Canadian Dilemma: Is There a Path from Systemic Racism Toward Employment Equity for Indigenous People in the Canadian Forces?

  • Carol Agocs Western University


Indigenous peoples continue to be oppressed by racial discrimination enacted through legislation, policies and practices of the Canadian state, including the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).  Systemic racism, practiced through institutionalized policies and customary behaviour affecting people working in organizations, results in inequality for some groups and privileges for others. Since 2002 the CAF has been covered by the federal Employment Equity Act whose purpose is to address systemic discrimination by requiring employers to remove and prevent systemic barriers to equality for Indigenous people, women and “visible minorities” and to maintain a workforce that reflects the diversity of the Canadian population.  Aside from its legal obligation, it is in the interest of the CAF to recruit and retain Indigenous People because they are an essential part of Canada’s labour supply. However Indigenous members of the CAF comprise a small and marginalized minority within a rigid, bureaucratic and culturally foreign organization.

Implementing the Employment Equity Act could assist the CAF to address the Canadian state’s promise of reconciliation, fairness and equality for Indigenous people.  This chapter reviews available evidence bearing on the CAF’s employment equity record, which presents a pattern of resistance to the Act’s requirements and failure to progress toward a representative workforce.  In the absence of effective action to implement change, the CAF has yet to find a path from systemic racism toward employment equity for Indigenous People.

Author Biography

Carol Agocs, Western University

Carol Agocs is a Professor Emerita in the Department of Political Science at Western University in London, Ontario.  Her publications include Employment Equity in Canada: The Legacy of the Abella Report, University of Toronto Press, 2014; Workplace Equality: International Perspectives on Legislation, Policy and Practice, The Hague:  Kluwer Law International, 2002; and Employment Equity: Co-operative Strategies for Organizational Change, Scarborough: Prentice-Hall Canada Inc.,1992, as well as articles and chapters on equality policy and local government administration.