Visible Minority - Legislative Versus Operational Definitions

Legislative Versus Operational Definitions

According to the Employment Equity Act of 1995, the definition of visible minority is:

“members of visible minorities” means persons, other than aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour;

The act does not elaborate on the subject other than specify that Caucasians or whites are not classified as visible minorities. The Canadian government uses an operational definition where they classify as visible minorities the following groups: Blacks, Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, Latin Americans, Pacific Islanders, South Asians, and West Asians/Arabs. However, a few exceptions are applied to some groups, according to the explanation given by the Visible Minority Population and Population Group Reference Guide of the 2006 Census, the exception is:

"In contrast, in accordance with employment equity definitions, persons who reported 'Latin American' and 'White,' 'Arab' and 'White,' or 'West Asian' and 'White' have been excluded from the visible minority population. Likewise, persons who reported 'Latin American,' 'Arab' or 'West Asian' and who provided a European write-in response such as 'French' have been excluded from the visible minority population as well. These persons are included in the 'Not a visible minority' category. However, persons who reported 'Latin American,' 'Arab' or 'West Asian' and a non-European write-in response are included in the visible minority population."

The term “non-white” is used in the wording of the Employment Equity Act and in employment equity questionnaires distributed to applicants and employees. This is intended as a shorthand phrase for those who are in the Aboriginal and/or visible minority groups. In this context, the use of the term non-white does open the door to ambiguity. For example, people who are Arabs or Latin Americans or even some South Asians may consider themselves to be white, yet the federal government treats Arabs and Latin Americans as members of the visible minority category.

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