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Human Rights Complaint concerning the Canada Research Chairs Program

As posted on PAR-L, 4 March 2003

Dear PAR-L,

An official document, "Request for a Special Inquiry, or s. 5 Complaint against Industry Canada, re the Canada Research Chairs Program," was delivered to the Canadian Human Rights Commission in Ottawa on February 13th. Eight women from across the country signed it as complainants.

Our allegation is that:

Industry Canada's Canada Research Chairs program is discriminating contrary to s. 5 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) against individuals (academics) who are members of the protected groups set out in s. 3 of the CHRA, in particular: sex, age, race, sexual orientation, colour, persons with disabilities, national, ethnic origin, and family status."

The distribution of federal funding for this research initiative is subject to the CHRA. Section 5 prohibits discrimination in the provision of a service to the public (Industry Canada is providing the Canada Research Chairs program as a service to the public, i.e. universities and faculty).

The percentage of women, as reported in February 2003 on the CRC web site, is 15%. It is expected to rise to 18% with the next round of announcements. This is well below women's representation in the Canadian fulltime professoriate (26%); in any case, this program can make appointments of professors from around the world.

Of equal concern is that no data are being kept for other equity groups. Hence our call, in the first instance, for a Special Inquiry. Failing that, we are asking for our collective complaint to be acted upon. The complainants are (alphabetical order):

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
Michele Ollivier, Université d'Ottawa
Susan Prentice, University of Manitoba
Wendy Robbins, University of New Brunswick

Please feel free to share information about the complaint with your colleagues, status of women committees, faculty unions, administration, etc. Background material and useful links have been posted on the PAR-L Web site under Action. We may shortly seek letters of support from individuals and organizations.

This is an example of the women's movement in action on campus. Please feel free to share your knowledge of the CRC program's impact on your own campus via PAR-L. It represents $900 million of taxpayers' money and it is moving us backwards rather than toward its intended goal of "innovation."

Yours, Wendy Robbins or

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