Final Evaluation Report on Canada Research Chairs Program Gives Short Shrift to Gender Issues

Monday, July 26 2010

The fifth-year review of the billion-dollar Canada Research Chairs Program is drawing strong criticism over its treatment of equity issues.

The “Final Evaluation Report,” produced by R.A. Malatest & Associates for the Canada Research Chairs Program, “gives short shrift to gender issues and fails to mention other equity groups,” said Wendy Robbins, professor of women’s studies at the University of New Brunswick and visiting scholar at the Canadian Association of University Teachers in Ottawa.

“They just don’t understand it is a serious problem that contravenes government policy for this major federal initiative to be biased against women.”

Robbins noted that, of nearly 1400 Chairs awarded to date, only 20% have gone to women. “In a break with what has become standard practice at universities, they did not even bother to count how many Chairs went to members of other designated groups,” Robbins said.

“Systemic sex discrimination cuts down the competition for positions and therefore lowers the quality of teaching and research, as feminists have been pointing out for decades,” notes Michèle Ollivier, a University of Ottawa sociologist. “In the name of ‘excellence,’ excellence suffers.”

In 2003, a group of eight women professors from across Canada, led by Robbins, filed a human rights complaint against Industry Canada, the main funder of the Canada Research Chairs Program, claiming discrimination against women and calling for access to data on other equity groups.

“The complaint is still in the queue at the Canadian Human Rights Commission,” said Robbins.

Established in 2000, the Canada Research Chairs Program is seen as a key component in the federal government’s strategy to become a world-leader in the “knowledge-based economy.”
 

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