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Anti-Ukrainian vandalism, harassment rising at Canadian universities, students say

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Ukrainian students are facing an increase in anti-Ukrainian hate symbols and harassment on Canadian university campuses, student clubs say.

In an open letter published last Thursday, the Carleton Ukrainian Students’ Club described several incidents of anti-Ukrainian harassment that have taken place on the university’s campus since September 2022, including multiple reports of hate graffiti, an allegation of verbal harassment and an on-campus panel discussion which the club views as pro-Russian.

Frustration among Ukrainian students had been “piling up for a while,” said president of the club Anastasiia Kot, and Carleton is now one of several universities across the country where Ukrainian students are making those concerns public.

“It’s anger that such people exist, such people that are members of our community,” Kot said.

In the letter, Carleton’s Ukrainian club said it was “deeply perturbed” by an increase in hate symbols on campus since the start of the fall term.

The letter pointed to three separate incidents of graffiti appearing on campus from September to October 2022. In each, a “Z” appeared next to the word “Russia” in Cyrillic script. The “Z” has become a symbol of support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has appeared on Russian military vehicles.

The club also objected to the hanging of a Russian flag in a dormitory window and detailed one account in which a Carleton student who was wearing a Ukrainian scrunchie on a campus elevator was allegedly told “all Ukrainians should kill themselves.”

The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) told CBC in an email it had opened an investigation into the Russian flag that was later closed “due to a lack of evidence.”

OPS added it has not opened any further investigations into the issue.

A Carleton University spokesperson said in an email to CBC that all incidents on campus “have been and will continue to be taken seriously.”

“The university does not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment and acknowledges the important role we play in helping students and visitors to our campus feel safe, secure and supported,” the spokesperson said.

Carleton did not, however, confirm the number of unique reports of anti-Ukrainian graffiti it has received from students.

The university also did not address any of the specific allegations in the Ukrainian club’s letter, nor did it say whether it would respond to the club’s calls to action.

‘Rising issue’ across the country, Ukrainian congress says

In its own open letter, the University of Victoria Ukrainian Students’ Society alleged that some of its members were verbally accosted on campus and one member’s property was defaced with the word “Nazi.”

The club also said that members of the Young Communist League of Canada, another ratified club at the university, accused Ukrainian students of supporting fascism and antisemitism in a Facebook post.

“As a result of the inaction of the UVSS [University of Victoria Student Society] and the university, anti-Ukrainian sentiment has been allowed to fester on campus,” the club wrote.

Kevin Hall, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Victoria, launched an investigation into the matter last Friday.

The Young Communist League did not respond to a request for comment.

The flag of Russia flies at the Embassy of Russia in Ottawa behind a street sign calling for a free Ukraine, installed on posts adjacent to the road as a gesture of solidarity by the City of Ottawa, as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.
The Russian flag flies at the country’s embassy in Ottawa behind a street sign calling for a free Ukraine, installed on posts adjacent to the road as a gesture of solidarity by the City of Ottawa. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Orest Zakydalsky, senior policy adviser with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), said universities have a “responsibility to provide a safe environment” for their students.

“To the extent that they are failing to do that — and we see anti-Ukrainian graffiti, anti-Ukrainian attacks, that sort of thing — that is the responsibility of the universities,” he said.

Zakydalsky added that although the UCC plans to contact universities about anti-Ukrainian harassment, the issue is not restricted to campuses.

“Since the full-scale invasion a year ago, our community has seen rising … physical attacks, vandalism, violence,” he said. “Across the country, it’s been a rising issue.”

Zakydalsky said the UCC has requested the federal government create a task force to address anti-Ukrainian attacks.

Controversy over panel discussion

The Carleton Ukrainian club also denounced a panel discussion held on the university’s campus last week titled, The War in Ukraine: What is the Path to Peace?

It was organized by the Ottawa Peace Council, an advocacy group that favours disarmament and diplomatic solutions to conflict.

Anastasia Stoikos-Lettieri, president and CEO of the Carleton University Student Association (CUSA), said the student association and the Ukrainian club opposed the event because, in their view, it acted as a “mouthpiece for Russian propaganda” and promoted hate.

The council denies that the event was pro-Russian.

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Sudden Death of Polar Bear Leads to Closure of Wild Canada Exhibit at Calgary Zoo

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The Wild Canada exhibit at the Wilder Institute Calgary Zoo was temporarily closed on Friday following the sudden death of one of its polar bears, Baffin. Jamie Dorgan, the interim CEO and COO of the zoo, announced the closure during a press conference, revealing that the incident occurred unexpectedly during a routine display of sparring between Baffin and another polar bear, Siku.

The incident unfolded around 11:30 a.m. on Friday when the two bears were seen engaging in typical sparring behavior in the lower pool of their habitat. Concern arose when Baffin failed to resurface, prompting a volunteer to alert the animal care team. Despite prompt action to remove Baffin from the pool, he was pronounced dead. Dorgan noted, “We removed him pretty quickly … outwardly there’s nothing obvious,” indicating that the cause of death was not immediately apparent.

A necropsy, which is an autopsy for animals, is scheduled to be performed by the zoo’s veterinary team to determine the precise cause of Baffin’s death. “We don’t know why the bear died,” Dorgan stated, emphasizing that all potential explanations are being explored to understand the sudden loss.

Baffin, along with Siku, had been relocated from Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo to the Calgary Zoo in October 2023 as part of efforts to enhance the polar bear habitat and conservation efforts at the facility. The Calgary Zoo, a prominent institution home to over 4,000 animals from various parts of the world, recently underwent a $31 million expansion, which included improvements to the polar bear habitat.

The zoo has expressed its commitment to transparency and thorough investigation into the incident. The outcome of the necropsy will provide crucial insights into potential preventive measures and ensure the well-being of the remaining polar bear, Siku, and other zoo inhabitants.

The Wild Canada exhibit will remain closed until further notice as the zoo community mourns the loss and awaits conclusive results from the ongoing investigation.

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15-year-old ATV driver dies in collision on New Brunswick highway

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A 15-year-old driver of an all-terrain vehicle has died after a collision on a Moncton, N.B., highway.

The RCMP say they responded to a report of a crash between a parked vehicle and an ATV on Highway 2 on Thursday afternoon.

Police say they believe the 15-year-old boy was driving on the shoulder of the highway when he collided with the parked vehicle.

The teenager, who was the sole occupant of the ATV, was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and died the following day.

Police say the three people in the other vehicle were not injured.

RCMP did not release details of the speed the boy was driving at the time of the crash.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 19, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Woman found dead in suitcase in Newfoundland; spouse found dead, suspected in killing

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ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Police in St. John’s, N.L., say a woman’s body was found in a suitcase in the city’s downtown this week and her spouse — who was found dead a day prior — is suspected of killing her.

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. James Cadigan says the 33-year-old Iranian woman’s body was discovered Tuesday night in a suitcase in a vacant lot. He says it had been placed in the area six days before.

Cadigan says her 34-year-old Iranian husband was found dead in his home on Monday.

He says police have not determined whether their deaths involve a murder-suicide, and he says the two “had no involvement” with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary prior to the discovery of their bodies.

Cadigan says the woman arrived in Newfoundland on May 15 and the man had been living in downtown St. John’s for several years.

Police are not releasing their names to protect their family’s privacy, and are looking for any information from the public about what happened.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 19, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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