Reshaping society: A call to all catcallers

The Green Party of Quebec is looking to make catcalling a ticketable offence

At 9 a.m. on a winter morning, Sarah Shaw left her apartment wearing a long coat and scarf—neither of which revealed her skin or figure. She walked down the street, and as a group of four men passed by, they began making remarks.

“Hey sexy,” one of them said. Shaw ignored him, but the tallest of the men tried to corner her against a wall. She managed to walk away, but the same man called back to her: “You stupid bitch, you think you’re so much better than me. You don’t even have an ass anyway.”

“I remember it so clearly, because it was so horrifying,” said Shaw, a fine arts student at Concordia. “Men think you owe them attention.”

Like many people who identify women, Shaw is accustomed to this type of commentary known as “catcalling.” It usually involves yelling sexual or derogatory comments at women in a public setting. Based on her experiences, Shaw said this behaviour is prevalent both in Montreal and her small suburban hometown in the United States.

“I just listen to music,” she said. “Part of it is for me, so I don’t have to hear [the catcalling]—but also so I don’t have to deal with it.”

Shaw said catcalling is not only disrespectful, gross and irritating; it’s scary, too. “You don’t know if these people are going to grab you.”


Catcalling is currently legal in Quebec. However, the province’s Green Party wants to change that. Last month, the party announced on social media their desire to make catcalling a ticketable offence. Such legislation would allow a police officer to issue a ticket to someone who is caught or reported to have been yelling derogatory, sexual and other verbal harassments on the street.

The Green Party of Quebec’s post on social media was a way of gaging public opinion and hearing different perspectives, since the proposal is in its early stages. According to the party’s leader, Alex Tyrrell, making catcalling illegal would not require modifying the Criminal Code. Instead, it would be a non-criminal infraction with a fine that would increase for repeat offenders, similar to jaywalking.

“Although the Criminal Code can address intense situations of criminal harassment, it’s not very well equipped to deal with the everyday situations,” Tyrrell said, adding that it is a challenge to reprimand a catcalling perpetrator in criminal court. “We’re trying to address it at a lower level.”

According to Tyrrell, a law against catcalling would be easier to enforce as its own infraction, rather than falling under the scope of criminal harassment. “More people would be sanctioned for their inappropriate behaviour, but it wouldn’t be tying up the court system […] with a whole bunch of criminal trials,” he said. Additionally, people would be less likely to contest fines if they were not considered criminal offences, Tyrrell added.

While the law would not ensure every catcaller is caught, Tyrrell said he is confident that giving police officers the ability to ticket the incidents they witness would help. “There’s an increased chance that people who are frequently engaging in this kind of behaviour will be sanctioned,” he said.

On Tyrrell’s personal Facebook page, where the idea for the legislation was first publicized, some users posted comments questioning the likelihood that the law could pass. Others said the focus should be on educating the public about why catcalling is wrong and encouraged women to stand up to catcallers.

“It’s not reasonable to expect people to confront their aggressors. Why does the burden fall on the victim?” Tyrrell said in response to such comments. “It’s really up to the police to enforce the laws, to sanction this kind of inappropriate behaviour. It’s really kind of strange how people put the responsibility back on the victim so quickly in certain cases.”

There are also concerns this legislation could infringe on Canadian free speech laws, and tickets for catcalling might be contested on these grounds. “They have the right to argue these points in front of a judge,” Tyrrell said. However, he added that if catcalling were considered hate speech, it would not be tolerated in Canada. “If someone was systematically yelling racial slurs at minority groups and encouraging others to do the same, it could be counted as hate speech. The same should apply to people who systematically catcall women because of their gender,” he argued.

In addition to objectifying women based on their gender, catcalling can be racialized as well—something Dina El Sabbagh is quite familiar with. “I feel, often, a catcall will linger when they recognize features in my face, hair and skin,” said the Concordia studio arts student. “Objectifying minorities sheds a different light on the issue of catcalling.”

According to El Sabbagh, men who catcall her often ask where she is from and attempt to speak the language they associate with her appearance. She said this behaviour fetishizes her race and reduces her identity to the desires of the perpetrator. “Object and use of object, ultimately, is what is at the root of catcalling.”
France is the most recent nation to discuss making catcalling illegal, in a proposal put forward to the government in October 2017. Before it can be sent to Parliament to be voted on, however, the proposal needs to be approved by France’s minister of justice, the secretary of state for equality and the minister of the interior. The law would impose a fine on anyone caught making loud, crude comments about a woman’s appearance or body.

According to Marie Balaguy, the political organizer for the Green Party of Quebec, if catcalling were considered an offence, it would make this type of behaviour officially inappropriate. Even if the law is difficult to enforce, she said, it would make people think twice about catcalling.

“I don’t think people realize how much they’re affected by what is declared legal and what is declared illegal,” Balaguy said. Not only does she think a law would change how people view catcalling, but Balaguy said making it a ticketable offence would be a tool of empowerment for women.

Teague O’Meara, a Concordia student in women’s studies, said she vividly remembers the first time she was catcalled. She was about 11 or 12, and ran home in fear of being physically harmed. At the time, O’Meara didn’t know what catcalling was, how to handle the situation or what to expect from the perpetrator.

“I started to get used to it,” she said. “When you get used to it, you’re less likely to comment.” O’Meara added that, when she does speak up against a catcall, she is often harassed even more and called a bitch.


Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

There hasn’t been a single night when Danielle Gasher, a Concordia journalism student, wasn’t catcalled as she walked home from her bartending job in the Plateau at 4 a.m. Whether it’s small remarks or more derogatory, sexual comments, she describes catcalling as “a microaggression and a violation of space.”

When she first had to deal with catcalling, Gasher said she felt timid, scared and would try to ignore the comments. Now, she describes herself as more confident and assertive towards catcallers. This behaviour also angers her much more now, which has lead to potentially dangerous situations.

Gasher’s most recent encounter took place last weekend, while she was walking home from work with a female co-worker along St-Laurent Boulevard around 4:30 a.m. “A car with four men stopped, and one of them rolled down his window to try to pick us up,” Gasher said. “I lost it. I started yelling at him, screaming, ‘Don’t talk to me’ and insulting him.”

“I wanted to humiliate him in front of his friends the same way I have felt violated and humiliated over and over again for years,” she said. The car came to a halt further up the street, Gasher recounted, and the men continued to insult the women and threatened to beat them up. “Luckily, it didn’t happen,” Gasher said. “The streets were empty so, when I think back on it, it probably wasn’t a good idea.”

Gasher said her male co-workers don’t understand what catcalling is like when they tell her to just ignore the behaviour. “They have never been in that position of objectification—the constant male gaze,” she said. “It’s socially accepted harassment, [and] if we keep normalizing it, it’s never going to go away.”

Gasher said that, while she is unsure “throwing a ticket at the problem” will reduce catcalling entirely, she supports the legislation’s attempt to legitimize the behaviour as a inappropriate.

According to Tyrrell, this legislation would be just one component of the Green Party of Quebec’s effort to tackle the province’s rape culture.

“If the Green Party was running the province, there would be a number of initiatives that would be in place,” he said. Among these initiatives would be the implementation of public awareness campaigns about sexual assault, harassment, rape culture and catcalling, as well as improved sexual education in elementary schools.

Balaguy added that a law prohibiting catcalling is a short-term solution. “In an ideal world, that law would become obsolete because catcalling would just not be a thing anymore,” she said. In order to achieve this reality, Balaguy said, a long-term public education plan is necessary to reshape society’s perception of catcalling.

Despite the activist party’s attempt to make the condemnation of catcalling commonplace, Tyrrell said they are “operating in very difficult circumstances,” in reference to a male-dominated provincial government. Out of 125 members in Quebec’s National Assembly, only 37 are women, or just under 30 per cent, according to the National Assembly of Quebec’s official website. In comparison, more than 50 per cent of the Quebec population in female.

However, Tyrrell noted that, since the 2017 municipal elections, there are now many more women holding mayoral positions in Montreal (seven of the 18).

“Maybe they would be interested in adopting [this legislation] at the municipal level,” he said.

The Green Party currently does not hold any seats in the National Assembly. “If we don’t win the election, then we’ll try to pressure other parties to follow,” Tyrrell said, referring the upcoming Oct. 1 provincial election. “Hopefully it will be picked up by progressive parties,” Balaguy added.

According to Tyrrell, the party will be running a series of six consultations in the coming weeks with current party members to determine and finalize the party’s official platform. Catcalling will be among the social justice topics discussed, and the party will release a finalized platform in May, Tyrrell said. “So far, the response to this proposition has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Graphics by Zeze Le Lin


A crude economy: Canada’s dependence on the oil industry

Plans to lower greenhouse gas emissions, while expanding the fossil fuel industry

Thick, sticky, black crude oil infused with sand could realistically be considered Alberta’s lifeblood. Canada’s lust for this natural resource keeps the nation from successfully meeting lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emission goals.

Every day, 2.5 million barrels of the substance are pumped out of Alberta’s land, according to a report released by the Pembina Institute, a Canadian non-profit think-tank. The tar sands account for 140,000 square kilometres of the province’s territory—a slice of land larger than England and only slightly smaller than the state of Florida.

“The oil sands are a key part of the economic growth potential for Canada,” said Amberly Dooley, the manager of the oil sands for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). A driving force of this growth is the demand from the United States, which purchased 3,228 million of the 3,867 million barrels produced across Canada daily in 2016, according to CAPP.

Dooley claimed the oil sands will play a key role in the country’s economic future and projected a 53 per cent increase in output by 2030.

Canada’s dependence on oil as a significant export puts a lot of pressure on the country’s economy—as shown by the matching fluctuation of the price of oil and the Canadian dollar.

“Our dollar is coupled to the price of oil and that’s no coincidence,” said Daniel Horen Greenford, a Concordia PhD student investigating Canada’s impact on climate change. He is looking at how, by exporting oil, Canada drives oil consumption and GHG outside its borders.

According to Horen Greenford, the price of oil and the Canadian dollar have been in sync for about a decade, although Global News claims the trend began as early as 2003. The cause, according to the news outlet, was a rise in the price of oil coupled with a heightened demand from major economies, like the United States and China.

According to Horen Greenford, Canada’s investment in the oil industry over the last decade has made the country’s economy “volatile,” despite only accounting for two per cent of the country’s (gross domestic product) GDP. The same can be said for the job market within this industry.

While the national unemployment rate rose to 6.3 per cent in 2014, the rate in Alberta dropped to 4.4 per cent after the province created 63,700 new jobs that year, according to Statistics Canada. Yet in the first month of 2015 alone, the price of oil plummeted from US$53 to US$31.45 a barrel, reported CTV News. The unemployment rate in Alberta spiked as the province lost 19,600 jobs in 2015—the province’s largest hit since 1982, according to the same source.

By November 2016, Statistics Canada reported that the province’s unemployment rate had peaked at nine per cent. A rise in the price of oil the following year, however, led to the creation of 12,000 new jobs in Alberta, lowering unemployment to 7.8 per cent.

Despite the roller-coaster tendencies of Canada’s oil industry, the allure of employment stems from its potential prosperity. In 2014, the annual salary for newly graduated engineers working in Alberta was $80,000, while employees in senior executive positions earned up to $380,000, according to Oil Sands Magazine.

According to Peter Graham, a professor at Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs, the appeal is based on more than just the salary. “Under the current economic regime, the aspect of having a job and being productive is a critical aspect of identity,” he said. As such, “when unemployment rates go up, suicide rates generally follow.”

Amid the significant drop in oil price in 2015 and the subsequent job losses, CBC News reported that 30 per cent more Albertans committed suicide in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2014.


In November, more than 15,000 members of the global scientific community published a letter in the peer-reviewed journal BioScience, titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.” The letter was a follow-up to an appeal written in 1992 by more than 1,700 independent scientists, which urged a drastic change in environmentally destructive practices in order to avoid “vast human misery.”

The recent version of the letter revisits the 1992 warning and emphasizes the global community’s shortcomings in the decades since.

“Humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse,” the letter reads. “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Despite Canada’s agreement to reduce its GHG emission levels by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, the country plans to expand its fossil fuel industry. From 2014 to 2015, national emission levels only decreased by five megatonnes—from 727 to 722, the National Post reported. This is a far cry from the 2030 target of 523 megatonnes.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, the entire oil and gas sector is the nation’s largest GHG emitter in 2015, responsible for 26 per cent of the country’s emissions. Alberta’s oil sands alone represented 9.8 per cent of these emissions. Close behind was the transportation sector—which relies heavily on the fossil fuel industry—at 24 per cent.

Yet, in 2014, the federal government had approved 81 tar sands mining projects scheduled to begin between that year and 2020, according to the Pembina Institute report. At that time, there were also 74 projects in the application stages and 56 more announced for after 2030. Taking into account that not all of the planned projects will proceed, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers still predicts that, by 2030, oil sands production levels will rise from the 2014 rate of 2.5 million barrels per day to 4.8 million, according to the Pembina report.

As such, it seems reasonable that the Ottawa Citizen reported that oil sands emissions are expected to be responsible for more than half of the total 124 per cent increase in Canada’s GHG output between 2010 and 2030.

“At some point, people will wake up and realize we have a choice: get off fossils fuels or face a very grim—and possibly terminal—future as a species,” said Concordia’s professor Graham. “This means that long-term investments in fossil fuel infrastructure is beyond greedy and stupid—it is suicidal.”

Graham stressed that closing Canada’s oil sands would not only greatly reduce the country’s emission levels, it would also put Canada in “a much better position to exert moral persuasion over countries to cut their emissions and close their mining operations.”

Yet CAPP manager Dooley claims the oil sands are only one piece of the puzzle, since the transportation and industrial sectors are also large GHG emitters. “The oil sands industry is probably one of the leaders in developing technology innovations to help look at reducing the GHG created by the operations in Northern Alberta,” she added.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


As of 2015, there were more employees in the global renewable energy sector than the oil and gas sector, according to the Huffington Post. While renewable energy jobs worldwide totalled 8.1 million in 2015, the oil and gas sector lost 250,000 jobs that same year.

Relying on hydropower as well as wind, geothermal, biomass and solar energy, Costa Rica survived on 100 per cent renewable energy for 300 days this year, according to The Independent. Legislators in Hawaii and California have also set goals to make their states 100 per cent reliant on renewable energy by 2045.

In 2015, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven pledged to make his country “the first fossil-free welfare state in the world,” and announced a US$546-million action plan for renewable energy and climate change, according to Global Research, a Montreal-based centre for research on globalization.

Even oil-giant Saudi Arabia has been making efforts to diversify the country’s economy and reduce its dependency on oil, according to The Washington Post.

In Canada, there were 36,000 employees working in the renewable energy sector, reported by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) last year. Yet, while Canada is the world’s seventh-largest manufacturer of wind energy, 43 per cent of the country’s energy production still comes from crude oil and another 33 per cent from natural gas, according to Natural Resources Canada’s 2016-17 “Energy Fact Book” report.

There are, nonetheless, some sustainable initiatives taking place across the country. Ontario, for example, has become a large producer of wind energy and has reduced operations of coal-fired power plants. In Quebec, Hydro-Québec produces 99 per cent of its electricity using water, which significantly lowers the province’s GHG emissions, according to the company’s website.

According to Natural Resources Canada, 96 per cent of Quebec’s energy in 2010 was generated using hydropower. Yet, on a regional basis, Quebec only generates 4.1 per cent of Canada’s total energy, while Alberta produces 62.8 per cent on average, according to the same source.

“We have the technology but not the political will to move towards greener cities,” said Ricardo Duenez, a Concordia professor in the geography, planning and environment department.

“Fossil fuels are not economically viable anymore,” Graham said. “They’re not good for the economy.” The reason alternative, solar and wind energies are not a bigger part of Canada’s energy production, the Concordia professor explained, is because of a widespread anxiety induced by capitalism that generates an excessive need for natural resources and fear about a reality without these goods.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

“Government will not lead—only follow. The days of heroic and enlightened politicians is over,” Graham said. “Politics has become a career, not a calling. Scientists especially need to re-imagine their role in society.”

Echoing this sentiment, Duenez emphasized the smaller-scale changes that can be made by individual Canadians. As an example, he cited the city-wide compost system that Montreal began expanding on in 2015, with the goal of having every household in the city compost by 2019.

“We need to think [of] what ways we can live together with nature while having a happy lifestyle,” Duenez said. The key, he added, is accepting that we need to learn to live with less.

“Montreal should look around the world for examples,” Duenez said, using Asia’s vertical farming industry as an example. Instead of growing crops in fields outdoors, vertical farming is done inside old warehouses and discontinued factories. Vegetables and herbs are grown in these tight spaces, using unnatural light and cloth instead of soil, according to BBC News.

In 2015, as the price of oil dropped, Alberta oil sands workers created the Iron and Earth initiative to promote sustainable energy and train unemployed electricians from the oil sands for renewable energy jobs in Alberta. According to the initiative’s website, the members of Iron and Earth believe that Canada has failed to take a leading role in the global renewable energy industry and needs to develop “a more diversified approach” to its energy sector.

“Simply waiting for government to act would provide the highest certainty of failure,” Graham said. “Individual people need to change the way they talk to each other, change the way they interact with the environment and change their understandings of the human place in the world.”

Graphics by Zeze Le Lin

Concordia Student Union News

CSU opposes Bill 62 and intends to take action

AVEQ condemns religious neutrality law, Concordia admins uncertain of impact on campus

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) condemned Bill 62—a provincial religious neutrality law—in a motion passed at a special council meeting on Thursday, Oct. 19. The law—which was approved by Quebec’s National Assembly on Oct. 18—requires people to uncover their face when receiving public services or working in Quebec’s public sector.

The special council meeting was originally called to hire a new CEO, however, the motion to oppose Bill 62 was presented without warning and voted upon by CSU councillors.

“Our official position is we reject [the bill]. We demand the Quebec government change it because it’s unconstitutional,” said Ahmed Badr, the CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator. He said it conflicts with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Section 2a of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that everyone is entitled to fundamental freedom of conscience and religion.

“Normally [at] special council meetings, we don’t pass [a motion] unless we give them a notice beforehand, but we didn’t,” Badr said. However, he said the CSU council was supportive of the motion.

According to Badr, now is time for the union to take action. “We will have a petition and we will write letters to the [members of Parliament] who voted for it,” Badr said. “We need Concordia students to sign these letters, and we will send it to the [MPs] telling them that we denounce [the] new law.”

The letters will begin circulating for students to sign as early as Tuesday, Oct. 24, however, Badr said the petition release date is to be determined.

Over the weekend, Badr presented a motion at the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ) congress for the association to condemn the law.

Following the CSU motion, AVEQ officially opposed the religious neutrality law as well. Sophia Sahrane, the AVEQ coordinator of education and research, said religious neutrality laws infrige on values that AVEQ has endorsed since its establishment. She said the organization takes a feminist, anti-racist and anti-discriminatory position.

Kristen Perry, AVEQ’s coordinator of mobilization and associative development, said the association will be releasing a public statement to announce and clarify their position against Quebec’s new law.

Response from administration

“Bill 62 is such a new law, we don’t even have the final text of the law, and we certainly don’t have any of the government’s requirements yet,” Concordia president Alan Shepard told The Concordian.

The bill applies to provincial public-sector services and provincially funded institutions, such as universities and schools, the CBC reported. According to the same source, Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée advised that amendments be added to include municipalities, metropolitan communities and public transit organizations in the bill.

Shepard said the university has not been provided any guidelines or explanation of how to interpret or implement the law. He said he is not certain if the religious neutrality law affects Concordia.

“I’m in no rush to implement a law in which I have no regulations,” Shepard said. “So for now, it’s completely status quo—as if the law weren’t there.”

“The niqab is the first step. They will [eventually] move onto every other religious symbol,” said Bara Abuhamed, a Concordia industrial engineering student and former Muslim Student Association (MSA) executive. He said Bill 62 is likely the first step of many, and he wants to stop it before it starts.

Abuhamed said the fact that the bill is officially identified as a religious neutrality law is problematic. “It’s clear discrimination and a move against religious freedom,” he said.

“We’ve welcomed women before some other institutions, we’ve welcomed religious minorities—we’ve welcomed everybody,” Shepard said. “And we fully intend to keep welcoming everybody.”

Photo by Mackenzie Lad 


The killer drug striking our nation

Rates of fentanyl contamination rise as a more potent opioid hits parts of Canada

Naomi Atkin had heard all about the opioid crisis. For the last three years, the 22-year-old volunteered with harm reduction organizations in Toronto. Among her responsibilities was attending concerts and raves to provide a safe support system to anyone who might have been experiencing a bad drug trip. However, it wasn’t until this summer when her former boyfriend died of a heroin overdose, that the epidemic took on a new meaning for her.

“I’d never been personally affected by it before and had someone actually die,” Atkin said.

Thousands of lives have been lost in Canada because of opioid-related overdoses, spiking in the 2000s with an increase in abuse of prescription and recreational oxycodone, according to the Globe and Mail. While Oxycontin—the brand-name version of oxycodone—was removed from the pharmaceutical market in 2012, other opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil have kept overdose rates high. Atkin’s home province of Ontario reported the second highest number of opioid-related deaths between January 2016 and March 2017, according to federal government statistics. This number, 865, was topped only by British Columbia, the province often deemed ground zero of Canada’s recent opioid epidemic. In April 2016, the province declared a public health emergency following a heightened number of fatal overdoses.

The number of opioid-related deaths in British Columbia was higher in the first six months of 2017 than it had been in that same time frame the year before. However, June saw the lowest number of deaths in 2017 in the province up to that point—a total of 111, which amounts to just under four deaths per day, according to the CBC. Despite the decrease in June, the presence of fentanyl in other illicit substances has accounted for an overall increase in drug overdoses in B.C. since 2012, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

Fentanyl is a potent opioid pain medication typically available by prescription as a patch and about 100 times more powerful than heroin. However, it is no longer the strongest opioid being mixed with other drugs. Carfentanil—which is about 100 times more potent than fentanyl—was first detected on the streets of Vancouver in November 2016, according to the Vancouver Sun. A month later, Health Canada confirmed the opioid was found in Ontario, manufactured to resemble green Oxycontin pills. As little as 20 micrograms of carfentanil can be lethal—a little less than a pinch of salt, according to the Alberta RCMP.

In August 2016, the Calgary Police Service, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency confiscated one kilogram of carfentanil at Vancouver Airport. The confiscated batch would have been enough to create 50 million deadly doses, according to the RCMP. Between September 2016 and June 2017, carfentanil was reported in Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and in a Saskatchewan penitentiary, according to the CBC. While carfentanil has yet to be detected on the streets of Montreal, Global News reported that 209 grams of the substance were seized at the Montreal-Mirabel airport in January.

Of these two opioids, fentanyl remains the most commonly found in Canada. According to an investigation by The Globe and Mail, black market fentanyl is being manufactured in China and illegally smuggled across the Canadian border in packages weighing less than 30 grams—below the legal weight of a package border guards can open without the consent of the recipient.

Fentanyl’s low cost and high potency allows drug dealers to spend less and earn more if they cut the opioid into other drugs, most commonly heroin, to heighten their effects. Across the country, there was a 40 per cent increase in street drugs testing positive for fentanyl, Global News reported in October 2016. According to the CBC, there have been cases in Montreal of fentanyl being found in cocaine, MDMA (molly or ecstasy) and PCP, among other illicit substances.

According to Dr. Warren Steiner, who obtained his degree from McGill and has been practicing psychiatry since 1988, many of Canada’s opioid users originally got hooked on prescription painkillers.

“Doctors, as a group, over the last 10 to 20 years, have been very irresponsible in their use of prescription [opioid] painkillers, and that led to a big part of this,” said Steiner, who has been employed at the Montreal-based private rehab centre 360 DTX since its opening in 2014. Over-prescription of opioids facilitated the development of addiction among many patients, Steiner said. “Then you progress from the regular prescriptions—you start buying from the street, and you go up the ladder to the more and more potent drugs,” he added.

Included in this phenomenon is what Steiner referred to as “divergence of prescription.” In Canada, Steiner said a significant number of prescription painkillers end up in the hands of someone other than the person they were intended for. “It’s not the person they’re prescribed to who ends up taking them—they get borrowed, given away, sold on the streets,” he said. “Divergence of prescription is a big part of the drug problem, and physicians have to take responsibility—and we are. There are now courses and more and more articles and education for doctors to be much more vigilant in prescribing opiates.”

Regardless of the origins of such substance abuse, a key factor in the current opioid crisis is the frequency with which fentanyl and carfentanil end up mixed with other drugs. Based on the stories Atkin has heard, it is something she said can happen more often than most expect.

“A lot of dealers sell more than one type of drug—so someone who has a lot of cocaine might also be selling heroin or fentanyl,” she said, adding that this can lead to contamination of lesser drugs. Traces of fentanyl as little as three milligrams—while sufficient to trigger an overdose—will not be enough to evenly contaminate an entire batch of cocaine. As Atkin explained, this makes contamination less likely to show up with a drug test kit if only a portion of the batch is tested. “That’s why it’s important to be prepared,” Atkin said. “You never know when that could happen.”

Atkin recently began volunteering at a pop-up safe injection site in Moss Park in downtown Toronto because she wanted to be more involved in preventing fatal overdoses. “I think that nothing good comes to people who are using heroin because it’s just so dangerous—especially now,” she said. “I saw someone overdosing on the street just a few weeks ago.” Although she had a naloxone kit with her—the opioid overdose antidote—an ambulance arrived before she needed to use it.

“I thought about it afterwards, and even though it was such a scary experience, I would rather have been prepared for something like that, than not at all,” Atkin said. “It’s important to realize that anything can happen at any moment, and being prepared is better than the alternative.”


Graphic by Zeze Le Lin
The opioid epidemic flows from British Columbia, the province often deemed ground zero of Canada’s recent opioid epidemic. Graphic by Zeze Le Lin
Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Cold, clammy skin. A limp body, seemingly deep in sleep. Slow breathing. A faltering or halted heartbeat. These are the symptoms of an overdose.

Imagine you and your friends are sitting around a coffee table snorting cocaine. A mid-party upper to boost your energy perhaps. You start off small, to test your tolerance. Your friend, on the other hand, snorts a larger line. Following that bump, your friend sinks back into the couch, looking dopey or at least quite out of it. They become unresponsive and look as if they’re settling into a deep sleep. They may begin snoring or choking, their fingernails or skin may turn blue, their pupils may grow small or their eyes will begin to roll back. Not only is it important to know that these are not the typical effects of cocaine use, it could also be life-saving to know that these signs are likely indicative of fentanyl or carfentanil contamination.

Death caused by an overdose can happen within minutes of ingesting the drug, although it often happens up to a few hours later after the user has fallen into a deep sleep. Nonetheless, overdoses need to be handled swiftly.

In a scenario like the one described above, call 911 immediately. Someone should check the person’s breathing—if it’s slow or shallow, inject naloxone to regulate their breathing. If naloxone is not available, administer CPR to help the person breathe until first responders arrive.

If the person’s breathing is compromised, a lack of oxygen can cause brain damage within minutes. “When you have a lot more of that substance in your blood, then other receptors are also triggered, and those receptors are decreasing the ability of the brain to breathe,” according to Dr. Sophie Gosselin, a medical toxicologist at the McGill University Health Centre. “Rather than breathing at 16 breaths per minute, some of these people breathe at eight breaths per minute, or four breaths per minute,” she said. “That’s not enough to give the body all the oxygen it needs and that’s when they go into a coma.”

If you incorrectly assess an overdose and inject naloxone, it will not harm the person, as naloxone does not induce a high—it only blocks effects of other opioids to the brain.

“A death from an opiate overdose is really someone falling asleep, losing consciousness and getting into a very deep sleep where they can’t wake up, even though they should feel the need to breath—they stop breathing and they die from that,” according to Steiner.

As Gosselin explained, when the brain does not have enough oxygen it strokes out and your heart starts to give out––sometimes the user will stop breathing all together.

“If a user experiencing an overdose has a stroke from lack of oxygen and is placed on life support, the damage has already been done,” Gosselin added. “If taken off life support, their body would not have the ability to sustain breathing alone.”

Although there are three categories of opioids—natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic—the effects these drugs have on the brain are the same. They all bind to opiate receptors in the brain. The difference is the degree in strength of each opioid.

Natural opiates, such as codeine and morphine, are commonly used to alleviate pain and accompany a variety of medical procedures. “Those activate the opiate system very mildly,” Steiner said, adding that these drugs activate only about five per cent of a person’s opiate receptors.

Stronger, semi-synthetic opioids, however, such as heroin and oxycodone, have a greater impact on receptors. “They bind very strongly to these receptors in the brain, and they really turn on the system,” Steiner said. This is what makes these substances highly addictive, but also more dangerous. “The opiate system affects the respiration and the heart, which is why people overdose and die.”

Naloxone is the medication used to counter the effects of opioids and is either injected or ingested as a nasal spray. It can reverse an overdose by blocking opiate receptors, essentially pushing the heroin or fentanyl off the receptors, Steiner explained. “[Naloxone is] something that can save many, many lives if it’s out there in the community.”


The municipal government has been taking precautions over the last few months in preparation for a predicted influx of opiate overdoses. Safe injection sites were introduced at the beginning of the summer and, in September, the city announced an initiative to make naloxone more accessible.

An approximation of the amount of each drug that could induce an overdose. Photo by Alex Hutchins

Safe injection sites provide a space for users to inject drugs and, if there is a medical emergency, a healthcare worker employed at the site can attend to the person.

Two safe injection sites opened in Montreal in June: Dopamine in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Cactus in downtown Montreal. “For us, it has been a nine-year battle to open this site in our facility,” said Martin Pagé, the director of Dopamine. Pagé said another safe injection site is set to open in the Centre-Sud neighbourhood this fall. Once all three sites are open to the public, they are estimated to provide service for a total of 200 to 300 drug injections per day, according to Montreal Gazette.

After the centres close for the day—Dopamine closes at 1 a.m. and Cactus at 4 a.m.—a van drives around Montreal offering a mobile safe injection space. The service is called Spectre de Rue.

Safe injection sites exist in Vancouver, with plans to open others in Surrey and Victoria have been approved by the federal government. Ottawa opened its first safe injection site on Sept. 26 and Toronto currently has a pop-up site in Moss Park.

When asked if safe injection sites would encourage drug use or not, Steiner said, “People are going to use drugs and they’re going to use them badly, but you try to protect them. You can’t just say because someone’s a drug user, they deserve to die.”

On Sept. 5, Mayor Denis Coderre announced a pilot project to supply police officers and firefighters in certain boroughs with naloxone kits and training to use the antidote, according to the CBC.

Access to naloxone has been scarce in Montreal, as only four pharmacies in the city carry the antidote, according to the National Observer. Additionally, proper training on how to administer naloxone has been limited to first responders, community workers and staff at the city’s safe injection sites.

“It is an epidemic in B.C. and it’s an epidemic in Toronto and the states,” Steiner said. “I wouldn’t call it an epidemic [in Montreal], but it’s certainly a public health crisis, which we don’t want to become an epidemic.”

Safe injection sites provide the community with greater access to naloxone. However, some, like Pagé, believe there needs to be greater access outside of these sites.

Pagé said he believes naloxone kits should be distributed in Montreal. “We administer at the moment, but we do not give the kit,” Pagé said. “[Police and firefighters] should have had [naloxone] a long time ago. For us, the authorities are a bit late.”

“It’s going to come east,” he said, referring fentanyl and carfentanil. “There was no reason to think that [Eastern Canada] should be spared from this crisis.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Anti-capitalist activists march in rainy May Day protest

One person arrested amid multiple peaceful protests in Montreal

Activists marched from the streets of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve to downtown Montreal denouncing capitalism in the annual May Day protest on Monday, May 1.

May Day—also known as International Workers’ Day or Labour Day in certain countries—honours the struggles and working conditions of the working class, promotes anti-capitalism and is supported by various anarchist, socialist and communist groups worldwide.

Activist fills the air with a green smog ahead of the crowd as they march along Ontario street. Photo by Savanna Craig.

One group of about 50 anti-capitalist supporters initially gathered outside Frontenac metro station in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district around 5:30 p.m., while a small band played a melody with trumpets, flutes and a drum.

This particular march was organized by the Syndicat industriel des travailleurs et travailleuses de Montréal-Industrial Workers of the World (SITT-IWW), a working-class union with the mission of improving working conditions and creating worker-driven workplaces, communities and industries, according to the SITT-IWW website.

A large cloud of red smoke from a smoke bomb filled the air as the protesters at Frontenac metro were joined by another march that had originated elsewhere. The combined crowd of approximately 150 people marched along Ontario Street, cheering and chanting.

Officers marched along each side of the manifestation. Photo by Savanna Craig.

“Tout le monde déteste la police,” marchers cried out, which translates to “everyone hates the police.” As participants howled in unison, a line of police officers marched on either side of the protest, and cops on bicycles rode ahead and followed behind the crowd.

Protesters continued to set off smoke bombs throughout the march, filing the air with yellow, red, blue and green smoke. In addition to the haze of smoke that hovered above the crowd, protesters were soaked by alternating light and heavy rainfall.

Approaching the downtown core, protesters continued to chant against capitalist agendas as they marched through lanes of traffic along René Lévesque Boulevard. “Police de Montréal: milice du capital,” they shouted—‘Montreal police: capital militia’ in English.

All three protests eventually converged in Phillips Square. Photo by Savanna Craig.

As participants headed towards Phillips Square, they were greeted by another May Day march that had begun mobilizing in the square.

Just before the two groups joined forces, one protester was arrested for the alleged armed assault of a Montreal police officer, according to the SPVM’s Twitter feed. The SPVM also reported that no one was injured during the march.

SPVM Officers guard SPVM station 20 on Ste Catherine street. Photo by Savanna Craig.

As the march continued along Ste. Catherine Street, a police bus and a row SPVM officers stood guard in front of the SPVM’s Station 20 near Concordia University. To avoid approaching the station, protesters turned down Bishop Street, heading back towards René Lévesque. A protester fired a flare into the air, and one participant used their phone’s speaker to play N.W.A’s “Fuck Tha Police.”

The rain began to pour more heavily and the streets filled with large puddles as the crowd of now almost 300 people headed towards the Plateau.

The beat of a drum rumbled through the crowd as the march neared UQAM. When the march drew to a close around 9 p.m. on the corner of Kimberley and Ste. Catherine Street, the crowd erupted into cheers before many headed into the Place-des-Arts metro station.

The march concluded at Place-des-Arts station. Photo by Savanna Craig.

SPVM officers followed the protesters into the metro, and the drumming and cheering continued as people waited on the platforms. It wasn’t until the doors closed and the metro cars pulled away from the station that the march officially ended and silence fell at Place-des-Arts station.


Women in positions of power

Examining sexism, mansplaining and the gender-based obstacles women face in their careers

Regardless of the strides taken by Canadian women to gain rights and strengthen their position in society, issues of gender equality are still present and prominent today. Women in Canada earn 72 per cent of a man’s wage, and various obstacles and barriers hinder them in their careers.

The Concordian sat down with five women in positions of power to discuss intersectional, gender-based obstacles and sexism they have faced in the workplace.

Homa Hoodfar, a retired professor of sociology and anthropology at Concordia University, experienced physical and emotional struggles in the last year during her 112-day imprisonment in Evin prison in Iran. Looking back at the days before her imprisonment, Hoodfar recalled barriers she faced as a professor, a researcher and a young, female immigrant.

“I didn’t experience my gender separate from my ethnicity,” said Hoodfar. “The question was I was a woman—but also I was an immigrant—so there are two different obstacles.”

Despite working in the more female-driven departments of sociology and anthropology, Hoodfar said she didn’t feel she was taken seriously enough. During her first few years of teaching at Concordia, she said she and some of her colleagues felt that, if they were less formal or less strict, students wouldn’t take them as seriously as male professors.

Graphic by Florence Y

“In my case, I also had an accent. I [am] Iranian and so it was—when I was younger—it was a problem, and then [when] I got older that kind of passed,” Hoodfar said. The increase in respect is one of the advantages of getting older, she added with a laugh.

Hoodfar’s research involves studying gender in the Middle East. Often, people criticize the sexism and gender inequality present in Muslim cultures, but the presence of these issues in other cultures and religions is not discussed as much, said Hoodfar.

“It has been a challenge throughout to talk about these issues, but part of academia and the scholarly work is to … find out and come out with a more realistic understanding of the context,” she said.

She said discussions around feminism have altered throughout her life. “Well certainly 20 years ago … not everybody, but a lot of people looked at feminism more as a political stance than a scholarly stance,” Hoodfar said. “[Now] it is fairly well-established that feminism, just like class analysis, is a very important perspective.” She said, while there are still people who do not accept feminism, they do not feel as comfortable expressing these views.

In terms of critiquing the current state of the workforce, Concordia alumna and current managing director of the Youth and Innovation Research Project at University of Waterloo, Ilona Dougherty, said she finds men still have more power in the workforce.

“What I feel like I’ve observed in my career is men—I don’t exactly know why this is—but men tend to move forward more quickly, just based on their ideas, versus on what they’ve actually accomplished,” Dougherty said. She added that she believes women are asked to prove the validity of their ideas more often than men. “There’s definitely a dynamic where we expect that men are experts, and we seem to have a little bit harder [of] a time accepting women as thought leaders or experts,” she said.

Since graduating from Concordia, Dougherty has led a national charity committed to generating youth voter engagement for 10 years. Dougherty, who has also worked as a keynote speaker and a columnist, said she’s noticed many of the spaces she’s worked in were predominantly male.

Having been on at least five boards of directors, including Volunteer Canada and Michaëlle Jean Foundation, Dougherty said she found herself being disregarded sometimes. However, she did note other boards were very supportive. “It’s kind of the double whammy of being young and being female, which I think is pretty challenging,” she said. “It’s hard to tell when it’s gender and when it’s age … When you’re challenged on something irrelevant when you’re an expert, that’s not very fun.”

“I definitely have been the most expert person in the room and I’ve been criticized on body language,” she said. “[I’ve been] taken aside and told that I cross my arms too much or that I was looking frustrated—I was in a board meeting that was frustrating,” she said. “My ideas [were] being dismissed because of small things.”

In terms of spaces within student politics and Concordia governance, Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis, general coordinator of the Concordia Student Union (CSU), has found herself being overly aware of her femininity in environments with administrators, where these spaces are predominantly male. Marshall-Kiparissis said she has found herself not wanting to look informal, so she will dress up, as she is conscientious of the fact she may not be taken as seriously otherwise.

However, Marshall-Kiparissis recognizes her privilege, as she is a white woman who identifies as the gender she was born, is able-bodied, and a woman who falls under conventional hetero-norms of appearance. “It’s easier for me to go into a space and represent myself as this image of what it is to look like a woman [and] to be taken seriously in professional spaces.”

Graphic by Florence Y

“Something I noticed a lot on council, even as a councillor and even as an executive, is I would say something or I would make a point, and for a lack of a better term, there’s a pattern of mansplaining,” said Marshall-Kiparissis. She identifies mansplaining as where after she explains a situation or makes a statement, a man will then restate exactly what she said.

“I’m not saying this is all males or male-identifying people who [are] in these positions, but it’s a pattern of peers raising their placards and saying the same thing I said but with the sense of, ‘Well if I’m saying it then you know it makes it real,’” she said. “There is a tendency that I’ve seen a lot more with male-identified folks, where they really want to hear themselves talk.”

Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) vice-president of internal affairs and soon-to-be interim general coordinator, Julia Sutera Sardo, has had similar experiences with of mansplaining. During an ASFA council meeting on Jan 12, Sutera Sardo told a male colleague to stop mansplaining after she was discussing her motion for ASFA to support and fund menstrual products for those that experience periods. In addition, when she tried to introduce menstrual hygiene products, she said her idea was interrupted and shut down because some men in the room felt uncomfortable discussing providing these products.

Regardless of this instance, Sutera Sardo has seen an improvement among council members. “I have noticed an improvement at ASFA because people think about things before they state them, I think having our council meetings filmed, for example, that brings a lot of transparency to the meeting and people are more careful of what they say and how they react.” She said this has helped reduce the accounts of mansplaining. However, she said she still notices hints of mansplaining now and then.

Outside of Canada, sexism is more prominent and obvious, whereas in Canada some find sexism to be more camouflaged.

Canada is not as overt with sexism, but however more covert, said Andrea Krasznai, the current president of ASFA. She said it may be harder for her to identify sexism because it’s more subtle. She found, in her country of origin, Romania, she has experienced more sexist behaviour.

Krasznai has not encountered apparent obstacles or discrimination within the Concordia community over identifying as lesbian, but in the educational system in Romania, she was bullied. However, she did hear comments on her sexuality while attending the High School of Montreal Adult Centre. At one point, she was told she was too girly to be gay, based on how she dressed.

However, at the first job she had in Montreal, a McDonald’s, she was hired at the same time as someone else, who was male. “I did all the jobs, I did the drive-thru, the cash, the kitchen—at one time I did all three jobs at the same time while he was stocking up the kitchen.” She said soon afterwards the male employee was promoted. “He only knows one position, [whereas] I know three positions.” She said it was hurtful.

“I used to be a very anxious girl when I came into Concordia in 2013 and now I’m the president of the third largest faculty in Canada,” said Krasznai.

“I feel like a lot of the times the roles that we’re told that we can’t take in society or what we should do, regardless of our gender, dictates what we think we can or cannot do,” said Krasznai. “If you want to do something, you can do anything.”


Undermining female reporters

Confronting sexist rhetoric and gender-based obstacles as a female reporter

Pry your eyes off my legs—I am not here for your gaze, I am not just an object to stare at. Don’t call me sweetie, I’m not here to be your date. I’m here as a reporter—to interview you, not to put up with your excessive and inappropriate passes. I’m not here to have my credibility undermined by your overt sexism.

I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons in my two years working for The Concordian and in my first year of journalism school. However, a hot topic I find lacking in the curriculum is how to deal with sexism, harassment and constantly trying to be taken seriously—all things that seem to come with the territory of being a female reporter.

It’s not uncommon for my attentiveness and eye contact during interviews to be interpreted not as traits of a diligent reporter, but rather, as flirting that encourages inappropriate behaviour from some. This has often made me extra vigilant when I have to interview men.

In the last year and a half as a news reporter, and naturally as an intuitive person, I’ve become familiar with the insinuation of certain types of eye contact and non-verbal communication. Oftentimes, the interviewee’s body language and eye contact are just signs of attentiveness to my questions. Other times, it’s almost impossible to ignore I am being sexualized and thought of in an objectifying way when I’m trying to do my job.

Body language is one thing, but the commentary is another. Whether it’s before, during, or after an interview, it’s never an appropriate time to ask if I’m single, free later or pose any other questions about my personal life. While my interviewee is always informed on the nature of the interview and article I’m writing, I’m never given the same outlines for the way I will be hit on or undermined as a female reporter.

The thing I love most about being a journalist is meeting and speaking with people who have a variety of opinions and aspirations. However, sometimes those in positions of power have been troublesome. I’ve found myself in situations where male faculty at Concordia think it’s appropriate to ask me invasive questions, or even to ask me out on a date. I’ve even encountered people who will request coverage of an event as a sly attempt at getting to know me better, hoping an interview will turn into a date.

There have been many times where I’ve gotten the impression that my gender undermines my credibility and judgement in the eyes of the people I collaborate with and report on. I once had a source question my choice of words in an article, only to ignore my response for a month, then eventually respond with an apology—followed by asking me out on a date.

Not only are some of my own experiences as a reporter troublesome, the language used towards female reporters is also problematic.

Too often, the response I receive when I mention I’m a journalism student or a news editor is, “I can totally see you on camera,” or “You would be a great news anchor!” Yes, these are nice comments—but when you break it down, it’s easy to see there is an immediate assumption that how I look is what makes me fit to sit in front of a camera. It undermines my capability and my work as a journalist, and is essentially presumptuous, sexist rhetoric.

Since this issue seems to be deeply rooted in our society, I believe media outlets and schools with journalism departments should take it upon themselves to better tackle sexism and address gender-based obstacles that non-male counterparts may face in the field. It’s important and necessary to learn how to professionally handle instances of sexism, racism or any other kind of mistreatment.

Graphic by Florence Y


Then and now: Concordia’s history of supporting immigrants

Recent CSU election referendum question shows students support creating sanctuary campus

Concordia students voted in favour of recognizing the university as a sanctuary campus, based on a referendum question asked during the Concordia Student Union (CSU) elections held between March 28 and 30.

While the vote expressed student support by students for Concordia becoming a sanctuary campus, the final decision to become one rests with the university.

As a sanctuary campus, the university would be prohibited from disclosing information about current or past students, faculty or staff to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), protecting them from deportation. The vote follows Montreal’s decision to become a sanctuary city in a unanimous vote by the city council on Feb. 20.

While these votes represent a recent surge in support for protecting immigrants, Concordia has a long history of providing a safe space to immigrants and fighting to end oppression on campus.

Before receiving its university charter in 1948 and merging with Loyola College in 1974 to become Concordia, Sir George Williams College was first known as the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The YMCA opened in Montreal on Nov. 25, 1851, and was located at the intersection of des Récollets Street and Sainte-Hélène Street in Old Montreal. The school would move to Drummond Street in 1912 before moving again to its current location—the Hall building, which is the oldest building of Concordia’s downtown campus, opened in 1966.

Although the institution was initially a university solely for Canadian men, in 1870 the school began offering night classes open to women and immigrants, according to the YMCA.

As an influx of Jewish immigrants came to Canada between the 1920s and 1950s, McGill University had implemented a quota for the admittance of Jewish students, limiting this demographic to a certain number of spots, according to The Globe and Mail. As a result, many students who were turned away from McGill between the 1920s and 1950s ended up attending Sir George Williams College.

The fact that Sir George Williams College also offered night classes allowed mature students who worked during the day a chance to receive an education. In addition to the increase in Jewish students, the 1940s and 1950s saw an influx of veterans and immigrants attending Sir George Williams College.

In the 1960s, Canada altered its immigration policies, removing brazen racist immigration policies. In addition, changes in views on immigration led to the Quebec government taking the issue into their own hands during this decade by establishing a provincial immigration department.

These more reasonable policies allowed immigrants to enter Canada more easily, and Canada saw another influx of immigrants, particularly from the Caribbean. Although Sir George Williams University accepted many of these immigrants, a lot of these students faced systemic racism.

The Henry F. Hall building, opened on 1966. Photo courtesy of Records Management and Archives at Concordia.

For example, in the spring of 1969, students held a 14-day sit-in on the ninth floor of the Hall building in response to a lack of action on the part of the university with regards to a professor, Perry Anderson, allegedly giving black students low grades based on their race. The sit-in was initiated by Caribbean students who faced oppression and resulted in 400 students gathering in the computer lab in the Hall building to protest.

Aftermath of Sir George Williams Affair. Photo courtesy of Records Management and Archives at Concordia.

The sit-in ended in a riot, an unexplained fire in the Hall building and millions of computer cards and documents fluttering from the windows onto de Maisonneuve Boulevard and nearby streets. According to the CBC, 97 people were arrested and estimates at the time placed the total damages at about $2 million. The accused professor was found not guilty of racism in the summer of 1969. However, following this incident, the university amended its procedures and policies, implementing the Ombuds office—which provides aid and a informal resolution of concerns and complaints in regards to the application of university policies, rules and procedures—and a code of conduct, according to the CBC.

These events, known as the Computer Riots or the Sir George Williams Affair, was remembered at the time as the largest student occupation in Canada.

As Concordia has a long history of standing against forms of oppression, the CSU hopes the university will listen to the desires of the student body and become a sanctuary campus.

Photo courtesy of Records Management and Archives at Concordia.

“We need to remember our roots,” said Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis, the CSU’s general coordinator. “One of the major parts of Concordia is the Sir George Williams campus.”

“It was … an institution for students who could not access something like McGill,” she added. [They] could still get an education that fit within their lives, their financial and time-based limitations and family obligations.”

Concordia being recognized as a sanctuary campus would be in keeping with the university’s history of supporting all of its students. “We have a mandate from students—this is something they want to see as a priority. Any team that comes forward is beholden to show that they advocate for that,” Marshall-Kiparissis said.

Aloyse Muller, the CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator, is the one who proposed the idea, and was the main representative from the CSU pushing for its adoption. However, he said the sanctuary campus was a collective discussion and decision.

“A number of students and community members were involved in the process. We also consulted several times with Solidarity Across Borders,” he said. Solidarity Across Borders is a migrant justice network which originated in Montreal in 2003, that provides aid to individuals facing refugee systems and unjust immigration policies.

“The sanctuary campus referendum question was in line with previous positions adopted by the Council of Representatives,” Muller said. This includes the CSU’s position to oppose the CBSA on campus, to promote Concordia’s refusal to collaborate with the CBSA and the CSU’s endorsement of the right for all to move freely and unrestricted by borders.

“However, the executive felt that, for this kind of position, the student body needed to be consulted and this is why we sent it to referendum,” he added.

The Norris building, opened in 1956. Photo courtesy of Records Management and Archives at Concordia.

According to Muller, making Concordia a sanctuary campus will allow immigrant students to “frequent this university free from worry on these premises, and [know] that Concordia will not disclose any information it has about them to immigration services.”

In the fall, two CBSA agents visited campus to meet with Concordia security to collect information on a student, according to Muller and Marshall-Kiparissis.

“Concordia security has refused to disclose any information about their meeting and its purpose, but the CSU has filed an access to information request, and we hope to learn more about what happened,” Muller said. Marshall-Kiparissis said the university has postponed responding to the access to information request.

“I want to underline though that this vote did not make Concordia a sanctuary campus [yet], and that much work is left to implement these measures,” Muller said.

In order for Concordia to be officially recognized as a sanctuary campus, the demands voted on by students in the CSU election must be implemented by the university—this includes not allowing the CBSA on Concordia premises and not sharing any information about its past and current students, faculty and staff with immigration services.


The fight to end sexual violence at Concordia

Have Your Say survey aims to shed light on the way Concordia deals with sexual violence

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) are creating a report based on results from a survey that sought student input on the way Concordia handles cases of sexual violence on campus. The report will be published this week and presented to Concordia University’s administration and the Quebec minister of education.

Before filling out the survey, students were invited to a “Have Your Say” event held on March 16, where they were informed about the consultations the Quebec government is hosting to examine sexual violence at the province’s universities and CEGEP. The consultations hosted by Higher Education Minister Hélène David were held in Montreal, Quebec City, Gatineau and Saguenay during the month of March.

Stacey Gomez, the action coordinator for the CGA, said the survey collected student feedback on how the Quebec government can respond to and prevent sexual violence on its university campuses.

“Our hope is to come up with a report that highlights student recommendations around how the campus can be a safer place, and how to better respond to sexual violence on campus,” Gomez said.

Lana Elinor Galbraith, the sustainability coordinator for the CSU and the person writing the report, said she hopes the report will encourage the university to create an actionable plan which will incorporate students’ suggestions.

In January, Galbraith attended a conference where student unions across Quebec were invited to discuss how different universities are handling matters of sexual assault. She was disappointed to learn that Concordia is one of the only universities that is relatively advanced. “We are the only ones that have a Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) that’s paid for by the university and run by the university.” SARC offers support to students, faculty and staff who have been impacted by sexual harassment or assault.

Among the feedback gathered from the survey, Gomez said improving the services offered by the SARC was an important recommendation. “One of the things that came out of the Have Your Say event … was the need to have more resources for SARC and more staff,” Gomez said.

“For a long time, there was only one staff person for the entire campus. Now there are two,” she said, adding there is also a team of volunteers at the SARC.

“As we know, sexual violence on campus is a major issue, and so that’s not enough resources to be able to support students,” Gomez said.

In addition, Gomez said mandatory consent training was suggested for students at the university, particularly for those living in residence or involved in frosh.

“Many students mentioned that they did not feel supported by staff at the university, profs and also security,” Gomez said. She said the survey mentioned it would be beneficial for these parties to receive training on how to support survivors and address sexual violence. This would ensure that those in positions of power on campus “can be more understanding, more empathetic and more accommodating to students who are experiencing difficulties as a result of having experienced sexual violence,” Gomez said.

Graphic by Florence Yee

Fo Niemi, the co-founder and executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a small Montreal-based non-profit civil rights organization that has handled 15 cases involving students at Concordia, weighed in on how Concordia’s security often handles reports of sexual assault.

“One of the things that comes back often is that they complain security staff are usually trained to handle crowds, demonstrations, security concerns such as … or terrorism or emergencies, but not the aspect of what we call the human violence,” Niemi said.

According to Niemi, CRARR has been in contact with some women who have brought forth legal action against universities in Ontario and B.C. where they were assaulted or harassed.

“We’re not sure [if the way security handles complaints] has really been looked at in an objective manner or a more transparent manner, and I think that is the key thing,” Niemi said. “Some cases we’ve heard is that security, either they don’t know how to deal with it or sometimes they themselves may do something that could possibly put the victims or the survivors in a very uncomfortable position—even if they mean well,” Niemi said.

Jennifer Drummond, the coordinator of the SARC, said many individuals in positions of power at Concordia already receive training. “All different parts of the Concordia community receive training on [sexual assault awareness and bystander intervention], including the security department, upper administrators and the president’s executive group,” Drummond said. “Part of SARC’s education plan, as outlined in the Sexual Assault Working Group’s report recommendation, is to continue to expand the number of groups that receive these trainings—which will include faculty and staff in frontline positions.”

Drummond believes the university has taken the right strides in preventing and responding to sexual violence. “Implementing a sexual violence policy … and having a sexual assault centre with individuals able to accompany the survivor through both internal and external processes can encourage reporting and are evidence of an institution that takes this issue seriously,” Drummond said. “We see female, male and trans* survivors. There are some resources that we provide that are specific to male and trans survivors,” she added.

Drummond said these steps can encourage students to come forward about their experiences with sexual violence. However, many cases are dismissed, go undocumented and, therefore, don’t make it into larger databases about sexual assault.

“Research suggests that less than 10 per cent of sexual assaults are reported to police,” said Drummond. In addition, she said it can be expected within schools for there to be low numbers of reports, as survivors in institutions face various barriers in disclosing and reporting a case of sexual assault.

According to a 2015-2016 report released by Concordia, 16 complaints of sexual assault were made to the university during that year, with only three of these complaints resulting in a hearing or investigation. During the 2014-2015 school year, 16 complaints were made to the Office of Rights and Responsibilities under the category of “sexual harassment.” During this time, there was not a stand-alone policy specifically for sexual assault at Concordia. Instead, data of harassment and assault were both categorized under sexual harassment.

In a 20-month investigation into authorities’ management of sexual assault cases, conducted by The Globe and Mail, it was discovered that one in five sexual assault allegations in Canada are viewed as groundless, resulting in them being dismissed and unfounded—meaning the allegations were not taken seriously, leading the accusation being dismissed rather than documented. Once a case is dismissed, it is no longer considered a legitimate allegation, according to the report.  In this investigation, it was revealed 19.39 per cent of cases in Canada are unfounded, almost twice as high as the rate for physical assault.

The Globe and Mail curated this information by filing 250 access to information requests with police services across the country and requested data from 1,100 jurisdictions. The investigation included responses from 873 jurisdictions, which accounts for 92 per cent of the Canadian population.

In Montreal, the same investigation revealed that, over a five year period, 1,256 out of 6,893 allegations—just over 18 per cent—were identified as unfounded.

Graphic by Pauline Soumet

The Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) launched a Sexual Assault Awareness Week on March 27. The week aims to raise awareness of sexual assault not only at McGill, but in the broader Montreal community, by hosting events and workshops between March 27 and 31.

While neither Concordia nor SARC host a sexual assault awareness week, university spokesperson Chris Mota said, “We see every day as an opportunity to raise awareness.” Mota added that SARC has upcoming events, including an open house on Wednesday, March 29. The SARC will also be holding an event on Thursday, April 13 to summarize the consultations held in Montreal by the Quebec government in March.

“Concordia was the first university in Canada to create the position of Sexual Harassment Advisor in 1987, and one of the first to adopt a policy on sexual harassment in the early 1990s,” Mota said.

“In 2013, Concordia launched the Sexual Assault Resource Centre to inform the campus community about consent, prevention and survivor support,” Mota said. “We felt it was an important step in supporting our community by providing services that specifically deal with sexual assault, given the issue of sexual assaults on campuses across Canada.”

Niemi said he has noticed some sexual violence cases at the university level may be prolonged or have unnecessary delays—there is the issue of the level of adequate support that is really given to the women. Niemi said he has not seen a difference in the way cases of sexual assault or harassment have been dealt with by the university since SARC has been implemented.

“For a student [body] of so many thousands of students with so much diversity [to] have only one person, Jennifer Drummond … She can be a superwoman, but she can’t address all of these things,” Niemi said. “They need at least three to four people in that office in addition to our support staff in order to work.”

SARC recently hired a service assistant and relocated for greater accessibility on campus. Fifteen people currently make up the SARC’s volunteer team.

When asked about expansion in terms of the team and the centre’s presence on campus, Drummond said, “SARC is still a very new service at Concordia and I expect, as time goes on, we will continue to expand our team and presence on campus.”


Results for ASFA general elections announced

Elections were extended half a day due to not reaching quorum by 13 votes

The results for the Arts & Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) general elections have been released with a total of 459 votes. All of the candidates for the executive team ran unopposed and were successfully voted in. One of the four referendum questions on the ballot was not passed.

ASFA extends election period for half a day after not reaching quorum. Graphic by Florence Yee.

The voting period for ASFA general elections were extended by half a day due to the elections not reaching the  quorum—the 435 ballots cast necessary to legitimize the election—after students cast their votes between March 21 to 23 to elect a new ASFA executive team for 2017-2018 and vote upon four referendum questions.

Julia Sutera Sardo, currently ASFA vice-president of internal affairs was successfully elected president with 305 votes, 53 abstaining votes and 91 votes against.

Christopher Czich won the position of VP of Social Affairs, with 297 votes in favour; Bianca Bruzzese obtained the role as VP of External Affairs and Sustainability with 266 votes in favour; Gregory Bedell was elected VP of Loyola and Academic Affairs with 239 votes in favour. Also, Steven Tutino won VP of Internal Affairs with 265 votes in approval and Francesco Valente won with 295 votes in favour for the position of VP Finance.

The role of vp of Communications and Promotions has not been filled, as no one ran during general elections.

For the role of independent councillors, all four candidates running were elected; Andrea Gauthier, Rachel Hutchinson, Gaëlle Kouyoumdjian and Alisa Knezevic. There remains one open spot for a fifth independent councillor which remains unfilled.

Three of the four referendum questions in this election were passed. The proposal for ASFA’s fee levy to be raised by $0.12/credit—from $1.22/credit to $1.34/credit, put into effect in Fall semester 2017—was rejected by students: 207 voted no, while 166 voted in favour and 56 abstained.

However, the second referendum question was passed to allow quorum for Annual General Elections, By-Elections and any Referendum questions to be lowered from a requirement of 2.5 per cent of the students ASFA represents, being more than 20,000 students—this election’s quorum was set at 435 students—down to 400 students. This passed by 207 votes, with 137 votes opposed.

The third bylaw asked students to vote for changes to the ASFA bylaws to alter the students allowed on the organization’s financial committee. The changes, which were approved with 185 votes in favour, allows for a student at large—meaning a student who is neither an executive or councillor—to be part of the committee which approves budgets for events and ASFA’s member associations.

Finally, the referendum question for ASFA executive positions to be changed to non-hierarchical titles were passed by 252 votes, and 87 opposed.

ASFA’s chief electoral officer (CEO) Samuel Miriello announced the federation decided to extend the voting period, giving students the chance to vote from 9 a.m. to noon March 24 to reach quorum.

Just before 8 p.m. on March 23, ASFA vice-president of internal affairs Julia Sutera Sardo said ASFA’s election had met quorum. However, at 11 p.m., Miriello stated ASFA had not reached quorum. The mistake was due to a technical error with the election equipment.

According to Miriello, the issue was with the vote counting system. “People with double majors were counted twice by accident—we were off by 13 votes,” he said.

“If we knew that we were missing votes, we would’ve extended the polls anyway,” Miriello told The Concordian. “The technical error was exposed during ballot count.”

Despite extending the elections longer than three days and furthering balloting after votes had been counted, Miriello said lawyers working for ASFA told him doing so was legal.



Breaking down police brutality

Former SPVM officer discusses police training, Concordia student reflects on brutality

Protesters marked the 21st anniversary of Montreal’s annual police brutality protest by taking to the streets of downtown Montreal on March 15 to denounce brutality conducted by the Service de police de la ville de Montréal (SPVM) and other officers.

Since the march started in Montreal in 1997, similar marches have sprung up in cities across Canada and around the world, including in Nigeria, Spain, France, Mexico, Germany, England, Belgium, Portugal and the U.S.

Many Journalists and concerned citizens who have documented police brutality have held the SPVM accountable for their actions. This includes the Collectif opposé à la brutalité policière (COBP), the organization that holds the annual police brutality march in Montreal.

Regardless of these watchdogs, tension between some citizens and SPVM officers persists.

Daniel Slapcoff, a first year Concordia student in film production, said he recently experienced an act of police brutality when he was hit in the face with a police shield.

At the time, Slapcoff was outside City Hall documenting protests surrounding federal anti-Islamophobia Motion 103. The protest had been initiated by the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens (CCCC) on March 4, with far-right group La Meute (the Wolf Pack) joining their ranks soon after. Left-wing activist group Action Antifasciste Montréal (AAM) counter-protested the demonstration.

As members of La Meute and CCCC decided to disperse City Hall, Slapcoff said police began interfering to ensure the differing activist groups didn’t end up too close to one another. That’s when Slapcoff noticed some officers aggressively pushing protesters.

“They stopped us because they thought we were getting too close to the other group,” said Slapcoff, who was standing at the edge of the protest with the other journalists.

That’s when Slapcoff was hit in the face with the officer’s riot shield, knocking out his two front teeth.

Slapcoff said he had identified himself before the incident to the same officer who struck him.

“I went up to the policeman and said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and cause any trouble. I’m just observing,’” Slapcoff said.

After the incident, Slapcoff said he took a photo of the officer to document his ID number—following this, he confronted the officer about his behaviour.

“Do you see what you did? You just knocked my two front teeth—I had talked to you and everything,” Slapcoff recalled saying to the officer. While the officer asked Slapcoff if he wanted him to call an ambulance, he refused to apologize for hitting him.

“He said, ‘No, I just followed an order. That’s what I have to do,’” Slapcoff said. “I don’t know if that’s an official answer that he’s supposed to give or perhaps him just [being] mean.”

Although he has not officially decided to sue the SPVM, Slapcoff wants compensation for his teeth. “I was stuck in the hospital for the whole day after that,” he said.

“I have to get a two root canals and crowns,” he said. Yet, the root canals are only a semi-permanent fix. “In twenty years, I’m going to have to do it again.”

This was not Slapcoff’s first experience with police brutality. When Slapcoff tried to intervene after witnessing police officers pushing some men outside of a bar, eight of the officers forced Slapcoff to the ground.

“They were pinning me on the ledge, on the side of the sidewalk and applying pressure points to my jaw,” he said. When the officers ID’d him, they made a racist remark about his Jewish name, Slapcoff added. “Then they fined me $150 for disturbing the peace,” Slapcoff said.

“At that time, I just let it go. I didn’t want to deal with it, but this time I feel like I kind of have to.”

Paul Chablo, the current chair of John Abbott College’s police technology program and a former SPVM officer with 30 years of service experience, said there is a common misconception of what defines police brutality.

“If an individual resists a police officer and tries to confront him physically, the police officer is allowed to use force—that is not police brutality,” Chablo said. “[However], any police officer who uses more force than necessary is considered or can be charged with excessive force,” he said.

“Police brutality is not when you go to a protest and you arrest someone and you throw them to the ground,” said Chablo, who was present at a few of the anti-police brutality marches while working for the SPVM. “Police officers are allowed to use force to disperse an unruly crowd,” said Chablo.

However, if a police officer has restrained an individual and they are no longer resisting, but the officer is still using force, this qualifies as police brutality, Chablo added.

“The golden rule that [officers] are taught here is resistance equals force—the more the person resists, the more force you’re allowed to use,” Chablo said.

Chablo said so long as officers follow that rule and do not apply force to someone who has been restrained or has backed down, there will never be a problem. “He could be accused in front of an ethics board, but he will never be found guilty.”

In his last years with the SPVM, Chablo worked as chief inspector for the public relations department.

Chablo said students in the police technology program are advised to be particularly mindful of the force they use, given the ease with which bystanders can record their actions. However, the level of force used should not be dictated by whether someone is filming or not, he added.

“If you are questioning the force that you are using because you’re being filmed, then chances are, you’re using excessive force.”

In John Abbott’s police technology program, students undergo three courses on conflict management, said Chablo. In these courses, students study conflict management, in particular, verbal judo—a persuasive technique used to convince the person to cooperate by convincing them that they contributed to the decision-making process. This creates a situation where violence is avoided, Chablo said. “It’s conflict management and defusing tense situations.”

In these courses, students are also taught how to intervene legally and in a justified way to ensure they are not accused of intervening or making arrests based on race, gender or religion. Students also undergo training on necessary force—how to use it and when it is permissible according to the law, Chablo said.

People may think they have become a victim of police brutality, but if they think back if they used resistance and the police responded with some type of force, it’s not necessarily police brutality, said Chablo.

“I’m not here to defend the Montreal police because … they always have to be accountable for whatever they do,” Chablo said. “A police officer who will go out and commit an act of police brutality is doing it because his or her human emotions have taken over, and they are no longer following the rules. It’s very clear,” said Chablo.

The Concordian asked Slapcoff whether he believes training for SPVM officers should be revised. Slapcoff said he does not know the details of how officers are trained, but he believes there could be better training, specifically regarding anger management. “I think if they’re given training to control their anger, it’s not working,” said Slapcoff. “And I think that there could be a million reasons for why a policeman acts like that, it’s so widespread there has to be something that happens. There has to be a widespread change [to] their training.”


UPDATED: Police adjourn anti-police brutality march

Police give two warnings to protesters before shutting down the protest

The sound of helicopters flying overhead were heard as a crowd of approximately 300 marched along Ontario street. A protest which began with unified chanting, escalated to protesters throwing flares and one cop car being damaged as the group reached Quartier des Spectacles.

Protest participant smashes windows of SPVM car. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“No justice, no peace, fuck the police,” protesters shouted in unison, as they walked from Hochelaga towards Montreal’s downtown core. The march began at 7 p.m. at Place Simon-Valois and concluded two blocks east of Place des Arts.

The protest was organized by Collectif Opposé à la Brutalité Policière, a group founded in 1995 which opposes harassment, intimidation, arrest, violence and brutality-related conduct by police. They also provide support for victims of police brutality.

Many protesters dressed in all black. Photo by Alex Hutchins

As marchers walked along Ontario street, some protesters began to throw flares as they turned towards Ste-Catherine, however, police blocked the way. Near Union and Ste-Catherine, one participant in the crowd began to hit the windows of a police car parked on the street, smashing them—a few joined in. Police, however, did not intervene.

Police warned protesters twice before intervening. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

At approximately 9 p.m. protesters marched towards Place des Arts—some shot flares and some began to hit windows. Around the same time, police arrived on horse. The SPVM warned the crowd that some participants were initiating unlawful conduct and if it persisted, police would intervene and shut down the demonstration.

One protester began hitting the window of the H&M located at Ste-Alexandre and Ste-Catherine, but didn’t shatter the glass. Police gave a second warning to protesters, as a line of cops trailed behind the march.

“Tout le monde deteste de la police,” many protesters chanted in unison. Most of the crowd was enrobed in black.

Video by Frédéric Muckle.

Moments after, police on foot and on bikes began trooping in. As protesters approached Saint-Urbain, cops interfered after some did not comply to cease vandalism. Some were kettled near SPVM headquarters, but were released.

A blockade was made in front of the headquarters, for remaining participants along Ste-Catherine. As the SPVM moved through the crowd, this split the crowd of protesters in half—a few cops on horses remained as steady watchdogs.

“They tend to do whatever they please,” said protest participant Richard Beaulieau, referring to police illegally arresting and ticketing people.

Police follow protesters. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Beaulieau recalled the time an SPVM officer hit him with a baton on March 5, 2013, as he was participating in Maple Spring protests against tuition hikes.

Although police had successfully broken up the crowd, some participants lingered. Many cops stood guard, with a small row of police on horse at the intersection of Saint-Urbain.

Watch our video footage of the protest below.

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