Madam Speaker, I am happy today to participate in the debate on the Bloc Québécois motion in relation to the Canada research chairs program and to have the opportunity to discuss the government's commitment to achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canadian research enterprise.
The Government of Canada is proud to support science and research from coast to coast to coast. Canada's highly skilled and talented researchers are world-renowned for their leading scientific breakthroughs, discovering bold, innovative approaches and contributing to solving our world's toughest problems. Returning our country to evidence-based decision-making is one of the main reasons I chose to run as a Liberal candidate in the riding of Waterloo.
The government invests over $4 billion annually in academic research through the federal research granting agencies and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Through these investments, we are committed to cultivating a rich and diverse research ecosystem that welcomes researchers from across the globe who choose a Canadian institution to call home.
Research demonstrates that diversity within the research ecosystem helps drive research excellence and strengthens its quality, social relevance and impact. If we want Canada to achieve its greatest potential in research, we need the rich diversity of Canada and all its intersectionalities to be reflected in our research institutions. It is critical that no researchers, especially those from under-represented groups such as women, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and racialized communities, face systemic barriers in accessing support for their work. Moreover, to retain this excellent talent in Canada, individuals need to be supported, valued and included.
Our country needs to benefit, to gain from this talent, these skills. Our country loses when we leave these populations on the sidelines. We know that such systemic barriers persist within academia, and within Canada's research ecosystem more broadly. There is well-documented evidence of the challenges these groups face, including unconscious or implicit biases in hiring, tenure, advancement, promotion, and peer review; wage gaps; precarious work; and institutional practices and policies that perpetuate disadvantages and contribute to a climate that is not inclusive.
For Canada to tap into its full potential for research excellence, these barriers must be eliminated so that all researchers can participate fully. That is why the Government of Canada has made concerted efforts to support systemic change and build capacity within Canada's post-secondary research enterprise to foster equity, diversity and inclusion. Canada's granting agencies are implementing an ambitious tri-agency equity, diversity, and inclusion action plan to ensure fair access to research support and promote equitable participation in the research system.
We recognize that systemic change is hard work and institutions need support in their efforts to drive transformational change in the research environment if they are to succeed. Through “Dimensions: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Canada”, a pilot initiative that is among the world-leading programs promoting equity, diversity and inclusion in higher education, we are encouraging institutions to take part in a transformation to increase equity, diversity and inclusion and help drive deeper cultural change within the research ecosystem.
As well, the pilot equity, diversity and inclusion institutional capacity-building grants have provided over $10 million to support post-secondary institutions in identifying and eliminating barriers faced by under-represented groups. These grants are supporting institutions as they adapt and implement organizational and systemic change, informed by evidence and meaningful engagement with impacted groups.
The tri-agency research support fund also provides support to institutions for projects related to equity, diversity and faculty renewal through the program's incremental project grants stream. In 2021-22, the program supported 29 such projects, totalling over $6 million.
Earlier this year, the government provided $19.2 million through the race, gender and diversity initiative to support 46 community-based and community-led research partnerships pertaining to the causes and persistence of systemic racism and discrimination, grounded in the lived experience of disadvantaged groups.
The Canada research chairs program is a flagship funding program that supports some of the world's brightest scholars and scientists. This program is a catalyst for amplifying new voices, insights and groundbreaking discoveries that respond to society's economic, social and health needs, and that help us make better sense of the world we live in.
Given the program's mandate to support research excellence, it is imperative that all excellent researchers have access to these prestigious positions. Since the program was first launched in 2000, it has had a history of continued under-representation of women, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and racialized communities, demonstrating that the barriers for individuals from these groups are systemic and persistent. To suggest that these individuals are not qualified is ridiculous and, frankly, disheartening.
The government has taken a variety of measures to address these barriers within the program and encourage institutions to do better. Some of these measures stem from a legally binding settlement agreement reached in 2006, and its addendum in 2019, pertaining to human rights complaints about equity within the program. The program uses institutional equity targets, considered a best practice by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, as a tool to address systemic barriers to participation. It also requires most institutions to develop robust action plans that will enable meaningful progress towards addressing the disadvantages experienced by under-represented and underserved groups. These measures help ensure that the program meets its objective of attracting and retaining a diverse cadre of world-class researchers at Canadian post-secondary institutions to reinforce excellence in research.
The emphasis on equity, diversity and inclusion within the Canada research chairs program is delivering results. In the most recent group of new and renewed chairs, announced in January 2022, 53% were women, almost 30% were racialized individuals, close to 3% were indigenous and almost 6% were persons with disabilities. These outstanding scholars are poised to make critical contributions in diverse research areas, such as photonic devices, health economics, substance use, artificial intelligence, ocean sustainability, northern wildlife biology and hydrological modelling and analysis, among many others.
Today, women make up 41% of all appointed chairs, up from less than 25% in 2009, when the first equity targets were set. In the same period, the representation of racialized communities in the program has almost doubled, to 23%, that of persons with disabilities has increased more than fivefold, to almost 6%, and that of indigenous peoples has increased more than eightfold, to just over 3%. This strong progress is the result of collaborative efforts on the part of the participating institutions and the government.
I would like to acknowledge the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University for their leadership and efforts in advancing a more equitable, diverse and inclusive research community and ecosystem.
These actions are helping to ensure that all of our best and brightest researchers have fair access to the support they need in their pursuit of scientific discovery that will lead Canada to a more equitable, more prosperous and consciously more inclusive Canada. This is part of the importance of ensuring that the decision-making table is more reflective and representative of Canada's diversity, because that will ensure better outcomes for even more Canadians.
I think we can all agree that we can do better. The COVID-19 pandemic once again highlighted, exposed and brought to the forefront the inequities that exist within our society. One way to ensure that we are responding to these is by making sure that the decision-making table, Canada's researchers included, is better representative of our diversity.
I am thankful for the time, and I look forward to comments and questions.