Over the past few months, as we have battled the third wave of the pandemic and new, more contagious COVID-19 variants, returning to normal living has seemed as elusive as ever. Nevertheless, as our vaccination rates continue to rise and case counts continue to fall, momentum is growing and we are shifting from response to recovery in Ontario and the rest of Canada.
At York, we are building on this momentum as we plan for a safe return to on-campus activities for the Fall 2021 term. Our plans are centred on bringing classes and co-curricular opportunities back onto our campuses as much as possible, while continuing to provide access to high-quality remote learning options, with the health and safety of our community members remaining our highest priority.
In the meantime, we continue to make great progress on a number of key initiatives. As we prepare to open its doors in 2023, construction has been moving along swiftly on the new Markham Campus, as have our academic program and research plans for the campus. Our collaboration with Mackenzie Health and the City of Vaughan to build a unique, interprofessional health-care precinct in Vaughan is proceeding, including a memorandum of understanding with Mackenzie Health. Signed this past year, the partnership will facilitate new opportunities to further our research capacity in health-related areas and provide experiential learning opportunities for our students. Building on that strong foundation, we have also recommenced our work developing a proposal for a new School of Medicine, which we expect to bring forward this year.
We also continue to strengthen our impact on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For example, our new CIFAL Centre, CIFAL York, is bringing leaders from governments, not-for-profits and industry together with researchers and educators to tackle complex global issues in the areas of disaster and emergency management and sustainable development. And our new Centre of Excellence on Youth Homelessness Prevention is building on the work of York’s Canadian Observatory on Homelessness to formulate innovative and effective evidence-based solutions to youth homelessness.
With the recent discoveries at the Kamloops Indian Residential School on the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and the Marieval Residential School on the Cowessess First Nation – as well as those yet to come – acting as tragic reminders of the ongoing impacts of the Residential School system, we are also taking time to reflect on our role as part of a colonial system of education and the part we must play in fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. Work is well-advanced in the creation of a new equity strategy to enhance York’s leadership in furthering reconciliation, diversity, inclusion and equity, not only within higher education but in society.
I look forward to seeing many of you back on our campuses in the fall, and throughout the 2021–2022 academic year. Until then, I wish you all a restful and restorative summer. ■