From November 5 to 9, the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill will be holding its annual Culture Shock event series. The events – including workshops, panels, film screenings, and discussions – are meant to “explore the myths surrounding immigrants, refugees, Indigenous people, and communities of colour,” according to the Culture Shock website.
Initially run solely by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), Culture Shock has been co-organized by QPIRG McGill and SSMU since 2006. This year, McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Education office (SEDE) also participated in organizing the series.
QPIRG Outreach and Promotions Coordinator Kira Page spoke with The Daily about the foundations of Culture Shock. “SSMU used to run an event series of a multicultural affair, and it was poorly attended and wasn’t working out well. So in 2006, we jumped in and offered to co-organize it with them, but with a mandate […to] focus on social justice issues specifically.”
Page emphasized that Culture Shock now looks at issues not through the lens of multiculturalism, but in terms of lived experiences. The event series is framed “with an understanding of issues of racism and the very messed-up ways in which the migration system works, understanding colonization and what that means for Indigenous people living here,” said Page.
In an email to The Daily, SSMU VP Clubs and Services Stefan Fong spoke to the impact of the event series on students. “A lot of the topics that will be discussed stem from personal experiences. […] A lot of different people will typically come to these events with different expectations in mind, and end up with a more holistic understanding [of the topics discussed at Culture Shock].”
According to Page, it is particularly important to have events like Culture Shock to provide an alternative to the academic treatment of the issues discussed. “People [at McGill], especially people who are already interested in these issues, will seek out courses and teachers who deal with these questions, but it happens in such an incredibly restrictive space.”
Accessibility and community outreach
“There’s also a goal of broadly doing educational work on campus but with a focus on forms of learning that are different than what people would get at McGill,” said Page. According to Page, this includes having workshops taught by people directly affected by issues, instead of academics, and the inclusion of communities involved in grassroots organizing.
Organizers are also hoping that Culture Shock will help bridge the gap between McGill and Montreal. “On Saturday November 8, we’re organizing a one day convergence called ‘Healing Rage’ which is for Indigenous people and people of colour in Montreal and McGill to come together and talk about their lived experiences,” Kama Maureemootoo, Finance and Administrative Coordinator at QPIRG McGill, told The Daily. The event will also provide a platform for attendees to share expertise and skills pertaining to the broader anti-racist organizing in Montreal.
Culture Shock will feature its keynote event, “#ItGetsBitter: An Evening of Poetry, Polemic and Healing,” presented by Dark Matter, a trans South Asian art and activist collaboration, on November 7.
“Their work is so interesting because they really work at the intersection of race, migration, and gender […] which opens up a lot of discussion because those issues aren’t single issues,” said Maureemootoo on why Dark Matter was chosen to give the keynote event.
“[Dark Matter] fills both of the two goals of Culture Shock, one of them being to create spaces that are caring and nurturing for people who are directly affected by the issues that we’re talking about […] and they kind of bridge that space between creating spaces of love for people who need it in those experiences, and really pushing people to be better,” added Page.
Visit qpirgmcgill.org for the full schedule.