Concern over ‘anti-Ukrainian hatred’ on Canadian campuses

Student organisations say universities are failing to stop ‘growing harassment’ directed at Ukrainian communities

一月 31, 2023
Youth at Ukraine rally
Source: iStock

Student groups at two Canadian universities have reported safety concerns around anti-Ukrainian intimidation and harassment – claiming administrators have not taken their complaints seriously.

In two separate incidents this January, Ukrainian student organisations said their institutions were failing to prevent continued hate speech against them.

Their concerns, which come as Russia’s war on Ukraine enters its 12th month, signal a worrying trend that the conflict is taking a toll on student life on campuses abroad.  

On 25 January, the University of Victoria Ukrainian Students’ Society said it was “deeply concerned by the drastic increase in harassment and hate-speech” directed at Ukrainian students since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February.

“These incidents could have and should have been prevented by [the broader Student Society] and the University of Victoria. Yet our concerns and the threat to Ukrainian students continues to not be taken seriously,” the group wrote in a statement.

They claimed intimidation by a member of the Young Communist League (YCL), another student club. More recently, an unidentified individual “verbally assaulted” UVSS members and club property was vandalised with the words “Nazi scum”, they alleged.

Tamara Krawchenko, an assistant professor in the School of Public Administration at UVic, said she was “livid that our students have had to face this hate”.  

Dr Krawchenko warned that administrators would do well to pay attention to any threats. Earlier this year, the family of a Ukrainian pastor escaped arson when their home in Victoria was set alight, causing concern over anti-Ukrainian sentiment.

A representative of the YCL said that it was on the receiving end of “baseless” and “misleading” accusations from the society and took issue with a banner displayed by the Ukrainian students’ society, which he linked to antisemitic slogans.

University of Victoria vice-chancellor Kevin Hall said the institution was launching an investigation into on-campus harassment.

“We are taking action…this behaviour is not – and will not – be tolerated at UVic,” he said in a statement.

The university is not the only one to have come under fire for its handling of such concerns. Across the country, in Ottawa, students at Carleton University reported sightings of the graffitied Russian “Z” symbol on campus, which has been likened to the Nazi swastika.

On 26 January, the Carleton Ukrainian Students’ Club said it was “shocked by the growing hate and harassment directed towards the Ukrainian community” on its campus since September 2022.

“Graffiti symbols, Russian flags and events which support Russia’s genocide against Ukraine continue to appear on campus grounds. We have made consistent efforts to receive support from CUSA [the Carleton University Students’ Association] and Carleton University but little action has been taken, making campus an unsafe space for students of Ukrainian heritage,” the group wrote.

The letter called on CUSA and the university to remedy the “inaction and broken promises which have directly enabled hate acts and Russian disinformation events to take place on campus”.

CUSA has since backed the group, saying it condemns “any hate symbols and acts against the Ukrainian community on campus, and stands in solidarity with all students affected by these acts of hate”.

A Carleton spokesperson told its student newspaper that administrators were taking the matter seriously and said the university “does not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment”.



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