News – The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com (ง •̀_•́)ง since 1911 Sat, 21 Jan 2017 11:00:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.1 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg News – The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com 32 32 Havoc at anti-Trump protests http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/havoc-at-anti-trump-protests/ Sat, 21 Jan 2017 11:00:52 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49134 On Friday January 20, approximately 150 people gathered at the corner of Union and St. Catherine, in Square Phillips, to attend an anti-fascist demonstration. The demonstration was one of many that day to protest the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
The demonstration began with speeches from several speakers.

“I speak today as a Montrealer of North-African origins, as an immigrant who grew up here, but above all as a person who support the Indigenous people of this land, on unceded Kanien’kehá:ka lands,” said Anas Bouslikhane, one of the event’s speakers, to the crowd in French.

“If [the far-right] wants to build a wall which would block Mexican immigrants, as well as instate immigration policies that target North African Arabs and Muslims, we come here to question the legitimacy of closing those borders,” continued Bouslikhane. “Borders of a country that is closing in on itself and its bigoted ideologies.”

“We must today more than ever act in solidarity across borders, and categorially refuse, [Trump’s] racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, and nationalistic agenda,” he concluded.

Present in the square were a number of anarchist, marxist, and other anti-capitalist groups. Large signs were displayed, many with “Make Racists Afraid Again,” written on them.

“[Trump] and his cabinet have come to power on an explicitly racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant platform,” stated Eamon Toohey, another event speaker, “and […] their victory has rung out far beyond the U.S.-Canada and the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“If [the far-right] wants to build a wall which would block Mexican immigrants, as well as instate immigration policies that target North African Arabs and Muslims, we come here to question the legitimacy of closing those borders.”

“As we speak, allies in Washington are disrupting the inauguration of Trump to fight for a world free from oppression, free from fascism,” Toohey continued. “Standing together here, as an expression of solidarity with our American allies, and against the far-right in Quebec and Canada, against Kellie Leitch, against Kevin O’Leary, against PEGIDA [Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West], against all those that threaten the well-being of the oppressed.”

“We can’t allow Canada’s extractionary industrial policy or the congratulatory tone Trudeau has taken with the American far-right to stand,” Toohey concluded. “If we do, we put ourselves down the same path of fascism on which America is already embarking.

Marching down Ste. Catherine

After speeches by demonstration leaders, protesters walked west down Ste. Catherine, chanting: “1,2,3,4, this is fucking class war! 5,6,7,8, organize and smash the state!”

“As we speak, allies in Washington are disrupting the inauguration of Trump to fight for a world free from oppression, free from fascism. Standing together here, as an expression of solidarity with our American allies, and against the far-right in Quebec and Canada, against Kellie Leitch, against Kevin O’Leary, against PEGIDA [Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West], against all those that threaten the well-being of the oppressed.”

“As a trans, non-binary, queer person, if I didn’t join into the revolution, if I didn’t join into the history being made around me, in the place that I live, the place that I call home, and the place that I wouldn’t be able to call home if it wasn’t for the awful colonial past that is on this land, then I would just be contributing to more and more oppression by my silence,” said Asher, one of the marchers, to The Daily.

“Our responsibility [by marching in Montreal] is showing solidarity with those who are directly affected,” Asher continued. “I feel like it’s not just showing [those in the U.S.] one march. It’s not just one march, one movement in [Washington D.C.]. It’s movements all around the world, and we support what they’re doing. We support their opposition, we support their strength and their courage.”

Some protesters shouted at Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) officers, with many bystanders on Ste. Catherine staring in either disbelief or shock. Some bystanders gathered inside businesses, either out of fear of marchers, or because private security guards had advised or forced people to stay inside.

At the corner of de la Montagne and Ste. Catherine, one protester tagged “Fuck capitalism” on a department store window.

“Our responsibility [by marching in Montreal] is showing solidarity with those who are directly affected.”

A few protesters banged or threw objects at the windows of large department and retail store chain locations, attempting to break them. At least one protester succeeded, putting a large hole in and shattering an American Apparel window.

Encounters with the SPVM

Near the corner of St. Bishop and Ste. Catherine, officers had gathered outside their SPVM station, Poste de quartier 20.

Police stood with their bikes to ostensibly prevent protesters from damaging the station, some standing in riot gear. The majority of protesters walked by the station without incident.
However, after a number of projectiles thrown by protesters partly shattered the SPVM station’s window, officers charged the protesters, releasing pepper spray into the crowd.

In the street, St. Matthieu Street

While initially a portion of the march’s route had been clear, eventually protesters began to walk down Ste. Catherine alongside cars and buses, eliciting some annoyed honks from drivers.

“As a trans, non-binary, queer person, if I didn’t join into the revolution, if I didn’t join into the history being made around me, in the place that I live, the place that I call home, and the place that I wouldn’t be able to call home if it wasn’t for the awful colonial past that is on this land, then I would just be contributing to more and more oppression by my silence.”

Around 7:00 p.m., protesters reached St. Matthieu. One SPVM van was hit by a protester, the driver subsequently driving down Ste. Catherine to get out of the way.

At that exact moment, riot police walking behind the march began to bang on their shields, chasing protestors and forcing them up St. Matthieu. Demonstrators running up the street quickly dispersed, with other officers following in pursuit on foot.

That same riot line then came down St. Matthieu, preventing press or bystanders to walk up the street. Many, out of fear of arrest, whether they were demonstrators or not, hid in businesses at the intersection.

Soon after, two large vans pulled up to the intersection, vans intended to transport ‘kettled’ protesters, i.e. protesters who had been rounded up and arrested. Over the loudspeaker, police informed those standing on the sidewalks that “this protest is over,” ordering them to leave. It is unclear how many people were arrested and how many were hurt in clashes with the SPVM.

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Women talk about self-censorship http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/women-talk-about-self-censorship/ Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:00:45 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49011 On Wednesday January 11, a salon-style discussion about women’s experiences with self-silencing was organized by Imago Theatre, in partnership with Béatrice Média, at Cafe Sfouf, an intimate venue welcoming approximately thirty people.

Hosted by Rebecca Munroe, a radio host at CJLO – 1690AM, the talk featured three panelists: Dominique Pirolo, a Talent Acquisition Specialist for the German multinational software corporation SAP; Tracey Steer, a writer and blogger whose work has appeared in Today’s Parent and Reader’s Digest; and Christina Vroom, the Associate Director of University Advancement at McGill’s Faculty of Dentistry.

The panel discussion accounted for the first part of the event, in which the panelists explored when and why they censored themselves. Following this, audience members were invited to share their own experiences of self-censorship. Eventually, the conversation progressed into a collective exchange of strategies to combat the entrenched structures that contribute to why women feel inclined to recede and self-silence.

The event was organized as part of the launch of Imago Theatre’s An Intractable Woman, an upcoming production about Anna Politkovskaya, the only Russian journalist to have covered the war in Chechnya who was subsequently assassinated for her work. Imago Theatre described An Intractable Woman as “a story about the inalienable right to freedom of expression.”

Speaking to The Daily on the importance of organizing such events, Jen Quinn, the Artistic and Administrative Associate of Imago Theatre, emphasized that media has a unique role to play in catalyzing dialogue.

“We always try to create a platform to empower,” Quinn said. “Part of the work that we do is always about engaging in conversation and making sure that it is a lateral conversation that anybody is welcome to participate in.”

Béatrice Média echoes a similar mission to “[spark] the kind of authentic conversation that boosts empathy and explores new ways of improving the female experience every day,” according to its website.

Panel discussion

Munroe commenced the panel discussion by asking the panelists to think back to an experience when they felt as if they couldn’t speak up. The varied answers emphasized different silencing factors, such as family dynamics, gender expectations, and race.

Pirolo reflected on her childhood, citing the expectation of diplomacy as one of the reasons that she censored herself.

“I was a people-pleaser. Most girls want to please and be a people pleaser. So we’re not really thinking about forcing your opinion, you want to keep it peaceful, you want to fit in,” she said. “And then I started experiencing things later on that changed all that. Back then I was very quiet and now I’m very vocal. I object to everything.”

Vroom’s reflections similarly pointed to how the expectation of politeness and tact contributed to her self-silencing.

“With my two brothers, I felt very much like I needed to be the peacemaker in my family,” Vroom said. “I had an opinion but I didn’t know where it fit in or whether I should vocalize it […]. I didn’t like rocking the boat when I was younger. It made me very uncomfortable.”

Steer spoke of how being a Black woman influences her experiences with self-silencing. “I live in Westmount – and it’s a mostly white neighbourhood, and I’ve lived mostly among white people my whole life, it’s not a problem,” she shared. “But it’s also a strange little neighbourhood because I’ve been mistaken for the maid and the nanny all the time, and that never happened before.”

“There’s also something to be said about not wanting to be ‘that person.’ I don’t want to be the sort of person who’s always talking about race, or that angry Black woman,” she continued.

Steer further shared an instance of self-silence: “[I was] walking around with my kids, and my baby, and people would fawn over my son and a woman said to me once, ‘Is your husband Caucasian?’ and I said, ‘yes,’ and she said, ‘Oh he’s so beautiful, you’re lucky he has white features’.”

“The thing is, I knew she was trying to give me a compliment. I knew that,” she continued. “I was gobsmacked. There was that thing in my head that said, ‘say something.’ But I didn’t, because I didn’t want to make the situation uncomfortable for her. But those kinds of things have happened many, many times. And there’s nothing really that small about it.”

Vroom also spoke about the issue of not speaking up to make sure other people feel comfortable.

She shared that there is “an individual that I have to work with, so if you will, my client, and this individual has made me extremely uncomfortable, this individual likes spending time with me and I’m not interested in anything except the work that we do together. I find myself in a knot when I have to see this individual or spend time with them.”

“One of these days I need to stand up to myself and draw the line and say, ‘This is our time together, this is what we will discuss, it will not go beyond those boundaries.’ I haven’t done that yet, and it’s been two years,” she continued.

“It’s like that expression pick your battles. And that expression has been used so often […]. And I agree with it because there are times when it’s not worth it, but at the same time, that’s a form of self-censorship. Why shouldn’t we say ‘that made me uncomfortable, that upset me,’ when that happens?” she elaborated.

The discussion concluded when Munroe asked the panelists about how they have progressed from self-silencing to freely communicating their thoughts and concerns.

“When I became much more assertive with myself and not shy,” Vroom said,” a male friend of mine–we’re not friends anymore, said, ‘you’ve become very aggressive,’ and I said, ‘I think you mean assertive,’ and he said, ‘no, aggressive’. So in his eyes, I was aggressive. And he said, ‘I think that’s why you’re single.’

“You don’t want to be seen as a bitch,” Steer added. “If you’re still in a place of feeling like you need to please people, you don’t want to rock boats, you don’t want to make people uncomfortable.”

Audience reactions

The second part of the event involved an audience talkback in which people shared experiences and strategies for navigating difficult situations. Audience members expressed concerns over the talk’s perceived lack of attention on systemic structures of oppression that figure in why women are more inclined to censor themselves.

In an interview with The Daily, Rhiannon Collett, a playwright who attended the event, shared that she “felt that the conversation had been veering around the ghost of the actual problem.”

“A lot of the conversation was about moderating our opinions and behaviour in reaction to a system that constantly [tries] to get us down,” she said, ”so, the conversations around how to be assertive and not aggressive really frustrate me because what we’re actually talking about is a systemic problem.”

However, Ocean DeRouchie, Fringe Arts Editor for Concordia University’s student newspaper The Link still noted that “it was really nice to be able to talk in a room full of women, and just being able to hear their thoughts and experiences. As another woman working in media, it’s sometimes really hard to have your ideas heard and this is that reminder to keep kicking ass.”

Speaking to The Daily, another attendee, Rebecca, shared DeRouchie’s sentiments: “When [an audience member] brought up the fact that when she was in high school, she was able to put up her hand and be very vocal in class, and in the moment she got to university she all of the sudden stopped talking, that resonated with me.”

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AUS holds first Council of 2017 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/aus-holds-first-council-of-2017/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/aus-holds-first-council-of-2017/#respond Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:00:39 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49019 On Wednesday January 11, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council gathered for its first meeting of the Winter 2017 semester. Council voted on a motion regarding Winter general elections, tabled a motion to create a SNAX committee, and heard discussion about amendments to the Arts Student Employment Fund (ASEF). Council also heard announcements and reports from AUS executives, senators, and representatives.

Absences from Council

During question period, VP Internal Kira Smith raised what she called an “impromptu question.”

“You can get back to me in email or in person, but we’re noticing that there are quite a few absences from [AUS] council,” she said. “If there’s something that we can do that can make your time easier, so you’re not missing Council, or not forgetting reports, please let me know.”

“If there’s something that we can do that can make your time easier, so you’re not missing Council, or not forgetting reports, please let me know.”

“I don’t really want to have to follow up with you,” she continued, “and I’m sure everything will be fine in the end, but it’s really important to me that people are at Council, and you are submitting your reports, and you don’t have to be penalized, so let me know if there’s a way to make anything easier in regards to that.” Smith suggested deadlines as a potential measure to help councillors better manage their time.

New business

The motion to create a SNAX committee was tabled until next Council meeting. AUS President Becky Goldberg moved to table the motion to allow for “more consultation to reflect the committee membership.”

Council also heard a motion to hold the Winter general elections.

“Last year, we pushed up the elections for executives to give them more time to transition into their roles before the new year,” said the mover of the motion, “so we’ve kept that updated timeline for this election cycle.” The motion passed with no objections.

While new executives will be allowed to campaign between February 13 and 23, with polling stations open from the 16th onwards, departmental elections and the referendum period will remain on the same schedule, to better allow departmental executives to finish the projects they’ve been working on.

Changes to ASEF bylaws

AUS VP Academic Erik Partridge spoke about changes to the Arts Student Employment Fund bylaws.

“In the past, the Arts Student Employment Fund has given each new professor in the Faculty of Arts $5,000, […] to spend on undergraduate casual research assistants’ [salaries] for the first three years,” Partridge explained.

While new executives will be allowed to campaign between February 13 and 23, with polling stations open from the 16th onwards, departmental elections and the referendum period will remain on the same schedule, to better allow departmental executives to finish the projects they’ve been working on.

He then explained how, in the past, after those three years, those funds seemed to “have just been going back to McGill, into their bank account, and we [had] nothing to gain from those funds.”

Patridge said this seems to have been happening for a “shockingly long time,” and since those losses have been discovered, a great deal of that money has been recovered.

In addition to amendments to ASEF allocations and working with Associate Dean Engle-Warnick (Research and Graduate Studies) over the last nine months, Patridge says he’s been working on a proposal to make the ASEF “one general fund.” This fund would employ people at the discretion of a committee, headed by the Dean of Arts, which would include four student members.

Patridge said this seems to have been happening for a “shockingly long time,” and since those losses have been discovered, a great deal of that money has been recovered.

Partridge highlighted that under the new proposal, AUS would allocate money twice a year, once in November, and once in February. Eventually, however, AUS would reclaim money that wasn’t spent to benefit other professors. Partridge and the Speaker then invited people to discuss this proposal before it eventually makes its way to Council in the coming weeks.

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AMUSE ratifies second agreement http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/amuse-second-agreement/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/amuse-second-agreement/#respond Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:00:28 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49012 On Monday January 9, the Association of McGill University Support Employees’ (AMUSE) membership ratified a new collective agreement with the University. As the ratification vote is legally binding, AMUSE members were the only ones allowed to be present during the vote, but it is reported that the vote passed with 84 per cent of those present in favour.

The union represents a network of casual and temporary employees on campus: 85 per cent of AMUSE’s membership consists of student employees. The collective agreement will expire on May 31, 2020.

A second collective agreement

The union has been without a collective agreement with the University since May 2015, over a year and half ago. Frustration with the University’s intransigence over a $15 minimum wage for AMUSE employees resulted in the union adopting a strike mandate in late October, resulting in a five day strike from October 29 to November 2.

“The new Collective Agreement will come into effect as soon as it is signed by the two parties — likely in the next few weeks, and changes to pay, job classifications, and other working conditions will come into effect immediately thereafter,” reads a press release on AMUSE’s website.

“The new Collective Agreement will come into effect as soon as it is signed by the two parties — likely in the next few weeks, and changes to pay, job classifications, and other working conditions will come into effect immediately thereafter.”

Claire Michela, president of AMUSE, told The Daily in an interview that she hopes the agreement will be signed before February.

Until then, AMUSE has released a “Ratification Kit” detailing all of the collective agreement’s newest provisions, including pay increases, changes to membership list dissemination, and renewed efforts regarding Work Study programs and identification access cards.

Wage increases

The ratification of a new collective agreement will see a rise in minimum wages for all employees within Unit A. Other AMUSE employees, like Floor Fellows in McGill residences, fall under Unit B.

Class A employees’ minimum wage will go from $10.85 an hour to $13.75 an hour, a 26.73 per cent increase in salary for many employees. Class B and C employees’ minimum wage will also increase to $13.75, but will increase incrementally in the years to come.

Work Study

Under the new collective agreement, both AMUSE and the University have agreed to “organize a meeting twice a year” (once in the Summer term, and once in the Winter term of every academic year) to “discuss topics of mutual interest relative to the Work Study program as it applies to employees covered by this Collective Agreement,” according to the “Ratification Kit.”

Those present at the meetings will include the Director of McGill’s Office of Scholarships and Student Aid, members of AMUSE’s leadership, and students who are part of the Work Study program.

Prior to entering into negotiations with the University, AMUSE had made its dissatisfaction with the Work Study program clear.

“The agenda would potentially include topics like the posting of assignments and the duration of postings on the Work Study website,” reads the “Ratification Kit.” These were both issues students who had participated in Work Study commonly complained of.

Identification cards

In addition to meetings regarding Work Study, the University has agreed, in coordination with AMUSE, to “establish a joint committee to discuss and review the feasibility of access to identification cards for non-student employees.” This was another of AMUSE’s main bargaining priorities.

The mandate of said committee would be to “discuss and review the current process relative to identification cards for non-student employees covered by this Collective Agreement and to allow non-student employees to have access to Identification Cards.”

The committee would in theory eventually provides McGill’s Human Resources and Security Services recommendations “to the current arrangement relative to the issuance of identification cards for purposes of on-campus identification, workplace access and uPrint privileges as required.”

According to Michela, this committee was struck because the University implied it would be difficult logistically or with the system they work with to provide ID cards for non-student employees.

However, she noted that the committee would “have the time and energy to go into those specific details that they did not want to go into during negotiations […] and hopefully would have the strength to make some changes.”

Membership list

In the past, AMUSE’s leadership has had difficulty communicating with the union’s membership. For example, in the past some employees have not known they were part of AMUSE.

Under the new collective agreement, the union will now receive their membership list every month. Previously, they only received it three times per year. The University has six months to reprogram their systems to generate said list.

Bookstore employees

While the ratification vote passed with a majority voting in favor of the collective agreement, many AMUSE employees still fear for their employment.

Last November, bookstore employees (who fall under AMUSE) received an email from their employers announcing that the store’s move from McTavish to the new Sherbrooke and Parc locations will prompt a reorganization of how part time employees are scheduled. As opposed to having regular part-time schedules, “casuals” will now only be scheduled during peak periods, drastically reducing their hours.

“We’re happy with the agreement and excited for the change of minimum wage in February,” said a group of bookstore employees in a statement to The Daily, “however bookstore employees are still concerned over our future employment status.”

Last semester, many bookstore employees felt that the reorganization was due in part to the new collective bargaining agreement. However, a letter obtained by The Daily revealed that the administration has rejected that claim. McGill’s Director of Employee and Labor Relations told an AMUSE executive that “the University’s decision to manage the casual’s schedule differently is not related whatsoever to the current tentative agreement with AMUSE.”

Floor Fellows

In addition to bookstore employees, many floor fellows have begun to fear for their own livelihoods.

Last week, the Human Resources subcommittee of the McGill Board of Governors vetoed an agreement the University had reached with AMUSE’s bargaining team regarding Floor Fellow negotiations last December, which would feature heightened salaries for Floor Fellows in McGill residences.

“The Human Resources Committee has proven that the word of its own labour negotiators is hollow,” said Michela in a subcommittee meeting not open to the public. “By reneging on commitments made at the bargaining table, you have lost our respect and damaged our trusts.”

AMUSE has publically stated that it has calculated that the committee’s concerns with the proposed Floor Fellow negotiations amount to $151,000 annually.

“If the University was committed to respecting this agreement and to respecting Floor Fellows, we believe that you would be able to find such a sum in the University’s budget,” Michela concluded.

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SSMU Council grills Manfredi http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/ssmu-council-grills-manfredi/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/ssmu-council-grills-manfredi/#respond Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:00:20 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49028 Last week’s meeting of the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council began with a robust question period: councillors confronted Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi, who was present at Council, with questions concerning student labour rights, McGill’s swamped Mental Health Services, financial aid, and more.

Later, Council passed two motions, one of which expressed opposition to Quebec’s controversial Bill 62 on religious expression, and the other of which set up a provisional mechanism through which SSMU’s Board of Directors (BoD) will report regularly to Council.

Question period

Environment Representative Tuviere Okome opened the session by questioning the administration’s apparent display of bad faith during contract negotiations with McGill’s floor fellows.

Earlier that day, it emerged that a Board of Governors’ subcommittee had rescinded their approval of an agreement which would have granted floor fellows a salary in exchange for their work; at the moment, they are simply provided with room and board.

“Floor fellows right now are doing work for free, and the work they do is so immense,” said Okome. “These are your students that are really helping first-years, […] and they’re working so hard, and McGill backtracked out of giving them money that I think [they] can afford. […] I’m just wondering why that decision was made.”

“These are your students that are really helping first-years, […] and they’re working so hard, and McGill backtracked out of giving them money that I think [they] can afford. […] I’m just wondering why that decision was made.”

Manfredi offered no substantive response to Okome’s concerns, only stating that as per standard University procedure, neither he nor any other administrator could comment on an ongoing labour negotiation.

Okome also raised concerns about McGill’s limited accessibility to prospective students from lower-income backgrounds. She noted that recent discourse around systemic oppression operating at McGill has often included issues of race, but has paid less attention to socioeconomic class.

“We’re not known for being diverse in terms of class at this university, […] and I was wondering what you’re going to be doing […] to make sure that the school […] is accommodating to people from higher and lower classes, because I think it’s beneficial for people from higher and lower classes to interact and to learn from each other.”

Manfredi agreed, assuring Okome that his forthcoming ‘strategic plan’ would include “meaningful and achievable targets with respect to increasing student financial assistance,” to address this problem.

In response, Science Representative Caitlin Mehrotra pointed out that financial aid at McGill is often contingent on academic performance, which is itself a form of inaccessibility. According to Manfredi, though, the aforementioned expansion of financial aid would be mainly needs-based.

“We’re not known for being diverse in terms of class at this university, […] and I was wondering what you’re going to be doing […] to make sure that the school […] is accommodating to people from higher and lower classes, because I think it’s beneficial for people from higher and lower classes to interact and to learn from each other.”

During the rest of the discussion, councillors made it clear that, among other things, they expected McGill’s administration to conduct extensive student consultation in improving Mental Health Services on campus, keep the community updated on the progress of the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education, and actively implement the recently approved Policy Against Sexual Violence.

Motion opposing Bill 62

The first motion discussed at Council concerned Quebec’s Bill 62, which would prohibit anyone who has their face covered from working in the public sector or receiving public services.

Although framed as a measure which would protect state secularism, the bill has drawn much criticism for Islamophobic undertones. Citing SSMU’s identity as “an organization that is committed to leadership in matters of human rights and strives to oppose discrimination,” the motion called on the Society to publicly denounce the bill, and “to advocate against any further movement toward the adoption of the Bill as it stands.”

Councillors were overwhelmingly favourable to the motion, with several councillors asking to have their names added to it, in addition to the two original movers. The only note of opposition came from Engineering Representative Richard (Tre) Mansdoerfer, who, while expressing unequivocal condemnation of the bill itself, questioned SSMU for taking positions on some ‘external’ issues but not others. Mansdoerfer said that the Society had not, for example, taken a position on the ongoing multilateral conflict in Syria.

“I think there’s a difference between taking a stance on this bill, which is […] in Canada, and specifically in Quebec, […] and [taking a stance on] the complex situation in Syria,” responded Mehrotra, dismissing the latter notion as “ridiculous.”

“I think there’s a difference between taking a stance on this bill, which is […] in Canada, and specifically in Quebec, […] and [taking a stance on] the complex situation in Syria.”

Okome concurred, adding that the bill’s discriminatory content made it a pressing concern.
“Quebec has always had a strange view of the religion of Islam, and this is what this bill is,” she said. “It’s perpetuating Islamophobia in Canada, and just to explain, telling a woman to put on or take off clothes […] there’s nothing feministic about either of those things.”

“I think SSMU’s stance on this is really important, especially in the political era where we are. […] We should stand on the side of the oppressed,” Okome concluded.

Ultimately, the motion passed with 95 per cent in favour, five per cent abstaining, and none opposed.

Motion on Board of Directors

Last year, Council implemented a series of governance reforms, with the goal of streamlining Council by shifting certain administrative responsibilities to the Society’s Board of Directors.

Unfortunately, the reforms, while valuable, failed to put in place mechanisms whereby the BoD could report to Council on the execution of its new tasks. In November, the Democratic Governance Review Committee was founded to address this situation, and ensure the transparency and accountability of both the BoD and Council.

Several members of the committee were involved in creating the motion at hand, which proposed that the BoD would present a report on its activities at every Council meeting. This interim measure would remain in effect until the end of May 2017.

After minimal discussion, the motion passed with 95 per cent for, five per cent abstaining, and none opposed.

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Indigenous law course launches http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/indigenous-law-course-launches/ Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:00:04 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=49013 The first week of the Winter semester saw first-year students in McGill’s Faculty of Law participating in a mandatory week-long intensive course on Indigenous legal traditions.

The course is part of the Faculty’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) report, released in 2015. (The TRC was organized to investigate the abuse inflicted on Indigenous peoples through the Indian residential school system.) Professor Kirsten Anker told The Daily in a phone interview that the Commission recommended that all Canadian law students take a course on Indigenous issues.

Anker, who taught a session as part of the intensive course, lectures about property, and Aboriginal peoples and the law at McGill. In creating the course, the Faculty of Law built upon the elective courses on Indigenous issues she herself developed.

“The door was open to Indigenous traditions but nothing really robust had been done to build them into the transsystemic program,” Anker said. The transsystemic program is the Faculty of Law’s unique undergraduate law degree that integrates both common and civil law into a single program.

“Instead of just teaching what’s called Aboriginal law […] we started bringing Indigenous law and traditions into the picture and kind of trying to have a […] dialogue about law between traditions, which is kind of the gist of what transsystemic law or legal education means,” she continued. “So it’s kind of taken that model, that idea, and brought it into a week for the whole first year [class].”

In an email to The Daily, professor Hoi Kong, one of the creators of the course, explained that the course was also inspired by “discussions, students, faculty, and other stakeholders had over the past few years about how to renew the curriculum.”

“The door was open to Indigenous traditions but nothing really robust had been done to build them into the transsystemic program.”

“The specific content of the course emerged in part from conversations that Professor Napoleon (from the University of Victoria) and Professor Friedland (from the University of Alberta), and I have had over the years, during their visits here and mine at the University of Victoria, and from a course that Professor Napoleon and I co-taught, and another that Professor Friedland taught here,” he elaborated.

The content used specific examples from Cree law, and included the “historical context, theories, and sources of Indigenous laws, as well as modes of interpreting and applying those sources,” he added.

Reactions to the course

When asked about the response from faculty and students, Anker said her impression was that “students were really engaged and they found it really interesting.”

“It was working really well in the way that it’s been set up to kind of mirror the integration week they did in first semester: looking at common and civil law about […] the question of safe injection spaces for [Intravenous] drug users,” she continued. “I think that worked […] really well […] because one of the challenges of learning Indigenous law is that it’s often in the abstract; someone can talk about it, but you don’t really get a sense of how it works as law until you try to do something with it.”

Anker added that other faculty members are also excited about giving more space to Indigenous issues in the curriculum.

Kong shared Anker’s sentiments, adding that he has been “really moved by the sincerity of the expressions of support.”

“I think that worked […] really well […] because one of the challenges of learning Indigenous law is that it’s often in the abstract; someone can talk about it, but you don’t really get a sense of how it works as law until you try to do something with it.”

In a phone interview with The Daily, Allan Vicaire, First People’s House and Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) Office’s Indigenous Education Advisor, shared his excitement about the initiative.

“I think it’s about time that the University is pushing to include Indigenous perspectives in the classroom,” he said.

“I think sometimes we forget, especially at McGill, there are some great professors out there that are ready to push for Indigenous perspectives, and [ensure] that curriculum is inclusive,” he continued.

Vicaire noted that this initiative differs from others because the faculty is “ensuring that every student […] is being exposed to Indigenous issues.” He believes the next step is for other faculties to begin thinking of how they can implement that.

“I think it’s about time that the University is pushing to include Indigenous perspectives in the classroom.”

However, at least one first-year law student, Isabelle*, found that the course was problematic, particularly because of a lack of Indigenous voices.

“The instructors told us that was due to several reasons: that we should gain a background knowledge on Indigenous culture and legal systems before engaging with Indigenous peoples as a symbol of respect, and that there is a significant strain on Indigenous academics right now,” she said in an email to The Daily.

“I completely understand and respect these decisions, as well as the importance of putting in the work ourselves, however, it often felt as if we were learning from the wrong people,” she continued.

Isabelle further noted that the course content felt introductory, which is useful for students who had not previously been exposed to Indigenous issues, but left others wanting more.

She went on to say that “this week seemed to fit very well with a colonial legal education. It seemed to emphasize voices and analyses of academics who sought to engage with colonial legal systems and who took a reconciliationist approach. It often felt as if many more radical, or even separationist perspectives were missing, those that are often missing in internal legal conversations in law school.”

Future development

When asked what more needs to be done in teaching students about Indigenous issues, Anker highlighted the importance of transforming colonial power dynamics.

“This week seemed to fit very well with a colonial legal education.”

“It’s not just about giving people information, although that’s a really important part. It’s also about establishing that pedagogy and that learning environment has to come out of a relationship with communities,” she added.

She further highlighted the importance of developing “relationships in which we’re building a connection with communities and we’re implicated in them and they’re implicated in us.”

In terms of the course’s future development, Kong noted that a faculty committee is working to determine the next steps, such as the possibility of making this type of mandatory course longer.

Both Anker and Isabelle shared their belief that Indigenous law should be integrated into all of the courses offered by the Faculty of Law.

“It’s not just about giving people information, although that’s a really important part. It’s also about establishing that pedagogy and that learning environment has to come out of a relationship with communities.”

“Engaging with Indigeneity and colonialism means going beyond the classroom and working towards decolonization in every sense of the word,” Isabelle said. “It means challenging the culture of our classrooms and the Faculty in general; challenging its whiteness, its colonial history (and present), its heteropatriarchy. We need to think about and challenge what a legal education actually means within a settler-colonial context.”

*Name has been changed.

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SSMU Midterm Reviews http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/ssmu-midterm-reviews/ Mon, 09 Jan 2017 11:00:38 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48896 With the creation of a seventh executive position at the end of the 2015-2016 academic year, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) executive team has been able to focus more on their portfolios than their counterparts of the previous year. However, many executives have also had to adjust to brand new components to their portfolios, as responsibilities were redistributed. They have also had to cope with the perennial challenge of effecting meaningful change despite a recalcitrant administration, while negotiating new obstacles such as omnipresent construction and its attendent accessibility challenges, and a series of upheavals and reforms within McGill’s Mental Health Services.

After checking in with the executives periodically throughout the Fall semester, The Daily has compiled mid-year reviews of their performances.

President Ben Ger

As SSMU President, Ger is required to supervise the other executives’ portfolios to a certain degree, as well as represent the undergraduate community on McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG). So far, Ger has made the most of his position on the BoG, releasing a report entitled “A Seat at the Table,” which analysed problems of representation, consultation, and communication that have left McGill students feeling frustrated and alienated from the Board. The report also made a series of recommendations regarding how to address these issues.

Moreover, at the last Board meeting of the Fall semester, Ger attempted to initiate an official review of the BoG’s best practices by the Nominating, Governance, and Ethics (NGE) Committee. His resolution was tabled, but given the administration’s general reluctance to implement significant student-led reform, it is to Ger’s credit that the proposal was raised at all.

By contrast, the Fall 2016 General Assembly (GA), for which Ger was largely responsible, was incredibly underwhelming. Falling well below quorum, the GA clearly failed to represent the collective will of the undergraduate student body, and to engage people in the democratic process. Part of the reason seems to have been a distinct lack of publicity.

In an interview following the GA, Ger partly attributed this to restrictions on printing, yet a problem with print advertising would not have precluded a social media campaign. This aspect of organizing the GA is explicitly the President’s responsibility; The Daily expects better for the Winter GA.

VP Operations Sacha Magder

When Magder ran for the position, his campaign focused heavily on consultation, but included few concrete proposals. In the new position of VP Operations, Magder is responsible for operations in the SSMU building, such as Gerts and the Student Run Cafe (SRC), as well as sustainability initiatives.

In the Fall semester, both Gerts and SRC have seen increased sales, which is a valuable first step in addressing SSMU’s deficits as the SRC has been the single largest contributor. In late November, the SRC was posting half the deficit it posted last year around the same time. Magder pointed to attempts to reduce food waste and increased catering as reasons for this improvement.

This is particularly noteworthy, given that SSMU’s Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) forbids the SRC from advertising anywhere outside the Shatner building. Madger further told The Daily that he is in early talks with Deputy Provost Ollivier Dyens (Student Life and Learning) and other administrators to make the MoA more favorable to SSMU operations.

Construction around McGill’s downtown campus has caused major accessibility problems. Magder’s efforts to improve the situation seem largely to have been stymied by the City’s lack of accountability and failure to respond proactively to student needs.

With regard to sustainability initiatives, Magder told The Daily that he has spoken with Associate VP (University Services) Robert Couvrette about McGill’s waste management provider, which deals with both regular garbage and recycling. This is a serious potential conflict of interests, considering that landfills get paid by the square meter, meaning McGill could be getting fewer rebates for recycling initiatives. Madger has also spoken with McGill administrators about putting more composting bins in the Shatner building. Both initiatives have yet to be seen on campus, but both were conceived in the Fall semester.

However, the VP Operations office did secure a $10,000 grant to build a garden behind the Shatner building, which could contribute towards the SRC’s operations, but as of yet, little has been seen of concrete sustainability initiatives.

Magder’s campaign promise to institute a “Crash Pad” in the Shatner Building has for the most part not seen great progress outside of Frosh, with sustainability and operations taking up a majority of his time.

VP Student Life Elaine Patterson

As VP Student Life, Patterson has a mandate to carry out mental health initiatives, as well as oversee clubs and services. In the Fall semester, she extended Activities Night to three nights rather than two, allowing for a more pleasant atmosphere, with more clubs and students allowed to participate, despite some accessibility issues due to the construction on McTavish. That being said, some might criticize her choice (in coordination with SSMU’s Sponsorship Coordinator, Security Manager, and Communications and Publications Coordinator) not to subject the company Tangerine, which brought an excessively large tent to the event, to repercussions for their breach of contract, which contributed to crowding at the event.

With the current club moratorium in place, which prevents the creation of new clubs under SSMU, Patterson has been limited in her Clubs and Services mandate. Nonetheless, Patterson has contributed towards giving certain SSMU services, like the Peer Support Centre, more permanent spaces in the Shatner building.

As one of the movers behind the newly adopted free Menstrual Hygiene Products Policy, a commendable effort on Patterson’s part, students will have to see how she executes the policy and assure that funding is used effectively toward the policy’s objectives.
Back in August, Patterson told The Daily that she was working with SSMU President Ben Ger to implement a gender discrimination policy in the Fall semester that will go beyond current provisions. Part of the policy included what is now the free Menstrual Hygiene Products Policy, but little has been heard of this overarching initiative in the months since.

With regards to mental health initiatives, Patterson has worked towards implementing “Mental Health 101” training sessions for new faculty and staff, and hosted “mental health roundtable” discussions amongst the University’s Mental Health Services. But despite her wishes to harmonize said services, restructuring of McGill’s Counselling and Mental Health Services (CMHS) and changes to the medical notes policy (done without consulting SSMU) has left many on campus disappointed.

VP Finance Niall Carolan

Carolan came into his position exceptionally qualified with regard to financial experience. His electoral platform called for reorganizing club funding and better balancing of SSMU’s budget; so far, he seems to have been largely successful in both areas.

With regards to club funding, he has removed mandatory second installment reports, to make the funding process “as easy as possible for student clubs,” in his words. Previously when clubs applied for funding, half would be given up front, and the rest would be given after a report was submitted; this process was inconvenient for both clubs and SSMU administrators, he said.

Moreover, Carolan has worked with the Student Run Café (SRC) to cut its deficit in half in comparison to last year. Specifically, “whereas last year the deficit was around $44,000 by August 31, this year it was only $20 [thousand].” He further told The Daily that SSMU’s expenditures as a whole have been reduced as well.

Carolan has also been working towards the implementation of a Socially Responsible Investment Fund (SRIF), working with Vadim di Pietro, Chief Investment Officer at Desautels Capital Management and a team of Desautels students in the Honours Investment Program. This is a commendable initiative as, in his words, “if we can invest our money in a place that both provides financial returns and a positive social impact, that’s an amazing opportunity.”

However, Carolan has faced criticism for what many have perceived as being an increased corporatization of SSMU. In response to the criticism, he said he would like to arrange student consultation through the Financial Ethics Review Committee, and that he would like to see active participation from students in decision-making. He further noted that the decision to seek sponsorships was made by the previous VP Finance and Operations, although during his campaign he did in fact speak of a desire to seek corporate sponsorship.

VP Internal Daniel Lawrie

When Lawrie ran unopposed last year, his platform focused on three main tenets: communication, organization, and trust. With regard to the first objective, Lawrie worked on improving communication between his office and the student body this past semester. More specifically, he focused on redesigning the listerv, an initiative that seems to have been largely successful. He told The Daily that as a result, 44 per cent of students now read the listserv.

During his campaign, he also proposed using the official McGill and MyMartlet apps to further disseminate the listserv and sell tickets to SSMU events. Unfortunately, this proposal has so far not come to fruition, as Lawrie claims the company that runs the apps, Ooh La La, has been largely unresponsive. Lawrie said he will continue to reach out to the company in the next semester.

More concretely, Lawrie took the initiative to begin planning for 4Floors earlier than previous VP Internals, and saw this work pay off with the sale of close to 900 tickets, which generated a small profit. In comparison, last year’s 4Floors ran a deficit.

While this is commendable, Lawrie acknowledged that “one of the things I’ve been most frustrated with is my time management,” as he prioritized 4Floors and thereby neglected other aspects of his portfolio. Now that 4Floors is over, he says he will focus on other initiatives, such as the rebranding of McGill Red and White, now known as Life After Your Degree (LifeAYD).

Additionally, Lawrie has restructured the First-year Undergraduate Network (FUN), unifying it with First Year Council (FYC). Most recently, he has helped FYC create their first draft of a new constitution.

While Lawrie told The Daily at the beginning of the 2016-2017 academic year that he planned to diversify the events portfolio and focus more on non-drinking events, The Daily has not yet seen much progress in this regard.

VP External David Aird

The position of VP External requires Aird to support student-led campaigns on campus, to observe meetings of the Association pour la Voix Étudiante au Québec (AVEQ), and to oversee francophone affairs at McGill.

During his campaign Aird placed significant emphasis on this last point, promising to strengthen relations between McGill students and the Milton-Parc community. Aird told The Daily of plans to reinstate French conversation circles between students and the neighbourhood’s permanent residents, and even to organize student lectures for the community. These ideas have not materialized. Aird said that he will focus more on these objectives in the Winter semester.

A supporter of last year’s unsuccessful campaign to have SSMU join AVEQ, Aird has been attending AVEQ meetings in an observational capacity. He has also participated in a number of AVEQ subcommittees, and says he has been working to ensure that the federation aligns with SSMU’s values and priorities. Aird has reported on his work with AVEQ to SSMU’s Legislative Council, but disavows any intention of mounting another campaign to affiliate SSMU with AVEQ. While his involvement with AVEQ is important, he needs to more actively promote AVEQ’s activities on campus, and keep the McGill community abreast of his work.

The VP External portfolio is also mandated to student initiatives and campaigns. In this respect, Aird’s performance has been uneven. Throughout the Fall semester he remained involved in McGill Against Austerity, consulted with Divest McGill, and collaborated with VP University Affairs Erin Sobat in hiring a researcher to support Demilitarize McGill. He helped organize a small demonstration against tuition hikes on November 2, as well as McGill contingents to one or two other anti-austerity actions. However, Aird did not organize a contingent to the massive demonstration against rape culture which occurred in Montreal a few days earlier, nor did his office promote the event. This is emblematic of a broader problem with Aird’s performance: his work with McGill Against Austerity is commendable, but he must engage McGill students in a wider variety of movements in the community.

VP University Affairs Erin Sobat

The VP University Affairs must act as a liaison between McGill’s administration and its undergraduate student body, advocating for student priorities whenever possible. As such, the position can be a frustrating one; indeed, Sobat’s attempts to improve accommodations procedures – particularly where mental health issues are concerned – have to some extent been stymied by lack of consultation and general disorganization on the part of McGill Counselling and Mental Health Services (CMHS). Despite this, he and VP Student Life Elaine Patterson seem to have been working with the heads of these services to the best of their ability to ensure that no student is left behind by the new ‘stepped care’ model.

Sobat also organized a campaign early in the year to collect testimony from students regarding their experiences seeking accommodations from McGill. He also spearheaded a “Know Your Student Rights” campaign which ran at the start of both the Fall and Winter semesters, and included a website and robust social media presence.

During the Fall semester, in consultation with the McGill community, Sobat devoted much of his time to improving the Sexual Violence Policy (SVP). While far from perfect, the policy is a crucial first step toward combatting sexual violence at McGill, and supporting those who have experienced it. Thanks in part to Sobat’s valuable work, the policy was fully approved by the administration toward the end of the Fall semester, and implementation is now underway.

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“Know your student rights” campaign underway http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/know-your-rights-2/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/know-your-rights-2/#respond Mon, 09 Jan 2017 11:00:06 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48893 The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has initiated a campus-wide “Know Your Student Rights” campaign to make more undergraduate students aware of their academic rights.

Coordinated by the SSMU University Affairs office, the campaign includes a Facebook page and a campaign website, where students can select issues they wish to address and access the relevant university regulations. Topics include syllabi, grade breakdowns, midterm conflicts, final exam deferrals, academic accommodations, and available resources for addressing violations.

Described as “a work-in-progress,” the website quotes documents such as the University Student Assessment Policy and the Charter of Student Rights to illustrate exactly which resources McGill professors must make available in the first few weeks of class before the Add/Drop period ends.

The website also dispels certain myths; for example: “Contrary to popular belief, there are no regulations regarding changes to course syllabi at McGill. In fact, the University retains the power to change evaluation schemes in the event of any ‘extraordinary circumstances’ outside of their control.”

When asked if McGill’s administration does enough to make students aware of their academic rights, SSMU VP University Affairs Erin Sobat told The Daily in an email: “Definitely not. Unfortunately, the administration has made clear that the onus is on students to find, interpret, and even enforce their own rights.”

“There are basic steps that other institutions take to ensure compliance with their own policies,” continued Sobat, “such as educating instructors and TAs, including links for students on course syllabi, and reviewing syllabi and course structures each term. SSMU has created this campaign and resources to fill this gap.”

Additionally, the “Know Your Student Rights” website extensively details how and with whom students can address violations, whether it be an instructor, a Department Chair, the Dean of Students, or others. The VP University Affairs office recognizes that “while the rights outlined on [the] website are guaranteed by the University, there are significant power dynamics in the student-instructor relationship that may act as a barrier to addressing them one-on-one.”

“The administration needs to enforce standardized guidelines on accommodations and clearly articulate the expectations and responsibilities of everyone involved in the accommodations process,” Sobat also wrote.

“Individual faculty members should definitely not have the discretion to make decisions on whether or not accommodations should be granted, nor should they need to know a student’s personal information or diagnosis,” he concluded.

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Director of Counselling and Mental Health Services suspended http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/01/director-of-counselling-and-mental-health-services-suspended/ Mon, 09 Jan 2017 05:00:39 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48891 In December 2016, Nancy Low, Director of McGill’s Counselling and Mental Health Service (CMHS), was suspended from her job and escorted out of the Brown Building.

Former Director of McGill Mental Health Services Norman Hoffman told The Daily in an e-mail that he has “been told directly by various McGill Mental Health staff that Dr. Nancy Low has been suspended, apparently for insubordination,” in relation to the newly implemented stepped care model.

Stepped Care

At the beginning of the 2016/2017 academic year, McGill’s Mental Health Services and Counselling Services consolidated to become CMHS.

In a panel discussion regarding the state of mental health services at McGill, hosted by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Mental Health Commissioners last October, Associate Director of CMHS Giuseppe Alfonsi explained to students that the McGill Health Clinic has seen “a thirty per cent increase in users over the last five years.”

In response to this increasing demand for CMHS’ services, a new approach was taken: the ‘stepped-care model.’

This model uses a “two doors, one service,” system, wherein students can enter CMHS through counselling or mental health, but are processed by a single, combined system. Students are given a variety of treatment options which act as ‘steps’ to one-on-one psychotherapy, the treatment students previously received.

CMHS now also offers different types of treatment, such as online therapy, group therapy, and referrals to other organizations such as the Peer Support Centre, in order to reduce the strain on CMHS.

Growing concerns

However, many students have voiced concerns despite a reorganization of McGill’s counselling and mental health services. For example, trans students continue to face barriers in mental health treatment, with many such students reporting being uncomfortable discussing queerness, transness, and racialization.

Students’ concerns only grew when the process through which students obtain medical notes suddenly changed in October 2016.

Students now only receive same-day notes if they are in imminent danger of harming themselves or others, or they have already been assigned a Client Care Clinician (CCC).

On October 28, 2016, in a statement emailed to campus media, VP University Affairs Erin Sobat said that this new medical notes policy “disregards the need to provide services and accommodation for incidental cases of mental health issues that may not qualify as an immediate safety concern, in a system where there is not currently sufficient access to care to ensure that students are already being seen by a McGill or external clinician.”

He further noted that as the current wait time for seeing a CCC is two weeks, students who do not meet the above mentioned criteria must wait two weeks before receiving a medical note if they are sick and thereby have to miss class. This poses many difficulties for students as McGill professors cannot accept medical notes that justify past absences.

Interim Senior Director of Services for Students, Cara Piperni, told The Daily at the time that the change in medical notes was a “residual impact” of the move to a stepped care model.

“[This medical notes policy] disregards the need to provide services and accommodation for incidental cases of mental health issues that may not qualify as an immediate safety concern, in a system where there is not currently sufficient access to care to ensure that students are already being seen by a McGill or external clinician.”

In an email to The Daily late December, Sobat noted that “until now, there has been little room for serious input from students or Student Services staff [with regards to the stepped care model], and we’re concerned that if people do not feel included in the decision-making process then ultimately the changes will be less successful (this is particularly true for the clinicians who are responsible for actually providing this care to students).”

“We’re actively trying to improve the situation from our side (particularly in pushing for actual communication and consultation plans going forward),” Sobat continued, “but unfortunately, I think that negative internal management styles or HR [Human Resources] struggles will only hurt students in the end.”

Low’s Suspension

Hoffman told The Daily that he has “been told directly from Mental Health and Counselling staff that the stepped care system is not working well.”

“I’ve been told directly from staff that they were told that they are not allowed to object to the stepped care system,” he added.

“We’re actively trying to improve the situation from our side (particularly in pushing for actual communication and consultation plans going forward), but unfortunately, I think that negative internal management styles or HR [Human Resources] struggles will only hurt students in the end.”

With regards to the stepped care model, Hoffman said: “It is my opinion that a stepped care system for a Mental Health Service makes no clinical sense.”

“Firstly, it is not possible to make an accurate assessment of a student’s needs in a one time triage session, especially if the student has little reason to trust that their concerns will be properly heard,” he elaborated. “Secondly, the type of modalities, apart from one-to-one therapy, that are being offered to students, may have some value as adjuncts to proper treatment, but are unlikely to be highly valuable on their own.”

“I’ve been told directly from staff that they were told that they are not allowed to object to the stepped care system.”

Sobat also voiced displeasure with regards to the stepped care model’s implementation, writing that the SSMU executive team is “disappointed that the transition to a stepped care model, which we support for many reasons, has been so rushed and poorly managed in its implementation.”

“It is my opinion that the McGill Mental Health Service has fundamentally been abolished,” Hoffman went on to say.

“In merging Mental Health with Counselling, and in relegating psychiatrists to primarily be prescribing medication, the University is fundamentally removing the role of Mental Health in being a leader in developing and implementing advanced, student oriented, psychotherapy models, and is promoting primarily symptom suppression modalities of treatment,” he concluded.

“It is my opinion that the McGill Mental Health Service has fundamentally been abolished.”

When asked for a comment regarding Low’s apparent suspension, Doug Sweet, McGill’s Director of Internal Communication, told The Daily via email that “the University cannot comment on the personnel dossiers or employment records of any of its staff members.”

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Board of Governors allows for limited student input twice a year http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/12/board-of-governors-allows-for-limited-student-input-twice-a-year/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/12/board-of-governors-allows-for-limited-student-input-twice-a-year/#respond Wed, 07 Dec 2016 20:44:43 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48780 On Thursday, December 1, the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) held their second meeting of the 2016-2017 academic year. The Board heard a report from the Nominating, Governance and Ethics (NGE) Committee, which established procedures for those who wish to bring questions to the BoG, and a report from the Investment Committee outlining a new option for donors who wish to invest in a socially responsible manner.

The board also heard reports from Senate, the Finance Committee, and the Executive Committee, as well as a report from the Joint Board-Senate Meeting regarding McGill’s sustainability plans and initiatives.

At the end of the meeting, a resolution from Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Ben Ger, which asked the NGE committee to compile a report on the Board of Governors’ best practices, was tabled.

A small step in the right direction

Stuart Cobbett, chair of the BoG, presented the NGE Committee’s report, and proposed a resolution which aimed to facilitate a limited degree of interaction between members of the McGill community and the Board.

According to Cobbett, the resolution is a “mechanism […] whereby twice a year there would be a twenty minute community session” at the end of the BoG meeting.

During these sessions, questions asked in advance by community members would be answered and there would be a limited amount of time allotted for follow up questions.

According to Cobbett, the resolution is a “mechanism […] whereby twice a year there would be a twenty minute community session” at the end of the BoG meeting.

According to this policy, the chair of the BoG would have discretion in determining who answers the question and which questions are heard. Moreover, the policy stipulates that the chair could “decline a question if an individual or group has previously appeared before the Board regarding the same matter or if the matter has been previously addressed by the Board either at a previous Board meeting or following a question submitted to the Board by another individual or group.”

This, presumably, would allow the chair to decline to address a question from groups like Divest McGill, who have spoken and staged walk-ins at previous Board meetings to advocate for divestment from fossil fuels.

“This does represent a step ahead of where we have ever been,” Cobbett said. “There has never been a formal mechanism whereby the Board would receive submissions or questions in the meeting. […] This now regularizes that practice and provides a framework.”

Tina Hobday, a McGill Alumni Association representative to the Board, commented on the length of time allotted for the community sessions — twenty minutes — saying that in certain situations it may be too much time and in others it may not be enough.

Cobbett responded by saying the committee decided on twenty minutes based on the experience of other universities. He noted that “the intention is not to have an artificially short period, [but] on the other hand, the intention is not to have an extraordinarily long period.”

However, Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Secretary-General Victor Frankel voiced some more concerns: “Twenty minutes twice a year does not seem like it’s enough, especially if you’re trying to frame it as [about five minutes per] person asking a question.”

“I was concerned that the discretion of the chair would allow for decisions to be made on who gets to address these questions to the Board and limitations on what subject matters could be addressed in these question periods,” he continued on to say. “That in itself would raise a lot of concern, because a lot of the things that happen at the Board are only communicated to the community after the fact and it doesn’t give the opportunity for input before decisions are made.”

This, presumably, would allow the chair to decline to address a question from groups like Divest McGill, who have spoken and staged walk-ins at previous Board meetings to advocate for divestment from fossil fuels.

He recommended that the policy go back to the committee for further review.

However, Principal Suzanne Fortier said she believed “it would be good actually to approve this today so that we could start implementing it right away, because if we send it back to the committee we might not be able to implement it this year.”

Cobbett suggested that the resolution be amended to mandate a review of the policy after one year.

The resolution passed.

Socially Responsible Investment Fund

The Chair of the Investment Committee reported on initiatives regarding meetings with the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR).

On March 23 of this year, the BoG refused to divest from fossil fuel corporations based on a report from the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), which found that fossil fuels do not cause “grave social injury.” At the same meeting, the Board asked the Investment Committee to look into “establishing a socially responsible investment fund option for donors interested in such an option, […] developing ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) principles and guidelines for endowment investments, [and] “asking investment managers to report annually on ESG and UNPRI (United Nations Principles of Responsible Investing) implementation and compliance,” to be reported to the Board in December 2016.

Raby explained that the Investment Committee has proposed the creation of a Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) strategy to be funded with $5 million of McGill’s $1.4 billion endowment fund. Put another way, this fund would represent a mere 0.4 per cent of the University’s endowment.

The Chair explained that this will give donors the option to invest specifically along ‘ethical’ principles.

He further added that the Committee will look into hiring investment managers who have experience working with socially responsible investments and who follow these principles.

“We’re not simply going to pay lip service to [social responsibility],” he added, “we’re going to be proactive on it [and] we’re going to be keeping that as a focus in terms of our manager searches in the future.”

“Twenty minutes twice a year does not seem like it’s enough, especially if you’re trying to frame it as [about five minutes per] person asking a question.”

Academic Staff Representative Derek Nystrom noted that part of the SRI strategy’s objective is to “avoid the securities of companies engaged primarily in production or distribution of alcohol, tobacco, pornography, gaming, weapons,” according to the report.

“I’m wondering why we don’t have fossil fuels on that list, and I ask that because these CAMSR recommendations were made in response to Divest McGill’s petition to ask the University to divest from all of its holds in fossil fuels,” he said.

“This isn’t a very large part of the endowment, $5 million out of $1.4 billion is less than half of one per cent of the endowment,” he continued. “One of the downsides of our decisions not to divest is that we could lose some of our donors, we already did […] but if we had a fund that said we have a part […] committed to divesting […] why not include [to the list] those that are engaged in the extraction […] of fossil fuels?”

Raby responded that he believes CAMSR would be better suited to answer that question.

Frankel also spoke in favour of including fossil fuels in the list, saying that “we can afford to be more ambitious.”

He added that “in the report, it says that the ESG principles will be adopting a policy similar to that being used in the faculty pension plan, but I wanted to bring to the table the opinion and voices of people not at the table; many faculty members have told me that they don’t invest in the pension plan because it includes […] investments in Enbridge, Stone Corp.”

As a result of this discussion, Cobbett announced, “we’ll take [the report] back and think on it.”

Increasing accountability

On November 29, SSMU released a research report from the President’s office entitled “A Seat at the Table: An Analysis of the McGill University Board of Governors” to examine the Board’s current structure and administration.

Academic Staff Representative Derek Nystrom noted that part of the SRI strategy’s objective is to “avoid the securities of companies engaged primarily in production or distribution of alcohol, tobacco, pornography, gaming, weapons,” according to the report.

A press release announcing the report stated that the “current state of governance at McGill University has perpetuated an environment where community members feel disenfranchised and unheard by the Board of Governors.”

“Particular issues include a lack of diversity or community representation in Board membership; a privileged nomination process; unregulated confidential sessions; and insufficient consultation protocols for all decisions,” the release continued.

The report provides recommendations to address these issues, including expanding representation of the McGill community through Member-at-Large seats on the Board, public nominations of members-at-large, and a restructuring of the NGE Committee.

In relation to this report, Ger submitted a resolution to the Board, proposing that the NGE Committee compile a report on BoG best practices, which was discussed at the meeting.

“I’m not sure where this is heading,” Cobbett said, “because if the intention is scholarly review of board practices, frankly I’m not sure that’s an efficient use of our limited resources.”

“Speaking for myself and speaking for the chair of the [NGE] Committee, I’d be a whole lot more comfortable if there was a little more specificity to this,” he continued.

Ger explained, “What I would like to see out of a report like this is more of an examining of the roots, of those documents at the bottom, looking at the […] details that can change in order to need less structures at the top.”

“The intention of this was not to compile an academic study, but maybe just to see what sort of practices are out there for the Board’s general knowledge,” he added. “It would mainly look at the statutes as well as the terms of reference.”

Cobbett said that this “is a large part of what the [NGE] committee looked at over the course of the last month.”

“I’m just going to get to the heart of the issue,” Frankel said in response. “At McGill’s community council […] I think that what this is trying to do is to increase the level of accountability at the level of the Board, and the motion that was passed earlier today makes great strides toward that.”

When asked what he meant by accountability, Frankel explained that he was concerned with the fact that members-at-large are not nominated.

Fortier then explained that McGill, as a publicly funded university, is required to have Board members who represent the public, that are taxpayers, who are not internal to the University.

Ger maintained that “in terms of accountability, that’s an area in which the report can look into. It’s all tied into this wider concept of including community engagement.”

“The current state of governance at McGill University has perpetuated an environment where community members feel disenfranchised and unheard by the Board of Governors.”

“I don’t see a reason why more reporting and more information sharing at the Board level of best practices would be a problem,” he added.

However, Cobbett suggested that Ger meet with him, the Board Secretary-General, and other members to bring more focus to the resolution. Ger agreed to his suggestion, and the resolution was tabled.

In an email to The Daily, Ger said that he plans to either go back to the NGE Committee with a more specific report or submit parts of the SSMU report to the committee or Board.

When asked about his reasoning behind the motion, Ger acknowledged the restrictions imposed by the University’s public status, but he believes the current BoG model “contributes to an atmosphere where some Governors, though in some instances to no fault of their own, are detached from the community they govern.”

He added that “out of the many points that were brought up by the report that the SSMU released, I believe that Composition and Nomination are the two areas in most crucial need of reform.”

“Considering the decentralized nature of the McGill community,” he continued, “different members come with a unique and important ground level view on how micro-factions within the institution function, what their realities are like, and the ways in which the University can improve.”

Ger further advocated for reforming the Board so that there are fewer external seats and more elected representatives, as well as redefining what it means to be a member of the community.

He went on to say that the Board should be nominating “identity-based or neighbourhood specific representatives,” as “those who identify in particular ways and have varying experiences in different communities of people, rather than different types of businesses, would be better equipped to provide opinions that are generally not available within the [university’s] walls.”

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Mental Health Services still lacking http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/mental-health-services-still-lacking/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:29:42 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48703 McGill Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS) has undergone a number of structural changes recently, some due to complaints from patients, and mobilization on the part of student representatives and campus organizers.

Most recently, CMHS shifted to a ‘stepped care model,’ but despite efforts on the part of CMHS to become more inclusive and anti-oppressive, many trans students have noted that their experiences with the service have been less than ideal.

In an interview with The Daily, Khloe,* a current McGill undergraduate student, described their experiences working with a number of therapists and psychiatrists at the clinic. They noted their discomfort discussing issues of queerness, transness, and racialization with their service providers, despite the fact that these issues often interact deeply with their experiences of mental illness.

When they met with their first psychiatrist, they explained, “I just didn’t trust [him] at all [and] just like could not tell him the most basic things about myself, like the fact that I was queer, that I was trans.”

A sense of distrust has permeated their relationships with therapists, creating a barrier between Khloe and their clinician. This distrust was created, according to Khloe, through the lack of incorporation of trans positive behaviors in the atmosphere of the sessions. For example, therapists normalized the gender binary.

When asked if the therapists leading a group therapy session asked for pronouns when meeting Khloe for the first time, Khloe said that “it just wasn’t a thing that was talked about.”

Furthermore, Khloe said the therapists did not respect their pronouns even after they had asserted them.

This created a client-patient relationship that wasn’t open to hearing about Khloe’s experiences with oppression. “I feel like like being non-binary or being queer are important aspects of my identity, and therefore my mental health, and if I can’t talk about those things in therapy, what the fuck am I supposed to be?” they said.

Another trans student who uses the Services, James*, told The Daily that when he initially accessed the services, the first clinician he saw turned him away because of a lack of knowledge about providing healthcare for trans patients, despite the fact that James was not seeking care regarding his transness.

As a result, James saw a student doing a practicum or internship who did not have training for treating transgender people and did not help with the original issue he sought help for.

“That was my first useless experience,” he said, “and I was so burned by that that I just didn’t go back for two years.”

These testimonials play into past criticisms of the Canadian medical system, with many saying that despite seeking care that has nothing to do with their gender, providers sometimes feel that if they do not understand trans issues, they will be unable to provide services.

Unfortunately, this results in many trans patients being reduced to their gender identity; trans people, like anyone else, experience health problems that have nothing to do with their sexual or gendered characteristics.

James went on to note that when he recently returned to access CMHS, although his new clinician was also unfamiliar with trans issues, “he seemed to have done a lot of reading, he mentioned some of the things he’d been reading and showed me,” he said. “He’d been doing his homework, which I really appreciated.”

James commented that this made him feel much more comfortable, though he worries about trans folks who might approach Counseling and Mental Health Services early on in their transition. These patients, who might not have access to information and resources about transness, could experience harm at the hands of a mental health service provider lacking knowledge about trans issues.

“If I think back to the person that I saw years ago, the first person I saw, she had worked with so many trans people she knew the right language to sort of lead me to where I needed to understand myself and things like that,” James said. “So [a clinician] with that kind of experience, I think is invaluable [for trans patients early on in their transition.]”

Trans patients are still facing these challenges in sessions at CMHS despite numerous efforts on the part of administration to improve services.

Associate Director of Counseling and Mental Health Services, Giuseppe Alfonsi, told The Daily that improving the inclusivity of their services was one of the Services’ main goals.

He noted that feedback was an important part of their new administrative model and he takes it very seriously: “I literally record every single feedback I get. I try to contact every single feedback,” he said. “But I’ve had a gap where I haven’t heard anything.”

As it stands, patients can only provide feedback through an online forum. Alfonsi added that “the first thing I would say [we need to work on] is figure out a kind of more proactive feedback system. Meaning, do we reach out on purpose to students who come from marginalized experiences? Do we design […] a kind of more formalized assessment for those students’ needs?”

In 2013, all Mental Health Services staff received a three-day training with Françoise Susset and Pierre Paul Tellier, both health care providers who work closely with trans communities in Montreal. Following this training, Tynan Jarrett, Equity Educational Advisor (LGBTTQ) at the Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) office, has delivered training sessions each year to the MMHS staff on competent trans care.

In an interview with The Daily, Jarrett discussed the contents of these trainings. These trainings addressed a number of issues including the importance of asking pronouns, not assuming anything about patients’ relationships to gender or transitioning, and how gender intersects with other aspects of one’s identity, such as race, class, and ability.

When asked why trans folk continue to face difficulties at CMHS, Jarrett and Alfonsi both noted that often this type of education takes a long time to take hold.

“The health system is embedded in broader social systems, which means that…health care providers, even relatively explicitly liberal health care providers […] are going to be raised […] in a classist, racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic society […] and that stuff is going to seep in,” Alfonsi said. “So you have to constantly exert energy to kind of roll that back.”

Creating a change within the culture of CMHS is a difficult task that requires the commitment of all staff members. Alfonsi indicated that most, if not all, clinicians at Mental Health Services were open to feedback and eager to provide the best care possible to patients.

Jarrett emphasized that the only way to improve is to continue educating the staff and make it a priority to hire clinicians who either are trans, knowledgeable in trans issues, or both. Alfonsi told The Daily that hiring was indeed a priority for the Services.

Both Alfonsi and Jarrett were optimistic regarding the potential for CMHS to improve.

They both think this is a moment of change for the Services in improving their care, not only to better serve trans patients, but also to improve on issues of racism and classism.
Beyond education and hiring, important next steps could include providing more trans-specific services and resources, as well as improving the clarity and ease by which students can provide feedback.

*Names have been changed.

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LGBTQ rights in Russia http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/lgbtq-rights-in-russia/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:05:20 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48691 Content warning: homophobia, physical violence

On Wednesday, November 23, Alexander Kondakov, an assistant professor of sociology at European University at Saint Petersburg, gave a talk entitled “Why No One Goes to Pride Parade: LGBT Hate Policy in Russia,” at New Chancellor Day Hall.

The talk discussed the “ways in which the [Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (U.S.S.R.)] leveraged power to exercise control over every aspect of citizens’ lives,” and the effect on LGBTQ Russians, as outlined by its Facebook event page. In relation to this, Kondakov traced Russia’s social and legal history to shed light on contemporary LGBTQ grassroots organizations, their exclusion from public discourse in Russia, and their hopes for reinvention.

The talk was hosted by OutLaw at McGill, a club “for queer (including but not limited to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, tran(s)sexual, two-spirited, asexual, intersex, pansexual, questioning, and anyone who identifies with the queer moniker) students and their straight allies,” according to their website.

Kondakov argued that the trouble began when the authoritarian Soviet Union government collapsed the distinction between public and private space. Since public space was subject to total government control, the privacy of its citizens was compromised and the freedom of their sex lives came under threat. By the 1930s the Soviet government, once openly allowing homosexual practices, had returned to its pre-revolutionary homophobic policies.

Domination of public and private life produced a culture of silence around sexuality. This made discussing queer issues, even in secrecy, difficult. Nonetheless, “parallel spaces” emerged where queer individuals could form a community. Kondakov said that while the “KGB and police patrolled parks” homosexual men and women were met with little interference.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s meant that Russia, in order to fall in line with Western norms, had to drop its anti-homosexual laws. Yet this did not bring significant change to a culture that had been silenced for so long, said Kondakov.

In an interview with The Daily, Kondakov said the social situation regarding queer rights in Russia was bad enough that he thought “breaking that silence would be a very important move […] But, of course, when the discussion was opened, we [were] all faced with hatred, intolerance, and the bans of propaganda.”

During his talk, he said that the Pride parades in Russia devolve each year into “a mess of abuse and violence,” because of Russia’s introduction of “gay propaganda” laws in 2013, which prevents the public from promoting “non-traditional” values.

Homosexuality was not criminalized, but largely omitted from legal discourse. However, it is strongly implied in the term “non-traditional values,” in much legal discourse and continues to be interpreted as such in disputes, Kondakov said in his talk.

“Breaking that silence would be a very important move […] But, of course, when the discussion was opened, we [were] all faced with hatred, intolerance, and the bans of propaganda.”

According to an article by Kondakov called “Resisting the Silence: The Use of Tolerance and Equality Arguments by Gay and Lesbian Activist Groups in Russia,” LGBTQ people are not protected under anti-discrimination laws, nor are they mentioned elsewhere in the legal code. Kondakov believes that judges could change that by defending the queer community within the official category of “social group,” but so far they have not done so.

Kondakov told The Daily that at least two cases of murder, in which Russian men lured suspected homosexual peers to private locations and murdered them, “[were] not covered at all” by mainstream Russian media. He believes the murderers’ conviction and sentencing did not receive widespread attention in the Russian media because it did not fit the official anti-queer narrative.

“Hate crimes in Russia are often private,” he said in his talk, and there is little incentive to publicize them.

While laws and social norms have consolidated this silence around sexuality to oppress the queer community, Kondakov says the government has failed to censor the internet.

Indeed, Kondakov told The Daily that “virtual networks [are] much powerful now than any material spaces.”

But on VK, the most popular social network in Russia, Kondakov – an openly gay academic – was labeled a “pederast.” During his talk, he explained that when he complained to authorities, he was told that the group that labeled him was private so the post could not be taken down.

“Hate crimes in Russia are often private.”

It was ironic, Kondakov thought, that in a country where public universities purge queer staffers and popular media use anti-queer slurs to discredit politicians and public figures, he was discouraged from pursuing his own protection.

Nonetheless he thinks the future is hopeful: a “silent revolution” is growing. New strategies are emerging in “parallel spaces,” Kondakov said, like internet-based queer communities.

When asked what Canadians should do, he encouraged them to create a positive online presence because “any kind of support is really crucial, when people feel they’re isolated it’s very important just to hear good words. […] It should be done as much as possible.”

OutLaw contributes to this process by providing “a social space where people can get together and feel safe to talk about issues that affect LGBT people,” OutLaw VP of Communications Dylan Gibbs told The Daily.

“Any kind of support is really crucial, when people feel they’re isolated it’s very important just to hear good words. […] It should be done as much as possible.”

In an interview with The Daily, OutLaw co-president Frédérique Bossé said that one of the most pressing issues in Canada are trans rights in legal discourse. She believes Canada “still [has] a lot to do in terms of transgender individuals. ”

She added that while the McGill Faculty of Law presents various opportunities to pursue critical legal studies, there is always progress to be made.

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“Throwing Shade” http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/throwing-shade/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:00:53 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48696 On Saturday, November 19, the UofMosaic Fellowship Program at McGill partnered with the Black Students’ Network (BSN) to host a panel discussion on the global impact of colourism.

What is colourism?

“Shadeism or colourism is basically the insidious cousin of racism,” explained panelist Nayani Thiyagarajah, a filmmaker from Toronto. “We internalize racism and then digest it and release it again as shadeism [or colourism] amongst ourselves and our communities.”

Panelist Safyer McKenzie-Sampson, a graduate student at McGill whose work focuses on the fields of prenatal epidemiology and prenatal health, highlighted the reality that this “insidious cousin” has often been swept under the rug by Black communities because other issues are deemed more important.

“[Colourism] was [meant] to create social distance, so if you were closer to white you were further from Black,” she said, “but […] you can be at different places on that spectrum, and I think it’s interesting because especially within the Black community there’s so many other issues, [and] we have so much to fight against that we don’t have time to look introspectively at these issues that do exist.”

How did colourism come to be?

“In the context of South Asia, I don’t think colourism started necessarily with European colonialism,” said Thiyagarajah. “There have been successive migrations of different communities through that region and different conquerors, some of which we don’t even have enough information on.”

“[However] it was very much made a bigger problem with successive European colonization,” she continued, tying it in with social and economic systems within South Asia. “I think […] a lot of the language surrounding colourism has to do very much with anti-Blackness as it exists in the caste system.”

Michelle Cho, another panelist and an assistant professor in the Department of East Asian Studies at McGill, elaborated on the connection between colourism and the caste system from an East Asian perspective.

“Colourism is a […] long-standing characteristic in the Korean context because it’s always been connected to class, or to social caste,” said Cho. “You have peasants who represent revolutionary subjects within the Korean context, and then […] you have a Confucian scholar who is supposed to be the opposite and the elite, […] and this is communicated not just through clothing and other accoutrements, but it’s very much something that’s confirmed in skin colour.”

Cho also tied colourism in Korean society to how it developed under Japanese occupation.

“The Japanese colonial era brought with it a concept of scientific racism that was really important to the way that people were defining themselves, because this scientific concept of race is really linked to biological essence,” said Cho. “There was a really strong need on the part of the colonial government to make very hardened distinctions between the colonized population and the colonizing, and so they were continuously trying to use this concept of scientific racism as a way to justify their presence there.”

However, Cho highlighted the absurdity of the idea that race could be an “essential difference.”

“There’s a reason that plastic surgery is so popular,” she argued. “It’s because there’s this sense that if you can change your external appearance, then why not? There is nothing essential about your features.”

McKenzie-Sampson noted that, within the Black community, dialogues surrounding colourism are very different depending on historical identities.

“In the United States, […] about 80 per cent of Blacks are descendants of the slave trade, directly,” she explained, “but if you look at Canada, about 85 to 90 per cent of Blacks are immigrants or children of immigrants. […] It’s important to mention immigrants from the Caribbean, from West Africa; they bring with them a different nature of colourism.”

However, panelist Kazue Takamura, a professor at McGill’s Institute for the Study of International Development, whose work centres around issues of labour in the diaspora, emphasized that colourism is not necessarily only perpetuated by social hierarchies outside of the individual. Takamura believes there are sometimes reasons for individuals to operate within racist structures.

“Filipino caregivers – these women also self-perpetuate this stereotypical image of docility as women of colour,” she said. “They often serve for middle and upper-middle income households and maybe different racial groups, but using this stereotype image of the docile, flexible, exploitable [woman], they gain opportunity.”

How does colourism affect us?

Some panelists described their own personal experiences with colourism: Michelle Cho drew on her experiences in Korea.

“I remember the first time I went to Seoul,” she said, “I remember thinking that it was going to be a place where I would finally be invisible in a certain way because […] until that time […] I always felt like it [was] impossible not to have to account for myself as a minority.”

“I think a lot of diasporic people feel this way when they go back to their home countries,” she continued. “I thought it was fascinating that before I even spoke, people knew. People would ask me if I was Korean-American, what they called ‘overseas Korean.’”

“I remember thinking, how did you know that?” she said. “They said, ‘because you’re dark’ or ‘you’re tan.’ They associate U.S. culture with tanning, hanging out.”

A way forward

Thiyagarajah was hopeful about the future given the recent developments within media industries in the United States.

“What’s interesting about the United States,” she began, “is that there’s a lot of private money there [in media industries] so there is a lot of support coming from […] racialized communities to support their own film makers.”

“This is why you’re seeing a lot of [people of colour on television],” she continued, “and now you’re seeing people within the industry […] creating more opportunities by themselves instead of relying on the industry itself.”

“I’m really hopeful because the screen and what we watch,” she said, “because we ingest so much of that, that says so much about our representation and how we see ourselves and so I’m excited, even in children’s books we are seeing a lot more diversity, [books] that are meant for inclusivity in storytelling.”

“I’m excited to see over the next few years how representations in our media across the board are going to impact shadism and colourism,” she concluded.

McKenzie-Sampson drew from personal experience to highlight the differing attitudes between generations, and how generational shifts trend toward progress.

“My grandmother was born in colonial times,” she began. “She doesn’t understand where we are now, she still considers herself a British citizen.”

“I remember once she was mad at my sister and she [said] ‘You look so African!’” McKenzie-Sampson said. “My sister was like, ‘that’s not an insult.’ It was just a moment where I was like, ‘Wow, to her that’s an insult.’”

“Seeing that generational shift, that the youth now don’t see that as an insult: we don’t see it as pejorative in general,” she said.

McKenzie-Sampson referenced the cultural movement celebrating natural hair texture as a positive sign within the issue of colourism.

“I thought that was interesting because it was a very grassroots shift,” she said. “There was a movement of women saying, ‘No, we’re not going to do this anymore’ and companies had to adapt quickly.”

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The influence of May 1968 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/the-influence-of-may-1968/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:00:37 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48699 Around thirty students gathered in the Henry F. Hall building of Concordia University on Thursday, November 25, to participate in Socialist Fightback at McGill and Concordia’s event “France May 1968: When Students Sparked a Revolution.”

“May ‘68” refers to a series of student demonstration and mass general strikes that took place across France between May and June 1968. Socialist Fightback called the uprisings “the greatest revolutionary general strike in history” in their Facebook event.

The event began with a half-hour presentation by Samantha Ilacqua, a member of Socialist Fightback and a Concordia student, on the historical details of May 1968. A question and answer period followed the presentation and the organizers then invited everyone to join them at an off-campus bar for further discussion.

Origins of May ‘68

The presentation began with an overview of the economic climate in France at the time.

“The living standards of workers were rising and we saw the emergence of a middle class,” Ilacqua said. “There was social stability for a certain section of the working class.”

However, for many people “the working conditions were actually quite poor […] In many places, bosses ran a very strict dictatorial style of management.”

Ilacqua stressed a feeling of disconnect between May ‘68 protestors, and the political and union leadership of the time, who “wrote off the working class as having no revolutionary potential at all.”

She also highlighted the role of youth, saying that “historically many movements begin with the youth, and this was also the case for May 1968.”

“The working conditions were actually quite poor […] In many places, bosses ran a very strict dictatorial style of management.”

She added that “in the early 1960s, students were involved in big movements against the Algerian War and […] were protesting against the restrictive education system,” as well as high unemployment and dropout rates.

Linking student protests and worker strikes

Socialist Fightback’s event largely focused on how a student protest can lead to a massive worker’s strike at the national level.

Ilacqua explained the key events in May, starting with the closure of the Paris-Sorbonne University because of protests, police intervention and brutality, and ending with how the French working class came to join and transform the uprising.

“Ten million people were on strike out of 15 million. That’s two thirds of the work force and only 3.5 million were actually unionized,” pointed out Ilacqua, illustrating the scope of the month’s protests and reiterating the lack of union and political leadership in coordinating these movements.

“Historically many movements begin with the youth, and this was also the case for May 1968.”

Ilacqua emphasized that the agency behind the strikes needs to be attributed to the workers, saying “more and more workers began to join the movement and they began to feel their collective power.”

Members of Socialist Fightback discussed the potential harmful effects such strikes can have on a capitalist system.

“I think what’s amazing about May ‘68 is that it shows that we […] can organize amongst ourselves and continue to provide for these people while hurting the bosses,” said one participant, who did not identify themselves. “I think that’s an essential part of how we can organize in solidarity with workers and students […] it’s something we should put forward when we talk to people, that there is a solution that won’t hurt them but will hurt the system [instead].”

Ultimately, protestors’ morale weakened and de Gaulle was re-elected, partially caused by an exclusionary voting system and the discreditation of socialist parties, putting an end to May ‘68.

May ‘68 and the 2012 Quebec student protests

In terms of the relevance of May 1968 to McGill and Concordia students, many attendees at the event had the 2012 Quebec student protests on their minds.

“I think what’s amazing about May ‘68 is that it shows that we […] can organize amongst ourselves and continue to provide for these people while hurting the bosses. I think that’s an essential part of how we can organize in solidarity with workers and students […] it’s something we should put forward when we talk to people, that there is a solution that won’t hurt them but will hurt the system [instead].”

Kian Kenyon-Dean, a McGill student and member of Socialist Fightback, explained in an email to The Daily that the event didn’t explicitly address the local protests because they were very different from May 68.

“2012 unfortunately largely remained a student movement, while 1968 brought ten million workers out on general strike for a few weeks,” he wrote. “[In 2012] the trade union leaders did not want this, and the student leaders, while many of them had good intentions, did not organize to make this a reality.”

Ilacqua, in an email to The Daily, explained the main objective behind organizing an event like Thursday night’s.

“What we need to do is to study past revolutions, so that we do not repeat the same mistakes as the past,” she wrote. “The workers and students of France rose up to transform society, but were blocked by the lack of direction or even bad direction of the movement that had their heads in the past. We need to build good leadership today to be prepared for movements like this that will happen in the future.”

“2012 unfortunately largely remained a student movement, while 1968 brought ten million workers out on general strike for a few weeks. [In 2012] the trade union leaders did not want this, and the student leaders, while many of them had good intentions, did not organize to make this a reality.”

Joel Bergman, a Fightback organizer present at the event, spoke about the failures and opportunities of socialist solidarity in modern times, especially in regards to movements like Standing Rock.

“I think [Standing Rock] is a good example of […] a failure of the leadership,” explained Bergman. “The IFL-CIO [Iowa Federation of Labor] is opposed to the protests that are happening because they want the pipeline, they’re in favour of supporting the very few number of jobs […] created when that pipeline is constructed.”

“The movement [could] actually win in Dakota […] if the trade union movement came out hard behind the protestors and actually mobilized their members and organized strikes,” concluded Bergman.

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Outremont upholds bylaw http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/11/outremont-upholds-bylaw/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:00:34 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=48708 On Sunday, November 20, Outremont residents voted to uphold a bylaw banning the construction of new houses of worship on Bernard by a vote of 1,561 to 1,202.

The bylaw

The legislation, introduced last year, would prohibit the construction of houses of worship on Bernard and Laurier, ostensibly banning religious construction throughout the entire borough, as a similar ban already applies to residential streets in Outremont and on Van Horne.

However, the bylaw remains controversial, because while the ban applies to all religious denominations, the referendum results have left Outremont’s Hasidic community feeling targeted: currently comprising 25 per cent of the borough’s population, Outremont’s Hasidic community is the borough’s largest growing religious group and expected to be Outremont’s largest demographic by 2030.

As Laurier did not receive the minimum number of signatures in its public registry to enforce a referendum, Bernard remained the last possible area where a place of worship could be built.

Outremont only has four synagogues with a combined capacity of four hundred: the ban would effectively force Hasidic Jews to travel outside of the borough by foot in order to attend Synagogue, as Jewish religious law prohibits any form of mechanical travel on the Sabbath, including, but not limited to, driving a car, taking the bus, or riding the subway.

Though borough councilors claim that the ban was designed to protect Bernard’s commercial viability, Outremont councilor Mindy Pollak, the only councilor to vote against the ban, says that this logic does not stand up under scrutiny.

In a September interview with The Daily, Pollak spoke about the example of Parc, where “the Plateau approved a few new synagogues, [and] there’s businesses that are booming now, new stores have opened up.”

The campaign

Arno Pedram, a U2 student at McGill and a volunteer for the ‘No’ vote against the ban, campaigned prior to the referendum in an effort to raise support for overturning the bylaw.

He feels that the ‘Yes’ campaign “had spread […] a lot of misinformation about what was happening” by focusing on the commercial aspects of the bylaw, rather than the religious implications. He accredits the success of the ‘Yes’ campaign to “huge amounts of donations,” and early mobilization.

Pedram told The Daily that the ‘No’ campaign only got off the ground a week prior to the referendum, saying “the lateness […] is due in part to the fact that the Hasidic community did not want to seem aggressive.”

Legal action

“[The ‘Yes’ campaign] had spread […] a lot of misinformation about what was happening.”

Julius Grey, a Montreal lawyer who opposes the bylaw, believes there are sufficient grounds to pursue legal action, telling CTV that “the majority vote is of no importance as long as there is a violation of the Charter, so what one would have to show is that there is a practical impediment to them worshipping.”

While similar bans exist in other boroughs throughout the city, Outremont does not have “Projets particuliers de construction, de modification ou d’occupation d’un immeuble” laws in place, which would allow the borough to issue building permits on a case-by-case basis, even if a general bylaw prevents the construction of places of worships. As a result, members of the Hasidic community are left with little alternative but to go to court.

“The majority vote is of no importance as long as there is a violation of the Charter, so what one would have to show is that there is a practical impediment to them worshipping.”

However, despite the threat of forthcoming legal action, Hasidic community leader, Abraham Ekstein, seeks compromise that will leave all parties satisfied, telling The Daily: “We hope to build bridges with the community around us to […] find a way to live together.”

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