Composers across Canada are understandably upset over the hiring recently of a non-Canadian composer at the University of British Columbia's school of music, says the president of the Canadian League of Composers.
"As far as I'm concerned, UBC passed over many well-qualified Canadian composers," John Burge told the National Post last month. Applicants for the position included Canadian academics who have served as composers-in-residence for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa.
According to long-standing federal government policy, priority for appointment to academic positions must be given to qualified Canadians or permanent residents. Only if no qualified Canadian or permanent resident can be found can a position be offered to a foreign candidate.
James Turk, executive director of CAUT, says he's concerned that distinguished Canadian composers had been effectively deemed unqualified for the position.
A similar controversy arose at McGill University last year when three internationally recognized Canadian applicants for two positions in musicology were deemed unqualified and the jobs given to foreigners.
Turk presented a detailed report to the recent CAUT Council meeting in Ottawa on the federal government's recruitment policy and the absence of an effective and appropriate mechanism to enforce the hiring rule — resulting in many qualified Canadians being bypassed by universities.
According to Turk, CAUT has long argued that a proper hiring policy must include several elements. The first is that job vacancies be made known to Canadians and permanent residents. The second is that each university should have a university-wide appointments review committee, elected by the senior academic body or chosen by a method specified in the collective agreement with the faculty association, with a substantial majority of faculty members on it. The committee is to advise the president on all appointments; evaluating whether each vacancy was adequately advertised in Canada, the qualifications listed were reasonable, the selection procedures were fair and an active effort was made to recruit Canadians and permanent residents.
"Such an internal body is a much more appropriate mechanism for enforcing a hiring policy than reliance on federal government officials," Turk said.
In addition, CAUT calls for Canadian and permanent resident applicants to be considered first.
"Normally, positions are only to be offered to foreign candidates if there are no qualified Canadians or permanent resident applicants," Turk said. "Our consolidated policy calls for departments and faculties seeking to make international hires to satisfy the university-wide appointments review committee of the justification for such decisions."