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Scarborough Charter: Everyone has a role to play…

High Angle View Of Multiracial Friend Stacking Hand Together
Image credit: Getty/ AndreyPopov

In this piece, Corinna Fitzgerald – Assistant Dean (Student Life and Learning) at Queen’s University, reflects on what it means to be an accomplice, instead of an ally to a cause.

To begin, let me situate myself – I am a white, cis-gendered, straight woman who comes to this territory of the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples as an uninvited settler visitor. I am originally from a very rural community in Newfoundland, where most people thought about diversity in terms of whether you were Protestant or Catholic. In fact, this is the territory where the last of Beothuk people were seen and walked, and where Mi’kmaq, Inuit, and Innu people, in the face of racism and exclusion, thrive as close and connected communities today. Growing up, I learned very little about inclusion and nothing about equity until I went to university as a first-generation student in the mid-90’s. While in university, I learned about feminism through a white cis-gendered lens, and inequality mostly as an issue of class. That time did help me, however, understand the concept of privilege, which eventually helped me understand the unearned privileges given to some, including me, based on identity.  

Some of this background, and why I share it here now, forms how I approach my work as a student affairs administrator. I continue to understand the ways in which I benefit from my unearned privilege. As I have moved from one institution, and one role to another, I have made a commitment to keep looking for and finding ways to use my privilege to make change within institutions. I work on trying to make space and being mindful of when I take space; I don’t always get those things right but remain committed to continuing to (un)learn and work on trying to do things better. 

Relationships are key to any role we play, but perhaps given my rural upbringing, I see connections to community as integral to getting things done. Building trust within relationships is always important, but it is especially important when doing equity work when you are someone, like me, who benefits from unearned privileges. I have learned that trust is something that must not be assumed and needs to be earned over time. The trust building road is (understandably) winding and is impacted by individual and collective experiences of trauma, colonization, systemic racism and discrimination. For some individuals and communities trust can never be built, and, regardless of my good intentions, this is not something I can or would wish to impose. 

Dominoes in balance on a black background
Image credit: Resi-lente

The concept of allyship was introduced to me early in my career while working at another university, supporting the development of a Positive Space Program. I really was keen to be an ally and freely claimed (perhaps even pro-claimed!) to be one. I wanted everyone to know I was “all in on all the things”, and here to help. Since then, I have learned that to be a true ally means that someone else claims you as such; it is not something you self-declare. In an effort to understand the role I can play, with all my privileges, I read an article about being an accomplice that resonated. Being an accomplice feels more intentional, more active, and encourages more humility to be a change-maker, while consciously taking a back seat. It’s not a final place, but involves a longer-term commitment and to me, requires flexibility to adjust to spaces and actions. It is something you are called upon to do by friends, colleagues and, for me, sometimes by staff and students. 

Being an accomplice still requires lots of checking in; it also encourages building confidence, with humility, when you are told you are off course or trying too hard tosave a person, or group or cause.  

As an institution, have signed on to act on the commitments in the Scarborough Charter and for several years have centred inclusion as core to our work through the Principal’s Declaration and Commitment to Address Systemic Racism, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as well as through the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the TRC Task Force, and the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Discrimination and Inclusion.  

This ongoing work must be done by all of us who are members of the campus community – we all have a role to play. It’s up to each of us to sort out for ourselves what exactly our role is, and in my experience, it is important to sort out our own positionality, privileges, and gifts so that we can act in ways that are helpful, humble, and not harmful to the communities these actions are meant to serve. This work is an opportunity but requires a commitment to building trusting relationships with individuals and communities who are most impacted in a way that makes sense for them. The Scarborough Charter is a call to action, and I hope others – especially folks with unearned privileges like myself – take up the call to act and decide to act as (or learn to act as) accomplices in meeting our collective community commitments. 

The author also leads the Scarborough Charter’s Teaching, Learning and Student Success Working Group at Queen’s University.

Helpful resources

Walking the Talk: Will the Scarborough Charter Be The Game Changer in Redressing Anti-Black Racism in Canadian Post-Secondary Institutions?

Teenage students talking at arriving at school.
Image credit: Getty/ FG Trade

In this piece, Tawa Braimah, project manager of Queen’s University’s Scarborough Charter implementation group sets the tone for a series of conversations around tackling anti-black racism and promoting black flourishing in the Queen’s community.

In November 2021, Queen’s University became one of the over 50 universities and colleges in Canada to sign a charter committing to redressing anti-black racism in post-secondary institutions. A product of nationwide conversations around the state of anti-blackness in Canadian institutions of higher learning, the Scarborough Charter is a bold pledge to take action against anti-black racism while fostering Black inclusion in these institutions. The 22-page document pivots around four main principles that individual institutions are expected to draw inspiration from in developing meaningful action plans to create conducive environment for Black faculty, staff and students to thrive in. These guiding principles are; Black Flourishing; Inclusive Excellence; Mutuality; and Accountability.

Collecting and analysing data around Black representation on campuses is key to meeting the goals of the Charter. Available data at Queen’s point to a difficulty in retaining Black managerial, administrative and support staff despite an increase in the number of people hired to fill staff and faculty positions from equity-deserving groups. This under-representation is visible in the number of Black faculty in tenured positions, research and leadership roles as well. A recent survey on student experience on campus showed that a significant number of Black students, especially Black female students, felt unsafe on campus. This calls into question the effectiveness of on-campus resources and measures in ensuring that all members of the university community feel protected, and that their human dignity is safeguarded and respected.

Unlike diversity which can be made demonstrable using data, inclusion is difficult to measure. One of the things that preluding conversations around the Charter brought to the fore was how deeply entrenched anti-black racism is in various institutions of learning in Canada. It is so inherent in policies and practices that its manifestations – be it in day-to-day interactions or in governance – have become normalized and often imperceptible to non-Black people. By extension, the nuances of anti-Blackness in post-secondary institutions are reflective of Canada’s uncomfortable history of slavery and the feeling of unbelonging that many Canadian residents of African descent have to contend with.

A mature female African American college professor uses a desktop computer on a lecturn in a lecture hall. She is looking confidently at the camera.
Image credit: Getty/ SDI Productions

But institutions of higher education, have the arduous task of aligning their traditional academic roles with that of being agents of change and social transformation. It means moving beyond statements and ambitious declarations to actually doing the messy work of confronting and dismantling the structures that make anti-black racism fester. It asks that we interrogate the systems that make the drop out rate of Black students higher than most demographics, why there are fewer Black people in senior positions on campuses and in our classrooms.

Being a signatory to this historic document is one of a thousand steps to take in eradicating anti-black racism and promoting Black flourishing. The test is in how we hold ourselves answerable to the public commitments we have nobly made.

The 2022/2023 blog posts will focus on to build a truly inclusive environment for black students, faculty and staff. Four Leads of the Scarborough Charter Working Groups charged with overseeing how the university implements the priorities of the charter, will share their reflections on what an inclusive future that supports black thriving should look like. Let’s keep the lines of communication open!


Together We Are 2021-2022

Image showing a tower of Jenga blocks

How do you envision the post-pandemic world?

How do you envision the future?

During a long and exhausting health emergency crisis, equity-deserving communities have been facing the exacerbated consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Society has been reckoning with the multiple and intersecting forms of oppression that impact QTBIPOC communities, both at the individual and the systemic level. And now, we are entering a time when a return to life as we knew it seems to be getting closer; however, technological changes and societal demands have put in evidence the need to rethink the future. During the school year 2021-2022, our blog contributors will reflect on the challenges, responsibilities, and practical strategies for building the post-pandemic world.

Check our blog month by month to find new and interesting reflections!

EDII and the Changing Academic Mission of Universities—a personal reflection

Campus during a sunny day

In our most recent blog post, Dr. Fahim Quadir, Dean and Vice-Provost of Graduate Studies and Professor of Global Development Studies, reflects on the crucial role universities have to play in building a more equitable future after COVID-19

A recent discussion at a meeting with my colleagues in the School of Graduate Studies somewhat unexpectedly provided the context for my deep reflection on the topic of EDII. Are the normative principles of EDII at odds with academic excellence? What is EDII all about? Is this primarily a matter of representation?

I find the current general interest in and support for equity, diversity, inclusivity and Indigenization to be enormously exciting. The debates are intense, engaging, and truly thought-provoking.  In most cases, they are no longer about paying lip service to cultivating the civic commons. Nor are they about promoting a political rhetoric without substance. The desire to dig deeper into the underlying causes of racism, colonialism, deprivation, and exploitation is remarkably genuine in much of the academia. Instead of scratching the surface, academic leaders, for instance, are now very much engaged in reimagining the academic mission of universities. The question is not so much one of rearticulating the role of universities as equalizers but rather of redefining the academic mission of post-secondary institutions in the post-COVID world.

Implicit in this profusely important dialogue is a recognition of the fact that we are living in an imperfect world and that universities bear at least some of the responsibility for creating a just, equitable, and sustainable social order. While the commitment to advancing the concept of non-repressive inclusivity varies significantly from one institution to another, the narrative of EDII, especially in Canada, points to an emerging trend that, albeit indirectly, accepts universities’ apparent failure in building a non-elitist framework of teaching, learning, and research. Manifested in the new EDII framework, in other words, is the acknowledgement that universities were and are part of the problem. Despite championing academic freedom and equity, most universities did not do enough to level the playing field. A false dichotomy between academic excellence and inclusivity was in part what prevented most academic leaders from pursuing a comprehensive agenda for creating a global cosmopolis, a common humanity where we belong –one that creates an equal opportunity for everyone to realize their potential. The last few years’ spontaneous social movements, from the “Black Lives Matter” to “Me Too” to the “94 Calls to Action”, however, light the way for a new academic mission for universities. Further, a puzzling conundrum that resulted from the pandemic in effect shed light on the purpose of liberal education. Challenging traditional academic thinking, the pandemic promoted the constructive potential of a collective purpose by exposing us to the divided, unequal world in which we currently live. The unavoidable question that looms in the background of COVID-19 is: what role do universities play in not only restoring a state of normalcy but in fact contributing to building a better normal?

The evolving consensus is that social responsibility will be at the heart of universities’ new academic mission. As a core, foundational value, universities will advance the goals of cosmopolitan humanism and non-repressive inclusivity designed to nurture an environment that brings people together by transcending all traditional divides. EDII in this context becomes a lens, an overarching theme that goes far beyond the typical focus of representation and categorization. It is about making a bold political commitment to creating a just, equitable, inclusive social order where no one is left behind. Nor is anyone denied an opportunity for realizing their constructive potential based on their race, class, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, geography, and physical ability. It proactively expands the boundaries of knowledge production that does not create the aforementioned false dichotomy between academic excellence and inclusivity. Instead of glorifying particular sites and templates of knowledge creation, it cultivates, defends, and legitimizes local praxis. Making a departure from the dominant, more formal, Eurocentric framework of teaching and learning, the EDII framework serves the global good by integrating the local into the global and by fostering a deep sense of belonging to a common humanity.

The Language of Anti-Asian Racism

anti-asian racism rally. Protesters with signs
Photo from

Our March blog post was written by Jenny Lee Northey, Career Counsellor. In this piece, she talks about the importance of language when doing anti-racist work

As we mark the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global pandemic, we have witnessed how the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated all types of longstanding inequities in our society. In the early months of 2020 as the novel coronavirus spread, overt discrimination and acts of racism towards Asian communities spiked as people associated COVID-19 with people of Asian descent. There was heightened fear and anxiety, not only with the uncertainty of the coronavirus itself, but of the growing anti-Asian sentiment.

As the pandemic continues, we have seen anti-Asian racism and hate crimes continue to persist. There has been heightened media coverage of recent violent and fatal attacks on people of Asian descent, including an 84-year-old Thai American man who died of his injuries after being brutally shoved in San Francisco, a Montreal stabbing, as well as reports of verbal harassment and physical assault of frontline workers and business owners, amongst other incidents. While Canadians often claim that our country does not have the same level of race-based violence, the city of Vancouver reported a sevenfold increase of anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, and other major Canadian cities such as Toronto and Montreal have seen similar spikes. In April 2020, concerned by the lack of news media coverage on Anti-Asian racism and data collection, individual organizations such as the Chinese Canadian National Council – For Social Justice (CCNC-SJ) and Project 1907 began their own work to report and track incidents across Canada.

These incidents and hate crimes corresponded to the rise of racist rhetoric, fuelled by inflammatory racist headlines and deliberate usage of the label “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus”. As Viala-Gaudefroy and Lindaman describes, using the word “Chinese” to describe the virus personifies the infection and associates it with a specific country and ethnicity, creating an “othering” effect that “stokes anxiety, resentment, fear and disgust toward people associated with that group.” Asian Canadian communities also recall similar xenophobia and racism they faced in the early 2010s related to SARS and the H5N1 bird flu.

This use of language is not novel, in the longstanding history of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy towards immigrants of Asian descent in both Canada and the United States. Part of the intent of the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 was to limit the “spread of disease” as the Chinese were often seen to be carriers of infections and disease and to further limit the influx of the “yellow peril”, despite the essential contribution of Chinese labour to the early economic development of the west coast of North America. Chinese people were seen as “dangerous to the white” and often described and labelled as “dirty” and “disgusting” and living with a “standard of morality immeasurably beyond ours”, as outlined in the 1885 Report of the Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration.

What we give language to shapes our narrative and worldview, and it is particularly in the midst of fear that language can be wielded as a weapon to further divide and alienate people from one another, further normalizing and institutionalizing racism and discrimination into our societal structures. Over this past year, we have seen how language around race and identity has been critically re-examined for the ways in which they can further marginalize individuals and groups of people, even erasing the differences that should be acknowledged and celebrated. As we continue to advocate for racial justice and equity for all, we need to continually be critical-minded and vigilant of how language is employed in shaping a more equitable, instead of divisive, post-pandemic world.


“Chinese Immigration Act.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, Accessed 15 Mar. 2021.

Chung, Amy. “In 2021, Asian Canadians Document Hate Crimes To Be Believed.” HuffPost Canada, 3 Mar. 2021,

Larsson, Paula. “Anti-Asian Racism during Coronavirus: How the Language of Disease Produces Hate and Violence.” The Conversation, 31 Mar. 2020,

“The Chinese Immigration Act, 1885 | Pier 21.” The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, Accessed 15 Mar. 2021.

Viala-Gaudefroy, Jérôme, and Dana Lindaman. “Donald Trump’s ‘Chinese Virus’: The Politics of Naming.” The Conversation, 21 Apr. 2020,

Hope for the New Year

The first blog post of the year is written by Lavonne Hood, Queen’s University Ombudsperson. In her piece, Lavonne reflects on the impacts of 2020 and shares her hopes for 2021

As the seconds ticked down to midnight on December 31st, there was the usual sense of excitement and celebration for the new year. But this time felt a bit different. When 2021 arrived, it felt as if we took a collective sigh of relief after finally turning the page on the last year.

2020 was a year that few could have predicted, and one we won’t soon forget. From social justice issues regarding police brutality against Black and Indigenous people to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 was full of challenges. Yet through it all, what it taught us was the ability of the human spirit to adapt to change and reminded us of our resiliency.

Resiliency. When things get tough and obstacles appear in our way, trip us up, maybe even knock us down, how are we able to pick ourselves up time and time again? This requires an inner strength that we often don’t even know exists until we must call upon it. Often we are stronger than we think.

With the new year comes a feeling of hope and a look toward the year ahead with optimism. 2021 is an opportunity for us to reflect on the past year while acknowledging that we have overcome a lot. We should be filled with tremendous pride for all that we have achieved. However, the challenges of 2020 will not magically disappear now that it is 2021 and there is still much to do. But there is hope, and so we persevere.

At Queen’s, the BIPOC community has had to come together like never before. With the challenge of working and studying remotely, we may be apart physically, but it is our shared experiences that unite us and bring us closer. As I think about 2021 and the year ahead, I am inspired by the courage of BIPOC faculty, staff, and especially students, to speak out about their experiences of racism this past year. It is this courage – this strength – that we will use to feed the resilient spirit that is foundational for the BIPOC community’s ability to overcome repeated injustices.

Standing on the shoulders of our ancestors and those who came before us, we are pushed forward and forever hold the hope in our hearts that tomorrow will be brighter than the yesterdays of the past. It is this hope that I hold on to every day, and it is my hope for all of us as we stand at the dawn of 2021.

Happy New Year!