Content warning: This article mentions police violence against Black people.
Nearly a year after the Black Lives Matter movement sparked by George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police and fuelled by the police-related death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, U of T’s internally commissioned Anti-Black Racism Task Force released its report in March 2021. The report included a history of anti-Black racism in Canada, insights from several working groups, and 56 recommendations for tackling systemic anti-Black racism at U of T.
U of T responded to the report by accepting all 56 recommendations and creating a website which tracks its progress on the commitments it made. In an email to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson wrote that, “This institutional hub has been developed to ensure transparency and accountability in the implementation of the recommendations.”
The report, which begins by giving an overview of the history of anti-Black racism in Canada, goes on to provide systemic recommendations divided into seven categories, including leadership and accountability, collection and use of data, complaints and investigations processes, and anti-Black racism training.
Furthermore, it provides more specific recommendations from staff; students and curricula; and faculty, librarians, and instructors. The recommendations were formed through consultations, current university policies, and other documents like petitions.
All systemic recommendations — such as hiring from a more diverse pool of candidates, including race data in key reports, and increasing the number of spaces for Black students — were also assigned a timeline for completion, mostly one to two years.
While recommendations from staff, faculty, instructors, and librarians mostly focused on hiring and training, student recommendations highlighted prioritizing the creation of access programs, student experience, and alumni engagement.
Student recommendations included increasing funding for Black student representation, increasing the number of Black mental health professionals, and building relationships with Black student associations and clubs.
U of T action and commitments
After accepting all the recommendations of the report, U of T outlined 48 commitments based on the 56 recommendations from the report on its tracking website which it has continued to update. Of those 48 commitments, U of T has completed three: allocated funds to access programs for Black students, provided support to the Black Research Network, and launched an unconscious bias module.
The website also notes that U of T will use the site to track its progress with regards to recommendations from other reports, such as those made by the Anti-Islamophobia Working Group.
While many of the commitments are expected to be completed by 2022, several have longer timelines. Currently, the university is planning the implementation of 21 recommendations and is in the process of implementing another 22.
“We continue to engage the members of the Task Force as we work to implement the recommendations,” the U of T spokesperson added. “The successful implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations across the University is reliant on the collaborative efforts of all members of our community.”