ST. CATHERINES, Ontario April 16, 2019 — After years of partnering with one another on various initiatives, Brock University and the University of the West Indies (UWI) are now considering the creation of the Institute for Canada-Caribbean Studies.
The universities came together, on Brock’s main campus, on Friday, April 5, to renew two existing memorandums of understanding and to sign a new MOU that will see them begin talks, related to the proposed institute.
“Establishing an Institute for Canada-Caribbean Studies would be a true reflection of Brock’s global commitment to fostering a culture of intercultural understanding,” Brock University President, Gervan Fearon, a Caribbean expatriate, said. “We will also be welcoming scholars, from across Canada, to be active participants and members of the Institute to collaborate and lead projects, related to Canada-Caribbean issues.”
“Our vision is to harness the expertise of the academic community, across Canada and the Caribbean, to help address important topics that are relevant to those who live, study and work in these regions of the world,” he elaborated.
Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of UWI, commented, “The signing ceremony at Brock University is a testament to the relationship, we’ve built together, over many years, and commitment to the future of Canadian-Caribbean studies.”
The next night, Saturday April 6, in his opening remarks at the UWI fundraising gala in Toronto, Beckles highlighted the new agreement and recognized Brock University President Fearon.
Establishing the Institute for Canada-Caribbean studies would provide a focal point for multi-disciplinary research and teaching, to deepen and improve the multi-faceted relationships between Canada and the Caribbean and examine issues, affecting the Caribbean Diaspora communities in Canada, Brock University said in a release.
Brock University’s Vice-Provost, Enrolment Management and International, James Mandigo, will serve as the institutional lead to help facilitate the development of the Institute. His counterpart at UWI, Richard Bernal, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Global Affairs, will lead a similar process at UWI.
“Canada has been a very supportive partner for the Caribbean over a very long time and there are an important investment, trade and tourism linkages,” said Bernal.
“This valuable relationship needs to be reviewed and refreshed by policy, based on multi-disciplinary research which is the purpose of the Institute for Canada-Caribbean Studies,” he added.
Established in 1948, UWI has campuses in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados, and an open campus, which provides post-secondary opportunities to students in 16 other Caribbean nations.
It is the largest higher education provider in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Canada has played a key role in the development of UWI, including funding support to build residences on the Jamaican and Trinidad and Tobago campuses, and a $20-million grant to support the creation of UWI’s open campus.
Brock University’s rich history with UWI includes presenting an honorary degree to Sir Hilary Beckles, in 2014.
Brock is also the first university in Canada to be led by a Caribbean descendant. Fearon underscored the commitment of Brock to building strong ties with the Caribbean, during his first international trip as President and Vice-Chancellor of Brock University to the Caribbean in May 2018, visiting Antigua, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Grenada.
During the April 5 meeting with Brock officials, Beckles and other dignitaries from UWI were joined by Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and Cayman Islands, Laurie Peters.
In addition to the MOU, related to the development of the Institute for Canada-Caribbean Studies, the signing ceremony renewed two MOUs already in place between Brock and UWI.
Together, they promote international and intercultural understanding, academic linkages and enrich the cultural understanding of both universities.
More specifically, the agreements continue to provide mobility opportunities for faculty, staff and students between institutions.
Faculty from across Canada and the Caribbean will be able to collaborate on joint research activities and participate in seminars, meetings and professional development opportunities.
General staff, such as administrative and technical support, along with students from both institutions, will also be able to gain valuable international experience, through an exchange or short-term program.
The new Institute for Canada-Caribbean Studies will be the latest addition in a cluster of international centers launched by UWI in Africa, the US, China and South America.
“It demonstrates another tangible implementation of the regional university’s thrust to globalize: a key objective framed within its Triple A Strategy (Strategic Plan 2017-2022),” a UWI statement said. “This focus, in fact, earned the UWI recognition in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019’ for its international outlook, which placed it among the top 10 percent of universities worldwide in this category.”
Emphasising the significance, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, said: “This was an initiative, which I placed before Brock’s President Fearon, when he visited our regional headquarters last year. He was very keen to think outside the box and bring his expertise to bear on creating a new trajectory.”
An economic historian, Beckles also noted that “Canada has been a most reliable supporter of Caribbean nation-building”, elaborating further that “the economic history of the region shows the centering of Canada in Caribbean development.”
In an effort to provide academic and research leadership to this relationship, Beckles proposed that an “institution be created, in order to establish the academic integrity of the relationship, and sustain the intimacy of the bond between the two regions.”
“Creative, courageous, and confident people build bridges and not walls, and the Canada-Caribbean bridge has been one of the most productive and mutually-beneficial relations, constructed in the last hundred years,” he said.
“Working with President Fearon and his team at Brock University, where I received an Honorary Doctorate, a decade ago, will be rewarding and exhilarating,” he added. “He is a brilliant economist with progressive pedagogical roots and a passion for development with justice, values I deeply admire in academic leaders.”
Beckles said the purpose of the institute will be to provide joint academic degrees and conduct policy-relevant research in specific Canada/Caribbean issues.
He said the institute will serve as a consortium, adding that other Canadian universities are invited to participate in these activities.
According to Beckles, this most recent collaboration “It will be one of the most relevant academic enterprises of the 21st century” and “builds upon a rich history, between the UWI and Brock”.