Genocide in Xinjiang with silence from Canada

The Canadian government’s silence about ongoing genocide speaks volumes

In a mountainous region thousands of miles from the glittering lights of Beijing, a people face cultural extinction. Within the remote and sparsely populated region of Xinjiang, a tremendous evil is at hand while the world watches with an indifferent gaze. The inhabitants of the region, the Uyghur people, with a history spanning thousands of years, face a genocide of epic proportions.

The Uyghurs sit at the eastern edge of the Turkic world. Unlike other Turkic groups, the Uyghurs’ national aspirations suffered following the Qing Dynasty’s 18th-century conquest. Subjugated and deprived of a nation, the Uyghurs were left powerless over their collective future. In the subsequent decades, a series of clashes between various political groups culminated in the 1949 absorption of the Uyghurs into the People’s Republic of China.

Under the new regime, Beijing began a rapid assimilation program bent on enacting conformity across the budding communist nation. The Uyghur language, religion, and culture faced a ferocious onslaught as the Chinese government fought to maintain control over the northwestern region. In the 1950s, the Chinese government ordered the migration of thousands of Han Chinese — China’s largest ethnic group — in the first of many policies promoting assimilation. Consider a report released from Arizona State University indicating the Han population rose from 220,000 (6.9 per cent) in 1949 to 8.4 million (40 per cent) in 2008.

The demographic shift is no coincidence or product of the natural migration of peoples between areas. Instead, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to actively dilute the Uyghurs into a subservient people deprived of their national identity. Under the guise of economic development, Chinese organizations such as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), moved at least hundreds of thousands of Han Chinese into Xinjiang, dramatically shifting the region’s demographics.

In 2014, Xi Jinping, the CCP general secretary and president of China began interning Uyghurs in concentration camps with the “Strike Hard Against Violent Terrorism” campaign. Under the guise of “vocational training” and “re-education,” the Chinese government began the largest internment of people since the Second World War with as many as three million Uyghurs detained.

Today, the campaign is worsening with reports of torture, compulsory sterilization, rape and brainwashing. Forced to recite slogans in Mandarin pledging loyalty to the CCP, beaten for praying, and tortured at the whim of the Chinese authorities, the Uyghurs face individual bodily harm and collective cultural annihilation.

Concurrently, the world continues to grovel to the Chinese government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent Canadian troops to a military parade where they saluted Xi Jinping. Furthermore, the Trudeau government, unlike the other Five Eyes, welcomed Huawei to build a 5G network, despite the company’s role in surveilling Uyghurs.

In the fading days of the Trump administration, American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rightfully declared the situation in Xinjiang a genocide. Last week, Parliament unanimously passed a Conservative motion calling on the Liberal Government to recognize China’s atrocities against the Uyghurs as a genocide. Additionally, MPs also passed an amendment introduced by the Bloc Quebecois calling on a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games should the genocide continue.

However, hope of Canada following the United States in holding China accountable collapsed when Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau abstained on behalf of the “Government of Canada.” The abstention ought to shock Canadians as their government chose to ignore the will of Parliament. In doing so, Garneau revealed the dark underbelly of the Trudeau administration — one that claims to cherish and protect minorities while remaining silent in the face of their cultural destruction.

Regardless of the genocide’s progression, the Olympics and all economic activities benefiting China ought to cease. Doing business with a country that utilizes de facto slavery against its own people, imprisons political dissidents, and executes thousands annually is not only an act of complicity, but support.

The lights of the internment camps only remain illuminated because of the world’s economic relations with Beijing. However, concerned Canadians, organizations, universities, and governments can take action through reevaluating engagements with complicit Chinese institutions. In doing so, Canada can proudly defend human rights and perhaps change history. The alternative is a red Maple Leaf affixed to the death certificate of the Uyghur people.


 Graphic by Chloë Lalonde  @ihooqstudios

COVID’s silent toll on mental health

Are we equipped to address the mental health crises brought on by the virus?

The day before Montreal entered “code-rouge” I found myself running errands with my roommate in preparation for the lockdown. Under the overcast sky of a Wednesday evening, we trekked from one business to another, preparing for the looming uncertainty. From the bakery, to the kosher butcher and fish market — the mundane task of collecting groceries became a mission, not entirely unpleasant. In fact, after a few purchases we developed a system: from outside I monitored our accumulating groceries as my roommate ventured forth into each business.

But, in a quiet moment outside a fish market with a collection of purchased meats as my companion, an unfamiliar feeling crept into my psyche. As I watched the denizens of Montreal go from one place to another, some into stores, others in the metro, a devastating despair intensified.

As the gloomy clouds passed the sky, an anxiety reminiscent of the night before grade school swirled and enveloped me. The anticipation, insecurity, and recognition of a looming drastic change in daily life grew into a miserable and melancholic force with distressing fortitude. A completely foreign anxiety grew in my chest as the world around me contracted into a sea of looming and dystopian doubt.

Yet the anxiety soon shifted into a deep shame. After all, how could I complain? I live with amicable roommates and am financially stable. It felt wrong to grieve for the world before the coronavirus from my fortunate perch outside a grocery store full of food many could no longer afford. I considered my grandmother alone in her New York apartment waiting for a phone call, or the loneliness of those suffering from mental illness or trapped in the brutal cycle of substance abuse. Compared to those who lost jobs, homes, or even loved ones, I hated myself for wallowing in misery.

On a greater scale before COVID-19, suicide plagued Canada. According to Statistics Canada, over the last five years, the second leading cause of death among 20-24-year-olds is suicide — and the trend is increasing. In 2014, 267 Canadians killed themselves, and in 2018, the number increased to 336. Such disturbing figures reflect a national mental-health crisis that existed before the pandemic, and unsurprisingly, COVID-19 is exasperating the crisis.

Last June, the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 25.5 per cent of Americans between the ages of 18-24 had seriously contemplated suicide within the preceding 30 days — an increase from 8 per cent the year prior. Likewise, the study revealed that 24.7 of respondents started or increased abusing substances due to COVID-19.

I refer to the 18-24 age-range because it captures the demographic of the majority of Concordia students. Although the study is from the United States, the data is beyond troubling. The isolation and mental impacts of Montreal entering code-red coupled with the looming winter ought to concern students, faculty, and the administration.

But, the mental health impacts of COVID-19 go far beyond Concordia students. Administrators and professors face similar challenges from this new world dominated by Zoom fatigue and the limitations of distance learning. Nothing could prepare our university for the barrage of health and governmental restrictions. When the computers close at the end of class, who knows what inner turmoil torments a professor or peer?

Although we can count the suicides — assign a number to each tragedy brought on by the virus — there is no system to compare the suffering of living in this new world. Undoubtedly, future historians will quantify certain aspects of our collective experiences such as the number of deaths, suicides, or days under lockdown. Yet comparing the mental toll of one individual to another is impossible.

And in this realization, a sort of comfort emerges as I reflect on that unforgettable eve of the lockdown. Grief and anxiety about the differences between the way we lived and how we operate today is not a shameful reaction. It is possible to remain grateful while remaining cognizant of the issues of our neighbours who face unique challenges. Through this balance, an inspiring possibility of compassion for the other and our own experiences comes into focus.

So, the coronavirus becomes the great equalizer. I yearn for our collective emergence from this crisis with a society built on greater compassion and understanding than before. No matter how distant, the possibility for a silver lining of a better world forged in historic and trying times, could unlock a marvelous societal bond. Losing hope for a brighter future, no matter how tempting, obscures the light of a better tomorrow, a day of a united and shared victory.


Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam


Silence in the face of bigotry

Less than 100 years ago, my great-grandmother Sylvia arrived in the United States.

Like thousands of Jewish immigrants, she worked alongside her uncle in New York as a tailor. Free from the pogroms of Europe, the two hoped to use their meagre earnings to reunite their family in America as the flames of antisemitism surged through Europe. However, the dream proved futile. Unlike Sylvia, her family never crossed the Atlantic. Instead, they perished in a blaze of gunfire when the Germans marched inside the synagogue and massacred all those left behind.

As a child, I remember my grandmother’s tales of her eagerly awaiting letters from relatives in Europe. Later, these conversations made me wonder what Sylvia thought when the letters stopped coming. How long did she sit in anguish before she learned that no family remained as the world heard of the horrors inflicted on her family and the Jewish people?

The manifestation of antisemitism murdered whatever extended family my mother could dream of—there are no great-uncles or aunts, no cherished tales of the French countryside or the British isles—no history, no records, only death.

I am not Sylvia nor my grandfather Moshe; I am not my mother—however, through such lineage, I am the product of incredible tragedy as well as triumph. My grandparents overcame what their parents endured; they found refuge and built a life in the United States. Antisemitism persisted, but they could finally pursue their dreams––my grandfather realized his own when he became a curator at the American Museum of Natural History.

I mention such accomplishments to paint the picture that although I may appear only as an American, a history of persecution lives in me. The savage effects of antisemitism that plagued my ancestors remain in my DNA; but so does their courage.

Unfortunately, the ideologies that inspired the ultimate extermination of my ancestors crept into the Concordia Global Affairs Association. Under their banner, the Concordia MUN team––called the Concordia External Delegation (CED)––evolved into a hostile environment for Jewish delegates. In my few years as a delegate, I’ve listened to the leadership’s emphasis on comradery and excellence. Nonetheless, this semester, those words rang hollow.

Last month, a new delegate, filled with hatred for Jews, ranted at a Jewish delegate using vile slurs—clearly in violation of CED’s values. Despite the leadership being aware of the confrontation, they remained silent. A week later, I asked why the delegate remained on the team. Unsatisfied with the leadership’s response of “we can’t get mad about everything,” I presented an ultimatum: I would not compete at the upcoming conference alongside an antisemite who tarnished my friend with antisemitic slurs.

To a point, I concur with the leadership’s assertion. People are capable of change and outrage is not a productive solution. Perhaps through education, the delegate’s ignorant worldview is capable of change. But, as long as sentiments of hate remain, bigotry requires consequences.

Witnessing and experiencing antisemitism is insufferable not only because of the words of the bigot, but the silence of the onlookers. The sensation is a reminder that some will always consider a Jewish person––someone like me––different, not belonging, and tainted. However, the fear caused by the bigot pales in comparison to the inaction of his audience. My heart raced, stomach churned and jaw-clenched as it dawned on me that hatred towards people like me did not bother those I considered teammates, friends and leaders. If comparing Jews to Vernon elicited no response, then what would?

The coup de grace of my MUN career came a few hours before the conference. I looked out at the darkening sky contemplating the social and professional consequences of following through on my pledge to quit the team. Then it dawned on me, the inaction of the leadership and silence of the majority required a resignation––there was no choice.

Thus, I sent a letter one week ago resigning from the team. A few moments later,  the leadership announced the expulsion of the antisemite from the delegation. I support the decision and hope it serves as a lesson to change the now-former delegate’s heart. However, the unsettling reality remains; the antisemite may be out but so is a Jew.

Following the resignation, the silence of my teammates discouraged me. I questioned if quitting the team achieved anything or simply delayed the normalization of antisemitism. However, I found hope in another delegate’s unexpected resignation. Upon learning the circumstances of mine, she told me that she would not compete in a culture tolerating antisemitism. Neither Jewish nor obligated, her action separated the sea of doubts plaguing my mind. Her departure reminded me of our collective obligation to work alongside each other, even when not personally affected, to fight the day when our differences are not only tolerated but embraced.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Concordia Student Union News

CSU revokes sports shooting club’s recognition following referendum

The Concordia Sports Shooting Association loses CSU status in campus-vote last month.

Concordia University Sports Shooting Association (CUSSA) lost a campus-wide referendum to become a CSU club, on Nov. 15. The debate over allowing sports shooting clubs within the school came to an end when 55.6 per cent of respondents voted against it.

Proponents of the CUSSA argued that guns are not exclusively used to commit atrocities.

Last July, the CUSSA formed after a group of students applied to become an official club registered with the CSU. Almost immediately, the club encountered difficulties with councillors conflicted about authorizing it. Marin Algattus, the CSU’s Internal Affairs Coordinator, oversaw the committee responsible for approving sporting clubs like the CUSSA, which conditionally approved the club for a one-year trial.

She said councillors felt conflicted about authorizing the club, given the ongoing history of gun violence, but remained ideologically neutral.

“We had to put aside our biases even though a few councillors felt hesitant about approving the [CUSSA], we decided the club deserved an opportunity,” Algattus said.

Following the CSU’s conditional approval at the beginning of the semester, the CUSSA hosted four events: two days of training followed by a weekend at the firing range. James Hanna, president of the CUSSA and a CSU councillor, said attendance was greater than expected and the events attracted people from a variety of backgrounds. “We wanted our club to be inclusive and not be that stereotype of conservative white guys going out and shooting guns,” he said. “Everything about it was fun and safe.”

However, in an unprecedented move, a CSU councillor proposed a referendum minutes after pulling out from the committee which initially approved of the CUSSA. Minutes from the meeting show that besides Hanna’s abstention due to his conflict of interest, councillors voted unanimously in favour of sending the club to a referendum. The decision cited the shooting at “[Concordia’s] sister school Dawson,” and ongoing gun violence in the United States as sufficient criteria for a vote.

Hanna believes personal ideologies influenced the CSU’s reluctance towards approving the CUSSA. He said that the CUSSA is a sporting club, not unlike a football or archery club but did acknowledge that the use of firearms could cause controversy.

“I understand why some people objected to our club, but there is a communist club at Concordia, and many people would object to that, but they still get funding,” Hanna said.

Hanna opposed the referendum and said it created a new precedent for future clubs applying for CSU recognition. He said that other controversial clubs, such as those for political parties or movements, never required a campus-wide referendum to obtain recognition. Additionally, Hanna said the CSU’s initial conditional approval and then referendum was unusual.

“First [the CSU] gave us conditional approval, which they never do, and then they removed it through a referendum,” Hanna said. “Is every new club now going to need the support of the student body? It doesn’t make sense.”

However, Algattus said the referendum is not creating a new precedent. She said that CSU councillors are neither influenced by politics nor ideology and that the councillors she worked with are dedicated to neutrality. Algattus said the referendum is an extraordinary option for an exceptional situation.

“Ultimately the councillors decided that because of all the school shootings in the U.S., the student body should be involved,” she said. “I don’t think this is setting a precedent like some have suggested because it is a really unique situation.”

Patrick Oliver, a Concordia student, voted against the club in the referendum. He said that as an American, he is all too familiar with the threat of school shootings. Oliver said the CUSSA’s claims of being an athletic club had no impact on his vote. “A lacrosse team is a sporting club too, but people aren’t going to go there and learn how to use a weapon, it’s unnecessary,” said Oliver.

In the meantime, Hanna said he is dedicated to keeping the club operating and plans further events despite the lack of CSU recognition. “We are still going to the range and will use every avenue to become approved like any other club,” said Hanna. “Guns are never near campus, they are always stored at the range — we are teaching people a sport, not to go out like maniacs and kill.”

Regardless, students like Oliver do not believe approving the club is a risk worth taking. He said that students interested in going to a firing range should do so on their own time and without the recognition of a student organization like CSU.

“Weaponry and schools never go well together,” said Oliver. “Imagine if someone learned how to shoot from a university-approved club and came back to that same university and used them against students.”


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Concordia Student Union News

Engineering students show up en masse at CSU meeting

In support of clubs ranging from Space Concordia to UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) Concordia, dozens of students from Concordia University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science attended Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) on Sept. 18.

The meeting was largely focused on allocating funds for a variety of on-campus initiatives and organizations. Engineering students from a variety of clubs presented funding requests to the CSU.

Space Concordia is an on-campus organization dedicated to building the first student-designed rocket capable of entering outer space. According to Space Concordia’s website, the group’s rocketry division has never had a launch failure in the last four years. The organization’s President, Hannah Halcro, presented to CSU and secured funding for another year. Halcro said she did not expect the CSU’s overwhelmingly positive reaction.

“I’m floored and surprised and so so so happy,” Halcro wrote in a statement to The Concordian. “The CSU’s support means so much, to not just me – I think I can speak for all of us involved in technical projects at Concordia.”

There are eight seats allocated to the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences on CSU’s Council of Representatives. Six of the seats remain vacant with only two councillors serving.

Désirée Blizzard, CSU finance coordinator, and fourth-year engineering student, said in previous years she was not involved with on-campus politics because of work. Although Blizzard was unable to partake, she said she has friends who are involved in clubs and need more funding. “I was always kind of jealous at the intensity they go at their projects,” said Blizzard in an interview with The Concordian. “I also know how much in engineering you need to rely on technology.”

UAV Concordia is a student club that competes internationally with UAV technology, such as drones. They requested newer computers. According to representatives from the club presenters, members often have to camp while travelling due to budgetary constraints.

This year, UAV Concordia received funding to continue operating and upgrade its existing technology.

Blizzard said that supporting on-campus clubs like Space Concordia or UAV Concordia assists the clubs financially and also symbolically. She said providing funds to engineering clubs shows students in those programs that CSU values them.

“Breathing life into these relationships between CSU and engineering, if anything, would encourage some engineering students to run for council,” said Blizzard.

After the engineering presentations finished, many of the students left the meeting. Following the CSU’s approval of the Space Concordia budget, Halcro said she felt encouraged by CSU listening to engineering student’s concerns.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Mindfulness project receives funding for the third year

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) allocated $5,000 to Concordia University’s mindfulness program to fund the Mindful Project during last Wednesday’s council meeting.

The Mindful Project, which hosts mindfulness events throughout the school year, was at risk of financial insolvency if denied funding. Co-founder of the Mindful Project Lea Homer pitched a $22,000 total budget citing positive feedback from the initiative’s participants.

Homer told The Concordian that the Mindful Project is an integral part of CSU funded initiatives to combat mental health struggles.

Homer’s pitch included data from last year showing high rates of positive feedback. Students reported less stress and an overall increase in their wellbeing. Scientific studies have found the practice to effectively lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and overall improve physical and mental wellbeing. Data collected by Homer showed Concordia students self-reporting similar benefits.

According to Homer, the CSU-funded mindfulness programming is no longer sustainable as a pilot program. She said meeting the increasing demand for mindfulness requires more than the previous year’s budgets, and $5,000 no longer meets the project’s needs.

“We can’t run it this year if we don’t get funding,” said Homer.

Although the resolution only allocates $5,000 towards the Mindful Project, CSU councillors and executives said they would try to secure funding for the proposed budget.

Désirée Blizzard, the CSU finance coordinator, said she would look into the matter and try to get as much of the remaining $17,000 requested as possible. Despite a lack of a concrete commitment, Homer left the meeting optimistic about the CSU’s reaction.

“I trust that the committee for finances is going to do all they can,” she said.

Maha Siddiqui, a CSU Arts and Sciences councillor, told the Concordian she valued presenters like Homer taking time to attend the CSU meeting and share their budgets. Siddiqui said that face-to-face interactions with students give councillors a thorough understanding of the proposals.

“Having them here, able to answer our questions right away makes a huge difference,” said Siddiqui, referring to representatives like Homer.

Siddiqui also said the in-person pitches and the subsequent question period help CSU councillors better understand student needs.

“We are receptive to student’s needs — that is why we were elected,” she said.


Feature photo by Cecilia Piga

Concordia Student Union News

CSU Club Fair Attracts Hundreds

Throughout Welcome Week, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) worked to engage new and returning students. The Union’s Facebook page listed nine events ranging from a sustainability mixer to a student-parent BBQ.

Last Wednesday’s club fair was one of CSU’s more popular events. Hundreds of people marked themselves as “interested” or “going” on the union’s Facebook page. The CSU and four faculty associations work with more than 100 on-campus groups. More than a dozen of them, like the Concordia Game Club to Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, reached out to new and returning students at the fair to make introductions.

Concordia’s CJLO blasted music throughout the Hall Building’s mezzanine as students wandered between displays. First-year student Sienna Thompains said she enjoyed Welcome Week and the club fair.

“I didn’t really know anybody because I’m from the States, but I’m having a great time getting to know people,” said Thompains.

Chris Iannotti, an executive at the Concordia Game Club, said that many first-years and a few graduate students expressed interest in the group. According to Iannotti, finding information about student groups is difficult online but the Club Fair’s physical presence helps overcome technological barriers.

“Right now, the state of Concordia’s website for club finding is a bit messy, but here you’re able to sign up and join all the facebook groups,” said Iannotti.

Iannotti’s Concordia Game Club is not new to Concordia. Founded more than three decades ago, Iannotti said he has no complaints about CSU’s involvement in the on-campus groups.

“We all get a fair budget, and when we need something they [CSU] help us,” said Iannotti.

At another stand, Tess Walker managed the Concordia chapter of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Walker, the co-founder of the Concordia chapter that opened this year, said the goal is to promote harm-reduction on campus, but she was disappointed the group did not have a presence during frosh week.

“It’s the year when people start experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and we are hoping to have more resources to hand out,” said Walker. “CSU has been helpful. Especially last year, people helped set up the club. We’ll see how it goes this year.”

Welcome Week is coming to an end, but Club Fair (part II) is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Hall Building’s mezzanine on Wednesday, September 11.


Photos by Britanny Clarke


Leaders and environmental groups react as the Amazon continue to burn

Spanning eight countries and more than 5 million kilometers squared, the Earth’s largest rainforest is still ablaze. Earlier in August, day turned to night as smoke from the fires darkened the Sao Paulo sky.

The record number of fires in the Amazon rainforest are mobilizing environmental groups and spurring debate about the forest’s Indigenous population. According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, the number of active wildfires in the Amazon rainforest increased by more than 80 per cent since last year.

Sustainable Concordia is concerned about the wildfires and deforestation. Their mission statement advocates sustainability through “acting locally and networking globally.” In a statement to The Concordian, Sustainable Concordia emphasized the economic link between deforestation and the fires.

“The fires (at least in part) are being set on purpose, driven by an exploitative capitalist system that values products and profit over people,” wrote Emily Carson-Apstein, Sustainable Concordia’s External and Campaign Coordinator.

Environmental group Greenpeace Brazil also blame deforestation. Márcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil’s Policy Coordinator, denounced in the Mongabay the practice while linking it to the thousands of fire hotspots.

“Deforestation only damages Brazil’s economy, the planet’s climate and endangers wildlife and the lives of thousands of people,” wrote Astrini.

In an interview with The Concordian, Christian Poirier, Program Director of Amazon Watch, said the cattle and mining industries are the most significant contributors to deforestation. Amazon Watch is a California-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting the rainforest and Indigenous rights. According to Yale University’s Global Forest Atlas, 450,000 kilometres squared of deforested land now are used for cattle ranching. He said removing trees for cattle ranching is often achieved by intentionally setting fires but this year’s increase is unusual.

“Fires are an annual phenomenon to clear parcels of land, but this year it’s an on an unprecedented scale,” said Poirier.

Like Sustainable Concordia, Poirier is concerned about economic incentives that encourage deforestation. In a statement, Poirier said that President Jair Bolsonaro encouraged farmers to light fires, with anti-environmental rhetoric.

“Farmers and ranchers understand the president’s message as a license to commit arson … in order to aggressively expand their operations into the rainforest,” wrote Poirier.

The fires attracted international attention at last weekend’s G7 summit. Leaders from around the world offered technical and financial support. According to AFP, the G7 pledged $20 million. Bolsanaro initially refused the aid. He has since agreed to accept foreign assistance as long as Brazil controls the funds.

Following the G7 summit, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed $15 million to fight the wildfires and praised international collaboration. However, Poirier said Canadian-owned mines are part of the problem, referring to Toronto-based and traded Belo Sun Mining Corporation.

Belo Sun operates the Volta Grande Project, a proposed open-pit mine in the Amazon located on a 160,000-hectare property. According to Environmental Justice Atlas – an organization that tracks global environmental conflicts – the project seeks to open Brazil’s largest open-pit gold mine. Mining operations often require massive amounts of deforestation and mineral extraction – two detrimental procedures to the forest’s sustainability.

Last July, Reuters reported on Belo Sun’s numerous legal challenges in Brazillian courts over construction permits. State and Federal Court cases have left the project on hold. On Jul. 12, Belo Sun released a statement lauding a Federal Court of Appeals ruling in Brazil’s capital, Brasília. However, the judgment was described as a “procedural win.”

With legal disputes ongoing, uncertainty surrounds the Volta Grande Project and the Amazon’s future. Despite international outcry, wildfires continue to burn in the world’s largest rainforest. For now, what effect these fires will have on the Amazon and the world-at-large remains unknown.


Political recap of the summer

Upcoming federal elections and developments of the SNC-Lavalin Scandal

Since the Concordian’s last issue in April, a lot has happened in Canada’s political world. With Federal elections looming in October and 338 seats up for grabs, here are some of the summer’s newsworthy political moments.

The summer started off rough for the Liberals, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau still entangled in the ongoing SNC-Lavalin scandal involving former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould. Trudeau demoted Wilson-Raybould after she denied his requests not to investigate SNC-Lavalin’s operations in Libya.

Trudeau’s attempts to influence Wilson-Raybould led to many calls for his resignation. Despite numerous Party expulsions and resignations, Trudeau continued to deny wrongdoing. In the wake of the political drama, April polls showed a steady decline in public support for the Liberals.

In May at the National Press Theatre, Trudeau expressed regret over the controversy regarding his firing of Wilson-Raybould, but stopped short of an apology.

“I will continue to speak up and speak out about issues that are important to me,” said Wilson-Raybould, the now independent parliamentarian, on CBC.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives released a policy proposal on immigration. Andrew Scheer, the leader of the Conservative Party declined to specify the number of immigrants the country should take in annually. Scheer pledged that if he became Prime Minister, he would set a specific figure.

In June, a CBC poll tracker showed the probability of the Liberals continuing to slide and a slight increase in support for the Conservatives. According to a Global News poll, faith in Trudeau’s government reached record lows with only 32 per cent of respondents supporting the current government.

In the lead up to the Aug. 1 deadline to finalize an election date, Elections Canada was under scrutiny. Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault declined to change the election date to accommodate Shemini Atzeret, a Jewish holiday. This raised concerns over Orthodox Jews’ ability to partake in the election.

Jewish law refrains Jews from voting, campaigning, or encouraging others to do so on this holiday. Conservative candidate and Orthodox Jew Chani Aryeh sued Elections Canada saying the fixed date violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Perrault declined to request a new election day after a federal court’s ordered review. He cited other measures to adequately address the issue such as alternative voting dates and mail-in ballots.

More recently, in August, Canada’s Federal Ethics Commissioner released a lengthy report accusing Trudeau of violating the law by misusing his office during the SNC-Lavalin affair. The Commissioner ordered that Trudeau pay a $500 fine for violating the Conflict of Interest Act.

Trudeau is dependent on a Liberal victory this October to remain Prime Minister but to what extent he helps or hinders his party remains uncertain. Alan Conter, a Law and Ethics professor at Concordia University, said many of the summer’s questions remain unanswered.

“Obviously the opposition will try to maximize negative images of Trudeau,” Conter said. “However, I am not sure how effective that will be.”


Feature photo by Andrej Ivanonv


Classism at Concordia must end

One student’s experience with an elitist event and how it unfairly targets vulnerable students

Concordia has a classism problem. Higher education should be a place where students from various backgrounds have the opportunity to obtain an education and pursue their dreams, regardless of their socioeconomic status. University-funded events should at a minimum not impose additional barriers to those who are already struggling to pay for their degree.

Although scholarships and financial aid do mitigate some financial constraints, higher education remains an ivory tower requiring financial means to scale. Beyond the textbooks and tuition, Concordia should work at eliminating obstacles preventing students from participating in extra-curricular activities by ensuring money provided to clubs is spent appropriately. These additional funds could be used to help offset the cost of financially unstable students and allow greater access to the abundance of academic extracurriculars.

One extracurricular activity I participate in—a non-profit, CSU-funded organization—didn’t get the memo. I’m not naming the group because I know there is potential to grow and I am still involved. But this example applies to all groups because classism affects other campus organizations as well.

The organization-that-shall-not-be-named sends students to conferences throughout Canada, and sometimes the world to partake in debate and policy simulations. They are academically challenging events that help broaden the mind of participants.

A vital component of these conferences is a gala that occurs on the penultimate evening. These social gatherings are essential as they allow students to network and relax with their peers from various universities.

Unfortunately, the organizers didn’t seem to understand the meaning of accessible. I noticed this initially when the Facebook invitation for the party stated that those who didn’t wear gala attire would be turned away and admission cost $35. As I read the post, the combination of both the admission fee and dress code gave me an uneasy feeling.

We were already expected to wear “western business attire” throughout the four-day conference, a significant financial burden for many. Adding “gala attire” to an increasingly expensive, yet theoretically accessible, event for an evening felt like an insult to injury.

I am fortunate to come from a family that could afford the standard attire for the conference, however, neither my parents nor I have the funds to buy a tuxedo. Thankfully, I managed to get in the event with the same clothing I had worn throughout the weekend.

But what about those unlike me? Students who don’t have financial support from their parents, or who already spent money on clothing? What options did those who couldn’t afford gala attire (or who managed to make it in, like me) have? Thankfully, I wasn’t the only concerned person as I heard murmurs of discontent about the admission requirements. Nonetheless, the post remained online until after the gala.

We will never know how many people didn’t attend because they feared being turned away at the door, a repulsive display of elitism that doesn’t belong anywhere, let alone at an academic event. This is the nature of classism. It is hard to notice if one isn’t suffering from it, but once apparent, the remarkable apathy of others towards it is startling.

Perhaps admission to the gala would have been cheaper if the organizers didn’t choose Le Windsor—featuring a ridiculously extravagant ballroom in downtown Montreal—as the venue. A dissatisfied executive in the organization told me the cost of renting the space went well into thousands of dollars. Why didn’t they choose a cheaper venue (Le Windsor ended up being too large for the small number of attendees anyway) and use the money saved to help financially-challenged students?

Although I did not see anyone get turned away, I know Le Windsor staff were instructed to enforce the dress code, and allegedly scrutinized one participant’s attire before she was waved through by a friend. As students, do we want our collectively funded groups to prevent students from participating in academic programs based on the thickness of their wallets? I fear what is to come if we don’t tackle classism head-on; all injustices, including economic ones, are worthy of attention.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee


The ongoing epidemic of stimulant abuse

How student addictions are influencing academic successes at universities

In 1929, American doctor, Gordon Alles, changed modern medicine and academia forever. Dr. Alles, a researcher for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, on a mission for an allergy cure, had a colleague inject 50 mg of a chemical compound into the doctor’s arm in an attempt to test his remedy. Within minutes, Alles’s nose had cleared and amphetamine took the world by storm.

Alles noted an increased heart rate and as he wrote, “a feeling of well being“. He described feelings of alertness, euphoria, decreased appetite, and better working memory. Within years, amphetamine use exploded––soldiers in World War II used it, and companies marketed it under the brand Benzedrine for women in a “mild psychogenic depressive state.”

Amphetamine is a stimulant––a class of medications primarily used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Research studies have demonstrated stimulants improve quality of life by increasing underproduced neurotransmitters in the brain of those with the disorder. Modified forms of amphetamine, such as Adderall, Concerta and Vyvanse, can provide relief for those with ADHD and give them a life of normalcy.

Misuse of stimulants is not only detrimental to the user, but also to society––particularly in the academic and professional world. Without the supervision of a doctor, and more importantly the medicinal need; stimulant medications are addictive. Their short-term benefits can entice further abuse: less sleep is required, focus and energy are increased, and working memory improves.

In academia, stimulant abuse is an epidemic. A 2018 Yale University study found that between 25 per cent of students in Rocky Mountain colleges and 40 per cent of students in New England colleges reported stimulant drugs as one of the most commonly abused drug on campus. Research on Canadian abuse is far more limited, but a recent estimate is around six per cent.

And the problem is only getting worse; The Globe and Mail reported prescriptions have increased by over 30 per cent in the last five years. If this trend continues, the advantage between those who abuse stimulants over their au naturale peers will continue to become more pronounced and pose a serious risk to the meritocracy modern day academia is built upon.

Action must be taken or the devastating consequences will continue to grow for students and professionals to come. In order to acquire stimulants illicitly, a pill-seeking student needs two things: money and a drug dealer. As rates of stimulant abuse continue to rise, many students who otherwise would not abuse drugs may feel compelled to do so in order to compete with their pharmaceutically enhanced peers.

It’s no coincidence that amphetamine and methamphetamine vary by a single molecular group. When stimulants are taken incorrectly or in massive quantities, an unexpecting student may suffer anxiety, panic attacks and in extreme cases, heart attacks, psychosis or death. The normalization of recklessly pill popping before exams could seize bright students and enslave them to amphetamine. Those prone to addiction may develop a tolerance and potentially deadly addiction.

There are numerous potential solutions to prevent a grotesque marriage between “study drugs” and academic success. Doctors should screen patients rigorously before diagnosing ADHD and consider prescribing non-abusable alternatives like Wellbutrin. Other proposals are cognitive behavioural therapy and the development of coping mechanisms for less severe cases. When medications are necessary, the lowest effective dose should be prescribed and dispensed sparingly. This allows pharmacists to detect if a patient is potentially abusing their own medication or selling pills.

Education and healthcare are both pillars of an equitable and civilized society. Finding a balance between treating students with conditions like ADHD and protecting others from medications they don’t need is a delicate task. Multiple parties working in tandem can find a solution to this epidemic growing within our universities.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin



The two-dimensional representations of real life

How social media is a necessity today, and why that might not be beneficial

In sixth grade, I made a deal with the devil. In the middle of the night, I created a Facebook account against my parents’s wishes and, like most of my friends, lied about my age. Within a few years, I amassed more than 2,000 “friends.” Bizarrely enough, many of my friends in the social media world were acquaintances at best. In my opinion, social media transports its users into an alternate world in which friends are not friends, and a false sense of connectedness often leads to emotional distress.

A few years later, I made another deal and created an Instagram account—this time, I did not have to lie about my age. Slowly, I learned the platform’s complex code of conduct: when to post, how to write a creative caption and, of course, the importance of maintaining a ratio of more followers than following.

Later came Snapchat. Travel became a chore for me. If I didn’t post about my location, how could I prove to my friends where I had been? As if by some invisible deity, the pressure to post began to feel forced and, in hindsight, took away from my ability to truly engage with the places I traveled to.

Of course, social media is not entirely evil. It allows family and friends separated by distance to stay connected. However, the connection these platforms promise is not true interaction. Posts on social media are two-dimensional representations of real life. Social media gives the user a fleeting sensation of connectedness, but these moments are illusions that leave the user feeling more disconnected than before.

Beyond its influence on our emotions, social media wields a disturbing amount of power. According to Newsweek, Facebook is the parent company of Whatsapp and Instagram. Its increasing monopoly on how we connect ought to concern us all. I am part of one of the last generations to experience a world that connected without technology. Younger generations are going to grow up with technology companies documenting them from the cradle to the grave. Consider the facts—as of 2018, according to Forbes, Facebook has over 2.2 billion active users. That’s larger than the population of any country. According to Pew Research, Facebook is the primary news source for 67 per cent of Americans. Additionally, these social platforms offer their services for free, often misleading the user into forgetting that their information is now being exploited by corporations, without any sort of compensation.

Companies collect information about our posts, likes, and friends to create complex algorithms that categorize user information, demographic, dates, political beliefs, and even who we are attracted to. This is the hidden cost of social media; we are literally selling pieces of our personality in exchange for fleeting moments of connectedness.

I regret using social media. In my last year of high school, I deleted all of my social media, but like an addict, I am back again. Ironically, I had to resurrect my Facebook to participate in a Concordia club. The world is changing into one where living without social media comes with consequences that impact our friendships, employment opportunities, knowledge of popular culture and invitations to social events.

Mark Zuckerberg—ranked among the annual Forbes most powerful list eight times––has changed the way we learn, shortened our attention spans, and radically transformed political discourse. Elections around the world have been impacted by social media platforms; Twitter played a role during a series of revolutions known as the Arab Spring, where people were able to communicate en mass throughout the revolutions. Today, social media platforms are changing history, and users are giving their personal information away for free. If they can do that today, shouldn’t we be afraid of what they may do tomorrow?

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

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