This was a year when Western shone an unblinking spotlight on the scourge of racism and the shadows of colonialism – and took unprecedented strides to redress them both.
“The world is in urgent need for all of us to take meaningful action,” Western president Alan Shepard said in June as he received the Anti-Racism Working Group’s report with its summary and recommendations for action.
Within a few short weeks, and following an online town hall with faculty, staff and students, Shepard had named Dr. Nicole Kaniki and Dr. Bertha Garcia as his special advisors charged with building a sustained strategy to combat racism on campus.
They and an interim advisory council will lay the foundation for embedding equity, diversity and inclusion principles in institutional structures and help guide an incoming associate vice-president of EDI.
Some of that difficult work of addressing the past and changing the future has included a webinar titled, “Why it’s hard to talk about the N-word,” led by Smith College history professor Elizabeth Stordeur-Pryor.
The work of reconciliation, decolonizing and Indigenizing campus reached a key milestone as Western launched the Office of Indigenous Initiatives – an important step in Western’s high-priority strategy to elevate Indigenous voices and perspectives in education and research, and to strengthen Indigenous consideration in all aspects of its operations. Western has expanded its Indigenous recruitment and financial-aid initiatives through new scholarships, bursaries and partnerships; a new learning fund supports faculty and staff projects in Indigenization; and a cluster hiring includes new Indigenous faculty in Law and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.
“There’s now a team of people waking up every day thinking about how to do this work at all levels, across campus,” said Candace Brunette-Debassige, acting vice-provost and associate vice-president (Indigenous initiatives).
Indigenous land acknowledgement introduced by Candace Brunette-Debassige