Women’s resource centre reflects on ‘Zoom-bombing’ at event

·2 min read

The Richmond Women’s Resource Centre had a daunting task when they decided to mount their annual International Women’s Day event online this year.

The team had hoped to raise thousands to support their mostly volunteer-run centre, as well as finding a way to bring women together and celebrate despite the challenges of the pandemic. But when their event last Saturday was "Zoom-bombed," they had yet another hurdle to climb.

"Zoom-bombing" refers to an uninvited person disrupting a video-conference call and displaying unwanted material that is often inappropriate in nature.

A statement released by the centre after the event describes the incident as including “sexist, racist, ageist, vulgar and pornographic comments, images and sounds” during a keynote speech delivered by Annie Lo and Savneet Sandhu of the Boss Lady Collective.

The centre’s president Tammi Belfer says initially she was shocked and in disbelief—then her protective instincts kicked in.

“Some people left because they thought they were going to get compromised (by the Zoom-bomber),” she says. “(But) people weren’t leaving en masse—they didn’t just shut down.”

Belfer credits Lo and Sandhu for their professionalism in the face of such a degrading incident.

“They set the example, they set the stage for everybody to stay calm,” she says. “They were so amazing, and they carried on with their presentation as if nothing was going on.”

Despite the shock of the incident, Belfer says the community has rallied around the centre, with people and groups reaching out with messages of support. And there are a few silver linings that underscore the importance of the work done by the centre.

“It just confirmed how important we are,” she says. “And I think everybody needs that once in a while—to say, ‘Now I know what we’re working for’.

“The other takeaway was how it got our board (to go) into action right away. We just needed to talk and connect to each other. And everybody was extremely motivated. Some of us were in shock, some of us were so disappointed because this is our major fundraiser. The big takeaway was us as a board, all ages—we represent every decade, every skill level—how we came together so quickly and had a plan in place. I’m really proud of us.”

Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel