Open Letter to University Presidents from the Canada Research Chairs Program

On April 28, 2016, the following letter was sent on behalf of the Canada Research Chairs Program’s Steering Committee to the presidents of all institutions that participate in the program. The program works together with these institutions to find and share strategies and practices that respect openness, transparency and equity, with the goal of ensuring all qualified researchers have access to, and the opportunity to participate in, the program.

This letter is an important reminder of the program’s firm commitment to equity. It calls on all institutions to continue and further strengthen their efforts to address the underrepresentation within the program of members from the four designated groups. In the spirit of openness and transparency, the program is currently exploring options for making public the results and findings of its target-setting exercise, while also respecting the Privacy Act.

April 28, 2016

To the University Presidents who participate in the Canada Research Chairs Program:

I am writing today, on behalf of the Steering Committee for the Canada Research Chairs Program, to call on you and your colleagues across Canada to make a concerted effort to address the under representation of the four designated groups (women, Aboriginal Peoples, persons with disabilities and visible minorities) in nominations for Canada Research Chair positions.

In November 2015, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed the most diverse Cabinet in Canada’s history. Efforts are ongoing, internationally and in Canada, to increase the proportion of women on corporate boards and other positions of leadership. We know that some of you have publicly committed to specific diversity goals at your institution. Others have put in place equally important institution-wide policies and targets with respect to advancing women and members of the other designated groups to positions of academic leadership. Canadian universities have shown innovation and leadership in this area.  

The program’s steering committee, which is composed of the Presidents of the three federal granting agencies, the Deputy Ministers of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Health Canada, as well as the President of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, would like to see these groundbreaking efforts also translate into a greater representation of the four designated groups among Canada Research Chair nominees. We are especially concerned by the very slow progress being made in this regard. For example for women, their representation among chairholders has not increased at the same rate as in the representation of women in academia.  We recognize that affecting the recruitment process in a complex organization such as a university can be challenging.  We are calling on you and your colleagues to sustain and intensify your efforts, in order to address, as soon as possible, the under representation of individuals from the four designated groups within the program.

From its inception, the Canada Research Chairs program was established to help leaders of Canada’s postsecondary institutions build world-class centres of excellence, in support of institutional strategies. Now, fifteen years later, the program remains one of the key tools available to you to implement the vision and goals you have set for your institution.

The Canada Research Chairs Program is currently undergoing an evaluation and the results are expected in the fall of 2016. My fellow Steering Committee members and I will review the results of the evaluation with an ‘equity lens’ to consider what program changes may be necessary to further address equity within the program and to better support your efforts. We would encourage your institution to conduct a similar review to see what changes are necessary within your own organization to affect substantive change. We welcome your thoughts on this important issue.


Ted Hewitt, PhD
President, SSHRC

Cc:  Institutional 1st contact
Institutional 2nd contact
Alain Beaudet, President CIHR
Mario Pinto, President NSERC
Gilles Patry, President and CEO CFI
John Knubley, Deputy Minister Industry Canada
Simon Kennedy, Deputy Minister Health Canada
Michèle Boutin, Executive Director, Chairs Program
Dominique Bérubé, Vice-President SSHRC