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Anti-Discrimination Consultation Reopened

June 7, 2011

It turns out that Student Senator Hazel Gashoka won her motion to reopen the consultation process on the Policy on the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment without ever having to present it: the consultation will be reopened and the policy will not appear before the Senate and Board of Governors until the Fall 2011 semester, leaving time for many needed improvements to be implemented.

It was a remarkable success of student and union pressure for a fair policy to deal with the reality of racist discrimination on campus.

Yet, Mr. François Houle, VP Academic  and Chairman of the June 6 Senate meeting kept his and the administration’s decision to cave in to community demands secret until the very last minutes of Monday’s two hour session.  The string of events leading up to and including the June 6 meeting of the Senate have caused some observers to characterize the University as “Zoo of O” (link-1, link-2)

Here is a timeline of the evolution of François Houle’s position on the policy matter:

  • On April 29, following a student press conference about Human Rights Tribunal cases of racial discrimination against the University of Ottawa, the University stated to Radio-Canada that a Policy on the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment would be adopted in June 2011.
  • At the May 2 meeting of the Senate, I requested clarification regarding which committee or board would be reviewing the new policy in June, as reported in the media.
  • On May 20, VP Academic François Houle stated (see e-mail string) that the Board of Governors would adopt an unrevised draft policy (containing no changes following a campus community consultation process) in June 2011.
  • On May 27, Student Senator Hazel Gashoka submitted a motion to prevent the policy from being adopted in June, and to reopen the consultation process.  Several student groups supported Ms. Gashoka’s initiative and the call for a fair and just policy (CEHR statement, SFUO statement, GSAED University Commissioner statement, Joint statement of all campus unions).
  • On June 2, Mr. Houle stated (see e-mail string) that a revised draft policy was in the works, but refused to respond to my request for the revised draft to be distributed to Senators before the June 6 meeting of the Senate.
  • On June 2, the Centre for Equity and Human Rights (CEHR), a participant in the policy consultation process, then responded to all Senators (see e-mail string) saying that they had never been informed that there was a revised draft in the works, and that it had never been shown to them.
  • Only in the last minutes of the June 6 meeting of the Senate, when Hazel Gashoka was preparing to present her motion to prevent the adoption of a revised policy that no one had had the opportunity to study, Mr. Houle announced to the Senate that the consultation process would be reopened and the policy brought back to the Senate and Board of Governors in the fall semester.

To withhold relevant and requested information from senators about a Senate motion and then to pull the rug from under a student motion in this way is disrespectful of Senate. This kind of ambush tactic should be stopped.  Houle stated that there was a revised policy that had been presented to the Administrative Committee but refused to provide it on request for Senate to study.  He also refused to bring a copy to Senate.  He instead offered that it would be posted to the web “in mid-week”.  This is not the type of machination that can inspire confidence and respect of the Senate.

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