Canadian universities, colleges are committed to fighting anti-black racism in schools – National

A group of universities and colleges from across Canada sign a charter to fight anti-black racism in post-secondary institutions.

The 22-page document requires those who sign it to adhere to certain principles as they develop their own action plans to grow Black inclusion.

Referred to as the Scarborough Charter, the document was drafted by an advisory committee that came out of an event hosted by the University of Toronto last year because anti-black racism was in the international spotlight.

“It was a opportune moment for us to say,‘ well, there are a lot of statements issued, but this may be the time for us to come together and do that together, ”charter committee chairman Wisdom Tettey said in an interview.

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The committee asked universities and colleges for their suggestions to refine the charter and met with several organizations and groups, including Universities Canada and the Black Parliamentary meeting, said Tettey, vice president of the University of Toronto.

Forty-six universities and colleges, including the country’s largest post-secondary institutions, sign the charter almost Thursday.

They include the University of Toronto, McGill University, York University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Calgary and the University of Waterloo.

Tettey said more universities and colleges are expected to sign the charter in the near future. There are 96 publicly funded universities and 139 publicly funded colleges in Canada.

“We expect every partner institution to adhere to the principles of black flowering,” Tettey said.

“The idea of ​​black flowering is to ensure that our institutions are places where blacks, teachers, employees, students and community members can feel a sense of belonging, can see themselves in our mission and can be supported to thrive.”

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At the University of Toronto, part of the school’s plan to remove barriers faced by Black students includes providing better mental support for them, Tettey said.

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“We make sure we have counselors who understand and come from black communities,” he said.

The university also reviews curricula to ensure black knowledge is reflected, and supports black students through scholarships and access programs.

Ananya Mukherjee Reed, the provost of the University of British Columbia, said Black students face the same barriers at post-secondary institutions that exist in society at large.

“They go to class and they feel alone. They are either the only black student or one of the very few black students, ”she said.

“They don’t always feel like they have a voice and when they sometimes express the voice or they draw attention to something related to the Black experience or Black history, they are not always heard. They often feel discarded. ”

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Curricula at many universities do not reflect Black experiences or Black successes, she said.

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“Black authors are often absent from a curriculum and that creates a sense of alienation when you’re alone in a classroom, and then you study something that you feel lacks perspective.”

Malinda Smith, the vice president of the University of Calgary, said there are also few Black academics in the faculties of Canadian universities.

Statistics Canada census data from 2016 and data from 2019 Universities Canada report indicate six percent of undergraduate students, 6.1 percent of graduate students, and three percent of PhD graduates are Black, while 1.9 percent of the teaching staff in universities and 0.8 percent. Percentage of university leaders are Black, Smith said.

“It’s an important underrepresentation. I am the only Black senior leader at the University of Calgary, ”she said, adding that universities must address barriers and prejudices that may prevent black academics from being hired.

“We need to recognize systemic racism, and we need to recognize racial prejudice.”

Robert Summerby-Murray, the president of St. Mary’s University in Halifax said engaging local Black communities in research conducted by universities is also an important step in addressing anti-black racism.

“Part of what we did in the charter, I believe, is to recognize a set of Eurocentric and colonial processes within the academy,” he said.

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“Here in Nova Scotia, we have a very important historical African neo-Scottish community … that has been in this province for hundreds of years. And these communities need to be involved as partners in research.”

© 2021 The Canadian Press


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