Indigenous people and visible minorities are the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population. But these groups are vastly under-represented in higher education. To address this pressing issue, U of T’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education recently hosted a symposium to examine race and Indigeneity in physical activity, education and sport.
Held on May 26 at Hart House, the event featured panel and roundtable discussions. The evening also launched the Faculty’s Task Force on Race and Indigeneity, which will create concrete recommendations to increase inclusivity for all racial minorities.
“The idea behind the event, called Accelerating Action, was to get students, faculty, staff and the university community to talk about the challenges that visible minorities face in academics and sports and recreation,” said Terry Gardiner, lead organizer and the Faculty’s assistant manager, co-curricular diversity and equity. “We need to increase access for marginalized groups.”
This is an important issue not only for universities but also for Canadian institutions broadly. In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, on May 30 Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne apologized to Indigenous communities for years of injustice, and the Minister of Education has identified Aboriginal education as a key priority.
To provide context for the evening, panelists covered topics including the history of and personal experiences with Canada’s residential school system. They also described the barriers that visible minorities face in post-secondary education, along with the role of human rights in education, sport and physical activity.
After the presentations, participants joined roundtable discussions exploring issues related to university admissions, curriculum, research, sport and recreation, diversity and the community.
“During the roundtable discussions, I spoke with my future research supervisor and others about how to strengthen the bonds between the Faculty and Aboriginal and racialized communities,” said Asma Khalil, an undergraduate student who has been involved with the Faculty’s Equity Movement for the past two years. “I was surprised that we all had similar goals in mind.”
In addition to creating a forum for discussion, Accelerating Action launched a Task Force on Race and Indigeneity. The task force will address key concerns, including academic curriculum and sport and physical activity programming; hiring practices for faculty, staff and students, and resource allocation. The terms of reference and membership of the task force will be confirmed before the end of June.
The drive to create a task force within the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education originated from a report produced by a 2014-15 series of panel discussions called A Hurdle to Success. This series examined the opportunities and challenges that visible minorities face in sport and post-secondary education. The Faculty will apply the model of its successful Gender and Equity Task Force, created 20 years ago, as a model for this new task force.
“The evening was very engaging, educational and inspiring,” said Gretchen Kerr, acting dean of the Faculty. “It represents a commitment to our collective effort to make a cultural transformation with respect to race and Indigeneity.”
Gardiner agreed that it is this collective effort that will create a more inclusive environment.
“The Faculty is dedicated to equity and inclusivity, and it’s important to engage everyone in this conversation,” said Gardiner. “We all have a responsibility to be actively engaged and to make sure we’re addressing the needs of all individuals.”