Today, Ontario moves into step one of a plan to reopen the province after a brutal third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. New cases are on average below 600 per day and over 70 per cent of adult Ontarians have had at least one dose of vaccine. This is very good news, which means we will increase our presence on campus according to public health guidance, with a near-term focus on personnel for essential research efforts. Please continue to check our reopening plans and procedures for updates on permissible changes. I applaud and give my heartfelt thanks to the many faculty, staff, students, preceptors and partners who continue to serve on the front lines of the health care effort to treat and prevent the effects of COVID-19.

Elsewhere in Canada, news has been grim. The discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops is gruesome evidence of the catastrophic harm colonialism has inflicted on Indigenous peoples. It also highlights the importance of the University’s Indigenous Gateway and ongoing response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report. The anniversary of George Floyd’s death on May 25 is a glaring reminder that much more work remains to address anti-Black racism. I welcome the U of T Anti-Black Racism Task Force report and the University’s acceptance of its 56 recommendations.

The recent killing of four members of a Muslim family in London is a horrifying example of Islamophobia in this country. The renewed conflict in the Middle East, and ensuing tensions and violence, have deeply affected communities, institutions and families globally — adding urgency to the work of the Anti-Islamophobia Community Working Group and the Anti-Semitism Working Group at U of T.

I am saddened by these tragedies and aware of their impact on our students, faculty and staff. I am also deeply committed to addressing the intolerance and injustice that enabled them. That commitment drives our institutional work on equity, diversity and inclusion, which I am pleased to report is starting to bear fruit.

Last week, our EDI working group met for the first time and began to develop an EDI strategy, which will support a healthy learning and work environment for all members of our Faculty. The group aims to complete their work by early 2022, and will provide regular updates through a new section on our website that is in development, where you will also find terms of reference for the group and resources on racism, unconscious bias, religious discrimination, gender and sexual diversity, accessibility and other equity issues.

Meanwhile, we have modified our approach to faculty and staff recruitment to include EDI considerations in advertisements, the make-up of hiring committees, candidate submissions and interviews, and reporting. Tara Snyder (manager, academic operations) presented our progress in this area at the recent Canadian Pharmacy Education and Research Conference, and I can say with confidence that our current searches for five new faculty members have benefited greatly from these improvements.

We have also changed our admission processes across education programs to enable Black and Indigenous students to self-identify. This will allow for a more welcoming and culturally safe student experience, and encourage applications from groups historically underrepresented in pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences. At the same time, we are developing entrance scholarships to support these students and recently announced the Rexall ICARE Award for Black and Indigenous Students, and the Ian Stewart/Shoppers Drug Mart Award for Black Pharmacy Students. These awards will provide financial support for PharmD students over the course of their studies.

Our students continue to demonstrate the values of equity, diversity and inclusion in new and creative ways. PharmaPride has played an active role in promoting gender and sexual diversity in the month of June and throughout the past year, and Pharmacy Awareness of Indigenous Health has engaged Indigenous communities and drawn attention to barriers they often face in accessing effective health care. These are just a few initiatives started by our students, who have shown resourcefulness and a commitment to social justice that is truly inspiring.

I am proud of our Faculty’s efforts on EDI over the last year, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, and I am excited by the achievements, momentum and tremendous promise of this vital work. I look forward to seeing what more we can do together!

Lisa Dolovich,
Professor & Dean
Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy
University of Toronto