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Ryerson University Apologized To The Mayor Of Niagara Falls Over A Student Film

"We are not blind to the challenges in our community — but we are working on them," the mayor said.

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Ryerson University's president has apologized for a student film that took a critical look at the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario.

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The four-minute film, As Niagara Falls, was made by four student filmmakers at the Toronto university. It explores the divide between the glitzy facade visitors see and some of the socio-economic challenges faced by people actually living there.

The film features shots of boarded-up stores and homes in run-down parts of Niagara Falls, with several unidentified residents telling the filmmakers that money pouring into the city from tourism has not benefited everyone equally.

"It just sucks seeing so much money come in here and not really going back to the city," one person says.

"Mayor after mayor keeps saying that he's going to actually do something, and the people vote for him," another says. "But all they do is consistently put money into the tourist industry because it's the only thing that makes this town relevant, while people just work for $13 an hour with four kids. Like, what the fuck do you think is going to happen?"

Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said he was "saddened" by the film.

Facebook: jim.diodati

"It is not that we are not aware of the places and spaces that need some care and t.l.c. It is not either that we don’t care. In fact, it is the opposite," Diodati said in a lengthy Facebook statement.

He listed numerous initiatives aimed at improving blighted areas of the city and defended the tourism industry.

"We are not blind to the challenges in our community — but we are working on them," Diodati said.

According to Niagara This Week, Ryerson President Mohamed Lachemi responded to the mayor's concerns by distancing the school from its students' work.

The filmmakers' views "do not represent the opinions" of the school, Lachemi wrote the mayor.

“We do apologize for any negative feeling generated by their work," he said.

Lachemi said the school also asked for the removal of a Ryerson logo at the end of the film.

Asked about his apology to Diodati, Lachemi told BuzzFeed Canada that it was a "personal email" and that he had "not cast any blame towards Ryerson students."

Clifton Li / Ryerson University

"Ryerson University embraces, unequivocally, freedom of thought and expression in support of teaching, learning, and scholarly research and creative activities within a culture of mutual respect," Lachemi said. "Simultaneously, the university expects students, faculty and staff to act in accord with the highest standards of conduct."

"I think the students' film was quite good," Lachemi said. "I do wish they had followed appropriate procedure regarding the use of our logo."

The students behind the short say they stand by their work. The film was "intended to spark a conversation" and it succeeded, the group said in a statement on Facebook.

UPDATE

This post has been updated with comment from Ryerson University President Mohamed Lachemi.

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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