News – The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com The mop squad since 1911 Mon, 27 Feb 2017 19:47:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.2 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg News – The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com 32 32 Students criticize SSMU executives for inaction on David Aird http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/students-criticize-ssmu-executives-for-inaction-on-david-aird/ Mon, 27 Feb 2017 18:22:48 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49875 jQuery(document).ready(function($) {$('#trigger-warning').modal();});

At a meeting on February 23, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council discussed SSMU’s response to reported acts of gendered and sexual violence committed by former VP External David Aird, which came to light in the lead-up to his resignation on February 22.

“Upsetting” lack of action

The Community Disclosure Network (CDN), a group of survivors and allies, which had formed in order to take action against Aird, published a statement on February 21 describing Aird’s alleged history of gendered and sexual violence. According to the statement, when students had brought the matter to the attention of SSMU executives last semester, their response had been underwhelming. The CDN criticized available avenues of recourse as “insufficient and undesirable,” and pointed to a perceived culture of inaction among the executives.

President Ben Ger stated at Council that SSMU had received reports in the Fall 2016 semester of behaviour from Aird which “made individuals feel uncomfortable,” at which point “consultation was done internally” within the SSMU executive team. The executives’ response to these reports had been to establish private weekly ‘check-ins’ between Aird and Ger, a course of action that was sharply criticized by councillors and members of the gallery.

“When the first case of harassment came up to the exec team, why was this information kept secretive?” asked Environment Representative Tuviere Okome.

“This executive was in this room with women who have potentially experienced sexual violence,” added Okome. “This is embarrassing, but even more so, as a woman, especially as a Black woman, it’s so upsetting that this happened.”

“This executive was in this room with women who have potentially experienced sexual violence. […] This is embarrassing, but even more so, as a woman, especially as a Black woman, it’s so upsetting that this happened.”

VP University Affairs Erin Sobat said that the complaints about Aird’s behaviour which the SSMU exec received in the fall did not include reports of sexual assault. Sobat said that “it would have been difficult to proceed with a motion for removal” at that point, but recognized that “more could have been done to assess the risks to members posed by the individual at that time and try to collect more information.” Had there been reports of sexual assault, the executive would have taken “more severe steps,” he said.

Ariane Schang, Computer Science Undergraduate Society Equity Commissioner, questioned Sobat’s justification, noting that the weekly check-ins established between Aird and Ger proved that the executive team “had identified [Aird] as a threat.”

“I think that the SSMU exec […] probably had a solid understanding that there was a danger, because [Aird] was having to receive further consent education on a one-on-one basis,” said Schang.

Ger, however, defended the check-ins as “the most action we could [take] at the time.”

Asked if minutes were taken or attendance recorded at the check-ins between Aird and Ger, Ger said that no such record was available, adding that “people in other offices […] nearby” might be able to confirm that the check-ins did in fact occur.

Arts and Science student Kiana Saint-Macary challenged the notion that respecting the complainants’ desire to remain anonymous was incompatible with stronger action. Saint-Macary is the co-president of Jeunes néodémocrates du Québec (JNDQ), the Quebec youth wing of the New Democratic Party (NDP), where Aird briefly held an executive position in the fall of 2016 before resigning following complaints about his behaviour.

“Immediately after hearing that there [were] complaints, not of sexual assault but harassment, we got David [Aird] to resign from the [JNDQ] executive,” said Saint-Macary, adding that in doing so the JNDQ was still able to maintain the anonymity and respect the wishes of the complainants.

“I think that the SSMU exec […] probably had a solid understanding that there was a danger, because [Aird] was having to receive further consent education on a one-on-one basis.”

“I think there has been proof […] that when you threaten [Aird] with exposure, he is willing to resign,” Saint-Macary continued. “I think that the fact that he never […] felt enough pressure from the [SSMU] executive to resign – even before you knew about his assault – is an indicator that he didn’t feel that you were ever going to do anything that was going to really punish him or reprimand him for what he was doing.”

“You didn’t do enough to […] get him away from a position of power yourselves, and I’m really disappointed in the SSMU executives,” she added.

Ger and Sobat confirmed at Council that the SSMU executive had not asked Aird to resign. Asked whether executives would themselves consider resigning at this point, Ger said that they were not considering resignation. He later added that he would be willing to “have a conversation” regarding the matter if there were widespread calls to do so.

Accusations of feigned ignorance

Several councillors expressed concern over the fact that Ger did not refer the handling of the reports received in the fall to the correct oversight channels, such as the SSMU Board of Directors, which is in charge of human resources at the executive level.

Malaya Powers, U3 Arts student and co-president of NDP McGill, cast doubt on the claim that SSMU had not received reports of sexual harassment or assault committed by Aird in the fall, arguing that this contradicted the CDN’s statement. Sobat responded by saying that any reports made to individuals affiliated with SSMU did not reach the executives, noting that this pointed to a flaw in existing reporting procedures.

“You didn’t do enough to […] get him away from a position of power yourselves, and I’m really disappointed in the SSMU executives.”

“What I’m hearing tonight, frankly, I think, is a lie, that SSMU did not know that [Aird] was sexually harassing people on campus, so I want to say tonight to every survivor […] that I believe you, and a whole group of us believe you,” said Powers.

Law Representative Romita Sur confirmed that “quite a few members on this Council had received messages from survivors, saying that they had consulted and let the executive know about the harassment.” Sur also noted that concerns about Aird’s behaviour had been raised at a confidential session of Council where executives were not present, in early December 2016.

“This is not something new, people were aware of this issue,” said Sur.

Moving forward, Sobat committed himself to working with the CDN to implement its demands to SSMU, in particular the development of a SSMU sexual assault policy that would facilitate accessible complaint procedures and response protocols. Currently, SSMU’s equity policy fails to mention sexual violence. Ger further committed to issuing a statement that would acknowledge SSMU’s responsibility in perpetuating rape culture and contributing to gendered violence on campus.

Council adjourned around 8:30 p.m. in a sober mood, having discussed matters related to Aird’s resignation for roughly ninety minutes.

Postponed business

Motions postponed to the next meeting of Council due to the early adjournment include the adoption of a policy on unpaid internships, revisions to the Indigenous solidarity policy, amendments to internal regulations, and proposed referendum questions regarding constitutional amendments and an increase to the Athletics fee. Ger will seek to adjust the referendum timeline to make up for the resulting delay in approving questions.

“What I’m hearing tonight, frankly, I think, is a lie, that SSMU did not know that [Aird] was sexually harassing people on campus, so I want to say tonight to every survivor […] that I believe you, and a whole group of us believe you.”

Ger said that Aird’s responsibilities would be divided among the other executives following his resignation. Sobat will ensure SSMU’s representation to the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), as he has been attending AVEQ meetings jointly with Aird.

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SSMU VP External resigns amid allegations of sexual violence http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/ssmu-vp-external-resigns-amid-allegations-of-sexual-violence/ Wed, 22 Feb 2017 23:48:45 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49816 jQuery(document).ready(function($) {$('#trigger-warning').modal();});

On February 22, David Aird resigned as VP External of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), SSMU President Ben Ger told The Daily. On the evening of February 21, the Community Disclosure Network (CDN), “a group of survivors and allies who have united to take action against David Aird,” published a statement online alleging that Aird had sexually assaulted various McGill students.

The statement condemned “the history of sexualized and gendered violence committed by Aird both before and during his time as VP External,” and asserted that Aird’s resignation was the direct result of the group’s demands for him to step down from his position.

On February 9, the CDN circulated an anonymous online form to collect disclosures regarding Aird’s behaviour and alleged history of sexual violence. According to CDN’s statement, multiple people disclosed through the form, and “the disclosures were to be presented to the SSMU Board of Directors as part of an established process demanding Aird’s resignation.”

On the evening of February 21, the Community Disclosure Network (CDN), “a group of survivors and allies who have united to take action against David Aird,” published a statement online alleging that Aird had sexually assaulted various McGill students.

Melody*, member of CDN and U3 Arts student told The Daily that Aird found out about the online form and contacted CDN with an offer to resign. Aird’s offer to resign came with three conditions, said Melody: “that he would get a week to resign, […] that he could write a letter of apology to all the people that [disclosed or submitted complaints], and that he would leave quietly. Of course, for safety reasons, we do not want him to resign without having to disclose the real reasons behind his resignation. The McGill University community deserves to know.”

Disclosures of alleged sexual assault

The Daily has obtained statements that were submitted through the online form, both of which indicated that the writers were comfortable with their comments being quoted publicly.

Nina Hermes is a floor fellow and U3 social work student, who first spoke with Aird on Tinder in early 2016. She wrote that “David has made me feel extremely uncomfortable many times since I first met him, has asked me out repeatedly to the point where it borders on harassment, and I do not feel comfortable at all having him in a major leadership position at the University.”

The statement condemned “the history of sexualized and gendered violence committed by Aird both before and during his time as VP External,” and asserted that Aird’s resignation was the direct result of the group’s demands for him to step down from his position.

“A few months later I saw a public status posted by a friend of mine [wherein] multiple women shared that they’ve also experienced similar things from David. That was when I realized that his pattern of repeatedly asking women out on dates to the point where it is borderline harassment was not a singular incident with me, but a much deeper pattern that I find deeply concerning.”

The second disclosure The Daily obtained alleged a case of sexual assault wherein Aird had penetrative sex with the writer of the complaint without their consent, despite them repeatedly telling Aird that they didn’t want to have penetrative sex. The writer connected with Aird on Facebook via a mutual friend, and first went on a date with him on June 12, 2016.

The Daily has obtained statements that were submitted through the online form, both of which indicated that the writers were comfortable with their comments being quoted publicly.

After the author invited Aird to their apartment and stressed that they did not want to have penetrative sex, “David asked me if he could tie me to the bed. I was hesitant and resisted for a while, but eventually allowed him to tie only my arms to the bed frame. We continued to kiss and I continued to stress that I was not planning on having (penetrative) sex with him. He said that was fine. After a few minutes he asked if he could take off my underwear because he wanted to go down on me. Once again I was hesitant, but he started to beg so I eventually gave in. He then began to say he wanted to have (penetrative) sex, to which I firmly said no. He kept on bringing it up and I kept saying no. We went back and forth on it for a while; he was getting impatient and whiny and I was becoming uncomfortable because he was on top of me and my arms were tied up above my head. David then decided to disregard what I was saying to him because he proceeded [to] put his penis inside me. Not only was this done without my consent, but it was also done without a condom which is not something I would ever agree to. My reaction was something along the lines of ‘Woah, what the fuck are you doing?!’ and so he did stop. I told him to get off of me and untie me immediately, which he did, reluctantly.”

“Not only was this done without my consent, but it was also done without a condom which is not something I would ever agree to.”

On July 2, 2016, the author sent Aird a Facebook message explaining to him that “he pushed me when I was clearly hesitant, and it made me very uncomfortable. I told him that, in combination with his aggression, some of the language he used during our sexual encounter was not okay. For example, phrases like ‘you’re going to like it,’ ‘you’ll get used to it,’ or calling me derogatory names.” Aird responded, saying that “I’m a different person when I’m horny, which is something I hate but that’s just how it is. Doesn’t mean I stop caring about consent, but yes, it does mean that I’ll try to push through hesitancy and ‘advance my own interests.’ Regardless, fundamentally, I care very much about consent and I’d never fuck around with unambiguous answers.”

“The quotes I have inserted are directly from my Facebook conversations with David, and I did my best to contextualize them properly,” the author writes. “Essentially, David Aird believes that, while he deeply cares about consent, he cannot actually control himself in sexual situations and that he loses his principles in that moment. He believes that it is the other person’s responsibility to tell him to stop, using only ‘unambiguous answers,’ because his intention is to ‘push through hesitancy.’”

“I was sexually assaulted by [Aird] the night of November 1st, 2016,” Lilith*, a McGill student and member of CDN, told The Daily in an email. “[Aird] knows that coercion is not consent, and that actively refusing to listen to ‘no’ is sexual assault. [His] actions were violent.”

According to Lilith, after she went over to Aird’s house and consented to cuddle with him, he then proceeded to grope, penetrate, and spank her without her consent, or in situations of coerced consent.

“[Aird] knows that coercion is not consent, and that actively refusing to listen to ‘no’ is sexual assault. [His] actions were violent.”

Melody* told The Daily that she had also felt pressured into agreeing to sexual acts with Aird. “He asked if he could take off my shirt, and at first I said ‘no’ but he asked two or three times, and eventually I said ‘yeah.’ […] I could tell that my body was saying no, but he wouldn’t listen to that – he wouldn’t even listen to ‘no’ – he would only listen to ‘yes’ or even ‘I don’t know,’ which to him meant ‘convince me,’” she recounted.

“He’d also talk about how important consent was, and so I thought, ‘this man is a feminist.’ So I guess he knew how to [practice consent], but, more than that, he knew his way around it,” she continued.

A history of resignations and removals

According to the CDN statement, “two student societies that Aird was involved in — McGill Against Austerity and NDP McGill — received complaints of sexual violence in October and December of 2016, respectively.” Both societies were unable to take action against Aird, since those affected by his actions wished to remain anonymous.

According to the CDN statement, “two student societies that Aird was involved in — McGill Against Austerity and NDP McGill — received complaints of sexual violence in October and December of 2016, respectively.”

Angèle Pineau-Lemieux, the VP Communications of the Jeunes néodémocrates du Québec (JNDQ) – the youth wing of the New Democratic Party – told The Daily that Aird was elected VP Politics of the JNDQ in late October, 2016. Within the days following, three to four complaints were brought to the JNDQ executive by McGill students who were NDP members, and who were uncomfortable with Aird being in a position of power, said Pineau-Lemieux. The JNDQ brought the latter to the attention of the Quebec NDP, at which point Aird chose to resign rather than have the case presented to the NDP Administration Council.

“The revelations regarding David’s behavior came to our attention on October 30, 2016,” Malaya Powers, co-president of NDP McGill, told The Daily. “At that point we were contacted by the JNDQ with formal requests that David be removed from all online communication forms associated with NDP McGill. So listservs, Facebook groups, Facebook pages – anything that was affiliated with the NDP club on campus.” The JNDQ was representing the wishes of a person who had been sexually assaulted, Powers added.

“At that point we were contacted by the JNDQ with formal requests that David be removed from all online communication forms associated with NDP McGill.”

A member of McGill Against Austerity, who wished to remain anonymous, also confirmed that Aird had been removed from the group earlier this semester “for the same reason CDN called for his resignation: gendered and sexualized violence.”

Regarding Aird’s resignation from the position of VP External, “the position will stay empty until someone is elected for the incoming year,” Ger told The Daily. “We’re discussing potentials of reaching out to previous VP Externals to have them come in on a contract or something like that.”

Calls for a SSMU sexual assault policy

According to the CDN statement, several students brought Aird’s behaviour to the attention of SSMU Executive, which Ger confirmed in an interview with The Daily. “The only action undertaken by SSMU in response to these students’ complaints was to establish weekly ‘check-ins’ between Aird and the President of SSMU,” the statement says.

Ger confirmed that he had been meeting with Aird weekly to “actively review specific events that had happened throughout the week” which included reviewing equity and consent training materials. “So, if I was in a meeting with him, or we were ever around the office together and something that could be deemed ‘inappropriate’ happened […] making sure he understood changes in language that needed to happen,” explained Ger.

A member of McGill Against Austerity, who wished to remain anonymous, also confirmed that Aird had been removed from the group earlier this semester “for the same reason CDN called for his resignation: gendered and sexualized violence.”

In her statement submitted through the online form, Hermes criticized the “weekly check-ins,” saying that “[Ger’s] response to the problem included having a ‘talk’ with David. Someone who is in a position of power who has a history of harassing women is very rarely going to change after a ‘talk,’ and that proved to be the case with David.”

McGill’s sexual violence policy does not does not have jurisdiction over SSMU, and SSMU does not have a clear outline of procedures for receiving disclosures. “I don’t believe that [weekly check-ins] alone were adequate,” said Ger. “There was definitely a desire to do more.”

In her statement submitted through the online form, Hermes criticized the “weekly check-ins,” saying that “[Ger’s] response to the problem included having a ‘talk’ with David.

Within SSMU, “a lack of clear, binding policy has lead to multiple instances of disclosures being mishandled,” says the CDN statement. As a result, the CDN demands that SSMU issue a statement condemning Aird’s actions as well as issue public apologies to survivors and the community for the lack of action on the part of some members of the SSMU executive who failed to “immediately [take] steps towards pro-survivor disciplinary action” upon being approached with disclosures. CDN also demands that SSMU develop “a concrete stand-alone sexual assault policy” and “easily accessible complaint procedures and response protocols related to sexual assault,” and that all elected representatives undergo training on how to respond to disclosures of sexual assault.

At the time of publication, SSMU executives had yet to release a statement regarding Aird’s resignation.

*names have been changed

The Daily has not yet been able to verify the allegations of sexual assault.

The CDN is organizing a support group open to those who may have experienced any degree of sexualized or gendered violence by Aird; email community.disclosure.network@gmail.com. The CDN statement also includes a list of Montreal-based resources for those who have experienced sexual assault, including crisis centres, active listening services, self-care material, and 24-hour support services.

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Graduate students’ issues addressed at Senate http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/graduate-students-issues-addressed-at-senate/ Wed, 22 Feb 2017 16:45:16 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49811 On Wednesday, February 15, the McGill Senate convened for its sixth meeting of the 2016-2017 academic year.
Senators discussed a question regarding graduate student teaching at McGill, a motion regarding the annual celebration of Black History Month, had a lengthy discussion regarding the “McGill University Strategic Academic Plan 2017-2020,” and heard reports from a number of committees.

Opening remarks

In her opening address, Principal Suzanne Fortier mentioned her meeting with other heads of Quebec universities and the Ministers of Finance and Education in December, largely to discuss what is needed for the government to better support its universities.

Fortier noted that the Quebec government had instituted austerity measures which hurt universities, but said, “now that we’ve passed this period, we made the case to the Minister of Finance that it is time now to reinvest in universities.”

The Principal further noted that the ministers seemed to understand this request.

In her opening address, Principal Suzanne Fortier mentioned her meeting with other heads of Quebec universities and the Ministers of Finance and Education in December, largely to discuss what is needed for the government to better support its universities.

Following Fortier’s remarks, one senator asked what the University has done and will do for refugees, in light of the recent executive order from U.S. President Donald Trump, which banned refugees, and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
In response, Provost and VP Academic Christopher Manfredi said that “some of the measures we put in place for students affected by the executive order were already in place for refugees.”

Kathleen Massey, university registrar and executive director of enrolment services, added that “refugees often encounter some unique problems […]. There are often challenges related to just ensuring official documentation which may have been destroyed through war or other serious matters. So we practice a level of flexibility around documentation for example.”

Massey noted that these measures were already in place prior to the executive order. She further added that for those students who may have dire financial difficulties, the University either waives or refunds their application fee.

Manfredi also added that the University “recently entered into a partnership with the Al Ghurair Foundation based in the United Arab Emirates. That foundation has a mission […] to provide educational opportunities for students from the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] region mostly, from underprivileged backgrounds as well as from refugee areas, provide them access to high quality secondary as well as post-secondary education.”

There are often challenges related to just ensuring official documentation which may have been destroyed through war or other serious matters. So we practice a level of flexibility around documentation for example.”

Manfredi elaborated that following Trump’s executive order, the University reached out to the foundation to see if “they needed [McGill’s] assistance either to place students from those seven countries or to place students from other countries in the region who might find it difficult going to the United States, whether because of their country of origin or refugee status.”

Graduate students teaching

Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Academic Affairs Officer Nicholas Dunn brought a question to Senate asking what the University is doing to ensure a better distribution of courses that graduate students can teach, and if the University is willing to guarantee at least one teaching opportunity for all incoming PhD students.

The question largely concerned the Collective Agreement between McGill and the Course Lecturers and Instructors Union (MCLIU), which allows the University to reserve up to fifteen per cent of courses not allocated to ranked academic staff for graduate students. However, there is a widespread belief that graduate students still lack teaching opportunities, according to Dunn.

Manfredi had provided a written answer to the question prior to the Senate meeting.

Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Academic Affairs Officer Nicholas Dunn brought a question to Senate asking what the University is doing to ensure a better distribution of courses that graduate students can teach.

Dunn referred to this answer initially: “I take your point insofar as there’s a technical point to be made which is that these [positions] can be reserved for a range of individuals, of which graduate students are a part. But I hope that you can understand the spirit of the question, which is that many people are concerned about the way in which the allocation of course exclusions will affect their graduate programs.”

“You say that grad students are free to apply to the courses that are posted, and this is of course true,” Dunn continued, “however, if they arrived after the collective agreement, they have zero points and so there’s no way for them to [enter] into the system, and even those who were here before but don’t have as many points as those who have been course lecturers for longer will never get any courses.”

In response, Manfredi said “the annual distribution of [teaching positions for graduate students is] recalibrated on an annual basis, and it’s recalibrated first of all on the basis of consultation with faculties to determine their needs, and I think we’re in a learning process.”

“I think the faculties are getting better at determining their needs […] so I think that’s part of the learning process, and at the provostial level, we’re in a learning process and getting better at how we do those allocations,” Manfredi continued.

Referencing the reserve clause in the collective agreement, Manfredi added that “to negotiate an agreement like this, there are many different faculties, with many different types of teaching needs and teaching program delivery styles, and you have to have a clause that accommodates all those different needs.”

“I hope that you can understand the spirit of the question, which is that many people are concerned about the way in which the allocation of course exclusions will affect their graduate programs.”

Senator Tetyana Krupiy, a postdoctoral scholar, then asked if it would be possible to receive the distribution of these positions by faculty and explanation for the distribution.

She further referenced Fortier’s discussion about the Business Higher Education round table, where the University discussed with local businesses how to further increase engagement and work opportunities for students.

“This is a real example of how [the University’s] not doing that, and where we can, we should. I speak as a graduate program director of a department that has 120 doctoral students but only five positions, so I urge you to reconsider these kinds of opportunities and make them available to our doctoral students,” Krupiy said.

Another senator asked if there was room in negotiations to recognize the different structure of faculties, as “some faculties clearly have permanent lecturers who require job protection and in whose interest the union exists, and other faculties may have an overarching need to give training to their students, and it seems to me the problem is that it’s not capturing that diversity.”

“I think the faculties are getting better at determining their needs […] so I think that’s part of the learning process, and at the provostial level, we’re in a learning process and getting better at how we do those allocations,” Manfredi continued.

Manfredi noted that the University will honor the agreement it signed with MCLIU, but when the agreement comes up for renegotiations “those are things we can take into account.”

Black History Month motion

Arts Senator Charles Keita brought a motion to Senate that asked “that McGill officially celebrates Black History Month,” in his words.

“Until this year there was no official body on the campus that celebrated it. This year that mantle was taken up by [the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office] and I have to say that they did a great job for the events that I’ve gone to and the community definitely seems to have enjoyed them. To keep it going, I propose this motion so that it is followed through that we do this every year and it doesn’t become a rare occurrence that McGill celebrates Black History Month,” Keita elaborated.
The motion passed unanimously.

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Winter 2017 SSMU GA http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/winter-2017-ssmu-general-assembly/ Mon, 20 Feb 2017 20:12:53 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49801

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Racism in 1990s Montreal http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/racism-in-1990s-montreal/ Mon, 20 Feb 2017 11:03:01 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49757 Content warning: racism, violence, slurs

On Monday February 13, a group of students and community members gathered for a presentation by Délice Mugabo. Mugabo presented part of her research: “On Haunted Places: Encountering Slavery in 1990s Montreal.” The presentation was followed by an extended discussion focusing on the intersecting themes of Mugabo’s research.

Mugabo opened the panel by detailing the experiences of three Black people living in Montreal in the 1990s: Mireille Romulus, Pierre Moncius Étienne, and William Kafe. All three had faced some sort of violence while living in the city.

Being Black in Montreal

Romulus, a Haitian-born mother of two, was in her Longueuil apartment when two white male police officers busted in “on the pretext that her sister had an unpaid bill for $425 at the Simpson’s department store.” After handcuffing her, one of the officers choked her on the kitchen floor, then kicked and slapped her.

“[Romulus’] children reported being traumatized by the ordeal and remembered hearing the male officer calling their mother a dirty n****r and telling her to ‘go back to Africa’.”

After handcuffing her, one of the officers choked her on the kitchen floor, then kicked and slapped her.

Mugabo commented on the event, saying, “Africa, and not Longueil, is where Mireille Romulus was told she belonged. Africa is not only an elsewhere, but also an out of sight. This process of carefully placing Black people out of sight is a way of landscaping Blackness out of the nation.”

“It is rather unfathomable that they wouldn’t have known of her Haitian origin,” they added, “for not only are the vast majority of francophone Black people in Montreal descended from Haiti, the Quebec state had recruited many of them […] to help build a number of institutions.”

“Had the police officers wanted to emphasize her assumed immigration trajectory, they would have told her to go back to Haiti,” Mugabo continued “but I would argue that ‘go back to Africa,’ refers to the middle passage from Africa to the Caribbean and North America.”

“This process of carefully placing Black people out of sight is a way of landscaping Blackness out of the nation.”

Mugabo continued the discussion by recounting the violence perpetrated against Étienne, a 47 years-old Haitian father of two, when he was waiting for the bus inside the Pie IX subway station.

“A gang of fifteen skinheads ran into the station on the heels of a young Black man who had been trying to make a phone call,” said Mugabo. “The young Black man managed to get away, but the skinheads spotted Étienne and started yelling at him past the ticket booth attendant who did not intervene. The skinheads caught up to Étienne and beat him into unconsciousness. As they beat him they repeated ‘we don’t want n****rs here, go back to where you came from’.”

As a result of his severe injuries, Étienne spent several weeks recovering in the hospital and was fired from his job as a result.

“A year later, he said he still suffered from back pain, feared travelling at night, and had recurrent nightmares about the skinheads. Only four of his assailants were charged.”

Mugabo finally then went on to present the experiences of Kafe, an East Montreal teacher who immigrated to Quebec from Guinea.

“The skinheads caught up to Étienne and beat him into unconsciousness. As they beat him they repeated ‘we don’t want n****rs here, go back to where you came from’.”

“Having endured fifteen years of racial attacks from students at the Deux Montagne school board, the 54-year-old teacher submitted a complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission in 1992,” Mugabo explained.

“He testified that over the years students brought their excrement to throw at him and kicked him around in the classroom shouting ‘if the n****r dies what does it matter,’ and also ‘n****r crisis – the n****rs are everywhere’.”

As a result of his severe injuries, Étienne spent several weeks recovering in the hospital and was fired from his job as a result.

The children also repeatedly told Kafe that he was supposed to be their slave, not their teacher.

“The students’ claims to this Black man’s enslaveability are not due to their ignorance,” Mugabo made clear. “They seemed intent to make it clear to him either that slavery was as much a reality in Quebec as it had been in the states, or that if slavery hadn’t existed in Quebec that it should have.”

Mugabo called attention to the fact that this event was an instance of children expressing society’s thinly veiled prejudice: “Disruptive adolescents unconcerned with political correctness […] could shout ‘burn the n****r,’ voicing the feelings of an adult world which dared not to.”

The “haunting” nature of slavery in Quebec

Mugabo argued that these events illustrate how Black people today are haunted by slavery, even 184 years after its abolishment in Quebec. She also called attention to the lack of acknowledgement of the existence of slavery in Quebec and how that denial seeks to eradicate the experience of Black Quebecers.

“He testified that over the years students brought their excrement to throw at him and kicked him around in the classroom shouting ‘if the n****r dies what does it matter,’ and also ‘n****r crisis – the n****rs are everywhere’.”

“This province continuously denied or minimized its history of slavery,” she said, emphasizing that many in Quebec privilege Canadian slavery by claiming it was better than in the United States.

“Slavery in Quebec is said to be nicer because they were given Christian names, they were baptized,” Mugabo said.

Mugabo eventually returned to the theme of haunting, this time as proof of history’s existence. “What we learn from Beloved [by Toni Morrison] is that haunting is one way in which abusive systems of power make themselves known […] especially when they are supposedly over and done with or when their oppressive nature is denied.”

During the discussion, Rachel Zellars, a professor at McGill, raised a common issue in articulating racism. “One of the things that we’re always pushing against is scale. So the case of William Kafe can be perceived as exceptional and deviant from the norm. In Quebec in particular that narrative is something […] I’m always working against.”

“Disruptive adolescents unconcerned with political correctness […] could shout ‘burn the n****r,’ voicing the feelings of an adult world which dared not to.”

Mugabo responded: “No violence is ever spectacular enough or bad enough for it to matter or register as violent.” She continued, “It obviously isn’t spectacular enough because the school board didn’t do anything about it.”

“When we talk about systemic racism we talk about it as if it’s something [and we] don’t know how it happens. No one’s racist but you have systemic racism. So for me, [through] these cases, we can really see that this is something that people do, it’s not something that’s in the air.”

Racism in Canada vs. Quebec

When asked about the difference in racism in Quebec and the rest of Canada, Mugabo responded, “Quebec wants [Black Quebecers] to continuously say ‘you’re not racist, you’re not racist,’ asking us to speak our history in relation to their own political […] aspirations because […] people will always claim Quebec-bashing from the rest of Canada and from the rest of the world.”

“The fact that Quebec has wider issues with Canada does negate the fact that I have issues with Quebec,” she continued. “Quebec’s aspirations are not mine, so I have no interest in defending it or promoting it in any way.”

Elaborating on the theme of Quebec’s denial of slavery and racism, Zellars said, “So we only had two cases of reported lynchings in comparison to 4,000. So we only had 4,000 slaves in comparison to 4 million.”

When asked about the difference in racism in Quebec and the rest of Canada, Mugabo responded, “Quebec wants [Black Quebecers] to continuously say ‘you’re not racist, you’re not racist,’ asking us to speak our history in relation to their own political […] aspirations because […] people will always claim Quebec-bashing from the rest of Canada and from the rest of the world.”

“Whatever numbers we have, we did the same exact things that the United States did […] you still enslaved the first Black people who came here. Your framework for understanding Blackness was identical to the United States,” Zellars concluded.

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Musicians’ Mental Health http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/musicians-mental-health/ Mon, 20 Feb 2017 11:00:18 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49773 On Monday, February 13, McGill students and members of Montreal’s music community gathered at the Wirth Music building for a panel discussion, entitled “Musician’s Health Throughout a Performing Career.”

Claire Motyer, the founder of the Schulich Musician’s Health Committee, which organized the event, started the discussion by saying, “I don’t think you can really separate emotional, physical, and mental health from each other. We’re really just trying to get this conversation started, really just wanting to open up about musician’s health [and] bring some faculty, some alumni, and some current students [together] to share their stories so more people open up and feel comfortable talking about their stories.”

Speaking with The Daily, Motyer said, “I really want students, and faculty as well, just to feel more comfortable talking about these issues, creating a dialogue between all of us as a community, and creating more of a sense of a community around these topics.”

Motyer, a U3 Music student and violinist at McGill, has experienced injury herself. “It’s only now really that I’m realizing this is what I want to do, bring awareness to these issues, and to musicians’ health. At first I found it hard to talk about, but now I feel much better being open about it.”

Panelists included Yolanda Bruno, a violinist, Isabelle Cossette, Director at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music, Media, and Technology, trumpet professor Russell Devuyst, and Renée Yoxon, a jazz vocalist. To start the discussion, each of the panelists introduced themselves.

“I’m originally from Ottawa, and I’m a violinist,” said Bruno. “I’ll focus on the angle of injury: I’ve had an injury twice before. The first time, I was still young so I brushed over it quite quickly. The second time was quite traumatic. The second time I had to take a significant amount of time off, maybe three to four months off, which felt like an eternity.”

“I had to cancel many concerts and I had to tell people that I was injured and then the word got out and people knew and that was really scary because as soon as one person knew, then more people knew,” she continued.

Speaking about her recovery process, Bruno explained that she was uncertain how to move forward because she “received a lot of information from many different people.”

“It took a long time for me to find my route to recovery,” she said, “which ended up being one-on-one sessions with a Hatha yoga instructor, and acupuncture after doing chiropracting, and lots of running and swimming and lots of different things.”

Another panelist, Isabelle Cossette, the director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT), was trained as a flute player and got her doctorate in music performance, but decided ultimately to turn to a career in research, focusing on the respiratory mechanics of musicians. Throughout the discussion, she spoke about the importance of accepting and embracing change.

“I’m not here to necessarily discuss a specific injury that I had while I was performing,” Cossette said. “I can make a lot of parallels; I had to go through depressions and that is very similar to someone who gets injured and can’t play. You find ways to recover. Changes, in fact, can be seen as exciting.”

Devuyst, who played for the Montreal Symphony for twenty-four years, focused on injury in terms of the effects it can have not only on a musician’s career, but also on their self-confidence.

“In relation to performance injuries, I’ve been injured three times actually,” he explained. “I never thought that I would, you know, you don’t think of being injured when you’re eighteen years, you think you’re infallible […] you just go crazy, and you just play.”

The first injury Devuyst experienced was partial facial paralysis caused by Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.

“I couldn’t play,” he said. “It was like going to the dentist and getting novocaine and then trying to play. That’s the way I felt for a couple of months.”

“Coming back from that was a very arduous thing,” he elaborated, “because I had two kids, three and five years old, so I just figured okay, my life’s over. What am I going to do now?”

Outlining the difficulties of recovery, and his mental health during this time, Devuyst explained how he used new hobbies as a coping mechanism.

“Instead of getting all worried, I just started woodworking,” he said. “I got this book on how to make toys […] I made them for my kids and I said, ‘Hey, this is kind of fun.’ It took my mind of it.”

Devuyst also spoke about his second accident. “The second accident I had, I was riding my bike and […] I was carrying a bag from the supermarket and the bag got caught in the front wheel and I went over the front handlebars. Even though I had a helmet on, it didn’t help because I smashed my teeth.”

“I did everything that a trumpet player’s not supposed to do and broke my front teeth,” he continued. “My teeth were broken, my lips were bleeding like crazy, I was looking at the cement and I saw chips of my teeth, so I took my teeth, put them in my pocket, and I went to the dentist and said, ‘glue them back,’ and they’re still there actually.”

Devuyst stressed the importance of accepting an injury and pacing your recovery. “The difficulty in coming back after an injury is that your brain knows where you used to be, but your body doesn’t respond to that, so you can really hurt yourself if you try to get yourself back into the level [musically] that you were. You have to accept where you are and just start from there and don’t expect anything”

Yoxon was the last panelist to introduce themself. “I’m a jazz vocalist. I’m studying currently in the undergraduate program here at McGill and I have chronic pain. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for about ten years; I’m almost thirty now and I started experiencing chronic pain symptoms when I was in my late teens and then I started identifying as someone with chronic pain when I was like twenty, twenty-one years old. […] For me, my pain threshold is much, much lower, so I’m just in pain all the time, even when there’s no injury.”

Yoxon continued, “Your pain system is there to prevent injury, so you feel pain before you become injured, which is why you [are] supposed to stop playing [then]. However, in my case, I’m feeling pain all the time and I actually have to play through it a little bit. I would just be stopping all the time if I didn’t. So what I’m […] dealing with is how to adapt singing for me, even though I’m going to be injured forever.”

In an interview with The Daily, Yoxon stressed the importance of making music accessible to those with disabilities, by “[listing] what accessibility features are on their event information.”

They also highlighted the benefits of live broadcasting. “I think live broadcasting can not only bring shows to disabled people, […] live broadcastings brings shows to people who have lower incomes, people who need childcare. Lots of people don’t have the privilege of going out.”

Noémie Chemali, an attendee and music student at McGill, has experienced both the physical and mental stress that the panelists discussed. “When I first came to McGill, I was a violin student and there was definitely a huge leap of expectations from what I was used to. I come from a small town in the U.S. and coming here, it’s a bigger city. I felt like a very small fish in a big pond basically.”

“I’m glad we have more dialogue going on about musician’s health, definitely to help people from struggling, the way I did, especially my first two years when I didn’t have the courage to stand up and say I’m in pain, I’m not going to play today,” Chemali added.

The rest of the discussion focused mainly on methods of coping with the physical and emotional stresses of musicianship. The panelists all stressed focusing on one’s own progress as opposed to competition.

Yoxon said, “I feel like in order to succeed at McGill, you need to be like an athlete, and we are, we’re athletes, but I think that there’s something to be gained by learning music and not approaching it from the point of athleticism.”

Later in the discussion, they stated, “We do have a lot of people who are playing from a place of fear. […] It helps your mental health to not worry about what other people are thinking.”

Devuyst, similarly, expressed the importance of practicing to improve, not to avoid making mistakes. He also stressed the importance of “knowing your body, knowing what you can do with your body, how far you can go.”

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Kevin O’Leary comes to McGill http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/kevin-oleary-comes-to-mcgill/ Sat, 18 Feb 2017 17:00:09 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49776 Television personality and businessman Kevin O’Leary spoke in the ballroom of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) last Monday as part of his campaign to win the ongoing Conservative Party’s leadership race. The post is currently being filled by interim opposition leader Rona Ambrose, who replaced Stephen Harper as leader of the Conservative Party when Harper stepped down after substantive Conservative losses in the 2015 federal election.

“The Donald Trump of Canada”

Kevin O’Leary has long occasioned comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump. Both men are billionaires who gained mainstream fame through reality television and subsequently launched political careers despite possessing no formal political experience.

Like Trump, O’Leary’s campaign has shown him to be unabashedly populist with little emphasis on policy, while often being out of touch with Canadians. He was also recently criticized for posting a video of himself at a gun range during a funeral for the victims of the recent shooting at a Quebec City mosque, and has been ridiculed for his past refusal to participate in French-language debates, saying that instead of French, he speaks “the language of jobs.”

Heavy police presence on campus

The SSMU building was swarming with security personnel in the hour leading up to the start of the event, as organizers hoped to prevent protesters from interrupting O’Leary’s address. In the end, McGill security and the police kept all protestors outside the building.

Kevin O’Leary has long occasioned comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump. Both men are billionaires who gained mainstream fame through reality television and subsequently launched political careers despite possessing no formal political experience.

Meanwhile, it appeared that many of the event’s attendees were not actually members of Conservative McGill, but rather undecided voters getting a first look at a potential nominee. Two attendees, who asked to remain anonymous, discussed their interest in O’Leary’s speech in an interview with The Daily.

“I think the thing about elections,” said one, “is it’s not the party that you subscribe to, rather it’s listening with a critical mind to each side and picking what best represents you as a Canadian.”

“I live in Alberta, where we are in a recession,” explained another, “so as a young Canadian I find it inspiring that he wants to focus on the economy. The one place where I am critical of Kevin O’Leary is that he seems to lack the social views, which would normally lose my vote in this case, but I guess we’ll find out what he says today.”

O’Leary speaks

O’Leary’s address painted a different picture of the Conservative Party than many may have been used to. The candidate claimed that he wished to see the party opened to people of all faiths, races, and sexualities, and called himself a “conservative expansionist.”

He made it clear that he sought to win the Canadian youth vote by declaring his support for LGBTQ rights and marijuana legalization.

“I think the thing about elections is it’s not the party that you subscribe to, rather it’s listening with a critical mind to each side and picking what best represents you as a Canadian.”

O’Leary’s primary focus, however, was the economy. He struck a critical tone with regard to the Trudeau administration’s policies, and promised to abolish the “Carbon Tax” as his first action if he were to become Prime Minister.

“My entry into this race occurred hours after I read that document by the Trudeau government that told me that for the next thirty-eight years, this country would run deficits, so by the end the people of this country will be $1.5 trillion in debt,” he claimed.

O’Leary has, in the past, shown himself to be heavily critical of government regulation and intervention, his pandering to small-government conservatives and theatrical mannerisms all the more reminiscent of Trump.

Q&A

O’Leary opted to host a question and answer period, accepting a number of attendees’ questions. Some asked him how he would differentiate himself from Donald Trump, others asked him about the environment, others still asked about his positions on relevant issues facing Canadians.

One attendee, Sophia, a law student at McGill, asked O’Leary “If you become Prime Minister, will you divest yourself from your businesses to [….] reassure Canadians [about potential conflicts of interest?]”

O’Leary alleged that if he become Prime Minister, he would put part of his investments into a blind trust, and that any remaining portion of his assets would be liquified.

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SSMU pressured to call for Sadikov’s resignation under threat from Principal http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/breaking-mcgill-reportedly-coercing-ssmu-into-calling-for-sadikovs-resignation/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/breaking-mcgill-reportedly-coercing-ssmu-into-calling-for-sadikovs-resignation/#respond Fri, 17 Feb 2017 18:12:11 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49694 The Daily has been told by several sources close to the SSMU executive that at a private meeting on Wednesday, February 15, McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier issued a threat aiming to pressure the executive of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) into calling for student representative Igor Sadikov’s resignation.

Sadikov – an Arts Representative to SSMU, a member of the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD), and a former Daily editor – has been embroiled in controversy since his tweet reading “punch a zionist [sic] today” was widely disseminated on February 8. At a meeting of the BoD on Monday, February 13, the Board voted against a motion to impeach Sadikov, opting instead to censure him publicly.

At Wednesday’s private meeting, Fortier demanded that SSMU release a public statement demanding Sadikov’s resignation. According to sources, Fortier reportedly made it clear that, if the executive did not release the statement by the afternoon of Friday, February 17, the administration would release its own statement, condemning the executive team’s decision not to do so.

According to sources, Fortier reportedly made it clear that, if the executive did not release the statement by the afternoon of Friday, February 17, the administration would release its own statement, condemning the executive team’s decision not to do so.

Moreover, Fortier suggested that, should the executive decide not to release a statement complying with the administration’s wishes, further legal action might be taken against SSMU. Based on reports of the meeting, it is likely that this would take the form of allegations put forth by McGill that SSMU had violated its own constitution in refusing to demand Sadikov’s resignation. If McGill makes a successful case against SSMU, this could have catastrophic financial consequences for the Students’ Society.

Under sections 12 and 13 of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) that defines the legal relationship between SSMU and the University, the Society is considered to have breached the MoA if it violates its own constitution. The University could then give a notice of default, and thirty days following the notice the MoA can be terminated. In case there is a dispute over the existence of a default, SSMU would have ninety days following the date of the notice to submit the dispute to arbitration. Upon determination that SSMU has violated its constitution in a manner that constitutes a breach of the MoA, the fees collected by the University on behalf of SSMU would be temporarily placed into a trust fund administered by a committee composed of two University representatives, two SSMU representatives, and one jointly selected chairperson.

Based on reports of the meeting, it is likely that this would take the form of allegations put forth by McGill that SSMU had violated its own constitution in refusing to demand Sadikov’s resignation.

In other words, McGill could potentially withhold all funds collected through student fees on behalf of SSMU, effectively depriving the Society of most of its income.

Asked to comment on Fortier’s pressure tactics, SSMU VP University Affairs Erin Sobat condemned them unequivocally.

“This is an unprecedented and irresponsible violation of the political autonomy of student associations,” said Sobat. “The administration is placing funding for vital student-run services at risk while undermining the integrity of decision-making channels already in place to respond to these issues.”

In other words, McGill could potentially withhold all funds collected through student fees on behalf of SSMU, effectively depriving the Society of most of its income.

At a meeting on the morning of February 17, Fortier put further pressure on Sadikov to resign.

“This level of interference in student government is a new low for the University,” Sadikov told The Daily. “The Principal made it very clear that what she cares about in this situation is bending to political pressure from donors and alumni, rather than acting in the best interest of the campus community and respecting the decisions of the student groups affected.”

Tweet controversy
On Monday, February 6, Sadikov, himself Jewish, tweeted “punch a zionist [sic] today” from his personal Twitter account. In the ensuing days, the tweet has been widely circulated both within the McGill community and around the world, arousing a storm of outrage and threats against Sadikov, as well as calls for his resignation from student politics. Sadikov currently sits on the Legislative Councils of both SSMU and the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), as well as on the BoD, which is SSMU’s highest governing body.

At a meeting of the BoD which took place on Monday, February 13, the decision was ultimately made to reject a motion to impeach Sadikov from his position on that body. However, the BoD voted in favour of censuring him, releasing a public statement to this effect on Thursday. Citing the harm caused as a result of Sadikov’s tweet, the BoD declared it their considered belief that Sadikov had demonstrated remorse, as well as a sincere commitment to “[working] towards repairing the harm caused to the McGill community.”

“This is an unprecedented and irresponsible violation of the political autonomy of student associations.”

The BoD’s statement also included an apology from Sadikov himself, in which he affirmed his commitment to “expanding [his] knowledge on Zionism by continuing and facilitating […] conversations, both within Jewish communities and in dialogue with Palestinian voices, based on a shared commitment to social justice and human rights.” Moreover, Sadikov agreed to “personally reach out to those who have felt harmed as a result of [his] tweet, including members of Zionist groups.”

Recent developments

On Friday afternoon, roughly an hour before the initial 3 p.m. deadline set out by Fortier, the SSMU executive team released a statement in which they complied with the administration’s demand and asked for Sadikov to “resign from his position as a Director [of the SSMU BoD] and as an Arts Representative to the Legislative Council.” This stands in contradiction to the position taken at last Monday’s BoD meeting, at which the Board voted against impeachment.

Fortier herself replied to a request for comment from The Daily on Friday afternoon. She stated in an email that at Wednesday’s meeting with the executive team, she and her colleagues had simply “explained that the SSMU had an obligation to abide by the terms of its own constitution,” and “shared [their] strong belief” that the executives should ask Sadikov to resign.

“While we normally do not recommend a course of action to the SSMU leadership,” wrote Fortier, “this situation is exceptional. With any incitement to violence, it is our duty to intervene.”

When a follow-up question pointed out that the tweet had not been intended as an incitement to violence, Fortier replied that “regardless of the intention behind the Tweet [sic], it caused members of our community to feel anxious and unsafe.

 

This article has been amended to correct mistaken dates. The Daily regrets the error. 

It has also been updated to include developments which occurred after its initial publication, at 1 p.m. on February 17. 

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Board of Governors hosts first community session with members of the McGill community http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/board-of-governors-hosts-first-community-session-with-members-of-the-mcgill-community/ Mon, 13 Feb 2017 20:01:17 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49669 On Thursday February 2, the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) held their third meeting of the 2016-2017 academic year.

The Board heard Principal Suzanne Fortier’s remarks, a presentation from the Director of Campus Public Safety, brief reports from various committees. The BoG also saw a report (and response) regarding the open forums on sustainability held earlier in the year, which dealt with recommendations of the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) Report on Divestment.

At the end of the meeting, the Board held its first community session, in which they responded to follow-up questions from students and members of the McGill community who had previously submitted a written question to the Board.

Response to the open forums on sustainability

McGill law professor Frédéric Bachand spoke to the Board about the report and response regarding the Open Forum on the recommendations of 2016 CAMSR report regarding divestment.

At the end of the meeting, the Board held its first community session, in which they responded to follow-up questions from students and members of the McGill community who had previously submitted a written question to the Board.

In October 2016, the University held three open forum meetings to “[create] a ‘comprehensive climate action plan’ in order to reduce McGill‘s own carbon footprint while expanding initiatives in sustainability research and education” and “[develop] concrete measures to ensure our investments comply with recognized Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles.”

These meetings were in response to CAMSR’s March 2016 report in which they dismissed Divest McGill’s request that the University divest from the fossil fuel industry.

Bachand had been mandated by the Provost and Vice Principal Academic Christopher Manfredi to organize the open forum, gather feedback, and report on it.

He briefly spoke about the open forum meetings: “As you can imagine, many of the questions that were discussed were sensitive, were difficult, were controversial in some ways, but I was amazed at the turnout by our community members who participated extensively.”

These meetings were in response to CAMSR’s March 2016 report in which they dismissed Divest McGill’s request that the University divest from the fossil fuel industry.

Bachand and Manfredi each spoke briefly about the contents of the report, but focused more on questions or comments from Board members.  

Member-at-large and one of the chairmen of the Board Ram Panda said:“I don’t think we’re debating the essence of the problem, but I guess how we approach it is where we have some dissention, and perhaps the speed with which people should move is also on discussion. I’m a little pained to see a frequent occurrence that some of the community members feel this is a weak response or disappointment in terms of trust factors.”

“I guess that’s something we have to work towards because I believe we’re aligned in the same direction,” Panda continued. “Solutions may not always be what we’d like to have. But I guess now looking at the south [at the U.S.], probably our approaches and reactions will […] look more advanced.”

Stuart “Kip” Cobbett, chair of the Board, agreed with Panda, claiming that “we may well be doing more than many students are aware of [and this is] a common situation at McGill.”

“As you can imagine, many of the questions that were discussed were sensitive, were difficult, were controversial in some ways, but I was amazed at the turnout by our community members who participated extensively.”

“We’ve got to come up with […] a better way to communicate,” he continued. “Sustainability is now […] very much part of this board’s responsibility and stewardship. This is a continuous process [and] we will come back to it and we’ll have a report at least once a year on what we are doing […] to reduce our carbon footprint.”

However, Victor Frankel, President of the Post-graduate Student Society of McGill (PGSS), noted that he thought that “a lot of the trouble that came out of the decision that was adopted from the CAMSR report was the issues with accepting the decision that said essentially fossil fuels do not cause grave social injury.”

“My question to you, Professor [Bachand],” asked Frankel, “is do you think that the campus community would like to see this issue revisited by the Board of Governors, [or] do you think they would like to see the CAMSR report rescinded and reconsidered once more?”

“I guess that’s something we have to work towards because I believe we’re aligned in the same direction,” Panda continued. “Solutions may not always be what we’d like to have. But I guess now looking at the south [at the U.S.], probably our approaches and reactions will […] look more advanced.”

Bachand responded that “there were some policy discussions for this Board and other units of McGill to see what could be done based on that feedback, but there’s nothing much more that I can add in terms of the report.”

A first at McGill: a BoG community session

The Board had received three questions in writing from students or members of the McGill community, the responses to which were posted online. Only two questions were discussed further at the community session, as one person who submitted a question was not at the meeting.

Chloe, a student, asked one of the questions: “Given the divisive state of politics at the moment, to what extent can McGill remain a politically neutral institution? How does McGill define political neutrality?”

The Board provided a written response to this question: “The University acknowledges the right to political association of all members of its community and the respect for the exchange of views in responsible open discourse. The University reserves stating its position on particular matters when they are directly related to its mission and principles. In such cases, the University’s position is aligned with its mission and based on the principles of academic freedom, integrity, responsibility, equity and inclusiveness.”

“Given the divisive state of politics at the moment, to what extent can McGill remain a politically neutral institution? How does McGill define political neutrality?”

However, when asked if she had any follow-up questions, Chloe responded, “I know that part of McGill’s mission statement is ‘includes the creation and dissemination of knowledge by offering the best possible education […] Is it the best possible education if we’re passing up opportunities to be proactive in informing public policy?”

Fortier responded: “It’s a good question but it depends on which public policy we’re talking about. Of course public policy that [is] directly related to our mission, we express our view, and we are consulted for our views all the time. Other areas of public policy might be further away.”

As an example, Fortier cited the issue of legalizing marijuana in Canada. As an institution, she said, McGill would not provide a view, but the University is invited to send the names of experts on the topic in the McGill community who could participate in a discussion on public policy.

“The University reserves stating its position on particular matters when they are directly related to its mission and principles. In such cases, the University’s position is aligned with its mission and based on the principles of academic freedom, integrity, responsibility, equity and inclusiveness.”

As an example of an issue that specifically concerns McGill’s principles and values, Fortier cited the Charter of Values, which went against McGill’s “commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.”

“Social injury” vs. “Grave social injury”

The second question discussed during the community session was asked by Jed Lenetsky, a member of Divest McGill. Lenetsky asked in writing, “In the 2016 CAMSR Report on Divestment, CAMSR argued that fossil fuel companies cause social injury, but not grave social injury. Additionally, when members of CAMSR met with Divest McGill in May 2016, the Chair of the Board discussed how the degree social injury that an industry can commit exists on a threshold. What is the threshold at which social injury becomes grave social injury? What evidence needs to be given to prove that an industry causes grave social injury?”

The Board’s written response was:

“Social injury is defined in the CAMSR terms of reference as follows: ‘social injury means the grave injurious impact which the activities of a company is found to have on consumers, employees, or other persons, or on the natural environment. Such activities include those which violate, or frustrate the enforcement of rules of domestic or international law intended to protect individuals against deprivation of health, safety, or basic freedoms, or to protect the natural environment. However, a company shall not be deemed to cause “social injury” simply because it does business with other companies which are themselves engaged in socially injurious activities.’”

“Pursuant to this definition,” the response continues, “the determination on the threshold and evidence needed to prove grave social injury would depend on the facts of each case and would include an assessment of the degree and extent of injury that would result from industry activities that would warrant a finding of grave injurious impact.”

When asked if the written response adequately answered his question, Lenetsky said, “to my knowledge it seems as though you haven’t answered my question as to what constitutes the threshold at which social injury becomes grave social injury […] what is the objective evidence based threshold, either broadly or using […] a specific context?”

“Pursuant to this definition,” the response continues, “the determination on the threshold and evidence needed to prove grave social injury would depend on the facts of each case and would include an assessment of the degree and extent of injury that would result from industry activities that would warrant a finding of grave injurious impact.”

“That’s a question, Jed, you won’t be surprised to hear that I have wrestled with,” Cobbett responded. “The short answer is ‘there’s no answer.’ I cannot give you an answer, not because I’m trying to be evasive, but because it is utterly fact-based.”

“The definition of grave social injury is a new definition for us, previously it was social injury. I can give you an example; CAMSR a few years ago decided that tobacco companies caused social injury. Would we have decided that it caused grave social injury? Probably. But to come up with an empirical definition of what causes grave social injury, I cannot do it.”

Lenetsky responded that Divest McGill had submitted a 150-page research brief along with its petition when it asked McGill to divest from fossil fuels, and thus asked what “additional evidence needs to be presented to CAMSR to adequately demonstrate that fossil fuel companies are engaging in grave social injury as defined by CAMSR’s mandate.”

“That’s a question, Jed, you won’t be surprised to hear that I have wrestled with,” Cobbett responded. “The short answer is ‘there’s no answer.’ I cannot give you an answer, not because I’m trying to be evasive, but because it is utterly fact-based.”

“I’m not going to reopen the discussion on CAMSR’s decision,” Cobbett responded.

“But there is a problem if you can’t tell me the evidence that was used or the criteria that was used to make that decision,” Lenetsky argued.

Cobbett responded that the evidence is in the report, and Lenetsky again argued he did not see it there.

“I’m not going to reopen the discussion on CAMSR’s decision,” Cobbett responded.

Cobbett responded “You may not see it there but it’s there. […] If you have any specific questions on the decision I’m happy to go through it.”

Lenetsky said he welcomed the opportunity, and the community session then ended.

 

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Committee talks climate strategies http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/committee-talks-climate-strategies/ Mon, 13 Feb 2017 11:03:46 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49583 Students gathered on Wednesday February 8 at the McGill University Faculty Club to discuss the challenges of transitioning to a low-carbon economy with the Senate of Canada’s “Standing Committee for Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.”

The open forum, organized by the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design (TISED) based in McGill University’s Faculty of Engineering, allowed students to present their opinions and questions concerning new environmental technology, the economic costs and benefits of carbon reduction, and the University’s role in conducting carbon-reduction research and promotion.

In attendance was the Committee’s chairman Richard Neufeld, deputy chairman Paul Massicotte, and committee members Diane Griffin and Rosa Galvez.

The open forum allowed students to present their opinions and questions concerning new environmental technology, the economic costs and benefits of carbon reduction, and the University’s role in conducting carbon-reduction research and promotion.

The purpose of the committee, Neufeld said, is to identify “what solutions and technologies exist today or that are in development to reduce emissions and fight climate change.”

The forum mainly consisted of questions concerning the committee’s opinion on where the focus of carbon-reduction should be. Students and community members alike promoted a new focus on a multitude of factors.

Certain attendees encouraged the committee to stay focused on carbon-reduction technologies that already exist rather than directing their resources at new innovations. Others combatted this idea by arguing for an increase of funding towards university research and the development of new technology.

The purpose of the committee, Neufeld said, is to identify “what solutions and technologies exist today or that are in development to reduce emissions and fight climate change.”

The main point of contention, however, was whether the Canadian government’s goals will be reached by 2030, goals which include limiting global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius.

While Galvez presented an optimistic vision of achieving these goals by attacking from different angles and creating a culture of change, Neufeld responded that he is “very concerned that we will not meet our targets.”

Students and community members alike promoted a new focus on a multitude of factors.

Instead of focusing on current carbon-reduction targets, Neufeld proposed that we “worry about the consequences of climate change, […] organize our society, […] and get prepared for the eventuality of maybe not achieving [our current reduction target of] two degrees Celsius.”

A common concern among attendees was the change in quality of life that may result from new carbon reduction technologies and practices. The committee responded to these points by stating that Canadians will have to change their way of life to ensure that carbon emissions are reduced.

The main point of contention, however, was whether the Canadian government’s goals will be reached by 2030, goals which include limiting global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius.

“We have to change our habits and the way we consume some types of products and replace them,” asserted Galvez. “Researchers are making efforts to replace materials with renewable materials […] we have to put emphasis on these problems.”

While most of the questions focused on specific suggestions for the committee, certain students questioned the committee’s stance on controversial economic and environmental government measures.

One particular question pertained to the Kinder-Morgan expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and its impact on Indigenous peoples.

Instead of focusing on current carbon-reduction targets, Neufeld proposed that we “worry about the consequences of climate change, […] organize our society, […] and get prepared for the eventuality of maybe not achieving [our current reduction target of] two degrees Celsius.”

“How is [the federal government],” asked a student, “justifying extending an oil project […] on the land of the Tsleil-Waututh nation?”

Neufeld, acknowledging his previous involvement in the oil and gas industry in British Columbia, insisted that oil will continually be used as a natural resource in the future.

“It has to get out to markets” he claimed, “to actually keep us enjoying the type of life that we have today.”

“How is [the federal government],” asked a student, “justifying extending an oil project […] on the land of the Tsleil-Waututh nation?”

Massicotte added, “it’s a very complicated issue […] the government overall is quite receptive and all of us wish and hope for better relations with our First Nations […] but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have serious discussions and disagreements on certain issues.”

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A moment or a movement? http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/a-moment-or-a-movement/ Mon, 13 Feb 2017 11:00:58 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49571 On Thursday February 9, a group of students and community members gathered in Arts W-20 for a panel discussion focusing on the question, “Women’s March on Washington: a Moment or a Movement?”

Organised by McGill Students for Oxfam-Quebec, panelists included Shelley Clark, a professor of sociology at McGill, Gillian Sonin, one of the organizers of the National Women’s March in Canada, and Alia Hassan Cournol, one of the coordinators of, and spokeswoman for, the Montreal’s Reptilians’ March.

The panel began by discussing the nature of the march, and whether they believed it was an isolated moment or the beginning of a movement.

During the talk, Sonin argued that the ‘or’ in “a moment or a movement” is detrimental to the image of the march, and emphasized why the march was both a moment and a movement.

The panel began by discussing the nature of the march, and whether they believed it was an isolated moment or the beginning of a movement.

“I believe that it was a big moment, clearly, it was the biggest demonstration in U.S. history,” she said. “[However] we are a coalition of women from coast to coast to coast who spent our days and nights in constant contact with one another to figure out how to mobilize that moment […]. That coalition in and of itself is a movement and that coalition exists and continues to exist and we still are in constant contact with one another to figure out what that movement is moving forward.”

“I believe that it was a big moment, clearly, it was the biggest demonstration in U.S. history.”

Cournol continued that, “It became a movement when we started understanding that a structure of political opportunity had opened. […] Donald Trump was the structure of political opportunity because he’s so misogynistic, because he’s so xenophobic, because he’s so racist, it all became political.”

The panel touched on the differences between the Women’s March in Washington D.C. and other protests. Both Sonin and Cournol identified the March’s intersectional approach as one of its strengths.

“That coalition in and of itself is a movement and that coalition exists and continues to exist and we still are in constant contact with one another to figure out what that movement is moving forward.”

“There has always been intersection in women’s movements but certain voices were not […] heralded and brought up as the leaders of these movements […]. There were definitely some groups that were omitted [at the Women’s March],” Sonin said. “It wasn’t perfect, but I think that holding something to perfection is a way to tear it down,” she added.

To contrast, she brought up the diversity within the national team of the U.S. Women’s March and claimed, “It was a moment of intersection for this movement, and that was a big theme for the march.”

“There has always been intersection in women’s movements but certain voices were not […] heralded and brought up as the leaders of these movements.”

Cournol identified her personal efforts to make sure the Montreal march was intersectional.

“Quebec has a long history of feminism, but a long history of white feminism […] I work in a community organization that is focused on anti-[racism] and islamophobia, so that’s why I jumped into the organization to have our speakers be as diverse as possible.”

Clark brought up the wide participation by men as a difference between the women’s March and past marches. “I saw many more men at this march than usual, especially young men and when [the women] chanted, ‘My body, my choice,’ the men echoed equally loud, ‘Her body, her choice,’” she said. “Part of intersectionality is men. And we can’t overlook that.”

Clark also discussed why the march was termed a “women’s” march, as opposed to something more broad. “The U.S. as a country faced this decision between electing the first female president ever or someone who was proud and bragged about being a serial sexual assaulter. That contrast, that juxtaposition, was a great catalyst for people saying we’re going to put the issue [of women’s rights] front and centre.”

Sonin transitioned into discussing how the march has influenced action around different issues. “It created a culture of protest […] So when [Trump] announced the travel ban, protests were going on at all the airports and consulates, so it immediately created a culture of protest.”

“Quebec has a long history of feminism, but a long history of white feminism […] I work in a community organization that is focused on anti-[racism] and islamophobia, so that’s why I jumped into the organization to have our speakers be as diverse as possible.”

The panelists also discussed how the media reacted to the marches.

“We had six hundred thousand people marching in the Women’s March in D.C. and maybe 250,000 at Trump’s [inauguration] but all that got covered was just the numbers at his [inauguration] and his preposterous claim that there were 1.5 million people there,” said Clark.

She continued: “He managed nonetheless to control that media cycle […] I really think our media needs to become more savvy in not allowing [themselves] to fall into these kinds of traps because that then distracts from the other numbers and the other events going on.”

“Part of intersectionality is men. And we can’t overlook that.”

Sonin felt more positive about the media coverage because media outlets’ shock at the enormity of the protests was evident in the coverage.

“I came home from the march in Montreal and I turned on CNN and there were these photos and video of the marches happening across the U.S. and around the world. And it shocked the media so much that they didn’t even have necessarily a frame for what the story was going to be. They were just broadcasting the images […] It was this moment of catching the media off guard. They couldn’t tell the story for you. You got to tell it.”

During the question and answer period, Sonin responded to a question concerning what this movement means for Canada by condemning the attitude that the Canadian government is beyond reproach. “[There is] a lot of patting ourselves on the back,” she said, “[but] that’s a slippery slope to get into: to compare to what is worse so then you become stagnant.”

“It was this moment of catching the media off guard. They couldn’t tell the story for you. You got to tell it.”

She added that “I think what we need in Canada right now is to get out in the streets and demand that the liberal government live up to its promise of the rights that they have guaranteed to our Indigenous brothers and sisters.”

Cournol added a reminder aimed at encouraging action and mobilization through privilege: “Just remember one thing, you are here at McGill, you are in a place of privilege. And a lot of other young people around the world or even here in Montreal, they cannot be here. They don’t have the means.”

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Marching against Islamophobia http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/marching-against-islamophobia/ Mon, 13 Feb 2017 11:00:33 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49567 On Saturday February 4, around two hundred people marched through the streets of Montreal to take a stand against Islamophobia and support Quebec’s Muslim community.

Around thirty people initially gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin at noon on Saturday, holding signs with slogans such as “united we stand, divided we fall” and “Jews for Muslims.” The march started on Berri, turned onto Maisonneuve Est, then onto Saint-Denis, and back onto Berri.
Despite the snow, the crowd grew rapidly as the march proceeded. As people walked through the streets, they chanted, “Muslims attacked, Quebec is shocked,” “this walk is a hug […] for the orphans,” and “no, no to hatred […] yes, yes to peace” in French.

Bel Agir, an organization committed to supporting the Muslim community in Quebec and Canada, planned the march in response to the Sainte-Foy shootings at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre, which killed six people. On the event page, the organization expressed their desire to “convey a message of unity, love, and compassion” through the march.

Bel Agir also posted a call for demonstration on their website, stating the main objectives of the march were: “to […] express our unity and support for the victims against terrorists and their supporters” and “[demand] that our politicians take concrete measures to end all speech of Islamophobia, hatred, and violence, which has long been tolerated, largely mediatized, and recently decriminalized.”

Along with signs, there were many attendees carrying Unifor flags – Unifor is Canada’s largest private sector union.

When asked about Unifor’s presence at the event, an attendee replied in French: “We’re here for the march against hate and for peace and for love around world. We are here to support each other and our brothers who died as martyrs, those who died in the last attack in Quebec, and their children. We’re supporting each other. We are against racism, against discrimination, either for race or sex. We are against all forms of discrimination that exist.”

The march ended back at Place Émilie-Gamelin and speeches commenced. The first speaker was Thomas Dowd, a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church. “Hello my friends, my brothers, my sisters,” he began, in French, “it’s an honour to be here with you today to share this moment of solidarity. We saw, at the beginning of the week, a horrible event, but I think we will see the best of the Quebecois people to come. We say, ‘you always hear the tree that falls but you never hear the forest that grows’ but here, we hear the forest.”

Dowd went on to explain his position: “I am a bishop. You may know the title of priest, which is used for our religious leaders. A bishop is a leader of priests. I represent the Catholic Church in Montreal.”

“In solidarity with all Christians, we are here together for peace,” he continued.

Dowd also referenced a passage from a text published by the Catholic Church. “In the sixties, we had a great coming together of all the bishops throughout the world in Rome […] During this meeting, there was a text, which was published on the relations in between Christians and Muslims, and I find this text prophetic and I would like to share it with you.”

He then quoted the text: “The Catholic Church looks with great esteem upon Muslims […] If, through the centuries, many dissensions and hostilities manifested themselves between Christians and Muslims, the council exonerates them all and forgets their past and puts itself fully to mutual comprehension. Therefore, together we will protect all men, social justice, moral values, peace, and liberty.”

The next speaker, Haroun Bouazzi, director of Muslims and Arabs for Secularism Quebec (AMAL-Quebec) a feminist, pluralist association of Quebecers, according to its website, also spoke of hope, liberty, and unity. He first thanked Bel Agir.

“I would like to thank Bel Agir for having brought us together today, for having pushed us to march. There have been many, many things that have been said this week, many beautiful things, lots of compassion, lots of union, lots of strong words from our politicians and many messages of love from the people,” he said in French. “I think we can really be proud of the reaction from the Quebecois people, no matter where they are from, after this tragedy that has touched us all.”

“Today we marched for the memories of the dead; today we marched for the love that unites us, for the justice for which we are going to fight,” he continued.

Bouazzi also stressed the importance of remaining active against hate. “The work will begin by demanding for our politicians, for the media, for our enemies, to put into place real political action against Islamophobia, against racism. We need to demand from our media that there’s a minimum of ethics in public debate. We will remind them, message after message, phone call after phone call, that after what happened in Quebec City, we will never accept again the stigmatization […] And us too, as citizens, our responsibility is immense because without us, nothing will happen.”

Samantha Lustig, an attendee at the march, shared her reasons for attending the demonstration with The Daily. “My best friend in elementary school was Muslim, I had a number of friends who were Muslim women throughout my life, teachers who are Muslim women […]. I just feel like every person who lives in Canada deserves to feel safe. I am an English as a second language teacher. I have students who want to immigrate to Canada who are Muslim, and it’s necessary for them to feel safe here and to know that they are loved.”

When asked if she thought the Canadian government was doing enough to support the Muslim community, Lustig replied, “Nope. The immigration cap is garbage and everyone should contact their local MP [Member of Parliament] stating that removing the immigration cap is essential for Canada.”

Nada Abdelhak, another attendee, felt differently about the efforts of the Canadian government.

“The Canadian government of Justin Trudeau actually I think is the best that we’ve had since I came to Canada,” Abdelhak told The Daily. “I’ve never felt as Canadian as I’m feeling now. I think that he is doing enough.”

While a lot of the speakers at the event focused on the stigmatization of the Muslim community, Abdelhak said, “People are so concentrated on terrorism, they associate it actually to Muslims and they don’t see that this is what divides us.”

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AMUSE files injunction against McGill http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/amuse-files-injunction-against-mcgill/ Mon, 13 Feb 2017 11:00:07 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49598 On February 7, the Association of McGill University Support Support Employees (AMUSE) announced in a press release that they have filed a motion in Quebec’s Superior Court on behalf of Floor Fellows. The motion is an injunction to require the University to pay Floor Fellows immediately, which would make the case an emergency.

The motion comes following the University’s decision to veto an agreement with AMUSE’s bargaining team regarding Floor Fellows in late January. The agreement had been reached through an independent arbitrator in December 2016. Among other aspects, the agreement had stipulated salaries for Floor Fellows.

A motion several years in the making

In an interview with The Daily, AMUSE President Claire Michela said that AMUSE and Floor Fellows decided to take the issue to court because “it’s been several years that we’ve been trying to negotiate for a collective agreement and the injunction’s purpose is to make things, specifically the payment of Floor Fellows, happen immediately.”

The motion comes following the University’s decision to veto an agreement with AMUSE’s bargaining team regarding Floor Fellows in late January.

“It’s been long enough, they’ve waited long enough,” Michela continued. “It’s time for justice for them.”

Isabelle Oke, AMUSE VP Floor Fellows, told The Daily in an email that “the action was about accountability, keeping McGill accountable for the time they wasted in bargaining by not providing [the administration’s] team with a clear mandate, and backing out of an agreement in a way that broke negotiation conventions.”

AMUSE President Claire Michela said that AMUSE and Floor Fellows decided to take the issue to court because “it’s been several years that we’ve been trying to negotiate for a collective agreement and the injunction’s purpose is to make things, specifically the payment of Floor Fellows, happen immediately.”

The motion itself is an individual recourse, which means that it has not been filed as a collective representing all Floor Fellows. Instead, individual Floor Fellows have signed onto a declaration agreeing to be part of the injunction.

Michela noted that 35 out of seventy total Floor Fellows have signed onto the motion, “which makes it quite strong.”

Oke added that she thinks the proportion of Floor Fellows supporting the motion “shows how fiercely determined we are to make McGill move towards equitable labour practices and acknowledge the role Floor Fellows play in residence.”

“The action was about accountability, keeping McGill accountable for the time they wasted in bargaining by not providing [the administration’s] team with a clear mandate, and backing out of an agreement in a way that broke negotiation conventions.”

When asked about the Floor Fellows’ reaction to the legal action, Oke said that “reactions were a mix of enthusiasm, anticipation, and nervous apprehension because of the big steps we’re taking and the multiple outcomes it could lead to.”

Another Floor Fellow, Helen Ogundeji, told The Daily via email that “it’s great to know that the union reps are continuing to pursue Floor Fellows’ interests. As someone who is not part of the active mobilizing on [AMUSE’s] end, it is comforting to know that there are people who are consistently on our side and ready to figure out the next steps in this ongoing battle.”

Other unions, particularly McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), have supported AMUSE’s legal actions.

The motion itself is an individual recourse, which means that it has not been filed as a collective representing all Floor Fellows. Instead, individual Floor Fellows have signed onto a declaration agreeing to be part of the injunction.

According to Michela, MUNACA will publish AMUSE’s letter to the Human Resources committee of the Board of Governors on its website. MUNACA has also published a Journal de Montreal article discussing AMUSE’s legal action.

“I spoke out at a couple of stewards meetings that they had about it, so they’re really showing solidarity with us and they’re flabbergasted that this [the University reneging on the agreement] would happen,” Michela said. “I can’t imagine it happening to any other group.”

The injunction hearing

On Thursday February 9, the injunction hearing took place.

In an email to The Daily, Michela said, “The judge did not accept that it was an emergency, because we could have filed an injunction at any point between May 2014, when Floor Fellows were accredited (and not getting paid), to now.”

“I spoke out at a couple of stewards meetings that they had about it, so they’re really showing solidarity with us and they’re flabbergasted that this [the University reneging on the agreement] would happen.”

“However, the judge decided that there should be an interlocutory hearing, which should take place in short order, with more information from both sides,” Michela added.

She added that dates have been set to gather more information and there will be another hearing on May 5, where “a decision should be rendered as to whether Floor Fellows should be paid before the collective agreement is finalized in arbitration.”

According to Michela, this is a short time frame for a court to make a decision.

“I can’t imagine it happening to any other group.”

When asked whether AMUSE chose to take legal action because lines of communication with the administration had broken down, Michela said that lines of communication remain open.

“There was an official meeting between the arbitrator, the University, and our representative this Monday, February 6, so those lines of communication are still open,” she explained, “but the University doesn’t see our side, our point of view, at all.”

Michela noted that there are dates set up for arbitration hearings, but “we have shown that we are unhappy with what’s happened in the recent past.”

With the injunction declared a non-emergency, AMUSE is planning mobilization efforts.

“The mobilization is hopefully going to be really visible and we’re going to try to get a lot of student support,” Michela said.

“There was an official meeting between the arbitrator, the University, and our representative this Monday, February 6, so those lines of communication are still open,” she explained, “but the University doesn’t see our side, our point of view, at all.”

“I think to Floor Fellows the most important thing is justice. It’s not necessarily getting paid per se, they do what they do because they’re amazing people. But I think we have decided to proceed this way because it’s the strongest course of legal action we can take right now,” she concluded.

When asked to comment, McGill’s Director of Internal Communications Doug Sweet told The Daily that “the University never comments on matters before the courts or on labour negotiations that are in progress.”

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SSMU Council sees debate on anti-Zionist tweet http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/ssmu-council-sees-debate-on-anti-zionist-tweet/ Sat, 11 Feb 2017 21:30:19 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49615 On Thursday February 9, the Legislative Council of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) convened for an exceptionally long and confrontational meeting, with Council lasting over six hours and ending at one a.m.

During the first two hours of Council, people speaking during Question Period primarily voiced concerns over a tweet by Arts Representative and former Daily editor Igor Sadikov, which has drawn intense criticism for its alleged incitement to violence.

Furthermore, a motion to amend SSMU’s internal regulations was debated extensively and then postponed until the next Council meeting, on February 23. Council also discussed six notices of motion and three other motions.

Councillor Sadikov’s tweet

The day before the Council meeting, on Wednesday February 8, a recent tweet reading “punch a Zionist today” had surfaced online.

The tweet, which was posted to Sadikov’s personal account after working hours on February 6, was a reference to the recent “punch a Nazi” memes which circulated online following the viral video of white supremacist Richard Spencer being punched in the face at the inauguration of United States President Donald Trump.

The tweet in question has since been deleted, but not before screenshots of it had been widely shared within the McGill community and beyond.

The day before the Council meeting, on Wednesday February 8, a recent tweet reading “punch a Zionist today” had surfaced online.

Over the course of the following day, Thursday February 9, an intense storm of criticism developed around Sadikov and his tweet, with many at McGill and in the wider world portraying it as an incitement to anti-Semitic violence.

This interpretation rests on the conflation of Zionism with Jewishness which, while widely believed, is in fact a misconception; many Jewish people do not identify with the settler-colonial ideology of Zionism or the goals and actions of the state of Israel.

Moreover, it should be noted that Sadikov himself is Jewish, a fact which has been ignored by many media outlets and in the discussion surrounding this controversy.

On Thursday morning, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), of which Sadikov is a council member as one of the Arts Representatives to SSMU, published a statement on their Facebook page condemning the tweet and asking for his resignation.

Over the course of the following day, Thursday February 9, an intense storm of criticism developed around Sadikov and his tweet, with many at McGill and in the wider world portraying it as an incitement to anti-Semitic violence.

Meanwhile, Christopher Manfredi, McGill’s Provost and Vice-Principal Academic, issued a public statement calling the tweet “disturbing,” stating that disciplinary action was underway on the grounds that the tweet violated McGill policy, despite being sent from a personal account after working hours.

Sadikov has been harshly criticized within certain segments of the McGill community, and in a variety of local, national, and international media outlets. Nonetheless, a movement in support of him has also developed.

A number of student groups and individuals in the university community expressed public support for Sadikov, using the hashtag #BiasedMcGill to call attention to what they perceived as a disproportionate and unjust response to his tweet.

On Thursday morning, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), of which Sadikov is a council member as one of the Arts Representatives to SSMU, published a statement on their Facebook page condemning the tweet and asking for his resignation.

Question period

It was in this incendiary context that SSMU Council met on Thursday evening. While such meetings are generally only attended by the councillors themselves and a few members of the student press, this one had attracted a crowd of roughly 50 students.

Some came with the intention of confronting Sadikov for perceived incitement to violence, while others wished to stand in solidarity with him and call attention to what they saw as political bias underlying the attacks against him.

After a number of lengthy presentations which were previously scheduled for that Council meeting, a question period began during which members of the gallery could air their concerns, and have them addressed by members of Council.

Arts student David Naftalin opened the session by telling those assembled that he personally felt frightened by Sadikov’s tweet, and didn’t see “how a member of this board has a right to be here based on the SSMU constitution, which prides itself on inclusivity and diversity.”

In response to this, engineering student Laura Khoury said that as a Palestinian, she felt unsafe due to the presence of Zionists on Council.

“Since SSMU has a social justice mandate,” asked Khoury, “why does it allow Zionist councilors on Council, when Zionist ideology is inherently [linked to] ethnically cleansing Palestinians?”

“Your question I think is really inappropriate,” replied Social Work Representative Jasmine Segal, “because freedom of speech [means that] people are allowed to believe what they want.”

Segal publicly identified herself as a Zionist, and characterized Sadikov’s tweet as a “hate crime.” When this statement elicited criticism from some in the gallery, she stated that she had consulted thoroughly with her constituents before the meeting, and was using vocabulary which they had endorsed.

“Since SSMU has a social justice mandate,” asked Khoury, “why does it allow Zionist councilors on Council, when Zionist ideology is inherently [linked to] ethnically cleansing Palestinians?”

Much of the question period involved heated debate over how exactly to define Zionism, and over who had experienced violence.

Iris Madeleine asked Council what would be done “to guarantee Igor’s safety after this hateful campaign against him.”

AUS President Becky Goldberg, who was present in the gallery, replied to Madeleine, making it clear that she was speaking as an individual, not as the voice of her Society.

“Your question I think is really inappropriate,” replied Social Work Representative Jasmine Segal, “because freedom of speech [means that] people are allowed to believe what they want.”

“It seems to be a little bit of […] a political witch-hunt,” said Goldberg, “and I have tried to ensure Igor’s safety just in providing my personal support […] but we have been contemplating formulating a statement that does not condone the use of […] defamation or […] the promotion of harm in response to something that people perceived as harm.”

Indeed, on the following day, AUS published a second statement on its Facebook page, condemning the violence enacted or threatened against Sadikov in recent days.

“It seems to be a little bit of […] a political witch-hunt.”

“I am grateful for President Goldberg’s support provided on a personal level,” responded Sadikov at Council. “That said, I’m in agreement with [Madeleine] about the need for institutional support. Over the past 24 hours I have received hundreds of insults and threats on social media, my personal information has been posted online, it has been reported to various institutions and authorities. I cannot say that […] I feel safe.”

Internal governance reforms motion

Following the question period, Council discussed a motion to reform SSMU’s internal regulations which had been moved by Sadikov in collaboration with SSMU VP University Affairs Erin Sobat. In essence, the motion aimed to improve accountability at the level of the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD).

Last year, a series of reforms were passed which significantly increased the BoD’s power, in an effort to allow Council to function more efficiently. In doing so, however, reforms failed to put in place adequate checks and balances; as a result, the BoD, an unelected body, currently has the unchecked ability to make substantive decisions independently of Council in certain cases.

The motion brought to Thursday’s Council meeting aimed to address this problem by obliging the Chair of the BoD to present a full report at every meeting of Council.

The motion also made a slight adjustment to the regulations surrounding the ratification of opinions from SSMU’s Judicial Board (J-Board). Currently, every time the J-Board issues an opinion, it is presented to the BoD to be either ratified, returned for further consideration by the J-Board, or overturned. In order to overturn an opinion, a four-fifths majority of BoD members is required; this threshold can be difficult to reach in certain cases, resulting in institutional paralysis.

The motion brought to Thursday’s Council meeting aimed to address this problem by obliging the Chair of the BoD to present a full report at every meeting of Council.

As Sadikov put it, “At the BoD, we had this situation where the Board was not able to ratify [a certain] opinion, nor overturn it. So this opinion is basically not in effect because it hasn’t been ratified, nor overturned, so it remains in this procedural gray area or limbo.”

In order to address this issue, the motion proposed by Sadikov and Sobat only required a simple majority of BoD members to overturn an opinion from the J-Board. However, this small procedural change sparked a heated controversy. Many students had expressed firm opposition to the motion in the days leading up to Council, contending that this change was motivated by a desire to thwart J-Board favourable opinions towards Zionism.

Some of those who spoke against the motion during Thursday’s Council meeting referenced the judicial opinion issued in May 2016 which ruled that a General Assembly motion in support of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaign had violated SSMU policy. This controversial J-Board opinion was never ratified by the BoD; nor was it overturned.

In addition to allegations that Sobat and Sadikov’s motion was politically motivated by anti-Zionist intentions, some of those who spoke against the motion at Council appeared to be under the erroneous impression that the BoD does not currently have the power to overturn J-Board opinions at all. Notably, VP Operations Sacha Magder argued repeatedly and at length that, as he put it, “as you allow J-Board decisions to be overturned, you remove its separation from some of the political levels of governance.”

“At the BoD, we had this situation where the Board was not able to ratify [a certain] opinion, nor overturn it. So this opinion is basically not in effect because it hasn’t been ratified, nor overturned, so it remains in this procedural gray area or limbo.”

Magder’s confusion about the precise nature of both the motion at hand and SSMU’s own governance structures was emblematic of the protracted debate which followed. Ultimately, Environment Representative Tuviere Okome expressed the opinion that “this motion was badly explained,” despite the fact that both Sobat and Sadikov had explained it at great length beforehand, and that notice had been given at Council two weeks previously, as required by SSMU bylaws.

Close to midnight, after more than two hours of debate on the motion, Council voted to postpone the discussion until the next meeting, on February 23.

Other business

The motion regarding the endorsement of the McGill communities’ council letter to the Board of Governors was tabled until the next meeting, as well.

Ultimately, Environment Representative Tuviere Okome expressed the opinion that “this motion was badly explained,” despite the fact that both Sobat and Sadikov had explained it at great length beforehand, and that notice had been given at Council two weeks previously, as required by SSMU bylaws.

The motion regarding the amendment of the SSMU electoral timeline and the motion for SSMU to advocate for an immediate suspension of the Canadian-U.S. safe third country agreement passed.

At the time of publication, the SSMU executive team had yet to release a statement regarding Sadikov’s tweet or the events of the Council meeting.

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“Resist Trump” fears normalizing far right http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/02/resist-trump-fears-normalizing-far-right/ Mon, 06 Feb 2017 11:00:58 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49323 On Wednesday February 1, about a hundred people gathered in the Henry F. Hall building at Concordia University to discuss how to resist the new Trump administration. The meeting, organized in part by the group Resist Trump and the Far Right Network and hosted by Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) Concordia, was aimed at introducing new members to the anti-Trump movement that they have been promoting.

The meeting aimed to “provide folks with an opportunity to engage themselves in our various subgroups, including an action/demo committee, mobilizing to disrupt Trump’s eventual visit to Ottawa, a a popular education group to organize workshops and events, as well as a network building and communication committee,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

“Let’s turn our collective anger into action by working together to build short and long term plans to resist the racism, sexism and far-right politics that Donald Trump represents,” it concluded.

“Resist Trump” brands itself as a grassroots organization that seeks to organize activities to resist and disrupt the Trump administration’s agenda, whether by protesting in solidarity with Americans or disrupting a Trump visit to Ottawa.

“Let’s turn our collective anger into action by working together to build short and long term plans to resist the racism, sexism and far-right politics that Donald Trump represents.”

The group is loosely organized, with sections dedicated to organizing action, online activism, and education. They have organized several anti-Trump protests, including one of the larger protests in Montreal on inauguration day, and were part of the reason that President Trump’s planned trip to Ottawa was canceled due to fear of disruptive protests.

In an interview with The Daily, Anas Bouslikhane, who joined Resist Trump shortly after the election, said, “We must view how autonomously, collectively we can respond to the structures that have been against us for so long; so that is the political parties, the big businesses, the big corporations, the oil industry that have been attacking Indigenous people […], and the legal system. […] How do we collectively confront this enormous global far-right that is slowly becoming a reality?”

“We can tangibly do these things, we can […] start conversation, we can tangibly get together like we are doing today […] and we can […] go ahead and go to the borders and we can challenge those.” he said.

“You can say no to a wall, you can take down a wall, because nobody gets hurt with that,” Bouslikhane continued. “[Walls] block lives and kill because those mean death sentences to people, whether it’s a physical wall or it’s a signature, so an abstract wall […]. Those are all borders that we can collectively challenge, resist, and hopefully take down.”

“We must view how autonomously, collectively we can respond to the structures that have been against us for so long; so that is the political parties, the big businesses, the big corporations, the oil industry that have been attacking Indigenous people […], and the legal system. […] How do we collectively confront this enormous global far-right that is slowly becoming a reality?”

There was a general sense of urgency in the room, as all in attendance voiced both concern and an eagerness to fight back.

“I am incredibly concerned about the […] global rise of the far right. I think that not enough people talk about far-right extremism; it is an incredibly significant issue, increasingly because of people of people like Donald Trump getting elected to positions of power,” member of “Resist Trump” and event organizer Nicole LeBlanc told The Daily.

“[Donald Trump] is explicitly racist, misogynist, he advocates anti-LGBT policies, he advocates anti-immigrant policies, and has actually enforced many of those, so it is very, very scary.”

Although Trump’s jurisdiction ends at the Canadian border, LeBlanc told The Daily that she believes organizing against Trump in Montreal is still of the utmost importance.

“When a far-right extremist gets elected into a position of power and given a huge national platform, and in Trump’s case, a global platform […] this agenda and this rhetoric is being increasingly normalized.”

It has only been a little more than two weeks since Donald Trump’s inauguration, but what the Trump administration has done during that time and the resulting impact has been overwhelming to many.

On Friday January 27, Trump signed an executive order that banned U.S. entry for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The order also suspended the U.S. refugee program for four months, as well as indefinitely suspended the admission of Syrian refugees.

“You can say no to a wall, you can take down a wall, because nobody gets hurt with that. [Walls] block lives and kill because those mean death sentences to people, whether it’s a physical wall or it’s a signature, so an abstract wall […]. Those are all borders that we can collectively challenge, resist, and hopefully take down.”

Since the signing of the executive order, 60,000 visas have been revoked according to The Independent. This move has sparked outrage, both in the U.S. and abroad.

“We have all been saying for a very long time that the far-right is a problem, and now I believe this is an opportunity to take that discussion into the mainstream. This is not just about Trump, this is about a rhetoric and policies that are intrinsically violent and oppressive, that are being normalized and that are being sort of state-sanctioned, and even our government isn’t taken a firm stance [against that],” LeBlanc continued.

LeBlanc noted that the systemic racism and rhetoric against marginalized people has existed for a long time, but Trump and other far-right leaders’ rhetoric is normalizing it. “Members of marginalized communities would say that this stuff has been normalized for a long time, but it is being normalized to a […] different degree now.”

When asked what she would like to see happen with regards to Resist Trump, she said she’d like to see “this become a popular mobilization in opposition of the far right, and what I probably hope even more so is to sort of bring some of the ideas of the network in opposition to the far right and critical of capitalism and stuff like that I hope that we can bring more of those ideas into the mainstream.”

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