October 23, 2006

Federal Government to Eliminate Workplace Equity Office
Service to be Delivered From Montreal 

In a decision that will have a negative impact on some of this country�s most vulnerable people and regions, the federal government is closing the Workplace Equity Office in Newfoundland and Labrador and moving the service to Montreal. Offices will also be shut down in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  

�This latest salvo from the federal government tells me very clearly that this government appears to have little appreciation for the struggles of women, people with disabilities, visible minorities and Aboriginal people to gain an equal foothold in society,� said The Honourable Joan Burke, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women and Minister of Education.  

Workplace Equity Officers work with employers on their obligations under the federal Legislated Employment Equity Act (LEEP) and the Federal Contractors Program to make sure women, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities and visible minorities have equal opportunities for employment.  

�By the end of March, the federal government will close its regional sites and try to deliver this service from Montreal through a single workplace equity office,� said Minister Burke. �It will be impossible for an office in Montreal to work with employers and companies on the ground in this province to ensure they are putting special measures in place and complying with LEEP and the Contractors Program. It won�t happen and I fear we will lose momentum in the effort to advance economic equality for women in Newfoundland and Labrador.� 

The Women�s Policy Office recently recommended that the number of workplace equity officers be increased in Newfoundland and Labrador. �We know that without monitoring and special orders, the reality is that most companies will not take the necessary steps to ensure a diversified workforce. In addition, we are facing a skills shortage in this province and we are working to increase women�s participation in non-traditional jobs. Rather than supporting this work, the federal government is, once again taking a direct hit at some of our most vulnerable people, just as it has done with the recent cuts to literacy programming, women�s equality work and the Community Access Program.�  

Minister Burke, in her capacity of chair of the Council of Minister�s of Education, Canada, will be in Ottawa for a meeting with Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. She will now seek meetings with MP�s Loyola Hearn, Fabian Manning and Norman Doyle as well as Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Canada to raise concerns about the closure of the Workplace Equity Office.  

The minister will be available to media prior to her departure for Ottawa.  

Media contact:
Jacquelyn Howard
Director of Communications
Department of Education
709-729-0048, 689-2624 

2006 10 23                                                        12:55 p.m. 

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