The McGill Daily » News http://www.mcgilldaily.com False twins since 1911 Wed, 26 Nov 2014 20:13:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 #BlackLivesMatter: Montreal stands with Ferguson http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/blacklivesmatter-montreal-stands-ferguson/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/blacklivesmatter-montreal-stands-ferguson/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 17:12:13 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39561 1,000 gather for vigil organized by McGill Black Students’ Network

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Members of the McGill community gathered on Tuesday evening at Lower Field to express their solidarity with the ongoing demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, and to mourn Michael Brown and other victims of police violence against racialized communities.

The event followed the November 24 announcement of a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in August. The news sparked a wave of popular outrage, and hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets and social media to protest the decision. Monday night’s demonstrations in Ferguson saw violent police repression, with heavily-armed police tear-gassing protesters.

The hour-long candlelit vigil, organized by the McGill Black Students’ Network (BSN), drew nearly 1,000 attendees from the McGill and Montreal community. Solidarity rallies took place in many other Canadian cities, with around 2,000 participating in Toronto and hundreds in Ottawa and Calgary.

“In light of the recent verdict not to indict Darren Wilson, and the death of Mike Brown, BSN is basically just creating a space […] to make an address and allow people to express their love for Ferguson and […] their support to the ongoing efforts [there],” said BSN VP External Maya Taylor.

Indeed, the atmosphere at the vigil was subdued, with people talking quietly or simply standing in contemplative silence.

“I have a 12-year-old nephew in Washington, D.C.. […] My mother is there, my siblings are there, my nephew is there, and there’s nothing telling me that they will still be there [when I get home].”

Speaking to The Daily anonymously, several of those present shared their frustration with the systematized racial inequality in American society, and spoke to an urgent need for positive change.

“I think that everyone feels wrong about this,” said one student. “This shows us that our justice system isn’t reflecting our moral values […] because if this is such a huge thing […] then obviously the laws aren’t reflecting what the public wants.”

“I’m from America,” said another. “We had 250 years of slavery, we had 60 years of Jim Crow in the South, our parents were born and there was segregation, and people in our country – people that I went to high school with – don’t believe that they have any privilege; [they believe] that they have equal opportunities with African Americans in our country. That’s pretty dumb.”

Shortly after the gathering began, executives from BSN, as well as other campus organizations such as the McGill African Students Society and the Caribbean Students Society addressed the crowd. In a series of emotional speeches, they expressed the groups’ profound grief and disappointment with the grand jury’s decision, and urged those assembled to remember that Michael Brown’s shooting was not simply an isolated incident.

“It is important for all of us here to realize that these instances of injustice are not isolated to Ferguson, Missouri, or to the U.S., but are seen and experienced by black people and other visible minorities within our geographical borders,” said one executive, prompting applause from the crowd. “We are here to declare that black lives matter […] and to pay our respects to all of our fallen brothers and sisters.”

Montrealers have drawn comparisons between Brown’s death and the 2008 shooting of 18-year-old Fredy Villanueva by Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) officer Jean-Loup Lapointe.

After the organizers’ speeches, a brief list of black victims of police violence was read aloud, followed by four minutes of silence.

Before the gathering dispersed, a number of other students addressed the group to share feelings of grief, messages of encouragement, and poetry. Many of those gathered joined in singing “Amazing Grace” in memory of Brown as well as North America’s countless other victims of racial oppression and violence.

“It is important for all of us here to realize that these instances of injustice are not isolated to Ferguson, Missouri, or to the U.S., but are seen and experienced by black people and other visible minorities within our geographical borders.”

One student, speaking anonymously to the crowd, stressed the importance of acknowledging the fear that the grand jury’s decision had awakened in many.

“Last night, while everyone was watching the live cast […] I just stood there in front of the screen and cried,” the student said. “I have a 12-year-old nephew in Washington, D.C.. That is one of the most concentrated populations of black people in the U.S.. I honestly don’t want to go home for Christmas. My mother is there, my siblings are there, my nephew is there, and there’s nothing telling me that they will still be there [when I get home].”

“I just want to say that this moment here is the proudest I’ve ever been to be a McGill student on this campus,” said another speaker. “To see people of different backgrounds, different colours, different beliefs, all gathered here to say that oppression is wrong wherever it exists is a very powerful message.”

The speaker continued, “This campus also fought oppression during the [South African] apartheid regime, Montreal also fought oppression during the civil rights movement, and so inasmuch as oppression still occurs today […] it’s so important for us, as university students, to have the courage and the strength to come together and continue to say ‘no.’”

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Cuts to services worry student senators http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/cuts-services-worry-student-senators/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/cuts-services-worry-student-senators/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:09:25 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39465 Challenges to come for research institute’s transition to new Glen site

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The University Senate convened for its third meeting of the year on November 19, discussing potential cuts to student services, community engagement and out-of-classroom learning, and the effect on graduate students of the planned move of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) to the Glen site superhospital in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

Cuts to student services

In her opening remarks, Principal Suzanne Fortier informed Senate that McGill’s share of the second round of mid-year cuts to the Quebec university system, announced by Provost Anthony Masi last month, will be $4.8 million.

In a written response to a question from Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan and Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon, Masi indicated that “some programs requiring matching funds from the University’s operating budget will have to be postponed, reduced, or cut in light of cuts to our funding.”

Because Masi was not present at the meeting, Fortier responded on his behalf to a follow-up question from Greenspon regarding student consultation.

“There will be consultation with the students on any of the services currently offered that might be affected by the cuts,” she said.

However, Fortier was unable to answer more specific questions from student senators regarding which services are likely to be cut.

“We’re not yet at this level of details in our analysis of the impact of these cuts that we can say precisely what would be the level of any reduction,” she said.

Fortier also touched on the issue of sexual assault in her remarks, noting “the importance […] to provide a respectful and safe environment for members of our community.”

Community engagement and out-of-classroom learning

Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations) Rose Goldstein presented the report of the November 4 Joint Board-Senate meeting on community engagement through research and innovation.

Stewart-Kanigan noted that many student senators took issue with the event’s focus on industry despite its promotion as community engagement-centred, and with the elimination of the question period.

Medicine Senator David Benrimoh also criticized the fact that “the most important thing echoed at every single table […] the importance of community agenda-setting” was not reflected accurately in the report.

A statement detailing student senators’ concerns has been published on SSMU’s website.

Senate also held an open discussion on out-of-classroom learning and research internships.

Many student senators brought up the importance of both remunerating and crediting out-of-classroom research internships to ensure their accessibility. “It’s really important to allow these opportunities for students who may not be able to access them due to financial needs,” said Arts Senator Kareem Ibrahim.

Arts Faculty Senator Catherine Lu disagreed, arguing that it is unclear whether students deserve credit for what they learn in an internship, and that out-of-classroom learning is valuable for students even if it is not credited.

Dean of Students André Costopoulos countered that, in arguing for formal acknowledgement of out-of-classroom learning,  “[students] are responding to real-world pressure” from graduate schools and employers.

Concerns with MUHC transition to Glen site

Seeking to address graduate students’ concerns about office and lab space at the MUHC’s new Glen sitew, Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) senators submitted a question about plans to ensure that graduate students have appropriate working space, and on whether student support staff would also be moved to the new site. The RI-MUHC is set to move to the Glen site in February 2015.

In his written response, Dean of Medicine David Eidelman stated that “it is the responsibility of each PI [principal investigator] to ensure that [their] graduate students […] are allocated appropriate working spaces.”

PGSS Senator Rui Hao Wang noted that, according to an internal MUHC memo, not all PIs will be eligible for working space, and further noted that support staff are supposed to move to a section of the site that has not yet been built.

Eidelman said that the University is working to resolve the issues, and instructed students to direct concerns to their graduate program supervisors. He explained that less space was secured than had been planned, and that the government has retroactively imposed restrictions on its use.

Student discipline

Costopoulos presented the 2013-14 report of the Committee on Student Discipline, which contains the data on disciplinary offences for the year.

“An indicator that our system actually works as a pedagogical system is that the number of second offences is extremely low,” said Costopoulos in response to a question on support resources from SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa. “We follow students afterwards […] we extend support as an outcome of the disciplinary process.”

Senate also approved a set of guidelines to harmonize definitions of academic entities (such as “Insitute” or “Group”) and a set of clarifications to regulations on sabbaticals and leaves of absence for academic staff.

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Confronting misogynoir in popular media http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/confronting-misogynoir-portrayals-black-women/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/confronting-misogynoir-portrayals-black-women/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:07:13 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39474 Panelists discuss stereotypes, hypersexualization of black women

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On November 14, the Black Students’ Network (BSN) hosted a discussion titled “My Anaconda Don’t: Misogynoir, Hypersexualization, and Black Feminism.” Attended by about 200 students, many of whom were people of colour, the event featured the screening of music videos as well as a discussion focused on black feminism and “misogynoir,” a term coined by queer black feminist Moya Bailey that refers to anti-black misogyny. Misogynoir is based on the inter-workings of race and gender in the oppression of black women.

“We want to tackle the issue [of misogynoir and the perception of black women’s bodies in the media] because […] a lot of people won’t realize that these things are offensive, and the history, and background that they have, and their oppressive nature, so that’s something also that we’re going to hit on,” said BSN Political Coordinator Isabelle Oke.

Oke began by providing some contextualization for the discussion. She explained that the institution of slavery is at the root of many of the problems that black women currently face. Black women were seen as the property of the slave masters, Oke explained; they were exploited and dehumanized, which led to assault and abuse.

“When it comes to the case of sexual assault, society propagates this stereotype in order to create doubt on [the woman’s] credibility,” said Oke.

Attendees viewed and discussed three pop song video clips from popular songs: “Anaconda” by black American rapper Nicki Minaj, “Pu$$y” by white Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, and “Hard Out Here” by white British singer Lily Allen.

One of the major discussion points surrounding Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” the first clip shown, was whether her depiction of sexuality in the video was empowering or objectifying.

One audience member said that Minaj “reclaims” her sexuality in the video, by showing her “big butt” even though it may be shocking.

“Is she really celebrating her sexuality, or is she buying into this trope of strong, black women with a predatory sexuality […] copying the way men have exerted this sort of predatory sexuality against women, rather than exploring something that is truly new and truly unique?” asked another student.

Many argued over whether this music video was made to appeal to heterosexual men. Students argued that this could be the case, considering that the video was directed by Colin Tilley, a young, white, male director from California.

The next media clip shown was “Pu$$y” by white rapper Iggy Azalea. Participants criticized the music video for its objectification of black women and appropriation of black culture, as well as the hypersexualization of the young child in the clip, who is depicted riding a rocking horse and clinging to Azalea with his legs around her neck.

The video at one point also depicts the child holding a toy gun, and other men in the film wearing shirts with the words “drugs not hugs,” which the attendees criticized as perpetuating stereotypes of young, black males being associated with crime.

Furthermore, students questioned why some of these hip hop music genre tropes that have been around for years are suddenly desirable when they are used by white female artists.

Lastly, a clip of white singer Lily Allen’s  “Hard Out Here” music video clip was shown to the attendees. Allen attempts to tackle misogyny and societal pressures on body image; however, some in the audience criticized the video because Allen assumes a sense of superiority over the backup dancers, who were mostly people of colour in the video. She is fully clothed, while the backup dancers aren’t, and she also says phrases such as “don’t need to shake my ass for you ‘cause I’ve got a brain” within the song.

BSN VP internal Richenda Grazette called the event a success, as an unexpected amount of students were present in the lecture hall and an active discussion was held.  The discussion still continued on the event page on Facebook, and according to their page, the BSN is already planning similar events and discussions that will be held in the future.

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Remembering the Sikh genocide http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/remembering-sikh-genocide/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/remembering-sikh-genocide/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:07:02 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39473 Concordia Sikhs host discussion of the events of 1984

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Warning: This article contains discussion of graphic violence and rape.

On November 13, the Concordia Sikh Students Association held an event to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the 1984 Sikh genocide, during which thousands of Sikhs in India were killed and displaced from their homes. Around twenty people, most of whom were Sikh, attended the event, which featured screenings of short films followed by a discussion.

Two of the videos shown described the events of 1984, when, in June, the Indian government enacted Operation Blue Star, a military operation intended to “break the backbone” of Sikh ‘separatists.’ It ordered the bombing of a prominent gurdwara (a Sikh place of worship) and the massacre of the people inside, under the guise of combating a separatist, terrorist movement in the Sikh-dominated state of Punjab.

The following November, India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. In response to the assassination, anti-Sikh mobs engaged in a genocide of approximately 30,000 Sikhs.

Participant experiences and collective knowledge

Many attendees had relatives in India at the time, and some described how their families had been directly affected by the events of 1984.

One participant said that her family lived in South Delhi at the time, and, for three weeks, did not leave their house, during and after the period of genocide. When they did go outside they saw that the gutters were filled with bodies.

“[The bodies] were dismembered, but the only thing you could tell was you could see kara [a metal bracelet Sikhs wear] and you could see the person had long hair.” She said they were left for around two or three months.

“My family had Hindu neighbours and tenants, so when the mob did come, when they were passing the street, these guys stood in front of the gate and warded [the mob] off,” said one participant.

Some of the videos played reflected participants’ experiences, as they depicted refugee camps filled with Sikhs displaced by the genocide, many covered in burns where mobs had poured kerosene on them and tried to light them on fire. Another video showed the aftermath of the genocide twenty years later, speaking to women in the “Widow Colony,” in Western New Delhi, where impoverished women whose husbands and children were killed in the genocide still live today.

All of the videos shown said that, in addition to the systematic killing of Sikh men, women, and children, Sikh women and girls were also targeted with sexual violence – many of the women who survived the genocide were raped while their husbands and children were killed.

An elder Sikh man present at the discussion, whom everyone at the discussion referred to as “uncle,” explained that the tensions between Sikhs and Hindus dated back to the independence of India from British colonial rule. He said that, when India received its independence from Britain, the Hindus asked the Sikhs to remain a part of India instead of splitting into their own country.

Sikh leaders sat down with prominent Hindu figures, including Mahatma Gandhi, and were promised that the Punjab would be an independent state. However, many at the discussion said that the Sikhs suffered great oppression as a minority: they were paid very little for their agricultural products, they had limited access to clean water, they were not allowed to list Punjabi as their first language, and they were forced to adopt Hindu customs.

According to one participant, the Indian government unofficially facilitated the genocide, sending buses full of jailed criminals, who were promised shorter sentences in exchange for their participation, to villages for the purpose of killing the Sikhs.

The prisoners were provided with addresses, voting lists, and other government information, and were authorized to stop trains to look for, and murder, Sikh passengers. Civilians were also encouraged to kill the Sikhs, storming their houses as police turned a blind eye.

Legacy of the 1984 genocide

Speaking to the legacy of the genocide, many agreed that it is important to raise awareness of it, and spoke against “forgiving and forgetting” the past. One participant noted that the Indian government actively tries to hide the truth from the general public.

“One thing I find that’s very shocking is, when you go to India and you look at their history textbooks in high school, even at the university level, there’s no mention of it at all, like absolutely none,” she said.

The uncle brought up the point that, while the Indian government may not want the world to know about what happened, the presence of the Widow Colony serves as a constant reminder for Sikhs about the injustice they still face, and may be intended to prevent further Sikh mobilization and activism.

Some mentioned the immense danger of speaking about the oppression of Sikhs in India. The uncle told the story of Jaswant Singh Khalra, a human rights activist who was extremely vocal about the Sikh children who went missing in the years following the genocide.

Khalra discovered the cremation of around 25,000 unidentified Sikh bodies by the Indian government, and presented his findings to the Indian high court. In 1995, Khalra left India and traveled around Canada to present his findings. According to the uncle, Khalra returned to India knowing it would be a threat to his life, and within 15 days of his arrival, he was abducted by the police and killed.

Some said they had not known much about the genocide prior to attending to the discussion, or knew other Sikhs who knew nothing or were misinformed of the events. The information on the genocide has been coming out recently, and much is still not known, as the Indian government continues to cover up its actions.

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Deputy Provost shows no support for student-run food services http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/deputy-provost-shows-support-student-run-food-services/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/deputy-provost-shows-support-student-run-food-services/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:03:40 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39462 Councillors talk student engagement, reopening Redpath doors

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On November 20, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened to discuss the creation of a student engagement committee as well as student demand for reopening the Redpath Library doors. Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, who was present as a speaker, was also thouroughly questioned by Council about his commitment to food services on campus.

Dyens on food services

In his presentation, Dyens discussed his role as Deputy Provost, and spoke to the necessity of “finding a way to work together” with SSMU. A lot of the discussion surrounded the current food services on campus and student dissatisfaction about what is provided.

Arts and Science Senator Chloe Rourke asked Dyens about the lack of affordable food options on campus. “I know that’s a big issue for students,” said Dyens, going on to emphasize that McGill’s concern is directed toward “health and better food options.”

“We have fair-trade food now,” said Dyens, referring to the recent replacement of the Tim Hortons in the Redpath Library with a Première Moisson outlet. “Tim Hortons is a large corporation; it has no fair trade.”

VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette and VP Finance and Operations Kathleen Bradley both questioned Dyens on his support for student-run services. Dyens denied having ever claimed to support student-run services and told Council that the McGill administration is “not for these things.”

Moustaqim-Barrette asked Dyens whether his duty in a position representing students to the administration wasn’t “to represent the interest of students who are overwhelmingly in favour of student-run food services.”

“I represent the students, but we also have a business relationship,” Dyens responded.

Bradley was not satisfied with Dyens’ answers to the questions posed at Council.

“I think he is still new in his role and has a lot to grow,” she told The Daily. “Regardless of administrative difficulties, he is supposed to be the person who advocates on the behalf of students […] he has not demonstrated that in any capacity that I have worked with him.”

Creation of a student engagement committee

A motion was brought forth for the creation of an ad-hoc committee for student engagement, to be charged with identifying areas of miscommunication and improve SSMU’s communications strategy.

“It’s super important to create this committee because there’s a lot of rampant misinformation going about campus, and I think it’s our duty to address that and explore as many communication channels as possible,” Arts Representative Lola Baraldi, one of the movers, told The Daily.

Science Representative Omar El-Sharawy spoke strongly against the motion. “I have six hours of office hours per week and not a single member tries to come to me,” he said. “If [the constituents] want to be represented right, they need to put in the effort.”

“This committee is not for the purpose of re-identifying how SSMU communicates, but rather looking at a vision for how things can work in the future,” argued VP Internal J. Daniel Chaim.

Rourke expressed hope that the committee would improve SSMU’s response to “controversy on campus.”

“That is one thing we’ve failed to do,” said Rourke. “We communicate the least when we need to communicate the most.”
The motion passed.

Reopening the Redpath Library doors

Council also passed a motion calling on VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan to “prioritize the reopening of the Redpath doors in her negotiations with the McLennan-Redpath Library.”

Moustaqim-Barrette, one of the movers, told The Daily that the issue had been brought to her attention by a student, Alexander Elias, who started a petition and a Facebook group to gather student support for reopening the doors, which currently only function as an emergency exit.

“[This motion is] something that is a direct response from student needs and wants and motivations, [and] a great demonstration of SSMU being open, responsive, and efficient in addressing student needs,” Bradley said during the discussion.

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New position addresses equity in computer science http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/new-position-addresses-equity-computer-science/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/new-position-addresses-equity-computer-science/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:03:18 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39484 Since the creation of the Computer Science Undergraduate Society (CSUS) VP Diversity position […]

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Since the creation of the Computer Science Undergraduate Society (CSUS) VP Diversity position last September, the current co-holders of the position, Computer Science students Pascale Gourdeau and Gabriela Stefanini, have been aiming to make the program more inclusive for individuals of all identities and backgrounds through different events on campus.

The new role was created after a CSUS Facebook post proposing a VP Diversity position turned into a long thread with more than 200 comments. The suggestion initially came from an article on women in technology that was shared earlier in the same group.

“The position was put into place in order to create a space where there could be dialogue about [diversity] issues outside of Facebook, and because there was little mutual understanding [in the comments] about those issues,” Gourdeau said.

The co-holders of the VP Diversity position still rely on Facebook to promote their events, share resources, and receive feedback. They created a new Facebook group called “Diversity @ SOCS [the School of Computer Science],” on which they have successfully advertised four events so far.

While their first event served as an introduction to the position and a discussion of future ideas, their second event tackled the issue of inclusivity in the hacking community.

The attendees ended the meeting with a list of suggestions to McGill’s own hackathon, McHacks, an event that gathers programming enthusiasts to create small programs, such as computer and phone apps, in a limited amount of time. Suggestions included the use of gender-neutral pronouns in the conduct of these events, as well as the introduction of forms for attendees to fill out anonymously at the end of a hackathon to disclose how inclusive they thought it had been. “This creates accountability,” Gourdeau said.

The third event, on integrating humanities into computer science, also led to some new tasks. Computer Science students now add the names of researchers that they find in the Montreal area who are integrating computer science and humanities to a shared document. Researchers chosen from this list will be invited to give a talk about their work at a Computer Science Colloquium, a SOCS-organized event series.

The most recent event that the VPs co-hosted, the Computer Science Women Mixer, was organized by U3 Computer Science student Lei Lopez.

She said she got the idea when a professor pointed out that a lot of female students who are interested in computer science don’t end up pursuing it.

“[T]he female-male ratio in COMP 202, the introductory computer science class, is around one to one. However, in the actual program, the ratio is more like one to four. I think that having female peers and role models can encourage women in those classes to stay in computer science,” she told The Daily in an email.

Gourdeau is currently working on making graphs for women’s enrollment numbers in computer science.

“Sexual orientation, gender identity, race, and ethnicity [information] is not available. That’s a challenge,” she said.

Another challenge is the future of the VP Diversity position. U3 Computer Science student Emily Sager expressed concern that the position could be taken over by a hostile CSUS member.

“It is a little dangerous to have a VP Diversity position, because when it first came about, some people popped up saying, ‘I’ll be VP Diversity and do nothing,’” Sager told The Daily.

To mitigate the problem, the current VPs have made attending at least one anti-oppression workshop mandatory to hold the position in the future. Anyone who fails to fulfill this requirement will have to step down.

During their time in office, Gourdeau and Stefanini want to change the name of the position to Equity Commissioner to reflect the pattern on campus, and organize new events, including a diversity tech talk with Google engineers and a recruitment event targeting different underrepresented groups.

Stefanini told The Daily in an email that “writing news articles about technology companies in Montreal, both corporations and startups, and finding how they [are] tackling diversity issues and creating a more diverse workforce” is also on the VPs’ agenda.

“Bringing the [diversity] discussion to the forefront helps us inform people, decreasing discrimination at McGill, and hopefully also in both industry and academia,” she added.

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SUS councillors voice support for AGSEM union drive http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/sus-councillors-voice-support-agsem-union-drive/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/sus-councillors-voice-support-agsem-union-drive/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:01:58 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39494 Additional fees for projects and student space fund go to referendum

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Last Wednesday, the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) General Council (GC) passed motions from the November 5 General Assembly (GA), which could not pass them since it had not reached quorum. These included a motion to support AGSEM: McGill’s Teaching Union’s unionization campaign, and motions to increase the SUS base fee and create a new student space improvement fee.

Support for AGSEM union drive

The motion to support AGSEM’s union drive had been tabled at the GA because attendees wanted a more thorough understanding of what passing the motion would entail. At the GC, AGSEM Teaching Assistant (TA) Grievance Officer Benjamin Elgie explained the campaign and was available to answer the councillors’ questions. AGSEM is currently seeking to unionize currently non-unionized teaching staff, such as graders, undergraduate teaching assistants, and tutors.

As it stands, undergraduate tutors are not guaranteed any hours through their employment at McGill, Elgie said. Course notetakers are currently paid $100 per course, a contract that, according to Elgie, may possibly be in violation of Quebec’s labour code, as he said it is against the code to be paid per unit of production instead of by time.

Some concerns brought up included whether or not unionization would lead to higher fees and lower employment of undergraduates; councillors also asked about the effects that unionization would have on undergraduate employees.

Elgie said that, potentially, undergraduate TAs and graders could see a reduction in their hours, if the teaching support budget is not increased via linkage to undergraduate enrollment, which AGSEM is currently bargaining for. He clarified that it would be upon the newly unionized employees to decide what they would like from their contract.

SUS VP External Emily Boytinck spoke in favour of the motion, noting the importance of making students aware that they have the option to unionize.
“I think it doesn’t speak on behalf of the workers and it gives workers the choice of whether they want to be unionized or not, and if workers are unaware of this campaign then they are stripped of the right to have that choice,” Boytinck said.

Another councillor spoke in favour of the motion, saying that, as an undergraduate tutor, it would be valuable to have at least a guaranteed income.
The motion passed with 13 votes for, no votes against, and 11 abstentions.

Base fee increase and student space fee

The Motion to Increase the Science Undergraduate Base Fee and Motion to Introduce the Student Space Improvement Fee were also passed by the GC, to be voted on by SUS members via online ballot. For full-time Bachelor of Science (BSc) students, the base fee will increase from $7.50 to $12.50 per semester, and the student space improvement fee will be $7.00 per semester.

According to Boytinck, the increase in the base fee will be used to fund a variety of projects such as a possible SUS career fair and sustainability initiatives (such as recycling at Burnside, which currently just gets thrown in the trash). SUS VP Communications May Yin-Liao said the money might also be used to make an SUS agenda and handbook, and SUS VP Academic Jeremy Goh said it would also help with increasing the diversity of schools at the SUS Grad Fair.

The student space improvement fee will go to projects set out by the GC, possibly including renovations to the Burnside basement and additional lockers for Biology students. A portion will be dedicated to improvement of departmental student spaces.

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SSMU pushing early negotiations with University http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/ssmu-pushing-early-negotiations-university/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/ssmu-pushing-early-negotiations-university/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:01:22 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39471 Parts of legal agreement with University out of date, irrelevant, says president

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The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) is attempting to open negotiations for its Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the University one year early. However, the administration has not reciprocated this interest in negotiating, and has no plans to officially open negotiations this year.

SSMU’s current MOA, which outlines the organization’s legal relationship with the University, was last updated in 2011 and will expire in 2016. According to SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa, the duration of past negotiations was a major factor in  SSMU’s decision  to pursue them early.

“Like a lesson learned, it was very obvious to [the SSMU executive] that negotiating with the administration is a very slow process. The easiest thing to point to is the lease negotiations, which took four years. For us, we wanted to start as early as possible rather than waiting until the time for it to come,” said Ayukawa in an interview with The Daily.

According to Ayukawa, she and SSMU VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan have met briefly with members of the administration to discuss issues relevant to the MOA, but have not been able to open official negotiations.

Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens told The Daily that the University, in fact, has no plans to open up negotiations with SSMU earlier than necessary. “That’s why we sign agreements – so we don’t re-open them every year,” said Dyens.

Despite its resistance to opening negotiations earlier, Dyens said that the administration recognizes SSMU’s concern with the timeliness of negotiations. “It is a concern for us too. We don’t want negotiations to drag on forever because it’s not good for either party. The longer it drags, the more complicated the relationships become because bitterness builds.”

Concerns with the current MOA

One issue that SSMU wants to see addressed in the new MOA is formalized access to student fee information. According to Ayukawa, student fees are collected by Student Accounts, which can make it difficult to determine exactly how fees are allocated and held by the University without excessive paperwork.

Ayukawa cited the SSMU Access Bursary Fund, which provides need-based financial aid to students, as an example of this problem.

“What SSMU really wants to see is, where is that money sitting? We know that it gets allocated to student scholarships, to student aid, and we know that the University matches this fee, but when this fee is actually matched and when this fee […] is even allocated is information that we would like to get,” she said.

There are also a number of things mentioned in the current MOA that are out-of-date and irrelevant to SSMU. “For example, the Red Herring [a satire publication] […] it isn’t very active and it isn’t really affiliated with SSMU anymore from what I can see,” said Ayukawa. “We’re looking to […] just generally update [the MOA] and sweep off some of the cobwebs.”

Plans for this year

Although the administration does not want to officially open negotiations, there may still be space for SSMU to air any grievances it has with the current MOA.

“If [SSMU] want[s] to send the irritants that they currently [have] with the MOA, and they want to send me stuff they would like to talk about next year, I would be more than happy to receive it. There might be stuff we can do right away [if there] is an irritant to them that could be solved easily,” Dyens told The Daily.

SSMU will be holding open forums to gauge student opinion on the current MOA, if and when official negotiations begin.

“In the meantime, I think what the student body can do is read the MOA itself and see the formalized relationship that SSMU has with the University,” said Ayukawa. “If students want more information as to what the MOA is […] just talk to their councillors, talk to the SSMU execs, come by anyone’s office hours, or just send us an email.”

Ayukawa said that, even if SSMU is not able to open negotiations in an official capacity this year, it hopes to build a framework for successful negotiations for next year’s executives.

“I’m pretty optimistic that we will at least be able to set the tone for how SSMU is going to proceed with these negotiations. […] We want to do things out in the open, and we want them to be transparent, and we want to publicize what is going on as things are progressing, and maybe not progressing.”

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Rape survivors plant Seeds of Hope http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/rape-survivors-plant-seeds-hope/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/rape-survivors-plant-seeds-hope/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:01:17 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39482 Documentary screening explores sexual violence in the DRC

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On November 18, the Montreal British Consulate General partnered with McGill’s Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF) to screen Seeds of Hope, a documentary meant to shine light on the prevalence of sexual violence prevalent in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the women survivors who are working to rebuild their lives.

Seeds of Hope was filmed and made by award-winning Al Jazeera documentary filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies, who joined Myriam Denov, a McGill professor of international social work, and Mélanie Coutu, the program director of the McGill Humanitarian Studies Initiative, at a panel discussion held after the screening.

The film follows Masika Katsuva, a rape survivor who started up a centre within her home to provide physical and emotional support for other rape survivors and their children. When the survivors felt strong enough, Katsuva found them homes and jobs within the local community. Katsuva rented a field nearby where she and the other survivors could plant crops in order to sustain the centre.

Katsuva and her two daughters, who are also rape survivors, provide care to over 18 children as well, who were either orphaned during the conflict or abandoned by their mothers due to being “products of rape.”

The documentary follows the community for a two-year stretch over which the centre saw growth and success, until it was overtaken by a retreating Congolese army that happened to pass through the community. The soldiers raped many women, killing some at the same time.

“You have an army made up of militia groups, who have child soldiers who have no formal training, very little education and understanding of what a soldier should be doing, how they should be behaving, what their responsibilities are,” Katsuva said in the film.

“I found it very emotionally and intellectually challenging. It’s hard to cope with the knowledge that such horrendous acts are still committed today on a daily basis, and that little is being done by the international community,” U3 Arts student Franseza Pardoe, who attended the event, told The Daily.

“I had read widely on the conflict prior [to] going [to this event] but being exposed to the women’s personal testimonies was new and extremely moving,” Pardoe continued.

The documentary also showed the soldiers’ disturbing perspectives, who admitted to enjoying their actions, and justified themselves by claiming they had merely followed their commandant’s orders.

The panel discussion after the screening explored topics such as the re-victimization of rape survivors and the failure to include them in relevant policy-making decisions. Denov spoke about how the perpetrators of sexual violence are usually not punished for their crimes due to inadmissible evidence provided in international courts.

“What you have in many situations are victims who are forced to then see their perpetrators on a regular basis in the community, so there’s a process of re-victimization that often occurs,” Denov said.

“In terms of peace-keeping, the problem currently is that the peace negotiation process is very militarized – there are the head of states, there are the military men [who make the decisions],” Coutu said.

Some international initiatives have already begun to attempt to hold perpetrators accountable for sexual violence. This June, the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict was held in London. The summit was meant to address multiple issues relating to sexual violence in conflict, including coming up with a protocol as to how evidence should be collected when rape survivors wish to bring their perpetrators to court.

“Some of the problems in the past with international criminal trials have been that the evidence from women has not been admissible in court […] so they wanted to create a protocol that can be accepted,” Lloyd-Davies told The Daily.

According to Lloyd-Davies, there is still progress to be made. “I think we need to keep reminding them, keep pressuring them to ensure [that these human rights workers] who are already [helping survivors] do it in [such] a way that it can be used as evidence, and to try to end this perception of impunity that enables men to continue to rape.”

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Transgender Day of Remembrance highlights widespread transphobic violence http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/transgender-day-remembrance-highlights-widespread-transphobic-violence/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/transgender-day-remembrance-highlights-widespread-transphobic-violence/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:00:14 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39493 Vigil honours murdered trans people of colour

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On November 20, over forty people gathered at Norman Bethune Square to mark the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Organized by Queer Concordia, the event started with a candlelight vigil honouring trans people who have been killed as a result of transphobia and concluded with a discussion on the causes of and solutions to anti-trans violence.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance vigils began in 1999 as a response to the brutal murder of Rita Hester, a trans woman of colour living near Boston. A vigil memorializing her death the following day inspired the international Transgender Day of Remembrance, an event that has spread throughout North America and Europe, that collectively honours the thousands of trans individuals around the world that have been killed.

Shannon, who was attending the event for the first time, spoke to The Daily about the significance of the event. “[Trans] rights are human rights, and the fact that there is so much violence that permeates around the world that continues to this day deserves to be illuminated, deserves to be recognized, and deserves to be contested.”

During the vigil, one of the event organizers, Ché Baines, read the names of over eighty members of the trans community killed in the past year while candles were lit to commemorate their lives. Baines said that the vigil was a way to “continue on the legacy of people we’ve lost, and to remind those around us that events like these shouldn’t be needed.”

Looking at the circle of people formed around the candles, Baines reminded participants, “We gather on this day to remember that we also have living community members who face violence every day.”

“I kept telling myself, ‘Well, things would get better.’ […] No […] we’re getting killed on a regular basis.”

Each participant was also invited to read out the location in which and the age at which each individual died along with their names, to give a sense of the widespread nature of anti-trans violence. The list included girls as young as eight and men as old as sixty in locations from Brazil to Belarus.

What was common with most of the named victims was that they were “overwhelmingly trans people of colour,” said Baines. “And the fact that I am running this event, and not a trans woman of colour, and the fact that there are no trans women of colour here, is a shame on all of us,” Baines continued.

Participants were also welcomed to contribute their own personal experiences.

Alanna, a vigil attendee, shared, “I kept telling myself, ‘Well, things would get better. The group [of those killed] is going to get smaller. The event is going to get less important.’ No […] we’re getting killed on a regular basis, this event remains important.”

When asked why it was so important for this event to be held annually, Ash, another attendee, said, “It’s to remind us that when these things happen regularly, they also need regular attention, so they can stop happening.”

Baines added, “It’s not ending, which you would hope, by this time, the numbers would get smaller but they don’t. In fact, the list [of trans people who are killed] is getting longer every year.”

“Every year when I attend or help organize the event, I see more and more people on this list, and it makes me more and more angry, and more and more tired that we don’t take action, that we only remember and [remain] silent,” said Baines.

Baines emphasized that, in the future, events like the vigil should no longer be necessary. “[The point is to] bring our community together so that we can find ways to take action to make sure events like this don’t have to happen anymore.”

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Montrealers march against gendered and sexual violence http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/montrealers-march-gendered-sexual-violence/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/montrealers-march-gendered-sexual-violence/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 11:00:56 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39492 Protesters call for survivor support, better university policies

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Last Friday, around 150 Montreal students and community members marched from Concordia to McGill to advocate for safer communities free of harassment, sexual abuse, and sexual assault for people of all genders.

The march, called “Take Back the Night!,” aims to raise awareness of gendered violence and demonstrate solidarity with survivors of sexual assault.

“Once you look around and you see that so many people share some of the same elements that are in your story, you realize that you’re not alone and that your voices together can become stronger, and together you can affect change,” said Lucy Anacleto of the Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) at the march.

The CGA hosted the march as part of its “A Safer Concordia” campaign. Since 1975, the march has been held annually in cities around the world. Guests from groups such as Accessibilize Montreal, Women in Cities, Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTTeQ), the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS), Quebec Native Women, and the South Asian Women’s Community Centre spoke at this year’s demonstration.

“A lot of women are shamed for talking about what happened to them [during an assault], and I think that just having a huge amount of people come together and march to take back the night shows support for survivors, which I think is really crucial to make people feel comfortable enough to share their stories,” continued Anacleto.

The Reproductive Justice League Choir kicked off the demonstration with some gender-empowering Motown songs. Having rewritten the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” as “You Can’t Coerce Sex,” the choir led the crowd in chanting that only a “passionate yes” means yes.

Speakers from Accessibilize Montreal, Women in Cities, and Quebec Native Women followed before the march began.

Concordia student Sammy Fogel told The Daily what Take Back the Night! meant to her. “[It’s] a space for women and allies to show that they deserve a space in public to be respected and to be admired as human beings.”

Guest speaker Frances Maychak, an external coordinator at SACOMSS, echoed this sentiment. “For some people, being in a public space can be a dangerous or scary experience.”

According to Maychak, Take Back the Night! aims to “build an awareness for people who might not experience that personally, and who might feel particularly safe in public space, in recognizing that for a lot of people who have experienced violence […] those spaces aren’t safe and we need to be working toward making those spaces safer.”

This year’s march focused heavily on sexual assault policies in Montreal universities. “Few Canadian universities have sexual assault policies, and when they do, they are usually limited in their scope. School administrations must actively promote consent and support survivors of sexual assault, not the perpetrators by turning a blind eye,” Anaïs Van Vliet, CGA Board member, told The Daily before the march.

“We want to take back our campuses to make them safer, but university administrations must also do their job, implementing policies and practices to make such campuses a reality,” added Van Vliet.

A student-led working group at McGill recently released a draft of a university-wide sexual assault policy, something that the university has never had.

The controversy surrounding the recently dropped sexual assault charges against three former Redmen football players was also addressed. “Sexual harassment and sexual assault in public spaces is part of the same system of heterosexist, racist, disableist, colonial oppression and ideology. It all stems from the same place as other forms of violence,” said a guest speaker from Women in Cities.

The efforts to combat rape culture also extended beyond incidents on university campuses. Many demonstrators marched holding signs related to taxis in light of the recent news that 17 women in 2014 alone had been sexually assaulted in taxis by drivers in Montreal. They condemned the response of the police – that women should not take cabs alone at night, especially when intoxicated – as victim-blaming.

One demonstrator explained that her sign was her response to those assaults. “We’re here to say that taxis should be a safe place and there should be no victim-blaming, and we need to put the blame back on the perpetrators.”

Upon reaching McGill, guests from the South Asian Women’s Community Centre, ASTTeQ, and SACOMSS spoke. SACOMSS external coordinator Jean Murray concluded this year’s march by expressing a need at McGill for “a [sexual assault] policy that is survivor-focused […] so that survivors are not left with two options: say nothing or go to the police.”

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Sexual assault charges against former Redmen football players dropped http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/sexual-assault-charges-former-redmen-football-players-dropped/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/sexual-assault-charges-former-redmen-football-players-dropped/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 19:48:29 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39373 Prosecution cites insufficient evidence as reason for withdrawal

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Updated November 22.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the days following the hearing, the survivor has come forward to give her side of the story of the events of the trial, as well as what happened during the original assault.

According to a Montreal Gazette article, the witness who testified via email the weekend before the hearing was a resident student advisor in whom the survivor confided the morning after the assault.

The testimony was a four-line email, in which the witness claimed that the survivor had agreed to have sex with the men. After the Crown had failed in contacting the witness, the prosecution decided that the survivor didn’t have enough evidence for the case, and withdrew charges. The witness was never cross-examined on her testimony, according to the article.

The survivor also recounted to Global News the events of the night when she was raped, saying that after meeting two of the players at the Korova Bar, she went to an apartment and was given an opened beer can, which she believes may have been drugged. She remembered being on a bed with the three men and telling them to stop; she woke up in the morning to her clothes being thrown at her, and was asked to leave “because [the players] had to go to practice,” she said.

“The way the trial was dealt with wasn’t fair at all,” the survivor told Global News.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ÉCO plans to hold additional demonstrations in the coming months.

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

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

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

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

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

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

SSMU’s factum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No mediation

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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