Building a representative public service

PDF Format (1.63 Mb)

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is committed to achieving a public service that reflects the diversity of Canada by identifying and eliminating barriers in recruitment and staffing, and instituting policies and practices to ensure that employment equity (EE) group members are well represented in the federal public service. The PSC reports annually to Parliament on the appointment system, including progress on EE in staffing and recruitment. Guidance and tools are available to assist departments and agencies.

Employment equity and the Public Service Employment Act

The preamble to the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) identifies representativeness and diversity as being integral to the composition of the federal public service. It refers to Canadians benefiting from a public service where appointments are based on merit and that is representative of Canada's diversity, whose members reflect a myriad of backgrounds, skills and professions. The PSEA sets the framework for staffing in the federal public service. The Act specifically provides for limiting the area of selection to one or more EE groups where there are identified gaps.

The Employment Equity Act defines the four designated groups as:

  • Women;
  • Aboriginal peoples;
  • Persons with disabilities; and
  • Members of visible minorities.

Recruitment of employment equity groups

Great progress has been made in building a federal public service that reflects the diversity of the country it serves. Three of the four designated groups are now being appointed to the public service at a proportion exceeding their respective workforce availability (WFA). The exception is persons with disabilities. The PSC is concerned that this is the only group whose share of appointments has been below their WFA for the past few years.

Aboriginal peoples

In order to address concerns regarding false declaration by non-Aboriginal peoples to jobs that are targeted to Aboriginal peoples, and to protect the integrity of the staffing system, the PSC introduced the government-wide approach to affirmation of Aboriginal affiliation in the appointment process.

Visible minorities

The PSC completed a research project to determine whether, under the 2003 PSEA, external employment EE group applicants who voluntarily provided their self-declared information were eliminated (or 'dropped off') at a greater rate than non-EE applicants and, if so, at what stages of the recruitment process. The overall conclusion is that drop off is experienced only by the visible minority group, mainly at two stages of recruitment: following the review of applications by organizations and following testing. This warrants attention to ensure that there are no selection biases.

Persons with disabilities

The recruitment of persons with disabilities in the federal public service has been an ongoing challenge. Although the representation rate of this group is above their WFA[1], their recruitment rate has been below their WFA for several years. The rate at which these employees are leaving the public service is twice their recruitment rate. If not monitored and addressed, this trend could negatively impact on their representation, as baby boomers with disabilities retire from the public service. Public service renewal, a priority of the federal government, provides a vehicle to reverse this trend.

A literature review, Recruitment of Persons with Disabilities, outlining the main barriers to the recruitment of persons with disabilities, is available on the PSC Web site. This review also identifies existing strategies, good practices, tools and resources to connect with this talented labour pool.


  1. Mainly due to the self-identification of older public servants with disabilities. [return]