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An SFUO-led march in support of Black Lives Matter Toronto went to city hall. Photo: CC Rathaus.

Student fed wants to continue expanding campaigns beyond campus

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) led a march to city hall in solidarity with Black Lives Matter Toronto on March 23.

The march was led by Vanessa Dorimain, vice-president university affairs, Nicole Maylor, vice-president equity, and Chloe Rockarts, campaigns organizer at the SFUO.

“We were talking and we decided we should really do something to support Black Lives Matter (BLM) Toronto,” said Dorimain. “We wanted to do more than just a statement on Facebook.”

Dorimain said the march had two goals, to raise money for BLM Toronto and to get politicians to say they support the movement. “We were asking our mayor and councillors to support what’s going on over there because it also happens here in Ottawa,” she said.

The protest in Toronto started after the Ontario Special Investigations Unit didn’t charge the police officer who shot Andrew Loku. The protests have led to the proposal of an anti-racism review of the of the Toronto Police Service and the Ontario Special Investigations Unit.

Dorimain said that the group, around two dozen people, arrived at city hall, where they announced out loud why they were there before proceeding inside. According to Dorimain, the security guards were taken by surprise, and police showed up to monitor the situation.

“We went in there, with megaphone and all,” she said, before they announced they were from the SFUO and what their goals were.

Dorimain said that the group was immediately greeted by media outlets. “There were so many cameras that just came out of nowhere, so I think we came at a good time,” she said.

In the end, Dorimain said both of their goals were met, to a degree. The group raised $90 and, more importantly, she said, councillor Catherine McKenney spoke to the cameras in support of the new arrivals.

“Black lives do matter to us,” McKenney said. “We recognize that safety is an issue for everyone but not everyone is treated equally.”

“(McKenney) gave a public speech on camera,” said Dorimain. “We were very happy about that.”

Dorimain said she wants to organize more campaigns that go beyond the university campus.

“More stuff like this needs to be done in the city,” she said. “As far as this year, I think it’s the first time that we’ve actually done something related to this movement outside of our campus.

Dorimain said the response from the Ottawa community beyond the university was positive.

“There were people who joined us within the walk who weren’t students, and then people who heard about it afterwards who were like ‘Oh, I didn’t know this was something I could come to because I’m not a student of the University of Ottawa’.”

Dorimain said the experience of their solidarity campaign was also positive.

“We’re very interested to see what can build off of this and try to see if we can continue to have more solidarity actions like this.”