COLUMN

Another threat to freedom in Ontario

The proposed employment equity act is true racism that makes the Third Reich’s Nuremberg laws look benign

BARBARA AMIEL July 20 1992
COLUMN

Another threat to freedom in Ontario

The proposed employment equity act is true racism that makes the Third Reich’s Nuremberg laws look benign

BARBARA AMIEL July 20 1992

Another threat to freedom in Ontario

COLUMN

The proposed employment equity act is true racism that makes the Third Reich’s Nuremberg laws look benign

BY BARBARA AMIEL

I don’t know whether George Orwell’s Animal Farm is compulsory reading in Ontario high schools. I rather suspect not. If it were, perhaps the citizens of Ontario—black and white, male and female, handicapped and able-bodied, old, middle-aged, clever, ordinary, wealthy, poor, of Indian, European, Middle Eastern and Oriental extraction—might show a bit of backbone in fighting the virus that has infected their province.

That virus has two nasty strands: divisive envy and pressure-group politics. The latest outbreak comes with the Ontario government’s proposed employment equity legislation, which requires any business with over 50 employees to draw up a plan to make sure the correct number of “aboriginal people, people with disabilities, members of racial minorities and women in the community” are reflected in the workplace. As the Toronto Globe and Mail pointed out in a recent editorial, the definitions and fine-tuning opportunities here for our bureaucrats are marvellous: how do dark-skinned Turks rate as a minority compared with darkskinned Israelis or Palestinians? Two points for being a Moslem and one point for being a Jew, perhaps?

The bill would bring into being an employment equity commission to monitor the plans and to take complaints from disgruntled people. (Encouraging citizens to become resentful crybabies is a symptom of the virus.) The stand all decent people ought to take is clear. Every Ontarian, upon being asked to become collaborators in this, the extinction of equality in their province, should refuse to fill out the forms that the new act will require. Since filling out the forms is voluntary, this one moment of defiance will not even incur a penalty.

Let me return to Animal Farm for a moment. The book begins with the dream of an old boar named Major, who sees a golden future in which man the oppressor is thrown out, all animals unite and are equal. His vision inspires the animals to drive the farmers and human beings off their farm.

But power gradually becomes centralized in the hands of the pigs, who become a bureaucracy cushioned with perks and distanced from the ordinary lives of the other animals. At the conclusion of the book, the pigs end up as the new oppressors in a puritanical, sexless society, killing dissidents and liberty in the name of social justice. As for all the ethical precepts that were behind the revolution, the terrorized animals are faced with only one single commandment: “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”

The parallel with what is happening in Ontario cannot be lost on anyone reading the employment equity bill. Equality is indivisible—people cannot have a little equality, or even greater equality than other people. You are either equal or unequal. And because human beings are intrinsically unequal in terms of their gifts, aspirations, goals and values, all a decent society can do is make sure every human being has equality of opportunity.

If you are not blinded by racism, you will see immediately that one cannot expect the ethnic and racial composition of society to be mirrored in jobs and achievement. People are individuals first, not members of a group. They do well or badly according to their own person-

al qualities, not the pigment of their skin. The idiocy of the bill becomes clear if we look at school exams: everyone writes the same exam paper, but unless you put a fix in, people will end up with different exam results. There is no way to guarantee equality of result without being unfair to the person that got the best result fairly.

For me, arguing against employment equity is rather like arguing against anti-Semitism. To ask citizens to register their race, gender, ethnic origins and handicap so that promotions, layoffs, part-time work, contract work, terminations and hiring correctly reflect the number of status Indians, non-status Indians, Inuits, blacks, blind people and so on—not to mention all other categories—makes the Third Reich’s Nuremberg laws look benign.

This proposed act is true racism. It proceeds from an entirely false premise and utter ignorance of the world of real work: namely, the notion that business would operate against its own interests and ignore a talented or able workforce because of prejudice. If some businesses are silly enough to ignore hiring good workers because they are black or female, they will pay the price and be outdone by the competition. No business wants to selfdestruct.

The proposed legislation tries to cover its attack on individual liberty, and the right of employers to run their businesses as they see fit, with the excuse that it is only establishing voluntary “goals,” not quotas. But attached to this is the stick of contract compliance. The tragedy of all this is evident. Businesses in Ontario are already suffering under the combined horror of the NDP’s labor and taxation policies as well as the recession. If we now create an entirely new layer of bureaucracy and force business to enact this most recent bit of political correctness, we will further cripple (oops, handicap) those companies trying to survive in Ontario and discourage new business from coming.

But the real fallacy behind the NDP worldview is the following: people are not simply aboriginals or women, blacks or wheelchair occupants. They Uve many lives in one. They are wives, husbands and daughters as well as ethnic-group members. The black woman whose white husband is turned down for a promotion loses; the wife whose husband’s business is ruined by this expensive program loses; the wheelchair occupant who replaces a female receptionist with three children creates another injustice and set of victims. These terrible NDP commissars seem not to care a damn about replacing one wrong with another. They have their dream, their vision of social justice in which, yup, some people are more equal than others.

It will all come to tears, group against group, resentment and institutionalized inequality. And as for Bob Rae’s government, well, Orwell’s last lines in Animal Farm deal with that. The browbeaten barnyard inhabitants look at their leaders, the pigs, “from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”