Opinions: Taking the law into their own hands

“If you want something done right, do it yourself.” This is an old saying that can be applied to many situations. However, the validity of this personal motto comes into question when law enforcement is involved.

Vigilante justice. The term has been circulating Canadian news recently, mainly as a result of the Rehtaeh Parsons case. As of Aug.15, two boys are facing child pornography charges, after allegedly sexually assaulting the then 15-year-old Parsons in 2011 and circulating photos.  The boys identities are being kept hidden, because they were minors at the time of the crime.

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

 Many are upset that there are no sexual assault charges. On Aug. 9,CBC reported that police yet again warned “that anyone who takes direct action against suspects in the Rehtaeh Parsons case will face legal consequences.”

Popular online group Anonymous played a large role in this investigation. According to the Huffington Post, the group spoke out against those supporting the boys after Parsons’ death following an attempted suicide back in April.

 The investigation in this case was slow, and at one point non-existent. Back on April 19, the group accused police of hypocrisy and “protecting their own interests.” Anonymous did their own investigating and managed to acquire the names of the four boys involved. They threatened to release the names if Halifax police did not reopen the case.

The fact that there are people out there who can hold the government and law enforcement agents accountable for their actions is empowering for citizens. People should not allow those in charge to get too comfortable and let details slip through the cracks when they think we aren’t paying attention. However, the backlash that could follow when people take the law into their own hands is also quite worrisome.

If the names of the boys in the Parsons case were released to the world, the reins would be handed over to civilians. There is no telling what some people can and would do, which could possibly create a whole other mess for police, distracting from the initial case in question.  Not to mention that releasing the names would actually violate the Youth Criminal Justice Act, according to CBC.

There is a difference between those keeping the police on their toes, and those taking the law into their own hands, breaking the law in the process. The problem with vigilante justice is the lack of organization and compliance with our legal system. Whether you agree with the way a case is being handled or not, harassing, threatening or harming someone who is suspected of a crime, no matter how heinous, is a crime in itself and could cost someone’s life. Just last month a California couple shot and killed their neighbour, whom they suspected of molesting their four- year-old daughter at a sleepover, according to NBC News, Aug.23. Investigators later found that no such foul act against the child had occurred.

Social media has played a starring role in this new form of online and at home investigating, but it is important to remember that there is a lot of false and unverified information online. Those playing FBI on Reddit or Twitter can easily circulate false information without knowing it. Take the example of Sunil Tripathi, the man falsely accused of being the Boston Bomber.

Tripathi was missing at the time, his family searching and worried for him as he had a history of depression.  Social media users began circulating his photo. They said he resembled one of the suspects. This was later dismissed once police announced their suspects were the Tsarnaev brothers. However, all the posts incriminating Tripathi were already out there and couldn’t be taken back. When you put it on the Internet, it’s nearly impossible to erase. Tripathi’s false accusation not only affected him, but also his family. It’s important to remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law and the public needs to let the justice system do its job, otherwise innocent people will be irreparably damaged.


Giving the wrong kind of salute

Soccer players are the best actors. When they score a goal, it’s their cue to play up the cameras. They scream, hug, pull off their shirts and stand in the middle of the field stoically, Balotelli style.

Twenty-year-old Greek soccer player Giorgos Katidis was banned from the Greek Football Federation for life for giving the Nazi salute after scoring a goal during last weekend’s game against Veria.

Katidis is playing innocent. First he claimed he was pointing to an ill teammate in the stands after his victory. His story then switched to a plea of ignorance. He said that he didn’t know the meaning of the gesture and quickly took to his Twitter account to say that he is against fascism.

Fans and political personalities on Twitter and Facebook were fired up and found Katidis’ actions unacceptable. Katidis owned up to the gesture in a statement by saying: “I am totally unacceptable and I feel terrible for those I upset with the stupidity of my act.”

The young midfielder has asked to be dropped from his team, AEK Athens, as he does not want his actions to reflect the club as a whole. A decision on what actions to take against him will be made sometime next week at the Super League’s executive meeting.

Many people, including his coach, are defending Katidis. They say he is young and probably saw the salute somewhere online, not understanding its meaning.

I’m 20 years old and I am educated enough to know that whipping out the Nazi salute is not ok, in any situation, for any reason. I think that is a bogus excuse and if anything just goes to show how really ignorant this young man is.

The Nazi salute is still finding its way into the awareness of younger generations, and Greece is no exception. Greek far right nationalist party, The Golden Dawn, has been criticized for using the gesture. However, members argue they are using the Roman salute. The group still gets away with using a lot of neo-Nazi symbols, branding them as something else.

This past summer, citizens and Jewish organizations put student protesters in Montreal under fire as some protesters were using the salute. Their reason: mocking the police for their brutality.

According to CBC, Quebec’s federation of university students apologized for the use of the gesture, calling it an error in judgment.

When you are trying to get a point across, this probably isn’t the way to go. Using a gesture like this one just leads to your intended message being pushed to the background and is considered offensive by many. It has a negative connotation because of history and therefore gets all the attention.

The issue here is that people tend to cry freedom of speech in these situations. They blame people for perceiving the gesture as disrespectful to the Jewish community and argue that it wasn’t their intended message.

People tend to forget that “freedom of speech” does not mean freedom from the consequences of your actions.

In this case, it’s the consequences of using the arm-outstretched, flat palm gesture so lightly, despite it being synonymous with a dictator responsible for the death of millions of people. I’m sure you can find another way to express yourself without being so ignorant.

As for Katidis, I am not sure what his use of the gesture even had to do with him celebrating a goal. This makes me question whether he may actually just be a young goon who had no idea what he was doing at the time. If that’s the case, someone needs to give him a time-out from the footy and pass him a history book.


A new pope could mean a facelift for the Vatican

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

The College of Cardinals is rushing to fill the vacant spot at the Vatican, left by Pope Benedict XVI when he resigned at the end of February.

Normally, there would be a waiting period of about 15 to 20 days before a new pontiff could take the throne but Benedict amended this part of the 500-year-old constitution in order to speed up the process. Cardinals are antsy because they want to ensure that the position is filled in time for Palm Sunday celebrations.

The reported front-runner that has everyone talking here at home is Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, who would become the first North American pope if selected. He was quoted as saying, “I have to be ready even if I think that probably others could do it better.”

Ouellet has many religious accomplishments tucked under his belt and is highly regarded not only in the Quebec religious community but around the world, too. He also speaks six languages — not bad for a man from a small town called La Motte.

However, I find it hard to come out and say that he would be the right choice. I find it hard to say that any of these men would be the right choice.

It seems that whether a cardinal is European, African or North American, a lot of them stand for the same things. They reek of hypocrisy.

Ouellet is known for sitting nice and snug on the far right on issues like birth control, abortion, same-sex marriage and women in the priesthood. This is not what the Catholic Church needs.

These men sit in the Vatican, their jaws hang open and they scratch their heads as to why their religion is losing so much popularity.

Maybe it’s because you are preaching from a book written 3,500 years ago, taking it out of context to suit your needs.

Polls show that North American Catholics feel out of touch with the messages coming out of the Vatican. A CBS poll shows that 66 per cent of the 580 Catholics asked say they want a younger pope, with 54 per cent saying they want a pope with liberal ideas, including allowing priests to marry.

Regardless, the Vatican has very little power, if any. The same poll showed that 83 per cent of Catholics did not think it was important to agree with its teachings. The Vatican does, however, influence the image of practicing Catholics everywhere.

Ouellet coming from North America makes no difference. In 2012, at an anti-abortion rally, Ouellet said that rape victims should be denied the option of abortion. “There’s already a victim. Should we be making another one?” he said.

When he was attacked by the media and politicians, this was his apology: “The message of the truth is not always welcome.”

It seems the messages of truth, love and acceptance aren’t always welcome in the Catholic Church either.

You know what I think the Vatican should try? Maybe elect someone younger who will liberalize the church’s stance on many issues and nudge them into the 21st century.

That doesn’t seem like it is going to happen, and that’s why the election of a new pope means nothing to me, because the Vatican will continue spreading its stale words. This is one time I’d like to be proven wrong.


Over-combing frivolous lawsuits

Donald Trump may be ranked the 278 richest man in the world by Forbes, but he is not the smartest. Most people his age give out those hard, taffy candies to people; Trump hands out lawsuits.

In the past month, reports have surfaced of two different possible lawsuits brought out by Trump.

Back in October, the mogul took to the Internet to make a big announcement. Trump said that he would donate $5 million to any charity of President Obama’s choice, so long as Obama released his college records and passport application. Trump called Obama “the least transparent president in the history of this country.”

Trump has a real dislike for President Obama. His Twitter resembled that of an angry fangirl during the elections, as he expressed his support for Obama-related conspiracies.

Bill Maher, comedian and host of Real Time with Bill Maher made a comment on Jay Leno about Trump’s statement. He mocked him by saying that he would also donate $5 million if Trump would hand over his birth certificate as proof that he was not a “spawn of his mother having sex with orangutan.”

Funny, but the comment wasn’t exactly the talk at the water cooler the next morning. Yet Trump decided that, in the true American fashion, he was going to threaten to sue Maher anyway.

Trump coughed up his birth certificate, proving he is not the product of ape and human relations and followed up by suing the comic for the $5 million he says he owes to charity.

Now, most people who possess an ounce of logic and even half a sense of humour know that Maher was joking. However, according to Trump and his FOX News appearance earlier this month, he believes Maher wasn’t just taking a stab.

To be honest, I do not think Trump cares much about the money going to charity. He was being ridiculous in the first place trying to get Obama to give up personal documents by using money for charity as incentive.

This is Donald Trump. Him, his legal team, and most of us watching know that not much will come from this lawsuit, but he is still going through with it. Why? Publicity.

Instead of dangling your money and betting on what and how much will go to charity, just give your money away. The charities’ names are being dragged into this, but how much money have they received? Some things matter a little more than pride.

Trump also recently threatened to sue a man named Angelo Carusone. Carusone is leading a campaign called “Dump Trump,” which is trying to sever ties with Trump and American department store giant Macy’s. Trump is a spokesperson for the store. The petition was started online in November.

The lawsuit is set at $25 million. According to the Huffington Post, Trump called Carusone’s actions “mob-like bullying and coercion.” Carusone said that Trump will not silence him, and compared his behavior to that of a bully.

I seriously think there should be some sort of law against frivolous lawsuits. Trump often just speaks to hear himself. I say we just get him a camcorder so he can film his bizarre tirades for personal viewing only. Save people time, money, and brain cells.

If not, I am just going to start suing everyone who makes me angry. Look out, Trump.


Weekly Mixtape: Valentine’s Day

It happens once a year. Shops and public places are draped in hues of pinks and reds. Chocolates shaped like hearts and roses adorn shelves. Happy couples hang onto each other, while florists rake in the profits. Some people’s hearts swoon at the thought of St. Valentine’s Day, while others feel sick at the very mention of Cupid’s shenanigans.

This mixtape has a little something for everyone. Are you a lover? Side A is filled with some pretty little gems sure to feed your emotional appetite.
Bad break up? Bitterly or happily single? Just hate Valentine’s Day? Side B may be the better place for you to chill, and maybe fill the void left by the flying man in the diaper who didn’t visit you this year.
So unwrap those chocolates and chalky message hearts, pour some wine, and enjoy the sweet sounds of love, anger, and emotional heartbreak.

Side A – For all the lovers

1. Maroon 5 – “She Will Be Loved” – Songs About Jane
2. U2 – “Sweetest Thing” – Where The Streets Have No Name
3. Ed Sheeran – “Wake me up”- +
4. Coldplay – “Green Eyes” – A Rush of Blood To The Head
5. The Temper Trap – “Sweet Disposition” – Conditions
6. Iron & Wine – “Such Great Heights” – Single
7. Aqualung – “Brighter than Sunshine” – Still Life
8. The Fray – “You Found Me” – The Fray
9. Jason Mraz – “I Won’t Give Up” – Love is a Four Letter Word
10. Lana Del Rey – “Video Games” – Born to Die

Side B – Anti-Valentine

1. Adele – “Someone Like You” – 21
2. Gavin Degraw – “Not Over You” – Sweeter
3. Of Monsters and Men – “Love, Love, Love” – My Head is an Animal
4. Maroon 5 – “Misery” – Hands All Over
5. John Mayer – “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” – Continuum
6. Alanis Morissette – “You Oughta Know” – Jagged Little Pill
7. Lily Allen – “Smile” – Alright, Still
8. Justin Timberlake – “Cry Me a River”- Justified
9. Big Brother and the Holding Company – “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart”- Cheap Thrills
10. Sara Bareilles – “King of Anything” – Kaleidoscope Heart


Rape culture in our own backyard

Sparks are flying in India after the country was left in shock and disgust following the gang rape, brutal beating and subsequent death of a young Indian student.

Many are quick to criticize India and its so-called rape culture, yet they seem to forget that this mentality isn’t sedentary, it travels far and wide. It isn’t one country’s problem — it’s our problem as well.

Let’s take a look at North America. One in six American women and one in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

According to a 2004 Statistics Canada General Social Survey, only one in 10 women report sexual assault to the police. Why? The same survey states 58 per cent of women thought it wasn’t important enough.

Now tell me, what backwards society do we live in where a sexually assaulted female is conditioned to believe that what happened to her is “not important enough?”

I’ll answer my own question.

A society filled with victim blaming and slut-shaming from both genders that makes me cringe. A society filled with those who claim a woman is “asking for it” by the way she dresses. There is no way to invite rape because the opposite of rape is consent.

It’s where we see examples of children who become sexual offenders. According to an article published in The Telegraph last year, a slew of elementary school students were arrested in the United Kingdom for sexual assault and “suspected rape.”

It’s a culture desensitized to such a brutal act of power and control that we don’t even realize how pervasive it is. Where pornography glorifies rape, and the media portrays violence as sexy and sex as violent.

It’s a society where young women have to worry about walking home after supper, putting up with drivers slowing down to catcall and shout out profanities.

It’s a country where a Canadian woman is sexually assaulted every 17 minutes, according to the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

Julie Michaud, an administrative coordinator for the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, believes that a real tolerance has blossomed towards people trivializing rape.

“The fact that rape and sexual assault are unfortunately much more common than they should be doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be seen as a big deal,” she said.

It isn’t just bad people who rape. We like to cast villains in life to make things simpler, but in most cases it’s the people we trust. While women are standing up, men also play a large role in making change.

“It’s not enough to be a guy that doesn’t sexually assault, they need to take an active role,” said Michaud.

I don’t want to raise my future children in such a small-minded and frankly dangerous culture. I want them to be open and free, and not worry about their innocence being stolen. We cannot put all the blame on our justice system for not being tough enough while we sit back and breed these characters.

So, don’t put up with the demeaning comments and remarks. Don’t encourage the trivialization of a severe issue. Don’t be so smug when criticizing other countries for their shortcomings. Promote respect and healthy relationships. Enough is enough.

The Gender Advocacy Centre is campaigning for a Sexual Assault Centre for victims of abuse. If interested in volunteering, visit


Taking on 2013 with a vengeance

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

The clock struck midnight, the confetti polluted the streets, the fireworks popped and crackled, and now that the holidays are over you’re ready to turn your life around. It’s a new year, a fresh start, and you’re going into it bright-eyed. The year 2012 was supposed to be better than 2011, and obviously 2013 will be better than 2012, right?

It’s almost as if the whole world just decides to do a major clean up at the start of each year and everything is reset. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? That’s because it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that people want to set goals, but there are a lot of common resolutions that set the bar a little too high and are just begging for failure.

“I believe that the resolutions we make are only there to comfort us for the time being,” said Concordia Student Jessica Palmieri. She doesn’t make resolutions because she feels like “slapping a label” on something makes it more difficult to do.

The all too common weight loss and gym resolution is probably one of the most popular. Dieting programs step up their advertising and gyms are filled to the brink in the days following Jan. 1. They’ve been dubbed the “resolutioners,” with gyms seeing an increase of almost 100 per cent, according to CBC and the Wall Street Journal. This only lasts a few weeks though. Time magazine states that things usually go back to normal in February, with 60 per cent of the memberships bought gone down the drain.

Other popular resolutions are to quit smoking, drastically change a diet and to become more knowledgeable about something. Realistically, though, you cannot just say that you’re going to learn Italian if you’ve never spoken a word or that you’re going to quit smoking just like that if you smoke a pack a day.

The way we formulate our resolutions simply sets us up for failure. As a recent study done at the University of Scranton and published in the Journal of Psychology shows, only eight per cent of Americans who make resolutions are actually successful in achieving them. Clearly not the percentage most want to see.

Resolutions are based on the willpower of the individual and some experts say your brain just cannot handle the stress of such sudden changes. As a Stanford University experiment explains, your prefrontal cortex is what handles your willpower. Willpower needs to be built up and trained. The best way to train for things is to take baby steps. This can also be applied to setting goals.

The worst thing that you can do is decide out of the blue that you’re giving up chocolate. An hour later, you’ll find yourself surrounded by gold and brown Ferrero Rocher wrappers with your cats pawing at them and judging you. Then you’ll hate yourself.

The issue is that we set high goals for ourselves that aren’t alway manageable and once we fail we find ourselves terribly discouraged. That’s why I think you need to set small goals at first and then continue to work up to more drastic changes. The light at the end of the tunnel needs to be visible, and you need to make sure it isn’t a train coming to hit you head on.

There are also resolutions that just don’t make much sense to me, specifically when it comes to habits we’ve had for a very long time. Charles Duhigg, New York Times writer and author of “The Power of Habit,” explains in his book that habits are compulsions, things that we’ve been doing for so long that we don’t even realize it anymore. A lot of work goes into breaking a habit, and it goes much deeper than we think.

I’m not trying to put anyone down for trying to improve his or her life, however, I think we should be setting goals for ourselves all year long and constantly taking little steps to improving ourselves. Now, if you’d excuse me, I have some chocolate to give away.


Weekly Mixtape: Gettin’ jolly with it

‘Twas the month before Christmas, and all through the malls, the same old songs played, driving us up the walls.

It’s that time of year again. Old Saint Nick’s music is filling up the airwaves. You hear it anywhere speakers can be installed, and your uncle probably has a Bing Crosby holiday CD on repeat. While many look forward to the nostalgic pa-rum-pum-pum-pum of the holiday drums, others find themselves irate with the repetitiveness. Luckily, there is such a thing as an original and enjoyable Christmas tune.

On Side A you’ll find songs you may not always think of as holiday songs. Having topped the Christmas charts, many are slowly making their way into the books as classics. Side B features songs from popular Christmas movies. It’s a mix of the old and the new. So grab a blanket, some hot cocoa and let the holiday spirit smother you.


Side A: Non-traditional Christmas songs

1. The Killer – “Boots” – (RED) Christmas EP 

2. Coldplay – “Christmas Lights” – Single

3. Goo Goo Dolls – “Better Days” – Let Love In

4. Shakin’ Stevens – “Merry Christmas, Everyone” – Single

5. John & Yoko with Harlem Community Choir – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”- Single

6. Wham! – “Last Christmas” – Music From the Edge of Heaven

7. Band-Aid – “Do They Know its Christmas?” – Single

8. U2 – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – A Very Special Christmas 

9. She & Him – “The Christmas Waltz” – A Very She & Him Christmas

10. Train – “Shake Up Christmas” – Save Me, San Francisco

Side B: Christmas at the Movies

11. Judy Garland – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Meet Me in St. Louis

12. Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” – ELF

13. Children’s Chorus – “Somewhere in My Memory/O Holy Night” – Home Alone

14. Danny Elfman – “What’s This?” – Nightmare Before Christmas

15. Bing Cosby – “White Christmas” – Holiday Inn

16. Taylor Momsen – “Where Are You Christmas?” – The Grinch

17. Olivia Olson – “All I Want for Christmas is You” – Love Actually

18. Various artists – “Auld Lang Syne” – It’s a Wonderful Life 

19. Josh Groban – “Believe” – Polar Express

20. Misfit Toys – “Island of Misfit Toys” – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 


Summing up the highlights 2012

The year 2012 is coming to a close my dear friends, and what a year it’s been. From American politics to Montreal soccer, we’ve summed up some of the most interesting events of the past year here.

Image via Flickr.

Robin Della Corte
Assistant news editor

In a province that is so often identified by it’s language issues, having an English mayor elected in office is a very symbolic moment for many people around the Montreal area.

Michael Applebaum’s election not only shows diversity, but a change in the right direction. After Pauline’s Marois’ election, I was terrified to live in a province where language mattered more than economic and social issues and where putting money towards ‘language police’ was a priority. After Applebaum’s victory against a French-speaking candidate I felt as if, politically and socially, things had changed slightly. Applebaum, being both English and Jewish, was elected, and it seemed as though most of the people in power didn’t care so much as to what language he spoke, but actually what he was going to do to improve our city and have the job done right.

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Stephanie La Leggia
Life editor

Image via Flickr.

Even with all the warnings and evacuation calls, Hurricane Sandy came as kind of a shock to me. Many underestimated its power and potential level of deconstruction, destroying homes and diminishing people’s lives and belongings to a suitcase.

Although I may live in Montreal, I’m a New Yorker at heart, travelling down at least three times year. With family and friends to worry about, I constantly checked CNN for updates. Although the video footages and article were quite alarming, it wasn’t until I saw photos of the aftermath that the horror of it really hit me; photos of people line-up to get their fill of gas, giant trees in the middle of the street, the diminished Jersey shore boardwalk, and people’s belonging scattered about like they were insignificant pieces of junk.

While some simply lost power in their skyscraper apartment building, others were not so lucky. When people think of New York, they narrow their focus to Manhattan, forgetting about the other burrows that were so badly hit, like Staten Island. Not to mention the damages the hurricane caused in Haiti. The photos of the aftermath and the personal stories of those without a home and insurance really put things in perspective for me. While my biggest concern may have been an assignment due by the end of the week, these survivors had to worry about basic needs like heating and food, needs that we take for granted on a daily basis.

You ask me what affected me most this year as 2012 comes to an end, it’s Hurricane Sandy, a hurricane so powerful it stood up against the Big Apple.

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Image via Flickr.

Kevin Duarte
Sports editor

The event that affected me the most in 2012 was the Montreal Impact’s inaugural season in Major League Soccer. To start, I am a diehard football fan… the real one, played with a round ball on the floor. Football, or to make it less confusing, soccer, is an integral part of my life. Right up there with breathing and eating, I’d say. The Impact expansion into the MLS finally gave me a chance to watch some decent soccer in my hometown. Prior to this year, Montreal was playing in the second tier of North American Soccer, a league that never really meant much at all. This past year, they just finished their first season in North America’s top flight. Fans got a chance to see some world-class players visit Saputo Stadium. More importantly for me, someone who studies the game as a coach, it was the higher quality of the sport that I enjoyed the most.

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Image via Flickr.

Casandra De Masi
Staff writer

Thousands watched, as did I, as Pauline Marois gave her acceptance speech in September. She had just become the first female premier of Quebec, and in the same night lived through an alleged assassination attempt. It all happened so quickly and it almost overshadowed the election itself. Throughout the election campaign, the wedge between the Francophone and the Anglophone community became larger and sharper. There were arguments and all-around ignorant behavior from both sides. This was the icing on the spoiled cake. As someone who lives and works in a French community, but was raised in a primarily English household, it just puzzled me as to why so much emphasis was being put on language, with so many other issues plaguing our province.

As horrible as the shooter’s actions were, especially because he killed an innocent man, he led people to a realization. People realized that, ‘Hey, maybe we should band together and focus on things that affect all of us, no matter what language we speak.’

That week, people came together, condemning this man’s actions. Just to see people agreeing that we should learn to coexist, that this silly war needs to end, was refreshing. It was hopeful. It didn’t last long, but knowing it is possible is what counts.

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Image via Flickr.

Paula Rivas
Managing editor

An event that kept me on the edge of my seat, as odd as it may sound to many people my age, was Obama’s victory in the American elections. The buildup from the presidential debates left my head spinning and I was looking forward to the elections like a child waiting for Christmas Eve.

The day of this historic event, I turned off my phone, avoided plans with any of my friends, and watched the CNN coverage like a hawk while Wolf Blitzer and other A-team reporters announced the advancement of the polls. My heart jumped with excitement as the state I spent 10 years of my life in, Maryland, turned blue in support for Obama. The blue wave that followed as the hours passed made me swell with pride to again see a glimpse of the United States that I love — not the ugly, homophobic and closed-minded side, but the side that many Canadians unfortunately don’t get to see. I’m talking about a United States that stands up to defend women’s rights when archaic restrictions were being suggested to govern women’s bodies and also to defend Hispanics when immigration laws were threatening to throw out hard-working citizens.

My own family was once living illegally as Hispanics in the States and we felt the harsh reality of being treated like second-class citizens. But most of all, to defend an America devoted to the idea that coming together as one is stronger than the idea that every man is out there for themselves. Thanks Obama, you made my year.


There’s plenty of barbershops in the sea

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan.

Canada prides itself on its multiculturalism, opening its doors wide to immigrants from countries all over the globe. With them, they bring their suitcases filled with culture, beliefs, values and religion. As Canada becomes more and more diverse, its multiculturalism has proven to be both a blessing and, for some people, a burden.

Terminal Barber Shop in Toronto recently found itself in the middle of a human rights dispute after the barbers refused to cut Faith McGregor’s hair back in June. The shop is run by Muslims, whose religion prohibits them from cutting a woman’s hair, unless they are a family member.

McGregor filed a human rights complaint and told the CBC that she wants “the shop to be cited and forced to give haircuts in the fashion they provide [barbershop style] to any woman, or man that asks for one.” She also wants the shop to set up a sign stating that they will serve both men and women.

Now, here is where our problem lies. We have two sets of rights butting heads with each other; the right to religious freedom and McGregor’s right as a woman to not be denied service based on her gender. This cannot be solved with a ‘my rights are more important than yours’ attitude. Barbara Hall, the Head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, told the CBC that “no right is absolute.”

There is something about McGregor’s story that irks me. In August, the men of the barbershop came forward and offered McGregor a haircut from a willing professional. McGregor refused and according to the National Post, she said that, “now it’s bigger than what occurred with me that one day, in one afternoon.”

Bigger? Frankly, it wasn’t a big issue in the first place. There is also the argument circulating that McGregor was refused because she wanted a “men’s haircut.” That has nothing to do with it. The barbers did not refuse to cut her hair because of the length she desired. Their refusal was based on their values and that alone.

A part of me is actually bothered that this so-called violation of human rights is gaining so much attention. There are much bigger fish to fry, especially when religion is involved. It is not as if McGregor could not walk down the street and find another barbershop or salon that would be more than willing to cut her precious locks.

It is not uncommon to find salons and estheticians that advertise themselves as “women only.” If a man walked in looking to get his eyebrows groomed and was refused, would he file a complaint? Probably not, because the man can more-than-likely find another esthetician to tame his brows.

Ultimately, the men were not discriminating because they “disrespect” women, a stereotype that a lot of Muslim men have to live with. People seem to forget that many religions preach male dominance, but not everyone that follows that religion abides by this. The men simply refused out of modesty and they have the right to do so.

McGregor is, in my opinion, overreacting. If we are going to learn to live together in Canada, we need to be a little more open-minded. I do agree that for the most part, people need to integrate into Canadian society. However, with the influx of different cultures and religions, these cases will be more common and they aren’t as black and white as they used to be.

Student Life

Embracing the manly whiskers

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Movember is upon us, and men all over the country are concentrated on growing out their whiskers. Tiny handlebar moustaches adorn mugs, pens, and a whole slew of paraphernalia. It’s cool, it’s hip, and it’s meant to draw attention to men’s testicular and prostate health. According to Canadian Cancer Society, there were approximately 26,500 cases of prostate cancer in 2012 and 4,000 deaths caused by it.

While the women help raise funds and awareness, men are sponsored to grow out their ‘staches. Last year, “Mo Bros” and “Mo Sistas” raised $125.7 million dollars Canada-wide. Although creating and maintaining their upper lip art can be time consuming and inconvenient, there are also many of benefits that come from their labours.

Studies have shown that moustaches actually provide protection against the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Researchers in Australia used dosimetry, a measurement and calculation of how much radiation tissue can absorb, to see if facial hair provided any protection against the sun’s rays. Researcher Alfio Parisi and his fellow scientists came to the conclusion that facial hair diminished the skin’s exposure to ultraviolet rays by about one third. There were some variables, such as the angle of the sun, and the length of the ‘stache and beard. While this may seem like great news for you moustached men, Parisi did mention that this is a very small amount of protection, so don’t chuck out your sunscreen just yet.

In addition to some minor health benefits, moustaches actually bring about many social benefits as well. I suppose we can call it the Tom Selleck affect. A study held by the American Mustache Institute showed that men with mos make more money than clean-shaven fellows. According to the study, they make 8.2 per cent more than men who just have beards, and 4.3 per cent more than baby-faced blokes. The study also states that men sporting upper-lip flavour-savers are more likely to be hired at job interviews.

“When I am clean shaven, I feel exposed to the elements of the world,” said Aaron Cohenca, a Dawson College student who is part of a team raising funds for Movember. He said he believes the growth of a ‘stache is a respectable process.

If you’re not quite yet convinced to join in the Movember festivities, a study by the Journal of Marketing Communications states that moustached men are also seen as more trustworthy. Men sporting facial hair in commercials brought out more trust in the consumer. It must be noted that when we are talking about facial hair and moustaches, we are speaking about well-groomed, short to medium length beards. Nothing that looks like a bird could raise a family in.

“A moustache is a responsibility. It is almost like a baby and needs to be cared for daily,” said Cohenca. “People recognize this subconsciously and will thus automatically respect and admire men who have the courage and willpower to wear their ‘staches with pride.”

On the other hand, some people like McGill University student Chris Martin disagree. He said he feels “dirty” with facial hair, and that the image of a moustache is old-fashioned. “It makes me think of undeserved dominance and inequality,” he said.

Concordia student Maxie Kalinowicz, one of Cohenca’s team members, began growing out his facial hair in August. “It definitely makes me feel a lot older. And I have noticed that strangers seem to treat me as such,” said Kalinowicz. However, he added that he sometimes feels unkempt, and that facial hair can “be a two-way street.”

To introduce a female perspective, Concordia student Krystina Scenna willingly expressed her dislike with the idea of moustaches for that very reason. “They’re terrifying!” she said. “It looks like a dead rodent on your upper lip.”

If we’ve convinced you of the benefits of growing a moustache, consider doing it for a good cause and participate. If not, feel free to make fun of your friends all the more.


My religion is better than yours

Photo via Flickr.

Oh Canada. Our country’s government is ready to cut the ribbon on a new $5 million federal office within the Department of Foreign Affairs, an Office of Religious Freedoms.

Now, I am not a political expert. However, I read a lot to stay informed, and I also have a good friend named logic. She tells me that the one thing we have no need for is the ORF, at least the one the Conservative government has planned.

Religious freedom means something different to everyone. The issue here is that the purpose of this office is so vague. Does it mean that the government is out to protect those who want to have a space to practice their beliefs? Last time I checked, this already exists; it’s called the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The government believes that religious minorities overseas need protection. Fine. However, many news agencies are reporting that the majority of the people involved come from a Judeo/Christian background. In fact, according to the Toronto Sun and CBC, the Department of Foreign Affairs held a “closed-door” meeting having to do with the ORF last fall, but failed to invite “Muslim, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus and First Nation religious leaders.”

Well, what’s the point then? This poses a serious threat for bias within the office, and that could do much more harm than good. Whatever happened to secularity? The Canadian government isn’t supposed to be filled with missionaries.

“I think Canada doesn’t really know what to do with religion,” said Dr Susan Palmer, a sociologist and religion professor at Concordia and Dawson College.

Palmer said she believes that an office like this has “a lot of potential if people in the office are educated and not partisan.” She thinks that trained religious scholars and historians should be the ones calling the shots.

Problems with bias were seen in the 1990s when the United States opened up a similar office called the U.S. Office of International Religious Freedom. The office was called out as being dedicated to not only protecting, but also promoting Christianity in other countries. If not done and dealt with properly, this is very well what could happen with the Canadian office.

Here is what we do need. First off, education. Religion is barely present in the education system. Palmer believes that providing a “solid knowledge” of world religions can be very beneficial. The media shapes a lot of what we think of certain religions, and this has obviously proven to have a negative impact.

Second, I think the government should be trying to protect people from the potential threat of religion. Work with other countries to separate church and state. People find themselves violently fighting for this, so why can’t Canada promote this in a peaceful manner? I have nothing against religion on a personal level, but those in power who use it as a manipulative tool are oppressing far too many people. While one government shouldn’t tell another what to do, I think certain circumstances call for it, especially when human rights are on the line.

The way I see it, no one should be held prisoner in the clutches of religion, and those who want to practice it should be able to do so without being persecuted by ignorant generalizations. It’s a two-way street.

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