The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com MORE NUANCE since 1911 Fri, 18 Aug 2017 17:06:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com 32 32 Montreal stands with Charlottesville http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/08/montreal-stands-with-charlottesville/ Fri, 18 Aug 2017 17:00:12 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50537 Roughly 300 protesters assembled at Philips Square on the evening of Sunday, August 13, for a march against the far-right in response to recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. The previous day, a white supremacist attacked anti-racist and anti-fascist activists who had gathered in Charlottesville to counter-protest a gathering of far-right groups dubbed “Unite the Right.”

Saturday’s attack injured 19 and killed 32-year-old anti-racist protester Heather Heyer. The attack occurred on the second day of demonstrations by far-right groups including the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, the Ku Klux Klan, and Identity Evropa. These demonstrations were met with substantial resistance from counter-protesters.

Several organizers and activists spoke at the Montreal rally on Sunday night. Sam, an American sociologist, said he had been active in the civil rights movement since 1959.

“At various demonstrations we did face the threat of physical violence,” he told the crowd. “In the late 1970s a relative of mine was one of several who was shot by the Ku Klux Klan in a confrontation in North Carolina. I am tired of having this […] go on. We have to defeat the fascists, the racists, and the capitalist system that spawns them.”

A Montreal organizer from the group Solidarity Across Borders also spoke, echoing Sam’s previous statements.

“It’s really important that we talk about racism and fascism,” he explained. “Of course, it kills people who go out to demonstrations like Heather. But it’s also killing people on a daily basis. Police kill people, borders kill people, the whole immigration system, the whole racist capitalist system that we live under kills people – so it’s important to confront that system as a whole.”

“I am tired of having this […] go on. We have to defeat the fascists, the racists, and the capitalist system that spawns them.”

Miriam Daly*, an activist attending the rally, told The Daily, “I’m here to show solidarity towards the anti-racists who were attacked in Charlottesville, […] and also to show […] anti-fascist solidarity because there has been a rise of things in Montreal and Canada as well, like the Students for Free Speech Concordia or the Proud Boys.”

Indeed, it recently emerged that Jason Kessler, the Charlottesville resident who organized the Unite the Right rally, is a member of the Proud Boys, a self-described “Western Chauvinist” organization founded by Canadian far-right activist Gavin McInnes. The Proud Boys made headlines in early July when several members of the Canadian Armed Forces associated with the group disrupted a rally by Indigenous Canadians in Halifax on Canada Day.

It has also been reported that members of the Quebec fascist organization La Meute were present for the Charlottesville far-right gathering. La Meute is planning a protest in Quebec City this Sunday which anti-fascist and anti-racist activists have vowed to counter.

On Sunday night, protesters left Phillips square at about 7:30 p.m. and marched down René Lévesque Boulevard to the U.S. Consulate on St. Alexandre Street. Once there, organizers denounced racist immigration policies such as the United States’ notorious “Muslim Ban” and mass deportations, before chanting “Fuck Trump, fuck hate, America was never great!”

At the helm of the protest was a large “black bloc”, consisting of anti-fascists, anarchists, and members of various other leftist groups like the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

The Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM) was a constant presence at the protest, though officers appeared less intent on dispersing the gathering than they had been at previous local demonstrations, under the now-defunct Montreal by-law P.6.

“I’m here to show […] anti-fascist solidarity because there has been a rise of things in Montreal and Canada as well, like the Students for Free Speech Concordia or the Proud Boys.”

Following their stop at the U.S. consulate, the protesters continued down St. Catherine street and through the Gay Village where people chanted “Queer and anti-racist!”. At one point, a passer-by heckled the protesters, resulting in a brief scuffle with members of the black bloc.

The most tense episode of the march occurred at approximately 8:45 p.m. when protesters reached the intersection of St. Catherine and Papineau. A dark-coloured pickup truck continued to cross St. Catherine Street at high speed despite being surrounded by marchers, dragging at least one person for several metres. Police immediately surrounded the vehicle and escorted it out of the area. Following this incident, many on social media noted the similarity with Saturday’s vehicular terrorist attack in Charlottesville.

The demonstration largely dispersed before 9 pm.


*Name has been changed

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A food justice lesson from Brooklyn http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/08/a-food-justice-lesson-from-brooklyn/ Fri, 11 Aug 2017 17:55:17 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50531 21st century capitalism: higher living costs, lower wages, poor quality of food. The problems of a failing market system are so normalised that it is hard to imagine an alternative system. This is where Thomas Boothe’s documentary Food Coop, which highlights the Park Slope Food Coop, comes in. The documentary was screened on July 24 in Montreal, as part of Société des Art Technologique’s “Cinema Urbain” series co-presented by Cinema Politica.

Park Slope is a socialist cooperative supermarket operating in Brooklyn, New York. Only members can shop from the supermarket, and to earn membership one must work two hours and 45 minutes every month. The initiative began in 1973 amidst anti-Vietnam War protests and as a response to contemporary monopoly-capitalism where a small number of businesses generate high profits by exploiting resources. The original founders of the coop started with a simple goal of serving high quality local produce to the Brooklyn community at the most affordable price. The founders developed the membership working hour model to help achieve the low price. Members who contribute their labour to the coop also become owners of the coop, which aligns the interests of both the customer and the coop. During its conception, the co-founders underestimated the cost-cutting impact of eliminating wages from expenses. The resulting effect allowed the coop to maintain a mark-up of only 20% on their products, in order to cover overhead costs. They could still under-price their products relative to other supermarkets such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Members enjoy $30,000 in annual savings by shopping from Park Slope compared to other supermarkets. Moreover, 80% of the produce are locally sourced from organic farms in upstate New York or Pennsylvania.

Boothe’s documentary looks at some of the issues that occur in a food cooperative of this size. Sometimes member-owners are reluctant to take orders from paid staff who are hired to manage member shifts. Occasionally, member committees such as the environment committee disagree with the management’s policy on plastic bags. Inter-member conflicts can also arise when members skip shifts. The coop maintains a democratic approach to solving these disputes: both parties get to present their case in a trial and randomly selected members decide on an outcome. The coop relies on members’ responsibility and accountability for smooth operation.

Other issues arise from the status of the food coop itself. The co-founders interviewed in the documentary expressed no interest in expanding their project or opening other branches in other boroughs of New York. This begs the question whether the cooperative truly is serving the ones who need it the most. New York’s poorer neighbourhoods sometimes do not even have mainstream supermarkets, let alone a cooperative, in their area. Residents are forced to shop packaged food items and junk food from convenience stores. Due to the gentrification of the area in which Park Slope currently exists, many members have to travel hours on public transit to shop here. The documentary also fails to address how this cooperative may affect ethnic grocery stores run by immigrant families in Queens and the Bronx, which may fail to compete if a new cooperative of this scale chooses to open in those places.

Despite its struggles, the coop seems to be a sustainable social initiative. Apart from fresh, organic, and cheap produce, they benefit from educational programs, lectures, screenings, and other social activities. Many interviewees found meaningful friends and partners through the cooperative. Park Slope is now one of the few racially and economically diverse community-led initiatives that remains active in a highly gentrified neighbourhood in New York City.

The documentary is a key educational resource for food coops operating in Montreal, some of which include Epicerie Coop Montreal, Le Frigo Vert, the Concordia Food Coalition, and Coop les Jardins de la Résistance. The model provided by Park Slope can perhaps even be improved in its replication.

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Solidarity rally held for asylum seekers http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/08/solidarity-rally-held-for-asylum-seekers/ Mon, 07 Aug 2017 23:25:35 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50523 On Sunday, August 6, roughly 400 people gathered at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium to stand in solidarity with the asylum seekers who are currently being housed there. Carrying banners proclaiming “no one is illegal” and “open the borders,” the diverse and multigenerational crowd heard speeches from both asylum seekers and local activists.

Serge Bouchereau, spokesperson of the Non-Status Action Committee, extended a warm welcome to those living at the stadium, the majority of whom are asylum seekers from Haiti.

“I would like to say to the Haitian migrants: welcome to Quebec! Welcome to Canada!” Bouchereau said, speaking in French. “I would also like to tell them that they are not alone – we are here with them to support them, to help them establish themselves in this huge, wealthy country that can welcome many, many people who […] cannot stay in their own country.”

“They are not alone – we are here with them to support them, to help them establish themselves in this huge, wealthy country that can welcome many, many people who […] cannot stay in their own country.”

Restrictive policies and harsh conditions

Under the Trump administration, certain regulations have been changed to allow asylum seekers – particularly those from Haiti – to be deported from the U.S. more easily. Consequently, more and more people have sought refuge in Canada, which is perceived by many to be safer and more welcoming than its southern neighbour.

Roughly three quarters of this group of refugees have ended up in Quebec, filling Montreal’s shelters to capacity. In response, city officials recently opened the Olympic Stadium in order to accommodate more people. With about 130 asylum seekers currently living in the building, mayor Denis Coderre has announced that it should eventually be able to house up to 600.

Most of these asylum seekers arrive in Montreal after crossing the U.S. border on foot, since this allows them to bypass the controversial Safe Third Country agreement, which would ordinarily require them to apply for refugee status in the U.S.. As a result, they often end up making the journey despite dangerous environmental conditions. In May 2017, Mavis Otuteye, a Ghanan asylum seeker, died of hypothermia within a kilometer of the Manitoba border while attempting to reunite with her family in Canada. Many others in similar circumstances have suffered debilitating injuries due to frostbite. Moreover, far-right anti-immigrant groups sometimes station themselves at prominent border crossings in order to harass and intimidate those attempting to enter the country.

“We would like to have a secure future for our children,” said another speaker at Sunday’s rally, identifying herself only as Fatima. She herself had risked the journey into Canada, and was visibly emotional as she addressed the crowd.

“We would like to be free to live just like any other human beings,” Fatima continued, speaking French. “I know that Canada can provide me this. I count on your solicitude to help me fight against deportation.”

“We would like to have a secure future for our children. […] We would like to be free to live just like any other human beings.”

Resisting xenophobia

Despite Canada’s reputation as a safe haven, it is nonetheless possible for someone to be deported from Canada should their application for official refugee status be rejected. Moreover, the influx of asylum seekers in recent months has awakened substantial controversy, with many Canadians expressing alarm and hostility at the prospect of their country taking in these refugees.

Greg, a McGill student who attended the rally on Sunday, told The Daily that “especially here in Quebec, fascist groups have been utilizing the influx of migrants and refugees as a rhetorical tool to reinforce themselves, and establish their racism and white supremacy [in] mainstream discourse.”

Indeed, Sunday’s solidarity rally was initially organized as a counter-protest, as far-right anti-immigrant groups had planned on staging their own demonstration at the stadium. This demonstration was ultimately cancelled, however, reportedly because of the sheer size of the solidarity rally.

“I think the event went extremely well,” Greg told The Daily. “The fact so many people came to express solidarity, while fascists miserably failed in their organizing efforts, [indicates] that the Montreal far-left has what it takes […] to successfully resist the growing reactionary movement, and that’s awesome!”

“Especially here in Quebec, fascist groups have been utilizing the influx of migrants and refugees as a rhetorical tool to reinforce themselves, and establish their racism and white supremacy [in] mainstream discourse.”

Meara Kerwin, another McGill student, was also present at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday. A new member of the pro-refugee organization Solidarity Across Borders, she explained to The Daily that she’d helped create a safe area for parents and children (or “kids bloc”) at the rally.

“It felt amazing to be able to hold a relaxed, safe demonstration without fighting for space […] with fascists and racists,” said Kerwin. “I wish we had been in a space which was more visible to the refugees or the general public, but the turnout for the event was fantastic, and it was a wonderful opportunity to hear the thoughts and stories of former refugees and community organizers.”

More to be done

While many of the speakers thanked those in attendance for their solidarity, activist and journalist Jean St-Vil also reminded the crowd of western nations’ share of responsibility in today’s global refugee crisis. Many of the regions from which asylum seekers are currently fleeing, including Haiti, are experiencing instability and economic hardship largely as a result of centuries of imperialism and foreign intervention.

“We are part of the problem,” St-Vil told the crowd. “And so the long-term solution is not just to welcome the refugees, it’s for you to become citizens of your own country, and make sure that your foreign policy does not go and disturb people in their own countries, so that they can live at home.”

“We are part of the problem, […] and so the long-term solution is not just to welcome the refugees, it’s for you to become citizens of your own country, and make sure that your foreign policy does not go and disturb people in their own countries, so that they can live at home.”

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My experience with regenerative medicine http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/07/my-experience-with-regenerative-medicine/ Sat, 29 Jul 2017 20:36:47 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50508 Content warning: drug addiction, mental illness, disability

I remember the hot summer afternoon in July 2007 when I injured my back. It was a day that would change my life. I was 18, and taking part in a military program to qualify as a professional infantry soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces. My injuries all started during the first phase of a 10-kilometer walk, while carrying a 40-pound rucksack. As training progressed, I began to feel an odd sense of discomfort in my lower back. After I returned to my dorm later that day and unstrapped the rucksack, I felt a sharp pain going down from my lower back to my leg. Before bed, I took a couple of aspirin pills and washed them down with gin. The next morning, the pain had partly subsided, but the discomfort and feeling that something was wrong with my back stuck with me for days after. Weeks later, during another military exercise with a rucksack, I hurt my back so severely that I needed to see the nurse. At the time, I did not know that the following ten years would be comprised of pain from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed. This was the beginning of my struggle with chronic pain. Since then, I have been trying to find a way to cure my back, leading me to try regenerative medicine treatments such as Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and stem cells.

For the past ten years, I’ve seen chiropractors, physiotherapists, psychiatrists, rheumatologists, osteopaths and virtually every health professional to treat my injury. I tried decompression therapy, kinesiotherapy, swimming, physiotherapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories drugs (NSAIDs), steroid injections, oral steroids, acupuncture, Chinese therapeutic massage, and praying but nothing worked. After various treatments fell through, what made the journey of searching for a cure even more difficult was the general apathy from medical doctors in Canada. Some medical specialists thought that the extent of my injury did not match the severity of the pain, therefore, my pain was merely an illusion. They dismissed my medical condition and recommended that I “swim more” or become “more physically active.” While some doctors believed me, they still didn’t know how to help me. For almost eight years, I fought an uphill battle trying to convince medical professionals that I was worth their time and that I needed help. This struggle profoundly impacted my mental health.

I was stuck in a prison of pain from which I could not escape. 6 years after the injury, the pain has grown into a disability. There were days when I could barely walk or sit down for more than a few minutes. At times, my life felt like a nightmare. Activities most people take for granted, such as showering or cleaning a room, quickly became strenuous for me. Chronic pain also started impacting other areas of my life; my studies, my work, and even my relationships. I almost failed my first year of law school because of chronic pain. It made me start drinking again, and it put me into a state where I was consumed by narcotics and depression. After years of feeling despair and being unable to find an effective treatment through Canada’s healthcare system, I started looking into private medical practice in the US in 2015.

Regenokine

In January of 2016, I went to New York, where I had my first experience with regenerative medicine. I went to NY Spine Medicine to get the same treatment that Kobe Bryant had received for his knees a few years back in 2013 – Regenokine.

Regenokine is an anti-inflammatory serum made from the patient’s blood to suppress back and joint pain. The serum is made by taking some of the patient’s blood, heating it, and incubating it with zinc etched with glass beads. It is believed that the serum becomes rich in Interleukin 1 Receptor Antagonist Protein (IRAP), which is a natural anti-inflammatory. According to the medical doctors from NY Spine Clinic, once the serum is injected at the site of injury, it reduces the inflammation and speeds up the body’s own healing mechanism. It’s as if you had a strong dose of Tylenol directly injected in an ankle or your back.

The treatment is recent; it was first developed by a doctor in Dusseldorf, Germany around 15 years ago. NY Spine Medicine is one of the institutes in the US that offer this treatment, and the cost of it is obscenely high. The treatment cost me around 17,000 US dollars for four consecutive days of injections.

I had around about 600 ml of blood taken out, and in the next four days had the serum re-injected into my lower back: facet joints, epidural space, and all around the lower spine. At the beginning of my treatment, the pain was at an all-time high and I could barely sit for more than 5 minutes. Every day of injections resulted in more and more of the pain dissipating. On the last day, before my last round of injections, I woke up pain-free for the first time in years. Shaken by the relief and emotions, I started crying I could not believe how good it felt to be free of pain. It was a miracle, but a short-lived one: the pain-relieving effects of the treatment only lasted for two months before my back started hurting once again.

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)

Few months passed after the Regenokine treatment and the memory of being pain-free started to fade away, but I still had hope. I kept dreaming of finding another treatment that could heal me completely. I began researching alternative treatments and eventually found the Centeno-Schultz Clinic in Colorado; they used Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and stem cells to treat back pain.

My first treatment at the clinic was an injection of PRP in my lower back, neck, and hips. PRP is very similar to Regenokine in that it is an autologous serum – it is made with the patient’s blood. The difference is that while Regenokine works as an anti-inflammatory, the process by which PRP works is inflammatory. The doctor who treated me explained that PRP forces the body into a super inflammatory state, and as the inflammation subsides, it accelerates the reconstruction of ligaments and other tissues, which would in turn ease the pain. I had PRP injected into my sacroiliac joint, my lower back epidural space, and everywhere around my facet joints in my neck and back. In the first few days after the treatment, my pain levels flared up. However, in the next few weeks, the pain went down progressively, and I regained some degree of mobility. The most dramatic change was in my neck: the pain level went from a high 6-7 out of 10 to nearly a 1 within a few days. After a month, my lower back and hips felt as if they were almost healed. Although the effect of the treatment was not as dramatic as Regenokine, it lasted for a few months. I went from limping and barely being able to function to being able to play sports and go to class again. Unfortunately, like Regenokine, the healing effects of PRP were temporary. The treatment cost me around 10,000 US dollars.

Stem cells

Stem cell treatment was my last hope with regards to regenerative medicine. On May 28, I flew to the Cayman Islands for my stem cell treatment with a clinic affiliated with Centeno-Schultz Clinic. Like PRP and Regenokine, the stem cell treatment was autologous. I had three huge syringes of bone marrow aspirated from my hip bone. Mesenchymal stem cells were extracted from the bone marrow and cultivated to grow. Mesenchymal stem cells are multipotent stem cells that can transform into different types of cells depending on the situation. In my case, the stem cells were injected inside of my L5-S1 intervertebral disc with the hope that they would transform into disc tissue and help my lumbar spine heal.

The first few days after the operation, the pain was almost unbearable without oxycodone, a narcotic. It was nearly impossible to walk, bend forward, or even dress myself. The doctor informed me that I would see my pain flare up in the following four weeks, but in time, I would regain range of motion. I was also told that eventually my body is likely to be healed a hundred percent. The results are promising thus far. It has been almost three weeks since the treatment, and I have already gained back mobility and functionality. There is something changing in my back. I used to be in pain from morning to night, now after a good night of sleep, I usually wake up free from pain. In the morning, there is slight discomfort in my hip and lower back area, but no pain until I move too much or sit for too long. It takes four to six months to evaluate the full result, which seem hopeful. The stem cell treatment for my lower back and hip cost 29,000 US dollars.

Regenerative medicine does work amazingly well, but its drawback is in its exorbitant price and inaccessibility in Canada. I believe regenerative treatment is the future of medicine, and hope that the three treatments are made available in Canada as soon as possible. In total, I spent over 70,000 Canadian dollars just for my three treatments. No one should have to pay that much to live free of pain. Health is crucial to happiness, and it should never be the privilege to the only few who can afford expensive medical trips abroad.

An earlier version of this article stated that NY Spine Medicine is the only institute in the US that offers Regenokine. In fact, there are other institutes in the US that offer the treatment. The Daily regrets the error. 


Sami Ellaia is a 3L student at the Faculty of Law. To reach him, please contact sami.ellaia@mail.mcgill.ca.

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Wisdom with an expiration date http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/07/wisdom-with-an-expiration-date/ Tue, 25 Jul 2017 15:18:38 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50502 Diedie Weng, a Chinese director known previously for her short documentaries, has, “sought to capture the personal ways in which [two] worlds and times met and crashed into each other” in her first feature film, The Beekeeper and his Son. Shot through an intimate first-person point-of-view as a fictional documentary, the film records a time of transition and growing tension between the younger and older generations in an increasingly industrial China. Diedie’s film considers the differences and distance between the two generations, attempting to find a common ground between them amidst a rapidly changing world.

In its opening shots, the film highlights the transition into industrialization by presenting shifting frames of the city skyline and the rural bees hives. Coming from the city, Maofu, a quiet and thoughtful young adult, returns to his rural family home with ideas  to expand his father’s small beekeeping business. Lao Yu, Maofu’s father, instead insists that his son must primarily learn and understand the art of beekeeping. Seemingly products of their respective generations, Lao Yu and Maofu’s diverging goals seem to drive them apart and augment a growing gap between the two and their respective generations.

Diedie Weng captures the veteran beekeeper’s deep, intricate knowledge as she follows his work and mentoring through all four seasons of the year. Lao Yu’s decades of dedication made him stable and independent, but his old age leaves Maofu to support the family and the hives. Seemingly due to the effects of increased industrialization, Lao Yu witnesses the environmental degradations on his dying bee colonies. These unprecedented obstacles render Lao Yu unsure about the future of his family business. He cannot foresee stability for the family’s beekeeping because Maofu, perhaps influenced by increasing modernization, seems to lack the patience and incentive to learn beyond beekeeping’s basics, ultimately reaching for dreams beyond the bees.

Weng depicts Maofu as dreamy and silent. After studying in the city for a year, Maofu returns with new ideas for marketing and the expansion of honey sales. Maofu’s treatment of beekeeping as a means to success rather than a long-practiced family art suggests the palpable influence of capitalist sensibility that often persists in industrial areas. Maofu’s aspirations leaves him blind to the importance of beekeeping knowledge.  As Lao Yu focuses on passing the knowledge of beekeeping and Maofu focuses on the monetary utility of the be colonies, Weng documents the inability for one generation to understand and effectively listen to  the other. Weng depicts the effects of this lack of communication by showing a long lonely shot of Maofu digging out a small cave as he builds his bee colony, then looking out into the rain.  Lacking Lao Yu’s guidance and understanding, Maofu’s situation invokes feelings of not belonging, as Maofu embraces a different goal than his father. Weng also suggests that Lao Yu feels out of touch, as he does not understand Maofu’s aspirations to pursue higher education and success in a life beyond the beehive. This mutual lack of understanding in a rapidly changing world strains effective communication between the father and son, and more generally between the two generations, as Maofu is left to figure out this new way of life on his own. Lao Yu can only remind his son to stay grounded and embrace the wisdom passed down through generations, which otherwise may be lost during the uncertain future of the family’s beekeeping.  

In the emerging industrial China, life changes faster than one can comprehend, leaving the family rootless and the younger generation almost isolated. Although the ending is unresolved, the film documents some setbacks of industrialization including a decrease in familial support and communication. Although the world seems to change too fast for Lao Yu’s wisdom to be of any use, his age and experience still gives him perspective as he witnesses the setbacks of industrialization. Focused on passing on the art of beekeeping, Lao Yu cannot effectively warn his son about the incoming obstacles and the importance of knowing the bees. While Weng makes connections between these obstacles and the tangible generational divide, The Beekeeper and his Son also suggests that perhaps a candid exchange of wisdom and ideas between both generations can bring about solutions to shared problems. Diedie Weng’s film provides a glimpse at the generational tension that complicates China’s transition into an industrial nation, ultimately highlighting the divergent goals and silence between generations, and questions how this divide will impact families and global conditions amidst rapid change.

 

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North American Indigenous Games take place in Toronto http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/07/north-american-indigenous-games-take-place-in-toronto/ Mon, 24 Jul 2017 22:11:28 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50495 The 2017 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) took place last week from July 16 to 23, on the traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat Nation, Metis Nation of Ontario, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, and Six Nations of the Grand River. The nations served as community partners in this event which welcomed 5,000 athletes from 22 teams, competing in 14 different sports over the course of seven days. The Indigenous athletes, in their teens and early twenties, arrived in Toronto from across Turtle Island (North America) to represent their nations and their provinces, territories, or states.

The Indigenous Games were first envisioned in the early 1970s, during which the first Native Games were held in Alberta. In 1977, a proposal for the Indigenous Games was brought to the Annual Assembly of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples by now-Grand Chief Dr. Wilton Littlechild, of Ermineskin Cree Nation, and passed unanimously.

The purpose of the Games was to facilitate inter-nation sportsmanship and relations by bringing together Indigenous youth from different nations to make new friendships and renew old ones. In the context of settler-colonialism and the resulting multi-generational traumas inflicted upon Indigenous communities, the Games provide leadership and growth opportunities for Indigenous youth, and continue to serve as a process of healing and community spirit-building between Indigenous nations across the continent.

The organising of the 2017 Games prioritized Call to Action #88 made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which advocates for “all levels of government to take action to ensure long-term Aboriginal athlete development and growth, and continued support for the North American Indigenous Games, including funding to host the games and for provincial and territorial team preparation and travel.” This was part of a greater emphasis on sports as a tool of Indigenous healing and strength, and reconciliation through sport. The theme of this year’s Games was Team 88, a legacy campaign to, “showcase Indigenous contributions to sport in Canada, create a tangible opportunity for all Canadians to engage with reconciliation, and create lasting role models for future generations,” amongst other things. 

Over the past year, however, the Games have faced significant organisational challenges. Stephen Kwinter, President of the Board of Directors of the Toronto 2017 North American Indigenous Games Host Society, said in an interview with the Daily that “usually, host societies have years [to organise the games], but we were dealing [with] […] a tough time frame of less than one year to actually organise the Games…we were able to put together, in very short order, a balanced, professional team.” The organising team was made up of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and was advised by Indigenous national leaders on how to proceed in a respectful and reconciliatory manner.

“And you have to understand about our budget. Our whole budget was about 11 million dollars, for five thousand athletes. You take a look at the Invictus Games, which has a much larger budget, and they had three years to develop the Games, and 45 people to do it,” said Kwinter, referencing a Paralympic-style sporting event for soldiers and veterans with disabilities, to be held in Toronto later this year. “ Most of the times, in our lead-up, [we] had 14 full-time staff. That shows you what happens when you have confident, excellent, special people. I’m very proud of them.”

The Games have certainly been worthy of that pride. The opening ceremonies of the Games, which took place on July 16, set the tone for the rest of the week’s events. The two-hour event, taking place at York University’s Aviva Stadium, provided moments of pure joy, pride, and entertainment, featuring musical artists such as Taboo (of Black Eyes Peas fame), and the popular electronic music group, A Tribe Called Red, who had the stadium on their feet and dancing. However, between celebratory moments, community leaders and Chiefs speaking at the event were unflinchingly political in their understandings of the Games as a testament to Indigenous resilience in the face of centuries of genocide and oppression.

Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, told the audience in his speech at the opening ceremonies, “this is the way our peoples should always be. Happy, proud, and ready for the future. We must remember that we don’t have to change to fit into society, the world has to change to accept our uniqueness.”

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde closed his speech with an encouraging message to Indigenous youth, “Canada just finished acknowledging a birthday of 150 years, and a lot of us said we’re not going to really celebrate, but we’ll participate because we’re going to acknowledge that in spite of 150 years of colonisation, and in spite of the cultural genocide from the residential schools, and in spite of the control of the Indian Act, we’re still here as Indigenous peoples. And it’s you young people, and your children and grandchildren, that are going to write the next story over the next 150 years. And it’s going to be bright, and you’re going to do it in a great way.”

Over the course of the games, many young people did take the opportunity to create history, and make their mark on the world stage. The 2017 Games were the first in NAIG’s history to feature women’s lacrosse, which was ultimately won by team Eastern Door & the North. Additionally, in women’s swimming, four girls from the Yukon team collectively took home nine medals – the product of 16 hours of training a week, according to swimmer Cassis Lindsay. Outside the realm of arenas and medal counts, athletes have been using the opportunity to create long-lasting international (between Indigenous nations) connections with their peers, and represent their communities in the public eye. As emphasised by many of the community leaders supporting the Games, this week has presented a unique and valuable opportunity for Indigenous youth to take the spotlight and inspire other young Indigenous peoples, and encourage them to pursue their dreams. Chief Ava Hill, of the Six Nations of the Grand River, reminded the young athletes that they “are all role models, and all winners just by being here. You are role models for the younger ones watching you, and you are ambassadors for your nation, so wear it well.”

While the Games came to an end on Saturday, the hope is that its legacy will be indelible and longstanding. For the athletes, this has been perhaps the first of many opportunities to represent their nations and teams. For spectators and non-Indigenous people, the Games have been an insightful departure from the monolithic narrative of Indigenous suffering which occupies the mainstream media’s attention, and have also provided better critical awareness of reconciliation than that which has been peddled by the Canada 150 campaign.

The narrative of reconciliation is still one which needs to be thoroughly and critically understood, especially in the face of the increasingly obvious government ineptitude in its handling. The Games presented an opportunity for the next generation of Indigenous peoples to impact the socio-cultural relations between the Canadian state and the nations whose land it occupies. As for audiences, Kwinter’s hope is that the Games served as the first step in understanding reconciliation for many who may not have previously known about such efforts until now. “For the average non-Aboriginal person, it’s a question of white noise – they know about [reconciliation efforts] but don’t want to deal with it. The NAIG provides a forum for dialogue, on the basis of cooperation and and reconciliation. If you don’t know about them, you can’t respond to them. [The Games] give us the great opportunity to showcase Aboriginal cultures and achievements…we want to celebrate the future of these achievements, and we want to do so as a cooperative effort.”

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Caster Semenya, forced hormone therapy, and the IAAF go full Orwellian http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/07/caster-semenya-forced-hormone-therapy-and-the-iaaf-go-full-orwellian/ Sat, 22 Jul 2017 14:33:57 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50492 In August 2009, South African runner Caster Semenya won the 800m Women’s World Championship race. Her appearance, which includes aspects that may be interpreted as belonging to the male sex, suggested high levels of testosterone, prompted the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to conduct ‘sex verification’ tests on her, to verify that she was biologically female. It was the first time a testosterone test was used to verify sex, and was widely condemned as discriminatory, and described as ‘humiliating’ by her coach. Semenya was deemed female, and allowed to keep her medal.

Because testosterone is often artificially injected to improve athletic performance, questions were raised as to whether Semenya was taking artificial testosterone. The use of testosterone testing to determine sex has since been used on other athletes. While it is known that artificially injecting testosterone improves athletic performance, there was no conclusive proof that athletes with naturally higher levels of testosterone were at a great advantage over those with naturally lower levels. The Court of Arbitration for Sport wrote that: “it is not self-evident that a female athlete with a level of testosterone above 10 nmol/L would enjoy the competitive advantage of a male athlete,” in a 2015 ruling concerning the case of Indian sprinter Dutee Chand.

This year, a study commissioned by the IAAF, and published by the British Journal of Sport Medicine, claims to offer that conclusive proof. After studying athlete performances at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships, the study found that those athletes with higher testosterone levels enjoyed advantages of up to 4.5% (in the hammer throw), and an advantage of 1.8% in Semenya’s discipline, the 800m race. The IAAF will head to court in at the end of July to challenge a 2015 ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that stated they could not restrict the permitted levels of testosterone in female athletes.

While nothing will change before World Championships in London this August, the new study is expected to be used by the IAAF to strengthen their argument for restricting the permitted levels of testosterone. If they win the ruling against the CAS, athletes like Semenya, or sprinter Dutee Chand of India, would be forced to take hormone therapy to lower their testosterone levels- or stop competing at IAAF events, including the Olympics.

In a year when Usain Bolt – one of the world’s biggest athletic stars – is retiring, McDonald’s has pulled its 41-year sponsorship from the Olympics, and political controversy has overshadowed South Korea’s preparations for 2018’s Winter Olympics, the playing field of athletics is shifting. Semeya’s possible expulsion (or forced hormone therapy) would only harm the sporting world, and more importantly, the athletes. By allowing Semenya, Chand, and other hyperandrogenic athletes to compete as the genders they identify with, the IAAF could resume its role as a pioneering force in the world of sports. With the next Olympics in Tokyo, athletics has the opportunity to grow its base enormously. A little bit of progress and a little bit less of the Orwellian sex classification, hormonal therapy, and expulsion would serve the sport well.

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Protesting 150 years of colonialism http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/07/protesting-150-years-of-colonialism/ Sat, 15 Jul 2017 01:03:11 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50485 On the evening of June 29, around 70 people gathered at the Association Recreative Milton Parc to celebrate resistance to Canada as a settler-colonial state. The event, billed as an “Anti-Canada Picnic” was organized by the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) at McGill, CKUT Radio, and Midnight Kitchen. The event highlighted the ongoing violence of colonialism, in light of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations, scheduled to take place on July 1. The evening featured two guest speakers, followed by a performance by Odaya, an all-women traditional Indigenous song and drum band.

“We timed [the event] right before Canada Day. […] We wanted to […] emphasize that it is an Anti-Canada event. […] We’re trying to show the history of colonization [and] we want people to know that it’s not all about celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary, it’s about something deeper than that. […] We need to look at the roots of the violence that has happened here. […] We can’t erase [what happened] […] and always be celebrating something that Indigenous people didn’t agree to, the formation of Canada as a state,” said Caroline Huang, the funding and outreach coordinator of CKUT Radio.

Karihwanoron Mohawk Immersion School

Donations from the event contributed to the Karihwanoron Mohawk Immersion School of Kahnawà:ke, a Mohawk community located south of Montreal. The school provides an alternative education dedicated to the culture, philosophy, and language of the Mohawk.  

The Karihwanoron School relies on annual fundraisers and donations due to lack of funding from the government despite being established for 30 years. Huang explained, “the school can’t get funding from the government because […] their curriculum […] doesn’t follow traditional curriculum in Montreal and broader Quebec.”

“They teach children the history […] of Montreal colonization, like the Oka Crisis, and the history of the Kanien’kehá:ka. In this way it’s […] political in its programming, and doesn’t wash or erase the history that has happened on the land.”

Wentahawi Elijah, a teacher from the Kahnawà:ke Territory, explained the significance of the Karihwanoron Mohawk Immersion School as a revitalization effort for Indigenous language and culture. “[The school] started as a couple of parents discussing […] the fear of where we are, and the endangerments of losing our language and culture.” They continued, “we are trying so hard to get back […] our ways of being […] and who we are.”

Elijah highlighted the importance of engaging in such initiatives during the Canada Day celebrations, “I think what keeps us strong is connecting, working together […] that’s what we’ve lost over the years. How to work together and respect each other.” They continued,  “a lot of us are trying to heal […] over the history, what has happened to us. […] We don’t believe that it’s 150 Canada. We’ve been here already, […] but we can use this opportunity to […] explain our side of the story […] to give us a chance to explain where we stand today from what has happened to us throughout history.”

Reoccupation on Parliament Hill

On the evening of June 28, a group of grassroots Indigenous demonstrators attempted to set up a teepee on Parliament hill as part of a four day long Canada day protest. However, they were stopped at the gates by the police for lacking a permit. According to demonstrators, about nine people were arrested, detained at the Hill, and ordered to stay away from Parliament hill for six months.

Kristin Perry, a recent graduate from environmental science at McGill spoke to the Daily about reoccupation efforts in Ottawa. “All of the land we are on is the traditional territory of Indigenous people […] from generations before anyone came here.” She continued, “People are trying to reclaim space. […] The police […] tried to eject people, but […] if you are trying to erase these people from […] Parliament Hill, you are erasing their right to be there.”  

The group of Indigenous activists were allowed to set up the teepee on the celebration stage later that day, after public outrage on social media. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau met with four activists inside the teepee the morning of June 30. Speaking in P.E.I the previous day, Trudeau recognized that “Canada has failed Indigenous groups” over the past decades, and that activists must be treated with respect.

The teepee is expected to remain for the event scheduled on July 1. “I really hope that people are supporting their visibility because […] they are still holding the space, […] asking for support” said Perry. “I think it’s really important to recognize what’s not being talked about in these celebrations and why that’s still a problem, especially with the government now talking about reconciliation. [….] They are doing some actions, but really not enough, a lot of it’s just talk. […] They’re not putting in place programs to support people that need to be supported” she said.

“Part of reclaiming the narrative is also saying […] you can’t just say nice things, you […] have to back it up with action. […] If you’re going to talk about reconciliation, this is what it actually means.”  

Racism of Pity

Guest Speaker Stephen Puskas addressed the presence of systemic racism and colonialism in Canada. “There is a new form of mainstream racism in Canada, and it’s this soft silky racism of pity; of sympathy.”

“It’s this racism of going to the theatre, or going to a reading or an art exhibit […] and being subjected to something that makes you feel bad about the Indigenous plight […] to help you sleep at night, then you get to say, […] hey, I feel bad for these people, at least I’m not racist.” 

“But if you get up the next day and you’re not going to do anything about it, then that’s informed racism because no one is doing anything to […] change […] the environment that we live in. No one is going to try […] to combat this type of colonization or racism.”

Puskas encouraged members of the audience to take tangible action towards dismantling colonialism. “I don’t think there is one answer to solve this, […] but there are many ways.” He continued, “I think some of the things we can do is to start approaching the government. Start approaching the Department of Education for example. Sending emails to the Minister of Education, sending emails to the Government of Quebec. […] Hey you need to update your education system. […] You need to update your textbook. You need to have Indigenous people involved in telling their own story.”

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Quebec researchers unite at inter-school Neurosymposium http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/06/quebec-researchers-unite-at-inter-school-neurosymposium/ Sun, 25 Jun 2017 10:00:24 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50475 “Red…green…blue…yellow” the crowd chanted. They had been instructed to shout the colour of each word written on the screen, as fast as possible. However, the colour and the words did not match;  on a slide at the front of the auditorium was the word “BLUE” written in red, the word “YELLOW” written in green, and so forth. The struggle was audible, the chanting slightly out of sync as audience members tried to block out the content of the words.

This task demonstrated the well-known Stroop effect; it is much easier to read out the colour of a word when its text and colour do not clash. When the two are different, we take significantly longer to read out the correct colour of the word. Reading comes more naturally and automatically to us than naming a colour, which takes more mental effort. Because we automatically read the text before we try to name the colour, we experience a delay in reaction time, as our brain struggles to suppress what we read. This phenomenon is known as interference.

The colour-shouting audience consisted primarily of graduate students participating in the second annual Neurosymposium, held at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec in Montreal. It was a one-day conference, providing opportunity for students to share their cutting-edge brain research in a relatively informal setting. The theme of the event was the role of neuroscience in society, with a focus on applying new discoveries to clinical treatments.

The event’s keynote speaker was Dr. Rita Goldstein, a professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Icahn School of Medicine in New York City.  The Stroop effect experiment was a part of her keynote talk on the neuroscience of drug addiction. She explained how an altered version of the Stroop effect was used to study addiction in her research.  “You’re not off the hook yet”, she joked. She instructed the crowd to identify the colour of the words like the first experiment, but with words that were drug-related. “HIGH” written in green, “PIPE” in red.

The second, altered version of this task has been used in Dr. Goldstein’s research to show how people addicted to cocaine process drug-related words differently than people who are not addicted. Research participants with drug addiction performed this task in an fMRI brain scanner, and were found to perform better than controls on the task. The scanner also revealed that individuals with addiction receive a rush of dopamine, representing desire for the drug, upon reading out the colour of a drug-related word.

A horizontal conference

The Neurosymposium aimed to bring together graduate neuroscience students from across the province to network, discuss, and present new ideas, fostering a Quebec-wide collaborative neuroscience community. Unlike a standard neuroscience event, this inter-university student-led project was “horizontal” in nature, meaning it consisted mostly of students presenting to other students. This provided the unique opportunity for young researchers to share their knowledge with like-minded students from different schools.

Presentations were quick and topically diverse, with students sharing novel research into pain, language, eating habits, autism, epilepsy, and even American voting habits. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s were also the focus of several talks. The event was organized by students in McGill’s Graduate Student Association for Neuroscience (GSAN), along with the graduate societies of other schools in attendance.

Participants included delegates from Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), McGill, Université de Montréal, Laval, Sherbrooke, Concordia, as well as researchers from as far as Trois-Rivières and Outaouais. The Neurosymposium’s horizontal nature was intended to encourage greater collaboration among emerging scientists, and to allow brain research to progress faster through knowledge sharing.

The conference was also open to numerous undergraduate students, who attended featured talks and individual presentations by graduate researchers. Interested parties were encouraged to explore a diverse range of neuroscience sub-fields through one on one discussions with researchers. “You get to network with people who are more experienced than you” said Noga Aharony, an undergraduate neuroscience student at McGill, explaining that these events can provide very valuable insight for students thinking about pursuing a graduate degree in the field.

Translational vs. foundational research

Dr. Rita Goldstein’s keynote on practical, neuroscience-based interventions for drug addicts highlighted the event’s primary theme: the relationship between neuroscience and society.

The ideal intentions behind neuroscience research were debated during an early panel discussion. Some panelists agreed that scientific research should always be translational: research conducted with the intention of having practical uses to society. Others advocated for foundational research, done for the sake of research itself and for the expansion of knowledge.

Proponents for translational research argued scientists have a responsibility to focus on research that will lead to the development of useful medical tools. They mentioned that the most beneficial research to society may not always be the study a researcher finds most interesting.  

“It’s always important to think about how your research will affect people,” noted panelist Julie Savage, a postdoctoral fellow at Université Laval. “Take a few steps back and ask about how this will affect the future.”

Supporters of foundational research highlighted the importance of studying basic concepts with the primary goal of increasing our pool of knowledge. They emphasized that countless discoveries, from Penicillin to radioactivity, have been accidental. Scientists often make ground-breaking discoveries simply by following hunches and exploring their passions.

“There’s a middle ground” said Shadi Hadj-Youssef, a neuroscience undergraduate student at McGill. “If you solely focus on doing things for the sake of applicability and usefulness, there’s a clear impedance to your creativity.”

In the end, panelists agreed that there is a place for both foundational and translational research in modern neuroscience. Research application is more important than ever, and translational neuroscience can help improve the lives of people living with a range of mental illnesses, including addiction. At the same time, foundational research is also important, as there is still much work to be done in understanding the fundamentals of the brain’s function. Even if they do not immediately intend to, these foundational studies can also lead to future applications.

The collaborative future of neuroscience

With many unique areas of study, neuroscience has become increasingly specialized. Researchers may dedicate their entire lives to studying one particular protein, or a single region of the brain. Today, researchers recognize that it is rarely possible to advance our understanding of the brain through individual efforts alone.

Robin Sawaya, an MSc neuroscience student at McGill and an organizer of the event delivered a closing statement. “Collaboration is the future,” he stated, explaining that the stereotype of the lonesome neuroscientist toiling away in the lab is outdated. Modern researchers need to work together if they are to overcome the challenges posed by the deep complexity of the human brain.   

A recent emerging trend in the scientific world is “open science”: shifting focus away from competitive and private research, and towards the sharing of knowledge between labs and researchers for the sake of speeding up scientific progress. The Neurosymposium embodied this philosophy, encouraging collaboration, rather than competition, between schools.

Interdisciplinary work is the key to scientific progress. Brain scanners rely on concepts worked through by physicists, devices built by engineers, and software developed by computer scientists. Successful treatment relies on scientific knowledge from researchers being translated into diagnostic tools for clinicians, and drugs from chemists and pharmacists. It is through collaboration within neuroscience and across other fields that scientists can hope to pave the way for a better understanding of the brain, and a healthier future.

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Kadeisha Buchanan’s European victory inspires at home http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/06/kadeisha-buchanans-european-victory-inspires-at-home/ Sat, 24 Jun 2017 17:35:22 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50472 On June 1, 2017, Paris Saint-Germain took on Olympique Lyonnais in the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Women’s Champions League Final in Cardiff. Both French teams featured talented Canadians: Kadeisha Buchanan started for Lyon, while her friend and national teammate Ashley Lawrence played for Paris Saint-Germain. The game ended with a close-fought 0-0 draw, and Lyon won 7-6 on penalty kicks.

Many Canadian soccer fans are hoping the win for the young Canadian star will bring more awareness to the women’s game back home. In recent years, Canada’s women’s team has been far more successful than the men’s, yet women’s soccer is still often overlooked. McGill goalkeeper Hannah Boshari told The Daily that she’s “not too sure how many people in Canada are actually aware that there is the UEFA competition for women’s club teams.” The men’s Champions League Final is one of the most watched annual sporting events in the world, while (as Boshari points out) many are unaware that the women’s version exists. Now, however, the women’s final may grow in popularity as more and more Canadian women are shunning the American women’s league to play in Europe – and finding success there.

“You mostly just hear about the American [Soccer] League and especially the fact that women’s soccer players can’t make a living from playing soccer, so hopefully with this win it will start inspiring more young Canadian girls that there are other opportunities than just the American League for them to go pro and have a go at professional soccer,” says Boshari.

Buchanan’s victory in Europe is proof that the Canadian women’s game continues to grow outside of North America, and into Europe – which is traditionally seen as the world’s main soccer market. Success in Europe for any Canadian is bound to inspire and encourage young Canadian players back home, and certainly improve our national team’s ability.

“Since the famous bronze medal at the Olympics, a lot more people are tuning in to watch the women’s team, so hopefully with more club success of individuals, our national team will keep gaining more supporters,” concludes Boshari.

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Justin Trudeau is “a scrub with fuccboi tattoos” http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/05/canadaland-guide-to-canada-interview-jesse-brown/ Fri, 19 May 2017 03:21:26 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50449 Amidst the clusterfuck of the Trump administration and Canada 150 propaganda, Canadians have been marinating in what journalist Jesse Brown calls our “Canadian humble superiority” – the widespread belief that Canadians are kinder, cleaner, and more rational than our billionaire machine-gun-toting neighbours to the South. Every Canadian’s wet dream “would be if you considered us just like you, but a little bit better,” he writes. But Brown thinks it’s time to shake Canadians out of that smugness. 

Jesse Brown is the journalist at the helm of the popular media criticism podcast Canadaland. With his new book, The Canadaland Guide to Canada, he’s aimed his criticism – usually reserved for Canadian media – at the rest of the country. The result is a scorched-earth satire policy that leaves no aspect of Canadiana and no member of the Canadian elite untouched: from our “drunk, racist dad” John A. Macdonald to the “union-stomping, queer-hunting, barn-burning posse of farm boys” known as the Mounties. And if you’re not already sold, there’s an entire section ranking our venerable Prime Ministers from most to least fuckable.

The Canadaland Guide to Canada delights in exposing the hypocrisy of Canadian image: “You can dig up the world’s dirtiest oil and be known as environmentalists! You can sell billions of dollars of weapons to murderous tyrants and be known as peacekeepers! You can deprive Indigenous people of clean drinking water and be known as multiculturalists!” This book isn’t just funny – it’s full of little-known facts, sordid history, and merciless commentary on topics that many Canadians would rather avert their eyes from.

The Daily spoke to Brown, who’s currently touring across the country for a stage show to promote the book.

The McGill Daily: At the beginning of the book, there’s a key to how to read it and decipher the difference between a joke and a fact – for example, jokes are often in blue italics and facts are in infoboxes. But when those sorts of stylistic cues aren’t present, there’s the assumption that the reader will use basic common sense to determine that something that sounds absolutely absurd is meant in jest.

What are the dangers of writing funny stuff these days – in the days of “fake news” and low media literacy?

Jesse Brown: The kind of book we wrote is of a tradition that we grew up reading. I grew up reading Mad Magazine, Spy Magazine, The Daily Show’s book about America – just funny and mean and absurd joke books that are all about taking shots at the most powerful people. And that’s nothing that has been done in Canada. It’s kind of shocking – you can’t really point to a Canadian version of that. And that’s why we wanted to write the book.

But what I found out is there’s a reason why those books haven’t been made in Canada. And going through the process of dealing with the libel lawyer and permissions for copyright – there’s this perception in Canada that we’re actually not allowed to do that kind of humour. It’s why I wanted the book to be published in America – to get around that kind of stuff. We still ran into it and we just fought, and the publisher ultimately could be swayed and I didn’t want to do it if we couldn’t really do it. So I feel like we got there, and I insisted that the book be as vulgar and profane as it is. I thought that was really important.

MD: Is it to challenge the image that Canadians are restrained, or more sophisticated than Americans?

JB: Absolutely. First of all, if you can’t depict the most powerful people in your country fornicating, how free are you?

And also, yeah, the book is an assault on this phony notion of Canadianness that we’ve been telling ourselves and the world. And part of that is always trying to be gentle and fair and decent – sometimes at the expense of telling the truth.

MD: Right, and it’s not just that the book is vulgar or funny – it’s that it also brings up a lot of uncomfortable facts. It mixes facts seamlessly with satire – which I imagine would be nerve-wracking to publish, when you’re considering whether you’re going to face a libel claim.

JB: It’s not so much [that Canada] is so litigious as it is that it’s so sensitive and everybody knows each other. America is litigious. People sue each other all the time and they get huge payouts – like the Gawker [verdict] was over 100 million dollars. There’s never been a libel ruling like that in Canada. […] So the answer’s something else: we’re afraid to criticize one another, and it’s not because we’re so litigious but because we’re so interconnected, we know who the powerful are.

Everyone knows everyone and everyone works with everyone – like Simon & Schuster [the publishing house for The Canadaland Guide to Canada] also published a book about hockey by Stephen Harper.

“First of all, if you can’t depict the most powerful people in your country fornicating, how free are you?”

MD: In the past you’ve been criticized by Simon Houpt in the Globe and Mail for having “a track record of playing fast and loose with facts” on Canadaland. Is this book, in any way, a response to that?

JB: [Laughs] No, this book was written with Simon Houpt about as far from mind as could be imagined.

But it’s definitely a fair question, because I think that there’s been this category confusion of “what is this Canadaland thing?” and “Who is this Jesse Brown guy? Is he a reporter? Is he a pundit? Now he’s doing satire.” There’s this feeling that you can’t do all those things – I’ve been told you can’t do all those things. And I don’t know why you can’t.

I appreciate that the responsibility is on me to very clearly communicate when I’m reporting a news story, when I’m telling rude jokes, and when I’m just offering my opinion – and make sure that those are not confused with each other – so that’s why we have a very deliberate, almost hilariously didactic “how to read this book” section. But it feels ridiculously limiting to me that I have to choose one role and stick to it throughout my career. One of the nice things about being an independent media company is that we can kind of do what we want.

“Who is this Jesse Brown guy? Is he a reporter? Is he a pundit? Now he’s doing satire.”

MD: One of the things I loved about the book was that you declared Justin Trudeau “absolutely unfuckable.” You called him “a scrub with fuccboi tattoos.” I love it! Do you think the Trudeaumania 2.0 fever has broken?

JB: [Laughs] Yeah, I think we’re starting to get the sense – the way that you do after a few months where you’re sleeping with somebody who looked too good to be true, and then you start to think “oh, didn’t he promise that thing?” And not just that, but the smell of their Axe body spray starts to grate on you, and there’s a patchouli scent on your pillow that you can’t quite get rid of – you just start to see through the whole thing. I think Canada is experiencing that right now with Justin Trudeau.

MD: Yeah, it’s incredible how fast the winds shifted; though the criticisms of him are very, very valid.

JB: Yeah, the whole thing about having, like, an Indigenous tattoo – like, have you ever met a white guy who had an Indigenous tattoo, or an Asian tattoo, who’s actually been a decent dude? It’s impossible!

I think he just let a lot of people in Indigenous communities down with some of the dumbass shit he said about Indigenous kids just wanting “a place to store their canoes.” You know, it’s all surface.

“We’re afraid to criticize one another, and it’s not because we’re so litigious but because we’re so interconnected, we know who the powerful are.”

MD: How is this book situated in the midst of Canada 150 celebrations? Especially given this book is really honest about Indigenous issues, at a time when Canada 150 is being dragged for being a very clear manifestation of the colonial imagination.

JB: Well, we wrote the book knowing that there was going to be this massive half-a-billion-dollar propaganda campaign for Canada 150, and we thought, “somebody needs to push back – we’re going to be drowning in maple syrup, and we need a little vinegar.”

I guess what I didn’t anticipate was that the propaganda would be so ludicrous, and so factually and historically incorrect that it would essentially spur the most hilarious and amazing and righteous [backlash]. It is incredible to see Indigenous Canada just dragging – that’s exactly the right term – just dragging the CBC and the government. […] This book is just a minor part of what we’re seeing – [the Canadian government has] opened the door in addressing Canada’s history, and they kind of want to point people down one path and they try to create a little bit of space like, “yes, we acknowledge that there are bad things that happened” and that door’s just being blown up. And it’s awesome to see.

It pains me to say it, but this actually may be a good thing when it’s all said and done. Because these festivities that they want us to patriotically enjoy – which most Canadians just ignore completely, because one good thing about Canadians is that we don’t do patriotism – but their insistence that we try it on for size is actually having this reverse effect, and the backlash is getting stronger than the propaganda campaign. So we’re a silly part of a very serious resistance.

“Somebody needs to push back – we’re going to be drowning in maple syrup, and we need a little vinegar.”

MD: I’m interested in that idea of backlash, satire, or opposition being stronger than whatever’s earnest or original. For example, I’ve noticed a really sharp uptick in quality in The Beaverton in the last year.

JB: Yeah, the Beaverton got good, that’s true.

MD: Right – I’m curious about what the health of a country’s satire says about the health of the country and its politics.

JB: I think that for a long time, the satire was as thin and vapid as the Canadian narrative itself. So when the Canadian narrative was just “oh, donuts n timmies, and we like to say sorry a lot,” then you get Rick Mercer and you get Air Farce, and you get This Hour Has 22 Minutes. But if we’re actually gonna go there – and talk about the history, even when you get it wrong you’re creating a really good setup for a killer jagged punchline.

So, yeah, CBC wants to do “the story of us” – well, there’s a lot of people who would really like to have a crack at the story of us.

“I think that for a long time, the satire was as thin and vapid as the Canadian narrative itself.”

MD: Do you have a favourite scandal or surprising fact that you learned during the course of writing this book?

JB: I think that my favourite thing is actually something that happened as a result of the book. I was tweeting about how crazy it is that our charter of rights and freedoms had to be signed to us by the Queen of England in 1982, and all of these Queen-loving Canadians were so angry with me, which is nothing new to me. But the fucking former Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, called me a “wingnut.”

That was my favourite thing – it just proved to me that the desire to maintain the status quo is just so important to a lot of people in Canada. And it really stops us from getting anywhere, in a lot of cases.

“The backlash is getting stronger than the propaganda campaign. So we’re a silly part of a very serious resistance.”

MD: So what can we expect at your show on Saturday?

JB: I’ll be doing a night of comedy, which is well outside my comfort zone. But I didn’t just want to go to bookstores and do readings. The book is really visual, and it’s a humor book, so I thought “okay, I want to do a funny show” and I’ve been taking it across the country. And it’s so much fun on stage.

I’m really excited that Montreal’s own Josh Dolgin will be on stage with me, playing some music, and I’m gonna leave in the Quebec stuff, and see what happens.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Brown will be performing in Montreal at the Rialto on May 20; tickets are $28 at the door. You can buy his book, written with Vicky Mochama, Nick Zarzycki, and other contributors, on Amazon.

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Convicted rapist living in Milton-Parc http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/05/convicted-rapist-living-in-milton-parc/ Sat, 06 May 2017 01:17:22 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50444 Content warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual violence that may be triggering for some readers.

Recent reports confirm that Michael Giroux, a convicted rapist released from prison in the fall of 2016, is currently living in the Milton-Parc neighborhood adjacent to McGill.

A National Post article about Giroux’s current residence, published on May 2, was shared within McGill groups on social media. One student, Julia Métraux, provided a link to the article and included a plea for students to stay safe.

In the days that followed, dozens of other students repeated Métraux’s sentiment, tagging friends and warning each other of the possible threat.

Giroux sexually assaulted women in Toronto in the 1980s, and became known as the “High Park rapist.” He stalked women ranging from 23 to 42 years old, broke into their homes, and sexually assaulted them after threatening to kill them.

Giroux sexually assaulted women in Toronto in the 1980s, and became known as the “High Park rapist.”

In 1996, Giroux pled guilty to five counts of sexual assault and over 30 related crimes. After serving 13 years, annual hearings of Giroux’s case were held, considering statutory release until the end of his sentence. Statutory release, which allows an individual to serve the final third of their term in the community, is applicable for federally-sentenced prisoners who have already served two-thirds of their term. However, the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) may issue a detention order, keeping the individual incarcerated, if it finds there to be a strong likelihood that they will do further harm.

Despite yearly hearings with the PBC, Giroux was denied statutory release all seven times. He served a full sentence of 20 years in prison, during which the PBC noted that Giroux demonstrated little remorse.

According to the National Post, “Giroux refused treatment during his imprisonment and continued to minimize the harm caused to his victims.”

Apparently, both the PBC and Correctional Services Canada found that Giroux was “considered at high risk to reoffend.”

According to the National Post, “Giroux refused treatment during his imprisonment and continued to minimize the harm caused to his victims.”

Giroux’s unwillingness to accept treatment sparked debate on social media. Some McGill students felt that Giroux’s sentence should have been longer in order to protect the public. Others felt that his lack of remorse demonstrates failures within the Canadian prison system.

“Prison needs to be as corrective as it is punitive. The fact that this guy didn’t change after 20 years can be rectified by locking him up for longer, or we can reform our system so that guys like this fundamentally change and can rejoin society,” wrote McGill student Tim Min.

Another student, Andrew Figueiredo, responded, “It’s easy to start pontificating about the ethics of punishment, but the fact of the matter is that a serial rapist who refused treatment is now living near McGill students.”

Since his release, the authorities have imposed 21 restrictions on Giroux’s behaviour under a peace bond. He must stay at the address informed to the court between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., and must obtain permission to leave Quebec. Giroux is forbidden from contacting his victims, or anyone under the age of 16 without supervision. Other precautions include restrictions on possessing or using firearms, weapons, alcohol, drugs, internet access, and pornography. However, Giroux will reportedly be under these terms for only two years.

“It’s easy to start pontificating about the ethics of punishment, but the fact of the matter is that a serial rapist who refused treatment is now living near McGill students.”

According to the National Post, Giroux is currently living in four-story building on the edge of the McGill Ghetto with a banner outside that reads “Welcome McGill.”

The Daily contacted Graeme Hamilton, who wrote the National Post article in question.

“Since the article was published,” wrote Hamilton, in an email to The Daily, “I heard from people in the McGill community who had established where [Giroux] was living, and have been informed by the landlord that he is moving out as early as this weekend so the information may soon be out of date.”

The McGill administration, meanwhile, is aware of the situation and has made an announcement to the university population.

“We [have sent] a message to our community reminding them of safety precautions they should take,” said Doug Sweet, McGill’s Director of Internal Communications, in an email to The Daily. “We cannot legally send a message around identifying a specific individual or sharing a photo.”

“I heard from people in the McGill community who had established where [Giroux] was living, and have been informed by the landlord that he is moving out as early as this weekend.”

This message to the community came in the form of an email from Pierre Barbarie, the director of Campus Public Safety. The announcement, sent to all students and faculty on May 4, detailed general safety precautions. While the email did not explicitly mention Giroux, the timing of the email indicates potential safety concerns for students in Milton-Parc.

The administration’s response is similar to another safety reminder sent last November, concerning “reports of a small number of incidents near the northern portion of the lower downtown campus.” That email referred to the experiences of several women who were verbally assaulted and, in some cases, chased by a sexual predator. In both cases, McGill’s email failed to mention the gendered nature of the violence involved.

Erin Sobat, VP University Affairs of the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU), responded to the administration’s handling of the situation in an email to The Daily.

“We are concerned that this information [about Giroux’s residence in Milton-Parc] was not communicated directly to students by either the police or the university,” wrote Sobat. “[SSMU] members should not be expected to learn about something like this through the press, social media, or word of mouth. If the authorities are expecting students to take their own security precautions, they at least deserve to have a real sense of the threats present.”

In both cases, McGill’s email failed to mention the gendered nature of the violence involved.

In a follow-up conversation with The Daily, Sweet stressed the difficult nature of this situation. Even though Giroux may pose a threat, he is a free citizen as long as he meets the conditions of the peace bond. While breaching conditions have legal consequences, thereby have a deterrent effect, peace bonds are not permanent. There is little the administration can do, said Sweet, as authorities are not required to inform the public of the convicted sex offender’s presence in their neighborhood.

Update: According to La Presse, Giroux was scheduled to report his new address at the Montreal Courthouse on Friday May 5. However, he failed to appear for unknown reasons. Under the Canadian Sex Offender Information Registration Act, the offender is obligated to report their new address within seven days of changing residence. Failure to comply can result in fines or imprisonment for up to two years.

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Hundreds protest capitalism on May Day http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/05/hundreds-protest-capitalism-on-may-day/ Wed, 03 May 2017 15:04:49 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50430 Content warning: violence, police brutality

On Monday May 1, several hundred people gathered in Phillips Square to participate in a May Day protest through Montreal’s Golden Square Mile. This year’s demonstration was the tenth annual May Day march organized by the Convergence des Luttes Anticapitalistes (CLAC), a Montreal group committed to opposing capitalism through direct action.

Unlike other demonstrations held concurrently around the city, including a large union march in Côte-des-Neiges, the CLAC’s event was explicitly anti-capitalist. Most prominently, the Revolutionary Communist Party (PCR) and Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) were in attendance, and handed out red flags symbolic of the communist movement.

Contingents from across Montreal and Quebec assembled to hear speeches from organizers prior to the march at 6PM. One speech addressed the intersections of capitalism, imperialism, and racism:

“People from the global south have paid the highest price of global capitalisms and imperialisms expansion, falling victim to not just the occupation in Iraq, not just the occupation of Palestine, not just what’s happening in occupied Kurdistan, not what’s happening in Yemen, and also now Syria.”

“When [immigrants] come here they’re met with racism and xenophobia to ensure that migrants and immigrants remain exploited simply for the needs of capital,” continued the above organizer. “Today, immigrant workers are not only just fighting for their dignity but they’re fighting against an entire system that pins them unfortunately with the greatest burden and social cost for capital’s interest for continued profit and for continued destruction of this planet.”

“Today, immigrant workers are not only just fighting for their dignity but they’re fighting against an entire system that pins them unfortunately with the greatest burden and social cost for capital’s interest for continued profit and for continued destruction of this planet.”

Diverse participation

McGill Against Austerity (MAA) was one of the many groups to participate in this year’s march, with a contingent of approximately a dozen students. The Daily spoke to a member of MAA who chose to remain anonymous.

“Being an economics student, I see how capitalism is made to look attractive, and I […] read a lot of other scholarship that really disagrees,” she said. “I feel that especially right now in the current [political climate] with […] head of states being right-wing, nationalist, and the rise of religious intolerance.”

“Where I come from, May Day is a recognized formal holiday. […] People openly talk about the history of May Day in the newspaper,” she continued, explaining that she referred to her Bangladeshi heritage. “I found it very surprising that Canada has a very different labour day and it’s not May Day. Even in America it’s called loyalty day which is weird. […] I find it strange that North America is so uncomfortable with the actual history of May Day. And that’s kind of another reason why I [am here] today: […] because I feel very strongly about workers’ rights and I feel it absurd that North America tries to distract people from a significant point in history.”

Another member of MAA who participated in the march, Kyle Shaw, spoke to The Daily about the event’s heavy police presence.

“As always, [the police presence] is excessive, but it’s sort of in the nature of these demonstrations,” said Shaw. “That’s because fascism doesn’t quite conflict [with] or contradict capitalism as thoroughly as communism or other anti-capitalist ideologies. May Day demonstrations are always the first to get cracked down on and the most brutally, let’s say relative to fascist demonstrations which often get protected by the police, whether here in Montreal or across the United States.”

“May Day demonstrations are always the first to get cracked down on and the most brutally, let’s say relative to fascist demonstrations which often get protected by the police, whether here in Montreal or across the United States.”

At around 6:30 p.m., the PCR  set off flares to mark the start of the march. They initially led the crowd east along Saint Catherine Street, before circling back towards the downtown core chanting anti-capitalist slogans and flanked by dozens of police officers.

As the crowd made its way through the Golden Square Mile, the Daily interviewed Nathan McDonell, a member of Rojava Solidarity Montreal.

“We’re here because we want to change the world and we’re inspired by […] the Kurdish movement in the Middle East and in particular the social revolution happening in Rojava which is in the northern part of Syria,” said McDonell. “It’s an incredible society based on direct democracy, ethnic harmony, women’s empowerment, and going beyond the state and capitalism, and it’s an example for all of us to be inspired by. It’s in such a delicate situation […] surrounded by the Syrian civil war, [Turkish attacks], ISIS […] so it really needs our international solidarity [and] it’s important for us to be here to show that.”

Another member of Rojava Solidarity Montreal, wishing to remain anonymous, also emphasized the importance of mobilizing support internationally.

“I am originally Kurdish from east Turkey,” he said. “The people who are here, they are the voice of the people right now under the occupation of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. […] I believe it is a very important issue, bringing their voices to the world. I see these people around here, and it’s making me so happy as a [Kurdish] individual and Canadian second.”

Confrontation with the police

Roughly half an hour into the march, a brief confrontation occurred between police officers  and a small subsection of protesters. The crowd had been moving west along René-Lévesque Boulevard when they encountered a cordon of police officers from the Sureté du Québec (SQ) in full riot gear, who appear to have been guarding a TD bank building. A few protesters began throwing projectiles at the police, consisting mainly of smoke bombs and rocks. In response, a group of officers attacked the individuals involved with batons and tear gas, arresting at least one person and violently dispersing the rest.

An anonymous protester who was injured in the incident described their experience in a message to The Daily.

“The cops charged on us and started hitting people with their batons,” they wrote. “I was hit several times and a bone in my arm was fractured. One of my comrades was hit on the head. They pushed us very hard, a lot of people were thrown to the ground and almost trampled in the commotion. As I was trying to get away, a cop tripped me up and I fell onto a staircase.”

“The cops charged on us and started hitting people with their batons […] I was hit several times and a bone in my arm was fractured. One of my comrades was hit on the head. They pushed us very hard, a lot of people were thrown to the ground and almost trampled in the commotion.”

Following the confrontation, the protest was temporarily scattered into several small parties, most of which eventually regrouped on McGill College Avenue. They were soon joined by another large group of CLAC supporters that had assembled at the Frontenac metro station, and had marched downtown from Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. The demonstration then continued without further incident, counting close to a thousand members.

Last year’s May Day was dispersed after a police station window on Saint Catherine street was smashed. The police used stun guns and copious amounts of tear gas in response, violently scattering the crowd. This year, police cordons were preemptively set up whenever the march approached a police station, but the march consistently changed course to avoid them, and no major stand-offs took place.

Indeed, apart from the altercation on René-Lévesque, police intervention was considered relatively minimal this year. Protesters marched for approximately two and a half hours despite heavy rain, before entering the metro at Place des Arts and dispersing peacefully after some exuberant cheering inside the station.

May Day as a McGill issue

Connor Spencer, VP External of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), and a member of MAA, spoke with The Daily about the importance of May Day and its relevance to McGill students.

“The austerity measures that the province is facing right now specifically target bodies that are already in precarious positions and makes profit off of them,” said Spencer. “So, today being May Day, […] this is kind of a day to reflect on what we’ve been able to accomplish but also look forward in the future at what we still have to accomplish. The biggest one of which is fighting the austerity measures that the police are complicit in.”

“This is kind of a day to reflect on what we’ve been able to accomplish but also look forward in the future at what we still have to accomplish. The biggest one of which is fighting the austerity measures that the police are complicit in.”

“It’s a McGill issue as well,” Spencer continued. “It’s so often that we think we live in this bubble that separates us from the rest of Quebec, when the things that these people are protesting right now and that we’re on the street protesting is something that affects McGill students directly.”

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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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