Canada sets new equity targets for premier science grants

Updated settlement ties racial and gender distribution to national shares of population

August 5, 2019

The Canadian government has accepted new targets for improving gender and racial equity in its Canada Research Chairs programme, which provides long term research funding to academic researchers.

The agreement updates a legal settlement first reached in 2006 to promote diversity among the programme’s award winners, reflecting ongoing complaints that the government was not fully meeting the original terms.

The 19-year-old Canada Research Chairs programme is one of the most prestigious national funding schemes for university researchers, providing C$295 million (£184 million) a year to support 2,285 researchers at 75 universities nationwide.

The legal challenge was first brought by a group of eight women and supported by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. The latest settlement demonstrated that racial and gender underrepresentation is persisting “not from a lack of qualified candidates but from discriminatory and exclusionary principles or practices in society and in academia itself”, CAUT’s executive director, David Robinson, said.

Equity numbers among Canada Research Chair awardees are nevertheless at record highs, with 33 per cent being women, 16 per cent coming from visible minorities, 2.1 per cent being indigenous people, and 1.6 per cent having disabilities.

The settlement sets new targets, to be reached in 10 years, based on shares of the nationwide population of 51 per cent women, 22 per cent visible minorities, 7.5 per cent people with disabilities, and 5 per cent indigenous scholars.

The programme also promised to measure and set targets for LGBTQ representation.

The Canada Research Chair awards are provided in two tiers – C$200,000 (£124,468) annually for seven years or C$100,000 (£62,234) annually for five years, with the possibility of a single renewal. The granting agencies are the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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