News – The McGill Daily https://www.mcgilldaily.com Unbothered rabbit since 1911 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 07:00:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg News – The McGill Daily https://www.mcgilldaily.com 32 32 SSMU building to close for repairs https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/10/ssmu-building-to-close-for-repairs/ Thu, 19 Oct 2017 13:04:11 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=51093 On October 12, an information session was held regarding the closure of the Shatner Building from February 15, 2018 to winter 2019. The renovation project will vacate the University Centre for a large-scale renovation concerning the heating and ventilation system, as well as the replacement of the electrical distribution. As a result, all business and club operations at the Students Society of McGill University (SSMU) building will be closed or moved to another location. Prior to the event, a submission form was available for students to submit questions or concerns. Questions were addressed by general manager of SSMU Ryan Hughes, academic planning officer Jonathan Nordland, SSMU VP Student Affairs Jemark Earle, and Adrian Nicolicescu.

Students unaware of closure

The building closure was announced to the student body through McGill’s “What’s New” listserv this fall semester, then through a SSMU statement e-mailed to undergraduate students in October. However, many students were unaware of the building closure until a public Facebook invite for the information session was made, although some within SSMU had known about the closure well in advance.

“We were made aware that SSMU was going to be closing about a month ago,” said David Marchionni, the VP Communications of WalkSafe McGill.

Marchionni mentioned that some operations, such as student clubs were made aware of the closure later than other groups, “it was made clear to us that the services were being informed, but it was not clear that other clubs would not be informed. […] We figured that if they were telling us, they were going to tell […] everyone, and that turned out not to be true, considering that most people found out by a Facebook event.”

“We figured that if they were telling us, they were going to tell […] everyone, and that turned out not to be true, considering that most people found out by a Facebook event.”

When questioned why it has taken so long for all students to be informed, Hughes answered that details were not available then concerning the scope and timing of the renovations. In response to the criticisms, Earle has promised to expand office hours to answer additional questions from student clubs. The University will also be meeting bi-weekly to discuss how to mediate communication.

How will clubs and services be relocated?

McGill will be referring student services to a new location, and move future events to one of the libraries on campus. Tenants including student clubs and services will have access to the building until the end of February to relocate. Hughes announced that student groups will ideally be notified by mid-November of their new locations but there is no guarantee on the timeline.
The Players’ Theatre is currently struggling to find a method to move out their technical equipment, valued up to thousands of dollars.

“Even if we have a company to dismantle […] we’re going to face a loss of an entire season, as we have no space to perform,” said Nadine Pelaez, the technical director of the theatre company. According to Pelaez, students are not qualified to dismantle their equipment, meaning that they need to pay for a moving service.

“Even if we have a company to dismantle […] we’re going to face a loss of an entire season, as we have no space to perform.”

Pelaez commented on the financial impact of having to move their operations, “The Players’ Theatre was founded in 1921, and is one of the only English black box theatres in the Montreal, community. […] We are funded by ticket sales, from our six shows a year, and end of year drama festival. Without them, it will be difficult to move on in the future. […] I had wanted to make this a theatre company of Montreal, to grow our company and having this closure sets us back completely.”

Hughes mentioned that the financial impact of the move hasn’t been estimated yet, therefore there is currently no guarantee of funding help if student groups face financial difficulty. McGill will not commit to subsidizing spaces if clubs or services face rental increases but announced that ‘help’ will be available for moving, such as access to bubble wrap.

When a representative of Queer McGill asked if the future locations will be accessible, as their organization mandates accessible spaces, Hughes responded, “We live in Montreal.”

Criticism from the McGill community

“There is a complete lack of respect. […] Our company found out in May, and it was very unprofessional in that they didn’t give us information. We were told there would be an end of August announcement, but the statement was a month late. We struggled with avoidance from the SSMU executives, they were not answering e-mails, or giving us dates to meet with them,” said Pelaez.

“I do feel that there is a lot of solidarity with other clubs who face issues with rentals, with storage, and with being without answers.” The only McGill student club verbally assured that their club “will be fine,” regarding storage and access, was the McGill Quidditch team.

“We were told there would be an end of August announcement, but the statement was a month late. We struggled with avoidance from the SSMU executives, they were not answering e-mails, or giving us dates to meet with them.”

On the lack of transparency in the process, Marchionni commented, “I can understand why some services […] would be moved, […] because they are SSMU services rather than student clubs. […] I do understand why student clubs would be upset by this, […] it was […] very sloppy execution,” continued Marchionni, “On behalf of the other clubs I’m in and everyone else, it’s kind of a stab in the back.”

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Sexual violence policy still lacking https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/10/sexual-violence-policy-still-lacking/ Thu, 19 Oct 2017 13:00:48 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=51088 On October 11, Our Turn, a national student-led action plan to end on-campus sexual assault and gendered violence, hosted an information session with the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) to announce the organization’s launch. Our Turn is a coalition started by Carleton University students who felt that the school’s sexual violence policy was insufficient. So far, 14 universities from eight provinces have signed onto the action plan and committed to creating their own task force to combat gendered violence and sexual assault on campus.

The speakers at the information session included SSMU VP External Affairs Connor Spencer, Student Life Coordinator for the Concordia Student Union (CSU) Leyla Sutherland, and Our Turn national committee members. Representatives from student groups like the Sexual Assault Center of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) and the Community Disclosure Network (CDN) were also present.

Spencer discussed the importance of the work already being done by grassroots organizations on campus, emphasizing that activism around this issue has always been student-run: “What was really exciting to SSMU about the Our Turn project […] was that it took grassroots initiatives that were already happening on campus […] and [gave] them the tools and the resources that they need.” Spencer said. “What’s really important within that is recognizing that on this campus especially the movement around sexual violence has always been student-led.”

“What’s really important within that is recognizing that on this campus especially the movement around sexual violence has always been student-led.”

Sexual violence at McGill

Spencer and the representative from the CDN addressed the McGill context, explaining why this conversation is especially important now, and why SSMU is taking steps toward a gendered and sexual violence policy separate from the university.

“Here at SSMU we have a very specific context. For those who are not from McGill you may not know but […] we had a rough year last year,” said Spencer, referring to the resignations of David Aird and Ben Ger in March 2017. Aird was last year’s VP External Affairs, Ger was SSMU President ­— both were publicly accused of sexual assault. “Like a lot of campuses across Canada we had a bit of a crisis, and it was decided […] that this needs to be a conversation now.”

The CDN was formed to specifically address the allegations towards David Aird and to pursue alternative justice for the women he assaulted.

“We initially formed as an ad-hoc group created by survivors and their allies in order to pursue action against a specific individual through a third-party reporting system after finding traditional avenues of justice to be insufficient, explained the CDN representative.

The representative who spoke at the event was also one of the women Aird assaulted. Her experience following the assault highlighted the continued failure of the university in holding students accountable for their actions.

“I desired anonymity but found that that wasn’t an option in traditional avenues,” she said, “and at the time as now I had no faith that the process at the level of the university as it stood would be survivor centered or guarantee my visions of justice, or would ensure my safety and comfort on campus and I didn’t know what to do and I felt really alone.”

“At the time as now I had no faith that the process at the level of the university as it stood would be survivor centered or guarantee my visions of justice, or would ensure my safety and comfort on campus and I didn’t know what to do and I felt really alone.”

Looking forward, she emphasized the need for a revised sexual assault policy at the university level, but also recognized that this will not be the complete solution:
“I hope that McGill and campuses across Canada can [improve] the mechanisms of justice and accountability. We know it’s going to take more than a policy to combat sexualized and gendered violence on university campuses […] but to our minds at the CDN, without a policy that supports survivors who seek out institutional processes, there can be no justice.”

McGill’s policy graded a C-

As a part of its launch, Our Turn graded the sexual violence policies at the universities that have signed on to the Action Plan. McGill received a C- because the policy is not a stand-alone policy, and does not provide any avenues for justice if someone is assaulted by a faculty member.

“I hope that McGill and campuses across Canada can [improve] the mechanisms of justice and accountability. We know it’s going to take more than a policy to combat sexualized and gendered violence on university campuses.”

Spencer referred to the risks of conflating sexual assault with academic infractions, as academic officers are not trained with dealing with sexual assault, “[The policy] refers to the code of student conduct, which means that the same people that are doing the discipline for academic infractions, are […] reviewing sexual violence cases, and that the sexual violence cases are going through a document that was written specifically for academic infractions, which is the code of student conduct” said Spencer.

The conversation then turned to the broad mandate of Our Turn, and the work being done to combat gendered and sexual violence. “We really want to work on continuity so being able to have a […] an action plan in place that can be used to process and function in different cities on different campuses,” said Caitlyn.

The discussion ended on a positive note, with the speakers looking forward to positive change in the future – “All students deserve to feel safe on their campus and all students have a right to a campus free from sexual violence.”

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Mental health panel adresses power structures https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/10/mental-health-panel-adresses-power-structures/ Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:56:28 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=51081 On October 3, a panel on mental health was hosted by the Social Equity & Diversity Education Office (SEDE) and McGill Counselling Services. The panel featured four speakers: Helen Ogundeji, The Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) Equity Commissioner, Marianne Chivi, a graduate of masters in counselling psychology at McGill, Florise Boyard, a couples and family psychotherapist, and Jessica Bleuer, a lecturer in drama therapy. Panelists discussed mental health, oppression, and power structures, followed by a group activity on power structures. The discussion was moderated by Malek Yalaoui, a community projects manager at the SEDE.

Support group for racialized and ethnic minority students

The event launched a new Support Group for Racialized and Ethnic Minority Students; the support group aimed to create a facilitated space for racialized and marginalized students, as well as provide a non-judgemental environment where students can reflect on their identities and share their experience on campus. The theme of conversation in the group’s weekly meeting would be based on the needs of the group present that week. Students who identify as Black, as Indigenous, as people of Colour, or members of a racialized minority may access the group through McGill Counselling website.

“I think [the support group] is a very important safe space for students where they can come to talk about their experiences […] of microaggressions, […] feeling invisible, […] feeling denied, or feeling frustrated, […] whether it is from faculty, or their experience of the institution as a whole, or from classmates. It’s not about a fight or rebellion, it is about taking the time to stop and talk about how it has affected people and relations with each other. […] I can attest to the power of being witnessed, of being heard, of being able to understand and identify the oppression coming from outside. This can be very empowering versus internalizing it, and feeling very distraught inside.” said Boyard.

“It’s not about a fight or rebellion, it is about taking the time to stop and talk about how it has affected people and relations with each other. […] I can attest to the power of being witnessed, of being heard, of being able to understand and identify the oppression coming from outside. This can be very empowering versus internalizing it, and feeling very distraught inside.”

Boyard told The Daily that the support group is “part of an ongoing process” to address mental health for marginalized and racialized students at McGill saying that, “[the support group] addresses the issues related to the system and the structure that we have right now, which is meant to protect the privileged. […] I think up until now, there hasn’t be a space in this institution where they have a chance to do that.”

Power structure activity

After the panel discussion, the facilitators led a power structure activity where participants created a sculpture with objects in the room. The structure depicted a situation where one object had more “power” than others; one chair was placed above a table with five chairs on the floor surrounding one water bottle. Participants then reflected on which object had the most power and construed a definition of power based on the structure. One participant named the sculpture “Power Struggles”, as it represents a hierarchy with “no competition that contains “the power in structure.”

Delali Egyima, a psychology student in her third year at McGill commented on the parallels between “Power Struggles” and the McGill power structure. “I found the power structure to be very telling of […] the structure we all see of marginalized people and the different ways in which we are marginalized. […] With the McGill structure, there are some power structures that we can’t see and we aren’t told about such as the SSMU [Judiciary] board.”

While participants were encouraged to reflect on power structures, they were also directed to move the objects in such a way that represents the changes that would make the McGill community more inclusive. The participants placed all six chairs in a circle surrounding the water bottle, with the table flattened on the floor. The first set of changes were described as “equality”, “reform”, and “reparation” by the audience.

“I found the power structure to be very telling of […] the structure we all see of marginalized people and the different ways in which we are marginalized. […] With the McGill structure, there are some power structures that we can’t see and we aren’t told about such as the SSMU [Judiciary] board.”

Yasmin Beydoun, a student in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill, spoke about the importance of improving inclusivity at McGill, “I think [reforms on the sculpture] symbolize progress but also resilience […] I think it’s a start but I also acknowledge a lot of the work is on these […] Black Indigenous racialized folks, also folks who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, disabled communities. […] We’re still the ones doing the work. It is being pushed forward by us, for us.”

“I think [reforms on the sculpture] symbolize progress but also resilience […] I think it’s a start but I also acknowledge a lot of the work is on these […] Black Indigenous racialized folks, also folks who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, disabled communities. […] We’re still the ones doing the work. It is being pushed forward by us, for us.”

She also relayed the importance of acknowledging how more support for students is needed, “The system is still not doing all that it can to support and to further our mental health and wellbeing in general.”

“Systems are everywhere whether or not they are apparent to us or whether they are implicit. We live in a society that is structured, so […] McGill is a structure within itself, and these […] oppressive layers do exist, and in different ways […] To be able to have this space where we can visually dissect a power structure was […] powerful to see.”

Thrival over survival

The final sculpture was a circle shaped system with the chairs turned every other way, and the water bottle placed in the middle. The table was removed from the sculpture. Participants described the last sculpture as “community”, “peace” and “reconciliation”. One noted that the word “safety” comes to mind.

Shanice Yarde, the equity educational advisor at the SEDE told The Daily, “Through my work as an equity advisor, I see creating spaces for students of color, […] for racialized communities, […] as part of the work […] to not only speak their truth but to be validated, affirmed, and to feel that this is a place where […] they can be well in, and thrive.”

Yarde described “thinking about thrival beyond surviving” as a key part of a “cultural shift at McGill”.

“I think a lot of people are just fighting to survive at McGill,” continued Yarde. “I am interested in what the shifts should be in order to thrive, and to be well and happy. […] I think about Alice Walker quote, ‘the most common way people give up power is by thinking they don’t have any.’ […] An activity such as this, in a space such as this, affirms that we do have power even if it feels like we don’t […] The specific power activity […] was an opportunity to move a chair, to move a table, and to […] make the shift. […] This day is one piece of that.. [….] It means to recognize the power, to use it in ways that will enable our thrival.”

An earlier version of this article failed to mention that a fourth speaker, Helen Ogundeji had participated in the panel. The Daily regrets the error.

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SSMU Council sees lengthy debate over AVEQ affiliation https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/10/ssmu-council-sees-lengthy-debate-over-aveq-affiliation/ Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:44:34 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=51078 On October 12, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council met for over five hours of heated debate, covering nearly a dozen motions and a broad range of controversial subjects.

Question period

Council began with a lively question period, during which SSMU executives addressed several hot-button campus issues. Notably, when asked by The Daily why the upcoming closure of the SSMU building had effectively been announced to the public via a Facebook event, eliciting dozens of confused and outraged posts by students, VP Student Life Jemark Earle issued an apology.

“First off, the executive and SSMU would like to apologize for any disturbance or confusion that may have arisen from being notified [of the building closure] by a Facebook event,” said Earle. “We released a notification to all the building tenants, with a link to the Facebook event, so […] while it was open to the general public, it was meant for the building tenants.”
In response to a question from Arts Representative Corinne Bulger, executives also addressed their decision not to elect a new VP Operations and Sustainability following Anuradha Mallik’s resignation in August, and to eliminate the position entirely.

“First off, the executive and SSMU would like to apologize for any disturbance or confusion that may have arisen from being notified [of the building closure] by a Facebook event.”

“The executives ourselves have the right not to ask for a by-election,” explained VP Finance Arisha Khan, “and so we’ve decided we’ll just split the work up amongst ourselves, but in terms of the long-term, […] the role that the VP Operations has is traditionally more suited for a full-time staff member […] and so what we will be doing is bringing a constitutional amendment forward. So that would be a motion at Council, coming up probably in the next few weeks, and then that would go to online ratification.”

Senate Caucus Representative Isabella Anderson suggested that the proposed amendment could be submitted for consideration during the fall referendum session, which will take place in early November. However, Earle replied that this will likely be impossible. The responsibilities of the VP Operations portfolio are far-reaching and diverse, he explained, and it will probably take months to rework the Constitution and SSMU Internal Regulations in order to properly redistribute them.

The Daily also asked for an update on the constitutional reforms promised at the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) meeting that took place on September 24. Currently, section 6.2 of the SSMU Constitution contains a significant ambiguity: it states that the BoD should be composed of 12 voting members, with four seats reserved for SSMU executives, but also allows for extra members-at-large to be appointed if, as occurred earlier this year, an executive resigns. In effect, the Constitution contradicts itself, and it remains unclear whether the composition of the BoD was strictly constitutional during September.

“Basically we’re still deciding on the format of how we’re going to structure the reforms of the Constitution,” said SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva, “so probably there’s going to be a committee struck in order to actually address that issue, […] and also get lawyers’ input on it, just to make sure that the language itself is sound, and it all makes sense.”

She added that there is no timeframe set for these reforms yet, explaining that the timeline will likely be decided at the next BoD meeting, a date which has also not been determined.

In response to a further question from The Daily, Tojiboeva confirmed that no effort has yet been made to publicize information on how students can write and submit motions to the SSMU Fall General Assembly (GA), which will take place on October 23. Traditionally, it is the President’s responsibility to promote the GA, but this year’s official deadline for submitting motions by petition passed with no public informational campaign. While a Facebook event for the GA has now been created, it does not provide guidelines for submitting motions from the floor.

Debate on AVEQ affiliation

The most contentious issue raised in Council was the prospect of SSMU affiliating with the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ). AVEQ is a provincial student association, uniting the student unions of several Quebec universities to better advocate for their interests at the governmental level. In contrast to other such associations, AVEQ emphasizes anglophone participation as well as francophone, advocating for international students’ specific needs. AVEQ holds political positions on various issues – from climate justice, to sexual violence, to accessibility – which align closely with SSMU’s own. This is partly because SSMU representatives have played a significant role in building the organization since its inception in early 2015.

Despite SSMU’s involvement with AVEQ, however, SSMU only maintains observer status because members voted against affiliating with the association in the spring of 2016. In fact, SSMU is currently unaffiliated with any student association, provincial or federal, which severely limits the political power of McGill student voices. In light of this situation, last year’s Council mandated VP External Connor Spencer to bring this issue back for further consideration during the upcoming fall referendum period.

Spencer presented Council with a motion creating a referendum question which would ask students to approve a non-opt-outable $3.50 fee, paid every semester and adjusted annually for inflation, to allow SSMU to join AVEQ. Heated debate ensued, with several councillors speaking strongly against the idea of AVEQ affiliation.

Education Representative Josephine O’Manique read a prepared statement from her faculty’s executive council criticising AVEQ. For example, she argued that the association’s “one school, one vote” policy would place SSMU at a disadvantage, because as the largest member, it would receive the same representation as other unions while contributing more student fees. However, this policy protects smaller unions from having their voices subsumed by larger ones, allowing different schools to participate in decision-making on an equal footing.

The proxy councillor standing in for Law Representative Melisa Demir asked Spencer why the proposed question didn’t present alternative student associations, such as the Quebec Student Union (UEQ), expressing concern that if SSMU had not considered UEQ, “this would not be an informed decision […] for the student body.” Spencer explained that during the 2015-2016 academic year, then-VP External Emily Boytinck had attended meetings at both AVEQ and UEQ to observe their operations, reporting regularly to Council. Both associations had also made presentations to Council, and based on the sum of this information, Council had opted to seek affiliation with AVEQ.

Senate Caucus Representative Tre Mansdoerfer also expressed opposition to the motion, despite having been mandated by Senate Caucus to support it. He alleged that throughout the above process of observation and reporting, SSMU executives had been unfairly biased toward AVEQ. Arts Representative Jennifer Chan, however, criticised the last-minute nature of such objections.

“I think it’s fair to remind everyone that we did have a notice of motion at the last Council meeting,” said Chan, “and we also had a presentation from AVEQ, at which I feel like some of these questions could have been addressed, and that if there was action we wanted to take in terms of contacting other student federations, that could have been done. These genuine concerns are fair, but at the same time, if councillors were motivated enough, the change they are wishing to enact now could have been enacted. I think at this point this motion is in front of us to give an opportunity to students to make a decision for themselves.”

“If councillors were motivated enough, the change they are wishing to enact now could have been enacted. I think at this point this motion is in front of us to give an opportunity to students to make a decision for themselves.”

“It just seems disingenuous to not also give UEQ another chance to present to Council,” countered Senate Representative Anderson, “when the last time this went to a referendum they were also given that chance to present. Just because if we’re going to have students decide, […] they shouldn’t just be presented with AVEQ as the only thing.”

Social Work Representative Matthew Savage echoed Anderson’s view that SSMU should hear from UEQ again, but also emphasized the importance of affiliating with one provincial association or another as soon as possible.

“I think that SSMU would benefit from being part of a larger union; whether it’s AVEQ or not, I’m not so sure,” he said. “The reality of it is, there are forces in our government that want to privatize our education more and more. So as someone who is from Quebec, I really value the fact that we have people who are willing to stand up to make sure that our government’s held accountable. […] McGill kind of has its own bubble around it in the Quebec school system, and we really need to kind of put our foot forward […] and show some leadership towards equality and justice in our education.”

“The reality of it is, there are forces in our government that want to privatize our education more and more. So as someone who is from Quebec, I really value the fact that we have people who are willing to stand up to make sure that our government’s held accountable. […] McGill kind of has its own bubble around it in the Quebec school system, and we really need to kind of put our foot forward […] and show some leadership towards equality and justice in our education.”

Ultimately, councillors voted to have Spencer arrange a presentation from UEQ at next week’s Council meeting, with the motion itself postponed until next week.


Editor’s note: This article was amended on October 19 to clarify that Tre Mansdoerfer was mandated to support AVEQ affiliation by Senate Caucus, rather than by the Faculty of Engineering as previously stated. The Daily regrets the error.

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McGill’s response to fentanyl crisis still lacking https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/10/mcgills-response-to-fentanyl-crisis-still-lacking/ Mon, 02 Oct 2017 13:00:12 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50870 Canada is currently dealing with an ongoing fentanyl crisis, and the growing number of deaths have spiked serious concern from Health Canada. The ministry has concluded that nearly 2,800 overdose deaths have occurred due to fentanyl overdoses this past year alone.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, typically administered intravenously or through transdermal patches for chronic pain management. Developed in the 1960s by Paul Janssen, a noted Belgian physician, fentanyl has become an increasingly popular prescription. However, its efficacy and addictive nature has resulted in widespread abuse. An overdose in fentanyl can result in severe respiratory depression, sleep apnea, and death. Just 3 milligrams will kill an average-sized adult, and according to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), it is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

After the United States, Canada is the world’s second largest consumer of prescription opioids. The relative ease with which fentanyl can be prescribed in Canada has led to high demand for the drug, mainly as a consequence of dependency. Some individuals, when they are no longer able to access the drug through their doctor, turn to street distributors.

Quebec, meanwhile, has a unique history of illicit substance distribution by biker gangs and the mob. According to some sources, fentanyl may have entered the local drug market accidentally, due to improper drug manufacturing practices. Dealers often use the same tools to cut different drugs; unfortunately, as fentanyl is extremely potent, trace amounts can be mixed unintentionally with other substances, with potentially fatal results. As a result, communities across Quebec must prepare for the fact that fentanyl could be found in more popular drugs such as MDMA, PCP, cocaine, heroin, alprazolam (Xanax), and ketamine.

As of August 2017, there have been over 90 drug overdoses in Montreal, 10 of which have been definitively linked to fentanyl. Mayor Denis Coderre currently “[wants] to speak to everyone concerned by this situation,” and has launched a pilot program to train more first responders. Meanwhile, the Quebec Ministry of Health is working on legislation to increase the availability of naloxone, a substance that counteracts the effects of a fentanyl overdose.

McGill has yet to offer any resources or information on the growing fentanyl crisis in Canada, or methods by which students can keep themselves safe. However, Hashana Perera, Director of Student Health Services, did acknowledge the crisis during a press conference on September 14. She claimed that Student Health Services will provide naloxone and drug-testing kits for students as soon as Quebec legislation permits.

Sonya Bharadwa, Executive Director of McGill Student Emergency Response Team (MSERT), emailed The Daily about measures that the university is taking to address the crisis.

“As of now, the only first responders that have access to and training to use naloxone are paramedics,” explained Bharadwa. “Recently, the government of Quebec announced a plan to expand the scope of people allowed to administer the medicine.”

“As of now, the only first responders that have access to and training to use naloxone are paramedics.”

“MSERT is working with Student Healwth Services,” Bharadwa continued, “as they are currently building a training module for naloxone that they can offer McGill community members. They will also help us find a supplier for naloxone so that MSERT can carry it. Until then, our current protocol is to call 911 for suspected overdoses, monitor vital signs, and provide stabilizing care until EMS arrives. In terms of fentanyl safety, we hope that in addition to the clinic, which does have injectable doses of naloxone, both floor fellows and MSERT will receive naloxone training, as this will provide nearly a 24-hour response plan.”

It is well known that students are highly susceptible to recreational drug use, especially when exposed to environments such as student residences. Growing concern over the possibility of fentanyl overdoses on campus has increased the demand for naloxone training to be given to McGill floor fellows.

When investigating protocols concerning fentanyl overdoses in residences, a floor fellow who wished to remain anonymous told The Daily that “administering naloxone to students in residences is strictly forbidden, as it poses too high of a liability risk to the University.”

“In my opinion,” the floor fellow continued, “this policy is incredibly shortsighted and ignorant of naloxone’s purpose and mechanism of action. In light of the recent surge in opioid overdoses throughout Montreal, floor fellows have been pushing Student Housing and Hospitality Services to facilitate workshops and training related to the fentanyl crisis and overdose first aid.”

“This policy is incredibly shortsighted and ignorant of naloxone’s purpose and mechanism of action. In light of the recent surge in opioid overdoses throughout Montreal, floor fellows have been pushing Student Housing and Hospitality Services to facilitate workshops and training related to the fentanyl crisis and overdose first aid.”

Another floor fellow encouraged colleagues to take a free naloxone administration workshop offered by a local organization unaffiliated with the university. Many floor fellows have already taken this training. Despite being well-equipped with knowledge of harm-reduction and certified in administering naloxone, however, they are officially prohibited from taking any action to prevent a fentanyl overdose from becoming fatal.

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McGill professor accused of sexual misconduct https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/10/mcgill-professor-accused-of-sexual-misconduct/ Mon, 02 Oct 2017 12:00:34 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50861 Two weeks ago, stickers began appearing in women’s washrooms across campus, alleging sexual violence perpetrated by a certain professor in McGill’s Institute of Islamic Studies, whom they explicitly named. Noting that the professor is up for tenure this semester, the stickers urged students to send testimonies of abusive behaviour from faculty and staff to zerotolerance@riseup.net.

The professor in question agreed to make a statement to The Daily, on the condition that his name not appear anywhere in our coverage; after consultation with affected parties, we decided to comply with his request.

“Anonymous accusations have been posted around campus about me that are categorically untrue and constitute defamation,” wrote the professor in an email to The Daily. “I am deeply committed to doing my part to make every student feel safe in my classroom and on McGill’s campus.”

Noting that the professor is up for tenure this semester, the stickers urged students to send testimonies of abusive behaviour from faculty and staff to zerotolerance@riseup.net.

Testimony from students would suggest otherwise, however. One former student, who wished to remain anonymous, described her experience with the professor’s “predatory” behaviour.

“I frequently went to office hours, […] and [the professor] and I developed a friendship,” she explained. “A second year student at the time, I was excited to have a professor take such an interest in me and my academic plans. However, I soon realized this interest was not well intentioned. [The professor] would constantly bring the conversation back to our personal lives (including former partners), would slide his chair next to mine so that we were almost touching, would insist on keeping the door to his office closed, and multiple times would assure me that he was not the one marking my papers (I took this as him setting up why it was okay for us to have a sexual relationship when he was still my professor). I was not interested in his advances and nothing happened, but I […] ultimately reduced my office visits. […] It disheartened me, and made me feel unsafe in my learning environment.”

This testimony echoes an open letter sent during the Winter 2017 semester to Robert Wisnovsky, Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies. Written by the 2016-2017 executive team of the World Islamic and Middle East Studies Student Association (WIMESSA), the letter was circulated in petition form to all students taking courses at the Institute.

“I was not interested in his advances and nothing happened, but I […] ultimately reduced my office visits. […] It disheartened me, and made me feel unsafe in my learning environment.”

“We (WIMESSA execs) believe that the department is partially not taking this seriously, because they don’t think many undergrads personally care,” read the preamble to the open letter. “There is also no ‘paper trail’ of student concern which makes the department less accountable to the university.”

The letter itself, addressed to Wisnovsky, argued that the professor involved had repeatedly “violated [the] student-professor contract” through his abusive behaviour.

“As undergraduate students in the department,” it read, “we rely on our professors to act as teachers and role models, and to uphold mutual relationships of respect. Our professors hold immense power and authority over us: they determine our grades, they write recommendation letters, they are often our employers as well as teachers, and they act as key networks for our future employment.”

The open letter went on to describe the various ways in which women studying at the Institute had been impacted by the professor’s persistent inappropriate behaviour, including avoiding his classes when possible (though he sometimes teaches mandatory courses), changing their thesis subjects so as not to have to work with him, and feeling uncomfortable and unsafe in the Institute.

“It is disconcerting that such an abuse of power appears to be going unreprimanded,” read the open letter. “As it stands, women are at a disadvantage within the Islamic Studies department, and this inequality needs to be corrected. For these reasons, WIMESSA vehemently encourages the impending tenure committee to deny [the professor] tenure.”

“It is disconcerting that such an abuse of power appears to be going unreprimanded.”

It is unclear what steps Wisnovsky took in response to this letter. The professor in question has continued to teach, and Wisnovsky declined to answer The Daily’s questions on this matter following the appearance of the stickers.

This year’s WIMESSA executive, meanwhile, released a public statement that expressed support for students at the Institute without naming the professor concerned, or making reference to any concrete details of the situation.

“In light of recent events regarding the Islamic Studies Institute,” read their statement, “we want to extend our services to the community and support our students in any way we can. […] Sexual violence is a serious issue that we do not tolerate and we recognize the institutional violence that this inherently causes. […] This is a matter that we are taking very seriously and we are working as much as we can within our power to ensure transparency and accountability.”

“Our professors hold immense power and authority over us: they determine our grades, they write recommendation letters, they are often our employers as well as teachers, and they act as key networks for our future employment.”

The executive team declined to respond to The Daily’s specific questions about this professor and the allegations against him.

When asked about the stickers’ assertion that McGill has made little substantive effort to address the issue of abusive profs, leaving students alienated and unsafe, Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) Angela Campbell replied that “the University takes all complaints of misconduct seriously.” However, said Campbell, “survivors can and should report through the appropriate channels,” and “McGill’s administration disapproves of attempts to address such matters through anonymous posters such as [the stickers] found on campus and is taking measures to remove these.”

Indeed, McGill personnel seem to be making an effort to remove the stickers quickly, but more continue to appear across campus. It remains to be seen what concrete action, if any, the Institute of Islamic Studies will take, and what tactics the stickers’ creators will resort to next.

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SSMU Council grills President https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/10/ssmu-council-grills-president/ Mon, 02 Oct 2017 12:00:19 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50866 On September 28, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened for a meeting. Council heard presentations from the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), and from the McGill Office of Sustainability regarding a bike centre project that is part of the climate action plan. The meeting was followed by an extensive question period which focused on the constitutionality of the Board of Directors’ (BoD) recent decision regarding the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Board of Directors is the highest governing body within SSMU and is responsible for running the business affairs of the society and ratifying certain political decisions. The constitutionality of the Board has recently been called into question because there are only three SSMU Execs currently serving, which is one too few, and eight members at large, which is four too many.

BDS is a pro-Palestinian movement that works to eliminate international support for Israel in its continued occupation and oppression of Palestine. BDS McGill is an on-campus branch of the movement that fights for the university to boycott, divest from and put sanctions on Israel.

Conflict of interest question

During question period, Councillor Vithushon Thayalan addressed a potential conflict of interest in the BoD’s ratification of the BDS reference. The reference declaring BDS unconstitutional was first issued in 2016 by the SSMU Judicial board. The board ruled that BDS violated the SSMU Equity Policy. At the time, current SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva, served as one of the three judges who was assigned to the case. Tojiboeva currently sits on the BoD, which almost unanimously ratified the BDS decision September 2017.

According to SSMU’s conflict of interest policy, councillors with a conflict of interest must abstain from voting “on matters materially connected with their employment at the Society.” Failure to comply may result in a temporary suspension, a formal apology, or removal from the office.

When asked why she did not abstain from voting on the constitutionality of BDS, Tojiboeva answered, “I don’t have a personal conflict of interest because I don’t derive any personal interest from the [BDS] decision, I also don’t derive any financial gains from the decision.”

Missing BoD minutes

Referring to the same BoD meeting, SSMU VP External Connor Spencer asked Tojiboeva whether the Council can expect a report from the BoD on the BDS ratification. While such a statement has apparently not been prepared, Tojiboeva told Council that the meeting’s minutes addressing the ratification were already available online. However, a student present at the meeting confirmed that the last available meeting minutes were from April 2017, and thus that the minutes regarding the BDS decision were still unpublicized.

In response, SSMU’s General Manager, Ryan Hughes, pointed to some technical difficulties in transferring from SSMU’s old website to its new one. While the soft launch of the new website is scheduled for next week, Hughes explained that the minutes would still “not necessarily be available to the public.”

When reminded by SSMU VP Internal Affairs Maya Koparkar that the BoD must publicize minutes as well as report to council on all BoD decisions (per section 1.7 of the SSMU constitution), Tojiboeva answered, “I was unaware that a report needed to be made in terms of our presentation to Council.”

“I was unaware that a report needed to be made in terms of our presentation to Council.”

The BoD’s lack of transparency

Further into question period, SSMU VP Finance Arisha Khan asked Tojiboeva why the SSMU Speaker has not presided over BoD meetings. While the Speaker may not vote or be counted towards quorum, section 11.6 of the SSMU Constitution requires them to preside over all BoD, General Assembly (GA), and Legislative Council meetings.

In response, Tojiboeva claimed that the Speaker no longer facilitates BoD meetings since the Constitution was amended in March 2017. The amendments in question allow President Tojiboeva to chair the BoD instead of the Speaker, while retaining voting and quorum rights.

An audience member questioned the validity of amendments, however, pointing out that “[the] Winter GA didn’t reach quorum, so the constitutional amendments couldn’t have been made.”

“[the] Winter GA didn’t reach quorum, so the constitutional amendments couldn’t have been made.”

Tojiboeva then clarified that the amendments were ratified through an electronic vote after the GA. However, the documents regarding the motion are not available on elections SSMU. Neither is the BoD resolution book, which has not been updated since 2016. The question of the resolution book was brought up during the last BoD meeting, according to Khan.

While Tojiboeva recognized the concerns regarding the unpublicized documents, she did not provide a clear timeline on when the resolution book would be updated.

“I think that’s a very valid concern and we should address this seriously. In terms of the timeline […] I would like to inquire my secretary general who would most likely be addressing the issue […] because […] in terms of my own capacities as President, I would not be able to address this immediately on my own time.”

Motion regarding nominations to the BoD

A motion to appoint SSMU VP Student Life Jemark Earle to the BoD was passed, effective immediately. In order to maintain the requisite 12 member composition on the BoD, one member-at-large will resign from their position. The resignation is to be decided at the next BoD meeting.

“The approval of the VP Student Life is immediately necessary to have a functioning BoD,” said Koparkar. At the time of the BDS ratification, the BoD was composed of three SSMU executives and nine members-at-large instead of the required four executives, four members at large, and four councillors. The constitutionality of the BDS decision has been contested due to the composition of the BoD.

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Erica Violet Lee on Indigenous feminism https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/09/erica-violet-lee-on-indigenous-feminism/ Wed, 27 Sep 2017 15:42:51 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50756 On September 20, the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies hosted a talk by Indigenous activist Erica Violet Lee. The event, titled “For NDN Girls at the End of the World,” was part of McGill’s seventh annual Indigenous Awareness Week. Lee, a nêhiyaw community organizer from inner-city Saskatoon, and author of the blog Moontime Warrior, discussed different forms of resistance to colonialism through an Indigenous feminist lens. Lee is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto.

Lee started the event with a land acknowledgement and dedicated her presentation to Sisi Thibert, a trans sex worker from Montreal who was murdered on September 18.

“My talk today is going to be dedicated to Sisi Thibert,” she said, “another sister murdered here in Montréal at the hands of trans-misogyny and the violent colonial criminalization of sex workers.”

Decolonizing academia

Lee stressed the importance of education and recalled her experience witnessing peers being forced out of classrooms because of their Indigenous identity, “I don’t buy the argument that if Indigenous folks want to decolonize, we have to stay out of universities. […] I don’t think that school is a colonizer’s concept; intellectual learning and intellectual reflection have always existed in our community. […] Our intellectual lives were, and always have been, more complex than they’re portrayed.”

Lee later explained that she follows a “take-what-they-give-you” policy, stating that you can take the academic tools given to you by institutions like universities and actively use those tools to dismantle the unnecessary and harmful structures in our society.

Lee also spoke about how she is hesitant to draw attention to her identity as an Indigenous person in academia.

“I always wonder if at the beginning of academic lectures, I should introduce myself this way, because it positions me as a young person – a young, brown, Indigenous person who needs to prove my intelligence and worthiness to speak in a room; to take up space in the academy. But I’m going to keep doing it because Indigenous women, youth, […] have much more knowledge than is ever honoured.”

She then elaborated on her graduate work, telling the audience that her supervisor, Dr. Eve Tuck, had asked her class, “What is the story you have to tell the world before you can do anything else?” Lee’s response, she explained, will be a master’s thesis dedicated to the inner city of Saskatoon: “A project just for the freedom and love of one little west-side native neighbourhood in Saskatoon.”

“I always wonder if at the beginning of academic lectures, I should introduce myself this way, because it positions me as a young person – a young, brown, Indigenous person who needs to prove my intelligence and worthiness to speak in a room; to take up space in the academy. But I’m going to keep doing it because Indigenous women, youth, […] have much more knowledge than is ever honoured.”

Emotional resistance

Lee related the story of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old member of Saskatchewan’s Red Pheasant Nation. Boushie was shot dead for “trespassing” in the summer of 2016 by Gerald Stanley, a Saskatchewan farmer. Lee recalled being in a Saskatoon courtroom during Stanley’s preliminary trial. She sat on a small uncomfortable chair in the chamber, the size and structure of which made it difficult for people in the courtroom to physically comfort one another.
The court proceeding took place under a looming portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, whose royal officers were positioned outside the courtroom, monitoring the crowd outside who had come to grieve the loss of Boushie, a young victim of racialized violence.

“In this setting,” she said, “it feels as though Boushie is on trial, and that we are the silent witnesses. […] The reality is that Gerald Stanley left that farm alive, and Colten Boushie did not.”
“Mourning is important,” continued Lee, “because Indigenous death is not named genocide. [Indigenous] deaths are not considered a loss worth mourning, nor an illegal act, but rather our deaths become a state sanctioned event, and control of that death becomes a form of power. […] Dead bodies don’t move or migrate or transgress or trespass. […] The best way to control our existence is the destruction of our bodies.”

One year after Boushie’s death, the Red Pheasant community held a memorial feast. Everyone gathered, and grieved with each other as a picture of Boushie was passed around. Lee declared the importance of this experience, saying, “In a world where Indigenous death is constant to the point of normalcy; feasting is a rebellious act. […] Mourning is a communal activity; no one should have to do it alone.”
Lee spoke not only of physical resistance, but also of emotional resistance: “I think that native women writing, or saying anything about our feelings, is revolutionary fucking scholarship.”

“From restrictions on hunting, fishing, and trapping; to residential schooling; missing and murdered women, girls, and two-spirit people,” she continued, “and overwhelmingly disproportionate rates of incarceration, the explicit and implicit policies of Canada’s settler state are the regulations of Indigenous movement. These regulations are a gendered project, and so [their] interruption is inherently feminist. To reclaim our agency in a space that has continuously denied our feeling, the essential distinction between a living body and a dead one, is radical resistance.”

“From restrictions on hunting, fishing, and trapping; to residential schooling; missing and murdered women, girls, and two-spirit people,” she continued, “and overwhelmingly disproportionate rates of incarceration, the explicit and implicit policies of Canada’s settler state are the regulations of Indigenous movement. These regulations are a gendered project, and so [their] interruption is inherently feminist. To reclaim our agency in a space that has continuously denied our feeling, the essential distinction between a living body and a dead one, is radical resistance.”

Elaborating on emotional resistance, Lee transitioned to the topic of love. She explained that her existence is resistance in and of itself, but reminded the audience that she is still complex. The question she ponders is how she (and other Indigenous people) might move past resistance and let go. For Lee, the epitome of letting go is falling in love.

“[Decolonial love is] a love that cares for us, for our bodies and minds; a love that helps us do the work as Indigenous women, queer folks, trans folks, of anti-colonialism and anti-racism; the work of feminism. […] A love that centres on our freedom and liberation, not our trauma.”

“Being in love is not a distraction from our revolution, but a constant pulsing reminder that if we truly love, love deeply enough and honestly enough, we put ourselves on the line to take down the greedy few who want to steal the places, things, and people we love.”

She finished with a call to action: “The maintenance of colonial hetero-patriarchal systems is unnatural, fragile, and on the verge of collapse. All we need to do now is light a fire to help the forest along.”

“Being in love is not a distraction from our revolution, but a constant pulsing reminder that if we truly love, love deeply enough and honestly enough, we put ourselves on the line to take down the greedy few who want to steal the places, things, and people we love.”

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International news briefs: September 18-22 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/09/international-news-briefs-september-18-22/ Wed, 27 Sep 2017 15:42:01 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50742 Second earthquake in two weeks devastates Mexico

On Tuesday, September 19, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit South Central Mexico. The epicenter of the quake was in the state of Puebla, located approximately 120 km from Mexico City. As of Friday, September 22, death tolls stood at 282, 137 of whom died in the capital. This number is expected to rise as efforts to clear rubble continue and more bodies are found. Victims of the earthquake also face the threat of aftershocks, which could be acutely harmful given the structural instability caused by the initial strike.

The quake also devastated infrastructure, leaving whole communities homeless. The Puebla area is facing the most damage with 1,700 homes declared inhospitable and in need of demolishing in the coming months. Desperate families affected by the housing emergency are making pleas on social media for humanitarian aid. The government is struggling to deal with the widespread destruction.

Destruction within Mexico City is widespread, and at least 44 buildings were levelled by the quake. The damage in the capital is partly due to the high population density, but the impact of the earthquake was magnified by its geography. Mexico City is built on an ancient lakebed made of clay, which amplify seismic waves. As a result, tremors reverberate through the area with a devastating effect. The Mexican army and navy entered the city in the aftermath of the quake to participate in the relief effort. People still need to be rescued from collapsed buildings, and unstable structures need to be demolished.

According to some, the army has caused added turmoil in the city by prematurely demolishing certain buildings, without adequately attempting to rescue people who may have been trapped.

The most recent quake occurred less than two weeks after the 8.1 magnitude quake, which was the most powerful earthquake in the country in over a century to reach the Southern coast of Mexico. While the timing of these events are very close, most experts claim that the timing is coincidence. Both quakes were caused by shifts in the Cocos plate, located just off the coast of the continent. The Cocos plate is gradually pushing underneath the North American plate, causing a massive pressure increase which is sporadically released in these destructive tremors. Shifts in these tectonic plates are a constant reality for Mexico, and while the cause of these two recent quakes are the same, their timing is coincidental.

With material from The Guardian, NPR, ABC, and Al Jazeera.

Tensions rise ahead of Catalan independence referendum

Catalonia’s government is scheduled to hold an independence referendum on October 1 which will determine whether Catalonia can leave Spain.

Spain has attempted to block the referendum by ordering suspension, arresting 14 senior officials from three government buildings, and raiding print shops to confiscate referendum ballots. Legal measures were taken to prevent advertisements from being released to media sources, and prevent delivery companies from distributing pamphlets. Madrid has declared the referendum unconstitutional, and warned that anyone who participates in the voting will be indicted.

In response to the crackdown, thousands of protesters gathered in the streets of Barcelona, followed by a solidarity rally in Madrid. The Spanish government and prime minister Mariano Rajoy have been criticized for being anti-democratic. Rajoy argues that the Spanish Constitution of 1978 makes the country is indivisible, and therefore, has no provision for a self-determination vote. This did not stop Catalonia from taking legislative steps to develop its own law on self-governance.

Recent tensions between Madrid and Barcelona have consolidated an image of unified pro-independence sentiment. However, unlike desire for the referendum, the separatist cause is fragmented among voters. In a public survey commissioned by the Catalan government in 2015, 41 per cent of Catalans were in favour of independence. During the 2014 referendum, the low turnout of 2.2 million out of 5.4 million voters showed that the ‘No’ voters boycotted the poll.

Support for an independent Catalonia began after 1939, when the dictatorship of Francisco Franco restricted the Catalan language. Separatist sentiment abated temporarily after Franco’s death, with the return of democracy, only to rise again in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Separatists believe that Spain’s central government allocates less to Catalonia than the province contributes financially to the rest of the country; while Catalonia makes up 16 per cent of Spain’s population, it accounts for 19 per cent of the national GDP.

Catalonia is proceeding with the referendum as planned, and will legally declare independence from Spain within 48 hours if the vote is won. It is unclear whether the Spanish government will eventually resort to article 155 of the constitution, an unprecedented move which would allow Spain to directly intervene with Catalonia by deploying national police.

With material from The Guardian, NPR, and The Financial Times.

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Roundtable discusses ethnic cleansing in Myanmar https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/09/roundtable-discusses-ethnic-cleansing-in-myanmar/ Wed, 27 Sep 2017 15:40:55 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50747 Content warning: descriptions of violence, sexual assault mention

On Wednesday September 20, a roundtable discussion was held by the Southeast Asia Lectures Series and the Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID) on the systematic ethnic cleansing currently underway in Myanmar. The violence has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims out of the country, causing a refugee crisis in neighbouring nations like Bangladesh. Professors Megan Bradley, Erik M. Kuhonta, Kazue Takamura, and Alexandre Pelletier considered multiple aspects of the humanitarian crisis, the relationship between violence and democratization in authoritarian contexts, the implications of statelessness, and the role of international actors in the crisis.

Textbook example of ethnic cleansing

The Rohingya people of Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been subject to harsh collective punishment measures in recent weeks. The violence, carried out by government forces, has ostensibly constituted reprisals for the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’s (ARSA) attack on a military outpost on August 25, which killed 12 soldiers. These reprisals have been “truly brutal,” said Kuhonta, with “attacks by helicopters, rapes against women, killings with guns as well as machetes.”

“By any criteria, this is the worst humanitarian disaster in the past several decades,” Kuhonta continued. In total, it is estimated that over 210 villages have been destroyed by fire, resulting in over 1000 deaths in less than four weeks. The systematic persecution of the Rohingya in northern Rakhine has also triggered a forced exodus – over 421,000 people have crossed the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, both by land and sea; UNICEF estimates half of the refugees to be children.

The United Nations has declared the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” though certain academic communities were categorizing the situation as an ongoing genocide as early as 2015. However, Myanmar’s de facto ruler and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has repeatedly denied the state’s involvement in the continued persecution of the Rohingya. In fact, her office has claimed the Rohingya have been setting fire to their own properties and blaming the security forces, though no evidence was provided to support the allegations.

“By any criteria, this is the worst humanitarian disaster in the past several decades.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence

Aung San Suu Kyi’s 25-day-long silence on the crisis was sharply criticized by the international community. Many predicted the fall of an icon, and questioned her standing as a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Some considered revoking awards, including her honorary Canadian citizenship. Suu Kyi addressed the issue Tuesday in an address to the Myanmar parliament in Naypyidaw.

The panel’s speakers explained that although one cannot morally justify Aung San Suu Kyi’s relative silence, it is important to note the precariousness of the political context. The National League for Democracy (NLD) has been in power in Myanmar since 2015, with Aung San Suu Kyi as de facto leader. However, the military retains significant control over the country’s institutions with a fixed quarter of parliamentary seats, exclusive authority over crucial posts in the executive, and veto power for constitutional amendment.

From a political standpoint, to publicly denounce the army’s persecution of the Rohingya jeopardizes the stability of Suu Kyi’s government. Be that as it may, said Kuhonta, echoing Desmond Tutu’s words to Aung San Suu Kyi, “If the political price of the liberalization and potential democratization in Myanmar is the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, then the price is surely too steep.”

“If the political price of the liberalization and potential democratization in Myanmar is the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, then the price is surely too steep.”

From marginalization and persecution, towards ethnic cleansing

According to Alexandre Pelletier, a political science Ph.D candidate at the University of Toronto, the marginalization of the Muslim-majority Rohingya in Buddhist-majority Myanmar is rooted in a variety of short- and long-term factors. These include ethnic grievances rooted in critical disagreement on and suspicions around whether the Rohingya truly belong in Rakhine state. The widespread and long-standing prejudices against Indians and South Asians in Myanmar is a consequence of British colonial rule.
Takamura, a professor of International Development Studies, highlighted the state’s strained majority-minority ethnic relations, referring to the government’s continued reliance on arbitrary racial classifications, which has worsened the tensions in Myanmar.

“The issue of the term ‘Rohingya’ is very contentious in Myanmar,” agreed Kuhonta, noting that the Rohingya are excluded from the government’s list of 135 officially recognized ethnicities.

A vast and lasting crisis

Bradley, a Political Science professor at McGill, told the panel that the humanitarian crisis is a real-life illustration of power imbalances and pathologies in the international refugee regime. Bangladesh has accepted over 421,000 Rohingya refugees crossing over its borders in less than a month. This number is 70 times higher than the number of asylum-seekers who crossed the U.S.-Canada border in August. Bradley pointed to the discrepancy between the availability of resources in Canada and number of refugees this country has taken in.

In response to the crisis in Myanmar, the Bangladeshi government’s announcement of new refugee camp construction points to a future of protracted displacement and encampment for the Rohingya refugees.
“Encampment [in temporary accommodations]” as opposed to local integration is “the worst possible option […] for refugees in terms of their individual human rights, well-being, and livelihoods,” said Professor Bradley.

Myanmar currently has the largest stateless population in the region, well ahead of Brunei, Malaysia, and Thailand, with over 440,000 stateless individuals. Takamura reflected on the devastating implications of Rohingya statelessness, and the inherent “precariousness and vulnerability” it produces.

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Board Directors ratifies BDS reference https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/09/board-directors-ratifies-bds-reference/ Wed, 27 Sep 2017 15:39:46 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50739 Last Sunday, September 17, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Board of Directors (BoD) voted to ratify the Judicial Board’s reference on the legality of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) motion brought to the General Assembly (GA) last winter. The reference, issued in May 2016, ruled that BDS was discriminatory in nature and violated SSMU’s Constitution and Equity Policy.

The reference was the result of tensions on campus following the Winter 2016 GA voting in favor of ratifying a motion in support of BDS. The BDS movement advocates for economic pressure against the state of Israel, in order to bring about a nonviolent end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories. While the GA vote was overturned, the BDS motion failed the school-wide online ratification process.

A dangerous precedent

According to SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva, the BoD’s ratification vote was not facilitated in a confidential session. Eleven out of twelve Directors voted in favor of ratification, with only one abstention. While the decision was nearly unanimous in procedure, many on campus remain unconvinced of the reference’s validity.

The JBoard reference concluded that “SSMU’s commitment against discrimination in favour of creating ‘safer spaces’ renders motions similar to the BDS Motion, which specifically compel SSMU to adopt a platform against a particular nation, unconstitutional.”

However, Sydney Lang, a member of RadLaw, a social justice-oriented group of law students at McGill, has specific objections to section 33 of the reference.

“Their end reasoning,” Lang explained to The Daily, “is that yes, SSMU can take positions against nations but under certain circumstances, if it’s phrased in certain ways, and only in extreme cases. […] What I’m most concerned with is that they’re giving the Judicial Board in the future the ability to determine what’s an extreme case. They’re technically saying that we could hypothetically do this if it was a really extreme case and we would do it in a certain way. That’s not based in the Constitution. The Constitution doesn’t set that out. They’re creating this idea that they’re the ones who get to gauge the extremity of an issue before SSMU can take a stance on it.”

“What I’m most concerned with is that they’re giving the Judicial Board in the future the ability to determine what’s an extreme case. […] That’s not based in the Constitution. The Constitution doesn’t set that out.”

“They’re making decisions about what’s an extreme international conflict,” continued Lang, “or what’s extreme for the lives of Palestinians or other people around the world who are facing occupation, but how are they the ones to determine what’s extreme?”

Conflating the state and its citizens

“By adopting official positions against certain nations,” reads part of section 33, “as the BDS Motion aims to do with Israel, SSMU would be placing Members from those nations at a structural disadvantage within McGill’s community […] In essence, SSMU signals to those Members from the very beginning that it is hostile towards their country thus, indirectly, them. Motions which compel SSMU to do so threaten the fragile bonds which hold McGill’s international community together.”

“They’re conflating the political state of Israel with individual Israelis citizens,” said Lang in response. “They’re making this connection between the two that isn’t factually grounded. Look at any other [case] in history; McGill took a stand against South African apartheid, but weren’t against South Africans. Similar examples are when students in HK protested against the Chinese government or Indigenous peoples challenge the state of Canada. You are critiquing a system of governance, oppression, or occupation, not individual citizens”

“In essence, SSMU signals to those Members from the very beginning that it is hostile towards their country thus, indirectly, them. Motions which compel SSMU to do so threaten the fragile bonds which hold McGill’s international community together.”

BDS has yet to put out a statement following the Board’s ratification vote, but in an interview with The Daily, BDS member Maia Salameh gave some insight into how members of McGill’s BDS Action Network are feeling.

“We’re gonna fight it, but it is a huge blow obviously and a disappointment,” said Salameh. “That doesn’t mean it’s over. […] the whole problem stems from the structural nature of SSMU,” said Salameh. “To fight this, we need to […] reform [the structure] because right now there are unelected members that are making these huge decisions without any accountability or transparency.”

Currently, the JBoard, a body of the BoD, is composed of seven SSMU members appointed by the Nominating Committee. JBoard decisions are then ratified or rejected by the BoD, with decisions never being reviewed by an elected SSMU body.

“We are forming a new campaign called Democratize SSMU,” explained Salameh. “It’s going to be a coalition not just of BDS members because we don’t think this decision just affects BDS. We want to mobilize student groups and student activists in general because we want institutional change. We’re going to go through Equity complaints because [we] think there’s been a gross injustice here and we will be staging protests just to make people aware of this decision and why it affects them.”

“Right now there are unelected members that are making these huge decisions without any accountability or transparency.”

Many questions left unanswered

The minutes from the September 17 BoD meeting have yet to be released. As of publication, none of the BoD’s members-at-large have responded to comment regarding the ratification vote.

 

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Canada’s treatment of Indigenous Rights https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/09/canadas-treatment-of-indigenous-rights/ Wed, 27 Sep 2017 15:13:55 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50754 On Thursday September 21, the Indigenous Law Association and the Faculty of Law held a discussion concerning Canada’s implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The event featured guest speakers Dr. Hayden King, an Anishinaabe scholar from the Beausoleil First Nation of Gchi’mnissing, Huronia and Dr. John Burrows, the Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School in British Columbia. The discussion began with a land acknowledgment, then a panel on Indigenous rights and self governance, followed by a question period.

What UNDRIP Means for Indigenous Peoples in Canada

The United Nations describes UNDRIP as “a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of Indigenous peoples.”

The UN General Assembly passed UNDRIP in 2007. Though Canada initially voted against it, the federal government decided to remove Canada’s objector status in 2016. Borrows noted that the current Liberal government has made a promise to implement the UNDRIP while in power.

The implementation of UNDRIP concerns Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution, a framework which recognizes and affirms the legal rights of Aboriginal people in Canada, “I would like this to mean a repudiation of the way the Supreme Court of Canada approaches Aboriginal treaty rights under section 35.1 of the Constitution,” Borrows said. He explained the importance of a broader interpretation of Section 35, reminding the audience that the infringement of Section 35 constitutes a violation of Aboriginal rights.

Borrows mentioned that the understanding of the rights of Indigenous peoples needs to come from a dialogue between Indigenous communities that takes into consideration varying schools of thought. “We’d be looking at the treaties that we have with the plants, and the rocks, and the water. Understanding our relationships with the plants, and the animals, and the insects […] and really seeing UNDRIP in that light,” he said.

Borrows pointed to R. v. Van der Peet, a Supreme Court case which determined that any Aboriginal person claiming the right to participate in an activity protected by Section 35 of the Constitution must prove that the activity was practiced in pre-colonial Aboriginal society. This would greatly restrict the ability of Indigenous peoples to have their rights respected if their actions cannot be traced to cultural practices that took place before first contact with European colonists.

“What UNDRIP does is set [rights] in place without having to prove them. There’s a recognition that Indigenous peoples have a right to self-determination, have a right to land, languages, media, family relations without having to go through an expansive process of having to justify that to anyone else in the world,” Borrows said.

“There’s a recognition that Indigenous peoples have a right to self-determination, have a right to land, languages, media, family relations without having to go through an expansive process of having to justify that to anyone else in the world.”

Article 46 and limitations of UNDRIP

King told the audience that UNDRIP’s strong language concerning the assertion and protection of Indigenous rights was significantly diluted with Article 46. Article 46 allows states subject to UNDRIP to place certain limitations on the “the exercise of the rights set forth in this Declaration.” The addition of Article 46 allow states to disregard their obligations to their Indigenous populations on the basis of territorial integrity and defense of sovereignty.

“[Article 46] is effectively a backdoor out of the declaration of the rights of Indigenous peoples […] The declaration allows states to evacuate the previous forty-five articles if they so choose,” said King. “From 2010 to present we’ve had minister after minister of Indian affairs, when asked for comment on the declaration, say that it is aspirational. [They say] we’ll work toward implementing [it], but in a Canadian version, through the Canadian constitutional framework.”

“[Article 46] is effectively a backdoor out of the declaration of the rights of Indigenous peoples […] The declaration allows states to evacuate the previous forty-five articles if they so choose.”

Several states objected to the vast majority of the articles that were contained within the draft resolution, resulting in their revision. The final resolution also included a rewritten version of article 46, which prohibits any action which, according to the declaration, would “dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States.”

Moving Toward a New Relationship

This July, the federal government announced ten principles by which it will abide in the aim of working on a stronger nation-to-nations relationship with Indigenous communities. The federal government states that the principles are an attempt to move toward reconciliation with Indigenous communities, by respecting Indigenous rights and focusing on the importance of cooperation and partnership.

He told the audience that certain principles within the document allow for nothing more than a strict and narrow interpretation of the Canada’s obligation to Aboriginal rights under Section 35. Principle number seven states that any infringement of Section 35 must be justified with a consultation and accommodation of Aboriginal communities. King noted the loose requirements to justify the infringement. “Now, the community doesn’t have a right to say no. They’re just consulted. And Canada or Ontario or Quebec can infringe [on their rights] anyway,” King said. “If we say no to a development that affects us, that should mean no.”

King concluded that if the federal government is serious about respecting Indigenous rights and committing itself to the implementation of justice, it should move to open the Constitution in order to include all articles of UNDRIP, including article 46.

“The things that’s been missing from our conversation right now is that massive transfer of resources, of land,” King said. “If we have that transfer of lands and resources, then we’d see First Nations do a lot better, more substantive progress toward transforming Indigenous nations into what we want to see them become.”

“The things that’s been missing from our conversation right now is that massive transfer of resources, of land. […] If we have that transfer of lands and resources, then we’d see First Nations do a lot better, more substantive progress toward transforming Indigenous nations into what we want to see them become.”

Moving Away from Symbolic Gestures

King discussed how recognition of Indigenous rights need to move beyond symbolic gestures such as like territorial acknowledgement. “There’s a difference between symbolic recognition–which will get us positive recognition and a decline in racism, which is a good thing–and material recognition,” King told the audience.

“What is [the government] actually doing in a material sense? There’s all this great talk about [symbolic reconciliation]— an inukshuk here, a teepee there […] but what are we actually doing?”
Even with the symbolic implementation or commitment to UNDRIP, King says the material needs of Indigenous peoples must be met. He states that so long as Indigenous communities own such little land and face harsh socioeconomic realities, true progress will be a struggle.

For Aboriginal treaties to be respected, Borrows noted, the reciprocal relationship between communities, governments, and their environments must be honored. Borrows noted communities like the Ahousaht First Nation, are protesting the anchoring of an open-net salmon farm near Tofino, B.C. by using fishing boats to set up a blockade.

“As long as we keep damaging our rivers,” Borrows said, “as long as we keep preventing things from growing, as long as we’re blocking out or changing the sun in a way that then impacts our climate, then we are not living by our treaties.”

“There’s a difference between symbolic recognition–which will get us positive recognition and a decline in racism, which is a good thing–and material recognition. […] What is [the government] actually doing in a material sense?”

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McGill housing office backlogs into EVO https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/09/mcgill-housing-office-backlogs-into-evo/ Mon, 18 Sep 2017 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50684 McGill’s housing system have historically allowed numbers to exceeded the capacity of the residence system. This year, McGill partnered with EVO to meet application demands in time for the school year.

McGill guarantees housing for all first year students aged 22 years and under. The student’s residence is determined by a lottery system, using randomly generated numbers assigned to students who have paid their residence deposit fee. Students who are able to pay the deposit in advance receive a lower number, which increases their chance of being placed in their preferred accommodation. However, despite paying a $1500 deposit, a secure placement in residence is not a guarantee for all first year students.

Temporary housing

Every year, around 100 to 200 residence applicants are waitlisted on temporary housing assignments, then are given permanent assignments as residence spaces become available before the school year. This summer, incoming students were given “temporary housing” status until mid-August, which left them less than two weeks to make travel arrangements and move into residence.
This backlog was a result of an administrative system intentionally accepting more residence requests than the available capacity. McGill depends on a certain number of cancellations to be able to meet demands for accommodation, which means that the lottery system accepts residence applications regardless of capacity, expecting many students to ultimately cancel their applications. Until this happens, however, the number of applications exceeds the housing space available in McGill’s residences. While students are guaranteed a place in McGill residence, they do not know where they will be placed.
According to Monique Lauzon, a marketing and nutrition consultant for McGill Housing and Student Services, this kind of delay is a common occurrence.

“Many more students apply for admission to McGill (and request residences) than actually end up attending McGill in the fall,” wrote Lauzon in an email to The Daily. “Once residence rooms are assigned in the lottery, there are always some students assigned a ‘temporary residence’ or who are put on a type of waiting list while we wait for cancellations to come in up until classes start.”

However, it appears that McGill received fewer cancellations this year than in previous years. As a result, students with temporary housing status remained on the waiting list longer than usual.

Phoebe Pannier, a U0 student in the faculty of Arts, shared her experience of getting stuck in bureaucratic limbo.
“Waiting was the worst,” she told The Daily. “It was beyond inconvenient to not have any information about my living situation. I didn’t know for sure what I needed to bring, or if I was going to be living with anyone else.”

Additionally, students who received temporary housing status do not have the option to choose between a single or a double room, and have been calling themselves the “rez-jects,” having been backlogged in the system.

“It was beyond inconvenient to not have any information about my living situation. I didn’t know for sure what I needed to bring, or if I was going to be living with anyone else.”

Partnership with EVO

In response to the housing delays over the summer, McGill partnered with EVO, a privately-owned housing complex run by a joint venture between two equity firms: Campus Crest Communities Inc, and Beaumont Partners SA.

“Under Student Housing and Hospitality Services [students living in EVO] are entitled to the same programming and community services as [the] other residence students,” Lauzon explained. This means that EVO will be part of McGill’s residence programming for the coming school year, with access to floor fellows and representation on Inter-Residence Council.

EVO is currently housing 163 first year students in a dormitory-style housing complex located downtown on Sherbrooke street. EVO is an upscale living space with private bathrooms, an indoor heated pool, a game room, a 24-hour gym, and various other luxury amenities. For an individual student, rent for a double occupancy room at EVO starts at $775 per month, excluding meal costs and other costs of living. McGill students at EVO are paying $1100 per month for the same double room with the mandatory $5475 meal plan.

McGill residence fees

McGill’s residence fees are notoriously high. According to an article by the Huffington Post, McGill has the most expensive on-campus housing in Canada, at an average of $1,885 in living costs including utilities in 2015, followed by University of Toronto. This is partly due to the mandatory meal plan that must be purchased along with residence accommodation. Many students do not finish the meal plan in their first year, and carry over their credits to the next year.

This has sparked criticism from many students, with advocates of a voluntary meal plan emphasizing the value of responsibility and choice.

“I think I’m saving money by buying my own groceries although sometimes I end up […] buying food on campus,” said Darian McCabe, a first year student at McGill. Juliane Chartrand, also a U0 student, echoed the sentiment.

“I think that at our age, being for the first time alone, […] being responsible for our meals is a hard, but important experience,” she said. “I think that the meal plan is a very bad idea, [since] you pay too much at the end.”

“I think that at our age, being for the first time alone, […] being responsible for our meals is a hard, but important experience, […] I think that the meal plan is a very bad idea, [since] you pay too much at the end.”

When asked about future housing partnerships, Lauzon replied “There are many factors which affect the demand for residence rooms and it can vary from year to year. We may or may not need additional rooms in the future. If we do require rooms and EVO has rooms available, then there is that possibility.”

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SEDE prepares for Community Engagement Day https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/09/sede-prepares-for-community-engagement-day/ Mon, 18 Sep 2017 14:00:39 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50679 The McGill office for Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) is hosting their seventh annual Community Engagement Day (CED) next week. Despite its name, CED actually takes place over a number of days, starting on September 25, with most of the events scheduled for September 28. Programming for the CED is comprised of a variety of workshops, talks, and volunteer opportunities intended to facilitate community engagement.

SEDE emphasizes the importance of building relationships with local community groups as a pillar of diversity education. As the largest initiative undertaken by SEDE to encourage community involvement, CED requires support from the administration, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), and a long list of local groups who want to strengthen the relationship between McGill and the wider Montreal community.

Monika Barbe, the CED Program Coordinator, spoke to The Daily about the importance of the event series and what to look forward to in the coming days. Barbe stressed that one of the most valuable things about CED is the opportunity to do hands-on volunteer work.

“[CED] is going to be a chance for people to see the everyday reality of a community organization and the importance of […] the manual work and [to see] that […] change happens there,” said Barbe. “Yes, it’s [CED] very interesting to sit down and reflect and criticize, which I think is super important, but there’s a lot of people working in the community organizations with actual physical jobs […] and interacting directly with the people who benefit from the different organizations, and I think that’s a powerful thing to focus on in terms of social change.”

“There’s a lot of people working in the community organizations with actual physical jobs […] and interacting directly with the people who benefit from the different organizations, and I think that’s a powerful thing to focus on in terms of social change.”

Barbe also described some of the workshops being organized, including the “Equity 101” event hosted by Shanice Yarde, an Equity Educational Advisor at SEDE. According to the CED website, the workshop “is designed to give participants a ‘101’ understanding of equity, and how society is shaped by power and oppression.”

“In a very introductory way [Yarde] is going to present […] the main issues that the office works on, so in that sense I would say that if you’re in any way interested in what SEDE does, that is that workshop is fundamental,” Barbe told The Daily, before finishing with a call for participants from the entre McGill community.

“In a very emphatic way I invite everyone to be part of Community Engagement Day,” she said. “Not only students, because I think with the profile of a student, […] the interest and the initiative to be part of this thing [follows], but also to faculty and staff, because McGill is not only students.”

SEDE has a website listing all the events taking place during CED. People can access the time, location, and description of the events, as well as register for the events they find interesting. The program covers a broad range of topics, from an outdoor movie screening of Demain, a film about the ecological and social challenges posed by climate change, to food distribution for the Welcome Hall Mission food bank. The events are happening all over Montreal and there are still spots available for many of the events.

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SSMU Council holds first meeting of the year https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2017/09/ssmu-council-holds-first-meeting-of-the-year/ Mon, 18 Sep 2017 10:00:57 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=50664 On September 14, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened for its first meeting of the year.

Socially Responsible Investment fund

Council heard a detailed presentation from Vadim di Pietro, the Chief Investment Officer of Desautels Capital Management (DCM). According to its website, DCM is “Canada’s first university-owned, student-run registered investment firm.” At Thursday’s council meeting, di Pietro discussed the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Finance Arisha Khan’s plan to create a Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) fund for the Society, which would be managed by DCM. In essence, the SRI should ensure that a portion of SSMU’s funds is invested in sustainable, ethically-run companies.

“For one, you want to [invest in] things that are consistent with your own moral values,” said di Pietro, “but on top of that, you’re actually trying to have an impact that will […] do good for society, and for the environment.”

In a message to The Daily, Khan explained that she chose DCM to manage the SRI fund because of their student-run status,“SSMU’s accountants do not handle investments (you have to be licensed specifically for that purpose),” she wrote. “Our investment portfolio is managed by Lester Asset Management which is [an external] company. [SSMU has] no choice [but] to go with [an external] company and this way we are supporting student learning in sustainable investing and promoting it heavily at McGill.”

When asked how corporations’ ‘social responsibility’ will be determined, Khan told The Daily that SSMU’s SRI fund will use the index of a company called Sustainalytics, known as a global leader in ESG analysis. ESG refers to “environmental, social, and corporate governance,” a standard of a company’s operations concerning the range of factors that shape the impact of an investment. ESG analysis takes into account ecological sustainability, labour practices, employee diversity, and human rights, among numerous other factors.

“[Sustainalytics is] the leader in ESG analysis but with anything else investors must do their own deeper research,” explained Khan.

So how exactly will the creation of an SRI change SSMU’s investment portfolio? SSMU is constitutionally committed to “demonstrating leadership in matters of human rights, social justice, and environmental protection,” and to “[being] mindful of the direct and indirect effects that Society businesses and organizations have on their social, political, economic, and environmental surroundings.” The SSMU Sustainability Policy requires that the Society “be stewards of students’ money in an ethical manner,” and “prioritize funding to initiatives that will […] lead to considerable social and/or environmental benefit.” Finally, the Climate Change Policy mandates SSMU to “continue to avoid all investments in the fossil fuel industry.”

Despite these provisions, explained Khan, SSMU’s current investments aren’t as ‘socially responsible’ as they could be.

“Right now, we just invest in what is returning well,” Khan told The Daily. “There is no ‘positive screening’ done [to determine] how [we can] not just invest for a return but rather in companies that are doing good things and treating people and the environment right.”

Regarding the specific issue of divestment from fossil fuels, Khan commented that the above policies had not been entirely respected.

“SSMU was not divested fully [from fossil fuels] when I came in [to the position of VP Finance],” wrote Khan. “There is one pipeline company left that I submitted a request to divest from. Some of the other companies [in which SSMU invests] are sort of questionable, but […] you are limited when it comes to the Canadian landscape because most of Canada’s [wealth] is mining-related,” said Khan.

Sustainability Projects Fund

In addition to Di Pietro’s presentation, Council also heard from guest speaker Krista Houser, the administrator of McGill’s Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF). SPF was established in 2009 as a three-year pilot project funded by SSMU, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), and the Macdonald Campus Students’ Society (MCSS). Houser explained that the SPF, which allocates funding to members of the McGill community interested in starting new sustainability-themed projects, will have to run a referendum campaign this semester to have its non-opt-outable $0.50 student fee renewed. The McGill administration already matches this fee dollar for dollar, and will continue to do so should the fee renewal pass.

Houser also announced the forthcoming creation of a “tiny stream application process,” intended to make it easier for smaller-scale projects to receive assistance from the SPF. This initiative is expected to be operational in the next few weeks.

Motions Passed

Following the guest presentations, two motions were debated and approved. The first, a “Motion Regarding the Adoption of the Standing Rules for the 2017-2018 Legislative Council,” consisted of a series of minor modifications to Robert’s Rules of Order intended to streamline this year’s Council meetings. The motion passed after relatively little debate, with only a few minor adjustments to the proposal’s wording.

The second motion on the table, a “Motion​ ​to​ ​Change​ ​the​ ​Status​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Students’​ ​Society​ ​Programming​ ​Network,” aimed to move the aforementioned network (known as SSPN) away from Legislative Council for ethical reasons. According to the motion’s “whereas” clauses, SSPN has historically had looser membership requirements than other committees of Council, while simultaneously providing “many more incentives for its members than other committees.” This, apparently, had been a source of tension between SSMU councillors who were part of SSPN and those who weren’t.

In order to address this problem, the motion proposed changing the three SSPN seats currently reserved for SSMU councillors into more seats for members-at-large. Additionally, it proposed that, while councillors will still be allowed to join SSPN, doing so will “not fulfill their mandate of joining a committee of Legislative Council.”

The second motion also passed with minimal debate.

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