We, at ACCUTE, were saddened to learn that the BCSA will not be participating in Congress this year. The event is made less without them. Let it be known that we believe that their two demands of the Federation were reasonable. We have said as much to the Congress organizers. We are heartened by the fact that the Federation has now met those reasonable demands — for they will make Congress events easier to access for BIPOC students and set up important future discussions about combatting anti-Black racism. We understand why the BCSA has still opted not to participate in Congress this year and wish to voice our unqualified support for their decision. Now is not the time to act after the fact, but to be proactive in working to decolonize our institutional spaces and practices. This is important to combatting anti-Black racism and colonial habits. We hope that the Federation isn’t consigning all of this work to its EDID committee, but recognizes these concerns as fundamental to all operations and to a shared vision for the practice of academia in Canada.
Here at ACCUTE, we were disappointed that Congress 2020 was cancelled, especially without a plan to revisit its essential theme of “Bridging Divides: Confronting Colonialism and Anti-Black Racism.” We recognize the importance of the theme of this year’s event, “Northern Relations,” with its inherent focus on Indigenous peoples. It is because of our commitment to both themes that we have made both the clear priority of our Congress programming. However, we also recognize that sometimes the best articulation of a response to a systemic problem is strategic silence and practices of refusal and withdrawal. These are the necessary conversations for this moment and we recognize and acknowledge a diversity of responses by our members and partner associations. We stand with our members, including our keynote presenters, who elect to withdraw from Congress 2021 for ethical reasons. In order to remove hurdles to access, ACCUTE will match the Federation’s initiative to waive conference fees to Black and Indigenous students. We want to restate our own commitment to combatting anti-Black racism and advancing decolonization in English Studies in Canada.
In moving forward, we call upon the Federation to commit to an ongoing dialogue with the BCSA in order to fulfill these specific commitments but also more generally to establish a safer and more inclusive Congress event in the future. We hope that the Federation will make their process in doing so public as this is also the work of inclusion and dialogue. We also call upon the Federation to make their own process of accountability more transparent and inclusive of the community they serve and represent. These events have precipitated an internal conversation within ACCUTE where we will be revisiting and reconsidering our ongoing and future relationship with the Federation. Everything is at stake in these conversations and we recognize the full severity of this moment.