Nov. 18, 2021

UCalgary signs Scarborough Charter to address anti-Black racism and foster Black inclusion

Call to action will guide institutional transformation
University presidents signing the Scarborough Charter

On Nov. 18, 2021, UCalgary and more than 40 other post-secondary institutions across Canada took part in an historic virtual signing ceremony of  the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion. The charter is a call to action that emerged from the National Dialogue and Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities held in October 2020. Institutions are committing to meaningful concrete actions to create lasting change.

The Scarborough Charter contains four overarching principles: Black flourishing, inclusive excellence, mutuality, and accountability. These principles will shape institutional actions to combat anti-Black racism and foster Black inclusion in the areas of governance, teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and community engagement. They will also shape the intentional development of equitable and inclusive initiatives, policies, strategies and actions. 

“We recognize that we cannot just be the University of Calgary — we need to be the university for Calgary,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor. “We need to be the hub where diverse members of our community can come together, teach, learn, create, and share a plurality of perspectives and approaches to knowing. We sign the Scarborough Charter today to demonstrate our commitment to taking action against anti-Black racism and supporting Black inclusion in higher education.”


Read the complete charter.

Commitment to close the gap

By signing the Scarborough Charter, the university also commits to holding itself accountable to combat racial biases, systemic racism and mitigate obstacles that impede Black inclusion and flourishing. This includes closing the gap on Black under-representation at all levels of the institution; recognizing the research excellence of Black faculty, students, and career progression for staff; supporting plural knowledge, including a Black and African Studies curriculum, and engaging the wider community in collaborative initiatives to combat anti-Black racism.

Dr. Malinda Smith, vice-provost and associate vice-president research (equity, diversity and inclusion), served as a member of the Inter-Institutional Advisory Committee for the National Dialogues and Action that facilitated the extensive national consultative process for the co-constitution of the Charter. 

“The Scarborough Charter is historic. It was created through an unprecedented and highly collaborative process on a national scale,” Smith says. “The Advisory Committee and drafting committee led by Dr. Adelle Blackett, professor of law and Canada Research Chair at McGill University, worked hard to capture the spirit and intent of the extensive feedback from Black communities, the post-secondary sector, and civic and political associations. 

“It was important for the Charter to acknowledge the over four centuries of Black presence and their significant and often hidden contributions to Canada. Today, Black faculty, staff, and students continue to face experiences that impede Black flourishing. The Charter affirms the importance of collaborative relationships and mutuality to correct this problem, and sets out clear principles, actions and accountability measures that can guide us in these ambitious and necessary pursuits.”

“This work will be done throughout our institution,” says McCauley. “By signing this historic document, UCalgary will be operating based on the four principles of the Charter: governance and decision-making, research, teaching and learning, and community engagement — in order to create equitable and inclusive pathways for Black faculty, staff and students.”

EDI data collection, analysis, and transparency

Critical to addressing anti-Black racism and Black inclusion is the collection of disaggregated data about the campus population, and at UCalgary this process is already underway. In March 2021, UCalgary launched the EDI Dashboard and a series of infographics that show the representation of equity-deserving groups. UCalgary also launched new Employment Equity and Student Equity Censuses, which will provide disaggregated data and help better clarify representation in all areas of the university.

“We’re committed to EDI data collection, analysis, and transparency,” says Smith. “Disaggregated  data will help us identify any racial equity gaps and, where found, to develop policies, supports and services to close them. Good data supports evidence-based decision-making that allows us to be accountable to the university and broader community.”

Additional initiatives are underway to effect systemic change, led by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (OEDI), Human Resources and at the faculty level. These include the development of an Equitable and Inclusive Hiring Guide, an Anti-Racism Policy and Procedure, the launch of an Anti-Black Racism Guide, and reviews and updates to the process for hiring senior leadership. As well, Black students associations and the faculties of Law and Medicine have worked together to support equitable Black admissions to those programs.

UCalgary has a Canada Research Chairs action plan and is also one of 17 members of the Dimensions Pilot Program, the federal initiative to increase equity, diversity and inclusion and help drive cultural change within the research ecosystem.

Recognition and celebrations of excellence in research and engagement are being formalized campus-wide, including the launch of the Provost’s Awards for Indigenous and Black Postdoctoral Scholars, the Students’ Union Violet King Engaged Student Award, and the Dr. Wanda Bernard Leadership Scholarship and Dr. David Este Graduate Scholarship in the Faculty of Social Work. 

“The work we have done up to this point represents a start,” says McCauley. “We see our university’s support for the Scarborough Charter as an extension of a long-term commitment to empowering Black futures. This is work that strengthens all aspects of our campus and every member of our community."