THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
First Session, Thirty-eighth Parliament, 2004-05
Hearings: OTTAWA, Monday, May 9, 2005 4 p.m. - Issue No. 12 - tenth meeting on:
Examine and report upon Canadas obligations in regards to the rights
and freedoms of children.
MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE
The Honourable A. Raynell Andreychuk, Chair
The Honourable Landon Pearson, Deputy Chair
The Honourable Senators:
*Austin, P.C., (or Rompkey, P.C.), Baker, P.C., Carstairs, P.C., Ferretti Barth, *Kinsella, (or Stratton),
LeBreton, Losier-Cool, Oliver, Poy
*Ex officio members
Changes in membership of the committee:
Pursuant to rule 85(4), membership of the committee was amended as follows:
The name of the Honourable Senator Ppin, substituted for that of the Honourable Senator Christensen (May 3,
The name of the Honourable Senator Losier-Cool substituted for that of the Honourable Senator Munson (May 3,
The name of the Honourable Senator Baker, P.C., substituted for that of the Honourable Senator Ppin (May 5,
Christine Colin, Medical Doctor specializing in Public Health;
Lorraine Fillion, Social Worker and family mediator;
Hugues Ltourneau, Lawyer.
Privy Council Office: Alex Himelfarb, Clerk of the Privy Council and
Secretary to the Cabinet; Wayne McCutcheon, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet,
Senior Personnel and Special Projects Secretariat.
OTTAWA, Monday, May 9, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 4:05 p.m. to examine and report upon Canada's
international obligations in regards to the rights and freedoms of children; and authorized to invite from time
to time the President of Treasury Board, the President of the Public Service Commission, for the purpose of
examining cases of alleged discrimination in the hiring and promotion practices of the Federal Public Service.
Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chairman) in the chair.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, we have two segments to our meeting of the Standing Senate
Committee on Human Rights. The first will be to examine and report on Canada's international obligations in
regard to the rights and freedoms of children. Then between 5:00 and 6:00 we will return to our mandate to
invite from time to time the President of the Treasury Board and the President of the Public Service Commission
for the purpose of examining cases of alleged discrimination in the hiring and promotion practices of the
Federal Public Service.
I will now return to the mandate to examine and report on Canada's international obligations in regard to the
rights and freedoms of children.
We have before us today the co-authors of a book entitled: Une juste place pour tous les enfants:
Plaidoyer pour l'action. This is an opportunity for Christine Colin, a medical doctor specializing in public
health, Lorraine Fillion, a social worker and family mediator, and Mr. Hugues Ltourneau, a lawyer, to make
their presentations and add to our deliberations and findings on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and
related issues facing children in Canada. We are pleased that they have been able to put together a book that
will be of importance to us, and that they are here today to make their presentations.
Mr. Hugues Ltourneau, Lawyer, as an individual: We thank you for your
invitation and for giving us this opportunity to describe our book.
We started writing the book early in the year 2000, and finished it in 2002. It is the statement of a vision
of nine healthcare and social services professionals in Quebec. The book expresses our hope for a better future
for our children. We look at the weaknesses in the services available and we make a few suggestions in order to
improve the well-being of children.
This afternoon, Ms. Colin will present a perspective on the book. Ms. Fillion will talk about an area with
which she is very familiar, namely mediation and custody. For my part, I will give you a brief presentation
about the Youth Division of the Quebec Court, a specialized court, and about the way in which it could be
changed to meet children's needs better.
Dr. Christine Colin, Medical Doctor specializing in Public Health, as an
individual: I too would like to thank you for the privilege of presenting the results of our work to you. We
expect our presentation will last about 15 minutes, and then we will answer your questions.
I will be speaking to you as the coordinator of the book. The book is the result of an international process
that began in Brussels, Belgium. As you know, Belgium was very shaken by the acts of extreme violence against
children that happened there. The pediatric and social affairs community mobilized and in April 2002, invited
delegates to Brussels to consider the issue and to release a manifesto, the Brussels Manifesto, about the
wellbeing of all children and the recognition of their dignity. This manifesto was published in time to be
tabled at the second world summit in New York, which was held as part of a number of parallel meetings. Senator
Pearson is very familiar with this summit.
At the summit, we suggested that the process be continued in the 10 or so francophone countries present
there. That is when I was asked to coordinate the group. We had begun our work a little earlier, in the year
2000, and we continued them for several years. We already had a large amount of written material in Quebec, and
we did not want to have to start all over again. We therefore tried to produce a Quebec perspective that was
incorporated into the international effort, but also reflected our reality in Canada, and in Quebec in
I will describe each chapter for you briefly, because they are very different. The work involved a great deal
of cooperation among the authors. We held working meetings in order to ensure continuity.
In the preamble, Dr. Michel Lemay, a well-known child psychiatrist in Quebec, asked why it is so difficult to
get action on the recommendations that have been made for children. A great deal of work has been done on this
subject. In spite of everything, it has been difficult to introduce effective measures for children. This stems
on the one hand from the rifts between the needs of children and those of adults. These rifts become apparent in
various ways. The difficulty also stems from our poor understanding of the obstacles we have to overcome.
After this outline of the theme, the book is divided into three parts. The first is entitled ``The
foundational elements Development of the child.'' In the first chapter, Michel Lemay talks about the family
and the child: a foundational meeting. He looks at children's needs for their future. He also discusses family
mediation, children at risk, ``child-king,'' the child as victim and the absolute need to accept differences and
give children equal opportunities.
Gloria Geliu, a well-known pediatrician and a member of the Order of Canada, talks about the attachment that
is absolutely necessary to children in order to get a good start in life. This must be part of a reciprocal
relationship of trust between the parent and the child, but also of a relationship that depends on individual or
societal factors. She also talks about special situations such as adoption, handicaps, and so on.
The third chapter of the first part of the book which was written by Marie-Claire Laurendeau, is essential in
our view. It discussed the absolute necessity of having children and teenagers take part in social and community
development. According to the author, participation is a right that must be protected, that must be defended for
children. It is necessary to include children in social development, but this inclusion obviously becomes an
asset for communities. We are sensitive to the fact that there are some difficulties at the moment, even within
certain communities, in welcoming children, our view is, rather, that all children must be given early
opportunities to socialize. We have to value their participation in society, make available to them models of
adults as participants, networks of caring adults, of course, all of this contributes to an excellent way of
preventing psychological and social problems. We could come back to these issues if you wish.
The second part of the book is entitled: Respecting differences and equal opportunities. It contains three
chapters as well. The first, which I wrote myself on the basis of previous work, is entitled: Children and
families living in extreme poverty. My objective was to make this part of an effort to prevent problems and
promote health. As I am sure you know, unfortunately, inequalities and poverty are not decreasing, and despite
some stability, in 1999, the statistics referred to a period before the decisions were made to abolish or at
least reduce poverty considerably. This is a particular concern to us. You know as well as I do that beyond the
figures, there are families who are living in extremely difficult conditions.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of parents living in disadvantaged situations, like those elsewhere,
are loving parents, these cases of great poverty do have a negative impact on children's physical health and
development. Of course, these situations give rise to new morbidities, as we call them now, in terms of violence
or children who are somewhat unbalanced.
Beyond that, we think prevention is possible, particularly through the prevention services of our health and
social services networks, provided a relationship of trust with the families can be developed, one based on a
non-judgmental approach and a respect for differences and dignity, provided our services are intense enough that
they work in partnership with the families.
Some examples are given, particularly the Quebec program, Natre gaux grandir en sant (Born equal,
growing healthy), a preventive and health promotion program for disadvantaged pregnant women. Beyond these
direct services to families, we think it is essential to fight poverty, which is at the root of these problems.
In our book, we present an argument in favour of bold, forward-looking, progressive, cross-sectoral policies
developed in cooperation with the various networks.
The next chapter is written by Ccile Rousseau and talks about differences, particularly of children from
different cultures who arrive in Canada. She starts by presenting the unfortunately well-known cases of
discrimination and racism. She also explains the experience of these immigrants, these teenagers who are caught
between two cultures. She develops a range of resistance strategies, talks about the role of social services as
a mediator and continues by discussing questions of personal and collective identity.
We suggest solutions; we must reduce exclusion and think about a multi-pronged approach, work with
institutions and community organizations, take an interest in having the school play an integrating role and
create many examples of solidarity and empathy.
The next chapter is written by Lorraine Fillion, so I will turn the floor over to her now.
Ms. Lorraine Fillion, Social worker and family mediator: I have been
working with separated families and with the children of separated parents for 30 years. Since I have had the
pleasure and opportunity to meet with colleagues from other Canadian provinces, I can tell you that this huge
research effort that developed in the francophone community is definitely similar to what is going on in Canada.
In fact, at the beginning, when we were asked to write a book, we were somewhat reluctant, because we wondered
whether this would just be another book that would wind up on a shelf somewhere. As a group of collaborators, we
wanted to create something that would be ``a catalyst for action.'' We wanted our book to enable people to take
When parents separate, everyone wants the child to be heard. If we interview parents who are married or
living common law, they say: ``It is true, we must consult the child, we must listen to him or her.'' However,
people do not listen to the child. We listen with our adult ears and we often distort what the child is really
saying. We interpret what they say, and in the end, we do not act as they suggest with respect to their needs.
Children are natural creators. If we ask the children of separated parents what their problems are, they will
list them for you in two minutes, and will find solutions to them even faster. They are very quick at finding
solutions. The problem this is what they say, is that their parents do not agree to implement the solutions,
or society does not. However, the solutions are there.
I would like to tell you the story about little Valrie which appears in my book because it speaks
volume. Her mother had remarried and she had a little sister. She also had some contact with her father. Her
mother's husband was called a step-father. She said that he did not look like a step, so why was he called a
step-father? She said that he was nice, though. Words fail us when it comes to naming new parents that a child
will have in blended families. For example, this girl has a little sister who is 5-years old. She is her sister.
Society calls her half-sister. She says that she is not a half-sister, because she does not have half an arm or
half a body. She says that she is her sister. The child will react very strongly to say that she is her sister,
but society says no.
There is much more room in the hearts of these children than people think. As far as terminology goes and I
know this is something Senator Pearson and others have thought about I think we need to change the legal
terminology as one of the ways of helping these new families. The fact that we are still talking about custody
and visiting rights in 2005 does not reflect the reality of separated and blended families, where more and more
fathers are involved. Other countries could serve as an inspiration to us in better recognizing the equity or
balance between the mother and the father.
A father who goes to his child's school thinking that the mother got custody and he has visiting rights but
should he ask for a copy of his child's report card he could be told by the principal that he is not entitled to
it because he only has visiting rights. That is something that still happens in the year 2005. That is
unacceptable from the point of view of the child who would very much like to have his or her father come to the
school. The father does not get the notices from the school, information, and so on.
In this chapter, what I try to say was that separated and divorced families are rich, creative, and able to
strike a balance. We know that it is not divorce as such that is bad for children, it all depends on the way it
happens and whether the parents are present in their lives or not.
If there is a support for the new parent and if children are protected from conflict, they will be fine.
Mediation should take place early, very preventively, so that we can suggest families use mediation services and
make better use of the justice system. I do think judges and lawyers have their place. We need them in society,
because they set the legal guide post. In addition, early mediation could prevent conflicts from escalating into
If we want to let children speak, we should not go overboard and give them the same legal status as their
parents, complete with a lawyer who can argue their case and promote their wishes. What we want is something
different: namely, the interest of the child. The pendulum should not swing too far one way or the other. Yes,
we can allow children to speak without censure, or putting forward the solutions they suggest.
The question is, what are we prepared to do? I do not think we should wait and say that the government must
do something. I think everyone can and must do something. I wrote this chapter with this in mind to some extent.
When we go home this evening, we have to ask ourselves what we can do for our children and the children of
others, and how we can listen to them better. This is the context that led us to think that we could do
something to help families. Those are the main outlines of the chapter I wrote.
Dr. Colin: The first chapter deals with the personal, family and community needs of the child. The
second looks at difficult situationschildren in disadvantaged families, children from different countries and
culture who come to Canada and children whose parents have separated. Finally, the third chapter deals more with
the services and policies we think are important in order to give each child his or her right place.
In the first chapter, Dr. Luc Blanchet, a child psychiatrist, develops inter-sectoral approach in the
organization of services. I will describe this chapter quickly by saying that we have to deal with silos between
the services that children and their parents need.
That is why we developed an approach that emphasizes cross-sectoral preventive action as regards living
conditions, determinants and areas of intervention, at all levels of our preventive and curative efforts.
In order to achieve this, we hope emphasis will be placed on community networks, that there will be overall
intervention plans, innovation and experimentation so as to avoid the difficult situations we all know about
where children are sent from one office to another. The idea is to emphasize early, intensive and ongoing
intervention, so that we can be more effective in what we do.
The second chapter is the work of Mr. Ltourneau. I will therefore turn the floor over to him.
Mr. Ltourneau: In the last 25 years, I have practiced exclusively in the Youth court. I thought I
would talk about this court, which came to be at the same time as the International Year of the Child, in 1979,
and when Quebec introduced its new Youth Protection Act.
I looked at the court as the third level in our system and an access point for children and their parents,
perhaps for the only time in their lives. I tried to establish a historic link between the establishment of this
court in 1979, what it became and what it could become in the years ahead.
Initially, the court was seen as a common-law court. The same rules applied there as in other courts, with
the same perspectives and the same evidence requirements. I should mention that in the Montreal region, we are
talking about 12,000 hearings on child protection cases.
This court deals with children who have been abused sexually and otherwise, and children who have been
neglected or abandoned. It also has jurisdiction over the Youth Criminal Justice Act and adoption.
The approach was as follows. This court is no longer described as a common-law court, but rather as a
specialized court, which must exist in several Canadian provinces. That means that the Courts of Appeal are very
reluctant to intervene in any of the decisions handed down by the Court of Quebec, Youth Division. Over the
years, this court's work is increasingly viewed as being beyond reproach.
After giving this some thought and discussing it, we came to the conclusion that henceforth, this court
should recognize that it has other obligations than simply hearing children thereby operating on a
case-by-case basis and also recognizing that is has an obligation to serve an educational purpose. It is in
that context that I developed a few criteria that I will share with you.
First of all, the Youth Protection Act does not define sexual abuse, physical abuse or negligence. What we do
know is that both the Director of Youth Protection and the court must recognize that a child is in that
situation in order to obtain jurisdiction to intervene in the life of that child and his or her family.
From that standpoint, we thought it might be interesting to analyze some of these functions that do not
correspond to what I normally recognize as the obligations of a court.
First, we believe that the court should establish communications and exchanges between its judges in order to
foster a consensus on what constitutes, for example, sexual abuse, ill treatment, negligence and abandonment.
In most courts, a judge is appointed for life, is master of his or her courtroom just as others judges are
masters of theirs. We would like to see far greater discussion and exchange on an ongoing basis between the
judges who sit on that court.
We would also like to see the court set up electronic means of communication in order to inform the public of
the consensus it adopted so that parents can be aware of the types of behaviour that are acceptable and those
that are not.
The public should know what constitutes ill treatment, sexual abuse or negligence. Right now, these terms are
well known only by people who work in this field, but when time comes to transfer this knowledge in these
decisions, the situation is far more complex.
The court should also recognize that it has a duty to educate so that the suffering of a child is not in
vain. On the contrary, this suffering should open the door to protection that can be obtained more rapidly for a
child experiencing a similar situation.
We often get the impression that we are always hearing the same cases, the judges are addressing the same
facts and that this child, whose experiencing the same hardship of another child who came before the court five
or six years ago has to go through the same thing.
Lastly, through its communications with the public, the court's objective, among other things, should be to
reduce the number of children living in compromising situations, while preserving as much as possible the
credibility not only of the court but of the Director of Youth Protection.
In Quebec, it is the Director of Youth Protection who brings a case before the Court of Quebec Youth
Division. He or she, depending on the person occupying the position, has an obligation to receive information,
to evaluate it and to bring it before the court. This is to enable the child to gain access to our democratic
system via the Director of Youth Protection and the court which will then put the child on a path to well-being
rather than suffering.
This is essentially our vision of a court that would go beyond what is usually defined as a specialized
Dr. Colin: Before presenting our conclusion very briefly, I simply wanted to point out that you have
an example here, with my two colleagues, of both the expertise and the commitment of the authors who are
involved in the book entitled ``Une juste place pour tous les enfants: Plaidoyer pour l'action.'' [A fair place
for all children, a plea for action.] As a physician specialized in public health, and having worked for over 20
years now with disadvantaged families, either directly as a public health doctor or in research, I was able to
make a contribution to this chapter regarding children living in poverty and their families.
If our six other colleagues were here, of course each one of them could go into much greater detail.
In conclusion, our wish was to write a plea for children and a plea for action, where the objective is to
reduce poverty above all else. We all know that this is the primary factor that influences health and well
being. In addition, we wrote this to counter the abuse, exploitation and exclusion of children; third, to
develop prevention and promotion activities for child health and well being; fourth, to develop clinical
interventions that are truly inter-disciplinary and inter-sectoral; fifth, to increase and find new and
innovative ways of promoting the social participation of young people.
The next point deals with more open and collective justice, as has just been mentioned. We are talking about
celebrating the differences between children. We are also talking about developing progressive and evolutive
policies you are very familiar with that point and not ignoring social research and instead giving it as
much room as possible.
Allow me to read you the last two sentences of the book, which are a call to action, as evoked by Ms. Fillion:
We would like this book to bring forth a vast movement of social mobilization which must arise like a cloud
of butterflies to bring about a wind of change in favour of children. Children are a potential treasure to be
discovered, loved and respected in all the mystery of their being. They ask only to grow up in fertile ground
in order to ensure the future of the country and of humanity.
So far, this book has been distributed in Quebec and in the francophonie and we would very much like to have
the means to disseminate it even more widely, notably with an English translation. That concludes our
presentation to you.
The Chairman: Perhaps, by coming before us, your audience may take you up on that offer to disseminate
it more widely. However, I cannot resist asking Mr. Ltourneau to comment. When I was in court, and certainly
from my own training
Senator Baker: As a judge.
The Chairman: Yes, thank you, as a lawyer and a judge I will put that on the record we approached
family law and family by saying that we would give the family as much discretion as possible to build their own
rules, to build their own structures, their own value, and the courts would only intervene if they transgressed
the lowest standard that society would tolerate.
You seem to be saying now that, on reflection, and after years of working in the field, what you are looking
for is a consensus. Is that a consensus of definitions, of behaviour, of tolerance for issues? Is that to be an
educational tool out of the courts, or are you now more strictly defining what you believe to be a family, and
what would be tolerant behaviour from parents and children, et cetera? In other words, when I was on the bench,
I took into account that although some of the values that I thought were good in parenting may not be shared by
someone else, as long as children were not physically abused or sexually abused, et cetera, we would afford them
discretion. Sometimes I would look at families and think that that is not how I would have raised those
children, but I understand that this is another, alternate method. Are you veering from that now, to a consensus
model of parenting? That would be the question I would put to you.
Mr. Ltourneau: The Youth Division is a court that specifically deals with children who are the
victims of abuse such as sexual abuse, negligence, et cetera. We are talking about perhaps 2 or 3 per cent of
all children who are victims of this. Given that situation, what I saw was how children can benefit from the
suffering of other children so that their parents can be aware of the court's position on certain acts
perpetrated on children. It was in this communication by the court with the citizenry, be it through newspapers,
press conferences or press releases, that the population could be made aware that these types of behaviour are
not acceptable as disciplinary methods or as attitudes towards children.
Of course we are not seeking some sort of standardization. What we want is to protect children and avoid that
other children experience the same type of disciplinary methods by their parents, because sometimes parents
think that is the proper way to raise their children. We have to raise awareness, prevent and ensure the
well-being of children and not always intervene in a context of protecting children. This was the philosophy
that guided us in this projection of new responsibilities to be given to a court.
Senator Baker: First, I would like to congratulate the three witnesses here today, each one of you.
You have not only created a new book, which I am sure we will all read before this committee concludes its
report, but also, in doing just that, the three of you have contributed greatly to the rights of children and to
the betterment of children in your respective professions, not just in Quebec but throughout the country.
Just so I understand your remark concerning the chairman's question, are you suggesting that perhaps the
standard of review of the Court of Appeal should be expanded from errors in law to encompass a greater
jurisdiction in making a determination?
When you say that the judges should get together and discuss the basis of judgments, the judges all read each
other's decisions in order to arrive at a decision on their own, and not very often do we see much deviation. In
extraordinary cases, we do. In some of your cases, for example, that I have read, there have been some
deviations that have gone up to the Supreme Court.
Are you suggesting that perhaps the Court of Appeal should be intervening, whereas right now they can only do
that on a question of law or an error in law made by the lower court? Are you also suggesting that there be some
sort of informal or formal gathering of justices to discuss the interpretation of the law? In other words, are
you going beyond just advertising to the public what the law is?
Mr. Ltourneau: Given the fact that the courts are the third level of our democratic system, and that
an abused or neglected child has to appear before a court with his or her parents, it is highly possible that
this is one of the rare times where a child and his or her parents will experience the judicial process.
Since the higher courts do not feel competent to intervene in the decisions of a specialized court, let them
recognize the special status of that court and act with great discretion. As such, the court of first instance
will be viewed as being beyond reproach. This reality will create an obligation for that court to establish a
mode of operation that is different from ordinary courts of law. When the court of appeal hands down a judgment,
it does so for the court of appeal. It is not three judges on the bench who deliver a judgment.
So when we find ourselves before a specialized court, not to draw comparison with the court of appeal, it
appears to us that for some situations there should be some form of standardization when it comes to evaluating
certain criteria. It is in that context that we make this suggestion.
The suggestion is not new. For example, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal has established this type of
mechanism. I did not check with other human rights tribunals in Canada, but I do know that what I stated in my
text was not new. What would be new would be for judges to concern themselves with getting together, undertaking
certain discussions, coming to a consensus whenever possible and this is not an obligation and to publicize
certain definitions they have adopted.
You will see in the book that I have used a certain definition of ``abuse.'' This definition took six or
seven years of study and investigation before being unanimously accepted in the framework of a judgment on its
adoption by the court. Consensus is possible but only as a result of certain judgments and through the
repetition of facts brought before this specialized court. We would like to avoid imposing this waiting period
We are convinced that competent and wise adults, capable of analyzing the law can agree on certain
Senator Baker: This committee is considering Canada's international obligations in regard to the
rights and freedoms of children. Two of our witnesses today stressed the importance of the child's wishes being
taken into account in what happens to them in relation to custody and access.
In Quebec, you have an act called the Civil Aspects of International and Interprovincial Child Abduction, for
example. Quebec is different from any other province in that it took the Hague Convention and incorporated it
into its act. I do not know why they call it ``interprovincial'' because there are no similar legislative acts
in other Canadian provinces.
Here is my point in asking this question: How do you propose to solve this problem in that the act passed in
Quebec does not take the child's wishes into account? It says, ``according to the age and maturity of the
child.'' That is the key phrase, ``age and maturity.'' What does that mean? That is left to a judge's decision;
and in many cases, someone of 14 years of age does not have the age and maturity, according to some judgments.
If the committee were to suggest that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which
incorporates article 12 that says you must take into account children's rights, and that the money will be paid
by the state for the hiring of the expertise to give the child's views if the child does not wish to give those
views, do you think that that is one of the solutions? In other words, to enact into domestic law the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child? Would that go a long way to meeting your wishes?
Ms. Fillion: You have referred to several things. With regard to kidnapping, I am in favour of
children being heard by an expert, either by an evaluator or by his parents. As a society, we want families to
be supported, assisted, in order to listen to the child. It is the parents who must be the first to hear what
their child has to say, but we do know that in certain circumstances, that is impossible.
If the child can be heard and we are talking about a complex situation where kidnapping is involved he or
she should be heard if possible by an expert in order to determine what that child is experiencing, what he or
she wants, what he or she has experienced with either parent and what the nature of the relationship was. This
is another way of hearing the child. So the child's voice should be heard by the judge so that he can make a
decision when there is no agreement between the parents. But the court itself can meet with the child and
evaluate the situation.
With regard to Mr. Ltourneau's wish, in the court there should be more informal discussion among judges and
the same thing should exist among the evaluators. In the English-speaking provinces, they refer to ``child
custody evaluator;'' we refer to child custody experts.
If you ask a child custody evaluator what constitutes a good parent, you may receive as many answers as there
are evaluators, because beyond the definition of what is a parent, who must be affectionate towards his
children, feed them, house them, clothe them, raise them, there remains some room for our own values.
I think this also comes into play in a judge's definition of the interest of the child, or the definition of
sexual or physical abuse. Many of these concepts rest with the person who acts as a judge, an evaluator or a
With regard to your question about what we can do to hear what a child has to say, I think that the child
must be heard in all those ways, be it by the parents, the evaluator or the judge.
Mr. Ltourneau: If you will allow me a brief comment, when it comes to the rights of a child and the
rights of parents, because these are often conflicts that make the front page, we must remember that the child
is a minor; he has a right to receive something from the parent. The parents, for their part, have a
responsibility to give, to look after the child, to raise him, to educate him. The rights are at the service of
responsibility. When a child expresses himself, he does so in accordance with his needs as well as his desires.
There are needs and there are desires and we have to be able to adjust to what children might want, to what a
5-year old can express, how it can be interpreted and how to distinguish between this 5-year old and a 14-year
old. There is quite a difference between the two.
Senator Pearson: I thank you all very much for coming. I have read your book with great interest. The
section on the participation of young people in the development of the community is the first really good
description I have seen of youth participation from a developmental perspective. It is to be commended.
I very much like what you did, Ms. Fillion, in your chapter. You find the views of children by reframing the
question. We often think we have the opinion of children, but the questions we have asked have actually brought
us the answer we want rather than their answer.
Dr. Colin, you mention the law in Quebec against poverty and social exclusion. Could you say a few words
about that, please?
Dr. Colin: Indeed, we believe that this is a totally exceptional law. There are very few examples
world wide, it might be the second. There is a similar law in France but it does not go as far. This law was
passed following a proposal by a member of the National Assembly that led to a great deal of deliberation in our
communities. Its purpose was to abolish poverty in a way though that is not the exact title of it. There was a
vast movement of popular support for this legislation. Community organizations themselves worked together and a
coalition was formed to push forward the bill and have it pass. If memory serves me, the bill was passed
unanimously in Quebec in 2004.
Naturally, this is important achievement, since we are really talking about the rights of the child. I would
also like to take this opportunity to say that in the area of poverty, in my experience, in most situation the
rights of the child are the same as those of the parents; in other words, there is no contradiction between the
rights of the parents and the rights of the child and it is fair to refer to the right of families to have
decent living conditions, even though I am not an expert in law as is my colleague here. Therefore, this
legislation truly does represent a major progress.
Nevertheless, we still do have some concerns because the implementation of this law is much more difficult
and delicate, as you can imagine. Even in recent government decisions, in particular when it comes to budget
cutbacks, the law may not have been respected as we had wished. In conclusion on this point, this was a major
step forward because it really did result from a consensus arrived at by many different stakeholders and it
sounded the alarm in expressing a position taken by Quebec society. However, now that it is adopted, there is
still a great deal of work to be done so that it can really be implemented.
Senator Carstairs: Thank you. Clearly, children need to be heard. My concern is that children have
their own value system, which is sometimes quite different from the value system of adults. I have known
children who, for example, in separation cases, have tried to determine which parent needed them the most. I
have seen children in situations of abuse who will do almost anything to protect the parent, even a highly
abusive parent.I have seen situations in which children will say anything just to please.
How do we give children the comfort level to enable them to do what is in their best interest rather than
what they think is in the best interests of others?
Ms. Fillion: I have met many children of separated parents, as you call them, children who do not have
a childhood and who are taking care of an alcoholic or depressed parent. For example, one child told me:
``Lorraine, I have to stay with my mother because she needs me.'' As Mr. Ltourneau said, the roles have been
reversed; it is the child who becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child.
When we say that a child has a right to be heard, as an adult and as a parent that does not mean that you
have to give the child everything he wants. I think that is the problem of the absence of rules. When a parent
is depressed and gives a child far too many responsibilities, that child has no life, no childhood; sometimes
that child will even go so far as to think he or she has some kind of privileged status because of that. But we
do know that this interfere with the child development. This is a child who did not get clear rules from the
parent who should say to that child: ``That is not your problem; you look after your business and I will look
I think the child must be heard but it is reassuring that decisions are taken and that does not mean that the
child's wishes will always be granted. Perhaps the answer should be no; perhaps it is better for the child to be
with the other parent and visit his mother so that when he does visit her he or she will not bear entire
responsibility for the household.
We have to be very careful. When I say that children must be listened to, that does not mean that they must
automatically get what they ask for, that we should automatically acquiesce, not at all.
Senator Carstairs: Dr. Colin, my next question has to do with the concept of intense interventions. I
have not had a chance to read your book. What do you mean by ``intense intervention?``
Dr. Colin: In this regard, I am referring particularly to preventive work done in our public health
network in Quebec and through our community services network. A great deal of research has shown particularly
some in Ontario and Quebec which reached the same conclusions; there are also some elsewhere in the world and in
the US that it is better to take stronger, more regular action, to provide more services to fewer families, in
order to achieve better results.
Let us take the example of pregnant women in disadvantaged situations. We could visit them a number of times
throughout their pregnancy in order to help them have a healthy pregnancy. I am not referring just to their
behaviour, but also to community support.
If we visit these women every month or every two months, we will not achieve a great deal. However, if we
visit them every week or every two weeks for a fairly long time and the length of the visit is very important
we will develop a trust relationship with these women that will help them develop their own potential. Often
professionals have to be involved in order to reveal the potential of these disadvantaged mothers, who do not
have confidence in themselves, who have very little self-esteem, but who have potential. In this type of case,
the intensity of the intervention is important. If we only go by from time to time, we will not really achieve
any results. In the program we established, there was a visit at least one hour long roughly every two weeks.
This began quite early in the pregnancy and continued until the end. We had multidisciplinary teams involved in
this cross-sectoral approach in the community. A great deal of food support was provided as well, and as a
result of all this, we were able to reduce post-partum depression by half. When we know what a difference this
will make for the children, this is major. However, it costs money to do this work, because it is quite
Ms. Fillion: Earlier, there was a reference to listening to what children have to say. What I have
seen in the case of the children of separated parents, is that we have to listen not only to what they want, but
also to the solutions they suggest. This is quite magical. When there is a problem in their family, they have
thought about solutions, and their solutions are often very simple and not that far-fetched. That is also
something I wanted to mention to you. It is important to establish support groups for the children of separated
parents so that they can talk to each other in groups. Through my contacts with colleagues in other provinces, I
know that there are very few such groups. There is the Co-Parenting Education Program, which consists of groups
for separated parents. It would be a good idea to promote the establishment of these groups, particularly the
groups for children. There are very few of them. That is something I would love to see.
Senator Losier-Cool: Thank you for this little book. I will lend it to my colleagues in New Brunswick
who work in this field. I do not want to be the devil's advocate. From the comments made by Mr. Colin and Ms.
Fillion in reply to Senator Carstairs' question about listening to children, sometimes very rarely,
fortunately we have heard the opposite on television or in the media. That is, that the Youth Protection
Branch was too zealous and took children away from their families too quickly, and this resulted in some
negative comments. Have you encountered any such cases? Are these comments at all justified?
Dr. Colin: I think my colleagues may have either complementary or different perspectives. For those of
us who work in the area of poverty, that point is extremely crucial. After much experience and much deliberation
under way at the moment, I think we have to avoid both extremes. In the case you are reporting, I believe that
we found ourselves in situations where we have a little too early judged certain families as incompetent,
removing the child, without giving the family time to find means of support. When we invest in a family, in a
manner rather intense for efficiency, the family might be able to regain its energy and abilities so as to avoid
placing the child elsewhere. This has been illustrated by many cases everywhere, this is of children who were
removed and placed in absolutely horrific situations, bounced from one family to another, were continually
rejected, who felt they had become unacceptable, and who later on became broken young adults for whom life was
very difficult. Therefore, that is a bit of what lead to that assessment.
On the other hand, we cannot presume that all families are able to provide an adequate life for their
children. I previously thought this was the case, and I continue to believe today that a judgment is to be made,
but I remain convinced that we can still reduce the number of child placements. All of the monies invested in
institutions and in child placements should be invested first in families, and in prevention as soon as
possible. I was very interested in the program that starts right from pregnancy. We noticed that if we help the
mother to be in her environment, and if we continue our efforts after the birth of the child, the investment
made during pregnancy bears fruit when the child arrives. The mother no longer feels threatened when there is a
problem and she can call upon a social worker or a nurse. She is reassured by the type of relations she was able
to forge with stakeholders. She will ask for assistance more quickly and the child will be helped more quickly.
As well, the fact that from the beginning we do not create a rift between the child and its family will truly
help in the child's development within its family in the realization of the parents' potential. I am not sure if
I am being clear, but I am talking about very difficult balances to maintain. We live in a very difficult
society. We must invest more in prevention. It pays off. It pays off for those who are being assisted and for
society as a whole. There are many programs to assist. Also, this will result in lower rates of delinquency, and
early pregnancy. There will be a long-term effect that will be beneficial for all, for children and society
Senator Losier-Cool: Mr. Ltourneau, you talked about a lack of information, which constitutes an
abuse. Rather, is it not a socio-economic factor? Are the parents not lacking information? If this is true, and
if you want to spread information electronically, will this allow you to reach out to those targeted?
Dr. Colin: That is a tricky question. I do not believe this is exclusive to a socio-economic level of
society. I believe that there are problems of child violence and abuse in all socio-economic classes. We note
that more children who come from an impoverished background experienced difficult situations simply because
their families live in such a state of tension that violence is a much more immediate reaction. However, one
must keep in mind that the vast majority of underprivileged families are loving families, that do not abuse
their children and that foster their development, which is absolutely remarkable given their life conditions.
The Chairman: I wish to thank all of the panellists. Your expertise and consistent commitment to
children has shone through today. You are sending us away with some homework to do. We will read your book. Do
not be surprised if you see that some of your ideas and recommendations have found their way into our report.
We are now dealing with the issue of examining cases of alleged discrimination in the hiring and promotion
practices of the federal public service. The committee has been mandated to invite, from time to time, the
President of the Treasury Board, the President of the Public Service Commission and any others who can assist us
in our task.
We have before us today Mr. Alex Himelfarb, the Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, and
Mr. Wayne McCutcheon, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Special Projects Secretariat. We
welcome you both.
As you know, we have been looking into this issue, and it has come to our attention that, in the new
restructuring on the Public Service Commission, there is a role for your office, Mr. Himelfarb. If you have an
opening statement as to how you see your role, please proceed, and then there will be questions. We know you
have been ill, and we hope you are in much better health and that we do not strain you any further.
Mr. Alex Himelfarb, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet,
Privy Council Office: Thank you. I am feeling robust.
Thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to speak on these issues. Thank you for your patience.
I have formal and lengthier opening remarks, which I do not propose to make, but I would leave them with the
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. Himelfarb: Let me touch some of the highlights and leave more time for a real discussion.
The commitment to employment equity, a representative public service, is amongst my highest priorities and
has been one of the corporate priorities I, as clerk, have identified for the last three years. It is clear
that, for a number of years, we were falling behind even the private sector in building a representative
workforce. That was particularly the case with some target groups, including visible minority groups. The
Embracing Change initiative in particular represented, at the very minimum, a turning of the corner, a shift in
awareness, the beginning of a longer-term cultural change and the establishment of benchmarks. Since that time,
it is safe to say that we have been moving in the right direction, at a pace that is considerably slower than
the pace we have to achieve. The directions are all right, but the pace of change is not.
What is the role of the clerk? I have several roles. One of them is that I should be providing leadership in
making sure that this objective is on the agenda, making sure that it is a shared priority across the deputy's
table, and making sure that it is built into the accountabilities of deputies. When it is a core priority, the
deputies are assessed against progress in this objective, and it is built into our performance management. You
can make the case that it has not been terribly rigorous up to now and that our data has been inadequate for
making a very rigorous assessment. Quite frankly, this has been one of quite a number of objectives against
which deputies are measured.
As Maria Barrados will have made known to you, she recently wrote to Senator Oliver with a list of
departments that are making less accelerated progress than others. She has agreed to work more closely with the
committee that does appraisals to ensure that we have rigorous knowledge about how well, or less well, people
are doing. One of the areas is to ensure that the deputy's community is committed, providing leadership in this
area and is held accountable for it.
Another one of my roles is as leader of PCO. PCO is a relatively small department. It does not do much
staffing. It does a lot of it through secondments. It is also a central place to provide a whole-of-government
view and accelerated development of executives. We have launched, but we have not yet announced, a role for the
PCO in the accelerated development of target group members. I will be leaving materials with the committee that
describe how we propose to identify quite a number of positions in PCO for visible minorities and other targeted
groups for accelerated development into the senior executive pool.
Another role is leading in culture change, holding deputies accountable and managing PCO so it is part of the
solution and not part of the problem. One of the measures of success against which I personally could be held at
least partially accountable, and where you would probably give me a less than stellar grade, is the composition
of the deputy community itself. This is an area where I will anticipate criticism and, if you were not intending
it, I would encourage it. We have made significant progress on gender, and we have the data on that that we can
share. However, we have made very modest in fact, embarrassingly modest progress on visible minorities in
the deputy's community zero on Aboriginal and zero on people with disabilities, or virtually that.
This is an area where I can say that failure filters through. It matters. When you have a critical mass at
the senior table, a lot of the rest is taken care of. One of my personal commitments is to at least contribute
to a correction in that particular mix. As well, part of that is to have a conscience, or somebody who is a
constant voice for those who let their energy on this issue flag. We tried an experiment at the school. It was a
good first step and we are looking to replicate that experiment to ensure that we always have a voice in the
senior levels for these issues.
My verbal remarks have been far less fulsome than my written remarks, which I will leave with you, and the
program descriptive material, but that gives you a sense of my self-admitted failures and my commitment to
The Chairman: If you go any further, I will think this is a confessional.
Mr. Himelfarb: Madam chairman, I have been very bad.
The Chairman: Thank you for leaving the written material, as it will be helpful, and we will thus have
more time for questions.
Senator Oliver: Thank you, Mr. Himelfarb. It is an honour for the Clerk to come to our committee. I
know of your personal commitment to these issues, so I am delighted that you are here. I also appreciate your
The first question that I was about to ask was about deputy minister positions, and you have already
addressed it, but I would like to know why. Why have you not had any success in recommending to the Prime
Minister certain very capable visible minorities for DM positions in the Public Service of Canada?
Mr. Himelfarb: There are a couple of reasons for that. First, we had one then we had two, and now we
have three. The direction is good; it is just unbelievably and painfully slow. Why? It is partly because, in the
deputy community, we have rarely recruited from outside.
Senator Oliver: It has been done in the history of Canada. We can all name the people.
Mr. Himelfarb: Quite frankly, at the deputy community level, it is rare. I am not saying that is
right, by the way. We must bring the outside in as much as we have to bring the inside out. However, the
tradition has been to fill from the feeder pools at the ADM level and the senior ADM level, and that has meant
the pools are disproportionately white male.
One of the reasons I am so pleased that we are probably ahead of target, even ahead of the Embracing Change
targets, in a couple of programs is that the pools are changing. The two programs where we are ahead are the CAP
or Career Assignment Program, and the AEXDP, which is the accelerated program for executives. In both of those
programs, more than 20 per cent of the recruits are visible minorities, or are target group members. Excuses
that one might have had are fast disappearing at the deputy level.
At the same time, we need to look outside more systematically, you are quite right. I believe that there
would be every reason for this committee to hold accountable a government where the pool has expanded and where
a number of people are retiring. As well, there have not been vacancies. There has been a huge stability in the
deputy community, but that is about to change given that one of the things the deputy ministers share is the
fact that we are all old. There is an opportunity to refresh ourselves not only in terms of youth but in terms
of representativeness. A year from now there should be progress; two years from now there should be more
dramatic progress. I share your view, Senator Oliver: There should been progress in the past.
Senator Oliver: You used to have Madam Mawani at CCMD, which you referred to today. Why has she not
been replaced as being a special advisor to you, the Clerk, on visible minorities in the public service?
Mr. Himelfarb: She will be replaced. I am actually talking to a couple of people on the outside to
have them come in at a very senior level. That was a very important appointment. She was a close friend and she
has done quite well. She is now an ambassador for the Aga Khan and representing Canada in those issues well in
The only thing was whether the school was the right place for this objective, or whether I should not have it
right at PCO.
Senator Oliver: That was about to be my next question.
Mr. Himelfarb: The answer to your question is yes.
Senator Oliver: My next question was raised with Ms. Barrados and Mr. Alcock when they were here.
You are the most powerful public servant in Canada, and the office you occupy, the Privy Council Office, is
the most powerful office in Canada. When the Prime Minister wanted to do something for Aboriginals, he set up a
commission out of the PCO. Why can we not have a diversity commissioner out of the PCO as well to provide the
thrust, the power and the push that is needed to bring visible minorities, which are at the bottom of the pack
now of all the four targeted groups to at least bring them up and make them equal? A diversity commissioner is
the answer. Why can the government not move on that and have it work out of the PCO?
Mr. Himelfarb: I have never thought of any public servant as having power, although it is a wonderful
The idea of having a central advisor on these issues is being considered, absolutely, but a commissioner, I
am not sure. I do not want to overlap the Human Rights Commission. I do not want to usurp their power and I am
not sure that that is the best way to do it, and there is no consensus on that. A senior advisor is needed, to
be a focal point, also some place for the Council on Visible Minorities and others to come to and get action,
someone to drive this agenda and keep our conscience. We have tried it at the school so that it was to be built
into training and learning things. Although the person was excellent, I am not convinced the structure was
right. I am consulting now on both the person and structure. My bias would be to bring it into PCO.
Senator Oliver: Would the office, or the officer, be called a commissioner of diversity or just an
advisor to the clerk?
Mr. Himelfarb: The latter.
Senator Oliver: Why not have a formal commissioner like an Official Languages Commissioner? Why not
have a diversity commissioner?
Mr. Himelfarb: There is certainly no consensus that that would not deeply overlap others with the
mandate. I am not sure that it would not even have more impact in the short term as an advisor. We are
continuing to consult on options with Ms. Barrados, with Mr. Alcock, with others. I cannot see a commissioner,
to be honest, but I do not make those determinations. I absolutely see an advisor, and that is within my orbit.
I see a significant player in any case.
Senator Carstairs: You talked about performance review. Is there any discussion ongoing that bonuses
would be directly tied to how well deputies are performing and promoting better diversity among their employees?
Mr. Himelfarb: That will have a bigger impact than institutional change, as sad as that comment may
seem on what motivates human behaviour. It is now related to bonuses. The progress on equity targets and
representativeness generally is taken into account in the assessment of deputy performance on an annual basis.
That is what it means to have this as a corporate commitment. Our data has not been rigorous, and the specific
ways in which it is taken into account are probably too variable.
This is an area where Ms. Barrados has agreed to work closely with us to ensure that we have consistent data,
in the nature of the kind of letter that she has written to you, to ensure that we all share the data about who
is performing well and who is not. You would know publicly as well as us, and you would be able to assess
whether the performance management has integrity.
She has also done something else that is quite ambitious. If you have a gap in your performance in this area
as a department, as a deputy, and you do not have a plan that is plausible to redress that gap, you will have
trouble staffing anything. For what it is worth, Ms. Barrados is doing an unbelievable job promoting this kind
of culture change, and it is all very positive.
Senator Carstairs: It concerned me, when I was doing some staffing, that I had very few applications
from members of the visible minority communities. My concern is how do we engage them? How do we get them more
interested in making applications to the public service? Like any other professional group, children tend to
look at the professions of their parents and whether those are something that they, too, might want to have. If
you do not have a large segment of members of visible minorities working in governments at all levels then do
their children actually regard that as an option for career development? I want to know what we can do in order
to promote that.
Mr. Himelfarb: That is a hugely important question, but a complex question. It has a number of parts,
so let me try to answer each of the parts. One of them is culture. You cannot attract people if they think they
are coming to a culture that will not be accommodating of them. We need to demonstrate that this is a place
where women, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities and visible minorities who are at the bottom will feel
like they will be accommodated. That means we have to be active in our recruitment. Rigidities in our staffing
system have meant active recruitment is difficult. We have been passive. The reason I believe so deeply in the
changes we are making in the staffing regime is that they allow us to be more active, for example, in creating
pools of target group members. That would be legal under the new regime. Something that we have never been able
to do in the past is to have headhunters target particular groups that are underrepresented. We will be able do
that in the future in a way that we have never been able to do in the past by removing some of those rigidities.
We cannot just wait for visible minorities to apply to us, because they do not.
We are now working with the Public Service Commission to build meaningful inventories of target group pools.
PCO, ironically, in the spirit of confession, has not been a stellar performer. Part of it is because we do not
do a lot of staffing. Our staffing is done mostly through secondments, but partly we draw on seasoned performers
at the senior level, and so our pool has always been negative in this respect. We have now come to an agreement
whereby we have designated a number of positions now for visible minorities only. We are working with the Public
Service Commission to create a pre-qualified pool, and we will be active in our recruitment because passive does
Then we come right back to Senator Oliver's point. When there is a critical mass of senior people at the
table, these various communities believe there is a place for them. Until we have achieved real, visible
progress, it is hard to convince people that this is the place for them. That becomes an urgent priority, and a
personal priority for me.
Senator LeBreton: Welcome, Mr. Himelfarb and Mr. McCutcheon. A statement in a Library of Parliament
briefing document indicates that 52.8 per cent of all public service employees are women. What is the total
number of people in the senior executive pool, and how many of them are women?
Mr. Himelfarb: Mr. McCutcheon will give you the numbers. If they are good, I will take credit. If they
are not, I will explain them.
Mr. Wayne McCutcheon, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and
Special Projects Secretariat, Privy Council Office: If I may clarify, are you asking about the executive
Senator LeBreton: Yes. Mr. Himelfarb used the term ``senior executive pool.'' How many people are
there in total, and of that total, how many are women?
Mr. McCutcheon: With respect to the deputy ministers at the moment, 10 of 33 are women, for a
representation of 33 per cent. One of the primary feeder groups for deputy ministers is Associate Deputy
Ministers, and 13 of 21 Associate Deputy Ministers are women, for a representation of 62 per cent.
Senator LeBreton: Does that constitute the whole of the senior executive pool?
Mr. McCutcheon: Regarding the larger numbers, we would then start talking about Assistant Deputy
Ministers and executives below the Assistant Deputy Minister level.
Senator LeBreton: Do you think those numbers are consistent?
Mr. Himelfarb: We will get you those figures. Regarding the executives, the people who actually know
things are sitting behind us.
Senator LeBreton: That is usually the way.
Mr. Himelfarb: In the executive complement, 34.9 per cent are women.
Senator LeBreton: That is about a third. When you said you rarely recruit from outside, I myself wrote
down, ``Sounds like a bit of a closed society.'' That is one of the problems. This goes back to the poor numbers
in terms of visible minorities. When Minister Alcock was here, I had suggested that perhaps the public service
should vigorously go into communities such as Toronto, for instance, where there is a huge visible minority
community that is very involved in the business, legal and high-tech sectors. I suggested to him that perhaps
the way to bring forward more visible minorities was to go out and recruit where they actually are. He said that
that was a good idea but I do not know whether it was a good idea that left the committee room.
I do not know whether headhunters are the route to go, but the private sector gets into universities and
vigorously recruits there. I remember a conversation I had about 15 years ago with someone involved with the
University of Western Ontario who talked about how business, the high-tech industry and all aspects that make up
our country's fabric vigorously recruit in universities. Why would the public service not do that? Why does it
not get out there and try to attract the best and the brightest from universities across the country?
Mr. Himelfarb: We are doing that. Let me come to that indirectly. When I said we do not go outside, I
meant for deputies, partly because working in Ottawa is an anthropological experience. We have generally found
that it takes a while to acquire the languages, culture and mores. It has not worked very well at the deputy
level. Below the deputy level, it is usually important, and we do go outside. We have not done it systematically
enough for visible minorities. We have done it for others, but not for visible minorities until recently.
In the feeder group for deputies, we are higher than ever in our history with respect to women. I am not
saying that that is satisfactory, but it is real progress and I am proud of that. That has happened over the
last three years.
With respect to visible minorities, two departments, human resources and social development, undertook with
Maria Barrados an active recruitment strategy for visible minorities, going to where they are and to
universities, and it was hugely successful.
How come we did not do it in the past? We have done it. Now eleven other departments working with the Public
Service Commission are doing exactly the same thing, especially given that they are now on a list of failing
departments in this regard. They sense the urgency and that will happen, and they will be recruiting.
Senator LeBreton: You made a reference to Ottawa, and I often refer to ``Athens on the Rideau.''
People from outside of Ottawa get this view, and I am sure it is reinforced by the actions of many people in
Ottawa. However, there are areas of government all over the country. A huge number of public servants work in
other parts of the country. Surely in that group, they must have become used to working with Ottawa people. What
is the difficulty in moving them from some other part of the country to Ottawa, as long as you promise them that
they do not have to live here for the rest of their lives, if that is the problem? What is the difficulty in
getting those people to come to Ottawa and serve here at the main department?
Mr. Himelfarb: We are doing better in almost every category. Almost no one goes straight into the
deputy community, but in feeder groups we are making progress, although not fast enough, and we will get these
acts of recruitment.
The problem was twofold. Part of it was that we did not send out the message that we were accommodating these
groups, so they often wondered whether they should bother to apply, and we have had to send that message out
again, strongly. We are starting late, but we are starting.
The other one is the critical mass. I believe many of these issues go away when there is a critical mass of
target groups at the senior tables because it starts to take care of itself. We have to get to that tipping
Senator Baker: Would the witnesses care to comment on the practice of the federal government in the
past ten years in filling positions only from certain geographic areas in Canada? Would you have any comment on
Let me give you an example. The major complaint that you hear when you go to Vancouver or Halifax, or one of
the extreme areas of the country, is that someone is not permitted to apply for public service positions in
other areas of Canada. One could say that that is a violation of the Charter, but I am wondering how it is saved
by section 1 of the Charter.
What would be the excuse for allowing the federal government to impose geographic location as a qualification
for someone applying for a federal job?
Mr. Himelfarb: Without pretending expertise on the issue of national scope and some of the constraints
in doing so, especially for casual workers or short-time workers where the speed and duration matter, it is
clear that all of the direction is to go to national scope. We have tried to do that through investments in new
technologies that truly make us more efficient in providing national scope with no regional barriers to access
Now I can give you a more fulsome answer, but there is a general consensus that the direction that you cite
is the direction we should move in, which is that our jobs should be available to Canadians, wherever they might
Senator Baker: I agree that that should be the direction, but unfortunately that is not the reality.
As I say, it is a recent phenomenon. I think it probably dates back about 10 or 15 years, whereby when you click
on the Internet into the federal jobs and departments, it defines a geographic area in which someone can apply.
Certainly, nobody from Halifax can apply for a job here that is advertised, and I am sure our research staff
would have found this to be correct. There is a geographic restriction on hiring.
Do you know why there would be a restriction? I understand your saying a moment ago that if it is a part-time
casual job, why do we not just leave that to the person who is applying? Maybe a part-time, casual job in Ottawa
is worth it for someone on the street in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I am just wondering if the witnesses know of the reason why the policy was brought in. Could you speculate on
how that is justified under the law and under the Charter, when you cannot discriminate against someone based on
where they live? I am not saying that that is directly a Charter violation, but I am using it as an example, of
being saved by something, and section 1 of the Charter is the only thing I can think of. What is it saved by?
Would you have any comment on that?
Mr. Himelfarb: My sense is that we have probably allowed administrative and cost barriers to previal
pure administration processing, trying to reduce the number of applications, the policies on removal expenses
and so on I am not saying that those are good reasons, but I expect we have used those kinds of reasons. I
think you will see in the budget before last a commitment to put in place the administrative and technological
means to go to a national scope. Should we be moving in that direction? Absolutely.
Senator Baker: One final question: Do you have any comment at all on federal government policy that
still allows, contrary to law as I understand it, unequal pay for work of equal value depending on where you
live in the country? I am referring to the regional rates of pay that are in effect in our public service in
Canada. If you are in Port Churchill today, you would see icebreakers parked at a wharf, and this icebreaker
here is from one part of the country and the one over there is from another part of the country, and the wages
of the workers doing exactly the same job are completely different. Do you have any comment at all on that, or
on how that is saved by the Charter? Is section 1 the be-all and end-all? I can understand that it must be a
Treasury Board directive, obviously, to allow that sort of thing to take place.
Mr. Himelfarb: Or perhaps the result of collective bargaining. We are criticized from both ends. We
are criticized for not allowing regional rates of pay, so we are not competitive in places like Toronto and
Vancouver for accountants and auditors who can get better-paying private sector jobs, and we do not raise our
rates. We are accused of not doing it because in many areas we do not have regional rates of pay; our rate is
flat. In other areas, we have done it through collective bargaining because we introduce a market component and
we are criticized for doing it.
The answer has been the introduction of market principles in some regions where we cannot attract people with
the current rate of pay, and we have allowed market principles to enter into collective bargaining. It is a very
difficult issue, and there are stresses on both sides of that issue; not just one side.
Senator Baker: I would suggest there is a principle involved. The principle is called equal pay for
work of equal value. It is the law. If unions do not want to follow the law and they wish to negotiate outside
the law, they should be told that they cannot do it. Certainly, the Government of Canada should not be allowed
to do it. The same thing goes with hiring. As Senator Oliver says, if you even hope to expand on people in the
public service taking advantage of jobs, you must at least give them the opportunity to apply for those
You made a remarkable opening statement, and I commend you on it. We could use it word for word in any
report, I think.
Senator Oliver: I intend to use it.
Mr. Himelfarb: You mean use it against me?
Senator Pearson: Thank you very much and welcome. I have practical questions because the people I
speak to who are visible minorities and who find themselves unable to get jobs have a couple of problems that
they discuss, and among the group is a group of fairly recent Canadians. These are the ones who have immigrated
from Ethiopia or India. They have several languages but they do not have adequate French. I am totally
supportive of the principle of having two official languages. That is not the issue. The issue is with the way
in which you make an accommodation.
What these people tell me is the way in which they are examined seems inappropriate, sometimes even to their
level of knowledge; that there are cultural and other kinds of issues that tend to prevent them from knowing the
answers or responding in certain ways, and then they get a slightly lower grade and do not get the grade they
need. I know of several people who are very competent in most other ways who just cannot get into the civil
service. I do not know whether there is any answer to that. It is a difficult question because it is a complex
of principles, but I get the sense that some of the problem lies in the way in which the testing is done.
Mr. Himelfarb: Thank you, senator. I appreciate the way you framed the question. There are two
fundamental principles at work, and they are not in competition, in my view. The commitment to official
languages is a fundamental building block of Canada's, absolute and inviolate, and in the public service it has
to be reflected fully. Our commitment to diversity representation is equally as fundamental to Canada. They are
complementary in my view. Our foundation of linguistic duality is also the foundation of our accommodation of
multiculturalism and diversity. We have not managed that program perfectly. For a lot of people, the way we
teach and the way we test has been inadequate. It may not always be culturally sensitive, which is part of what
you are suggesting.
That is why we have undertaken a fundamental review of the assessment, training and testing, which is not yet
completed at the school, and we will do so in consultation with the Public Service Commission.
Senator Pearson: They are not asking for that. That is not the question.
Mr. Himelfarb: We must make sure it is managed in a way that is culturally sensitive. The other thing
one sometimes has to do is be innovative and think outside the box. There are examples of CRA, for example, that
created ghost positions until people acquired language, recognizing that there might have to be an investment.
When someone has known Mandarin or Hindi and spent their time learning one of these languages, it is quite a
huge investment to learn another. We have to find smart ways of maintaining our commitment to both and being
more creative, and I think there are ways to do that.
Senator Oliver: I have a series of very short, one-sentence questions.
First, you told us with great pride that the percentage of women is 34.9 per cent. What percentage of the
34.9 per cent are visible minority women?
Mr. Himelfarb: Two thirds of the FETA group, associate deputies, are now women. My source of pride was
in that fact, because that is within my control.
Senator Oliver: What percentage of the 34.9 per cent are visible minority women?
Mr. Himelfarb: It is 4.8 per cent of the executives, not of the women.
Senator Oliver: I do not understand. What percentage of the 34.9 per cent that are women are from
Mr. McCutcheon: We could obtain that information.
The Chairman: Perhaps you could provide it for the committee.
Senator Oliver: What specific instructions, Mr. Himelfarb, do you give to your deputy ministers when
you meet on a regular basis about taking action on some of the targets such as the one in five? What specific
things have you done to try to make the change? We have failed very badly in meeting those targets.
Mr. Himelfarb: Again, we have made progress but we have failed to meet the targets. They are required
to provide plans, which they have done, on how to impose targets on the Public Service Commission. The Public
Service Commission assesses those plans. Until recently, we did not have reliable reports about implementation
of the plans and we did not have the baseline data. That is being corrected now. The issue arises on a regular
basis in our partnership with the National Council of Visible Minorities, or NCVM, who brings it to the table.
We bring those people in to constantly remind deputies of these obligations. It is a regular item.
Senator Oliver: To have something raised is one thing, but what are the consequences?
Mr. Himelfarb: It is taken into account in all performance assessments of deputies, and we ask that it
be pushed down to the executive level, which is done at the PCO. Our data has not been vigorous enough and the
involvement of the other agencies has not been powerful enough to do it effectively. Now that the Public Service
Commission has actually done its assessment, it is willing to identify those departments that are doing well,
and also those less well. That will be done in a much more rigorous way. It has always been a part of the
system, but never before quite as rigorous as it will be.
Senator Oliver: The Conference Board of Canada did a major report that showed barriers to the
advancement of visible minorities in both the public and private sectors. One finding was that there is racism
in the system. My question to you is: What is being done from the Clerk's standpoint to overcome the racism that
is preventing the advancement of visible minorities to senior positions in the Public Service of Canada?
Mr. Himelfarb: Much of what is done happens through the Human Rights Commission and other mechanisms
that exist to deal with those complaints. Clearly, the partnership we have struck with the National Council of
Visible Minorities, including funding, has been designed to ensure that they play a lead role in sensitizing us
to both the systemic and overt forms that racism can take. I have been a champion of that forum, and I bring
them in as part of the instrument of cultural change. We also have an external advisory committee chaired by Mr.
Earl Mendez that advises me, the PCO and all deputies on instances of both systemic and overt racism and how we
might address it. These are ongoing processes.
The Chairman: Mr. Himelfarb, I have one question for you. When I was at university many years ago, the
Public Service Commission was the place to get a job if you were bright, energetic and ambitious. Today,
students at universities are telling me that that is not the way it is. When asked further, they say that they
know they will not frame policy issues for parliamentarians because that action has been taken over by opinion
groups, focus groups, mass media, et cetera. The challenge that the job used to present does not seem to exist
today. Students are simply not interested because they will not be creative. How do you answer to that stance?
Mr. Himelfarb: I would probably answer it by saying that it is the best gig in town. The public
service still provides more opportunity to contribute to shaping the world than any other job. The notion that
there is a competition for ideas and between other players is a good thing. It means that we have to raise our
values and rise above sectoral interests to ensure that we are focused on the public interest, and do a better
job. The idea of competition and other players in the mix is healthy, and the notion that there is less
deference for government institutions is good. These are part of a maturing democracy. We have not been
effective in telling students that the opportunity to contribute to making a better Canada is as good a job as
you can get.
It is probably true that, to be more creative, our challenge is not to deal with the competition but to bring
the outside in. I believe it was Senator LeBreton who said that we are a closed shop, and that has hurt the
public service. We need to open it up and seem more permeable. We need to care more about bringing the outside
in. We have to communicate to young people some of the excitement of being public servants, whether they be
women, visible minorities or Aboriginal. This is the best gig in town and we have to get out and tell people
about it. We have to be more open and then they will be more likely to believe it. My sense is that we are okay
now, and we will get better.
The Chairman: The message is still the same: It is a good and valuable career choice.
Senator Oliver: It is the best gig in town, but if you are a visible minority you cannot get in.
Mr. Himelfarb: We will open those doors.
The Chairman: We are here to look at the public service and in our dialogue and debate we will give
you suggestions as you have given us some. Perhaps together we can solve some of the discrimination that still
lingers in the system.
Senator Oliver: I know you are summing up, but may I ask one question?
The Chairman: Quickly, yes.
Senator Oliver: The Library of Parliament prepared a number of excellent questions dealing with some
of the things that the PCO can do. Madam Chairman, could we give those questions to Mr. Himelfarb so that his
office staff might provide the committee with responses? They could help this committee in its ongoing study. We
did not have time in one hour to raise all the questions.
The Chairman: Mr. Himelfarb, the clerk of the committee will prepare that for you so that in due
course you could provide us with the answers.
I thank you for appearing today to share with us your perspectives on the issue.
The committee adjourned.