In Canada, the Employment Equity Act gives preferential treatment to “women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities” when applying for jobs that are federally regulated.1 In other words, preferential treatment is given to anyone who isn’t a white male.
While there is a moral argument to be made for employment equity for persons with disabilities, the Employment Equity Act violates one of the most basic principles of justice: that everyone should be treated equally and not be discriminated against.
The Employment Equity Act is founded upon a premise which is impossible to prove: that economic inequality between different groups in society is primarily due to discrimination. This discrimination is often labelled as institutional racism: unconscious biases that people in power have against minority groups.
While there are no doubt instances where someone in a position of power has a bias against minority groups, there are many other factors that lead to economic inequality including the place a person lives, their education, work experience and work ethic. Because economic inequality is caused by much more than just discrimination, the Employment Equity Act needs to be changed.
The Act’s provision for persons with disabilities is just. For many jobs, a person with a disability can be at a natural disadvantage when competing with an able-bodied person. Consequently, they have more limited job opportunities. As long as a disabled person is qualified for the job they apply for, giving them preferential treatment is a reasonable form of equity.
The problem with the Employment Equity Act is it suspends the Charter right of white males to be treated equally under the law. Giving preferential treatment in hiring to four designated groups results in discrimination against white males, excluding them from job opportunities.
The legislation is founded on the logical fallacy that two wrongs make a right and that the ends justify the means. It tries to remedy the supposed injustice of economic inequality by legalizing another injustice: reverse discrimination.
A double standard is “a rule or principle which is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups.”2 The Employment Equity Act is founded on double standard: Discrimination is unjust but discrimination against white males is not unjust.
A white male seeking a job is not responsible for the historical injustices of the past, or any institutional racism that exists today. If a white male is denied a job for no other reason than the colour of his skin, he is being punished and made a scapegoat for someone else’s crimes. Women, aboriginals, and visible minorities who believe they have been discriminated against should seek remedy through the courts, not by being given preferential treatment when applying for a job.
The Employment Equity Act is Orwellian legislation. In the novel Animal Farm, George Orwell wrote, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”3 The Employment Equity Act makes women, visible minorities and aboriginals “more equal” than white males. In a just society, everyone should be treated equally when they apply for a job.
- Canada, Justice Laws Website. “Employment Equity Act,” http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/e-5.401/page-1.html
- Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “Double standard,” accessed February 25, 2018, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/double_standard
- George Orwell, Animal Farm (Markham, Ontario: Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 1987), 90.