Employment Equity Act Review

The aim of the Employment Equity Act is to remove systemic barriers for individuals in the 4 designated groups under the Act in federally regulated workplaces:

  • women

  • Indigenous peoples

  • persons with disabilities, and

  • members of visible minorities

The Employment Equity Act Review Task Force, among other topics, seeks to redefine equity groups, as they say "How to modernize and define EEA designated groups".

This is our group's submission to the  Employment Equity Act Review Task Force - you are free to use this in whole or part for your own communication.

Via email: EDSC.LEE-EEA.ESDC@labour-travail.gc.ca

 

April 27, 2022

Regarding: Submission to the Employment Equity Act Review

 

Dear Task Force members:

 

Please accept this letter as our submission in response to your Employment Equity Act Review. As this submission also speaks to the Government of Canada’s government-wide directive to default to the collection of gender rather than sex, we copy the Prime Minister’s office on this as well.

 

We confine our response to the first question in the consultation guide: defining equity groups.

In general, we urge the task force to define the category of ‘women’ as adult female persons. This is consistent with the way Canadians understood the definition of women in 1986, based on science and medicine, and it is the way the vast majority of Canadians understand it today. It is also the reality of why women experience sex discrimination at various levels of society, in addition to assault and violence.

 

As your consultation guide notes, “the names and definitions of equity groups have not changed since the EEA was passed in 1986. There have been changes in the language that the Government of Canada and key stakeholders use to describe designated groups.”

 

We agree that the Government of Canada has recently introduced new language and concepts, specifically the addition of gender identity into human rights law and the administration of programs and data collection. Significantly however, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has not changed.

 

Sex, as in the sex of a person, defined by government is a protected characteristic. Equality rights set out in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are clear:

 

“Section 15 of the Charter makes it clear that every individual in Canada – regardless of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, age or physical or mental disability – is to be treated with the same respect, dignity, and consideration. This means that governments must not discriminate on any of these grounds in its laws or programs.”

 

While government has noted that sex and gender are different concepts, government has yet to define gender, gender identity, and gender expression in law, and there are multiple definitions in use. In fact, government often conflates sex and gender in data collection by defaulting to gender identity as a way to include the small minority for whom this is a meaningful category and as a proxy for sex. This creates myriad problems, not least of which is the (perhaps unintended) erasure of women and lesbians.  We do not “identify” into our sex. This conflation of the two terms also means that those who are not women may end up speaking for or representing women when they should not.

 

While some Canadians understand themselves to have a gender identity, the vast majority, as evidenced by the recent 2021 census report, do not. In addition, many people think the term ‘gender’ is a polite euphemism for ‘sex.’ While a small minority of Canadians use the new term “cisgender” to identify women and men, we believe this term is inappropriate, unscientific, and is not used as a self descriptor by those it supposedly represents.

 

Using gender-identity related language in questions where sex is the central inquiry poses the real problem of obscuring a person’s sex in data collection and subsequently in accurately measuring employment equity as it relates to women and the specific barriers to employment they face.

 

At best, data conflating sex and gender is inaccurate, at worst it is a violation of women’s sex-based rights set out in the Charter. As you consider modernizing definitions, we encourage you to ensure the Act maintains the category of women for female people to:

 

  • ensure integrity in data collection and analysis for women;

  • meaningfully measure progress towards eliminating discrimination and other barriers experienced by women;

  • design programs and initiatives that will address employment barriers experienced by women; and

  • respect the right of Canadians who want the government to collect accurate information that reflects the composition of our society as it relates to sex in particular the right for women to be counted as female.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

Below are letters written by our members and allies - you are free to use them in whole or part for your own communication.

To Whom It May Concern

 

With regard to your recent EDSC post on an active federal consultation regarding Canada’s Employment Equity Act, I am writing with extreme concern about the possible redefinition of an identified group within your policy framework: that of the category of ‘women.’

 

There must be NO tinkering with the science and definition of the word ‘woman’: that of an ‘Adult Human Female.’ No ‘update’ or ‘modernization’ required, thanks.

 

People born as males and who wish to self-identify as ‘women’ should not act as qualifiers within the category of women or as a definition changer, either as part of the category, or a sub-category of the word ‘woman.’  And women, as a sex group, should not be considered a ‘gender identity’ or a sub-group within our own category.

 

If you wish to create a new ‘gender’ listing for those who self-identify, fill your boots. You cannot change sex biology markers, however. It is dishonest, anti-science and goes against our sex-based rights, still protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It is illiberal in every sense of the word.

 

In other words, any movement to replace the category of ‘sex’ for employment equity purposes, or place it in another category such as ‘gender.’ is invalidating us, and unlawful. Women as a sex class—regardless of ethnicity, race and class--are already at a disadvantage with lack of substantial affirmative actions ,when it comes to employment, equity and diversity. 

 

You must not muddy the waters by including natal males in our ‘category.’ Further, changing definitions and designations in this way will have immediate deleterious effect in other areas: in spaces like the pay equity act, in sports, in the correction system, and wherever women have struggled to gain equity, security, safety and privacy.

To Whom It May Concern,

We are writing regarding the federal government's consultation regarding Canada's Employment Equity Act (EEA).

"Defining equity groups" is our main concern, specifically, defining who women are.

Section 15 of Canada's Charter ensures the equal protection and benefit of the law “without discrimination […] based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” Section 28 guarantees that all rights covered in the Charter apply equally to men and women.

The Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 states that all Canadians have the right to equality, equal opportunity, fair treatment, and an environment free of discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, marital status and family status.

In recent years, unfortunately, many organizations, institutions, and levels of government have muddled the difference between "gender" (which describes societal stereotypes) and "sex" (which is an immutable characteristic). And at least one federal government website references "The Yogyakarta Principles", which undermine the sex-based rights of women and girls and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women.

This document also provides a rationale for some governments to adopt "self-ID", which I believe is already seriously undermining the rights of Canadian women and girls, e.g. in prisons. Yet Professor Robert Wintemute, one of the original Yogyakarta authors, now says that "women’s rights were not considered during the meeting where the principles were written and the authors “failed to consider” that fully intact males would seek to access female-only spaces." (https://sex-matters.org/posts/updates/yogyakarta-principles/)

Mixing sex with gender leads to many confusions, contradictions and even outright absurdities, e.g. the document at https://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/p3Var.pl?Function=DEC&Id=410445 states, "The concept of gender is also different from that of sexual orientation, which is an umbrella term that includes a person's sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual behaviour."

Then it contradicts this statement by mixing sex, gender, and sexual orientation:

"The variable 'sex at birth of person' can be used where information on sex at birth is needed, for example, for measuring some demographic and health indicators. It can be used in conjunction with the variable 'gender of person' to estimate the transgender population. These two variables can also be used, together with the variable 'sexual orientation of person', to estimate the gender and sexual diversity populations, which are often represented by the LGBTQ2+ acronym (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, Two-Spirit or another identity of gender or sexual diversity)."

This document also uses the absurd phrase, "sex assigned at birth", as does this one:
https://www.justice.gc.ca/socjs-esjp/en/women-femmes/Definitions

Activists have appropriated the term "sex assigned at birth" from literature concerning the extremely rare number of intersex people who now prefer the term Disorders of sexual development (DSD). Everyone knows that sex is observed, not assigned at birth, and in recent decades can be observed before birth.

Defining equity groups on the basis of contradictory, circular, confused and absurd terminology and concepts, and especially legalizing self-ID, will undermine the sex-based rights of women and girls. We already witness this in Canadian prisons, where male offenders can "identify" as female to be housed in women's prisons instead of in men's prisons. Indeed, the Department of Justice's own definition is facilitating this travesty: "Women: All people who identify as women, whether they are cisgender or transgender women."

We urge you to reject the intrusion of "identities" into any legislation and policies, and to retain a definition of women based in material, immutable, biological reality, such as "adult female human being."
(https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/woman)

If you want a more detailed definition, here is one from Heather Heying, a biologist:

"Females are individuals who do or did or will or would, but for developmental or genetic anomalies, produce eggs. Eggs are large, sessile gametes. Gametes are sex cells. In plants and animals, and most other sexually reproducing organisms, there are two sexes: female and male1. Like “adult,” the term female applies across many species. Female is used to distinguish such people from males, who produce small, mobile gametes (e.g. sperm, pollen)."
(https://naturalselections.substack.com/p/iamawoman?s=r)

Employment Equity Act Review Task Force
C/O Employment Equity Act Review Secretariat
(mailstop # 911)
ESDC, 140 Promenade du Portage, Phase IV
Gatineau, QC, K1A 0J9
Email: EDSC.LEE-EEA.ESDC@labour-travail.gc.ca