Posted on April 8, 2022

Why Canadian Universities Are Blocking Able-Bodied White Men From Some Positions

Jamie Sarkonak, National Post, April 5, 2022

People should not be barred from jobs because of their skin colour, or their gender. We call that “discrimination” — and it’s generally considered a bad thing. It’s also bad that universities across Canada are refusing to hire white men for various research positions, simply because they’re white, male and don’t claim to have any disabilities.

That’s right: the federally funded Canada Research Chair program, which doles out roughly $300 million every year to 2,000 academics, adheres to an identity quota system. Universities risk losing funding for positions if they haven’t hired the designated number of research chairs by 2029 in each “identity category” (women, visible minorities, Indigenous people and people with disabilities). As a result, some resumes are going straight into the trash.

I wish I was exaggerating. Being not white, male or able-bodied was a requirement for the University of British Columbia’s 2022 research chair job postings in food science and quantum computing. A mathematics department job posting for a research chair in computational cell biology specifically says that the “selection will be restricted to members of the following designated groups: women, visible minorities (members of groups that are racially categorized), persons with disabilities and Indigenous peoples.”

Similar requirements were listed for the University of Toronto’s positions in management, education, dentistry, engineering and medicine. Queen’s University only wants women for geotechnical engineering, nuclear waste storage and applied artificial intelligence. Western University doesn’t care about the researcher’s area of study in one opening, but requires that the candidate have a disability. A McGill posting prefers those who say they have a disability or are Indigenous.


The Canada Research Chair program is doing this because of a Federal Court order that requires research appointments to reflect the Canadian population by 2029. {snip}

There’s a bigger picture to all this. The Canada Research Chair program is one of many under the nation’s three federal research funding agencies, which spend a combined $3 billion every year to advance our knowledge in health, science and the humanities.

They support numerous research positions, student jobs, academic awards and grants. Per their “Tri-Agency EDI Action Plan,” they’ve been tasked since 2018 with making students and researchers “representative of the Canadian population.” Universities, in their agreements to receive federal funding, must agree to promote “equitable practices.”

At a glance, you’d think this means simply making sure that procedures are fair to everyone, regardless of background. But the Canada Research Chair program shows this can mean dismissing applicants outright if the quotas (or “equity targets”) haven’t been met. Good intentions appear to have paved the way to mandated discrimination.

Values attestations are making their way into job applications as well. A University of Ottawa job posting for a research chair in green chemistry — that is, the study of chemical reactions — requires a demonstrated history of incorporating EDI and a statement about doing so. {snip}