Morris Wolfe - Essays, New & Selected

EQUITY AT OCA (continued)

At the first meeting of the new governing council in February, John Grube presented a notice of motion designed to overturn equity. It called for faculty vacancies to be filled in the following manner: 1. If one applicant is clearly the most qualified, he or she will be hired. 2. If two or more candidates have relatively equal qualifications, preference is to be given to a woman. 3. If none of the applicants with relatively equal qualifications is a woman, preference is to be given to one of: people of colour, natives, the disabled, openly gay men or — openly lesbian women! Grube’s motion was to be voted on at the March council meeting.

The special meeting of the faculty association was held in late February. I’d never seen so many faculty members in the same room before. After lengthy procedural wrangling, the votes were held. A pro-equity executive was elected. Then equity itself was approved by a vote of 62-46.

The March 5 meeting of governing council was packed. Half a dozen television cameras were present, as was an undercover policeman. In the wake of Mark Lépine and the Montreal massacre, the policeman’s presence seemed a not unwise precaution. One of the new students on council amended Grube’s motion by deleting all references to disadvantaged groups. Grube and the seconder agreed. What was now left was the approach to equity that had already failed at OCA — i.e., that all other things being equal preference would be given to women.

After lengthy discussion and at the suggestion of Jim Coutts, the chair of council, it was moved and seconded that the issue of equity be tabled until November, 1990, the anniversary of its adoption, when a committee would be struck to review its progress. Council voted 10-8 in favour of the motion.

In March, 1990, because of the continuing controversy, OCA and the OCA faculty association jointly requested the Ontario Human Rights Commission to formally declare that “Equity 2000” satisfied the requirements of Section 13(1) of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The commission invited those who believed they would be adversely affected by such an order to make their case in writing. There were twenty-three submissions.

On June 26, 1990, the commission issued an order formally approving OCA’s employment-equity programme for women and requiring the college to proceed with phase two, its programme for other disadvantaged groups. At the end of one year, the college is to provide the commission with a detailed progress report on both phases.

Tbviously, OCA is not alone in its under-representation of women in the workplace. In 1986-87, only 17.4 per cent of full-time faculty in Ontario’s universities were women. Their salaries at each rank were from four to eight per cent lower than those for men at the same rank. Anomalies of a different kind are to be found in our elementary schools. Although the vast majority of public-school teachers in Canada are women, over seventy-five per cent of the principals are men. Women now occupy forty-three per cent of all federal-government jobs, but they hold only twelve per cent of the most senior positions. And over the entire work force, women earn less than two-thirds of the salaries of men.

It’s clear, says Julie Davis, secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour, that “no employer is going to stand up and say ‘I don’t want to hire women’ or ‘I don’t want to hire natives’ or ‘I don’t want to hire the disabled or racial minorities,’ but the reality is, they are not interested. The reality is that without legislation nothing will change.” That’s why the Alliance for Employment Equity, an umbrella organization for more than fifty groups, has been lobbying the Ontario government to introduce mandatory legislation.

A conservative friend rolls his eyes when we talk about equity. He argues that the ultimate in liberalism is the ultimate in legalism; there will eventually be a rule and/or a quota, he says, for everything. I know what he means. And I worry about that too. Yet the alternative — continuing with voluntary approaches — seems worse. People and institutions rarely change unless they have to.

Saturday Night, December 1990

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