Sixty Canadian universities sign pledge for diversity

The presidents of 60 Canadian universities have signed a pledge committing to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion on their campuses, according to a press release by Universities Canada.

The Inclusive Excellence Principles commits to “attracting and retaining students, faculty, staff and leaders from all backgrounds,” according to the release, as well as undertaking a five-year action plan.

Mike Mahon, Universities Canada’s new board chair and president of the University of Lethbridge, said in the release that this is a significant step in their efforts to improve equality for all students, faculty, and staff in Canadian universities.

“The university mission of excellence in research, teaching, and community engagement is most successful when all members of the university community are supported in achieving their potential,” he said.

One of the principles committed to by presidents who signed the pledge includes developing and maintaining an equity, diversity, and inclusion action plan in consultation with students, faculty, staff, and administrators—in particular with individuals from under-represented groups.

But, many Canadian universities have little to no substantial data on how its students identify racially, according to a previous article by The Charlatan

El Jones, a sociology professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, told The Charlatan at the time that universities usually prefer to talk about diversity rather than race, which could explain why they do not collect racial data on students.

According to an investigation by the CBC from earlier this year, of the 76 Canadian universities asked if they collect information about how their students identify racially, more than 60 universities—including Carleton University—said they don’t collect that data.

Universities Canada identifies under-represented groups as women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, those with disabilities as well as the LGBTQ+ community and non-binary people, according to its website.

Moiz Ali Qaderi, a second-year political science student at Carleton, said he thinks Carleton is doing more than enough to create an environment where all people feel welcome and integrated.

“The multi-faith room exists, a room designed for cultures of Eastern society that require a carpet [to pray]. This gives those students a place for prayer, while also being able to attend school,” he said. “Professors are also accommodating in terms of providing deferrals for assignments and exams in the case of a religious event.”

But, he added that universities do not prepare under-represented groups for the workforce, as they are not exposed to the harsh realities these groups are faced with, such as inequalities through hiring practices.

Universities Canada was unable to provide The Charlatan with a list of the universities that have signed the pledge in time for publication.

Photo by Serena Halani