How to survive in this cutthroat capitalist world

One student’s satirical approach to excelling in a competitive environment

One of the biggest fears of many students is graduation. How does one find a job and survive in this cut-throat, dog-eat-dog world? The “real world” is even scarier if you’ve spent most of your degree studying social sciences or humanities. You’ve been learning about the failings of global capitalism, and then you’re expected to live in this enigmatic economic system after graduation. Without further ado, here are a few general tips on how to win in this capitalist society. Since, you know, winning is all that matters.

The first rule is to constantly assess people by what they can give you. This can’t be stressed enough: people are vessels through which you can find success. Disregard anyone you perceive to be of a lower social standing. Shake the right hands (Tip: when shaking hands, pull the person toward you and ensure your hand is slightly on top of theirs. It’s a fun little way to assert power and dominance). This rule requires a mastery of the social hierarchy upon which every human is immovably placed.

The second rule is to live in utter fear and anxiety all the time. This includes fear of failure, fear of having your ideas stolen, fear of being cheated, fear of not being good enough, fear of falling behind and fear of starvation and/or homelessness. We live in an economic system based on good old competition, and everyone is secretly hoping you fail so their chances of success increase. Remember that people are out to get you, so at your deepest level, you need to truly trust and love no one.

The third rule is to lose any sense of morality or empathy you’ve ever had. You need to get out there and take what you want—and you are going to have to do some morally questionable things to get it. This may include intentionally slandering, sabotaging or even worse. At the end of the day, only one person can get that promotion you’ve been hoping for, so you’d better decide where your priorities lie. You will often see people who have less than you—quite possibly not even enough to survive—and your gut instinct will be to feel sympathy for them. But before you act too rashly, you need to remind yourself that they didn’t work as hard as you. Everyone gets exactly what they deserve, and there are no existing systems that benefit some people more than others.

Following these three simple rules will make you the winner of capitalism in no time. You will develop an unquenchable thirst for consumption in your pursuit for success, but surely happiness lies somewhere at the end of that, right? If you develop an anxiety so deep and fundamental that you can no longer function, you may consider rewiring your brain to be less concerned with monetary success and rigid hierarchical frameworks, but it’s really up to you. I’m sure you’ll find your own way to cope with the realization that all the plucky promises capitalism tells its youth, like “you get what you deserve” and “there’s value in hard work,” are ultimately propaganda to preserve the machine. Either way, happy job hunting!

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


Vote for this election’s socialist candidate

Québec solidaire is the most morally conscious party in the upcoming election

While the other major parties appeal mostly to the majority—the white, middle class of Quebec—Québec solidaire is dedicated to protecting visible minorities and lower-income people. They have been consistently open about the core of their plan: to increase taxes on corporations and the mega-rich, and increase social services for the lower classes. They’ve stated that they will raise taxes for citizens earning more than $97,000 per year, and lower taxes for those earning less than $80,000, while those between these income brackets would see no change.

With this new tax system as well as other initiatives—such as lessening our dependance on big pharmaceutical companies by buying drugs in bulk and selling them to individual citizens at a lower rate—Québec solidaire said it will free up $12.9 billion in taxpayer money to invest in public programs.

One of the party’s goals is to make dental insurance free and accessible to all. Their mandate is to offer a 100 per cent rebate for people with low income and citizens under 18 who visit the dentist. Other citizens will get an 80 per cent reimbursement on cleanings and preventive care, and 60 per cent for curative care.

The party will launch an inquiry into systemic racism in the province, and will implement a strict quota to ensure visible minorities represent 25 percent of new employees in Quebec businesses until an overall representation rate of 13 per cent is achieved. They also plan to gradually change the organization of our educational system, from kindergarten to university, to make it free for everyone in the next five years.

These are only a few of the party’s plans, but I hope it gives a sense of their core values. Other initiatives that I don’t have the space to list here have demonstrated the party’s unwavering dedication to issues of environmental sustainability, women and LGBTQ+ community, Indigenous peoples, immigrants and Quebec’s homeless population.

They believe that these ambitious goals are incompatible with the values and organization of Canada’s federal government, and so they are promising a referendum in their first term. While I am personally not sure where I stand on this, I would be very surprised if the overall vote was in favour of separating Quebec to be its own country, so it is not an issue that I am particularly concerned about.

Many of the party’s critics claim their figure of $12.9 billion in savings is an overestimate, but in my opinion the actual figure is less important than the intention behind it. The bottom line is that Québec solidaire is going to take from the rich and give to the poor. If you are among the higher-income classes, it is not in your self-interest to vote for this party. But self-interest is the very mentality that Québec solidaire attempts to confront. They are more interested in the communal good, and that is what sets them apart from other parties in the race.

Another common critique of the party is that they are going to drive wealthy people and corporations out of the province. Although, in my opinion, this is probably not true. Assuming it is: What makes that such a bad thing? Why do we insist on protecting the interest of the wealthy over the survival of the poor? To preserve jobs? Are we really so dependant on corporations that we need to keep their profits in the millions or billions so their CEOs can buy yachts, private jets or a Westmount mansion while we work all week to barely make rent?

If many corporations did leave the province under Québec solidaire’s government, wouldn’t smaller businesses step up and take their place? We should be saying good riddance to massive corporate hierarchies rather than begging them to stay.

The biggest problem Québec solidaire faces in this election is that the majority of its support comes from the demographic that is least likely to vote: young people. Our parents and grandparents will continue to vote Liberal as they always do, therefore it is up to us to go out and make our voices heard.

Quebec residents can vote in the LB building at Concordia on Sept. 25, 26, and 27, but only from their electoral district on Oct. 1.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin



How to train your landlord

Useful tips to maintain a desirable relationship with your landlord

So you’ve moved into your first apartment. Congratulations! The problem is you don’t know the first thing about training your new landlord. A current trend in raising landlords is to let them grow up and discover the world on their own, but the truth is landlords require good old-fashioned discipline.

If you don’t properly discipline your landlord, you are not only raising one who will be troublesome for you to deal with, but one who will go out and burden other people after you leave the nest. Landlord training is a large project—one that never really ends—but this article will cover the basics and help you lay the foundation that you can use to later teach them more complex tricks and better behaviour.

The first step in training your landlord is establishing dominance. This step is fundamental because it will shape all of your future interactions with your landlord. In order to learn obedience, your landlord must first understand that you hold the power in the relationship. This can be achieved by raising your voice when necessary, learning your rights and asserting them, or even consulting—or threatening to consult—legal representatives. Ideally, you want your landlord to both love and fear you—but if you cannot have both, always choose fear.

Another important technique to remember is to reward positive behaviour and punish negative behaviour. At this stage in your relationship, it is essential to instill in them the concepts of right and wrong. You may be afraid to discipline your landlord, either out of fear of hurting their feelings or a desire to avoid conflict. But what are you really teaching them by not enforcing the things they are required to do by law? Sure, you can play the ‘good tenant’ so your landlord will like you more, but it’s more important that they learn that their actions have consequences.

Say “good job” or “nice one” when your landlord does something like take their shoes off when they enter your home, or fixes/replaces a broken appliance. Do your best to convey your disappointment in them when they try to enter your apartment without giving 24-hours notice, or if they request illegal payments like damage deposits. They might try to test your willingness to stand up for yourself, but you need to be firm and remember it is for their own benefit.

If you have an especially stubborn landlord, you may want to bring in a specialized expert such as a landlord-whisperer or the Off-Campus Housing and Job Bank (HOJO) at Concordia.

Using this framework in your landlord training will make it possible for you to teach your landlord all kinds of tricks. You may even develop a positive relationship with them. The most crucial thing to remember is that you are paying a lot of money for your apartment, and it is yours. This means you hold the power in the relationship, so don’t be afraid to use it.

Take the process one step at a time, and don’t be too concerned about overall progress—focus on small goals each day, and you will have an obedient and well-behaved landlord in no time. If all else fails, you can always find a new one next year. Good luck!

Graphic by Wednesday Laplante



A stepping stone to systemic change

Examining how boycotting companies can affect our society

In a consumer culture, branding is invaluable. On many occasions, activists and general consumers have attempted to use this fact to influence the actions of companies both small and large. Though most of the time the strategy of boycotting is ineffective—maybe because not enough people get on board, or they lose interest too quickly––sometimes these forms of protest have a real economic and social impact. But is it one that lasts? Is it one that can inflict real social and cultural change?

To begin to answer that question, I’ll look at what happens when boycotts occur at a local level. In a community, there is a close connection between individual members, such as business owners and their customers, and reputation means everything. An example of this in Montreal is the case of TRH bar (Trash Bar).

Earlier this year, a fundraising party was held for a former bouncer who was convicted on three counts of sexual assault and sentenced to 18 months in prison. People were outraged by this; the bar lost a lot of its customer base and received over 1000 one-star ratings, according to Eater Montreal. All of this resulted in the bar issuing an apology, doubling the fundraising money, and donating it all to an organization that helps victims of sexual assault, rather than giving it to Steve Bouchard, the perpetrator of the assault.

An example of a boycott on a corporate level is Nestle. For years, people have been trying to bring this company down for reasons ranging from child labour and depriving communities of drinking water (which is conveniently bottled and sold back to them), to copious environmental pollution, price fixing, mislabeling, and much more (a comprehensive list can be found at There have been countless documentaries and boycotting campaigns against Nestle, but the company has survived all of it without facing significant consequences. But the problem here is more about the workings of capitalism than Nestle. After all, Nestle may stand out as a bad company, but they are by no means an anomaly. I believe this is a problem that needs to be solved by a systemic change that takes power away from major corporations.

On the other hand, even if boycotting campaigns against Nestle aren’t effective in bringing the company down, they can still alert people to the way our society operates, and perhaps lead them to question their moral values and become politically active. In other words, even if Nestle doesn’t fall or change their behaviour because of individual boycotting strategies, those strategies may nonetheless influence more people and more powerful players to take up the cause.

What that may look like is exemplified in the global boycott of South Africa, during the apartheid regime. Many countries and corporations refused to do business with South Africa until they ended their system of radical racial segregation in 1994. While many experts have pointed out that this success of a large-scale boycott was an exception, not the rule, it is still an example of what a boycott looks like when powerful players take part.

Boycotters often have specific, singular goals. Sometimes they achieve those goals, and sometimes they don’t—which is usually dependent on the size of their target and the level of power held by the groups that take part in the campaign.

Something that is present in every boycott case is a questioning of moral values—people deciding where they stand on particular issues, what they will and won’t put up with—which contributes to changing cultural values as a whole. I believe the immediate demands of boycotts are not an end in themselves, but rather a stepping stone to a systemic shift toward a society made up of participants who act morally because they want to, not to maintain profits.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin



What does feminism look like in French?

Why gender-neutral language could be a step toward an equal and inclusive society

Language and thought are intrinsically linked. Our thoughts are informed by the words we use to describe them in ways that are difficult to measure and are easy to take for granted. The ways language fails to accurately describe reality has been a topic of interest for artists and philosophers for centuries. In English, there are certain linguistic norms and terms that have been criticized by new social movements.

Contemporary feminists question the use of male pronouns as supposedly gender-neutral. In writing and speech, hypothetical people are usually referred to as ‘he’; a group of people—regardless of gender identity—are referred to as ‘guys’; and when speaking literally of all of humanity it is common to use the word ‘man.’ According to the Stanford University website, using male pronouns in a neutral way contributes to establishing men as the norm, and makes women seem out of place or even invisible in various contexts.

Another problem in the English language is in the connotations the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ conjure up. In her book The Man of Reason, Genevieve Lloyd points out that chaos and danger tend to be associated with femininity, while order and reason tend to be associated with masculinity. Such representations of gender permeate contemporary media (think of detective films, where a femme fatale character threatens to undo their reasonable male counterpart), and they work their way into our language and thought in discreet and insidious ways.

There are many more ways that feminists are concerned with faults in the English language (for a comprehensive outline of various arguments in the field, I recommend checking out the “Feminist Philosophy of Language” page on Stanford University’s website, which I quoted earlier). But what does feminism look like in other languages—particularly gendered ones? I spoke to Christine Delmar, a councillor on female empowerment for the company Les 7 Directions in France, to hear about her perspective on feminism and the French language.

In French, the verbs, adjectives and adverbs used are dependant on the gender of the noun that they are applied to. Delmar noted in our conversation that one of the first things children learn when they are learning how to speak French is that “masculine wins over feminine.” This is like the ‘masculine pronouns as neutral’ problem in English I mentioned earlier, in that it obscures women and strongly implies that they are inferior or subordinate to men. “Learning of masculine dominance in school has a significant impact on the subconscious,” Delmar said.

Delmar spoke on the gendering of job titles in the French language during our conversation, and told the story of a French explorer named Alexandra David-Neel to showcase a problematic fault in the French language. She said that although David-Neel might be considered one of the greatest French explorers, there is no way to say that in French without using the male noun. Instead—since she is female—she is called the ‘plus grande exploratrice,’ which translates directly to the ‘best woman explorer.’

For certain job titles, it is more common to refer to them in the feminine or the masculine, depending on the type of work and the gender they are traditionally associated with. When gender is unknown, doctor is masculine (docteur) whereas nurse is feminine (infirmière), which reflects and reinforces gender stereotypes. This makes anomalies in these fields stand out even more, and works to maintain rigid gender norms and stereotypes.

In the fall of 2017, a French textbook advocating for gender-neutrality in language was released, according to The Atlantic. It has sparked a lot of heated debate, as many fear that a move towards making French gender-neutral would ruin the beauty of the language. However, the reality is that language is constantly changing, and we should try to make it change in a way that can more accurately represent society by including minorities and marginalized groups.

Gender-neutral language would be a step closer to a fair society, and I think that is well worth the effort it will take to achieve it. Perhaps English—a language that is naturally more gender-neutral—can purge itself of unnecessary and arbitrary gendered words or concepts to be more inclusive. This could act as a model for other languages in the global advancement towards inclusive language.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


“Put us in your stories”

Article written by Maggie Hope and Tyson Burger

The importance of (authentic) queer representation in mainstream films

Art reflects life. But the life it reflects is usually specific to the culture or group that produced it. The norms and values found in mainstream popular art in western society pertain to the dominant groups in that society. The problem lies in these values being unrealistically idealized and presented as “normal.” The more these values are enforced and normalized through pop culture, the more groups that don’t fit the model are alienated and often forced to explain or justify their identity.

This is particularly the case in mainstream film and television, which enforce heteronormative values among viewers. These values are often unrealistic and unrepresentative of most people’s lives—especially those who are gender fluid or not heterosexual. Think about most of the comedies, dramas and action movies you’ve seen. The ending usually involves (or is even centred around) the initiation of a heterosexual relationship. Mainstream films almost always run on the assumption that people adhere to certain traits based on a binary model of gender, which usually involves desiring a relationship with a person of the opposite sex—and in that assumption lies the normalizing aspect. Some examples of this in recent media are It, the second season of Stranger Things and Baby Driver. The plots of these films and shows are driven by universal heteronormativity, which makes it seem natural.

The beginning of relationships at the end of mainstream films often mark the end of the main character’s troubles. This is unrealistic and damaging. For one, people may not always desire a sexual relationship, but if this value is portrayed as natural in most of the media they consume, then they may feel unnatural or inadequate. Also, when the endings of mainstream films display a perfect relationship that ends any depression, insecurities or financial problems the main character had, it establishes expectations in the viewer for their own relationships, which—since their life is not a movie—will not be met. Young people, who are especially susceptible to the cultural values they see in society, should not be socialized to want things that are unattainable.

Folks of all sorts of beliefs, values and gender identities make up our diverse society. It is important to have representation for all kinds of lifestyles in films. It is equally important not to present certain lifestyles as “normal,” but rather as an example of one person’s unique experience. Queer representation in films is important, and we are seeing it more in mainstream films than we have in the past, which is good, but also comes with its own set of problems.

A question that has guided many discussions about queer representation in film—and in other media, for that matter—is whether any representation is good representation. In a podcast titled LGBTQ Representation by Film Comment, writer and journalist Mark Harris articulates that while it is clear queer communities would like to see themselves reflected in more mainstream media, how this could be achieved is another question entirely. For many, any representation is not necessarily a cause for celebration. Stereotypes, exaggerations and assumptions are prevalent throughout Hollywood representations of queer people, and while some may view these characters as progressive, others might see them as half-hearted attempts to temporarily pacify queer audiences.

The answer then must be to push toward broader, more fluid representations of queerness in film. Because of the narrowness of the space that queer characters are given in film and other media, there is not nearly enough room to express the multiplicities of queer experience that exist in reality. In the same way that it’s important to debunk the idea that straightness is “normal” and queerness is “abnormal,” it is also necessary to understand that queerness itself also exists in a variety of ways. This is why it is often difficult for filmmakers and studios—especially those in Hollywood—to represent the entirety of the queer community through the experiences of a few characters.

In a 2016 article titled “Still Looking,” Harris presents another way films can begin to feature more queer characters. “Representation is, of course, an across-the-board struggle, and the fight for inclusiveness usually comes down to two demands: tell our stories (or better still, let us tell our stories), and put us in ‘your’ stories,” Harris writes. He claims that queer authorship, as well as representation through characters, is key to building a more inclusive, well-rounded collection of queer films.

“We’re [here] already; a film doesn’t have to stop a story in its tracks to acknowledge that, or hand itself a humanitarian award for figuring it out,” Harris concludes. All that’s needed is a little more space.

Noteworthy upcoming event:

The Montreal-based “queer film community” fliQs hosts bi-monthly queer film nights at Notre-Dame-des-Quilles (32 Beaubien St. E.) featuring short films by local filmmakers. They are currently accepting submissions for the next edition, which will be on April 23 at 8 p.m. More information can be found on fliQs’ Facebook page.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Sorry Jordan Peterson, the future is non-binary

The professor’s conceptions of gender highlight a refusal to acknowledge modernity

It’s an exciting time, folks. Progressive culture is alive and well, and it’s propelling us toward a more realistic and less discriminatory definition of gender every day. This definition is one that recognizes the ways Western society enforces arbitrary gender stereotypes through socialization. It also recognizes and seeks to end the unjust limitation of individual opportunity on the basis of gender identity. This is currently the dominant way gender is taught in post-secondary institutions in relevant fields. But there is a psychology professor at the University of Toronto who has taken to publicly lamenting the declining popularity of the traditional understanding of gender—and his name is Jordan Peterson.

His online lecture videos are often geared directly toward young men—a demographic that represents over 90 per cent of his following, according to Peterson himself. The reason for this is likely the content of his claims like: “Feminism that says Western culture is an evil and corrupt patriarchy [is to blame for] alienating young men.” Peterson’s videos operate on the logic that progressive conceptions of gender are wrongfully oppressing men. He fights to preserve the gender ideals that one might find in a TV commercial from 1950s America.

Peterson’s understanding of the world is so rooted in a binary understanding of gender that it makes sense he would be reluctant to question it. Almost every one of his videos are laced with big, generalizing claims about the inherent personality differences between men and women, and he states in a lecture that he has been studying the topic for over 25 years. If Peterson acknowledges the large role socialization plays in gender identity, as well as the legitimacy of non-binary genders, he risks invalidating 25 years of his own research.

He argues society doesn’t value traditional masculinity as much as it did in the past (and he’s right). He may also be right in proposing that this shift has caused his young male supporters’ troubles. But he is wrong in suggesting that progressive attitudes towards gender—rather than toxic men—need to change.

Peterson refuses to recognize the existence of rape culture or the whole idea of toxic masculinity as a culture-wide problem. He said in a recent video: “You don’t want to confuse the actions of some of the men with all of the men” in response to the #MeToo movement. However, what Peterson doesn’t realize is that this is the exact type of logic that enforces the very alienation of young men he is concerned about. If they dig their heels in and refuse to adjust to society’s changing values, then they’re bound only for ostracization.

Some of the traits that we associate with “traditional” masculinity are courage, independence, assertiveness and leadership (I put traditional in quotations, because as sociologist Raewyn Connell points out, definitions of masculinity have varied dramatically in various cultures throughout the course of history). The thing is, there are a ton of women in my life who have all of these traits, and as progressive culture encourages a more fluid definition of gender, that number will only increase. Don’t get me wrong, there is a long way to go, but people are finding it increasingly easy to act according to their feelings rather than in accordance with societal constraints.

“Traditional” men are finding that their place in society is diminishing, and they are faced with the option of either confronting the toxic behaviour they’ve been instilled with since the beginning stages of their socialization, or becoming bitter about it. There is comfort in Peterson’s lectures for those who become bitter, as he reassures them that society is at fault for progressing away from traditional masculinity.

It’s hard work to acknowledge privilege and confront toxic masculine values, but the social move that questions those things is not going anywhere. You get to decide if you want to be part of the positive change or cling on to archaic understandings of gender. The future is non-binary.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth



Whether or not violence can affect positive change

Understanding the place of violence and its usefulness in North American politics

Is violence an effective way of achieving systemic change in our society? This question has been one of particular interest to anyone involved in current North American politics.

The discourse of far-right and even mainstream media outlets have demonized the radical left for some of its recent approaches to political protests. Take for example Donald Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protest, in which he condemned the violence of Nazis and those who protested against them in the same breath.

For the record, violent leftist protestors are a much smaller group than the media would have us believe. According to The Atlantic, “of the 372 politically-motivated murders recorded in the United States between 2007 and 2016, left-wing extremists committed less than two per cent […] right-wing extremists committed 74 per cent.”

However, there is a valuable conversation to be had about the effectiveness of violence—ranging from the destruction of property to the physical harm of individuals—as a response to hateful groups on the extreme right. This article will mostly leave out the question of morality because I believe that pacifism under a state that supports systemic violence is at least as immoral as taking up arms against it. I will instead consider whether violence is an effective means of dismantling the oppressive systems and groups in society.

One positive effect of violence from the left is that it sends a message to hateful ideologies that they are unwelcome in society. This was seen on the UC Berkeley campus where student protesters prevented Milo Yiannopoulos, a British political commentator for the extreme-right, from speaking in February, and again only a month ago, led to the cancellation of a right-wing event.

The cancellation of extreme-right gatherings for fear of counter-protesters has become a trend in American politics lately, which, in my opinion, is likely sending an unwelcome message to both supporters and anyone susceptible to these ideologies.

In a foreword to political activist Ward Churchill’s essay, Pacifism as Pathology, Dylan Rodriguez, an author and political activist himself, pointed out that violence against “a toxic social order has life-affirming possibilities for disempowered people.” It has the power to show these people that the social order can indeed be challenged and that they have the power to do so.

Consider what is being asked of the dominant class in society, when we say that we want to “change the system,” or “overthrow the social order.” It’s calling for an end to systemic oppression and inequality, which would require those powerful groups to give up their dominance over disenfranchised groups. Rodríguez has claimed the goal of these powerful groups is to preserve their own power. In the contradiction between their goal to maintain all of their power, and activists’ goal of redistributing the power in society lies the need for violence. Pacifism only represents tolerance of the current social order.

There are, however, convincing arguments against the left’s tactical use of violence. First, it could cause others to associate the left with violence, resulting in a loss of support among the more mainstream, less radical public who are turned off by such behavior. Right-wing news sources love when the left acts violently, because they can use it to discredit the morals—and thus the politics—of the entire group.

Violence is a chaotic force, and it can be difficult to control and use productively. It is my opinion that violence, when it is excessive and not properly thought out, does more harm than good. It should be reserved for times when it will positively benefit political goals—as an exclamation point to political rhetoric that won’t be heard or properly addressed through other tactics.

Violence may also prove tactically effective when openly hateful groups are preaching their ideologies. In these instances, violence will positively associate the left with an ideology that will not tolerate racism. I think that if no one is listening to a particular political group, then violence can be the only way to be heard, thus it would be unwise to completely rule it out as a method.

The challenge lies in using violence infrequently enough that it continues to be taken seriously, doesn’t spiral out of control and doesn’t soil the reputation of the left. For me, the question of violence is not whether we should use it or not, but rather when.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Learning when to speak and when to listen

Joseph Boyden controversy opens up a larger discussion about cultural appropriation

Joseph Boyden is one of the most celebrated Canadian writers to ever take pen to paper. He has claimed an Indigenous heritage throughout his career, and most of his work centres around this identity. Since the start of his career in 2005, with his debut novel Three Day Road, Boyden has won numerous awards, including the Canada First Novel Award, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award.

However, in December 2016, the Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) discovered Boyden has no Indigenous heritage. APTN reported that even though Boyden has claimed ties to Métis, Mi’kmaq, Ojibway and Nipmuc communities throughout his life, they were unable to find any specific links to these communities. According to the report, “Boyden has never publicly revealed exactly from which earth his Indigenous heritage grows. It has been an ever shifting, evolving thing.”

Some of the things the APTN researched were his family tree and a book about the Boyden family that was published in 1901. After researching his familial claims and ancestry, the network learned that his inconsistent claims lead to a lack of concrete proof of his Indigenous heritage.

Boyden himself remained relatively silent after that, until the beginning of August when he responded to the allegations made against him by writing an article in Maclean’s. He said he’d taken a DNA test that showed he’s a “mutt,” and went on to list the results of the test. Boyden claimed these results indicated he is part Indigenous.

Prior to Boyden’s response in Maclean’s, an article from Vice News featured Métis writer Aaron Paquette saying that being Indigenous isn’t about DNA. He echoed a claim Boyden himself made on Twitter in his response to the controversy: “It is about community. It is about who claims you.” But who exactly claims Joseph Boyden?

In his Maclean’s article, Boyden vaguely claimed to have been “adopted by a number of people in Indigenous communities.” Robert Jago, a member of Kwantlen First Nation, was one of the researchers who questioned Boyden’s ancestry. In an article on Canadaland, he questioned the validity of being adopted by many communities, since the term “First Nations” refers to the many individual communities that make up the broader Indigenous community. “There is no person in Canada who is Indigenous without first having a national identity,” he said. In other words, you can belong to the Indigenous community in Canada, but you can’t belong to more than one of the individual groups that make up that broader community. Boyden claimed to be just that, which highlights his misconception around what it means to be Indigenous. If he misunderstood this key part of Indigenous identity, think about the other things he could have misunderstood and the problem with him spreading misinformation like this while claiming that he himself is Indigenous.

Some may say that, despite his questionable methods, Boyden helped raise awareness for Indigenous communities, but Jago refuted that claim in the same article for Canadaland, saying: “Being Indigenous is not a requirement to stand up for Indigenous rights.”

There seems to remain some uncertainty about whether Boyden was mistaken about his heritage or purposely deceitful. Regardless, this controversy opens up a larger, increasingly present debate about cultural appropriation. Although Boyden did spread awareness for Indigenous issues, there’s a potential his actions were harmful to the community as a whole if he took away speaking opportunities, money and cultural context from genuine Indigenous voices.

There exists a fine line between spreading awareness about relevant issues and being a part of the problem when sharing Indigenous stories without belonging to that community. This situation is about non-Indigenous people knowing—or at least being willing to learn—when it’s their turn to talk, and when it’s time to step aside and allow Indigenous people an opportunity to tell their own stories. This is a lesson for not only Boyden, but for all non-Indigenous Canadians who want to right the wrongs of their ancestors—myself included.

Graphics by Zeze Le Lin.


The right to die is as sacred as the right to live

Almost a year into its legalization, medically assisted suicide is still something to be fought for

In June 2016, medically-assisted suicide, which is the act of suicide with the aid of a medical practitioner, was legalized in Canada. We are approaching the one-year mark of that decision, yet some people still strongly oppose it and feel that it should be illegal.

I think that in a civilized and democratic society, people should have complete autonomy over their actions so long as they don’t intentionally harm other people. Every major decision in a person’s lifetime should be up to the individual, since only they know what’s truly best for them. In a country that values freedom and individuality, a person’s right to death should be as sacred as their right to life.

A survey by the non-profit organization Dying With Dignity Canada showed that, in 2014, 84 per cent of Canadians supported assisted death. This includes euthanasia—when a patient agrees to die by the hands of a physician, and assisted suicide—when a patient dies by their own hands, but by means given by a physician. According to the Toronto Star, about 200 Canadians went through the process of physician-assisted suicide by October 2016, following its legalization.

However, The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is a Canadian organization active in posting anti-euthanasia content on their website, in hopes of changing legislation to make it illegal again. A look through their website reveals anxieties around the possible abuse of power on the part of physicians, and the potential inability of those suffering to make a logical choice about whether to live or die.

Groups that are against medically-assisted death tend to think decriminalizing it is a slippery slope which leads to a society “where the vulnerable are threatened and where premature death becomes a cheap alternative to palliative care,” according to an article in The Economist titled “The right to die.” However, it is extremely unlikely this will happen because the essential purpose of legalizing medically-assisted death is to give people authority over their own lives. The idea that it could lead to people being unjustly killed is inconsistent with the movement’s core goals.

The current laws in Canada are extremely restrictive. The legislation around medically-assisted death puts a lot of emphasis on ensuring the autonomy of the patient. According to the End-of-Life Law and Policy in Canada website, patients must make “a voluntary request for medical assistance in dying that, in particular, was not made as a result of external pressure.” To say that legalizing medically-assisted death is a path towards injustice is incorrect because it is actually a step in the opposite direction.

According to the same article in The Economist, “places that have allowed assisted dying suggest that there is no slippery slope towards widespread euthanasia. In fact, the evidence leads to the conclusion that most of the schemes for assisted dying should be bolder.”

Canadian legislation ensures a patient isn’t able to go through with the whole process hastily. According to the End-of-Life Law and Policy in Canada, in Canada, in order to receive a medically assisted death, patients must submit and sign a written request to end their life in front of two witnesses, 10 days before death. Two physicians must also agree with the written agreement, which confirms the patient has an incurable medical condition that is in an advanced state and that death is foreseeable. Patients need to also be aware of other potential palliative care options.

In the end, adults should be allowed to make their own decisions, even if these choices have extreme consequences. The rhetoric around decriminalizing medically-assisted death shares many similarities with the debate concerning abortion laws. If we want to talk about slippery slopes, we should consider the ones lurking behind legislation that limits people’s autonomy over their own lives in relation to what they can and can’t do with their bodies.

In the February issue of their monthly anti-euthanasia newsletter, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition cited an article by Metro News that claims many physicians are unwilling to perform euthanasia on their patients. Based on this article, they concluded, “killing another human being is counter-intuitive to our human nature … Death with dignity is not attained by a lethal injection—it is attained by dying comfortably within a community of caring and supportive people.” Aside from the fact that medically-assisted death can still be “within a community of caring and supportive people,” I think it is up to the individual to decide what dying with dignity looks like.

It is fine if physicians are uncomfortable with the idea of suicide since the desire to live is a personal issue. It is nearly impossible for someone who doesn’t want to end their life to understand the mentality of someone who does. We should offer as much help to people as we can provide—be it through medication, therapy or other treatment—but ultimately, people should be allowed to make their own decision regarding whether or not they feel like their life is worth living.

Not everyone’s views on death are the same. Some see it as the worst thing that could ever happen to a person, and as something that is to be avoided for as long as possible. This is a valid point of view, but it is by no means universal. If someone truly believes death is more desirable than suffering, then who are we to stop them? Everyone has had unique life experiences that contribute to their worldview and personal philosophy, and they should be allowed to act according to it. Just because others don’t agree with their choices is no reason to limit their ability to make these choices.

As long as someone is deemed mentally stable by a qualified psychiatrist to make such a weighted choice, then if someone definitively decides they want to end their life, we should take them very seriously and allow them to make that decision.


Films to fight cultural ignorance

The FIFEQ aims to give a voice to the voiceless through film

It is easy to settle into the rhythm of your life and forget that other ways of life exist. One way to stay open-minded about other people and their ways of life is to learn through books, the news or through an international film festival.

The International Ethnographic Film Festival of Quebec (FIFEQ) aims to give a voice to cultures and communities that may not otherwise have one. The films display unique parts of the human experience, and show the daily lives and struggles from people living around the world.

“It’s an opportunity to learn about other cultures and people that you were unaware of before. FIFEQ shows movies that you likely won’t see anywhere else,” saidAlizé Honen-Delmar, a FIFEQ coordinator. This year, FIFEQ received more than 250 film submissions from filmmakers all over the world, of which the team chose over 30 of their favourites and organized them by theme.

The 14th edition of the festival will take place in Montreal between March 12 and 20 at a variety of locations, but mainly at Concordia, Université de Montréal and McGill. Concordia will be hosting a portion of the festival on March 17 and 18, from 2:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. each day.

Concordia will be hosting two blocks on March 17: Ethnography of Objects which is comprised of films exploring the symbolic meaning of inanimate objects to various people and cultures; and Sink or Swim, which includes films about people living on boats, islands and anything else involving water.

The March 18 blocks at Concordia will be Going Through the Motions and Beyond Borders.

Going Through the Motions tells stories of rituals in different cultures, and Beyond Borders showcases films about the lives of migrants and refugees.

The screenings will be at the J.A de Sève Cinema in the Library building (LB 125), where there will be coffee and tea, as well as catered vegan food available. Entrance and the food at FIFEQ are free, and the festival is open to the entire student body and the general public.

Honen-Delmar’s favourite movie is in the Beyond Borders block. It’s about illegal border crossing in three different places: Mexico and the U.S., Morocco and Spain, and Zimbabwe and South Africa. “It’s interesting to compare the border tensions between different countries, and I think it’s especially relevant today, given current border tensions in America,” she said.

Lots of Monsters, which will screen at Concordia on March 18, is a short documentary centering around the Loch Ness Monster.

“As a film studies student, I love movies, and I also think being a volunteer is good because you can learn so much from the people you work with, and can share important information with others in the student community,” Honen-Delmar said.

In the past, FIFEQ has shown films on topics such as immigration, war refugees, religion and spirituality, and various other anthropological topics. If you’ve ever been to a Cinema Politica screening on a Monday evening at Concordia, you can expect to see films that are similar in content and subject matter.

According to their website, FIFEQ has been dedicated to “showcasing ethnographic film and visual anthropology” since 2003. They “promote representations of alterity—‘otherness’—that are articulated within an anti-colonial framework, [and] celebrate human agency and the diversity of environments we craft for ourselves.”

For more information, including the titles, times and locations of the films being screened, visit FIFEQ’s website.


Let’s talk about corporate philanthropy

Analyzing philanthropy in major businesses in an age where PR is everything

During the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, which took place a couple of weeks ago, social media sites were brimming with people sharing their experiences with mental illness in an attempt to raise awareness. For every tweet, Instagram post, Facebook videoview and Snapchat geofilter that mentioned the campaign, and for every call or text made by a Bell customer on Jan. 25, Bell donated five cents to various mental health resources.

Millions of people supported the campaign, including celebrities like Ellen Degeneres, Ryan Reynolds and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. According to an article by CTV News, the campaign raised $6.5 million this year, and more than $79 million total since its debut in 2010. This event is simultaneously one of the most effective mental health fundraisers and awareness campaigns in Canadian history, and also one of the greatest marketing strategies of all time.

Bell was the number one company on everyone’s minds on the day of the event, and in a context of selfless philanthropy no less. It can be assumed, however, that selfless wasn’t entirely the case. The purpose of the campaign, in part, was undoubtedly to spread brand awareness, and thus grow financially.

Is there a problem with the duality of this campaign? Does its success from a marketing perspective take away from its success in raising awareness for mental health issues?

According to an article in The Globe And Mail, out of 1.2 million Canadian children affected by mental illness, only a quarter receive appropriate treatment. It is clear that there is a stigma around mental illness, because it is not being treated the same as a physical illness—such as a broken bone—to which Canada’s health care always provides adequate aid.

In order to end this stigma, we need to be comfortable talking about it as a real illness, and we need some loud voices to start the conversation. In our society, corporations hold a lot of power and influence, thus they have some of the loudest voices.

They are capable, then, of effecting real change and, as is the case with Bell Let’s Talk Day, that change can be extremely positive. My only problem with it is that the economic market that we live in runs on self-interest, and it is hard to see any corporate act outside of that context.

For me, Bell crossed a line in using mental illness in the manipulative, profit-driven environment of the marketing world. Mental health is such a serious issue to people who have been affected by it. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians will experience mental illness at some point in their lifetime. I’m convinced that Bell saw an opportunity to capitalize on that fact, and that they don’t really have the interest of those with mental illnesses in mind.

Hints of this emerged on the day of the campaign, when the CBC broke a story about a Bell Media employee who was fired after requesting time off—with a doctor’s note—to deal with their mental illness. Bell is still a profit-oriented company, and I think that to believe otherwise is not only false, but potentially dangerous.

In my view, Bell is capitalizing on mental illness. They are profiting off of the pain of millions of people, which is immoral. Bell’s power as a major corporation makes them one of our best resources for fighting the stigma around mental illness. However, I don’t think that we should view this as a permanent way to deal with the problem of mental illness in our society.

Once the conversation is more free and the stigma gone—or at least drastically decreased—the problem should be dealt with by more responsible institutions that solely have people’s best interests in mind—such as the government and not-for-profit organizations—rather than left in the hands of corporate companies that don’t. I propose that for now we view the Bell Let’s Talk campaign as a necessary evil, and as a stepping stone towards a society that deals with mental illness more effectively and morally.

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