UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN

A victory and some notes of caution

News that the University of Saskatchewan administration had agreed to conduct an independent audit of that school’s campus security was seen as a great victory by the victims and supporters who worked so hard to initiate this change. Students have a right to feel proud and I hope that marked improvements to security on campus are forthcoming.

Nevertheless, at heart I am a pessimist; that’s my folly, I’ve been burned too many times, and my experience is to never trust any bureaucrat at their word: the proof is ultimately in their actions. For this reason, I must offer some troubling indications that all is not well at U of S and students have a long road to tread before they can relax their newly developed activism.

Last week at a public forum on campus security, School administration was conspiciously absent from the debate. Instead, university officials sent along a public relations rep. – one who had already ruffled the feathers of many of the assault victims and their families (FYI: the official tally of incidents on the U of S campus in the past six months stands at two rapes and six sexual assaults according to the University womens’ centre). Meanwhile, University President Peter MacKinnon sent his regrets, saying he had a prior committment with a council meeting and could not attend the forum. Later, MacKinnon was spotted having drinks at a nearby bar just moments after the public forum ended!

Dude, you are so busted!

If students wish to make progress on problems with campus safety they will need to force officials at the top to recognized that there is indeed a problem at the university; administration needs to focus their attention and committment to this issue.

But then again maybe two rapes in six months isn’t such a big deal afterall. That’s not my opinion but one of a Canadian journalist who recently contacted me about the situation at the University of Saskatchewan. I had been trying to draw attention to the problems at U of S, stating that the mainstream media wasn’t devoting enough press to these sexual assaults. That’s when said journalist informed me that there are over 25,000 rapes committed in Canada each year; why should anyone care about two of them?

So I decided to check his facts and figures, and sure enough I found a statistic showing that in 2000, 24,049 rapes were committed in Canada (so he was off by 1,000). What’s disturbing here is that this places Canada third on a list of nations with the most rapes in the world, right behind the United States and South Africa (Ah, South Africa, where raping children is an acceptable pastime.)

But looky-here! Canada ranks dead last on a chart of sentence length. On average, Canadian offenders spend about one year in prison, compared to 29 years for offenders in the States. And last, but not least, Canada has one of the highest percentage of crime victims – higher than even the U.S. – than any nation in the world.

So I ask you, which is it: two rapes are not a big deal, or we just don’t give enough of a shit about violence against women in Canada?

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