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Look Out for the Social Engineers

April 1, 1985 -

The campaign to eliminate discrimination in the workplace received a powerful boost with the publication last October of the Royal Commission Report on Equality in Employment by Judge Rosalie Silberman Abella. The Commission was appointed to inquire into the best means to promote equality in employment for four groups—women, native people, disabled persons and visible minorities.

Judge Abella is convinced that discriminatian is "systemic" in our society, and that it is reinforced by what she calls a stereotypical way of thinking about members of the four disadvantaged groups. She calls for systemic remedies, to be monitored and enforced by an agency somewhat like the Canadian Human Rights Commission. This agency would ensure that companies adopt the kind of hiring and promotion policies that will result in a "fair" representation of the target groups in their companies. Abella prefers the tenn "employment equity" to "affirmative action," since the latter smacks of governnent intervention and quotas. However, the outcome of Abella's recommendations will differ little from a quota system, because companies wi11 still be required to meet specific goals. Her proposals amount to a far-reaching change in policy that is bound to result in people being hired not on the basis of their qualifications, but on the basis of their belonging to the category of "disadvantaged."

The Equality in Employment Report presents the traditional role of women as homemakers and mothers as having been an obstacle to women's self-realization. Therefore Judge Abella recommends that childcare facilities be publicly funded and universally available. The report also takes aim at the notion that marriage and the family are institutions in which one spouse provides the economic support for the other. Instead, the report advocates a change in our perception of the family and in law so that spouses are considered to be completely financially independent of one another.

Judge Abella believes that an entirely new understanding of the relationship between men and women must be developed, beginning with the earliest training of children. She recommends that course material and textbooks in the schools be monitored "to make sure the discriminatory stereotypes are avoided."

It is obvious that Abella has drunk deeply from the well of collectivist thought. She admits that absolute equality may be impossible to achieve, but is convinced that this ideal should guide us in our efforts to shape society.

All of us should be concerned about unfair treatment of women the disabled and members of minority groups in the workplace. But we should also be alert to the fact that this Roya1 Commission seeks to use the 1aw and a powerful bureaucracy to bring about an egalitarian society. Those who treasure the freedom and integrity of societal institutions, notably the family, should not hesitate to reject the recommendations of this report.