Outrage at UBC renewed as racist chant alleged

Cover story published in 24 Hours Vancouver | September 17, 2013 | Circulation: 251,700

Syndicated via QMI agency in Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Calgary Sun, Canoe.caSun News Network, Winnipeg SunKingston Whig-StandardDaily Herald Tribune, Brantford Expositor, Edmonton Examiner, Belleville Intelligencer

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As the University of B.C. is set to reveal its findings Wednesday about the use of an infamous rape chant, new allegations have surfaced that students also shouted a chant that mocked aboriginals during FROSH week activities.

Computer science graduate and orientation squad manager Benjamin Israel said he witnessed a chant of “white man, steal our land” as part of a Commerce Undergraduate Students team called “Pocahontas.”

“While they were doing the chant, they were sitting in a circle and banging on the ground rhythmically,” Israel said. “They were imitating a Native circle with drums … My entire squad saw this.”

Israel said many people witnessed the chant, but no one intervened.

“The commerce FROSH this year was apparently Disney-themed, and so each group had its own name to go with the theme,” he said.

A third-year UBC student, who did not want her name used due to fears of reprisals, said she also witnessed the chant.

The allegations comes just as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission opens hearings Wednesday into abuse suffered by aboriginals at residential schools.

UBC spokeswoman Lucie McNeill said the unproven allegations emerged during the school’s investigation into a commerce student chant proclaiming, “At UBC we like ‘em young, Y is for your sister, O is for oh so tight, U is for underage, N is for no consent, G is for go to jail.”

That controversy led to the resignation of the CUS president and three other leaders, and the cancellation of future FROSH events.

“It’s come to light as part of the fact-finding we’re doing,” McNeill said. “We don’t have anything very solid at this point … The university will be addressing all issues related to FROSH, including the actions we want to take (on Wednesday).”

For Daniel Justice, chair of UBC First Nations Studies department, the use of the name Pocahontas and the alleged chant is racist towards aboriginal people, particularly women, because “Pocahontas is a figure used to justify men’s claims over land and women.

“It’s not only racist, it’s also misogynist,” Justice said. “On every level, this just gets worse and worse.

“When white people stole the land, they raped, butchered and dispossessed human beings … It’s profoundly disappointing and extremely unpleasant considering not only that this is a week of supposed reconciliation.”

But Justice emphasized the issue is bigger than a single campus, adding that Canadians have an “opportunity” to inform themselves and “wake up to what’s going on around them.”

The Alma Mater Society declined interview requests, and CUS didn’t return calls.

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