Equality in Employment: Report of the Commission on Equality in Employment


393 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-660-11736-3




Reviewed by Lin Good

Lin Good, a consultant, was Associate Librarian at Queen’s University.


Royal Commissions are popular instruments for the examination of public policy in Canada, and Judge Rosalie Silberman Abella, the sole commissioner chosen by the federal government to undertake this study, made good use of the instrument offered to her. The mandate was “to explore the most efficient, effective, and equitable means of promoting equality in employment for four groups: women, Native peoples, disabled persons, and visible minorities.” Judge Abella’s analytical mind, combined with warmth of spirit, virtually guaranteed that this Royal Commission would produce a blueprint for action.

This volume, already into a reprint edition, is exactly that. The request for participation produced responses from a wide range of people and associations, as the list of submissions, detailed in the appendices, demonstrates. The expressions of opinion were admirably complemented by the commissioner’s research staff, judging from the data which is summarized here.

The result is an invaluable manual for anyone interested in trying to bring about change. It outlines policies and procedures which together constitute an on-going process, allowing people at many levels of society, in all types of jobs, to work towards fair solutions to systematic and historic discrimination. The government has initiated action in the employment practices of some designated crown and government-owned corporations. Some predictable, negative reaction, and apprehension, has already been expressed by members of the private corporate sector.

However, judging from reports in the media, any concern which has been raised so far, has been anticipated in this report. Those who seek definitions of what is meant by certain current phrases will find them here; those who wonder whether there is a case to be made at all, will find it set forth cogently and convincingly; those who worry about the methods of implementation will find sensible proposals, described in part two of the report.

Despite the complexity of some of the issues, and the necessity to take cognizance of legal requirements, the language of the report is fairly simple, clear, and occasionally moving and memorable. It would be useful as a guide for employers and managers, and valuable as a source book for individuals striving to bring fairness into their own environment. The guiding hand of Judge Rosalie Abella, and the flavour of the underlying philosophy, can be gauged by the quotation at the heading of chapter one, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor, to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” This volume represents a distillation of the studies on this topic: The time is now ripe for action.


“Equality in Employment: Report of the Commission on Equality in Employment,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 12, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35313.