Montreal hosts Canada’s annual HIV/AIDS conference

Canada’s leading scientists discuss issues and future progress surrounding HIV/AIDS

More than 900 of Canada’s top scientists, physicians and community leaders joined Canada’s largest HIV/AIDS conference in Montreal from April 6 to 9.

According to the Canadian Association for HIV Research, in 2017, more than 70,000 Canadians live with HIV, and every year an estimated 2,300 to 43,000 new infections are reported.

Canada’s annual HIV/AIDS conference was held at the Hotel Bonaventure in Montreal. The Canadian Association for HIV Research is Canada’s leading organization for research on the disease. The organization includes more than 1,000 researchers, scientists and physicians committed to finding ways to prevent and cure HIV.

The 26th edition of the conference addressed how HIV remains a pressing issue that still requires more resources and research to prevent its spread and find a cure. This year’s theme was “We’re Not Done Yet,” in reference to the need for more research and resources to help eradicate HIV/AIDS.

Five presentations were given, focusing on issues related to HIV/AIDS, protection and preventative measures.

“Tremendous successes have been achieved in the fight against HIV-AIDS,” said Dr. Alexandra de Pokomandy, a faculty member at McGill University and a renowned HIV researcher, during her presentation. “However, people living with HIV, health care workers, community members and researchers in Canada and elsewhere around the world also agree that many challenges remain, and HIV continues to kill.”

More than 800 people attended the event and stopped by specialized kiosks to learn about HIV research and resources.

Realize Canada, one of the organizations with a kiosk, is a national charitable organization that works with schools, employers, insurance companies and other associations to help improve the daily lives of people living with HIV and other episodic disabilities, such as depression, Hepatitis C and chronic fatigue syndrome. “Realize is geared towards postsecondary students,” said Puju Ahluwalia, Realize Canada’s project coordinator.

“When someone has an episodic disability like HIV, there is little predictability as to when these episodes will occur or for how long,” Ahluwalia said. “Realize Canada works with schools and student disability offices to help raise awareness and offer assistance for students living with an episodic disability.”

Students who have a test or an assignment due on a specific date might not be able to meet the deadline if they are affected by an episodic disability like HIV. Realize Canada will guide these students to different resources on their campuses and help work with their schools. Realize Canada works as a rehabilitation resource to help provide students with the health care and psychological support they need, Ahluwalia said in an interview with The Concordian.

During the conference, the PrEP pill was a point of discussion during a presentation by Dr. Peter A. Newman, a researcher at University of Toronto. The PrEP pill was legalized in Canada in February 2016. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Canada, PrEP-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a pill that reduces the risks of contracting HIV from sex by more than 90 per cent. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70 per cent. The risk of contracting HIV from sex can be lowered further if you combine PrEP with condoms and other safe-sex methods.

Photo by Ana Hernandez.

PrEP can stop HIV from spreading throughout your body and is most effective in preventing HIV when taken daily, states Canada’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. PrEP should only be used by people who are HIV negative and who are at high risk for HIV infection. People interested in using PrEP should talk to their health care provider and meet with a doctor to receive a prescription. Depending on one’s insurance policy, or work insurance the price for PrEP can be covered in full.

However, Newman addressed how stigmas have begun to emerge within the LGBTQ+  communities on whether or not someone is on the PrEP pill, and whether or not they could have sex without a condom. “When dating, some men who are on the PrEP pill might receive pressure to not use a condom when having sex, or might be judged for using a condom,” Newman said during his presentation.

Another presenter, Allison Carter, who is a PhD student at Simon Fraser University, focused on the feminist approach to women living with HIV.  Carter’s study revealed that “women who are HIV positive can be happy and enjoy emotional and intimate relationships,” she said.

Among the 1,300 HIV-positive women involved in the study, those who claimed they were happy were involved in long-term sexual relationships. “We want women to know that they can have sex and have pleasure,” Carter said.


Resources for reducing stress during finals

Concordia offers a variety of services to help students make it through finals

We are approaching the time of the year where students become increasingly more stressed, anxious and sleep deprived. Concordia offers a variety of programs for students anxious about finals and looking for assistance.

Pet Therapy

The Concordia Webster Library organized a Pet Therapy session to help students take a break from their studies. Students crowded around two pugs near the library’s course reserve room on March 29 between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

“I think that pet therapy is a great way for students to take a break from school and de-stress,” said Ana Grubac, a Concordia economics major, who was at the event.

According to the article “Between Pets and People: the Importance of Animal Companionship,” by Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, in Indiana, petting a dog lowers blood pressure and helps your body release hormones like oxytocin, which is linked to happiness.

According to the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, “some people have experienced increased output of endorphins and dopamines after just five minutes with an animal.”

In addition, even brief encounters with pets, such as the ones who visited Concordia, help reduce levels of anxiety.

This year marks Concordia’s third edition of pet therapy, an event organized around the final exam period to help students cope with anxiety and stress.

“Some of the students are away from home and miss their own pets,” said Linda Toy, this year’s event organizer. “I have observed smiles and laughter during these events,” Toy added. “It is really quite special.”

Everyday Therapy

Throughout the semester, Concordia offers a variety of programs for students who need emotional support and guidance. One of these programs is the Everyday Therapy campaign, organized by Concordia Health Services.

The program is geared towards helping students with everyday personal struggles. The campaign hosts four therapy sessions throughout the semester to give students tips and suggestions for dealing with stress, personal relationships and confidence, throughout the fall and winter semesters.

According to Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, one in five people will suffer from a mental illness or addiction at some point in their life. Two out of three of those individuals will suffer in silence.

“Concordia offers a [variety] of resources for students, and will discuss internal and community resources to help deal with mental health,” said Dale Robinson, a psychologist and manager at Concordia’s Counselling & Psychological Services, in an interview with The Concordian in February.

For students seeking assistance with stress or mental health,, is also available. is a non-profit organization designed by students for students with mental illnesses or suffering from emotional hardships. Concordia has its own chapter.

“ reaches out to students who need help, and we help guide them to different resources available in their area,” said Michael Dorado, a representative.

“Most often times, students don’t know that counseling and psychological services exist at Concordia. Our role is to show students that [services] exist and are available to help them,” Dorado said.

Photo by Chloe Ranaldi.


CASA participates in 5 Days for the Homeless

Concordia students raise funds for Montreal homeless shelters

A group of executives from the Commerce and Administration Students’ Association (CASA) and a group of JMSB students braved the March 14 snowstorm by sleeping outside hoping to raise awareness of the homeless people living in Montreal who face these winter conditions every year.

As part of the annual 5 Days for the Homeless campaign, participants slept on the corner of De Maisonneuve Boulevard and Mackay street in sleeping bags during the winter storm that dumped more than 35 cm of snow on the downtown region. The students relied solely on the generosity of the downtown community between March 12 and 17, using the money they raised on the streets for food.

“We feel that five days out of our lifetime is not very much,” said Émilie Leduc, the executive vice-president of CASA, who slept outside all five nights for the cause. “We bring the bare necessities such as a backpack, an extra layer of clothes, a water bottle—no money and no phone,” Leduc added. “We live off of donations and from the generosity of the community.”

This winter marked Concordia’s 9th edition of 5 Days for the Homeless.

Since 2008, the Concordia group has helped raise more than $300,000 for local homeless charities.

This year, the team raised $11,1262.80 for the Dans la Rue and Chez Doris homeless centres, which cater to the Montreal downtown community, said LeDuc. Chez Doris is a day centre for women in need, which provides meals and basic services, LeDuc explained. “Chez Doris has a number of volunteers and services which help get these women back on their feet,” she said.

Dans la Rue, which was founded by Father Emmett Johns, or “Pops,” in 1988, caters to homeless and at-risk youth between the ages of 12 and 25 in the greater Montreal area.

“It was very eye-opening,” said Evan Pitchie, the CASA JMSB president.

“We have the option of going home when things get tough, but not everyone has that same opportunity,” Pitchie added.

Photo by Ana Hernandez

During the storm, between 2:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m., Pitchie said the team helped individuals who were stuck in their cars. “It was good exercise to keep us warm, and helped us raise even more donations for the shelters.”

“A lot of people assume that sleeping outside in the cold is the hard part, but what is most difficult for many people living on the street is the lack of social and human interaction,” Leduc explained. “They are often at the mercy of strangers and rely on our generosity—they are often ignored or avoided by people crossing the street to distance themselves.”

The 5 Days for the Homeless campaign was first introduced by the University of Alberta’s School of Business in 2005, and has since been undertaken by other universities across Canada, Leduc said. She added that Josh Redler, a CASA executive, was the one who brought the campaign to Concordia nine years ago.

This year, the 5 Days for the Homeless opening ceremony was hosted at McGill University—the two schools take turns each year hosting the event’s opening ceremony. This year’s event was organized by Émilie LeDuc, Mackenzie Murray and Nour Hanna, all CASA JMSB executives, along with 13 other JMSB CASA executives.

“The issue of homelessness in youth is very important to us,” said Murray. “We want to address this problem and raise awareness and funds to help those who are facing this reality.”

The most popular programs at Dans la Rue are their education and employment services, said Michelle LeDonne, a development adviser at Dans la Rue. “We offer several different employment opportunities for youth in Montreal, such as an alternative high school on-site and funds for students attending CEGEP.”

“Dans la Rue has an RV van which goes out five days a week to provide individuals living on the street a warm spot, a meal and offer them assistance on mental health, healthcare or information about our day centres,” LeDonne explained.

The van visited the Concordia group during the storm on last Tuesday, offering the students food and shelter, Leduc said.

“We are touched to have this partnership with Concordia and their motivation for the cause,” LeDonne said.

For anyone who would like to donate clothing, food or money to the cause can visit their website.


Chief Justice McLachlin visits Concordia

Canada’s Supreme Court Chief Justice discusses pivotal moments in Canada’s history

Canada’s first female Supreme Court Justice Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, was invited to speak at Concordia on March 16.

In commemoration of Canada’s 150th birthday, Concordia’s Workshops on Social Science Research (WSSR) organized the talk with McLachlin to discuss her five defining democratic moments in Canadian history. McLachlin, who is the longest-serving Chief Justice in Canadian history, addressed hundreds of students, professors and alumni at Grey Nuns.

“My first choice is, not surprisingly, the Confederation of Canada in 1867. The creation of the new dominion of Canada was the quintessential defining moment of the country,” McLachlin said. “These values established, from the beginning, Canada’s character, and a generation of people have expanded them.”

McLachlin identified three democratic values enshrined in the Canadian Constitution since its conception: democracy, federalism and respect for diversity and minorities.

She said the second defining moment in Canadian history was the decision of the judicial committee of the Privy Council during the Persons Case. “This case established that, in Canada, all citizens are equal,” McLachlin said. Prior to the Persons Case in 1929, only men were considered persons. The 1929 Supreme Court case ruled that women could also hold public office, she explained.

“The decision is seminal because it enunciated two principles that I believe are central to our Canadian democracy. First, all people are equally entitled to participate in democratic government. Second, that Canadian Constitution enhances Canadian democracy, and [the Constitution is] a living tree capable of growth and expansion,” McLachlin said.

The third defining moment was the patriation of the Constitution and the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, McLachlin said.

“This moment signaled true independence for our country, and reaffirmed the principles of democracy, federalism and respect for minority rights inherent in the BNA Act in 1867, and constitutionalized individual and group rights for all Canadians,” she said.

“Thirty-five years later, I believe that most people would say that patriation of the Constitution was vital to our country’s democratic growth, and the Charter has stood the test of time,” McLachlin said. “The Charter has become part of the Canadian identity. Polls tell us that Canadians take pride in the Charter and see it as a fundamental defining element of Canadian democracy.”

The Chief Justice’s fourth defining moment was the recognition of the rights of Canada’s indigenous peoples.

Section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982, for the first time, guaranteed the rights of Canada’s indigenous people,” she said. Section 35 provides constitutional protection to the Aboriginal and treaty rights of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

“In the years that followed, court decisions fleshed out treaty rights and indigenous rights, through judicial practices, economic activity and cultural and religious practices.”

“The Supreme Court held that indigenous rights must be respected, in the pursuit of fair and just reconciliation between Canada’s aboriginal peoples and the descendants of Canadians who came later,” McLachlin said.

The fifth defining moment of Canadian democracy was the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada during the Quebec referendum in 1995. This decision was regarding if Quebec could unilaterally secede from Canada, under Canadian and international law.

According to McLachlin, the secession reference was a landmark case on whether states or provinces could unilaterally secede from a country. Countries around the world have looked at it as a reference case.

During the question and answer period, McLachlin said she would love to see more minorities in more government positions.

“Justices are chosen from the senior ranks of the practicing lawyers of the judiciary, but we have only seen large numbers of minority cultures coming into the judicial ranks in the last decades,” she said. “So I am confident that, as time passes, this deficiency will be remedied.”


Updated: Montreal marches on International Women’s Day

Hundreds of Montrealers took to the streets on March 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Protesters met at 5 p.m on the corner of Queen Mary near Côte-Des-Neiges metro station, and at 6 p.m. marched to Nelson Mandela Park.

Women held signs that read, “We demand income equality” and “Where are the missing native indigenous women.”

The march began at Queen Mary Square in honour of the 14 women who were murdered at École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989, said Marie Boti, the organizer of Montreal’s International Women’s Day march.

Elizabeth Shepard, a protester and mother of two toddlers, explained her reasons for taking part in the social movement. “With statistics that show that women are making [less than] of what men are financially, in Canada, I feel like it is important for my daughters to know that, and that in the future that they can surpass this,” said Shepard.

Statistics Canada released new data on International Women’s Day this year, identifying that Canadian women earned 87 cents an hour for every dollar made by men in 2015.

“I am proud to be a woman these days,” said Sandy Bourdelais, a Montreal university student. “I am here to support women’s rights, and I am proud that our ancestors have fought for our freedom today.”

Crowd gathered at Queen Mary Square. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“I hope that women can be treated equally,” Bourdelais said.

“The women’s march that we’re having right now is an amazing opportunity to celebrate this day because, unfortunately, we live in a patriarchy that still oppresses women,” said Samy Cheallah, a male student and marcher.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“Whether it’s working-class women, trans women, women from all over the world, it is important that we all mobilize and create a community where people can get together and raise their voices,” he told The Concordian.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“This year, SdBI will celebrate its 40th year,” said Julia Dyck, the communications and events coordinator at SdBI. “What we are seeing at the institute is that feminism is stronger than it has ever been.”

“It is not just rights for women—SdBI takes an intersectional approach on issues of racism, sexualism, colonialism, transism, ablelism and a generally social justice approach to all of these things,” Dyck said.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“International Women’s Day is a day to acknowledge how far we have come and all the important work women have accomplished and to address inequality,” Dyck explained. “Although there is a long way to go and there remains huge gaps in gender inequality and along the lines of race ability and religious social class, the idea that all of these things make up your experience is not as useful as looking at all of these issues together. “


Studying while parenting

The Concordia University Student Parents Centre offers a community for student parents

Balancing school work, part-time jobs, family and friends can be a difficult task, especially for parents studying at Concordia who want to achieve their academic goals and support their children.

The Concordia University Student Parents (CUSP) Centre, funded by the Dean of Students Office, offers support and services for parents studying at Concordia.

Some 530 students are registered with CUSP and each day these numbers increase, said CUSP coordinator Sumaiya Gangat.

“The centre is a safe and accessible space where student parents can congregate, voice their concerns, share common interests and develop a support network,” Gangat said.

The centre offers a lounge to student parents, where they can bring their children with them to study, use a computer or take a break. The lounge is catered to fit the needs of both parents and their children.

“The CUSP Centre includes a lounge with couches, a computer lab with Internet access and a play area with books and toys for children, a kitchen and a nursery where mothers can breastfeed their babies or express milk,” Gangat told The Concordian. There is also a corner where children can watch movies.

The CUSP Centre lets parents studying at Concordia know they are not alone, and allows them to interact with other parents who are raising a family while in school, said Gangat.

“CUSP also provides referrals, resources and assistance to student parents pursuing their studies at Concordia,” Gangat said. “The centre helps students locate support services both within Concordia and the Montreal community at large.”

The centre offers a variety of events and programs throughout the year, such as the Free Goods Bazaar, where lightly-used toys are donated to student parents. In addition, CUSP hosts monthly cookouts, where parents can cook together and bring home some of the leftovers from the evening. CUSP also offers activities for Concordia students’ children, such as free art classes.

“The centre is dedicated and continuously working to meet the needs of student parents at Concordia,” Gangat said.

The centre opened in 2009, in response to a growing demand of student parents who asked the university for resources to help them balance school and being a parent.

“We want student parents to know that they are not alone and that Concordia University Student Parent center offers them a community to get involved in.”Gangat said. “We are here to provide students with programs and services and want to ensure that our student parents have  a fulfilling educational experience as possible.”

“Being a parent of two children and trying to support them as well as do well in school can be difficult,” said a Concordia student mom. “Luckily I have a great support system, or else I don’t know how I would do it.”

The Concordia University Student Parents Centre is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The centre is on the Sir George Williams campus at 1410 Guy St., in room 24 on the second floor.


Discrimination complaint against eConcordia affiliate

JMSB graduate says he was mistreated by co-workers, manager at KnowledgeOne

Immediately after graduating, Mounir (a pseudonym used to protect his identity), a JMSB student in his 20s, was offered a job at KnowledgeOne. KnowledgeOne is the exclusive learning developer for Concordia University’s online accredited courses for eConcordia and Concordia’s Center for Continuing Education.

Graphic by Florence Yee

Mounir claims he was asked a number of questions during the interview process in August 2015 about the origin of his name and whether he was fasting during the summer months. Mounir moved to Montreal in 2001 from the Middle East and explained that his religious practices have never interfered with, nor been addressed at his previous jobs. Mounir said he didn’t question the interviewer at the time, as he didn’t want to risk not getting the job.

“In the interview, I was asked whether the length of my beard was ‘because I was Muslim,’” Mounir said.

In the first week at his new job in a managerial position at KnowledgeOne, Mounir said he was physically isolated from other people in the same field. There were instances where his colleagues made unusual and discriminatory comments towards him.

“Many of the promises made to me during the interview were not carried through,” he said. “I was not given an office, parking pass or other benefits they described which had influenced me to take this job.”

During his time at the company, Mounir said some of his colleagues and superiors would make racial slurs and discriminatory jokes based on his Middle Eastern background.

Mounir recounted an instance when his colleague told him he did not need an office with a window because his skin was already dark enough.

“Colleagues and superiors perceived the way I dressed as an indication that I was homosexual, and would make unwanted jokes about my sexual orientation,” Mounir said. One colleague allegedly said, “[Mounir] can be a really cute gay brown guy—a rare type!”

Mounir brought his concerns to his supervisors as well as the company’s human resources department, but no action was taken. “I made several reports with Human Resources at the company, but the situation never improved,” Mounir said.

Other instances of discrimination at KnowledgeOne included Mounir being left out of internal communication emails, and being ignored and excluded from meetings by a group of coworkers, Mounir said.

“It was a toxic work environment for me, and I was often treated like an outsider and isolated from my colleagues,” Mounir said.

“I began to work evenings and on weekends, when other employees were not in the office,” he said.

Although Mounir believes he performed well at work, he was fired in December 2015 for two reasons, one being that he entered a manager’s office without permission, which Mounir claims is false.

“I went to the Concordia Student Union legal services at Concordia, and I was directed to the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRAAR),” Mounir said, in the hopes that he would be compensated for overtime work he had not been paid for and for the items in his office he was not permitted to retrieve.

CRAAR is a non-profit civil rights organization committed to promoting racial harmony and equality, according to its website. The organization helped Mounir file a complaint at the Quebec Human Rights Commission for work discrimination.

“After losing his job, Mounir experienced significant financial and psychological pressures,” CRAAR said in a written statement. “He was forced to drop out of a semester [of graduate studies] due to loss of income, which caused him to lose the entire academic year, and has faced difficulty and prejudice finding a new job in his area of expertise.”

CRARR is also demanding that KnowledgeOne instate a “policy against discrimination in the workplace, to be approved by the Commission, a training program for managers on equality in the workplace, and … mandatory training for the latter on such requirements,” said Fo Niemi, CRAAR’s executive director.

“We take these claims very seriously. Currently, an ongoing internal investigation is being conducted regarding these allegations,” said Jennifer Friere, human resources director at KnowledgeOne.

When asked for further details, Friere said “we cannot comment on or provide information about any of our employees, past or present.”


No electoral reform for Canadians

Canadians respond to Trudeau’s decision to abandon electoral reform plans

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent decision to scrap plans for electoral reform has disappointed many voters, Concordia students included.

The Liberals will not go forward with this pledge due to the lack of consensus on the kind of electoral system Canadians would prefer, stated Trudeau in an interview aired on Global News.

The announcement garnered mixed reactions, including mobilization from those in support of electoral reform. A National Day of Action for Electoral Reform took place on Parliament Hill and in various cities across the country on Feb. 11.

In Montreal, protesters gathered outside Jarry metro station then took to the streets to express their disappointment on the retraction of the Liberal’s campaign pledge. The crowd marched to Trudeau’s constituency office on Crémazie Boulevard East, according to the Montreal Gazette.

“We created the Facebook event [for all electoral reform events]  shortly after the 2015 election as a reminder to follow up on Trudeau’s promise that his government would bring forward electoral reform legislation within 18 months,” said Caitlin Urguhart, the organizer of National Day of Action for Electoral Reform. “The event quickly went viral, with more than 10,000 people responding as interested in attending.”

“Members [of the Facebook group] were outraged and wanted to do something about it. I saw the opportunity to mobilize people across the country and started to organize [the event],” Urguhart said.

“We are demanding a fairer, more collaborative and more representative democracy,” she said. “No path worth walking is easy, so we’re asking this government to do right by Canadians and walk the hard road to electoral reform.” Urguhart said now is not the time to give up on our democracy. “Now is the time to get to work.”

According to CTV News, during Trudeau’s election campaign, he pledged to voters “that the 2015 election will be the last federal election using the first-past-the-post” system.

First-past-the-post, or single member plurality (SMP), is when voters cast one vote and the candidate who receives the most votes in a constituency wins the riding and a seat in the House of Commons.

SMP is credited to be most successful when there are two political parties, however, as the number of parties increase, the less it is said to reflect voter wishes.

In the 2015 federal election, the Liberal government won a majority in the House of Commons with only 39 per cent of the vote. As a result, the Trudeau Liberals have held Town Hall meetings across Canada where electoral form was discussed. They created an all-party parliamentary committee to review a wide variety of reform options, such as proportional representation, ranked ballots, mandatory voting and online voting.

Some within the Concordia community weighed in on Trudeau’s decision to abandon electoral reform.

“I think that it is really telling of the Trudeau government of their broken promise on electoral reform,” said Alex Tyrrell, a Concordia student and leader of the Quebec Green Party.

Tyrrell recommended a preferential ballot electoral system, where voters would rank their preferences from most to least favourable candidate, to better represent citizens votes.

However, one student understood Trudeau’s decision to maintain the current electoral system.

“Although I support the Conservative Party, it seems to me that Trudeau shows maturity and political savvy in abandoning electoral reform,” said André Grant, a Concordia political science student. “Instead of slavishly sticking to campaign promises, he’s realized many of them are unrealistic. That takes maturity.”

“Whether you agree with his policies or not, Trudeau did this because he believes it’s good for Canada,” said Grant.


Celebrate Black History Month in Montreal

Montreal Black History Month Round Table organizes events to  honour the black community

Every February, Canadians are encouraged to take part in a variety of events to commemorate the legacy of black Canadians, past and present.

The Montreal Black History Month Round Table, a non-profit organization which promotes black culture and education, held a press conference on Feb. 2 at Olympus Stadium to kick off this year’s festivities.

“February shines a light on all of the joint efforts made by various actors who are working to share a taste of their culture with the general public,” said Michael Farkas, the president of the Montreal Black History Month Round Table.

The theme weaved into this year’s series of events is “Here we stay, here we stand!”

According to Farkas, the theme aims to highlight the achievements of Canada’s black community and the contributions they have made to our society. Montreal Black History Month Round Table’s 26th edition of Black History Month will feature more than 100 social and cultural activities that highlight the achievements of black communities.

Black culture will be celebrated throughout the month with events such as a blood drive Feb. 18, a panel discussion, and a conference at Concordia University titled “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities,” led by Stanley Nelson on Feb. 25, among others.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“Black History Month began in February 1926, when Dr. Carter G. Woodson coined ‘Negro History Week,’ which blossomed into Black History Month,” Frakas explained. February also marks the birthdates of notable historic figures such as Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln and Bob Marley, who helped with notable black movements in North America, he added.

“The month of February marks an important aspect of our history and is important for educating Canadians,” Farkas said. “Learning about one’s history is important because it is [vital] to know where one is coming from and where one stands and where one wants to go.”

Farkas discussed the importance of educating students about black history and culture in order to improve the future. “We’ve come a long way and it is important to note that Black History Month doesn’t just start Feb. 1 and end Feb. 28, but that it is an ongoing process.”

Montreal Black History Month Round Table is presenting a variety of activities for the city’s 375th anniversary, said Farkas. “All year long, let us discover and mention the contributions and achievements of Canadians of African origin and descent who, thanks to the brilliance of their accomplishments, bring honor to our place in this land.”

Notable black Montreal figures such as Henri Pardo, the founding president of Black Wealth Media and the producer and director of the Black Wealth Matters documentary series, and R&B singer-songwriter Shaharah Sinclair gave speeches about Black History Month at the press conference.

“Black History Month is very important to me because I feel that it gives us the opportunity to focus on parts of our history that have been neglected,” said Sinclair.


Concordia hosts “One in Five” for Mental Awareness Day

Concordia organizes mental health fair in collaboration with Bell Let’s Talk on Jan. 25

“We want students to know that they are not alone. It is hard enough when someone is suffering from depression, but it’s made worse when you blame yourself for it and think that you’re all alone,” said Dale Robinson, the manager of Counseling and Psychological Services at Concordia University.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, one in five people will suffer from a mental illness or addiction, in their lifetime. Two out of three of those individuals will suffer in silence. In response, Concordia offers a variety of programs to students suffering from mental illness and looking for assistance.

On Jan. 25, Bell Media held its seventh annual #BellLetsTalk campaign to help de-stigmatize mental illness while raising funds for Canadian mental health programs.

In conjunction with this social media event, Concordia’s Counseling and Psychological Services hosted “One in Five” Mental Awareness Day, on Jan.25,  in recognition of the one in five people who will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime.

The Mental Awareness Day at Concordia included a fair, which welcomed students, faculty and staff at the EV Building from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The fair offered information on different resources for support available at Concordia as well as in the greater Montreal region.The event featured several kiosks that provided students with insight about the different programs the university offers.

“Students with diagnosed learning disabilities are encouraged to come to the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities,” said Sanu Ariyarajah, a representative for the organization. “We offer a variety of services such as smaller classrooms, more time during exams, individual advising and workshops.”

Photo by Chloe Ranaldi, a non-profit organization designed by students for students with mental illnesses or suffering from emotional hardship, also had a kiosk at the event. “ reaches out to students who need help, and we help guide them to different resources available in their area,” said Michael Dorado, a representive. Concordia also has its own chapter.

“Most often times, students don’t know that counseling and psychological services exist at Concordia. Our role is to show students that [services] exist and are available to help them,” Dorado explained.

“Talking to someone, finding a group or going to counseling can be helpful,” Robinson said. “Talking in a group can help students get a sense of validation that what they are going through is normal and can happen to anyone.”


JMSB talks about mental health

Concordia students open up about mental health with the hashtag #TalksAboutIt

JMSB students have created a video series using the hashtag #TalksAboutIt as a way to encourage Concordia students to open up about their experiences with mental or emotional hardships.

The campaign was organized by CASA Cares, a non-profit organization of the Commerce and Administration Student Association (CASA) at JMSB, which promotes social awareness and inclusion. The student association is a volunteer-based organization with a mission to inspire students to get involved in their community and help destigmatize mental illness.

“The #TalksAboutIt campaign all started when one JMSB student approached us about an idea he had to help students affected with mental illness,” said Yasmine Ait Bihi, president of CASA Cares. The #TalksAboutIt campaign is a YouTube video series where students film themselves talking about their personal experiences with mental illness and depression.

“We wanted to create a hashtag on social media to encourage students to talk about the cause,” Ait Bihi told The Concordian. “Many times the issue is that students [are afraid] to talk about their struggles.” The campaign allows students to share their experiences in the hopes of helping others in a similar position, she said.

“One thing I’ve learned about depression is that you are not alone. We’re not alone,” said one Concordia student, Frankie Lee Sunnyshine, in a #TalksAboutIt YouTube video. “Speaking to other people who you can console with and talking to friends [and] family helps you to deal with the pain.”

“We want to empower students to make a difference in someone else’s life,” Ait Bihi said. “It’s a small action that can make an impact on a stranger’s or a friend’s life.”

CASA Cares invites all Concordia students to participate and send in videos of their stories, said Ait Bihi. Students can simply send their videos directly to CASA Cares or post a video themselves with the hashtag.

She said she and her team hope this year-long initiative continues in future years. “CASA Cares promotes social awareness and raises money for a variety of causes,” Ait Bihi said. Some examples include Movember, which raises funds for prostate cancer research, and an annual fashion show to benefit the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

Concordia University offers a variety of programs for students who need emotional guidance and help. The Everyday Therapy campaign, organized by Concordia Health Services, is among one of the many Concordia programs geared towards helping students with everyday personal struggles.

Everyday Therapy hosts four sessions throughout the semester to give students tips and suggestions for dealing with daily obstacles.

In addition, many Concordia students have been involved with this year’s Bell Let’s Talk campaign. On Jan. 25, Bell Let’s Talk will be launching its seventh annual conversation about Canada’s mental health. On the same day, Concordia will host “One in Five,” an event in conjunction with Bell Let’s Talk, from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. The event will feature different resources for students and will discuss internal and community resources to help deal with mental health said, Dale Robinson, Manager/Psychologist, Counselling & Psychological Services at Concordia.

Bell will donate five cents to mental health initiatives for every text or call on Jan 25, regardless of the topic. As well, every tweet of instagram post with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, or every time someone watches a Bell Let’s Talk video on Facebook. In addition, five cents will be donated if a picture is taken with the Bell Let’s Talk snapchat filter.


Meals for people in need offered near Sir George Williams Campus

Marché Ferdous, a Montreal restaurant, has been giving back to individuals in need.

The small Mediterranean restaurant on the corner of Ste-Catherine Street West and Mackay Street offers a free meal to individuals without sufficient funds. For the past three months, a sign has been taped to its door, which reads: “People with no money welcome to eat for free,” in French and English.

Ala Amiry, the restaurant’s co-owner, and Concordia alumnus, said the initiative began when students and homeless people would come by the restaurant hungry and unable to afford a meal.

The restaurant is located near a number of homeless people, who go to the Marché in search of food, said Amiry.

“We decided to provide free food to anyone who needs it and who is hungry, on a regular basis,” said Amiry.

Amiry said they serve a free meal to about four or five people per day but that he expects that number to increase as they gain more recognition.

Co-owners of Marché Ferdous Ala Amiry (left), Yahya Hashemi (right)

Marché Ferdous also provides discounts for students looking for an affordable meal near Concordia’s downtown campus.

Amiry said he and his partner, Yahya Hashemi, consider the money spent on providing free food for those in need as part of a business cost.

“We also give from our own pockets,” said Amiry when asked how the restaurant funds the program.

He also credited the generous donations from members of the Montreal community for helping with their new program. “Today, a woman came by with an envelope of $80 and another customer donated money to the program after purchasing a meal,” said Amiry.

“As an immigrant from Baghdad in Iraq, we suffered from the embargo and war,” Amiry explained. “We understand what it is like to suffer and we know the feeling of people in need.”

Amiry said the initiative was largely unnoticed at the start, but the restaurant earned online recognition when customer Sean Jalbert posted on Facebook about the store’s generosity on Jan. 2.

“I would always pass by the restaurant on my way to work but never went inside,” Jalbert said. “I found out what they were doing through word of mouth from one of my colleagues.”

Jalbert decided to pay a visit to Marché Ferdous to see if the advertisement on their front door was true.

“I told them that I had no money,” said Jalbert. “The workers were very welcoming and did not ask me any questions.”

Jalbert then paid for his meal and then wrote the Facebook post sharing his experience at the Montreal restaurant.

His post has gone viral and received more than 5,000 shares and some 3,000 likes.

“I’m very happy that the restaurant is getting its [well-]deserved recognition for helping the community,” said Jalbert.

He also said he hopes no one takes advantage of the restaurant’s generosity so that it can continue to support members of the community in need.

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