The McGill Daily Montreal I Love since 1911 Thu, 30 Nov 2023 16:57:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The McGill Daily 32 32 Open Letter: McGill for Palestine Thu, 30 Nov 2023 04:04:09 +0000 Note: Students who wish to sign on to this letter may do so using this Google Form. Dear Provost Manfredi, Principal Saini, Associate Provost Campbell, and Deputy Provost Labeau,  The undersigned associations represent a coalition of undergraduate and graduate students at McGill deeply concerned with recent communications from your offices on the genocide in Palestine.… Read More »Open Letter: McGill for Palestine

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Note: Students who wish to sign on to this letter may do so using this Google Form.

Dear Provost Manfredi, Principal Saini, Associate Provost Campbell, and Deputy Provost Labeau, 

The undersigned associations represent a coalition of undergraduate and graduate students at McGill deeply concerned with recent communications from your offices on the genocide in Palestine. We are particularly troubled by administrative attempts to intimidate Students for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) McGill, the only Palestinian student group on campus, pursued even as we collectively witness the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Israeli military. We join our voice to that of 90 McGill University professors, staff, and librarians in condemning the University’s recent emails on the ongoing genocide in Palestine. 

Echoing the October 12 “Statement of Solidarity with Palestine and Palestinian Resistance” co-authored by McGill SPHR, we write to affirm our solidarity with Palestine and the Palestinian resistance against over 75 years of Israeli settler-colonialism and apartheid. Subject to a long and brutal military occupation, Palestinians’ right to resist is enshrined in international law. Moreover, it is this very law that the Israeli military continues to disregard in its current aerial bombing campaign and siege of the Gaza Strip, described as posing “an imminent genocide” by over 800 lawyers, scholars, and practitioners. We stand by our Jewish friends in this moment of grief and mourn the tragic loss of life that occurred on October 7th, but we reject the collective punishment of Palestinians in retaliation. As Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein has explained, “Right now, our grief and trauma are being directed to war crimes on a colossal scale: mass murder of civilians and children, population transfer, ethnic cleansing. It does not have to be this way.” 

In this moment of unprecedented violence and trauma inflicted against Palestinians, stoked by inflammatory, decontextualized media coverage, we were shocked to see McGill use similarly polarising language in its descriptions of the ongoing genocide and its condemnations of SPHR. Media coverage overwhelmingly dehumanises Palestinians and their supporters as “radicalised,” their voices and struggles are being silenced on social media, and as senior administrators your comments align with these patterns of prejudice and suppression. 

On October 10th, Provost Manfredi sent a university-wide email condemning SPHR for “celebrating recent acts of terror and violence” and called for SSMU to revoke SPHR’s affiliation with McGill University. Not once has McGill condemned, or even mentioned, the genocidal campaign on Palestinians by the state of Israel, despite its explicit condemnation of violence against Israelis by Hamas. Instead, the administration has deliberately painted the ongoing ethnic cleansing and widely-documented system of settler colonialism in Palestine as a depoliticized “religious issue” that can be solved through appeals against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. In doing so, the McGill administration again ignores decades of colonial occupation, violence, and apartheid. 

Moreover, after over a month of near-silence on the rising Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Arab racism experienced by Palestine advocates at McGill and throughout the wider

Montreal community, on November 9 Principal Saini escalated his attacks against Palestine advocates in the McGill community by directly accusing them of anti-Semitism. In total disregard of the context and source of the image in question (from 2004 documentary Discordia about Concordia students’ rejection of President Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to their campus), Principal Saini chose once again to traffic in the tired discourse that equates any kind of Palestine advocacy with anti-Semitism. In doing so, Principal Saini’s latest email, sent just a few hours before the planned rally, clearly intended to silence Palestine advocacy on campus by dissuading community participation through threats of disciplinary action. Even more troubling is the chilling effect that these blanket accusations of anti-Semitism have on drawing vital attention away from the very real and alarming incidents of anti-Semitism rising throughout Montreal. We stand firmly by all Jewish members of our community feeling the fear and trauma associated with this resurgence of hate. We pledge to support them in identifying, reporting, and eradicating all forms of anti-Semitic prejudice, which we recognize as one of the many forms of religious, ethnic, and racial discrimination that Palestine advocacy work seeks to dismantle. 

Principal Saini, it is precisely these irresponsible and unsubstantiated accusations that “exacerbate existing tensions” on campus, not a flyer encouraging members of our community to join a peaceful event in support of Palestinian human rights. What we find to be “deplorable,” Principal Saini, is not a poster featuring a photo of Montreal student activism, but the Israeli military’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine, which has now claimed the lives of over 11,000 innocent people and displaced more than a million Gazans in just five weeks, all of which you have yet to condemn. 

For McGill’s Palestinian students and their allies, the administration’s recent emails have directly contributed to a renewed sense of fear, alienation, and retribution. Historically, students expressing solidarity with Palestine have been targeted, surveilled, harassed, and otherwise discriminated against. Recent communications have furthered polarisation within the student body, where any discussion of Israel’s action against Palestinians is seen as inherently “abhorrent,” to use the Provost’s own terms. This sets a distressing precedent of curtailing dissenting student voices and directly endangers Palestinian activists and supporters who will have to bear the consequence of this reckless vilification. In fact, this most recent episode of Palestinian suppression stands in stark contrast to sentiments the Provost expressed just last year in an op-ed that rightly affirmed academic freedom as “a cornerstone of university life. Over centuries, it has allowed scholars to challenge received wisdom without fear of institutional censure.” 

Provost Manfredi, as students of McGill, we agree. Academic freedom is central to the very functioning of healthy academic life and we all, Palestinians and their allies, have a right to participate in the “vigorous, evidence-based and respectful debate and inquiry, even on controversial or morally divisive topics” that the University proclaims to uphold as part of its mission. Now, more than ever, we need to hear the voices of Palestinians. We reject attempts by the administration to instil fear and silence our calls for justice.

With this in mind, we reiterate and endorse the following list of concrete measures put forth by SPHR as the first step towards correcting the course of the university’s recent communications on Palestine and addressing the urgent need to support and protect its Palestinian students and allies: 

  • That McGill’s Provost, Christopher Manfredi, and Principal, Deep Saini issue a public statement denouncing Israel’s genocidal bombing campaign against the people of Gaza, and provide concrete measures to address the personal toll that these atrocities are taking on Palestinian students at McGill. 
  • That the McGill administration revoke its threats against SPHR McGill and against the SSMU. 
  • That McGill divest from corporations complicit in Israeli settler-colonial apartheid. 
  • That McGill cease its exchange programs with Israeli institutions and cut ties with current and future Zionist donors. 

We trust that the University will reaffirm its stated commitment to academic freedom by reversing any punitive measures against SPHR McGill. We hope that you will join us in responding to worldwide calls for solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. 

Free Palestine. 

Undergraduate Student Associations: 

World Islamic and Middle East Studies Student Association (WIMESSA)

African Studies Student Association (ASSA)

Caribbean and Latin American Studies & Hispanic Studies Student Association (CLASHSA)

South Asian Studies Student Association (SASSA) 

International Development Studies Students Association (IDSSA) 

Society of Linguistics Undergraduates at McGill (SLUM) 

Department of English Student Association (DESA) 

Economics Students’ Association (ESA) 

East Asian Studies Student Association (EASSA) 

Graduate Student Associations: 

McGill Institute of Islamic Studies Student Association (MIISSC) 

History and Classics Graduate Student Association (HCGSA) 

English Graduate Students’ Association (EGSA) 

Art History and Communication Studies Graduate Student Association (AHCS) 

Clubs and other organizations: 

Desautel African Business Initiative (DABI) 

Independent Jewish Voices McGill (IJV)

Moroccan Students’ Society (MSS) 

Syrian Students’ Association (SSA) 

Thaqalayn Muslim Students’ Association (TMA)

Nordic Culture Club 

Egyptian Student Association (ESA) 

Queer McGill 

Socialist Fightback at McGill 

McGill Collective for Gender Equality QPIRG McGill 

Law Students For Palestine

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A World in Flux Thu, 30 Nov 2023 01:00:00 +0000 ROAAr's newest exhibition on Victorian ways of seeing

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content warning: colonization, racism

If we were asked to describe what makes the 21st century stand out from other time periods, many of us would think of the same thing: rapid change. Constant advancements in science, medicine, technology, and communication have forever altered the way we engage with the world around us. With the advent of the internet, we now have access to a seemingly endless sea of information spanning centuries, from across all corners of the globe – all through a portal of glass small enough to carry in your pocket. When it comes to the dissemination of information, it’s safe to say that the boundaries of time and space have never been more blurry. 

With so much dramatic change happening at such breakneck speed, catching up with the information whirlwind of the day can be a dizzying task. A haze of anxiety seems to perpetually permeate the air, as we hold our breath in anticipation of what new, sensational story we will be bombarded with next. Despite the sense that the world is progressing at an overwhelming rate, this feeling isn’t unique; if you look back to Victorian views of a changing world, you’ll find a near mirror perception. 

On December 1, McGill’s Rare Books and Special Collections (ROAAr) will host the opening of Detecting an Anxious Gaze: The Victorian World in Flux. Curated by the students of Professor Nathalie Cooke’s graduate course “Enter the Detective,” this exhibition invites the viewer to step into the shoes of everyday Victorians as they “navigated the thrill and trepidation of rapid change.” You just might find that these shoes fit a bit snug.

Just as we find ourselves on a rollercoaster of “disruptive change” today, the Victorian period saw a plethora of societal twists and turns. The exhibition didactic explains: “Victorians witnessed vast societal shifts, scientific and technological advances, colonial expansion, and accelerating speeds of transportation, communication and dissemination of information.” Divided into ten installations, Detecting an Anxious Gaze: The Victorian World in Flux tells a story of extreme growth and development – as well as the unforeseen fears that arise as a result. Much like our modern world, Victorian media outlets were fascinated with crime. The rise of daily publications combined with increasingly overcrowded cities created a recipe for the perfect, sensationalized headline. Thefts, gang activity, and grisly murder cases flooded the pages of Victorian newspapers, leaving readers feeling simultaneously horrified and intrigued. This conflicting phenomenon may seem all too familiar. The rise in popularity of true crime media today, such as with Sarah Koenig’s podcast Serial, and fiction like the legal drama How to Get Away with Murder, shows a striking parallel between 21st century and Victorian worldviews. 

When examining how the Victorians attempted to “assuage social anxiety” over a growing interest in crime, we can see even more similarities to our own world. Just as the 2000s saw the popularity of police-driven media like Law & Order and CSI, Victorian media became dominated by detective stories. PhD student Olga Tsygankova explores this relationship between crime and clues in the media, and the rise of the iconic detective Sherlock Holmes in her installation “Can You See What They See?” Through various newspaper clippings, illustrations, and excerpts from Arthur Conan Doyle’s text the viewer is invited to put on their deerstalker cap and trace the evidence as it first appears in The Morning Chronicle and The Strand Magazine.  

While most of the installations provide lighthearted, thought-provoking insight into a Victorian worldview, others delve into darker topics; PhD student Katelyn Jones’ “Frightening Faces: Paranoia and Physiognomy in Victorian Criminology” explores how physiognomy was weaponized to “diagnose criminality.” Her display shows the disturbing progression from the introduction of Charles Darwin’s seminal text, to the dehumanization of criminals through the “research” of 19th century criminologists. This exhibit is made all the more disturbing when taking into account that this practice hasn’t completely been abandoned. According to Safiya Noble, author of the 2018 book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, artificial intelligence used by criminologists today often lies upon a foundation of racist and discriminatory algorithms. While not as overt as in the Victorian era, our treatment of those deemed criminals today is still underpinned by oppressive ideology – all under the guise of “science.” 

Master’s student Aamna Rashid’s installation similarly reminds the viewer to be critical of the images they encounter, with a specific focus on images depicting victims of colonization. “Anxieties of Imperialism: Representing India in Punch and the Oudh Punch compares illustrations from the satirical British magazine Punch to those from the Urdu periodical Oudh Punch. The stark differences in each publications’ depictions of events hit even harder when read alongside the accompanying didactics. Rashid explains that the 1857 Punch illustration, “The British Lion’s Vengeance on the Bengal Tiger,” was created in direct response to the 1857 Sepoy Rebellion, as a means of showcasing British anger and aggression. This installation reminds the viewer to always question whose viewpoint is being shown, and for what reasons – a message that is as pertinent in today’s political climate as ever before. 

For more information on Detecting an Anxious Gaze: The Victorian World in Flux, visit ROAAr’s events webpage. A vernissage will take place on December 1 at 12pm, on the fourth floor of McLennan library. Light Victorian-era snacks will be provided!

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The politics of genocide and memory Wed, 29 Nov 2023 14:04:00 +0000 The forsaken promise of «never again»

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content warning: genocide

Unfortunately, history gives few examples of people who learn the lessons of their own history.”

Time for Outrage by Stéphane Hessel

Stéphane Hessel, resistance fighter, diplomat, and co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights wrote these words discussing the aptitude of humans to forget their history and repeat past errors. Following the Second World War, the concept of “never again” emerged as an international commitment to prevent genocide. However, since then, this expression has needed to be invoked too many times. 

History has shown that the international community has stood by, again and again, as genocide unfolds. Since 1945, there have been more than 50 instances of such crimes against humanity, according to scholar Barbara Harff. Genocides have caused more civilian deaths in this period than all civil and international wars combined. This represents a massive failure on the part of the international community, which committed itself to the UN Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of  Genocide, adopted in 1948. 

As genocide happens again and again, “never again” has become an empty slogan, a lost promise, or an unattainable ideal. The international community seems to have little power to fulfill its promise to prevent genocide. From Bangladesh to Darfur, humanity is still struggling to meet its commitment. Many have argued that this is in part because of a misunderstanding about how to define genocide and what genocide prevention looks like. 

Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin first coined the term ‘genocide’ in 1944. It consists of the Greek prefix genos, meaning race or tribe, and the Latin suffix cide, meaning killing. Under the 1948 convention, genocide is an internationally recognized crime where acts are committed with the intent to destroy — in whole or in part — a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. These acts fall into five categories: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has repeatedly stated that the Convention embodies principles that are part of general customary international law. This means that whether or not states have ratified the Genocide Convention, they are all bound as a matter of law by the principle that genocide is a crime prohibited under international law. The ICJ has also stated that the prohibition of genocide is a peremptory norm of international law (or ius cogens) and consequently, no derogation from it is allowed.

However, trying to build an exhaustive list of genocides is an impossible task. Too many times has either disagreements, disregarded evidence or political agendas come in the way of recognizing a genocide for what it is. 

Rapidly, the use of the term genocide or the lack thereof has thus become a political tool. Sadly, recent events in Gaza have exemplified the debate over the use or not of the term genocide. Marie Lamensch, the Coordinator of  Program and Outreach of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Study, explained in an interview with the Daily why the term genocide is a source of political contention: 

“Genocide doesn’t happen in one day. It’s a process that takes time. It’s not like the murder of one person, it is something usually that is organized at least a few years in advance because it requires such an apparatus. […] For example, during the Rwandan genocide, France and the US, refused to use the term genocide because they knew what kind of an impact it would have on people’s minds and they thought, “oh if I use the term genocide that means I have to do something. I have to act. So that is why it is often politicized.””

In the intricate realm of the politics of genocide, the term itself has transformed into a multifaceted tool shaped by geopolitical interests, influencing its application and reception on the international stage. This selective usage, often witnessed when powerful nations refrain from labeling the actions of allies as genocide while readily condemning adversaries, has the potential to erode the credibility and universality of the term. For instance, the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar, widely acknowledged as ethnic cleansing and genocide by human rights organizations, exposes the hesitancy of certain governments with economic and political ties to Myanmar in employing the term “genocide”.

Moreover, political leaders strategically wield the term as a rhetorical instrument to rally public support or condemnation, as observed in the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, where the United States’ declaration of genocide in 2004 was perceived as a calculated political move to exert pressure on the Sudanese government. Lamensch commented on the impact of using the term genocide saying that while “in 2003, in Darfour, for example, it did lead to concrete action. But, for example, now there is a genocide going on once again in Sudan. Now nobody’s talking about it when it’s a clear case of genocide.” The UN has reported that since April 2023 more than 9000 people have been killed and 5.6 million have been forcibly displaced. The fact that ten years ago similar disturbingly violent events were unraveling and recognized as genocide and now no one even dares to mention it clearly shows the political motivations of the international community at the time. In addition to being a geopolitical issue public opinion also matters in the denunciation of genocide. “So it’s a double standard because they are African people, it seems far away from us. So it’s also a case of probably racism” Lamensch told the Daily

Instances of denial emerge when governments accused of genocide vehemently reject allegations, exemplified by the Turkish government’s persistent denial of the Armenian genocide, framing the events within a broader wartime context and asserting that the term “genocide” was misused. 

Lastly, the term’s impact extends beyond legal ramifications, influencing public perception and historical memory. In the case of the Uyghur genocide allegations, the term “genocide” is not only a legal designation but also a potent tool that resonates in the public consciousness, shapes diplomatic engagements, guides international responses, and contributes to the long-term historical narrative. Lamensch explained how genocide recognition shapes geopolitics:

“It can bring important tensions between geopolitically as well not to recognize a genocide. If you look at China currently committing grave human rights violations against the Uyghur in China […] the Canadian government has not recognized a genocide, but the parliament has. One of the reasons that a lot of governments refuse to use kind of the word genocide for what’s happening in China, even though there’s growing evidence that genocide is taking place, is because they know that if you use that term, there’s going to be consequences for the country.” 

The ongoing debates surrounding the term underscores its significance in framing discussions on human rights, accountability, and the global responsibility to address alleged atrocities. 

The collective acceptance that certain acts of genocide are “genocide” while others are “ethnic cleansing,” “civil war,” and “ethnic conflict” showcases the role played by a collective understanding when defining something as a genocide. That collective understanding exists in collective memory, which refers to the shared memories, experiences, and interpretations of a group or community. It is a form of cultural memory that transcends individual recollections and becomes part of the broader identity and consciousness of a societal group. 

Genocide and collective memory are inextricably linked, given that the process of memory construction is inherently political. Memory is a site of power construction, where power relations, dynamics of oppression, and political discourses are shaped. Collective memory is mobilized at different stages of a genocide. It is first mobilized during a genocide by the perpetrators and the victims. The perpetrators manipulate collective memory to justify their actions, asking the population to justify the massacre according to widespread historical narratives of oppression, marginalization, or exclusion. As genocide is prepared through the diffusion of genocidal intent and messages, perpetrators are able to influence collective perceptions through propaganda and hateful messages.  In the case of the Rwandan genocide, the government had been encouraging the population to participate in the genocide through continuous broadcasting of hateful ideology on state radios. Radios congratulated citizens for killing Tutsis and encouraged those who hadn’t to partake in the action. Lamensch explains that “in order to accept that the government is going to kill this many people, you have to start hating the other.” 

Collective memory is notably mobilized post-genocide as a site of power construction, where perpetrators can find consequences or absolution for their acts, while victims can find recognition or face the risk of their experiences being questioned and discredited. Thus, post-genocide, there is an immediate interest in shaping the narrative. It is easier for perpetrators of genocide to frame their actions as non-genocidal if the international community did not refer to their actions as “genocide” during the genocide. Moreover, it is also easier for them to be absolved if there are few survivors left to advocate for international recognition of genocide. 

Therefore, the recognition of an event as a genocide shapes the experiences of perpetrators and victims. It also influences collective memory. Almost everyone still remembers the Holocaust  as a horrifying genocide perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazis against the Jews during World War II. The Holocaust has done irreparable harm to Jews across the world and has caused severe intergenerational trauma, PTSD, and cultural damage. Recognizing the Holocaust as a genocide creates a collective space of memory where the atrocities committed against the Jewish population are rightfully remembered. 

Lamensch explained that recognition of genocide within collective memory is also essential for victims: “I know it’s just a recognition and it’s very symbolic, but that symbol is important for the victims because at least it doesn’t deny the death of their family members. So I think that’s something very important for the families and for the victims.” She then added that “even though the Armenian genocide took place more than 100 years ago, a lot of Armenians are still fighting for that kind of recognition. The government of Canada has recognized it, but a lot of governments have not.”

However, many populations who have experienced genocide do not benefit from the existence of a collective memory acknowledging their experiences. As genocide aims for the complete elimination of one group, the elimination of said group’s culture, history, language, or customs is often a part of the process. Fostering spaces of collective memory helps to keep these elements alive. When collective memory does not accurately recall a genocide due to the political manipulations of perpetrators or the international community, the desired impact of the genocide continues as affected populations are not supported in their recollection processes.

Lamensch also mentioned our collective duty of remembrance. She mentioned that the presence of a Holocaust museum in Montreal and the fact that from now on, in Quebec the study of genocide was going to become mandatory in curriculums was a crucial aspect for each one of us to uphold this universal responsibility of memory. She explained: “I think that’s one way that you prevent hate and anti semitism and different forms of hate, islamophobia because we always say that genocide begins with words. Because in order to accept, for example, that the government is going to kill this and this many people, you have to start hating the other. So there needs to be a lot of hate speech for someone to start seeing the other as a threat. So that’s also something that kids should learn at school. How does genocide happen and what does it mean?”  

Lastly, collective memory also plays a crucial role in preventing genocide. When genocide is collectively condemned and remembered, it allows for a reflection on the power dynamics that leads to such extremes and for a reflection on what can be done to prevent them from happening in the future. 

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Little Henri Wed, 29 Nov 2023 13:00:00 +0000 The post Little Henri appeared first on The McGill Daily.

Randa Mohamed

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An Interview With ThinkSci Outreach Program Wed, 29 Nov 2023 13:00:00 +0000 On behalf of the Daily, I had the opportunity to interview Phoenix Plessas-Azurduy and Aidan Shoham Amizlev, McGill students and cofounders of ThinkSci; and Chloe, a ThinkSci outreach mentor and U0 Biology student at McGill. ThinkSci is a non-profit student-run organization which runs neuroscience workshops in Canadian high schools and CEGEPs. Their goal is to… Read More »An Interview With ThinkSci Outreach Program

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On behalf of the Daily, I had the opportunity to interview Phoenix Plessas-Azurduy and Aidan Shoham Amizlev, McGill students and cofounders of ThinkSci; and Chloe, a ThinkSci outreach mentor and U0 Biology student at McGill. ThinkSci is a non-profit student-run organization which runs neuroscience workshops in Canadian high schools and CEGEPs. Their goal is to increase access to STEM opportunities for underprivileged youth, and inspire students to pursue careers in science.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Andrei Li for The McGill Daily (MD): Tell me a bit about yourselves. How did you become interested in neurophysiology and education?

Phoenix and Aidan (P&A): Our names are Phoenix and Aidan and we are the co-founders of the ThinkSci Outreach Program. We became interested in neurophysiology as I [Phoenix] study physiology and Aidan studies biochemistry. Aidan and I met when we took our first Intro to Physiology course together three years ago.

I’d say we both geeked out over neurophysiology together through that course and then both took courses throughout our degrees to learn more about it and the applications of neuroscience. We’ve both taught in different settings, I [Phoenix] personally have varied experiences from coaching to teaching. Pedagogy has just been something I’ve always loved, been interested in, and studied.

MD: How did you come up with the idea of the workshops?

P&A: In starting ThinkSci, our main mission was to empower youth from underrepresented groups to pursue undergraduate and graduate careers in physiology and STEM at large. When developing our workshops, we aimed to leverage our experiences on both sides of the coin, as both teachers and learners. We wanted them to be fun, engaging, and for students to leave the workshop feeling empowered, that they could see themselves doing that same work in the future! In our workshops, we use the SpikerBox: a bioamplifier and interactive learning tool to visualize neurological signals on your phone and laptop. This tool was developed with the goal of making learning about neuroscience more accessible to a younger demographic of students, since often, the cost of high-level neurological tools limits accessibility.

Aidan and I reflected on the lack of accessibility in our former high schools when it came to innovative tools used to engage students in science. This is when we decided to start ThinkSci: to introduce the Spikerbox in high schools to provide the opportunity to learn about neuroscience to a more diverse set of students.

MD: Could you give me a rundown of what the average workshop day looks like?

P&A: The workshop is designed for a group of roughly 40 students. The facilitators act as “ER doctors” presenting three patient cases and ask participants to study each patient’s condition. Students are expected to step into the shoes of neurophysiologists: to use the tools found at their stations to design experiments, make hypotheses, and draw conclusions. Students get to work in groups of six, with mentors available for guidance throughout the workshop.

In the workshop, the main tool we provide students is the SpikerBox. As an example, one of the patients has hypoxia – lack of oxygen – caused by a blood clot. Students then design an experiment to visualize how the brain sends signals to the rest of the body in hypoxic versus normal conditions.
The tissues used in the workshop are crickets and cockroaches. In the workshop, we walk students through all steps of preparation: cockroach anesthesia, leg preparation, along with a discussion on the ethics of using live tissue for science.

We end with a final discussion where we share knowledge and experience on the lack of representation amongst certain communities in STEM. Students are encouraged to share their first-hand experiences with the facilitators and outreach mentors. Not only do we offer students the possibility to see themselves becoming neurophysiologists in the future, we also validate their current and past experiences in confronting inequality, lack of accessibility, and underrepresentation by providing a safe space for them to share. We hope their experience in our workshop provides them with the tools and resources necessary to advocate for themselves throughout their journey and build a community of support.

MD: What was the most challenging part of starting ThinkSci?

P: Managing the many hats we had on. From recruiting, to teaching, to funding, I would say all of our combined skills are being put to use. As two undergraduate students, it was definitely an endeavour to try to convince organizations and institutions to fund our initiative with little to no proof anything would come of it. But with just the right amount of will and some really awesome investors, anything is possible. We are so grateful to be funded by both the Canadian Association of Neuroscience and the Quebec Bio-Imaging Network.

MD: What has been the most rewarding part?

P: The most rewarding part has to be the workshops themselves. Seeing and interacting with young scientists, seeing the lightbulb go off when they learn something new and guiding them through problem-solving in the workshop.

Chloe (C): Getting to see the four or five students that stayed back after the presentation to ask questions and just talk to us about our own projects was extremely rewarding, since we could see that they really found an interest in neurophysiology.

MD: How do you hope to develop ThinkSci in the future?

P&A: In ThinkSci’s first year, we’re really focused on creating a knowledge-sharing hub of individuals from all walks of life, at all stages in their careers, passionate about neurophysiology, pedagogy and equitable access in STEM. Currently, we operate in Montreal and Ottawa. In the next few years, we hope to reach even more youth.

We hope to expand our reach to more schools and institutions in both cities, and to more locations across the country, including Indigenous and remote communities. I have faith in the awesome team we have this year: we’re constantly adapting our initiatives to the needs of the communities we work with.

MD: What advice would you give to youth who want to go into the health sciences and/or STEM?

P: Never forget why you’re pursuing your goals. Taking a pause to reflect on the “why” or “how” has always helped me refocus. It was important for me, as a first step to acknowledge the obstacles I faced through my journey. But it’s even more important to remind myself why I aspire to do what I aim to, as this gives me the strength to keep pushing.

Allow yourself to let these goals change and evolve over time. Don’t see this as “giving up,” but rather an opportunity for growth.

C: I’ve found a lot of more experienced students here to emulate as I go through university. Thinking about what they would do in certain situations or how they would approach certain opportunities has really helped me achieve my goals. I believe ThinkSci does this for a lot of students as well, since the organization really works to connect mentors and their students on a personal level. Students can really see themselves in their mentors.

To learn more about ThinkSci, and their programs you can follow their Instagram at @thinkscioutreach, and learn more about their work at

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From Newsstands to Archives Wed, 29 Nov 2023 13:00:00 +0000 The histories of The McGill Daily and Le Délit are rich. These newspapers have served the McGill community since long before any of us were students and will continue to foster the exchange of information and ideas long after we graduate. The McGill Daily was founded in 1911 as a daily sports rag. It is… Read More »From Newsstands to Archives

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The histories of The McGill Daily and Le Délit are rich. These newspapers have served the McGill community since long before any of us were students and will continue to foster the exchange of information and ideas long after we graduate.

The McGill Daily was founded in 1911 as a daily sports rag. It is the oldest student-run newspaper on campus and one of the oldest in Canada. Now publishing “weekly” instead of “daily,” we have expanded far beyond the bounds of sports to cover breaking news, publish important commentaries, celebrate arts and culture, and explore the latest developments in science and technology. We have also adopted an anti-oppression mandate and have committed to “depict[ing] and analyz[ing] power relations as accurately as possible” in our coverage. This mandate has guided our efforts to demand affordable food options on campus, to condemn violence against Indigenous women, to protest the Quebec government’s discriminatory legislation, and to highlight stories and voices neglected by mainstream media.

From the outset, Le Délit was intended to represent the voices of francophone students on campus, who until then had not had their own dedicated newspaper. Le Délit stands out for its investigative journalism on a wide range of campus issues. A recent investigation into video games allowed Le Délit to reveal the extent of the phenomenon with testimonials from an expert, an internationally successful game designer, and a McGill student. In the news section, our ongoing feature on the Mohawk Mothers keeps us abreast of the latest developments in the excavation of the unmarked graves of children believed to have been victims of MK-Ultra’s experiments at McGill. In parallel, Le Délit also had the opportunity to interview one of the few survivors of these experiments. The rotating section of the newspaper, which is bound to be renewed, also allows us to take a different look at current events. This year, the Au Féminin section tackles political and social issues from a feminist angle. Topics include leadership and entrepreneurship, health, sexuality, activism, intersectionality, and philosophy.

The world moves quickly, and just as items of clothing can fall out of fashion as quickly as they come into fashion, it doesn’t take long for breaking news to become old news. But the unclaimed copies of the Daily and Le Délit that make their way to recycling bins each week are much more than “old news.” Each article, photograph, and illustration that we publish becomes part of the respective paper’s archives. These archives consist of several dozen large, leather-bound volumes stored in our offices as well as the print and digital collections of the McGill Library. Interested researchers can also access every issue of the Daily and Le Délit published before 2001 on the Internet Archive and every issue published since 2009 on the Issuu pages of the Daily and Le Délit. The digitization of more than 9,000 issues published between 1911 and 2001 was made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of the McGill Library digitization team.

As editors of the Daily and Le Délit, we frequently find ourselves dipping into the archives of our papers. It is crucial to do so in order to recall the successes or failures of past student movements, to track changes in the policies of the McGill administration and our student government, and to reflect on important events that have shaped our student body and continue to do so. In writing our most recent editorial, on SSMU’s Policy Against Genocide in Palestine, for instance, the Daily cited the success of student protestors in convincing the McGill administration to divest from its holdings in apartheid South Africa in 1985. Daily coverage from that same year provided important evidence of the student resistance – and, we hope, encouragement for current students fighting for McGill to divest.

During last year’s referendum on the renewal of fees charged by the Daily Publications Society to McGill students, an editorial by Le Délit quoted a letter entitled “French, with tears” signed by “an Irate Mother,” which asserted that the weekly French-language edition was “foolishness,” an “outrageous action” that would “destroy” the university and “undermine Canadian unity.” Despite objections, 46 years later, Le Délit has proved its importance as the main source of French-language news on campus.

How to choose our words wisely, and whether they will reach the targeted audience, are questions that are on the minds of every aspiring journalist at the Daily and Le Délit. By varying points of view from more neutral news reports to opinion pieces, we can cast a wider net while still offering a space for people to express themselves within our pages. Despite differences in the way we cover certain events, our two newspapers share a responsibility to portray the challenging realities of students and others on campus. Careful attention to facts and details becomes necessary if we are to translate and communicate these stories. Our newspapers must continue, in that sense, to open their doors to people who want to experience alternative schools of journalism that have no equal at McGill.

Indeed, although McGill offers no journalism program, the Daily and Le Délit have provided invaluable training to aspiring journalists for decades. Editors from both newspapers have gone on to work for such renowned publications as CBC/Radio-Canada, the Montreal Gazette, the National Post, Slate, La Presse, Le Journal de Montréal, Le Droit, and TF1. As we honour the work of those who came before us, we look forward to welcoming the next generation of editors, contributors, and readers to the Daily and Le Délit. We thank you for your continued support, and we invite you to explore the vast archives of our papers and to aid us in our project of recording, remembering, and celebrating student life at McGill.

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COVID in the House of Old Wed, 29 Nov 2023 13:00:00 +0000 Exhibition review and interview with Antea Živanović

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“Canadians have failed our vulnerable elders.” This cutting reminder greets visitors to the home page of the COVID in the House of Old website. COVID in the House of Old is a project created by Megan J. Davies with Hiroki Tanaka and Kohen Hammond. It consists of a travelling exhibit, an audio-visual elegy, a podcast, and a set of educational materials designed to commemorate the lives lost to COVID in long-term care homes and generate discussion around the future of long-term care in Canada.

The nine storytelling chairs that make up this exhibit were installed at Concordia University’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS) – the last stop on a two-year national tour – between November 14 and 24. Each chair was decorated to reflect the person or people it represented (one of the chairs was dedicated to the Wikwemikong Nursing Home on Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory in northern Ontario), and attached to each chair was a pair of headphones through  which visitors could listen to the testimonies of said person or people. In a Story Space adjacent to the main exhibition room, visitors could also take the opportunity to share their own story of COVID in Canada’s long-term care homes.

COVID in the House of Old is a heavy but heartfelt exhibit that reminds us not to forget about the toll COVID took on Canada’s elderly population. It is a testament to the collaborative nature of storytelling, of recording and preserving memories, and of making public history “public.” After my tour of the exhibit, I sat down with Antea Živanović, an undergraduate student and an intern at COHDS, to discuss the importance of COVID in the House of Old.


Catey Fifield for The McGill Daily (MD): What is your role at COHDS, and how are you involved with this project?  

Antea Živanović (AŽ): I’m interning at COHDS as part of my Public History degree at Concordia. As soon as I joined the team, we started planning for the exhibit. That involved a lot of logistics and email correspondence as well as organizing a circle of volunteers. Now that the exhibit has started, my main jobs have been welcoming visitors and helping to facilitate conversation around the exhibit.

(MD): How has the public reacted to COVID in the House of Old? What are people saying?

(AŽ): For the most part, people have had really thoughtful responses to the exhibit. I think a lot of them have the sense that stories from long-term care homes – and COVID stories generally – are already being forgotten. Because unless you knew somebody who was living in a long-term care home or working in a long-term care home, you didn’t really get to hear those stories. I think it’s easy for people to feel connected to this because COVID is something we all experienced, but I also think the exhibit has encouraged people to think outside of and beyond their own experiences of the pandemic. It’s left some feeling sorrowful and others hopeful.

(MD): Why do you think we’ve neglected stories from long-term care homes?

(AŽ): One of the main points that Megan, the lead curator, made in her opening talk and has made throughout the project is that we live in a very ageist society. Canada prides itself on being a multiethnic, multicultural society – the word “mosaic” is often used – but while we understand the need to address and eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, and such categories, we forget to talk about age. I think it all comes down to this assumption that if people are old, they contribute less to society, and so they are given very little space to thrive. Unless an older person has wealth and people who are able to take care of them, it’s almost impossible to thrive under the current system. We can’t forget that this is a system that’s been broken for a long time – COVID simply showed us the cracks. The problems surrounding long-term care were there before the pandemic and are still here today.

(MD): What have you learned from your interactions with seniors, caregivers, friends and family members, and others who have shared their stories of long-term care?

(AŽ): Being at the exhibit and interacting with visitors in the last few days, I’ve noticed that a lot of what they come to talk to me about has very little to do with COVID. I’m thinking specifically about some older volunteers who came in from the Filipino Heritage Society of Montreal – they were very eager to get to know me and also to share what’s happening in their community today, but they had little to say about COVID. I got the impression that they, like younger people, just wanted to move on.

With young people, I’ve tried to centre our conversations not only around COVID but around the fact that we are all aging and that it’s important for us to think about the future of eldercare. I’ve really enjoyed my conversations with young people at this exhibit because, otherwise, I don’t find myself in spaces where we’re talking about this. It’s especially interesting to hear what people have to say about the future of eldercare in the context of the climate crisis – I think a lot of us have the sense that there’s no point in even planning for that future.

(MD): How can a project like this reflect, and perhaps shape, our collective memory of the pandemic? Has it made you think differently about the pandemic?

(AŽ): The idea of collective memory has interested me for a while. With COVID, we’ve got this situation where we’re all familiar with certain words – words like “mask,” “lockdown,” “isolation” – but we all attach different meanings to those words. Different memories and images. I think this project really speaks to the dual aspect of collective memory because there are certain experiences we don’t expect to encounter walking into it. One example, for me, was Kayley’s story – Kayley being a young person who lived in a long-term care home during the pandemic. Again, there’s this assumption that only elders live in long-term care homes, but disabled people of all ages also live in these homes and also faced the challenges that existed in long-term care homes during COVID.

(MD): Why are oral histories so important? What can they offer that written histories cannot?

(AŽ): When I think about oral histories, I think a lot about the process of telling stories that doesn’t get translated onto paper. I think about the body and all the things the body stores – there are things we can see, feel, and sense when we’re sharing stories with one another that can’t be captured in writing. We might use our hands a lot when we’re telling a story, or we might change the way that we speak or sit or interact with the space around us. Plus, for most people, writing is a very solitary act. Historians, especially, are often working with archives, computers, databases – things that don’t require them to go out in the world and talk to people. Oral histories provide us a very different, very special mode of interacting with the past. 

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Judgement Delivered in New Vic Case Wed, 29 Nov 2023 13:00:00 +0000 Judge deems Mohawk Mothers at risk of "irreparable harm"

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After facing McGill and the Société Quebécoise des Infrastructures (SQI) in court on October 27, the Mohawk Mothers (also known as the Kahnistensera) have finally received an answer to their bid to stop the ongoing excavation work on the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital. On November 20, Justice Gregory Moore granted the Mothers a safeguard order, a judgement dealing with a highly urgent matter, and issued a judgement obliging McGill and the SQI to follow the Settlement Agreement established in April. He also reinstated the independent panel of archaeologists which McGill disbanded in July. Justice Moore decreed that the Kahnistensera face “irreparable harm” if the excavation continues without the guidance of the panel.

“We’re very, very happy, because this means we were right,” said Mohawk Mother Kwetiio in an interview with the Daily. “It just needed to happen because there could be irreparable harm if it continues in this manner.”Justice Moore argued that following the disbandment of the expert panel of archaeologists, the Mohawk Mothers were put in the same position as when they appeared in court in 2022. Without the existence of the panel, he argued that the Kahnistensera wouldn’t be appropriately consulted in the investigation and that the findings wouldn’t be communicated to them in a transparent manner. Once reinstated, the panel, composed of an archaeologist chosen by each of the three parties, will analyze the evidence found since July 17 to thoroughly investigate the possibility of unmarked graves.“What’s really important in this judgment is that it shows that because an institution is, legally in the colonial system, the owner of the land, it’s not sufficient for them to lead an investigation on unmarked graves on that land,” said Philippe Blouin, a McGill Anthropology PhD student who worked closely with the Kahnistensera on this case. “It has to be someone else—a third party, independent experts—but it can’t be those suspected to be the perpetrators of a crime.”

The Kahnistensera and their allies remain hopeful that the investigation into potential unmarked graves at the Royal Victoria Hospital will be conducted in a thorough and culturally appropriate manner. However, they anticipate facing hurdles along the way. One concern is that work on the site has not stopped despite the court order.

In an email sent to McGill students, Provost Christopher Manfredi wrote that McGill “will study the decision and its implications more fully in the days to come.” He also explained that “as per the court’s decision, the work at the site may continue.” In section 44 of the ruling, the judge stated that it was not necessary to suspend work at the New Vic until the panel recommended resuming it.

McGill and the SQI are reluctant to delay the excavation work as it may have significant financial consequences for them. They claimed in court that each month of delay increases the cost of the project by $2 million. Nonetheless, the judge ruled that these financial losses do not override McGill and the SQI’s responsibilities under the Settlement Agreement, especially in light of the “irreparable harm” their actions could cause for the Kahnistensera.

Throughout their legal struggle, the Kahnistensera received significant support from McGill students, as well as other Montreal activist groups. When talking to the Daily, another Mohawk Mother, Kahentinetha expressed her gratitude for the solidarity that students showed towards the Kahnistensera. “I would like to tell all your people, your young people at the university, that standing with us takes a lot of courage. I appreciate that very much,” she told the Daily.

The current safeguard order will be in effect until March 1, 2024.

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Trans Day of Remembrance Wed, 29 Nov 2023 13:00:00 +0000 Hundreds mourn lives lost to transphobia

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On November 20, hundreds of people gathered around the George-Étienne Cartier statue in Jeanne-Mance park to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Transgender Day of Remembrance was started by Gwendolyn Ann Smith in 1999 “to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence.” At the recent vigil in Montreal, attendees gathered around the statue holding candles to honour those who lost their lives to transphobia this year before concluding with a march to La Fontaine Park.

The vigil began with trans activist Celeste Trianon, asking attendees to remember those who had been “taken [or] stolen by transphobia.” She read out the several names: Brianna Ghey, a 16-year-old girl murdered in England; Dani Cooper, a 27-year-old poet and activist killed by police in Vancouver; Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old girl who committed suicide due to the extreme transphobia she experienced from those around her; Jayden Miller, an 11-year-old stabbed alongside their mother outside of an elementary school in Edmonton; Eden Knight, a 23-year-old women who committed suicide after being forced to return to Saudi Arabia and detransition; and Jesus Ociel Baena, Mexico’s first openly non-binary judge and a trailblazer for queer rights in the country. Finally, Trianon paid tribute to all those other trans lives lost to bigotry who she didn’t mention. After this speech, attendees raised their candles for a moment of silence to honour all of these lives cut short.

After the moment of silence, another speaker stepped up, asking the audience to “remember the progress we made and also those we’ve lost along the way.” They read out messages that community members had written for trans loved ones they’d lost. One of the people mentioned was a trans man named Jacob who took his life due to “social isolation and cancel culture.”

“He was a ray of light in my life and I will never let his light die,” the message read. “I think he would’ve wanted to tell the world to keep their friends close, reach out, [and] don’t leave them alone.”
Next, a representative of Le Front de Lutte Pour un Immobilier Populaire (FLIP) Montreal took to the stage to highlight the difficulties trans people face in housing, such as discrimination and evictions. They also argued that the CAQ’s Bill 31, which allows landlords to block lease transfers, would make the housing market even more inhospitable to trans renters.

The final speaker came from the Queers for Palestine contingent, organized by the organizations P!nk Bloc, Helem MTL, and Mubaadarat. They argued that it’s important to draw attention to the existence of trans Palestinians to “dispel the pinkwashing used as a tool by the genocidal Israeli government.”
“Now, more than ever, it is important to show solidarity with our trans Palestinian siblings,” the speaker said. “It’s really important to mourn our trans comrades everywhere in the world, in Canada just as in Congo, Haiti, and Palestine.”

After the speeches ended, the group marched to La Fontaine Park, staging a die-in on Mont-Royal avenue on the way.

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Cannabis in Canada Mon, 20 Nov 2023 14:00:00 +0000 Five years of legalization

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Since October 17, 2018, anyone in Canada over 18 years old can go to a licensed shop and legally buy cannabis products with a maximum dose of 10mg of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). In 2018, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize cannabis for recreational use. After Canada, Thailand legalized cannabis in 2018 and decriminalized it in 2022. As of today, Uruguay, Canada, and Thailand are the only countries in the world to have legalized, decriminalized and authorized licensed sale of cannabis. In 2020, the Quebec government declared that it had raised the legal age to obtain any cannabis from 18 to 21. Nadine Yousif, BBC news correspondent in Toronto, identified three main goals of legalization in 2018: move marijuana users away from an illicit market, create a legal market where the drug cannot go to minors; and develop the industry to benefit the country’s economy. Hovering between the desire of building a strong industry on a legal market and preserving public safety and health, Michael Armstrong, cannabis business researcher at Brock University, describes, when interviewed by the BBC, the reform as a mixed success.

Concerning the economic objective, Yousif states that the “country’s cannabis industry is struggling for survival.” Even though the cannabis recreational market in Canada is valued in the billions as Deloitte Canada states in 2022 it added $43.5 billion since 2018, the cannabis industry makes little to no profit. George Smitherman, former Ontario Deputy Premier and head of the Cannabis Council of Canada, explains to Yousif the absence of a “global road map,” or the fact so few other countries have legalized cannabis,  makes it impossible for the industry to expand past a certain point, over which production exceeds demand. For Armstrong, it resumes to a classic “boom and bust” situation: the initial lack of production and high demand led to a surplus and so a downsizing. So much that today, only 20 per cent of cannabis related businesses have a “positive cashflow” according to Smitherman. In 2023, the cannabis industry is effectively struggling to survive. For example, Aurora Cannabis, thriving in 2018, had to sell their headquarters back to Hershey Canada. Le Journal de Montréal describes that most cannabis manufacturers, such as Hexo, Cronos Group or Canopy Growth are struggling for benefits. Furthermore, many Canadian citizens who invested in the industry lost an estimated $131 billion. 

But the struggle also resides elsewhere. In late 2022, the Department of Public Safety stated that 33 per cent of the market remained illegal. Although the police observed 47,000 incidents in 2017 against only 16,000 in 2019, traffic has not stopped. Léa, who  used a pseudonym, a 16-year-old interviewed by Félix Morrissette-Beaulieu for Radio-Canada, said that it is “relatively easy” to get ahold of the drug. She started smoking at the age of 13.  Marie-José Michaud, coordinator of the prevention service Le Grand Chemin, explains that the illegal market adapted to the legalization. There are new ways of smoking that are gaining in popularity, for example, the wax pen, for example, is gaining in popularity: a vape-style way of smoking the drug with over three times the authorized amount of THC in it.

With the combined effect of the legalization and the evolution of the illicit market to stronger and more nocive products, a widespread consumption of cannabis could be expected. Statistics Canada explains that the use of cannabis increased from 22 per cent to 27 per cent between 2017 and 2022 for Canadians over 16, but the percentage of people consuming the drug did not change. In other words, the drug did not spread to a broader or younger audience, but its use became heavier. Pediatrician Richard Bélanger claims that smoking “did not diminish either” and Léa condemns a lack of education and information about drugs. Whereas Enquête Canadienne announced in 2021 that 93 per cent of consumers know of the addictive effects of cannabis against 64 per cent in 2017, this inquiry was only submitted to people already buying cannabis. Government issued packages with warnings and no advertisement may not be sufficient as a third of the market is illegal, and an additional 10 per cent cultivate their own plants. 

Overall, the reform’s success is debatable. For some, Canada has done something exceptional world wide; for others, the industry struggles, and public health concerns are still present. The Medical Association Journal describes the reform as “not a public health disaster” but has yet to show any positive aspects in the area. However, a reform often takes effect in the long term. Five years is, for many experts, way too short to correctly evaluate the efficiency of the bill in meeting the three main goals of 2018.

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McGill’s First Refugee Parliament Mon, 20 Nov 2023 14:00:00 +0000 Youth refugee and immigrant students expressed concerns as part of a student-led project to bring refugee voices to policy

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On October 28, students gathered inside the Faculty of Law Building to discuss their experiences as immigrants and refugees in Montreal. The event, titled the “Refugee Parliament” (RP), was first conceived in the fall of 2022 by Alessia Mottet, Maria Radu, Saadet Serra, and Shona Moreau as a course project for SWRK 400 (Policy and Practice for Refugees). In an interview with the Daily, Moreau, a fourth-year law student at McGill, described how the project was inspired by the xenophobic discourse in Quebec politics at the time and the lack of formal refugee involvement in developing laws and policies regarding them. “We [were] hearing a lot from Quebec politicians [about refugee issues], and a bit from some refugee organizations or organizations that serve immigrants. We [weren’t] hearing a lot about people who were actually affected by [this rhetoric],” Moreau told the Daily. The RP was modeled around Quebec’s National Assembly. However, RP’s proposal writes that currently, only one  committee in the Assembly, the Committee on Citizen Relations, is occasionally tasked with studying issues regarding refugees and immigration policy is the Committee on Citizen Relations. The RP was thus made with the aim of creating a ground for refugees to speak out and occupy public space, and ultimately for policy-makers and politicians to solicit feedback from the body when seeking proposals for future refugee policies. 

The first RP focused on the needs of refugee and immigrant youth in Montreal, with around f40 representatives from various backgrounds in attendance. “Even though we called it ‘Refugee Parliament,’ ‘refugee’ is a loaded word legally,” Moreau told the Daily. “Asylum seekers, displaced people, migrants can all have that refugee experience as we imagine it,” she added. In recruiting participants, her team understood that “you [didn’t] need to have a specific legal UNHCR refugee status to be able to participate [in the RP].” While some participants were second-generation refugee claimants, others were first-generation immigrants or refugees, which brought diverse perspectives to the table. 

One of the topics covered in the RP was the issue of the French language, a highly relevant discussion amidst Premier Legault’s agenda to reverse the decline of French in Quebec. Earlier this month, the Legault government tabled an immigration plan that would require thousands of temporary workers to pass an oral French exam when they apply to renew three-year-work permits. Under this tentative plan, if temporary workers fail the Level Four exam, which requires conversational French, they cannot remain in the province. In a November 1 news conference, Legault reiterated the goals of this plan: “The message will be very clear, as much for students as workers… In the future, if you want to come to Quebec for more than three years, if you want to stay as a permanent immigrant, you will have to speak French.” This would further expand the Legault government’s direct emphasis on migrants in its efforts to promote francization. In a February 2022 letter obtained by Radio Canada, Legault stated that “[t]he massive arrival of tens of thousands of migrants in the Quebec metropolis, a significant proportion of whom do not speak French, greatly complicates our francization goals.” 

Passed in May 2022, Bill 96 currently requires newly arrived immigrants to learn French within a six-month grace period for “particular situations” including getting health care and instances of public safety. After that period, the government begins communicating with immigrants in French in an effort to foster integration into the province, with no exceptions made for refugees and asylum seekers. In regards to francization policies like Bill 86, Alina Murad, a representative from the Refugee Centre, an organization that works to support the integration and unification of refugee and immigrant communities in Montreal, told the Daily that “at the Refugee Centre we see the client demographic we receive shift as policies change.” Murad expressed the need for increased opportunities for newcomers to learn French — “the government needs to acknowledge the arduous process that is seeking refuge, and as such there should be more opportunities to provide language classes for newcomers.” At the RP, representatives discussed how the government’s goals of retaining Quebec’s culture and language could be better translated into a more welcoming and accessible, rather than exclusionary, policies.  

The Quebec Government’s plan to raise tuition for non-Quebec and non-Canadian students at anglophone universities, combined with its ongoing anti-migrant rhetoric, directly affects McGill refugee and immigrant students. According to Nika, a U0 student originally from Russia and a participant in the RP the disregard for the immigrant and refugee community of Quebec in an attempt to preserve the French language is misguided. At the RP, she and her peers echoed the need for accessible resources to learn French and integrate into the Quebec community. “I came here [from Vancouver] specifically to learn French – that was a big motivator to me choosing McGill,” she told the Daily. “When I got here, I was caught off guard by the lack of resources for students who are willing to learn and who really wanted to, and also [felt] the government’s pressure to learn.” 

Noting the lack of resources for new students to integrate into the community of both McGill and Montreal, another focus of the RP was the need to build community spaces for immigrants and refugees. “One huge part of the Refugee Parliament that we found was that [many participants] were interested in finding people like [themselves],” Moreau told the Daily. “Making the city feel more comfortable” through events like walking tours (which have been done by organizations like WUSC McGill and the Refugee Centre), and building up events and spaces for sharing experiences and information about McGill and Montreal, were some of the solutions brought up in the Parliament. Through attending these events, “you could meet that group, that support system, or even that one person that you connect with for the support you need,” Moreau added. Thus, the calls to action constructed by RP representatives at the conclusion of the first RP highlighted building up organizations that provide resources for immigrants and refugees, as well as community spaces for learning French. Another aim was to distribute pamphlets containing information for recent immigrants and broadening the reach of existing refugee organizations’ resources. 

Moreau hopes this event will kickstart a broader movement, pushing McGill to give more importance to refugee and immigrant experiences in decision-making and urging the provincial government for increased funding and support. Though the first RP’s focus was on the experience of refugee and immigrant youth, the team aspires to eventually expand its reach to the broader immigrant and refugee community of Montreal in future events. The first event was really “…a start of a conversation,” Moreau told the Daily. “ I think the participants were very aware that…where we’re at right now is smaller-scale, it’s not representative of everyone — in terms of impact, we’re not relying on changing anything [huge] yet.” What the event succeeded in doing, however, was “changing hearts and minds, putting [their needs] on people’s radars” — whether it is giving ideas to organizations already working in the refugee space or to McGill administration — giving refugee and immigrant students a place to gather and speak about their experiences with the hopes of one day being heard. 

If you are interested in joining the Refugee Parliament, contact or fill out their form to represent your community or volunteer.

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Not So Visible Mon, 20 Nov 2023 14:00:00 +0000 A review of Ange Loft’s installation Visibly Iroquoian

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On my breaks between classes you can often find me by  art museums, procrastinating an assigned reading, and trying to see how many doors are unlocked. Normally, I would not consider yanking door knobs optimal behaviour for  a museum visitor, but for experiencing Ange Loft’s Visibly Iroquoian, at The Canadian Center For Architecture (CCA), this skill was definitely a plus . The journey to find all three parts of the installation could be extraordinarily challenging for your average museum visitor. The CCA is a ten minute walk from the Georges-Vanier metro station, and entry is completely free for students. Despite the journey it takes to get there, I would highly recommend going to see this installation –  Visibly Iroquoian has completely changed the way I look at the landscape of Montreal by prompting me to look outside of the windows of the CCA and truly see the city around me. 

Visibly Iroquoian is an ironic name for such a hidden art piece. Tucked behind the security guard at the entrance of the museum is the first section of the work. If the big burly museum officials  don’t  scare you away from reading the text on the wall, you will find a truly interesting work of art. Loft  asks you to look out the windows and “Consider the Indigenous context in and around the city of Tiohtià;ke/Mooniyang/Montreal.’’ You are prompted to do this through audio recordings telling the stories of Indigenous people around Montreal and purple velvet “whimsies” which are suspended on the windows. The patterns on the whimsies are from Iroquoian pottery discovered on the “Dawson site” in downtown Montreal, which  also resemble architectural details seen on the buildings of the CCA. By making this comparison between settler architecture and Iroquoian design Loft wants to create an imaginary “Iroquoian Ancestral Architectural Aesthetic.” If you adjust your position to look out the windows, the whimsies reflect the details of the buildings behind them, or even of the landscape. These interactive elements make the piece very engaging, and the audio accompanying it kept me entertained as I continued to adjust and re-adjust my point of view. 

The main exhibitions at the CCA have a simple layout that guides the visitor through the start to the end –  but navigating Visibly Iroquoian was not such a simple task. If you manage to look behind the security guard you will find the first part, which explains that  the exhibition is made up of two other sections at different windows. And so the hunt begins. The second part is revealed after a short walk down the hall after all the display cases. This area  features  audio that asks the listener compelling questions and gives them prompts to think on. After you sit there and absorb what is said throughout  the 17-minute audio, you can get up and start the journey of finding the final piece of the installation. The only way that I was able to find the last piece was through my rather audacious tendency to just try opening doors whenever I’m exploring a new place. 

Behind two sets of heavy doors there is a cold waiting room area adorned with the menacing bust of Thomas George Shaughnessy, quickly followed by another set of doors leading to the old Shaughnessy mansion. I would hope that you chose the set of doors to the left. There you’ll find an open section of the house, and in the far back of the salon there should be  a booklet on a table, with maps and text on the wall and whimsies in the window. Here is the final section of Loft’s installation. It speaks directly to the legacy of development in Montreal and the destruction of communities caused by the railway run by The Right Honourable Lord Shaughnessy, whose house this  section is located in. Playing on the audio loop is “Carrying Our Bones,”  Loft’s interview with Indigenous archeologist, Katsi’tsahèn:te Cross-Delisle, about the archeology and history of their people in Tiohtià;ke. 

Having found the final part of the puzzle I sat content, looking out the window as the audio played. It turned out to be very comfy, and I figured it would be a great place to start that reading I had been procrastinating, and maybe take a nap in the little purple chair. Throughout this entire time not a single person came upon me, and no one opened the set of doors to  enter the old mansion. At 5:50 p.m. the first sign of life appeared –  it was that burly security guard informing me that the museum was closing in ten minutes. Upon my departure I had this sense of pride over finding what few others had, but more than this I was saddened that not many people were seeing Ange Loft’s interesting and insightful work. I would encourage anyone who reads this to go look at Visibly Iroquoian before the installation is closed on December 23. It’s free for students, and the quiet museum atmosphere is great for a solo visit, hanging with a friend, or even a simple date. Loft’s multi-media work  should be enjoyed by more than just trigger-happy door knob grabbers. I invite you to go and explore her work.  It might inspire you to go out and truly see Tiohtià;ke.      

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A Love Letter to Queer Theatre Kids Mon, 20 Nov 2023 13:00:00 +0000 Tuesday Night Café Theatre’s The Importance of Being Earnest – a review and interview

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On November 15, I took my seat at Morrice Hall to watch an unforgettable opening night performance of The Importance of Being Earnest. A co-production between Tuesday Night Café Theatre (TNC) and Accordion Theatre, this take on Oscar Wilde’s 1895 classic centres a lesbian retelling of events. Although the text is left largely intact, several other changes were made, including shifting “the 1890s to the 1920s, England to New York, actors to actresses.” 

Filled to the brim with sensational satire and whimsical wit, this interpretation of Wilde’s text was truly a joy to behold. Celeste Gunnel-Joyce and Maite Kramarz gave captivating lead performances as Algernon and Jack. As they bantered and battled with one another, the audience hung onto their every word in anticipation of what playful quip would pass through their lips next. Every aspect of the sets, blocking, and acting choices was meticulously chosen, coming together to create a cohesive story that was truly a labour of love. Even the power outage that hit Morrice Hall that night humorously worked in the play’s favour, striking just as Act I ended and coming back on right before intermission. 

I will never forget the experience of shining our smartphone flashlights on the actors during that second act. As part of a majority-queer audience, watching a queer production of a historically queer-coded play, I could feel in that moment the heart of this take on The Importance of Being Earnest. TNC’s adaptation is a celebration of the queer roots of theatre. Its joyful, collaborative spirit is a breath of fresh air in a world of serious, overly-earnest media. 

I sat down with the director, Carmen Mancuso, on behalf of The McGill Daily to discuss more about the production. The following interview has been shortened and edited for clarity. 

Eliana Freelund for The McGill Daily (MD): Why choose to put on The Importance of Being Earnest? Why is this play relevant now?

Carmen Mancuso (CM): First and foremost, it’s just such a funny show. The social satire transcends the time it was written in. It’s a perfect example of a work that was written during a very socially conservative time when none of the freedoms we enjoy today could ever have been imagined. It’s well known that during the premier in 1895 Oscar Wilde was publicly confronted by the father of the man he was seeing at the time, which led to a libel trial and his eventual imprisonment. Continuing to put on this play is a way of honouring both him, and the progress we’ve made. 

MD: What was the thought process behind creating a lesbian retelling of the play?

CM: This time around, reading the dialogue in the play, I found myself thinking “Wow, this just sounds so butch, this sounds so gay.” The way Wilde creates these dandy-ish men lends perfectly to a modern, lesbian reading. This got us thinking, “What if we restaged this play with all women, and without having them do drag? What if we really embraced, and leaned into that angle?” Going from there, it seemed a natural progression to change the time period, since our vision didn’t seem to suit the 1890s anymore. We landed on doing a 1920s, very gay, Importance of Being Earnest.

MD: How did you go about changing the location and time period? 

CM: It’s all due to our costume, set, and prop designers – Tea Anderson, Léa-Mirana Metz, and Ilesh Thomas. They worked really hard to visually, spiritually, and artistically recreate the time period, and not lean into the gaudy, flashy stereotypes we see in so much of our media today. A lot of research was done into what exactly the gay and lesbian subculture looked like at the time, and then using that visual language to aid in how we portrayed the characters. 

MD: One of the standouts of this production is its truly joyful tone. In the playbill, you explain that “the goal was to make something entertaining, something towards modern queer audiences without the traditional misery-centered narratives that often overwhelm queer stories.” How did you achieve this feeling, and why is it so important for this particular retelling?

CM: We ultimately wanted to create something for all the gay theatre kids out there. Something that is unapologetically happy, silly, and entertaining. This is a play where no one dies. The saddest people get is over eating muffins. We wanted to do something fun, in a queer way – which unfortunately doesn’t always exist in modern media. It was also important for us to do this with something that is a fundamental part of “the canon.” In many ways, The Importance of Being Earnest is the archetypical university production – it’s been done so many times, even as recently as 2017 here at McGill. We wanted to take something from the canon and twist it in a little way that would just completely reframe it, while still keeping the original elements of the script. I’m so proud of what we ended up with, and I really hope that all our hard work came across!

The last week of shows for The Importance of Being Earnest will take place from November 22 to 24 at 7pm at Morrice Hall. Pay-what-you-can tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite. For more information, visit Tuesday Night Café Theatre’s Facebook and Instagram pages. 

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Science Sensationalism in the Media Damages Trust Mon, 20 Nov 2023 13:00:00 +0000 How the planet K2-18 became misrepresented

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Imagine waking up one fine morning. You go about your daily routine of doomscrolling through social media while lying in bed. Then you come across the announcement that life has been found on another planet.

Suddenly your morning trip to Starbucks is a lot less ordinary. Everyone, from the cashier to the bus driver to the receptionist and your boss, are all talking about what they believe the aliens from planet Xorg look like. Finding life outside of Earth has always been one of the most captivating pursuits in science. As a space scientist myself, I can attest to the fact that the question of alien life will come up without fail in any given public talk related to astronomy.

Recently, it seemed as though internet publications had beaten scientists to the punch with announcements that evidence of life had been found in the Exoplanet K2-18 b. This came as quite a surprise to the scientists who had published their findings about this planet but had no recollection of telling the media that they had confirmed the existence of extra terrestrials.

What happened was that some of the conclusions of their published findings were spun into very misleading headlines. They did, however, prove to be quite effective in terms of how many people clicked on those articles online.

Such misrepresentations of science in the media, especially online media, have been happening more frequently in the last ten years. The business model of high engagement equals higher profits has created an online media ecosystem that thrives on sensationalizing scientific findings. By sensationalizing I mean that a lot of facts are distorted to attract more readers.

For context, what exactly is this planet K2-18 b? It is a planet that is two and a half times as wide and eight times as massive as Earth. It orbits a small red dwarf star at a distance of 124 light years from our solar system. K2-18 b has half the Earth’s density, suggesting the existence of light material such as water and ice on the planet. Furthermore, the planet was found to orbit near the habitable zone of the system, which fuelled speculation on whether K2-18 b could harbour life. Discoveries such as the evidence of water vapour and hydrogen gas in its atmosphere by the Hubble Space Telescope presented this world as a Hycean world candidate (a planet with a hydrogen atmosphere and a global ocean).

This wasn’t the first time that planet K2-18 b made an appearance in the media as a flag bearer for fake alien life. The same happened when this planet was discovered in 2015 and several online publications described it as a planet with a global ocean. While the idea that K2-18 b could potentially have water was proposed based on the density of the planet, the astronomers who studied this world simply mentioned it as one of many possible conclusions to their observations.

Similarly, in September of this year, spectral data from the NIRISS instrument of the James Webb Space Telescope showed evidence of methane, carbon dioxide, and hints of dimethyl sulfide (DMS) on K2-18 b. Among these, DMS was predicted to be a potential biomarker, but the data was not strong enough to say that the DMS came from life. The conclusions of the paper on these findings, which appeared as a letter in the Astrophysical Journal, were that DMS might be present in the atmosphere of K2-18 b but that it would require much more data to confirm. While the possibility of the origin of DMS being biological was brought up, considering it a certainty would have been scientific malpractice.

Several news outlets, however, spun these findings in a different light. USA Today led with the headline “NASA says Exoplanet named K2-18 b could harbor life.” CNET had the headline “Webb finds potentially habitable planet might be an ocean world,” while The Guardian sounded off the headline “NASA says distant Exoplanet could have rare water ocean and possible hints of life.” Many of these articles cherry-picked findings from these studies while omitting the researchers’ words of caution. One might argue that sensationalizing science will get more engagement from the public. But researchers would say that they still observe strong public engagement without having to exaggerate scientific results. When it comes to news, simply announcing findings as they are is the best course of action.

Over time, media exaggeration of science erodes the public trust in science and scientific institutions. It is the collective responsibility of researchers and the media to ensure clear communication between science and the public.

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Vote YES for the Policy Against Genocide in Palestine Sat, 18 Nov 2023 13:00:00 +0000 McGill divested from apartheid once and must do it again

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Monday, November 20, is the final day to vote in the Fall 2023 SSMU Referendum. For anyone new to McGill, SSMU, the student union, holds a referendum each semester to allow members to vote on questions related to clubs, services, governance, and other aspects of student life. Most of the questions that appear on referendum ballots pertain to the establishment, renewal, or increase of fees for clubs and services. On some occasions, however, SSMU asks members to vote on policies of political importance. One such question appears on the Fall 2023 ballot: “Do you agree to the SSMU’s adoption of the Policy Against Genocide in Palestine?”

The Policy Against Genocide in Palestine was drafted by unnamed SSMU members. In a three-page document, the authors of the policy write that, since October 7 of this year, “Israeli forces have waged a relentless, indiscriminate, genocidal bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip, murdering over 7,500 Palestinians, including over 3,000 children.” The authors also note that Israeli forces have entirely cut off access to food, water, medical supplies, electricity, and fuel in the Gaza Strip. Instead of condemning this violence, the McGill administration has “publicly threatened students who voice their solidarity with the Palestinian people.” It also continues to invest in or collaborate with institutions, corporations, and donors complicit in the genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

In its call to action, the policy demands: that the McGill administration condemn the genocidal campaign against the people of Gaza; that it retract its “abhorrent threats against Palestinian students and student groups”; that it provide support for Palestinian and Arab students; and that it divest from or cut ties with all institutions, corporations, and donors complicit in “genocide, settler-colonialism, apartheid, or ethnic cleansing against Palestinians.” The authors also call on SSMU to make an immediate statement condemning the genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and to reaffirm its solidarity with Palestinian and Arab students and its commitment to “the Palestinian struggle against genocide and settler-colonial apartheid.”

The Daily’s editorial board endorses an emphatic YES vote for the adoption of the Policy Against Genocide in Palestine. To ignore the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and their inhuman treatment at the hands of the Israeli government is to condone terrible acts of violence and what experts are calling a “textbook case of genocide.” Our university has not only turned a blind eye to 75 years of systemic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians but has continued to support, and receive support from, institutions and corporations complicit in this genocide. Moreover, against a rising tide of hate crimes in Canada and across the world, McGill has a duty to protect Palestinian and Arab students. The Daily demands that the McGill administration take a firm stance against genocide in Gaza and that it take necessary actions to support Palestinian and Arab students. Likewise, we believe that our student union must advocate to end all violence, genocide, and settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians and that the Policy Against Genocide in Palestine is a necessary step in that direction.

Unfortunately, the proposed policy presents the same risk that the Palestine Solidarity Policy carried in 2022. The Palestine Solidarity Policy was submitted by the student group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) during the Winter 2022 SSMU Referendum. It called on both SSMU and McGill to divest from and boycott “all corporations complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians” and authorized the creation of a SSMU Palestine Solidarity Committee. Although the policy passed with the approval of 71.1 per cent of student voters and was even supported by faculty and staff, the McGill administration declared that it was “inconsistent with the SSMU constitution.” The administration further threatened that if SSMU leadership did not “take prompt and appropriate remedial action,” McGill would terminate its Memorandum of Agreement with SSMU. The SSMU Board of Governors then released a statement informing students that, upon review, the Palestine Solidarity Policy did not adhere to the SSMU Constitution, the SSMU Equity Policy, the 2016 SSMU Judicial Board ruling on the Legality of the BDS Motion and Similar Motions, or Quebec law and could not be adopted.

It is entirely possible, and perhaps even likely, that McGill will again attempt to undermine the democratic proceedings of its student union and that the Policy Against Genocide in Palestine will meet the same fate as the Palestine Solidarity Policy. The very existence of the policy and its predicted success at the polls do, however, send a strong message to the McGill administration. The Policy Against Genocide in Palestine complements a recent Statement by Professors, Staff, and Librarians at McGill in response to the Principal’s and the Provost’s Biased Messages on Occupied Palestine. In this statement, McGill faculty and staff express their concern over the “biased, divisive, and non-factual nature” of the messages from Provost and Vice-Principal Christopher Manfredi and Principal Deep Saini regarding the ongoing violence in Gaza. They also criticize the university’s failure to “show the same concern and compassion” for Palestinian and Arab members of the McGill community that it showed for Israeli and Jewish members following the Hamas attacks on October 7.

McGill students, faculty, and staff have not forgotten the success of their forebears – largely Black and African students – in pressuring the McGill administration to divest from its holdings in apartheid South Africa. On November 18, 1985, following an “unrelenting four-hour protest by 1,200 McGill students,” the McGill Board of Governors agreed to divest all $45 million in its holdings linked to South Africa. It was the first Canadian university to do so, and there is no reason to believe that McGill cannot or should not become a leader among Canadian universities in denouncing Israeli apartheid and aiding the fight for Palestinian freedom.

To vote in the Fall 2023 SSMU Referendum, sign in to your McGill email and look for the link from Elections SSMU or visit The Daily’s other endorsements for this semester’s referendum questions can be found online at After voting YES for the Policy Against Genocide in Palestine, you can continue to show your support for Palestinians in Gaza by attending weekly walkouts, protests, and other demonstrations in Montreal. You can send letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, and your federal MP to demand that Canada call for a ceasefire. You can also sign the House of Commons e-petitions to call for a ceasefire and to condemn Israel’s ongoing war crimes against Palestinians in accordance with international law.

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