Statement of the Dean of Campus Saint-Jean following the death of George Floyd

"We cannot stand still in the face of the injustice and prejudice we witness."

14 May 2020

Translate from the original statement in French

Many of us are following the many protests taking place across the United States following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, with sadness and emotion. We are also deeply concerned by the actions of the police force. George Floyd's death is the most recent of a growing number of instances of racial violence across the country, the result of deep fractures within American society itself, riddled with a systemic culture of racism and prejudice. The black American population is all the more oppressed as it is over-represented in the prison population in the United States. Black Americans are also disproportionately targeted by COVID-19 and are the ones who suffer most from the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. The images of beaten and gassed demonstrators, relayed by certain media themselves targets of attacks, or the calls for muscular interventions of the police as well as for a reinforced militarization of the measures of control of the American society, by other partisan media, deepening the divide in society, will remain etched in our minds. The deep feeling of injustice that many of us feel in the face of these images is not equaled only by the will to act, and to fight against the scourges of intolerance, not only in declarations, but also in actions in order to contribute to a fairer society.

Indeed, if this violence is taking place on the other side of the border, we cannot ignore the fact that such fractures also exist in our country and in our province. These fractures, perhaps less visible to the majority, are just as insidious and deep. The systemic injustices suffered by indigenous communities for centuries are just one example, and we have a duty not only to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but also to honor the memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls whose tragic fate has been ignored for too long. If we add the recent Islamophobic, racist, homophobic or misogynist attacks, we realize that our society is just as fractured, just as ill. As in the United States, indigenous and black populations are overrepresented in federal prisons. The Indigenous population represents only 5% of the Canadian population, but 30% of the prison population for men and 42% for women. The black population represents only 3.5% of the Canadian population, but 7.3% of the prison population.

We have a duty of memory when it comes to this situation. This duty of memory implies a commitment on our part, at Campus Saint-Jean, to commemorate Black History month as well to celebrate Indigenous culture, while remembering that Saint-Jean Campus is located on ancestral lands. This presupposes that, in the process of reforming our programs, we ensure that the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion infuse them and that we do not content ourselves with symbolic measures that would allow us to say that we have ticked the right box just to move on.

We must remember that the motto of Campus Saint-Jean is Unity - Diversity - University. Our Campus stands out for the richness of its dynamic and active diversity. At the entrance to the McMahon Pavilion, the flags representing the various nationalities of the Campus students greet visitors. Over 20 countries are represented among students, and almost 30 among staff members. We are proud of this diversity of origins, and try to be a bastion of tolerance and celebration of other diversities: gender, cultures, languages (even if we encourage the use of French as a unifying language), age or aptitude.

But this is far from enough. Strengthening diversity and equity, working to build a more inclusive community is all part of our mission and we must go further. Acting to make a difference means placing yourself in a situation of change, and this could make us uncomfortable as we face injustices, inequalities, exclusions that we have overlooked for too long. The events in the United States that we are witnessing are a reminder that the time has come to step out of our comfort zone and look at ourselves, to recognize our shortcomings, our inadequacies, and our mistakes of today and yesteryear. Now is the time to rid ourselves from our fear of others, to embrace difference, to honor it, to celebrate it. It is only by breaking these taboos that we can begin to heal our wounds. It is only by openly confronting racism, indigenophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia, misogyny, and the many other prejudices that inhabit us and exist within our communities, that we can begin to make real progress and look to the future together, without fractures, without mistrust.

Within our Campus, our desire is to multiply concrete actions. The most important aspect is to instill in our programs a spirit of equity, diversity and inclusion. Another is to review all of our administrative operating procedures, particularly during the teaching and administrative staff selection processes, in order to put the University of Alberta's EDI policy into practice. Above all, we are proud, at Campus Saint-Jean, that the vice-dean principal, Paulin Mulatris and the vice-dean Arts and Sciences, Donia Mounsef were part of the committee that set up the university's strategy in terms of equity, diversity and inclusion and we will ensure that our practices reflect and continue this commitment.

For the past two years, the Campus, under the authority of Paulin Mulatris, has coordinated a project to combat homophobia within Francophone communities, especially among young people. The results were very positive. Through the Canada Research Chair in Métis Relations, Earth Pedagogy and Well-being, the holder of which is Cindy Gaudet; through the UNESCO Chair in Migration and Francophonie in a minority context: locally and globally build inclusive, innovative and resilient societies, the holder of which is Paulin Mulatris; through the work of the Saint-Jean Campus research groups, including GRAAL (Research Group on Africa and Latin America) and GRIF-SF (Interdisciplinary Research Group on the Health of Francophones); we will multiply our initiatives and hire talented students. Within the French-speaking community, we will push our role as a crossroads, a forum for dialogue, in order to break taboos and prune constructive paths for the future of an inclusive society. And we will stand by everyone who fights against intolerance, racism, inequity and inequality.

We cannot stand still in the face of the injustice and prejudice we witness. I therefore make a commitment, on behalf of Campus Saint-Jean, to take action. I express my solidarity and support for the poor, the victims of violence and injustice and all those in Canada, the United States and around the world who stand up for freedom and justice to triumph. and unity.