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Concordia Student Union News

CSU introduces new sexual violence policy and code of conduct

 

The Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) new sexual violence and safer spaces policy aims to foster consent culture and a survivor-centric attitude when addressing incidents and promoting services. This policy applies to all student representatives in the union, including executives, councillors, judicial board members, senate members, official employees and students-at-large.

The sexual violence policy describes the CSU’s new process for handling sexual assault complaints against any representative with its own investigations. This process is entirely separate from the university’s sexual assault policy and processes. The new sexual violence policy and code of conduct were first approved by the policy committee but unanimously passed by council on April 10.

The sexual violence policy was completed as part of the campaign of last year’s winning slate, Speak Up, and created by Mikaela Clark-Gardner, the academic & advocacy coordinator, and Sophie Hough-Martin, the CSU’s general coordinator.

According to Hough-Martin, all CSU members can file complaints against student union representatives. A sexual violence accountability committee (SVAC) will be created to handle complaints of a sexual nature. It will consist of one student-at-large, a community member with experience in advocacy or activism, a CSU representative, a third-party investigator, and a member of the judicial board.

A person who wishes to file a complaint can do so in a written statement to the SVAC, which would include the names of the complainant and the respondent, the date of the alleged incident, the alleged behaviour and any additional relevant material. When the SVAC receives the complaint, it will investigate it by contacting the witnesses and gathering any relevant evidence to complete an investigative report.

Once a final decision has been made, it can be appealed within seven days. However, it must be based on new evidence, provable bias or prejudice against either the respondent or complainant, or an error in the investigation.

For non-sexual harassment, a person can file a complaint under the code of conduct in a written statement to the judicial board no later than 90 business days after the incident. When deciding whether the respondent violated the code of conduct, the judicial board makes its decision based on a variety of factors. The board’s decision can also be appealed.

“The fact that we did not have a proper sexual violence policy and code of conduct, it made grounds that people could take liberties with what they said and did,” said Samantha Candido, a CSU councillor. Candido emphasized the importance of these policies; The CSU has been working on them for the past year with the help of lawyers, students and executives.

It is also a standalone policy, which means it does not refer to nor rely on other policies. The policy also takes an intersectional approach and makes sure all members who partake in spaces organized by the CSU have a safe space where respectable dialogue, language and behaviours are enforced.

With the new policy, all CSU representatives will be required to complete a series of trainings, including a consent and power dynamics training for executives and a consent training for councillors. If a member fails to complete the trainings or refuses to follow them, they will be fired from their position. A sexual violence accountability committee will be created to handle complaints of a sexual nature.

The policy waiver “will ensure that we not only read the code of conduct, but we also read the sexual violence policy [and] we are committing ourselves to acting and behaving in a respectful way,” Candido said. She added that the new sexual violence policy comes a month after the CSU’s Internal Affairs Coordinator Princess Somefun’s resignation due to a toxic work environment. The two new policies aim to set a standard for how union representatives should behave towards one another physically and verbally.

The policy committee will review the sexual violence policy every two years and the SVAC, Sexual Assault Resource Centre, and the Centre for Gender Advocacy will be consulted during this process. The code of conduct will also be reviewed with the judicial board within a year of its placement and every two years thereafter.

Candido hopes to see a non-violent environment in the meetings next year. “We have the expectation that, with the next mandate coming in, there will be a much better dialogue at council meetings,” she said.

 

Photo by Mia Anhoury.

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News

Towards the Indigenization of Concordia

Indigenous Directions Leadership Group discusses the future of Indigenization at Concordia

Concordia’s Indigenous Directions Leadership Group launched its action plan last Thursday, which includes governance changes, student recruitment, Indigenous knowledge and pedagogical changes.

The plan is based on consultations done in the last year with Indigenous students, faculty and staff about changes needed for more Indigenization on campus.

“I would [like to] see a point where all students who graduate from Concordia will have some Indigenous knowledge and experience as part of their education journey,” said William Lindsay, senior director of Indigenous Directions at Concordia. Indigenous people “are starting to feel comfortable here, but plans like these go a long way to helping the university change for the better too.”

Although the plan was scheduled to be released last fall, Lindsay said additional consultations were required to create a more accurate representation of the university’s needs. After drafting the plan, the Indigenous Directions Leadership Group presented it to various faculty and staff members including the president, dean of students, members of senate and chairs from multiple departments to have it approved and launched.

According to the action plan, the administration plans to facilitate students’ self-identification as Inuit, First Nations, Métis or part of an international Indigenous community on their admissions applications by summer 2019. In addition, they hope to increase the number of scholarships for Indigenous students by fall 2019.

Through the development of an Indigenous GradProSkills course by fall 2020, the plan wants to encourage Indigenous graduate students to become faculty members. The report also outlines plans to develop a policy regarding the use of Indigenous languages and terms in both internal and external communications at the university-level.

Heather Igloliorte, the special advisor to the provost on advancing Indigenous knowledge, said the consultation review focuses on achieving short-term goals and what is expected in the next three years. “It’s an ambitious plan, but it is achievable, because it is all steps that will set us up for future actions,” she said.

Concordia being the only university in Quebec with a First Peoples studies program, Lindsay said this new plan aims to further the work that has already been done. “The documents introduce people to traditional and modern knowledge about Indigenous people,” he said. “It is created by Indigenous people.”

Concordia is the leading university in Quebec working towards becoming a more Indigenous-inclusive institution, according to Lindsay. He hopes it will encourage other schools to implement a similar plan. “McGill is doing something similar, but I don’t think it is as comprehensive yet,” he said. Lindsay has done similar work during his time at Simon Fraser University.

Elder Charlie Patton of Kahnawake, said “this action plan is about getting the broader community around us to understand who we are.”

Patton said learning about Indigenous people starts with studying their culture and being grateful for the resources that nature has given us. “Our native people have something to offer when they talk about the earth, and that’s something that many people have forgotten.”

Igloliorte hopes to eventually see a graduate program for students who want to expand their knowledge beyond the undergraduate program.

With files from Ian Down.

Photo by Hannah Ewen.

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Concordia Student Union News

Three visions for the CSU

RiZe, Cut the Crap and New Community discuss their plans for next year

Three slates are running in this year’s general election for the Concordia Student Union (CSU). Online polling for the CSU’s elections will be held from 9 a.m. on April 2 to 9 p.m. on April 4.      

The general coordinator is the leader of the executive team that governs policies related to all undergraduate students.

 

Cut the Crap candidate Chris Kalafatidis. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

Christopher Kalafatidis, the general coordinator candidate for Cut the Crap, said he would focus on fixing the sanitary conditions of bathrooms, implementing an online opt-out system, and extending the nomination period for elections. Cut the Crap is “a statement saying ‘lets get things done,’” he said. The bathrooms “are a symbol of the most obvious problem that Concordia students see,” he said, adding he would like to see renovations and maintenance.

Kalafatidis would also implement fixed election dates so students are aware when to vote each year. “Right now, we have to wait for our CEO, which is always a point of last-minute, and everything is in chaos,” he said, adding that he wants to extend the nomination period from one-to-two weeks to three months. “This would encourage democracy and it would encourage competitive elections.”

Giving students the right to get their money back from fee-levy groups is a priority for Kalafatidis. Fee-levy groups are student-run organizations around Concordia that help students socially and financially. Currently, students must reach out to each group individually to get their money back. “We would create a system in collaboration with [fee-levy groups],” he said. “If it was online, you could check a bunch of boxes.”

Cut the Crap’s goal is to put students first. “I think you should vote for Cut the Crap because we are standing for the students who are never considered in elections,” he said. “We are the only slate to consider the rest of Concordia.”

 

riZe candidate Margot Berner. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

Margot Berner, general coordinator candidate for riZe, said “this [position] is extremely close to my heart and almost everyone who I care about has been affected by these issues. I believe the university should be a safe space for students. I really want to advocate for students everyday and have that be my job.”

The name riZe is a reference to Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise,” but it also stands for rising up against oppression and all forms of discrimination.

Berner wants to make sure international students get an affordable health plan and that mental health services are affordable for all students. “We would provide more health insurance surrounding mental health, so that people have coverage and it doesn’t break their bank to go and [pay] for a therapist,” she said.

Finally, Berner wants to help student associations fight against unpaid internships and be an institutional support network that can give students the resources they need. “Everyone should be paid for their labour,” she said.

Berner feels she is fit to be next year’s CSU general coordinator because of her experience on council, the Concordia Food Coalition board and as an Independent Jewish Voices executive. “I also have personal lived experience, which is really important for this job,” she said. “I’m a survivor [and] I will fight absolutely for the things I believe in.”

 

New Community candidate Marcus Peters. Photo by Sam Kaiser.

Marcus Peters, the general coordinator candidate for New Community, has also been on council for two years and is the current academic coordinator of the Sociology & Anthropology Student Union. He was the CSU Loyola coordinator in the 2016-17 academic year and he was previously on the board of the Hive Café and Concordia University Television.

Their slate name was created to reflect their three goals: fossil fuel divestment, shutting down international tuition hikes, and advocating for the survivors of sexual assault. “Our platform is mostly built around three projects that will have sweeping impacts […] What we will be doing is creating a new community,” Peters said.

Peters joined the fossil fuel divestment campaign when he first arrived at Concordia in September 2013. The campaign’s goal is to push the administration to fully divest from fossil fuels and any other toxic industries. “We became the first campaign in Canada to pressure the university to start to divest in fossil fuels,” he said.

Peters wants to re-create the health and dental plans, as well as expand mental health services for students. As for advocating for survivors of sexual assault, “we would want to work with the Sexual Assault Resource Centre and develop a very thorough and well-vetted policy on harassment and assault,” he said.

Making students more aware of the benefits of fee-levy groups is a better option than allowing students to get their money back, according to Peters. “Before we have a discussion of online opt-outs, we would look at educating the student body as a whole.”

Peters said his experience and vision is what stands out from the other general coordinator candidates. “I don’t see projects of the scale that we are proposing being incorporated in any of the platforms,” he said.

 

Independent candidate Jane Lefebvre-Prevost. Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Jane Lefebvre-Prevost.

Meet the independent candidate

The academic and advocacy coordinator candidate, Jane Lefebvre-Prevost, who stands on a single-person slate called No More Slates, is running independently. She wants to bring awareness to certain flaws she believes exist in the electoral system. “By moving away from a slate mentality, we can limit political nepotism in our institution and further encourage electors to research their decision so as to have the representatives who truly represent the will of the student populace,” she said.

Lefebvre-Prevost wants to help low-income students through specialized bursaries based on financial need and identity—such as one for trans students and another for Indigenous students—rather than academic merit. “These students need a subsidized tutoring system that would allow them to afford to improve their grades without financial penalty,” she said.

Lefebvre-Prevost recommended that students “research the candidates who are running, listen to them speak, and most importantly see if they listen,” she said. “Then vote for the candidate that you believe will advocate for the needs of all students, not just the few, and who will truly represent the will of the undergraduate body.”

 

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News

School of Community and Public Affairs on strike

SCPA students join journalism students in fight for paid internships

 

Undergraduate students from the School of Community and Public Affairs (SCPA) officially launched a week-long strike on Monday, March 18 which lasted until Friday, March 22.

On Monday, SCPA students picketted in front of classrooms in the Hall building. There was also a workshop about the importance of strikes, which explained why people should not cross picket lines and what tactics to use during a march.

“Unpaid internships are a pressing issue because it is unpaid labour,” said Rhys McKay, a member of the SCPA strike committee. “We are paying [tuition fees] to do free work.” They added that internships in the program are mandatory for graduation and most of them are unpaid. “The internship needs to be 120 hours [in total] and we need to find it ourselves.”

McKay said this issue mostly affects people from marginalized communities who face financial barriers that impede them from taking an unpaid internship. “It really puts people who are low-income in a precarious position because the completion of their education is based on them completing unpaid labour,” they said.

According to McKay, many people are not aware of the unpaid internships in SCPA because it is a small program. “There isn’t much awareness about our program in general,” McKay said. “Our field is diverse, so the internships are similar to the ones found for social work or political science [since] they deal with non-profit based work.”

While McKay planned on taking an unpaid internship this semester, they are waiting until the strike ends to see what happens.

“We shouldn’t have to do unpaid labour in order to accomplish our studies,” said McKay. “If there are no changes that happen, it really demonstrates that the Quebec government does not care about students.”

The strike goals echo those of other student associations, in saying that all internships should be paid and that interns should be protected under Quebec’s labour law.

SCPA students participated in two protests against unpaid internships alongside journalism students and students from other Quebec universities and CEGEPS.
“Supporting each other is really important, as we organize such a big undertaking and learn what it takes to work towards such an important goal,” said Brenagh Rapoport, the finance secretary of the SCPA’s student association.

Rapoport said the strike has helped educate the student body about the purpose of a strike. “The reaction has been engaging from many students,” she said. “Not everyone has understood why the strike is necessary, but that’s just generated a wonderfully productive community conversation around the necessity of student organizing.”

Rapoport hopes the two marches will result in systemic changes. “The stronger our presence together, the stronger the message we will send to our university administrations and the Legault government that unpaid internships unfairly hurt students,” she said.

Photo by Hannah Ewen.

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News

CTV’s Maya Johnson visits Concordia

Concordia alumna says news media should reflect the diverse society it serves

Maya Johnson, Quebec City Bureau Chief for CTV Montreal, spoke to journalism students about how political polarization is creating tension around the world and the importance of racial diversity in the media, on March 13.

“I’m not saying political parties or individual politicians are directly responsible or should be blamed for acts of violence, like the Quebec City mosque shooting,” Johnson told The Concordian. “What I am saying is that our political discourse over identity issues can absolutely inflame social tensions.”

Johnson asked the audience a question as she discussed Quebec’s political tensions involving secularism: “When criticizing the CAQ, how far is too far?”
Then, Johnson showed the audience an editorial cartoon that was not published in The Montreal Gazette because the Editor-in-Chief, Lucinda Chodan, felt it was going too far. The cartoon depicted the CAQ’s logo with a hooded Ku Klux Klan figure as the ‘A.’

Johnson explained it’s times like these when the media should come in to bring balance to a news story without raising tension from the public. “This is a reminder that our stories carry weight and we have an ethical responsibility to make sure they are fair and they are balanced,” she said. “The consequences of our editorial decisions can have real and damaging impacts on people’s lives.” Only two days before the mosque attacks in New Zealand, Johnson disclosed to the audience that the Quebec mosque shooting and its aftermath in January 2017 was the most difficult story to tell. “Every time you cover anything related to it, it’s like you relive the trauma of the original night of reporting,” she said.

During the coverage, Johnson had the chance to spend time with Aymen Derbali at the rehabilitation facility where he stayed during his recovery. Derbali is a survivor of the attack who was paralyzed after being shot seven times. “Those stories are so important to tell because it shows the real, concrete consequences of what happened that night,” Johnson said. “Derbali is one of the bravest people I ever met.”

Johnson graduated from Concordia’s undergraduate journalism program in 2006. She started her internship at CTV in 2005, where she later returned as a full-time reporter in 2012. Within weeks of starting her internship, Johnson jumped from researching behind the scenes to reporting on-air. At the age of 21, Johnson became the youngest reporter in the newsroom at CTV Montreal.

“I didn’t think at that time that I would become the Quebec City’s bureau chief for CTV,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think that I would have the privilege of anchoring and I certainly couldn’t have imagined that I would be standing here in front of you giving this lecture.”

Johnson said her parents separately immigrated from Jamaica to Canada in the late 1960s. They eventually met each other in Montreal. “My parents always told us that the key to success is education,” she said. “It has been a mantra in our family, and they have always said it with absolute unshakable certainty and I know it’s true.”

“There were times when I thought I was too soft, not enough to make it in TV journalism,” said Johnson. “I thought I would have to change my personality, be more of a bulldog, be more aggressive, but that’s not in my nature.” Johnson realized journalists should never change who they are, rather, they should put their best qualities forward.

As the only woman of colour in the Quebec Parliamentary Press Gallery, Johnson said there is a lack of diversity in the industry that is also apparent due to how male-dominated it is. “I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility and I take that role very seriously,” she said.

Johnson believes that the media should reflect the society it serves, which not only means that it must cover a variety of issues, but also that diverse people should be hired. “People of different backgrounds bring different experiences, knowledge, expertise and contacts to the table,” she said. “If you’re a news organization serving a diverse population and all of your reporters look the same, I think that’s a problem.”

For Johnson, representing minority groups in the work environment equates to equal opportunities for everyone in society. She used her own path to journalism. “I was hired at CTV Montreal through a visible minority internship,” she said. “It was a federally-funded internship that was created specifically to give a student from a minority community an opportunity to work in the newsroom, because there was a recognition that there was room for improvement in terms of diversity.”

However, Johnson stressed that not everything is served on a silver platter. “It was made clear to me I was not there to be a token,” she said. “I would have to work hard, and prove that I deserved to be there.”

Johnson was recently nominated for the Radio, Television and News Director Association’s prestigious Dave Rogers Award for Best Long Feature in a large market in the country for her story on the Quebec City mosque attack aftermath.

“At the end of the day, we have a duty to report the truth but sometimes we may not know where the truth really is,” Johnson said. “It may be somewhere in the middle in what two people from the opposite side of the spectrum are saying.”

Photo by Mackenzie Lad

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News

ASFA updates ethical purchasing policy

Policy changes include more local, ethical and eco-friendly products on campus

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations’s (ASFA) ethical purchasing policy was updated at a council meeting on Feb. 14. This policy aims to respect ASFA’s values as a consumer by considering sustainability, ethical practices and financial solvency. It is also set to be reviewed every three years.

“This policy will affect arts and science undergraduate students by providing them with resources to address how their purchases can incorporate sustainable practices,” said Kayla Miller, ASFA’s Loyola and sustainability coordinator. She added the policy is founded on social, economic and environmental sustainability.

The changes to the policy relate to locality, environmental sustainability and harassment. All newly-elected member association executives will need to be made aware of the policy.

According to the updated policy, ASFA and its member associations will give a preference to suppliers based in the province of Quebec. However, if no suppliers are available within the province, Canadian suppliers will be considered local.

ASFA and its member associations (MAs) will not buy single-use plastic items, including plastic straws, cutlery, water bottles and disposable cups, for their events. Instead, they will invest in reusable items, biodegradable materials or access free materials from The Dish Project, a “student-run waste reduction initiative” that provides reusable dishes for free, according to its website.

ASFA and its MAs are also mandated to prioritize buying ethically-sourced food that contributes minimally to environmental damage, which includes having vegan and vegetarian options at events. To reduce food waste, ASFA and its MAs must make an effort to donate the unused food to students, food banks and soup kitchens. Finally, they won’t purchase factory-farmed meats or support animal abuse.

“It is integral, moving forward, that we as consumers acknowledge our responsibility to reduce environmental harm and degradation by abiding by ethical purchasing standards,” Miller said.

“Our hope at ASFA is that [the Ethical Purchasing Policy] will provide students with the necessary resources and tools to be able to effectively implement sustainable practices on a day-to-day basis,” said Miller.

“We hope that students will abide by ethical purchasing standards within their respective member associations and continuously strive to improve themselves individually and collectively,” said Miller.

Some changes were also made to the “standards of labour” section concerning workers. An update states that physical, sexual, psychological or verbal harassment or abuse, including corporal punishment, will not be tolerated.

Students are encouraged to consult the ASFA Harassment, Discrimination and Violence Policy, which gives further information concerning these issues.

In addition, overtime work should not exceed 12 hours per employee per week, and all employees who work from home should keep a weekly log of their hours to be fairly compensated.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee

A previous version of this article included the headline “ASFA creates ethical purchasing policy.” The headline now reads “ASFA updates ethical purchasing policy.” The Concordian regrets the error.

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News

Quebec strike movement at ConU

Three student associations will strike this March to fight unpaid internships

Three undergraduate student associations at Concordia voted to strike in March to fight against unpaid internships.

The COMS Guild, also known as the Communication Studies Student Association, will strike from March 6 to 8, the School of Community and Public Affairs Students’ Association (SCPASA), and the Journalism Student Association (JSA) will both strike from March 18 to 22.

“We are looking to lend our voices to the greater strike movement that is happening in Quebec right now with unpaid internships,” said Hannah Gold-Apel, vice president of academic affairs for COMS Guild.

During two separate general assemblies by COMS Guild and SCPASA, on Feb. 20 and 21 respectively, a majority of undergraduate students voted to strike against unpaid internships.

At the COMS Guild general assembly, 71 students attended; 63 voted for a strike and eight abstained. At the SCPASA general assembly, 21 students attended; 20 voted for a strike and only one abstained.

These strikes are part of the larger movement against unpaid internships that started last November, when thousands of CEGEP and university students were striking across the province, according to CBC. However, Concordia student associations did not take part in this movement.

With the department’s support, COMS Guild decided a three-day strike would be enough to address the issue instead of a full week. “We don’t want the department to suffer; they have been incredibly helpful during this whole process,” said Gold-Apel.

The association is demanding that  interns be paid a living-wage and be protected under the Quebec Labour Code. They are also asking students not to attend their courses, nor their unpaid internships, and not to submit coursework during the strike.

Gold-Apel said the strike will not take an antagonistic approach to prevent blaming the department. “We want it to be a show of solidarity and community rather than […] a protest,” she said.

During the three days, communications students are planning to strike on campus outside of the Communication Studies and Journalism building. “We are going to be encouraging students not to go to class but we won’t be physically blocking any students,” Gold-Apel said.

Charles Acland, the chair of the communications department, told The Concordian he understands and supports the students’ decision to strike. “I think the students are very much engaged and interested in advancing the idea that paid internships is a much more equitable and fair way to run internship programs,” he said. “I wish them all the best in that endeavour.”

Acland said internships offered through the department are unpaid but they fulfill certain course requirements, and the interns are credited for them. However, he said companies are not offering paid internships. When they do, Acland said the communications department “will be reviewing those and considering them.”

The department is considering the possibility of having an ad-hoc committee that would “help facilitate a more equitable and fair internship policy.” Acland hopes to have student representation in the committee. The chair and the internship coordinator are in talks with the executives of COMS Guild regarding the committee.

Sean Illman-White, secretary of academic affairs and advocacy at the SCPASA, said their department also voiced a positive outlook towards students’ decision to strike. “We have a very good working relationship with our professors,” he said. “I think they’ll be working with us as opposed to against us.”

On behalf of International Women’s Day, the SCPASA will also be striking on March 8 to echo the fact that unpaid internships particularly affect many female-dominated fields, such as nursing, teaching and social work. Illman-White said public affairs students will be joining the women’s march in Montreal to tackle women’s issues in addition to unpaid internships.

The SCPASA hopes to shut down all of their classes during the week of March 18. During the strike, the association will hold another general assembly to discuss whether or not their strike should be extended.

Journalism undergraduate students Miriam Lafontaine, Erika Morris and Jon Milton presented a strike motion against unpaid internships at a JSA general assembly in mid-December, and it passed on Jan. 16.

“We wanted to have more departments on strike at the same time to combine pressure on the university,” said Lafontaine.

Lafontaine said a press conference will be held on the first strike day. Throughout the week, a series of workshops will be hosted to educate students on their working conditions, which will include one about students’ rights as interns and freelancers in Quebec, and another about safety measures during protests.

“We want to join in the Quebec-wide movement against unpaid internships, because the more students go on strike, the more the provincial government is likely to meet our demands,” said Lafontaine.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

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Briefs News

In brief: Stabbing, Wilson-Raybould, Curiosity

City in brief

The Plateau-Mont-Royal borough added metal shelves to its trash cans to allow bottle collectors to grab bottles and cans directly from them, according to CBC. Thirty five brackets were installed on garbage bins along St. Laurent Blvd. and Mont-Royal Ave. as part of a pilot project.

A man who was stabbed in the upper body on Sunday morning is now in the hospital in critical condition, according to Global News. The incident took place at the intersection of Ste-Catherine and Crescent streets. Police said the victim was conscious and refused to disclose the details of the incident during the ride to the hospital. Witnesses told police the victim hit two men with an object before being stabbed.

Around a thousand Montrealers took to the streets on Sunday near Montreal’s Algerian consulate to rally against the Algerian president’s re-election bid, according to the CBC. Many voiced their disapproval of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as they feel he is unfit to lead the country.

A 67-year-old woman suffered traumatic head injuries after a car accident on Sunday morning, according to CBC. She is presently in critical condition at a hospital. Police arrested a man in his 30s who was allegedly driving under the influence when he hit the woman’s vehicle after shifting out of lane. The suspect suffered no injuries.

Nation in brief

The B.C. Supreme Court allowed a 14-year-old transgender teen to begin hormone replacement therapy despite his father’s objections, according to The National Post. The judge said the female-to-male adolescent understands the implications of testosterone injections, and delaying the process could cause him to harm himself again. This ongoing legal fight raises questions about parental rights and child independence.

A Quebec City dentist is looking for two employees for the spring to meet the popularity of her unique service that brings dental care to patients’ homes, according to CBC. For the past five years, Sarah Gagné has been providing mobile services to people with limited mobility, such as seniors and people with disabilities.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, announced on Sunday she will be running as a Liberal candidate in the upcoming federal elections, according to CBC. Wilson-Raybould, who testified last week concerning the SNC-Lavalin controversy, would run in the Vancouver Granville riding. However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is debating whether or not she should remain in the caucus.

Some of Canada’s leading water bottle brands have sold water that customers complained smelled of ‘urine’ and ‘dirty socks,’ according to CBC. According to four years’ worth of reports from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the brands Dasani, Real Canadian Natural Spring Water, and Refreshe spring water, among others, sold water with foul odors and tastes. The reports also found high levels of sulphur, a chemical element found in matches and fireworks.

World in Brief

U.S. President Donald Trump verbally attacked Special Counsel Robert Mueller at a Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland on Saturday, according to BBC. During the summit, Trump said Mueller had never received a single vote for his role in the Russia probe investigation. Mueller is expected to submit a report about it to the attorney general in the coming weeks.

NASA declared that its Curiosity rover, a robot that was active on Mars from 2004 to 2018, is back to work after a strange glitch, according to BGR. This discovery comes after NASA declared Curiosity to be ‘dead’ due to a sandstorm in 2018. NASA is investigating what prompted Curiosity to go back to its safe mode.

Mental disorders are more common in people who grew up in environments that lack green spaces, according to a study from the Aarhus University in Denmark. The researchers studied children from birth to age 10 and the mental disorders that could develop as they grew older. Children who were raised in green environments, such as parks and forests, were 55 per cent less likely to develop mental disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.

On Monday, Pope Francis announced the access to archives from World War II from the pontificate of Pius XII will be open on March 2, 2020, according to The New York Times. These archives will allow scholars and historians to learn more about the former pope’s response to the Holocaust. The Vatican traditionally opens archives to the public 70 years after the end of a pontificate.

Graphic by @spooky_soda.

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News

Sexual violence policy update

Mandatory training, intersectionality discussed at Senate meeting

 

Members of Concordia’s Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence presented changes to the university’s sexual violence policy at a Senate meeting on Feb. 15.

The policy aims to tackle sexual misconduct cases at the university level. The new policy must be implemented no later than Sept. 1, 2019 as part of the provincial Bill 151, an Act to prevent and fight sexual violence in higher education institutions.

Senate is the highest governing body at Concordia that makes decisions concerning academics, such as approving changes to courses and programs.

“The committee worked on making the language [of the revised sexual violence policy] more accessible and more survivor-victim focused,” said Mathilde Braems, a member of the standing committee, during the presentation. “The reasoning behind this was to make survivors and victims feel as supported as possible.”

As part of the new policy, mandatory consent trainings will begin at Concordia for all faculty, staff and students in September 2019. Lisa Ostiguy, the chair of the standing committee and special advisor to the provost on campus life, told The Concordian these will include both in-person and online trainings.

The online training will have multiple modules customized for either a student, staff or faculty member. “There will be all kinds of options because we recognize that not every format is going to suit everyone, but we are going to have to diversify how we are delivering training,” she said.

Ostiguy said the university is looking at how trainings can accommodate the larger Concordia community. She attended a conference on sexual assault training in Washington, D.C. in January with Jennifer Drummond, the coordinator at the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC). “We went to 42 different sessions […] to see what would fit with our university,” Ostiguy said.

In comparison to the revised policy, the newer version includes specific information on how to come forward with a complaint, while the previous version only stated that SARC is the main resource of support on campus.

The new policy also broadened its intersectionality section. This section “raises awareness that some of our communities are at greater risk, and we need to work harder to make sure we are removing barriers for those groups,” Ostiguy said.

Ostiguy said the staff and faculty trainings will help students from non-western cultures learn how to disclose incidents involving sexual violence. International students “may have barriers that make it very difficult to come forward and raise concerns,” she said.

In a recent CBC report, two former students who filed complaints about a year ago said the university never told them the professor they accused was acquitted last September after an in-depth investigation. Ostiguy and Concordia President Alan Shepard could not confirm if they did in fact inform the students in question that their cases had been closed due to provincial privacy laws.  

Nonetheless, Ostiguy said the university “always informs the complainant of the process, and we always let them know when it’s finished.”

Ostiguy said the university follows a protocol for every sexual assault victim who discloses their situation. “Every time we launch an external investigation, we always sit down with the complainant and we explain what the process is, and that there is going to be difficulty at the end of the process because we can’t share the outcome of the process,” she said.“It’s frustrating for us, because we do take these situations very seriously,” Ostiguy said. “The university acts very appropriately and very carefully in these situations, and I wish we could talk about the outcome but we’re not able to. We can’t talk about any outcome with students, faculty or staff.”

Although the university’s policy against sexual violence relies on the Academic Code of Conduct and various collective agreements with faculty, Ostiguy said it is nevertheless considered a standalone policy. “Concordia created a standalone policy that brings together all of the resources, all of the processes, everything together,” she said.

Shepard said that one of the policy’s advantages is that it makes it easier for victims to disclose their experiences. “If you want to report on an incident, you can find it now, and historically, those kinds of policies were embedded in other policies so you really had to know what you were looking for to find it,” he said.

“I would say that we, as a university and as a network of Quebec universities and CEGEPs, will continue to work with the government in terms of the spirit of 151, which is to support survivors,” Ostiguy said.

With files from Ian Down.

Graphic by @spooky_soda.

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News

Government testifies at CGA trial

Provincial testimony focuses on trans parents, gender markers

The Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) trial continued on Feb. 6 with government representatives who spoke about the legal system, how names and gender markers are changed, and the status of trans parents in Quebec.

“We can put ‘filiation’ to replace the two [parental identities],” said Jonathan Boisvert, the interim director of expertise and jurisdictional activities, who testified at the Superior Court of Quebec on behalf of the Directeur de l’état civil. Using the word “filiation” would mean a person is being designated to a child.

Boisvert added that this change would be administrative, and it would help trans parents remove “mother” or “father” from their child’s birth certificate. They could request a copy of their child’s birth certificate with the term “filiation” to maintain neutrality. However, both parents would have to change their title to “filiation,” regardless of gender identity.

The CGA first filed the lawsuit in 2014. They argued that 11 articles from the Civil Code of Québec violate trans rights under both the Québec and the Canadian Charters of Rights and Freedoms. These include article 59, which prohibits people without citizenship from changing their name; article 62, which obliges a minor to obtain parental approval before changing their name legally; and article 71, which requires residents to be citizens in order to change their gender marker on legal documents.

The trial began with Defendant Lawyer Sophie Primeau asking Boisvert general questions about the administrative and operational changes at the Directeur de l’état civil concerning name and gender marker changes.

During his testimony, Boisvert said the parent of a newborn child is obliged to submit a confirmation that they are the parent of the child to the Quebec government as soon as possible.

According to the Directeur de l’état civil, the current law states that a birth that takes place in Quebec must be reported to the Directeur de l’état civil within 30 days. Once this step is completed, “it is possible to establish the child’s identity and filiation, to access various programs and services, and to obtain a certificate or a copy of an act of birth.” Once the birth of the child has been entered in the Quebec register of civil status, parents must “verify that the information about [their] child and the birth is the same as that on the declaration of birth, and immediately inform the Directeur de l’état civil of any error.”

In addition, for a person “to qualify to change the sex designation appearing on the act of birth, the person concerned by the application must hold Canadian citizenship and be domiciled in Quebec for at least one year.”

Boisvert told Hon. Judge Gregory Moore that the Directeur de l’état civil is presently developing procedures to allow trans parents to change their parental designation on their child’s birth certificate.

Plaintiff Lawyer Audrey Boctor told The Concordian that the Directeur de l’état civil revealed they would allow people to request a copy of their birth certificate that does not display their gender.

Lou Taj, an intern at the CGA, said this action is not enough. “It’s not legislative, it’s administrative,” said Taj. “The problem with administrative decisions is that they can be reversed at any moment. There is no legal obligation to [change] it.”

“I would like to have the option of writing ‘parent’ when I’ll have kids,” said Taj. “I would also like to have more choice on gender markers.”

Taj felt that the government was making administrative changes to compensate for the current laws. “We would need a legislative change to be able to have ‘parent’ on the [child’s] birth certificate,” they said.

Taj added that having the word “filiation,” could be more confusing to some people. “It would be a cause of more discrimination if the person looks at your paper [and] doesn’t even understand what ‘filiation’ means,” they said. “Parent is more of a common [word].”

Michael Lubetsky, a lawyer from Egale Canada, an advocacy organization aiming to advance equality for Canadian LGBTQ+ people and their families, said that his organization is one of three intervenors in this case.

Lubetsky said that Egale supports the conclusions sought by the plaintiff lawyers. “[Our] goal is to help the plaintiffs demonstrate to the court that the impugned provisions of the Civil Code of Quebec and of the regulation respecting change of name and other particulars of civil status violate the constitutional rights of trans, non-binary, and intersex people, and their families.”

After the court hearing on Feb. 6, Taj felt a sense of despair. “I could maybe understand that the government is trying to [change] some things but I really feel like it’s not enough,” Taj said.

The trials will continue next week with the more government testimonies, followed by the closing arguments from Feb. 25 to 27.

Graphic by @spooky_soda.

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News

The human side of conflict

Journalist Kareem Shaheen spoke about his coverage of the Middle East

 

Former Middle East correspondent Kareem Shaheen from The Guardian stopped by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) on Jan. 30. Shaheen spoke about his experience covering the aftermath of a gas attack in a small Syrian town called Khan Sheikhun in 2017. He was the first Western journalist to reach the area after the attack.

The event was moderated by Kyle Matthews, the executive director of MIGS. About 30 people attended.

“The most overwhelming thing to me was realizing how much of a ghost town [the gas attack] has turned the city into,” Shaheen said, adding that one of the most memorable moments was seeing the graveyard where many bodies were buried, including one family that lost 20 members. “It was very sombre and sad. You can really absorb how many lives have been destroyed when you see all the tombstones and fresh earth,” he said.

Originally from Egypt, Shaheen reported for The Guardian from February 2015 to August 2018. He covered a wide range of topics from politics to security in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and other regions in the Middle East.

“It hits you how cruel the conflict can be and sometimes how senseless the killing can be,” Shaheen said. “It reminds you how fragile everything is.”

Shaheen said it is important to be a human before being a journalist, while being able to understand that people opening up about hardship is an act of generosity. It’s important “to recognize they have had some extremely tough experiences and that there’s no way you could fully convey the extent of their trauma and their suffering,” he said. “At the same time, [it’s important] to be grateful that they’re telling you their stories because they don’t owe you anything as a journalist.”

While sharing the stories he encountered in Syria, Shaheen said that the ability to show your readers what is happening around you is not an easy task but one that comes with practice. “It’s this ability to paint a portrait of what’s going on and what the scene was like,” he said. Shaheen worked on this skill when he was in Lebanon, reporting on the suicide bombings that spilled over from the Syrian war.

Shaheen is grateful to have met many different people in the Middle East, as he found them to be resilient. “It’s just a matter of having to suffer through so much,” he said. “People in Lebanon endured 15 years of civil war […] and yet, you still see people doing hopeful things, you still see people who are fighting to build a better Syria, a better Lebanon.”

Shaheen never identified with the term ‘war correspondent’ because he was never covering the frontlines of the attacks but rather the aftermath. “When we call ourselves war correspondents, it detracts from the overall reporting mission that we have which is to tell the story as it is,” he said.

In a world awash with misinformation, Shaheen strongly supports the idea of paying for news. “It’s becoming so difficult now, to determine what truth is and for that to really matter,” he said. “For journalists, it’s an opportunity to be more transparent about the work that we do and how we gather information.”

When Shaheen was covering events in Lebanon, he wrote about Maameltein, an area where human traffickers would trick Syrian women to come to Lebanon, steal their passports, kidnap them and force them into prostitution. “It was difficult to get a hold of any of the women, because they were under police custody or they were taken to shelters,” he said. “It’s probably the only time that I actually cried in an interview […] while talking to that woman.”

For student journalists who want to cover issues in Middle Eastern countries, Shaheen advises three things. First, learn the language. “I don’t think you could be a good reporter anywhere if you don’t learn the language,” he said. “It’s the only way to delve deeper into cultural and religious contexts of those societies.” The second piece of advice was to be curious and humble. “Wherever you go, people will have great stories,” he said. “Try to listen to what people have to say.” Lastly, Shaheem advises students to be empathetic towards others. “People are allowing you into their lives for a brief moment to experience something really special,” he said.

Shaheen added there is no such thing as over-verifying when it comes to journalism. “Always triple-check everything,” said Shaheen. “It’s like when your mother tells you that you’re handsome, you need to have it checked by three other sources,” he said as he laughed.

Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

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Concordia Student Union News

CSU, GSA to propose insurance plan

The university’s plan for international students expires in the spring

The Dean of Students Office is renegotiating the university’s health insurance plan for international students, according to John Hutton, finance coordinator for the Concordia Student Union (CSU). The students’ existing health coverage plan expires this spring, according to Fiona Downey, Concordia’s interim spokesperson.

Currently, Concordia has a separate health plan for international students. This contract is managed by Andrew Woodall, the Dean of Students, and Blue Cross, the private health insurance company that covers all international students.

The health insurance plan for undergraduate Canadian students is managed by the CSU and Studentcare/Alliance pour la Santé étudiante au québec (ASEQ), the largest collective insurance plan administrator for student health and dental care in Canada.

For graduate Canadian students, it is managed by the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and Studentcare/ASEQ, according to Hutton.

“Concordia international students currently pay for the single most expensive international student health plan in the country,”said Hutton. He speculated that the high expenses are due to the fact that there isn’t much competition between different health providers in Quebec. Hutton added the university was more focused on simply providing a healthcare insurance plan for international students, than it was on making it affordable.

According to Hutton, the contract is run on a multi-year basis, usually three years but sometimes it can be extended for an additional year. The tabled three-year contract’s rate is being renegotiated between the Dean of Students and Blue Cross, according to Hutton.

“They are not getting the best health insurance plan in Canada at Concordia,” Hutton said, adding that the CSU received complaints from international students related to the co-payment for medications, lack of access to certain services like hormone therapy, and lack of dental coverage.

Tallie Segel, a second-year PhD student in social and cultural analysis at Concordia, is an international student from the United States. “I would love to have dental insurance and vision coverage,” said Segel. “I have a really strong prescription that changes often. Especially with student life, the type of work that I do, it causes a lot of eye strain and I am worried about my eyes all the time.”
Segel said the administration never told her how her insurance worked in terms of what is covered and what is not. “I don’t have a clear understanding here how the plan works and what is covered,” she said.

Segel added that the process for prescription reimbursement with Blue Cross is a bit of a hassle, and therefore, she does not make the effort to have it refunded, especially since her monthly prescription is inexpensive. Last fall, Segel paid almost $1,200 for her health insurance plan as part of her tuition fees.

According to Amir Molaei, the president of the GSA, the cost of the insurance for international students varies based on their status whether they are single, married or have a family. Molaei said that from 2015 to 2018, there was a 17 per cent increase for the single student plan and a 32 per cent increase for the couples and families plans. He added that this had affected a large number of graduate students.

Molaei explained that since some fees are not covered, such as dental insurance, many international students prefer to go back to their home country for the treatment they are unable to receive in Canada.

Molaei said he had some issues accessing Concordia’s Health Services. “I asked the receptionist that I want to have a [general] check-up,” he said. “They told me that if there is no problem with you, we wouldn’t refer you for the check up.” When Molaei went back home for the holidays, he visited his doctor and found that he had a deficiency in certain vitamins.

Hutton said the CSU and the GSA are presently preparing a pitch for the administration asking to put student associations in charge of the insurance plan for international students. “We would have a more transparent plan that would have more information easily available to students,” Hutton said. “We would be both able to negotiate a better deal in terms of lower premiums, more coverage, and have more incentive to do so.”

Molaei and Hutton said the GSA and the CSU will be meeting Woodall on Feb. 1 to discuss their proposal to manage the international students’ health plan. Although Downey did not confirm who was meeting with Woodall and Kelly Collins, the manager of the International Students Office, she did confirm they were meeting with student groups this week to start a consultation process.  The aim will be “to gather information about what’s needed in a new health plan and what options exist going forward,” said Downey.

Both the union and the association have already reached out to many insurance plan providers to seek additional advice concerning this proposal. “As the current international student insurance plan is with the administration of the university, student organizations don’t have control over it and we hope to be able to take the control over the international students insurance in the near future,” Molaei said.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin.

A previous version of this article stated that “there isn’t much competition between health premiums in Quebec.” The sentence should have read “there isn’t much competition between health providers in Quebec.” The Concordian regrets the error.

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