Sexual Assault Protest 17

Students march down UC Hill during the walk-out, Sept. 17 2021.

The Western University students behind this fall’s sexual and gender-based violence walkout are expanding their cause to post-secondary campuses across Canada through a new Safe Campus Coalition.

The Safe Campus Coalition will aim to advocate against the culture of gender-based violence at Canadian universities. The group officially banded together Oct. 29 after hosting the Sept. 17 sexual and gender-based violence walkout at Western — which saw over 12,000 attendees.

While reports of sexual violence and assault during Orientation Week incited the organization of the walkout and coalition, the culture of gender-based violence is an issue the community was already aware of, according to Hayden Van Neck, a third-year psychology student and one of the founders of the Safe Campus Coalition.

The group plans to use a trauma-informed approach to address gender-based violence at post-secondary campuses across Canada, according to Van Neck.

“After carrying out the walkout — it was quite successful, we felt — we didn’t want it to die down,” said Van Neck. “We wanted to keep the conversation going [and] keep the momentum we had, because we were obviously inciting change within our institution.”

The coalition is currently planning another walkout Dec. 6 in remembrance of the Montreal Polytechnic massacre. This December will mark the 32nd anniversary of the attack that killed 14 young women in a mechanical engineering class at the Montreal Polytechnicand targeted many others in an act against feminism. The Safe Campus Coalition is hoping to collaborate with other Canadian post-secondary institutions to organize a simultaneous walkout event.

“We realized that there was obviously a lot more work that needed to be done, not just at Western but across Canada on post-secondary campuses,” said Effie Sapuridis, a third-year doctoral student in media studies, who is also involved in the Safe Campus Coalition. 

The team stayed in contact after the Sept. 17 walkout and continued to receive requests from students across Canada about next steps, according to Sapuridis.   

The coalition would like to eventually register as a not-for-profit organization, Sapuridis said. The team will also work with London North Centre Member of Provincial Parliament Terence Kernaghan to introduce a petition to mandate anti-gender-based violence training for all members of post-secondary communities in Ontario.  

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