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Canadian universities to examine security, inclusivity after University of Waterloo stabbings

The CEO of a group that advocates for Canada’s universities says post-secondary institutions will be re-evaluating both security and inclusivity initiatives in the wake of a triple stabbing at an Ontario university that police allege was motivated by hate.

Philip Landon of Universities Canada says the country’s approximately 100 universities are asking themselves in the wake of the attack at the University of Waterloo how to best address the polarization seeping into institutions that have historically addressed difficult topics head on.

“Universities by their very nature are places of inquiry, and academic freedom … where ideas need to be discussed, they need to be argued, they need to be countered, they need to be thoroughly examined, but in a place of safety and in a place of tolerance,” Landon said in a phone interview.

“An attack like this is a reminder that we need to have both the right security measures in place on campuses, but also the right cultural and social environment to prevent these attacks.”

He added universities are probably also closely examining their educational programming that promotes inclusivity and condemns violence against vulnerable groups on campus such as women, LGBTQ people and racialized groups.

“It’s important to recognize that it’s not just a university issue. It’s a social issue and universities can really help contribute to the solutions to social issues, but they are not the lone actors.”

Focus on security

Most Canadian universities are diligent about security programs such as emergency notification systems, walking programs where vulnerable people can request a buddy to get to their destination and campus shuttles, he said.

“There can always be more done. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “But I would also say that universities are the sector that probably does this the most.”

A professor and two students were injured in the University of Waterloo stabbing during a gender issues class late last month. Police allege it was a planned act motivated by hate related to gender expression and gender identity.

A 24-year-old recently graduated international student from Ecuador has been charged with multiple offences, including three counts of aggravated assault.

He appeared by video in a Kitchener, Ont., courtroom on Tuesday in an orange jumpsuit and his matter was put over to July 25.

Since the attack, the University of Waterloo has said it’s reassessing its security systems in partnership with community groups to ensure non-discriminatory campus life in the wake of the attack.

“We are engaging in a comprehensive review of our emergency response and communications systems, including the protocols around the use of the WatSAFE app,” the university said in an email, referring to its emergency notification system.

“We are committed to fostering an inclusive, safe and welcoming environment for members of our community, denouncing all forms of hate, discrimination and violence.”

Canada’s largest university, the University of Toronto, said in an email it has been increasing awareness of its various security programs since the attack.

“The safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and librarians are a top priority at the University of Toronto, as is the ability of our scholarly community to continue to put forward debate and test ideas freely without fear of harassment or harm,” the university said.

Good to see UW address concerns: activist

Cait Glasson, a transgender activist in Waterloo who works with an LGBTQ community group, said she’s happy overall with the university’s response to the attack.

“I certainly seem to get the impression that they’re working on the issues that showed themselves that day, which is good,” she said in a phone interview.

WATCH | LGBTQ activist Cait Glasson speaks on the chilling effect of the Waterloo classroom stabbings: 

canadian universities to examine security inclusivity after university of waterloo stabbings

LGBT activist talks about the chilling effect of Waterloo’s classroom stabbing

13 days ago

Duration 1:01

Cait Glasson, an LGBTQ activist in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, says students should feel safe to discuss gender issues in the classroom and not controlled by violence.

She pointed to places around the world that are currently persecuting members of the LGBTQ community and the increase in hate speech against the community online.

In Canada, police say they have noticed an uptick in attacks against members of the LGBTQ community.

Glasson said the recent Waterloo attack should be a lesson for Canadians.

“People use speech which dehumanizes other people like suggesting that [LGBTQ people] are pedophiles,” she said, adding that kind of hate speech can spur some people to action.

“People need to be aware that could happen.”

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