Identify the harms to human dignity and dismantle the power structures that permit them

Leadership and governance
Anti-racism and inclusion

By Boulou Ebanda De B'Beri

The Special Advisor, Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence, Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs

Fight racism together
A message from the Special Advisor, Anti-racism and Inclusive Excellence

On July 9, 2022, in Truro, Nova Scotia, the Prime Minister said, while speaking to descendants of the Second Construction Battalion, “We are here to accept responsibility for mistakes of the past and to pledge ourselves to working every day to build a better future.”

That is indeed a historic apology acknowledging the history of racism in Canada. When WW1 broke out, many young Black men, who loved their country, wanted to serve and protect it. They were willing and able to fight and had done so bravely and with distinction in the past. Yet, in repeated acts of institutional racism, they were turned away. They were told, “It’s a white man’s war.”

Only by identifying the historic patterns of institutional racism can we dismantle the more subtle forms that remain in place to this day. When the Prime Minister of Canada “pledges to work every day to build a better future,” I believe that is what he meant—to identify such harms to human dignity and dismantle the power structures that permit those racist harms to persist.

This story serves as a lesson to us all in the University of Ottawa community, that we must stay vigilant and identify harms, past and present, in order to integrate inclusive excellence into our everyday practices and actions.

On June 30, 2022, my official mandate ended with the submission of the Special Advisor, Anti-racism and Inclusive Excellence Final Report to the University of Ottawa’s administration. The 74 recommendations and other findings are now being analysed and will be released to the community in English and French along with uOttawa’s response.

As I have stated in previous messages, many of the recommendations have already been accepted and implemented over my one-and-a-half-year mandate, but much remains to be done. Institutional reform is not only essential, but also a fundamental requirement for long-lasting societal reform.

There is much to be hopeful about at the conclusion of this process. There is going to be ongoing work to eliminate racism and keep moving forward on the path to inclusive excellence. I will continue to work with the administration, the unions, the faculties and the student body to raise awareness and provoke action. As we enter the fall semester, we will be undertaking a high-profile anti-racism campaign on campus in partnership with unions and faculties to build awareness about what it means to be on an anti-racist campus.

We are right in the middle of building allyship within the university community on a scale that I have not seen in my almost two decades here. I am pleased with the willingness of everyone who has engaged with me and who can imagine what proper and meaningful inclusion can deliver for all. Let’s fight racism together, and stay tuned to read our Final Report very soon!