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Reflections on the three-day strike

Don’t cross picket lines.

February started off strong at Concordia with the three-day strike from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. In total, over 10,000 students were on strike—a dramatic increase from the 6,000 I’d initially reported, as many departments voted at the last minute to strike. 

For those who participated in picketing efforts, the university was a whirlwind of activity. Though many classes were canceled in solidarity with the strike, others insisted on ‘business as usual’. To enforce the strike, student volunteers stationed outside classes to create blockades and discuss with students and professors who attempted to cross the lines. In these interactions, many questions arose. 

Why don’t you picket outside Legault’s house? This sentiment was expressed by those who questioned the efficacy of  striking within the university. While it is true that Concordia is not to blame for the tuition hikes, many have expressed the desire for the administration to fight harder. This sentiment is exacerbated by Concordia’s recent announcement of a bursary program for out-of-province students based on academic achievement, which provides a mere Band-Aid solution (and is based on an unfair meritocracy).  

In addition to putting pressure on the administration, the strike sought to increase visibility for the movement against tuition hikes and to gather momentum toward the threat of a general unlimited strike. A larger-scale strike would apply great economic pressure on the Quebec government and hopefully force the students’ demands to be heard. 

For the strikes to be fully effective, however, wide-spread involvement and solidarity is essential. This was sometimes an issue, as certain professors encouraged students to cross picket lines or attend class online. To cross a picket line disregards the democratic decision of the student body to go on strike. We should all be united for the common cause of advocating for accessible education—students and faculty alike. 

Though obstacles were encountered, I would argue the strike was widely successful. Classes were disrupted, meaningful discussions took place, and many more people are now aware of the strikes and what they represent. The dedication of student volunteers was commendable, and it was especially inspiring to see those who were not even striking show solidarity. Many faculty members expressed their support, and MFA students were particularly kind. (Shout-out to the snack station that was set up in the MFA gallery for picketers at the VA building.) 

The 7th floor of Hall Building and the EV Junction, which served as dispatch stations for picketers, created a lively atmosphere in the university and provided a chance to meet people and recuperate. Various workshops including a film screening and zine-making took place, giving students a chance to redirect their energy and make connections. 

The feeling of success that has followed the strike is heartening, but also serves as a reminder that there is still work to be done. Stay updated on future actions such as general assemblies and ongoing mobilization efforts. It’s important to get as many students as engaged as possible to reach our goal. The fight for accessible education is for everyone—as such, we need everyone’s help. 

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The (not so) golden age of rom-coms

Modern romantic comedy movies have made me lose all hope for the genre—but were rom-coms ever that good in the first place?

I have been trying to write this article, but I got distracted rewatching You’ve Got Mail for the hundredth time. You see, romantic comedies have always been my guilty pleasure—with all the corny meet-cutes, the “Will she, won’t she?”, the slow burns and all the tropes, and the inevitable confession of love. Scenes from my all-time favourites live rent free in my mind, and I have long wished to be Meg Ryan, the It-Girl of rom-coms in her time.

This movie genre was a major player in the ‘90s movie-scape, with movies like When Harry Met Sally, Notting Hill, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Pretty Woman smashing box offices and providing a decent dose of fluffy escapism. But since then, something seems to have shifted. Modern rom-coms often come off as unmistakably cheap, featuring little personality and an abundance of cringe-worthy dialogue. 

Because of my love for love-based media and my quest for a modern rom-com that’s as satisfying as the classics, I was beyond excited to see Anyone but You, the new rom-com starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell. I had been told that this movie was an exception to the phenomenon of disappointing rom-coms. Well, I was lied to. 

Bad writing, bad acting, bad movie. Was this written by ChatGPT? I wondered many times. We laughed at the movie far more times than with it, and certain moments had me rolling my eyes so far into the back of my head that I’m sure they’re still stuck there. Anyone But You just proved what I’ve been saying—modern rom-coms suck, and the golden age of the genre is over. 

However, this thought led me to a second one: Were rom-coms ever so golden in the first place? 

The closer you look, the more you realize these so-called classic movies were rife with issues. It’s hard to avoid the glaring fact that they all pretty much revolve around thin heterosexual white people. They’re often sexist, play into hetero-normative gender roles, completely wonky on the issue of consent, and feature tokenization or just downright offensive portrayals of minority groups. 

So-called romantic elements, too, can leave viewers scratching their heads. Remember that scene in The Notebook where Noah dangles from the ferris wheel until Allie agrees to go out with him? Super romantic! Male leads are often alarmingly pushy, and rewarded for this behaviour. 

Not even my favourites have aged well. What’s the message of You’ve Got Mail, for example? The big CEO shuts down Kathleen Kelly’s family-owned bookstore, effectively destroying her dreams…and it’s ok because they live happily ever after? 

So, where’s the middle ground? Where are all the well-written, beautifully-made movies that are actually politically progressive and reflect a more open understanding of what love can look like? 

Now is a better time than ever to revitalize the genre. I propose a formula that takes the best elements of classic rom-coms and combines those with a modern lens.

So bring back rom-coms. But not like this. And maybe not like that, either. 

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Strike!

What you need to know about the upcoming strike, and why you should join.

Tuition hikes? Student strikes. From Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, close to 6000 Concordia students across various departments will be on strike to fight against the looming tuition hikes. This is a major step in the mobilization efforts against austerity measures that threaten the future of our education. But first of all, what exactly will the strike look like and why is it important? 

For three days, classes of participating departments will be either cancelled (with the cooperation of faculty) or picketed. This means that student volunteers will be physically blocking classrooms and preventing business-as-usual. Certain departments have already decided to join the strike—including geography, urban planning, and community and public affairs—while many more have called General Assemblies to hold a deciding vote. 

Last week, the faculty of fine arts voted, nearly unanimously, to strike—an incredible victory, as this adds over 3000 students to the effort and signifies the only faculty-wide participation. 

Students may be concerned that strikes will negatively impact their studies. It’s helpful to know that student unions are protected in the same way as workers’ unions, so you cannot be penalized for missing classes due to a strike. 

Though striking may feel personally disruptive, the goal is to disrupt the system, which is essential to create real change. As stated on the strike information webpage of the Concordia Student Union, “Student strikes represent a withholding of academic labour and a disruption to the university and the economy at large.” 

Quebec has a long history of striking, which has proven the impressive results of such methods. The most striking example (pun intended) is the Maple Spring of 2012, the longest student strikes in Quebec’s history. Over 300,000 students mobilized against a planned 75 per cent increase in tuition rates, and the tuition increase was ultimately overturned. 

Twelve years later, the current efforts have drawn heavy inspiration from the past. There is a palpable sense of excitement brewing, echoed by the awareness of history being made once again. “This is potentially the biggest mobilization at Concordia since the 2012 strikes,” said Adam Semergian, a student in Concordia’s school of community and public affairs. Semergian is part of a dedicated group of individuals in the mobilization effort and the push for free tuition. For many, this is the ultimate goal—generating momentum toward a future with free education for all.  

These issues impact all students, regardless of whether your own tuition will be immediately affected. In light of this fact, I encourage everyone to get involved in whatever way you can. If your department is on strike, come help picket—fine arts students can sign up through the link in the Instagram bio of @fasalovesyou. If your department isn’t on strike, but you would like to promote a strike mandate, try contacting campaigns@csu.qc.ca—you can also reach out to them for more information regarding meetings and mobilization efforts. 

When unjust measures threaten students, it’s easy to feel powerless. But don’t forget—students are some of the fiercest organizers out there, and we have proven again and again the power we hold. 

So what are you waiting for? Strike! 

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Confessions of a parking ticket fugitive

How I was thwarted again by Montreal parking!

My car was stolen. 

I stood in the spot where my car had been, wondering how I would get to the West Island in time for brunch (behold, the most insufferable phrase I’ve ever written).  But wait—what was that just down the street? My car gleamed on the horizon, parked on Saint-Laurent as if it had been dropped down by a spaceship that got bored of the abduction mission. So it had been towed! And charged $186 for the honour—happy Thursday to me.

But why? The signs said I could be in my spot until Friday—or so I thought. New rules had changed the game overnight in the form of bright orange signs that had seemingly spawned out of nowhere and announced, “Gotcha!” Just the latest addition to a saga of suffering. Anyone who has ever tried to park, let alone drive in the city, will tell you that it verges on impossible. And who is to blame for all these problems? My arch nemesis: the Montreal parking police. 

The case of me versus the MPP (an acronym that I just made up) has been an ongoing battle, defined by endless tactics of evasion followed by endless consequences. Many a brain cell has withered away as I have attempted to decipher parking signs in my search for salvation. Can you blame me for always parking where I shouldn’t? The signs are written in an extraterrestrial dialect and resemble a cruel Terms & Conditions Agreement. You may occupy this spot, Earthling, but only on the full moon that lands on a Tuesday, and only if you drive a red Honda. 

I would cruise around for up to an hour sometimes, searching for a spot like a hawk preying on mice. I felt like a fugitive of the law on these mornings spent outrunning the parking police, my Tracy Chapman CD as the soundtrack to my smooth escapades. If you ask me, there’s a certain romantic tension between me and the MPP. An enemies-to-lovers trope, some might say. 

It’s all fun and games until reality bites though. I have been informed by numerous parties that you actually have to pay parking tickets. What do you mean I can’t just use them as lightly-humorous wall decor? My parking ticket art installation is only just getting started. This is almost as shocking as the time my friend hit me with a stern “you know, Emma, you actually do need to pay your taxes.” Just like my days of tax-evading were brought to a bitter end, the law will catch up to me again. 

But let’s have a moment of seriousness—who’s actually in the right? This time I can argue that they did me dirty (my roommate later told me she had seen them putting up the new orange signs at dawn, those sneaks), but all the other times…I’ll admit where I’m wrong. Montreal parking is a royal pain, but maybe parking shouldn’t be easy—that will incentivize fewer people to drive cars. (I really am anti-car, I swear. Up until last year I swore that I would bike everywhere for the rest of my life. Well, I folded. When your family lives in freaking Ste-Agathe, you do what you gotta do.) 

I suppose I really could just ditch the car, though, or learn the language of parking signs. But where’s the fun in that? Maybe I like the thrill of the chase. 

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But seriously, let’s talk

Bell Let’s Talk campaign points to larger issues in mental health advocacy.

Every year, Bell Let’s Talk Day strikes a chord. As the event on Jan. 24 approaches, I want to talk more about exactly what makes this seemingly well-intentioned campaign a bit unsavoury, and how its nature is indicative of larger issues. 

For context, Bell Let’s Talk was started in 2010 by the telecommunications company Bell Media as the largest mental health initiative in Canada. Though it’s an ongoing campaign, each January is marked by a specific day where their advertising goes full force. I’m sure everyone is familiar with their pledge to donate five cents to mental health programs for every text and social media interaction that includes #BellLetsTalk, and the subsequent flooding of similar messaging—although in 2023, the company announced they would replace this strategy with a $10 M lump sum donation. 

In a sense, the campaign filled an important gap, as few other major companies are so vocally dedicated to the issue of mental health. This advocacy takes the form of four pillars, according to their website: “fighting the stigma, improving access to care, supporting world class research and leading by example in workplace mental health” (which is ironic considering past allegations concerning Bell’s working conditions). Their mission statement in contrast to their actions can be scrutinized, along with their overall mental health advocacy campaign. 

The name itself is problematic to many who have speculated on the corporatization of mental health and the fact that Bell features its own name so boldly. In a 2019 statement, the company claimed that “it put its name on the campaign because no one else would,” as mental health was discussed very little at the time. Still, this is a very effective advertising campaign that ultimately benefits the company, no matter what cause they’re supporting. Maybe I’m biased—personally, I’m skeptical of any major corporation that claims to be doing a good deed—but publicity is still publicity.

The publicity often takes the form of short videos about mental illness coupled with alarming statistics (such as this one, which tackles suicide rates in Canada). Though destigmatizing conversations around mental illness do need a starting point, the videos are a little reductive and sensationalized. The presentation usually includes a shock factor, and the solution is always the same: just reach out. The campaign implies that talking about it is the most difficult step, but fails to acknowledge the systemic issues within mental health programs. Sure, there are resources out there. But how good are they?

Mental health resources are just another part of a broken health care system that is often inaccessible, damaged by bureaucracy and a lack of proper care. From what I’ve witnessed through friends and family members who sought help, the truth is quite jarring; the health care system, particularly in the sector of mental health, can actually be quite cruel. 

People must jump through endless hoops to acquire care, while being condescended by healthcare workers or mental health professionals and being exposed to environments that are not conducive to healing (the state of psychiatric facilities is a topic begging for its own article). These issues are even more prevalent for marginalized communities, with countless examples of injustice and malpractice in the healthcare system. 

It’s ironic that those who need help the most are often dehumanized by systems that claim to be the solution. I can’t help but be disillusioned by the notion of seeking help, and resentful of any campaign that reduces such a complex issue to such a simple solution. This isn’t to disregard the campaign’s message as a whole: talking about mental health is of the utmost importance, and we do have to start somewhere. However, we also need to reflect on societal factors that contribute to mental illness—a broken system is not the solution. 

Issues with mental health advocacy do not begin or end with Bell. Bell Let’s Talk is just one example. The way that mental health is discussed points to the need for a complete reform. Though efforts have been made to destigmatize mental illness and improve access to needed services, this is only the beginning.

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Keep it up: How to maintain momentum in the new year

We tend to hit the ground running with all our goals, only to stagger—how can we actually stick to them?

This year, my roommate and I decided to get a headstart on goal-setting. In November, we pulled out the whiteboard and boldly filled it with countless goals, all with the intention of “getting our life together.” In retrospect, many (if not all) were pretty unachievable. My personal favourite: our promise to climb Mount Royal five times per week. Yeah, right. 

I think we’re all familiar with this cycle. The new year is synonymous with a fresh start, a fact that’s almost too cliché to write about: gym memberships, new diets and promises to break bad habits transform into February failures. The shooting stars turn out to be meteors and burn up quicker than they appeared. This phenomenon isn’t just true with the new year; it also applies to new beginnings at school (hello, winter semester). So where does all our initial enthusiasm go, and can we reclaim this energy to actually accomplish our goals? 

First off, it’s important to understand why we lose momentum. When it comes to resolutions, the most obvious reason is that we simply expect too much of ourselves. This can be explained by a phenomenon called the “empathy gap.” The Decision Lab explains that this is the “tendency to underestimate the influence of varying mental states on our own behavior and make decisions that only satisfy our current emotion, feeling, or state of being.” So when we made our Mount Royal resolution, we were crazed by enthusiastic energy and forgot how it actually feels to be tired. 

To carry through on your promises, you need to be realistic with yourself. It’s always tempting to imagine ourselves as super disciplined, high-achieving people, but that’s often a bit of a stretch. As busy students with countless external stress factors, we have to be honest with ourselves and realize that time and motivation are difficult to come by. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set goals, rather that we should consider how our goals actually fit into real life. Start small and make an attainable plan. Keep yourself accountable by setting small milestones and keeping track of achievements. Gradually (and with great patience), these will build and snowball. 

When it comes to the new semester, the same principle applies. I start every semester with the idea that I’ll be an absolute academic weapon, doing all my required readings and completing every project in advance. Instead of setting such vague, unrealistic goals, I’ll aim to stretch this enthusiasm out and actually make a plan for myself. Maybe I’ll aim to complete “most” of my readings, schedule my time day by day, and see where I can go from there. 

In case you were wondering: since November, we have climbed Mount Royal a grand total of zero times. Maybe we could choose a hill instead, or reduce our goal down to one time per week. Or maybe choose a new goal entirely. Here’s the funny thing, though—with all this time I’ve spent thinking about how I haven’t climbed the mountain, I could have just gone and climbed it by now.

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Easier said than done: tips to handle stress

Burnout feels inevitable this time of year, as do tips to help avoid it—but do those “helpful tips” actually work?

It’s 4 a.m. and I’ve just finished my fourth cup of coffee. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—burnout season. Exams are somehow just around the corner, but you’ve barely recovered from the last exam season. You’re running on fumes and wondering where all the hours in a day go. Inevitably, you’re burnt out. 

And somehow, burnout really does seem inevitable. Harvard Business Review puts it well, saying that this exhaustion “can stem from the demands of an always-on, 24/7 organizational culture, intense time pressure, or simply having too much to do, especially when you lack control over your work, dislike it, or don’t have the necessary skills to accomplish it.” 

(Felt that.)

Our world seems to just be built this way. School prioritizes results over learning, and work prizes productivity over well-being. That realization begs the question: is there anything we can do about it? 

With the end of semester burnout comes a staple of the season: tips and tricks to handle the stress. The issue is that many of these tips are much easier said than done and don’t address the inherent issues within our education system, workforce, and productivity culture. 

To delve deeper, I considered common advice and asked students from various universities and CEGEPs for their thoughts on burnout to find out whether these so-called “helpful tips” are actually helpful at all, and to discover their own personal strategies to manage stress. 

Get more sleep? This is the one I struggle with the most. My roommate, on the other hand, has no trouble prioritizing her sleep schedule. “All-nighters are a scam,” said Georgia C. Leggett, a McGill anthropology student. “I found I did my lowest quality work late at night, so I started making sleep my main priority. It makes me feel better, I get more done, and I buy less concealer.” 

Eat healthy? Nobody prioritizes their health more than Francesca Foy, a McGill finance student who only knows two food groups during exam season: RedBull and Couche-Tard sandwiches. She claims it’s an absolute must for “the grind,” but she does notice a big difference when she makes the time to eat right. She enjoys meal prepping with friends as a social activity: “That way you’re having a good time but also being productive and doing something good for your health. Plus, I suck at cooking, so this is a sneaky way to let my friends do all the work.” 

Stay active? “The problem is that when you’re approaching burnout, every technique feels like a chore,” said Nicolas Lachapelle, who is studying engineering at UOttawa. He and burnout are good friends, so he tackles the issue by going on long stress walks. Personally, I’m a big fan of multi-tasking—listening to your lectures while going for a run, or even doing a reading on a stationary bike can help integrate some movement into your study grind. 

Make studying fun? You can usually find Dylan Badke-Ingerman in the Concordia library (though she’s a Dawson student), distracting me with gossip and suspicious Bulk Barn jelly beans. We’ve taken to hosting regular study sessions, and though we don’t get very much done, the study parties at least make us feel like we’re in it together. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, ” Badke said. “I actually get lots done when we study together.” Well, that makes one of us. 

Find what works for you! Ultimately, you need to find methods and tricks that make sense for who you are and the life you lead. I may never have a proper sleep schedule or a diet that isn’t 95 per cent stolen leftovers (sorry Georgia), but I do have floor naps and Bulk Barn. And when all else fails, I try to remember: school does matter, but not more than health and well-being. So even though I have three more assignments to finish, I think it’s time to call it a night. 

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We need to address the real causes of homelessness in Montreal

Thousands of unhoused people are victims of a broken system and especially vulnerable as winter arrives, yet little thought or empathy is given to the issue. 

As the streets get colder, it becomes even more urgent to address the homelessness crisis in Montreal. Temperature drops are life-threatening to this vulnerable population and exacerbate their already harsh living conditions. It’s time to talk more in depth about homelessness and its causes.  

According to the CBC, the population of unhoused people* in Quebec doubled between 2018 and 2022—totalling nearly 10,000, half of whom are in Montreal. I’ve noticed that casual discourse around homelessness is often damaging and fails to address deeper issues. I have heard the topic be approached with disgust or contempt toward unhoused people, sometimes accompanied with demeaning jokes and comments. This contempt should instead be directed toward the systems that cause homelessness and the governments that do little to address the issue. 

The lack of affordable housing and subsequent housing crisis is just one cause of homelessness. Traumatic events, extreme poverty, domestic abuse and discrimination can all play a role. Those who struggle with sickness and mental illness are more susceptible to homelessness. Systemic and personal issues create dire situations, especially for marginalized groups.

In Montreal, Indigenous people are 27 times more likely to suffer from homelessness than other demographic groups, according to a recent count. The Inuit community is particularly affected, making up 25 per cent of unhoused Indigenous people. This is the result of systemic racism, inter-generational trauma, and lack of services for those who need them most—but most of all, it is a direct example of the ongoing effects of settler colonialism.  

It is essential to view homelessness through this lens and realize that unhoused people are victims of an oppressive system. We must be particularly mindful of this fact and put pressure on governments to establish better solutions. 

The city’s relationship with homelessness is a complicated one. On numerous occasions, Mayor Valérie Plante has called on the provincial government to provide more funding and work with the city to make a long-term plan. “[W]hat I’m looking for is a bigger conversation with the entire ecosystem,” Plante said to The Montreal Gazette in June, “…and that includes the provincial government and the Ministry of Health and Social Services, because they are in charge of homelessness, mental health and drug use, because often these things are connected.” 

In early November, Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant announced that the Quebec government will grant nearly $10 million toward increasing space in shelters and establishing emergency services as the cold approaches. While this is a positive and essential step, it is not enough.

Broad reform is needed. Alberta advocates for a “Housing First” approach, which aims to break the cycle by setting up unhoused Albertans in permanent housing and providing them with ongoing support. This support would aim to address mental health, employment, and addiction. Montreal should take a similar approach with a decolonial focus, and move away from emergency solutions.

If you want to help, it’s impactful to volunteer and donate when possible. But first of all, we must flip the narrative around homelessness. Mocking and pejorative comments are dehumanizing, and it’s essential to consider the systemic issues at play. The simplest way to help is by speaking mindfully about unhoused people and considering the causes and effects of homelessness. 

*A note on vocabulary: the term “unhoused” is growing in usage due to the sometimes derogatory connotations of the word “homeless,” and to emphasize that unhoused people may have outdoor or community spaces they call home. In this article, I switch between the two terms, but use “unhoused” when referring to the people themselves for this reason.

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Universal Basic Income could buy happiness

If implemented in Canada, this financial support program could improve the lives of all Canadians.

Anyone who says that money can’t buy happiness has likely never heard of Universal Basic Income. They’ve also probably never considered the reality of the millions of Canadians who live in extreme poverty and the measures it would take to address this issue. If implemented, this program could have far-reaching positive impacts in reducing and preventing poverty—by extension, it could improve the health, mental health and living conditions of Canadians. 

Before we get ahead of ourselves, what is Universal Basic Income? UBI—sometimes referred to as guaranteed basic income—is a no-strings-attached income program in which every Canadian above the age of 17 receives a monthly payment that is enough to cover their basic needs. This would be a direct transfer of funds regardless of income, employment status or any factor that usually determines social aid eligibility. As a result, every citizen would be given a foundation upon which to build a better life. The exact amount is unclear, but amounts cited usually seem to be around $1,000 per month. For now, talk of UBI seems to be just talk; however, the Senate Chamber is currently considering a bill that would push the finance minister to create a framework for the program. 

UBI is not a new idea, nor is it unique to Canada. United States President Richard Nixon proposed a Family Assistance Plan in 1969 that bore major resemblances to guaranteed income, and Martin Luther King Jr. said guaranteed income was the most effective way to tackle poverty. The largest North American pilot project to test the program, however, took place in the small town of Dauphin, Manitoba, from 1974 to 1979.  During those four years, every citizen was given the money they needed to survive. The results of this project, which came to be known as “Mincome,” were striking—the need for health care and mental health care declined and there was a higher graduation rate in highschools. 

With any major proposition comes concerns and criticisms. For example, why should rich people receive a handout too? And where will all this money come from? UBI Works, a platform dedicated to the program, argues that the program could be funded through higher taxes on the wealthy, including fewer tax breaks for companies, which means that wealthy people would not ultimately be beneficiaries. 

Another criticism of UBI is the “reciprocity worry,” wherein it is argued that it is unfair to reward people who are not contributing to the workforce. This is a concern especially as UBI seemingly decreases the desire and need to work. Though that may seem plausible, the fact that UBI only covers basic necessities would mean that people will continue working. The Mincome Project proved this, as only recent mothers and high school students showed a decline in labour. Providing a liveable baseline does not promote laziness, it only gives people the basics that everyone deserves. What’s more, UBI may become a necessity as AI reshapes the job market.

With that in mind, we can also begin to reconsider how a capitalist society has shaped our values in regards to work. The reciprocity worry hinges on the idea that a person’s usefulness is contingent on how much they work and fails to acknowledge non-remunerated contributions such as caring for children. UBI would help us grow toward a world in which “work” is redefined and life is not centered around labour. 

This is especially important when hard work doesn’t always pay off. Approximately 3.7 million Canadians live in poverty, according to a 2021 Canadian Government report. This translates to roughly 10% of the population who do not have the means to cover all their basic necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and shelter. As someone who grew up in a household below the poverty line and who is lucky enough to no longer be in that situation, I understand the impacts of poverty as well as the importance of social assistance. There’s a misconception that poor people just don’t work hard enough, but that’s simply untrue. The reality is that the poverty cycle is near impossible to break, and every situation varies immensely. 

It also must be noted that poverty disproportionately affects marginalized groups such as BIPOC, members of the LGBTQIA2+ community, immigrants and refugees, radicalized people, and single-parent families. Poverty is an issue of human rights.

Take a moment to imagine a world with UBI. Lower stress will lead to lower rates of depression and substance abuse. Students can focus on their studies. People will have more time to devote to their families, to their hobbies, and to following career paths they actually enjoy. Small businesses will pop up. People will travel more. Pipe dreams will become possible. 

This program may not solve all problems, but it has the power to drastically improve lives. Everyone has the right to achieve a proper standard of living without fighting for it everyday. Universal Basic Income is just one step, but it is a big one. 

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Why white poppies?

Seen as an alternative or addition to the traditional red poppy, white poppies take remembrance one step further.

Every November, millions of Canadians wear the red poppy flower in the days leading up to Nov. 11 as a symbol of remembrance in respect for the veterans who died in the First World War. Sporting the poppy has been a practice in Commonwealth countries and the United States since the early 20th century. 

It was originally inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, a Canadian doctor and soldier who was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in a battlefield following his friend’s death. The donations that the Royal Canadian Legion raises through the distribution of poppies are used to support Canadian veterans and their families. 

That’s the red poppy in a nutshell, but you may also have spotted white poppies this Remembrance Day. A symbol of  remembrance for civilian casualties, the white poppy can be worn as an alternative or addition to the red poppy.  Vancouver Peace Poppies describes the white poppy initiative as a means to end the normalization of war and the glorification of the military, and work towards a global message of peace. The goal is to delve deeper into the topic of war and consider the full effects it has on people, the environment, and society at large. 

Despite its controversial nature, the white poppy is a welcomed addition for many. Personally, I appreciate that the white poppy aims to challenge the commonly-accepted discourse around war and inspires complex conversations.     

The white poppy was first distributed by The Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1933. This United Kingdom-based pacifist organization was dedicated to working-class issues, and therefore had a vested interest in civilian affairs. Since they began promoting the white poppy, it has been especially popular in the UK, with thousands sporting the symbol. 

Naturally, this practice has stirred controversy. Some consider the white poppy disrespectful and argue that the idea is reductive. It has raised questions surrounding the issue of copyright, seeing as the Royal Canadian Legion has trademarked the poppy symbol. In terms of ideology, it could be argued that the white poppy piggybacks on the red poppy, and that the original should be left alone.

The red poppy itself is often contested too, however. Robert Fisk, a British journalist and correspondent in the Middle East, argued in Independent that the red poppy has become a racist symbol as it only acknowledges Western soldiers and not the many casualties in foreign countries. I do agree that the culture of Remembrance Day can feel a bit absolute at times, with no room to discuss issues such as the one that Fisk presents. 

While remembrance is important, and the sacrifice of veterans should be acknowledged and respected, the conversation should not end there. We need to begin speaking more in depth about topics such as the military, causes of war, and conflict-resolution. 

Next Remembrance Day, you may notice more white poppies. Maybe you’ll even choose to wear one. 

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Public transport is a must

The proposed plan to stop metro service at 11 p.m. could have detrimental effects on citizens.

Almost every Montrealer can relate to the feeling of sprinting to catch the last metro of the night… only to watch those blue doors close and see it drive away at the very last moment, leaving you stranded. If the rumours are true, that situation will be even more common, as the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) may soon cease operation even earlier—at 11 p.m., to be exact. 

This past week, there has been talk of major reductions in public transportation. Beyond ending metro service early, inter-city bus routes may end at 9 p.m. and some routes could be halted entirely. If the plan is put into action, the cuts will have significant impacts on the city’s population, particularly workers. 

What is the reason for this proposition? This hypothetical plan was put forth in response to a large deficit of funding from the province. According to Quebec’s transport minister, Genviève Guilbault, the government is unable to absorb the transportation systems’ funding deficits—which could be a shortfall of $2.5 billion over the next five years. Their first offer was a 20% coverage of deficits, which was quickly rejected as not nearly enough. 

Laval’s Mayor Stéphane Boyer and Montreal’s Mayor Valerie Plante have both been vocal about how detrimental reducing transport would be. Boyer stated that reductions are “unthinkable,” as countless Laval workers rely on the metro, while Plante expressed the sentiment that Montreal needs a powerful public transport system in order to compete with other cities. 

Student responses to the possibility range in severity: for some, the issue would be a mild hindrance whereas others could be completely disadvantaged. Michael McDonald, a second-year engineering student at Concordia, expressed his disappointment at the possibility of ending his nights out early, and remarked that there will likely be more alcohol-related BIXI accidents. 

Beyond personal setbacks, the change could hinder workers who work night shifts, such as healthcare workers. “Most healthcare workers rely on public transportation, and if they don’t have access to it, they might just quit,” said Chloe Kim, a John Abbott College nursing student. “And there’s already a huge worker shortage crisis.” 

In addition, a lack of viable public transport would mean countless more cars on the road, which would cause a substantial increase in traffic jams and accidents. And of course, women and minority groups who feel uncomfortable on the streets at night could find themselves in unsafe situations without proper means to get somewhere secure. 

Public transportation is more than a convenience: it is a key facet of any area, and an essential element in countless lives. Though the reductions may not seem massive, they could have enormous repercussions.  

Overall, however, it seems like the public transport system is safe for now. A spokesperson for the STM called these plans “hypothetical scenarios,” and meetings are to be held between the Greater Montreal Mayors and Guilbault to discuss alternatives. Let’s hope they come to an agreement: you can only run so fast for that last metro. 

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Open letter to my Jewish community

In the midst of the Israel-Hamas war, it is more important than ever to educate ourselves on the full scope of the conflict and perspectives beyond our own.

This is a difficult letter to write. Not only is the subject matter so complex, but the delicacy it takes to address an entire group of individuals—especially a group that I belong to—is immense. My intention is not to instigate, rather to share my thoughts and remark on what I’ve noticed in the wake of recent events. 

Following the break-out of war in Israel, people have taken adamant and fervent stances. I have seen many members of my Jewish community sharing Zionist views—that is to say, standing firmly with Israel and advocating for the nation’s protection at all costs. In the process, this rhetoric fails to acknowledge Palestinian experiences and the full scope of the war. Though distress at the Hamas killings is more than understandable, failing to acknowledge the immense Palestinian death toll and the inhumane conditions for civilians in Gaza is not. As Jewish people, and within the context of our complex relationship with Israel, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves on the issue from an unbiased perspective. We cannot use our own suffering to justify violence. 

Education on the issue is an ongoing process that takes on many forms, but it includes doing research into the harsh realities of the war and the history of the ongoing conflict, seeking out and listening to Palestinian voices, and having difficult conversations about Israel and what it means to be Jewish, especially in this moment. 

I understand that the Jewish relationship can vary widely. Some Jews may have been raised to believe that God gave Israel to the Jewish people and may now exist in a Zionist echo chamber. On the other end of the spectrum, many Jews are adamantly anti-Zionist yet may know Zionist community members or have Israeli relatives. I believe you can acknowledge these nuances while also condemning a corrupt government and the actions it has taken.

That being said, I also understand the frustration of constantly being conflated with Israel and being held accountable for the actions of the Israeli government. Though anti-Zionism does not equal antisemitism and one can absolutely criticize Israel without being antisemitic, these views are often used to justify antisemitism. This is in large part to blame for the dramatic rise in antisemitic hate crimes throughout North America, which is dismaying and frightening to see. Yet again, we must not use these heinous examples of violence to diminish Palestinian experiences. There has been a serious increase in anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim hate crimes as well, which is not to compare experiences or play games of “who has it worse,” but rather to point out a universal lack of humanity in regards to this issue. Suffering is not mutually exclusive—as Jews, we absolutely can (and should) mourn our own losses while also acknowledging the experiences of other groups and condemning all violence toward them. 

Though I am specifically addressing my own Jewish community in this letter, its basic concept extends universally. Everyone is raised with a distinct set of values, which become more complicated once religion and culture are involved. However, we do not exist in a vacuum with our own people, and our perspective on the world often fails to reflect that. To stand obstinately with one’s values despite evidence from the opposition is not admirable, it is only damaging. How can humans progress if we don’t educate ourselves and make an active effort toward evolving? Every case of positive progress—civil rights, LGBTQIA2S+ rights, women’s rights—is only hindered by people who refuse to reevaluate the ideas they so firmly believe in. 

We cannot choose what set of beliefs we are born into, and we cannot control the information we are raised with. What we can control is the information we seek out, and what we choose to do about it.

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