Montrealers march for International Women’s Day

Student unions denounce a continued lack of gender equity in universities

To mark International Women’s Day, demonstrators marched downtown to demand gender equality in Quebec and throughout the world.

Speakers at the march deplored the various ways women’s rights are undermined across the globe: from a lack of access to education, healthcare and reproductive rights or through threats of abuse, femicide, as well as sexual and domestic violence.

The most recent Statistics Canada study states that 34,242 women were victims of sexual assault over the course of 2021 in Canada. The data refers only to cases reported to the police and, according to the Regroupement québécois des centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions sexuelles (The Quebec Coalition of Sexual Assault Centers), it is estimated that only 10 per cent of women victims of sexual assault file a complaint with the police

Another Statistics Canada study released in 2020 found that 71 per cent of students at Canadian postsecondary schools “witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours in a postsecondary setting in 2019.” These numbers include on-campus or off-campus situations involving other students or people associated with scholastic institutions.

Representatives from Concordia’s Inter-organizational Table for Feminist Affairs (ITFA) were present to support women and victims of sexual violence.

Composed of the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) union, the Concordia Student Union (CSU), the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and the Centre for Gender Advocacy, ITFA is a student-run group that advocates for student-led solutions, transparency and gender equity at Concordia.

Julianna Smith, the CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator, and representative of ITFA, said the group wanted to use the attention that came with International Women’s Day to voice their demands and support feminist causes. 

“We had a rally back at Concordia in support of Concordia’s specific demands, supporting the boycott of the University’s SMSV [Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence] and now we are here to support the broader women’s movement,” said Smith. 

ITFA started the ongoing boycott of SMSV, claiming that the fight against sexual violence at Concordia should take into account the voices of students and victims.

“The main argument that we have is that Concordia’s SMSV is in majority faculty and management and they don’t actually listen to students and what we need to see in order to manage and prevent sexual violence in the University,” said Becca Wilgosh, TRAC’s vice-president and ITFA representative.

Wilgosh said ITFA wants to call into question how the University has so far addressed sexual violence on campus. She pointed out that Concordia’s administration comes from a position of power, a factor that can lead to abuse.

“It should be bottom-up, it should be run by the people who are more likely to be subject to it, so we are trying to construct alternatives that actually centre survivors, students and staff workers.”

Said Wilgosh.

For Smith, there is still a long way to go when it comes to feminist movements in universities throughout Quebec. 

“One thing that I’ve noticed about the student movement in Quebec as a whole is that right now we’re very stuck in this gender parity issue, it’s very second-wave feminism,” said Smith. “For ITFA, we want to take an approach that’s much broader than that […] it’s about dismantling all structures of power.”


Quebec announces new Observatory on the well-being and mental health of students in higher education

Concordia’s involvement in the project remains uncertain

On Tuesday Feb. 21, Pascale Déry, Quebec Minister of Higher Education, announced the creation of an Observatory to research student mental health in higher education. The Observatory will partner with researchers and students in various disciplines. Quebec will  invest $2.8 million over five years in the interdisciplinary project. The Observatory is part of the government’s Plan d’action sur la santé mentale étudiante en enseignement supérieur 2021-2026 (action plan for student mental health in higher education).

The research project will be co-directed by researchers from the Cégep de Jonquière and Université de Sherbrooke. The Observatory’s mandate will assess and monitor the state of mental health in higher education on a large scale. It will also link research to practice in the field by guiding educational institutions in the implementation of their mental health policies.

Scientific director of the Fonds de recherche du Québec en Santé, Carole Jabet, pointed out that the findings on the mental health of students were worrisome.

“We have talked about the pandemic, a health crisis that has affected all of us, but especially our students, and all this has definitely accentuated the problems of physical and mental health,” she said.

Jabet added that the Observatory wished to meet a great diversity of needs since any student in higher education is at risk of suffering from mental health issues.

“There is no correlation between mental health and the discipline in which one studies, the institution where one studies,” said Jabet. “Every young adult around us is likely to suffer from mental health issues.”

One of the cross-cutting objectives of the Observatory will be to train members of the student population to become mental health professionals. This idea fits in with one of the main goals of the Observatory, which is to decompartmentalize mental health research.

Neuroscience researcher Rémi Quirion said that despite the frequency of mental illnesses, they remain stigmatized.

“Mental illnesses are not rare. We estimate it touches 20 per cent, and in the student population it’s even 25 per cent,” said Quirion. “If you look around the room, one out of four people around you will suffer from a mental illness in their life.”

Concordia spokesperson Vannina Maestracci said that the involvement of the University in this project is still to be decided.
“Concordia would certainly be willing to be involved but it is too early to say in what role,” said Maestracci in an email to The Concordian.


Beyond mainstream media: how Léo au féminin portrays love realistically

First screening of the mini web-series Léo au féminin

The mini web-series Léo au féminin premiered on Feb. 21 in a full room, brimming with excited people, at La Tulipe on Papineau Ave. The evening was dedicated to featuring the first four episodes of the ten-episode web series. The series centers around the tribulations, anxieties and health concerns of a young CEGEP student named Léo and her friends. 

Co-director and screenwriter Éléonore Delvaux-Beaudoin recounted being inspired by her personal life to create this auto-fiction. She was studying in CEGEP when she  pitched the idea as a short film to her friend and classmate Catherine Quesnel. The pair decided to turn it into a mini web-series, recruiting some of their classmates and friends in the process. 

“We realized the strong link we had while writing,” said Quesnel. “It’s an auto-fiction we wrote together, but it’s mostly based on Éléonore’s life and I really immersed myself in her world.”

Delvaux-Beaudoin shared her experience of living with an invisible disability, something rarely portrayed in cinematography. She has several life-threatening food allergies and shared that, a few years ago, she almost died because of them. 

“Catherine and I also wanted to show the mental pain that comes with these invisible disabilities,” said Delvaux-Beaudoin. “We don’t realize that people with these autoimmune diseases live in a state of constant fear: a fear of eating, touching, sharing, kissing.”

The subject was treated in a subtle way, which captured its complexity with finesse despite the episodes being short. Each episode contains a sequence focused on a meal, showing the anxiety that Léo experiences around food because of her allergies. 

In addition to these explicit scenes, details that seem insignificant at first become more important when we notice the seriousness of the character’s allergies. Examples include when she has to remind her boyfriend to brush his teeth before kissing, or when she scrutinizes food labels.

The series also touches on queer relationships, open and non-monogamous relationships and love in all its forms. After being bombarded with classic rom-coms by Netflix during the Valentine’s Day season, this series created by young people for young people is a breath of fresh air with its very realistic and wholesome portrayal of relationships. 

For co-producer Lu-Sergei Denaud, showing queer relationships and queer joy on screen was an important aim in the production. They pointed out that traditional TV in Quebec rarely portrays queer stories in a good light and that Léo au féminin aimed at showing both the complexity and beauty of queerness.

“I think that this series also serves to show that we are a more open generation, that we are freeing ourselves little by little from the heteronormative confines,” said Denaud. “I find that with Léo au féminin I can finally say, and I hope that our generation will be able to say, ‘finally, I see myself’”.

Despite the fast pace of the mini-series format, the scenes never seem forced. While featuring the usual topics found in coming-of-age dramas, this take on youth felt refreshing. 

Set in Montreal with a cast of CEGEP students and created with a very minimal budget, the series gives a more realistic vision of transition into adulthood without falling into classic tropes of teen movies, all while maintaining a poetic fiber. 

Léo au féminin delves into Gen-Z themes beyond traditional coming-of-age stories. Léo, for instance, spends a whole dinner explaining to an older person what the LGBTQ+ acronym means, has panic attacks in her workplace or even spends $300 to adopt a cat.

The production is now working on finding a platform to host the series which will come out in a few months. You can follow Léo au féminin here.


Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal organizes vigil for MMIWG2ST+

Indigenous researchers blame the ongoing crisis on a lack of support for Indigenous communities

On Monday Feb. 14, Montrealers gathered at Cabot Square for a march in solidarity with Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Trans and Two-Spirit People (MMIWG2ST+) held by the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM). The vigil began at 6 p.m. with Indigenous activists, artists and community organizers speaking out against the violence inflicted on Indigenous people.

MMIWG2ST+ is a phenomenon across Canada (and more broadly across the Americas) of Indigenous women and persons of gender minorities going missing and being murdered. This feminicide crisis is understood by researchers as a consequence of colonialism and police inaction when it comes to Indigenous victims. It is estimated that Indigenous women in Canada are murdered at nearly seven times the rate of non-Indigenous women.

Nicole Janis Qavavauq-Bibeau, the research coordinator for the Iskweu project at NWSM, believes that these figures are much higher. Qavavauq-Bibeau’s research has found that the actual numbers of MMIWG2ST+ are four times higher than the RCMP estimate.

“When an Indigenous woman passes away, it is often ruled super quickly as a suicide or overdose,” said Qavavauq-Bibeau. 

For Mohawk artist and activist Ellen Gabriel, this colonial vision of Indigenous women of all age groups comes from all layers of Canadian society. In a speech at the vigil, she mentioned how the Canadian government’s inaction regarding Indigenous people’s requests and the 231 Calls for Justice stemming from the National Inquiry’s Final Report into MMIWG2ST+ are the reasons why the current system is so reluctant to protect Indigenous women.

“When will you teach your children about the genocidal history in Canada, in Quebec, in all its provinces?” said Gabriel. “When is this going to happen? Because until this happens we are going to have vigils like this forever.”

Concordia’s Director of First Peoples Studies Catherine Kineweskwêw Richardson said this issue is on the minds of Indigenous scholars and professors at Concordia.

“In the scope of our program we educate students about the issue of MMIWG and I think we try to bring some issues in how the media talks about it,” said Richardson. “They never talk about who is killing these women.”

Richardson pointed out that the crisis is often framed as Indigenous women being vulnerable more so than focusing on the people perpetrating these crimes. 

According to her, one of the ways Concordia could help Indigenous women is by creating more opportunities for Indigenous students with policies specifically designed for their needs.

Richardson’s research echoes the words of activists who argue that colonial violence stems from all institutions that were built on a colonial system, like the police, social services, as well as schools and universities. 

“It’s a long term issue and if we don’t act to increase support for Indigenous students and Indigenous education, they’ll continue to fall off the edge,” said Richardson. “Like most universities, we at Concordia could be doing more to assist and uplift Indigenous students.”

Richardson pointed out that Indigenous communities, too, are finding their own solutions for educating youth. 

“We don’t look to the University to do everything but we could certainly do more to help,” she said.

For Richardson, some policies that could be implemented to help Indigenous students include encouraging them to go into graduate studies, building student housing, facilitating people moving from Indigenous communities to the city to study, and overall educating people around Indigenous issues. However, these solutions are slow to implement and the current administration is ill-suited to support Indigenous students. 

“I’ve stopped holding my breath,” said Richardson. “For every aspect of life at Concordia, they have to understand that Indigenous students have particular needs and we need to create opportunities.”


Government of Canada gives Concordia researchers $497,000 for climate research

A Concordia engineering research team will look into ways to reuse CO2 emissions. A first for this field of research, this project aims to help Canada reach its carbon-emission goals by 2050.

A research team from Concordia’s department of chemical and materials engineering, led by Yaser Khojasteh, was awarded $497,000 by the Climate Action and Awareness Fund, a federal government initiative to invest in Canadian projects that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

One of Canada’s goals for ecological transition is to become carbon neutral by 2050, which means that the Canadian economy would no longer emit greenhouse gases or would offset all of its emissions.

Some of the means of achieving carbon neutrality are what are known as carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) techniques. CCUS is the process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) for the purpose of recycling it for future use. The captured CO2 can be converted into hydrocarbons (such as methanol) or plastics and concrete. It could even be utilized for various chemical syntheses.

Khojasteh explained that by 2030, industries will have to pay a tax on CO2 emissions. According to chapter 2 of Canada’s 2030 emissions reduction plan, beginning in 2023, the tax on every ton of carbon emitted will begin to increase by $15 every year until it reaches $170 per ton.

One of the research team’s goals is to find cheaper ways to capture and recycle CO2 to encourage industries to eliminate the carbon they produce. Khojasteh is hopeful that if they can find a way to make the process cheaper than the tax that companies will have to pay, recycling will be an easy decision.

“Eventually we can use renewable energy for, say, our electricity demand, but chemicals, polymer, these kinds of things we are always going to need and these are the [manufacturing] plants that are going to be in operation forever,” said Khojasteh. 

CCUS techniques can often be very energy-consuming and expensive. Khojasteh explained that the carbon dioxide reutilization process often consumes a lot of hydrogen. The research team will therefore aim to find ways to reduce the hydrogen consumption or propose processes that require smaller amounts.

“We’re trying to explore different options, improve our process efficiency for the larger scale,” said Khojasteh. “It is something that hopefully will be ready soon because time is very limited. We know that, according to some projections, it could be a matter of a decade before the window is closed for reversible action.”


The Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy hosts a naloxone training

Concordia’s student community looks increasingly supportive of having an open conversation about drug use

In Canada, in the first half of 2021 alone, an average of 19 people died from opioid-related overdoses every day, with a daily hospitalization of 16 people according to the federal special advisory committee on opioid overdoses. 

For the Concordia chapter of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) and other harm reduction organizations, these numbers could be greatly attenuated through education, support for substance users, broad access to naloxone as well as safe supplies and safer injection sites. 

The CSSDP hosted a naloxone training on Jan. 26 at Le Frigo Vert at the downtown campus. Students and people in the broader Concordia community were invited to learn how to administer naloxone (also known as Narcan) to counter the effects of opioid overdose.

Harm reduction refers to the set of strategies aimed at limiting health or social risks related to a specific issue.

CSSPD member Assaf Azerrad explained that advocating for a harm reduction approach in the context of drugs meant taking the stance that drug use should not be encompassed in the criminal justice system, but instead should be understood as a public health and human rights issue.

In Oct. 2021, the CSSDP developed an anonymous 15-question survey about the perception and consumption of substances by the Concordia student body. The survey was aimed at gaining a deeper insight into how to deliver substance use education to students. A document sent to The Concordian from the CSSPD highlights that, among the 350 respondents, 60.3 per cent said they considered drug education on campus to be extremely important.

According to CSSDP member Alice Gendron, the data demonstrated a change in students’ perception of drug use and a greater openness to discussing the topic.

“The thing that is changing is maybe how open people are with talking about their substance use,” said Gendron. “There seems to be a progression in how open people are and that’s really something we focus on a lot as an organization because the more people are isolated in their consumption, that’s when issues can arise.”

Concordia student and substance analyst at CACTUS Philippe Lavoie said that opening this conversation is a way for people to start consuming more sensibly and in safer environments. CACTUS is a Montreal-based organization centered around harm reduction and prevention of sexually transmitted and blood borne infections.

“Especially with the rise of opioid overdose, I think people are thinking we should talk about this situation,” said Lavoie. “I think youth are feeling more empowered, and groups like CSSDP really help people feel safe to talk about it and exchange ideas.”

CSSPD member João Barbosa emphasized that naloxone kits are available for free at any pharmacy for everyone in Quebec. 

“The most important thing is to learn how to use it because people might be afraid to administer it,” said Barbosa. “We want to help people to learn to recognize an overdose, and how to act in such a situation.”

The CSSPD also offers a substance analysis service to test substances for potential contamination with opioids such as Fentanyl. For Lavoie, this is an important harm reduction tool as the amount of street drugs that are laced with Fentanyl or Benzodiazepine rises.

“It’s part of consuming sensibly to know what you consume,” said Lavoie. “The fact of knowing what’s in it, you can better assess the risks. Knowing the different cutting agents allow us to give better harm reduction tips as well.”

Individuals that are interested in free, anonymous drug testing are encouraged to go to the CACTUS checkpoint at 1300 rue Sanguinet or to the CSSPD on Fridays from 12 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Le Frigo Vert. 

Harm reduction organizations in Montreal include CACTUS, which offers supervised injection sites throughout the island, Groupe de Recherche et d’Intervention Psychosociale , a mobile drug-checking service, Dopamine in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve as well as Spectre de rue.

On campus, the Recovery and Wellness Community Centre offers resources for Concordia students who have experienced addiction and/or are in recovery.

A previous version of this article stated that the CSSPD partnered with CACTUS for the training. This was incorrect.


Protesters at McGill cancel talk by law professor with ties to the LGB Alliance

The incident sparked debates between the balance of free speech and hate speech on University Campuses

On Tuesday Jan. 10, the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP) from McGill University hosted a talk called “The Sex vs. Gender (Identity) Debate in the United Kingdom and the Divorce of LGB from T.” 

The event was disrupted by more than 100 protesters due to the presence of controversial guest speaker and McGill alumni Robert Wintemute. Wintemute is a Human Rights Law Professor at King’s College London and a trustee of the LGB Alliance — an advocacy group funded in the UK that opposes certain policies for transgender rights on the grounds that they undermine those of lesbians, bisexuals and gay men and cisgender women.

The protestors occupied the first floor of Chancellor Day Hall and interrupted the professor’s talk by unplugging the projector, which then led to him being escorted out by McGill staff. 

Celeste Trianon, a law student at Université de Montréal and trans rights activist, helped organize the campaign against Wintemute’s seminar.

According to Trianon and other queer advocacy groups, one of the LGB Alliance’s main goals is to oppose policies that aim at protecting and advancing trans rights. 

Trianon explained that the organization had, among other things, lobbied against the “legal recognition of gender identity in the British and Scottish contexts” and works “in collaboration with other anti-trans organizations in the United States.”

She added that, in Canada, the LGB Alliance opposed the inclusion of transgender people in Bill C-4, which prohibited conversion therapy.

“Their whole idea is based on a far-right concept called ‘drop the T’ which is a strategy to divide the queer community by separating transgender people from the rest of the community,” said Trianon. “It is an organization that disguises itself as a pro-women’s rights and pro-gay and lesbian organization.”

Trianon is worried about the international scope that the Alliance is gaining, including in Canada. 

“This is reflected in the fact that all the hate I received after the demonstration came from all over the world and not only from Quebec,”

Said Trianon.

Trianon went on to elaborate on the hate messages and death threats she received via email and social media.

In an interview with The Concordian, Wintemute said that part of his talk was to argue that trans people’s rights, particularly those of trans women, sometimes infringe on cis women’s rights and that legislation against discrimination was “full of contradictions.” He asserted the belief that many cis women agreed with his position but were too afraid or intimidated to speak up against pro-trans rights policies.

“What I was doing was no hate speech at all. Freedom of expression covers even ideas that can offend or disturb. There’s a tendency today that says disagreement equals hatred, but it doesn’t,”

Said Wintemute.

Wintemute argued that the protestors had no right to disturb his talk, comparing the event to “a mini version of the US Congress in Jan. 2021 or the Brazilian capital in Jan. 2023.”

McGill University declined to comment on the incident. A spokesperson from the CHRLP sent out an email saying, “Every year, the CHRLP organizes a range of events on a variety of human rights issues […] They are not an endorsement of any speaker’s views. McGill recognizes and supports the rights of its students to peaceful protest on campus.”

“This defense of academic freedom as an absolute concept is used to defend hate speech,” said Trianon. “We really have to ask ourselves who was really violent? Was it the protesters or this speech that puts trans people in danger? How do we define violence?”


Queer Montrealers gathered for a vigil in memory of the victims of the Club Q shooting

The local LGBTQIA+ community met in solidarity with queer Americans after a shooting in an LGBTQIA+ club

On Nov. 26, Montrealers gathered in the Gay Village for a solidarity vigil sharing their thoughts and grief surrounding the recent Club Q shooting. For many, this was a time to discuss the violence queer people experience on a daily basis.

On Nov. 19, the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a gunman entered the LGBTQIA+ club in Colorado Springs and opened fire where 25 people were injured and five were killed. This event has left Colorado’s queer community devastated, serving as a reminder of a past shooting that had killed 49 people at the Pulse gay club in Orlando, Florida in 2016. LGBTQIA+ people throughout the world have spoken out in support of the victims and their loved ones. 

“Five lives were stolen away by systemic homophobia and transphobia,” said Celeste Trianon, one of the organizers of the vigil.

Trianon said that, while the shooter was responsible for the tragedy, the system itself was at fault. According to them, queer people experience systemic violence due to the spread of a far-right political agenda in North America.

“What kills us in the end is isolation, poverty, officials who never respect our identities,” said Trianon. “It is all the forms of hatred that we live every day that kill us and that is what we must fight against.”

Gabriel Paquette, a speaker at the event, said they came to support their American counterparts. 

“The thing about the queer community is that we’re not blood related so we’re all a little bit family, as idealized as that idea may be,” said Paquette. “When there’s an attack on a few of us, there’s an attack on all of us, especially when it’s in a space where we’re celebrating our joy of being ourselves, especially on trans day of remembrance. It shocked us to the core of our being, but we knew it was coming with the legislative violence in the US.”

Paquette also denounced the growing climate of hate and fear surrounding queer people in the US, a sentiment echoed by many in attendance.

“In Canada it’s coming as well. For example, in Ottawa there was an anti-trans demonstration yesterday [Nov. 25],” said Paquette, referring to an incident at an Ottawa high school surrounding transgender students using the restrooms corresponding with their respective genders.

They also mentioned how candidates in the most recent Ontario elections pushed for the abolition of support for queer children.

“In Quebec we have the particularity that there are language barriers so the American and British philosophies take longer to reach us but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have organizations that have the same issues […] and that are doing political lobbying to take away our rights in the long run,” explained Paquette. 

They cited, among others, the organization Pour les droits des femmes du Québec, a women’s rights group receiving funding from the provincial government and known to be trans-exclusionary.

The last survey conducted by the Bureau de lutte contre l’homophobie et la transphobie in 2017 found that “over 40% of the population surveyed has witnessed an act of homophobic or transphobic discrimination.”

Participants shared their worries but also their hopes, hugging those who were crying and trying to comfort each other.

“Today was about getting together as a group to try to send some love to those who are there [the US], our distant family,” said Paquette.


Montrealers gather to mourn the life and demand justice for Ronny Kay

communities came together in support of Kay’s family as they demand official condolences and explanations for his death

Protesters gathered at Sun Yat-Sen Park for a vigil and march in support of the family of Ronny Kay, a 38-year-old man who was killed during a SPVM intervention on Sept. 17 in Nun’s Island. 

According to his family and recent reports, police were called to Kay’s home while he was in an argument with his ex-girlfriend. Police were responding to reports of a suspected firearm. His family says he was in emotional distress during the incident, allegedly getting shot several times by a police officer before being taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead upon arrival. 

The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI) is currently investigating the circumstances of Kay’s death.

Kay’s family is asking the BEI, Quebec’s Minister of Public Security, the SPVM and Mayor Valérie Plante for psychosocial services and official condolences.

The march was organized by the ad-hoc committee ‘Justice for Ronny Kay’ formed to support Kay’s family in their search for answers. People visited to pay their respects including local community organizers, and members of the Montreal Chinese community, in which Kay was involved, according to his family.

One of Kay’s siblings, Michelle Kay, expressed her frustration by the lack of transparency surrounding the case. The explanation regarding the death of Ronny Kay still remains unclear after two months. 

“The BEI tells us [to] ‘just wait, it can be another six months, seven months’ but for us to mourn seven months without understanding why is simply not normal,” Kay said.

Kay also mentioned how waiting for answers has added much difficulty to the family’s grief, and that she is saddened that the SPVM and other Montreal officials are not sending condolences regarding her brother’s death. 

“We are a family that contributes to this society, I speak French, Ronny spoke French, we grew up here, we were all born here,” she said. “And yet, this story of a Montreal citizen was barely covered by the media, it’s unbelievable.”

This case comes at a time when racial profiling and the mistreatment of people of colour by the Quebec police has been gaining a lot of attention.

Director Racial Profiling & Public Safety for the Red Coalition Alain Babineau said Kay’s story is concerning to the Coalition, a group who works on eliminating racial profiling and systemic racism in Canada. 

“The other thing that preoccupies us a lot is the way that Ronny Kay’s mother was treated a few weeks after his death,” said Babineau.

According to the Kay family, their mother was picking up a prescription a few weeks after Kay’s death when she got into an argument at the store. The police were called, who proceeded to handcuff her and charge her with a criminal offense of “disturbing the peace.”

“For us this is an aberration because the police are victimizing a victim,” said Babineau. “This mother just lost her child, it’s a terrible trauma, she’s under medication and they arrested her, handcuffed her and put criminal charges on her, it’s very serious.”

Babineau said the coalition talked to the Kay family and will most likely be helping them through the process. For him, the way the family has been treated ever since Kay’s death is unacceptable.

“You can’t do that, you can’t victimize a family who are already victims,” said Babineau. “You have to be human and understand that what they lived through is appalling.”

When asked to comment on the case, the SPVM said they would not make any further comments in order to avoid influencing the BEI’s investigation.

Briefs News

Concordia’s Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre seeks community feedback

The organization is looking to reach out to the community and improve their services

The Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre (MFSC) gathered at the Hall building for a visioning event where students, faculty and staff were invited to come and voice their feedback regarding the centre’s operations. The MFSC is a student service offered by the University dedicated to providing a space for students to connect around a shared sense of faith and spirituality.  

“The MFSC is a space on campus for students to explore their spiritual life or beliefs and values, reflect and build connections with others,” explained Rev. Jennifer Bourque,  interim chaplain and coordinator for the centre.

Bourque explained that the service is open to all students as not merely a place for worship but as a space to connect, whether students follow a specific faith or not.

“We aim to serve all students, whether they consider themselves religious in any tradition, spiritual or secular, or they’re not sure,” she said.

The centre has two spaces, one on each campus: the Z Annex at 2090 Mackay Street downtown, and the Loyola Chapel. 

Recently, the centre has been looking to improve their services and wanted to hear about what students think spiritual and religious life should look like on campus and how the centre could best support them. On Nov. 16, students and staff members were invited to sit with facilitators to discuss topics such as accessibility, inclusivity and faith.

A recurring theme was that people who used the centre’s services found it inclusive, open, and welcoming. Robert Toto, who considers himself secular, has been using the centre’s services for a couple of years and says it has become a home away from home. 

“I have been welcomed at that space since I found out about it a couple of years ago […] and it became like a second family,” Toto said. 

During the visioning, students in the group expressed their desire to see more events hosted by the centre to meet people from various faiths and beliefs and have discussions around spirituality. They also wish to have more prayer and meditation spaces — other than the Z Annex and a room on the 7th floor of the Hall building — that would make religious practices more accessible on both campuses. 

You can read more about the MFSC here.


Quebec Superior Court in favour of prohibiting police from conducting random traffic stops

The ruling will be implemented within six months. In the meantime, activists are wondering what this means for the fight against racial profiling

On Oct. 25, Quebec Superior Court judge Michel Yergeau ruled the power of the police to stop drivers at random to be unconstitutional and discriminatory, in a challenge brought to court by Joseph-Christopher Luamba. Luamba, a black Montrealer who has been pulled over by the police without reason numerous times, decided to challenge this power, arguing that it violates certain constitutional rights. 

Laura Berger, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said this issue has been on the association’s radar for a long time because of overpoliced communities, namely Black and Indigenous communities, speaking up against racial profiling. The association jumped on the constitutional challenge when Luamba decided to take this issue to court.

“Over the course of a very short amount of time [Luamba] was stopped by the police on different occasions while in a vehicle and he chose to initiate a challenge,” said Berger. “Before [the ruling], the police could stop you if you’re driving even if there is no reason at all and request your license, registration and proof of insurance.”

Berger explained that random traffic stops are disproportionately used to arrest Black and Indigenous drivers when compared to white drivers.

“Even though on its face that power is neutral, what we know from social sciences and experiences of individuals is that this power gets used disproportionately against Black drivers,” said Berger. 

The Concordian spoke with activist and writer Christophe, who wished to remain anonymous, about his experiences with racial profiling while driving in Montreal a month ago. Though he didn’t receive a ticket, for him this is a clear example of how the police in Quebec use their power to act on their personal biases. 

“I’m a six foot Black man who speaks English, I don’t speak French so right away I’m intimidating to them because of my stature and they cannot speak to me so that creates tension,” explained Christophe. “So there’s a lot of different factors and variables that we need to consider. When you give the police this much power, they operate without impunity, they do whatever they want because for them to be punished is very difficult.”

Christophe is skeptical that the recent ruling will change the way the police treat Black and Indigenous people. 

“This decision is not going to change the fact that they can pull people over for any reason they want,” argued Christophe. “They could say ‘we smelled marijuana coming out of your car,’ they could say anything arbitrary.”

While Christophe believes the decision is a start, he argues that police officers needs to be held accountable when instances of racial profiling occur.

“I think we could start by defunding the police, giving them less funds, and start sanctioning them when they pull people over for no reason,” Christophe said. “If you suspend them with pay, they’re never going to change but when you start touching their pockets they’ll straighten themselves.”

Berger admits that, while Yergeau’s decision is not a substantial initiative, it is a necessary one. 

“This decision is not going to end racial profiling from one day to the next but he said that, as a society, we need to show racial profiling to the door and that is one step in the right direction,” she said. “But it is absolutely clear that this decision is not sufficient.”

Berger elaborated that this decision only deals with a very specific case of racial profiling and that racial biases, on the other hand, affect all aspects of policing. 

“We know that at every juncture of the judicial police system […] there are race-based disparities at every stop especially for Black and Indigenous folks,” said Berger.

However, for Berger this decision fits into a broader movement propelled by activists and communities speaking out. She says that even though this decision will not stop racial profiling overnight, it could inspire more changes in this direction.

“We have seen an increasing amount of research that highlights these disparities, we have seen recommendations across government bodies,” said Berger. “This helped inform [Yergeau’s] decision and I think it can be used outside of this specific context, other courts might take inspiration, policy-makers might look at these findings to try to incorporate them.”

The Superior Court’s Oct. 25 ruling will come into effect in six months in order to give the government and the police enough time to respond to the changes.

Graphic by Carleen Loney


Advocate organizations gathered in support of the regularization of immigrants without status

While the federal government is working on a regularization program for immigrants with precarious status, immigrant advocacy groups demand that they be inclusive of all people in Quebec

Immigrant advocacy groups gathered at Peace Park on Sunday Nov. 6 for a protest demanding that the new federal regularization plan be fully inclusive of all immigrants without status. The program that the federal government is currently working on would allow non-status workers to become permanent residents. 

Advocates for the rights of people with precarious status are skeptical whether or not this program would be sufficient. On Nov. 9, various Quebec-based organizations dedicated to supporting migrants gathered in front of the office of Christine Fréchette, the Minister of Immigration, Frenchisation and Integration to demand the plan be expanded to include all undocumented immigrants.

“The program that we heard about is being built for migrants with precarious status and is going to be a regularization plan,” said Aboubacar Kane, a member of the advocacy group Solidarity Across Borders. “So us being actors and living the situation and being faced with the reality, we just wanted to prevent it from being a selective program but for it to be an open program to all migrants so everyone has access to it.”

During the demonstration, advocates denounced the living and working conditions of people without status in Quebec. Until undocumented immigrants are regularized, it will be impossible for them to access fundamental rights and services. 

Carlos Rojas-Salazar, Director Operations and International Affairs for the Association for the Rights of Household and Farm Workers (RHFW), explained that immigrant workers who are overrepresented in the agricultural field in Quebec possess fewer legal rights than Canadian workers despite facing harsher working conditions. 

“Without them, the whole agricultural industry would be nothing,” said Rojas-Salazar. “When people come here, they find themselves living in crowded rooms, we have seen beds stacked on four levels, with minimal maintenance and that’s just terrible.” 

Rojas-Salazar explained that the inadequate working conditions of undocumented workers was brought to the RHFW’s attention, including amid the pandemic when workers got sick at a much higher rate when compared to the rest of the population. The RHFW has found that, because of the labour and a lack of services, immigrant workers are at greater risk of developing chronic health problems.

“What we’re doing is we’re importing healthy people and we are sending back to their countries people with dramatic conditions, with chronic diseases, people at 45 years old that have the back of an 80-years-old,” explained Rojas-Salazar. “This is the case for men, which in Quebec account for 90 per cent of the workers and for women it’s even worse.”

According to Rojas-Salazar, immigrant workers are also more at risk of being exploited compared to their Canadian counterparts since they have no legal recourse and might fear being deported or detained if they speak up. “Why should Canadians care about this? Because when you have people who are being paid less, who don’t have rights, you open the doors to crime, to abuse, people don’t have the right to go complain because they are afraid, they’re afraid of losing opportunities so they shut up,” he said. 

Kane added that in making its proposal for the program, the federal government should be careful not to think solely in terms of immigrant workers but also include those who cannot work. 

“The government is always speaking of the workers, the people that can contribute but they forget that there are elders, children inside of it too — people that cannot necessarily work that need to be included too,” said Kane. 

He believes that a fully open regularization plan would allow immigrants without status not only to have access to the fundamental rights and services that permanent residents and Canadians are entitled to, but also to feel overall more included in the society.

“It is a solution because it’s going to allow access to healthcare, to coverage, to services that people don’t have,” Kane said. “The psychological state of the people is also going to change, it’s going to relieve stress from them, all the trauma that they lived from being excluded from society is not going to be gone but at least taken care of and it’s going to help them feel equal, well-treated and part of this society fully.”

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