Four months after its announcement, the first recommendations outlined in the task forces final report are starting to reach fruition
On Feb. 6, Concordia’s President and Vice Chancellor Graham Carr unveiled a temporary plaque to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of the 1969 Black student protests. The plaque, which will be replaced with a permanent plaque in the coming months, stands as a reminder of the events that lead to the protests and the presence of anti-Black racism at the University.
Angélique Willkie, former head of the President’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism, said it was important for the university to commemorate the significance of the 1969 Black student protests ahead of the upcoming anniversary.
Willkie elaborated on the added importance of marking the site of the Sir George Williams protests with a physical representation of the event.
“And subsequently, it remains the location of the largest student protest for anti-Black racism in Canada,” said Willkie.
The event was the first of many initiatives that the University intends to implement in hopes to combat anti-Black systemic racism within the institution. In late October, President Carr pledged his support for the 88 recommendations included in the final report of the President’s task force on anti-Black racism. Concordia’s official apology is primarily in relation to the mismanagement of Sir George Williams University’s former administration throughout the 1969 Black student protests.
In addition to the commemorative plaque, the University also launched a website detailing the experiences of those who lived through the events of 1969. Willkie also stated that the University is pursuing its plans to create a new program for Black and African diaspora studies in the Canadian context, as well as founding a Black Student Centre.
Willkie says that since the anti-Black task force disbanded in the fall of 2022, she is no longer responsible for the implementation of the task force’s recommendations. However, Willkie insisted that the university intends to actively pursue all of the recommendations outlined in their final report.
“So there are many things ongoing, but of course, not everything has the same timeline, either,” said Willkie. “So certain things can be completed relatively quickly, others less quickly.”
Willkie said that she has experienced no pushback from individuals, but rather from institutions as a whole.
“Institutions have square wheels, and they’re made to reproduce themselves” said Willkie. “So somehow or another in order for the system to work differently it takes a while for the actual procedures to change. In the meantime I kind of go around them,” she added.
Despite this, Willkies said that the cooperation of the University and actors within it should be a point of celebration.
“When those 88 recommendations were published, none of them came as a surprise to any of the people who were responsible for their implementation,” said Willkie. “They had all been consulted beforehand, every single one without exception. And that’s huge.”