When the Harper government announced its intent to make 54 of the 62 questions on the long census form voluntary, Harper and Tony Clement claimed that it was to protect people’s privacy from invasive questions. I, like many businesses, academics, politicians, government agencies, and rationally minded citizens, felt that explanation seemed… lacking, which made me suspicious of Harper’s actual motivations.
One month later, while the controversy over the census rages on, the CPC announces that they intend to “review” the government’s hiring policy in regards to affirmative action.
So Harper has modified the census so that it will be harder to determine if there is racially based discrimination in the job market, then he seeks to remove a program designed to combat the same problem.
The only way privacy makes sense as an explanation for the changes to the census is if it refers to the government’s “right” to enact legislation in private, without “interference” by the opposition, media, and non-white Canadians.
But let’s step away from minorities and look at other parts of the long form census that are being made voluntary.
How much unpaid childcare work do you do?
How much unpaid housework do you do?
Take a deep breath because I know that those questions are SOOOO intrusive that it leaves me hyperventilating while having a stroke, heart attack, and cancer all at once.
These questions are designed to determine how housework and childcare are divided between partners in a marriage. So it’s looking at how much of these activities are done by women instead of or in addition to working a job.
I bring this up because of Harper’s decision in 2009 to make pay equity for women in government jobs ‘negotiable’ and prevent employees from filing human rights claims for pay equity. Women make less money than men on average and in many cases less for doing the same job as a man. Now there’s an amusing Neo-con counter argument that I’ve been hearing lately goes something like, “If women make less for doing the same job as a man, then why aren’t employers getting rid of their male staff to save money?”
However, both of these are true. But this is too much for Neo-Cons to accept: it must be that one piece of data is wrong; it can’t be that there’s a separate reason that explains both. In this case it’s because of existing discriminating practices and mindsets in the job market.
The underlying presumption is that one day women are going to go off have kids and then have to devote their time to caring for them. Therefore, it’s not worth the investment to give raises or promotions to women. The reverse of this is that men will continue to be the primary source of income to his family and will stay in the workplace longer and be less encumbered by the responsibilities than mommy.
This is sexism, it’s not active, like saying ‘women don’t deserve the right to vote,’ it’s passive and systemic. Canada, like almost all Western societies, presume that this is what’s going to happen because it is ‘normal,’ but why is it normal, is there something wrong with what’s normal, and is there a better way?
These are questions that Harper isn’t asking, and apparently doesn’t want others to think about either. He, like his neo-con pals, is apparently invested in reverting Canada to an idealized and not entirely accurate view of the past that not only preserves white male privilege but enhances it. Harper masks this view by claiming that hard work should be the only factor that determines who should get a job. If the quality and dedication of one’s efforts was the only thing that decides who gets hired, a raise, or a promotion, then I don’t think that anyone would argue with this goal.
But it’s not. People have biases and preconceptions, there are factors other than our dedication that determine how hard and how much we can work. There are things in this world that prevent honest and hard working people from being successful no matter their efforts.
When the cost of maintaining a family is so high that both parents have to work, who is going to have the time to raise their children?
When a person is suffering from a mental illness, but can’t afford to take the time to get help; or can’t afford to pay for their medication to allow them to work in a better paying job; how can you expect them to escape their destitution?
When a minority misses out on getting a job, a loan, or housing because of individual or social bigotry, how will any amount of hard work overcome being denied the opportunity to prove oneself?
As a progressively minded individual, conservatives have accused me of being out of touch with reality, of just not getting it. If this is the case, why does the scientifically collected facts and data almost always end up showing that there is racism, sexism, ablism, and many other factors other than hard work that inhibit and prevent new immigrants, the poor, women, and minorities from succeeding?Why is it that the Harper is moving to get rid of virtually all questions on the census that provide information about these topics? If what he’s saying is true, then he should be able to prove it with the data. Inversely if he isn’t showing the data and moreover is trying to hide and prevent others from getting the facts, what conclusion should we arrive at?