Response to recent postering incidents

Nov. 16, 2017

Members of the university community may be aware of a number of instances in which posters designed to offend, draw response and divide us have appeared sporadically across our campus in recent weeks. For context, see messages from the President, myself, and the university. While incidents of graffiti and posts designed to offend and target marginalized groups are, unfortunately, not new occurrences, I want to address this recent activity as similar incidents have taken place on other Canadian and U.S. campuses.

These recent posters appear to be part of a campaign with roots in internet chat groups with the stated intention to provoke a response from our institution and the media that can then be criticized as “anti-white.” This unsophisticated tactic requires a sophisticated response.

The recent pattern of posters targeting post-secondary institutions with divisive messages is in many ways a reaction to growing awareness on campuses and in society broadly of the need to combat sexism, racism, religious intolerance and homophobia. In responding to these posters we recognize that an important and fundamental value of every university in Canada is freedom of expression and that many of us working for social justice also hold this value close. We refuse to allow those who would seek to divide and bring harmful messages to our campus to become the heroes of freedom of expression.

Thus, we should respond to these posters and others with careful, principled and measured approaches. We will need to carefully consider, as a community, the intersection of the values of free speech and our commitments to create an environment that is inclusive, diverse and respectful. My office is committed to working with others in the university community to help facilitate this conversation.

In the meantime, I am confident that these few posters are not reflective of our broader university community’s values. It is up to all of us to take responsibility for creating an inclusive environment. We must work together, so that those who feel particularly threatened by such posters know that they are not alone and celebrate the diversity of our students, faculty, and staff including the myriad of challenges in becoming a truly diverse and welcoming learning community. EQHR has planned educational events to further raise awareness, including, in spring 2018 (March 19-23), Five Days of Action a weeklong series of forums and discussions to engage the campus in working together to celebrate diversity and create change. We would welcome your engagement in this work and your ideas. To find out how you can get involved, please contact EQHR

Cassbreea Dewis
Acting Director
Equity & Human Rights