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Canadian universities and colleges sign charters to tackle black racism

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

The 22-page document requires signers to respect certain principles as they develop their own action plans to promote Black inclusion.

Called the Scarborough Charter, the document, drawn up by an advisory committee, emerges from an event hosted by the University of Toronto last year when anti-black racism was being brought to global attention. world.

Charter committee chair Wisdom Tettey said in an interview: “There was an opportune moment for us to say, ‘well, a lot of statements have been made, but this may be the moment for all of us. cooperate and do this.

The committee asked universities and colleges for input on amendments to the charter and met with a number of organizations and groups, including Canadian Universities and the Black congressional caucus, Tettey, vice president of the University of Toronto.

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

These 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 each partner organization to commit to the principles of black growth,” said Tettey.

“The idea of ​​black growth is to ensure that our institutions are places where black people, faculty, staff, students, and community members can feel at home, have a can see themselves in our mission and can be supported to grow.”

At the University of Toronto, part of the school’s plan to remove barriers facing Black students includes supporting their better mental health, Tettey said.

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

The university is also reviewing curricula to ensure Black knowledge is reflected, and is supporting Black students through scholarships and outreach programs.

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

“They come to a classroom and feel alone. They are the only black student or one of very few black students,” she said.

“They don’t always feel that they have a voice, and sometimes when they put on a voice or point out something related to the Black experience or black history, they don’t always being heard. They often feel left out.”

The curriculum at many universities, she said, does not reflect the Black experience or the success of black people.

“Black authors are often absent from the curriculum and that creates a sense of alienation when you’re alone in a classroom, and then you’re working on something that you feel is missing a corner. look.”

Malinda Smith, vice chancellor of the University of Calgary, said there are also very few Black scholars in the faculties of Canadian universities.

Canadian Census data from 2016 and data from a 2019 report by Canadian Universities show that 6% of undergraduates, 6.1% of graduate students and 3% of graduates PhDs are black, while 1.9% of professional students at universities and 0.8 Smith said the percentage of university leadership is black.

“There’s been a significant under-representation,” she said. “I’m the only Black senior leader at the University of Calgary,” she said, adding that universities need to deal with barriers and succeed ants may discourage the recruitment of Black scholars.

“We have to recognize systemic racism, and we have to recognize racial biases.”

Robert Summerby-Murray, chancellor of St. Mary of Halifax said involving the local Black community in research conducted by the university is also an important step towards tackling anti-Black racism.

“I believe part of what we did in the charter was to acknowledge a range of colonial and European processes within the academy,” he said.

“Here in Nova Scotia, we have a very important historic African Nova Scotian community … that have been in the province for hundreds of years. And these communities need to be involved as partners in research.”

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 18, 2021.

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