The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com MORE NUANCE since 1911 Mon, 24 Apr 2017 00:36:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.4 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com 32 32 SSMU forum addresses gendered and sexual violence http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/ssmu-forum-addresses-gendered-and-sexual-violence/ Mon, 17 Apr 2017 16:59:47 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50412 On Tuesday April 11, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and the Community Disclosures Network (CDN) hosted an open forum addressing gendered and sexual violence. The purpose of this forum was to discuss new reporting and recourse procedures for survivors within the context of the SSMU. New measures were outlined, including mandatory response training for SSMU leadership, a “pro-survivor framework”, and a transformative justice approach toward abusers. This presentation was followed by a discussion period, during which attendees gave feedback, asked questions, and introduced their own ideas.

The open forum followed two high-profile resignations within SSMU’s executive team this semester. Within weeks of each other, Ben Ger and David Aird both resigned from their respective posts as President and VP External of the Society amid allegations of gendered and sexual violence. In the wake of these incidents, SSMU has faced intense scrutiny over its failure to handle systemic misogyny more effectively.

At Tuesday’s open forum, a representative of both the CDN and SSMU summed up the current situation: “It is important at this time to recognize that SSMU is complacent, whether intentionally or not, in perpetuating gendered violence. For that we are truly sorry.”

A pro-survivor approach

Following this statement was a presentation that highlighted SSMU’s planned course of action, formulated from information collected in survivor focus groups. This new policy outline rested on what the presenters called a “pro-survivor framework.”

The presenters defined this pro-survivor approach as “[being] able to support the survivor in their experience and assist them in the exploration of avenues as well as acting with integrity.”

“You have to 100 per cent believe the survivor,” a CDN representative explained, “and fully be there for them, and if for whatever reason you don’t think you are able to do that, to […] help them find someone else who could help them navigate any of these avenues.”

“It is important at this time to recognize that SSMU is complacent, whether intentionally or not, in perpetuating gendered violence. For that we are truly sorry.”

The presenters then outlined some concrete measures for implementing this pro-survivor strategy. These included the possible suspension of abusers from SSMU, training for SSMU executives on the handling of disclosures and reports, and the creation of a public guide outlining the disclosure and reporting process.

“We want to really emphasize a step-by-step, ‘if you choose this avenue this is what will happen’ [approach],” explained a presenter. “We spoke about the creation of a guide that will complement [a soon-to-be-developed] policy […] on how to deal with situations of disclosures and reporting.”

Discussing challenges to implementation

The CDN members later facilitated an open discussion with attendees in order to receive feedback and suggestions. The concept of temporarily suspending an alleged abuser from the SSMU became a point of concern.

“I’m concerned that there’d be backlash against the survivor,” explained an attendee. “Let’s say you have this person removed. If you do an investigation and you don’t find anything you can act on and you have to just revert back to the status quo, […] that might make everything worse.”

Presenters were unable to offer a solution to this potential issue, admitting that it must be addressed before a policy is implemented.

The conversation later evolved into a discussion about the role McGill Athletics must take in the area of sexualized and gendered violence. With a history of inaction in cases where players were accused of sexualized and gendered violence, such as in the Redmen sexual assault scandal of 2013, students have expressed concern over the future of disclosures and reporting. One student asked whether or not there were current conversations happening between the administration and McGill Athletics on this topic.

According to a member of the CDN, “one conversation between Athletics and the administration is […] ‘why are you pointing all your fingers at [McGill Athletics] when you have frosh?’”

“There’s kind of an animosity right now,” they continued, “that Athletics is getting a lot of the pressure. […] They’re a little resentful that they […] were targeted first.”

“You have to 100 per cent believe the survivor, and fully be there for them.”

Another student condemned this claim, calling it “deeply problematic.”

“I don’t know how they can continue to have these events functioning the way they do,” the student continued, “and say they care about gendered and sexualized violence.”

The discussion also touched on topics of current and new ways to educate students on sexualized and gendered violence, particularly involving the pre-frosh consent education video and Rez Project.

“A lot of people,” commented The Daily’s reporter, “were way more willing to find ways to get around the video, skip through the video…there needs to be a more full-proof plan of how to get people to [participate in consent training] without finding loopholes.”

Rez Project – the training programme on issues of gender, sexuality, and sexual violence which students in residence are ostensibly required to attend – was criticised for similar reasons.

“It’s a really good start,” said one attendee, “but that doesn’t even address any of the off-campus students or anybody that isn’t in rez, and I know that is a vast majority of students. We need to find something else as well.”

The proposed “transformative justice” approach to taking action against abusers sparked debate. This term was defined by the presenters as “purposely trying to keep someone within the community, but change their behavior,” or more colloquially, “love the person, hate the behavior.”

“I’m concerned that there’d be backlash against the survivor.”

One student saw major faults in this approach:

“At what point, when someone refuses to take responsibility, do you say that transformative justice is not working?” they asked. “Doesn’t [this approach] just open up the possibility of [violence] happening again? […] Couldn’t that possibly be taking advantage of the survivor’s benevolence in the first place?”

“There could be repetition of behavior with either option,” a CDN member responded. “Ultimately, it is a decision the survivor has to make.”

Training measures are also expected to be implemented, according to the CDN. There is a possibility that this training will be added to the workshops which club executives are required to attend in order to maintain “active” status. If the executive members fail to attend these workshops and a club remains inactive for more than two years, the group will lose its club status.

After concluding questions, comments, and remarks, a presenter from the CDN finished the event with an open question to consider.

“Right now we are in a campus crisis” she stated, “How do we continue these conversations when this is not the hot topic in September anymore?”

The final decision was to create a listserv of interested parties to which information could be relayed and conversation could continue into next year.

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Pregnant Concordia student stuck in Gaza http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/pregnant-concordia-student-stuck-in-gaza/ Sun, 16 Apr 2017 09:10:44 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50406 Bissan Eid, a 24 year old Concordia graduate student, has been prevented from leaving the Palestinian territory of Gaza for four months. Her family launched #BringBissanHome, a campaign appealing to the Canadian government to intervene on behalf of Bissan, a Canadian citizen since 2005.

On Thursday April 13, Bissan’s father, Hadi Eid, held a press conference alongside two supporters: Norma Rantisi, a Geography professor at Concordia, and Rami Yahia, the Internal Affairs Coordinator of Concordia Students’ Union (CSU). “We’re asking the Canadian government to help us, to let Bissan come back to Canada as soon as possible,” said Hadi Eid.

Bissan travelled to Gaza in June 2016 to visit her grandparents and get married. She is now eight months pregnant and due to give birth in the first week of May. According to a press release, when Bissan tried to travel back to Canada, she was prevented from leaving due to the slow processing of her exit visa by Israeli authorities, “who seldom prioritize the applications of Palestinians from Gaza who hold other passports.”

“She needs [medical] support because her doctor told her that she has a difficult pregnancy. It’s better that she gives birth in Canada,” said Hadi Eid. In 2009, according to data from the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the infant mortality rate in the Gaza Strip was 21.5 per 1000 live births – compared to 4.9 per 1000 live births in Quebec in 2013.

“We’re asking the Canadian government to help us, to let Bissan come back to Canada as soon as possible.”

“In December, Bissan contacted the Canadian embassy at Tel Aviv, and she told them about her situation, and they told her, ‘We can’t help you,'” explained Eid. Eid has also contacted his Member of Parliament, Pierre Nantel of the New Democratic Party with Bissan’s medical reports, to no avail.

Entry to occupied Palestinian territories is controlled by Israeli authorities. Travellers must apply for entry and exit, and even if approved, Israeli authorities can turn them away with no explanation. Since 2007 there has been a land, air, and sea blockade that restricts medical supplies, construction material, and certain food items from entering and leaving the Gaza strip. 1.8 million Palestinians are currently being held captive in the Gaza strip, unable to move freely within the rest of the territory.

“The movement of people into and out of the Gaza strip is highly restricted,” explained Rantisi. “Residents are largely cut off from the outside world and from access to some of the most essential services like healthcare and education. At the same time, Gaza has been subject to recurrent bombings – and this includes bombings that have occurred since the time that Bissan had arrived there.”

“This is an ordeal that no Canadian – or Palestinian – should have to endure,” continued Rantisi. “And yet, after trying again and again to leave for the past four months, she’s been denied an exit permit.”

“This includes bombings that have occurred since the time that Bissan had arrived there.”

The CSU and the Concordia Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) are also calling on Concordia to support Bissan, by pressuring the Canadian government to intervene. Concordia has a responsibility to “a member of its own community – a member whose freedom of movement and even physical health is being compromised because of their Palestinian nationality,” said Rantisi.

In December 2014, Concordia’s undergraduate students voted to approve the CSU’s support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel. “After the massacre in Gaza [Operation Protective Edge], the CSU was given the mandate by the students through Council to hold a position against illegal settlement and disproportionate use of force, as well as the blockade on Gaza,” explained Yahia.

“This is an ordeal that no Canadian – or Palestinian – should have to endure.”

Though the Canadian government says that “Canadian consular officials have very limited ability to intervene on behalf of Canadians who choose to enter or remain in the Gaza Strip,” there is precedent for government intervention for Canadian citizens in Gaza. In August 2014, Canadian officials escorted 8-year-old Salma Abuzaiter out of Gaza, after she became trapped in Gaza city when Israel launched Operation Protective Edge.

“The Canadian government can make an appeal to the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv, the foreign affairs department, and resolve the situation,” said Stefan Christoff, a community organizer who has been helping the Eid family with their campaign. “It’s been done before, and it can be done now.”

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Fighting fire with words http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/fighting-fire-with-words/ Tue, 11 Apr 2017 22:19:11 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50401 In 1982, the pioneering hip hop group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released “The Message,” a six minute track that vividly depicts the struggles of life in inner-city America. The song quickly rose to iconic status, not just for its indelible beat, but also because it was one of the first to mobilize the expressive force of hip hop to tackle police brutality against Black people in the U.S – and that shit picked up.

Four decades later, the haunting lyrics of being “close to the edge” and of trying to keep one’s head up despite generations of marginalization have a continued relevance. Police violence against Black people has escalated in number and resulted in more fatalities in recent years. Although many of the most publicized cases are from the U.S., Canadians – especially those in Quebec – would be amiss to think that the problem is less severe here in the north.

The Rap Battles for Social Justice are a collective of local Montreal artists, musicians, activists, and organizers who use music to turn the limelight on these realities. On February 15, the Battles challenged the very existence of police violence in their event, “Rap Battle Against Police Brutality.” Here, activists and survivors of police brutality battled fiercely against this unjust form of systematic oppression with clever rhymes, smooth beats, and even some comedy. Hundreds came out to Le Belmont that evening, making the venue a full house. While most performances were rhyming face-offs, performers also expressed themselves through spoken word poetry, group performances, and towards the end of the night, freestyling.

Canadians – especially those in Quebec – would be amiss to think that the problem [of anti-Blackness] is less severe here in the north.

The atmosphere was welcoming, as was the program, and members of community groups like Montréal Noir came on stage between acts, offering brief but sobering reminders of the need for such events by talking about their organizations efforts for the community, and what remains to be done.

Topping off the night was veteran Montreal emcee Scynikal, battling on a ‘pro’-police front for the final showdown of the night. Complete with a plastic badge, leather jacket, and verses that revealed the darkest side of police brutality, Scynikal’s flow was impressive and jarring in its revelation of the deep hatred and fear of racialized bodies entrenched in state institutions and the minds of authorities. The performers who took the mic against him expressed intense frustration with police violence and racism.

To be clear, no professional police officers were rapping that night, nor were any of the costumed ‘pro-police’ performers actually trying to defend police brutality. Some used their blue hats to bring some comic relief to the night, like Marley C’s ‘Officer Cocopuff’ who claimed he had “never heard of” police brutality. According to organizer Vincent Stephen-Ong, who also founded the local musical collective Urban Science, part of the purpose of the battle was for the musicians to “play a role” in order to keep in line with the “theatrical side to the Rap Battles for Social Justice.”

Activists and survivors of police brutality battled fiercely against this unjust form of systematic oppression with clever rhymes, smooth beats, and even some comedy.

Everything about the event was focused on engaging with and empowering the community of listeners. To foster an atmosphere of unity, the vivacious emcee Meryam Saci encouraged audience participation in the performances and even coming on stage. Some performers turned the space into an intimate setting by sharing testimonies of their personal experiences with police brutality. It was clear that the goal wasn’t only to have a good time or showcase local talent, though both were successfully accomplished. The event’s atmosphere carried an impassioned mission for performers and audience members to take their songs, stories, and battles beyond the walls of Le Belmont and into their daily lives.

Raising awareness for cycles of injustice drives many of the artists who performed. Mags, a member of the all-woman trio Strange Froots, explained how seeing other artists share socially-conscious music at a previous Rap Battles for Social Justice event served as a wake up call for them to do the same. “Now we have more of a grasp on how important it is that we are visible in the scene as three Black women; that in itself is a statement that should be reflected in our songs. And that is something we did.”

Everything about the event was focused on engaging with and empowering the community of listeners.

When asked about the connection between police brutality, social justice, and hip hop, Stephen-Ong recalled: “A friend of mine once said something like, ‘you’re not that valuable as an artist if you don’t make use of your position to bring about social change.’” Stephen-Ong believes that lyrical content and musical genres hold great responsibilities. They are the “gateway drug” to what he serendipitously calls “the message” – something that has been embedded within hip hop since its birth. “The message,” as Vincent and so any other artists see it, is not bound to a single definition, or to a particular time or context of struggle. The message is hidden within the act of reclaiming one’s voice when it is being forced into silence, and each rhyme carries a definition that is a piece of the artist as much as it is a part of the message.

Despite the fact that hip hop and police brutality both share racialized histories (albeit with very different expressions), “the message” is not just about revealing this link, but also involving everybody in its dissemination. The message has been consciously and purposefully carried on by artists and collectives like “The Rap Battles for Social Justice,” whose experiences in the music industry and the activist landscape help involve the community in their fight. These artists, collectives, and community-driven events encourage audiences to actively take part in spreading, contributing, and inspiring change.

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Dear McGill: A Break Up Note http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/dear-mcgill-a-break-up-note/ Thu, 06 Apr 2017 21:25:16 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50387 Dear McGill,

You may not know it, but we have been in a rollercoaster relationship for about four years now. If we were Facebook official, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we would be “Complicated”. We’ve had our ups and downs: we’ve gone from A’s to C‘s; from classes in Leacock to McMed; and of course there was the time that we took a break during the second semester of third year, and yes, I’ll admit I did cheat on you during that time. A part of me still believes I left my heart at the University of Amsterdam, but you were my first true love, and we all know that that’s something you never forget.

As you may already know, we certainly have not always agreed, McGill. When it comes to politics, we don’t always see eye to eye, and sometimes I have a problem with the way you treat certain people. You have a lot to work on, and a lot to learn, there’s no doubt about it. But as much as I have loathed you, I know that no matter how hard I try, and who holds my affection next, I’ll always have you on the tip of my tongue, and in the back of my mind. We belonged together, if only for a fleeting moment, and I’ll never regret you. You were wildly ephemeral, but you were purposive. 20 years down the road you may not know my face in a crowd, but I hope you know that I’ll never forget the times we’ve shared, and that I appreciate everything you have done to make me the person that I am. I’m writing to let you know that I’m moving on and adding you to my list of ex’s, but I’ll always cherish our four years together.

Our relationship began like many others. I fell for you before you even knew I existed. I lusted after you from afar for so long that I was overwhelmed when I found out you wanted anything to do with me. You were my high school crush, after all. You just seemed so damn perfect. Even my parents loved you from the start.

You fell for me February 20th, 2013 and we became “official” on September 3rd, 2013 (I know, we took it slow). We moved in together soon after that. Remember our first place at 3625 Parc Avenue? The shower never drained and the neighbors had horrible taste in music, but it was my first home away from home, and because of that it was magic. You were my first taste of freedom, and, at that time, nothing had ever tasted sweeter than you.

You showed me the playground that is the city of Montreal, and introduced me to the vibrant megalopolis using all of my senses. If it weren’t for you, I never would have felt my skates hit the slick ice in Old Port; I never would have seen the street art splashed over the Plateau in early September; I never would have heard the persistent pounding of steel drums at Tam Tams on sunny Sunday mornings; I never would have smelt what a fresh Fairmount bagel smells like coming out of a wood oven; and I never would have tasted how good Two Chow tastes on those blurry kind of St. Laurent nights that I hope everyone gets to experience at least once. So, thank you. Thank you for bringing me to a city that stole my heart.

Now, I don’t want to give you a big ego or anything, but what they say is true: you are absolutely stunning. And I don’t want to appear shallow, but your beauty definitely drew me in the first time I laid eyes on you. And after all these years there are still moments where the sight of you takes my breath away. You get to me. Whether on those brisk late night walks when the streetlights and stars shine on you simultaneously, or the mornings when the first snow of the season sparkles atop your sturdy structure. You are traditional yet modern, vintage yet cosmopolitan, and you pull off the contrast with ease. Your beauty is dazzling, and I don’t think there will ever be a time when I stop believing that is true, because you age more gracefully than most could even dream of.

McGill, you taught me love and loss and lore, and introduced me to the sort of lifelong friends people spend their whole existence trying to find (they’re taking my side in this breakup, sorry not sorry). You taught me how to speak my mind, even when my voice shook, and how to know what’s worth screaming for. You made me a better person, McGill. I am more gracious, more open, and more empathetic, and I will think of you when I share these values with my own children, down the road. I cannot thank you enough for the person I have become, but I know there is more out there for me, and I’m going after it now.

I hope you know that it’s not you, it’s me. I’m just ready to move on. Four years is a long time, and it’s going to be hard to go our separate ways, it really is. But you’re just not right for me anymore. I know you’ll be so great to whoever comes after me, and they’ll be so lucky to become a part of your world. I hope there are no hard feelings, but I’m putting myself first and following my own path, and it just doesn’t include you anymore. But I hope we can still remain friends, and I’m sure I’ll hear from you soon, even if it’s just because you need a little financial support.

If you need me, I’ll be in New York City. Hopefully their lights shine as bright as yours.

With love,
Hannah

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Ways of Seeing: Inspired by Remed http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/ways-of-seeing-inspired-by-remed/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 23:43:56 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50352 ]]> Robohacks and accessible robotics http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/robohacks-and-accessible-robotics/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:29:09 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50283 Bravely ignoring the impending doom of finals season, robotics enthusiasts gathered in the Trottier building on March 25 and 26 for the second installment of Robohacks, a 24-hour long event that attracted students from as far as Cornell University to pursue their homebrew robotics dreams. From Saturday morning to Sunday late afternoon, energy drink-fueled tinkerers wandered the halls of Trottier exchanging ideas, building robots, and experimenting with hard-to-obtain hardware.

Sponsored in part by Major League Hacking, the authority in large-scale college hackathon organizing, the event was staged around the theme of space and space-related technology. With a mix of McGill professors, industry delegates, and Canadian Space Agency representatives as judges, motivation to work through the night was easy to find.

A few days after the event, The Daily sat down with Sabrina Zhu, Shammamah Hossain, Molly Shen and Jeremy Mallette, four members of the Robohacks organizing team, to chat about the history of Robohacks and its impact in the community.

An inclusive hackathon
Organized for the first time in 2016 with a shoestring budget, Robohacks is the brainchild of a handful of McGill Robotics members who not only had a passion for the projects their design teams were working on, but also eagerly wanted to communicate their love for robotics to others. From less than 150 attendees last year, Robohacks grew into a sizeable event that received around six hundred applications for around three hundred spots. This growth is not solely due to the resounding success of the first iteration of the hackathon, but is also a tribute to the organizing team’s year-round promotional initiatives, which included targeted outreach to a handful of Montreal CEGEPs and schools.

While the Robohacks outreach effort does promote the event, its main objective is not simply to bring people to the competition. Shen explained that the bulk of their work is showing people that “building robots really isn’t that complicated and that anyone can do it.” This philosophy of inclusivity stems from McGill Robotics’ core principles of giving prospective members a chance by working on a “trial project” meant to showcase not their ability to build a functional robot but their determination to see their idea through to completion.

With that in mind, racking up more “hackathon glory” won’t help you get the sought-after acceptance email: Hossain and Zhu explained that Robohacks deliberately prioritizes those who are passionate but have had limited exposure rather than those who are most likely to build spectacular machines that will woo the judges. This way, applicants who may have less of a chance in other more competitive events fare better.
While it falls under the broader “hackathon” label, Robohacks is significantly different from other events of the genre. As a robotics-centred competition, participants are tasked with building a robot, however simple it may be. Beginners are not left to their own devices either: the presence of McGill Robotics members, mentors, and industry representatives on site provides invaluable advice and support to those who have questions. “The important part is not to know how to do it, it’s to want to do it,” commented Shen.

A space for experimentation
Building robots requires raw materials, from bits of cardboard and duct tape to electronic components and soldering kits. Cost has always been hobby electronics’ major barrier of entry. However, the Arduino and Raspberry Pi development boards, affordable microcomputers as big as a deck of cards, certainly lowered the bar and made elaborate hobby electronics more accessible, but a significant amount of money is still necessary to get proper projects off the ground.

Events like Robohacks are a good occasion to experiment without any egregious expense. Participants were given anything from ultrasonic sensors to microcontrollers to build their dream machines, which left imagination and time as the only limiting factors to creation.

According to Mallette, the “hardware room,” where participants could borrow components, use power tools and try out 3D printers to produce the custom parts they needed was extensively stocked. “I could probably pay for two years of [tuition] with all of that,” he commented. “That’s my favourite part of the competition: it gives these resources to a bunch of people who would otherwise never get a chance to use things like the Oculus Rift and the Amazon Echo [editor’s note: a virtual reality headset and voice-activated “smart speaker,” respectively] and experiment with them.”

From the exhaustion and hype arose robots that accomplish feats like mimic the way spiders walk, track satellites travelling tens of kilometres above ground, and wander around waving their robot arms at attendees. By the end of the weekend, those who stuck around all had something to show for it, whether it was a semi-functional project for the judges, or a newfound friendship built at 2 a.m. the night before.

Hackathons done right
As Sunday afternoon came to an end, the Trottier building was restored to its former state and no trace of what had transpired during the weekend, save for a few stray jumper cables, was left behind. Despite not being the only hackathon in town, Robohacks did something other events often fail to do: it prioritized community and inclusivity, and embodied the spirit of collaboration and education that was originally at the core of most hackathons. It also didn’t fall for invasive corporate sponsorship that pegs participants against each other in the race for the grand prize.

As the hackathon scene becomes larger and larger, it’s important to highlight events that aren’t about brands or awards, but that prioritize having fun with technology and introducing new people to the club. Robohacks is certainly one of such events.

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Climate change-induced migration http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/50288/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:17:21 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50288 As war rages on between Assad’s Syrian armed forces and rebel groups, between Daesh (also known as the Islamic State) and coalitions formed from around the world, and between Boko Haram and Nigeria, forces millions of people are forced out of their homes and their countries to seek refuge. The United Nations High Commissions for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated in 2015 that there are 63 million people forcibly displaced around the world, of which 21 million of these are refugees that have left their country. Many of these refugees are displaced because of strife and war, but there is a growing amount of them that are forced to flee due to environmental circumstances. Environmental disasters happen every year around the globe, with some being sudden and lethal such as a tsunami, while others are slow and insidious like a drought.

The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami devastated numerous countries, most notably Indonesia and Sri Lanka, with a total death toll of 225,000 people, and 1.75 million displaced. According to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the threat of climate change and heating of the planet will most likely have an impact on the intensity of massive weather events such as cyclones and tsunamis as ocean surface temperatures increase.

As the glaciers melt and polar ice caps disintegrate over time, the sea level will also continue to rise. Projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2013 estimate under a business as usual scenario that sea levels will rise between 28 and 98 centimeters by 2100, enough to swamp most of the Eastern coast cities of the United States. Dire estimates where the warming of the planet quickens from lack of action to stop it and the Greenland ice sheet completely melts put the level rise to seven meters, enough to submerge London.

Droughts and wildfires are already increasing both in frequency and intensity in many places around the world. The 2012 droughts of the U.S. were the most expansive in the country’s history per the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with 71 per cent of the entire country under at least ‘Severe Drought’ monitoring measure for more than eight weeks in a row. While drought and wildfire historical records were beaten in 2012, they were again broken in 2015. The number of acres burnt those years were each triple the average from 1985-1995. Other arid areas around the world are experiencing similar trends, such as in Australia, where wildfires are also beating historical records in area burnt and starting earlier than ever in the year. Chile, whom in January experienced wildfires of scales they had never experienced before, needed the help of the U.S. to contain and eliminate the devastating blaze. While countries like the U.S. and Australia may be ready to contain these wildfires, and find solutions to droughts, it is hard to imagine other nations being equally prepared.

War, environmental change and low standards of living are likely to be interconnected together to make people choose to take refuge in a different country. A 2015 study from Columbia University and University of California Santa Barbara concluded that increasingly severe droughts in parts of Syria is likely to have contributed to the rebel uprising and public discontent with Assad’s government. According to their research, many farmers lost their jobs when their land was no longer growing crops due to the drought, and moved to the urban areas to compensate. The government’s lack of response to the 2011 Syrian drought crisis was not the only trigger to the original protests but played a substantial part, per another study from 2014 on the topic from the journal Middle Eastern Studies.

Diminishing resources, low standard of living and a changing environment seems to create a common theme as a similar situation took place around the Lake Chad Basin in Nigeria, which also borders Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The Lake provides water supply for thirty million people yet has decreased in size by 95 per cent from 1963 to 1998 and is continuing to shorten due to decrease in rainfall. The Nigerian side of the lake is where the insurgence of Boko Haram terrorists, who pledged allegiance to Daesh, drove millions of people away from the area for the resources provided by the lake.

If similar situations of such as ongoing drought and a lack of capabilities from authorities to help continue, many more people will choose to migrate. While the majority of refugees worldwide are hosted in Africa and other Middle Eastern countries, many also attempt the journey to Europe, and unfortunately it is not always legal. In 2016, 170,000 illegal immigrants were recorded to have arrived to Italy by boat from Libya, an enormous increase compared to 42,000 in 2013. Increased periods of drought will surely not slow down illegal immigration, especially since the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention does not include environmental refugees in its outlined protocols. With a lack of legal status and support from the U.N., many people trapped in worsening environmental conditions on small islands coastal to Australia and New Zealand cannot apply for refugee status. The UNHCR has stated that it worries opening new discussions on refugee convention reforms with the security council nations could backfire and let countries take the option to back out altogether. A report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in 2015 concludes that 19 million people around the world were obligated to flee their homes from worsening environmental conditions. A World Bank report from 2015 estimates that a hundred million people will go back into poverty from climate change by 2030. While climate change is gradual and people may possibly escape increasingly inhospitable conditions by migrating, there seems to be not many solutions available to efficiently relocate all of these people properly.

Great new initiatives such as the Platform on Disaster Displacement, previously known as the Nansen Initiative, whom are consultants to the U.N. on policy reform to facilitate relocation and cross-border interactions displaced people, are taking root to eventually find a long-term solutions to this problem. Unlike some previous refugee crises, climates will not simply go back down to their original levels anytime soon, not if we can’t both stabilize carbon dioxide emissions and lower annual temperature average increase. That is of course the long-term goal that would avoid such a crisis, yet it is impossible to know today how much we will be able to curb the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and how quickly. Some world leaders and military advisors are at least taking note of the potential risks of climate change and its inevitable refugee crisis.

Last year, a U.S. coalition of military and national security experts, which included advisors to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, sent a report to the Pentagon under their non-partisan Center for Climate and Security to outline the importance of a changing world climate to national security. The Pentagon adopted the same view and the Department of Defense started seriously considering climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ which could potentially warrant the need for greater humanitarian aid or additional military intervention.

Former military advisor to the Bangladeshi President Munir Muniruzzaman, now chair to the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change, has publicly stated that climate change is the greatest security threat of the 21st century, not terrorism. It is easier to understand that point of view when the reality kicks in that Bangladesh is already trying to plan the relocation of twenty million citizens due to climate change and have asked countries like the U.K. for help doing so. Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, a member of the U.S. Department of Foreign Affairs has publicly supported the notion that climate change increased conflict risks and is an accelerant of instability, citing the Arab Spring, Syrian War and Boko Haram’s previous control over Lake Chad.

Unfortunately, the U.S. President Donald Trump does not believe climate change is real, let alone human caused, as he recently purged the United States Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies from even the mere mention of the term, essentially censoring science. It comes as quite ironic when his own appointed Secretary of Defense James Mattis gave a statement this month describing the potential dangers of climate change as a driver of instability in places with U.S. troops.

While it may not be immediately obvious that a refugee crisis between Northern Africa and Europe would have deep implications on the United States and Canada, we should also step up in taking more refugees, no matter where they are from. While some would argue that bringing instability into our borders is an unwise decision, as some public backlash from Justin Trudeau’s policy on accepting refugees has iterated, I would argue that Canada has some of the lowest population density in the world, and that we have ample space for refugees. Figuring out how to facilitate cultural, religious and linguistic transition will ultimately be key to not increase tensions and divisions, and admittedly Trudeau’s policies have shown to be lackluster in that department. The U.N. also won’t be able to be everywhere at the same time for humanitarian efforts, and countries who will be certainly affected by climate change should plan to minimize problems in the future, such as commencing dialogues right now with neighboring countries. Nature does not care for human made borders, and we know there have been five previous mass extinction events of life previously — we would be foolish to not attempt to slow down the sixth, which has already begun.

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Year in review: Sci+Tech http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/scitech-year-in-review/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:16:00 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50277 Scientific Skepticism

This year saw two articles highlighting the vital importance of scientific literacy. Lack of scientific knowledge may sometimes lay dormant, but other times, it pops up to rear its ugly head. “Many scientific and technological breakthroughs which altered our perception of the world have had to go through obstacles and time to be commonly accepted”, as stated in the article “threatening the future of science” by Cédric Parages (March 27, 2017). It goes on to discuss how even though it was demonstrated that the Earth was known to not be flat as early as 600 B.C., to this day there are still individuals and organizations that deny this claim. Whether we choose to wholeheartedly acknowledge it or not, the climate is in fact rapidly changing, and we are in for the ride.

Thinking about scientific skepticism as a whole reminds me of the famous quote “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win”. In particular, the anti-vaccine movement has gathered some steam as of late, which is quite worrying, especially given the concept of heart immunity as discussed in “A dose of nonsense” from February 6 2017 written by Lindsay Burns. Our only way out of this mess is to continue educating everyone on the necessity of vaccination.

By: Igor Zlobine

Climate change is certainly one of the biggest problems in the 21st century

Over the course of this year the effects of climate change has been undeniable. As discussed in the article “Climate change on the grid” from October 3rd by Louis Warnock electricity production is tightly linked to our overall greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for approximately one third of emissions in the U.S. in 2014. “Micheal Mann, a leading figure in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggested earlier this year that a global warming of 2 degrees celcius could be reached as soon as 2036.” The smart grid must be taken into account, and utilized properly if we are to mitigate the project fifty per cent increase in world energy consumption over the coming 25 years.

Furthermore, as discussed in the article “Climate change-induced migration” Cédric Parages, published on April 3, climate change puts those of lower socioeconomic status at the most risk – by 2030, 100 million people might be forced back to living in poverty as a result of climate change. We must realize that this is not some far away future that may never actually come to fruition, as Bangladesh alone is currently attempting to relocate 20 million citizens in response to climate change. We are already undergoing the sixth mass extinction event the Earth has witnessed, and it is up to use to slow it down.

By: Igor Zlobine

This year was marked by setbacks in the fight against climate change. Following Trump’s electoral promise to bring back coal as a major player in the power industry and his resolute stance on gutting the Environmental Protection Agency, environmentalists feared the worst. What could happen on the American continent as a result of modern-day industry backed up by coal can already be seen in China, where decades of coal-reliance had dire consequences (see “China’s air pollution crisis” by Cédric Parages, January 16, 2017). From spikes in infant diseases to zones where the life expectancy is significantly shorter, China had a lot of problems to deal with. Temporary solutions like installing air locks and elaborate air filtration systems in buildings were rapidly put in place in affluent areas, but real salvation should come from the new Chinese energy policy goals, which include injecting 350 billion dollars in clean energy technology by 2020 in an effort to replace coal and reduce air pollution.

By: Marc Cataford

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A stranger home http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/a-stranger-home/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:04:35 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50337
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Remembering Angélique http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/remembering-angelique/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:00:59 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50265 Though Marie Josèphe Angélique’s date of birth is unknown, the date of her death is part of Canadian history: Angélique, a Black woman born in Portugal and brought to New France by slave traders, was hanged on June 21, 1734 for starting a fire that burnt down 45 houses in Montreal.

While her birthday may still remain a mystery, Black Theatre Workshop (BTW)’s Angélique ensures that she is remembered for more than just the day she died. The play was written in the 1990s by the late Lorena Gale, a former artistic director at BTW, and draws heavily on archival material. It’s less a story about the specific circumstances surrounding Angélique’s death and more an exploration of her life as an enslaved Black woman in New France, chronicling her pain and joy amidst the systems of oppression that ultimately sealed her fate. The narrative follows her life in Canada, from her arrival in New France, to the death of the evil, abusive slave owner François (in a truly disturbing portrayal by Karl Graboshas), to her own attempted escape and subsequent death. Knowing the ending doesn’t make the journey any less compelling.

Directed by Mike Payette, BTW’s Angélique doesn’t shy away from the most horrifying aspects of this journey. On a small, almost claustrophobic stage that makes the horrors all the more intimate, the cast mimes gruesome violence and the audience is given full access to Angélique’s deep trauma, acted with excellent intensity by Jenny Brizard.
But the play also avoids becoming solely an exercise in watching pain. In one exhilarating scene, Angélique and Manon (Darla Contois), an Indigenous woman who works for François’ neighbours, both play with sheets while doing their boss’ laundry. Their exchange has no dialogue, only giddy laughter and captivating choreography. The connection it conveys between these two oppressed women needs no words. The scenes where Angélique falls in love with white farmer Claude (Olivier Lamarche) are also charming, providing little snippets of romantic comedy amidst the otherwise tragic tale.

As celebrations of Canada’s 150th birthday ramp up, plays like Angélique are doing the crucial work of calling attention to Canada’s past and present crimes – seeking reflection and atonement rather than celebration.

These moments of happiness, often the strongest in the play, assert that Angélique, while subject to immense oppression, can’t be reduced to it. Far from undermining the horror of her story, they make it feel all the more unjust when these moments are cut short (as with Manon) or lead to betrayal (as with Claude). The music in the play – composed and performed live on a ledge above the stage by the SIXTRUM percussion ensemble – adds to its immediacy, aiding the quick and sometimes disorienting vacillations between such intense sorrow and playful joy.

Angélique is, at its core, a story of historical structures told through personal relationships. Angélique’s relationship with César (Tristan D. Lalla) – a Black man who, when he asks for permission to court a woman, is coerced into partnership with Angélique – exposes how white supremacy structures the relationships between Black men and women, inhibiting sexual agency and dignity. Indeed, the white slave owners watch Angélique and César’s first meeting as if they’re at a zoo. Angélique’s relationship with Thérèse (France Rolland), François’ wife, depicts how white women – though oppressed in their own ways – are active oppressors of Black women. Through the relationship between Angélique and Manon, the audience sees how the weight of oppression can divide those who, under better circumstances, would likely be good friends.

These relationships, though effective as a microcosm for larger social forces, are sometimes not as fully drawn as they could be. Angélique and Manon in particular could use more scenes together, given that their first is so powerful. In general, the narrative moves between so many stories, time periods, and extreme moments of emotion, that the play at times could use more moments where the characters pause – allowing the audience to invest in them before moving on to the next plot point.

The relationship between Angelique and her environment, however, is wholly realized: the Montreal cold acts as an extra character, reinforcing Angélique’s sense of alienation from her home and nearly killing her when she goes on the run. Where contemporary representations of slavery often position the north – and Canada specifically – as the land of freedom, Angélique flips the script: when the protagonist tries to escape, she heads south to New England. As celebrations of Canada’s 150th birthday ramp up, plays like Angélique are doing the crucial work of calling attention to Canada’s past and present crimes – seeking reflection and atonement rather than celebration.

Though Angélique’s script mostly remains situated in the 1700s, the costume choices link Angélique’s experiences to the present day oppressions of Black people. François, in the scene where he first purchases Angélique and perversely describes her physical characteristics, wears a suit that looks like it belongs on a modern-day Wall Street patron. César, midway through the show, dons a black hoodie in a nod to Trayvon Martin, linking the way slave owner Ignace (Chip Chuika) treats César as an animal to Darren Wilson’s descriptions of Michael Brown. And in the final scene, as she is about to be hanged, Angélique herself wears an orange outfit reminiscent of a prison jumpsuit. The message is clear and crucial: the mass incarceration of Black people today is the direct legacy of stories like Angélique’s.

Where contemporary representations of slavery often position the north – and Canada specifically – as the land of freedom, Angélique flips the script: when the protagonist tries to escape, she heads south to New England.

Angélique opens and closes with dance: the first scene sees the cast circling the small stage in a line together, until Angélique falls out of step, collapsing and writhing onto the floor. It’s an arresting moment that foreshadows the manipulation and contortion her character will soon experience, conveying the sense that Angélique, as an enslaved Black woman in a cold, unfamiliar land, is not fully in control of her body – a notion that history seems to bear out.

But the play, in its final moments, suggests otherwise. As Angélique prepares to die, she breaks out once again into dance, but this time the movement is liberating. These last seconds are simply magnificent, a revelatory moment in Payette’s direction and Brizard’s acting. Against all odds, Angélique breaks free – perhaps not in the narrative, but certainly on the stage, and history, though not rewritten, has hope.

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Year in review: Culture http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/year-in-review-culture-4/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:00:54 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50320 Representing race in art
This year, artists and creators across disciplines employed representations of race to varying degrees of success. In true orientalist fashion, Opera McGill’s mythic Alcina had its actors don costumes and makeup inspired by various East Asian cultural artifacts, under the direction of Patrick Hansen (“Orientalism is no magic,” Carly Gordon, November 21). Likewise, Opera de Montreal makes an unfortunate mistake in letting white actors dress up to play Egyptian characters in Aida – the 1871 opera by Giuseppe Verdi that was born of a colonial legacy (“Get in loser, we’re going to Aida,” Carly Gordon, September 26).

When people of colour take control over their own representation, the result is often empowering and meaningful for those of us in the diaspora. A local screening of Deepa Mehta’s 2005 Water brought to light the traumatic memories of a generational of women in India, bearing witness to painful and complex cultural traditions (“The Goddess is half alive,” Inori Roy, January 30). Local gallery Never Apart opened its winter season with a collection of artworks from Black and Indigenous artists, their themes ranging from queerness to police brutality (“An exploration of resilience,” Sarah Shahid, February 13). Though Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden received negative attention for its apparent oversexualization of the female protagonists, much of the analysis was filtered through a white saviour complex that saw the film as inherently anti-feminist (“Cold revenge and sweet love,” Coco Zhou, September 19).

Local and often political festivals
This year, Montreal saw the success of many arts festivals, a number of which had a distinctly political focus. The Montreal International Black Film Festival held a variety of thought-provoking screenings and panels, welcoming filmmakers like Laurens Grant to share their thoughts on representations of Blackness in media and the current state of anti-racist movements (“Change does not come quietly,” Rosie Long Decter, October 17). The South Asian Film Festival showcased films from various parts of the subcontinent, providing opportunities for bonding among diasporic communities (“Comfort food for the diaspora,” Sarah Shahid, November 21).

The highly anticipated Montreal Biennale attracted a great number of local and international viewers and featured an impressive line of artists, though some found it thematically ambiguous and uncritical (“The grand balcony of capitalism,” Josephine Bird, October 31). The locally produced Art Matters Festival had much more of a clearer focus, choosing to emphasize accessibility to art in the staging of their exhibits (“Accessibility in artistic spaces,” Taylor Mitchell, March 13).

Montreal activists smash the state
While the rest of the world is all chaos and turmoil, our local communities can be a source of comfort and inspiration. Student strikes took centre stage in What the Fuck Am I Doing Here? – An Anti-Folk Opera, co-produced by Fishbowl collective and Tuesday Night Cafe Theatre (“Songs to smash the state,” Saima Desai, November 22). In an emotionally striking on-campus performance, local artist Kama La Mackerel put her own body on the line in protest against institutional disempowerment (“Crawling through wires,” Sabrine Maaz, November 28). Kai Cheng Thom spoke about the need to love and fight for our communities in an interview with The Daily (“Trans girl dangerous,” Coco Zhou, November 28), elaborating on the resilience and success of women of colour in media and art related work.

Internet activism, specifically in the form of memes, was widely discussed and critiqued. Local feminist meme-maker gothshakira spoke to The Daily about having a platform on Instagram, emphasizing the complexities of capitalizing on the viral power of memes (“Married to the game, devoted to the memes,” Coco Zhou and Taylor Mitchell, October 31). Her words were echoed by those of us who participate in meme culture as way to reclaim our identities, as exemplified by the ironic popularity of a certain aesthetic among queer youths (“on edgy,” Arno Pedram, January 16).

Women in arts
While many cultural spaces in Montreal are male-dominated, we saw this year an intentional effort to centre women’s voices and stories through organized events. The second edition of Ladyfest showcased a range of talents from improv to burlesque, bringing gender diversity to the often alienating local comedy scene (“Break a confident post,” Caroline Macari, September 26). Made of stacked crates and twinkling lights, the stage was illuminated for those participating in SistersInMotion, a poetry event for racialized women and femmes which was as successful as it was emotional (“The storm was needed,” Anne-Cécile Favory and Zahra Habib, September 12). Local company Imago Theatre stayed true to their mandate with a string of feminist productions this season, including Intractable Woman, based on the life of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya (“To entertain is to consider,” Rahma Wiryomartono, February 13).

However, mainstream arts companies may have a long way to go in terms of gender inclusivity. For instance, Opera de Montreal put on the classic Don Giovanni yet refused to critically address the play’s misogynistic content (“Opera, you can do better,” Carly Gordon and Taylor Mitchell, November 14). Similarly, Montreal Symphony Orchestra heavily advertised their collaboration with Vasily Petrenko despite his previous contentious claims about how women aren’t suited to be conductors, which is symptomatic of larger trends of exclusion in the music world (“Orchestrating equality,” Carly Gordon, March 20).

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This year’s resistance will grow into next year’s movement http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/this-years-resistance-will-grow-into-next-years-movement/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:00:53 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50303 There is no denying that the 2016-17 school year was fucking rough: it was rife with political and social turmoil on every level, and our campus was no exception. There is actually a circle of hell where we relive this year over and over again, for the rest of eternity. Despite it all, we have seen inspiring forms of resistance manifest in our campus communities and beyond. These displays of resilience and solidarity should be acknowledged, celebrated and sustained as we enter the summer months and face the coming years. However, if these instances of resilience are to grow into movements, we will have to be self-critical, fiercely courageous, and willing to set new standards for ourselves.

The movements and organizing efforts that took place this year – whether at McGill or in the broader Montreal community – have been important in advancing issues and causes that, contrary to popular belief, have not suddenly sprung up this past year, but have been years in the making. We can look back on 2016-2017 and note the concerted anti-Islamophobia efforts in the face of the ongoing anti-Muslim policies and violence in both North America and Europe; the Montreal contingent of the women’s march, which came in response to Trump’s global abortion gag order, as well as the anti-fascist organizing efforts that aimed to counter hate speech and actions on behalf of fascist groups mobilizing in Montreal. Furthermore, one of the highlights of organizing efforts this year at McGill has been the AMUSE strike, and ensuing Floor Fellow actions, which demanded and successfully negotiated greater access to job security and adequate compensation for student and casual employees, as well as floor fellows, at the University.

Activism and the resistance to these entrenched systems of oppression is exhausting, confusing, and complicated. While we’re well-meaning, we often lose sight of what it is we’re working towards and why. As a result, the way we approach our social justice work can perpetuate the very conditions we’re striving to dismantle. Many activist movements, whether driven by feminist, anti-racist, or class-resisting sentiments, have historically been exclusive and inaccessible to marginalized groups. This is an issue within activism, including anti-Islamophobia work, which centres light-skinned Muslim people while ignoring Black and dark-skinned Muslim people. There is a growing awareness of the failings of our activism – for example, the widespread critiques of the women’s marches and strike that centred wealthy cis white women – but these critiques must manifest as concrete change at our marches, meetings, and demos.

Organizing can feel difficult and hopeless, but our activism is not in vain. The well-being and survival of our society depends on collective action and continued support of one another in the face of adversity. Advocacy works by speaking up, and more importantly showing up and putting your body on the line for others if your are privileged and able. It’s not necessarily about direct results – it’s about trying. It’s about the small ways in which people feel supported by what we’re doing – that is worth it in itself. In writing our last editorial of the year, we call for continued resistance in the face of systemic oppressions – resistance against Islamophobia, racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia. Furthermore, we call for inclusive resistances that are able to grow, and hopefully be carried into the future.

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Reflections on La Journee de Reflexion http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/reflections-on-la-journee-de-reflexion/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:00:45 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50286 Content warning: gendered and sexualized violence

On Monday, March 21, the fifth and final ‘Journée de Réflexion’ — a series of formal consultations run by the Minister of Post-Secondary Education’s Office on the creation of a new policy concerning sexual violence on campuses — took place at Centre Mont-Royal. This conference was organized as the last formal consultation in a series of five similar “Days of Reflection” to take place across Quebec — the first four taking place in Chicoutimi, Sherbrooke, Quebec City, and Gatineau. Although announced in October by the Quebec government after the highly publicized outrage over a series of sexual assaults at Laval University in Quebec City, these initiatives have not adequately consulted students or groups working around these topics on the ground.

There was no doubt that the atmosphere of the conference was not particularly welcoming – in a room of almost two hundred invited participants, I was one of maybe ten student representatives in that space. There were even less than ten Black, Indigenous, or people of colour participants. Instead, the room was a sea of middle-aged white mid-level education administrators being presented information that was collected by other middle-aged white mid-level education administrators. This leads us to a very important point — the conference was not open to the public. Instead, you could only participate if you were explicitly sent an invitation – and there were multiple stories I heard of student associations being sent an invitation less than a week before the conference, or finding the invite in their junkmail after the RSVP deadline. The only way I was aware of this was as a member of the incoming Executive at Student Society of McGill — not as someone who has been doing grassroots work around combatting sexual violence on campus. Although there was regular contact between Québec Contre les Violences Sexuelles (QCVS), a nonpartisan group of organized activists who are working to tackle how sexual violence is received by society, neither QCVS nor other organizations already working around sexual violence were not consulted during the formation of these events – and QCVS was one of the only groups working around sexual violence that was invited. It became very clear that ultimately, if you didn’t have contact with the Minister of Education’s office, you didn’t get an invite, and therefore did not get a chance to have a say about what this new policy should look like.

The first half of the day was organized around a series of presentations by the Minister herself, and others who presented on either the findings of reports that were commissioned by the provincial government on this subject in October (the most interesting of which was Sexualité Sécurité Interactions En Milieu Universitaire (ESSIMU) – for those who speak French, I highly recommend looking through the findings), or presentations of campaigns that have already have been launched such as “Sans Oui C’est Non” (which I would argue is a good reflection of the overall approach of the government’s: well-intentioned and great in theory, but in practice very superficial in the change it implements), and “Ni Viande Ni Objet.” Halfway through, and after these presentations, there was a 15 minute question period for feedback.

During one of the question periods, McGill graduate and current Asssociation for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ) Coordinator of Mobilization and Associative Development, Kristen Perry, got up to criticize the lack of accessibility in the space, choosing to switch to speaking in English in solidarity with the English-speakers in the room who did not have access to translation of what was being said, or the information that was being presented. This became especially evident during what was undoubtedly the most important part of the day: when three survivors from the McGill chapter of Silence is Violence stood up during the question period and presented their stories, called for their voices to be included in this space, and in one case, publicly called out particular members of the McGill administration for mishandling and/or dismissing their cases – particular members who were sitting in that room right behind them.

This tactical disruption of proceedings was incredibly important and accomplished two pertinent things. Firstly, it linked the situations and concerns that were being theoretically discussed in these presentations and reports to real experiences, and secondly created a dialogue of accountability that hadn’t been in the space before. The dialogue shifted and was picked up by others in the room – how do we hold ourselves accountable as administrators? How do we hold our peers accountable?

I found myself in the absurd situation of having to translate and summarize what the survivors (who had presented in English) had said to the woman beside me who was a representative from a CÉGEP near Mont-Tremblant, and who only spoke French. I’m sure I was not the only person in the room failing to do justice to the powerful words that the survivors had just spoken. There is no doubt that the room was dominated by French-speakers, which is to be expected, however little to no accommodation was made towards Anglophones in the space, including the Anglophone associations who had been invited. This proved especially problematic in the case of the survivors’ intervention, as all three of the women spoke mostly in English. Without live or even whisper translations offered, there was no way to ensure that these supremely important voices were able to be understood by everyone sitting in a room in order to decide what would happen to cases like theirs.

AVEQ has been very involved in this process since the beginning, including drafting a statement with ASSÉ which heavily criticized the lack of student consultation and survivor-centred frameworks within the process of the consultations. I was told later by Perry that AVEQ had also requested several other accommodations which were not met, such as having active listeners in or outside the space, or that there be a way for people to contribute their thoughts or opinions in a way that did not require them to stand up in front of two hundred people and present into a microphone. It is clear that the conversation as to how to truly make spaces accessible to survivors was not one that was had. It is incredibly brave what the survivors from Silence is Violence did — and not something they and other survivors who spoke up during the day should have been forced to have to do. It was incredibly emotional, and because of the lack of supports in the space, the survivors in turn ended up having to comfort each other. Although each of the testimonies was arguably well-received (with Minister Helène David answering each speaker directly – in French — and an encouragement of the dialogue that was brought up made), there is no doubt that in an initiative led by mid to high-level administrators will be lacking in critical understanding. We have yet to see if they follow-up on the points of accessibility, intersectionality and accountability that was brought up in the room.

Now that the formal consultations are over, AVEQ and other student organizations’ efforts are going into affecting the actual outcome of these consultations — the creation of legislation at the provincial level about how to deal with sexual violence on campuses. Quite a few student groups and grassroots organizations who were present at at least one of the consultations are now in the process of writing a letter to the minister of education’s office with their reflections after these consultations: what went wrong, what was done right, what their hopes are for the new policy, and – most importantly – that they expect to be consulted during the drafting. This is crucial, especially as most of the drafting will be happening over the summer (the hope is to have a policy to implement at the beginning of the new school year in September), when many student organizations are their weakest due to the break in the school year and subsequent dispersion of the student body.

Leaving the conference, I felt both invigorated and frustrated. Invigorated because there was a room of two hundred people firmly committed that “c’est assez” (“enough”), and “il faut agir” (“we must act”), but frustrated because of who was leading this action process, once again rendering the incredible labour done by survivors and their allies on a day-to-day basis invisible. Good intentions can only go so far. If we want to make lasting, sustainable change on our campuses that directly addresses the gendered violence that happens on a day to day basis, those changes need to be implemented from the bottom-up, suggested and crafted by those who have been most affected by these systemic issues, not by our traditional policy-writers. This is exactly the same situation we are now facing with SSMU as we enter into the consultation processes for the creation of a new Gendered and Sexualized Violence Policy. We need to make sure that we work to prioritize the voices of those who have been working tirelessly on the ground and who against all odds — lack of institutionalized memory, an administration that dismisses student labour and pats itself on the back for a new policy but has a horribly long history of not believing nor supporting survivors etc – have remained resilient.

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Sequin dresses for a good cause http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/sequin-dresses-for-a-good-cause/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:00:43 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50307 The fact that McGill is perpetually under construction seems to have little effect on students’ street style: it’s not uncommon to see a bold fur coat, on-trend mermaid hair, or an effortlessly styled edgy outfit amidst and despite the debris. However, it seems that fashion exists on the periphery of McGill’s artistic scene, with more on-campus clubs and groups devoted to creative writing, visual art, and music. McGill’s fashion week (McFW), however, is the perfect occasion to get to know the well-dressed people whose aesthetic you admire in the hallway through a series of shows that celebrate local designers and fundraise for important causes. This year, McFW featured three fashion shows: SYNESTH/ASIA’s “Legends,” Med/Dent’s ANEB “Unmask,” and P[H]ASSION’s “Spectrum,” with each event showcasing different facets of Montreal’s fashion scene. Both “Legends” and “Unmask” placed an emphasis on local designers, even displaying the creations of several McGill students.

“Legends”
On March 24, SYNESTH/ASIA took over the minimalist gallery space at Le Livart. The event’s charitable focus was made clear at the outset: the showcase began with a silent auction, with all proceeds from the art sales – all items were made by Montreal and McGill artists – going towards the organizations Pencils of Promise and the Canadian Red Cross. When asked about the primary goal of SYNESTH/ASIA, Josh Marchesini, the group’s Communications Exec, answered “raising money for alleviating poverty and sustainable development in Asia.”

“Legends” is based on the myth of the red string of fate. According to this Asian legend, people are linked together across time and space by the gods who bind those who are destined to meet each other by an invisible red string. “You are connected to someone in the world, no matter what. That string will never break,” explained Marchesini, adding that the theme also served as an invitation to the audience to “find your connection with [SYNESTH/ASIA].” This theme was reflected throughout the event, whether in the red strings tied around the pinkies of the models and volunteers, or the incorporation of red string into the event’s décor. As SYNESTH/ASIA Director Sophie Buu put it, the motif aimed to“engage the guests rather than just watching a clothing line.”

When asked to describe the aesthetic of the show, Buu referred to it as “definitely chic.” The event’s polished aesthetic was seen in their contemporary take on the signature little black dress, showing off skillful yet playful tailoring, and ubiquitous cut-outs. Some of the fashion highlights of “Legends” were the glamorous sequined mini-dresses, lingerie-inspired satin eveningwear featuring embroidered sides, and eye-catching statement accessories like spiked ear-cuffs and chokers.

Some of the pieces featured a nostalgia for the past, but were paired with an energy that was undeniably contemporary.

“Legends” was not simply a fashion show; the event also incorporated various forms of art, combining the traditional runway walk with elements of dance. As SYNESTH/ASIA director Emily Bremner noted, the models’ choreographies were “poses and intricate movement rather than complete dancing […] hip-hoppy, pop.” Dance performances were also weaved in between segments of the fashion show, including a intricately choreographed number from the Mosaica Dance Company, and an energy-filled dance from 2KSquad.

“Unmask”
The Med/Dent fashion show, held on March 25, chose the edgy Entrepot Dominion for their venue: a building that used to be a historic textile factory, but has been remade into an industrial-chic event space. Like SYNESTH/ASIA, “Unmask” centred their show around their cause. A series of speakers, such as representatives from Anorexia and Bulimia Quebec (ANEB), presented on the topic of eating disorders; there were also touching and powerful testimonial from those who had struggled with eating disorders.

When asked to elaborate on the show’s title, David-Dan Nguyen said “our event has a double meaning behind it,” and that they aimed “to make people feel confident” within a society that fosters eating disorders through impossible standards about “beauty.” Nguyen went on to say that “the mask is easily put on. It’s easy to hide who you actually are and conform to what other people want. The idea was to unmask that and also to unmask the stigma behind talking about these issues.”

According to this Asian legend, people are linked together across time and space by the gods who bind those who are destined to meet each other by an invisible red string.

With a ‘streets meets classic’ aesthetic, one of the show’s directors, the style of “Unmask” was an apt reflection of the current fashion trends. Urban athleisure mingled with 90s revival components and the occasional nod to 70s fashion. Some of the pieces featured a nostalgia for the past, but were paired with an energy that was undeniably contemporary. Some standouts were WTFash’s modern reinterpretation of the 70s crochet dress, Kantine’s playful homages to Montreal’s foodie culture and Velvet Couture’s experimentation with unique textures and unexpected tailoring. Monsieur Phoenix’s dapper ties (whose profits go towards ANEB) were the favourite pieces of show directors Nguyen and Sarkis.

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Waiting in waiting rooms http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/04/waiting-in-waiting-rooms/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:00:39 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50298 According to the World Health Organization, one in every four people in the world is affected by mental or neurological illness. Despite the evident commonality of this phenomena, 49 per cent of Canadians have said that they have experienced anxiety or depression at some point in their lives, but they have not seen a doctor for it. This statistic is haunting, given the concealed realities it brings to the surface – in a country with largely effective healthcare and supposedly progressive politics, half of the population’s illness goes untreated.

Through the course of this year, I have embarked on two journeys. One has been the experience of being a columnist for the Daily, during which I had the privilege of hearing and often narrating my peers’ experiences with mental illness (with their consent), and attempting to ensure that my preconceived notions do not affect the content of my articles. Another journey has been the harrowing personal experience of struggling with old illnesses and adjusting to new ones. A combination of these two factors have made me reflective of the environment I am in, and the impact of this environment on the people around me.

McGill claims to have several resources on campus to ensure that the mental health of students remains a priority. These include the Mental Health Clinic, the Eating Disorder Program, the Office for Students with Disabilities, Nightline, as well as the supposedly accommodating nature of most faculty members. However, both the findings of my research and the casual conversations I made in waiting rooms, have made one thing very clear for me – most students who avail themselves of these opportunities are doing so because something in their university environment has triggered them. The existence of triggers in a university environment does not demonstrate that university creates illness, but rather the fact that the environment can exacerbate existing disorders. The question I ask, therefore, is whether the mental health facilities on campus are sufficient to provide for students, considering the fact that the environment of university can be very detrimental or triggering in many ways.

Triggers exist all around us – some may even argue that the most important step towards recovery is learning to identify what triggers you. Triggers are rarely mild – they present themselves in the form of intense waves of anxiety, sadness, paranoia or dissociation, to name a few. Common triggers include the inability to cope with academic pressure, continuous time management issues, adopting and normalizing unhealthy eating and lifestyle choices, as well as implicit and explicit encounters with fat-shaming. First year students, like myself, are also especially vulnerable to toxic relationships and friendships, given how some students may either intend to seek out a quick fix for loneliness, or are simply seeking to check off an imaginary checklist for what is considered socially acceptable and desirable among their immediate and extended peer groups. Triggers inevitably vary among students and generalizations cannot be made about the form in which they may present themselves, or subsequently the way individuals may choose to cope with them.For instance, this can be illustrated by the different reactions people have to medication, as I have explored in one of my previous articles. While some people are able to adjust without difficulty and begin reacting positively to their medication, others may take weeks to adjust to the side effects, or never be able to adjust properly to them at all.

It is important to realize that progress will only come as a result of making the consistent effort to ensure that you do not demonize your own mental illness.

It feels to me like the mental health facilities on campus place more of an emphasis on the importance of medication and psychiatric care than they do on psychological care and therapy. Several of the survey responses I received from my peers over the course of research for my articles, for example, expressed dissatisfaction at the fact that their psychiatrists sometimes changed or increased their medication despite their discomfort or hesitance.

My friend told me about how recently, she broke down during a session with her psychiatrist, who was left at a loss for what to do, because although they can prescribe medication, it is neither their job description nor their expertise to be able to provide the emotional support or engage in discussions about improvement and recovery. On the contrary, this is a job only a therapist or psychologist can adequately perform. Although many students often only see psychiatrists, it is imperative to remember that holistic recovery can only be achieved when all dimensions of the issue are dealt with.

It is important to remember that some mental illnesses are far more normalized than others. These include anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. While all mental illnesses are stigmatized to a great degree, other mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorder, and schizophrenia, to name a few, are far less normalized, in part perhaps due to the fact that people consider them less common. Moreover, because these mental illnesses are not spoken of as much, it is difficult to understand how they might be impacting students in a university environment.

As a result, my column had a comparatively restricted focus, because I could not hope to do justice to the experiences of individuals with certain illnesses without making unjust generalizations. However, four months into the journey and I can safely say that the research this column required enabled me to explore previously uncharted territories, educating me further about the illnesses that I assumed I knew all about. However, it also brought my attention to the fact that McGill’s mental health facilities still need significant reform and improvement to ensure that the toll that a university environment has on the mental health of students can be addressed. Ultimately, the mere existence of these institutions is not enough to guarantee that the mental health of students will be catered to. If McGill really claims to care for its students, it needs to step up and meet the challenge of supporting all the students across its campus who have mental health needs – until then, its work is insufficient, and its promises hollow.

By working as a columnist for the Daily, I hope I am doing my part (although an insignificant one in the grand scheme of things) towards facilitating a healthy dialogue regarding mental illness and destigmatization. For every friend, acquaintance, or relative I made uncomfortable by vulnerably talking about my mental illness, I can only hope that there is someone out there who has been driven to engage in an honest and unafraid dialogue about their illness.

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