The McGill Daily » News http://www.mcgilldaily.com Lost in the woods since 1911 Fri, 04 Sep 2015 02:54:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3 Demilitarize McGill denounces social network research http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/09/demilitarize-mcgill-denounces-social-network-research/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/09/demilitarize-mcgill-denounces-social-network-research/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 10:09:50 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42526 Activists criticize social control applications of surveillance

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On August 3, campus direct action group Demilitarize McGill released a set of access to information (ATI) documents pertaining to the research done by Derek Ruths, an associate professor at the McGill School of Computer Science and the supervisor of the Network Dynamics Lab.

According to its website, the Network Dynamics Lab does research on measuring and predicting large-scale human behaviour. The lab receives up to $85,100 in funding from the federal government as part of the Kanishka Project Contribution Program, a multi-year investment in terrorism-focused research, to study “a system for measuring population response to a crisis in online social networks.”

Demilitarize McGill pointed to two particular sets of slides that have been released as part of the ATI documents. The slides, which Ruths has presented to Public Safety Canada (PSC) include the Montreal student protests of 2012 as an example of “uncoordinated mobilization.”

Demilitarize McGill alleges that Ruths’ research could be used by police and intelligence agencies not only to surveil social movements, but also to control them.

“The thing about Ruths’ research is that it’s not peer surveillance. We know that peer surveillance is already happening, we know the stories about the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)] creating fake Facebook profiles and following activists, and we know that activist spaces get regularly infiltrated,” Mona Luxion, a PhD candidate in the School of Urban Planning and an organizer with Demilitarize McGill, told The Daily.

“What’s interesting and concerning about Ruths’ research is that it’s pushing the boundaries of what you can do with the surveillance and with that data.”

“What’s interesting and concerning about Ruths’ research is that it’s pushing the boundaries of what you can do with the surveillance and with that data,” continued Luxion. “Ideally, this work is not just about understanding people’s responses, but also about how the government can influence those responses by intervening in those social networks – especially virtual social networks, but also the real-world social networks that they represent.”

In an interview with The Daily, Ruths admitted that his research, which attempts to model and infer people’s characteristics based on their social media activity, could be used in ways other than originally intended.

“I fully acknowledge that there are nefarious actors out there, who could pick up and use this technology. […] You know, bad guys are going to do this. Bad guys, whether they be badly intentioned police officers, or government officials, or just bad governments… They’re just going to do this. The technology is fairly out there,” Ruths said.

“What I think is really important about this work is that it happens in the open. We are as transparent as you can get,” he continued.

Ruths also characterized the allegations made by Demilitarize McGill as “ridiculous.”

“There is nothing that I have provided [to the PSC] that is actually usable. I haven’t given them software, I haven’t actually conducted detailed analysis, there is no person that I’ve been in contact [with] who is in any way capable of picking up the systems in the form that I’ve built them and using them for this purpose,” he explained.

According to Luxion, however, “The point here […] is not only about what the researcher’s intent is with any one particular project, but the way in which that fits into broader trends and the potential applications once that technology or knowledge is available.”

“The police do not act as a neutral or quasi-neutral force in society.”

“The point is, academic research is to disseminate and add to knowledge and, to some extent, the point of governments is to consolidate that knowledge and implement it through policy and action,” Luxion continued.

Nevertheless, Ruths maintains that his research aims to help law enforcement engage with social movements in a constructive way, by making them understand the reasons why people engage in direct action.

Montreal-based community organizer Jaggi Singh said Ruths’ response was an example of “an astounding naivete about the police and how they operate.”

“If you believe the police are a neutral force within society that somehow [navigate] neutrally between governments and corporations and military and social movements, then that might make some sense. But that, of course, is not the reality. The police do not act as a neutral or quasi-neutral force in society,” Singh told The Daily.

“Unfortunately, it’s a naive point of view you often get [in] academia, where people, because they are within the framework of an academic setting, feel like they can make some sort of proclamation towards neutrality or objectivity.”

Surveillance versus control

According to Brenda McPhail, the Privacy, Surveillance, and Technology Project Director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), there is a major difference between monitoring a social movement and controlling it.

“Any effort to control citizens, preventing them from exercising their Charter-protected rights, I think, is profoundly troubling. That doesn’t seem to have a place in a Canadian society that believes in democratic process, that believes in the right to dissent, that believes in the value of free expression,” McPhail told The Daily.

Singh emphasized that surveillance is a widespread issue. “Already we know that the police and army are part of an apparatus [that is] involved in surveillance – that already exists,” Singh said, adding that the criticism of the Network Dynamics Lab’s work shouldn’t distract from existing repressive surveillance.

“Knowledge is power and knowing how these things work can be used for either good or ill.”

“There are already clear structural ways in which this level of surveillance and repression operates within our society and, unfortunately, it’s widely accepted.”

McPhail believes that “knowledge is power and knowing how these things work can be used for either good or ill. I think that it is problematic if the purpose of the research is to provide tactics for law enforcement or surveillance intelligence bodies to exercise social control.”

For Luxion, law enforcement’s interest in Ruths’ research represents “a desire to co-opt movements, [and] direct people’s thinking without ever having to get into physical altercations.”

“Being transparent about what it is you’re doing doesn’t eliminate that risk [of co-option],” said Luxion.

“Is it ethical to do research that you know will have that result of enhancing states’ capabilities to repress movements? It’s not just the states that you agree with. At some point, that capacity is available to anyone regardless of who is in power, regardless of what the government is.”

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New provost takes over http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/09/new-provost-takes-over/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/09/new-provost-takes-over/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 10:08:18 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42537 Former Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi chats with The Daily

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On August 26, McGill;s new Provost and Vice-President (VP) Academic Christopher Manfredi sat down with The Daily to talk about his new position, McGillís budget, and dealing with the troubles caused by provincial budget cuts.

The McGill Daily (MD): Provost Christopher Manfredi, you held the position of Dean of Arts last year and for a while before that. As provost, what is your vision for the position?

Christopher Manfredi (CM): So you are right, I was Dean of Arts for nine years, from 2006 until I took this job. That was a very rewarding position. […] I want the provost – the office of the Provost and the VP Academic – to be really integrated into the community, be connected with the community, in a really full way. I am at heart a university professor and a researcher, who just happens to have a set of administrative responsibilities. So I want to maintain the office’s close connection to the community and make sure that it’s really integrated into everything that the University does.

MD: How much more do you think the Provost position is, compared with your previous position as the Dean of Arts?

“I want the provost – the office of the Provost and the VP Academic – to be really integrated into the community, be connected with the community, in a really full way.”

CS: One of the challenges, of course, is that, although I’ve been at McGill for over a quarter of a century – and I’ve had some senior administrative roles – as provost […] I’m going to have to learn more about the different parts of the university than I had to as Dean of Arts. That will be a challenge, there will be a bit of a learning curve. […] Obviously, it’s a bigger job. Volume of work will be higher.

MD: One of the most important portfolios of the Provost is managing the budget. That said, do you have any specific plans for the budget right now? What are some of your priorities in terms of directing McGill’s funds?

CM: We have a budget already set for [the 2016 fiscal year] by [ex-Provost Anthony] Masi, approved by the Board [of Governors], which we’ll follow through on. There’s also a five-year plan, which we will adjust incrementally as we see what’s happening on the government side. […] And this year we’ll be engaging in a lot of consultations with the community, with the deans, with students, with the rest of the university community.

One of the things I think Provost Masi did extremely well was keeping open the lines of communication around the budget and particularly being very transparent about how our budget is constructed. […] And that’s something I hope to be able to continue, to make sure […] that we continue to let the community know very well what’s going on with respect to the budget.

MD: Provost Masi would go to various student council meetings and Senate and talk about the budget.

CM: Yeah, so I plan on doing that too. I did that as dean. One of the things [I] asked the staff to set up when I was Dean of Arts – I used to hold regular office hours in the lounge, the Arts Student Lounge, in the basement of the Leacock Building. So I’ve actually asked my staff to do that this year, of course, at a bigger scale, at the SSMU building. See if I can spend an hour once a month, […] for students to come and drop in and talk to me. So that’s something I’d like to do this year.

MD: I want to talk more about the budget, because that’s a very big issue, considering the provincial budget cuts. Are there any updates?

“We’ve got another $70 to $73 million in cuts for this year that the government has announced.”

CM: Well, I hope we’re getting to the bottom of the trough of budget cuts. We’ve got another $70 to $73 million in cuts for this year that the government has announced. Fortunately, they haven’t given us any news that it is going to be higher than that. So that’s good news for us.

You know, Quebec’s fiscal situation is difficult. There is a government policy trying to get back to a balanced budget and all sectors of Quebec society are being asked to do their part: the health sector, the educational sector, and so on. So we can expect, you know, not having a whole lot of injections of new money from the province, at least.

What McGill would like to see is some flexibility with respect to how we build our budget. And one of the things I’ve been surprised by, in the two months I’ve been here, is not so much about the cuts or the budget, but the kind of erratic nature of how the government informs the University of our budget, the rules being changed in the middle of the game, and so on and so forth; that makes planning very difficult.

MD: Even though the University has been asking for more flexibility, it hasn’t really taken a stance against the budget cuts imposed by the provincial government. So, do you think it would be within your vision for the position, or rather, within your purview to maybe lobby the Senate or the Board of Governors to take an explicit stand against the austerity measures?

CM: Well, I think that’s a question for the principal, [Suzanne Fortier]. I mean, she’s the one who’s the most responsible for our relationship with the provincial government. So I think that’s her decision as to how we develop that relationship.

MD: Still, as a professor of political science yourself, and as a person who has a lot of control over McGill’s budget, I am wondering if you would like to talk about your opinions on this.

CM: Well, certainly, we’d welcome a re-investment into education by the government of Quebec. We’d welcome greater flexibility with respect to how we develop our budget. And I think that those are the things we’ve been working on in terms of our relationship with the government.

“On the course cuts, what we actually did was – those were sort of expenditure neutral cuts.”

MD: There are many side effects of the budget cuts on McGill and some of the most ostensible ones […] have been on the Faculty of Arts. There were the course cuts, which got a massive reaction from students. There’s a general feeling amongst students that courses within certain disciplines, such as those in the humanities, are the first to get cut. How would you respond to this?

CM: First of all, on the course cuts, what we actually did was – those were sort of expenditure neutral cuts. The idea was to try to find efficiencies with respect to how we delivered courses, so we could free up money to increase the amounts we could provide for teaching assistantships (TAs). That’s what we did. We in fact were able to increase our TA budget in the Faculty of Arts by somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent. So, what we want to do is to find the best way to reallocate resources from one area to another, because, you know, it’s a bit of a zero-sum. If you want to do more of X, you have to do less of Y. And thatís the choice that I had to make as dean, and that’s the choice that we took.

If you actually look at where professors were hired in the Faculty of Arts, […] you’ll actually find that the percentage of professors in the Humanities disciplines have actually increased at a faster rate than the proportion of professors at the social sciences discipline.

“With respect to principal, former principal, Munroe-Blum, I think she was provided with […] what she was permitted to get under her contract.”

I guess I wouldn’t agree with the idea that courses are getting cut in the humanities more than they were in the social sciences. And, in fact, one of the things we were very careful about was maintaining our ability about delivering language courses. Because those are critical to our humanities disciplines. And those are the ones that tend to have fairly, relatively small courses, because they have to be taught in small sections. So I think we did a pretty good job in protecting that, and we made a significant re-investment in our languages, literatures, and cultures area, with new tenure track faculty and protecting graduate funding and our ability to deliver courses in that area.

MD: I’d also like to ask you about certain allegations surfaced over the summer. It is alleged that former principal, Heather Munroe-Blum, received a full-year’s salary for two years after leaving McGill. In addition, the Montreal Gazette recently reported that McGill has been raising executive salaries in a manner that could be deemed illegal under Quebecís Bill 100. How would you respond to these allegations?

CM: Yeah, so I think, with respect to principal, former principal, Munroe-Blum, I think she was provided with what her contract – what she was permitted to get under her contract. On the other issue, I think the best person to talk about that is [Vice-Principal (Communications and External Relations) Olivier Marcil], who has been working on that field.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Student-run cafeteria replaces Bocadillo http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/09/student-run-cafeteria-replaces-bocadillo/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/09/student-run-cafeteria-replaces-bocadillo/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 10:07:56 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42533 SSMU mandated by resolution to remove commercial tenant activity

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Following extensive renovations, the privately owned Bocadillo has been pushed out to make way for a new student-run food service, which opened August 24. Together with the Nest, the new food service will make up the student-run cafeteria (SRC) on the second floor of the Shatner Building.

The new food operation will serve salads, soups, pizza, burgers, french fries, sandwiches and more. Burgers and sandwiches cost between $6.75 and $8.50, depending on the toppings, while soup and salads run in the $3 to $4 range. Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Finance and Operation Zacheriah Houston explained that the food will be affordable, underscoring that the mission of the SRC is “to provide high-quality meals at an affordable price.” However, McGill meal plans are not accepted.

The decision for a new student-run food service follows a mandate set out by a motion passed at SSMU Council in March. Confidentially discussed, the motion resolved that “the SSMU remove all commercial tenant activity in the University Centre,” in an effort to “prioritize student endeavours above any other taken up in the SSMU space.”

At the moment, however, the extent to which this motion will be implemented is unclear. SSMU VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik explained to The Daily that “the motion had no established timeline outlined when it was originally passed,” and that “any plans for logistics or implementation would also need to be reviewed and discussed by Council prior to making any decisions.”

With regards to commercial activity in the Shatner Building and the corporatization of campus in general, Bialik said she would not be able to comment at this time.

Houston argued that the new initiative has both positive and negative financial consequences. In an email to The Daily, Houston explained, “The removal of the second-floor commercial tenants had an unfavourable impact on the building budget, as it resulted in decreased revenue. In February, ‘business rent’ was budgeted for $216,000 in revenue. Now, in the July revision of the 2015-16 budget, it is budgeted for only $145,000 in revenue.” Still, Houston believes that the decrease can be offset by revenue generated from the new food operation, which is budgeted to earn a profit of $64,000.

“It allows us to be a more tight-knit community, it allows us to give things to students, allows us to improve.”

Edward McCrady, a cashier among the approximately 35 staff members which include Gerts kitchen staff, welcomed another student-run food initiative on campus. “It allows us to be a more tight-knit community, it allows us to give things to students, allows us to improve,” McCrady told The Daily.

On implementing the SSMU Council resolution and removing the remaining commercial tenants, McCready argued that “as long as they’re good business, I wouldn’t say anything about having them removed. As long as they’re making money for SSMU and McGill, and being successful businesses that provide students with healthy options and cheap options, that’s good.”

According to information from a presentation to Council by last year’s VP Finance and Operations Kathleen Bradley, commercial tenants account for approximately 86 per cent of annual sales in the building. Now that Bocadillo and Bamboo Bowl have left the Shatner Building, La Prep (approximately 55 per cent of annual sales) and Liquid Nutrition (approximately 8 per cent of all sales) are the only commercial tenants left, excluding the vending machines.

Jonathan Taylor, the owner of Liquid Nutrition, when asked about the place of private commercial activity in student-run spaces, said, “Franchises like ours have a lot to offer. […] I think it would be a shame if we [were] pushed out.”

“At the end of the day, people like diversity. […] If you force something on somebody, you’re going to end up with a pretty empty building […]; that’s my gut feeling,” Taylor said.

Taylor would like to renew Liquid Nutrition’s lease, which expires in June 2016, but has yet to begin negotiations with the incoming SSMU executive. La Prep’s lease is also set to expire in June.

For now, the future of the SRC remains unclear. Given that the renovation of the second floor of the Shatner building “required a significant capital investment,” Houston “would like the SRC to remain for the foreseeable future.”

Houston noted that ultimately, “as is the case with all other SSMU projects, the future of the SRC is still contingent upon positive feedback from students and the financial feasibility of the cafe.”

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Workers on campus troubled by alleged Bill 100 violation http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/09/workers-on-campus-troubled-by-alleged-bill-100-violation/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/09/workers-on-campus-troubled-by-alleged-bill-100-violation/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 10:05:20 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42502 Former principal paid for two years after leaving position

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Correction appended, September 1.

On July 27, the Quebec’s Ministry of Education announced that McGill’s funding may be further cut for violating provincial Bill 100, which restricts the way in which pay raises can be given in order to combat provincial debt.

According to Bill 100, “no bonus, allowance, premium, compensation or other additional remuneration based on personal performance for either of the fiscal years beginning in 2010 and 2011, may be granted to […] a senior executive or the management personnel in the education network or a university.”

According to the Montreal Gazette, Julie White, spokesperson for Education Minister François Blais, believes that the performance-based bonuses provided to McGill administrative staff in the last five years may have been illegal.

In addition, this June, the Journal de Montréal reported that McGill’s former principal Heather Munroe-Blum allegedly received two years’ worth of paychecks – amounting to more than $750,000 – from McGill after leaving the university in 2013, while being a member of McGill’s faculty on leave, but doing research at Standford University. Munroe-Blum’s term at McGill was marked by student strikes against an attempted tuition hike and the exacerbation of an already tense relationship between students and administration.

Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE), one of the campus unions, has found both of these allegations concerning, especially as McGill continues to face unprecedented budget cuts as part of the provincial austerity measures.

“It’s sad that the Quebec government, which has a reputation as being one of the most corrupt in Canada, has to be the one to call the McGill administration out on its illegal pay raises,” Molly Swain, president of AMUSE, told The Daily.

Swain further explained that it would be concerning for AMUSE, if the allegations about McGill’s decision to continue paying Munroe-Blum for two extra years were true, despite the mass cancellation of Arts courses in the 2013-14 academic year and other austerity measures.

In an email to The Daily, McGill’s Director of Internal Communications, Doug Sweet, responded to the allegations regarding Bill 100 and Munroe-Blum’s post-employment salary. Sweet stated that the administration believes it “[has] been following Bill 100 directives. In a recent meeting with the government, we realized we are using different definitions of terms and therefore more clarification is needed by both parties.”

Regarding Munroe-Blum’s continued pay, Sweet said, “It is normal practice for a senior academic administrator to earn a one-year leave following a five-year term in office. Additionally, faculty members are eligible for the academic retirement program, to which the Principal Emeritus was entitled.”

“In the current economic system, a decent wage is one of the few things that shows an employer’s respect for workers, and the low wages support staff receive show a serious lack of respect from the administration.”

“15 and Fair” campaign

According to Swain, McGill has a history of poor treatment of its faculty and support staff. “[McGill] is, and always has been, a factory for the elite – and the administration [is] very proud of this,” Swain explained.

As an example, Swain pointed to the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA)’s strike in 2011. Notably, during the strike, McGill filed two injunctions against MUNACA, which restricted the union’s picketing ability on campus and around senior administrators’ houses. In addition, there were reports of scab labour – workers going to work despite the strike – though the university was cleared of all charges.

“The administration dismisses, downplays, and ridicules those who try to change things. In the current economic system, a decent wage is one of the few things that shows an employer’s respect for workers, and the low wages support staff receive show a serious lack of respect from the administration,” Swain explained.

According to AMUSE, many of its union members, especially students in the work-study program, are paid at or barely above the provincial minimum wage of $10.55 per hour, which the union does not consider a living wage in 2015.

AMUSE is also part of the 15 and Fair McGill campaign, which calls for a $15 per hour minimum wage on campus. Other unions that are participating in the campaign are the Association of McGill University Research Employees (AMURE), McGill’s teaching assistants’ and invigilators’ union AGSEM, McGill Course Lecturers and Instructors Union (MCLIU), and MUNACA. In addition, the campaign is supported by the McGill Chapter of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG).

One way by which the McGill administration has implemented provincial austerity measures is the institution of a hiring freeze on non-casual positions. According to 15 and Fair McGill’s website, this means that “full-time employees with benefits are slowly being replaced with casual employees with unpredictable hours and little job security.” The effects of these measures are especially drastic for students, coupled with their low wages and student debt, and dramatically decrease the accessibility of education for students in the work-study program.

Swain explained the two options McGill has: “Either the administration must suddenly realize that their pay system is flawed and change it on their own, or we, the workers and support staff who really make the university run, must try to change things and work for a more ethical and fair pay system.”

An earlier version of this article suggested that former Principal Heather Munroe-Blum was employed by Stanford University during the two years following her principalship. In fact, Munroe-Blum was still a member of McGill’s faculty, albeit on leave, and was doing research at Stanford University. The Daily regrets the error.

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In case you missed it http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/09/in-case-you-missed-it-2/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/09/in-case-you-missed-it-2/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 10:04:51 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42524 Headlines from the summer

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As always, the summer has been full of action in Montreal and at McGill. The city witnessed unions launching their new campaigns, police cracking down on protests, a petition to fight the patriarchy, and we even saw a scandal regarding the McGill Faculty of Medicine. If you weren’t paying attention over the summer, now is your chance to catch up on the news.

March in solidarity with Unist’ot’en Camp ends in arrests

On July 24, approximately twenty demonstrators gathered at Roddick Gates to show support for the Unist’ot’en Camp in British Columbia. The camp is located in unceded Wet’suwet’en territories, which are currently endangered by 11 different pipeline proposals, including Chevron’s Pacific Trails Pipeline project.

An organizer who wished to remain anonymous explained that the Unist’ot’en have been practicing “free prior and informed consent protocols.” This method entails asking potential visitors about their intention when they access the territory. “If [the visitors] are not approved by the hereditary chiefs, then they’re not allowed on the territory,” stated the organizer, adding, “[the Unist’ot’en have] made it very clear that […] Chevron is not allowed in the territory and the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police], who is just acting to enforce this capitalist agenda, is not allowed on their territory either.” The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) responded to the protest with several arrests and tickets.

On August 26, the members of the camp announced on their Facebook page that they were “on high alert and if [their families didn’t] hear back from [them] in 24 hours, it means [they were] unable to get word out” about their situation. They later made other posts about increased police activity around the territories.

McGill’s undergraduate medicine program put on probation

Over the summer, McGill’s undergraduate medicine program was placed on probation by the Committee on the Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. The announcement came in the form of a letter, dated June 15 and addressed to McGill’s Principal Suzanne Fortier. While the letter expressed that “probation is an action reflecting the summative judgment that a medical education program is not in substantial compliance with accreditation standards,” McGill’s undergraduate medicine program has not lost its accreditation. Amongst reasons cited for the probation was inadequate instruction in women’s health and family and domestic violence. The faculty has until 2017 to address the issues mentioned in the letter in order for the program to be taken off probation, and it has already begun to do so.

Unions at McGill join $15 minimum wage campaign

On May 1, McGill’s Inter-Union Council (IUC) organized a rally at Community Square in front of the James Administration building to celebrate International Workers’ Day and to stand in solidarity with the university’s academic and non-academic workers. Following the rally, which included speeches by community members, the organizers of the rally delivered a letter to the University, signed by the event’s participants. The letter condemned many of the University’s policy decisions in response to the provincial budget cuts.

McGill worker Agatha Slupek, speaking on behalf of the IUC, announced that unions at McGill would be joining their “comrades in the fast food and retail industries [in calling] for a $15 campus-wide minimum wage.” As the collective agreements of most unions, such as the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), are about to expire, it is expected that the campaign will affect the re-negotiation processes.

Petition starts “alcohol does not equal consent” campaign

Earlier this spring, a petition was launched demanding that the Quebec government make it mandatory for alcohol bottles to have the slogan “alcohol does not equal consent” written on them, as well as for establishments with alcohol permits to display the same slogan at their bars and restrooms. According to Kharoll-Ann Souffrant, one of the people behind the petition and a social work student at McGill, the petition sought to make the message visible and create awareness about the issue of sexual assault. Mélanie Lemay, an administrator at the Centre d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (CALACS) Agression Estrie, the first step to fight rape culture is admitting that it exists. “That’s the biggest test, and most people don’t do it, because it’s hard to believe that actually everything’s made up so that women [are not even the owners of their own bodies],” Lemay told The Daily.

By the petition’s deadline on July 24, 574 people had signed the online petition; however, the organizers claimed that the total number exceeds 1,000 if paper versions of the petition are included.

Affordable housing group’s camp dispersed by the police

The Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), an affordable housing group, took to the streets on May 21 to denounce the limited funding for social housing from the federal and provincial governments and protest housing inaccessibility. Several hundred demonstrators joined the march in downtown Montreal.

Around 2:30 p.m., the congregation arrived at the Quartier des spectacles, where approximately sixty campers from Montreal and surrounding regions who were either facing housing difficulties or were tenants of social housing intended to stay in tents.

At approximately 4 p.m., the SPVM intervened, making three arrests and seizing some of the protesters’ tents. Eventually, police surrounded the camp from multiple directions and by 5 p.m. had dismantled the protest.

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Protesters stand in solidarity with Unist’ot’en Camp http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/07/protesters-stand-in-solidarity-with-unistoten-camp/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/07/protesters-stand-in-solidarity-with-unistoten-camp/#comments Sat, 25 Jul 2015 20:32:27 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42433 March ends in arrests and tickets

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Around twenty protesters met in front of McGill’s Roddick Gates on July 24 to demonstrate support for the Unist’ot’en Camp in British Columbia and to protest the recent actions of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which has increased its efforts to enter the camp and has, allegedly, threatened the camp’s volunteers.

The Unist’ot’en Camp is set in the unceded territories of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, which are currently endangered by 11 different pipeline proposals, including Chevron’s Pacific Trails Pipeline project. For several years, the volunteers at the camp have been setting up checkpoints in the territory and determining whether or not visitors are allowed access.

Speaking to The Daily, one organizer, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that the Unist’ot’en and the volunteers at the camp have been practicing “free prior and informed consent protocols,” a method that involves asking potential visitors what they are planning to do within the territory.

“If [the visitors] are not approved by the hereditary chiefs, then they’re not allowed on the territory. And [the Unist’ot’en have] made it very clear that […] Chevron is not allowed in the territory and the RCMP, who is just acting to enforce this capitalist agenda, is not allowed on their territory either,” the organizer said.

“[The Unist’ot’en have] made it very clear that […] Chevron is not allowed in the territory and the RCMP, who is just acting to enforce this capitalist agenda, is not allowed on their territory either.”

In a pamphlet handed out to passers-by, the organizers explained that “the context of police brutality is one of maintenance and protection of the settler-colonial invasion.”

“We refuse to tolerate the police abuses of power and the day-to-day acts of police violence that allow for the continued colonization of Turtle Island [an Indigenous name for North America] and the environmental devastation of capitalist expansion,” the pamphlet concludes.

Police response to the protest march

At around 5:30 p.m. on Friday, the protesters started to show up at the designated meeting point, where ten Service de police de la ville de Montréal (SPVM) cars were already waiting. The protesters then began marching westward on Sherbrooke.

The procession turned left at Mansfield Street and then at Maisonneuve, continually marching westward. As they approached the corner of Maisonneuve and Stanley, one of the police cars overtook the procession by driving through the bike lane. The SPVM then proceeded to surround the protesters.

According to the anonymous organizer, six people were arrested and three people were ticketed “for demonstrating and exercising their free speech.” The SPVM, however, stated that one arrest had been made and eight tickets issued.

Among those ticketed was Link reporter Matt D’amours, whose alleged offence was “having occupied a road used as an alternate route for traffic diverted from a public highway by placing an obstacle so as to obstruct vehicular traffic on the road without authorization,” under article 500.1 of the Highway Safety Code.

“The police brutality that we witnessed today has become the norm in Montreal.”

“I do admit that I was on the street at certain points, because as a member of the press, I had to be as close to the story as possible to see what was happening,” D’amours told The Daily.

“What’s interesting, though – I did eventually make it to the sidewalk. The police had come near the curb in between the cement to get on the bike path […] and I was moving in that direction and was actually on the sidewalk, when a police officer came up to me and grabbed me by the arm, and asked me, first of all, to turn my phone off while I was live streaming,” he continued.

Speaking to the reaction of the SPVM to the protest, the anonymous organizer said, “The police brutality that we witnessed today has become the norm in Montreal. But also, police brutality has always been used against marginalized communities and it’s not that surprising that [police] would target a protest that’s in support of Indigenous peoples’ struggle, because all these [police forces], especially the RCMP, have been established to enforce the colonial state’s policies.”

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Petition to start “alcohol does not equal consent” campaign http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/07/petition-to-start-alcohol-does-not-equal-consent-campaign/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/07/petition-to-start-alcohol-does-not-equal-consent-campaign/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 17:42:16 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42428 Organizers highlight the need to recognize that rape culture exists

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Earlier this spring, a petition was launched demanding that the Quebec government make it mandatory for alcohol bottles to have the slogan “alcohol does not equal consent” written on them, as well as having establishments with alcohol permits to display the same slogan at their bars and restrooms.

While the digital version of the petition has 568 signatures, organizers claim that the total number exceeds a thousand if the paper versions are included. In addition, the petition has been endorsed by Québec solidaire Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Manon Massé.

The deadline for the petition is this Friday, July 24.

According to Kharoll-Ann Souffrant, a social work student at McGill and one of the people behind the petition, the idea is to make the message visible and create awareness about the issue of sexual assault.

Souffrant explained to The Daily that the idea came to her and her three friends at the feminist training camp organized by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ).

“We were talking about society and all kinds of issues that happen in society. We started talking about sexual assault and we quickly realized that we all knew someone [to whom] it has happened,” Souffrant said.

“We need to discuss the issue and try to show that just because a woman drank alcohol [doesn’t mean] that she deserves to be raped.”

According to Mélanie Lemay, an administrator at the Centre d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (CALACS) Estrie, one in three women and one in six men will experience sexual assault over the course of their lifetime. In addition, three in four cases of sexual assault occur when the survivor has alcohol in their bloodstream.

“[Alcohol is] the real rape drug,” Lemay told The Daily.

“People don’t even see what’s the issue about that. […] Because, basically, alcohol has always been seen as something that allows [people] more easily to have sex, due to all the taboos we have around sexuality. […] It’s really disturbing to see that some people see it only as a means to have sexual encounters.”

“This is why we need to discuss the issue and try to show that just because a woman drank alcohol [doesn’t mean] that she deserves to be raped,” Lemay continued.

The organizers say that most of the reactions to the petition were positive, but there were a few negative ones.

“The bad comments that we had were, for instance, ‘Oh, women want us to be responsible when they’re drinking, it’s their fault if they get assaulted.’ But that’s part of rape culture, also,” stated Souffrant.

“It’s really putting the blame on [survivors] rather than on the person who commits the crime. And also, for instance, I was reading [about] the [Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM)], and they were talking about sexual assault that was happening in taxis in Montreal, and they were giving all kinds of recommendations for women,” Souffrant continued.

This is referring to when four women in October 2014 reported to the SPVM that they were sexually assaulted in taxis in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. An SPVM spokesperson warned that women should “limit their alcohol consumption and stay in control.” This response was widely criticized as victim-blaming by many organizations, including the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS).

“[Survivors] tend to internalize all these ideas and they feel guilty. It’s the only crime where the [survivor] feels guilty and the aggressor feels innocent,” Souffrant concluded.

“We need, first, to admit that there is a rape culture. This is the biggest test, and most people don’t do it, because it’s hard to believe that actually everything’s made up so that women [are not even the owners of their own body],” Lemay said.

She concluded, “I believe that the petition we’re doing is something that’s helping [fight rape culture]. We’ve received a lot of feedback, either positive or negative. So it’s working. People are talking about it,”

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McGill medicine program put on probation http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/07/mcgill-medicine-program-put-on-probation/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/07/mcgill-medicine-program-put-on-probation/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 19:28:51 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42397 Report cites inadequate instruction in women’s health, family and domestic violence

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Correction appended July 10.

In a consolidated letter dated June 15 and addressed to McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier, the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS) and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) announced their decision to put McGill’s undergraduate medicine program on probation.

“Probation is an action reflecting the summative judgment that a medical education program is not in substantial compliance with accreditation standards,” says the letter. However, even on probation, the medical program has not lost its accreditation.

In order for the program to be taken off probation, the faculty needs to address the various problems raised in the consolidated letter by 2017.

“It’s certainly disappointing,” Dean of Medicine David Eidelman told The Daily. “We did not expect to have this much difficulty, but we had the visit in February, and at the end of that visit it was clear that there were more difficulties than we expected.”

The faculty received preliminary feedback on the accreditation visit in April and an Undergraduate Medical Education (UGME) Accreditation Task Force was “immediately established.”

“We are going to have a visit from the accrediting body in – probably – September to help make sure we’re on track. A detailed action plan would be submitted in December. Assuming that action plan is accepted, which usually would be in these conditions, we would have until 2017 to correct all the problems. Although I personally would like to see most, if not all, of the problems corrected by December,” Eidelman continued.

Inadequate instruction in women’s health and family and domestic violence

One of the findings in the report states that “over the past 5 years, on the [Canadian Graduation Questionnaire], students have reported inadequate instruction in women’s health (range 23.9% to 24.5%) and family and domestic violence (range 51.5% to 59.1%).” In addition, “there has been no discussion on this particular topic at the new curriculum executive level.”

“Over the past 5 years, on the [Canadian Graduation Questionnaire], students have reported inadequate instruction in women’s health (range 23.9% to 24.5%) and family and domestic violence (range 51.5% to 59.1%).”

Speaking to The Daily, Medicine Student Senator David Benrimoh admitted that this is an issue he has observed.

“We talk about [sexual assault] as a thing that happens. We talk about it as being a big part of why a lot of people have bad health outcomes – we know that it exists. But the actual sort of operational way of going about conducting an interview that is focused on sexual assault, that’s focused on domestic abuse […] we don’t get a lot of that,” Benrimoh said.

Doulia Hamad, president of Medical Students’ Society of McGill (MSS) explained that there is a student initiated task force whose mandate it is to discuss sexual health and sexuality.

“[It] has a very very broad mandate. We could talk about queer issues, LGBT issues, […] women’s health and intimate partner violence – it’s a very very broad range of topics,” Hamad told The Daily.

Inadequate documentation and communication

According to Eidelman, most of the program’s shortcomings stem from inadequate communication and documentation.

“One thing I have heard from students is that we didn’t have a systematic way of reporting back to them the things that we did. So students concluded that they had made complaints and nobody did anything about it,” Eidelman said.

“Oftentimes we have a lot of [the] meat of it – you know, the content is there, and the actions are happening. They’re not documented well, they’re not communicated well, so [a] lot of the time there are discrepancies because of that,” Hamad told The Daily.

According to Hamad, an example of inadequate documentation would be the minutes taken at various faculty committees that oversee undergraduate medical education, which were not detailed or precise enough.

“We have to document that we’re doing it,” Eidelman said. “Because, for accreditation, we could be doing the best thing in the world; if we don’t put it in our documents, and it doesn’t get to the eyes of the visitors, it’s as if it never happened.”

“For accreditation, we could be doing the best thing in the world; if we don’t put it in our documents, and it doesn’t get to the eyes of the visitors, it’s as if it never happened.”

Student reactions

“Students are taking it seriously, obviously,” Hamad told The Daily. “Most of them have been quite calm and have greeted the news with a sober face, but [also] with hope and confidence that the faculty is going to see that we don’t lose our accreditation and that we bridge all the issues by 2017.”

“I think a lot of the things that were named in the accreditation report echo problems that the students were already either working to deal with or working to solve.”

“It’s important to put this into context. If you look at what we actually have to fix – it’s very fixable. This is not a permanent thing, or I don’t think we’re in any danger of losing our ability to grant degrees. So when it comes to me as a student, forgetting even as a student leader or a senator, I’m not concerned that I’m not going to get my medical degree,” Benrimoh said.

Benrimoh added, “[Students] believe that the media reports in the [Montreal] Gazette have been woefully inaccurate, that they’ve blown things out of proportion.”

“In the media, a few people are saying that it’s really a huge hit for McGill […] and I think that those comments are a little bit unfair, because many other schools have been on probation from accreditation or have been warned with probation,” said Hamad.

“We know that it’s a very serious situation, and we’re not trying to excuse it. We have many ways to explain this situation, but we know that it’s our duty as medical students and future physicians to really be part of the solution so that we can be a great medical school and serve our patients.”

A previous version of this article stated that McGill’s medicine program was put on probation. In fact, it was only McGill’s undergraduate medicine program that was put on probation. The Daily regrets the error. 

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Still no decision for Divest McGill http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/still-no-decision-for-divest-mcgill/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/still-no-decision-for-divest-mcgill/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 23:48:33 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42374 Board of Governors discusses divestment research, more budget cuts in sight

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Correction appended July 10.

McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) held its final meeting of the 2014-2015 academic year on May 21. BoG Chair Stuart Cobbett opened by commenting on the success of the recent Canadian University Board Association conference held for the first time in Montreal from April 30 to May 2. Cobbett stressed the importance of the conference in generating francophone interest, as it was a fully bilingual affair.

McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier spoke about her recent meeting with Quebec Minister of Finance Carlos Leitão. According to Fortier, Leitão mentioned a $73 million cut to Quebec universities in the 2015-16 school year. Out of the overall amount, the cuts imposed on McGill could range between approximately $9 to $11 million.

The BoG also approved the Declaration of Compliance to Quebec Treasury Board Pursuant to Loi 65.1, a motion that requires the University to publish or make public any contract into which it enters that is above an initial $25,000 threshold.

Speaking to The Daily, former Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Courtney Ayukawa noted that she found this declaration particularly important.

“I think it might be interesting to a lot of students that this is public knowledge on the McGill website. They might find it interesting to see who the university works with and has contracts with,” Ayukawa told The Daily.

CAMSR report on Divest McGill

Three members of Divest McGill attended the open session of the meeting. Members of Divest have submitted two petitions to the BoG over the past two years, calling on McGill to divest from fossil fuels

In May 2013, McGill’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) had advised the BoG to reject Divest’s original petition. Since then, CAMSR has updated its terms of reference to include grave environmental damage in its definition of social injury.

Reporting on the progress of CAMSR, Stuart Cobbett noted in the meeting that that they received a “very well put together and documented petition from Divest.”

“We are trying to work with [CAMSR] to make things as effective as possible,” Divest Campaign Organizer Kristen Perry told The Daily.

“We want to stress that the mandate of the Board of Governors committee is to rule on matters of social injury, [as opposed to] secondarily commissioning studies to look at the policy implications of their investment portfolios.”

McGill’s Secretary General Stephen Strople stated that the Board has called on the Royal Society of Canada, a national research council composed of distinguished scholars, to research the potential implications and consequences of divestment.

Speaking to The Daily, Divest member Sam Quigley stated, “With regard to study with [the] Royal Society, we are concerned that it is unnecessary because there is already an enormous body of research, and that it will cause a very significant delay in the process.”

“We want to stress that the mandate of the Board of Governors committee is to rule on matters of social injury, [as opposed to] secondarily commissioning studies to look at the policy implications of their investment portfolios,” Quigley continued.

Quigley concluded, “We are trying hard to respect their process. We are glad they are engaging, but we are a bit disappointed by their lack of regard for their own mandate so far, and we are hoping this will be rectified and that they will consider the social injury question, making a decision by July 1.”

Victor Frankel, another member of Divest, remarked that “CAMSR has given a 6 to 18 month timeline for the Royal Society study,” indicating that the July 1 deadline might not be met.

Newly-elected SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim, also newly appointed to CAMSR by the BoG, stated, “The hope is that the research will point to fact that it will be a socially responsible choice to divest.”

“I think divestment is attainable,” Ibrahim said.

A previous version of this article stated that newly-elected SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim was newly appointed to CAMSR board. In fact, CAMSR does not have a board and its members are not elected, but appointed by the Board of Governors. The Daily regrets the error.

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Post-grads interrogate Deputy Provost about Student Services finances at Council http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/post-grads-interrogate-deputy-provost-about-student-services-finances-at-council/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/post-grads-interrogate-deputy-provost-about-student-services-finances-at-council/#comments Sat, 06 Jun 2015 19:08:36 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42252 PGSS budget continues to suffer from CFS disaffiliation process

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At a meeting on May 20, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Council approved their 2015-16 budget and voted to “create a formal, contractual agreement” with Projet pour le Mouvement Étudiant (PPME), a recently founded group comprised of student associations involved in the creation of a new Quebec student federation. Councillors also questioned Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens about funding for Student Services.

In addition, the Council voted to endorse the proposed sexual assault policy, expected to come to Senate for approval in September, as well as McGill Inter-Union Council’s campaign for a campus-wide $15 per hour minimum wage.

Budget and impact of CFS case

Presenting the 2015-16 budget, Financial Affairs Officer Nikki Meadows noted that most areas suffered a 10 per cent cut on average to begin paying back costs associated with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) court case.

Legal fees associated with the CFS disaffiliation court case cost PGSS about $185,000 in 2014-15, and approximately $138,000 in 2013-14. In addition, PGSS has had to pay CFS, under protest, over $300,000 of outstanding membership fees accumulated since 2010, in order to be able to hold the disaffiliation referendum in January 2015.

PGSS is currently suing CFS for the recognition of its 2010 disaffiliation vote as valid and the return of the membership fees, with the court case set for 2017.

Meadows indicated that the cuts would likely be maintained in future years. While PGSS has been able to save about $130,000 to $140,000 to be used for CFS-related debt in the Special Projects Fund balance, that money represents only about one third of the amount still owed.

“We’re making dents in it, but it’s a lot of money,” commented Meadows.

Student Services funding

In response to concerns amongst the student body regarding decreased funding of Student Services and increased overhead costs imposed on the unit, Dyens came before Council to present a summary of Student Services’ financial situation.

In 2015-16, the administrative overhead costs charged to Student Services by the central administration will amount to $588,733, up from $326,312 the previous year and only $30,679 in 2009-10. Additionally, the University’s $112,000 transfer to the unit’s budget will be eliminated, having already been reduced in previous years from $443,905 in 2009-10.

Dyens justified the cuts to the unit by invoking the $6 million surplus the unit has accumulated over the past few years and the rest of the university’s difficult financial situation.

“There used to be enough money for the university not to charge this [overhead fee], there’s not enough [anymore],” he said. “Unfortunately, right now it’s a zero-sum game; it’s a limited pie.”

Several councillors asked that the Deputy Provost provide details on salary expenditures in the unit, which will have increased by over $1.8 million since 2014.

“My experience is that [there are fewer] people providing services,” said Postgraduate Philosophy Students of McGill University Association (PPSMUA) representative Frédérick Armstrong, questioning whether the salary increases were reflective of an increase in non-administrative staff.

“There’s a limit to how much healthcare services we can provide – we are not a hospital.”

Although he failed to provide details, Dyens indicated that the increase was due both to new hires and salary increases, noting that “salaries at McGill were too low” compared to its competitors.

Addressing the increasing demand and months-long wait times at the Mental Health Service, Dyens emphasized the need for a preventative strategy to reduce student stress by investing in areas like supervision and advising.

According to a Mental Health Service estimate, the hire of 25 new full-time staff would be required to meet current demand, a $1.5 to $2 million expense. Dyens noted that, while possible, this would “create unsustainable expectations.”

“There’s a limit to how much healthcare services we can provide – we are not a hospital,” he added.

Recognizing that relying on the surplus was “unsustainable” beyond a few years, Dyens hinted at the possibility that an increase of the Student Services fee would be necessary. Student fees currently provide 75 per cent of the unit’s revenues.

Dyens also said that there was room for the elimination of “redundancies,” such as the existence of Mental Health and Counselling as two separate services.

“Before we reinvest, we want to make sure these services are as efficient as can be,” he said.

Student federation, public transit

External Affairs Officer Julien Ouellet brought forward a motion for PGSS to join the Projet pour un Mouvement Étudiant, an “incubator” for a new Quebec student federation created in the wake of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ)’s imminent collapse. PGSS is currently a member of FEUQ.

The motion entails the ratification by PGSS of the PPME’s formal contract of association, which grants PGSS a representative on the PPME’s board of directors. If the PPME is successful in creating a new student federation, PGSS members will have the opportunity to join it via referendum; if unsuccessful, the PPME will be automatically dissolved in two years.

The motion passed with six abstentions.

Council approved bylaw changes moved by Council Director Régine Debrosse to increase the size of the Board of Directors from seven to nine members, and to allow for the Board to elect a chair who is not the secretary-general.

Ouellet updated Council on his initiative to extend reduced fare public transit to university students above the age of 25 by instituting an opt-outable fee. Ouellet said that the Société de transport de Montréal (STM)’s marketing team looked favourably upon the idea, and several other student associations agreed to join the project.

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Housing rights group’s tent camp dispersed by police twice in two days http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/housing-rights-groups-tent-camp-dispersed-by-police-twice-in-two-days/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/housing-rights-groups-tent-camp-dispersed-by-police-twice-in-two-days/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 18:13:05 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42241 Demonstrators march to protest housing inaccessibility, social housing cuts

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The affordable housing group Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) organized a march in downtown Montreal on May 21 to mark the installation of the organization’s tent camp at La Parterre du Quartier des spectacles, a green space near Place des Arts that is directly beside the Service de police de la ville de Montréal (SPVM) headquarters.

Several hundred demonstrators and campers joined the march to protest housing inaccessibility and denounce the limited funding for social housing from both the federal and provincial governments.

The march

Protesters, including over 30 community organisations and unions from across Quebec, first gathered at Square Dorchester at 1 p.m. to march to the location of the camp, which had been kept secret. Speeches from organizers and local celebrities kicked off the march. Actor and playwright Alexis Martin highlighted everyone’s right to protest, saying in French that a “public space is a space for protest […] and [these spaces] must be invested in.”

“We want the state, the government, the municipalities […] to develop and invest in social housing so that the general market for housing [can] be affordable to normal people and people with low income.”

“We want the state, the government, the municipalities […] to develop and invest in social housing so that the general market for housing [can] be affordable to normal people and people with low income,” explained Alexandra Pierre, a member of the community organizing staff of Project Genesis, a social justice organization located in Côte-des-Neiges.

Protesters walked for over an hour, chanting “Harper! Couillard! Vos politiques sont un cauchemar!” (Harper! Couillard! Your policies are a nightmare!) and “Les politiques d’austerite, donne plus d’inégalités,” (Policies of austerity create more inequality).

Mona Luxion, a protester and PhD student at McGill told The Daily, “I’m here because I think that housing is a human right […] and something that we as a society should be providing for people and fighting for.”

The camp

Protesters and campers arrived at Parterre du Quartier des spectacles around 2:30 p.m.. Campers began to set up tents while protesters formed a circle around the park. Organizers invited protesters to return the next day for other planned actions.

According to FRAPRU’s website, the camp was intended to be an ongoing installation which would educate the public about housing problems and also denounce the Quebec government for cutting the funding for new social housing in half in its last budget and the federal government for gradually decreasing funds for housing subsidies.

Approximately 60 campers from Montreal and nearby regions who are either facing housing difficulties or are tenants of social housing were planning to stay in the tents. Few tents had been installed when police intervened at around 3 p.m., ordering campers to dismantle the tents. Campers then voted to decide whether they should stay on site, with the majority voting to do so.

“It’s very difficult for us to go on with our daily lives for the rent that we pay – it takes a lot of our income.”

“It’s very difficult for us to go on with our daily lives for the rent that we pay – it takes a lot of our income. So that’s why we are here, to let them know, because we do many many activities [and] manifestations, [but] it’s like nobody hear[s] us […] we want to them to just see that we are very serious, that we are in great in need of social housing,” stated one protester with the Comité d’action de parc extension (CAPE), a housing rights organization.

At around 4 p.m. the police intervened directly, seizing some of the tents and arresting three people. Police surrounded the barely-assembled camp from multiple directions and backed the crowd away from the tents. The camp was fully dismantled and protesters dispersed by 5 p.m.

On May 22, FRAPRU set up camp at the Agence de la santé et des services sociaux of Montréal, on the corner of St. Denis and Pins. However, the campers were evicted from this location as well. On May 23, another camp was set at the corner of the Grande Bibliothéque on Berri. On May 24, the campers decided to end their demonstration.

Earlier this week, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre declared that he did not accept the notion of a camp, referring to the “security problems” he associated with the Occupy Montreal camp at Square Victoria in 2011.

“My message for Coderre [and] for Couillard is to stop austerity, to stop oppression, to listen to the people. We are afraid today, they use intimidation [and] repression,” Sandra Cordero, a protester who was present at the May Day anti-austerity protests, where police used excessive violence, told The Daily after the police had dispersed the crowd.

“A lot of people are suffering [from inaccessible housing], kids are suffering. I have six kids. I am a single mother and I don’t have a big [income] so I count on that housing; and [the federal government has] that money and they are not investing in housing.”

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Former McGill employee sues University for job discrimination http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/former-mcgill-employee-sues-university-for-job-discrimination/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/former-mcgill-employee-sues-university-for-job-discrimination/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 18:08:41 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42215 Discriminated employee seeks to obtain compensation for unemployment and mental illness

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A Hispanic former McGill employee who allegedly faced years of job discrimination and psychological harassment before having his employment terminated is suing McGill University and his former director of operations.

Arturo’s* first lawsuit against McGill University and his director (who has since quit and now resides in Toronto) is for discrimination based on language, ethnic background, and age, and is under review by the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJ), the Quebec commission on human rights and youth rights. Arturo will be represented by the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR). The second lawsuit, through the Commission des normes du travail (CNT), Quebec’s labour board, is for psychological harassment against McGill University as an employer. The first hearing was on May 1, and Arturo was represented by CNT.

Arturo, who has a doctorate in oncology and is originally from South America, was in his fifties when he immigrated to Canada. Shortly thereafter, he was employed at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine as a project administrator at the Rossy Cancer Network (RCN) in March 2012. Following a positive evaluation of his performance in July 2012, he was given the title of Medical/Clinical Liaison.

According to Arturo, everything was going well until February 2013, when a new director of operations was installed at the RCN. Allegedly, after this appointment, discrimination began, continued, and intensified for the next six months until he was fired.

“[The former director] basically marginalized him and practically downgraded him not only in his job, but in the eyes of his colleagues,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi, Arturo’s representative in the CDPDJ case.

In May 2013, Arturo was stripped of his title of Medical/Clinical Liaison and demoted to project manager. In an email, the director cited inadequate English for this decision, despite Arturo’s 90 per cent score on an English proficiency course at Concordia. As project manager, he cannot be reconsidered for the position of project administrator.

Arturo suspects that his accent, rather than his English proficiency, was the cause of the problem. Niemi agreed that accent was the likely culprit. “Accents are often used as a proxy for racial and ethnic discrimination,” Niemi told The Daily.

Arturo was also systematically excluded from events and activities. “The new boss didn’t talk to me, and the new ones [who were hired by the director] didn’t talk to me,” Arturo alleged. He was kept out of project meetings, even though he was a project manager.

“Accents are often used as a proxy for racial and ethnic discrimination”

Shortly after, through an accidentally leaked email, Arturo discovered that he had the lowest paid salary among his peers. “People who [held] similar positions and some even [employed] later than me had more pay. It’s unfair.”

Arturo’s attempts to contact those at higher positions were not successful and most of the tasks and decisions were handled by the director alone.

“That’s why when they took away from me the position of medical liaison, nobody [said and] will say nothing, and I can say nothing,” said Arturo.

Arturo suspected that the director wanted him to resign, but refused for the sake of his family. “I can’t resign because I need the job. And so [the director of operations] decided to make my life impossible. He told me, ‘things will be worse.’”

“And at the end because I didn’t resign, they fired me.”

In November of 2013, following roughly half a year of job discrimination, the director terminated Arturo’s contract – but not before asking Arturo to hand over information on new projects he had been working on. The director named “restructuring” as the reason for Arturo’s termination, though he never clarified this to Arturo.

“The funny thing is, when he fired me, I felt relieved. I was free, because I had pressure, pressure, pressure at work,” said Arturo.

Arturo developed mild anxiety and depression due to the ongoing harassment at work, and unemployment and his dire financial situation worsened his mental health. He is currently still in counseling and taking prescription drugs for his mental health.

Arturo knew during his employment that future legal action would be taken, so he gathered documentation during his employment for evidence. In January 2014, he took the first steps to file lawsuits against McGill and his former director, who now resides in Toronto but cannot escape these charges.

Arturo is aiming to ensure that the McGill reference in his CV, which has since barred him from pursuing employment, will no longer negatively impact him. He is also working to obtain compensation for unemployment and mental illness, as well as secure job integration at a  position suited to his educational background.

An attempt by the Quebec labour board to secure a meeting between Arturo and McGill for a resolution in regards to psychological damages was unsuccessful. “What McGill proposed did not live up to his needs – not just [his] wants. This man needs a job to support his family and to be reintegrated in the job that he did well and lost simply because of harassment,” Niemi told The Daily.

The first hearing on May 1 was inconclusive; several hearings will be held later this summer. The lawyer representing the University declined to comment on this story.

*Real name has been changed

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McGill workers deliver open letter to University http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/mcgill-workers-deliver-open-letter-to-university/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/mcgill-workers-deliver-open-letter-to-university/#comments Sun, 03 May 2015 20:24:18 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42160 Unions demand fair wages, condemn labour casualisation

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Roughly 50 people gathered at Community Square, in front of McGill’s James Administration Building, to celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1 and to stand in solidarity with the academic and non-academic workers at the university. Organized by the Inter-Union Council of McGill, the rally included talks by community members, who spoke about the corporatization of the university and the effects of provincial austerity measures.

In an open letter delivered after the rally to the James Administration Building and signed by the event’s participants, workers and students of McGill “[condemned] the Administration’s attack on workers and [signalled] that [they] are united, strong, and prepared to fight back.”

The letter also condemned the closing of the McGill Life Sciences Library and the Education Library, the centralization and restructuring of Arts Faculty administrative offices, and the cutting of over 100 Arts courses. These actions taken by the Administration were used to justify “the abolishing of many full-time employment positions, diminishing the quality and collegial climate of undergraduate education, and contributing to tangible overcrowding in the McLennan and Schulich libraries.”

Casualisation at McGill

According to Sheehan Moore, an outreach coordinator at the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) and the Association of McGill University Research Employees (AMURE), McGill is justifying its policy of casualisation with the provincial government’s budget cuts to education and the ensuing deficit. However, Moore characterized the deficit as “non-existing,” referring to University’s recent declaration of a $4.3 million surplus in its 2014-15 fiscal budget.

While originally forecasting a $7 million deficit, Provost Anthony Masi announced the unexpected surplus at McGill’s Senate on April 22. Similarly, in the 2013-14 academic year, the University was expecting an operating deficit of about $10 million, but instead ran an operating surplus of over $15 million. Still, the University’s 2015-16 budget forecasts an additional $11 million reduction in the operating budget, to be mitigated by the continuation of cost-cutting practices introduced in the past two years, including casualisation.

“What [casualisation] means is the process by which good, well-paid, stable jobs are destabilized and replaced by temporary and precarious jobs, with fewer benefits et cetera. At McGill, this instability takes the form of short-term contracts, constant contract renewals, [and] unreliable schedules,” said Moore.

AMUSE to start negotiating collective agreement

Moore explained that AMUSE’s collective agreement with McGill expired on April 20, although it will remain in effect until a new bargain is struck. The union will begin negotiating with the University in May.

Addressing the crowd at the rally, McGill worker and member of the AMUSE bargaining team Agatha Slupek declared on behalf of the Inter-Union Council that “unions at McGill will be joining [their] comrades in the fast-food and retail industries [in calling] for a $15 campus-wide minimum wage.”

“Approximately 1500 workers on campus make less than $12 an hour – invigilators and non-academic casual staff making up the bulk of that group. Approximately 500 research assistants make less than $15 an hour – making that 2000 workers who are earning less than $15 [an hour], which has been estimated to be the living wage for the city of Montreal,” Slupek said.

Neoliberalisation of the university

Speaking to the crowd, assistant professor of political science Yves Winter contextualized the circumstances at McGill within a broader process of neoliberalization, “[which] positions the university as a big enterprise. […] It treats students as consumers, and it treats education as commodity.”

Mona Luxion, AGSEM (McGill’s Teaching Assistants Union) Mobilization Committee Chair and a member of Demilitarize McGill, said: “We all live under an economic system that is based on the exploitation of the vast majority of the people for the profit of a few. […] I want to acknowledge that many of us are insulated from the brutality of that system through what we call the welfare state, where a little bit of that profit is redistributed to people in the form of education and healthcare and social services.”

“So [the austerity] we’re seeing this spring – and this is part of a [larger] movement in the Quebec government, in the federal government, [and] across the world – is rolling back this redistribution of any of the profit, so that the brutality of this system is exposed,” added Luxion.

“We must resist against it. We must push for an alternative mission that involves educating students for the common good, a mission that involves responsibilizing ourselves as democratic agents, doing research and teaching that is critical, that isn’t just commodifiable, that isn’t just for profit, and that doesn’t just toe the corporate line,” stated Winter.

“It involves conducting ourselves and training ourselves to hold power accountable and to build [a] kind of community on campus, to build on the community that we have to valorize it rather than undermine it.”

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Police crack down on May Day demonstrations http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/police-crack-down-on-may-day-demonstrations-2/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/police-crack-down-on-may-day-demonstrations-2/#comments Sat, 02 May 2015 23:28:22 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42167 Community activists determined to continue mobilizing against austerity

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Over 860 community organizations, student associations, and unions across Quebec – an unprecedented number – went on strike on May 1 to mark International Workers’ Day and protest the provincial government’s austerity measures. In Montreal, protests and disruptive actions began early in the morning and culminated around 7:30 p.m. when a demonstration numbering over 500 people, organized by Montreal’s Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC), was violently dispersed by the police.

Demonstrators began gathering at Phillips Square around 6:30 p.m., joined shortly thereafter by neighbourhood contingents formed in North, East, and South-West Montreal. The group set off around 7 p.m..

Having promptly declared the demonstration illegal, police agents from the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) confronted the group at several locations and deployed large amounts of tear gas, injuring protesters and passers-by, including children. According to Radio-Canada, SPVM spokesperson Laurent Gingras was unable to give an exact reason for the dispersion maneuver.

“They didn’t let us walk, they gassed us after twenty minutes,” one protester told The Daily in French. “It was seriously appalling.”

Many fled into the metro. Some of the remaining protesters were kettled on Maisonneuve, with the night ending in 84 arrests.

“It’s obvious that the escalation of repression we’ve seen in the last few years is the result of a political directive to nip all protest movements with a radical discourse in the bud,” CLAC wrote in a press release. “To be clear, we will not allow ourselves to be chased, beaten, and repressed without a fight.”

Day of action for International Workers’ Day

From 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., protesters associated with the Coalition opposée à la tarification et à la privatisation des services publics, a coalition of over 85 social groups fighting cuts to public services, blocked access to the Banque Nationale tower, inhibiting its activities. At the same time, roughly 300 protesters occupied the offices of Québecor Media. These actions were followed by a demonstration that drew thousands of people.

“The main reason why community organizations are mobilizing is because the people we work with on a daily basis are experiencing the consequences of austerity,” Coalition spokesperson Véronique Laflamme told The Daily in French. “These are people who are seeing employment integration programs for people with disabilities being cut, seeing their welfare cheques being cut, seeing social housing being cut […] people who have less and less access to quality public services because of cuts to healthcare and social services.”

“Community groups do a lot of work with very few resources. They’re overburdened and it’s harder and harder for them to fulfill their mission, because there are more and more people who need help,” added Laflamme.

Joining the mobilization for the day of action, twenty-four CEGEP teachers’ unions across Quebec voted for one-day strike mandates to protest severe government cuts to education.

Quebec’s labour board ruled on April 30 that the teachers’ strike was illegal, and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) advised its members to comply with the ruling. Despite this, successful picket lines were held and classes cancelled at many CEGEPs, including Maisonneuve and Rosemont in Montreal.

A similar number of university and CEGEP student associations were also on strike.

Quebec author Anny Schneider, who attended the morning protest, insisted on the importance of continuing to mobilize non-student sectors of the population. “I think there aren’t enough older people [protesting] – people are afraid for their jobs, for their social positions,” she told The Daily in French. “I remain hopeful.”

Looking forward, protesters and organizers emphasized the need to continue to build momentum toward strong mobilization in the fall.

“We’re determined, and we cannot let this go. We’re already seeing the ravaging effects of austerity measures throughout Quebec,” said Laflamme. “The battle of the next few months is a battle for the redistribution of wealth.”

Some expressed concern over the brutality of the police repression, and its potential impact on mobilization.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t want to come back to demos because of how violent it’s become,” a student at CEGEP du Vieux-Montréal, who attended picket lines there, as well as the night protest, told The Daily in French. “The repression is very strong.”

“I’ve never seen so many police in Montreal,” said Schneider. “It’s very unhealthy; it scares me, it saddens me, but I will continue to express myself.”

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Two J-Board cases against Elections SSMU resolved through mediation http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/two-j-board-cases-against-elections-ssmu-resolved-through-mediation/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/two-j-board-cases-against-elections-ssmu-resolved-through-mediation/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 23:18:56 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42141 Kareem Ibrahim censured over a month after end of election period

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Two cases filed to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Judicial Board (J-Board) last March against Elections SSMU Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Rachelle Bastarache have been resolved through mediation, as of April 28. Both petitioners, unsuccessful SSMU presidential candidate Alexei Simakov and VP Internal candidate Johanna Nikoletos, claimed that Elections SSMU failed to uphold its mandate to ensure a fair election.

Simakov’s case

Simakov, who received 47.5 per cent of the vote in the presidential election, claimed that Elections SSMU did not adequately address the alleged instance of libel on behalf of his opponent, SSMU president-elect Kareem Ibrahim. Ibrahim had accused Simakov of being involved in the revealing of controversial comments that Ibrahim had made in a Facebook message thread concerning the gathering of evidence for alleged bylaw infractions by former SSMU presidential candidate Tariq Khan.

The terms of agreement reached in mediation required Ibrahim to publicly apologize to Simakov, which he did on April 13. In his apology, Ibrahim expressed regret and acknowledged that some of the comments he made against Simakov were “unsubstantiated allegations.”

In addition, Bastarache sent a statement over the Elections SSMU listserv publicly censuring Ibrahim on April 28. According to the email, the censure was due to “new evidence” that surfaced after the campaigning period which would have affected Bastarache’s original decision; however, the situation was “not severe enough” to warrant a meeting of the Electoral Review Committee (ERC).

The new evidence in question is that the Facebook post in which Ibrahim had made accusations against Simakov was deleted eight hours after Bastarache originally believed it to have been deleted, she told The Daily.

Bastarache recognized that, with the vote long over, the censures served little purpose beyond informing the public of infractions that occurred during the campaign period.

“It was an agreement that we’d come to where […] we will acknowledge that something has happened, not severe enough to warrant convening [the] ERC or anything else, however if you felt that you had been wronged, we wanted to make that right – and that was the way that [Simakov] felt that things could be made right,” stated Bastarache.

“At the time, it seemed appropriate, however that was also on [April 8], so that was a long time ago.”

Nikoletos’s case

Nikoletos, who lost the VP Internal election by 13 votes, filed a petition at the end of March asking the J-Board to invalidate the VP Internal election and hold another vote. In her petition, Nikoletos alleged that incoming VP Internal Lola Baraldi had not been sanctioned for improper campaigning on Facebook and Reddit. Nikoletos also alleged that Baraldi had violated regulations when she campaigned in the New Residence Hall lobby.

Baraldi was publicly censured by Elections SSMU on March 27, about one week after the election results were announced, for campaign violations in New Residence Hall.

In mediation, Bastarache agreed to formulate recommendations for next year’s CEO on ways to clarify the SSMU electoral bylaws, particularly with regard to campaigning on social media. “A lot of the campaigning is playing out on social media, and it is very difficult to monitor,” said Bastarache, noting that ambiguity in the bylaws in this regard has also been an issue in the past.

Nikoletos did not respond to requests for comment.

Dissatisfaction with process

In an email, Simakov told The Daily that his overall experience with J-Board had confirmed his concerns that “students are unable to access an unbiased judicial process related to matters of politics,” and that the CEO of Elections SSMU “is under no impartial supervision.”

This, Simakov wrote, was based on the manner in which his case was dealt, as after submitting his petition, he was not contacted by “the J-Board or student advocacy office for over a week,” though, according to him, Bastarache was assigned a student advocate less than two days after she filed her response.

“[On April 7] I was notified that the only available time to meet would be within forty minutes, and was connected with my student advocate precisely ten minutes before the mediation session started,” Simakov told The Daily. “Ten minutes is not at all an adequate amount of time to adequately prepare my case.”

J-Board Chief Justice Muna Tojiboeva did not oversee Nikoletos’s case due to a conflict of interest stemming from Tojiboeva’s involvement in Baraldi’s campaign.

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