As I have been taking a closer look at diversity in Governor in Council and judicial appointments, the gaps in the available data have become much clearer. Documents I received under the Access to Information Act revealed that while the Privy Council Office (PCO) has been systematically tracking representation of women and French/English speakers in these appointments, there has been limited tracking with respect to the other employment equity groups, that is, Indigenous peoples, visible minorities and persons with disabilities.

A number of the documents appear to reveal a certain scramble to prepare this data for the incoming Liberal government.

Figure 1 compares my earlier analysis, based upon the Governor in Council (GiC) appointment database as of April 2016, with PCO data of June 2015, for all GiC appointments (with the exception of judges). While the numbers for women are consistent (the small variance reflects a small difference in the actual date of the data), the disparities are particularly noticeable with respect to visible minorities and (to a lesser extent), Indigenous peoples. The PCO data are incomplete, reflecting the limited tracking the office has done with respect to these groups. For my research, I reviewed names, photographs, press releases and biographies in my appointment-by-appointment analysis.

Figure 1

Let’s take a look first at the data the PCO has collected on women’s representation, given the rigour and consistency of the data provided, before looking at the data for visible minorities and Indigenous peoples.


Commendably, tracking of women’s representation dates from 1990 with respect to all GiC appointments, that is, to: administrative tribunals, agencies/boards and officers of Parliament, Crown Corporations, departments (deputy ministers), head of mission diplomatic appointments, international organizations, and the Bench.

As of June 15, 2015, of a total of 2,859 appointments, 955, or 33.4 percent, were women. Figure 2 shows the percentage of women for each GiC category. Of note are the public service deputy-level appointments, which have the highest percentage of women, and diplomatic appointments, which have the lowest.

Figure 2

Apart from judges, whose tenure normally extends beyond the term or terms of a government, most other GiC appointments represent their overall record with respect to appointing women, since the Harper government’s tenure was close to 10 years.

The available documents show all appointments, except for judges, during the Harper government years, from 2006 to 2014 (figure 3).

Figure 4 shows judicial appointments by year for that period. Of the 1,174 judges appointed as of June 15, 2015, 398, or 33.9 percent, were women.

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5 looks at the percentage of women appointed by province as of the date the Liberal government came to power (nonjudicial appointments). New Brunswick and Manitoba have the lowest proportion of women GiC appointments, and Alberta, Nova Scotia, PEI and Yukon have the highest. “Other” refers to appointments outside of Canada (for instance, to international organizations).

Figure 5

The PCO has been tracking the number of women appointments since 1990, following the passage of the Employment Equity Act in 1986 by the Mulroney government. This long-term data shows how much women’s representation has improved for deputy ministers and judges, but there was not much change in administrative tribunals and agencies, and progress was mixed in Crown Corporations (figures 6 and 7).

Figure 6

Figure 7

The most consistent and sharpest increase has been with respect to judges, with more than a tripling of women’s representation (9.7 to 33.7 percent) across both the Jean ChrĂ©tien and Harper governments. Women’s representation among deputy ministers has more than doubled (from 17.3 to 39.8 percent): it fell during 1998-2002, and then climbed again.

Progress has been more uneven with respect to administrative tribunals, agencies and Crown Corporations. Appointments to administrative tribunals declined from 38 to 35.4 percent, mostly under Stephen Harper’s government. Appointments to agencies declined from 30.7 to 28.2 percent, there was an increase under the ChrĂ©tien government and there was a decline under the Harper government. Crown Corporation representation increased from 21.9 to 30 percent, particularly under the ChrĂ©tien government, before declining slightly under the Harper government.

Other employment equity groups

The documents released provide a breakdown by province and department for these groups. However, in some cases the totals do not match the breakdowns, a sloppiness that is uncharacteristic of PCO. This suggests a last-minute scramble to prepare for the Liberal transition and its “diversity and inclusion” agenda.

It appears clear that prior to the Trudeau government, there was neither political or senior bureaucratic direction to track the other employment equity groups to the same degree as for women. Given the government’s current emphasis on improving diversity in appointments, and making this a common commitment in ministerial mandate letters, this is probably changing. PCO should be tracking appointments for all employment equity groups, just as Treasury Board and departments track and report on this with respect to public servants. My recommendation is that government track new GiC appointments going forward, given that the vast majority of them (except judges) will be replaced over the course of the government’s mandate.

My second recommendation is that the government should, through PCO, commit to annual public GiC appointment reports covering all four groups to demonstrate its accountability for delivering on its overall and ministerial mandate letter commitments.


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