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An Open Letter from Students to Our Canadian Literary Heroes

November 23, 2016

As students and young Canadians, we have studied your works in school and avidly read your books. They have influenced our perceptions of the world and encouraged us to think critically and empathetically. You nurtured the formation of many of our ideologies, encouraging passion for justice and understanding, drawing our attention to oppressive power relations. Our friends and fellow students speak about the ways your poetry and books have influenced our growth as young feminists. During times of distress, we have solace in your words.

We did not expect to see nearly one hundred Canadian authors sign a letter last week condemning UBC for their response to serious allegations against Professor Steven Galloway with no mention of the extreme prevalence and danger of rape culture on our Canadian campuses and the formidable barriers preventing students from reporting sexual assault. While we recognize that UBC has not released the details of Galloway’s case, it is imperative to note that false allegations of sexual harassment and assault are extremely rare. Furthermore, universities have frequently failed to take serious action against students, let alone professors, for sexual assault crimes.

Margaret Atwood, in your book, Bodily Harm, you wrote, “He hit me because he could get away with it and nobody could stop him. That’s mostly why people do stuff like that, because they can get away with it.” By signing this letter, the authors allow people to continue to “do stuff like that.” In the connotative use of your words and the power of your names, you have contributed to the culture of intimidation towards victims of sexual assault that prevents them from coming forward. Your letter focuses on the public assumption of Galloway’s innocence, without any noted concern for students or any mention of barriers preventing sexual assault survivors from receiving fair trials. For perhaps the first time, your words have left us behind.

We are not asking you to independently decide whether Galloway is innocent or guilty of whatever allegations have been made against him. We are asking you to acknowledge the silencing of those who have experienced sexual assault. We are asking you to believe survivors. We are asking you to help fight campus rape culture that many of us have been working tirelessly to fight. Would you use your words to stand with us as well?

Your supporters,

Megan Linton, University of Winnipeg

& Jade DeFehr, University of Winnipeg, UWSA Status of Women Director


Annie E. Clark, Executive Director, End Rape on Campus

Bilan Arte, Canadian Federation of Students National Chairperson

Peyton Veitch, Canadian Federation of Students National Treasurer

Michael Barkman, Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba Representative

Kevin Settee, UWSA President

Sadie Phoenix-Lavoie, UWSA Vice-President External Affairs

David Fanhbulleh, UWSA Vice-President Internal Affairs

Laura Garinger, UWSA Vice-President Student Affairs

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