On January 25, the Ukrainian Students’ Society at the University of Victoria released a public statement alleging harassment and hate speech of Ukrainian students on campus.
It claimed members of the university’s Young Communist League posted USS materials online without their consent, along with accusations about USS members’ political leanings.
Insisting it is a matter of safety for USS members, it called on the university to address the matter.
Members of the Carleton University Ukrainian Students’ Club also published an open letter on its social media pages alleging that anti-Ukrainian harassment has been occurring on their campus as well, including verbal harassment and graffiti using pro-Russian symbols.
They posted pictures of the symbols alongside a Russian flag displayed in a dormitory window.
It also condemned the Ottawa Peace Council for hosting a panel discussion at the university entitled, ‘The War in Ukraine: What is the Path to Peace?’ due to claims the council holds pro-Russian stances and pushes Russian propaganda. Similarly, there have been reports of online criticism levied at the Vancouver Island Peace Council for its anti-war stance.
In a public statement of solidarity, the Ukrainian Students’ Club at the University of Ottawa said, “Pro-Russian rhetoric often uses white-washed terms like ‘anti-war’ and ‘peace.’ Despite sounding positive, they disguise Russian support for the war.”
“Peace in Ukraine will only be achieved through complete liberation of Russian-occupied territories and call for restoration of the country’s 1991 borders,” it continued.
Tyan Cherepuschak, a student of Ukrainian-Canadian history and former vice-president of the University of Victoria’s USS penned an opinion piece this month in Times Colonist outlining the history of the left-wing Association of United Ukrainian Canadians and right-wing Ukrainian Canadian Congress in the country.
“Ukrainian-Canadians are diverse in political belief, and a look back into history shows that conflict between opposing factions of the Ukrainian-Canadian community is nothing new,” Cherepuschak wrote.
The universities involved in the recent incidents, along with local law enforcement agencies, have investigated the allegations – with Carleton also saying events to “facilitate discussion” have been scheduled.
“Ukrainian-Canadians are diverse in political belief”
Ukrainian Ambassador Yuliya Kovaliv addressed campus stakeholders in January, after being invited by the Institute of European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at Carleton.
EURAS researchers launched a new web portal called the War in Ukraine Observatory to provide accurate information about the conflict and resources for refugees from Ukraine seeking safety in Canada – but UUSC members say the university has not done enough to shut down hate speech and protect students.
Senior policy advisor for the UCC, Orest Zakydalsky, said universities are responsible for providing a safe environment for students.
He added that the rise in anti-Ukrainian sentiment is not restricted to universities in Canada as incidents of harassment and hate speech increase across the country in advance of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.