The McGill Daily Not the NYT since 1911 2015-02-01T18:16:12Z WordPress Igor Sadikov <![CDATA[PGSS Secretary-General resigns amid tensions in the executive]]> 2015-01-31T07:55:24Z 2015-01-30T20:25:42Z BRIEF

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On January 20, Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Secretary-General Juan Camilo Pinto submitted a letter of resignation to the PGSS executive. If PGSS Council accepts Pinto’s resignation at its next meeting on February 3, a special election for an interim Secretary-General will be held from February 18 to 24.

Pinto, who indicated that his resignation was motivated by personal reasons, will continue to fill the position until February 16. “Working at PGSS is a full-time job,” he told The Daily. “I had to decide whether I was furthering my research and working on my project or continuing with PGSS so […] that’s why I’m quitting PGSS, and also there’s a family situation that I have to take care of back in Colombia.”

On November 13, the PGSS Board of Directors passed a motion of censure against Pinto following complaints from PGSS members about his conduct. The PGSS executive later voted “no” during an informal vote of confidence regarding the Secretary-General on December 10.

“I think there were huge communication problems between the [Secretary-General] and the exec,” Member Services Officer Brighita Lungu told The Daily in an interview. “The communication problems […] made a lot things very complicated, so we hope that with this new resignation and the next [Secretary-General] things will go more swiftly and more easily.”

Chief Returning Officer Colby Briggs indicated in an interview with The Daily that several people had already expressed interest in the position, though Pinto originally ran unopposed and was elected with 61.3 per cent of the vote last May.

“I was actually quite surprised, there’s been a handful of people coming forward [to express interest],” said Briggs. “For the interim elections there’s about three people I already heard about.”

Members of the PGSS executive remain confident that they will be able to integrate the new Secretary-General into the team, and that the change in the position will not interfere with their work.

“The executive committee is committed to making sure that the projects that we started continue,” Financial Affairs Officer Nikki Meadows told The Daily. “I think there are things that may work better.”

“I don’t think it’s a huge challenge [to integrate a new Secretary-General],” added Lungu. “I think we have all the potential to support them.”

The nomination period began January 26 and runs until February 9.



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Alice Dutrut <![CDATA[Unfit to Print | January 27 2015]]> 2015-01-29T22:36:08Z 2015-01-29T22:36:08Z In this episode of Unfit to Print, we bring you headlines from McGill […]

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In this episode of Unfit to Print, we bring you headlines from McGill and Montreal news, preview coverage of Queer McGill’s Rad Sex Week and a special piece on prison divestment.

Unfit to Print is a bi-weekly news show produced by student contributors. It airs every other Tuesday on Off the Hour between 5-6pm on CKUT 90.3fm.


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Emmet Livingstone <![CDATA[“This trial is all show business”]]> 2015-01-29T15:39:11Z 2015-01-29T15:39:11Z AUTS’ Chicago offers more than glitz and glamour

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Murder usually makes for good entertainment. The Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society’s (AUTS) winter production, Chicago, pairs calculated murder with desire for fame and sex. Its characters prance and sing against a ritzy, prohibition-era backdrop with callous indifference to their crimes. This showy exterior, however, hides the fact that satire, not glamour, is what sustains Chicago – a feature of the story thankfully highlighted by director Debora Friedmann.

The musical turns around Roxie Hart (Vanessa Drunsnitzer), a chorus girl who murders her lover and convinces her husband to take the rap, only to be found out and sent to prison. Facing a trial that might result in a death sentence, Hart is desperate – but not remorseful. Her associates on the cell block are a colourful array of criminals, all of whom are jailed for similar reasons. Mama (Nour Malek) controls the jail, but Roxie’s real nemesis is Velma Kelly (Natalie Aspinall). A vaudeville-washout turned murderer, Velma hopes to capitalize on the press obsession with her case to revive her career. This is Roxie’s plan, too: though she initially contacts celebrity lawyer Billy Flynn (Kenny Wong) to help clear her name, she quickly begins to pine for glamour and recognition.

“[I] decided to simplify everything and rely solely on the movement and the acting to tell the story.”

AUTS’ production began cautiously on opening night, with actors taking time to ease into their roles, and their voices. A few gags fell short, but Roxie’s arrival in prison marked the turning point. The cast came into their own with inmates dancing and singing the “Cell Block Tango,” an act that puts a humorous twist on a catalogue of murders. Generally, the singing in AUTS’ Chicago is commendable. Especially strong performances came from Drunsnitzer as Roxie and Jessica Eckstadt as Mary Sunshine, a naïve but loveable columnist who delivers her songs in a comically grand falsetto.

The show overall was more impressive when it came to the less theatrical sequences, particularly those that satirized the corruption of the American justice system.

The success of character-driven shows like Chicago relies on strong individual performances. Part of the charm of the AUTS production is its pared-down aesthetics, which focus our attention on these compelling characters. The “Cell Block Tango” routine takes place on the minimalist, jazz-bar set, cleverly lit with showbiz spotlights or cabaret shades of red; the simplicity unclutters any distractions. In an interview with The Daily, Friedmann discussed this set choice, stating that she “decided to simplify everything and rely solely on the movement and the acting to tell the story.” Friedmann explained that, accordingly, rehearsals for the show were “focused on training the hell out of the performers,” noting that this production differs from more typical Broadway productions in its simplicity.

In relying on movement and acting to tell the story, the show was particularly successful. However, the show overall was more impressive when it came to the less theatrical sequences, particularly those that satirized the corruption of the American justice system. Presumed innocent by Mama, a Hungarian woman (Colby Koecher) asks, “Will Uncle Sam like me?” in an increasingly desperate tone before being hanged. Disturbingly too, the press corps is choreographed to bob around like marionettes, manipulated by lawyers who distract them from the truth. Finally, in the closing act, Velma winks at the audience and says, “America is a fair and just country.” There is open laughter from the audience.

After a year marked by judicial failures in the U.S., the satire is particularly poignant. The strength of AUTS’ Chicago is that it underlines the message of the original play, but does so while incorporating the best traditions from the Broadway version: it’s funny, it’s sexed-up, and the music is catchy. Chicago definitely entertains, but it also points to the disturbing link between trials and show business, provoking us to reflect on what lies behind the act.


Chicago runs from January 29 to January 31 at 7:30 p.m. in McGill’s Moyse Hall.

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Peter Zhi <![CDATA[Philosopher reflects on experience in Iranian prison]]> 2015-01-29T00:06:47Z 2015-01-29T00:06:47Z Ramin Jahanbegloo preaches non-violence during book launch at McGill

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Ramin Jahanbegloo – intellectual, philosopher, and former prisoner in Iran – officially launched his book, Time Will Say Nothing: A Philosopher Survives an Iranian Prison, at McGill on January 19, Martin Luther King Jr. day. The event was hosted by the McGill Centre for Human Rights & Legal Pluralism.

The centrepiece of the event, and the main subject of Jahanbegloo’s memoir, was his harrowing experiences in section 209 of Iran’s infamous Evin Prison where he was detained for four months in the summer of 2006, under the rule of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Jahanbegloo was imprisoned for allegedly conspiring with other countries with the intention of causing a “soft overthrow” in Iran, among other accusations. Jahanbegloo denied this accusation, noting that it was incompatible with with his philosophy of non-violence.

“Non-violence actually tells you how to fight for justice not only in the books and going to tribunals […] but at the same time through educating the citizens,” said Jahanbegloo, emphasizing the need for critical thought.

Jahanbegloo emphasized his struggle in day-to-day solitary confinement, which he said increased the risk of “losing your mind.” Jahanbegloo’s only connection to the outside world was access to a rooftop terrace during a weekly 15-minute break, and he also had access to a few philosophical texts. “[I would] read out loud […] to hear myself speak,” he said.

“Non-violence actually tells you how to fight for justice not only in the books and going to tribunals […] but at the same time through educating the citizens.”

Jahanbegloo also spoke of his experience being interrogated while in prison, describing being blindfolded during interrogation and being continually under heavy pressure to make false confessions. Not being allowed a lawyer or any outside contacts, he eventually confessed to false claims.

“In a country where having a law doesn’t mean anything,” Jahanbegloo said, “there is no way to defend yourself against a system like that.”

Jahanbegloo’s confession was ultimately not used against him after international pressure and UN-led negotiations resulted in his release.

Jahanbegloo said that despite his experience, he remains faithful to his philosophy of non-violence.

“I am even more convinced of non-violence,” he declared. “It is the most pragmatic response to violence in our societies.”

Jahanbegloo connected this view to contemporary Canada and what he referred to as “Bruce Willis” or “Die Hard” syndrome. “[People think] there are the good guys and the bad guys and the good guys destroy the bad guys,” he said, adding that education and critical reflection should be used to combat such sharp dichotomies.

Some audience members found Jahanbegloo’s call to question ideas very applicable to their own circumstances. “We are inculcated in law in a certain way without questioning,” Amanda Ghahremani, a third-year law student and one of the event’s organizers, told The Daily. “Law isn’t just about what’s in the books, but is also about how people organize themselves and how people live.”

“To be able to question what you are doing and question what you are learning and be critical is important,” Ghahremani continued.

Arash Aslani, an Iranian who was held and tortured at Evin Prison for two years before coming to Canada in 2004, where he was detained at Laval’s Canadian Immigration Prevention Center for 11 consecutive months, concurred with Ghahremani’s interpretation of the talk.

“Canadians believe that the government is right,” Aslani said, “and nobody asks questions. […] I tell people my story and they are so surprised, because they cannot believe that it is the government doing that.”

Having had his own experiences of discrimination from the Canadian government, Aslani said he does not live under an illusion of security and freedom granted by the government.

“Trust in the government is the worst,” Aslani told The Daily. “Always question; don’t just accept.”

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Madison Smith <![CDATA[Pay to play]]> 2015-01-28T21:14:20Z 2015-01-26T11:59:52Z Dispelling the myth of amateurism

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Trouble is brewing in the kingdom of American college sports. If the professional pigskin prognosticators are to be believed, we may be soon be sounding the death knell of that dearly-held principle of college athletics: its so-called amateurism.

First of all, a little background for those of you not from the land of good-ol-boys and ‘freedom.’ In the U.S., college athletics is a seriously big business. It is governed by the National College Athletics Association (NCAA), which in 2013 raked in $912.8 million in revenue, most of which comes from television deals and other media and marketing sources, like lending its name to sports video games. The schools with top-level sports teams, like University of Texas, can earn over $100 million per year in revenue from their sports teams. Top football and basketball coaches earn millions of dollars per year. Yet, despite all this money, the NCAA prohibits players from being paid for their work in any form except receiving scholarships, and, more bizarrely, prevents them from earning money through any means related to their athletic performance, including selling their autographs or endorsing products. The NCAA even regulates how athletes may make money in their pre-college careers, making star high school athletes who accept endorsement deals ineligible for playing college sports.

The NCAA justifies making tons of money off of its players without compensating them by appealing to the hallowed amateurism that it argues has been the defining characteristic of college sports. The president of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, has argued that allowing players to endorse products and accept other corporate deals would leave them vulnerable to exploitation by big business. Harris Pastides, the president of the University of South Carolina, recently stated that a core part of the college sports experience was that the athletes were “not yet corrupted by money and other financial influences.” Another popular defence of the NCAA’s employment practices, taken here from an NCAA legal brief, is that by not paying student athletes, the organization is letting them do “what students do rather than trying to make as much money as possible, which is what professionals do”– in other words, making them focus on their education rather than on money.

Is amateurism really as important to the soul of college sports as the NCAA argues? Probably not. With regards to the ‘make them focus on their education’ defence, no one makes similar arguments about other on-campus jobs like working in the dining hall or at the bookstore.

Many college students successfully manage to learn and make money simultaneously. Similarly, who would say that somebody who worked at the campus bookstore was ‘corrupted’ by their paycheck? Is everyone who receives money for the provision of goods or services ‘impure’ in some way? Why should college athletes be held to a different standard than the rest of society?

Getting back to the first defence, that college athletes would be exploited by corporate interests if allowed to capitalize on their fame financially, one is tempted to say that this is already happening, except the exploiter is the NCAA itself, and its partners such as ESPN and game manufacturer Electronic Arts (EA). Emmert mounted the exploitation defense in a court case that pitted the NCAA against Ed O’Bannon, a former U.S. college basketball star. O’Bannon argued that the NCAA was making money off of the likenesses of players used in the popular licensed NCAA video games published by EA. The NCAA had tried to avoid this kind of lawsuit by making the players in the games nameless and creating intentionally inaccurate player models for them, but their jersey numbers and gameplay attributes made it obvious that the virtual players were meant to represent real players on real college teams. This was not the first time the NCAA has been caught exploiting the fame of specific players for financial gain; in 2013, ESPN college basketball commentator Jay Bilas found that when he searched for star players’ names in the NCAA online store he was taken to links to buy the jerseys worn by those players, despite the NCAA’s insistence that it does not make profit from individual players’ names or reputations. This revelation came during a time when then-college star quarterback Johnny Manziel was under fire for selling his own autograph for profit. The NCAA’s anti-exploitation argument seems more like an ‘only we are allowed to exploit the players!’ argument.

Lest you think I protest too much in support of a student body population that is already coddled and showered with perks, consider this: yes, many of the players at top tier sports schools get full scholarships, but these do not cover the full cost of going to school. According to a recent study by the National College Players Association and Drexel University, the average university athlete with a full scholarship still had to cover $3,222 in expenses per year, and if they had no other source of income than their scholarship living stipend, 85 per cent of full scholarship players would live below the U.S. federal poverty line. Keeping in mind that not all college athletes come from a privileged background and that being a top-level college athlete is a full-time job, it is easy to see how it would be hard for even students with scholarships to make financial ends meet.

Change, however, might be on the horizon. That court case I mentioned earlier, NCAA v. O’Bannon, was decided in O’Bannon’s favor. The judge’s injunction was relatively tame, stipulating that the NCAA could not prevent schools from paying players up to the full cost of attending school, in addition to a $5,000 per year trust from a share of the media money to be received on graduation. Accepting endorsement deals and selling memorabilia is still forbidden for players. Nevertheless, this decision could be the beginning of a huge change in how the NCAA does business, depending on how other pending lawsuits are decided. Perhaps players will finally be able to earn pay for their work and for their image, like everyone else in the America theoretically has the right to do.

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Daniel Galef <![CDATA[So we’ve cut the budget again, eh?]]> 2015-01-26T15:28:34Z 2015-01-26T11:11:56Z What are you going to do about it?

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Good evening, welcome back, and, most importantly, good evening. I address you as the University’s Dean of Treasury to inform you regarding the recent regrettable but necessary budget cuts. Since when have we had a Dean of the Treasury, and what happened to the Bursar, you ask? Why hasn’t he reported in, after the break? Why are the accounts information documents missing? I assure you, the investigation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, a few cutbacks will have to be instituted to preserve our reputation and maintain what’s truly important here: the football team. They’ve already run through the budget earmarked for the next quarter’s supply of steroids and caviar.

Obviously, Arts will just have to go. All of it. We’ll scrap the scripts and scalp the sculptors, pawn the poets Byron-get-one-free. Science will have to take one for the team, too: the swimming team, who will be flooding what is now lab space to practice for regionals, our swimming pool having been foreclosed upon.

Worry not: we will press on, one way or another. Our Alma Mater is not going to roll over and die like Rutherford Burnside, local poutine tycoon and anti-education lobbyist, who just so happened to will us his fortune after his mysterious demise earlier this morning. No, we shall continue as best we can: still will we disassociate ourselves from the surrounding townie rabble, still will we secretly develop superweapons to bring about Armageddon, still will we spend months locked in committee arguing about how properly to break up arguments under Roddick’s Rules of Order. We are still the same old college, so let’s give our new, bankrupt existence the old college try.

Naturally, some minor changes must be made. Mrs. Michaud, the college widow, will start charging. A toll will be collected at all university gates, and also at the doors to most classrooms. Students graduating will be expected to tip the dean when you shake hands onstage.

A new grading system has been implemented, under which, according to this handy chart that we can’t publish (printing charts is expensive), you may receive additional consideration in matters of merit in exchange for entirely uncompensated donations to the university. Professors’ salaries are to be cut from two cents an hour to one cent plus whatever crumbs they may scrounge from the faculty lounge, and adjuncts’ salaries are to be cut from nothing to paying the university for the privilege of working here. A $1 application fee will be attached to all handed-in assignments, with an included 20 per cent gratuity for not ‘accidentally’ losing it.

Lastly, all students will be put to work in the salt mines below campus in twenty-hour shifts eased with two thirty-second breaks for ditch-water and hardtack. Flashlights and digging implements will be reserved for Dean’s List students. Failing students will serve as canaries. Complementary whips will be provided, courtesy of the TAs.
Thank you for your attention, and please insert fifty cents to continue reading.

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Tamim Sujat <![CDATA[A beginner’s guide to hackathons]]> 2015-01-24T08:18:15Z 2015-01-26T11:05:44Z Hackathons are events where people interested in software development come together to solve […]

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Hackathons are events where people interested in software development come together to solve problems, start new projects, and learn or trade skills with each other. Since the early 2000s, hackathons have gained global popularity for the innovative projects they have produced. As some hackers like to say, hackathons are the most educational events in the life of a computer programmer.

Hackathons are not just for programmers, but for people in all fields interested in building new things. Anyone, including designers, engineers, or business and arts students can find an inquisitive role in a hackathon team. Last week, HackMcGill, a group of student hackers at McGill, organized an event called “Hackathon Bootcamp” to inspire people who are new to hackathons.The event targeted the key aspects of making a hackathon successful both as an individual and as a team. The group dispelled certain hackathon myths, such as the misconception that sleeping is not allowed during a hackathon. In reality, hackathons don’t necessarily mean staying awake for 48 hours, and, in fact, adequate sleep and breaks are crucial for creating a productive working environment. Another myth equating hackathons with programming competitions was also dismissed. Hackathons are more akin to a learning environment than a competition; however, depending on the organizers, sometimes prizes are offered.

Deepanjan Roy, a U3 Computer Science student and the director of HackMcGill, gave some key insights. For example, most hackathon’s entries are based on lotteries, and there are no barriers for entry in terms of experience or knowledge, which means that even if someone does not particularly know programming, they can still get in. According to Roy, in order to maximize the hackathon experience, it’s important to have a positive attitude and be open to learning new things. So don’t be shy, and ask questions, since in every hackathon, there are always people willing to help out in many ways. Among Roy’s other tips are staying hydrated, being aware of caffeine overdoses, and having some comfortable sleeping attire or even sleeping bags.

While hackathons are free to attend, transportation often poses a problem, as costs can easily become unfeasible on a student budget.

HackMcGill often organizes bus trips to larger hackathons in Canada and the U.S.. Recently, HackMcGill visited MHacks in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and PennApps in Philadelphia. These bus trips give students the ability to attend at minimal cost.

Some previous hackathon participants include Hannah Cohen, a U2 Computer Science and Linguistics student at McGill. Cohen worked on a Jedi knight game where the user can control a spaceship through movements with the help of the Myo armband, a gesture control bracelet, and Oculus Rift virtual reality headset at the Montreal-based hackathon WearHacks. According to Cohen, it was the first time she worked on a hardware-based project, and recalls it as being a great learning experience. Another participant, David Cottrell, a U3 Honours Computer Science student, worked with two other students to create FuzzBeed, which can be described as a computer-generated BuzzFeed parody. FuzzBeed has gained recently popularity on Twitter and other social media sites.

Ashin Vinodh, one the members of a top-ten team of PennApps. Vinodh, an engineering student at the University of California, Los Angeles, worked with three other teammates on a project called “3DJ.” The project uses the Myo armband and leap sensors to detect various motions and process them. The resulting program allows the user to compose music with spatial gestures.

Although there are some barriers to entry for hackathons in terms of transportation costs, they are still valuable educational venues open to students from all majors. In fact, there is a hackathon happening at McGill from February 21 to February 22, so you can experience your first hackathon without having to travel. Whether you choose to go as a beginner or expert, it could be a valuable experience to have.

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Nicolas Lénart <![CDATA[The problem with diplomatic immunity]]> 2015-01-24T09:47:18Z 2015-01-26T11:05:17Z Vienna Convention forces us to accept harmful threats to our rights

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The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations governs diplomatic relations between most independent countries in the world; in total it contains 53 articles, two of which have incredibly disturbing real-world implications. Article 29 grants diplomatic agents a status of inviolability, thereby making them immune to all “form[s] of arrest or detention.” Article 22 grants the physical soil of diplomatic missions the same status of inviolability, thereby making them “immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.”

At first glance, the inviolability of diplomatic agents and of the premises of diplomatic missions appears reasonable. These two articles are supossed to protect foreign representatives against meddling from their host state. Upon closer examination though, it becomes evident that the status of absolute inviolability granted by these articles poses a serious threat to the rights and freedoms of people who come into contact with foreign diplomats in their own country.

The claim that the diplomatic agent’s person as well as the premises of the mission are inviolable is problematic. It assumes and makes the claim that the benefits derived from absolute inviolability always, and under all circumstances, outweigh all other considerations – even ones that may reasonably justify revoking a diplomat’s or a mission’s premises’ status of inviolability.

Upon closer examination though, it becomes evident that the status of absolute inviolability granted by these articles poses a serious threat to the rights and freedoms of people who come into contact with foreign diplomats in their own country.

To illustrate: on October 17, I stood alone outside Montreal’s Russian consulate with a poster reading “End state-sponsored hate propaganda” to protest against Russia’s blatant mistreatment of queer people. Throughout the entirety of the protest, two workers located on the consulate’s soil harassed, humiliated, and mocked me with countless discriminatory comments. After twenty minutes of enduring their discrimination, I left disheartened, hurt, and angered by the events that had taken place, and no longer able to enjoy the rights and freedoms guaranteed to me by Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. To remedy these rights violations, I contacted both the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Both commissions refused to investigate my claims, rightly arguing that consulate soil is beyond their jurisdiction.

Normally these two commissions view sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination and harassment. Under these particular circumstances though, articles 29 and 22 of the Vienna Convention deemed the discrimination that I experienced an irrelevant consideration. The only relevant consideration was that consulate soil is inviolable and thus not subject to investigation. Adherence to provincial, federal, and international law at the same time is not only harmful in this case, but completely contradictory.

Articles 22 and 29 of the Vienna Convention are problematic for another, equally important reason. Accountability is an essential mechanism through which individual rights are safeguarded and through which violations of these rights may be addressed. This accountability is an important – if not essential – aspect of justice, so we cannot readily accept the claim that diplomatic agents and the premises of their missions are inviolable. Making this claim has serious implications. The first implication is that neither diplomats nor people on the premises of a diplomatic mission can be held accountable for rights abuses. The second implication, which follows from the first, suggests that in the case of rights violations, in which the violator’s person is absolutely inviolable, the rights of the other individual are violable in an absolute sense.

This accountability is an important – if not essential – aspect of justice, so we cannot readily accept the claim that diplomatic agents and the premises of their missions are inviolable.

Unlike rights that are merely violable, rights that are violable in an absolute sense do not require the violator to provide sound justification in the case of a rights violation – an important precondition of any rights violation – and cannot be redressed by means of accountability, if ever the rights violation is found to be unjustified. Rights that are violable in an absolute sense may be violated without good reason and can never be remedied. In short, they are rights that may be overlooked and abused again and again. In order to better understand what exactly differentiates a right that is violable from a right which is violable in an absolute sense, it might be useful to consider the following example.

Take the example of a government that strictly prohibits a Neo-Nazi from distributing pamphlets containing anti-Semitic discourse. Let’s assume that in order to limit this individual’s freedom of expression, this government must provide a good reason, and to justify it. Let’s also assume, for the sake of argument, that if ever the justification underlying the rights violation (i.e. the limiting of the Neo-Nazi’s right to full and equal recognition and exercise of his freedoms) is found to be unconvincing, there exists a course of action capable of holding the government accountable for erroneously curtailing this individual’s freedom of expression. In this case, I would argue that the Neo-Nazi’s rights, in this case, are violable, but not violable in an absolute sense, because it is a right whose violation may occur once a good reason has been provided in addition to being a right whose violation may be remedied by means of accountability. If one removes both the good reason underlying the rights violation and the possibility of remedying the violation, only then would the Neo-Nazi’s right to full and equal exercise of their freedoms become what I call violable in an absolute sense.

Keeping in mind the distinction between a right that is violable and a right that is violable in an absolute sense, I’d like to, once again, examine the circumstances surrounding the protest I held. Throughout my protest, the two workers making the discriminatory comments were inviolable persons by virtue of being located on the premises of a diplomatic mission. As a result, my right to full and equal recognition and exercise of my human rights and freedoms was rendered violable in an absolute sense, because no good reason was required for the violators to be permitted to override my right, and because no course of action exists to remedy the rights violation I experienced. The absence of any good reason underlying the rights violation (and of any such course of action, I would argue) signals the absence of accountability and consequently, the absence of justice.

The absence of any good reason underlying the rights violation (and of any such course of action, I would argue) signals the absence of accountability and consequently, the absence of justice.

Because articles 22 and 29 remove the requirement that rights violations be justified and effectively prevent rights violations from being remedied by means of accountability, anyone who accepts the premise that accountability is central to social justice should be reluctant to accept these two articles.

Nonetheless, one might still want to argue that article 29 does not necessarily preclude all mechanisms by which accountability is achieved. After all, diplomats may be declared unwelcome if ever the host country deems their presence no longer desirable (as per article 9 of the Vienna Convention). It seems to me, however, that sending a person home does not qualify as holding a person accountable, for it fails to address the particularities of the offence – if there is one – and appears to be a course of action more suited to disciplining a misbehaving child.
Without a doubt, articles 22 and 29 serve some purpose; however, as things stand, they achieve these purposes by forcibly setting aside reason, accountability and justice, and thereby open up the door to irremediable and unjustified rights violations. If anyone is going to stand by these two articles, they must necessarily justify these significant concessions.

Nicolas Lénart is collecting signatures for a petition against diplomatic immunity. To contact him, and to sign his petition, send an email to


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Lauria Galbraith <![CDATA[Sympathy for the devil]]> 2015-01-24T04:01:39Z 2015-01-26T11:03:26Z Players’ Theatre recreates the creation story

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In her director’s note, Kristen Kephalas calls Arthur Miller’s The Creation of the World and Other Business “one of the worst comedies I’ve ever read.” A retelling of the Book of Genesis, this not-so funny comedy explores the biblical story in a new light. It begins with the creation of Eve, and ends just after Cain’s murder of Abel, attempting to find the humour in humanity’s loss of innocence. Under Kephalas’ direction, the Players’ Theatre production leans away from Miller’s awkward attempt at humour and instead plunges the audience into darker themes — questioning the righteousness of God and reconsidering Lucifer.

The play opens with God and Adam in the Garden of Eden. Adam (Alec MacMillan) is adorably naïve and utterly devoted. God (Frederic Rosenthal) creates a mate for Adam, whom Adam names Eve (Anna Queen). While they play together down in the Garden, the true conflict sets in with the introduction of Lucifer (Lucas Amato), who challenges God by advocating for Adam and Eve to find knowledge. The familiar struggle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ results in Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden, as well as the birth of their two sons, Cain (Clay Walsh) and Abel (Adam Almeida).

“Once the characters leave Eden, it’s almost like Arthur Miller left Eden and wasn’t able to find the comedy again.”

Thematic dichotomies run through the play with clear oppositions between Adam and Eve, God and Lucifer, and Cain and Abel. “The go-to one is good versus evil, because God is questionable in his morals,” Kephalas explains in an interview with The Daily. “But the other one that stuck out to me is this idea of blame and responsibility, because the characters are all really, really bad at taking responsibility for things.”

The narrative questions who holds the responsibility for humanity’s loss of innocence. While the play has a few light-hearted scenes that poke fun at the traditional story, like Adam naming the animals based solely on his favourite letter of the day or Eve being unable to make sense of her pregnant body, the light-hearted tone disappears as soon as Adam and Eve are expelled. Kephalas explains that “once the characters leave Eden, it’s almost like Arthur Miller left Eden and wasn’t able to find the comedy again.” Kephalas, too, dumps the comedy for tragedy. The transition culminates in a jolting scene as Eve goes into labour, her painful screams grabbing and shaking the audience.

The loss of innocence turns into a family drama as the characters attempt to remain pious despite their misdeeds. While Lucifer tries to expose God as deceitful, Cain’s growing anger toward his brother Abel makes the audience feel a nervous anticipation at their every interaction. When the dreaded murder comes, it’s vivid and heartbreaking. Walsh delivers a moving performance. The genuine disbelief and sorrow in his realization after the murder is as shocking as the intensity of his anger during the crime. As the play approaches its end, his acting evokes sympathy for the most violent character. The finale features Angels singing Hallelujah, bringing the play to a powerful close. Their psalms, which they repeat throughout the play, ironically singing God’s praises even during times of doubt, leave the audience to take it all in on an eerie note of disenchantment.

For the most part, the actors mostly find their way around the intricacies of this dark comedy, moving fluidly from the lightheartedness of the initial acts to the intensity of the later scenes. However, a few scenes are not executed as seamlessly. Adam and Eve struggle in their chemistry, and their discomfort in intimate scenes disrupts the believability of their romance. Similarly, the depiction of God as an arrogant control freak never reaches its full height in commanding the stage. While believable, Rosenthal doesn’t fully realize the the character’s grandeur.

Still, it’s possible that this underwhelming acting actually matches the play’s direction, as it challenges conventional understanding of the characters: in fact, it’s Amato’s performance as Lucifer that steals the show, with Amato commanding every scene he’s in. His portrayal of the crazed and creepy Angel-Demon is undeniably captivating, featuring an over-the-top devotion to God and bursts of fury toward the humans that breathe life into the play. Even when he’s lurking wordlessly in the background, Lucifer’s plotting smirks enhance each scene with a sense of dread as he slinks around the characters.

Allowing us to delight in the devil, The Creation of the World and Other Business brings an old story into new and fresh perspective. The Players’ production artfully and painfully brings to light the faults of each character, casting a sympathetic light on even their most sinful moments. Kephalas throws the spotlight on Miller’s darker scenes, transforming the awkward comedy into a gripping tragedy that invites viewers to question their conceptions of good, evil, and guilt.

The Creation of The World and Other Business runs from January 21 to January 24 and from January 28 to January 31. The show starts at 8 p.m.. Tickets are $6 for students and seniors and $10 for adults.

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Adam Salmond <![CDATA[Our broken engines]]> 2015-01-26T14:26:25Z 2015-01-26T11:02:42Z Multimedia exhibit reflects on the modern state of being

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In an era where multitasking is the norm and access to bite-size information abounds, our minds are scattered across different spaces in any given moment. This is our modern mental condition, at least according to “The Engine Room,” the newest multimedia exhibit at the artist-run centre Skol. Curated by Stéphanie Bertrand, the exhibition features works by three Greek artists, Katerina Athanasopoulou, Lena Athanasopoulou, and Zoe Giabouldaki, whose work reflects on this particular mental space — the engine room roaring in our heads.

In many of the pieces, use of crude juxtaposition mimics paradoxical states of mind. Lena Athanasopoulou’s untitled collage from 2011 shows pictures of sexual organs and other body parts superimposed on top of pages from a math textbook. Propped up on a plinth, the collage confronts us with both the sexual and rational aspects of ourselves. Reminiscent of teenage daydreaming in class, this youthful state of mind also acts as metaphor for the modern condition: over-stimulated, distracted, and conflicted.

Argonautica, an animation by Katerina Athanasopoulou, similarly collides vastly different images and stimuli. Gears and spinning galaxies intersect, while binary code streams across the foreground. In contrast to Lena Athanasopoulou’s collage, Argonautica reverses the relationship between the primal and the technical. Here, rational computation intrudes on a natural universe.

“[People] might one day be at a champagne opening, and the next day protesting in the streets, and they feel that there’s absolutely no disconnect between those two things.”

Many of the pieces brush up against each other and the effect is deliberately jarring. The choral music of Katerina Athanosopoulou’s animations echoes through the gallery space, crashing against the recurring beat of an octopus being tenderized in an untitled 2007 film from Giabouldaki. “The Engine Room” thus highlights how calculation and computation govern the modern world and clash with the organic. With aural and visual chaos, the exhibit recreates the stressful sensation which follows such a collision.

Bertrand explains that the sense of turmoil corresponds to the inner conflict of the modern human being who often holds incompatible attitudes and beliefs. Bertrand sees this conflict in people’s everyday lives, saying that “[people] might one day be at a champagne opening, and the next day protesting in the streets, and they feel that there’s absolutely no disconnect between those two things.”

Aside from grappling with inner conflicts, the exhibit also features a somewhat foggy socio-political commentary. The Greek financial crisis, which Bertrand describes in her curatorial statement as “manic arithmetic,” is an intended backdrop for the exhibit. In her statement, Bertrand characterizes the pieces as reflecting on the crisis’ social and emotional consequences.

“The crisis has dragged on so long that a sense of apathy has developed,” Bertrand says. “It sounds cheesy, but I wonder whether art can inspire [Greece] again.”

However, exactly how some of the pieces engage with the financial situation may be unclear for visitors who are either unfamiliar with the particulars of the crisis or unable to read the Greek text in the works. Bertrand explains that she chose not to provide curatorial comments in order to let the works speak for themselves. While the omission adds to the disorienting experience, it does so at the expense of the accessibility of the works on a more local level.

Further, while Bertrand suggests that art can usefully imagine alternatives to entrenched systems, she also questions whether it always plays a positive role in modern society. In fact, she expresses concern that art’s ability to portray paradoxes might help human beings to reconcile what are actually incongruous beliefs.

The works in “The Engine Room” seem to fall somewhere in between these two extremes: it is hard to find evidence of optimism for the future, but it is equally difficult to see any of the pieces as celebrations of the status quo. Even the humour on display, as in Giabouldaki’s video No More Tears, which compiles clips and animation from various shampoo commercials, feels wry.

Ultimately, “The Engine Room” seems more about an experience of fragmentation than any particular value judgement. The exhibit invites viewers to come in and feel their daily disorientation in heightened proportions, providing less solace than a loud wake-up call.

“The Engine Room” runs at the Centre des arts actuels Skol until February 7. Admission is free.

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Rosie Long Decter <![CDATA[The Yellow Door Choir and Rooftop Garden Film Festival]]> 2015-01-25T16:13:36Z 2015-01-26T11:02:37Z Weekly culture picks from The Daily

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Rosie’s pick: The Yellow Door Choir

This Friday or Saturday, step inside from the cold air and let the Yellow Door Choir’s dulcet harmonies warm you up. In its 32nd year, the Yellow Door Choir is a staple of Montreal’s community groups, a charitable choir that partners with other local organizations for their spring and winter concerts to raise money for a good cause. This winter, their partner is AIDS Community Care Montreal.

In addition to their new partner, the choir is also working with a new director, Roxanne Martel, for this concert. Martel promises that this will be an “eclectic” evening that takes you around the world and back, from Chinese folk songs to Billy Joel. So take a night off from Igloofest and lose yourself in some old-fashioned choral bliss from a local legacy.

Niyousha’s pick: Rooftop Garden Film Festival

The Concordia Greenhouse is taking all you could ever ask for on a chilly Thursday night and bundling it into one event. The Rooftop Garden Film Festival promises hot tea, free greenhouse-harvested snacks, and of course, short documentaries about creative community groups and their unique green spaces.

The informal festival will screen 12 documentaries in total, none of them longer than ten minutes. The documentaries explore urban green spaces and unique innovations by community groups across the world. The shorts include Growing Cities: A film about urban farming in America, which follows two filmmakers’ journey across the U.S. and Canada as they examine the effect of urban farming on various communities; and Brooklyn Farmer: A Portrait of Urban Farming, which looks at the Brooklyn Grange, the world’s biggest soil rooftop farm. Vancouver’s 6 Acre Living Roof also takes an exclusive look at the grassland on top of Vancouver Convention Centre. The films in the festival all promise a nice dose of inspiration.

The Yellow Door Choir performs on Friday, January 30 and Saturday, January 31 at 5035 de Maisonneuve. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m..

The Rooftop Garden Film Festival is on Thursday, January 29 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.. The event is free but space is limited to the first thirty people.

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Christopher Cayen-Cyr <![CDATA[Technophobes, fear no more]]> 2015-01-24T08:12:49Z 2015-01-26T11:02:30Z HackMcGill aims to introduce students to new computer skills

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Those who are intrigued by the inner workings of their favourite phone applications will be pleased by this semester’s instalment of Hack101, a tutorial series composed of five lessons that aim to introduce students to the programming concepts. Organized by the student group HackMcGill, the tutorials will explore the basics behind building van Android app for your phone.

In the first tutorial, held on January 14, the attendees were shown how to create a tip calculator, which displays the desired tip based on the bill and waiter performance typed in by the user. The goal was to teach how to set up and use Android Studio, Android’s integrated development environment (IDE). The Android Studio simulator allows the developer to visualize the final result on a computer or laptop, without needing to buy an Android device.

Upcoming lessons will cover subjects ranging from simple activities to web development. Learning these skills can ultimately help developers to create more complex apps, and even potentially offer them on markets like Google Play.

Amiel Kollek, a U2 Mathematics and Computer Science student and a member of HackMcGill, leads the tutorials, guiding the developers-to-be through the code line by line, and answering questions when issues are encountered. Completing his own code along with the audience, Kollek presented the process of creating a basic app.

“People are often unduly intimidated by applications and programming, even though it’s actually quite simple,” says Kollek. “Our goal is to get those intimidated interested in these technologies.”

Kollek mentioned that some background knowledge in the matter could be helpful. “A basic knowledge of Java programming is expected. COMP 202 [Foundations of Programming 1] might do you good.” Nonetheless, many unfamiliar coding statements are clarified at the tutorials. There are also several online resources available for free, to get you started at your own pace.

Born of a desire to attract a new crowd, Hack101 covers one topic per semester, with all lessons and codes uploaded on Github, allowing programmers to catch up on the material from the comfort of their homes. The contents from the previous instalment of Hack101 from the last semester are still available online, including lessons on the basics of HTML, deployment, and more.

While some may think trying to involve beginners in this endeavour is an idealistic goal, the tutorial proceeded in a friendly manner, and struggling coders were invited to come up with and inquire about solutions to their glitches at the end. This goes on to show that the successful development of a program comes down to one thing: motivation.

The first lesson drew a large crowd, filling every corner of the Trottier 3120 computer lab. “Last semester, we did an introduction to web development. If the tutorials remain very popular, we’ll keep them going,” adds Kollek.

The application development sector has been receiving a lot of attention in the past few years. It was announced last week that all three major app stores – the Apple iOS store, Google Play, and the Amazon store – have grown by more than 50 per cent in 2014. Google Play boasts the most impressive numbers, with a total of 388,000 developers and the highest number of new apps overall throughout the year. It also offers the largest library, with a total of 1.43 million apps. This ever-growing community of app developers can be inspiring to many people eager to learn development-related skills, in the hopes of one day joining the crowd. However, publishing on Google Play requires a one-time registration fee of only $25, while becoming an individual iOS developer requires one to pay $99 per year.

HackMcGill offers other opportunities to learn and perfect computer skills for students, namely hackathon’s and HackNights. As the name suggests, Hackathons are timed events where coders race to code a certain program, while HackNights are occasions for McGill hackers to meet and work on both personal projects and school assignments.

Although developing an app definitely relies on a certain amount of work and dedication, Hack101 represents an interesting learning opportunity for both the logical and creative minds. Whether you want finally to dive into the programming world or just to add another string to your bow, it is an event worth trying.

For more information on upcoming Hack101 tutorials and HackMcGill events, interested students should consult the HackMcGill Facebook group and


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Celia Robinovitch <![CDATA[McGill holds open forum on bookstore relocation]]> 2015-01-26T17:42:50Z 2015-01-26T11:02:25Z BRIEF

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On January 19, McGill held an open forum to collect community input to help shape the vision for the new McGill bookstore. The bookstore will be relocating in 2016.

when its current location is taken over by the Desautels Faculty of Management. However, the new location, or whether the store will even exist outside of the internet, has yet to be determined.

About twenty people attended the forum, very few of whom were students. Attendees spouted a range of ideas for the new McGill bookstore including a lounge and cafe, or multiple kiosks and pop-­up stores around campus.

Sales at the McGill bookstore have declined by 16.8 per cent since 2008. According to consultant Bianca Barbucci, this is not a McGill-specific problem.

“Across Canada there’s a decline in textbooks and course materials overall. […] There’s more competition, and there are a lot of new digital materials that are available. People find their solutions elsewhere; they copy, or download,” said Barbucci at the forum. “It’s the same situation with music.”

The only sales category that has been increasing since 2008 is “Clothing and Insignia,” though at a rate of only of 2.8 per cent annually. For some students, this did not reflect the purpose of the bookstore that was most relevant to them.

“Some students mentioned that they felt that the store was existing for the sole purpose of tourism,” McGill Senior Campus Planner Paul Guenther said, relaying the opinions of students from an earlier focus group. “There’s definitely different perceptions on who the merchandise is for.”

One student in attendance questioned the ethics behind the apparel sold at the bookstore.

“I know the McGill athletic store allows the suppliers [of branded clothing] to use sweatshops. I was wondering […] about the suppliers at the McGill bookstore, and if they’re the same ones,” the student inquired.

The stores’ merchandise comes from a variety of locations – however, both stores obtain some products from Adidas, which has faced multiple sweatshop controversies over the past few years.

McGill will continue the consultation process on the bookstore move, which has also included focus groups and an online survey, in the coming months.


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Emily Saul <![CDATA[Mac campus students fight rent and fee increases]]> 2015-01-26T01:29:55Z 2015-01-26T11:02:19Z University insists on name changes for clubs

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The Macdonald Campus Students’ Society (MCSS) has begun negotiations with the administration regarding its Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), the document that defines the MCSS’s legal relationship with the University. The two parties met on January 7 to discuss the MOA, set to expire on May 31.

Last Tuesday, MCSS hosted an open meeting at the Ceilidh Pub in Mac campus’s Centennial Centre in order to discuss the proposed changes facing MCSS and the students they represent.

“Back in 2010 the MOA was not properly negotiated,” MCSS President Mathieu Rouleau said at the meeting. “McGill waited until they transferred the [executive], so the new [executive] came in a couple days later, and McGill said it ‘was already negotiated, you just have to sign it.’ So the document we’re dealing with currently has not been properly negotiated with the student society.”

Following rates negotiated in the 2010 MOA, MCSS was scheduled to pay $14 per square foot of space for the 2015-16 academic year, with a $1 per square foot increase per year. However, the administration’s current draft proposes a jump to $16 per square foot for 2015-16, and maintains the annual fee increase of $1 per year.

“We want to preserve what we have here, and meet our mandate to students.”

MCSS currently pays just under $50,000 annually to the administration for revenue-generating space – such as the kitchen, bookstore, and the campus bar – but the proposed changes will increase fees to over $75,000. McGill has justified these increases by stating that other campus student associations pay this rate, and that the change is adjusting for a lack of fee increases in the past.

“We are so different,” said VP Finance Valérie Toupin-Dubé during the meeting. “[It] is not possible to compare us to the other student societies.”

VP Communication and Student Life Jiawen Zhou highlighted that the distinct Mac environment is what makes the MCSS unique. “[Other] student associations have the same template, [but] it’s different here. [McGill] needs to take that into account. We want to preserve what we have here, and meet our mandate to students.”

MCSS executives who spoke at the meeting consider their responsibilities more extensive than those of other student societies at McGill. For example, they have been running the Mac campus bookstore since the 1990s, when McGill pulled out of the space, judging it unprofitable. MCSS bankrolls other campus initiatives as well, such as the peer helper program, staffing extra library hours during exams periods, and offering financial support to all Mac campus clubs.

The proposed budget increases would significantly disturb the current role of MCSS on campus, and would severely limit its ability to offer services to an expanding population of Mac students.

“We have very limited space for the capacity of students who are on this campus,” Rouleau told The Daily after the open meeting. “We want to be able to provide a space where they can come and feel comfortable and spend numerous hours here, while enjoying the landscape and the environment and everything on this campus.”

“[We] don’t want this campus to be considered a satellite campus,” he added.

In discussions with the MCSS executive, the administration has called the decision “standard” but has not expanded beyond that.

Students present at the meeting also questioned the decision to hike fees.

“Where [are] their standards coming from?” asked Samantha Guillemette, a U3 Life Sciences student.

Vilma Di Renzo-Campbell, Director and Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of the Associate Provost and the University’s representative in these negotiations, did not respond to The Daily’s requests for comment.

In addition to the fee increases, the administration has also proposed changes in nomenclature for all Mac clubs, requesting that “student” now be present in all titles. MCSS has interpreted this as a standardizing measure, and something that jeopardizes the clubs’ established legacies.

VP Internal Eric Brulé-Champagne said that MCSS will fight “to maintain the integrity of all of our clubs on campus.”

“[They] have had a rich past and have been established for a while. We want to make sure they can hold on to their name, and not have to conform to this liability clause.”

Brulé-Champagne continued, “Hopefully [we can] secure more student space [and] make sure the student space that we do have is sustainable in a way that our fees with […] McGill [aren’t] going to cause us to drown.”

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Jasreet Kaur <![CDATA[Head & Hands reinstates Street Work program]]> 2015-01-27T18:45:33Z 2015-01-26T11:02:11Z Youth outreach project doubles capacity with new hire

The post Head & Hands reinstates Street Work program appeared first on The McGill Daily.

Correction appended January 27, 2015.

Last November, Head & Hands hired a second employee for its Street Work program, restoring the program to the capacity it had before budget cuts forced its discontinuation in 2011. The program was partially reinstated in 2013 with the hiring of a single street worker after substantial fundraising.

Head & Hands is an organization that caters to the needs of youth between the ages of 12 to 25 in Montreal who may not have access to certain resources, ranging from counselling to legal services to free condoms to clean needles.

Street Work is the group’s outreach program, whereby street workers move around the Notre- Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) neighbourhood to meet clients and provide services, such as active listening and on-the-spot counselling, while also conducting harm reduction and drug awareness workshops at schools, community centres, and group homes.

“[The program] focuses on supporting marginalized youth using an educational approach that’s rooted in risk reduction,” said Victoria Pilger, Funding and Partnerships Coordinator at Head & Hands.

“We have a team of two street workers and […] they reach youth on their own turf – in bars, parks, metros, group homes, shooting galleries, basically anywhere where youth can be reached.”

Donald*, a past client of Head & Hands, attributed many of his successes to the Street Work program in a video testimonial.

“Without it, people like me would continue to be on the streets. I wouldn’t be where I am today, I wouldn’t have an apartment, I wouldn’t be able to look for work, I wouldn’t be stable, I wouldn’t have my beautiful dog, I wouldn’t have my beautiful wife. You know, it helped me,” Donald said in the testimonial. “The Street Work program got me off the street.”

In 2011, the Street Work program was suspended after budget cuts forced the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) Montreal to cease funding for the program. According to Pilger, PHAC faced a near 30 per cent reduction in its budget.

“We’re seeing that government funding for all social programs [is] shrinking, especially for programs that are using a non-judgmental and harm-reduction approach,” said Pilger.

The program was partially reinstated in 2013 after Head & Hands began fundraising in the local community.

“We launched a two-year campaign and we turned to our community for support. Over those two years, we were able to partially re-launch the program in the fall of 2013 – we raised the funds to bring back one street worker full-time,” said Pilger. This fundraising continued until another street worker was hired in the fall of 2014.

“The Street Work program got me off the street.”

Since the program’s initial reinstatement in 2013, street worker Sara* has managed to reach almost 500 youth around the city. According to Sara, the addition of an extra street worker comes as a significant achievement for the program, and will allow Head & Hands to expand its focus while continuing to provide resources for those who currently require them.

“I go into schools, community centres, and group homes for the most part,” said Sara. “There’s always so much to do, and there [are] so many dreams I have for the program, [such as] having a little bit more time to vamp up the drug workshops and spend time [on it]. Thankfully, we got a new street worker, and we sort of shift our schedules so that we’re able to meet with more people.”

“[I also get to] develop deeper relationships with clients because I’m able to spend more time with them, because I know there’s another street worker who can take certain calls or go to certain areas that I haven’t been to in a while,” Sara continued.

“Having our Street Work program back means that now we’re able to listen and hear what’s going in our neighborhood from really important voices – from youth who see NDG from the perspective of homelessness, poverty, social exclusion, from within the youth protection system, and other experiences of marginalization,” said Pilger.

“Our street workers are able to be our eyes and ears on the ground […] and hear the voices of youth that we might not have been able to hear without the program.”

A previous version of this article stated that PHAC faced a near 13 per cent cut to its budget. In fact, it was a near 30 per cent cut. The Daily regrets the error.

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