A Canadian scholar is raising the alarm about a woke charter that has been signed by over 50 Canadian colleges and universities.

St. Mary’s Philosophy professor and former Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship president Mark Mercer says the “Scarborough National Charter on anti-Black racism and Black Inclusion” will have “terrible consequences” on academia.  

The charter was released in 2021 by an advisory committee that emerged from a 2020 virtual anti-black racism event hosted by the University of Toronto following the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

The 22-page document calls for post-secondary institutions to adopt principles of Black Flourishing, Inclusive Excellence, Mutuality, and Accountability when developing initiatives to “foster black inclusion.” The document also supports “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” (EDI) ideology.

But in an Interview with True North, Mercer shared concerns about the Scarborough Charter, saying it is anti-academic. “It not only doesn’t promote the academic mission… but it subverts it.”

“(The charter) says that there are correct things to think about and correct ways to think about them, incorrect ways to think about them. That our ideas aren’t to be judged by their quality, that is whether they’re true or false, whether they solve problems or not, but rather their origin,” said Mercer.

“It seeks to impose burdens and controls on people who are attempting simply to think hard about the matters at hand.”

The BLM-inspired charter seeks to achieve its social justice agenda with “principle-based commitments to action” in governance, research, teaching, and learning.

At the governance level, it calls for equity across all leadership structures, revisions of dispute resolution and disciplinary processes, race based hiring in order to increase the number of black scholars, and the recruitment of more black students. It also calls for reassessments of campus security and safety procedures to ensure black dignity, understanding the existence of “technological inequities” and the creation of “anti-racism” offices.

At the research level, it calls for equitable research grants and “recognition practices for members of historically underrepresented communities bearing disproportionate burdens of the labour.” As well as race research clusters, and new reward systems that recognize contributions to “intersectional Black flourishing.” It also calls on research about or implicating black communities to respect “principles of co-construction.”

When it comes to teaching and learning, the charter calls for “affirming, accessible spaces” and naming practices “that foster Black belonging, knowledge development and sharing.” It also calls for the decentering of “epistemic Eurocentrism” in current curricula, and for more black studies programs. Furthermore, it calls for special scholarships, bursaries, fellowships for black students as well as “anti-racism” training for university staff and faculty.

As for Community Engagement, the charter calls for “inclusive task forces to conduct independent studies of the histories of slavery, colonialism and racial injustice, with a mandate to include recommendations that promote inclusive higher education and community flourishing into the future.” It also calls procurement processes to have “Black community prior-impact assessments.”

There are multiple elements of the Scarborough Charter that Mercer is concerned about, including the request that research on or implicating black communities respect “principles of co-construction.” 

Mercer told True North the latter amounts to requiring black communities have a say on one’s research, which “undercuts the trustworthiness of university research.”

“If we’re not to draw certain conclusions, then we can’t trust that the conclusions that the research has drawn are accurate, are not biased, influenced by other things.”

Mercer is also concerned with how the charter wants to respond to anti-black racism on campuses. “The charter asks for more oversight and control, for expanding notions of harassment and disrespect,” he said, adding “that’s going to have terrible consequences for discussion and for intergroup, interpersonal relations.”

The institution Mercer teaches at, St. Mary’s University in Halifax, is a signatory of the Scarborough Charter. 

He says he isn’t seeing the charter have impact yet due to the bureaucratic process that comes with implementing policy – but says that will likely change in the coming years.

“I think it’s coming. Many of the departments welcome it, and I think there have already been race-based hirings at St. Mary’s.”

Mercer also said he cannot find anything in the charter that he feels is beneficial to academia, and believes the EDI document does not benefit black students or scholars as academics.

“The main identity of anyone at a university, professor or student is an academic,” he added. “Those are the values and the concerns that one has at a university. The charter asks us to set aside our identity as academics in favour of other things, in favour of other goals, in favour of other purposes.”

“If you take the purpose of a university to be a place where there are synicures, special set asides for particular people to represent accurately some demographic or whatever, then perhaps (the charter is) serving its purpose,” he added.

In addition to promoting EDI ideology, the charter claims that there was slavery in Canada – despite the fact that slavery was abolished on the land that now is the Dominion of Canada in 1834 – 33 years before confederation. 

Below is a list of the Canadian colleges and universities that have signed the Scarborough Charter.

Acadia University 

Algoma University 

Assiniboine Community College 

Athabasca University 

Bishop’s University 

Brandon University 

Brescia University College  

Brock University 

Carleton University 

Centennial College 


Concordia University of Edmonton 

Dalhousie University 

Emily Carr University of Art and Design 

Fanshawe College 


George Brown College 

Kings University College 

Kwantlen Polytechnic University 

Massey College 

McGill University 

McMaster University 

Memorial University 

Mohawk College 

Mount Royal University 

Mount Saint Vincent University 

Nipissing University NSCAD University

OCAD University 

OntarioTech University 

Queens University 

Renison University College 

St. Mary’s University

Simon Fraser University 

St. Francis Xavier University 

University of Alberta 

University of British Columbia 

University of Calgary 

University of Guelph 

University of King’s College 

University of Lethbridge 

University of Manitoba 

University of Northern British Columbia 

University of Ottawa 

University of Prince Edward Island 

University of Regina 

University of Saskatchewan 

University of St. Michael’s College  

University of Toronto 

University of Victoria 

University Waterloo 

University of Windsor 

Western University 

Laurier University 

York University 

The University of Winnipeg