Universities Canada members will be asked this fall to consider whether to require member universities to commit to equal treatment of all people, without discrimination.
The Board of Directors approved a proposed by-law change in June that would include a non-discrimination requirement in the criteria for membership in the organization. More than two-thirds of the membership present at a membership meeting must also approve the new criterion for it to be added to the organization’s by-laws.
As a voluntary member-governed organization, Universities Canada sets its own membership criteria. Universities that wish to join must meet a set of criteria – included in the organization’s by-laws – which together reflect the members’ shared principles and attributes. Examples of other criteria include being not-for-profit and committing to principles of academic freedom. (View current membership criteria.)
This new criterion has been the subject of careful and thoughtful consideration by our Board, governance committee and the entire membership over the past six years, with several opportunities for dialogue, debate and reflection. These discussions have been characterized by respect, open discourse and fairness. Having our full membership vote on the criterion at the fall membership meeting in October is the next step in this process.
If this criterion is adopted, member institutions could not have policies, processes or codes of conduct that discriminate based on “protected grounds” – for example, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or colour. It is important to note, however, that the intention is not to restrict member institutions from hiring protocols aligned with their specific university mission. For example, it would not restrict a francophone institution from hiring French-speaking faculty and staff, or a faith-based institution from hiring faculty and staff who are part of their faith community.
If approved this fall, the new criterion will apply to all members. Current members of Universities Canada will have until 2020 to ensure that their policies and procedures are compatible with the new requirement. New institutions wishing to apply will need to be compliant immediately.
No university is required to join Universities Canada to fulfill its mission. Not all universities in Canada choose to join – nor are all universities eligible. In Canada, universities get their degree-granting powers through provincial legislation. Any modification to Universities Canada criteria for membership does not change the ability of provincially legislated universities to educate their students, conduct research or serve their communities.
Universities Canada’s Board of directors believes that a criterion recognizing universities’ commitment to non-discrimination reflects the views and principles of a substantial majority of our members and of Canadians.
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Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians.