Recent events in Canada, such as the discovery of the bodies of Indigenous children found on the grounds of former residential schools, are reminders of the racism and hate that have existed in our past and continue to plague and harm members of our society. We are also witnessing incidents of white supremacy, hate crimes, and various other forms of racism, including anti-Black, anti-Asian and anti-Indigenous racism. Hence, it is important that I begin my message on the President’s AntiRacism Taskforce (PART) initiative by acknowledging our racist past and purposefully naming those who have been wronged and historically excluded from our communities.
I would like to pay respects to the Attawandaron, Anishinaabeg, and Haudenosaunee peoples, as the University of Waterloo campuses and much of our community sit on their traditional territories. I also acknowledge and recognize this area is now home to many diverse First Nation, Inuit, and Métis groups.
It is important to also acknowledge that Canada’s culture, economic growth, and development have been made possible by the labour and sacrifice of enslaved Africans who suffered the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. We must understand the history of the struggles of their descendants and how slavery and colonialism have impacted – and will continue to impact – generations to come.
I would like to express my appreciation to everyone – students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni – who has driven the University’s anti-racism mission forward. I would like to thank those involved in various PART groups; the Community Collaborative (a group of racialized members in our community that helped inform and structure PART); and members of other anti-racism groups across the University’s campuses. Your efforts, dedication, and commitment in advancing this mission and its activities have been invaluable, especially given the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on our lives. Yet, all those involved in these anti-racism efforts have pressed on despite the various challenges of the last two years, including: working in a remote environment; childcare and eldercare responsibilities; changing government regulations; and other pandemic-related stressors and uncertainties. Although we were involved in sensitive and emotional discussions, members of our groups maintained a human-centered approach to this work, upheld a vision of change, and respected and welcomed a diversity of voices and opinions.
I am also grateful for the commitment made by our President’s office, as well as senior leaders, towards supporting the antiracism mission of the University. The Taskforce has carefully and thoughtfully prepared recommendations1 as a next step in advancing this critical mission. The taskforce is entrusting these recommendations to the President and the University as a whole for implementation in the coming months and years. It is true that initiatives of this scope and complexity are often met with challenges, interruptions, and other obstacles. However, it is my hope that, given the importance of this work, as a community, we will swiftly address any issues and mitigate any risks that may arise in the process of implementation. I trust that this initiative will be well-resourced and supported, and advanced with vigor and enthusiasm.
I look forward to the complete realization of the University’s anti-racism vision:
to be an equitable institution where all faculty, students and staff can learn, grow, and thrive.
Charmaine B. Dean
Vice-President, Research and International
1A summary of these recommendations can be found in the “Proposed Accountability Framework” section.