Last week was disOrientation week at the University of Toronto — and disorientating it was. disOrientation week aims to promote student involvement in social justice and equity projects, by hosting a series of workshops, panel discussions, and social events.
One such event, “Art Attack: Bloc Party, Mural Painting and Social Justice Fair” involved musicians, including the group Test Their Logik. Test Their Logik had a thing or two to say about Canada, specifically, “Fuck the maple leaf, I’ll never fly that fucking flag again.”
There is no room on a Canadian university campus for anti-Canadian rhetoric, and it is not the place of a students’ union, representing student voices, to endorse groups that spread hateful, anti-Canadian messages.
The UTSU is known for holding controversial views, and promoting controversial policies, such as their support for the student protests in Quebec. The event’s other sponsor, the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), is infamous for their open support of various contentious campaigns, including Israeli Apartheid Week.
The UTSU is elected to represent students, and prides itself on creating “open, inclusive spaces.” But there was nothing open, nor inclusive, about this recent event. This is indeed a new low on campus: anti-Canadian sentiments blasted in front of Hart House, at an event hosted by the students’ union. OPIRG claimed that the “art attack is a creative boost in an otherwise average day.” They could have more aptly called it an attack on Canada, and a rude shock on an otherwise average day.
The students’ union has no place hosting an event that aims to divide students along pro- and anti-Canadian lines. Being Canadian is something to be incredibly proud of.
UTSU vice president-external Abigail Cudjoe said of disOrientation week, “The intention of the week is to inform students of social justice and equity and to encourage students to get more involved and to know about what we do, and what it means to be part of social justice.” OPIRG’s website advertises disOrientation week as an event that “fosters student activism, educates and agitates social change and works to connect campuses and student issues.” Student involvement on campus is a wonderful sentiment to promote, but I question what is achieved through mediums that resort to repeating “Fuck the maple leaf.”
When questioned about the role that the UTSU played in this horrifying show, Cudjoe explained that she was “surprised that those lyrics were in the song and didn’t know that they would be.” While that may be true, it is the UTSU’s responsibility to do their due-diligence before hosting an event. A simple online search will reveal that Test Their Logik has drawn criticism along these lines before, and reveal their offensive song lyrics. Is it too much to ask that elected, paid student representatives perform a background check on any guests they invite to campus, and take responsibility for what they present to the student body?
The only thing that hurt more than the performance by Test Their Logik was that students applauded. This is not something that we, as students, should encourage. I am proud to be Canadian. But it is clear that there is a disconnect between the UTSU, OPIRG, and the student body.
The UTSU funds many worthwhile clubs at the University of Toronto, and provides some meaningful services to students. They also fight to make U of T an inclusive space. Perhaps this event slipped through the cracks. Regardless, it was unacceptable, disappointing, and alarming. The UTSU must work to make U of T an inclusive space for all students — including those who are proud to be Canadian. They must make sure that any group they co-host an event with on campus is promoting inclusive content.
It is not too late for the UTSU to denounce these sentiments, nor is it too late for OPIRG to publically apologize for this event. It is okay to be Canadian and to say “I’m sorry”— after all, that’s something we are known for.
I hope that UTSU and OPIRG will remember to conside whom and what they host on campus. I look forward to their response to this article, and hope that together we can make the University of Toronto a place where being Canadian is something to be celebrated.