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CAUT urges defence of research confidentiality at UQAM

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is raising concerns about a court order that would require a Université du Québec à Montréal professor to violate the confidentiality of research participants.

A court has ordered Professor Marie-Ève Maillé to turn over the names of people she interviewed as part of her research into the development of a wind farm in the area of Arthabaska. Following a class action lawsuit by community residents against Éoliennes de l'Érable Inc., the wind farm company filed a motion with the court to compel Maillé to disclose the names of people who took part in her research.

"Researchers and academics across the country are extremely concerned about the decision of the Court,” said CAUT executive director David Robinson. “Maintaining the confidentiality of research subjects is an ethical obligation and professional requirement.”

Robinson notes that a 2014 Quebec Superior Court decision (Parent c. R., 2014 QCCS 132) quashed efforts to seize the confidential research records of two University of Ottawa professors. Justice Sophie Bourque denied Montreal police access to taped interviews with research subjects, upholding for the first time the rights of researchers to protect confidential information necessary for their academic work.

“There is a fundamental principle of researcher-participant privilege at stake here,” said Robinson. “Just as we recognize that it is in the public interest for journalists to be able to protect confidential sources, there must be a similar recognition that extends to academic researchers.  If confidentiality cannot be guaranteed, much important academic research will be silenced.”

Robinson adds that the University should be doing everything in its power to support Prof. Maillé in contesting the court order.