Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives in Canadian higher education institutions have been structured around and underpinned by laws such as the Canadian EDI Charter, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedom, the Employment Equity Act and the Canadian Human Rights Act. According to Universities Canada, these frameworks identify diverse, unrepresented and minority groups according to: gender, diverse people, sexually diverse people, people with disabilities, people who identify as women, and Indigenous people.
Acting as models to society, the higher education community should attempt to be ahead of the curve and act accordingly. One way to proceed would be to divide up diverse or underrepresented groups and address them each individually through curated programming, as follows:
1. Existing diverse and underrepresented groups
These programs would only need expansion and broadening. They include: cluster hiring initiatives, such as at the University of Waterloo, specifically targeting racially underrepresented groups; the University of Regina Queer Initiative; the Université du Quebec a Rimouski masters’ program in workplace equity, diversity and inclusion.
Higher education institutions should develop a general course that solely address diversity and inclusion. It should be taken at all levels, including undergraduate and postgraduate. The course work would focus on diverse groups and inclusion strategies. To complete the course work as a prerequisite, students should do a three-week project where they would spend time with a selected diverse group.
2. Expanding diverse groups
This includes LGBTQQIAP2S+, that is lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersexual, asexual, pansexual and two-spirit. The acronym is only increasing (first it was LGBT, then LGBTQ).. Existing programs for this group areb the annual pride clinic at Centennial College, and Spectrum Fanshawe at Fanshawe College. Administrative restructuring is needed for these programs to be expanded to include a sexual diverse + straight forum or network where both straight and LGBTQQIAP2S+ interact. The goal is to implement the integration of these groups and not to make them stand out as isolated and apart from the society. So in such forums we have both the sexually diverse and straight holding leadership positions and thus working together towards integration. This simultaneously accommodates rising sexually diverse groups.
3. Preempted upcoming diverse groups
These are groups that are not addressed, as well as groups that are pre-empted to come up. They need novel program development. Administratively, for religious and cultural profiling and microaggresions to be eradicated, institutions need to be aware of the various religious groups present among its staff and students. The school manager can develop a novel social program like the development of a religious or cultural friendly restaurant to cater for the various religious dietary needs, interfaith dialogue group, or interfaith or cultural display centre – like a mini museum.
People with disabilities are appropriately accommodated through existing policies, however, an overlooked disadvantaged group is the technologically illiterate. In 2019, the Harvard Business Review ranked Canada as one of the top 10 countries in business and technology. With increasing student intake from developing countries whose technological development and exposure level is lower than Canada’s, universities should implement a one month technology incubation or familiarization program.
The development of all of these programs would help foster inclusiveness for these groups and create a sense of belonging.
Emmanuel Douglas is assistant director of educational affairs (partnerships and globalization) at Skylinepay Consulting. He has been involved in higher education projects incorporating digital technology in education administration processes and delivery.