The McGill Daily » News Fingerpainting since 1911 Tue, 03 Mar 2015 17:37:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Protesters block entrance to the Tour de la Bourse Sun, 01 Mar 2015 20:22:37 +0000 Students demand taxes on financial institutions instead of austerity measures

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Activists gathered outside the Tour de la Bourse early Wednesday morning to protest the Quebec government’s austerity program. Organized by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ) student union federation, the demonstration was part of a planned week of “disturbances against austerity,” which included surprise protests and occupations of bank and government offices across Quebec.

Protesters attempted to block the entrance to the Tour de la Bourse, but were forced away by the police within minutes.

Steve, a student at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), told The Daily in French that he had come out to draw attention to the fact that “austerity favours economic elites.”

“We want the equitable sharing of wealth,” he continued. “We’re here to protest austerity, but also to symbolically protest the economic elite. We need actions that are both symbolic and concrete, like coming to the Tour de la Bourse, like occupying offices.”

Other protesters pointed to the disparity between taxes on businesses and taxes on people.

“One of the principal sources of revenue the government could look to is to go and tax capital, the banks,” said Charles, one of the protesters, in French.

He said further that he considered provincial austerity an “aggressive measure that attacks the population,” and called on the government to “find money where there is money,” namely by taxing financial institutions more heavily.

“We need actions that are both symbolic and concrete, like coming to the Tour de la Bourse, like occupying offices.”

The Quebec Liberal government eliminated capital gains tax in 2011. According to ASSÉ documents, reinstating the capital gains tax at a rate of 1 per cent for banks and 0.5 per cent for other corporations would increase revenue by $600 million per year.

Katia, a self-described ‘federal employee’ who was canvassing pedestrians near the demonstration, spoke to The Daily.

“This profits a group who are qualified, in good health […] and who are often subsidized,” she said in French, referring to businesspeople. “Now they’re going to tell us that normal people have to tighten their belts? I’ve had enough.”

“We’re here […] against the financial elite that our government listens to. They don’t listen to the population, they listen to the financial elite,” she continued. “They’re destroying all our social benefits – it’s horrible.”

One activist spoke to the different burdens placed on the working population and corporations over a loudspeaker.

“While there are hydroelectric power outages, while one in ten people spend 80 per cent of their wages on rent, while condo developments are destroying working-class neighbourhoods, and while the Indigenous community does not have access to fundamental needs, like electricity or drinking water, these tie-wearing gangsters hide their millions in tax havens,” he said in French.

Following a series of speeches, the crowd marched around Victoria Square, obstructing traffic and shouting slogans. There were minor scuffles with police who tried to move protesters onto the sidewalk. After one tour of the square, organizers ended the protest, but with calls to keep the momentum over the following weeks.

“All week there are symbolic actions,” said Charles. “It’s only February at the moment, but it’s time to start mounting the pressure.”

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Undergrads and post-grads adopt joint anti-austerity stance Thu, 26 Feb 2015 17:42:43 +0000 SSMU-PGSS summit brings councillors together to coordinate lobbying efforts

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Correction appended February 26, 2015.

On February 23, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) councillors convened in Thomson House to help the two associations coordinate their efforts in lobbying for student priorities in the University’s upcoming budget planning and in countering provincial austerity measures.

This was the first time that SSMU and PGSS have held a joint meeting of this type, with the decisions made at the summit to be binding on both student associations. While councillors from both associations voted at the same time, motions required a separate two-thirds majority within both SSMU and PGSS to pass.

Budget priorities

Regarding McGill’s upcoming budget planning, councillors voted to prioritize lobbying for the continued support for research opportunities and funding, the diversity of course offerings, the promotion of experiential learning opportunities, the provision of student space on campus, the maintenance of scholarships and financial aid resources, the maintenance of the library services budget, and the maintenance of non-academic staff.

The motion was drafted after consultation among SSMU’s and PGSS’s constituent bodies for input on priorities.

Two other items were also added to the motion and passed: one to express SSMU and PGSS’s “discontent with the current lack of transparency of funding transfers from the government of Quebec through the central administration earmarked for student services,” and another to lobby McGill to provide the Student Health Service, the Mental Health Service, the Counselling Service, and the Office for Students with Disabilities with sufficient funding.

Supporting students in other universities

SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa put forward a motion regarding provincial austerity measures and McGill’s proposed budget cuts. “SSMU has a mandate to support anti-austerity work, and I believe PGSS has some similar mandate or policy as well,” Ayukawa said at the summit.

As initially presented, the motion resolved that both SSMU and PGSS jointly reaffirm their “complete and definitive opposition to the austerity measures in their actual form,” and their commitment to support other Quebec student associations’ efforts against such measures.

Medicine Representative to SSMU Joshua Chin took issue with committing to support other Quebec student associations, given that some of these associations had already voted to strike.

“I know a lot of other Quebec student associations are going that route within the next few days or weeks. I’m wondering if we would be committing ourselves to support those strike measures, and if this will also extend to us, whether SSMU or PGSS, or even their constituent schools, faculties, or departments,” said Chin.

Engineering Representative to SSMU Anikke Rioux echoed Chin’s sentiments. “We don’t know what other student associations are going to do, therefore we shouldn’t be committing ourselves to something we don’t actually know.”

Rioux then moved an amendment to strike out that part of the motion.

In response, PGSS External Affairs Officer Julien Ouellet said, “I think, instead of striking [that part of] the motion, we should amend it, so [as] to make sure that we support [the other associations] in spirit. We support the fight against austerity, and we will create alliances with other associations in that regard.”

The amendment to strike the clause failed, but the clause was amended to read that SSMU and PGSS would support other Quebec student associations in “similar” efforts against austerity measures.

Anti-austerity working group, loss of quorum

Another motion, which would mandate SSMU and PGSS to create a Joint Anti-Austerity Mobilization Working Group, was also on the summit’s agenda. However, quorum was lost midway through the discussion of the motion, meaning that any decision regarding that motion was purely consultative.

The working group’s purpose would be “to inform member constituents of the impacts of budgetary cuts, and to help organize demonstrations and campaigning against cuts to specific university budget lines.” The original motion stated that the group should use “only non-violent and non-defamatory strategies to reach its goal.”

SSMU VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette moved to strike the words “non-violent” and “non-defamatory” from the motion.

“I think that this is unnecessary,” said Moustaqim-Barrette. “I think that generally mobilization requires some sort of defamatory strategies, like picketing, and direct action could fall into those things.”

SSMU Engineering Senator Morgan Grobin spoke against Moustaqim-Barrette.

“I just want to speak to the rational people in this room. We should keep both of those things in there. We do not want to make any enemies,” said Grobin. “People in government don’t respect people running around picketing stuff; they respect people writing well thought-out responses to things, showing up to meetings, not boycotting them.”

The words “non-violent” and “non-defamatory” were struck from the motion, but the motion was amended to read “without the express intent to cause physical or psychological harm to people.” The motion will have to be passed separately by the councils of both SSMU and PGSS due to the lack of quorum.

Speaking to The Daily after the summit, SSMU VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan commented on the use of the term ‘violent.’

“Dissent is necessarily disruptive,” she said. “Defining our committee as non-violent is not going to prevent external actors from defining the actions of the committee as violent. If the committee, for example, organized some kind of demonstration, it would be just as likely to be defined as violent by the outside, so we shouldn’t be giving more legitimacy to that side.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the words “non-violent” and “non-defamatory” had not been struck from the Joint Anti-Austerity Mobilization Working Group motion. In fact, the words were struck and replaced with “without the express intent to cause physical or psychological harm to people.” The Daily regrets the error.

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Yony Bresler elected PGSS secretary-general Wed, 25 Feb 2015 19:12:07 +0000 BRIEF

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Physics PhD student Yony Bresler will be the interim secretary-general of the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) for the remainder of the academic year, as announced by the student society on February 24. According to preliminary results, Bresler was elected with 541 votes, or 55.5 per cent, while his adversary Saturnin Ndandala received 282 votes, or 29.0 per cent. 147 voters selected “no opinion.”

The results may be contested until March 1, and will be made official on March 2. According to PGSS Chief Returning Officer Colby Briggs, a complaint against one or both of the candidates is currently under consideration.

The position became vacant following the announcement of previous Secretary-General Juan Camilo Pinto’s resignation on January 20. The resignation followed a November 13 motion of censure against Pinto passed by the Board of Directors, and a vote of no confidence by the executive on December 10.

“I’ve been a PGSS councillor for [two and a half] years, and I’ve previously considered getting more involved,” said Bresler in an email to The Daily. “When this situation arose, I felt that I could be well-suited to fill this interim position given my existing knowledge of and a rapport with the PGSS.”

“The recent disturbances at PGSS [have] impeded the society from running smoothly,” Bresler wrote in his campaign statement, emphasizing the need for “greater support and coordination from the secretary-general.”

Bresler indicated that he had no plans to run for the position again next year, and would focus on “realistic” short-term goals. He told The Daily that he planned “to work with and help the current team in their various portfolios to try and get as much as we can done; work to increase transparency, between the various bodies of PGSS and to our members; and to represent graduate student interests broadly, and in particular in relation to the planned austerity measures.”

“I’m certain I’ll have no shortage of things to learn, but I believe that my experience will allow me to integrate quickly,” added Bresler. “I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know and working with the current team through PGSS Council, and I look forward to collaborating with them more in this capacity.”

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Homelessness Marathon broadcast aims to raise consciousness Mon, 23 Feb 2015 11:25:56 +0000 BRIEF

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February 25 will mark the beginning of the 2015 Homelessness Marathon, a 14-hour-long radio broadcast starting at 5 p.m. and lasting until 7 a.m.. Airing on nearly forty campus and community stations across Canada, the broadcast will be hosted by CFRC radio at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. McGill-based CKUT will be one of the stations airing the marathon and raising awareness of the event.

“The idea of the marathon is really to engage a broad discussion across the country about the deeper issues of homelessness and housing,” CKUT Community News coordinator Aaron Lakoff told The Daily.

The initiative began in 1998 in Geneva, New York, with the goal of raising awareness about the housing and homelessness crisis in the U.S.. CKUT brought it to Canada 13 years ago, and hosted the event for 11 years before passing the torch to Edmonton-based CJSR last year.

“The homelessness crisis is a capitalism crisis.”

This year, CKUT will be broadcasting part of the marathon from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. from the Native Friendship Centre on St. Laurent. A community dinner open to everyone will also take place before the event, starting at 6 p.m. at the same location.

According to Lakoff, the marathon is a consciousness-raising rather than a fundraising broadcast, and as such is intended to challenge “this idea that if you drop a couple of coins into the Salvation Army’s bucket, that’s going to somehow alleviate the problem of homelessness.” Instead, the broadcast will provide an opportunity for people who are homeless and their allies to speak on the radio and, at the same time, allow a nationwide discussion on issues facing people who are homeless and their possible solutions.

“The homelessness crisis is a capitalism crisis,” said Lakoff. “It’s a crisis of our economic system, and it’s going to take a deep discussion and deep action to solve the problem, as well as privileging the voices of people living on the street themselves, who are the best ones to recount their own experience of life on the street.”

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J-Board rules on General Assembly procedures Mon, 23 Feb 2015 11:16:20 +0000 BRIEF

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On February 20, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Judicial Board (J-Board) released a set of recommendations regarding rules of procedure at General Assemblies (GAs). These specified that SSMU is required to adopt and publicize a simplified version of standing rules for the GA, but that a special two-thirds majority rule instead of a simple majority for a “motion to postpone indefinitely” was not a valid standing rule.

The J-Board was mandated to investigate the matter on January 17 as a result of a mediation session to resolve a J-Board case against the SSMU president and speaker filed by Nadir Khan and Zain Ali Syed. They had sought a special GA to discuss the Palestine solidarity motion that had been postponed indefinitely at the Fall SSMU GA.

The J-Board ruled that article 5.2 of By-law Book I requires SSMU to adopt simplified standing rules and to publicize these rules to its members at least five days in advance of the GA.

However, the J-Board recommendation makes a distinction between “standing rules” and “special rules of procedure.” It notes that “standing rules” – which are meant to regulate the administration of SSMU – “do not interfere with the freedom of a meeting, and they may not conflict with the constitution, bylaws, rules of order, or other standing rules,” and can be changed without prior notice by a majority vote at any meeting.

However, “rules of procedure” are in place to facilitate the meetings, and cannot be changed as easily.

The two-thirds majority rule for the motion to postpone indefinitely is a change to rules of procedure. Thus, in its recommendation, the J-Board stated that it is not under the authority of Council to include a revision to the motion to postpone indefinitely.

However, the recommendation did note that the rule could be changed if the Board of Directors was to adopt a change, or if members at the GA voted to amend or suspend the rules of order. According to the ruling, both Robert’s Rules of Order and article 13.2 of the SSMU constitution support this.

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Construction halts on alleged site of historical Indigenous village Mon, 23 Feb 2015 11:07:34 +0000 Heritage preservation non-profit linked to construction company

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Construction of an office complex in downtown Montreal was halted on February 15, due to fears that developers were building on an Indigenous heritage site.

Ivanhoé Cambridge, a real estate subsidiary of provincial pension fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, paused construction following a series of complaints to the municipal and provincial governments, as well as archaeologists, from freelance photographer Robert Galbraith.

The site, just south of the corner of Maisonneuve and Metcalfe, is a candidate for the disputed location of the St. Lawrence Iroquoian village of Hochelaga visited by Jacques Cartier in 1535. This visit is famed for being the first recorded instance of contact between Europeans and Indigenous people on the island of Montreal and one of the defining moments in the history of New France.

The site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1920 because of its “potential archaeological resources, objects, and sites.” However, according to Galbraith, Ivanhoé Cambridge began digging foundations for the office building on February 11 without consulting an archaeologist.

“To assume that there is no archaeological evidence or human remains under the asphalt without an adequate investigation [shows] a total lack of concern [for], and [an] abandonment [of], this largely unknown period of Canadian history,” Galbraith told The Daily in an email.

When John William Dawson, a McGill geologist, first excavated part of the site in 1860, he found extensive human remains and pottery, and proposed it as the location of the Hochelaga village.

Anthropology professor and Dean of Students André Costopoulos spoke to The Daily about the site’s significance.

“Whether the Dawson site is Hochelaga is an open question, but clearly it’s a settlement very much like Hochelaga,” he said, adding that even if archaeologists proved that the Hochelaga village was located elsewhere, it was important to protect the site downtown.

“It’s a site that has cultural significance, not only [for] French Canadians, but for people from Kahnawàke, and people from other Indigenous communities near Montreal,” Costopoulos continued.

Accusations of neglect

Asked whether construction had begun because of a lack of interest in the historical and cultural significance of the site from the City of Montreal, Costopoulos argued that it was simply a case of the relevant authorities being ignorant of the situation.

However, in an email to The Daily, Galbraith said that neither the City of Montreal nor cultural organizations had objected to the construction project. He pointed out that other cities, including Rome, London, and Quebec City, have stringent building regulations in order to protect their heritage.

In reference to Montreal, he said that “various organizations are trying to rewrite history and disclaim people who have a great knowledge of history for their benefit.” He further complained that Montreal had a “wild west municipal government.”

Héritage Montréal, a non-profit that works to protect the “architectural, historic, natural, and cultural heritage of Greater Montreal” did not oppose the building project either. Galbraith accused the organization of deliberate neglect in its duties. Ivanhoé Cambridge, the developer, is a major financial sponsor of Héritage Montréal.

Speaking to The Daily, Héritage Montréal spokesperson Dinu Bumbaru rejected the allegation that an affiliation to Ivanhoé Cambridge had influenced the organization’s decision. “There is a perception that this is a site of Hochelaga – but this is a perception,” he said.

Bumbaru added that Héritage Montréal had come to a decision regarding the site following a McCord Museum conference in 2010, which concluded that the Hochelaga village was not on the site.

“If you were in their shoes, what would you say?” responded Galbraith after learning of Bumbaru’s comments.

“There’s more to life than [to] dig and destroy,” he continued. “But here, because of a political climate and greasy politics and stuff like that, and the almighty dollar, we’re about to sell our souls.”

Representatives of the City of Montreal could not be reached for comment by press time.

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Senate discusses McGill’s mission statement, academic freedom Mon, 23 Feb 2015 11:03:50 +0000 Implementation of mental health recommendations criticized as slow

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Convening for the second time this year on February 18, McGill’s Senate debated revisions to the University’s mission statement, discussed student mental health, and heard a presentation on the budget for 2015-16.

Changes to mission statement

Senate discussed a proposed revision to simplify McGill’s mission statement and amend it with a statement of principles, namely “academic freedom and responsibility, integrity, accountability, equity, inclusiveness, and respect for cultural and individual diversity.”

Several faculty senators expressed concern over the inclusion of academic responsibility in the principles, arguing that the term carried negative connotations and imposed constraints on academic freedom. Some recalled the controversy surrounding the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC)’s 2011 “Statement on Academic Freedom,” which defined academic freedom as being “constrained by the professional standards of the relevant discipline and the responsibility of the institution to organize its academic mission.”

Medicine Faculty Senator Kenneth Hastings argued that the term ‘accountability’ was “dangerously” ambiguous. “To whom are we accountable for the nature of our scholarly activities? Is it to our principal? […] Is it to our donors? None of those really sound like academic freedom,” said Hastings.

Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Arts Senator Kareem Ibrahim decried the fact that the senators seemed to “be shirking away from the idea of including [the term] ‘responsibility’ because of the supposed negative connotations.”

Speaking to The Daily after the meeting, SSMU VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan noted that the senators’ opposition to academic responsibility was significant in the context of the ongoing review of McGill’s research regulations.

“Myself and the rest of the Senate caucus [were] highly disappointed in the adversarial response of the Senate body to the inclusion of responsibility as equally important to, and associated with, academic freedom,” said Stewart-Kanigan. “This represents the broader institutional reluctance to [adopt] meaningful stances on the role of research in supporting social well-being and providing benefit, not harm, to society.”

Closing the discussion, Fortier said that senators’ thoughts would be presented to the Academic Policy Committee (APC), which would draft motions taking into account their suggestions.

Implementation of mental health recommendations

Stewart-Kanigan, SSMU Arts and Science Senator Chloe Rourke, and SSMU Medicine Senator David Benrimoh submitted a question regarding the University’s commitment to ensure a pan-university implementation of the recommendations of the Mental Health Working Group, struck in 2013.

In September, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens said at Senate that a consultant would be hired as of January 2015 to work with “stakeholders across the University” to implement the recommendations.

“Given that the recommendations do apply to academic policies and […] practices, will the individual tasked with [implementing] these recommendations have a working relationship with [governing bodies at McGill]?” asked Stewart-Kanigan.

Dyens replied that no such individual had been hired as of yet, and said that the revision of University policies was the responsibility of the individual governing bodies. He assured Stewart-Kanigan that the recommended reforms would nonetheless be carried out in a transparent manner, noting that the timeline according to which the recommended changes will be implemented is available on the website.

Stewart-Kanigan expressed her disappointment with Dyens’ comments in an interview with The Daily. “The University’s response was concerning, given that the recommendations of the Mental Health Working Group did extend to reforming academic policies, and the University did acknowledge that reforming academic policies was essential, but when asked […] they skirted the question and suggested that […] those recommendations would not be able to hold academic units to account,” she said.

Budget forecast

Provost Anthony Masi gave a presentation on McGill’s budget for 2015-16 and following years, the second of three to be presented to Senate this year. He warned to expect additional provincial budget cuts in the coming year, which will “exacerbate the university’s chronic underfunding.”

Masi told senators that although Quebec’s overall financial situation is improving, the provincial government “[has] no intention of stopping the pressure on both hospitals and education,” and McGill will likely face a budget cut of roughly $6 million when the provincial budget is announced in April.

According to Masi, the restrictive measures announced in October, which included a hiring freeze for administrative and support staff positions and the postponement of non-essential equipment purchases, will remain in effect at least until the end of the year.

“We have to make sure we respond to reductions in provincial funding […] of our publicly underfunded university,” he said, adding that the University was seeking to “diversify and optimize some of [its] revenue sources.”

Masi also noted that tuition would be indexed by 1.7 per cent in regulated faculties and by 5 per cent for international students in deregulated faculties. It’s unclear, he said, how the government will proceed with further tuition deregulation.

New programs, tenure regulations

Senate approved three new Professional Development Certificates in the School of Continuing Studies, namely English for Healthcare, English for Social Services, and English for Healthcare Administration, as well as a Diploma in Entrepreneurship.

Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures & Equity) Lydia White also presented new regulations on the process of appeal of denial of tenure, combining two sets of regulations into one and clarifying them. The revisions passed, after some discussion over the appointment and composition of committees to review tenure decisions.

At the end of the meeting, Dean of Students André Costopoulos gave a brief progress report on the development of McGill’s sexual assault policy.

Although the policy was previously expected to come to Senate for approval by the end of the academic year, Costopoulos said that it most likely only come for discussion, with potential approval to follow next year.

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New federal permanent residency rules for international students criticized Mon, 23 Feb 2015 11:02:58 +0000 Students applying through Quebec will not be affected

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On January 1, new rules came into effect at the federal level concerning the permanent residency applications of international students. Previously, the application system gave an automatic leg-up to international students with Canadian work experience. Under the new regulations, however, international students will now be put in a general pool with other immigrants and will be scored according to a “comprehensive ranking system.”

In order to receive a formal invitation from the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, international students need to receive a high score on the ranking system. For instance, if the applicant is particularly skilled at a job that, according to a government assessment, no Canadian worker is available to do, they are awarded 600 points. The most recent bulk of invitations were sent to applicants who scored above 800.

Representatives from the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) have voiced concern about the attitudes of the federal and provincial governments toward international students.

“My first reaction is that it is quite unfair that that regulation would be put in place, and that [the] exception has been removed,” said SSMU VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette in an interview with The Daily.

“International students come here and make a large investment in the society and in our post-secondary education system. It is unfair that that investment of time and resources wouldn’t be recognized. It’s true that it’s really difficult for international students to be full-time students and also gain work experience, so it definitely puts them at a disadvantage, and unfairly so,” Moustaqim-Barrette said.

The new rules change only the treatment of students in the Express Entry program under the Canadian Experience Class, and does not alter provincial selection systems. Students wishing to live in Quebec cannot apply through that program, and will not be affected by the changes. However, Quebec students wishing to reside elsewhere in Canada need to use the federal system.

Currently, Quebec holds the power to declare applicants who are applying through the Programme de l’expérience québécoise as eligible for consideration for permanent residency by issuing a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ), which is similar to the Quebec Acceptance Certificate that is issued when applying for a study permit. Holding a CSQ, however, does not guarantee permanent residency, as the authority to grant it ultimately rests in the hands of the federal government.

“PGSS is involved in everything that deals with international student rights at [the] Quebec and Canadian levels. We’re going to do a bit of research on this topic,” said PGSS External Affairs Officer Julien Ouellet.

“I’ve heard of this issue pertaining to the flexibility of what international students can do in Quebec before,” said Ouellet. “Even when people want to get involved in student politics, it’s much more difficult for international students to do that, especially at [the] FEUQ [Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec] level. Because if they don’t take [an adequate] number of credits, they can be asked to leave the country. This is not something that we think is very healthy, of course. The government seems to be going in a different direction right now than what we would like the situation to be.”

In an email to The Daily, McGill Vice-Principal (Communications and External Relations) Olivier Marcil said that the federal immigration program does not apply to McGill or other Quebec universities. Pauline L’Écuyer, Director of International Student Services, echoed Marcil’s statement.

“My understanding is that the new Express Entry program does not apply to our international students who want to stay in Quebec after graduation,” L’Ecuyer wrote in an email to The Daily. “Quebec is currently conducting a consultation on the future of immigration in Quebec; perhaps this will evolve in new [permanent residency] programs.”

Forgoing the rights of international students

Pointing to McGill’s recent restatement of support for international student tuition deregulation, Moustaqim-Barrette argued that there is a trend of putting the burden of austerity measures on the backs of international students, given that it is much more unlikely that there will be high mobilization around the subject of international students’ rights.

“I think it’s a very strategic move to do. In 2012, when [the provincial government] tried to raise tuition for Quebec students, they saw these massive mobilizations – thousands of people in the streets. So it’s very strategic on the government’s part to do something like that, because they won’t see that kind of pushback [on the part of international students], and they know it,” Moustaqim-Barrette explained.

Ouellet also pointed to the difficulty of lobbying with the federal Conservative government, which tends to be unresponsive to student demands.

“We have very little [recourse] in what does not affect our members directly. When it’s something that is outside of Quebec, we have very little reach, because even the FEUQ has a hard time getting in touch with Conservative ministers and deputies,” explained Ouellet. “We’ve managed to get in touch with all three other federal political parties, but I think we meet […] a Conservative [maybe] once a year, and it’s usually very brief. It’s very, very difficult to talk to them.”

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Algonquins of Barriere Lake file lawsuit against government, managers Mon, 23 Feb 2015 11:02:35 +0000 Community cites mismanagement, demands control over own finances

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As part of their ongoing struggle against the Canadian government, the Chief and Council of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL) have filed a lawsuit against the government and their current and previous third-party managing companies, Hartel Financial Management Corporation and BDO Canada.

The lawsuit, filed on January 30 for $30 million in damages, claims that the government and managers have harmed the community “by mismanaging and withholding funds that were to be used for the benefit of the community and its members,” according to a press release from the ABL.

The managers currently hold the community’s money in a trust, according to the press release, effectively placing the ABL community’s funds out of their control and leaving the community with little agency over its own finances.

“As it is now, the community is dissatisfied with how third-party management has continuously kept us in the dark,” Barriere Lake’s Interim Director-General Tony Wawatie told The Daily.

“We have requested information regarding our financial status, and it was repeatedly refused or ignored,” Wawatie continued. He added that the managers did not work well with the ABL and did not listen to what the community members asked of them.

The press release expanded on this discord, noting that managers have “ignored our reasonable requests for basic information, and have bounced cheques to suppliers, interfered with our economic relations with suppliers, hired and fired employees without authority, and otherwise proven themselves completely unconcerned with the interests, wellbeing, and future of our community.”

According to both Wawatie and the press release, the managers charged millions of dollars in fees to the community, as they take a 10 per cent fee of every project they take on, whether or not the deficit is reduced. This money was paid by the ABL community, even though the ABL did not want the help of the managers.

This lawsuit comes after growing tension between the third-party management program and the ABL. Last December, the ABL sent out a press release calling for food and donations for 15 Algonquin families, including 25 children, to whom the federal government refused welfare checks after the ABL failed to comply with the First Nations Financial Transparency Act as protest against the community’s lack of agency over its own finances under the third-party management system.

“We will not back down. We will never back down, our parents and grandparents did not back down, and that is why our land is still protected.”

Wawatie also noted that the infrastructure and training programs the managers were supposed to arrange for the community were never provided. “One of the things that the third-party managers were supposed to do was to come up with some capacity development [and] training for the community members,” he said.

According to a document released by the ABL in 2014, Barriere Lake has been reduced to 59 acres of reserve, on which “the socioeconomic conditions of the community are extremely poor.” The unemployment rate ranges from 80 to 90 per cent, and a housing crisis has lead to on average seven people living in a home, though this number can be as high as 18 to 23 people.

“Our members continue to experience [abject] living conditions, in spite of the tremendous wealth generated through resource extraction within our traditional territory,” the press release reads. “Our roads, water, hydro, school, and social services remain gravely underfunded, when compared to the funding available to Canadians living in non-First Nations communities.”

The Hartel corporation declined to comment. BDO also declined to comment, citing the fact that the lawsuit is currently ongoing. As of press time, neither Hartel nor BDO have responded to ABL’s claims.

James Campbell, a member of the educational activist network Educators for Peace and Justice, condemned the management system and expressed solidarity with the ABL.

“The imposition of third-party management is simply the latest stage of the federal government’s attempts to break any and all forms of resistance by the people of Barriere Lake,” Campbell wrote in an email to The Daily on behalf of Educators for Peace and Justice.

“It is only possible because of the continued existence of an explicitly racist [and] white-supremacist piece of legislation [The Indian Act]. It is a direct attack on the people of Barriere Lake and we support their fight against the racist laws and policies of the Canadian government.”

“There [have] been many different ways that the Canadian and Quebec governments have tried to destroy the community and the language and the culture and the way of life that the Algonquins of Barriere Lake have,” noted Kira Page, external coordinator of Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill.

Community organizations stand in solidarity with ABL

Educators for Peace and Justice and QPIRG McGill were two of over fifty organizations who supported a list of demands set forth by ABL in 2008 to the governments of Quebec and Canada, insisting these governments honour the agreements of 1991, 1997, and 1998, and respect the self-sufficiency of the ABL and the conservation of their languages and culture.

Wawatie noted that the current management system goes against these two agreements, and that since the signing of the 1991 and 1998 agreements, the Quebec government has done little to nothing to ensure the self-sufficiency of the ABL.

The ABL has long resisted the Canadian government’s attempts to impose regulations and programs and promote resource extraction on their lands.

They have employed legal actions in the past – they filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2010 after the Minister of Indian Affairs forced them into adopting an elective governance system, under Section 74 of the Indian Act, which implements a foreign system of governance onto the community, invalidating customary leadership structures as a legitimate source of governance.

“The imposition of third-party management is simply the latest stage of the federal government’s attempts to break any and all forms of resistance by the people of  Barriere Lake.”

According to, a platform sustained by the Barriere Lake Solidarity QPIRG McGill working group, this band council has made deals with forestry companies and other industries, against the general desires of the community, and now Barriere Lake sees the extraction of $100 million in resources annually, none of which goes to the ABL.

The ABL have also worked in collaboration with other communities and community organizations to resist these measures, holding protests in Ontario and Quebec to protest the Section 74 electoral process.

In 2008, the ABL created a blockade on the highway that passed through their lands, demanding the government give the community a voice in the decision to develop 10,000 square kilometres of the land on which they live.

A video on their website describes the struggle of the ABL.

“Our Algonquin community of 400 people is fighting for control of our land, our government, and our way of life,” says an unidentified voice. “We will not back down. We will never back down, our parents and grandparents did not back down, and that is why our land is still protected.”

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Coalition launches in support of student-run food services Mon, 23 Feb 2015 11:01:37 +0000 Members hold “heartbombing” event to show dedication to student space

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Employees and members of various student-run food services on campus are in the process of joining to form the McGill Food Coalition, a new campus group that aims to “bring together all student-run food initiatives, and give them a place to share goals, work together, and maintain the culture of student-run spaces on campus,” according to Coalition member and SNAX employee Emma Meldrum.

The Coalition held its first public event on February 13: a “heartbombing” under the Leacock stairs, where representatives from SNAX, Midnight Kitchen, the Nest, and the McGill Spaces Project had snacks and information for those passing by.

The online description for this inaugural event outlined the goal of the coalition. “Currently, [student-run food and space] initiatives are vulnerable to the top-down, profit-driven decisions of our administration. We believe that unified, the groups in the coalition will have stronger negotiating power within McGill’s hierarchy and ultimately more influence on campus.”

The survival of student-run services and spaces is an issue that has reared its head frequently at McGill. Last semester, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) negotiations took the spotlight when McGill ordered the AUS-run food kiosk SNAX to “cease and desist” the sale of sandwiches.

Kathleen Bradley, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Finance and Operations and former head chef at the student-run cafe the Nest, told The Daily that the SNAX controversy helped prompt the development of the Coalition.

“Around the time that McGill told SNAX that they couldn’t sell sandwiches – that was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“Around the time that McGill told SNAX that they couldn’t sell sandwiches – that was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back – a whole bunch of students from Frostbite, from SNAX, from the SRC [student-run cafe, the Nest], from a bunch of SSMU services kind of got together,” said Bradley.

“We met with the people from the Concordia Food Coalition, and they shared their experience with corporatized food services and how they’re working against the Concordia administration to make sure that student-run food services are preserved on campus,” she continued.

The Coalition is in the process of drafting a charter that outlines its purpose and values, one of which is to support student-run food services in their interactions with the McGill administration. According to Bradley, advocating for students throughout MOA negotiations is one way this goal can be achieved.

“We were a little bit late to the SNAX game, but hopefully in the future if EUS [the Engineering Undergraduate Society] or another faculty was negotiating its MOA and was having difficulty preserving their student space, the Coalition could come together, do demonstrations, [create] awareness, and put pressure on the McGill administration to put [measures to preserve student space] in the MOA.”

Meldrum added, “If the SNAX negotiations continue to drag as they are, there is still definitely an opportunity for the coalition to participate.”

Bradley listed “coming out to demonstrations if you see them, writing letters to the McGill administration or getting in contact with your faculty and seeing how you can support their student-run food service,” as ways that interested students can get involved with the Coalition.

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Science undergraduates to fund summer research awards Mon, 23 Feb 2015 11:01:33 +0000 BRIEF

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The Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) General Council (GC) voted to fund three Science Undergraduate Research Awards (SURAs) at its February 18 meeting. The SURAs, managed by the Office of Undergraduate Research, are awarded to students on the basis of academic merit to fund 16 weeks of full-time research during the summer.

“It’s an already established award where donors, potentially like ourselves, would contribute $2,800 toward an award, and then whoever the professor is who takes the student will match it,” explained VP Communications May Yin-Liao.

“The money is not going anywhere if we don’t use it.”

Yin-Liao noted that international students are eligible for SURAs, as opposed to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Undergraduate Student Research Awards, which are only available to Canadian residents.

“We do technically fund a significant number of research positions under work study, but obviously not everyone qualifies for work study, whereas […] anyone in the Faculty of Science and [in] Arts and Science can apply for [a SURA], so that’s more accessible to all of our constituents,” said Yin-Liao.

A total of $8,400 will be allocated for the SURAs for Summer 2015, coming directly from SUS’s operating budget. Yin-Liao indicated that she hopes to fund the awards through “more sustainable sources, such as external sponsors” in future years.

Answering a question on how the recipients of the awards will be determined, Yin-Liao said that the awards will be allocated randomly to three of the 19 departments in SUS, and the recipient of the award will be chosen by the department.

Bachelor of Arts and Sciences Integrative Council (BASiC) President Matthew Satterthwaite raised concerns over the amount of funding.

“I’m just worried about the $8,400 – that seems like a lot of money coming out of student fees, and I’m not sure [these awards] that can benefit three students are the best use of that much money,” he said.

Yin-Liao responded that, following the recent increase in the SUS base fee, there was money allocated specifically for new initiatives such as this one.

“The money is not going anywhere if we don’t use it,” she said.

The motion passed with one abstention.

Tuition deregulation was also discussed at the GC. Representative to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Zacheriah Houston told councillors that all three representatives to SSMU had voted against the motion to oppose tuition deregulation that passed at the last SSMU Council.

Houston said that he voted in this way because, although there was no time for proper consultation, a majority of the forty Science students he consulted were opposed to the motion.

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Arts councillors discuss communal student spaces Mon, 23 Feb 2015 11:01:08 +0000 AUS voices support for ECOLE project and QPIRG McGill fee increase

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Article updated and correction appended February 26, 2015.

On February 18, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council met to discuss and vote on budget allocation, support for various campus organizations, and fee increases.

AUS Space Project

President Ava Liu reported to Council on developments in the AUS Space Project, a joint initiative with the McGill Spaces Project, Campus Space & Planning, and the Faculty of Arts that aims to redesign underutilized spaces in and around the Leacock building.

The AUS Space Project has been discussed as a way to make use of funds that the AUS currently has in Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GIC), of which roughly $180,000 will be available by 2017, according to Liu.

Some were skeptical of the idea, including Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon.

“This is such a huge sum of money that I think we should have a larger discussion before spending it on a couple of space projects,” Greenspon said. “A lot of the money can be put toward student services.”

Equity Commissioner Vareesha Khan agreed with Greenspon, and said that a survey should be conducted among constituents so that they have a say in where AUS’s money is being spent.

“There’s concern if what we’re doing is relevant to the students. There’s concern from constituents that we don’t represent people enough,” Khan said.

Liu later clarified to The Daily that the GIC funds are one of three potential sources of funding for the project, including the AUS Info-Tech Fund, valued at roughly $160,000, and the Arts Undergraduate Improvement Fund. According to Liu, the project would likely be funded by a combination of these sources.

Liu also said that students will be consulted about the project once more specific project proposals have been established.

AUS supports QPIRG McGill referendum, ECOLE project

Council passed a motion supporting the Educational Community Living Environment (ECOLE) project in its efforts to promote sustainable lifestyles for students on campus. In the motion, Council agreed to publicize ECOLE among Arts students, mandating that “the AUS grant ECOLE booking privileges under the External portfolio.”

Council also passed a motion to endorse Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill’s upcoming referendum, including a fee increase from $3.75 to $5.00.QPIRG McGill is seeking a fee increase to compensate for inflation, as its last fee increase took place in 2009.

Field studies fees

Timothy Johns, the academic director for the Canadian Field Studies in Africa (CFSIA) program, addressed Council regarding the program’s financial sustainability. The CFSIA course brings interested students to places in East Africa to study sustainable development.

Johns attributed the financial instability to depreciation in the Canadian dollar by almost 10 per cent since the program’s budget was last approved in November 2014, and said that although the program had excess funds in the previous years to offset the fluctuations, the funds were wiped out in the current year. To ensure the continuity of the program, according to Johns, it is essential that the fees for the program be increased.

“In order for it to be self-funding, we need a fee increase of $3,004, which raises the fees [to $15,430],” Johns said. “We’re obviously in a risky situation and we realize it’s a huge increase, but if the program’s not self-funded, it won’t run.”

A motion to increase the fee passed.

Council also passed a motion for the Northern Field Studies Program to increase its fee from $5,000 to $12,000 for interested students due to change in location from Schefferville, Quebec to Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut.

Other motions

Council also passed a motion to fix a redundancy in its electoral bylaws with regard to holding subsequent referenda on fees instituted by referendum.

Other motions passed included one in support of AUS departments working with the Ethical Business Practices Committee to ensure that employees are treated fairly, and another in support of the Active Bystander project, through which sexual awareness workshops will be held in order to create a safe space for students.

A previous version of this article stated that the redesign of spaces in Leacock and the Ferrier courtyard would cost $180,000 over three years. In fact, a specific redesign project has not yet been chosen, and the $180,000 is one of three funding sources potentially available to AUS. The Daily regrets the error.

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Project seeks feedback on use of space in Brown building Mon, 23 Feb 2015 11:00:54 +0000 BRIEF

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On February 16 and 18, McGill solicited student feedback on renovations to the Brown Student Services building. At the informational session on February 18, the lobby of the building was turned into a space where students and staff could come in and offer feedback on ideas for redesigning the building.

Dubbed “Operation Brown Building,” the initiative began this semester as a collaboration between students in ARCH 514: Community Design Workshop, the Brown Building Redesign Advisory Group (BBRAG), and the McGill Spaces Project (MSP). Operation Brown Building is intended to make the building a less confusing and more student-friendly space.

“The Brown building was initially planned as a transit space from Doctor Penfield to McTavish as well as […] a conduit to connect to SSMU. But, these [connecting] doors look like fire exits, they don’t look very approachable,” MSP Director and U3 Sustainability student Alan Chen told The Daily.

“Institutional memory has been lost over generations in the sense that people who are using the Brown Building right now don’t know that the space was initially planned to be used as a conduit,” he continued.

These information sessions were the beginning of a consultative process that will be continued through similar events in March.

“Right now, we are just introducing people to the idea, and then [during] reading week we will have workshops, actually have people sit down, and we’ll show them options and they’ll pick,” Ila D’cruz, a Masters student studying Urban Design, explained to The Daily.

“Once that’s done, by the end of the semester, we will come up with design proposals, and they’re actually going to do it in summer,” she said. According to D’cruz, the funds for the project have already been set aside by McGill.

Chen emphasized that community input was key to the project.

“We not only would appreciate, but would welcome and encourage community members to come and leave their ideas and opinions.”

Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) student Catherine Weatherall agreed that the Brown building could use improvement. “Every time I do come in here, it’s not the most inviting building, – you walk in and you don’t know where to go, and to be honest, I really don’t spend a lot of time here,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like our building, like a students’ building.”

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A history of anti-blackness Mon, 23 Feb 2015 11:00:19 +0000 Panelists discuss race and blackness in Quebec and Canada

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During the February 16 event titled “Discourses of Race: The United States, Canada, and Transnational Anti-Blackness,” panelists sought to educate the audience on the history of slavery in Canada and Quebec, tackle misconceptions about the issue, and attempt to find solutions to present-day racism in Quebec. The Black Students’ Network (BSN), the McGill Debating Union, and other groups organized the event.

Moderated by Rachel Zellars and featuring McGill art history professor Charmaine Nelson, Saint Mary’s University sociology professor Darryl Leroux, and Montreal historian Frank Mackey, the event was attended by over 300 people. Mackey filled in for renowned scholar and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who could not attend due to an emergency.

Nelson explained that the erasure of Canada’s history of slavery is caused in part by the failure of early education.

“The education system here is broken, because all of [the students] come in knowing about the Underground Railroad […] but not that Quebec, or New France, practiced slavery since the 1600s for roughly two centuries,” she said.

For Nelson, a large obstacle to educational reform is the academic research that forms the basis of what is taught. Although historical records detail the enslavement of black Canadians, those specifics have been ignored in academia. “The early secondary sources are horrifically racist, because they are not at all interested in the lives of the African slaves suffering,” said Nelson. “The issue is not the archives in themselves, it’s what our approaches will be, and how can we ask new questions of those archives?”

“Defenders of blackface would have us believe that anti-black racism is an American affair, something that we simply cannot be guilty of.”

Mackey argued that Canadian black history should be studied independently from black history in the U.S.. “There is a big difference between Canada, Quebec, and the States,” he said. “We have to stop seeing it on American terms.”

Some of Mackey’s comments, however, angered audience members, and prompted Zellars to later write a response on her blog. According to the blog post, Zellars took issue with Mackey’s distinctions in kind between slavery in the U.S. and in Quebec – namely, his qualification of slavery in Quebec as temperate – as well as his view that “the failure of knowledge and historical accuracy about Black life in Montreal was attributable to Black people.”

“In stating that we are responsible for our own historical absence, you are overlooking the politics and histories of white domination and control of Canadian academic life and scholarly production,” wrote Zellars.

“We cannot be referred to as ‘problems,’ as you did Monday night when […] you uttered a sentence that began, ‘The problem with the Blacks…’” added Zellars, addressing Mackey’s comments during the panel. “It was degrading, and it must be named as such.”

Leroux linked Quebec’s unwillingness to own up to its history of slavery to the recent resurgence of blackface in Quebec, where a satirical play by the Théâtre du Rideau Vert featured a white male actor in blackface playing the part of Montreal Canadiens player P. K. Subban.

“Defenders of blackface would have us believe that anti-black racism is an American affair, something that we simply cannot be guilty of,” said Leroux. “They believe themselves to be victims of colonialism, themselves innocent in the contemporary racial role.”

Nelson added to this argument that Quebec francophones’ perception of themselves as victims contributes to the erasure of black history, and is a key reason for this incident.

“We have been trained that to talk about race is to be racist.”

“There is a way in which white francophones mobilize their marginalization and not their privilege in a way that shuts down conversation about race,” remarked Nelson. “That’s why you can have the director general of a legitimate theatre company coming out and saying that she feels humiliated, when she authorized performance of a white male actor in blackface to play a black male.”

Leroux agreed, and thought it “quite an impressive feat” that the beneficiaries of French slavery can now confidently assert in the public sphere that they have no history of anti-black racism because they were conquered by the British.

“Quebec’s racist discourse relies on a heavy dose of victimhood mixed with equally strong amounts of innocence,” said Leroux.

According to Nelson, racial reconciliation in Quebec is inhibited by social conventions. “We have been trained that to talk about race is to be racist,” said Nelson, “so you get shut down very quickly if you want to start that conversation.”

Leroux added that the language used in this conversation is laced with racism. “We must avoid engaging with the discursive frameworks that currently exist because not only do they normalize the erasure and the ways in which anti-blackness has been fundamental to the foundation of Quebec, but perhaps more seriously legitimize its denials today.”

Zellars later told The Daily, “I’m grateful for the way the conversation moved between all the panelists, and I knew in choosing them that they would each offer their perspectives to make the conversation complete.”

BSN Political Coordinator Isabelle Oke found the event eye-opening. “There is more than meets the eye in this whole narrative that we try to bring up on race,” she said.

U3 Arts student Alex Langer from the McGill Debating Union concurred. “Canada has its own history and its own ways of oppressing black people, and we should remember that and learn from that.”

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Energy East spill risk higher than reported by TransCanada, says study Sun, 22 Feb 2015 20:42:23 +0000 Predicts 16,400 barrels of oil could spill undetected daily for up to two weeks

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An independent study commissioned by the D’Autray Regional County Municipality (MRC) has found that the environmental impacts of the Energy East pipeline are far more significant than initially portrayed by TransCanada. According to the report, minor leaks could result in 16,400 barrels of oil spilling every day for up to 2 weeks without detection.

The study, conducted by J. Harvey & Associates Consulting and ÉCOgestion Solutions, analyzed the environmental assessment administered by TransCanada that was submitted to the National Energy Board. According to the authors of the study, these assessments are often incomplete and present generalized and overly optimistic perspectives on the impacts of the pipeline.

“The study conducted by our consultants indicates that the risks of leakage are more important than what TransCanada claims,” Bruno Tremblay, Deputy Director General of Planning and Inspection at MRC de D’Autray, told The Daily in French.

Tremblay continued, “On one note, it seems that a 1.5 per cent of leakage from the pipeline is not detectable by the control center in Calgary. A 1.5 per cent flow from 1.1 million barrels per day represents a large quantity of oil that could spread in the environment for many days without anyone the wiser. We are not convinced that the implementation of the pipeline is without consequence to the integrity of Lanoraie’s [a town in D’Autray] peatlands.”

“Quebec cannot purport to be a leader in climate like they do if they go on to approve this.”

The assessment by TransCanada discussed its risk mitigation techniques, which, according to Tim Duboyce, a spokesperson for the company, included, “regular aerial surveillance and frequent inspections from our field teams who physically walk along the pipeline route.” This point was criticized by the authors of the independent study, who said that the time lapse between inspections is what would allow minor oil leaks to flow freely for days without detection, causing severe harm to the sensitive bogs in D’Autray.

“We did this study because there is no information. […] If the Quebec government had conducted an independent study, or other people, perhaps we wouldn’t have done this […] to have an independent study to evaluate the impact of this project on our land,” Tremblay said. “There are elements in the report that hadn’t been raised by TransCanada.”

Divest McGill also criticized the lack of adequate disclosures, especially with regards to the environmental impacts of the product being transported through the pipeline. “[TransCanada does’t] include an evaluation of climate impacts of the oil that is being transported, which are equivalent to 40 per cent of Quebec total annual emissions – a mind-boggling figure,” Divest McGill member Bronwen Tucker told The Daily.

“Quebec cannot purport to be a leader in climate like they do if they go on to approve this.”

The pipeline project has also encountered opposition from various environmental and wildlife protection groups in Quebec. In a recent controversy regarding an oil port to be opened in Cacouna, a municipality in the south of Quebec, it was found that the port might have disastrous effects on the Beluga whale population in the Saint Lawrence River, a species that was recently reclassified as endangered.

Tremblay hopes that the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) – Quebec’s office of public hearings on the environment – takes an active role in properly portraying the impacts of the pipeline project to the Energy Board and to the public in general.

“The MRC will make the study available to all Quebec municipalities so they can have this information. Moreover, the MRC will appear before the National Energy Board to assert its opposition to the project,” Tremblay said. “We hope that the BAPE is conducting a study on this pipeline project.”

Tucker also advocated for the report to be considered in decision-making. “I think BAPE should take this report seriously and recommend against the proposal – it shows not all of the conditions the provincial government set for the pipeline would be met, which is scary considering these conditions were fairly lenient in the first place.”

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