UVic students organize walk-out, demand government action on gender-based violence

Campus News

On the 32nd anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, students feel more needs to be done to end gender-based violence

Photo by Kaya Martin.

A group of students walked out of classes on the afternoon of Dec. 6 in support of survivors of gender-based violence. The energy was somber but resolute as the group gathered in front of the Student Union Building, umbrellas bobbing in the rain. 

“Gender-based and sexualized violence are often said to have no place on our campuses, but this is far from the reality on the ground where these issues continue to be pervasive,” said Anna-Elaine Rempel, a student activist and organizer of the walkout, in a statement. She says that these forms of violence are a systemic problem that needs to be addressed at its root.

The students are calling for the provincial government to provide ongoing funding for prevention and response efforts on campus, beginning with $5 million over the next three years. They also want a review the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act which Rempel calls “incredibly inaccurate.” 

“The government has said on multiple occasions that this is something that they really care about, something that they want to prioritize, and so what we’re calling for is really standing behind that message,” Rempel said in an interview with the Martlet.

The walkout was part of a larger nationwide movement led by Students for Consent Culture Canada and the Safe Campus Coalition. The walkout’s goals are supported by the University of Victoria Students’ Society, the Gender Empowerment Centre, and the Anti-Violence Project. The students also conducted a letter writing campaign to MLAs.

“Survivors deserve policy responses and support services that centre their needs and perspectives,” stated Claudia Erichsen, another student organizer. “This cannot be done province-wide without proper funding and substantial legislative changes.” 

The group chatted amongst themselves as the leaders handed out fliers explaining the aims of the walkout. Some shared their disdain for UVic’s Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Policy, whereas others were just looking for a source of connection. 

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to come today, but I’m really glad that I was able at least to stand in solidarity,” said Shayne McGrath, a UVic political science and sociology student. “Even just to see some faces, even just [to] get support from people’s eyes is really important and really healthy.”

The student-run walkout followed another event that took place earlier that day led by the UVic in honour of National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It commemorated the 32nd anniversary of the Montreal Massacre at École Polytechnique, where 14 women were murdered and 14 others injured in an intentional act of violence against women. Classes were cancelled for the event which featured a walk of solidarity. 

Rempel says they did not mean to detract from the work being done by the other event, but that the walkout had a different intention. 

“Having that time to remember is important, but it’s also important to act.”

Anyone who has experienced violence can seek support and guidance on campus through the Anti-Violence Project. They can be reached at support@antiviolenceproject.org. They also offer workshops on understanding consent and supporting survivors which are available to the public. Survivors of sexualized violence can contact the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre for assistance and resources.