Concordia’s Annual SCPA Panels are Underway

This year’s overarching theme is “Utopia,” giving students opportunities to discuss plans for a better future in Montreal through policy changes

After two semesters of planning, teams of students from the School of Community and Public Affairs (SCPA)  have begun presenting their panels on various social issues. The first panel took place on Feb. 1, and more will follow until the end of March.

The panels are a part of a class called “Social Debates and Issues in Public Affairs and Public Policy,” or SCPA 301. As described on Concordia’s website, the focus of the class is to help students “on developing both communication skills, through oral and written presentations, and organizational skills as each team must organize one public panel discussion on one of the selected issues.” Six panels will be presented, and the class typically consists of no more than 25 people. The goal of each panel is to bring awareness to a specific issue, like food insecurity, accessibility, or policing, and showcase the ideas of experts in their respective fields.

“Our panel is on food insecurity,” said student Romy Shoam. “The goal of our panel is to hear from experts on differing specific aspects of food insecurity in Montreal and in Canada. They’ll be talking about fixing this problem in an affordable and healthy way for all people. We want to hear about how we can reform our food system in Montreal, both in the short-term and long term.”

The panel will dive into specific problems that affect food security, ranging from accessibility and affordability of food as well as community cooperation to improve food insecurity. The panelists all have expertise within the Canadian food system in differing ways, ranging from the Montreal Food Policy Council to the Quebec Farmers’ Association.  The panelists are Omar Elsharkawy, Erik Chevrier, Anne Marie Aubert, and John McCart.

Rose Chisholm is a student working on a panel that deals with ageism in urban life. “Our panel is called ‘Generation All: Reimagining Montreal.’ We want to have a big brainstorm about creating intergenerational environments. In Montreal, we’re really divided by age, especially in this epidemic of loneliness,” she said.

“In our capitalist society, if you’re not seen as part of that ‘productive’ age bracket, you’re disregarded,” she added. The panel will feature experts and researchers on creating age-friendly cities and bringing an end to the crisis of elder abuse. The students involved have partnered with RECAA (Respecting Elders Communities Against Abuse), the West-end Intergenerational Network, Concordia’s Dr. Meghan Joy, and engAGE Concordia to make this panel happen.

Ace Baldwin is working on a panel on policing in Montreal and its effects on certain communities. “Our panel began as a discussion on police reform, but our group wanted to take it a step further. Many people don’t understand what defunding the police really means or looks like, and I think it’s because it’s hard for people to imagine what defunding or abolishing police looks like — we’ve built our society around this. We know that policing has a negative impact on marginalized and racialized people,” they said.

The panel will focus on alternatives to the current systems in place regarding policing and its impact in Montreal, like defunding the SPVM and gearing those funds towards social workers and community organizations. Panelists will include experts and activists who have witnessed the horrors of police brutality, all of whom happen to be women of colour. The panelists are Marlihan Lopez, Amy Edward, Jessica Quijano, and El Jones.

This year-long course is now reaching its long-awaited climax as students present their panels. Each presentation will be around two hours long, with the last half hour reserved for questions. Due to ongoing pandemic restrictions, the panels will be taking place online. Information on how to sign up and watch the panels can be found on the SCPA Student Association’s Facebook page.


Visuals by James Fay

Concordia Student Union News

CSU Confirms Plans for Second Affordable Student Housing Unit

After the completion of the Woodnote in 2020, the Concordia Student Union is going ahead with plans for a second building

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) is moving forward with plans for a second affordable student housing unit, confirmed Laurent Levesque, CEO of UTILE, the housing non-profit that built the Woodnote. This new building will likely be finished by the end of 2025.

UTILE has said that this new unit could house roughly 144 students, or the same amount as the Woodnote. “We’re in the phase of the project where we collect objectives. The CSU is telling us the project parameters they want us to meet, and that will eventually be turned into a contract. This then becomes UTILE’s mandate for the building,” he said.

The Woodnote’s total cost was $18 million. Of that total, the CSU funded $1.8 million while $1.6 million came from the city of Montreal, and $3 million from the federal government, according to Levesque. For this second building, Levesque’s hope is to stay around the same budget. “We’re always trying to house as many students as possible without getting to a size that makes a feeling of community impossible to achieve. The realistic target is about the size of the Woodnote, and that goes for the budget too.” Levesque wishes that more funding from municipal, provincial, and federal governments would be allocated to fund this expansion.

The project is in its initial phase, so there are lots of details to work out. “We don’t have a name for it yet,” said Levesque. “The Woodnote’s name was chosen by students in part because of its design and location near Parc Lafontaine. We’ll get there [with this second building] once the land is found and the design starts to take shape. We’ll only do that once the CSU confirms that this project is something they want to do. We expect to be able to deliver the project in three to four years, which is faster than the Woodnote.”

Eduardo Malorni, the Concordia Student Union’s general coordinator, gave an update on the project. “The CSU is currently in discussions with UTILE regarding the possible creation of a second housing cooperative project following the successful completion of the Woodnote. This would manifest itself as an investment into the PUSH (Popular University Student Housing) Fund. Currently we are in discussions regarding the scope of the project and if all goes well, we will be sending a referendum question to be voted on by the student body regarding their support for the project in the March 2022 CSU General Elections.”

In a report compiled in 2020, around 50 per cent of the Woodnote’s residents were Quebecers. The other half was split between Canadian and international tenants. Levesque said that there was a turnover rate of around 30 per cent within the building, which he saw as beneficial. “It shows that students are happy to live there and happy to move out when their studies are done.” UTILE hopes to replicate the conditions of their first building with this new Concordia project., as their goal is to ensure affordable housing for students.

“We are essentially the only non-profit group to be doing this work on student housing. Our research has shown that there are over 250,000 student tenants in Quebec alone. That’s a lot of people that are suffering in the housing crisis,” Levesque said. 

UTILE sees Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s reelection as a green light, as she has committed to creating 2000 units of affordable student housing in her second term. On municipal contributions, Levesque said that “It’s very reasonable for the CSU to expect for the city to pitch in again. We don’t want to place the burden on student unions to fund these initiatives, so it’s good that the city is here to help. There is a lot of political momentum for this project.”

As plans get drawn up and contracts get written, the student housing crisis continues to worsen. The CSU has told The Concordian that it intends on moving forward with the construction of this second building which will help dozens of students find affordable housing in Montreal.


Photo By Catherine Reynolds


Kazakhstan uprisings: violence slows down amid hundreds of deaths

Following weeks of brutal crackdowns against protesters, the Central Asian nation is slowly letting the smoke clear

On Jan. 2, thousands of citizens in at least 19 cities across Kazakhstan began mass protests against the nation’s government. Authorities stated that 225 protesters were killed and 12 thousand have been arrested, but international experts are calling those numbers suspiciously low.

The movement began when Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev lifted all price caps for gasoline nationwide. This resulted in a massive spike in prices, infuriating millions of citizens, especially those in the working-class oil-producing regions.

What followed was a strong national dissent against Tokayev and his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government’s egregious human rights violations, crackdowns on freedoms, economic inequality, and corruption. 

In Almaty, the country’s largest city, government buildings have been stormed and set ablaze. Tokayev urged his armed forces to shoot and kill without warning on Jan. 7, labeling the protesters as “bandits and terrorists.”

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, issued a statement condemning the violence and calling for peace. 

“We emphasize the importance of upholding democratic values, respecting human rights, and refraining from violence and destruction,” said Joly. “Canada calls for restraint and de-escalation. We urge that the situation in Kazakhstan be resolved quickly and through peaceful dialogue.”

Kazakhstan is home to some of the world’s largest reserves of petroleum, natural gas, agricultural goods, and other precious resources vital to international trade. The nation is Canada’s largest trading partner in Central Asia, but diplomacy with the country since its independence in 1991 has always been somewhat tricky, due to the immediate dictatorship that took place after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

After the USSR’s collapse, the republic of Kazakhstan was established, and Nursultan Nazarbayev became the head of state. An already prominent Kazakh figure during the tail-end of the Soviet regime, Nazarbayev’s rule lasted for nearly 30 years. Under his regime, the private sector was developed, corruption skyrocketed, an oligarchy formed, and mass inequality became a cornerstone of the nation. 

After another movement of mass protests in 2019, Nazarbayev stepped down as president, but hand-picked his predecessor, Tokayev. The former president was still sitting as chairman of the country’s national security council until January 2022 as protests prompted him to leave his position.

A key player in the anti-government movement gripping Kazakhstan has been Vladimir Putin. The Russian government announced on Jan. 7 that it would be sending thousands of infantry and special operatives to Kazakhstan in order to place pressure on Tokayev. Russia has many important trade and security ties to the Kazakh government, including its Baikonur Cosmodrome, one of the primary sites for launching Russian spacecraft and missiles.

It was announced by the Kremlin that Russian troops would be leaving Kazakhstan relatively soon, seeing as the situation has begun calming down. After the arrival of troops, Tokayev announced that the caps on fuel prices would be reinstated for six months, giving time for the government to come up with better, less flame-fanning policies.

In a fight against social repression, economic disparity, and political brutality, thousands of Kazakh protesters remain imprisoned. Having burned and destroyed government buildings, including parts of the president’s home, the government has been clear that the punishment for the protesters will not be light.

Hundreds have passed away as a result of the fighting, but the situation slowly becomes more stable as the government reasserts its control and attempts to quell the desperate cries for change.


Graphics by James Fay


Concordia Task Force on Anti-Black Racism releases first report

The President’s Task Force has published its preliminary recommendations for ending anti-Black racism within the university.

First commissioned in 2020, the President’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism has published its first report of preliminary recommendations. It includes a panoply of findings surrounding anti-Blackness at Concordia, as well as a dozen recommendations for the institution itself and for stakeholders, specifically Black students and faculty.

The report’s findings

The first section of the report is dedicated to the specific findings unearthed by the Task Force in the past year. Initially, it was challenging to determine the total number of Black students and faculty at Concordia. There has been a lack of infrastructure to uncover statistics and data on this issue. Looking into hiring discrepancies, the report revealed that there were very few Black faculty members, and that there was an issue in the turnover rate, however no numbers were shared in the report. The report also found gaps in curriculum and anti-racism training, and  that there is a lack of funding towards projects by and for Black Concordians. Several other pertinent findings were identified as well.

Institution-based recommendations

In the second section of the report, the commission broke down its six primary recommendations on the institutional level: this means anti-racist policies that would be integrated directly into the university. The first of these recommendations is to involve the Office of the Vice-Provost,  Faculty Development and Inclusion, the Equity Office, and the Office of Institutional Planning and Analysis, among others, in the process of accurate data collection. The second is to hire more Black faculty members so that Concordia’s population would be better represented in its faculty — this would also mean finding ways to diminish turnover. The third recommendation concerns the creation of anti-Black racism training and workshops for both students and staff, which would become mandatory. The next recommendation is the creation of certificates and minors in Black history, Black Canadian studies, and African diaspora studies. The last two institution-based recommendations are about making resources on Black perspectives permanent at the university and widening library resources by Black authors and scholars. By ingraining pro-Black policies into the system at Concordia, the commission believes the university could see more racial equality.

Stakeholder-based recommendations

The third section of the report contains six more recommendations to fight anti-Blackness. Where these differ from the last six is that they are directly and explicitly focused on the primary stakeholders in this issue: Black students and faculty members. The first recommendation is to implement changes within campus security, which would prioritize de-escalation. The second is the development of mental health services specifically tailored for Black students. The third and fourth recommendations are the creation of a permanent centre for Black Concordians and the implementation of culturally specific mentorship programs respectively. The fifth is the development of a concrete plan for increasing financial support for Black students, both local and international, as well as for the development of Black studies courses and programs. The final recommendation made by the committee is to “provide public recognition of the presence and contributions of Black Concordians over the course of Concordia’s history.” This would be done via the implementation of permanent monuments to the university’s long-standing Black history.

The Task Force has spent the past year developing solutions by speaking with Black student groups and faculty members. The full report will be made available by the summer of 2022. Near the end of the report, Task Force members explained why the implementation of these recommendations is so crucial.

“Ongoing exchanges with all university stakeholders must continue to facilitate implementation, provide a structure for long-term ally support and offer a clear framework for Black excellence among faculty, staff and students, allowing them to be fully invested in their futures at Concordia.”


Photograph by Catherine Reynolds 


The end of the volunteer note-taking program continues to negatively affect students with disabilities

Although the program hasn’t been operational since the start of the pandemic, the return to in-person classes is making note-taking services even more necessary for students with disabilities.

As students head into Concordia’s first finals session since their return to campus, many students with disabilities are facing an uphill battle. The university has not reinstated its peer-run note-taking program, leaving those who relied on Zoom transcripts for a year in the dark.

University Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci expanded on the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities’ (ACSD) decision to end the program. “During the winter of 2020, the ACSD completed a review of its service offerings and the peer note-taking program was ended for a number of reasons mostly related to the difficulty in finding reliable peer (or volunteer) note-takers as matches.”

Kaity Brady, a fourth-year student who deals with cystic fibrosis and is registered with the ACSD, is not impressed with the university’s handling of her health and safety needs.

“Because of my medical condition, I have to miss a lot of class due to chronic pain. It wasn’t an issue last year because I was already home,” she said. When asked about safety concerns, Brady had some choice words for the school.

“Do you really think the Hall Building is the safest place for me to be when the school won’t even enforce a vaccine mandate? I would feel safer in my journalism classes in the CJ building, but something as big as Hall? I feel way less safe. I also want to point out that for some disabled students, going back in person has been very beneficial. But because my issue really is physical, it’s been a challenge. I didn’t think they could do it, but Concordia found another way to disappoint me.”

Maestracci confirmed that students registered with the ACSD were notified about this change last year. However, the situation regarding in-person classes was radically different in the summer of 2020 than in the fall of 2021. As of September 2021, Concordia has implemented a hybrid teaching method that combines online classes with in-person ones. Students who relied on lecture transcripts automatically produced by programs like Zoom only have that luxury if their classes happen to be virtual. Every faculty within Concordia has been abiding by the university’s general health and safety guidelines, but some have been more cautious than others.

Brady can attest that before the note-taking service was taken away, the quality was not great. “It really wasn’t fantastic, but it was better than nothing. Now school has never been more inaccessible for me.” One of Concordia’s main reasons for the suspension of the program, as pointed out by Maestracci, was mostly due to a lack of reliable peer notetakers.

Maestracci added that “Students registered with the ACSD can still request professional note-taking at the beginning of the semester, if they face barriers related to written output or accessing print or visual information, for example. Each student’s request is reviewed on a case-by-case basis and when deemed as a reasonable accommodation, the ACSD will hire and pay a professional note-taker for that student.”

In the coming weeks, thousands of students will be entering exam periods in order to complete their fall 2021 semester. The community of students with disabilities who relied on note-takers could face additional obstacles in the final sprint to the academic finish line.


Graphic by Madeline Schmidt

Edit: A paraphrased comment by Vannina Maestracci in this article was corrected

The gay agenda exposed — I infiltrated the alphabet mafia

An Investigative Essay by Chadrick P. Übermensch, Esquire

Author’s note: Navigating a homophobic world as a queer person has never been easy. For years, homophobes have speculated that any advancements by the LGBTQ+ community have been parts of a scheme known as “the gay agenda”. While this is continuously refuted, there is also a panoply of issues within the queer community that affects people of intersecting identities who do not feel represented or accepted within mainstream gay spaces.


A few months ago, I made a decision that would alter my life forever. I would consider myself the ultimate alpha-dude-bro — I’m the manliest manly man you could ever imagine. To further bask in my masculine glory, I began posting pictures of my workouts onto To my utter shock and dismay, I rapidly gained a following of gay men. I gained thousands of followers within the first week, accompanied by unseemly, unsolicited, scandalous messages: “hey handsome,” “I love your body,” “show hole,” “you look incredible.” After thousands of these messages, I had enough. As I thought of the level of sophistication and coordination required to flood my inbox at such a high rate with such disturbing messages, a shiver went down my spine. Something deeply sinister was going on here, and a larger force was behind it all. In that moment, I knew I had to try to expose the Gay Agenda.

I wouldn’t say I have a problem with gay people. The problem comes when they try to shove it in my face. Why are men smooching on the kiss cam at baseball games? Let me watch a dozen muscular men in uber-tight polyester jog together in peace without bringing your ideology into it. If anything, straight people are being discriminated against! We can’t even buy Campbell’s soup without seeing these fruitcakes in their commercials! These egregious exhibits are clearly machiavellian manifestations of the Gay Agenda, which is why I had to put a stop to it.

In order to end the Gay Agenda, I first had to locate the LGBT Organization’s headquarters. They all live in the same facility, you know. I hopped on a bus downtown. In the dead of night, I walked across town to the corner of Fistenberg and Dyckman, where I found a telephone booth. As I entered the booth, I picked up the phone. From what I had learned online before my arrival, I knew the code I had to enter was 6453-73623-927-4373 (the password is mike-pence-was-here). Someone picked up the call. “You’ve reached the Hightower Record Store, how may I assist you?” Taking a deep breath, I responded. “Hello. I’m looking for your selection of Charli XCX vinyls.” Suddenly, a red light turned on and the booth began descending like an elevator.

Once I made it to the main floor, I was in complete shock. The entire place was decked out in enough blacklight and rainbow strobe lights to send an epilectic to the hospital. The music was a confusing blend of incomprehensible hyperpop glitch and early 2000s Eurotrash. Dance floors were packed with thin, pale bodies, in a blend of thrifted and vintage designer fashion. These people had icy looks in their eyes, trembling from gallons of iced coffee. I walked around the main halls, reading the signs above different rooms. There were ones dedicated to worshipping idols (pop idols, that is), blue hair-dying stations, rooms solely dedicated to yelling “we hate the straights!” in unison, rooms for witchcraft in which they’d put curses on Boosie Badazz and Dave Chapelle, and yassification stations as well.

After spending time snooping around the place, I finally found what I was looking for. As it turns out, the Gay Agenda is also a physical agenda! I began reading their program: “Monday — make Ellen emperor for life; bake Betty Crocker funfetti cake; and hunt down Tones and I for making “Dance Monkey.” Tuesday — persuade waiters to hand men dessert menus; enact Critical Gay Theory; and manufacture 750,000 rainbow poppies. Wednesday — bring-your-bottom-to-work day; and light a candle at the altar of RuPaul. Thursday — neuter straight men in public bathrooms; and Golden Girls watch party. Friday — give Cher.” I stashed a copy in my jacket — I could now expose these people for good.

As I was exiting the hall, I noticed a different elevator. This one had much less glitz, glamour, and gay. I got inside and the doors closed smoothly — I could barely hear the untz-untz of the Eurotrash music from in here. There were only two buttons: one for the floor I was on, and one below. I descended, and was shocked upon my arrival. The basement was a plain office building, with workers sitting at their desks, getting some work done. However, there was something fundamentally different about who was working in this office compared to the crowd upstairs.

I walked around and struck up a few conversations with folks, still incognito. What made this room different is that most people in it were people of colour, people with disabilities, fat people, and everyone deemed inferior from the upstairs crowd. “Notice how most of the crazies upstairs are white teenagers with no other oppression to claim,” said a Black trans woman. “We’re the ones who make the culture, they’re the ones who distort it beyond repair. We have some common issues, but they disregard us in every way — we’ve gotten so used to it that we expect them to erase us.” I spoke with many others who felt the same way. They made me realize how truly futile some of my issues with the community were.

As I exited the room, I opened a back door to a stairwell. I climbed up dozens of flights of stairs until I reached a door that opened to the street. My watch read 4:30 a.m. As I took a deep breath, I reached into my pocket and grabbed my phone. I opened, swiped through my settings, and deleted my original thirst trap account. As the sun began to rise, I took my copy of the agenda, shredded it, and shoved it through the holes of a sewer grate. It was time for me to go home and rethink some of my beliefs.


Feature graphic by James Fay


Quebec’s HIV/AIDS Services Continue Being Defunded

The COCQ-SIDA has rung the alarm about its funding crisis from the federal and provincial governments.

There are now less than five months remaining until the funding cycle for local HIV/AIDS services from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is renewed on Apr. 1, 2022. The Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA), a representational body of Quebec’s HIV/AIDS community organizations, is concerned about the deadline’s impacts.

The organization has been pointing at a crisis revolving around issues of funding. Unfortunately, rates of HIV/AIDS transmission across Canada have been on the rise for quite some time. Since 2003, Canada has implemented new programs to fight the virus in a multitude of ways, spanning from treatment to prevention. Members of Parliament urged the Harper government to increase funding, but its response was underwhelming according to doctors and activists. In 2016, the Trudeau government, in a bid to balance its  funding, shifted financial focus to prevention rather than treatment, creating huge gaps from which groups like the COCQ-SIDA are now feeling the burden. In 2016, 42 treatment-oriented groups saw their funding vanish in this shift. Because funding hasn’t increased in years according to the COCQ-SIDA, organizations that require assistance will only require more resources as cases continue on an upward trend.

The current method used by Ottawa to supply local groups with funding is primarily two-fold: HIV/AIDS service funds are distributed by the Community Action Fund (CAF) and the Harm Reduction Fund (HRF). The CAF is given over $26 million by the federal government, which they allot by granting organizations with five-year funding contracts. The HRF gets $7 million to distribute in the form of three to five-year contracts with a maximum of $250,000 for a single group annually. The COCQ-SIDA’s primary issue is that these numbers have not evolved to reflect the times.

“The impact of the decisions of the PHAC, within the framework of the 2021 calls for submissions for the CAF and the HRF, means that several member organizations of the COCQ-SIDA [who are] well rooted in their communities and [have] varied expertise find themselves victims of this chronic underfunding. The situation is even more serious in the context of underfunding at the provincial level,” said Ken Monteith, director general of COCQ-SIDA.

Due to the issue of increased demand and stagnant finances, many groups are struggling. On top of these issues, contracts have expiration dates. After those three or five-year deals, many organizations might not have their funding renewed, forcing their operations to be scaled down. “We are going to have to reduce our staff very significantly, to the point of having to consider closing the organization,” said Charlène Aubé from IRIS Estrie, an organization in Sherbrooke whose contract was not renewed.

Several other centres across Quebec will be faced with harsh realities this spring. Thousands of Quebecers living with HIV/AIDS, as well as others who might contract the disease will be impacted by these policy decisions in the very near future.

Graphic Courtesy of Rose-Marie Dion

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Summer Walker – Still Over It

The R&B superstar releases her sophomore album, and she’s back with a vengeance.

Two years after Over It, Summer Walker has returned to the music scene in full force. Her latest release, Still Over It, can be seen as the follow-up to her last project. This is Summer’s second studio album and it’s brimming with incredible tracks. 

Summer Walker continues to prove through and through in each of her projects that when it comes to R&B, she understands the assignment. Still Over It is the perfect album for listeners who love the early R&B themes of heartbreak and betrayal but also love modern beats and melodies. Tracks like “Constant Bullshit,” “Reciprocate,” and “Broken Promises” are all easily some of the best tracks in her entire discography thus far. Summer knows how to tear her ex-lover apart on one track, revel in her pettiness on another, and cry about it on a third — all while maintaining a palpable cohesion and flow throughout the LP.

Still Over It has a running time of just over an hour and contains 20 songs. It chronicles the public downward spiral of her relationship with producer and rapper London on da Track over the last two years. Summer has accused him of being a deadbeat dad, of not respecting her or their baby, and of mistreating her. Although this entire project revolved around criticizing London, he is nevertheless an accredited producer on half of the songs. The couple is no longer together, but they maintain a relationship professionally and they also co-parent.

If Over It was about needing love and finding intimacy, Still Over It is about coping with infidelity and embracing vulnerability. The album is chock-full of heartbreaking lyrics, zippy one-liners, and melodies that warm the soul.

Out of 20 tracks, eight contain features. A voicemail style recording by Cardi B plays at the top of the album, and one by Grammy award-winning R&B artist Ciara closes it out. Summer teams with SZA for the petty anthem “No Love,” and joins forces with Ari Lennox on the smooth and jazzy “Unloyal.” The project furthers its range of collaborators with Pharrell Williams and The Neptunes on “Dat Right There,” one of the danciest tracks on the album.

This album, at its core, is an homage to women struggling with disloyal partners, all while trying to find themselves. If there is a singular moment that captures this, it is on “4th Baby Mama,” where Summer sings “Telling people that I’m your queen / But all you mean is just of R&B.” After this release, it is safe to say that Still Over It is one of Summer Walker’s strongest projects to date.


Trial Track: “Reciprocate”

Score: 8/10


Concordia researchers pioneer early-stage cancer identification nanotechnology

Dr. Muthukumaran Packirisamy, Concordia professor and research team member, is quite optimistic about the future of cancer screening technology.

Concordia researchers have developed a new method of identifying and locating cancers in their early stages by using nanotechnology. Their work was published in the scientific journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, and Dr. Muthukumaran Packirisamy, a key member of the team, could not be happier with the technology’s progress.

According to the research paper, the team has been able to accomplish great feats. The research focuses largely on capturing extracellular vesicles (EVs) via the technology they developed. Packirisamy defined what these are and why they’re significant. “EVs serve as the liquid, the glue that binds cells to each other — they are the most important method cells communicate, and that’s what makes EVs so crucial in our process.” The researchers created a “magnetic particle based liquid biopsy chip for easy capture of EVs […] and simple isolation using a magnet,” as stated in their paper.

The process, which Packirisamy has been involved with for years, is one that begins with these EVs. As the paper states, “These vesicles contain a myriad of substances like RNA, DNA, proteins, and lipids from their origin cells, offering a good source of biomarkers.” A biomarker is any trait in a given cell or organelle whereby different phenomena can be identified. The paper continues: “The existing methods for the isolation of EVs are time-consuming, lack yield and purity, and expensive. In this work, we present a magnetic particle based liquid biopsy chip for the isolation of EVs by using a synthetic [compound].”

Packirisamy tried his best to break it down. “The best and simplest way I can explain it to you is like this: imagine you want to examine grains of sand. We’ve taken a soccer ball, covered it in oil, and rolled it in sand so it can stick.” The sand in this scenario refers to traces of cancer in cells; the soccer ball refers to the researchers’ nanotechnology and the oil represents the biomarkers.

“One of the reasons we’ve been doing this research is because the traditional ways of detecting cancers can be quite invasive,” said Packirisamy. As stated in a paper published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “An invasive procedure is one where purposeful/deliberate access to the body is gained via an incision, percutaneous puncture, where instrumentation is used.”

“Not only is the invasiveness of the entire procedure a significant trauma to the patient, it is also a trauma for the doctor. What we’ve been asking ourselves in this process is how can we study the progress and monitor the process without being invasive? This is where our project comes from,” Packirisamy added.

The significance of this research is that this biopsy chip would make the process of cancer detection much quicker and less intense than the traditional invasive method.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, approximately two in five Canadians are expected to develop cancer in their lifetimes, and about one in four Canadians is expected to die from cancer. With a toll of 28.2 per cent of all deaths, cancer is the leading cause of death nationwide.

“Through our chip, we can test on a variety of bodily fluids to see if we detect anything. If we find something, we can trace where a potential tumour could be coming from based on the fluid’s trajectory.” When a drop of any kind of bodily fluid is run through the chip, the EVs get attached to these nanoparticles of fluid, like grains of sand onto a soccer ball, allowing them to be separated and analyzed by the researchers.

After combing through the meticulous details involved in this entire process, Dr. Packirisamy took a deep breath and reflected on his work and way of thinking. “You know, I started research 36 years ago in the ‘80s — my formal background is in mechanical engineering. I was designing really big machines: engines, aerospace equipment, you name it. Over time, I got interested in the opposite of what I was working on. I started getting curious about nano-machines. I then began the process of miniaturizing my research. What interested me in the power of nanotechnology was the extreme proximity in the field’s relationship to minute things. That’s what really intrigued me. I see the potential to get smaller and smaller because, essentially, that’s what constitutes the bigger level. That was the philosophy I was into. As you get deeper and deeper, all the boundaries within scientific disciplines get fuzzy, and that’s what fascinates me. The interdisciplinarity of what we do is beautiful. Across various minds, understanding the connection, that is truly wonderful. And that’s what the future needs. I want others in science to break out of their comfort zones. We’re all interested in reducing human pain, and the best work comes from collaboration. Together, we can break through boundaries.”


Graphic by James Fay


Borough Mayor Wants to Split NDG from Côte-des-Neiges

Incumbent CDN-NDG Mayor Sue Montgomery says that now is the right time for the borough to be broken up.

On Nov. 7 hundreds of thousands of Montrealers head to the polls. In the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, incumbent mayor Sue Montgomery has pledged to “advocate for CDN and NDG to become distinct boroughs,” shaking up what is already likely to be a tight race to reelection.

Montgomery, now running under her own municipal party called Courage – Équipe Sue Montgomery, is advocating for the split on the basis of the “recognition of their size, geography and distinct characteristics,” as mentioned on her campaign website. In the eyes of some voters, what could be a compelling case for the split is the sheer size of the borough, which is one of the largest in Montreal. Montgomery’s proposal would result in the addition of new seats on the city council, aiding in the representation of the area’s citizens. Additionally, the breakup would mean easier access to services like recycling, snow removal, and garbage pickup, Montgomery stated at a campaign event in late October.

Gracia Kasoki Katahwa, who is running with Projet Montréal against Montgomery, has critiqued the incumbent mayor’s proposal. She said in an interview with Global News, that the plan would only cost residents more in fees at a time where that money is desperately needed in other sectors. Candidates from Mouvement Montreal and Ensemble Montréal, Matthew Kerr and Lionel Perez respectively, have been equally critical of Montgomery’s proposals, calling them divisive.

The current borough has layers of complex micro-issues. For instance, according to the 2016 census, there is a gap of about $7,000 in the median household income when comparing NDG to CDN. Generational wealth plays a factor in the development of both areas: CDN is home to a wider variety of more recent immigrant communities, and includes over one hundred different ethnic communities. While NDG is also quite diverse, it has a larger presence of European immigrant communities that arrived decades prior and have formed more generational wealth compared to CDN. Although Montgomery’s plan is to “ensure equitable investment between CDN & NDG,” a split could have, according to Katahwa, potential impacts on the boroughs’ municipal finances and the availability of services.

In 2017, Sue Montgomery won her election under the banner of Projet Montréal, Mayor Valérie Plante’s party. She won by less than 1,500 votes, or less than 4 per cent, in a borough with a population of over 160,000 residents. Now that she is running under her own party, she will be relying on her individual popularity and not the backing from a Montreal mayoral candidate at the top of the ticket as she did four years ago. Days before Montrealers head to the polls, Plante and former mayor Denis Coderre are neck and neck, and many other local races are becoming nail-biters.


Graphic by James Fay

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: to hell with it – PinkPantheress

Get ready to dance, cry, unwind, and vibe –– all within twenty minutes.

PinkPantheress has arrived. The viral TikTok musician released her first mixtape, to hell with it, on Oct 15. One of the standout voices among Generation Z musicians, the British pop singer blew up on the platform in early 2021. Although she is quite new to the music scene, she already has over ten million monthly listeners on Spotify — and her mixtape is quickly raising that number.

In total, to hell with it contains ten songs, but its entire running time is only just over 18 minutes, showcasing what has come to be a theme in PinkPantheress’ music: songs under two minutes. Although the songs are short and the pace of the mixtape may be quite speedy, the production quality does not suffer because of it.

The project itself can be classified as a bedroom pop album — it also borrows from hyperpop, lo-fi, hip hop, classic pop, and electronic music unique to the U.K. scene. The uniqueness of to hell with it is in its cohesion and diversity — the entire mixtape has a similar sound. One of the hallmarks of any PinkPantheress song is her use of samples: she loves sampling songs from the ‘90s and 2000s, remixing them to her liking. Some samples include  Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)” and Linkin Park’s “Forgotten.” What is impressive about the project is how different each song is — while they all have a similar feel, they could not be more different from one another.

The mixtape has its highs and lows, both in mood and quality. Songs like “Passion” and “I must apologise” have an upbeat energy and make you want to bop around your room at 3:00 a.m. Other tracks, like “Noticed I cried” and “Pain” will make you want to curl up under the covers and reimagine old dramatic scenarios in your head. PinkPantheress is a master of sad music: as she explained in a TikTok video, “plz understand I don’t write sad lyrics in an actual ‘sad’ way but in a studious, unlucky in love main character in a y/n x Harry x Zayn Wattpad love story way.” Even so, some tracks like “All my friends know,” are filled with an inexplicably vibey energy.

Despite all the fantastic bits and pieces that are so well put together, something is still missing. Fans of PinkPantheress love her Y2K, early 2000s energy, but almost every single track features a sample: in 18 minutes, she somehow manages to sample six different songs. It feels like the real PinkPantheress is still waiting to shine. Her voice is quite melodic, and her lyrics have weight to them, but this mixtape leaves more to be desired. Granted, she is only twenty, so there is no doubt that her sound will continue to come into its own.

PinkPantheress has put out a real gem: to hell with it is the deep and alternative breath of fresh air needed to shake up pop music right now. Her impact can already be felt on social media — the artist’s songs have been used by hundreds of thousands of creators on TikTok, serving as backdrops for dance trends, makeup videos, fashion lookbooks, and so much more. Young people love her sound, as it seems to take them back to their childhood in an enchanting and psychedelic manner. This is PinkPantheress’ first ever project of this size, and it is quite the promising prelude to any of her future works.


Trial Track: “I must apologise”

Score: 7/10


Thousands Dance Together in Protest of Legault’s COVID-19 Nightlife Restrictions

Employees of Montreal’s nightlife scene gathered at Mount Royal to protest the Quebec government’s continuing tight grip on the industry

On Saturday, Oct. 23, thousands of Montrealers danced the day away to protest Quebec Premier François Legault’s handling of the city’s nightclubs. The event was hosted by The Social Dance Coalition, welcoming frustrated nightlife employees and local party lovers alike.

As stadiums, restaurants, and bars see their restrictions loosened by the government, employees of Montreal’s famous nightlife scene are not seeing the same prosperity. On Nov. 1, bars and restaurants will have their capacity restrictions lifted, and alcohol will be sold until 3:00 a.m. The Bell Centre has also been permitted to reopen at full capacity. However, nightclubs have not been given the same grace, leading workers to take to the streets.

The Social Dance Coalition had originally planned the event to span from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., but Montreal police made the group shorten it by two hours. The protest took place in Jeanne-Mance Park, right by the Monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier, where the primary objective was to dance free of any restrictions.

Several DJ booths were set up, swarmed by crowds of sweaty dancers looking to have the time of their lives. Out of hundreds of protesters, only a few wore masks. While there were barely any surgical-style masks visible, several protesters dawned Guy Fawkes masks instead; they are popular symbols of anarchism and government defiance. Signs saying “Laissez-Moi Danser (Let Me Dance)” were all over the park, and some dancers brought a selection of raised fist and anarchist flags. The protesters were crammed into mosh pits like sardines, chanting to the beat of early 2010s electronic dance music. The smell of sickeningly sweet liquor and cannabis filled the air as partygoers blew smoke into each others’ faces, while the temperature stood at around 9 C.

“Before the pandemic, I worked in a couple clubs downtown,” said protester Sara, who requested to not disclose her last name. “Now they really suck! If you can even get in, you’re forced to stick to your table. It’s like we can’t have fun anymore. I feel like we’re in Footloose.”

Another protester, Karl, who refused to share his last name as well, had some more colourful words for the premier: “You know what? F*ck Legault. All we want to do is go out and party like normal people, but he won’t let us. We’re vaccinated, just let us in the f*cking clubs already, my God.”

A fully masked SPVM Officer, who remained anonymous, was one of many police officers surveilling the event:

“We’re about twenty officers patrolling the protest. The party is supposed to end soon, but the park officially closes at 11:00 p.m. A lot of these guys are out of the job, so they might stay. We’ll make sure that they won’t be here past closing.”

When asked whether or not they thought this protest would affect policy decisions in Quebec City, about five officers began chuckling.

As of late October, the fourth wave of coronavirus continues to make its way across Quebec. Although it may be less dire than in other provinces, numbers are swiftly on the rise. The number of hospitalizations is increasing ever so slowly as well. The provincial government’s explanation for its hesitancy surrounding reopening the nightclubs and karaoke bars is that it is waiting for COVID-19 numbers to drop significantly. Many of the protesters who have worked in the nightlife industry remain unemployed, seeing as the industry’s drastic reduction resulted in an equally reduced workforce. The economic factors pushing many workers to take to the streets and dance in defiance of restrictions are hitting them hard.

While the debate still rages regarding the balance between a return to nightlife normalcy and security concerns, the rager in the park went on for hours —  with dancing protesters having the time of their lives.

Photos courtesy of Robyn Bell

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