The McGill Daily https://www.mcgilldaily.com Liberating itself downwards since 1911 Mon, 09 Jul 2018 16:42:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg The McGill Daily https://www.mcgilldaily.com 32 32 SSMU building to reopen gradually starting September 2018, fully in January 2019, at best https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/06/ssmu-building-to-reopen-gradually-starting-september-2018-fully-in-january-2019-at-best/ Thu, 28 Jun 2018 14:34:44 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52840 On Tuesday, June 26 2018, the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Tre Mansdoerfer announced via Reddit that sections of the University Centre will begin to reopen this September, with gradual reopenings of the other floors to the public through January 2019 if construction efforts continue as planned. The building is currently undergoing  renovations for ventilation, heating, asbestos abatement, washrooms, general maintenance operations and upgrades since February 2018.

The basement levels S1 and S2, which include Gerts, the Flat Bike Collective, and the Muslim Students’ Association’s offices, are slated to be the first levels to  reopen at the start of the Fall semester. According to the same plan, floors one and two will reopen in October 2018, with floors three and four, which include most student club offices, the Ballroom, and Midnight Kitchen, scheduled to open  sometime during January 2019. Updates on the closure will be made throughout July.

Currently, most student services’ offices are situated in temporary locations on 3471 Peel Street and 2075 Robert-Bourassa Boulevard, while some services are currently still awaiting accommodation. More information about the location of student services’ offices and the purpose of the renovation can be found on the SSMU page about the building closure.

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Letter to the McGill administration regarding accessibility at Thomson House https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/06/letter-to-the-mcgill-administration-regarding-accessibility-at-thomson-house/ Sun, 03 Jun 2018 20:14:59 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52802 Signs on public buildings are intended to designate all accessible entrances for persons with disabilities. At Thomson House, the official graduate student space of the Post Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) at McGill University, a concealed and blue-faded disability placard points to the front entrance staircase, which does not feature a ramp. The student-centered space is fundamental for creating a supportive and engaging environment where all graduate students can thrive.

The lack of a proper [accessibility] signage at Thomson House sends a profound message to students with disabilities – that they are not expected or welcome. It also demonstrates an attitude of neglect and apathy on the part of the university and, to a lesser extent, the graduate student body, regarding the needs of disabled persons. Assurances for a “barrier-free environment” in university life are clearly stipulated in McGill’s Disability & Student Rights Policy .

McGill University has made it abundantly clear that improving access to Thomson House is not a priority. On March 9th, 2016 McGill’s Universal Access Capital Working Group (UACWG), which is mandated to approve and fund accessibility-related improvement projects, agreed that accessible doors located at the back entrance of Thomson House would be fitted with automatic door openers and a card reader to to allow access to graduate students with disabilities. Furthermore, on September 28th, 2017, the UACWG committed to financing a pre-design project proposal for improvements to the Thomson House pathway for persons with disabilities. These projects have since been terminated or stalled by the working group, citing a lack of available funds for Thomson House improvements. But according to the approved meeting notes on March 21st, 2017, approximately $200 000 remained in the working group’s budget.

McGill’s Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD), which was created to support and provide accommodations for students with disabilities, has also failed to deliver on Thomson House renovation projects. The OSD is a member of the working group but has not supported any of the initiatives related to Thomson House improvements, while backing projects such as McConnell Engineering Cafeteria renovations and an audit for gender-neutral washrooms at McGill’s Faculty of Law.

McGill has often claimed that renovations to Thomson House may undermine its historical and/or cultural value. However, the Quebec government has not granted any cultural or historical significance to this property. Moreover, McGill’s internal policies on protecting supposed ‘heritage’ buildings should not supersede the Disability & Student Rights Policy.

Furthermore, the McGill administration recently released its report on Respect and Inclusion, which included several recommendations for increasing campus accessibility by prioritizing physical renovations on campus. While I commend McGill’s dedication to respect and inclusion, the report does not provide any information regarding which projects will be prioritized nor specific timelines for these projects.  

Within the PGSS policy on Equity and Diversity, there is a dedication to ensuring equitable access to all McGill University spaces.  An intersectional accessibility audit conducted by expert accessibility auditors is currently underway at Thomson House, which was not funded by McGill. The audit will evaluate several structural (i.e., ramps, functional elevators, bathroom sinks and toilets, signage, etc.) as well as non-structural (i.e., event programming, services for accommodations, etc.) accessibility issues in line with the principles of Universal Design, which are stipulated in the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Article 2, CRDP). The audit report is set to become a reference document which will guide the accessibility advocacy activities of the PGSS in a direction that centres equitable access to physical spaces. The document will highlight pressing accessibility deficiencies while complementing them with actionable steps which will facilitate McGill’s accountability to these needs.

The university should be reminded that ensuring that university programs, services, and student-run activities remain accessible to all members of the McGill community is fundamental to creating an environment that truly values respect, diversity and inclusivity on campus. Investing in McGill’s buildings, especially those that are designed to foster collegiality among students, is a prerequisite to upholding a standard of respect and inclusion for persons with disabilities. However, student associations must also work in concert with the McGill administration to continually advocate and prioritize the rights of students with disabilities. Without active student involvement leading the charge on this issue, persons with disabilities will remain marginalized on our campus.

Efthymios Tim Hadjis

PGSS Equity and Diversity Commissioner, Winter/Spring 2018

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Quebec just sold out its international students https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/05/quebec-just-sold-out-its-international-students/ Wed, 23 May 2018 17:55:26 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52773 On Thursday May 17, Hélène David, Quebec’s Minister of Education, announced a set of reforms regarding University budgeting. The legislation promises more funding to Quebec universities and exclusive additional funding for francophone universities on the basis of the size of their  international student population. Along with these changes, the government added a budgeting measure which allows for the deregulation of university tuition for foreign students. In other words, universities have been permitted to set international tuition fees as they see fit, which likely will translate into as high as they see fit. The measure’s timing restricts the ability for students to democratically organise and protest against it. If McGill stands for its University Mission Statement and Principles, it must commit to maintaining a reasonable international tuition rate, and instead use the increased funding for better student accessibility.

Welcome increases in university funding

As reported by La Presse, $1.5 billion will be invested in universities by 2022-2023, which is an overall 11.3% increase from the 2016-2017 university budget year — consequently, McGill’s funding will see a 9.4% increase. The government also promised an additional $9,000 investment per international student (up to 2,500 students) exclusively to francophone universities (which excludes McGill, Concordia, and Bishop), in an effort to internationalize Quebecois education. This added funding would allow these institutions to better compete with Canadian anglophone and American universities.

Deregulation at the expense of international students

Prior to the budget reforms, undergraduate international tuition was regulated by the government (Quebec and out-of-province Canadian fees still are). At the May 16, 2018 Senate meeting, McGill’s principal Suzanne Fortier explained that from the tens of thousands of dollars international students pay, universities used to only receive a couple thousand, and the rest went to the government. Fortier explained that now, all of the international tuition will go directly to the university — “it’s a net gain for us,” she said. Although Fortier celebrated the increased fundings, she did not suggest that fees will be reduced or that the additional funding will go toward scholarship funds for undergraduates. Currently, tuition at McGill goes from almost $17,000 a year for international Arts students, and up to $35,000 a year for international Engineering students. With the new legislation, international tuition fees can be increased even higher, as there are no longer any governmental restrictions that protect international students from inflated tuition costs.

A strategically timed deregulation

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, known for his organizing work during the 2012 “Maple Spring” – a movement which saw Quebec students successfully protest a proposed student tuition hike – and his recent position as co-spokesperson of Quebec Solidaire, tweeted: “Deregulating international tuition fees: unacceptable. Waiting for the end of the term to attack students on the sly: liberals have learned the lessons of 2012” (translated from French). Indeed, as a result of those 2012 Quebec student protests, the Quebec government is well aware of the challenges posed by student organizing and mobilization in the face of proposed tuition increases for Quebecois and Canadian students. Because of the transient reality of being an international student, as well as the precariousness of being in Canada on a student visa, these students are less likely to organize effectively and en masse. Moreover, introducing such a measure at the end of the academic year is the best way to prevent students from challenging policies that directly affect them. Therefore, the government can expect little campus discussion and even less protest.

McGill has a responsibility to its students

International students are vulnerable to the University’s decisions regarding their tuition. It seems probable that, McGill and other Quebecois universities will keep the tuition money that the government had previously been receiving from international students without any benefit to the students themselves, and will, sooner or later, increase their tuition fees. This has been the implied intent of the measure from the beginning — why deregulate tuition fees if not to eventually raise them? [1][2][3]

McGill’s University Mission Statement and Principles states that “McGill University embraces the principles of academic freedom, integrity, responsibility, equity, and inclusiveness.” If McGill wishes to stand by their statement, they have the unique opportunity to commit to inclusivity by making education more affordable to all by committing to use this “net gain” for the benefit of international students.

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Spoken word too, fights the power https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/04/spoken-word-too-fights-the-power/ Tue, 24 Apr 2018 16:08:38 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52759 Calling all spoken word fans, jazz lovers, and poetry aficionados! Le Balcon will host a unique evening of live music, poetry, and fine dining on April 26. On the menu is a melting-pot of emerging slammers, poets, and musicians, all tied together with a  relaxed atmosphere reminiscent of Harlem’s spoken word era. Spoken word is a form of oral poetry which emerged during the Harlem Renaissance, and was deeply influenced by the ‘60s Civil Rights Movement. Prior to the ‘60s, spoken word was predominantly viewed as a useful tool to narrate stories and express oneself artistically. However, after the Civil Rights Movement, spoken word became a politicised form of art that countercultural groups used to express their worries, emotions and demands in the fight for racial, post-colonial, gender, and social justice reform all over the world.

Legendary speeches like Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” and Booker T. Washington’s “Cast Down Your Buckets,” inspired many groups of artists and musicians to develop and refine spoken word in the 1960s. One of these groups, The Last Poets, played a crucial role in popularizing the art form and inscribing it at the heart of Black culture. Spoken word has since played a vital role in shaping Black music, and is considered to have given birth to rap, hip-hop and many other musical genres.

Today, spoken word and slam poetry are both thriving and effective art forms drawing on diverse subject matters and musical trends. This is especially true in Montreal’s art scene, which has produced some of the genre’s most talented artists, such as Fabrice Koffy and Kym Domique-Ferguson, who will be the featured in Le Balcon’s Les Séries Spoken’Jazz # 1.

 

Meet the Artists

Fabrice, one of the artists of Le Balcon’s upcoming event, grew up in the Ivory Coast, and began writing poetry in French as a teenager. Over the past five years, he has been working with the Kalmunity Vibe Collective (www.kalmunity.com) and has participated in a variety of collaborations and shows. This includes shows at the FrancoFolies de Montréal and the Montreal International Jazz Festival. In 2016, he won a Vitrine des Musiques Locales Métissées award (an award highlighting Montreal artists who blend their inspirations of cultures and traditions from all around the world), and was invited to MASA (Marché des Arts et du Spectacle Africain) and performed onstage with Salif Keita (Afro-pop singer and songwritter from Mali known as “The Golden Voice of Africa”). Fabrice is also active in community organizations and schools, where he frequently gives slam and poetry workshops. He also regularly takes part in slam events organized by the Ligue Québécoise de Slam (LIQS). Onstage, Fabrice brings elements of theatre and music to his distinctly modern and urban poetry.

Kym Dominique-Ferguson, another of Le Balcon’s upcoming artists event, is a poet by birth, a theater artist by training, and a producer by nature. For over a decade, he has wowed Montrealers with his theatrical poetry and open mic nights. In August 2015, he successfully produced and performed his first one-man show, The Born Jamhaitianadian, to a sold-out audience.  From 2015 to 2016, he participated in  the Black Theatre Workshop’s Artist Mentorship Program ensemble and, soon after, was accepted into the renowned Spoken Word Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta.  In September 2017, he made his directorial debut with the Phenomenal 5IVE, an acclaimed production that ran for five days at the MAI (Montréal Arts Interculturels). Phenomenal 5IVE was a production mixing poetry, music, theatre and dance featuring 5 phenomenal women (Sar El Bey, Manouchka Elinor, Stella Jetté, Majiza Philip, and Elena Stoodley). The poet is currently working on his first play, titled #DearBlackMan.

 

The McGill Daily met with Kym Dominique-Ferguson and asked him a few questions.

 

The McGill Daily (MD): How long have you been doing Spoken word?

Kym Dominique-Ferguson (KDF): I have been writing poetry since I could put my pen on paper, but the actual practice of performing spoken word/poetry I began when I was 18 years old at the Edna Manley College School of Drama in Kingston, Jamaica.

MD: Do you think Spoken Word still as  powerful a protest tool like it was in the past?

KDF: Definitely. The expressions “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” are the words of a fool. Words have been the most powerful tool used to control people, to move them to take action, to create revolutions, to cause an uprising. Very few people can hear the words “I have a Dream” and not associate them with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech. “By any means necessary” is one of the most controversial expressions Malcolm X was notorious for using. “Fight the Power” was synonymous with the Black Panther party of the late 60s-early 70s, but associated to the rap group Public Enemy. President Obama’s acceptance speech from his first inauguration was pure poetry, meant to bring change and hope to the nation. The spoken word artist has the job of telling the truth of their time to the people who will listen. By retelling the news in metaphors, rhymes, iambic pentameter and more. To make you laugh, cry, think, and to make you wonder and question. To make you want to read, read, read, and write, write, write. We are the singers and rappers, the storytellers and the revealers of truth.

MD: How important do you think the spoken word movement is today?

KDF: Very much. In a time of fake news it is the responsibility of the spoken word artist to show the reality we and the people around us experience. At the end of the day, our words will go down in history, right alongside Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, and more. Without the spoken word movement, people lose their voice. Without their voice, there is no push-back against a system that is set-up against the people who live in it.

MD: How is the Montreal Spoken Word scene, and what should we expect on April 26?

KDF: Montreal’s spoken word scene is as diverse as it is vibrant. You should expect to see fireworks, slow burning flames, soft caresses and hard hitting wake-up calls. Be prepared to see artists open up their hearts and speak their lived truths through their souls.

 

Find out more about Le Balcon’s event here, and buy your tickets at  https://www.admission.com/event/les-series-spokenjazz-avec-fabrice-koffy-et-kym-dominique-ferguson-billets/907911.

This interview was edited for clarity.

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SSMU and PGSS call on Minister David to launch full investigation into McGill https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/04/ssmu-and-pgss-call-on-to-minister-david-to-launch-full-investigation-into-mcgill/ Wed, 18 Apr 2018 20:05:46 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52744 Content warning: sexual violence and assault

On Tuesday, April 17 the executive members of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) sent a letter via email to Quebec’s Minister of Higher Education, Hélène David, reporting McGill University’s failure to uphold the mandates of Bill 151. Bill 151 mandates that, “higher education institutions must, before 1 January 2019, adopt a policy to prevent and fight sexual violence” and “specifies the procedure for developing, disseminating and reviewing the policy and requires institutions to report on its application in accordance with stated parameters.”

The open letter to Madame David asks the Minister to open an “external investigation on the handling of complaints against academic staff by the Dean’s office over the last five years.” SSMU and PGSS write that this request follows the circulation of SSMU’s open letter, signed by over 2,300 students as well as around 100 student groups and organizations, which was released earlier this month on April 4 and followed by a student walk-out co-conducted by SSMU and the Concordia Student Union (CSU) on April 11.

SSMU and PGSS wrote that “[d]uring the consultations on Bill 151, we expressed our concern: without accountability mechanisms supported by your cabinet, we have no way of ensuring that our institutions respect their own policies, or the law itself.” The McGill Daily spoke with SSMU VP External, Connor Spencer, earlier this year regarding gaps in Bill 151 and its policies.

In the letter, Madame David is urged to uphold Chapter IV of the Bill entitled “Surveillance and Accompanying Measures,” which states that “the Minister’s Office has the ability to impose surveillance and monitoring measures…on institutions that do not enforce the provisions of Bill 151.”

SSMU and PGSS wrote that “[d]uring the consultations on Bill 151, we expressed our concern: without accountability mechanisms supported by your cabinet, we have no way of ensuring that our institutions respect their own policies, or the law itself.”

SSMU and PGSS further cite Section 17 of Chapter 4, which states: “If an educational institution fails to comply with its obligations under this Act, the Minister may, at the institution’s expense, cause those obligations to be performed by a person the Minister designates.”

The email also contained an attachment with a letter from 148 faculty members of McGill University, expressing support for SSMU’s Open Letter.. In the letter, the undersigned members of faculty wrote, “As teachers, we have a commitment to upholding a learning environment where students feel safe, supported, and able to challenge themselves. It would be in violation of this duty for us not to add our voices to those of the students. We believe that sexual relationships between students and faculty who are in a position to influence their academic and professional progress should be banned.”

The letter further states that the “lack of transparency concerning how complaints are handled against faculty members who abuse their positions of power in this way creates a toxic work and learning environment, and often places an invisible burden on other faculty members.”

The signatories include faculty members from the departments of World Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, History, Political Science, Philosophy, Psychology, departments which the student open letter specifically addressed as having certain faculty members who are known to be perpetrators of sexual violence towards students. However, the letter also includes the signatures of faculty members from other departments such as Medicine, Mathematics, Chemistry, Social Work, Education, Environment, and Law.

“I’m here standing in solidarity with close to forty percent of students who have experienced some form of sexual violence at their time in university [a] large majority of them Black, Indigenous and racialized women, trans folk, and gender non-conforming people.” -Sophia Sahrane

Faculty members, like SSMU and PGSS, also call for the launch of an external investigation: “We believe it is not only important for McGill to launch the external investigation called for by the SSMU and the 2000+ individual students who signed the open letter, but to also publicly acknowledge the fact that this issue affects the entire McGill community and the university’s public reputation.”

The open letter to Minister David affirms the commitment of SSMU and PGSS in following through with this request and putting the thoughts and experiences of survivors of sexual violence at the forefront of the movement. “We are ready to meet you in person to discuss this problem in more detail, and we encourage you to put the voices of students and survivors of sexual abuse at the heart of all discussions about violence on campus,” the letter states.

In an interview with the McGill Daily, the VP External of SSMU, Connor Spencer, explained, “we also really need to intersectionalize those conversations […] a lot of the stories that have been getting media attention are the ones led by white women […] and it’s historically not been an issue that white women are leading on […] so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on that level.”

During the walk-out, Sophia Sahrane, the Research and Education Coordinator of AVEQ, reiterated this point: “I’m here with you all today standing in solidarity with SSMU and the CSU [Concordia Student Union] with CASE [Concordia Association of Students in English] but more importantly I’m here standing in solidarity with close to forty percent of students who have experienced some form of sexual violence at their time in university [a] large majority of them Black, Indigenous and racialized women, trans folk, and gender non-conforming people.”

In a joint interview with CKUT and the McGill Daily, Spencer also explained the nature of McGill being used as an example in the drafting process of Bill 151.

“We are ready to meet you in person to discuss this problem in more detail, and we encourage you to put the voices of students and survivors of sexual abuse at the heart of all discussions about violence on campus,” the letter states.

During consultations regarding the drafting of the Bill, McGill students as well as a McGill administrator in one case, explained to Minister David how certain mandates and mechanisms of Bill 151 failed at McGill, such as the absence of a definite timeline for the survivor whose report is being processed. Spencer said that the Minister responded to these accounts by saying that these McGill representatives should adopt a broader view of things, and not limit the discussion to McGill. Spencer counters, “we do need to talk about McGill and Concordia to see how these policies are working on the ground because there’s still […] that misconception that once we have a policy all the sexual violence goes away.”

“There needs to be accountability mechanisms through Bill 151, because the students don’t trust their institutions to uphold their policies, and the students [who] were telling [Minister David] […] were Concordia and McGill students who already had policies against sexual violence that were not working,” she explains.

“We do need to talk about McGill and Concordia to see how these policies are working on the ground because there’s still […] that misconception that once we have a policy all the sexual violence goes away.” -Connor Spencer

She continued, “I get upset a little bit when the first question [from the media] is always ‘what specifically did they do’ and the sensationalization […] around that. We need to focus on the fact that there […] are complaints processes that are supposed to help folks but instead are retraumatizing them and leaving them abandoned […] I’ve just lost too many friends to this complaint system now […] I know so many people who have dropped out or like stopped their academic careers completely […] because they could not come to this campus anymore. […] I just really don’t want that to keep happening.”

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The defiant lives of disability rights activists https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/04/the-defiant-lives-of-disability-rights-activists/ Wed, 18 Apr 2018 15:30:16 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52739 jQuery(document).ready(function($) {$('#trigger-warning').modal();});

”We aren’t asking for civil rights. We’re demanding them, now.”

Defiant Lives, screened at Concordia’s Cinema Politica, opens with scenes of protest and police violence against activists with disabilities fighting for civil rights. The film delves into the horror of the institutionalization of people with disabilities, the activism that has reduced their institutionalization, and that demanded legislation protecting the rights of people with disabilities. The film also reports on the aftermath of the legislative victories of the 1970s-1990s, focusing on Australia, the UK, and the US.

With a minimal budget and a Churchill Fellowship, filmmaker Sarah Barton was able to travel to the UK, the US, and around Australia to interview over thirty disability rights activists. Interspersed with archival footage, the film jumps seamlessly from interview to interview. This technique makes activists with disabilities central in telling their own stories of protest and resistance.

The film begins with the institutionalization of disabled people, particularly in the Australian context. The state blamed people with disabilities, framing them both as victims and as the ones at fault. This paternalism led to most people with disabilities becoming wards of the state, and thus being confined to various forms of asylums. Disguised by pseudo-medical jargon, asylums operate as prisons do, and perform the same function: to rid general society of its “undesirables.” Often, people with disabilities, such as Anne McDonald, were “written off as […] mindless vegetable[s],” and their parents were encouraged to give them up. After being taken from their families and placed in institutions, people with disabilities lived in abject conditions, were viewed as less than human, and abused by their caretakers. One interviewee, who had spent time in an institution herself, responded to a question by describing it as “Hell. It was hell.”

The film begins with the institutionalization of disabled people, particularly in the Australian context. The state blamed people with disabilities, framing them both as victims and as the ones at fault.

The film shifts towards activists with disabilities, such as Ed Roberts. Roberts was the first “severely disabled” student (Roberts was paralyzed from the neck down) at UC Berkeley in 1962 and is considered to be the “father” of the Independent Living Movement. The Independent Living Movement aimed to provide people with disabilities resources such that they could live “in the community,” rather than in institutions or nursing homes. To Roberts and other activists, it is crucial that structures exist for disabled people outside of institutions. It is here that the film begins to tell the stories of disability rights activists, and to chronicle the different forms of action they took (and continue to take).

In the 1960s-1990s, disabled rights activists increasingly took direct action to push for increased accessibility and anti-discrimination legislation. An important moment was the San Francisco 504 sit-in. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 decreed that no person with a disability should be excluded from federally-funded programs, but there had been no regulations to ensure that enforce the anti-discrimination legislation. To protest the latter, beginning on April 5, 1977, disability activists protested outside the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) offices across the US in order to pressure the government to issue delayed regulations regarding Section 504. In San Francisco, over 150 people occupied the HEW regional director’s office for 26 days. The movement was led by queer women and supported by various activist groups in San Francisco (including the Black Panther Party, who fed protesters during part of the sit-in). This led to a congressional hearing being held in the building while it remained occupied. After two weeks, 25 protesters left the occupation for Washington, where they “chased President Carter and Secretary Califano around town” and finally met with the President and HEW Secretary Joseph Califano. On April 28, Califano signed the regulations, signalling a massive victory for Americans with disabilities and for the disabled activists that had caused this shift to occur.

Many of the activists interviewed by Barton participated in the 504 sit-in. They spoke candidly of their experience, and spoke of it as a magical moment that brought people together.

Barton applied theoretical understandings of disability to structure the film. The first was medical model of disability, a model that views disability as a result of medical abnormalities in the individual and frames the individual as both a victim and as responsible for their atypical abilities. The medical model supported institutionalization of disabled people and the marketing of disabled people as pitiful to raise money for big charity. The second was the social model, which posits that disability is a social issue. According to Victor Finkelstein and Paul Hunt, people are not limited by their physical or intellectual state; rather, they are limited by society that ostracizes and segregates them on that basis. This view supported and propelled activists to push for legislation and for the acknowledgement of civil rights. Lastly, the film talked about going “beyond the social model.” In other words, while legislation has been passed, conditions have barely improved for people with disabilities, so: what next?

According to Victor Finkelstein and Paul Hunt, people are not limited by their physical or intellectual state; rather, they are limited by society that ostracizes and segregates them on that basis.

Part of the failure of legislation to dramatically improve the lives of disabled people is that existing legislation was often made with insufficient consultation of people with disabilities. Furthermore, legislation has to go beyond regulating against discrimination. Poverty disproportionately affects disabled people; in fact, according to a number of the activists interviewed in the film, poverty is the single biggest problem for disabled people. As that is the case, disabled people will continue to be failed by the state. Therefore, Barton seems to argue through her film that legislation is insufficient: we need to rethink disability and ability as a whole.

In the Q&A, Barton said she was unable to include Canada in her documentary due to budgetary constraints. Canada does, nevertheless, have a complex history of disability activism. Notably, Canada has lacking disability rights legislation; federally, it is included in other anti-discrimination clauses of the charter, but little legislation exists outside of the charter to reduce discrimination in the public and private sphere. Provincially, legislation varies. According to Laurence Parent, a Montreal disability activist who, after years of protesting against the inaccessibility of Montreal’s public transit, currently represents Paratransit customers on the board of the STM, Quebec’s legislation is difficult to enforce. Like legislation in Australia, the US, and the UK, it requires disabled people to file complaints, but the complaint system does not set precedents. It therefore seems to result in endless paperwork. That said, Parent encouraged disabled people to continue lodging complaints, as it is even more difficult to push for internal change without proof of systemic failures.

Part of the failure of legislation to dramatically improve the lives of disabled people is that existing legislation was often made with insufficient consultation of people with disabilities.

As always, the auditorium in which Cinema Politica films are screened is accessible to people in wheelchairs. Through Midnight Kitchen’s accessibility fund, Cinema Politica was able to have an ASL interpreter. While this consistency seems obviously necessary, disabled attendees commented on the accessibility during the Q&A, indicating that the degree of accessibility present is abnormal. A screening of this film is particularly important in Montreal, a city known for its inaccessible public transit.

*the term ‘disabled’ is used in this article to reflect the use of the term by people with disabilities in the film and during the q&a

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We have always known about McGill’s predatory professors https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/04/we-have-always-known-about-mcgills-predatory-professors/ Fri, 13 Apr 2018 15:00:15 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52681 jQuery(document).ready(function($) {$('#trigger-warning').modal();});

“… but don’t you think McGill cares about students?” a reporter for CTV News asked. He seemed unconvinced by the McGill Daily’s account of administration responses to alleged acts of sexual violence committed by professors. On April 5, 2018, SSMU held a press conference for external media outlets regarding the student-circulated petition requesting a third-party investigation into the mismanagement of student-professor sexual violence allegations on campus. For the world outside of the McGill bubble, this story might have seemed groundbreaking.“McGill faces its own #metoo moment” read the the CBC article’s headline, as if McGill was new to disclosures of sexual assault.

Picture by Claire Grenier of the April 11 McGill+Concordia students walk out in protest of the universities’ mismanaging of cases of gendered and sexual violence committed by professors.

The phenomenon is hardly new, yet disclosures have only recently been brought to the attention of newspapers, blogs, and other formal media sources. One of the most well-known articles, “Let’s talk about teachers,”  reported on the subject as early as September of 2015. In the years following the piece’s publication, a series of annual disclosures touching upon gendered and sexual violence in university have been published by the Daily, the CBC, and even professors themselves. (“Let’s talk about grey areas”, “The vicious circle of professor-student relationships”, “McGill professor accused of sexual misconduct”, “Islamic Studies Institute in the spotlight following abuse allegations against professor”, “McGill’s Shame Continues”, “McGill’s dentistry faculty criticized over its handling of sexual assault, harassment allegations”).

The lack of documentation of survivor accounts does not warrant McGill’s silence. If anything, it highlights the difficulty of reporting, disclosing, and engaging with the administration as a survivor on McGill campus. Oftentimes disclosures are made even more difficult, especially in the academic context, due to the constant lack of belief in survivors and their experiences with gendered and sexual violence. Given the overall despondency of the administration, survivors are left with few other places to turn in order to report their experiences, seek accommodations, and alert their peers of possible dangers on campus. When the institutions that are meant to protect students do not, students are pushed to resort to their own tactics to create spaces on campus that will.

The lack of documentation of survivor accounts does not warrant McGill’s silence. If anything, it highlights the difficulty of reporting, disclosing, and engaging with the administration as a survivor on McGill campus.

On April 9, the McGill Daily sent out a survey to collect testimonies from students confirming the existence of these systems of reporting gendered and sexual violence through “word of mouth,” or student to student warnings. Dozens of testimonies flooded the Daily inbox within the span of 48 hours, and many more are still coming. The scale and specificity of this system attests to the degree in which McGill has neglected its students’ outcries, as well as the long history of student solidarity on campus in the face of McGill’s ongoing negligence. Included here are some of these testimonies:

  • Courtney Graham, a Political Science student at McGill from 2008 to 2011 described the “word of mouth” system enacted by students as a “large circle.” “[They] knew of at least three professors rumored to be in sexual relationships with students, and this did not include graduate students/faculty.” Moreover, “there was one professor [during their] second year at McGill in the Political Science department [they were] told was not allowed to be alone in his office with female students without the door open. To [their] knowledge, he still teaches at McGill. In fact, two of the professors with accusations of sexual relations with students are still there.
  • Aisha*, a Faculty of Arts student, has also been informed about predatory professors by peer communication and testimonies since their arrival at McGill campus in 2010. “Everybody knows who the predatory professors are, I’ve heard of one professor in my own department, ” they remarked.
  • Pauline*, a Political Science student from 2011 to 2014, “recall[ed] the names of three professors mentioned during [their] time at McGill,” and explained how their names travelled by word of mouth from small groups to others through intersecting friend groups.
  • Joe*, a student in the Faculty of Arts from 2012 to 2016, “heard of at least six professors in Arts [sexually involved with students] in a concrete way and heard mentions of sketchy things happening in other faculties too. Three of these were personal testimonies of people who had negative experiences with professors and the rest [they] heard from other people, including other students and professors. [They] believe some cases are more well known than others, there’s one particular case that [they] asked about even outside of the McGill context [the latest case in the department of Islamic Studies].
  • Justine*, a Political Science student,“started hearing about specific predatory [behavior] in 2013 when [they were] in undergrad. [They] wanted to take a specific course by *** ****** and was told by a few of [their] friends that he was a bit creepy. [They] also knew of the first year Psychology professor that needed [note: he doesn’t need but chooses] to do his office hours in Gerts because of previous sexual misconduct issues.”
  • Saima Desai, a Faculty of Arts student from 2014 to 2017, wrote that they “first found out about accusations of sexual harassment (and more) against certain professors from friends in Islamic Studies. These were friends who had been organizing around addressing the actions of these professors. After that, [they] began mentioning it to friends in other faculties and departments, and found out that every single person (all of whom were women and nonbinary people) [they had] talked to knew of at least one professor in their department who was “creepy,” who they’d been warned about, or who a friend-of-a-friend had been harassed by. This included at least two professors in Biology, one in International Development, and a handful in other Arts departments – maybe a total of six, from [their] brief period of inquiry. [They] found that while whisper networks existed for students within departments, they didn’t always spread between faculties – so, for example, [they were] only able to access the whisper networks within the Biology department because [they] had once studied Biology. But, for the most part, students in Arts faculties didn’t have access to the information about Biology professors – potentially putting them at risk if they were to take a Biology elective, for example.” Upon knowing one of their professors was notorious for being “creepy” Saima “never went to his office hours or met with him outside of class, even though [they] knew [their] work was suffering as a result. Professors who harass students impact not only our physical and emotional safety, but our learning as well.”
  • Malek*, a fourth year student in the Faculty of Arts, believed that the word of mouth system worked within “a large circle of people.” “Often, it would be substantiated through describing a female student’s experience with the professor in question. Three professors were named. Two of them were more known by the student body and administration, ******* (WIMESSA) and ****** (Poli Sci), but ******* (Poli Sci) is less known. Mostly students in upper years are aware of this information.” Additionally, “As a survivor, [they] often ha[d] to choose [their] class around which professors would be accommodating to [their] mental health/PTSD (which already limit[ed] [their] options), so [they] do this with [their] Political Science department advisor, whom [they] disclosed to. Registering for ******’s class was suggested to [them] as an option, however, [they] indicated that [they] wouldn’t be comfortable as he partakes in inappropriate/predatory relations with his female students, to which [their] department advisor dismissed [their] claims/concerns by asking if [they] [were] sure it wasn’t just rumours spreading. [They were] upset by her response as she knew [they were] a survivor and how difficult it is to navigate McGill following these experiences. Moreover, she expressed no shock or surprise when [they] did tell her about [their] concerns with ****** which indicate[d] to [them] that this wasn’t new information for her. This shows how the administration works to protect abusive professors by discrediting survivors/students.”

These underground systems of communication and disclosure between students come as no surprise given the current reporting policy. When requested to explain the current policy for reports of sexual violence committed by professors, SSMU VP External Connor Spencer wrote to us:

“Normally a student, when making a complaint around sexual violence, would refer to the Policy Against Sexual Violence that was passed by the McGill Senate on December 1, 2016. However, because this policy is not a stand-alone policy and instead refers to the Code of Student Conduct, students cannot pursue complaints against faculty through this policy. Instead, they can refer to the Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination — which is a stand-alone policy — where an assessor, who may or may not have training in sexual violence, would receive their complaint and assess whether or not there is enough for them to go through a formal process. This policy, however, does not cover sexual assault, which would instead be processed through section nine of the Regulations Relating to the Employment of Tenure Track and Tenured Academic Staff.  Yet, [these regulations are part of] another policy over 20 pages long. All formal complaints are sent to the dean of the faculty where the academic staff is employed. How complicated, hidden, and inaccessible this process is, is shown by the fact that on the OSVRSE site there is a flowchart explaining how to report a complaint against a student, but none for how to file a complaint against academic staff.”

The process to report sexual harassment and assault perpetrated by professors is both convoluted and disjointed, as its steps are located across multiple jargony documents. It is nothing short of dysfunctional. Survivors deserve better. We deserve better. Without usable systems to hold professors accountable in place, students have been forced to implement their own peer-based warning system.

Without usable systems to hold professors accountable in place, students have been forced to implement their own peer-based warning system.

It seems to be that word of mouth, which is far from offering the protection of a stand-alone policy, is the only available system for students to protect themselves. McGill is guilty of nurturing a culture of gendered and sexual violence on campus by relying on a deeply flawed policy to report sexual harassment perpetrated by professors, and for responding poorly when reports of sexual violence at the hands of professors are submitted. The McGill administration hasn’t established a system that protects students in these situations, forcing students to resort to measures such as, illegal, public accusations against professors on stickers posted in McGill buildings. These are only the first symptoms of the deeply rooted student discontent and distrust in McGill administration’s intentions regarding gendered and sexual violence on campus.

This lack of trust in the administration has only been further bolstered by the administration’s insufficient response to SSMU’s request for a third-party investigation into the mismanagement of sexual violence allegations against professors within the Faculty of Arts. McGill administration’s response has been both inappropriate and, quite frankly, insulting. They first issued an overly generalized and standardized statement on McGill’s handling of sexual assault allegations. Later and more notably, Vice-Principal Manfredi’s individually addressed a statement to SSMU VP External Connor Spencer, dismissing the claims made in the petition and the gravity of the sheer number of signatures acquired. Vice-Principal Manfredi’s individual address conveniently neglected that more than 1,000 students and 40 student associations signed the petition at the time of his response. These actions are an insult to the student body. Not only was the petition moved by SSMU at large and not Spencer individually, but also it has received wide support across the entire student body.

 

Vice Principal Manfredi’s individual address to SSMU VP External Connor Spencer, with the copied text highlighted

 

Vice Principal Manfredi’s response to the student petition requesting a third-party investigation into the administration’s mismanagement of sexual harassment cases. The highlights show the two font sizes, the second being a copy from Manfredi’s individual address to SSMU VP External Connor Spencer.

The final response sent by the administration five days later on April 10, was yet another standardized statement about the general policy procedure with an added copy and paste (see image above) of Vice-Principal Manfredi’s message to Spencer (a mistake made clear by the fact that the font style and size of the later portion of the message had not even been changed). The administration’s response claims that “our University does not tolerate sexual misconduct in any form,” but the continued presence of professors commonly known to be predators indicates otherwise. The McGill community deserves a response that addresses the past and present failings of the administration, and actively supports survivors of gendered and sexual violence. McGill has to drop the act, and better agree to launch a third-party investigation into its mismanagement of cases of sexual violence, or find themselves hoisted by their own petard. This is bigger than another CBC article slamming McGill. The petition and the existence of this informal system of warnings between students are testaments to the pervasiveness of the violence perpetrated on our campus and McGill’s historic inaction. We deserve change. And we are demanding it now.  

The survey entries have been edited for clarity.

*those names have been changed for anonymity

If you want to add your testimony to the survey about the informal system of warning between peers, we are still interested in hearing from you, simply click here!

You can sign the open letter calling for an external investigation into the office of the Dean of Arts here.

Conversations around gendered and sexual violence can be difficult, upsetting, re-traumatizing, and scary. There are a variety of emotions that come from experiences of gendered and sexual violence and conversations concerning them. Yours are valid. When McGill doesn’t listen, peer-based support services will.

You can find more information on The Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS)’s services here and here.

You can find more information on reporting, disclosures, and legal action at McGill here.

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Opportutoring organizes fundraising event https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/04/opportutoring-organizes-fundraising-event/ Thu, 05 Apr 2018 19:53:49 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52668 On Saturday, March 31, Opportutoring, a McGill student-run non-profit organization offering refugees English tutoring through Skype, held its first fundraiser event at the Mezcal Collective. The event, called “The Live Exhibit,” showcased art by [DESCRIPTOR] artists, including one of Opportutoring’s students, Alaa Dukhan. The show also featured live painting, dance, and musical performances by volunteer artists supporting Opportutoring’s fundraising initiative. Live art pieces were raffled off, while other exhibited artworks were sold in an auction. Octavia Maes, co-founder of Opportutoring, explained: “This night represents what we want to do; that is bringing people from different backgrounds together, to create an event that has the biggest possible impact.”

“This night represents what we want to do; that is bringing people from different backgrounds together, to create an event that has the biggest possible impact”

Fundraising for students taking the TOEFL exam

Opportutoring was born from an initiative by Solin residence students in late 2015. At the time, there was no syllabus or formal organizational structure. Less than a year after its conception, Maes and Kenz-Ali Boubekeur, both McGill undergraduate students, decided to restructure the initiative to better assist refugees learning English. Together with other students, they developed a curriculum and joined Enactus McGill, a community of social entrepreneurs. In the fall of 2016, Opportutoring as we know it was created.

Opportutoring’s mandate seeks to help refugees adapt to their new community by teaching essential reading and writing English skills. Some of Opportutoring’s students are planning on taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in order to qualify for acceptance at English-speaking universities. Others want to get the necessary credentials to pursue various professions in their countries of resettlement, and to better communicate in their new context.

Opportutoring’s mandate seeks to help refugees adapt to their new community by teaching essential reading and writing English skills.

Boubekeur expanded on the issues facing students intending to take the TOEFL: “The problem is that the test is at the same price everywhere in the world, that is about $220. This means that it is the same price for someone living in North America [as it is] for a refugee. Since many of them face financial hardships, the goal of the event is to raise money to allow them to pass the TOEFL.”

Boubekeur added: “We are exhibiting the artworks done by Alaa, and a portion of the night’s receipts will go to him and his family, to help them in their reinsertion.”

Currently, Opportutoring is also a contestant in the finals of the Social Enterprise stream of the Dobson Cup, McGill’s annual startup competition. Boubekeur further explained that while the event would help cover the direct costs of students currently being tutored, winning the Dobson Cup would “enable [Opportutoring] to become an actual NGO, and to expand to other universities. It would also allow us to develop our network of students and tutors.”

Opportutoring is also a contestant in the finals of the Social Enterprise stream of the Dobson Cup, McGill’s annual startup competition.

A diversity of artists

The night started with a performance by Montreal band Ruby Skies. In an interview with the Daily, Luca Martial, the band’s drummer, said, “We wanted to play tonight because we thought Opportutoring’s cause is definitely worthwhile, and that the way the show would take place was original because of the many artists performing at the same time.”

They were followed by music from Super Freddy and Zèra, and dance performances by Léa Tremblay Fong and Martine Castera. Their off-stage performance, in the middle of the crowd, had a clear feminist stance. They outlined their abs and muscles on their bodies with lip gloss, and threw face powder at each other’s faces. A crowd member could distinctively be heard yelling “You don’t need it!” Following their performance hip-hop duo stormed out to Princess Nokia’s famous song “Tomboy.” Later, sol.Evol and Nectar performed on stage.

Participants were struck by the variety of artists. Charles Sirisawat, a U1 liberal arts student, noted the “wide ranging works of art.”

Martial agreed, saying, “[The] artists were really diversified, […] we were excited to be in contact with individuals from various backgrounds.”

“[The] artists were really diversified, […] we were excited to be in contact with individuals from various backgrounds.”

Maes added, “Everyone has something different to bring, and we wanted to bring these differences together around a common cause.”

“Opportutoring’s common theme is that we want people from different worlds to make something cool. We wanted to bring these different artists together to show that you just need to get together to be able to do awesome things,” said Boubekeur.

“Opportutoring’s common theme is that we want people from different worlds to make something cool. We wanted to bring these different artists together to show that you just need to get together to be able to do awesome things”

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Socialist Fightback expresses confidence in student solidarity for free education https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/03/socialist-fightback-expresses-confidence-in-student-solidarity-for-free-education/ Thu, 29 Mar 2018 21:13:41 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52655 On Monday March 26, the Students Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its Winter General Assembly (GA). The GA allows students to voice their concerns and ask their questions to SSMU’s executive council and to those who have proposed motions on various issues involving the student body.

In November 2017 the minimum number of voting members required to be present at the GA for motions to implemented, or quorum, was increased to from 100 to 350 people through a motion to SSMU’s Board of Directors (BoD). The reason for the increase was supposedly “to prevent any vocal minority from unilaterally controlling and undermining democracy in GA votes in the future,” as explained by the McGill Tribune. Others have voiced concerns that the increase in quorum is unrealistic and would make the point of GAs irrelevant.If quorum is not reached, the motions move to SSMU’s Legislative Council, where 30 representatives from faculties vote on them

This term’s GA failed to meet quorum with only 65 people present. The meeting focused on the “Motion to Organize the Fight for Free Education and Cancellation of Student Debt” proposed by McGill’s Socialist Fightback, and on the “2018-2019 Executive Goals” of the newly elected SSMU representatives.

This term’s GA failed to meet quorum with only 65 people present.

The Free Education motion calls for the SSMU to build and support the ongoing campaign for free education and the cancellation of student debt under the responsibility of the Office of the Vice-President Student Affairs and support aone day student strike in the upcoming Fall 2018 term. This motion was proposed due to the frustration of students regarding increasing educational costs and the commitment of SSMU to work in conjunction with student movements in Quebec and across Canada.

The clause concerning free education was explained by Socialist Fightback to apply to Canadian students at the moment, as this effort is more attainable at the onset. Nevertheless, they believe in the solidarity of students in a collective effort to achieve free education beyond the borders of Canada.

The motion triggered debate.Andrew Figueiredo,student at McGill, and small group of students,argued against the motion. Figueiredo asked Socialist Fightback if they had spoken to government officials or if the strike and the motion as a whole which he called a “pipe dream” was proposed “out of the blue.” This question was repeatedly asked by these students in conjunction with questions as to why Socialist Fightback had not aimed their efforts at electing someone in the government to support the Free Education motion.

Socialist Fightback responded by saying that the best way to fight and sustain rights was through “mass action,” citing the 2012 student strikes as an example.The massive protests fought against the increase of tuition fees in the province were successful, showing that the government responded to “pressure,” not to their own accord according to club representatives. .

Other students asked if there was a firm fiscal policy in mind in order to organize funding for free education, to which a student said that provincial and national budget concerns are outside the scope of SSMU pointing that the motion was specifically aimed at showing solidarity in the fight for free education. The same group of students claimed it was not very difficult to apply for financial aid and other means to cover tuition.

Socialist Fightback responded by saying that the best way to fight and sustain rights was through “mass action,” citing the 2012 student strikes as an example.

A representative from Socialist Fightback responded to these comments claiming that having to go through a “means test”, which is a way of checking that a person qualifies for financial aid,was a degrading experience. He stated that he would love to discuss plans with the government if given the opportunity.

In response to comments made that the strike would disrupt class time and cause problems, the representative stated that the “whole point of a strike is that it is disruptive.”
When voted on, the Free Education motion passed by a two-thirds majority: it will be presented at the next legislative council meeting on Thursday, March 29.

A representative from Socialist Fightback responded to these comments claiming that having to go through a “means test”, which is a way of checking that a person qualifies for financial aid,was a degrading experience.

Next, newly elected SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer presented the “2018-2019 SSMU Executive Goals” which included objectives to improve communications and partnerships with faculties, increase the transparency and accessibility of SSMU, and increase its social media presence. Mansdoerfer also explained his hopes to address equity concerns within SSMU by working with Equity Commissioners as the council for 2018-2019 is “predominantly white and male,” and enhance the interpersonal dynamics within the executive council.

This motion passed unanimously.

The 2017-2018 SSMU Executives also presented their annual reports regarding their accomplishments and what they hoped to pass on to the next executive members.

VP External Connor Spencer explained her role in supervising the campaign coordinator and her support for the SSMU campaigns McGill Against Austerity, Divest McGill, and Demilitarize McGill. Spencer has also dedicated much of her personal efforts towards improving sexual violence policies at McGill through attending discussions revolving around Bill 151, a sexual assault policy, passed by Quebec in December of 2017.

VP Finance Esteban Herpin also announced the movement of many clubs to a new building on 3501 Peel St. following the closure of the University Centre in March. A student asked Herpin about the reasons for which a building inaccessible to disabled students was bought without student consultation. Herpin, who took the position two months ago, responded that the decision was already proposed when he was consulted and that there are efforts being made to increase its accessibility.

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Addressing the Gender Inequity in Professional Ultimate https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/03/addressing-the-gender-inequity-in-professional-ultimate/ Tue, 27 Mar 2018 21:08:33 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52651 Ultimate disc, a sport more commonly known as ultimate frisbee, has long been a staple of both university and college campuses. Most levels of ultimate have men’s, women’s, and mixed leagues, in which men and women play with (and against) each other. Despite its ubiquity, few people are aware that ultimate has actually become a professional sport. Currently, the only professional league in Canada and the United States is the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). Though they are professionals, AUDL players are paid a pittance compared to athletes in the National Football League (NFL) or the National Hockey League (NHL) — a paltry minimum of $25 per game. All players hold other day jobs to make a livable income. Many ultimate players stick with the sport for their love of the game, and recognize the AUDL as the highest level of play.

In 2016, Jesse Shofner became the first woman to make a professional team’s starting line-up while playing for the Nashville Nightwatch in the AUDL. Shofner explained, “As a female playing in a predominantly male environment, I was curious just if I could do it. If I could hold my own.” Hold her own she did, with Jim Surface, Nightwatch’s communications manager, calling her a highlight of the team’s season. “She’s what you call an ankle-breaker,” Surface says, alluding to her ability to outmaneuver other players with fast pivots. “She’s got really quick agility.” Surface went on to describe how even the competition supported her: “Most places that we’ve traveled to have given her a standing ovation. A lot of pioneer moments in this season, even though it hasn’t really showed up in the win column.”

Despite performing well for Nightwatch and generally enjoying her time on the team, Shofner decided not to try out for Nightwatch again in favour of joining women’s club team, Denver Molly Brown. The isolation that comes with being the only woman on the field likely contributed to what her current teammate Claire Chastain describes as being “kind of tokenized.” This experience and a general recognition of the AUDL’s lack of representation, has led Jesse Shofner, along with Claire Chastain, Trent Dillon, Elliott Erickson, Hannah Leathers, Mario O’Brien, Markham Shofner, and Nicky Spiva, to organize a boycott of AUDL in 2018 to protest the league’s gender inequity. The boycott mandates “that women and men should have equal representation at the highest, most visible levels of our sport,” and that supporters of the boycott “will not be playing in or attending [AUDL] games, and will avoid consuming related media and content.”

In their official statement, the organizers explain that they “agree that equal representation cannot occur without equal visibility and equal opportunities for women.” These opportunities could be equal numbers of filmed games for men and women, giving both men and women a chance to compete for compensation, or more equitable representation of both genders on social media. The organizers also believe that “by committing to gender equity, our sport will find a new path towards growth that does not inherently favor male athletes.”

In response, AUDL commissioner Steve Gordon sent a letter to the league’s players outlining a plan to “create substantial exposure for women’s ultimate.” The letter proposes producing eight women’s games (compared to a staggering 161 men’s games), a cable TV broadcast of one of those games, and further promotion of women’s ultimate on social media. The continued broadcasting of women’s games in 2019 would hinge on interest generated by the one pilot broadcast of a women’s game, and on the discretion of the AUDL’s media partner. Gordon concluded, “I hope this illustrates how serious we are in advancing women’s ultimate. In all honesty, we’d like to do more, but the reality is that we can only do so much both financially, and within the confines of all partnership agreements we are party to.” The boycott organizers were not satisfied with the proposed plan, calling it “an improvement over years past, [but] still incredibly inequitable.”

Shofner and the other organizers did not set out for a half-hearted attempt at compromise from the AUDL — they demand equal promotion of both the men and women in the sport. The boycott’s supporters have already achieved success within club league USA Ultimate, pushing the organization to renegotiate their deal with ESPN with equity in mind. The end result? An agreement that achieves full gender and divisional balance: ESPN will be broadcasting 26 men’s games, 26 women’s games, and 17 mixed games. Within the context of the club division, 17 men’s games, 17 women’s games, and 17 mixed games will also be broadcast. Changes like these lend truth to the organizers’ boycott claim that “Franchise owners and league leadership can make this change [for gender equity].”

Shofner has been essential to inciting change in the ultimate community. As recently as this month, the AUDL boycott inspired the creation of the Australian Ultimate League (AUL), a professional mixed league that hopes to cover all costs (tournament, travel, equipment fees) for, and eventually pay, its all-star mixed gender players. Furthermore, franchise owners affiliated with AUDL from Nashville, Detroit, Indianapolis, Seattle, and San Francisco are now pushing for gender equity by creating their own women’s and mixed teams.

To support Jesse Shofner and the AUDL boycott, the organizers have released a list of ideas on how to uphold the boycott’s ideals:

1) Continue the boycott and demand a response from the AUDL league leadership

2) Think critically about participating in AUDL affiliated endeavors

3) Continue the conversation around gender equity

For further information listen to Upwind Ultimate’s podcast, the Offseason Episode: Gender Equity & the #AUDLBoycott. It features ultimate players and commenters Aly Heath, Ryan Anderson, Robyn Wiseman, and Jenna Weiner, who discuss what Gender Equity means, what it looks like, and why the AUDL Boycott is important for the growth of the sport.

Supporters of the boycott may also sign the petition here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe3PexYFmzXta1Maz-IcXrqlc5b2WU-hm1EMJaTxBQVz87f5A/viewform

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Year in Review https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/03/year-in-review-4/ Tue, 27 Mar 2018 13:00:16 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52582 Professor accused of sexual misconduct

McGill professor accused of sexual misconduct

Islamic Studies Institute in the spotlight following abuse allegations against professor

On September 2017, stickers warning students about a McGill Islamic Studies professor’s alleged history of sexual misconduct began to appear in women’s’ washrooms across campus. The stickers, put up by a group called Zero Tolerance McGill, prompted readers to send any testimonies of abuse at the hands of other faculty members, noting that the professor named in the stickers was up for tenure.

The professor agreed to answer some of The Daily’s questions on the condition that he remain unnamed. He claimed that the allegations were “categorically untrue” and that he was “deeply committed” to doing his part in order to “make every student feel safe in [his] classroom and on McGill’s campus.” He made no further comments to the Daily.

The World Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Student Association (WIMESSA) executive team for 2016-17 previously wrote an open letter to Robert Wisnovsky (director of the Institute for Islamic Studies) addressing the reputation of the professor. The letter, signed by roughly 50 students, accused the Institute of failing to take allegations of misconduct seriously and urged the administration to not reward the professor with a tenured position.

After The Daily published the first article in relation to this issue, the current WIMESSA executive team released a statement on Facebook expressing solidarity with those affected, and detailing their frustrations with institutional barriers to robust accountability. The WIMESSA VP Finance eventually resigned from her position, citing a mishandling of the professor’s actions as her reason for leaving the exec team. It also came to light that the president of WIMESSA was an employed research assistant of the professor accused. Thus, she decided to remove herself from any further conversations on the matter.

The incident brought attention to the lack of regulations on student-professor relationships as well as the lack of sufficient student consultation in the tenure process.

WIMESSA pledged to organize an open forum on the issue of sexual misconduct wherein students are able to voice their concerns to the administration.

Bill 151/survivor bill of rights

Gaps in Bill 151

SSMU Council unanimously passes Survivor Bill of Rights

In December 2017, the Quebec National Assembly passed Bill 151, mandating that all educational institutions, including CEGEPs, must propose a policy addressing sexual assault, including relationships between students and teachers. The Bill was developed in collaboration with student organizations like the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), Our Turn, a national student-led action plan to end campus sexual violence, and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). The policy required that authorities be notified of any sexual relations between a student and someone who may have an influence on their education, like a professor.

However, not all recommendations made to protect the rights of the survivors were included in the final version of the bill, such as a “Defined Stand Alone Sexual Violence Policy,” which would discontinue processing sexual assault cases through the Student Code of Conduct. McGill’s sexual assault policy was graded a C- as it is not a stand-alone policy, and does not provide any avenues for justice if someone is assaulted by a faculty member.

The gaps in Bill 151 prompted community members, including AVEQ’s Coordinator of Mobilization Kristen Perry and SSMU VP External Connor Spencer to write an open letter criticizing the bill, which was later signed by 20 student organizations and 300 individual students. The letter calls for the introduction of “rape shield protections” to protect the privacy of the survivor’s sexual history, student representation of 30 percent on committees, as well as the students being made aware of sanctions put into place for their case.

Measures to ensure reasonable and defined timelines were recommended, such as a complaint process which does not exceed 45 days, and accommodations for survivors to be arranged within 48 hours of sending the complaint. The letter also suggested the creation of an independent oversight body, which would serve to listen to individual complaints put forth on the violation of their safety and/or rights by the institution.

Some of these requests were later adopted by SSMU in the unanimous passing of the Survivor’s Bill of Rights on January 25 2018.

Task Force

Task Force on respect and inclusion addresses free speech

Task Force on respect and inclusion addresses free speech

In November 2017, the Principal’s Task Force on Respect and Inclusion was created. The Task Force was aimed to create “respectful and inclusive debate” in the university context, and how the university can develop “best practices” to handle conflict over issues of speech.

The task force is organized under the office of the Principal, and reports to Senate to provide recommendations after the completion of its research. While the Task Force does not have direct power to enact policy change, it serves as an advisory body to the Principal moving forward. The Task Force is composed of two McGill professors who serve as co-chairs, one undergraduate representative from the downtown campus, one undergraduate representative from the MacDonald campus, one graduate representative, two faculty members and two staff members.

On December 2017, the Task Force held a survey to the McGill community members regarding their experiences on respect and free speech. The language used in the survey prompted criticism, with only a few questions asked about inclusiveness. The consultative process included five closed-door focus groups around different themes throughout January, each composed of twenty students. Group submissions regarding the Task Force was accepted from the general public until the end of January.

In September 2017, the SSMU Board of Directors unanimously voted that the BDS movement violated SSMU’s constitution. Again, in January, an Open Forum on Campus Culture was the site of a discussion on whether or not the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement should be given on campus. Laila Parsons, a professor specializing in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at McGill, spoke in support of students’ right to mobilize around the BDS movement, and criticized Principal Suzanne Fortier’s statement condemning the BDS movement after SSMU’s motion to endorse the movement did not pass in 2016.

The Task Force is expected to deliver a final report and submit their recommendations by the end of April 2018, then released to the public by mid May at the Senate.

Colten Boushie

February 2018 saw the acquittal of Gerald Stanley, the man accused of killing Colten Boushie. Boushie was a 22-year-old Indigenous man from Red Pheasant First Nation, who allegedly drove to Stanley’s farm to ask for help with a flat tire. Stanley then shot Boushie, later claiming his actions were the result of a “freak accident.” The acquittal garnered widespread outrage from Indigenous communities and settler allies, with demonstrations across the country demanding justice for Colten.

“How First Nations are treated in the justice system is not right,” said Boushie’s uncle Alvin Baptiste, speaking to the Toronto Star. “A white jury came out with a verdict of not guilty [for] Gerald Stanley, who shot and killed my nephew. This is how they treat us First Nations people. It is not right. Something has to be done about this.”

A vigil commemorating the life of Colten Boushie was held at Norman Bethune Square in Montreal near Concordia University to raise awareness about the injustice of the trial. The vigil was attended by over 100 people, policed by around twenty SPVM officers.

Two weeks after the acquittal of Stanley, Raymond Cormier was acquitted of the murder of 15 year old Tina Fontaine. The not-guilty verdict came even after Cormier’s apparent admission of guilt, caught on tape by the RCMP.
Another vigil was organized in response to Canadian institutions’ denial of justice to Indigenous people.

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Journalists have a responsibility to critique police brutality https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/03/journalists-have-a-responsibility-to-critique-police-brutality/ Mon, 26 Mar 2018 23:02:33 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52646 Content warning: Police brutality, violence, abuse

On March 15, 200 to 300 people gathered in the streets of Montreal for the annual anti-police brutality march. In previous years the march, organised by the Collectif Opposé à la Brutalité Policière, has experienced varying levels of violence at the hands of police. Although there were no arrests in the 2016 and 2017 protests, the 2018 march was violently shut down by the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), with three demonstrators arrested and one hospitalized. In spite of clear evidence of police violence, public coverage has portrayed protesters as vandals and given priority to the SPVM’s narrative. Not only does this coverage project a one-sided view of these occurrences, but it also perpetuates inaccurate reflections in the media of civilians and activists facing police brutality.

After reports of property damage, police in riot gear escalated the situation, ordering the crowd to disperse and employing tear gas and pepper spray to scatter protesters. Demonstrators reported that police officers attempted to kettle the crowd — forcefully confining people to a small, restricted area as a form of crowd control and intimidation. After failing in this, the police instead charged protesters and attacked them while armed with batons. Injuries were numerous. A photographer was pushed to the ground by an SPVM officer, and another officer slammed a protestor into a car. Amongst the injured, one person was hospitalized, which the police claim was the result of being hit by a demonstrator’s “projectile.” However, eyewitnesses and a video recording show that they were in fact struck by a police baton.

Every year, Montreal’s anti-police brutality march focuses on one central theme within the overarching topic of police brutality. This year’s march was centered around Quebec police officers’ seeming complicity with the Quebec far-right. This past November, La Meute, a far right anti-Islam hate group, planned a demonstration outside of a convention centre in Quebec, which was hosting a major policy meeting of the governing Quebec Liberal party. Anti-fascist counter-protesters, outnumbered by far-right protesters, were met with tear gas in an effort to “keep the sides apart.” Meanwhile, police protected La Meute organizers against anti-fascist counter-protesters. Later, the police went as far as to praise La Meute and other far-right and anti-Islam groups that were at the protest for their cooperation.

The SPVM’s actions get little to no mainstream coverage as is, with the exception of articles like Montreal Gazette’s “Maybe we should cut the police some slack,” published on March 18, 2018. The article trivializes critiques of the SPVM, asserting that jaywalking and parking tickets constitute Montrealers’ biggest frustrations with the police. This article and others like it grossly overlook daily instances of racial profiling, harassment of marginalized communities, and Quebec police forces’ apparent complicity with the far-right.

Few Quebec journalists have addressed the violence perpetrated by the police, and the role they play in supporting the far-right. Journalists have a responsibility to question institutions that wield power, like the police, and yet, since long before last week’s anti-police brutality march, Montreal and Quebec journalists have failed to do so.

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Letters to the editors https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/03/letters-to-the-editors/ Mon, 26 Mar 2018 22:55:27 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52643 Another year, another Daily. This one was eventful, however, with a referendum that could’ve changed the landscape of campus press and the forced uprooting of the denizens of the Shatner building. Nonetheless, we made it through and were reminded of a few things that the reader, whether returning or newly-minted, should note.

McGill is a broad church. Students’ opinions are on a wide spectrum, and discussing certain topics, external or not, will cause division. This is a good thing, within reason, as divisiveness is not the enemy if it’s closely followed by an exchange of ideas in good faith. For any of this to be possible, however, campus press needs to be strong and supported by its community.

Just like its readership, the press is also diverse. The difference between the Bull&Bear and The Daily only makes their discourse richer and helps preventing dogma from taking root on campus. Whether you agree with them or not, or use their pages to wick away your chutney, every page they publish is as important as it is valuable because of the labour of love and the journalistic ideals involved in their making. After all, “journalism is the first draft of history,” and we should keep in mind that it is best to have a plurality of voices writing that draft lest we give all the space to the often-revised narrative of the victors.

The press’s duty to inform and help its community is without a doubt an arduous task, and mistakes will be made, but you shouldn’t discard the work of those learning the craft of the Fifth Estate; they are doing their best with little more guidance than gut feelings and examples laid out by others.

Our campus ecosystem only works if you participate, whether it is as a voter, a reader, a writer, an activist, or something more. Do not give in to apathy and cynicism and ask to be left to your social lives. Engage and embrace, because the kind of student society you push for now is most likely similar to what your cohort will work toward after McGill becomes a fading memory, and because everything is inherently political.

Thank you, McGill Daily, for 107 years of service, and I wish you another 100 so that you can give people like me (and perhaps also like you) meaning and direction during their stay at McGill and beyond.

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Whose violence is acceptable? https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/03/whose-violence-is-acceptable/ Mon, 26 Mar 2018 22:48:23 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52633 Content warning: violence

Last Thursday, tens of thousands of unions and public sector workers flooded the streets of Paris. As a response to Macron’s new labour reform laws and belt-tightening plans, workers in the public sector, such as train drivers, teachers, nurses, and air traffic controllers have accused him of “seeking to dismantle the state sector.” Similar protests took place in over 180 cities across France, with more than 400,000 people mobilizing to express their dissent. The protests were mainly peaceful and nonviolent, with only minor scuffles with police officers on the outskirts of Paris and in some small cities. In these areas, police arrived in full riot gear, firing water cannons and tear gas to disperse the protesters. The relatively nonviolent protesters are already being labelled in the media as violent and chaotic, with reports stating that the police officers’ actions were necessary. Yet reports from the ground continue to refute this fact.

In the reporting that has been conducted over the past year, descriptions of these protests and countermovements continue to be presented as uncontestable accounts of the reality of what actually happened on the scene. Reports of violence are never missing from these articles. But there are questions to be asked: Who decides what is violent and what is not? Who creates the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable violence?

The dichotomy between violent versus nonviolent acts in protests is still a dangerous territory to navigate. By no means do I mean to imply that the events perpetrated by the media as “violent” are actually always justifiable, but I want to point out the biased application of the word, and the ways in which these biases reproduce structural inequalities and racist assumptions.

Which protests are violent?

Missing and murdered Indigenous women are neglected by Justin Trudeau and the Canadian government in the Canadian government’s reporting of these lost lives as merely policy concerns. Reports of Indigenous protests responding to gross injustices, such as these, are eager to highlight even minor events as “turning violent.” But what about violent protest is unjustifiable when the negligence of the government is deemed necessary and acceptable?

Across the border, we see more examples of the dichotomizing that occurs between violent and nonviolent forms of protest. Trump’s decision to take action against the Syrian state in April was supposedly due to the release of images and videos showing Syrians being attacked by chemical weapons, allegedly deployed by the Syrian government. These attacks by the Syrian government on their citizens have since been denied and proven to lack concrete evidence. These images supposedly “moved” Trump to approve missile strikes, with Justin Trudeau and Hillary Clinton both wholeheartedly backing his decision. In this situation, the violence in Syria was deemed unacceptable. Yet Black and Brown protesters across the country, both in and out of prison systems, are being pepper-sprayed, attacked, and killed by the police, but the government does nothing — simply because this violence is labelled as acceptable. This violence is necessary and justified. Of course, the violence in Syria was atrocious and abominable. Who decides if the violence within the country is not also atrocious? While reports of the Syrian missile strike are bipartisanly defended, retaliation against police officers is considered both unacceptable and an “attack on democracy.”

As writer Devyn Springer describes: “the concept of ‘violence’ is constructed at a young age to be something always done unto the US and never perpetuated by the US. The US would not paint itself as an aggressor in any instance, presenting subjects like slavery, colonialism, and foreign regime changes through a lens of benevolence rather than the actual violence they represent.” The same description can be applied to many Minority World countries: violence is often described as a “necessary evil” if it furthers the interests of the “empire,” but is wholly unacceptable when it questions the authority of the state or its processes.

During Obama’s presidency, drone warfare used in predominantly Black and Brown countries reached a record high. Yet we yearn for the “good old days” when Obama was President. It is rare that someone points out in mainstream media that he was violent, just not in the way that’s usually vilified. His use of drone strikes killed thousands of innocent people overseas, yet drone strikes are critiqued far less than, for example, a powerful and important protest, which led to minor damages, such as broken windows. Why was Obama’s use of violence excusable? Why was it necessary? Why do we continue to justify and even glorify it?

Invoking the concept of “national security” is a thinly veiled cover for “furthering the empire,”or rather, further advancing colonial projects through soft power in our postcolonial moment.

Obama’s military action in Muslim countries was also instrumental in creating a reductive,narrow-minded definition of “terrorism.” The current mainstream image of terrorism is almost indistinguishable from Muslim extremism, and uses Islam as a scapegoat and catch-all for this type of violence. The incorrect designation of the term“terrorism” as a catch-all for a specific group’s actions perpetuates these purported acts of “terrorism” enacted by Minority World countries. Interference, often unnecessarily, by Majority World countries often relies on this image of Islam as the one true source of terrorism. This then excuses any terrorism that the state itself might participate in: “when nearly 90 per cent of drone strikes in places like Somalia and Yemen don’t hit their target, injuring civilians, at what point do we understand it as a terrorist act?” In this case, terrorism should be viewed as more than the reductionist media depiction of Muslim extremism; but rather, as any internal or external action.

Capitalizing on the former reductionist, parochial version of terrorism allows Canadian and American governments to continue supporting and engaging in what might otherwise be considered terrorist acts without having to face criticism or questions. The state justifies its own terrorism as necessary to fight the version of terrorism they’ve helped create – one rooted in reductionist bias.

The J20 protests at Trump’s inauguration resulted in a record number of arrests and charges. Attorneys and activists both claim that no one expected a prosecutorial response so extreme, nor charges so unprecedented. Almost every arrestee was individually given their respective set of charges, to the point where 200 people were charged with the breaking of one bank window. The protesters were accused of “looking to incite violent riots,” among other questionable claims. Despite the hundreds of people killed overseas and locally by the state and state actors, the damaging to private property was the “violent and illegal” crime. Again, “violence” is applied selectively, chosen only when it threatens the regime. Many of the detainees from that day are still looking at a possible 60 years in prison.

Even relying or calling upon liberal conceptions of human and “legal” rights is limiting. The defense of the discussion should not be limited to what the state deems human or civil rights, as the state itself is founded on institutions of racist subjugation. Just because breaking a bank window during a protest is deemed “unjustifiable,” while drone strikes on innocent civilians in Majority World countries is “acceptable” and “legal,” this does not mean we should automatically assume one has greater legitimacy than the other. Of course, we may decide that both are unacceptable, but the questions that challenge our notions of violence are still important to ask.

The good protester/bad protester dichotomy is similarly flawed. This binary implies that once a “good” (read: lawful) protester crosses some arbitrary line into the “bad” category, the state can (and should) commit violence against them. The violence of the protester (no matter what motive or intentionality) is unacceptable to them; and the violence the state inflicts upon that protester is therefore justified. In an article for the Huffington Post, Indian author Arundhati Roy warns us against swapping the grand pursuit of justice for the far smaller demand of human rights. She writes: “Too often, these rights become the goal itself… Human rights takes the history out of justice.”

When Canada and America deploy their “fight for justice” overseas, is it rarely completely nonviolent. Governments are often very vocal about their military action and celebrate it as necessary and “acceptable” violence. Yet any even mildly violent movements within the country, against the state government, are quick to be labeled as egregious and reprehensible. And while some may be so, why do we unquestioningly accept the discourse around these protest movements, and why do we not consider the violence that the state inflicts to be also egregious and reprehensible? Why do we continue to assume the government always has everyone’s best interests at heart? When do we realize that their violence is often more unacceptable then anyone else’s?

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The manifestations of Muslim identity https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/03/the-manifestations-of-muslim-identity/ Mon, 26 Mar 2018 22:14:20 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=52625 Content warning: Islamophobia

The misconceptions I face when introducing myself as a cultural Muslim lie mainly in the lack of information about the concept. My culturally Christian friends, both here on McGill’s campus or back home in France, seem to have less problems navigating expectations associated with the religion they grew up in. I often hear about my culturally Christian friends only going to Mass for Easter and Christmas, and entertaining some affection for religious practices on the premise that they are a reminder of their childhood. This casual approach to one’s religion is often denied to the culturally Muslim youth in the West. This is not because people mostly refuse to acknowledge the phenomenon of being “culturally Muslim,” but because mainstream conceptions of Islam in Western media are outdated, inaccurate, and often both racist and Islamophobic.

This casual approach to one’s religion is often denied to the culturally Muslim youth in the West.

Who is a Cultural Muslim?

To start with a simple definition, one might characterize cultural Muslims as “religiously unobservant, secular, or non-religious individuals who still identify with the Muslim culture due to family background, personal experiences, or the social and cultural environment in which they grew up.” People identifying as cultural Muslims must not be confused with liberal Muslims, who advocate for a different understanding of their religion to adapt to the modern environment, but still affirm their beliefs and identify with Muslim religious practices. The struggle of living as a cultural Muslim comes from feeling a certain level of disconnect between what Islam signifies and how you, personally, practice Islam. Unlike some religions which have evolved into less demanding practices over time, the core of Islam requires a deep understanding and time commitment. Growing up in a Muslim family, I learned all of the main prayers and attended Koranic classes, despite not understanding a single word of Arabic. I witnessed my family members praying five times a day, fasted with my cousins throughout the month of Ramadan, and recited the Shahada prayer every night before going to bed. However, I eventually grew away from considering myself extremely religious, despite originally accepting the confessional identity of my parents. This is the case for a lot of other cultural Muslims, who often grapple with Islam’s commitment, practice, and unwavering core. The disconnect I felt also stems from growing up as a second generation immigrant in an extremely liberal and constantly shifting environment in France, which contrasted with my unchanging Muslim traditions.

Being accepted within your family and community as a cultural Muslim is honestly a difficult task. Practicing Muslims, especially from older generations in my family, have a rather definitive view of religion — either you believe and accept “traditional” Islamic teachings and practices, or you don’t. On the other hand, non-Muslims around you seem to have a particular view of your religion. Mainstream Western sentiment concerning Islam and Muslims in our generation has broadly been racist and Islamophobic, and media depictions have not been kind or forgiving in any way. Even those who try to defend Muslims’ right to practice and work towards ending Islamophobia have a certain conception of what a model Muslim is supposed to look like. Finding yourself caught between keeping your cultural roots and having to constantly defend your religion to the rest of society is exhausting. I often have had to abide by the misconception that I am, in fact, a practicing individual, to legitimize my involvement within anti-Islamophobia groups. Cultural Muslims have the double bind of being religiously unobservant while still identifying with their upbringing in the Muslim faith and wanting to pursue activism in these religious circles. This all comes to a head on politically active Western campuses like McGill’s.

Cultural Muslims have the double bind of being religiously unobservant while still identifying with their upbringing in the Muslim faith and wanting to pursue activism in these religious circles.

Cultural Muslims on Campus

Cultural Muslims, while diverse in opinions, beliefs, and political views, all have a common frame of reference passed along through parents or relatives. As such, criticizing certain Islamic positions without appearing anti-Muslim is another struggle we face both on and off our university campus. Cultural Muslims on campus might disagree on a variety of subjects, yet still share a history and similar experiences with Islamic discourses that have shaped their questioning of the faith. This manifests most poignantly to me when I try to reconcile Islamic culture and feminism. I have lost count of the number of times people have approached me and emphasized that I was one of the “good Muslims,” or reacted strangely when I advocated for feminist stances. I have had to defend my right to criticize sexist and patriarchal Islamic traditions to both my religious family, and my politically active acquaintances. The question of the veil is a whole issue in and of itself for Islam. Particularly for culturally Muslim students, there is often a lack of direct experience with compulsory veiling by the state; yet we cannot afford to stay silent on the issue, either.

When accepting our Muslim heritage, a lot of cultural Muslims also accept the responsibility of speaking up against oppressors of the Muslim faith, given our upbringing. But what non-Muslim activists often don’t grasp is that I am not in a position to speak for my veiled sisters, practicing folks, people discriminated against outside of mosques, or those trying to balance a full class schedule while remaining obedient to prayer times. One of the only real solutions to this lack of understanding and the implicit homogenization of all Muslims by western expectations about our beliefs is to demystify the Muslim faith, and remove the burden from culturally Muslim students to speak on behalf of all Muslims.

Identity & Activism as a non-practicing Muslim

“Fitting in” and assimilating to Western models of being a Muslim, student, feminist, immigrant, and activist is alluring. Completely assimilating with white Western culture is thought to be so easy for white passing cultural Muslims. Shedding your traditions, history, and identity have long been a requirement for acceptance into Western society. Wouldn’t it be easier to just get rid of it all? It raises questions about culturally-Muslim activism, and whether we should be accepted within Muslim safe spaces. Further, many cultural Muslims on McGill campus feel the need to prove that they deserve a voice in anti-islamophobia discourse, regardless of the way they express their religion (or lack thereof).

These intersections of identity and activism as a non-practicing Muslim have culminated most significantly to me in my existence on campus as both queer and culturally Muslim. LGBTQ+ groups and events at McGill work to make spaces accessible to all members of the queer community. However, queer folks coming from a Muslim background often experience deep confusion, as the spaces dedicated to our specific experiences often lack inclusion of queer Muslim community members (practicing or not). Islam, as a religion, does not have a hierarchical body akin to the Church and Pope which are able to rule on contemporary issues like queer inclusion in the faith. Due to the belief in the Ummah, the universal body of Muslims, it is often left in the hands of Muslim youth to figure out their own stance on issues regarding religion, culture, and personal belief.

These personal beliefs are inevitably influenced by mainstream queer culture in the West, which can be difficult to approach when you’ve been raised in particular frames of religious and cultural ideas. Muslims are no more or less intolerant than practicing members of other religions regarding LGBTQ+ issues, which is yet another stereotype we are often faced with. Western media’s domination of perceptions of Muslims and our organizations lead to the oversaturation of media representations with white organizations. Due to this, we are left with little knowledge of the Muslim LGBTQ+ organizations and figures within our community.It is not always a question of reconciling religion with identity and sexuality, but an issue of compartmentalizing and honoring all of these aspects of our identities as multifaceted Muslims. Personally, I have never been more open about my queerness than since I arrived at McGill. Here, I was able to explore this facet of my identity despite not fitting the image most people have of a young Muslim woman. My entire experience at McGill as a cultural Muslim has raised many personal questions, reconciliations, and compartmentalizations. The difficulties I have faced on campus as a cultural Muslim have enlightened me to the preconceived notions I was expected to uphold in order to portray an “accurate” model of my own heritage. I have often struggled to find common experiences around me, and wished that I could witness other examples than the singular, stereotypically religious, Muslim immigrant I was offered by Western media’s ignorant view. I hope that we can change mainstream conceptions of Muslim identities, starting with more stories, like mine, about our multifaceted identities beyond our shared cultural experiences.

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