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CAUT Bulletin Archives

December 2005

Struggles about Canadianization in Anthropology & Sociology

J. Paul Grayson

The Canadianization Movement: Emergence, Survival and Success

Jeffrey Cormier. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004; 380 pp; ISBN: 0-8020-8815-5, hardcover $65 ca.
In 1969, only 55 per cent of the faculty teaching in Canadian universities were Canadians. In sociology and anthropology the situation was worse. Only 39 per cent and 29 per cent of sociologists and anthropologists respectively were Canadian citizens. A few years later, in 1972, only about 50 per cent of all graduate students in departments of sociology and anthropology in Canada were Canadians. In these years the largest number of foreign faculty and students came from the United States.

As a result of this over-representation of American scholars, sociology and anthropology students frequently found themselves in classes that focused on developments in the U.S. rather than Canada. When it came to hiring new faculty, Canadians were often overlooked in favor of applicants from south of the border. Outstanding sociologists like Lewis Feuer at the University of Toronto and Art Davis at the University of Alberta — from different ends of the political spectrum — were recruited from the U.S. Some of these academics made welcome commitments and contributions to their disciplines in Canada.

All too often, however, those hired were mediocre junior faculty, many of whom did not have PhDs, who were unable to land attractive jobs in the U.S. Canada was a very desirable place in which to work because, in addition to other benefits, the government did not deduct taxes from pay cheques during the first two years of employment. Unfortunately, it was almost impossible for Canadians to get jobs in the U.S.

The main focus of Jeffrey Cormier’s book, The Canadianization Movement, is on the reaction of some academics to the situation in departments of sociology and anthropology across the nation from approximately 1970 to 1985. He begins by noting that in the 1960s Canadians were becoming increasingly alarmed by the degree to which the Canadian economy was dominated by our southern neighbour, and the extent by which our cultural institutions were being eroded by the massive influx of cultural products from south of the border.

Manifestations of the first concern could be found in the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Canada’s Economic Prospects (1963), and the Report of the Task Force on the Structure of Canadian Industry (1968). The warnings sounded in these reports for the Canadian economy had been heard earlier for Canadian culture in the report of the Royal Commission on the National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences (1951).

While some of the concerns raised by these inquiries were shared by some Liberals and Conservatives, it was the Waffle group in the New Democratic Party that gave fullest political expression to the concerns of Canadians to the erosion of their cultural, and particularly economic, autonomy.

Within this general context of concern with our national institutions, James Steele, and particularly Robin Mathews, both professors at Carleton University, alerted Canadians to the fact that our universities were rapidly becoming academic branch plants of the U.S.

Between 1968 and 1972, Mathews and Steele were able to direct the attention of the Canadian public to the situation in our universities through organized demonstrations, utilization of mass media and the lobbying of politicians. Although in most countries of the industrialized world their concerns would have been deemed legitimate, Steele, and particularly Mathews, were often excoriated by their detractors. Although the activities of these two men exposed the situation in our universities, Cormier argues that because they were unable to develop an organizational base, a prerequisite for a successful social movement, their influence waned by 1972.

While the influence of Mathews and Steele may have peaked by 1972, the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association (CSAA) was just getting started. Perhaps because the situation in sociology and anthropology was so bad, the reaction to the Americanization of the disciplines was greater than in other Canadian scholarly associations. Whatever the reason, by 1972–1973, an insurgent group within the association managed to gain approval for policies that would: require departments to actively seek out Canadian applicants for jobs; put a moratorium on the hiring of non-Canadians; ensure that 75 per cent of graduate students were Canadian; and, urge funding agencies to give preference to Canadians studying in Canada.

Cormier argues that a turning point in the association’s activities occurred in 1974. In that year, in complete contradiction to policies advocated by the CSAA, the sociology department at the University of Toronto made eight appointments of Americans that reduced the Canadian complement in the department to 32 per cent and increased the number of Americans to 55 per cent. To add insult to injury, the chair of the department had paid lip service to CSAA policies.

As a result, at the annual general meeting, a motion from the floor to censure U of T’s sociology department was passed by the membership. (It is ironic that the department chair and many of his American colleagues were at the meetings of the American Sociological Association that overlapped the Canadian meetings.) After this action, according to Cormier, the Canadianization movement within CSAA became democratized. The censure remained in place until 1977.

In the meantime, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) released the Symon’s Report, whose findings confirmed many of the earlier claims made by Mathews, Steele and the CSAA. As pointed out in the report, “Sociology and anthropology in this country do need to become more firmly rooted in Canada, more concerned with the many regions and people of Canada, and more committed to the study of Canadian society than they have been in the past.”

Subsequent to the democratization of the Canadianization movement in the CSAA, the association, and individual members of the association, made representations to federal and provincial politicians to limit the influx of U.S. scholars, and continued with activities that promoted Canadian issues. In 1976, in part because of the lobbying of association members, the Ontario government reached an agreement with university presidents that would ensure Canadians were not overlooked in the hiring process.

Cormier argues that for several years after 1976, although it remained vigilant and continued with symposia and conferences with Canadian themes, the Canadianization movement within CSAA was relatively dormant. The explanation is that few hirings were being made in the late 1970s. As a result, the issue of hiring Canadians was less pressing than in the past.

In 1980 the CSAA was asked by AUCC to document any changes that might have occurred within sociology and anthropology since the release of the Symon’s Report. An investigation revealed that in the interim: there had been an increase in the numbers of Canadians in departments of sociology and anthropology; there had been an increase in Canadian content in departmental offerings; the major funding agency for Canadians was favoring Canadian projects; and that, by and large, work on Canadian issues was being conducted not by foreign, or foreign-trained, academics, but by Canadian-trained Canadians. Unfortunately, the number of Canadian women teaching in sociology and anthropology had declined.

As a result of these findings, the association reaffirmed that priority in future hirings be given to Canadians, and particularly Canadian women. According to Cormier, this affirmative stance for women represented a fundamental reorientation on the part of the Canadianization movement within the association. Unfortunately, provincial human rights commissions put severe limits on the ability of the association to implement policies of preferential hiring for women.

The federal government did, however, ask academic associations to provide annual reports on the state of the labour market for Canadians in general, and Canadian women in particular. In part because of the activities of the CSAA, Cormier argues that in 1981 the federal government made it very difficult to give foreign academics preference in hirings.

Overall, for Cormier, the Canadianization movement within the CSAA was a success. The number of foreign, and particularly U.S., academics declined in sociology and anthropology; issues of relevance to Canadians were being addressed in the classroom; research on Canadian topics was being undertaken; and Canadian perspectives on social issues were being developed. He doubts, however, that if demand for university academics were to outstrip domestic supply in the future, a movement similar to the Canadianization movement would again emerge.

Cormier has done a good job in bringing to the attention of readers the forces that helped define sociology and anthropology in Canada. As such, the book should be required reading for graduate students in the two disciplines. But, despite this contribution, there are two criticisms that can be raised of his work.

First, there is an over-reliance on a limited number of sources. As a result, Cormier sometimes makes connections between events that should be proven by reference to other sources of evidence rather than simply being assumed. For example, there is an assumption that CSAA’s lobbying activities contributed to a decision of the federal government to introduce practices ensuring that Canadians were not disadvantaged in the hiring process. This may be true, but in order to make the point it would be necessary to document the factors that went into the decision. The CSAA actions may or may not have been significant. The coincidence of two events does not imply cause and effect.

More important, little attention is paid to the blood and guts of the Canadianization movement. Mainly left out of the narrative is the fact that life was often made very uncomfortable for advocates of Canadianization in departments of sociology and anthropology. For example, there are instances of Canadian students being treated unfairly by their professors for daring to express concern with the lack of Canadian examples and issues in their courses.

There are examples of professors (both Canadian and foreign born) being harassed by their colleagues for expressing support for Canadianization. There are examples of vicious debates related to Canadianization that divided departments for many years and negatively affected the career opportunities of supporters of Canadianization. There are also examples of fully-qualified Canadians having to pursue other than university careers because of their inability to break into a job market dominated by American decision-makers. This is an aspect of the lived experience of the Canadianization movement that should be part of the record.

J. Paul Grayson is a York University social sciences professor.