New Brunswick

Indigenous community reacts to alt-right posters on two university campuses in Fredericton

Confirmation of posters at UNB comes after posters found at adjacent St. Thomas University

Jordan Gill - CBC News

October 03, 2017

New Brunswick's Indigenous community is reacting to news alt-right posters were found on the UNB and STU campuses, including on a Maliseet welcome sign. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

New Brunswick's Indigenous community is reacting to news that what some are calling white supremacist posters were found on two university campuses in Fredericton. 

The University of New Brunswick has confirmed that posters were found on its campus. This comes after posters directing people to alt-right websites were posted on a Maliseet welcome sign at St. Thomas University.

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Mandy Richard, an Indigenous student at STU, said she felt many emotions when she first heard about the posters.

"There was hurt, and anger, and sadness and even disbelief that something like this could've taken place here at [STU,]" said Richard.

"It took me a little bit to be able to digest this and process it because of how horrific and hateful this act was."

Amanda LeBlanc, the vice-chief of the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council, said it was difficult to hear the posters existed, especially since STU was hosting a conference aimed at reconciliation.

"To have some individuals, some uneducated individuals, take such a negative stance on something they clearly don't understand is just really hard to hear," said LeBlanc.

Posters confirmed at second university

UNB has confirmed the posters were also found on its campus. (UNB)

David Stonehouse, spokesperson for the university, wrote in a statement to CBC News the posters have been taken down at UNB.

"They are removed as discovered and reported to campus security, which is investigating."

Herbert Bempah, the president of UNB's student union, said the union is aware of the posters, but does not have much more information. Bempah did say the posters will be discussed at at student union meeting Sunday.

"The UNBSU strongly denounces any form of discrimination, bigotry or racism on our campus as we recognize that we are a diverse student body of various backgrounds," wrote Bempah in an email.

Stonehouse also condemned the alt-right messages posted on campus.

"The posters and their message are contrary to everything UNB stands for, including our commitment to the creation of a positive campus environment that is free from harassment and discrimination and welcoming to all people," wrote Stonehouse.

Posters found at adjacent university

Signs similar to the one above were attached to a Maliseet welcoming sign at STU. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

The confirmation of the UNB posters comes after alt-right posters were found on the STU campus, which is adjacent to UNB.

STU spokesperson Jeffrey Carleton said the posters were put up sometime before Thursday morning.

CBC News has reached out to NBCC Fredericton, the campus of which is adjacent to both STU and UNB, to see if any alt-right posters were put up there. NBCC has not yet responded.

The posters included one showing a drawing of a man and woman, who appear to be white, with the text "We have a right to exist."

That poster also includes an address to a white nationalist website.

Philippe Ferland is the president of the St. Thomas student union. He said the students he talked to about the incident were "dismayed."

"It's very much a perspective that it's unfortunate that this has happened and it's kind of eye-opening as well just based off the fact it's not something we expected here in Fredericton, especially at STU," said Ferland.

Ferland said the university doesn't appear to have any alt-right groups on campus, which makes these posters all the more out of place.

"It just kind of came out of nowhere, at least to me," said Ferland.

Ferland said it wasn't yet clear if the people who put up the posters truly believed in the message, or were just looking for a reaction.

For her part, Richard said the intent is irrelvant.

"Does it really matter? What they did was hateful. That [is] not tolerated on either campus," said Richard.

More education needed

Amanda LeBlanc, vice-chief of New Brunswick’s Aboriginal People's Council, said education about Indigenous history should be mandatory. (Supplied)

LeBlanc said posters like the ones found on campus can make the university appear unwelcoming for Indigenous students, which casts a shadow on efforts the universities are making to welcome Indigenous students to campus.

LeBlanc said more education on Indigenous issues is needed at all levels, but especially at university.

"It should be required for every single degree," said LeBlanc.

"It doesn't matter if it was native studies or sciences or whatever. There should be a mandatory component that is [Indigenous] history,"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jordan Gill
Reporter

Jordan Gill is a CBC reporter based out of Fredericton.

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