The McGill Daily » News Not the NYT since 1911 Tue, 27 Jan 2015 15:36:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 McGill holds open forum on bookstore relocation Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:02:25 +0000 BRIEF

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On January 19, McGill held an open forum to collect community input to help shape the vision for the new McGill bookstore. The bookstore will be relocating in 2016.

when its current location is taken over by the Desautels Faculty of Management. However, the new location, or whether the store will even exist outside of the internet, has yet to be determined.

About twenty people attended the forum, very few of whom were students. Attendees spouted a range of ideas for the new McGill bookstore including a lounge and cafe, or multiple kiosks and pop-­up stores around campus.

Sales at the McGill bookstore have declined by 16.8 per cent since 2008. According to consultant Bianca Barbucci, this is not a McGill-specific problem.

“Across Canada there’s a decline in textbooks and course materials overall. […] There’s more competition, and there are a lot of new digital materials that are available. People find their solutions elsewhere; they copy, or download,” said Barbucci at the forum. “It’s the same situation with music.”

The only sales category that has been increasing since 2008 is “Clothing and Insignia,” though at a rate of only of 2.8 per cent annually. For some students, this did not reflect the purpose of the bookstore that was most relevant to them.

“Some students mentioned that they felt that the store was existing for the sole purpose of tourism,” McGill Senior Campus Planner Paul Guenther said, relaying the opinions of students from an earlier focus group. “There’s definitely different perceptions on who the merchandise is for.”

One student in attendance questioned the ethics behind the apparel sold at the bookstore.

“I know the McGill athletic store allows the suppliers [of branded clothing] to use sweatshops. I was wondering […] about the suppliers at the McGill bookstore, and if they’re the same ones,” the student inquired.

The stores’ merchandise comes from a variety of locations – however, both stores obtain some products from Adidas, which has faced multiple sweatshop controversies over the past few years.

McGill will continue the consultation process on the bookstore move, which has also included focus groups and an online survey, in the coming months.


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Mac campus students fight rent and fee increases Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:02:19 +0000 University insists on name changes for clubs

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The Macdonald Campus Students’ Society (MCSS) has begun negotiations with the administration regarding its Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), the document that defines the MCSS’s legal relationship with the University. The two parties met on January 7 to discuss the MOA, set to expire on May 31.

Last Tuesday, MCSS hosted an open meeting at the Ceilidh Pub in Mac campus’s Centennial Centre in order to discuss the proposed changes facing MCSS and the students they represent.

“Back in 2010 the MOA was not properly negotiated,” MCSS President Mathieu Rouleau said at the meeting. “McGill waited until they transferred the [executive], so the new [executive] came in a couple days later, and McGill said it ‘was already negotiated, you just have to sign it.’ So the document we’re dealing with currently has not been properly negotiated with the student society.”

Following rates negotiated in the 2010 MOA, MCSS was scheduled to pay $14 per square foot of space for the 2015-16 academic year, with a $1 per square foot increase per year. However, the administration’s current draft proposes a jump to $16 per square foot for 2015-16, and maintains the annual fee increase of $1 per year.

“We want to preserve what we have here, and meet our mandate to students.”

MCSS currently pays just under $50,000 annually to the administration for revenue-generating space – such as the kitchen, bookstore, and the campus bar – but the proposed changes will increase fees to over $75,000. McGill has justified these increases by stating that other campus student associations pay this rate, and that the change is adjusting for a lack of fee increases in the past.

“We are so different,” said VP Finance Valérie Toupin-Dubé during the meeting. “[It] is not possible to compare us to the other student societies.”

VP Communication and Student Life Jiawen Zhou highlighted that the distinct Mac environment is what makes the MCSS unique. “[Other] student associations have the same template, [but] it’s different here. [McGill] needs to take that into account. We want to preserve what we have here, and meet our mandate to students.”

MCSS executives who spoke at the meeting consider their responsibilities more extensive than those of other student societies at McGill. For example, they have been running the Mac campus bookstore since the 1990s, when McGill pulled out of the space, judging it unprofitable. MCSS bankrolls other campus initiatives as well, such as the peer helper program, staffing extra library hours during exams periods, and offering financial support to all Mac campus clubs.

The proposed budget increases would significantly disturb the current role of MCSS on campus, and would severely limit its ability to offer services to an expanding population of Mac students.

“We have very limited space for the capacity of students who are on this campus,” Rouleau told The Daily after the open meeting. “We want to be able to provide a space where they can come and feel comfortable and spend numerous hours here, while enjoying the landscape and the environment and everything on this campus.”

“[We] don’t want this campus to be considered a satellite campus,” he added.

In discussions with the MCSS executive, the administration has called the decision “standard” but has not expanded beyond that.

Students present at the meeting also questioned the decision to hike fees.

“Where [are] their standards coming from?” asked Samantha Guillemette, a U3 Life Sciences student.

Vilma Di Renzo-Campbell, Director and Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of the Associate Provost and the University’s representative in these negotiations, did not respond to The Daily’s requests for comment.

In addition to the fee increases, the administration has also proposed changes in nomenclature for all Mac clubs, requesting that “student” now be present in all titles. MCSS has interpreted this as a standardizing measure, and something that jeopardizes the clubs’ established legacies.

VP Internal Eric Brulé-Champagne said that MCSS will fight “to maintain the integrity of all of our clubs on campus.”

“[They] have had a rich past and have been established for a while. We want to make sure they can hold on to their name, and not have to conform to this liability clause.”

Brulé-Champagne continued, “Hopefully [we can] secure more student space [and] make sure the student space that we do have is sustainable in a way that our fees with […] McGill [aren’t] going to cause us to drown.”

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Head & Hands reinstates Street Work program Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:02:11 +0000 Youth outreach project doubles capacity with new hire

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Last November, Head & Hands hired a second employee for its Street Work program, restoring the program to the capacity it had before budget cuts forced its discontinuation in 2011. The program was partially reinstated in 2013 with the hiring of a single street worker after substantial fundraising.

Head & Hands is an organization that caters to the needs of youth between the ages of 12 to 25 in Montreal who may not have access to certain resources, ranging from counselling to legal services to free condoms to clean needles.

Street Work is the group’s outreach program, whereby street workers move around the Notre- Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) neighbourhood to meet clients and provide services, such as active listening and on-the-spot counselling, while also conducting harm reduction and drug awareness workshops at schools, community centres, and group homes.

“[The program] focuses on supporting marginalized youth using an educational approach that’s rooted in risk reduction,” said Victoria Pilger, Funding and Partnerships Coordinator at Head & Hands.

“We have a team of two street workers and […] they reach youth on their own turf – in bars, parks, metros, group homes, shooting galleries, basically anywhere where youth can be reached.”

Donald*, a past client of Head & Hands, attributed many of his successes to the Street Work program in a video testimonial.

“Without it, people like me would continue to be on the streets. I wouldn’t be where I am today, I wouldn’t have an apartment, I wouldn’t be able to look for work, I wouldn’t be stable, I wouldn’t have my beautiful dog, I wouldn’t have my beautiful wife. You know, it helped me,” Donald said in the testimonial. “The Street Work program got me off the street.”

In 2011, the Street Work program was suspended after budget cuts forced the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) Montreal to cease funding for the program. According to Pilger, PHAC faced a near 13 per cent reduction in its budget.

“We’re seeing that government funding for all social programs [is] shrinking, especially for programs that are using a non-judgmental and harm-reduction approach,” said Pilger.

The program was partially reinstated in 2013 after Head & Hands began fundraising in the local community.

“We launched a two-year campaign and we turned to our community for support. Over those two years, we were able to partially re-launch the program in the fall of 2013 – we raised the funds to bring back one street worker full-time,” said Pilger. This fundraising continued until another street worker was hired in the fall of 2014.

“The Street Work program got me off the street.”

Since the program’s initial reinstatement in 2013, street worker Sara* has managed to reach almost 500 youth around the city. According to Sara, the addition of an extra street worker comes as a significant achievement for the program, and will allow Head & Hands to expand its focus while continuing to provide resources for those who currently require them.

“I go into schools, community centres, and group homes for the most part,” said Sara. “There’s always so much to do, and there [are] so many dreams I have for the program, [such as] having a little bit more time to vamp up the drug workshops and spend time [on it]. Thankfully, we got a new street worker, and we sort of shift our schedules so that we’re able to meet with more people.”

“[I also get to] develop deeper relationships with clients because I’m able to spend more time with them, because I know there’s another street worker who can take certain calls or go to certain areas that I haven’t been to in a while,” Sara continued.

“Having our Street Work program back means that now we’re able to listen and hear what’s going in our neighborhood from really important voices – from youth who see NDG from the perspective of homelessness, poverty, social exclusion, from within the youth protection system, and other experiences of marginalization,” said Pilger.

“Our street workers are able to be our eyes and ears on the ground […] and hear the voices of youth that we might not have been able to hear without the program.”

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Queer McGill defends safe space Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:01:52 +0000 Rad Sex Week aims to destigmatize alternative sexual practices

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From January 26 to February 5, Queer McGill (QM) will be hosting its seventh annual Rad Sex Week, an event series seeking to explore and destigmatize anti-oppressive, feminist, trans- and queer-positive expressions of sexuality. The two-week-long event will be largely comprised of workshops to provide the McGill community with educational materials on more alternative or stigmatized sexual activities.

“[We are] making an inclusive space for any people or persons who [vary] from what we would normally characterize as ‘vanilla’ sex,” said QM Events Coordinator Erin Strawbridge in an interview with The Daily.

Some of the workshops aim to facilitate discussions on topics like sex and disability, consent, and BDSM, while others offer a more technical, hands-on approach to sexual practices, such as flogging and piercing play.

Speaking to The Daily, QM coordinators noted that, although the week focuses on non-traditional practices, workshops touching on consent and ethics are applicable to any type of sex or sex education.

“We came together and decided which workshops we’d like to see based on diversity purposes but also where there was a need. Workshops that you typically don’t see – those were the workshops we wanted to have,” said Sabine Grutter, QM Resource Coordinator and one of the main organizers of Rad Sex Week.

Safe space causes online backlash

On January 18, the organizers of the week had to deal with some unexpected backlash on the Rad Sex Week Facebook event page about one of the workshops, which will explore trans and queer people of colour’s (POC) sexual and romantic desires from a decolonization perspective. The event, entitled “Desires: A QT*POC Exploration,” is closed to queer and trans people of colour; some commenters argued that this was exclusionary.

“The QM page started being trolled,” said Grutter. “People who weren’t interested in the event started commenting about the fact that they didn’t agree with it and the politics surrounding it.”

The original comment thread reached about 200 responses. After QM published a response, more hateful and triggering comments were posted, which prompted QM to start deleting comments.

“Everyone whose comments we deleted, we sent [them] a message explaining why,” said Grutter, adding that QM has screenshots of all the comments.

As the comments in question were posted during a QM staff orientation session where most of the QM board was present, QM was able to quickly decide on a collective response.

The response acknowledged the institutionalized oppression of people of colour and the importance of providing a safer space for people who don’t want the voices of white people and the history of white supremacy and colonization weighing into conversations of POC romance and sexuality.

The coordinators also commented on some of the misunderstandings and questions that arose on the events page, one of them being a misinterpretation of the acronym LGBT*QIA.

“It’s a weirdly common mistake of assuming that in the LGBT*QIA, the A stands for ‘ally,’ which it does not – it stands for asexual,” said Strawbridge. “The fact [is] that allyship isn’t a foot in the door for any of these spaces. Allies should be the ones promoting the allowances of these spaces, not intervening on the basis of being an ally.”

Other commenters questioned who can be considered a person of colour.

“We do not want to bring up any instances of shadism or policing race; this event is open to anyone who self-identifies as a person of colour and is queer or trans [who wants] to come to this space and take something away from it,” said Grutter. “If you show up to the space, and you are clearly there to devalue the experience […] you will be asked to leave.”

The entire event page was eventually deleted by Facebook, after the QM coordinators’ account was reported for being “a community organization acting as a person,” according to Grutter.

Regardless of the backlash, the QM coordinators look forward to the events and encourage everyone to attend.

“You don’t have to be kinky per se to come to these events,” said Grutter. “The workshops are great, they’re free and accessible, they’re all bilingual, and in Montreal. ”

Visit the Facebook event page for the full schedule.

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University voices support for international tuition deregulation Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:01:49 +0000 Senate passes policy on late withdrawals after lengthy debate

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Senate approved a controversial policy on late withdrawals at its January 21 meeting. The policy, which was debated but not voted on at the previous meeting, will allow a student to remove the courses and grades for an entire term from the official transcript if the student withdrew from all classes under exceptional circumstances. In response to students’ questions, members of the administration also clarified the University’s stances on international tuition deregulation.

Policy on late withdrawals

The proposed policy on late withdrawals, originally brought to Senate at its December 3 meeting as part of the report of the Academic Policy Committee, came to Senate for approval again. It had not been voted on at the last meeting, as Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures & Equity) Lydia White withdrew the motion to approve the policy due to heavy debate and an apparent inability to reach a consensus.

“I think it is good that we managed to find a compromise here […] and I’m definitely happy [that the policy passed].”

Although several faculty senators reiterated concerns about preserving the “integrity” of the transcript, most interventions were in favour of the policy.

Responding to Arts Faculty Senator Catherine Lu, who had said that helping students deal with a difficult time was a poor rationale for altering the transcript, Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning) Ollivier Dyens noted that it is “the responsibility of the University to support [students],” something it already does “all the time” by providing mental health services or making accommodations in class.

Arts Faculty Senator Philip Oxhorn argued that although explanatory notes can accompany the transcript for graduate school or employment applications, those means are often insufficient to ensure fair treatment. “Sometimes too much knowledge is counterproductive,” he said. “We can have all sorts of amendments [to the transcript], but they don’t get read.”

Speaking on behalf of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Senate caucus, SSMU VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan praised the policy as a “significant step” in supporting students. She added that earlier, the SSMU caucus had suggested amending the policy with a three-year mandatory review clause – an amendment that White, the mover, had deemed friendly.

Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Academic Affairs Officer Jennifer Murray, however, was not in support of the policy. She expressed worry that discarding grades of W for some students and not others would weigh more heavily on the students who must keep them on their transcript, and as such have the “opposite effect” of the one intended.

The policy passed, with about two-thirds of senators in favour and two abstentions.

In an interview with The Daily, SSMU Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon expressed satisfaction with the result as a step toward more effective support for students.

“It’s very important to note that this is definitely not the end of the road. The major opposition we had to it last Senate is because we felt this policy didn’t go far enough,” he said. “I think it is good that we managed to find a compromise here […] and I’m definitely happy [that the policy passed].”

International tuition deregulation

In response to a question from SSMU senators asking McGill to clarify its stance on the deregulation of international tuition, Provost Anthony Masi stated that the University has been lobbying the Quebec government for the full deregulation of tuition fees from international students in all programs.

International tuition was deregulated for applied sciences, mathematics, engineering, computer science, management, and law in 2008, meaning that McGill has access to the supplementary fee paid by non-Quebec students that is normally redistributed by the government. The University is pushing for this deregulation in all other programs.

When pressed by SSMU Arts Senator Kareem Ibrahim on whether or not students had been consulted when establishing this position, Masi insisted that the University has openly held this position for some time. “It has been our policy for six years that deregulation is the right road to follow,” said Masi.

However, Stewart-Kanigan told The Daily that the University’s stance on the issue had been unclear to student representatives and was likely not familiar to the student body as a whole.

“We have the information that we need now to conduct our own consultation with international students and disseminate this information,” said Stewart-Kanigan.

“More programs have moved toward deregulation [in the last six years], so international students are now actually paying those significantly higher tuition [fees],” she continued. “Now would be an appropriate time to look critically at that stance again and see what students are thinking, because deregulation is not [just] an idea now, it’s something that students are actually experiencing.”

Greenspon echoed Stewart-Kanigan’s assessment. “There’s definitely been whispers of this, [but] this is probably the first time they’ve come out,” he said. “I really hope that there’s a better way that can be found here to fund the university without putting more of that burden on students’ backs.”

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Housing rights activists to set up occupation camp this spring Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:01:43 +0000 Group to protest social housing cuts, pressure government for subsidies

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The Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) – an organization that fights for housing rights – will set up an occupation camp in downtown Montreal this May, the organization announced in a statement released on January 8. With the camp, FRAPRU aims to increase pressure on the government in response to cuts to funding for social housing.

“Basically, the goal of the camp is to be right in the face of the government, and say, ‘look, the more you cut back, the more people will live in the street – and here we are, we are not going anywhere,’” Fred Burrill, community organizer at the Projet d’organisation populaire d’information et de regroupement (POPIR), a FRAPRU member organization, told The Daily.

About 140,000 low-income housing units exist in Quebec, with over 40,000 people on waiting lists across the province; however, both the provincial and federal governments have failed to renew expiring government subsidies for social housing. As of this year, 25,000 social housing units in Quebec will lose long-term federal subsidies, which will result in rent increases of up to $300 per month, according to FRAPRU.

“We really want to put the focus back on the issue that everyone deserves things like housing.”

“Right now we are seeing two different levels of cuts. The federal government is cutting the long-term subsidies to co-op and non-profit [housing…] and at the same time, in Quebec, we are seeing that [in] the AccèsLogis program, which is a program the government invests in to actually build the units for social housing, they decided to cut back,” Émilie Joly, community organizer at FRAPRU, told The Daily in an interview.

“For people living in co-ops funded by the federal program, we are actually seeing several people recently lose their subsidies entirely,” added Burrill. “So their rent can go from $200 a month to $600 or $700.”

FRAPRU’s decision to set up an occupation camp aims to give visibility to this issue and push the government to guarantee the right to accessible housing, according to Joly.

“We are going to have different kinds of workshops, whether it be on housing issues, on tenants’ rights, on how to build a co-op, and then the larger portrait: everything regarding the environment, for example, the construction of pipelines and Indigenous land rights. We’re really trying to have a broad perspective,” said Joly. “We really want to put the focus back on the issue that everyone deserves things like housing.”

In 2011, Occupy Montreal protesters occupied Square Victoria for more than a month, before former Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay ordered that police dismantle the camp.

According to a Montreal Gazette article published on January 13, current mayor Denis Coderre has not indicated whether or not he will allow FRAPRU’s camp to exist.

“We really hope that the city understands we are trying to convince the government to invest in municipal building and development, so the city should see us as an ally in this fight,” said Joly.

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SUS Council endorses safe space for queer people of colour Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:00:46 +0000 BRIEF

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At its second meeting of the year on January 21, the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) General Council (GC) voted to support Queer McGill (QM) in its intention to hold a discussion exclusive to people of colour, and discussed the upcoming 2015-16 budget.

Endorsement of Queer McGill event for people of colour

As part of its ongoing Rad Sex Week, QM will hold a discussion on sexuality and romance for queer and trans people of colour, excluding white people to provide a safer space and a more open environment for people of colour. After receiving online complaints against this event, QM approached various campus groups to speak in support of such closed events.

According to VP External Emily Boytinck, the GC’s decision to endorse the workshop fits with the SUS Equity Policy, which strives to provide fair treatment and safe space for all McGill students.

“Conversations can be held differently if white people who don’t experience racism aren’t present,” said Boytinck.

McGill Society of Physics Students representative Laurent Lanteigne disagreed, saying, “This is a right step in the wrong direction. […] If the ultimate goal is to have everyone on an equal stance, then everyone should be able to speak equally.”

Microbiology and Immunology Student Association representative Joy Tseng voiced concerns about taking a stance in the first place. “This is a touchy issue for SUS to be involved in this event,” she said. “It should take a neutral stance.”

Boytinck noted that similar discussions closed to people of colour had been used successfully by SUS itself at its equity retreat this month.
The motion passed, with eight votes for, five against, and five abstaining.

Budget presentation

VP Finance Eileen Bui presented an overview of the planned budget for 2015-16. Over 64 per cent of funds will be allocated to the departmental associations, she said.

“The rest of the funds are being distributed to committees that have the greatest impact on students,” said Bui.

Such initiatives include student appreciation events, such as free cookies during exam seasons, and the setting up of a laptop lending program to aid students who are in need of laptops on a short notice.

—Lunan Zhao

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Montreal Roma family facing deportation to Hungary Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:00:42 +0000 Canadian government dismissive of upsurge of racist violence

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A Roma family that has been living in Montreal since 2011 is due to be deported back to Hungary on January 28. Anasztazia Szilagyi, along with her husband Dezso Nemeth and children Mercedesz, 10, and Mark, 21, will be forced to return to Hungary after their application for permanent residence was rejected earlier this month. Szilagyi will be separated from her two older, adult children, Patricia and Dezso Jr., who will remain in Canada after having received asylum under a separate claim in June 2014.

The Roma people make up the largest minority of Hungary, and often face violence in their home country. Members of the Nemeth family were subject to beatings, verbal attacks, vandalism, and death threats in their hometown of Sárhida. “We didn’t want to leave Hungary, but we had to come to Canada. We were afraid of racist violence in Hungary because we are Roma. We were scared for the lives of our children, and for ourselves,” said Szilagyi in a statement.

According to a press release from Solidarity Across Borders (SAB), a Montreal-based migrant justice network that is assisting the Nemeth family, the family’s refugee claim was heard and rejected in May 2013. They have also been denied a pre-removal risk assessment to determine whether they would be under significant threat upon returning to Hungary.

The family’s lawyer Éric Taillefer has submitted an application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, as well as a request for an administrative stay of the deportation. Their case will be brought before the Federal Court on January 27, the day before the scheduled deportation.

Leah Freedman, a member of SAB, spoke to The Daily about the varying difficulties refugees face in seeking asylum in Canada. “It really becomes this case-by-case situation where people are going through this extremely complicated bureaucratic system that is often not explained to them,” said Freedman.

“We were afraid of racist violence in Hungary because we are Roma. We were scared for the lives of our children, and for ourselves.”

In December 2012, former Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney instituted changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with the passing of Bill C-31, which listed Hungary as one of many “designated countries of origin” (DCOs).

According to the Government of Canada website, the classification of DCOs is meant to prevent the “waste” of resources caused by processing refugee claims made by people from “countries that do not normally produce refugees, but do respect human rights and offer state protection.” However, Hungary has a long history of persecution, segregation, and repression of Roma people, despite its DCO label.

The Roma struggle for asylum

Dafina Savic, founder and executive director of Roma-rights organization Romanipe, speculated that the 2008 economic crisis provoked Hungarian politicians to use the Roma people as a political scapegoat. “There have been various anti-Roma marches organized […] where thousands of people gathered with swastikas, some of them dressed as Hitler, terrorizing Roma villages,” she told The Daily.

Economic negotiations between Canada and Europe in 2007 resulted in Canada removing visa requirements for Eastern European visitors. According to Savic, the subsequent rise in Roma refugees to Canada contributed to the Conservative government’s institution of Bill C-31 to curb the influx.

“Our generous asylum system has been abused by too many people making bogus refugee claims,” Kenney stated at 2012 press conference following the tabling of the bill. The recent rise of extremism in Hungary has led to another influx of unrecognized Roma refugees, most of whom will face the same immigration roadblocks as the Nemeth family.

“The rate of acceptance of Roma asylum seekers in 1998 was about 98 per cent, and since the application of Bill C-31 in 2012, it has gone down to 8 per cent,” said Savic. “We’ve been working with lawyers, and when they have a Roma case, they’re almost sure that it won’t be accepted.”

The Nemeth family’s refugee claim was rejected by Anna Brychcy, an adjudicator on the Immigration and Refugee Board appointed by Kenney. According to the Toronto Star, she granted asylum to just 6.45 per cent of refugee claims in 2010, and has no law or immigration background.

“What Bill C-31 did was to put a lot of power in the hands of the commissioners and so unfortunately [the decision] is, in some sense, arbitrary,” said Savic. “The shocking part of the decision is the fact that half of the family has been granted status, whereas the other half wasn’t.”

“Our whole life is here in Montreal, with our children and grandchildren. If my husband, Mark, Mercedesz, and I have to go back it will break my whole family,” Szilagyi said in her statement.

SAB has requested letters or phone calls be sent to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander asking him to stop the Nemeth family’s deportation.

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J-Board to release recommendations on General Assembly rules Sat, 24 Jan 2015 11:00:29 +0000 Settlement reached in case alleging bylaw infractions in Fall GA

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A settlement was reached on January 17 in the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Judicial Board (J-Board) case filed by Nadir Khan and Zain Ali Syed against SSMU’s Legislative Council and Speaker. Despite the petitioners’ original intention, the settlement was reached in mediation, and there will be no special General Assembly (GA) to discuss the controversial Palestine solidarity motion that was postponed indefinitely at the Fall GA, as the petitioners had originally called for.

The terms of the settlement require the J-Board to make recommendations concerning two issues: first, whether or not article 5.2.2 of bylaw I-5 allows Council to institute a special standing rule requiring a two-thirds majority in the place of a simple majority for a motion to postpone indefinitely; and second, whether article 5.2 of the same bylaw obliges SSMU to adopt simplified Robert’s Rules for GAs, and, if it does, how SSMU should go about doing this.

The recommendations to be outlined by the J-Board are not binding, and would need to be adopted by the Council in order to take effect. At the October 23 Council meeting, following the GA, several councillors expressed concern about the confusing nature of Robert’s Rules.

The petition called for a special GA to be held, deeming several of the proceedings of the Fall GA unconstitutional according to SSMU’s bylaws, and claiming that these mistakes were why the Palestine solidarity motion was never debated.

“We hope we were able to at the very least raise awareness on some of the fundamental flaws of our General Assemblies.”

Khan and Syed, who initially wanted to forgo mediation and have a hearing last semester, said that they had agreed to compromise due to the fast-approaching date of the Winter GA, to be held in March. “It became clear that the effectiveness of our requests would no longer be feasible as the date of the Winter GA drew closer,” the petitioners told The Daily in an email.

While the J-Board has not yet delivered its recommendations as per the settlement, Ayukawa insisted that SSMU did not break its bylaws.

“The SSMU has followed its bylaws throughout this, and [it may be that nothing will change] in the upcoming GA. Only the petitioners have said that SSMU did not follow the bylaws. Furthermore, whether or not bylaws were broken at the first GA is not mentioned in the mediation agreement,” said Ayukawa in an email to The Daily.

The petitioners cited the J-Board’s lack of quorum during the end of last semester, and the subsequent pushing of the hearing of their case to the Winter semester, as reasons for these delays. Khan and Syed also explained that the settlement was reached over the course of one mediation session, facilitated by J-Board Chief Justice Muna Tojiboeva.

Overall, Ayukawa was content with the mediation settlement. “I am happy that we were able to come to a common ground with the petitioners that everyone is content with,” she wrote.

Khan and Syed indicated that they will not take further action if the impending J-Board recommendations are not in their favour, and expressed hope that they had at least succeeded in shedding light on some of the problems that exist at SSMU.

“Fighting this for nearly three months now was an exhausting process, and we hope we were able to at the very least raise awareness on some of the fundamental flaws of our General Assemblies,” they wrote.

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Unions, communities unite against austerity Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:03:07 +0000 Busy spring looms as activist groups multiply

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A far-reaching social movement is taking shape against expansive funding cuts to public institutions in Quebec.

“It’s [only] the beginning,” Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said in French last April, announcing that $3.7 billion in cuts to public institutions would be made in 2014-15. “We’re at the beginning of an action that will be spread out over an entire [electoral] mandate.”

With the goal of balancing the budget by 2015-16 and running a surplus in 2017-18, the Liberal government has imposed severe cuts to education, healthcare, community organizations, and other public services.

The Liberals’ austerity measures drew the ire of a large portion of the population, with tens of thousands taking to the streets on October 31 and November 29. The movement is renewing its struggle with increased vigour in 2015 – the past few months have seen activists organize in interest-, institution-, or region-based Comités printemps 2015, or Spring Committees. The Comités are open to all, decentralized, and loosely coordinated through a “Comité large” that meets every few weeks in Montreal.

“We’ve been very active in supporting local picket lines of clinics and hospitals that are under attack recently,” said Richard St-Pierre, a Centre-Sud resident involved in the neighbourhood’s autonomous popular assembly, of the work of the Comité large in an interview with The Daily. Along with several unions and community organizations, the neighbourhood assembly regularly sends representatives to meetings of the Comité.

The Comité large had its first meeting of the year on January 12. “We just voted to start our 2015 campaign in January with support for daycare services in Quebec, [which] are under serious attack,” said St-Pierre.

“Through the years [since the 1970s], the struggle [for accessible daycare in Quebec] has continued to the point that we have the least expensive daycare services across Canada,” St-Pierre continued. St-Pierre also noted that the newly announced modulation of rates for daycare services imposed according to parents’ revenue will only serve to reduce government subsidies.

The daycare workers’ collective agreement will come to an end on March 31, along with that of most public sector workers in Quebec. Many activists in the Comités printemps are hoping for a general strike in the public sector once the collective agreements end.

“We could do otherwise – reject the ‘there is no alternative’ argument […] and realize that there could be other choices.”

Various community organizations are also associated with the Comités printemps. On November 19, hundreds of these organizations across Quebec closed for 225 minutes in protest, to symbolize the $225 million in funding they lack to be able to provide adequate services.

“We had a promise from [the last Parti Québécois] government – they promised $120 million of [additional] money for these organizations,” Sébastien Rivard, coordinator at the Regroupement intersectoriel des organismes communautaires de Montréal (RIOCM), told The Daily in an interview. “We [had] been waiting for at least ten years for new funds, and the Liberals, the first thing they did – they cut [those] new funds.”

“[Underfunded groups] cannot provide the services they should to people, so, in the end, it’s people [who] are the victims of these austerity measures,” added Rivard.

Beyond austerity

At Collège de Maisonneuve, teachers and students alike have taken action to protest the Liberals’ particularly severe cuts to CEGEPs across the province. In November, the teachers’ union – the Syndicat des professeures et professeurs du Collège de Maisonneuve (SPPCM) – collaborated with the student association to stage a picket line.

In an interview with The Daily, SPPCM President Benoît Lacoursière described the austerity program as a political choice.

“There is plenty of ability to implement creative solutions to increase revenues from elsewhere,” Lacoursière said in French. “Many budgetary problems arise because the government doesn’t want to tax big businesses.”

“I think this movement [the Comités printemps] is very important. […] We have to stop [the cuts], and we have to do it this year,” he said, pointing to the fact that funding cuts are set to continue indefinitely.

According to Rivard, the RIOCM is planning a new strike day this spring on May 1.

“We could do otherwise – reject the ‘there is no alternative’ argument […] and realize that there could be other choices,” added Rivard.

Justin Irwin, president of AGSEM: McGill’s Teaching Union, put forward alternatives to austerity in the McGill context.

“One of the challenges that we face is that there is a real willingness on part of both the government and public opinion to see these constant cuts and austerity as being something inevitable,” Irwin told The Daily.

“McGill wants to tell us that they are in dire economic straits all the time, but in fact, in some respects, their finances are more healthy than they like to present,” continued Irwin. For example, McGill’s budget projects an increase in net assets of almost $90 million for 2014-15, he said.

Ultimately, St-Pierre emphasized both the necessity for local organization and the global nature of the struggle.

“The solution, to our leaders, so far, is easy – it’s not up to them to pay for the crisis [of capitalism],” said St-Pierre. “If we don’t accept that logic, and I don’t think we should, the only alternative we have is to take the struggle into our own hands and say ‘no.’ And if this ‘no’ represents a call for a new society – even better.”

—With files from William Mazurek

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Experiencing blackness in Canada Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:02:50 +0000 Professor highlights inadequacy of ‘multicultural’ narrative in McGill talk

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Anthony Stewart, a professor of English at Bucknell University, gave a series of talks at McGill this week entitled “Talking Black to Canada.” Drawing partly on his own experience of growing up as a person of colour in this country, Stewart offered a penetrating analysis of Canada’s collective perception of itself as a tolerant, multicultural nation.

Speaking to a packed lecture hall on Friday afternoon, he discussed the consequences of this shared perception, and the extent to which it is divorced from the everyday realities faced by people of colour.

“Canada’s national story claims, in essence […] that of all the human social arrangements in the history of the species, Canada, and Canada alone, has been able to exist without racism,” said Stewart. “That’s arrogance.”

He explained that another widely-held notion – among white Canadians, at least – is that if racism does exist in their country, it is nowhere near as serious or as prevalent as in the U.S.; or, if it used to exist, the situation has improved immeasurably.

This, said Stewart, is not an acceptable response to racial inequality. “What I want you to understand is that not being as bad as someone else is not good enough, and still comes at great cost to those whose experience and existence contradicts the story.”

Stewart emphasized that this story is harmful. “Constantly being told that there is not a problem, when you know there is one, does things to you cognitively,” he said.

“I became aware from an early age that my claims to my own Canadianness were under constant strain.”

To illustrate the damaging effects of this narrative of colourblindness, Stewart alluded to the incident in 2013 when Chris Spence, former director of education at the Toronto District School Board, stepped down over allegations of plagiarism.

“When [Spence] loses his job under suspicion of plagiarism, while the mayor of the same city keeps his job despite […] criminal activity […] we are within our rights to remember that Chris Spence is black, and Rob Ford is white, even if the national story tells us that race doesn’t matter in such, or indeed in any, decision-making in Canada.”

Stewart explained that he himself had experienced the unsavoury reality of racism in Canada, from racial taunts in the elementary school playground to more insidious forms of discrimination in the academic world.

“I became aware from an early age that my claims to my own Canadianness were under constant strain; a strain that only increased as I aged, gained more academic credentials, and grew increasingly aware of the stories I was relentlessly told about the nation where I was born. Stories that, more often than not, imprinted upon me a sense of non-belonging, of being insufficiently Canadian,” said Stewart.

In the end, said Stewart, we must think critically about the national narratives we create for ourselves, and work toward re-imagining Canada so as to deal better with our differences.

“Stories construct our reality, right? They’re really central, and some people argue they’re the only way for us to understand our world. […] The good news is, we can change stories, and maybe, maybe, maybe, if we change enough stories […] then we can change ideology.”

Speaking to The Daily after the event, Lerona-Dana Lewis – a representative of Community-University Talks (C-Uni-T), which organized the lecture – expressed satisfaction with the attendance and audience participation. “Usually when it’s something that addresses people of colour, very few people come,” Lewis said. “It’s really encouraging to see that [so many students attended].”

C-Uni-T is a Montreal organization that raises awareness regarding issues faced by people of colour on university campuses. “It really gives undergraduate students who are facing racism a space to talk about this, and to know that other people understand what they’re saying,” said Lewis.

“Oftentimes, people tend to internalize, and think ‘it’s my problem,’ but as we heard from [Stewart], it’s the story that we’ve been told about Canada being this place where everybody’s welcome. In fact, some people are not welcome.”

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Bicycle-part vending machine installed at The Flat Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:02:18 +0000 BRIEF

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The Flat, McGill’s bike collective, welcomed a new bicycle-part vending machine on January 12. Located beside The Flat, room B-02 in the Shatner building, the vending machine is the first of its kind in Montreal, according to collective member Matt Ainsley.

Already up and running, the vending machine contains all items that were available for sale at The Flat, such as inner tubes, bike lights, brake cables, tools, and promotional material. Because the machine was funded by a Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Space Fund grant, prices will not rise to cover the cost of the machine, and all earnings will go back into running the collective, as they have in the past.

The idea for a bike-part vending machine was raised about a year ago by former Flat member Harald Kliems, with the goal of addressing the collective’s main constraints – lack of space, long wait times, crowds, and restricted hours. Since Kliems’ departure, the project has been spearheaded by Ainsley.

The collective hopes that the machine will allow cyclists to address any problems they might have outside of opening hours, or to forgo lineups at The Flat and simply head home or to the public repair stand by the Bronfman building on McTavish.

The vending machine was purchased from a local supplier, and has been custom-spaced to fit bike parts. At this point in time, it also looks like a very standard machine, but The Flat is hoping to change that: the collective is looking for a student artist to paint the machine, with the possibility of reimbursement.


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Concordia TA union put in trusteeship Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:02:02 +0000 Executive committee removed from office following investigation

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On January 7, the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) union was put under the trusteeship of its parent organization, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). This action followed an investigation by PSAC that resulted in the removal of the TRAC executives from their respective positions on the grounds that there was “evidence of a fully dysfunctional executive committee.”

Complaints of harassment, bylaw infractions

The investigation was initiated on September 9 following multiple complaints by TRAC Vice President Daria Saryan, Bargaining Officer Isabelle Johnston, and Communications and Mobilization Officer Robert Sonin against President Nader Nodoushan.

According to Sonin, the initial complaint was prompted by difficulties facing the executive committee during the summer.

The investigation report, obtained by The Daily, detailed allegations against Nodoushan, including harassment, interfering with other executives’ work, and violating TRAC bylaws by failing to have a $3,000 expense approved by the executive committee.

Nodoushan also filed a number of counter-complaints of harassment, and one of racism, against other executives. However, most of these complaints were deemed unfounded by the report, except for a complaint that Sonin had an outstanding loan of $450 from TRAC, which the report described as somewhat “reasonable” given the context of alleged pay withholding by Nadoushan.

“There is nothing to be gained by publicly debating the investigation committee’s findings.”

According to Sonin, the report’s recommendations are overly harsh, given that the complaints against Nadoushan were the most founded in the report. “We made a complaint, the complaint was found to be valid, and we were fired,” Sonin told The Daily in an interview.

In an official response to the situation released on January 13, PSAC indicated that action beyond the removal of the TRAC executive would be taken in the future, and urged members to focus their energies on upcoming collective bargaining.

“There is nothing to be gained by publicly debating the investigation committee’s findings,” read the statement. “Its main conclusions will be released at an upcoming general assembly and local members in attendance will obtain all necessary clarifications.”

Lack of autonomy for local unions

TRAC is a local section of PSAC, a larger union; as such, PSAC has the authority to bargain with employers, authorize strikes, and take control of a local section.

According to Jamie Burnett, a grievance officer at AGSEM: McGill’s Teaching Union, the local sections’ lack of autonomy can cause difficulties – a problem AGSEM does not face, as it belongs to the more decentralized Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), a Quebec union federation.

“This [non-autonomous] form of organization is common to most of the North American labour movement (including the non-CSN unions at McGill), especially outside of Quebec. The CSN is one of the few exceptions in that its ‘local unions’ are legally autonomous,” said Burnett in an email to The Daily. “The autonomy we have as a part of the CSN is extremely important to us.”

TRAC is not the only union that has struggled with its relationship with PSAC. SÉTUE, the student workers’ union at Université du Québec à Montréal, has also had problems.

“Members of SÉTUE experienced this [lack of autonomy] when, on dubious legal grounds, PSAC refused to allow the bargaining committee to respect the mandates from their General Assembly,” said Burnett.

“We made a complaint, the complaint was found to be valid, and we were fired.”

SÉTUE’s relationship with PSAC remains strained. According to Marie-Ève Tremblay-Cléroux, who was an elected member of SÉTUE’s union council from May 2013 to November 2014, SÉTUE attempted to disaffiliate from PSAC with a campaign that began last summer.

“We had many reasons, but the most important is the lack of self-government in the PSAC structure […] it’s possible for PSAC to bypass the local executive committee decisions anytime,” Tremblay-Cléroux told The Daily in an email.

According to Tremblay-Cléroux, three members of the SÉTUE executive were removed by PSAC during the campaign, although unlike TRAC, SÉTUE was not put under complete trusteeship.

SÉTUE’s campaign to disaffiliate was ultimately unsuccessful and ended last October. “It’s not because members didn’t want to quit PSAC. […] It’s [in] part because PSAC use[d] a lot of judicial procedures to stop the campaign,” said Tremblay-Cléroux, adding that the disaffiliation had seen substantial support at SÉTUE’s September general assembly.

Re-elections for TRAC?

While there does not appear to be mobilization within TRAC to leave PSAC, the final result of the investigation into its executive’s behaviour has yet to be determined. The investigation report will be presented to a TRAC general assembly on January 19, where they will vote to approve or deny the report’s recommendation that the executives be removed and a re-election be held.

Sonin is not sure whether he will seek re-election, or even whether he can. Although the report recommended that only Nodoushan be barred from running again, Sonin said that Nodoushan instructed Concordia Human Resources not to deduct union dues from the pay cheques of the executives, meaning that he is unlikely to meet the electoral qualification of being a “dues-paying member.”

“At any rate, PSAC’s performance does not inspire me with confidence,” wrote Sonin in an email to The Daily. “I’m not sure I want anything to do with PSAC.”

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Arts councillors press admin on sandwich sale ban Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:01:41 +0000 Council addresses fourth executive resignation this year, budget deficit

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Correction appended January 26, 2015.

Principal Suzanne Fortier and Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens made an appearance at the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council meeting on January 14 to field students’ questions and discuss negotiations between AUS and the administration over their Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Councillors also formed a contingency plan to fulfill the newly-vacant VP Internal position’s responsibilities, and VP Finance Li Xue presented a review of the AUS budget.

Deficit to be covered with idle funds

The 2014-15 AUS budget includes an operating deficit of $12,703, which Xue attributed primarily to unforeseen Frosh week expenses. The AUS currently has over $265,000 in idle funds from the operating surpluses of previous years, which will be used to balance this year’s budget.

President Ava Liu argued that a lack of surplus is indicative of the organization better serving the needs of its constituents – a substantial surplus would indicate that, as a not-for-profit organization, AUS was overcharging students for its services.

Xue acknowledged that work can be done to reduce deficits while increasing the value of services. “We’re trying to streamline our internal processes,” she told The Daily. “We have an internal audit we’re conducting right now.”

Administration talks MOA

With Fortier and Dyens present at Council, councillors took the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the current status and enforcement of the MOA – the document that outlines AUS’ legal relationship with the University – which is set to be renegotiated later this year. Councillors were particularly concerned with the newly-enforced ban on the sale of sandwiches and prepared foods at the student-run food outlet SNAX.

Dyens emphasized students’ responsibility to respect the existing MOA. “I think the University has shown flexibility in not coming down very quickly on students,” he said, while also noting a desire to arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement when the MOA is renegotiated.

Concerned that the University views SNAX as a liability, a SNAX staffer told Council that they are working to get health and safety certification for employees, have undergone a health inspection, and are insured under AUS.

One councillor asked Fortier to reconcile the increasing support for divestment and her apparent commitment to engaging with the McGill community with the fact that McGill still has financial holdings in fossil fuels.

Fortier replied that she did not have personal authority over this type of decision, which must proceed through official channels, namely the Board of Governors’ Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR).

“[Many expect me] to impose, and to act in fact as a dictator, that is not the way we work,” she said.

No replacement for VP Internal

Council once again grappled with the logistics of a vacant executive position, as VP Internal Roma Nadeem will not be at McGill this semester due to health problems.

While Council does have the authority to appoint a temporary replacement in accordance with the AUS constitution, it elected to leave the position vacant for the time being at the suggestion of President Ava Liu. Aspects of the VP Internal’s portfolio will be distributed among the remaining AUS executives, while the position’s crucial administrative responsibilities concerning room rentals and liquor permits will be taken over by a student employee.

Although this is the fourth resignation the AUS executive has seen this semester, VP Academic Erin Sobat emphasized that there is no need for emergency appointments.

“There is still someone in the position, they’re on leave, and we are filling the administrative requirements of that position through other means,” said Sobat.

On recommendation of the Constitutional and By-Law Review Committee, Council passed a set of changes to electoral bylaws for AUS and departmental associations. Council also voted to add an ad-hoc Event Planning and Implementation Committee (EPIC) seat to Council in order to “strengthen communication between councillors and members of EPIC,” according to the motion.

A previous version of this article stated that Liu would be appointing a new VP Internal in the future. In fact, the position’s requirements will continue to be filled by other AUS executives and an internal student administrator. Additionally, the article originally attributed the argument “a lack of surplus is indicative of the organization better serving the needs of its constituents […]” to Xue. In fact, this was said by Liu. The Daily regrets the errors.

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Floor fellows’ collective agreement negotiations face roadblocks Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:01:30 +0000 Administration resists formalization of “core values”

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At the last meeting between the floor fellow bargaining unit of the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) and the administration, the floor fellows, unable to accept what the administration brought to the table, ended negotiations early.

Both parties are now preparing to resume negotiations, although it is not yet known when a collective agreement will be reached. The McGill floor fellows unionized under AMUSE and became an established bargaining unit last May, and negotiations between the administration and the unit began on October 31.

The floor fellow bargaining unit aims to attain greater autonomy and job security, and to ensure that the collective agreement reflects its core values. Although a full list of specific demands has not been released, AMUSE VP Floor Fellow Christina Clemente told The Daily that the bargaining team has drafted a set of core values that they believe are central to the floor fellows’ philosophy.

“We had a vision set for what we would not budge on, specifically the inclusion of our core values,” said Clemente. “Two in particular that we are really keen on fighting for is the anti-oppressive mandate and framework as well as the harm reduction approach.”

“Our main priorities are [to ensure] that floor fellows have a degree of power in residence decision-making processes, [increase] job and housing security of floor fellows, recognize and formalize the use of anti-oppression and harm reduction in our roles, protect our autonomy in our roles and our flexible work schedules, ensure [that] we do not come to hold disciplinary roles in residences, and ensure that we are remunerated in a way that complies with [the] Quebec labour code,” continued Clemente.

A key issue of contention with many floor fellows has been the implementation of three full-time Rez Life managers for McGill’s downtown residences this fall. Prior to this change, each of McGill’s nine residences had its own part-time live-in hall director.

“[…] We are really keen on fighting for is the anti-oppressive mandate and framework as well as the harm reduction approach.”

“We want to make sure that someone new in a position of power is not able to come in and completely change the system to, for example, what you see in the U.S. school system with ticketing for the use of [illegal] substances,” said Evan McIlroy, who is one of two elected bargaining representatives for the floor fellows.

When asked about the administration’s response to the demands, McIlroy remarked that “we’ve had a surprising amount of frustration in getting [the administration] to solidify past practices. I think we expected less resistance in terms of putting our values in the agreement.”

The parties are holding a discussion after each bargaining session. So far, three discussions have occurred, focusing on “the purpose of the agreement, union recognition, management rights and definitions,” according to McGill’s Director of Labour and Employee Relations Robert Comeau.

Comeau commented on the administration’s participation in the bargaining process in an interview with The Daily.

“The administration is striving for flexibility and agility in how the collective agreement will be managed, and in maintaining the same quality of service to students.” Addressing the roadblock in negotiations at the last meeting, Comeau remarked that the first collective agreement of a new bargaining unit usually results in a longer negotiation process.

According to Clemente, the timeline for the bargaining process is still developing. “We ideally wanted to be done by the end of this academic year,” she said. “That being said, it is still very early in the bargaining process. We still have a long way to go.”

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