Breaking: Concordia students in residence asked to leave by end of this weekend

Earlier today, students across campus received a notice that left some reeling: all students living in any of Concordia’s three residences will need to leave their dorms in four days due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the statement, this move was made for the safety of students living in residence, as social distancing is proving difficult to practice. This decision affects all students living at the Grey Nuns Residence downtown and the Hingston Residence and the Jesuit Residence’s at Loyola. Over 800 students are currently living in Concordia’s residences.

According to the statement, “exceptional circumstances” may prevent some students from leaving by the March 22 deadline. In this case, students are advised to send an email to Concordia has sent The Concordian a statement regarding the residents being asked to leave.

“We are seeking to protect the health of our community both as a whole and as individuals. We are currently working to identify those to whom exceptional circumstances apply, including students unable to return to their home. Accommodations will be provided to all those who need it. This is not a decision we took lightly and we understand the stress it is causing. Social distancing measures that everyone right now is aiming for are hard to maintain in residences and this decision was taken with the well-being of students in mind.​”

Aurélie Garrone, a first year international student from France who currently lives in residence is one of hundreds directly affected by the situation. The psychology major student arrived in Montreal in January to begin her degree.

“If Canadian borders close, and assuming that I get repatriated, I’m not sure when I can come back to Concordia,” said Garrone.

Garrone said she has nowhere else to go. According to her, the university sent the students in residence emails about new rules but never mentioned the possibility of being kicked out.

“I feel anxious because I don’t know what to do or where to go, and if I have to travel to France I’ll be at higher risk of contracting the virus and passing it on to my family when I arrive,” said Garrone.

According to Armand Kabanga Ciowela, a first year aerospace engineering student from Senegal, the university assured students living in the residence that they would be able to stay in their dorms until the end of the semester. He said while he understands that evacuating from the dorms is important, because self-isolation is difficult as all of the students eat at the same cafeteria and use the same bathrooms, giving them only four days is not enough.

“We have to pack up while looking for a place to go to,” said Kabanga Ciowela.

Patrick Quinn, Academic and Advocacy coordinator at the CSU, said the decision is “rushed, irresponsible and outright cruel.”

“I’m not even 100 per cent sure if this is even legal or not, it really depends on what the leases of the students say, but from my understanding this might not be covered in their lease and students might have the right to stay,” said Quinn.

Quinn continued that rather than protecting students and minimizing risk of infection, this decision makes students more vulnerable and more at risk.

“We’re listening, we’re here for you, we’re fighting for you,”said Quinn.

According to Concordia’s statement, students will be eligible for a refund, both for their rent and meal plan as of the date they leave.

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As this situation is developing, this article will be updated. 


Black Perspectives Initiative launches at Concordia

New Concordia initiative to support Black students, faculty, staff and greater Montreal community.

“The university is a very difficult place for people of colour to navigate in general,” said Annick Maugile Flavien, founding coordinator of the Black Perspectives Initiative (BPI).

Funded by the faculty of Arts and Science, the BPI was created in November of last year and is still being finalized. The BPI actively listens to the demands and needs of the community and uses that to forward the initiative.

Maugile Flavien said that if Concordia is talking about being innovative with how they engage with the Black community, and they want to uplift the new generation, extra steps need to be taken.

“The rooting of it is really through understanding the immense relationship Black communities have with Concordia from its very inception,” said Maugile Flavien. “If we look at the Sir George Williams affair, until now, the amount of Black activism that has allowed for this university to grow, the knowledge that’s here, there are so many ways the Black community in Montreal, and across the world, really, engages with Concordia.”

Maugile Flavien described the initiative as a support net and a shield for Concordia’s Black community.

“There’s so many initiatives and projects and amazing work that’s being done across the university, but they’re often not connected, they often need space, and they need resources,” said Maugile Flavien. “So what we do is really be that support network, the web that kind of connects everything.”

The BPI also acts as a shield from administration and media. The BPI was specifically created for that, so the BPI gets to protect the Black community of Concordia from unnecessary labour of speaking to the media for topics that involve race, for example.

“Because they’re Black people they have to kind of take in all this extra emotional, physical labour,” said Maugile Flavien, even if it’s not part of their jobs.

So far, the main activities of the BPI include funding and mentorship, campus and local programming, and networking and dissemination. These services are not specific to the Concordia community, they are also open to the Black community in Montreal at large.

There are three types of funding opportunities available through the BPI; research funding, project funding and student scholarships. Concordia faculty and staff are also eligible for project and research funding. This semester, three students were awarded a scholarship, each for $1,000. For any category of funding, the BPI offers mentorship.

“We don’t just give people money, we follow them through the process, and make sure they have guidance and help to build what they want to build,” said Maugile Flavien.

For the students, BPI doesn’t only offer academic counselling. Every month, recipients meet with Maugile Flavien for an hour, are given support and are connected to opportunities that relate to their studies. “It’s really just been whatever they need to work through, we do that during that hour,” explained Maugile Flavien.

Research and project funding get more practical mentorship, in terms of logistics, or promotion.

Maugile Flavien explained alumni have been reaching out since BPI’s inception and are either wanting to participate in the activities offered through the hub or are asking to donate money directly to Black students.

Other opportunities available through the BPI include their Black mental wellness events. They had one in February, and have two others planned for March and April. Tentatively scheduled for the third week of every month, Black Mental Wellness Week connects students with Black mental health workers in the community. Maugile Flavien explained the BPI hosted a mindfulness practitioner, a psychotherapist for group therapy and a social worker who facilitated a self-love workshop in February.

“[The  BPI is] an acknowledgement of the immense role that the Black community plays at Concordia,” said Maugile Flavien. “It’s falling into a wave of the Black community rising up in so many different places in the world, and having the ability to shape what we need and not be told what we need. If this is what we’re able to do from November to March, then the sky’s the limit.”


Decolonizing the environmental justice movement

Grassroots Indigenous organization seeks to increase public awareness of the oil industry’s environmental impact

“We’re all sharing a house that’s on fire and everyone’s looking at each other saying they didn’t start it,” said Vanessa Gray.

On Feb. 27, Gray’s voice resonated throughout a classroom in the Hall building of Concordia’s downtown campus, with attendees listening attentively in their seats. Gray is Anishinaabe kwe from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, located outside of Sarnia, Ontario—also known as Canada’s Chemical Valley.

Gray founded the grassroots organization Aamjiwnaang & Sarnia Against Pipelines (ASAP) to increase public awareness of the issue in her hometown and to pressure the federal government to stop the perpetuation of the oil industry.

According to ASAP’s research, 40 per cent of Canada’s petrochemical industry takes place within a 50-kilometer radius of Aamjiwnaang, with over 60 oil refineries and chemical plants currently in operation. These refineries and plants are responsible for the contamination of the land, air and water of the community, which has severe negative impacts on their health and way of life. According to a 2011 report by the World Health Organization, Sarnia’s air is the most polluted air in Canada. In a zine called Canada’s Toxic Chemical Valley, written by the Montreal contingent of Aamjiwnaang Solidarity, Gray said that 39 per cent of her community needs puffers to breathe properly. In the zine, it was also said that the animals who are living off the land in the area are mutated, and are not supposed to be hunted to eat.

Although the Chemical Valley case is extreme, it highlights the damaging effects that oil refineries and pipelines have on surrounding communities and on human life.

The organizer, land defender and educator spoke about her experience as an Indigenous woman in the environmental justice movement, most recently regarding the Wet’suwet’en situation, in relation to her work with Chemical Valley.

Gray said that for Indigenous peoples, having access to their own land, free of contaminants that come from pipelines, is all about survival. “But that is the greatest threat to the Canadian economy that we see today,” stated Gray.

The event was filled with non-Indigenous attendees asking Gray what they could do as allies to support the direct action Indigenous peoples across Canada are taking, in a show of solidarity with land defenders of Wet’suwet’en.

In response, Gray simply stated non-Indigenous folks shouldn’t’ be asking her what to do.

It’s your government that has the guns pointed at us,” said Gray.

Gray explained it’s not easy for her to do this work in educating non-Indigenous people, but she’s doing it for a reason—to lay out the situation, and to communicate that Indigenous people and settlers have different roles in this struggle.

“I’m handing a huge responsibility to you, now that you know,” said Gray. “I have my roles, and you have yours. Don’t try to make me the one to walk you through decolonization, because it means something different to me than it does to you.”

How settler allies can help support Wet’suwet’en land defenders

The facilitator of the event, Jen Gobby of Climate Justice Montreal said the Wet’suwet’en protests against the pipeline are the most powerful current example of climate activism in Canada. Gobby continued that this is the moment for non-Indigenous allies to support it in any way that they can.

Gobby said this could mean following the Unist’ot’en supporter protocols for solidarity action like sending resources, fundraising, raising awareness, and dismantling the colonial narrative of the local climate movement.

Juhi Sohani of Climate Justice Montreal added that the message coming from the front lines is clear: people need to be out there alongside the Indigenous land defenders, blocking infrastructure and taking as much direct action as possible.

Sohani said that talks, such as this one with Gray, are crucial. Sohani explained that every day, settlers should be learning as much as they can in order to hold themselves and the Canadian government accountable for the ongoing colonization and genocide of Indigenous people in this country.

“I think it’s really important for us as non-Indigenous people to feel guilty, and to grapple with that guilt because it’s really important that we come here and we feel uncomfortable,” said Sohani.

Sohani continued that through this, settlers can start to unpack the realization that they as settlers implicitly subscribe to capitalism and are benefitting from it in a multitude of ways because of the current way of life of the majority—and could ultimately put this knowledge to good use.

As Gray said, “we need to figure out a way to make this better for our future generations. We have to look seven generations ahead, because that’s what the lands need—is sustainability.”


Photo by Marissa Ramnanan


Hamza Muhammad elected ASFA general coordinator

Muhammad beat Meghan Grigg of the About Time slate by 96 votes.

Navleen Kaur was running unopposed and was elected as an independent councillor, with 617 votes.

The rest of the About Time Slate were successfully elected as follows:

Academic coordinator: Phoebe Lamb (won by 46 votes against Bryan Lee)

Finance coordinator: Ashley Torres (649 votes, unopposed)

Internal coordinator: Emma Mason (682 votes, unopposed)

Mobilization coordinator: Payton Mitchell (664 votes, unopposed)

Communications coordinator: Carmen Milne (679 votes, unopposed)

The About Time slate ran on a platform of fostering community, accountability and climate justice.

The newly elected team did not comment in time for publication.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


“Rhythm of community”: Combatting stress through music

All students are welcome to the weekly drum circles in the Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre.

The Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre is home to weekly community drum circles. Irene Feher, a Concordia University music professor, and Dylan Gitalis, who is learning facilitation techniques from a program with Music for People, both lead the event. Feher teaches voice, and joined the Drum Circle last year. The ultimate goal of these weekly music jams is to combat stress and isolation, and to build community.

“I believe so strongly in the power of music to enrich lives in so many ways,” Feher said. “Drumming grounds us, connects us, and the physical activity [is good for the body]. I feel the physical, emotional, cognitive and social benefits of drumming.”

Every Monday from 6 to 7 p.m., students from all programs are welcome to this event.

Although the event takes place in the Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre, Feher said that the drum sessions are secular.

“We use the universal language of music, and don’t practice any particular style,” said Feher.

Feher continued that they don’t necessarily drum in Indigenous or African style, although the students are using African drums.

Feher explained that students attending the event use the “rhythm of community,” and the drumming styles emerge spontaneously, with the moment.

“I want us to reflect the mosaic at Concordia, this wonderful community we have of people from different religions and backgrounds,” said Feher.

The event usually garners around 10 to 12 students, but the room has the capacity for about 20 people.

Using drum circles as a therapeutic form of stress-relief has been studied before. One 2010 research paper published in the Canadian Journal of Music Therapy found that more than half of drum circle participants – who were all young adults in school – reported that their drum circle group helped the participants with stress, anger and lack of motivation. The same study found that some of the participants reported “therapeutic gains” in terms of their self-confidence and self-esteem.

“It’s an opportunity for students to come together, release their stress, have fun, and create sound in the moment,” said Feher. Feher explained that drum circles and music have been used for thousands of years to foster community.

When students engage in this activity, they eventually reach a state of flow, as Feher explained. Also known as “being in the zone,” when someone reaches that stage, they are extremely focussed on what they’re doing, and are no longer thinking about their everyday stresses.

“When you are completely engaged and immersed in an activity you enjoy, you become completely engaged in the present moment, and time slips away,” said Feher.

Feher explained when one is in a state of flow with a group of people, a connection is created between all of them; from there, students become freer to try different rhythms.

No previous experience in music is required in order to participate in the activity. There is no registration and the event is completely free. The weekly drum circles will be running until April 6, 2020.


Graphic by Salomé Blain


Concordia celebrates five years of First Voices Week

First Voices Week Concordia celebrated its fifth year last week, from Feb. 3 to 7.

The week-long series of events was led by Indigenous students, faculty and staff at Concordia University, in collaboration with several faculty departments and organizations.

The organizing committee offered workshops, documentary screenings, a solidarity gathering for the Wet’suwet’en Nation in their land defense, an art exhibit and lectures, among other events.

Cathy Richardson, director of First Peoples Studies, said that this event series sends a clear message.

“We’re here,” she said. “You didn’t kill us all off, I know the government tried. We still face issues of structural violence,  but we’re here. We’re trying to thrive and have influence.”

Richardson said that First Voices Week is crucial.

It affirms the Indigenous presence on campus, allows Indigenous students to see themselves reflected in the institution as well as taking a leadership role in the programming,” she explained.

For example, the week-long art exhibit, located at the EV junction, featured art from current Indigenous students at Concordia. Alyssa Isaac, a Mi’gmaq artist from the community of Litsugu, Quebec, studies electroacoustics; and Morning Star Fayard, a Metis, Cree First Nation from the Cree community of Mistissini, studies economics.

Isaac’s art piece was an auditory experience that used the sound of beads running over each other, which were altered and layered to give off a “dream-like vibe.” Fayard displayed traditional winter clothing made from moosehide, like gloves and mocassins, all decorated with beadings or sewn illustrations. The clothing was coupled with a poem titled “Thankful~,” which gave her thanks to the moose who was used to make the clothing, and whose body was used without a spare.

On Wednesday, the same day as the Solidarity Gathering for the Wet’suwet’en Nation, First Voices Week Concordia published a letter on Facebook, reiterating their solidarity. As stated in their press release, the Coastal GasLink (CGL) never obtained consent to operate within unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. In the release, First Voices Week Concordia condemns the use of violence against Indigenous nations by the RCMP and calls for their immediate withdrawal from Wet’suwet’en territory.

First Voices Week also gave their “solidarity to the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who represent all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and who unanimously reject the CGL pipeline on their territory.” First Voices Week calls on everyone to pay attention to the violence and intimidation directed toward the Wet’suwet’en nation at this time and infers that these acts are a clear indication of persisting Canadian colonialism.

At the Loyola Campus, in collaboration with the Hive Free Lunch Program, there was a special lunch made from traditional Three Sisters recipes using corn, squash, and red beans, coupled with a virtual reality short film experience. According to the presentation, the three plants were historically the base of the Huron-Wendat and Mohawk diet. It was explained that the practice of growing these plants together is still done today, as the leaves of the corn plant protect the squash from the elements, like wind, while the squash leaves prevent weeds from growing. The beans, in turn, release nitrogen into the soil and climb up the corn stalks as they grow.

“Centering Indigenous achievements and issues raises awareness of the possibilities of Indigenous rights taking more space in Canada and having others accommodate these changes towards a just and equitable society, where Indigenous treaties and lands are respected,” said Richardson.


Photos by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil


JSEC’s Montreal Youth Summit on Sustainable Business

“Our business school needs this and our community needs this,” said Mariya Chugay, president of the John Molson Sustainable Enterprise Committee (JSEC).

What Chugay is referring to is the Montreal Youth Summit on Sustainable Businesses that took place over the weekend. John Molson School of Business (JMSB), Desautels Faculty of Management and Hautes études commerciales (HEC) de Montréal business schools collaborated on a weekend of raising awareness and discussion around sustainability in business.

The summit had 42 speakers over two days.

Chugay described the first day as a horizontal involvement with the attendees. There were about 20 speakers facilitating panels, where youth could listen and learn from the speakers. The second day she described as vertical involvement, where students got more hands-on experience through skills training sessions. There, they could apply what they learned on the first day to the workshops.

“This event is larger than what we’ve done before,” said Chugay. “We are trying to unite youth and unite universities.”

Chugay explained the purpose of the summit was to break the silence on the conversation of sustainable practices in business and to educate, inspire and connect youth. For example, there were discussions on the future of sustainability in finance, climate change policy and competitiveness, and exploring the environmental sustainability of alternative currencies like cryptocurrency.

If they don’t know what sustainability is, we are not going to get anywhere to mitigate climate change,” said Chugay.

Rachel Copnick, an international business student at JMSB, said she attended the event to gain a better perspective of people in the business sector who work with sustainability practices.

“I think it’s the future,” said Copnick. “I think the people who are not looking at it are ignorant. Although our generation can continue to earn money and have a successful life without [practicing it], it’s not sustainable. We need to be responsible, we’re in a crisis right now.”

Sarah Knight, who is studying marketing at JMSB with a minor in sustainability studies, said by coming to this event, she wanted to learn more about the relationship sustainability has with businesses.

Knight explained that she learned a lot from the Climate Change Policy and Competitiveness panel, specifically about venture capitalists, who buy stocks or ownership shares in private companies for their limited partners, to try to make a profit for their limited partner’s clients. During the panel, Knight said speaker Mihaela Stefanov, a senior manager in the Climate Change and Sustainability Services at international professional services firm Ernst & Young Global Limited, explained how the sector that would gain the most profit differs per province or country, depending on their main energy source.

“I learned more about what venture capitalists are looking for right now in this sector, which is renewable energy,” said Knight. “I thought it was interesting to learn that renewable energy in Quebec isn’t something that’s going to make money because we already have hydroelectricity, but in other countries like Germany it’s a huge investment.”

Sustainable event

Chugay explained the Youth Summit was environmentally sustainable as well.

“Down to the core, we’re going almost 100 per cent paperless,” said Chugay.

Chugay added that JSEC hired the Concordia Dish Project, a reusable dish service, for the event. She added that they even received the sustainable events certification from Concordia, which JSEC and other sustainable organizations on campus oversee.


Photo by Jad Abukasm


Concordia’s first pop-up building now open

If you walk along de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. near Concordia’s downtown campus, you will notice a cube-like building with a large inconspicuous LS plastered at the front entrance.

At door number 1535, Concordia’s first pop-up building opened its doors to students on Jan. 6.

The Learning Square is a temporary, two-storey, modular building that has eight classrooms that can accommodate about 80 students per class. The cost of building the structure was estimated at $6.5 million, and Concordia expects to use the building for five years.

The inside of the building is elegant; it is a reflection of what the Webster library looks like, post recent construction. Colourful walls adorn the interior, turquoise, yellow and lime green, juxtaposed against the white.

The temporary structure was built to make up for the loss of classroom space due to renovations in the Hall building. According to Concordia spokesperson Vannina Maestracci, with this new building, the university will be able to complete the renovations faster and on a larger scale, with fewer disruptions to students and faculty.

“Space wise, in the classroom, it’s big, and the teachers are able to actually get their messages across, sound wise,” said sociology student Erin Bleau.

Maestracci said the expected gain of time for the renovations of the Hall building is about 18 months.

“I think that it’s really great that they’ve given us this space, because from what I understand, what’s going on in the Hall building involves even things like asbestos, and so on, so I’d much rather be over here,” said Professor Maggie McDonnell, lecturer and program coordinator of composition and professional writing.

According to Maestracci, Concordia looked at different options for creating more space for classrooms, but found that modular units are more beneficial and cost less than renting space. The building could also be moved and reused in another location.

“Given that it’s temporary, it’s actually pretty good,” said McDonnell. “You don’t feel like you’re in a trailer.”

Gender neutral washrooms

The Learning Square is the first Concordia building to have only gender neutral washrooms. The stalls also offer more privacy, as the doors start from the floor and reach up to the ceiling.

“It kind of adds an aspect of (privacy),” said communications student Steph Medalsy. “It could make a person who is maybe not okay with the idea a bit more comfortable, and maybe it will change some people’s opinions that it doesn’t really make a difference who’s using the washroom, considering the stalls are so secluded.”


Photos by Britanny Clarke


Spotlight: Women in Engineering

“It’s important for every girl to know that there is support,” said president of Women in Engineering (WIE), Riya Dutta. “I think it’s important to be able to encourage and empower women.”

WIE is a Concordia-based student association that aims to give female engineering and computer science students academic, social and professional support. They promote inclusivity, as their association and activities are open to men, and aim to provide students with the tools to foster growth.

As Dutta explained, this inclusivity is intentional – exclusivity would not help the cause of closing the gender disparity gap seen in engineering programs.

“When everyone notices there is an issue, that’s when things will get resolved,” said Dutta.

According to WIE’s website, only 20 per cent of students enrolled in engineering programs across Canada are women, and only 12.8 per cent of those students become professional engineers.

“The gender disparity within engineering is huge,” said Dutta. “It’s important for women to know there’s a place for them in engineering, and it’s important to show young girls it’s possible.”

There are two levels to WIE’s activities. The association does in-house work, where opportunities are brought directly to the students by social and networking events. For example, on Feb. 6, WIE will be hosting a Power Networking event where attendees will have the opportunity to have several short one-on-one chats with female industry representatives. Dutta described the event as “speed dating, but with companies.”

The second tier is an outreach program dedicated to reaching women and girls of all ages through educational activities at primary and secondary schools and CEGEPs in Montreal. For example, on March 7, WIE will be hosting an event called “WIE Inspire WIE Empower,” which is a day of hands-on STEM workshops at a highschool for students between secondary one to five. The day is hosted by industry leaders such as Google, which will touch on several engineering fields. There will also be female guest speakers from the STEM field who have made impactful contributions, such as Gina Cody.

WIE also hosts coding workshops in elementary schools.

“We try to inspire them to learn science and to get into engineering,” said Dutta. “It’s such a great feeling when young kids learn.”

Through workshops and other activities, Dutta noticed some young women in CEGEP are worried about the gender disparity in Concordia’s engineering programs.

“We always tell them that getting more women in the field, and in these programs is how we are going to (close to disparity gap),” said Dutta.

Dina Khalesi, a software engineering student, sees the value of having a student association that offers support to female engineering students.

“WIE certainly affected me at the beginning of my journey,” said Khalesi. “They gave me the initial push to join Software Engineering through one of their conferences.”

“I think it is important to have these types of associations in a field mainly dominated by men,” continued Khalesi. “Knowing there’s a group of women going through the same struggles as you and knowing that they are there to support you inspires more confidence to stay and perform well in engineering.”


Graphic by @sundaeghost





Concordia Students’ Nightline set to reopen this week

The Concordia Students’ Nightline is set to resume service this Thursday, Jan. 9, after the winter holidays.

The Concordia-based active listening phone service was founded in 2017 by Concordia alumna Jade Se. The student-run nightline is completely anonymous and is open to anyone who calls.

“We’re very excited to reopen and hear about students’ winter breaks, as well as hear from our non-student callers,” said Camille Zolopa, President of the Nightline. “As an organization, we really aim to promote self-care and consideration for our volunteer corps as much as for our callers, so I think it’s super important to take breaks.”

According to Zolopa, some calls can be emotionally heavy, so it was necessary for volunteers to take some time off.

“Our approach is quite specific, in that we validate and actively listen to callers,” said Zolopa. “We don’t offer our opinions or advice; we think of ourselves more as an auditory journal for people. And perhaps most importantly, we’re open when a lot of services are closed, from 6:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m.”

Callers tend to feel more comfortable disclosing information with the students, said Zolopa, likely because they are considered peers.

“The volunteer active listeners are totally non-judgmental, and will keep any information that’s shared in the call confidential,” said Valentin Garriga, VP external of the non-profit organization. “It creates a space that can feel safe to share anything that you may want to talk about.”

Garriga said having this alternative is important because some students may not benefit from mental health services offered by the university, or may feel uncomfortable with meeting someone in person.

With this extra layer of anonymity, students don’t need to go through triage — a process where they speak with a general mental health practitioner or nurse to discuss the general themes they want to resolve with therapy — like they would need to through Concordia’s Counselling and Psychological Services. Through the Nightline, they can just call and talk.

“They can have the conversation that they want to have, without having to talk about things they don’t want to talk about,” said Garriga.

Although this alternative mental health service does not stand in for professional help, Garriga said the student listeners are thoroughly trained by senior volunteers.

“We will deal with a large variety of possible scenarios, and volunteers are trained on how to handle a number of subjects, especially those you might know as ‘tough’ topics, [like] sexual assault, violence, gender identity, or sexuality,” said Garriga. “Things that people have a really tough time talking about. We want to make sure people are ready to listen and help accordingly.”

According to Garriga, the training happens in person, and is quite a long-time commitment.

“While we are training extensively, we are also providing tons of support for new volunteers, as it could be emotionally draining and physically tiring,” said Garriga.

With the new semester, the Nightline will be training a new cohort of volunteer listeners, which means things will get a bit hectic the first couple of weeks of the semester.

“During the first week of each semester, experienced volunteers will be running training for the new recruits,” said Zolopa. “Therefore, we need returning volunteers who are not involved in training to cover more shifts during the first week back in service.”

With time and more manpower, Zolopa explained that a long-term goal of the Nightline is to increase their support system.

“Our long term goal is to be open every night of the week; once we have the volunteer corps to support that service expansion, we’ll be looking into new projects like offering a text/chat line,” said Zolopa.

Concordia’s Students’ Nightline  will be open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 6:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m. at (514) 848-7787.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Law and Society program launches a new three-year partnership with the Court of Quebec

 Concordia students now have the opportunity to see the inner-workings of the Court of Quebec through select judges.

“Getting the acceptance letter moved me beyond happiness,” said pilot project participant Gelu Balan, a student in the Law and Society program.“[It] filled me with the sense that I was slowly paying my parents back, for all the sacrifices they had to make to bring us to this country, and to give me the life they would have never been able to envision us having back home.”

Balan is among the seven students who were chosen for this pilot project, which starts in the Winter 2020 semester. The dean of Arts and Science, along with Scott Hughes, senior associate chief judge of the Court of Quebec, signed an agreement for a three-year relationship between Concordia and the court. There will be a different group of students involved each term.

Jurist-in-residence and retired chief judge of the Municipal Court of Montreal, Morton Minc, along with Robin Schiller,  director of programming for the project, are spearheading this new partnership with the Court of Quebec. Next semester, the seven students will each partner with a judge from the Court of Quebec. They will have the opportunity to immerse themselves with the inner workings of the court, observe trials and have a sit-down with the judge after the trial to discuss the complexities behind the decision.

Understanding and knowing the legal system is an important element in a free and democratic society,” said Minc.

Minc continued that the project is a necessary bridge between the abstract nature of university studies and the realities of the court.

“We were looking for ways to get students out of the classroom and out of the university, to see the things they are learning about in action,” said Law and Society Program Director Eric Reiter. “One of the great things about having a Jurist-in-residence at Concordia is [giving students the opportunity to have] this sort of practical and experienced-based learning.”

For students like Balan, it’s a dream come true. He is aiming to become a criminal defence attorney who specializes in juvenile crime. “I want to gain the tools necessary to one day serve as a buffer between the accused and the state. I do not want to stand-by while youths have their lives destroyed before they even begin,” he said.

Reiter explained this project is unprecedented for a university that doesn’t have a Faculty of Law, and will give Concordia students the opportunity to understand how complicated the justice system really is.

“I think this will really give them a sense of how the justice system responds to much more everyday problems, rather than the big national issues that we tend to hear about in the media,” said Reiter. “[The Court of Quebec] is much closer to people and their ordinary concerns.”

The students who were chosen for the pilot project were carefully selected because, as Reiter explained, it’s quite demanding on the court. Invitations were sent to students based on specific criteria, such as bilingualism, high academic achievement, and their progress in the program. They also had to have completed specific classes in order to understand some of the content they will be faced with in court.

“I felt honored that my hard work and dedication over the past few years enabled me to be one of the students considered for this project,” said Balan. “I wish to acquire skill-sets that will enable me to do my part in the process of making the world a better place, one case at a time. I really hope that studying law will grant me the opportunity to do something meaningful and right with my life.”


Graphic and photo collaboration by Britanny Clarke and @sundaeghost


New migrant detention centre set to replace Laval Immigration Holding Centre in 2021

“These people are not at all dangerous in any way. None of the people who are at the detention centre have any criminal record.” – Richard Renshaw, a Roman Catholic priest who regularly visits migrants in detention centres.

There have been several events and protests at Concordia University, and in Montreal, over the past couple of years over concerns about asylum seekers in migrant detention centres in Canada.

In 2016, the federal government released its plan to replace the current migrant detention centres across the country through their National Immigration Detention Framework. The government allocated up to $138 million to transform the immigration detention system in Canada.

“The Government of Canada is committed to exercising its responsibility for detentions to the highest possible standards, with physical and mental health and well-being of detainees, as well as the safety and security of Canadians as the primary considerations,” said Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in a public statement.

Richard Renshaw, a Roman Catholic priest who pays friendly visits to migrants in detention centres, said recent protests started in 2011. “In a number of detention centres, there was a hunger strike of the people inside, refugees that were being held there, because of the conditions,” he said.

The latest event was an information session held on Nov. 20 at the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at Concordia, hosted by QPIRG McGill and Solidarity Across Borders, a migrant justice organization based in Montreal.

“The men and women are separated, and usually the children are kept with the women,” said Renshaw. “They can see each other during visiting hours.”

Renshaw explained that in some cases when Canada tries to negotiate with the country of origin of asylum seekers to return them, the negotiation could take years – so they must stay in the detention centres or prisons until it is resolved.

But some said building new detention centres would not be enough to fix the situation- there needs to be systemic change.

SAB and other grassroots groups have been fighting the construction of the replacement migrant detention centre in Laval since 2016. The movement demands the construction to stop and for “Canada to cease using detention to control and limit the movement of migrants.”

There are now three official migrant detention centres in the nation, one in Toronto, Vancouver, and Laval. According to data found on the government of Canada website, Quebec sees the most asylum claims in the country; 97 per cent this year so far. In provinces and cities that do not have a migrant detention centre, migrants are placed in jail.

“A third of the people who get sent to detention end up in actual prisons,” said Renshaw.

Renshaw said the main reasons people are detained is because the border agent who processes them feels they might not show up to their upcoming hearing, or because they are unsure about their background or their identity. If there is any hesitation, they are put into detention.

According to data gathered by the government of Canada, this year, between January and October, 97 per cent of asylum seekers have entered through Quebec, totaling 13,372 people so far.

The Laval Immigration Holding Centre (LIHC) has a capacity of 109 people, and according to Stop the Prison, the new one that will be replacing the LIHC will have a total capacity of 158. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said at any given time there is an average of 450 to 500 individuals detained under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Renshaw said the LIHC will be run as a medium-security prison, as that is the standard that the CBSA uses.

“They can be there for three or four days while they work things out, or they can be there for a month, or a year, or five years – there’s no limit,” said Renshaw.

Only the people who are detained or work at the centres see the inside. Visitors are allowed in the visitation room and nowhere else.

“They’ve told me that they have rooms where there are four or five in the same room, and they have meals which are standard, rather unspiced bland food,” said Renshaw. “These people are not at all dangerous in any way. None of the people who are at the detention centre have any criminal record.”

Renshaw said protesters believe the system is ““retraumatizing traumatized people, for no particular benefit to society. They could be out working, and getting integrated into the society they’ve come to and want to be a part of.”


Graphic by Victoria Blair

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