The Moral Argument Against Employment Equity

equityIn 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.


  1. Canada, Justice Laws Website. “Employment Equity Act,”
  2. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “Double standard,” accessed February 25, 2018,
  3. George Orwell, Animal Farm (Markham, Ontario: Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 1987), 90.

This article was originally published in The Post Millennial.


The Idealistic Dreamer: Risking Everything with No Plan B

dreamer roadThere are two types of dreamers: the realist and the idealist. While a realist sets an achievable goal, an idealist is more likely to pursue a pipe dream: “an idea or plan that is impossible or very unlikely to happen.”1 They can become obsessed with their dream, overestimate their chances of success, and make foolish decisions. An idealistic dreamer is often willing to risk everything—no matter what the cost or consequences—and has no plan B.

An idealist is “someone who believes that very good things can be achieved, often when this does not seem likely to others.”2 They imagine the “perfect life” they want to have and set out to achieve it. Unfortunately, not all that the mind preconceives can be achieved. Some dreams are pipe dreams that can never be realized no matter how hard a person tries.

The bigger the dream, the more passion and excitement it can awaken in a person’s heart. A strong desire to achieve one’s dream is important because it propels a person to take action. However, when an idealist has a dream, their desire to make it a reality can go beyond normal ambition. Their dream can turn into an obsession: “an idea with which the mind is continually and involuntarily preoccupied.”3

Obsession with a dream can impair a person’s ability to think logically. Consumed by their desire to achieve their dream, the idealist will make foolish decisions. Common mistakes include spending all their money, borrowing money from family or friends, and quitting their job or refusing to apply for one. The idealistic dreamer fails to consider the consequences if their dream doesn’t come true.

It is natural to be inspired by stories of people who achieved what seemed impossible. These stories give the idealist hope that their dream can come true too. However, for every story of someone who achieved the impossible, there are countless untold stories of people who tried and failed. Although the idealist may be right that their dream is possible, it may not be that probable.

An unrealistic hope can cause the idealist to misjudge their chances of success. They may overestimate their abilities, not realizing they could face competition from people with even greater abilities. They may engage in magical thinking: the idea that anything is possible if you believe it will happen.4 Although it is important to have hope in the pursuit of a dream, obsession with a pipe dream can be a way to avoid facing reality.

If the idealist becomes “high” on hope, and confident that their dream will come true, they are often willing to risk everything to achieve it. The pursuit of a dream always involves some degree of risk; however, an idealistic dreamer is like a gambling addict in a casino. The gambler risks all his savings to win big, but if he isn’t lucky at the card table, he will lose it all. Like the gambler, the idealist takes a large risk to achieve something with a low chance of happening. Sadly, the more that they risk, the more they are likely to lose in the end.

In contrast to the idealist, a realist “hedges” against risk.5 A realist considers options that will increase their future alternatives. For instance, if they work part-time while pursuing their dream, they won’t run out of money as quickly. A realist makes choices that will increase their future alternatives, so they can still have a quality life if they decide to stop pursuing their dream.

A realist can still “dream big”, but they are not willing to risk everything if the dream has a low chance of coming true. Instead, they will pursue their dream part-time until they have a greater chance of success. Later, if they pursue their dream full-time, they set a deadline, and are ready to implement plan B once the deadline passes. In contrast, an idealist has no deadline for achieving their dream, and continues to pursue it at all costs. They only think about plan B if they have no other choice, usually when they run out of money.

When a person has a dream, it gives meaning and purpose to their life. Whether a realist or an idealist, the greatest danger in pursuing a dream is to turn it into an idol: “a statue … worshipped by people who believe that it is a god.”6 Although no one makes their dream a literal god, it can become a substitute. A dream becomes an idol when it is all that a person lives for, when they exalt it above and beyond any other person or priority in their life. If the dreamer idolizes their dream, the desire for its fulfillment can become linked to their identity and self-worth. In the end, if the dream proves unattainable—and they spent many years of their life pursuing it—their identity and self-worth may implode.


  1. Cambridge Dictionary, s.v. “Pipe dream.” Accessed August 25, 2017,
  2. Cambridge Dictionary, s.v. “Idealist.” Accessed August 25, 2017,
  3. Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, Eighth edition, s.v. “Obsession.” Accessed August 22, 2017,
  4. Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition, s.v. “Magical thinking.” Accessed November 17, 2017,
  5. Investopedia, s.v. “Hedging for Beginners: A Guide.” Accessed August 28, 2017,
  6. Collins Dictionary, s.v. “Idol.” Accessed September 7, 2017,

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The Moral Argument Against Fragranced Products

fragrance signIn the TV series, The X Files, Dana Skully says to Fox Mulder: “I have identified the effect. I am still looking for the cause.”1 When something happens (an effect) it can often be a mystery to determine why it happened (the cause). For many effects, there can be more than one cause. One cause and effect relationship many people are unaware of is how fragranced consumer products can trigger health problems—including migraine headaches and asthma attacks—in a significant percentage of the population.2 If products containing fragrance are proven to cause harm to others, then consumers have a moral responsibility not to use these products in public.

Countless home cleaning and personal care products have fragrance added to them. These products include perfumes, colognes, aftershaves, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, air fresheners, deodorants, and soaps.3 In 2010, the Environmental Working Group did laboratory tests and found that “the average fragrance product tested contained 14 secret chemicals.”4 Fragrance companies do not have to list the chemicals on the product label due to trade secret protections.5 The combined ingredients are identified as “fragrance” or “parfum.”6 According to the International Fragrance Association, there are 3,999 different ingredients (both natural and synthetic) used in making fragrance.7

Fragranced consumer products can harm a person’s health. A 2016 Australian study of more than 1,000 people found that 33 per cent of respondents reported health problems after exposure to such products.8 Negative effects included “migraine headaches, asthma attacks, contact dermatitis, respiratory difficulties, and mucosal symptoms.”9 Nearly eight per cent of respondents had lost work days in the past year because they were exposed to fragrance.10 Exactly why fragrance can trigger health problems is not fully understood by scientists, but the effects are real.

If an individual uses a fragranced consumer product at work (or in other public places), other people may be negatively impacted. Even though it is legal to use these products in public, just because something is legal does not make it moral. It is a universal moral principle that no one should intentionally harm an innocent person.11 If this principle is true, then it is morally wrong to use fragranced products in public because doing so will cause other people pain and suffering.

A lot of suffering in this world is unavoidable; however, the pain and suffering caused by fragrance is 100 per cent preventable. Instead of buying products with fragrance, consumers can buy brands that are labelled fragrance-free. (Fragrance-free means the product has no added fragrance, while unscented means it contains a fragrance that masks the odor caused by other chemical ingredients.12) Fragrance-free products are often higher in price, but the more people who buy them, the more corporations (and small businesses) will produce them, and the more alternatives there will be for consumers.


  1. The X Files, “Teliko.” Directed by Jim Charleston. Written by Howard Gordon. Fox, October 18, 1996.
  2. Anne Steinemann, “Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products.” Preventative Medicine Reports Vol 5 (2017): 45,
  3. “Fragrances in Cosmetics,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, December 29, 2015,
  4. Heather Sarantis et al., “Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance,” Environmental Working Group, May 2, 2010, 3,
  5. “Cosmetic Labelling Guide,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, accessed October 31, 2017, 23,
  6. Clare Pain, “Something in the air: From scented candles to cleaning products, our lives have become fragranced like never before. What’s the effect on our health.” New Scientist 234 No. 3129 (2017): 34-37.
  7. “Ingredients,” International Fragrance Association,
  8. Steinemann, “Health and societal effects,” 45.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Steinemann, “Health and societal effects,” 46.
  11. Nigel Warburton, “The Harm Principle: How to live your life the way you want to,” BBC Radio 4, 2:00, posted November 2014,
  12. Jessica Chia, “The Truth About ‘Fragrance-Free’ Products,” Prevention, January 23, 2014,

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Why Captured Terrorists Can Be Detained Indefinitely

guantanamoA controversial practice of the U.S. government is indefinite detention: “detaining an arrested person by a national government or law enforcement agency without a trial.”1 Many people believe that if a terrorist suspect is captured, the individual should be charged and tried in a civilian court. However, when a member of a terrorist organization is detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, whether or not they have committed a crime is irrelevant. Like an enemy soldier captured during a war, they can be detained indefinitely without trial.

It is not illegal to capture enemy soldiers during a war and detain them. As Edwin Meese III, former Attorney General of the United States, points out, “Under the law of armed conflict, also called the law of war, engaging the enemy includes killing or capturing the enemy. This age-old principle — detention of the enemy during wartime for the duration of hostilities — is just as applicable to al Qaeda as it was to Nazi POWs in World War II or other enemies in previous wars.”2

During World War II, captured German soldiers were held in prison camps. By the end of the war, “there were 425,000 enemy prisoners … throughout the United States.”3 Although German POWs were sometimes mistreated, holding them prisoner was legal under the 1929 Geneva Convention, and is still legal today.4 After the war, “former POWs were returned to Europe at the rate of 50,000 a month.”5 Detaining a member of a terrorist organization is equivalent to holding a German soldier in a U.S. prison camp during World War II. German soldiers were held prisoner not as punishment, but to prevent them from returning to the battlefield and killing American soldiers. Similarly, detaining captured terrorists is necessary to prevent them from killing soldiers and civilians.

A second reason why terrorists should be detained is to interrogate them. Gaining valuable intelligence from the enemy is an important strategy in preventing future terrorist attacks, and winning the war on terror. If captured terrorists stand trial and are sentenced to prison, they can no longer be interrogated.

Many people are opposed to indefinite detention because they believe terrorists should be treated the same as civilians. Instead of detention, they want a terrorist suspect to stand trial in a civilian court. The U.S. constitution prevents a civilian from being detained indefinitely. According to the Sixth Amendment, “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.”6 However, this right does not apply to a member of a terrorist organization.

Terrorists are engaged in an illegal war against the United States. They are not civilians; they are “enemy combatants” who do not follow the rules of war. An enemy combatant is a “captured fighter in a war who is not entitled to prisoner of war status because he … does not meet the definition of a lawful combatant as established by the Geneva Convention.”7 Whereas a civilian can only be sent to prison if they are proven guilty of a crime, a terrorist can be detained not only for their past actions, but for the threat they pose to innocent people. The right of the U.S. government to detain terrorists indefinitely was upheld in a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court Ruling. The court “recognized that detaining individuals captured while fighting against the United States in Afghanistan for the duration of that conflict was a fundamental and accepted incident to war.”8

The danger in the US. government detaining terrorist suspects is the military may abuse its power and detain innocent people. During World War II, German soldiers who were captured and detained were easily identified by their uniforms. Given that captured terrorists wear no uniforms, there must be due process to prove that they are terrorists. According to the Fourteenth Amendment, no State can “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”9

Terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have due process rights.10 Additionally, in a 2008 Supreme Court ruling, they received “the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus.”11 In the U.S legal system, “a writ of habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner or other detainee before the court to determine if the person’s imprisonment or detention is lawful.”12 The Supreme Court ruled that detainees “have the right to challenge their detentions in federal court.”13

Although terrorist suspects now have the right to habeas corpus, this does not prevent the U.S. government from detaining them indefinitely. Proving their membership (or involvement) in a terrorist organization is the only requirement for detention, and they do not need to be charged with a crime. When World War II came to an end, many Nazis stood trial for their crimes in military courts.14 Similarly, terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, can face justice (in a civilian or military court) when the war against the terrorist organization they belong to is over.


  1. US Legal, s.v. “Indefinite Detention,” accessed October 24, 2017,
  2. Edwin Meese III, “Guantanamo Bay prison is necessary,” CNN, January 11, 2012,
  3. Arnold P. Krammer, “German Prisoners of War,” Texas State Historical Association, accessed October 25, 2017,
  4. “Prisoners of war and detainees protected under international humanitarian law,” International Committee of the Red Cross, October 29, 2010,
  5. Krammer, “German Prisoners of War, Texas State Historical Association.
  6. “Sixth Amendment – U.S. Constitution,” Find Law, accessed June 6, 2016,
  7. West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, s.v. “Enemy Combatant,” accessed October 25, 2017,
  8. “Boumediene et al. v. Bush, President of the United States, et al.,” Supreme Court of the United States, 1,
  9. “Fourteenth Amendment – U.S. Constitution,” Find Law, accessed June 6, 2016,
  10. “Boumediene et al. v. Bush,” Supreme Court of the United States, 2.
  11. “Boumediene et al. v. Bush,” Supreme Court of the United States, 3.
  12. Legal Information Institute, s.v. “Habeas Corpus,” accessed October 25, 2017,
  13. Bill Mears, “Justices: Gitmo detainees can challenge detention in U.S. courts,” CNN, June 12, 2008,
  14. Holocost Encylopedia, s.v. “International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg,” accessed October 25, 2017,

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