For students they were pretty quiet; entering a meeting room located behind the school office, away from the noisy ping-pong playing students in the school foyer. It signalled to me that this group had a serious mission. It was a monthly meeting of ManUp, a group started two years ago at Longfields Davidson High School in Barrhaven. Their mandate, to stop violence against women. For this gathering, over pizza, members of the core group of twelve young men had each invited one new guest. A handful of girls sat around the table clearing wondering what they were about to hear. Public Educator and Activist Julie Lalonde sat at the front of the room, notes in front of her, a projector at the ready. She has spoken at this high school before. She loves coming here she tells me, because ManUp is proof young men are getting the message that sexual violence and other forms of abuse of women is wrong.
ManUp, the movement, is growing. 13 High schools in Ottawa are adopting the concept, and there is a waiting list of 250 to attended a city wide ManUp conference May 25th at Ben Franklin Place. The teachers who have assisted along the way say change is happening.
Julie's topic on this day, harassment, specifically what women face if they speak out against forms of abuse that target women. She is speaking from personal experience. Julie became headline news in 2014 after being harassed and verbally abused during a day long workshop at the Royal Military College in Kingston. The predominately young men reportedly had little use for Julie's message about how young women should be treated, and they let her know it. RMC officially apologized to Julie for the recruits behaviour, but that didn't stop her harassers, who went online.
She told the high school group about how women working for change are discriminated against, while men with the same message, are not. That's why ManUp, she says, is vital. Students at Longfields Davidson believe ManUp is making a difference.