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December 14, 2020

The year that changed everything

The past year was one of global crisis and transformation that has changed the world. While the calendar year is coming to an end, it’s clear that the impacts and long-term effects of the pandemic and our collective response to change will be felt for many months to come. So, even though we are all tired of talking about COVID-19, here are a few reflections on the past year and what it has meant for colleges and institutes:

On working, learning, and skills

In March, millions of workers suddenly found themselves unemployed, small businesses were hit with unprecedented challenges, traditional office spaces shut down and many students missed out on learning opportunities through internships and co-op placements.

Meanwhile, the online shift and a confrontation with what Dictionnaire Le Robert called “illectronisme,” (digital illiteracy or a lack of proficiency with electronic resources) sparked a conversation on what defines “essential” when it comes to skills for the future.

On internationalism and global skills

As early as April, border closures around the world and travel restrictions between regions led to a global decrease in demand for air travel, which the International Air Transport Association doesn’t predict will return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.

On racism, social justice, and gender inequality

In June, protests against systemic racism made headlines following the police killings of Black men and women in the United States, and reports of police brutality against Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) in Canada.

  • We reflected on systemic racism and discrimination in Canada; challenges to success disproportionately faced by Black students, Indigenous students, Asian students, and other visible minority groups; and the work we must do to expose implicit and unintentional biases in order to drive meaningful change.

We also reflected on the fact that economic losses from the COVID-19 pandemic have had a greater effect on women than on men and that a sustainable recovery plan for Canada needs to do more to empower women, transgender, and gender non-binary individuals.

On mental health

The seemingly endless scroll of bad news throughout the year left Canadians with a fairly bleak world view and, not surprisingly, Statistics Canada reported that over half of Canadians’ mental health had worsened since the pandemic began.

On data and statistics

In 2016, the Oxford English Dictionary called “post-truth” its word of the year. While no single word was chosen this year, fake news, disinformation & misinformation, conspiracy theories, and pseudoscience continued to occupy large spaces in public discourse.

  • In November, we reflected on the nature of Fact & Fiction and the importance data and statistics in our advocacy efforts with the federal government in support policy decisions that help build a more innovative, inclusive, accessible, and sustainable future.
  • We ran several surveys this year to better understand the challenges and needs of our members and support our advocacy. Your responses are critical to influencing decision makers and we thank those who participated!

On recovery, rebuilding, and sustainability

In March, global financial markets experienced the worst one-day crash since 1987. Since then, governments around the world, including in Canada, introduced stimulus packages in an effort to support small businesses, minimize losses, and encourage growth. And, we haven’t forgotten that the end of 2020 leaves us only ten years to achieve the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development by 2030.

Now, with several promising vaccine candidates, which the Government of Canada hopes to start distributing this week, we’re thinking about what comes next.

Overall, we are optimistic. 2020 challenged us to confront systems of inequality, to reflect on sustainability, to redefine our objectives and indicators of success, and gave us an opportunity to build a better future.

Tune into Perspectives LIVE!

If you haven’t joined us yet, Perspectives LIVE is our new series connecting post-secondary leaders and experts on thought-provoking topics. So far, we’ve tackled Rebuilding a sustainable economy in crisis, Supporting mental health & well-being, and Hacking education in a digital world. Watch all the episodes on our YouTube channel!

Last week, we wrapped our last French-language episode of the year! Thank you to our fantastic co-hosts, Collège Boréal president Daniel Giroux and Normand Latour; as well as our speakers, Patrick Charland, Jacques Cool, and Nadia Naffi.

In the new year we’re continuing the show with topics like linking life-long learning to the needs of employers; equity, diversity, and inclusion; and embodying sustainability. Stay tuned for more information about upcoming episodes in January!

Take part in the new 50-30 Challenge!

Did you know that the Government of Canada’s new 50-30 Challenge encourages Canadian organizations to increase the representation and inclusion of diverse groups within their workplace, while highlighting the benefits of giving all Canadians a seat at the table? We signed up last week!

Signing on to the challenge means that we have committed to achieving 50% gender parity on our board and senior management team; as well as at least 30% representation of other under-represented groups, including Indigenous people, racialized persons, people living with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ2 community.

We encourage you to reflect on diversity in your institution and take part in this challenge to reimagine a better and more inclusive future for all!

The new challenge, launched last week by Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry Navdeep Bains, will create a community among its participants to share fresh insights, generate new ideas, and find creative solutions to address to address the unique needs of organizations across Canada.

Learn and reflect with resources from the Montreal Holocaust Museum

Each year, January 27 marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day and invites us to reflect on the power of the citizen, the role of the state in protecting human rights, and what citizens can do to preserve democracy. To encourage reflection, many of the Montreal Holocaust Museum‘s learning resources are available online:

Take advantage of these resources to ensure that students, and all Canadians, don’t miss out on this valuable opportunity to reflect.

COVID-19 and beyond: our new whitepaper

In the face of an unprecedented global pandemic, recovery will require a nationally concerted effort in which colleges and institutes have a fundamental role to play: they can help Canadians upskill and reskill to succeed in uncertain times and meet evolving labour requirements, help Canadian businesses innovate and grow through applied research, and ensure that what we rebuild is inclusive, sustainable, and green.

Our new whitepaper, COVID-19 and beyond, presents our vision for the role of colleges and institutes in Canada’s resilient recovery and provides recommendations for government to enable colleges and institutes to support Canadians to their fullest potential.

Government of Canada to fund training for personal support worker interns

Last week, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough announced $23.2 million in funding for CICan to develop and implement an accelerated online program to train approximately 4,000 new personal support worker interns! The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the critical role that personal support workers play in our healthcare system and exacerbated their shortages.

As part of this project, we will be working in collaboration with provinces and territories, employers, organizations, unions, and training providers to begin a national dialogue on training standards for the supportive care sector.

If you have note already expressed your interest to participate, contact Florence Touré, Director, Project Delivery. Stay tuned for more updates to come!

Last chance to submit: Conference 2021 & Awards of Excellence

Before we break for the holidays, remember to do two things: nominate your colleagues and institutions for our Awards of Excellence, and submit a presentation for our upcoming 2021 Connection Conference!

  • The awards recognize colleges, institutes, cégeps, and polytechnics across Canada; showcase the extraordinary contributions of individuals to their communities; and highlight the role of Canadian post-secondary institutions in social, cultural, and economic development. Don’t forget the brand-new category for Excellence in Sustainable Development.
  • This year’s conference is going completely virtual! The theme of Changing Narratives reflects how the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged colleges and institutes to transform the way they operate and rewrite the future of post-secondary education, skills development, and diversity.

The deadline for both is December 21.

Eureka! Moment

Did you know that we regularly invite college and institute presidents and directors general to speak to our staff about successes, challenges, and strategies in post-secondary education? This year, despite the shift online, we had the pleasure of hearing from four leaders at our virtual staff meetings! Thanks to Peter Devlin from Fanshawe College, Sherri Bell from Camosun College, Josée Ouellet from Collège d’Alma, and Nathalie Beaudoin from Cégep Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. We also had the pleasure of hearing student perspectives from two special guests on our ImpAct Student & Alumni Advisory Committee. Each virtual visit is incredible valuable to all of us at CICan to better understand our members, especially in the current global context. We look forward to more virtual ways of staying connected in the coming year!


Dawson College named Carmela Gumelli interim director of studies. Currently director of academic studies, Gumelli will take on her new duties from Jan 1, 2021.

Send Us Your News

One of our main goals at Colleges and Institutes Canada is to champion and share the innovations and awesomeness of our members. You can help! We want to hear about your new applied research, industry and community partnerships, international education, important financial investments and more. Add to your media mailing lists! We’ll share member institution News Releases and other upcoming announcements online and with our national media contacts based in Ottawa.