The McGill Daily They are coming since 1911 Sat, 13 Apr 2019 17:36:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The McGill Daily 32 32 Students Occupy James Admin Building Sat, 13 Apr 2019 17:36:58 +0000 On Wednesday, April 10 at around 1:30 PM, students staged a sit-in at the James Administration Building, protesting McGill’s decision to offer POLI 339. The political science course is slated to take place this summer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose Mount Scopus campus is situated on illegally-obtained Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and is in violation of international law, as per Resolution 446 of the UN Security Council. The demonstration came after a related petition was published and circulated online. At the time of this article’s publication, the petition had 359 student signatures and 14 signatures from professors. Both the petition and the protest on Wednesday outlined the ways in which McGill University has violated student democracy, is putting students at risk, and is actively “ignoring the ethical and violent ramifications of its decisions to operate, fund and promote numerous exchanges with Israeli institutions.”

The Sit-In

Shortly after the demonstration began, Interim Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Fabrice Labeau came to address the protesters. He admitted to students that he had not actually read the email that had been sent to him regarding the demands of the petition, and vaguely referenced “procedure” numerous times to defend why the course could not be cancelled. In an earlier account provided by the petition, it is stated that “Fabrice Labeau claimed there was no precedent for reversing a course fee approval.” However, courses are often cancelled at McGill for various reasons, demonstrating that there are channels to do so within official procedure. The approval that Interim Deputy Provost Labeau referred to was deemed invalid by the Secretary-General of the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS). Protesters then made it clear to Interim Deputy Provost Labeau, as well as Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi, that if they had not read their email, it was evident the administration ultimately did not care about student concerns or democracy.

The protesters then began chants, such as “Israel is an apartheid state; 339 discriminates,” “occupation is a crime; cancel POLI 339,” “are we mad, yes you bet; Suzi can you hear us yet?” and “occupation isn’t funny; students over donor money.” The sit-in blocked the front door to the James Administration Building, causing administrators to have to use an alternate entrance. At this entrance, protesters simulated Israeli checkpoints to show administrators the discrimination and harassment Palestinian, Arab, and/or Muslim students would face at the Israeli border if they enrolled in POLI 339. This detainment and harassment at the Israeli border is well-documented, with numerous cases of activists being detained, as well as marginalized folks without a history of activism. Furthermore, these concerns continue even after initially being granted entrance into the country.

As of now, the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Omar Shakir, is in the process of appealing the decision of the Israeli government to revoke his work permit and expel him from Israel. Shakir had previously been denied a work permit in 2016, but was eventually granted one two months later following international criticism. However, the government has used legislation passed in 2017 (the same legislation often used to deny activists entry into Israel) to provide a reason for his expulsion, accusing Shakir of promoting boycotts against the state. In actuality, throughout his tenure, Shakir has only promoted the official stance of HRW – “that businesses should halt their activities in illegal West Bank settlements” because they violate Palestinian human rights. Moreover, prior to the shutting down of the US consulate in Jerusalem and subsequently its website, the official consulate website stated that people who appear of “Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin […] may face additional, often time-consuming, and probing questioning by immigration and border authorities, or may even be denied entry into Israel or the West Bank.”

In addition to the sit-in, protesters handed out flyers to passersby, further detailing the discriminatory treatment marginalized students would face at the border, the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by the Mount Scopus campus, and the donors to this course: the Gerald Schwartz & Heather Reisman Foundation, “[who] have funded scholarships for non-Israelis who enlist in the [Israeli] military.” The petition further emphasizes the impact of the course, stating, “[POLI 339] is therefore intellectually dishonest, because the source of its funding is strongly tied to the violent Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories,” which has also been described in detail by Amnesty International.

While a few people attempted to break through the protesters’ sit-in and disturb them, the students held their ground, and the demonstration continued. The protest went on until 5:30 PM, at which point the group disbanded.

Student Concerns

One student emphasized her concerns with the course, stating, “Israel has a well-documented history of discriminating against people of colour. [Incoming travellers have repeatedly] been detained for long hours [and] interrogated.” She went on to say, “this is McGill putting their students’ […] safety at risk. We had the student democratic results for the AUS council show that we didn’t want to fund this course, but McGill [is] still going to promote and fund the course.”

Another student echoed these concerns, saying, “[we] also need to talk about the professors who will be teaching this course: Professor Richard Schultz and Professor Harold Waller. They’re in their last years of teaching at McGill, […] and if you look through what happened in the AUS apology email and all of the information they gave us, you see an email Harold Waller sent to Maria Thomas, who’s the president of AUS, and it’s very pressuring. She even says explicitly [that she] felt pressured by that email.” Further, the student pointed out, “how did they know about these FIO [Frais Institutionnels Obligatoires (mandatory fees)] by-laws? […] On top of the fact that this is complicity in ethnic cleansing and occupation, […] you have these professors who are trying to get this to happen in ways that are not democratic and not facing any repercussions for that.”

There were also specific concerns relating to Professor Waller, with one student stating, “in his course on Israel, he has never once mentioned Palestine, which you can see on the syllabus. […] How can you teach a course on domestic Israeli politics if you don’t mention Palestine? I think that’s really key – the issue is that these professors don’t have good intentions to begin with; they’re trying to game the system, and that’s a problem.”

Another activist spoke about McGill’s past and ongoing complicity in the occupation of Palestine and its continued silencing of student activists, stating, “student activists have been met with silence, co-opting of struggles, and active pushback. We refuse to continue to remain silent and inactive.”

The petition is still active and circulating, and it can be found here. Students ultimately hope to have the course cancelled, demanding “McGill University show that it values justice, international law, and its students’ safety as much as it values academic freedom by immediately cancelling this year’s POLI 339 summer course and thereby respecting the decision made by the student councillors of the AUS council.”

Crossword Answers! Fri, 12 Apr 2019 10:00:06 +0000 ]]> Sign Petition against POLI 339 Wed, 10 Apr 2019 19:47:11 +0000 Students are speaking out against the McGill Admin’s complete disregard for student issues and violation of student democracy, by organizing a petition calling for the cancellation of the POLI 339 summer course, which includes a two-week exchange at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Sign the petition here


Interview with an Artist: Jesse Tungilik Tue, 09 Apr 2019 16:23:01 +0000

On March 2, Feeding My Family, a sculpture depicting the food insecurity faced by Inuit people, was featured at Montreal’s Nuit Blanche. The artist, Jesse Tungilik, is an Inuit artist from Iqaluit and is currently studying as an Artist-in-Residence at Concordia University. The McGill Daily had the opportunity to interview Tungilik, gaining insight into his artistic process and his method of using visual art to raise awareness of structural inequalities.

The McGill Daily (MD): What was the process like for your sculpture Feeding My Family to become a part of Nuit Blanche?

Jesse Tungilik (JT): I was invited to take part in Nuit Blanche as part of a longer artist residency at Concordia sponsored by two Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) projects – Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership, and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures. It was through this residency that I was put in touch with the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) Collective for the “Memory Keepers” installation.

Courtesy of Jesse Tungilik

MD: In Feeding My Family, the hunter and seal are covered in receipts, and the hunter’s hands are cut off. Why did you choose to make political statements through these specific artistic decisions?

JT: Feeding My Family is a mixed-media conceptual sculpture of an Inuit hunter butchering a seal. Both the hunter and seal are covered in Northern and NorthMart receipts that I collected over a period of five years while living in Pangnirtung and Iqaluit, Nunavut. I created this sculpture to bring attention to the issues of food insecurity and the prohibitively high cost of living in the North, as well as forced relocation, colonization, and the assimilation of Inuit people into the Canadian body politic. Inuit people used to be self-sufficient before they were made Canadian subjects. With this sculpture, I wanted to juxtapose the traditional imagery of the Inuit hunter with the contemporary imagery of the grocery receipts. I also wanted to give the impression of disconnection between the hunter and the seal by removing the hunter’s hands. Additionally, I wanted to demonstrate the erasure of cultural identity by removing the facial features of the hunter, and to reference forced relocation by having both figures planted in place by the receipts inside the tent structure.

In terms of physical characteristics, my original intention was to make the figures life-sized, but I ended up scaling them down slightly due to time constraints. It also needed to fit within the tent structure, which was size-restricted, because the whole thing needed to fit through double doors. Additionally, I have always been very interested in exploring different scales in my sculptures. My grandfather was well-known for his ultra-miniature ivory carvings, so I like the idea of working in a large scale as a way to contrast our work.

In terms of materials, with this work, as well as other similar sculptures I’ve made, I have been very interested in using the various objects I find as a way to explore contemporary imagery and themes. Further, these objects act as an extension of the traditional Inuit way of using materials from our physical surroundings. Our surroundings have changed dramatically over time, and I want to convey that in my art. To me, this is an analogue of the dramatic cultural and social changes that Inuit have been experiencing as well.

MD: How do you hope to use visual art to raise awareness about food insecurity or other issues?

JT: I am very interested in using conceptual art as a way to alter public perception and to draw attention to the many social and political issues faced by Inuit in Canada today. Because the North is so inaccessible to most, and has been portrayed in the media mostly by non-Inuit, I think it’s particularly important for Inuit to tell our own stories, to offer our own perspectives, and to start to dispel some of the cultural stereotypes that we have been saddled with. Our lives today are far more complex and nuanced than most people realize, and I think art has an important role in communicating this. For generations, the government has controlled almost every aspect of life for the Inuit, and that has created a sense of powerlessness among many. I think art has the potential of empowering Inuit to start thinking about the future that we want to create for ourselves.

Courtesy of Jesse Tungilik

MD: What kinds of barriers are present in producing social or political work, and specifically social or political work pertaining to issues affecting Indigenous peoples in Canada?

JT: Some of my sculptural work deals with subject matter that is deeply unsettling to many Canadians, such as colonization, assimilation, inter-generational trauma, addiction, and abuse. These themes and subjects are at odds with popular stereotypes of Inuit art and the trope of the “happy-go-lucky Esk*mo” portrayed in classic films and literature. I think it’s important to portray the actual reality facing Inuit people in Canada. I think one of the major barriers faced by Indigenous peoples today is that we live in a country that refuses to acknowledge, at a very basic level, that it was founded on colonization. The policies of assimilation and cultural warfare have never stopped. We are constantly being gaslighted at a societal scale and told that colonization is a thing of the past in Canada, but the truth is that it never stopped. The only reconciliation Canada is actually interested in is for Indigenous peoples to reconcile with the status quo. I started creating conceptual art as a way to discuss these issues with the hope that it will get people to think differently and change their  behaviour. I’ve found that so many discussions about contemporary Indigenous issues in Canada have become very polarized and emotional, so that people have become desensitized and apathetic and tend to zone out. I turned to conceptual art as a way to get around preconceived notions, and to portray complex issues in a way that engages people in thoughtful discussion.

MD: Do you have any future pieces that you’re working on that we should look out for?

JT: I have a number of contemporary and conceptual sculptures planned in the future, but my primary focus for the rest of my residency at Concordia is to design and make a spacesuit out of sealskin and other traditional materials.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Jesse Tungilik is currently an Artist-inResidence at Concordia University. Keep an eye out for his future artwork.

Rez Project Improvements Mon, 08 Apr 2019 22:22:36 +0000 The McGill Rez Project provides workshops on equity, inclusion, diversity, and anti-oppression to the nearly 3,000 students living in residence. Started in 2005 by a group of floor fellows, the workshops were created in response to a lack of understanding of consent, as well as the culture of racism, homophobia, and transphobia experienced in residences. Since then, the project has grown from four workshops over the academic year to over 100 each semester.

“The program is constantly evolving,” Equity Facilitator Eve Finley said in an interview with the Daily. “Each year, different coordinating teams have changed [the program] and tried to deliver it in different ways, and I’m very curious to see over the years how it keeps getting better.”

Spearheaded by Finley and fellow coordinators Charlene Lewis-Sutherland and Christelle Tessono, Rez Project has undergone several changes for the 2018-19 academic year. Following an increase in program funding and new oversight in the form of the Dean of Students, Rez Project has been able to implement new accommodations and improve accessibility. For the first time in the project’s history, coordinators were able to hire and compensate facilitators instead of recruiting them on a volunteer basis. Paid positions have allowed for longer and more in-depth training, while also reducing the number of facilitators needed to run workshops. Finley spoke to the significance of the new facilitator positions; according to her, the ability for more comprehensive training has created space for facilitators to become more deeply involved in the process. Increased funding also allowed for projectors, snacks for participants, and better facilities for workshops. The workshops themselves have also changed; the content is now aimed towards being more interactive and fostering dialogue between students. The workshops are varied in size and structure, giving students opportunities to choose a workshop best suited to their learning style.

Finley explained that there are many misconceptions among those living in residence about the program, saying that “they think it’s going to be a couple activist students sitting down and yelling at students.”

Finley stressed the importance of the programming, saying, “we’re talking about thousands of 17 and 18 year olds who are living alone for the first time and coming from all over the world, and all over in terms of politics, identity, knowledge and interests. So there’s bound to be conflict, there’s bound to be discrimination. So all these things are the context for why there’s a need for preventative education programming.”

Cheryl, an undergraduate student and Rez Project facilitator, also elaborated on this point: “I want to say that the culture has gotten better – people are more willing to listen even if they don’t want to be there – but it can be difficult. Students can be disruptive or just not show up, not wanting to accept anything that doesn’t fit with their view. Even though attendance rates have gone down, the people who do show up are the ones who want to go and have a discussion and learn more, which is great.”

“People often ask us if there are more students who ‘know this stuff already,’” Finley said. “I always say that it kind of feels that way, but there’s no way to test that. Yes, there are more students that come in knowing more, but there’s just as many students who don’t know. It’s not like that number has gone down. So it’s not like we can stop doing the programming that we’re doing. But what I think we have noticed that we’re seeing different kinds of conversations between students.”

Organizers are working to expand the project beyond residences through partnerships with individual faculties. They hope to orchestrate more workshops on MacDonald campus, and to make the program available for first-year students who don’t live in residence, as well as for other undergraduate students at McGill.

“There’s a lot of programming that gets directed towards first year students in residence, which is great and definitely needed, but at the same time these resources and tools should really be made available to students living off-campus as well,” Finley told the Daily.

In addition to expanding the project, Finley spoke of plans to hire four new facilitators, two French-speaking and two Mandarin-speaking, in order to make workshops more accessible to the large population of students who are not native English speakers. Finally, organizers of the project are planning to change the name. “Rez Project” is too similar to the colloquial term for Indigenous Reserves, and does not accurately convey the program’s functions and purpose. Regarding the name change, Finley stressed the importance of the project’s history, expressing that the basis of its origins should always be emphasized as the Rez Project moves forward.

Finley also addressed the continued impacts of the project, saying, “we do know that lots of students, students who have been marginalized in some way or experienced sexual assault, come up to us after workshops and really have a very positive experience and feel very validated in what they’ve gone through. And there are also a lot of people who who just think that having the workshops in and of themselves sends a really positive message to the student body, especially marginalized students. I think the impact is long term, which we’ll continue to see as the project continues.”

Cheryl agreed, saying, “[Rez Project] gives students a sort of insight into what the culture here is, while also giving them the tools to understand how to deal with issues that may come up for them. I remember in my in my first year I didn’t have that, and it took me years to find the resources I needed. This program can just hand it to you in the first month. I think it’s so helpful for students.”

QPIRG Annual General Meeting Mon, 08 Apr 2019 15:53:24 +0000 The Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) held their annual general meeting (AGM) last Thursday, April 4. QPIRG is a non-profit, student-run organization committed to social and environmental justice through campus and community activism. QPIRG’s main vehicle of activism is its educational programs, such as Social Justice Days, as well as initiatives providing funding to various working groups. The AGM provides a space for these various working groups to come together and discuss projects they worked on during the previous year. The Star Trek retirement party-themed meeting, held in Leacock 232, began by adopting the agenda and approving last year’s AGM minutes.

Becca Yu, QPIRG’s Finance Coordinator, then presented the organization’s financial reports. The organization ended the 2017- 2018 year with a larger surplus than the year before, largely due to the third full-time staff position remaining unfilled for a short period of time, as well as lower working group spending. With this surplus, the organization bought a camera, a projector, and laptops for staff members and working groups to use.

QPIRG staff members then proceeded to give their reports. Staff updated attendees on School Schmool as well as QPIRG’s Popular Education Event Series, which includes Culture Shock and Social Justice Days.

Coordinators of Rad Frosh reflected on their alternative to SSMU’s Frosh that took place in September. This year’s Rad Frosh theme was “We’ve got the beat,” which the coordinators described as an attempt to “archive the reciprocal relationship of social justice and political activism of the ‘80s in relation to the present.” Rad Frosh took place in September and offered 152 participants events such as radical campus tours, Queer prom, a DIY fair, and benefit concerts hosted by BIPOC artists. According to staff members, it was highly attended and a very successful event.

Other presentations included the organization’s outreach report and the summer stipend report, which was awarded to the Third Eye Collective this past summer to construct a zine with resources for sexual and genderbased violence. After updates from the library coordinator, the Community University Research Exchange (CURE), and the Prisoner Correspondence Project, the meeting moved to board reports.

The Board of Directors, the radical research committee, the policy committee, and the accessibility committee all presented brief updates from the past year. Their biggest challenge for the year was reaching quorum and disseminating information between board members for time-sensitive issues.

The meeting then moved to elections for student members and community spots on the Board of Directors, as well as elections for the Conflict Resolution and Complaints Committee (CRCC). Everyone who ran for the positions was elected; this includes nine students elected as student representatives to the Board of Directors, two individuals elected as community representatives to the Board, and two individuals elected to the CRCC.

Finally, all of QPIRG’s working groups in attendance gave their annual reports. A great deal of QPIRG’s mandate is carried out through working groups, who operate autonomously from QPIRG, but receive funding and resources from QPIRG. This past year, QPIRG supported 18 working groups, all of which centre their research and action around social and environmental issues. Working groups include Food against Fascism, Independent Jewish Voice, McGill Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, Women from the Committee of Women of Diverse Origins, Black Indigenous Harm Reduction Alliance, Solidarity Across Borders, and STAND for Prison Justice, among others.

The AGM allowed QPIRG and its working groups to report to its members on the work they have done over the year. For attendees, it was a reminder of all the various organizations that exist on campus and in the community, and what students can look forward to for the upcoming year

“Change the Name” Movement Recap Mon, 08 Apr 2019 15:48:52 +0000 Students are still waiting on a final verdict from the administration regarding a potential change to the men’s varsity team name. In an email sent to students in January, Principal Suzanne Fortier stated that she would communicate her decision by the end of this term. She has yet to release a decision.

“I honestly am very optimistic that it will be changed within the next month. In any other circumstances I wouldn’t believe this to be true, but I really do think that we’ve crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s here,” explains Tomas Jirousek, a varsity athlete, SSMU’s current Indigenous Affairs Commissioner, and a major figure behind the Change the Name Movement. “I think this current manifestation of Indigenous students pushing on the R*dmen name is one of the best shots we’ve taken at changing it in quite a while,” he added.

The Change the Name movement has received overwhelming support from the McGill community during this academic year. On October 31, hundreds of students supporting the #ChangeTheName campaign participated in a demonstration in front of the James Administration building. During the 2018 SSMU Fall Referendum, 80 per cent of students said they were in favour of renaming the men’s varsity teams. More recently, a large banner that read “Change the Name” was hung from the roof of Leacock before being removed by security in a matter of minutes.

“The type of support we’ve received really shows how powerful we can be as a community when we stand together,” says Jirousek. The banner drop took place during the voting period for the proposed Athletics Facility Improvement Fee, a fee to which the Indigenous Student Alliance, and other equity groups on campus, are strongly opposed to.

The Athletics Facility Improvement Fee, included in the Winter 2019 SSMU referendum, asked if students are willing to continue paying ten dollars per semester for Athletics Facility Improvement, justifying the fee by arguing that “athletics and recreation is an integral part of student life on campus.” The “No” campaign pointed out that “the approval of the Athletics Facility Improvement Fee would only enable McGill athletics and further limit Indigenous students from using facilities which are meant to be open and accessible to all McGill students.” Fifty-eight per cent of students voted “No,” 42 “Yes,” and 20.7 per cent abstained.

“Part of the reason why I pushed so hard for this ‘No’ vote was because I don’t think it’s fair or appropriate that Indigenous students are left out in the cold while the other students move forward without us. If we are going to invest in renovating and fixing the athletics facilities it should be done in a way that’s equitable, in a way that’s open to all students,” explained Jirousek.

At the March 28 meeting of SSMU Legislative Council, former VP External Conor Spencer read a statement on behalf of Tomas Jirousek, and Christelle Tessono, president of the Black Students’ Network. The statement explains that by letting this question be a part of the winter referendum, SSMU has failed “in its mandate to stand as an ally with Indigenous students at McGill.” By including the question, SSMU failed to realize that “McGill athletics complexes exist as physically hostile environments for Indigenous students […] [the racism of the R*dmen name] is physically manifested in these athletic facilities.”

“Reconciliation sometimes requires sacrifice,” Spencer concluded.

While they attribute most of their success to the widespread support they have gathered on campus, Change the Name leaders recognize that the increasing awareness surrounding the need for reconciliation at a larger scale has given them precious momentum.

“Voices are starting to come out. In recent years, we’ve seen Indigenous voices really coming through in the media. It’s a time when we had the right people in the right place. You had a team of students that were really passionate about it and they saw an opportunity, in this day and age where we can actually talk about these things,” points out co-chair of the Indigenous Students Alliance and varsity athlete Vanessa Racine.

Ontario Students Walkout Mon, 08 Apr 2019 15:42:55 +0000 In January 2019, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government, led by Premier Doug Ford, announced that they were cutting post-secondary tuition by 10 per cent, as well as giving students the option to choose what student fees they pay. The Ford government believes that this is a “historic” move which empowers students through its prioritization of merit and choice. However, to enact these changes the Ford government had to scrap the generous additions to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) made by the previous Liberal government. There will no longer be a six month grace period for student loans, nor will low-income students be granted free tuition. According to the Ford government, the overhaul of OSAP is necessary because the program is not “financially sustainable.” Student groups and initiatives set to lose funding through these changes include campus papers and other support groups for marginalized students. Many critics point out that these changes will predominantly harm low-income students and families by decreasing the accessibility of postsecondary education and eliminating the funding for student services.

On March 20, university and college students across Ontario participated in demonstrations protesting Ford’s changes. The walkout was organized by the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students in conjunction with other student groups and unions. Participants demanded that the government provide more grants than loans to students and protect their right to organize. Many students protesting told various media outlets that Ford’s changes mean that they will not be able to return to school for the following academic year. In March, the Ford government also introduced a variety of changes to kindergarten, primary, and secondary institutions. These changes involved cuts in funding, increased class sizes, revised sexual education and mathematics programs, and the introduction of e-learning in schools. The sexual education policy in particular has been a controversial topic in Ontario. Following the Ford government’s repeal of the Liberal’s progressive curriculum, students were left with material last updated in 1998. Ford’s version delays the introduction of topics pertaining to gender and identity, putting LGBTQ youth at risk.

The increase in class sizes would result in decreased time spent with each student, and would also further affect the school’s capability to offer specialized courses. Additionally, the government has claimed that schools would receive attrition protection to prevent loss of teacher jobs. However, if the number of expected layoffs exceeds the attrition number, this could result in unemployment throughout the province. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association expects the loss of approximately 5,000 teaching positions in Catholic schools.

On April 4, high school students across Ontario walked out of class to protest these changes. Sarah Cann, a grade 12 student from Welland, Ontario told the Daily, “I protested because I wanted to show the Ford administration that students will not turn a blind eye to his destructive policies. Students are not a group so easily trampled upon, and we will be extremely vocal in our fight against these cuts. Doug Ford deserves to see the faces of those he’s directly affecting.” 

Year in Review Mon, 08 Apr 2019 12:01:06 +0000 For our last issue, we would like to recognize the great work that has been contributed to the Culture section this year, and thank everyone who has contributed. We’ve compiled a recap of some past coverage of important cultural events and encourage readers to check out some of the albums, shows, and exhibits we covered.

Going to the Theatre

Admittedly, we went to and reviewed a lot of plays this year (too many? Who’s to say.). Theatre has, and continues to be, an alternative means of storytelling that has the capacity to be a tool of anti-oppression. We should always be critical of the culture we consume, and for theatre specifically, being aware of which stories make it to the stage, from whose perspectives they are told, and who has the opportunity to represent these stories is important. We attempted to do that this year in our play reviews. Kate Ellis covered the Segal Centre’s Children of God (February 11), a play following the lives of an Oji-Cree family whose children were forced into residential schools by the Canadian government. The talkback following the show addressed the ways in which Canadians should question their actions and positionality in their day-to-day lives, as well as the importance of uplifting Indigenous voices and stories in the arts.

Additionally, Claire Grenier covered Opera de Montreal’s Champion (February 11), an opera presenting the life of the famed boxer, Emile Griffith, who faced homophobia and racism in the boxing industry. The show pushed against the outdated, racist notions that opera must specifically be upper class and European, and opened the conversation about how the opera can, and should, be modernized.

Indigeneity in Art

This year in culture, Veranika Krauchanka had the opportunity to cover Elisapie Isaac’s performance at POP Montreal (October 9). Isaac performed songs from her new album, The Ballad of a Runaway Girl, and addressed the Indigenous renaissance, saying that it’s “action and explosion of all the fucking shit that’s been [swept under the carpet].” Her album is out now and available on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

Additionally, Sara Hashemi covered the partnership between the Avataq Institute and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (October 1), created in efforts to protect and promote Inuit art and culture. The Avataq Institute was created 40 years ago by elders in Nunavik with the mission of protecting and promoting their Inuit culture. Hashemi’s article also detailed the importance of Indigenous peoples’ curation of their own artwork in museums, rather than the co-optation of Inuit art by white curators.

Cocoa Butter and Isthmus

Poetry and narrative pieces also played an important role in the Culture section this year. Our two columns, Cocoa Butter and Isthmus, brought poetic and literary pieces into the section from a variety of different writers and perspectives. Kathleen Charles wrote “A Self-Care Guide for Melanated Bodies” (September 10) in Cocoa Butter, as well as “Fix Your Hair” for our Black History Month Issue (February 25).

Evren Sezgin, Chloe Kemeni, Panayot Gaidov, and Sophie Mckenzie, as well as other anonymous writers, contributed to Isthmus this year. They wrote on themes of belonging, connection, and their relationship with themselves and with others.

Interviews with Artists

This year, Culture had the opportunity to interview artists directly and publish their thoughts in the paper. The culture co-editors, Yasna Khademian and Nadia El-Sherif, interviewed one of the playwrights of Blackout, Kym Dominique-Ferguson (February 25), who talked about her experience writing the play and the importance of Black voices being able to tell their own stories. Blackout, presented by Tableau D’Hôte Theatre, tells the story of the 1968 Sir George Williams (SGW) Affair, where Black students held a peaceful sit-in against discriminatory grading policies at Sir George Williams University (now known as Concordia University), and the aftermath of it.

Additionally, the Daily published an interview with Buffy Sainte Marie (February 18), who talked about her experience as an artist and activist. She discussed Indigeneity and environmental justice, the role of music in activism, and the importance of taking care of oneself in activist spaces.

Night at the Museum

Museum exhibitions, and art as a whole, can play a crucial role in uplifting marginalized voices. However, they can also act as a colonial device in reshaping narratives in the colonizer’s image. Thus, the way in which exhibitions are curated and presented is extremely important.

At the McCord Museum this spring, Atenas Odriozola covered Hannah Claus’ exhibit, “there’s a reason for our connection” (March 25) as an artist-in-residence there. Claus comes from English and Kanien’kehá:ka (also known as Mohawk) heritage, the latter of which heavily influenced her latest work. Her exhibition explored the notion of relationships, an important concept in Iroquois culture, and focused specifically on people’s connections with the objects they’ve left behind. It will be on display at the McCord Museum until August 11.

In another article, Kelsey McKeon visited the exhibition, “Milton-Parc: How We Did It,” (February 18) at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. This exhibition tells the story of how Milton-Parc residents halted developers’ plans to demolish their community. In the process, they began a collective movement that continues to advocate for the residents of Milton-Parc, and engage with them through petitions and workshops.


Culture is an expansive section, and writers can choose to engage with many different forms of art or culture. Siân Lathrop wrote “A Guide to Rad Podcasts” (November 12). The guide discussed “2 Dope Queens,” hosted by Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, who aim to highlight comedians of colour and queer comedians’ and work. In another podcast, Nia King’s “We Want the Airwaves,” Nia King interviews politically-active trans and queer artists and artists of colour.

James Ward wrote “The Power of the People,” which reviewed Astra Taylor and Silvia Federici’s What is Democracy? (February 5) which attempted to answer the titular question. The film explored democracy as both a shared value and an institution, and questioned the value of the latter.

Macdonald Campus Gothic Mon, 08 Apr 2019 10:00:40 +0000 – There are three girls in your 8:30 class who are always early. No matter how soon you arrive, they are already seated in the front row, alert, notebooks ready. You have never heard them speak and you have never seen them outside the class.

– The FMT students travel in packs. What are they afraid of?

– You are waiting in line for the shuttle. The line in front of you continues to grow, yet the line behind you stays the same size.

– Every professor somehow knows your name immediately. They know your parents’ names. They know your pets’ names. You cannot meet their gaze no matter how hard you try.

– You walk past the bulletin board and a notice catches your eye. “Affordable furnished room female roommate only,” it says. The paper is yellowed and crumbles to the touch.

– “Are you going to the Ceilidh?” someone asks. You look into their eyes and they stare back, unblinking. Their eyes look completely dead.

– You wait in line for the shuttle. The hands of your watch stop moving, the students around you become frozen, motionless, staring at their phones. Time is standing still.

– Your professor disappears for weeks at a time without notice. “He is doing fieldwork,” the guest lecturer says. When your professor returns, he seems disoriented and changes the subject every time someone mentions his absence.

– You are standing by the bar at the Ceilidh. “Wagon Wheel” begins to play. You realize that you have lived this evening before.

– You enter the computer lab in the evening and see a man hunched in the corner, wearing a parka. Over the next few days, you start seeing him everywhere: in the library, in the cafeteria, walking across campus. “Help me,” he always says imploringly.

– You see a group of bioresource students huddled together, whispering. They keep mentioning “the project.”

– Your lab is held at the McGill Bird Observatory. You are not allowed to touch the birds. You are not allowed to look at the birds. You are not allowed to think about the birds.

– You are driving through campus at night and you see a figure running alongside your car. It is your professor.

– You see a student run up to the shuttle, out of breath, and wave to get the driver’s attention as the door closes. The student knocks on the door and the shuttle begins to drive away. The student is on their knees, sobbing. The shuttle is gone.

– Your lecturer begins to speak about ecosystem services. You have heard this lecture before. You have seen this PowerPoint presentation before. The lecturer’s voice takes on a robotic quality. The entire class joins in as they slowly recite, “ecosystem services are the many and varied benefits that humans derive from ecosystems.”

– You are walking to the Centennial Centre when you suddenly realize that you are surrounded by complete silence. There is no one else in sight. It is noon on a Tuesday.

– Students line up with old yogurt containers and pasta jars to purchase TVP. Why do they need so much TVP? What are they preparing for? Whatever it is, you hope you will be ready.

– Your classmate goes to your professor’s office to “talk about a project.” They never come back.

– You bite into your Twigs sandwich and suddenly can’t remember what other sandwiches taste like. The cranberry and brie runs down your throat as your struggle to remember.

– “The shuttle is full,” says the driver. You peer into the bus and see an entire aisle of free seats. You stare at the driver, confused. They smile, revealing a row of long, sharp teeth.

– Your professor tells you to record and photograph every creature you see on campus for the rest of the semester. “This is a very important assignment,” he says. Why does he sound so afraid?

– You hear someone in cowboy boots walking down the hallway. You hear 1000 pairs of cowboy boots marching down the hallway. The sound grows deafening. They are coming.

Bill 21 Isn’t Secularist, It’s Racist Mon, 08 Apr 2019 10:00:24 +0000 On March 28, the CAQ government tabled the controversial Bill 21. This is the provincial government’s fourth attempt at limiting the religious freedom of religious minorities. The bill seeks to ban public workers in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols and to limit the range of accommodations that can be made on the basis of religious beliefs. Those directly affected include crown prosecutors, government lawyers, judges, school principals, vice-principals, teachers, and any public employee who carries a weapon (i.e. police officers, courthouse constables, bodyguards, prison guards, and wildlife officers). The grandfather clause of the bill allows current workers who wear religious symbols to keep their jobs so long as they stay in the same position, thus preventing any job mobility. Another section of the bill stipulates that people whose faces are covered cannot use state services such as public transport, the legal system, and subsidized daycare without unveiling themselves in order to be identified.

By banning the wearing of religious symbols and limiting access to public services, the bill explicitly targets Muslim people who wear the hijab, burqa, and niqab, Jewish people who wear the kippah, and Sikh people who wear the turban.

Proponents of Bill 21 hide behind the guise of secularism to push for this Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and racist bill, arguing that it would strengthen the separation between church and state. This discourse around the need to create rules “to ensure secularism” only serves to perpetuate Islamophobic ideas. Secularism at a state level should not infringe on an individual’s right to religious expression. As the author and activist Arundhati Roy writes, “when an attempt is made to coerce women out of the burqa rather than creating a situation in which a woman can choose what she wishes to do, it’s not about liberating her, but about unclothing her. It becomes an act of humiliation and cultural imperialism. It’s not about the burqa. It’s about the coercion.”

The settler-colonial Québécois and Canadian states have been interested in forced assimilation since their foundation, and Bill 21 is nothing but another step in this project. By targeting these groups, the bill aims to erase the identities of those deemed “other” by a white, supposedly secular, French-Canadian society. Beyond religious discrimination, the fact that the bill will predominantly affect people of colour makes it a part of Quebec’s racist and colonial assimilation project.

In the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, Quebec Premier François Legault stated, “I don’t think there is Islamophobia in Quebec.” This shows his complete disregard for the Quebec City mosque shooting in January 2017, and for the harassment that Muslim women across the province regularly experience on the basis of their religion and race. Bill 21 forces Muslim women to unveil themselves in order to use state services and limits their economic opportunities. Bill 21 is therefore Islamophobic.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims opposes the bill, stating, “we are now facing the blatant legalization of discrimination against minorities.” They have asked for the bill to be withdrawn and have already said they intend to fight “by every means available.” Two Montreal school boards have announced their refusal to enforce the bill: the English Montreal School Board and the Lester B. Pearson School Board. On April 5, SSMU firmly denounced Bill 21, saying that “this unnecessary bill will only exacerbate division in our society, and further marginalize communities already targeted by white supremacy.” There are also three demonstrations planned – one on April 7, one on April 12, and one on April 14.

The opposition to the bill is encouraging; it shows that many in this province are committed to fighting racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. However, given the CAQ majority in the National Assembly, it will take a huge amount of pressure for the bill to be retracted. We all have a responsibility to stop Bill 21. We urge you to join the sit-in in front of the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity, and Inclusion (287 Notre-Dame Street West) at noon on April 12, as well as to attend the demonstration on April 14 at Place Émilie-Gamelin (Berri-UQAM). We also encourage you to sign the open letter condemning Bill 21.

Big Suze Allegedly Strikes Again Mon, 08 Apr 2019 10:00:23 +0000 Students who dragged themselves out of bed and onto campus last Thursday might have noticed that James McGill got a fancy new coat of pink paint. Our devoted readers may remember that last week, Queen Victoria got a fancy new coat of green paint. We reported that Big Suze was allegedly responsible for Victoria’s makeover. In a surprising turn of events, our sources have informed us that Suze may have struck again with this recent artistic development on campus.

We have to wonder what Big Suze’s intentions are with regards to her colour choices. What does bubblegum pink signify for her? Is it a reference to “millennial pink,” possibly an attempt to appeal to the youth at McGill? Maybe she is aware that the student body is largely opposed to James McGill and wants to demonstrate her solidarity with us.

Maybe the pink paint on McGill’s hat refers to the “pussy hats” of the neoliberal feminist movement. Is Big Suze a secret white feminist? Does she want to impose her political agenda onto our university’s namesake? Ideally, Big Suze would promote feminism on campus without romanticizing the racist colonizer that is James McGill. Do better, Suze.

James McGill was buried alongside his (male) accountant, with whom he also went on long vacations to isolated romantic locales. Maybe Big Suze is celebrating his queerness to make the university seem more progressive than it really is. Maybe she’s jumping on the academic bandwagon of “queering” discourse. If so, we condemn her actions as appropriative and insensitive.

We urge Big Suze to leave an artist’s statement next time she chooses to give a racist statue a makeover so that we know what she’s trying to say to us. Until then, we can only speculate about her true motives.

Jimmy McGall
Behind the Masc Mon, 08 Apr 2019 10:00:14 +0000 Moving through queer spaces in Montreal that are mainly comprised of anglophone queers who were designated female at birth (DFAB), I have been noticing the central place masculinity holds in these spaces. I want to interrogate this observation without pathologizing individual folx’ gender presentation or sexual preferences. I instead want to ask about what happens when we collectively afford masculinity a privileged place in our communities. I suggest that valourizing masculinity produces hierarchies that harm all DFAB folx.

Those who move in these queer pockets know that our desirability in them partially depends on the activist and/or creative work that we do. The more recognized we are as activists and/or artists, the more social capital those who love and fuck us will be able to extract out of the interactions we share, and hence the more interested folx will be in interacting with us. In other words, being seen as rad helps with being desired as gay.

This gravitation towards radicality is a traditionally queer phenomenon. Writer Laura Brightwell points out that many queer theories have embraced anti-normativity and political radicalism as central principles. They have crafted the meaning of queerness into resistance to the cisnormative heteropatriarchy, including the hierarchies that comprise it. But simply resisting mainstream hierarchies doesn’t automatically make queer spaces non-hierarchical. We gays have proven extremely resourceful when it comes to making our own stratified orders. In particular, we have built our self-image as non-normative onto the antagonistic construction of the “normative.” This means that for some folx to count as non-normative, others inadvertently can’t.

I want to ask what happens when we collectively afford masculinity a privileged place in our communities. I suggest that valorizing masculinity produces hierarchies that harm all DFAB folx.

Those typically considered “normative” are queers who – for whatever reason – do not have an impressive political track record, but also DFAB queers who present feminine-of-center. Trans writer and activist Julia Serano coined the term “subversivism” to describe queer spaces’ “practice of extolling certain gender and sexual expressions and identities simply because they are unconventional or nonconforming.” Serano suggests that because we generally locate the root of patriarchy within the imposed binary gender system, we value expressions that disrupt this binary. For us DFAB folx from whom femininity has been expected all our lives, this means that presenting as “radical” is equated with presenting androgynous or masculine-of-centre.

As a result, we end up valourizing masculinity and androgyny, and elevating these gender presentations to be paradigm performances of queerness for DFAB folx. We like to think of ourselves as a non-hierarchical bunch of self-reflexive gays who work towards disrupting normativity, but we do end up upholding hierarchies based on gender expression.

We do very little work to recognize desirability politics as politics, and to acknowledge that being read as queer and desirable in queer spaces amounts to a form of privilege that we have to check ourselves for as we have to for other privileges. Just as we problematize the simultaneous hypo- and hyper-sexualization of transfeminine folx both outside and inside queer spaces, and call out gay men for masc4masc, we should be holding each other accountable for how quickly we tie the privilege of queer desirability to masculinity and androgyny.

That being said, these hierarchies we establish in specific queer spaces do not exist in a vacuum. Masculine-of- centre and androgynous DFAB folx inherently disrupt the gender presentations expected of them by a cis- and heteronormative society. Our valourization of masculinity in DFAB folx and the resulting privilege we tie to it does not extend to non-queer spaces. As a result, we fail to recognize the ways in which masculine-of-centre and androgynous DFAB folx are othered and punished for deviating from cis- and heteronormativity.

I want to emphasize that the valourization of masculinity and androgyny is in no way exclusive to masculine-of-centre and androgynous folx; any single person can embody masculine, androgynous, and feminine expressions all at once. I also recognize that the ways in which we perceive and value masculinity intersect with other systems of oppression. For example, we are more willing to value masculinity of cis and white DFAB folx than we are of non-binary, gender non-conforming, trans, and racialized people.

We like to think of ourselves as a non-hierarchical bunch of self-reflexive gays who work towards disrupting normativity, but we do end up upholding hierarchies based on gender expression.

I generally present feminine-of-centre, and I also have been trading the currency that masculinity and androgyny constitute among DFAB queers. In particular, I have previously sought proxy access to queer approval through relationships with masculine-of-centre folx. Feeling that I was barely performing queer enough, I felt like I couldn’t afford associating with another feminine-of-centre queer whose queer identity was not adequately recognized either. In contrast, because masculine-of- centre folx are considered both definitely gay and, as I have described, often more desirable, relationships with them seemed like a double stamp of queer approval.

I am also acutely aware that I am perceived as more attractive by other queers since I got an androgynous haircut. As I was returning home from the barber, another queer person spotted me on the bus and tracked me down via an online page that publishes queer missed connections. My new queer-hierarchy-aligned haircut had immediately made me both queer-identified and attractive enough for someone to make the effort to find me.

I hope that my challenging of queer spaces’ centring of masculinity won’t be misread as a call for centring femininity instead. Doing so would reproduce the same binary model that I’ve sought to problematize. This is partially also why I centred this text around the valourization of masculinity rather than around so-called femmephobia – the fear of the feminine. Instead of trying to sprinkle glitter on masculinity where we’ve placed it, I suggest we unsettle the central place we have been affording it more fundamentally.

McGill Must Prioritize its Students Mon, 08 Apr 2019 10:00:13 +0000 Over the past year, we have had the opportunity to represent students at McGill as the Arts & Science and Arts Senators. Throughout our tenures, we have realized just how important student representation is, but also how this representation is often used by the McGill administration to pacify student concerns and “legitimize” their decisions. Student representation is seemingly done in the best interests of student voices, but the decisions that are made by McGill often results in additional labour needing to be done by student representatives.

A 2016 report created by SSMU called for greater student participation and representation on McGill’s highest governing body, the Board of Governors. Other university governing bodies across Canada have higher proportions of dedicated student seats in comparison to McGill. As students, it is vitally important that we have a bigger say in the operations of our university. However, with the current student representation on governing bodies, issues persist at a systemic level.

At the March 27, 2019 McGill Senate meeting, McGill’s newly revised Policy Against Sexual Violence was presented by Associate Provost (Equity & Academic Policies) Angela Campbell. As the Student Senate Caucus, the undergraduate student senators came to a consensus, after discussing a proposal from the student representatives on the Working Group on the Policy Against Sexual Violence (PASV), about taking a principled stand toward this Policy by voting to abstain as a bloc. The Post- Graduate Student Society (PGSS) Senator, as well as a faculty Senator, abstained in solidarity with us.

We, and our fellow student senators, spoke to why we decided to abstain. We abstained to recognize the significant improvements that the Policy had over its previous iteration, but also in recognition of its inadequacy in not fulfilling all the necessary requirements that students and the Sexual Assault Centre of McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) were calling for.

During the discussion, one senator brought up a personal story of their time at McGill in the 1970s. It was meant to inform the Senate on how ridiculous professors can be with relationships. At one point, the senator detailed how one particular professor was involved with multiple students at the same time. This comment elicited audible chuckles from the room. Although the comment was made in a light manner, the subject matter is serious.

That senator’s story is not about a generational difference. It is not about nostalgia for an earlier time. It is about an abuse of power. It is, plain and simple, about sexual violence. There is no excuse for laughter.

This disgusting reaction to an extremely serious topic is just one example of exactly the type of behaviour that can often make spaces inaccessible or uncomfortable for students. As I, Bryan, am a survivor of sexual violence myself, I felt nauseated to be in that room and be told by Principal Suzanne Fortier to “give the benefit of the doubt” to my fellow senators who laughed. To us and many other student senators, it was clear that the laughter was because the senator’s story was considered “amusing” by other senators and not the uncomfortability of the subject matter itself (as some senators claimed it might have been).

I, Bryan, shared to the Senate how this particular Policy has special significance for me as a survivor of sexual violence and how I am currently navigating the Policy with the help of SACOMSS. I spoke to how student senators found it important to recognize the work that has been done by both McGill administrators, students, and others on this Policy, but also its inadequacies. In response to the notion of students voting to abstain as a bloc, Associate Provost Campbell questioned “how sad is that for the survivors on campus […] the message tomorrow will be that the students do not trust this policy.” It was patronizing to be told how I would feel, as a survivor of sexual violence, if we were to vote in this way. We found it manipulative to shame students, just seconds before voting took place, for sticking to principles they believe in. Students vote for and trust their student senators to represent their interests, and to vote in this way, we believed, would do justice to the concerns of the student body. Our choice to abstain did not, and does not, mean that we will not earnestly work with administrators towards continuing to combat sexual violence on campus. It means that we will not do so while ignoring the inherent inaccessibility of the dialogues that have come before.

If McGill wants true student engagement, it needs to do more than hear students out. It needs to see students as equal partners in decision-making, and as experts in our experience as students.

This behaviour from members of the McGill community in positions of power is not new. The student representatives who worked tirelessly on the Working Group on the Policy Against Sexual Violence were “consistently met with hostility and disparagement” when advocating for student needs. Indigenous activists on campus who are pushing to change the R*dmen name of McGill’s men’s varsity teams because of its inherent racism are met with “equal” concerns about donors to McGill with an attachment to the name. This is also not the first article one of us has written about performative student consultation.

The added irony to this all is that, through its own bureaucratic mechanisms, McGill already knows this is how students feel. The Final Report of the Working Group on the Principles of Renaming and Commemoration notes that “several participants in [their] consultations expressed a sense of fatigue and cynicism, given the number of consultative exercises and a perceived shortage of consequential follow-up. Some suggested that this sense might have depressed the rate of participation in our consultations.” The Final Report of the Task Force on Respect and Inclusion in Campus Life states that “there is a widespread perception that the issues that receive an immediate, and perhaps disproportionate, response from the University are those that are the subject of pressure from donors and alumni, and responses to those selected issues are tailored to respond to external pressure.” The report of the Ad Hoc Panel to Conduct a Campus Study of Sexual Violence explains that “most key informants interviewed as well as several survey participants hold the opinion that McGill […] is often slow to act, and when it does act it seems to be more concerned with maintaining its reputation than protecting its students (this is a common perception).” We recognize that the composition and subject matter of these committees are not the same and we are not here to speak on behalf of how the student representatives in those conversations felt, but it has been well-documented that student representatives have felt their involvement on these committees was perhaps disingenuous.

If the McGill administration wants students to engage, they need to make students feel like their voices are being heard, that their concerns are seen as legitimate, and that there is direct action taken as a result of their complaints. Students have to take an assertive, dare we say combative, role when advocating for student issues because students rarely see a reaction to anything less.

Next year, both of us will be SSMU executives. To be clear, we are more than committed to continuing to work alongside the McGill administration on these issues. But all of us must do better. Committees on matters pertaining to students must be comprised of at least 50% students. The administration must make spaces of collaboration more accessible, and must show students, not just tell them, that they are being heard.

If McGill wants true student engagement, it needs to do more than hear students out. It needs to see students as equal partners in decision-making, and as experts in our experience as students.

Bryan Buraga is the SSMU Arts & Science Senator and SSMU President-elect.
Madeline Wilson is the SSMU Arts Senator and SSMU Vice-President (University Affairs)-elect.

Waste Not, Want Not Thu, 04 Apr 2019 17:49:50 +0000


Throwing away those bananas you forgot about may not seem like the most significant thing in the world, but in reality, we are constantly buying into an industry that is causing worldwide ecological and social harm when we waste our food. ECOLE is a centre focused on urban sustainability for both McGill and the wider Montreal community that holds public events frequently. Earlier this year, they held a screening of Wasted! The Story of Food Waste,a documentary narrated by the late Anthony Bourdain, which investigates this global problem. The agriculture industry is the biggest cause of deforestation, water extraction, and habitat and biodiversity loss in the world. If food waste was its own country, it would be the third biggest carbon emitter after the US and China.

It is undeniable that our attitude towards food is contributing to the destruction of our planet, but this is not just an environmental concern; in a world where 800 million people are starving, how can we possibly be throwing away 1.6 billion tonnes of food each year? We waste unimaginable amounts of food in the Western* world, with almost as much food wasted annually by the world’s wealthiest countries (222 million tonnes), as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes). Wasted! attempts to answer the question of why we waste so much produce, but more importantly, introduces some hope for the future.

Tristram Stuart, a food waste expert and campaigner who founded Feedback, a global organization fighting to change our agricultural system, explains the first step on the food recovery hierarchy: feeding people. This seems fairly simple – using food for its actual purpose – but the reality of how much edible food is lost every year is shocking. Canada alone loses $31 billion annually on wasted food, and it is estimated that this amount of food waste contributes to as much as a 10-20 per cent increase in the overall cost of food. With one in eight Canadian families struggling to feed themselves and 800,000 people visiting food banks each month, we can’t afford to allow our food prices to keep climbing; we must find a better way to distribute edible food to those who need it. At present, food is a luxury that too few can afford, enforced

by the norm of over-stocked corporations with profit-driven extortionate pricing and use-by dates that are simply there to keep their products in rotation. Fighting food insecurity, which disproportionately impacts low- income areas, is just one of a plethora of ways that we can challenge this current system.

In Montreal, volunteers at Santropol Roulant work tirelessly to provide food security to elderly, disabled, and low income Montrealers. Providing meal deliveries five days a week throughout the year, they have created an intergenerational community focused on social inclusion and increased access to healthy food. Their continued interest in reducing food waste is visible through the many collectives they run, which often concentrate on supporting local agriculture and food preservation. Midnight Kitchen, a worker and volunteer-run collective, is similarly centred around providing healthy and accessible meals for students. They provide weekly meals for those registered in the program, run a bi-weekly food bank, and organize various events to challenge profit-driven inaccessible food production and distribution.

Montreal is also a hub of community-driven redistribution programs such as La Tablée des Chefs, which has been functioning in Montreal for over 15 years, changing the way hotels and restaurants redistribute their excess food, and fuelling a community kitchen. Providing the necessary logistical assistance for successful redistribution, La Tablée des Chefs has already saved 750 tonnes of uneaten food which would have gone to a landfill. Their help proves invaluable for Moisson Montreal, Canada’s largest food bank, which currently recovers up to 365,000 kilograms of food per month, and for Welcome Hall Mission, a centre for Montrealers in need, which receives uneaten food from the private boxes at Canadiens’ games, through a partnership with the Bell Centre. All over the city, people are beginning to affect change, compelled to help both the planet and those living on it.

We waste unimaginable amounts of food in the Western* world, with almost as much food wasted annually by the world’s wealthiest countries, as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.

However, it is more complex than just food redistribution. Western* countries are exploiting other nations by appropriating natural resources, including food, at an alarming rate. Roughly 40 per cent of the world’s grains are used to feed livestock, most of which goes on to feed the wealthy, Western* world, rather than being used to feed those in need.

In areas that don’t yet have the necessary infrastructure for the quick distribution of quick food, often the excess food gets put in landfills. Landfills, where currently over 90 per cent of surplus food in the US ends up, cannot continue to be the answer. It takes 25 years for a head of lettuce to decompose whenleft in a landfill, all the while releasing the potent greenhouse gas methane. Food that cannot be redistributed should be used in waste-to-energy systems made up of anaerobic digesters to power our transportation and homes. With the US alone wasting enough food annually to power 5.5 billion electric heaters for an hour, and the desperate call to reduce our use of fossil fuels, this is another example of clean energy that may become very significant in the years to come.

Another example of sustainable food practices is composting. Intensive farming with no crop rotation means that soil is unhealthy and lacking nutrients, and so, composting as a way to dispose of inedible food should be another option. We can “give nutrients to our nutrients” and make an effort to reverse some of the damage that the agriculture industry, under capitalism, has caused our planet. With roughly 40 per cent of the earth’s land currently being used for agriculture, and 10 per cent of the world’s wilderness being destroyed in the last 20 years, we owe it to future generations to attempt to bring some life back into the earth.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states that global hunger could be alleviated if just one quarter of the food wasted each year was saved. We need to take action. OLIO, a food-sharing app that connects businesses with surplus food to people nearby who can pick it up for free, works worldwide and has led to over 1.2 million portions of food being shared in over 45 countries. Montreal itself has Ubifood, which allows food vendors to sell surplus food at the end of the day for up to 80 per cent lower prices, and a similar app named Flashfood is based in Toronto. It has never been easier to become part of the food- sharing movement.

More importantly, however, we need governments to grasp the urgent nature of this issue and put legislation in place. This has already started in Europe. France legally requires all supermarkets to donate unsold food, and Italy has reduced taxes on waste for companies that donate edible food. There is no shortage of ways to move towards this shift in consumption, and no reason not to do everything we can to tackle this problem.