Wednesday, December 6, 2017


The last post on this blog was entitled “CBC’s farcical Diversity and Inclusion plan” – when it comes to employing people with disabilities.  Since Canada instituted the Employment Equity Act , more than 30 years ago, federal corporations (like the CBC) and federal contractors have been required to establish and meet employment goals for women, visible minorities, indigenous peoples and Canadians with disabilities. It seems a reasonable expectation for a corporation that receives over a billion dollars annually of federal government funding. The CBC has consistently failed to meet even the most modest of goals when it comes to disabilities. 

The MediaPerspective post prior to the one mentioned above was published on November 18th 2017 and appeared under the title “CBC’s Persistent Bigotry.” It chronicled my experience and observations of Canada’s publicly funded broadcaster’s resistance to employ Canadian with disabilities in anything but the most menial of tasks over the past 3 decades.  

The CBC published a document called INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY: 2015-2018) PLAN. It begins with a message CBC President and CEO Hubert T. Lacroix, Executive Vice President of English Services, Heather Conway, and Executive Vice President of French Services, Louis Lalande. Their message stated that the
‘Inclusion and Diversity’ document is the latest effort in a 5 year
strategy they refer to as A Space for Us All.  They stated the strategy “aims to be the public space at the heart of our conversation and experience as Canadians.” These most senior executives continued:

“Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) is integral to achieving this vision, as it highlights the importance of including a range of faces, voices, experiences and perspectives in our content and workplace. The public broadcaster must be relevant to and representative of the population it serves.[1]  [my emphasis added]

I found these comments reassuring in theory, disappointing in practice. Messrs. Lacroix and Lalande and Mme Conway, as the most senior executives, may have such a commitment but somehow it hasn’t filtered down to managers, executive producers, casting directors or others who actually do the hiring.  The Inclusion and Diversity Plan illustrates the utter failure to meet targets to hire and retain people with disabilities, across various every levels of the CBC.  I am left to conclude that a persistent bigotry against the idea of disabled employees is still firmly embedded in the workings of CBC beneath the President and Vice-Presidents. This absence of disabled employees persists despite a number of training and networking activities being developed.  These include:

·      a development workshop for diverse content creators, providing participants with the tools and resources they need to develop their own pitches for original programming. Has the workshop actually been developed? If so, who developed it? Were the developers of the workshop experienced with issues and barriers faced by Canadians with disabilities. How often was the workshop presented to CBC staff? What follow-up occurred to reinforced the content of the workshop?
·      A yearly networking event that focuses on facilitating connections between emerging diverse talent, experienced creators, decision makers and our production partners.  Was there only one yearly networking event? Did “facilitating connections between emerging talent” include emerging talent with disabilities? If so, how many? Were emerging talented people with disabilities actually connected with experienced creators and decision and/or the CBC production partners? If so, how many? What were the results?
·      A working group on diversity in drama series, bringing together all levels of the industry. Was the working group established? If so, who established it and who makes up this working group? Was this group the Joint Employment Equity Committee (JEET) mentioned on page 6? How active and proactive are they at bringing together all levels of the industry to benefit disabled actors, broadcasters, writers, film-makers, etc.[2]

The preamble of the Inclusion and Diversity Plan mentions that there have been a number of CBC-led initiatives targeting specific communities, such as:

Ø “A new learning journey at Radio-Canada to encourage the hiring of more Aboriginal employees within News and Current Affairs and similarly, at CBC, we are working with our Aboriginal unit and leadership across the country to improve recruitment and internship opportunities.” Excellent! Was the same thing done to encourage hiring employees with disabilities? Is there a disabilities unit at CBC similar to the Aboriginal unit? If not, why not?
Ø “Coordinated, multiplatform programming for targeted vents, such as our [CBC] initiatives surrounding Black History Month.” This is good in the area of visible minorities. Did the CBC give similar attention to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities? Did coordinated multi-platform programming happen for Canadians with Disabilities?

If the aim of the CBC is to be relevant and representative of Canada’s population, then that should be reflected not only in their programming but also in their own workforce. According to Statistics Canada, nearly 14 percentage of Canada’s population over 15 years of age have disabilities. The targets and goals for CBC employees with disabilities should reflect this.  By extension, a similar representation of Canadians with disabilities should be reflected in News, Current Affairs and dramatic programming, including on-air presence.

Page 5 of the I&D Plan states, under the title PROGRESS ACHIEVED, that CBC’s human resources department (called People and Culture) focuses on “attracting, recruiting and developing a diverse workforce.” Apparently they have a team to help foster a culture of inclusion. (I can hardly wait until they start!)  They claim, “The Corporation’s workforce became increasingly diverse over the last three years, as did the Canadian population.” Nice words, but “the Plan” later confessed that:

“Aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities – saw marginal increases in representation. However, important representation gaps remain in those two groups. Barring a concerted recruitment and hiring effort, existing gaps for three out of four designated groups may remain.” [My emphasis added]

It seems that not much progress was actually achieved. What sort of
review and adaptation of the plan has occurred since 2015 to improve this disappointing reality?  What response did JEET have to improve recruitment of employees with disabilities?

Table 2 – WORKFORCE ANALYSIS BY EMPLOYMENT EQUITY OCCUPATIONAL GROUP, to 31 December 2014, reveals employment levels for employees with disabilities:

Senior Managers, middle and other managers = 1.3%
Professionals = 1.4%
Semi-professionals and technicians = 2.3%
Supervisors = 0%
Administrative and Senior clerical = 0%
Skilled crafts and trade workers = 0%
Clerical personnel = 2.7%
Intermediate sales and services = 0%
Semi-skilled manual workers = 0%
Other sales and service personnel = 0%

The Corporation's employees with disability across Canada represent a mere 1.7% of their workforce.  Perhaps a “concerted recruitment and hiring effort” is needed.


In this latest document to the federal government, more current information is presented. There’s little improvement, after the smoke and mirrors of the document are cleared away. It’s designed to cast the CBC’s dismal performance in the best possible light.  The report stated that CBC/Radio-Canada increased its representation rate in all designated groups during 2016. Wonderful! Then they revealed that the results for the four designated groups under the Employment Equity Act: (Women, visible minorities, indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities.)

Women fared best representing 57.2% of new hires and 55% of promotions for 2016. Visible minorities also fared fairly well representing 19.1% of new hires, which CBC claimed was above their representation rate. Disabilities represented 2.3% of new hires.

Keep in mind that any minuscule increases in disability hires were for one year of a 5 year strategy. This should be viewed in the context of more than 30 years of the Employment Equity Actbeing in force! By now, their workforce should resemble and represent the population (see footnote #1 of this post).

A subset within CBC’s A Space For Us All strategy is necessary that focuse on disabilities. Begin by increasing a nation-wide on-air presence of people with disabilities. Role models and examples are needed to inspire young people with disabilities to consider broadcasting and acting. In television and dramatic programming visible disabilities should be purposely cast for the same reason. Other strategies are included in Footnote #2. 

Although not included in employment equity targets, there must also be a general openness within the CBC to contracting seniors to developing and presenting programming to and for issues impacting seniors, including disability that increases with age. 

According to the 2016 federal census 16.9% of Canada’s population are 65 or older. If representation and inclusion are as important to the CBC as they claim, they should have about that much programming dedicated to issues impacting seniors – including increasing disability with advancing age.
All of this ties back to something I quoted at the beginning of this post that CBC’s President and Vice Presidents of English and French Services said: “The public broadcaster must be relevant to and representative of the population it serves.” Indeed it must. But it requires a significant shift in CBC’s corporate culture and collective mindset to actively embrace the inclusion of people with disabilities across the organization, at every level. Under-representation (or absence) of employees with disabilities across the spectrum of CBC, News and Current Affairs and programming cannot continue. The problem is systemic. 

While I was preparing this post I received an disheartening email from CBC’s Values and Ethics Commissioner. She wrote, “The allegations in your email are broad ones. If you have a specific complaint regarding the behavior of one of our employees, please indicate the nature of the complaint you want to make and send us specific details.” She doesn’t get it! The Commissioner of values and ethics does not understand that the problem is not with a person  per se -- the problem systemic. And that involves corporate values and ethics at a fundamental level. I am not pointing at an individual. I am accusing the CBC of a long-standing and continuing anti-disability prejudice. The CBC needs to change to reflect the reality of our Canadian mosaic that includes people with disabilities as integral, contributing and valued members of society and the Corporation.

Words like diversity and inclusion ring hollow if they are not backed up with action and do not reflect in the numbers. 

Mark Davis Pickup

[1] Women represent 50.4% of Canada’s population (17.2 million); Visible minorities represent 19.1% of Canada’s population (6.2 million), Immigration and Ethnocultural Representation In Canada, Statistics Canada: ; Canada’s indigenous population makes up 4.3%  of the population (1.4 million people),; Canada’s disabled population represents 13.7% of the population (3.8 million),

[2] I am aware that the pool of talent amongst the disabled population may be small and/or have inadequate training. This is where “facilitating” becomes important. Be pro-active. This may involve apprenticeships and internships, job shadowing, on-the-job training, seat purchase in radio and television arts programs at post-secondary institutions such as Ryerson, Mount Royal College in Calgary, Radio and Television Art (Edmonton and Calgary), cooperative work programs, etc.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


My previous post was entitled "CBC'S PERSISTENT BIGOTRY." It dealt with the CBC's deliberate and dismal record of not employing people with disabilities. My focus was primarily on television reporters, anchors and other on-air presence of broadcasters with disabilities. However, there's nothing close to reasonable representation anywhere across Mother Corp., from senior management to basic clerical positions.

[In terms of on-air disability presence, my previous post did not specifically deal with dramatic and comedy productions such as Murdoch Mysteries, Heartland, Anne and Schitt's Creek. You will notice they don't have characters with disabilities.]

for 2015- 2018. The document's preamble is written by Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO of CBC, Heather Conway, Executive Vice-President, English Services and Louis LaLande, Executive Vice President, French Services. They  state they support inclusion and diversity in programming and show cycles "from idea development through production and post-broadcast measurement." They continued: 

"Having a diverse workforce, including our management team, allows us to capture the aspirations of all groups that make up our social fabric. We know we still have a lot of work to do, but we are confident that the Inclusion and Diversity Plan 2015-2018 will lay a foundation for our success as Canada's public broadcaster."

Really? Even senior management? In their most up-to-date employment table 2 in the Inclusion and Diversity Plan, entitled "CBC/Radio Canada WORKFORCE
ANALYSIS BY EMPLOYMENT EQUITY OCCUPATIONAL GROUP for 2014, the best they could muster for senior managers and middle managers was 1.3%. The dismal stats and unattained goals for a workforce that includes employees with disabilities makes their hollow words an embarrassment. Apparently the aspirations of people with disabilities are not included in CBC's "social fabric".

Mother Corp's Inclusion and Diversity plan acknowledges that,  

"... Aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities saw marginal increases in representation. However, important representation gaps remain for those two groups. Barring a concerted recruitment and hiring effort, existing gaps for three out of four groups will remain." 

With regards to employees with disabilities, they say employment advances were "marginal"?  I prefer the word minuscule. The Inclusion and Diversity Plan shows that as of December 2011, employees with disabilities at CBC was only 1.5% of staff. Three years later the number nudged up ever so slightly to 1.7%.  A 0.2% increase over three years is minuscule. The CBC is falling far behind in their goal of 4.6% for that time period. Perhaps it is time for "concerted recruitment and hiring effort" -- there's only one year left in CBC's INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY PLAN. 

The Inclusion and diversity plan for 2015-2018 is a farce. The CBC is not attaining their own pathetic goals. They are only half way toward their 2018 goal for the category that includes on-air staff with disabilities and only 1.7% of their total workforce represents employees with disabilities. Their goal is 4.4%. Quite simply, the CBC is not anywhere close to their own goals.

Apparently The Plan is reviewed by the CBC's Vice President of People and Culture, currently Monique Marcotte, and her staff, as
well as what they have dubbed their Joint Employment Equity Committee made up of stakeholders. Their implementation and monitoring strategy is failing.

Things have not improved much since I was involved nearly 30 years ago. The CBC has a very selective and partial version of inclusion and diversity. Actions may speak louder than words -- but so does inaction.

Hubert T. LaCroix
CBC's President & CEO
Changing reality requires a change of hearts and thinking beginning at the at the top with the President and CEO, then trickling down to Vice Presidents, then senior manager and executive producers, and so forth.

Inclusion and diversity are more than statistics, percentages, and goals which are simple quantitative and hopefully qualitative tools of measurement. Dedication to inclusion and diversity begins in the human heart and works out. 

It is a blazing truth that people behave as they think; beliefs should govern their thinking and reflect in their actions. But not to act is to act. It is high time for the CBC to illustrate through hiring, training and retention of employees with disabilities, it's ongoing commitment to the very inclusion and diversity they espouse.

Mark Davis Pickup

Saturday, November 18, 2017


CBC's new anchors for the
National News: left - right
Rosemary Barton, Andrew Chang,
Adrienne Arsenault, Ian Hanomansiing
Ever mindful of progressive sensibilities, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has unveiled a new approach toThe National news. They have four, count 'em, four co-anchors. There's a gender balance and a visible ethnic balance to represent Canada's multiculturalism. They did not, however, include in the co-anchor mix a Canadian with a disability or First Nations. I will focus on disability because that is my experience. 

The CBC receives well over $1.2-billion annually in federal taxpayers' funding. For many years I have unsuccessfully advocated an increase in disability employment at the CBC — especially with its on-air presence. After all, over 10 percent of working age Canadians (2.3 million) have a disability.[1]

Up until 1991, I worked for the Canadian federal Commission charged with promoting employment equity in the workplace for Canadians with disabilities. One of the worst of offenders of disability employment discrimination was the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Every year the federal human rights commission filed its annual report in the Canadian parliament showing the CBC failed BOMBED with flying colours to meet expectations of federal corporations to hire and retain people with disabilities under the Employment Equity Act. 

I could not persuade senior management of the CBC Alberta/NWT region to consider qualified disabled workers for a broad spectrum of employment across the CBC. They were resistant to the point of obstinacy (particularly when it came to the idea of television broadcasters). Never mind broadcasters, they just could not imagine the possibility of including skilled disabled writers, researchers, producers, directors, editors, and particularly NOT television reporters and anchors. 

Year after year, the federally funded CBC failed to meet expectations for an internal workforce that reflected the mosaic of Canadian society. This was particularly true with regard to disability. 

My training and experience prior to my disability included television and radio so I convinced my Commission to offer me on secondment to the CBC for a year to work with a program team as a radio writer/researcher (start modestly). Of course the CBC bit, it was free labour for them. It was an opportunity for me to infiltrate the ranks, so to speak, and encourage them to look past disability. They would not. They seemed to think they were above accountability. 

Even after the year's secondment, and glowing performance reviews of my work, senior management remained resistant to the point of defiance to consider employment equity for qualified disabled workers. At the end of the year I met with Alberta/NWT senior management for debriefing. They admitted that I proved to be a valued employee who only required minor workplace accommodation. They admitted their dismal employment record for disability--they could not deny the horrible statistics--particularly with television reporters/anchors. One executive cynically mused about getting employees who wear eyeglasses to identify as disabled to get their numbers up (snicker-snicker).

One manager said, "A reporter in a wheelchair would be distracting to viewers." I responded, "Initially, perhaps, but I think you underestimate your viewers' ability to accept difference.They simply want the news and quality programming." I reminded them there was a time in the 1960s when the same argument was used against women reporters and anchors.

An uncomfortable program executive feigned openness to the idea and said, "Well, I suppose we could hide their wheelchair behind a desk or take waist-up shots." I replied: "Why are you presuming a wheelchair, and secondly why would you hide a person's disability?"

Another producer erupted, "This is bullshit!" He stood, threw his file on the conference table, and stormed out of the room. The meeting ended shortly after that. 

Patrick Watson
President of CBC
It was clear that I failed to break through a corporate culture that discriminated against considering qualified disabled people across a full spectrum of employment opportunities. (What was ironic was that the national President of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation at  the time was an amputee (Patrick Watson)).

In fairness to the CBC, a month or two after I returned to my regular position with the employment commission, I received a call from a senior CBC executive in Toronto about a new series they were developing to explore issues of Canadians with disabilities. They wanted me to consider hosting it. The CBC flew me to Ottawa to meet with the executive producer for the proposed show to discuss the idea of a 13-week pilot on their newly established news channel. It was hardly attractive. They offered me half my salary and I would have to unroot my young family and move to Ottawa for the tenuous prospect of hosting a show that could easily end after 13 weeks (which happened). I turned down the offer. 
Why was I persistent in my push for the CBC to consider disabled broadcasters? Young people with disabilities needed (and still do) positive role models in the broadcasting industry for them to aspire to (and other professions). The broadcasting industry needed to be introduced to the prospect of employing skilled, talented people despite disabilities not because of them. They still do. 

I hope things have changed, although I still do not see a visible disability presence on television. The CBC seems so quick to point out the prejudices and failing of everyone else but loath to admit their own.

Why am I blogging about a 27-year-old experience I had with the CBC? I'm doing it precisely because so little seems to have changed in over a quarter of a century! It seems the broadcasting progressives are not so progressive after all.

General employment prospects for workers with disabilities in Canada (and abroad) remains appalling. Such horrendous unemployment/under-employment rates experienced amongst the disabled would not be tolerated in the rest of the workforce!

You see, I used my experience with the CBC as a segue into the larger issue of disability discrimination. The cultural deck is stacked against disability inclusion. It's politically correct to speak about being inclusive -- but progressives' inclusion is selective. People with disabilities face discrimination in every meaningful aspect of life from employment to finding decent housing, transportation, recreation, proper education and supports, health care and home care that may be spotty, inconsistent or piece-meal. 

Many Canadians with disabilities feel marginalized and excluded from mainstream society. 

Canada's federally funded CBC should be helping to change that through addressing disability issues just as they do with gender and sexual politics, racism and First Nations issues, and setting a progressive image of disability inclusion. Give similar attention and air time to issues of disability as with LGBTQ issues (which represent a much smaller proportion of society). The CBC should be giving the same coverage to suicide amongst the disabled, and reasons behind it, as with First Nations' suicides, and the reasons for it. The CBC should show an ongoing commitment to news and current affairs dealing with employment and disability, just as they do with women and employment issues. 

Qualified anchors and reporters with visible disabilities should be a regular part of news delivery across the nation. Why visible disabilities? Not only does this set an example and promote role models for young people with disabilities, it helps to promote integration and inclusion in the public's mindset. But I predict it won't happen any time soon. If the CBC feels no compunction to employ a workforce that's reflective of Canadian society -- despite receiving more than $1.2 billion dollars each year in public money -- why would private broadcasters? Including broadcasters with disabilities is still foreign and uncomfortable to the CBC -- and other media outlets. It's not fashionable in the way LGBTQ issues are, or First Nations issues. 

Granted, there are exceptions one can point out but they are few and far between. They are the rare exceptions, and everybody knows they are the rare exceptions. Society still sees workers with disabilities as less capable. Employing them is considered a gesture of corporate benevolence. Our culture has yet to understand that a qualified and inclusive workforce, in all its variations, enriches society. Until that really happens, we will all be poorer.   

Someone may say they would be willing to consider qualified disabled workers, but they are can't find any. That may be true. I remember a time when similar reasons were presented about women in what we used to call non-traditional jobs. Training! Job-shadowing, cooperative work programs, internships and assisted apprenticeships. These are ways to change things and build an inclusive workforce that is capable and willing to include people with disabilities on equal footing as the rest of the workforce.

As I said earlier, I used to be program officer for the federal government's employment commission. In 1990, I worked with the Radio and Television Arts program (RTA) at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton, Canada, to promote and reserve seats for students with disabilities. It did not succeed. Not many young people with disabilities could meet the prerequisites of the program. Others who could meet the criteria did not even consider the RTA program. That's where role models, promotion of broadcasting at high school career fairs, and assistance to meet program entrance criteria come into play.

Let me return the example of women: many women in the early 1960s did not even
consider professions that were the traditional domains of men (physicians, lawyers, broadcasters, and the trades). But over time, that changed. Today, many law schools and medical schools are dominated by women. They are some of our finest legal, medical and scientific minds. Look how much richer society is now! 

And so I pose another question: How much are we missing by not developing, encouraging, and promoting the potential and talents of people with disabilities? 

[1] Disability in Canada, Initial findings from the Canadian survey on disability, Statistics Canada.

Friday, July 21, 2017


The excellent TED Talks series shows the power of television and new media to stimulate thought and discussion, to educate, elucidate and enlighten.  They offer "ideas worth spreading." 

Television was capable of doing that. Instead, the majority of air-time goes to mindless sitcoms with canned laughter, formula drama, or so-called reality TV (which usually does not represent reality). Even mainstream news programming has become ideological and lost even any presence of neutrality. Current affairs programming is now the domain of the left. 

Had it not been for the advent of the internet and new audio-visual media formats, the wasteland of television, bereft of creative ideas and original programming would persist. If television producers and executives continue in that mode, their audiences will continue to decline.

Now, back to TED Talks: I want to feature a OUTSTANDING presentation about autism by Canadian Member of Parliament, The Hon. Mike Lake. It's eleven minutes long but imparts to the viewer a wealth of information and understanding, ideas and possibilities, for inclusion of people with autism. It's brilliance is its honest simplicity. I highly recommend you click the video link below.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


We all know the Britain Got's Talent TV show. Russia has a similar version. Below you will see an illustration of power in humility. A shy seventy-year-old Orthodox Christian sings Eric Clapton's composition My Father's Son.  He has no stage presence but that is his stage presence. His shyness is his boldness.

I ask you to watch the video below. Unless you speak Russian, you won't understand the discussion leading up to the old man coming on stage at 1:15. 

If you want to skip the preamble and go directly to his performance in English starting at 1:45 on the video. Powerful! Incredible!