House of Commons Hansard #78 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, first, the member might recognize that I said in my first comment that I would be sharing my time with my colleague and friend, the member for Waterloo.

In regard to enabling people to participate, whether it is gaining education or dealing with issues such as disabilities, not only have we taken budgetary actions to support that, but we have also initiated legislative actions. I would reference the member to have some dialogue with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. I am sure she would be more than happy to share some of the initiatives her department has been taking.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member for Winnipeg North's comments on the importance of equity to achieve equality. We know that many times we have not necessarily had the diversity of our country reflected. I heard him speak about the University of Winnipeg.

I am very proud of the University of Waterloo, as well as Wilfrid Laurier University, institutions that are leading the charge because we are embracing diversity and bringing in polices that are working for more Canadians. Inclusion is important, and I would like to hear the member's comments.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I have really been impressed with the University of Winnipeg in recent years. We have seen a very progressive move toward indigenous studies, from right at the top with the president of the university to the way in which it is opening to the entire student body. There is so much our universities can do to support the diversity of Canada.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, and if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order, Special Order, or usual practice of the House, following Private Members' Business on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, a motion to concur in the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, presented on Monday, May 30, 2022, be deemed moved and seconded, and, at the conclusion of the 3 hours provided for debate or when no member rises to speak, whichever is earlier, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put and a recorded division be deemed requested and deferred until Thursday, June 2, 2022, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions, and that during the debate, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those opposed to the hon. parliamentary secretary moving the motion will please say nay.

It is agreed.

The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2022 / 4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I am happy today to participate in the debate on the Bloc Québécois motion in relation to the Canada research chairs program and to have the opportunity to discuss the government's commitment to achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canadian research enterprise.

The Government of Canada is proud to support science and research from coast to coast to coast. Canada's highly skilled and talented researchers are world-renowned for their leading scientific breakthroughs, discovering bold, innovative approaches and contributing to solving our world's toughest problems. Returning our country to evidence-based decision-making is one of the main reasons I chose to run as a Liberal candidate in the riding of Waterloo.

The government invests over $4 billion annually in academic research through the federal research granting agencies and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Through these investments, we are committed to cultivating a rich and diverse research ecosystem that welcomes researchers from across the globe who choose a Canadian institution to call home.

Research demonstrates that diversity within the research ecosystem helps drive research excellence and strengthens its quality, social relevance and impact. If we want Canada to achieve its greatest potential in research, we need the rich diversity of Canada and all its intersectionalities to be reflected in our research institutions. It is critical that no researchers, especially those from under-represented groups such as women, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and racialized communities, face systemic barriers in accessing support for their work. Moreover, to retain this excellent talent in Canada, individuals need to be supported, valued and included.

Our country needs to benefit, to gain from this talent, these skills. Our country loses when we leave these populations on the sidelines. We know that such systemic barriers persist within academia, and within Canada's research ecosystem more broadly. There is well-documented evidence of the challenges these groups face, including unconscious or implicit biases in hiring, tenure, advancement, promotion, and peer review; wage gaps; precarious work; and institutional practices and policies that perpetuate disadvantages and contribute to a climate that is not inclusive.

For Canada to tap into its full potential for research excellence, these barriers must be eliminated so that all researchers can participate fully. That is why the Government of Canada has made concerted efforts to support systemic change and build capacity within Canada's post-secondary research enterprise to foster equity, diversity and inclusion. Canada's granting agencies are implementing an ambitious tri-agency equity, diversity, and inclusion action plan to ensure fair access to research support and promote equitable participation in the research system.

We recognize that systemic change is hard work and institutions need support in their efforts to drive transformational change in the research environment if they are to succeed. Through “Dimensions: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Canada”, a pilot initiative that is among the world-leading programs promoting equity, diversity and inclusion in higher education, we are encouraging institutions to take part in a transformation to increase equity, diversity and inclusion and help drive deeper cultural change within the research ecosystem.

As well, the pilot equity, diversity and inclusion institutional capacity-building grants have provided over $10 million to support post-secondary institutions in identifying and eliminating barriers faced by under-represented groups. These grants are supporting institutions as they adapt and implement organizational and systemic change, informed by evidence and meaningful engagement with impacted groups.

The tri-agency research support fund also provides support to institutions for projects related to equity, diversity and faculty renewal through the program's incremental project grants stream. In 2021-22, the program supported 29 such projects, totalling over $6 million.

Earlier this year, the government provided $19.2 million through the race, gender and diversity initiative to support 46 community-based and community-led research partnerships pertaining to the causes and persistence of systemic racism and discrimination, grounded in the lived experience of disadvantaged groups.

The Canada research chairs program is a flagship funding program that supports some of the world's brightest scholars and scientists. This program is a catalyst for amplifying new voices, insights and groundbreaking discoveries that respond to society's economic, social and health needs, and that help us make better sense of the world we live in.

Given the program's mandate to support research excellence, it is imperative that all excellent researchers have access to these prestigious positions. Since the program was first launched in 2000, it has had a history of continued under-representation of women, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and racialized communities, demonstrating that the barriers for individuals from these groups are systemic and persistent. To suggest that these individuals are not qualified is ridiculous and, frankly, disheartening.

The government has taken a variety of measures to address these barriers within the program and encourage institutions to do better. Some of these measures stem from a legally binding settlement agreement reached in 2006, and its addendum in 2019, pertaining to human rights complaints about equity within the program. The program uses institutional equity targets, considered a best practice by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, as a tool to address systemic barriers to participation. It also requires most institutions to develop robust action plans that will enable meaningful progress towards addressing the disadvantages experienced by under-represented and underserved groups. These measures help ensure that the program meets its objective of attracting and retaining a diverse cadre of world-class researchers at Canadian post-secondary institutions to reinforce excellence in research.

The emphasis on equity, diversity and inclusion within the Canada research chairs program is delivering results. In the most recent group of new and renewed chairs, announced in January 2022, 53% were women, almost 30% were racialized individuals, close to 3% were indigenous and almost 6% were persons with disabilities. These outstanding scholars are poised to make critical contributions in diverse research areas, such as photonic devices, health economics, substance use, artificial intelligence, ocean sustainability, northern wildlife biology and hydrological modelling and analysis, among many others.

Today, women make up 41% of all appointed chairs, up from less than 25% in 2009, when the first equity targets were set. In the same period, the representation of racialized communities in the program has almost doubled, to 23%, that of persons with disabilities has increased more than fivefold, to almost 6%, and that of indigenous peoples has increased more than eightfold, to just over 3%. This strong progress is the result of collaborative efforts on the part of the participating institutions and the government.

I would like to acknowledge the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University for their leadership and efforts in advancing a more equitable, diverse and inclusive research community and ecosystem.

These actions are helping to ensure that all of our best and brightest researchers have fair access to the support they need in their pursuit of scientific discovery that will lead Canada to a more equitable, more prosperous and consciously more inclusive Canada. This is part of the importance of ensuring that the decision-making table is more reflective and representative of Canada's diversity, because that will ensure better outcomes for even more Canadians.

I think we can all agree that we can do better. The COVID-19 pandemic once again highlighted, exposed and brought to the forefront the inequities that exist within our society. One way to ensure that we are responding to these is by making sure that the decision-making table, Canada's researchers included, is better representative of our diversity.

I am thankful for the time, and I look forward to comments and questions.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Waterloo for her speech. I also thank her for making an effort to actually discuss. She did not simply try to look for the underlying intent of the Bloc Québécois's opposition day, as if opposition days were named as such because other parties simply needed to oppose them rather than try to participate in what my colleague called the ethics of discussion earlier.

That being said, I imagine my colleague heard my colleague from Mirabel's speech this morning, as she is taking part in the debate this afternoon. He explained how difficult it is to go out and find good people, even if you want to look around the globe, given the many pitfalls you have to overcome, such as the ability to pay these individuals.

Is my colleague aware that Quebec has equal access employment programs? Despite my young age, those equal access employment programs have been in place throughout my teaching career. Does she understand that Quebec has a recruitment problem that is not necessarily related to the criteria she wants to apply all across Canada?

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague for his comments.

I think that the topic we are discussing today is a very important one. Even though it is hard to find more diversity and candidates, we need to keep trying. Saying that we are not going to do it because it is hard is not an excuse that I can understand.

I know that we can do better and that we can create more inclusive spaces. I would like us to continue working together to find qualified candidates, because I know that they are out there.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, this motion seems to be based on a faulty understanding of who gets appointed. There is an assumption that when affirmative action policies are in place, it means that a less qualified candidate is put forward. In fact, what it actually means is that we get a larger pool of qualified candidates and that we are removing barriers for those people who have traditionally been marginalized.

I would love to hear the member's comments on that.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I have been watching the member for Victoria engage in this debate throughout the day. I really appreciate the approach she is taking of recognizing that we need to do better, as well as the fact that this is actually much more of a conversation about how quickly, for example, if we see a woman such as myself or herself be appointed, we see the headlines become that it is not merit-based.

We are qualified individuals. We are educated. To suggest that when we have more diversity and intersectionalities represented, candidates are all of a sudden less qualified I personally think is, first of all, ridiculous and also disheartening, hence why I mentioned it in my comments. I know we have very qualified people who have been overlooked for far too long. We are creating systems that work for more Canadians, for more talent, and that is why dismantling the systemic issues is instrumental.

I would like to assure the member that I will keep fighting to ensure that we do better.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Green

Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Waterloo for her powerful speech. In particular, she mentioned the progress that Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo in our community are making. I wonder if she would be open to elaborating more on the impact it has had as they have made progress with respect to equity, diversity and inclusion.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, the member for Kitchener Centre and I come from the same region, and it has been impressive to see that we have post-secondary institutions that are recognizing that the best natural renewable resource we have in our community is our people; it is the talent. That is why it is important that we continue to invest in them. Both the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University have continued to push themselves. To an earlier comment in regard to having a challenging time finding qualified talent, what the universities in Waterloo demonstrate is that the talent does exist and we can find it if we work hard enough to try to secure it.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this opposition day today. I would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague from Shefford. I believe that this is the first time in two and a half years that I have said this at the beginning of my speech.

The debate that we are having today is an important one. I will start by saying that I have enjoyed the last few speeches. I have been listening to the debate for most of the day, and I only missed a few bits here and there. Many have said that they were disappointed with the topic and with the Bloc Québécois, but these are the words of people who have few arguments. I myself was disappointed to hear people say that they were disappointed.

Let us talk frankly about this fundamental topic.

I will start by sending a message to all women, to all visible minorities, to all first nations people, to all people with disabilities, and to any other group that may be under-represented. I would tell them that they are qualified and that they can do whatever they want in life and apply anywhere.

The Bloc Québécois's message today does not run counter to that. The message of the Bloc Québécois is that these groups are overwhelmingly under-represented in a large proportion of our institutions and that we must ensure that they have a proper place. Therefore, we are in favour of affirmative action. It is important for me to specify that because I do not want to later be accused of wanting to protect the power of 50-year-old white men. That is not what we are doing, and we are very much in favour of affirmative action.

The problem arises when we start to prohibit individuals from applying for a specific job. Regardless of differing opinions, I think that is very serious and a line that should not be crossed. That is the issue we are discussing today.

When you start saying that certain people cannot apply if they do not have specific physical or cultural characteristics, regardless of skills, that is a major problem. I am not saying that minorities are not competent; that is not my intention at all. What I am saying is that you cannot prohibit people from applying, and that is fundamental.

When problems arise in this world, we see a kind of pendulum effect. We can go back in time to observe this phenomenon. I would like to share an example that has a lot in common with the subject at hand: child-rearing philosophies. The 1980s and 1990s were an era of child-kings and parents who did not dare place any restrictions on their children.

Nowadays, we understand that was not necessarily a good thing. Previously, parents were too harsh, and then the pendulum swung the other way and they wanted to be their child's best friend. Eventually people realized that going too far in the other direction was bad, so things settled somewhere in the middle. Lots and lots of books were written about the importance of saying no, setting limits and so on. I wanted to share that to explain the idea of the pendulum.

We now find ourselves in the same situation with respect to the representation of minorities and other groups in jobs, including research chairs. These groups are currently under-represented, and we need to address that. I think we should bring the pendulum back to the centre without going too far in the opposite direction by excluding other people. I hope people will understand what I am saying and that their questions will not be accusatory.

How do we increase the representation of groups? Some of my colleagues referred to the equal access program in Quebec. I also experienced this when I was a teacher for a school board. I think that the Commission scolaire de l'industrie in Joliette was one of the first places where such a program was established in Quebec. In the 1990s, following a complaint from an individual, it was determined that women were clearly under‑represented in management positions.

We set up a program that said that, if candidates had equal or similar skills, then we would favour female candidates. Equal skills can be difficult to establish, so it had to be suitable and equivalent skills. The program worked very well. Of course, this was not something that happened in one or two years; it took a number of years for the program to work. However, if we look at the situation today, women are much better represented in management positions.

We cannot, as a central state, wave a magic wand and say that tomorrow morning everyone will be fairly represented. The current ratios stem from a long and heavy history.

At the same time, we also cannot tell people who were hired a long time ago that they no longer meet the criteria, so they are going to be fired and replaced by someone from a diverse background. I am being sarcastic, but I think my point is clear. That is what bothers me. As I have pointed out in several questions earlier today, and I think it has been raised other times as well, what continues to surprise me is that I have not heard from anyone from the political parties that oppose our Bloc motion who has bothered to answer that question. If anyone is willing to chat with me during question period, I invite them to say whether they are comfortable telling people that they are not in the right category so they do not have access to that, even though we claim to be the country where everything is possible. We have a fundamental problem and this is important.

Perhaps there are government members who also want to call us out. My colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques raised an important and interesting question about three government members who expressed doubts about the fact that applicants from certain ethnic groups were being rejected. Coincidentally, we have not heard from those three members today. It is all a bit surreal. If anyone has an answer for me, I would really like to hear it.

The other part of my speech has to do with the one-size-fits-all nature of the measures. The previous speaker used the phrase “coast to coast to coast”. The government considers everyone to be equal and the same everywhere, but it is unrealistic to require this to be done at the same speed everywhere, and it is not representative of the targeted communities. Several times today, people gave the example of Rimouski, where 2% of the people are members of visible minorities. It will be very difficult to have 20% of the staff come from those minorities when they represent only 2% of the population. That is a challenge, but that does not mean that we must not try, that we must not put measures in place or that we must not require this university to make every effort to seek candidates from outside the region and the country to fill these positions. The problem is that the government is telling that university that if it fails, then it will not get any money. That is where we run up against the great and powerful, all-knowing federal government. If the government institutes one-size-fits-all measures across the country, does that mean that since Quebec represents 23% of Canada, then 23% of the research chair holders across Canada need to be francophone? I am being sarcastic again. That is not what we are asking for. People will think that is ridiculous, but we are being asked to do the reverse.

I want to reiterate that we believe diversity is important and that we need these voices in our research institutions, in particular. Measures must be put in place, but problems cannot always be solved with a wave of a magic wand. It can sometimes take time to restore balance, but you cannot correct an injustice by committing a new one.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Green

Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened to the speech by the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, and although we do agree on a lot of things, that is not the case today.

Does my colleague understand that he and I, as white men, do not face certain systemic barriers? If so, does he agree that more needs to be done to remove these systemic barriers?

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague from the Green Party for his question and commend him for his excellent French.

I absolutely understand that, and I thought it was clear in my speech. I acknowledge this reality. A 50-year-old white mean who says that he understands cannot truly understand since he has not experienced these difficulties. He should say that he can appreciate these difficulties.

I am saying that we do need to take measures to make the ratios fairer and more equitable, to better reflect society. However, I do not think that discrimination and prohibiting people from applying for a job is the way to go about that. I think it needs to be done in other ways.

We agree on almost everything. I simply do not want to fix one injustice by committing another. It will be more progressive.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, the member mentioned that he recognizes that there has been discrimination in the past, but he says that we cannot swing the pendulum too far the other way. I am surprised. Since women, people from racialized communities and indigenous peoples are still under-represented, does he think the pendulum has swung too far back now?

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very grateful to my colleague from Victoria for her excellent question, because it will allow me to clarify matters.

I said earlier that we are going too far with this approach. I did not say that the proportion of under-represented people was too high. What I said was that, when introducing new measures, we should avoid discriminating against a new group of people on the pretext that the previous group has long suffered discrimination. I do not know if my answer is clear.

The aim is to correct historical under-representation, but it must be done properly, and universities must be allowed to recruit properly by insisting on higher thresholds. However, no one should ever be prohibited from applying for a job because that person has the wrong skin colour. That would swing the pendulum too far the other way.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, these are such important issues we are discussing in the debate today. I often reflect on the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who said the ideal that we seek as a society is one in which people are judged not based on the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character. We have to recognize that there are historical and ongoing instances of injustice and discrimination that people face, while at the same time working toward an ideal in which people are seen fundamentally on the basis of the content of their character and what they offer so that we are not placing so much focus on issues of race and identity in our discussion that they overwhelm other points of discussion.

I wonder if the member has thoughts on how we can address injustices while also moving toward the ideal that Martin Luther King Jr. described.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, actually, that is what I try to do every day. I will give an unrelated example. It still happens quite frequently that I learn that someone I know belongs to the LGBTQ+ community. I did not know, even if I have known these people for a long time. Why did I not know? Because it was none of my business and because I do not pay attention to these things. It is the same when I meet someone who is Black, Asian or white: I see a human being. Ideally, of course, that is the way it should be.

However, measures meant to restore equity are necessary. I want to make that very clear to my colleague. I am not against measures aimed at increasing the representation of under-represented groups. I think they are needed because there has been an extremely long and harmful history of injustice. I simply do not want to do the opposite and discriminate against another group.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé for agreeing to share his time with me.

I am pleased to speak to the Bloc Québécois motion concerning post-secondary studies and research chairs, even though this is a jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces.

As the critic for status of women, I am perfectly aware that this group is still under-represented and that more work needs to be done. However, the debate we would like to have is not about the concept of positive discrimination in general, but about the specific policy of the Canada research chairs program, and its requirements and practices concerning equity, diversity and inclusion. We are not against equity. We are not against diversity. We are not against inclusion. I am pleased to note that once again, Quebec is working to raise awareness of such matters.

Today I will be speaking about what is already being done in Quebec, I will come back to Ottawa's paternalistic approach, and I will conclude by speaking about the importance of being proactive, especially in the case of women, but also in the case of indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and minorities.

First, we must speak about what is already being done in Quebec.

The right way to promote equality, diversity and inclusion would instead be to apply a preferential hiring policy, meaning that for equally qualified candidates, preference would be given to certain people. That is what many Quebec universities have already done with respect to women, and it has worked well.

We are not directly opposed to all current, future or possible policies aimed at promoting equity, diversity and inclusion, especially since these exist in Quebec. We are starting a debate on the matter, a societal debate which has not yet taken place, but which is necessary and desirable.

I do want to say that in Quebec, there are also CEGEPs. Today, we are talking a lot about universities and research chairs, but we must not forget about CEGEPs.

There is no university in the riding of Shefford, but there is an excellent CEGEP in Granby. It may be training future researchers. We must not forget them in the post-secondary education continuum, whether it is for pre-university studies or technical courses. That is why I was delighted to present female science students with certificates to recognize their academic excellence as part of Hooked on School Days. I also talked with Yvan O'Connor, the director of the Granby CEGEP, who told me about his institution's projects and development and the problems related to foreign student visas.

If the federal government wants to contribute to education, it should work on matters under its jurisdiction. For example, it could provide adequate funding for science, which it is not doing at the moment.

We are opposed to a federal policy that is specific, ill-conceived and tainted by ideology. It creates paradoxical situations, anomalies or inequities. Moreover, it represents federal interference in an area under Quebec and provincial jurisdiction.

Section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867, expressly confers jurisdiction over education on the provinces. It is generally known and accepted that education is a Quebec matter. Quebec's universities belong to Quebeckers, and they are funded through taxes paid by Quebeckers.

In fact, it is a direct intrusion into provincial jurisdiction, because the influence of the Canada research chairs program goes beyond simply funding research. In fact, it acts as a professor hiring program. The federal government is dictating hiring conditions to universities. This is unacceptable. The program must be reviewed.

The federal government can use its spending power to finance research, but it cannot, in any way, use this approach to change the way Quebec's universities function. Yet, that is what is happening because of the excessive constraints imposed by the Canada research chairs program, particularly because of its unreasonable equity, diversity and inclusion requirements.

In addition, through the requirements it imposes on its research funding programs, the federal government is undermining the autonomy of universities. There is no excuse for the government dictating the conditions for hiring professors. If the government wishes to appropriate the ability to spend on education, it must do so with no strings attached.

It is unacceptable for the federal government to impose targets on Quebec universities under threat of sanctions. Quebec universities are perfectly free to develop programs to address diversity and inclusion without having the federal government dictate the terms and conditions under threat of having part of their funding withheld. Federally imposed requirements are unacceptable and illegitimate impediments to their independence.

It is possible to have a policy that fosters hiring from certain groups of equal qualifications. That is true and it is already being done for women in some Quebec university departments, for example. However, to apply an equal opportunities policy, you must have candidates who are available and interested.

The federal EDI policy on academic research funding is an ideological drift that creates absurd situations, and it must be abolished.

If we want the academic workforce to be more diverse and representative of the Canadian population, the solution is not to impose arbitrary quotas at the time of hiring, because the most important criteria should be the excellence of academic records and the value of scientific research projects.

The solution should be proactive instead, so that at the time of hiring, the pool of candidates is already more diverse and representative of the general population.

We are therefore being asked to collectively reflect on how we can find positive measures that will promote equal opportunities by stimulating interest in the arts, science and all spheres of society. In all cases, this will be a Quebec discussion, as education is at the heart of our social model.

The federal government's responsibility is to stop interfering in the management of Quebec universities and to improve the granting agencies' research grants for students. Yes, quotas create certain effects. They are unequal. To put it bluntly, the CRC program's current policy prevents some researchers from applying for research chair positions because they are not part of the designated groups. They are automatically excluded, despite their qualifications, even if that means some chairs remain vacant.

The unequal effects of the hiring targets for the four designated groups, namely women, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and visible minorities, came under public scrutiny when Laval University posted an ad for a job in the biology department in the winter of 2022. There was also an interesting column by Jean‑François Lisée, who denounced the incongruity of setting targets using the Canadian average.

With its Université du Québec network, Quebec made the choice to set up universities in the regions. That way, knowledge is not concentrated in the major centres, and this contributes to the social vitality of our regions. The current CRC policy requires our universities to recruit not only outside their walls, but well outside the regions in which they are established. The CRC policy directly hinders Quebec's vision. This is very important to me because it hurts our communities.

The federal government's position is rigid and ideologically driven. What is more, it constitutes interference in provincial jurisdictions. It is also an attack on the autonomy of universities. The federal government should review its research funding policy and allow the universities to determine their own hiring policies.

In Quebec, these criteria are evaluated based on the efforts made by the candidate to promote EDI, not on hiring quotas that exclude qualified researchers. We must not forget the important issue of university autonomy. These requirements prove that the federal policy does not respect the autonomy and independence of universities. The federal government's approach is extremely authoritarian and high-handed.

I would also add that, in the context of a labour shortage, it can take time to renew this pool, as requested by the federal government, given that many years of study are required for this process. That is the quandary faced by universities when they are required to fill positions with people from designated groups, except for women. Setting aside the issue of hiring quotas and the curious fact that women, indigenous people, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities are put in the same boat, this temporary excitement among elected officials and the media gives us an opportunity to again point out a fundamental fact about universities and their autonomy. We should remember that this is not about discussing the legitimacy of certain appointments from specific groups, because, in the case of women, that has been happening for more than 20 years. Instead, we are noting that the requirements imposed by the federal program are not being condemned by universities as an illegitimate and unacceptable restriction on their autonomy.

However, is this not a striking case of the denial of their management autonomy? In other words, these prejudices will be eliminated not by excluding certain people, but by improving selection processes. For example, universities could anonymize CVs or establish standard exams for a position. This is being discussed as a means of promoting the hiring of women.

These are points to ponder, because, beyond the debates on these exclusive criteria, I would like us to have a calm, healthy debate on proactive measures we can take. What barriers need to be broken down? Why are women still under-represented as entrepreneurs? Why are there still fewer women in politics? Why do we have to work harder to recruit female research chairs, especially in economics?

I was reading about that this summer in Hélène Périvier's excellent book about feminist economics, L'économie féministe. I highly recommend it. At the end of the day, I want little girls like my little Naomie to aspire to do the work they want to do, no matter what they choose.

Let us give them the choice. Let us give our universities the choice to operate the way they want.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed my colleague's speech, and I think a good point was raised at the end about an anonymous process. I think that works in some fields.

We are not at a point where diversity inclusion targets are being met, and in many of the speeches, I have heard that because there were historical injustices, we should not be committing a reverse injustice. Well, I would argue that these injustices, with the lack of diversity in research institutions and universities, are not just historical injustices, but continue today. There still exists racial discrimination in the workforce. That is a reality and a fact in Canada.

I have heard we need to do better, but without setting goals and targets and requiring institutions and corporations to meet them, I feel we will make backward progress. I want to know what the member feels about that. We will not make progress on inclusion and having more women in the workforce if we do not set targets for ourselves.

I would like to hear what the member has to say.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, actually, listening to today's speeches, I get the impression that we are searching for a cosmetic fix to a problem. We have so much work to do to deal with the causes, and imposing these targets and quotas is not the appropriate way to deal with the problem.

I will give my colleague an example. During the pandemic, the numbers showed that women were impeded in their research, that they were particularly affected by the pandemic and that this was detrimental to their academic work. Would imposing targets and quotas have solved the problem? I do not think so.

We really have to get to the root of the problem. Why were these women affected by the pandemic, why does the mental load still fall on them today, and why are they even more stuck at home, which has an effect on their work? What can we do to improve their work-life balance? These are the kinds of questions I want to raise today.

In my speech, I spoke about the quandary that quotas create for universities. I also explained that these things are already being done in Quebec anyway. I think that we need to be addressing this issue on a larger scale. We need to be proactive. I do not think that setting criteria and targets will necessarily help fix the many problems.

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent and well-articulated speech. I enjoyed it.

After listening to the speeches earlier today, I want to remind members that there is one people in Canada that is particularly susceptible to discrimination, the people my grandparents called French-Canadians in Lower Canada, now known as Quebec. We were discriminated against because of our language. There was even a time when some institutions did not think that we were smart enough to work for Hydro-Québec or hold senior civil engineering positions.

As my colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville pointed out earlier, the big unions, which were early proponents of equality of opportunity, responded to this sentiment. That is why women, members of visible minorities and other minorities are prioritized when they are equally qualified. Quebec has made a lot of progress in this arena, and this principle is now a given.

Does my colleague think that the government is going too far and that it should simply apply this old philosophy in universities, which are looking for qualifications?

Opposition Motion—Canada Research Chairs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, while listening to my colleague from Montcalm, I realized that in my speech, I dealt too quickly with Ottawa's paternalism and with the fact that it does not recognize our distinctiveness as a nation, our feelings and our desire to achieve equal opportunity for all.

Once again, we are told by know-it-all Ottawa that we are not doing things correctly and that it will impose new conditions, as it does everywhere, as if we were incapable of managing our own schools, our own health care system—