The McGill Daily Not sufficiently subVERSive since 1911 Tue, 18 Sep 2018 03:32:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The McGill Daily 32 32 International news Mon, 17 Sep 2018 14:52:20 +0000 Swedish elections update

Sweden’s two primary rival blocs remain in political deadlock following this week’s general election. Voting took place on September 9 to elect the 349-member Riksdag, with an overall voter turnout reported at 84.4 per cent. The Riksdag, the national legislative body, elects the Prime Minister of Sweden. All votes are set to be counted and recounted prior to the final result being announced September 16.

The two rival blocs, the red-green coalition and the centre-right alliance, are separated by a narrow margin, with the red-green leading by only one seat. Each coalition holds close to 40 percent of the vote. The far-right Sweden Democrats received close to 17.6 per cent of the vote, up 13 per cent from previous years. Currently, the country is led by Stefan Lofven, who brought the red-green Social Democrats to power in 2014.

This is the first general election since Sweden opened its doors to 163,000 refugees in 2015, the highest per capita of any European country. Since then, Sweden has seen the prominence of smaller, outlying parties vying for and winning seats, including the far-right Sweden Democrats, who in the past election received 17.6% of the votes, a 13% increase from previous years. Both blocs have openly refused to consider the Sweden Democrats as a coalition partner. Led by Jimmie Akesson, the party has been historically anti-immigration, neo-Nazi, and neo-fascist.

Though Lofven stated he intends to remain in power, other parties have already called on him to resign. Experts foresee months of coalition talks ahead between the rival blocs.

Since publishing, the final tally of votes was released. Lofven’s Social Democrats won the most seats with 28.3 per cent of the vote. No coalition has formed a government yet.

Hungary and EU clash on migrant policy

‘We don’t see these people as Muslim refugees. We see them as Muslim invaders,’ said
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in an interview with German newspaper Bild. This statement is the latest in his country’s notoriously anti-immigrant sentiments and policies. After winning his third consecutive election in April, Orbán has been in control of Hungary since 2010. Orbán is currently standing off with the European Union over anti-immigration laws, after years of clashing with the EU on this very issue; Hungary has been opposed to accepting refugees since 2015. On August 24, Hungary passed a law which raised even more concerns for the EU. The “Stop Soros” bill, passed in Hungarian parliament prevents people from supporting migrants or ‘presenting immigration in a favourable light.’ The punishment for violation is imprisonment. After several warnings to refute this controversial law, the European Parliament took action against Orbán for the “Stop Soros” bill. While the European People’s Party (EPP), which Orbán was once a member of, stopped supporting him earlier this month, both Poland and Czechia have pledged to support Hungary by to vetoing any EU action against them.

Rescue boats in the Mediterranean halted

NGO rescue boats in the Mediterranean are no longer operating. Their absence poses a serious risk to shipwrecked migrants crossing from Libya to Europe. The number of drowning incidents while crossing the Mediterranean is rising, with the risk of death three times higher than before. The sea has not had rescue boats operating in its waters since August 26, the longest period without their presence since rescue operations began in 2015. This is also the second time this year that there’s been a lapse in service.

The current lack of rescue ships is a result of anti-immigration policies from both the Maltese and Italian governments, who have also closed their ports to rescue vessels. Since late August, only the Libyan coastguard patrols the water, and they have an agreement with Italy to take refugees back to Libya. People found in these waters are usually held in detention centres operated by Libyan officials. According to multiple aid agencies, including Doctors without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee, migrants held in these camps are often subject to torture and abuse.

The Italian closed-ports policy, implemented earlier this year by Italy’s new populist government, led to the country’s lack of involvement in a recent shipwreck rescue. Hundreds of migrants drowned in early September, after a boat’s engine failed and an insufficient number of rescue crews were supplied by coastal countries. Both Italian and Maltese governments have since been criticized for choosing not to send rescue ships, or to allow NGO ships to dock on their shores.

An influx of migrants in recent years, most crossing the Mediterranean via Libya from Africa and the Middle East, has been met with a rise in xenophobic policies across Europe. Many migrants are political asylum seekers, and many are children. The international Organization for Migration, a UN organization, states that almost 13,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean since 2014.

McGill one step closer to divestment Mon, 17 Sep 2018 14:33:04 +0000 McGill Senate convened for its first meeting of the 2018-2019 academic year on September 13. Principal Suzanne Fortier discussed this year’s increased participation in, and success of Frosh, as well as the demographics of the current student body. There was an influx of students from China, who make up the second largest part of the international student body, followed closely by students from the United States, France, and Saudi Arabia.

Fortier also brought up the conflict between Canada and Saudi Arabia arising from a Twitter dispute between Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the subsequent effect it has had on students, particularly on postdoctoral fellows and graduate students at the University. Fortier stated that approximately 350 McGill students were forced to return to their country following the declaration from the Saudi Kingdom.

In addition, Fortier announced that McGill and other universities up in the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire (BCI) have scheduled meetings with the leadership of all political parties in preparation for the upcoming Quebec elections on October 1. Fortier stressed the importance of this meeting, saying that the universities will “do our work to put on the agenda the important role that higher education plays in this province.”

The central topic of the Senate meeting revolved around the motion set forth by Professor and senator Gregory Mikkelson, an associate professor in the School of Environment and the Department of Philosophy, regarding the possibility of McGill fully divesting from all fossil fuel companies.

In May 2018, the Steering Committee reviewed Professor Mikkelson’s motion and agreed to defer the question of divestment to the Senate during the September meeting. The Committee then decided to propose their own motion inquiring into whether Senate members believe it to be “necessary or desirable to express an opinion on a matter that has been considered by the Board [of Governors] (BoG),” and whether it was within their responsibilities as a Senate.

“ This is a matter that is both outside the authority and confidence of the Senate” said Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi. He did not believe Senate should hear the issue of divest “because there already exists a clear mechanism in the Board’s own procedures through which members of the McGill community can bring this matter to the Board’s attention.” He continued, “I’d argue that action by the Senate is undesirable because it would violate a fundamental aspect of the division of authority on which the bicameral nature of the university’s governing structure depends.”

In an interview with the Daily, Jed Lenetsky, one of the chief organizers of Divest McGill said, “I think the overwhelming interest in the vote and in the issue, and […] also the passion that so many people had about this issue” make it important for the motion to be brought to the Senate. Lenetsky also spoke of McGill’s past instances of divestment, including McGill’s apartheid divestment, which was carried out in Senate. “Senate does have a historic role in these discussions at McGill […] Given that the Senate is a larger, more diverse body and [its] stronger connection to the McGill community it definitely made sense for the Senate to step in,” explained Lenetsky.

After many questions and comments regarding whether this motion proposed by the Committee was to be applied to all future issues or topics, Professor Mikkelson read the motion. Citing three circumstances over the past decades in which McGill chose to divest from problematic investments, the motion urges the current Senate to follow suit. McGill divested from South African companies, including fossil fuel corporations in 1985, and then again during the 2000’s from corporations doing business in Myanmar, as well as from tobacco companies in 2007. Mikkelson urged the university to reconsider their “current policy of investing endowment funds in fossil fuel corporations.”

Mikkelson expressed his desire for the board to go into more detail into how divestment should be executed at McGill once the motion passed. Important questions that need to be answered, such as the feasible time frame for divesting, were the subject of his questioning. Mikkelson also brought up more logistical issues, like whether or not McGill should divest immediately, or start with a subset like the University of California system, who are now selling off all coal and tar sand stocks.

McGill is among many universities in Canada that have not yet divested; the University of Laval being the only university in the country which has committed to divestment. During the meeting, Mikkelson pointed out that McGill currently invests in 29 corporations, nine of which are in coal, and eight of which are in tar sands.

“In the Canadian context it’s especially important for public institutions to insist on targeting both ends of our fossil-fuel problem, […] the consumption end by working toward carbon neutrality, and the production end through our investment policy,” stated the Senator.

“[In the winter 2015 semester] [Canadian financial magazine]Corporate Knights came out with a study showing that if the Board had divested when students first asked them to and re-invested the money in greener stocks the university already owned, McGill would have made a profit of $40 million dollars,” Mikkelson pointed out.

While McGill as a university has not yet pledged to divest, the issue of divesting brought to the Board’s Committee to Advice on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) initially in 2013 by Divest McGill, is strongly endorsed by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), the McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT), and the faculties of Arts, Law, and Environment.

Fortier, who sits on the Investment Committee, was asked if the motion passing in Senate would incite the Board to take any definitive action. She said that it would, and that she “[thinks] it is not accurate to say that the Board is not concerned, […] in fact our investment practices and policy have very much focused on these questions.” Fortier continued, “The Board now has a mandate in sustainability. […] [We] are not ignorant to these issues.”

Another Senator weighed in on the discussion, pointing out the reality of investment. Senator Bouchon explained, “we don’t control the companies in which [our managers] invest and in some of the investments we have to lock in those investments for five or ten years, so even if we decide tomorrow to divest we won’t see the impact [soon].”

The motion was subject to a last minute amendment in its wording, altering the original intention of forcing the Senate to create a committee on outlining how to divest, to one that has the Senate simply advising the BoG to divest from all fossil fuel companies.

Lenetsky explained what he believed the passing of this motion meant in the broader scheme of divestment at McGill. “The main significance is that it really showed how out of touch the BoG’s decision was in terms of where the McGill community is at on this issue,” he told The Daily. “If anything we’re more invigorated to do whatever it takes to make the will of the McGill community manifest itself in the BoG deciding on divestment. […] We have never had more of a community backing behind us.”

Amendment to the Amendment Mon, 17 Sep 2018 14:00:21 +0000 On September 13, the executives and representatives of Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) met for their first meeting this academic year. The meeting featured 2 guest speakers, Elections SSMU and the SSMU Gender Neutral Language researcher. A motion regarding the inclusion of both the Canadian Charter on Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter in the Standing Rules for the year was passed, and a policy regarding the VIP privileges of the VP Internal during events was debated.

Guest Speakers
In their presentation, representatives from Elections SSMU outlined their new elections timeline and goals for this year. They pointed out that during the 2018 Winter referendum, more people voted in just the questions portion than for SSMU executive positions. 1,500 people voted in the referendum, and 1,200 of those voted only on the question proposing a fall reading week. Longer nomination periods for elections are now in place, with hopes to open the internal regulations to also lengthen the extended nomination period. Elections SSMU also expressed desire to encourage more students to run for executive positions as most were uncontested. A motion to accept the proposed timeline was put forward later in the meeting and subsequently passed. Last February, SSMU passed a motion to de-gender their language; the Gender Language researcher position was set up and awarded a contract of 35 hours. At this meeting, the SSMU Gender Language Researcher presented some of their findings and recommendations, a few of which had already been implemented. First, the researcher spoke about their plans to address misgendering at council. They worked with Husayn Jamal, SSMU’s stand-in parliamentarian, to redraft Robert’s Rules, a manual used for parliamentary procedures, to accommodate instances of misgendering. “Councillors must address each other formally, usually in the form of councillor last name, and avoid referring to one another using third person pronouns to promote a cordial environment. Should the speaker notice the misgendering of another councillor, they should call this to the attention of the council in the form ‘before we continue with debate I would like to call attention to the pronouns specified on councillor last name’s placard.’ Should any councillor notice the misgendering of another councillor they should call this to the attention of the speaker on a point of personal privilege,” the researcher explained. While councillor placards already had gender pronouns on them, there were concerns of legibility. In order to address this concern, the Researcher implemented a colour-coded system for placards: green for councillors identifying as she/her, burgundy for those identifying as he/him, and black for those who go by them/them pronouns. While the researcher pointed out that these are not an exhaustive list of pronouns, they are the most common, and more pronouns and colours may be added as needed. This practice is now standard, unless a councillor requests otherwise, and a councillor may change their pronouns at anytime.

Council also passed the motion regarding the nomination of VP University Affairs, Jacob Shapiro to the SSMU Board of Directors. Shapiro was nominated to serve as the 4th member of the Board of Directors effective immediately as he is also the only executive eligible to be nominated to the Board. One of the more contested issues brought to the meeting was a concern raised by Law Faculty representative councillor Marie Pilote over point three of section 2.7, which outlines what “may be ruled as out of order by the Speaker at their discretion, subject to a successful Point of Order by Councillors.” Section 2.7.3 originally stated that any statements made which contravenes the the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Quebec Charter of Human rights and freedoms will not be tolerated. Pilote objected to the inclusion of reference to both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. “As a law student I find it odd that there is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms there because normally it’s for government and things, not for ruling relations between individuals […] It’s not that it is a bad document its just that the purpose of what I think is going on is more about respect between councillors, so it’s not the perfect tool to do this,” Pilote stated during debate. “The Quebec charter is more appropriate you could say because it can apply to relationships between individuals,” Pilote continued. “The Canadian charter […] is not the best fit.” Pilote continued fighting for the Charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms to be taken out of the standing rules, and only the Quebec Charter to be mentioned. There were protests from council members including Shapiro who said, “I definitely see councillor Pilote’s point, [but] I don’t [think] anyone’s trying to use this in a legal context. Both of these are documents that were […] supposed to set values. I think having them in our organizational structure is important for our values.” Arts Representative, councillor Rebecca Scarra expressed her thought on the matter: “As individuals who live in Canada and as a corporation that operates within Canada we should be held to the standard of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Arts and Science Representative Bryan Buraga was also in disagreeance with Councilor Pilote. “I understand what councillor Pilote’s arguments are […] but where I have problems with [removing reference to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] is the appearance of it—the symbolism [of] taking such a fundamental document, a document that’s supposed to encapsulate what it means to be Canadian out [of the section] I understand that it shouldn’t really apply to the situation, only the Quebec Charter should, but […] if there is no harm done by just keeping it in there, personally I’ll vote against it.” Councillor Sanchez put forward an amendment to the section which later passed. Section 2.7.3 now reads “statements that contravene the Charte des droits et libertés de la personne (Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms), and/or the spirit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [may be ruled as out of order by the Speaker at their discretion].”

VIP Culture at SSMU Events
VP Internal Affairs, Matthew McLaughlin, proposed a policy to deal with the history of power abuses by the VP Internal regarding alcohol consumption. McLaughlin pointed to the commonality of having bottle service for both the VP Internal and the Student Society Programming Network (SSPN), a move which often resulted in members from both organizations being severely intoxicated and unable to perform their duties. The policy stated that no SSMU funds should be used for alcoholic purchases for the executive, and that the executive shall not become intoxicated at events, in order to maintain an optimal mental and physical state. The sentiment of the policy was applauded, but it’s wording was criticized as vague and there were concerns over an absence of any punitive measures if the VP Internal or SSPN members were to become intoxicated at their events. An amendment put forward by councillor Sanchez to change the title to Policy on VP Internal Intoxication and VIP Culture at SSMU event passed, but the motion itself was set aside in order to discuss further motions. Arts Councillor Andrew Figueiredo, Senator Buraga, and VP McLaughlin left to attempted to implement the recommended changes. After councillors were assigned to their committees for the year, the policy was again put forward. However the solution reached by the caucusing parties, that “any accusation that the VP Internal became intoxicated to the point of that they were incapable of performing their duties […] be brought to the legislative council for a discussion and vote on possible disciplinary measures,” was still deemed insufficient. Councillor Sanchez motioned for the policy to be debated at the next council on September 27; the motion carried.

The meeting closed with reports from SSMU executives detailing their accomplishments over the summer. All reports have since been made publicly available on SSMU’s website.

STM Workers Deserve Job Security, Not “Flexibility” Mon, 17 Sep 2018 10:00:37 +0000 On August 16, the labour union representing 4,500 Société de transport de Montréal (STM) workers voted in favour of a strike lasting from August 18 to September 16. This is their second strike this year. On May 3, the union voted 98% in favour of a strike mandate from May 7 to May 12. This decision followed months of negotiation between the union and the STM.

Workers have been without a contract since January, and have called for a government mediator to resolve the dispute. During negotiations, the STM demanded more flexibility (read: precarity) when organizing work, by scheduling last-minute shifts and forcing daytime workers to take night shifts. The union has argued that these demands are unreasonable. Union chapter representative Renato Carlone said in a statement, “the management of the STM lacks respect for the 4,500 employees who provide millions of trips for Montrealers. In too many cases, the routes are completely unrealistic. These poorly planned trips stress passengers who take out their frustrations on drivers and [the latter] pay the price for the poor planning thatís creating serious workplace health and safety problems.”

The labour union is criticizing the STM for forcing maintenance employees to work unreasonable mandatory overtime hours, for poor shift scheduling, and for outsourcing tasks to private contractors rather than hiring more employees to handle them internally. Maintenance workers, including cleaning staff, mechanics, and electricians, typically work 60 hours a week. In addition, the union argues that bus drivers are working in increasingly difficult conditions, including construction zones, areas with lowered speed limits, and a greater number of cyclists on the road, but none of these conditions are taken into consideration when planning bus routes. Moreover, the number of buses in operation on the road has declined despite an increasing number of passengers, leading to overcrowding on lines such as the 51, 141, and 18. “We want to be respected for the good work that we do day-to-day,” said union representative Dominique Daigneault. “There’s an answer to their problem, hire more people. They need 300-400 more workers.”

The STM is the third most used rapid transit system in North America, and operates over 1,800 buses on 221 bus lines. For residents of Montreal and students at McGill, the public transportation system is essential to our daily commute and our civic life. Under the marketable pretense of “flexibility,” the STM’s proposals push workers into greater precarity and poorer work conditions. We must support the bus drivers, metro operators and maintenance employees in their struggle against the STM management to ensure the quality of the city’s transit system. STM workers deserve reasonable and safe working conditions, and they deserve our support and respect for providing an essential service to the residents of Montreal.


The Dance for Human Rights Mon, 17 Sep 2018 10:00:29 +0000
News about the purge of gay people in Chechnya, a republic in Russia, first reached international newsstands in April 2017. At that time, over a hundred members of the Chechen LGBTQ community had been detained, tortured, and killed by local policemen. The Russian government has continuously stalled the investigation into this matter, and to this day no officials have been prosecuted for these crimes.

Kosta Karakashyan, a Bulgarian-Armenian choreographer and dancer, worked with the organization Voices for Chechnya, now simply known as Voices, to offer support to the victims. To engage society on this matter and to ultimately put pressure on the Russian government, Karakashyan looked to his craft. His creation, titled “Waiting for Color,” was released on August 27. “Waiting for Color” is a short dance documentary film that shows solidarity with those impacted by the persecutions by focusing on the brutality and despair of the victims during their detainment. Through it, Karakashyan urges us to be compassionate viewers and proactive members of society, and to donate and provide support to the local LGBTQ community at

“Waiting for Color” is performed by its creator in a six-and-a-half-minute long monochrome dance piece. Set in an eerie Brooklyn warehouse, the film’s primary emotions are paranoia and hopelessness. When I spoke to Karakashyan, he told me that one of the most terrifying things for him about these persecutions is that undercover police men tricked victims into getting caught. It is this idea of surveillance and insidiousness that shapes the film’s overall ambiance.

Possessions such as “a moist towelette” or “a manicure set” may be harmless in the hands of Chechen women, but they are dangerous when carried by local men; they become the victim’s scarlet letter. It is as if his forehead is branded with the word “FAG.”

The choreography is marked by jagged repetitive movements which do not build up to anything, but rather disintegrate to the echo of biting lines like “we have proof that you’re a fag. You bring shame to our people. You shouldn’t exist.” The soundscape of the work, composed by Julien Leitner, is comprised of hollow music and distorted thumping sounds which gradually descend, as if to evoke a slowing heartbeat. Yet, the choreography is more directly led not by the sounds but by the victims’ testimonials. Collected from 33 survivors and made public by the Russian LGBT Network, the testimonies narrate the work throughout. As the heart and soul of the documentary, they are also the main conductors of the movement in the piece. In fact, Karakashyan’s dance is at times a reflection and at times a reaction to the lines that are being read, blurring the boundaries between narrator and character.

One scene follows the testimony of a Chechen man who was arrested and tortured on the suspicion of being gay. It constitutes a detailed inspection of the suspect’s clothing at the time of the arrest. Hissing into the speakers in a sinister murmur, the victim lists the inventory of the leather bag he was carrying, which ranges from “a moist towelette to a manicure set.” These possessions, harmless in the hands of Chechen women, are dangerous when carried by local men; they become the victim’s scarlet letter. It is as if his forehead is branded with the word “FAG.” Once exposed, the victim is arrested and disarmed of all belongings which propagate homosexuality. Then the torture ensues.

Yet, the choreography during the reading of this testimony does not reflect the idea of powerlessness. On the contrary, as the victim reveals the reason for his arrest, Karakashyan tightens his body into a poised, defensive stance, as if preparing for battle. He slows down and tenses his muscles, bringing the focus to his posture. While the speaker lists his belongings and draws ever closer to his verdict, Karakashyan’s body assumes a position that exudes strength. Here, he seemingly takes on the role of a toreador inciting a bull before plunging the spear into its body. The imagined bull is the cop, and the bullfighter the gay man. In this way, the victim’s feminine handbag is weaponized, and the reason for his detainment is turned into a source of power. This is not an attempt to romanticize or to negate the harsh reality of the Chechen persecutions, or of the countless cases of brutality against members of the LGBTQ community around the world. Instead, Karakashyan’s jarring choice of movement here carries tenacity, and it proclaims our right to fight injustice.

A sunlit background spurs out of the past monochromatic one, creating a disconnect between the grim reality and the hopeful future as envisioned by the dancer-artist. Karakashyan said that he wanted to put an optimistic spin on the work by using the image of a rainbow as a symbol of color and hope.

The title “Waiting for Color” is also juxtaposed against the bleak reality of the victims’ situation. As they lie in the torture room, humiliated and degraded for their alleged identity, the detainees are likely waiting not for colour, but for death. One testimony admits that “in that moment, we lost any hope of coming out alive.” While throughout the film Karakashyan is a silent visual mediator for the testimonials, here he faces the camera and utters the line in a distorted voice. In so doing, he inserts himself into the story, and imagines being in the place of the victim. When I spoke to Karakashyan, he opened up about this pivotal moment in the film and what he hopes it communicates. He said, “it is impossible for us to imagine what being tortured in that way and for those reasons feels like. I wanted the audience to confront how horrifying this is.”

Facing the macabre becomes inevitable in the following scene, as it depicts a physical embodiment of torture. Here, the sounds and background whispers intensify and are made incongruent to the jolted, writhing movements of the dancer. Karakashyan is fully immersed in the torture dance scene to the point of losing control. Although physical and psychological pain haunts the entirety of the film, this seemingly novel freedom and volatility of the movement give them a new form. The choreography in this scene emulates electrocution, and the pain from the torture practice is made even more visceral by Karakashyan’s gasps, shrieks, and his slicing movements which look like failed attempts at escape.

Suddenly, he wrenches himself out, making his escape. This episode takes the premise of the film to another plane, one of colour. A sunlit background spurs out of the past monochromatic one, creating a disconnect between the grim reality and the hopeful future as envisioned by the dancer-artist. Karakashyan said that he wanted to put an optimistic spin on the work by using the image of a rainbow as a symbol of color and hope.

He hopes that it is only a matter of time until people from all around the world can express themselves freely, and that until then, “we are all in the waiting room together; waiting for color.” He admitted that there is no positive outcome or conclusion to this case yet, but that the best thing we can do is to evacuate the victims and help them start a new life somewhere else.

Rainbow Railroad, a Canadian organization fighting for the rights of LGBTQ folks around the world, has helped immensely in minimizing the harm done to Chechen members of the community. Their support lies in orchestrating the relocation of a number of victims of police brutality. Karakashyan’s optimism for the situation derives from the fact that the number of police searches on members of the LGBTQ community in Chechnya decreased when this issue was finally addressed internationally last year.

Although we are still far from eradicating culturally-ingrained violence and hatred around the world, Karakashyan is adamant that staying vigilant and putting greater international pressure on the government to start an official investigation into the state’s abuse of power are crucial components to seeing tangible change.

50 Shades of White Mon, 17 Sep 2018 10:00:25 +0000 As a new generation of McGill students settles in and begins their classes, many will no doubt start to realize that the student body at McGill isn’t always what it is advertised to be. McGill prides itself on being Canada’s “most international university,” as claimed on their admissions website, with students “from over 150 countries.” Yet to me, like many others, arriving at McGill was an underwhelming experience. Walking along campus, on unceded land traditionally occupied by the Kanieníkeh·:ka, all we see is white. White people, white statues, white students, white faculty members. So where is McGill’s advertised “diverse, international population?” It takes some time to realize you’re staring right at it.

So where is McGill’s advertised “diverse, international population?”

Like most universities in North America, the international student body at McGill is astonishingly white. International students from white majority Western countries vastly outnumber those from non-white countries, at every level of study. An infographic (see the end of the article) made by Timour Scrève depicts the relationship between the countries McGill accepts its students from and these countries’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It dramatically visualizes the correlation between a country’s wealth and the presence of its nationals at McGill. There is without doubt a clear imbalance in the international admissions at McGill, with students from richer countries being much more likely to attend the University than others. Moreover, the GDP of these countries is heavily influenced by a history of colonialism and neo-colonialism, which still affects international students to this day.

Common colonizers have notoriously included the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands, among others. These countries continue to also be major neo-colonizers, along with nations such as Canada and the United States. By using their power to control and influence others, neo-colonialism is another way in which rich Western countries continue to exploit and harm developing countries. Interestingly, these Western countries are also the ones overwhelmingly represented in the student population at McGill.

McGill’s standardized testing and curriculum requirements for international students does not deviate at all from the oppressive admission standards Western universities have set. These requirements are often much more accessible for applicants from richer countries. They necessitate a high level of personal financial means, but also infrastructures, like testing centres and extracurricular activities, that poorer countries are not always able to offer. McGill admission standards do not take into account the unequal opportunities that countries offer to their students. However, this dichotomy between rich and poor overlooks the fact that most wealthier countries also have both colonial roots and white majority populations. McGill engages in neo-colonial behaviour by ensuring that only a certain privileged demographic is able to attend the university.

McGill engages in neo-colonial behaviour by ensuring that only a certain privileged demographic is able to attend the university.

What’s more, by accepting the majority of its students from wealthy countries, and neglecting to address the biased standard of admissions, McGill perpetuates the racist idea that people from rich white countries are somehow inherently more intelligent, more deserving and more interested in higher education than people from poorer countries.

As a result of colonial control and propaganda, colonized populations often experience a trend known as “colonial mentality” in which they begin to believe that the colonizers are indeed superior to them. This in turn leads to racial power imbalances and the continued oppression of people of colour. As a result of colonialism white people are often seen as more trustworthy, knowledgeable, and well-mannered. This racist belief is perpetuated by an overwhelmingly white faculty body, even in courses specific to the experiences of people of colour.

McGill continues to employ “diversity” as a major selling point in the marketing of the university to prospective students, only to accept way fewer people of colour than one might expect. The international people of colour who do matriculate are often faced with a disappointing reality. The diversity of the student body, as well as of the programs of study at McGill, are boasted about.
However, the faculties and professors that teach these classes are often white, and focus on course material by white theorists and writers. Faculties such as the Islamic Studies and Cultural Studies are notoriously saturated with a white student council and white professors, reproducing the neo-colonial concept that white people are the most qualified to teach and theorize on all topics, including those foreign to them. While McGill certainly isn’t the only institution neglecting to address its pervasive history of colonialism, it nevertheless is more vocal than many others about its quasi-diversity.

McGill continues to employ “diversity” as a major selling point in the marketing of the university to prospective students, only to accept way fewer people of colour than one might expect.

We need to hold McGill accountable for its neo-colonial practices and the damaging implications it has for its student population. McGill must acknowledge the colonial foundation for the correlation between admissions and GDP in order to start making changes towards allowing admission opportunities for students from less wealthy countries. The undergraduate admissions website still advertises having “30% of students from 150 different countries,” yet a closer look at our University reveals exactly what kind of international students McGill wishes to select.

Loco 4 Loko Mon, 17 Sep 2018 10:00:23 +0000 Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) employees have been on strike and off contract since March 2017. Striking employees are demanding compensation for overtime work. While they have asked for better pay, some workers are considering settling with the Quebec government on a proposed compromise: a lifetime’s supply of Four Loko.

The striking workers have been pressuring the Quebec government to intervene in the negotiations between the union and the liquor giant, but Premier Philippe Trois-Couilles declined the union’s request on Monday. Exclusive sources report he was apparently complaining to a colleague later on that “K’yaillent juste se verser un rhum and Coke pendant leur pause du midi I mean calmez-vous caliss” (“they ought to just pour themselves a rum and Coke during their lunch breaks and chill the fuck out”).

While most people are completely appalled at the Premier’s alleged statement, some appear to have taken it perhaps a bit too literally. On Tuesday morning, the SAQ board of directors agreed to the proposed compromise and put Four Loko back on the shelves. The proposal would also take the extra step of providing their employees with preferential prices on the recently-banned alcoholic energy drink. How generous!

One worker from their brand new pilot program has been able to work for fourteen days straight and claims he is loving his job more than ever! Our correspondent at the scene at the des Pins and St-Laurent SAQ report that the employee seemed jolly and energized, chanting “Beach day, everyday!” as he went about his duties. Although these new practices may be unorthodox, the employers are very pleased with the outcome of their first round of negotiations. Their PR team has even qualified it a “great success,” as Four Loko has been flying off the shelves and bringing new hope to the SAQ workers, and to the larger Montreal student community.

Even Premier Trois-Couilles is rejoicing over the new strategy. Sources say he has been spotted purchasing a peach-flavoured Four Loko in an SAQ near his home in Quebec City.

Black is the Warmest Colour Mon, 17 Sep 2018 10:00:09 +0000 In light of the recent decriminalization of same-sex relationships in India, it is important to keep reflecting on the LGBTQ+ community’s struggle for acceptance around the world. Representation in pop culture, music, and fiction is a key part of the acceptance of queer people within society. While most LGBTQ+ characters in TV shows and movies are cisgender white males, representation of queer women of colour has been increasing in recent years. Celebrities that identify as WLW (women loving women) have contributed to the ever-changing nature of queer culture by sharing their struggles regarding their sexuality, and by creating characters that tell the stories of WLW. Their increased presence serves to break toxic stereotypes and to denounce the over-sexualization of queer women of colour in mainstream media.

Historically, women of colour have always been in the front lines of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Yet, most of the artists, singers, and actors who publicly identify as queer today and receive a platform are predominantly white. Moreover, while movies like Love, Simon or Call Me by Your Name can be considered important for the normalization of gay relationships, there has been a growing number of queer women directors, writers, and actors seeking to accurately portray the narratives of queer women; recent movies such as The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Disobedience, or A Fantastic Woman feature queer WLW relationships.

After decades of seeing and identifying with the token queer woman, who often appears as a walking stereotype or trope, being able to access relatable and accurate stories about women loving women is a liberating experience for the queer youth. However, queer women from diverse backgrounds remain underrepresented in mainstream media; queer women of colour have long been looking for representation beyond Blue is the Warmest Color and Ellen DeGeneres.

Being able to access relatable and accurate stories about women loving women is a liberating experience for the queer youth.

Telling and listening to the stories of queer women in the Black community has always been essential. It is about creating narratives “for us, by us” that will be equally rewarded by the mainstream media. This happened with Lena Waithe, who won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series in 2017, for the “Thanksgiving” episode of the TV show Master of None. Not only did she make history by being the first woman of colour to get the award, she is also a proud Black lesbian who told her experience on television and was awarded for it. The episode narrates her coming-out story, dealing with issues of acceptance from her family and friends. Moreover, Waithe used her platform to address the topic of intersectionality for queer Black women, who are constantly confronted with a triple-standard within society because of their identity. Rather than turning our experiences into a tragic trope as most TV series have done, Waithe was able to represent the everyday struggles of queer Black women, as well as the instances of bliss that queer love can bring.

Other Black artists are using their voices to highlight the experiences of queer women of colour, like renowned singer and actress Janelle Monae. Openly referring to her queer identity in her single “Make Me Feel,” she then came out as pansexual in late April. She opened up about her personal life and struggles, and discussed the impact influential celebrities like her can have on their younger audiences. “I want young girls, young boys, non-binary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you,” said Monae. Many young queer women of colour have had to deal with stigmatization within their communities and have always been denied role models with whom they can relate. For many who live in countries where same-sex relationships are still punishable by law, seeing people with whom they can identify being proud of who they are provides reassurance and hope for the future.

Like Monae, other queer artists of colour raise awareness through their music or social media. Singer Hayley Kiyoko, nicknamed “Lesbian Jesus” by her fans, dedicates her entire discography to her queer identity and has been very outspoken about WLW acceptance. As an activist, she chose a more positive way to give space to queer women, by celebrating them in upbeat pop songs and artistic video clips. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram have also been used by Black celebrities such as Amandla Stenberg and Samira Wiley to celebrate their identities in a more informal way through sharing their experiences and loving relationships on social media.

For many who live in countries where same-sex relationships are still punishable by law, seeing people with whom they can identify being proud of who they are provides reassurance and hope for the future.

However, standing up for LGBTQ+ rights through art and activism outside of North America is a different struggle altogether. Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu presented her latest movie Rafiki, which explores choices a lesbian couple in Nairobi has to make between safety and love. She became part of the effort to normalize WLW relationships of colour. Set in the reality of Kenya, where homosexuality is taboo and can be punishable by five to fourteen years of imprisonment, the movie challenges the anti-LGBTQ+ climate of East Africa. Rafiki was banned in Kenya as it portrays an openly gay relationship. However, it made history by being the first Kenyan movie to be nominated at the Cannes festival, where it was praised for being a “lively, brightly performed film, impossible not to celebrate.” The depiction of young gay African women is still extremely rare in media today, and should be celebrated as a source of comfort considering the harsh reality Black queer women face everyday.

The fight for same-sex relationships to become part of mainstream media is far from over, yet we can see and feel the progress within the WLW community. We are not tokens or sexual objects shown for the pleasure of the male gaze. We are not tragedy porn or props to advance the plot of TV shows. It may not be much, but seeing accurate, fleshed-out depictions of our identities on TV, or having mainstream artists share our stories helps us stand for ourselves. I believe every instance where our voices are heard and our narratives validated is an effort towards acceptance of queerness for women of colour.

Let Me Tell You a Story Mon, 17 Sep 2018 10:00:05 +0000 jQuery(document).ready(function($) {$('#trigger-warning').modal();});

Storytelling is having a moment. Or rather, being the oldest art form and the core of cultural memory and human connection, it always has. Yet, since the advent of the podcast and of internet streaming, listening to strangers tell stories is a more popular pastime than ever before.

Everything can now be recorded, saved for later, and consumed in the cosiness of the bedroom. Similarly, the entertainment industry is growing towards more intimate media. As we desert physical public spaces, our craving for human connection lingers, grows: we want to be seen, addressed, and let in. Storytelling answers that need.

Matt Goldberg, producer and founder of the monthly storytelling showcase Confabulation said that “nine years ago, [he] was a big fan of all the big storytelling shows like The Moth, or This American Life. [He] complained a lot about the fact that [he] couldn’t do this [himself ]; there was no stage in Montreal for telling stories.” So, he made one: in 2009, Goldberg hosted the first Confabulation night, filling the 35-seat space of the Plateau’s Freestanding Room.

As we desert physical public spaces, our craving for human connection lingers, grows: we want to be seen, addressed, and let in. Storytelling answers that need.

The series is now in its ninth season, hosted at the Phi Centre, and sold out on their opening night last Saturday, September 8. Confabulation now exists in Montreal, Toronto and Victoria. Under indigo lights suspended on white museum walls, and amid a crowd of older professionals drinking PBR tall cans (the only cheap beer fashionable enough to sell for $6), the gathering felt on trend.

Goldberg estimates that the audience is usually 60 per cent newcomers and 40 per cent returning fans. The result shows that the majority of the people attending are people with bold ideas for a date night.

To be a frequenter at an event where strangers exchange stories, one must either be an empath or possess a perverse kind of humour. The pleasure of viewing, or taking part in, storytelling events lies in its frightening intimacy. Each telling is unique, as the story will not be told in the same way again, nor will it elicit the same reaction. This prevents the audience from disconnecting. We go to a storytelling event to feel the secondhand butterflies. Everyone in the audience has stories, and some of us are going to stand up and let the rest devour them. That person might be sitting next to you, and the possibility of the ordinary citizen becoming a performer is intoxicating. Sometimes a story is presented raw, and we cringe if it is too tough or too soft in the centre. Sometimes it is perfectly done, and it feels as if, in hearing it, we are made whole.

There are certain rules to telling a story well. The Moth, founded in New York City in 1997 and now annually producing 500 live storytelling shows worldwide, declares that stories are told, not read. Stories are also not stand-up comedy or songs; they have a plot, yet they are not fiction either.

Keeping in mind the subjectivity of truth, Confabulation presents stories as events that are as true as we tell them.

Storytelling should not be rehearsed too much, if you want to avoid sounding like a bad actor reciting a monologue. However, you cannot come unprepared either, as you risk rambling and forgetting parts of your story. The audience won’t wait on you to remember if it was a marble or a Lego that you put up your nose as a child. The best stories are delivered naturally, unfolding as they happen rather than with a rigidly rehearsed script. The story’s details make us laugh because we can somehow see them without the pantomime of theatre, like when Confabulation storyteller Elizabeth Varvaro told us that “even the squirrels were giving her the side-eye” while she was burying cardboard in the park to complete an internet witchcraft spell.

Stories are always about details, including their incongruous nature. Confabulation is a psychiatry term used to define the action of the brain making things up. For example, if you’re telling a story about a car that cut you off, you might not remember what colour the car actually was, but in order for you to make sense of the world, your brain fabricates the memory of seeing a red car in your memory. In reality, the car may have been blue. Keeping in mind the subjectivity of truth, Confabulation presents stories as events that are as true as we tell them.

Last Saturday’s theme was “Awakenings,” and the six storytellers told us about dementia, the male gaze, aging and psychedelic kaftans, and children’s funerals. Unlike The Moth StorySLAM format, Confabulation is curated, and stories are pitched, pre-selected, and workshopped before the night of the event.

Goldberg aims for a range of backgrounds, experiences and tones in a single night, with both first-timers and returning storytellers on the stage. He said that “[he] always love[s] stories from outside the community of the performing arts, from the people who don’t normally share their stories.”

“It’s nice to see and be seen — to see yourself be reflected on stage, and to hear about lives you haven’t lived.” – Matt Goldberg

During intermission, the row behind us exchanged stories that involved both Pride parades and grandmothers. Miraculously, there were several of them. Give people a theme, however niche, and someone will always have something to say. All around the room, people would make strangers and friends laugh, or open their eyes wide, or gulp their drink.

Turning this practice into an event makes a story more potent, as there is an impetus to polish it. Then there is the power of the collective gasp, or a sudden silence in a room of many.

“What is really special [about storytelling] is hearing someone’s voice, and recognizing in their experience elements that are both familiar and completely alien,” Goldberg said. “It’s nice to see and be seen — to see yourself be reflected on stage, and to hear about lives you haven’t lived. The show doesn’t end up being just about the stories that are told, it’s also about the audience and the way the audience reacts afterwards.”

The audience was still and hurting, and the applause for Brown was the kind that you do not think will, and maybe shouldn’t, ever end. A story like Brown’s could convince a culture to change. Let’s start telling more of them.

The final storyteller of the night was Montreal writer and performer Tessa J. Brown. Her story arced from French “bros” splashing in Parc La Fontaine’s poop water, drunk and mad on their World Cup win, to male entitlement, violence and misogyny. Brown watched these men carry a woman to the infested water by her arms and legs as she protested and struggled. She stepped in between them and the water, and told the men that “she said no.” Their response: “She said no, but you say yes.”

Brown explained how these words were a direct reference to rape culture. She said that the men she encountered “knew what that meant.” The audience was still and hurting, and the applause for Brown was the kind that you do not think will, and maybe shouldn’t, ever end. A story like Brown’s could convince a culture to change. Let’s start telling more of them.

Let us tell stories in basements. Let us tell stories for free in the park. Let our storytellers be diverse. “Awakenings” was performed by six white women, and we can do better. Let us create more stages for more bodies.

Confabulation occurs on the second Saturday of every month. October’s theme is “Child’s Play,” November is “It’s a Phase,” and December is “Family.” Let us work with these themes to tell the stories that incite action and confront oppression. There is no better way to do it than face-to-face.

Exploring Sisterhood Mon, 17 Sep 2018 10:00:05 +0000 SistersInMotion holds a special place in my heart. Spaces for femmes and women of colour in Montreal are hard to come by, and usually remain either male-dominated or white-dominated. SistersInMotion is the only exception I’ve encountered so far. Not only is the space full of a unique feminine and racially diverse presence, the atmosphere is different as well: a relaxed, unguarded feeling pervades. Elder femmes are here, and they, too, are important to me. Surrounded by young femmes of colour, I find confirmation that we exist; with elders, I learn that we can grow—that we can be more. So for a moment, on a sunny Saturday, us femmes of colour were allowed to step out of the expectations set out for us. Only then could we share our deepest selves, amongst each other.

Courage Bacchus
Achlaï Ernest Wallace
Yassi Vile
Shanti Gonzales
Moe Clark

Photos by Arno Pedram

The World Before Her Screens at SAY Collective Sat, 15 Sep 2018 04:19:40 +0000 Last week’s documentary screening of Nisha Pahuja’s The World Before Her, co-hosted by Montreal’s South Asian Youth (SAY) Collective and the Bhoomi Project, brought together dozens of community members and university students to discuss the negotiation of women’s identities in twenty-first century India.

The film contrasts the journeys of two groups of women in India – those competing in the 2011 Miss India pageant, and those serving in leadership roles in the Hindu nationalist Durga Vahini camps. It focuses on the experiences of two women: Prachi, a Durga Vahini leader who wishes to devote her life completely to the Hindu movement but whose parents want her to get married and have kids. The other is Ruhi, who is striving to win the title of Miss India and describes her stress about achieving her ambitions. The film explores how both of these women’s situations have shaped their dreams and ambitions, as well as their worldview.

Emina Ghajizai, a U3 Arts student, organized the screening along with Mehar Gujral, a recent Arts graduate, and Harleen Bhogal, coordinator of youth programming at the South Asian Women’s Community Centre. The three are members of the SAY Collective, which frequently hosts film screenings on topics relevant to women and people of colour.

Following the screening, Bhogal, Ghajizai, and Gujral led a discussion of the film. Bhogal emphasized that the debrief was intended to discuss the social issues addressed in the film or to share any reactions the viewers may have had, rather than to merely critique the film direction.

The audience reflected on the contrast between the experiences of the women in the two settings of the film: the Durga Vahini camp and the Miss India pageant.

“[The film] takes the perspective of the women and each of their dreams and aspirations – the worlds they are born into – to look at how they are being exploited and whether they realize what they have gotten themselves into,” Ghajizai said. “We’re talking about how different the same woman would be if born into a different world. It shows how women are competing to succeed in these worlds and the dreams and aspirations they have as a result.”

The World Before Her also highlights the roles of the girls’ parents on the dreams and ambitions of their daughters. Both of them strive to live up to their families’ expectations while negotiating their own identities.
Gujral explained that “in the beginning you don’t understand why one of these girls wants to be Miss India or a Hindu nationalist, but you see that their parents’ aspirations for them are so important, which is a reflection of Indian society, and other societies in the world where what your parents want for you is so important.”

Shaista Asmi, a U3 Arts and Science student who participated in the discussion, echoed this view, saying that “both Ruhi and Prachi are reiterated as being creations or products of their parents. It is relatable, feeling so obligated to your parents and fulfilling their wishes.”
Although patriarchy manifests itself differently in the two settings, the audience agreed that the women in each setting are oppressed by a system that has demanded their adherence to a certain lifestyle or a standard of beauty, in exchange for parental approval and societal acceptance.

“We talked about how each of these women are shaped by the environment that they’ve grown up in and how they’re just trying to achieve what they can with the resources they have,” Gujral said.

The film raised a multitude of questions for the attendees, specifically around the negotiation of women’s identities within a patriarchal context.

“No matter what women want, it’s in this male dominated society,” Bhogal said. “So what would women want in a non-male dominated society?”

“It’s essential to ask these questions and talk about them,” Ghajizai said. “We wanted to bring together people and have them talk about it.”

Cultivating our Public Oeuvre Tue, 11 Sep 2018 18:27:06 +0000 Two friends and I recently took a stroll down to Mount Royal to take in the ganja-glazed glory of the Sunday drum circle, or “tams,” as it is affectionately referred to. We sipped beers, watching the swaying mass of bodies that conglomerates seemingly out of nowhere every Sunday afternoon. I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the park that hosted us. There was a feeling of freedom: freedom of the crowd that collectively lost themselves in the magic of shared music, and the sense of unity that resulted. The night wore on and darkness fell. The crowd thinned and police cars began to creep out slowly from the periphery, their headlights a glaring reminder of the city that existed beyond the circle of drummers. As the cops flashed their lights ominously, my friends and I found ourselves embroiled in a debate. We didn’t actually know if they could kick us out or not ñ does the mountain have closing hours? At which point in the night am I legally considered a trespasser? And do I, a white McGill student, have to worry about the police enforcing a rule like that?

This discussion of the nature of our city’s public spaces is an important one. While we live in a city with an exceptionally vibrant public life that includes parks and festivals, it’s easy to forget that the concept of having public space is not a given, nor is it a constant. Montreal’s public areas are not immune to the problems that are plaguing urban centres across the world. Increasing privatization threatens the public spaces necessary for a vibrant civic life, which harms marginalized segments of the population first. Since its creation, the concept of ‘the public’ has been complicated by the reality of divisions within urban populations.

While we live in a city with an exceptionally vibrant public life that includes parks and festivals, it’s easy to forget that the concept of having public space is not a given, nor is it a constant.

The roots of the concept of a public sphere, in opposition to the private, can be traced to the era of the Renaissance. During this time, ideas of individual freedom and democracy began to grow. Public spaces, or commons, emerged as places where individuals could meet to debate public matters, usually in places like churches or town squares. Theorist Jürgen Habermas draws a link between the concept of the public sphere and the development of democracy. He points out that commons play an important role by providing a place for public appearance, conversation, and interaction that might otherwise be limited by governmental laws or corporate rules if occurring on private property. In other words, commons are places where the free conversation necessary to a democracy can occur.

However, despite the original liberal ideals of commons, by the 1850s, the growth of consumer capitalist culture began to exacerbate the gendered nature of the idea of public space. As male duties were increasingly categorized in terms of commercial, capitalist action in the public sphere, a binary division was established that clearly demarcated the male public realm from the female private, or domestic, one. The gendered divisions between public and private further expanded into other forms of socioeconomic exclusion as consumer culture flourished during the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries.

The interaction between capitalism and cities has turned both urban space and social interactions into commodities, and called for people to reclaim their city as a “co-created space” separate from the effects of capitalism.

Philosopher and sociologist Henri Lefebvre was an early critic of the negative effects of the commodification of public spaces and the social interactions made possible by them. Lefebvre argued that the growing inequalities in cities meant that public spaces were becoming detached from inhabitants’ realities, as public land, resources, and services were unequally distributed among urban socio-economic groups. This means that accessible and well-maintained commons are disproportionately available to those privileged along economic, racial, social, and gendered axes. Lefebvre pointed out that the interaction between capitalism and cities has turned both urban space and social interactions into commodities, and called for people to reclaim their city as a “co-created space” separate from the effects of capitalism. He advocated for public spaces to be a “meeting point for building collective life.” He argued that cities are shaped by its inhabitants through their public life, and that everyone has the right to use spaces within the city. By arguing that the ownership of space was less important than its use, he accorded more value to public use than to economic worth.

Lefebvre coined the term “right to the city” to express his view of public spaces as a collective project in which all people should have the right to participate. This idea has only grown in importance since its conception in 1968.

Increasingly, cities like Montreal are becoming gentrified and segregated along social, economic, and cultural lines, which curtails opportunities for public interaction. Processes of privatization and urban redevelopment that gained traction during the 1960s resulted in the conversion of many publicly-owned public spaces to privately-owned spaces. This means that much of what could today be considered the commons are in fact semi-public spaces. These semi-public spaces are places where anyone can go if they pay, like cafés or shops. Public transportation, libraries, and parts of malls or shopping centres can be semi-public, and may have stricter rules like dress codes, or the prohibition of solicitation or advertising.

Montrealers with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness are disproportionately affected by these changes.

This privatization and increased control of once-public spaces hits certain segments of the population especially hard; semi-public places are increasingly modified to both explicitly and implicitly exclude certain people. Montrealers with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness are disproportionately affected by these changes. Some benches in Montreal parks and metro stations are designed so that they can’t be used as resting places by people experiencing homelessness, and spaces like parks have restricted opening hours so that they’re inaccessible at night. These restrictions are enforced by the police, and over-policing often disproportionately targets areas where Montrealers living on the street tend to congregate. For example, the area around Atwater metro station and Cabot Square has a much stronger police presence than comparable parks and public spaces in the surrounding neighbourhood of Westmount. The people experiencing homelessness who spend time in this area, largely comprised of Indigenous people and people of colour,  are therefore disproportionately affected by restrictions on where they are or are not permitted to exist. In fact, the selective enforcement of laws in public spaces is described by the National Coalition for the Homeless as “criminalization of homelessness.” The Coalition argues that as the growing lack of affordable housing in large cities pushes more and more people into increasingly privatized public spaces, this selective enforcement serves to harass those living on the street. Their report Illegal to be Homeless states that laws against obstruction of sidewalks and public thoroughfares by sitting or lying down in public are largely enforced against homeless people, and serve to drive them out of the public.

Additionally, public spaces often implicitly rather than explicitly exclude disabled people, since suitable access is quite often unavailable. In a city as hilly as Montreal, there is an appalling lack of ramps accompanying the stairs.  Moreover, the public transportation network is sorely lacking in elevators that would make its metro system accessible to those who are unable to navigate the many staircases.

Despite these serious issues, Montreal’s commons continue to provide spaces that fulfil needs which might not be able to be met by privatized spaces. I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, a city characterized by its utter lack of commons and its excess of strip malls. Any gathering would have to take place at a restaurant or store, if not at someone’s house – all private locations that would probably require someone to spend money in order to spend time there, rendering them inaccessible to many. Compared to the many similar North American cities, Montreal has a miraculous wealth of public spaces, such as parks, university campuses, libraries, and public festivals. Montreal’s public spaces include well-used bike paths as well as free festivals like the Jazz Fest and the Mural Festival that allow for expression and exploration through public art. The Government of Quebec further supports public art through its policy of integrating art into the architecture and environment of government and public buildings and sites. This policy ensures that at least 1% of the cost of constructing a new public building or site goes toward the integration of a work of public art. The government reports that this effort to “foster the democratization of public art” has resulted in the installation of over 3,500 works of public art and has “[enriched] Montreal’s public spaces.”

McGill itself is another site of public value, as its libraries and lawns are used by Montrealers and tourists alongside students. McGill also hosts a farmer’s market that brings sustainable food to “both the McGill and Montreal community.” However, it’s impossible to overlook the semi-public nature of our campus; anyone vaguely student-aged or student-passing can take advantage of McGill’s green spaces, libraries, and buildings (during certain hours), but anyone perceived to be outside that description is liable to attract much more scrutiny from campus security.

Globally, many organizations have come together to work to protect access to the urban commons that are so important to civic life. One such group is the Right to the City Alliance, whose main goals include “the right to land that serves the interests of the community and not of the market, the right of Indigenous people to their ancestral lands, the right to safe neighborhoods and police force that works for all communities, and the right of working class communities of colour, women, queer, and transgender people to an economy that serves their interests.” Activism from groups like this one ensures that public life can thrive in the spirit of Henri Lefebvre, who described cities as an “oeuvre,” a piece of ever-changing collective artwork shaped by the actions of its inhabitants. He lamented the deterioration of truly democratic urban spaces as a result of the privatization of land under capitalism. The public spaces from which we benefit are at risk, and it is both our right and our responsibility to add our brushstrokes to the Montrealaise oeuvre.

Crossword Answers Mon, 10 Sep 2018 19:03:40 +0000 Here are the answers for this week’s crossword, made by Jay VanPut!

Across: 1. Crete, 6. Boer 10. Is-it, 14. Locos, 15. Able, 16. NATO, 17. Athos, 18. Toes, 19. Elsa, 20.
Wholewheatbread, 23. Ass, 24. Set, 25. Taping, 30. Ate, 31. Mel, 34. Aroma, 35. Trio, 37. Axe, 38.
Halfbloodprince, 42. Obi, 43. Aims, 44. Inner, 45. Eso-, 46. DSL, 47. Totals, 48. Gov, 49. Aha, 51.
Quarterpounders, 60. Urge, 61. Girl, 62. Orion, 63. ISEE, 64. Aloe, 65. Torte, 66. Task, 67. Send, 68.

Down: 1. Claw, 2. Roth, 3. Echo, 4. Tool, 5. Esse, 6. Baths, 7. Oboes, 8. Elea, 9. Rest stop, 10. Inert, 11.
Sale, 12. Itsa, 13. Toad, 21. Wag, 22. Bee, 25. Tahoe, 26. Arabs, 27. Polio, 28. Imf, 29. Nab, 30. AIDS,
31. Manna, 32. Excel, 33. Leers, 35. Toil, 36. Rom, 39. Las Vegas, 40. Rio, 41. Int, 46. Dot, 47. Tau, 48.
Greek, 49. Apron, 50. Holed, 51. Quit, 52. Ursa, 53. Ages, 54. Rile, 55. Note, 56. Drop, 57. Eire, 58.
Rote, 59. Snes.

Rest in Power, Nicholas Gibbs Mon, 10 Sep 2018 18:28:09 +0000 content warning: police brutality, anti-Black racism, death

Nicholas Gibbs was a 23-year-old father of four and a resident of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. His family described him as quiet and reserved. Close friends thought of him as a loving father and partner.

On August 21, Nicholas Gibbs was killed by Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM) officers on the corner of Montclair and De Maisonneuve, in another instance of police violence against Black people. According to the Quebec Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI), Gibbs was shot after police were called to the scene to break up a fight between two men. Allegedly, the police used a taser on the men before opening fire.

The BEI is currently investigating the actions taken by the police on August 21. Meanwhile, coverage from local news journals has largely focused on Gibbs’ past criminal record and the fact that he yelled “shoot me” at the officers. The press has framed these details as justification for the violent measures taken by the police. An SVPM officer interviewed by the Gazette argued that the police had no choice but to shoot; Gibbs was allegedly holding a knife, and tasers require close range. Nevertheless, Gibbs’ family stated that the police did not consider the mental distress Gibbs was experiencing, and that they escalated violence without intermediary non-lethal techniques, such as tackling or shooting in the leg, and handcuffing.

Local coverage has failed to situate the killing of Nicholas Gibbs in the broader context of police violence against Indigenous and Black people, especially those who are neurodivergent.* According to Alex Tyrell, the leader of the Green Party of Quebec, police in Quebec have shot and killed 136 people since 1987. However, in June, the SPVM quit conducting Indigenous sensitivity trainings developed and led by the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network, which had been running since 2015. These exercises were meant to address police violence against Indigenous people in Montreal by increasing awareness of the reality of colonialism and the history of anti-Indigenous violence in Canada. Nakuset, the Executive Director of the Native Women’s Shelter, said that she and others who worked on this training were not consulted when the police decided to scrap it and instate a new training program.

While the results of the ongoing BEI investigation remain undisclosed, it is unclear how the SPVM will address this injustice, or if they will address it at all. It is our responsibility to be aware of the biases that cloud the understanding of this case and to offer support however we can. On our website is a link to a GoFundMe page for Gibbs’ family.

Rest in Power, Nicholas Gibbs.


*see glossary.

An Ode to SSMU Babies Mon, 10 Sep 2018 16:56:49 +0000 Despite the heat, and the no smoking signs, students chainsmoke cigarettes, slumped over in whatever shade they can find, still not entirely thrilled that the school year is back in swing. They have collectively decided to stop trying to hide the gallons of sweat leaking out of their exhausted, suffering bodies. It is week number two, and classes are being skipped in favour of day-drinking at OAP.

It is summer in Hell, and everything is going to be okay.

From across the patchy field come peals of laughter. Full of mirth. Full of joy. Full of innocence. The SSMU babies are being promenaded across campus, clad in matching red vests straight off the runways of New York Fashion Week. While university students politely make plans to “get coffee sometime!” with people they haven’t seen since first year, the SSMU babies are living their truths. They’re not planning coffee dates with fake people. They don’t drink coffee. They’re all real friends. I saw an adorable miniscule girl ask an adorable miniscule boy if he would be her best friend. They were both wearing striped shirts. He excitedly told her yes, and started talking to someone else. She was not bothered in the slightest by his inattentiveness. She smiled to herself. I witnessed that blessed interaction with my very own eyes.

I envy the SSMU babies, I won’t lie to you, I envy the SSMU babies, I do! I envy the fact that they aren’t constantly sweaty. I saw multiple tiny cardigans. Cardigans! In early September! I like knowing that when one child bites another, there is a now a feud between their professor parents. I envy the fact that they aren’t left to their own devices, eating ice cream sandwiches for dinner. As an adult, I am allowed to do that. I have been doing that. I should stop, for my own sake. But I can’t force myself without the threat of outside consequences. Those tiny babies probably only eat nutritious organic food. Damn them.

Most of all, I envy that they have no responsibilities. They don’t have jobs. They don’t have classes to attend. There is no one relying on them. Well, no, that’s not true. I rely on them. I rely on them to remind me that youth is fleeting. Make the most of it, those children remind me. Skip my dad’s class. He’s boring. Spend your time making new friends and picking your nose.

That’s the point of SSMU babies. They exist to make summer more bearable and to remind us to go outside and pick our noses in the sunshine.