Last Friday, around sixty students gathered in Community Square in front of the James Administration building to celebrate International Students’ Day. The event featured a series of student and faculty speakers who discussed the diversity of struggles at McGill, in Quebec, and around the world.
The event also commemorated the events of November 10, 2011, when riot police were present on campus following an occupation of James Administration. Last year, students also organized an initiative in response to November 10 – also in Community Square – called “We Are All McGill.”
The “Community Square Lunch” this year was co-organized by SSMU and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), with their respective external executives spearheading the effort. The student unions provided free food to attendees with the help of the student-run food collective Midnight Kitchen.
SSMU VP External Robin Reid-Fraser told The Daily that the event was meant to be a “remembrance and a celebration.”
“It was a time to reflect on the year since November 10 from last year, but also a celebration of the International Students’ Day,” said Reid-Fraser.
PGSS External Affairs Officer Errol Salamon also mentioned that the goal was to address some of the ongoing issues that haven’t been resolved.
“The tuition fee for international students hasn’t been reimbursed yet and then there’s still some disciplinary charges as a result of the student strike that hasn’t been resolved yet,” said Salamon.
He pointed out that the McGill Summit on Higher Education, organized by PGSS and slated for December 3, would address these issues as well.
The event featured short presentations focusing on a several topics including gender, LGBTQ, international students, unions, and faculty struggles.
Justin Marleau, the Vice-President (Teaching Assistants) of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill, talked about the struggle his union has historically faced.
“We have been fighting with this administration for over twenty years for basic rights, like having an actual contract,” said Marleau. “The administration likes to treat us like children because we’re students, and we all know better. But we’re not just students; a lot of us are also workers and we have rights to be treated with respect, treated with dignity, and not to be discriminated against because maybe you are from a foreign country and because we don’t really understand the technicalities that McGill brings in to the contracts, and they take advantage of that.”
East Asian Studies associate professor Thomas Lamarre characterized the faculty struggle at McGill as a struggle against anti-progressive politics.
“[The administration at] McGill is always giving an image that the form that our struggle can take is democracy, that we are supposed to sit in meetings and deliberate and pass bills and vote on things, but the truth is, a university is not structured like a democracy. So when we are told that if we behave and it will become democratic, it’s simply a lie, it simply misdirects all the energy from the actual struggle,” he said.