When George Galloway was banned from entering Canada, it was just one more reminder that students had to shout a little louder for the right to freedom of speech.
And shout louder, they did. The Student Assembly Against War and Racism took place this past weekend and boy, did it ever come at the right time.
On top of the Galloway incident, racism and hate speech has risen on campus at Ryerson University, posters for Israeli Apartheid Week were banned at Ottawa universities, the feds cut $2.1 million in funds for the Canadian Arab Federation, and an anti-gay member was appointed to the immigration board. If this isn’t a direct attack on our freedom of speech, our right to education and our livelihood, than I really don’t want to know what is.
It was enough.
The assembly consisted of a series of workshops for students and community activists to develop skills to combat such an environment of discrimination and aggression. Countless issues were on the agenda including the state of war resisters, military recruitment on campus, climate change, the Tamil genocide, Gaza and much, much more.
During the three-day event, student leaders reflected on past struggles where students were silenced on important issues while the university administration remained silent on international ones. Throughout the assembly, university presidents were called out on their ignorant attempt to create neutral campuses by calling issues, such as the attacks on Gazan schools, a non-political matter.
The Canadian government isn’t at fault either. Harper is your modern day Mary Poppins when you compare him to Jason Kenney, who is, as James Clark of the Canadian Peace Alliance suitably puts it, our Minister of “Censorship and Deportation.” The rampage of this Conservative government has made it harder for students to defend the rights of other students in other parts of the globe and even their own. The national student debt recently surpassed $13 billion, which doesn’t even include private loans.
The assembly’s logo was not of a dove, but of a pigeon whose wings form a shadow of the peace sign, a pigeon that is multi-coloured, abundant in population and peaceful, like students themselves. Let’s keep the fight going.
To hear some of the talks held at the assembly, visit rabble radio.
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