Message from AVP of Diversity and Human Rights on next steps to combat anti-Black racism and discrimination

Dear members of the U of G community,

I have been deeply troubled and saddened by the recent outbreaks of violence, hatred and the brutal killing of George Floyd. The harsh reality is that while we have witnessed acts of anti-Black racism and discrimination on our television sets, we are also experiencing them right here in Canada, in Ontario, in Guelph, and even at our own institution. This behavior is heartbreaking and unacceptable and is an attack on the core values of our community. As the AVP for the Office of Diversity and Human Rights (DHR) at U of G, I take this situation seriously and I’m deeply committed to building a strong anti-racist culture at the University.

These recent incidents have left members of our Black community feeling scared, angry and frustrated. You’ve reached out to us at DHR and shared your pain and sorrow. Your cries for help are heard. We are listening, we are learning, we understand, and we are working to address things.

I know a little about what it feels like to be treated unfairly. I grew up in South Africa under Apartheid, where I had no rights, no freedom and no voice. That early experience left me with a solid commitment to fight racism, which I pledge to do.

We must take a long hard look at who we are as a community and work together through deliberate actions to build a place where everyone feels safe and respected. This is a defining moment for us. Anti-black racism is real, it’s systemic and it’s wrong. We must commit to support and protect Black students, faculty and staff who are facing incredible pain and hardship during these troubling times, along with all other members of our U of G family.

I want to assure you that every incident of hate is being dealt with appropriately through our policies and processes. As well, in the coming days, weeks and months, we will share our plans for addressing anti-Black racism and discrimination, which will include meaningful conversations and consultations. The first of those conversations will take place via an online Townhall. We also commit to introduce an anti-racism and anti- oppression training module for all new incoming students in the fall. And we will work on healing and teaching through a series of webinars on anti-racism, allyship, and anti-oppression.

I know there is more work to do, and we will do more. I am deeply committed to establishing a culture that affords every single member of our community the opportunity to grow and thrive. An environment where people feel safe and where our diversity is celebrated.

Indira Naidoo-Harris

AVP, Diversity & Human Rights