(Ottawa – February 16, 2021) Federal and provincial governments need to step up to fix serious issues in post-secondary education (PSE), says a new coalition representing over one million students and workers. In a report released today, the coalition outlines significant challenges facing the sector and lays out a comprehensive plan to strengthen post-secondary education as key to the pandemic response and recovery.
“The costs of education are rising, while growing inequality and stagnant wages mean that fewer Canadians will be able to access education and training, just when unemployment and economic displacement are high due to the pandemic,” the report notes.
The report also details how PSE is a critical contributor to the social and economic health of Canada and the foundation for Canada’s knowledge advantage, yet it is under considerable strain without intervention.
- Public funding now represents less than half of total university revenue in Canada, leaving institutions to somehow make up the difference, often through over-reliance on exploitive international student fees.
- Costs are out-stripping students’ ability to pay: average domestic undergraduate tuition has increased by 215 per cent since 1980, with average domestic graduate tuition increasing by 247 per cent since 1980, after accounting for inflation.
- Since 2006, more than half of faculty hiring has become contract-based, driving precarity up and wages down.
- Only 21 per cent of eligible First Nations students are receiving funding for postsecondary education.
The coalition’s Education for All campaign asks the federal government to work with provinces and territories to fix issues of cost, precarity, equity and access — common across Canadian campuses.
Education for All calls for:
- Boosting federal funding for PSE through the transfer to the provinces by a minimum of $3 billion, ensuring that funding is transparent and accountable and keeps up with inflation and enrolment growth;
- The elimination of interest rates on student loan repayments, the expansion of grants while working towards the gradual elimination of tuition fees;
- Expanding Canada’s research capacity, which has been slowed as a result of the pandemic, through increased research funding and graduate scholarships;
- Supporting a workforce renewal strategy that limits the sector’s use of precarious job contracts, contracting out and privatization.
Media contact: Lisa Keller, CAUT Communications Officer, (613)222-3530; firstname.lastname@example.org
The Education for All campaign is a joint initiative of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and the National Union of Public and General Employees representing more than one million students and workers.
Brenda Austin-Smith, President of the Canadian Association of University Teachers:
“Colleges and universities are centres of knowledge, innovation and talent growth, as well as sites of research and creative responses to threats like COVID-19 and climate change. Yet, decades of underfunding have led to the rise of precarious work among campus workers, including academic staff. The working conditions of our members are the learning conditions of students. That is why we support a healthy post-secondary education system that is critical to the post-pandemic recovery.”
Nikki Brayiannis, Deputy Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students:
“Students from coast to coast are fighting in solidarity for a high-quality, affordable post-secondary education that doesn’t leave anyone behind. Education for All is an opportunity to bridge gaps in our society like never before, with students, workers, and teachers at the centre of building a more equitable future.”
Mark Hancock, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees:
“CUPE’s 75,000 post-secondary education workers know that every job on campus is essential in delivering the highest quality education, from academic staff to food services to clerical staff and building operators. We’ve seen the impact that privatization and cost-cutting has had on the quality of education and the health and safety of students and workers. That’s why we’re proud to support a vision of Education for All that values high quality, publicly funded post-secondary education.”
Chris Aylward, National President of PSAC:
“Post-secondary workers, such as post-doctoral fellows and researchers, help secure Canada’s economic development and future innovation. They deserve fair wages and decent working conditions, which means universities and colleges must end their reliance on precarious contract jobs, corporate influence, and privatization. Innovative thinkers should be driving our research priorities, not corporate shareholders.”
Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees:
“A high-quality and accessible post-secondary education system will be crucial to meeting the challenges of today and to a more equitable, more sustainable future. We need our colleges and universities, more than ever, to train workers who design, build, and maintain green infrastructure, who perform care work, including child care and long-term care, and the numerous other skills that contribute to our society.”
(Ottawa – February 11, 2021) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is calling for a review of protocols regarding RCMP and CSIS activities on campus following recent instances of surveillance of students and academics, in a letter addressed to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair.
“The presence of the RCMP or CSIS at academic activities constitutes a serious threat to academic freedom,” says David Robinson, CAUT Executive Director. “Students and academic staff need to discuss and debate a variety of ideas, even those that challenge dominant paradigms, without fear of police surveillance.”
In the letter, Robinson notes that, in 1963, CAUT then-President Bora Laskin and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson reached an accord to limit and provide oversight of RCMP activities on campus, in response to concerns about the impact on academic freedom and free expression. A 1997-98 review of campus investigations by the Security Intelligence Review Committee called for the renewed application of the Pearson-Laskin Accord principles.
“The impacts of security agency surveillance and presence on campus has the same chill effect today as it has in the past,” notes Robinson. “It is time to renew the checks and balances on security agencies’ activities on campuses.”
For more information: Lisa Keller, CAUT Communications Officer
email@example.com: (c) 613-222-3530
(Ottawa – February 3, 2021) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is deeply concerned over the unprecedented situation at Laurentian University, which filed for court protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act on February 1.
Factors contributing to the situation at Laurentian include a lack of transparent and accountable institutional governance by the Laurentian administration, recent cuts by the Ontario government, and the long-standing erosion of public funding for post-secondary education. The implications for faculty, students and Indigenous and francophone minority access to post-secondary education in Ontario are grave.
CAUT is working closely with the Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) to ensure the best possible outcomes for quality education from the anticipated restructuring of the university while holding senior administrators to account for poor financial management.
“This has local, regional and national implications for post-secondary education and the people who work in our universities and colleges,” says David Robinson, CAUT Executive Director. “CAUT will be supporting LUFA to ensure it gets the legal, financial, and other support it needs to protect workers and students.”
With financial support from CAUT, LUFA has engaged Goldblatt Partners for their expertise in supporting workers through similar situations, notably the Air Canada insolvency.
CAUT joins with LUFA and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations in expressing outrage over the Ontario government reaction to the situation at Laurentian, which calls for increased government oversight, instead of improved funding and respect for collegial governance.
CAUT has joined forces with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the National Union of Public General Employees (NUPGE) to launch the Education for All campaign. Together representing more than one million students and workers, the coalition is putting forth a vision of a more affordable, accessible, high quality, and publicly-funded post-secondary education (PSE) system. On January 21, representatives from each organization discussed the long-simmering issues in PSE upon which the pandemic has shone a bright spotlight.
CAUT President Brenda Austin-Smith focused on two messages: underfunding, and the need for a healthy PSE sector as a critical part of a strong post-pandemic recovery. “COVID has exposed the frailties of an already underfunded national PSE system. Many people don’t realize that less than 50 per cent of the funding for PSE in Canada now comes from government sources, and so most of the costs of rising college and university tuition now rests on the shoulders of our students and their families,” she noted. “Colleges and universities are where knowledge, innovation and talent grow and thrive. Our institutions are where research grows creative responses to threats like COVID, climate change and other challenges to the way we live, work, teach and learn. The strength of the sector is key to a resilient future for us all.”
Karen Ranalletta, the president of CUPE local 2950 representing over 1500 clerical, library and theatre workers at the University of British Columbia, pointed to the community of workers who come together on campuses, all part of creating an environment of excellence. “CUPE represents over 70,000 workers in the sector, including academic staff, teaching assistants and support staff such as building operators and clerical staff in libraries, food services and IT areas,” she said. “They are the front-line workers who are behind the scenes but incredibly important to students’ success and, in fact, the success of our public education system. COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of every role in our workplaces.”
Representing the CFS, National Treasurer Alannah McKay described how the pandemic has impacted students’ learning experience, with the shift to online learning highlighting issues around accessibility and a growing mental health crisis within the student body. “A recovery from this pandemic must also mean reimagining the student experience and building a culture of care on and off our campuses, ensuring students’ physical, mental and spiritual well-being is supported along with learning,” she said, also noting that lack of Internet access is a serious barrier for students in rural and northern areas, and for those with lower incomes. “This speaks to a wider conversation about what access to education really means, and that includes breaking down barriers for students who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour, and making the PSE environment welcoming for them, and a place where racialized students want to stay, and learn.”
The importance of ongoing investments in fundamental research and stabilization of the research workforce was the focus of France Filion’s remarks. France spoke on behalf of PSAC Quebec, which represents research staff. “It is in the long-term that we can see the use of investments in fundamental science,” she noted. “Without it, applied research does not exist. Artificial intelligence, pharmaceuticals and other innovations are based on fundamental research.” She made a number of recommendations including enhanced investments in basic science and better data on research staff.
The growing, critical issue of precarity in PSE was dissected by NUPGE President Larry Brown, who calls the COVID crises not just a health, but a social issue as well. “COVID has really exposed the huge problem that we have in universities and colleges regarding the use of precariously-employed instructors. It’s hard to retain excellence and consistency in education when instructors come and go all the time. It’s hard for them to earn a reasonable living, and this precariat has become a disposable workforce that is invisible, and does not show up on any unemployment list when they aren’t called back on temporary contract,” he said. Brown also described the demographic shift currently underway with aging Baby Boomers retiring in large numbers, leaving countless jobs open that require an educated young workforce to fill. “Canada needs affordable, professionally developed and delivered high-quality PSE, built first and foremost on free tuition. It’s a social imperative.”
Listeners asked how students can best support workers and vice-versa. “The first thing to do is find out if there is already a coalition operating on your campus,” Austin-Smith replied. “If there isn’t, start one. It’s never too late to become an activist.”
(Ottawa – January 28, 2021) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is dismayed at the recent ruling by France’s Court of Appeal that Canadian academic Hassan Diab must stand trial.
“Dr. Diab languished for three years in French jail without having any legal charges brought against him,” says CAUT Executive Director David Robinson. “Having finally been released back to Canada after a lower court’s ruling that there was no reliable evidence against Dr. Diab, this new order to stand trial defies logic.”
Diab, a dual Lebanese-Canadian citizen, was teaching at Carleton University in Ottawa when he was arrested in 2008 and eventually extradited to France accused of a 1980 Paris synagogue bombing that killed four.
Hand-writing analysis which allegedly identified him as the bomber has been discredited, and his fingerprints do not match those left by the suspected bomber. Eyewitnesses and university records place him in Lebanon to write exams on the date the bombing took place in Paris..
“Rather than pursuing the continued persecution of Dr. Diab, French authorities should focus on finding the true culprit or culprits of this horrific crime,” Robinson notes. “CAUT will continue to support him in his appeal of this decision to the Supreme Court of France.”
(Ottawa — January 13, 2021) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), an international initiative to address the overreliance on journal-based metrics in hiring, promotion, and funding decisions and to promote and support equity in the academy.
“Measuring teaching, research, creative activities, service, and/or professional practice with an exclusive or excessive emphasis on performance metrics neglects the diversity and totality of scholarly activity,” said CAUT President Brenda Austin-Smith.
DORA is an international initiative to support and promote best practice in assessment of scholarly research. It recognizes that outputs from scientific research cannot be summed up with metrics. More than 1550 organizations and 15 000 individuals have signed the Declaration, including the Canadian research funding agencies.
DORA recommendations call on signatories to support the adoption of the following practices in research assessment:
- The elimination of the use of journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, in funding, appointment, and promotion considerations;
- The assessment of research on its own merits rather than on the basis of the journal in which the research is published; and,
- The promotion and teaching of best practice that focuses on the value and influence of specific research outputs.
“High quality research is multifaceted, can reflect varying types of knowledge and ways of knowing and must be assessed on its own merit. Academic staff associations are urged to improve the way in which the quality of research output is evaluated and to bargain for language in their collective agreements that protects their members against the use of performance metrics,” added Austin-Smith.
On December 15, 2020, CAUT hosted a virtual discussion on the Employment Equity Act to explore the Act’s impact and what more needs to be done.
Facilitator and CAUT Equity Committee Co-Chair Pat Armstrong noted that the Act’s roots go back to 1984 when Justice Rosalie Abella released her report from the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment. The Abella Report broke new ground by introducing the concept of “employment equity”, a uniquely Canadian policy to address workplace barriers facing equity-seeking groups.
The Abella Report led to the creation of the the Employment Equity Act, the Legislated Employment Equity Program (LEEP) and the Federal Contractors Program (FCP).
Speaker Carol Agócs, Professor Emerita in the Department of Political Science at Western University, said that Justice Abella emphasized that understanding the meaning of equality was of central importance.
“The key to understanding what is involved in implementing the Employment Equity Act is respect for differences, which is what allows people to be treated as equals. Ignoring differences creates inequality.”
Agócs summarized the strengths, weaknesses, and impact of the Act. She noted, for example, that companies and organizations that fell under the Federal Contractors Program were more likely have a diverse workforce than those that did not.
“Today's workplace is quite different from the one for which the Employment Equity Act was designed,’ she added. “In a best-case scenario, the newly announced Task Force to Modernize the Employment Equity Act might address some of the weaknesses built into the Act, recommend adequate funding to support the proper implementation by employers, and the auditing and enforcement functions of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.”
Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress, highlighted the long-standing need to strengthen the Act to move beyond rhetoric to truly diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces.
“Will the Act allow for consideration of groups who are subject to systemic discrimination but who are not currently subject to the Act?” he asked. “Will LGBTQS+ become a fifth designated group?”
Rousseau also flagged the use of the term "visible minorities" which has been widely criticized for bringing together many very different groups that can hide the distinct forms of racism and discrimination faced by, for example, Black people, Muslims or Sikhs.
Rousseau explained the need to examine not only the representation of members of equity-seeking groups across workplaces, but also the places where they work, the jobs they hold and their presence at different levels within the workforce.
“Do they [equity-seeking group members] have access to promotions, do they have opportunities to develop their skills and advance in their careers? What steps have been taken to change things? Which ones are effective? Will the law have the teeth it needs to achieve employment equity goals? What steps need to be taken to demand and achieve accountability? How can we better integrate intersectionality in assessing the success? Will the law allow for the collection and use for administrative purposes of data, properly subdivided, to better understand the barriers that may continue to pose problems for equity-seeking groups?”
Malinda Smith, a political science professor and the inaugural Vice Provost (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) at the University of Calgary, focused on data gaps hindering the capacity to measure progress within the Federal Contractors Program, and the implications for universities and colleges.
“Universities have gender data, because it's on all the forms that we fill out, but no comparable data for visible/racialized minorities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities or LGBTQ. It is a patchwork of uneven data collection which we must address, and equally so, this ‘one size fits all approach’. If you're not identifying the barriers and biases that means you are unable to talk about removing those barriers.”
Smith noted that before the Conservative government raised the threshold for FCP requirements from $200,000 to $1 million in 2013, about 60 post-secondary institutions were involved, but now only a few are required to undertake workforce systems analysis. She argued the Act must extend to more workplaces with stronger accountability mechanisms. Smith pointed to the recent changes to the Canada Research Chairs program as an example, suggesting that this could be expanded so that any institution receiving federal funds be required to make progress on employment equity.
During the discussion, participants emphasize the critical role of social movements and trade unions to drive legislative change at the federal and provincial levels and accountability at the institutional level. The value of employment equity legislation as distinct from human rights protections was also discussed, specifically the need for pro-active action to address barriers for those groups facing systemic and sustained discrimination in the workforce.
(Ottawa – December 1, 2020) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) welcomes measures in the Fall Economic Update to help vulnerable Canadians, including students, but calls on the government to make more concrete, robust and transformative commitments to research and post-secondary education in Budget 2021.
“This Update recognizes that students are struggling, but it falls short in laying out a detailed plan to fix critical issues in post-secondary education,” said CAUT Executive Director David Robinson. “We need federal leadership to ensure stable funding for universities and colleges, which are integral to solving Canada’s current and future challenges.”
CAUT urges the government to commit to a national plan for post-secondary education, which strengthens science and research, and improves accessibility, affordability, and quality of post-secondary education.
The Fall Economic Update is a mix of new and renewed commitments and includes:
- Elimination of the interest on repayment of the federal portion of the Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans for 2021-22, which will benefit 1.4 million Canadians burdened by student debt;
- Funding to ensure a safe restart in Indigenous post-secondary education institutions;
- Enhanced skills training for marginalized and displaced workers;
- Creation of a task force to modernize the Employment Equity Act.
“The pandemic is causing immediate and long-term negative impacts on Canada’s higher education sector, and the innovation and knowledge that support a strong, stable and resilient Canada. Without greater federal investment in post-secondary education, we will see quality, access and affordability further compromised and less research, slowing Canada’s recovery,” Robinson concludes.
(Ottawa – December 1, 2020) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is speaking out against Springer Nature after it cancelled a book deal about Canadian mining companies, allegedly due to legal threats by an un-named third party.
At a meeting of CAUT Council, delegates from across the country unanimously passed a motion denouncing Springer’s decision to cancel publication.
“The book’s content deserves scrutiny by the world, and suppressing its publication is a serious threat to the academic freedom, and the right of academic staff to conduct and disseminate research,” says CAUT Executive Director David Robinson.
The book, Canadian Mining in the Aftermath of Genocides in Guatemala, details mining company-linked human rights violations, forced evictions, repression, health and environmental harms, and corruption.
Springer reviewed and accepted the book for publication, but then suddenly reneged on the contract by citing unspecified libel concerns.
Legal counsel engaged by CAUT conducted a libel read of the manuscript and could find no basis for Springer’s decision to forgo publication.
“The academic community in Canada and internationally should be gravely concerned about Springer’s actions,” says Robinson. “Springer needs to be held to account. Academic publishers should stand up against censorship and not be bullied into suppressing content that the powerful may find uncomfortable.”
(Ottawa - November 30, 2020) The national association representing Canada’s academics has moved a step closer to censuring the University of Toronto over a hiring scandal in the Faculty of Law.
According to a report prepared by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the University offered Dr. Valentina Azarova the position of Director of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the Faculty of Law on August 11, 2020. The hiring process was abruptly aborted following outside political pressure from a sitting judge concerned about Dr. Azarova’s academic work on human rights in Israel and Palestine.
“The facts that have emerged strongly suggest the decision to cancel Dr. Azarova’s appointment was politically motivated, and as such would constitute a serious breach of widely recognized principles of academic freedom,” the report concludes.
Following the decision of CAUT Council, the University has six months to address concerns before censure is formally imposed. Censure is a sanction in which academic staff are asked to not accept appointments or speaking engagements at the institution until satisfactory changes are made.
Lisa Keller, Communications Officer, Canadian Association of University Teachers; 613-222-3530; firstname.lastname@example.org
Governments need to invest in post-secondary education for a strong recovery
By Brenda Austin-Smith
Universities and colleges employ hundreds of thousands of people, educate and train over two million students annually and drive research that improves the lives of all Canadians. In cities and communities across the country, they are regional economic drivers and social and cultural centres. Our world-class post-secondary education system is critical to our prosperity, underpins our democracy and finds solutions to key challenges, be it COVID or climate change.
All of this is in peril – and not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public funding for post-secondary education has been stagnant for more than a decade. COVID-19 has brought the system closer to the edge. Strategic investments in universities and colleges must be made now to ensure a strong economic recovery and a more resilient future for Canadians.
COVID-19 has strained resources and reduced revenues, especially from international student fees. For decades, in the absence of sustainable government funding, students and their families have been asked to pay more. Private sources of funding now make up over half of university revenues, up from just 20 per cent when the parents of students may have once been on campus.
Since the last recession in 2008, provincial government spending in the sector has decreased by one per cent in real terms. Meanwhile, student enrolment has grown by more than 20 per cent over the same time and income from tuition by nearly 70 per cent. With every second university student taking on an average of $28,000 of debt to get an education, reliance on student fees to solve the funding crisis simply isn’t sustainable.
There are three areas that need immediate action from the federal government to put post-secondary education on stable footing and improve quality, affordability and accessibility.
First, we need a national strategy for post-secondary education with goals to tackle education inequality, enhance affordability and strengthen research capacity. The last time the federal government increased the base funding to the provinces and territories for post-secondary education was in 2008 under Stephen Harper and this came with no plan of action to address key challenges.
Secondly, we need to accelerate research through enhanced investments in fundamental research. The government’s own Advisory Panel recommended funding levels 40 per cent higher than what we are investing today to keep Canada competitive.
The pandemic has also put much research on hold. In a survey of Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) members, two out of three have seen their research stop or stall as a result of the pandemic. This hiatus in research will have a significant downstream impact on the innovation and knowledge that supports Canada’s economy.
Finally, we need to secure opportunities for youth and the unemployed by decreasing upfront costs and moving to a free tuition model for low and middle-class Canadians. The government’s temporary doubling of the Canada Student Grant this year will help students cover costs this term, however it is still less than the average tuition.
It is also an unsustainable approach.
While we have seen increases in student financial assistance, we have also seen increases in tuition. As some provincial officials half-joke, the best way to leverage federal funding for post-secondary education is to raise tuition, as this will increase demands for federally-funded student financial assistance.
Some of the necessary changes to the funding model for post-secondary education could be met by redirecting the $900 million in unused federal funding from the failed Canada Student Service Grant program. The government could also repurpose the Canada Training Benefit to ensure that Canadians have more meaningful and timely access to educational opportunities.
There are many public services and sectors that need strengthening to get us out of the current crisis and be better for it. Post-secondary education is an essential foundation for social cohesion, innovation, science and economic success in Canada and must not be taken for granted. We cannot let it languish now, when it is so critical to the well-being of our country.
Brenda Austin-Smith is a film studies professor and head of the English, theatre, film & media department at the University of Manitoba. She is also President of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, which represents 72,000 academic staff at universities and colleges across the country.
First published in the Toronto Star
(Ottawa – November 13, 2020) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has written to Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez to demand protections for executive members of the Federación Colombiana de Educadores (FECODE) teachers’ union. Death threats were made at the end of October through the delivery of a funeral wreath and individualized obituary notices.
“We are alarmed at these latest threats to the teachers’ union and are deeply troubled that violence towards social and union leaders has become far too commonplace in your country,” says CAUT Executive Director David Robinson in the letter.
CAUT joins with Education International (EI) and the global education community in condemning the chronic lack of safety of teachers and union leaders in Colombia, where more than 6,000 education unionists have been killed, threatened, or forcefully displaced over the last 30 years.
“CAUT urges your government to ensure the safety and the physical integrity of all individuals on the FECODE Executive Committee, and of all citizens who exercise their rights to express opinions, demonstrate, and organise in defense of the public education system,” the letter concludes.
(Ottawa – October 21, 2020) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and the Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d’université (FQPPU) join their voices with those of all French educators to condemn the savage murder of a history teacher in France.
History and geography teacher Samuel Paty was killed for using caricatures of Mohammed to stimulate discussion in the classroom. This senseless attack is a reminder that teachers potentially place their lives at risk in practicing their profession; this murder not only constitutes an attack against the entire teaching profession, but also threatens freedom of expression and academic freedom.
Educational institutions and their staff must, at all costs, resist the temptation to self-censor or to avoid broaching any subject, including the most controversial words, concepts or theories, as indicated in a recent statement by Education International.
CAUT and the FQPPU offer their most sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Paty, and to his loved ones, colleagues and students. In memory of Samuel Paty, we must take a stand collectively and continue to fight so that schools, from preschool to higher education, will remain places of learning, where free discussion and ideas play a fundamental role in educating informed citizens who are capable of critical thinking, tolerance and humanity. Professors, teachers, and their institutions must never give in to such acts of terrorism.
Everywhere across the world, colleges and universities must continue to produce research and to disseminate knowledge, and must remain places where debate is encouraged. To achieve this, academic freedom must be supported and defended loudly and clearly, as a matter of public interest. In order to properly fulfill their roles, professors and teachers from all countries must have the right to teach, learn, study and publish without fear of being censored, targeted by fundamentalism, or threatened with reprisals or discrimination, both within their institutions and in the public space.
Only when our institutions unreservedly uphold academic freedom will it be possible for knowledge to continue to advance.
More than ever, we are all teachers.
(Ottawa – October 16 , 2020) Following this week’s announcement by the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) to hear appeals in protracted copyright litigation between York University and collective licencing agency Access Copyright, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) will seek to intervene to voice concerns of post-secondary teachers, researchers and students.
“This case will be critically important to determine if the Supreme Court meant what it said in previous decisions and re-affirm the public interest position of the education sector,” said CAUT Executive Director David Robinson.
The Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling, which will now come under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court, stated that Access Copyright cannot enforce its tariffs against York University or any non-licenced user, a clear recognition that educational institutions can opt out of collective licensing arrangements and choose other legal routes to copy and use works, including through site licensing, open access materials, transactional licences and through fair dealing. The Federal Court decision, however, failed to correct the lower court’s flawed comments on fair dealing. The Federal Court decision was appealed by both York University and Access Copyright.
“CAUT will urge the Supreme Court to decisively rule on what constitutes fair dealing for education purposes, and preserve the balance resulting from its previous decisions that enables public access to works, while balancing the rights of authors and creators to reasonable compensation,” added Robinson. “To do otherwise would render the fair dealing exception illusory for post-secondary education, spelling huge costs for universities and colleges, and backtracking to the past, rather than looking to a future which is sustainable and fair for both creators and users of copyrighted works.”
CAUT and the Canadian Federation of Students intervened at the Federal Court of Canada, arguing against mandatory tariffs and the lower court’s ruling on York University’s fair dealing purposes.
CAUT represents 72,000 academic staff that produce tens of thousands of articles, books and other works every year, making CAUT one of the country’s largest creator groups in Canada.
Lisa Keller, Communications Officer, Canadian Association of University Teachers; (c) 613-222-3530; email@example.com
(October 15, 2020) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is raising serious concerns about the University of Toronto’s investigation into a hiring controversy in the Faculty of Law.
Following a competitive search for the Director of the International Human Rights Program, a hiring committee unanimously recommended Valentina Azarova. She says she was offered the job on August 11 and accepted on August 19. However, in early September, it is alleged that a sitting judge with the Tax Court of Canada raised concerns about Azarova’s appointment and her offer was subsequently revoked. The judge is also a major donor to the University.
“The facts that have emerged strongly suggest the decision to cancel Dr. Azarova’s appointment was politically motivated, and as such would constitute a serious breach of widely recognized principles of academic freedom,” says CAUT Executive Director David Robinson.
In response to the ongoing controversy, on October 14, the University announced the creation of an “impartial investigation” headed by Bonnie Patterson, former president of Trent University and the Council of Ontario Universities.
Robinson says there are serious flaws with the scope and mandate of the investigation that undermine its credibility.
“Given the seriousness of the case, what is needed is an independent review,” he says. “Instead we have a deeply flawed review where the investigator is appointed by and reports to the Vice-President for Human Resources who has already publicly defended the Dean’s decision to terminate the hiring of Dr. Azarova.”
Robinson adds that the terms of reference do not include an assessment of important aspects of the case.
“Was Dr. Azarova offered a job, as she and the search committee claim, or not offered a job, as the Dean claims? What was the substance of the judge's intervention and the Dean's response? These questions lie at the heart of the case but are silent in the University’s statement about its investigation.”
Robinson also notes that the University’s announcement emphasizes that the search was for “a non-academic staff position within the Faculty of Law.”
“In framing it this way, it appears the University is trying to avoid any consideration of whether academic freedom might have been breached,” he states. “This should be of concern to all academic administrators at the University of Toronto who should be afforded academic freedom in their academic duties.”
The CAUT Executive Committee will be reviewing the case today and considering further actions, including sanctions against the University of Toronto.
(Ottawa – October 2, 2020) October 5 is World Teachers’ Day and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) joins with teachers’ associations and unions in Canada and around the world in celebrating it.
This year’s theme — “Teachers: Leading in Crisis, Reimagining the Future”, reflects the extraordinary efforts of teachers worldwide, from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and throughout post-secondary systems to ensure the health and safety of students and their education continuity during the global pandemic.
Through CAUT’s membership in Education International, a Global Union Federation that represents organisations of teachers and other education employees, we are united in promoting the principle that quality education, funded publicly, should be available to every student in every country.
School closures are changing the nature of teaching and learning as well as the conditions of work, and as CAUT’s survey of stressors caused by COVID-19 on the academic workplace reveals, many teachers and staff have seen increased workloads while facing new technological and social challenges, including a greater need to provide support for both their families and their students.
Register to hear CAUT President Brenda Austin-Smith participate on a virtual panel on World Teachers Day (7:50 p.m. CDT) to discuss the critical issue of teacher wellbeing in the context of the pandemic and the role of education unions in charting new, more sustainable approaches to ensuring teacher wellbeing.
(Ottawa – September 28, 2020) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has written to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demanding the immediate release of Cihan Erdal, a Carleton University doctoral student who was visiting Istanbul when he was arrested along with dozens of other academics and politicians for unknown reasons on September 25.
“Mr. Erdal was in Turkey to visit family and to conduct fieldwork as part of his doctoral research in Canada. His research on youth-led social movements in Europe, including in Turkey, focused on the stories of young activists,” says CAUT Executive Director David Robinson in a letter. “CAUT condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the actions taken against Mr. Erdal and is calling on the Turkish government to immediately drop all charges against him and the other 81 academics, politicians, and activists.”
Carleton’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology is also urging Canadian and Turkish authorities to facilitate release of Erdal and the 81 others arrested, and to ensure Erdal’s safe return to Canada, where he is a permanent resident. Hundreds of scholars have already signed on to the Department’s petition.
Erdal is likely being targeted for events dating to 2014 in which he — along with the other 81 individuals who were detained — was a signatory to a letter calling for the Turkish government to step in to protect a Kurdish town from ISIS attacks.
(Ottawa – September 24, 2020) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) welcomes the renewed commitments in the Speech from the Throne to strengthen social programs, such as child care and Employment Insurance, take more action to address climate change, and create good jobs, but is troubled that no commitments were made to research or post-secondary education.
“The Speech acknowledged how vital research and science are for our future, but the government missed an opportunity to strengthen universities and colleges, which are the foundation of our knowledge infrastructure,” said CAUT Executive Director David Robinson.
He added that although CAUT welcomes the decision to extend the wage subsidy, universities and colleges are still left out of the program. “Some institutions have already laid off staff, cut educational and research programs, and raised the cost of tuition.”
CAUT is calling on the government to commit to a national plan for post-secondary education, which strengthens science and research, and improves accessibility, affordability, and quality of post-secondary education.
“The Throne Speech made some ambitious promises to address some of the inequities and challenges made worse by the pandemic, but there are gaps in the plan. We hope to see more than words and look forward to a commitment in the budget to work with universities and colleges as critical partners in the recovery and in a more prosperous, just and green Canada,” noted Robinson.
(Ottawa – September 21, 2020) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urge development of a national pandemic recovery plan that includes strategic investment in Canada’s post-secondary education (PSE) sector.
“This pandemic has demonstrated the unsustainability of the current patchwork approach to PSE policy at all levels. A stronger federal partner is needed,” writes CAUT President Brenda Austin-Smith in the letter.
“Universities and colleges are integral to a strong, stable and resilient Canada, growing the knowledge, innovation and talent needed to solve current and future challenges. However, the sector is under considerable strain that is negatively affecting jobs, the diversity of educational programs, and access to opportunities.”
In its recent pre-Budget submission, CAUT pointed to the critical need to improve the affordability and sustainability of PSE as part of any recovery plan and made several recommendations, including:
- Develop a national strategy with the provinces and territories that provides adequate, stable federal funding to support quality post-secondary education.
- Accelerate research through enhanced investments in the Tri-Councils granting programs and increase graduate student scholarships.
- Secure opportunities for Canada’s youth & unemployed Canadians by moving to a free tuition model for low and middle-class Canadians at public universities and colleges.
(Ottawa – September 21, 2020) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is investigating allegations that the University of Toronto bowed to outside pressure in rescinding an offer of employment to an internationally recognized scholar.
Following a competitive hiring process, Valentina Azarova was the unanimous recommendation for the post of Director of the International Human Rights Program in the Faculty of Law. Azarova says she was offered the post by videoconference on August 11 and accepted the offer the following week. In early September, a sitting judge with the Tax Court of Canada contacted the Faculty of Law to express concern about Dr. Azarova’s appointment, and shortly after, her job offer was withdrawn.
In a letter to the University, CAUT Executive Director David Robinson concluded that “it appears the decision to cancel her appointment was politically motivated, and as such would constitute a serious breach of widely recognized principles of academic freedom.”
“An institution of higher learning fails to fulfill its purpose and mission if it accedes to outside pressure or asserts the power to proscribe ideas, no matter how controversial,” Robinson stated. “This would create an environment inimical to the free and vigorous exchange of ideas necessary for teaching and learning.”
In response, the University has not denied that a Tax Court judge contacted the Faculty to express concerns about the candidate but claims no job offer was made. Members of the hiring committee contest this and have resigned in protest.
Robinson says that CAUT will be pursuing the matter consistent with its procedures