Capilano's multi-faceted equity and diversity practices - are they enough?
// Mike Conway

In 1995, Capilano College announced that it supported the concept of employment equity. In this memo, it stated that it would “ensure access to equal opportunity in terms of hiring and promotion … make such reasonable accommodation as will ensure an open workplace and a diverse workforce [and] affirm or establish process and policies which comply with the federal Employment Equity Act.”

Although this administrative memo was proactive in its goals, positively reacting to the newly created Employment Equity Act of Canada, since 1995 very few concrete means have occurred in order to ensure that the memo’s goals are being met. In its current employment procedures, Capilano University does aim to ensure their positions are widely available to anyone wishing to apply, but very little exists in terms of employment policy guaranteeing equitable hiring practices.

The memo, tucked away in the archives of Capilano’s website, originally stated that in order to adhere to the Equity Act, “these processes and policies will be developed using the Capilano College collegial model, and will be consistent with that model.” The memo is one of the few references to the Employment Equity Act by the administrators of the college/university.

Despite this affirmation to comply with the Employment Equity Act in 1995, little has been done to meet its requirements through process or policy – likely because as Capilano is not a federally regulated employer, it is not legally bound to the act.

Although not legally binding for the university, the Employment Equity Act is still an important piece of legislation. It requests that, when hiring, employers take into consideration offering equal opportunity and fair representation to a host of constituency groups which have been historically marginalized.

Currently, however, Capilano does not maintain detailed employment records, and has yet to establish a clear policy as a means to comply with the Employment Equity Act. Policies alone are not enough to promote equity and diversity, and although the institution aims to hire with equitable and inclusive policies, there is still much that can be done across the board.


The collegial model that the memo refers to is a model where “faculty and management personnel endeavour to work collectively to serve the overall best interest and needs of the College community,” as stated in the Capilano Faculty Association’s Collective Agreement. The collegial model was used by Capilano College from its very beginning, and this system of administration was then adopted by Capilano University after its formal transition into a university in 2008. The model supports the collective best interest by creating sub-administrations and committees to facilitate the organization of the university in order to best allow for the communication between faculty and administration.

Employment equity is also covered under the collegial model, within the Human Resources department at Capilano University, which oversees the fulfilment of the university’s ethics around hiring. “Capilano's mandate in hiring is: ‘Model equity and inclusivity, and be an employer of choice.’ We hire employees from many diverse ethnic backgrounds,” says Val Newman, Executive and Private Assistant of Human Relations at Capilano. “Employees are hired on their skills and abilities to perform the job.”

“Every single new position that comes up has to be reviewed, and vetted, and posted. We don’t do internal hiring, so everything must be published, and we have to go out to the market place,” says Kris Bulcroft, the President of Capilano University. “I believe we have a pretty well-developed system of advertising in places where you can find people who have the skills but also represent enough diversity in the labour force.”

Bulcroft addresses what she calls a “demographic bend” in the University, as it has an aging faculty and staff where many have been working in the University since the1980s when, according Bulcroft, “the population base in Vancouver was not as diverse as it was now, so if you just take a look at our data in terms of how many visible minorities or First Nations [are part of the faculty and staff], it’s probably not that many.”

However, there is not presently data collected at Capilano University regarding how many visible minorities, or First Nations employees are in the school. “We do not keep statistics presently on the hiring of different ethnic groups,” says Newman, “but hopefully when our system allows us to, we will be doing this.”


Although Capilano is not legally bound to the Employment Equity Act, there are other postsecondary institutions that have opted in to being legally bound by the legislation. These institutions, including SFU, UBC, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and the University of Victoria, have employment equity policies because they are participants in the Federal Contractors Program (FCP). The FCP is a federal program that ensures organizations that do business, or have (or seek) contracts with the Canadian government meet the standards within the Employment Equity Act, as federally-regulated employers.

The standards of the Employment Equity Act are high, and specific, in their attempt to bring equity and quality to the workplace for four historically disadvantaged groups: women, people with disabilities, Aboriginal people, and visible minorities. The Employment Equity Act has specific requirements that must be met by an employer, such as the creation and implementation of a detailed equity plan, which includes gathering employment statistics, and the setting of three-year target goals in order to better understand how well their organization is doing. These organizations must then report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which will assess whether or not they are doing enough to meet the intention of the act.

These institutions participating in FCP are also aiming to ensure everyone has the opportunity to understand how employment equity works in their respective schools. The “Frequently Asked Questions” sections in almost all of the Employment Equity policies allow for individuals, or future employees, to understand the framework around Employment Equity, while also answering questions concerning more complex issues such as how employment equity avoids reverse discrimination, or why it is important to keep detailed employment records. The government does not impose quotas for hiring members of the four designated groups; instead, they leave it to the university to set out future target goals.

Despite the fact that Capilano College, in 1995, pledged itself to the federal Employment Equity Act, it is not participating member in the FCP, and is therefore not legally bound to the policies or goals of the Act in any way. Capilano University is covered under the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, which is more reactive than proactive in its approach to human rights and employment equity. The BCHR Tribunal sets out rules and definitions that all employers must abide by. Unlike the federal Employment Equity Act, the BCHR Tribunal sets no target goals, no long-term plans, nor the need for detailed employment statistics; in fact, there is little mention of the four designated constituency groups specifically at all.


David Kirk, Capilano University’s First Nations advisor, can agree with Bulcroft’s point of potentially misleading employment data: “I don’t know if we actually have a specific employment equity policy, but I know we always try to hire people from those groups,” he says. “The biggest challenge for Aboriginal people is that we have a huge number of students who drop out of high school, yet alone go on to post-secondary; I mean, our students make up a very small percentage in the school population.”

Kirk points out that in specifically, in order to understand employment equity for Aboriginal people in Capilano University or any other institution, people must understand the challenges young Aboriginal people face.

He elaborates, “For a faculty position at
Capilano University, you need a Masters degree,” says Kirk. “[But] many Aboriginal youth struggle to finish high school, yet alone get a PhD like you need at UBC or SFU. That’s one of the biggest barriers. So really, a university can make as many policies as they want, but when a group of people are struggling to get into post-secondary for a number of reasons, policies alone won’t make a huge difference.”

“As far as equity goes here at Capilano, of course, policy would always help, and it does make a difference, but the reality is when you don’t have enough Aboriginal people going into post-secondary and getting degrees, that may be the biggest challenge to finding equity. This is an issue for all post-secondary institutions, you can create all the policy you want, but it may not make a difference.”

Maureen Bracewell, director of Women’s Studies at Capilano University, feels that women are well-treated, and has never personally witnessed discrimination based on sex. She did, however, warn, “As I do not know the incidence [or] rate of complaints of, for example, sexual harassment, or gender discrimination, I am concerned that I might misrepresent the actual situation. My observations are primarily positive.”

Jan Shiell, the Advisor and Assessment Specialist for Disability Services and Student Assessment Services, has a similar outlook to Bracewell’s in regards to how people with disabilities are treated in the university, that being quite positive, albeit anecdotal.


Capilano University does have an Equity and Diversity Committee, which is in line with the collegial model. The Capilano Students’ Union’s website states that the committee “acts as a resource for the college concerning equity, diversity, and human rights legislation and issues; works to promote the values of inclusiveness and diversity in the college as a workplace and as a community; and makes recommendations for programs, projects, and services delivery in the area of equity, diversity, and human rights.”

One such way of meeting these goals is by working with the Sexual Harassment Committee and Keiran Simons, the current Conflict Resolution Advisor, to confidentially and effectively resolve interpersonal conflicts involving sexual/discriminatory harassment and bullying. The Conflict Resolution Advisor has been publishing a special report since 2007 that details how many complaints are lodged, and in what manner they are handled (for example, what sort of mediation was used). It also details the types of complaints and who they are between. Each year is then compared with the statistics of the previous seven years.

“We actually have a pretty robust system if people feel they are being discriminated against, mistreated, or harassed,” says Bulcroft. “Keiran Simons is there to deal with people who feel they have a grievance. He’s there for students and faculty alike. I’m very proud that Capilano has invested in this.”

The current model at Capilano University creates sufficient sub-administrations so as to address human relations issues as they arise; and, according to the special reports published by the various Conflict Resolution Advisors, these issues have been recorded, and handled in a seemingly appropriate manner. However, there is very little communication between these sub-administrations, the faculty, and the administration on the topic of how equity policy exists within Capilano University.

The pledge to meet the requirements of the federal Employment Equity Act in 1995, now 17 years ago, remains unmet in many areas, as the requirements would, according to the Employment Equity Act itself, necessitate a more cohesive equity policy, an equity plan, and more detailed employment statistics than Capilano University employs presently. Capilano University does not have any form of tracking to make sure it hires enough people that, in the words of Bulcroft, “represent enough diversity in the labour force,” because it doesn’t have to, according to the law.

There may still be a number of improvements that can be made upon the policy regarding employment equity. Despite the best efforts of faculty and administration, there is no definite way to be sure if the university is doing its best to ensure employment equity, nor is there a clear way to make sure the university’s hiring practices are the best practice possible.

Other universities across Canada have clear policies in place that Capilano University does not; however, the existence of committees and projects relevant to equity and diversity implies that Capilano does have some intention to guarantee diversity and equity in their institution. The question that now remains is how much further Capilano will go with equity and diversity, and if they will take the next step and ensure that equity is intertwined in every aspect of the institution’s policies and practices, regardless of whether or not they are held accountable to it by law.

//Mike Conway, writer
//Graphics and cover by Chris Dedinsky

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