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U of O: Discrimination Policy to be Pushed Through in June

May 27, 2011

According to the Centre for Equity and Human Rights of the University of Ottawa’s Student Federation, Canada’s University is one of the only (if not the only) universities in Ontario without a Policy on the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment, yet the proposed policy is riddled with serious problems.

The Winter 2011 semester saw two press conferences held by students who have made complaints of racism against the university to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (CBC news, Radio-Canada news).  Previous posts from this blog about systemic discrimination and the University of Ottawa can be found here: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Note that the University has already stated to Radio-Canada that a new Policy on the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment will be adopted in June 2011, before the Senate and Board of Governors have reviewed the proposed policy.

Below the VP Academic of Canada’s University, François Houle, appears to state that a version of the draft policy will be submitted to the Board of Governors in June 2011 without incorporating any of the changes from the campus community consultation process.  Members of Senate still await Mr. Houle’s clarifications on the matter.

Student Senator Hazel Gashoka has submitted a motion to prevent adoption of the policy as is, and to reopen the consultation process.

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From: Francine Page
Date: June 2, 2011
Subject: Règlement sur la prévention du harcèlement et de la discrimination
Cc: Members of Senate

Dear Senate Members,

I had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Lucie Allaire, Ombudsman, University of Ottawa. During said meeting I obtained Ms. Allaire’s permission to circulate the attached “Document de réflexion sur la manière de traiter les plaintes de discrimination”.  In this particular document, Ms. Allaire shares her concerns regarding the treatment of student related discrimination complaints.  I am very positive that this pivotal document will be of assistance to you during your deliberations Monday, June 6th, 2011.

Please also find attached a letter from the Centre for Equity and Human Rights (Centre) outlining our concerns regarding the drafted policy on the prevention of harassment and discrimination.  To the best of our knowledge, the original document crafted continues to be circulated to students and the university community by the Office for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment, SASS, University of Ottawa.  In addition, to our knowledge, the original drafted policy has never  incorporated any stakeholder comments including Ms. Lucie Allaire’s recommendations. As such, if a newly revised policy is being tabled, we have never been made aware of this fact.

It is pivotal to have a policy and procedures in place to inform management on the treatment of student discrimination complaints. That being stated the ratification of a poor policy and procedures may equally leave the University at a grave disadvantage.

Respectfully,

Francine Page
Centre d’équité en matière des droits de la personne
Centre for Equity and Human Rights
Directrice/Director
Représentante étudiant.e/Student Advocate
FEUO/SFUO

From: Joseph Hickey
Date: June 2, 2011
Subject: URGENT: Re: Discrimination prevention policy to be discussed in June
Cc: Members of Senate

Dear M. Houle,

Thank you for your response (below).

Please distribute the revised draft Policy that you refer to below to all Senators.  Please send it by e-mail by the end of the day today (June 2).

You will understand that this matter is urgent given the community concern on the issue and that it will be dealt with by Senate at next Monday’s (June 6) meeting.

Please also respond to my question from my May 20 e-mail regarding the Senate’s role in approving such a policy as per the University of Ottawa Act.

Sincerely,
Joseph Hickey

From: François Houle
Date: June 2, 2011
Subject: Re: Discrimination prevention policy to be discussed in June

Dear Mr Hickey,

I am sorry for my delay but I did not have the information. I will make a report to the Senate on Monday about the consultation process and the next step for the approval of the policy.  I do not understand why you concluded that the policy that will be submitted for approval will be identical to the August version. The policy has been amended following the comments received by all the individuals and groups who have participated in the consultation.

Sincerely,

François  Houle

From: Joseph Hickey
Date: May 27, 2011
Subject: Re: Discrimination prevention policy to be discussed in June
Cc: Members of Senate

Dear M. Houle,

Please see my e-mail of May 20, below, regarding clarification on the Policy on the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment.

Not having clear details on the matter is making it difficult to prepare for the June 6, 2011 Senate meeting.  I had previously requested a response by May 25 – could you please respond by Monday, May 30?

Sincerely,
Joseph Hickey
Graduate student representative to Senate, Sciences section

From: Joseph Hickey
Date: May 20, 2011
Subject: Re: Discrimination prevention policy to be discussed in June
Cc: Members of Senate

Dear M. Houle,

Thank you for your response (below) regarding the draft Policy on the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment.

You mentioned that you expect the August 2010 version of the draft policy to be presented to the Board of Governors for approval this June.  As you say, this was the version of the draft that existed before the consultation process with the university community.  This seems to suggest that the draft policy that will be submitted to the Board of Governors in June will be identical to the August 2010 version and will have no changes following the consultation process – could you please confirm or clarify this point?

At the same time, you mentioned that there will be an update on the consultation process presented to Senate on June 6.  It is not clear to me whether the draft policy to be submitted to the Board in June will include changes from the consultation process or not.   I would appreciate it if you could clarify this so that I and other Members of Senate can prepare for the June 6 Senate meeting.  The SFUO’s Student Appeal Centre (SAC) and Centre for Equity and Human Rights (CEHR) have informed me that they have participated in the consultation process in January 2011, and had a number of important contributions for changes to the draft policy.

As the issue of discrimination often arises in connection to academic matters (e.g. complaints of unfair evaluation) and therefore implicates the Senate (e.g. the Senate Appeals Committee) I would also like to know if this policy should properly be approved by both the Senate and the Board of Governors?

For example, Article 17 of the University of Ottawa Act, 1965 states: The Senate is responsible for the educational policy of the University and (…) has power

(a) to control, regulate and determine the educational policy of the University according to Christian principles and its bilingual tradition and character;

Please respond to these points by next Wednesday, May 25, to allow time to prepare for the upcoming meeting of the Senate.

Sincerely,
Joseph Hickey
Graduate student representative to Senate, Sciences section

Cc: Members of Senate

From: VP Academic François Houle
Date: May 20, 2011
Subject: Re: Discrimination prevention policy to be discussed in June

Dear Mr. Hickey,

Following the discussion at the last Senate meeting, I can confirm that the policy in question will be submitted to the Board for discussion and approval.  As per Article 11 of the University of Ottawa Act, 1965,  the Board has all the powers necessary or convenient to perform its duties and achieve the objects and purposes of the University, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, power, namely:

(j) to make by-laws, rules and regulations in respect of all such matters as may seem necessary or advisable for the government, management, conduct and control of the University.

At this point in time, we expect that the draft policy, which was submitted to the University Community for consultation as of August 2010, will be presented for approval at the June meeting of the Board.

An update on the consultation process will be presented to the Senate at its next meeting.

Sincerely,

François Houle
Vice-President Academic and Provost

From: Joseph Hickey
Date:
May 5, 2011
Subject: Discrimination prevention policy to be discussed in June
Cc: Members of Senate

Dear Members of Senate,

On Friday, April 29, the SFUO’s Centre for Equity and Human Rights (CEHR) held a press conference in the Tabaret Hall Rotunda about racial discrimination complaints filed by students from the university’s School of Nursing.

The students, Anne Mpinda and Victor Ndayishimiye announced their Ontario Human Rights Tribunal complaints and told their stories of the racism they have encountered here.

Radio-Canada’s evening news covered the story and LeDroit has published an article relaying the CEHR’s statement that it has received twenty complaints about racial discrimination in the past two years.

Radio-Canada news clip

LeDroit article

According to the news sources, the university’s Communications Office has stated that the draft Policy on the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment (attached) will be adopted by the university’s upper administration in June.

At the May 2 meeting of the Senate, I requested that the administration inform the Members of Senate within one week of which committee the policy will appear before.  As I understand that VP Governance, Diane Davidson will continue to be off work until May 20, I would request that the appropriate member of the administration provide this information by next Monday, May 9.

As I stated at the May 2 meeting of the Senate, the April 29 press conference follows the press conference of March 9, where three medical resident doctors from the Faculty of Medicine presented their human rights complaints, the April 4 motion that I submitted to the Senate to reaffirm its commitment to the prevention of discrimination (which did not receive a seconder), and the April 7 letter to all Members of Senate by the Graduate Student Association’s University Commissioner Jonathan Duguay calling for a disciplinary investigation into the actions of Division of Neurosurgery Chair Richard Moulton based on leaked e-mails from the Faculty of Medicine.  Mr. Duguay’s letter is available here.

Please contact me to discuss these developments.  I hope the Senate can take an active role in addressing the ongoing problem of racism on campus.

Sincerely,
Joseph Hickey

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