The Federal Contractors Program requires that suppliers of good and services to the federal government who employ 100 persons or more and want to bid on contracts of $200,000 or more must sign a certificate stating they will implement an employment equity plan. The certificate is submitted as a condition of the contract bid. Companies or organizations that subsequently receive contracts are subject to review by Employment and Immigration Canada (EIC) anytime after the start of the contract. If a company fails to meet its commitments it could ultimately lose its contract and not be eligible for further contracts until the deficiencies are addressed. The Federal Contractors Program does not apply to federal grants or contributions but it does apply to contracts between universities or colleges and the federal government which are generally of a research nature.
Employers who wish to contract with the federal government must identify and eliminate any unfair barriers in employment practices and policies, be prepared to reasonably accommodate differences so that no one is treated unfairly in the course of applying and competing for employment, and make a special effort to ensure members of the designated groups have access to developmental and employment opportunities. The terms and conditions of the commitment through certification include criteria such as the establishment of goals for hiring and promotion of designated group members and the adoption of special measures to ensure these goals are achieved. In creating a work force where all groups are equitably represented several factors have to be taken into consideration, such as work force availability and the organization's operational objectives.
While federal contractors are not required to report, they are required to supply EIC, during an on-site compliance review, detailed statistics on their work force. They are also required to supply work plans which address areas of under-representation and under-utilization for each of the designated groups. Although an organization may sign a certificate of compliance, only when it enters into a contract to supply services to the federal government can it be subject to an on-site review. Federal contractors are selected at random by EIC for these reviews to determine the organization's compliance with the requirements of the Program.
When the Federal Contractors Program was passed in 1986, contractors had two years to prepare their employment equity plans. As of June 1989 thirty Canadian universities had been certified, nineteen had received contracts and five were selected randomly for review. Those currently under review are Carleton, Concordia, University of Calgary, University of Manitoba, and University of Ottawa. It will be interesting to monitor these reviews to see what effect the Program has had, if any, on the hiring practices of the institutions concerned.
The Federal Contractors Program is one of the few programs that attempts to redress the inequality of women in the universities and colleges. As it is not legislation it can be changed with a decision of Cabinet, and there are a number of changes that could make it more effective:
There is no question that systemic discrimination against women is well entrenched in our universities and colleges and it is not changing in any significant way. Centuries of tradition have made the halls of academe a male enclave. Our federal government must take strong initiatives. The 1986 Federal Contractors Program precipitated some change but now it is time to expand its mandate to include more, if not all, universities and colleges. Such action will help bring greater equality and advancement to women in Canada and draw us closer to a just society.
Cynthia Creelman Hill is president of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advance advancement of Women. She is a former Mayor of Inuvik, N.W.T., where she currently lives.