This paper calls for the abolition of employment equity, which is Canada's equivalent of affirmative action for females. It argues that equal opportunity and meritocracy are necessary and sufficient for social justice, and that preferential treatment only engenders and protracts injustice. To illustrate its claims, the paper presents a case study treating the Canadian Philosophical Association's notorious 1991 Report by the Committee to Study Hiring Policies Affecting Women. Some debilitating' effects of Canada's radical politicization of sexuality on the general culture are also mentioned.
"Employment equity" is Canada's version of affirmative action. However, given palpable differences between Canadian and American history, notably Canada's lack of involvement in the slavery of the Triangular Trade, Canada's preferential social and economic policies primarily favor females over males, instead of non-whites over whites. In Canada, a pervasive and systematically-inculcated mythology of socially constructed "gender imbalance" biting into the body politic with the totalitarian teeth of Orwellian laws, is utilized to discriminate viciously but often covertly against males. The Canadian Philosophical Association (CPA), which during the 1990s was colonized by proponents of so-called "group fights" and radical equity feminists, commissioned and adopted a set of overtly anti-male hiring recommendations, replete with suggested quotas, which drove this author (among many other well-qualified males) out of that country. This paper argues that employment equity, along with all its bureaucratic appurtenances, should be abolished. The CPA's scandalous hiring recommendations are discussed as a case study, to illustrate the untenability of the equitist position. I claim that social justice demands equal opportunity, which in the free play of enlightened market forces leads to unequal but fair outcomes; and that social justice does not need employment equity, which engineers unfair outcomes to suit arbitrary or egregious assumptions, and thus engenders copious unfairness as well as economic costliness. Meanwile, the politicization of sexuality in Canada has exacerbated social conflict between the sexes, and has had deleterious effects on the culture.
Prelude to the Critique
As a prelude to my critique of employment equity, I must explain something of my vision of social justice. I do this at the outset in order to pre-empt the sort of charges directed at those who dare speak out against the political programs that equitists regard as sacrosanct icons of fairness. In America, any white person who criticizes affirmative action is reflexively branded a "racist." Any black person who does so is labelled an "Uncle Tom." Tragically, such ad hominems pass for sound argument among dozens of millions. Those who refuse to hear or even listen to arguments against affirmative action treat it somewhat like a religious crusade, not a political program (e.g., see Sowell 1995). Anyone who opposes it is thus a heretic.
Let me therefore say that I believe in equal opportunity of employment. Equal opportunity means that no-one should be debarred from seeking employment on the basis of age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender, religious belief, disability, or any other criterion irrelevant to the standard of performance demanded by the position sought. If I engage a basket-weaver, then I reasonably expect that person will be competent to weave a basket. If I hire a taxicab, then I expect that the driver will be competent to operate a motor vehicle and will know the most efficient way to take me to my destination. If I engage a university student as a research assistant, then I expect that the student will be competent to read, write, reason, and conduct literature searches.
Though different positions may be valued differently by society in terms of necessary preparation and financial remuneration, each demands a respective minimal standard of performance. I submit that no irrelevant criterion of discrimination should be utilized either to exclude, or to include, a particular person seeking a position. There may be cases in which people with physical disabilities are legitimately excluded from some kinds of employment (e.g., a one-armed person may not be competent to weave a basket or to practice dentistry) but on the whole there is no criterion, whether of age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender, religious belief, or irrelevant disability, that should be used a priori to exclude a competent person from seeking employment, or from seeking to become qualified to seek employment.
Critique of Employment Equity
Thus far I have rehearsed an equal opportunity doctrine to which most enlightened people subscribe. We now arrive at a crucial fork in the path toward justice: we must turn either left or right; there is regrettably no middle way. The left-hand fork asserts that it is just to practice both equal opportunity and employment equity. The right-hand fork asserts that it is just to practice equal opportunity, but manifestly unjust to practice employment equity. This fundamental claim of the fight-hand fork--which I take--is advanced on two grounds: the unconscionable inconsistency of employment equity, and the unworkable symmetry of the retributive justice it implicitly invokes.
Equal opportunity asserts that it is unjust to exclude any person from seeking employment on the basis of irrelevant criteria. But employment equity sets implicit or explicit biological quotas, and thereby asserts that is it just preferentially to employ certain people (e.g., females of color) on the basis of criteria irrelevant to the position (i.e., skin pigment and sex chromosomes) and preferentially to exclude certain other people (e.g., white males) from employment on the basis of criteria irrelevant to the position (i.e., skin pigment and sex chromosomes). The inconsistency is blatant.
At the same time, it is interesting that many employment equitists deny the existence of quota systems. Such denials imply that even equitists view quota systems either as ethically unjustifiable or (more likely) as publicly indefensible. But their wistful denials are discredited by incontrovertible facts.(2) For example, Article 2.2 of Ontario's defunct Employment Equity Act (Bill 79) states: "Every employer's workforce, in all occupational categories and at all levels of employment, shall reflect the representation of Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, members of racial minorities, and women in the community." And for example, "in November 1988 the Board of Governors [of Ryerson Polytechnic] approved a staffing plan which designated 57 positions of the 72 that would become vacant because of retirement over the next 10 years as `equity positions.'... Ryerson will only accept recommendations to hire qualified females for these designated positions" (from "Employment Equity Programs at Ryerson" produced by their office of EE). And for example, "When Canada's biggest art school hit on a quota system for hiring women instructors, all hell broke loose. While able-bodied white males complain that they' re an endangered species, most women at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto welcome the dawning of the age of affirmative action" (Cameron 1991). And for example, "In 1992, Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas O'Grady proposed the force intervene at the National Parole Board to obtain `expeditious …