Changes to the Public Service Employment Act (June 2021)

By July 27, 2021Anti-racism

Before rising for summer break, Parliament made changes to the Public Service Employment Act in June in order to, “address systemic barriers for equity-seeking groups in public service staffing.”

Treasury Board said this was a result of, “too many Canadians continuing 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.”

These changes were outlined in April’s federal budget but because the Public Service Employment Act is a law, legislative changes have to go through the Parliamentary process first, being passed by both the House of Commons and the Senate.

The list of changes are:

+ 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.

+ All new or revised qualification standards must be evaluated for bias and barriers for members of equity-seeking groups.

+ The design and application of assessment methods must include an evaluation of bias and barriers, and reasonable efforts for mitigation.

+ Permanent residents now have the same preference as Canadian Citizens when appointments are made through external advertised hiring processes.

A permanent resident is someone who has been given permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada, but is not a Canadian citizen. Permanent residents are citizens of other countries. Refugees who are resettled from overseas become permanent residents through government programs. A person in Canada temporarily, like a student or foreign worker, is not a permanent resident.

Treasury Board said these latest changes are meant to, “help departments take measures in their staffing actions to reduce barriers and encourage more inclusive recruitment practices. They are just 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.”

An action plan to to increase representation and leadership development in the public service was first announced in the 2020 Speech from the Throne with $12 million being committed over three years towards these goals.

Then earlier this year, Clerk Ian Shugart sent a message to Deputy Ministers on a “call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the federal public service.”

Most recently, Interim Clerk Janice Charette sent a message last month to departments, notifying them that they have until the end of August to submit departmental reports to the Clerk outlining the concrete actions they’ve taken to implement meaningful change around anti-racism and also equity and inclusion in the public service.

Other links:

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

Call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the Federal Public Service

Budget 2021

2020 Speech From the Throne

Public Service Employment Act

Understanding more about permanent resident status