Professor Michael Markwick launches campaign in his role as CFA Equity Officer
Bridget Stringer-Holden // Associate News Editor
April dela Noche Milne // Illustrator
The Capilano Faculty Association’s (CFA) new Anti-Racist Action Campaign is set to launch on Dec. 10, which is International Human Rights Day. It will continue through February—Black History Month—and run into Mar. 21, 2021, which is the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“I’ve been involved in Human Rights enforcement since I graduated from UofT…and I have never seen this kind of hatred before,” said Professor Michael Markwick. “[It’s important] to recognize how much suffering is taking place in our campus community as a result of discriminatory actions and practices and structures, and to refuse to look the other way.”
Markwick was elected at the CFA Annual General Meeting in April. In August, he took his seat as the Equity and Human Rights Officer, where he works in areas of professional ethics such as work-safe practices and anti-bullying.
The BC Human Rights Code’s first mandate is to foster a province where everyone is free to participate fully. “In the time I’ve been at Cap, in my own experiences, [being free to participate] can’t be taken for granted,” said Markwick. “There are definitely patterns of behaviour and structures of direct discrimination and systemic discrimination that racialize, marginalize, and exclude. And sometimes the price of that in terms of human health can be debilitating.”
The campaign is meant to create physically-distanced spaces for faculty to have one-on-one conversations with trained professionals about equity at CapU. Throughout the campaign, community organizers who are specifically trained in decolonizing practices and anti-racist curriculum will be conducting anti-oppression training.
“I think that too often we short circuit the process by asking people to have potentially heavy conversations without doing the work first of building our relationships with each other. I don’t see how that can be healing,” said Markwick.
Markwick wants to identity patterns of direct and systemic discrimination at CapU and the CFA. “We can’t really be alive as a university until that respect for human dignity is alive.” Once the campaign concludes in March, it will be possible to decide what can be done about the identified priorities. A report and an action plan will be created, and then the faculty association will be able to discuss how priorities should be ranked.
“I was really struck by an observation by a speaker at the UofT dialogue,” said Markwick. “[They] observed that it is not okay for a university, for a classroom, to just keep rolling ahead while we have Black faculty members, Black students, Black staff, reeling from the murder of a Black man at the hands of police, or a Black woman at the hands of police.”
The Scarborough Charter was created with national input at the UofT dialogue. Markwick believes that this is the time for an anti-racist campaign because “for the first time in the history of universities in Canada, [we will] have an accountability mechanism to give us specific guidance in terms of respect for human rights law.”
His second reason is the recent election of a BC NDP majority government. Markwick believes that this is significant because of the thorough anti-racism platform outlined by the BC NDP, which includes universities and post-secondary education. “Standing up as a faculty association in our own anti-racist action campaign will help the faculty association get it’s own thinking straight and in so doing also allow us to be of greater service to the university community,” said Markwick.
Two of Markwick’s close friends will also be partaking in the campaign. Noga Gayle worked at CapU from 1997 until she retired in 2009. She was the first Black faculty member and gave this campaign her blessing, which was really important to Markwick. “I actually find it demoralizing that we haven’t figured out a way as a university to honour her. She was a groundbreaker.”
Another of Markwick’s friends and mentors is Rosemary Brown, the first Black woman elected to the legislature in Canada. Her motto really resonated with Markwick. “None of us are free until all of us are free; that’s why we do this.”