The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com Still I rise since 1911 Thu, 26 Mar 2015 23:25:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Vaginas in the making http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/vaginas-in-the-making/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/vaginas-in-the-making/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 03:14:55 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41484 Empowerment, one paper-mâché labia at a time

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Courtney Kirkby’s apartment floor was covered with vaginas last Wednesday night as guests sat cross-legged, chatting and complimenting each others’ vaginas. Kirkby organized this “Vagina Puppet-Making Workshop” with Concordia’s Centre for Gender Advocacy in order to teach participants the process of taping balls of newspaper and pop cans to construct paper-mâché labias. In truth, there was no formal process at all, since no two vaginas looked remotely alike. This paper-mâché vagina party created a stimulating space to discuss feminisms and combat the demonization of female sexuality.

At the event, workshop participants ate homemade daal and talked about both personal and political sexual issues. “I think there’s an under-emphasis on sexual organs [in queer circles]. We talk a lot about gender identity, but not a lot about organs,” said Nadia Argueta, a 2013 McGill graduate and current social worker. She pointed out that while not all women have vaginas – and so focusing exclusively on one type of sexual organ is cissexist – the vagina is largely undervalued, shamed, and stigmatized in our society.

The workshop aimed to counter this very stigma, which comes from patriarchal body policing. Participants worked enthusiastically, embellishing their vagina puppets with glitter, rhinestones, pictures of the Virgin Mary, and pipe-cleaner pubic hair. With loud, joyous gestures they reclaimed the vagina as something to be celebrated in its beauty.

“I was really surprised at how central the experience is,” Kirkby said of making her first vagina, “Of getting to use the glue and use the paper [to] feel the shape of the vagina – getting to think about something that’s often hidden from view.”

Participants worked enthusiastically, embellishing their vagina puppets with glitter, rhinestones, pictures of the Virgin Mary, and pipe-cleaner pubic hair. With loud, joyous gestures they reclaimed the vagina as something to be celebrated in its beauty.

Kirkby’s past experience includes working for CKUT and the Centre for Gender Advocacy, but the inception of the idea for her first paper-mâché vagina occurred last year in South America.

While covering the 2014 Bolivian elections, Kirkby roomed at a hostel-café run by Mujeres Creando, a radical anarcha-feminist collective that works to deconstruct patriarchal, colonialist symbols and rhetoric at micro and macro levels. “They combat machismo and violence against women,” Kirkby explained, “[and] they use a lot of controversial art in their work – what a lot of people see as aggressive artwork – and it was really inspiring.” To thank her hosts, Kirkby made her first paper-mâché vagina, which would birth future cardboard vaginas in Montreal.

The experience was a visceral one, as participants coated pieces of soaked cardboard with thick warm glue. Andrea Miller-Nesbitt, librarian at the McGill Life Sciences Library, shaped shining gold tissue paper around the outer labia of her paper-mâché vagina. “We live in a very patriarchal society,” she said, critiquing the lack of knowledge about female in relation to male genitalia.

The artists discussed the pitfalls of cultural stigma while carefully sculpting vaginal curves and crevices, their meticulous work making the paper-mâché vaginas both literally and figuratively stronger. Kirkby also told The Daily about ideas for future workshops, including experimenting with different materials and shapes and possibly making a “vaginal Medusa” covered in vicious snakes – an allusion to various Southern American folk tales about a mythical woman with a venerably violent anti-rape precaution.

“Most women have not two lips, but four,” Kirkby reflected, noting that one can only imagine the stories women would tell if they were not just free to talk, but also able to talk freely, with unrestrained power. Resisting and deconstructing cultural norms is a painstaking exercise in patience; but this workshop opened a space to build not only highly provocative and beautiful mantelpiece hangings, but also the foundations of an artistic resistance.

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Thousands of students protest cuts in night demonstration http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/thousands-of-students-protest-cuts-in-night-demonstration/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/thousands-of-students-protest-cuts-in-night-demonstration/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 22:49:08 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41478 Four arrested after demonstrators clash with police

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An estimated 3,000 people, most of them students, took to the streets of downtown Montreal on March 24, with nearly 50,000 students on strike this week against the provincial Liberal government’s austerity measures. Police attempted numerous maneuvers to repress the demonstration, and although the protesters escaped kettling, the event resulted in four arrests: two for armed assault and two for mischief.

The demonstration was also part of a Canada-wide day of action for accessible education called for by the Revolutionary Student Movement, a student group with chapters across Canada.

As the crowd was gathering at Place Émilie-Gamelin around 9 p.m., the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) blocked the Ste. Catherine and Berri intersection and declared the protest illegal under bylaw P-6, since the route had not been given to the police ahead of time.

Demonstrators marched for over two hours, chanting anti-austerity and anti-capitalist slogans. Around 9:30 p.m., shortly after the start of the demonstration, police blocked the intersection of Réné-Levesque and St. Laurent and attempted to break up the protesters. Although some projectiles were thrown from the crowd, the mass generally stayed calm and marched forward, leading police to open the blockade.

“The police [do] not have the right to obstruct us,” a university student from Quebec City told The Daily, expressing his dissatisfaction with the application of municipal bylaw P-6. “According to the law, we have the right to demonstrate when we feel like it and when we believe that a situation is unjust. And I know my laws.”

Pénélope, a CEGEP student, said that she was wary of police in the wake of violent confrontations with the SPVM at the strike week kick-off demonstration the previous day. “It was really bad. The police dispersed us extremely quickly. Afterward, they arrested a few and attacked others,” she told The Daily in French.

“We have the right to demonstrate when we feel like it and when we believe that a situation is unjust.”

A saxophone player among the protesters helped lighten the mood throughout the march. Demonstrators chanted “Avec nous, dans la rue!” (“With us, to the streets!”) to onlooking students as they passed McGill’s Bronfman building on Sherbrooke.

The second major confrontation of the night took place around 10:40 p.m. at the intersection of Maisonneuve and Drummond, with police deploying a smoke bomb and bringing the demonstration to a standstill for several minutes. Demonstrators chanted anti-police slogans and threw projectiles at the SPVM. The SPVM charged a group of protesters who had turned north on Drummond, deploying tear gas and using rubber bullets, reportedly hitting a protester in the head.

The small group managed to break through the police line, however, and the demonstration continued. Police charged again shortly thereafter, and mostly dispersed the demonstration by 11:30 p.m.. One person reportedly lost their tooth after being hit by a police shield, and two people ­– one protester and one police officer – were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, according to CBC.

Speaking to The Daily, a protester said that he was not surprised by the police’s actions. “It’s the usual. There was intimidation, as always – charging into the crowd with their shields, that sucks,” he said in French.

“In 2012 [during the student strikes] I saw a lot worse,” added another protestor in French. “This is only the beginning.”

Actions will continue throughout the week as striking students continue to pressure the government to roll back its cuts to public services, including healthcare and education. One student from Cégep de Saint-Laurent explained that students gather at the CEGEP every morning for discussion and organization.

Léa, a student from Cégep du Vieux Montréal, spoke to the importance of continuing to mobilize students across the province.

“I think that [with its policies] of austerity, the Couillard government is not […] the best to move Quebec forward. [Instead], I think that the welfare state should be improved,” she told The Daily in French. “[To achieve this] we will need a group movement – it should not only be Montreal, but the entirety of Quebec.”

—With files from Marina Cupido

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Demonstrators blockade James Administration building http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/demonstrators-blockade-james-administration-building/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/demonstrators-blockade-james-administration-building/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 02:27:57 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41470 Members of Demilitarize McGill protest austerity

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On the morning of March 24, a group of roughly twenty students affiliated with Demilitarize McGill blockaded the James Administration building for approximately two and a half hours. Gathering at 7:30 a.m., the masked demonstrators obstructed all five entrances to the building, holding banners and distributing flyers to passers-by.

According to a member of Demilitarize McGill present at the scene who wished to remain anonymous, the group’s main goal was to protest austerity, while also calling attention to the military research carried out at McGill.

“We understand the fight against austerity as intrinsically linked to the fight against military research,” he explained, saying that some “[use] the excuse of education budget cuts as a way of justifying military research contracts.”

Heather, who is also involved with Demilitarize McGill and preferred to be identified only by her first name, spoke to The Daily after the demonstration. This action, she said, had been planned independently of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU)’s anti-austerity mobilization committee.

“I think that by having a blockade […] rather than […] a demonstration or a protest, we were actually able to disrupt the functioning and purpose of a very specific […] building,” Heather noted.

She added that the location was important: “It was also in a highly visual […] place. We were able to give out [information] and flyers to a lot of students.”

“We understand the fight against austerity as intrinsically linked to the fight against military research.”

Over ten police vehicles and a number of campus security vehicles were stationed at various points on campus throughout the morning. Officers maintained a constant presence at the building, observing and photographing protesters.

At roughly 8:15 a.m., police approached the protesters to announce that should their action be declared illegal, they would be arrested for covering their faces. Students were also warned against any attempt to damage university property. Neither of these situations occurred, and the demonstration dispersed peacefully shortly after 10 a.m..

“There was some uncertainty as to how it would play out, [but] in terms of safety and police interaction, everything went quite smoothly,” said Heather. “It was successful in its own way, and I think on the whole, people felt pretty good about the environment we created within the blockade, and what was achieved.”

“Also […] we left on our own terms — I think that has […] a lot of power to it. We weren’t forced to disperse or leave so I think that was also empowering in its own way.”

Speaking to The Daily shortly before 10 a.m., two staff members expressed frustration at the administration’s handling of the blockade. Sandra Gibson and Ester Di Cori, both employed in the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies office, had gathered with several of their colleagues in the lobby of the McConnell Engineering building. Both had been unaware of the protest until their arrival at work that morning, and neither had received any concrete instructions on how to deal with it.

When asked about their personal views on austerity, Di Cori and Gibson were noncommittal.

“I’m not affected by it, so I don’t know what to think of it, actually,” said Gibson. “I have to look into it a little more.”

Heather responded to these comments, highlighting the importance of solidarity: “A lot of the people working at McGill or in the McGill community don’t feel the effects of austerity, and that’s why McGill in many ways doesn’t care, or hasn’t had the same response that you see across campuses all around Montreal. […] But it’s important to remember that a lot of labourers still are [affected], and employees of James Admin [are] in […] a different tier of [labour]. Because some people aren’t feeling the effects of austerity, it means that a whole other group of people are feeling [them] all the more.”

Other staff members expressed anger at the protesters themselves, with a few attempting to push their way through the blockade. Security personnel diffused these confrontations, advising frustrated employees to be patient.

Dean of Students André Costopoulos was present at the scene. Asked whether or not the students involved would face sanctions, he explained that a disciplinary officer would have to find evidence that university code had been breached.

“Blocking buildings is not something that we accept in our community,” said Costopoulos. “You can express yourself, you can demonstrate, you can pass leaflets, [but] preventing people from going about their activities is not […] a respectful form of debate.”

Despite the heavy police presence and the negative reactions of some staff members, Heather expressed satisfaction with the event.

“I think that overall, what’s important to remember about anti-austerity actions is that it’s not just about […] students making some noise. It’s part of a larger movement [against] austerity which will affect workers all over Quebec, and all […] support employees and students, so it’s very much a movement for people working everywhere.”

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Not all fun and games http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/not-all-fun-and-games/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/not-all-fun-and-games/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:13:55 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41367 Building meaningful community relationships through sport

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Last year, I lived in Argentina for six months while completing a study abroad semester in Buenos Aires. Several months before arriving in the country, a friend of mine introduced me to the cacique (leader) of a Q’om community, an Indigenous group, located two hours outside the capital city. We sent correspondence back and forth during the weeks leading up to my arrival. He told me about how the community came to be formed through land grants and lucha (struggle) throughout the years. We discussed similarities of the lived experiences of urban Indigenous peoples in our countries, and decided that we had a lot in common.

With my Dalai Lama Fellowship in hand, we set out to devise a project that would be beneficial for everyone involved. I spent many weeks getting to know the rappers, the soccer players, the mothers, and the toddlers. I made it clear from the beginning that I was not there to do a project, but rather to build relationships. Whatever decisions came out of our meetings would be directed by the community and for the community.

In a period of six months, we developed a sport based on a traditional Q’om hand game called Payana. Originally, Payana used small stones or peach pits to engage in a complex set of skill-testing dexterity challenges. There is a structure of ten steps that are attached to a point system. Whoever reaches a 1,000 points first wins the game. When converting the game into a sport, the kids opted to form groups of five instead of playing individually. It was clear that the objective of transforming Payana into a sport was not strictly for the physical benefits of play. There were many youth in the community who were strong in other fields, such as music, rap, drawing, crafts, etcetera.

With this in mind, we spent many days discussing possible avenues that Payana could take. The children went back to their homes and asked their parents about animals and food found in their territory. One girl came up with the idea of using the Wipala (a multi-coloured checkered flag used to represent and unite Indigenous peoples across South America) as the flag for the event. Rappers thought about songs that they had composed that would tie into the themes being brought forward on social inequities in their community and their traditional territory in Chaco, Argentina. Others talked about how this event could be a way for artisans (who constitute the majority of the community) to sell their work to the masses that would come to observe.

This holistic approach of the myriad of opportunities associated with sporting events created excitement in the community and inspired people to think outside the box regarding how individuals could work together toward a common goal. Whether or not they follow through with the execution of the event is up to them, but the sentiment that arose from this kind of creative collaboration of people formed intergenerational bonds that were tenuous before at best. For many of the older youth, it was the first time that they took leadership within their community as role models, and the outcomes were substantial and positive.

As part of our discussions around the sport, we spoke about the environmental hazards and health inequities that existed in the community. In response, we opted to make our equipment from recycled material we collected from the streets, instead of buying stuff from the store. We modeled our construction of the ball made out of plastic bags following a YouTube video we had found of a boy in Kenya who was making them. As Payana was a game appropriated by the Argentine gaming industry in the 1990s and 2000s, reclaiming and reinventing the game into a sport was an act of resistance by the youth.

One day, a professor of mine at the university approached me and asked if I could set up a meeting with the community in Derqui, so she could bring a group of tourists to visit. My face flushed and I froze. It wasn’t I that I was nervous how to articulate what I wanted to say grammatically, but I struggled with how to communicate my thoughts from a different worldview. How was I supposed to tell her that it wasn’t my territory to invite people to? Why did she think her request was acceptable? What did she mean by tourism and an ‘authentic experience’ amongst the Q’om? These questions circled in my head and left me feeling numb for the rest of the week.

When I made my way back to the community several days later, I sat with Loli, the cacique’s daughter, and told her what my professor had asked me. I delved into the questions that I had been asking myself, and was relieved to hear that she agreed. With a terere (a tea similar to mate but with cold water rather than hot) in hand, we watched as the children ran by. She explained to me that earlier that day, a group of anthropologists from the city had come to work with the youth at the community centre, filming them as they selected one picture over another. The children I had grown to know and love over these past few months were essentially reduced to lab rats, in an attempt to confirm a theory set by the anthropologist’s objectives.

The academy often talks about ethical research amongst Indigenous peoples, but what does being ethical really mean if the standards are coming from a Western perspective and a Western mandate or agenda? Indigenous communities across Canada have been mobilizing their own community ethics boards to set in place objectives and regulations for what kind of research they want conducted in their communities, but this is not the case everywhere. The colonial history of many countries around the world has been characterized by experiments that treated those involved more as subjects of analysis than humans. This type of research continues today. It occurs every time an academic or government official gets a ‘good idea,’ and goes looking for the ‘right’ group who will ‘demonstrate’ their desired outcome.

It is because of this history that I have always promoted relationship-building and grassroots involvement in community-led initiatives. Despite what many believe, the only community experts in a given situation are the members of the community themselves. This was the attitude I brought to the table each and every time I met with my friends in the community. This is the recipe for how meaningful discussions and innovative solutions happen. At the end of my time there, we still had not ‘finished’ the ‘project,’ although that was never the intention. If you plan on going into a community with the goal of a limited time interaction, perhaps you should revaluate why being there really matters to you.

As mentioned above, there are many times when community work can be intrusive and demeaning due to their roots in racial stereotypes and colonial histories.In this case, sports acted as the method of bringing a community together and when spaces are created by people coming from similar contexts, however, the results can be exponentially beautiful.

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Inspection finds McGill radiation protocol lacking http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/inspection-finds-mcgill-radiation-protocol-lacking/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/inspection-finds-mcgill-radiation-protocol-lacking/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:06:33 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41434 Unknown whether the McGill University Health Centre has met compliance deadlines

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In early December 2014, during an enhanced inspection by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), a number of deficiencies in the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)’s Radiation Protection Program were discovered.

According to a letter dated January 2015 – sent by the CNSC to the MUHC’s Associate Director of Quality, Patient Safety, and Performace – workers whose jobs brought them into contact with radioactive material had received inadequate training. The inspection also found that radiation safety procedures were “not implemented properly or uniformly among the three hospitals under MUHC control.”

In addition, the CNSC expressed concern about the lack of a program for verifying and calibrating most radiation instrumentation. Finally, the MUHC’s Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) reportedly “demonstrated indifference and a lack of knowledge about radiation protection management and control” and “a lack of understanding of regulatory requirements, as well as his role and responsibility for ensuring radiation protection across all MUHC activities.”

In light of these findings, the CNSC formally requested that the MUHC undertake specific steps to remedy the situation. These included submitting a detailed action plan, reviewing the responsibilities of the RSO’s position with the individual in question in order to ensure that they are able to properly perform their duties, conducting an audit of worker training, and validating all instrumentation.

The letter stipulated that all of the aforementioned measures were to have been completed by March 13; yet, as of publication, it is unknown whether the MUHC ever complied with this request.

In an email to The Daily, Sean Cory, president of the Association of McGill University Research Employees (AMURE), expressed his concerns regarding the incident.

“The CNSC involvement was triggered due to an incident at the [Montreal Neurological Institute] involving radiation exposure to one of our members,” said Cory. “As an employer, McGill is responsible for the health and safety of its employees. However, we feel that a lot of the time, supervisors will leave that responsibility to the employees themselves.”
“[AMURE] should be contacted after [an] accident concerning one of our members,” added Cory.

At the time of publication, no MUHC representatives responded to The Daily’s requests for comment.

David Kalant, VP Finance of the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), concurred with Cory.

“The [health and safety] representatives of a union can be helpful when trying to assess an incident, protecting their members’ wellbeing and rights, and resolving problems,” Kalant told The Daily.

“Too many managers are fearful of union involvement, without reason. And too many managers and supervisors do not understand their responsibilities where [health and safety] is concerned.”

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Students organize educational anti-austerity fair http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/students-organize-educational-anti-austerity-fair/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/students-organize-educational-anti-austerity-fair/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:06:03 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41440 Event examines local effects of government budget cuts

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The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) hosted an Anti-Austerity Activities Night on March 19. Structured similarly to Activities Night, which traditionally happens at the beginning of each semester, different McGill groups set up tables and stations related to the local effects of recent austerity measures.

“Sustainability groups, labour unions, and campus media have all come out because this issue affects them directly,” Bronwen Tucker, SSMU Campaigns Coordinator and co-organizer of the event, told The Daily. “We were really lucky to be able to collaborate with a lot of different groups, I think it shows how many aspects of society austerity affects […] and helps get a lot of students engaged.”

The Union for Gender Empowerment (UGE), Demilitarize McGill, CKUT, the Association of McGill University Research Employees (AMURE), and other groups hosted stations to inform those at the event about how the effects of austerity pertain to education, colonialism, environment, labour, health, militarism, and gender issues. People at the stations also shared skills about safety at demonstrations, student strikes, net security, and direct action.

“Sustainability groups, labour unions, and campus media have all come out because this issue affects them directly. We were really lucky to be able to collaborate with a lot of different groups, I think it shows how many aspects of society austerity affects […] and helps get a lot of students engaged.”

“I’m here to make connections with community groups and see how I can join them in their struggles,” first-year student Aishwarya Singh told The Daily. “On an individual basis I find it difficult to fight austerity, because I think it requires mass mobilization.”

The event, attended by roughly fifty students, follows a motion passed at the Fall 2014 SSMU General Assembly regarding solidarity against austerity. “The aim of SSMU’s campaign right now is to give students resources to mobilize around the issue,” noted Tucker.

Tyler Lawson, AMURE Collective Agreement Coordinator, discussed the impacts of austerity on McGill employees. “The [McGill] administration uses the provincial cuts to justify freezing full-time positions or precariously hiring more casual employees,” Lawson told The Daily. “What’s been happening now is people are working three-month contracts without job security, pensions, or any benefits, fulfilling the responsibilities that otherwise would have been accounted for under full-time positions.”

In terms of actions taken in response to such budget cuts, AMURE has launched a sexual assault counselling program to support members who have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, or abuse.

“The government is choosing to make budget cuts that hurt the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations,” Tucker pointed out. “Even though it affects students directly through tuition, it affects everyone in so many other ways.”

“With austerity, you start to see a lot of disturbing colonialist rhetoric. People start saying, ‘If they’re going to raise tuition, why don’t we just continue expanding resource extraction in the North via Plan Nord, and pay for the tuition using that money?’”

McGill student and member of the Indigenous Women and Two Spirit Harm Reduction Coalition Molly Swain highlighted the effects that austerity has on the Indigenous community.

“With austerity, you start to see a lot of disturbing colonialist rhetoric. People start saying, ‘If they’re going to raise tuition, why don’t we just continue expanding resource extraction in the North via Plan Nord, and pay for the tuition using that money?’” Swain explained at her station.

“Continuing the expropriation of Indigenous lands often ruins them for activities such as fishing, hunting, and harvesting,” she added.

“This is also an issue of […] violence [specifically] against Indigenous women and children,” continued Swain. “There’s been research done that shows that gendered and sexualized violence against women and children tends to go up a lot once areas get opened for resource extraction, since what ends up happening is these corporations will bring in largely male-dominated and transient populations.”

Although McGill has not taken as much action against austerity as other universities in Quebec, the Activities Night was evidence of ongoing interest in anti-austerity activism among students.

“It’s definitely not an issue that’s going away,” Tucker stressed. “For this mobilization […] to continue, we’re trying to use the last bit of the semester to really get students involved before the summer, so it’s something that will definitely still be relevant next year.”

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FEUQ on the brink of collapse http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/feuq-on-the-brink-of-collapse/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/feuq-on-the-brink-of-collapse/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:05:35 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41415 SSMU, FAÉCUM discuss formation of new student federation

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Quebec’s largest student federation is in crisis. The Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) is facing the threat of disaffiliation from its largest member association, the Fédération des associations étudiantes du campus de l’Université de Montréal (FAÉCUM), which is planning on creating a new province-wide federation.

In a damning report released in February, FAÉCUM lists a number of issues – including education funding shortfalls, fee hikes, and unpaid internships – on which FEUQ has ineffectually represented student interests.

The report also points to FEUQ’s general inaction over austerity measures as a reason to disaffiliate. Representatives will vote on disaffiliation at FAÉCUM’s annual convention at the end of the month. A vote in favour will effectively spell the end of FEUQ: FAÉCUM, a founding member of FEUQ, comprises roughly 40,000 students, out of a total of around 100,000 in FEUQ.

“FEUQ has been around for 25 years now, and it had its glory days […] but I think that at this point it’s kind of run its course and it might be time for something else.”

“FEUQ has been around for 25 years now, and it had its glory days […] but I think that at this point it’s kind of run its course and it might be time for something else,” said Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette.

SSMU, who disaffiliated from the now-defunct Table de concertation étudiante du Québec (TaCEQ) student roundtable last year, is not a member association of FEUQ, but Moustaqim-Barrette said she was mandated to act as an observer of the federation.

Created in response to a tuition fee increase in 1989, FEUQ has lobbied the provincial government on matters of student concern ever since. However, some associations began airing serious criticisms during the 2005 Quebec student strikes. At the time, FEUQ recommended that associations sign an agreement with the provincial government, effectively ending the strike.

Xavier Dandavino, chair of UQAM’s Association des étudiantes et étudiants de la faculté des sciences de l’éducation (ADEESE), commented in French in an email to The Daily that his association held a disaffiliation referendum in 2005, which did not reach quorum.

ADEESE successfully voted to disaffiliate this January, becoming the fourth association to disaffiliate from FEUQ since 2013. Member associations have increasingly complained of FEUQ’s undemocratic practices, as well as its lack of transparency.

Dandavino told The Daily that it was frequently difficult to access FEUQ documents, and that compared to other associations, ADEESE had little influence.

FEUQ voting is proportional to association membership, meaning that the largest associations – FAÉCUM and the Concordia Student Union (CSU) – can carry votes at the expense of smaller members.

Moustaqim-Barrette echoed this sentiment, and explained that the night before each FEUQ congress, “association members would get together and discuss the motions that would come to the floor” unofficially.

“So CSU would vote with FAÉCUM, and they would have 16 votes. And basically you can make anything go your way if you have one or both of those [associations] on your side. So it was a lot of back-door politics – like a lot,” she commented.

“House of Cards is the reference that we always make when [we] talk FEUQ,” continued Moustaqim-Barrette, before describing the institutional set-up as “problematic.”

She added, “You could see that the smaller associations were incredibly discontent, and rightfully so.”

New federation

Not every association is pleased with the potential collapse of the FEUQ, however.

“The FEUQ has its flaws but it has undeniably achieved far more concrete results for students than TaCEQ, ASSÉ [Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante], or CFS [Canadian Federation of Students],” said Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) External Affairs Officer Julien Ouellet in an email.

“FEUQ affiliates and non-member associations were shocked that FAÉCUM, an otherwise well-researched organization, would publish a report that is both unfair and of poor quality to trigger a disaffiliation procedure without going through a referendum,” said Ouellet, casting doubt on FAÉCUM’s own democratic practices.

“FEUQ affiliates and non-member associations were shocked that FAÉCUM, an otherwise well-researched organization, would publish a report that is both unfair and of poor quality to trigger a disaffiliation procedure without going through a referendum.”

The FAÉCUM report proposes the creation of a new Quebec student federation, and calls on associations from other universities to join it. Last weekend, representatives of several interested associations, including SSMU and PGSS, met to discuss the option.

Asked whether SSMU would consider joining ASSÉ – the smaller, but more militant Quebec student federation, instead of a FAÉCUM-organized federation – Moustaqim-Barrette explained that SSMU did not meet ASSÉ’s requirement for a “sovereign general assembly” due to its online ratification procedure. She explained that she admired ASSÉ for its ability to resist government policies and actions, however.

“I think FEUQ definitely could have used more of [an] ASSÉ touch in the way that it mobilizes its members and […] I think it lost the ability to do that,” she said.

She clarified, though, that she believed that representation at the provincial level was important, and that in theory, she supported joining a wider federation to better represent student interests.

“People just don’t care, that’s the impression I get all the time,” she continued, referring to the typical McGill student’s interest in provincial politics. “Having this institutionalized for SSMU to be represented on this provincial and national level is so important.”

Both FAÉCUM and FEUQ declined to comment.

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The problem of modern revisionism http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/the-problem-of-modern-revisionism/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/the-problem-of-modern-revisionism/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:05:31 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41365 LETTER

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I had the unsettling experience of reading Samer Richani’s “Beyond Eurocentrism: the slow decay of academic colonization in McGill’s School of Architecture” (January 26, Features, page 13). It showed that there had been a prejudice to our school’s architectural history for decades – a largely unchallenged Eurocentrism, only removed, to a large extent, by reforms in the 1990s.

Unlike what’s suggested in the article, we ought to focus on monuments because they are not just ‘the West’s’ desire to place itself above others, and to seek “self-validation.” Monuments are common to all cultures: they are in fact our global heritage. Denying their existence relies mostly on our discomfort with how monuments have been treated in the past by Europeans like Fletcher.

The flaw of earlier generations, like Bannister Fletcher’s, was to simply see the styles of history as one tree that was theirs: Europe. We need not fall into this trap if, thanks to our modern awareness of history in other parts of the world, our tastes have likewise been broadened.
If we go on being afraid of real differences in architectural masterpieces versus architectural necessities, we will continue to cast it as an ongoing battle between our social liberties and the prejudices of bigoted Eurocentrics. Forced to look at architecture forever as the history of how to make things, we will slowly forget its historical artistry.

My defiant hope, in fact, is that European architecture continues to dominate McGill’s campus. In no political way am I harangued by spires or entablatures on the Arts building, and “the menagerie of imported styles of the buildings on this campus” do not roil my sensibilities of justice. I simply don’t see, or fear to see, through its monocular “lens of Eurocentricity and its ubiquitous hegemony.” I feel oppressed only by a few ugly crenellations here and there, and the words of a few historical demolitionists.

—Benjamin Cohen-Murison, U3 English and History

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Who watches the watchers? http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/who-watches-the-watchers/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/who-watches-the-watchers/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:05:30 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41356 Bill C-51 is hypocritical and promotes fearmongering

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In this age of information, violence is more often ideological than physical. Society’s understanding of terrorism is slowly changing. Government rhetoric often refers to the term consciously to evoke horrific imagery of bombings and unwarranted deaths – scenes that the vast majority of Canadians are wildly unlikely to experience. Almost as often, it is invoked simply to vilify Islam. In practice, terrorism involves the subversion of principles – presently, both religious extremists and their opponents have twisted Islam to their own purposes. Currently, the federal government is also moving to also undermine the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by pushing its new, highly hypocritical “Anti-terrorism Act,” Bill C-51.

At the time of publication, the bill has passed its second reading, moving into parliamentary committee hearings following a Conservative motion to limit debate after only three days. The hearings – which had initially been allotted only a meagre four meetings – were expanded to eight under pressure from the New Democratic Party (NDP), and will allow up to fifty witnesses to speak on the bill.

The hasty treatment of such an important bill certainly backs up accusations that the Conservative government is using fear as a tool for re-election and turning terrorism into a wedge issue. While an ‘anti-terror’ bill has long been on the Conservative agenda, recent events have made it a key element of their platform. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders this past January, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that “the international jihadist movement has declared war,” and noted his government’s plans for legislation that would give security agencies more power. Taking advantage of the insecurity felt in the wake of the October 22 shooting at Parliament Hill, the government has grossly exaggerated the threat. In this case, it is using a rhetoric of ‘jihad’ and ‘terror’ as a scare tactic, and a means by which to convince voters that the excessive measures of Bill C-51 are necessary to ensure ‘safety.’

Government rhetoric often refers to the term consciously to evoke horrific imagery of bombings and unwarranted deaths – scenes that the vast majority of Canadians are wildly unlikely to experience.

The bill also establishes the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which requires all governmental organizations to freely share information; and the Secure Air Travel Act, which allows the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to draft a secret list, on which Canadians’ names and other private information may be collected in order to prevent ‘suspicious persons’ from travelling by air. Bill C-51 also amends extant legislation, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Criminal Code of Canada.

The Information Sharing Act, described by the first part of the bill, seeks to open communication between all federal government institutions, so that any institution can request information from another on “reasonable grounds.” It involves, among other things, amendments to the Income Tax Act and the Customs Act, such that any taxpayer information or confidential business information – or, any information obtained by any federal agency – can be disclosed and circulated upon request. This section completely disregards citizens’ expectations of privacy.

Further to the Conservative-driven Islamophobia that surrounds (and has been cited in support of) the bill, Bill C-51 has given Canadians reason to fear their own government. As some critics, including Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, have pointed out, Bill C-51 turns the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) into a ‘secret police’ that can act freely and without oversight. In fact, CSIS’ power would be limited only when its actions directly violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in which case its agents would simply require a warrant to proceed.

The possibility of prosecution under an unclear law is enough to silence voices that may have otherwise spoken out on important issues, and to limit dialogue that the federal government might find objectionable.

To justify the expansion of CSIS’ reach, there are new, broadly-defined ways in which the ‘security of Canada’ can be threatened, including communications that could potentially lead someone to commit an act of terrorism, or any proliferation of terrorist propaganda. The language is so expansive that innocent people wishing to weigh in on current events may find themselves accidentally incriminated. The possibility of prosecution under an unclear law is enough to silence voices that may have otherwise spoken out on important issues, and to limit dialogue that the federal government might find objectionable.

The very existence of Bill C-51 is an affront to the Canadian Charter, as well as to moral good sense. Criminalization of communications of any sort is contemptible; more importantly, the major breaches of privacy that Bill C-51 will allow should never be tolerated. That our elected representatives have both proposed the bill and tolerated it for so long should be a matter of national embarrassment. Further, the fact that even the Liberal party, which should be expected to contest such legislation, has expressed support for the bill (with amendments) for fear of seeming ‘soft on terror’ is a testament to the efficacy of the Conservative party’s fearmongering. In reality, Bill C-51 will be more likely to undermine Canadians’ confidence in their own government, than to deter the ‘jihadists’ with whom we are allegedly ‘at war.’

A simple definition of ‘terrorism,’ according to the Oxford English Dictionary, involves “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” But “violence” is not only physical. The legal definition, as it exists in the Criminal Code, is far more expansive, but still encompasses anything that “intimidat[es] the public […] with regard to its security.” According to the law, then, Bill C-51 could be making itself illegal.

Any suggestion that the Conservative government could be unaware of the implications of its bill is naive – Bill C-51 is a deliberate move that, through fear, allows the Conservative majority’s ideology to exert power over all the lives of people in Canada.

Terrorism implies the propagation of fear, with the aim of controlling or directing people’s thoughts. Bill C-51 has already generated national outrage – on March 14, people in cities across Canada, including Montreal, gathered to protest the bill. While these protests were ‘lawful,’ Bill C-51’s phrasing is such that it could render similar demonstrations punishable, if they were judged to interfere with ‘Canada’s interests.’ As a whole, the bill is clearly designed for control.

Even if we assume the best intentions, the bill is sloppily written, leaving significant detail open to the interpretation of the person in power; at worst, the ambiguity of its language shows that the government is not focused on ‘terrorism’ alone. In fact, despite the misleading title, measures described within the bill do not apply exclusively to ‘terrorism’ at all, but condemn anything that threatens the security of Canada, whether that be “interference with the economic and financial stability of Canada” or even “an activity that takes place in Canada and undermines the security of another state.” The Conservatives’ unwillingness to entertain any amendments betrays their true intentions.

Any suggestion that the Conservative government could be unaware of the implications of its bill is naive – Bill C-51 is a deliberate move that, through fear, allows the Conservative majority’s ideology to exert power over all the lives of people in Canada. In fact, rather than deterring terrorism, the bill’s condemnation of anything interpretable as terrorist ‘propaganda’ is likely to be counter-productive, prosecuting legitimate dissenters and making real threats much more difficult to detect. The hypocrisy and superficiality of the clause in Bill C-51’s enactment that “there is no more fundamental role for a government than protecting its country and its people” is clear – the government will not protect Canadians from itself.


Katherine Brenders is the Design & Production editor at The Daily, but the opinions expressed here are her own. To contact her, please email katherine.brenders@mail.mcgill.ca.

 

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Screenshots reveal controversial conversation involving incoming SSMU executives http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/41419/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/41419/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:05:00 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41419 Former presidential candidate Tariq Khan alleges Facebook hacking

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McGill students have been in an uproar over screenshots, initially posted on Reddit, of a Facebook conversation leaked on March 18, the first day of the voting period of the Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) 2015 elections.

The screenshots document an 18-member Facebook conversation that occurred on March 26, 2014, in which participants discussed a potential SSMU Judicial Board (J-Board) petition to invalidate the short-lived 2014-15 presidency of Tariq Khan. This year’s newly elected SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim and VP Internal Lola Baraldi were participants in the conversation.

Incoming VP Finance Zacheriah Houston, also a participant in the Facebook thread, explained that the group was meant to “allow for collaboration on the compilation of evidence [of Khan’s campaign bylaw infractions] and potential preparation of a J-Board petition.”

During the week following this discussion, on April 1, 2014, Khan’s SSMU presidential results were invalidated on the basis of SSMU bylaw infractions committed during his electoral campaign.

The Facebook thread includes the discussion of plans to possibly record a then-upcoming meeting between Ibrahim and Khan, an act legal under Quebec law. However, in said thread, Ibrahim also considers hacking into Khan’s Facebook account during the meeting, which would be illegal under the Criminal Code of Canada. According to Khan, he had asked Ibrahim to meet with him to establish a working relationship for the upcoming year.

“I am completely fine with this issue resurfacing and addressing concerns because I stand by my actions, but I am against the way in which it is being conducted, as a smear campaign with private and out-of-context screenshots.”

Khan told The Daily that his Facebook account was hacked on March 27, 2014, and that he filed a police report at the time in response to this invasion of privacy.

Last Wednesday, the day of the Reddit leaks, Khan made a public statement on Facebook claiming that, after reading the image posted during Ibrahim’s Reddit “Ask me Anything” thread, he could not deny the parallels between the contents of the conversation and the fact that his account had been hacked the year before.

He will be not be suing Ibrahim, as he claimed he would in a post following the release of the screenshots, nor will he be pressing charges against any of the parties involved in the Facebook chat – though he will be updating the police report he originally filed with the newly released evidence.

Ibrahim told The Daily that the comments he made in the leaked Facebook conversation had not been appropriate. “They definitely were very poor comments on my part,” he said.

“Nonetheless, I don’t feel there’s grounds to assume that I went forward with any of those suggestions or would have acted on them.”

Houston added that the revealing of messages solely from Ibrahim and Baraldi was indicative of a direct attempt to specifically target them in an effort to sway the opinion of voters during the SSMU elections period.

“Of nearly [18] names, all were redacted except for Lola’s and Kareem’s, and only select messages [from the Facebook thread] were posted and taken grossly out of context,” he told The Daily in an email.

In an email to The Daily, Baraldi similarly questioned the timing at which these Facebook messages were revealed on Reddit, calling the post “quite clearly calculated.”

“I am completely fine with this issue resurfacing and addressing concerns because I stand by my actions, but I am against the way in which it is being conducted, as a smear campaign with private and out-of-context screenshots,” Baraldi added.

Ibrahim told The Daily that he suspected that his rival candidate, Alexei Simakov, was involved in the scandal, saying he met with Simakov hours before Khan released his allegations, and their conversation led him to believe that Simakov knew of Khan’s impending post.

However, Simakov denied having had any pre-existing knowledge of the Facebook post of Khan’s message, arguing that, had he been aware of this information prior to the Facebook post, he “would’ve obviously leaked it beforehand.”

“Tariq reached out to me with advice, but I declined. He was politically toxic.”

While speaking to The Daily, Khan said, “I know Kareem more than Alexei Simakov. I’ve rarely met with Alexei Simakov – two or three times.”

Simakov did mention that Khan had attempted to associate with his campaign. “Tariq reached out to me with advice, but I declined. He was politically toxic,” Simakov said.

“I don’t want to undermine the importance of bringing issues to light, I think that’s very important, and I think some people did that during the campaign,” Ibrahim explained.

He continued, “People brought up issues such as ‘Farnangate,’ people brought up ‘Blurred Lines.’ These are important to students and I was more than happy to address those. But this effort in the last two days of campaigning, to bring up issues and to blow them out of proportion without me having [hacked Khan’s account] is completely unwarranted.”

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Unbearable darkness http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/unbearable-darkness/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/unbearable-darkness/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:04:39 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41416 The hidden politics of shadeism

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Shadeism, also known as colourism, is not a term that many may be familiar with. In fact, a lot of people may not even be aware that it exists. However, shadeism is an experience that most people of colour are very well-acquainted with, and have either felt it or witnessed it. It is a type of discrimination based on the lightness of skin tone, and it occurs within communities of colour as well as intraracially. Shadeism is the result of self-hatred and internalized racism that attributes beauty to the tone of one’s skin. Although many have felt the impact of shadeism, there is little awareness of why it exists in the first place. Shadeism continues to flourish because it is a direct consequence of societies being pressured to conform to Western ideals and socially constructed standards of beauty.

Kali the goddess
There is variety of terms used by different communities to categorize shades of skin colour. Many of the terms that describe darker skin tones are typically derogatory. One term that I once heard was particularly disturbing to me. After my cousin and I spent the day outside, we returned home (several shades darker) only for her to be chided by my aunt for staying in the sun for so long. My aunt jokingly called my cousin kali a word that is derived from Sanskrit and means black or dark-coloured. This is not an uncommon term to describe a dark-skinned South Asian girl. However, it was especially concerning for me because the word kali, used as an insult in many parts of South Asia, is actually the name of a Hindu goddess.

Kali is symbolically depicted as black because she is an entity that existed before time and light themselves. The blackness represents the infinite and pure nature that transcends colour and light. Although she has been historically associated with death and destruction, these traits were not usually seen in a negative way. Rather, Kali was greatly revered as the goddess of salvation and feminine empowerment, and she is considered by devotees to be a protector and the mother of the universe. She is worshipped in many parts of South Asia, the darkness being part of her beauty. How is it that the name of a goddess that represented powerful feminine energy is now tossed around as a casual insult? Although there are many factors that play into this subversion, it largely stems from British colonialism in India.

Under the gaze of colonial imagination, Kali’s image was objectified and she became a symbol of the violent and strange ‘Oriental Other.’ Especially within the Victorian culture at the time, the colonial image of Kali challenged the perceptions of society. She became this distorted depiction of the ‘dark’ and ‘savage’ which the colonizers attributed not only to the goddess, but to the colonized as well. To the colonizers, the assumptions based on the darkness of one’s skin were not only affecting religious figures, but were used as stereotypes for all members of society. This idea was pervasive, as being dark was soon equated to also being violent, sexually aggressive, and somehow morally depraved.

This, of course, is just one very specific example that I am aware of as a member of a South Asian family that is also Hindu. However, the idea of the ‘exotic otherness’ in comparison to the ‘standard whiteness’ is a concept that is deeply rooted in many communities of colour. This subversion of natural beauty suddenly creates the need to be ‘fixed’ and ‘whitened’ as whiteness becomes the symbol for purity, elegance, and sophistication. Having white skin is not only more pure, but it is also perceived as more beautiful and powerful. The result is a mental scale of whiteness, where having a skin shade closer to white is linked to ‘better’ opportunities. Interestingly, studies have shown that in communities where this scale is very much an indication of social classification, it may be used to discriminate against other racialized people, but the complexion of white people is a much lesser concern. Whether white people are extremely pale or tan, very rarely (if at all) are they subjected to the same scale of whiteness in communities of colour. This emphasizes the very tangible racism inherent to this scale, as skin tone is one of the most prominent visible cultural identifiers.

The idea of the ‘exotic otherness’ in comparison to the ‘standard whiteness’ is a concept that is deeply rooted in many communities of colour.

Shadeism in a modern context
Rooted in a history of racism and class discrimination based on coloniality, shadeism has evolved to become indicative of desirability within communities of colour. The Western standard of beauty, which has been projected into other parts of the world, is based on European traits such as fair skin, soft hair, and light-coloured eyes. Based on colonial structures of white supremacy, this is also associated with intelligence, wealth, and, ultimately, power – and sadly that standard is still very prevalent today. Many people have internalized the idea that being closer to ‘whiteness’ means attaining more beauty and power, and therefore will provide more opportunities.

Drawing from my experiences in the South Asian community, one of the more hurtful and glaringly obvious instances of shade being equated with beauty is within the Indian film industry. All the Tamil movies that I have seen since I was a child have always depicted the main heroine as this beautiful, fair-skinned woman. It is also notable that fair skin was much more important for the female characters than the male characters. Although men also feel the effects of shadeism, women are more likely to be objectified within this very narrow perception of beauty. In many cultures, the lightness of skin tone also has a great effect on the desirability of girls as brides, as the whiteness of their skin is perceived to be directly correlated to their femininity and innocence.

In fact, the importance of having a light-skinned actress becomes even more evident when the film industry uses actresses who are not even Tamil. Currently, a popular actress in Tamil and Hindi films is Amy Jackson, a white British model who has no South Asian heritage whatsoever and does not speak the Tamil language. For all the Tamil movies in which she stars, she has to be trained to learn the dialogue or the film must be dubbed, requiring extra effort. The only conclusion that I can draw from this is that having the right shade is such a great concern in the industry – and in society – that actual talent and ability are of secondary importance. When I first became aware of this, I was shocked and appalled, but it is merely another sad affirmation of the hypocrisy surrounding the construct of beauty.

It is now probably not surprising to hear that some of the more profitable companies in India and other parts of Asia are those that provide skin-lightening products. One popular skin-lightening product, called Fair & Lovely, produces ads that have garnered a great deal of controversy, as many of them depict dark-skinned girls who are unable to find a job or get a marriage proposal but are then ‘saved’ by the whitening cream. We live in a world where Unilever – the company that owns Dove and created the award-winning “Real Beauty” campaign, which promotes ‘natural beauty’ in Canada and the U.S. – owns Fair & Lovely, and perpetuates internalized racism and self-hatred in Asian countries. The frightening part is how normalized these products have become. In many countries, skin-lightening creams or bleaching creams are as common as moisturizers. Even in Canada and the U.S., many drug stores in communities of colour widely sell these types of products. Even more horrifying is the fact that there are many people who cannot afford these types of products, and settle for more dangerous, toxic bleaching products, all in the pursuit of fairer skin. Media and film play an incredibly strong role in the creation and affirmation of unnatural beauty standards that are then perpetuated and exploited by large companies.

I still feel uncomfortable when sunlight hits my skin directly. There is this constant irrational fear that if I don’t ‘hide’ from the sun – either by wearing extensive sun protection or just staying inside – somehow I will be exposed as an ‘other.’

Historical context of shadeism
Shadeism, however, existed long before the first film was ever played in a theatre. The origins of discrimination based on skin colour and the historical attitudes toward light skin are complex, but even though the implications or situations vary, there is almost always a common thread seen throughout different cultures that experience shadeism. It is related to the systems of privilege that are created through class differences. These differences, and the discrimination that followed based on social hierarchy, were further exacerbated by European colonization. For the most part, shadeism was reinforced by the colonial acts of social classification and establishment of power.

In Europe the term ‘blue blood’ was used to describe aristocrats, because their skin was so pale that their blue veins could be seen through it. This was desirable, as it differentiated them from members of the working classes who had darker skin tones because of outside labour. With the industrial revolution, this perception changed, as more people began working indoors and tanned skin became a luxury. Even though having pale skin has largely lost its previous value in the West, it is still sought-after in Asian, African, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities.

In the U.S., shadeism is thought to have originated from the ‘pigmentocracy’ of slavery. There was a difference between slaves who worked in the house and slaves who worked out in the fields. While the house slaves would typically be lighter-skinned, the field slaves would be darker, which the slave owners saw as ‘more African’ and associated with aggression and resistance. Those who had a mixed-raced heritage, often resulting from sexual relations between the slaves and the slave owners, would have fairer skin and would get preferential treatment, such as less labour-intensive work and better healthcare. The privilege that came with the lightness of one’s skin effectively established a hierarchy of shades.

This hierarchal mentality remained active long after the abolition of slavery. One of the more shocking examples is the ‘paper bag parties’ that were held in the first half of the twentieth century. An individual had to be at least as light as a brown paper bag to be admitted into certain black social events or organizations. Many believe, even today, that to get better employment and access to higher education, they need to be accepted by the perceived white majority. This perpetuates a type of self-hatred, which is visible in many communities, in which a person feels as if they have to distance themselves from their own ethnicity in order to achieve a certain status or class privilege. Shadeism has led to divisions in the community, with darker-skinned individuals seeing themselves as disadvantaged, and lighter-skinned individuals feeling targeted and socially victimized for having advantages in the broader society.

Beyond shade
Although I’d say that I’ve distanced myself from shadeism, I still see it insidiously reveal itself in unexpected ways in my own behaviour. One of its obvious manifestations is my disdain for the sun. This experience of shadeism being a voice in the back of my mind is an experience that I share with many of my friends who are people of colour and who have similar childhood memories of tanning being seen as repulsive. Even now that I do not see shade as a factor in beauty at all, I still feel uncomfortable when sunlight hits my skin directly. There is this constant irrational fear that if I don’t ‘hide’ from the sun – either by wearing extensive sun protection or just staying inside – somehow I will be exposed as an ‘other.’ In the end, even if individuals do not use shadeism to discriminate against others, it remains a tool for hating ourselves and judging our self-worth according to external factors. Shadeism is dangerous in the way that it subtly ties in with an individual’s self-perception of their own beauty. It becomes difficult to convince yourself that it doesn’t matter when the world is filled with products and images that say otherwise.

However, we are not mere objects that have to passively accept the world for what it is. Different forms of resistance around the world are raising awareness of shadeism. Decades ago, the “Black is beautiful” cultural movement was started in Canada and the U.S. to empower Black people and repel the notion that their natural features aren’t beautiful. It encouraged them to celebrate their racial traits, including skin colour, in pursuit of conformity to Western ideals. More recently the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign was launched in India to fight the effects of shadeism, and new laws are being drafted to prevent companies from presenting individuals as disadvantaged because of their skin tone in advertisements. Many documentaries and films have also shed light on the issue. In places such as the Caribbean, the fight against shadeism has been integrated into educational programs to prevent it from being ingrained in the minds of young children.

In 2010, a group of students from Ryerson University created a short documentary film called Shadeism. With voices from Toronto’s South Asian, Caribbean, African, and Latin American communities, the film exposed the shadeism present in contemporary society, which many people were not fully aware of. The film saw a very positive response and is now being shown in many classrooms in the greater Toronto area. It has since evolved into a multidisciplinary initiative that includes workshops and discussions on shadeism. A second film, in which the origins of shadeism are discussed, is being created and is scheduled for release sometime in 2015. Initiatives such as these are important because they create the space for people who have dealt with shadeism to start the process of collective healing within their communities, beginning with themselves.

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Non-transparent allocation of disability grant angers students http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/non-transparent-allocation-of-disability-grant-angers-students/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/non-transparent-allocation-of-disability-grant-angers-students/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:03:38 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41431 Advising, Glen relocation issues discussed at Senate

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Senate convened on March 18 for its monthly meeting, where student senators brought forward questions about the unclear allocation of funding for students with disabilities and the interfaculty disparity in the availability of student advisors.

Funding for students with disabilities

Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Arts and Science Senator Chloe Rourke, Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon, and Medicine Senator David Benrimoh presented a question regarding the allocation of McGill’s $1.2 million share of a provincial grant for the support of students with disabilities.

According to the official response to this question, provided by Provost Anthony Masi and Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, this money has been absorbed under the annual budget, with the administration claiming that a sufficient amount is already spent on services benefitting students with disabilities.

“The unrestricted envelop [sic] of approximately $1.2 [million] provided this year is part of the overall university budget from which much more than $1.2 [million] has been allocated for services to students with disabilities and other needs across the university. In essence, then, the funds have already been distributed,” the response read.

However, the response also noted that the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) would be facing “budget restrictions” in the coming year, along with other units on campus, and that there was “no pending disbursement to OSD.”

“[We] can guarantee only what we can afford to guarantee.”

Rourke said that the student senators asked the question because students had expressed concern that the OSD was inadequately funded. “We realized that the current budget is not able to sustain operations even without funding cuts,” said Rourke. “How is the University going to ensure that this service is able to fulfill its mandate and operations?”

In response to Rourke, Masi said that the OSD is an “important service,” but emphasized that the current climate of decreased government funding requires budget cuts. “We have to make difficult choices sometimes […] and [the funds] can’t just be given because it’s an important service.”

However, Benrimoh insisted that more information be provided about how the funds would be disbursed to ensure that they were actually being used to directly help students with disabilities.

“How can you guarantee us clarity of purpose for these funds?” he asked Masi.

Masi responded that the University can guarantee “only what we can afford to guarantee.”

“We cannot put any more money into this operation than what we are already doing,” Masi continued, adding that these circumstances would not lead to the dissolution of the service.

Speaking to the OSD’s apparent operating difficulties, Dyens said, “I was not made aware of this. This is a discussion that [Executive] Director of Student Services [Jana Luker] and I must have. […] We are committed to making sure we provide these services.”

Advising disparity between faculties

Greenspon presented a question about the disparity in advisor-to-student ratios between faculties and about the University’s actions to address this. The question noted that the ratio was 843 students per advisor in Arts, compared to an inter-faculty average of 265 students per advisor. Law, the faculty with the lowest ratio, has only 88 students per advisor.

Dyens said that the University has been making concerted efforts to obtain donations to fund for advising. “This is a resource issue. […] I think we’ll be making progress very soon on this.”

Dyens also noted that the “Ask McGill” website, which serves to respond to simple questions to free up advisors for larger discussions, saw a usage increase of almost 20 per cent in February. “[Survey] data says students are seeing progress, but we’re still behind our peers,” he said.

Grad student relocation concerns

Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Martin Kreiswirth presented his annual report to Senate.

Many questions raised in response to the report pertained to the recent move of many research students to the new Glen site of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). Medicine Faculty Senator Edith Zorychta asked what was being done to address space concerns, given that roughly 9 per cent of the graduate student population has moved to this new location.

Kreiswirth did not provide a specific solution, but acknowledged the problem that some units have research and funding but lack space. He suggested better liaising with the Glen site, but said that there were “no simple solutions.”

PGSS Academic Affairs Officer Jennifer Murray expressed concern with the impact of the move on students’ workflow and quality of life. “We have received many complaints,” she said.

Murray requested that Kreiswirth form a working group to investigate issues with the move and report to Senate in May and September. Kreiswirth said he would get back to Murray with a decision.

New programs, Principal’s remarks

Principal Suzanne Fortier said that McGill’s proposal for the use of the Royal Victoria Hospital, which will become vacant next month, has been made a priority by the government. The University will conduct a feasibility study, half of which will be funded by the government, on the use of the space.

“[We] need to have a clear picture of what problems we would face if we developed the site, and what costs we would incur,” said Fortier, adding that McGill would require significant investment from the government before committing to developing the site.

Two graduate certificate programs, one in digital archives management and the other in information and knowledge management, were approved by Senate, along with two new concentrations for Masters programs in the Faculty of Arts.

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French Language and Literature students vote for week-long strike http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/french-language-and-literature-students-vote-for-week-long-strike/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/french-language-and-literature-students-vote-for-week-long-strike/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:03:38 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41413 BRIEF

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The Association générale des étudiants de langue et littérature françaises (AGELF), McGill’s French Language and Literature students’ association, has voted to go on strike against austerity measures from March 30 to April 3, after passing a referendum motion to that effect on March 19. These students will now join tens of thousands of university and CEGEP students mobilizing against cuts to services made by the provincial Liberal government that will negatively impact students.

AGELF’s referendum included two motions. The first was for a one-day strike to occur on April 2, the day of the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ)’s anti-austerity demonstration, which passed with 79.07 per cent in favour. The second motion, brought forth during the assembly, was to strike for a week instead of a day and passed with 53.5 per cent of the vote.

“I think the idea was to mark our solidarity from the very beginning of the movement,” Ghislaine Le Moing, a U3 joint honours English and French Literature major, told The Daily. She noted that, because the department has a greater proportion of Quebec students than most other departments, its students have looked favourably on student strikes in the past.

Following the passing of the motion, AGELF commented in French on the strike vote on its Facebook page: “AGELF considers it its duty to make sure that the strike mandate voted by its students is respected, throughout the period from March 30 to April 3.” It also announced that it will be holding a “strike council” on March 25 to allow people to “exchange different methods for mobilization, negotiation with the administration, and general organization of the strike days.”

Le Moing said that AGELF members hoped to inspire other students to hold similar votes. “A lot of people at the GA mentioned that they were hoping to galvanize other departments, other faculties,” she said.

“By having our department strike now, we were hoping that maybe it would encourage other departments to strike too.”

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Factions of the left, unite! http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/factions-of-the-left-unite/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/factions-of-the-left-unite/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:03:03 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41358 The divide between identity and class politics is misguided

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Rising income inequality across the world suggests that we increasingly need class-based movements. These movements already exist, of course, but they are often criticized by people concerned with identity politics (or individual oppression) for ignoring other inequalities. This rift between class politics and identity politics is unnecessary. Activists from both schools of thought need to put aside their differences and collectively fight to break down all structures that oppress and exploit.

The ‘universal classism’ of traditional Marxism assumes that the proletariat has one uniting interest, and that is its economic exploitation as a class. Class divisions are absolute, because one’s economic status can be easily defined. However, proponents of identity politics argue that class universality is a flawed concept: it ignores the intersection of a myriad of other factors that contribute to varying degrees of social alienation.

Identity politics, then, are tied to the concept that one’s identity, such as one’s gender, race, sexuality, or other attributes, can make one particularly vulnerable to oppression. With the emergence of large-scale political movements in the latter half of the twentieth century, such as the civil rights movement or LGBTQ movement in the U.S., identity politics have come to encompass a large range of political projects that are based on providing support to marginalized groups. The driving force behind identity politics is the need to correct the injustice of the dominant culture’s alienation of marginalized groups, through raising consciousness about their communities. The ultimate aim, though, is to ensure the safety of these groups, and end their marginalization.

The rift between class politics and identity politics is unnecessary. Activists from both schools of thought need to put aside their differences and collectively fight to break down all structures that oppress and exploit.

However, much debate surrounds what defines ‘identity.’ There are questions on whether focusing on individual oppression in fact isolates people from each other, making it easier to exploit and discriminate.

Class struggle, meanwhile, focuses on economic justice and labour rights for the working class; though there are different definitions for what that means. Previously, the working class referred to the “industrial proletariat, employed in large-scale factory work,” according to Jacobin, a socialist magazine. The term ‘working class’ as it’s used today, though, is broader. It generally refers to people who earn low wages, as well as the cultural signifiers associated with low wages.

Proponents of class-based politics, though, are often criticized for not taking different identities into account. Typically the ‘working-class member’ that these activists refer to is really a white, working-class man. And even though they are working-class, white men such as these benefit from structural privileges that many other groups don’t.

Class, just like every other type of identity such as race, gender, and sexuality, is interwoven in the web of inequality and oppression.

Similarly, identity movements have been criticized for disregarding class differences. For instance, second-wave feminism has been criticized as primarily emphasizing the needs of upper middle-class women, and not properly considering class in their analysis of social oppression.

But class can also be analyzed through the lens of identity politics, because class distinctions are often correlated with such distinctions of race, gender, sexuality, and so on. However, many still see class and identity as separate. This is in part because some intellectuals, like Barbara Ehrenreich, still defend a universal class identity. Along these lines, class analysis is more extensive than identity analysis; class politics dissolve identity issues.

There is divide and distrust between the two sides of leftist politics, and sometimes it seems that supporting one side is to the detriment of support for the other. This shouldn’t be the case. Class, just like every other type of identity such as race, gender, and sexuality, is interwoven in the web of inequality and oppression. Furthermore, there is value in analyzing economic exploitation in broad strokes. Each mode of analysis is influential on the other, and trying to combat exploitation and oppression separately is not an effective tactic. Neither class nor identity should take priority over the other.

Class movements mobilize based on people’s relation to the economy, whereas identity movements fight against individualized oppression that stems from social structures.

“It’s important to recognize that these struggles are not in a zero-sum relationship with one another,” writes Kevin Carson, a senior fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society, a left-wing think tank. “They are complementary and cumulative. It is not a distraction from the racial and gender justice struggle to put a special focus on the needs of the economically oppressed. It is not a distraction or detraction from the struggle for economic justice to address the needs of workers of colour or of women, gay, and transgender workers. Just the opposite. It creates a positive synergy.”

In fact, recognizing both class and identity struggles would be the opposite of a zero-sum relationship; the value in harmonizing both would result in more than a sum of the parts. Both types of politics are complementary because, in effect, they do different things. Class movements mobilize based on people’s relation to the economy, whereas identity movements fight against individualized oppression that stems from social structures. People can be oppressed both as a member of a class, and a member of an identity group. It’s important that both movements recognize the importance of the other.

Indeed, trying to abolish economic exploitation is futile without acknowledging how that is experienced differently through different identities. Carson refers to the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy used by the ruling class to point out that creating divisions between classes and identities only weakens dissent to the status quo. Presenting a unified front has long been a problem on the left, but doing so is crucial; otherwise, groups become atomized, and the ability to affect change through collective actions is weakened. To build true solidarity that has power, all those who are disadvantaged must be considered. Strengthening the power of those who are the most oppressed – whether economically or individually – will strengthen collective power as a whole.

Identity politics cannot replace class politics, and vice versa. It is useless to deny that identity is interlaced with class implications, or that class is interlaced with identity implications. Instead of wasting time debating the value of one form of politics over another, activists from both sides should focus on uniting to combat their common enemy.


Subhanya Sivajothy is a U2 Biology and English Literature student. To reach her, please email subhanya@gmail.com.

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McGill needs to make accessibility a priority http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/mcgill-needs-to-make-accessibility-a-priority/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/mcgill-needs-to-make-accessibility-a-priority/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:01:53 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41384 EDITORIAL

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This year, the Quebec Education Ministry’s budget allocations to universities included a new $7.5 million envelope dedicated to students with disabilities, of which $1.2 million was made available to McGill. Instead of, for example, increasing the budget of the underfunded Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD), the administration is incorporating this money into its annual budget, claiming it can do so as it already spends more than the new funds on services ultimately benefiting students with disabilities. McGill has long failed to act on issues of disability and accessibility, citing limited resources as an excuse; these new funds could have been an opportunity for the University to openly and strongly support accessibility at McGill. That the University has brazenly ignored this opportunity goes to show that, now more than ever, it is crucial that we foster a culture of accessibility at McGill.

McGill is not accessible to all, and the services that are available are sporadic and unstandardized. The OSD currently functions with the same number of staff as it did in 2010, even though its user base increased from 450 students to 1,600 during this period. It has been asking for a budget increase for the past four years; instead, this year, its budget has been reduced. Accommodation of learning disabilities is at the discretion of professors, as they choose whether or not to record lectures or upload slides. Additionally, the University has no resources in place to ensure that those teaching are properly trained to address diverse learning needs. Similarly, disabled people constitute only 1.3 per cent of McGill’s academic staff. Inaccessibility at McGill is not limited to those with learning disabilities, but also extends to those with physical disabilities and mental health issues. McGill’s inaccessibility is informed by ableism, wherein the needs of disabled people are not acknowledged or treated as a favour.

Campus accessibility is possible, however. There is already a dialogue addressing how to make McGill more accessible, from panels exploring accessible design to groups that are actively promoting awareness of accessibility issues. Organizations like InvisAbilities and Monster Academy are essential resources, but they are just the beginning. Making McGill more accessible requires reaching out to these and other organizations, instead of unilaterally making decisions without transparent consultation.

The allocation of these funds shows that the provincial government recognizes that the number of disabled students in higher education is increasing, and that it takes their inclusion seriously. It’s time that McGill do the same.

—The McGill Daily Editorial Board

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