Wow. What a jam packed 2 days on the road with the Canadian Association for Equality. I only have time for a brief post but expect a full report later in the week. Pictures to be posted as well.

Thursday, March 27 – Queen’s University, Kingston: Dr. Janice Fiamengo and the Queen’s University Men’s Issues Awareness Society host an inaugural presentation that attracts the largest crowd of any “men’s issues” event that CAFE has hosted or sponsored. 350 people pack into a room meant to hold 250, with 100 more watching it streamed live upstairs and easily another 100 unfortunately turned away at the door! The video is up on YouTube on the Channel StudioBrule. A heated yet productive discussion period follows the talk and continues well after the official event has concluded. Congrats to our Queen’s friends and we look forward to working with you again soon!

Friday, March 28 – University of Ottawa: No sooner have the introductions given way to our guest speaker than disruptions begin featuring hollering, trumpets, horns and other noise making devices popular among the anarchic types. CAFE’s Ruben Avila braves the storm and valiantly attempts to come to an agreement with opponents to show mutual respect and reserve their comments or questions to the end, when they will be welcomed and responded to. But to no avail. As Dr. Fiamengo tries a second time the same response ensues.

CAFE springs into action. With the resourcefulness and a sense of turning challenge into opportunity that is quickly becoming the organization’s hallmark, CAFE organizers and our University allies work with the amazing security team at U of O to setup a second room across the hall. Despite having waited 45 minutes nearly every one of the 100+ attendees wait dutifully and then march across as the event is officially moved. At the security-access door to the second venue guards and organizers ask each entering to abide by U of O policies which prohibit the disruption of sanctioned campus events. Those who had broken the policy at the previous venue were denied entry as each entered, single file, to watch the talk. Dr. Fiamengo resumed her remarks at about 8pm, finally delivering her talk to a full house. Protesters amass in a gang in the hallway just beyond the new venue, waiting for the event to end. Is there any irony, given all the ridiculous allegations that CAFE creates an “unsafe space” on campus (apparently leading to the bullying and harassment of students), that at U of O security was required to build a wall to protect us from the bullying and harassment of the protesters. In other words, our event was the safe space. 

But that’s not the whole story. As the talk is coming to its end protesters, now having waited 45 minutes and frustrated by their failure to hijack or ruin the event, finally got around to the one desperate move still available to them. They pulled the fire alarm. This development followed almost immediately after the “gang” assured me that their actions did not violate any U of O policies. With the alarm’s electronic system having been broken security was unable to disable the alarm and we were then forced to evacuate the building.

But as we waited outside for security to try to fix the problem, something amazing happened. U of O students started to gather around the event organizers. United by a desire to learn and hear each other out a discussion was sparked. These students had waited an hour, been dragged from one room to another, then forced to leave the building and were now waiting in the cold at 9pm for a third attempt to conclude the event. And they were not going to let their night be hijacked by those who would commit crimes and break University policies to censor and deprive them of deciding things for themselves. Some of those students even re-entered the building to help us carry out our CAFE items.  They apologized on behalf of the University for their colleagues’ behaviour, to which we thanked them but told them there was no need as CAFE treats each person as an individual. Many who started on the fence ended very interested in our message of equality and open dialogue and readily signed up to attend future events. And there will be many future programs, as we continue to prove that, one way or the other, we will bring an awareness of men’s issues to university’s across Canada

Protests drive up interest. Security fees help raise funds. Disruptions unite the rest of us. If you’re interested in genuine dialogue join us. If you’re trying to stop us from raising consciousness on life and death issues like suicide, fatherlessness and workplace safety, you will keep failing. And we will keep going.

Thank you to everyone who contributed each in their own way to guarantee someone else would have the chance to learn something new over the last two days. You made this a success.

– Canadian Association for Equality