The McGill Daily On strike since 1911 2015-05-27T18:13:05Z http://www.mcgilldaily.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Niyousha Bastani <![CDATA[Housing rights group’s tent camp dispersed by police twice in two days]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42241 2015-05-27T18:13:05Z 2015-05-27T18:13:05Z Demonstrators march to protest housing inaccessibility, social housing cuts

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The affordable housing group Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) organized a march in downtown Montreal on May 21 to mark the installation of the organization’s tent camp at La Parterre du Quartier des spectacles, a green space near Place des Arts that is directly beside the Service de police de la ville de Montréal (SPVM) headquarters.

Several hundred demonstrators and campers joined the march to protest housing inaccessibility and denounce the limited funding for social housing from both the federal and provincial governments.

The march

Protesters, including over 30 community organisations and unions from across Quebec, first gathered at Square Dorchester at 1 p.m. to march to the location of the camp, which had been kept secret. Speeches from organizers and local celebrities kicked off the march. Actor and playwright Alexis Martin highlighted everyone’s right to protest, saying in French that a “public space is a space for protest […] and [these spaces] must be invested in.”

“We want the state, the government, the municipalities […] to develop and invest in social housing so that the general market for housing [can] be affordable to normal people and people with low income.”

“We want the state, the government, the municipalities […] to develop and invest in social housing so that the general market for housing [can] be affordable to normal people and people with low income,” explained Alexandra Pierre, a member of the community organizing staff of Project Genesis, a social justice organization located in Côte-des-Neiges.

Protesters walked for over an hour, chanting “Harper! Couillard! Vos politiques sont un cauchemar!” (Harper! Couillard! Your policies are a nightmare!) and “Les politiques d’austerite, donne plus d’inégalités,” (Policies of austerity create more inequality).

Mona Luxion, a protester and PhD student at McGill told The Daily, “I’m here because I think that housing is a human right […] and something that we as a society should be providing for people and fighting for.”

The camp

Protesters and campers arrived at Parterre du Quartier des spectacles around 2:30 p.m.. Campers began to set up tents while protesters formed a circle around the park. Organizers invited protesters to return the next day for other planned actions.

According to FRAPRU’s website, the camp was intended to be an ongoing installation which would educate the public about housing problems and also denounce the Quebec government for cutting the funding for new social housing in half in its last budget and the federal government for gradually decreasing funds for housing subsidies.

Approximately 60 campers from Montreal and nearby regions who are either facing housing difficulties or are tenants of social housing were planning to stay in the tents. Few tents had been installed when police intervened at around 3 p.m., ordering campers to dismantle the tents. Campers then voted to decide whether they should stay on site, with the majority voting to do so.

“It’s very difficult for us to go on with our daily lives for the rent that we pay – it takes a lot of our income.”

“It’s very difficult for us to go on with our daily lives for the rent that we pay – it takes a lot of our income. So that’s why we are here, to let them know, because we do many many activities [and] manifestations, [but] it’s like nobody hear[s] us […] we want to them to just see that we are very serious, that we are in great in need of social housing,” stated one protester with the Comité d’action de parc extension (CAPE), a housing rights organization.

At around 4 p.m. the police intervened directly, seizing some of the tents and arresting three people. Police surrounded the barely-assembled camp from multiple directions and backed the crowd away from the tents. The camp was fully dismantled and protesters dispersed by 5 p.m.

On May 22, FRAPRU set up camp at the Agence de la santé et des services sociaux of Montréal, on the corner of St. Denis and Pins. However, the campers were evicted from this location as well. On May 23, another camp was set at the corner of the Grande Bibliothéque on Berri. On May 24, the campers decided to end their demonstration.

Earlier this week, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre declared that he did not accept the notion of a camp, referring to the “security problems” he associated with the Occupy Montreal camp at Square Victoria in 2011.

“My message for Coderre [and] for Couillard is to stop austerity, to stop oppression, to listen to the people. We are afraid today, they use intimidation [and] repression,” Sandra Cordero, a protester who was present at the May Day anti-austerity protests, where police used excessive violence, told The Daily after the police had dispersed the crowd.

“A lot of people are suffering [from inaccessible housing], kids are suffering. I have six kids. I am a single mother and I don’t have a big [income] so I count on that housing; and [the federal government has] that money and they are not investing in housing.”

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Peter Zhi <![CDATA[Genes as private property]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42234 2015-05-25T23:17:12Z 2015-05-25T23:13:07Z Experts discuss the impact of gene patents on the future of Canadian healthcare

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On March 18, the McGill Journal of Law and Health hosted a discussion panel titled “Patenting Genetic Materials: Biotechnology and Intellectual Property Law.” Richard Gold, from the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy at McGill University, and Julie Richer, a doctor at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), discussed the threats of U.S. gene patents on the medical diagnosis of long QT syndrome (LQTS) in Canadian hospitals, and what Canada can do to fight back.

Long QT syndrome and diagnosis

Long QT syndrome is a rare inherited disorder that causes abnormal heart beats, and affects three-and-a half to seven million people per year, 80 per cent of which are children. When properly diagnosed, it can be preventable. CHEO used to be able to provide full diagnosis, but is now severely restrained by the unrestricted flow of U.S. genetic patents entering Canada.

“[Gene patenting] is in direct opposition with what the public interests may be.”

There are 13 genes that contribute to long QT syndrome, and CHEO used to provide medical diagnosis by sequencing all the long QT genes without restraint. However, it is now unable to do so because five of the thirteen genes have been patented by a group of organizations in the U.S., chiefly led by the University of Utah, Genzyme – a biotechnology company in Massachusetts – and Yale University. For these 5 genes, both their genetic sequence and the method of diagnosis for those sequences are patented. If the organizations with those patents wished solely to monetize their patented technologies, then the problem would only be a financial one. However, they are also refusing to share information, thus forcing those wishing to undergo full diagnosis to do so at appointed places in the U.S..

Even if CHEO accidentally stumbles upon the patented genes during sequencing, they cannot report the diagnosis to the patients. Richer, as well as other doctors at CHEO, can circumvent this problem by scanning for snippets of genes rather than full gene sequences. And though this method can be fairly useful, it can by no means be an adequate replacement for proper medical diagnosis.

The Liberal government of Ontario did not resist when these U.S. organizations sought to exert their genetic patent claims here. But Gold believes that challenging the patents in Canada will be successful – firstly, because CHEO is presenting a concrete case of the adverse consequences of genetic patents on long QT diagnosis, and secondly, because of Canada’s vested interest in public health, which is threatened by gene patenting.

Methods of gene patenting

Moreover, Gold and Richer argued that there are strong counterarguments involving the methods used for patenting.

There are two ways through which long QT genes can be patented. In the first, the gene itself is patented. For this to be done, the patented gene must be artificially isolated and artificially constructed. Gold argued that long QT is a naturally occurring gene, and cannot adequately fit in either camp.

Richer agreed, stating that “DNA is discovered, not invented. […] I don’t like the idea of someone else owning a part of me.”

“DNA is discovered, not invented. […] I don’t like the idea of someone else owning a part of me.”

 

In the second, the method of diagnosing a gene is patented. In order to challenge this type, Gold argued that “all the power is in the interpretation,” noting that the patents can be interpreted to apply only to an old method of diagnosis. Thus, while it is a valid patent, it does not cover newer technologies in the market today that can do the same job. If the companies interpret their patent as applying to the concept of gene sequencing in general, rather than to a specific method, Gold argued that the patents would be invalidated because abstract concepts cannot be patented.

Massimo Orsini, co-host of the panel and first-year Law student, spoke to the Daily about his concerns with the tension between private patents and the public at large. “[Gene patenting] is in direct opposition with what the public interests may be. […] One of the things we need to figure out is what public benefit means and what its relation to patents is, particularly [a patent] that is shown to hinder innovation and accessibility to health care.”

“It’s the role of students, biologists, lawyers, and practitioners to realize these tensions and work through them together.”

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Peter Zhi <![CDATA[Former McGill employee sues University for job discrimination]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42215 2015-05-24T05:00:31Z 2015-05-23T18:08:41Z Discriminated employee seeks to obtain compensation for unemployment and mental illness

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A Hispanic former McGill employee who allegedly faced years of job discrimination and psychological harassment before having his employment terminated is suing McGill University and his former director of operations.

Arturo’s* first lawsuit against McGill University and his director (who has since quit and now resides in Toronto) is for discrimination based on language, ethnic background, and age, and is under review by the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJ), the Quebec commission on human rights and youth rights. Arturo will be represented by the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR). The second lawsuit, through the Commission des normes du travail (CNT), Quebec’s labour board, is for psychological harassment against McGill University as an employer. The first hearing was on May 1, and Arturo was represented by CNT.

Arturo, who has a doctorate in oncology and is originally from South America, was in his fifties when he immigrated to Canada. Shortly thereafter, he was employed at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine as a project administrator at the Rossy Cancer Network (RCN) in March 2012. Following a positive evaluation of his performance in July 2012, he was given the title of Medical/Clinical Liaison.

According to Arturo, everything was going well until February 2013, when a new director of operations was installed at the RCN. Allegedly, after this appointment, discrimination began, continued, and intensified for the next six months until he was fired.

“[The former director] basically marginalized him and practically downgraded him not only in his job, but in the eyes of his colleagues,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi, Arturo’s representative in the CDPDJ case.

In May 2013, Arturo was stripped of his title of Medical/Clinical Liaison and demoted to project manager. In an email, the director cited inadequate English for this decision, despite Arturo’s 90 per cent score on an English proficiency course at Concordia. As project manager, he cannot be reconsidered for the position of project administrator.

Arturo suspects that his accent, rather than his English proficiency, was the cause of the problem. Niemi agreed that accent was the likely culprit. “Accents are often used as a proxy for racial and ethnic discrimination,” Niemi told The Daily.

Arturo was also systematically excluded from events and activities. “The new boss didn’t talk to me, and the new ones [who were hired by the director] didn’t talk to me,” Arturo alleged. He was kept out of project meetings, even though he was a project manager.

“Accents are often used as a proxy for racial and ethnic discrimination”

Shortly after, through an accidentally leaked email, Arturo discovered that he had the lowest paid salary among his peers. “People who [held] similar positions and some even [employed] later than me had more pay. It’s unfair.”

Arturo’s attempts to contact those at higher positions were not successful and most of the tasks and decisions were handled by the director alone.

“That’s why when they took away from me the position of medical liaison, nobody [said and] will say nothing, and I can say nothing,” said Arturo.

Arturo suspected that the director wanted him to resign, but refused for the sake of his family. “I can’t resign because I need the job. And so [the director of operations] decided to make my life impossible. He told me, ‘things will be worse.’”

“And at the end because I didn’t resign, they fired me.”

In November of 2013, following roughly half a year of job discrimination, the director terminated Arturo’s contract – but not before asking Arturo to hand over information on new projects he had been working on. The director named “restructuring” as the reason for Arturo’s termination, though he never clarified this to Arturo.

“The funny thing is, when he fired me, I felt relieved. I was free, because I had pressure, pressure, pressure at work,” said Arturo.

Arturo developed mild anxiety and depression due to the ongoing harassment at work, and unemployment and his dire financial situation worsened his mental health. He is currently still in counseling and taking prescription drugs for his mental health.

Arturo knew during his employment that future legal action would be taken, so he gathered documentation during his employment for evidence. In January 2014, he took the first steps to file lawsuits against McGill and his former director, who now resides in Toronto but cannot escape these charges.

Arturo is aiming to ensure that the McGill reference in his CV, which has since barred him from pursuing employment, will no longer negatively impact him. He is also working to obtain compensation for unemployment and mental illness, as well as secure job integration at a  position suited to his educational background.

An attempt by the Quebec labour board to secure a meeting between Arturo and McGill for a resolution in regards to psychological damages was unsuccessful. “What McGill proposed did not live up to his needs – not just [his] wants. This man needs a job to support his family and to be reintegrated in the job that he did well and lost simply because of harassment,” Niemi told The Daily.

The first hearing on May 1 was inconclusive; several hearings will be held later this summer. The lawyer representing the University declined to comment on this story.

*Real name has been changed

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Arda Eksigil <![CDATA[Who believes in genocides?]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42206 2015-05-24T01:25:07Z 2015-05-22T19:00:46Z Reflections on Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide

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April 24 has a highly symbolic meaning for us, Turkish citizens. It is a day of national reunification – a national rebirth of sorts. To a nation deeply polarized over discussions on Islamism and secularism, corruption scandals, political assassinations, and the ‘Kurdish problem,’ April 24 presents itself as the perfect opportunity to rekindle Turkey’s lost national fervor. On the day when Canada and the world commemorate the mass murder of nearly 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915, we defy the collective memory of the entire world and simply refuse to remember.

In Turkey, festivities related to April 24 include a well-established set of rituals to be thoroughly observed each year. First, high-level diplomats and cold-blooded politicians are dispatched to major Western capitals to lobby against the possibility of further recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Reporters from major news channels follow their footprints. Specialists and strategists are invited into heated public debates. Nationals living abroad are mobilized and urged to counter the Armenian narrative at all costs. Well-prepared and ready for battle, we know what to expect from our age-old foes. The only question remaining, then, is what to expect from our ‘biggest ally,’ the U.S.. Thus begins the most exciting part of our venerable tradition: we gather around our TV screens, hold our breath, and turn our eyes and ears to the almighty U.S. president’s annual address on the ‘Armenian problem.’ We nervously ask ourselves: is he going to use the ‘g-word?’

He doesn’t. Geopolitical considerations win over moral ones, as usual. The president follows the path set by his predecessors: he acknowledges the suffering and pain of the Armenian people, talks about horrendous massacres and mass murder – after all, it’s not what he says, but what he declines to say, that matters. He is well aware of Turkey’s position as a ‘key ally of the U.S..’

When it comes to speaking of the dispossessed, even the most unorthodox views are freely expressed by people who think themselves courageous.

The annual thriller ends in victory and relief. Until further notice, Armenians are kindly invited to return to their hundred-year-old mourning while we cheerfully go back to our necropolis, still haunted by their grandparents’ agonizing souls. It is springtime, and the race for the title in the National Football League is closing in. We’ve got bigger issues than acknowledging a genocide.

Our glorious ancestors put on their best efforts to conceal the actions in which they were engaged a hundred years ago. Names of countless villages, mountains, and rivers that could have reminded us of past Armenian presence were methodically changed; hundreds of churches and schools were destroyed or reused as barns or warehouses (recycling alla turca); houses were seized and redistributed among the local Muslim population – the recently abandoned creaky Presidential Palace in Ankara belonged to the Kasabians, an Armenian family that fled Ankara during the genocide. Traces of Armenian heritage have thus been systematically and successfully erased, while streets, boulevards, and universities have been renamed after the main perpetrators of the violence, who were glorified and hailed as national heroes. Nowadays, no one remembers the Pangaltı Armenian Cemetery that once stood near Istanbul’s main square, Taksim. Desecrated and razed, the gravestones have been reappropriated and used to build the stairs of the legendary Gezi Park, the only piece of greenery left in central Istanbul.

The Ministry of National Education has also played its part in forging the ideal, enlightened Turkish denier. At school, we were initially told that we hadn’t killed Armenians (believe it or not, they had killed us). If this answer seemed unsatisfactory or biased in any way, we were told that – sadly indeed – the Armenians had to be exterminated: it was a state of war and they had betrayed us. What else was there to do but to orchestrate the massacre of 1.5 million men, women, children, and elderly people?

Another argument frequently heard in Turkey is that we, Turks, are not racists and are thus incapable of committing a genocide. Racism, a Western invention, did not exist in Turkey: our cordial relations with the Armenian community still residing in Istanbul – also known as “the leftovers” – are living proof of that. In fact, so long as they don’t meddle in politics or mention the g-word, Armenian Turkish citizens are allowed to breathe, walk, and travel freely within our borders. Yes, Hrant Dink, an Armenian journalist challenging national historiography, may have been killed in broad daylight, but a non-negligible number of Turkish or Armenian public intellectuals holding similar opinions are still alive, protected by bodyguards or living in exile.

I conclude with a note on the boundless limits of our freedom of expression. Insulting Jews, Greeks, Armenians, or any other minority group is routinely met with the utmost compassion and admiration from both state and society, and the same goes for assassinating them: the police officers who arrested Hrant Dink’s murderer swiftly got in line to take photographs with their ‘hero’ under the Turkish flag while a famous pop singer composed a song praising the killer’s ‘accomplishment.’ When it comes to speaking of the dispossessed, even the most unorthodox views are freely expressed by people who think themselves courageous. Here is a brief conversation I had with a cab driver in Turkey a few years ago. For some reason, the discussion turned politico-historical:

“Do you believe in the Armenian Genocide?” the driver asked me.

“Yes.”

“You know what, I do too.”

“Really?”

“Yes. And if they come back, we’ll do it again.”


Arda Eksigil recently graduated with an M.A. in Ottoman History. To contact the author, please email arda.eksigil@mail.mcgill.ca.

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Sonia Larbi-Aissa <![CDATA[Saturday morning cartoons, grown up]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42190 2015-05-21T00:20:56Z 2015-05-19T01:55:49Z Galerie ABYSS exhibits local talent

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The well-known Montreal tattoo parlour ABYSS has a reputation for more than just body art, doubling as an art gallery dedicated to contemporary pop culture. Galerie ABYSS exhibits a new crop of local artists each month, displaying the work of both street and gallery artists side by side. Its current exhibit, “The New Cool,” solidifies the gallery’s role as a curator of new Montreal art, bringing us the the latest works of four up-and-coming artists.

Local artists Andrew Da Silva, Jimmy Baptiste, Waxhead, and Bezo will share the space for the rest of the month, each bringing their own adaptation of traditional cartoons and comics to ABYSS’ walls. While their styles and technical approaches vary wildly, the artists create continuity between their work by flattening their colour palettes, resulting in an old-school animation vibe.

In an interview with The Daily, Da Silva mentioned the substantial influence of 80s and 90s cartoons from his childhood on his current work. But the characters he creates now aren’t rated E for everyone. In a piece titled All the Cool Kids Doing It a cheeky skeleton in a hoodie stands nonchalantly inside a metal trap. Wading through a glass of red liquid is a nude woman with the word ‘Molly’ written across her stomach and a Facebook ‘like’ hovering underneath it. Similar Instagram notifications and Twitter follower tickers are sprinkled throughout the rest of Da Silva’s canvases.

While their styles and technical approaches vary wildly, the artists create continuity between their work by flattening their colour palettes, resulting in an old-school animation vibe.

“My work is very satirical,” Da Silva explained. “I have a love-hate relationship with [social media]. I think my generation is too caught up with [it], obsessed with [it], so I poke fun at it.” Da Silva’s clever use of recognizable icons to critique social phenomena renders his work equal parts relatable and biting.

Across the gallery, Jimmy Baptiste’s artwork departs from the cartoon aesthetic to a more comic book style. His figures break away from Da Silva’s flatness and explode across the canvas with undulating arcs of delicate watercolor and spidery lines of pencil and ink. Inspired by anime and tattoo design, Baptiste focuses primarily on the female face, manipulating facial features to explore a full range of emotions. In a large piece titled Spring, four women’s faces share the canvas with birds and flowers. Instead of reproducing a stock image of spring, Baptiste creates substantial movement using flowing strands of hair and his calligraphy-esque signature as a repeated motif, invoking the tumultuous winds of the season.

Waxhead’s zany vandalisms of vintage photos line the wall alongside Baptiste’s work. While Waxhead’s whimsical characters can typically be seen peeking out from behind street corners and hiding in the alleyways of Montreal, they appear in Galerie ABYSS in a form much easier to take home.

According to the artist, the works on display are primarily produced during the winter. In preparation for the confining winter months, the artist jokes that he breaks into homes and steals vintage family photos in order to paint over the faces with his own creations. The miscreant can also be found haunting flea markets and thrift stores for his next mark.

Bezo completes the show with his cartoons-on-acid style. A piece entitled Cupcake painted on a roughly cut oval acrylic panel depicts a male figure with empty eyes in bright overalls staring at a cupcake. A yellow skull mask covers his face and a green crown hovers over his head. The figure’s arms twist into knots and stretch impossibly far in opposite directions, creating a sense of depth. The figure is part pathetic, part absurd, and elicits a strange empathetic emotion from the viewer. The rest of Bezo’s work borders on the edge of terrifying and intriguing, fitting in well with the rest of the show’s adult cartoon vibe.

As a singular unit, the aptly-named exhibit accurately takes the pulse of what’s new in the Montreal art scene. The small gallery in Griffintown is must-see for anyone who likes to keep tabs on local talent.


“The New Cool” runs at Galerie ABYSS until June.

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Rosie Long Decter <![CDATA[Summer in the city: movies and TV]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42175 2015-05-09T17:21:50Z 2015-05-09T17:20:19Z The Daily's guide to summer culture

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MOVIES:

While We’re Young:
Indie darling Noah Baumbach follows up his 2012 hit Frances Ha with this comedic take on growing old in the 21st century. The film stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as middle-aged partners who befriend a much younger and happier couple, played by Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver. Quirky identity crises ensue.

While We’re Young opened March 27, but will be showing at local theatre Cinema Du Parc starting April 10.

Straight Outta Compton:
This biographical drama tells the story of the rise and fall of N.W.A, one of hip hop’s most legendary groups. The film chronicles how rappers like Dr. Dre and Ice Cube turned their childhood experiences of racism and violence into powerful music that rebelled against the authorities. Produced by Dre and Ice Cube themselves, the film also stars Paul Giamatti – and you can never go wrong with Paul Giamatti.

Straight Outta Compton opens in theatres August 14.

Inside Out:
Pixar’s first film in two years tells the story of a young girl who moves to a new home, and has to deal with the five competing emotions inside her head. Sounds a little more like a psychological thriller than a kid’s movie, but given that Pixar is the company that brought us Up and Monsters, Inc., we can probably have full faith. With Amy Poehler lending her voice to the project, this film could be a poignant and funny look at girlhood.

Inside Out opens in theatres June 19.

Highway of Tears:
This documentary chronicles the disappearances of young, predominantly Indigenous women along Highway 16 in B.C.. Of the dozens of disappearances and murders, only one has been solved, revealing the systemic racism of a federal government that chooses to ignore these deaths. Part personal, part investigative, the documentary tells a heart breaking story that must be heard.

Highway of Tears has its Montreal premiere April 10 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. There will be a Q&A with the director afterward.

TV:

Gracie and Frankie:
From Marta Kauffman, one of the creators of Friends, comes this new comedy that tells the story of two women whose husbands have left them and declared their love for each other. With the talented and funny Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in the title roles, this series has the potential to be the next big hit for Netflix.

Grace and Frankie premieres May 8.

Orphan Black:
Orphan Black arguably has the best representation politics on TV, passing not only the Bechdel test (at least two women who converse about something other than a man), but pretty much every other test out there for representations that are not white/male/cis dominated or heteronormative. Most of these representations are portrayed by the amazingly versatile Tatiana Maslany, who plays a collection of characters who figure out they’re identical clones with a price on their heads. It’s intriguing, it’s badass, and it’s Canadian – what more do you need?

Orphan Black returns Saturday April 18.

BESSIE
This HBO made-for-TV movie is a biopic of Bessie Smith, iconic blues singer of the 20s and 30s. Written and directed by Dee Rees, the film will feature Queen Latifah as the Empress of Blues. While Latifah has in the past proven her singing and comedic chops, it remains to be seen whether she will be able to bring the dramatic power needed to carry the film.

Bessie premieres May 16.

Call the Midwife:

For those currently experiencing Downton denial, you really must check out Call the Midwife which just kicked off its fourth season. This British period drama chronicles the life and times of midwives in the 1950s and 1960s, narrated by the inimitable Vanessa Redgrave. Yes, my mom loves it, but my mom also loves Friday Night Lights and The Sopranos, so stop your TV-genre stereotyping and settle in for some classic drama.

Call the Midwife returned March 29.

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Sonia Larbi-Aissa <![CDATA[Summer in the city: music and books]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42172 2015-05-09T17:24:02Z 2015-05-09T17:17:18Z The Daily's guide to summer culture

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MUSIC:

Kindred:
Three albums in, frontman Michael Angelakos is still planted firmly within his signature synth palette. But underneath the sugary sweet pop hooks are more frank discussions of mental illness, childhood, and family. You’ll probably hear half the album on the radio this summer, but Kindred might also hold up as the perfect soundtrack for a pensive bike ride around Mont Royal.

Passion Pit’s third studio album, expected release on April 21.

Fly International Luxurious Art
The Chef has had a new album on the burner since before New Year’s 2013. No one knows what’s taken him so long, but this sixth studio album from the Wu-Tang Clan veteran is sure to deliver on the extended hype.

Raekwon’s sixth studio album, expected release on April 28.

All Things to the Sea
After opening for The National at NXNE, the post-punk fuzz-pop band got themselves into Montreal’s Breakglass Studios and recorded All Things to the Sea in ten days. With only 816 likes on Facebook, this is a band you’ll want to get into before the rest of the world notices how good they are.

Montreal trio CTZNSHP’s sophomore album, expected release on April 24.

Deep in the Iris:
Montreal-based art rock band Braids has produced some of Canada’s most innovative music of the past ten years. This summer, Calgary natives and former McGill students Raphaelle Standell-Preston, Austin Tufts, and Taylor Smith are releasing Deep in the Iris. If “Taste,” the first single released on the album, is any indication, this new release will be an atmospheric and poignant effort that lands somewhere between Animal Collective and Björk.

Braids’ third studio album, expected release on April 28.

BOOKS:

Kate Beaton – The Princess and the Pony:
Kate Beacon, beloved cartoonist of Hark! A Vagrant is back this summer with The Princess and the Pony. This picture book for kids and adult pony-enthusiasts features a strong warrior princess and one of Beaton’s most enduring characters, the “roly-poly” pony from Hark! that has also made a cameo appearance on Adventure Time.

Available July 2015.

Boring Girls – Sara Taylor:
Boring Girls, a “deadly coming of age” story, follows the rise of high-schooler Rachel’s amateur metal band. She forms the band in the hopes of escaping the misogynist world she lives in, but is then ironically forced to fight misogyny in “the dark heart of the music industry.”

Available April 2015.

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History… and Our Future! – Kate Schatz:
Calling this book a celebration of American women would be an understatement. A shout out to bold women who fought for everyone, the book is a spin-off of A-Z books that all children (and adults) need on their bookshelves – because A is not for apples, it’s for Angela Davis.

Available April 2015.


Laws & Locks – Chad Campbell:

Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, Laws & Locks traces one family’s encounters with depression and mental illness. Chad Campbell’s first book of verse weaves in and out of confessional poetry and explores the way our ancestors can influence our choices today.

Available April 2015.

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Cem Ertekin <![CDATA[McGill workers deliver open letter to University]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42160 2015-05-03T20:25:01Z 2015-05-03T20:24:18Z Unions demand fair wages, condemn labour casualisation

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Roughly 50 people gathered at Community Square, in front of McGill’s James Administration Building, to celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1 and to stand in solidarity with the academic and non-academic workers at the university. Organized by the Inter-Union Council of McGill, the rally included talks by community members, who spoke about the corporatization of the university and the effects of provincial austerity measures.

In an open letter delivered after the rally to the James Administration Building and signed by the event’s participants, workers and students of McGill “[condemned] the Administration’s attack on workers and [signalled] that [they] are united, strong, and prepared to fight back.”

The letter also condemned the closing of the McGill Life Sciences Library and the Education Library, the centralization and restructuring of Arts Faculty administrative offices, and the cutting of over 100 Arts courses. These actions taken by the Administration were used to justify “the abolishing of many full-time employment positions, diminishing the quality and collegial climate of undergraduate education, and contributing to tangible overcrowding in the McLennan and Schulich libraries.”

Casualisation at McGill

According to Sheehan Moore, an outreach coordinator at the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) and the Association of McGill University Research Employees (AMURE), McGill is justifying its policy of casualisation with the provincial government’s budget cuts to education and the ensuing deficit. However, Moore characterized the deficit as “non-existing,” referring to University’s recent declaration of a $4.3 million surplus in its 2014-15 fiscal budget.

While originally forecasting a $7 million deficit, Provost Anthony Masi announced the unexpected surplus at McGill’s Senate on April 22. Similarly, in the 2013-14 academic year, the University was expecting an operating deficit of about $10 million, but instead ran an operating surplus of over $15 million. Still, the University’s 2015-16 budget forecasts an additional $11 million reduction in the operating budget, to be mitigated by the continuation of cost-cutting practices introduced in the past two years, including casualisation.

“What [casualisation] means is the process by which good, well-paid, stable jobs are destabilized and replaced by temporary and precarious jobs, with fewer benefits et cetera. At McGill, this instability takes the form of short-term contracts, constant contract renewals, [and] unreliable schedules,” said Moore.

AMUSE to start negotiating collective agreement

Moore explained that AMUSE’s collective agreement with McGill expired on April 20, although it will remain in effect until a new bargain is struck. The union will begin negotiating with the University in May.

Addressing the crowd at the rally, McGill worker and member of the AMUSE bargaining team Agatha Slupek declared on behalf of the Inter-Union Council that “unions at McGill will be joining [their] comrades in the fast-food and retail industries [in calling] for a $15 campus-wide minimum wage.”

“Approximately 1500 workers on campus make less than $12 an hour – invigilators and non-academic casual staff making up the bulk of that group. Approximately 500 research assistants make less than $15 an hour – making that 2000 workers who are earning less than $15 [an hour], which has been estimated to be the living wage for the city of Montreal,” Slupek said.

Neoliberalisation of the university

Speaking to the crowd, assistant professor of political science Yves Winter contextualized the circumstances at McGill within a broader process of neoliberalization, “[which] positions the university as a big enterprise. […] It treats students as consumers, and it treats education as commodity.”

Mona Luxion, AGSEM (McGill’s Teaching Assistants Union) Mobilization Committee Chair and a member of Demilitarize McGill, said: “We all live under an economic system that is based on the exploitation of the vast majority of the people for the profit of a few. […] I want to acknowledge that many of us are insulated from the brutality of that system through what we call the welfare state, where a little bit of that profit is redistributed to people in the form of education and healthcare and social services.”

“So [the austerity] we’re seeing this spring – and this is part of a [larger] movement in the Quebec government, in the federal government, [and] across the world – is rolling back this redistribution of any of the profit, so that the brutality of this system is exposed,” added Luxion.

“We must resist against it. We must push for an alternative mission that involves educating students for the common good, a mission that involves responsibilizing ourselves as democratic agents, doing research and teaching that is critical, that isn’t just commodifiable, that isn’t just for profit, and that doesn’t just toe the corporate line,” stated Winter.

“It involves conducting ourselves and training ourselves to hold power accountable and to build [a] kind of community on campus, to build on the community that we have to valorize it rather than undermine it.”

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Igor Sadikov <![CDATA[Police crack down on May Day demonstrations]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42167 2015-05-04T06:55:48Z 2015-05-02T23:28:22Z Community activists determined to continue mobilizing against austerity

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Over 860 community organizations, student associations, and unions across Quebec – an unprecedented number – went on strike on May 1 to mark International Workers’ Day and protest the provincial government’s austerity measures. In Montreal, protests and disruptive actions began early in the morning and culminated around 7:30 p.m. when a demonstration numbering over 500 people, organized by Montreal’s Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC), was violently dispersed by the police.

Demonstrators began gathering at Phillips Square around 6:30 p.m., joined shortly thereafter by neighbourhood contingents formed in North, East, and South-West Montreal. The group set off around 7 p.m..

Having promptly declared the demonstration illegal, police agents from the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) confronted the group at several locations and deployed large amounts of tear gas, injuring protesters and passers-by, including children. According to Radio-Canada, SPVM spokesperson Laurent Gingras was unable to give an exact reason for the dispersion maneuver.

“They didn’t let us walk, they gassed us after twenty minutes,” one protester told The Daily in French. “It was seriously appalling.”

Many fled into the metro. Some of the remaining protesters were kettled on Maisonneuve, with the night ending in 84 arrests.

“It’s obvious that the escalation of repression we’ve seen in the last few years is the result of a political directive to nip all protest movements with a radical discourse in the bud,” CLAC wrote in a press release. “To be clear, we will not allow ourselves to be chased, beaten, and repressed without a fight.”

Day of action for International Workers’ Day

From 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., protesters associated with the Coalition opposée à la tarification et à la privatisation des services publics, a coalition of over 85 social groups fighting cuts to public services, blocked access to the Banque Nationale tower, inhibiting its activities. At the same time, roughly 300 protesters occupied the offices of Québecor Media. These actions were followed by a demonstration that drew thousands of people.

“The main reason why community organizations are mobilizing is because the people we work with on a daily basis are experiencing the consequences of austerity,” Coalition spokesperson Véronique Laflamme told The Daily in French. “These are people who are seeing employment integration programs for people with disabilities being cut, seeing their welfare cheques being cut, seeing social housing being cut […] people who have less and less access to quality public services because of cuts to healthcare and social services.”

“Community groups do a lot of work with very few resources. They’re overburdened and it’s harder and harder for them to fulfill their mission, because there are more and more people who need help,” added Laflamme.

Joining the mobilization for the day of action, twenty-four CEGEP teachers’ unions across Quebec voted for one-day strike mandates to protest severe government cuts to education.

Quebec’s labour board ruled on April 30 that the teachers’ strike was illegal, and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) advised its members to comply with the ruling. Despite this, successful picket lines were held and classes cancelled at many CEGEPs, including Maisonneuve and Rosemont in Montreal.

A similar number of university and CEGEP student associations were also on strike.

Quebec author Anny Schneider, who attended the morning protest, insisted on the importance of continuing to mobilize non-student sectors of the population. “I think there aren’t enough older people [protesting] – people are afraid for their jobs, for their social positions,” she told The Daily in French. “I remain hopeful.”

Looking forward, protesters and organizers emphasized the need to continue to build momentum toward strong mobilization in the fall.

“We’re determined, and we cannot let this go. We’re already seeing the ravaging effects of austerity measures throughout Quebec,” said Laflamme. “The battle of the next few months is a battle for the redistribution of wealth.”

Some expressed concern over the brutality of the police repression, and its potential impact on mobilization.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t want to come back to demos because of how violent it’s become,” a student at CEGEP du Vieux-Montréal, who attended picket lines there, as well as the night protest, told The Daily in French. “The repression is very strong.”

“I’ve never seen so many police in Montreal,” said Schneider. “It’s very unhealthy; it scares me, it saddens me, but I will continue to express myself.”

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Trent Eady <![CDATA[Beyond divestment]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42145 2015-05-02T19:05:13Z 2015-04-30T17:04:30Z Alternative energy research is the only way to solve climate change

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I signed Divest McGill’s petition calling on our university to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies, because I think McGill’s divestment would make for a strong statement on climate change. Divestment broadcasts the message that the world needs to transition away from fossil fuels – the sooner the better. However, I know that McGill’s divestment – or even the divestment of every single university in North America – won’t actually have an impact on fossil fuel companies’ finances. As such, divestment is not a direct way to limit the world’s fossil fuel production. In fact, the only socially viable way to keep fossil fuels in the ground is to render them obsolete. In order to make that happen in time to stop the worst effects of climate change, we need aggressive investment in alternative energy research.

Divestment doesn’t work as an economic tactic because it doesn’t actually limit fossil fuel companies’ access to capital. Imagine that the divestment movement is hugely successful – so successful, in fact, that it causes the share price of fossil fuel companies to drop. As economics writer Matthew Yglesias explains in an article for Slate, that price drop “simply creates an opportunity for other value-hunting investors to pick up some shares at a discount. In fact, in the age of algorithmic trading, the entire process will run its course in the blink of an eye. Nobody will even notice it happened.” Financially, divestment makes no difference.

So, divestment from fossil fuel companies is really just a symbolic gesture, rather than an effective economic tactic. However, there is another catch. Even if divestment actually could curb global fossil fuel production, it would be a deal with the devil. The world needs more energy, and as it stands, fossil fuels are the most affordable way of providing that energy. There are 1.3 billion people on the planet who don’t have access to electricity. Curbing global energy production would leave them in the dark. They shouldn’t be forced to choose between energy poverty and climate change, or have that choice made for them.

The only way to solve both energy poverty and climate change is to create a shift toward alternative energy production, using technologies such as solar power. This can only happen if alternative energy is cheaper than energy from fossil fuels and can be produced in enough abundance. To get to that point we need investment. We need both private investment (i.e. capital) from individuals and companies and public funding from governments to flow into alternative energy research at a much more aggressive rate. More persistent research will more rapidly bring the cost of alternative energy down below the price of coal, oil, and natural gas – a drop toward which the energy market is already heading. Research can also allow us to overcome scalability issues. For example, solar panels and wind turbines don’t produce a constant stream of energy – they only work when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. New energy storage systems are one way this problem could be solved. Accelerated research alone can provide a solution to climate change that avoids condemning over a billion people to energy poverty.

Climate change activists should complement fossil fuel divestment with the inverse approach. We should start a movement for investment in alternative energy research, which would achieve a far greater impact. The best way to end the use of fossil fuels is to make them obsolete, and investment in alternative energy research is the only way to make that happen.


Trent Eady is a U4 Philosophy student. To reach him, please email commentary@mcgilldaily.com.

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Jill Bachelder <![CDATA[Two J-Board cases against Elections SSMU resolved through mediation]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42141 2015-04-29T23:21:21Z 2015-04-29T23:18:56Z Kareem Ibrahim censured over a month after end of election period

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Two cases filed to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Judicial Board (J-Board) last March against Elections SSMU Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Rachelle Bastarache have been resolved through mediation, as of April 28. Both petitioners, unsuccessful SSMU presidential candidate Alexei Simakov and VP Internal candidate Johanna Nikoletos, claimed that Elections SSMU failed to uphold its mandate to ensure a fair election.

Simakov’s case

Simakov, who received 47.5 per cent of the vote in the presidential election, claimed that Elections SSMU did not adequately address the alleged instance of libel on behalf of his opponent, SSMU president-elect Kareem Ibrahim. Ibrahim had accused Simakov of being involved in the revealing of controversial comments that Ibrahim had made in a Facebook message thread concerning the gathering of evidence for alleged bylaw infractions by former SSMU presidential candidate Tariq Khan.

The terms of agreement reached in mediation required Ibrahim to publicly apologize to Simakov, which he did on April 13. In his apology, Ibrahim expressed regret and acknowledged that some of the comments he made against Simakov were “unsubstantiated allegations.”

In addition, Bastarache sent a statement over the Elections SSMU listserv publicly censuring Ibrahim on April 28. According to the email, the censure was due to “new evidence” that surfaced after the campaigning period which would have affected Bastarache’s original decision; however, the situation was “not severe enough” to warrant a meeting of the Electoral Review Committee (ERC).

The new evidence in question is that the Facebook post in which Ibrahim had made accusations against Simakov was deleted eight hours after Bastarache originally believed it to have been deleted, she told The Daily.

Bastarache recognized that, with the vote long over, the censures served little purpose beyond informing the public of infractions that occurred during the campaign period.

“It was an agreement that we’d come to where […] we will acknowledge that something has happened, not severe enough to warrant convening [the] ERC or anything else, however if you felt that you had been wronged, we wanted to make that right – and that was the way that [Simakov] felt that things could be made right,” stated Bastarache.

“At the time, it seemed appropriate, however that was also on [April 8], so that was a long time ago.”

Nikoletos’s case

Nikoletos, who lost the VP Internal election by 13 votes, filed a petition at the end of March asking the J-Board to invalidate the VP Internal election and hold another vote. In her petition, Nikoletos alleged that incoming VP Internal Lola Baraldi had not been sanctioned for improper campaigning on Facebook and Reddit. Nikoletos also alleged that Baraldi had violated regulations when she campaigned in the New Residence Hall lobby.

Baraldi was publicly censured by Elections SSMU on March 27, about one week after the election results were announced, for campaign violations in New Residence Hall.

In mediation, Bastarache agreed to formulate recommendations for next year’s CEO on ways to clarify the SSMU electoral bylaws, particularly with regard to campaigning on social media. “A lot of the campaigning is playing out on social media, and it is very difficult to monitor,” said Bastarache, noting that ambiguity in the bylaws in this regard has also been an issue in the past.

Nikoletos did not respond to requests for comment.

Dissatisfaction with process

In an email, Simakov told The Daily that his overall experience with J-Board had confirmed his concerns that “students are unable to access an unbiased judicial process related to matters of politics,” and that the CEO of Elections SSMU “is under no impartial supervision.”

This, Simakov wrote, was based on the manner in which his case was dealt, as after submitting his petition, he was not contacted by “the J-Board or student advocacy office for over a week,” though, according to him, Bastarache was assigned a student advocate less than two days after she filed her response.

“[On April 7] I was notified that the only available time to meet would be within forty minutes, and was connected with my student advocate precisely ten minutes before the mediation session started,” Simakov told The Daily. “Ten minutes is not at all an adequate amount of time to adequately prepare my case.”

J-Board Chief Justice Muna Tojiboeva did not oversee Nikoletos’s case due to a conflict of interest stemming from Tojiboeva’s involvement in Baraldi’s campaign.

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Igor Sadikov <![CDATA[Senators concerned about Student Services funding]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42133 2015-04-24T19:32:43Z 2015-04-24T19:32:43Z Senate updated on research regulation review, expected $4 million budget surplus

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McGill’s Senate convened on April 22 for its penultimate meeting of the year, approving revisions to McGill’s mission statement and the creation of a faculty council in the Faculty of Medicine. Senate also discussed McGill’s budget orientations – in particular, the funding of Student Services – and received an update on the ongoing review of McGill’s research conduct regulation.

Budget surplus, Student Services funding

Provost Anthony Masi informed Senate that, despite an initial forecast of a $7 million deficit, the projected balance of the 2014-15 budget is a $4.3 million surplus. For the second year in a row, the government has provided unforeseen funds to the university following a revision of student enrolment numbers, resulting in a budget surplus despite severe cuts to the operating grant.

“Two years doesn’t make a trend – yet,” said Masi, also noting that additional expenditures during the month of April could reduce the surplus.

The 2015-16 budget, expected to be approved by the Board of Governors on April 28, forecasts an additional $11 million reduction in the operating budget, to be mitigated by the continuation of cost-cutting practices introduced in the past two years, such as the hiring freeze on administrative and support staff. International students in faculties with deregulated international tuition – Engineering, Law, Management, and Science – will also face a 5 per cent tuition increase.

The budget also includes a $4.75 million revenue increase from additional overhead charges imposed to the university’s “self-funding” units, including Student Services, which is mostly funded by student fees. According to Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, the changes will require Student Services to allocate $1.5 million of its accumulated $6 million surplus to new overhead charges.

“There’s no way we can commit to [maintaining current levels of service].”

Student Services also receives a yearly grant from the provincial government. Responding to a question from Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan, SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa, SSMU Arts and Science Senator and incoming VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke, and SSMU Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon, Dyens left open the possibility that this grant could begin to be partially distributed to other units instead, noting that 25 per cent of the $1.8 million grant is already being allocated to Athletics.

“The government grant we receive is meant to fund services to students, [which] include McGill Student Services, but also things such as the Dean of Students, Service Point, advising, the libraries, et cetera,” said Dyens. “If we face unsustainable cuts over the next few years, we may have to use part of that grant to ensure the viability of services to students. We would be able to do so only because Student Services has an accumulated budget surplus of more than $6 million – this is not a long-term solution.”

Student senators voiced concern about the long-term sustainability of the funding of Student Services, a unit already unable to meet student demand and reduce wait times.

“Student Services was previously planning to be using some of that surplus to be doing things like hiring new therapists, but now they are not able to […] meet the increase in demand because of these new overheads,” said Stewart-Kanigan.

Dyens noted that $3.5 million of the surplus was still available, but warned against creating “unreasonable expectations.”

“We could use the entire $6 million to […] bring wait time to zero this year; however, it would mean [that] next year, we’d be unable to do so, and we would create an unreasonable expectation on our services,” he said. “Even if we were to address these needs right now, the demand keeps increasing. […] It’s just not sustainable, we need to find solutions that are more creative.”

Asked by Ayukawa whether the University could commit to maintaining current levels of service after 2016, Dyens said, “There’s no way we can commit to this. What we can commit to is [to] try as hard as we can to do it.”

Mission statement

Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures & Equity) Lydia White presented for approval an updated mission statement and a statement of principles for McGill. Taking into consideration feedback from the discussion of the proposed changes at the February 18 Senate meeting, the Academic Policy Committee (APC) revised the proposed statement by removing “engaging the wider community” from the mission statement and revising the principles to be “academic freedom, integrity, responsibility, equity, and inclusiveness.”

Greenspon and Ayukawa raised concerns over the insufficient emphasis on teaching in the mission statement, and on students as recipients of education. “It’s emphasizing research a bit more than teaching,” said Ayukawa.

The new mission statement was approved, with one vote against.

Research conduct regulation review

Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations) Rosie Goldstein verbally updated Senate on the progress of the review of McGill’s Regulation on the Conduct of Research. A working group charged with making recommendations to this effect was struck last fall.

Although it recommended some changes to the regulation itself, the working group mostly made procedural recommendations to improve the implementation of existing rules. Among these were two items to be added to the standard research approval process: a statement that the researcher “has considered the consequences of the research,” and an indication whether the sponsor of the research “operates harmful applications into which research could foreseeably be incorporated,” with an explanation of the balance of benefits and harms of the research if necessary.

Goldstein said that she would conduct consultation among the vice-principals and the deans before bringing the report of the committee to Senate in the fall.

“My expectation was that the report would be made public [today],” said Stewart-Kanigan. “Members of the community haven’t been able to see any sign of the work we’ve done so far.”

Medicine faculty council

Senate approved the creation of a faculty council for the Faculty of Medicine, to be composed of representatives from faculty leadership, academic staff, and students.

“The Faculty of Medicine was perhaps unique in the university in not having a formal faculty council,” said Dean of Medicine David Eidelman.

The council will act as an advisory body to the dean, and will review its terms of reference within two years.

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rosalind hampton <![CDATA[More than a “special issue”]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42127 2015-04-21T18:36:49Z 2015-04-21T14:39:31Z Maintaining the conversation about race at McGill

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The critical articles featured in The Daily’s recent special issue on race are both timely and painfully timeless. In the following response I build on and offer further context for some of the concerns raised in the article “No more excuses” (March 23, Special Issue Pullout, p. 10), which discussed the representation of faculty members of colour at McGill. I do so through drawing on my experiences at McGill over the past four years as well as my doctoral research examining the social relations between Black people and the University.

McGill’s ‘diversity’

Students and faculty members have been raising concerns about institutional racism at McGill for at least half a century. Committees, focus groups, and more committees have been formed; reports, recommendations, and more recommendations have been submitted to all levels of the administration. Most of this volunteer labour has been and continues to be done by racialized students and professors, with minimal if any tangible results. The senior administration has consistently refused to acknowledge and address institutional racism at McGill, using the depoliticized framing of liberal Canadian multiculturalism and the strategic pairing of ‘diversity and equity’ in institutional discourses to suggest an automatic cause and effect between the two.

The University has increasingly mobilized the abstract and market-friendly language of ‘diversity,’ such as in the Principal’s Task Force on Diversity, Excellence and Community. This language serves as a container for all forms of difference from an assumed white, middle to upper class, heterosexual, able-bodied, Anglo norm, shifting attention away from demands for equity and toward a notion of shared values such as ‘excellence’ and ‘community.’ For example, despite the extensive work of the 2010 Equity Sub-Committee on Race and Ethnic Relations for the Principal’s Task Force, chaired by Charmaine Nelson, an Associate Professor of Art History at McGill, the administration’s preliminary response generally ignored the specificity of race and institutional racism, broadly defining “diversity” as “reflected not only in race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability, but also in language, sexual orientation, gender identity, community, politics, culture, way of life, economic status, and interests.”

Rather than signifying a new agenda and direction shifting away from McGill’s longstanding reputation as a predominantly white, anglophone, elite institution, the “use of diversity as an official description can be a way of maintaining rather than transforming existing organizational values,” as Sara Ahmed wrote in her 2012 book, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. In practice, the limited diversity that McGill does seem to value continues to be its international diversity: its ability to extend its economic, social, and political reach to draw students from across the globe.

The white supremacy inherent to many Canadian universities is part and parcel of the colonial contexts within which they were established and developed; and this, I believe, is what makes these spaces particularly problematic and in many cases hostile to Indigenous and Black people.

Representation in education

As an educator, one of the most concerning points raised in The Daily’s article about faculty representation was that “the worst-performing faculties in terms of tenure-track professors who identified as a ‘visible minority,’ ‘ethnic minority,’ or ‘Aboriginal,’ include the Faculty of Education (19.5 per cent) and the Faculty of Arts (22.8 per cent).” Much of my own past work as a community worker and educator in Montreal Black communities has involved organizing to compensate for and struggle against the Eurocentrism and racism of curricula, teachers, and school administrators within Montreal primary and secondary schools and school boards. This work informed my decision to pursue a doctoral program in Educational Studies as well as my current research examining social relations between Black people and the University. Shifting my immediate focus to universities as the production sites of knowledge and power and to the university programs within and by which education and other social, cultural, and political workers are schooled has, quite frankly, explained a lot.

In the spring of 2013, as VP Diversity and Equity of the Education Graduate Students’ Society (EGSS), I authored a report titled “Diversity and Equity in the McGill University Faculty of Education,” calling attention to the ongoing lack of racial diversity and the persistence of institutional racism at McGill despite years of organizing and activism, particularly by students and faculty members of colour. While these teachers and learners have consistently created alternative pedagogical initiatives and spaces to better address their concerns and meet their needs outside of the university’s official channels and structures, they have also demanded accountability and change from within the institution. The report was endorsed by EGSS Council on May 1, 2013 and submitted to all professors in the Faculty as well as to the Dean of the Faculty of Education, on May 9, 2013.

For what I believe to be a variety of reasons, including fear, ambivalence, apathy, and strategic disengagement from institutional structures, only one professor responded: she assigned the report to her graduate classes in the fall of 2013, and invited me and my EGSS colleagues to visit her classes and to discuss the report with her students. Several graduate students expressed to us that while they had recognized or experienced institutional racism at the university, they were afraid to speak out against it. One international student shared that reading the report had made them aware of how they had come to McGill aspiring to become a teacher in Quebec, but through their experiences in the Faculty had internalized the notion that people of their background are not teachers here and had abandoned their goal. This points to the broader consequences of teacher education programs that offer neither racially diverse faculty nor curricula that reflect the impacts and contributions of decades of critical race and Indigenous studies in academia.

That the Faculties of Education and Arts are reported to be those with the fewest “‘visible minority,’ ‘ethnic minority,’ or ‘Aboriginal’” tenure-track professors at McGill is particularly striking because these faculties are arguably the most prominent sites of contemporary race-related research and scholarship, with professors conducting all manner of research and claiming pedagogical expertise in critical race theory, Indigenous studies, postcolonial theories, inclusive education, and social justice education. The highly active and engaged memberships of Canadian academic organizations such as the Researchers and Academics of Colour for Equity (R.A.C.E. Network) and the Black Canadian Studies Association, as well as the longstanding transnational Critical Ethnic Studies Association demonstrate the ridiculous nature of assertions of a lack of qualified racialized professors within these fields.

Canadian scholars of colour have and continue to make critical contributions to their fields, including (but by no means limited to) those challenging some of the academy’s outdated and limited assumptions, agendas, and practices. Clearly, the issue is not a lack of qualified scholars. It must be underscored that this failure represents an ‘intellectual deficit’ within the university itself. As Nathan Richards, a freelance digital journalist and doctoral researcher at Goldsmiths University noted regarding universities in the UK, the failure to engage “the vast perspectives and experiences of the communities within this country or from the people roaming the halls of our universities; and [the ongoing] marginalization of certain groups negatively impacts social and political policy, policing, law, media, the arts and pretty much every facet within our society.”

The University’s institutional texts, discourses, and display practices constantly celebrate McGill’s colonial roots while ignoring and erasing the realities of colonial dispossession and violence.

White supremacy at settler universities

An ever-expanding corpus of research on Canadian universities has demonstrated the persistence of deeply embedded structural racism and biases against racialized faculty. According to University Affairs, Canadian universities have responded to this research “with reams of reports, commissions, committees, policies and plans. Not only do most have equity or human rights departments and offices, but the majority also state they want a more inclusive academy.” Yet, they fail to make progress on racial equity and progressive structural change. McGill has a pervasive and deeply embedded “culture of whiteness,” including a clear racial hierarchy that puts Black and Indigenous students and faculty at the very bottom.

Despite the rhetoric to the contrary, this institutional racism is not merely the unfortunate result of recent austerity measures and the underrepresentation of Black and Indigenous professors is certainly not due to a lack of qualified potential candidates. The white supremacy inherent to many Canadian universities is part and parcel of the colonial contexts within which they were established and developed; and this, I believe, is what makes these spaces particularly problematic and in many cases hostile to Indigenous and Black people. As several students and scholars who I have interviewed for my research have asserted, the University’s institutional texts, discourses, and display practices constantly celebrate McGill’s colonial roots while ignoring and erasing the realities of colonial dispossession and violence. Most of these people are well aware that James McGill was a colonizer who both owned and traded in Black and Indigenous slaves and many are both offended and deeply troubled by the University’s promotion of James McGill’s persona, most obviously through the prominent positioning of his skull and bones in the tomb outside of the Arts Building and of the statue enacting his immortal presence on lower campus.

A group of Black academics at the University of Cape Town (UCT), in solidarity with student activists involved in the #RhodesMustFall movement, recently asserted that the statue of British colonizer Cecil John Rhodes on the UCT campus is “a key sign of the larger symbolic landscape of the university’s failure to transform, [which] includes: the artifacts and names allocated to space across our campuses; the under-representation and under-valuing of black academic staff at all levels; the offensive discourse around standards and performance; and curricula that largely disregard African knowledges and practice in all their complexity. All of this contributes to an alienating institutional culture for black staff and students across the institution. [These are] key areas on which the university must focus in order to advance real transformation.”

In addition to calling for the removal of the Rhodes statue from the UCT campus, the movement demands “the inclusion of an Afrocentric curriculum, the promotion of workers’ rights and an end to outsourcing, and the employment of more Black academics.” As one student activist adeptly put it, “From the time that it was colonized there was never an attempt to decolonize the university. The university culture is still very white, it’s very elitist, [it’s] patriarchal, and it’s very heteronormative.”

As noted by writers on Africa is a Country, “Rhodes must fall everywhere.” The statue on the UCT campus was indeed taken down on April 9. However, Rhodes’s statue in this context represents much more – it is a symbol of the ongoing celebration and perpetuation of the colonial ideologies upon which so many settler colonial colleges and universities like McGill were founded, and more broadly, of the lasting colonial relations and racial hierarchies in universities – whether in Canada, South Africa, or elsewhere.

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Igor Sadikov <![CDATA[Women’s Studies students end two-week strike]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42117 2015-04-18T01:39:17Z 2015-04-18T01:39:17Z Students use music as a less-confrontational disruption tactic

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Women’s Studies and Sexual Diversity Studies Student Association (WSSA) members voted at a General Assembly on April 14 to end their strike against austerity measures, which began on April 1. During the two weeks of strike, the WSSA strike committee disrupted classes offered by the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF), organized educational activities, and helped plan an anti-austerity community sit-in in front of the James Administration building on April 14.

“We’ve […] been hosting teach-ins and workshops during usual class time to give folks something else to go to, [as] a popular education tactic so that folks have the opportunity to come out and continue learning […] from one another, in a way that is much less hierarchical than class generally is,” explained Women’s Studies student and strike committee member Molly Swain.

Strike committee members employed a combination of soft pickets, hard pickets, and noise disruption to successfully cancel most classes scheduled during the two weeks. Although most students respected the strike mandate and did not attend class, tensions between picketers and strike-breaking students ran particularly high on certain occasions.

“We ask basically for the same respect from the folks who don’t necessarily agree with the strike.”

On one occasion, after a professor and around six students were prevented from accessing their classroom, the professor decided to move the class to an office instead of cancelling it. Picketers followed the students to the office and engaged in noise disruption, causing discomfort and fear among the students inside, according to reports.

“I was very scared, everyone in the room was very uncomfortable, very scared. […] They kept pounding on the door, they kept on making noise, and we couldn’t do anything,” said Blare Coughlin, one of the students who attended the class. “By enforcing the strike in such a loud, pressuring way […] it’s very alienating.”

Swain acknowledged that some of the tactics used contributed to tensions between students, but emphasized students’ responsibility to respect the strike mandate.

“Folks disagree on tactics; folks feel that if things get too confrontational, it can be uncomfortable for people,” said Swain. “We ask people to leave, and we always give them the opportunity to do so if they choose.”

“Should the strike get voted down, the strike committee is not going to […] keep picketing, out of respect for the decision of the collective body, and we ask basically for the same respect from the folks who don’t necessarily agree with the strike,” added Swain.

Whereas, Women cover band

In an attempt to ease tensions and lighten the mood, striking students formed a cover band called Whereas, Women in order to enforce classroom disruptions by means of musical performance.

“We thought we might try a more fun and inclusive tactic,” Women’s Studies student Kelly Schieder told The Daily at the band’s debut performance, which took place in the IGSF building on the morning of April 10.

“It’s a way for noise disruption to happen and for us to fulfill our mandate in ways that are somewhat less confrontational,” added Swain.

The band, whose repertoire ranges from 90s hits to classic protest songs, also staged a show on April 13 to celebrate the last scheduled class of the year in the department. The class was cancelled with no issues, and the festive atmosphere elicited a positive response from the students who had come to attend the class.

“They took a different approach, and I’m really thankful for that,” said Coughlin.

Unaccommodating professors

The strike committee attempted to coordinate the enforcement of the WSSA strike mandate with IGSF faculty, as the WSSA had done during the 2012 student strikes. However, despite their stated opposition to austerity measures, the professors were largely unaccommodating this time around, with some indicating that they would call security on picketing students.

“We went into this having communicated with the IGSF […] beforehand, and their response to us was very similar to what we received in 2012, which was, basically, ‘We’ll do the best we can to support you, but we also need to make sure the profs are getting the support they need,’” explained Swain, who was in her first year at McGill during the 2012 student strikes.

“[In 2012], professors said that if we put up picket lines, they wouldn’t cross them, so we effectively cancelled class fairly easily. […] The reception from the professors [this time] was not as accommodating at all to the strike.”

In an interview with The Daily, IGSF Director Carrie Rentschler expressed opposition to austerity measures, but argued that the precarious nature of the IGSF instructors’ position made it difficult for them to support the striking students.

“I am anti-austerity. We have seen here at McGill a round of budget cuts in the millions […] – they are hampering our ability to provide the kinds of education that we want to provide here at the institute,” said Rentschler.

“None of us have the protection of a union. Our instructors work on contract basis, which means their positions are precarious – not because we make them precarious, but they are by nature precarious. So those instructors don’t have the kind of protections you would have if you were a union person going on strike.”

“This has given folks a little bit of taste of what this can look like, and they can take that and make it their own in the fall.”

On April 4, the strike committee published an open letter expressing its disappointment with the IGSF’s response to the WSSA strike.

“We understand that the IGSF is receiving threats that their professors […] could lose their jobs or not be paid if they attempt to accommodate or support striking students,” the letter reads.

“What we do not understand is why they have chosen to accept these conditions wholesale and have proceeded to repress our resistance to these same forces instead of working with us to challenge those above them in the university hierarchy, as we are putting ourselves at risk to do.”

With the strike now over, the strike committee will continue working with the IGSF to attempt to establish assessment procedures that do not penalize students who were involved in the strike.

“We’re going to be meeting with them to ensure that everybody in this situation comes out of it feeling like there’s no remaining hostility, and that students who have been involved in the strike feel like they’re protected moving forward in their degrees – and the profs also feel comfortable continuing to teach folks,” said Swain.

Both Coughlin and Swain also said that they look forward to the continuing mobilization in the fall.

“In the fall, we’ll be able to mobilize a lot more, because people won’t be scared about finals […] hanging over their heads – so I’m actually kind of hopeful for fall,” said Coughlin.

“This has been a learning process for the strike committee, but it has also been a learning process for Women’s Studies students as a whole,” noted Swain. “Mobilization is going to happen in a new way in the fall […] – this has given folks a little bit of taste of what this can look like, and they can take that and make it their own in the fall.”

—With files from Marina Cupido

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Marina Cupido <![CDATA[Long debates on climate change, military research policies at Council]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42113 2015-04-24T19:29:31Z 2015-04-17T23:59:21Z Consultation results on policies show divide among faculties

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On April 9, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened for its final meeting of the year, which lasted eight hours, to debate proposed policies on for SSMU regarding climate change and harmful military research. The Climate Change Policy was ultimately referred to a committee for reworking, and the Policy for a Campus Free from Harmful Military Technology passed only partially.

Councillors also passed motions to stand in solidarity with teaching assistants in their ongoing negotiations with the administration, and to increase SSMU’s support of the Peer Support Network (PSN).

Harmful military technology

At this year’s Fall General Assembly (GA), students voted in favour of a motion calling on SSMU to “renew its stance of opposition to the development of harmful military technology on campus”; a policy to this effect was brought to Council for approval.

The document, moved by VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan, VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette, and Arts Representative Patrick Dunbar-Lavoie, noted that SSMU’s previous policy on the issue had expired in 2013, and that “McGill has remained non-transparent about the extent and nature of military funded research on campus.”

The proposed policy in its original form would have mandated SSMU to oppose the development of harmful military technology on campus, support campaigns with this goal, promote alternative student research opportunities, and lobby the administration for more transparency in the potential applications of research contracts.

It also called on the VP University Affairs to advocate for the delineation of “social responsibility” and of the criteria to be used to weigh the “potential benefits against the possibility of harmful applications’ to evaluate the permissibility of research contracts.”

The policy sparked a lengthy, and at times heated, debate among councillors.

Science Representative and incoming VP Finance and Operations Zacheriah Houston expressed concern over the relatively small proportion of consulted McGill students who had expressed support for such a stance. Out of 200 students polled on the subject, only 27 per cent had responded favourably.

Arts and Science Senator and incoming VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke also voiced concerns based on the survey.

“I think there was a lot of backlash,” she said, speculating that much of students’ opposition to the policy was based on opposition to the activist group Demilitarize McGill. However, she said, most respondents had expressed a desire for greater transparency with regard to the technologies developed at McGill and their possible applications.

In response to Rourke’s concerns, Stewart-Kanigan said that Demilitarize McGill had not been consulted in the drafting of this policy, which, contrary to the concerns of some students, would not offer the controversial group unlimited support from SSMU.

Engineering Representative Anikke Rioux told Council that many students had expressed skepticism about the policy, arguing that many crucial innovations – such as nuclear technology and many advances in aviation – have their origins in military research. She also noted that these contracts bring money to the university at a time when provincial cuts to education are a major concern.

Stewart-Kanigan, meanwhile, defended the policy. “The term [‘harmful’ expresses] that we’d rather not be developing bombs, thermobaric explosives, missiles – those […] very specific things that are designed to inflict harm onto somebody else’s body.”

Medicine Senator David Benrimoh concurred, arguing that “it’s not necessarily about the technology itself, it’s about the provision of the contract.” Clearly, he said, SSMU’s policy would not end the development of such technologies altogether, nor would it bring Canada’s military to its knees – “but that’s not the point.”

“As a university,” said Benrimoh, “we should not be encouraging the military to think of us as a place where they can sink their research dollars for technologies that are [intended for combat].”

After nearly an hour of debate, a motion was brought forward to divide the question. The first ‘resolved’ clause, stating SSMU’s opposition to the development of harmful military technology on campus, passed by a close margin. The final three clauses passed easily, mandating SSMU to lobby in favour of increased transparency on this issue.

The portions requiring SSMU to support student initiatives against harmful technologies and to promote alternative research opportunities, however, were defeated.

The most controversial clauses were voted on by roll call.

Climate change policy

Following extensive consultation and research, Moustaqim-Barrette brought forward a climate policy for SSMU, along with Stewart-Kanigan and Dunbar-Lavoie, in accordance with another motion passed at the Fall 2014 GA.

The proposal outlined the stances SSMU would take with respect to different climate issues (the Society would, for example, be mandated to oppose the extraction of fossil fuels), the prioritization of funding for broader climate justice projects, and the diverse tactics that would be used in pursuit of climate justice.

According to Moustaqim-Barrette, the policy was developed through months of consultation with experienced activists and specialists in a variety of domains pertaining to climate justice advocacy.

Houston took issue, however, with the lack of broad consultation with students from the Faculties of Science and Engineering. While the climate change policy in its original form was supported by 55 per cent of the 200 students surveyed and more than 60 per cent of respondents in each of the Arts, Arts & Science, Medicine, and Science faculties, it had the support of only 23 per cent of respondents from Engineering.

The Engineering Representatives themselves, Rioux and Scott Conrad, expressed vehement opposition to the policy as it stood, arguing instead for a reworking of the proposal over the summer. Rourke and Houston agreed, taking the position that, while elements of the policy were valuable, it should appeal to students across all faculties.

Medicine Representative Joshua Chin, along with a number of other councillors, objected to the fact that, while labelled a “climate change” policy, much of the document dealt with climate justice. “[At the Fall GA] we voted on a motion regarding climate change, and in that motion there was not one single mention of climate justice. How come this policy, which comes from that GA motion, mentions climate change only [briefly], whereas climate justice is [referred to] throughout the rest of the motion,” said Chin.

Stewart-Kanigan defended the relevance of climate justice. “The elements of climate justice that are outlined in this policy are very specific to allying ourselves with Indigenous communities who face extraction on their territories without their consent, [or] who face oil spills in their area.”

She continued, “If you […] want to take the ‘justice’ part out of it, you’re really [saying, for example, that] it would be a bad idea to have a fundraiser for an Indigenous community who’s getting a mine put on their territory that they don’t want. […] These are people you’re talking about.”

After much discussion, Houston moved to refer the proposal to a committee, which would revise the motion to make it appealing to a broader base of students before bringing it back to Council in the fall. The committee would consist of Moustaqim-Barrette and any other interested parties, and would be formed as soon as possible.

This passed by a wide margin.

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