Reflections on Rule Out Racism week

At Rule Out Racism week this March, a number of events were held at the Okanagan and Vancouver campuses that focused on the need for greater literacy and conversation about race and racism within the UBC community.

Jenica Frisque, Rule Out Racism coordinator from the Equity and Inclusion Office said “It was inspiring to see a variety of groups come together, such as the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, the Muslim Student Association, the Indigenous Studies Program, the AlterKnowledge, and RAMA – Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture, to collectively offer a wide variety of events to spark discussions on some of today’s most pressing issues.”

More than nine events were held from March 16-21 including a panel discussion on “Canadian Racism and its Complexities,” the Fourth Annual Indigeneity Panel, a screening of “My Legacy” a documentary on residential schools, presentations on Islam, an AlterKnowledge Discussion Series presentation on “The Welcoming Okanagan?” and a community conversation on migrant workers in the Okanagan.

“Learning about Islamophobia, white privilege, the legacies of colonialism, and migrant labour rights, does not happen in every class or conversation,” said Frisque. “In addition, the #itooamUBCO photography project (tumblr, facebook) organized by Fern Helfand (Associate Professor, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies) was a powerful reminder of the racial micro-aggressions faced by racialized students on our campus. I feel that it is imperative that we continue to provide intentional spaces for storytelling, for the exchange of ideas and opportunities to re-imagine our community.”

The week’s key event was a panel discussion on “Canadian Racism and its Complexities,” moderated by UBC’s Director of Intercultural Understanding, Alden Habacon. Panelists included Bonar Buffam (Assistant Professor, Sociology), Susana Caxaj (Assistant Professor, Nursing), Jada Larkin (Staff, Undergraduate Student Sciences), Gabrielle Legault (PhD Candidate, Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies), Ashok Mathur (Associate Professor, Creative and Critical Studies), and Kay Nguyen (Social Justice Activist, UBC Okanagan Alumnus).

Panelist Susana Caxaj appreciated the opportunity to participate on the panel. ”I found the format to be open to the sharing of ideas and experiences. I learned so much from my fellow panelists – from their courage and their resilience and their thoughtful reflections on how to navigate everyday racism.”

International Relations Student and event volunteer Madison Tardif said “I was very inspired by the panel to continue addressing micro aggressions against minorities that are often institutional by nature. In general, I feel that the discussion was a great gateway to open up the conversation about racism, which is often stigmatized as taboo or “no longer an issue”. “

Elise Hjalmarson, a UBC Okanagan Graduate Student and organizer with the community group Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture was encouraged by her involvement in Rule Out Racism week.

“Our Permanently Temporary public forum sparked provocative discussion on the subject of temporary foreign workers in Canada and the role of migrant labour in the Okanagan Valley. I was encouraged to see people actively participating in the conversation, asking bold questions, and challenging each other’s perspectives. As a student, participating in the events for Rule Out Racism week is consistently one of the highlights of my academic year.”

“I think Rule Out Racism is so important because it is a reminder of the fact that racism still exists in our world and it provides spaces in which people can get together to discuss this,” said Lucía Woolgar a student volunteer. “Rule Out Racism events provide learning opportunities for anyone that attends. My favorite part about Rule Out Racism week was the discussion panel. It was wonderful to hear the thoughts of individuals that are passionate about racism, its challenges, and how we can bring about change. I also really enjoyed the movie screening for the film “Dear White People” because we had a discussion afterwards. I think that we all learned from each other during that discussion. That is where change occurs, through conversations.”

Reflecting on the week’s events Frisque concluded “we learned that students would like to see more evening events, more workshops, better promotion and more frequent Rule Out Racism events. Indeed, discussing race and racism is not reserved for just one isolated week a year. Our ROR committee debrief meeting led to plans for an October event, so stay tuned!”

Rule Out Racism is held each year in recognition of the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21.

If you would like to be active in the Rule Out Racism Committee or be informed of upcoming events, please email