February 22, 2001
Courtesy of the Toronto Star
Racism targets York law school
Black students look for justice after hate letters
Toronto police are investigating three incidents targeting black law students at York University in the past few weeks.
Some time between Feb. 8 and 10, a photo on the Black Law Students Association's bulletin board in the basement of York's Osgoode Hall Law School was defaced. The eye of one of the pictured women was poked with a pin.
Last Thursday and Monday, two black female law students received hate letters on campus with newspaper clippings attached about crimes involving people of colour and a message that said, ``It disgusts me to see you at Osgoode.''
Two hate crime investigators met with about 40 of the students - along with associate dean Shelley Gavigan and campus security officials - in a closed meeting yesterday to discuss the issues.
``This is a cowardly, despicable act,'' said Sue-Lynn Noel, president of the black students group and one of the women who received the letters.
``People are worried. We look around in our classes and the person sitting next to us could be the one who's responsible for it.''
Law student Selwyn Pieters agreed. ``It has certainly created a hostile and poisoned learning environment for me as well as others.''
Detective Constable Samuel Samm refused to reveal the evidence but said he believed the incidents were related and might have been committed by the same individual. No suspect has been identified.
``The letters were all hate propaganda, trying to demean and degrade the (black) community. Hate crime incidents against black people tend to heat up during the Black History Month,'' he said.
Police are trying to track down the source of the letters through postmarks and fingerprints on the two white business envelopes.
``We regret that these incidents happened,'' Gavigan said.
``We are a law school that has the most diverse student body. Diversity is our strength and these students are part of our excellence.''