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SFU signs onto the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education

November 17, 2021

SFU has signed onto the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education, taking an important step towards creating a more equitable and inclusive university community for Black faculty, staff, students, alumni and visitors.

More than 40 Canadian post-secondary institutions are signatories of the charter, representing a sector-wide commitment to redressing anti-Black racism and fostering Black inclusion in universities and colleges across Canada.

“The significance of the Scarborough Charter cannot be overstated,” says June Francis, special advisor to the president on anti-racism at SFU and a contributor to the charter.

“The fact that we have historically failed to provide an environment of flourishing for Black students, faculty and staff is finally being acknowledged. For the first time, academics across the country are coming together and asking our institutions to make a long-term commitment towards action.”

The result of a series of national dialogues hosted by the University of Toronto, the Scarborough Charter was co-created by members of the higher education sector in Canada, including the SFU Black Caucus alongside SFU students, faculty and alumni. It outlines four principles—Black flourishing, inclusive excellence, mutuality and accountability—that should be applied to anti-Black racism initiatives, policy-making and actions at institutions moving forward.

“SFU is signing the Scarborough Charter so we can hold ourselves accountable to combating anti-Black racism and building more equitable systems,” says SFU President Joy Johnson.

“All Black members of the SFU community deserve to feel safe and included on our campuses, and we can—and must—take tangible action towards that goal. I’m heartened to see so many institutions making this commitment and excited to see the progress we make together.”

A moment of possibility and hope

From teaching, research and learning to decision-making and community engagement, the Scarborough Charter will be used as a guide to improve the experience of Black community members at every level of the university.

SFU student Balqees Jama, president of SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry (SOCA) and also a contributor to the charter, says, “This is a historic step for the university and we are very happy to see SFU joining these calls in support of Black racial equity on campus and across the country. It's also important to acknowledge all the students who have put effort and labour into calling for these initiatives and commitments for years.

"We particularly look forward to SFU going beyond this and creating their action plan on executing next steps expeditiously, especially as it relates to Black student and staff mental health and well-being, decolonizing spaces and creating culturally relevant programming for Black communities, Black racial equity supports and services such as specific Black scholarships and awards administered and supported by the university, and real action on addressing anti-Black racism in the classroom and beyond—generally going above and beyond what's outlined in the charter."

Several actions in line with the principles of the Scarborough Charter are currently in progress at SFU, including the recent senate approval of a motion to hire at least 15 more Black tenure-track faculty members, the appointment of SFU’s first Special Advisor to the President on Anti-Racism (with a focus on anti-Black racism) and the planned establishment of a long-term dedicated support service for Black students, among other emerging initiatives.

However, Francis notes, it is important to recognize that increasing Black inclusion at SFU has benefits for members of the entire university community.

“The charter represents an enormous moment of possibility and hope, not just for Black community members, but for all SFU students, faculty and staff,” she says.

“When we feel that we can bring our full selves into this space, we also bring our worldview, research, pedagogy and the arts. And then students from all backgrounds get to engage with and learn from Black perspectives and intellectual traditions. I truly think that taking these steps opens the possibility for us to thrive and flourish as an institution.”

You can download the Scarborough Charter, view the full list of signatories and more by visiting the University of Toronto website. To keep up-to-date with the latest news about equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives at SFU, visit www.sfu.ca/edi.