Taking Action to Address Potential Barriers in Staffing:  Public Service Employment Act amendments receive Royal Assent

News release

July 7, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario – Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Too many Canadians continue to face bias, barriers, and discrimination based on their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or other factors.

The Government of Canada has amended the Public Service Employment Act to address systemic barriers for equity-seeking groups in public service staffing.

These amendments represent foundational work that will help departments take measures in their staffing actions to reduce barriers and encourage more inclusive recruitment practices. 

Over the past several months, the Treasury Board Secretariat worked with employee networks, bargaining agents and senior officials for Employment Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to better understand the experiences of members of equity-seeking groups in public service staffing.

Amendments to the Public Service Employment Act reaffirm the importance of a diverse and inclusive workforce and strengthen provisions to address potential bias and barriers in staffing processes.

With these changes:

  • All new or revised qualification standards must be evaluated for bias and barriers for members of equity-seeking groups. 
  • Permanent residents now have the same preference as Canadian Citizens when appointments are made through external advertised hiring processes.
  • The design and application of assessment methods must include an evaluation of bias and barriers, and reasonable efforts for mitigation.
  • The Public Service Commission now has explicit authority to audit for bias and barriers that disadvantage members of equity-seeking groups.
  • The Commission and deputy heads will have explicit authority to investigate bias and barriers for members of equity-seeking groups. 

These Public Service Employment Act amendments form one part of a set of initiatives and activities to increase diversity and inclusion in the public service so that it is reflective of the Canadian population it serves and a place where all public servants feel a true sense of belonging.

The work of eradicating bias, barriers, and discrimination, which have taken root over generations, demands an ongoing, relentless effort. The Government of Canada is committed to this effort and will use all available levers to improve the experiences of public servants in their workplace and ensure that they are able to realize their full potential.


“With the Royal Assent of the Public Service Employment Act amendments, the government is making concrete progress to reduce the potential bias and barriers that disadvantage equity-seeking groups in staffing processes for the federal government. This is an important step to foster greater diversity, inclusion and accessibility in the public service.”

—The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, President of the Treasury Board  

“We must use all available levers to create a public service that is inclusive and reflective of all Canadians. These amendments to the Public Service Employment Act, which tackle potential barriers in staffing processes at all levels of the public service, will help us get there.”

— Greg Fergus, Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Quick facts

  • The Public Service Employment Act amendments proposed in Budget 2021 received Royal Assent on June 29, 2021.

    The 2020 Speech from the Throne announced an action plan to increase representation and leadership development in the public service, and the Government has committed $12 million over three years towards these goals.  Examples of progress include:

    • The Government began releasing disaggregated datasets last year, providing first-ever views into the composition of public service employees who self-identify in Employment Equity sub-groups.
    • The annual Public Service Employee Survey now includes questions that help to better understand the workforce and workplace at more detailed levels.
    • TBS is coordinating vacant ADM positions across the core public administration to identify opportunities to increase diversity at the most senior levels; and as of June 2021, 34 institutions are implementing the Mentorship Plus program, which supports career progression for equity-seeking groups. The program was co-developed with equity-seeking groups and enhances traditional mentorship by adding the element of sponsorship.

Associated links


Marie-France Proulx
Press Secretary
Office of the President of the Treasury Board

Media Relations
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