Two serious sexual harassment allegations hit uOttawa this week

The University of Ottawa (Wikimedia Commons/ Rob CA)

The University of Ottawa (Rob CA/ Wikimedia Commons)

Two stories surrounding sexual harassment have surfaced at the University of Ottawa this week.

For the first time in the university’s history, the school’s hockey team has been suspended amid allegations that some members assaulted a young woman in Thunder Bay last month. Police are currently investigating the case.

According to CBC News sources, the incident occurred on the weekend of Feb. 1 when the University of Ottawa Gee Gee’s traveled to Thunder Bay to play the Lakehead University Thunderwolves.

On Feb. 24 the incident was reported to senior officials at the University of Ottawa by a third party. According to the Ottawa Citizen, a friend of the victim came forward with the allegations. The university is asking why it took so long for the incident to be reported.

The school has launched an internal review and will not interfere with the police investigation. The varsity team’s season is already over, but other Canadian universities are being warned about potential schedule changes for next year. This means the Gee Gee’s could be off the ice for a while.

But the university men’s hockey team isn’t the only group on campus stepping back due to sexual harassment allegations. Four leaders of the Student Federation at the University of Ottawa (SFUO) have resigned after the school’s federation president spoke out against a private Facebook thread that included aggressive sexual banter about her.

Anne-Marie Roy, 24, anonymously received screenshots of the online conversation among five male student leaders on Feb. 10. The messages were exchanged in the midst of an election.

The posts included references to anal and oral sex, and suggested that she suffered from sexually transmitted diseases. One post went as far as suggesting that “someone punish her with their shaft.”

Roy confronted one of the male students in person and later received an email apology from all five members. However, she began distributing copies of the conversation to the university’s board of administration.

Once the five SFUO leaders learned of Roy’s plan, the situation took a drastic turn. They sent a letter to Roy, warning that the conversation was private and that she violated their rights. They threatened legal action if her copy of the conversation was not destroyed.

Roy continued to distribute it and did not destroy her copy as per suggestions from her lawyer. The board, however, decided to shelve the motion and ignored her concerns.

“It was kind of like getting a double whammy,” Roy said, noting this is a prime example of why “rape culture” is not often appropriately challenged.

A statement was released Monday by the student federation announcing the creation of a “Taskforce Against Rape Culture” to be launched, “in the upcoming days.” The SFUO is addressing the issue of rape culture that has plagued its university by collaborating with the Graduate Students’ Association and other campus groups. Both Ryerson Students’ Union and the SFUO have been engaged in work against rape culture through campaigns like “No Means No” and “Consent is Sexy” in efforts to combat sexism and violence against women.

Just five months before these incidences occurred in the nation’s capital, both east and west coast universities in Canada were under fire for similar banter. During frosh week at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, over 400 new students participated in a chant about rape alongside student president at the time, Jared Perry. The incident was found on the social networking platform, Instagram. The University of British Columbia failed to address and stop the same chant that was an oral tradition at frosh events at UBC’s Commerce Undergraduate Society. The student leaders were later held responsible.

To see what Ryerson students have to say, watch this video:

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