Every week I read the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Contact newsletter. In early March I was pleasantly surprised to read an article reporting that a colleague at St. Francis Xavier University, Chris Frazer, had organized a rally in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, to protest a recent homophobic attack in the town. I wanted to know more, so I contacted Chris. Apparently this is the third such attack in the last 12 months.
Chris, a history professor at St. FX, is also a member of the anti-homophobia and anti-sexism caucus. This caucus was able to alert and engage both the university and students’ union equity offices. It also obtained help from CAW Local 2107 president Peter MacDonald in Antigonish. Together they mobilized 200 area residents who spoke out against the Feb. 2 attack on a man by two other males. The attackers told the man they were beating him because he was gay.
Chris said the rally was a tremendous success, but added that more needs to be done. “I don’t believe the majority sanction this sort of behaviour, but it continues to survive for several reasons, not the least of which is a deeply entrenched tradition and culture of intolerance.”
I became curious about this colleague. The more I found out, the more I wanted to know, so I wrote again. Chris is an expert on the post-colonial history of Mexico, in his second year of a tenure-stream appointment. Nerves of steel? Not really. Chris was a founding member of the Canadian Federation of Students in the early 1980s, from Mount Royal College in Calgary. “I have been an activist most of my adult life. I started university at the age of 30, so I was an activist before entering the academy. At various times I have been active in the peace movement, the labour movement, the student movement and in solidarity movements.”
There are more colleagues out there like Chris who are unknown to me. So, in addition to thanking Chris for the wonderful work being done in Antigonish, I would also like to thank all of you bravely battling intolerance in your own local communities.
I would like to give Chris the last word.
“Why do all of this? Because it is the responsibility of institutions of higher education, of scholars, to lend their resources and skills to the betterment of the communities in which they live. The ivory tower is a pernicious illusion. If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. If you are not resisting homophobia, then you are perpetuating it.”