Human Rights and Equity – The Brock News A news source for Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario Wed, 14 Sep 2022 21:51:12 EST en-CA hourly 1 Pride crosswalk unveiled adjacent to campus Thu, 23 Jun 2022 14:16:34 EST Niagara Region has unveiled a new Pride crosswalk adjacent to Brock University.

The painted crossing, at the intersection of Schmon Parkway and Sir Isaac Brock Way, features the all-inclusive Pride flag developed by Brock in collaboration with local 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities.

“This is a wonderful initiative and we’re very glad to see the crosswalk painted so close to campus,” says Brock’s Interim President and Vice-Chancellor Lynn Wells. “Brock is strongly committed to building a more equitable and inclusive community, and the painting of this nearby crosswalk will serve as a constant and visible reminder that all are welcome in Niagara.”

The all-inclusive flag design consists of the familiar rainbow flag with the addition of black, brown, light blue, pink and white stripes.

The black and brown represent 2SLGBTQQIA+ community members who are racialized and have historically and continue to experience marginalization within our communities; the light blue, pink and white represent transgender community members; the last purple chevron intersects with the white to remind the community of the Two Row Wampum agreement. These colours represent the Indigenous land we walk on and our responsibility to the land and to each other.

Beyond Pride Month, Niagara Region will continue to promote, educate and drive awareness to benefit the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community within Niagara through the creation and implementation of the 2023-27 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, scheduled to be presented at Regional Council next month.

]]> Brock offering trauma support in response to local acts of hate Wed, 15 Jun 2022 14:02:11 EST Following recent acts of hate in Niagara, Brock is providing trauma support to assist members of the University community affected by these events.

The region recently experienced acts of vandalism targeting members of the Black and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities.

In response, Brock’s Human Resources and Human Rights and Equity teams have organized supports to help the University community process these events.

Virtual trauma response will be offered Thursday, June 16, from 1 to 5 p.m., and will include group and one-on-one sessions that can be accessed through ExperienceBU.

Support is also available to both staff and students on an ongoing basis from LifeWorks.

Other resources can be found on Brock’s Human Rights and Equity website.

]]> Brock appoints Interim Director of Human Rights and Equity Thu, 09 Jun 2022 13:30:39 EST Brock has appointed Chelsea Takalo to the role of Interim Director of Human Rights and Equity (HRE).

Takalo has deep experience developing and delivering diversity, anti-racism, human rights, anti-oppression and equity-based training, and currently serves as Student Equity Program Advisor at the Toronto District School Board, one of the largest school boards in North America.

A woman with red hair wearing a jean jacket stands in front of a tree.

Chelsea Takalo will begin her role as Interim Director of Human Rights and Equity (HRE) at Brock University on Monday, June 13.

A social worker by training, Takalo holds a master’s in social work and teaches related courses as an instructor at Sheridan College.

Takalo’s term will begin on Monday, June 13.

HRE was established as a resource to provide members of the Brock community with information, education, assistance and advice on issues related to human rights, harassment, discrimination and bullying.

“Brock has been working hard to make its campus community more equitable and inclusive,” says Takalo. “And while there’s still lots of work to do in this area, I’m excited to be joining such a progressive team with such a strong commitment to human rights, equality and diversity.”

In April, Brock launched a review of HRE, considering its mandate, operational effectiveness, organizational structure and resourcing. Recommendations from the review will be provided to the President by the end of 2022.

]]> Brock to host month of celebrations for Pride Mon, 30 May 2022 12:03:27 EST As the all-inclusive flag was raised in front of Schmon Tower Monday, May 30, Brock University got an early start on the worldwide celebration of Pride Month.

Throughout the month of June, the Brock community is invited to participate in more than a dozen virtual and in-person activities that will educate, inform and entertain Brock’s Two-Spirit, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (2S&LGBTQ+) communities and their allies.

Thanks to collaboration from Human Rights and Equity (HRE), Brock Pride, the Student Justice Centre (SJC), the Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) and others, Social Justice Centre Advocate Rabia Choudhary said there is something for everyone.

“I am so excited for the amazing lineup of drop-in spaces, events and workshops we have this Pride Month,” said Choudhary, who was particularly excited for Destiny Pitter’s workshop on Tuesday, June 28. The event, ‘Abolition, Autonomy and Art: Zine-Making 101 for Collective Care,’ aims to educate participants on how to make zines while discussing the significance of autonomy and art.

“There will be so many amazing opportunities like this for students and Brock community members to learn, grow and embrace one another’s pride this year,” she said.

Other offerings throughout June include a screening of the coming of age film Crush, an introduction to trans feminism workshop and Pride pottery painting.

Pride Month is being held in addition to Pride Week, which Brock hosts annually in March to celebrate while the majority of students are still on campus.

University Vice-President, Administration Ken Chan said the month-long slate of activities is a testament to the type of community Brock aspires to be.

“Celebrating Pride Month is one way we embrace Brock’s commitment to an inclusive environment where everyone can learn, work and live in a community that respects people of all identities,” said Chan. “The various events during Pride Month are a fabulous reminder to work proudly together for inclusion and representation throughout the year.”

For a full list of Pride Month events hosted by Brock University, visit the Human Rights and Equity website.

]]> Research aims to help improve library experiences for gender-diverse students Mon, 16 May 2022 13:32:42 EST Elizabeth Yates was looking for ways to make the Brock University Library more welcoming for gender-diverse students.

When the Research and Scholarly Communication Librarian found little research on the experiences of gender-diverse people in academic libraries, she decided to conduct her own.

Yates explained that ‘gender-diverse’ is an umbrella description for people whose gender differs from the gender they were assigned at birth and/or for people who do not adhere to the gender binary stereotypes of male and female.

“Gender-diverse people often experience stigmatization, prejudice, bias and fear, which can lead to isolation and discrimination,” she said.

To conduct her qualitative study, Yates interviewed transgender, non-binary and genderqueer students about their experiences with, and perceptions of, the Brock Library’s spaces, services and collections. She shared the analyzed data with research participants to ensure it accurately reflected their experiences.

A portrait of Elizabeth Yates, Brock University Research and Scholarly Communication Librarian.

A photo of Elizabeth Yates, Brock University Research and Scholarly Communication Librarian, wearing a navy-blue top with white polka dots and a white cardigan. Her hair is blonde and shoulder length. She is wearing tortoise-shell glasses. In the background are green tree needles and purple flowers.

Overall, the students Yates interviewed had positive things to say about the library. They expressed helpful and comfortable interactions with employees and appreciate when books by gender-diverse people are featured in library spaces.

One student Yates interviewed said a summer spent reading books in the Brock Library changed his life. After years of avoiding exploring his gender identity and feeling ashamed, he now researches and speaks about gender issues.

Students also expressed some discomfort in library spaces and with its technology.

Using gender-specific washrooms is a particularly painful experience for gender-diverse students. They said they often receive stares and derogatory comments because their gender expression doesn’t conform to people’s assumptions of them and the binary-gendered washroom they choose.

“Everything students shared with me is reflected in academic literature,” said Yates. “Data shows that 70 per cent of gender-diverse young adults are fearful of using a public washroom. It’s a safety issue.”

The library checkout process can also be an uncomfortable experience for students who borrow books to help them understand their gender and/or sexuality.

“The topics are often personal and sensitive to the person and chances are, there’s a straight cisgender person working the desk,” said Yates.

Some students reported being misgendered, which can happen through systems that use legal names. They described logging in to their library account or booking a study room and seeing an old name that doesn’t reflect their gender identity.

Yates presented her research to colleagues and hopes her findings will help the Brock Library improve its service to gender-diverse students.

“We really care about our students and their experiences,” she said. “This new knowledge can help inform everything we do — how we interact with students at the ‘Ask Us’ desk, in classrooms and in one-on-one meetings, and how we manage our services, technology, collections and spaces.”

University Librarian Mark Robertson is grateful to Yates for her research.

“Elizabeth’s study is an excellent example of how research conducted by librarians feeds back into the work we do in the library,” he said. “Libraries are about creating pathways — allowing people to inquire and challenge through information consumption — so, it’s important they be accessible, diverse, equitable and inclusive.”

Robertson said the Brock Library is already acting on many of the student suggestions found in Yates’ research.

Many members of the Brock Library team have received training on sexuality and gender diversity, and the library has a working group on inclusivity, diversity, equity, accessibility and decolonization.

To address misgendering by technology, the Brock Library recently collaborated with the Registrar’s Office and Information Technology Services to ensure chosen names and pronouns could be incorporated into library systems.

Self-checkout was reintroduced in 2020 to allow students more privacy when signing out materials from the library.

The Brock Library also continues to work towards elevating the voices of underrepresented people by proactively acquiring books by those authors and displaying them in library spaces.

Yates’ personal and professional connections to the Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual community is what sparked her interest in the research topic. She has attended several Brock Pride Week presentations, is personally involved with PFLAG Niagara and is part of Brock’s 2S&LGTBQ+ working group, which is a subcommittee of the President’s Advisory Committee on Human Rights, Equity and Decolonization.

“I’m thankful for the support of my colleagues and grateful to the students who participated in my project,” Yates said. “Being able to elevate their voices to help drive positive change is tremendously gratifying.”

Yates will be presenting her research in the first week of June at the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians Conference and the Atlantic Provinces Library Association Conference.

]]> Brock offering document accessibility webinar as part of Global Accessibility Awareness Day Mon, 16 May 2022 09:04:07 EST Digital access and inclusion will be at the forefront Thursday, May 19 when Brock University hosts a free webinar on document accessibility as part of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD).

Co-sponsored by the Brock-Niagara Centre of Excellence in Inclusive and Adaptive Physical Activity and Brock’s Office of Human Rights and Equity, the webinar is part of a series of worldwide online discussions and learning opportunities planned by GAAD organizers.

Held from noon to 1 p.m. via Microsoft Teams, the webinar will introduce participants to best practices and tools to create accessible documents in Microsoft Word that meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and comply with standards set by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Anyone can attend this free event. For more information, and to register, visit the event page on Microsoft Teams.

What: 2022 Document Accessibility Webinar
When: Thursday, May 19 from noon to 1 p.m.
Where: Microsoft Teams

]]> Equity, diversity and inclusion progress, challenges highlighted at Brock Town Hall Mon, 11 Apr 2022 16:21:11 EST Brock University’s latest Town Hall aimed to shine light on progress that’s been made in the area of equity, diversity and inclusion while also recognizing there is more work to be done.

Interim President Lynn Wells hosted the online event Friday, April 8, which focused on the University’s institutional strategic priority of fostering a culture of equity, inclusivity, accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization.

The Town Hall featured presentations from working groups of the President’s Advisory Committee for Human Rights, Equity and Decolonization (PACHRED), including Anti-Ableism and Mental Health; Decolonization; Sexual Violence Prevention; Anti-Racism; and Two-Spirit and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (2S&LGBTQ+).

Wells said although Brock has made significant strides to achieve its goals, considerable challenges remain.

“I am pleased that we will be engaged in this conversation today and that we will continue our learning,” she said. “Equity, diversity and inclusion is a priority for our entire community and each of us must do our part.”

Professor Maureen Connolly, of the Anti-Ableism and Mental Health working group, spoke about the group’s efforts throughout the academic year, which included presenting workshops on universal design for learning and anti-ableism; completing process analysis of captioning, job evaluation, online proctoring and student forms; and recognizing efforts through internal accessibility awards.

She also discussed several challenges, including blurred lines between mental health concerns and wellness; insufficient user testing on new purchases and processes; and unconscious ableism in job evaluations and job descriptions.

“This is not an indictment. This is a call for awareness and action,” Connolly said. “We do have institutional ableism, and our starting point is to own that and to take actions to address it. There’s real awareness and willingness to do that.”

Robyn Bourgeois, Acting Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement, spoke about how Brock’s Decolonization working group has enhanced the Indigenous student experience at the University through efforts such as expanding access to elder support, ceremony and cultural teachings; increasing emergency funding supports; and hiring an Indigenous trauma-informed support worker.

She touched on a new Indigenous Plus program; the creation of decolonial and Indigenous curriculum by the University’s first Indigenous curriculum developer; efforts to enhance research by and about Indigenous Peoples; and increased hiring of Indigenous staff and faculty.

While progress has been made, Bourgeois stressed the need for further work to be done, raising awareness of a key finding of the 2021 Campus Climate Survey that found 36 per cent of Indigenous students had seriously considered leaving the University.

“A fundamental part of this problem … is that Indigenous students, staff and faculty continue to experience colonialism and anti-Indigenous racism at Brock,” she said. “It’s essential that non-Indigenous members of the Brock community, and especially our white colleagues, take a stand against such violence and work actively to decolonize and support Indigenous Peoples.”

Speaking on behalf of the Sexual Violence Prevention working group, Associate Professor Margot Francis explained that sexual violence is a crime of power, rooted in gender inequality and exacerbated by systemic power imbalances, making women, disabled people and trans youth more vulnerable.

As statistics show the majority of sexual assault victims are under the age of 30, students in university are also vulnerable, she said. Francis emphasized the need to focus on programming related to sexual violence prevention as students arrive to campus each fall.

She also highlighted some of the working group’s accomplishments, including working with a Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) and peer-led sexual violence prevention group; lobbying for funding for the REDress event to memorialize Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit and trans people impacted by colonial violence; and working with Human Rights and Equity and other stakeholders on offering more diverse and affordable counselling for survivors, a proposal for compulsory sexual violence education for students in residence and athletics, and a review process for the Sexual Assault and Harassment Policy.

Librarian Elizabeth Yates and Assistant Professor Natalee Caple spoke about the initiatives taken on by the 2S&LGBTQ+ working group over the past year, including the Gender Affirmation Fund, Brock University Students’ Union health insurance, gender neutral washrooms and Brock Pride Week.

“We want to make Brock a place where students as a whole feel that we are paying attention to what the times are bringing and that we care about their safety, we care about their identity, we care about listening,” said Caple.

Yates said there are concerns that all-gender washrooms are not commonly available on campus and that their locations have not been well known. To aid with this, a resource has been created that maps all-gender washrooms at Brock and additional signage is being posted. Work is also being done to identify spaces where gendered washrooms can be made all-gender.

Moving forward, the working group has identified opportunities for 2S&LGBTQ+ training for all departments on campus; revised language in institutional documents that supports a holistic expression of gender identities and sexual diversity; hiring a full-time gender and sexual diversity advocate; and including more sexually diverse authors into course content.

Professor Richard Ndayizigamiye, of the Anti-Racism working group, spoke about the need to address discriminatory policies in academia, including those focused on teaching curriculums and hiring and development practices.

He said Wells has confirmed her support for a cluster hire of 10 Black faculty members, the development of a strong employment equity policy to diversify Brock’s workforce, and the development of multi-layered promotion and retention plan of BIPOC faculty and staff.

Throughout the year, the Anti-Racism working group’s initiatives have included educational webinars on microaggressions, anti-Muslim hate and Islamophobia, and perspectives on Black mental health, and ongoing dialogue with Campus Security Services about the need for a more racially diverse security team.

The working group’s goals for next year include making the faculty and staff population more representative of the diverse student population it serves; hiring more racially diverse staff in Academic Advising and on-campus Counselling Services; and establishing an African Studies program.

Brock faculty, staff and students can become involved in PACHRED and its working groups by submitting a nomination for membership at

Deadline to apply is Friday, April 22. Email for more information.

The Town Hall can be viewed in full below:

]]> Nominations for PACHRED membership open until April 22 Thu, 07 Apr 2022 13:29:47 EST The President’s Advisory Committee for Human Rights, Equity and Decolonization (PACHRED) is seeking new members.

Nominations will be accepted by the PACHRED Nominations Committee until Friday, April 22 at 11:59 p.m. Interested Brock University students, faculty and staff can find details about the application process and committee requirements on the PACHRED web page.

As Brock University, and society as a whole, continues to navigate a period of unprecedented change, PACHRED’s members will provide invaluable guidance along the way, said Nominations Chair and PACHRED Staff Co-Chair Brad Clarke, the University’s Director of Student Life and Success.

“As work is done to advance human rights, PACHRED members will help to shape the campus and community experience for the betterment of Brock today and into the future,” he said.

In addition to advising Interim University President Lynn Wells, PACHRED serves to share information across campus and collaborate on the common goals of community members to address opportunities and concerns associated with human rights, equity or decolonization. The committee also unifies the activities of six affiliated working groups: 2SLGBT++, Anti-Ableism and Mental Health, Anti-Racism, Decolonization, Employment Equity, and Sexual Violence Prevention.

PACHRED Faculty Co-Chair and Professor of Educational Studies Dolana Mogadime said the committee’s members strive to work collaboratively across advocacy groups in order to collectively make a difference across Brock University’s campus.

PACHRED, she added, is an opportunity for Brock faculty, staff and students to have their voices heard on a variety of critical issues.

Student Co-Chair Rabia Choudhary said involvement in the committee provides unique opportunities for all involved.

“PACHRED plays an instrumental role in creating change across campus, as the various concerns and experiences of students, staff and faculty are heard and validated,” she said. “Overall, PACHRED allows for individuals to grow and learn in their advocacy.”

PACHRED meets at least four times each academic year. For accessibility, it is expected that the committee’s meetings will be virtual via Teams in the 2022-23 cycle. For more information, contact Gloria Davis at

PACHRED nominations can be submitted online through the committee’s web page.

]]> Feedback sought on review of Human Rights and Equity Office Thu, 07 Apr 2022 12:39:45 EST Interim Brock University President Lynn Wells has announced that Vice-President, Administration Ken Chan will be leading a review of Brock’s Human Rights and Equity Office (HRE).

HRE was established as a resource to provide members of the Brock community with information, education, assistance and advice on issues related to human rights, harassment, discrimination and bullying.

Brock University is proud of its diverse community and of the welcoming home that its campuses provide to individuals from a range of backgrounds. Brock’s Institutional Strategic Plan highlights the University’s commitment to creating a safe work and learning environment for all members of the community, as well as its priorities related to fostering a culture of inclusivity, accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization.

While Brock recognizes the progress that has been made and is making every day in this area, the University should also constantly strive for better. In the spirit of continuous improvement, the review will consider HRE’s mandate, operational effectiveness, organizational structure and resourcing.

As part of the review, members of the Brock community have an opportunity to provide input by responding to the following questions:

  • One of Brock’s strategic priorities is to foster a culture of inclusivity, accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization. How has HRE contributed to the implementation of this priority?
  • Given our institutional strategic priorities and Brock’s needs, what purpose should HRE serve at Brock?
  • The position of the Executive Director of HRE is currently vacant. As the University looks ahead to the future, what should the next leader of HRE focus on? What should the University look for in its next leader of the HRE function?

The Brock community is invited to provide feedback by email to by May 8, 2022. To achieve transparency in the review process, the feedback provided, including direct quotes, may be used without attribution (anonymized) in reports or other documents. These reports and documents may be published or released.

All information and feedback provided as part of this review process will be handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

]]> Scavenger hunt to help students access resources, supports before exams Thu, 31 Mar 2022 13:41:10 EST With exams just around the corner, an end-of-term activity is guiding Brock students to helpful resources and supports on campus.

During BU4U Week from Monday, April 4 to Friday, April 8, a scavenger hunt will be held to encourage students to visit 11 locations across Brock’s main campus that provide information about health and wellness and academic tips for students to have a successful finish to the year. While visiting each of the student services locations, participants will take a selfie in front of a BU4U sign, which they can submit to ExperienceBU for a chance to win several prizes. They will also receive a free COVID-19 rapid test kit.

Each photo students take at a new location will be entered into a draw to win a grand prize that includes a Brock water bottle, mug, hat and sweatshirt, a cookbook and journal for self-exploration, and various gift cards, including one for $100 from the Campus Store. Additional smaller prizes will also be drawn, including individual Brock water bottles, hats and gift cards.

Participants are encouraged to download the BU4U Scavenger Hunt Template for a list of locations to visit. Offices will be open to scavenger hunt participants from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday, April 4 to Friday, April 8 with some locations closed from noon to 1 p.m. Photos can then be submitted via an online form before Monday, April 11 at noon.

Tanya Bradley, Brock’s Manager of Student Engagement, said BU4U Week was designed to connect students with resources across campus to support them personally and academically during exams. She hopes students will use the scavenger hunt as an opportunity to expand their knowledge of the University’s many student-centred resources.

“Through BU4U Week, we hope to connect students to the many services and resources available to support their success and wellness during this time,” Bradley said. “Not only will students receive helpful tips for their exams and have the opportunity to win prizes, they’ll also have the opportunity to build connections with staff and students across campus who can’t wait to meet them.”

As students prepare to wrap up the semester, Bradley said she’s been encouraged by campus partners who are eager and ready to provide support.

“It’s been wonderful to see student services staff from across the University come together to show Brock students that we are here for them as they prepare for their exams,” she said.

Anyone interested in participating in the scavenger hunt can visit ExperienceBU to learn more.