Addressing systemic racism

Dear members of the McGill community,

Following my Statement on injustice and racism, issued on 2 June 2020, I have heard from many of you. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write. I am truly grateful for your engagement with McGill’s responsibility to take a stand against discrimination in all its forms, notably, anti-Black racism.

In your communications, many of you have asked: What has McGill done, and what will McGill do to confront systemic racism? This question is important. My goal here is to respond to our community by sharing relevant information.

This past spring, our Senate and Board of Governors endorsed the University’s first Strategic Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Plan, which includes a clear commitment to:

  • enhance outreach to and support for Black students;
  • work toward more effective recruitment, hiring, and retention of faculty from the most underrepresented groups (i.e., persons who are Indigenous, Black, and/or living with a disability); and
  • conduct critical research into the University’s ties to slavery and colonialism.

The Plan incorporates accountability measures with a view to achieving concrete and meaningful change.

These are important steps. We are working hard and making progress to identify and correct for inequities. Because of these efforts, it can be difficult for us to acknowledge and accept that systemic discrimination, including systemic racism, persists. Yet it does across many institutions, including our own.

We need to acknowledge and address this reality with deep humility and humanity, and establish a path forward that leads to real and sustainable change.

To that end, we have a shared responsibility for action. While the discrimination most prevalent today may be systemic in nature, this does not detract from the role that we all have to build our individual and collective capacities to understand and counter individual and systemic racism where it exists.

McGill will take concrete measures aimed at increasing the representation of, and support for, Black students, faculty, and staff at our University. These measures will be informed by the findings and recommendations set out in various reports that demonstrate how our students and staff – both academic and administrative – experience discrimination on our campuses. These reports include:

Before finalizing precise measures, the University’s senior leadership team and I will take time to consult and listen attentively to Black students, faculty, and staff. These colleagues and students have been working for years to identify and challenge anti-Black racism at our University. This must be acknowledged with appreciation and a recognition that the work going forward must be taken up by all of us.

We are all called to look inward and reflect on the steps we can each take – big and small – to build a university community that rejects discrimination in all its forms, and that instantiates, through all of its decisions and actions, the principles of equity and inclusiveness that lie at the heart of McGill’s mission. I commit to respond to this call to the very best of my ability and ask you to do the same.


Suzanne Fortier

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Back to top