The hiring practices of Université Laval are causing controversy in Quebec when it was revealed it would not be considering white men without a disability for research chair openings.
Its current openings for the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) are limited to women, people with disabilities, indigenous, and members of visible minorities.
The CRC is a federal program and funding is withheld for institutions that do not follow its diversity and inclusion policy, which includes quotas to increase the representation of certain groups.
The issue was raised by Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet during question period in the House of Commons on March 31.
“The Canadian government is promoting inclusion and I fully subscribe to that,” he said. “To do that, there are positive measures, for example, anonymous candidacy when you’re looking at assessing candidates or subsidies for some candidates.”
“Exclusion, however, is unhealthy and it is divisive. Does the prime minister agree that when it comes to research, exclusion is not the solution?”
“We will provide the additional resources necessary to all researchers and scientists and to position Canada as a leader in innovation. We’ll continue to support a scientific and research ecosystem that is solid and that reflects all of the talents of all Quebecers and all Canadians,” Justin Trudeau answered.
Quebec Premier François Legault has yet to comment on the issue, but he has previously resisted pressure to recognize the existence of systemic racism and has spoken in favour of protecting academic freedom in the face of rising censorship, self-censorship, and cancel culture.
Laval’s chair openings include the notice that it “cannot submit other types of application profiles until its representation targets are met, in accordance with the requirements of the CRC Program.”
This is contradicted by the university’s hiring policy a few lines above, which states that “Université Laval is committed to promoting excellence in research and research training and guaranteeing equal opportunity for all qualified candidates.”
The CRC website says that “all institutions that accept agency funding must make concerted efforts to meet their equity and diversity targets, and provide a supportive and inclusive workplace.”
A section of the website is also dedicated to keeping a list of universities that stray from the diversity mandate, listing “consequences” for not meeting the requirements.
Université Laval’s requirement to not hire outside the designated categories of people is listed there.
Other institutions also face the same fate, such as Trent University, Laurentian University, Royal Military College, and the University of Northern British Columbia.
But those are dealing with an additional consequence: “Peer review decisions for all nominations submitted to the program (and, where applicable, associated funding for chair awards) will be withheld until the EDI [equity, diversity, and inclusion] plan is resubmitted and found to meet the requirements.”