The McGill Daily https://www.mcgilldaily.com Doing this for people like you since 1911 Mon, 12 Nov 2018 20:21:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg The McGill Daily https://www.mcgilldaily.com 32 32 Vivek Shraya: “I’m Coming for Everyone, Including Me” https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/vivek-shraya-im-coming-for-everyone-including-me/ Mon, 12 Nov 2018 20:01:57 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54279

Vivek Shraya knocked on the door at 9:23AM. “A woman of her word,” I thought. “What a change from all these Montreal flakes.” Soon enough, the interview team found itself in a living room made up exclusively of women and femmes of colour, plants, couches, two tables, tea cups, and timid sun rays. Vivek Shraya is a multidisciplinary and widely acclaimed artist who recently released the  best-selling book I’m Afraid of Men, which delves into “how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl — and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century.” We invited Malek Yalaoui to interview Vivek. Malek is a friend, but also a force to be reckoned with. She is a queer femme of colour, a Chai Chats Podcast host, and co-founder of SistersInMotion MTL, an annual showcase of spoken word performances by and for BIPOC women and femmes.

Malek Yalaoui (MY): How did art come into your life?

Vivek Shraya (VS): I started writing music first. I used to sing at my religious organization when I was a teenager. They used to get me to do speeches — it’s so cute, a young person giving a speech, right? So I started including pop songs in my speeches at my religious organization and then this uncle came up to me — not my uncle, like Indian uncle or whatever — he was like “that song you wrote was so beautiful” and I was like “oh, I didn’t write it” and then I was like, oh writing songs! And that’s what inspired me to write my own music. Looking back, if I were going to project a narrative on what inspired me to write songs, music was a way of gaining not popularity, but support. In school, where I was being harassed all the time, in my religious organization, singing was what made me feel special, which I didn’t have every other day of the week. People would be like “we drove all the way from wherever to come hear you sing.” Music was a way for me to channel my feelings of isolation and loneliness in a way that I couldn’t convey anywhere else. That’s where I started my artistic journey. Music was my first artistic career path but it didn’t really pan out, and I still needed to be creative. So I ended up writing what would become my first book, God Loves Hair, which I ended up self-publishing. It was sort of an accident in a way, I worked very hard on it but I had no ambition of being ‘a writer,’ but life is wild in that way… For me, the lesson is about being open to the muse and where…

MY: … where the life is.

VS: Exactly.

MY: That’s so amazing too that you got the support from your community first, because that’s not something I often hear!

VS: I think a lot has to do with North American masculinity being very different than this sort of religious Hindu/Indian masculinity I was around. So me being a dancer, prancing, faggy boy in the context of my religious organization was like “oh you’re like Krishna.” It actually made me almost holier in a weird way whereas every other day at school I was the worst human, the worst boy, because I wasn’t acting like I should be. It was two extreme ends of a spectrum to be completely abnormal and completely special under two different lenses.

“You read all this stuff and say, ‘oh, you got spit on, oh it’s so terrible,’ and then I wanted it to say, ‘yeah, and imagine if I didn’t have to tell you these things for you to care.’”

—Vivek Shraya

 

On “Exceptional Men”

MY: In the book, you said you regretted telling Nick [Vivek’s ex-boyfriend] that he wasn’t special but that you also regretted all the times you told him that he was. Is Nick exceptional? Is looking at Nick outside the construct of him as a man the only way to understand him in all his human complexity and contradictions?

VS: For me it’s tied to that conversation about the “good man” or “the exception.” I think throughout my life, any time I’ve encountered a man that was nice to me I’ve been like, “oh he’s different.” It often doesn’t require much for that to happen — totally low bar. It’s like oh he’s sensitive, he’s nice to his mom, he knows some social justice speech, whatever it is.

MY: But Nick actually did do a lot of incredible support work.

VS: Exactly. In fairness, Nick was quite lovely but at the same time I don’t know that thinking of men as exceptions serves us, because I think what happens then is that we don’t allow them to fuck up. And when they do fuck up, it’s devastating, it’s like, “I thought you were an exception” whereas if I just treated Nick like a human that was completely fallible that was doing amazing things but was capable of doing things that weren’t so amazing, it would’ve been a different kind of pain, I wouldn’t be “grieving the exception.” I feel that for me that has been the consistent theme in my relationship with men, where I’m not just grieving potentially some fucked-up things they’ve done but just grieving the fact that “another one! Not another one!” I’d rather be engaging with one form of pain as opposed to thinking of men as an exception. I just don’t think that’s useful. Also, I just don’t think that it’s something that women or gender non-conforming people get to have access to, no one is ever like “she’s an exception,” it doesn’t go both ways. So why is it that we can believe in a “good man” or a “better man” when we don’t equate women or gender non-conforming people with the similar terms? So for me I’d like to get away from this bar, period, and see what happens when men are seen as people that are capable of good and bad and not necessarily even use that language of good and bad.

MY: You wrote about reimagining forms of masculinity that don’t arouse fear, but then also about blurring gender boundaries, and sort of how do we do both, are these even useful categories?

VS: It’s difficult, because realistically I don’t imagine a world where we’re all going to embrace gender nonconformity. I think people are very attached to the gender binary. It’s like trying to speak to reality and optimism simultaneously. And so from a realistic perspective, I propose some ideas about how we might reimagine masculinity. And number one is moving away from this “good man” idea. And second, you know, for me it’s really important for men to be thinking about how to be able to honour femininity. And that being the central part of the work. And by honouring femininity, really what’s underneath that is being able to understand and unpack misogyny, and understanding the ways that misogyny is inherent in so many forms of harassment, but also ideas. I think a lot of men, especially in 2018, think that they’re sensitive, think that they’re good listeners, think that because they hold the door open for women that they are “good men” and that they don’t have misogynistic ideas. But then I hear the same guys who say “I listen to her, and I’m nice to her, but she doesn’t want to date me.” And I’m like, wait a second, so you listened, and you were good  to somebody, so what? That’s a weird entitlement. And I think that that entitlement to women and desire is a form of misogyny. Its like, “how dare you not want me after I spent an hour listening to you or half an hour listening to you.” And that’s just one idea, or one example. And I bring this up as an example because I, too, as a male, walked around like “I LOVE WOMEN, I’m not capable of misogyny, I don’t have misogynistic ideas,” but when challenged by friends I was like “oh shit yeah there it is, of course.”

MY: And we all do!

VS: Yeah of course. So to answer your question, I think that I have a surface proposition in terms of thinking about gender, but simultaneously at the end I’m sort of like in an ideal world, I would love for us to move beyond masculinity and femininity altogether. What would it be like to abandon those terms, what would it be like to embrace gender creativity. So that’s me at my most hopeful, but I don’t know that that’s super realistic.

On Time, Transness, and Potential

MY: I wonder for you personally, do you feel that you’ve realized your potential, or do you see it as still on the horizon, or do you think that that’s possible in the world that we live in?

VS: I mean, I know I’m old, but I hope that there’s still more potential.

MY: I mean The Queers think anyone over 30 is old!

VS: It’s true — I’m already an elder! I mean truthfully it’s something I’ve struggled so much about in my thirties. Like in your twenties people are like “oh, so and so has so much potential,” but then in your thirties no one talks about the potential you have anymore — you’re just you. Which is kind of scary in a way. So thinking a bit broader than I’m sure what you’re asking, I also think about all the people I’ve been in 37 years: I hope I haven’t realized my full potential. Like I hope there’s still more, I’m curious what my gender will look like ten years from now, if I’m still around. It’s so hard for me to imagine a future as a queer, trans, racialized body, and so, I don’t know. I hope that I haven’t, and I don’t know what that looks like, but that’s what’s exciting about life. Like I always felt that trans-ness was like a boat that I missed when I was 25, kind of like ecstasy. Like I didn’t do ecstasy, and I didn’t come out as trans, so I guess that’s it.

MY: As in, “I missed the window?”

VS: And you know ten years after I’m like “oh, here I am.” So, for me it’s been exciting to be like, “oh, you can come into these identities and realities later” and it’s complicated because you do feel this feeling of lost time. At the same time, I look at who I am in the mirror and I’m like “can’t believe we made it.” And isn’t that nice, you know?

 

On Internalized Misogyny and Racism

MY: You were talking about some misogynistic ideas we all had, and that you had. And I wanted to ask you: you had written about your childhood, and the ways in which you once felt entitled to Brown women’s bodies and their labour. How was your experience writing about this?

VS: What I share in the book, is that when I’m in grade two I decide I really want to know what it’s like to have a kiss. And I don’t know where I’m going to get a kiss from, so I imagine I’m going to make Manpreet kiss me. That was one of the hardest parts of the book to talk about — because first of all, transness and queerness are already equated with weird childhood perversion or predatory behaviour. But for me, it was really important as an example to talk about — isn’t it really disturbing to think about how even as a young boy I had already learned that I was entitled to a young girl’s body? And where did I learn that? That was the point of that example, and owning it as well. I don’t think I would have ever done that to a white girl. I think I understood that here is a girl, with a long braid and sideburns —

MY: It’s like, “I’m low on the totem pole, but this is someone who is just a tiny bit lower.”

“I don’t know that thinking of men as exceptions serves us, because I think what happens then is that we don’t allow them to fuck up. And when they do fuck up, it’s devastating, it’s like ‘I thought you were an exception.’”

—Vivek Shraya

VS: Exactly. So even though I was clearly an outcast, clearly a nerd, here was someone who was, like you said, lower socially even though those hierarchies were already being formed. I knew she was vulnerable. And again, I didn’t have this language — but it’s disturbing to think about the ways that I understood that — how I deliberately chose a Brown girl from my class, as opposed to a blonde white girl.

MY: Right, and we get those messages from birth.
It’s just unconscious…

VS: Totally. I re-watched this Bollywood film that I used to really like as a kid called “Chandni”, for the first time since I was a child. And I’m not blaming Bollywood, but it was just strange to see this man, who is literally trying to make an advance on a woman and he just starts grabbing her — and she starts running. But he keeps grabbing her, and it’s just this joke. And I was like, “oh, well here’s an example of where I might have learned this behaviour.” Again, we see it in so many forms and I’m not saying it’s that particular film, but I’m sure it was part of it.

MY: Towards the end of the book you start to talk about how you’re afraid of women as well. You had some really powerful examples in the book of women who either emboldened or defended the men who harmed you, the girl who giggles when you’re wearing  the blue jacket, the one who passes on your high school crush’s threat, the one who tells you it’s a compliment when you’re groped. And the ones who, you wrote, “have internalized their experiences of misogyny so deeply, that they make me their punching bag.” How do you think we can begin to hold women accountable for the ways in which we participate in and defend mens’ violence, what do you see as the road to healing and reconciliation between women?

VS: I have a trans friend I really look up to on Twitter — who I think, actually used to live in Montreal – Morgan Page. She has this Twitter rule “I’ll never drag another trans woman on Twitter,” and for me that has been so crucial in my own thinking about visibility as a trans body and online interactions. But I think that applies to all marginalized groups. It’s a tricky part of the book because there’s this idea that women just don’t get along like “oh, they’re always catfighting.” And it’s like, no, that’s not the issue, this has been enforced on us, this is how men maintain their power by having us tear each other apart. So for me the work is, in those moments where I feel “competitive” with another woman, or when someone is putting me in competition with another woman: how do I challenge that feeling? For me at the core of the book actually, so much of it is how to challenge thought and feeling, because I think that most people assume that they are good people because they’ve never pushed someone or used “faggot” as a word or something. But the truth is so much of the work that needs to be done is challenging the inside stuff that’s happening, and for women it’s so easy for us, because we’re so trained to rip each other apart. And I’ve experienced this as a girl, in the queer community, in the Brown community – it’s not specific to girls, right. This is the nature of how oppression works: we end up having conflict with each other because where else are we going to direct it? So a part of it is really spending time with those moments when you feel petty and direct that towards another woman and wondering why I feel this way. What is this woman ‘taking’ from me? How might I turn this feeling into actual support, and nurturing? Or how might I have a conversation with this woman directly, one-on-one as opposed to “cancelling” them or tweeting about them online? I think that’s the work, it’s really investing in the one-on-one, in the work of internal processing.

On Disposability

MY: I feel like there’s been so many instances in which I have either said something dumb and ignorant, which is very possible for me to do…

VS: Which happens. It happens for all of us.

MY: … or have been perceived as saying something oppressive which wasn’t actually or whatever. And then it was like — it’s over, you’re done, I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t want to say hello to you, I don’t want see you in any space that I’m in.

VS: (sarcastic) …That doesn’t sound familiar… (laughs)

MY: And it’s literally like, wait, but could we just continue the conversation for maybe three minutes after I said the wrong thing? And I understand in a way because people are dealing with a lot of violence and trauma, so maybe you don’t have the capacity for that right now, but I just don’t know how we move forward — we’re eating each other…

VS: I really don’t think that intimacy can be built without conflict. I think most people are just like, “I don’t like conflict, I shy away from conflict.” I appreciate that but for us to get to the next level, we need to talk this through. I feel like it’s so easy, especially in larger cities. This was my experience in Toronto a lot: you do something fucked up, which happens, and then you never know what you said, what you did, sometimes you don’t even know what it is or how it was perceived, and then suddenly people aren’t talking to you anymore, and you’re just like… “okay…”

MY: And if you have any kind of platform now they want to take your platform from you — my life’s work is done because I said something in a bar or…?

VS: Yeah! And I’m like blah blah blah all the time! You can’t control everything that comes out of your mouth. The reality is we’re all going to fuck up in our communities, it doesn’t matter how woke, how political —

MY: Because we have this stuff inside and it’s going to come out, and that’s the opportunity to deal with it.

VS: Yes, and also you can’t control how people are hearing what you’re saying. So you could be saying something that’s very harmless but you don’t know how that individual might hear you. For me it’s like, let’s have it out. Let’s have the conversation. If I said something, yes, of course I want to be held accountable, but not online, not publicly. Can we have this one-on-one, and also can we just have it, period? As opposed to being just like, “bye!” I feel like that’s the work, I get why people don’t want to do it. The thing is, there are lines right? If it’s a white man who’s done something, I’m like, “I don’t have the capacity for it, bye!”

MY: My experience has actually been that it’s the opposite, and it all comes back to who we see as disposable — if a woman of colour, a femme of colour, a trans woman of colour fucks up, she’s done —

VS: Exactly!

MY: But a white man can do the same thing, for a decade and nobody’s called him out! So it’s like, why aren’t we cancelling the white men?

VS: Exactly.

On Sisterhood

MY: About sisterhood, S-I-S not C-I-S (VS laughs). Do you believe in sisterhood? What do you think is the importance of sisterhood?

VS: Maybe this is a little second wave [feminism] (laughs) but I really believe in sisterhood. As much as I’ve definitely called out women in this book, at the end of the day, I would not have come out as trans had it not been partly because of women who “saw” me. Actually, my friend Alanna one day showed up at dinner, she brought me, it sounds so superficial but she brought me these beautiful, coloured eyeliner and she was like “I don’t know I just had a feeling that you’d like these so just have fun with them” and it was then that we just started talking about makeup more. I feel like she “saw” something, embraced it, and she loved me. I feel like I’ve had that kind of generosity from women as well, so I absolutely believe in sisterhood, I just think we have work to do… And the only way to “dismantle the patriarchy” is actually by holding each other up, and finding ways to have conflict respectfully and lovingly.

“I’m Coming for Everyone, Including Myself”

MY: You write: “why is my humanity only seen or cared about when I share the ways in which I’ve been victimized and violated,” and you share so much of that in this book — so I’m wondering why you made that choice. Ultimately, why did you write this book?

VS: (laughs) I asked myself that question so much during the writing process. I felt like a lot of the conversations around masculinity were a little one-dimensional, especially the ones that had been happening the last few years. They had usually been by cis white women, cis white straight women, so what that meant was that a lot of queer men, or gay men, get to be off the hook, get a pass, so to speak. Racialized men, some of them have gotten a pass, trans men have gotten a pass, women have gotten a pass, and I’m like no no no, we’re all a part of this. So for me that was a big part of the impetus for I’m Afraid of Men — let’s broaden this conversation and talk about how we’re all a part of it. I’m coming for everyone, including myself. Certainly the white man is a large issue, but it’s so much more complicated than that, so that was a big part of why I wrote the book.

“Me being a dancer, prancing, faggy boy in the context of my religious organization was like ‘oh you’re like Krishna.’ It actually made me almost holier in a weird way, whereas every other day at school I was the worst human, the worst boy, because I wasn’t acting like I should be.”

—Vivek Shraya

 

On Trauma Porn

MY: I’m Afraid of Men is written in the second person, why is that?

VS: There’s this current fascination with people’s suffering, especially marginalized bodies — I think the word is trauma porn. After starting to write it all in first person, it just started to feel really gross that the reader would be able to just put the book down. I’ve just disclosed all this stuff that’s so personal, and you get to just be in and out of it? How do I keep the reader here with me? If I’m going to be accountable to these stories and talking about it, how do I keep the reader accountable to me? How do I create more of a relationship as opposed to a passive one? By changing all of those stories to second person by saying “you,”, “I see you,” “you do this,” “you said this,” it felt like a way to put the reader in the hot seat. If I’m going to do this work, you’re going to sit here with me, and you’re going to try it. And even if it’s clearly not you, the hope is to get you to think about your own complicity. If not in that specific interaction, but other interactions of your life where you may have been a bystander or someone who engages with this kind of activity. I used to work at a college in Toronto where I did anti-homophobia workshops and there I found that the only way to get many people mobilized was by telling them about how gender non-conforming people would pee in their pants, as opposed to going to the washroom. And suddenly everyone was like, “Oh my god, that’s terrible!”

MY: “Well if you’re suffering, then you deserve rights!”

VS: Exactly! But if I was just like “Transphobia, it exists — misogyny, it exists,” people would be like “yeah, sure, whatever.” So I worried that I was sort of engaging in this practice, that a lot of oppression is based on disclosing personal hardship to solicit allyship from the oppressor. So here I am doing that, but how do I navigate it? For me it was by naming it. “Okay, I’ve done this work now, but you’ve made me do this work in a lot of ways. The only way I know how to mobilize you and to get you to care about me and my trans brothers and sisters is by me doing this, so can we challenge this? Can we find a way for this to not have to happen?” Because I think we all know this, but I wanted it to be part of the book – you read all this stuff and say “oh, you got spit on, oh it’s so terrible,” and then I wanted it to say “yeah, and imagine if I didn’t have to tell you these things for you to care.”

Conclusion

MY: I wanted to ask if there’s anything that you wish you would be asked.

VS: Oh, that’s so nice. Well I’m curious, did you think it was like 101 when you were reading? Were you like, “oh yeah, been there done that?”

MY: No, I didn’t think it was 101.

VS: That has been my biggest fear in terms of my communities, I feel people have been doing this kind of work around gender and unpacking gender in smarter and more nuanced ways for years and years and years. So there’s been a part of me that’s like, “oh, no, my people think this book is like very very basic.”

MY: That’s not what I thought at all.

VS: Okay. I’m not fishing for compliments, either.

MY: No but I just want to say: I actually didn’t take gender studies in school or whatever, as part of that like coming to myself later in life — I just thought I was in college to find a way to make a lot of money and get a good job. I didn’t understand that you could explore ideas in university! I actually don’t have that theoretical background at all; I haven’t read Judith Butler, or whatever, but I have learned a lot in the context of community spaces. But sometimes it has felt like “these are the ideas, and you need to get on board, or you’re a homophobic, transmisogynist, piece of shit.” And so I’m just like, okay, “tell me what I need to believe,” just to get the good stamp, you know. And there’s very little patience for actually exploring. Like I’m not saying that I’m not there — but just, can we walk through it a little more? I feel this book was so generous and so patient with walking me through it all in a very accessible and step-by-step way to understanding “oh, the gender binary is destroying all of us.” I felt like I had the time to sort of steep in your ideas, to get there on my own, as opposed to “here are all of the things you need to believe to be able to ‘count’ as a legitimate person.”

VS: Well thank you, thanks, that’s great. And thank you so much for all of these questions. I really appreciate having a conversation with another Brown girl about this. It’s been strange because you realize how much of mainstream media is white men, and so its funny when they’re like (gravely) “I’m Afraid of Men, what is this book about?” and its like “ahhhhh! you’re scaring me!” So thank you so much to all of you, I really appreciate this opportunity.

MY: Can I give you a hug?

VS: Yes! Please!

The interview has been edited for clarity.

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Outside The Bubble https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/outside-the-bubble/ Mon, 12 Nov 2018 15:39:25 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54277 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections

On November 6, Americans participated in midterm elections, voting in senators, house representatives, and governors. Early estimates say that over 113 million people voted in the midterms, with an incredible surge of young people and women. This election is believed to be a referendum on President Trump and how the public feels about his government. After two years of Republican rule, Democrats gained control of the House, winning 31 additional seats to secure a majority (some races are still undetermined).

The 2018 midterms saw many historical victories across the country. More than 100 women were elected: 95 in the House of Representatives and 12 in the Senate, among them were a record 42 women of colour. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) both became the youngest women ever to be elected to Congress at the age of 29. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), became the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, as well as becoming the first Somali-American congresswoman and Palestinian-American congresswoman, respectively. Breaking ground for Native Americans, Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Deb Haaland (DNM) became the first Native American women elected to Congress, 56 years after Native Americans were granted the right to vote. Additionally, more than 100 LGBTQ candidates won races at the federal, state, and local levels. Jared Polis, Chris Pappas, Tammy Baldwin, Jennifer Web, and the aforementioned Sharice Davids are all the first openly LGBTQ identifying candidates to be elected in their respective states.

Suicide Crisis in Nunavik

Content warning: suicide

So far in 2018, 15 youths have taken their own lives in Nunavik, the subarctic region of Quebec. This suicide crisis is affecting an area with a population of 12,000, 90 per cent of whom are Inuit. In October alone, two people took their lives in Kuujjuaq, a town of 3,000. In response, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq (Nunavik’s school board) organized an emergency meeting from October 30-31 to “plot out a course of action.” Seventy people from various Nunavik organizations attended, as did a delegation from the Quebec government.

Robert Watt, president of the Kativik council of school commissioners, addressed the crisis in a letter to government officials: “over the past four weeks, our communities have dealt with youth suicides that directly affected students, families and staff in Nunavik.” Watt also wrote, “one of the victims was as young as 11 years old. We feel the situation requires urgent collective action at the regional level.”

Tunu Napartuk, the mayor of Kuujjuaq, opened the meeting calling for immediate action: “we are talking about the same thing from ten years ago, we keep passing the buck. We need to break this wall, during today and tomorrow, how can we start breaking the wall?”

In a press release, Quebec’s new government stated that they are “concerned about this situation, and wishes to support Indigenous communities.” It is also stated that “the ministries concerned will […] be advised of the measures to be taken.” While the Quebec government sent a delegation to the emergency meeting and has announced a Public Inquiry Commission on relations between “Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Quebec,” they have not yet announced any concrete actions or policy. Due to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, health care services are under provincial jurisdiction. Mary Simon, Kuujjuaq native and former ambassador to Denmark, lost her 22 year-old niece to suicide this year. In a public post on Facebook, she wrote, “we desperately need ongoing mental health support and services in every Inuit community.” She and others have emphasized the lack of physical and mental health services for Inuit communities. Simon pointed out that she had made a previous plea for government aid in the crisis two years ago in a report, yet did not receive the support requested. “I am making this plea again and others should do likewise,” she said.

This phenomenon is not limited to Nunavik. Statistics show that First Nations youths are five to six times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous youths. In the case of Inuit youth, the rates are eleven times the national average. The suicide crisis in Nunavik is also reminiscent of the 2015- 2016 crises in First Nations in Manitoba and Northern Ontario.

Mass Emigration in Venezuela

According to a United Nations report published on November 1, three million people have fled Venezuela since 2015, one in 12 people of the country’s population. The increase of people leaving Venezuela is a result of political and economic crises, including an increase in violence, hyperinflation, and lack of food and medicine. The crisis has been ongoing since 2015; however, conditions have worsened in the last six months, forcing elevated more people to flee. In August 2018, the United Nations declared it one of the largest mass migrations in Latin American history.

2.4 million migrants have relocated to, or sought refuge in, other Latin American countries or other parts of the world. Over one million migrants have fled to Colombia, which shares a border with Venezuela, with 3,000 new migrants arriving every day. Peru has received over half a million Venezuelans thus far, with Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil also taking in a substantial number of migrants.

Under the current president, Nicolás Maduro, economic and political conditions have worsened after oil prices started falling in 2014. Previous to the price drop, Venezuela earned 96 per cent of its revenue from oil. Maduro has called the migration crisis “fake news” created to justify interference on an international scale.

The World Bank warns that other Latin American countries should expect more migrants in the near future, as political change in the country cannot be expected soon. While neighbouring countries have taken in large numbers of migrants, the situation warrants “a more robust and immediate response from the international community,” according to Edward Stein, the Joint Special Representative for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela for the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and International Organization for Migration (UNHCR-IOM).

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How Bolsonaro Rose to Power https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/how-bolsonaro-rose-to-power/ Mon, 12 Nov 2018 15:29:57 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54274 On November 8, Le Réseau d’études latino-américain de Montréal (RELAM) hosted a roundtable discussion called “Testing Democracy: the 2018 Brazilian Election” at McGill. The roundtable featured four Montreal professors: Dr. François Montambeault, Dr. Julián Durazo Herrmann, Dr. Jean Francois Mayer, and Dr. Tina Hilgers. Each spoke about specific factors that led to the election of far-right Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro.

The discussion was moderated by McGill professor Dr. Manuel Balán, who began the afternoon by giving attendees a brief overview of Brazil’s current political situation. In the initial October 8 presidential election, no candidate received more the 50 per cent of the vote, forcing a run-off election on October 28. Jair Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), ultimately beat Fernando Haddad, the candidate from the democratic socialist Workers’ Party (PT) with “54 – 56 per cent of the vote.” Balán also discussed the polarization in Brazil; Bolsonaro received the highest rejection rates, as well as the most support.

First to speak was Dr. Françoise Montambeault, a professor of political science at the Université de Montréal. She opened the discussion with an analysis of the institutional context surrounding Bolsonaro’s victory. Dr. Montambeault noted that in the lead-up to the 2018 elections, Brazilian citizens had “no deep identification towards political parties,” tracing this back to the fall of the military dictatorship in 1985, which resulted in a poorly institutionalized democratic political system. Many political parties divided the vote, until two coalitions were formed around the PT and the Brazilian Social Democracy party. Various institutional crises, including a corruption scandal surrounding PT President Dilma Rousseff and former PT President Luiz Inácio Lula, weakened the party system. Ruling party fatigue and anger at individual political actors in coalitions lead to the disenfranchisement of Brazilian voters. Voters held no affiliation with established political parties which paved way for “the rise of an outsider.” Corruption scandals caused Brazilians to lose faith in the established order, with 20 per cent of Brazilians not voting, and another 10 per cent casting blank ballots. This environment allowed a figure like Bolsonaro to win. After the 2018 election, Congress is more fragmented than ever, with 30 political parties represented compared to 22 parties represented in 2010.

Dr. Julián Durazo-Herrmann, a political science professor at UQAM, followed this argument with an analysis of territorial politics in Brazil. Brazil has 27 states with 13 separate parties in governing positions. After the loss of the PT leadership to corruption scandals, the party seems to be rebuilding a leftist hub in the traditionally conservative Brazilian northeast. Dr. Durazo-Herrmann suggested that the right wing Bolsonaro government may be affected by this change. The northeast was a historically impoverished area, until the National Family Agricultural Program was introduced by PT President Lula. This program is federally funded, and is at risk of being cut by Bolsonaro. Brazilian politicians have historically been willing to align with presidents in order to receive funding, and this is a significant threat to the northeastern core of the leftist PT.

After the discussion of territorial politics, Dr. Jean François Mayer, a political science professor at Concordia, discussed the role of social movements in the rise of Bolsonaro. Dr. Mayer points out that during the approach to the 2018 elections, there seemed to be a lack of “left leaning socially progressive movements.” He went on to define social movements as “a group of individuals who seek to change the social/political status quo.” This definition is especially important in Brazil, as social movements have historically been based out of both the poorer left and the lower-middle class right.

From 2003 until 2011, the leftist PT was in power. They were successful in raising people out of poverty, with 50 million Brazilians joining the new lower middle class. This new social class wanted effective and reliable state funded programs like healthcare, education, and free transit. While the leftist PT government was combating extreme poverty, it was also involved in corruption. They invested billions into the World Cup for their own benefit and ignored the new lower middle classes’ demands. The PT also attempted to demobilize leftist social justice movements. Anti-leftist government protests demanded reinvestment into the state. In 2015 and 2016, the conservative middle class continued to protest for reinvestment, but also protested against violence and corruption. Because the PT had demobilized leftist movements that were protesting for social justice, many left-leaning protestors joined in with conservatives, for as Dr. Mayer pointed out, “everyone wants to support anti-violence.” Left-leaning social justice movements were left unsupported and without leadership, as many movements were demobilized by the PT government, and many leaders were absorbed into the PT party. Dr. Mayer argued that because leftist rhetoric was affiliated with the corrupt PT, many chose to disassociate from leftist social justice movements entirely, siding instead with the anti-corruption conservative protesters. Social movements in Brazil view anti-corruption action as an important issue, and Bolsonaro was able to take advantage of these sentiments by framing the PT as hopelessly corrupt and out of touch. This conservative anti-establishment and socially mobilized base is who supported Bolsonaro.

Dr. Mayer also pointed out that many social justice movements have been re-invigorated and redynamized by the misogynistic and homophobic language of Bolsonaro. In response, the #EleNão (“Not Him”) movement mobilized the minority LGBTQ+ community and the Afro-Brazilian community, as well as many women in Brazilian society. Dr. Mayer argued that these leftists movements picked up traction too late in the campaign to change the general mistrust of the PT. Bolsonaro was voted in before a reform in the PT could be made. However, Dr. Mayer believes that if the Brazilian left can compose itself properly, it is not too late for leftist mobilization against Bolsonaro.

Finally, Dr. Tina Hilgers, a political science professor at Concordia, discussed the role that crime and public security played in Bolsonaro’s election. Dr. Hilgers acknowledged that complex historical and social factors have led to a high crime rate in Brazil. “Violence in Brazil cannot be understood without acknowledging slavery and the exclusionary systems of government,” she said. Dr. Hilgers argued that violence is propagated by confrontational and poorly trained law enforcement. In order to combat violence, policing needs reform. In 2017, 5,044 civilians were killed by police. The previous center-right government (which was only in power for two years) appeared to make positive change by splitting the justice system in two. The split created the Ministry of Public Security in addition to the Ministry of Justice. Public security did need to be its own ministry in order to train police in non-confrontational strategies, but the new ministry has no policy proposal. Instead, there is potential for a move towards militarization, considering the recently appointed head of Public Security is a former military general. This aligns disturbingly with Bolsonaro’s politics. Bolsonaro is a former general himself, and has called protest public disorder, stating that hat he would send in military to combat protesters.

The panel ended with a comparison of Bolsonaro and Trump, who both use classic populist strategies, share contempt for institutions, and indulge in violent rhetoric. They represent a world in which leaders are popular for being “in touch” with the populace, rather than for actual policy. Bolsonaro and Trump both represent moves towards fascist populism in nations that are increasingly polarized down political lines.

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The Problem with Blockbusters https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/the-problem-with-blockbusters/ Mon, 12 Nov 2018 11:00:55 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54253 When Black Panther came out in February 2018, it broke box-office records and mainstream expectations. It was highly praised for its revolutionary cinematic realization, ranging from the creation of the high-tech kingdom of Wakanda to the brilliant performance of its actors. Yet, most conversations focused on its commitment to representation, with an almost exclusively Black cast. Similarly, the release of A Wrinkle in Time in March received praise from critics for its diverse representation of women of colour. Crazy Rich Asians, which came out in August, was deemed a “breakthrough in representation” by Time Magazine, due to its all Asian and Asian-American cast. The list of movies acclaimed for their diversity goes on. On-screen representation has evidently gained power in how we conceptualize anti-oppressive discourse; we constantly use movies and shows, not only for entertainment, but as an integral part of our activism. Admittedly, representation in the media has advantages: it serves to raise awareness and break down stigmas about marginalized groups of people, and starts conversations about oppression in accessible ways. These positive aspects have allowed representation to often be valued over other forms of activism, and it is now seen as an essential path to an equal society.

Representation in the media has advantages: it serves to raise awareness and break down stigmas about marginalized groups of people, and starts conversations about oppression in accessible ways.

However, advocating solely for representation supposes that representation in mainstream Western media will improve the lives of marginalized people. The rhetoric behind these calls for representation is that the inclusion of marginalized people in mainstream media, through the telling of meaningful stories, is meant to be empowering. Yet this assumption is made without any real empirical proof. Yes, representation is essential to a diverse society and, yes, representation today is infinitely better than two decades ago. However, while it is true that seeing Muslim women on TV can help reduce Islamophobic stigma, there is a difference between the positive impact that this representation has and the actual socio-economic benefits that it fails to create. The increasing presence of Muslim people in the media we consume did not reduce the rates of Islamophobic incidents in the United States or the level of employment discrimination they face. Similarly, while the recent representation of trans people in mainstream media through celebrities like Laverne Cox, or characters like Nomi on Sense8, does contribute to a deconstruction of the stereotypes about trans people, it did not prevent the number of deaths of transgender people in the United States from reaching an all-time high in 2017.

When activists rally around the idea that representation matters, they essentially advocate for large-scale, mainstream, Western-centric representation that will do little but make marginalized people relatable to dominant culture. Therefore, media like A Wrinkle in Time and Sense8, which are acclaimed for their portrayals of people of colour, are also produced with the enjoyment of white people in mind. Systemic oppression comes from the belief that white, Western culture is superior to others, and should have supremacy over other cultures. Our representation in mainstream media can therefore feel like a liberating experience, not just because we recognize ourselves, but because we receive the recognition we crave from the very people who alienate us. The creation of diverse stories in a media industry that is inherently oppressive isn’t liberating; it only attempts to fix a superficial aspect of systemic oppression by promoting diversity in the most visible spheres of society. Movies like Crazy Rich Asians or Love, Simon, which are hailed as “good representation” by mainstream coverage, do not bring anything revolutionary to the table. When these movies feature people of colour and LGBTQ+ people, but only present a representation based on white, Western, heterosexist storylines, they do not affect any change on society. If the representation we so often call for can only come through an oppressive mainstream platform, it is unclear how it can ever be liberating in itself.

However, while it is true that seeing Muslim women on TV can help reduce Islamophobic stigma, there is a difference between the positive impact that this representation has and the actual socio-economic benefits that it fails to create.

Additionally, representation in movies and shows is by definition temporary, and therefore only relevant for a limited amount of time. This impermanence prevents representation from creating long-lasting change. The momentum that surrounds certain TV shows and movies is nice while it lasts, but ultimately also enables people to consider themselves “allies” for having watched shows like Black-ish and Orange is the New Black. While it is exciting to see marginalized people excel on screen, the temporary nature of representation in mainstream media hinders anti-oppressive actions. In a capitalist system, representation also results in the commodification of resistance, rather than the creation of systemic change. When activists raise questions of diversity and oppression in society, capitalism manages to absorb these criticism and turn them into profitable media that will satisfy our desire for representation, without changing anything meaningfully. The movie industry makes billions of dollars every year, and the inclusion of representation stems from the knowledge that it will sell, not from an explicit desire to end the oppression of marginalized people. Oppressive media that exist within Western society creates, and funds, oppressive types of representation. This co-optation of the criticism of a sexist, homophobic, white supremacist, capitalist society through the creation of “quick-fix,” temporary representations does not achieve anything significant.

In a capitalist system, representation also results in the commodification of resistance rather than the creation of systemic change.

This is not to say representation shouldn’t be something we advocate for, but this supremacy of representation as an end goal rather than a tool in our activism is misleading and inefficient. The idea that representation can be an end in itself, rather than a means to an end, is not only deeply flawed, but also helps maintain the systemic alienation that marginalized people face in Western countries. Representation in an oppressive media system for the consumption of privileged people can’t be our sole aim. Effective resistance requires empowerment and real change, not just media representation. We also cannot co-opt radical criticism by advocating for representation in movies and shows without examining the systemic problems that create this oppression in the first place. The social, political and economic alienation of marginalized people, of people of colour, of LGBTQ+ people, of people with mental illnesses is not solely due to a lack of visibility; it comes from historical institutionalization of racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism in Western society. When we, as activists, ignore this reality, we essentially enable oppressors to ignore it as well. Anti-oppressive initiatives should aim further than “representation in the media,” and if this advocacy for representation prevents us from creating meaningful change, then we need to stop giving it so much importance.

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I Am a Witness to Genocide https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/i-am-a-witness-to-genocide/ Mon, 12 Nov 2018 11:00:51 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54237
I Am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts premiered in Quebec on October 29. The screening took place at Cinema Politica, a nonprofit venue at Concordia University dedicated to providing a platform for independent consciousness-raising cinema. The film, directed by Yusuf Zine, is a documentary rooted in the story of 14 Rohingya youth, many of whom are either refugees or children of refugees.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Burma who are Indigenous to the land, but have experienced generations of persecution and violence. For this reason, hundreds of thousands have fled to many countries including Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Canada.

In I Am Rohingya, the protagonists create a play based on their own and their families’ experiences fleeing Burma within the past decade. These experiences range from a three-year-old seeing her best friend get shot, to a family travelling by foot to the Bangladesh border. The screening was followed by a live Q&A with the director, one of the Rohingya actors, Ahmed Ullah, and a student of Buddhism who uses interfaith work as a tool for activism, Michelle McDonald.

Western news outlets have only recently started to cover the oppression of Rohingya people, even though the issue has been ongoing for over a century.

The film opens with the first rehearsal for the play and spans the following eight months, leading up to the opening night. The documentary mixes scenes of play rehearsals with historical information about the settlement of the Rohingya in Burma and their conditions in 2017. At the end, the film showcases the play itself. Switching between history and the process of putting the play together created a dialogue between the past and the present. In this sense, the oppression of the Rohingya is shown as both a historical fact and an emotional portrayal of human suffering.

The beginning sequence shows what information a Google search of ‘Rohingya’ gives. In .65 seconds, 21,300,000 results pop up, primarily recent news sources with horrific images and various think-pieces from Canadian and American journalists. Western news outlets have only recently started to cover the oppression of Rohingya people, even though the issue has been ongoing for over a century, and when it comes to reporting the situation, there is much misinformation and doubt concerning the validity of the coverage. Many countries, international organizations, and media sources are still hesitant to refer to the situation as a “genocide,” and those that do are labelled as false and untrustworthy by extremist Buddhist nationalists. Rarely does one learn about the Rohingya from an actual Rohingya person, and therefore most sources lack the full story. This theme is present throughout the film and sets up the importance of the play as an opportunity for some Rohingya people to reclaim their own narrative. The play’s script was written entirely from the accounts of the 14 Rohingya people, making them the tellers of their own stories.

Sympathy and solidarity with the Rohingya is minimal and the Western world’s Islamophobia has made world leaders complicit in this genocide.

Zine is not himself Rohingya, and described his experience of directing the film and play as an outsider, saying that he felt he had no place dictating how Rohingya people should tell their own stories. The documentary showed the careful balancing act between a theatre professional guiding a project featuring inexperienced actors, and his ensuring that the play remains the creation and the perspective of the Rohingya youth. During the Q&A session, Zine explained that, due to the nature of the project and his place in the conversation, he had to veer away from traditional Western theatre practices such as the idea that “the director is the boss and the script is untouchable.” Indeed, the play script changed from day to day, which Zine described as unthinkable to many in the theatre community. Yet, that was inevitable here, as the show was not the vision of a director but the telling of the story of the Rohingya people.

Although the documentary does not delve deeply into the religious strife between Muslims and Buddhists in Burma, it touched on how stereotypes about these religions affect the global perspective of the genocide. Sympathy and solidarity with the Rohingya is minimal and the Western world’s Islamophobia has made world leaders complicit in this genocide. In contrast, Buddhists are generally depicted as peaceful and nonviolent, and so are most in the film. It was very important to Zine, Ullah, and the rest of the crew to not paint an anti-Buddhist picture. Zine revealed that an effort to find Buddhist supporters of the Rohingya was made, but ultimately with no luck. One of the interviews for the documentary showed a Toronto-based Buddhist leader claiming that “Rohingya do not exist.”

Many countries, international organizations, and media sources are still hesitant to refer to the situation as a “genocide.”

The end of the film presents a duality between relief and tragedy. The actors perform their play to a sold out venue, finding confidence and solidarity with one another in the process. However, these sequences of hugging teenagers and proud parents is juxtaposed with footage of massacre, looting, and the burning down of Rohingya villages in Burma. These conflicting sentiments fuel the film’s overall call to action: to act in solidarity with the Rohingya against genocide. Before the screening, Zine told the audience, “once you watch this film, you will become a witness to genocide, and there comes a duty with that.” Many of the Rohingya youth are now activists, speaking at the United Nations and meeting with politicians. The documentary highlights its hopes that the next generation will be the leaders of change and tells the audience that they must act.

I Am Rohingya’s website provides the following information on how to get involved: “some of the organizations [that you can donate to or volunteer at] include: the UNHCR, Doctors Without Borders, World Food Program, BRAC, Action Against Hunger, UNICEF, and Islamic Relief. You can also call or message your local member of parliament, senator, or representative to question them on what your government is doing to condemn violence and support the Rohingya refugees.”

I Am Rohingya is available to stream on iamrohingyafilm.com.

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A Guide To Rad Podcasts https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/a-guide-to-rad-podcasts/ Mon, 12 Nov 2018 11:00:46 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54234 It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the podcasts that are available on the Internet. Finding content that is anti-oppressive, critical, and diverse can be extremely labour-intensive. While the web is home to some radical and safe communities, those can be difficult to find and navigate. In 2018, it was estimated that around 550,000 podcasts were actively being produced ­— and that figure does not account for the thousands that have been archived.

Each of the podcasts on our list finds its own way to dismantle popular ideas about gender, sexuality, race, and class. These podcasts help to undermine structures of power that rely on fixed normative definitions. By challenging these definitions, creators undermine power dynamics, and create engaging alternative media content.

2 Dope Queens

This podcast was a monthly comedy special before it was picked up by WNYC Studios. It’s hosted by Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, two Black women based in New York, who have made it their mandate to represent comedians of colour and comedians with queer identities. This show explores the lived experience that comes with racialization and homophobia in a way that is both laugh-out-loud funny and thoroughly thought-provoking. The podcast defines itself as focusing on “race, gender, sex, and other stuff,” and they often do venture out of “race, gender, and sex” in their comedy. Although the show is made by, for, and about women of colour, a lot of white guys also come on the show to do their standup. If that’s not for you, they have a spinoff show, aptly titled Sooo Many White Guys. This spinoff gets its title from the ridiculous amount of white men in comedy, and instead focuses on people who are underrepresented in the comedy world. The inaugural episode has Roxanne Gay on it. Though on surface level, its content is meant to make you laugh, the show’s very theme song asserts “how much whiteness is all over the place,” subverting the patriarchal white supremacist format that comedy often takes.

Serial – Season 3

Serial’s first season has been criticized for sensationalizing the criminal justice system. The first season was about potential miscarriages of justice, and yet it did not highlight the systemic oppression of marginalized groups in the justice system. This criticism did not go unnoticed by Serial’s creator Sarah Koenig. In the third season of the show, she examines not the spectacular but the banal. During a full year of reporting, Sarah went to Cleveland, Ohio, took notes and listened in at the city’s courthouses; the third season of the podcast is the product of that year’s research. It covers police corruption, violence, and brutalization, and explores the ways in which a judge’s racial prejudice can affect sentencing. The mundane practices of the law that lead to the systematic marginalization of racialized people are brought to the surface here. Each episode of Serial requires mental energy to unpack, but the storytelling is thoughtful and engaging. The podcast brings the implicit racism in the criminal justice system to the forefront of the conversation. The work is not about the large scale systems of oppression, but rather it focuses on the minutiae of courtroom life that lead to reiterations of abusive power relationships. As the season progresses, I hope that Koenig will tie together the smaller-scale power dynamics with the larger systems these power relationships have created. This is something she has yet to do, and without it, the work feels incomplete.

Canadaland’s Thunder Bay and The Imposter

Canadaland is an alternative media company that was started by McGill Alumni Jesse Brown. The work that the Canadaland team produces has helped subdue fears about the positive role of critical journalism. Canadaland, as a larger project, serves as a Canadian watchdog for big media companies and for the government, and also participates in cultural commentary and criticism. Two particularly engaging shows of theirs are Thunder Bay and The Imposter.

Thunder Bay is Canadaland’s long term investigative project, crowdfunded by their listeners. Since its release, it has become the number one podcast in Canada. The show is hosted by Ryan McMahon, Anishinaabe writer, media creator, and community activist from Winnipeg. The true-crime podcast deals with the high murder rates of Indigenous peoples as well as with local government corruption, both of which are consistently under-reported on by mainstream news sources. In the first episode, they discuss the death of Barbara Kentner, an Indigenous woman murdered in a hate crime by a group of white men. The investigative work of the show is important and sheds light on the institutionalized abuse of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Larger media conglomerates chronically ignore this reality, and often do not spend the time or money necessary to properly research a story, instead turning to “clickbait journalism.” Thunder Bay does the work of uncovering and pointing to specific cases in which racism against Indigenous peoples is glaringly obvious.

The Imposter is a show about “weird” Canadian art hosted by Aliya Pabani. It focuses on novels, music, comics, and movies, weaving a narrative that links the different art forms together. The show’s episode on Drake, for example, covers underpaid dance hall performers, a cellist’s experience in the studio with Drake, and an artist’s representation of the singer through fan art. The show is articulated with style, and the cultural criticism at its core is done with care. In Pabani’s interview with dancer Esie Mensah, the two women talk about positive representations of dance hall culture, and the unfair wages paid to dancers on music video sets. Mensah talks about her mixed emotions about working for 12 hours on set for the music video for “Work” by Rihanna and Drake and only being paid $200. This coverage presents an alternative to the popular perceptions of the song. Pabani highlights those elements of popular culture that are often overlooked by mainstream media.

We Want the Airwaves

On this show, Nia King, a queer mixed-race artist and activist, interviews politically-active trans and queer artists and artists of colour. King asks questions about what it means to be a radical and socially-aware artist. This podcast addresses the contradictions that arise when you make art in order to make money. The show’s purpose is not to relay a radical ideology; instead, it explores what intersectional identities mean in the art world, and how the lived experience of queer and trans artists and artists of colour is “radical” by virtue of being lived. The podcast’s honesty make the world of art and politics seem less perfectly curated and more like a work in progress. In the latest episode, Nia interviewed Arielle Twist, a member of the Cree nation, two-spirited, trans femme poet based out of Halifax. They talk about Twist’s upcoming poetry book, Disintegrate // Disassociate and the importance of queer Indigenous art. In their discussion of art criticism, they talked about how the art world is associated with overcomplicated academic language. They proposed that poetry, being effective and accessible, can be a tool to dismantle the classism implicit in art criticism.

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Trans People Under Attack https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/trans-people-under-attack/ Mon, 12 Nov 2018 11:00:42 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54247 On October 21, The New York Times revealed that the Trump administration intends to redefine sex under Title IX to refer to chromosomes and genitals at birth. The news, which is based on a legal memo, quickly spread around the globe and is considered an attempt to erase the existence of trans people under the law. The memo is part of an ongoing series of anti-trans positions taken by the Trump administration.

Title IX is a United States federal law passed in 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in all educational institutions receiving funding from the federal government. The United States does not guarantee constitutional protections against discrimination equivalent to those provided by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Trans and intersex students instead turn to Title IX when their rights are violated in schools.

The redefinition proposed in the memo would be executive rather than legislative. Thus, it would take the form of instructions drafted by the Department of Health and Human Services similar to the departmental instructions used by the Obama administration to extend protections to trans students. The instructions of the Obama administration were however repealed in February 2017 by the Trump administration, which is now considering putting in place instructions which would instead further violate trans rights.

The Trump administration, […] is now considering putting in place instructions which would instead further violate trans rights.

Executive instructions are basically an explanation of the government’s interpretation of the law. It is similar to how the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) explains on its website how it interprets the Income Tax Act: the interpretation can later be rejected by courts, but it nonetheless provides useful information regarding how the government will apply the law in the absence of a clear, contrary legal judgement. Since the US government is also in charge of receiving complaints under Title IX, trans students will have to turn to the courts for the protection of their rights.

But there is a significant difference between the CRA interpretations and this proposed redefinition by the Trump administration. Unlike the CRA’s interpretations, the interpretations adopted by the US government are granted deference. Normally, in court, all you have to do is convince the judge that your interpretation is the correct one. However, in the case of executive instructions in the United States, you instead have to prove that their interpretation is insufficiently persuasive — and in some cases, unreasonable.

The government’s decision to redefine sex a few weeks before the midterm elections is an overt attack on trans people. Trans youth […] could legally be excluded from [public] services.

The grant of deference to executive instructions explains why the case of young trans man Gavin Grimm, who sought access to the boy’s bathroom at school, was returned to the Court of Appeal by the US Supreme Court in March 2017. Although the Court of Appeal had previously ruled in favour of Grimm, the ruling was made before the Obama administration instructions were revoked by Trump. Since the instructions had been revoked by the time the case arrived before the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal was asked to judge the case anew.

The government’s decision to redefine sex a few weeks before the midterm elections is an overt attack on trans people. Under the proposed definition, trans youth will be forced to use the changing rooms and bathrooms associated with their gender assigned at birth, and could legally be excluded from services offered to the public simply because they are trans. And while trans youth are the main target, the redefinition will also severely impact intersex youth.

Intersex people have bodily traits at birth that deviate from the binary socio-medical model of sex, which mistakenly assumes that all people have traits falling into one of two lists: men have XY chromosomes, a penis, testicles, no breasts, and a hormonal profile dominated by testosterone; women have XX chromosomes, a vulva, a vagina, breasts, and a hormonal profile dominated by estrogen. As InterACT, an organization for intersex youth, points out in a statement opposing the Trump administration’s redefinition, people are born with different combinations of traits and cannot be fit into a simple bimodal model. By redefining sex under Title IX, Trump’s government will also legitimize discrimination against intersex youth, and could justify the imposition of more nonconsensual surgeries on intersex newborns under the guise of “correcting sex.”

Although executive instructions are neither absolute nor final, their effects exceed their legal reach. Dean Spade, a lawyer, professor of law, and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, warns us against the reassurances offered by some organizations that claim that the redefinition will have a limited legal impact. The true impact of the redefinition is not legal, but social. For each time someone gets punished for violating official standards — whether laws, regulations, or guidelines — hundreds more go unpunished. In Canada, there have been only a few hundred legal opinions rendered by judges involving trans people in the last twenty years, despite an estimate of over 20,000 cases of discrimination against trans people per year across the country.

The real danger is not losing in court — no matter how real it can be — but rather the threat posed by people who are already hostile to trans lives and will now feel further legitimized by government policy when acting out against trans people. Let us remember the rise of Islamophobic, homophobic, and transphobic attacks in public space following the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Less than a month after the election, white supremacist flyers reading “It’s time to make Canada great again!” — an allusion to Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” — appeared around McGill. Since then, the far right has gained in visibility and anti-trans attacks are being increasingly reported on social media.

The real danger is not losing in court […] but rather the threat posed by people who are already hostile to trans lives and will now feel further legitimized by government policy when acting out against trans people.

Validated by their government, US school employees and students will feel free to engage in harassment, discrimination, and violence against trans and intersex youth. The effect won’t be limited to schools either. We can expect an increase in hostility and violence against trans people in all public spheres — the guys who shouted “faggot” at me in the streets of Montreal will hardly be discouraged by this redefinition. We can also expect conservative administrators and judges to rush to interpret gender narrowly so as to exclude trans and intersex people. Employees and managers will prevent their trans coworkers from using the safest and most appropriate bathrooms. Homeless shelters and shelters for people fleeing domestic violence will follow suit. The most vulnerable of us will be the first to be affected.

I can only hope that this wave of discrimination will fall silent before the voice of our allies, some of whom have already spoken up. We will not be able to fight against the rise of conservatism without your help. Cisgender, dyadic people — you who are neither transgender nor intersex — be there for us. If you love us, keep us close. And if you have a heart, raise your voice against the rise of crypto-fascism. Canada is not exempted from the shifting political landscape. The Doug Ford and CAQ governments are proof that it concerns us all. We will need you.

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Loving Me Was Too Dark https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/loving-me-was-too-dark/ Mon, 12 Nov 2018 11:00:41 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54265 I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day you told me I was different. The day all my
childhood memories ran out of my room, fast like air escaping my lungs. My room no
longer safe, the white walls now tainted red.

The bright lights my dad had hung to scare the demon away became dimmer than ever.
I would stare at those lights everyday as I thought of the names of our children. The
dark wooden frame holding my bed together matched the colour of my heart. This was
my space to conjure the stories I would tell our children, the stories of us growing up
together. Under the blankets warming my 15-year-old self, I would tell my parents’
grandchildren of how mommy and daddy lived side by side, with only a couple of
houses dividing their love.

Each moment we spent together, I documented your smile, how your eyes reflected the
Earth’s finest soil, and how your skin was purer than the clouds. In the mirror of my
purple vanity, I see us having breakfast in our little kitchen nook with the sun pouring in.
Our kids staring in awe as we joyously narrate this story.

“That really happened?” they would ask in deep curiosity.

“Yes, that’s totally how I remember it! C’mon, you’re ruining the story, hun. I was on a
roll,” I say for myself, my small hand leaving the plastic frame of the vanity my parents
had bought me when I graduated elementary school.

I think what I loved about you most is how you made me feel.

You made me feel like I deserve to be here, there, and everywhere. In my body, in our
neighbourhood, and beyond that. You validated my experiences, my suffering, my pain.
Finally, a man, a fair one, with cheeks as red as my passion for him, unaffected by the troubles
of this world, and eager to conquer it all. And the best part — he isn’t scared to be seen with
me. Finally, a man with such privilege, playfully walking down the hallways with his arm
around me. Finally, a white man that can make me forget that I am me.

“I am not into Black girls, I think they look dirty.”

“You know, a group of white girls look clean. It’s just not the same when you see Black and Brown girls.”

“You know, you’re really not like a lot of Black girls in our area.”

This is the sound of love. This is what it sounds and feels like. It feels like going home after
a long day, like the sun after darkness, and like healing after pain. His saint-like ability to see
beyond my complexion and my body was love. To him, I wasn’t like the others. That was love.

I remember the day I lost you in colour. It had started as a foundation for another story
we could tell our kids in the park while having a picnic. I thought of the way I would
begin the story when I spoke to myself while lying down on the cold wooden floors of
my bedroom. Another memory to pull out of my memory box. We were doing our ritual
thing, hanging out in my room talking about life. You said:

“You know, I don’t understand why Black women are so angry all the time.”
“I think you should respect people’s preferences, I don’t like girls whose skin is darker
than mine, just like someone might not like someone shorter than them.”
“I don’t get why Black girls are so ghetto like that and put it on the internet, too.”

I loved how we could be so open around each other without any judgement. You really
trusted me, a Black girl, with your white thoughts. I laughed, but it was to hide the pain.
Your thoughts took away the blinders from my eyes, making me see how I really was.
The first man I ever loved couldn’t see beyond the darkness of my skin, the kink of my
hair, and society’s hatred of my body.

I had never seen the inside of your house because your parents didn’t like Black and Brown
people. Their space had more value than mine, so naturally it deserved to be protected.
You took away any love I could’ve ever had for myself, and when I cry to my friends, I
blame those everlasting tears on you.

I hate myself for loving you. I always wonder who I was to think I could fit in that
fairy tale. Stupid of me to think my outcome would be different, to believe that I was
worthy of being different. The man full of lightness doesn’t fall in love with a woman
full of darkness in fairy tales, he doesn’t save her battered and tired soul, giving her
the life that she is truly deserving of. The purity of his skin, the power of his body,
and the public acceptance of his presence are all things a girl like me could only ever
dream of. Finally, all these years of perfecting my speech, burning my hair, and trying
to look happy paid off.

The tribal pillowcases my mother brought me from Cameroon absorbed my tears. In
my bed, I imagined the life our lightly-melanated kids would never have to endure. It
would be vastly different from their mother’s. Theirs would be filled with validation,
gratification, and safety. How could their shimmering caramel skin or their bright eyes
make anyone cross the street in fear? My heart would fill with joy as I see my daughter’s
hair blowing in the wind, forever protecting her from the darkskin struggle. Her hair
bouncing as she runs to hug me, thanking me for the life I built for her. Her hair able to
grow quicker than her mother’s wit; her eyes brighter than her mother’s soul.

Growth. That is what I gave you. That is all I was good for. An endless bucket of
support that whenever life became too difficult. I made myself believe that this is what
you do when you’re in love.

Unconditional. The one-word story of the Black woman’s life.

Unconditionally unloved.
Unconditionally ugly.
Unconditionally used.
Unconditionally dark.
Unconditionally mad.
Unconditionally loud.
Unconditionally cold.
Unconditionally here.

Loving you made me blind; I couldn’t see how much you wanted me not to exist as I was.
Even love couldn’t transcend a Black woman’s stone-cold attitude or soften a Black
woman’s voice. Passed on from mother to daughter. Black woman to Black woman.
Darkskin femme to darkskin femme.

All love did was make me blind. Colour-blind to the very people who want nothing but
for me to not exist.

This is surely love.

]]>
Comic! https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/comic-3/ Mon, 12 Nov 2018 11:00:29 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54256 ]]> Justice for Nicholas Gibbs https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/justice-for-nicholas-gibbs/ Mon, 12 Nov 2018 11:00:18 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54260 content warning: police brutality, anti-Black violence

On November 4, over a hundred people gathered in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce to stand in solidarity with Nicholas Gibbs’ family and demand justice and accountability for his murder. Gibbs, a 23-year-old Black father, was shot five times and killed by the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) on August 21. The vigil, organized by Rest to Resist, started with an opening prayer by Kahnawake elders, followed by a land acknowledgement by the Black Indigenous Harm Reduction Alliance. Gibbs’ family led the procession from Trenholme Park to the location where Gibbs was killed. Erma Gibbs, Nicholas Gibbs’ mother, spoke at the event of the failure of police as first responders and asserted: “the police didn’t have the right to kill my son.” On October 30, the Gibbs family announced that they would be suing the city for over one million dollars in moral and punitive damages. The lawsuit accuses the police of using excessive force and not taking into account Gibbs’ emotional distress. This decision follows the release of a cell phone video taken by a witness at the scene of the murder. The video shows the police making no effort to de-escalate the situation once they arrived. Instead, they yelled at Gibbs in French to “stop,” even though he did not speak French. The officers then proceeded to shoot him five times, the last one in his back.

The lawsuit also alleges that police officers at the scene illegally took witness statements and asked their supervisors to review and approve them before the arrival of the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI; Bureau of Independent Investigations). The BEI is an independent body responsible for investigating police shootings. The lawsuit denounces the “unlawful and intentional wrongful acts” perpetrated by the police. Quebec laws state that officers should “withdraw themselves from the scene immediately after an incident and, independently of each other, write up their version of the events that led to the incident under investigation.” After this, the BEI should be notified “without delay.”

This follows multiple allegations over the past year of the SPVM violating the law regarding independent investigations, despite several warnings from the BEI. Officers regularly wrote reports in the same room, and interviewed witnesses after shootings, making it impossible to obtain objective reports or hold the SPVM accountable. As Jeremy Gibbs, Nicholas Gibbs’ nephew, expressed, “with a system like [this], no one will ever trust the police and no one will ever trust the system.”

During the vigil, Black Lives Matter activist Marlihan Lopez denounced how systemic racism, combined with lack of training, led to Gibbs’ death. She called on the city to “understand that police should never [be] first responders to issues of mental health crises.” Police officers are rarely trained for, or effective at, de-escalating confrontations, and are often more likely to cause harm than offer help to the individuals involved. Since 2000, 70 per cent of victims of police violence in Canada have had mental health issues, which, amongst other things, reveals the institutional failure of police officers to effectively use de-escalation techniques. As recently as 2013, Canadian police officers were trained to “shoot until the threat has stopped,” a tactic consistently proven to be dangerous and ineffective. During the vigil, Erma Gibbs reiterated the dangers of an armed police force, noting that they “may have a weapon of destruction [that] they don’t know how to use.”

Not everyone has the privilege of feeling safe in the presence of police. Throughout Canada, Black and Indigenous people are disproportionately killed by police officers, and the rate of police shootings has doubled over the last 20 years. In a white supremacist and ableist culture, marginalized communities are grossly overrepresented in cases of police violence, and are often in more danger once police arrive. We must remember that in many situations, calling the police is the wrong choice. Unarmed mediation, community protection, restorative justice, economic justice, direct democracy, and decriminalization are all propositions for a “cop-free world,” and enforcing these alternatives instead of calling the police could help prevent future tragedies.

Donate to the “Justice pour/for Nicholas Gibbs” GoFundMe to help the Gibbs family.

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Nicholas Gibbs Vigil: “The Police Cannot Be Trusted” https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/nicholas-gibbs-vigil-the-police-cannot-be-trusted/ Sat, 10 Nov 2018 03:34:23 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54230 cw: police violence, death, anti-black racism

On November 4, family and friends of Nicholas Gibbs, as well as members of the public, gathered in Trenholme Park to honour his life. Approximately 150 people attended the vigil. The Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) park was a block away from where Gibbs was fatally shot by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) on August 21.

On August 21, the SPVM were called to “break up a fight” on Montclair Avenue and Maisonneuve Boulevard. The police allege that Gibbs had a knife, that lethal force was necessary in the altercation, and that they acted in self-defence. In a video released by the Gibbs family, taken by a witness from a nearby apartment building, police are heard saying that Gibbs has a knife, but the knife is not visible in the video. The video shows that the SPVM made no visible attempt to de-escalate the situation. It also shows the SPVM shooting Gibbs five times, including once in the back.

The family of Nicholas Gibbs is now suing the city for his death. In court documents, they say police used “excessive and disproportionate force.” They are seeking $1,035,000 in moral damages and $100,000 in punitive damages, as well as interest and legal costs.

The November 4 vigil began at Trenholme Park, where tea and coffee were provided by organizers Head & Hands and Rest to Resist. Joseph Aniataraken, a Mohawk Elder from Kahnawake, opened the gathering by giving thanks to land and nature, Anna Aude from the Black Indigenous Harm Reduction Alliance gave a land acknowledgement, and Marlihan Lopez from Black Lives Matter Montreal spoke about police violence in Montreal’s impact on those at the intersection of race, mental illness, and class.

Participants then marched north on Park Row East to Sherbrooke, east on Sherbrooke to Montclair, south down Montclair to Maisonneuve. The SPVM closed off all relevant streets and guided the march, but kept their distance as marchers chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace. Fuck the Police.”

At the site of Gibbs’ death, members of Gibbs’ family spoke: his nephew Jeremy, his sisters Tricia and Tamesha, and his mother Erma. Jeremy Gibbs thanked everyone for coming, and said that “seeing everyone here made [him] realize that people cared.” He expressed grief at his uncle’s death, saying “half of me is gone.” Erma Gibbs said “the police had no right to kill my son.”

The procession then walked along Maisonneuve  back towards Park Row East. An open mic was established: participants performed poetry, read their work, expressed solidarity with the family, and encouraged people to donate to the Gibbs family’s GoFundMe.

In an interview with the Daily, Marlihan Lopez from Black Lives Matter Montreal reiterated a sentiment expressed by many of Gibbs’ family members: “police should not be first responders to mental health crises. This has to stop. They’re not equipped to address these crises. We know that racial bias contributes; it intersects with ableism.” Many family members talked about Gibbs’ history of struggling with mental health problems, but focused on the SPVM’s inability to address the situation.

All speakers emphasized that the SPVM has proved that they are not competent first responders. Erma Gibbs said that police need to be better trained, especially since they wield weapons. As it stands, she said, “the police cannot be trusted.”

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SSMU Fall 2018 Referendum Endorsements https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/ssmu-fall-referendum-endorsements-2/ Fri, 09 Nov 2018 23:10:20 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54219 Creation of an Anti-Violence Fee Levy – YES
The McGill Daily editorial board endorses a “yes” vote for the creation of an Anti-Violence Fee Levy (AVFL). The AVFL will be an opt-outable charge of $0.45 per undergraduate student per semester. The fee will be used to fund the Gender and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP). The GSVP is an important step towards a survivor-centric approach to sexual violence, and will provide prevention training on campus. The AVFL is imperative to fund the GSVP, as SSMU’s current budget cannot otherwise sustain its implementation.

Arab Student Network Fee – NO
The McGill Daily editorial board endorses a “no” vote for the Arab Student Network (ASN)’s $0.50 fee levy. The fee levy serves them to host events, provide price discounts to students, subsidize internships, and install a SSMU mini-course. ASN is an “official SSMU Service representative of secular and non-political interpretation of unified Arab culture, [that seeks to provide] the appropriate Resources, Support, Referral, Awareness and Education inspired by the enriched heritage of the Arab world, for the enjoyment and benefit of the entire student body, as a whole.” The apolitical and secular fundamentals of ASN have been a cover for the association to promote a whitewashed, “palatable” Arab culture. In a recent interview with The McGill Daily, ASN President Atassi was asked about the controversy around the ASN’s Nas Daily event. Atassi said he “contacted SPHR [McGill Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights] telling them [he has] been informed that police are coming to the event.” Individually contacting student activists who oppose the event to inform them of police presence is, at the very least, intimidatory. SPHR activists at McGill face particularly strong pressure and intimidation tactics from students, the administration, and external actors like Canary Mission to censor their political stances. It is unacceptable that a student association would intimidate students with police presence, especially considering that these students as pro-Palestine activists already face increased policing. In the same interview with The McGill Daily, Atassi stated that he considered “Free Palestine” to be a “slur.” Even though this association is named “Arab Student Network” and claims to benefit “all students,” it intimidates and alienates Palestinian students, pro-Palestine students of colour, and allies on campus. ASN needs to show accountability for its actions by making amends to SPHR and Palestinian students for alienating them. We invite students to vote “no” to make sure ASN knows that it cannot build upon anti-Palestinian fundamentals without consequences, and for it to engage in a process to truly include students whose culture they claim to promote.

Plate Club Fee – YES
The McGill Daily editorial board endorses a “yes” vote for the renewal of the Plate Club’s $0.14 opt-outable fee levy per semester. The Plate Club provides free dishware rentals to individuals and groups at McGill such as Midnight Kitchen. According to the Club, their capacity for initiatives beyond lending dishware has been limited due to lack of funds. This fee levy would allow Plate Club to better provide the service they already offer and further reduce McGill’s carbon footprint.

Charity Fee (Renewal) – YES
The McGill Daily editorial board endorses a “yes” vote for the renewal of the Charity Fee. The opt-outable fee of $0.52 per semester contributes to the SSMU Community Engagement fund, which is accessible to all SSMU members who have not opted out. The Community Engagement Fund is a source of financial assistance for clubs on campus undertaking community engagement projects, and any SSMU club is able to apply for access to this funding for their projects.

Environment Fee (Renewal) – YES
The McGill Daily editorial board endorses a “yes” vote to renew the $1.25 environment fee per semester. The fee goes to the SSMU Environment Fund (The Green Fund), and provides assistance to student-led sustainability initiatives at McGill, but also for the SSMU Environment Committee “to run a variety of free workshops, events, panel discussions, and more for the McGill community.” In the past, it has been used to support the Flat Bike Collective, the Plate Club, and Midnight Kitchen. The Green Fund is also used by the SSMU Environment Committee to offer free workshops and events, which have included Zero Waste workshop and panel discussions about sustainable living.

Renaming of McGill’s Men’s Varsity Teams – YES
The McGill Daily editorial board endorses a “yes” vote to rename McGill’s Men’s Varsity Teams. A full explanation is available here. Change the name!

SACOMSS Discretionary – YES
The McGill Daily editorial board endorses a “yes” vote to restore SACOMSS’ Discretionary Funding. The motion would allow the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) to use some of their funds more freely in order to “sponsor individuals, groups and events outside of [their] organization that are aligned with [their] anti-oppressive, survivor-focused mandate and undertaking work that [they] are currently unable to do.” SACOMSS is a critical volunteer-run student service for the McGill community “committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault and their allies through direct support, advocacy, and outreach.

You can vote at this address: ssmu.simplyvoting.com

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“This is No Longer a Safe Place” https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/this-is-no-longer-a-safe-place/ Mon, 05 Nov 2018 17:00:08 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54168

On August 28 2017, the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) officially apologized for “the events that took place during different police operations in gay bars and clubs during the ‘60s to the ‘90s.”2 Emphasis on bars and clubs. Purposeful omission of parks and public washrooms. Homophobic policing practices on the island of Montreal are far from over. With the collaboration of the Services des Grands Parcs, three neighbourhood police stations in Montreal have launched coordinated attacks on men who use the wooded areas and public washrooms of parks for the purposes of consensual sexual encounters with other men. Similar projects have been launched by the Service de Police la Ville de Longueuil (SPAL), the Service de Police de la Ville de Saguenay (SPVS), the Service de Police de la Ville de Québec (SPVQ), and the Sûreté du Québec (SQ).3

Using their knowledge of gay cruising practices, plainclothes cops continue to harass, ticket, and arrest men who seek out sexual companionship in places other than those officially recognized and legally sanctified by heterosexist sexual norms. Having co-opted our shared understanding of location, plainclothes cops are able to exploit, in a discrete, and largely unforceful manner, our need for affection and sexual companionship.

The number of arrests made within the context of these supposedly gender- and sexuality-neutral “anti-indecency” operations is alarming. Together, the SPVM, the SPAL, and the SPVQ have arrested at least 300 men for cruising in public spaces since 2007.4 I say “at least” because the statistics obtained by filing access to information requests with these police services did not include statistics for certain projects or years. Equally as striking are the sums of money that the Service des Grands Parcs has spent trying to make parks on the island of Montreal less attractive to men who have sex with men. A conservative estimate suggests a sum of approximately 2.2 million dollars.5

Knowledge of gay cruising practices has made it remarkably easy for private security forces and police services to entrap men who have sex with men. Thwarting their ability to do so requires that we understand the tactics that police services use in order to entrap us while cruising. For reasons that will be explained below, police services in this province tend to make use of sections 173(1)6 and 271(1)7 of the Canadian Criminal Code when hunting down men who have sex with men. Criminal code accusations are not the only tactics currently being used by cops to harass men who have sex with men. In an underhanded attempt to mask the homophobic nature of their repressive operations, Longueuil police have started using a seemingly mundane municipal by-law to crack down on men having sex with men in public spaces.

Modus Operandi

Accusations under section 173(1) of the Canadian Criminal Code

Currently, Section 173(1) is the most common accusation being made against gay men in the province of Quebec. Section 173(1) makes illegal the willful performance of “an indecent act in a public place in the presence of one or more persons, or in any place with intent to insult or offend any person.” Section 173(1) takes after its now repealed predecessor, section 157,8 which prohibited acts of “gross indecency” and was almost exclusively used for the purposes of persecuting homosexuals. Like section 157, section 173(1) is terminologically vague; the term “indecency” is (purposefully?) left undefined. This feature of section 173(1) has made it the weapon par excellence of homophobic police in the province. Drawing on an analysis of a homophobic police sting published in the December 1980/January 1981 issue of La Berdache,9 and on municipal court rulings 10 describing these stings, we have done our best to expose the strategy of undercover cops who lay charges of “indecency” under section 173(1).

The first step to any “successful” operation involves selecting a known gay cruising ground; however, in most, if not all cases, the selection process can be completely foregone thanks to a heterosexist public that actively reports sightings of men engaged in “indecent” activities with other men (or so police say). Once a cruising ground has been selected, the officer, now in plainclothes, picks a spot and loiters (sexily?). Though he is obviously not interested in any form of sexual exchange, the “success” of the operation depends upon his ability to convince other cruisers that he is interested in having a sexual encounter. To avoid being accused of entrapment, however, the cop cannot express this interest verbally (if he does, the courts are much more likely to see through his little game); instead, he expresses his interest by purposefully failing to object to the non-verbal sexual propositioning of other cruisers, as well as by staying put and taking on the role of the passive, voyeuristic observer.

Let us recall that for charges to be laid under section 173(1), two requirements must be fulfilled. First, an “indecent” act must take place. Second, this “indecent” act must be committed in the presence of “one or more persons” or “with the intent to insult or offend any person.” Though “indecency” is left undefined, an examination of two recent court cases in which police laid charges of “indecency” against gay men suggest that police understand this term to mean exposure of one’s genital organs for the purpose of sexual gratification.11 For this reason, the undercover cop waits until the clothed foreplay is over and a sexual act begins to reveal his true identity. Once the cruiser has unclothed the lower portion of his body, the first requirement of the “crime” has been fulfilled. As we have seen, for the accusation to hold in court, the sexual act must have been committed in the presence of “one or more persons.” This is where the second undercover cop makes his appearance. After having lurked unnoticed, he now appears to witness the sexual act. The second requirement is now fulfilled and a charge of “indecency” can be laid against his unsuspecting victim.

In many cases, however, the requirement that the act be performed in front of “one or more persons” is given a lax interpretation both by police and the courts. In R. c. Martin, a 1997 court case involving a plainclothes cop and a cruiser in Parc Angrignon, Judge DENAULT slyly circumvents this requirement by arguing that the plainclothes cop was a member of the public at the time of the interaction 12 (how convenient!). For the plainclothes security guard provoking a sexual encounter between himself and a cruiser in the washrooms of Montreal’s Eaton Centre back in 2017, on its own, the fact that other people “auraient pu voir le PRÉ se masturber13 (could have seen the defendant masturbating) was seen as fulfilling the (seemingly?) more stringent criterion that the act actually be performed in front of “one or more persons.”

Last year’s Eaton Centre arrest, though it was carried out by a private security firm rather than by state agents, is characteristic of the kinds of operations carried out by plainclothes cops in the province of Quebec for the purposes of laying accusations under section 173(1). For this reason, and for reasons that will soon become clear, this arrest it is worth dwelling upon a bit longer. According to the police report written by the arresting officer, the events surrounding the cruiser’s arrest happened as follows:

“We arrived at the Eaton Center to meet [REDACTED], head of Eaton Centre security who informed us that the man was being detained after having masturbated in front of the urinals of the Eaton Centre. He began by explaining to us that such behaviour represents an important problem in the Eaton Centre. Since a few weeks, men have been showing up at the urinals in order to masturbate. They frequently make their way there in order to meet other men for the purposes of masturbating in front of the urinals. According to the security guard, seven men have been caught performing indecent actions in the washrooms of the Eaton Centre. In order to remedy [the ‘problem’ of consensual sexual encounters between men], [Eaton Center security] installed cameras in the 3rd floor washrooms of the Eaton Centre and a security guard works in plainclothes in order to catch individuals in the act.”[…]
“Using the cameras, they notice the defendant make his way to the urinals, around [TIME STAMP], located in the 3rd floor washrooms of the Eaton Centre. They therefore send their plainclothes security guard [REDACTED]. […] The defendant exchanges a few glances with security guard [REDACTED]. About 2 or 3 minutes later, the security guard notices the defendant’s erection and that he is making thrusting movements while holding his penis, all the while looking at [REDACTED]. The security guard notices the man masturbating. […] When security guard [REDACTED] notices the defendant masturbating, he exits the washroom and communicates with the security control centre in order to proceed to the arrest of the defendant”
[my emphasis].

In order to exculpate the plainclothes agent, the arresting officer fudges the amount of time during which the cruiser and the plainclothes agent exchange glances. Video footage of the events show the plainclothes agent exchanging glances with the man for a period of five to six minutes – exchanging and holding gaze is a common way of determining interest and consent. On his way out of the washrooms, the cruiser is tackled to the ground by numerous security guards—a fact that is conveniently omitted from this incident report. The report continues:

“Agent X then asks the defendant why he comes to do this at the Eaton Centre. The defendant responds by saying that the washrooms at the Eaton Centre represent an important meetup spot for homosexual people wishing to have sexual exchanges with men.” […]
“The Morality division of the SPVM is aware of the problem affecting the 3rd floor washrooms of the Eaton Centre. It has been a recurrent problem for many weeks.”14

At the beginning of this report, security head X claims that the “problem” of cruising is a problem that dates back only “a few weeks.” This claim is grossly misleading. The ninth floor washrooms of Chez Eaton, the now renovated and renamed mall after which Montreal’s Eaton Centre is named and beside which Montreal’s Eaton Centre currently stands, were used for cruising as far back as the early ’80s.15 More upsetting, however, is the way in which, a few moments after the cruiser informs X that the third floor washrooms in the Eaton Centre are a well-known meetup spot, the officer writing the report reaffirms in his closing lines that the “problem” of cruising “has been a recurrent problem for many weeks.” The cops performing the arrest overlook the defendant’s attempt to historicize his action, choosing instead to reassert the narrative that has been fed to him by both security personnel and the SPVM’s morality division.

To cast the defendant as a threat to public safety, security and police actively sought to dehistoricize the phenomenon of cruising. To do so, they tell tales of men suddenly flocking to public washrooms to engage in sexual behaviours. The phrase “since a few weeks, men have been showing up at the urinals in order to masturbate” is so much more scary than the phrase “since first opening its doors, Eaton Centre washrooms have served as a meeting ground for men seeking consensual sexual relations with other men.” By dehistoricizing the defendant’s act, security and police effectively polemicized the defendant’s act — an act that is otherwise common, mundane, harmless, and dare I say, hot. When security and police say that the “problem” of cruising is recent, what they really should be saying is that cruising is a phenomenon that they have recently gotten into the habit of problematizing.


Accusations under section 271(1) of the Canadian Criminal Code

Police in the province of Quebec continue to use charges of “sexual assault” to punish men who engage in consensual sexual relations with other men. Police documents reveal that between the years of 2012 and 2013, the SPVM was ready to make use of this section of the criminal code within the context of at least two “anti-indecency” projects — on that targeted Parc Angrignon (Opération Sentier) and the other that targeted Maisonneuve Park and le Boisé de Pères (Opération Narcisse), all of which are well-known cruising grounds.  The SQ is known to have made use of this article of the Criminal Code during its undercover operations that took place back in 2010 on Île Melville — another gay cruising ground.16

Accusations under section 271(1) are made in much the same way as those that are made under section 173(1). A plainclothes cop places himself in or around a known cruising ground and waits. This time, however, he is not waiting for an unsuspecting cruiser to show him his genitals, nor is he waiting for his accomplice to witness any exhibitionistic act. This time, he is waiting for the cruiser to touch him. Once the cruiser touches the cop, he is arrested, and a charge of sexual assault is laid.

The truth, however, is that plainclothes cops do not just “wait” for their victims to “fall” into their traps; they actively court them, misleading and manipulating them every step of the way. The following is the testimony of a man who was arrested for “sexual assault” on a plainclothes cop in the Parc de l’Île Melville back in 2010. It does remarkable job at highlighting the kinds of misleading foreplay that plainclothes cops actively engage in when trying to “catch” men who have sex with men. More than simply loitering around and waiting to be touched, the undercover cop purposefully maintains the gaze of his victim, adamantly pursues him through the woods, engages him in friendly conversation, conversationally suggests that he is gay, and finally, offers his victim his ass:

“Before leaving the park, around [TIME STAMP], I returned to the first parking lot, for a few minutes, to see if there were any men […] It was close to [TIME STAMP] and I was about to leave the area when I saw [PLAINCLOTHES COP Z] exiting the woods. He looked interesting. I therefore made my way towards him in a perpendicular fashion so that he could see me. He saw me. Once we had made eye contact, I turned around, retracing my steps telling myself that if he was gay and interested he would come in my direction. Which he did. We were about three meters distance from one another, standing up, without moving, looking at each other during a few minutes. He moved slowly, in a 90 degree arc-like fashion, back and forth, all the while looking at me with interest, but with a certain degree of reservation. This interaction lasted about 5 to 10 minutes. Because I was conscious of the fact that I was older than him, I interpreted his hesitation to approach me as a sign that after having seen me close-up, he was no longer interested in me and did not know how to leave without offending me. So, I decided to walk away from him in order to give him the chance to either part ways with me or to follow me if he
was interested.

In order to do this, I had to pass in front of him and he took advantage of this moment to speak to me, saying: ‘there [aren’t] many people.’ I answered in the affirmative, all the while making my way away from him and from the place where we found ourselves […]
In this way, I began a walk of almost one hundred meters south-west into the woods […] to be certain that he was interested in me, and to, in this way, avoid any misunderstandings. At first, I thought that he had gone, because I no longer saw him, so I slowed my pace and finally, after a delay of about two minutes, I could see him starting to follow me. While walking, I looked behind myself many times to see if he was following me, which he was. […] I stopped to drink some water and to let him catch up with me. Indeed, he caught up with me and we started a friendly conversation that lasted a couple minutes. We were a few feet from one another. […] I asked him if he was aware of the fact that this area was a known area for homosexual encounters and he responded in the affirmative. I asked him how he came about this knowledge. He responded by telling me that he had found this information online at gay411.com […]
There was a malaise between us because neither one of us was making any moves and we were just standing there, waiting.

Therefore, after a few minutes of conversation and of indecision, I asked him ‘what do we do now’ in order to determine what his expectations were. He answered by saying that he was‘ uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do in such circumstances’. I then told him that we could at least embrace one another. Strangely, he turned his back to me while continuing to face me, as if he was offering me his ass. I found his behaviour strange because I had only suggested that we embrace. In the context of gay cruising, though, there are ‘bottoms’ who are submissive, passive, and behave in this manner. I took one or two steps in his direction and put my right hand on his back, bringing him against me, gently, but firmly, all the while saying ‘no, come here’. We embraced one another, as one gives a hug  […]  To show him that I took the interest that he had previously manifested seriously, I dared a more intimate caress, sliding my right hand down his body towards his sex—over his pants […]  But as soon as he felt the contact of my hand getting close to his genitals, he pushed me back and told me that I was under arrest for sexual assault, showing me his police badge on which I saw the name [COP’S NAME].”17

Accusations under article 4.08a of municipal bylaw no. 81-1923 (City of Longueuil)18

Unsurprisingly, the Canadian Criminal Code is not the only body of law currently being used to legitimize the mistreatment of men who have sex with men by state agents. Municipal codes and park regulations prohibiting “indecent” or “obscene” conduct, play an important role in
this legitimation.

The following testimony comes from a man who was ticketed by a plainclothes cop for having violated article 4.08a of municipal bylaw no. 81-1923 — a municipal bylaw that prohibits the performance of “obscene” or “indecent acts.”

“I was cruising in [PARK NAME], in the parking lot close to [AREA NEARBY]. A plainclothes cop was waiting in his car. He tried everything to make me believe that he was gay. The tango lasted close to 30 or 40 minutes. Seeing as I wasn’t doing anything, he began to wander around my car, smiling at me. I was rubbing my inner thigh, never my genitals. Seeing that I was still not doing anything reprehensible (I was very much on my guards), he then approached the driver side door that I had left open (it was hot and this would allow me to more easily enter into contact with him if things took a turn in that direction) and pointed his crotch in my direction. I took this as an invitation to touch him. I touched his inner thigh just above his knee and he immediately took out his badge, telling me that I was guilty of committing an act of gross indecency” [my emphasis].19

Though “gross indecency” — section 157 of the Canadian Criminal Code criminal — was repealed in 1988, Longueuil police continue to use this term to designate the charges they lay against gay men in parks.20 This systematic misnaming is no error. Municipal regulations, like the article 4.08a, serve the same repressive function that section 157 did before it was repealed: that of punishing the existence and expression of non-heterosexual desires.

Longueuil police are not the only ones engaged in this systematic misnaming of charges. Last month, in an article entitled Parc Lafontaine: un «oeil magique» dans une salle de toilettes publique, the term was tellingly, but irresponsibly, tossed around both by Philippe Teisceira-Lessard, the La Presse journalist writing the piece and by Anik de Repentigny, communications director for the City of Montreal.

ACAB
“Security” camera in Marie-Victorin Park.
“Security” camera in Marie-Victorin Park.
“Security” camera in Marie-Victorin Park.

Accusations under article 5.03 of municipal bylaw no. 81-1923 (City of Longueuil)21

In 2016, Longueuil police convinced city council to pass a law making it illegal to walk on unmarked trails in four Longueuil parks, at least two of which are established gay cruising grounds. Their idea was simple. Cruising requires that men who have sex with men be able to access the less visible wooded areas of parks. Accessing these areas requires men who have sex with men to make use of unmarked trails. Cut off access to these trails and the cruising will stop.

The following “statement of offence” which details the events leading up the ticketing of a gay man in August of 2017 on Île Charron does a strikingly good job at highlighting the homophobic impetus
behind this law.

Where I was: Undercover operation in plainclothes on l’Île Charron, a location reputed for sexual exchanges between men in the unmarked trails. What I saw: I find myself at the end of the parking lot, in the hairpin bend. The defendant looks at me, I look at him. He therefore parks his car immediately in the parking lot right beside. I then make my way through the green space nearby, he exits his vehicle and follows me, I enter an uncleared wooded area where the vegetation is dense. The city does not maintain this area, in order to gain access to this area, I have to clear a path with my hands. The defendant follows me into this area and says to me: the paths are not like they used to be. He circulates in the unmarked path for a period of five minutes before returning to his vehicle, intercepted while he was re-entering his vehicle.”22

As if the first sentence of his statement were not incriminating enough, the plainclothes cop then goes on to make explicit reference to his use of the gaze — a gay cruising practice that has been widely documented by, among so many others, Henning Beck and Mauriz Lenzoff.23 As the above excerpt makes clear, the current tactics used by undercover cops hoping to lay charges under article 5.03 of bylaw no. 81-1923 are near-identical to those used by undercover cops hoping to lay charges of “indecency” or “sexual assault.”

To listen to previously unreleased audio in which a plainclothes describes his weekly sting, tune into CKUT 90.3 FM tomorrow November 6 at 5pm. The audio will also be available on CKUT’s Soundcloud after the show has aired.

Accusations under other municipal by-laws and other hokey and violent tactics

Longueuil police are not the only ones making use of seemingly unrelated municipal bylaws for the purposes of whitewashing their morality campaigns against men who have sex with men. In 2017, the municipal councillor of Saguenay, Marc Pettersen, had plans to pass a bylaw that would make it illegal to park one’s car near Parc de la Colline,24 a well-known cruising ground. This seemingly benign bylaw will make it possible for SPVS agents to harass men who have sex with men while simultaneously protecting themselves against accusations of sexual profiling. Following the much publicize nudity raids on Chutes Sainte-Marguerite (commonly referred to as the Gay Falls), the mayor of Saint-Adèle, Robert Milot, publicly announced his plans to limit access to the falls by means of a security checkpoint.25 To make his intentions less covert, Mr. Milot should equip the checkpoint with a sign that reads: “no faggots; no fucking.” 

To add insult to injury, at some point during the past decade, Longueuil police started delivering the tickets they issue to men who have sex with men directly to their victims’ home addresses 26 in the hopes of wreaking havoc in the personal and romantic lives of those men who do not openly admit to being attracted to or to having extramarital sex with members of the same sex.

Under certain circumstances, cruisers arrested under section 173(1) may be required by prosecutors to both register as a sex offender and provide a DNA sample.27 All cruisers arrested under section 271(1) are fingerprinted and are required to register as sex offenders and provide DNA samples.28

Imposing limits on freedom of movement is another tactic that police and private security agents use to discipline queer sexual desires out of existence. In R c. Major, a 1998 court case involving a cruiser and a plainclothes cop, Judge THEMENS ordered the cruiser to not find himself in or around Marie-Victorin Park.29 In the 2010 court case mentioned above, police ordered the cruiser not to find himself in the Parc de l’Île Melville between the time of his arrest and the time of his first court hearing.30 Again, in the 2017 court case mentioned above, mall security ordered the cruiser not to find himself in the Eaton Centre for a period of one year.31 By denying cruisers access to their preferred cruising grounds, security, police, and judges effectively deny cruisers the right to benefit from the presence and support of their fellow community members.32 Orders like these isolate individual cruisers from potential support networks, thus making it easier for authorities to subordinate them.

Homophobic politicians, security personnel, police, and judges will go to extreme lengths to both enhance their ability to subordinate men who have sex with men and to mask the homophobic motivations behind their raids. The list of tactics above, therefore, is not comprehensive. Many are the undocumented and invisible means by which police purge public spaces of queer bodies and sexualities.

Sign saying “uncleared trail. Access prohibited.” in Marie-Victorin Park.

Complacence and Complicity

Accusations made against cruisers using articles 173(1) and 271(1) of the Canadian Criminal Code and under petty municipal bylaws involve a number of false representations, purposeful miscontruals, and homophobic rationalizations. Plainclothes cops make their way to gay cruising grounds with the intent of being touched and of having us show them our packages. They want to have their bodies caressed. To construe consensual sexual encounters like these as “indecent” or “assault” is nothing short of perverse. Despite this perversity, some of the most “important”“community” organizations in the province of Quebec—those whose voices the state is most likely to recognize—refuse to speak out against homophobic state initiatives.

Community Organizations

Cruisers are not the only ones who have been subject to repression within the context of anti-‘indecency’ operations. A couple of years ago, two of REZO’s outreach personnel were forced out of Maisonneuve park by cops while distributing condoms in a wooded area know to attract cruisers.33 Despite this, REZO has refused to share information about the raids with the community.34 More than just refusing to warn the community, REZO Communications Director Alexandre Blais immediately sought to depoliticize the incident by blaming it on a few ‘bad’ cops 35 — this, immediately after having been presented with police documents revealing the existence of multiple state projects designed to purge parks of men who have sex with men.

The response of the Conseil des Gais et des Lesbiennes du Québec is even more alarming. In 2011, the then head of the Conseil, Steve Foster, met with the head of PDQ 38, Stéphane Bélanger, to discuss the «problématique» of cruising in Parc Lafontaine. M. Bélanger arranged this meeting for the purposes of asking for the Conseil’s «collaboration en matière d’information à transmettre à la communauté gai».36 If the Conseil had taken on this task, PDQ 38 would have both absolved itself of the unsavoury (politically unwise?) task of ordering faggots not to fuck in the park and successfully pinkwashed its morality raids. This is not what happened. Rather than legitimizing the raids by accepting an underhanded request to act as the mouthpiece of homophobic brutes, Mr. Foster seems to have provided Mr. Bélanger with implicit support he wanted by failing to speak out loudly enough against this initiative.37 The current head of the Conseil Marie-Pier Boisvert has simply chosen to ignore our emails.

Though seriously disappointing, the Conseil’s response — or lack thereof — is not nearly as troublesome as the response of MIELS-Québec, an organization that provides support services to people living with HIV-AIDS in the Quebec City region. In 2009, this “community” organization partnered with the Service de Police de la Ville de Québec for a two day operation called Opération Rendez-Vous.38 During this operation, MIELS’ outreach worker, Philippe De Carufel, would “bait” cruisers, provide them with condoms and lube, and then suggest that they take their sexual activities elsewhere. Once De Carufel had identified a cruiser, police would arrive on scene and “inform” the cruiser of potential fines and criminal proceedings.39 During this two day operation, MIELS, using entrapment-like tactics, actively sought to make visible, and thus, policeable, the sexual population whose well-being it purportedly cares most about — a sexual population that was already vulnerable to illegitimate state intervention prior to this revolting collaboration.

“Our association with police is interesting, because it will allow us to inform the men that there will be repression.” De Carufel’s statement to the press is chillingly similar to the instructions given to officers conducting arrests of men who have sex with men on the island of Montreal a few years later. Arresting officers performing “anti-indecency” operations in Angrignon Park back in 2011 were told to “inform offenders of the repression to come.”40 Rather than engaging in the kinds of solidarity work that would have contributed to the well-being of men who have sex with men, during this two-day operation, MIELS chose to exploit the relationship of trust it had previously built with men who have sex with men in order to engage in precisely the kinds of threatening talk that police would soon identify as being key to purging parks of men who have sex with men — talk that can only be described as moralizing and disciplinary. 

For its part, Interligne (formerly Gai-écoute), has simply chosen not to respond to any of our emails.41 Depoliticized, these community organizations are of little help to those of us who inhabit the margins of the queer community, where non-compliance with heterosexist sexual norms continues to act as justification for police violence.

Closing Remarks

Testimonies of men arrested or ticketed during stings reveal that cops actively court their victims by smiling at them, courting them while sporting full-on erections, staring at them for extended periods of time ranging from 20 to 50 minutes, and by approaching their victims and offering to engage in touching of a sexual nature by means of suggestive body language. The truth is that plainclothes cops play an active role in seducing their victims. The truth is that those of us who fail to conform to heterosexist sexual norms are continually made targets of illegitimate state intervention. The truth is that the morality raids never ended.

Most of the names and badge numbers of the cops or security agents performing the above-mentioned operations have been omitted to protect the identities of the men concerned. It is important to recognize the violence implicit in this silencing. In order to protect the identities of the men whose testimonies we have shared, certain source documents have not been made public.

To see notes and references, visit https://www.mcgilldaily.com.com/2018/11/this-is-no-longer-a-safe-place/

For a more detailed discussion of police documents off of which this piece is based, consider attending Cruise Control’s upcoming participatory talk (in French) Violence, sexualité, et surveillance, which will be held on November 6 at 12:30 within the context of UQAM’s Semaine Contre la Surveillance.

For more information about the raids or to stay in touch, follow @cruisecontrolmtl on Facebook.

Tune into CKUT on November 7th at 6pm to hear Audio Smut’s coverage of the Mont-Royal  cruising scene in the 70s and 80s.

 

Endnotes

Citations are, for the most part, in the form of the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (8t h edition).

1 Quote in Title: Cynthia Reason. “Toronto police cracking down on public sex in Etobicoke park,” Toronto Star (12 Nov 2016), online.
2 Kalina Laframboise. “’A long time coming’: Montreal apologizes for past police raids targeting LGBT community”, CBC News (18 august 2017), online.
3 “Indésirables: Police persecution of men who have sex with men in the greater Montreal area, 2008-present”, Even the Dust (22 February 2018)
4 The number of men arrested is likely much higher. The documentation I obtained throughout the course of my research is incomplete. Statistics for certain years are missing and no statistics were obtained for Projet Narcisse. For documentation containing the number of men arrested within the context of anti-‘indecency’ projects in Montréal, see Québec, Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, Projet Sentier: Statistique Parc Angrignon, (Montréal: SPVM, 2017); Québec, Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, Actes Indécents au parc Lafontaine, by Sergent Jean-Guy Trudel (Montréal: SPVM, 2011). at 1; TVA Nouvelles. “Surveillance accrue dans le parc des Îles-de-Boucherville”, TVA Nouvelles (16 september 2008); Pascal Pinette. “Les rencontres indécentes s’y poursuivent”, TVA Nouvelles (31 august 2011); Michel Angers, “Parc de l’Île Meville. Moins d’actes indécents: Une quarantaine d’opérations policières ont été menées par la SQ depuis le printemps”, Le Nouvelliste ( 28 octobre 2010); Québec. Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, Déroulement chronologique de l’incident, by Henley Coulombe 7366 (Montréal: SPVM, 2017); Alexandre Clément 11721, Address (testimony before the court, delivered at the Longueuil Municipal Court, 31 June 2018) [unpublished].
5 The amount of money spent by both the Service des Grands Parcs and the SPVM is likely to be much higher than 2.2 million dollars. This figure represents the combined costs of all the modifications made in Parc Angrignon and Parc Maisonneuve as well as the cost of anti-‘indecency’ signs installed in Parc Maisonneuve by the SPVM. It does not include the costs of the modifications made to Parc Lafontaine nor does it include the cost of police patrols and operations in any of the above-mentioned parks. For a detailed breakdown of city and police expenditures, see Québec, Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, Informations sur le projet visant a enrayer indécence dans le parc Maisonneuve (Montréal: SPVM, 2017). at 1; Montréal, Conseil municipal, Projet 343000: Projet de reamenagement des grands parcs, Sous-Projet 0534300-015: Parc Maisonneuve – Réfection des sentiers (Phase 2) – Travaux, no SIMON 111881 (23 October 2008).; Montréal, Comité exécutif, Résolution CE 11 0583 (8 août 2012); Montréal, Comité exécutif, Résolution CE 12 1282 (8 août 2012); Mario Masson (Chef de division, Parcs-nature et espaces riverains, Direction de l’aménagement des parcs et espaces publics, Service des grands parcs, du verdissement et du Mont-Royal), email message to author, July 7 2017.
6 art 173(1) CCC
7 art 271(1) CCC
8 art 157, repealed
9 Le Berdache no16 (december 1980-janvier 1981) at 35 and 36
10 R. c. Chamberland (21 december 2010), Montréal 109-144-220, (C.M. Montréal) and R. c. L. (H.) (9 march 2012), Montréal 110-092-855 (C.M. Montréal)
11 Ibid .
12 R c. Martin (2 december 1997), Montréal 196-109839, (C.M. Montréal)
13 Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, Déroulement chronologique de l’incident, by A (Montréal: SPVM, 2017)
14 Ibid .
15 Supra note 9 at 34
16 Nancy Massicotte. “Moins d’actes indécents: une quarantaine d’opérations policières ont été menées par la SQ depuis le printemps”, Le Nouvelliste (28 october 2010)
1 7 X’s testimony.
18 Article 4.08a of Longueuil municipal by-law 81-1923. online.
19 Y’s testimony.
20 See LCN, “Actes de grossière indécence en forêt”, TVA Nouvelles (15 september 2008); Pascal Pinnet. “Les rencontres indécentes s’y poursuivent”, TVA Nouvelles (31 august 2011); and Denis Theriault. “Un parc est envahi par des hommes en quête d’aventures homosexuelles” canoe.ca ( 26 august 2014)
21 Article 5.03 of Longueuil municipal by-law 81-1923. online.
22 Constat d’infraction abrégé (8 august 2017)
23 See Maurice Lenzoff, “The Homosexual in Urban Society” (1954) McGill University Thesis and Henning Bech, “When Men Meet: Homosexuality and Modernity” (1997)
24 Andréanne Larouche. “L’hiver n’a pas refroidi l’ardeur de certains visiteurs”, TVA Nouvelles (21 february 2018)
25 Annie Desrochers. “Un témoin choqué par une interpellation sur une plage «nudiste»”, Radio Canada (18 septembre 2017)
26 Denis Theriault. “Un parc est envahi par des hommes en quête d’aventures homosexuelles” canoe.ca (26 august 2014)
27 Cournoyer-Ouimet. “Article: 173(1).” Code Criminel Annoté 2018: Table des infractions en vertu du Code criminel et en matière de drogues et certaines lois connexes. T-89
28 Cournoyer-Ouimet. “Article: 271.” Code Criminel Annoté 2018: Table des infractions en vertu du Code criminel et en matière de drogues et certaines lois connexes. T-89
29 R. c. Major (16 june 1998), Longueuil 96-50736, (C.M. Longueuil)
30 Supra note 16
31 Québec. Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, Déroulement chronologique de l’incident, by Henley Coulombe 7366 (Montréal: SPVM, 2017)
32 For this piece of analysis, I am indebted to B.
33 Alexandre Dumont Blais and Frédérick Pronovost, in discussion, 2075 Rue Plessis, Montréal, March 12, 2018
34 Ibid .
35 Ibid .
36 Québec, Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, Plan d’action concentré du parc La Fontaine en sécurité urbaine , by
Inspecteur Stéphane Bélanger (Montréal: SPVM, 2011). at 1
37 In discussion with M. Foster, bar Renard, October 2017.
38 Sylvain Trépanier, “Les rencontres homosexuelles impromptues visées” canoe.ca (13 août 2009)
39 Ibid.
40 Québec, Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, Plan d’action concentré du parc Angrignon en sécurité urbaine , by agente Geneviève Pépin (Montréal: SPVM, 2011). at 1
41 Pascal Vaillancourt, the head of Interligne never followed up on our request to help spread the word about the raids to the community. No response to our follow-up email which was sent on the 6t h of May 2018.

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Small Attendance, Big Motions https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/small-attendance-big-motions/ Mon, 05 Nov 2018 15:48:31 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54191 On October 29, about 50 students gathered in the New Residence Ballroom for the Fall 2018 General Assembly (GA). Because the quorum of 350 people was not reached, the General Assembly became a consultative forum. Any motions approved at the GA are now recommendations awaiting ratification at the November 1 Legislative Council.

The consultative forum passed the nomination of Members at Large for the Board of Directors and the Auditor for the Fiscal Year of 2019 for Legislative Council to consider. Executives faced questions about spending incurred by the aftermath of SSMU’s Halloween party at MacDonald Campus. Following students vomiting and trashing the buses on the way to the event, the bus company decided to not provide return trips. There is a clause in the bus company’s contract allowing them to refuse service if their buses are damaged. SSMU then told students to take cabs or Ubers, and that they would be reimbursed by SSMU for the trip. The cost of reimbursement was estimated by SSMU executives at the GA to be around $10,000. VP Internal Matthew MacLaughlin justified the cost by arguing that they could not let everyone pay for the misbehavior of some.
Current SSMU President, Tre Mansdoerfer, also presented a “blacklist” initiative which would bar students who have demonstrated harmful behaviour from participating at SSMU events.

During the question period, questions were raised regarding the newly deregulated international tuition for international students. VP University Affairs, Jacob Shapiro, responded that SSMU advocated for international tuitions not to be raised for current students, but that they would be raised incrementally for future students.
SSMU executives reported on their first semester, and on the new division of tasks since the resignation of former VP External Marina Cupido.
All their individual reports are available at ssmu.ca/ governance/general-assembly/ general-assembly-2018-2019.

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Outside the Bubble Nov. 5 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/outside-the-bubble-nov-5/ Mon, 05 Nov 2018 15:41:14 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54189 Voter Suppression in the U.S.

American midterm elections will be held November 6; however, states across the country are passing legislation to suppress the voting rights of people of colour. Carol Anderson, chair of African-American Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, GA., told the CBC that she believes laws with the goal of suppressing Black votes are being drafted with “horrific efficiency.”

Georgia has an “exact match” policy, meaning that a voter registration form can be rejected if it contains a single misspelling. On October 24, only two weeks before midterms, a judge ruled that voters must be notified of their status and given a chance to fix the error. 70 per cent of voters denied due to the exact match policy have been Black. The exact match policy is enforced by chief election officer Brian Kemp, who is running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams. If she wins, Abrams will be the first Black female governor in the entire country. Kemp has been endorsed by President Trump and has a largely white voter base.

Dodge City, Kansas, which is predominantly Hispanic, has closed its only polling place: residents will now have to travel further to access a polling location. This will require voters to take more time off from work in order to vote, and will require access to a vehicle; as, the nearest bus stop is a mile away from the new polling place. Dodge City is currently being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for intentionally misleading voters about the location change.

North Dakota has a new policy in place which will target Indigenous voters. North Dakota was the only state in which voters were not required to register before election day and provide proof of residency in order to vote. Now, voters must provide a residential address, which proves difficult for many Indigenous people, as the five reservations in North Dakota do not use the same addressing system as the rest of the state. The policy, put in place by a Republican-led Legislature, is being introduced prior to the potential re-election of Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, who narrowly won a Senate seat in 2012 due to support from Indigenous communities.

Khashoggi Case Drags On

Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2. Khashoggi was a journalist for The Washington Post, a U.S. resident, and a critic of the Saudi royal family. He went to the consulate to retrieve proof of his past divorce so he could marry his fiancée. Initially, Saudi officials had denied any knowledge of what happened inside the consulate. Later, they retracted their statement, instead saying the journalist died in a fist fight. After weeks of pressure by Turkish prosecutors, they admitted that the murder was premeditated, and identified 18 suspects in the case.

The Turkish government, unhappy with the way the investigation has been proceeding, has insisted that the suspects face prosecution in Turkey, but Saudi Arabia demands that the case be dealt with on their own grounds.

Currently hindering the investigation is the unknown whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body. “I want to bury the body of beloved Jamal. Therefore I am asking once again, where is his body? I believe that the Saudi regime knows where his body is. They should answer my demand,” said Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée. Despite pressures from Turkish officials, Saudi authorities have not yet forfeited any information pertaining to the location of the body.

The United States has hesitated to get involved in the issue, although they have condemned Saudi Arabia’s resistance to a full investigation. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated it would be a “handful more weeks” before the U.S. could retaliate. Security interests, such as U.S. access to Saudi Arabia’s petroleum resources, could be at stake if the U.S. decides to further their investigation of Khashoggi’s death.

Merkel Resigns from CDU

On October 29, Angela Merkel announced in an address to her party that she will not be seeking re-election as Germany’s chancellor when her office term ends in 2021. Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) suffered heavy losses in regional elections in the German state of Hesse. Merkel took responsibility for the CDU’s losses in the local elections, and confirmed to party members that she will not run again for the leadership of the party come December. The party’s decline in popularity is related to the rising right wing and anti-immigration sentiments, notably in the form of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party. The question is now whether Merkel will be able to last her full term. It is speculated that the current coalition between her party and the Social Democrats may collapse before the next national elections, in which case a snap election would be called.

Whichever direction the upcoming elections take, changes at the top of Germany’s political hierarchy can have important implications for all of Europe; the announcement of Merkel’s resignation itself has shaken confidence in the Euro within the region. Her successor will face major challenges. Reshaping the European Union after Brexit, Europe’s response to refugees, strengthening European unity, and clashes with governments in the west (the United States and the Trump Administration), and to the east (Russia and the Kremlin) are all factors the next chancellor must deal with. Merkel has confirmed that she will not be formally backing any of the candidates for the position.

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