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Human Rights Complaint concerning the Canada Research Chairs Program

As posted to PAR-L on November 8, 2006

A Complaint filed three and a half years ago with the Canadian Human Rights Commission by eight women professors from across Canada over discrimination in the billion-dollar Canada Research Chairs Program has been settled through mediation. However, almost all of the 2,000 new research positions it created at universities across Canada have already been filled, so change will come only in the contract renewal process. “It is a frustrating case of justice delayed is justice denied,” said Wendy Robbins, one of the Complainants, who chairs the Women’s Committee of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). “But we decided in the end that a belated agreement is better than no agreement.”

The CRC Program has agreed to state publicly that the goals of equity and excellence are not mutually exclusive, and that equity ensures that the largest pool of qualified candidates is accessed. It will collect data and set new, enforceable hiring targets for each of four equity groups: women, Aboriginal peoples, members of visible minorities, and persons with a disability. The Complainants were also successful in their demand for significant changes in recruitment, nomination, and appointment procedures, such as open advertising of positions and involvement of university equity officers.

They may have won a moral victory on the principle of equity; however, they acknowledge that practical results will be troublingly slow. Contracts have been signed with Chairholders for 7 years (Tier 1, renewable indefinitely) and 5 years (Tier 2, renewable once) respectively. Renewal is already under way, but turn-over is not expected to be rapid. Of the more prestigious Tier 1 appointments, women are only 15.5%, and overall they are only 22% (364 of 1,325 Chairs).

The Complaint was laid against Industry Canada, the main funder of the Canada Research Chairs Program, in February 2003 by Rosemary Morgan and brought to a successful settlement by Maureen Webb, both Senior Legal Counsel at the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). The eight Complainants are: Marjorie Griffin Cohen, Simon Fraser University; Louise Forsyth, University of Saskatchewan; Glenis Joyce, University of Saskatchewan; Audrey Kobayashi, Queen’s University; Shree Mulay, McGill University; Michèle Ollivier, Université d’Ottawa; Susan Prentice, University of Manitoba; and Wendy Robbins, University of New Brunswick.

For further information:

Audrey Kobayashi, Queen’s University,, (613) 533-3035

Wendy Robbins, University of New Brunswick,, (506) 449-2213

Maureen Webb, CAUT Senior Legal Counsel:, (613) 820-2270 x.326

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