The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD) was a day of discussion, learning, and reflection at the University of Toronto. Members of our community came together on Tuesday, March 21 for “Deepening Knowledge and Building Strategies: Faith, Anti-Racism and EDI at the University of Toronto,” a hybrid event hosted by the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office (ARCDO).
In his opening remarks, President Meric Gertler spoke about the importance of IDERD as a time to reflect on institutional practices and identify further actions our community can take to build a culture of inclusion and belonging at U of T.
“Action against all forms of racism and discrimination is a moral obligation and fundamental to our excellence as an academic community,” he said. “We will be best enabled to meet our aspirations when our learning and working environments fully represent the diverse communities that surround our campuses.”
Nouman Ashraf, Associate Professor, Rotman School of Management, encouraged attendees to approach conversations about racism and faith-based discrimination from a place of love and commitment. “An inclusive, anti-racist organizational culture is one where every story matters,” he said. “How do we create the capacity to listen to stories that make us uncomfortable [or] make us feel complicit in the systemic pieces that exclude others?”
In the panel discussion that followed, speakers shared their lived experiences within the educational sector and in the broader community as they explored the intersection of faith and race, the complexities of identity, and the many manifestations of discrimination.
Panelists included Dr. Umberin Najeeb, Assistant Professor and Vice Chair, Culture and Inclusion Department of Medicine, Temerty Faculty of Medicine; Anna Shternshis, Professor and Director Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies; Pardeep Singh Nagra, Human Rights and Equity Advisor, Halton District School Board and former Diversity Relations Officer, University of Toronto – Mississauga; Hiren Mistry, Vice Principal, White Oaks Secondary School and PhD candidate, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. The conversation was moderated by Leigh Naturkach, Executive Director, Mosaic Institute.
From Najeeb’s story about working clinical night shifts during Ramadan to Nagra’s story about becoming the first Peel Regional Police officer with a turban, the discussion shone a light on the impacts of racial and faith-based discrimination, and the need for continued action.
The event concluded with a community conversation about ways to enhance inclusivity for faith-based and racialized communities at U of T.