Rainbow flag burned down during Pride UBC OUTweek

A rainbow flag, raised on the pole outside the old SUB for the Pride Collective at UBC’s OUTweek this week, was discovered to have been burnt down earlier today in what is presumed to be a violent act of hate.

Pride Collective members noticed that the flag was missing this morning and contacted the UBC Equity and Inclusion Office to ask if they knew anything about the disappearance. Upon investigation, the office found remnants of the scorched flag still attached to the pole.

“It’s been a rough day,” said Rachel Garrett, one of the coordinators of the Pride Collective. “[There’s been] a lot of stress. I don't think any of us feel safe right now and that’s a really hard feeling to be going through.”

OUTweek is an annual eight-day event, organized by the Pride Collective, which celebrates “queer and trans identities, communities and learning,” according to its Facebook page.

Although OUTweek will not be completely cancelled, the Pride Collective has cancelled a Fuck the Cis-tem March due to take place tomorrow in response to the event because of concerns that it would give public recognition to individuals who could then potentially be targeted by further acts of hate.

“We are incredibly disappointed and upset that this is what needs to happen to protect the safety of all our members and supporters because of the external visibility of this event,” said a statement released by the Pride Collective on their Facebook page. “All other events will be going forward as planned.”

The AMS and the UBC Equity and Inclusion Office have also released statements condemning the act and offering support to those affected by it.

“As strong supporters of safer spaces on campus for all students — especially those in the LGBTQ+ community — the AMS vehemently denounces this act of hate and commits to work closely with The Pride Collective and the university administration to repair the damage that has been caused,” said Aaron Bailey, president of the AMS, in a statement released earlier this afternoon.

“UBC condemns this incident as an act of hate and in contravention of the values of equity, inclusion and respect deeply held by the university community,” read a statement signed by Interim VP Academic and Provost Anji Redish, VP Human Resources Lisa Castle, VP Students Louise Cowin and Associate VP Equity and Inclusion Sara-Jane Finlay on behalf of the university. “UBC fully supports OUTweek 2016 which is an annual celebration of gender and sexual diversity organized each year by the AMS Pride Collective with support from UBC units including the Equity and Inclusion Office.”

Both statements included contact information for support services and counsellors on campus for students affected by the event.

“The main thing is we don’t want this to get swept under the rug,” said Garrett. “We want to make this be as big of a deal as it is and amplify the fact that this is not okay and this is an intentional act of hate.”

Garrett noted that the intention of OUTweek is to create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students on campus and they intend to carry out that goal.

“There’s people out there that are doing these horrible things, there’s people out there that don’t support us, but we’re still trying to resist and stay strong and create these spaces,” said Garrett.

Support is available through the Pride Collective at UBC. Counselling is available through the AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre and UBC Counselling Services.