Canada’s Human Rights Commission requested last month the appointment of a tribunal to hear the complaints of eight female professors against Industry Canada.
The complaints, filed in May 2003, allege the Canada Research Chairs Program discriminates against women, aboriginal people, people with disability, visible minorities and other equity-seeking groups contrary to section 5 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It is believed this is the first section 5 complaint involving allegations of systemic discrimination referred to a human rights tribunal.
The complaints specifically allege that the structure of the CRC program discriminates against equity-seeking groups because, among other things, it allows universities to disregard the equity obligations contained in faculty collective agreements and provincial legislation.
Mediation sessions held in the fall of 2003 resulted in a continuing stalemate between the complainants and Industry Canada. The investigator’s report, which recommended referral of the complaints to a tribunal, was finally released in August this year.
The parties will be consulted by the tribunal within the next few weeks to set dates for hearings at which both sides can present their arguments and call witnesses.
In the gender-based analysis and in the fifth year evaluation of the program completed last year on behalf of the CRC secretariat, independent consultants advised there was evidence of gender discrimination in the program. But neither the secretariat nor the consultants made any effort to ascertain the existence or scope of discrimination against other equity-seeking groups.
Background: Bulletin reports June 2001, April 2003 & May 2003.