Welcome Remarks

Meric Gertler
Meric Gertler, President, University of Toronto

We wish to acknowledge this land on which the University of Toronto operates. For thousands of years, it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit. Today, this meeting place is still home to many Indigenous People from across Turtle Island, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.

As the convener and host, the University of Toronto acknowledges that many of the institutions involved in the National Dialogues and Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities similarly make such statements. This acknowledgment acts as an expression of their gratitude and appreciation to the Indigenous People and communities whose territory they work and live on, and as a way of honouring the Indigenous People and communities who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial.

The first dialogue in the series of the National Dialogues and Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities was a vital conversation in light of the events of recent months that have profoundly shaken Canadians and global citizens. The events have imposed an enormous burden of pain, fear and anger on Black and racialized communities that have already been living with these experiences and feelings for many years. It is vital to recognize the deeper social and historical systemic injustice context to which Black people and communities in Canada and around the world continue to be subjected. This virtual dialogue served as the first in a series focusing on inclusive higher education and communities. It builds on a national partnership with over 2,000 participants and more than 65 institutional partners in attendance from coast to coast. On October 1 and 2, 2020, participants had the opportunity to choose from a set of interactive online dialogues with panelists from academia and beyond. The concurrent discussions explored the relevant issues, and the emerging themes in this report are based on those conversations. 

The overarching goal of the National Dialogues and Action is to facilitate a national conversation that moves beyond talk to promote feasible and effective actions to address systemic anti-Black racism and foster Black inclusion within our Canadian higher education institutions as a sector and the communities that we serve. While the conversations have acknowledged and emphasized painful experiences and injustice, the hope is that we share best practices and strategies for supporting systemic change and exchange ideas on existing initiatives we are already working on. As public higher education institutions, universities and colleges have a special responsibility to connect with underserved communities and remove barriers to access for individuals who may never have even considered higher education as a possibility.

Anti-Black racism is pernicious; it is morally abhorrent on every level and cannot, and indeed must not, be tolerated. Acts of racism also subvert the very mission of our institutions. It diminishes us all in both education and society. Our success relies on our ability to draw upon a multiplicity of ideas, perspectives, attitudes and beliefs in an effort to achieve excellence in the higher education sector.

National Dialogues Host, Meric Gertler,
President, University of Toronto


Next: Opening Remarks


Download the Report (PDF)