Categories
Hear me out Opinions

Hear Me Out: Thrifting

Thrifting was once like a safari mission constantly searching for the best grail, now it has unfortunately morphed into trophy hunting.

Back in 2013 I was 15 years old, a young lad still in high school trying to find my identity. Now, I’m not going to dive into the trials and tribulations of a high schooler since we’ve all been there, but to take my mind off things I vividly remember going thrifting after school at places like Village des Valeurs and Renaissance, hoping to discover hidden gems waiting to be found.

Draped in between multiple random jerseys and sweaters from someone’s past, I knew that if I pursued the chase and looked deep enough through every aisle I’d be on the prowl, eventually gaining my stride, and scour every inch of the store in hopes to find clothing items that I not only desired, but that I knew in my heart would hold their value.

Walking out of these places my eyes would pierce down into my cheaply priced bag of goodies and as I looked at my freshly acquired loot, with a grin on my face I’d say to myself “what a successful hunt,” discovering a plethora of sports memorabilia, baseball caps, and t-shirts all for the love of the game. A broke high school kid just trying to find nice clothing at a reasonable price.

Now in 2022 I’m 24 years old, an older lad still in university trying to find my identity. That last part of the previous sentence I only mentioned for anaphoric purposes. Yes, I found my identity, and yes, I know who I am, though one hobby of mine I once greatly appreciated has vastly changed in the nine years since I first discovered it.

Thrifting was once formed out of a passion for many to go out on a weekend with friends, look through piles of clothing to stumble on, and find one or maybe two pieces of clothing you can call your own. It has now morphed into some sort of commercialized mainstream cash cow, where curators discover pieces on their own time, sell them or have them set up in a storefront somewhere, and price them for a ridiculous markup. 

Thrifting has unfortunately lost the prowl, seek, and scour mindset, and has now evolved into trophy hunting of sorts. All the desired items are sold under one roof at ridiculously high prices.

Maybe I’m just not in the same mindset as the new generation. Maybe they’d rather have everything under one roof because they don’t want to bother looking through multiple places. Personally, it saddens me when I’m walking in the Plateau and notice long lines at multiple curated thrift stores because I know that these kids now don’t understand what it is to actually go out and discover what you can find on your own. The smell of mothballs and old clothing has been lost in obscurity.

But eh! I get that we all got to get our bag one way or another. We live in a capitalist society so why not take a trend, burn it to the ground, make your cash, and then hop onto the next. I know at this point I’m bickering but damn what happened? All I know is that I won’t be enclosed in one place, I’ll be on the prowl looking for my next “successful hunt.”

Categories
Podcasts

Concordia For Dummies: The Provincial Elections

Welcome to The Podcast. Cedric Gallant will produce and host this podcast alongside our Section Editors every week. The shows will rotate weekly to cover topics from each section of our newspaper!

This week’s show, Concordia for Dummies, was produced by Cedric Gallant, Gabriel Guindi, alongside our News Editors, Hannah Tiongson, Lucas Marsh, and Staff Writer Mareike Glorieux-Stryckman. Tune in for future episodes of Concordia for Dummies, where we explore topics on students minds throughout the school year.

In this episode:

Cedric Gallant covers this week’s headlines and shares interviews with First Nations leaders around Montreal reflecting on Truth and Reconciliation Day (Sept. 30).

For our Concordia for Dummies segment this week, we decided to host a discussion between a few members of our staff, all of whom came to Concordia with different backgrounds, cultures, nationhood, and native languages. Listen in for a roundtable discussion on the various Quebec party platforms as we head into our Provincial Election Day tomorrow, Oct. 2.

Thanks for listening and make sure to tune in next week!

Categories
News

Chinatown community members disapprove of the planned REM de L’est project

From cloaking the majority of Chinatown to possible rent hikes, community members voice their concerns over the rail project

The planned REM de l’Est station is of concern to many community organizations in Montreal’s Chinatown. The station is to be constructed on a vacant plot of land on the corner of René-Lévesque Blvd. and St-Laurent Blvd.  Advocates fear that the project will dwarf the already dwindling cultural hub.

CDPQ Infra released the plan for the $10-billion light-rail project to connect downtown Montreal to the city’s east end. Advocates say that the plan proposed by CDPQ Infra does not provide fluid integration of the station with the current infrastructure in Chinatown, cloaking the neighbourhood from the rest of Montreal.

Chinatown Working Group (CWG) member Donny Seto fears that this project will hinder Chinatown’s evolution. “We don’t want a mothball Chinatown, we want to make sure to grow it as a cultural site and a heritage site.”

CDPQ Infra released their first iteration of the REM de L’est project last year, which was met with criticism from community organizations. CWG sent a letter to CDPQ Infra voicing their concerns regarding items that were listed on the project. The newly released design plan did not only disregard the concerns of the CWG, but CDPQ Infra never replied to the aforementioned letter.

“Many of the same concerns we had then are still true now.  Many of the changes that the CDPQ made to the REM line have been basically beautification and some reinforcement in terms of greenspace. Not much of the design has changed,” Seto said.

CWG would like to have a voice at the table when discussing potential changes to the project. One of the changes to the track the CWG wants to propose is for the line to continue underground and resurface past Chinatown to preserve the community’s historical significance, all while avoiding being shaded by the proposed train infrastructure. “If it’s built the way it’s designed right now, the northern part of Chinatown from Jeanne-Mance all the way to St-Laurent will be completely walled off,” Seto explained.

The two vacant plots of land reserved for the project are currently privately owned. Despite the community’s granted heritage protection status from the Quebec government, construction has been granted to the site. Community members like Winston Chan, a member of the Inclusive Revitalization: Present and Future of Chinatown committee, noted that the community has proposed different usages for the land at an action plan consultation hosted by the city of Montreal.

“The community asked for the remaining lot to have either affordable housing, a cultural centre, or a place to help independent small merchants,” Chan said. Participants of the meeting hosted last June listed both vacant lots and buildings, as well as a portion of the neighbourhood hemmed by large urban barriers, as concerns at the consultation.

In a statement sent to The Concordian, the city of Montreal established that the vacant land does have heritage protection status by the Quebec government; however, the government has granted construction on the land. “[Both plots of land] are part of the National Monument protection area and certain works are subject to authorization under the Cultural Heritage Act (LPC).”

The primary concern for business owners and tenants alike, who spoke on the condition of anonymity with The Concordian, was that they are at the mercy of drastic rent price hikes and increasing land costs if the station is constructed according to the current plans.

Chan believes this will impact many vulnerable members of the community.

“Most of Chinatown’s residents are senior citizens, most of them are of Chinese origin and would not be able to afford an increase in real estate value. It would also affect the merchants, the ‘mom and pop’ shops as well,” Chan said.

Chan and organizations like the CWG don’t want history to repeat itself and cause displacement, including diminishing community size, something they’ve already encountered in the latter portion of the 20th century. “There was already a lot of land that had been affected in the area. Plans like [the] Ville Marie highway, Palais des congrès, they had also built the Guy Favreau Complex and the Desjardins Complex. It affected one third of the land and removed 80 per cent of the people there. There’s not much left,” said Chan.

On March 17 the CDPQ Infra delayed the project due to environmental complaints from multiple organizations including the city of Montreal. More details are yet to come.

Photo Courtesy of Gabriel Guindi

Categories
News

STUDY: Minority students experiencing hardships after Bill 21

A joint study from Concordia and McGill highlight that religiously expressive minority students have faced career uncertainty, discrimination, and a worsened perception of Quebec since the enactment of Bill 21

Teachers like Bouchera Chelbi, a Muslim woman who chooses to wear the hijab, has noticed changes in Quebec since the enactment of Bill 21. Grandfathered in after the legalization of the bill, Chelbi now has no chance to move up in her career as she is unable to be promoted due to Bill 21. 

Enacted in 2019, the bill prohibits the wearing of religious garments and symbols for workers in the public sector in government-run institutions like courthouses or schools.

“It changed a lot about my future plans, I can longer dream about having a higher position, I cannot change school boards. It changes a lot for me,” Chelbi explained.  

As a member of the Coalition Inclusion Quebec and someone who is heavily involved in challenging the law, Chelbi feels that it has impacted her on both a career and personal level. Though leaving has crossed her mind, the priorities of being a wife and a mother have made her stay in the province.

“It makes me feel like I don’t fit anymore in the community. Before the bill, I used to feel like I was free as any other woman in Quebec but after, it felt like suddenly I was a second-class citizen.”

A study conducted by researchers from Concordia and McGill has uncovered harsh realities for the next generation of students, particularly minorities, entering the workforce, many of whom will likely be affected by Bill 21’s legislation. Students who wore religious symbols were at a higher risk of experiencing higher discriminatory treatment as well as job prospect uncertainty, prompting many of those surveyed to admit intending to seek work out of province once their diplomas are obtained. Those surveyed felt that Bill 21 had affected their future career decision, especially due to experiencing an uptick in discrimination since the passing of the legislation.

Meir Edery, a third-year law student at Université de Montreal who wears a kippah, felt that Bill 21 has affected him, like many others who wear religious garb. “The law felt like a personal attack. Truthfully, it felt like something that the government was putting forward to show the population that these people are not wanted and valued as a part of society.”

Kimberley Manning, an associate professor in political science at Concordia and one of the authors who helped conduct the study, was interested in researching the effects of students studying in sectors affected by Bill 21. 

The majority of the 629 participants surveyed highlighted worsened perception of Quebec since the bill’s legislation, creating more divisiveness rather than its intended unification. “Our findings are suggesting a rise in discrimination. People who wear religious symbols are reporting that they’ve experienced more discrimination since the passage of the law,” said Manning. 

The law’s notion was intended to secularize the province, providing neutrality in government institutions. Manning, however, has noticed from the study’s findings that it’s also affecting minorities who do not express themselves religiously. 

“This goes way beyond the individuals wearing religious symbols. [It] is clear that people who do not wear religious symbols are experiencing discrimination in the wake of the passage of this law,” she explained. 

“There is a great deal of confusion about this law, I think that our research findings and research findings from another study that was done by a professor out of UQAM are suggesting that among the general population there is confusion about what this means.”

This confusion has created a bypass for many people to single out minorities, regardless of whether or not the Law applies to those accused. One respondent reported a teacher telling an 11-year-old that she could not wear her Hijab due to the law, something which is patently false.

The results showed 51.8 per cent of those surveyed said that they are extremely likely to look for work out of Quebec as a result of Bill 21, while 77.9 per cent of respondents were considering leaving the province for employment options elsewhere. “I’ve decided to take the Ontario bar exam because I will likely go work in Ontario, where I feel more welcomed as a religious minority,” said an unnamed female law student at McGill.

As someone who will soon enter the job market for the first time in his life, Edery has to consider his future, as the bill prevents him from taking certain opportunities. “When I was looking at my career options, I knew that I was limited and it’s the first time I’ve ever been limited because of the expression of my religion and that stung, because in the 21st century that shouldn’t be happening to anybody.”

 Chelbi referring to feeling like a second-class citizen is a shared sentiment according to Manning’s study. Though a minority of people surveyed were in favour of the bill due to having once faced religious extremism from their native country, 70 per cent of respondents have developed a worsened perception of Quebec. 

“That’s really significant, again this is a motivated group who responded to the survey but when you triangulate our results with the results from the recent polling that’s not insignificant. I think it’s really important that our policymakers pay attention to it and consider the negative impact this is having on people’s lives.”

Teachers like Chelbi will continue to challenge the government in regards to the law for future generations of students hoping that they can work in a Quebec that favours religious expression.

Source: The Impact of Law 21 on Québec Students in Law and Education: STUDY BY ELIZABETH ELBOURNE (MCGILL), KIMBERLEY ENS MANNING (CONCORDIA) ZACKARY KIFELL (MCGILL)

Illustration and infographics by Lily Cowper

Categories
News

Is now the appropriate time to ease COVID-19 measures?

The government’s decision to ease sanitary measures may be a relief for certain businesses, however some experts believe that it can only be effectively done if properly safeguarded

Quebec’s Interim Public Health Director Dr. Luc Boileau announced in a press conference last week the easing of certain COVID-19 measures. As of March 12, Quebecers will no longer need to present their vaccination passport in public venues such as restaurants and bars, and businesses will be able to operate at 100 per cent capacity. By mid-April, the province intends to lift mask mandates, excluding on public transport, where mandates will remain in place until May.  

Though Boileau and the Quebec government regard mask measures as an effective one, they cannot continue to oblige it. As the government continues to return to normalcy, Boileau said in his March 3 press conference that masks will become a personal choice. In last week’s press conference, Boileau lifted more health measures. For example, if asymptomatic, people will no longer need to self-isolate for five days if in contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19.

Though the government is adamant about continuing to lift sanitary COVID-19 measures, many are still questioning whether now is the best time to ease all restrictions. The virus’ prevalence has prompted experts to envision potential risks that could emerge from these actions later down the line.

Most businesses optimistic in return

For many businesses heavily impacted by COVID-19 regulations, this is a breath of relief. The hardest hit businesses, like restaurants and bars, are grateful that they can now return to serving customers free of added restrictions and measures imposed upon their business.

Martin Vézina, vice president of governmental and public affairs for Association Restauration Quebec (ARQ) claimed that many restaurants feel reassured with the easing of sanitary measures. “This is good news for us because it comes down to a certain sense of normalcy that we haven’t seen since March 2020. We’re looking forward to opening at full capacity.”

 Restaurants that opened amid the pandemic like Bistro La Franquette are cautiously optimistic about easing measures. Co-owner Renée Deschenes has experienced many changes in health measures over the course of her restaurant’s existence, and feels like the added confusion from constant modifications has planted seeds of uncertainty and confusion among patrons entering her establishment.

 “It’s nice and all that we are able to open up at 100 per cent capacity, but the after-effects of people being in lockdown, people having a curfew, and the general public not really knowing what the rules are and aren’t, those effects are definitely felt in the restaurant,” said Deschenes.

 Experts are not fully convinced that now is the time to lift measures

Assistant professor at the McGill University Department of Medicine and infectious disease specialist Dr. Matthew Oughton is more cautious, and believes that though COVID-19 cases are low for now, the future of living with the virus can’t be accurately predicted. According to Oughton, continuing vaccine education, heavier viral monitoring, improving indoor air quality, and individual optimal vaccine protection are the four items that should be of primary concern while measures are eased. 

Given how the virus has surprised many over the past two years, especially amid the emergence of variants with increased transmissibility like Omicron and BA.2, lifting sanitary measures may eventually lead to re-imposed measures on public spaces and venues. “All of a sudden within about a month or so it (Omicron) exploded in so many different parts of the world. So, could we see that same process again, given all of the surprises that COVID-19 has dealt us over the past two years, we should expect to be surprised.”

 Despite the difficulty of accurately predicting if or when the next wave will hit, Oughton believes that if it does, it will be difficult for both the government and public health authorities to convince the public to respect re-implemented COVID-19 measures. “After two years, I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people are very tired of dealing with this. […] Unfortunately, just because we are tired of the virus, that doesn’t mean the inverse, that the virus is tired of us.”

 Despite the decline in cases, Oughton stated that most of Quebec’s population is not optimally protected from COVID-19. “If you look at the numbers, we’re about 91 per cent of people with at least one dose, we are at something like 87 per cent of the population with two doses, but we’re just only barely above 50 per cent of the population having three doses.”

 Peter Darlington, associate professor in the Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Applied Physiology at Concordia University explained that a virus’s lifespan ultimately depends upon the number of people it can infect. “How contagious it is would have an impact, because the virus essentially wants to be in as many people as possible. If you look at Ebola for example, the Ebola virus is not as transmissible because it has to travel through fluid, it’s not like an aerosol.” Darlington added that, the more variants like BA.2 are transmitted, there’s a greater possibility of other mutations occurring.  

 “Transmissibility is what derives its effects across a large population,” Oughton said. “Contagious diseases require close contact often for transmission so the more opportunities there are, the more you’re going to see some of these infections start to come back.”

 The data on the presence of the BA.2 variant in areas like Montreal is still limited, but the lack of sufficient testing has prompted the Quebec government to re-monitor the virus through wastewater testing, a measure that experts like Oughton have been waiting for. 

“I think it’s a brilliant measure and I’ve been arguing for this for a long time. By re-instituting our wastewater screening, we will have an early indicator that on a population level gives you a reasonable measure of the amount of disease activity.”

 Safeguards like providing third doses to the near 50 per cent of Quebecers who have not yet received it, educating the public regarding the continued presence of the virus, and ensuring proper air quality in higher transmission zones are all effective measures to lessen the chances of transmission and re-imposed sanitary restrictions.

Categories
News

Members of Park Extension community rally for social housing

Comité d’action Park-Extension members and tenants rally outside Montreal city hall to ask the city to purchase an available plot of land in their neighbourhood to build social housing in their community.

During a Montreal city council session Monday evening, Park Extension residents gathered outside city hall demanding the city and their borough to purchase a plot of land located on 700 Jarry St. W. to create social housing for community members affected by hiking rent prices and evictions.

Comité d’action Parc-Extension (CAPE) wants the city of Montreal to purchase the land to build a social housing project that will provide 50 units for people who are in need in the community.

Sohnia Karamat Ali, organizer of tenant strikes at CAPE, explained that the community houses a lot of lower-income families and tenants who have dealt with rising rent costs and a lack of affordable housing.

“In Park Extension it has been long that nothing has been added regarding social housing. Every time we demand social housing we get this excuse that there is not enough land.”

CAPE member Amy Darwish said now is the time for the city to act and provide social housing for their community. “This is a project that has been by and for tenants of Park Extension in a neighbourhood that really needs them. It couldn’t possibly be more urgent, too many of our neighbours are being displaced by rising rents and evictions.”

Organization leaders say that now is the perfect time for the city and borough to purchase the land and create a co-op social housing program. “We say that housing is a basic human right and has to be respected by the governments. Especially in Park Extension it’s mainly low-income families, either on welfare or working poor. So to bring some instant relief in their life, social housing is the response,” Karamat Ali said. According to a 2016 joint study on working poverty by Centraide of Greater Montreal and the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, 30.7 per cent of Park Extension’s population are working poor, making it not only the highest rate of working poor in the city but also one of the poorest neighbourhoods nationally.

Mohammad-Afaaq Mansour, community organizer at CAPE said that since the land has been on sale, there have been constant biddings for it.

“Last year there was almost a luxury condominium project that got built but with community support it was defeated and the borough voted against it.”

CAPE is asking that the city of Montreal uses its resources to purchase the land and create something beneficial for the community rather than have the land be used for privatized projects that can ultimately speed up gentrification in the community.

“Park Ex has always been a community that has been disadvantaged, there were always housing problems. Now we have problems related to evictions, renoviction problems, and people are getting evicted because there’s a new potential market from students and professionals from the campus,” Afaaq Mansour said, referring to Vanier College’s Park Ex campus. “That is what’s pushing out the existing tenants.”

CAPE and Park Extension tenants will continue to fight for the community and their neighbourhood that becomes more vulnerable and susceptible to gentrification. “Park Ex is going to look beautiful in 20-30 years, but there’s going to be an existing community that will be forever gone,” Afaaq Mansour said.

“That’s what we’re fighting to keep. This condo project was a smaller issue that contributes to a larger problem so we really want to have some partial victories along the way and hopefully this is a site that cannot be lost for the residents of our community.”

Photos by Gabriel Guindi

Categories
News

More than just a budget cut

The Quebec government’s decision to abruptly cut the $100 million worth of funding once promised to Dawson College raises questions, especially for what they had planned on doing with the funding

The Coalition Avenir Québec’s (CAQ) sudden change of heart to cancel the Dawson funding project has left many in the English community scratching their heads as to why the once-promised $100 million project to expand the institution is no more.

Over seven years in the making, the long-term project supposedly guaranteed Quebec’s largest English CEGEP funding to expand its medical technology department. According to Dawson’s Communications Coordinator Donna Varrica, the funding would have improved upon the current lack of adequate space to comfortably host all of the CEGEP’s students, all while providing a medical clinic in the area that would serve the community and train their students.

 “Over the past two years, we’ve been hearing about the lack of skilled labour in those areas”, Varrica said when referring to Quebec’s healthcare system. “The fact that it’s overburdened, the fact that there’s a burnout because they’re understaffed, the timing couldn’t have been any worse. Here we were providing a solution for the healthcare system and had the rug pulled from under us,” Varrica said.

Former Dawson alumni, lawyer, and Quebec Community Groups Network secretary Matt Aronson said the sudden budget cut emits “a feeling of betrayal, disappointment and outrage,” among many in the English-speaking community. “The funds that have been previously committed for a shovel-ready project that met the needs of not only the community, but of the healthcare system were being withdrawn so that they can prioritize French institutions.”

The decision makes less sense when put into context. Last November, the CAQ unveiled a new $3.9 billion investment plan to attract 170,000 students interested in enrolling in essential sectors like health and social services. The decision to cut funding seemed entirely propelled by language as Quebec’s Minister of Higher Education Danielle McCann advised Dawson that the decision to scrap the expansion project was based to prioritize francophone institutions and students. 

For many, the swift motion to pull funding from Dawson not only seems like a political chess move with an upcoming election on the horizon but also felt like the government was picking sides, choosing to favour francophones. “There really is no two ways about it, it’s clearly the case that the decision was made entirely arbitrarily because, had Dawson College been a francophone institution, they’d be getting the money,” Aronson said. 

“They have an election coming in October, and in the event that they fulfill their obligations as good government they would allow for the possibility that they would be pillory in some very nationalist French press for doing anything to assist an English-speaking community to thrive.”

 More than a matter of space

 Though all students have experienced the same space issue over the past 20 years, students studying in health programs especially need the extra room for the machines that they operate. “Because our programs are technologically advanced, we had to invest in some big and expensive equipment,” Varrica said. “The entire nurse simulation room is an old closet.” Though Dawson’s students are still getting their education, the infrastructure in which they’re receiving it is too small to accommodate both students and equipment.

 “Even to this day if you walk through our halls, you’ll see a student on the floor with their laptop plugged into a wall socket because that’s the only place where they could sit,” Varrica explained.

 “We’re not looking to get more students; we have a cap of 7900 students and that’s what we’re sticking to. But even at that we’re still short of space,” described Varrica.

Dawson has been trying to find alternatives to comfortably accommodate the ones currently enrolled. Legault and the CAQ have already acknowledged the need of over 11,000 square metres of added space despite Parti Quebecois pushback. The decision to pull back in the final hour raises questions regarding why now the government saw fit to cancel the project, especially when they’ve defended it in the past.

The budgetary decision may affect francophone students enrolled at Dawson, the students the government has intended to protect. Dawson Student Union President Alexandrah Cardona said the students she represents aren’t exclusively anglophone, and the narrative from the government that Dawson is exclusively for English speakers is far from the truth. “In the day-to-day lives of Dawson students, we are francophone, we are anglophone, we are bilingual, we’re allophones, we speak all types of languages and so that’s where the confusion comes from.”

Photo by Kaitlynn Rodney

Categories
News

Endometriosis, a gut-wrenching disease that continues getting ignored

Endometriosis is a disease so debilitating it can wreak havoc on the physical and mental well-being of women all over the world

A pain so searing the simple task of getting out of bed becomes a chore. Unable to move, you lay there, immobile, never knowing if the pain will lessen or ramp up. Hoping that if you position yourself a certain way the crushing pain will dwindle to something bearable. Alone you cry, trying to remedy the situation via a concoction of self-administered methods and prescribed medications — all to no avail. As the suffering progresses you begin to lose hope, asking yourself why doctors continue to doubt your symptoms, assuring this as normal and turning you away.

Endometriosis is a disease that affects one in 10 women and can present itself in four levels of severity. It occurs when the lining tissue of the uterus, similar to the endometrium, grows outside of the organ. The exposed tissue thickens, breaks down, and bleeds inside the body with no way of escaping, causing inflammation resulting in bouts of extreme pain and in many cases possible infertility.

Maria-José Arauz is one of the many people who deal with the disease. Before her diagnosis, Arauz dealt with symptoms related to endometriosis for five years. After visiting multiple specialists, she continued receiving the same conclusion: that her pains were related to menstruation and there was nothing that could be done. “They were good doctors, I mean they weren’t bad doctors with bad reviews, […] they’re just not prepared to treat people with endometriosis so most of them told me to take Advil.” Though she waited for nearly half a decade before getting diagnosed, Arauz says it usually takes some women even longer to receive a definitive diagnosis.

Dr. Sarah Maheux-Lacroix is a gynecologist who specializes in research and clinical care for endometriosis at the CHU de Québec Laval University research centre. Maheux-Lacroix believes that medical negligence that women like Arauz face  derives from the complexity in identifying endometriosis in the body to provide a proper diagnosis. “The gold standard to diagnose endometriosis is surgery. The fact that it requires surgery is one of the factors that can contribute to a delay in diagnosis.” Maheux-Lacroix says the only way to avoid misdiagnosis is to spread awareness on both a medical and societal level. “There are some doctors that are good in women’s health and others that are not, so I think we need to talk about it more.”

“For me to get all of that was a really hard process because I had to fight and advocate for myself, I had to show that my life wasn’t normal and that all the pain I was having and the anxiety I was living due to this wasn’t normal,” Arauz said.

“I wasn’t functioning like a normal person.”

Endometriosis affects women living with the disease at different levels. It can vary in four stages of severity that define the extensions of lesions in the pelvis. Some may be at a stage four and asymptomatic, while others can be at stage one and experience high sieges of pain imminently impacting their quality of life.

Women experience pain caused by endometriosis usually when they’re about to begin their menstrual cycle. The pain forced Arauz to plan around her disease instead of freely living her life. “There are days I can’t cook or can’t eat. I cannot work, I have to cancel all my plans. It’s like I have to plan everything according to the day I have my period,” Arauz said.

“I’m on the floor crying in pain and at the same time I’m vomiting from the pain as well.”

The disease can be very extensive in the abdomen and pelvic regions creating a slew of many other complications. “It can affect fertility, it can also lead to chronic pelvic pain, and can create cyst ruptures that can cause acute pain that would require emergency surgery,” Maheux-Lacroix said.

Other complications that Maheux-Lacroix noted include torsion of an ovarian cyst, and possible infections that can lead to detrimental health problems. “Endo can invade some structures such as the rectum and urinary tract system and could affect the function of the kidneys and bowels.” According to her research, there are likely different types of endometrioses that affect women differently.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer a few months after her endometriosis diagnosis in 2019, Arauz noticed a difference in care when comparing her cancer treatment to her experiences with endometriosis. “I got my treatments on time, I had a really good follow up, but I can’t say the same thing for endometriosis. Endo doesn’t kill you like cancer does, but it can kill your quality of life,” Arauz said.

“I actually find that the pain that I went through with endometriosis was worse for me than breast cancer treatment.”

More Funding for Research Is Needed

According to EndoAct Canada, the disease costs the country $1.8 billion per year. Though much more research is needed, Maheux-Lacroix believes that funding only happens when diseases are a societal concern. “As a society we decide that we want to focus on cancer or we want to fund diabetes so it’s the lack of discussion and because it’s taboo there’s that lack of discussion.” However, she’s hopeful that desensitizing the disease will eventually further funding and development for proper solutions. “It’s political and there are plenty of priorities and unfortunately endo is definitely not one but I think people are ready to hear about the disease and put more money to properly study it. It deserves to be studied a lot more.”

On Jan. 28, EndoAct Canada started the #ActOnEndo campaign to raise awareness for endometriosis. Their goal is to contact all MPs in the house of commons to advocate for the federal government to develop an action plan for people living with the disease. Since the campaign started, executive director of EndoAct Canada Kate Wahl says that the campaign is off to a strong start and they would love to contact all 338 MPs to spread the message. “We have a tracking sheet of MPs that have been contacted by advocates in the community. The last time I looked at it we’re sitting around 70 MPs in the first week,” Wahl said. “It really just speaks to the importance of this to people living with endo to see action and leadership from our elected officials on the issue.”

More research and awareness is needed to spread the message so that more women can be efficiently and effectively treated, to avoid years of suffering and receive the proper treatment they so desperately need.

Visuals by Miao De Kat @miao_dekat

Categories
News

Homeless Deaths In the Past Month Highlight a Flawed System that Needs Reform, According to Some Experts

Organizations supporting the homeless in Montreal say they lack funding and resources

Hugo, a homeless person for over seven years, roams the streets of Montreal. As the frost-covered snow treads under his boots on Ontario St. in Hochelaga, each step leads him to an undetermined destination. Though he’s currently refuged on a hidden street corner in a “non-declared shelter” to avoid the frigid temperature, he tends to avoid legitimate centres, fearing not only the loss of his autonomy but also not having access to the varying services he so desperately needs. “There are things that we need that are not allowed in shelters. When we need to take care of our morale, sometimes we hastily move to illegal aid even if we don’t have a choice.”

 Limited capacities and service closures at shelters stemming from Omicron have steered some homeless people back to the streets.

On top of this, January has not been forgiving towards people who have either chosen or who have been refused access to shelters, as two homeless people have died within the past month. Those nights frigid temperatures dropped to -25 degrees Celsius.

 Centres everywhere are feeling the constraints caused by Omicron. Welcome Hall Mission’s CEO Sam Watts can attest that organizations less fortunate than his own are feeling the effects, such as a lack of funding and resources. “There are a lot of organizations that have had to reel in their activities, in some cases shut down permanently or temporarily and who’ve struggled to supply adequate services for people in need.”  

  According to Mobilizing for Milton-Parc founder Sophie Hart, some shelters closed due to a lack of preparation for Omicron. “Shelters are congregated settings. Everyone eats together and sleeps in close proximity of each other.” 

This setting creates a higher risk of transmissibility, prompting shelters to limit admissions. “[The] services they use when they need support are having to limit what they can offer,” Hart said. She’s personally dealt with people who are scared to catch Omicron.

 Jocelyn is another person that has dealt with homelessness for roughly six months. Having many health problems, he hesitates to admit himself into a shelter solely due to his fear of catching COVID. “People in shelters don’t take care of their hygiene and end up with bacteria, microbes, and viruses,” he said. “I’d rather be out in the cold with a candle than die of COVID.”

 According to Watts, there are two main reasons why some prefer autonomous living. One reason is based on some people exhibiting independence as a character trait, and another relates to the notion of social connectedness. 

“One of the reasons people fall into homelessness is due to a loss of social connectivity, if you don’t have that network anymore you have lost that ability to connect into the system,” said Watts.

 The rules put in place in shelters across Montreal have people like Hugo think twice about administering themselves into centres for help. “You have to be in accordance with the social workers whose job it is to fill in their own responsibilities for your safety.”

 Though there are challenges regarding a “loss of freedom” that some people in shelters complain of, Watts considers these less like rules, and rather, expectations on how to behave within a shelter. “When you’re living in any kind of community setting, there are expectations people have,” Watts said. “A lot of people don’t like to live under certain norms and expectations and choose to live on the outside.”

 Though two deaths outside of shelters are already too many, Watts believes that these outcomes are a product of an already flawed system that must welcome reform. Both Hart and Watts believe that a more tailored system is needed in order to accommodate the many varying needs and problems homeless people face. “What we should move towards are services for a variety of people,” Hart said. “There has to be services created for everybody in mind,” 

 According to Watts, the way in which people are currently cared for are based on principles of charity that must modernize within the 21st century. “It’s a handout, it’s ‘here take this,’ and then come back tomorrow and we’ll give you the same thing again.”

 What Watts proposes is a system of “urban healthcare” that mirrors the steps one would experience when going to the hospital. “You’re registered, you’re triaged, you’re evaluated, a bunch of questions are asked of you, the healthcare professionals understand what the issue is, and chances are you get moved onto some other place in the hospital network where you can get the care that you need,” Watts said.

 Watts is optimistic that a well connected, properly funded network will improve not only transparency between shelters and the homeless population, but also help them improve upon their situation. “Not that homelessness will disappear, but somebody who is experiencing homelessness will not have to wander around for months or years in a network of disconnected, charitably-oriented organizations to get care. They’ll be part of a continuum of care that actually seeks to help a person to get from A to B to C.”

 

Photo by Kaitlynn Rodney

Categories
News

Protesters Gather to Support Egyptian Families Seeking Asylum

Protesters rally outside the Prime Minister’s constituency office to voice their displeasure regarding the refusal of five Egyptian families seeking asylum in Canada

Across Canada several groups protested Vancouver’s Canadian Border Service Agency’s (CBSA) refusal to grant five Muslim Egyptian families refugee status in Canada, due to allegations that they were associated with a political party connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.

 Dozens of people protested outside Justin Trudeau’s constituency office in Montreal on Jan. 29, along with groups in Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa, to voice their opposition of the CBSA in Vancouver for placing these families in a precarious situation, especially if deported back to Egypt.

In 2017, CBSA officers in Vancouver terminated the process of an Egyptian seeking asylum. Though he filed a refugee claim stating he was a member of the Freedom and Justice Party during the 2011 revolution in Egypt, he was deemed inadmissible due to the political party’s association with the Muslim Brotherhood despite the group not being listed under Canada’s list of terrorist entities. The Muslim Brotherhood had a following of over 2 million people and were one of the biggest oppositions to the Egyptian government in 2011.

 Mohamed Kamel, one of the organizers of the event, said all CBSA offices but one accepted refugees with the same allegations. 

“How can CBSA [in] Vancouver decide to take actions on their own? This is something nobody can understand!” Kamel said.

“We have hundreds of people who have been accepted. Only the CBSA office in Vancouver decided to favour the claim of the Egyptian government.”  

 According to protesters, CBSA in Vancouver has not provided any proof to support the allegations towards the individuals, and rather, refused admissibility based on the alleged association with the Muslim Brotherhood. Though two families have gone public, none of the five families knew each other before the refusal from the agency.

 Protesters and family members are now alleging CBSA Vancouver was acting in bias and islamophobic way, in a press release, stating that “the CBSA’s evidence is sourced from the current Government of Egypt, and right-wing institutions that have exhibited a patterned anti-Arab and Islamophobic bias.”

 “We now fear the actions of the CBSA could have the same impact and build on Islamophobia […] as a part of a government agency doing what they’ve done — they’re creating a new level of systemic discrimination,” Kamel said.

The protest coincided with the five-year anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting. They want the Minister of Public Safety to intervene in not only helping the refused families but to also recognize the racism and Islamophobia within the CBSA. 

“That’s why we’re here today, to call on the minister to take action. He just has to issue the CBSA to follow the Canadian government terrorism list,” said Kamel.

 

Photo by Gabriel Guindi

Categories
News

Concordia Students Refused Services Due to Staff Shortage

A surge in demand and a lack of staff for mental health services at Concordia has contributed to students being refused access to services, but who’s to blame?

Concordia students who are seeking services provided by the university are getting declined due to high demand and limited staff. Amid the pandemic, the university has experienced an uptick in admissions, especially towards mental health services. Regardless, an overwhelmingly high number of students who apply are getting refused, prompting demands for the university to be more transparent when attempting to seek out help. 

 In a response sent to The Concordian, Gaya Arasaratnam, director of campus wellness and support services, explained why this is occurring. “Towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year, Counselling and Psychological Services (CPS) saw a large demand for mental health services.” According to Arasaratnam, CPS does refer external resources to students who get refused. 

Rosie McDonald, a fourth-year student doing a specialization in women’s studies, is one of the many students who were refused from CPS. The stresses of the ongoing pandemic and school prompted her to request for CPS thinking that she applied early enough before her situation would deteriorate into an emergency. After applying for a triage appointment in September 2021 McDonald was refused service. Three days later she endured a heartbreaking loss making the refusal from CPS hit that much harder. “I was denied even a triage appointment during one of the absolute worst times of my life. Of course, they didn’t know that had just happened, but it felt significant,” McDonald said.

 Since my situation did become an emergency, I wound up finding a counsellor outside of Concordia, so I am getting some help now, but with absolutely no thanks to the school,” McDonald said.

 Others are like Sam*, a third-year student in business technology management who applied to CPS, health services, and financial aid. Being from another province, Sam had no family doctor, and applied for health services but was referred by the wellness hub to apply for CPS. 

“They made it seem like it was a guarantee I’d be admitted,” he said. Ultimately getting refused by CPS, Sam was met with abnormally long waiting times for both health services and financial aid. After pressing the CPS brought him to no avail, he decided to search for help elsewhere and was able to find counselling in his home province over the winter break. 

“If I was not fortunate to have found external services, my well-being would have been catastrophic,” said Sam. 

President-elect of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) and full-time psychotherapist specializing in couples and family therapy Carrie Foster has seen an increase in people requesting therapy within her own practice. “From my own personal experience I would say demand has at least doubled, if not tripled amid the pandemic.” 

 For both Sam and McDonald, the stresses from the ongoing pandemic have made things more difficult, but they also attribute the pressures of succeeding in school as a focal reason to why they seek services like CPS. “It actually makes me so angry when they told me they weren’t able to offer me an appointment,” McDonald said. “If I’m not getting those sessions then what am I paying for? Let me put that money towards the actual help that I’m getting elsewhere.”

 Privatized external services may be the only alternative to combat the staff shortage at Concordia. In the university’s response, Arasaratnam mentions that CPS does offer external resources to help students “We felt that it was important to offer other solutions to students rather than place them on a long waitlist. Referrals help expedite a student’s access to care without delay.”

 “Concordia does have a lot of potential resources if you can’t access their services currently,” Foster said. However, the demand is so high, especially in the public sector, that any person seeking external help may end up on another waiting list. Like CPS, Foster recommends places like the Montreal Therapy Centre who offer a sliding scale rate for individuals, couples, or families seeking therapy at a lesser cost.

A Problem Bigger Than Concordia

The problem, according to Foster, doesn’t fall purely on Concordia’s shoulders; it’s due to a mix of high demand for mental health services and the varying cases CPS deals with on a daily basis. “In reality they [CPS] have a large population they need to serve and if somebody has a long-term issue that needs long-term services, they just don’t have that capacity.” Services at Concordia cost $10.26 per credit, of which individual resources like CPS only receive a fraction.

Foster believes that the public health system must modernize to properly accommodate mental health. “The CLSC and the CIUSSS, and all sorts of governmental health institutions all have waiting lists,” Foster said. “Until we see mental health at par with physical health and start covering it by our Medicare card, there’s always going to be an access issue because not everybody has the money to pay.”

 “What happens is mental health services aren’t covered entirely like our health services are, and I think in there lies the rub.”


Graphics by James Fay

*We are using their preferred pseudonym.

Categories
News

Teachers Feel Unsafe Returning to In-Person Learning

With the return to in-person learning, some teachers feel that Minister of Education Jean-François Roberge’s lack of transparency has contributed to providing an unsafe work environment. 

Teachers in both the French and English education sectors feel that not enough has been done to ensure a safe return to school now that classes will return in-person, especially amid the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Some say Minister of Education Jean-François Roberge has not provided an effective plan for teachers and students to return to a safe working environment during the pandemic, and feel that the measures put in place are not sufficient in providing a safeguard between students and teachers.

 Last year, Roberge didn’t believe that air purifiers were necessary in ensuring better air quality, stating that there was no evidence that correlated poor air quality and COVID outbreaks in schools. He has now backpedalled and instead recommended that teachers keep windows regularly opened, to improve air quality — something he mentioned in a press conference on Jan.5 of this year.

 This back and forth in decision-making from the Minister of Education has teachers like MJ, a grade one teacher in Montreal who requested to remain anonymous, feel that they’re not properly represented in what’s best for them. “I think he should resign,” MJ said. “He can’t do the job properly, one day he says something, the other day he says something else. He puts the teachers in a very uncomfortable position.”

 Unions like the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE), which represent 50,000 teachers across Montreal, Gatineau, Laval, and some other regions in Quebec, are also trying to receive clarity from the government. Sylvain Mallette, president of the FAE, feels that the teachers he represents share the same sentiment in wanting more transparency from the Minister of Education when relaying information. “There’s a sort of confusion, it’s not clear, sometimes one thing is said and 48 hours later it’s contradicted,” Mallette added.

 The aforementioned press conference with Roberge and former public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda ensured that during the two-week hiatus from in-person learning, the already promised 50,000 CO2 readers will finally be delivered and installed in classrooms across the province while another 40,000 should be received between the months of January and February.

 Arruda also highlighted that according to Quebec’s public health experts, N95 masks may not be sufficient due to their lack of comfort and difficulty to speak when worn. Teachers who want to equip themselves with N95 masks will need to do so out of pocket, as the government will not supply them.

 A high school teacher who wanted to remain anonymous told The Concordian that they don’t feel that it should be teachers who should supply themselves with the necessary resources to be adequately protected. Their concern is the government’s actions in ensuring the safety of teachers if a return to in-person teaching becomes a reality.

“My biggest concern is that I don’t think my employer is going to supply N95 masks. What worries me is going back to school with Omicron and having a mask that supposedly doesn’t necessarily protect from anything.”

 The FAE agrees that teachers should have the right to have N95 masks supplied to them by the government. “We continue to ask the government to supply and provide access to N95 masks,” Mallette said. “We have to assure not only teacher security, but also provide a feeling of security within our schools. If they feel a N95 provides a better feeling of security, they should have the right to wear them,” he added.

 Though CO2 readers will ensure readings of the air quality in each room, they will not provide protection against Omicron. For some teachers, the infrastructure of the schools in which they teach are outdated, resulting in some rooms that cannot support air exchangers or even the simple ventilation recommendation by the government of opening a window. “We knew the air quality at our school was poor even before the pandemic. There are some windows that don’t open at our school, so I already didn’t feel safe to begin with,” the anonymous source said.

 “The problem isn’t with equipping classes with CO2 detectors, the problem is that even if the detectors read that there are high levels of pollution in the air, there’s nothing to solve the problem at its core,” Mallette said.

 According to a 10-year government infrastructure plan, slightly over half (54 per cent) of Quebec schools have dated infrastructure, resulting in not only poor air quality and ventilation but a poor condition overall.  

 Mallette and the FAE believe that there could be alternative methods for repairing the air quality in schools, regardless of their condition. “I’m sorry, but if the human race was able to land on the moon and travel through space, we should be able to find ways to install air exchangers in our older schools,” said Mallette.

 Ottawa gave Quebec 432 million dollars to improve air quality and increase hygiene measures across schools in Quebec. However, the provincial government has not been transparent about where the rest of the money was spent.

“The government is still refusing to provide further detail on where the money went except for what the education minister has said,” said Mallette.

 For now, the FAE will continue to request information to try and obtain a justification for the decisions made but to also track the federally-funded money. However, the process of requesting that information is receiving heavy pushback from the government.

“We’re requesting information through access to information (ATI) requests, and we’re not getting anything. The Minister of Health is playing a hand in delaying our requests by contesting our demands so we’re still not able to obtain that information.”

 

Graphics by James Fay

Exit mobile version