Interview with Concordia University President Graham Carr

On this unprecedented year, and a hint on what students can expect going forward

Concordia University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr virtually sat down with The Concordian to talk about this past year and the university’s plans moving forwards.

TC: How did Concordia handle the changes brought on by the pandemic?

GC: I’m pretty pleased with how the whole university community responded. I think that faculty members, by and large, really made a great effort … to develop courses in the online environment that were stimulating for students and that allowed them to develop the competencies that they needed.

Not to say that [students] enjoyed the situation, nobody enjoyed the fact that we were not able to access campus — but … we had [the] largest graduating class we’ve ever had last June. We had the largest summer enrollment that we ever had. And interestingly, in January, we had the lowest dropout rate from courses that we’ve ever had.

So to me what that says is that students, although it was a challenging year, were making adaptations to try and to cope with the situation.

TC: Can you provide an update on what students can expect for the upcoming year?

GC: We anticipate and we hope that our fall [2021] will include a much greater number of in-person courses. Our senses [are] that students who are not currently in Montreal*… would prefer to be in Montreal, even if some of their courses continue to be delivered online.

Our goal with this is that by May, we can actually tell students, this is what the schedule is going to look like.

*On March 29, Concordia sent a letter encouraging international students to make plans to move back to Montreal for the fall semester. More information can be found here.

TC: Will Concordia consider providing vaccinations for students on campus?

GC: So that’s a discussion point that universities are having with public health. We’ve indicated that we would be prepared to [be a] site for vaccination for members of our own community.

But the decision around the rollout of vaccinations is … a decision of public health authorities. For the moment, they’re focused on an age based vaccination process … and we are part of those conversations with public health, about [the] potential strategies with regard to our own community, including students.

TC: A lot of students have complained that the quality of education has not remained the same. Can you speak on that?

GC: In March and April of last year when we really had to switch on a dime, from in-person teaching to remote teaching … that was an emergency situation and I think faculty members adapted as best they could.

Since that time … many faculty members have continued to modify their approach to teaching in an online environment. So I think that the quality of what is available — I won’t say in every single case — generally, online, has significantly improved.

TC: How are you hearing back from students without the teacher evaluations?

GC: We’ve done a number of surveys with students over the course of the last year. I … meet regularly with both the heads of [the] CSU and the Graduate Student Association. When we were at the height of the closures, we were meeting once or twice a week.

Also we had the COVID-19 hotline and web based interaction where we literally received thousands of questions and comments from students.

TC: Students were asking for a pass/fail option this past year, and the university granted the option for one class after much deliberation. Could you speak on that decision?

GC: Under the context of COVID we were trying to make accommodations which will reduce tension and stress on the student population. If I have any regret about the fall, [it] was that we didn’t come to that decision and announce that decision a few weeks earlier.

I think the ideal framework in which to approach a pass/fail option is not something that’s across the board, but something that’s very selective and which has a positive intention of allowing and encouraging students to experiment. This is something that we want to look at with [the] senate as a potential permanent change to the universities approach going forward.

TC: There have been calls to reduce tuition. What are your thoughts on that movement?

GC: Tuition for the overwhelming majority of students is set by the Government of Quebec. When students are paying tuition they’re paying for the competency that comes with the credits that they get for the course. And whether that’s delivered in an online environment or an in-person environment, the competencies are still the same.

I’m comfortable that the tuition that students pay is to allow them to achieve those objectives.


Courtesy of Concordia University

Concordia Student Union News

Results of the referendum questions in the 2021 CSU general election

Students can expect a new off-campus building and a few fee-levy increases

While the general election saw one of the worst voter turn-outs in recent pollings, students still supported the majority of the seven CSU referendum questions, with only one failing. Read more to find out what changes are in store from the CSU.

Positions Book Reform 

A majority 62.3 per cent of students voted to have positions in the CSU Positions Book no longer expire every four years, revoking the controversial expiry position that was passed in the last CSU general election of February 2020.

The campaign to add the expiry position aimed to “democratize” the Positions Book, by way of claiming that students would continuously have a say on the different political, social, and ideological stances taken by the CSU.

Once the expiry date was implemented, several positions disappeared, including those that supported anti-racism, climate justice, and high-quality education for students.

Several CSU executives and councillors criticized the expiry motion, saying they received complaints from students and organizations that re-voting to support stances such as Indigenous rights and anti-racism implied the CSU wasn’t serious about defending these issues permanently.

Additionally, the referendum question criticised that the expiry also “leads to lengthy ballots because previously voted-on positions must be re-voted on.” During the last CSU by-election in the fall, almost 10 questions were dedicated to the Positions Book, including supporting LGBTQIA2+ rights, student parents, and denouncing antisemitism and Holocaust denial.

Breakdown of the results:

YES:                    657 (62.3%)
NO:                      398 (37.7%)
ABSTAINED:        481 (31.3%)
TOTAL VOTES:   1,536

Student Building Referendum Question 

The CSU will independently build and operate a new student centre/building, which would give students a new “space for events, social gatherings, and new services.” A majority 84.9 per cent of students voted in support of the CSU negotiating with Concordia University to realize this project.

According to the referendum question, the CSU is currently negotiating with Concordia University to build the centre in the Sir George Williams (SGW) campus area; the land in question is confidential, and has not been purchased yet.

The additional 40,000 square feet of space would be funded by a fee-levy established in the 1990s purposely for this project. The centre would provide “new quality spaces for clubs and associations, an auditorium and additional state of the art study spaces.”

Breakdown of the results:

YES:                       936 (84.9%)
NO:                         167 (15.1%)
ABSTAINED:          433 (28.2%)
TOTAL VOTES:    1,536

Modification to CSU’s Bylaws 

Students voted 80.6 per cent in favour to add an amendment to CSU bylaws to make the Sexual Violence and Safer Spaces Policy and the Code of Conduct more enforceable.

This means if a councillor commits misconduct against the Code of Conduct or the above policy — for example harassment or violence — other CSU councillors can “impose sanctions and/or recommend removal from office of CSU Representative.”

In a closed session meeting before either the Judicial Board or another CSU committee, the councillors would present their recommendations and the accused councillor would present a counter argument. The outcome would be determined by two-thirds majority vote.

Breakdown of the results:

YES:                       658 (80.6%)
NO:                         158 (19.4%)
ABSTAINED:          720 (46.9%)
TOTAL VOTES:    1,536

Concordia Student Union Off-Campus Housing and Job Resource Centre  

A majority vote of 51.3 per cent approved a fee-levy increase of $0.06 per credit to the CSU’s off-campus Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO) to be implemented during the fall 2021 term, bringing the fee-levy total per credit to $0.26. This charge will also “be subsequently indexed annually to inflation in accordance with the Consumer Price Index.”

This increase directly resulted in an additional student fee charge of $0.18 per 3-credit course, up to $0.78, which students cannot currently opt-out of.

HOJO provides “reliable housing and employment information, resources and referrals” for Concordia students, with said students increasingly procuring their services during the pandemic, according to the CSU.

Breakdown of the results:

YES:                       600 (51.3%)
NO:                         569 (48.7%)
ABSTAINED:          367 (23.9%)
TOTAL VOTES:    1,536

Students voted 53.5 per cent for a fee-levy increase of $0.10 per credit, up to $0.27, for the CSU Legal Information Clinic. The charge would “be subsequently indexed annually to inflation in accordance with the Consumer Price Index.”

This includes an increase to the student fee charge of $0.30 per 3-credit course, up to $0.81, which cannot be opted out of.

The CSU Legal Information Clinic has not had a fee-levy increase in five years, and says they would use the additional funds to “increase personnel and hours of its staff to better respond to growing students’ demands and needs for increased legal information services and support.”

Breakdown of the results:

YES:                       638 (53.5%)
NO:                         554 (46.5%)
ABSTAINED:          344 (22.4%)
TOTAL VOTES:    1,536

CEED Referendum Question

Students voted to allow the CEED (Community Empowerment Education Development) organization to change the mission statement to be “expanding Concordia’s campus in Uganda, East Africa, allowing students from all four faculties to participate in volunteer activities at these new campuses be used in the future for the purposes of: expanding Concordia’s footprint in developing countries, allowing students from all four faculties to participate in experimental [sic] learning activities at these new campuses.”

Currently, the non-profit student-led organization collects a $0.35 per credit fee levy.

Breakdown of the results:

YES:                       634 (64.8%)
NO:                         344 (35.2%)
ABSTAINED:          558 (36.3%)
TOTAL VOTES:    1,536

Concordia Student Union Student Advocacy Centre 

Students did not approve a fee-levy increase for the CSU Student Advocacy Centre of $0.10 per credit, which would have brought it to $0.40 per credit, effective for the fall 2021 term, which would have included a non-opt-out student fee increase of $0.30 per 3 credit course, up to $1.20.

The CSU Advocacy Centre provides students with “independent student representation in Disciplinary Proceedings, Investigations and Tribunal Hearings.”

Breakdown of the results:

NO:                        616 (50.9%)
YES:                       595 (49.1%)
ABSTAINED:          325 (21.2%)
TOTAL VOTES:    1,536


Logo courtesy of the Concordia Student Union (CSU)


BREAKING NEWS: Concordia approves fall reading week

The week-long break will be implemented in fall term of 2023

The newly-approved fall reading week break is scheduled to happen each year in the second week of October, during the same week as the Thanksgiving holiday, according to Isaiah Joyner, student senator and general coordinator of the Concordia Student Union (CSU).

The two-year delay to implement the break is due to the adjustments that will need to be made to the fall academic semester schedule. As a result of the break, the fall term will be shortened to a 12-week academic term, instead of the current 13-week academic term.

This change will mean the winter and fall semesters will both have a week-long break, and an equal amount of academic weeks.

Passed with overwhelming support by senate members on March 19, Joyner explained the initiative took three years of student-led work, calling it a ‘generational’ project.

Former Advocacy and Academic Coordinator Sarah Mazhero presented the motion to implement fall reading week during her mandate as senator in 2018-2019. In 2019, a majority 86.6 per cent of students voted in favour of the CSU referendum question, which proposed enacting the week-long break.

Joyner said the success of the initiative was not possible without the support from students, stating, “Students voted overwhelmingly in support, which is what supplied pressure to make this happen.”

Following the voting results and Mazhero’s initiative in the senate, an ad hoc committee was created to carry out the proposition. Joyner, who was a member in the committee, said they “continued to work with the administration to make this a reality.”

Initially, second-year Journalism student Maria Bouabdo did not support the fall break in the referendum, because it was unclear about what the new semester with the break would look like. “The [referendum] question didn’t say whether the semester would go longer or shorter because of the break,” said Bouabdo.

Now that it has been approved, Bouabdo says she supports the initiative, explaining “We need a break during the middle of the semester when everything’s intense during midterms and [with] assignments.”

Her only concern was what having a shorter academic semester would mean for students — whether the material would be condensed and students would have more work, or whether the extra weeks’ worth of course plans would be cancelled altogether.

These are questions that will be presented and worked on in the upcoming months. Going forward, Joyner explained that “Administration would work with staff and faculty to begin seeing how to make the shift, but students will remain involved in the process in some way.”


Logo courtesy of the Concordia Student Union (CSU)


Student Success Centre: How to navigate this helpful student resource

Concordia University’s academic and career support centre for students

The Student Success Centre (SSC) boasts an extensive range of school and job search resources that thousands of students use every year. From first-year students to graduates, the SSC has a lot to offer our Concordia community.

Navigating all the different components can be daunting, so we sat down with Juliet O’Neill Dunphy, the interim associate director and manager of student learning services at the SSC, to talk about the centre, now that all their services are being offered virtually. This guide is organized by listing the services under the five branches of the SSC.

To book an appointment or register in a studying or drop-in session, follow the instructions through the links.


Welcome Crew Mentors are undergraduate and graduate students who have been trained to help new students transition into their academic life. The SSC seeks to represent as many faculties as possible within their mentorship crew. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dunphy said more students are using this service. “It’s become more important for students to have that instantaneous connection with somebody.”

“Because of the isolation that so many students are experiencing now, having somebody to reach out to and talk to is amazingly helpful.”

Virtual events have their upsides, with students being able to connect wherever they are, and re-watch events when they have time. Twice annually, the Student Success Centre hosts an orientation for new undergraduate and graduate students. At orientation, several academic departments, student associations, and different organizations at the university meet with prospective students to present what they offer and answer questions.

Dunphy said attendance dramatically increased with the transition to a virtual orientation, and they also noticed prospective students continued to watch the recorded presentations saved on the website after the event.

The centre also has first-year support counselling, provided by councellor Monica Boulos, to help students with issues they may encounter during their first academic year, like homesickness and anxiety with school.

Boulos also hosts interactive workshops throughout the semester, with academic and support topics, such as: “First-year Check-in: Staying focused and productive while dealing with Zoom fatigue.”


Over 50 students work at the SSC as paid study group leaders, tutors, and writing assistants. They organize peer-led academic help sessions for students from different faculties.

The Math & Science-based learning support offers study groups and one-on-one tutoring for prerequisite math, accounting, and economics courses with high enrollment, and study groups for some basic science courses. When organizing their popular math exam review sessions, the SSC works in liaison with the Department of Mathematics & Statistics “To try and make sure we’re providing sample questions that are relevant to whatever might happen in the most recent exam,” said Dunphy.

Over a thousand students attend some of these sessions, which are offered throughout the year.

For students who want to gauge their proficiency in math courses, the SSC has free math self-assessments, which feature mock exams and homework samples. This assessment is especially useful for newly-admitted CEGEP students who were exempted from completing basic math courses at Concordia, but want to make sure they are well prepared for the upper level courses.

These weekly study groups and mock exams are also available for the basic economics courses. Dunphy said the centre noticed “students who come into these sessions are much more likely to succeed.”

For science students, the SSC offers Strategic Learning sessions for some entry level classes. Dunphy said these sessions are taught by a student tutor who excelled in the entry level course. The tutor attends the class again, this time to observe how the students are understanding the material, and prepares interactive student sessions outside of class time based on what students need help understanding.

Additionally, there are 13 writing assistants who offer undergraduate and graduate students writing advice and feedback, through a drop-in session, or by booking a personal appointment. The SSC also provides free writing advice handouts, which provide general guidelines on a variety of topics, for example: “A Brief Guide to Writing a Research Paper” and “A Template For Writing An Essay.”

Students can also use the Writing Assignment Calculator to help strategize when to complete different stages of their writing assignments. By filling in when the assignment is due, the calculator provides a timeline of when to have each portion of the project completed.

“Students find this really helpful, it keeps them on track,” said Dunphy.

For specific language help, language facilitators also host conversation sessions in English and in French, to help participants learn the respective language by encouraging them to develop their spontaneous speaking skills in a group setting.

The learning services also feature academic help beyond the textbooks. Three Learning Specialists support students with academic advice and guidance on topics such as time management, preparing for exams. and dealing with exam anxiety. Students can either book an appointment, attend a drop-in session, or participate in workshops which are repeatedly hosted throughout the semester. Events include: “Read and Remember Online Readings (Without falling asleep),” “The Way of APA” and “Get Back on Track: How to refocus and finish your semester strong!”

Dunphy said these one-on-one sessions for time management have become increasingly popular for students.

“Right now with COVID, students are finding just adding structure to their day is really challenging, because every day seems kind of seamless and endless, and so we talk about how to do that, and how to build breaks, and build in key study times, so that there’s balance.”


FeatureReady originated from “a feeling that students were not really leaving Concordia with professional skills,” according to Dunphy. Here, students can complete core skill modules that can help them transition into their careers with workshops under topics such as “Career Development” and “Innovation & Entrepreneurship.”

For students looking to take on a leadership role, the SkillXchange helps students develop a workshop themselves. Working alongside a coach and mentors, students work to produce an official skill or information session for the Concordia community.


Career planning offers both career counselling and advising services for students. While career counseling focuses on helping students make decisions about their academic and career path based on their interests, career advising helps students with their job search.

Students can also attend one of the many professional workshops and job fairs available on the website. Under “Networking and Recruitment Events” students can meet recruiters and learn job skills with companies and organizations like RBC, Home Depot, and the Cree School Board.

Students can also find general professional help under “Career Development and Job Search Strategies” which feature workshops on how to write a CV and cover letter, and how to network.

Additionally, for students and alumni looking for job opportunities, the centre posts over 300 job openings each month in their online job bank, which include full and part-time positions.

If you’re a student unsure of what career you’d like to pursue with your degree, you can also visit “What can I do with my degree in…” to look at your options. If you’ve already graduated but still need guidance, alumni can have additional career help as well.


For students accused of academic misconduct or behavioural complaints, the Student Advocacy Office branch at the SSC can connect them with staff or student advocates who will work closely with a representative, and help the accused student navigate the Academic Code of Conduct.

The centre also can also help students complete academic requests, such as withdrawing from a class after the deadline with a tuition refund, exam deferral, credits transfer, tuition refund, and much more.




Graphic courtesy of the Student Success Centre

Montreal will push Canada to collect race-based COVID-19 data

Marginalized communities face some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates

Montreal city council voted on Feb. 23 to push the federal and provincial governments to collect and publish race-based COVID-19 data, which would entail registering ethnic and socioeconomic information from those who have tested positive for the virus.

Minority communities have faced increasingly higher COVID-19 case numbers across Canada, according to studies cited in the motion. The goal of the initiative is to better understand systemic disparities in marginalized communities and to develop effective health measures to address social inequalities.

Developed in cooperation with the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), the successful motion was proposed by Marvin Rotrand, independent city councillor for the district of Snowdon.

This initiative would be the first of its kind in the country, and for co-author of the motion and researcher at CRARR, Kathryn Nicassio, a necessary step to address inequalities among vulnerable communities.

“These groups tend to be racialized groups, people who are poor, or struggling in other ways,” said Nicassio.

In Montreal, Nicassio cites disproportionate COVID-19 infection rates in largely racialized communities, such as the Côte-des-Neiges and Ahuntsic boroughs, that have seen over 9,000 and 8,000 cases respectively. Comparatively, the affluent suburb of Westmount, with fewer racialized groups, saw just a little over 600 cases.

“We have some data, we know that this is happening, but [we] don’t know the extent of it, and we’re not collecting it at the scale we need to be collecting it,” said Nicassio.

This disproportionate impact on minority communities echoes the findings in the August 2020 SHERPA report cited in the press release, which found there was a greater impact of COVID-19 in racialized communities who faced an “intersection of multiple economic and social factors.”

These issues include poverty, racism, working in areas with higher exposure to COVID-19 (such as long-term care clinics), language barriers, lack of health insurance, and precarious immigration statuses. Ultimately, gathering race-based COVID-19 data would be integral to designing effective health policies that would account for these discrepancies.

“We need the hard data to be able to identify the root causes of system disparity … because we have to be able to inform our actions by addressing these root causes and to come up with more effective responses,” said Concordia Public Affairs and Policy student and CRARR intern Eva Rokakis, who also contributed to the motion.

Going forward, Rokakis said CRARR is working on a project to bring this initiative to the federal government.

“We have to keep fighting for it,” said Rokakis.

Graphic by @sundaeghost


Community groups demand release of migrant detainees following a COVID-19 outbreak at the Laval Immigration Holding Centre

One of the migrants at the centre has begun a hunger strike to protest inadequate health measures

Multiple migrant detainees at the Immigration Holding Centre (IHC) in Laval have contracted COVID-19, spurring community groups to call on the immediate release of all detainees for the migrants’ safety.

Due to the outbreak, one of the migrants who tested positive for COVID-19 began a hunger strike on Feb. 15 to protest against the conditions at the centre, according to Solidarity Across Borders (SAB), a community group in contact with multiple detainees at the centre.

Unsanitary conditions, inadequate COVID-19 protocol, and refusal to give proper healthcare to detainees — these are some of the allegations weighed against the IHC by SAB and one of the detainees, Marlon, who used a pseudonym to protect his identity.

While the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) spokesperson Rebecca Purdy said detainees who have tested positive are being held in solitary confinement, SAB member of the detention committee Simone Lucas claims all detainees on the men’s side are being held in solitary as a containment measure.

SAB receives all of their information through phone calls with detainees who are in isolation and cannot properly communicate with one another, which Lucas said is the reason why some of their figures are different from the CBSA. In a press release, SAB claimed four positive COVID-19 cases at the centre, while the CBSA claimed three cases since Feb. 15. To date, there are 15 migrants held in the Laval IHC, according to the CBSA.

Back in the spring of 2020, detainees organized a group hunger strike during the first wave of the pandemic, to protest being held in a closed environment, which made them more susceptible to contracting the virus. Some migrants were released following the eight-day hunger strike, and a media campaign by SAB.

“If the CBSA was able to release detainees in the spring we don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to release detainees this time around,” said Tanya Rowell Katzemba, a member of the detention committee at SAB.

During the first wave of the pandemic, the only confirmed COVID-19 case at the centre was a security guard. Rowell Katzemba thinks the situation now, with multiple migrants getting sick, means there is an even greater risk to their safety and wellbeing.

The higher risk of exposure to the virus comes from the staff who work at the centre, who regularly come and go, while migrants are detained in closed environments, according to the press release by SAB. Marlon agrees, and he says the situation at the centre is dire.

“In my experience, the worst thing that has happened to me in my life is to have fallen sick with COVID-19,” said Marlon in an interview with The Concordian. He said the precautions and care he has received at the Laval IHC are insufficient.

Marlon said that after testing positive, he was moved to a smaller room to quarantine, where the walls appeared to have spit spread on them, the bed was dirty, and the curtains were stained with blood. He successfully demanded to be moved, saying the centre’s cleaning measures were inadequate.

According to Marlon, deep cleaning at the centre amounts to surfaces being wiped down with a rag, with high-traffic touchable services like vending machines and water foundations rarely being cleaned. In the washroom detainees use, blood is smeared on the door from the inside, and mold grows on the shower curtains.

Marlon continued to state that multiple guards have taken off their masks while working at the centre, sometimes coughing and sneezing without a face covering. Staff do not socially distance, and instead have various points of contact between each other throughout their work day and during breaks, for example,  Marlon said he witnessed guards sharing cigarette lighters.

Personnel at the centre work in eight hour shifts, with around 12 to 20 employees coming and going from the IHC at a time, said Marlon. In the first week of February, he noticed one of the guards in the shared communal space exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms; they were coughing, had dark bags under their eyes, and appeared to have trouble breathing. 

Less than two weeks later, Marlon also tested positive for COVID-19, during which time he was scheduled to be deported from Canada. Due to his positive result, his deportation was postponed, conditional on a negative test result for COVID-19. In Canada, deportations resumed on Nov. 30, 2020, after having been paused due to the pandemic in March 2020.

The CBSA did not respond to questions regarding whether any personnel at the centre had contracted COVID-19.

The CBSA released a statement pertaining to cleaning measures at the centre.

“Since February 2020, several additional measures have been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the Laval IHC. These have been taken in response to directives put forward by health authorities and are reviewed several times a week as the situation continues to evolve.”

One of these measures was also to stop all visitations from the public. Marlon has not seen his wife and son who live in Montreal and whose refugee applications have been approved, since he was detained for lack of identification papers on Nov. 16, 2020.

At the centre, Marlon finds it ironic the guards are “treating them like lepers and keeping their distance,” while it was those very personnel who brought COVID-19 into the detention centre. While some of his symptoms have improved, Marlon said he has many headaches, and can only sleep facing up, for three hours at night.

Marlon has refused to be tested for COVID-19, saying if he tests negative, they will immediately deport him. Instead, he wants to make sure COVID-19 has left no long-lasting health issues, and has asked for a medical evaluation.

Since he became sick at the centre, he feels it is the responsibility of the health workers there to care for him.

“They don’t care how my body is doing or the state of my lungs,” he said. ”They just want me out of the way.”

While Montreal opened their first post-COVID-19 clinic earlier this month, Marlon said detainees at the holding centre are being denied follow-up care. He said he would not refuse deportation, but wants to know he has fully recovered from COVID-19, citing that this is now a human rights demand in the context of the pandemic.

He feels since the shelter cannot treat detainees humanely, it should be closed down. In the meantime, SAB will continue to pressure the government to release detainees at the Laval IHC.

“Treat us like humans,” said Marlon.


Translation for the interview with Marlon provided by SAB member Alonso Gamarra.

Graphic by @the.beta.lab


The CSU’s Annual Interfaith Commemoration for the fourth anniversary of the Quebec Mosque shooting

The ceremony honoured the victims, and called for peace

In a solemn ceremony, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) held their Annual Interfaith Commemoration of the Quebec mosque shooting attack through a virtual livestream on Jan. 29, to mark the fourth anniversary of the massacre.

“Insecurity, illness, isolation, intolerance, these are the four ‘i’’s that have plagued us during this past year, hopefully today … we can bring you a fifth ‘i,’ which is that of inspiration,” began the host, Walter Chi-yan Tom, manager of the Legal Information Clinic, who noted the different faith backgrounds of the keynote speakers.

The tragic event at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec mosque in Québec City took six lives and injured another 19 people, in an Islamophobic attack that rocked the country and made international headlines in 2017. Since then, community members have organized more initiatives to fight against ignorance and discrimination with understanding and education campaigns.

While mourning the loss and continued pain from community members still suffering from the attack, keynote members highlighted their collaborative and peacemaking efforts. Prevalent among all the members’ speeches was a call to action: for each of us to work towards fostering a better community to fight hatred in all its forms. 

Before the speeches, Victoria Pesce, CSU external affairs & mobilization coordinator, presented a land acknowledgement, followed by a welcoming message and healing poem by Vicky Boldo, Cree/Métis cultural support worker at Concordia’s the Otsenhákta Student Centre (formally known at the Aboriginal Student Resources Centre).

On Jan. 28, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault announced the federal government’s decision to make Jan. 29 The National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec Mosque Attack and a day of action against Islamophobia.

“This is extremely important… we have been asking for that for the last four years,” said Ehab Lotayef, co-founder of Muslim Awareness Week (MAW), in response to the announcement.

Different events aim at featuring muslims as exactly who they are — a neighbour, a helper, or friend in the community — Lotayef argued that how “we could make this a better world”  is to give everybody a chance to get to know each other.

“Know them as people who contribute to your life, who have their inspirations, have their concerns, and would love to know about you, and would love you to know about them,” said Lotayef.

With poems, songs, and symbolic acts, other members spoke of their joint effort and support with the Muslim community, for healing and peace, and the fight against discrimination. 

Rabbi Ellen Greenspan, from the Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, said she held hands with many people from the Jewish community around mosques on Fridays after the attack, to protect Muslim worshippers inside.

During her speech, Cree/Métis cultural support worker Boldo said those different community members who attend these vigils and mass gatherings “stand there in solidarity with us are our brothers and sisters.”

Gospel singer Amanda Benn sang an acapella of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Afterwards she wrote in the chat she was “fighting back tears” and thanked the speakers for their “presence and energy.”

In speaking on the challenges of today, Fo Niemi, executive director at the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), pointed to the ongoing court battle of the Quebec mosque shooting murderer, Alexandre Bissonnette, who successfully challenged his parole sentence from 40 years to 25 years in the Quebec court of Appeal in 2020, on the basis that his former sentence “cruel and unusual” punishment.

This decision has been appealed to the Supreme Court, who will hear the case next year. Niemi said on this appeal before the Supreme Court, “We have to ensure that the rights of the victims of crime should come first.”

For the candle lighting ceremony,  Rev. Ellie Hummel, chaplain & coordinator at Concordia’s Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre, lit the first candle to honour those who still suffer today from the attack, and the six murdered victims: Ibrahima Barry (39), Mamadou Tanou Barry (42), Khaled Belkacemi (60), Aboubaker Thabti (44), Abdelkrim Hassane (41) and Azzeddine Soufiane (57).

Hummel lit a second candle “for all victims of violence based on religion, racialization or identity,” followed by a third and last candle “of hope and commitment.”

“As we grieve, as we lament, let us also remember our vision of a world of understanding, respect, community and justice… let us walk on the paths that bring healing and hope.”


Feature image is a screenshot of the virtual event


Concordia’s Black Perspectives Office strives to empower Black voices and aspirations at the university

The office offers mentorship, scholarship, and wide-range supportive opportunities for Black students

Having started off as a pilot project, Concordia’s Black Perspectives Office proved a success in 2019 and was permanently installed as an advocacy and support office for Black students at Concordia.

Three-time Concordia graduate, Montreal Black activist and author Annick Maugile Flavien is the founding coordinator at the office, which aims to address and challenge systemic racism by representing, connecting, and supporting Black perspectives.

“Our students, our faculty, our staff need spaces to connect with one another,” said Flavien during an interview with Concordia alumni Josie Fomé, Montreal journalist and podcast host featured in Concordia’s 4TH SPACE in December.

In this space, Black students can freely express themselves. Flavien said, “We can kind of talk about their actual issues, or like what they really want to talk about, because they don’t have to check their Blackness at the door.”

Advocacy, funding Black student projects and education, and creating new resources for Black students is part of the work done in the office. All scholarships and funds, which range from $300–$2,500, include consistent mentorship with Flavien to help students fulfill their goals.

Last year, the office began plans to build the Black Mental Wellness on Campus project: a new bilingual mental wellness website, which will include different year-long programs on wellness education, such as skillshares, workshops, and events.

The website says the project will integrate and work with practitioners and individuals “who are dedicated to anti-racist and holistic mental wellness.”

This term, the focus will be towards creating a mentorship program with Concordia alumni, and improving mental health services, by hiring from the Black community into the university and helping students find the resources they need.

Like everything else, the BPO services have moved online, and while that has presented many challenges, Flavien said students are working on innovative new ideas for Black initiatives.

 “It’s been really exciting because students have a lot of energy and want to engage and are coming in with their ideas,” said Flavien.

One of these new projects was Concordia’s Black Student Union (BSU), which began at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester.

Historically, Black student unions began as a way to fight racism and discrimination on campus in the 1960s. Concordia’s BSU aims to continue that legacy, along with celebrating Black excellence, and supporting Black voices and initiatives on campus.

Flavien’s vision for the office is similar to the decades-old practices of BSU: to create a culture and system similar to Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States.

“It was just about creating a space in which I could be myself, and I could meet people from my community; I could collaborate with them, I can innovate with them,” said Flavien.

“I think that long term vision, I see the BPO being a theoretical as well as a physical manifestation of that dream.”


Screenshot of the Black Perspectives Website


JMSB student starts petition to turn Grey Nuns Residence into temporary homeless shelter

In just four days, the petition collected over 3,000 signatures

After the recent deaths of homeless people in Montreal, David Desjardins, a third-year John Molson School of Business (JMSB) student at Concordia University, wanted to do more than just raise awareness about the city’s growing homelessness crisis.

Since the start of the pandemic, Montreal’s homeless population has increased from a pre-pandemic figure of around 3,000 to hundreds, maybe thousands, more. While experts have not been able to pinpoint the exact figure, the increase has manifested at homeless shelters, with staff reporting that they are operating at full capacity, though this is not enough to adequately serve the city’s increasing homeless population.

Meanwhile, several student residences in the city remain closed due to the pandemic. At Concordia, the Grey Nuns Residence — a heritage student residence and hotel building located near the downtown campus — is closed, with almost 600 beds unoccupied since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

Desjardins decided to call on Concordia University to step in, and started a petition on Jan. 28, directed towards President of Concordia University Graham Carr, to turn the Grey Nuns Residence into a temporary homeless shelter.

Part of Desjardins’ motivation for starting the petition includes believing that “we need to act with urgency to find these people somewhere to stay, at least temporarily, or else we will see bloodshed.”

The petition, which started off with a goal of 150 signatures, currently has over 3,000.

“It’s been pretty impressive, I’m very happy to see all the support we’re getting,” said Desjardins.

In addition to it’s high occupancy rate, the Grey Nuns Residence boasts a cafeteria space, several multipurpose rooms, and 234-seat silent reading room. There are no specific plans on how this space would be used; instead, Desjardins said his petition is meant to get the ball rolling.

He believes new resources made available for the homeless during the pandemic, such as the Old Royal Victoria Hospital being converted to a homeless shelter in August 2020, “was a great first step.”

However, Desjardins believes that, in many ways, efforts to help the homeless have fallen short.

“I wouldn’t even say the government is doing much to be quite frank.”

Since enacting stricter lockdown measures on Jan. 9, Legault did not exempt the homeless population and homeless shelters from the 8 p.m. curfew. That decision not only meant that homeless people could incur fines up to $1,500 for being outside after curfew, but that shelters could no longer accept new clients past the curfew as well.

Even after the death of Raphael “Napa” Andre, a 51-year-old homeless man who froze to death in a portable toilet just a few metres away from a shelter after curfew, Legault said he would continue to refuse exempting the homeless population from curfew regulations.

“You have to understand that if we put in the law that a homeless person cannot get a ticket, well then anyone could say “I’m homeless,” explained Legault.

Severe backlash followed Legault’s stance, with politicians and community members calling on the premier to have compassion towards the homeless. On Jan. 26, a Quebec Superior Court judge reversed Legault’s regulation, ruling the homeless were no longer subject to curfew.

Following the government’s rocky commitment to the issue, Desjardins looked for new solutions to help with the homelessness problem. He believes more organizations and businesses should be willing to help.

“I think that anybody who does not take action in these times where it’s needed, are going to be guilty and are going to have blood on their hands,” said Desjardins.

If the project is approved, Desjardins thinks the university would have to find creative ways to fund the project. While he would allow a portion of his own tuition to fund the project, he believes many students would be against their own tuition being used.

“Once we have a green light, we can look at finding ways to get food, clothing, personal protective equipment … and all kinds of other things that are going to require funding for this project,” said Desjardins.

For now, he has contacted staff from the Grey Nuns Residence, and says he would be open to being involved with the project if it goes forward.

“I’m just doing everything I possibly can to make this happen at the moment,” said Desjardins.


Photograph by Christine Beaudoin

Interview conducted by Hadassah Alencar and edited by Adam Mbowe.


“Unity”: Biden’s message for America

The new administration’s pipeline stance not evidence of Trump’s lingering aggressive diplomatic strategy, says former U.S. diplomat

“The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded,” said Joseph R. Biden, Jr., the newly sworn-in 46th president of the United States in his inauguration speech on Jan. 20, while overlooking Capitol Hill.

Sitting adjacent to the president, Vice President Kamala Devi Harris made history as the first Black and South Asian American woman to hold the position, along with her husband Doug Emhoff, the Nation’s first Second Gentleman.

Two weeks earlier, riots engulfed the government building, with right-wing protestors seeking to disrupt Biden’s electoral ballot certification, in an attempted coup to keep former president Trump in power.

Trump’s inaugural speech in 2017 told Americans they were witnessing “the birth of a new millennium,” where, “a new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights and heal our divisions.”

After refusing to attend the new president’s inauguration, Trump departed Washington D.C. on Air Force One the same morning before official ceremonies began, leaving behind a nation unhealed.

In his inaugural speech, Biden acknowledged the violent insurrection at the Capitol that left five dead and dozens injured, the rise of civil unrest, political extremism, economic inequality, and a public health crisis that has killed over 400,000 Americans.

Instead of “America First,” Biden called for the nation’s commitment to progress and “that most elusive of things in a democracy: unity.” Reminiscent of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech, Biden asked to not solely rely on the government, but to do their part in healing the country’s strife.

Just over 39 million people watched Biden’s inauguration across major television networks. For the international community watching on, Biden said, “America has been tested, and we have come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was one of the first world leaders to congratulate the Democratic party’s win, both during election week and after the inaugural ceremony. Over the past four years of the Trump administration, diplomatic tension rose between the two countries.

“Unprecedented, and a bit chaotic,” said Sarah Goldfeder, former U.S. diplomat and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, on the previous administration’s relations with Canada. The “America First” policy marked an aggressive international stance, where the former administration sought to undo unilaterally beneficial agreements, to give preferential treatment to U.S. interests.

The former U.S. ambassador to Canada during the Trump administration, Kelly Craft, came with a mission to implement this new vision, Goldfeder explained.

“When she came in, there was a very distinct kind of focus to what she was here to do — and it ended up being NAFTA.”

While not completely overriding other countries’ interest as Trump initially promised, the administration did manage to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the new United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) in March 2020, which included giving Americans an increase to 3.6 per cent from 3.25 per cent of the Canadian dairy market.

After a mere 22 months as ambassador, with a third of that time spent away from her post, Craft was moved to serve as Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations. During that time, there was no U.S. ambassador to Canada, causing a rift between the countries’ communications.

“That’s a big level of … connectivity, kind of a sub-political level that just wasn’t there,” said Goldfeder, on the lack of U.S. Ambassador to Canada.

With Biden promising to return to normal relations between countries, it came as a surprise to Canada when the new administration repealed the Keystone XL pipeline permit.

According to Goldfeder, this seemingly aggressive stance was not a continuation of Trump’s diplomatic practices, but a decision to return to former Democratic policies under the Obama administration.

“I think [what] Canada forgets [about] the Keystone presidential permit is that that decision was actually made initially, in 2015, to not grant the presidential permit by the Obama administration,” said Goldfeder.

Initially proposed in 2008, it took more than 10 years of conflicting political debate for the pipeline to come to end, with Obama’s vetoing of the project in 2015. In his decision, Obama acknowledged the pipeline would not contribute to the administration’s work towards sustainability and the fight against climate change.

Overall, Goldfeder has high hopes for the new administration.

“I think that what you’ll see with the Biden administration is a return to professionalism.”

Also in agreement is Graham G. Dodds, professor & associate chair in the department of Political Science at Concordia University, who feels that the new administration “will likely be a welcome change for Canada.”

The past four years hurt Canada’s close relationship with the U.S.; however, “common interests and shared values” is the bedrock of the two countries’ relationship, not who is leading the respective countries, said Dodds. But it doesn’t hurt to work with someone you see eye-to-eye with either.

“As someone well acquainted with facts, reason, and civility, Biden will likely be much easier for Canada and other allies to deal with than his erratic and caustic predecessor,” said Dodds.


Graphic by Lily Cowper


Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) council voted to bar Jordan Peterson from ever being featured at any of their events, indefinitely

Over 60 participants attended the council meeting that voted to bar the controversial Canadian intellectual.

Did you hear that rumour during the winter break that the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) was planning on inviting Jordan Peterson to speak at an event?

It caused quite a stir: hundreds of students spoke out in different ways for, and against, the famed and controversial Canadian clinical psychologist being featured at the university.

But the story of Peterson taking the spotlight at ASFA came to a close at the association’s Dec. 16 regular council meeting, when a majority of the council voted against platforming Peterson, in-person or in any medium, forever.

Minutes of the ASFA executive meeting on Nov. 25 reveal that the initial idea, proposed by Student Life Coordinator Natalie Jabbour, was to invite Peterson as a speaker on mental health during the winter semester.

“One of my ideas was to invite Jordan Peterson as a speaker. I know he’s a controversial speaker but I think he has brilliant ideas on psychology. I messaged his manager yesterday,” stated Jabbour at the meeting.

Curiously, Jabbour later told The Concordian she did not intend on organizing an event that featured Peterson, despite contacting his manager. Her intention was solely to discuss her event ideas during the winter semester, which also included suggesting another enterprise called “The School of Life,” an educational company that gives life advice.

Following the meeting, several executives shared news of Jabbour’s proposal through personal messages, emails to the student media, and posts on social media.  The news spread like wildfire.

Various posts, hundreds of emails and signatures on a petition were shared online to support both opinions.

However, Peterson is not available for any guest speaking engagements at the moment, according to his public speaking and engagements contact.

Since he is unavailable, Jabbour decided to change the event from being about mental health support for students featuring Peterson, to an event solely about Peterson and freedom of speech.

The new event discussed at the council was called “Diversity of Views in Academics at Concordia University.” Organized by ASFA’s Student Life Committee, the event would have been moderated by a Concordia professor, who would help guide the discussion as students watched, and then critiqued, the subject matter.

It would have showcased Peterson in some format, either through a speech, lecture, or written material.

Before the deciding vote to bar Peterson, the council debated for over three hours whether the association should even consider hosting Peterson. ASFA executives and councillors, several students and alumni, participated in the over-attended meeting to speak on the rumoured event.

Opinions were divided between people who thought Peterson’s rhetoric should be protected by freedom of speech ideals and the need to hear different opinions on campus, versus those that thought the responsible course of action is to ban the speaker, citing his rhetoric as harmful and discriminatory.

This reflected the same debate — and backlash — which the University of Toronto professor became internationally known for in the first place. Back in 2016, he refused to use non-gendered pronouns and spoke out against Canada’s Bill C-16, which was only at it’s proposal stage at the time, to add gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

He feared that refusing to use someone else’s preferred pronouns would be classified as hate speech under the new amendment, and this would infringe on the freedom of Canadians.

Those who spoke in favour of Peterson at the meeting did not address his controversial statements. Instead, they pointed to the importance of having a civil discussion.

According to an ASFA executive who requested to remain anonymous, while these events would feature Peterson, they weren’t about him, they were about freedom of expression on campus.

They told The Concordian they have noticed an increasingly hostile environment at Concordia, particularly in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, with certain groups of students feeling “disenfranchised.” This individual is “concerned over legitimately not being able to say what’s on their mind.”

According to the source, this has become a widespread issue at the university, manifesting as “hostility towards certain ideas … that’s aimed at censoring and blocking people.”

When asked to provide an example of this hostility, or an even example of the types of ideas being ostracized, the source refused.

The purpose of the events, according to the source, would be to encourage ideas, not censoring or suppressing information over people’s feelings – no “cancelling,” with the hope of improving critical thinking and discourse on campus.

The idea of freedom of speech on campus and fighting against the cancelling of other opinions is not new, and Peterson is largely to thank for that.

A large part of Peterson’s platform was about freedom of speech, the end of political correctness, and the attempt to end or discourage Marxist/radical left ideology on campus.

Several gendered-non-conforming people who spoke at the council meeting said their identity was not up for debate.

Many described the harassment they’ve received over their choice of pronouns and lifestyle, and pointed out that rhetoric like Peterson’s had only helped to inflame the discrimination they’ve faced.

In a statement to the The Concordian, ASFA Communications Coordinator Carmen Levy-Milne said showcasing Peterson’s views would contradict the organization’s anti-discrimination regulations.

“It is morally inappropriate to suggest that a speaker who is openly sexist, islamophobic, homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist, and transphobic speak at our university … The suggestion to openly platform a speaker contradicts our Policy against Harassment, Discrimination, and Violence,” said Levy-Milne.

The motion to bar Peterson from being featured at the association followed this reasoning.

Proposed by Payton Mitchell, ASFA’s Mobilization Coordinator, the motion outlines that “Allowing Jordan Peterson to have this space would mean ASFA is directly facilitating an environment in which stochastic terrorism may be fostered here at Concordia.”

Peterson may no longer be platformed at ASFA or any of its member associations.

Peterson’s media representative at Penguin Random House Canada told The Concordian they had no comment.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam



Adapting to serve the community: a look into the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal

How front-line staff at the shelter have dealt with the outbreak and overcome challenges

The Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) has had to overcome several hurdles to adapt to the pandemic, and to continue to provide a safe home for Indigenous women in need.

While Executive Director Nakuset has normally been the one to represent the shelter to the public, The Concordian was given access to the shelter in order to report on the front-line workers who support the community.

“[The clients] trust us,” said Anita Metallic, residential support worker at the NWSM, a job that entails admitting new clients and managing services for them. The Native shelter is the only Indigenous women’s shelter in the city. Metallic explains that it’s a safe haven for the community.

“[At] a non-Native shelter, they don’t feel as comfortable, or even sometimes as welcomed.”

According to a survey by Statistics Canada, Indigenous women and children make up 70 per cent of clients in Indigenous shelters, and 20 per cent in non-Indigenous shelters.

In contrast, Indigenous women only represent four per cent of the population of women in Canada, and Indigenous children are eight per cent of the population of children.

Almost three quarters of Indigenous women who sought shelter did so because of abuse, and to protect their children from violence.

Residential support worker at the NWSM Anita Metallic helps to admit new clients and manage different services for them at the shelter.

“I look at them as my sisters and as warriors … [the women are] incredibly strong and resilient to last that long. It’s one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve done,” said Metallic.

The NWSM building has four different levels. Bedrooms fill the top two floors, the main floor includes the kitchen, administration office, and socializing spaces, and the basement has some bedrooms and storage. In total, there are 13 private bedrooms.

“But right now we’re very limited because of COVID,” said Metallic.

Pre-pandemic, all the bedrooms could be safely occupied, and the shelter could hold up to 23 clients, with mothers able to bring their children. Now, the top floor, called the “hot floor,” is where new clients quarantine for two weeks before moving to their designated bedrooms. If all the quarantine rooms are occupied, the shelter cannot admit new clients.

Clients are housed for up to three months at the NWSM. During their stay, the women must look for permanent housing.

If no housing is found, staff can refer clients to another shelter. The NWSM has a three-months-in-six-months-out rule, meaning clients can return after six months outside of the shelter — but clients aren’t abandoned once they leave.

“We don’t just say, ‘okay, bye’ — we will make sure that they’re okay,” says Metallic. Staff keep in touch with the women to know if they need additional services, or if they should plan on welcoming them back.

Marina LeRoy, relief worker at the NWSM, says the shelter has experienced an increase in clients since the pandemic began.

“COVID has been a little bit harder for some families, and we’ve had a few more kids than maybe we would normally,” said LeRoy.

Even as other shelters closed during the beginning of the pandemic in March, the NWSM stayed open. Staff knew the high risk of contracting the virus at the time, but did not want to abandon the task of serving women who found themselves in difficult situations.

“We knew there was a really high probability we were going to get sick and we were comfortable with that,” said LeRoy, adding, “we feel this responsibility to stay open for the women and make sure that we can keep them safe.”

The risk of contamination was high not only because workers came in contact with several people in a closed environment, but because the shelter had no government support for equipment and cleaning services to appropriately accommodate their clients.

Marina LeRoy, relief worker at the NWSM, showing one of the bedrooms.

For two months, the shelter faced great challenges as they adapted to constantly changing health safety guidelines with little to no supplies. Four younger workers–who are at less risk of developing complications from the virus–worked at the shelter overtime. LeRoy was one of those staff members.

As with other industries, she describes how, in the beginning, they had no clear guidelines on how to deal with the virus. From navigating difficult traumas some of the women faced, some with suicidal thoughts confined in their room, and trying to help mothers with their children, Leroy said it was extremely difficult.

“It was a very isolating time,” she said.

Clients had to remain in their rooms at all times while staff members delivered meals to their doors three times a day. All of the services usually provided, like mental health support and help with personal needs like medical appointments, couldn’t be given from March to June.

“We were limited in the services we could actually provide for them, and I think a lot of us took that to heart because it felt like our mandate was not completely fulfilled,” said LeRoy, adding that, “it was heartbreaking.”

“It became a job where often we had to cater to basic needs and it was very difficult to kind of promote the womens’ well being and make sure that their mental health was okay,” said LeRoy.

It was only when an outbreak occurred in mid-May, two months after the start of the pandemic, that the requested supplies and services were provided. For two weeks, staff quarantined at home while clients were housed in a hotel.

Now, the shelter is running smoothly compared to the experience during the initial lockdown. Staff practice social distancing while moving around the shelter and there’s a limit to the number of people who can be in a room. There are curfews, specific mealtimes, and a “clean house” policy is enforced, with drug and alcohol use prohibited.

In the basement, the walk-in storage closet is lined with miscellaneous supplies, boxes and bags for the women. Among the most donated items are period products and bath supplies, and  LeRoy says the shelter is always in need of good running shoes (in any size) and winter coats.

In fact, everything provided in the shelter is entirely funded by community donations. This year, all their fundraising efforts will be online.

One of the cooks at the shelter, Rhonda Beaulieu, relaxing outside on her work break.

One of the cooks at the shelter, Rhonda Beaulieu, says she has wanted to work at an Indigenous organization since moving to Montreal from Manitoba three years ago.

With over 15 months cooking experience at the shelter, Thompson’s motives are quite clear: “I want to serve my people … I know what they’re going through.”

Thompson said she’s been through an abusive marriage, but has since left that relationship. She says her experience has helped her to connect and relate with women who face the same hardships.

The shelter provides help for a variety of different needs, from medical appointments, filing for ID, help with youth protection services, mental health support, and more.

Having an advocate is fundamental to Indigenous women’s safety in several of these institutions, according to many of the workers at the shelter.

When asked about Joyce Echaquan’s death at Joliette hospital, LeRoy said no one was surprised, as there are “certain hospitals in Montreal we know to not bring clients to.”

“If I get in an ambulance and they tell me about the availability, I have to fight for them to go to different hospitals because I will not have a woman admitted in the hospital where we know that there’s discrimination and racism, because it’s really counterproductive to them actually getting the help that they need,” said LeRoy.

LeRoy has witnessed Indigenous women who are diagnosed with cancer adamantly refuse to go to the hospital. She has also witnessed this behaviour among women who have been sexually assaulted and need medical attention.

Family care worker Camille Panneton says she advocates for Indigenous women who are involved with youth protection services.

“Nothing can make them go to the hospital because of the discrimination that they faced and the violence that they face there,” said LeRoy.

Staff who accompany Indigenous women to medical appointments help to advocate for their needs and monitor their treatment. Even so, LeRoy has witnessed medical staff demean clients and refuse to give treatment.

“You hit so many barriers no matter how hard you work to promote their well being,” said LeRoy.

Women are also helped with any youth protection-related services they require. Family care worker Camille Panneton accompanies women to their appointments, and says Indigenous women also face obstacles in the youth protection system.

“I advocate for them. There’s a lot of problems and flaws in the system,” she said.

She makes sure mothers are treated equally. She’s witnessed the clients being mistreated and talked down to in a condescending and confrontational manner. Ultimately, she describes an environment where Indigenous women don’t receive a fair treatment.

“They [youth protection services] don’t respect their rights,” Panneton said.

Despite the challenges, staff work to provide for all the women’s needs.

On the day The Concordian visited the shelter, the residents had begun beading in the afternoon. Multicoloured beads were spread over the table, and while they worked on different projects, they spoke and shared with each other. There was a calm atmosphere as staff left the room.

“This is their time,” said Metallic, “we give them their space.”


Photographs by Christine Beaudoin. Feature image is an artwork found in the entrance of the shelter.

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