The McGill Daily It hasn't been 1911 since 1911 2016-02-08T18:57:18Z http://www.mcgilldaily.com/feed/atom/ WordPress http://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg Deanna Duxbury <![CDATA[The Daily Reviews]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45586 2016-02-08T04:17:24Z 2016-02-08T11:40:14Z Charlie HiltonPalana

Charlie Hilton has a lilting, lovely voice strengthened by a rich combination of sound. The artist breaks into her debut solo album with outstanding mastery, departing from lead vocals and guitar in Blouse, to create a work entirely her own. Released on January 22, the album’s title refers to Hilton’s given Sanskrit name. After finishing school she remade herself as “Charlie.” This feeling of transition and self-making defines Hilton’s unique solo album.

The album retains a base of Blouse’s early work but experiments and adapts to mix a pronounced sense of self-expression with an equally beautiful musical talent. “Pony,” an attention-grabbing single of the debut, illustrates Hilton’s sharp lyrics: “Get off my back / I’m not your pony / I’m getting tired of what you’re handing out.”

Palana moves effortlessly from the single’s psychedelic edge to a sweet, silvery guitar in “100 Million,” featuring vocals and music by Mac DeMarco. An ode to the small eternities of romance, the duet is effortlessly charming. “No One Will” is, in a similar vein, contributing to this soft, simple sound. A serenade in its true form, Hilton’s lyrics describe a love that is honest and easy. Other songs such as “Snow,” “Palana,” “WHY,” and “The Young” complete the artist’s vision of a hazy lullaby.

At times, however, the mellow lull of the tracks backfire. The clarity of Hilton’s lyrics is usually brilliant with occasional blunt moments in an otherwise extraordinary album. “Funny Anyway” is filled with rolling rhythm and melody, but falls flat due to its dull monotone and lack of lyrical insight.

The album is not lacking in bright self-expression, however. Alive with colour, Palana includes an assortment of rhapsody. Hilton chants to impulsive youth: “We don’t have to plan it / I never liked routine.” Another track, “Something for Us All” breaks out in an eclectic harmony that, for all its creative combination of alternative tones, doesn’t disappoint. “Long Goodbye” complements the song set, giving Hilton’s debut an impressive range.

In Palana, Hilton is bouncing synths, saccharine acoustics and everything in between, which makes for a stunning set. This album is a starkly modern take on vintage sound of the psychedelic era with something interesting for every listener.


SmileswithteethWalk Forever

When enveloped by Walk Forever’s bubbling synths, swelling vocals, and wind chime melodies, you can’t help but feel a rush of vitality. On January 21, Montreal dream pop band Smileswithteeth released their five-track EP, a cultivation of resonance that is simultaneously upbeat and meditative. Walk Forever creates a soundtrack to that hazy limbo of rushing thoughts and mellow calm.

In the album’s description on the band’s website, Smileswithteeth frontman Gabriel Gutierrez says the EP was inspired by his desolate and contemplative semester spent in Paris. Upon returning to Montreal, Los Angeles-raised Gutierrez pulled himself out of the recesses of loneliness, took a walk in the sunshine, and was overtaken by a newfound energy and optimism. This spirit was channeled into sound, resulting in the formation of two new band projects. Walk Forever, backed by Lillian King and Kyle Hutchins, extends a hand so that we can join this journey.

Smilewithteeth’s recent release has a lighter, more refined sound than the band’s previous album, Everyday Always. The sentiment of maintaining a positive and dynamic existence is what ties the two productions together. In Walk Forever, this positive energy reaches its apex in the tick-tock tempo of “Sup,” a song described by Gutierrez in an interview with Exclaim as “a tune made for peach sorbet at an imaginary beach.”

This is music to listen to while in motion, and music that will keep you in motion – regardless of where you’re walking to. From King’s haunting voice in the opening track to sampled passing laughter and mumbled conversation appearing later in the album, Smileswithteeth captures the texture and rhythm of a city street, evoking a sense of aimless wandering and instilling a desire for constant movement.

Walk Forever transcends the sound of footsteps on concrete sidewalks – you can hear raindrops filtering through a forest canopy, the warmth of a sunny beach, and the energy of life manifested. The result is a dreamlike buoyancy, but also a rhythmic stability that is grounding and palpable. Walk Forever is a reminder that we are surrounded by a boundless world of energy, light, and sound, and when we allow ourselves to roam and to be embraced by this world, no recess of loneliness is too deep to rise from.

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Sabrine Mandala <![CDATA[Through Revolution with Love]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45549 2016-02-08T03:41:32Z 2016-02-08T11:30:46Z A Syrian Love Story documents struggle for freedom ]]> In the documentary A Syrian Love Story, director Sean McAllister depicts the heartbreaking narrative of left-wing Syrian activist Raghda Hassan and Palestinian activist Amer Daoud, two political dissidents who meet in the brutal prisons of the Assad regime and fall in love. It was filmed over five years and released in 2015, with the Montreal premiere taking place on Febraury 1, hosted by Cinema Politica Concordia. The story begins in Syria’s Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in 2009, where Amer and their three children Bob, Kaka, and Shadi eagerly await Raghda’s unexpected release. Soon after, Raghda is incarcerated again, this time for publishing a book about her and Amer’s love story in prison.

The film portrays the struggles of ordinary people in a crumbling system. At the Cinema Politica Concordia screening of the film, McAllister said that the project was often questioned by the BBC, and the moviemaker was pressured to conduct other missions in neighbouring countries instead of shooting a Syrian documentary. Despite this, the filmmaker wouldn’t let it go, returning to Syria to work on the project secretly.

As the Arab Spring protests develop in Syria in March 2011, the documentary follows Amer, his children, and the crowds of peaceful protesters as they march to demand the release of political prisoners and freedom of speech under the Assad regime. They are all severely beaten and arrested by government forces. The documentary presents international media coverage of the protests leading to the release of political dissidents as part of sham “reforms,” – Raghda is among those released, but her return home is far from cheerful. The torture she suffered in prison has left a lasting mark on her psyche, as she is haunted by flashbacks and nightmares of the tortured bodies of prisoners condemned to the interrogation techniques of the Mukhabarat, the military intelligence agency. As portrayed in the film, Raghda was not an exception to brutal beatings as punishment for holding membership of the opposition and “betraying” Assad.

Through personal narratives, the film departs as much as possible from the dehumanizing coverage of Syria often apparent in Western media. It does a remarkable job of giving a powerful voice to the protagonists by capturing the intimate family moments where each person struggles with the destruction of their old lives. Political contextualization is kept to a minimum, and the film instead highlights the impact that the conflict has on the family’s psyche. McAllister stated after the film screening, “I wanted to show what the media [doesn’t] cover.”

No stone is left unturned in the hunt for dissidents, and McAllister soon finds himself in prison for having filmed Raghda and Amer. He is later released, as the demonstrations multiply and the army focuses its efforts on shooting protesters in the streets. McAllister intertwines the recollections of the characters with brief shots of protests, but puts more emphasis on the strong emotions of each character during pivotal moments in their personal lives. The close-ups portray the blunt reality and intimate battles, making it difficult for viewers to look away, and the charming eloquence of the protagonists makes it just as difficult not to listen.

As Syria becomes excessively dangerous for the family, they flee to Lebanon in 2012, where Raghda quickly decides to leave Amer and the children to continue her activism in Syria. Raghda eventually returns, although it is never clear why or how, and the family is granted political asylum in France due to Raghda’s reputation as a political opposition figure.

The editing of the film preserves its authenticity with the jumps from one year to the next, and creates a sense that a lot of context was left behind. However, in those rough transitions from one scene to another, there is a consistent focus on portraying the family’s struggles. The divide between the lovers grows in the face of Raghda’s distance from the heart of the revolution. She remains a relentless activist, and is forced to balance time spent with family and her devotion to establish justice.

McAllister includes himself in the documentary, following the couple in Syria and mediating between their endless disputes. Among the most haunting images is the bathroom vignette displaying the dark markings on the wall left by Raghda after her suicide attempt when she discovers Amer’s infidelity. This event marks the beginning of an end between them, and McAllister’s close-ups starts to feel more intrusive as he probes into each one’s deep wounds with questions or silent filming.

Despite the heaviness of their exile, the protagonists manage to find slivers of humour, and the viewer can’t help but smile at the endearing moments they share fawning over their youngest son Bob. It is obvious that great love remains between the children and their parents and between all of them and Syria, even as it fades between Raghda and Amer. The scenes at the end of the movie are especially decontextualized, but eventually the viewer understands that Raghda has left to work as a cultural advisor for the exiled opposition government in Turkey. Everything from the beginning of the documentary has changed, and the last scene shows Amer cutting leaves in his small garden in France to a backdrop of silence.

In the question & answer session on Monday, McAllister said that even though neither Raghda nor Amer could make it to Canada, Raghda sent him an email to pass on to the audience: “The Revolution is alive. Keep hope.”

Perhaps, the most powerful aspect of this film is that all these events are real and undeniably striking with the deadly crackdown against political dissidents continuing in Syria to this day. A Syrian Love Story is profoundly compelling, because of the relatability of losing love, fighting for freedom, and striving for change politically and individually.

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Carly Gordon <![CDATA[Recipe for a love elixir]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45616 2016-02-08T03:54:53Z 2016-02-08T11:25:31Z The opening of L’elisir d’amore is much like that of Beauty and the Beast: a throng of cheerily sociable – and, as we later learn, highly impressionable – townsfolk sing a rousing, rustic, and somewhat cheesy chorus, while our Belle, the alluring Adina, sits alone with her nose buried in a book. Yet, despite the bright colours and memorable earworms that lent Opera McGill’s production a jubilant Disney aesthetic, the similarities end there. Where Belle is scorned for her brains, Adina is celebrated. An audience of villagers eagerly gathers to listen to the beautiful bibliophile, played by Chelsea Rus, a sparkling and agile soprano whose performance was among the show’s highlights, recount the mythical love story of Tristan and Isolde.

According to an old tale, Tristan seeks counsel from a revered magician, who offers him a powerful love potion as a remedy to Princess Isolde’s persistent rejection. Upon Tristan’s first sip, Isolde’s heart is softened. But it is not the legendary elixir that lends L’elisir d’amore its title. Rather, it’s a bottle of ordinary Bordeaux, peddled by a quack doctor, which nonetheless proves to have magical qualities of its own.

The performance on January 30 was one in an intense, four-show run. Lead roles were double-cast – one set of singers on Thursday and Saturday and another on Friday and Sunday, giving a greater number of talented students their moment in the spotlight. Vocal performance majors at the Schulich School of Music auditioned for the roles in September and have been preparing since. After all, it isn’t easy to memorize two and a half hours’ worth of Italian lyrics.

A nearly full audience of students, faculty, and other Montrealers packed into the Schulich School’s 600-seat Pollack Hall, joined by a virtual audience via CBC Music’s live webcast.

L’elisir d’amore, written in 1832 by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti, is nothing short of a rom-com: someone falls in love, but get rejected, and goes to great lengths to win their love over; misunderstandings and hilarity ensue. Opera McGill’s energetic cast delivered a performance full of heart and humour. Saturday’s comedic standouts included Megan Miceli as the wily gossip Giannetta; Jesús Vicente Murillo as the impossibly impish, fourth-wall-breaking Doctor Dulcamara; and Bruno Roy as Sergeant Belcore, a role that he approached with all the cynical swagger (not to mention the moustache) of an operatic Groucho Marx. Accompanying Belcore was a phalanx of bumbling soldiers, whose crisply uniformed antics paired a Monty Python sensibility with Napoleonic aplomb.

Jan van der Hooft lent stilted charm to the role of Nemorino, a sentimental character-in-love and, not the brightest crayon in the box, whose hopeless affections for Adina lead him to drink Doctor Dulcamara’s cure-all “elixir.” Van der Hooft’s subdued tenor is perhaps better fit to the dulcet melodies of an older, Baroque opera, rather than the stirring anthems of the 19th century bel canto style to which L’elisir belongs. Nonetheless, his stumbling Nemorino, emboldened by the “potion,” left the audience in agitation while the singers on stage summed up Act I with a chorus that roughly translates to “go home, Nemorino, you’re drunk.”

Stage director François Racine encouraged these over-the-top portrayals. “For this work, I’m inspired by the Commedia dell’arte; that is, simple stock characters written larger than life,” Racine writes in the press release. “I’m banking on the intrigue found within the come-from-away charlatan, who promises everyone happiness and healing purchased with a fake potion. And yet ultimately, true love and integrity will conquer.”

The other stars of the show could be heard but not seen. Members of the McGill Symphony Orchestra, hidden in the pit below the Pollack Hall stage and led by conductor Patrick Hansen, made Donizetti’s celebrated score feel as fresh as a hot new EP. During Nemorino’s famous aria “Una furtiva lagrima,” bassoon soloist Chris Kostyshyn’s remarkable melody rivaled a heartfelt van der Hooft.

Spoiler alert: at the end of the opera, Nemorino and Adina get together. Their victorious embrace was met by cheers from the audience (spurred by an encouraging wave from Doctor Dulcamara) — and that, perhaps, was the most enchanting part of the performance. Not the miraculous elixir, nor the triumph of true love, but the audience, transported and enthralled by a love story and united in laughter throughout an entirely enjoyable evening of humour, magic, and music.

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Jordan Gowling <![CDATA[Confronting prejudice and misconception]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45618 2016-02-08T03:48:44Z 2016-02-08T11:15:10Z Pig Girl educates audience about crimes against Indigenous women ]]> Warning: This article contains descriptions of violence against Indigenous women.

Art is often assumed to be a reflection of our times, manifesting the problems that pervade beneath the surface of our society and motivating art admirers to dig deeper. This is exactly what Imago Theatre’s production of Pig Girl did to its audience at Centaur Theatre for a full hour and a half on February 4, having first appeared on Montreal’s stage in late January. Pig Girl is an enthralling and distressing story that captivates the audience, exposing them to the issue of violence against Indigenous women in Canada – a topic which still remains largely ignored.

The play is loosely based on a series of crimes committed by Robert Pickton in the 1990s in British Columbia. Pickton, a pig farmer, murdered several sex workers, many of whom were Indigenous women. Colleen Murphy, the playwright, uses the reference as a starting point, addressing violence against marginalized women by alluding to this horrific instance in Canada’s past.

The production’s initial reception in Edmonton in 2013 was controversial. Some members of Indigenous communities felt it was too soon for the family members of victims to see past traumatic events enacted on stage and questioned Murphy’s right to tell the story as a non-Indigenous person. However, Murphy has since made it clear that her intention is to educate audiences about the dangerous position Indigenous women occupy in Canadian society.

Pig Girl pits misconceptions about gendered violence toward Indigenous women with the reality and pervasiveness of these crimes through the characters’ stories. The play consists of only four characters: the Dying Woman, the Killer, the Sister, and the Police Officer. Two narratives are shown simultaneously throughout the play – on the one hand the Dying Woman fights the Killer, and on the other, the Sister confronts the Police Officer. The audience follows the intertwined events of the Dying Woman fighting her killer and the Sister confronting the Police Officer, who fails to find her family member over the span of several years.

Murphy’s storytelling leads the audience to a developed understanding of these characters through their reflective monologues. For instance, the conversations between the two sisters and the descriptions of their shared experiences showcase their fundamental connection to each other.

Pig Girl’s cast masterfully conveys the characters’ complex lines, each of them at times displaying strength and vulnerability that elicits empathy from the audience. The Dying Woman’s stream of childhood stories and the Police Officer’s confession about his reasons for joining the force are essential to understanding this multidimensional and complex issue. Embedding personal narratives in the play makes the viewers ponder how these characters have found themselves in their circumstances. Personal accounts also carry an underlying theme of pleading to be heard, acknowledged, and helped.

The set design consists of four separate dirt graves located within a triangular wood in planked structure. It is angled toward the audience, with each character standing on a separate grave. The scenery is effective in demonstrating the isolation and harshness of the characters’ experiences.

Pig Girl forces the audience to question and reframe their preconceived notions about Indigenous women in Canada. This is achieved through director Micheline Chevrier’s decision to have all the actors face the audience throughout the performance, even during dialogue.

Art is often assumed to be a reflection of our times. It also is supposed to force audience members to have conversations that they are afraid to have. This is what Pig Girl attempts to do through artistic expression. The play’s powerful voice encourages us as a society to take steps to address the national issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women by advancing national inquiry of the matter and, most importantly, recognizing Indigenous women’s lives just as much as any other.

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Dan MacFadden <![CDATA[Toward Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions at McGill]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45645 2016-02-08T04:44:57Z 2016-02-08T11:10:28Z George Ghabrial <![CDATA[Interfaith Day brings students together to share faiths]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45592 2016-02-06T07:59:53Z 2016-02-08T11:05:26Z On January 29, McGill Interfaith Day invited participants to attend a variety of religious services and events on and off campus. The series of events was hosted by the McGill Interfaith Student Council (MISC), based out of the McGill Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (MORSL), and in conjunction with Ghetto Shul, the Muslim Students’ Association, the Sikh Students’ Association, the Thaqalayan Muslim Students’ Association, and the Newman Centre.

Speaking to The Daily, Kripa Koshy, a member of MISC, said that interfaith events help foster dialogue between the McGill community and different faith groups, as well as dialogue between the faith groups themselves.

“Our diverse team of faith representatives often uses the resources their respective groups have to facilitate one event specifically aimed at demystifying their faith to those outside of the faith tradition.”

A Jumu’ah prayer, a Catholic mass, a Sikh meditation, Shabbat services, and a roundtable discussion were all a part of the day’s events.
According to Koshy, “Our diverse team of faith representatives often uses the resources their respective groups have to facilitate one event specifically aimed at demystifying their faith to those outside of the faith tradition.” Each student-led, on-campus organization hosted an event representative of a feature of their faith, and all of these groups joined the roundtable discussion.

Koshy went on to emphasize how the roundtable discussion spoke to the purpose of Interfaith Day. “Rather than engaging in complex religious rhetoric, [it was] an informal chat where students of faith [discussed] the challenges they encounter while fulfilling their study objectives and faith commitments,” said Koshy. “Exploring these spaces allows me to better understand my neighbour, and thus offer better support to religious minorities and communities in our multicultural society.”

Phoebe Warren, a U2 Political Science and History student, told The Daily that she heard of Interfaith Day through her involvement with the Unitarian Church of Montreal.

“Exploring these spaces allows me to better understand my neighbour, and thus offer better support to religious minorities and communities in our multicultural society.”

Speaking about the Shabbat services hosted by Ghetto Shul, Warren said, “It was wonderful. Our individual beliefs weren’t particularly important during the religious part of the evening, and we were able to focus on enjoying the practices and rituals for what they are and how they compare to our own.”

The services were followed by a community dinner. Warren recalled a conversation she had that night, saying, “I was able to engage in a discussion […] no holds barred, about our beliefs, why we believe them, and how it impacts our worldview.”

In an interview with The Daily, Cassie Frankel, a U3 Political Science student involved in Ghetto Shul, spoke about the same event, saying, “It gave the anthropological opportunity to observe different religious prayer customs while also providing a social forum to meet other interested students of faith in a more low-key setting.”

“I was able to engage in a discussion […] no holds barred, about our beliefs, why we believe them, and how it impacts our worldview.”

“I also really enjoyed the opportunity to bring my own friends along to something so important to me, that is such a regular yet not necessarily understood part of my life at McGill,” Frankel added.

Koshy also attended the Shabbat services, and, regarding the Torah passage shared during the services, said, “[It] really resonated with me, as it narrated a story of how new perspectives can add great value to existing traditions and can in fact help strengthen communities.”

Speaking more broadly about Interfaith Day, Koshy said, “What I found most noteworthy was how beautifully the diverse faith groups worked together to connect their communities and offer a warm welcome to friends and strangers alike.”

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Ellen Cools <![CDATA[Ambassador discusses Burma’s transition]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45609 2016-02-06T08:09:56Z 2016-02-08T11:05:07Z On February 4, around twenty people attended a talk given by the Canadian Ambassador to Burma (Myanmar) Mark McDowell about Burma’s democratization, development, and relationship with Canada. The lecture was part of the Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID)’s Global Governance Program Speaker Series.

McDowell began by giving a brief history of the country. Burma – renamed to Myanmar by the ruling military junta – was one of the most authoritarian countries in Southeast Asia. In 2010, a new government was elected, which, according to McDowell, surprised observers by enacting a “triple transition.”

This triple transition meant there were reforms in terms of politics, the economy, and the peace process.
But Burma has experienced the world’s longest running civil war between several ethnic groups. Despite an agreement with the government, tensions still exist, such as the conflict between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State.

Student perspectives

Many students and faculty at the talk asked questions regarding the current political and economic situation in Burma, and emphasized how beneficial McDowell’s visit was in providing a greater understanding of contemporary Burma.

“It’s a pretty rare occasion and we’re very fortunate to have an ambassador […] who has real experience in terms of Canadian and international diplomacy.”

When asked why she attended the lecture, U2 student Gabrielle Denis remarked that her initial interest came from a political science class on Southeast Asian politics.

Shirley Zhang, a U3 Arts and Science student, speaking to The Daily, said, “It’s a pretty rare occasion and we’re very fortunate to have an ambassador […] who has real experience in terms of Canadian and international diplomacy. [It’s] a lesson we cannot learn from a classroom setting.”

In an interview with The Daily, McDowell added that the lecture was lent depth by students’ and faculty’s questions, remarking, “There were certainly more questions than we had time for and a lot of pretty spot-on questions about some of the more complicated aspects of reform.”

Lack of awareness

Despite the interest shown by attendees, McDowell emphasized that there is a lack of awareness in Canada about politics in Burma. He further added that the media has often portrayed Burma’s move toward democracy as a very unsure process.

“I think now is the time for people to be focusing on Burma as a country that seems to be leading a very dramatic democratic transition.”

McDowell told The Daily, “I think Burma is a country that has been sort of exoticized and only known through a few tragic events in the past 25 years. I think now is the time for people to be focusing on Burma as a country that seems to be leading a very dramatic democratic transition.”
McDowell added that when he started in this position, there were few economic ties, little developmental programming, or contact with high level politicians, but the embassy is building relationships in the country.

Regarding the need to raise awareness, McDowell said that he has visited five universities. He stated, “[We’re] not just publicizing what we’re doing. It’s a chance for us to listen to what Canadians are interested in, what their concerns are. It’s us studying as well.”

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Jessica Hunter <![CDATA[Searching for joy in the brain]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45554 2016-02-06T05:55:29Z 2016-02-08T11:04:43Z Happiness is a state we all strive toward in life, but what does happiness really mean? Most people view happiness as a subjective phenomenon, since what makes one person happy will not necessarily bring another person joy. When Kyoto University researchers sought to study subjective happiness in the brain, they investigated it in a relatively novel and unexplored fashion. The team, led by researcher Wataru Sato, wanted to measure the neural correlates of happiness, essentially asking: “Where does happiness happen in the brain?”

Previous research has shown that subjective happiness is a stable trait. This is the assumption that each person has a baseline level of subjective happiness to which they consistently return despite fluctuation in happiness levels, in the same way that personality largely remains consistent over time. The Kyoto researchers defined the measures of happiness as the combination of both emotionally positive and negative mood states and cognitive self-assessment of life satisfaction, which is also influenced by genetic factors. The team hypothesized that subjective happiness likely maps onto an underlying structure or a neural network within the brain.

To investigate this hypothesis, the Sato team used a combination of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) paired with questionnaires designed to evaluate the levels of subjective happiness as a function of both intensity of emotions and participants’ self-assessment of life satisfaction. MRI is increasingly a staple technology in health and research that provides an image of activity in the brain changing with patterns of increased blood flow in activated brain regions. When certain brain regions are activated during a task, such as answering a question concerning one’s level of happiness, it is presumed that these areas have a direct relationship to the task at hand. In this case the activated region would be tied to happiness.

Sato’s team found one area that particularly stood out: the right precuneus region of the medial parietal cortex. The parietal cortex is important to several large functions of human operation, including motor function, somatosensation (touch), and aspects of language and communication. The parietal lobe is located toward the top back of the head, and within that brain cortex the precuneus is in the middle of the right side.

SCITECH_precuneus_smah_WEBSarah Meghan Mah | The McGill Daily

Sato’s results show a significant relationship between subjective happiness ratings, as measured by the questionnaires, and grey matter volume in the right precuneus. The elevated levels of grey matter indicate a greater number of neurons that are more densely packed in this specific area – this increased number of neurons means more connections in that region, which would imply a better ability to integrate different types of information important to happiness. Indeed, an extensive body of knowledge on the medial parietal cortex has indicated that this region has widespread neural networks throughout the brain, suggesting that it is important for integrating different types of information, such as memory, sensation, cognition, and emotion. Furthermore, other research has found that the medial parietal cortex region is key to the processing of self-referential knowledge: information about one’s inner self that involves both past memories and future plans. Taken in tandem, it is likely that the precuneus forms important links between our emotions, cognitive appraisals of happiness, and self-knowledge in order to temper and mediate our overall happiness.

The Kyoto University team recognizes that the exact neural mechanisms that perform this integration remain unclear, though prospective research may bring about exciting new lines of study.

For example, they have suggested that this work may have implications on the field of public policy. They envisage a future where policymakers may use neuroimaging to provide objective measures of population happiness to better form policy for the people. However, there are multiple reasons why this is unlikely. Not only is MRI expensive and difficult to perform, especially on a large, systematic scale, but the data collected may also not be cross-culturally viable or applicable to certain populations like those living with neural disorders like autism, ADHD, or Down’s syndrome.

Studies have shown that psychological activities like meditation have changed the structure of precuneus grey matter through neural plasticity. Neural plasticity refers to the fact that the human brain is an incredibly dynamic organ capable of reorganizing and shaping itself according to the person’s experiences. This work suggests that meditation and other similar interventions may actually increase overall happiness at a neural level by increasing the amount of precuneus grey matter.

It is important to note that these findings may present a problem of directionality: does a larger precuneus dispose one toward being happy, or do higher happiness levels lead to the development of a larger precuneus? The evidence that meditation increases the size of the precuneus points to the latter, but only further study will shed more light onto this matter.

The precuneus area of the brain is not necessarily the only area involved in happiness either. This line of logic is referred to as “localization of function,” which posits that different parts of the brain have distinct and separate responsibilities. Despite being increasingly popular in psychology and neuroscience, many researchers argue that this view of the brain is reductive and overly simplistic. Localization of function does not fully encapsulate the vast complexity and nuance in the human brain, nor does a purely neurological understanding of happiness fairly represent the range of social, biological, and environmental factors that influence human experience.

Nonetheless, these results are exciting and may influence the future of “happiness therapies” as experts focus on ways to strengthen and enlarge the precuneus via different psychological training techniques such as mindfulness meditation or yoga. Identifying these regions of the brain associated with individual happiness or other emotions could be an important step in opening new doors to understanding and treating mental disorders that affect a person’s emotions such as depression or bipolar disorder.

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Rayleigh Lee <![CDATA[Students’ right to strike in legal limbo, Court of Appeal rules]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45593 2016-02-06T08:03:53Z 2016-02-08T11:04:01Z On January 27, the Quebec Court of Appeal concluded that the legality of students’ right to strike has not been established. The decision came in response to a Quebec Superior Court decision that granted an interlocutory injunction to the Association générale des étudiants de la faculté des lettres et sciences humaines (AGEFLESH) at the Université de Sherbrooke.

The injunction was granted during the anti-austerity movement that culminated in a massive student strike in the spring of 2015. It demanded that members of AGEFLESH refrain from blocking classes.

In an interview with La Tribune, AGEFLESH spokesperson Raphaëlle Paradis-Lavallée had said in French, “Students’ struggles must be done politically, and not through judicial ways. The injunction impedes upon the right to strike.”

Also during the spring of 2015, students at Concordia University and the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) faced disciplinary reactions, this time in the form of disciplinary tribunals.

Since the beginning of the 2016 Winter semester, students targeted by these tribunals have been receiving the results of their trials from their respective universities. Eamon Toohey, a member of Concordia Against Tribunals (CATS), told The Daily that the entire process has been “a gruelling nine months for all the students involved.”

Toohey continued, “As of now, the first group of students have gone through their tribunal and received letters of reprimand from the University. While this doesn’t necessarily limit future actions, it goes on their records. This endangers their standing when applying for grad school, and makes them targets should they continue with student activism.”

“Students’ struggles must be done politically, and not through judicial ways. The injunction impedes upon the right to strike.”

The charges against the Concordia students were filed by professors under article 29g of Concordia’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities. The students’ actions allegedly caused “obstruction or disruption of University activities,” even though at least three of the students who received complaints were not actually involved in the protests.

Toohey also pointed out that while the strikes occurred at the beginning of April, professors pressed charges at the end of the month, “despite the entire Political Science Students’ Association making a democratic decision to strike.”

According to Toohey, the tribunals have not only affected the students directly involved, but have set a dangerous precedent for future student movements, whereby universities can impede upon students’ autonomy to take action.

“It’s not an immediate restriction but rather sets a dangerous precedent for student activists, limiting their ability to freely mobilize without fear of retribution. […] The importance of actually having the freedom to strike as students is that it puts us on equal footing with all the other parties involved, it’s another step toward having equal control over the productive labour of education we are involved in,” Toohey added.

Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP External Emily Boytinck said that the Court of Appeal’s decision regarding the Université de Sherbrooke injunction was a useful clarification. “Although the legality of student strikes is still sort of [up] in the air, […] we now know that it’s not definitely illegal to be blocking classes,” Boytinck told The Daily.

“People who would otherwise really want to participate are scared because they are going to get an injunction, or get a ticket, or get tear-gassed.”

Boytinck said that while some strikes may disturb regular class activity, such disciplinary actions can discourage students from participating in broader student movements in the first place.
“Students should be able to fully participate in the student movement. It goes down to the same thing as getting ticketed. […] These types of things would serve to […] make people feel scared to participate. […] People who would otherwise really want to participate are scared because they are going to get an injunction, or get a ticket, or get tear-gassed.”

Although there have not been cases of student injunctions at McGill during the spring of 2015, there have been cases where the McGill administration carried out disciplinary actions against students who participated in political activities.

For instance, in 2012, the University terminated the contract of a floor fellow due to his participation in the occupation of the office of Morton Mendelson, who was the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) at the time. In addition, the University issued a provisional protocol strictly outlining students’ rights to demonstrate on campus.

Boytinck explained that strike regulations at McGill can be ambiguous and that this can be used against the students by the administration.

“The student code of conduct [Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures] at McGill is extremely vague […and] can incriminate students for […] making somebody feel unsafe, which is totally vague, and can be used at basically the discretion of the committees. Personally, I find that to be not exactly setting up McGill to be protecting all its students,” Boytinck said.

Boytinck also emphasized the importance of strikes as an effective pressure tactic in combatting government decisions like tuition increases and austerity cuts.

“I really do think that student strikes shouldn’t be illegal, and that should be clarified. Students should feel safe using pressure tactics of whichever form they deem necessary,” Boytinck concluded.

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Saima Desai <![CDATA[Panel reconsiders narrative of Africa]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45608 2016-02-06T08:13:17Z 2016-02-08T11:03:57Z On February 4, the McGill African Students’ Society (MASS) hosted a panel discussion titled “Seeing Success: Media, Content Creation and the Aesthetic of Growth” as part of the annual Africa Development Convention.

The convention spanned three days, from February 4 to 6, and included five events, centred on the theme of “‘Africa’ Interrupted: Switching the Channels of Development Discourse.” In addition to the discussion on media, three other panels were held, touching on topics of environmental activism, mental health, and academia in the context of Africa and development discourse. The series concluded with a keynote speech by Mukoma Wa Ngugi, author, activist, and assistant professor of English at Cornell University.

Marilyn Verghis, an International Development Studies student and MASS VP Education, spoke to The Daily about her involvement in organizing the event series.

“The concept was interrogating development through different lenses. We traditionally look at it through economics, through GDP [gross domestic product] growth, through state capacity, and by those measures, there are so many places in the ‘Global South’ that the European countries can characterize as ‘underdeveloped,’” said Verghis.

“What we’re trying to do is really challenge that assumption by measuring development in different ways and challenging the hegemonic construction of what it means to be a ‘developed country,’” she added.
Panelists at the February 4 event were Pius Adesanmi, director of the Institute of African Studies at Carleton University; Yann Jr. Kieffoloh, creator of the OVSWebTV channel; Wilfried Fowo, editor in chief of afrokanlife.com; and Djamilla Toure, the founder of SAYASPORA, a platform dedicated to highlighting the successes of African women and the African diaspora.

“We each have an image of what Africa is for us.”

The panel discussion revolved around the use of social media to reclaim narratives and construct counter-narratives to challenge Western stereotypes of Africa, as well as promote intra-African discourse.

“We each have an image of what Africa is for us,” said Toure. “It’s important to tell our stories, but to also acknowledge that all perspectives are subjective.”

Adesanmi addressed some of the most common narratives of Africa told in the media, such as the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram, and governmental corruption. He discussed the 2014 Ebola crisis, describing “how something that happened in four countries came to define almost the entirety of Black humanity.”

Apart from the media portrayals of negative events such as terrorism, disease, and poverty in Africa, panelists also problematized typically ‘positive’ portrayals of Africa, such as the optimistic development narrative of Africa’s economic and social progress, captured in the term “Africa rising,” which first gained popularity in 2007.

“When you search ‘Africa rising’ in Google, look at what comes up. […] You’d get to page three or four before you encountered your first African voice,” said Adesanmi.

“I think it’s really important that we own our stories,” Kieffoloh said in response. “We tend to show our culture, our history, in the [same] way that the Westerners do.”

“The concept of owning your own story and telling your own story doesn’t mean a refusal to acknowledge those kinds of [negative] stories and situations. […] It means resisting being reduced to just that,” added Adesanmi.

“We tend to show our culture, our history, in the [same] way that the Westerners do.”

Speaking to the importance of having such a conference at McGill, Verghis said, “There is often a lack of representation of people from the ‘Global South’ by themselves, and for that reason we really wanted to offer the convention – the entire series – as a means of reclaiming that space in this campus.”

Verghis continued, “The honest truth is that I feel development is understood in a very problematic way at McGill. I think the academic offerings try to kind of give space for alternative discussion, but students themselves really need to be the champions of that. They really need to interrogate beyond the classroom, beyond the required readings.”

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Inori Roy-Khan <![CDATA[White Privilege III]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45566 2016-02-07T23:30:15Z 2016-02-08T11:01:59Z When I heard that Macklemore had released a song called “White Privilege II,” I’ll admit that my initial reaction was to roll my eyes. As someone who has witnessed the rise and fall of Macklemore in the public eye, from gentrifying thrift shopping to being inappropriately considered by some to be a saviour of the LGBTQ+ community with “Same Love,” Macklemore’s so-called allyship has been cause for polarized debates on the issue of dominant voices speaking about marginalized people’s narratives.

“White Privilege II” is, essentially, a song about Macklemore. It’s a song about the role that he plays in the struggle for racial equality for black Americans and other people of colour, and it’s a song in which he’s clearly trying to acknowledge the insidious power structures and privileges that lift him up as a white man and condone violence and oppression against black people. Macklemore starts off by admitting that the movement he is supporting is not a movement for him or about him – he is at least self-aware enough to realize that he resembles the oppressor far more than he does the oppressed, and that his presence begs the question, “Should I even be here marching?”

However, in the second verse of the song, “White Privilege II” starts to collapse on itself. The turning point is Macklemore’s calling-out of white artists like Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea who have been guilty of cultural appropriation. In perhaps the greatest recent instance of the pot calling the kettle black, white rapper Macklemore thought it was wise to call out other white rapper Iggy Azalea, pointing a finger at her for appropriating the style of music she performs. Don’t get me wrong, Iggy Azalea should be called out a thousand times over for the rampant racism and appropriation present in her music. But Macklemore, too, has profited from the same appropriation of rap, a historically black art form rooted in struggles against oppression and created specifically as a form of expression unique to American blackness. Macklemore has built his empire in the same “fascist and backward” (his words, not mine) manner as Iggy Azalea – but does he acknowledge that his money is just as dirty as hers? No.

Those who face marginalizing experiences as part of their everyday know them better than anyone else.

“White Privilege II” may be Macklemore’s genuine attempt to practice allyship after years of legitimate criticism over his silence on the Black Lives Matter movement, but it meets the same fate as many similar acts of white allyship taking place at the forefront of American media and in everyday life. As sound as Macklemore’s intentions may be, his methods end up reinforcing the dominance of white voices over minority voices on matters of racism. His one song will no doubt garner more page hits and likes than the efforts of many activists of colour who have the same message to spread – if not a better one. Being a white ally in a social justice movement is like being invited to a screaming contest where you’re given a microphone and several loudspeakers, while your competitor has laryngitis.

Leonardo DiCaprio, another popular white man known for sporting this same brand of whitewashed ‘allyship,’ found himself in a similar situation at the Golden Globes in early January. In his acceptance speech after winning Best Actor for The Revenant, DiCaprio spoke about the experiences of Indigenous peoples being exploited for land and capital. “I want to share this award with all the First Nations people represented in this film and all the Indigenous communities around the world. It is time we recognize your history and protect your Indigenous lands from corporate interests and people who are out there to exploit them.”

While DiCaprio’s words were likely sincere, they garnered mixed reactions from Indigenous people and activists around the world. While some applauded him for taking the time to acknowledge Indigenous struggles, others pointed out that his efforts were minimal at best, and applauding him for expressing basic levels of decency results in the continued elevation of white voices while Indigenous voices continue to be ignored. In the days after his speech, DiCaprio donated $3.2 million to Indigenous groups in Ecuador whose rainforests are currently being exploited by massive petroleum extraction efforts. This act was certainly far more effective than his pretty words on stage had been. That being said, there is still more that he could do to elevate Indigenous voices with the power and sway he holds in Hollywood.

DiCaprio’s efforts have been compared to one noteworthy, but little-known, incident of white allyship in Hollywood’s history. In 1973, Marlon Brando was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of character Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather. However, upon winning the award, Brando was not to be seen – instead, in his place came Native American activist and actress Sacheen Littlefeather, who went on Brando’s behalf to reject the award in protest of Hollywood’s treatment of Native American characters on screen. Littlefeather was met with open hostility, and was not allowed to complete the speech – instead, she was ostracized from Hollywood in the aftermath, and was the target of mockery and hatred for decades after the incident.

Despite the vicious fallout from Littlefeather’s appearance at the Oscars, which was unfortunately to be expected in the climate of racism and prejudice against Native Americans, Brando’s act can be seen as a better model of allyship – he took the opportunity not to speak for Native Americans, but instead to give Native American activists a platform to talk about issues in their communities. Brando also took concrete action in support of the cause – he was an active presence in the Native American civil rights movement, including the Wounded Knee incident of 1973, one of the largest violent civil rights clashes in contemporary Native American history.

Being a white ally in a social justice movement is like being invited to a screaming contest where you’re given a microphone and several loudspeakers, while your opponent has laryngitis.

The priority for white allies should always be to make space for racialized people to speak about their experiences of marginalization, rather than talking over them. However, many activists acknowledge a truth that contributes to what some consider the necessity of white allyship: the fact that many white people are more comfortable listening to other white people. Being confronted about race and racism by racialized people is said to feel, to many white people, like a personal attack or accusation.

The desire to temper the voices of people of colour with white voices is not exclusive to mass media; it can be seen as close to home as McGill residences. During Race Project, a new series of mandatory workshops on race, a white facilitator was required to be present alongside a black, Indigenous, or person of colour (BIPOC) facilitator for all workshops. This was, largely, to lighten the burden of emotional labour on racialized facilitators, but also served to assuage the feelings of white students who may be made uncomfortable by discussions of their privilege and oppressive structures. However, in situations like these, the question then becomes: is white comfort being prioritized over the agency of racialized people? And is it valid to perpetuate systems that silence racialized people to make your message more palatable to white audiences?

For many, the short answer to these questions could be yes and no, respectively. These answers are valid. In conducting the deeper conversation about the nature of white presence in anti-racist movements, the most important factor to keep in mind is that the voices of racialized people should be made the priority – those who face marginalizing experiences as part of their everyday lives know them better than anyone else. It is crucial that white allies listen to the instruction and guidance that racialized people may choose to provide, and that racialized people have the agency to be treated as they want to be treated, not how white allies believe they should be treated.


Minority Report is a column that deconstructs racism through an intersectional lens. Inori Roy-Khan can be reached at minorityreport@mcgilldaily.com.

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Priscilla Wang <![CDATA[Hitchhiker’s guide to the Zika virus]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45564 2016-02-06T06:48:30Z 2016-02-08T11:01:18Z Viruses are hitchhikers from hell – criminal masterminds that enter your body and take complete control of your cell functions. What the media has been calling the new deadly virus in town, the Zika virus, has actually been around since the 1950s, concentrated in a narrow equatorial belt in Africa and Asia. In 1947, the virus was first isolated near the Zika Forest of Uganda; a cross-species jump of the Zika virus was identified in 1968, when a Nigerian man developed the common symptoms that came to be known as Zika fever. Soon after, numerous reports of Zika virus infections began emerging from all over Africa and Asia. And in 2014, it started its spread toward Central and South America. It was only here that the Zika virus came to the forefront of Western media. This reaction, due to ignorance of the virus’s effects, is too late, as the virus has already ravaged multiple impoverished communities.

Although new reports of Zika mention sexual transmission as a possibility, its rapid spread has been primarily facilitated by mosquitoes of the genus Aedes, common vectors that allow infectious viruses to move from one host to the next. They spread diseases such as Dengue virus, Yellow Fever virus, and West Nile virus. These viruses, along with Zika, are part of the Flaviviridae family of viruses, which generally cause a variety of symptoms, from a mild fever to a potentially deadly encephalitis – acute inflammation in the brain. Only one-fourth of those infected with Zika develop symptoms, with most cases being very mild and short-lived, a rash being the most distinctive symptom.

This recent spike in media attention has also been due to a possible correlation of microcephaly and the Zika virus. Upward of 4,000 babies in Zika-affected communities have been born with microcephaly, and there has been next to no major response until now. Microcephaly is a neurodevelopmental disorder that shrinks the head circumference and size of the brain. This is believed to occur when pregnant people infected with the virus pass the disease to their child, infecting the developing fetus. There are many potential reasons for this abnormality in newborns, as occurrence also spiked following the dropping of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Despite this, the current spike is believed to be caused by the Zika virus: the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the evidence is overwhelming, although it could take at least half a year until this correlation can be proven as a true symptom.

However, it is this symptom that is inciting the most worry in people internationally. Officials of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S. noticed the link when the virus was found in the tissues of newborn babies that suffer from microcephaly. Officials at the CDC are advising those who are pregnant to avoid travel to Zika-infected areas, and those who already live in those areas to avoid pregnancy. However, this is easier said than done. Unplanned pregnancies and the lack of sex education in many of the places most affected by the virus make it very difficult for people to simply delay pregnancy.

The WHO declared Zika an international public health emergency earlier this month. The Zika virus is now at a pandemic level, the highest possible degree of an infection, characterized by extremely rapid spread at international magnitudes. This is the fourth declaration of emergency in the entire history of the WHO. This sense of urgency has multiple causes: the possible correlation with birth defects; large populations of mosquito carriers; the rapid spread of the disease; and the lack of a vaccine. It is estimated that 4 million people will be affected by the end of the year, with over 1.5 million in Brazil. With the summer Olympic games planned to take place in Brazil, the virus is likely to spread even faster. The virus has also spread to over twenty countries in the Americas alone, and there are reports of infections in some U.S. states, such as Florida, Texas, and California. Although such reports are mostly of travellers who picked up the virus abroad, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan warns that “it is now spreading explosively. The level of alarm is extremely high.”

The Zika virus is now at a pandemic level, the highest possible degree of an infection.

This announcement has spurred the race to stop the spread of the Zika virus into high gear. This includes the urgent mobilization of research toward vaccine development and the cooperation of nations to work toward the common goal of prevention and treatment. Companies and scientists are racing to produce a vaccine as concern for the dangers of the virus spreads worldwide. Selena Sagan, associate professor and a researcher of Flaviviruses at Mcgill, told The Daily, “We currently know too little about the molecular biology and pathogenesis of Zika virus, so it is hard to predict how long it will take to develop a vaccine. Up until recently, Zika was only known to cause a mild fever and rash in those infected. We never thought of it as a threat because we didn’t realize the association with the birth defects now observed in South America.”

Sagan continues, “This has sparked greater interest, so quick action is important to try and mitigate risks and to understand the virus more thoroughly. There is currently a shadow of doubt surrounding Zika, and it should be of foremost importance to establish causation and then work on developing a vaccine to prevent infection and the birth defects that are causing panic.”

To deal with the current emergency, the most organized form of prevention happening right now are soldiers going door-to-door to destroy anything infested by mosquitos. This is similar to the mosquito brigades in Panama during the early 1900s, intended to get rid of mosquitoes that carried the Yellow Fever virus. However, this is not enough: the issue stems from the problem of a lack of funding for important basic research on neglected tropical diseases. There is a belief that such diseases are neglected only because they occur in impoverished countries, but, much of the neglect is also due to a lack of sufficient knowledge of the virus and its possible risks – most of these neglected tropical diseases are deemed harmless or mild with negligible fatality rates, and research is pushed to the side in favour of more imminent diseases. So when a neglected virus causes the development of severe symptoms in an infected individual, chances are low that it would be noticed by the international community because too little is known about its transmission and origins.

A recent example is the 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus. Compared to the symptoms of Zika, Ebola is much deadlier, as it causes hemorrhagic fever in those infected. There were high amounts of criticism directed toward the WHO for not taking immediate action on the issue, and as a result, Ebola spread worldwide, killing over 11,000 people. A similar panic caused by the correlation between Zika and microcephaly has taken over the media and it has become a household name. Vaccine development and preventative measures have been put into place after the WHO declared Zika a public health emergency of international concern. And although the response toward Zika has been much quicker compared to the Ebola crisis, it shouldn’t be necessary to wait until the disease is at our doorsteps to begin basic research in an earnest search for a vaccine.

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Commentary http://mcgilldaily.com <![CDATA[Clarification on full-time status for international students]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45581 2016-02-07T23:31:46Z 2016-02-08T11:00:43Z Regarding the article “International students can run for SSMU executive positions” (January 18, News, page 5), I would like to emphasize the following:

All international students studying in Quebec and who hold a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) are required to maintain a full-time status. This is pursuant to Immigration Quebec’s Règlement sur la sélection des ressortissants étrangers, subsection 47(b)(ii), which requires international students to make study their principal activity.

Although the requirement to maintain a full-time status stands, Immigration Quebec has loosened their assessment of it in the sense that they are now allowing students to renew their CAQ despite not maintaining full-time status – if and only if they prove a reasonable justification for their part-time status and support this with solid documentation.

Although Immigration Canada does not require study permit holders to pursue their studies full-time, students are required to remain enrolled until completion of their studies and actively pursue their studies.

All international students must be enrolled in full-time studies in order to work on or off campus. This is pursuant to subsections of 186(f) and 186(v) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

Immigration Quebec’s willingness to consider a student’s reasonable justification as to why they did not respect their obligation to maintain full-time status does not imply that they have relaxed their requirements for CAQ holders, nor does it imply a change in the federal regulations’ requirement that international students must maintain full-time status in order to work on and off campus during academic sessions.

The federal and provincial immigration requirements apply equally to all international students regardless of nationality.
I recommend that all international students who are planning to pursue their studies on a part-time basis come to the International Student Services office to speak to an advisor about their situation.

—Pauline L’Ecuyer, Director, International Student Services

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Commentary http://mcgilldaily.com <![CDATA[Accessibilize Quebec]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45574 2016-02-07T23:33:26Z 2016-02-08T11:00:40Z Since the beginning of 2016, four Montreal foster homes that provide care for people with mental and physical disabilities have had to close their doors, with as many as 170 more at risk across the province due to the provincial Liberal government’s budget cuts. This is just the latest in a long history of the government undermining disability rights in Quebec. The province’s accessibility laws as they stand are inadequate, lagging behind accessibility legislation elsewhere in Canada, and even these insufficient laws are seldom enforced. Rather than cutting resources from institutions that provide support to thousands of people with disabilities, the government must act urgently to adopt new accessibility laws with concrete targets and binding requirements for both the public and private sectors.

The current situation for accessibility and disability rights in Quebec is dire. More than one-third of discrimination complaints to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission are about disability discrimination – a higher rate than any other type of complaint. However, individual complaints are simply not sufficient for dealing with large-scale systemic issues in public institutions. For example, only 9 of 68 metro stations in Montreal have elevators, and, at the current rate, the system will not be fully accessible until at least 2090. McGill, a publicly funded institution, also lags in accessibility, with a number of buildings with inaccessible entrances or that are entirely inaccessible altogether.

The Quebec government does not have a systemic plan to address inaccessibility, and the relevant laws are weak and unenforced. A 2004 bill requires municipalities and public agencies to submit annual accessibility plans, but there are no penalties for unsubmitted reports and no requirement to follow through. By 2011, only 16 out of 34 transit agencies in the province had submitted even a single annual plan. The bill also required the government to enact regulations regarding the accessibility of public buildings, which was never done; according to disability rights group Québec accessible, a 2008 report showed that only 54 per cent of public buildings are accessible. In the private sector, many types of buildings are exempt from accessibility requirements in the Building Code.

In contrast, Ontario adopted a bill in 2005 that aimed to make the province fully accessible by 2025 – including Toronto’s metro system, where 34 of 69 stations currently have elevators. The bill provides for the progressive implementation of accessibility standards in several areas, such as employment and transportation; requires the publication of independent implementation reports every three years; and applies to the private as well as the public sectors. Unlike Quebec’s lack of enforcement provisions, Ontario’s bill mandates inspections and fines for individuals and companies that fail to abide.

New accessibility laws in Quebec would not solve the province’s accessibility issues on their own, but could be the first significant step toward strategic and systemic improvement. As Quebec accessibility measures stand now, the government’s disregard for disabled individuals could not be more evident. Since the adoption of Ontario’s accessibility law, other Canadian provinces have followed suit in taking steps toward ensuring accessibility as a basic human right, and Quebec is overdue to join them.

—The McGill Daily editorial board

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SciTech http://mcgilldaily.com <![CDATA[Anarchist Aunt Abby]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45594 2016-02-06T08:00:48Z 2016-02-08T11:00:17Z Dear Anarchist Aunt Abby,

I am so tired. Not only did I work almost 100 hours this week, but my colleagues and I had to spend the entirety of our remaining leisure time campaigning for a fee referendum, attempting to convince our fellow students to keep our penniless student union alive. We were so close, but the students betrayed us, and we failed.

Abby, where did we go wrong? Why did it have to be this way? We’ve given our all for the students we represent, and this is how they reward us? This is simply not fair.

Please help me. There is no meaning to my life anymore.

—Overworked SHMU executive

Dear Overworked,

Let this be a lesson for those who still hold liberal sensibilities. You only wanted the best for your student union – but capitalism harshly punishes the communitarian impulse. The life of a McGall student is a precarious one; it leaves no time for political aspirations. Past the Roddick Gates, it’s every student for themselves, their lives nasty, brutish, solitary, and short.

Under these conditions, trying to overcome students’ total alienation from their student union is a near futile endeavour – though I’ll say that I admire your attempt. Your ambitiousness was truly without par, and the movement you have built is impressive indeed.

But mark my words, Overworked – there can be no political revolution without a radical attack on the upper classes of this institution. Without such an assault, no attempt to build a mass movement against the establishment on its own terms can ever hope to succeed. The master’s referenda will never redress the master’s underfunding.

Luckily, you don’t have to play into their games. What you lack in strength you must make up in cleverness; you must employ the tried and true techniques of radical direct action.

Your student union needs money; go after the 1 per cent and take the money where the money is.

The deep-pocketed barons in the Hotel Motel Faculty of Predatory Capitalism are an obvious target. Infiltrate the Predatory Capitalism Undergraduate Board’s weekly 4à7 and sell a strangely addictive drink (inconspicuously costing $5.50). Even better, set up camp by the James Defenestration building and lure in the upper administrators with irresistible soup and breadsticks (conveniently priced at $5.50).

These measures should give you the necessary resources to continue operating the student union, until you gather the revolutionary strength necessary to turn the university into a self-managed commune, and truly take matters into your own hands.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, Overworked. You must lead this charge, and be the leader that your union needs, not the one it deserves. I predict doom shall fall otherwise. From the ashes must rise a flock of phoenixes, to shatter the chains of power, to annihilate hierarchy, and establish the rule of all by all for all.

In the meantime, I wish you luck.

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