The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences encourages its member associations, institutions and affiliates to read, discuss, support and promote the Charter.


The development of this Charter on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization in the Social Sciences and Humanities was led by Dr. Malinda S. Smith with Dr. Noreen Golfman (Memorial University) on behalf of the Congress Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization: Dr. Marie Battiste, OC (University of Saskatchewan), Dr. Wesley Crichlow (Ontario Technology University), Dr. Jay Dolmage (University of Waterloo), Dr. Florence Glanfield (University of Alberta), Dr. Claudia Malacrida (University of Lethbridge), and Dr. Anne-José Villeneuve (University of Alberta). The committee was supported in its work by Dr. Gina Hill Birriel, Manager, Program and Policy for the Federation.

Charter on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization in the Social Sciences and Humanities

Section 1 | Preamble

We, the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, our membership of scholarly associations, universities, colleges, and affiliates:

  • Acknowledging the need for a more resolute effort to achieve equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization in our disciplines, fields of inquiry, and artistic and cultural expressions;
  • Acknowledging that the expressed commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion held since the Federation’s founding in 1995 did not encompass decolonization, and recognizing the urgency of change and the need to renew and deepen our individual and institutional commitment with a programme of actions and accountability for change;
  • Acknowledging that each of us as individuals, and as collectives through membership in associations and institutions, has a responsibility to constructively educate on historical and contemporary systemic barriers for each equity-seeking group through rights in order to craft concrete measures to advance an equitable, diverse, inclusive, and decolonial higher education system      in which all members can achieve their full potential, and that to achieve this we need courage, accountability, and a call to action for all members of our academic communities of practice, associations and institutions;
  • Acknowledging that scholarly associations, universities, colleges, and all institutions of higher education are located on Indigenous territories, and recognizing individual and institutional responsibility for the rights and obligations in treaties and compacts made with Indigenous Peoples in those territories;
  • Acknowledging the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action in 2015, and recognizing that the commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and communities must be integrated into all activities to advance the social sciences and humanities in Canada;
  • Acknowledging the fiftieth anniversary of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, the thirty-sixth anniversary of the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Employment Equity Act, the launch of Dimensions Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Canada, and the need to redouble efforts and accountability mechanisms to advance equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization in the Federation, scholarly associations, universities and colleges;
  • Acknowledging the values outlined in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the fourth United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent, and acknowledging that antiracism and decolonization require concrete measures to effect systemic change;
  • Acknowledging that waves of colonialism enacted the subjugation of peoples, cultures, languages, knowledges, ways of knowing, and recognizing that anti-colonialism and decolonization are ongoing and require an individual, association and institutional commitment to identifying and transforming the colonial legacies that continue to shape higher education and all aspects of the social sciences and humanities in Canada;
  • Acknowledging the role the social sciences and humanities community must play in identifying, combatting, and transforming systemic inequities and all forms of oppression, and the structures and systems of power and privilege that maintain and reproduce these systemic injustices;
  • Understanding that the Federation, and all social sciences and humanities disciplines, scholarly associations, colleges and universities must strengthen efforts to envision, build and chart more equitable, diverse, inclusive, and decolonial disciplines, institutions and societies;
  • Accordingly, to achieve these ends, we, the undersigned, hereby unite in our commitment to vigorously confront discrimination and inequities in order to achieve equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization in our scholarly work, associations, at our universities and colleges, in our disciplinary practices, and in collaborations at Congress and other Federation events, for the betterment of the social sciences and humanities community in Canada.


Section 2 | Purpose

The purpose of this Charter is to achieve equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization in the social sciences and humanities in Canada. Systemic inequities within our disciplines, scholarly associations, and institutions of higher education have a negative impact on the education and career trajectories of individuals from underrepresented and marginalized communities. This commitment is a recognition of the need for action plans to address all forms of discrimination, bigotry, prejudice, and injustice, including, but not limited to, those rooted in racism, ableism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism. This Charter calls for urgent action by university and college students, faculty, staff      and alumni, scholarly associations, civil society associations, and research funding bodies across Canada to identify and address the specific obstacles that have negative impacts on the career trajectories and lived experiences of individuals from diverse communities, including, but not limited to, women, Indigenous Peoples, members of visible minority/racialized minority communities, persons with disabilities, members of LGBTQ2S+ communities, as well as linguistic, religious, and cultural communities.


Section 3 | Principles

The Federation and its member scholarly associations, universities, colleges, and affiliates, in pursuit of an equitable, diverse, inclusive, and decolonial social sciences and humanities community, commit to the following principles:


3.1. Accessibility

Accessibility is a foundational principle for the removal of barriers that limit the equitable access to participation and experiences necessary for careers by people with visual, motor, auditory, learning, and cognitive disabilities. Access is enabled by providing resources and tools necessary for the elimination of obstacles, biases, and stereotypes that impede opportunity, admission to, and success in the postsecondary education sector for persons with disabilities and deaf people, as for all historically underrepresented groups. Accessibility also recognizes that low socio-economic income can be an obstacle to university and college attendance.


3.2. Diversity

Diversity is a characteristic of human societies that has been used in multiple ways across the postsecondary education sector. It includes the whole range of human, cultural, and societal differences among populations across Canada. Diversity encompasses identity difference, and the representation of students, staff, faculty, administrators, and senior leadership in the academy. Social diversity also includes the protected grounds under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Aboriginal and Treaty rights, and human rights legislation, such as race/ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and disability. Diversity is also used to differentiate types of knowledge production, educational institutions and units within institutions, such as faculties, schools, departments, programs, and institutes. Diversity also encompasses the nature and content of curricula, research, teaching, service and engagement.


3.3. Decolonization

The principles, processes, and practices of decolonization are fundamental to a more equitable, diverse, enlightened, and inclusive social sciences and humanities community in Canada. We believe the sustainable future of higher education requires confronting and unsettling the impact of colonial histories, ideologies, experiences, and legacies on disciplines, archives, canons, curricula, methodologies, and pedagogies, as well as on structures of governance, institutional design, and cultures, symbols, and ceremonies. Decolonization is a necessary and ongoing process of unlearning, uncovering, and transforming legacies of colonialism, as well as utilizing the educational and knowledge systems available to relearn and rebuild the social, cultural, and linguistic foundations that were lost, or eroded through colonialism. Decolonization also requires making space, balancing, generating, and enabling diverse knowledge systems to thrive in the academy as well as in and through educational and knowledge transmitting places for Indigenous Peoples, the formerly colonized or continuing colonized nations, peoples, and cultural knowledge systems.


3.4. Equity

Equity is concerned with justice and fairness. Equity is a state of being, a process, and a condition that is rooted in fundamental human rights, and, therefore, is not reliant on individual choice or voluntarism. Whereas equality may lead to an assumption of an even playing field, and may shape individual and institutional efforts to treat people the same, equity requires more; it is about understanding and accommodating difference and providing people with what they need to enter and thrive within the academy. Equity requires proactively identifying and combatting discriminatory ideas, attitudes, behaviours, as well as systems, policies, processes, and practices that lead to disadvantage. It is concerned with a legal and ethical commitment to doing what is right and necessary to achieve such a state through proactive measures to identify root causes, and design interventions to remove obstacles to fair opportunities and experiences in all spheres of academic life.


3.5. Inherent Human Dignity

Inherent human dignity is a foundational concept of human rights. Principles, commitments, and actions to transform inequities in structures, processes, policies, and outcomes must be based on the recognition and affirmation of the inherent dignity of all peoples. Without the recognition of the inherent human dignity of all peoples, actions to effect change will fall short.


3.6. Inclusion

Inclusion is a skillset and a condition that must be cultivated and that require resources in order to advance an equitable and fairer academy. Inclusion entails interconnected actions to dismantle barriers that impede participation, engagement, representation, and empowerment of members of diverse social identities and from various backgrounds in the life of the academy. Inclusion means that we design our educational and cultural spaces from the beginning so that they can be used fully by all peoples and all communities. Inclusion foregrounds the social and institutional relations of power and privilege, drawing necessary attention to who gets a seat and voice at the decision-making tables, and who is empowered by institutional processes, policies, systems, and structures.


3.7. Inclusive Excellence

The individual and institutional pursuit of excellence, quality, or merit is best achieved in equitable, diverse, inclusive, and decolonial conditions in which everyone can thrive. While the human pursuit of excellence is an inclusive one, how it is socially and institutionally defined, operationalized, and recognized historically has often been exclusionary of, among other things, diverse ways of knowing, knowledges, methodologies, and perspectives. Recognizing the integral relationship between equity-as-fairness and inclusive excellence is necessary to mitigate how access to, and success within, scholarly associations, universities, and colleges have been shaped by histories of discriminatory ideas, attitudes, processes, and practices. Inclusive excellence affirms how diversity can deepen learning, enhance critical thinking and problem solving, and fuel creativity and innovation in teaching and learning, research and artistic enquiry, professional service, and community engagement in the social sciences and humanities.


Section 4 | Commitment to Urgent Action

  • Article 1: We commit to the proactive pursuit of decolonization, and acknowledge that colonialism is a structure that continues to shape attitudes, values, ideologies, and priorities in the foundation of governance, architecture, symbols, and ceremonies, as well as knowledge production, curricula, and ways of knowing and being in the academy.
  • Articles 2: We commit to concrete actions to combat discrimination, and to transform the structural, systemic, and institutional inequities that are shaped by histories of colonialism, enslavement, and discrimination that continue to disadvantage people on the basis of, but not limited to, women, First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples, members of visible/racialized minority groups, persons with disabilities, and members of LGBTQ2S+ groups.
  • Article 3: We commit to action to identify and ameliorate systemic inequities that impede access to, and success within, the academy of diverse members of our scholarly associations and universities, including, but not limited to, women, First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples, members of visible/racialized minority groups, persons with disabilities, and members of LGBTQ2S+ groups.
  • Article 4: We commit to deepening our knowledge of equity and decolonization for our teaching, learning, research, artistic enquiry, and community engagement, which take place in institutions of higher education located on Indigenous territories, and recognize that the spirit of reconciliation requires individuals and our universities to invest in Indigenizing the academy.
  • Article 5: We commit to reviewing and transforming scholarly canons and curricula with the aim of creating more inclusive, Indigenized, and decolonized knowledge production in the social sciences and humanities.
  • Article 6: We commit to official bilingualism, support for Indigenous languages, and multilingualism, and recognize the importance of our diverse linguistic inheritance for culture, community, and belonging in the academy and beyond.
  • Article 7: We recognize that equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization are foundational to inclusive excellence, and this acknowledgement requires a commitment to redefining our definition and assessment of excellence. Socially heterogeneous groups, with a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences, enable a deeper and more inclusive conception of excellence.
  • Article 8: We commit to designing structures and policies that are necessary to systematically collect disaggregated demographic data on faculty, staff, students, and administrators in order to identify barriers and close gaps in student access, and faculty and staff employment in scholarly associations and the academy.
  • Article 9: We commit to identifying and removing the specific and intersecting barriers and obstacles that impede the equitable representation of women, Indigenous Peoples, visible/racialized minorities, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQ2S+ in our scholarly associations, universities, and colleges.
  • Article 10: We commit to identifying concrete actions and commitments in such a way that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-oriented (SMART) in order to identify and transform the obstacles, barriers, and biases that impede access to and success within scholarly associations and the academy.
  • Article 11: We commit to analyzing and addressing any inequitable salary wage gaps that may exist for women, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples, visible/racialized minorities, persons with disabilities, and members of LGBTQ2S+ groups.
  • Article 12: We commit to creating an academic environment free from discrimination, harassment, and bullying, and cultivate an equitable, diverse, inclusive, and decolonial institutional culture in our scholarly associations, universities, and colleges.
  • Articles 13: We commit to equitable practices, and diverse and inclusive leadership, decision making and governance that are necessary for the realization of structural and systemic change.