August 14, 2014
To Mamdouh Shoukri and York University,
This week, students, faculty and staff at York University were attacked by blatant racism on campus. Flyers created by Immigration Watch Canada (IWC) depicting students of colour as a threat to white Canada were circulated on the York University Keele campus. Similar flyers were also distributed across the York Village, where many of the university’s students live. IWC is a notorious white supremacist group which was in the news earlier this month for flyering racist anti-immigration posters across the city of Brampton. Their expansion into York University indicates an escalation of their racist calls for a white nation. Their white supremacist demands include severe reductions in immigration, limitations on the entry of racialized peoples into Canada, and no recognition of the historical and ongoing colonization of the indigenous peoples of this land.
As students, faculty members, and community members of colour at York University we are deeply affected by the IWC’s abrasive actions, which are designed to intimidate and immobilize communities of colour. The language that people of colour are “invading” Canada, used by the IWC flyers instigates a mood of panic. This is a historically recurring narrative of white supremacy and colonization in Canada. Historical and contemporary examples include the refused entry of the Komagata Maru, the “yellow peril” propaganda and internment of Japanese Canadians, fear mongering around refugees arriving on the Ocean Lady and MV Sun Sea, and the changes to temporary migrant labour laws that now systematically deny workers of colour access to services and pathways to citizenship.
The IWC flyer is not an isolated incidence of racial violence. It is part of the intensification of horrific acts of violence against indigenous and racialized communities globally. These range from Immigration Bill C-24 that will fundamentally change the rights to citizenship in Canada for racialized people, to Israel’s ongoing genocide and destruction in Gaza, to police violence against black communities in Ferguson (U.S.), to the tailings pond breach and toxic spill disaster affecting indigenous communities in the Cariboo region (B.C.), to the RCMP’s neglect of the 1,181 unresolved cases of missing or murdered indigenous women across Canada. This is cause for action.
In their response to the IWC flyer earlier today, the York University administration merely took issue with the unauthorized use of their logo, making it clear once again that the administration is more interested in its corporate image than the stability and security of students of colour on campus. The unwillingness of the university to speak out against racism on campus is consistent with our experiences of the university as a place of exclusionary white supremacy: Students, staff and faculty of colour are faced with systemic racism and sexism on a daily basis.
York University sits on the lands of the Mississaugas of New Credit and the Haudenosaunee peoples. The space of the university is built on legacies of colonialism and white supremacy, where the production of knowledge facilitated the colonial annexation of lands globally. This history continues to shape the lived realities of indigenous peoples across the country and here at York. Today the curriculum that students are met with continues the legacy of Eurocentric forms of knowledge, education, and production. Under the guise of restructuring and funding cuts at the university, many programs which offer non-Eurocentric views and perspectives, are all currently under threat. Further, York has a dismal track record of respecting racialized workers, specially racialized women workers, at all levels.
In addition to the re-entrenchment of a Eurocentric curriculum, racialized issues of access to the university persist. Contrary to the myths projected by IWC in their flyer, students of colour make up only 19% of the postsecondary student body in Canada, and only 3% Aboriginal, according to a 2007 CAUT survey. A Canadian Federation of Students report attests this low participation of racialized students in postsecondary institutions to increasing tuition fees, systemic racism, and the racialization of poverty in Canada.
While we question and challenge the rhetoric and actions of IWC and their specific targeting of York, we also demand York University administration to take action on the following:
- Take a firm stand against IWC and ban them from campus
- Prioritize resources and funding for fighting racism and sexism on campus including making anti-oppression training mandatory for York administration, faculty, and staff
- Stop the exclusion of YUBSA, TBLGAY, ASAY, YUTSA, USAY and other racialized student groups from meetings on campus safety
- Consult with indigenous and racialized students to identify and address issues of accessibility for people of colour and work towards eliminating tuition fees
- Prohibit racial profiling and policing on and off campus
- Remove the REDZONE in Vari Hall, honour students’ rights to assemble and demonstrate on campus, and stop the targeted harassment of pro-Palestine student groups by York security
- Reinstate and support programs and courses offering non-Eurocentric perspectives including area studies, critical race studies and indigenous studies
- Boycott and/or divest from:
- Israeli Apartheid
- Mining projects in South America
- Drone technologies that are used to annihilate communities of colour in the Global South which are not limited to but are overwhelmingly Muslim
- Resource extraction projects in indigenous territories across North America
- Canadian Armed Forces and its ongoing operations in Afghanistan, Haiti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, South Sudan and other places in the Global South
- Pass a don’t ask for immigration status, and don’t share immigration status with federal authorities policy at York, admit undocumented students, and protect their rights and safety on campus
- Acknowledge that York sits on indigenous territories and is complicit in colonization of indigenous peoples, lands, and nations. Furthermore, we urge York to work with indigenous communities to amend its ways and decolonize its presence.
Women Against Occupation and War
South Asia Research Group
United South Asians at York
We Are Racialized
The Revolutionary Student Movement
Campaign Against Drones in Pakistan
Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance of Ontario
Trans Bisexual Lesbian Gay Asexual at York
University of Toronto Graduate Student’s Union
Feminist Action at York
York University Graduate Students’ Association
York University Black Students’ Alliance
The Student Christian Movement
Rehanna Siew Sarju
Johannah May Black
Dr. Pablo Idahosa
Dr. Jennifer Hyndman
Dr. Kimberley White
Dr. Viviana Patroni
Dr. Caroline Shenaz Hossein
Dr. Greg Albo
Dr. Linda Peake
Dr. Kamala Kempadoo
Dr. Arun P Mukherjee
Dr. Eve Haque
Dr. Vanessa Lehan
Dr. Jonathan Short
Dr. Zilpha Ellis
Dr. Sonya Scott
Dr. Barbara Evans
Dr. Harjeet Badwall
Dr. Vermonja R. Alston
Dr. Himani Bannerji
Dr. Laam Hae
Dr. Shubhra Gururani
Dr. Reza Barmaki
Dr. Sheila L. Cavanagh
Dr. Zoë Newman
Dr. Narda Razack
If you interested in signing the statement or getting in touch with us, please do at: firstname.lastname@example.org.