Letter to the Editor
Published: Monday, March 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2012 15:07
Last week in the Brock Press, the following was printed the article “It’s time to vote again”:
“A ‘vote no’ campaign for the Women’s Centre referendum is being run against the proposed Women’s [C]entre, arguing that there is already a Women’s Centre downtown and that students should not pay for any service that is not available on campus.”
Also, “No” campaign posters that were taped to the inside of women’s bathroom doors made the same claims. These claims are false and were dangerous to promote without clarifying and/or fact-checking.
The services for women downtown include shelters, the YWCA and Gillian’s Place, which specialize in domestic violence. These agencies must turn away students seeking the kind of counseling the OPIRG-run centre seeks to provide. Women from Brock residences frequently use those shelters because of assaults or discomfort on campus, but there is not a counseling service that deals with residence-related abuse, or the range of effects of abuse on students. Along with the shelters, the Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre offers crisis workers who work on a hotline and who accompany victims of assault to the hospital, as well as aiding police services first responders, and providing some crisis counseling. This is a narrow mandate that does not provide the services the OPIRG-run centre is proposing.
These local agencies face cutbacks of tens of thousands of dollars per year, with no replacement of their funding. Since Brock students can currently only access these services that do not provide adequate support, it is disingenuous to say that the proposed Women’s Centre services are already available off campus. OPIRG has also been clear that they wish to offer services on campus as well as off campus.
Furthermore, publishing this claim in the Brock Press without fact-checking, and the actions of others hanging these posters in bathrooms stalls, is dangerous. A student who has been assaulted could read the article in the Brock Press and go looking for help at a Women’s Centre that does not exist. The posters in the bathroom stalls are misdirecting assault victims away from help. The “No” campaign has been run in a way that endangers victims of violence and we find it troubling that these misdirecting, false claims would be left unchecked.
The “No” side’s Facebook group includes posts that claim the funding, programming and the leadership of the proposed centre is not public knowledge. This is false. We have seen OPIRG discussing this centre openly on campus and downtown for months, in multiple venues. OPIRG is a registered charity, which means every penny spent must be accounted for publicly, as per the law and regulations of Revenue Canada. Their hiring and programming is made public as per the regulations of their Board of Directors. Because of the laws for registered charities, these details must be made public in specific ways. The “No” campaign is simply unknowledgeable about basic nonprofit administration, and about current events on and off campus.
We have heard that BUSAC regulations might be at issue. That’s a different discussion.
Editor’s Note: Gillian’s Place, located at 15 Gibson Place, St Catharines, provides 24/7 support, counselling, immediate assistance, as well as emergency safe shelter, food and clothing for women of all ages, including Brock students. For info on OPIRG and BUSAC’s process concerning this referendum, see page 4.