Cystic fibrosis doesn't afflict Caucasians alone, but misconceptions persist. So much so students at an Ottawa university are pulling out of a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis research and treatment. They didn't want to be part of a seemingly 'racist' project.
The Carleton University Students Association voted Monday night overwhelmingly in favour of choosing a new charity to support during its orientation week in September, in lieu of Shinerama, which raises money for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
The foundation funds research into cystic fibrosis, a fatal, genetic disease that affects both sexes with a similar frequency and is most common among Caucasians. The foundation also helps fund services for people with the disease. It affects mainly the lungs and digestive system, causing a build-up of thick mucus that leads to infection and inflammation.
The student council motion stated that orientation week "strives to be inclusive" and "all orientees and volunteers should feel like their fundraising efforts will serve their diverse communities."
Nick Bergamini was the only student councillor to vote against the motion.
"I think that it's political correctness gone horribly, horribly wrong," he said. "They're playing not just politics with this, but they're playing racial politics, and I think it's entirely inappropriate."
The Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation called the student council's decision "crushing."
Nadine Imbleau Redman, spokeswoman for the foundation, said it's also not true that the disease affects only white people. The disease does affect mainly Caucasians, but that includes Europeans, Indians and people from the Middle East, she said.
Brittany Smyth, president of the Carleton University's student council, said she is trying to get in touch with the cystic fibrosis foundation because she doesn't want the group to think Carleton students are switching charities for the wrong reason. She said the clause about cystic fibrosis being a white man's disease was not the determining factor in Monday night's vote, but for now the council is sticking to the decision and looking for a different cause to support next fall.
Debbie Foster, whose six-year-old daughter Vicky has cystic fibrosis, said she thinks the student council's decision is narrow-minded.
"Who knows what will be affected next? Will it be that sickle cell anemia we shouldn't fight against when it affects mainly African people?"
As part of Shinerama, students across the country shine shoes, wash cars and hold other activities in September that have raised $18.5 million for the foundation since 1964 and pulled in $985,638 in 2007 alone.
Student leaders at the University of Ottawa said they will continue supporting Shinerama.