The McGill Daily COP-out 21 since 1911 2015-12-01T05:27:47Z WordPress Marina Cupido <![CDATA[Arts Faculty Council endorses Divest McGill’s petition]]> 2015-11-28T07:25:54Z 2015-11-30T11:08:48Z At an Arts Faculty meeting on November 24, students and professors met to discuss Divest McGill’s petition to the Board of Governors (BoG) which calls for divestment from the fossil fuel industry. After a lengthy discussion, the assembly voted in favour of a motion to endorse Divest McGill’s petition. Because the meeting did not meet quorum, the vote still has to be ratified online.

The previous week, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council voted unanimously to endorse the petition, which was presented to the BoG’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) in February, alongside a 150-page report on the social and environmental damage caused by the fossil fuel industry. Nearly 11 months later, the committee has yet to issue an opinion on the matter.

At the meeting, Andrew Stein, Kristen Perry, and Emily Boytinck, members of Divest McGill, spoke at length about the importance of divestment in the fight against climate change, and its power to influence public policy.

“It’s really important to recognize that every time a divestment movement has taken place, whether that be divestment from tobacco, or divestment from [the South African apartheid], it has always led to public policy changes,” explained Boytinck, who is also the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP External.

“What we at Divest McGill are asking for is that McGill University align its actions with its stated policies and values.”

Stein acknowledged the importance of individual action to conserve energy and resources, but also noted its inadequacy.

“Where we can have massive impact is on the institutional level, which bridges the gap between individuals and international governmental action. […] What we at Divest McGill are asking for is that McGill University align its actions with its stated policies and values,” Stein said.

The students’ remarks were very well received by most of those present. English professor Derek Nystrom, who brought forward a motion to endorse Divest McGill’s petition, voiced his support for the group’s efforts. “I want to say that the students at Divest McGill are doing [what professors] want our students to do,” he said. “They’re taking the knowledge that they’re learning in their classes, and they’re acting on it to better their world.”

Nystrom applauded the fact that “students at Divest McGill have worked tirelessly on this issue for the past three years.”

“They’re taking the knowledge that they’re learning in their classes, and they’re acting on it to better their world.”

“They’ve done the hard work of scientific inquiry into why we must transition away from a fossil fuel-based economy, they’ve done the hard work of political analysis into the policy ramifications of divestment, and they’ve done the hard work of community outreach in educating the public. They’ve done all of the heavy lifting here. […] We just have to add our voice to theirs.”

Some, however, voiced reservations about the breadth of Divest McGill’s program. Economics professor John Galbraith, for example, suggested focusing the divestment campaign on coal, “a particularly dirty fuel, that we can pretty well entirely avoid.”

“Divesting from oil generally […] is a little trickier, because we all use it,” said Galbraith, “and putting ourselves in the position where we say ‘look, this is not compatible with our values’ seems funny when the university’s burning it, and we’re all burning it.”

Boytinck explained that this was a frequent objection to Divest McGill’s proposals.

“We really understand that society is highly dependent on fossil fuels right now, especially oil,” she said. “But in order for that shift to be made, political action must be taken. As a climate change activist, I recognize that I could go live off the grid – a completely carbon-neutral lifestyle – but I would make no impact on how the rest of society lived. So it’s really important that we don’t disregard political action […] because we’re scared of being hypocritical.”

After a lengthy discussion, the assembly voted to endorse Divest McGill’s petition to CAMSR, with 25 votes in favour of Nystrom’s motion and four against.

Lucie Lastinger <![CDATA[Check your ability privilege]]> 2015-11-28T03:16:13Z 2015-11-30T11:06:57Z The author would like to note that they are able-bodied. 

In rad communities, activists try to be as intersectional as possible by being inclusive toward various identities in our organizing. Intersections of race, class, gender, ability, sexual orientation, citizenship, age, et cetera ideally should be taken into account at the onset of planning events. Although oftentimes groups organize around single-axis frameworks (that is, our activism focuses on one particular issue), I believe there is a general sentiment among many activists that it is beneficial to thoughtfully and provocatively engage with the multi-facedness of people’s identities.

In the context of accessibility, this is done by including accessibility information, enforcing a scent-free space, and providing refunds for transportation costs, for example. Too often, however, an effort to be conscious of ableism slips into half-hearted inclusions of access information on event pages, typically starting with “we regret to say that our event will not be wheelchair accessible” as a passive apology.

These apologies are not enough. We need to think critically about how it is that one-sentence apologies are seen as an acceptable substitute for hosting events in accessible locations.

Too often, however, an effort to be conscious of ableism slips into half-hearted inclusions of access information on event pages, typically starting with “we regret to say that our event will not be wheelchair accessible” as a passive apology.

Event organizers often argue that the fault lies with Montreal for being an inaccessible city. It is true that Montreal is notably inaccessible to folks who use wheelchairs. Heritage laws in Quebec that regulate the renovation of buildings value maintaining historical accuracy in old buildings over making those buildings accessible to wheelchair users, for example by installing a ramp.

Grace, a Montreal activist and wheelchair user, told The Daily, “Who do you think notices [that Montreal is not accessible] more? [A non-disabled person] who doesn’t have to deal with these problems on a personal level, or [I] who every day [carry] my wheelchair down three flights of stairs to attempt to get to my job via a public transport system that’s trying to exclude me and a system of buildings that works the same way?”

Grace continued, “It’s up to non-disabled people to take the first steps to [make Montreal accessible]. Yes, it’s a reality that most of the buildings that exist were built in a time where disabled people, and wheelchair users specifically […] weren’t expected to be out and independent, but that’s […] not an excuse for the problem; it’s the original problem. The problem is also that no one has taken any steps to remedy that, except for a small handful. It’s unacceptable.”

“Who do you think notices [that Montreal is not accessible] more? [A non-disabled person] who doesn’t have to deal with these problems on a personal level, or [I] who every day [carry] my wheelchair down three flights of stairs to attempt to get to my job via a public transport system that’s trying to exclude me and a system of buildings that works the same way?”

Inaccessible queer spaces
This semester, several organizations in Montreal were forced to confront their ableism. Queer McGill cancelled two events this semester, “Friendship Universe,” scheduled for September 18, and “Dungeons and Drag Queers,” scheduled for November 21, following community pressure to host events in locations that would be accessible to all queer community members, including trans folks and disabled folks. On the original Facebook event page for “Dungeons and Drag Queers,” the following accessibility information was included:

“Note on accessibility: Due to a miscommunication, the venue does not have an elevator, making it inaccessible to certain folks (as the space we will be using is on the second floor). Queer McGill would like to apologize for this lack of accessibility – this is something we are currently working to improve on as an organization. Please be advised that this event is a scent-free space.”

No information was included concerning crucial details of the location’s accessibility; there was no description of the number of steps, whether there would be a quiet space, et cetera. The event was simply described as “inaccessible to certain folks,” thus essentializing and dismissing the many different barriers embedded into the structure of event.

When asked to comment, the organization informed The Daily that “upon reflection and rumination […] Queer McGill has chosen to cancel this event.”

The event was simply described as “inaccessible to certain folks,” thus essentializing and dismissing the many different barriers embedded into the structure of event.

Inaccessible academic spaces
On October 21, the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF) hosted a talk by faculty lecturer Mary Bunch called “Disrupting the Biopolitical: The Ecstatic Politics of Disability,” as part of its Esquisses seminar series. The topic of the presentation was imagining future worlds through the lens of disability studies. Although the Esquisses seminars are usually hosted on the second floor of the IGSF (a building with no elevator and only a single, steep staircase), the location for this particular talk was changed, due to the topic of disability.

The new room, according to Bunch, was “the most accessible room [the IGSF] could find.” However, as was noted by an attendee of the event, the room could only accommodate around ten people, and the chairs were arranged in such a way that a person using a wheelchair could not have accessed the space to begin with.

It is not enough to simply hold events in locations that could theoretically be accessed via wheelchair. Hosting accessible events also means thinking about how we organize space, and who might be limited by that organization. Alanna Thain, the director of the IGSF, noted in an email to The Daily, “While this is not an issue unique to IGSF but should be a basic concern across the university, we have a special interest in [accessibility] as a teaching and research unit explicitly concerned with issues of social justice and inclusion.”

However, as was noted by an attendee of the event, the room could only accommodate around ten people, and the chairs were arranged in such a way that a person using a wheelchair could not have accessed the space to begin with.

Inaccessibility at Expozine
Most recently, the Facebook event page for Expozine 2015, a zine fair held from November 14 to 15, focused on the “alternative publishing scene,” received over a hundred comments of debate after Grace inquired as to whether the event was accessible to wheelchair users. One of the organizers of Expozine responded to Grace’s question by dismissively saying, “not really, sorry!” in French. In the subsequent days, comments ranged from support for the organizers who “worked so hard” to support for those who bravely demanded an accessible location, or at least sufficient accessibility information.

Writer and activist Aimee Louw, whose work focuses on feminism and accessibility, wrote an open letter to the organizers of Expozine arguing that as an event meant to centre marginalized and “non-mainstream” folks, Expozine should respect “at least […] the very basic tenets of accessibility.” Furthermore, the letter noted that the event’s inaccessibility signals that disabled people are unwelcome, and that organizers “value the participation of able-bodied people more than that of disabled people.” As a protest to the inaccessibility of the venue, Aimee and other activists and allies tabled across the street from the location where Expozine was held.

Melis Çağan, a McGill student, participated in the protest in solidarity with Louw and wheelchair users who could not access Expozine. “People say that they’re creating spaces for marginalized people, but then […] people don’t actively try to make it accessible. That’s something that I think most of us, as able-bodied people, are really complicit in, because we don’t really think about the accessibility of things when we organize,” Çağan said in an interview with The Daily.

Writer and activist Aimee Louw, whose work focuses on feminism and accessibility, wrote an open letter to the organizers of Expozine arguing that as an event meant to centre marginalized and “non-mainstream” folks, Expozine should respect “at least […] the very basic tenets of accessibility.”

When it comes to accessibility, responsibility has constantly been shifted onto community members, often disabled people themselves, to request information or a change of location. For example, Queer McGill cancelled their events only after having been called out by students. In addition, the IGSF’s Esquisses event series website notes, “This is not an accessible space. Please contact us to request a change of location,” leaving disabled folks to actively work for the same basic level of access that able-bodied people expect in their daily lives. Expozine organizers drew on transphobic and ableist arguments to defend their choice of hosting the event in the basement of a church. Days after Grace’s original post, an organizer posted an apology for the “perceived ‘oppression’ or intolerance.” This very blatant oppression continued in the ensuing comments on Facebook as well as in the execution of the event itself, which was, regardless of apology, still inaccessible to wheelchair users.

As non-disabled organizers, we need to make a greater effort to check our privilege when we plan events. We need to take responsibility for our actions, not by giving half-assed apologies, but by actually ensuring that everyone can attend our events. We need to remind each other that organizing in inaccessible ways is blatantly ableist and exclusionary, and that it is our responsibility to avoid perpetuating this oppression in our events that seek to do the opposite. It is not the responsibility of disabled people to constantly remind us about their needs; their needs should be the first thoughts that cross our minds when we’re booking a venue and arranging a space.

Rayleigh Lee <![CDATA[Montreal to expand composting service by 2019]]> 2015-11-28T05:10:39Z 2015-11-30T11:06:50Z Beginning in 2016, Montreal will be expanding its compost collection services. The municipality currently offers organic waste pickup to eight boroughs, and is planning to expand this service to all 19 boroughs by 2019, reaching more than two-thirds of all households in the city.

Compost Montreal attempts to fill void

Compost Montreal, an organization that offers private organic waste collection service, has been providing an alternative to municipal collection services since 2007. Cameron Stiff, director of finance and development at Compost Montreal, spoke to The Daily about Montreal residents’ current accessibility to composting and the city’s future plans.

“It’s not very easy to compost your organic waste if you’re not doing it at home, because the city doesn’t have collection services,” said Stiff.

According to Stiff, only 17 per cent of the island of Montreal, about 1 in 5 homes, have access to city-run compost services.

Stiff said these homes include apartments with eight units or less, or single family-like homes, but not condominiums or apartments.

“We’re very far behind compared to other Canadian cities, and looking at the targets Montreal and the province of Quebec have set,” continued Stiff. “We’re consistently behind on meeting those targets, and that is why [Compost Montreal] exists in the first place, because nobody else is doing it.”

“We’re very far behind compared to other Canadian cities, and looking at the targets Montreal and the province of Quebec have set.”

“We think it’s better than nothing,” he added

Kiera Wright, a U1 International Development Studies student, talked to The Daily about the accessibility of collection services for students in Montreal.

“It is great that Montreal is expanding its collection services. I think less waste will end up in landfills with the changes, and it will definitely make it easier for us students to do our part.

Composting is hard, especially when you’re a student living in an apartment. My apartment doesn’t have a composting bin, so I have to take my organic waste to somewhere [that] does,” Wright told The Daily.

Current system far from enough

Stiff spoke positively of the city’s recent plans to expand compost collection, but expressed concern about the usage of the compost.

“We think that it’s good that there is at least a plan in place to compost, but currently a lot of compost goes into landfill and a lot of people don’t know that.”

Compost is an inexpensive source of biocovers, specified waste material that blankets landfills and serves to reduce greenhouse-active methane emissions from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), which is comprised of discarded everyday items. The covers optimize conditions for methanotrophic bacteria, allowing them to consume emitted methane.

“We think there is more work to be done, and more effort should be made by the city to close the loop with agriculture, and to make sure compost actually gets used to grow food and doesn’t get used to cover the problem,” he noted.

“We’re still collecting a lot more garbage and landfilling a lot more garbage than we are composting. There is a huge landfill that needs to be covered,” said Stiff.

According to an article by the Montreal Gazette, 97,892 households in Montreal currently have organic waste recycling. It is predicted that the number of households will increase to 536,533 by 2019.

The social impacts of compost

“Landfilling and incinerating waste also have negative social impacts. When people live close to a landfill, the value of their land is reduced. [This is] more likely to be related to the pollution from a landfill, higher incidences of cancer. […] Farmland is contaminated,” added Stiff.

Jerry Chen, who has a Masters in Renewable Resource Sciences from McGill, told The Daily about the difficulties students may have composting in an urban setting.

“If it’s not well managed, the neighbours will be a huge challenge, they will definitely complain [if a compost bin has] insects crawling out,” he said. “The other thing is, [for a] student who lives alone [finding] space [for a composting bin] will be a huge challenge.”

“[For a] student who lives alone [finding] space [for a composting bin] will be a huge challenge.”

Chen also commented on the importance of a green lifestyle, despite its challenges. “As an ecologist, I know the cycle of life; it is not only the growing of plants […] it is also the decomposition, the mineralization of all the agricultural waste going back to the soil that completes the circle of life. […] For our generation, […] having a more sustainable lifestyle is getting more and more popular, people are living more and more green. Compost is definitely part of the green lifestyle.”

Stiff said, “There is more awareness that we live on a finite planet.”

Stiff continued, “I think that young people can also raise awareness and be advocates for a better system. They can force the older generation that is usually in [positions of power], they can […] mobilize each other and use social media and use different communication and educational means to make people aware, to force decision makers to make the right decision.”

Clara Kyung <![CDATA[$3.4 million donation establishes interdisciplinary centre]]> 2015-11-28T07:32:07Z 2015-11-30T11:06:00Z A $3.4 million gift from a McGill alumnus has established the Yan P. Lin Centre for the Study of Freedom and Global Orders in Ancient and Modern Worlds. The launch of the Centre took place on October 26, and while the Centre has already organized lectures and activities, the official inaugural lecture by Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson will take place on April 13, 2016.

The Centre is organized into five partly independent research groups: Global Antiquities, Transitions and Global Modernities, Constitutional Studies, Global Justice, and Democracy, Space, and Technology. Each research group is directed by one or two McGill professors who are leading scholars in their fields.

The Daily spoke to Jacob Levy, the founding director of the Centre, coordinator of its Constitutional Studies research group, and Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory.

According to Levy, the Yan P. Lin Centre “aims to bring together studies of society and of social change from across the normative, comparative, and historical disciplines – broadly speaking, encouraging interdisciplinary work from a range of departments, a range of faculties, all focused on that kind of humanistic inquiry to the nature of society and government.”

“A centre like this [… takes] us outside the box of just thinking in terms of our discipline and our department.”

Yan P. Lin, who obtained his PhD from McGill in 1992, told The Daily he was motivated to donate to the university because he wanted to “find a way to do something that is good for McGill, just like McGill did […] for me many years ago.”

According to Anastassios Anastassiadis, a professor in the Department of History and a co-coordinator of the Transitions and Global Modernities research group, “A centre like this [… takes] us outside the box of just thinking in terms of our discipline and our department.”

As noted by Levy, each research pillar will focus on one area of study. For instance, the research group on Constitutional Studies focuses on research “at the overlap of political theory and philosophy, of political science about constitutional-level institutions […] and legal philosophy.” The research group on Global Antiquities seeks to study ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and ancient China from a comparative perspective.

Hans Beck, co-coordinator of the Global Antiquities research group and History professor, stressed the need for a “new approach to world antiquity,” one that cuts across time and cultural barriers, given that McGill has “changed so dramatically” over recent years, from student population to faculty composition and disciplines.

However, Anastassiadis also noted a simultaneous stagnation at McGill, remarking that “contrary to what [universities] say, they are quite traditional in their organization and their structure,” and that he hoped the Centre would help McGill “rethink its own structure.”

Students seemed largely enthusiastic about the Centre and pleased with the use of the money.

“I think it is a very generous gift to McGill and is going to be a great contribution,” said Ashley Wood, a U0 Arts student.

Emma Ebowe, a U1 Economics and Political Science student, said, “This […] is probably exactly what McGill needs – a way of combining seemingly unrelated disciplines to help us really understand the broader themes we’re trying to study.”

Amid cuts to public education spending under the Quebec Liberal government’s austerity measures, concerns have been voiced for years that alumni donations designated for specific projects gave the illusion of financial affluence and directed attention away from the government’s lack of financial support.

“Philanthropy is no substitute for government support.”

In 2013, when Campaign McGill raised a record $1 billion in donations over eight years, former Principal Heather Munroe-Blum told The Daily that “not a dollar of the philanthropy that comes in is used for the operating budget at the university.”

“With the underfunding of universities that we experience, it is absolutely essential that government stay the course in funding universities to the high level. Philanthropy is no substitute for government support,” said Munroe-Blum at the time.

Asked whether the Centre was the most prudent use of the money, given McGill’s well-documented financial troubles, Beck stated that since the money was an endowment, it was earmarked specifically for the creation of the Centre. As a result, McGill had to comply with the donor’s choice as to how to allocate the funds.

“When we hit the point of having roughly a $3 million endowment, then we’re dependent on the McGill payout rates for what happens with an endowment,” explained Levy. “That means the whole Centre, including the five research groups and the overarching Centre, will be running at about 4 per cent per year of the $3 million.”

Caroline Child <![CDATA[E-Innovation bridges academia and industry]]> 2015-11-27T19:11:45Z 2015-11-30T11:05:44Z What do you get when you combine the minds of three postdoctoral fellows, a PhD student, a professor, and recent, potentially profitable, research? A cutting-edge startup, of course.

E-Innovation, a Montreal-based company, was co-founded this year by Janine Mauzeroll, a McGill Chemistry Professor and her research team: Laurence Danis, Tomer Noyhouzer, Michael E. Snowden, and Ushula M. Tefashe. The startup is invested in developing the next generation of chemical sensors and online monitors to provide highly sensitive and reliable analytical instruments, all to satisfy the needs of academia and industry.

Prior to the official incorporation of E-Innovation in August, the SizeControlled Ultramicroelectrodes (UMEs) were featured in a paper by Danis, and the Chemistry team was awarded second place at the 2015 McGill Dobson Cup. By the time E-Innovation’s team launched their startup, they were already on the map. The launch led to a rapid cascade of opportunities for the team to showcase their startup, for which they have received both local and international recognition.

In September, E-Innovation pitched at the McGill X-1 Demo Day, and competed in the first ever MTL Blog Startup Challenge, where they placed third behind Evive, a pet food service that provides handmade meals for cats and dogs, and UVolt, a charging system that uses body heat, movement and solar energy for your phone. E-Innovation was also invited to the 8th International Workshop on Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy (SECM-8) in Xiamen, China, and is currently still in the running for the worldwide 1776 Startup Challenge Cup.

“If you’re confident in your product then follow it through so your dream can become a reality.” – Michael E. Snowden, co-founder of E-Innovation

So far, their products include SizeControlled UMEs and OptECHEM – a new type of electrochemical flow cell – both of which they hope to commercialize and apply to industrial settings.

Startups are known for their high failure rates, with estimates at 90 per cent according to Forbes, largely due to a lack of monetary resources. Since E-Innovation is still in the early stages of development, it still has many challenges to overcome if it wishes to stabilize its presence in the market. Snowden told The Daily, “If we manage to get successful market traction with the company, then we can envision going full-time into manufacturing and producing the products and delivering to the market, and, maybe, further refining the existing product […] or bringing in an additional product.”

So what are these products exactly, and more importantly, why have they been praised in the research domain? To put it simply, E-Innovation’s SizeControlled UMEs are ideal for high-resolution surface imaging, electrochemical mapping, and analytical measurements. This wide array of detection applications makes these electrodes of very high academic interest in the chemical, biological and physical frontiers of science.

OptECHEM, on the other hand, is a new type of electrochemical flow cell that can simultaneously record electrochemical and spectroscopic measurements. This product can be easily altered to suit the environment of its use, a perfect tool for both research and industrial applications.

Learning from E-Innovation is not limited to its applications in science. Snowdon says partnering with someone who has more connections and experience than a typical student, such as a professor like Mauzeroll, can be extremely helpful in becoming established as a company.  Even so, as for any startup, the future of E-Innovation is uncertain. For those just entering the world of startups, however, Snowden’s advice is clear: “If you’re confident in your product then follow it through so your dream can become a reality,” he said.

—With files from Jill Bachelder

SciTech <![CDATA[Mapping cissexism]]> 2015-11-27T22:14:44Z 2015-11-30T11:04:08Z The Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) at Concordia is using Google Maps to compile locations where trans people have been denied various services. This simple technology has allowed the CGA to provide a valuable resource to trans people, helping them better avoid unsafe spaces.

Trans people who have been denied services can send in an email to the CGA with the location as well as their account of the experience. The CGA will then post this story and mark its location with a pin on the map. Some pins mark specifically where the incident took place, while other markers give only the general area.

“[There are] places that are not safe and people need to know about it,” Gabrielle Bouchard, Peer Support and Trans Advocacy Coordinator at the CGA, told The Daily.

Most of the incidents documented by the map occurred in Montreal, with the majority of these in Ville-Marie. Incidents have also been noted in Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu each. Claims of denied services range from refusal to use a person’s name (as opposed to the one assigned at birth), refusals to allow names to be changed on work identification cards, and one refusal to perform a medical exam necessary for an operation.

“[The map] came from a need from the  [trans] community… There are places that are not safe and people need to know about it” – Gabrielle Bouchard, Centre for Gender Advocacy

One such discrimination is allegedly reported to have occurred at the Gender Identity Clinic at the Montreal General Hospital. “This clinic maintains the belief that being trans is an extreme form of homosexuality and provides reparative therapy,” the post on the map reads in French. The Montreal General Hospital’s department of psychological services was unavailable for comment.

Another pin on the map documents an instance near the intersection of Jeanne-Mance and de la Gauchetière. “Refusal of trans women-based on primarily their appearance and their genital organs,” the post reads in French.

According to Bouchard, the map “came from a need from the community.” Bouchard emphasized that people were coming to her with reports of places that were not safe, and she felt others needed to know about it.

The CGA has also played an important role in providing peer advocacy, resources for safer sex, and services to trans people. It is active within the Concordia community and in greater Montreal.

This map is a part of a larger push by the CGA for trans visibility and the acceptance of trans people in society. Though the map is quite informal – the CGA does not double-check claims, and many of the pins do not give the precise address of the incident – this community-based resource may provide important information for the trans community in ensuring their safety.

Cem Ertekin <![CDATA[AGSEM Unit 2 holds GA to discuss bargaining process]]> 2015-11-28T07:23:18Z 2015-11-30T11:04:04Z On November 23, AGSEM Unit 2, the union of invigilators at McGill University, held a General Assembly (GA) to discuss the ongoing bargaining process between the University and the union.

The invigilators’ collective agreement, ratified in May 2013, expired in April. This collective agreement had guaranteed wages of $10.65 per hour.

Currently, invigilators at McGill receive a base pay of $10.86, with the provincially mandated 4 per cent vacation indemnity. In contrast, graduate student invigilators at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi receive $19, those at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) receive $19.74, and those at Université de Montréal receive $17.43.

In addition, the pay rate for invigilators has remained around $10 per hour since 2003, when the provincial minimum wage was $7.30. If the pay increase for invigilators had increased at the same rate as the minimum wage did, the invigilators would currently receive around $15 an hour.

“The Bargaining Committee believes that we have gotten as far as we can regarding our non-monetary demands, and we are happy with our progress.”

The Invigilator Bargaining Committee’s initial proposal was to increase pay to $19 per hour, with a 2 per cent annual increase, as well as an additional 2 per cent vacation pay bonus for invigilators who have passed the probationary period.

In addition, the committee demanded improvements to invigilator working conditions, such as having a maximum ratio of forty students per invigilator, a guarantee of priority in shift assignment for returning invigilators, and proper training sessions.

Over the course of this fall, the committee met with the University several times and managed to finalize in principle the non-monetary sections of the agreement. In a statement released on November 10 on their website, the committee said,“The Bargaining Committee believes that we have gotten as far as we can regarding our non-monetary demands, and we are happy with our progress.”

At the GA, the invigilators passed a motion that approved the committee’s activities so far. More specifically, the motion considered the demands concerning priority in shift assignment, a centralized posting and application system, as well as improved training to have been met.

“So far what they’ve got for us is okay – except we want an increase in pay [greater than] what they are proposing.”

However, the invigilators were not satisfied with the University’s response to the monetary portion of the agreement.

Although it has not made a formal offer, the University is considering increasing the base pay to $12, which is significantly lower than what the invigilators are demanding.

As such, the motion also called for another GA to be held on December 8. If, at that time, the invigilators decide that the University has failed to meet their demands, there will be a strike vote.

Speaking to The Daily, AGSEM Invigilator Grievance Officer Jamie Burnett said, “What we’ve heard from our members today is [that the University’s offer is] not something they think is acceptable and they want us to go back and try to negotiate something that would be fair. If we’re not able to negotiate something that would be acceptable, we would be holding a strike vote.”

Vivian Belfo, who has been invigilating for the Faculty of Medicine for around five years, explained that the invigilators were very accommodating with regards to the University’s offers.

“If the offer is high enough or acceptable to us – then why not? There won’t be a strike.”

“So far what they’ve got for us is okay – except we want an increase in pay [greater than] what they are proposing. We are very flexible, we’re accepting all the other items. […] The main issue is, we’d like a little more increase in the salary,” she said.

Belfo also explained that there is an increasing demand for invigilators at the Faculty of Medicine, and that the skills required of invigilators are specialized.

“It’s very serious – exams and the whole process. [… The Faculty is] demanding a lot, and sometimes we take over if the main person is not there. So we have to be aware of many things. It’s not just looking at students and walking around. There is a lot involved,” she said.

Germano Belfo, another invigilator for the Faculty of Medicine, was optimistic about the negotiations.

“Hopefully they’ll accept […] our offer. And if the offer is high enough or acceptable to us – then why not? There won’t be a strike,” he said.

In an email to The Daily, McGill’s Director of Internal Communications Doug Sweet said that the “[University doesn’t] comment on labour negotiations.”

Ellen Cools <![CDATA[Campus compost contamination]]> 2015-11-28T05:13:10Z 2015-11-30T11:03:40Z Amidst rumours that the one composting bin in the Shatner Building is actually being emptied into the garbage, The Daily interviewed Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik, who confirmed the rumors.

The composting program originally began a year and a half ago, Bialik told The Daily in an email, and from the beginning it was evident there was a problem with contamination of products in the compost bin.

“Students using the cafeteria weren’t differentiating between food waste that was compostable, garbage, and recycling,” Bialik said. As a result, the compost collection agency, Compost Montreal, refused to accept the waste.

The SSMU Environment Committee and the two SSMU Environment Commissioners attempted to address this issue through an awareness-raising initiative implemented in February. The program aimed to increase student knowledge about composting through a general education campaign and the use of signs indicating which products are compostable.

“Students using the cafeteria weren’t differentiating between food waste that was compostable, garbage, and recycling.”

According to Bialik, the initiative proved ultimately unsuccessful. There was “no change in the amount of garbage being mixed in with genuine compostable material,” she noted.

SSMU Environment Commissioner Kristen Perry informed The Daily that the Commissioners “were mostly involved in the educational aspect of the program last year as it was first implemented, but the ongoing management of composting actually falls under building management.”

In an interview with The Daily, Leia Jones, a U3 Environment student and member of the Environment Committee, remarked that she has not observed students making an effort to separate compost in the SSMU cafeteria.

When asked why this may be, Jones said, “I think a major reason for this could [be] that it is time-consuming to actually think about every piece of waste you have produced, and to try and figure out what is compostable, what is recyclable, and what is garbage.”

In addition, Bialik believes “the fact that the compost, garbage, and recycling are all side by side in similar-looking bins is likely a large part of the problem.”

Bialik is unsure whether Compost Montreal stopped collecting, or if SSMU cancelled the pick-up requests because of the contamination, as the cessation of composting happened before her term.

“It is time-consuming to actually think about every piece of waste you have produced, and to try and figure out what is compostable.”

However, she added that there was no indication that the relationship ended badly, and is confident that SSMU “could renew that relationship if the appropriate measure were undertaken at SSMU to ensure that our compost program was successful.”

While the Environment Committee has not discussed the issue of composting much in its meetings, Jones added that the Committee plans to host a workshop discussing different ways students can compost. She added that there is a possibility the Committee will run one workshop they were unable to implement last year, which would focus on DIY composting using composting worms. “By the time we went to organize the workshop [last year], it was too cold and the ground had frozen along with the worms,” Jones said. Meanwhile, the Committee is working toward increasing student awareness of environmental issues through a series of bi-weekly workshops hosted in SSMU.

Other campus environmental groups do not appear to be focused on the issue of composting.

According to Bialik, the Environment Committee is the only environmental group on campus directly involved in the awareness campaign about the compost in the cafeteria. However, she added that “Plate Club does work generally on preventing waste in the cafeteria, so they could be a natural partner in the future.”

Bialik said that SSMU is “looking into getting freestanding compost bins that would be differentiated by colour and location within the cafeteria” to emphasize the difference between compost, recycling, and garbage bins.

The project is still in its formative stages, and SSMU is looking at logistical aspects such as cost, location, and bringing Compost Montreal back on board to review feasibility and planning. As of yet, there is no timeline for the project, but Bialik said she hopes it will stop the misuse of the compost bin and encourage students to learn more about composting.

Christopher Cayen-Cyr <![CDATA[CAMSR won’t freeze fossil fuel investments]]> 2015-11-28T05:09:18Z 2015-11-30T11:03:31Z On November 26, McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) convened to listen to a report from its Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) and to consider the University’s alleged violation of provincial Bill 100. The BoG also discussed the reformatting of the university’s annual Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and the state of philanthropic donations to the university.

CAMSR denies Divest McGill’s request

BoG Chair Stuart “Kip” Cobbett reported on CAMSR’s deliberations on Divest McGill’s demand for a freeze on fossil fuel investments, and informed the BoG that CAMSR would not be able to recommend fulfilling this demand.

Nevertheless, Cobbett said that he “would like to congratulate Divest McGill for their respectful attitude.”

Members of Divest McGill were present at the meeting, and responded to Cobbett’s report by offering the BoG a large fake check worth $43 million. According to an analysis of McGill’s investments by environmental groups Corporate Knights,, and South Pole Group, this is approximately the amount that the university could have saved by divesting from the fossil fuel industry.

Marius Karolinksi, a member of Divest McGill, said that he was hoping the donation of the fake check would help the BoG to “think more clearly” in the future.

Alleged Bill 100 violation

Cobbett also reported on behalf of the Human Resources Committee, addressing press reports that McGill was violating provincial Bill 100, which states, “no bonus, allowance, premium, compensation or other additional remuneration based on performance for either of the fiscal years beginning in 2010 and 2011, may be granted to […] a senior executive or the management personnel in the education network or a university.”

The allegation of a violation was made on July 27 by Quebec’s Ministry of Education.

“Our view is that we are certainly in the spirit of the law,” Cobbett said, emphasizing the University’s “sensible, logical approach” to merit-based raises.

Olivier Marcil, Vice-Principal (External Relations), was said to be discussing the subject with the provincial government.

Key Performance Indicators

The BoG also discussed the university’s annual Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which have now been reformatted.

Among other data, McGill’s KPIs include student-faculty ratio, undergraduate class size, graduation rate after six years at the undergraduate level, faculty salary, and philanthropy donations received.

“Our view is that we are certainly in the spirit of the law.”

In a presentation made to the members of the BoG, McGill’s KPIs were compared to those of other universities, particularly to the other members of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities.

While McGill did well in most KPIs (such as the undergraduate student-faculty ratio), it was the last of the U15 institutions in terms of its industrial relations, as determined by the Times Higher Education industry income score. This point was of particular concern to the members of the BoG.

Collaborating with industry is “important primarily for students,” Principal Suzanne Fortier claimed, as “the vast majority [of them] will work in the private sector.” Fortier cited this example as an incentive for pursuing a higher ranking.

Fortier also mentioned that the university was seeking to create variety in class sizes, with work being done to offer larger online-based courses in order to also provide smaller in-class courses.

Report on philanthropy

Marc Weinstein, Vice-Principal (University Advancement), presented the Annual Report on Philanthropy for 2014-15. Weinstein noted a decrease in alumni donations. Weinstein specified that most of current donations were by donors who had graduated in the sixties and seventies.

Over the course of the past five years, the number of annual fund donors has decreased from 30,141 in 2011 to 26,776 in 2015. Nevertheless, in the 2014-15 fiscal year, philanthropic donations brought in $86,269,199.

“We are doing everything we can to build that momentum on connectivity,” said Weinstein. “We want to engage with our alumni.”

“The biggest thing for younger cohorts is to be involved,” Danielle Toccalino, Secretary-General of the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), told The Daily after the meeting, citing the limited financial resources of recent alumni and pointing to other, non-monetary ways in which they can show support.

Choo Chiang <![CDATA[Gender inequality after the one-child policy]]> 2015-11-28T07:33:55Z 2015-11-30T11:03:20Z As a member of China’s one-child generation, I longed for a brother or sister when I was growing up. For my generation, there was a ubiquitous “4-2-1” family structure: four grandparents, two parents, and one child. Though China continues to develop economically, the 4-2-1 population structure is also turning it into an aging society, which comes with economic costs.

On October 29, the Chinese government announced the end of the one-child policy, allowing couples to have up to two children. The two-child policy was launched in the hope of addressing China’s labour shortage, as well as the country’s insufficient revenue for public pensions and social insurance.

Being a doctoral student researching transnational migration at McGill, my social media networks keep me connected with the political pulse of my home country. When I heard the news about the two-child policy, I anticipated an explosion of social media excitement from my friends.

But I was wrong. Instead, my friends expressed a variety of anxieties about how the change would impact their lives.

Many said that they were now being pressured to have a second child by their close relatives. For many working women in my friend circle, the one-child policy was the only legitimate excuse they could use to resist the pressure from their families to have more children.

“As soon as the news went out, both my mother-in-law and my mom called me […] at dinner, telling me to be prepared to have a second child. I spent three years taking care of my daughter and finally she is in kindergarten. I am just getting on the right track of my career, and now again? What should I do?” my friend Na, an assistant professor in Beijing, said in a social media discussion.

On the other hand, some felt angry and bitter due to the fact that even though the policy allows them to have another child, given the increasingly high cost of living they cannot afford to support two children. The cost of providing children with a good education and healthy food, and eventually helping them find a home to build a family of their own, is just too high.

For my working-class friends, it is only the rich who will benefit from this policy reform.

“This is a rich people’s game. For us poor guys, I can barely afford one kid. How can I obtain enough money for the second, especially if it were a boy – [I’d] have to prepare an apartment for him,” said Wang, a private company worker in Chongqing.

Other young women expressed concerns about the shrinking number of opportunities for women in the job market. Although there are anti-discrimination laws in China, the protection of gender equality goes largely unenforced in the labour market. My friends feared that companies would refuse to hire them based on the assumption that they would now take two maternity leaves during the course of their career instead of just one.

“There will be fewer and fewer opportunities for us. Before [the two-child policy] there was a better chance for me, as I have a child already. Now I am worried that the company will say, ‘You will have a second child!’ I don’t think I will have another child, but it is hard to prove it to employers,” said Xiaoli, a doctoral student in Nanjing.

Outside of China, the one-child policy is most often spoken about in the same breath as female infanticide and discrimination against girls. However, for many in my generation of Chinese women, it was seen as creating conditions for women’s advancement in the workplace. The truth is, implications for women’s rights have nothing to do with China’s change of heart about the one-child policy. Rather, the policy change is merely an economy-boosting tool, to which women’s interests are secondary.

There are many ways to tackle a labour shortage without another home-grown baby boom. For example, why not open up China’s rigid immigration policy to make it easier for foreigners to live and work in China? Although a permanent resident system was launched in 2004, the country still prefers a “made in China, made by Chinese” policy over welcoming foreigners (especially those from the Global South) and embracing a more diverse workforce.

Ultimately, whatever the driving force of these reforms, whether young Chinese women are better or worse off under the two-child policy does not appear to be a concern for Chinese policymakers. Until the Chinese government addresses maternal rights and systemic discrimination against women, the debate around the number of children will remain only a proxy for the far more pressing conversation we should be having.

Choo Chiang is a PhD student in Anthropology. To reach her, email

Fernanda Pérez Gay Juárez <![CDATA[Grappling with the “winter blues”]]> 2015-11-27T22:16:42Z 2015-11-30T11:03:08Z When I was first starting my medical education, I did a research internship in a neuropharmacology department at my home university. The objective of my project was to assess depressive behaviour in rats. We would induce depression-like symptoms through chronic mild stress (CMS), an animal model of depression that is used to investigate the presence of depression-like syndrome by exposing the rats to various unpredictable stress sources and measuring their behaviours.

I will never forget the way those rats behaved after 36 straight hours of intense light exposure. In my eyes, food and water deprivation, isolation, and sudden tilting or wetting of the cages did not have as strong of an effect on their behaviour as the continuous light exposure. When I would come in to the lab to turn the lights off, I would find restless, aggressive rats, attacking each other and running desperately across their cages. Who would have thought that animals could be so vulnerable to changes in light?

Coming from Mexico City, where the seasonal change is almost nonexistent and the difference in daylight hours between summer and winter is less than three hours, my first November in Canada overwhelmed me.

I felt like one of these rats myself when I first arrived in Canada. Once the trees lost their beautiful autumn colours and the branches started waving naked toward the skies, dancing to the song of chilly winds, we all changed our clocks to wintertime. This meant that sunlight would be over at around 4:30 p.m.. Lights off in the middle of the afternoon. Coming from Mexico City, where the seasonal change is almost nonexistent and the difference in daylight hours between summer and winter is less than three hours, my first November in Canada overwhelmed me. After the time change, I would wake up with heavy feet; sleepiness would be my companion for the whole day. Coming home after work at 6 p.m., I would only feel like getting into my bed and letting the world around me disappear. It was as if the day was over as soon as the lights went off.

These bodily symptoms came with negative thoughts, sadness, and irritability. Everything in my life seemed darker, as if the lights in my brain had also been turned off. Obviously, the subsequent drops in temperature into the negative degrees did not help me feel better. I couldn’t fully understand this, seasonal change being a new phenomenon for me.
However, the sensations and feelings that I had that first November – that I wrote off as homesickness, loneliness, and consequences of my adaptation process – kept appearing in the following years when the days became shorter and colder. This group of symptoms, casually referred to as the “winter blues,” is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is actually a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. This condition exists mostly in higher latitude countries, where there are more significant changes in daylight, temperature, and weather between seasons. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, up to 15 per cent of Canadians say they experience “winter blues” and 2 to 5 per cent suffer from severe symptoms and are actually diagnosed with SAD.

Susceptibility to SAD

Human beings, like all other mammals, have internal clocks that are sensitive to light. These internal clocks are groupings of interacting molecules in cells throughout the body. They are all coordinated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus – a “master-clock” – which is a group of neurons within the hypothalamus, located in the base of our brains. Our internal clocks generate circadian (daily) rhythms, internal endogenous (self-made) oscillations of about 24 hours that control behavioural patterns of sleep, appetite, as well as patterns of core body temperature, brain wave activity, and hormone production, among others.

Our complex biological clocks do not work on their own, but are rather modulated by the light-dark cycle. Daylight, perceived by the retina, inhibits the production of a hormone called melatonin, produced in the pineal gland. Melatonin is considered one of the main circadian hormones, because its production fits the 24-hour cycle. Its concentrations inform our body of the day-night cycle and thus help to adjust the internal biological clock. In this way, light acts as an external regulator of our circadian rhythms to help us adapt to our adapt to our environment – sleeping during the night and being awake during the day.
Considering this, it is understandable that not receiving daylight signals our bodies are used to may alter our circadian rhythms and have significant effects on our well-being. Several studies have shown that circadian cycles are more irregular in people that suffer from SAD than in people who don’t, deviating from the 24 hour-cycle, with hormones peaking at less predictable times. This is called the “phase-shift” phenomenon.

After my own experiences with SAD, I began to wonder: why are some people more vulnerable to changes in daylight and temperature? Is there a genetic predisposition to this disorder? Which population is more prone to this disorder and why? One possible explanation for is that the lack of sunlight leads to a failure in the production of the hormones we require to feel awake as well as an augmentation of the hormones like melatonin that make us feel tired and sluggish. This eventually leads to a disruption in our sleep-wake cycle and a tendency for low mood and depression. However, other factors may play a role, such as genetic predisposition to depression and the general vulnerability to mental health disorders.

Considering this, it is understandable that not receiving daylight signals our bodies are used to may alter our circadian rhythms and have significant effects on our wellbeing.

Some studies have looked at patterns of SAD in twins and families, revealing that there is a familial tendency to experience SAD. A study published in 2013 in the Journal of Affective Disorders explored SAD prevalence among the indigenous populations of Norway, Finland, Siberia, and Alaska. The research showed lower rates of SAD amongst these populations. It makes sense: residing at high northern latitudes for several generations may have adjusted the molecular mechanisms of their internal clocks, helping those groups to adapt to the reduced daylight of the Arctic Winter.

In 2002, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health conducted the Oslo Immigrants Health Study, and found that five immigrant groups that came from lower latitudes to Norway had a higher incidence of SAD than the native Norwegian and indigenous populations.

For those of us who must continue to grapple with this melancholic winter existence, there are certain ways to fight off the so-called winter blues. It could sound bizarre to say that sitting in front of a shiny box could help you with SAD – and no, I am not talking about your computer, but it works. Light therapy boxes, or phototherapy boxes are a special kind of lamp that have been proven effective in treating SAD. The therapy consists of sitting in front of the light box for 30 minutes to 2 hours – depending on the light intensity – to compensate for the lack of light on short winter days. Outside of these lamps, waking up early to catch some sun light, exercise, and the presence of plants can also help improve the mental health of those grappling with SAD. All in all, it is important that we who are dealing with SAD take care of ourselves, never ignoring symptoms that could be signs of decreasing mental health, and somehow find joy in this dark, depressing season.

Shaké Sarkhanian <![CDATA[Writing out denial]]> 2015-11-28T03:17:34Z 2015-11-30T11:03:00Z One month has gone by since the production of State of Denial, written by Rahul Varma, at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts. The central plot of the play is propelled by Odette, a Rwandan-born Canadian filmmaker, who travels to modern day Turkey to collect stories about the Armenian genocide for her documentary. In Turkey, she meets Sahana, an old Muslim woman who reveals a secret to Odette, one that unravels the multilayered denial of genocide. The revelation takes the audience to present day Canada to meet Isma, a young Turkish girl who discovers a previously unknown tie to the genocide’s violent past.

The Daily sat down with Varma to talk about about how he developed the play and its message.

The McGill Daily (MD): The play covers a hundred years of history that remains contested internationally, as you have previously mentioned. How does your play speak to the longevity of denial?

Rahul Varma (RV): [A] common experience of genocide, or historical atrocities, especially where the state is involved, is […] denial. It happened a hundred years ago, it is denied. It happens [in] 1995, it is reinterpreted. […] So it’s very easy to see the link between what one historical event [means for] another event. Have we learned enough from one so that it does not repeat itself in the form of [a] second [or] in the form of [a] third?

[…] I don’t write history, I write fiction. The fiction allowed me to extrapolate [both] situations, which [were] 100 years apart. And I think that at the centre of this fiction is Canada, [as a] meeting ground for [the Armenian genocide and the Rwandan genocide] […] [It becomes] a shared space […] where people from all over the world have come […] to live. So when you have a sort of shared space […] we can tell stories [from around] the world.

MD: What do you think survival means? Is it a cultural thing? Or do you think denial impedes survival?

RV: I think the people who lived through this experience have a very strong desire to survive in order to share their experience so that [for] future generations, […] their heritage can continue. So survival basically is a resistance against the perpetrators, and that is why it is important. No matter how much you deny, [survivors] have survived to tell.

MD: What do you think denial does to identity? You have Odette, the Rwandan filmmaker who is pushing Isma to talk about these issues, to recognize what had happened, and then you have [those who choose to deny the Armenian genocide] facing her [on stage.] Do you think denial can change an understanding of self?

RV: Denial actually does not [impede an understanding of self], because people’s desire to tell is much stronger than [the] states’ desire to deny. That was a very inspiring thing about some of the stories that I read of women who had survived, both [from the] Rwandan and Armenian Genocide. They had a desire to tell [their stories.] Even though they had to change their identity, to live like who they were not, […] they still did not let go their desire to finally tell [everyone] who they [are]. […] They survived not only to save their [lives], they survived to tell us. […] So, the denial cannot suppress that desire to tell the truth.

MD: Do you think the role of art is to provide that platform in bridging fact with feeling?

RV: Absolutely. Because it is done so personally. When you tell the history as is, it’s very polarizing. But when you depict the same thing from [the] personal experience of one character, you begin to see what it is doing to the life of a person. So we make a better connection with that situation. I think that’s why this was a […] character-based play. It was about men, women, children, love affair[s], [but] the love for the child supercedes everything. It’s a personalization of the experience that allows the play or the narrative to be more acceptable to the audience. It opens dialogue.

Commentary <![CDATA[No sustainability without equal water accessibility]]> 2015-11-28T07:27:12Z 2015-11-30T11:02:35Z Clean water is a given for most people living in Canada, the country with the world’s second largest supply of clean water. However, for over 120 First Nations, this is not the case – there are currently over 160 water advisories in First Nations communities across Canada. In contrast to water advisories in large urban centres that are lifted in a matter of days, the average duration of a boil water advisory in a First Nation community is more than two years, with nearly 40 per cent lasting more than five. Canadian settlers, government, and media have failed to treat this crisis with the necessary urgency. The silence on this issue is unacceptable – settlers must stand in solidarity with waterless First Nations communities, or be complicit in perpetuating the crisis.

In Neskantaga, a community that’s been under a boil water advisory for over twenty years, the government chooses to continue flying in bottled water instead of pursuing sustainable solutions such as fixing the water treatment plant that’s been broken for decades. A 2005 report from the Office of the Auditor General identified some of the systemic causes of this issue – including deficient water systems and lesser legal protection for residents of First Nations communities when it comes to clean water. As a very late response to this report, the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act was passed in 2013. The Chiefs of Ontario, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and the Treaty Seven nations in Alberta have all expressed concern with the bill, pointing out that federal regulation of water standards without adequate investment in infrastructure is ineffective and fails to provide a long-term vision for First Nations water resource management. As such, it risks holding the nations themselves liable for their inability to enforce the regulations.

Despite the obvious severity of this crisis, the settler response to it has been appallingly weak – there has been little to no media coverage or non-Indigenous organizing around the issue, and the little government action has been extremely slow. Because of this lack of action, First Nations communities are forced into choosing between potentially harming their communities and having no access to clean water. Naskantaga, for example, currently faces a choice between continuing without clean water and allowing chromite mining on their land. Related infrastructure development and profits from the mining project would improve water access in the short term, but the project would likely cause social and environmental damage in the long term. That the government is able to put Indigenous communities in these lose-lose situations indicates how little the issue matters to settlers in Canada.

As the Paris climate conference COP21 begins, the media will surely discuss Canada’s role in preserving an environment capable of sustaining human life. The media will not be talking about how Canada fails to make even the basic necessities for a sustainable life available to Indigenous people who live here. That water access is a given in settler communities, but not in First Nations communities, is a result of ongoing settler colonialism. Clean water in First Nations communities is an urgent matter of health and survival – we should treat it as such.

—The McGill Daily editorial board

Cem Ertekin <![CDATA[Rez Project facilitators bemoan insufficient training]]> 2015-11-28T07:28:10Z 2015-11-30T11:02:24Z Approximately 3,000 first-year undergraduate students are housed at McGill residences each year. Part of their orientation includes Rez Project, an anti-oppression workshop that focuses on topics of sexual assault, gender, and sexuality.

First introduced in 2003 by residence floor fellows and students from the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS), and Queer McGill, Rez Project was created out of a need to educate students on issues of gender and sexuality so as to make residences a safer environment for all students.

Regardless of its mandate, however, Rez Project faces certain limitations. Speaking to The Daily in 2013, Chelsea Barnett and Annie Preston, who were Rez Project coordinators at the time, talked about how the reception of the anti-oppression workshops was far from consistent and the project itself was lacking in intersectionality.

In 2015, many of the same problems persist. One student, who completed Rez Project this year and wished to remained anonymous, pointed to the West-centric assumptions of the workshop.

“It seemed as though people with strong religious beliefs and people who grew up in [different cultures] were very taken aback by what was discussed.”

“It was automatically assumed that everyone grew up the same,” they told The Daily. “It seemed as though people with strong religious beliefs and people who grew up in [different cultures] were very taken aback by what was discussed, while also being judged by some of the volunteers.”

In response to concerns of Rez Project’s limited and West-centric focus, some McGill students have organized a new workshop titled Race Project, which will be mandatory for students in residence, beginning this January. However, many of Rez Project’s other shortcomings continue to go unaddressed.

Inadequate facilitator training

Criticisms of Rez Project go beyond its content. According to a Rez Project facilitator who wished to remain anonymous, facilitator trainings are often rushed, leaving little time to discuss more complex issues.

Lucie Lastinger, another Rez Project facilitator, agreed, but added that it is not only the facilitator training that needs reworking, but also the selection of facilitators.

Lastinger told The Daily, “In one of my workshops we ended up talking a lot about intersex people, and I don’t think [that] was mentioned at all – or only mentioned once or twice – during the training session. But if you don’t know much about intersex people, it would have been really difficult to deal with that [discussion].”

Ki-eun Peck, who has been a Rez Project facilitator for the past two years, argued that the facilitators themselves could be part of the problem, noting that facilitators “can say problematic things” during a workshop.

“Especially if you have bad workshops with students who are very combative, [it becomes] very difficult.”

“The thing I liked last year, as compared to this year, was that in last year’s training session they specified that if you are a facilitator who is in a position of a lot of privilege, and you notice that you’re talking a lot or talking over your other co-facilitator, you should try and take up less space,” Peck told The Daily.

Due to time constraints and uninterested participants, the workshops themselves can be very draining and place a heavy burden on facilitators. Though coordinators do get paid, facilitating Rez Project is unpaid volunteer work that demands significant time and emotional energy.

“Especially if you have bad workshops with students who are very combative, [it becomes] very difficult,” Rhiana Warawa, another Rez Project facilitator, pointed out.

Responding to these concerns in an email to The Daily, Rez Project coordinators Kelly Schieder, Sophia Salem, and Kai O’Doherty stated that they “recognize and acknowledge the issues raised.”

“Rez Project is a huge undertaking, logistically, pedagogically, and culturally. […] We collect feedback and make improvements every year, and we look forward to continuing to evolve Rez Project for next year,” they continued.

Ways to improve Rez Project

Despite the criticism, students and facilitators stressed the importance of Rez Project.

Lastinger said, “[Rez Project] does a lot of productive work for people in residences. […] For example, in my first year, Rez Project was where I learned what the word cis meant.”

Nevertheless, Lastinger emphasized that Rez Project should not just be a one-time occurrence. “I don’t think it necessarily has to be as formal as another workshop, it could also just be incorporation of these values and discussions throughout the semester between the floor fellow and their students,” they said.

“When I was a student, that didn’t really happen for me […] but I think that’s an important aspect, to continue the education. You learn about this once, and then you forget what cis means. If you’re talking about it a lot, it becomes ingrained, and you realize these are important issues,” they continued.

Saima Desai <![CDATA[SSMU holds forum on restructuring]]> 2015-11-28T05:13:08Z 2015-11-30T11:01:36Z On November 26, three executives of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held an open forum in the SSMU Clubs Lounge focused on community input on SSMU’s planned restructuring. The executives present were VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke, VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik, and VP Finance and Operations Zacheriah Houston, as their portfolios are the ones most affected by the restructuring. The event was attended by around twenty students.

The restructuring is a response to a decade of expanding SSMU activities, which has increased the burden on each individual executive to an unsustainable level.

At the Fall 2015 SSMU General Assembly (GA), President Kareem Ibrahim noted that there were multiple restructuring proposals, the most extensively discussed being the addition of a seventh executive.

At the open forum, Rourke explained the decision to add a seventh executive instead of hiring more permanent staff, stating, “Every other staff [member] gets minimum wage, permanent staff get benefits, and we [as executives] work way more than full-time hours. So in terms of money for labour, [executives] are kind of the cheapest option for students.”

Alexei Simakov, a U4 International Development Studies student, asked whether the workload could be an “isolated situation” due to the recent resignations of SSMU General Manager (GM) Jennifer Varkonyi and VP Internal Lola Baraldi.

“Would it not naturally resolve itself if there [was] a GM, and there was a full-time VP Internal?” Simakov asked.

Rourke responded that this is not the only year that executives have been overworked, as is evident from past executives’ exit reports.

The SSMU executive contracts specify working seventy hours a week, but Houston said, “This year we have many executives working ninety to 100, or more than 100 hours a week.” Houston also said that executives often work more than seventy hours per week, “even in an average year.”

“That leaves little to no time to do anything to advance the portfolio. There are dozens of projects that I had thought I would like to achieve this year that are just not going to happen, because so much of my time is taken up with administrative work,” continued Houston.

“Executives are the foundation of SSMU.”

Other students disagreed with the idea that a seventh executive would solve SSMU’s problems. Omar El-Sharawy, a U1 Economics student and recently elected VP Internal, who was still a candidate at the time of the forum, talked about the lack of student trust in SSMU executives, citing the fact that the SSMU Accountability Committee, established in 2013 and mandated to meet every month, has not met once this year.

“How can I trust the people running these things if, when I vote for them, […] this shit still happens and I’m still not informed and people still aren’t held accountable?” asked El-Sharawy. “I don’t think [SSMU] needs to be reconstructed, the foundation of it has to be stronger so that we can build upon it.”

“Executives are the foundation of SSMU,” responded Rourke.

“We should fix the execs’ workload, and then we can start complaining about everything else,” concurred a student in the audience.

One student suggested adding only one executive may not even be enough, saying, “I’m okay with paying more if it means I’d be getting more.”

Alternate proposals from students also included creating a cyclical unit review committee to recommend changes to reform SSMU, with changes to be implemented through referendum.

The executives also clarified some logistical points about the addition of a seventh executive. When asked where the money for the position would come from, Houston responded that it was “to be determined,” but added that it would likely be sourced from reshuffling other staff salaries, saying that “in the long term, I’m not worried.”

Bialik explained that January 2016 would be devoted to student consultation and gathering feedback. If the response is favourable, a referendum to amend the SSMU Constitution will be called at the end of the month.

After about an hour of discussion and questions, the executives presented a breakdown of the current structure and the proposed redistribution of tasks.

Among other changes, the portfolio items Student Services and Mental Health would be reassigned from VP University Affairs to VP Clubs & Services, which would then be renamed to VP Student Life. VP Finance and Operations would separate into two positions, VP Finance and VP Operations. The newly created VP Operations position would be tasked in part with building management and student-run operations such as Gerts and MiniCourses.

Emphasizing the ramifications of overworked executives, Rourke said, “Eighty hours a week is not sustainable [or] equitable. I’m less of use to the people around me when I’ve worked that many hours a week. […] The decisions we are making are very important, significant decisions that affect students in a large capacity. The ones that really suffer at the end of the day are students.”