Statement of Support and Solidarity for the London Muslim Community

We grieve and condemn the recent Islamophobic terrorist attack against a Pakistani Muslim family in London on Sunday, June 6th. The attack took the lives of four members of our community, spanning three generations of a family. The sole survivor is the family’s nine-year-old son, who is severely injured. This horrific attack has been designated as a preplanned and premeditated hate crime by local law enforcement. To everyone impacted by this heartless attack, please know that we grieve with you, and that the Society stands in solidarity with our Muslim community.

This recent attack reinforces and highlights a shameful history of racism in London. It is time to acknowledge that Islamophobia is a deplorable part of our present and past. We cannot afford to continue to ignore the real impacts of racism in our own communities; we cannot hide behind the guise that things are “better” in Canada. We must take action to be anti-racist and combat the racist ideologies that have resulted from longstanding systemic efforts. We further acknowledge that one of the victims was a member of the Western graduate student community in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Their connection to Western emphasizes that our community is not immune to racism. Many of our members experience racism both in academia, at Western University, and in our London community on a daily basis. We must all take action to dismantle systemic racism to ensure that everyone can walk safely and confidently through our communities.

Islamophobia overlaps with other forms of hatred and discrimination, from anti-Black and anti-Asian racism to gender-based violence. White supremacy is not only pervasive within Western culture as a result of colonialism; it is the very historical foundation of contemporary Canadian society. While Canada is often perceived as a “safe” place for immigrants and diasporic communities, the violence and hatred of white supremacy is baked into our institutions, economic practices, belief systems, and politics. White supremacy is not limited to stereotypical hate groups; it thrives among politicians, journalists, academics, and neighbours. It is only through actively and intentionally dismantling white supremacy as an ideology that we can start to address its violence.  We recognize that, as an institution designed to protect our community members, law enforcement in Canada are often complicit in allowing white supremacist groups to target Canadian Muslims and to operate in our own community.

We agree with the National Council of Canadian Muslims that this is a “terrorist attack on Canadian soil”, and should be treated as such. This includes prosecuting the attacker to the fullest extent of the law, including charges of domestic terrorism and hate crime, first-degree murder. This recent attack is all too reminiscent of attacks such as the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017 and the Toronto van attack in 2018. As recently as 2016, then Mayor Matt Brown described an Islamophobic attack on a Western student as a “wake up call.” This recent attack is a tragic reminder that we still desperately need to do more. 

As leaders we must consistently call out and condemn Islamophobia in all its forms. We call on London politicians and police to develop a safe community for our Muslim neighbours and other minorities, where intercultural and interfaith differences are celebrated and free of discrimination, harassment, and hate. To do this, we ask:

  • for London politicians and police to take a stronger stance against known and actively working hate groups;
  • for London police to more proactively dismantle the role of white supremacy in their practices; and,
  • for Londoners to come together to support our Muslim neighbours in this difficult time.

In solidarity, 

kirstyn seanor, SOGS President; Danica Facca, SOGS VP Academic; Yousuf Hasan, SOGS VP Advocacy; Becky Horst, SOGS VP Finance; Effie Sapuridis, SOGS VP Student Services; Elizabeth Mohler, SOGS Accessibility Commissioner; Ana Moyer, SOGS Gender Concerns Commissioner; Victoria Bomberry, SOGS Indigenous Commissioner; Shannon “Thomas” Carnahan, SOGS Pride Commissioner; Denise Kamyuka, SOGS Racial Equity and Inclusivity Commissioner; Mo Sharifi, former SOGS Racial Equity and Inclusivity Commissioner; Abdelmoneim El Naggar, SOGS Academic and Equity Committee member; Sohini Chatterjee, SOGS Accessibility Committee chair and Equity committee co-chair; Anmol Dutta, SOGS Anti-Racism Committee and Equity Committee co-chairs; Priscilla Edwards, SOGS Anti-Racism Committee member; Michelle Yanxue Feng, SOGS Anti-Racism Committee; Julia Garcia, SOGS Anti-Racism Committee member; Emi Iwaizumi, SOGS Anti-Racism Committee member; Deanna Walker, SOGS Anti-Racism Committee member; Mohamed Abu Gazia, SOGS Equity Committee member; Kesavi Kanagasabai, SOGS Equity Committee member; Mohammed Ellakany, SOGS Graduate Student Issues Committee chair; Varun Ravikumar, SOGS International Graduate Student Issues Committee chair; Deeplina Banerjee, SOGS International Graduate Student Issues Committee member; Courtney Neidig, SOGS Sustainability Committee chair; Mokhtar Khalifa, SOGS Councillor; Heidi Kellett, SOGS Communications and Promotions Manager; Jessica Elaine Reilly, SOGS Membership Services Manager; Raquel Rodrigues, SOGS Finance Manager; Katelyn Mitri, former PSAC 610 President; and the Canadian Federation of Students


Support Resources:

London Community Support

  • London Vigil: In honour of those killed in this horrifying act of violence and to provide a space to collectively grieve, there will be a vigil held at the London Muslim Mosque parking lot at 7 PM, Tuesday, June 8th. *Please do not park at the London Muslim Mosque parking lot as parking will be available at Cherryhill Village Mall and be mindful of distancing due to Covid-19 and wear a mask if you are able.
  • Fundraiser (Salman Family Sadaqa Jariya Fund): This fundraiser is supported by Aisha Afzaal and organized by Sana Yasir. Donate HERE.

Support for Students

  • Naseeha: Mental health support line for Muslim youth. Confidential support 7 days a week  from 12PM – 12AM EST. @NaseehaHelpline. 1-866-NASEEHA (627-3342). Contact Naseeha HERE.
  • ReachOut: Crisis support for those in the London/Middlesex area – 24/7. Phone or Text – 519-433-2023. Online web chat available – reachout247.ca
  • Crisis Text Line: 24/7 crisis text support. Text 686868.
  • Empower Me: Free remote mental health and wellness support 24/7 in Canada and the U.S. for Western University graduate students. Empower me is a multi-faith, multilingual service that pairs graduate students with trained professionals via telephone. Not happy with the counsellor you are matched with? Contact Empower Me to request a new counsellor based on individual preferences and needs.
      • To access Empower Me, call 1-833-628-5589.
      • Learn more about Empower Me HERE.
  • Muslim Prayer Room: University Community Centre, Room 38A, Western University
  • Toolkit on Islamophobia By and For Muslim Women
  • Know Your Rights: A Guide for Muslim Post-Secondary Students
  • MRCSSI – Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration

Resources and Actions for Allies

To learn more about Islamophobia in Canada: 

  • Learn about Muslim students’ experiences in Canada HERE
  • Read a  “Gendering Islamophobia, racism and White supremacy: Gendered violence against those who look Muslim” HERE.
  • Learn how to intervene responsibly as an ally HERE.
  • Support the London Muslim Mosque financially, if you’re able HERE

Read the statement of support and solidarity (PDF) HERE.

SOGS Support Message Regarding the Kamloops Residential School Confirmation of Unmarked Graves

With profound sadness, the Executives, Commissioners, and Staff at the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) at Western University offer condolences to the Indigenous families and communities impacted by the confirmation of an unmarked mass grave on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The children found were the future of the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation as well as other First Nations.  The deaths of these children are a devastating loss for Indigenous families and communities across the lands currently referred to as British Columbia.  

We acknowledge the remains of the two hundred and fifteen Indigenous children found on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School represent the devastating but desired outcome of Canadian policy.  The Kamloops Indian Residential School was one of over 100 Indian Residential Schools in operation from the 1830’s until 1996.  The Indian Residential School system was designed to aggressively erase Indigenous identities and cultures, as well as sever connections to family, community and the land.  These historical acts of violence have irreparably disrupted Indigenous ways of being on these lands and continue to inequitably benefit colonial settlers to the ongoing detriment of Indigenous Peoples today. 

We support calls by First Nations communities for the immediate funding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada Calls to Action Numbers 71-76 regarding missing children and burial information.  The offers of condolences and acknowledgement of the Kamloops Indian Residential School discovery by all levels of Canadian government must match action.  The uncomfortable truth revealed on Thursday May 27th, 2021 is not an isolated incident.  As articulated in the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Volume 4, Survivors confirm atrocities such as that at Kamloops Indian Residential School took place at many of the Indian Residential Schools.  Locating and identifying the missing children requires immediate action that must be led by the First Nation communities affected. 

We join Indigenous nations and communities in calling for the urgent implementation of the 94 Calls to Action put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.  The historical and ongoing impacts and processes of colonization, including the Indian Residential School System, continue to discriminate, disadvantage and dispossess Indigenous Peoples.  Reconciliation is a process that requires immediate and sustained action and investment by all levels of Canadian government as well as Canadian citizens.  Canada’s response to the 2015 release of the TRC Calls to Action has been shamefully inadequate and fails to meaningfully address the legacy of Indian Residential Schools. 

We join calls from across the lands for the Canadian government to end its legal battle with Indian Residential School survivors and their families.  The $3.2 million spent on legal fees to withhold the truth from St. Anne’s residential school survivors and the Canadian public is one example where the federal government continues to actively diminish and impede reconciliation efforts. The Canadian federal government must immediately release all Indian Residential School documents (unredacted) so that truth and justice can be achieved in the process of reconciliation. 

We recognize SOGS has a distinct role to play in advancing reconciliation through Indigenous-specific advocacy and education efforts.  To advance reconciliation, we commit to immediately reviewing SOGS supports to ensure our supports appropriately match the needs of Indigenous graduate students at Western.  We further commit to an internal and ongoing review to examine how SOGS operations and policies can better align with and advance reconciliation efforts at Western and in the surrounding communities. 

As allies to Indigenous Peoples and key actors in reconciliation, we will continue to share relevant resources and opportunities for non-Indigenous graduate students to support responses to the Kamloops Indian Residential School tragedy and engage in ongoing reconciliation efforts. 

Resources to learn more about Indigenous Peoples, our Shared Histories and Reconciliation: 

List of SOGS, Western and Community resources for Indigenous students: 

  • Indigenous Elders: advising@uwo.ca
  • Art Therapist Tisha Summers and Elder Myrna Kicknosway: staff@uwo.ca 
  • SOGS Indigenous Commissioner: E. Victoria Bomberry, indigenous@sogs.ca
  • ATLoHSA 24-hour Crisis Line: 1-800-605-7477 
  • National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419 
  • StudentCare Indigenous Bursary 

In solidarity,  SOGS Executives, Commissioners, and Staff

*read the PDF version HERE

SOGS Declaration of Climate of Emergency

The Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) Declaration of Climate Emergency

Climate change poses an imminent, monumental threat to peoples’ livelihoods both on Western University’s campus and within the greater City of London community. Meanwhile, the ongoing collapse of biodiversity and loss of species here in Canada and abroad risks unprecedented devastation to the natural world. Continued environmental decline will leave behind a poorer, more fragile state of life on our planet for future generations: mass extinction will permanently reduce the capacity of our planet to grow food, to regenerate landscapes and to provide ecosystem services which we, and all other life depend on to survive. Today, it is still possible for humanity to prevent mass extinction by changing our behaviours.

The changes to our planet, being induced by anthropogenic climate crisis and biodiversity loss, disproportionately affect historically oppressed groups, who pay the greatest cost in food insecurity, loss of natural resources, and displacement. Continued inaction by governments and institutions to address the root causes of climate change and biodiversity loss constitutes unacceptable environmental injustice.

In accordance with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Paris Agreement and Production Gap Report, Western University signed the Sustainable Development Goals Accord Global Climate Letter. With their signature, Western pledged to perform the following actions by the year 2025:

  1. Mobilize more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation;
  2. Pledge to reach net-zero by 2030, or 2050 at the very latest;
  3. Increase the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curriculum, campus and community outreach programmes;
  4. Produce a plan on how they will achieve net-zero, with interim targets, and make this publicly available and update on an annual basis.

For Western University to stay true to their pledge to the SDG Accord, it must strive towards setting and meeting more ambitious sustainability targets.

In the Fall semester of 2020 the SOGS Sustainability Committee sent out a survey to all Western graduate students to collect information about their perceptions of sustainability issues involving SOGS, Western University, and the London community at large. The survey found that 90% of respondents feel anxious about their future because of climate change. Graduate students expressed overwhelming support for Western University to renew its commitment to environmental sustainability, with 90% of responses indicating Western should do more to address climate change and suggesting that Western should increase promotion of its existing sustainability programs on campus. In summary, the majority of SOGS members who completed the survey want Western to recognize climate change as an emergency (see Appendix X).

In keeping with similar efforts led by the Canadian Federation of Students’ Climate Justice and a Liveable Planet Campaign, University of British Columbia’s Climate Emergency Declaration, and

City of London’s Climate Emergency Declaration, the Sustainability Committee is calling on SOGS to demonstrate support for swift and ambitious climate actions within our Society and Western University by endorsing the present declaration that we are in a state of climate emergency.  This declaration is necessary (1) as a direct response to SOGS members’ concerns about climate change, (2) to refocus our institutional leadership’s priorities around the crisis we face, and (3) to stand in solidarity with the 2019 City of London climate emergency declaration. By endorsing this declaration, SOGS will prepare to support efforts on campus and within the community to address unprecedented societal challenges.

In declaring a climate emergency, SOGS recognizes:

  1. That climate change is an urgent, monumental threat that is of great concern to SOGS members.
  2. That the Society bears a responsibility to meet environmental concerns of its members with strategic actions.
  3. That as a public institution, Western University has a fundamental, ethical responsibility to become a leader in actively combating climate change through adaptation, mitigation, and resiliency both within and beyond its institutional boundaries.
  4. That given Western’s reputation as one of Canada’s most distinguished research institutions, the declaration is consistent with the university’s scientific integrity and academic rigour.
  5. That conserving natural features and biodiversity on Western’s campus grounds is of high importance to graduate students.

READ THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY DECLARATION  HERE.

SOGS Statement Regarding Harassment During the 2020 Presidential By-Election

Dear SOGS members, 

During the SOGS Presidential by-election this past summer, one member of the SOGS community failed to uphold the commitment to respect others outlined in our mission statement. In particular, this member sent several email messages to other members and Society officers that were variously intimidating, threatening and personally harassing. Although healthy debate and disagreement is encouraged at SOGS, these behaviours are clearly unwelcome and beyond what is appropriate. Please see a formal statement outlining SOGS’ response to this case of harassment.
 
Concerns about harassment can be directed to our Ombudsperson, Seth Kadish (ombudsperson@sogs.ca). Concerns about our harassment policies and procedures can be directed to our President, kirstyn seanor (president@sogs.ca).
 
Read the full statement HERE.

We The Students – Student Choice Initiative

On January 17, 2019, Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, announced a series of proposed changes to OSAP funding, university tuition fees, and student ancillary fees.

This announcement included:

  • A guaranteed 4 per cent cut in institutional funding;
  • A reduction in non-repayable grants and an increase in student loans;
  • An attack on students’ unions ability to represent and service their members;
  • The elimination of the 6-month grace period for loan repayment.

News coverage:


Students’ unions serve students in a number of significant ways, including:

  • Coordinating health and dental insurance plans;
  • Providing transit passes for students;
  • Running essential support services such as peer support, equity centres (e.g Pride centres), sexual violence support centres, food banks, etc.;
  • Providing academic support and advocacy services;
  • Creating volunteer and job opportunities for students;
  • Operating non-profit commercial services, such as book stores, restaurants, cafes and food services.

What does this mean for SOGS?: Graduate students will be able to opt out of any non-essential ancillary fee, which includes SOGS membership dues. 

SOGS membership dues fund:

  • Administration of the health/dental plan and the LTC bus pass program;
  • Advocacy initiatives on and off-campus;
  • Awards – Thesis Completion Fund, Peggy Collins Memorial Award;
  • Bursaries each term for Canadian and international students;
  • Committees;
  • Commissioners stipend for the Accessibility, Indigenous, Pride, and Women’s Concerns Commissioners;
  • Elected executive stipend;
  • Elected commissioner stipends;
  • Emergency Loan program for graduate students;
  • GradCast radio show (CHRW 94.9 – every Tuesday) – SOGS official radio show for graduate student by graduate students;
  • Graduate Student Teaching Awards;
  • Ombudsperson stipend;
  • Orientation week in September and January;
  • Operation of the SOGS office (includes staffing, supplies and building services/fees);
  • Non-TA foodbank;
  • Student Government (i.e., SOGS monthly council) and the departmental grants issued to each department annually for councillor attendance at monthly council (which helps pay for activities and events for graduate student associations across campus);
  • Scholarships: 125th Scholarship
  • Student advocacy and membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) (includes attendance at various CFS meetings provincially and the national AGM);
  • Subsidies: Travel, Childcare, and Professional Placement;
  • Subsidized social and cultural events for students (and their families) on and off-campus throughout the year;
  • Wellness week in October;

SOGS also provides students with:

  • A well-rounded campus life;
  • Academic and wellness supports;
  • Academic appeals advocacy;
  • Advocacy for minority students;
  • A voice with local government representatives;
  • Connections with campus stakeholders, departments, campus organizations, and the TA/Postdoc union (PSAC Local 610);
  • Infrastructure of support, both academic and financial;
  • New student orientation events which bring new students together, fostering a positive graduate student experience;
  • Representation at Western University with administration;
  • Social and community programming;
  • New international student outreach;
  • Services for visiting and exchange students;
  • Support for at-risk graduate students.

If you DO NOT agree with the recent changes to Ontario university education funding, join the cause and sign the CFS-ON letter being sent to Premier Doug Ford, MPP Dr. Merrilee Fullerton (Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities), and your local MPP. 

Sign the letter here.


In addition, consider signing the March For Students Rights postcards and letter to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario available in the SOGS office (MC room 8).

   


Opinion Pieces and Editorials:

Press Releases:


Resources: