The McGill Daily » News http://www.mcgilldaily.com Future Leonard Cohens since 1911 Wed, 19 Nov 2014 23:56:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Sexual assault charges against former Redmen football players dropped http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/sexual-assault-charges-former-redmen-football-players-dropped/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/sexual-assault-charges-former-redmen-football-players-dropped/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 19:48:29 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39373 Prosecution cites insufficient evidence as reason for withdrawal

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Updated November 19.

After a hearing on November 17, charges of sexual assault with a weapon were dropped against former McGill Redmen football players Brenden Carriere, Ian Sherriff, and Guillaume Tremblay. Carriere and Tremblay had also been charged with forcible confinement (these charges had been dropped for Sherriff); these charges were also dropped.

The Crown withdrew the charges because it did not feel he had a case with the evidence submitted, Tremblay’s lawyer Debora De Thomasis told The Daily.

“When the Crown attorney, who has a particular role to play in prosecutions, examined his entire file, he concluded that with the evidence he had he should not go forward with his prosecution,” Richard Shadley, Carriere’s lawyer, told The Daily.

The three ex-Redmen were charged in April 2012 with sexually assaulting the plaintiff, who, at the time of the alleged assault in September 2011, was a student at Concordia.

The Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) has decided not to issue a statement regarding the events of the hearing. However, in an email to The Daily, SACOMSS External Coordinators Jean Murray and Frances Maychak said that they “would like to reiterate that we always believe and support survivors, regardless of legal proceedings.”

“We remind everyone that our services are open to all, and we can be reached at 514-398-8500 or sacomss.org,” wrote Murray and Maychak. The statement from SACOMSS released after the charges were originally brought to the public eye can be found here.

The hearing for the former players was scheduled to be held at 9:30 a.m. on November 17. However, it quickly went into recess, and commenced again at around 11:30 a.m., at which time one of the three defense lawyers told the judge that the Crown was not present because he was scheduled to speak on the phone with a witness he had received testimony from over the weekend, via email. The witness’s name, he said, had come up during cross-examination at a previous hearing.

The hearing was adjourned until 2 p.m., at which time the Crown said that it still had not been able to contact the witness, and in light of the new email testimony, asked that the accused be discharged. The judge and the other lawyers agreed to the Crown’s request, and the three players were discharged.

De Thomasis said that she and her client were looking forward to moving on from the events. “We are satisfied with the result, and are ready to turn the page on this,” she said.

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1,000 protest pipelines, Plan Nord with new student coalition http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/1000-protest-pipelines-plan-nord-new-student-coalition/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/1000-protest-pipelines-plan-nord-new-student-coalition/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:30:44 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39346 Demonstrators call for Indigenous solidarity, renewable energy

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Around 1,000 people gathered on Saturday afternoon at Norman Bethune Square to protest fossil fuel projects and northern development project Plan Nord. The demonstration was organized by étudiant(e)s contre les oléoducs (ÉCO), or “students against pipelines,” a new coalition of student associations that aims to stop pipeline projects in Quebec and to shut down the tar sands. The coalition represents 90,000 students, now that the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has joined it.

The march lasted about two hours, and ended at Square Victoria for collective singing, puppet demonstrations, and a concluding speech.

Contingents from various student groups attended the protest, including one from Divest McGill. Demonstrators held colourful signs opposing TransCanada’s Energy East and Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline projects, both of which would carry heavy crude oil into Quebec if completed, and demanded that the government respect Indigenous treaty rights. Attendees  also voiced opposition to Plan Nord, the Liberal’s government project to increase energy development and mining in Northern Quebec.

“I’m thinking about the future as opposed to [the] short term,” said one student protester. “Renewable energy is going to happen sometime, and we should start [trying] to protect our home and our environment. I also thinking we should respect the treaties of the First Nations, and [these pipeline projects are] clearly a violation of that.”

The Whalebone Collective, an eco-activist group that uses art as a medium for conversations about social change, was also present at the protest. Members carried cut-outs of trees, a giant whale puppet, and stop signs to protest the pipelines.

A member of the collective spoke to The Daily about Whalebone’s presence at the demonstration. “We’re helping facilitate [this protest]. […] The [Concordia Student Union] is really supportive of us. We talk to other people who were activists and we kind of just got up together to organize this.”

Other activists who attended were also involved in the People’s Climate March that took place on September 21 to advocate larger global action against climate change. According to demonstrator Katie, this experience was helpful in organizing the ÉCO protest.

“We’re part of the organizing committee from the [People’s Climate March], so we got to know some people who were all pulling together for the same cause,” Katie told The Daily.

Lutie emphasized the importance of listening to different Indigenous communities when thinking about how to tackle climate change.

“Climate issue is the issue of our time. […] We need to have a belief system that is closer to the belief system of the Iroquois philosophy of thinking ahead […] and making decisions that will be positive seven generations down the road, not just thinking about the bottom line for today,” said Katie.

According to protester Cindy Brown, who also attended the march, it is important for people to push for economic policy changes.

“We need green energy and it’s possible, there are so many wonderful things out there and the money is all in the wrong places and the influence is all in the wrong places,” Brown told The Daily. “We want to have changes in policy regarding climate change, and we’re not going to stop asking for it until [the government] listen[s].”

ÉCO plans to hold additional demonstrations in the coming months.

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Judicial Board to hear case regarding SSMU General Assembly http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/judicial-board-hear-case-regarding-ssmu-general-assembly/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/judicial-board-hear-case-regarding-ssmu-general-assembly/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:16:29 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39349 President, speaker deny breach of bylaws relevant to Palestine motion

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On Sunday, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Courtney Ayukawa released her and Speaker of Legislative Council Rachel Simmons’ defence factum in response to a recent Judicial Board (J-Board) case, in which petitioners Zain Ali Syed and Nadir Khan call for a special General Assembly (GA) to discuss the Palestine solidarity motion, which was postponed indefinitely at the October 22 SSMU GA. The case will bypass a mediation session and go right to a hearing.

The two petitioners have claimed that, at the GA, the indefinite postponing of the Palestine solidarity motion and Council’s failure to adopt a simplified version of Robert’s Rules constituted infractions of SSMU bylaws. Ayukawa is acting on behalf of Council in the case.

“Consistently not following the bylaw and then turning around and calling it ‘convention’ doesn’t magically make it okay.”

Khan and Syed’s factum has been revised since the case was first accepted by the J-Board in order to include a more detailed argument. The addition highlighted examples that indicated that students who spoke at the GA were unfamiliar with Robert’s Rules.

The revised version does not contain the original’s request to have the use of indefinite postponement declared unconstitutional, instead claiming that it should be overturned due to SSMU members’ lack of resources relating to Robert’s Rules – particularly in regard to motions that could have been used to counter the motion to postpone.

SSMU’s factum

In their factum, Ayukawa and Simmons note that a simplified version of Robert’s Rules for a GA was only adopted once in the past three years, in 2012, most likely as a way to increase participation at the GA.

The factum argues that because the level of participation was not a concern to Council this year – there was evidently much interest in the motions being discussed, and quorum was not an issue – “[neither] the Speaker nor the Council was required to establish special standing rules for the General Assembly.”

It claims that this practice is convention at SSMU, and that, because no specific rules were drafted, the use of regular Robert’s Rules was in accordance with “official procedure.”

Syed and Khan refuted SSMU’s interpretation of their bylaws. “Consistently not following the bylaw and then turning around and calling it ‘convention’ doesn’t magically make it okay,” Khan and Syed told The Daily in a joint email.

“Bylaw I-5 article 5.2 clearly obliges them to adopt standing rules, so students can actually understand the procedures,” they continued.

Khan and Syed also claimed that the failure to adopt simplified standing rules for the GA was also a violation of article 5.4 of bylaw I-5, which requires that students “be given the opportunity to debate and amend each resolution,” arguing that students were not aware of the procedural tools available to fight the motion according to Robert’s Rules.

However, SSMU’s factum claims that the Speaker did not violate article 5.4 because it is stated in Robert’s Rules that, as soon as the question is stated by the Speaker, it is in the hands of the Assembly. “Once debate has been opened, the chair must recognize points and motions on the floor,” reads SSMU’s factum.

The declaration also notes that the Simmons, “recused herself from the position of Speaker for the Motion and was replaced by Mike Tong for the Motion and its proceedings,” meaning that Simmons was not acting as Speaker when the Palestine motion was postponed.

No mediation

According to the email from the petitioners, Khan and Syed decided to forego mediation because there is limited time left in the semester and could not see any “meaningful solution” to the case outside holding a second GA.

Khan told The Daily that he has met with Ayukawa to discuss the alleged bylaw infractions. “Ultimately, we disagreed on the interpretation [of the bylaws]. The bylaws clearly oblige Council to adopt standing rules to make debate accessible,” said Khan.

The date of the hearing is yet to be determined, Ayukawa told The Daily in an email.

 

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Working group presents full sexual assault policy draft http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/working-group-presents-full-sexual-assault-policy-draft/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/working-group-presents-full-sexual-assault-policy-draft/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 11:09:15 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39278 Survivor-focused approach central aspect

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On November 13, members of the student-led Sexual Assault Policy Working Group presented a complete draft of the proposed university sexual assault policy to students. The group, which includes representatives from several student groups that deal with issues of sexual assault, has been working with Dean of Students André Costopoulos and Liaison Officer (Harm Reduction) Bianca Tétrault on the policy since March, and hopes to present the policy to Senate for approval by the end of the academic year.

Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs and working group member Claire Stewart-Kanigan explained that four overarching principles guided the drafting of the policy.

“The four pillars that support this policy are a pro-survivor approach, a proactive approach, an approach that recognizes diversity of experiences related to sexual assault, and a university-wide commitment,” she said.

Following the preamble and definitions, the policy begins with what the presenters called “the non-negotiables” in the proposed University stance on sexual assault, namely a proactive approach in combatting the normalization of sexual assault, a focus on the safety and empowerment of survivors, and respect for the survivor’s articulation of their experience in the context of a consent-based definition of sexual assault.

The policy then outlines concrete proactive measures for the University to take. “The last thing we want is for this policy to be a kind of platitude without operational task-based assignments,” said Stewart-Kanigan.

Notably, the policy mandates the Office of the Dean of Students to run regular consent campaigns, to maintain a collection of resources on sexual assault, and to hold training to combat the normalization of sexual assault for members of the McGill community.

The policy also calls for the creation of a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) position, to be charged with maintaining an office space dedicated to assisting survivors. The SARC will also oversee the development of consent campaigns and provide resources to McGill groups wishing to conduct their own sexual assault sensitivity trainings.

The “University Responses to Incidents of Sexual Assault” section formalizes the pro-survivor approach of the policy, focusing on “safety measures” that prioritize the survivor’s safety, convenience, and confidentiality.

“We haven’t really focused a lot on disciplinary measures for the perpetrator in this policy, because we want this to be purely in terms of the survivor’s needs and them being able to dictate how to go forward,” working group member Megan Baiocco said at the presentation.

In response to concerns raised about the vagueness of the policy on response measures, working group member Kai O’Doherty explained that the policy was left intentionally vague in order to let the survivor define what measures they need to be safe.

“Something may happen to the perpetrator because of this, but ultimately we’re framing this in terms of what the survivor needs,” added Baiocco.

Procedures for responding to incidents of sexual assault, including the implementation of safety measures and disciplinary measures, will nonetheless be formalized in a separate document, the Sexual Assault Policy Implementation Guide. The guide, which will detail how to put specific elements of the policy into practice, will be reviewed annually by a working group chaired by the Dean of Students.

One audience member asked whether it was possible for the policy to target specific groups with sexual assault sensitivity and consent training, such as varsity athletes. The presenters explained that, although it is difficult to find suitable language to target specific groups such as athletes or frosh leaders, the policy does provide for the possibility to conduct specific training “as deemed necessary by the Dean of Students and the SARC.”

Presenters noted that the consultation on the policy will continue, emphasizing that, since the policy would apply to all members of the McGill community, the working group will make a particular effort to seek input from non-student groups, such as McGill unions. Community members will be able to leave comments on the sexual assault policy working group’s website, and can also get involved by helping with the broader consultation and with lobbying Senate, presenters said.

“We do expect to get some resistance [from Senate] on some of the things, and that’s why we’re getting consultation with different groups and looking at how we can phrase things,” Baiocco told The Daily. “We want to get a lot more consultation and feedback.”

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European literature minor coming next term http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/european-literature-minor-coming-next-term/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/european-literature-minor-coming-next-term/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 11:08:34 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39285 Students of foreign literature consider creation of new student council

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This semester, the Faculty of Arts saw the creation of a new minor within the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (LLC) set to be launched in January. The minor, entitled “European Literature and Culture,” requires students to take courses from various units including German Studies, Hispanic Studies, Italian Studies, and Russian and Slavic Studies.

The minor is meant to focus on “the development and interconnectedness of European culture, and its relevance for the comprehension of today’s world through the study of literature and the arts from the Middle Ages to modern times,” according to the program’s website.

Despite its broad focus on European literature, the minor does not have a language requirement.

“[This allows] the student to go right away into the really interesting 300-level courses,” explained Stephanie Posthumus, a professor in the LLC department and advisor for the new minor, to The Daily.

Posthumus also mentioned that Andrew Piper, an associate professor in the LLC department, also worked to get the minor approved. Piper was very interested in how the department “could go beyond just our national boundaries and traditions,” said Posthumus, adding, “the minor is what we created as a first step [toward this goal].”

There is only one required introductory course for the minor, which will be offered for the first time next academic year. The minor also allows students to take LLC courses, which, according to Posthumus, are cross-cultural and often concentrated on a specific topic. LLC classes draw students from many disciplines, said Posthumus. “They appeal to a larger audience.”

According to Posthumus, “the idea was to offer something outside of English literature” for students interested in studying literature who felt “stuck in the Anglo-American perspective.”

LLC student council

The LLC department may be expanding in other ways in the future. Beyond the new minor, some students are working to create an LLC student association in order to better to represent the needs of students studying foreign literature.

“The creation of the LLC minor is a huge first step,” said Vincent Simboli, president of the Caribbean and Latin American Studies & Hispanic Studies Association (CLASHSA), in an interview with The Daily. According to Simboli, who is spearheading the initiative, the council would be “a specific legislative body that is pertinent to the interests of language, literature, and culture students.”

According to Simboli, a specific LLC association is necessary due to the special interests shared by students studying foreign literature and languages, such as the importance of studying abroad and the disproportionate impact of budget cuts. “If there are budget cuts to Arts, which there will be in the future, who’s going to get cut first? A Portuguese language class or ECON 208?” posed Simboli.

“I’m not looking to splinter from the AUS [Arts Undergraduate Society], I am just looking for a sister council,” stressed Simboli.

According to Simboli, the new council has faced some barriers. “[There is] general apathy you come across whenever you try to organize students. […] Convincing people that what we’re studying is relevant to a global world [can be difficult].”

“Whenever you try to get people to go anywhere, you basically have to provide free food,” added Simboli.

In light of these barriers, Simboli said that he is “likely not going to be a student when this actually comes to fruition,” and that the LLC student council may be created in two or three years.

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Principal sits down with campus media http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/principal-sits-campus-media/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/principal-sits-campus-media/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 11:03:59 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39305 High cost of food on campus a surprise for Suzanne Fortier

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On November 12, McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier sat down with campus media for an hour-long meeting in the Shatner building. She addressed student journalists’ questions on McGill’s financial situation, accessibility of food and housing, divestment, and research regulations. A lively discussion followed Fortier’s admission of surprise at students’ impression that the food options on campus are not affordable. Fortier was also unaware of the high cost of student housing at McGill, and highlighted McGill’s bursary program as evidence of the University’s accessibility as it continues to lobby for a tuition increase for French students.

The McGill Tribune (MT): About the recent discussion on the bilateral tuition agreement with France – how will McGill go forward with these adjustments? What is the University stance on straying from a long-standing precedent?

Suzanne Fortier (SF): I personally think that the agreement has to be revisited. […] But there’s something that’s extremely important that’s true for every student, not just French students – it’s that we need to make sure that we continue to build on our bursary program. We’re not a university for rich […] international students outside Quebec, we’re a university where we try to bring together people. […] We can be there to help those students financially.

Le Délit (DF)*: Would you maybe think of forming a new partnership with French universities if the partnership with France is cancelled?

SF: Yes, maybe. I have worked a lot in France. […] There are possibilities outside of the government framework to establish partnerships with France. In fact, what we want is to be left a bit more flexibility, so that we can create partnerships […] instead of being imposed a model that, as you know, isn’t used well at all. There are few Quebecois students who go to French universities. […] Already we see that the program isn’t working too well.

The McGill Daily (MD): In 2013, McGill reacted to the Parti Québécois (PQ) cuts to education with strong condemnation. Why has McGill failed to take a similarly strong stance toward the current cuts to the education system, which are comparable if not worse?

SF: I do believe that it is important for this province to put its financial situation in order. I am not as a citizen opposed to a goal of reaching a balanced budget – I think it is important for the long term. […] I understand that it’s not an easy reality, it’s not something that we like to see, cuts after cuts. […] Although I would like more money [flowing] into the university […] fiscally, I’m afraid this is something we got to do in Quebec, so I won’t complain, as long as we’re treated fairly.

MT: Regarding McGill’s financial situation, one of the common concerns that we hear from students is that there are more and more costs that are being shifted to the students in the form of fees. What is the decision-making process for shifting costs? Does the University see these shifts as having an adverse effect on the environment at McGill?

SF: In this province, as in many provinces, auxiliary fees have to go to through a process of a referendum […] so that’s a pretty clear process. Is there an adverse effect? [There is,] particularly for students who do not have the capacity to pay more than what they’re paying now. That’s why it’s important for us, when we can, to keep adding money to our bursary program. That’s where we try to mitigate the negative impact.

DF: At McGill, student housing prices have risen immensely in the past few years. We notice that this is an opposite trend to other universities, which tend to offer less expensive, more accessible housing. Should accessibility of student housing be a priority for McGill?

SF: I must tell you I was not aware of this, so I’ll have to do some research to see if there is a reason for this hike. […] Do we offer residences of better quality than elsewhere? […] I think we have residences where it’s a bit less expensive.

DF: More generally, are you not a little bit afraid that McGill could become a university for rich people?

SF: I’m not afraid that it could become one, in the sense that I know we’ve put in place policies to ensure that this is not the case. We don’t look at a student’s financial situation when we offer a place at McGill; we have a bursary program that, I think, is the best bursary program in Canada per student. […] During McGill’s last fundraising campaign, I think it’s about 50 per cent of the collected money that was collected for student aid. […] We’re right to take an interest in that, however – that’s not what we want to be, and we need to ensure that we put in place the necessary measures.

“Maybe you have bigger appetites. […] I’m surprised that people think that it’s very expensive.”

MD: The replacement of the Tim Hortons with a Première Moisson has generated substantial backlash regarding lack of affordable food options on campus, which has only worsened with the recent cease-and-desist order on sandwich sales against Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) SNAX. What is McGill doing to ensure affordable food and what role does it reserve for student-run initiatives?

SF: The thinking behind the food offering is not price, it is more the quality of food. […] So Première Moisson, I find it interesting. People say it’s very expensive – I went to eat there, I had a wonderful soup, very healthy, and they gave me two pieces of bread with nuts. It cost me $3.50. […] I don’t know what you get at Tim Hortons, but it was a very good meal for the price. […] I eat mostly around the cafeterias on campus myself, but I do think there’s a lot of variety. […] What I see on campus is that there’s plenty of places where you can go, you don’t have to spend a penny […] you can bring your own food [and] eat with your friends, and I think that is very important as well. […] Do you have a sense that a lot of people think that there’s not enough diversity?

MD: I don’t think it’s so much the diversity, as it is how expensive it is, because you have to spend $10 or so, unless you go to the Midnight Kitchen…

SF: Really? I’m surprised. […] Maybe you have bigger appetites. […] I’m surprised that people think that it’s very expensive. Maybe I’ll just ask our Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), I know they do a lot of surveys on food.

DF: Coming back to the budget, why not fund opening hours for the McLennan library between midnight and 7 a.m., as it’s obvious that there is a student need given that SSMU is funding it? Is it the role of the administration to finance these things, or do you think it’s superfluous?

SF: We may have simpler solutions, I don’t know if we’ve explored them. […] It’s obvious that, for many users, the library is more of a space than a location to consult books. […] Are we really talking about the library, or about a space that should be reserved? There may be an easier solution.

MD: With the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR)’s terms of reference having been broadened after a community consultation, and students increasingly speaking in support of divestment from fossil fuels, how will McGill’s investment choices better reflect the opinion of the community?

SF: The committee [CAMSR] has recently changed its terms of reference, has changed some of the definitions to include environment. […] This was the first time last year that a committee of the Board of Governors, as it’s reviewing its terms of reference, decided to consult broadly. It’s the first time there was a public process of consultation. […] The committee now has a role to meet even if it doesn’t receive a petition, to consider proactive measures, and the committee met recently, and one of the things that it has decided to do is to look at the range of practices with regard to socially responsible investments, and that, I hope, will start fairly soon. […] I think it’s very difficult to avoid any footprint at all on the environment. […] You start getting there into the zone of evaluation of what is the impact and at what point is it important to take serious action, it’s not a simple thing.

DF: For you, what is the importance of French on campus?

SF: I think that McGill is a university where the language of instruction is English, and it’s important that we preserve this language. […] It’s good that we can support people who want to speak both languages at McGill. […] I must tell you that I speak French a lot on campus, maybe sometimes a bit too much. I’m surrounded with colleagues who speak very good French.

MD: McGill’s research regulations are soon coming under review, and many in the community are calling for stricter regulations. Will you heed the call and support measures to increase transparency and impose restrictions on military research with harmful consequences?

SF: This year, we’re reviewing policies relating to the responsible conduct of research, which has many areas, and a new one that we’re introducing is to look at all of the contract research that we do and pass it through a process to see if it meets the criteria of responsible conduct of research. […] I believe we might be the first university to extend it to all of our contract research. […] You asked specifically about military research […] the important thing is to make sure that we have the right process, to look at the more detailed level – what is it exactly that’s happening? […] That’s the kind of thing that I think we need for contract research more generally.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

—Compiled by Jill Bachelder and Igor Sadikov

*Questions from, and answers to, Le Délit have been translated from French.

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Demilitarize McGill stages protest http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/demilitarize-mcgill-stages-protest/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/demilitarize-mcgill-stages-protest/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 11:01:31 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39292 Group takes critical look at Remembrance Day celebrations

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On November 11, Demilitarize McGill held a rally on the sidelines of the Remembrance Day celebrations at McGill, seeking to raise awareness among onlookers of facts about the Canadian military that go unmentioned in the official celebration. Protesters stood in silence, holding posters and refusing to engage with bypassers. Messages on the posters touched on sexual assault in the military, weapons manufacturing, civilian casualty statistics, and torture.

During the demonstration, police officers approached the protesters and asked them to leave. After the demonstrators refused to comply, the police did not press the issue and left the scene.

The protest proved controversial among members of the McGill community, with many saying that the rally was disrespectful and in bad taste.

“The enraged reactions from a number of people lend credibility to our basic claim about Remembrance Day, which is that it is an exercise in selective memory, organized to enforce the forgetting of any element of war that conflicts with the story the Canadian state wants to tell about itself,” Demilitarize McGill wrote of the reaction to the protest in a statement published on the group’s Facebook page.

NEWS_Remberance Day Protests_Tamim Sujat_WEB-1Tamim Sujat | The McGill Daily

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AUS to appoint VP Social without by-election following resignation http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/aus-appoint-vp-social-without-election-following-resignation/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/aus-appoint-vp-social-without-election-following-resignation/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 11:00:18 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39293 Councillors hear presentation on student event accessibility

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Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) VP Social Kyle Rouhani has resigned due to “reasons of extreme personal, academic, and emotional duress met during the role,” AUS announced last Tuesday. At the November 12 meeting of the AUS Legislative Council, councillors discussed the filling of the newly-vacant position, as well as the Arts Student Employment Fund (ASEF) and the accessibility of student-run events.

The AUS executive has undergone significant turnover this year, with former VP Finance Kateryn Kim resigning in August for personal and family reasons, and former VP Internal Leila Alfaro resigning in September as she will be away for the Winter 2015 semester.

Despite the disruptions, AUS President Ava Liu was confident in Council’s ability to perform its duties, noting that administrative transitions have gone very smoothly. “Things have happened, and we’ve dealt with them in a very timely manner, so nothing has left a gap in services,” said Liu to Council.

Council decided to forgo the lengthy by-election process due to the time constraints with respect to upcoming final exams. Instead, the new VP Social will be appointed from a pool of applicants by Council at its next meeting. In accordance with the AUS constitution and electoral bylaws, all members of AUS standing committees are eligible to be appointed as the new VP Social.

Liu and VP Finance Li Xue noted that students who wish to learn more about the details of the potential implementation of a student fee to support the Arts Internship Office (AIO), discussed at the last Council meeting, can attend a town hall discussion with the Dean of Arts at the next Council meeting on November 26.

Council passed motions to approve ASEF allocations, as well as to form a “yes” committee for the ASEF renewal referendum question, which was approved by Council on October 29. The ASEF supports academically-based employment opportunities for Arts students.

Councillors also submitted ballots to create a shortlist of possible choices for the renaming of the Jack Daniels and Champagne rooms of the AUS lounge. In September, Council decided to rename the rooms so as to not promote a drinking culture. All Arts undergraduate students will be able to vote for their favourite name after the shortlist is finalized.

Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) Access Services Advisor Tanja Beck also gave a presentation to council on inclusivity in student events.

The number of students registered with the OSD has seen a significant increase over the past decade, currently numbering 1,600, compared to 400 in 2004. Beck stressed the importance of a social model of inclusion, shifting the focus from the disabilities of a student to awareness of the challenges presented to that student within a given environment.

According to Beck, this is especially important for student events, which can present unique challenges. Beck concluded her presentation by reiterating that successful and inclusive events require planners to “really think about the environment. Do not so much think about individual students, or individual barriers. Think big, and outside the box.”

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SSMU GA, referendum results released http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/ssmu-ga-referendum-results-released/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/ssmu-ga-referendum-results-released/#comments Sat, 15 Nov 2014 11:00:37 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39306 All motions, questions receive a majority “yes” vote

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The results of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) General Assembly (GA) online ratification and the SSMU Fall referendum have been released, with all motions and questions passing.

“In the interactions that we do have with the administration where we let them know what students’ priorities are, all of these motions are going to affect what that is,” SSMU VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan told The Daily in regards to the GA ratification.

Harmful military research

The Motion Regarding Support of a Campus Free from Harmful Military Technology Development, which faced heavy debate, passed with 55.0 per cent of students voting “yes” and 45.0 per cent voting “no.”

SSMU VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette told The Daily that this motion would allow her to more effectively support groups that have been mobilizing against military research, such as Demilitarize McGill.

Stewart-Kanigan said that she would take into account the close margin by which the motion passed. “I am looking to do some outreach to make sure that those students [opposed to the motion] aren’t completely feeling left out by this stance, and [to] assure that we can take on the work of advocating for alternative sources of [research] funding.”

Climate change

The Motion Regarding Action on Climate Change passed, with 78.7 per cent voting “yes” and 21.3 per cent voting “no.”

“The effect [of this motion] will be to show politicians that students will not be silent on an issue that will have a grave effect on our future if our government does not take action now,” Moustaqim-Barrette told The Daily in an email.

The motion also mandates SSMU to join Étudiant(e)s contre les oléoducs (ÉCO), or “students against pipelines.” According to Moustaqim-Barrette, ÉCO will represent around 90,000 students now that SSMU has joined.

“The motion also [will] give SSMU a lot of room to act in solidarity with Indigenous peoples resisting large-scale extraction projects,” said Divest McGill member Bronwen Tucker.

Stance against austerity

The Motion Regarding Solidarity Against Austerity passed with 82.6 per cent voting “yes” and 17.4 per cent voting “no,” and will result in SSMU releasing a statement against austerity measures and taking a stronger stance against austerity when interacting with the administration.

Moustaqim-Barrette, who, during the GA, condemned the passive response of the administration to recent provincial budget cuts, spoke positively about the results, told The Daily that the motion will help stregnthen SSMU’s ties with other universities in Quebec taking similar stances.

Stewart-Kanigan said that SSMU’s new stance against austerity puts her in a good position to push the University to take a more forceful message to the provincial government.

Fall referendum results

The Black Students’ Network (BSN) fee passed in the Fall referendum, with 54.7 per cent voting “yes” and 45.3 per cent voting “no.” BSN will now be receiving a semesterly fee of $0.40 per full-time student and $0.20 per part-time student.

Overall, BSN representatives were enthusiastic about the results of the referendum.

“It says a lot about the McGill community that people are supporting us now,” BSN Co-President Melanie Enama told The Daily. “It’s telling us that we shouldn’t be afraid to also reach out to more people.”

BSN will be working more with other services and branching out to the community. Enama noted that the fee will help bring Ta-Nehisi Coates, a prominent speaker, to McGill in collaboration with the McGill Debating Union. BSN will also be increasing the size of its annual Children’s Day, a community outreach event for elementary and high school students to learn more about university and Black History Month “to show them that university is something that’s possible for them.”

“It’s definitely positive, only positive vibes,” said Enama.

The TVM: Student Television at McGill fee restructuring also passed, with 61.3 per cent voting “yes” and 38.7 per cent voting “no.”

The plebiscite question regarding a change to a preferential ballot voting system for SSMU elections saw 78.7 per cent voting “yes” and 21.3 per cent voting “no.”

Two plebiscite questions regarding cycling on campus also received a majority “yes” vote. The first, which asked whether cycling should be allowed on lower campus, saw 63.2 per cent vote “yes” and 36.8 per cent vote “no.” The second, which asked if SSMU should lobby the administration to allow bikes on campus, had 60.4 per cent vote “yes” and 39.6 per cent vote “no.”

—With files from Janna Bryson

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McGill and Concordia host the first Fossil Free Canada climate convergence http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/concordia-hosts-first-fossil-free-canada-climate-convergence/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/concordia-hosts-first-fossil-free-canada-climate-convergence/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 23:24:56 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39228 Students gather to talk divestment, Indigenous solidarity

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Updated November 13, 2014.

Students from across Canada came together at McGill and Concordia University last weekend to attend the first Fossil Free Canada Convergence. The conference, organized by the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition with the support of the Concordia Student Union and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), featured workshops, networking events, and a keynote presentation, which attracted around 100 people. Contingents of students representing everywhere from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver to Dalhousie University in Halifax were present at the three-day event.

“It is really encouraging,” said Divest McGill member and SSMU VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette of the turnout at the event in an interview with The Daily. “I find it so heartwarming to have these events and have organizers come from all over Canada and the United States. Seeing the solidarity and seeing your allies in the flesh is really nice.”

As one of the keynote speakers, Winnipeg-based Indigenous youth organizer Heather Milton-Lightening spoke extensively on the connection between Indigenous spirituality and environmental values.

“The environment is a direct reflection of who I am,” Milton-Lightening said of her spiritual connection to the land.

“Think about how different this country would look if we had equitable relationships, where Canadians respected Indigenous people and we respected Canadians [… where] we were good to each other and we were good to the land. I think that’s possible, but its going to take some revolutionary actions, and also collective thinking,” she added.

Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, was also a keynote speaker. Beaver Lake made headlines last year when it sued both the federal and Alberta governments, arguing that development within its traditional territory had left it with no meaningful way to exercise its treaty rights.

Lameman spoke to the effectiveness of divestment from the fossil fuel industry as a means of fighting climate change. “Will divestment change everything? No, but combined with such things as Indigenous rights practices, we will make a difference,” she said. “None of these things alone will stop climate change, but it is a part of the change.”

“Why would one invest money in a dying [industry]?” Lameman added.

Lameman also spoke about the relationship between young Canadians, Indigenous rights, and the environment. “Let me remind you that you are the next generation that is going to be sitting across the table from my people and you have to be the change to the current business model. Remember that, as Indigenous people, our goal is not to stop anyone from making money, but it is to ensure that what we are all doing to make money isn’t causing harm to ecosystems and perpetuating already existing trauma in our frontline impacted communities.”

In an interview with The Daily, Milton-Lightening discussed the power of young people to change entrenched social structures. “That’s, I think, the challenge in Canada and northern, developed states – we don’t think we have power, and we don’t think we have the ability to assert power. Youth groups over the world have [put forward] amazing assertions of power over the last couple of years […] I think the student movement in Quebec showed us that young people do have power in this country, they can do great things.”

Moustaqim-Barrette spoke on the issue as well. “I do think that your average urbanites are starting to get involved and really [starting to fight] for Indigenous rights because they see the value in it, and because they see the importance of it,” she said.

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Elizabeth May laments state of Canadian democracy at McGill talk http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/elizabeth-may-laments-state-canadian-democracy-mcgill-talk/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/elizabeth-may-laments-state-canadian-democracy-mcgill-talk/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 00:39:44 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39223 Green Party leader wants climate prioritized in 2015 federal election

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On November 8, Green Party of Canada leader and Member of Parliament Elizabeth May spoke at McGill’s Bronfman building, emphasizing the necessity of “restoring democracy” in Canada. The event was part of the launch of May’s new book, Who We Are: Reflections on My Life and Canada.

“I had the good fortune of working in Parliament when things worked a lot better than they do now,” said May, who was the senior policy advisor to former Progressive Conservative Minister of Environment Tom McMillan in the 1980s.

May argued that the shift in the last decades from a more cooperative Parliament to a partisan one has impacted the quality of Canadian democracy, which now “more resembles an elected dictatorship than a democracy.”

The boundary between the administrative and political compartments of government has eroded, she said, which has resulted in an increased concentration of power in the hands of the prime minister. May noted an increase in party discipline, an obstructive Senate, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s unprecedented decision to prorogue Parliament – which prevented a no confidence vote and the possibility of an alternative government being formed or an election being called – as indicative of the shift in Canadian political norms.

“[In Canada] all power is very much centralized in the federal government,” commented Jordan, a Law student at Université de Montréal. “The case has been made that for true democracy to work, it has to be a more local form of government. Unfortunately, here in Canada, local government is very weak. […] Municipalities have very little power.”

May lamented the low voter turnout in both federal and local elections, and implored the audience to encourage their friends to vote. “No democracy lasts if its citizens give it up,” she said.

Speaking to The Daily, May also acknowledged the value of forms of political action that go beyond voting, and spoke positively of the prevalence of public mobilization in Quebec.

“There’s a tremendous value in public mobilization, [such as] movements like Idle No More,” said May. “Any action that’s non-violent, even if its civil disobedience, that’s a very sensible […] part of the framework of a democracy.”

“The political culture in Quebec is very different from the rest of the country, the student protests here made it really clear,” May told The Daily. “Quebec has a very different willingness to get engaged, but it would be much healthier for democracy across Canada if Quebec wasn’t the exception.”

Climate and capitalism

May spoke to The Daily about climate change, arguing that tackling this issue is possible within a capitalist global order, instead naming “corporate rule” as the problem.

“Corporate rule [is] allowing the people who are supposedly democratically elected in our society […] to consider their primary goal as enhancing corporate profits,” said May. “The problem […] is not global capitalism – the problem is the failure of democratically-elected governments to hold corporations to account and to limit their greed and excess.”

May spoke to the need to decrease the financial viability of fossil fuels as investments and energy sources. “We have to fix the market failure that pollution represents by […] making it [costly], and creating the incentives so that corporations of all sizes […] can recognize that an investment in fossil fuels is lost money.”

“I think divestment campaigns are fantastic,” added May, referring to campaigns by Divest McGill and similar groups across North America that aim to make universities let go of their investments in the fossil fuel industry.

“Telling universities and other institutions to divest from investments from fossil fuels, which are destroying our future, is a very strong, tangible, specific thing to do – and it raises the awareness of investors outside of universities. […] Very interesting to see the Rockefeller family, that made its money in Standard Oil, deciding to divest itself from fossil fuels.”

May emphasized that it was crucial to make action on climate change a major issue in the upcoming 2015 federal election.

“We really do need to make sure that […] [New Democratic Party leader Thomas] Mulcair and [Liberal Party leader Justin] Trudeau are both forced to give really detailed answers about what they will do to have meaningful, deliberate cuts in our dependency on fossil fuels, [to work] toward the transition away from fossil fuels altogether.”

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Colonial factors of the Israel-Palestine conflict discussed at book launch http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/colonial-factors-israel-palestine-conflict-discussed-book-launch/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/colonial-factors-israel-palestine-conflict-discussed-book-launch/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 20:57:29 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39219 Nahla Abdo’s new book examines treatment of Palestinian women in the Israeli prison system

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Last Friday, author and Arab feminist activist Nahla Abdo launched her latest book, Captive Revolution: Palestinian Women’s Anti-Colonial Struggle Within the Israeli Prison System, at McGill’s Institute of Islamic Studies.

Co-sponsored by the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill, the Centre for Gender Advocacy, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights Concordia, and Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute, the event was a part of Culture Shock, an annual series of events which, according to its website, is “dedicated to exploring the myths surrounding immigrants, refugees, Indigenous people, and communities of colour.”

Abdo, a professor of sociology at Carleton University, has published a number of other
works related to race, nationalism, and Middle Eastern societies. In Captive Revolution, interviews make up part of the primary research Abdo draws on to examine Israel’s treatment of Palestinian women imprisoned on political grounds.

Overlooked: women and the Palestinian struggle

The role of Palestinian women in the movement against Israel’s settler-colonialist policies, while of considerable significance, has been largely overlooked, Abdo explained. “To pay tribute to these women, to their struggle, to restore them in their proper place in the history of the Palestinian struggle – that was the aim [of this book].”

Abdo focused her presentation on the period from the 1960s to the 1980s, prior to the First Intifada uprising of Palestinians against Israeli occupation, noting that this time period was characterized by a proliferation of anti-colonial movements around the world. “There was a culture of resistance,” Abdo explained, “which was […] very much appreciated and learned by the [Palestinian] women who were part of the anti-colonial struggle.”

But what factors motivated – and continue to motivate – these women to join the struggle at the risk of their freedom and their lives? Too often, Abdo said, the true answer is misunderstood, and academics who do choose to examine the activism of Palestinian women misconstrue its causes.

“According to most of the literature – including feminist literature – in academia, Palestinian women did whatever they did because they were terrorists, or lacked implication, or had troubles with their religion, with their families, with their men, with their own patriarchy. And there is no mention whatsoever of colonialism.”

In fact, Abdo’s research has contradicted these claims. “The composition of the twenty women that I worked with was overwhelmingly secular,” she explained. “They all had great relationships with their families, especially with their fathers, and they all enjoyed growing up, and loved people in their own homes.”

Reasons for resistance

One recurring theme among those interviewed was the collective memory of the Nakba, or the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes before and during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. “Most of these women […] remember stories from their parents, from their families, who were kicked out of their homes and of their land and became refugees.”

A number of them, said Abdo, cited a famous line by former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser: “That which has been taken by force can only be restored by force.”

Abdo explained that many interviewees had witnessed acts of Israeli brutality at a young age, and that these experiences had later spurred them to resist. “When you live under colonialism, it is almost impossible not to become involved in freeing yourself.”

One issue central to Abdo’s book was the treatment of Palestinian women within Israeli prisons. Those interviewed described undergoing physical, psychological and, in some cases, sexual torture. Some women described being forced to listen for hours to the screams of other detainees before undergoing their own interrogation, while others watched their own mothers being tortured to encourage them to confess to terrorist activity. Abdo explained that in every case, detainees’ families had been targeted by Israel, and their homes destroyed.

Abdo stressed, however, that the women she interviewed did manage to resist their imprisonment. Educational lectures were given by prisoners on various topics, plays were put on, and detainees worked together to organize group activities and whatever small demonstrations of defiance they could get away with.

“These women struggled for every single right,” she said, adding that they achieved some notable victories. At one point, detainees coordinated a massive hunger strike to protest being forced to make uniforms for the Israel Defense Forces, eventually succeeding.

Speaking to The Daily after the event, Rula Abisaab, Associate Professor of Islamic History at McGill, highlighted the significance of Abdo’s work in calling attention to a relatively little-known issue. “To throw light on the women is crucial. There have been lots of studies, and even memoirs by Palestinian male prisoners, but not women.”

Abisaab also underlined the necessity of challenging the ‘colonial approach’ of certain feminist academics in the West. “We need more studies like this,” she said.

Scott Weinstein, who also attended the event and is a member of Montreal’s Independent Jewish Voices organisation, also praised Abdo’s work. He stressed the importance of holding events such as this one at a time when, all over North America, voices speaking out in support of Palestinians have been silenced, or falsely labelled anti-semitic.

Concerning the brutality described in Abdo’s book, Weinstein said, “This has been done in our name as Jews, and not only is it an affront especially to the Palestinian people, but it’s a sabotage of the Jewish experience. We, who for centuries have been struggling against oppression, are now becoming the oppressors.”

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Face to face with social justice http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/face-face-social-justice/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/face-face-social-justice/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:05:08 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39143 Culture Shock events give students an opportunity to engage with the issues

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From November 5 to 9, the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), and the Social Equity and Diversity Education office (SEDE) held events in and around the McGill campus exploring issues related to race, immigration, Indigenous resistance, and more through workshops, panels, movie screenings, and other events. The workshops held throughout the week were, for the most part, widely attended, and generally received positive feedback from attendees. Three highlighted workshops are presented below.

Immigrants with disabilities in Canada: discrimination, segregation, suicidal deportation

On November 6, Solidarity Across Borders (SAB) held a workshop titled “Immigrants With Disabilities In Canada: Discrimination, Segregation, Suicidal Deportation.”

The workshop was facilitated by Farhana Haque of the soon-to-be SAB Committee for Immigrants with Disabilities, a project currently in development that will attempt to address the specific issues faced by immigrants with disabilities. The purpose of the workshop was to “debunk what it really means to be an ‘excessive burden’ in Canada, [and] debunk the supposed global initiatives for people with disability,” according to the event description.

Haque opened the workshop by challenging common themes often associated with Canada. “What do we think of when we think of Canada? We think of democracy, we think of freedom, we think of multiculturalism, we think of equality, peace, humanitarianism. What we don’t think of are discrimination, segregation, and suicidal deportation that immigrants with disabilities face.”

The workshop included an overview of Canadian immigration policy, from the Chinese “head tax” of the 1880s (a fee charged to each Chinese immigrant entering Canada) to today’s restrictive provincial immigration quotas. Haque noted that, as current Canadian immigration law effectively does not allow for disabled immigrants, people with disabilities must enter the country as refugee claimants.

While Haque noted that many disabled people support themselves, an emphasis was placed on the crucial role that families play for many immigrants with disabilities in terms of access to education, employment, and support; according to Haque, being deported and separated from this family network can lead to poverty or other dire circumstances. “[It] is like being sentenced to a suicide for the crime of having a disability,” said Haque.

After the event, attendee comments were made available on the SAB committee’s website. People gave suggestions for future workshops and actions by the committees, such as putting more emphasis on debunking what it means for one to be considered a social burden. “This will affirm, though to different degrees, how everyone is a burden and not just people with disabilities,” said the commenter.

—Janna Bryson

Migrant workers in Canada: why everyone should care

On November 6, a workshop titled “Migrant Workers in Canada: Why Everyone Should Care” gave McGill students the opportunity to meet three people who wanted to share their experiences with temporary work in Canada, while exploring the history of temporary foreign workers and migration in Canada.

The speakers were Noé Ricardo Arteaga Santos, a temporary worker from Guatemala; Kike Llanes, who was a temporary worker with International Experience Canada and is now active at the Association des travailleurs/euses temporaires d’agences de placement (ATTAP); and Viviane Medina from ATTAP and the Temporary Agency Workers Association. They emphasized that the Canadian government focuses on creating an underpaid labour force that is easily exploitable. Llanes also stated that the program through which he got to Canada from Spain is “deeply colonial and deeply racist.”

The speakers highlighted that while temporary workers take on innumerable jobs and positions within Canadian society, from working on farms, to childcare, to retail jobs, the Canadian immigration system denies them access to healthcare, education, basic labour protections, and residency.

“The employer has a myriad of rights over the unprotected worker, and the worker becomes a commodity. […] The worker becomes objectified,” said Llanes.

According to the panel, temporary workers live in extreme isolation within Canada. Due to language barriers and a lack of knowledge of Canadian laws, many migrant workers are not aware of their rights, said Llanes. Oftentimes already indebted before coming to Canada, the workers are left to labour in much harsher conditions. They are at the mercy of their employers without the ability to lodge complaints, as they fear losing their jobs and being sent home with no money.

Medina said that women face different issues than men: about 70 per cent of the complaints that women bring to her organization concern sexual harassment.

Llanes explained that the conditions of temporary workers are not improving, with the federal and provincial governments passing bills that impede the rights of migrant workers and make it more difficult for them to unionize.

Llanes added that, as they stand, the temporary worker programs prove to be “a prolongation of colonialism, but with legal paper.”

—Joelle Dahm

Creating a culture of resistance

Last Friday, Kanahus Manuel, a mother and a warrior from the Secwepemc Nation in British Columbia (B.C.) who has been involved in actions to resist colonialism and corporate developments projects, facilitated a workshop on building a culture of resistance to colonialism. The workshop was attended by roughly twenty people, most of whom were students.

Manuel began by highlighting some of the direct action that is currently taking place in Indigenous communities, such as actions to resist the Mount Polley mining disaster in B.C., anti-colonial hip hop and street art, the use of traditional midwives, and the choice to eat traditional foods.

Manuel also screened a short, yet-to-be-released film that depicted the resistance of Manuel, her family, and her community against colonialism. In her community, many people, including Manuel herself, have chosen not to register their children with the Canadian government. These children, called “freedom babies,” will not have social insurance numbers, access to Canadian healthcare, or be in any way recognized by the Canadian state.

“By not registering our children and having these freedom babies, it’s really pushing our people to say what independence and what autonomy look like in our nations,” explained Manuel.

The unregistered children will grow up completely independent of Canada, and learning traditional methods of survival, and will go through traditional ceremonies. Manuel said that they are in the process of training and making alliances with doctors and dentists so that their children will have the care they need without requiring help from the Canadian government.

The film also highlighted the intense police reaction to the resistance that took place at Mount Polley.

After the video, participants were asked to move their chairs into a circle, and Manuel invited everyone present to share their name, home, ancestral lineage, intentions in attending the event, as well as any skills they might have to offer, following the protocol used by the Unist’ot’en Camp (another resistance community in B.C.) whenever new people come to their territory.

“This is enough people, with all those skills combined, to take down the country of Canada if we needed to right now, here in this room,” Manuel said.

“We’re smart enough to do that as human beings with these skills, we are smart enough to do that, it’s just about getting together strategically – that’s the best way to utilize these people’s skills in order to accomplish some of our goals.”

Robin Reid-Fraser, a recent Environment graduate from McGill, told The Daily that the event was refreshing. “I do always come out of these kind of events feeling hopeful and excited because there are so many people who are interested in these kinds of things, and having more of those connections with each other is really great.”

—Jill Bachelder

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SSMU finances back on track after adoption of revised budget http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/ssmu-finances-back-track-adoption-revised-budget/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/ssmu-finances-back-track-adoption-revised-budget/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:04:37 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39112 Council discusses fee bundling, communication with constituents

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On November 6, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened for its bi-weekly meeting to discuss the possibility of fee bundling and methods for better communication with constituents, and to continue its previous discussion on library improvements. SSMU VP Finance and Operations Kathleen Bradley also presented the revised 2014-15 SSMU budget to Council.

Budget presentation

Bradley was optimistic about the budget, saying that SSMU is “doing well as far as long-term financial sustainability.” She also announced that Frosh ran a $950 deficit, which she called “a really awesome number.”

A glaring hole in the budget was the student-run café, The Nest, which is projected to operate at a $76,000 deficit. Bradley cited this loss as a consequence of the “disconnect between the low food costs that students want and the original mandate of The Nest,” which specifies that The Nest must be “local and sustainably oriented.”

“This year we’re waiting to see how [The Nest] operates over a full year because last year, we didn’t have very much data to go on,” said Bradley in an interview with The Daily. “And if it’s still facing the same high-cost, high-labour, low-price problems, then we’ll have to address [these issues].”

The Club Fund has been set to $86,000, up from $30,000 the previous year. The VP External portfolio budget has been substantially increased to $16,100 to fund a yearly speaker series. Additional funding was also allocated to equity and mental health, the latter being an addition to the University Affairs portfolio this year. The full $50,000 annual transfer to the Capital Expenditures Reserve Fund has also been made for the first time in three years.

The budget presentation and the line-by-line breakdown are available on SSMU’s website.

Fee bundling

SSMU President Courtney Ayakawa brought forward a discussion on fee bundling, which would group all of the small student fees payable to SSMU on Minerva into sections such as “service fees” instead of listing each fee individually. Ayukawa said that Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens told her that McGill “really wants this [fee bundling] to happen.”

Arts Representative Lola Baraldi spoke against fee bundling, citing “the easiness of seeing this big fee and having someone just click to opt out of all of those services” as her concern.

Echoing Baraldi’s point, Medicine Senator David Benrimoh also stated that he was “very worried that people may opt out of all the fees, even the fees that they may benefit from.”

“Having a big bundle of fees is completely counter to the sense of transparency in government,” added Benrimoh.
Ayukawa also expressed her dissatisfaction with fee bundling. “A lot of these fees are things that students run […] which arguably the University should probably be doing,” she said. “I fear that bundling, with the limited information on the bill itself, may not give credit enough to all the students that are doing work that the University should be doing.”

A straw poll was taken to gauge Council’s position on fee bundling; the councillors were unanimously against it.

Communication with constituents

Arts Senator Kareem Ibrahim brought the problem of communication with constituents to the floor, citing a Facebook event supporting a facetious motion to “turn SSMU into a giant Chuck E. Cheese,” created after the October 22 General Assembly, as a concern. The name of the event page has been changed since its creation.

Ibrahim asked councillors for their opinion on creating a Facebook group to “poll constituents about issues.” Arts and Science Senator Chloe Rourke spoke in favour of the suggestion.

“Using online forums such as Facebook is worth considering, because really the communication channels we have right now are inadequate,” she said. “There is a huge disconnect between SSMU and its constituents, a lot of the time there is misinformation about what SSMU does.”

Ayukawa was a bit more hesitant about the idea. “This often devolves into personal attacks and I don’t think that it’s fair to put […] any of us into a situation where we are going to be personally attacked,” she said. She suggested that instead, each set of faculty councillors create their own Facebook pages that “could be passed down from year to year.”

Extended library hours

VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan brought up the discussion of extended library hours, which she had previously brought forward at the last Council meeting.

Engineering Representative Anikke Rioux reported her constituents’ feelings to Council. “A lot of people care more about having the hours than who pays for it,” she said.

Arts and Science Representative Saurin Shah echoed this sentiment, saying that his constituents “would very much like McGill to fund extended hours, [but] if it came down to it they would rather SSMU fund it than not have it at all.”

Publications fee

VP Internal J. Daniel Chaim brought to discussion the funding problems of the Old McGill Yearbook that SSMU publishes every year. “It’s very important that we figure out a sustainable way to fund [the yearbook] for the future, because as it stands right now the SSMU loses over $23,000 a year in the publication of the yearbook,” he said.

Chaim said that nothing could be changed this year, but suggested the implementation of a publications fee which would also cover “the handbook, the website, and other improvements that we’d like to make in the future in terms of technological publications.” He estimated that the fee would be around $2.50 per semester.

Baraldi spoke in favour of this approach. “Creating a fee opens up possibilities for students for what they want to see in the yearbook, and I definitely also think it should be opt-outable.”

Changes to clubs and services

A motion to amend the Clubs and Services Portfolio By-law Book to allow services to use leftover fees to fund projects was criticized by councillors due to its restrictive nature. The motion stated that services could not use discretionary funding for capital expenditures “whose use and value exceed the timeframe in which the project or event takes place.”

Bradley defended this provision. “I don’t think it’s fair to ask students of today to be funding services that donate to projects of tomorrow,” she said.

The motion passed, along with a motion to create an Ad-hoc Club Hub Committee. The committee is to review the current club structure and make recommendations to Council on changes to this structure by the end of the academic year.

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Students decry industry focus of Joint Board-Senate http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/students-decry-industry-focus-joint-board-senate/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/students-decry-industry-focus-joint-board-senate/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:02:46 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39138 Community engagement should be need-driven, participants say

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Community engagement through research and innovation was the theme of this year’s joint meeting of the Board of Governors (BoG) and Senate, which took place on November 4 in the ballroom of the McGill Faculty Club. Student representatives present at the event criticized the focus on enterprise, claiming that the discussion focused on what McGill could gain from community engagement, instead of what it could give back.

The joint meeting has no immediate decision-making power, but a formal report will be created and presented to Senate on November 19 and to the BoG on December 2.

The meeting began with a short panel discussion that explored the relationship between “innovation projects and engagement,” after which attendees participated in roundtable discussions on the topic of community engagement. Mostly speaking in generalities, four panelists – two professors, a student, and the acting senior director of Hydro-Québec’s research institute (IREQ) – focused on their interpretation of innovation and their experiences with entrepreneurship and industry partnerships in the context of research at McGill.

“The way innovation is linked to society is to create wealth,” said Gaétan Lantagne, acting senior director of IREQ. “We expect that this will benefit companies, but it’s a benefit to society as well.”
Cécile Branco-Côté, an International Development student who won the McGill Dobson Cup entrepreneurship competition with her idea to build a business incubator in Lac Mégantic, disagreed.

“My conception of innovation doesn’t necessarily mean increasing money at all, but increasing values,” she said.

Although a period for questions to panelists was planned on the agenda, the moderator, Associate Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations) Sarah Stroud, decided not to take questions. Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations) Rose Goldstein, who led the planning of the event, explained in an email to The Daily that this was done because “the event started late.”

Students criticize industry focus

In an interview with The Daily, Medicine Senator David Benrimoh deplored the focus of the panel on entrepreneurship and industry partnerships.

“When we got into the meeting, there was a large industry focus, there was a large focus on what we could gain from community engagement […] from the innovation [and] research side of things,” said Benrimoh. “There wasn’t a very clear idea of what community engagement meant [or] why it was important.”

Sharing Benrimoh’s concerns, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan expressed frustration at the fact that the panel had been, in her opinion, disingenuously presented to participants as centred on community engagement. She also spoke against the cancellation of the question period.

“They eliminated the question period without notice […] that was very disappointing,” said Stewart-Kanigan. “Particularly given the drastic shift in what we were led to believe this conversation was going to be about versus what it was actually about, a space for questions would have been very much apprecited.”

“This [focus] severely limited the conversation that was had here. There was very little space for critical dialogue on what community engagement should mean,” she added.
Benrimoh said that students had planned to ask Lantagne about Indigenous resistance to Hydro-Québec’s projects. “We thought it would be good to ask a partner of McGill about their social justice record, which we think is totally relevant – it’s only fair that if we’re going to partner with someone, we hold them to account on what they do.”

Discussion broadens after panel

After the panel, attendees broke out into discussion groups. At each of the ten tables, a student senator facilitated the discussion and later reported back on it. Although the discussion questions were pre-selected, most groups discussed community engagement more broadly than in the panel. An overarching consensus among all the participants was that applied research at McGill should be responsive to the needs of the community, and not done solely for the sake of innovation.

“[We] talked a bit more about having problem-driven research in the community. We [need to] make space for communities to define their own needs, to make sure that when we’re creating solutions, they’re for […] the community members,” said Stewart-Kanigan, reporting on her table’s discussion.

“We also discussed service to the community,” said SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa. “It is in McGill’s mission statement, and there is a call for recognition of this from […] specifically the upper administration.”

Some attendees noted a contrast between the background readings and the panel, both of which focused on business and industry partnerships, and the discussion.

“Interestingly enough, every single table of the ten tables that reported their discussion, they didn’t focus on [business and entrepreneurship] – they focused on what McGill could give to the community,” said Medicine Faculty Senator and Senate Representative to the BoG Edith Zorychta in an interview with The Daily.

For Stewart-Kanigan, however, the tone of the discussion did not alter the overall framing of the event. “[The discussion] does not assuage my concerns about the definition of community engagement that McGill is currently operating on, and seems to seek [to legitimize] through this forum,” she said.

Stewart-Kanigan also noted the level of commitment necessary to truly engage with the community.

“It takes a lot of work to engage in that kind of approach to community engagement, it takes oftentimes years of relationship building,” she said. “I hope to see it organized in a way that acknowledges that that is a long-term project, and not something that you can deal with by setting up a forum one time a year.”

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