Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX signs Dimensions Charter as part of a national commitment to achieving increased equity, diversity and inclusion in research

May 27th, 2019
Pictured at the signing of the Dimensions Charter, front, l-r: Megan Fogerty (Human Rights and Equity Advisor), Dr. Lindsay Berrigan (Psychology), Cheyla Rogers (undergraduate student researcher in anthropology), Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden (Education), Jennifer Fraser (X-Chem Outreach Director), Dr. Truis Simth-Palmer (Chemistry), Dr. Melanie Lam (Human Kinestics). Second row, l-r: Alaa Salih (undergraduate student researcher in psychology), Dr. Richard Isnor (Assoc. VP Research and Graduate Studies), Megan MacGillvray (post-doctoral research fellow in psychology), Dr. Mike Melchin (Dean of Science), Minister Kirsty Duncan, Dr. Jane McMillan (Anthropology), Dr. Karen Brebner (Dean of Arts), David Bruce (Director, Research Grants), Jennifer Swinemar-Murray (Director, Human Resources), Andrew Beckett (VP Finance and Administration)

StFX welcomed the Minister of Science and Sport, the Hon. Kirsty Duncan, to campus on May 24, 2019, as the university reaffirmed its commitment to achieving increased equity, diversity and inclusion in research by signing the Dimensions Charter, a federal initiative that invites universities across Canada to take part in a post-secondary transformation to increase equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and help drive deeper cultural change within the research ecosystem.

In a ceremonial signing Minister Duncan and StFX Vice-President VP Finance and Administration Andrew Beckett, on behalf of StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald, jointly signed the charter before a crowd of people gathered in the lobby of J. Bruce Brown Hall. 

“By choosing to endorse this charter, StFX has committed to adopting eight principles throughout our practices and culture to achieve greater equity, diversity and inclusion,” says Dr. Richard Isnor, StFX Associate VP, Research and Graduate Studies, and the event’s host. 

Dr. Isnor says the federal government recently launched the Dimensions Program, a new initiative related to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) for the post-secondary sector. The Dimensions initiative challenges universities across Canada to address the obstacles faced by, but not limited to, women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minority/racialized groups, and members of LGBTQ2+ communities. The Dimensions Program and Charter reflects a made-in-Canada initiative inspired by the UK Athena SWAN (Scientific Women's Academic Network), an internationally recognized initiative that celebrates higher education institutions that have implemented practices to advance EDI in the sciences. 

All Canadian institutions have been invited to endorse the Dimensions Charter. To date, 26 universities, including StFX, have signed.

Presentation of StFX initiatives to engage youth in science and increase diversity and inclusion in research. Clockwise around the table: Dr. Jane McMillan, Cheyla Rogers, Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden, Jennifer Fraser, Minister of Science and Sport Hon. Kirsty Duncan, Dr. Truis Smith-Palmer, and Central Nova MP Sean Fraser.

Dr. Isnor says during her visit to StFX, Minister Duncan, who led the Dimensions initiative and is a key federal champion for supporting women in science, engaging youth in science, and diversity and inclusion in research, received a briefing on the Atlantic Indigenous Mentorship Network from Dr. L. Jane McMillan (Anthropology); on X-Chem Outreach from Dr. Truis Smith-Palmer (Chemistry) and Jennifer Fraser (X-Chem Outreach Director); and Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities from Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden (Education). The Minister also learned about two new research projects being led by second year undergraduate student Cheyla Rogers, under the supervision of Dr. McMillan. Finally, Minister Duncan also met with psychology professor Dr. Lindsay Berrigan and human kinetics professor Dr. Melanie Lam, learning about their research within the Applied Neuro-Cognitive Research (ANChoR) Laboratory. 


By choosing to endorse this charter, institutions commit to adopting these principles throughout their practices and culture:

1. The post-secondary research community has the greatest potential to thrive when members experience equitable, inclusive and unbiased systems and practices. 

2. To advance institutional equity, diversity and inclusion, specific, measurable and sustainable actions are needed to counter systemic barriers, explicit and unconscious biases, and inequities. This includes addressing obstacles faced by, but not limited to, women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minority or racialized groups, and members of LGBTQ2+ communities. 

3. Institutions require qualitative and quantitative data to measure, monitor, understand and publicly report on challenges and progress made. The analysis of the data should inform a comprehensive, in-depth, intersectional understanding of the contexts, manifestations and experiences that result from inequities, underrepresentation and exclusion among all post-secondary community members. 

4. When equity, diversity and inclusion considerations and practices are integral to research participation, to the research itself, and to research training and learning environments, research excellence, innovation and creativity are heightened across all disciplines, fields of study and stages of career development. 

5. To contribute to reconciliation, research with, by or impacting Indigenous Peoples must align with the research policies and best practices identified through ongoing engagement with First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples and their organizations. 

6. Advancing equity, diversity and inclusion is a shared responsibility that requires dedicated resources and strong leadership at all levels. Senior leadership demonstrates commitment through public endorsement, by ensuring the work involved is resourced and distributed fairly, and by embedding changes in institutional governance and accountability structures. 

7. Issues of institutional and individual safety, trust, belonging, privacy and power differentials must be recognized and pro-actively addressed; this will be most successful when those impacted are directly engaged in defining the actions. 

8. Achieving the overall objective of the Dimensions program—to foster increased research excellence, innovation and creativity within the post-secondary sector across all disciplines through increased equity, diversity and inclusion—involves institutional collaboration, transparency, and the sharing of challenges, successes and promising practices.


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