Expectations and Outcomes

Karima Hashmani
Karima Hashmani, Executive Director, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, University of Toronto

We are at a pivotal time in history where we have witnessed the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Ahmaud Arbery and so many other Black men and women. The recent verdict in the Breonna Taylor case has been heavy and impacted all of us. During COVID-19, we have witnessed disproportionate impacts on the Black community. These injustices highlight our systems that are rooted in discrimination.

As a racialized woman and a settler, not being from the Black community myself, I have privileges within our systems that others do not and I also have a responsibility. Today, not only am I here to listen and learn from the phenomenal Black leaders from various sectors, but I’m here to do the work, as many of you are, to engage in the possibilities of the disruption of our systems, in the re-envisioning of our practices to be inclusive and accessible, and in reviewing these structures that continue to let down the whole community.

It’s a collective effort, as Wisdom has mentioned, to change these systems such as our structures, recruitment practices, mentoring and advancement, and curriculum to figure out solutions together. We have to understand that we all have rights, but not all of us have access to these rights or can access them in the same way. We all need to engage in the understanding of the barriers that exist. Today is a perfect opportunity where we can develop actions on how to eliminate barriers and create intentional opportunities and meaningful and sustainable change.

Today, we want to seize the opportunity in a time where we can host a national dialogue from coast to coast to coast with so many dedicated committee members and over 3,000 participants, to generate concrete recommendations for change for the inclusion of Black students, staff, faculty and community members within our institutions. Not from a deficit model, but one that is based on empowerment and led by the Black community itself.
We have developed a framework that I would like to share to help guide us all through this dialogue, where our goal is to co-create a national charter equipped with principles, actions and accountabilities to address anti-Black racism and Black inclusion.

Today, in our nine concurrent sessions, we are going to focus on challenges, opportunities and barriers. We hope that during our conversations you can think about the principles involved, for example, in ensuring that everyone will have the opportunity to access an education; and on how to use this rights-based approach to guide the Scarborough Charter. This will be followed up with actions, and these actions are rooted in these principles and are key to change. Lastly, we plan to focus on accountability. As we all know too well, we can create commitments, but sometimes they just stop at commitments, so we need to have accountability measures in place.

Day two will follow up on the deliberations of today, and will also focus on the implementation of goals and actions and the development of the charter. We need to think about institutional and sectoral actions, but let’s not forget the personal actions that are also required. On all three of these levels, we have to connect our barriers and opportunities with our actions in order to create change. For example, we have to think about our institutional structures – our governing bodies, our senate and our board of directors – if we are making policy changes. We have to think about our human resource practices when we are focusing on recruitment.

Let’s actually think about our timeline. If we don’t have a timeline and if we say it takes too long to promote and advance these efforts, then that is an excuse for inaction. We want to make sure we’re building our timeline into our actions. We want to ensure that accountability mechanisms and the measuring of our progress and change are included – as these are important. We need to continue to build trust and transparency through our processes.
I hope this gives you some insight into the National Dialogues and how we are collectively approaching the forum. The next two days will indeed be ground breaking, as we are leading change within our sector and illustrating our values and putting them into action. The discussions, reflections and deliberations will inform a national charter that we can then hold ourselves accountable to. It will be a driver to change — in order to build a culture of inclusion at every level of higher education.

Thank you for joining us today. I look forward to hearing the deliberations, the insight and the wisdom, and I am very excited to embark, with you, on this co-creation of the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education.

National Dialogues Co-Convenor Karima Hashmani,
Executive Director, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, University of Toronto


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