Premier vows to act after report shows Quebec falls far short of targets for hiring of visible minorities

The 127-page report, released Tuesday by the Quebec Human Rights Commission, found that in 2019, 6.3 per cent of public sector employees are visible minorities, who make up 13 per cent of the overall population.

Lack of progress in hiring racialized people is evidence of 'systemic discrimination,' says Myrlande Pierre

Myrlande Pierre, vice-president of the Quebec Human Rights Commission, said the lack of representation of visible minorities in the province's public sector amounts to 'systemic racism.' (Ville de Montréal)

Quebec Premier François Legault is promising to take concrete steps to combat racism and diversify the provincial government workforce after a report found that the lack of progress in bringing visible minorities into the government is evidence of "systemic discrimination."

The 127-page report, released Tuesday by the Quebec Human Rights Commission, found that in 2019, 6.3 per cent of public sector employees in the province were visible minorities.

That's more than double what it was a decade earlier, when that figure was 2.7 per cent. However, the government would have to once again more than double its hiring of visible minorities to reflect the actual demographic make-up of Quebec, where 13 per cent of the population are visible minorities.

"We are talking about systemic discrimination, clearly, and that refers to systemic racism," said Myrlande Pierre, the commission's vice-president responsible for the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Hiring of Indigenous people hasn't budged in a decade

The commission works with each public sector employer to set a target for visible minority representation, a calculation that's based on the availability of qualified non-white labour in each sector and each region.

Overall, the public sector would need to hire 26,307 people from visible minorities to reach a target of 10.4 per cent representation. 

In the provincial police force, for example, 42 of 5,500 employees are visible minorities. The Sûreté du Québec would have to hire another 112 people who are visible minorities simply to reach its goal of 2.8 per cent.

At the provincial liquor board, the SAQ, only 122 of its 7,500 employees are visible minorities — or 1.6 per cent — although that's three times more than in 2013. 

The representation of Indigenous people in the public sector15.7 p was 0.3 per cent in 2019 — precisely what it was a decade earlier, in 2009. 

Big strides at Hydro-Québec, says utility

According to the newly released report, at Hydro-Québec, just 3.7 per cent of employees are visible minorities. 

But the publicly owned utility said Wednesday in a news release that figure is outdated, and that it remains committed to hiring more employees from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds. Hydro-Québec said as of the end of 2019, it had 1,266 employees who are visible minorities, compared to the 706 mentioned in the commission's report.

Taken together, visible and ethnic minorities now account for 8.2 per cent of the utility's employees, which is an increase of 52 per cent since 2015, Hydro-Québec said. In the region of Montreal, visible and cultural minorities now account for 15.7 per cent of its personnel, the utility said.

New targets promised by premier

Legault says he recognizes there is an underrepresentation of visible minorities in provincial bodies. 

"We must take action. It must be part of our mandate, and we must give ourselves concrete targets for future hires," Legault said. Those targets will be announced in the coming days, he said. 

Legault says he's also working to tackle racism in general — though he has said repeatedly that systemic racism is not an issue in Quebec.

With files from Radio-Canada