The McGill Daily https://www.mcgilldaily.com A clear and present danger to everyone on the planet since 1911 Tue, 15 Jan 2019 18:23:34 +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 No Pipelines on Wet’suwet’en Land https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/no-pipelines-on-wetsuweten-land/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 22:29:05 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54730 On January 7, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) crossed the Gitdimt’en* checkpoint on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. This checkpoint was established to reinforce an existing checkpoint at the entry of the Unistot’en Camp and to stop Coastal GasLink employees from entering the premises. Wet’suwet’en Nation members view the RCMP’s breach of the checkpoint as trespassing. The presence of the militarized police force at the Gitdimt’en checkpoint was described as a use of “excessive and brutal force.”

In November 2018, Coastal GasLink, a subsidiary of TransCanada, filed an injunction with the British Columbia Supreme Court against the Unistot’en Camp for prohibiting entry to Coastal GasLink employees. In December, the Court sided with Coastal GasLink, ordering for the removal of the checkpoint. Instead, the Gitdimt’en Clan established another barricade ahead of the existing checkpoint, in solidarity with the Unistot’en Camp. As a response, the RCMP, who claim to be neutral in the conflict, forcibly entered the Camp.

Fourteen people were arrested on January 7, including the spokesperson for the Gitdimt’en Clan, Molly Wickham. Everyone arrested was released within two days. On January 9, the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who oppose the pipeline, came to an agreement with the RCMP, which stipulates that Coastal GasLink can temporarily work within the Unistot’en Camp. However, in a Facebook post, the Hereditary Chiefs made it clear that this agreement was aimed at limiting potential violence. They insist that they have by no means consented to the construction of a pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory. Although direct confrontation between the RCMP and the Wet’suwet’en land defenders has ceased, Wet’suwet’en Nation members have declared: “this is not over.”

The Daily Editorial Board stands with the Wet’suwet’en and opposes the Coastal GasLink pipeline. If built, the pipeline would pose extreme environmental consequences to the area it passes through. According to the Unistot’en Camp website, dozens of the chemicals used for fracking are known to be toxic to both humans and the environment. People in favour of the pipeline argue that it would create jobs, but less than 35 of those jobs would be permanent and nearly all of the profits would go to Coastal GasLink. As the Unistot’en Camp website states, “there are no jobs on a dead planet.”

More importantly, this confrontation is about Indigenous rights and self-determination. The Daily recognizes the sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and the authority of the Hereditary Chiefs in regards to their traditional territory. The militarized presence of the RCMP on January 7 shows that the state considers the land to be theirs and is ready to use force to suppress meaningful opposition to its capitalist aims. Pipelines, and thus corporate interests, are being put before Indigenous rights.

Last week’s events on Wet’suwet’en territory have made it clear that colonization is ongoing and that discussions of reconciliation are hollow. We must stand in solidarity with Indigenous people resisting colonial occupation, and help in the ways we can. Although the conflict has de-escalated, the Wet’suwet’en land defenders still need support. To donate, visit unistoten.camp/support-us/donate. You can also join the camp, or host an event in solidarity, both of which are described in more detail on the website. Staying informed and attending demonstrations are also ways to stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en. McGill’s Indigenous Student Alliance will have a demonstration at the Y-intersection at 2pm on Monday, January 14.  

 

*The Gitdimt’en Clan and Unistot’en House are both part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. For more information, read our news piece.

**This editorial was written on January 11. There may have been developments since.

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Green Book: Performative Allyship https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/green-book-performative-allyship/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 13:00:44 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54679 jQuery(document).ready(function($) {$('#trigger-warning').modal();});

Green Book tells the “true” story of queer Black American pianist Dr. Don Shirley and Italian American, Brooklyn-born bouncer Nick Vallelonga. The film depicts the friendship between the two men as Vallelonga is hired to be Dr. Shirley’s driver and bodyguard on a two month tour in the Deep South of the U.S. The film’s focus is on Vallelonga’s personal growth as he sees firsthand the effects of anti-Black racism while travelling with Dr. Shirley. It won Best Musical or Comedy Motion Picture at this year’s Golden Globes Awards, and has been praised by critics and audiences for its depiction of race relations in the 1960s and its heartwarming true story of friendship.

Green Book, while attempting to contribute to conversations about race relations and discrimination in the US, ends on an unfortunately uplifting note, as if everything is suddenly resolved with Vallelonga’s growth and newfound understanding of racism. The ending places a white man’s growth as the pinnacle of racial reconciliation, implying that there is an easy solution to end racism. The film’s ending is comforting only to white people, and allows those audiences to both identify with Vallelonga and leave with the notion that everything is solved. While Vallelonga’s education on racism is essential to creating the racially-just society the film’s ending points to, he cannot be automatically absolved of his racism early in the film, and it is dangerous to centre the story of his personal growth as more important than the life of Dr. Shirley.

“No matter what they say to me now, I will not have any control over how I am portrayed.”
— Dr. Don Shirley

I do not doubt that the film’s depiction of Vallelonga as ignorant towards Black and Asian people in the film is accurate; while the film is set in the 1960s, American society was, and continues to be, deeply divided by race and ethnicity. The Deep South remains a dangerous place to be as a person of colour, and it is this threat of danger that led Dr. Shirley to hire a bodyguard to ensure his safety.

Green Book’s main fault is its depiction of Dr. Shirley’s story only through Vallelonga’s eyes. In a time where seeming woke is a form of social capital for white people, it is concerning to see white actors and directors being praised for telling stories of the racism that Dr. Shirley faced purely from the historical recordings and anecdotes of a white man, Tony Vallelonga. To the audience, director Peter Farrelly is a progressive white man worthy of nominations and awards, and he is profiting off of this perception of himself. The film is based on the home recordings and stories that Nick Vallelonga, son of Tony Vallelonga and screenplay writer of Green Book, recovered and was told by his father. The script that was crafted from these sources depicts Dr. Shirley’s struggles with his identity and his internalized racism as a Black man separated from Black American culture, without contacting members of Dr. Shirley’s family, who, in real life, knew Dr. Shirley well. His family is depicted in the film as being estranged from him, and upon receiving backlash, Farrelly stated, “to be honest, the people looking into [finding Dr. Shirley’s family] just didn’t find them — they screwed up.” The family has also stated that Dr. Shirley did not consider Vallelonga a close friend, and that their relationship was a professional one. Edwin Shirley, Dr. Shirley’s nephew, said in response to the portrayal of his uncle as a man out of touch with his family, inactive in the Civil Rights movement, and estranged from the Black community: “that was very hurtful […] that’s just 100 per cent wrong.” The article that Shadow and Act published with interviews of the family pointed out that “Dr. Shirley was active in the civil rights movement, friends with Dr. King, present for the march in Selma, and close friends with Black musicians […] Dr. Shirley was also very much a part of his family’s lives.” Concerningly, none of the screenwriters of Green Book are Black, yet they confidently crafted a story of a queer Black man’s struggle with his identity and the racism that he faced as a Black artist and performer – one where audiences applauded him while onstage and immediately disparaged him upon walking offstage. Neither could they accurately portray the stigma that prevented him from coming out as queer in fear of ending his career. How can white directors, screenwriters, and producers accurately understand or depict Dr. Shirley’s life? The filmmakers not only received praise for their work, but also incentivized other white directors to do the same, with the near-guarantee of profit and success. Dr. Shirley said, after being approached by Nick Vallelonga years ago about a movie on his father’s life, “no matter what they say to me now, I will not have any control over how I am portrayed,” and as Dr. Shirley’s niece, Carol Shirley Kimble, said of the film, “it’s once again a depiction of a white man’s version of a Black man’s life.”

In a time where seeming woke is a form of social capital for white people, it is concerning to see white actors and directors being praised for telling stories of the racism that Dr. Shirley faced purely from the historical recordings and anecdotes of a white man.

Film has proven to be an influential medium in influencing public perceptions of timely societal issues. The Danish Girl, for example, was touted as a “work of probing intelligence and passionate heart,” and received numerous Oscar and Golden Globes nominations. Audiences empathized with Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of a trans woman, Lili, and while it led to necessary conversations about trans rights, the movie remains inauthentic and disrespectful. Instead of being an accurate portrayal of Lili, it is a fetishized and tired trope of transgender people. As Medium writer Rani Baker puts it, “the mechanics of [trans people’s] actual continued existence remains an unspoken mystery to be regarded with pity and unreliable narration, clucking the tongue and saying, ‘how fabulous and/or tragic’ with no further consideration.” How can this film, written and portrayed by cisgender people, effectively combat transphobia and discrimination? How can it meaningfully offer support or solidarity to the trans community?

Similarly, with Green Book, Dr. Shirley’s story is used as a prop to demonstrate how far Vallelonga has come as a person, while simultaneously erasing Dr. Shirley’s achievements and the challenges he faced throughout his life. Ultimately, his story is told through the lens of his racist white colleague. Further emphasizing that Dr. Shirley’s story is less important than Vallelonga’s, Viggo Mortensen, who played Vallelonga, received a nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture at the Golden Globes, while Mahershala Ali, who played Dr. Shirley, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. In the movie poster, as in the film itself, Vallelonga is the main focus, with Dr. Shirley occupying much less space. Nevertheless, the film has been praised as “a funny, swiftly-moving chamber piece bursting with heart, art, and soul.” The managing editor of Shadow and Act, Brooke Obie, wrote, “because the bar for a racist’s growth is beneath the floor, the audience is meant to use [Vallelonga’s past racist actions] as a benchmark to tell how far he’s come by the end of the film when he and Dr. Shirley become lifelong friends. But a racist’s relationship with individual Black people is not the same as being anti-racist.” Vallelonga eventually learns from his use of racial slurs openly and casually, but the audience is expected to applaud his personal growth instead of considering the effects his racism may have had on the Black people in his life. Green Book does not attempt to accurately or respectfully portray Dr. Shirley’s life, and as such deems his story unimportant. Mortensen’s panel appearance at an event promoting the film creates cause for concern as well; although not intending to use the n-word in an actively harmful way, he stated, in response to the subject of racism in America, that, “no one says [the n-word] anymore.” His use of the word at all demonstrates his lack of understanding of, not only the harm it causes coming from a white man, but also the tangible effects it still has on American society today.

“Because the bar for a racist’s growth is beneath the floor, the audience is meant to use [Vallelonga’s past racist actions] as a benchmark to tell how far he’s come by the end of the film.”
— Brooke Obie

This is far from a random occurrence in Hollywood – people in positions of social power craft and tell the stories of marginalized peoples through their own lens and continue to profit from it, both economically and socially. True allyship through the film medium is far more than depicting stories onscreen of marginalized people, no matter how well-intentioned. It is instead recognizing one’s privilege and ability to create such spaces for others, stepping aside so that people may tell their own stories, and uplifting voices that the film industry continues to dismiss.

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Know Your Labour Rights: Bill 176 Explained https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/know-your-labour-rights-bill-176-explained/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 13:00:42 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54739 In June of last year, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously passed Bill 176. The Bill made a number of changes to the Quebec Labour Code, some of which came into effect in June 2018, while others were implemented on January 1. The Labour Code is enforced by the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESSET).

Most of the changes increase the rights of workers in matters of vacation time and work scheduling. The Bill also stresses the need for psychological and sexual harassment policies in the workplace. Some of the most relevant points of Bill 176 are detailed below:

  • All employers must adopt psychological harassment policies with provisions for both prevention and the processing of complaints. Harassment is defined as “vexatious behavior in the form of repeated conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures that are hostile or unwarranted, affect the employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity, or make the work environment harmful.” Furthermore, these policies must specifically address “verbal comments, actions, or gestures of a sexual nature.” Employees have two years to file formal complaints of harassment with the CNESSET, lengthened from the previous 90-day limit.
  • An employee who is a survivor of domestic or sexual violence may be absent from work up to 26 weeks over a 12-month period. The law does not require employers to compensate employees during this absence.
  • Employees have the right to refuse to work if they have not been informed at least five days in advance that they must work. However, this rule does not apply if the nature of their work requires them to be available. Employees may also refuse to work more than two hours beyond their usual working time, a reduction from the four hours previously allowed.
  • Employers are mandated to provide paid vacation time to employees. The amount of vacation time allotted per worker is determined by how long they have continuously been employed by their employer. Employees who have been continuously employed for less than one year are entitled to one day of vacation for each month of work. Employees who have been continuously employed for one to three years are entitled to three weeks of vacation per year, two of which must be consecutive. Employees who have been continuously employed for over three years are entitled to four weeks of vacation, three of which must be consecutive.
  • Employers may not pay employees with differing employment status (such as part-time or full-time) lower wages compared to other employees performing the same work. Furthermore, employers may not treat employees differently in terms of employee benefits or pension plans based on the date that the employee was hired.

If these or any other labour regulations are violated by an employer, non-unionized private-sector employees can file a complaint with CNESSET online or by mail. Unionized employees may file a complaint with either their union or CNESSET.

More information on Bill 176 and the Quebec Labour Code is available on the CNESSET website. However, as of January 11, the website has not been fully updated.

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“We Are Sisters in Arms” https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/we-are-sisters-in-arms/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 13:00:39 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54670 Four Women of Egypt is a 1997 documentary by Egyptian-Canadian filmmaker Tahani Rached. It chronicles the friendship of four Egyptian women as they discuss their relationships with each other, their families, marriages, activism, and arrests. Fundamental to their friendship is their disagreement on religion and politics, of which they speak candidly in the film. The film, dedicated to Rached’s sister, is a lesson in solidarity and resilience. It also acts as an ode to the personal, social, and political strength of the four women, all of whom are outspoken about and persistent in their lifelong activism.

Wedad Mitry was the first woman elected to the student union in her university in 1951. She was inspired to join the Women’s Popular Resistance Committee when it was founded in 1951. She did so in order to “take part in the acts of resistance against the British occupation of the Suez Canal zone in Egypt.” As a journalist later in life, she was briefly imprisoned for her political engagement and alignments.

The second of the women, Shahenda Maklad, became involved in nationalist movements and the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 when she was a student. She worked with the Peasants and Union Parties and participated in parliamentary elections. She fought for the economic equality of Egypt’s lower classes alongside her husband, until he was assassinated in 1966. According to Kazem, Maklad “embodies the spirit of [Egypt’s] popular uprisings.”

Safinaz Kazem is a journalist and literary critic who studied in the United States during the 1960s. When asked about her experience of integrating into a North American culture, she said, “[I] disowned all [my] values to assume all their catastrophes.” Kazem’s ideologies are more heavily influenced by Islamist thought than those of the other women in the film, but she, along with Shahenda Maklad, believes that her politics do not conform to the ideologies of a single political party. The women are adamant that they “agree on many things,” and are able to navigate their differing opinions on more “sensitive issues,” due to their histories and shared overarching political goals.

The last of the four women is Amina Rachid, who was born into the upper class as the granddaughter of a former prime minister of Egypt. She spent most of her life in lower class villages. She studied in Paris and became a writer as well as a professor of French literature at Cairo University. She has fought alongside the other women for class rights and was imprisoned with Kazem and Maklad in 1981. She described being a political prisoner as “being in a parenthesis,” temporarily halting her life and work and resuming both after her release.

Each of the four women met at different times from the 50s to the 80s, either through their political work or their time spent together in prison. They express their disappointment that the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 did not yield the desired results for economic, religious, and sexual freedoms.

Though the film’s main focus is the efforts of the four women as political activists, it does not aim to make any political statements. At times, it lacks the historical background necessary to contextualize their efforts and struggles. Though the women offer glimpses into their personal and political ideologies, they are rarely deeply explored or explicitly communicated with the audience. Similarly, the documentary does not work to preach tolerance and coexistence, or to offer hope that through civil engagement, ordinary people can bring about meaningful change. Instead, it is acutely aware of the work left to be done in order to improve the political climate and social life in Egypt for lower classes, women, and religious minorities. Rachid acknowledges the disappointment that weighs on their shared histories, saying, “we’ve experienced a series of ruptures, including a rupture in our national history and our struggles (the 1952 revolution). It’s hard that things haven’t changed in the 40 years since what we call the revolution.” Maklad describes the unknown future of politics in Egypt, saying, “we have the same view of history. Today we all speculate. We know history goes on, but we’re not sure where our place is in the permanence of this history.”

However, the group shots of the women walking the streets of Cairo, sitting in local cafes, and reminiscing about their time in jail, serve to remind the audience that the women’s political efforts are perhaps not the core message the documentary aims to convey. Instead, the lifelong solidarity between them, and their dedication both to their causes and to their allyship, is the heart of the film. Amina Rachid express this, saying, on their relationship, “we have the same fundamental values: the love of our country, for example. But it’s not an abstract relationship. It involves personal feelings. Our childhood, a feeling of being lost, an awareness of what’s been achieved.” Adding to this in one of the film’s most memorable quotes, Maklad echoes Rachid’s sentiment, saying, “we are sisters in arms. And that means we are the closest of friends.” Four Women of Egypt was touching and inspiring, not because of its presentation of the future of politics they aim for, but in its portrayal of the women themselves, tireless and outspoken, as necessary actors in the futures they all individually hope to create.

Four Women of Egypt can be streamed online at nfb.ca/film/four_women_egypt/.

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Coalition Demands Closure of Laval Prison https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/coalition-demands-closure-of-laval-prison/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 13:00:23 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54737 A coalition of groups is calling for women to be removed from the Leclerc Detention Center, located in Laval, due to its history of deteriorating conditions. Groups have been calling on the provincial government to address the detention centre’s conditions since 2016, when it took over the facility from the federal government and reopened the prison. The federal government had closed Leclerc in 2012 after deeming it unfit according to modern standards for prisons. In 2016, the Quebec government moved all female detainees from the outdated Maison Tanguay correctional facility to the Leclerc Institution. This immediately sparked criticism that the mixed-gender facility was not properly equipped for the influx of women and was therefore putting them in danger. The government subsequently moved the men from the Leclerc facility and promised that the location would serve as a temporary solution for the women housed there. On December 10, 2018, a coalition of human rights groups, including the Ligue des droits et libertés and the Fédération des femmes du Québec, wrote to the Quebec Public Security Minister, Geneviève Guilbault, demanding that women be removed from the facility. In their letter, the coalition calls Leclerc “totally unsuitable on a human, architectural, and penological front.” At the time of writing, the coalition had not received a response.

The coalition is demanding immediate action from the provincial government. In their letter they cite numerous complaints regarding the women’s standard of living in Leclerc. These conditions include recurring infestations of mice and bedbugs, as well as dirty and unsafe drinking water. The people within Leclerc have been instructed to let the water, which comes out brown, run for ten minutes before using it. Additionally, the prison is understaffed. As a result, time at the prison’s library and gym, as well as time outdoors, have been greatly reduced. Christmas and Mother’s Day visits were also unexpectedly cancelled. The letter also points to larger systemic issues within the carceral system, such as “humiliating strip searches, abusive guards, and limited access to psychological help or medical needs.”

Louise Henry, who was incarcerated at Leclerc for six months in 2017-2018, detailed the conditions in the institution. She spoke of the “filth, complete indifference, and human degradation” present at the institution. According to Henry, the prison has pipes leaking sludge, clogged toilets, and maggot-infested drains, the bathrooms thick with fruit flies, and the vents blocked by rust and dust. She described the faulty heating and cracks in the walls of the cells; cells are consequently so cold that women have to sleep with their winter coats on. On the Leclerc Institution’s Facebook page, Sandra Latour, who is serving an intermittent sentence at Leclerc stated that, in her experience, the correctional officers have “no respect for the inmates” and that “their first motivations are to show us that they hold the power in their hands instead of helping us re-enter into society.”

Lucie Lemonde, a lawyer, activist, and UQAM professor who is a member of the coalition, highlighted that the women within Leclerc are there due to what she describes as “‘survival crimes’ related to poverty: small thefts or drug-possession charges.” Lemonde insists that “we can find different solutions than sending them there.”

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Understanding the Unistot’en Camp https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/understanding-the-unistoten-camp/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 13:00:10 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54733 On January 7, the RCMP enforced an injunction of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and arrested 14 self-proclaimed land defenders. All those arrested have since been released. In order to avoid further violence, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have come to a temporary agreement that allows Coastal GasLink representatives to work in the Unistot’en Camp. However, all involved Indigenous parties have made it clear that this conflict is not over.

Background I: 1997 Supreme Court Decision

In the 1997 Delgamuukw v British Columbia case, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Wet’suwet’en people “had not given up rights and title to 22,000 spare kilometers of Northern British Columbia.” According the Canadian Encyclopedia, “the ruling also clarified the government’s duty to consult with Indigenous peoples, and affirmed the legal validity of oral history.”

Background II: 2010-2018

In 2010, a number of companies showed interest in using traditional Wet’suwet’en territory to transport oil and gas from Alberta to the West Coast. In response, Wet’suwet’en Nation members Freda Huson, of the Unist’ot’en House, and Warner Naziel (also known as Smogelgem), Hereditary Chief of the Laksamshu Clan, reoccupied traditional, unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. They built a camp on this reoccupied land “as a way to resist what [Huson and Naziel] see as unauthorized encroachment on their territory,” according to an APTN News article.

The camp is now known as the Unistot’en Camp, and acts as a permanent home for a number of residents. Huson told APTN News that the camp is “not a protest camp. It’s a homestead. We actually live here and we get visitors from all over the world that want to learn about what we are doing.” The Unist’ot’en Camp is also the site of a healing centre.

The Unistot’en Camp is located on the bank of the Wedniz Kwa, or Morice River. The bridge over the river is the only road access in or out of the camp. Similarly, Morice River Road, a 700 kilometre-long logging road, is the only road access to the camp.

Unistot’en Camp residents established a “Free, Prior, and Informed Consent protocol” for visitors of the camp to undergo before entering.  

On July 17, 2015, RCMP officers attempted to enter Unist’ot’en territory without permission, which led to the construction of a wooden gate on the bridge by Unistot’en residents. On July 23, representatives from Chevron, a multinational energy company that proposed the Pacific Trails pipeline, asked permission to enter the territory, offering a case of Nestlé bottled water in exchange. They were denied.

In 2016, representatives from the Northern Gateway pipeline, twin pipelines carrying unrefined oil from Alberta to the Pacific coast, attempted to access the Unistot’en Camp, but residents turned them away. The project was rejected by the Trudeau government later that year.

November-December 2018

More recently, Coastal GasLink, a 670-kilometre pipeline that would run from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, B.C., is projected to run through the Unistot’en Camp. TransCanada representatives attempted to enter the Unistot’en Camp, but they were denied access.

While the elected chiefs and councils of the five Wet’suwet’en bands have approved the pipeline, the nation’s hereditary chiefs oppose any such development on their traditional territory. Hereditary chiefs argue that they retain jurisdiction over the nation’s traditional territory, while the elected chief only has jurisdiction over the band’s reserves. Since the proposed pipeline will go through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory, hereditary chiefs say their approval is required.

In November, Coastal GasLink filed an injunction with the Supreme Court of British Columbia against four Unist’ot’en residents, including Huson and Naziel. Coastal GasLink claims they cannot reroute the pipeline. On December 14, the provincial Supreme Court sided with Coastal GasLink, ordering the gate across the Wedniz Kwa bridge to be removed. The gate was not removed. Instead, the Gitdimt’en Clan established another checkpoint beyond the injunction zone.

Michael Toledano’s photo graph, taken at the Gitdimt’en checkpoint, January 7.

January 2019

On January 4, members of the RCMP’s Aboriginal Police Liaison division met with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. According to Naziel’s Facebook page, the RCMP indicated that specially trained forces would be used to enforce the injunction. This action, as Naziel puts it, would “forcibly remove Wet’suwet’en people from sovereign Wet’suwet’en territory,” which goes against Article 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Over the weekend of January 5-6, there were reports of “busloads of police” in the nearby towns of Houston and Smithers.

In an RCMP document, “Background on B.C. RCMP’s role in enforcing injunction order,” the police force states that “the RCMP respects the Wet’suwet’en culture, the connection to the land and traditions being taught and passed on at the camp, and the importance of the camp to healing” and that “the primary concerns of the police are public safety, police officer safety, and preservation of the right to peaceful, lawful and safe protest, within the terms set by the Supreme Court in the injunction.” Some commentators have pointed out  that the use of “specially trained tactical forces,” and the fact that the RCMP refused to provide details of the operation to hereditary chiefs, suggests that the RCMP aimed to “surprise and overwhelm” the Wet’suwet’en land defenders.

The Facebook page for the Wet’suwet’en access point on Gitdimt’en territory reports that the RCMP arrived at the checkpoint around 10:45 a.m. on Monday, January 7. The RCMP blocked access to the camp, meaning that the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, members of the nation, the media, and the public were denied access to the camp. Communications were allegedly cut off soon after, a claim the police force denies. Video footage and various reports released after the events show that armed RCMP officers climbed over the gate, despite land protectors warning the RCMP that they would be trespassing by doing so. By 5 p.m., fourteen people, including Gitdimt’en spokesperson Molly Wickham had been arrested. Some land defenders moved closer to the Unist’ot’en camp and built more barricades. Carmen Nikal, one of the people arrested, was released that night. Others were brought to Prince George, which is over four hours away, to await a hearing with a Justice of the Peace. By Tuesday evening, seven of the remaining thirteen people arrested were released, and by Wednesday those remaining in custody had been released.

Tuesday, January 8 was declared an international day of solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation. There were protests in over sixty cities around the world. In Montreal, there were two. Approximately 150 people gathered outside of Justin Trudeau’s constituency office, near Crémazie metro, during the morning demonstration. Marlene Hale, a Wet’suwet’en Frog Clan member, spoke. The demonstration turned into a street protest, blocking traffic on rue de Liege Est, an access road to the TransCanada highway, for about twenty minutes. The protest was declared illegal around noon, but no arrests were made. In Ottawa, protesters forced their way into a government building and delayed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s speech.

By Wednesday evening, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs reached a deal with the RCMP. According to a statement on the Unistot’en Camp website, the Hereditary Chiefs were not willing to risk the “injury or death” of their people for an interim injunction. The deal stipulates that Coastal GasLink will be allowed to temporarily work in Unistot’en territory. The Hereditary Chiefs, as well as the Unistot’en and Gitdimt’en land protectors, insist that this agreement is by no means consent to the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The RCMP said that it will also cease to block access to the Unist’ot’en Camp.

Many commentators have criticized B.C. Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s response to last week’s events. Horgan said that “the [UNDRIP] does not mean a veto; however, UNDRIP Article 10 requires free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples if they are to be removed or relocated from their territories, which the development of a pipeline through Unistot’en would require. At a town hall event in Kamloops, Trudeau and an audience member, Tilly, had a heated exchange. Trudeau discussed the history of colonialism and discussed reconciliation. Tilly, however, demanded more concrete answers and solutions. At the same town hall event, Arnie Jack, of the Shuswap nation, called the RCMP’s presence at Unist’ot’en a “national disgrace.”

Conclusion

Both the Unistot’en Camp and Gitdimt’en access point Facebook pages report that residents of the Unistot’en Camp were escorted back to their homes by the RCMP. At 11 a.m. on January 11, Coastal GasLink employees arrived at the Unistot’en Camp with a “heavy duty tow truck” and dismantled the blockade on the Wedniz Kwa bridge. Statements from Wet’suwat’en maintain that the survey crews that have been allowed in are wasting their time, since “no pipelines will be built on Wet’suwet’en territory.”

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Interview with Former Black Panther Members: Sam Anderson and Rosemari Mealy https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/interview-with-former-black-panther-members-sam-anderson-and-rosemari-mealy/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 11:03:33 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54719

Sam Anderson and Rosemari Mealy visited Montreal to take part in a symposium last September. This two-day symposium coincided with, and commemorated, the thirty-sixth year anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinian refugees and displaced Lebanese following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. It aimed to remember and honour its victims and to work to build knowledge about women and war. Sam and Rosemari were part of a roundtable panel called “Black and Puerto Rican Solidarity with Palestine.” They outlined their various activism in the context of Palestine, while emphasizing the indivisibility of solidarity across different communities. 

Sam Anderson is a retired mathematics and Black history professor who has been active in the Civil Rights and Black Liberation movements since 1964. Being a member of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and a founding member of the Black Panther Party has allowed him to combine his decades-long activism with his scholastic work.

Rosemari Mealy is a writer and an educator who was also an original member of the Black Panther Party. Mealy has organized events, programs and rallies which provided necessary gender and queer analyses within the Black Panther movement. She is also an activist in the International Human Rights and Political Prisoner movement.

Sandrine Appiah and Clement Bélanger Bishinga (who are members of the Students of Colour at McGill support group on Facebook) sat down with Sam and Rosemari to have a discussion on intergenerational activism, feminism, and the pitfalls of contemporary activism.

[ Music video of “Black Lives Shattered” by Panther starts to play via  a laptop on Youtube.]

Sandrine Appiah: We wanted to start this interview by showing you both the “Black Lives Shattered” video from the artist Panther. One of his lyrics states, “I can see your stress is in the red / come thru I can give you rest / sit down take a deep breath / maybe we can help each other heal from this.” Artists like Panther are conveying specific messages through YouTube and social media to alert others and bring awareness to social issues, and are using these social media platforms as a way to call people into a particular struggle. Do you think social media hinders the truth on some of the issues prevalent in the world? Particularly because of the way in which many of these messages keep getting labeled as “fake news” by people like Donald Trump as a way to deflect the intended message.

Rosemari Mealy: I think that those who are using social media as a platform for social justice need to be more in control of their content. Because the problem is, if you don’t have control of your content, then you lose the power of the message. I think that the younger hip-hop artists are sometimes afraid to cross the line because they’re afraid that their honest and intended message will be twisted. Many revolutionary artists were not afraid to identify the economic rationale and reasoning to explain the conditions of oppression, or to describe why we are in a particular drastic situation.  Nowadays, people are not really addressing the conditions that created the problem; they focus on the problem itself. Therefore, the ideological component, the fundamental reasoning and the illogical basis for why we are oppressed, is often lost. Framing is important, and we have to address the cause of the problem for people to understand the result of the problem.

Sam Anderson: Right, another problem is that social media makes everything equal, and with equal access to social media, anyone can say anything they want (even if it may not be necessarily true). If you aren’t able to mentally distinguish anomalies yourself, or are not curious enough to doubt everything that is said to you, it’s easy for you to believe what’s being fed to you.

Appiah: It is their reality versus your reality.

Sandrine Appiah and Sarah Regab
Sam and Rosemari Watching Panther’s “Black Lives Shattered”

Anderson: The conflation of both realities is one of the challenges with social media. Another one is that the younger generation, particularly in the US, have gone through a public school system that destroys critical thinking skills. And on top of that, [the education system is] anti-historical. So people watching Panther’s video, or watching the video of a racist incident happening on Facebook, or seeing images from the 1960s, aren’t given any historical context to it. It’s just boom! An image here, an image there. Then you might see an image of a Black Panther, with the beret and fists, but there’s no context to it. And they don’t even know that there is no context. They just see these pictures and they don’t know what to do with them[…] I’m not saying that videos like Panther’s “Black Lives Shattered” is a kind of propaganda, but rather I’m making the argument that the typical young Black person who is between 17 and 21 in the U.S. isn’t going to know that legacy. Their legacy. Precisely because of the levels of miseducation that exist. This often results in popular and highly political hip hop music /content that is often taken out of context, which is frustrating. It’s important to highlight this in order to truly understand the meaning of these images. But we, as ancient people, we get it. We’ve seen it. We’ve lived that.

Appiah: You talked about power. Do you feel that groups like Black Lives Matter (BLM) today, have the same effect or stance as the activism you partook in back then? Do you feel like your activism was more powerful and impactful than activism today?

Mealy: It’s important to know that we were just one component of the broader struggle that was taking place. For many, the starting point for Black struggle starts with the Black Panther […] but [Sam and I] are trying to unpack this idea and really show people that there was something before the Black Panther. One of our main problems was the power dynamic between our movement and the state in the U.S. The worst thing that our movement had to face was when we realized the role of the FBI in the continued oppression of our people. With J. Edgar Hoover as the head of the FBI, they were creating a counterintelligence program­­­ — the Co-Intel Program. And even though many of us knew we were being spied on, and we knew we were being infiltrated, we didn’t realize just how organized and mobilized they were. Therefore it was very easy to create divisions within our movement, which was quite disruptive to our continuity and success. We weren’t as impenetrable as people think. In hindsight, I think that it’s important in these intergenerational discussions for us to be honest, to be transparent, and to talk about the negative as well as the positive, which is why I feel comfortable giving the following analysis of BLM.

The difference between our activism and today’s activism is the fact that BLM is a leaderless movement. Today you could say that you’re a member of BLM Montreal and once you express the reality of what’s happening to Black people here, you’re offered a mic and you’re instantly a member of BLM. There’s nothing wrong with that […] but what happens when a member’s perspective opposes yours? How will there be accountability when it isn’t an organized formation with internal accountability? That’s one of my concerns with having a leaderless movement.

Anderson: My other concern is the economic aspect of the movement. By seeking financial assistance through foundations, you automatically get cornered because [the foundations] feel entitled to dictate your policies. Let’s say a foundation offers you $70,000 and then you proceed to make a statement of support for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement; you are suddenly at risk of having them quit funding for your movement. So a challenge that BLM, or any movement really, will have to face is: how do you get funding? Turning to foundations means you fall into the trap of having to design your policies and strategies based on keeping funding. Because soon, you start saying “well, if we do or say this, then we get this much money; but if we do this instead we get even more money.”

And to go off what Rosemari said about us wanting to unpack the idea that the starting point of the Black struggle is the Black Panther Party — I want to point out that the BPP did not start the revolution. There’s an entire historical lineage before that, and it’s very important that people understand that the resistance was always organized by Black folks. Always. That resistance took on many different forms, and many different organizations.

Appiah: Exactly. You mentioned women, we know the Black Panther Party started with very little women in the beginning, near the cessation they were almost [at] 70 per cent. I wanted to ask you ­— how was the sisterhood back then compared to a group now like BLM?

Mealy: It depends on where you were. Where and when. Absolutely. The early part, the early 70s, when the party started to disseminate, women played a key role. We were the backbone of the organization. We were dealing with the finances, running the liberation schools, organizing the health clinics, and did just about everything else. The image of the party was that of the macho male, holding a gun right? The beret on and confronting the police all the time. That image was true, but in some ways it wasn’t. Many of the women who organized in the Black Panther Party defined their activism and themselves in relation to the men. And sometimes, they came in the party only to maintain relationships with the men. But those of us who already had political experience were very conscious of that fact. And so we sought upon ourselves that we had to do some serious work around the whole question of male chauvinism and self-identity. One of the strongest people who really worked on issues of patriarchy within our movement was Afeina Shakur, Tupac’s mom.

Another really important gender dynamic to point to in our movement is the question of credit: who is given credit, and for what? If you look in some of the old Panther papers, you will see the drawings and the artwork of our movement always being attributed to Emory Douglas. However, many of those images were done by a sister Panther — Carol Rucker. She never gets any credit for that, which I think really articulates the lived experiences of Black women in the organization. I don’t have a problem saying this publicly because I always tried to take on the role of identifying the way in which gender issues played out in our movement. I was called the women’s liberator in the Black Panther Party because I could really see how some sisters would be devastated when they would join our movement and their relationships would fail. They couldn’t function.

Appiah: Did you resent them?

Mealy: Oh no no no! That’s the whole point! It was an embracing of those women and dedicating time when we got together as women, where we really talked this thing out. In fact, some women, once they joined the party, realized their own power and their sense of self. They ended up terminating the relationships that they came into the party with. And that was really important. On another level it was constantly struggling against physical violence and abuse — our party had a strong position that deemed that type of violence to be unacceptable. It was a very strong and powerful stance, but that didn’t mean that in some places it wasn’t happening. In our own homes, and in our own households, […] we have our mothers who were victims of domestic violence and we didn’t really know it until much later. We have to deal with that, somehow. This was all representational of the movement’s political work. But once women started talking, and they felt empowered to be their own self, we started addressing these issues more. So yes, sexism was an issue, in all of the movements.

Appiah: How did you [Sam] deal with that? The sexism in the party? When they were coming in, how did you feel?

Anderson: At first I didn’t deal with it, but then I started to confront some of the brothers about their negative actions towards sisters. And often when you confront other brothers about their violent behavior, especially when you’re doing it as a young Black man, […] you get put down. But it’s important to build up enough courage to deal with that issue of confronting male chauvinism. But once it’s done, there’s no turning back. In some ways, it creates a domino effect, and more and more men started supporting feminist efforts to criticize brothers who were chauvinistic. Sometimes, you have to intervene in domestic violence issues.

Mealy: It’s a contradiction to call yourself a revolutionary activist when your own behaviours don’t align. It’s a constant and ongoing struggle […] I mean if we take a look at the ‘Me Too’ movement which was started by Tarana Burke*, a Black woman in Alabama. She worked with young girls who were victims of sexual abuse. Nobody could hear her, but it was only when it started hitting upper-class artist[s] and white women from the arts world that the ‘Me Too’ movement became powerful. ‘Me Too’ started with us [Black people]. It started when we were sold on the auction block. So we have to constantly frame that in the historical context.

Bishinga: The general public tends to only be exposed to stories of Black cisgender heterosexual men experiencing racism. Consequently it forgets other marginalized populations, like women of colour, in the discussion of racism. I am wondering what you feel it does to the movement?

Mealy: It is not a contest about who is the most oppressed. What you need to do is frame it in the context of the origins of your reality. If we talk about Black people of African descent, you have to bring in the role of the slave trade and how it laid the basis for creating the social construct of what race is. It is a social construct, same as gender and class. You can come together in unity and have respect and understanding of each other’s culture and each other’s experiences. If you don’t do that, it allows a narrow nationalist perspective, which dismisses others people’s experience. Ultimately, that is what racism does. Racism dismisses the others. This will never go away. We are first perceived as Black. We got to be conscious of that. But at the same time, we have to understand that being united is really important. Just as white people have privilege that is immutable, men do as well. There’s still a long way to go, and we still have to continuously re-educate ourselves. In some ways, men have to decolonize themselves.

That colonial mentality is so deep. We get back to the issue of patriarchy and it is difficult. Nobody is saying that you should lose your manhood. The concept of manhood itself is difficult — what is it? That’s where community is important because we shouldn’t be having these conversations by ourselves. We must have it as a community. For example, a lot of white people’s gut reaction to being called privileged is to say, “I had nothing to do with the slave trade.” In saying that, they forget that it’s not about having personal or economic stake in the slave trade, it’s about what white privilege allows you to have access to. And this isn’t rhetorical. This is real. And it’s important that we stop using terms such as “marginalized populations/community.” We aren’t marginalized. We have been marginalized, but we aren’t inherently so.

Bishinga: We recently started a mentorship program called Supporting Young Black Students’ Careers in Health (SYBS). Our objective is to create a longitudinal pipeline to help young Black students to enter programs in healthcare professions, because Black students are underrepresented in most of those programs, especially medicine. Do you have tips or suggestions for us or for similar initiatives?

Anderson: It is very important work and we must be intergenerational. It is important to set up a structure that allows us to keep that going, to keep our stories and our struggles alive. I think you need to keep in mind that you are institution-building. A movement that is institutional is a long-lasting movement. Once we institutionalize our struggles and our community, we eternalize them ourselves.

Appiah: What do you think propels you into activism? For example,  a lot of activist culture stipulates that if your activism is triggered by a sudden death, then it is disingenuous.

Mealy: If it takes somebody’s death to get involved, it’s sad to say […] but whatever the force is that will energize you to say “I’m going to do something” is legitimate. On my part, what propelled me was the work I was doing as a a child development specialist. I remember going to Chicago and seeing the blood-stained mattress with Fred Hampton laying on it. […] I never went back to that job again. That’s what triggered my activism, seeing the blood.

Appiah: When you guys were in the party, what did you see coming in the future?

Anderson: Like we said, revolution was right around the corner. Every day was tumultuous. This vision of a socialist America and working-class solidarity, was just down the road in our lifetime. I think the vast majority of us who were active in that moment were a bit disillusioned. We thought we were going to get a revolution, but then we got the Reagan era and the fascist right-wing era. Some people gave up after that!

Sandrine Appiah and Sarah Regab

Appiah: We just have one question left: how do you feel about being in the world today, and what advice can you give to somebody that wants to do something, but can’t be a full-time freedom fighter?  Is there any advice you can say about that?

Mealy: We are at the end stages of our lives where we aren’t going to be around for a lot longer. We don’t have the security that other people have, but you make do with what you have and find solace in it.

Anderson: And in a community of like-minded friends, comrades.

Mealy: Right, right. And you can develop those over the years.

Anderson: You guys are in a different time now. We used to have a social movement that informed us, and the work we were doing. It wasn’t just national, but global in that period. It informed the youth. In the US, if you were a young Black person in the 1960s, activism was the hip thing to be involved with. It was in the air, but now it’s not. It may happen. It may bubble up on a global scale next year. We recognize that there are powerful movements right now.

Mealy: It all goes back to having a world view and an understanding of what’s going on, and that you’re not alone. That’s what’s so important. You’re not alone in this.

Anderson: And to remember that there are different levels of participation. We were deeply involved in a full-time way with many organizations for many years, and we had friends who are extremely supportive, but could not make that next leap. They were extremely supportive, they’d come out to the meetings and demos. They would give money. There are different types of support.

*Tarana Burke started her activism in Alabama. She created a non-profit in 2003 called “Just Be.” It was aimed to be a place for Black girls, but three years later she renamed it “Me Too” because of the overwhelming sexual abuses and assaults that many of these girls had experienced. The “Me Too” phrase went on to become a worldwide movement. Burke moved to Philadelphia and participated in different kinds of activism — mainly contributing to the founding of different organizations.

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Carefree and Cosmic https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/carefree-and-cosmic-2/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 11:00:18 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54705

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Self-Awareness and Self-Location https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/self-awareness-and-self-location/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 11:00:12 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54696 I am currently a student in the Master of Social Work program at McGill, who completed the Qualifying Year (QY) last year. I identify as an able-bodied, cisgender female of East African and Indian origin. My parents came to Canada as refugees, and worked hard to provide their family with a safe and solid middle-class upbringing. I am the product of their hard labour, and I carry many socio-economic privileges as a result.

The article No Place for Queer Students, written by Hannah Forman, following their decision to quit McGill’s graduate Social Work program elicited a number of strong feelings in me, some of which still linger weeks later. I have written this in the hopes of sparking meaningful dialogue around the issues that Hannah has boldly brought forward, and to think critically about the ways in which we all seek to defend the rights of marginalized groups, within the School of Social Work and beyond.

I have listened on numerous occasions to students who identify as white bemoan the hopeless “whiteness” of the program, without even the slightest hint of irony or humility.

I want to start by saying that what Hannah experienced and wrote about is upsetting, valid, and important. I am deeply saddened that this is what they lived through, that their sense of safety was taken away, and that they and many of their colleagues in the queer community felt ostracized, mis- gendered, oppressed, and tokenized. Providing safety, as well as accurate and nuanced representations of LGBTQ people and issues, is an area that clearly requires immediate attention within the social work department.

I would also tend to agree with many of Hannah’s critiques regarding the curriculum, which can certainly feel outdated at times. The McGill School of Social Work is a far cry from the progressive, cutting- edge program that Hannah hoped for, and the article they wrote has likely sparked greater urgency for evaluating and strengthening course content within the program, for which I am grateful.

Where my approval started to waver was when Hannah asserted that they felt as though being in the QY program was like “stepping into a factory run by straight, nice, white ladies intent on producing straight, nice, white lady social workers.” Stating that they took a photo of an orientation exercise that featured “an entire row of fairly identical white women” was problematic to me for a few reasons. Mainly, to paint the exercise in this way would be to misrepresent the real diversity of people who were there on that day. Social location does not simply stop after “straight, white woman,” but goes much further to include class,
age, ableism, religion and countless other identities that should not be glossed over. To ignore the vast diversity of people and experiences in describing that orientation — which I should add was co-facilitated by an Indigenous professor, attended by numerous “straight, nice, white” faculty who are involved in some amazing community-based initiatives, and a number of people of colour (myself included) — draws strange parallels to the sweeping generalizations that Hannah argues are being applied in discussions about LGBTQ populations in the classroom.

I worry that advocating on behalf of BIPOC folks could be viewed with the same hesitancy as I felt, particularly if the person does not identify as a member of this group.

A second area of discomfort that I felt is in the critique of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) underrepresentation within the School of Social Work. While I agree with the critique itself, I worry that advocating on behalf of BIPOC folks could be viewed with the same hesitancy as I felt, particularly if Hannah does not identify as a member of this group. Specifically, if Hannah happens to identify as white, focusing almost exclusively on being “queer” would overlook the many privileges that “whiteness” still affords, such as greater accessibility to educational programs — often to the detriment of people of colour. And these privileges need not be flagrant; something as simple as a name can bring such advantages. We know for example that a person named “Zhang,” “Singh,” “Saleh,” or “Toukara” is going to be overlooked far more often in an application process (particularly in the context of employment) than a person with a more Western- sounding name (Thomson, 2017).

To be fair, this is not a critique of Hannah or their experience, as I don’t know them in the slightest. What I can say with certainty is that I have listened on numerous occasions to students who identify as white bemoan the hopeless “whiteness” of the program, without even the slightest hint of irony or humility. The reason for this peculiar phenomenon is unclear, but it could be related to what comedian Hannah Gadsby argues is an inherent need for those in power to convince themselves of their own “goodness,” which can be achieved by labelling others in their same identity group as “bad.” Whatever the case, this level of cognitive dissonance – which I also suspect in this case is linked to a form of deep-seated white guilt – seems to allow for students to completely cut off from their own complicity in the problem of BIPOC underrepresentation in a way that I find both subtle and troubling.

To sit in its heavy discomfort, and to be able to add that “I’m still here to help, if anyone will have me” is, in my opinion, a far more powerful statement of ally-ship than either heightening certain aspects of one’s (oppressed) identity or covering up aspects of one’s privilege.

As a refreshing counterexample, I recently attended a panel during the Social Work strike week where a white student very plainly located the multitude of privileges that he possessed as the son of two doctors. To state this outright, to sit in its heavy discomfort, and to be able to add that “I’m still here to help, if anyone will have me” is, in my opinion, a far more powerful statement of ally-ship than either heightening certain aspects of one’s (oppressed) identity or covering up aspects of one’s privilege, either out of shame or denial.

In speaking about conducting research within Indigenous communities, Absolon & Willett write about self-location as a critical element of clarifying who one does and does not represent, and say that it would be considered “arrogant, audacious, and disrespectful” to represent something that is not one’s own. They continue by stating that “as an anti-oppressive methodology, location brings ownership and responsibility to the forefront.” The takeaway here is that there is an important distinction between
working as a member of a particular group and working on behalf of said group, the latter requiring greater sensitivity and permission to do so in a respectful way. Sadly, this point often gets overlooked in our haste to advocate for others, despite our best intentions.

Self-location and intersectionality are not simply about identifying the areas in which we are oppressed, but also the ways in which virtually all of us wield power and privilege in certain contexts. In this case, to conflate grievances about LGBTQ safety with that of other minority representation can potentially be offensive to BIPOC students who may not necessarily equate their suffering along all the same lines as queer folks. But who knows; they may also be happy that someone like Hannah brought it up. The point is that when one decides to use a platform to advocate on behalf of others, permission is essential, as well as a willingness to locate oneself within a nuanced discussion of power and oppression. When we do not do that, we run the risk of slipping closer towards the oppressive ways that we so vehemently denounce.

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White Man Science https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/white-man-science/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 11:00:03 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54687 Political science is the largest program in the Faculty of Arts, which is the largest faculty at McGill. McGill’s “about” web page claims that the university “is recognized around the world for the excellence of its teaching and research programs.” But what’s in a “world-recognized” education?

In March 2018, undergraduate students at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), a renowned French political science university, published a spreadsheet polling the race and gender composition of their curriculum, which also claims to offer “a world-class” education. They found that only 3.45% of the authors they were assigned were racialized, and 15.45% were women. Contacted by The McGill Daily, the authors of the spreadsheet told us that they “wanted to show who really owned freedom of speech, and to whom it was denied at a systemic level.” Their results show that white male authors and thinkers still dominate their university program — while their university is ranked one of the best in the world in political science.

Race and Gender Composition of Typical Political Science Syllabi at McGill

Polling of race and gender in a sample of 12 McGill political science classes (the amount required for a major) finds similarly damning results. Of the 300 authors polled, 86% are white, and one per cent is Indigenous, with three Indigenous men and a single Indigenous woman. When broken down per class, those numbers show that most syllabi are overwhelmingly (>75%) composed of white male thinkers with two of them including exclusively white male authors.

To engage with decolonial and antiracist thought, students have to go out of their way to find classes, mostly outside the department.

Beyond the four Indigenous authors polled, no other author in the syllabi engages with Turtle Island’s (North America) history of colonialism with a decolonial lens. Similarly, only four authors of the 300 taught in class are Black, and none of the non-Black authors engages with theories around Black liberation or anti-Blackness in Canada. This leaves students with little to no understanding of how Canadian politics have been, and continue to be, shaped by colonialism and racism. To engage with decolonial and antiracist thought, students have to go out of their way to find classes, mostly outside the department.

The political science program aims to teach students “how groups of people govern themselves, how policies are made, and how we can improve our government policies at the local, state, national and international levels” but continues to ignore key ways in which politics work (racism, colonialism, sexism) and key thinkers working on improving government policies surrounding matters of equality. McGill is the alma mater of many key players in Canada’s political landscape, including the current prime minister, as well as many cabinet ministers, MPs, senators, and Supreme Court justices. By excluding Indigenous and Black peoples from having any weight in the education of Canada’s future politicians, McGill hinders decolonial and antiracist thought from being present in governance. This situation contributes to Canada’s persistent ignorance of Indigenous and Black people’s realities, struggles, and thinkers.

Current political science programs perpetuate canons almost exclusively made up of white male authors. These statistics show that what is considered the “best” education for a politician in the West is taught through a canon still heavily limited to white and/or men’s writings. All professors have to consider how the idea of a canon itself has been conceived and what views this has excluded — more specifically Black, Indigenous, people of colour (BIPOC), and women. It is not enough to pepper classes with “diversity,” or to create separate classes to teach decolonial or antiracist thought. Antiracist and decolonial theory should be fully integrated in all syllabi as a core concern so as to make them not marginal and secondary but central. Such change would help in recognizing how important racism and colonialism have been in shaping governments and nations, especially on Turtle Island.

Antiracist and decolonial theory should be fully integrated in all syllabi as a core concern so as to make them not marginal and secondary but central.

Students need to be empowered with policy mechanisms to question the representation of our syllabi. A solution could be drawn from procedures that already exist at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). There, professors have to strike a deal with their students to decide on the weight, number and due dates of their assignments during the first two weeks of each class. We should have a procedure for students to object to the unjust exclusion of authors from marginalized groups or ideas pertaining to those groups’ struggles. For example, students could flag a class to an equity office like the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE); professors would then have to justify the exclusion of certain authors, and amend their syllabi to reflect a more inclusive view of politics. Beyond tedious procedures to urge all professors to integrate antiracist and decolonial theory, professors should proactively make those changes and offer to change readings at the beginning of the semester under such concerns.

We should feel concerned by the poor education given to students around core political dynamics in this country and the world. What McGill and Sciences Po (and countless other universities) mean by “excellence” or “world- class” education remains biased in terms of identities of race and gender. As long as students are exposed to slanted perspectives on politics, politicians will have skewed visions of politics and will hinder the possibility of a just society.

If you wish to go further and teach yourself what is lacking in your degree, here are some academic resources by BIPOC community organizers you can start with:
Black History Month Library

Decolonization Reading List
(Turtle Island)
Postcolonial theory syllabus

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Clubs Move https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/clubs-move/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 05:58:47 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54712 Over the course of the next two weeks, SSMU clubs and services operating out of the 2075 Robert-Bourassa space will be vacating and relocating to 680 Sherbrooke. Clubs and services housed in 2075 Robert-Bourassa plaza include the Muslim Students’ Association, the Flat Bike Collective, McGill University Photography Student’s Society, SACOMMS, TVMcGill, McGill Tribune, Legal Information Clinic, Union for Gender Empowerment, and The Daily Publications Society. The current lease on the space is set to end January 31, 2019. These services have been at the interim space since the closure of the SSMU building in March 2018. Though the University Centre (3480 Rue McTavish) was originally set to reopen by the end of 2018, construction is still underway. In lieu of renewing the current lease contract on 2075 Robert-Bourassa for an additional three-month period, SSMU made the decision to relocate clubs and services to 680 Sherbrooke, with assurance from the Deputy Provost that SSMU Clubs and Services can use the space intermittently until the University Centre reopening. The decision will save SSMU from spending up to $160,000 of student dollars, helping to avoid deficits and prioritize other SSMU activities this semester.

 

Affected clubs were given notice of the move in late December, just prior to the winter break. Move dates are set between the 14th and 21st of January. Logistics of the move have been coordinated by Wallace Sealy, SSMU Building Director. Only groups currently located in 2075 Robert-Bourassa are impacted.

 

SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer told the Daily in a phone conversation that “it’s hard not having a building in general, taking a decision like this helps the student groups, and is also helping to avoid deficits. This decision is being taken based on what we could afford.” He went on to address the delayed construction at the University Centre: “we were told [the construction] would take longer than January, and we needed to take a choice that would save money and ensure people have the spaces they need to operate.” The move to 680 Sherbrooke saves SSMU the $80,000 that would otherwise be allocated to paying rent on an additional three-month contract at 2075 Robert-Bourassa. The lease would have to be renewed again in April should the University Centre still be under renovations.

 

While the building at Robert-Bourassa required key card access hindering some groups from holding open office or drop-in hours, the 680 location may facilitate more student ownership of an interim space. “I don’t think the groups are hindered too much – it is a comparable service space. Overall, I think it is a good move,” concluded President Mansdoerfer.

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Judicial Board Releases Verdict https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/judicial-board-releases-verdict/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 05:08:06 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54715 The Judicial Board of the SSMU released its final decision on the petition brought forward by Senator Bryan Buraga against President Tre Mansdoerfer and VP Finance Jun Wang on December 14. The Board ruled in favour of the respondents, Mansdoerfer and Wang. The Judicial Board consists of one Chief Justice, Georgina Hartono, and four other Justices, Benjamin Herrera, Daniel Minden, Natasha Petrof, and Samuil Rosenov Stoychev.

 

In the original petition, Buraga alleged that the October 11 and the October 18 passing of the Gender and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP) was unconstitutional, as were the results of their referenda. Buraga, in his petition, and during the November 20 hearing, maintained that this motion was not legitimate because it lacked the requisite number of movers, and that it did not comply with Elections SSMU’s timeline. According to the Elections SSMU regulations, all questions included in the Fall 2018 referendum must have been submitted by October 15. At the time of the October 11 meeting it was believed that the motion had four movers. Buraga, originally a mover of the motion, had withdrawn his support prior to the meeting. After Buraga filed his petition on October 14, President Mansdoerfer called an extraordinary meeting of Legislative Council. The special meeting, held on October 18, saw a motion amending the October 11 policies, ensuring that the GSVP had enough movers.

 

The judgement examines a conflict between the Standing Rules of Legislative Council, which asserts that a motion only needs three movers, and the Internal Regulations of Government, which dictates that questions destined for referendum must have four movers. Citing section 5.1 of the Standing Rules, which gives the Standing Rules precedence in matters of conflict, the Judicial Board “conclude[d] that the October 11 Motion was constitutionally adopted as it had the requisite number of movers.” Because the October 18 motion is seen as an amendment to the October 11 motion, the Judicial Board found that the question posed in the 2018 Fall Referendum, and its results, were valid.

 

In his petition, Buraga also alleges that by not finding alternatives to a fee levy, VP Finance Jun Wang violated the standard of care outlined in section 16.1 of the SSMU constitution and section 5.3.5 of the GSVP. Section 16.1 of the constitution requires that SSMU executives “act in good faith” and perform their duties with the “care, diligence, and skill that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in comparable circumstances.” Section 5.3.5 of the GSVP states that the VP Finance is responsible for funding the GSVP through the SSMU budget. While the GSVP is funded by a fee levy, the Judicial Board concluded that the creation of a fee levy was not in violation of the GSVP. The Board asserted in their report that because the VP Finance “stat[ed] that the SSMU should first attempt to fund the GSVP with a fee levy, he was pursuing his obligation of ensuring that the GSVP would be funded.” The VP Finance had also suggested at the October 11 meeting that if the fee levy was unable to be implemented, cuts to the SSMU budget could be made to ensure the funding of the GSVP. This, in the eyes of the Judicial Board, again proved that the VP Finance did not violate the standard of care.

 

In an email to the Daily, President Mansdoerfer said he is “glad that the issue is resolved and that all processes were followed in the fee being brought to referendum.” In a statement to the Daily, Senator Buraga expressed that although the Board did not file in favour of his case, he is “glad that [his] case started a conversation about SSMU’s role in protecting survivors of sexual violence.” Elaborating, he promised to “continue to fight for permanent funding for the GSVP. [He] look[s] forward to working with the SSMU President and VP Finance to do so,” he finished.

 

On what’s next after the verdict, Buraga said that he is waiting to see how the SSMU executives restructure the fees before he takes further action on the matter.

 

Mansdoerfer also told the Daily that SSMU “recently approved the hiring of two of the coordinators for the GSVP,” and that they are “looking forward to them starting their work soon.”

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BRIEF: Report of Ad-Hoc Committee on Student-Teaching Staff Intimate Relationships https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/12/brief-report-of-ad-hoc-committee-on-student-teaching-staff-intimate-relationships/ Thu, 06 Dec 2018 11:00:43 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54647 cw: mentions of sexual violenc

Julie Lassonde, chair of the Ad Hoc Senate Committee on Teaching Staff-Student Intimate Relationships, delivered the committee’s report at McGill’s Senate meeting on December 5. The committee was established as a response to student concerns over the McGill administration’s lack of action in the wake of numerous allegations of staff-student relationships, and instances wherein staff perpetuated sexual violence.

In April of this year, students held a demonstration to call on McGill to address the issue. The committee’s mandate was to make recommendations intended to inform subsequent policy.  

Report

Lassonde first discussed the committee’s composition and process, both in terms of consultations and its consensus-based nature. Then, she discussed the committee’s recommendations.

The committee recommends that relationships between students and teaching staff be prohibited when both parties are in the same academic unit, or if the staff member has an advising role on a student’s thesis. There are two exemptions to these stipulations. First, “the teaching staff has no supervisory/evaluative/teaching role over the student AND the relationship will not create the reality or perception of any unfair advantage or disadvantage to the student concerned or to other students in the unit AND the relationship will not place an undue burden on other faculty members within the unit who are obliged to make accommodations for their colleague;” second, “the relationship existed prior to both parties participating in the same academic unit AND each element of the category 1 exemption applies.”

Lassonde also emphasized the importance of disclosure, mandatory trainings, clear definitions of key terms, and transparency for proper implementation of the policy.

Notable Questions and Comments

After Lassonde delivered the report, the floor was opened to Senators’ questions and comments.

Arts Senator Madeline Wilson stated that based on students present, it would seem that consensus was not met. She then asked why a full ban was not recommended by the committee when students had consensus on recommending a full ban. Lassonde responded that she was not in a position to reveal information regarding individual responses, and that the recommendation of a full ban did not reach consensus.

Citing a recent Tribune article by the student members of the committee, which alleges that the committee on teaching staff-student relationships has failed students, Senator Nicholas Dunn, PGSS representative on the Senate, asked how consensus was reached. Lassonde explained consensus and responded that there was no request for a minority report.

Senator Jacob Shapiro, SSMU VP University Affairs, followed up on Wilson’s question. Lassonde responded by saying that three out of seven is not a majority view.

Senator Angela Campbell, Associate Provost (Equity and Academic Policies), then gave comments, saying that a complete ban is not legally possible. She also emphasized the administration’s various concessions to student demands.

Chair Suzanne Fortier, Chancellor of McGill University, also stated that complete bans, which have been instituted at Harvard and Yale, are new, and as a result, the consequences are not yet known.

Senator Sameer Zuberi, Diversity and Engagement Officer in the Faculty of Medicine, noted that the focus of the policy is on professors, but that attention should be paid to staff who interact with students. He also asked how those who have committed gendered and sexual violence against students will be held accountable. This raised a demand for the policy to outline clear consequences for those acting outside of the framework to be instituted.

Shapiro gave the last comment; he responded to various mentions of “both sides,” saying that the topic at hand is students’ safety, and that he hoped there was only one side on that matter. He asked why there was no ban, arguing that there had been no substantial response to the repeated question. Lassonde reiterated that the committee did not feel a full ban was necessary.

Students protest the Ad-Hoc Committee on Student-Staff Intimate Relationships’ report at Senate, December 5, 2018.

Student Presence at Senate

During the meeting, the back row of Leacock 232 was lined with about 20 students, who stood up when Lassonde was called to deliver the report. Most held signs, two of which read “we need a ban” and “don’t fuck your students.”

The meeting began at 2:30pm, and discussion of the committee’s report started around 4:00pm. As of 3:45pm, students were denied entry to senate, allegedly because Leacock 232 was at full capacity. Despite the fact that senators were leaving and reports of empty seats, security maintained that letting more people into the room would be a fire hazard.

Students chanted “we want a ban” as discussion of the committee’s report ended. Trying to speak over the chants, Fortier asked that students respect the work being done and suggested that they be quiet or leave. After a few more rounds of “we want a ban,” students stopped chanting and filed out.

 

More to come.

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Crossword Answers https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/crossword-answers-2/ Fri, 30 Nov 2018 11:00:05 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54596 Here are the crossword answers for the week of November 26, made by Phoebe Pannier!

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Police https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/11/police/ Tue, 27 Nov 2018 04:30:35 +0000 https://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=54617