Recently MP Sana Hassainia (independent, formerly NDP) argued that female politicians deserve special accommodations, as apparently fathers don’t face work-life balance issues

“I think it’s important to allow females – certainly among them mothers who want to spend time with their children – the possibility to either bring them [kids] in to their seats…”

In correspondence from CAFE, her office subsequently clarified that Hassainia does in fact believe equal accommodations should be provided for both men and women. Nevertheless, the sexism of her initial comments set off an interesting debate among our advisors. CAFE Advisor and University of Ottawa Professor Janice Fiamengo had this to say:

Not at all surprising. At my university (and I’m sure it’s not the only one), there is a special research leave granted only to women in order to deal with work-life balance. In other words, women are eligible for a six month leave from all teaching duties, with full pay, in addition to the regular sabbatical leaves professors are eligible to apply for. All one has to show is a research program and provide explanation of the family responsibilities (children, care of elderly relatives) that are a burden.
When I wrote complaining about the blatant inequity of this long-standing program, I received not a word in reply. (My colleague wrote also, also no reply)
About a year ago, our union sent around a very long questionnaire directed to women faculty filled with dozens of questions about our feelings about our treatment at the University of Ottawa. The questions were all of the following sort: “Have you ever felt you were denied the opportunity to advance in your field because of your gender?” “Have you ever felt that advice was not given you in a timely manner because of gender?” “Have you ever had a conflict in your department related to your gender?” “Have you ever felt disadvantaged in some manner because of your gender?” And on and on and on. It was unbelievable–totally subjective, totally unverifiable. What it will be used for, one can only guess. Probably to create more expensive research leaves like the one already in place.
When I wrote on the survey complaining about the outrageous bias, I received no reply.
About two months ago, I received an invitation to register for self-defense classes at the university, available to all female faculty, staff, and students. I wrote asking if these classes were available to male students and staff also. They are not. I did receive a reply, but it was completely illogical and hollow, and there was no interest whatsoever in offering the classes to male students and staff.


Janice Fiamengo
Professor of English
University of Ottawa


CAFE is looking to launch a human rights complaint against any University with special privileges afforded one gender. If you feel you have been aggrieved by such a policy please contact us