Update on Canada Research Chairs: Human Rights Complaint

January 2004

The eight university professors who initiated a human rights complaint against Industry Canada over discrimination in the Canada Research Chairs Program regretfully report that mediation by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to resolve the complaint has failed.

The complaints, filed by eight faculty members from universities across Canada, point to the very small allocation of the 2,000 chairs to people from groups protected by human rights legislation. For example, the latest figures on the Canada Research Chairs web site show that 1,035 Chairs have been awarded to date; of these only 175 (17%) have been awarded to women. Complete data are not available for any other equity-seeking group.

Industry Canada is responsible for the design and implementation of the $900 million program. The complainants hope that the complaint process will result in the kinds of changes that will make the hiring of the Chairs transparent and fair in all cases, and will avoid secretive, single-candidate searches.

The complainants also challenge the small allocation to the humanities and social sciences, disciplines which involve the majority of Canadian students and professors.

Although mediation has failed, the eight complainants will continue to pursue the issues with the Human Rights Commission. They feel strongly that federal government programs should be in conformity with Canadian law and the international agreements that Canada has signed to protect individuals from discrimination.

The eight faculty members who filed complaints are:

  • Marjorie Griffin Cohen (Simon Fraser University)
  • Louise Forsyth (Emerita University of Saskatchewan)
  • Glenis Joyce (University of Saskatchewan)
  • Audrey Kobayashi (Queen's University)
  • Shree Mulay (McGill University)
  • Michele Ollivier (University of Ottawa)
  • Susan Prentice (University of Manitoba)
  • Wendy Robbins (University of New Brunswick)

The human rights complaint has been endorsed unanimously by the CAUT Council, which represents unionized faculty all across Canada.