The McGill Daily » News Feels-based since 1911 Tue, 06 Oct 2015 13:17:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 » News 32 32 Nahua community in Mexico resists Canadian mining Mon, 05 Oct 2015 10:08:50 +0000 Government undermines Indigenous sovereignty, says Mexican activist

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Updated October 5.

Zacualpan is a community of mostly Nahua people in the state of Colima, Mexico. In Fall 2013, members of the community approached the organization Bios Iguana, a non-governmental organization, to help them decide whether or not to declare their community mining-free (a common practice for communities seeking to keep mining companies out) after they had been approached by Gabfer, S.A. de C.V., a mining company seeking a concession for the exploitation of gold, silver, copper, and manganese in the area.

Rural communities in Mexico contact environmental groups like Red Mexicana de Afectadas por la Minería (REMA), and Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo extractivo Minero (M4), of which Bios Iguana is part, once a North American mining company expresses interest in the area. These groups then work together with the scientific, journalistic, and local authorities to educate the population on the risks of allowing mining operations to happen in their communities. Many of these rural communities are Indigenous communities with a history of abuse from multinational extractive companies and the government of Mexico. People working with Bios Iguana have recently received many threats from individuals linked to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the dominant political party in Mexico since the Mexican Revolution, which ended in 1920.

The Daily spoke with Esperanza Salazar, a member of Bios Iguana who has been forced out of her community and country by repeated threats against her life.

The McGill Daily (MD): Could you tell me a bit about yourself and what brought you to Canada?

Esperanza Salazar (ES): I am here because I had to leave my community and my nation. I am Esperanza Salazar, and I belong to an organization called Bios Iguana. We work in the province of Colima, Mexico, which is the [fourth] smallest province in Mexico. In Colima, two years ago, a community [Zacualpan] approached us to solicit our help, because a Canadian [mining company] showed interest in mining gold in their territory. The concession that they sought was for gold, silver, copper and manganese. [The people] had a few assemblies to vote on these issues.

[…] In [these] communal assemblies, they decide what to do when things are happening to the land. […] There had been assemblies where mining operations had been proposed and the community had said no. [Usually] the presidente de bienes comunales [elected executive official of the Indigenous community, who was Carlos Guzmán in Zacualpan] is supposed to bring this decision to those concerned and say, ‘No, this community does not want a mine here, please stop the project.’

However, [Guzmán] kept insisting. […] He was giving money to people in the community to vote in favour of the mine. The people of the community came to us and asked for our support so that we could come and explain the risks involved with a natural resources project like this.

“I want the Canadian government to know that they have a major role in the violence in Mexico.”

We did some video screenings. Within a few days of arriving in Zacualpan, we showed videos and photos of the damage caused by the mine at Carrizalillo in Guerrero. [Guzmán], immediately told us, “I do not want you here in our community. You are not welcome; you have come only to misinform the people.” The public garden where we were showing our videos was where the attacks began.

Later, we continued doing meetings with the people, giving more information and one day we were […] preparing to present a video about the mining in Central America, Latin America, [and] one of our comrades was illegally detained.

Salazar also explained that Bios Iguana faced many more direct threats. At one point, they decided to hold an event, where they brought scientists, journalists, and members of communities affected by the actions of mining companies. The event was sparsely attended, because, as Salazar found out later, there was a bomb threat that their opponents employed in order to prevent people from hearing what they had to say. Eventually, Salazar explained, Guzmán was removed from his position, but the two women who replaced him, according to Salazar, were not able to fully do their jobs due to government intervention.

MD: Two years ago, REMA began to work on a new legislation in the Mexican parliament that would prohibit open-pit mining, as has been passed in Costa Rica. I would like to know if these efforts have been successful, or if not, how has the process been so far.

ES: In fact, REMA has left the legal process because there was a manipulation of the participation of the social organizations within the Senate of the Republic [national senate], where this proposal was presented. First, we, the many organizations that make up REMA, worked on the proposal. […] Well, [the Senate] got the proposal, but it wasn’t the one that we had worked on. And after this, we said that it is not acceptable to put forward a proposal that isn’t ours. If the proposal they receive is not the work of the communities and the organizations, we cannot sign it and we cannot be a part of this process.

Without consulting us, [PRI] put this proposal to the Senate as a part of the Party’s political project. And we, the social organizations, including Bios Iguana and other people that are inside the REMA, we are not part of any political party. And we do not support any political party. And we support even less those political parties that use our work and the work of the people to make a power move. […] This same party, on the same day, put forth its own proposal to a different deputy, a different senator, but from the same party. This new proposal was actually in favour of the mining companies.

We realized that there was manipulation and a political game that we did not want to engage in, and we retreated. From then on, REMA and Bios Iguana decided that our time would be best spent working on prevention within the communities instead of the courts.

MD: Canada keeps a list of countries that it recommends Canadians avoid travelling in – Mexico is not on this list. There are regional advisories against travel in the northern states, but the whole country remains ‘safe’ for Canadians. What are your thoughts on this?

ES: I want the Canadian government to know that they have a major role in the violence in Mexico. This violence toward rural communities is a consequence of the entry of Canadian mining companies and is fomented by the companies’ disrespect for the people attempting to defend their territory.

There are two kinds of violence to consider here. There is physical violence which spills into the streets, which is often tied to organized crime. The Mexican government responds to it with more violence, sending the military and police into the streets to fight it. They tell the people they are ‘defending’ them, when in reality they are bringing terror directly to the people living in these communities. This campaign of terrorism against social organizations like Bios Iguana is a specific example of [state-sponsored] physical violence.

The title of this article has been changed from “Esperanza in Canada” to “Nahua community in Mexico resists Canadian mining.”

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Week-long campaign talks consent Mon, 05 Oct 2015 10:05:45 +0000 #ConsentMcGill just the first piece in the puzzle

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September 28 marked the beginning of #ConsentMcGill, a one-week campaign aimed at promoting consent throughout the McGill community. Among the many events on the agenda were a research symposium with various talks concerning consent, cyberviolence, love, and communication, a film screening of Flirting with Danger accompanied by a panel discussion, and an array of workshops addressing consent, sexual violence, and power dynamics.

“Our goal this year was to reach a group of people who would otherwise not get involved,” said McGill Liaison Officer (Harm Reduction) and main organizer of the event Bianca Tétrault, in an interview with The Daily.

According to Tétrault, who cited statistical research, about a third of the McGill student body does not engage in sexual activity, as such the promotion of consent in its broadest terms helps to reach out to a greater number of students. Also, the campaign had a presence both on the downtown and MacDonald campuses to ensure maximum outreach, and events such as the research symposium at the downtown campus were live-streamed at the MacDonald Campus.

Although #ConsentMcGill is only in its second year, its visibility has increased since its launch. Tétrault estimates that the Facebook group and its related events were viewed by three to four times more people than last year. The increased amount of student groups reaching out to the campaign results in more events being added to the agenda, and greater visibility of the campaign.

“Sexual violence is prevalent on college and university campuses. […] We can’t stay silent about it any longer.”

“It truly shocks me how complicated people make this idea of consent to be. […] It’s such a basic concept to grasp. Although there are obviously many different interpretations of this word, for me, consent is an active, sober, and verbal ‘yes,’ not the absence of a ‘no,’” said U0 student Dania Chatila.

U1 student Chelsea Oki-Gillan was enthusiastic about the events on the campaign’s agenda. She was especially interested in the “Trivia Night @ Gert’s” event because “it makes [consent] fun to learn about.” She also pointed out the importance of learning about consent at school by explaining that the first time she was introduced to a concrete definition of consent was in a high school sex education class.

According to Tétrault, the importance of the #ConsentMcGill campaign is twofold. Its first purpose is to help create meaningful conversations regarding consent. “When we come to university, we’re met with a whole bunch of new people, creating new relationships. People are coming from all over […] so how do we create a conversation where people are all on the same page as to what is a respectful, healthy relationship?”

At the same time, the campaign aims to reduce sexual violence and its traumatizing effects by creating a safe(r) space where students can discuss the issue, as well as their personal experiences. “Sexual violence is prevalent on college and university campuses. […] We can’t stay silent about it any longer.”c

However, Tétrault explains that the #ConsentMcGill campaign, being a discussion platform, is only one part of a larger vision. Other events are run throughout the year and Tétrault hopes #ConsentMcGill can increase their visibility. According to Tétrault, another event, Alcohol 2.0, is in the early stages of planning and should be launched in the coming years. Its goals will be to address the link between alcohol and consent, as well as create clear boundaries for students to follow.

The main area that Tétrault is aiming to augment in upcoming years is support. However, she is also open to other ideas. Tétrault explained that “instead of a top-down approach, [we’re] really working with the student body to see what they want, keeping in mind that this is just a platform for conversation.”

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Solidarity with teachers Mon, 05 Oct 2015 10:03:00 +0000 Protestors march in support of teacher strike

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Around 15 McGill and Concordia students congregated at the Roddick Gates on September 30 to stand in solidarity with Quebec’s French-language teachers who are striking to protest the state of negotiations with the provincial government. The one-day strike was organized by the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE), which represents approximately 34,000 French-language teachers.

While many teachers voted to strike, some are also opting to work 32-hour weeks, with no extracurricular activities. Approximately 275,000 students were affected by the strike.

Demonstrators carried flags from their respective unions and banners with phrases such as “Your decision affects my future,” and “The government is abandoning public schools.” FAE President Sylvain Mallette also made a speech at the demonstration.

“We will not lower our eyes. We will not bend our backs. We will protect public schools.”

The crowd marched from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., beating drums, and blowing on whistles and horns, and singing chants such as “We will not lower our eyes. We will not bend our backs. We will protect public schools.” The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) was also present at the strike and escorted the marchers.

Protesters aimed to pressure the government to renew the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement, but many demonstrators also attended to take a stand against austerity more broadly. Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP External and organizer of the McGill-Concordia contingent Emily Boytinck said, “Austerity isn’t something that we talk about a lot at McGill, and these demonstrations show the real impact of austerity and where it’s really hitting – it’s very much hitting primary education. With the new legislation, teachers can’t work longer than certain hours per week, extracurricular activities are cut, and class sizes are becoming larger and larger.”

Martin Bibeau, a member of the Alliance des professeures et professeurs de Montréal, told The Daily that the budget cuts compromise the quality of education in order to fulfill other government agendas.

“The government actually de-invested in public schools, cut the taxes, raised the number of students in classrooms, and removed services for students with difficulties. […] We are no longer able to educate the children and instruct them, and to offer a quality public school. Actually, for the government, their priority is austerity and to arrive at a deficit of zero. They want to do that at all costs, and by compromising and sacrificing [the] future of our youth,” said Bibeau. The new government proposals include increasing the work week from 32 to 35 hours, as well as increasing class sizes.

“The government has made it very clear that it doesn’t take education seriously. Teachers do.”

Marie-France Lacombe, a teacher and member of FAE said, “The government wants to give us more students in class, they want to cut our payment […] and they want us to do more hours by week. They don’t give us the support to help students. […] But we can’t do everything. […] We are there to teach them, but when we have every kind of struggle, we can’t teach.”

Jonathan Turcotte Summers, a Concordia Masters student in educational studies, voiced students’ concerns about the Quebec government’s position on education. “The government has made it very clear that it doesn’t take education seriously. Teachers do. Unfortunately, teachers are in a position where they have to take increasingly drastic measures, but that’s the position that the government has put them in,” said Summers.

Summers further noted that the impacts of austerity measures are not confined to education, but extend to other social programs as well. “The government is cutting from education, cutting from healthcare, cutting from all these public services that people really depend on. Especially low income people who are in difficult positions.”

“Ultimately, teachers working conditions are students learning conditions, so students [standing in solidarity with teachers] are acting in the best interest of not only themselves but [other] students and parents. I think the student role is to forge alliances, to show solidarity, and forge relationships because all of these struggles are interrelated,” commented Summers. “We may not see it because we focus on our individual struggles, but we need to form ties between teachers and students and workers and the unemployed […] and realize that it’s one big struggle and that we need to work together on this.”

Carlotta Esposito, a U0 Arts student attending the strike, emphasized the importance of student support. “I think as youth, we have a lot of voice. I think we have more voice than we realize, especially in the era that we’re living in. […] Teachers are striking, risking their jobs for us, so I think students can really make a change with this, whether it’s a big change or a little change, it’s worth a shot,” said Esposito.

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Teaching assistants ratify new collective agreement Mon, 05 Oct 2015 10:02:46 +0000 New deal does not include increased hours

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On September 30, McGill teaching assistants (TAs) ratified a collective bargaining offer from McGill at a General Assembly (GA) of AGSEM, McGill’s union for TAs and invigilators. The offer was ratified by a vote of 172 to 101. The proposal will improve TAs’ harassment protections and grievance procedures, while also increasing their wages by a total of 9 per cent until the agreement’s expiration in 2018.

Since the termination of the last contract in June 2014, the two sides have been meeting to negotiate a new agreement. At the GA, several students recognized the advances that both McGill and AGSEM have made since they opened deliberations in August 2014.

“The last time we had this meeting, we were concerned about McGill’s unwillingness to negotiate,” said an AGSEM member during the debate. “But there are a lot more changes here than I expected us to get based on the University’s position and our demands, and this is a substantial list of demands,” they added. Harassment protections and wages adjusted for inflation were just two of the breakthroughs the TA mentioned.

Reaching an agreement, however, was not without its roadblocks. In response to these obstcles, on April 16, the first day of the exam period, the TAs went on strike. Additionally, some invigilators respected the picket lines and opted not to cross them.

AGSEM President Justin Irwin stated that the strike was galvanized by McGill’s refusal to index the TAs’ hours. “We had a proposal that would effectively establish a ratio of the number of students enrolled and the hours available for TA-ships, […] but McGill was not amenable to that language,” Irwin said.

“We had a proposal that would effectively establish a ratio of the number of students enrolled and the hours available for TA-ships, […] but McGill was not amenable to that language.”

In May, following the strike, McGill and AGSEM convened twice. Unable to resolve their disagreements, the two parties agreed to suspend talks for the summer and reopen discussion in September.

On September 1, McGill proposed its final offer, which ignored AGSEM’s demand for a revision of the TAs’ hours.

AGSEM Bargaining Committee Chair Giulia Alberini clarified that over the past few years, TAs’ weekly hours have remained largely unchanged despite a steady increase in yearly undergraduate enrolment. Throughout the negotiations, AGSEM lobbied on behalf of the TAs for several iterations of language that would address the TAs’ work-rate demands.

One proposal suggested that for every 50 students, a TA would work 90 hours. In this way, the agreement would compensate for the increased hours each TA would have to work given the increased pool of students. Nonetheless, Alberini stated at the GA, “McGill did not want to talk about any of these issues.”

TAs grievances about the agreement were diverse. One TA explained that the proposed wage offer would not be sufficient to cover the cost of living without an increase in the number of paid hours. “For many of us, a TAship is the difference between making rent or not,” he began. “Last year, there were a bunch of TA-ships that were 80 hours, and now they are 16.”

“Having only 110 hours for 103 students, I was, at one point, having to spend just three minutes for every paper so I would not go over my hours.”

Many who spoke at the debate argued that insufficient ratios of TA hours to students in a course meant a decline in the quality of the class experience. They contended that this was as much an undergraduate student issue as it was a graduate student one. One TA added that her students wished that she had more time to work with them individually.

A TA from the Faculty of Music said, “Having only 110 hours for 103 students, I was, at one point, having to spend just three minutes for every paper so I would not go over my hours. I came here not only to do my PhD, but because I want to teach at a university level – and I want to be able to do that job properly. So when I have a limited number of hours to do that job and little face time [with students], it doesn’t give me the experience that I need.”

TA reactions to the ratification of the agreement were largely mixed. Many TAs left the assembly happy and relieved that they would not have to “go through the legalities of another strike.”

Others, however, felt differently. Mona Luxion, a TA in international development studies, a PhD candidate in urban planning, and a former Daily columnist, expressed dismay at what they called a “surprising outcome.”

“I don’t think that the vote was representative of what I have heard at previous general assemblies,” they said. “Namely, that many of us actually were preoccupied with and concerned about the dwindling hours we were getting. I feel like what we can infer from these results is that many of us feel disempowered, and more importantly, cowed by McGill’s unpredictability and uncompromising nature.”

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SSMU VP Internal resigns Sat, 03 Oct 2015 03:23:32 +0000 Council discusses climate change policy, endorses statement criticizing Deputy Provost

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On October 1, the Legislative Council of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) discussed the resignation of VP Internal Lola Baraldi and decided to hold by-elections. In addition, Council was presented with notices of motion, one on the adoption of a climate change policy, and three on potential referendum questions.

Council also adopted a motion to endorse a statement regarding the appointment of an interim Senior Director of Student Services, which was released September 30 by representatives from SSMU, Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill (PGSS), Macdonald Campus Students’ Society (MCSS), and Macdonald Campus Graduate Students’ Society (MCGSS).

Resignation of VP Internal

VP Internal Lola Baraldi resigned from her position on October 1.

Council decided to hold by-elections to fill the now vacant position, the nomination period for which is October 9 to 30, with the possibility of being extended until November 2.

The new VP Internal’s mandate will start on January 1. Speaking to Council, VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik noted that this was to ensure that the position was accessible to all members of SSMU, given that most students have already signed up for full courseloads.

Speaking at Council, President Kareem Ibrahim stated that Baraldi left the position due to personal reasons. Ibrahim also explained that the tasks of the VP Internal will now be divided among the remaining executives and permanent staff members of SSMU.

Baraldi’s resignation comes as a second blow to SSMU, whose general manager Jennifer Varkonyi’s resignation came into effect on September 30. Arts Representative Adam Templer asked how the executive members were coping with Baraldi’s departure.

VP External Emily Boytinck said, “The executive portfolios are really different, so it was a very interesting split. I don’t think there has ever been a VP External who has planned 4 Floors. […] I mean, we all are very aware of what this will entail for the rest of this semester.”

In an interview with The Daily, Ibrahim expressed that this will be “a very overwhelming year.”

“We all felt that we had just the right experiences necessary to really excel in these positions […] and that was already derailed significantly due to the absence of the General Manager, and now that challenge has increased significantly,” Ibrahim said.

Statement on the Interim Senior Director of Student Services

On September 25, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens announced the appointment of a new interim Senior Director of Student Services for the 2015-16 academic year following the departure of the former Senior Director in May.

In a joint statement, SSMU, PGSS, MCSS, and MCGSS voiced their “strong disapproval for the lack of consultation that occurred in making this decision.”

“We view this decision as part of a greater, historical trend of the University failing to consult and value the student voice when making changes that greatly impact our experience at McGill,” the statement notes.

A motion to endorse the joint statement was passed by a 92 per cent majority, without debate.

Internal voting system

During the voting procedures on the motion mentioned above, Medicine Senator David Benrimoh expressed concerns about the new digital voting system used by Council.

According to this new system, councillors vote using clickers, as opposed to raising placards. According to Benrimoh, the system was changed to avoid situations “where people might have felt uncomfortable making their vote known, because there were some very strong personalities on Council.” This may have resulted in more people abstaining on motions they might have voted against.

However, Benrimoh expressed concern that this was an untransparent way of voting, as each councillor’s choice was not immediately available to the audience sitting in the gallery, which included members of the press. In an interview with The Daily, Benrimoh said, “The reason that we have these meetings open to the public is that, that way, people can come and see their representatives in action. Part of that action is voting.”

Climate change policy

Boytinck brought up a notice of motion regarding the adoption of a climate change policy. An initial proposal for the policy was brought up at Council last year on April 9 by the then VP

External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette, following another motion that was passed at the Fall 2014 General Assembly.

At the time, the councillors had decided to refer the proposal to a committee, which would revise the motion to make it appealing to a broader base of students before bringing it back to Council. Boytinck said that the committee ended up being just herself, although she met with other groups and representatives, including representatives from the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS).

Boytinck said, “I changed a lot of [the proposal]. I wanted to focus on a couple of different things. It still has a very heavy focus on climate justice, which I think is super important. But it also talks more specifically on climate change, on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and how we can partner with different groups to bring forth more sustainable solutions.”

Among the things she removed from the new proposal, Boytinck included a potential ban on all fossil fuel companies from the Shatner building.

The motion to approve the proposal will be brought up at the next Council meeting.

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SSMU VP Internal Lola Baraldi resigns Thu, 01 Oct 2015 21:19:36 +0000 BRIEF

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This story is in development. The article will be updated to reflect any changes that may occur. Latest update was on October 1, 5:19 p.m..

Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Internal Lola Baraldi resigned from her position on October 1.

In an interview with The Daily, SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim stated that Baraldi left the position due to personal reasons. Ibrahim also explained that the tasks of the VP Internal will now be divided among the remaining executive and permanent staff members of SSMU.

This resignation comes as a second blow to SSMU, as it follows the resignation of its general manager Jennifer Varkonyi, which came into effect on September 30.

“We’ve been quite wrapped up with contingency planning for the absence of the general manager, which came into effect as of yesterday. And this new vacancy will be dealt with through delegation, in addition to what will hopefully be the hiring of some new staff to help deal with the additional tasks that the executives will be responsible for,” Ibrahim told The Daily.

Ibrahim also explained that SSMU staff and finances have already been spread thin this year, noting that it will be “an overwhelming year.”

“There was basically an expense that was unaccounted for in last year’s budget, so we had to find a lot of money in other areas of the budget to make ends meet. We cut a lot of student staff hours, [and] various full-time and a few part-time positions altogether,” Ibrahim said.

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Divest pickets first Senate meeting Mon, 28 Sep 2015 10:07:25 +0000 Sexual harassment policy, accessibility on campus discussed

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On September 24, McGill’s Senate convened for its first meeting of the 2015-16 academic year. The senators discussed, among other things, the probation of the undergraduate medicine program, three questions regarding McGill’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation report, McGill’s alleged violation of provincial Bill 100, and physical accessibility on campus. The senators also discussed the annual report on the Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited by Law.

Before the meeting started, members of Divest McGill picketed outside the doors of Leacock room 232, where Senate meetings take place. The group was able to stop Principal Suzanne Fortier and talk to her before she made her way into the meeting.

Speaking to The Daily, Divest McGill organizer Kristen Perry said, “We had invited [Fortier] earlier in the week to come to some of [Fossil Free Week] events. And she said [that] she was looking out of her window, and [that] she didn’t see anything going on. And I think that’s really indicative of how disconnected she is from the university.”

“We have […] so many students, so many professors, so many community members out there in [Community] Square, supporting us and calling for a freeze on fossil fuel investments, calling for the Board [of Governors] to take the issue of divestment and climate change seriously – and she’s saying she sees nothing,” Perry continued.

Sam Quigley, another organizer with Divest McGill, explained that the group asked Fortier to support its request to freeze McGill’s investments in the fossil fuel industry when it was brought up at the Board of Governors meeting.

In an interview with The Daily, Fortier said, “My answer was that this is not only of my calling here. There’s a process. There’s a committee that looks after these issues. […] That’s where it would be considered. It would be inappropriate for me to express my own view. ”

Responding to the Truth and Reconciliation report

On June 2, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada released its final report, after seven years of investigations regarding the colonial legacy of Canada.

In reaction to the TRC’s report, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke and Arts Senator Erin Sobat asked the Senate: “Will McGill consider adopting a university-wide strategic plan on Indigenous education?” and “What efforts is McGill undertaking to build relationships with local Indigenous communities?”

In their written response to the question, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens and Dean of Students André Costopoulos talked about Portage McGill, a “new process to help [Indigenous] applicants and potentially other underrepresented groups gain admission to McGill.”

Speaking to Senate, Provost Christopher Manfredi said, “We’ve got, I think, an opportunity to be a leader in the full range from the […] recruitment and support of [Indigenous] students, to the research and teaching on […] Indigenous issues both in Canada and abroad.”

McGill has historically been hesitant to take symbolic steps such as moving the Hochelaga Rock to a more prominent position on campus or flying the Hiawatha Belt Flag on National Aboriginal Day. When asked by The Daily how the University is planning on becoming a leader in this area, Manfredi gave the example that Indigenous students are recognized as such when they graduate.

“We’ve [also] established the Indigenous Studies program. We’ve had an opportunity last spring to create some stability in that program by creating a tenure track position.”

In response to comments that most Indigenous rights initiatives on campus were led by students, Manfredi mentioned that the administration was receptive to student input throughout.

“I don’t think that’s true. With the Indigenous Studies [minor] I told the students that I had to be sure that students supported that program, and […] they rose to the challenge and they did it.”

Accessibility and universal design on campus

Rourke and Sobat posed another question: “What current processes and evaluation procedures are in place within McGill’s decision-making structures to ensure the prioritization of physical accessibility on campus?”

Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) Angela Campbell stated, “There are a list of things that [the Universal Access Capital Projects Working Group] wants to accomplish. So that committee works with a budget annually of $400,000 and it also works with the Office for Students with Disabilities, so I did see a list of things that are coming over.”

However, Campbell noted that she was unable to present a timeline for the projects.

In regards to the progress of accessibility, Campbell told Senate, “Our first meeting will happen in early November and it deals with things, not only physical access but also things like gender-neutral washrooms.”

Sexual harassment

Campbell also presented the annual report on the Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited by Law. According to Campbell, “Last year, there were 23 cases brought forward, down from an average of 36 cases in the previous eight years.”

After Campbell presented Senate with various figures pertaining to sexual harassment at McGill, Fiona Ritchie, a senator and an associate professor in the Department of English, referred to The Daily’s feature “Let’s Talk about Teacher” (Features, page 11, September 1). She stated that at the end of the article, the writer expresses uncertainty with regards to what degree sexual harassment policy applies to student-faculty relationships, and that the writer’s “perception of the policy is that it is very unpleasant” for complainants. Ritchie went on to inquire if there was a problem with students not being aware that that policy was “something they [could] have recourse to,” and whether there could be something Senate could “do to change that situation.”

Campbell responded that “the policy is open to students and is used by students.” However, she added that they were looking “at ways to make the process not only more effective, but also […] to ensure that [those] coming forward [are] in circumstances that are safe for those who wish to make the disclosure.”

Updates on the undergraduate medicine program probation

Another topic addressed at Senate was that of McGill’s undergraduate medicine program which was put under probation over the summer.

Dean of Medicine David Eidelman stated, “Every medical school’s dean’s nightmare is to be put on probation.”

However, despite this, Eidelman expressed that he was not extremely worried about the program staying accredited, as they intend to formally submit the plan to follow the accreditation body’s requirements by December 1, 2016. He also added that the Faculty of Medicine had quickly established a working chair in order to ensure that they had a response for each complaint.

Moreover, Eidelman added, “It’s a good opportunity for students [who have been] involved in every aspect [and] have been some of the most effective spokespeople.”

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MCLIU ratifies first collective agreement Mon, 28 Sep 2015 10:03:29 +0000 Agreement serves as “foundation” for dialogue and future negotiations

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After three years of negotiations, the McGill Course Lecturers & Instructors Union (MCLIU) reached its first collective agreement with the University during a Special General Assembly (SGA), held on September 18.

Originally certified in August 2011, and then re-certified in November 2013, MCLIU has worked toward harmonizing the working conditions of McGill lecturers and instructors in affiliation with the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ).

MCLIU’s collective agreement, which was ratified at the SGA with a 96 per cent majority vote, recognizes the implementation of grievance and progressive disciplinary procedures. Employees will also be given seniority in allocation of courses, paid sick leave, and parental leave rights, as well as associated benefits equivalent to full-time teachers.

“Our new work agreement […] represents substantial gains for our members,” said MCLIU President Raad Jassim. “The members will benefit from significant salary increases over the three years of the agreement, as well as the retroactive pay from January 2015. It should be noted that the course lecturers in this university in Montreal were the lowest paid in the province of Quebec.”

MCLIU Interim Communication and Mobilization Officer Jeanette Wong spoke on the obstacles the union faced while attempting negotiations with McGill. “When we asked for something, the [Administration] might say no, or refuse to really talk about it. If [they say] a complete no, we are facing a wall,” said Wong.

Despite a majority vote of 96 per cent and a successful collective agreement in the four years since accreditation, Wong says this agreement is only a foundation to build further improvements for working conditions upon. Wong added, “96 per cent is [a] high percentage, and you [could] say ‘Oh! we can celebrate now,’ but it is [just] our first collective agreement. Before that there was nothing […] so we just made one big giant step.”

“[The ratification] means the members […] have at least the foundation of a clear and transparent system. In that sense, yes, we have a full agreement […] but there are still things we need to negotiate in the future. […] The basis of foundation was really needed and we approved this foundation,” said Wong.

Increased benefits for course lecturers and instructors

Wong also commented on how the improvement of job security for teachers would increase efficiency in the workplace, thus benefitting the university as a whole.

“It means a lot. It means to all McGill people, to the students, to the whole [of] McGill, that you see an improved quality of education. […] The instructors and course lecturers […] feel more secure at their work. They feel no threat from their employment. They can focus that energy to do research to develop professionally, to focus on what they do best: teaching,” Wong said.

Wong further discussed how the collective agreement is also a gesture of recognition for teachers, who make an important contribution to McGill, stating that “[the collective agreement] also means that these teachers have been recognized as part of McGill. It is important that we’re not just teaching year by year, term by term, without knowing what is coming next.”

MCLIU Vice President and Chair of the Bargaining Committee Ahmad Munir expressed that he expected the agreement to positively impact the education quality for McGill students. Munir also noted that students play an important role in the issue, as all students benefit from a better educational environment, and many students advocate for the Union.

“Our slogan is ‘We Are McGill.’ It is very important that ‘we,’ course lecturers and instructors, contribute [to] the education mission of McGill with peace of mind to pursue our maximum abilities in teaching, research, and professional development. Better working conditions of instructors have a direct impact on the quality of education,” stated Munir.

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Divest McGill organizes Fossil Free Week Mon, 28 Sep 2015 10:01:38 +0000 Rallies, discussions, and events raise awareness on climate change

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During the week of September 21, Divest McGill organized Fossil Free Week, a series of rallies, discussions, and other events that aimed to convince McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) and its Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) to freeze its investments in the fossil fuel industry.

Climate change and intersections

The first event organized as part of Divest McGill’s Fossil Free Week was a student discussion on “Intersectionality of Justice and Coalition Building,” and took place on September 21. Students from diverse groups such as McGill Students for UNICEF, Demilitarize McGill, McGill Students for Feminisms, and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), came together to show the different connections between climate justice and various other systems of oppression.

Emily Boytinck, SSMU VP External and a Divest McGill organizer, spoke on how Quebec’s austerity measures are detrimental to the environment. Boytinck used the example of Plan Nord, which aims to develop more mining and extraction projects in Northern Quebec. According to the Liberal government, this is to balance the budget.

“When we’re talking about fossil free, [when] we’re talking about climate justice, it’s really important to recognize that this government’s attempts to balance the budget […] make [it] more likely to approve projects that would have detrimental impacts, not only to Quebec’s environment, but [also] to global carbon emissions,” Boytinck said.

Maud Nathalie Édouardine and Morgane Juliat, representatives from McGill Students for UNICEF, explained that climate change disproportionately affects children. “[Children] are the least responsible for climate change, yet they’re the ones that are going to be most affected by it in the long term,” Édouardine said.

Mona Luxion, PhD candidate in Urban Planning, Demilitarize McGill organizer, and former Daily columnist, spoke about the relationship between militarism and environmental degradation. “The amount of fossil fuels used by the military is ridiculous,” Luxion said. “Research on the American military [has] suggested that it is actually the largest fossil fuel user and the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, making up about 5 per cent of the world’s fossil fuel consumption.”

Lastly, Paniz Khosroshahy, speaking on behalf of McGill Students for Feminisms, referred to the United Nations, which recently reported that “climate justice is a gendered issue and affects women more gravely.” Khosroshahy explained that all oppression is interrelated and phenomena like climate change only work to exacerbate the conditions of women and other groups who are already marginalized.

Community voices on divestment

On September 23, Divest McGill held a rally at Community Square in front of the James Administration building. Students and community members convened to hear speeches, chant, and share their reasons for supporting McGill’s divestment from the fossil fuel industry, under a frame that read “I want McGill to divest because…”

Speakers included two McGill alumni: Karel Mayrand, Director General for Quebec and Atlantic Canada with the David Suzuki Foundation and chair of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project in Canada, and Camil Bouchard, a former member of Quebec’s National Assembly. Mayrand and Bouchard both declared that if by March 30 McGill has not divested from fossil fuels, they will hand back their degrees, and urged other alumni to join them.

“We are no longer able to identify ourselves with an institution which blindfolds itself for the sake of small and irresponsible returns,” said Mayrand.

The rally also heard from Vanessa Gray, a tar sands activist from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation reserve near Sarnia, Ontario. Gray spoke about the impact of Enbridge’s Line 9B Reversal proposal, which would transport tar sands bitumen oil through her reserve, all the way to Montreal.

“We are no longer able to identify ourselves with an institution which blindfolds itself for the sake of small and irresponsible returns.”

Although many Canadians are unaware of the disproportionate impact of oil pipelines on Indigenous peoples, “there are Indigenous communities on the front lines who have no choice – they have to defend their land and their lungs,” Gray said.

Derek Nystrom, a professor in the Department of English, gave a speech on behalf of McGill Faculty and Librarians for Divestment. “McGill […] is in direct contradiction to many of the things that we’re trying to teach our students in our classes,” said Nystrom.

Divest McGill organizers then led the crowd in chants, which were filmed to be sent to Stuart “Kip” Cobbett, the chair of the BoG and CAMSR. Chloé Laflamme, an organizer with Divest McGill, told The Daily that Cobbett’s response to the week of mobilization was that “the Board could not take a public stance on fossil fuel divestment because [Cobbett] thinks it would be to ‘prejudge the issue.’”

Jenny Fryer, a U2 international development studies and political science student, expressed a desire for still greater student engagement with Divest McGill’s efforts. “I think McGill, as a huge campus and a huge community, could definitely have a better showing at things like this,” said Fryer.

“These movements tend to underrepresent minorities and groups that really deserve more of a voice.” Fryer added that one reason for this might be the fact that “we’re on a campus that isn’t as diverse as I would want it to be in a perfect world.”

Iain Childerhose, a U4 urban studies and Canadian studies student, told The Daily, “You really need to stand by what you say, obviously. Divest has been going for two and a half years and there haven’t been any changes, so it might take five years working with like-minded organizations to see real changes.”

“I’ve seen this with a number of other similarly critical organizations on campus. You’ll have one really strong year where you’ll have a bunch of people who have been involved for a while, and then they graduate and then it takes a few more years of education for people to be as mobile,” Childerhose commented. “So the University knows that if they stall for a little bit, then it’ll take some rebuilding of the student organizations.”

“I worry because it’s such a huge bureaucracy,” said Fryer. “There’s so much red tape. […] It’s a lot of money and it’s a big system. But I really hope that they do [divest], that they’re smart enough to, and that they can go down on the right side of history.”

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Fifth annual Indigenous Awareness Week Mon, 28 Sep 2015 10:00:50 +0000 Events bring attention to Indigenous cultures

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From September 21 to 25, the Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) office hosted McGillís annual Indigenous Awareness Week. During the week-long series of events, participants honoured and celebrated Indigenous cultures in McGill and beyond, with the aim of increasing awareness. Events included a speech by Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Marie Wilson, a Kairos blanket exercise, dreamcatcher making workshops, and much more.

Indigenous women have not failed their resistance

On September 24, organizers of Indigenous Awareness Week held a symposium on the gendered nature of colonialism and activism by Indigenous women, featuring a talk by Audra Simpson, a Mohawk woman from Kahnawake.

Simpson is a professor of anthropology at Columbia University, and author of Mohawk Interruptus, a book about the struggles of Mohawk people in so-called Quebec to maintain political sovereignty. At the talk, Simpson shared one of her new articles, which describes the way society overlooks the Indigenous movements which are organized and led by Indigenous women.

The catalyst for Simpson’s article was a 2004 interview with Yasser Arafat, former leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, who said Palestinians “are not red Indians,” implying there might actually be hope for the Palestinian struggle against colonialism, whereas colonialism has triumphed over Indigenous groups in the U.S. and Canada. This idea that Indigenous groups have bowed down to colonial forces and are no longer capable of effective resistance, Simpson noted, is commonly held, but is also completely false, and stems from a broader lack of understanding of Indigenous histories and societies.

Simpson described how colonialism is known only by “inaccurate and heroic versions of what is fundamentally a dispossession – a scene of stealing.”

Simpson also described how colonialism is known only by “inaccurate and heroic versions of what is fundamentally a dispossession – a scene of stealing.” She explained how the concept of sharing, perpetuated by stories such as those told at Thanksgiving, paint a picture of equality and camaraderie between settlers and Indigenous peoples, hiding the betrayal of Indigenous nations and the “dismembering violence and wars that raged on for hundreds of years.” Simpson also noted how the treaties between Indigenous peoples and Canada can create the semblance of a consenting relationship between the state and Indigenous communities, which does not do justice to the realities of their tortured and oppressive relationship.

Simpson argued Indigenous peoples have not failed in their resistance of colonialism, and “persist with their sovereignty intact in spite of the grinding historical and political process of settler colonialism.” Groups such as the Sioux have not only been resisting colonialism for centuries, but have continued to militantly defend their territories, saying they will under no circumstances allow the Keystone XL pipeline to pass through their lands. Simpson also noted that Indigenous women spearheaded the movement to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women and play a central role in Indigenous resistance.

Rachel Baker, a French language and literature Master’s student said, “[Simpson] has an ability to frame the issues in a context that is just not available to me as a non-Indigenous woman, and also I certainly don’t have her level of scholarship either. It definitely informed me of the larger contexts.”

The symposium was co-hosted by the the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF). “For us at IGSF, this is not a one-off – this is the start of something that we want to commit to and we want to hear like a beat over the course of the year and over the course of years to come,” a representative from IGSF said during the talk. She noted that IGSF will be offering a course on Indigenous feminisms in the upcoming Winter 2016 semester.

—Jill Bachelder

Truth and reconciliation

The seminar “Reflections on the Truth & Reconciliation with Aboriginal People” took place on September 23. It was facilitated by Michael Loft, a member of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) community of Kahnawake and an academic associate at the McGill School of Social Work.

Loft is an intergenerational survivor – his father, Mitchell, attended a residential school for 11 years, followed by Loft, who also attended an “Indian Day School” for three years. At the event, Loft shared his personal experiences of overcoming challenges despite spending his childhood at an Indian Day School. He also spoke on how “respect, responsibility, and cooperation can work” to achieve reconciliation.

Loft described residential schools as “institutions of cultural and linguistic genocide, leaving survivors with no education and emotionally unattached to endure the abuse inflicted upon others and themselves.”

“Even after coming out [of the residential schools], love is so deeply buried in your soul, [it doesn’t] come out right half the time. All you’re left with is the feeling of shame, fear of authority. How do you be cool in a situation like that?” Loft said.

At the seminar, Loft spoke on the significance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as an attempt to understand history, despite it being emotionally draining for the survivors, who have to relive their experiences.

“Even after coming out [of the residential schools], love is so deeply buried in your soul, [it doesn’t] come out right half the time. All you’re left with is the feeling of shame, fear of authority. How do you be cool in a situation like that?”

He showed the audience a poem titled “Monster” written by Dennis Saddleman, a survivor who attended a residential school for seven years.

In the poem, which Saddleman read at a TRC gathering in Ottawa, he compares his residential school experience to a monster that took away his native culture and childhood.

“I hate you residential school, I hate you. / You’re a monster. / A huge hungry monster. / Built with steel bones. Built with cement flesh. / You’re a monster,” Saddleman writes.

Loft encouraged the audience to engage with the poem in smaller groups. “When [Saddleman] talks about that monster, I heard about that monster,” Loft said, adding, “I don’t know how many times I heard about the monster over the course of my career.”

In addition, Loft told the audience reconciliation between Indigenous people and Canadians, although an inevitable process, can only be reached by honouring past treaties and through mutual respect.

Loft said, “There has to be a responsibility somewhere to set that right. […] Let’s settle something. Deal’s a deal.”

—Rayleigh Lee

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Final rally ends Fossil Free Week Sun, 27 Sep 2015 20:23:12 +0000 BRIEF

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As Divest McGill’s Fossil Free Week came to a close, about seventy members and supporters met at McGill’s Community Square for a final rally at 3 p.m. on Friday, September 25. Led by Julianna Duholke, an organizer with Divest McGill, speakers took turns offering closing comments in regards to the week, which included a camp-out in front of the James Administration building and a protest march on the CBC–Radio-Canada building, where the French-language federal elections debate was held on September 24.

McGill alumnus Curtis Murphy, a founding member of Divest McGill, expressed pride in the growth of the organization. Recalling how there were originally about six people involved when initiating their first petition to be presented to the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), Murphy explained how the group had stood the test of time.

“The administration miscalculated in thinking [Divest McGill] was going to be just another student organization, and people are going to graduate and it’s going to fizzle out, but it hasn’t happened – the opposite happened. There’s even more energy,” Murphy said. “Their inaction just looks worse and worse. And sooner or later, they’re going to have to do something.”

Murphy also mentioned how he joined other alumni in pledging to return his degrees if McGill doesn’t take divestment action by March. “I was really excited to be able to join in the pledge […] as a statement of how we feel about McGill’s inaction on this really important issue.”

In addition to the speeches, the rally included a performance of two songs, one in French and one in English, by three members of the Raging Grannies, (a group of activist elder women who attend and sing songs at protests) who came to support the organization’s cause.

“We’re very concerned about the climate,” one of them told The Daily. “And we’re very concerned about all the shenanigans that the oil companies are going through to continue using fossil fuels.”

The event concluded with the participants forming a symbolic circle around the square, joining hands to chant their slogans one last time.

“I think the closing rally today was very powerful,” commented Laura Cameron, a Divest McGill member. “We were able to sum up the whole power of the week and […] have the principal notice us outside her window.”

As for the week’s impact and the response received, Cameron said, “We’ve achieved our goal in educating the McGill community at large. In terms of the administration’s response, we’ve definitely had victories there as well.”

“Although [Stuart] “Kip” Cobbett, the Chair of [CAMSR and the Board of Governors] is away, we’ve interacted with a few of the other members of the committee and […] they definitely felt the pressure,” noted Cameron.

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Protestors rally ahead of federal debate Fri, 25 Sep 2015 04:48:00 +0000 McGill students join environmental justice contingent

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At 5 p.m. on September 24, approximately 25 people in support of Divest McGill’s Fossil Free Week initiative gathered at McGill’s Community Square and marched toward Place Émilie-Gamelin to partake in a broader demonstration in front of the CBC–Radio-Canada building before the 2015 federal election’s French-language leaders debate. Many groups seized the opportunity to raise their voices and be heard by the Canadian political class.

The Daily spoke with Julianna Duholke, an organizer with Divest McGill, shortly before the rally began. “We’re seeing this huge gap between policy and climate science at both the McGill level and at the federal level,” explained Duholke. “If McGill steps up to be a climate leader, that could put pressure on our political leaders, but right now, there’s no pressure coming from the bottom, and we’re taking that upon ourselves.”

Laura Cameron, another organizer with Divest McGill, commented “We had a very pretty embarrassing reaction from [Principal Suzanne] Fortier today, where she […] pretty much tried to walk away from us when we confronted her, without talking to us. And she said that she […] could not commit to supporting a freeze on fossil fuel investments.”

Amongst the groups present at the protest was, represented by Cree activist Clayton Thomas-Muller, the organization’s Indigenous Extreme Energy Campaigner. Thomas-Muller was vocal about his hope for a grassroots change beginning in Quebec.

Speaking to The Daily, Thomas-Muller said, “Our message as 350[.org] is to support social movements in Quebec that have mobilized to disrupt tar sands infrastructure.”

Thomas-Muller continued, “We need divestment from dirty fossil fuels, we need a reinvestment of these resources into a zero energy footprint economy that doesn’t force Canadians and First Nations to sacrifice certain communities at the altar of irresponsible economic policies.”

Many other groups expressed their concerns with the legacy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government with regards to other issues. Marie-Hélène Arruda, coordinator of the Mouvement autonome et solidaire des sans-emploi (MASSE), an organization dedicated to supporting the unemployed, was critical of the government’s direction in the matter of employment. “We have to pay attention to the Conservatives’ [actions] over the past few years,” Arruda told The Daily in French. “It is time for this to stop.”

Additionally, Serge Cadieux, secretary-general of the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec (FTQ), denounced the government’s “attack toward the union movement,” mentioning Bill C-377, which modifies tax law to impose heavy reporting obligations on unions, as an example of such policy.

In addition to the organized groups present, many non-affiliated protesters came to stand in solidarity with the various social movements voicing their requests. One supporter, when asked about his expectations for the night’s debate, expressed his desire to “see the words ‘climate change’ get mentioned.” Others were specifically offering their encouragement to the political parties involved.

Daniel Pelletier, a Green Party supporter from Ville-Marie, deplored the silencing of Green Party leader Elizabeth May in two previous debates, one organized by the Globe and Mail and Google Canada, and another by the Munk Debates. Speaking to the importance of climate change, Pelletier told The Daily, “We need to vote for the future of the planet.”

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Divest McGill sets up camp in front of James Administration Building Mon, 21 Sep 2015 13:04:16 +0000 Divest's action to continue until Board of Governors freezes fossil fuel investment

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This story is in development. The article will be updated to reflect any changes that may occur. Latest update was on September 21, 12:31 p.m..

On September 21, Divest McGill, a campus environmental justice group, set up camp at Community Square in front of the James Administration building to ask the University to freeze all its investments in the fossil fuel industry.

Julianna Duholke, Divest McGill organizer, explained that Divest McGill’s camp will stay in place until Stuart “Kip” Cobbett, Chair of the Board of Governors (BoG), recommends a freeze on fossil fuel industry investments to the BoG.

“For the last two and a half years, we’ve been working with Kip and the Board to ask them to completely divest from fossil fuel industries, and on their part we’ve really seen little concrete action,” Duholke told The Daily.

Duholke said, “This is really quite atrocious on behalf of McGill that they continue to invest in fossil fuel industries. They like to claim that they are a sustainability leader, and I think that’s the face that a lot of McGill students see, but, really, they have over $70 million invested in these fossil fuel industries.”

Chloé Laflamme, another Divest McGill organizer, also expressed her disappointment with the University’s lack of concrete action with regards to divestment.

“The climate crisis is a very, very serious issue that we have not been taking urgent enough action [on]. We should’ve been taking action a long time ago. Even now, the fact that we’re doing this now is late. Our administration is not responding to our calls for action,” Laflamme told The Daily.

Laflamme continued, “We’ve been giving them petitions, giving them over 150 pages of research. But still, we have seen no concrete action, or no concrete steps toward divestment on their part. So we’re camping in to show that this issue is very meaningful to us. Not only is this a show of how seriously we take the issue, but it’s also to put pressure on them.”

Dean of Students André Costopoulos explained that freedom of expression and demonstration are protected under the Charter of Students’ Rights.

In an email to The Daily, Costopoulos said, “We’ve had positive interactions with Divest so far over their current action and everyone has been very cooperative. The BoG, [its] CAMSR [Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility] committee, and many other stakeholders in the community, including student groups, are continuing the conversation about divestment from fossil fuels.”

Divest McGill’s history with the Board of Governors

Over the past two and a half years, Divest McGill has been trying to convince CAMSR to accept environmental degradation as social injury. To this end, members of Divest McGill have handed the BoG two petitions and a 150-page research brief on the issue of climate change.

Since then, CAMSR has updated its terms of reference to include grave environmental damage in its definition of social injury; however, a clear decision on divestment has not been made.

In June 2015, the BoG decided to involve the Royal Society of Canada, a national research council composed of distinguished scholars, to research the potential implications and consequences of divestment.

However, according to Duholke, the BoG has changed its mind once again.

“They were going to do a study into climate change and whether there was a causal relationship with social injury. They decided to scrap that study after realizing there was already mounds of research on it, which we had presented to them. And now they are just back to simply deliberating,” Duholke told The Daily.


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SSMU organizes anti-austerity week Mon, 21 Sep 2015 10:04:53 +0000 Skillshare workshops aim to mobilize and organize

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Between September 21 and 24, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) organized an anti-austerity week, holding various workshops and skillsharing events. In addition to the ones covered here, the events included various discussions on the history of mobilization in Quebec, a bike-powered film screening, and a presentation by CKUT on the importance of community radios.

How to organize a strike

“So You Want to Go on Strike: A Skillshare for Departmental Student Strikes at McGill,” was held on September 16. The workshop discussed the different skills required to stage a successful departmental strike, covering a variety of topics from organizing a general assembly, to dealing with unsympathetic professors.

In order to have a successful departmental strike, the facilitators explained, organizers must set up accessible general assemblies, deal with possible opposition from student executives or faculty, and effectively communicate with other students in the department. This means coordinating the distribution of flyers, posters, and other forms of communication to reach as many sympathetic students as possible.

The facilitators stressed the importance of solidarity throughout a strike, which includes having well-defined roles for every student during the strike, so no one feels overwhelmed. For instance, if planning to picket, organizers should know which students are comfortable with physical aggression when confronting other students or police officers.

The facilitators also pointed out that a successful strike needs to provide material and emotional support to the protesters. For example, during the Women’s and Sexual Diversity Studies Student Association (WSSA) strike in April of 2015, this meant booking a room with food and couches, where students could go to recover, calm down, and talk to a counsellor if necessary.
At the end of the discussion, the facilitators noted that ultimately the only way to gain these skills is to take part in a strike.

–Daniel Huang

Street medic training

“Intro to Street Medic Training,” a first-aid workshop on medic training for demo safety, took place on September 16. The workshop gave an introduction to the basic skills necessary for dealing with first-aid situations specific to the context of demonstrations, such as washing out pepper spray from eyes, minimizing damage from tear gas, and treating shock and panic.

This workshop targeted those involved in demonstrations, but many of the skills and much of the information presented were broadly applicable to anybody who lives in downtown Montreal, where many politically charged events take place and where police employ tear gas to control demonstrations. For example, as tear gas is a volatile chemical weapon that does not discriminate between demonstrator, journalist, police, or civilian, it could be useful for all residents to know to wash themselves thoroughly after exposure, as oils in the skin can make the burning sensation worse.

The workshop also highlighted the distinctions in dealing with different chemical compounds. Pepper spray, unlike tear gas, is an oil – water will cause the chemical to spread and lead to intense pain. According to the workshop, the most effective way to treat pepper spray is to immediately rinse with Maalox (milk of magnesia, available in pharmacies), especially if eyes were exposed.

A central theme was the idea of consent in a medical context. The workshop emphasized that many of those needing medical attention at a demonstration may find themselves unable to receive help at hospitals for legal reasons, making it critical for street medics to respect the decision of a wounded person if they do not wish to seek medical attention at a hospital.

The workshop also discussed post-demonstration care, especially after a traumatic or violent incident, and stressed the long-term commitment involved. It was emphasized that many of those involved in demonstrations are from marginalized communities, often unable to seek formal health services for legal reasons. As such, it was said that giving protesters access to the care and support networks they need from their peers remains crucial.

–Vincent Simboli

Organizing against casualization

“Working from the Roots: Student/Worker Solidarity Against Casualization on Campus,” was held on September 15 and was facilitated by Molly Swain, president of the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE), and Tyler Lawson, Collective Agreement Coordinator of the Association of McGill University Research Employees (AMURE).

Lawson defined casualization as “the process wherein full-time workers” – those who receive benefits such as long-term contracts with higher wages, healthcare, and pension – “are replaced by part-time, casual workers who do the same work for less.” As a result, Lawson said, “constant anxiety [over job security] induces passivity.”

Swain argued that casualization is driven largely by austerity, saying that “all of the proponents of austerity are profiting from the confusion of household debt with governmental debt.” Swain also depicted government debt as an “entirely necessary” aspect of capitalist economy, unlike household debt, arguing that “the emphasis on paying back [government debt] is purely ideological.”

“Capitalism binds people through indebtedness,” Swain said, especially students who, as job opportunities appear more scarce, go into thousands of dollars of debt, working unpaid internships. Through strikes and organized movements, students attempt to resist austerity and the debt it incurs. However, students are not considered workers under Quebec law, and are therefore excluded from unions. Groups who may refer to themselves as unions representing the interests of students – like SSMU – are not, in fact, classified as such, and have little to no collective agreement or bargaining power. Lawson proposed that “undergraduate work should be valorized in the economy,” and that students are workers and deserve pay and unionizing power as such.

“Not only are [undergraduates] crucial to the university just by being here, [they] are also actively producing labour in [the] classrooms,” stated Lawson. The workshop also explored the intersectional history of unionization. Both Swain and Lawson proposed that it is and has always been in the best interest of the capitalist state to exclude certain groups in the history of labour and unionization. Although pivotal to the history of labour in Canada, Black and Indigenous people are often discounted and ignored in history as the first unionizing labour forces. Swain said, “Discounting the work of oppressed peoples perpetuates a white supremacist and patriarchal society.”

As the workshop drew to a close, facilitators and participants discussed ways to disengage from such a system, suggesting potential alternatives where both the exploitation of workers and the resulting labour unions would be non-existent. Swain emphasized that “collective mobilizing is the most powerful source of social change.” In a direct challenge to the assumption that millennials cannot stand up against the rise of austerity and casualization, she stated, “We are told precarious work is the work of the future. I am not saying we should be looking to the [pre-industrial] past. […] I am suggesting this rhetoric is a lie.”

—Anna Vail

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Post-grads to hold fee increase referendum Mon, 21 Sep 2015 10:03:26 +0000 Council adopts traditional territory acknowledgment, rejects bee party funding

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The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Council held its first meeting of the academic year on September 16. Council discussed ten motions, including the adoption of an Indigenous territory acknowledgement statement and the approval of two referendum questions asking for fee increases.

Other motions passed included bylaw changes, equity amendments to the Society Activities Manual, and the establishment of an intellectual property working group.

Motion for Indigenous territory acknowledgment

Council discussed two motions, both of which passed, regarding the acknowledgement of McGill’s location on unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory. One of the motions mandated PGSS to support “the efforts of students and groups at McGill University seeking the adoption of a traditional territory acknowledgement by the university administration,” and the other concerned the adoption of such an acknowledgment by PGSS itself.

Explaining the motion, External Affairs Officer Bradley Por said, “For quite some time, Indigenous students on campus have been working to get the University to acknowledge that it is on traditional territories and [they] have received quite a bit of resistance.”

Por said that one of the reasons why the University was hesitant to adopt an acknowledgment was due to a fear of land claims. The acknowledgment has been edited over time to mitigate these concerns.

“There’s not a chance of that happening. There are two legal memos that the First Peoples’ House has got written saying that there isn’t a real fear of that,” Por said.

The two motions were adopted without debate.

Questions on the subject of fee increase referendum

Council passed a set of motions regarding two questions to be asked in the upcoming PGSS referendum, which will take place from October 19 to 23. One is to increase PGSS’s membership fee from $32.59 per term to $35.85 per term, and one is to increase the Special Projects Fund (SPF) fee from $4.60 per term to $6.60 per term.

According to Financial Affairs Officer Behrang Sharif, PGSS is facing a deficit of around $611,000.

He explained that in May 2012, PGSS decreased its membership fee by nearly $20 as part of an overall budget restructuring aimed at making the budget less complex. Speaking to The Daily, Sharif said, “I think that they [had] good intentions, and they did good for the Society in the long run. There [were] just [a] few miscalculations.”

However, a subsequent long-winded disaffiliation battle with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) led to substantial legal expenses and the payment of around $300,000 in membership fees to CFS under protest. PGSS is currently trying to reclaim these fees in court.

The SPF was created in 2013 as an additional funding source for special projects that could not otherwise get funding under the PGSS budget constraints.

Both referendum questions were approved by Council. If the referendum questions pass, Sharif expects the deficit to be recuperated in five or six years. If the questions fail, it could take PGSS approximately 15 years to overcome the deficit if the association’s expenditure rates stay the same.

Motion to fund bee housewarming rejected

One motion requested that “$600 be allocated from the Events category of the 2015-16 budget to be spent on providing food for Green Drinks events and a housewarming party for the Thomson House bees during the Fall 2015 academic term.” PGSS introduced a bee hive last year as part of its sustainability mandate.

Explaining the motion, PGSS Environment Commissioner Amir Nosrat said, “As you know, we’ve been having a lot of budget cutbacks. […] Discussing this with other commissioners and execs, I think there is a consensus that there is a problem with the way the budget is created, which does not reflect the mandate that is given to the commissioner.” Nosrat also pointed out the difficulties of maneuvering through the budget for people who may not be familiar with it.

In response, Sharif brought up the fact that commissioners have access to a fund for discretionary spending, and that the $600 could be procured from it.

“The discretionary fund is something less than $3,000 that, somehow, has to be jointly negotiated between the execs and commissioners – that’s a lot of people. Whereas, the events category, from what I can see, is about $115,000, and I don’t have a lot of [understanding] as to how that money gets allocated,” Nosrat responded.

Sharif, however, said that the funds mentioned in the budget had already been allocated, and procuring the $600 would mean re-allocating a portion of the budget. In the end, Council voted against the motion.

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