Having a bilingual mission as the cornerstone of its identity, the Association of Canadian and Québécois Literatures is an association founded on the principle of relationship-building across a diversity of perspectives and cultural experiences. Given this ideal and given the concerns brought forward by the Black Canadian Studies Association, the Executive Committee of ACQL does not feel that Congress 2021 can provide the space of inclusivity that we would hope to offer our members. As such, the Executive Committee of ACQL has decided to withdraw from participating in Congress 2021 and hold its 2021 conference independently in a virtual format.
Although cognizant of some measures taken by the Federation to address the concerns brought forward, we have made the decision to withdraw from Congress 2021 as an expression of support for our colleagues at the Black Canadian Studies Association whose voices have brought attention to experiences of racism and exclusion that we need to do a better job of confronting and working to eliminate. We also take this action in support of other associations who, like BCSA, have made the difficult decision to withdraw from this year’s Congress. ACQL traditionally looks to Congress as an important site of the exchange of ideas and relationship-building, but with the absence of so many voices, the ACQL Executive does not see that Congress can offer this ideal this year. Furthermore, we recognize that there is work to do to ensure that Congress can be experienced as a more inclusive and safe space in the future and commit to enacting that change.
In voting to hold an independent virtual ACQL conference for 2021, the Executive Committee seeks not only to support those of you who have begun to prepare your presentations, but also to include participants who would otherwise remain absent. In moving to an independent venue, ACQL will honour the commitment originally made by the Federation to waive the conference fees for all conference participants who self-identify as Black or Indigenous.
The Executive has begun to envision ways in which we can effect change, but also recognizes that our association has much work to do. To this end, we offer two immediate starting points. Firstly, we have added to our program a session in which we invite all of you to contribute to a discussion on decolonization and anti-racism in academia. Secondly, at the 2021 annual general meeting, we wish to hold a discussion with our members on more long-term measures that we can enact to make our association more equitable, inclusive, and diverse.
In the weeks to come, we will publish the conference program and provide you with more details regarding our online venue and registration.