Federal affirmative action policy faces review

The federal government has ordered a review of its affirmative action policy one day after a woman complained that she couldn't apply for a public service position because she's Caucasian.

The federal government has ordered a review of its affirmative action policy one day after a woman complained that she couldn't apply for a public service position because she's Caucasian.

Sara Landriault of Kemptville, Ont., told the media Wednesday that she applied online for an administrative assistant job with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and was asked by the online application if she was white, aboriginal or a visible minority. When she answered white, she said a message informed her she did not meet the criteria and could no longer proceed.

Treasury Board President Stockwell Day said no Canadian should be barred from a federal job because of race or ethnicity.

"While we support diversity in the public service, we want to ensure that no Canadian is barred from opportunities in the public service based on race or ethnicity," Day said in a statement.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who was also involved in the decision to review the government's hiring practices, which give priority to qualified applicants from minority groups, said everyone should be considered for federal jobs.

"We are in favour of appropriate diversity in the public service and reasonable efforts to achieve it, but we don't think any Canadians should be excluded from applying within their government," he told CBC News. "It's OK to encourage people from different backgrounds to apply but in our judgment it goes too far to tell people that if they are not of a particular race or ethnicity they cannot apply [for a job] that is actually funded by their tax dollars."

But he said the review wouldn't affect any particular cases, including Landriault's.

Landriault, who is the founder of the International Family Childcare Association and has a picture of herself with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the association's website, said that no one from the government has contacted her since she went public with her story.

The government's latest figures show more women, aboriginal people and visible minorities worked in the public service in 2009 than the year before. The number of people with disabilities stayed the same in the same periods.

As of March 2009, women made up 54.7 per cent of the federal workforce, aboriginal people made up 4.5 per cent, people with disabilities made up 5.9 per cent and visible minorities made up 9.8 per cent.

With files from The Canadian Press