British Columbia

'Tidal wave' of hate follows removal of offensive posters at UVic

Anti-racist organizers are concerned after the removal of anti-Semitic posters on campus has itself prompted hateful comments on social media.

Anti-racist activist shocked by reaction to UVic poster removal

Tyson Strandlund, an organizer of Anti-Racist Action UVic, said a public meeting Nov. 15 will discuss anti-racist strategies for the campus. (CHEK News)

Publicity about the removal of a a poster targeting Jews from a campus building has itself prompted a "tidal wave" of hateful comments on social media, according to an anti-racism activist.

Tyson Strandlund, an organizer of an anti-racist group at the University of Victoria, said the group notified campus security about the posters last month.

The anti-Semitic posters read: "Those who hate us will not replace us. Defend Canadian heritage. Fight back against anti-white hatred. A message from the alt-right."

Strandlund said the message, with the word "those" inside triple parentheses, was a coded reference to Jews and a "dog whistle" to attract anti-Semitic attention.

Although the posters were quickly taken down, a backlash erupted on social media, including the UVic Anti-racist Action UVic Facebook page, he said. 

"There's not quite the total disgust we were expecting," he said. "There is a lot of disgust but there is also a lot of hate and racist support for this."

"It's been an absolute tidal wave," Strandlund said. He said he has been removing abusive comments from the page.

No on-campus culprit found

On Friday, Attorney General David Eby denounced the posters during a presentation at a uVic law class.

"The posters here at the University of Victoria remind us that there is important work to be done in identifying and rooting out racism and discrimination and also in educating the broader public who may not face this as part of their day-to-day reality,'' he said.

Cassbreea Dewis, the acting director of equity and human rights for UVic, said the university is profoundly disappointed by the incident, but no connection has been identified between the poster and any university group or member.

Dewis said the university is responding with policies and educational events, including Five Days of Action, a series of forums and discussions coming in the spring of 2018. 

UVic present Jamie Cassels said he supported Dewis' statement on Friday afternoon.

Strandlund said it is not the first time offensive messages have overwhelmed an anti-racist initiative on campus.

In March, the Third Space Zine Wall Project built a large, white wall that invited responses to the question "How do you challenge white supremacy?"

The wall was quickly taken down after it became a platform for racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic statements. 

Strandlund said a public meeting on campus Nov. 15 will discuss potential anti-racism strategies.

Rabbi Brechner, of Emanu-El Synagogue in Victoria, says the anti-Semitic poster message threatens the values of all Victoria residents. (CHEK News)

Rabbi Harry Brechner, of Victoria's Emanu-El Synagogue, called the poster's message "ugly hate".

"The Jewish community might this time be the target, but it's really the values of all of Victoria that's targeted," Brechner said.

Meanwhile, B'nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn called the appearance of the posters a serious concern. Similar posters appeared at U.S. universities following the far-right gathering in Charlottesville in August, but the UVic posters might be their first  appearance at a university in Canada. 

"It is imperative that university officials do whatever they can to identify and discipline the culprits," Mostyn said in a statement.

With files from Tamara Rahmani, Deborah Wilson and the Canadian Press.