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Opinions

Saying goodbye to our favourite characters

Why does it feel like we’re losing a loved one when a beloved celebrity dies?

Thursday began like any other day. I woke up, made some coffee, and turned on my laptop to check out what was going on on social media. That’s when my day quickly took a turn for the worse: I learned Alan Rickman had died. He was 69 years old.

Photo by Kerby Rosanes.

I quickly found myself reading articles on his best moments as an actor, compilations of his most memorable scenes in the Harry Potter franchise, Tweets mourning his loss from actors he worked with and his friends. The next thing I knew, tears were rolling down my face, and I had an uncomfortable ball in the back of my throat, warning me the sobs were about to come.

What was wrong with me? I had never met this man, and yet I was crying over the news of his death (and I don’t cry very often). Reading the comments on the many BuzzFeed articles on Rickman, I saw that I was not alone—people everywhere were genuinely upset that he had passed away. Why was that?

To me, and to many others, I’m sure, Rickman’s death hit especially hard because of his portrayal of Professor Snape in the Harry Potter franchise. Rickman dying felt like Snape, a fictional character, was dying all over again. But the sadness came from deeper than that.

Like so many other children around the world, the Harry Potter series was a very important part of my childhood. I can still remember my mother reading me the French translations of the novels before bed; I would always beg her to read just one more page. Later, I  read the books myself, in English this time. Going to see the movies at the theatre was a ritual: the movies always came out a few days before or after my birthday, and going to see it was always something I associated with being one year older. Although that tradition ended with the last movie, it is still something I look back on fondly.

I know that Rickman is not Snape, but seeing the actor portray him on-screen for 10 years still made it feel that way. It was, after all, the role he was best known for.

We’ve lost many stars in the last few years. Just this week, David Bowie died, as well as René Angélil. In February 2014, Philip Seymour Hoffman died. A few months later, we lost Robin Williams (I cried that time too).

Although we may not realize it, these actors, musicians and celebrities played important roles in our lives. Seeing them on screen throughout the years made us feel like we knew them. We associated with some, quoted others, reminisced about our favourite scenes. Maybe celebrities dying hits us so hard because, in a sense, we are losing a part of ourselves—the person or child we were when we first watched a movie, or listened to a song for the first time.

It feels like more and more of our beloved celebrities are dying. I’m not sure if this is a fact, or just a sign that we are growing up—actors who starred in our favourite childhood films are growing older, just like us.

There is one positive note to all of this: whenever we are feeling nostalgic, all we have to do is turn on the T.V. Our beloved actors will live on forever on the screen, and will be there for us when we need them the most. Always.

Categories
Student Life

Helping student veterans succeed and survive

First university veterans association in Canada launch initiatives at Concordia

Categories
Student Life

Feminism, Polytechnique, and Jian Ghomeshi

Francine Pelletier and Sue Montgomery on the evolution of women’s rights

“Women have made great strides since my generation took to the streets four decades ago. Laws were changed, discrimination was banned, women became a vital part of the job market and the economy, and of course the education system. And yet violence against women continues as if none of this had ever happened.”

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Music

Southpaw’s spiritual sound

Matt Orsini aims to spread the word about his perception of Christianity with his music

When we think of Christian music, most of us picture the traditional worship genre: the chilling, penetrating sounds of the organ, often accompanied by a chorus of soprano voices, most likely heard in an old, beautiful, impressive church.

But the fact is that there exists many different kinds of Christian music: rock, gospel, pop, blues, rap and yes, even metal.

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News

Jewish Defense League in Montreal

Group considered radical, allegedly threatened to bomb Concordia in 2001

The Montreal chapter of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a group known for being controversial, ultra-nationalist, and sometimes violent, held their first meeting on Feb. 16.

According to the Montreal Gazette, the group’s reason for wanting to expand to Montreal was to change the political landscape of the province and combat rising anti-semitism and Islamism. JDL Director Meir Weinstein said the main goal in coming to Montreal was to combat the threat of radical Islam in the province. The JDL has been very vocal in their support of the Conservative Party of Canada and sees the Liberals as showing insufficient loyalty to their Jewish constituents.

Back in 2001, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) received death threats from a group which identified itself as the Committee for the Elimination of Palestine (CEP). On Aug. 25, 2001, a message was left on the CSU office’s voicemail saying: “Everyone who is part of the CSU is now a target.”  It was suspected by the CSU that Irv Ruben, the JDL’s director at the time and a Montreal native, was behind the threats. Ruben was eventually convicted of trying to bomb a mosque and government property in the United States and died while awaiting trial in prison due to an apparent suicide.

According to Laith Marouf, who was the CSU’s VP Internal at the time and the first Arab to be elected to the CSU’s executive team, the threats also extended to the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) group. He thinks the CEP was a made-up cover name and that Rubin attended council meetings and was known for ‘threatening students.’

According to a piece published in Volume 19, Issue 2 of The Concordian, which was published  on Sept. 12, 2001, all those targeted had openly stated having pro-palestine human rights views in the past.

According to a press release published by the Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and Palestinians and Jews United (PAJU), Rubin was later accused of planning to bomb Concordia University.

“It was a very scary time. When the threats, and bomb threats, and actual bomb plans, were being made … terrorism was being plotted in Montreal against students,” Marouf recalled.

“[People] should be worried that it’s active in Canada, period,” he said.

According to Concordia’s senior advisor of media relation, Cléa Desjardins, JDL appears to be a fringe group, and is no cause for concern. Desjardins could not confirm that death threats were made back in 2001.

Thus far, the group has yet to receive any support on campus.

“We categorically reject their sensational tactics,” said Ruben Perez, Outreach VP for Concordia’s Israel on Campus (IoC). … It’s a very violent group, and their message is pretty violent. They pretend to be there to protect the Jewish community but in fact they contribute to a climate of fear.”

Perez went on to say that he is against them coming to the university’s campus, and said IoC will work with the school to do whatever it can in preventing them from doing so. “In case it does happen, we’ll see what our options are.”

Perez added that Quebec’s Jewish community has always had the full support of the government and law enforcement when it comes to anti-semitism, and he expects the JDL’s message will remain on the extreme fringes.  “We don’t need that here,” he said.

The Concordian reached out to the JDL and the Montreal Police but did not receive a response by press time.

 

More information: http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/terror/terrorism-2000-2001

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) at Concordia was defunct, when it is, in fact, still a very active group. The Concordian apologizes for the error.

 

Categories
News

Surviving the new system

ConU’s re-vamped Student Information System (SIS) may take getting used to, but offers new perks

On Thursday, Jan. 22, Concordia’s new Student Information System (SIS) went live.

Back in November 2012, a budget of $23 million was approved by Concordia’s Board of Governors. This is a capital investment, meaning that the money was not taken out of the university’s operating budget. The new system is a software package called Campus Solutions, from Oracle/PeopleSoft.

Other universities in Canada are already using SIS systems, but have customized it to fit their own needs. These include schools like Université de Montréal, HEC, Ryerson, Queens, and many others. The University of Ottawa will also soon start using Campus Solutions.

According to Bradley Tucker, Concordia’s associate vice-president, registrarial services and university registrar, and chair of the SIS steering committee, the system has never undergone this level of reworking. Before this, the university had been building the system from a decades-old technology.

“We had a 32-year-old structure, on which a series of ways we interact with it have evolved,” Tucker said. “What the new system represents is a complete change of structure and interface, and the new structure and interface is integrated in a way that you would expect in a package solution.”

An integrated system

Before the new SIS went live, many different parts of the system were separate. For example, Student Account Services, Degree Navigator, and Financial Aid and Awards, were all linked to the system, but were not integrated.

This new integrated system also means that Concordia will no longer have to do any of their own research and development for the program, as Oracle/PeopleSoft will be taking care of that.

Another issue with the old system is the fact that those well-versed in the system would not be working for the university forever.

“One of the things we noticed and one of the reasons why we started implementing the new system when we did is because a lot of the people who were experts in the old system were retiring, and we were losing capacity to be able to support the old technology too,” Tucker said.

 

Going live

Many students would agree that the adaptation period has been difficult. Right when the new SIS went live last Monday, students began complaining, taking to social media pages like Spotted: Concordia to voice their concerns.

“We’re aware that there are people who have been complaining. we’re also aware that there are people who are quite happy with it,” Tucker said. “ I think we need to make sure to understand that there is balance but we do need to listen to people and address the issues as they arise.”

In order to accommodate students, the university has, with the help of students, created how-to guides and also hired a student brigade.

The tuition deadline was also pushed back to Feb. 9 in order to allow students a little more time to adapt.

The reason the site launched at the time it did was mainly because the school wanted the SIS to launch after the DNE deadline.

“It was scheduled for the weekend after that. We recognized that it was close to the fee payment deadline, so we made backup plans seeing if we could extend the fee payment deadline should we need to.” Tucker said. “Really what’s important is that we work with it and give it time. It’s a major system implementation.”

 

Help for students

In order to help students with the transition, the school hired 23 students—undergrads, grads, local, canadian, and international students—to make up the student brigade, a group that helps answer questions students may have about the portal.

The brigade will be on both campuses for the next five weeks, on Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the downtown campus (SGW, EV, LB and Hall) and from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the SP building at the Loyola campus.

A group of students have also created how-to guides for everything students might have questions for, with simple step-by-step instructions and screenshots to show students what to do. These can be accessed at concordia.ca/students/your-sis.html.

“We have literally gone through transactions and created these guides step by step. I have gone through and gotten these screen shots and made sure that the process is at it should be … these are very much Concordia-created,” said international student Paul Martin, who is one of the members of the student brigade and who also helped create the how-to guides.

 

New perks

The new SIS will allow students to do many new things that they could not before. When registering for classes, for example, they will be able to use the “swap” tool when they wish to drop a class for another, without having to deal with the stress of actually manually dropping a class before registering for the other. There is also a waiting list, so you can automatically register for a class once a spot opens, and students can combine both this application with the swap tool. Students will also be able to search courses by professor, course name, and time slot.

“I started to use it two weeks ago, and I would say within an afternoon, six hours of using it, most of it started to make sense,” Martin said. “And I’m not a particularly techy kind of person, but it generally started to make sense and it started to flow in the kind of transactions that you wanted to do, in terms of registering for classes is very straight forward, even more so than the previous system.”

Categories
News

Hubert Lacroix on the future of CBC

CBC CEO spoke to a class full of Concordia journalism students on Jan. 21

On Jan. 21, Hubert Lacroix, the CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, addressed a journalism class in order to discuss the future of Canada’s public broadcaster.

Concordia Journalism Chair and Associate Professor Brian Gabrial introduced Lacroix, who got more applause from the class than he had gotten as of late. This is in reference, of course, to the fact that he has been quite unpopular around the CBC these days because of the massive cuts, both in labour and finances, that have transpired under his stewardship.

“Before I start this, full transparency: I’m a double McGill grad,” he said, and the students in the class laughed. After making a few more jokes about his background, Lacroix began talking about CBC, and the jokes were soon a thing of the past. Instead, during the nearly 90-minutes he spent talking to students, three themes seemed to keep coming back: financing, Canadian content, and scandals.

Financing

Lacroix asked the room and asked how much cable costs most people, and how much people are willing to pay for it. One student mentioned that Bell had approached him saying that it would cost $50 a month.

“If you pay taxes, you actually give to CBC/Radio-Canada per year, for all the services, en anglais et en français, toutes les platformes, about 8 cents per day, $29 per Canadian, per year,” he said.

According to a document published by House of Commons back in 2008, it was recommended that Parliament should “increase the appropriations it gives the public broadcaster, from $33 per capita to $40 per capita a year over the next seven years.” This number was considered the amount required for continued quality production, and did not take into account inflation. And yet, funding has since decreased for the public broadcaster.

Another big topic was the CBC losing the rights to broadcast NHL hockey last year, a contentious and public decision which Lacroix said would cost too much, and that the money would be split in half between players and the NHL itself. “There is no way in the world a public broadcaster can justify spending $5.2 billion of taxpayer money on hockey.”

Lacroix also spoke about the high costs of producing content, both in Canada and elsewhere. For example, one hour of House of Cards costs $5 to 7 million to produce. He explained that that is why other Canadian networks often just pay for rights to air American content, which costs much less money, hence a lack of Canadian-produced content on all networks except for CBC.

Lacroix spoke of public broadcasting funding in other countries, showing just how low the CBC’s numbers are compared to others: the average for developed nations is $80 per citizen, per year.

“Everybody wants us to be the BBC. Look at the numbers. I’m sorry, but they have something like five times our budget, one language, and one time zone.”

Content

For a perspective on CBC’s content, Lacroix once again asked the room to name a program they watched on CBC or Radio-Canada in the last week. People mentioned Tout le Monde en Parle, CBC News, or The National, to name a few. He then asked how many had the CBC App, how many people watch Schitt’s Creek, Book of Negroes, and other shows. He asked students about what they like so much about Netflix, and on how everyone uses every platform: most Canadians have four, Lacroix explained. This has changed the way that content is delivered to Canadians.

“It’s not true that people watch television and series on their mobile phone yet, when we create content, we have to consider that a number of Canadians are still watching in the old way.”

Lacroix also spoke about why Canadian content is so important right now, showing the audience that other networks barely run any at all—most of the programs shown on other networks are produced in the U.S. He then explained why this was such a big problem.

“People ask: is public broadcasting a good investment? Well, for every dollar that the CBC gets, we generate about $4 for the Canadian economy,” Lacroix said. “We create jobs, we commission programs, there’s a whole industry that supports us, and, what’s interesting, is that if you take us away, you immediately take two and a half times the amount that the government invests in us, which is a billion bucks, and you take it away from the Canadian economy, because we indirectly create jobs for that value.”

To rest his case he said the CBC last year invested $762 million in Canadian content, while all the other canadian networks combined invested $500 million.

Scandals

Understandably, concerns came through on the many scandals the CBC has lately been associated with.

Lacroix spoke openly about the Jian Gomeshi controversy, saying that what happened led to a national conversation about sexual harassment. “I think our job is to manage this, go to the bottom of this and put in place the best possible programs and make them easy so that you’re not scared or fear retribution when you actually put your hand up and say ‘The behavior that I witnessed or that affected me was improper,’” he said.

Q&A

After the talk, The Concordian got the opportunity to ask a few extra questions to Lacroix.

The Concordian: What can we as consumers of the CBC do to make sure that there is a future for the public broadcaster?

Hubert Lacroix: I think that the time has come to ensure that if you believe in public broadcasting, that your voice is heard. That the people who choose on where the tax dollars go, if they hear that public broadcasting is important to Canadians in this country—because it does ensure Canadian culture, it ensures democracy in this country—if the people who are going to be seeking votes and who are elected understand that it is important for you … if you make those statements clear, that’s going to be the big difference maker.

C: You spoke a lot today about the importance of Canadian content, and yet one of the first things that the CBC cut was in-house productions. A lot of known personalities like Peter Mansbridge have spoken against this. What will the 2020 plan mean for in-house productions? Will they be returning?

HL: No. Because Canadian content doesn’t have to be done by CBC/Radio-Canada in-house. We can actually partner with an independent Canadian producer, creating Canadian content, and have it on our programing schedules in the same way. It’s just the making of it, inside our shop, with the infrastructures, with the square footage, with the technical equipment, that is what we have chosen to do less of, inside our shop. CBC actually was not doing much inside our walls … We commission the program. We decide, ok we are going to greenlight your project, we are going to invest in it, and we are going to show it on our network.

C: You mentioned that you give a lot of talks like these. Why do you think that it is important to talk about CBC today to university students?

HL: Because the interaction that I get, the questions that I get, the blank stares when I talk about CBC and our programming … shows me that in order to be able to reach the audience that is the next generation of our audience, plus, people in this faculty that could actually work for us one day, we have to continuously listen. Listening, seeing what your consumption habits are, what you’re doing in your schools, the subject matters that are important to you, the matters that you raise with me… all of that is absolutely key to how I see the broadcaster evolving … And because you are going to be involved in here, some of the challenges that will impact your work area.

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News

Protest threats nix Israel-Canada event

Chance of violence forces police to cancel Canada-Israel relations talk

An event scheduled for Jan. 12 with MP Marc Garneau, was postponed indefinitely because the Montreal Police allegedly alerted organizers that they were anticipating violent protests in response to the talk.

The talk, organized by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA) and the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR), was supposed to look at Canada-Israel relations.

Garneau is the MP for Westmount—Ville-Marie and was one of the first Canadian to go to outer space back in October 1984. He was appointed as the executive vice-president of the Canadian Space Agency in 2001, and became the president in November of the same year.

Bradley Martin, CAMERA Fellow and Representative for Montreal and a student at Concordia, wrote on the event’s Facebook page at around noon on Jan. 12 announcing the talk had been cancelled because the Montreal Police had notified them of a violent protest was set to take place because of this event. At around 7 p.m., Martin posted to clarify what had happened, writing the following: “This morning, the Montreal Police informed CIJR that their cyber division detected a planned protest of the event. This protest was estimated to consist of about sixty demonstrators and considered to be hostile and violent. Under the circumstances, it was determined that the venue could not be secured properly and the safety of attendants would be at risk. It was therefore decided that the event would not take place as planned and be postponed indefinitely.”

In the post, Martin spoke for both organizations and said that they were very unhappy with the situation. “We are very disappointed and outraged about the fact that our rights, and the rights of an elected Member of Parliament, to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly have been compromised,” Martin wrote. “Threats of violence and intimidation tactics are not acceptable behaviors and cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. We live in a beautiful country, where the freedom of speech and assembly are foundational to our way of life.”

The decision to postpone said event was made by the CIJR’s National Chairman

Jack Kinsler. He felt the they had no choice but to cancel the event because the call from the police happened so soon before the talk was set to happen, and because they hadn’t organized the event themselves. The CIJR had allowed CAMERA to use one of their spaces to host the talk, located at 1396 rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest, Suite 218.

Kinsler told The Concordian that he was very unhappy with the situation, especially after this week’s attack on Charlie Hebdo staff this week in France.

“[The threat of a violent protest] shouldn’t have happened in the first place. MP Marc Garneau should have been able to come and speak to people in a civilized manner without threats … as soon as one side intimidates the other something is wrong there, there’s a malice, there’s a problem,” Kinsler said.

The Montreal Police were contacted and said that they were not the ones who contacted the event organizers, although both CAMERA and the CIJR confirmed that they had been contacted by them. According to CIJR, the information concerning the protest came from the police’s information department.

Israel on Campus: Concordia has posted on their page that they are unhappy with the situation. They wrote the following in a Facebook post: “It is extremely disheartening and upsetting that members of our own national government are not given the chance to share their ideas freely for fear of violent consequences. Israel on Campus believes in free speech and the right for a free flow of ideas. We will not be silenced and we will continue to fight for Israel on our campus and in our country.”

The event has been postponed indefinitely.

Categories
Student Life

Remembering the Montreal massacre

Francine Pelletier discusses Marc Lépine’s suicide note and how feminism has changed in the last 25 years

On Dec. 6, 1989, Montreal and Canada changed forever.

On this day, a 25-year-old man named Marc Lépine walked into École Polytechnique, an engineering school affiliated with Université de Montreal, carrying a Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle and a hunting knife. He walked into a classroom on the second floor, and asked that the men and women separate, before asking the men to leave. Nine women were left behind. He said, in French, that they were all feminists, and then shot all of the women in the room. Six died from their injuries.

He went to other parts of the school, shooting as he went. A total of 14 women died that day, and fourteen others were injured (10 women and four men). He then killed himself.

Graphic by Marie-Pier LaRose.

This act was the first shooting of its type to take place in Canada, and a direct act of violence not only against women, but against the feminist movement.

Two days after the shooting, part of Lépine’s suicide note was released. On it were 19 women’s names. Before listing them, he said, in French, “The lack of time (because I started too late) has allowed these radical feminists to survive.”The list included a series of seemingly random women, some more known than others, from politicians to female police officers. It also included Francine Pelletier, a journalist who co-founded a feminist magazine called La Vie en Rose in the ‘80s. At the time, she was working at La Presse. After hearing that she was on the list, and that only part of the letter was released, she decided to make the necessary steps in order to find out what the whole letter said. She wanted to understand what had happened.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of this event, which has become known as the “Montreal Massacre.” Dec. 6 is also now the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, in order to pay homage those who died that day.

In order to commemorate the event, The Concordian spoke to Pelletier about her story, about how things have changed in the last 25 years, and about what feminism means today.

The Concordian (C): When did you find out that you were on the list of women who Marc Lépine wanted dead?

Francine Pelletier (FP): It was two days later. It was because the police reporter at La Presse, who was very well connected with the police force, relayed a part of the suicide note with a list of names, headed by a short sentence saying something to the effect that these women would have died had he had more time. So that part was leaked to La Presse, and I learned about it the day of the publication.

My boss, the Editor-in-chief, asked me if I had seen the newspaper today. I said no, and he said that I should brace myself. Then he told me [about the list] and that low and behold [I was on it] … no one, neither the police nor La Presse, had given us any sort of advance notice, which should have got me going in terms of ‘woah wait a minute, they are holding back the note, but releasing the names of the other women?’ Not exactly kosher.

So I then proceeded to get my hands on the note, the more important part of the note. I was refused first by the police, and then went to Access to Information, and, to my great surprise, I was also turned down there.

C: When and how did you get your hands on the letter?

FP: It was maybe a few weeks before the anniversary, so some time in late November 1990. I got a letter in the mail. It was a photocopy of the suicide note, and there was no telltale sign of where it came from … All I could deduce was that someone in the police force had gotten scent of my effort, and agreed with the fact that it should go public … I talked to Jacques Duchesneau (who was police chief at the time) a few years back, and he said, ‘oh I think that I know who sent it to you,’ and that is all that he would say, so it definitely came from the police force. Man, woman, who it was, I don’t know, and will probably never know, unfortunately.

C: Are you glad that someone chose to send you the letter?

FP: Oh my god, yes. First of all, part of the reason that we went into this psycho-drama was because we had never before experienced anything quite as brutal [as the shooting]. Not only mass murder but targeting women, of all things, is by far the most chilling, most disquieting event that I think [ever took place in Quebec], even beyond the October crisis.

The October crisis was part of a kind of radical militancy that was part of Quebec, people didn’t necessarily agree with it, but they knew about it, it wasn’t a surprise. [The Montreal Massacre] came totally out of the blue. And, as a result, the closer you were to the event, the more denial was at hand. Like I’ve said in the past, there were some editorials saying that this had nothing to do with women … He must have had some kind of mental health problem for sure, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that he had specific intentions, specific targets, as everyone has pointed out. If a guy had walked into a school and separated blacks from whites, the next day, everyone, no matter how crazy he was, would have called this a racist attack. And so there was a real tendency not to go there.

So the note, for me, first of all, was a judgement of his sanity. It’s an indication that for sure [this was an attack on women and feminists]. We knew … that he had walked into a classroom, the first classroom, and, before shooting, had said “you are all feminists.” And that was an indication of what was motivating him. But no one had wanted to give any sort of credence to that. Holding the note back of course didn’t help. Now, I had a note, and it was not an unreasonable rant … it was all very well composed and said, ‘I am committing suicide today, people will say that I am crazy, but here are my reasons. Feminists have ruined my life.’ For me, to have that note, it was a way to counter the whole discourse, it was my way to say, ‘can we talk about the cause for all this?’ That this was in fact, not only an act against women, but an act against feminism? I have to say that it did not immediately have that effect. It took 20 years to do any kind of serious talking about this. It took 20 years for a film to come out, 20 years to have a symposium … there was no book, no seminar, no nothing! It took 20 years for that.

C: Why do you think that it was so hard for people here to admit that this was an act against women and feminists?

FP: Quebec had a way of thinking of itself as the most progressive place in Canada, and in many ways, it is. It occurred to me 20 years later, when I had to speak at the symposium that finally got off the ground, that it has something to do, maybe—and this is my explanation—with the Quiet Revolution syndrome. Quebec is a very distinct place, not only because of it’s language and it’s culture, but because of its history … In the ‘60s, we turned our backs on what was always the organizing principle of this place, the Church. People were mostly in rural areas, they were in places run by the church… With the Quiet Revolution, we went from a place where we had the most babies to the place where we had the least babies. In 15 years, that’s an incredible jump. We really turned this place around. And I think that as a result, we have a tendency to think that all the bad stuff is behind us. Nothing bad can happen to us now because we are an in control, we are progressive, we are looking forward and then Bang! This happens, which is totally out of nowhere. There was no plan to put that in our collective imagination, and I think that that is part of it.

C: Do you think that things have changed in the last 25 years?

FP: Yes, to a certain extent. It took some time … Little by little, we have moved away from the idea that this is an isolated case. It was a grueling acceptance that there is a link here between the violence that women are still subjected to, and that horrible event. We still have not gone the extra mile, which is to recognize that this was against feminism. And I think that that is partly because, by the late ‘90s, no one really cared about feminism. I think that that is changing now … I think that the fact that women realized that they are not out of the woods, you know, there is still the whole question of sexual aggression and domestic violence, and many other things, but those are two huge things that remain, that haunt women to this day. And I think that people like Beyoncé and others saying that feminism is important helps too. I think that there is a quiet reawakening towards the fact that we still need feminism. In that way, it is changing.

C: Why do you think the word ‘feminist’ carries such a negative connotation today?

FP: It has been kind of depressing, for women like me, who were very active in the ‘70s and ‘80s and were part of the second wave feminists and really thought that things were going to change in a profound way, and 20, 30 years later, we see that things have not changed in a profound way … It’s natural that the women coming after you do not want to identify in exactly the same way. It wasn’t something that was popular, it wasn’t really attractive for a lot of women. I think that that is changing. For me, the Gomeshi affair—I cannot tell you how much we should thank that guy—I think that it exploded, it took the lid off this dirty secret … I think that the kind of ‘oh my god’ that we felt in the wake of this on the part of men, on the part of society as a whole, was really quite impressive. I haven’t seen that in at least 30 years. I don’t know if that will bring lasting change, I have no idea, but let’s hope so.

Pelletier is currently completing the 2014 Michener-Deacon Fellowship for Journalism Education at Concordia.

On Dec. 6, a commemoration, hosted by la Fédération des femmes du Québec, will take place from 2 p.m. to 2:45  p.m. on the corner of Decelles Ave. and Queen-Mary Rd. A silent walk with candles will then take place at 3 p.m., which will go through the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery and end at the Mount-Royal Chalet, where a vigil will take place between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. For more information, visit the “Polytechnique – 25 ans plus tard” Facebook page, or click here

 

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News

Lending a hand to student parents

CSU initiative aiming for affordable, flexible daycare with students in mind

Back in 2010 a study commissioned by the Concordia University Dean of Students Office and Student Parents Centre outlined a lack of support for student parents at the University. Four years later, the situation has not improved—something the Concordia Student Union (CSU) is trying to change.

The study stated that many student parents did not have access to “flexible, affordable childcare that would allow them to attend classes, given that subsidized daycare waiting lists can be up to four years, and that private child care can cost upwards of $30 a day.”

Another issue cited in the study, entitled “Student parents and their children: how can we help them?” was that not a lot of childcare is available in the evenings, when many student parents take classes—all this on top of a lack of financial resources.

Over the summer, Terry Wilkings, CSU VP Academic & Advocacy, met with the director of the Concordia Student Parents Centre, where he came across the aforementioned study. “After reading the recommendations and realizing that the university hasn’t taken any concrete steps to support student parents in providing childcare services, the decision was made that the CSU must take action,” said Wilkings. “I believe it’s the role of the CSU to support students in achieving academic success; clearly, a lack of accessible childcare services is a major barrier that contributes to the difficulties student parents face while studying Concordia. Also, student unions at McGill, U de M and Laval already provide these services for their student parents.”

Back in September, CSU Council put through funding to determine whether or not opening a daycare would be possible. Wilkings explained that the research looked at “logistical, policy and budgetary needs for grants, subsidies, and government permits to operate.” The research also looked at how many children could be taken per year (there are three different proposals, one with 24 children, one with 50, and one with 80—this will all depend on startup and annual costs, as well as the physical space available); whether it would be possible to support children until they are 12 years old;  and what process would have to be followed so that the daycare could qualify as a CPE (centre de la petite enfance—roughly, early childhood centres). The scenarios all included evening care.

According to CUSP, about 10 per cent of Concordia’s students are also parents. Malene Bodington, who authored the study, works for the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and is a former student parent at Concordia, was surprised to find out that other students were dealing with the same difficulties she was. “I guess I thought my experiences were unique. To find that they were so common among student parents, and to see that for many it was much worse, was an eye opener,” she said.

When Bodington was a student, she and her husband had no family around to help take care of their son, and finding an affordable daycare turned out to be quite the challenge, despite tax deductions. “It was a mouthful to find $225 every week. It also took a long time to find a spot, so I was home with him for longer than we had anticipated,” she said.

The study also pointed out some of the issues with Concordia’s current daycare system. At Les P’tits profs, the Loyola campus’ daycare, only staff, students, and faculty who are at Concordia full-time can apply. The daycare takes 12 to 14 children a year (aged between three months and five years), and the waiting period is about two years. Evening daycare is not offered.  This is also the issue at the downtown daycare, the Centre de la Petite Enfance. “Considering the life-cycle of students, and the fact that children require supervision until they are much older than 5, these bureaucratic and practical hurdles are significant issues with Concordia current childcare services,” Wilkings said.

The CSU now finds itself at the point where they must discuss this project with the university. Wilkings is also waiting on the student body’s consultation via referendum before any moves are made.

Concordia President Alan Shepard would love to see more daycares for student parents. “I’m thinking about a drop-in day care. I’m not talking about a daycare where you can bring in [the children] … while you attend a class or go to the lab and so on. We’re talking about a much more episodic daycare. I think that would keep students, particularly part-time students, accelerate their progress towards their degree. It must be the case that if you have a young kid, or kids, at home, they come first,” Shepard said.

On Nov. 25 to 27, undergraduate students will be able to vote on whether or not to approve “the continued prioritization and active support of the establishment of a Daycare Centre as an initiative to improve student space on campus through the student space, accessible education and legal contingency fund.”

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Sports

Concordia hosts rugby sevens tryout

Young athletes were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to prove they could make the cut

On Nov. 15, over 120 male and female athletes headed to Concordia’s Stinger Dome in order to show Rugby Canada scouts if they had what it takes to play rugby sevens at the Olympics.

During the Try for GOLD campaign, scouts have been visiting different cities across the country in order to find athletes aged 15 and up who might be future Olympians. Try 4 GOLD has already visited Toronto and Ottawa, and will be headed to Sherbrooke, Burnaby (B.C.), and Red Deer (AB).

Rugby sevens—which is a version of rugby where only seven players are on each team instead of the usual 15 known as rugby union—is an extremely demanding sport. On top of the usual physical demand of union rugby, sevens also demands a lot of running out of each player. A regular rugby union match lasts 80 minutes, while a sevens match has two seven-minute halves, with only a one-and-a-half minute break.

According to François Ratier, the head coach for Rugby Canada’s National Women’s Fifteens team, the sport is like a crossover between basketball and judo, or even soccer and judo. Ratier, who was at the tryouts on Saturday, used to coach the women’s rugby team at Concordia, and was also assistant coach for the McGill women’s rugby team.

Athletes were tested on two components that would gauge whether or not they would be a good fit for rugby sevens: how fast could they run, and how high they could jump. Although rugby sevens is a variation of the classic 15-player game, the testing for rugby sevens had to be much more specific.

Athletes had to do 10-metre, 30-metre, and 40-metre sprints. Then they would move on to do a broad jump and triple jump. For each test, they were given two tries and their best one would be recorded. Before the testing began, athletes were also measured and weighed. The players with the best results will be called back for a second tryout in British Columbia. According to Ratier, the numbers to beat were, for women, between 5’’2’ and 5’’7’ for the 40-metre sprint, and 7m20 and over for the triple jump. For men, the sprint should be completed in around 5’’ and the triple jump should cover about 9m.

On Saturday, the dome was filled with athletes from different schools, of varied ages and sexes. Since the minimum age requirement is 15, many CEGEP students from Montreal were present. Many Stingers shirts could be spotted around the dome, although athletes from all of Montreal’s major universities were there as well.

Ratier explained that results will be analyzed this week. So far, one Concordia player had impressive sprint records—under five seconds.

The Stinger Dome was chosen in part because Ratier thought that the location and quality of the dome made it an ideal location to hold tryouts.

“Rugby and Concordia just go together,” he said.

Ratier is quite excited to see rugby sevens in the Olympics. The classic rugby game has only ever been played once in the 1924 Olympics. An infamous fight broke out in the final between France and the U.S.A., and it was so violent that it was never played again. In fact, the U.S. won the only ever gold Olympic medal for rugby.

According to Ratier, rugby sevens is a better fit for the Olympics, because it is a much faster game. A classic rugby tournament would last three days, while, a rugby sevens tournament can be completed in a day or weekend. The 2016 Olympics in Rio will be the first ever to include rugby sevens. Who knows, the Canadian team just might have some familiar faces.

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News

Students petition for pro-Palestine stance

Petition brought forward and students will vote at by-elections this winter

On Friday, Oct. 17, a meeting held by the CSU confirmed that a petition concerning a referendum on Concordia’s stance on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) can now be brought to students’ attention.

The movement is seeking to increase international pressure on Israel, both politically and economically. According the bdsmovement.org, “The signatories to this call represent the three major components of the Palestinian people: the refugees in exile, Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the discriminated Palestinian citizens of the Israeli state.”

Three Concordians brought forward their desire to distribute this petition, one of whom is CSU Councillor Rami Yahia.

According to Benjamin Prunty, CSU president, the meeting which was held last week was just a formality, as any group of three people or more have the right to collect signatures for a petition.

“The right to petition and ask for a referendum on a given topic is the right of all our members, but they have to come before council prior to circulating the petition,” Prunty said.

He said that the meeting only lasted 15 minutes, “which is indicative of the CSU’s desire to allow the membership to have this sensitive conversation amongst themselves. We will, of course, respect the result of any referendum as the will of our membership trumps the desire of the elected representatives,” Prunty said.

The meeting was held at 6 p.m. on a Friday. Israel on Campus: Concordia University expressed in a statement their discontentment with the fact that this meeting was held on the day of Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday, as well as after sundown, when Sabbath begins.

“I would like to express regret that we held a meeting on a Jewish holiday, and hope that our Jewish community members, which we will of course continue to support in the same way that we support any of our other community members, regardless of the outcome of this referendum, understand that it was not our intention to take a position on an issue during a period in which the Jewish community is sacredly unavailable,” Prunty said.

He also noted that the meeting was purely a formality, and it was not intended for an official stance to be taken on the spot at this meeting. He also said that, should anyone wish to speak to him on the subject, that his door is open during office hours — from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays at the CSU’s downtown office, located in H-711.

At a CSU special council meeting which took place on July 23, the CSU agreed that they were, “against the disproportionate use of force, the use of chemical weapons, the illegal settlements in Palestine and the blockade on Gaza all caused by the state of Israel.”

“The position of the CSU […] is to stand against the illegal occupation in Palestine and the question suggests a tactic for the CSU to endorse alongside our current position,” Prunty said.

Now that the petition has been approved, it will be possible for the students involved to start collecting signatures. For the question to be put on the ballot at by-elections, 500 signatures will be needed. Although the official question has not yet been decided, it will ask for the support of the BDS movement from Concordians.

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