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An INRS professor disqualified for her “links” with Adil Charkaoui, according to Quebec

Photo: Jacques Boissinot La Presse canadienne La Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d’université voit dans la décision de la ministre Pascale Déry une violation de la Loi sur la liberté académique dans le milieu universitaire.

The office of the Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry, affirmed on Friday that it had blocked the appointment of Professor Denise Helly to the board of directors (CA) of the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS) due to “the links” that she had with Imam Adil Charkaoui. Ms. Déry thereby confirmed having engaged in “political interference,” replied a teachers’ union.

“The decision to accept or not an application submitted to sit on the board of directors of an establishment remains the prerogative of the Minister. We had certain reservations about the links that Ms. Helly had with the controversial preacher Adil Charkaoui, so we asked the establishment to submit another application to us,” wrote to the Devoir< /i> the minister's press secretary, Simon Savignac.

“It won’t stop there,” reacted the tenured professor in a telephone interview. She believes she is the subject of a “smear” campaign.

In 2015, Denise Helly organized an international conference on Islamophobia at INRS, with three colleagues from the higher education sector. Adil Charkaoui participated as a representative of the Quebec Collective Against Islamophobia. Mr. Charkaoui had previously been suspected of terrorism by Canadian authorities. He was monitored for nine years, without any charges being filed against him.

Also in 2015, Ms. Helly received a recognition award from the Collective for her “efforts in the fight against Islamophobia”. The co-recipients were the former mayor of Huntingdon Stéphane Gendron and Salam El Minyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal. It is this recognition that most disturbs Ms. Déry’s office, explained her press secretary.

Not an error

“I believe I didn’t make a mistake,” Ms. Helly said of the award. “I accepted it and in their heads [at the Déry cabinet], that means that I support Charkaoui. In terms of academic freedom, if I refused, it meant that I was taking a position on the matter. » However, “I am not a lawyer, I am not the RCMP,” she said.

The Quebec Federation of University Professors (FQPPU) sees in Ms. Déry's decision a violation of the Act on academic freedom in academia, adopted by the government of François Legault in June 2022. This law “recognizes the autonomy of universities and guarantees the right of professors to participate in university activities “without doctrinal, ideological or moral constraint, such as institutional censorship”, recalled the union.

Speaking of a “cold shower” on the academic environment, the FQPPU said it was concerned to see that relations with the environment, “yet crucial to the work of the anthropologist and a matter of freedom academic”, can have “serious consequences on a professor’s career”. In this case, the INRS assured that it had respected “each of the stages of the appointment process”, in particular that allowing Ms. Helly to be chosen for the position on the Board of Directors by her peers.

“It smells like swing”

Also rewarded by the Collective represented by Mr. Charkaoui in 2015, Stéphane Gendron said he was concerned about a situation where a person is made “guilty by association”. “Maybe I’ve just written myself off for the next 50 years! », Launched the ex-mayor when Le Devoir contacted him.“I can’t believe the government won’t nominate her because sometime in 2015 she received an award. The Council is not a terrorist organization, it is not on the FBI list, I don't understand. We're going to carry this around for the rest of our lives ? »

Stéphane Gendron, who himself has introspected on his past positions, pleaded for “maintaining dialogue”, even with characters who “do not leave one indifferent”, like Mr. Charkaoui. “Such an attitude from the Legault government smacks of swing,” he lamented.

The blocking of Ms. Helly's candidacy by Quebec, without public justification so far, has sparked outrage in academia. Alexandre Cloutier, who chairs the University of Quebec – a network of which INRS is part – demanded a meeting with Ms. Déry’s team on this subject. On Friday, this meeting was still scheduled on his agenda for the end of the month.

Mr. Cloutier said he saw in Quebec's gesture an attack on the autonomy of universities and, possibly, on academic freedom. These two principles have been enshrined in law since June 2022.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116