Back to top

December NewsWire: Highlights from CAUT’s 91st Council meeting

Delegates to Council met virtually on November 25 and 26, 2021 to discuss key issues facing academic staff associations, notably the ongoing University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) strike action, the lifting of the University of Toronto censure, and the implications of Laurentian University’s use of the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).

  • Strong support for UMFA strike action
  • Council pledges support for Ontario community colleges
  • University of Toronto censure is lifted
  • CAUT members reject IHRA definition of antisemitism
  • The Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and PSEs
  • Award Nominations
  • Academic freedom in Québec
  • Support for Afghan academics

Strong support for UMFA strike action

Delegates unanimously adopted the University of Winnipeg Faculty Association’s emergency motion for Council to publicly express its support for UMFA and its demand for fair and free collective bargaining. The motion also calls on the provincial government to rescind its wage mandate. During her opening remarks, CAUT President Brenda Austin-Smith discussed the issues that provoked the strike action by UMFA, including the provincial government’s mandate to limit salary increases. Austin-Smith called on Orvie Dingwall, UMFA president, who spoke about her association’s focus on ensuring pay equity and fairness to improve academic staff recruitment and retention. Noting that this is now UMFA’s longest strike in its history, Dingwall attributed the success of the month-long strike to UMFA’s “two-pronged approach”, targeting both the administration and the provincial government, and to the solidarity from CAUT members. Editor’s note: The UMFA strike ended on Monday, December 7, after members ratified a tentative agreement with the employer.

Council pledges support for Ontario community colleges

Delegates also unanimously adopted a resolution of solidarity with the Ontario Public Service Employee’s Union college bargaining team, which is currently engaged in contract negotiations with the province’s College Employer Council (CEC). OPSEU’S college faculty group represents over 13,000 academic staff at Ontario community colleges. Members are seeking gains on a range of key issues including workload, equity, Indigenization, and intellectual property rights.

University of Toronto censure is lifted

Delegates voted to formally lift the censure against the administration of the University of Toronto. Council took the unanimous decision after determining that the University had taken the actions recommended by CAUT to address what led to the imposition of the censure last April.  This past summer, the University re-offered Dr. Valentina Azarova the position of Director of the International Human Rights Program in the Faculty of Law. Since then, the University has also promised to extend academic freedom to certain professional and managerial positions and develop policies that prohibit donor interference in internal academic affairs.

CAUT Executive Director David Robinson recognized the efforts of the University of Toronto’s Faculty AssociationCUPE Local 3902 and the ad-hoc U of T censure group in ensuring a positive outcome in the dispute. Terezia Zoric, the president of the University of Toronto Faculty Association, says the CAUT Council “facilitated the creation of space to dig into things that needed to be excavated around collegial governance – and this will have a positive impact on academic life” moving forward.

CAUT members reject IHRA definition of antisemitism

Delegates unanimously backed a resolution brought forward by the Association of Academic Staff University of Alberta to oppose the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism (IHRA) at Canadian universities and colleges. Dyala Hamzah of the Université de Montréal said that the IHRA definition threatens academic freedom on Canadian campuses. The resolution strongly condemns antisemitism and recognizes the need to “safeguard the rights of scholars to develop critical perspectives on all states, including the state of Israel, without fear of outside political interference, cuts to funding, censorship, harassment, threats and intimidation.”

The Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and PSEs

Simon Archer, Partner at Goldblatt Partners LLP, gave a presentation on an upcoming report on how CAUT and academic associations can take steps to prevent universities and colleges from using the Companies Creditors Arrangements Act (CCAA). Archer noted that when Laurentian University filed for insolvency using the CCAA last February, it took university stakeholders out of the “normal ways dispute resolution happens” and side-stepped how governance, funding and decisions are typically made in a university setting.

Archer warned that resisting the use of the CCAA for other insolvency cases involving public institutions is “very difficult, almost impossible”. However, the report does provide an analysis of some of the ways employee groups have tried to resist and, using this analysis, offers some advice to academic staff associations. The report’s top recommendation is to establish an “early warning and early intervention” system. Archer says well before there are problems, it is important to seek “enhanced financial exigency terms” so that when there is a true emergency there is already a negotiated solution that includes employees “at the table”.

Award Nominations

Congratulations to Erin Patterson of Vaughan Memorial Library at Acadia University for being nominated for the Academic Librarians' and Archivists’ Distinguished Service Award. For the Sarah Shorten Award, the Council nominated members of the Joint Gender Equity Salary Adjustment Committee of the Memorial University of Newfoundland: Ms. Sheila Singleton, Retired (Chair), Kara A. Arnold (Faculty of Business Administration), Jennifer Lokash (Department of English, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences), and Nicole Power (Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences). Both awards will be presented at the April 2022 Council meeting. 

Academic freedom in Québec

Christine Gauthier of the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ-CSN) presented an overview of the major higher education issues in Québec, notably the need to for universities in Quebec to adopt a statement on academic freedom. Currently, Quebec’s Charter of human rights and freedoms focuses on freedom of expression, but Gauthier argues that this is not enough as academic freedom is “fragile”. Gauthier said her members are concerned about how debates over academic freedom are framed as pitting students against faculty, and free expression against the interests of equity-deserving groups, instead of considering the broader issue of institutional practices that have an adverse impact on collegial governance.

Support for Afghan academics

CAUT Executive Director David Robinson called on members to generously support Afghan academics forced to flee Afghanistan. CAUT is working with the federal government, Education International, the Canadian Labour Congress, the International Trade Union Confederation, and Scholars at Risk to assess how best to support at-risk scholars and facilitate opportunities for them in Canada. Online donations to the CAUT Refugee Foundation can be made through Canada Helps.