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New federal security restrictions: CAUT warns of negative impact on research and researchers

(January 17, 2024) – The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) says the federal government’s new research security restrictions raise concerns about academic freedom and international scientific collaboration.

“Restrictions on university research and academic freedom can only be justified in rare cases,” said CAUT Executive Director David Robinson. “It is important that any restrictions be specific and not broadly defined, be based on fact and not conjecture, and do not target specific communities.”

The new rules require researchers applying for federal grants in one of the identified sensitive research areas to sign an attestation that they do not have ties with organizations on a named list released by the government, as will students working on the project.

The list of “named organizations” includes both state and non-state actors, with 85 from China, 12 from Iran, and six from Russia.

While legitimate security risks may exist, Robinson says the new rules threaten to limit the global exchange of scientific research and target Canadian academics of Chinese descent or origin.

“Academics and students of Chinese origin are already being targeted and that is creating a chill on  academic research and partnerships,” said Robinson.