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Universities are continuing to push race- and gender-based hiring practices for jobs associated with a federal government program despite “diversity, equity and inclusion” targets already being met.

The federal government also suggested discriminatory race- and gender-based hiring practices could continue regardless of targets. 

The program in question is the Canada Research Chairs (CRC), a federal initiative to recruit and retain scholars at academic institutions. 

It has since transformed into a program that promotes DEI ideology through the allure of federal funding.

Institutions have been setting diversity targets for the program since January 2009. The latest diversity targets unveiled in 2021 seek to have the makeup of chair holders be “based on Canada’s population.” 

The aim is to have chairs be 50.9% women, 22% visible minorities, 7.5% persons with disabilities, and 4.9% Indigenous by December 2029.

Thanks to a wave of university job postings limited to members of certain groups, these targets are well ahead of schedule.

The target of 22% visible minorities has been surpassed, with 28.6% of chairholders now being racialized. The target of 50.9% women is close to being fulfilled, with women making up 47% of chairholder positions. Meanwhile, 7.0% of chairholders currently have a disability, just 0.5% away from the 7.5% target; and 4.1% of chairholders are Indigenous, 0.8% away from the 4.9% target. 

True North previously reported on a CRC job posting at Quebec City’s Laval University that was closed to able-bodied white men, as well as the University of Waterloo looking exclusively for professors who identify as “gender-fluid”, or as women, sexual minorities or visible minorities to fill CRC positions.

Other examples include a University of British Columbia CRC posting for a professor of electrical and computer engineering stating that able-bodied white men are ineligible, and a UBC medicine position open exclusively to people with disabilities. 

The University of Alberta put up four CRC postings for professors in its faculties of engineering and medicine, with those being restricted to women and “gender minorities.” A posting for a CRC scientist to study virus pathogens at the University of Saskatchewan also excludes able-bodied white men.

York University issued a posting for a CRC professor of artificial intelligence for robotics, and noted that the position was “open only to qualified researchers who indicate (…) that they identify as women or gender non-conforming (e.g. genderfluid, nonbinary, Two-Spirit, trans man, trans woman).”

A Queens University CRC professor of nuclear materials and materials degradation position also excluded able-bodied white men, while the University of Toronto barred white people from a CRC education position.

The DEI requirements for the prestigious Canada Research Chair positions do not only apply to professor jobs, but also positions in university hospitals.

For example, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, which is associated with the University of Toronto, had a posting for a CRC scientist that was only open to “women, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and Indigenous peoples.”

And while the government believes “achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canadian research enterprise is essential to creating the excellent, innovative and impactful research necessary to seize opportunities and for responding to global challenges,” some in academia see issues with the program’s approach to DEI. 

Among them is Saint Mary’s University professor and former Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship president Mark Mercer.

“My view is that if a government is going to give money to universities independently of the provincial allocations… it has to do so neutrally,” Mercer told True North.

“It can’t put government priorities into that money. They ought not be requiring anything from universities.”

Mercer also believes that DEI as an ideology is divisive and runs counter to the academic mission.

“It puts scholars into categories. It puts scholars into groups,” he noted. “It’s sort of like putting them in silos so that others can admire their work, but are not to criticize their work because (they) don’t come from the group that’s within that silo.”

Despite the targets being met, Sciences and Humanities Research Council president Ted Hewitt suggested earlier this month at a House of Commons committee that restrictive hiring could continue well into the future.

“I think we want to get to the targets first and then have the conversation about whether we would need them,” Hewitt said in response to a question from Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner.

The representatives in charge of the Canada Research Chairs program did not respond to True North’s request for comment.

The program was established by the Canadian government in 2000 to empower academic researchers in engineering and the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities, and social sciences.  It spends $311 million annually.