News – The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com Leaving McGill to work in the private sector since 1911 Mon, 22 Aug 2016 03:41:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.3 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg News – The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com 32 32 Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline loses its approval http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/07/enbridges-northern-gateway-pipeline-loses-its-approval/ Fri, 15 Jul 2016 22:49:42 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46952 On June 30, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned Ottawa’s approval for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. A panel of three judges ruled that the previous Conservative government failed to adequately consult the would-be affected First Nations communities before approving the $7.9 billion pipeline.

McGill and Enbridge

The ruling was has been lauded by Divest McGill, a student group campaigning for McGill to divest from fossil fuel corporations like Enbridge. McGill had invested $3.4 million in Enbridge according to McGill’s latest investment portfolio published in March 2016.

Divest McGill submitted petitions in 2013 and 2015, urging McGill’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), to recommend to the Board of Governors (BoG) that McGill divest from fossil fuel corporations.

“There is not the degree or extent of injurious impact at this time that results from the activities of fossil fuel companies that would warrant a finding of grave injurious impact.”

Accompanying the 2015 petition was a 150 page document titled “Carbon at All Costs,” which outlined Divest McGill’s arguments and singled out Enbridge as a particularly harmful corporation, both environmentally and socially.

In response to that petition, CAMSR released a report to the BoG in March 2016, stating that divestment from fossil fuel companies “would not be an effective means of addressing climate change.”

“Arguably, cutting off access to fossil fuels would be more likely to result in grave injurious impact in the short-term than the continued reliance on fossil fuels.”

One reason the committee gave for this decision was that fossil fuel companies allegedly do not cause “social injury,” which CAMSR defines as a company’s “grave injurious impact” on “consumers, employees, other persons, or on the natural environment.”

“There is not the degree or extent of injurious impact at this time that results from the activities of fossil fuel companies that would warrant a finding of grave injurious impact,” the CAMSR report continued. “Arguably, cutting off access to fossil fuels would be more likely to result in grave injurious impact in the short-term than the continued reliance on fossil fuels.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip speaks out against CAMSR report

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, decried the CAMSR report. He states that McGill “should have been divesting [from fossil fuels] a decade ago.”

“Without question, we’re the canary in the mineshaft, because it’s impacting us the most since we’re more reliant on the land.”

He stressed that Indigenous people are the first to suffer the effects of climate change, adding that McGill’s refusal to divest is in a “contradiction” with the its launch of  an Indigenous Studies minor and its hosting of the Annual Indigenous Awareness Week.

“Our message has to be clear with respect to the urgency of climate change to Indigenous peoples,” he says. “Without question, we’re the canary in the mineshaft, because it’s impacting us the most since we’re more reliant on the land.”

“As an Indigenous leader, more importantly as a grandfather of 15 grandchildren, I applaud the efforts made to divest [McGill] from dirty oil money.”

The “inherent support [for fossil fuel companies] within major Canadian institutions, whether they be educational, economic, or media […is] disturbing,” Phillip says, and forms a network of support for neocolonialism.

Phillip made it clear that he doesn’t disapprove of everything happening at McGill however, commending Divest McGill’s actions after the publishing of CAMSR’s report. “As an Indigenous leader, more importantly as a grandfather of 15 grandchildren, I applaud the efforts made to divest [McGill] from dirty oil money.”

Looking ahead

Jed Lenetsky, a U2 Environmental Sciences student and Divest McGill organizer, echoed Grand Chief Stewart Phillip’s remarks, adding that, “It’s definitely very hypocritical and falls into the larger pattern of McGill professing concern for societal issues on campus while ignoring the impacts of their policies off campus.”

Lenetsky went on to note that “It’s indicative of McGill’s desire to address these issues in name only; if McGill truly and sincerely wants to do more to address these Indigenous and environmental crises, then more is required of them. Much more.”

“If McGill truly and sincerely wants to do more to address these Indigenous and environmental crises, then more is required of them.”

Although Jed admitted that he did not think that the Court of Appeal’s decision would significantly impact Divest McGill’s cause, he was optimistic, hoping that the decision might “create a domino effect for the denial of other fossil fuel projects in Canada” in the near future.

Grand Chief Phillip also spoke of a possible fossil-free future.

“As a grandfather, I want each and every one of them to think about their own children and grandchildren,” he stated. “We all have a duty and obligation to protect the interests of the future generations, and that work needs to start now. With respect to climate change, it should have started yesterday. And I want them to think very seriously about that.”

“With respect to climate change, it should have started yesterday. And I want them to think very seriously about that.”

A spokesperson from McGill could not be reached by the date of the article’s publication.

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McGill releases 600 pages of documents to Demilitarize McGill http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/07/mcgill-releases-600-pages-of-documents-to-demilitarize-mcgill/ Mon, 11 Jul 2016 01:26:50 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46942 On Tuesday June 21, lawyers representing McGill University gave 600 pages of documents to Cadence O’Neal, a member of Demilitarize McGill, a student group that protests military research on campus. This follows a nearly four-year-long legal battle during which McGill contested numerous access-to-information (ATI) requests to the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec.

According to The Globe and Mail, McGill received 170 ATI requests in 2012, a huge increase from the 37 it had received in 2011. In December 2012, the University submitted a motion to the Commission which would allow McGill to disregard ATI requests from any McGill student, any member of a McGill or Concordia University student newspaper, or anyone who “could reasonably be linked” to people who had made requests that McGill deemed problematic. In October 2013, this motion failed to pass.

“[Requests] are abusive because of their systemic character.”

The McGill administration argued that the requests were part of a coordinated attempt to overwhelm the University and waste its time and resources. The motion read that the requests “are abusive because of their systemic character,” and that the University had “serious grounds and reasons to believe that the same system will be used in the near future by the respondents and others in order to achieve the same illegitimate purposes.”

O’Neal believes that the University’s accusation that she was “participating in a complex system to undermine university functioning by overwhelming the system with access-to-information requests” was a ploy to avoid releasing sensitive information. “Many of us [the students deemed to be making so-called problematic requests] didn’t know each other,” O’Neal continued.

“There’s a lot of information and a lot more detail than we’ve ever really had before.”

Although O’Neal described the University’s allegation as “absurd,” she also expressed cautious optimism following the release of the documents.

“There’s a lot of information and a lot more detail than we’ve ever really had before,” she said. However, she added that “other current and former organizers of Demilitarize McGill are still waiting for their response to the access-to-information requests they made in 2012-2013.” The documents received pertain to requests that were made prior to 2013 which is “one of the most frustrating things about this information,” she added.

When asked about the documents’ contents, O’Neal said that she hadn’t had a chance to look through them thoroughly with other members of Demilitarize McGill. She elaborated, however, that “the nature of the documents that I have so far is extremely dense, [including] mathematical and engineering equations […done] by and for engineers.”

“Other current and former organizers of Demilitarize McGill are still waiting for their response to the access-to-information requests they made in 2012-2013.”

Also included in the documents are Powerpoint presentations and progress reports, mostly consisting of “presentations done by Professor [Wagdi] Habashi or his research assistants or PhD students,” according to O’Neal.

Professor Habashi is the director of the McGill Computational Fluid Dynamics (C.F.D.) Laboratory, and Demilitarize McGill has long documented his research. The group cited one of his articles on their website to demonstrate his involvement in military research, in which Professor Habashi noted that “UAV Missions during the NATO ‘engagement in Afghanistan’ were marked by mid-level icing encounters.’” According to Professor Habashi, this signalled “a need for new forms of ice protection, to be modeled and refined with FENSAP-ICE,” which refers to a technology he researches.

“I’m thinking I’ll find more juicy information about the applications and motivations for the research when McGill gives me 6,000 pages of emails that I’ll be looking at over the next few months.”

Demilitarize McGill hopes that information on Professor Habashi’s research will become clearer as they study the documents. “I haven’t found the nuggets of information that I’m looking for yet,” O’Neal stated.

However, O’Neal made it clear that for her, the best may be yet to come. “I’m thinking I’ll find more juicy information about the applications and motivations for the research when McGill gives me 6,000 pages of emails that I’ll be looking at over the next few months.”

The administration chose not to comment on the matter. Doug Sweet, Director of Internal Communications at the University, said in an email, “the University does not comment on matters that are or have been before a tribunal or court.”

Professor Habashi could not be reached for comment.

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Montréal LGBT community organizes vigil in memory of Orlando victims http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/06/montreal-lgbt-community-organizes-vigil-in-memory-of-orlando-shooting-victims/ Sat, 25 Jun 2016 18:35:37 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46930 On Thursday June 16 at 7pm, thousands of mourners attended a candlelight vigil at the corner of Rue Sainte-Catherine Est and Rue Panet to pay their respects to those who died at the PULSE nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday June 12. Forty-nine people lost their lives, and fifty-three others were injured, in a mass shooting at the nightclub

Montreal LGBT Solidarity

The vigil was held in the heart of Montreal’s Gay Village, near Parc de l’Espoir (which translates, perhaps fittingly, to Hope Park). Attendees carried signs with the pictures of those killed, which read “Trans Lives Matter,” “Black LGBT Lives Matter,” and “Latino LGBT Lives Matter,” highlighting the homophobic nature of the shooting, and the fact that most who died were gay men and women of color.

“Let us put an end to hate, and demand to live in a world without weapons and violence!”

“Let us put an end to racism, sexism, homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia!” said Éric Pinault, President of Fierté Montreal, in French. “Let us put an end to hate, and demand to live in a world without weapons and violence! And above all else, let us open our hearts to the love and to the light surrounding us as to sow peace [in our communities]!”

“I would like to remind everybody that every microaggression, every homophobic, transphobic, or racist act contributed to the events of last Sunday,” said Marlyne Michel, co-president of Arc-en-ciel d’Afrique, in French, stressing that what happened in Orlando was horrific, but calling for the press to put equal emphasis on the daily hardships faced by LGBT communities.

Manon Massé, the Québec provincial MP for Sainte-Marie – Saint-Jacques, herself a self-identified gay woman and activist, was also present at the vigil. She linked the violence in Orlando to attacks against marginalized communities around the world, and spoke to the necessity of fighting intolerance and hate.

“I would like to remind everybody that every microaggression, every homophobic, transphobic, or racist act contributed to the events of last Sunday.”

The names of all 49 victims were read near the end of the vigil, while onlookers held candles.

Québec Premier Philippe Couillard accosted

Québec Premier Philippe Couillard, Montréal Mayor Denis Coderre, and Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly, as well as other federal and provincial MPs, attended the vigil. Days before the vigil, event organizers intentionally stressed that it was intended to be a “non-partisan gathering where all may honour the memory of the victims, reflect on the tragedy and stand united against homophobia, racism and sexism.”

“Tonight is not about politics.”

This didn’t stop several mourners from booing when one spokesperson from Fierté Montréal thanked many provincial and federal politicians for being present at the vigil. “Tonight is not about politics,” the spokesperson responded.

Coderre, Joly, and Couillard all spoke at the vigil, in solidarity with Fierté Montréal and LGBT communities around the globe.

Coderre emphasized the pride he felt at his constituents’ response to the Orlando shooting. “Here [in Montréal], you can live however you choose to, no matter who you are,” he said in French. “If you’re LGBT, that doesn’t matter, because you’re a citizen. You’re a first-class citizen.”

“We love each other the way we are. Let’s be proud of that and preserve that identity,” said Couillard, also speaking French.

“If you’re LGBT, that doesn’t matter, because you’re a citizen. You’re a first-class citizen.”

Both Coderre and Couillard were booed when taking the microphone – particularly Couillard, whose Liberal government has been unpopular due to its implementation of austerity measures. Many have argued that austerity has disproportionately affected institutions that help marginalized communities, such as those who identify as LGBT.

An event organizer responded to the booing by saying in French, “In 1960, what is happening here would not have been possible: a premier, a mayor, a multitude of deputies coming here [to stand in solidarity with LGBT communities].”

“We love each other the way we are. Let’s be proud of that and preserve that identity.”

But the crowd was astonished when Couillard was accosted on stage by Esteban Torres near the end of the vigil. Couillard and Joly were quickly escorted off stage, away from the crowd, while Torres was carried away by the police. He was later charged with assault, according to The Huffington Post Canada.

Torres, who had shouted “Révolution!” before attempting to hit Couillard, had earlier identified himself as a “trans, queer and Latinx activist”, and had been another of the event’s speakers, speaking on behalf of the Pink Bloc.

His speech had denounced islamophobia, misogyny, racism, homophobia and transphobia. While speaking in Spanish, he also condemned colonialism in many Latin American countries.

After some initial disorder, the vigil ended after a rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow”.

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Montrealers protest privatization of Hôtel-Dieu hospital at public assembly http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/06/montrealers-protest-privatization-of-hotel-dieu-hospital-at-public-assembly/ Tue, 07 Jun 2016 02:05:18 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46900 On Thursday May 19th, over 300 Montreal residents attended a public assembly held in the basement of l’Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette and organized by the Hôtel-Dieu Community Project to discuss the future of Montreal’s oldest hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu.

Located at the intersection of Rue Saint-Urbain and Avenue des Pins, the hospital was founded in 1645 by nurse Jeanne Mance, and remains an important Montreal historical site. But with the recent completion of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), a mega-hospital located near the Vendome station, the Hôtel-Dieu is set to be vacated by the end of this year to allow for the merger, privatization, and consolidation of Montreal’s health services.

“The idea of this project is to take this land from the government, to have an agreement where they would give the land to the community and then to develop a number of projects.”

Numerous community organizations like the Milton Parc Community and the Old Brewery Mission have opposed the privatization of the hospital, and put forth plans to put it to good use.

Speaking to CKUT, Théo Rouhette, a McGill student who volunteers with the Coalition communautaire Milton Parc, explained some of the main pillars of the project.

“The idea of this project is to take this land from the government, to have an agreement where they would give the land to the community and then to develop a number of projects,” said Rouhette, “This project would range from social housing to student residences, to urban agriculture, to art exhibitions and galleries, to small businesses, and also to create a public green space for people to interact with the area.”

“We want to make available decent housing for the homeless, and the Indigenous people living in the area.”

Dimitri Roussopoulos, one of the speakers at the assembly, highlighted the importance of providing housing to marginalized communities, and addressed how the Hôtel-Dieu could play a part in doing so.

“We want to make available decent housing for the homeless, and the Indigenous people living in the area,” said Roussopoulos. “We want to establish a lot of social housing, especially cooperatives with green roofs,” Roussopoulos said.

Roussopoulos further spoke about the importance of community with regards to the project.

“We want it, of course, to be community controlled.”

“We want it, of course, to be community controlled,” elaborated Roussopoulos. “In other words, we want the land to be owned by the people, the partners who develop all this.”

Speaking to The Daily in French, Kia Khojandi, a student at Ahuntsic College who attended the event, stressed the importance of preserving the city’s heritage.

“Hôtel-Dieu is Montreal’s oldest hospital,” said Khojandi, “but it is also more than just a hospital. It is a testimonial to the city’s rich history and heritage. […] Thankfully, there are community movements such as this [that] try to preserve the city’s heritage and turn the site into something that is worthy of its historical value and significance.”

The coalition of community organizations working on the project has met with Montreal mayor Denis Coderre, as well as Quebec Minister of Health Gaetan Barrette. The mayor expressed interest in establishing social housing on the site’s current parking lot.

“It is a testimonial to the city’s rich history and heritage.”

“If we want public authorities to listen,” said Khojandi. “We need to continue mobilizing our efforts and show them that we are determined and that we care. That’s why public assemblies such as [these] are so important.”

Acknowledging the importance of social mobilization, Rouhette added, “The success of this story would show [Montreal] that it is possible to create another world where private property and speculation are not the main pillars, and that community-based activities, […] environmental issues, and projects can occur if there is cohesion between the people.”

“If we want public authorities to listen, we need to continue mobilizing our efforts and show them that we are determined and that we care. That’s why public assemblies such as [these] are so important.”

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Night demonstration commemorating the Nakba sees clashes with police http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/05/night-demonstration-commemorating-the-nakba-sees-clashes-with-police/ Sat, 28 May 2016 02:58:57 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46897 On Saturday May 14, the Montreal-based human rights group Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) organized a midnight demonstration to mark the 68th anniversary of the ‘Nakba’, which translates to “the catastrophe” in Arabic. The demonstration aimed to commemorate the expulsion and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland following the 1948 Palestine War and Israel’s subsequent Declaration of Independence.

According to PAJU’s Facebook event page for the demonstration, “Palestine has been subjected to a systemic ethnic cleansing operation at the hands of the Zionist movement for the past 68 years. In a blink of an eye, Palestine was wiped off the map.”

“The Zionist movement has announced the creation of the Israeli state on Palestinian territory through the destruction and expropriation of over 500 villages and towns and the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians to refugee camps all over the world,” the page continued.

“Israel’s military supremacy is the spearhead of its occupation of Palestine.”

Hala Yassin, a member of PAJU, addressed the crowd in French prior to the march, condemning the federal government’s turning a blind eye to Israeli military actions against Palestinians.

“Israel’s military supremacy is the spearhead of its occupation of Palestine,” said Yassin. “It allows Israel to act with impunity. The Israeli army is proud to collaborate with arms manufacturers that brag to clients about testing its products in the field [the Gaza Strip].”

“Can you believe that? Products tested on humans, on Palestinians!” she repeated.

Around 150 people gathered outside the Mont-Royal metro station for the demonstration. Notwithstanding a heavy police presence, the demonstrators chanted “Israel terroriste, Trudeau complice!” in French, (“Terrorist Israel, Trudeau an accomplice!” in English) as they marched from Rue Saint-Denis to Rue Sainte-Catherine and looped back through Boulevard Saint-Laurent.

“Can you believe that? Products tested on humans, on Palestinians!”

“We have to remember that this movement of Zionism, the State of Israel, was not created by the Jewish people that followed the traditions of their forefathers,” said Neturei Karta rabbi David Feldman to the crowd before the march. “These were people who attempted to transform Judaism from a religion into a nationalism.”

“As Jewish people who do practice our religion, we say that that the state of Israel does not represent world Jewry,” Feldman continued. “These people do not speak in the name of our people, they’re not supported by all Jewish people, and certainly the crimes that they are committing are not condoned by Jewish religion.”

The police initially blocked the march at the intersection of Rue Sherbrooke and Rue Saint-Denis, instructing the demonstrators follow their route west of Rue Sherbrooke. After a brief confrontation, the police succumbed and demonstrators continued marching down Saint-Denis, shouting “A nous la rue!”

“As Jewish people who do practice our religion, we say that that the state of Israel does not represent world Jewry.”

The demonstrators stopped in the middle of the intersection at St. Laurent and Mont Royal, blocking off the street to hear a spokesperson for Women of Diverse Origins, Dolores Chew, speak about the importance of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement.

“BDS is what we need to struggle for,” said Chew. “For our communities and all organizations and all our institutions in our church groups, in our political parties – we must push for BDS to be adopted.”

“Israel is really afraid; this is the only thing that is going to make a difference,” Chew continued. “Women of Diverse Origins stands in support of Palestinian women, and their families ask us to take a stand and struggle and not to give up.”

“Israel is really afraid; this is the only thing that is going to make a difference.”

Montreal municipal bylaw P6 (section 2.1), requires march organizers to disclose their route prior to their event. However, Anna, a demonstration organizer, told The Daily in a Facebook message that P6 is “political repression, plain and simple.”

“They want to scare, discourage, and punish people for protesting, so [we] refuse to acknowledge and give power to such a law,” Anna said.

She went on to discuss the connection between refusing to abide by such laws and protesting the Israeli occupation. “All of our adversity is connected to the same systems of oppression and repressive audacity of authority,” she explained.

“They want to scare, discourage, and punish people for protesting, so [we] refuse to acknowledge and give power to such a law.”

Members of the Young Communist League of Canada were also present at the demonstration. Speaking to The Daily, Adrien Welsh, a representative of the League, asserted “To us it is important to denounce [the occupation], first to show our solidarity with the Palestinian people, but also to show that we are active, that we are able to do things although we are geographically far away.”

“It is important to support the resistance through such actions like this demonstration and BDS, and to demand for at least the creation of a Palestinian state, at least within the borders of ’67,” Welsh added.

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Montreal May Day protests end with at least ten arrests http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/05/montreal-may-day-protests-end-with-at-least-ten-arrests/ Thu, 19 May 2016 04:25:21 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46883 On Sunday May 1, hundreds took to the streets for an anti-capitalist protest in honour of International Workers’ Day. Less than an hour into the demonstration, police officers used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowd, after a confrontation on Ste. Catherine Street escalated rapidly. Multiple arrests were made in the hours that followed, as police pursued small groups of protestors throughout the downtown area.

Anti-capitalist protesters gathered at several prearranged meeting points earlier that afternoon, forming smaller groups which coalesced into one large demonstration at the corner of University and de Maisonneuve at around 3:15 pm.

There was a heavy police presence, with dozens of vehicles gathered on nearby streets, a helicopter monitoring the area, and several officers on horseback following the demonstration closely. As protesters made their way through downtown Montreal, rows of officers in riot gear arrived to follow the procession from the sidelines, standing in front of businesses and government buildings.

The anti-capitalist demonstration was organized by the Montreal chapter of Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes (CLAC-Montreal), and attracted a diverse collection of protesters, which included a small but enthusiastic McGill contingent. In addition to the usual anti-capitalist and anti-police chants, shouts of “Free Palestine!” and “Free Kurdistan!” could be heard from the crowd.

“The only way to completely address climate change is to not only limit greenhouse gas emissions but to also tackle the social problems that make marginalized people most vulnerable to the changing climate.”

Environmental activists were also in attendance. The Daily spoke with McGill student Jed Lenetsky, a U1 Environmental Sciences student, about the intersection between anti-capitalist activism and the climate justice movement:

“The shift towards a clean energy economy must include a just transition for workers.”

“Climate justice is firmly based in intersectionality,” said Lenetsky. “The only way to completely address climate change is to not only limit greenhouse gas emissions but to also tackle the social problems that make marginalized people most vulnerable to the changing climate. Fighting for labor rights fits squarely within this mandate.”

Speaking to The Daily, Kristen Perry, a graduating McGill Environmental Sciences student, stressed that “the shift towards a clean energy economy must include a just transition for workers.”

“This means organizing for a living wage and fair working conditions,” Perry said.

Confrontation and Arrests

The protesters marched through the streets of downtown Montreal for nearly a half hour without incident. Small amounts of tear gas were fired on at least two occasions, for reasons that remain unclear, and a number of construction pylons were knocked into the street.The overall situation remained peaceful until the crowd arrived at a police station on Ste Catherine Street.

A confrontation ensued which ended with copious amounts of tear gas fired at protesters. Police also used stun grenades to scatter the crowd.

Some protesters hurled firecrackers and coloured smoke bombs back at the officers, and a window in an adjacent building was shattered. According to CBCNews, police claim protesters began the confrontation, throwing fireworks and tear gas upon arriving at the police station. However, two activists who wished to remain anonymous told The Daily that they witnessed the incident, claiming a tear gas canister caused the damage.

“[The police] shot some tear gas, and it broke a window,” said one of the activists, speaking to The Daily in French. “But it will probably be said that it was protesters that broke the window.”

The activists also told The Daily that they had been attending a feminist conference and had decided to join the demonstration because “when you’re feminist, you’re struggling for more equality, for rights, for recognition, and when you’re anti-capitalist it’s similar. […] It’s essential not to separate the [feminist and anti-capitalist] movements.”

Following the confrontation on Ste. Catherine, small groups of protesters ran down adjoining side streets, pursued by police officers. For the rest of the afternoon, dispersed groups all over downtown Montreal tried to reunite while avoiding the police. Several were detained during this period, with the total number of arrests reported to be at least ten by various news sources, including CBCNews and The Toronto Star.

“[The police] shot some tear gas, and it broke a window. But it will probably be said that it was protesters that broke the window.”

Among those arrested were two McGill students, who preferred to remain anonymous. In an interview with The Daily, the two students said they had been walking peacefully along a downtown sidewalk when a large number of police officers arrived to disperse their group. They were pushed down an alley along with some other protesters and were eventually trapped by the police.

They were then arrested, allegedly for “participating in an illegal demonstration,” despite the fact that they had not been protesting when the police appeared. The officers did not cite any specific piece of legislation, but they still handcuffed and frisked the students, and searched through their coats and bags. Eventually, the students were released without charges. One student told The Daily that she found bruises the next day where the police had held her, and that other students with her were treated more roughly.

“The Police are Our Partners”

Meanwhile, The Daily’s reporter followed another group to Dorchester Square, where a large number of officers scattered protesters with substantial amounts of tear gas. Julie, a McGill student present at the scene, expressed outrage at what she saw as the police’s heavy-handed behaviour:

“I’m feeling frustrated that people who were trying to recover after being chased were then attacked, not only with tear gas, but then [also by] ten or twenty policemen on bikes shouting […] and chasing them […] in the middle of a park!”

She emphasized that police filled the park with tear gas without making sure that bystanders would be affected. These concerns echoed last year’s May Day demonstration, during which passers-by, including children, were teargassed as the police attempted to disperse protesters.

“[The officer] hit her in the leg and then pummelled her, and they then proceeded to hound us.”

Sean, another McGill student, told The Daily what happened when he and a few others were chased onto campus near the Otto Maass Chemistry Building by police:

“Some of the police followed the group going up University, and other officers stopped and started harassing us, and attacked one student – I think she was a student – with a bike. [The officer] hit her in the leg and then pummeled her, and they then proceeded to hound us,” he said.

“Meanwhile, I confronted [a] McGill Security [officer] about this, telling him ‘the police are attacking students on campus, it’s your responsibility to make sure this kind of thing isn’t happening’, and he said ‘the police are our partners.’”

“He said ‘the police are our partners.’”

At around 6:00 pm, roughly a hundred demonstrators gathered at Philips Square, and marched east to Place des Festivals. There, the group dispersed when police arrived, and about a half an hour later, CLAC-Montreal announced via Twitter that the demonstration was officially over.

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Students rally in support of Sexual Assault Policy http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/05/students-rally-in-support-of-sexual-assault-policy/ Mon, 09 May 2016 03:16:34 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46869 On Wednesday April 20, students and community members gathered outside the Leacock Building – where a McGill Senate meeting was in progress – to voice their support for the recently student-drafted Sexual Assault Policy (SAP). The McGill administration withdrew its support for the SAP earlier this month, partly due to its emphasis on intersectionality. According to the SAP, intersectionality “is an approach which recognizes that individuals may experience oppression differently due to their membership in different social and cultural groups.”

Lucie Lastinger, a member of the SAP working group, said that the policy was expected to be brought to Senate for approval on the day that the administration retracted their support.

“We demand that McGill acknowledges that rape culture lives on this campus, and we demand that they do something about it.”

“We’re here today to tell the administration that enough is enough,” Lastinger said, addressing the crowd. “We’re here telling the administration that we’ve gone on for too long without adequate resources and support on this campus.”

“We demand that McGill acknowledges that rape culture lives on this campus, and we demand that they do something about it,” added Lastinger. “We demand a policy that is pro-survivor, proactive, accessible and intersectional. We’ll be here for every Senate meeting from today until our policy gets passed.”

“For far too many people who will experience sexual assault during their time in university, campus will be a site of violence and injustice, rather than healing and support.”

At the rally, the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) President, Molly Swain, denounced McGill administration’s refusal to support the SAP.

“Going to school or work should not be dangerous or traumatizing activities. However, for far too many people who will experience sexual assault during their time in university, campus will be a site of violence and injustice, rather than healing and support,” Swain told The Daily in an email, on behalf of AMUSE.

Students inside the building handed out flyers and buttons to Senators. Cecilia MacArthur, another member of the working group, said this was “an attempt to raise awareness about the policy, the process, and the administration’s recent refusal to move it forward.”

“This was largely motivated by the fact that we’ve been working exclusively with the administration, so other members of Senate – professors, staff, and even other administrators […] – have been largely excluded from the process,” MacArthur explained to The Daily.

“[This was] an attempt to raise awareness about the policy, the process, and the administration’s recent refusal to move it forward.”

Talia Gruber, also a member of the working group, told The Daily that students attended the Senate meeting after the rally.

“At the Senate meeting, there was a commitment to bring a policy on sexual violence forward by the end of 2016, ‘based on our document’,” Gruber said. “There was a question about resources, and the Provost said they would use the resources currently in place.”

“So in my opinion, they only addressed one of our three demands, but people felt hopeful,” Gruber continued.

“Establishing a presence at Senate was an attempt at making our policy, and the need for a sexual assault policy more generally, known,” MacArthur told The Daily.

The demands of the working group include hiring additional staff dedicated to sexual assault prevention and response, a transparent and collaborative review process for determining the best sets of policies for supporting survivors, and forming an ad-hoc Senate committee with student-staff parity to pass “a pro-survivor, proactive, accessible, and intersectional sexual assault policy” before the end of 2016.

“Establishing a presence at Senate was an attempt at making our policy, and the need for a sexual assault policy more generally, known.”

According to some observers, Dean of Students Andre Costopoulos was seen using a side door to enter the Leacock Building to avoid the demonstration. There was also increased security in place at the Senate sign-up location.

The working group released an open letter to the McGill administration earlier this month to denounce their withdrawal of support and reiterate their demands to the administration. The letter was signed by over 1,500 people.

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Administrators withdraw support from Sexual Assault Policy draft http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/administrators-withdraw-support-from-sexual-assault-policy-draft/ Thu, 14 Apr 2016 13:56:38 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46835 On April 7, the Sexual Assault Policy Working Group published an open letter to condemn the McGill administration’s refusal to support the final draft of the Sexual Assault Policy (SAP), which has been in development since 2013. On March 22, Dean of Students André Costopoulos and Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) Angela Campbell informed the working group that they would not be bringing the policy to Senate for approval. Without their support, it would be nearly impossible to have Senate adopt the policy.

The open letter has over 1,300 signatures at the time of this article’s publication. The letter reads, “The administration’s refusal sends a clear message that McGill does not support survivors of sexual assault and is unwilling to commit the resources required to adequately support survivors and address sexual violence on campus.”

The demands of the working group include hiring additional staff dedicated to sexual assault prevention and response, a transparent and collaborative review process for determining the best sets of policies for supporting survivors, and forming an ad-hoc Senate committee with student-staff parity to pass “a pro-survivor, proactive, accessible, and intersectional sexual assault policy” before the end of 2016.

“For him to turn around and say he does not support it in this iteration was surprising, and incredibly disappointing.”

Cecilia MacArthur, a member of the working group, told The Daily that she was frustrated that the administration has used their labour to bolster their own image in the past two years.

“There were definitely benefits for them in purporting to support the policy all along; considering in any article written about sexual assault across Canada, McGill was always cited as ‘developing a policy,’ or something along those lines,” MacArthur wrote in an email to The Daily. “But the administration – namely [Costopoulos] – also made concrete commitments in the past […] so for him to turn around and say he does not support it in this iteration was surprising, and incredibly disappointing.”

According to the open letter, the administration has instead offered an “aspirational document,” a one-page outline of a policy prepared by Costopoulos, as a compromise. However, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke told The Daily that the document is “very watered down and nonspecific.” The alternative to the “aspirational policy” would be developing an entirely new policy through an ad-hoc committee of Senate.

Among the administration’s objections is the incorporation of intersectionality in the policy. Intersectionality, according to the SAP, “is an approach which recognizes that individuals may experience oppression differently due to their membership in different social and cultural groups.” In accordance with this recognition, SAP includes the right “to have access to resources that accommodate [one’s] particular experiences and identities” among the list of rights survivors should be provided.

In an email to The Daily, Campbell explained her objection to the current incorporation of intersectionality in the SAP.

“For her to say she tried to work on intersectionality with us is truly a mystery to me.”

Campbell said, “Incorporation [of intersectionality] into any policy or procedure must be done carefully and responsibly to ensure that the interests of all equity-seeking groups, especially those affected by intersectionality, are identified and foregrounded.”

“The University did not reject the integration of intersectionality within a policy addressing sexual assault, but in dialogue with the working group, indicated that more work and discussion are required to accomplish the goals set above,” Campbell continued.

While the administration has been in touch with media about the SAP open letter, according to Talia Gruber, another member of the working group, it has not reached out to the working group itself.

“The only meeting [Campbell] ever came to was this last one [on March 22]. We invited her to at least three other meetings which she did not attend,” Gruber told The Daily in an interview. “So for her to say she tried to work on intersectionality with us is truly a mystery to me. The only time she even brought it up was at the last meeting to justify not passing the policy.”

“We intentionally named people to ensure that they are adequately represented in the policy and in all measures within it.”

At the March 22 meeting, Campbell objected to naming historically marginalized groups in the SAP. Gruber told the Daily that the inclusion of these terms is important for the working group.

“We intentionally named people to ensure that they are adequately represented in the policy and in all measures within it,” Gruber said.

Campbell has also objected to including a definition of consent in the policy that could potentially conflict with the legal definition of consent. However, according to the working group, McGill Legal Services has already approved this use and other universities have included a definition of consent in their policies.

Gruber mentioned to The Daily that the working group was willing to let go of its request for the addition of another staff member for responding to sexual violence on campus.

“All the things admin are saying they can’t have in the policy are all things that the working group openly agreed to take out or change. The problem isn’t those things – it’s just an unwillingness to fight for a policy created ‘untraditionally,’ i.e. not through Senate,” Gruber said. “The only things we really didn’t agree to change were the intersectionality bits and the pro-survivor [clauses].”

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Female SSMU executives decry tone-policing in student politics http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/female-ssmu-executives-decry-tone-policing-in-student-politics/ Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:06:53 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46648 Out of the ten students who ran for election to the SSMU executive for the 2016-17 year, only one candidate, Elaine Patterson, is a woman. Patterson, who beat her opponent Dushan Tripp by a margin of 1,258 votes for the role of VP Student Life in March, will be the only woman on next year’s executive.

According to Fall 2015 enrolment rates, women make up 56.8 per cent of the McGill student body. Historically, the number of women on the SSMU executive has rarely reflected the composition of the student body. In the current year’s executive, there is gender parity, but next year Patterson will be one woman among six men, five of whom are white.

“Bossy” and “bitchy” women in politics

“When I found out that I was going to be the only female-identified person running, I was kind of taken aback,” Patterson told The Daily. “It’s remarkable that there is only one woman on this executive team.”

“At the debates it was brought up […] three times that I was the only woman who was running for these positions,” she said. “That’s kind of when it hit me more, that, wow, I’m really determined to be successful in this election because not only do I think that I do have the qualifications to be in this position, but I do think that it would be really horrible to have an executive made up of entirely seven men.”

Asked why she thought so few women ran in elections, Patterson cited the “harmful” personal attacks launched against candidates Céleste Pagniello and Alexei Simakov during the by-election for VP Internal in November.

“Putting yourself on a very public pedestal when you’re running for these elections can be kind of scary.”

“It’s no secret that SSMU elections have been tumultuous in the past,” Patterson explained. “Putting yourself on a very public pedestal when you’re running for these elections can be kind of scary.”

“I think that women who pursue leadership positions have been, and still are, labelled as being ‘bossy’ in the workplace, or hear things like ‘she’s such a bitch because she told me to do this,’” continued Patterson. “That kind of language and that kind of attitude might be a reason why women aren’t really interested in putting themselves out there to run for these leadership positions.”

Emily Boytinck, the current VP External, said in an interview that she “can’t imagine what it’s going to be like for [Elaine] next year.”

“She’s going to be held to a higher standard of diplomacy than anyone else. If she responds to an aggressive email in an aggressive way, then it’ll escalate rather than the club being like ‘Oh, she’s right,’” said Boytinck.

“Politics do not bode well for women with opinions”

Boytinck explained that one of the most significant challenges she faced as a SSMU executive was tone-policing from others, as well as an internalized form of “self-censoring.”

Boytinck continued, “I’ve felt a strong need to self-censor a bit, to use arguments that I think will make me sound cool and logical – basically doing everything in my power to not be stereotyped as a rad, passionate woman, even though in many ways that’s who I am. […] Sometimes I do leave feeling like no matter what I could have said, men in the room wouldn’t take me seriously,” Boytinck continued. “Politics do not bode well for women with opinions.”

She also said she has “noticed that over the years, women [on the executive] tend to leave the SSMU feeling just exasperated, totally overwhelmed, shut down, or angry.”

She added that, as a white woman, the tone-policing and self-censorship that she experiences is less severe than that faced by women of colour, or other marginalized identities. “Maybe that’s why there are so few women of colour who run for SSMU,” she suggested.

Asked if she has experienced tone-policing as a female executive, VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke said she “absolutely” had. However, she added that she was very hesitant to call out observed or experienced instances of sexism because she felt that the burden of proof is placed impossibly high. “My personal interpretation of the experience is often immediately viewed as biased and thus untrustworthy due to my identity as a woman,” she continued.

“My personal interpretation of the experience is often immediately viewed as biased and thus untrustworthy due to my identity as a woman.”

Rourke added that many spaces within student politics, like meetings with the administration, Senate, and Legislative Council, “reject feminine qualities.”

“Emotion and sensitivity are viewed as weakness, or that they somehow render individuals incapable of rational thought,” explained Rourke.

Student media has also been complicit in tone-policing of student executives. For example, in 2010, the McGill Tribune editorial board endorsed Sarah Woolf for SSMU President, but noted that they were “concerned, however, about Woolf’s ability to control her emotions when she becomes passionate about an issue,” and called on Woolf to “employ more diplomacy and tact if she is elected.”

Patterson also expressed apprehension about being heard and taken seriously in her work next year. “My voice is very light and airy sometimes, and I feel like people don’t necessarily hear me when I am trying to interject,” she commented. “I think that next year I would have no problem raising my voice or, if necessary, taking on a masculine tone in order to get a point across. But I say that and it makes me cringe; it kind of makes my heart break. If that’s the way I’ll need to be heard, then are we really progressing?”

Facing constant scrutiny and unreasonably high standards can take a toll on the mental health of student politicians, as well as their ability to perform their duties. “I’m exhausted from feeling that I have to be extra competent, extra careful in how I am presenting myself, and work extra hard to be treated with the legitimacy and respect of a man,” said Rourke.

“If that’s the way I’ll need to be heard, then are we really progressing?”

The Daily reached out to 2014-15 VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette and President Courtney Ayukawa in an attempt to include perspectives from women of colour. Both cited their difficult experiences within SSMU as reason for declining to be interviewed.

In an email to The Daily, Ayukawa said, “My term as SSMU President last year was incredibly stressful and unhealthy (both physically and mentally). Notably, one of the reasons why I initially ran for the position in 2015 was the fact that all of the other 3 candidates for President were men and and only 1 of the 3 was a person of colour.”

Not enough women at the table

Boytinck also spoke about how the underrepresentation of women extended beyond SSMU into provincial student politics. “At the last UEQ [Union étudiante du Québec] meeting I went to, there were 28 men and 8 women. Furthermore, of the people who did speak, even in delegations where there was a woman, it was the man speaking – even if the woman was the VP External,” she said.

Since 2006, only six non-male candidates have run for the role of SSMU VP External, within a pool of 19 candidates. Out of the past eleven VP Finance & Operations executives, ten have been men.

“SSMU does give you a really big voice to speak to important things that are happening on campus and elsewhere, and if women aren’t stepping up, then women’s voices just won’t be heard in those spaces, and that’s a really big issue,” said Boytinck.

Rourke, however, said that she doesn’t believe SSMU has a chronic underrepresentation of women. “In general, I believe that SSMU executives have historically been quite diverse, at least in comparison to other universities,” she argued.

“I’m proud because I’m glad that there is at least some kind of representation, but I’m disappointed because I will not be able to represent various different intersectionalities of women.”

Since 2006, there have been 26 SSMU Presidential candidates, only 6 of whom were non-male. Of the 11 Presidents elected, just 3 were not men. The first female president was elected in 1965, and in 2011 The Daily reported that in over 100 years of the students’ society, only nine of our presidents have been women.

Patterson said that she was both “proud and disappointed” to be the only woman on next year’s executive. “I’m proud because I’m glad that there is at least some kind of representation, but I’m disappointed because I will not be able to represent various different intersectionalities of women,” she elaborated. “I am a straight, white, cis woman, and that comes with an incredible set of privileges that I am aware of.”

Patterson added that next year she hoped to “hire as diverse a team of student staff to work for [her] portfolio as possible” to rectify the homogeneity of the current executive.

Rourke similarly noted that “having females in positions of power also does not guarantee that issues of all women are heard or even that women’s issues are heard, particularly if the women who are elected are themselves very privileged and ignorant of principles of equity and intersectionality.”

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Divest McGill organizes sit-in to demand revision of CAMSR report http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/divest-mcgill-organizes-sit-in-to-demand-revision-of-camsr-report/ Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:04:12 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46669 At 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday, March 29, nine members of Divest McGill, a campus climate justice group, entered the James Administration building through a back door and began a sit-in in the reception area outside Principal Suzanne Fortier’s office. They remained there for 72 hours, protesting the Board of Governors (BoG)’s recent decision not to divest its holdings in the fossil fuel industry.

The BoG voted against divestment on March 23 during a closed session of a meeting outside its regular schedule. The agenda had not been publicized in advance, unlike its other meetings. The BoG’s decision followed the release of a report by its Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), which claimed that climate change does not cause “grave social injury,” and that divestment was therefore unwarranted.

During their sit-in, the activists met with Fortier for their first formal meeting in two years to discuss their frustration with the BoG’s decision and articulate their demands. The Daily provided live coverage of events from the reception room throughout the week.

Meanwhile, a larger group of Divest McGill members and supporters set up camp in Community Square, where they held daily rallies and “teach-ins” in support of divestment. The week of protest culminated in a ceremony on Friday morning during which several McGill alumni returned their diplomas to protest the BoG’s decision.

Divest’s demands

The activists staging the sit-in in Fortier’s reception room had three demands for the administration: that the University hold public hearings on the CAMSR report and educational events concerning divestment and climate change and that the concerns raised at these events be addressed in a revised version of the report submitted by January 2017; that CAMSR publicly disclose all expert testimony gathered during its investigation on climate change and divestment; and that Fortier make a public statement acknowledging that the fossil fuel industry causes grave social harm.

Shortly after their arrival in the reception room, the activists were met by Vice-President (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa, Vice-President (Communications and External Relations) Olivier Marcil, and Chief of Staff Susan Aberman, who received copies of Divest McGill’s demands.

At this initial meeting, the administration called the demands unrealistic, denying the broad support in the McGill community for fossil fuel divestment.

Later that day, Dean of Students André Costopoulos stopped by the reception area, and spoke briefly with Emily Boytinck, a member of Divest McGill and current Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP External. Security personnel had initially told the group that they could not stay in the room, and repeatedly told them to leave. Costopoulos, however, said otherwise, telling Boytinck that “as long as [the sit-in is] safe and there’s no danger, there’s no reason for the administration to act in any way.”

Life inside the James Administration building

During the next 48 hours, there was virtually no interaction between the administration and the nine student activists. Soon after the students’ arrival in the reception area, security personnel were stationed outside the exterior doors, and all doors leading to the inner offices were double-locked.

Meanwhile, staff employed in the inner offices were directed by McGill Security to take an alternate route through the building, to avoid the reception room. On Wednesday afternoon, the second day of the sit-in, some of the students expressed frustration over this, telling The Daily that they felt somewhat ignored by the administration.

As the sit-in continued, the cramped physical space began to take its toll on the protesters. Fortier’s reception room lacks windows, so for much of the week, the only source of fresh air was through a slightly open window in a nearby washroom.

Additionally, some of the lights in the room were reportedly motion-activated, and remained on throughout the sit-in, making it difficult to sleep. By Thursday morning, many of the activists described feeling restless, exhausted, and somewhat disoriented as a result of the constant fluorescent glare combined with the lack of fresh air and natural light.

The students were also not permitted to walk around in the administration building except to access a nearby washroom and water fountain. They were only allowed to descend to the lobby one at a time to meet with members of the press and receive deliveries of food from supporters.

Despite the mental and physical stresses of their environment, the mood in the reception room remained overwhelmingly positive throughout the week.

“[Our] advantage is in our solidarity, and I think that’s where [the opponents of our cause] fall apart.”

In a post on Divest McGill’s website published on Wednesday, activist Ava Mohsenin, who was a part of the sit-in, wrote: “It’s easy to feel isolated up here – no sunlight, no windows, no showers, no visitors except for The McGill Daily. But what is keeping us […] hopeful and inspired is the growing number of campers outside, camping with us for climate justice. […] It’s the University of Toronto locking their President’s Office in response to our sit-in, fearing their divestment campaign will follow suit. It’s the media [coverage that] draws attention to our call for transparency.”

Speaking to The Daily, another activist present at the sit-in, who wished to remain anonymous, shared Mohsenin’s positive outlook. “I hold [the other students here] in the highest respect,” he said, “and I consider them fellow activists that I can really confide in. [Our] advantage is in our solidarity, and I think that’s where [the opponents of our cause] fall apart. Our dynamics are surprisingly […] composed, [given] the amount of stress we’ve been under.”

He also expressed an appreciation for the generally pleasant and accommodating staff and security personnel who interacted with the activists, an opinion echoed by the rest of the group on more than one occasion.

The only incident of direct confrontation between the activists and staff occurred on Tuesday morning, immediately after the group’s arrival in the reception room. As Aberman was entering the reception area from Fortier’s office, Divest member Michael Lifshitz attempted to hold open the door to allow the group to get through, eventually sitting down in front of it.

A building employee then assaulted Lifshitz, pulling him roughly away from the doorway, and at one point attempting to shut the door while his arm was in the way. A McGill Security officer present at the scene made no effort to intervene directly, but instead yelled at Lifshitz, who remained sitting, to get out of the way. The officer also told The Daily’s reporter that she did not have the right to be taking photographs, and attempted to block her view as the assault was in progress.

The Daily contacted McGill Security to ask why this incident was allowed to take place, given that McGill Security’s stated mission is to protect the McGill community, but has received no reply at the time of publication.

Meeting with Fortier

When the activists began their sit-in on Tuesday morning, Fortier was in California visiting Stanford University. However, she returned on Thursday, and arrived at the reception room at 2:30 p.m. with Provost Christopher Manfredi to meet with the students. According to activist Jed Lenetsky, Fortier had not spoken directly with Divest McGill since the summer of 2014, and had refused to meet with them several times during the past few months.

During Thursday’s meeting, Fortier and Manfredi repeatedly insisted that their priority was to follow the recommendations of the CAMSR report, which included “looking at opportunities for, and supporting, sound investments in alternative […] energy firms, alternative technology development and commercialization,” and raising awareness about climate change.

In response, the Divest McGill members said that supporting a transition to clean energy would certainly be worthwhile, but that the CAMSR report itself and the non-transparent way in which it was presented and voted on were deeply problematic.

The students’ first demand was that the report be rewritten to address the community’s criticisms, but Fortier maintained that the report had been voted on, and was final. Bureaucratic processes such as this must be respected for the sake of democracy, she argued. A Divest McGill member replied that “democracy works best when those who are decision [makers] represent the community.”

Boytinck argued that the report should be rewritten, saying, “[This report] didn’t even talk about Indigenous consent and that is particularly troubling. […] I don’t understand how we can have these public consultation sessions on this report that has such inconsistencies and completely ignore the realities of students on your own campus, and yet refuse to change the report.”

With regard to Divest McGill’s second demand, Fortier told the group that for CAMSR to reveal information about the experts consulted without their consent would be a violation of their freedom of speech. However, she and Manfredi agreed to ask for the experts’ permission to release their information.

“I felt helpless. […] I feel like [Fortier] just doesn’t hear us.”

Fortier categorically refused the activists’ third demand: that she publicly acknowledge the grave social injury caused by the fossil fuel industry. Climate change causes social harm, she told the group, but not grave social harm. She went on to suggest that the social harm caused by fossil fuel companies was comparable to that caused by individuals.

“For the most part,” Fortier said, fossil fuel companies “are lawful companies operating within the law.” She then asked an incredulous Divest McGill member if they themselves had ever broken a law.

After the meeting, The Daily spoke with several of the student activists at the sit-in.

“It bothers me that when they’re making these decisions, deciding that the fossil fuel companies don’t cause grave social injury to Indigenous communities or [marginalized] communities in general, they’re directly ignoring their Indigenous students. It’s insulting to [those] students,” said Sophie Birks.

“I felt helpless. […] I feel like [Fortier] just doesn’t hear us,” said Mohsenin.

In the press release published by Divest McGill after the meeting, activist Julia Bugiel, who had not been present in the reception room, wrote: “The [BoG] ignoring unlawful acts by fossil fuel companies with the reasoning that all companies break the law; the narrow-minded view of social injury; the fundamental ignorance of our arguments; these all point to a Principal who is failing McGill by not upholding the high intellectual standard for which the university is known.”

Diploma returning ceremony

Divest McGill’s week of protest culminated at 11:30 a.m. on Friday April 1, when dozens of McGill students and alumni gathered outside the James Administration building to participate in a diploma returning ceremony. Planned by Divest McGill and alumni, the event provided an opportunity for McGill graduates to express their opinions on the BoG’s refusal to divest.

After exiting the building, the nine Divest members who participated in the sit-in spoke to the crowd gathered outside, condemning the administration’s lack of meaningful action on climate justice, and bringing attention to ongoing acts of protest at campuses across the country.

Each of the nine activists pledged their support to the movement, speaking one at a time:

“We pledge to never give up until McGill divests from the fossil fuel industry. […] We pledge to be on the right side of history. […] We pledge to continue our activism, cognizant of the rights of Indigenous communities, and the struggles of other activists across campus. […] We pledge to persist in direct actions, so we don’t have to return our diplomas when we graduate.”

“We don’t speak loudly, we do not occupy buildings, as these courageous people do, but we speak a language [Fortier] will understand very soon.”

Following this, alumni stood in front of the crowd, one by one, explaining why they were returning their diplomas.

Naghmeh Sabet, one of the alumni returning her diploma, explained that she was a portfolio manager at Scotiabank. She said that a client had recently asked her to manage a $2 million donation to McGill. Upon receiving Fortier’s email announcing the BoG’s vote against divestment, she consulted with her client, and they decided not to make the donation after all. Until McGill divests, she implied, she would advise her other clients not to donate to the university, either.

Naghmeh Sabet at the diploma returning ceremony.Harry Tainton | The McGill Daily

Naghmeh Sabet at the diploma returning ceremony.

“The funds that will not come to McGill will hurt,” she said, to loud cheering from the crowd. “We don’t speak loudly, we do not occupy buildings, as these courageous people do, but we speak a language [Fortier] will understand very soon.”

A speaker from the Northwest Territories, Kata Kuhnert, concluded the event, responding directly to CAMSR’s controversial claims: “I can tell you that there is severe, grave social injury caused by fossil fuels.” Northern communities are marginalized and often vulnerable to discrimination, said the speaker, and their lives and their environment are being transformed by the catastrophic effects of climate change. The diploma returning ceremony ended at noon, concluding the week’s events.

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Medical student files lawsuit against McGill Faculty of Medicine http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/medical-student-files-lawsuit-against-mcgill-faculty-of-medicine/ Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:03:57 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46665 In 2011, KC*, a medical student at McGill, entered the university’s General Surgery residency program. At the time, he did not know that he had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). By November 2013, he had withdrawn from the program due to physical and mental exhaustion.

In the time between, KC was diagnosed, put on academic probation for his academic performance prior to diagnosis, appealed the decision to no avail, and faced discrimination from members of the Faculty and other barriers that prevented him from being appropriately accommodated.

Citing “discrimination and violation of his right to dignity and honor,” the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) filed a complaint on KC’s behalf against McGill in November 2015. The case was brought to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission. Currently, KC and CRARR are waiting to see if McGill will accept mediation. If it does not, the case will be referred to investigation.

Initial concerns

During his first year at McGill, KC started experiencing insurmountable academic difficulties. In an interview with The Daily, he said, “I was studying twice as hard as others,” yet he was not getting good results. “Also that year I did fail […] two exams that were important, despite working hard,” KC added.

In October 2012, KC began to wonder if he had ADHD. He informed his program director, Paola Fata, of his speculations and told her that he would be undergoing testing for ADHD.

“She just decided on her own that I have an inability. […] Medically, legally, you can never say that.”

According to KC, Fata verbally told him that she was not comfortable with the situation. However, KC said Fata made a written note at the time, which he obtained a copy of a few years later. According to KC, she had written that his ability to carry out his clinical or senior responsibilities was affected, presumably by his disability.

“She just decided on her own that I have an inability. […] Medically, legally, you can never say that.” From that point on, according to KC, Fata decided that he could no longer fulfill the task of taking surgical calls.

Diagnosis, academic probation and appeals

When KC was officially diagnosed with ADHD, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada accommodated him for exams. He re-took the two exams he had previously failed, and in June 2013, he was informed that he had passed. However, in May 2013, he was put on academic probation.

“I was not given the chance to appeal that decision in front of [the General Surgery] [promotions] committee.”

KC said that the decision to place him on probation was based solely on his performance until the end of December 2012, which was before his diagnosis, the start of his treatment, and his having learned to manage his ADHD. “I was not given the chance to appeal that decision in front of [the General Surgery] [promotions] committee,” KC added. “Usually you can appeal [such a decision] in front of your own program’s promotion committee […] before it is final.”

In the summer of 2013, he appealed to the Faculty Postgraduate Promotions Committee, requesting accommodations for his disability, but his appeal was rejected. According to KC, the committee claimed that he had been treated for ADHD, but that his condition did not improve. “You cannot treat ADHD,” he said. Instead, he was forced to start the probation period.

“You cannot treat ADHD.”

KC was pressured to abandon his residency and re-apply a year later. “My learning opportunities were cut off and, besides that, I was expected to perform [academically] in a very good manner, although I was kind of stuck against the wall,” because he had stopped taking surgical calls months before, KC said.

That Fall, three and a half years into his residency program, KC chose to go on medical leave. As a result of these series of events, he had developed symptoms of depression and anxiety.

KC also met with the director of the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) at the time, Frédéric Fovet, who informed KC that he was the third medical resident to contact him regarding disability-related discrimination and lack of accommodation. KC contacted the Ombudsman at McGill to report his case, who said the Dean of Students, André Costopoulos, would handle it. Costopoulos agreed that he should have received accommodations to prevent his situation from deteriorating, but nothing came of this.

“My learning opportunities were cut off and, besides that, I was expected to perform [academically] in a very good manner, although I was kind of stuck against the wall.”

KC alleges instead that when Armand Aalamian, the Associate Dean of Postgraduate Medical Education and Professional Affairs, started at McGill, he did not recognize KC’s disability. KC had to submit to more testing, which again confirmed his diagnosis.

A year before resigning, KC met with the Human Rights Commission and informed the Faculty of Medicine of this meeting. He told the Faculty that “it would be a case that [the Commission] would accept,” but his situation, again, remained unchanged.

A systemic problem

In June 2015, the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS) put McGill’s Undergraduate Medical Education (UGME) program on probation for failing to meet 24 accreditation standards and requiring monitoring on an additional eight.

“Issues of accommodation were not in the accreditation survey.”

Dean of Medicine and Vice Principal (Health Affairs) David Eidelman told The Daily in an interview that there were four categories of problems that CACMS identified, including curricular monitoring, issues related to clinical learning environments, failure of the school’s program at a teaching site in Gatineau to meet certain criteria, and changes to the curriculum that had not been implemented.

Eidelman highlighted that “issues of accommodation were not in the accreditation survey.” He also noted that the Faculty of Medicine is not on probation, only the UGME.

But in an interview with The Daily, Fo Niemi, executive director of CRARR, said “We wonder to what extent there’s a correlation [between KC’s case and the school’s probation] because I don’t think we can solve this case without addressing what we call the more systemic problem.”

“We wonder to what extent there’s a correlation [between KC’s case and the school’s probation] because I don’t think we can solve this case without addressing what we call the more systemic problem.”

Niemi said that “one of the conditions of probation is that you have to improve the issue of mistreatment of students when they complain or when they need help.”

According to Eidelman, since being put on probation, the school has upgraded the quality and functioning of the curriculum committee, revised the administration of education services, and revisited the consultation and governance models in place for the faculty, among other changes.

“One of the conditions of probation is that you have to improve the issue of mistreatment of students when they complain or when they need help.”

KC informed The Daily of at least six other residents who he says have not been accommodated or faced roadblocks to accommodations. “Even if [students are] informed and supported, the faculty seems to be requiring one proof after another, to the point where [people’s cases] just get drawn out,” Niemi said.

While Niemi and KC question if these complaints signify a systemic issue, in an interview with The Daily, Costopoulos noted that he does not believe there are more student complaints or issues filed in the Faculty of Medicine than in other faculties.

When students bring a complaint to him, Costopoulos said his office works to understand both the student’s situation and any constraints of the faculty, and also reaches out to appropriate services, such as the OSD. His office proposes solutions and, according to him, “usually it works.”

However, “In a very few cases [consensus isn’t reached], and that may lead to escalating to a decision by a dean in a faculty or, ultimately, in very, very few cases, a grievance,” he admitted. KC’s situation appears to be one such case, as his meeting with Costopoulos did not yield a solution with the Faculty.

When asked about her experience with medical students, Teri Phillips, the director of the OSD, told The Daily in an email, “In my five months as the director of the OSD, I have not personally met with any medical students […] nor have I had any specific concerns brought to my attention.”

“In a very few cases [consensus isn’t reached], and that may lead to escalating to a decision by a dean in a faculty or, ultimately, in very, very few cases, a grievance.”

“Generally, the Faculty [of Medicine] is very accommodating to students in terms of things related to health and well-being,” Eidelman told The Daily.

“Whether that meets the expectations of all students, I can’t say,” he added. Eidelman admitted that “sometimes students and the administration disagree on what is a valid reason for accommodation,” but he believes that this does not apply to health problems.

“This case will hopefully be a wake up call, because the moment the Dean of Students is informed, that’s part of management, [so] the entire university management, like it or not, must be informed.”

Niemi maintains that “the facts speak for themselves. This case will hopefully be a wake up call, because the moment the Dean of Students is informed, that’s part of management, [so] the entire university management, like it or not, must be informed.”

*Name has been changed

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McGill students, Montrealers debate and protest Ghomeshi verdict http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/mcgill-students-montrealers-debate-and-protest-ghomeshi-verdict/ Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:03:34 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46644 In response to the March 24 verdict where former CBC radio broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted of four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking, several groups at McGill and in the broader Montreal community organized events to discuss and protest the verdict.

Ethics in criminal sexual assault trials

On March 29, McGill Law students Anna Goldfinch and Nazampal Jaswal hosted a panel called “Beyond Ghomeshi: Creating Ethical Practices in Criminal Sexual Assault Trials.” The panel featured crown prosecutor Sara Henningsson, criminal defence lawyer Suzanne Costom, Constance Backhouse, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, and Toronto-based community activist, support worker, and artist Chenthoori Malankov. The panel was moderated by Alana Klein, a criminal law professor at the McGill Faculty of Law.

Henningsson said that “the [Ghomeshi] trial received so much attention that it is difficult to plow through and prosecute the case.”

In the verdict, Justice William Horkins questioned the three complainants’ credibility and said they were “less than full, frank and forthcoming” in their version of events. At the panel, Costom argued that “complainants, if caught in a lie, throw their whole testimony into doubt, even if it is about something as small as the weather.”

“We still search for the ‘worthy victim,’ but it is now masked in the language of credibility.”

Backhouse, a legal historian, suggested that the scrutiny of the complainants’ credibility was motivated by sexist norms of disbelief towards survivors of sexual assault. “We still search for the ‘worthy victim,’ but it is now masked in the language of credibility,” she said. “Our deeply sexist culture is reaching back into history.”

While discussions of the fairness of the verdict have been polarizing, Goldfinch told The Daily that “there aren’t actually ‘sides’ to this issue per se, but rather complex societal issues and a criminal justice system that is not always equipped to acknowledge and address these issues. Law can be overly clinical sometimes, and it can forget to address historical context, or issues of systemic discrimination, and trauma.”

She continued, “This is why in addition to bringing in lawyers who practice criminal law, we also brought a legal historian and a community activist and support worker to humanize the discussion.”

Jaswal told The Daily in an interview, “It was important for me to come into the space wanting to learn. While the panel discussions were going on, I was confronted with points of view and information about the realities of the court process that I hadn’t considered. Hearing a range of perspectives, I now feel better equipped to enter into this discussion myself.”

Demonstration at McGill

On March 31, the Sexual Assault Centre of McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS), as part of its annual Sexual Assault Awareness Week, organized a demonstration in support of survivors as a response to the Ghomeshi trial. Held in Community Square, the demonstration aimed to create a space to discuss the failure of the criminal justice system and the McGill administration to support survivors of sexual assault.

On the Facebook event page for the demonstration, the organizers wrote, “In the wake of the Ghomeshi trial, we are reminded that our criminal justice system, and our society at large, do not support survivors. We are reminded that our own university does not have institutionalized mechanisms to deal with sexual violence, nor has committed to the pro-survivor, intersectional support we need.”

Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke spoke about the University’s lack of cooperation with regard to the Sexual Violence Policy, formerly known as the Sexual Assault Policy.

“No matter how many articles are written, no matter how many student leaders speak up, no matter how much research we show them, it seems that they still refuse to listen, and that is so incredibly frustrating to me.”

“No matter how many articles are written, no matter how many student leaders speak up, no matter how much research we show them, it seems that they still refuse to listen, and that is so incredibly frustrating to me,” Rourke said.

She continued, “We shouldn’t need a public scandal to happen [for survivors] to be listened to. And we don’t want change that comes from harm. We want change and we want it now.”

Sara Sebti, an Iranian McGill student who attended the demo, noted that Ghomeshi is Iranian, but that the Iranian community has been silent on Ghomeshi’s actions. In an email to The

Daily Sebti spoke of grappling with the fact that “the men of colour in my life […] who were beacons of hope for a generation, simultaneously harmed those they loved behind closed doors.”

Sebti wrote, “Where do we start, what is the goal, how do I have these conversations with my family? I am afraid and at times I feel bitterly alone.”

“Cry-in” to voice grief for survivors

The same day as the demonstration, a “cry-in” was held in Phillips Square for people to voice their grief for the four women who testified against Ghomeshi and all survivors of sexual assault. The event was inspired by a similar cry-in organized in New York in March 2015, in honour of Ana Mendieta, a Cuban-American artist. Mendieta was allegedly killed by her husband, who was acquitted based on grounds of “reasonable doubt.”

Tessa Liem, an organizer of the event, explained to The Daily in an email that the goal of the event was to reclaim crying, typically seen as a sign of feminine weakness, as an act of protest and healing. “Our sadness is meant to be a form of resistance. It is also meant to acknowledge the very real pain of survivors and allies,” wrote Liem.

Around 15 people sat in a semicircle facing the sidewalk at Phillips Square with signs explaining their action. “We were received positively for the most part,” noted Liem. “Passersby shared their own stories with us, two young men sat with us for a few minutes, another man said, ‘it’s not easy what you’re doing’ and congratulated us.”

“I realized I didn’t want to cry, I wanted to scream with rage,” Cherie, another organizer of the event, told The Daily in an interview. “For me this was the most epic part, and the part that felt the best for me, in terms of getting out my feelings that were bottled up in me. So I just started screaming, like rage power hardcore screaming and then everybody was letting loose, and it was ricocheting off the skyscrapers.”

“So often we are told that we should be composed, ‘keep it together,’ and many of us do compose: we write essays, stories, poems,” said Liem. “But really the event was about asking people to acknowledge that these traumas are devastating.”

An earlier version of this article misspelled Constance Backhouse’s name as “Blackhouse” in one instance. The Daily regrets the error.

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The curious case of the peaceful anti-police brutality protest http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/the-curious-case-of-the-peaceful-anti-police-brutality-protest/ Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:03:21 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46640 On March 15, the 20th annual demonstration against police brutality, organized by the Collectif opposé à la brutalité policière (COBP), ended peacefully, to the surprise of many. In previous years, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) have consistently kettled marchers, issued tickets, and assaulted demonstrators.

Two weeks after the march took place, demonstrators and journalists who regularly attend Montreal anti-police brutality events are still questioning why the police behaved so differently this year.

In an interview with The Daily, Jennifer Bobette, a Montreal-based artist and COBP sympathizer, said that the press conference held by the Standing Committee for the Support of Demonstrators (SCSD) the day before the demonstration “helped a lot.” SCSD called “on civil society to attend, whether to participate in the protest or to simply be a witness to what will occur.” SCSD reasoned that the SPVM would act with more restraint if they were aware that the march had a wide audience.

Bobette also spoke about the barbeque that took place at Parc La Fontaine right before the march. “[The barbeque was] to offer the family, the old people, the kids, […] a spot to exchange about police brutality in a calm atmosphere,” Bobette said.

“[The barbeque was] to offer the family, the old people, the kids, […] a spot to exchange about police brutality in a calm atmosphere.”

Franklin Lopez, who was covering the demonstration for subMedia.TV, told The Daily, “It was a peaceful march for the most part, people got their rage out, and then at the end, people got on the metro and went home.”Nevertheless, many who attended the demonstration claimed that protesters did not act differently from previous years. Matt D’Amours, a reporter at the Link who attended the march, told The Daily, “Before the march started, they had an effigy of a police officer as a pig, and it was a piñata that they whacked. So the tone, the discourse was hardcore, it was militant, it was anti-police.”

D’Amours, who has attended many demonstrations in Montreal, claimed that the difference this time was that the police were less visible. He believes that heavy police presence at the beginning of previous years’ demonstrations may have played a role in provoking violence.

Katie Nelson, a Concordia student activist, agreed. Nelson told The Daily, “In one of the most violent protests that happens in Montreal every year, no violence happened because no police were there. I think that speaks a lot.”

Nevertheless, while the police were less visible this year, riot police still followed the march on parallel roads. For this reason, Jaggi Singh, a Montreal-based activist, believes that the police were not showing any restraint at all.

“In one of the most violent protests that happens in Montreal every year, no violence happened because no police were there. I think that speaks a lot.”

“This year was profoundly violent,” Singh said in an interview with The Daily. “The presence of hundreds of riot police, the helicopter, the history of this demonstration, meant that it was a profoundly violent place to be, not because of any particular actions of protesters, but because of the police.”

Singh was reluctant to speculate as to why the police acted differently this year. “I feel like we can’t know that unless we’re a fly on the wall in a police station,” Singh said. “And even then, there are a lot of independent factors at play.”

SPVM spokesperson Laurent Gingras told The Daily that the SPVM adjusts its strategies according to what happens, but Gingras did note one difference this year. “[The protest] was not legal in the sense that they did not give us an itinerary, but it was still nonetheless tolerated,” Gingras said.

Last year, the police immediately stopped the march by declaring it illegal according to municipal bylaw P-6, which requires an itinerary to be submitted to the police prior to demonstrations. Police also issued fines to individuals for “[obstructing] vehicular traffic on a public highway,” under Quebec Highway Code Section 500.1. However, the courts ruled in favour of many who contested these tickets, and in November 2015, a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled that the use of the section is invalid, claiming that it violates constitutional rights.

“The only reasonable explanation I can find is that they’re just trying to save public image.”

Aaron Lakoff, a community organizer involved in supporting the victims of police brutality and the news coordinator at CKUT Radio, said in an interview with The Daily, “The fact that they did not intervene in this demonstration is really based on the fact that they’ve been stripped of those legal mechanisms by which they were cracking down on us before.”

However, D’Amours, who has been ticketed by police for “obstruction of roads” at other demonstrations in Montreal, said, “In no way do I think that the police were hamstrung on the evening of the police brutality demo. They still have tons of tools at their disposal if they wanted to clamp down on a protest.” D’Amours instead pointed to “PR reasons” as a reason why the police allowed the march to take place this year without detaining, assaulting, or ticketing protestors.

The SPVM’s poor public image worsened in December when an undercover officer pulled out a gun at a protest. Nelson, who was hospitalized as a result of this protest, told The Daily that “the only reasonable explanation I can find is that they’re just trying to save public image.”

Reflecting on the SPVM’s worsening public image, Bobette said, “More and more the SPVM are fucking up [with] their profiling, their police repression toward ethnic people in Montreal North, or the social cleansing that they are doing downtown.”

Although the lack of violence at the March 15 demonstration was seen as a victory, D’Amours was cautious in assuming that the police will continue to behave this way in the future. “I’m not convinced that this is going to be the strategy, that [this] tactic is going to continue to be applied night after night,” he said.

Bobette was optimistic about a rise in attendance in future demonstrations. However, Nelson argued that protestors’ fear and anxiety will not disappear. “Even if they completely turn around tomorrow and apologize for all the injustice and all the violence and take accountability for all the things that have happened, I don’t think people will go into protests feeling safe,” Nelson said.

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Fracking threatens Indigenous culture http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/fracking-threatens-indigenous-culture/ Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:00:48 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46658 On March 21, Cinema Politica Concordia, a group whose mission is “to promote, disseminate, exhibit, and promote the discussion of political cinema by independent artists,” premiered a documentary called Fractured Land. The film follows the path of Caleb Behn, a young Indigenous lawyer, as he fights for the land rights of his people in Northern British Columbia against the rapid expansion of liquid natural gas (LNG) extraction through fracking.

The film documents the sale of exploration and extraction rights of parcels of land in Northern BC to companies, the lack of real consultation with communities, and the lack of regulation and monitoring of operations. It also shows Behn’s whirlwind journey through law school as an activist in his community. Over the course of the film, Behn speaks at several high-profile events and journeys to New Zealand to meet Maori communities facing similar threats.

The movie includes an emotional scene in which Behn’s father speaks about his experience in a residential school, and others speak of high suicide rates in Indigenous communities and the pain of losing one’s culture.

Structural injustice, loss of Indigenous culture

Behn himself was at the event where he answered audience questions. As Behn was introduced, he squatted down to the ground explaining that, as a man, “[he is] very aware of body language.” Throughout the question period, he returned to squatting in a gesture of humility.

“My world is war.”

The discussion, much like the film itself, was about more than the struggle against unjust LNG extraction in Northern BC. Broader themes of structural injustice and loss of Indigenous culture and way of life were woven into the story of fracking for LNG. While watching the film, it was clear that LNG extraction is only part of the problem, and that there is more being fractured than just the land.

Behn spoke of his own struggle being away from the land and living in a highly adversarial environment instead. “My world is war,” he said.

“[The goal was] getting truth on the screen and making it open and free for everyone so they can take action.”

He said that while filming the movie, he nearly killed himself three times. However, his motivation for leaving the land to become a lawyer is clear; in the film, he explains to one of his peers that lawyers are the only people in this country to whom judges listen.

In an interview with The Daily, Diana Tapia Munguía, one of the coordinators of Cinema Politica, said the goal of the event was “getting truth on the screen and making it open and free for everyone so they can take action.”

Behn had some words of encouragement for those who want to take action: even small action matters, when it’s done in a way that “seeks to critique or understand.”

However, he emphasized the need to engage strategically to have an impact because “the systems of disempowerment are so well structured after 600 years.”

“The honesty that Caleb exhibits in the film and in his talk afterwards move me very deeply.”

The evening ended with a performance by the Raging Grannies, a group of grandmothers that draw attention to issues of peace, environment, and social justice through singing and street theatre.

Vivian Wiseman, a member of the Raging Grannies, said that “the honesty that Caleb exhibits in the film and in his talk afterwards move me very deeply. […] I am in awe of his self-understanding, and it gives me a lot of optimism for the future.”

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PGSS End of Year Reviews http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/pgss-end-of-year-reviews/ Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:00:47 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46554 The Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill (PGSS) has had a relatively relaxed year. Most of the problems the executives had to deal with were issues remaining unresolved from last year due to high rates of turnover. The disagreement over the severity of the budget deficit, for instance, is due to years of mismanagement. The PGSS budget remains unnecessarily complex and prone to being misunderstood. This year’s Financial Affairs Officer has attempted to fix this problem; however, the fact that Council nevertheless dedicated a significant portion of its time to understanding the budget suggests that making the budget more accessible is easier said than done.

Speaking of complexities, the fact that PGSS Council meeting documents remain highly inaccessible to undergraduate members of the student press is concerning. Trying to obtain Council meeting documents to report accurately on PGSS procedures has been an ongoing problem for The Daily this year. The purpose of journalism is to keep organizations accountable, and that cannot be done if the organizations don’t make information at least minimally available. Hopefully, future executives will understand this problem as significant enough to warrant a solution.

Of course, all this can only be possible if there are any executives in the first place. The abysmal candidate turnout at this year’s elections is indicative of a broader problem within PGSS. Similarly to SSMU’s relationship to undergrads, PGSS is the most powerful instrument grad students have to protect their interests. Given that it’s an instrument, however, it must have competent people to wield it. Unopposed candidates tend to win elections at McGill, meaning that voters rarely evaluate these candidates critically. As such, it is the executives’ responsibility to find and train multiple successors and foster healthy competition, so that students can elect executives that will really represent their interests.

Secretary General Danielle Toccalino

NEWS_PGSS (5)_???_webDanielle Toccalino ran on a platform she described to The Daily as being “very ambitious,” since many of her goals turned out to be out of her reach. She had promised to visit each of the 57 post-graduate student association (PGSA) meetings at least once a semester in order to solicit broad opinion, but could not do so due to time constraints. That being said, she actively encouraged PGSAs to reach out to her if they had questions or concerns, to some success.

As PGSS Representative to the Board of Governors and Senate, she said she felt torn between representing students and representing the University. She also expressed a desire for more discussion within meetings, saying that concerns she raised often went unaddressed.

As a self-described “policy person,” she highlighted her work in refining PGSS’s bylaws and Society Affairs Manual (SAM), in an attempt to make them “accessible and comprehensive.” Though she spearheaded two rounds of bylaw changes and various SAM edits, Toccalino said that the project was also overly ambitious, and she lacked the time to refine them as thoroughly as she would have liked.

She has also put together an information policy to govern and mandate access to information such as council minutes and executive meeting agendas. In addition, she has created the first PGSS code of conduct, and has instituted a conflict of interest disclaimer for PGSS employees and Board of Directors members. She also worked to ensure that all executive officers and commissioners underwent equity and diversity training, and most underwent mental health first aid training.

Member Services Officer Brighita Lungu

This was Brighita Lungu’s second year as the Member Services Officer (MSO). Recent disagreement over the severity of PGSS’s budget deficit has meant that the most recent Financial Affairs Officers (FAOs) have targeted services for cuts. Lungu said that this has increased the burden of her job because she has to advocate for the protection of services not only at the university level but also within the executive committee.

In terms of services, Lungu has highlighted Study Sundays as among her biggest accomplishments. Originally an initiative by the McGill Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (MORSL) and taken over by PGSS in 2012, Study Sundays are organized once a month and aim to provide students who are also parents with a quiet study space and free childcare. This year, the project came close to cancellation, but Lungu salvaged the program by sacrificing the free lunches provided by Thomson House. It is disappointing to see Lungu forced into these kinds of concessions, especially considering her original desire to increase the amount of services PGSS provides, but she has remained a strong and passionate advocate for PGSS services.

Hopefully Lungu’s firm stance on the importance of PGSS services will be reflected in institutional memory, and future MSOs will also fight back against cuts demanded by FAOs.
On the university level, Lungu has been working with her counterparts at SSMU to lobby the office of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) (DPSLL) to be more transparent with the student services budget. A huge chunk of the student services budget is paid for by student fees, yet the University, until recently, has been reticent in sharing this information with the student body. It has taken her two years to convince DPSLL Ollivier Dyens to increase transparency of the budget. Hopefully her successors will be able to use the released information for more targeted and efficient advocacy.

Internal Affairs Officer Mina Anadolu

Mina1Just like her SSMU counterpart Omar El-Sharawy, Mina Anadolu took the Internal Affairs Officer (IAO) position in the middle of the academic year, following the resignation of her predecessor Sahil Kumar. Anadolu’s biggest concern this year has been the lack of awareness by members of PGSS of the society’s existence and the extent of its activities. As such, Anadolu reached out to clubs and services on campus to involve them in PGSS events. Anadolu tried to change the function of the Internal Affairs Committee (IAC) from being a “party-planning committee” (a definition at which she balked) into a more politically charged entity. In Anadolu’s words, “You come to board games night, you leave knowing more about the Syrian refugee situation; you come to speed dating, you learn about safe partying and safe sex.” Her pushback against the stereotype of an apolitical IAO is definitely commendable.

As stated, Anadolu believes that the biggest problem PGSS faces is its visibility. At the end of this year’s official nominations period, PGSS had only one candidate: Anadolu herself, running for re-election. After extending the nomination period, only one position out of six was contested. As the IAO, Anadolu’s task has been to communicate with the student body, yet student apathy appears to have been especially acute during the Winter 2016 PGSS General Elections. Fortunately, Anadolu is forthright about this issue. She admitted that she hasn’t been in touch with postgraduate student associations (PGSAs) as often as she’d like. In order for PGSS elections to be fully democratic, and more than just an opportunity for student politicians to pad their resumes, increasing the level of student engagement will be one of the most important tasks that Anadolu will shoulder next year.

External Affairs Officer Bradley Por

While Bradley Por did not have much experience in student politics prior to becoming External Affairs Officer (EAO), he told The Daily, “This has been, personally, one of the best experiences I’ve had, particularly because I’m actually a student of politics and law, so to experience it on the ground has been really enlightening.”

Por ran on a platform emphasizing more active student engagement in the Quebec student movement. One of the difficulties he faced was communicating to students the importance of student federations. While Por said he was successful in presenting the two student unions – Union étudiante du Québec (UEQ) and the Association pour la voix étudiante au Québec (AVEQ) – to students and in creating an affiliation policy, he maintains that engagement at the provincial level is one of the major challenges for external officers. He further emphasized the importance of having EAOs who are political and do their best to fire up students’ interests.

Another one of Por’s platform points focused on building a coalition of student associations to confront austerity. In working with both UEQ and AVEQ, Por has taken admirably firm stances against austerity. This week he will be organizing a forum on PGSS and the Quebec student movement, with an emphasis on austerity – though he noted that he wished he held more forums during the year, and we’d tend to agree.

While Por campaigned with the promise of making himself available through office hours in Thomson House, he told The Daily that he did not succeed in doing so, citing the fact that students do not show up to these kinds of office hours as much as he’d like them to. The Daily wonders, however, how Por would know whether students wanted to attend his office hours if he did not hold them in the first place. Por said he often found himself communicating with students just by being in Thomson House, though it should be noted that this does not pass as sufficient consultation.

Academic Affairs Officer Devin Mills

NEWS_PGSS (3)_ Andy_webDevin Mills ran on a platform highlighting communication and transparency, and told The Daily he believes he has been successful in these regards. For instance, Mills has revised the PGSS reporting and committee structures. He stated that prior to this revision, the Academic Affairs Officer (AAO) was considered the point person for everyone, which, he argued, was inefficient. The revised structure makes individuals already on specific committees within PGSS representatives to a range of university committees. According to Mills, the goal is that the “reporting will become very organic in nature.”

Mills has also worked extensively with the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) Josephine Nalbantoglu on several projects, including creating a revised template for the annual graduate student progress tracking system, which now includes an additional section on conflicts of interest. Mills added he hopes this will create “an opportunity for dialogue between the professor and [their] students,” and it will also ensure everyone is aware of the existing regulations.

Mills admitted that he did not sit on library advisory board meetings as often as he had initially pledged, nor did he host as many focus groups and workshops as he had planned. However, he has taken steps to resolve the lack of structural support that he encountered during his time in the role for the benefit of future AAOs. Mills revised the structure of the Academic Affairs Committee to help the AAO with their primary duties. He highlighted recruitment as one such priority, adding that over the past year he took “some of the easier roads as far as trying to recruit people [through] emails, invitations, flyers.” Mills believes this restructured committee would have helped him by working with people committed to the position’s portfolio and goals. His work in creating a more sustainable committee structure will hopefully have positive effects next year.

Financial Affairs Officer Behrang Sharif

NEWS_PGSS (8)_???_webBehrang Sharif has worked hard to provide PGSS members with a clear and understandable breakdown of the budget. Sharif emphasized the importance of structural changes to the budget, noting that the current structure is difficult to understand, and redoing the whole budget is a large, time consuming task. He told The Daily that it took him a few months to understand the budget, and he has been trying to make it understandable for students.

Sharif is particularly proud of the new budget templates, which he believes will be in use for many years to come. He consulted with previous Financial Affairs Officers and an accountant at PGSS, and so far he said he has received very positive feedback on the functionality of the template. He also noted the fact that the event budget is one of the biggest budget lines and was not balanced. Sharif has implemented a broad budget structure that he believes will be “self-maintaining.”

While improvements have been made in how PGSS runs events, the services the society provides, and in how the budget is balanced between the business side of PGSS and the society, Sharif wishes he could have had the time to “focus on the bigger picture improvements.” One of these goals included focusing more on improving how the business is providing services for members.

Sharif also shared some of his frustrations about the position, remarking that “when I started this, and still in some cases, we’re doing things not because they make sense, but because they have been historically done like that.” The yearly turnover of PGSS executives coming soon means that momentum for implementing programs or changing procedures is often cut short. Hopefully with Sharif’s improvements, institutional memory will be strong enough to withstand the quick turnovers.

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