No support for call to add 'merit' to diversity hiring report at city hall

On London city councillor is calling comments made by fellow council member “an insult” to members of diverse groups.

But Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen is standing behind his words - calling on council to emphasize that hiring at city hall should be primarily “merit based.”

“We should not be hiring based and on skin colouration, and/or range of sexual orientation or variation of ideologies. The merit principal needs to be the primary hiring method,” he says.

Van Meerbergen made the comments while asking the Corporate Services Committee to add to a motion that city hall hire primarily on merit to a Workplace Diversity and Inclusion report.

But the director of human resources said merit and competency are already the primary considerations, while diversity and inclusion efforts focus on finding a wider variety of candidates.

Bill Coxhead says, “Our activities are generally around ensuring people are aware and have an understanding the job opportunities - equal access and eliminating barriers.”

Van Meerbergen’s amendment was called redundant and failed to get any support from the committee.

Later, Councillor Arielle Kayabaga called it an insult.

“I thought it was kind of an attack and insult on different diverse groups, so I do object on highlighting merit, merit is there.”

City hall’s Workplace Diversity and Inclusion program aims to eventually have the workforce at city hall reflect the diversity in the broader community, and while there’s been improvement, there’s a ways to go.

Van Meerbergen is standing behind his comments, saying, “So much emphasis is being put on, ‘Well have to make got to hire this race, that race, this sexual orientation, that sexual orientation...we have to remind the community that in the end we hire based on merit.”

But Kayabaga says the comments send the wrong message to recently hired staff at city hall.

“Based on the diverse groups they belong to, does not mean that they are being chosen simply for that reason. It diminishes the work that they’ve done here.”

The Workplace Diversity and Inclusion report goes to city council next week.