'There is more work to be done': Lakehead University leadership pledges change after racism allegations
University responds after outgoing law school dean levelled accusations of systemic racism, discrimination
Top officials at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., say the school is prepared to do better when it comes to curbing systemic racism and discrimination.
The pledge comes a day after Indigenous leaders from across northern Ontario publicly backed Angelique EagleWoman, the outgoing dean of the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law. EagleWoman cited allegations of discrimination against her as an Indigenous woman in her decision to resign.
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"As a comprehensive, regional university committed to access and equity for Indigenous students, this is of great concern to us and a clear indication there is more work to be done," read a statement issued by the university on Wednesday, attributed to interim President Moira McPherson and David Tamblyn, the chair of the board of governors.
"We need to address the reality that systemic racism exists throughout society, and that despite our efforts, Lakehead University is not immune."
On Tuesday, leaders from the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Grand Council Treaty Three, the Métis Nation of Ontario and Fort William First Nation called for reform at Lakehead through a number of recommendations. They included having the university commit to appointing an Indigenous person as EagleWoman's successor, conducting an independent review to examine "all issues and allegations" raised by her, and establishing intensive cultural sensitivity training.
University officials said the school will reach out to Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities "to help develop an action plan to move forward, together." McPherson told CBC News those discussions need to happen before the school can commit to any of the recommendations put forward on Tuesday.
"There may well be many recommendations that we will land on together," she said. "But it would be very wrong of us to move forward with commitment to particular ones without that consultation."
McPherson added that a lot will go into the university's efforts. "I think it means going back to constantly reflecting, learning, questioning, challenging the norms," she said.
The university added that it remains committed to the three mandates of the law school, including Aboriginal and Indigenous law.
As for specifics surrounding EagleWoman's tenure and departure, the university's statement said that it doesn't comment on human resources matters in order to protect the privacy of people involved.
EagleWoman said her resignation is effective at the end of June.