Dear Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives Community,
As we continue to navigate the challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis, we also see the uneven impact of ongoing, systemic discrimination locally and around the world affecting many in our community. In recent weeks we have seen the protests over the Mi'kmaw fishery escalate to indefensible racist acts of intimidation and violence by non-Indigenous community members. HBHL denounces the racism, vandalism, and violence we have seen play out in broader ways including, among many, the tragic news of Joyce Echaquan’s death. While our condolences go out to the family and community of Atikamekw, we must also look to a broader health system that fostered a climate where staff can see a woman lay dying in a hospital, and have her pleas for help, her entire humanity as an Indigenous woman and mother, disparaged and so easily dismissed.
HBHL is reflecting on how we can best grow and adapt to facilitate an inclusive research and training environment for all, and empower researchers, clinicians and all members of the HBHL community to contribute to inclusion in the broader world. We aim to ensure our conception of inclusion itself is not one that pushes those underrepresented in our community to contort themselves into our existing structures. Genuine inclusion is essential to ensuring excellence, and we aim to build a community where all are able to achieve their potential for success.
To maximize transparency and accountability of our equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives moving forward, we will provide an update to the community each semester on actions implemented and planned. These efforts will be most impactful when we can engage as a community to achieve positive change. We encourage you to reach out to Falisha Karpati, HBHL Training and Equity Advisor (falisha.karpati [at] mcgill.ca) at any time with any feedback, ideas, questions or collaboration opportunities related to our EDI initiatives.
As this is our first community update, we will share the major EDI accomplishments from last year until now as well as our planned actions for the next 6 months.
1. We formed the HBHL EDI Committee
Over the past year, HBHL’s EDI efforts have been driven by the HBHL EDI Committee, officially integrated into HBHL’s governance structure in September 2019. The committee is responsible for providing guidance to HBHL staff and leadership on EDI principles, and oversees the continuous development and progress review of HBHL’s EDI Action Plan.
2. We developed and published the HBHL EDI Action Plan and progress report
The EDI Action Plan (PDF) outlines HBHL’s EDI objectives, indicators and actions in the areas of:
- Recruitment and retention,
- Distribution of funding, and
- Research content.
The progress report (PDF) details the actions implemented and data collected as of Spring 2020, HBHL’s EDI strengths to date as well as areas in need of improvement.
3. We created and published an Event Code of Conduct
To ensure that all of HBHL’s events (both in-person and virtual) are inclusive and harassment-free, we have implemented an HBHL Event Code of Conduct. Individuals who register for our events must ensure they agree to and will abide by the code of conduct. This is designed to extend existing requirements from McGill.
4. We updated HBHL funding applications
All PI applicants for HBHL funding programs, as well as supervisors of students and postdoctoral fellows applying for HBHL funding, must now describe their efforts towards facilitating EDI in their research team. Moreover, all research proposals must integrate consideration of sex- and gender-based analysis plus (SGBA+) as applicable.
5. We administered a climate survey
Faculty, staff, and trainees who have received funds from HBHL or participated in leadership or administration were invited to complete a survey on EDI and the research/training climate as part of the HBHL midterm survey. The results of the survey are available on the HBHL website (PDF).
Next steps for HBHL and the EDI Committee will be focused on the areas of need highlighted in our climate survey:
- One fifth of respondents indicated that they had experienced harassment at McGill and 18% reported experiencing discrimination, with individuals identifying in at least one McGill Equity Group being more likely to indicate such an experience.
- Individuals who do not identify in any equity groups are more likely to report feeling that too much focus is put on EDI, compared to individuals who identify in one or more equity groups. This raises the need for increased awareness of the importance of EDI initiatives and the experiences of individuals from marginalized groups.
- Indigenous peoples are underrepresented within the HBHL community across faculty, staff and trainees, and Racialized people/Visible minorities are underrepresented in the HBHL community among faculty and staff.
Plans for the next six months
To address the areas of need listed above, we will:
- Develop a targeted action plan to increase access and inclusion for First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals to the HBHL community, and integrating Indigenous knowledge into HBHL’s research. We will research best practises and review strategies implemented in other McGill units and other universities, and consult with Indigenous communities.
- Develop a targeted action plan to address anti-Black racism. We will research best practises and review strategies implemented in other McGill units and other universities, and consult with Black faculty, staff and trainees to determine the ways in which anti-Black racism is present specifically in the McGill neuroscience community.
- Create a series of public online EDI resources with a focus on the McGill neuroscience community, such as guidelines for supervisors to facilitate inclusive training environments as well as guidelines for accessible academic activities.
- Host at least one EDI training event open to all members of the McGill neuroscience community to facilitate discussion and collaborative learning.
- Identify innovative methods, beyond resources and training events, to address systemic issues and reach an audience that may not be as significantly impacted by training sessions.
- Monitor how the COVID-19 crisis evolves and reflect on how this may deepen existing inequities, and take action/adjust plans accordingly to facilitate comfortable and productive environments for all during this time.
- Through actions implemented and planned, HBHL seeks to drive change towards inclusive research and training environments not only within the McGill neuroscience community, but also within the broader institution and beyond. Please feel free to reach out to Falisha Karpati, HBHL Training and Equity Advisor (falisha.karpati [at] mcgill.ca) with any feedback, questions, ideas or collaboration opportunities related to HBHL’s EDI initiatives.
The HBHL Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee