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Student and community groups unite to discuss social justice issues

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

This quote by Edmund Burke, an 18 century Irish statesman and author, motivated students at U of T Scarborough to become engaged, reach out to the community and act against the evils of oppression.

Local student groups as well as members of the community came together to organize a three day social activism conference, known as eXpression Against Oppression, before the reading week break. They developed sessions focused on the human rights violations with specific emphasis on solutions and opportunities for action that individuals can take.

 “eXpression Against Oppression is meant to showcase the countless political, social, and economic troubles afflicting our local environment, Canada and the world,” said Alexandru Rascanu, a fourth-year management student and lead organizer for the conference. “By spotlighting current controversial issues that dominate global attention, such as racism, social inequality, discrimination, apartheid, and terrorism, we hope to encourage action within the student body, by first providing an opportunity to engage in discourse and then taking action on the issues outlined in the sessions.”

The conference covered a wide range of human rights issues such ‘Women In Government’,  ‘Human Rights in the Philippines’, ‘Aboriginal Rights’, ‘Replacing Oppression with Healthcare’, ‘Privilege’, ‘Human Rights in Haiti’, ‘Refugees Rights’,  ‘What is Student Activism?’ and ‘Social Justice Campaign Training and Community Building’.

The conference happens annually at the other two U of T campuses and at York University. From this year forward, it will be an annual event at U of T Scarborough. It is usually the student unions who are the main force behind the event. At U of T Scarborough, the office of student affairs supported the conference financially and 13 student organizations were involved in the planning and implementation of the event’s 12 social justice sessions. The student organizations included Amnesty International, Muslim Students' Association, IMANI: Black Students' Association, Association of Macedonian Students at U of T, Filipino Students Association, Pakistani Students' Federation, Students Breaking Boundaries, Students for World Literacy, Socialist Students Union, Young Communist League, Organized Sound, UNICEF and LGBTQ.

“We are taking the topics of community building and solidarity work to heart,” said Rascanu. “That is why the event was a success from the beginning. The fact that we had so many groups collaborating to make a positive difference was amazing. In particular, the work of the associate organizers Reza Hajivandi, Amir Bashir, Zuhair Syed and Amarjeet Kaur Chhabra made a huge impact.”

There were also nine non-U of T Scarborough groups which included, speakers from the Toronto District School Board, Youth Parliament of Canada, the Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance-Ontario, the Vice President of Campus Life of the U of T Students’ Union, CEO of the Canadian Connection Collaboration, Coordinator of Diversity & Inclusivity Training at U of T St. George, Kabir Joshi-Vijayan, a 13-year-old youth activist on Toronto Haiti Action Committee, a representative from the organization No One Is Illegal, President on Arts and Science Students’ Union at U of T, the Social Justice Campaign Training and Community Building as well as the former Vice-Presidents of U of T Mississauga and the U of T Students’ Union.

Attendance was also a success. More than 150 students, faculty and staff attended the sessions. Some students even came from the St. George campus to participate.

“This is the first year the social justice initiative is taking place, and we are glad to have observed this positive response from the community,” Rascanu said. “There are already a couple of other U of T Scarborough student groups that have shown interest in collaborating to organize a smaller scale follow-up event to eXpression Against Oppression either this semester or in the Fall.”

Alexandru Rascanu can be reached at:

Aurora Hererra is a fourth-year student in the joint journalism program offered by U of T Scarborough and Centennial College and currently working as an intern in the office of marketing and communications.

© University of Toronto Scarborough