STUDENT FILES CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT AGAINST CONCORDIA STUDENT ASSOCIATION AND ITS LEADERS FOR SEXISM AND RACISM
Montreal, April 1st, 2015 — An elected female student executive of the largest student association in Concordia University, has taken two of her fellow male executives and the Association before the Quebec human rights commission for discrimination and harassment based on her race and gender.
The student is a female former Vice-President of the Arts and Science Faculty Association (ASFA), during the one-year mandate in 2013-2014, which she completed.
After several months of her election to the ASFA executive, the student, who requests anonymity for safety and family reasons and who is biracial (part Chinese), discovered by accident, through Facebook conversations which were left open on the public ASFA computer, that she had been repeatedly, over the course of several months, the target of offensive racist, misogynistic slurs, sexually graphic insults, degrading sexual imagery and sexual violence, in conversations between two male executive members of ASFA.
Examples of sexual and sexist slurs and jokes on the part of both men include:
❐ Upon her application to ASFA, meaning the first formal interaction she had with the Association, one male executive said, “Dude we HAVE to f-k her” and “if she doesn't s-k our dicks…impeached.” The other male executive said: “she must get so much D”;
❐ Throughout the year, both men referred to her (and another female executive) continuously as “whore”, “(letter)-whore”, etc. and comments such as “so you think you're better than me, whore?” and “She speaks five languages, English, French, …and WHORE”;
❐ “f__king full head of hair on her pussy”;
❐ Calling her “(letter)-fag” and an event she organized, “a midnight fagfest.”
Examples of racist slurs and offensive jokes that refer to her Chinese heritage include:
❐ In reference to the Chinese practice foot binding of baby girls: “maybe that's why (she) is such a bitch”, and
❐ “There's a reason for that chink slave.”
In addition, she was exposed to practices, verbal conduct, and actions that marginalized, isolated and ridiculed her, often with the blind support of other executive members. For instance, creating Facebook conversations with every executive but her, influencing other Vice-Presidents to decide against giving her an academic award before any application was submitted, being told she was not allowed to attend a traditional annual celebration within the Association, shunned from being part of executive events, and the only executive to have been denied her bonus.
The climate was so hostile that at one point she was afraid to go to the ASFA office alone, having to ask her mother to accompany her. Her family life, dignity and self-esteem suffered as a result.
When she went to seek help from the University's Dean of Students who consulted the Office of Rights and Responsibilities about the racist, sexist and sexually violent slurs and insults which in her views, constitute a violation of the Code of Rights and Responsibilities, she was told that there was nothing the University could do because the messages were “private.” She then had to seek help from the Center for Gender Advocacy and the Concordia Student Union Legal Information Office (CSULIC), the latter quickly referring her case to CRARR.
“I was stripped of my dignity, my integrity and my equal rights as a woman and as a racialized person. The conversations clearly reflect a disturbing rape culture and mindset of racism that has no place in a university like Concordia,” said the student. “ASFA students deserve better, and women of all colors deserve better.”
Rape culture, sexual violence and discriminatory harassment perpetrated by male students in positions of leadership and power is unfortunately all too common across Canadian campuses. Recently, a group of men at Dalhousie Dentistry School were discovered of having a secret Facebook group where they discussed everything from schoolwork to raping their female peers. Another recent example that hits close to home is graffiti that was recently found in a men's bathroom at the Université de Montréal, which called for the rape of a female student leader.
“My parents and I lived with constant stress, humiliation and intimidation during my term on ASFA's Executive, but thanks to their and the CGA and LIC's support, I am determined not to let this kind of bullying and psychological sexual violence diminish my civil rights, and that's why I filed this civil rights complaint”, she added. Her parents are also ready to go public to speak about their daughter's ordeal.
She mandated CRARR to file a civil rights complaint with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission against the two male executive members of ASFA and ASFA itself.
“People tend to forget that racist and sexist slurs and jokes are civil rights violations for which one can get sued under human rights laws, and it is equally worrisome that a student like her did not obtain the attention and protection she needed from the university from such hurtful conduct,” noted CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi.
CRARR is seeking moral and punitive damages on her behalf, and a number of remedies that include mandatory sensitivity training on race, gender and other civil rights issues for ASFA executives for the next two years, and the creation of a multi-partite Task Force to develop “concrete ways and means at every level of university life to combat and prevent racism, sexism and sexual violence, to foster a culture on campus that encourages respectful behavior, and to ensure that members of ASFA and the Concordia community, women in particular, can learn, work and be involved in campus life free of civil rights violations and violence in all its forms.”