We acknowledge that the University of Toronto, Mississauga campus is located on the traditional lands of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and, most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit for thousands of years prior to the arrival of European settlers and the violent establishment of settler colonialism. Southern Ontario is still home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are mindful and grateful to have the opportunity to live, work, gather, and share on this land. We recognize the dispossession of First Nations and acknowledge that many of us who are non-Indigenous continue to benefit from Canada’s settler colonial past and present. We stand in unequivocal solidarity with Indigenous peoples and those who seek to dismantle systems of oppression and continuing dispossession as we work towards a more equitable and inclusive future. We also recognize the unique demographics of the Peel region, and are committed to reflecting and representing its diverse communities in our research and teaching.
As members of the Department of Historical Studies, we stand in opposition to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, economic inequalities, religious intolerance and gendered discrimination in all forms at the University, in our communities, and around the globe. We recognize that these forms of discrimination, among others, have many roots and takes many forms. For example, in the Americas, racism and racial capitalism underpinned, justified, and made possible the historical development of white settler colonial societies and economies, shaped by genocide, slavery, and the development of the carceral state that continue to threaten the lives of Black, Indigenous, Peoples of Colour, Queer and Trans peoples, and other historically oppressed groups. These systems of violence and power, both physical and epistemic, are deeply ingrained in all facets of Canadian life, including University life, and more globally in the ways supremacist ideologies, forms of authoritarianism, and oppression manifest along various lines (religious, racial, caste, gender expressions, etc), abroad and within Canada.
We commit to supporting an inclusive and welcoming community, reaffirming Memo No. 2022-67 issued by the University of Toronto’s Office of the Vice-President, People Strategy, Equity and Culture, which states that “providing an inclusive environment for everyone in our community means ensuring our physical spaces remain free from hateful messages, including racist or homophobic slurs, sexist language, or other discriminatory comments” and that “the University of Toronto recognizes its obligation to prevent discriminatory impacts on members of its community that arise from the failure to accommodate based on disability, religion/creed, and family status (i.e., primary caregiving responsibilities for parent/guardian or child).” This encompasses adhering to the polices and guidelines issued for addressing grievances and advancing an environment built on respect, diversity, accountability, and inclusion.
We are in solidarity with Indigenous struggles for land and sovereignty, global movements for respect and recognition of Black life, and allied anti-oppression groups including those experiencing and combating anti-Asian racism, Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian racism, and antisemitism. We will work to put into practice the action items of the expanding range of Tri-Campus initiatives, such as those fostering inclusion of people with disabilities, whether visible or hidden, sexual minorities, and anti-racism taskforces, including those of the Working Groups on Anti-Black Racism and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We stand in solidarity and take inspiration from the work of several of our Departmental colleagues as part of Scholar Strike Canada, and commit to defend and amplify colleagues whose scholarly work and activism furthers anti-oppression and abolitionist movements. We also recognize and commit to working towards mitigating the multiple forms of economic precarity faced by our community members in various positions within the Departmental and University hierarchy. As Angela Davis reminds us, “justice is indivisible.” Our Department is composed of a variety of scholars whose identities and research reflect a wide range of positionalities and intersections. We, and in particular the majority of our members who come from privileged, white settler backgrounds, recognize our complicity in the systems and institutions of power and privilege that structure continued oppression and our own implicit biases, and pledge to continue to listen and learn, speak out, and practice anti-racism and anti-oppression in our teaching, scholarly work, community engagements, and everyday lives.
Academic freedom, collegial governance, and the autonomy of the University are the cornerstones of meaningful academic work and freedom of research. We believe in education as a human right and are committed to protecting our community members from and holding the University to account for interference by politicians, donors, lobby groups, and other forms of state power. We will defend the principles of academic freedom among our colleagues and students and in our institutional practices. This pledge is particularly critical in the face of phenomena such as rising white supremacy, systems of apartheid, authoritarianism, carceral violence, anti-Black racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Palestinian racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, and ethnic nationalism around the world, which threaten the work of decolonizing, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, and Indigenous knowledges and practices within the University. In our research and teaching, we commit to centering and citing the teachings and scholarship of Black, Indigenous, and racialized scholars and activists, and engaging the voices of historically exceptionalized, excluded, and marginalized communities.
For too long, the burden of righting these wrongs has been placed on the shoulders of already overworked and underrepresented racialized colleagues and students as well as allied colleagues and activists. As a Department, we pledge to lead by example, enjoining all of our members to make our Department a welcoming, inclusive, and safe space for (self-)critical debate and the unsettling of colonial and other inequitable practices of knowledge production.
History’s Burden - Historical Studies’ Responsibility
The past has burdened us with the legacies, continuing presence, and unequal impacts of genocide, slavery, femicide, war, exploitation, extractivism, appropriation, and environmental degradation. It is clear to us that there can be no reconciliation without affirming the historical record, confronting the biases, inequalities, and deliberate silences and erasures of past historical work, questioning who is empowered to speak and be heard – teach and be taught – in historical scholarship, and insisting on the role of historical studies in furthering the causes of social justice and decolonial transformation.
As a leading interdisciplinary hub in the humanities at UTM, the Department of Historical Studies is uniquely positioned to bring together multiple fields, perspectives, and approaches to the examination of the historical transmission and legacies of the diverse societies of the ancient world; religious pluralities; histories of colonialism, capitalism, violence, resistance, and abolition; Indigenous resurgence and refusals; transnational processes of migration and diasporic experiences; and intersectional analyses of women, gender, race, class, feminisms, and sexuality. Each of our programs (Classical Civilization; Diaspora and Transnational Studies; History; History of Religions; and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies) have varied institutional histories: some were founded on and continue to provide leadership on the principles of anti-racism, equity, and critical approaches to power, racial injustice, and decolonial practice; others are actively undertaking the painstaking work of undoing the colonial and exclusionary legacies of their particular disciplinary origins and practices. We recognize multiple forms of oppression, marginalization, and aggression continue to shape and unevenly impact gendered, queered, disabled, and racialized members of our Departmental community. We commit to listen to each other without threat of penalty or dismissiveness, learn from each other, challenge each other, and build a Departmental culture that combats masculinist, heteronormative, colonialist, carceral, ableist, and racist institutional logics through respectful collegiality, critical pedagogy, and research agendas centered on an ethics of care and solidarity.
The Department commits to anti-racism, equity, and inclusion using an intersectional approach to race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, gender, sexuality, disability, economic status, national origin, and geography. This commitment extends to hiring, workload assignment, evaluation, promotion, awards recognition, research funding, curriculum development, and teaching. We not only commit to recruiting and hiring faculty and staff from diverse and historically oppressed groups, but also to reducing precarity and providing the necessary resources, mentorship, and supports to facilitate the advancement of the scholarly careers of these members of our community.
True inclusion cannot be achieved without individual and institutional commitments to the principles of transparency, accountability, integrity, and respect. Anti-racism, equity, and inclusion must not be the charge of one committee or particular members of our community, but must become embedded in all aspects of Departmental and institutional life. As part of this ongoing work towards significant, transformational, and sustainable change, our evolving Anti-Racism and Equity Action Plan includes: working to mitigate and eliminate harm and barriers to full participation in the life of the Department for all members; implementing the recommendations from the Tri-Campus anti-racism taskforces; advocating for priority and intersectional hirings; promoting ongoing equity and anti-racism training; initiating programming, funding, and opportunities to amplify the work and scholarship of racialized, queer, disabled, and other historically marginalized scholars; working to embed decolonial pedagogical practices across all of our course offerings and program design; and protecting and supporting our colleagues and students through mentorship, advocacy, activism, and solidarity.