OPIRG Peterborough condemns the actions of the individuals who have put a swastika in the middle of a chalked message on campus reading ‘Just not Corey’ during the Trent Central Student Association election campaign.
The TCSA Elections Code of Conduct for campaigning in elections state, “the Trent Central Student Association’s policies surrounding Discrimination, Harassment, and Oppression, and the Ontario Human Rights Act.
Any materials deemed to be slanderous, threatening or derogatory will not be approved.”
This rule is specifically for candidates’ campaigns; however, it was created to restrain people from harassing candidates.
Secondly, using symbolic messaging that has a recent history of presupposing acts of violence and oppression amounts to hate speech.
“Trent is a model for building community that includes differences of opinions and ideologies that are done in a sense of respect, this is not in keeping with the goal of building community,” said Glenn Empey, spiritual affairs director at Trent.
Electoral democracy including speaking with elected officials and putting pressure on elected officials through campaigns and media are ways that individuals may express their points of view.
Hate speech is one way that individuals who do not see any other way of reaching an audience try to do so.
At OPIRG, we believe that hate speech needs to be holistically and intersectionally addressed, as it is a part of a system of oppression that is based on cis-patriarchal capitalism.
According to the Criminal Code of Canada, the difference between hate speech and social justice speech is that it is not hate speech when “the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true.”
“Since it [was founded], Trent has been an open and accepting environment that fosters mutual understanding. This is polarizing things. The use of the swastika is improper and insulting,” said Empey.
We live in a society where hard-won and always challenged laws around freedom of expression, multiculturalism and equality exist.
To use these rights to harass an individual running in student union elections is irresponsible.