By Jen Gerson
Toronto police and the Canadian Federation of Students are taking the hate crimes that happened on campus over the summer seriously.
More uniformed police officers will be at Ryerson this year. But no new updates are available for the investigation into the threats and vandalism on campus.
“We’re just showing the flag and saying hi’. It’s mostly a [public relations] thing but we’re also giving a subtle message-Big Brother is watching,” said Detective Matt Moyer of Toronto police’s 51 Division who is in charge of the case. “We are taking this very very seriously,” said Moyer, noting that graffiti at a school is “one of the lowest things you can do.”
The police aren’t alone in reacting to the crimes. The CFS will launch a province wide anti-racism movement as a result of the incidents. “On all the campuses we’ve had problems with not just racism and anti-Semitism but also Islamophobia.
So we’re going to link all three campaigns,” said Pam Frache, the campaign and government relations co-ordinator for the CFS. The details and the materials for the Ontario-based campaign are not expected to be released until next week.
In late August, flyers and threats targeting Ryerson Muslims were found around campus. The flyers, posted in Jorgenson Hall, called Muslims “infidels” and threatened violence.
In June .the words “Die Muslim Die,” were spray painted onto the wall of the multifaith centre. In response, RyeSAC printed thousands of posters and is planning a multifaith day on Sept. 15 to foster awareness of other faith groups on campus.
All of the religious student groups have decorated a piece of cloth with a message of peace and tolerance. The messages will be sewn together to form a large banner that will hang in the lounge of the new student centre for its scheduled opening in January.
Ahmed Arshi, the president of the Muslim Student Association who was threatened in August when he found a note in his mail box saying “Your president is next,” said that things have been very quiet recently. “It makes us comfortable that it’s all a bluff,” he said though he doubts the police will be able to find the people responsible. “I don’t think they will, but I hope they do because whoever did it is a student on campus.”
Ayesha Shaikh, a second-year aerospace student, and two of her friends-all of whom wear hijabs, or Muslim headscarves in public-said that they haven’t felt any hostility towards them since school started. “I think everything’s been fine,” said Shaikh.
Anti-Semitic bathroom graffiti is still a problem according to Amy Greenfeld, program co-ordinator of Hillel at Ryerson, but she said that it’s always promptly removed once reported. “We’re trying to proceed as if nothing’s happened,” said Greenfeld. “We acknowledge that it did happen and that people are sensitive to it.”
She stresses that the groups are still getting along together, attending monthly meetings and promoting education and interfaith dialogue.
If someone is arrested for the graffiti, he or she faces charges of Criminal Mischief under $5,000 with a possible increased sentence due to the hateful nature of the vandalism.