Home Workplace Legislation/Press Releases Ottawa expanding Employment Equity Act to specifically protect Black, 2SLGBTQI+ workers

Ottawa expanding Employment Equity Act to specifically protect Black, 2SLGBTQI+ workers

by HR Law Canada

In a landmark move to enhance workplace fairness and inclusion, the federal government has announced the expansion of the Employment Equity Act to explicitly protect Black and 2SLGBTQI+ workers.

This change is part of a broader modernization effort, led by Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan Jr., based on the recommendations from a comprehensive review of the 1986 Act.

Chaired by Professor Adelle Blackett, the Employment Equity Act Review Task Force has delivered its final report, “A Transformative Framework to Achieve and Sustain Employment Equity.” The report marks a significant step in updating the Act to reflect the current realities and diverse demographics of Canadian workplaces. Its release, aligning with Human Rights Day, underscores the Government’s commitment to workplace equality.

The proposed updates, informed by extensive research and consultations across Canada, include not only the inclusion of new designated groups but also the redefinition of existing categories. This includes replacing the term “Aboriginal Peoples” with “Indigenous Peoples,” updating the definition of “persons with disabilities” to align with the Accessible Canada Act, and substituting “members of visible minorities” with “racialized people.”

These initial amendments are the first in a series of steps towards a comprehensive overhaul of the Act. The Government intends to engage in further consultations with communities, unions, and employers to effectively implement these and other Task Force recommendations. The next phase will involve introducing legislative changes to fully bring the Act into alignment with 21st-century workplace dynamics.

Minister O’Regan has expressed profound thanks to Professor Blackett and the Task Force for their instrumental role in charting a new path for employment equity in Canada. Their efforts are crucial in shaping an Act that better reflects modern Canadian society and contributes to creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Professor Blackett emphasized the necessity of legal reform to ensure sustained employment equity, highlighting the Task Force’s recommendations that build on substantive equality law and international standards. The Government’s initiative is complemented by other equity and inclusion efforts, such as the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat and Canada’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan.

The Labour Program will ensure employers understand and adhere to the updated Act, promoting a reduction in employment barriers and fostering a culture of equitable inclusion across Canadian workplaces.

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