News – The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com Ce n’est qu’un au revoir since 1911 Mon, 05 Dec 2016 02:08:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.1 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg News – The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com 32 32 Mental Health Services still lacking http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/mental-health-services-still-lacking/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:29:42 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48703 McGill Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS) has undergone a number of structural changes recently, some due to complaints from patients, and mobilization on the part of student representatives and campus organizers.

Most recently, CMHS shifted to a ‘stepped care model,’ but despite efforts on the part of CMHS to become more inclusive and anti-oppressive, many trans students have noted that their experiences with the service have been less than ideal.

In an interview with The Daily, Khloe,* a current McGill undergraduate student, described their experiences working with a number of therapists and psychiatrists at the clinic. They noted their discomfort discussing issues of queerness, transness, and racialization with their service providers, despite the fact that these issues often interact deeply with their experiences of mental illness.

When they met with their first psychiatrist, they explained, “I just didn’t trust [him] at all [and] just like could not tell him the most basic things about myself, like the fact that I was queer, that I was trans.”

A sense of distrust has permeated their relationships with therapists, creating a barrier between Khloe and their clinician. This distrust was created, according to Khloe, through the lack of incorporation of trans positive behaviors in the atmosphere of the sessions. For example, therapists normalized the gender binary.

When asked if the therapists leading a group therapy session asked for pronouns when meeting Khloe for the first time, Khloe said that “it just wasn’t a thing that was talked about.”

Furthermore, Khloe said the therapists did not respect their pronouns even after they had asserted them.

This created a client-patient relationship that wasn’t open to hearing about Khloe’s experiences with oppression. “I feel like like being non-binary or being queer are important aspects of my identity, and therefore my mental health, and if I can’t talk about those things in therapy, what the fuck am I supposed to be?” they said.

Another trans student who uses the Services, James*, told The Daily that when he initially accessed the services, the first clinician he saw turned him away because of a lack of knowledge about providing healthcare for trans patients, despite the fact that James was not seeking care regarding his transness.

As a result, James saw a student doing a practicum or internship who did not have training for treating transgender people and did not help with the original issue he sought help for.

“That was my first useless experience,” he said, “and I was so burned by that that I just didn’t go back for two years.”

These testimonials play into past criticisms of the Canadian medical system, with many saying that despite seeking care that has nothing to do with their gender, providers sometimes feel that if they do not understand trans issues, they will be unable to provide services.

Unfortunately, this results in many trans patients being reduced to their gender identity; trans people, like anyone else, experience health problems that have nothing to do with their sexual or gendered characteristics.

James went on to note that when he recently returned to access CMHS, although his new clinician was also unfamiliar with trans issues, “he seemed to have done a lot of reading, he mentioned some of the things he’d been reading and showed me,” he said. “He’d been doing his homework, which I really appreciated.”

James commented that this made him feel much more comfortable, though he worries about trans folks who might approach Counseling and Mental Health Services early on in their transition. These patients, who might not have access to information and resources about transness, could experience harm at the hands of a mental health service provider lacking knowledge about trans issues.

“If I think back to the person that I saw years ago, the first person I saw, she had worked with so many trans people she knew the right language to sort of lead me to where I needed to understand myself and things like that,” James said. “So [a clinician] with that kind of experience, I think is invaluable [for trans patients early on in their transition.]”

Trans patients are still facing these challenges in sessions at CMHS despite numerous efforts on the part of administration to improve services.

Associate Director of Counseling and Mental Health Services, Giuseppe Alfonsi, told The Daily that improving the inclusivity of their services was one of the Services’ main goals.

He noted that feedback was an important part of their new administrative model and he takes it very seriously: “I literally record every single feedback I get. I try to contact every single feedback,” he said. “But I’ve had a gap where I haven’t heard anything.”

As it stands, patients can only provide feedback through an online forum. Alfonsi added that “the first thing I would say [we need to work on] is figure out a kind of more proactive feedback system. Meaning, do we reach out on purpose to students who come from marginalized experiences? Do we design […] a kind of more formalized assessment for those students’ needs?”

In 2013, all Mental Health Services staff received a three-day training with Françoise Susset and Pierre Paul Tellier, both health care providers who work closely with trans communities in Montreal. Following this training, Tynan Jarrett, Equity Educational Advisor (LGBTTQ) at the Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) office, has delivered training sessions each year to the MMHS staff on competent trans care.

In an interview with The Daily, Jarrett discussed the contents of these trainings. These trainings addressed a number of issues including the importance of asking pronouns, not assuming anything about patients’ relationships to gender or transitioning, and how gender intersects with other aspects of one’s identity, such as race, class, and ability.

When asked why trans folk continue to face difficulties at CMHS, Jarrett and Alfonsi both noted that often this type of education takes a long time to take hold.

“The health system is embedded in broader social systems, which means that…health care providers, even relatively explicitly liberal health care providers […] are going to be raised […] in a classist, racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic society […] and that stuff is going to seep in,” Alfonsi said. “So you have to constantly exert energy to kind of roll that back.”

Creating a change within the culture of CMHS is a difficult task that requires the commitment of all staff members. Alfonsi indicated that most, if not all, clinicians at Mental Health Services were open to feedback and eager to provide the best care possible to patients.

Jarrett emphasized that the only way to improve is to continue educating the staff and make it a priority to hire clinicians who either are trans, knowledgeable in trans issues, or both. Alfonsi told The Daily that hiring was indeed a priority for the Services.

Both Alfonsi and Jarrett were optimistic regarding the potential for CMHS to improve.

They both think this is a moment of change for the Services in improving their care, not only to better serve trans patients, but also to improve on issues of racism and classism.
Beyond education and hiring, important next steps could include providing more trans-specific services and resources, as well as improving the clarity and ease by which students can provide feedback.

*Names have been changed.

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LGBTQ rights in Russia http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/lgbtq-rights-in-russia/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:05:20 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48691 Content warning: homophobia, physical violence

On Wednesday, November 23, Alexander Kondakov, an assistant professor of sociology at European University at Saint Petersburg, gave a talk entitled “Why No One Goes to Pride Parade: LGBT Hate Policy in Russia,” at New Chancellor Day Hall.

The talk discussed the “ways in which the [Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (U.S.S.R.)] leveraged power to exercise control over every aspect of citizens’ lives,” and the effect on LGBTQ Russians, as outlined by its Facebook event page. In relation to this, Kondakov traced Russia’s social and legal history to shed light on contemporary LGBTQ grassroots organizations, their exclusion from public discourse in Russia, and their hopes for reinvention.

The talk was hosted by OutLaw at McGill, a club “for queer (including but not limited to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, tran(s)sexual, two-spirited, asexual, intersex, pansexual, questioning, and anyone who identifies with the queer moniker) students and their straight allies,” according to their website.

Kondakov argued that the trouble began when the authoritarian Soviet Union government collapsed the distinction between public and private space. Since public space was subject to total government control, the privacy of its citizens was compromised and the freedom of their sex lives came under threat. By the 1930s the Soviet government, once openly allowing homosexual practices, had returned to its pre-revolutionary homophobic policies.

Domination of public and private life produced a culture of silence around sexuality. This made discussing queer issues, even in secrecy, difficult. Nonetheless, “parallel spaces” emerged where queer individuals could form a community. Kondakov said that while the “KGB and police patrolled parks” homosexual men and women were met with little interference.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s meant that Russia, in order to fall in line with Western norms, had to drop its anti-homosexual laws. Yet this did not bring significant change to a culture that had been silenced for so long, said Kondakov.

In an interview with The Daily, Kondakov said the social situation regarding queer rights in Russia was bad enough that he thought “breaking that silence would be a very important move […] But, of course, when the discussion was opened, we [were] all faced with hatred, intolerance, and the bans of propaganda.”

During his talk, he said that the Pride parades in Russia devolve each year into “a mess of abuse and violence,” because of Russia’s introduction of “gay propaganda” laws in 2013, which prevents the public from promoting “non-traditional” values.

Homosexuality was not criminalized, but largely omitted from legal discourse. However, it is strongly implied in the term “non-traditional values,” in much legal discourse and continues to be interpreted as such in disputes, Kondakov said in his talk.

“Breaking that silence would be a very important move […] But, of course, when the discussion was opened, we [were] all faced with hatred, intolerance, and the bans of propaganda.”

According to an article by Kondakov called “Resisting the Silence: The Use of Tolerance and Equality Arguments by Gay and Lesbian Activist Groups in Russia,” LGBTQ people are not protected under anti-discrimination laws, nor are they mentioned elsewhere in the legal code. Kondakov believes that judges could change that by defending the queer community within the official category of “social group,” but so far they have not done so.

Kondakov told The Daily that at least two cases of murder, in which Russian men lured suspected homosexual peers to private locations and murdered them, “[were] not covered at all” by mainstream Russian media. He believes the murderers’ conviction and sentencing did not receive widespread attention in the Russian media because it did not fit the official anti-queer narrative.

“Hate crimes in Russia are often private,” he said in his talk, and there is little incentive to publicize them.

While laws and social norms have consolidated this silence around sexuality to oppress the queer community, Kondakov says the government has failed to censor the internet.

Indeed, Kondakov told The Daily that “virtual networks [are] much powerful now than any material spaces.”

But on VK, the most popular social network in Russia, Kondakov – an openly gay academic – was labeled a “pederast.” During his talk, he explained that when he complained to authorities, he was told that the group that labeled him was private so the post could not be taken down.

“Hate crimes in Russia are often private.”

It was ironic, Kondakov thought, that in a country where public universities purge queer staffers and popular media use anti-queer slurs to discredit politicians and public figures, he was discouraged from pursuing his own protection.

Nonetheless he thinks the future is hopeful: a “silent revolution” is growing. New strategies are emerging in “parallel spaces,” Kondakov said, like internet-based queer communities.

When asked what Canadians should do, he encouraged them to create a positive online presence because “any kind of support is really crucial, when people feel they’re isolated it’s very important just to hear good words. […] It should be done as much as possible.”

OutLaw contributes to this process by providing “a social space where people can get together and feel safe to talk about issues that affect LGBT people,” OutLaw VP of Communications Dylan Gibbs told The Daily.

“Any kind of support is really crucial, when people feel they’re isolated it’s very important just to hear good words. […] It should be done as much as possible.”

In an interview with The Daily, OutLaw co-president Frédérique Bossé said that one of the most pressing issues in Canada are trans rights in legal discourse. She believes Canada “still [has] a lot to do in terms of transgender individuals. ”

She added that while the McGill Faculty of Law presents various opportunities to pursue critical legal studies, there is always progress to be made.

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“Throwing Shade” http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/throwing-shade/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:00:53 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48696 On Saturday, November 19, the UofMosaic Fellowship Program at McGill partnered with the Black Students’ Network (BSN) to host a panel discussion on the global impact of colourism.

What is colourism?

“Shadeism or colourism is basically the insidious cousin of racism,” explained panelist Nayani Thiyagarajah, a filmmaker from Toronto. “We internalize racism and then digest it and release it again as shadeism [or colourism] amongst ourselves and our communities.”

Panelist Safyer McKenzie-Sampson, a graduate student at McGill whose work focuses on the fields of prenatal epidemiology and prenatal health, highlighted the reality that this “insidious cousin” has often been swept under the rug by Black communities because other issues are deemed more important.

“[Colourism] was [meant] to create social distance, so if you were closer to white you were further from Black,” she said, “but […] you can be at different places on that spectrum, and I think it’s interesting because especially within the Black community there’s so many other issues, [and] we have so much to fight against that we don’t have time to look introspectively at these issues that do exist.”

How did colourism come to be?

“In the context of South Asia, I don’t think colourism started necessarily with European colonialism,” said Thiyagarajah. “There have been successive migrations of different communities through that region and different conquerors, some of which we don’t even have enough information on.”

“[However] it was very much made a bigger problem with successive European colonization,” she continued, tying it in with social and economic systems within South Asia. “I think […] a lot of the language surrounding colourism has to do very much with anti-Blackness as it exists in the caste system.”

Michelle Cho, another panelist and an assistant professor in the Department of East Asian Studies at McGill, elaborated on the connection between colourism and the caste system from an East Asian perspective.

“Colourism is a […] long-standing characteristic in the Korean context because it’s always been connected to class, or to social caste,” said Cho. “You have peasants who represent revolutionary subjects within the Korean context, and then […] you have a Confucian scholar who is supposed to be the opposite and the elite, […] and this is communicated not just through clothing and other accoutrements, but it’s very much something that’s confirmed in skin colour.”

Cho also tied colourism in Korean society to how it developed under Japanese occupation.

“The Japanese colonial era brought with it a concept of scientific racism that was really important to the way that people were defining themselves, because this scientific concept of race is really linked to biological essence,” said Cho. “There was a really strong need on the part of the colonial government to make very hardened distinctions between the colonized population and the colonizing, and so they were continuously trying to use this concept of scientific racism as a way to justify their presence there.”

However, Cho highlighted the absurdity of the idea that race could be an “essential difference.”

“There’s a reason that plastic surgery is so popular,” she argued. “It’s because there’s this sense that if you can change your external appearance, then why not? There is nothing essential about your features.”

McKenzie-Sampson noted that, within the Black community, dialogues surrounding colourism are very different depending on historical identities.

“In the United States, […] about 80 per cent of Blacks are descendants of the slave trade, directly,” she explained, “but if you look at Canada, about 85 to 90 per cent of Blacks are immigrants or children of immigrants. […] It’s important to mention immigrants from the Caribbean, from West Africa; they bring with them a different nature of colourism.”

However, panelist Kazue Takamura, a professor at McGill’s Institute for the Study of International Development, whose work centres around issues of labour in the diaspora, emphasized that colourism is not necessarily only perpetuated by social hierarchies outside of the individual. Takamura believes there are sometimes reasons for individuals to operate within racist structures.

“Filipino caregivers – these women also self-perpetuate this stereotypical image of docility as women of colour,” she said. “They often serve for middle and upper-middle income households and maybe different racial groups, but using this stereotype image of the docile, flexible, exploitable [woman], they gain opportunity.”

How does colourism affect us?

Some panelists described their own personal experiences with colourism: Michelle Cho drew on her experiences in Korea.

“I remember the first time I went to Seoul,” she said, “I remember thinking that it was going to be a place where I would finally be invisible in a certain way because […] until that time […] I always felt like it [was] impossible not to have to account for myself as a minority.”

“I think a lot of diasporic people feel this way when they go back to their home countries,” she continued. “I thought it was fascinating that before I even spoke, people knew. People would ask me if I was Korean-American, what they called ‘overseas Korean.’”

“I remember thinking, how did you know that?” she said. “They said, ‘because you’re dark’ or ‘you’re tan.’ They associate U.S. culture with tanning, hanging out.”

A way forward

Thiyagarajah was hopeful about the future given the recent developments within media industries in the United States.

“What’s interesting about the United States,” she began, “is that there’s a lot of private money there [in media industries] so there is a lot of support coming from […] racialized communities to support their own film makers.”

“This is why you’re seeing a lot of [people of colour on television],” she continued, “and now you’re seeing people within the industry […] creating more opportunities by themselves instead of relying on the industry itself.”

“I’m really hopeful because the screen and what we watch,” she said, “because we ingest so much of that, that says so much about our representation and how we see ourselves and so I’m excited, even in children’s books we are seeing a lot more diversity, [books] that are meant for inclusivity in storytelling.”

“I’m excited to see over the next few years how representations in our media across the board are going to impact shadism and colourism,” she concluded.

McKenzie-Sampson drew from personal experience to highlight the differing attitudes between generations, and how generational shifts trend toward progress.

“My grandmother was born in colonial times,” she began. “She doesn’t understand where we are now, she still considers herself a British citizen.”

“I remember once she was mad at my sister and she [said] ‘You look so African!’” McKenzie-Sampson said. “My sister was like, ‘that’s not an insult.’ It was just a moment where I was like, ‘Wow, to her that’s an insult.’”

“Seeing that generational shift, that the youth now don’t see that as an insult: we don’t see it as pejorative in general,” she said.

McKenzie-Sampson referenced the cultural movement celebrating natural hair texture as a positive sign within the issue of colourism.

“I thought that was interesting because it was a very grassroots shift,” she said. “There was a movement of women saying, ‘No, we’re not going to do this anymore’ and companies had to adapt quickly.”

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The influence of May 1968 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/the-influence-of-may-1968/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:00:37 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48699 Around thirty students gathered in the Henry F. Hall building of Concordia University on Thursday, November 25, to participate in Socialist Fightback at McGill and Concordia’s event “France May 1968: When Students Sparked a Revolution.”

“May ‘68” refers to a series of student demonstration and mass general strikes that took place across France between May and June 1968. Socialist Fightback called the uprisings “the greatest revolutionary general strike in history” in their Facebook event.

The event began with a half-hour presentation by Samantha Ilacqua, a member of Socialist Fightback and a Concordia student, on the historical details of May 1968. A question and answer period followed the presentation and the organizers then invited everyone to join them at an off-campus bar for further discussion.

Origins of May ‘68

The presentation began with an overview of the economic climate in France at the time.

“The living standards of workers were rising and we saw the emergence of a middle class,” Ilacqua said. “There was social stability for a certain section of the working class.”

However, for many people “the working conditions were actually quite poor […] In many places, bosses ran a very strict dictatorial style of management.”

Ilacqua stressed a feeling of disconnect between May ‘68 protestors, and the political and union leadership of the time, who “wrote off the working class as having no revolutionary potential at all.”

She also highlighted the role of youth, saying that “historically many movements begin with the youth, and this was also the case for May 1968.”

“The working conditions were actually quite poor […] In many places, bosses ran a very strict dictatorial style of management.”

She added that “in the early 1960s, students were involved in big movements against the Algerian War and […] were protesting against the restrictive education system,” as well as high unemployment and dropout rates.

Linking student protests and worker strikes

Socialist Fightback’s event largely focused on how a student protest can lead to a massive worker’s strike at the national level.

Ilacqua explained the key events in May, starting with the closure of the Paris-Sorbonne University because of protests, police intervention and brutality, and ending with how the French working class came to join and transform the uprising.

“Ten million people were on strike out of 15 million. That’s two thirds of the work force and only 3.5 million were actually unionized,” pointed out Ilacqua, illustrating the scope of the month’s protests and reiterating the lack of union and political leadership in coordinating these movements.

“Historically many movements begin with the youth, and this was also the case for May 1968.”

Ilacqua emphasized that the agency behind the strikes needs to be attributed to the workers, saying “more and more workers began to join the movement and they began to feel their collective power.”

Members of Socialist Fightback discussed the potential harmful effects such strikes can have on a capitalist system.

“I think what’s amazing about May ‘68 is that it shows that we […] can organize amongst ourselves and continue to provide for these people while hurting the bosses,” said one participant, who did not identify themselves. “I think that’s an essential part of how we can organize in solidarity with workers and students […] it’s something we should put forward when we talk to people, that there is a solution that won’t hurt them but will hurt the system [instead].”

Ultimately, protestors’ morale weakened and de Gaulle was re-elected, partially caused by an exclusionary voting system and the discreditation of socialist parties, putting an end to May ‘68.

May ‘68 and the 2012 Quebec student protests

In terms of the relevance of May 1968 to McGill and Concordia students, many attendees at the event had the 2012 Quebec student protests on their minds.

“I think what’s amazing about May ‘68 is that it shows that we […] can organize amongst ourselves and continue to provide for these people while hurting the bosses. I think that’s an essential part of how we can organize in solidarity with workers and students […] it’s something we should put forward when we talk to people, that there is a solution that won’t hurt them but will hurt the system [instead].”

Kian Kenyon-Dean, a McGill student and member of Socialist Fightback, explained in an email to The Daily that the event didn’t explicitly address the local protests because they were very different from May 68.

“2012 unfortunately largely remained a student movement, while 1968 brought ten million workers out on general strike for a few weeks,” he wrote. “[In 2012] the trade union leaders did not want this, and the student leaders, while many of them had good intentions, did not organize to make this a reality.”

Ilacqua, in an email to The Daily, explained the main objective behind organizing an event like Thursday night’s.

“What we need to do is to study past revolutions, so that we do not repeat the same mistakes as the past,” she wrote. “The workers and students of France rose up to transform society, but were blocked by the lack of direction or even bad direction of the movement that had their heads in the past. We need to build good leadership today to be prepared for movements like this that will happen in the future.”

“2012 unfortunately largely remained a student movement, while 1968 brought ten million workers out on general strike for a few weeks. [In 2012] the trade union leaders did not want this, and the student leaders, while many of them had good intentions, did not organize to make this a reality.”

Joel Bergman, a Fightback organizer present at the event, spoke about the failures and opportunities of socialist solidarity in modern times, especially in regards to movements like Standing Rock.

“I think [Standing Rock] is a good example of […] a failure of the leadership,” explained Bergman. “The IFL-CIO [Iowa Federation of Labor] is opposed to the protests that are happening because they want the pipeline, they’re in favour of supporting the very few number of jobs […] created when that pipeline is constructed.”

“The movement [could] actually win in Dakota […] if the trade union movement came out hard behind the protestors and actually mobilized their members and organized strikes,” concluded Bergman.

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Outremont upholds bylaw http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/outremont-upholds-bylaw/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:00:34 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48708 On Sunday, November 20, Outremont residents voted to uphold a bylaw banning the construction of new houses of worship on Bernard by a vote of 1,561 to 1,202.

The bylaw

The legislation, introduced last year, would prohibit the construction of houses of worship on Bernard and Laurier, ostensibly banning religious construction throughout the entire borough, as a similar ban already applies to residential streets in Outremont and on Van Horne.

However, the bylaw remains controversial, because while the ban applies to all religious denominations, the referendum results have left Outremont’s Hasidic community feeling targeted: currently comprising 25 per cent of the borough’s population, Outremont’s Hasidic community is the borough’s largest growing religious group and expected to be Outremont’s largest demographic by 2030.

As Laurier did not receive the minimum number of signatures in its public registry to enforce a referendum, Bernard remained the last possible area where a place of worship could be built.

Outremont only has four synagogues with a combined capacity of four hundred: the ban would effectively force Hasidic Jews to travel outside of the borough by foot in order to attend Synagogue, as Jewish religious law prohibits any form of mechanical travel on the Sabbath, including, but not limited to, driving a car, taking the bus, or riding the subway.

Though borough councilors claim that the ban was designed to protect Bernard’s commercial viability, Outremont councilor Mindy Pollak, the only councilor to vote against the ban, says that this logic does not stand up under scrutiny.

In a September interview with The Daily, Pollak spoke about the example of Parc, where “the Plateau approved a few new synagogues, [and] there’s businesses that are booming now, new stores have opened up.”

The campaign

Arno Pedram, a U2 student at McGill and a volunteer for the ‘No’ vote against the ban, campaigned prior to the referendum in an effort to raise support for overturning the bylaw.

He feels that the ‘Yes’ campaign “had spread […] a lot of misinformation about what was happening” by focusing on the commercial aspects of the bylaw, rather than the religious implications. He accredits the success of the ‘Yes’ campaign to “huge amounts of donations,” and early mobilization.

Pedram told The Daily that the ‘No’ campaign only got off the ground a week prior to the referendum, saying “the lateness […] is due in part to the fact that the Hasidic community did not want to seem aggressive.”

Legal action

“[The ‘Yes’ campaign] had spread […] a lot of misinformation about what was happening.”

Julius Grey, a Montreal lawyer who opposes the bylaw, believes there are sufficient grounds to pursue legal action, telling CTV that “the majority vote is of no importance as long as there is a violation of the Charter, so what one would have to show is that there is a practical impediment to them worshipping.”

While similar bans exist in other boroughs throughout the city, Outremont does not have “Projets particuliers de construction, de modification ou d’occupation d’un immeuble” laws in place, which would allow the borough to issue building permits on a case-by-case basis, even if a general bylaw prevents the construction of places of worships. As a result, members of the Hasidic community are left with little alternative but to go to court.

“The majority vote is of no importance as long as there is a violation of the Charter, so what one would have to show is that there is a practical impediment to them worshipping.”

However, despite the threat of forthcoming legal action, Hasidic community leader, Abraham Ekstein, seeks compromise that will leave all parties satisfied, telling The Daily: “We hope to build bridges with the community around us to […] find a way to live together.”

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“Race in the Academy” http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/race-in-the-academy/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:00:32 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48717 On the evening of Thursday, November 24, around twenty students gathered in the William Shatner Building to attend an event called “Campus Conversations: Race in the Academy,” which prompted discussion of racial issues in academia.

The event, hosted by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Equity, was open to students who identified as Black, Indigenous, mixed-race, and people of colour (BIMPoC) from all faculties.

The event examined McGill’s academic spaces and was accompanied by facilitators and trained active listeners to foster solidarity and a safe space. SSMU Equity hoped to bring forward the experiences and voices of racialized students.
The discussion focused on themes such as lived experiences of racialized classmates and decolonizing education and de-centering whiteness in the academy.

Two main themes were presented, the first regarding “departments and courses,” and the other regarding “the atmosphere of being an ethnic, or a visible minority on campus.” Participants were encouraged to contribute to the conversation as speakers and listeners.

Race in McGill’s academia

When participants were asked whether they were expected to behave in a certain manner at McGill because of their race, religion, culture, or ethnicity, one student claimed that they have become “disenfranchised” with their faculty.

“There’s a […] constant perpetuation of the difference between objective fact and truth, and what people who live in the experiences of neo-colonialism actually experience,” explained the student. “For me, it’s often difficult to sit and hear peers speak with a certain air of expertise of things that are far more nuanced than they are projecting them as.”

This was echoed by a second student who decided to leave the same faculty due to “the hegemonic discourses.” Microaggression was a prominent sentiment among students who felt that “certain people like to take up space.”

A third participant spoke of an instance where a classmate was told that they “speak really well for a Black girl.”

“How can your race just define your intellect?” that person asked.

“There’s a […] constant perpetuation of the difference between objective fact and truth, and what people who live in the experiences of neo-colonialism actually experience.”

Power dynamics

During the discussion, some students mentioned that instructors have the ability to exacerbate marginalization when faced with a racist or sexist comment, especially “when someone in your class or conference says something clearly problematic, but the prof […] or TA […] nuances it, and [says] it’s fine.”

While students in the group participated in course evaluations, they questioned the effectiveness of these evaluations, as they were “dependent on the class size,” and held a “risk of identifying yourself.”

“How can your race just define your intellect?”

A fourth participant mentioned that they felt intimidated by that power dynamic.

“What we recognize is that professors […] have power over your grade,” they explained. “They hold this […] position of power [on] how to change your grade, [and] it’s a confusing complexity.”

“How do you correct it, […] when there is that power dynamic?” they asked. “I feel like as we come as that one angry person in the room, people know, when my hand shoots up, what’s coming.”

Lived experiences

The group also discussed the lack of lived experiences in McGill’s academic curriculum.

“I was in class, […] and one of the topics that came up was [China’s] Cultural Revolution,” a fifth student began. “It’s a very emotional experience for them [those with firsthand experience]. I felt that the topic was very objectified in class.”

“As a student, I would have liked to see more lived experiences, stories that were integrated into that class,” they concluded, “because specifically, the professor isn’t even Chinese. […] I felt very threatened in that class.”

Participants shared sentiments regarding professors who are not representative of the identity group being studied in the course, such as a white professor with no Indigenous background teaching Indigenous studies.

“How do you correct it, […] when there is that power dynamic?”

A sixth student pointed out that “when professors who identify as people of colour (POC) teach a course that is relevant to courses with cultural implications, it really makes a difference for POC identified folks.”

A seventh student mentioned that McGill professors rarely seem to be conscious of that fact: “It’s so strange [..] except for two classes, maybe […] they [professors] never address the fact that they are white.”

Within the group, humility and open disclaimers from professors were discussed as potential solutions.

“I think that coming from a place of humility both in terms of engaging and in terms of problematic comments when teaching material from historically marginalized communities is so important,” the student explained.

“Coming from a place of being humble, accepting that […] you don’t know everything” was very important for them. They added that when a professor addressed the fact that he is white, they “didn’t expect it,” but was pleasantly surprised.

“When professors who identify as people of colour (POC) teach a course that is relevant to courses with cultural implications, it really makes a difference for POC identified folks.”

An eighth student echoed this statement, saying that: “It’s really important to come into it, I think, with that humility.”

“I found that […] also having profs who aren’t racialized who talk about race [and] feature racialized academics in their syllabus, […] when they come from it from a point of humility where we […] are […] engaging with the theory, that has been very meaningful for me,” the student continued, “because […] it’s also allowed me to explore […] ways of thought I was never introduced to before.”

“It seems like within the group, humility from the professors […] and […] an honest disclaimer from the class should be suggested collectively,” said the active listener.

One participant who attended the event said, “I think that there should be more spaces like this and opportunities for BIMPoC people to get together,” as marginalized students “find so much encouragement and solidarity” from open dialogue among students in informal spaces.

“I think that coming from a place of humility both in terms of engaging and in terms of problematic comments when teaching material from historically marginalized communities is so important.”

“There is a dire need for […] space for underrepresented voices,” said a final student.

*This event was a safer space for BIPOC students, so the participants asked to remain anonymous.

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Bookstore employees voice concerns http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/bookstore-employees-voice-concerns/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:00:14 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48749 Student employees at Le James, the newly re-opened McGill Bookstore, are concerned about the future of their employment. On Friday, November 25, employees received an email from their employers announcing that, as the store’s move from McTavish to Sherbrooke and Parc locations has prompted reorganization, the way “casuals” (part-time employees) are scheduled will change.

As opposed to having regular part-time schedules, casuals will now only be scheduled during peak periods, drastically reducing their hours.

On the same day, president of the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE), Claire Michela, informed The Daily via email that AMUSE has reached an agreement “in principle” with the University. Michela said they cannot discuss what was agreed upon until AMUSE members vote on the agreement.

Le James employees’ grievances

Several Le James employees reached out to The Daily to voice their grievances regarding the change.

“AMUSE has demanded that part-time workers who have worked 26 consecutive weeks should be considered ‘full-time employees.’ This would mean that the bookstore [has] to increase the student wage and supply benefits to workers who do not even actually work full-time,” a group of employees wrote in a statement to The Daily.

“The McGill bookstore has been forced into negotiating with the union over this, and the outcome has been that all ‘casuals’ (part-time workers) will now only be called in for ‘peak periods,’” the statement continues.

Such peak periods “would include periods such as back to school rush, homecoming, and orientation/special event days, which we estimate would amount to maybe four-five weeks a year. This is a huge drop from the three-five shifts [per] week that many of us work currently.”

Several employees also shared how these changes will impact them.

“The McGill bookstore has been forced into negotiating with the union over this, and the outcome has been that all ‘casuals’ (part-time workers) will now only be called in for ‘peak periods.’”

In an email to The Daily, Leila*, a Le James employee, wrote that “as a student worker, I depend on my job at the McGill Bookstore for a steady bi-weekly income throughout the semester. How am I supposed to support myself by working four weeks a year?”

Another employee, Alex,* wrote, “Shouldn’t on-campus employment protect the interests of student workers? I can’t help but feel that my coworkers and I are being overlooked as part-time employees.”

Katie*, a bookstore employee for two years, told The Daily that “because being a student is my top priority, I depend on the flexibility of being a casual worker to work around my hectic school schedule. Working consecutively for over 26 weeks should not categorize me as a full-time employee.”

“How am I supposed to support myself by working four weeks a year?”

Union leadership responds

However, when The Daily reached out to AMUSE, Michela wrote in an email that the change in employment “has [nothing] to do with negotiations and everything to do with a MUNACA [McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association] grievance. It is not MUNACA’s fault though.”

“This** is not true at all and we are working with MUNACA and bookstore managers to clarify the situation,” she concluded.

In an email to The Daily, MUNACA President Thomas Chalmers wrote, “At this point all we at MUNACA are prepared to say is that this situation seems fraught with rumour and innuendo.”

“Shouldn’t on-campus employment protect the interests of student workers? I can’t help but feel that my coworkers and I are being overlooked as part-time employees.”

While he acknowledged the way casuals are scheduled will change, he added that “we are also very much aware that whenever possible management takes the opportunity to blame unions for the unpopular decisions they take and it would not come as a surprise to us that MUNACA is blamed for the termination of student casuals.”

“This is not true at all and we are working with MUNACA and bookstore managers to clarify the situation.”

Confusion reigns

Le James employees belong to AMUSE, but managers who supervise different sections of the store fall are under MUNACA.

Confusion over AMUSE’s role in the reduction of hours for casuals at Le James seems to stem from MUNACA and AMUSE having entered a political merger in 2014. The two unions agreed to merge their structure and bylaws, but conserve their pre-existing collective agreements for their separate units.

In a statement to both AMUSE and MUNACA memberships in 2014, union leaderships wrote “that the next round of bargaining would be done side by side, but AMUSE and MUNACA members would vote separately for their respective contracts.”

Moving forward

Leila shared an email Michela wrote to her, in which Michela reiterated that the change in hours concerns a MUNACA grievance, and outlined the steps she has taken to resolve the issue.

Michela has “spoken directly with the MUNACA president who said that his intention is not to get casual employees fired and he is working with us already to solve the issue.” She has also approached bookstore management to ensure she is receiving updates, and arranged a meeting for the employees with human resources and MUNACA.

“Rest assured that we are doing everything we can to keep you from losing your job,” Michela concluded.

According to Leila, Michela has arranged a meeting between the employees, MUNACA, and McGill Human Resources on Friday, December 2, to discuss the employees’ concerns. Chalmers added that AMUSE and MUNACA “have requested a meeting with the Human Relations department for this week, in order to clarify what management’s plans are for the casuals in the Bookstore.”

“Rest assured that we are doing everything we can to keep you from losing your job.”

*Names have been changed.

** Michela is referring to the idea that AMUSE’s agreement with the University led to the change in how casuals are scheduled at Le James. 

A previous version of this article stated, “The two unions merged their structure and bylaws, but conserved their pre-existing collective agreements for their separate units.” In fact, the two unions have agreed to this, but have not yet completed the merger: there will be a General Assembly in January to merge the by-laws. The Daily regrets the error. 

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PGSS supports AMUSE bargaining priorities http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/pgss-supports-amuse-bargaining-priorities/ Mon, 21 Nov 2016 11:00:58 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48500 On Wednesday, November 16, the Post-Graduate Students Society (PGSS) met for its monthly Council meeting. Councilors passed two motions, one regarding support for the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) bargaining priorities, and another to create the PGSS Member Services Committee. Council also heard several presentations, as well as executive reports.

Provost to Council

Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi came to Council and made himself available to questions from any graduate students.

“Could you speak a bit about the recent course lecturers’ union and collective agreement that the University entered […], particularly the exclusion rate, or percentage of courses that can be excluded, and for those who are concerned about graduate students having an opportunity to teach their own course?” asked PGSS Academic Affairs Officer Nicholas Dunn.

A year ago, course lecturers at McGill unionized to form the McGill Course Lecturers and Instructors Union (MCLIU). Their collective agreement included clauses regarding the posting of teaching opportunities as course lecturers, as well as a point system to determine seniority amongst lecturers.

More importantly, it also included a “reserve clause,” which gave the University the right to assign up to 15 per cent of the courses taught by course lecturers to individuals and bypass the traditional posting and seniority rules. Those postings could go either to graduate students, professionals, or other academics.

“The way we did it this year,” answered Manfredi, “it is that we asked [McGill faculty deans] to give us an estimate of how many of those exclusions they needed. Not [surprisingly], the number they asked for exceeded the number that we had available, so we had to make some decisions about how to allocate [those posts].”

Manfredi acknowledged the collective agreement was still in its first year, and required fine tuning, but said that this is normal, and his office had been in contact with McGill faculty deans to revise certain parts of the agreement in the coming year.

DPSLL speaks to Council

Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning (DPSLL) Ollivier Dyens also came to Council, where he presented last year’s (Fiscal Year 2016) finalized budget with official numbers.

Dyens explained various parts of the budget to Council, including the expected 1.5 per cent rise in tuition for students, which is a standard part of his presentation, but also discussed the sales and services portion of the budget.

“Last year, there was a lot of talk that we cut student services,” said Dyens, “and we have not cut [any]. The [sales and services] budget has actually increased, albeit not as much as we would like to see.”

“Salaries are increasing,” he continued, “a little because we’re hiring more people, but mostly because we have a salary policy at the University, and the University is committed to increasing salaries by a certain amount [as a result of collective agreements].”

Dyens spent extra time discussing the University’s ‘overhead’ budget, which has caused some controversy in past years: it was a major issue during the 2012 Quebec student protests, when the province saw extensive cuts across universities.

Overhead charges essentially mean the University bills student-fee funded units for central administrative services, which are automatically provided through the operating budget.

The University has justified this in the past by saying that they cannot pay for these administrative services themselves without it “affecting other services,” like social or health services.

Currently, the University charges approximately half a million dollars in overhead fees to McGill students; it was originally projected that these charges would constitute five per cent of the University’s yearly budget.

“Five per cent for overhead isn’t a huge amount,” argued Dyens. “Another university will charge ten per cent, 15 per cent. […] It’s not great news, but it’s not excessive either.”

“The good thing here is that [this year] it only went from three to four per cent,” he continued, “and the projection [was] that overhead would go to five per cent next year, but it seems that things are getting better.”

PGSS support for AMUSE

AMUSE has been engaged in bargaining with the administration for a new collective agreement since November 10. After having gone on strike from October 29 to November 2, a motion was brought forward for PGSS to support AMUSE’s bargaining priorities, which include priority hiring for jobs employees have already undertaken, accurate job descriptions, seniority and benefits for casual workers, and a $15 minimum wage.

“We urge the administration to conclude an agreement with AMUSE in an equitable manner consistent with their demands,” the motion reads. “We support the union’s efforts to achieve a living wage and to receive respect in line with their immense contributions to the university.”

The motion passed unanimously.

A previous version of this article stated that Provost Manfredi has been in contact with MCLIU regarding exemptions in the reserve clause. In fact, he’s been in contact with McGill faculty deans. The Daily regrets the error. 

A previous version of this article also said that Manfredi had been in contact with MCLIU to revise certain parts of the agreement in the coming year. In fact, he’s been in contact with McGill faculty deans. The Daily regrets the error. 

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Cautionary semantics http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/cautionary-semantics/ Mon, 21 Nov 2016 11:00:52 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48498 Independent Jewish Voices (IJV)’s McGill chapter hosted their first lecture event on Monday, November 14. The club invited Yakov M. Rabkin, professor of history at l’Université de Montréal, to talk about his book “What is Modern Israel?” which was released earlier this year.

Rabkin began his talk by explaining the relationship between Zionism, anti-Zionism, and anti-Semitism. In his book, he traces the birth of Zionism, which emerged at the end of the 19th century as a reaction to several instances of anti-Jewish violence in Europe and the onset of writings by German intellectuals such as Theodor Herzl.

He discussed the exile and massive migration of Jews from Central and Eastern Europe due to religious and political discrimination that led to a forced settlement in Palestine.

“There is a very important transition that happened with the concept of anti-Semitism,” explained Rabkin. “A hundred years ago, if you thought Jews belonged to a different state, you were an anti-Semite, but now if you deny it, then you are an anti-Semite.”

He said he believes it is important to distinguish between racial and religious anti-Semitism in order to better understand the frameworks in which Israeli sentiment function.

“Religious anti-Semitism offers a way out by means of conversion,” he explained, “however, racial anti-Semitism offers no escape as such.”
This distinction ultimately postulates the existence of a Jewish race and a nation-state propagated within a colonial setting , according to Rabkin.

In his book, Rabkin also discusses the role of Soviet Jews in constituting the Jewish nationality.

“The Soviet Jews [when they settled in Palestine] took with them not only Russian songs and Russian culture, but they took with them the concept that the world hates us,” he said.

He went on to shed light on the influence of Jerusalem-based think tanks that have been working for several decades to make Israel central to Jewish identity.

“This agenda has succeeded for a large majority of secular Jews through programs like birthright,” he said. “Israel has become a residual identity for Jews even if they have never been to Israel or don’t speak a word of Hebrew.”

He concluded his talk by analyzing why organizations like IJV disturb Zionist voices.

“People who equate Zionism to Judaism become very sensitive to criticism since religion is supposed to be private,” Rabkin explained. “The concept of anti-Semitism has become a tool by which any sort of Zionist criticism is silenced, but criticism of Israel does not necessarily have to be anti-Semitic.”

The talk was followed by a question and answer period where several students, professors, and members of the Montreal community shared their experiences of going to Jewish day school, practicing Judaism, and what Zionism means in the context of Judaism as a religion.

In an interview with The Daily, Jad El Tal, a U3 student and AUS Equity Commissioner who attended the event, spoke about the importance of solidarity with pro-Palestine Jewish voices on campus.

“I came here because solidarity is important to me, and I know that there are wonderful, wonderful Jewish people on campus that are pro-Palestine,” he said. “So I’m just here to show my support and solidarity and because IJV is new to McGill, so I want to be part of that.”

A co-founder of IJV McGill, Anna, spoke to The Daily about her hope of establishing a community of diverse Jewish voices on campus through their group.

“Events like this […] speak to Jewish voices that otherwise don’t have a place to go or to feel like their story is being validated,” she said. “There is clearly an empty seat in the Jewish auditorium that is now being filled.”

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Issues with the penal system http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/issues-with-the-penal-system/ Mon, 21 Nov 2016 11:00:47 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48483 On Wednesday, November 16, approximately thirty people gathered at L’Artere Coop at a talk called “What is the true impact of punishment?” The goal of the event, according to the Facebook page, was to “consider the impact of a punishment approach and the sorts of community-based and dialog-based alternatives that some would propose to it,” and question whether incarceration truly results in perpetrators changing their ways.

The event was organised by the University of the Streets Cafe, “which aims to create welcoming spaces where diverse groups of citizens can gather to share their unique experiences and perspectives.” The Cafe is affiliated with the Office of Community Engagement at Concordia.

“Every time it’s a different theme and we try to keep them as informal as possible,” said Emma Harake, one of the University of Streets Cafe volunteers, describing the program’s discussions. “We always have a guest or two guests, depending on the topic, and someone to moderate the talk. […] Every theme also attracts different people, different age groups, different communities in the city which is very interesting to see.”

The guests that night included Jean-Marc Bougie, who was incarcerated for four years for “an economic crime,” and is now involved in his community as a meal delivery volunteer and “assists isolated and socially excluded individuals in filing tax forms and similar documents,” as well as Marie Beemans, a supporter of prisoners’ rights and an advocate for prison reform.

Between 1983 and 1986, Beemans coordinated the national campaign against the return of the death penalty. For more than twenty years, she has opened her home to federal prisoners in transition.

What is wrong with the system?

Bougie thinks that the Canadian penal system is still based on the concept of ‘an eye for an eye.’

‘‘‘An eye for an eye’ is engrained in our nature as humans,” said Bougie. “It flows in our bodies, it flows in our culture, it flows from our religion.”

However, Bougie went beyond that, saying that Canada’s penal system is still deeply flawed and needs to be reformed, especially in regards to incarceration and actual rehabilitation.

“Who here would go to a hospital where there is a big sign out front that says ‘50 per cent of you are going to get worse’?” he asked. “When you send someone to the penitentiary, it’s the same thing. The recidivism rate in Canada and the United States varies […] between 40 and 62 per cent.”
Beemans further raised concerns about the state’s role in setting an example for its citizens regarding punishment.

‘‘‘An eye for an eye’ is engrained in our nature as humans.”

“Where there is the death penalty, there is a higher homicide rate,” she explained, “because the citizen uses the same excuse as the state: ‘If the state can get rid of somebody because they are unacceptable, so can an individual.’”

Beemans explained that the same logic can be used for lesser crimes, saying that where a state seeks vengeance against its citizens, the individual feels more comfortable in fulfilling personal vendettas.

“Who here would go to a hospital where there is a big sign out front that says ‘50 per cent of you are going to get worse’?” When you send someone to the penitentiary, it’s the same thing.”

Beemans continued with additional criticism of the system, specifically with regards to its failure to provide a constructive environment where criminals can reform: “You take somebody who has acted irresponsibly, and you put them in a situation where you take away all the responsibility: what time he gets up in the morning, what time he eats […] that’s reinforcing behaviour.”

Why is the system so flawed?

As the night went on, attendees were invited to identify reasons why the current penal system often fails inmates.

“We hear of models that are more like [the system in Norway] that seem to work better,” said one attendee named Fiona. “The rates of recidivism are much lower than the ones in North America.”

“What’s the motivation for governments not to do it this way?” she continued. “[It’s because] in the U.S. a lot of these prisons are privatized, so there is a profit motive to maintain punishment as the method for attempted reformation.”

Another attendee named Laura argued that the people who maintain the current penal system have no real interest in rehabilitation.

“There’s a very real struggle for power, and struggle for control over people that society deems ‘lower-class’” she said. “They’re trying to keep that [hierarchical] system in place, especially if you look at the disproportionate inmate representation in prison, like people of colour and Indigenous folks.”

“Trying to integrate them back into society is not their intention; their intention is to keep them outside of society,” she concluded.
Bougie concurred with the idea that prisons oftentimes are used as tools to maintain racial and economic hierarchies, based on his own experiences in prison.

“Most of the people knew two or three guys in the pen [prison] when they came in,” he recalled. “Where did they first meet? Shawbridge, St. Viateur [youth detention centers].”

“They’re trying to keep that [hierarchical] system in place, especially if you look at the disproportionate inmate representation in prison, like people of colour and Indigenous folks.”

“They knew each other in the juvenile system,” he continued. “When they hit eighteen, they met up at Bordeaux [another correctional facility], and when they graduated from there, they met each other in the pen. They were like family.”

Bougie brought this up to show that this is just one example of a societal pattern in which the incarcerated become lifelong members of communities considered “outcast” by society: the majority of incarcerated individuals live in a world where everyone has either been directly or indirectly affected by the penal system.

Bougie suggested that society is failing these communities by continually putting them in situations that deny their individual worth and the worth of their peers.

“When they hit eighteen, they met up at Bordeaux [another correctional facility], and when they graduated from there, they met each other in the pen. They were like family.”

Where do we go from here?

The speakers and attendees focused their discussion on compassion as a possible solution the issue of incarceration in Canada.

One attendee referenced a study conducted in Australia that illustrated the power of sympathetic understanding in the penal system.

“[The general public] thinks that sentences are too lenient and people should be punished more, […] [but this study] discussed with [individual] jurors the cases that they had sat in and made decisions on,” the attendee said.

“In those cases, [jurors] were privy to […] all of the nuances and circumstances [of the crime, and] they thought […] the sentence was fine.”

The attendee said this illustrates how hard it is to be sympathetic toward a criminal you know nothing about: if you see that person as a human being, you might be able to recognize the potential cruelty of their punishment.

Near the end of the night’s discussion, Beemans shared a personal story: “Years ago I used to go to Macaza, which is a penitentiary for prisoners you can’t put in other prisons,” she said. “Many of the guys that are there have been in [for] thirty, forty years.

“[The general public] thinks that sentences are too lenient and people should be punished more, […] [but this study] discussed with [individual] jurors the cases that they had sat in and made decisions on.”

“There’s 270 prisoners and never more than 15 have visits,” she continued. “So I said I’ll bring a busload of volunteers and I’ll fill the chapel […] and we can fill it with guys who never have a visit.”

“These are guys who have committed the type of crime that you say is horrifying,” she pointed out. “Most of them [have] been in the system since they were little kids. Most of them will never get out.”

However, Beemans said this doesn’t mean they weren’t capable of an emotional connection.

“Most of them [have] been in the system since they were little kids. Most of them will never get out.”

“They’re still human beings and we’re their only contact with the outside world. And tears fall, you see tears at the end of [our visit],” she said.

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Socialist Fightback against Trump http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/socialist-fightback-against-trump/ Mon, 21 Nov 2016 11:00:13 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48469 On Thursday, November 17, around 120 students gathered at the Shatner Building in the Madeleine Parent room for an event called “How can we defeat Trump?” The event was organized by the group Socialist Fightback at Concordia and McGill, which aimed to bring people together with the shared goal of “organiz[ing] ourselves to fight back against [Donald Trump].”

Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign has received international coverage, with many denouncing his proposed policies, which include building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a temporary ban on Muslims immigrating to the United States, and derogatory comments against women, people of colour, people with disabilities, Mexicans, Muslims, and others. His election as U.S. president was shocking to many, and has resulted in a number of domestic and global protests against growing nationalism, xenophobia, and protectionism.

The event, which marked the highest turnout for Socialist Fightback at McGill and Concordia, consisted of a talk given by Joel Bergman, an organizer and member of Socialist Fightback for over ten years, that was accompanied by a concurrent French translation. An open floor discussion amongst the attendees followed.

“How did Donald Trump win the election? How did this racist, sexist, misogynist, lying billionaire become the President of the most powerful country in the history of the world? And how were all of the analysts so wrong?” Bergman asked the crowd. “Everyone said ‘this is impossible, it will never happen, he’s a joke’ […] It wasn’t just one or two stupid analysts; this was across the board. This was not an ordinary election, and we are not living in ordinary times.”

“Obviously, everyone was surprised, even I was somewhat surprised by the Trump victory” Bergman said in an interview with The Daily. “If you look at what happened in Britain, with this vote to leave the E.U. [European Union], [it’s] a very similar phenomenon, and if you look at what’s happening all over Europe, […] we are seeing a rise in political polarization to the right and to the left.”

“This was not an ordinary election, and we are not living in ordinary times.”

Bergman has previously spoke to The Daily about the “crisis of capitalism,” but following the results of this election, he seemed even more convinced that now is the time for a fundamental change in the system.

“This is the least popular president in the history of the country, and he hasn’t even been inaugurated yet,” he said.

“I think that the only way to fight this sort of division that [Trump] uses, his language that he uses [which] is very similar to scapegoating, […] is with solidarity,” Kian Kenyon-Dean, a member of Socialist Fightback, told The Daily. “You can’t fight capitalism with capitalism, you can’t fight fire with fire; you fight fire with water. You fight division with solidarity, [and] you fight capitalism with socialism.”

Kenyon-Dean went on to explain that in many ways, Trump’s election seems to have been a wake-up call for people.

“This is the least popular president in the history of the country, and he hasn’t even been inaugurated yet.”

“The fact is that Trump getting elected has radicalized people to the left and to the right, and we can’t just sit around and mope,” he explained. “It may be a cliche, [but] it’s a good one: it’s a famous quote, ‘don’t mourn, organize,’ and that’s what we need to do now. We need to present an actual alternative.”

Speaking to The Daily, Julien Arseneau, a member of Fightback and one of the event’s organizers, said: “We can’t ignore the background of economic collapse in the U.S.. In 2008 the big banks were saved when hundreds of billions of dollars were pumped into the banking system […] but interestingly when the poor Americans lose their houses, lose their jobs, nobody is there to help them and they [the government] say ‘we don’t have money,’ but then [they] have $700 billion for the banks.”

“You fight division with solidarity, [and] you fight capitalism with socialism.”

“I think Americans were desperately seeking an alternative to the status quo, and unfortunately in this election, the only seemingly different thing from the status quo was Donald Trump,” Arseneau added.

This was a common theme amongst the attendees, as the consensus seemed to be that it was Americans’ frustration with the system that led to their new president-elect. Many attendees also felt the opposition to Trump needed to stop labeling his supporters as racist or misogynist, and rather call them what they are: people who feel frustrated and disenfranchised.

However, discussion showed that there was no unanimous agreement on how to approach resisting president-elect Trump.
One attendee, who did not identify himself, spoke on the issue of systemic change: “We are a system, and a system cannot change if there is resistance.”

“Resistance is what we are doing, in our efforts to dismantle Trump and his claim to the presidency and not accepting it, is resistance on our part. Therefore, instead of fighting to bring him down, why don’t we try to come up with solutions? Why don’t we force legislation to be passed?” he asked the crowd.

“I think Americans were desperately seeking an alternative to the status quo, and unfortunately in this election, the only seemingly different thing from the status quo was Donald Trump.”

“Just protesting, talking, and complaining doesn’t offer a solution, and in fact it might appear to make him seem the better person. It makes him become the victim of something that is considered negative in society,” he continued.

“I am not saying it is wrong to protest, I am just saying we need to have a smart approach,” he added.

Though his idea was not shared by all in the room, as the general opinion called for the complete removal of the capitalist system, the point that he made seemed to hit home.

“Therefore, instead of fighting to bring him down, why don’t we try to come up with solutions? Why don’t we force legislation to be passed?”

“We need more than just protests, we need to actually put forward something positive that we do want,” Bergman told The Daily. “Eventually, with no direction, people get tired and go home, so there needs to be a real movement.”

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SSMU Council discusses children in care, birth control http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/48484/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/48484/#respond Mon, 21 Nov 2016 11:00:07 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48484 On Thursday, November 17, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council met to discuss two motions that were originally put forward at the Fall General Assembly (GA), and hear two presentations, one on what McGill can do to support “students from care” and one regarding the Sustainability Projects Fund. Councilors also heard committee and executive reports.

Presentation on kids in care

SSMU President Ben Ger and Arisha Khan, a researcher on “students from care” and SSMU Funding Commissioner, presented research regarding “children from care” (i.e. children who were taken into custody by the state or other government authorities because their parents could no longer provide for them) and how SSMU and McGill can better support them.

Ger and Khan went through a number of reasons why children enter care, noting that a disproportionate number of children in care are Black, Indigenous and/or people of colour (BIPOC). They elaborated on a number of common issues that arise when children are in care that overlap with each other, such as identity, racism, mental health, and lack of access to resources.

For example, Khan explained that “members of the LGBTQ community, they often aren’t able to voice or find themselves. […] When you’re in a situation when you get bounced around from house to house, you don’t really have a comforting environment to voice those things.”

In their presentation, Ger and Khan also gave statistics focusing on what happens to children in care when they age out of the system.

“When you’re in a situation when you get bounced around from house to house, you don’t really have a comforting environment to voice those things.”

“Less than 13 per cent enroll in any sort of post-secondary program, accompanied by less than two per cent actually graduating from those post-secondary institutions […] largely due to lack of support,” Ger said.

“When it comes to homelessness, half of the homeless young adult population is in care,” he added.

Khan explained that McGill and SSMU should take steps to advocate for students who come from care because “sticking to the status quo means that we’re perpetuating a cycle where thousands of young people aren’t given the opportunity to actually move on to adulthood.”

“Most, as you know, end up homeless and don’t have the opportunity to pursue secondary education,” she continued. “So, without obviously the educational supports as a component, but generally social supports as well, their […] ability to contribute to society […] is thwarted.”

Ger and Khan suggested McGill and SSMU should focus on diversity-inclusive enrollment strategies, active outreach, and improving support, specifically for racialized students.

“When it comes to homelessness, half of the homeless young adult population is in care.”

“We need to look into enhancing and implementing programs surrounding those […] areas and different resources we can implement,” Ger said.

He elaborated that “financial support is where we’ll start; so things like tuition waivers, room and board, designated scholarships and bursaries, living stipends, etc. There are programs that currently exist that could be expanded on, things like the access bursary fund that SSMU currently has.”

Ger and Khan further shared the different universities’ programs which address the areas of education, emotional, health, and finance, as a basis for McGill to build a future program.

Environment Representative Tuviere Okome asked if McGill’s current bursary program “[takes] into account the struggles of marginalized students and puts that into account when it decides who it gives the entry bursaries to?”

Khan responded that as far as she is aware, there are no designated supports.

So far the exact number of students this will impact is unknown, and Khan noted that they plan to do a survey to help determine the magnitude, as many students from care don’t disclose their background.

Motion Regarding Global Access to Medicines Policy

Councilors discussed a motion regarding global access to medicines policy, which was presented by Sonia Larbi-Aissa, co-president of the McGill chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicine (UAEM-McGill) and a former Daily editor.

“The club […] has a long term goal of seeing what’s called a ‘global access licensing framework’ implemented at McGill University in their research areas,” Larbi-Aissa explained.

An access licensing framework is “specific to the way that innovations that are invented at McGill are patented through McGill,” she added.

The motion calls for SSMU to adopt a policy regarding global access to medicines whereby “SSMU supports increased access to medicines throughout the world as a public good and a human right [and] calls for the implementation of a humanitarian or global access licensing framework for health-related technology transfers to the private sector at McGill University.”

“The club […] has a long term goal of seeing what’s called a ‘global access licensing framework’ implemented at McGill University in their research areas.”

It also called for SSMU to advocate for the implementation of such a global access licensing framework through the Senate and respective University committees.

A humanitarian clause would be added to the text of the patent agreement, which would say that if a humanitarian situation or crisis occurs, “this innovation that’s in this patent would be […] available either at cost, [meaning] the pharmaceutical company that’s producing it wouldn’t charge anything over the fixed cost of producing it […] or they would allow the intellectual property of the patent — so the way in which the medicine is made or sold — to be transferred to a generic distributor,” Larbi-Aissa explained.

This would mean developing countries should be able to produce and access the drugs at a much lower price than when a developed country produces it.
Senate Caucus Representative Joshua Chin asked if the McGill chapter of UAEM has approached the Post-Graduate Students’ Society with a similar proposal, to which Larbi-Aissa responded that they have not, but may do so in the future.

Senate Caucus Representative William Cleveland noted that Larbi-Aissa had talked about humanitarian crisis, “yet the term crisis does not appear any time in this motion, and the only time [I] really see ‘humanitarian’ used is in the third point of [the] very long whereas clause.”

This would mean developing countries should be able to produce and access the drugs at a much lower price than when a developed country produces it.

“I was wondering if a humanitarian basis could really be made for any time anyone has no access to essential medicines,” Cleveland stated. “Because I […] looked at the advocating for the implementation for a humanitarian global access licensing framework, and I went to your parent organization – the larger chapter of UAEM – and that also says nothing [about] humanitarian crises or humanitarian issues in general at all.”

“I was wondering because you’ve spoken about the humanitarian crises, in what way do you see this being incorporated to actually show that within this policy?” he asked.

“The whereas clause you’re referring to is basically the text of what’s called the SPS or the Statement of Principles and Strategies for the equitable dissemination of medical technologies that was adopted by Harvard, Brown, Oxford, and I believe 22 other institutions,” Larbi-Aissa responded, “and yes, it doesn’t specifically refer to humanitarian crises; [it] was actually put in as an example of what could be adopted by McGill.”

“Harvard, Oxford, Brown and others decided not to make it contingent on crises,” she added. “Yes, that means that a humanitarian basis could possibly apply to something a little less acute, but I ask why is that a bad thing?”

She further said that if the University needs specific reference to humanitarian crises to be in the motion for it to be implemented, UAEM was willing to add it.

The framework of the humanitarian clause will be up to the McGill Senate and those who will be making the decisions, she explained.
Arts Representative and former Daily editor Igor Sadikov noted a procedural issue with regards to this motion, in that the policy requires two readings by Council. As such, he proposed splitting the motion into two questions.

“Harvard, Oxford, Brown and others decided not to make it contingent on crises. Yes, that means that a humanitarian basis could possibly apply to something a little less acute, but I ask why is that a bad thing?”

The first part of the motion calling on SSMU to adopt a policy will be read again at another Council meeting, while the second part of the motion advocating for such a policy was voted on and passed.

Motion regarding free birth control

A motion regarding SSMU support for cost-free birth control coverage was also brought to Council.

The motion was presented by Julian Bonellostauch, the policy director for McGill Students for the New Democratic Party (NDP-McGill).
Bonellostauch explained that many countries have birth control covered in their health plans, excluding Canada.

“However, it is covered for Quebec residents here at McGill and we want to expand that to non-Quebec Canadian residents and also ask McGill to see if they can do the same for international students,” he explained.

Currently the cost of birth control is only covered for 80 per cent of non-Quebec students. “So it would be a modest increase in the coverage but it would have great benefits because we feel that unfortunately cost is a giant barrier for health care,” Bonellostauch added.

“The main barrier to access to contraception is not cost but rather access to a family physician in order to get a prescription for hormonal birth control,” Chin said. “So my question is, have you explored this route in order to facilitate access to contraceptives?”

Bonellostauch responded that he has not personally done so, but other members of NDP-McGill are looking into it. The motion was then voted on and passed.

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Montreal says “Fuck Trump” http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/montreal-says-fuck-trump/ Mon, 14 Nov 2016 19:57:07 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48393 “Fuck Donald Trump!” chanted a crowd of roughly 200 demonstrators marching down St. Denis on Wednesday, November 9, the words resonating as onlookers and passersby waved and cheered in support. The self-described anti-fascist gathering coincided with dozens of similar protests held across the U.S. in the wake of Trump’s election as the next U.S. President on November 8. It aimed to denounce Trump’s racism, sexism, and right-wing populist rhetoric and policy proposals.

A solemn mood reigned as protesters gathered around 7:30 p.m. at the corner of Ontario and de Lorimier. Many expressed their anger and disappointment in the previous night’s election.

“The last twenty-four hours have been emotionally traumatizing,” a Concordia student who attended the protest told The Daily. “I’ve been trying to come to face with the reality of having a neo-fascist as someone with the nuclear codes, [at the head of] one of the most powerful militaries in the world, so I’m feeling pretty shitty. Honestly, I feel like I’ve lost all hope.”

“I feel like a lot of people felt like the world was trending in a somewhat good direction, and this is a slap in the face to that kind of idea,” Justinas Staskevicius, a recent Concordia graduate, told The Daily at the protest. “I think the people were lied to, I think they were sold the image of a man who they felt was a populist, and they had a lot of anger toward the system itself.”

Speaking at the beginning of the rally, one of the organizers emphasized the need for solidarity with marginalized populations in the United States.

“I’ve been trying to come to face with the reality of having a neo-fascist as someone with the nuclear codes, [at the head of] one of the most powerful militaries in the world, so I’m feeling pretty shitty.”

“The far-right populist wave, which is growing in France, in Britain, in Greece, now finds an echo in North America,” she told the crowd in French. “Faced with Donald Trump’s racism and sexism, his wealth, his disdain for poor people, for disabled people, for the LGBT community, let us come together to say loud and clear that the far-right shall not pass, that we stand in solidarity with much of the American population that will shortly suffer the wrath of Trump.”

The gathering served as “a chance for personal catharsis” for the participants, as the anonymous student described it, and the mood noticeably lightened once demonstrators took to the streets and began to chant.

“I think the people were lied to, I think they were sold the image of a man who they felt was a populist, and they had a lot of anger toward the system itself.”

“Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go!” and “Tout le monde déteste les fascistes!” (“Everybody hates fascists!”) the crowd shouted as it headed westward escorted by police.

Speaking to The Daily, attendees noted the harmful impact of Trump’s words and actions on members of marginalized groups and the impunity with which he has acted.

“We need to send a clear message that we do not accept this candidate who defends the principles of white supremacy and promotes hatred against different ethnic groups, Mexicans, Muslims,” Sandra Cordero, one of the demonstrators, said in French. “He’s a rapist, this guy is a rapist […] how come no one has arrested him yet? […] Will he do it again to other people? Will he prevent justice from taking its course? […] This is a fascist, this is a dangerous man.”

Maylee, a freelance illustrator who attended the protest, expressed concern about the rippling effects of Trump’s victory. “As a person of colour and a woman […] I really hope people of colour [in Canada] will not get hurt in this. I hope there won’t be a rise of racism in the world either because someone just gave the green light to this. So for now, let’s just hope the next twenty-four hours is going to be okay, because the last twenty-four hours have been really tough.”

Police declared the demonstration illegal at 8:50 p.m., but did not take action to disperse it. Shortly thereafter, the protest reached its destination, the U.S. consulate at the corner of St. Alexandre and René-Lévesque.

“We need to send a clear message that we do not accept this candidate who defends the principles of white supremacy and promotes hatred against different ethnic groups, Mexicans, Muslims.”

Addressing the crowd at the close of the demonstration, Éric, an organizer, spoke to the relevance of the anti-fascist struggle in Quebec.

“The struggle against fascism has to be waged day after day, in our living environments, in our work environments, everywhere we are, because it requires constant education – that’s the only way we can defeat it, and certainly not by voting, which amounts to a choice between the plague and cholera as we have seen this year in the U.S.,” he said in French.

“Here in Quebec, one has only to think of the Parti Québécois with Jean-François Lisée [and his Islamophobia], the security measures that are being taken to prevent us from demonstrating – we’re not any safer here than our neighbours are.”

Looking toward the future, some of the participants found a silver lining in an opportunity to build solidarity and in an increased potential for mobilization.

“Here in Quebec, one has only to think of the Parti Québécois with Jean-François Lisée [and his Islamophobia], the security measures that are being taken to prevent us from demonstrating – we’re not any safer here than our neighbours are.”

“Perhaps the one positive thing that can happen from this situation is that people that were centrist, liberal, HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] supporters will become radicalized and do more than they would have had she been elected,” said the anonymous student. “I’m trying to convince myself that there’s hope, but it’s hard.”

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No quorum at GA http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/no-quorum-at-ga/ Mon, 14 Nov 2016 11:10:49 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48373 On Monday, November 7, around 25 students gathered for the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Fall 2016 General Assembly (GA). For the results of a GA to be binding, a minimum of a hundred students must attend. Since the meeting failed to meet quorum, it became a “consultative forum,” meaning that, while students still voted on motions, these votes were not binding.

SSMU statement regarding ‘Women titleholders of the land’

SSMU Indigenous Affairs Coordinator Christian Quequish discussed SSMU’s recent statement in favour of striking the “Motion Regarding Support for the Kahtihon’tia:kwenio (‘Women titleholders of the land’)” from the agenda. SSMU had previously released a statement regarding the motion, the latter having originally been brought to the Winter 2016 GA.

According to SSMU’s statement, the motion “called for the SSMU to support a Notice of Seizure delivered to McGill University on September 12, 2015, by a group presenting themselves as representatives of the Kahnawá:ke Mohawk community.” The notice called on the University to “immediately stop trespassing on traditional Indigenous territory.” However, the motion was tabled at the Winter GA because of inadequate Indigenous consultation.

The land seizure was delivered without any consultation of Indigenous students or members of the Kahnawá:ke community, Quequish explained.

According to the statement, “the motion presented at the Winter General Assembly is misrepresentative of local Indigenous perspectives and stems from selective consultation with activists operating in isolation from traditional governance systems. […] The ‘Women Titleholders’ are not official representatives of Kahnawá:ke, nor do they have the support of the Kahnawá:ke Longhouses or many Indigenous students on-campus.” In fact, according to Quequish, the movers only consulted with one Indigenous student after the motion was tabled.

The Indigenous student, after providing their personal contact information to the movers, was “subsequently harassed […] with repeated emails, Facebook messages, and phone calls,” said Quequish.

“Non-Indigenous students need to realize that Indigenous issues are complex, and our perspectives are diverse and nuanced,” Quequish continued. “To only interact with one Indigenous person and no others [is] a misrepresentation.”

“Non-Indigenous students need to realize that Indigenous issues are complex, and our perspectives are diverse and nuanced.”

“As students, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard with respect to engaging with Indigenous individuals and communities, and respect their decisions when they choose not to speak with us,” Queqish concluded.

Other motions

A motion ratifying SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) appointments passed with no discussion. SSMU President Ben Ger explained that SSMU’s constitution requires BoD appointments to be ratified by the GA, but it’s mostly procedural.

A “Motion regarding Global Access to Medicines Policy” was next on the agenda. It was moved by the McGill Students’ Chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM).

One member of UAEM-McGill gave a brief explanation of the motion, saying that UAEM “is trying to get McGill University to adopt a patent policy which will allow different innovations or drugs […] tested at the University [to be] more accessible to people in developing countries.” According to the motion, 65 other universities have adopted a similar policy.

“This motion is asking SSMU to help [our] club get McGill University to adopt this motion in its policies,” the mover clarified.

SSMU VP University Affairs Erin Sobat asked how the movers planned to move forward and if they would join him in meeting with the Vice Principal (Research and Innovation)’s office. The movers clarified they would ask SSMU senators to put the motion in front of their constituencies and are also following up on other options. The motion then passed.

“This motion is asking SSMU to help [our] club get McGill University to adopt this motion in its policies.”

The next item on the agenda was the motion regarding SSMU support for cost-free birth control coverage, moved by McGill Students for the New Democratic Party (NDP-McGill). According to the motion, “non-Quebec McGill students currently do not receive full reimbursement for prescription birth control under the SSMU’s group health insurance.”

The motion called for SSMU to support cost-free access to prescription birth control and for the SSMU Health and Dental Review Committee to review SSMU’s health insurance plan and negotiate with the insurance provider to ensure free prescription birth control to SSMU members.

U1 student and member of NDP McGill, Julian Bonellostauch, presented the motion. “We feel that because birth control is the most effective form of contraception we should increase access to this,” he said.

Sobat proposed a friendly amendment to “add another clause that would also mandate the SSMU to advocate changes to the international plan,” as the international student health plan is separate from the SSMU health plan. Since the amendment was friendly, it was automatically added to the motion, which passed.

Finally, students passed a motion regarding the appointment of the auditor for the fiscal year of 2016-2017. This ensures that the same auditor for the 2015-2016 year is hired for this academic year.

What’s next?

After the motions were heard, the SSMU executive team reported on their work so far this semester.

Because the GA did not reach quorum, the motions ratifying the BoD and appointing the auditor will go to online ratification, while other motions will go to the SSMU Legislative Council.

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Million Mask March http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/million-mask-march/ Mon, 14 Nov 2016 11:00:56 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48357 On the evening of Saturday, November 5, roughly two hundred people gathered in Victoria Square for Montreal’s Million Mask March. Ostensibly organized by the decentralized global hacktivist group Anonymous, the annual march has taken place in cities around the world since 2013.

Its date coincides with Guy Fawkes Day, and protesters typically wear the stylized Guy Fawkes mask, which has become an emblem of Anonymous since the 2006 film V for Vendetta associated the mask with political protest in the public consciousness.

Gathered around a statue of Queen Victoria, the base of which had been covered in banners and placards for the occasion, those attending the protest chatted and chanted the occasional slogan. Half a dozen police officers watched from across a street, but did not intervene.

A wide array of political ideologies and causes were represented, with placards denouncing rape culture, the Dakota Access Pipeline, state surveillance, colonialism in Palestine, censorship, and capitalism, to name a few.

Many of the protestors who spoke to The Daily did not express affiliation with any specific political ideology, but rather expressed generalized frustration with aspects of society which they perceived as unjust or corrupt. Most protesters seemed to fall on the left of the political spectrum, though with varying degrees of radicalism and detailed analysis.

One demonstrator, however, declared support for the right-wing nationalist regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and expressed profoundly anti-Semitic views in a brief interview with The Daily.

A wide array of political ideologies and causes were represented, with placards denouncing rape culture, the Dakota Access Pipeline, state surveillance, colonialism in Palestine, censorship, and capitalism, to name a few.

This disparity of beliefs and political orientations is seemingly a function of Anonymous’s decentralized structure – the hacktivist collective has no hierarchy of leadership and no well-defined ideology, beyond a broad opposition to censorship.

Individuals identifying with the group have launched cyberattacks against a slew of targets, from the governments of the United States and Israel, to Daesh (also known as ISIS), to video game companies, to financial corporations like Visa and MasterCard, to Quebec nationalism, to the Westboro Baptist Church.

Speaking to The Daily, a protester who identified himself only as Francis addressed the drawbacks of such a broad and decentralized movement.

“Some groups, probably on the right, could try and get a piece of the cake,” he admitted in French. “Obviously everyone knows who those people are, everyone knows they’re not legitimate, and they’re not the real ones – if I can say that. The real ones are always for rights, […] but it’s true that there are right-wing groups that often do really serious things under the mask of Anonymous. And obviously people who are in the know understand that it’s not us, the comrades, who do that.”

When asked what issues Anonymous addresses that are the most important to him personally, Francis, replied “human rights, […] the media that lies to us, […] the police services of many cities – especially Montreal – but especially poverty, in my opinion.”

What could Anonymous do to effect change on these issues, as opposed to legal action through mainstream political channels? According to Francis, the value of their work lies largely in raising awareness among the general population.

“The real ones are always for rights, […] but it’s true that there are right-wing groups that often do really serious things under the mask of Anonymous. And obviously people who are in the know understand that it’s not us, the comrades, who do that.”

“Raising awareness, and if ever there’s no visibility, doing concrete actions […] but it’s mostly informing people,” he said. “For example, if there was an organisation known for causing poverty, […] Anonymous might attack their servers, and crash their site, which […] would make people aware of the subject.”

The message of the Million Mask March, he said, was to tell the world “we’re here, we’ll always be here, and we don’t forget.”
The crowd gathered in Square Victoria, in addition to its diversity of political opinions and causes, comprised a variety of ages, ethnicities, and genders.

Speaking to The Daily, Flavie and Charlotte said they were frustrated by the prevailing climate of conservatism at their private high school, and had decided to attend the march out of a strong sense that Canadian society is profoundly flawed, and that “it’s not by doing nothing that these things will change.”

After some brief speeches, the protesters watched a video tribute to the late Jean Leger, a local anti-pipeline activist who recently committed suicide. Following this, they took to the streets, chanting various slogans from the classic – “Whose streets? Our streets!” – to the eclectic – “Killuminati!” and “Fuck the New World Order!”

The protest wound through the streets of the financial district, the lower Plateau, and Old Port, stopping at sites deemed emblematic of state violence and corruption: the Palais de Justice, the United States consulate, and the headquarters of the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM).

“Whose streets? Our streets!” – to the eclectic – “Killuminati!” and “Fuck the New World Order!”

Police officers on bicycles remained just ahead of the crowd, with several police vehicles following it, but no substantive confrontation occurred between protesters and law enforcement. The event ended peacefully outside the Palais de Justice, with organizers urging people to meet on November 5, 2017, for the next Million Mask March.

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