Dalhousie protesters demand dentistry students be expelled over Facebook group

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Hundreds of protesters gathered at Halifax’s Dalhousie University on Friday to demand a group of fourth-year dentistry students be expelled for their "Gentlemen" Facebook group where they joked about drugging and raping their classmates.

Many of them were clad in balaclavas and holding signs that read, "Dalhousie hates women," "No more rape," and "Expel now."

The protesters rallied against the university’s decision to deal with the scandal via restorative justice, an informal and confidential process where victims and perpetrators sit down to work out their differences.

That doesn’t cut it, protester Yalitsa Riden said.

"These acts are incredibly serious and need to be addressed as such," said Riden, a 25-year-old film student and student union executive at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

Riden said she joined the protest because this extends far beyond the Dalhousie campus.

"It’s occurring on campuses not just in Halifax, but nationwide," she said, citing news stories about pro-rape frosh chants being shouted at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Restorative justice has its place, but shouldn’t be used in cases involving violence against women, the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, which helped organize the rally, said.

"In situations of abuse, when the abuser is in a position of power, trust and authority, or when they are known to the victim, women may be pressured to engage in a restorative justice process. This could lead to the re-traumatization for the victim," the organization wrote in a letter to Dalhousie president Richard Florizone.

"In this case, the group of men who joked about ‘chloroform’ and ‘hate f—ing’ have nothing to lose by participating in the restorative justice process. This process may be a way for these men to avoid expulsion, and regain their credibility and professionalism."

In a statement on the Dalhousie website, Florizone said the women involved had two options for dealing with the Facebook group — restorative justice or formal complaints. So far, he said, nobody has chosen the latter.

"The university will be a dedicated partner in this process, which is predicated on the good-faith participation and meaningful engagement of all parties," Florizone said.

"If, at any time, the participants do not meet this standard, or do not demonstrate an appropriate commitment, the formal complaint procedure will be engaged."

The Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen group has been taken down, but screenshots obtained by CBC show its 13 members posted rape jokes next to pictures of women, some of them Dalhousie students. Examples include, "Who would you hate f—?," "Bang until stress is relieved or unconscious (girl)" and "Can you tell me what this chloroform smells like?"

The young men involved haven’t been named. More than 8,000 people have signed a petition demanding they be expelled.

QMI Agency has asked Dalhousie for comment on the protests and the petition.