Update statement

November 25, 2015

For immediate release
Wednesday, November 25th 2015

Update statement:

We would like to take the opportunity to address some issues that have been highlighted since the yoga story broke, specifically around the timelines and the reasons for the review.

Never did the Student Federation at the University of Ottawa, or the Centre for Students with Disabilities, release the statements around cultural appropriation to the Ottawa Sun in the interview that we had with them on November 19th.

The Ottawa Sun received emails exchanged between the Centre for Students with Disabilities and the yoga instructor. These emails, we would like to highlight, are outdated and have led to a lot of miscommunication about our program.

The conversation around re-evaluating the program was an open and active conversation between the Student Federation and its Centre for Students with disabilities through their visioning process of the year, which included conversations with the yoga instructor, the CSD staff, and the service users.

Never did the SFUO or CSD say or communicate the following official statement during our interview with Ottawa Sun: “Yoga has been under a lot of controversy lately due to how it is being practiced,” and which cultures those practices “are being taken from” or “because those cultures have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy … we need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves while practising yoga.”

It is time we talked about the real concerns. The consultation process has been going on since the beginning of summer 2015 and because of that, the CSD has had a lot a feedback on how to improve the program to better accommodate their members. The statements quoted by the Ottawa Sun were a small-misrepresented message out of a larger conversation around the program. For example, the following concerns needed to be addressed.

First, the attendance of the Yoga classes was declining, this program has been running for the past 8 years without any re-evaluation and we wanted to ensure that students’ money and resources were being used in a responsible and efficient way to better promote the centre. Second, there were some real concerns about how yoga was not meeting the mandate of the centre, and serving the needs of students with disabilities namely, students with physical disabilities and mobility issues. As the primary goal in the mandate of the CSD is to ensure that activities put on for the service users are accessible, it is our responsibility to address the issues and act upon them.

It is important to stress that the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa is very disheartened by the rhetoric being used around our due process to evaluate our service centres as we all take our jobs very seriously and work tirelessly to represent and support our students.

We do not condone and are very disappointed by the harassment and violence some of our staff experienced, due to the misrepresentation of our process. Acknowledging that many students are not given access to safe spaces in and around their campuses, the CSD in no way thought that suspending this program for the semester with the intention of improving it for a January return would cause this much uproar. Let us please reevaluate this conversation and have a more conducive dialogue around how to make our campuses more accessible to those who do not feel safe.