Over the past few months, there has been an increase in racist incidents occurring at university campuses in B.C. The University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), the College of New Caledonia (CNC), and the University of Victoria (UVic) have all reported and dealt with incidents involving anti-Semitic posters since September.
Tyson Strandlund is the organizer of Anti-Racist Action Group UVic, which was officially started this September. According to the Facebook page, the “ARA is an international network of people who are dedicated to eliminating racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination against the disabled, the oldest, the youngest, and the most oppressed members of society.”
“We decided make a dedicated, campus-specific branch as a result of some incidents we have seen on campus and the broader trends we’re seeing across the country and elsewhere,” Strandlund said.
The group responded to an incident in November after receiving a message from a student who had found anti-Semitic posters. From there, campus security was contacted, the posters were taken down, and a call was put out on the group’s Facebook page for students to “promptly rip them down” if more posters were found. The group was not aware of the other incidents on the UNBC and New Caledonia campuses at the time of discovering the posters at UVic.
“I think it is indicative of a much larger and more deeply rooted trend than simply the activities of any other groups at another campus,” said Strandlund. “While it is coming more out in the open, I think a lot of these issues are more deeply rooted and underlying in our society. Perhaps some people have been emboldened recently.”
Strandlund acknowledges these incidents are not entirely because of the current political climate in the United States.
“In Canada, we have our own deep history of racism and colonialism. So much of what we’ve done supporting imperialism and war abroad is coming to roost in our policies and how people feel here,” he said.
Strandlund did not anticipate the sheer number of hateful comments that came in support of the posters and some people expressed concern, saying the group maybe shouldn’t have posted them and made them available to the wrong audience. However, there has been a flood of positive support and a large number of students who are interested in getting involved in helping to prevent the incidents from occurring again.
“The people who put up these posters and have these hateful ideologies, they know that it is not exactly accepted in the mainstream,” said Strandlund. “They try and play both sides of the fence by putting up a poster that they think will appeal to a broader number of Canadians, as well as acting as a dog whistle for those on the far-right who are familiar with this sort of coding.”
The group has created four “Points of Unity” that they use to work together and ensure their mandates are met.
“The most important principle that we follow is that we go where the fascists go and we don’t allow them to have an uncontested space to propagate their ideologies of hate,” Strandlund said.