Combatting Racism on Campus

Tabaret Hall.
Combatting Racism on Campus

In June, 2019, the University of Ottawa President and Vice Chancellor Jacques Frémont announced a wide ranging approach to address racism and discrimination on campus.

The University of Ottawa is a diverse community of approximately 50,000 people. It is in a very real sense a microcosm of Canada, with Canada’s strengths, and its weaknesses. Those strengths include a profound commitment to human rights and a national culture that is tolerant of difference and that celebrates diversity.

Allegations of racism, racial profiling and harassment arose as a result of an incident during the summer of 2019. A second incident involving a Black student in September further emphasized the urgent need for concrete actions to combat racism on campus.

In reaction to these allegations and their impact on our University community, University of Ottawa President and Vice-Chancellor Jacques Frémont announced a wide-ranging approach to address racism and discrimination on campus.

In a statement released on June 10th, President Frémont provide an update on the measures implemented since the June 2019 incident and the achievements made as a community toward this goal. He also indicated that the work undertook this year represents an important beginning. One of the next steps in the very near future will be to announce increased mental health supports for members of our Black and racialized communities.

Reports

These reports were commissioned by the University and conducted by an independent investigator. Her mandate was twofold: first, to investigate both the specifics of the June incident and second, to review the University’s Protection Services policies and procedures and their application more broadly and to advise about their impacts on racialized community members.

Phase I Report (PDF, 933KB)

Phase II Report (PDF, 914KB)

Comments or suggestions?

uOttawa’s Action Committee on Anti-Racism and Inclusion’s mandate

The University of Ottawa’s Action Committee on Anti-Racism and Inclusion (“Action Committee”) aims to address anti-Racism, and particularly anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, and to support and promote the inclusion of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) members at all levels of the University of Ottawa’s community. The Action Committee will review and assess University resources, programs, policies, processes, and practices to understand how they contribute to systemic racism and will provide recommendations that will increase inclusion of BIPOC members on campus and eliminate barriers on campus.

The Action Committee on Anti-Racism and Inclusion will:

  • Receive and review community recommendations for BIPOC inclusion and the elimination of barriers
  • Develop an inventory of existing University academic and non-academic resources, initiatives and projects addressing systemic racism, particularly anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, as well as BIPOC inclusion
  • Review existing University academic and non-academic resources, initiatives, and projects addressing systemic racism, particularly anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, as well as BIPOC inclusion to determine whether existing tools are appropriate to address racism, and particularly anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, and whether they advance BIPOC inclusion and eliminate barriers
  • Review and consider best practices, policies and procedures in the wider post secondary sector for addressing anti-racism, and particularly anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, and BIPOC inclusion
  • Make recommendations about strategies and actionable steps that will assist the University in fulfilling its commitment to eliminating all forms of racism, including anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, and its equity, diversity and inclusion goals
  • Oversee the recommendations and provide regular reporting on progress to the University’s Administrative Committee and to the Board of Governors.
  • Implementation and coordination of actions will be supported by a Special Advisor, who will be named shortly.

In order to achieve this work, the Action Committee on Anti-Racism and Inclusion will form subcommittees focused on the areas of 1) Awareness, 2) Mobilisation, 3) Training and 4) Strengthening as follows:

The Awareness subcommittee will review and make suggested recommendations for consideration by the full Committee related to:

  • recognition of Black and Indigenous culture, Black and Indigenous excellence and BIPOC inclusion.
  • rights and responsibilities of uOttawa members under existing policies and complaint resolution mechanisms and any required improvements
  • other awareness related strategies/initiatives

The Mobilisation subcommittee will review and make suggested recommendations for consideration by the full committee related to:

  • collaboration opportunities with internal and external community groups/organizations
  • educational and employment opportunities for BIPOC students, staff and faculty
  • other community engagement related strategies/initiatives

The Training subcommittee will review and make suggested recommendations for consideration by the full committee related to:

  • review and assessment of academic and non-academic course offerings/training opportunities that may be relevant in supporting anti-Racism, and particularly anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, strategies/goals
  • implementation of internal training on prevention of racism, particularly anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism for students, faculty and staff
  • other training/educational related strategies/initiatives

The Strengthening subcommittee will review and make suggested recommendations for consideration by the full committee related to:

  • review and assess administrative and academic resources on campus for BIPOC community members
  • review and assess mentorship programs and opportunities for BIPOC community members
  • other BIPOC supports and services related strategies/initiatives

The Action Committee will be composed of representatives and individuals from BIPOC/equity-seeking and diversity groups/associations:

  • Up to ten students:
    • Two students from the University of Ottawa Students’ Union
    • One student from the Graduate Student’s Association
    • One student from the Black Student Leaders Association
    • One student from the Indigenous Students Association
    • Five students from recognized student governments other than the ones described above.
  • Up to five academic staff members including:
    • One representative of the BIPOC Caucus of the Association of Professors at the University of Ottawa
  • Up to five non-academic staff members
  • Two appointed members of the Board of Governors
  • The Special Advisor Anti-Racism and Inclusion (Ex officio member) (To be named)
  • The Director, Human Rights Office – Chair (Ex officio member)

The Action Committee member eligibility

The Action Committee membership is intended to reflect a diverse representation of uOttawa students, staff members and faculty members who identify as BIPOC and/or as members of identified equity-seeking and diversity groups. Members of the University of Ottawa community may nominate themselves or other University members, including students, faculty members, and staff members, to serve on the Action Committee.

In keeping with the intent and mandate of the Action Committee, the criteria for selection will include consideration of the nominee’s demonstrated commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility for members of BIPOC/equity-seeking and diversity groups, acknowledging a framework of intersectionality.

Members will serve a term up to two years and be named by a nomination committee composed of two students, one member of a non-academic group/association, one academic staff member and the chairperson.

The Nomination Committee

Nominating Committee will review each application and recommend candidates for the Action Committee’s consideration and appointment. In this review process, attention will be given both to how candidates meet the criteria for membership and the importance of achieving a total membership that includes a wide range of constituencies and BIPOC experiences. In addition, the committee should include a minimum of 75% BIPOC members.

Call for Nominations

The University of Ottawa is pleased to call for nominations for a new Action Committee on Anti-Racism and Inclusion. The Action Committee will be mandated to:

  • review and assess University resources, programs, policies, processes, and practices to understand how they contribute to systemic racism.
  • provide recommendations that will further the inclusion of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) members at the University.
  • eliminate barriers on campus.

The Action Committee will create and oversee an Action Plan on Anti-Racism that sets out recommended targets and outcomes.

The Committee will also be tasked with oversight of the recommendations and provide regular reporting on progress to the University’s Administrative Committee and to the Board of Governors. Implementation and coordination of actions will be supported by a Special Advisor, who will be named shortly.

The Action Committee’s work is critically important and will require collaboration and consultation across the University of Ottawa community.

The Action Committee will be composed of representatives and individuals from BIPOC/equity-seeking and diversity groups/associations:

  • Up to ten students:
    • Two students from the University of Ottawa Students’ Union
    • One student from the Graduate Student’s Association
    • One student from the Black Student Leaders Association
    • On student from the Indigenous Students Association
    • Five students from recognized student governments other than the ones described above.
  • Up to five academic staff members including:
    • One representative of the BIPOC Caucus of the Association of Professors at the University of Ottawa
  • Up to five non-academic staff members
  • Two appointed members of the Board of Governors
  • The Special Advisor Anti-Racism and Inclusion (Ex officio member)
  • The Director, Human Rights Office – Chair (Ex officio member)

The Action Committee membership is intended to reflect a diverse representation of uOttawa students, staff members and faculty members who identify as BIPOC and/or as members of identified equity-seeking and diversity groups. Members of the University of Ottawa community may nominate themselves or other University members, including students, faculty members, and staff members, to serve on the Action Committee.

In keeping with the intent and mandate of the Action Committee, the criteria for selection will include consideration of the nominee’s demonstrated commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility for members of BIPOC/equity-seeking and diversity groups acknowledging a framework of intersectionality. Members will serve a term up to two years and be named by a nomination committee composed of two students, one member of a non-academic group/association, one academic staff member and the chairperson.

We invite members of our community to confidentially nominate themselves or other individuals to serve on the new Action Committee by submitting nominations to the Human Rights Office at respect@uottawa.ca by 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday, January 27, 2021.

The nomination committee’s selection process will take place immediately following the submission deadline and the new Action Committee members will be announced shortly afterward.

The Action Committee’s inaugural meeting will take place in early January. New members should be available to join monthly or biweekly online meetings and some preparatory work for meetings will be required.

There will be opportunities for the entire uOttawa community to contribute and support the work of the Action Committee. A dedicated Action Committee webpage will be available soon and will provide regular updates on the Committee’s progress and opportunities for community members to participate.

Questions about the Action Committee may be directed to Noël Badiou, Director of the Human Rights Office at respect@uottawa.ca.

Interim Measures to combat racial discrimination

In addition to the investigator’s report, the President has also announced four interim measures to combat racial discrimination and to promote acceptance and inclusion on our campus and within our community. On September 4, President Frémont confirmed the implementation of several measures to address allegations of racism, racial profiling and harassment that arose as a result of the June incident involving a student and Protection Services officers. These measures were implemented and enacted during the summer with the aim of ensuring our campus is a safer and more inclusive and accepting place for all when the fall semester begins.

Review of Policy 33

The University thoroughly reviewed the interpretation and application of University Policy 33, Section 8, and Protection Services’ authority to request proof of identity from people on campus. Protection officers must now follow new directives that set out when and how they should and must request identification. The directives aim at striking a proper balance between due respect of individual rights and the officers’ duty to protect and ensure the safety and security on campus.

Strengthened intercultural training program for Protection Services

All Protection officers active on campus followed an unconscious bias training and participated in an equity, diversity and inclusion session, which included a discussion about social identity, visible and invisible differences, power, privilege and the intersectionality of these. The conclusion of the sessions focused on the importance of understanding equity, diversity and inclusion and how these are key values for a safer, more inclusive and respectful campus. The University believes such training will better equip its security personnel in their interactions with members of the uOttawa community and members of the public.

Complaints mechanism

An updated complaint mechanism is now available for those who believe they have been unfairly treated by uOttawa’s Protection Services. This mechanism allows individuals to contact directly the Director of Protection Services to present their grievances. Members of the community are reminded that the University’s Human Rights Office may also receive complaints that concern questions of discrimination and harassment. And any person may also file a complaint with the Private Security and Investigative Services Branch within the Ministry of the Solicitor General, if they have reason to believe that a licensee has failed to comply with the Private Security and Investigative Services Act or its regulations.

President’s Interim Committee for a Discrimination-Free Campus

A President’s Committee for a Discrimination-Free Campus has been put in place to provide advice to the President on ways to combat racism and promote diversity, acceptance and inclusivity across the uOttawa campus and within the uOttawa community. The committee met during the summer and provided guidance on the implementation of these measures. 

Specifically, the committee advised the President on how to:

  • Cultivate a truly inclusive and tolerant campus culture by engaging with and educating the uOttawa community
  • Hear directly from critical voices rooted in diverse communities and leading experts in anti-discrimination
  • Remove systemic barriers facing racialized members of the uOttawa community
  • Develop and implement an effective complaints mechanism for victims of discrimination on campus

Members of the committee were appointed on an interim basis due to the pressing need to act as a result of the June incident.

The President’s Interim Advisory Committee for a discrimination-free campus is composed of the following members:

  • Jacques Frémont, President and Vice-Chancellor
  • Dane Bedward, CEO, Neurobot Inc. and Board Member
  • Steffany Bennett, Special Advisor, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Saada Hussen, Undergraduate Student Representative, Board of Governors
  • Danielle Lussier-Meek, Advisor, Indigenous Relations & Indigenous Learner Advocate
  • Vanessa MacDonnell, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section
  • Tiyana Maharaj, Co-Founder, University of Ottawa Student Union
  • Errol Mendes, Full Professor, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section
  • Yasir Naqvi,  CEO, Institute for Canadian Citizenship
  • Joanne St-Lewis, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section
  • Jill Scott, Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs
  • Nicole Tumaine, Co-President, Black Law Student Association of Canada, University of Ottawa Chapter

Resources:

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