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Goodyear intervenes in SSHRC funding

June 10, 2009

Minister of Science Gary Goodyear is again under fire, this time for allegedly intervening directly in a peer-reviewed SSHRC funding decision. The Globe and Mail is reporting that Mr. Goodyear contacted SSHRC president Chad Gaffield and asked him to convene a second peer-review committee to reexamine the decision by a previous such committee to provide funding for a controversial Middle East studies conference.  SSHRC has pledged $19,750 for a conference hosted by York and Queen’s Universities entitled “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace”, after a peer-review committee examined the request for funding.

The conference has recently come under fire from pro-Israel lobby groups due to the views of a number of conference participants who advocate a “one-state” solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. These groups believe that such a view “by definition denies the existence of a Jewish state”. B’nai Brith Canada has issued an “action alert” and argues that the conference will be attended by a “‘who’s who’ of anti-Israel propagandists”. 

The article quotes a conference organizer, Sharryn Aiken (who, the article notes, is herself Jewish), describing the conference as an opportunity to bring together diverse voices to look for a solution to the current “two-state solution” impasse: “We set out to create a forum that would facilitate a lively exchange from diverse perspectives,” Prof. Aiken said. 

Dr. Gaffield did not say how SSHRC would respond to Mr. Goodyear’s request. 

At first glance, I suspect that most observers will assume this is related to the Harper government’s noted increased support for Israel. Indeed, the Globe points out: “The Conservative government has moved Canada’s Middle East policy to a staunchly pro-Israel stand”. Personally, I think the decision is probably because the conference lacks a “business research” angle, and the Minister is having a hard time understanding how to commercialize conference results…

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