1) George Menexis
Assistant opinions editor
It was an extremely tough year for Greece. Bankruptcy has been looming on Greek society for quite some time now. As the rest of Europe struggles with Greece’s enormous debt, they’re also considering excluding the country from the eurozone, something that would be detrimental to Greek society. The population has greatly suffered from the austerity measures that are being put in place to keep the Greek economy at bay. Riots have shown the population’s discontent with their government and violence in the streets has made Athens a dangerous place. The lack of jobs and high taxes are making more and more people poor. Recently the country hit its highest unemployment rate yet: 21 per cent. It’s a mess.
“The kids didn’t even have new books at school this year because the school couldn’t afford them,” said Chris Politis, 42-year-old Greek citizen and friend who lives in Athens with his three children.
I am of Greek origin and most of my relatives currently live in Greece. Every day they wake up to a weakened economy, engulfed by the fear of possibly losing their jobs. They struggle with important decisions such as possibly leaving the only home and country they’ve ever known.
To see my second home fall apart like this, and to see my cousins, uncles, aunts and fellow Greeks riot and suffer, was saddening and frustrating.
2) Jacques Gallant
It seems only fitting that one of my last contributions to The Concordian as its editor-in-chief would focus on the tuition debate, but more specifically the mismanagement of public funds in many Quebec universities. The news items that affected me the most this year were Concordia’s announcement that it was hiring external auditors to review the severance packages it handed out between 2009 and 2010, and Education Minister Line Beauchamp’s decision to fine Concordia $2 million for its mismanagement of public dollars, which include tuition fees. Maybe I’m just bitter because my plan to become the principal companion of a wealthy hedge fund manager will never actually happen, and I’ll have to find some other way to pay off my tens of thousands of dollars of student debt, but I became exceedingly outraged this year when it became clear how badly some Quebec universities handled money being given to them by students and the government. Former Concordia president Judith Woodsworth receiving a $703,500 severance package and current president Frederick Lowy scoring a $350,000 salary plus a $1.4 million interest-free loan for his condo are only some of the examples that I could throw out there. Someone please clear this up for me: What the hell do these people do that merits so much money? During my time at The Concordian it’s one of the rare Concordia-related mysteries that I never managed to solve. And don’t give me the usual drivel that their jobs are to “represent the university [at wealthy alumni parties] and be the face of the institution.” I want a little bit more than that. I might even accept Line Beauchamp’s argument that tuition increases are desperately needed to improve the quality of education and research, but I just can’t when I think of all the financial mishaps Concordia went through these past few years. Yes, they’re clearly trying to fix the problem (finally!), but I remain unconvinced. If I ever bank a few extra thousand dollars in my future career (as a journalist, so I suppose I should keep dreaming), I don’t see myself ever donating a penny (or a nickel I should say) to this university.
3) Audrey Folliot
On Feb. 20, 2009, cardiologist Guy Turcotte killed his two children. He stabbed both of them more than a dozen times in a blind rage, shortly after discovering that his ex-wife had been cheating on him with his best friend. This story was being discussed in Quebec even months after it had happened. During his trial last summer, Turcotte admitted that he had killed his children—Olivier, 5, and Anne-Sophie, 3—but said he had not intended to do so. After the trial, he was found not criminally responsible for the deaths of his children. I’m sorry, but what? A lot of people were in disbelief at the announcement of the verdict, and so was I. It totally shocked me. Turcotte was a reputable cardiologist, so I don’t buy the mental illness excuse. There are many signs indicating that he was aware of his actions and that they were premeditated. But what shocks me the most is that he might be released in society soon. He said he wants to start over, build a new family and start to practise cardiology again. How can someone go on after something like that? Unbelievable.
4) Shaimaa El-Ghazaly
Assistant life editor
I was most affected by the introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives of the Stop Online Piracy Act, better known as SOPA. I am an avid Internet user and this bill threatens many of the sites that I find useful. I’m all for protecting the entertainment industry from piracy, but the bill affects the Internet as a whole. The legislation would destroy innovation, threaten free speech and allow law enforcement to block access to entire domains just because of a single blog or post that contains copyright-infringing content. Popular sites such as YouTube, Wikipedia and Facebook would most likely be shut down or at least severely debilitated. I see freedom of speech as quite important in our lives and it is something that differentiates us from countries ruled by dictators. I find it frustrating that a bunch of old men and women implementing laws initially made to punish a small portion of Internet users will end up punishing everyone else in the process. While the main goal is to protect artists, shutting down user-generated sites will not make the artists any richer. The blackout of many sites including Wikipedia and Google in protest against SOPA worked, but the bill is not completely gone. Sure, it is an American law, but Canadian websites would also be affected. This legislation would move us backwards and threaten the progress we’ve made in terms of Internet accessibility.
5) Alyssa Tremblay
Many drivers’ worst fears were confirmed this fall when the Champlain Bridge, the busiest bridge in the country, was reported to be deteriorating and increasingly unsafe to drive on.
Used by thousands of motorists every day, the news about the bridge gave people something else to worry about other than infuriating rush hour traffic.
Now, the classic nightmare of being late for work got a terrifying new twist—sleeping through the alarm was replaced by the very real possibility that on your way into the office, the bridge will finally give out, sending you plummeting through a gaping hole in the middle lane and into the icy depths of the Saint Lawrence, trapped in the sinking metal coffin that is your Honda Accord.
In October, Ottawa announced that they would foot the $25 million bill to replace the bridge with a new structure – a nice gesture if you ignore the fact that they plan on taking 10 years to build it.
To add insult to (literal) injury, the federal government had to be cajoled last summer into releasing the 86-page safety report on the bridge to the general public. Transport Minister Denis Lebel’s comforting explanation: they didn’t want to scare people.
Meanwhile, living on the South Shore got a whole lot edgier and dangerous once we realized that our daily commute was like playing Russian roulette with a 50-year-old hot mess of concrete and metal.
6) A.J. Cordeiro
Joining over 20 other Canadian cities and some 900 jurisdictions worldwide, Occupy Montreal was one of most defining moments in news for our community.
Beginning on Oct. 15 with the Global Action Day, protesters took up residence in tents under the
watchful gaze of Queen Victoria’s statue and the SPVM. Just over a month later, on
Nov. 25, protesters were evicted from the square. Did the protesters actually accomplish anything?
Well, the protest was not about accomplishing a specific set of goals, but rather sending a message of frustration from the 99 per cent movement. As a result, they were heard and cited in every major media outlet across Canada. What began as an effort to make the institutions and authority-company relationships in governments fairer and more just for citizens was stalled by the lack of unity on a specific set of goals. Instead, the main element which characterized the movement was disorganization. Occupy Montreal had a myriad of spokespeople, yet had a complete lack of leadership. One person would spout off about the present government administration, while another condemned the education system and others criticized health and social services. How can you communicate a unified message when everyone is talking at once? In the end, the only images that remain are the ones of city workers restoring the Queen’s image and taking down tents, as police marked protester hands with UV paint.
7) Marilla Steuter-Martin
Now more than ever, there is a strain on the relationship between university administrators and students. What better example of this could there be than the February 2012 “6party” occupation of McGill’s James administration building. Students felt their voices were not being heard and so in typical Montreal fashion, they made their discontent heard through protest. And how, you may ask, did the university respond? They tried everything to force students out. These young people, who spend thousands of dollars a year to attend this institution, were denied access to food, electricity and washroom facilities. In this day and age? I was appalled and frankly surprised that there wasn’t more of a public outcry. What many are apt to forget is that protesters are just as much human as those who abuse authority in their comfortable upper management offices, and they deserve to be treated with just as much respect. Furthermore, there is certainly no reason to set such a dangerous precedent as McGill security has this past year. The very thought of trained adult guards leaning out of windows trying to cut makeshift pulley systems set up by students in order to transport necessary supplies into their camp, is more pathetic than it is hilarious—if only by a fraction. I mean, is this truly the level we’re at? I say next time students decide to peacefully set up shop, McGill administrators would do well to remember that the world is watching them, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt the university’s image to send an olive branch, or a fruit basket, student protesters’ way.
8) Myles Dolphin
According to a Verizon study, hacktivists are to blame for 58 per cent of all stolen data in 2011. They’re organized, extremely smart and angry. From the takedown of the FBI website (in protest of SOPA) to the 78 Syrian government email accounts that were hacked into, hacktivists have made serious headlines in the past year. Hacktivism is a movement with zero discrimination: anyone who possesses above-average IT skills and who wants to use digital tools in the pursuit of political goals against a particular government or corporation can participate. Hacktivists have leveled the playing field; governments are suddenly extremely vulnerable to attacks. When it comes to groups like Anonymous and LulzSec, no challenge is out of their reach. They know they have considerable support for their actions, and they’ll keep justifying their mischievousness. Last December, using stolen credit cards, Anonymous hacked servers belonging to security think tank Stratfor and planned on donating around $1 million to various charities. Theft, in most cases, is condemnable, but there’s something romantic and somewhat empowering to know that there are anonymous groups out there, the modern-day Robin Hoods, bringing about chaos and destruction in the name of causes that many of us support. They advocate freedom of speech, truth, transparency and the right to protest: Who can argue with that?