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Human Rights Complaint concerning the Canada Research Chairs Program

I. Possible reasons for systemic discrimination against women in CRC program structure

Preliminary legal analysis suggests that the CRC program may result in gender discrimination for a number of reasons, including the structure of the program itself. The apportionment of Chairs between Tier I and Tier II appointments, for example, reveals that the resulting distribution of recipients would necessarily result in less women than men due to the fact, in part, that there are fewer women in academe who would fit the criteria for Tier I appointments (in part due to "time in the system"). The statistics produced by CRC itself demonstrate that the resulting proportion of male and female recipients is not proportional to the representation of women in academe.

This evident adverse gender effect may also be produced by the fact that CRC has failed to impose guidelines on Universities in their appointment/selection procedures (which arguably they ought to do as a minimum in light of s. 5 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Government of Canada's own gender-based analysis program and commitments).

Elaboration on how the program discriminates against women:

  1. The division of the program into Tier I (for full professors) and Tier II (for other ranks), when the Tier I positions are longer-term and better-paying, has an adverse impact on women who are less well represented at the full professor level (only 14%) than at the lower ranks and therefore are structurally excluded from equal access to Tier I. The reasons for this are historical and non-merit based (e.g. the prohibition against women even entering universities to take degrees in the eighteenth and most of the nineteenth century; the non-appointment of women to faculty positions prior to 1912 [as far as we know] in Canada, the male-as-norm career path that pits getting tenure against women's biological "clock" etc.) Tier I perpetuates sex-based exclusion.

  2. The lack of enforcement of the above criteria with respect to Tier II, such that many full professors have been appointed to Tier II positions, further disadvantages women for the same reason: that the proportion of women who are full professors is not nearly as great as the proportion of men who are full professors. The existence of Tier II does not compensate for the structural bias against women in Tier I.

  3. The allotment of only 20% of the CRC positions to faculty in the humanities and social sciences (where the proportion of women faculty tends to be higher than in the NSERC and CIHR disciplines), especially in view of the fact that 53% of all faculty in Canadian universities is in the humanities and social science disciplines, disadvantages women.

  4. The CRC's failure to impose guidelines for transparency in the selection and appointment process prevents public scrutiny of selection criteria in particular to ensure that it complies with equality rights provisions of the Act. For example, the criterion (enforced at some universities) that no one can be appointed to Tier II who is more than 10 years past the date of receipt of their PhD tends to discriminate against women who tend to stay longer at each rank, often because of childbearing and family responsibilities impacting on their careers.

  5. A prejudicial statement is printed in the recent report from a CRC consultation held in June 2002 about "best practices" surrounding the CRC program to the effect that setting targets for women would potentially lower the prestige of the awards. The program already sets targets by province, university, and discipline, so it is not target-setting per se that is at issue, but rather the merit of women's research and/or women researchers.

  6. The CRC research to date into possible sex-discrimination within the program has used the concept of a "notional pool" of women researchers across Canada by discipline. This is a very partial description of the situation, for the CRC program is meant to attract meritorious researchers from a world-wide pool. In some disciplines the percentage of women available in countries other than Canada is higher than the percentage available in Canada, yet the CRC research does not address this issue. Its own investigation thus is seriously flawed and tends to under-represent the number of women available for consideration for appointment.

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