By Racheal Walser
keep choosing change in the waterloo region
The actions of Geovanny Villalba-Aleman at the University of Waterloo on Wednesday June 28 2023 paint a clear image of their fears. Hatred weaponized someone who lived with considerable privilege, who was highly educated, and welcome in spaces where trust was implicit. His actions had life changing consequences, and are a recent manifestation of a power that women, transgender and non-binary individuals, are already well acquainted with.
Gender-based hate crimes
Gender-based hate crimes (or hate-motivated crimes) are a consequence of gender inequalities. They disproportionately affect women, transgender and non-binary individuals, as well as anyone perceived as not complying with prevailing gender norms. These crimes are meant to intimidate and suppress ways of life or expressions of identity that are perceived as not complying with the traditional gender norms preferred by the attacker, and the mindset perpetuated onto and by them.
What happened on June 28th in a classroom just up the street from where all work, live, and play was a gender-based hate motivated crime. A “senseless act of hate,” said Mark Crowell, chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Service.
But is not the most recent of such incidents.
From our Project Willow research, we know that 100% of transgender and non-binary individuals without access to their own safe housing experience transphobia daily. We know that 94% of women, transgender and non-binary individuals without access to their own safe housing experience acts of gender-based violence atleast once a week, but in most of these cases – more often. (On any given day 96% experience verbal violence, 79% experience emotional or mental violence, and 54% experience physical harm.)
gbv across ontario
At this point, in 2023, twenty six local governments across Ontario have labelled Violence Against Women as an epidemic. Is it possible we are seeing change to people walking past violence and doing nothing about it?
A label is important, it allows for greater systemic intervention – but how will it help those seeking safety for themselves and their families through our Emergency Shelter tonight? How will it aid those trying to rebuild themselves through our Housing programs and our Career Services right now? How will this change help the families who wake up early to get to work and that bring their children into our childcare programs?
The thing is – that as the headlines about Geovanny Villalba-Aleman scrolled past we shook our heads. Not just because it was an awful thing, but because we know it is just one of the awful things to have happened in our community on that day.
The solution for June 28th 2023 is the same as it was over a century ago when our building at 84 Frederick was first constructed.
Gender equity. We can no longer avoid this being anything but an intentional choice – in our systems, in our policies, in our procedures. And the thing with this sort of change – is that it has always been started at the community level; women, trans and non-binary people make up half of the Region’s population. It’s time to come together with each other, with our allies. It’s time to continue choosing change.