Open Letter to University Presidents from the Canada Research Chairs Program

May 10, 2017

To the university presidents who participate in the Canada Research Chairs Program:

I am writing on behalf of the Steering Committee for the Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP), as a followup to my communication of April of 2016 urging institutions to make concerted efforts to address the underrepresentation of the four designated groups (FDGs: women, Aboriginal Peoples, persons with disabilities and visible minorities) in their nominations for Canada Research Chair positions. Since that time, the results of the 15th-year evaluation of the program have confirmed that greater transparency and accountability in the processes used by institutions for the allocation and selection of chairholders is necessary to ensure that institutional equity and diversity targets are met.

As part of its response to the 15th-year evaluation, the Steering Committee is pleased to share with you the Canada Research Chairs Program’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. The action plan focuses on improving the governance, transparency and monitoring of equity and diversity within the program. It includes actions that will support institutions in making swift progress towards meeting their equity and diversity targets, in addition to ensuring that the essential principles of equity, diversity and inclusion are strengthened within the program. These include additional institutional requirements, some of which must be met by October 2017, and the remainder of which are due for completion in December 2017.

We are calling on you and your colleagues to take this opportunity to undertake a serious and meaningful review of your institution’s recruitment practices and work environment to identify the systemic barriers that may be impeding your equity, diversity and inclusion objectives within the program. If an institution fails to meet the deadlines stipulated in the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (1. Public accountability: October 27, 2017; 2. Institutional Equity Action Plan: December 15, 2017; and 3. Equity targets met by December 2019) the program will withhold peer review and payments for nominations submitted to the fall 2017 nomination intake cycle, and to future cycles as necessary, until the requirements are fulfilled.

Moving forward, program management will monitor the submitted nominations in accordance with each institution’s equity and diversity targets to ensure that progress is being made and sustained. If progressive improvements are not made in meeting equity targets between December 2017 and December 2019, additional measures may be taken. These additional measures—that are not included in the action plan, but that may be necessary to address the long-standing equity, diversity and inclusion challenges within the program—will be carefully considered as part of a public consultation, which will be held over the course of the spring and summer of this year. The consultation will discuss what further changes could be made to the program to respond to all of the recommendations of the evaluation.

As a federal program that provides funding to Canadian universities in order to facilitate the employment of individuals, program management is legally bound to ensure that the edicts within the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Employment Equity Act are upheld. As provincial employers, universities are bound by provincial human rights laws, which include very similar principles and prohibit systemic discrimination.

The Canadian Government is firmly committed to ensuring equity, diversity and inclusion with both the Canada Research Chairs Program and the Canadian research enterprise more broadly, and thereby, to the creation of the excellent, innovative and impactful research environment Canada requires to seize opportunities and respond to global challenges. To this end, we look forward to receiving your institution’s equity, diversity and inclusion action plan in December.


Ted Hewitt, PhD
President, SSHRC


Institutional 1st contact
Institutional 2nd contact
Rod McInnes, President CIHR
Mario Pinto, President NSERC
Gilles Patry, President and CEO CFI
John Knubley, Deputy Minister Industry Canada
Simon Kennedy, Deputy Minister Health Canada
Dominique Bérubé, Vice-President SSHRC
Danika Goosney, Executive Director, Chairs Program