By: Karissa Ketter, News Writer
On November 21, 2021, SFU joined over 40 post-secondary institutions in signing onto the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education.
The University of Toronto began drafting the charter over a year ago, in consultation with multiple Canadian post-secondary institutions. SFU Black Caucus and the SFSS BIPOC Committee were part of the national dialogue.
The charter follows four principles of advancing Black flourishing, fostering inclusive excellence, ensuring mutuality, and accountability. Signatories of the charter are committing to “redressing anti-Black racism and fostering Black inclusion in universities and colleges across Canada.”
These principles guide commitments that aim to ensure leadership on equity is prevalent across all universities with the inclusion of Black students and faculty, constructing affirming and accessible spaces that foster Black belonging.
The charter asks for “commissioning academically rigorous and community inclusive task forces to conduct independent studies of the histories of slavery, colonialism, and racial injustice,” along with other demands addressing underrepresentation in academic settings.
In October 2020, the first National Dialogue was held to begin the development of the charter. The National Dialogue was a two-day long event with panelists discussing topics pertinent to rejecting anti-Black racism in academic institutions and “developing concrete actions and accountability mechanisms for structural and systemic change.” A statement released by the SFSS on April 1, 2021 detailed their feedback on a draft of the charter. This was after president Joy Johnson requested the SFSS BIPOC Committee’s feedback.
The BIPOC Committee recommended the inclusion of Black students in the charter and for institutions to actively “create space for them within the university apparatus.”
The SFSS stated they “wholeheartedly support this charter” and encouraged SFU to sign on.
The SFU Black Caucus also provided feedback to the charter. They asked schools that signed on to develop a specific action plan within 12 months of signing. The Caucus also asked for the charter to recognize “the historical presence of Black people in British Columbia” and to introduce vocabulary with an emphasis on the effects of slavery and racial segregation in Canada.
SFU reported that several of the commitments in the charter “are currently in progress at SFU,” which includes their recent decision to hire 15 more Black faculty members.
In an interview with SFU News, special advisor to the president on anti-racism Dr. June Francis said, “The charter represents an enormous moment of possibility and hope [ . . . ] Students from all backgrounds get to engage with and learn from Black perspectives and intellectual traditions. I truly think that taking these steps opens the possibility for us to thrive and flourish as an institution.”
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