Wednesday Oct. 16, BC student unions across the province relaunched No Means No, a campaign that aims to end rape on post-secondary campuses.
The No Means No Campaign was developed by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) over 20 years ago to combat issues of sexual assault, acquaintance rape, and dating violence across Canadian campuses. The campaign consists of materials which highlight research into incidences of sexual assault in Canada.
“Women continue to face disproportionately high levels of sexualized and gender-based violence on our campuses and in our communities,” said Madeline Keller-MacLoed, women’s student liaison of the CFS-BC, according to Digital Journal.
Keller-MacLoed said that the relaunch is a reaction to the recent instances of pro-rape chants at different Canadian institutions. “Given the recent instances of pro-rape chants at the University of British Columbia and Saint Mary’s University, more students are now challenging rape culture on campus via this campaign,” she stated.
“Failure to recognize assault in all of it’s forms empowers the offenders and punishes the survivors.”
Elizabeth Sheehy, professor, University of Ottawa
The “No Means No” campaign has been an initiative of university and college campuses across Canada since October 1989, when it emerged at Queen’s University during a campus-wide debate around sexism and violence against women on Canadian campuses.
Media reports followed the campaign, as male students across campus posted offensive anti-slogans such as “No Means Harder,” “No Means More Beer,” and “No Means Down on Your Knees, Bitch,” on their residence halls and windows.
In response to the incident, and the campus’ tolerance of the men’s behaviour, a 24-hour protest sit-in was staged by members of the “Radical Obnoxious Fucking Feminists” group. Fifty masked women read a list of demands from then president David Smith’s office. With the resulting media attention, and loss of alumni gifts, the school’s board of trustees was forced to follow the group’s demands.
Months later, another campus made media headlines, on Dec. 6, 1989. A deranged gunman at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, singled out and massacred the 14 female members of the then male-dominated engineering faculty. Two years later, in 1991, the Canadian government recognized Dec. 6 as National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
Although the level of harassment has gone down since the events of 1989, many experts believe there’s still a long way to go. Elizabeth Sheehy, professor of law at the University of Ottawa, spoke to this at last year’s National Research Day 2012 Conference.
“There is a 64 per cent unfounded rate of sexual assault cases [across the country],” said Sheehy, “a rate which is higher than any other assault rate in Canada . . . failure to recognize assault in all of it’s forms empowers the offenders and punishes the survivors.”
Caiti Barendregt-Brown, a sex educator in London, Ont., said when she finishes her high school sessions, she is still approached with questions from bewildered boys, according to The Globe and Mail. “I’m really confused,” one told her, “if a girl wears a short skirt and a low-cut top to a party, it looks like she wants sex.”
“Women continue to face disproportionately high levels of sexualized . . . violence on our campuses.”
– Madeline Keller-MacLoed, women’s student liaison, CFS-BC
In remembrance of these events, and the growing concern that sexual assault and discrimination has been growing again in today’s “rape culture” the No Means No campaign has resurfaced. Using, posters, buttons, and stickers, the student driven initiative has spread all across Canada, from the University of Toronto, to the Camosun College in Victoria. SFU however, did not take part in the relaunch, having severed ties with the Canadian Federation of Students in an out of court settlement in 2011.
The separation followed a campus-wide referendum in 2008 where over 92 per cent of student voters were reported to have cast ballots against SFU’s membership in the CFS. This referendum was subjected to concerns about process accuracy and fairness, but facing a potential court hearing, both parties settled on December 23, 2011.