so, what changes to the EEA could best reflect the experiences and circumstances of each of the visible minority groups?
- Should the EEA reflect the current understandings of various types of disability within the persons with disabilities group?
- If so, what changes to the EEA could best reflect the current understandings of various types of disability within the persons with disabilities group?
- Should the EEA reflect the distinct experiences and labour market circumstances of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples who are within the Aboriginal peoples group?
- If so, what changes to the EEA could best reflect the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples’ experiences and circumstances?
- Should the EEA’s designated groups include additional populations, such as the LGBTQ2+ communities?
Area 2: Supporting equity groups
- What changes to employment equity legislation, regulations, programming and research could better support equity groups?
- What barriers do equity groups face in the workplace?
- What best practices have employers implemented to remove these barriers?
- What can the Government of Canada do to promote and share these best practices?
- What measures could improve promoting and retaining equity groups?
- What roles can other organizations play in promoting employment equity, for example:
- employer associations, and
- Non-governmental Organizations (NGO)
Area 3: Improving accountability, compliance and enforcement
- What support could employers receive when they are working to achieve equity in their workplaces?
- What could encourage employers to do more to achieve equity in their workplaces? In particular:
- What are the most effective ways to communicate and raise employers’ awareness of the benefits of equity, diversity and inclusion?
- What changes to the Labour Program of Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) and the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s roles and responsibilities could improve compliance with and enforcement of the EEA?
- In addition to focusing on gaps in workforce representation and wages, how can the employment equity framework better measure employers’ efforts and progress made toward equity?
- What are the most effective benchmarks to measure equity in the workplace?
- What incentives and penalties should the Government of Canada implement to help close persistent equity gaps and hold employers accountable?
- Are there unique circumstances within the core federal public service and other federal organizations that affect their state of:
- diversity, and
- What changes to the EEA could support the Government of Canada’s efforts to improve the core public administration’s and other federal organizations’ state of:
- diversity, and
Area 4: Improving public reporting
- What changes to the EEA are necessary to better support the public conversation on:
- diversity, and
- What changes to the EEA could improve public reporting of employment equity results? Specifically:
- What measures, data sources, reporting frequency and formatting could lead to improvements?
- What are the key data gaps?
- How could changes help fill key data gaps?
The Task Force operates:
- at arm’s-length from the Government of Canada to provide independent advice, and
- in a transparent manner as per the Government of Canada’s policy on Open Government
- supports the Task Force’s activities, such as research, writing, and consultations, and
- is housed within the Labour Program of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)
The Task Force consists of 13 members, including a Chair and 2 Vice-Chairs. The members have a wide range of expertise and experience related to equity (including workplace equity), such as:
- gender equality
- Indigenous employment, and
- leads the Task Force
- chairs meetings and guides members towards consensus when making decisions
- prepares and presents the Task Force’s report on behalf of the full membership, and with the support of the Secretariat
- is the public spokesperson for the Task Force, and
- provides updates to the Minister, in full respect of the independence and arm’s length nature of the Task Force
- support the Chair and members in fulfilling the Task Force’s mandate
- with the Chair:
- exercise leadership on the work of the Task Force, and
- guide members towards consensus when making decisions
- provide their expertise and knowledge in an open-minded way
- participate in a personal capacity and not as representatives of any organizations with which they are associated
- foster an environment that is barrier-free and respectful of human rights principles, and
- work collaboratively to reach consensus to the extent possible
In the event a member cannot continue, the remaining members will constitute the Task Force. This is the case unless the Minister of Labour decides otherwise.
The Task Force will submit a report to the Minister of Labour through the Deputy Minister of Labour. The report will inform the Government of Canada’s approach for next steps to modernize and strengthen the federal employment equity framework. It will provide:
- an overview of the Task Force’s work (including GBA+ / intersectional analysis)
- key findings
- evidence-based advice and recommendations, with justifications and intended outcomes, to address any appropriate legislative and/or non-legislative responses, and
- key considerations and a proposed approach for implementation of each recommendation
The Task Force’s report may also provide further recommendations in areas where the Government of Canada could:
- make further research, analysis and/or policy development
- address other data gaps
- measure results, and
- address other matters related to the main issues of the review
If the Task Force is unable to reach consensus on its advice and recommendations, the report should note this, with accompanying reasoning.
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