Scientist group working to elevate and inspire Black Canadians in STEM

A group of Black scientists is bringing a wave of change to elevate and inspire Canadians. Faiza Amin reports on what led to the creation of the Canadian Black Scientists Network, and how the group captured the attention of the Prime Minister.

By Faiza Amin

A group focused on elevating Black students into STEM is growing exponentially and has even caught the attention of the prime minister.

The Canadian government’s theme for Black History Month this year is February and Forever, a concept the Canadian Black Scientists Network truly embodies.

The network, which was launched in July 2020 with just 24 members, found data that shows at a young age, the education system stereotypes Black students.

“A group of academics came together and realized there were so few black people in STEM that we were aware of, that we need to organize on a national level to understand why that was,” explained Maydianne Andrade who is the president of Canadian Black Scientists Network.

She is also a professor of biological sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

The network has since grown to over 500 members despite the COVID-19 pandemic stopping them from meeting in person.

“In Canada, there’s a problem with Black youth being excluded from academic streams,” said Andrade. “Their teachers and guidance councillors were discouraging them from doing that.”

The coalition is made up of Black professionals and students in STEM and allies who strive for inclusion with the hopes of addressing structural discrimination and oppression while building a network to elevate and a culture of belonging for other Black students.

“There are a lot of us and its important to see those role models, just to know they can get there. If you never see someone who looks like you, you began to wonder if it’s really the place for you to go,” added Andrade.

On Wednesday, the group held their first Black Excellence in STEM awards conference where researchers shared their work.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also attended the virtual conference to congratulate those recognized.

“You’re helping to level the playing field and inspire a new generation. you’re helping change the face of science in Canada- making it more inclusive, bringing talent and experiences to your disciplines,” Trudeau said in a speech.

Andrade says their goal is to open the door for Canada’s Black scientists all around the world and hold that door open for those behind them, including newcomers who can face barriers when continuing in their field in Canada.

“Our goal is to change the science ecosystem in Canada so that anyone with the talent, ability, and interest can contribute to our overall innovation and productivity as a nation.”

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