Some students and faculty members at universities in Ottawa are calling on administrators to require inclusion and diversity training for all students to help eliminate discrimination, even beyond graduation.
"When we entered the workforce. We're not prepared. We're not well prepared to to face a diverse population," said Carleton University student Khadija El-Halil, who wants to incorporate conversations about tackling bias and discrimination into all curriculums.
"My hope is to start with look at the root of the issue."
In June, El-Halil started an online petition calling for a mandatory anti-racism course for all degrees at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. The petition has nearly 16,000 signatures.
"It blew me away. I could not believe it," said El-Halil.
El-Halil said she believes talking about discrimination will help the leaders of tomorrow build more inclusive workplaces.
Carleton University said in a statement it is still working on its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, which takes into account El-Halil's recommendation. The plan is expected to be finalized later this year.
The University of Ottawa did not respond to CBC's request for comment.
Faculty also supporting course
Part of the reason El-Halil's petition has gained so much traction is the increased focus on change as well as support from faculty such as Nadia Abu-Zahra, who is a professor at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University.
"Students have come forward and have said that they want to see additions to the curriculum," said Abu-Zahra, who is involved with a series of projects tackling ways of eroding systemic racism in institutions, including universities.
"They want to see across the board education in anti-oppression. And many of the professors are interested in this also."
As for how that would work, Abu-Zahra said it would require a shift from a hierarchical lecture-based approach to teaching to a much more personal dialogue between students in the class.
"So no longer is the lecture the principle mode of operating and instead it's sharing its narratives, its experiences," she said.
Research about own institutions
Abu-Zahra said the administration at Carleton University has invested resources in getting the ball rolling with working groups.
"How inclusive would you like to be in your work? How inclusive would you like your work environment to be toward you? That's the conversation we'd like to have," she said.
And she said she's encouraged Carleton has incorporated the language of El-Halil's petition into their strategic plan.
El-Halil believes tackling the problem in academic institutions is the key to making change.
"It's not too far and/or too late in the game to change their habits or their learning," said El-Halil.