Canadian college apologizes for ‘institutional racism’

AA/Montreal/Hatem Kattou

Canada’s Concordia University in Montreal on Friday formally apologized to black communities for the harm caused by “institutional racism.”

University leadership, represented by the University’s rector and vice-chancellor, Graham Carr, paid particular attention to the events of February 1969 which led to the ‘Sir George Williams Race Riot’.

During a ceremony Friday afternoon at the university’s downtown Montreal campus, President Carr noted that “reflection on the history of racism experienced by black people at this facility was long overdue and needed to be pursued.”

“We also published the final report on anti-black racism at Concordia. A report that includes recommendations to help the university restore its relationship with Montreal’s black communities,” he said.

He hopes “our ability to implement the recommendations will make us a better university, a truly welcoming university where everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from, has a chance to thrive.”

Returning to the events of 1969, the vice chancellor said he still hopes that “those who are alive, who lived through these events, and the generations of black students, staff, family members that will follow, will have meaning in the larger black community that is fuller.” Satisfaction or understanding and will welcome the university finally acknowledging this story.”

For her part, Angélique Willkie, chair of Concordia’s task force on anti-black racism, noted that “the report is a vehicle to give the black communities of Concordia a voice and recognize their priorities and experiences.”

“It is important that everything that happens inside the university reflects what exists outside in terms of important issues and representations. For me, it’s about connecting everything.”

While she admits the apologies won’t undo the damage done, she still believes they “could help heal the wounds and turn the page a little.”

In February 1969, a peaceful occupation of the computer lab at Sir George Williams University, Concordia’s ancestor, by black students to denounce discrimination against them degenerated after muscular police intervention.

The riots escalated and a fire broke out, forcing the students to flee and 197 of them were arrested by the police.

In 1974, Sir George Williams University merged with Loyola College to form what is now Concordia University.

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