On Remembrance Day, multiple racist and pro-Nazi posters were found plastered on the University of British Columbia’s War Memorial Gym. The posters, which glorify Nazi soldiers as the “true heroes of World War 2,” have since been called “disturbing” by the university.
Earlier this month, anti-semitic signs that contained links to alt-right websites were removed from the University of Victoria’s campus. Similar handbills have also been found at the University of Calgary and the University of Toronto in recent months.
After The Omega brought these incidents at other universities to TRU’s attention, Lucille Gnanasihamany, associate vice-president marketing and communications, said it might be time to update TRU’s poster policy in light of these incidents.
“I think there is solid ground to ask for an agenda item. At the next president’s council, I will ask if we can be explicit in saying that we can refer to the B.C. Human Rights Code,” Gnanasihamany said. “I think that would probably strengthen the policy.”
TRU hasn’t seen hate speech issues emerge like at some other Canadian universities. In October, neo-Nazi posters were put in Prince George at the University of Northern British Columbia and College of New Caledonia.
While the university’s current posting procedure is taken seriously by both TRU facilities and marketing and communications, it doesn’t explicitly state that students can’t post hate speech. Instead, the policy states that “all users must comply with TRU policies and all applicable provincial and federal laws,” which Gnanasihamany said prevents the publishing and distribution of discriminatory content with that clause.
While TRU hasn’t experienced issues, Gnanasihamany said the university constantly monitors their poster boards for infractions.
“With our current posting policy we do monitor it quite frequently through facilities, who looks through the entire premises on campus,” Gnanasihamany said. “Our team goes by as well and takes a look and makes sure that the posters are keeping with the policy.”
Though posters are rarely taken down, sometimes the university is forced to take down the posters of commercial vendors.
“Most often, when we have taken down posters, it’s commercial vendors that are using the boards and it’s not meant for commercial purposes,” Gnanasihamany said. “It’s meant for university purposes, for buy and sell, for student clubs and if there is room, for non-profits.”
Though she couldn’t say what would happen if a student was caught posting hate speech around campus, Gnanasihamany believes that disciplinary action would be taken by the student development office.
Although these are issues that only exist elsewhere, TRUSU’s vice-president equity Caitlin Orteza isn’t so sure that TRU will be free of this type of discrimination in the future.
“I’m not even really surprised anymore that this happened at UBC,” Orteza said. “I can kind of see it happening at TRU now, which is really concerning. One of the main reasons why this is happening more is that people are starting to think that this is okay and that there won’t be repercussions from doing it.”
Fighting against this kind of discrimination isn’t easy, Orteza admitted, since anyone with a printer can distribute discriminatory content. Instead, she believes the first step in combating this issue is education.
“I don’t think we should be waiting until something happens and then responding to it,” Orteza said.
“I definitely think we should take a more forward approach in dealing with the issue before it happens. We can host events, get a dialogue going and change policies before these things happen.”