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Our Right to Safety: A Response to the Recent Attack at the University of Waterloo

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The devastating news of the June 28th attack in a gender studies classroom at the University of Waterloo brings up many feelings, especially for those affected by patriarchal violence. Professors, staff and students in gender and queer studies, GBV, and anti-racism have been raising the alarm recently about rising hate, threats, and violence in educational spaces.

Although there’s limited information at this time about what occurred at the University of Waterloo, it’s essential to note that misogyny, patriarchy and oppression underpin most mass violence in this country, from mass femicides like École Polytechnique to the recent attacks on 2SLGBTQIA+ communities across Canada.

The work to end patriarchal violence on campus does not happen in a vacuum. Calls to action to end gendered hate and violence must be met with more than an ad hoc response; these are systemic issues that require a holistic framework that addresses policy, procedures, and prevention.

This requires trauma-informed responses to incidents like this, as trauma impacts the entire campus community and beyond. Prevention, support and transformative justice work must be sustainably resourced; and PSIs, community organizations, and all levels of government must collaborate to address gendered hate and violence.

Possibility Seeds has been working with survivors, administrators, student advocates, parents, faculty, and GBV organizations pushing for systemic change for the past 5 years. Our Courage to Act project has 50+ free resources for stakeholders to use in addressing campus GBV, available on our Knowledge Centre.

A good place to start is the 2019 Courage to Act Report, which offers 45 recommendations, including 10 overarching ones that are sorely needed right now.

6 THINGS CAMPUSES CAN DO:

  1. Create a Responding to Critical Incidents (RCI) team so your campus is ready to respond to incidents like this; this will significantly reduce the harm and further risk to the campus community. Our Responding to Critical Incidents guide supports you through how.

  2. Listen to and amplify students, faculty, and employees already working to address GBV and gender equity on campus. Take action on their recommendations and concerns. Start implementing the 10 comprehensive calls to action in 2022’s Our Campus Our Safety.

  3. Commit to trauma-informed campuses by building and implementing a campus-wide action plan with steps for trauma-informed campus support services, education and reporting.

  4. Work with broader movements to end gender-based violence, from organizations focused on 2SLGBTQIA+ advocacy, gender equity, sexual health, and reproductive rights. Gendered hate and violence are growing – from book bans, rollbacks on protections for trans and queer youth, attacks on drag story times, and attempts to undermine sexual health education across the country. All of this is connected and must be addressed together.

  5. Develop and implement performance measurements, evaluation and climate surveys to assess how hate is manifesting on campus.

  6. Commit to sustainable funding for gender equity services and education, including sexual violence offices.

These incidents have deep impacts and reverberations. We’re sending solidarity to the Waterloo community and campuses across Canada. We hope you’re surrounded by compassion and action. Reach out, get support, and take a breath. Be gentle with yourselves.

With care,

Possibility Seeds

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Suggested Reference: Courage to Act. (2023, June). Our Right to Safety: A Response to the Recent Attack at the University of Waterloo. Courage to Act. www.couragetoact.ca/blog/june28

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