Equity issues in the Canada Research Chairs Program Resolved by Settlement

  • April 29, 2021
  • BakerLaw
  • Comments Off on Equity issues in the Canada Research Chairs Program Resolved by Settlement

Around March 31, 2021, the Government of Canada settled a complaint filed by a University of Ottawa law professor, Amir Attaran, regarding equity issues within the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) Program. The CRC program awards grants to Canada’s top researchers. This marks one of two settlements concerning equity within the program.

In the first settlement, the Federal government agreed to set equity targets following a complaint by 8 women who argued that the program was disproportionately rewarding white males. Equity targets were to be based on the availability of candidates in the hiring pool. Despite this agreement, Canadian universities are failing to meet their obligations, rarely hitting those targets.

In 2019, the Federal government included new measures to make the equity targets reflect the diversity of the general population as a whole. This has helped universities improve representation among the CRC and move closer to reaching their equity goals.

The most recent settlement imposes new restrictions when universities nominate individuals for the awards. Universities must create and finalize equity plans by May 28, 2021 and meet transparency requirements. Failure to do so will result in any nominations put forward by that University to not be processed.

The settlement also requires Universities to meet their equity targets over the next 8 years. Failure to do so will result in a limitation of who could be nominated by a university. Specifically, in this instance they would only be permitted to nominate candidates who belong to one of four designated equity groups (women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and indigenous peoples). If a university still fails to meet its target, then the CRC will reduce the number of chairs it will designate to it.

Overall, the settlement puts new public accountability and transparency requirements on universities when they nominate professors for awards given out by Federal councils, obligating these institutions to meet equity targets by various deadlines (December 2022, December 2025, December 2027, and December 2029).

You can read the full settlement here (link).

The Globe and Mail has released an article on the settlement and its implications. You can read the full article here (link).

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