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Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen’s comments on workplace diversity ‘insulting’: Coun. Arielle Kayabaga

The London city councillor's comments were made at a meeting of the corporate services committee. Matthew Trevithick/980 CFPL File

A London city councillor says her colleague’s comments on diversity and hiring at city hall are insulting.

Ward 13 Coun. Arielle Kayabaga was responding to Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen’s remarks about stressing that merit should be the focus of hiring and not “skin colouration and/or range of sexual orientation or variation of ideologies.”

City staff presented reports about workplace diversity and inclusion at Tuesday’s corporate services committee meeting, prompting Van Meerbergen to put forward a motion to amend both reports to include a mention of merit-based focus.

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The motion didn’t get much traction: Coun. Steven Hillier initially seconded the proposal but withdrew support after city staff said the change wasn’t necessary.

“There’s a council policy with respect to hiring of employees, that it’s based on meritorious. The best candidate for the job gets the job,” said the city’s human resources manager, Bill Coxhead.

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“[The reports are] just data about how we look relative to our community that we serve,” he explained.

“They make sure people are aware of the job opportunities, creating equal access and eliminating barriers, but at the end of the day, they have to be able to do the job.”

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Although the motion failed, it did spark backlash from fellow committee members.

Speaking on the Craig Needles Show on Wednesday, Kayabaga reiterated her concerns.

“It’s assuming that we’re hiring people based on the identity group that they belong to and not based on their competency,” she said.

“The idea that when you’re part of a diverse group you don’t have the basic merit to be hired for a position is quite insulting, like I said yesterday.”

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Efforts by 980 CFPL to contact Van Meerbergen for further comment have been unsuccessful.