Quebec blocks appointment of systemic racism professor to INRS board

Quebec blocks appointment of systemic racism professor to INRS board –

Higher Education Minister Pascale Déry has caused an uproar among professors, opposition parties and the highest echelons of the University of Quebec (UQ) by blocking the appointment of a professor whose work focuses on multiculturalism, Islamophobia and systemic racism and more recently the anti-woke movement.

On December 20, Full Professor Denise Helly of the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS) received a message from the Secretary General of her institution, who informed her with “regret” that her candidate for the Board of Directors (CA) of the INRS was not from the Ministry of Higher education has been “retained”.

The reason ? In the email, seen by Le Devoir, Secretary-General Michel Fortin wrote to Ms Helly that the decision falls within the “discretion of the minister” and that the Ministry of Higher Education “does not take a decision” in such a situation. no additional explanation.”

INRS is part of the UQ network. In an interview, UQ president Alexandre Cloutier said he was concerned about this intervention by the minister, which was not “usual”. “This raises two problems. One is related to the autonomy of universities and the other to academic freedom also deserves analytical attention,” he says. These two principles are enshrined in the Law on Academic Freedom in Science, passed by the Legault government in June 2022.

Mr Cloutier said he had requested – and received – a meeting with Minister Déry's team. “The meeting is scheduled for the end of January next year and it is certain that we will assert the validity of our internal processes for the appointment of members of our CA,” he warned. When asked for this article, the minister's office declined to comment on the matter. In Quebec, opposition parties saw this as a gesture of censorship.

In an email to Le Devoir, the INRS said it had informed the ministry that “the failure to appoint a professor nominated by its assembly was unusual and a violation.” [à son avis] on university autonomy. According to the law on academic freedom, “universities must be able to fulfill their mission without doctrinal, ideological or moral constraints,” also emphasized Jean-Charles Grégoire, President of the INRS Association of Professors, and Madeleine Pastinelli, President, in a joint statement Press release from the Quebec Federation of University Professors.

An “unprecedented” gesture and “censorship,” say the opposition parties in Quebec

Why blocked?

The two unions are demanding explanations from Minister Déry regarding the rejection of the candidacy of Ms Helly, who holds a doctorate from the Sorbonne. “In our view, this refusal, if justified, can only be based on very serious reasons and these reasons must be communicated clearly and promptly to all authorities involved.” »

In an interview, Ms. Helly said she expects the same. ” If [la ministre] “If someone doesn’t make a statement by exercising their discretion, it becomes arbitrary,” she believes. In the absence of justification, she formulates hypotheses to explain the ministerial refusal.

According to the professor, the decision could be “age discrimination because I am 81 years old.” Or about “interference”, an “attack on university autonomy and an attempt to politicize the debates”. He claims to still be very active in university life, Ms. Helly tends to favor her second hypothesis, along with a third that claims it was rejected because of its research orientation.

“I have been working on Canadian multiculturalism, systemic racism, discrimination, Islamophobia and Muslims for 40 years. And then recently – and the minister doesn't know this yet because I haven't published yet – about the anti-woke currents, the recent political and public offensive against the rights of minorities, she explains. So these are somewhat troublesome topics for the CAQ people. » She says she does not understand “the point” of banning her from being on the INRS board, a role that she says represents “a detail” in university life. “So why take such a risk? I think it’s a political mistake on the part of the minister,” she says.

Professor Helly explains that she was elected by the faculty of her institution according to the internal procedure. His application was then submitted by INRS to the Ministry of Higher Education. According to the rules, the ministry must select an application before presenting it to the Council of Ministers, which makes the final decision. In the case of Ms. Helly, the candidacy was not accepted, meaning that it was not presented to the Executive Board.

In an exchange with Le Devoir, the INRS ensures that it has respected “every phase of the nomination process”.

To watch in the video