The Alberta government could use new regulations or legislation to try to make the province’s workforce and appointments to agencies, boards and commissions better reflect the diversity of the population, says Education Minister David Eggen.
Affirmative action is among the policies being considered. In future, Eggen said, hiring practices could give preference to under-represented populations in the workforce, such as women or specific minority groups.
“It’s a very important tool that is available to us,” he said.
The minister said he has been meeting with ethnic community groups and organizations across Alberta this summer to gauge their experiences with racism. The government has now expanded its consultations by asking the public to complete an online survey about diversity, inclusion and racism.
‘Overt acts of racism’
Eggen said in wake of a Charlottesville, Va., rally earlier this month, and other recent events in Europe and Canada, some people have reported experiencing more “overt acts of racism.”
“It seems like there’s more permission somehow,” he said, “where people feel less inhibited to say objectionable things. But then, we’re also seeing systematic problems, too.”
Given that the government of Alberta is the largest employer in the province, Eggen said a review of public service hiring procedures is now taking place. Though he said he won’t pre-empt his own report, Eggen referenced affirmative action as one “theme” in his recommendations.
“You need to be systematic about it, for sure,” he said. “Of all the different barriers we see in place in our society, we’ve seen progress in terms of gender. We’ve see progress in terms of geographic representation. But you can’t just hope that it might happen.”
The Indo-Canadian Women’s Association was among 20 organizations represented Monday when the minister announced the expanded public consultations.
Since the Charlottesville rally, children and parents in the community been more fearful, said Abau Fast of the ICWA.
“Our children are seeing it, our adults are seeing it,” said Fast. “Whatever happens in the States, starts spilling around over here.”
Fear of unknown
Anjali Agarwal, also with the ICWA, said she hopes that talking about diversity and racial discrimination will lead to new “tools” to promote peace and harmony.
“Keep talking about it, and then it will start to resolve on its own,” she said.
The government survey will be active until Sept. 22, 2017.
Eggen said he doesn’t want the report to “just sit on the shelf,” but rather to be used to develop practical steps the government can take.