News – The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com Leaving McGill to work in the private sector since 1911 Thu, 21 Apr 2016 00:54:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.1 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg News – The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com 32 32 Administrators withdraw support from Sexual Assault Policy draft http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/administrators-withdraw-support-from-sexual-assault-policy-draft/ Thu, 14 Apr 2016 13:56:38 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46835 On April 7, the Sexual Assault Policy Working Group published an open letter to condemn the McGill administration’s refusal to support the final draft of the Sexual Assault Policy (SAP), which has been in development since 2013. On March 22, Dean of Students André Costopoulos and Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) Angela Campbell informed the working group that they would not be bringing the policy to Senate for approval. Without their support, it would be nearly impossible to have Senate adopt the policy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bossy” and “bitchy” women in politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Politics do not bode well for women with opinions”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not enough women at the table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divest’s demands

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

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

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

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

Life inside the James Administration building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meeting with Fortier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diploma returning ceremony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naghmeh Sabet at the diploma returning ceremony.

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

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

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

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

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

Initial concerns

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

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

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

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

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

Diagnosis, academic probation and appeals

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

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

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

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

“You cannot treat ADHD.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

A systemic problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Name has been changed

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

Ethics in criminal sexual assault trials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demonstration at McGill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cry-in” to voice grief for survivors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Structural injustice, loss of Indigenous culture

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

“My world is war.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary General Danielle Toccalino

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

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

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

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

Member Services Officer Brighita Lungu

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

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

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

Internal Affairs Officer Mina Anadolu

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

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

External Affairs Officer Bradley Por

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

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

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

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

Academic Affairs Officer Devin Mills

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

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

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

Financial Affairs Officer Behrang Sharif

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

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

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

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

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SSMU End of Year Reviews http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/ssmu-end-of-year-reviews/ Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:00:27 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46566 This year has been rough on the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) executives. Understaffed, underfunded, overworked, the SSMU executives nevertheless strove to fulfill their duties – though in dealing with day-to-day tasks, larger visions have languished. Mercifully, some of the troubles from the Fall semester have been resolved in Winter, with the election of a General Manager and VP Internal, and the hiring of a Daycare Director. With that in mind, the executives have been able to do their job, instead of perpetually picking up the slack.

SSMU’s predicament, however, points to a broader trend in student politics. In SSMU, a student culture of caffeine-fuelled late nights collides with the rigor of a daytime office workplace.Facing unrealistically high expectations for a thankless task, most executives have commented that their mental and physical health have been negatively affected. President Kareem Ibrahim told The Daily, “I don’t have the emotional energy to do [this job] again.”

Perhaps this is why the number of candidates for executive positions was so low this year. Being a SSMU executive is perceived to be very harmful – not to mention the toxic environment that always seems to emerge during elections. This is a problem that SSMU and the undergraduate student body at large need to address. Our student union is our foremost instrument in lobbying for student interests. If it is increasingly inaccessible, this is to the detriment of all of us. A long-term investment in a healthier environment for student politicians is in all of McGill students’ best interests.

President Kareem Ibrahim

NEWS_Kareem_WEB

Kareem Ibrahim has spent most of his year as President shouldering the responsibilities of other executives and staff. Ibrahim’s work was fettered by a few notable staff vacancies this year: SSMU was lacking a VP Internal, an events manager, a Building Director, a General Manager, and a Daycare Director at various points throughout the year. As a result, Ibrahim devoted time to tasks outside his portfolio, such as managing the daycare and working on Indigenous Affairs, a task that falls under the VP University Affairs’ portfolio. He made significant strides in the latter project, supervising the Indigenous Affairs Coordinator, and drafting a policy on Indigenous solidarity, which was adopted at Council last week.

Ibrahim’s most visible accomplishment was organizing the 2016 Winter General Assembly (GA), which he called a “solo mission.” It involved fitting over 900 students into the Shatner building to discuss multiple motions, including the motion to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement at McGill.

In the meantime, some smaller things have fallen through the cracks. For instance, the Know Your SSMU event series was shelved. Speaking to The Daily, Ibrahim expressed frustration at the myriad of projects he didn’t have time to follow through with. Ibrahim also faced roadblocks in his communication with upper administration. As the sole student representative on the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), he said he was “heavily outnumbered” in the recent decision to not divest McGill’s holdings in fossil fuel companies.

Next year, the SSMU executive team will see the addition of a seventh executive, as well as a reshuffling of tasks between portfolios – all without an increase in the SSMU membership fee, which was voted down in a referendum earlier this semester. Ibrahim says he’s focusing on preserving institutional memory in the face of such a significant transition. Instead of having exit reports, he’s working on creating guides for all processes – including how to run for an executive position – since the current lack of institutional memory means that, in his words, “the wheel is being reinvented annually.”

VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik

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Kimber Bialik has been focusing on long term projects this year, with a particular emphasis on a protracted vision for the Shatner building and its accessibility. Bialik said that she regretted being less accessible this semester, compared to last semester, which was due to the resignation of some essential student staff and a resulting increase in her workload. Even so, she’s been highly active on Council, bringing forth a slew of motions pertaining to her platform – though she commented that her workload has also meant that she couldn’t thoroughly research some of the motions presented at Council, and too often abstained from voting as a result.

Bialik has worked hard on the creation of an accessibility policy, calling it a “special interest project,” even though it falls somewhat outside her portfolio. She should be commended for her choice not to remain bound by the specific duties of her role, since SSMU has taken significant steps toward physical accessibility this year under her guidance. An accessibility audit occurred in February, and while Bialik is still waiting on the final report, she’s envisioning changes to the physical accessibility of Shatner, such as transitioning to non-fluorescent lights and installing more automatic doors.

Her largest accomplishment, however, is the restructuring of the twenty SSMU Services. Bialik raised concerns about the current services structure, saying that it lacked accountability because of a need for more SSMU oversight. With six services failing service reviews this year, the services review committee has recommended moving away from an autonomous model of service provision. Services are notoriously resistant to change, and hopefully next year, the VP Student Life will work more closely with services to implement a more integrated model of service provision, rather than ignore the concerns that Bialik has worked hard to elucidate this year.

VP Internal Omar El-Sharawy

Omar El-Sharawy’s term as VP Internal only started in January, meaning that he had much less time than his colleagues to adjust to the job. El-Sharawy has focused most of his attention on the events part of his portfolio, fulfilling his elections promise by working to increase the inclusivity of the events SSMU organizes. His biggest and most challenging event was Faculty Olympics, and he relied heavily on the support of his committee to organize it.

El-Sharawy has opted to decentralize the organization of Frosh, scaling back SSMU’s role in Frosh to one of harm-reduction and general support for the individual faculties. For that purpose, El-Sharawy has helped create three new positions: a harm reduction and logistics coordinator, a community engagement and outreach coordinator, and a Frosh administrator. Letting faculty associations have more leeway in the planning and organizing of their own Frosh is a novel approach, and could be welcome, considering the troubles encountered this year, such as the logistical nightmare that was the Beach Day. Hopefully, El-Sharawy’s successor Daniel Lawrie will be able to uphold this harm-reduction approach that El-Sharawy and his staff have attempted to create.

As a member of SSMU Council, El-Sharawy told The Daily he has attempted to “step in when there’s a need for me to step in.” When he ran last Fall, The Daily expressed reservations about El-Sharawy’s stance on SSMU’s position as a political actor. Unfortunately, our reservations were well-founded as El-Sharawy has maintained his apoliticism, going as far as saying that students want “SSMU to be more fun, and less political” while discussing a motion regarding solidarity with Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO) at the March 28 Council meeting. While his stated aim was to avoid alienating the broader student body and to represent the interests of each of his constituents, the mindset that has characterized his term – that “fun” and “politics” must preclude each other – is indicative of a broader misunderstanding of the student society’s role.

VP External Emily Boytinck

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Emily Boytinck took over the position of VP External last year when momentous change began to take place in the Quebec student movement. The Féderation étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), Quebec’s largest provincial student federation, was at the point of dissolution; the Spring 2015 anti-austerity movement was gathering momentum; and the SSMU Winter 2015 General Assembly (GA) had seen SSMU adopt multiple political positions, including one regarding the creation of a climate change policy.

Boytinck attempted to address all of these issues during her tenure as VP External. Over the summer, she was involved in discussions on the creation of the two new provincial federations: the Union étudiante du Québec (UEQ) and the Association pour la voix étudiante au Québec (AVEQ). She worked hard to educate both SSMU Council and the entire student body about the implications of affiliation with each. While undergraduate students ultimately voted against affiliating with AVEQ, Boytinck’s dedication to making Quebec student movements part of McGill’s internal student politics is commendable and very welcome at an anglophone university that’s too often isolated from provincial student politics. That her successor David Aird plans to continue the dialogue on student federations is proof that Boytinck’s contribution to SSMU’s institutional memory has been significant.

Under Boytinck’s tenure, we have also seen the creation of McGill Against Austerity, which started off as a SSMU initiative, but has now taken a life of its own. Similarly, Divest McGill’s work has reached a new high this year: despite the fact that the University has refused to divest from the fossil fuel industry, Divest McGill’s resolve remains stronger than ever. Instead of directly assuming control of these entities, Boytinck has helped them to remain autonomous, thereby ensuring the long-term sustainability of anti-austerity and environmental activism.

VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke

Chloe Rourke has been tasked with managing a broad, diverse portfolio this year, and she says she has largely managed to do so without significantly neglecting any one area of the portfolio – a feat in itself.

Rourke has been most vocal in advocating for mental health, especially important at a time when many students are decrying the insensitive, inefficient, and impractical nature of mental health care at McGill, as well as the gaping disconnect between McGill Mental Health Service (MMHS) and Counselling Services. She has been pushing to implement a step-care model to reduce wait times, and is working toward a common triage system between Health Services, Counselling Services, and MMHS, hopefully to be implemented in September.

Rourke has also been collaborating with President Kareem Ibrahim to institutionalize Indigenous Affairs within SSMU and organize the first ever Indigeneity and Allyship event series. They are also advocating for the University to recognize and implement aspects of the Truth and Reconciliation report in consultation with Indigenous student groups. Earlier this year, The Daily criticized Rourke’s inattention to equity initiatives. This semester, Rourke has strived to do more in this regard, by working in projects such as the SSMU Accessibility Policy spearheaded by VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik, which will be discussed at this week’s Council.

Rourke faced significant challenges in the Memorandum of Agreement negotiations with the University, saying that during negotiations, she felt she was “working within a system that really just doesn’t get it, and that’s really frustrating.” The Sexual Violence Policy (formerly known as the Sexual Assault Policy) which was completed last month, has also stalled in the upper administration. Hopefully her successor Erin Sobat will not lose sight of the initiatives that have gotten stuck in the gears of McGill’s bureaucracy.

VP Finance and Operations Zacheriah Houston

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With the splitting up of the VP Finance and Operations portfolio next year, Zacheriah Houston has been working on overhauling the relevant internal regulations. He has successfully developed new internal regulations wherein funding can only be allocated by the funding committee and groups can now apply for funding through said committee.

Restructuring the funding committee has also been a major success for Houston. He told The Daily the funding application forms have been revamped: instead of asking for cover letters, the funding committee asks very specific questions with word limits on the answers. Furthermore, the applications have been moved completely online. In turn, this has significantly reduced meeting times for the committee, making the volunteers more engaged and the process a lot faster.

Houston also noted that one of his biggest successes was supporting SSMU Services, remarking that he has a meaningful understanding of the activities of each one, which allows him to be a better resource.

One of the difficulties Houston faced was committing enough time and attention to the operations aspect of his portfolio. He admitted that he was more involved with the SSMU budget instead of finding solutions for the Student Run Cafe’s deficit. “I take this quite seriously, I am disappointed with this,” he told The Daily.

This past year has seen a large number of fees that were passed or renewed. Houston noted that “it took a lot of time, but a lot of really good positive fees passed,” citing the renewal of the equity fee, and mental health fee, among others. While the referendum question to increase the SSMU membership fee did not pass, Houston emphasized that a lot of work went into calculating the proposed fee increase of $5.50, which has helped him acquire a thorough understanding of SSMU’s budget. Houston claims that SSMU became unsustainable financially because previous VP Finances and Operations focused too much on the short-term, but he has taken the long-term seriously, not only to balance the budget, but to develop a sustainable future plan.

This article has been edited to remove impertinent personal information in Chloe Rourke’s review.

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SSMU adopts Indigenous Solidarity Policy http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/ssmu-adopts-indigenous-solidarity-policy/ Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:00:17 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46655 The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened on March 31 for a supplementary meeting, where they adopted a Policy on Indigenous Solidarity and discussed five other motions.

Council also considered 12 notices of motion, which will be brought back for debate at this week’s Council meeting on April 7. These include motions regarding the proposed Smoking on Campus Policy and Accessibility Policy, the service status of Elections SSMU, and amendments to the Internal Regulations of the Elections and Referenda.

Club status for Indigenous groups

SSMU Indigenous Affairs Coordinator Leslie Anne St. Amour explained to Council that the proposed policy on Indigenous Solidarity includes consultation protocols for matters that have a direct impact on Indigenous students at McGill. The policy also outlines ways in which SSMU can support Indigenous students, like accommodations for access to the Shatner building, and ways that SSMU can lobby the University for continued support of Indigenous students and an increase in Indigenous course content.

There was discussion regarding which SSMU events would require a traditional territory acknowledgement. VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik explained that certain events, like Activities Night, would be exempt, “because that would require running floor to floor with a megaphone,” she said.

“All it does is water down what a club is.”

The motion also saw debate over access to status as a SSMU club: some councillors advocated removing a clause that would waive the membership requirements for creating and maintaining Indigenous student groups due to the underrepresentation of Indigenous students at McGill. Under other circumstances, the interim status application for clubs requires a list of at least ten McGill students who are interested in being members of the club.

Bialik argued that the clause was unnecessary because the Club Committee already waives the ten-member requirement at its discretion, so “all it does is water down what a club is.”

“This is something that multiple Indigenous student groups have asked for, because it’s something that they have struggled with over the years,” retorted St. Amour. “I take issue with leaving this decision of whether or not to allow Indigenous student groups to become clubs with less than ten people […] in the discretion of [the Club Committee] because we have no assurance that that group will understand […] just how underrepresented Indigenous students are at McGill.”

According to St. Amour, there are fewer than 230 Indigenous students at McGill, from the undergraduate to the postdoctoral level.

“This is something that multiple Indigenous student groups have asked for, because it’s something that they have struggled with over the years.”

The wording of the policy was amended to mandate the Club Committee to consider the underrepresentation of Indigenous students at McGill when assessing applications for club status from Indigenous student groups, and waive club requirements when appropriate.

The motion passed with 23 in favour and 1 abstention.

Other motions

Council voted unanimously to approve an update to executive job descriptions, as well as a motion simplifying appointments to vacant CKUT representative positions.

A motion to amend SSMU’s Policy on Support for Family Care also passed unanimously, mandating event organizers to provide child care regardless of the hour of the event. For example, the organizers of an event like 4Floors, which continues until the early morning hours, would be mandated to provide child care throughout that event.

“[It] isn’t the most appropriate for a student group that’s run by first-years, which generally requires more support than a lot of our autonomously run services.”

Finally, Council passed a motion regarding First Year Council (FYC) restructuring.

With the FYC having failed its service review earlier this year, the motion sought to revoke the service status of FYC, instead institutionalizing it as a SSMU body under the portfolio of the VP Internal. Bialik said that SSMU service status “isn’t the most appropriate for a student group that’s run by first-years, which generally requires more support than a lot of our autonomously run services.”

The motion passed unanimously.

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Montrealers demonstrate in solidarity with Black Lives Matter Toronto http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/montrealers-demonstrate-in-solidarity-with-black-lives-matter-toronto/ Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:00:08 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46660 Hundreds gathered at Norman Bethune Square at 6 p.m. on March 29 for two hours to peacefully show support and solidarity with the mobilization efforts of Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO). The demonstration was met with no interference from the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), although multiple police cars were stationed on site.

Recent mobilization in Toronto has come about in response to the acquittal of the Toronto police officer – whose identity has not been released – responsible for the fatal shooting of Andrew Loku, a 45-year-old father of five experiencing a mental health crisis at the time. On July 5 2015, Loku, a South Sudanese man, was holding a hammer when he was shot twice by police in his neighbour’s home.

“Despite it all, Black Lives Matter Toronto has stood strong – centering warmth and community in the face of vicious anti-black racism and police brutality.”

According to BLMTO’s Facebook event, the peaceful occupation of Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, which began on March 20 and later moved to the Toronto Police Service (TPS) headquarters, has “faced countless attacks from the TPS – ranging from physical attacks, chemical warfare, deprivation of heating and electricity, and various other bullying/intimidation tactics. Despite it all, Black Lives Matter Toronto has stood strong – centering warmth and community in the face of vicious anti-black racism and police brutality.”

The Daily spoke with the organizers of the demonstration in Montreal, Yasmin Ali and Sumaya Ugas, both McGill students. Ugas explained that the demonstration was to show the world that “police violence cannot go unchecked.”

“Cops cannot keep killing people with impunity,” continued Ugas. “The other part of why we’re here is to show love and support and solidarity with the people who are out there in those streets, protesting [in Toronto], who have been met with physical violence.”

“Cops cannot keep killing people with impunity.”

Ali added that another goal of the demonstration was to “disrupt this narrative of ‘Canadian multiculturalism.’” Ali explained, “In general discourse, there’s no Canadian racial problem. The Canadian state constantly feeds us this bullshit and we want to show that there very much is a racial problem in Canada. Black bodies face a lot of institutional violence from the state as well as people of colour in general and Indigenous people specifically. We want to fuck that shit up.”

In a follow-up email to The Daily, Ali elaborated that they were not formally contacted by BLMTO and that they decided to organize the demonstration out of their own volition. Ali said, “Formal communication seems so unnecessary when the bonds you share as black folks living in a white supremacist world run so deep. In regards to location and time, we wanted the rally to occur in an open, accessible, and public space. In terms of support, the QPIRG-Concordia and QPIRG-McGill teams were immensely helpful.”

“Black bodies face a lot of institutional violence from the state as well as people of colour in general and Indigenous people specifically. We want to fuck that shit up.”

The demonstration included spoken word performances and speeches about the topics of police brutality, Black and Indigenous allyship, and issues facing Black women and Black LGBTQ people.

In the opening speech, before inviting guest speakers to share their thoughts, Ali stressed that “it is important to remember who is at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement; this is a movement of black women! Black trans folks, black students, black parents, black disabled folks, poor black folks. These are the bodies that are first to be attacked and last to be supported. We see you and we hear you!”

The Daily spoke with Sidiki, one of the speakers at the demonstration, who called for action from “elites,” specifically students at universities like McGill. Sidiki said that they “have a huge responsibility in having an impact on social justice and social affairs because they are decision makers. People involved in high institutions, whether political or economic, should get involved in trying to promote social justice through laws or endorsement.”

“We see you and we hear you!”

Leslie Anne St. Amour, an Indigenous McGill activist, explained the importance of solidarity and collaboration between Black and Indigenous groups, both of whom have been historically marginalized. “Black and Indigenous people have something in common: We are an inconvenience to the majority. We have felt oppression for years, and now that we demand change, the majority feels threatened. We need to stand strong and stand together,” St. Amour said.

St. Amour continued, “Solidarity means standing behind, and not in front of [others.]”

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Panel discusses Truth and Reconciliation report findings http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/04/panel-discusses-truth-and-reconciliation-report-findings/ Mon, 04 Apr 2016 09:59:57 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46663 On March 30, the Newman Institute of Catholic Studies hosted a panel at Moot Court in Chancellor Day Hall to discuss the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada, and the unique challenges these findings present to universities.

The panelists were former prime minister Paul Martin, Michael Loft, an academic associate at McGill and member of the Mohawk community, TRC Commissioner Marie Wilson, and Ronald Niezen, a professor of law at McGill.

Speaking to The Daily, several students remarked on the fact that there was only one Indigenous speaker on the panel. Two audience members who spoke at the panel also identified themselves as Indigenous and spoke about their experiences.

Legacy of residential schools

“Those children going into off-reserve communities, losing their ability to have their culture, losing their parents, losing their language, is probably the single greatest tragedy and the single greatest black mark that this country has faced.”

Established in 2008, the TRC aims to document conditions in the Canadian residential school system, and the experiences of the survivors, families, and communities affected. Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and placed into residential schools, where they experienced physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of their caretakers. The conclusion of the TRC report contains 94 recommendations to help non-Indigenous Canadians and Indigenous peoples move toward reconciliation.

Speaking to the impact of residential schools, Martin said, “Those children going into off-reserve communities, losing their ability to have their culture, losing their parents, losing their language, is probably the single greatest tragedy and the single greatest black mark that this country has faced.”

“Last I looked, there were about 1,500 institutions that were claimed unsuccessfully as Indian residential schools. The majority of these were Indian day schools.”

Wilson focused largely on the TRC’s mandate of informing Canadians about the truth behind residential schools. She noted the importance of Canadian leaders who are “well rounded in our notions of country and notions of relationship to the other and a truthful understanding of our national history.”

Niezen called for caution about what truth is discussed, and whose truth it is. According to Niezen, the TRC has an overly limited definition for residential schools. “We see this focus on federal, federally funded, federally mandated Indian residential schools in the subject matter of the TRC. Last I looked, there were about 1,500 institutions that were claimed unsuccessfully as Indian residential schools. The majority of these were Indian day schools,” Niezen said.

This limited definition, and the “incompleteness of the TRC,” Niezen explained, poses a challenge to universities hoping to implement the TRC’s calls to action, which include, for example, requiring medical and nursing students in Canada to take a course concerning Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools.

Indigenous narratives on campus

According to the panelists, another challenge faced by universities stems from the lack of space given to Indigenous narratives on campuses.

“For me, it’s about what’s missing – signs that are able to connect Indigenous people to the promise of education at this institution.”

Loft conceded that there has been some progress made in Indigenous visibility at McGill, such as the creation of the First Peoples’ House and the minor in Indigenous Studies; however, he also argued that there was room for improvement.

Loft said, “For me, it’s about what’s missing – signs that are able to connect Indigenous people to the promise of education at this institution. […] For example, when walking up from Sherbrooke, we see on the right the James McGill statue. We go a little further and we see the Quebec flag and Canada flag. We see the classic Greek columns of the Arts Building, and on the top, of course, the martlet flag. That’s it.”

Loft continued, “Yes, we have the Hochelaga rock, but the problem with that is that no one knows about it. […] It’s been staring at everyone since 1925, right by Roddick Gates. It’s impossible to see.”

Jimmy Gutman, a McGill student in attendance at the panel, spoke to The Daily about the small number of Indigenous students in universities, which Gutman believes stems from Indigenous students getting less funding for primary and secondary education per student.

“Yes, we have the Hochelaga rock, but the problem with that is that no one knows about it.”

“In general, if you live in an upper middle class neighborhood, you get more than if you live in a poor neighbourhood, and you get even less if you live on a reservation. So there’s a big discrepancy in what Indigenous people have historically received,” Gutman said.

Moving forward

Audience members and panelists alike discussed the necessity of including Indigenous voices in materials taught, as well as encouraging diversity on campus.

Loft proposed “a micro-approach,” for McGill, which would consist of two steps: moving the Hochelaga Rock to a more visible space, and raising the Hiawatha Belt flag on the Arts Building on June 21, National Aboriginal Day. “It’s nice to talk about big ideas, but we’ve got to get the ball rolling,” he explained.

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Marine Le Pen’s arrival in Montreal met with protests http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/03/marine-le-pens-arrival-in-montreal-met-with-protests/ Thu, 31 Mar 2016 03:11:26 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46497 Approximately 100 protesters gathered outside the Marriott Chateau Champlain Hotel on March 21 at 8 p.m. to peacefully demonstrate against the arrival of Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right Front National (FN) party. Le Pen was planning on staying at the hotel and hosting a cocktail reception for supporters there.

There were at least 25 members of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) outside the hotel preventing their entry. The demonstration came in the wake of a protest in Quebec City on March 20 while Le Pen was touring Quebec and struggling to find members of the Parti Québécois (PQ) willing to meet her.

Protesters carried signs bearing anti-fascist and anti-Nazi imagery, as well as slogans such as “Fascists aren’t welcome in Montreal,” written in both French and English.

Le Pen’s leadership of the FN has been fraught with controversy. In October 2015, Le Pen stood trial for “inciting racial hatred” in France for comparing public prayer by Muslims to the Nazi occupation of France during the second world war. The March 21 protest against her visit ended in at least two arrests, including that of Montreal activist Jaggi Singh.

Protest in Quebec City

Le Pen, who is also a member of the European Parliament, arrived on March 19 in Quebec, ostensibly to visit a Bombardier plant as an economic mission from Parliament. However, Le Pen used the opportunity to deliver a series of speeches and interviews in the province criticizing Canada’s immigration policy and multiculturalism.

The Globe and Mail reported that Le Pen described the federal government’s immigration policy as “erroneous,” insisting that “a multicultural society is a society in conflict.”

“We want her to know that her ideals are part of a past that we want no part of.”

After the assault of a protester by Le Pen’s bodyguard in Quebec City on March 20, Montreal-based activists organized a “Welcoming Committee” event on Facebook to “encourage everyone to take a stand against racism, sexism, homophobia, and the worldwide advance of the far right,” and to “let all hotel guests and staff know exactly who is staying in the hotel.”

Kyle, a protester at the demonstration at Le Pen’s hotel, explained to The Daily that “the increasing trend of fascism and right-wing extremism throughout the world […] is not welcome at all in Montreal and Quebec. It should be resisted the world over.”

Kyle added that “the high-ups in the political parties in Quebec have nothing to gain by supporting [Le Pen]. They know that their constituents wouldn’t approve of them meeting this far-right [extremist], and ultimately this is the reason they are rejecting her.”

Protest in Montreal

Shortly after the protest began, the hotel management explained to protesters that Le Pen’s reservation and all FN events had been cancelled. At around 8:45 p.m., protestors learned via social media that Le Pen had moved her interview with Radio-Canada to the basement of the Station des Sports bar on Ste. Catherine, and protesters began to gather outside the bar.

According to Gregoire Beaune, a protester who was present at both demonstrations, a large police presence was already barricading the bar entrance when the group arrived. At least two arrests were made by the SPVM, including Montreal activist Jaggi Singh. According to The Link, Singh was fined $440 for being in violation of a by-law concerning noise and $148 for refusing to cooperate with the police.

Nolwenn Bellec, a French protester at the demonstration in Montreal, told The Daily that they would want Le Pen to know that “nobody here, or anybody with any attachment to France, finds her welcome or desirable. We want her to know that her ideals are part of a past that we want no part of.”

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Panel discusses need for anti-colonial, anti-imperialist feminism for Palestinian solidarity http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/03/panel-discusses-need-for-anti-colonial-anti-imperialist-feminism-for-palestinian-solidarity/ Thu, 31 Mar 2016 02:58:32 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46494 As part of this year’s Montreal Israeli Apartheid Week, Nahla Abdo, a Palestinian professor of sociology at Carleton University, spoke about the need for anti-colonial, anti-imperialist feminism at a talk titled “Imperialist Feminism and Arab Women’s Struggle: The Palestinian Case,” held on March 23 at Concordia University.

Abdo’s talk focused on the Western feminist rhetoric on Palestinian women’s struggle and the push-back to this discourse by Palestinian women. Abdo also discussed the importance of using oral history as a research method to highlight the struggle of Palestinian women who are political prisoners.

Land and genocide in the Palestinian struggle

Abdo introduced the concept of “politicide” as important to understanding Palestinian women’s anti-colonial struggle. She explained that politicide is a form of genocide committed against Palestinians by the state of Israel through the erasing of Palestine as a political entity and through erasing Palestinian geography – for example, Israel’s renaming of many Palestinian towns and villages with Hebrew names.

“At the heart of the [struggle against] settler colonialism is the loss of land and struggle to regain the land,” Abdo said.

She linked the politicide of Palestine with the lack of criticism of Israel in the Western world. “Such politics have gone hand in hand with an Amero-European politics of a deafening silence toward Israel’s policies,” Abdo said. “We all have, as academics, in one way or another felt the pressure on our freedom of expression when it comes to [when we] critically think and publicly speak about the Israeli state.”

“At the heart of the [struggle against] settler colonialism is the loss of land and struggle to regain the land.”

Abdo also mentioned that a result of such a a lack of an anti-colonial analysis in discussing settler-colonial states like Israel and Canada leads to the conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

“You criticize Canada left and right, but you are not to touch Israel,” she said, referring to some activists’ propensity to speak out against Canada’s policies, but their silence on Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Orientalist and imperialist feminism

More specific to the topic of women’s anti-colonial struggle, Abdo spoke about “orientalist feminism,” which she defined as the essentialization of Arab and Muslim women. Orientalist feminism, said Abdo, imagines Arab and Muslim women to be under patriarchal and cultural oppression. In addition to problematizing this type of feminism, Abdo also spoke about imperialist feminism. While orientalist feminism focuses on culture, Abdo argued, imperialist feminism is a result of a political ideology.

“Imperialist feminism is a 21st-century feminism developed in response to the so-called War on Terror. [It is] the linking of resistance to colonialism [to] acts of terror; everyone who resists colonialism becomes a terrorist,” Abdo said. “[Imperialist feminism] uses women’s bodies and sexuality for ideology, for racializing and dehumanizing Palestinian freedom fighters.”

Abdo concluded her talk by saying, “While the state can erase the physical marker [of Palestinian land], they can’t erase [the Palestinian] vision and memory. Memory of the land, the home, the olive and the cypress trees, of the hills and mountains from the collective conscience of Palestinians.”

“I sometimes find that Western interpretations of people’s experience can be a colonial one, whether intended or not.”

Amal, a Concordia student present at the talk, told The Daily in an email that she disagreed with Abdo’s point that one doesn’t have to have lived an experience or be from a community to write about it.

“Very often the voices of those concerned are drowned out by Western academics because they have more opportunities to publish and discuss their work,” said Amal. “Basically, there are enough academics and writers who can give a more complete representation and analysis of an experience, and I sometimes find that Western interpretations of people’s experience can be a colonial one, whether intended or not,” she continued.

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Divest McGill stages sit-in outside principal’s office http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/03/divest-mcgill-sit-in/ Tue, 29 Mar 2016 15:00:54 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=46477

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