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News - All - 2 Oct 2018

News Item 43 of 4477 

Miscellaneous: 2 Oct 2018
Offensive message on bedsheet sparks outrage

Wilfrid Laurier student Jessica Vaca and her friends were disturbed by an offensive message hanging on a bedsheet Saturday. - David Bebee,Waterloo Region Record

Jessica Vaca and her friends saw the offensive bedsheet hanging from a Regina Street house on Saturday.

They knew they weren't going to that house.

"We ignore it and we don't go to those places," said Vaca, a second-year biology student at Wilfrid Laurier University.

The banner read: "She called you daddy 4 18 years. Now it's our turn."

"You shouldn't be allowed to hang that. It's offensive to women," said the 19-year-old.

Similar signs were seen at other off-campus houses this weekend as Laurier celebrated homecoming. A bedsheet banner at a house nearby read: "The only thing easier than Guelph girls is their football team."

This year's crowd reached a record 14,000 people gathered on Ezra Avenue, police said. There were 462 charges laid.

"Our officers responded to several calls during the unsanctioned event and witnessed many incidents that were both disrespectful and dangerous," said Police Chief Bryan Larkin.

The Regina Street banner was shared widely on social media during homecoming, sparking outrage. University officials condemned the message, calling it "extremely offensive, inappropriate and plain stupid."

A Conestoga College student answered the door at the house on Monday. He said he lives in the house and was the one who put up the banner. He said he took it down after two police officers told him there were complaints.

The student, who refused to give his name, said he felt "awful" and didn't mean any disrespect.

Sara Casselman, executive director of the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, said because sexual violence is so pervasive, people often aren't able to look at it critically.

"Rape culture is so ingrained," said Casselman, who refers to the continuum of harm which begins with cat calls and sexist jokes and escalates to sexual assault and rape.

The demeaning message on the banner shows that there is plenty of work to be done "to unpack toxic masculinity," she said.

Casselman said it's imperative to reach young men, because statistics show that women between 16 to 24 are four times more at risk to experience sexual assault than at any other time in their lives.

Lyndsey Butcher, executive director of the SHORE Centre, said the only way to prevent these types of misogynistic messages is through education.

"It's examples like these that point to the insidious, underlying culture that exists," she said.

Of the 462 charges police laid over the weekend, most were related to open liquor, public intoxication and underage drinking.

Laurier's special constables laid 144 provincial offences. More than half of those charges were laid against students who attended other universities and colleges, said David McMurray, Laurier's vice-president of student affairs.

Students were seen throwing beer bottles from highrise buildings onto police cruisers, said police spokesperson Cherri Greeno.

In other instances, police and other emergency personnel had to help young people get off the roofs of other buildings and others who were climbing trees.

Paramedics responded to 36 calls and transported 20 people to hospital.

Six people were listed in serious or critical condition.

Grand River Hospital had 24 patients arrive at its emergency department, while 13 people went to St. Mary's Hospital.

McMurray said the university is actively investigating all complaints involving its students.

"Any Laurier student that is involved in matters like this or contravenes the law, Laurier will follow through on the non-academic code of conduct," he said.

McMurray said Laurier puts great effort into educating students about gendered sexual violence and takes its institutional responsibility seriously.

McMurray said the university will continue with "deep" discussions on what to do about unsanctioned street gatherings.

"There is a social attraction in this culture to gather on the streets," he said.

Some campuses have moved homecoming celebrations to other times of the year and some universities tried to cancel the event.

"Queen's did that and the street parties continued," McMurray said.

lmonteiro@therecord.com

Twitter: @MonteiroRecord

lmonteiro@therecord.com

Twitter: @MonteiroRecord

Liz Monteiro Waterloo Region Record/AA
 

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