5 Days of Action aims to reduce harassment, discrimination on campus

Campus News

Workshops, lectures, and performances included in second annual week-long event earlier this month

The University of Victoria’s Office of Equity and Human Rights (EQHR) hosted the second annual “5 Days of Action” week-long event earlier this month, inviting members of the UVic community to take concrete steps to end discrimination, harassment, and sexualized violence on campus. 

The event, which took place from Nov. 4 to Nov. 8, included a plethora of workshops and talks guiding community members on topics such as consent and gender diversity. 

“5 Days of Action is a grassroots participatory event. There is limited curation. Anyone who is committed to the calls to action for the week can host an event, workshop, or activity,” said EQHR Executive Director Cassbreea Dewis in an email to the Martlet. 

The event comes in the wake of EQHR’s report on year two of UVic’s sexualized violence policy, which saw an increased rate of reports and disclosures of sexualized violence to EQHR. Since May 2018, the report notes, 57 disclosures and 10 formal complaints have been made — a large increase from the 28 disclosures and four complaints filed before the first report. 

The first 5 Days of Action week was held in March 2018, and was originally going to be held every spring. However, Dewis says, the EQHR team decided to switch the timing from the spring to the fall to inspire action throughout the rest of the year. 

Each day was scheduled with events that echoed and conceptualized one of the five key themes of the week: listen, reflect, dialogue, engage, and show solidarity. 

The week kicked off with a speech from Norman Garry Sam, a Songhees council member for the Songhees First Nation. Incorporating themes from the first day, “listen,” Sam discussed the importance of territorial acknowledgements and shared history of the Lekwungen people. 

Other themes included “dialogue” on Nov. 6, which encouraged conversation around the issues that people with disabilities face in the community and how community members can be more inclusive of people with disabilities. Nov. 7, the “engage” day, had workshops on sexualized violence prevention and advice and helped international students look for jobs in Canada.  

EQHR held the week’s workshops and events in partnership with other on-campus groups, including the Anti-Violence Project, Gender Empowerment Centre, and Faculty of Education. Students participated in panel discussions, and had a chance to showcase their artwork. 

“There are so many more individuals and groups from our university who are sharing their knowledge and creating space for conversations,” said Dewis. “We sent several emails through the summer and early fall encouraging everyone to get involved however they are able and these folks came through with their amazing work and commitment. We are so proud to be part of a community that comes together in this way.”

In addition to emphasizing the workshops, Dewis was also quick to highlight the role art plays in the 5 Days of Action. 

“An important part of 5 Days of Action is the belief that creative expression has the means to affect deep and lasting social change,” she said.

Seventy-seven students are officially registered for 5 Days of Action events, though Dewis said she expected many students to take part in art exhibits outside the Visual Arts Building and McPherson Library. 

“We only envision the week growing as it gains traction and people understand what we are doing,” said Dewis. “We are excited about the growth in student participation and engagement in the 5 Days of Action this year.”