UBC president signs Scarborough Charter on anti-Black racism

UBC has signed onto the Scarborough Charter on anti-Black racism, organized by the University of Toronto Scarborough. The charter has been in the works for over a year.

Our campus joins 40 other universities across Canada in signing the charter. In a Twitter statement, President Santa Ono wrote that “the Charter’s principles of Black flourishing, inclusive excellence, mutuality & accountability are in keeping with UBC’s own values, as reflected in our inclusion action plan and anti-racism task force.”

The Scarborough Charter on anti-Black racism aims to ensure post-secondary institutions take steps to fight anti-Black racism. The charter, published in mid-November, encourages institutions to "foster pan-Canadian communities of learning that build practices of ongoing dialogue and action yielding inclusion, substantive equality and societal transformation” and to recall the "legacy of Black peoples" in Canada and the systemic anti-Black racism that is still present in our society.

Adelle Blackett, a professor of transnational labour law and development at McGill University, was the principal drafter on the drafting subcommittee. Others include UBC’s own UBCO Provost and Co-Executive Lead for Anti-racism, Ananya Mukherjee-Reed.

Reed told Eminetra Canada that “Black students face the same barriers in higher education institutions throughout society,” and as such, "Black writers are often absent from the curriculum, and studying to feel alienated and lacking perspective when alone in the classroom.”

Rena Prashad, a member of the drafting support team and overall project manager for the charter, said higher education has a responsibility to do better on anti-racism.

“There is a lot of knowledge in these institutions that can really spark change in Canadian communities,” she said. “Higher education institutions can and should be leaders in driving equity, diversity and inclusion in society.”

This charter integrates into UBC’s Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence task force, which encourages "equity, diversity and inclusion" and provides an "accountability mechanism for UBC's efforts" to address racism on campus. It also serves as a “call to action for all community members to confront ... injustice and to support and elevate those who are traditionally, systemically and historically marginalized.” The task force’s report is expected in early 2022.

Rena spoke to the significance of this project on a personal level and how this project aligns with her interests and values. “To do something at this scale requires a lot of dedication, and that dedication has to come from a place of passion,” she said.

“Working with many different institutions [... requires] a lot of organization, a lot of coordination, a lot of tenacity, and you have to be motivated by the purpose, the greater purpose.”