In the Wake of Injustice: The Congress Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization 

May 31, 2021
Megan Perram (she/her), PhD Candidate in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta

Congress 2021 blog edition 

Members of the Congress Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization met with the academic community to review and reflect on their report and recommendations entitled “Igniting Change.” The discussion rested somberly in the wake of the recent discovery of 215 Indigenous bodies that were found on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, as confirmed by Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanna Casimir. The session began with a moment of silence for the injustice and was reflected on continuously throughout the meeting.   

A standout moment of this meeting came when Lindsay Heller, a Nehiyaw scholar from Simon Fraser University and skilled facilitator from the Michel First Nation, led an inquiry into the report’s outcomes. Heller notes the grave exclusion of Indigenous scholars in academia: “I will tell you that having us on the periphery leaves you impoverished. By not allowing us to be our full selves, societies, faculties, boards - you are impoverished.” Heller continued: “I do this work of holding space for difficult and necessary conversations so my daughters don't have to.” 

Several factors for the “Igniting Change” report were discussed, but none were as centralized as the incident of racial profiling that occurred against a Black graduate student at Congress in 2019. The student was humiliated and taken off campus in a trail of suspicion of theft. Committee Member Noreen Golfman, Professor at Memorial University, calls on the audience to consider: “How did that happen and whose responsibility was it to acknowledge the grievous injury experienced [by the targeted student]? Who ultimately was held accountable for that incident and its consequences?” The answer became clear that it is all of academia that has been participating in and upholding systems of oppression for decades.  

Issues of accessibility in the academy took centre stage during a discussion led by Jay Dolmage, Professor at University of Waterloo. Dolmage argued that barriers to access in academia are actively pushing out hundreds of potential disabled scholars. Dolmage argues that having to adapt for the pandemic should have been able to teach us the significance of access for all. However, we are falling short. Dolmage notes: “It is a whole group of people being excluded systematically from being part of our conversations and we cannot be casual about access.” “We cannot be casual about access” becomes a mantra repeated by several attendees of the session.  

Ultimately, the committee reflected on the politics of labour. The labour of anti-oppression is never complete. However, our most marginalized are actively exploited in this request of labour and they need to be protected. 

To find out more about the EDID Committee and their report “Igniting Change”, visit