Complaints about the exclusion of white men from calls for candidates

November 26, 2022

Marco Fortier & Anne-Marie Provost

Le Devoir, November 26, 2022

A call for applications at Laval University (UL) for the position of Canada Research Chair in Canada-Quebec History, which excludes white men, has prompted a professor who feels his rights have been violated to file a complaint with the Quebec and Canadian Human Rights Commission.

We are in a drift. We think that fighting discrimination with discrimination is not a good way to proceed. It’s just going to inflame tensions,” says Frédéric Bastien, a historian, professor at Dawson College and activist. It’s rare to get a position in History.

He feels he could have had the skills to apply: he has a PhD in history and has several publications to his credit, including the book La Bataille de Londres.

However, in the job posting consulted by Le Devoir, for which the competition ended on November 8, 2021, Laval University wrote that “only candidates with the required skills AND who have self-identified as a member of at least one of the four under-represented groups (women, Aboriginals, people with disabilities and visible minorities) will be selected.

Université Laval cannot submit other types of nomination profiles until its representation targets are met, in accordance with the requirements of the CRC [Canada Research Chairs] program,” it adds.


Ottawa set diversity targets following a Federal Court ruling that was added in 2019. This is intended to redress a historical imbalance in minority representation. The targets for December 2029 are 50.9% for women, 22% for visible minorities, 7.5% for persons with disabilities and 4.9% for Aboriginal people. Universities are getting closer to the target: data from the Canada Research Chairs Program shows that as of September 2022, representation for “women and gender minorities” was 44.3%, 24.9% for racialized people, 6.1% for people with disabilities and 3.8% for Aboriginal people.

To achieve this, universities across the country exclude white men from applying for federally funded research chairs from the outset. This situation was denounced by the Quebec government and the opposition last March.

The UL is careful to point out that “all universities must comply with these requirements”. “Before the launch of each CRC competition, an assessment is made to determine whether gaps remain to be filled in order to reach the targets set by the program [Canada Research Chairs]. If these targets are met, CRCs can be awarded to anyone,” explains spokesperson Andrée-Anne Stewart.

As a matter of principle, Frédéric Bastien filed a complaint against Laval University and the Canada Research Chairs Program with the Canadian and Quebec human rights commissions on October 31. “By doing this, it violated my rights, writes the professor. By being considered a white, heterosexual male, I could not apply for the position in question, as the quotas for the above categories were not met.

Room for challenge

Since this approach generates heated debate, Stéphane Beaulac, a full professor at the Université de Montréal (UdeM) Faculty of Law, believes that filing a complaint is good news because “it will settle the issue” and “test the programme“.

There is a case to be made for challenging these postings. There is some teeth in it, legally speaking“, believes the specialist in constitutional law. But not necessarily on the discriminatory aspect, he adds, because it is part of a program expressly authorized by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and by the legislative regime.

The key concept is proportionality. That’s where the legal grip is,” says the man who was himself president of the hiring committee at the Faculty of Law of UdeM for two terms. It is to say that it goes too far because the process is supposed to keep as an absolute priority the competence to be fulfilled according to the posting’s functions. It is therefore to deprive oneself from the outset of several candidates that would make it possible to see, in the hiring market, who the most competent people are.

Contacted by Le Devoir, the Canada Research Chairs Program insists that “equity goals and strategic hiring are considered best practices by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to address the historical and persistent under-representation” of minorities.

White men are eligible for many research chair positions across Canadian universities,” adds spokesperson Andrea Matyas. The Canada Research Chairs Program is inclusive and does not exclude anyone. That’s why the program takes steps to ensure representation that reflects the population.

Laval University adds that a candidate cannot obtain a position at a Canada Research Chair if he or she does not fill out a self-identification form. Consulted by Le Devoir, the form includes questions with detailed answer choices on gender, sexual orientation, Aboriginal identity, membership in a visible minority and the presence of a disability.

This is a condition of the program when the federal government evaluates the candidates,” says Andrée-Anne Stewart.

Frédéric Bastien denounces this situation and plans to file a complaint against this form. “It is the individual’s private sphere that is being invaded by the employer,” he believes.

Translation validated by Michel Virard.

Original article here

Michel Virard