Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Principles & Commitments for SFU Geography

Building from commitments the department of geography made in its Black Lives Matter statement in June 2020, the following principles have been adopted by and for the department. The principles respond to issues identified in departmental discussions (e.g. in the Black Lives Matter reading group) and in numerous reports and studies at SFU and across Canada.1 The principles are intended to be put into practice; they are a blueprint to guide the department’s internal procedures, operations, and culture. Each department committee is responsible for implementing the principles in its work. The department acknowledges the institutional and legal constraints within which it operates (e.g. collective agreements) and commits to implementing these principles as fully as these constraints permit. As “living” principles, they will be subject to regular review and revision as required.

1. As a department, we believe a diversity of knowledges, identities, and experiences is fundamental to the department. We believe it is necessary to increase diversity, particularly racial diversity, among anyone affiliated with the department, including contract workers, faculty, instructors, staff and students.

2. We understand that Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC), LGBTQ people, people from the Global South, women, and people with disabilities, face discrimination and bias throughout their educational and career pathways, stemming from racism, heterosexism, colonialism, sexism, ableism, and other systemic oppression. We believe it is necessary to address systemic barriers and create equitable pathways and supports for anyone affiliated with the department.

  • We will identify and address barriers to and bias in the recruitment and retention of anyone affiliated with the department who faces systemic oppression as outlined above.
  • We will provide financial, administrative and peer support for anyone affiliated with the department who faces systemic oppression as outlined above.
  • As we identify barriers and provide supports, we will be attentive to how some people face more than one form of discrimination and disempowerment, which creates specific kinds of challenges.

3. We believe the department culture, language, curriculum, and physical environmental must be welcoming and accessible to all. Everyone should feel that they belong and are valued.

  • We will review and modify any aspects of our departmental culture, language, curriculum or physical surroundings that suggest ongoing legacies of white supremacy, colonialism, ableism, sexism, and other systemic oppression.

4. We are aware of the disproportionate policing, police violence, and surveillance experienced by BIPOC and transgender people on and off campus.

  • We will commit through our policies and actions to build a community of care that allows us to resolve conflicts and difficult situations without involving the police, within the realm of legality and the wishes of the affected party/ies.
  • We will commit through our individual and collective actions to encourage and advance a society void of invasive surveillance and unnecessary force, and one that seeks explicit consideration of alternatives in the exercising of justice and retribution.
  • We will pursue a departmental strategy for addressing community safety.

5. We understand that SFU is on unceded Indigenous land, and that universities have played an active role in colonialism. Following the Truth and Reconciliation report and SFU’s Walk with Us report, we know university structures must be changed in order to work towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples upon whose lands the university exists.

  • We will prioritize the hiring, recruitment and retention of Indigenous faculty, staff and students.
  • We will uphold and value Indigenous knowledges and values in department events and curriculum.
  • We will encourage and support faculty and instructors to review and modify any aspects of their course materials that reproduce colonial knowledge systems and ways of thinking.

6. We believe that if anyone affiliated with the department experiences racism, heterosexism, transphobia, sexism, ableism or other forms of harassment, they must have access to clear pathways for support.

  • We will create a safe space for disclosure and support and will communicate pathways to this support and support that is part of a broader network at SFU.
  • We will ensure that actions are taken to end the harassment and do everything possible to hold the perpetrators accountable.


1 e.g. Henry et al. (2017); SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (2017); Academic Women of SFU (2020); Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (2020); Congress Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization (2021).


  • Equity is “the condition that would be achieved if one's identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares. To address root causes of inequities, not just their manifestation, requires the elimination of policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes or that fail to eliminate them.”
  • Diversity is “all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender—the groups that most often come to mind when the term "diversity" is used—but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values.”
  • Accountability is “the ways in which individuals and communities hold themselves to their goals and actions, and acknowledge the values and groups to which they are responsible. To be accountable, one must be visible, with a transparent agenda and process. Invisibility defies examination; it is, in fact, employed in order to avoid detection and examination. Accountability demands commitment. Accountability requires some sense of urgency and becoming a true stakeholder in the outcome.”
  • Inclusion is “authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power.”
  • Reconciliation is, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. In order for that to happen, the commission states, “there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour” (TRC Summary of the Final Report, p 6-7). SFU’s ARC report defines reconciliation at SFU broadly as “the establishment or re-establishment of renewed and respectful relationships with Indigenous communities” (p 9).
  • Accessibility is about creating workplaces and educational spaces that enable everyone to fully, meaningfully, and equitably participate and benefit from participation, regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability

Adapted in part from the Racial Equity Tools’ Glossary:

Work Cited

Academic Women of SFU. 2020. Radical Inclusion: Equity and Diversity Among Female Faculty at Simon Fraser University. Burnaby: SFU. ion%20Aug%2031%202020.pdf#main_content_image_892471735

Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. 2020. Diversity Meter Survey: Executive Summary and Insights Presentation Report. Burnaby: SFU. %20Final%20Report.pdf

Congress Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization (AC-EDID). 2021. Igniting Change: Final Report and Recommendations. Ottawa: Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Henry, Frances, Enakshi Dua, Carl James, Audrey Kobayashi, Peter Li, Howard Ramos, and Malinda S. Smith. 2017. The Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities. Vancouver: UBC Press.

SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council. 2017. Walk This Path With Us. Burnaby: SFU.