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Dear Ryerson Students' Union,
The recent actions regarding the Colonialism 150 campaign has created a great divide among the student body. The intent of this letter is to express the concerns of many students who feel that their union has not represented their voices regarding the celebration, or lack thereof, of Canada Day and the various meanings behind July 1st.
This letter does not diminish the struggles that the Indigenous community has and continues to face; this does not disrespect anyone who chooses not to participate in the celebration of Canada Day. We support the fight to build a stronger Canada that is inclusive to each and every single citizen. We stand by the Indigenous community and our Indigenous students at Ryerson. We wish to express our deepest support for those whose concerns were represented by the original RSU 150 post, and anyone who chose to refrain from taking part in the Canada Day celebration. The struggle of Indigenous communities must never be forgotten.
We feel that the approach of the Colonialism 150 campaign did not promote a sense of inclusivity on campus and in the greater online Ryerson community, nor did it allow for an open environment for further dialogue regarding the topic. The 150 campaign has incited bullying on both sides and the RSU has failed and continues to fail to provide a safer space both online and in person. The RSU must recognize that it is their job to make sure the student body is uniformly informed and consulted if they are to successfully educate students on such issues.
We are here, standing together, to officially #ResistRSU, oppose the poorly executed campaign and hold the original author(s) and approver(s) accountable for their continual disregard for the safety and concerns of a very diverse vast student body.
We have elected to follow the RSU’s lead and created a list of demands:
- Issue a public statement addressing student concerns and apologizing for any harm or disrespect caused whether intentional or unintentional
- Publicly state the author(s) and the approver(s) responsible for the campaign and the aggressive manner in which it was carried out.
- Hold those author(s) and the approver(s) accountable by:
a. Having those individuals issue an personal, public apology through the RSU Facebook Page
b. Having those individuals be open to engaging in respectful dialogue with
student concerns through an official RSU medium (ie. e-mail, phone)
c. Admitting that the entirety of the campaign was done without the knowledge of the full RSU board, thereby using the RSU Facebook Page as a personal platform and misrepresenting many members of the board
d. Completing public relations and/or communications training before the start of the fall semester 2017.
All RSU executives and board members are entirely within their right to have their own views on the matter of Canada Day. However, it is not the role of the RSU to push a divisive campaign in an aggressive manner and turn a blind eye to student concerns. The RSU platform is to represent the entire study body. It is not for voicing personal political stances. The students elected the board members to represent all of us and deliberately ignoring our voices, no matter the number, is disrespectful and unacceptable.
This country, along with every other country in this world, has made mistakes. However, the injustices in the past do not invalidate the economic mobility, security, freedom, acceptance, and diversity of Canada. For many Ryerson students, this is something we find value in celebrating. Some of us are born here and proud of what our families have built while others have recently made Canada our new home and want to celebrate the progress we have achieved. We do not view Canada Day as ignoring the history of Indigenous presence that has existed here for thousands of years. We are proud of the achievements Canada has made and July 1st is a day for us to rally around such progress and strive for continued betterment for all Canadian citizens.
Other students view Canada Day as a celebration of forced assimilation, colonization, genocide, discrimination, and erasure of Indigenous peoples and culture. This is a valid interpretation of Canada Day. We support our fellow students in their decision to do what they believe is right, including boycotting Canada Day.
Canada Day means something different for everyone and all interpretations are justified. It is not the responsibility of the Ryerson Students’ Union to take a strong and divisive political stance in validating one kind of student experience at the cost of diminishing and dismissing another. Moreover, should the RSU take any political stance in student-specific issues, it should be the responsibility of the entire RSU board to have knowledge of and vote on approval for the campaign in its entirety. This was not the case in the Colonialism 150 campaign.
Therefore, until our demands are met, we will continue to #ResistRSU for the failure to represent the entire student body, listen to our concerns, and provide safer spaces for open and inclusive discussion.
Your fellow fed up and misrepresented students and alumni of Ryerson University
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