News / Ottawa

Canada Research Chair rules changed to improve diversity

Government changes don't go far enough says University of Ottawa professor

Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan answers questions from the media at a Liberal cabinet retreat earlier this year.

Todd Korol / The Canadian Press

Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan answers questions from the media at a Liberal cabinet retreat earlier this year.

Changes the federal government announced last week to Canada Research Chairs won’t bring about the diversity Liberals are hoping for, according to a University of Ottawa professor.

The changes announced last week will limit the number of times the high-profile research positions, funded by the federal government, can be renewed to the same professor. Ths would force insitutions to turn over the chairs more often with new applicants.

"We must make every effort to give more people—women, Indigenous peoples, visible minorities and persons with disabilities—the chance to make their greatest contribution to research,” said science minister Kirsty Duncan in a statement. “Today's changes to the CRC Program will encourage greater diversity in research and will show Canadians that they have a place in science no matter their gender, race or heritage."

Amir Attaran, a University of Ottawa professor who held a research chair and is now suing the university and the federal government for discrimination after losing it, said just having the chairs turn over more often is not a solution.

“The big question is what do you after you have pushed somebody out. How do you fill that slot?” he said. “Nothing will change if the university continues to fill those spots with white, able-bodied, men.”

The government has said it wants to see more diversity in the research chairs and expects universities to do more, including demanding equity and diversity plans from all schools by December.

Attaran said the government’s announcement last week is interesting timing, because it followed closely behind his lawsuit against the government getting approval to go to trial.

He said he suspects successful litigation is the big motivating factor for the government moving ahead on these issues.

“For years and years the government did nothing to achieve equity,” he said. “They realize that their chances of success in litigation are basically zero and if they can fix things ahead of getting into the courtroom they will look better.”

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