Diversity & Inclusion
Saskatchewan’s workplace equity policy hasn’t been updated in 22 years: auditor
Saskatchewan’s auditor says policy designed to eliminate barriers in government workplaces for people of colour or with disabilities hasn’t been updated in almost 22 years.
Tara Clemett said in a report covering the last six months of 2021 that the policy does not define workplace inclusion and includes outdated terminology when referring to people who are Indigenous, disabled or are women in unrepresented occupations.
She also found those groups were below employment targets set by the Saskatchewan Party government. Clemett said nine ministries didn’t have finalized diversity or inclusion plans for 2021-22.
She said of the 11,000 employees in government ministries, about 3.5 per cent were identified as disabled and 9.3 per cent as Indigenous.
A lack of workplace diversity within government institutions was also highlighted last week by a jury at the inquest into a young man’s death.
Samwel Uko, who was Black, drowned himself after being forcibly removed from a Regina hospital where he had come to seek mental-health care.
The inquest jury recommended that Saskatchewan train its health employees in diversity and give them paid time to review existing policy.
The government has yet to respond to the jury’s recommendations as it continues to review them.
Christian Mbanza, community outreach director for Black In Sask, said it’s important for racialized people to see themselves when accessing services, no matter the institution.
“Representation is important,” Mbanza said.
“Going into those places and seeing someone that looks like you, and can understand you, I think is a huge issue we need to talk about.”
Black In Sask has advocated for policy reform in institutions for years, but little has changed.
Mbanza said it’s going to be up to community members to speak out and force the changes to happen sooner rather than later.
“I understand change takes time, but I’d like to see policy reform and anti-racism training,” Mbanza said. “It’d go a long way in making people feel comfortable going into these institutions.”
Public Service Commission Minister Lori Carr was not available for comment.
A spokesperson for the commission, which oversees executive government policies and programs, said in a statement that it accepts the auditor’s recommendations and will improve in areas that were identified.
The government has its own inclusion strategy, which states diverse workplaces can lead to increased morale, less turnover and reduced sick leave.
Clemett said the strategy was updated last year, but it doesn’t measure progress or set a time frame for the government to meet its targets.
NDP jobs critic Aleana Young said racialized newcomers can have difficulty finding full-time employment. She said they can help fulfil the government’s own targets.
“It’s incredibly disappointing especially if you look at the challenges we’re going to have as a province, and a lot of the noise the government’s made about immigration and the need to grow our labour market,” Young said Tuesday.
“It’s not hard to see why we have some of the highest out-migration of new Canadians and newcomers in the province.”
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