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Newswire: July 2021 - National security guidelines, safe return and review of the Employment Equity Act

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In this issue

  • CAUT monitoring new national security guidelines for research partnerships
  • Safe return to academic workplaces
  • CAUT checklist for re-opening post-secondary institutions
  • Federal government appoints task force to review the Employment Equity Act
  • Will you take a few minutes to share your favourite podcast?
  • Upcoming events

CAUT monitoring new national security guidelines for research partnerships

On July 12, the Government of Canada introduced the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships that will, effective immediately, require applicants and their institutions to complete a risk assessment form for all NSERC Alliance grant applications involving one or more private sector partners. According to the government, the risk assessment of research partnerships is necessary to guard against foreign interference, espionage, and “unwanted knowledge transfer” that threaten Canada’s national security interests. The risks are defined broadly as research that may lead to “advancements in military, security, and intelligence capabilities of states or groups that pose a threat to Canada; or disruption of the Canadian economy, society, and critical infrastructure.”

CAUT is monitoring the implementation of the guidelines, with a particular focus on academic freedom, intellectual property rights, the potential for increased targeting of Chinese academics and students and the additional burdens that will arise for NSERC Alliance grant applicants.

Safe return to academic workplaces

Months after the COVID-19 pandemic first shuttered post-secondary institutions, universities and colleges are now developing plans to re-open campuses for in-person course delivery. To discuss the health and safety measures required to bring academic staff and students safely back to campuses, CAUT Vice-President Peter McInnis moderated a June 23 webinar with the theme “Safe Restart". Panelists included Michael Lynk, an Associate Professor at Western University’s Faculty of Law, Immanuel Lanzaderas, CAUT Legal Officer and Laura Lozanski, CAUT Health and Safety Officer.
With the ongoing pandemic, can academic staff invoke the right to refuse unsafe work?

“At the end of the day, the minimum standard for the circumstances of any particular workplace has to be safety, the only exceptions to that would be workplaces where danger is an inherent part of the job, such as the job of a police officer or firefighter,” according to Mr. Lynk. He explained that “the right to refuse unsafe work supersedes any contractual obligations,” but stressed, however that, “there must be a relationship or link between COVID-19 and an employee’s reasonable belief that there is a potential danger.”

Mr. Lanzaderas noted that in cases where an employer has created a policy on COVID-19 vaccines or a protocol for in-person return to campus, guidelines must be clear, equitable, and implemented in a manner that respects employees’ privacy.

Meanwhile, Ms. Lozanski stressed the importance of workplace Joint Health and Safety Committees, which must begin to work towards a safe re-opening of campuses by meeting with employer representatives to jointly develop a plan that includes the labour perspective.

CAUT checklist for re-opening post-secondary institutions

CAUT has released a checklist to assess post-secondary institutions’ re-opening plans for the Fall 2021 semester. The checklist is based on the recommendations of provincial public health authorities and input from CAUT member associations.

CAUT has also been tracking institutional plans for course delivery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fall 2021 semester re-opening plans for 120 post-secondary institutions are now available on the CAUT website. The plans include course delivery modes, health and safety measures, and information on hybrid teaching and vaccine requirements, where available.

Federal government appoints task force to review the Employment Equity Act

The federal government launched an Employment Equity Act Review Task Force on July 14. Comprised of 13 members of diverse backgrounds and multidisciplinary expertise, the Task Force includes Professor Adelle Blackett as Chair, and Professors Marie-Thérèse Chicha and Dionne Pohler, as Vice-Chairs.

The Employment Equity Act was first introduced in 1986 to “promote fairness, equality and diversity in federally regulated workplaces.” The Task Force will study the Act and “consult with stakeholders, communities and Canadians on issues related to employment equity.”

“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,” Carol Agócs, Professor Emerita in the Department of Political Science at Western University said in a CAUT-hosted conversation on the topic late last year. “Ignoring differences creates inequality.”

Photo: justin evans, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Will you take a few minutes to share your favourite podcast?

Academic staff have turned to podcasting as a popular medium to share their observations and experiences about academic work.

CAUT is introducing a regular podcast roundup in its Bulletin, starting with the upcoming September edition.

To help us learn about compelling post-secondary education stories or conversations, email us a short description of your must-listen-to podcast or podcast episode. 

CAUT might feature your favorite podcast in the next Bulletin or on social media!

Upcoming events