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Dana Wagner manages the Hire Immigrants program at the Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management.

The Paris attacks are more than an intelligence failure. Intelligence is a last defence because it deals with people who are already broken. But this was broken long before last Friday.

On the night of the attacks, newscasts ran into the morning, and between the witness accounts came commentary from the security and intelligence experts.

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This was an act of war "with complicity from the inside," French President François Hollande told the world.

"If Europe's security agencies are unable to prevent attacks of this kind …," The Economist said.

But beyond the shock and grief, many who know and love France may have a sick feeling of unsurprise. The failure that preceded the intelligence breach is no secret to them.

As the French look inward, they will find both problem and solution in diversity. France has a diverse population, but that diversity is not reflected in its institutions, power structures, elite schools and workplaces.

Although France has and needs immigration, it is an exclusive country with insiders and outsiders, and much of the divide is racial. All societies have degrees of elitism, where it matters who your family is, where you went to school, where you live. Our most banal features, such as our names, can lead to greater opportunity – in Canada, a Matthew is 40 per cent more likely than a Samir to get called for an interview, despite identical résumés, according to University of Toronto researchers.

But in France, discrimination in hiring is so bad that in 2014, a top court ordered the government to implement a law from 2006 requiring companies with more than 50 employees to make hiring decisions from anonymous CVs. Last month, the Institut Montaigne released a study that found Muslim men were only a quarter as likely as Catholic men to be called for a job interview.

Tidjane Thiam couldn't get a job in France. Mr. Thiam is an Ivory Coast native who studied in France at the elite INSEAD business school. After failing to advance his career in France, he left for an offer in Britain, and in March became chief executive officer of Credit Suisse. The problem was not Mr. Thiam.

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It's unknown how many other visible minorities are unemployed or underemployed in France. The country doesn't count. It's against the law to collect data on race or ethnicity – liberté, egalité, fraternité.

But gender gets counted, as does disability. And in business, what gets counted gets done. Some French employers have found creative ways to count and improve work force diversity, using proxies such as names or home neighbourhoods. But in general, there is no counting, no target, no change.

The reluctance to count has made important subjects taboo. Ask a group of employers to a talk about immigrant and visible minority employment and few will show up. The very subject of race is an offensive topic of conversation. Affinity groups (Vietnamese professionals, Indian women, Algerian engineers) are considered insulting.

This summer, I met with staff of organizations that help disadvantaged young people get jobs. Most clients are poor and non-white. One manager I spoke with knows that the qualified young people he works with have worked twice as hard to get where they are. And still, hiring managers often express surprise at how well dressed they are, without the slightest awareness of how patronizing their comments are.

If this is what France's educated, skilled visible minorities can expect, imagine what it's like to be someone less privileged than that. Imagine knowing that you don't stand a chance.

This is the undercurrent we will hear about in coming weeks: French people who don't see themselves in France's face or future. The integration problem has become a security problem that better intelligence will never solve.

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