OTTAWA, Thursday, June 20, 2019 - The following is the statement issued by University of Ottawa President and Vice-Chancellor Jacques Frémont to announce a wide-ranging approach to address racism and discrimination on campus.
The University of Ottawa is a diverse community of approximately 50,000 people. It is in a very real sense a microcosm of Canada, with Canada’s strengths, and its weaknesses.
Those strengths include a profound commitment to human rights and a national culture that is accepting of difference and that – for the most part – celebrates diversity.
And yet here at the University of Ottawa, as in Canada as a whole, we must acknowledge that our celebration of diversity, and our acceptance of difference, remains at times incomplete and inadequate.
Because the truth, as any person of colour will tell you, is that racism still exists in Canada. It is an everyday experience for racialized people. At work. In shopping malls. On residential streets. Even at school. Even at this school.
Acknowledging this truth, however, does not make it in any way acceptable. We need to do better – much better – by taking meaningful action to cultivate not just tolerance but inclusion, with the goal of fully eliminating racial discrimination on campus.
We have a duty to protect and support all our students. We must ensure that they are always treated respectfully and are never subjected to discriminatory behaviours.
I also want to make clear that we have faith in our protection services officers, who respond with integrity to more than 100 calls a day and regularly face a wide range of challenging circumstances on our busy campuses.
And yet, the allegations of racial profiling and discrimination arising from the recent incident that occurred on our campus between one of our staff and one of our students are serious, and we take them seriously.
They compel me to move proactively and without delay to enhance our efforts to combat racism on campus.
I am confident with these measures our campus will be a safer and more respectful place when the fall semester begins and that we will now be better equipped to tackle long-term challenges.