Content warning: this article contains mentions of anti-Asian racism.

On May 19, U of T announced the establishment of an Anti-Asian Racism Working Group. Planning for the working group had been underway since the beginning of the year, and it officially began operating in April. 

U of T hopes that the working group will improve its response to anti-Asian racism by reviewing the “programming, activities, processes, and practices” of the university and making its community “more respectful, accountable, equitable, and inclusive.”

The working group will review U of T’s existing policies, previous recommendations, and responses to racism, as well as those by other universities, to guarantee that U of T is able to address racism and support the inclusion of Asian members in the community. The working group will also consult Asian members of the U of T community in an effort to develop recommendations for the university. It will present the recommendations in a report to President Meric Gertler; Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr; and Vice-President, People Strategy, Equity & Culture, Kelly Hannah-Moffat. 

The working group will also develop an inventory of anti-Asian racism and inclusion resources available throughout all three campuses.  

The working group was created in light of recent episodes of anti-Asian racism at U of T and across North America. Although anti-Asian racism is a long-existing issue, it has substantially increased in frequency since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as shown by the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter (CCNCTC) annual report last year. 

The CCNCTC’s report revealed that 1,150 cases of racist attacks had occurred in Canada between March 2020 and February 2021. These cases were reported to and Cases reported in Ontario accounted for 40 per cent of the total cases. Attacks against East Asians made up 84 per cent of total cases in Canada, and attacks against Southeast Asians made up six per cent of total cases in Canada. The vast majority of racist attacks took place in the form of verbal harassment in public spaces. 

Last year, Gertler released a statement responding to the shootings that killed eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian. The Varsity has previously reported on serious cases of racism within the U of T community, such as the interruption of an Asian Student Alliance online Zoom event. During the February 2022 event, an unidentified attendee held out a gun and made offensive comments. 

The working group will be co-chaired by Vikram Chadalawada — assistant director, student information systems, enterprise applications and solutions integration and information technology services — and Carol Chin, principal of Woodsworth College. 

Nominations for additional members of the working group are still to be issued, but all U of T members are welcome to contact the working group at [email protected]