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CAUT Bulletin Archives

September 2001

UBC Med School Ups Aboriginal Admissions

The University of British Columbia's medical school has implemented an employment equity initiative to offset historic discrimination against aboriginal persons. The university has committed to ensuring that up to 5 per cent of its first-year admissions are aboriginal students. "Aboriginals face inherent difficulties in becoming physicians," the school's dean John Cairns was quoted saying in the Vancouver Sun Aug. 28.

Cairns echoed a familiar sentiment that the school must be "more proactive in getting aboriginal students the necessary education they need to become physicians."

In real numbers, a target of 5 per cent translates into six aboriginal students entering the medical program each year, beginning in the fall of 2002.

According to Cairns, other medical schools, including ones at the universities of Alberta, Ottawa and Saskatchewan have targets to improve the admissions of aboriginal students.

Rosemary Morgan, CAUT's equity officer, says setting targets is not simply the adoption of a quota system which undermines the merit principle. "Modern employment equity targets, unlike the impugned quota systems in the U.S.'s heyday of affirmative action programs, do not require the goal be met, but do require the goal be attempted in good faith and with a comprehensive systematic effort," she said.

The UBC target is intended to reduce the serious under-representation in the province's only medical school, Morgan said.

In the school's 51-year his-tory, only six aboriginals have graduated, all within the last four years. The UBC Faculty of Medicine currently has 11 aboriginal students enrolled in the undergraduate program.