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It’s not ‘us’ versus ‘them’

Re: “Can I get a side of English, please? (Opinions, Oct. 13)

SOMEHOW A SINGLE article has sparked a “war of languages.” That’s the real disappointment of this whole ordeal—how quickly our campus can be divided into “us” and “them.”

I believe the intent of the article was to draw attention to the failures of our university to hold up its boasted bilingual standard. Instead of calling each other out, we should direct our attention to what improvements need to be made at this school: Courses offered in both languages, professors who are fluent in the language offered for the course, and yes, signage.

Finger pointing and generalizations are easy, but it is very unfair to dismiss others as lazy or ignorant without knowing their personal hardships. I grew up with very little exposure to French, and I know that, due to circumstance, others have had limited exposure to English. It is not always possible to squeeze those extra language classes into your course schedule.

We mustn’t wallow in self-pity or frustration. We must carry on seeking changes while making the best of our situation.

Heidi Vandenbroeke

Third/fourth-year science student 

Reason over social justice

Re: “U.K.’s new blood donation policy isn’t progressive enough” (Opinions, Nov. 3)

LAST WEEK’S COLUMN by Camille Chacra, titled “U.K’s new blood donation policy isn’t progressive enough,” was an embarrassing display of what happens when an unreasonable adherence to political correctness and popular “social justice” causes becomes the foundation from which conclusions on complex issues are formed.

Specifically, it addressed the United Kingdom’s Health Department’s—and by extension, Canadian Blood Services’ (CBS)—partial and complete bans on blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM). These bans were derided as “ignorant” (by virtue of being neither “progressive” nor “tolerant,” I suppose), “flagrant discrimination,” and, of course, a deprivation of “the fundamental right to donate clean blood.”

It is not CBS’s (or the U.K.’s Health Department’s) mission to be “progressive” or “tolerant,” but rather “to manage the blood and blood products supply for Canadians” while maintaining a commitment to “blood safety.”

Contrary to the author’s unqualified assertion that “health systems are [now] able to thoroughly screen blood,” a significant safety risk still remains. Advances in blood-testing methods have reduced the time period between initial infection of hepatitis B, HIV-1, or West Nile virus, and detection, but there still remains a “window period” during which even Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing is unable to detect an infection.

CBS, limited by time and resource constraints from conducting extensive individual risk assessments, relies on a screening questionnaire to quickly categorize potential donors into high- and low-risk groups. And, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, MSM as a group are by far the highest risk group with regard to HIV infections—making up over half of the country’s infected population, despite making up only 1.3 per cent of the total population as of 2003.

Though the author employs the lazy and tired tactic standard among “progressive” activists in labeling every desired good or activity a human right—“the fundamental right to donate clean blood”—this is neither philosophically nor legally the case.

In September 2010, an Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision upheld the CBS ban on donations from MSM, stating explicitly that donating blood is not a constitutional right.

“It is based on health and safety considerations; namely, the prevalence of HIV-AIDS and other blood-borne, sexually transmitted pathogens in the [MSM] populations, and the corresponding risk this creates for the safety of the blood supply system,” the judge ruled.

The court also noted that the Charter of Rights does not apply to the blood agency’s policies, as it is not a government entity. Five minutes of research and a minimal commitment to critical thought would have brought this to the author’s attention.

I demand better.

Chris Spoke

Third-year economics and public policy student 

Invitation for dialogue?
Re: “Invitation for dialogue” (Letters, Nov. 3)

I READ THE letter submitted by the president of the University of Ottawa Students for Life with great interest. It announced their intention to host a debate on abortion with respect to its morality and legality in Canada. I am always interested in hearing debates and I hope I will find time to attend.

That having been said, Ms. Stephenson indicated that her organization has consistently had difficulty finding a pro-choice representative for the debate. Perhaps this is because of how she frames the debate: “If you truly believe that abortion should be allowed at any point in pregnancy for any reason, and that it’s not a problem that one in four unborn children will be aborted, I encourage you to contact us.”

This pigeonholes the pro-choice representative into a rigid and uncompromising position before the debate has even started. Meanwhile, the pro-life representative is left with the freedom to use nuance to address complexity. Abortion is a nuanced issue.

It is not surprising that there would be a general reluctance to enter a debate that has every indication of being fixed from the start. In her framing of the debate, I fear Ms. Stephenson and the University of Ottawa Students for Life may have compromised the assumption that their organization set the event in good faith.

Shan Leung

Third-year biology student


Consent is Sexy Week

THE WOMEN’S RESOURCE Centre’s Consent is Sexy Week (CSW) is happening again this school year from Nov. 14–18, and all events are free, open to students and community members, and, unless otherwise indicated, completely bilingual!

This week is all about opening up the discussion around how fostering consensual relationships is an integral aspect of ending sexual violence. CSW is centred on workshops that explore everything from basic Consent 101, to negotiating consent and boundaries in our relationships, and concluding with a workshop on how to support a friend—with all sorts of other exciting and fun things in between.

This week strives to create spaces where students can gain a broader understanding of how consent narratives, sex-positivity, and challenging rape culture all come together as a means of ending sexual violence. CSW is meant to be a drop-in and accessible week where students from all backgrounds can attend workshops with the aim of leaving each one with tangible steps we can each take to creatively and actively foster consensual relationships, whether sexual or not.

So whether you are into attending workshop-style events, making a ‘zine about resisting sexual violence in our communities, or just want to stop by for our informal brunch on the Friday, CSW has something for everyone on our campus.

Search for the event page on Facebook under: “Consent is Sexy Week! Semaine «Le consentement, c’est sexy!»”

Look forward to seeing lots of you at our upcoming week of events!

 The Women’s Resource Centre Collective

JoAnne, Josee, Laetitia, and Quinn