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The appointment to the INRS board of directors paralyzed since the intervention of Minister Déry

Photo: Jacques Boissinot Archives The Canadian Press “The decision is maintained, we are awaiting a new application proposal from the establishment,” said the press secretary of the Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry, on Wednesday.

Associations representing 35,000 students express their “most sincere and total support” for Professor Denise Helly, whose appointment to the board of directors of the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS) has was blocked by the Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry.

Since January, the process has been on ice, INRS confirmed to Devoir. All parties maintained their position, and the position on the board remained vacant.

“The decision is maintained, we are awaiting a new application proposal from the establishment,” Ms. Déry’s press secretary said on Wednesday. The president of the University of Quebec (UQ), Alexandre Cloutier, has “nothing to add” on this situation for the moment, attested Bruno-Pierre Cyr, director of communications at UQ.

In January, Mr. Cloutier said he saw in the minister's action an attack on the autonomy of universities and, possibly, on academic freedom. He has since met Minister Déry, and “discussions are continuing.” As for INRS, it considers that the minister's decision is contrary to the principle of university autonomy. “INRS is still in consultation with the various stakeholders in this matter,” writes its spokesperson Julie Robert.

In the meantime, nine student associations representing 35,000 students from HEC, INRS and the University of Sherbrooke, among others, have signed a letter in which they say they are “scandalized” by Minister Déry’s decision. “[We] denounce any attempt by the government to interfere with academic independence, which is so important in a democratic society. But above all, we, university students, want to give our most sincere and total support to Professor Denise Helly, who is experiencing a totally unfair and discriminatory situation,” they write.

Also read

  • Quebec blocks the appointment to the INRS board of a professor studying systemic racism
  • An INRS professor disqualified due to “links” with Adil Charkaoui, according to Quebec
  • INRS students want a “common front” to denounce the blocking of a teacher at the CA

“Contempt” for the social sciences

According to these students, this affair demonstrates the “utter contempt” of the Coalition Avenir Québec towards the social sciences. “This is not the first time that the government has snubbed social science experts when it disagrees with researchers’ results,” they write.

They give the example of training against racism set up by a professor from the University of Quebec in Montreal. This training would, according to Radio-Canada, have been canceled due to its references to systemic racism, a concept that the Legault government largely rejects.

The students highlight Ms. Helly’s background in their letter. “His contribution to science has long been recognized by the academic world as important, rigorous, and courageous. Courageous because, as this case demonstrates, being a social science researcher on subjects that do not suit the political agenda of Minister Pascale Déry is exposing oneself to censorship and discrimination,” they argue. . They ask the minister to reverse her decision and “make public the real reasons for this refusal”.

The mute minister

Questioned several times in the corridors of the National Assembly, Pascale Déry has so far refused to publicly explain her decision. Rather, it was her press secretary, Simon Savignac, who wrote in a statement sent to the media that the government had “certain reservations regarding the links that Ms. Helly maintained with the controversial preacher Adil Charkaoui.”

In 2015, Denise Helly organized an international conference on Islamophobia at INRS with three colleagues from the higher education sector. Adil Charkaoui, previously suspected of terrorism by the Canadian authorities, participated as a representative of the Quebec Collective Against Islamophobia (CQCI). Ms. Helly received a recognition award from the CQCI for her “efforts in the fight against Islamophobia.” The co-winners were the former mayor of Huntingdon Stéphane Gendron and Salam al-Minyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal. It is this recognition that bothers Ms. Déry’s office the most, explained her press secretary.

In an interview given to Devoir at the end of January, Professor Helly said she considered having “not done any error” in accepting this reward. “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 then indicated.

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