March 21 is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is an opportunity to reflect on the actions we can take to advance anti-racism, equity and inclusion, not just today, but throughout the year.

As places of higher learning, universities have an obligation and opportunity to take leadership in this area. We play an important role in educating our students and the public about the inequalities and injustices that continue to pervade society. We also have a responsibility to address these issues on our own campuses and in our communities.

We have to start by confronting the history of colonialism that has and continues to challenge so many people today, particularly Black, Indigenous and racialized people.

Advancing anti-racism and Truth and Reconciliation has always been critical work. The past two years have reminded us of the urgency of this work: the societal inequities that the pandemic has exposed, particularly against Black and Indigenous people, the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes, and the continued discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools across the country.

These and other events remind us that racism is not just part of our past, but still very much a stain on our present—and so we must persist and be unrelenting in our efforts to stamp out racism from our future.

In Waterloo’s strategic plan, we acknowledge that having a diversity of voices and perspectives enriches our teaching and research. To truly honour the rich diversity of our community, we must proactively find, prevent and remove barriers, so everyone feels included and welcome at this institution, and can achieve their full potential.

It is challenging, but incredibly important work. I am heartened by the progress already underway at the University, including some recent initiatives:

And across the University community, groups are taking coordinated actions to dismantle systems that perpetuate racial discrimination and build a more inclusive and equitable society.

I look forward to reviewing and taking action on the recommendations outlined in the final report of the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce in the coming months.

There is still much more work to do, but I am inspired by the action and dedication I have seen within our University community this past year. I look forward to continuing this work together.