The McGill Daily Future Leonard Cohens since 1911 2014-11-23T16:54:38Z http://www.mcgilldaily.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Celia Robinovitch <![CDATA[Montrealers march against gendered and sexual violence]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39492 2014-11-22T22:46:30Z 2014-11-22T11:00:56Z Protesters call for survivor support, better university policies

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Last Friday, around 150 Montreal students and community members marched from Concordia to McGill to advocate for safer communities free of harassment, sexual abuse, and sexual assault for people of all genders.

The march, called “Take Back the Night!,” aims to raise awareness of gendered violence and demonstrate solidarity with survivors of sexual assault.

“Once you look around and you see that so many people share some of the same elements that are in your story, you realize that you’re not alone and that your voices together can become stronger, and together you can affect change,” said Lucy Anacleto of the Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) at the march.

The CGA hosted the march as part of its “A Safer Concordia” campaign. Since 1975, the march has been held annually in cities around the world. Guests from groups such as Accessibilize Montreal, Women in Cities, Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTTeQ), the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS), Quebec Native Women, and the South Asian Women’s Community Centre spoke at this year’s demonstration.

“A lot of women are shamed for talking about what happened to them [during an assault], and I think that just having a huge amount of people come together and march to take back the night shows support for survivors, which I think is really crucial to make people feel comfortable enough to share their stories,” continued Anacleto.

The Reproductive Justice League Choir kicked off the demonstration with some gender-empowering Motown songs. Having rewritten the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” as “You Can’t Coerce Sex,” the choir led the crowd in chanting that only a “passionate yes” means yes.

Speakers from Accessibilize Montreal, Women in Cities, and Quebec Native Women followed before the march began.

Concordia student Sammy Fogel told The Daily what Take Back the Night! meant to her. “[It’s] a space for women and allies to show that they deserve a space in public to be respected and to be admired as human beings.”

Guest speaker Frances Maychak, an external coordinator at SACOMSS, echoed this sentiment. “For some people, being in a public space can be a dangerous or scary experience.”

According to Maychak, Take Back the Night! aims to “build an awareness for people who might not experience that personally, and who might feel particularly safe in public space, in recognizing that for a lot of people who have experienced violence […] those spaces aren’t safe and we need to be working toward making those spaces safer.”

This year’s march focused heavily on sexual assault policies in Montreal universities. “Few Canadian universities have sexual assault policies, and when they do, they are usually limited in their scope. School administrations must actively promote consent and support survivors of sexual assault, not the perpetrators by turning a blind eye,” Anaïs Van Vliet, CGA Board member, told The Daily before the march.

“We want to take back our campuses to make them safer, but university administrations must also do their job, implementing policies and practices to make such campuses a reality,” added Van Vliet.

A student-led working group at McGill recently released a draft of a university-wide sexual assault policy, something that the university has never had.

The controversy surrounding the recently dropped sexual assault charges against three former Redmen football players was also addressed. “Sexual harassment and sexual assault in public spaces is part of the same system of heterosexist, racist, disableist, colonial oppression and ideology. It all stems from the same place as other forms of violence,” said a guest speaker from Women in Cities.

The efforts to combat rape culture also extended beyond incidents on university campuses. Many demonstrators marched holding signs related to taxis in light of the recent news that 17 women in 2014 alone had been sexually assaulted in taxis by drivers in Montreal. They condemned the response of the police – that women should not take cabs alone at night, especially when intoxicated – as victim-blaming.

One demonstrator explained that her sign was her response to those assaults. “We’re here to say that taxis should be a safe place and there should be no victim-blaming, and we need to put the blame back on the perpetrators.”

Upon reaching McGill, guests from the South Asian Women’s Community Centre, ASTTeQ, and SACOMSS spoke. SACOMSS external coordinator Jean Murray concluded this year’s march by expressing a need at McGill for “a [sexual assault] policy that is survivor-focused […] so that survivors are not left with two options: say nothing or go to the police.”

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Jill Bachelder <![CDATA[Sexual assault charges against former Redmen football players dropped]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39373 2014-11-22T08:59:40Z 2014-11-19T19:48:29Z Prosecution cites insufficient evidence as reason for withdrawal

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Updated November 22.

After a hearing on November 17, charges of sexual assault with a weapon were dropped against former McGill Redmen football players Brenden Carriere, Ian Sherriff, and Guillaume Tremblay. Carriere and Tremblay had also been charged with forcible confinement (these charges had been dropped for Sherriff); these charges were also dropped.

The Crown withdrew the charges because it did not feel it had a case with the evidence submitted, Tremblay’s lawyer Debora De Thomasis told The Daily.

“When the Crown attorney, who has a particular role to play in prosecutions, examined his entire file, he concluded that with the evidence he had he should not go forward with his prosecution,” Richard Shadley, Carriere’s lawyer, told The Daily.

The three ex-Redmen were charged in April 2012 with sexually assaulting the plaintiff, who, at the time of the alleged assault in September 2011, was a student at Concordia.

The Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) has decided not to issue a statement regarding the events of the hearing. However, in an email to The Daily, SACOMSS external coordinators Jean Murray and Frances Maychak said that they “would like to reiterate that we always believe and support survivors, regardless of legal proceedings.”

“We remind everyone that our services are open to all, and we can be reached at 514-398-8500 or sacomss.org,” wrote Murray and Maychak. SACOMSS had previously released a statement after the charges were originally brought to the public eye.

The hearing for the former players was scheduled to be held at 9:30 a.m. on November 17. However, it quickly went into recess, and commenced again at around 11:30 a.m., at which time one of the three defense lawyers told the judge that the Crown attorney was not present because he was scheduled to speak on the phone with a witness from whom he had received testimony over the weekend via email. The witness’s name, he said, had come up during cross-examination at a previous hearing.

The hearing was adjourned until 2 p.m., at which time the Crown attorney said that he still had not been able to contact the witness, and in light of the new email testimony, asked that the accused be discharged. The judge and the other lawyers agreed to the Crown’s request, and the three players were discharged.

De Thomasis said that she and her client were looking forward to moving on from the events. “We are satisfied with the result, and are ready to turn the page on this,” she said.

In the days following the hearing, the survivor has come forward to give her side of the story of the events of the trial, as well as what happened during the original assault.

According to a Montreal Gazette article, the witness who testified via email the weekend before the hearing was a resident student advisor in whom the survivor confided the morning after the assault.

The testimony was a four-line email, in which the witness claimed that the survivor had agreed to have sex with the men. After the Crown had failed in contacting the witness, the prosecution decided that the survivor didn’t have enough evidence for the case, and withdrew charges. The witness was never cross-examined on her testimony, according to the article.

The survivor also recounted to Global News the events of the night when she was raped, saying that after meeting two of the players at the Korova Bar, she went to an apartment and was given an opened beer can, which she believes may have been drugged. She remembered being on a bed with the three men and telling them to stop; she woke up in the morning to her clothes being thrown at her, and was asked to leave “because [the players] had to go to practice,” she said.

“The way the trial was dealt with wasn’t fair at all,” the survivor told Global News.

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Subhanya Sivajothy <![CDATA[1,000 protest pipelines, Plan Nord with new student coalition]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39346 2014-11-17T17:46:46Z 2014-11-17T17:30:44Z Demonstrators call for Indigenous solidarity, renewable energy

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Around 1,000 people gathered on Saturday afternoon at Norman Bethune Square to protest fossil fuel projects and northern development project Plan Nord. The demonstration was organized by étudiant(e)s contre les oléoducs (ÉCO), or “students against pipelines,” a new coalition of student associations that aims to stop pipeline projects in Quebec and to shut down the tar sands. The coalition represents 90,000 students, now that the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has joined it.

The march lasted about two hours, and ended at Square Victoria for collective singing, puppet demonstrations, and a concluding speech.

Contingents from various student groups attended the protest, including one from Divest McGill. Demonstrators held colourful signs opposing TransCanada’s Energy East and Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline projects, both of which would carry heavy crude oil into Quebec if completed, and demanded that the government respect Indigenous treaty rights. Attendees  also voiced opposition to Plan Nord, the Liberal’s government project to increase energy development and mining in Northern Quebec.

“I’m thinking about the future as opposed to [the] short term,” said one student protester. “Renewable energy is going to happen sometime, and we should start [trying] to protect our home and our environment. I also thinking we should respect the treaties of the First Nations, and [these pipeline projects are] clearly a violation of that.”

The Whalebone Collective, an eco-activist group that uses art as a medium for conversations about social change, was also present at the protest. Members carried cut-outs of trees, a giant whale puppet, and stop signs to protest the pipelines.

A member of the collective spoke to The Daily about Whalebone’s presence at the demonstration. “We’re helping facilitate [this protest]. […] The [Concordia Student Union] is really supportive of us. We talk to other people who were activists and we kind of just got up together to organize this.”

Other activists who attended were also involved in the People’s Climate March that took place on September 21 to advocate larger global action against climate change. According to demonstrator Katie, this experience was helpful in organizing the ÉCO protest.

“We’re part of the organizing committee from the [People’s Climate March], so we got to know some people who were all pulling together for the same cause,” Katie told The Daily.

Lutie emphasized the importance of listening to different Indigenous communities when thinking about how to tackle climate change.

“Climate issue is the issue of our time. […] We need to have a belief system that is closer to the belief system of the Iroquois philosophy of thinking ahead […] and making decisions that will be positive seven generations down the road, not just thinking about the bottom line for today,” said Katie.

According to protester Cindy Brown, who also attended the march, it is important for people to push for economic policy changes.

“We need green energy and it’s possible, there are so many wonderful things out there and the money is all in the wrong places and the influence is all in the wrong places,” Brown told The Daily. “We want to have changes in policy regarding climate change, and we’re not going to stop asking for it until [the government] listen[s].”

ÉCO plans to hold additional demonstrations in the coming months.

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Jill Bachelder <![CDATA[Judicial Board to hear case regarding SSMU General Assembly]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39349 2014-11-17T15:17:33Z 2014-11-17T15:16:29Z President, speaker deny breach of bylaws relevant to Palestine motion

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On Sunday, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Courtney Ayukawa released her and Speaker of Legislative Council Rachel Simmons’ defence factum in response to a recent Judicial Board (J-Board) case, in which petitioners Zain Ali Syed and Nadir Khan call for a special General Assembly (GA) to discuss the Palestine solidarity motion, which was postponed indefinitely at the October 22 SSMU GA. The case will bypass a mediation session and go right to a hearing.

The two petitioners have claimed that, at the GA, the indefinite postponing of the Palestine solidarity motion and Council’s failure to adopt a simplified version of Robert’s Rules constituted infractions of SSMU bylaws. Ayukawa is acting on behalf of Council in the case.

“Consistently not following the bylaw and then turning around and calling it ‘convention’ doesn’t magically make it okay.”

Khan and Syed’s factum has been revised since the case was first accepted by the J-Board in order to include a more detailed argument. The addition highlighted examples that indicated that students who spoke at the GA were unfamiliar with Robert’s Rules.

The revised version does not contain the original’s request to have the use of indefinite postponement declared unconstitutional, instead claiming that it should be overturned due to SSMU members’ lack of resources relating to Robert’s Rules – particularly in regard to motions that could have been used to counter the motion to postpone.

SSMU’s factum

In their factum, Ayukawa and Simmons note that a simplified version of Robert’s Rules for a GA was only adopted once in the past three years, in 2012, most likely as a way to increase participation at the GA.

The factum argues that because the level of participation was not a concern to Council this year – there was evidently much interest in the motions being discussed, and quorum was not an issue – “[neither] the Speaker nor the Council was required to establish special standing rules for the General Assembly.”

It claims that this practice is convention at SSMU, and that, because no specific rules were drafted, the use of regular Robert’s Rules was in accordance with “official procedure.”

Syed and Khan refuted SSMU’s interpretation of their bylaws. “Consistently not following the bylaw and then turning around and calling it ‘convention’ doesn’t magically make it okay,” Khan and Syed told The Daily in a joint email.

“Bylaw I-5 article 5.2 clearly obliges them to adopt standing rules, so students can actually understand the procedures,” they continued.

Khan and Syed also claimed that the failure to adopt simplified standing rules for the GA was also a violation of article 5.4 of bylaw I-5, which requires that students “be given the opportunity to debate and amend each resolution,” arguing that students were not aware of the procedural tools available to fight the motion according to Robert’s Rules.

However, SSMU’s factum claims that the Speaker did not violate article 5.4 because it is stated in Robert’s Rules that, as soon as the question is stated by the Speaker, it is in the hands of the Assembly. “Once debate has been opened, the chair must recognize points and motions on the floor,” reads SSMU’s factum.

The declaration also notes that the Simmons, “recused herself from the position of Speaker for the Motion and was replaced by Mike Tong for the Motion and its proceedings,” meaning that Simmons was not acting as Speaker when the Palestine motion was postponed.

No mediation

According to the email from the petitioners, Khan and Syed decided to forego mediation because there is limited time left in the semester and could not see any “meaningful solution” to the case outside holding a second GA.

Khan told The Daily that he has met with Ayukawa to discuss the alleged bylaw infractions. “Ultimately, we disagreed on the interpretation [of the bylaws]. The bylaws clearly oblige Council to adopt standing rules to make debate accessible,” said Khan.

The date of the hearing is yet to be determined, Ayukawa told The Daily in an email.

 

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Igor Sadikov <![CDATA[Working group presents full sexual assault policy draft]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39278 2014-11-17T15:48:12Z 2014-11-17T11:09:15Z Survivor-focused approach central aspect

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On November 13, members of the student-led Sexual Assault Policy Working Group presented a complete draft of the proposed university sexual assault policy to students. The group, which includes representatives from several student groups that deal with issues of sexual assault, has been working with Dean of Students André Costopoulos and Liaison Officer (Harm Reduction) Bianca Tétrault on the policy since March, and hopes to present the policy to Senate for approval by the end of the academic year.

Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs and working group member Claire Stewart-Kanigan explained that four overarching principles guided the drafting of the policy.

“The four pillars that support this policy are a pro-survivor approach, a proactive approach, an approach that recognizes diversity of experiences related to sexual assault, and a university-wide commitment,” she said.

Following the preamble and definitions, the policy begins with what the presenters called “the non-negotiables” in the proposed University stance on sexual assault, namely a proactive approach in combatting the normalization of sexual assault, a focus on the safety and empowerment of survivors, and respect for the survivor’s articulation of their experience in the context of a consent-based definition of sexual assault.

The policy then outlines concrete proactive measures for the University to take. “The last thing we want is for this policy to be a kind of platitude without operational task-based assignments,” said Stewart-Kanigan.

Notably, the policy mandates the Office of the Dean of Students to run regular consent campaigns, to maintain a collection of resources on sexual assault, and to hold training to combat the normalization of sexual assault for members of the McGill community.

The policy also calls for the creation of a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) position, to be charged with maintaining an office space dedicated to assisting survivors. The SARC will also oversee the development of consent campaigns and provide resources to McGill groups wishing to conduct their own sexual assault sensitivity trainings.

The “University Responses to Incidents of Sexual Assault” section formalizes the pro-survivor approach of the policy, focusing on “safety measures” that prioritize the survivor’s safety, convenience, and confidentiality.

“We haven’t really focused a lot on disciplinary measures for the perpetrator in this policy, because we want this to be purely in terms of the survivor’s needs and them being able to dictate how to go forward,” working group member Megan Baiocco said at the presentation.

In response to concerns raised about the vagueness of the policy on response measures, working group member Kai O’Doherty explained that the policy was left intentionally vague in order to let the survivor define what measures they need to be safe.

“Something may happen to the perpetrator because of this, but ultimately we’re framing this in terms of what the survivor needs,” added Baiocco.

Procedures for responding to incidents of sexual assault, including the implementation of safety measures and disciplinary measures, will nonetheless be formalized in a separate document, the Sexual Assault Policy Implementation Guide. The guide, which will detail how to put specific elements of the policy into practice, will be reviewed annually by a working group chaired by the Dean of Students.

One audience member asked whether it was possible for the policy to target specific groups with sexual assault sensitivity and consent training, such as varsity athletes. The presenters explained that, although it is difficult to find suitable language to target specific groups such as athletes or frosh leaders, the policy does provide for the possibility to conduct specific training “as deemed necessary by the Dean of Students and the SARC.”

Presenters noted that the consultation on the policy will continue, emphasizing that, since the policy would apply to all members of the McGill community, the working group will make a particular effort to seek input from non-student groups, such as McGill unions. Community members will be able to leave comments on the sexual assault policy working group’s website, and can also get involved by helping with the broader consultation and with lobbying Senate, presenters said.

“We do expect to get some resistance [from Senate] on some of the things, and that’s why we’re getting consultation with different groups and looking at how we can phrase things,” Baiocco told The Daily. “We want to get a lot more consultation and feedback.”

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Arianee Wang <![CDATA[European literature minor coming next term]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39285 2014-11-17T22:09:54Z 2014-11-17T11:08:34Z Students of foreign literature consider creation of new student council

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This semester, the Faculty of Arts saw the creation of a new minor within the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (LLC) set to be launched in January. The minor, entitled “European Literature and Culture,” requires students to take courses from various units including German Studies, Hispanic Studies, Italian Studies, and Russian and Slavic Studies.

The minor is meant to focus on “the development and interconnectedness of European culture, and its relevance for the comprehension of today’s world through the study of literature and the arts from the Middle Ages to modern times,” according to the program’s website.

Despite its broad focus on European literature, the minor does not have a language requirement.

“[This allows] the student to go right away into the really interesting 300-level courses,” explained Stephanie Posthumus, a professor in the LLC department and advisor for the new minor, to The Daily.

Posthumus also mentioned that Andrew Piper, an associate professor in the LLC department, also worked to get the minor approved. Piper was very interested in how the department “could go beyond just our national boundaries and traditions,” said Posthumus, adding, “the minor is what we created as a first step [toward this goal].”

There is only one required introductory course for the minor, which will be offered for the first time next academic year. The minor also allows students to take LLC courses, which, according to Posthumus, are cross-cultural and often concentrated on a specific topic. LLC classes draw students from many disciplines, said Posthumus. “They appeal to a larger audience.”

According to Posthumus, “the idea was to offer something outside of English literature” for students interested in studying literature who felt “stuck in the Anglo-American perspective.”

LLC student council

The LLC department may be expanding in other ways in the future. Beyond the new minor, some students are working to create an LLC student association in order to better to represent the needs of students studying foreign literature.

“The creation of the LLC minor is a huge first step,” said Vincent Simboli, president of the Caribbean and Latin American Studies & Hispanic Studies Association (CLASHSA), in an interview with The Daily. According to Simboli, who is spearheading the initiative, the council would be “a specific legislative body that is pertinent to the interests of language, literature, and culture students.”

According to Simboli, a specific LLC association is necessary due to the special interests shared by students studying foreign literature and languages, such as the importance of studying abroad and the disproportionate impact of budget cuts. “If there are budget cuts to Arts, which there will be in the future, who’s going to get cut first? A Portuguese language class or ECON 208?” posed Simboli.

“I’m not looking to splinter from the AUS [Arts Undergraduate Society], I am just looking for a sister council,” stressed Simboli.

According to Simboli, the new council has faced some barriers. “[There is] general apathy you come across whenever you try to organize students. […] Convincing people that what we’re studying is relevant to a global world [can be difficult].”

“Whenever you try to get people to go anywhere, you basically have to provide free food,” added Simboli.

In light of these barriers, Simboli said that he is “likely not going to be a student when this actually comes to fruition,” and that the LLC student council may be created in two or three years.

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Lucy Peaseblossom <![CDATA[University is a sham]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39240 2014-11-15T02:49:53Z 2014-11-17T11:04:59Z Nerds fight back to no avail

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Campus sleuths have uncovered a secret that runs to the core of the University establishment. Documents leaked to the The Weekly confirm that university education is in fact an elaborate scheme to erode students’ self-esteem and critical thinking abilities in order to create a population of servile dullards.

Disgruntled and socially exiled McGall nerds were behind the revelation; a group of them hacked a University email account and discovered a folder containing correspondence between the administration and political top brass. Most emails contained detailed documents advising academics on how to degrade students.

Examples included such instructions as: “peer at students over your glasses,” “ignore students’ questions; use passive aggression,” “set presentations that are designed to humiliate the presenter,” and “engineer overly-large classes so that students feel like cattle.”

In the interests of readers’ peace of mind, The Weekly has held back publication of some of the most shocking recommendations. However, campus activists consider making students’ families pay tuition the most humiliating measure.

“No matter what you do it’s wrong,” said Keener O’Dowde, a U3 Social Interaction Tips Student and former straight-A high school pupil. “You do your work, get your shitty C+, receive no advice, and then get thinly-veiled abuse from your prof, TA, and classmates. Then I have to turn around and pretend to my family that everything’s fine?”

The Weekly interviewed Crackers Burge, a Masters Comical Science student and disgruntled nerd, to speak to the revelation. “What we’ve figured out is that this began post-student strike. Political elements decided that students needed to be tranquilized back into stupidity – they were frightened of exposure.”

“What’s most worrying is that some students seem to have been co-opted,” he continued. “It’s those slimy student Liberal Party members who strut around with their suits and pompous smiles and condescending conversation. These people have been bred to make you feel bad about yourself,” he continued. “God-awful class traitors!”

McGall has reacted with characteristic apathy; Liberal McGall, the university’s Liberal student society, released a statement calling on the need for more “neutrality and rational discussion.” However No Justice Without Justice For Nerds (NJWJN), a student group aiming to collect all academic-minded students under one roof, has decided to raise awareness of the issue.

Some of NJWJN’s activism has raised eyebrows, however. The group has accused student politicians, professors, and administrative staff of belonging to an alien reptilian race.

“David Ickes was right. Just so, so right. The proof is in their eyes: their cold, emotionless, reptilian eyes,” chirped Nerd-In-Chief, Satchel Gramme, referring to the glaze of hopeless exasperation commonly found among bureaucrats.

“It’s all a trick. They put on their human shells everyday, but their alien technology isn’t sufficiently advanced to capture the beauty of the human eye.”

An anonymous administration insider contacted The Weekly to clear up some of the confusion. “In a way, this reptile shit is playing really well for us. We’re obviously not reptiles,” he said.

“We are engaged in psychological and economic warfare though,” he chuckled. “Governments crush the working people while the middle class sits smugly because they think they’re exempt. Our genius is in making them think that, while enslaving their puny minds when they come to study with us.”

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Commentary http://mcgilldaily.com <![CDATA[Criminalizing sex work is not a solution]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39254 2014-11-17T16:42:40Z 2014-11-17T11:04:41Z EDITORIAL

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Bill C-36, which regulates sex work in Canada, is set to become law by December. The bill is the Conservative government’s response to a Supreme Court decision last December that struck down key provisions of Canada’s existing sex work legislation on the grounds that it actively endangered sex workers. Where the government had the opportunity to improve its policies and promote the safety of sex workers, it instead wrote a law that addresses none of the Court’s concerns and perpetuates the harmful stigmatization of sex work.

The bill effectively replicates and expands the harmful provisions that were struck down last year, such as the criminalization of brothels and public communication for the purpose of sex work. It restricts the purchase or sale of sexual services in public spaces, criminalizes the involvement of third parties such as bodyguards and drivers (who are key to the safe conduct of sex work) introduces the criminalization of those who purchase sexual services, and prevents sex workers from advertising. All of these provisions prevent the creation of a safe space for conducting sex work – they force sex workers to do business on the streets and underground.

In pushing this legislation, the government has ignored the spirit behind the Court’s decision, instead taking the opportunity to promote a conservative agenda that regulates the bodies and lives of sex workers. The bill’s express purpose to ultimately “abolish [sex work] to the greatest extent possible” is fueled by a moralistic condemnation of sex work, while failing to address the needs of those directly impacted by it. In promoting abolition, Bill C-36 perpetuates the stigmatization of sex work that ultimately contributes to the level of violence, and lack of response to it, faced by sex workers, especially those from marginalized populations.

There has been an overwhelmingly negative response to this bill from sex workers and advocacy groups. The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, Sex Professionals of Canada, and Stella, a Montreal sex work solidarity organization, have all spoken out against the bill. Instead of heeding the calls of those with lived experience, the government has relied primarily on one advocacy group in writing the legislation: the Women’s Coalition, which seeks to abolish sex work.

Opposition to sex work and the support of its criminalization does sometimes stem from a concern for safety. The Native Women’s Association of Canada responded negatively to the Supreme Court’s original decision, noting that “Aboriginal women and girls […] are among the most vulnerable population in Canada,” and that many Indigenous women find themselves doing sex work as the result of poverty. Indeed, while many sex workers enjoy their jobs, many others find themselves in the industry not by choice, but due to coercion, violence, trafficking, or poverty. That being said, criminalization does not actually address these issues. Bill C-36 puts sex workers in harm’s way regardless of the circumstances under which they entered the industry.

If those in power are actually concerned with the well-being of sex workers, they must radically change their approach to sex work legislation. Instead of supporting archaic legislation with harmful rhetoric that portrays sex workers as either victims or villains, the government must make a genuine effort to address the issues that really matter: preventing sexual violence and ensuring the safety of sex workers.

—The McGill Daily Editorial Board

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Jill Bachelder <![CDATA[Principal sits down with campus media]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39305 2014-11-17T15:42:05Z 2014-11-17T11:03:59Z High cost of food on campus a surprise for Suzanne Fortier

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On November 12, McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier sat down with campus media for an hour-long meeting in the Shatner building. She addressed student journalists’ questions on McGill’s financial situation, accessibility of food and housing, divestment, and research regulations. A lively discussion followed Fortier’s admission of surprise at students’ impression that the food options on campus are not affordable. Fortier was also unaware of the high cost of student housing at McGill, and highlighted McGill’s bursary program as evidence of the University’s accessibility as it continues to lobby for a tuition increase for French students.

The McGill Tribune (MT): About the recent discussion on the bilateral tuition agreement with France – how will McGill go forward with these adjustments? What is the University stance on straying from a long-standing precedent?

Suzanne Fortier (SF): I personally think that the agreement has to be revisited. […] But there’s something that’s extremely important that’s true for every student, not just French students – it’s that we need to make sure that we continue to build on our bursary program. We’re not a university for rich […] international students outside Quebec, we’re a university where we try to bring together people. […] We can be there to help those students financially.

Le Délit (DF)*: Would you maybe think of forming a new partnership with French universities if the partnership with France is cancelled?

SF: Yes, maybe. I have worked a lot in France. […] There are possibilities outside of the government framework to establish partnerships with France. In fact, what we want is to be left a bit more flexibility, so that we can create partnerships […] instead of being imposed a model that, as you know, isn’t used well at all. There are few Quebecois students who go to French universities. […] Already we see that the program isn’t working too well.

The McGill Daily (MD): In 2013, McGill reacted to the Parti Québécois (PQ) cuts to education with strong condemnation. Why has McGill failed to take a similarly strong stance toward the current cuts to the education system, which are comparable if not worse?

SF: I do believe that it is important for this province to put its financial situation in order. I am not as a citizen opposed to a goal of reaching a balanced budget – I think it is important for the long term. […] I understand that it’s not an easy reality, it’s not something that we like to see, cuts after cuts. […] Although I would like more money [flowing] into the university […] fiscally, I’m afraid this is something we got to do in Quebec, so I won’t complain, as long as we’re treated fairly.

MT: Regarding McGill’s financial situation, one of the common concerns that we hear from students is that there are more and more costs that are being shifted to the students in the form of fees. What is the decision-making process for shifting costs? Does the University see these shifts as having an adverse effect on the environment at McGill?

SF: In this province, as in many provinces, auxiliary fees have to go to through a process of a referendum […] so that’s a pretty clear process. Is there an adverse effect? [There is,] particularly for students who do not have the capacity to pay more than what they’re paying now. That’s why it’s important for us, when we can, to keep adding money to our bursary program. That’s where we try to mitigate the negative impact.

DF: At McGill, student housing prices have risen immensely in the past few years. We notice that this is an opposite trend to other universities, which tend to offer less expensive, more accessible housing. Should accessibility of student housing be a priority for McGill?

SF: I must tell you I was not aware of this, so I’ll have to do some research to see if there is a reason for this hike. […] Do we offer residences of better quality than elsewhere? […] I think we have residences where it’s a bit less expensive.

DF: More generally, are you not a little bit afraid that McGill could become a university for rich people?

SF: I’m not afraid that it could become one, in the sense that I know we’ve put in place policies to ensure that this is not the case. We don’t look at a student’s financial situation when we offer a place at McGill; we have a bursary program that, I think, is the best bursary program in Canada per student. […] During McGill’s last fundraising campaign, I think it’s about 50 per cent of the collected money that was collected for student aid. […] We’re right to take an interest in that, however – that’s not what we want to be, and we need to ensure that we put in place the necessary measures.

“Maybe you have bigger appetites. […] I’m surprised that people think that it’s very expensive.”

MD: The replacement of the Tim Hortons with a Première Moisson has generated substantial backlash regarding lack of affordable food options on campus, which has only worsened with the recent cease-and-desist order on sandwich sales against Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) SNAX. What is McGill doing to ensure affordable food and what role does it reserve for student-run initiatives?

SF: The thinking behind the food offering is not price, it is more the quality of food. […] So Première Moisson, I find it interesting. People say it’s very expensive – I went to eat there, I had a wonderful soup, very healthy, and they gave me two pieces of bread with nuts. It cost me $3.50. […] I don’t know what you get at Tim Hortons, but it was a very good meal for the price. […] I eat mostly around the cafeterias on campus myself, but I do think there’s a lot of variety. […] What I see on campus is that there’s plenty of places where you can go, you don’t have to spend a penny […] you can bring your own food [and] eat with your friends, and I think that is very important as well. […] Do you have a sense that a lot of people think that there’s not enough diversity?

MD: I don’t think it’s so much the diversity, as it is how expensive it is, because you have to spend $10 or so, unless you go to the Midnight Kitchen…

SF: Really? I’m surprised. […] Maybe you have bigger appetites. […] I’m surprised that people think that it’s very expensive. Maybe I’ll just ask our Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), I know they do a lot of surveys on food.

DF: Coming back to the budget, why not fund opening hours for the McLennan library between midnight and 7 a.m., as it’s obvious that there is a student need given that SSMU is funding it? Is it the role of the administration to finance these things, or do you think it’s superfluous?

SF: We may have simpler solutions, I don’t know if we’ve explored them. […] It’s obvious that, for many users, the library is more of a space than a location to consult books. […] Are we really talking about the library, or about a space that should be reserved? There may be an easier solution.

MD: With the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR)’s terms of reference having been broadened after a community consultation, and students increasingly speaking in support of divestment from fossil fuels, how will McGill’s investment choices better reflect the opinion of the community?

SF: The committee [CAMSR] has recently changed its terms of reference, has changed some of the definitions to include environment. […] This was the first time last year that a committee of the Board of Governors, as it’s reviewing its terms of reference, decided to consult broadly. It’s the first time there was a public process of consultation. […] The committee now has a role to meet even if it doesn’t receive a petition, to consider proactive measures, and the committee met recently, and one of the things that it has decided to do is to look at the range of practices with regard to socially responsible investments, and that, I hope, will start fairly soon. […] I think it’s very difficult to avoid any footprint at all on the environment. […] You start getting there into the zone of evaluation of what is the impact and at what point is it important to take serious action, it’s not a simple thing.

DF: For you, what is the importance of French on campus?

SF: I think that McGill is a university where the language of instruction is English, and it’s important that we preserve this language. […] It’s good that we can support people who want to speak both languages at McGill. […] I must tell you that I speak French a lot on campus, maybe sometimes a bit too much. I’m surrounded with colleagues who speak very good French.

MD: McGill’s research regulations are soon coming under review, and many in the community are calling for stricter regulations. Will you heed the call and support measures to increase transparency and impose restrictions on military research with harmful consequences?

SF: This year, we’re reviewing policies relating to the responsible conduct of research, which has many areas, and a new one that we’re introducing is to look at all of the contract research that we do and pass it through a process to see if it meets the criteria of responsible conduct of research. […] I believe we might be the first university to extend it to all of our contract research. […] You asked specifically about military research […] the important thing is to make sure that we have the right process, to look at the more detailed level – what is it exactly that’s happening? […] That’s the kind of thing that I think we need for contract research more generally.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

—Compiled by Jill Bachelder and Igor Sadikov

*Questions from, and answers to, Le Délit have been translated from French.

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Grace Bill <![CDATA[M for Montreal spotlight: Slight]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39247 2014-11-17T16:43:38Z 2014-11-17T11:03:40Z Read our review of their new release before you see them this weekend

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Just over a year ago, in April 2013, Slight released their debut EP, Melodion. Over that EP’s three tracks, the Montreal-based group presented a familiar sound somewhere between Stereolab’s retro-futuristic avant-pop Emperor Tomato Ketchup and the dreamy psychedelic pop of The Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin. The vocals follow angular, idiosyncratic melodies, shared between the band’s core songwriting duo of Danji Buck-Moore and Michael Hahn – who also happen to be McGill alums. The duo, joined by a varying group of percussionists, creates a lush atmosphere around these melodies, building on the interplay between Hahn’s reflective guitar and Buck-Moore’s keyboards.

Now, straight out of their improvised loft studio, Buck-Moore and Hahn, joined by Drew Barnet on drums, have released a new follow-up single, “Spirit School/Tasting.” The first thing that strikes listeners familiar with last year’s EP is that the band has upped the fuzz on their sound. The A-side, “Spirit School,” is mostly in line with Melodion, with the exception of an unfamiliar fuzzy guitar that drones throughout much of the song. This shift toward shoegaze is even more noticeable on the B-side, where the swirling guitar effects and atmospheric synths in “Tasting” bring to mind My Bloody Valentine’s 2013 album m b v. It’s a subtle change, but one that Slight pulls off well. The increased psychedelic and shoegaze influences, combined with the soft pop of before, make the group’s sound slightly more distinct. Their energy level on this new release is also higher than the first EP. Aside from this shift, however, not much else about the new release is remarkable in terms of the band’s development.

The vocals, for one, are unremarkable, but they don’t seem to be the focus. The lyrics of “Spirit School” come across as a metaphor for an unsatisfying relationship. The narrator sets up an image of “halls and rooms convincing me to stay” but complains “It’s not all on me/what we do when we’re asleep.” Unfulfilling relationships consistently inspire music across the board, from the powerfully moving to the the eye-roll-inducing cliche. For Slight, the relationship-inspired lyrics are too ambiguous to have any sort of emotional impact. Meanwhile, the vocals to “Tasting” are so obscured through effects and filters that the lyrics are hard to discern – but this is is often the case for shoegaze music, which is more about atmosphere and timbre than lyricism. As such, the lyrics don’t add much to the music. The vocals are more of a background layer, a feature like the fuzzy guitar, not noteworthy but still noticeable – they would be missed if the tracks were purely instrumental.

“Spirit School/Tasting” is a promising single. While there’s nothing about it that really stands out, that may be the point – not to take any of the elements as independent, but to simply listen and absorb. In terms of the band’s development, it shows a new level of sophistication, incorporating various influences to produce a more distinguishable sound. Indie rock and psychedelic fans should keep a lookout for Slight – they won’t grab you immediately, but you might just like what you hear.


Both Melodion and Spirit School/Tasting are available for digital download at the band’s Bandcamp page. Slight will perform at Sala Rossa on November 22 at 7 p.m. as part of M for Montreal.

 

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Rosie Long Decter <![CDATA[M for Montreal preview guide]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39241 2014-11-17T16:45:23Z 2014-11-17T11:03:30Z What to see at the local music festival this weekend

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Since 2006, M for Montreal has served as a platform for up-and-coming Montreal and Canadian artists. While no match for POP Montreal in size (and in the number of free events), M for Montreal is an important festival for local acts looking to gain exposure. If you’re a local listener just looking to gain some exposure to good music, here’s what you should hit up this week.

November 19, Evening: Country + Alex Calder
La Vitrola at 11:45 p.m.
Free!
Self-described as “Sleaze Wave,” Montreal pop duo Country will start off M for Montreal the right way. Country’s dark but dancey synth tunes will put you in the festival mood. The band released Failure this fall, a nine-track album that evokes the likes of Joy Division and Blondie, with cheeky track titles like “Money for Cancer.” Jointly kicking off the festival is Edmonton pop prince Alex Calder. This opening show takes place at one of Montreal’s newest venues, La Vitrola, and, best of all, it’s free.

November 20, Day: The Franklin Electric, High Ends, Kandle and the Krooks, The OBGMs, Holy Family, Secret Sun
Café Campus at 1:00 p.m.
Free!
This show has too many bands to highlight the talent of each, but let’s just say it’s a powerhouse lineup as far as Canadian indie goes. This is the perfect opportunity to get to know the non-sleazy, non-late-night identity of Café Campus, which actually has a pretty regular rotation of indie shows. Pay particular attention to Secret Sun, another Montreal duo making indie pop waves. Anne-Marie Campbell’s dreamy vocals will float through the drum machines and right into your head.

November 20, Evening: Light Fires, The Posterz, Homeshake, The Muscadettes, Weaves, Heat, Ragers 666
Cléopatre at 8:30 p.m.
$14
Headliners Ragers 666 have recently been making a name for themselves in Montreal with their fusion of hip hop, electronic, and rock. It won’t be long before this group takes off. Their debut EP, to be released sometime this month, was produced by the same dude who produces Rick Ross. Make sure to catch ‘em while you still can. Also not to be missed is Toronto quartet Weaves, whose quirky sound is hard to pin down. It’s fun, jangly, and smooth all at once – you’ll have to see them to figure out what that means.

November 21, Day: Montreal Digital Music Journalism
Le Ritz at 9:30 p.m.
$12
Featuring local journalists from across all music genres, this panel will feature tips for aspiring music critics in Montreal. In a digital era, it is increasingly difficult to find jobs in the traditional journalism in the arts field, because very few print papers are hiring full-time employees anymore. Those with a knack for critiquing creativity need to be able to navigate the blogosphere to maintain any hope of building a career. This panel promises to provide budding critics some much needed direction.

November 21, Evening: Mozart’s Sister, L.A. Foster, Antoine93
Le Ritz at 9:30 p.m.
$12
Somewhere between Grimes, CVRCHES, and Madonna is Mozart’s Sister, the project of Montrealer Caila Thompson-Hannant. Her powerful vocals, thumping beats, and blinding light shows will keep you dancing all night long. This show will be quite the party, especially given that it’s happening at the newly- renovated Il Motore, now Bar Le Ritz PDB.

November 22, Evening: The Muscadettes, The New York Kleps, Mise en Scene
L’Escogriffe at 10:00 p.m.
$8
Twin sisters Chantal and Kathleen Ambridge are The Muscadettes, a Montreal garage rock band straight out of the early nineties. Orleans’ The New York Kleps are rockers of an earlier age, channelling – yep, you guessed it – The New York Dolls. Get your ripped jeans out and jump around for the last night of M for Montreal.


M for Montreal runs November 19 to 22. Click here for the full schedule.

 

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Yahong Chi <![CDATA[Getting bitter with DarkMatter]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39265 2014-11-16T22:47:10Z 2014-11-17T11:01:56Z Poetry duo uses comedy, emotion to deconstruct bourgeois queer identity

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In 2010, the launch of the It Gets Better Project made the phrase synonymous with LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer) rights, promising a better future for youth facing harassment and violence. But late last Friday evening, art/activist duo DarkMatter pointed out in a packed McGill lecture hall that in reality, this promise was reserved for white, cis LGBTQ individuals. Through spoken word pieces that were sometimes vulnerable and occasionally aggressive, but always intensely personal, DarkMatter took on the intersections of hierarchies that continue to dominate queer movements.

DarkMatter’s performance “It Gets Bitter” was the keynote event in the five-day Culture Shock series held by the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill and SSMU, with an introduction by Kama Maureemootoo and Kai Cheng Thom. DarkMatter is a duo composed of Janani Balasubramanian and Alok Vaid-Menon, two trans South Asian activists and artists. Their spoken word poetry, performed sometimes individually and sometimes together, was interspersed with explanations and discussion of their work. The interplay of poetry and conversation allowed for an informal atmosphere that belied their no-holds-barred approach to concepts such as colonialism, gender-race relations, and transnational movements.

This head-on style of performance was exemplified in the poem “It Gets Bourgie” project. Performed by both artists, the poem was framed as a letter addressed to Dan Savage, the founder of the It Gets Better Project. The phrase “it gets bourgie,” a direct reference to the “it gets better” movement’s bourgeois undertones, and pop culture references such as “Like. Share. Colonize. Repeat!” were laden with irony, grounding DarkMatter’s critiques in the everyday. The poem moved at a brisk pace, enhanced by the fluid back-and-forth between Balasubramanian and Vaid-Menon. It was during these collaborative poems that the duo was at its best, their overlapping voices creating both a dialogue and a rant.

While their delivery was impressive, it was the personal nature of DarkMatter’s poetry that gave it weight. The duo exposed their pain to the audience, sharing searing memories of the damage they have experienced through a racist queer hierarchy. When Vaid-Menon asked, “Can I show you what it means to wear my body as a wound?” or when Balasubramanian declared, “I can only use a band-aid if I understand why I’m bleeding/It might not be my blood,” they presented real, tangible effects of oppression in their lives. This emotion was met with snaps, shouts, and cries from the audience – DarkMatter knows how to connect with its crowd.

When Vaid-Menon asked, “Can I show you what it means to wear my body as a wound?” or when Balasubramanian declared, “I can only use a band-aid if I understand why I’m bleeding/It might not be my blood,” they presented real, tangible effects of oppression in their lives.

But the duo were equally as skilled in using humour as in using raw feeling to make a point. Balasubramanian performed a piece on the ingestion of others’ intestinal microflora, a microorganism of the digestive tract, by consuming their feces, hence constructing a metaphor for the internalization of white colonial histories through elaborate poop puns and pinpoint commentary. Another lethal combination of comedy, popular culture, and scathing critique was the collaboration “An Open Letter to the Basic White Witches of Hogwarts, from Parvati and Padma Patil.” The audience teetered between laughter and solemn shock, caught off-guard by the brutal blend of humour and truth.

DarkMatter ended the evening with a Q&A during which they noted that, often, people take in their shows as art distinct from the social movements that inspired them. It is important, they emphasized, to actually partake in activism and real-world efforts against the harmful structures of colonialism, queerphobia, and racism. In making explicit the link between their art and their activism, DarkMatter was able to not only critique a white, hierarchical gay movement, but to also suggest effective ways of dismantling it. Their performance was not only an experience and a revelation, for the attendees: it was a call to action.

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Igor Sadikov <![CDATA[Demilitarize McGill stages protest]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39292 2014-11-15T07:37:50Z 2014-11-17T11:01:31Z Group takes critical look at Remembrance Day celebrations

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On November 11, Demilitarize McGill held a rally on the sidelines of the Remembrance Day celebrations at McGill, seeking to raise awareness among onlookers of facts about the Canadian military that go unmentioned in the official celebration. Protesters stood in silence, holding posters and refusing to engage with bypassers. Messages on the posters touched on sexual assault in the military, weapons manufacturing, civilian casualty statistics, and torture.

During the demonstration, police officers approached the protesters and asked them to leave. After the demonstrators refused to comply, the police did not press the issue and left the scene.

The protest proved controversial among members of the McGill community, with many saying that the rally was disrespectful and in bad taste.

“The enraged reactions from a number of people lend credibility to our basic claim about Remembrance Day, which is that it is an exercise in selective memory, organized to enforce the forgetting of any element of war that conflicts with the story the Canadian state wants to tell about itself,” Demilitarize McGill wrote of the reaction to the protest in a statement published on the group’s Facebook page.

NEWS_Remberance Day Protests_Tamim Sujat_WEB-1Tamim Sujat | The McGill Daily

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Christian Favreau <![CDATA[Not just another play within a play]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39273 2014-11-16T22:09:12Z 2014-11-17T11:01:22Z Players’ Theatre presents Six Characters in Search of an Author

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If language is constructed based on individual perceptions of our surroundings, then how can subjective reality ever be shared? Anna Gordon wrestles with this tension between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ in her interpretation of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, presented by Players’ Theatre.

Six Characters opens with a director and his actors during a play rehearsal. Before long, a masked family of six interrupts the rehearsal, claiming to be unfinished characters in search of an author. The six characters explain that they came into this near existence from the mind of an author, who then denied them full life when he abandoned them as figments of his imagination. The Director, played by Mal Cleary, allows The Characters to tell their story; The Director’s Actors become a second audience, and a meta play-within-a-play ensues.

The nameless Characters tell their family history to The Actors in the hope that they will perform their story, granting them full existence. They explain that The Mother (Julianna Astorino) and The Father (Nicholas LePage) have an illegitimate child, The Son (Oskar Flemer), while The Mother subsequently had three more children with another man who died. They tell The Actors of their complex familial relations, centring on The Stepdaughter’s (Mars Zaslavsky) work as a sex worker, due to her family’s poverty. The initial explanation, however, is only one version of the family’s story. As the play goes on, The Actors begin to act out The Characters’ story, and contradicting perspectives and narratives are revealed. In an interview with The Daily, director Anna Gordon pointed out that each of The Characters “has a different telling of the story.”

On stage, the six Characters echo Gordon, admitting that the words that create their reality are tricky and interpretive, and their meanings always subjective. Six Characters challenges the audience to grapple with contradictory accounts that are all, to an extent, both true and false. This dilemma is the essence of the play, as The Director and his Actors struggle to see that representing a universally true life experience on stage is impossible.

“we all live in our own internal worlds and our entire perceptual systems are mediated by our own inner experiences. […] Humans are constantly performing.” – Anna Gordon, director of Six Characters in Search of an Author

Busting the myth of objective truth, Pirandello’s play also collapses the barrier between reality and performance, as The Director and his Actors struggle to wrap their heads around their uncanny situation. Since The Characters are fictitious, yet truly alive on stage, they cannot be understood as anything but corporeal. Their reality is bound to The Actors’ subjective interpretation and performance of that reality, and vice versa. Gordon explained to The Daily that “we all live in our own internal worlds and our entire perceptual systems are mediated by our own inner experiences. […] Humans are constantly performing.” By this logic, theatre and real life are inextricably intertwined. Neither is anything but the active shaping of an ongoing story.

Normally, this classic theatrical trope – the ‘play-within-the-play’ – could be considered overdone, if not for the theme of Six Characters. The existential struggles that define this particular play-within-a-play make it necessary for it to be confusing, fragmented, and mind-boggling.

Thankfully, the Players’ cast and director guide the audience, rendering the confusion beautiful. To contrast the many layers of the plot, the stage is, for the most part, bare. The only constant prop is the white shadow screens, with actors posed behind to display creepy tableaus in the background of the set. The screens add a whole other dimension to the play: while the action on stage occurs, the audience also experiences the reactions of the offstage family, as they fear the upcoming, inevitable pain of the family on stage.

Along with the play’s mind-bending nature, Gordon’s blocking of movement also plays an essential role. The constant and dramatic movement on stage – running, pacing, and falling to one’s knees – simplifies the plot, giving the two audiences space to breathe as they try to understand all that happens.

The costumes, too, enhance not only the show’s aesthetics but also its accessibility. The Characters all wear white plaster masks, which separate Actor from Character. The patterned masks make their faces look as if they had been sketched, much like unfinished drawings. Each character has a different set of eyebrows painted on their mask, which reveal their dominant emotion, such as sadness or anger. The Father’s is hardest to pin down, perfectly in line with his wiliness.

Unfortunately, the masks also prevent facial expression, and as such The Characters rely on their voices to deliver emotion. Much of the time, the actors resort to increasing their volume to convey strong feelings. This constant noise quickly loses its effect, leaving the actors with little variety in their vocal tones. Volume is a powerful tool, but in smaller doses. The actors do, however, maintain believability – particularly LePage and Zaslavsky, who strengthen each other’s acting through the clash between their characters. The masked children are also especially engaging; Flemer’s stage presence is full of energy, complementing Natasha Ukolova’s eerie non-speaking part. Cleary, as The Director, takes full advantage of his unmasked face to convey emotion, his eyes acquiring an excited look whenever The Director was particularly inspired by the play.

Six Characters in Search of an Author is a mix of heavy dramatism, absurdism, meta-theatre, and comedy. Players’ Theatre takes a confusing narrative and turns it into a sophisticated spectacle, inviting you to get lost in the layers.


Six Characters in Search of an Author runs November 19 to 22 at Players’ Theatre (SSMU Building, third floor). Tickets are $6 for students.

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David V <![CDATA[Toward (in)visibility]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=39242 2014-11-15T03:15:18Z 2014-11-17T11:01:19Z On being a student and a sex worker

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*The information presented in this article and by Scarlet Solidarity is not intended to influence anyone to commit an illegal act. Scarlet Solidarity is a tool offered to sex workers so they may improve the quality of their lives and their working conditions.

The truth is we are everywhere: in bars, on the street, on TV, in the personals section of Craigslist. But you probably don’t think you know someone who would do this. I mean, who in their right mind would choose to sell themselves to random people? Who in their right mind would actively seek out strangers and offer their bodies for a quick buck? Who would degrade themselves in that way? Who would choose to be a sex worker? I did. And will likely continue to do so.

The truth is, sex workers are your friends, your coworkers, your past and future lovers, and maybe even your future late-night companions. We’re also your fellow students, and like many students, we sometimes find it stressful to balance work and school. Add in a dash of illegality to that work, and you can begin to understand the precarious situation of sex workers in Canada today.

Many well-intentioned people agree that, in order to make sex work safer, there is a need to decriminalize the industry. However, many fail to take into account the reality of those they are seeking to support and ‘protect.’ We are pushed toward invisibility even by our ‘allies.’ We are pushed toward working in secret, and navigating the shaky boundaries between what is legal and what is not.

It is important to acknowledge, though, that the solution to being silenced is not necessarily a monolithic push toward visibility. Indeed, many in the industry prefer to remain anonymous.

And frankly, I do feel like my work is shameful. We can, and should, attempt to be as sex work-positive as we can, but after centuries of shaming and degradation, sex workers can’t help but internalize some of that shame. This is why I prefer to remain anonymous, even to some of my closest friends.

The truth is we are everywhere: in bars, on the street, on TV, in the personals section of Craigslist. But you probably don’t think you know someone who would do this. I mean, who in their right mind would choose to sell themselves to random people?

 

If we truly are going to switch to a sex work-positive attitude, then answer me: would you consider purchasing sex from someone? Not everyone would want to. If you wouldn’t either, would you demonize those who do so? We all need to question how far we are willing to go in order to be truly pro-sex worker. You don’t have to buy sex, but you do at least have to support those who do, and those who sell.

I entered the industry online, mainly working through the M4M (men for men) section on Craigslist, and in gay bathhouses, in both cases dealing mainly with male clients. In the beginning, I was trying to find someone who could help me pay for school, as well as other things. University tuition is pricey, and I really do enjoy sex and spending time with people. That makes this kind of work perfect for my skill set. I’m still very new to the scene, and, to be honest, the biggest surprise is how much work it is. Sex work is a job, and it’s one that is about making someone happy, and providing a space for people to explore their own and someone else’s body.

I’ve talked to clients who really wanted to lose their virginity but were too intimidated to seek that experience out in the usual way. They wanted to take the pressure off by hiring someone to help them with their first time. I’ve talked to clients who wanted to try a new fantasy, but couldn’t find a partner who was interested in doing it. I’ve talked to clients who really just wanted to connect with someone who wasn’t in their life in any other way. I’ve also talked to clients who were dealing with past sexual trauma and wanted someone who would take the time to guide them slowly through another sexual experience.

But as with any other job, there are certainly aspects that are less than desirable. There’s no question that it can be a little scary sometimes: sketchy clients, people not wanting to pay upfront, having to go to gigs alone. On top of this, many of us feel shame from even our closest friends, allies, and partners. What’s much scarier, though, are the ways that the current Canadian government constantly seeks to make our work more dangerous.

Sex workers engage in an occupation whose main source of income (our clients) is criminalized. Furthermore, active efforts to make our work safer are also criminalized. What I do is largely illegal, and this makes my job increasingly more dangerous.

Sex workers engage in an occupation whose main source of income (our clients) is criminalized. Furthermore, active efforts to make our work safer are also criminalized. What I do is largely illegal, and this makes my job increasingly more dangerous.

This is the reason why, last year, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down laws that prevented sex workers from living off the avails of their work and working out of brothels. The laws essentially made sex work unsafe, which is why the court asked them to be amended. To much disappointment, the amended legislation put forward in Bill C-36 criminalizes the advertising and buying of sexual services, while decriminalizing the sale of sexual services. This includes interactions between pimps, johns, and sex workers themselves, This is an affront to our work and and our lives.

How are we supposed to continue our work if our revenue streams are cut off? How is making our clients fear persecution from the police supposed to make sex workers safer? Making our clients fear being arrested puts our negotiations with clients in a dangerous and precarious position. We need space and time so that we can negotiate agreements with our clients and ensure our safety.

Bill C-36 criminalizes the advertising and buying of sexual services, while decriminalizing the sale of sexual services. This includes interactions between pimps, johns, and sex workers themselves, This is an affront to our work and and our lives.

Bill C-36 is not what we want, and yet it’s supposed to ‘protect us.’ These so-called progressive laws are meant to help ‘victims’ of the sex trade get out of the industry. But in reality this only acts to cut off our source of income, by effectively putting us out of a job. The irony is that the state wants you to have a job, but only so long as you’re not selling blowjobs for $100. The state is not, and never was, interested in us or our protection. To survive, we have to help ourselves.

Luckily, there are resources available to McGill students affected by Bill C-36. Scarlet Solidarity is a for-us-by-us peer support group for sex workers who are also students in some capacity. We want to create a community of support for our fellow sex workers, so that we can protect each other, help each other, and support each other.

Sex workers all over Canada are pulling up their bootstraps, tightening their corsets, and lubing up for the post-Bill C-36 world. It will be tough, but we are resilient, strong, and here for each other.

And trust us, if we’re half as good at helping ourselves as we are at keeping you company at night, sex workers will continue to thrive in whatever oppressive conditions we are put in. Until sex work becomes decriminalized, we will continue to prosper in an environment that constantly seeks to punish us and deny our right to engage in this work.


David V is a pseudonym used by a student who works with Scarlet Solidarity. If you are interested in finding out more, or have any other questions, please email scarletsolidarity@gmail.com.

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