Graffiti at University of Winnipeg targets First Nations
Staff must take sensitivity training after comments found on bathroom stall, online
The University of Winnipeg is ordering its staff to take sensitivity training after comments targeting First Nations people were found online and scrawled on a bathroom stall.
References to "red Indians" and "sniffing" were found in a washroom on campus in mid-February.
Student Quinn Saretsky, who received a photograph of the bathroom graffiti from a friend, said the university removed the writing after she and others involved with the aboriginal students centre took their concerns to the president's office.
Saretsky said around the same time, it was revealed that a member of the university's support staff had posted a Facebook comment criticizing the Idle No More movement as a "white versus brown" issue.
"It really kind of expressed that society was pathetic in kind of supporting these movements," Saretsky, who has been involved with the First Nations protest movement, told CBC News on Wednesday.
"We were really concerned about it and wanted to make sure that this person was held accountable for their actions."
Comment posted during work hours
Saretsky said while people do have the freedom to express their personal opinions, what concerned her and other students was that the staff member had posted the comment during work hours.
"That's where our concern lies … you are representing an institution like this, and especially an institution that has made commitments to indigenous organizations," she said.
University officials told CBC News the staff member in question has been dealt with, and an apology has been issued.
In a message to staff sent Tuesday, president Lloyd Axworthy deplored the "incidents of messages on the internet and graffiti in the washrooms that have attacked or insulted members of the indigenous community.
"It runs counter to our respectful workplace policies and certainly to the historical values of our institution," Axworthy's memo states in part.
"I want to express my apologies to those who were aggrieved, and want to confirm that these matters have been taken very seriously by both me and the senior administration of the university."
Axworthy said human resources officials are revising the University of Winnipeg's respectful workplace policy and all staff will be required to take workshops.
The university is also offering a special seminar by Wab Kinew, its director of indigenous inclusion.
The university's aboriginal students council is applauding the response, saying aboriginal students are not the only ones facing discrimination on campus, so it's good for everyone to learn about mutual respect.