Less is more: Activists denounce greenwashing over the future EV battery plant

When it comes to lowering emissions, these environmental activists say car culture will always stand in the way.

In the overcast afternoon of Friday, Feb. 2, environmental activists held a demonstration at the construction site of an upcoming electric vehicle battery factory, Northvolt, located in Saint-Basile-le-Grand in protest against the project.

Organized by activist coalition Rage Climatique, the group of around 50 people held up road traffic on Chemin du Richelieu as they marched and danced from the McMasterville train station to the nearby entrance of the Northvolt site. They expressed their indignation at a project they feel will result in far more ecological harm than good. Signs reading “For the environment against greenwashing” showed the group’s skepticism of this project that aims to lower the car industry’s emissions. They claim it will inevitably cause ecological damage to the local environment, and perpetuate Quebec’s culture of car reliance.

In September, the federal and Quebec governments approved a $7 billion project with Swedish company Northvolt to build a gigafactory that will manufacture electric vehicle (EV) lithium-ion batteries from start to finish in Quebec. The factory site is located in Saint-Basile-le-Grand, 30 km east of Montreal. This project is Quebec’s largest private investment in the province’s history.

Member of Rage Climatique Yolann Lamarre asked: “When we destroy the wetlands and encroach on the territories of endangered species, is this really what we call an ecological transition?”

Clad in crafted bird masks, the lively gathering blocked the way of construction workers wanting to move in and out of the grounds. The crowd cheered “L’air, la terre et les rivières ont besoin de révolutionnaires” [the air, the land and rivers need revolutionaries] while individuals distributed hot chocolate and hand warmers.

Environment studies student Benjamin Savard traveled by a bus organized by Rage Climatique to get to Saint-Basile-le-Grand from downtown Montreal. Savard protested what he feels is the government’s misuse of provincial budgets, “knowing the massive amount of funding being put into this project while our public transportation is deteriorating from lack of investment.”

The project has not been as wholeheartedly accepted by the public as it has by the CAQ government. On Jan.18, the Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE) and three citizens took the matter to Quebec courts to halt what they say is a project that will bring major ecological damage to the area. The CQDE argued that the battery plant’s construction will destroy the high diversity of flora and fauna unique to this wetland habitat.

“This project perpetuates a culture that prioritizes individual car reliance,” Lamarre said. “This leads to pollution from car production, mineral extraction and all the extra energy needed to do so, plus the pollution from building more dams on Indigenous land.”

On Jan. 23, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ké announced that a lawsuit has been filed to demand the federal and provincial government’s consultation with the Kahnawà:ké community  about the Northvolt battery plant.

On Jan. 26, the Quebec Superior Court rejected an injunction requested by the CQDE last month to halt construction. The Court ruled that the company’s measures to make up for the plant’s destructive nature are sufficient, like planting almost three times the amount of trees cut down and a $4.7-million investment to restore wetlands elsewhere.

The lack of consultation of the nearby communities is a major concern of Saint-Basile-le Grand resident Christine Lambert. The first time Lambert heard of Quebec’s investment in the Northvolt EV battery gigafactory was in the newspapers.

She said community consultation meetings did not take place before the project announcement and that her community feels blindsided: “We don’t know how the aqueduct will be built, we don’t know the impact on our roads, we don’t know if our schools will overflow with the arrival of workers, the impact on our clinics, on our services. We are in the dark.”

On the same day as the protest, Northvolt announced that it will create a citizen liaison committee to open a line of communication with the public in the coming weeks.

But to protesters like Savard, the issue with projects such as the Northvolt battery gigafactory is that they maintain the status quo of energy consumption instead of finding ways to decrease it. Savard said: “We’ve arrived at a point where our economy is so energy-intensive that it has passed the planet’s limits.”


Concordia is on strike, but what do international students think?

International students speak up on the tuition hike, current strike, and their concern for what’s to come.

Nearly 11 thousand of Concordia’s students went on strike last week to protest the government’s increase of tuition costs for out-of-province and international students, but the decision to picket classrooms left some international students feeling left out of the discussion.

Last October, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) announced that it would be raising tuition for out-of-province and international students. After back and forth between the universities and the tabling of a petition with over 33,000 signatures, the CAQ lowered the proposed tuition increase for out-of-province students from $17,000 to $12,000. Yet, the decision to maintain the doubling of tuition for international students remains firm. Further, 80 per cent of students from outside Quebec must achieve Level 5 French by the time they graduate. 

Thirteen student associations from Concordia picketed the entrance to classes from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.. The three-day strike polarized the student body, with some students  remaining unaware that their Member Associations (MA) even had a General Assembly (GA) to decide on striking and picketing terms. 

Stikes get voted on by the MAs for specific programs during their GAs. At these GAs, there is a minimum threshold of members, called a quorum, that is required to be present in order to pass motions. For example, the Political Science Student Association’s Constitution states: “Quorum is twenty-five (25) or 1.5 per cent of members, whichever is higher.” 

“As much as I agree with what the strike stands for, I can’t give myself the luxury to not go to class,” said Catalina Abello, a third-year international student from Colombia. “For me, one lecture costs almost $300.” 

For full-time international students such as Abello, , this winter semester amounted to $11,000, and for international students in JMSB, up to $14,000. This means that while, at the moment, average yearly tuition is between $20,000 to $30,000, it is estimated to rise up to roughly $60,000 under the new policy. 

According to several announcements by Concordia, the tuition hikes will not affect current students, but it will affect any student applying for fall 2024 or any student who switches majors or minors, “I´ve fallen in love with Montreal, I’m almost fluent in my French, and I was really looking forward to doing a graduate degree [in Montreal], but now I’m not sure what I’m gonna do,” said Abello. 

Another international student, who wishes to remain anonymous, emphasized the importance of solidarity and dialogue in addressing the underlying issues driving the strike.

“I just find it ironic,” they said. “I completely agree that the rise in tuition is devastating and students have the right to speak up, but no one is putting into consideration my opinion as an international student.” 

They suggested that for something this concerning, protesting outside of the university would’ve gotten more attention from the government. “Striking wouldn’t be my choice of action because I’m losing all that money that I’m fighting for at the end of the day,” they said. 

Vannina Maestracci, Concordia’s official spokesperson, gave the The Concordian the following statement when asked about the strike: 

“While we respect the freedom of students to peacefully protest and to express their views, we made clear before and during the strike that students who wanted to attend class should be able to do so.”

Maestracci showed her concerns about how this will affect the university. “We were saddened that the strike took place in our buildings, affecting the university, which has not made the decisions regarding tuition fees that were being protested but, instead, has clearly stated throughout the fall its disapproval of the tuition measures and has worked, and continues to work, hard to reverse them,” she said.

Despite the efforts, on Feb.2, the government announced that the tuition hike is still going forward. As the situation develops, the international student community in Concordia will be closely watching the impact of the strike and the ongoing discussions surrounding the laws proposed by Premier François Legault. The outcome will not only affect these students’ immediate academic futures, but it may also impact future immigrants arriving in Montreal in hopes of receiving better education. 

The next strike being planned by ASFA against the tuition hikes will be a five-day strike taking place from March 11 to 15.


From truce to truth: Insights on conflict reporting from General Roméo Dallaire

General Roméo Dallaire explored the importance of contextualizing conflicts from their prelude to their aftermath.

On Feb. 8, retired Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire gave a talk at the Loyola Campus about the role of journalism in relation to complex conflicts. Dallaire is a former Canadian Senator as well as a former government and United Nations advisor. He served as a force commander of the United Nations assistance mission in Rwanda and witnessed the 1994 genocide first-hand. 

Walking into the room with his brown briefcase in hand, Dallaire made his way to the whiteboard to map out the three parts of any given conflict: the “pre,” the “during,” and the “after.” He said the “after” category has demonstrated to be one of the most temporary periods of the whole process: “We’ve never, ever, achieved peace.” 

“The best we’ve done is establish truces. Over the last 20 years, of the nearly 15 truces and agreements that are happening in the world, the longest one lasted seven years,” Dallaire said. He added that since solutions in the “after” stage are so temporary, conflicts often go right back to the “pre,” and there is never any lasting peace.

The general also spoke about his time in Rwanda in the 90s. During the genocide, over 800,000 people died (excluding all the untold deaths in refugee camps), over 500,000 were orphaned, and four million people were displaced or became refugees. This all occurred over the span of only 100 days, and tensions between the two ethnic groups, the Tutsis and the Hutus, remain today. 

“This is a crisis. So where do you fit? Where does journalism fit?” Dallaire asked. He explained that more often than not, journalists and the media decide to start their reporting amid the “during” stage of a conflict. If the “pre” stage of a conflict was reported on, a deeper understanding of the existing frictions and build up could be understood. 

Dallaire also spoke about how he treated journalists not as the enemy in Rwanda, but as individuals with whom he could exchange information and have an open dialogue. This allowed for optimal broadcasting. “The media ultimately ended up, during this period, as the only weapon I had as a peacekeeper,” Dallaire said. He noted, however, that little to no journalists were there from the beginning to understand the “fundamental premises and debate behind why this [conflict] has blown up.”

Dallaire emphasized the importance of separating reporting from sensationalism to the room filled with future journalists. Situating a conflict and presenting it to the audience as a culmination of social elements rather than a spontaneous explosion or a re-assault of frictions is key. Dallaire also discussed the reality of the business side of journalism and how certain stories end up on editors’ chopping blocks.

After a question about seeing children growing up in war-torn countries and generational wars, a point the general had brought up during his presentation, Dallaire said that love had a big part to play as to why he didn’t take his own life after everything he’s lived through. “True love, not convenience—not temporary like our truces,” Dallaire joked. 

A student asked him how a journalist can recognize a crisis before it happens when reporting in a foreign country, and how to act accordingly. Dallaire said journalists should strive to remain cultured, open, curious, and want to know more about systemic frameworks. With those skills, one can then gather information on what is evolving in those countries in order to paint a picture of what is going on.

A student later asked Dallaire: “As somebody who has seen genocide with his own eyes, do you believe the war on Gaza is a genocide?” The general recalled that many major nations and the UN took six weeks to call the Rwanda conflict a genocide, subsequently sent the troops he’d been asking for. It was too late. “And what did [calling it a genocide] do? Absolutely nothing,” he said. 

Dallaire said it is far more important to consider how nations are reacting instead of being hung over the word. “You can articulate the term ‘genocide,’ but it has no power, because the national bodies that are governing us are not using it, don’t want to use it, and don’t want to read the convention that says that they’re supposed to commit to that.”

Dallaire also believes it is essential to integrate the powers of both men and women to restructure the institutions that govern and have been built by men. “[If not] we will continue to respond to these very powerful male-dominated institutions, and women—too many women—simply adapt into it versus fighting it,” Dallaire added. “Let’s put an end to this male-dominated misogynist egocentric paternalistic masculinity that has created the state of humanity and bring the women in full force.”

His new book, The Peace, is set to come out this April, and argues that people are often still unable to acknowledge crises and make decisions that could prevent or resolve them before it’s too late.


Housing crisis deepens in Canada

Canada’s housing crisis hits a new low with a 1.5 per cent vacancy rate in 2023, the lowest since 1988.

On Jan. 31, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) reported that Canada’s rental market has hit a new low, with the national vacancy rate having plunged to 1.5 per cent in 2023. This rate, the lowest since the CMHC began tracking it in 1988, underscores a growing crisis in housing affordability and availability across the country.

The CMHC’s annual Rental Market Report paints a concerning picture of the state of housing in Canada, where demand for rental units far outstrips supply. This imbalance has put renters in a tight spot, facing increased competition and higher costs for available spaces. With average rent growth for two-bedroom units hitting 8 per cent in 2023—which is well above historical norms—the financial strain on Canadian renters is intensifying.

Urban planner Jason Prince, has two decades of experience in housing and community development. Currently teaching at Concordia’s School of Community & Public Affairs, he actively shed light on the CMHC’s findings in an interview with The Concordian

“When the vacancy rate falls below 3 per cent, tenants are at a disadvantage,” he explained. This situation gives landlords the upper hand, enabling them to set rents at will, due to the scarcity of available units.

The roots of this crisis, according to Prince, can be traced back to systemic issues within Canada’s approach to housing. He referred to a continuous rise in construction costs and a significant reduction in federal investment in affordable housing since the early 1990s. 

“The federal government has not been actively constructing permanently affordable rental housing like it used to,” Prince stated, highlighting a shift away from social and community housing projects that once provided viable options for lower-income Canadians.

Prince believes that the solution to this problem is not as simple as increasing the total number of housing units. “Building condos and new rental units that nobody can afford are not solving our housing crisis,” he said. Instead, he advocates for a substantial investment in social and community housing—tens of thousands of units that are permanently affordable and not subject to market fluctuations.

To address this crisis effectively, Prince calls for a comprehensive national program focused on community and cooperative housing. He stressed the need for a collective effort that employs the resources and tools of municipal, provincial, and federal governments. Such a program would mark a significant shift towards de-commodified, nonprofit housing models, away from profit-driven market dynamics that exacerbate affordability issues.

The Montreal-based urban planner further suggested that smart development around transport nodes can enhance accessibility and affordability, reducing the need to encroach on green spaces and agricultural lands. “There is a connection between transportation and housing, but it must not destroy our remaining green spaces,” Prince asserted.

As Canada grapples with this housing crisis, Prince’s insights offer a path forward that prioritizes affordability, sustainability, and inclusivity. His call for a critical mass of nonprofit housing stock and a reevaluation of urban development strategies underscores the urgent need for a shift in how Canadians think about and address housing. 

With the CMHC’s report laying bare serious challenges, the time for action is now, lest the dream of affordable housing for all Canadians slips further out of reach.


AI vs. Humanity panel discussion comes to Concordia

“Let’s Talk: AI” series hosted by Concordia student groups encouraged re-thinking of common ideas around artificial intelligence.

At 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6, the School of Community, Public Affairs, and Policy studies (SCPA) and the Engineering & Computer Science Association (ECA) of Concordia came together to co-host a panel on artificial intelligence (AI) titled Let’s Talk: AI Vs Humanity. Moderated by Margie Mendell, professor with Concordia’s SCPA and co-founder of the SCPA 301 course, the panel discussion focussed on the future of AI use and its implications for society.

The panel consisted of Suzanne Kite, an interdisciplinary Indigenous artist and academic, and entrepreneurs Thierry Lindon and Vincent Boucher. Lindon is the co-founder of the Federation of African Canadian Economics and, and Boucher has worked with developing the applications of AI since 2002, with Montreal.AI and Quebec.AI.

“It’s such an important topic,” said Mendell, discussing the pertinence of the panel. “Until recently, people were either dazzled by AI or terrified by what it could possibly do to our lives and societies. The reality really depends on the ability to regulate it,” she said.

As the first American Indigenous artist to use machine learning in her works, Kite’s perspective of AI is shaped by her indigeneity. “[My PhD at Concordia is] basically all the ways that my [Indigenous] community makes relationships now with non-human beings,” she explained.

“I started interviewing lots of elders, lots of community members, and it became clear that in my community and in probably every community all over the world, there’s almost nowhere you can’t find a community or village or a family that has a relationship with a non-human being,” Kite said, before touching on the kinship many individuals feel with their non-human companions.

Boucher’s experience in technology has shaped his perspective on AI and artificial general intelligence (AGI) as a tools to be used for economic development. “I see it as the second industrial revolution,” he said. AGI refers to a kind of artificial intelligence that is able to learn how to do human tasks.

“I’m developing an AGI agent that is able to look at a screen and have access to a keyboard and a mouse and is able to do any kind of task that a human can do,” he said. “People should have AGI agents that are working for them, advancing their capabilities, and developing new business to create wealth.”

Lindon similarly sees AI as a technology to be used for the betterment of society. His work has involved building an algorithm that searches the internet for funding opportunities for underrepresented groups. “We match entrepreneurs, non-profits, institutions, and municipalities with money based on their unique profiles and needs,” he said, describing his work.

Although Lindon is interested in using AI as a tool for social change, he acknowledged that it may be relatively inaccessible for marginalized communities right now. “Black people and Indigenous people have been on the short hand of the economic playing field that is Canada,” he said. “We make sure we’re leveling it.” 

Despite these differences in the applications of AI, all three panelists expressed hope for the future of AI. “I see AI as fire, it can burn you or it can warm you,” Lindon concluded.


Going beyond land acknowledgements

Five years after the publication of Concordia’s Indigenous Directions Action Plan, has our university really changed?

When Alicia Ibarra-Lemay, a Kanienʼkehá:ka and Chilean student who grew up in Kahnawà:ke, started at Concordia in 2018, she lost no time finding a community in her new university. Her sister, who started at Concordia before her, had prepped her: go to the Otsenhákta Student Center, talk to student advisors, and sign up for activities. 

In her First Peoples Studies (FPST) courses, she was happy to see Indigenous professors and staff. She remembers being excited to see similar representation in other courses outside her program. “It definitely wasn’t like that though,” she said.

With her minor in education, Ibarra-Lemay immediately felt a difference between her two programs. She explained that there was very little inclusion of Indigenous knowledges in her education classes, and she felt uncomfortable pointing this out. “I don’t want to raise my hand in case they call me out and then make me have to be the Indigenous representative,” she said. 

Ibarra-Lemay is not the only Indigenous student to feel this dichotomy within Concordia. Since the publication of the Indigenous Directions Action Plan in 2019, Indigenous faculty, staff, and students have been working hard to decolonize the university and make it a safer place for Indigenous students.

“Obviously some of this work is really long term,” said Manon Tremblay, Senior Director of Concordia’s Office of Indigenous Directions (OID) and Plains Cree from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. “It’s frustrating to us that things don’t move faster. We are facing systemic barriers in Canada’s post-secondary institutions, and they’re really hard to break down.”

Ibarra-Lemay is now a master’s student in the Individualized Program, a self-directed program in which students can stretch the limits of research practices. According to her, a lot of Indigenous students choose this program because it allows them to incorporate their community’s knowledge and ways in their studies. Ibarra-Lemay decided to take her research about storytelling and oral knowledges out of the classroom.

“When I’m presenting my thesis to my committee, I’m inviting them to my totà’s [grandma’s] home, around a fire and cooking them food,” she said. Her goal is to share the culture of oral storytelling, reciprocity, and the passing down of knowledge.

Despite this openness from her committee members, Ibarra-Lemay said she had to jump through a lot more hoops to get her methodology approved than other students. The inclusion of oral tradition in writing-based research settings was especially hard.

“Students are doing really creative things through the proposals, in the way that they present their thesis,” she said. “This is thanks to their committee members, their faculty that are helping do this, but not the program itself.”

Undoing expectations

When it came to integrating culture to university work, these challenges were not only felt by Ibarra-Lemay. Jared Gull, a Cree student from Waswanipi, was studying film at Concordia until recently. “I came [to Concordia] because it was the dream,” he said. “Then I got here, and it’s not what I imagined.”

Gull expected Concordia to be very inclusive, and while he praised the services offered by the Otsenhákta Student Center, his experience in his classes was very different. 

He recalled questions from his classmates about which race he was, and the discomfort of land acknowledgements, during which students and professors often looked straight at him. “I’m just sitting there thinking, I feel like I had caused this just by walking into the room,” he said.

“It kind of feels like I just existed as a person without any identity,” he said. “And I usually just try to take it on the chin and roll with the punches, crack a joke. But at some point, it just wears you down.”

Gull also got a lot of pushback when trying to make movies that showcased his culture and were entertaining. “The Cree don’t have those kinds of movies,” he said. “Everything is so documentary-focused. So when I go to make these movies, people are expecting me to be this depressed Native with all these stories about residential schools.”

He found his classmates and professors tried to politicize his stories in a way that he didn’t want them to be, and their feedback often made him uncomfortable. “People didn’t really see what I was doing. I had a teacher even say: ‘Oh, this is not the kind of Natives that I see on CBC,’” he recalled. “Sometimes, it just felt like I was talking to a wall, or I had to play to people’s expectations to be heard.”

Creating change 

Tremblay said she hears about these behaviours from professors and students far too often. “Ignorant comments, presenting things only from a Eurocentric perspective, situations where Indigenous contributions to the classroom are treated as if they’re inferior… We see this all the time,” she said.

This is not to say that nobody at Concordia is working towards change: the OID and other groups have put many measures in place to decolonize Concordia, such as the Indigenous learning series Pîkiskwêtân, or the recently-announced plan to decolonize the university’s curriculum. But change is slow to be felt throughout the university. 

“We have to start from somewhere,” said Allan Vicaire, Senior Advisor of the OID and Mi’kmaq from Listuguj. “[Concordia] is an institution that is colonial and in order to decolonize, it’s going to take another 50 years, right?”

The difficulties of changing an institution like Concordia are woven even in something as simple as its furniture. Catherine Richardson Kineweskwêw, director of the FPST program and member of the Métis Nation of British Columbia with Cree and Gwichʼin ancestry, shared that she often struggles to find a classroom where the desks are not nailed to the floor and can be moved into a circle, an important part of Indigenous pedagogy. 

“Circle teaching is paramount, and it has important implications such as the equality of the participants, the demand for respect, dignity, and collective care,” she said. “This Western worldview that you would sit in an amphitheater, and you look at the back of the head of the person in front of you, it doesn’t promote relationship building, or even care.”

Vicaire also emphasized the importance of visibility of Indigenous peoples on campus, something he said students have been asking for for a long time. “The symbolic things actually do matter,” he said. “But it can’t be just one area,” he added. “I’m hoping [such symbolic actions] will influence other ways of thinking of other art projects or other renovations that will include more indigeneity into the actual project.”

Cheyenne Henry, Manager of the Otsenhákta Student Centre and Anishinaabe from Roseau River First Nation, sees these projects as an opportunity to expand the services offered to Indigenous students. “That’s always great to have that representation, that recognition that we’re on Indigenous land,” she said. “Having those spaces, that’s important. And what we do in those spaces is also going to be important.”

One of the visibility actions outlined by the Action Plan is the land acknowledgements, which are becoming more and more common, but are not unanimously appreciated. “I find them kind of insulting,” Gull said, “just in that the acknowledgement is that the land has already been taken and they’re giving thanks for taking land.”

According to Tremblay, it is important to really take time to understand what the acknowledgement is about. “[People] read it and they can’t pronounce the words, they read it in a way that is very stilted,” she said. “It just has no meaning. It feels as if, okay, let’s get this stuff out of the way before we get down to the real business. So for me, if you’re not going to put your heart into it, then just don’t do it.”

Ibarra-Lemay pointed out that most of the actions to decolonize Concordia were led by Indigenous students, faculty and staff, which has led to burnout in the community. “We need to be the ones leading it, but we still need the support of non-Indigenous people to be able to do this,” she said.

Tremblay argued that more allyship would speed up the process of making Concordia a place of belonging for Indigenous students. “Although my office is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the Action Plan, it is not our responsibility to implement every recommendation,” she explained. “The whole university has to put their back into it. It is the affair of everybody in this university: faculty, staff, and students.”


Tuition hikes loom over Concordia’s Indigenous students

Around 30 per cent of Concordia’s Indigenous students are out-of-province. How will the tuition hikes affect the community?

During recent strikes, student advocates have brought to light the effect tuition hikes may have on Concordia’s student services, as the university loses out-of-province students and the income generated from their tuition. Indigenous faculty and staff fear a potential cut in the services offered to Indigenous students. 

“We believe that these tuition hikes are catastrophic,” said Manon Tremblay, Senior Director of the Office of Indigenous Directions (OID) and Plains Cree from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. “And not just from an institutional budget standpoint. They’re catastrophic in terms of our ability to offer students a unique experience.”

While Concordia does not have specific data about Indigenous students, the OID estimates that about 30 per cent of them are out-of-province. 

“If we don’t get those numbers of students, then we’re going to have a small population,” said Allan Vicaire, Senior Advisor of the Office of Indigenous Directions and Mi’kmaq from Listuguj, Quebec. “It doesn’t enrich the campus and the community at Otsenhákta [Student Center]. I worry about that. I worry about the future of Indigenous education within Quebec.”

According to Vicaire, this diversity in students and experiences is crucial in the effort to decolonize Concordia and other anglophone universities in Quebec. 

“We’re attracting all these wonderful Indigenous youth, First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth, and that’s why this is able to progress,” he said. “So when we have those students coming out-of-province, they’re bringing a richness and pushing the agenda for the Indigenous Directions Action Plan.”

Tremblay fears the hikes will encourage Indigenous students to stay in their own province or study in other provinces instead. The announcement of the tuition hikes came right after universities in Ontario, including University of Toronto and University of Waterloo, announced that they will offer free tuition to Indigenous students from communities around their campuses, and in-province tuition rates for Indigenous students throughout Canada. 

Catherine Richardson Kineweskwêw, director of the First Peoples Studies program and member of the Métis Nation of British Columbia with Cree and Gwichʼin ancestry, said the language requirements accompanying the tuition hikes will create additional barriers for Indigenous students. 

“Why don’t we forefront Indigenous languages?” she said. “Quebec had two layers of colonization [French and English]. Whenever you impose a colonial European language, it’s always Indigenous people that suffer.”

Tremblay believes Indigenous students will not appreciate this obligation to learn French during their time at university. 

“Asking them to learn another colonial language, that’s not going to go down very well,” she said. “We are in a situation of catastrophic language loss for our own languages. Obviously people will counter by saying that if I have to put my back into learning another language, it’s going to be my own ancestral language, not another colonial one.”

The OID is working on scholarship offerings for out-of-province Indigenous students, but they still have little information in terms of what a post-tuition hike budget will look like. 

“The picture is still very unclear,” Tremblay said. “There’s going to be cuts, that’s obvious, and I think everybody knows that. Where those cuts are going to be, I don’t know.”

For Cheyenne Henry, manager of the Otsenhákta Student Centre and Anishinaabe from Roseau River First Nation, it is important that the university continues to focus on decolonization. 

“With the changes that are forthcoming, tuition increases and the potential reduction of out-of-province students to the institution, those are big things that are on the table now,” she said. “But despite that, there still needs to be the commitment to Indigenous students and indigenizing these spaces.”


Beyond Wages: Quebec’s Wealth Divide

INRS research chair Maude Pugliese’s study uncovers the hidden dimensions of wealth distribution between men and women in Quebec.

In a study published in December of last year, the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) unveiled findings that highlight stark wealth disparities between men and women in Quebec. The study, spearheaded by professor Maude Pugliese, chair researcher of the newly established Canada Research Chair in Family Financial Experiences and Wealth Inequality, marks a significant leap in understanding wealth inequality in the region.  

Until recently, the dialogue surrounding economic disparities in Quebec and the broader Canadian context has primarily focused on income and pay inequalities. However, Pugliese’s research has shifted the spotlight to wealth distribution, a critical yet underexplored facet of financial well-being.

“Wealth is an even more important resource for well-being than income because it can act as a safety net in times of hardship and is crucial to well-being in retirement,” Pugliese said, underscoring the necessity of addressing wealth disparities to grasp the full spectrum of economic inequality.  

The study’s findings, derived from a comprehensive survey conducted in 2022 involving 4,800 respondents, reveal that men in Quebec possess almost 30 per cent more average net wealth than women. This gap widens alarmingly among partnered individuals, with men in common-law relationships holding wealth at a staggering 80 per cent greater than that of their female counterparts.   

Single women, on the other hand, have positive net wealth across all percentiles. These disparities, according to Pugliese, surpass the pay gaps currently observed between men and women in the province, indicating a deeper, structural issue within the financial fabric of society.  

“These gender gaps are far larger than the pay gaps we are currently seeing between men and women in Quebec,” Pugliese noted. The research points out that even after accounting for income differences, a significant portion of the wealth gap remains unexplained, prompting a call for more nuanced investigations into factors such as inheritance, access to financial services, and advice.  

The groundbreaking nature of Pugliese’s study lies not only in its findings, but also in its methodology. For the first time, wealth in Canada was measured at the individual level rather than the household, unveiling the hidden inequalities within couples that previous data collection methods have masked. This novel approach laid the groundwork for more detailed and accurate data collection on private and family wealth, which Pugliese and her team argue is essential for understanding and addressing gender-based economic disparities.  

As the INRS continues to lead in research intensity across Quebec and Canada, this study not only contributes to the academic institution’s legacy, but also the broader societal understanding of economic inequalities. It challenges policymakers, financial institutions, and society at large to reconsider how wealth is accumulated, distributed, and measured, to foster a more equitable economic landscape. 


Concordia embraces new starts with “The value of being a beginner” workshop

Offered through the FutureBound program, the workshop encourages attendees to start anew and try new things.

While many students started their second week of classes on Jan. 22, a handful of students attended the “The value of being a beginner” workshop. The workshop was hosted by Concordia’s FutureBound program, a subset of the Student Success Center that focuses on preparing students for life after graduation, and aimed to “encourage [students] to explore how to be a beginner and get comfortable with the self-compassion and joy that arrives along the way,” according to their website. 

After students trickled into the room and grabbed a name tag, event facilitator Niem Huynh, welcomed attendees by encouraging them to introduce themselves and share why they were attending the workshop.

Many students had different goals in attending the workshop. “I want a new perspective on being a beginner besides the anxiety of starting something new and knowing which direction to take or if I’m able to get to the end of the path,” first-year independent student Yasmina Shawki said.

Other students expressed being new to Concordia, wanting to improve their English, and finding the workshop title interesting.

Hyunh explained to the room the importance of a growth mindset when trying new things as it helps reduce anxiety and encourages setting reasonable goals. “Being a beginner is part of the process.”

Huynh asked students to track their progress on something they began doing over the past few years. Following her own example of cross-country skiing, attendees drew graphs to represent their progress in pursuing things such as languages, music, and coding. Together, the group analyzed each other’s graphs, pointing out that everyone had progressed at different paces. 

“There are apples and oranges, lychees and dragon fruits. They’re all good, but they’re different,” Hyunh said.

She then linked this to being a student. “Whether in your personal life, in your social life, or in your professional life, it’s about being. You’re constantly learning and constantly doing.”

After attendees examined aspects of their own lives where they are beginners, Hyunh touched on risks that come with expertise, such as how confidence can lead to error. “When people are beginners, they bring a fresh viewpoint,” she said, before elaborating on the creativity that many beginners have when trying something new.

Attendees were later invited to teach a skill  to the rest of the group. One student offered to teach the Cornell method of studying and another offered to teach the lowercase cursive alphabet. First year computer science student Yu Par Aung offered to teach words in Burmese, her native language. “I was a bit nervous at first, but everyone was so supportive,” Aung said. “Teaching Burmese to everyone was a rewarding experience. The workshop inspired me to try something new, so I took on the challenge!”

Aung was grateful for the opportunity to share her language and for what she learned. “Learning that it’s never too late to begin and that the journey itself holds significant value was inspiring,” she said.

FutureBound is run through the Student Success Center and aims to encourage skill development in undergraduate students to prepare them for the professional world. They run workshops that focus on areas such as career development, communication and digital capabilities, innovation and entrepreneurship, leadership and connection, growth and balance, and financial literacy, and offer certificates to students who complete a certain amount of modules in each section that are eligible to be added to their co-curricular record.


Concordia Food Initiatives gathered for their annual Food Fair

Concordia’s food coalition promoted their missions and year-round events at a general annual Food Fair meeting.

Concordia University’s sustainable food organizations are giving out free meals and hosting events year-round to promote community engagement and raise awareness about food justice and system education.

Many food groups, including the Concordia Food Coalition (CFC), CultivAction, and the Hive Free Lunch (HFL), gathered for their annual general food fair meeting on the second floor of the SC building at the Loyola campus on Jan. 25.

Around thirty students and local community members attended the meeting to learn about each organization’s initiatives, receive updates, and ask questions. Roxanna Chadwick, a third-year Concordia student, enjoyed the experience of getting involved with student activities on campus and learning more about agriculture.

“It was interesting to see the different initiatives on campus that are related to food and are trying to make it more accessible for the community,” Chadwick said.

The CFC announced an event series called “Organizing Food Sovereignty,” with the aim of introducing students to food politics at Concordia. Each month, the coalition will collaborate with other food groups to provide students with a variety of activities to engage with others, learn about food systems, and give out free meals to students.

“One of those events are called Dinner and Docs, and it’s a series where we partner up with a food group on campus, and we choose a documentary for dinner, and we eat together, and make food together, and watch a documentary on the themes of food sustainability and community, so those are exciting,” said Maggie Morrison, a food system educator for the CFC.

During the meeting, Improove—a food waste organization— gave away plenty of fresh produce for free, which would otherwise have ended up in the garbage. Their goal is to get rid of all food waste caused by large industries. Bruno Zara, a speaker for Improove, said, “We collect this fruit before it is thrown away to make baskets that we sell on site.” They are now selling $15 boxes full of fresh produce to students every Thursday at the SC building.

CultivAction, the campus community farm, gave away free plants and microgreens. “A big piece of news for us is that we’ve just secured a fee levy at Concordia, which means that we have stable funding and are going to be making our food freely available to Concordia students,” said Caleb Woolcott, a speaker for the organization. He also explained that they are planning to host a variety of workshops and educational opportunities for students. Some of these events will include how to grow your own food in the winter.

In addition to their weekly free lunch program, the HFL promoted their free breakfast program, which launched in September 2023.  “We aim to help solve food insecurity for students; I know it’s a big thing, and also help raise awareness about the food scene at Concordia,”   said Tony Nguyena, a HFL worker revealed that at the end of this year, the HFL will be publishing a cookbook full of student-favourite recipes to raise awareness and help students facing food insecurity.

These initiatives and activities will be available to students for the remainder of the semester and are intended to promote student engagement and awareness.

Concordia Student Union News

How the CSU and ASFA prepared for strikes during “week of mobilization”

The Concordia Student Union and Arts and Science Federation of Associations hosted a banner painting event and picketing workshop.

Last Monday, Jan. 29, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) began their week of action against the proposed provincial tuition hikes. A banner and sign making workshop co-hosted by the Arts & Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) and the CSU took place at 11:00 a.m. in the Art Nook located on the 7th floor of the Hall building. 

At the same location, a “Picketing 101” workshop was held from 3:00-4:30 p.m. the next day. During the event, ASFA mobilization coordinator Lily Charette spoke about the history and importance of strikes in the context of student activism in particular.

“When you have 10,000 students fail a semester [due to strikes] and they have to go back and retake that semester, you’re essentially doubling the amount of tuition that the government is paying for that one semester of school because everyone has to retake it,” she said, explaining how strikes put financial pressure on the government.

Charette also discussed ways the strikes put pressure on universities themselves, including on the ‘double cohort effect.’ “When you have a large group of students in a lot of departments fail a semester and have to retake that semester, [the university] now has major logistical issues in terms of having double the students having to take that 200- or 300-level class,” she said.

Students attending the banner and sign making workshop designed several banners that were used during picketing on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1-2. At the workshop, several students expressed enthusiasm about supporting the strikes, including second-year environment and sustainability science student, Maria Jennett. 

Jennett spoke to The Concordian about the impact of tuition hikes on current students: “Arts and science has already cut 10 per cent of classes, so the choices available to us are already going to be greatly reduced.”

She also touched on the inherent issues of the policy. “There are exemptions for students coming from France and for Francophone Belgians, but not for all of the Francophone countries in Africa. I think that’s blatantly racist,” she said. 

Fourth-year sociology and anthropology student Chloe Mayes chimed in with Jennett. “I see these tuition hikes as part of a broader politic of neoliberal austerity and the gutting of our public institutions and I resist that wholeheartedly,” Mayes said. 

At the picketing workshop, ASFA academic coordinator, Angelica Antonakopoulos, spoke to the importance of organizing student movements around the current capacities for mobilization. “When we have smaller strike actions, a lot of [the importance] is about building momentum to be able to have the capacity to take these larger actions,” she said.

Several other events were hosted in preparation for the strike. These included workshops covering lessons from the 2012 student strikes, Black radicalism, legal self-defense, prison abolition, anarchism & the student movement, and a screening of 5 Broken Cameras, a 2011 documentary covering Palestinian resistance in the West Bank.


Resistance from a distance: How Ukrainians in Canada are showing solidarity for their home country

Canada’s Ukrainian diaspora is working to remove Russian influence from their culture amid the ongoing conflict.

It’s been a while since Mariia Zaborovska has spoken Russian, her mother tongue. She, her husband, and their two children all conversed in the language regularly at their home in Montreal, even seven years after immigrating to Canada from Ukraine. Following Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine in the winter of 2022, she switched to Ukrainian—a show of solidarity for her compatriots, and a small but significant effort to eliminate Russia’s cultural influence on the eastern European nation.

Zaborovska is not alone in her decision, nor is language the only change taking place. The Russo-Ukrainian war has sparked a greater movement among Canada’s Ukrainian diaspora to draw a line between Russian and Ukrainian identity and culture. This comes after numerous historical periods of Russian territorial occupation, and repeated efforts by Russia to stomp out all traces of Ukrainian identity and culture—an imperialist endeavour that has bled into the 21st century.

The war has created a ‘cultural emergence’ in many Ukrainian diaspora communities across the country, according to Milana Nikolko, an adjunct research professor at the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at Carleton University. 

She explained how in the past, there would often be disputes among the Ukrainian diaspora over how Russia’s actions against their home country could be perceived. “We do have a significant shift in terms of not just how we describe the war, but also what language we use in our everyday communication,” Nikolko said.

Nikolko is part of a group of Ukrainian expats who communicated among themselves in Russian prior to 2022, switching to Ukrainian after the war began.“Even though it may not be so efficient, we are putting our effort into making Ukrainian the language of communication between us,” she said.

Adopting the language

Transitioning to Ukrainian was not an easy venture for Zaborovska. She grew up in Crimea, a heavily Russian-speaking peninsula which had been part of Ukraine until Russian annexation in 2014, and had little knowledge of the Ukrainian language. Russian music, blogs, literature and YouTube videos were eschewed from her everyday routine in favour of Ukrainian-language content.

Zaborovska started off by practising Ukrainian at home. “My husband and kids carried on for a while in Russian,” she said. “And then my husband also switched to Ukrainian. And then very quickly, in the matter of a few weeks, we noticed that the kids were speaking Ukrainian.”

She was amazed by their progress, even more so when her elder daughter, aged 6, asked her mother what their first language was. “Well, unfortunately it’s Russian,” Zaborovska said with a laugh. “And she was so surprised, like she didn’t recall speaking Russian […] It was amazing how far they kind of switched.”

Eventually, Zaborovska started speaking Ukrainian outside of her home. In doing so, she developed a closer connection with Montreal’s Ukrainian community. 

Unity in nationhood

Zaborovska views these changes in language and lifestyle, as a small victory for Ukraine against the claims made by the Russian government and president that Ukrainians and Russians are the same people. 

Hanna Kovalenko, a Ukrainian refugee and former resident of Mariupol, vehemently disagrees with those claims. Mariupol was one of the first cities invaded by the Russian army in February 2022—Kovalenko and her family escaped, arriving in Montreal the following May. 

“We have a national culture [that’s] different from Russia,” she said. “I speak Russian and other people speak Russian in Mariupol. There was no discrimination!”

Polina Khrystuk, a political science student at Concordia University and Ukrainian immigrant, agrees. “As someone who grew up in eastern Ukraine, I know what language was actually oppressed, and it wasn’t Russian,” she explained. “It wasn’t socially cool to use Ukrainian . . . it didn’t have the strong social status the Russian language had.”

Having immigrated to Canada with her family 14 years ago, Khrystuk said it was interesting to see the love local Ukrainian communities had for their country and culture. “There’s a big joke going on in Ukraine that the best people who speak Ukrainian are the Canadian Ukrainians, because they’re the ones who try to preserve the culture the most,” she added.

A history of Russian oppression

Zaborovska, Nikolko, Kovalenko, Khrystuk and many other Ukrainians in Canada are well versed in the history of Russian oppression of the Ukrainian language and culture. One such historic instance looms large in the collective memory of Ukrainians: the Holodomor. Literally translated as “death by starvation,” the Holodomor was a famine orchestrated by the Soviet Union which killed some four million Ukrainians from 1932-1933. 

Starving Ukrainians sold family heirlooms for meagre portions of grain. Some were forced to resort to cannibalism. All international relief efforts were blocked by the Soviet government. Thirty-five countries recognize the Holodomor as a genocide, including Canada, the United States and most countries in the European Union.

Nikolko draws distinct parallels between the Holodomor and the current Russo-Ukrainian war. Both tragedies involved Russian aggression against the smaller Ukraine, and both triggered an “emotional symbolic unity” of Ukrainians around the world. “We have the same story told in a different way,” she said.

The destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure last winter by the Russian Armed Forces left many in eastern Ukraine facing the bitter cold without power. This led to the term “Kholodomor” (literally death by cold) being coined by historian Alexander J. Motyl to describe Russia’s brutal disregard for the lives of Ukrainian civilians.

Daring to speak out

The Holodomor was not just designed to kill Ukrainians, Zaborosvka explained: “It’s meant to instill this fear [for] generations to come […] It is so deeply instilled that it is a taboo. It is a topic you’re not supposed to speak about.”

She believes that’s why it’s important that modern-day Ukrainians speak out about it, and about other atrocities Ukrainians have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of Russia.

Since the war began, Zaborovska helped organize numerous rallies, protests, and other events designed to show support for Ukraine and keep Canadians from turning a blind eye to the war. 

Zaboroska said that becoming a social activist was not a conscious decision, but was rather something she felt needed to be done to show support for her home country from thousands of kilometres away.

Zaborovska’s activist group also organizes events highlighting past injustices. For example, a Holodomor Memorial Day vigil and rally took place at Place Dorchester in downtown Montreal on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. 

Over a hundred supporters braved the -8 ºC weather, bundled up with winter wear. Blue and yellow bicolour flags filled the square, flying alongside several Quebec and Canadian flags. The group marched for over an hour that evening. Their chant rang out:

Holodomor is genocide. Let’s not forget those who died.”

Demonstrators hold up a sign at the Holodomor Memorial Day vigil in Dorchester Square in Montreal that reads “at least 4,000,000 Ukrainians exterminated by the U.S.S.R.” Photo by Joshua Allan / The Concordian

Events like these mourn the millions of victims of the genocide. They also demonstrate to the Russian government that they no longer have a stranglehold on Ukrainians’ spirit, Zaborovska explained.  

A permanent change

Zaborovska’s ancestors spoke Ukrainian, but her grandparents had made the switch to Russian and had passed the language down to their children.

“It was frowned upon in the Soviet Union to speak Ukrainian,” she explained. “If you wanted to advance in your career, you had to be a Russian speaker […] In that sense, I’m coming back to Ukrainian culture, coming back to [the] Ukrainian language.”

She does not plan on reverting back to Russian after the war ends, regardless of the outcome. “[Russian] feels so strange and foreign to me now […] When I come back to the videos of our family archive and I hear myself speak Russian, it feels, to be honest, like a different person speaking. And I’m not so sure I like that person.”

“The language you speak definitely makes a lot of internal difference in you,” she added, “I’m definitely not going back to Russian.”

Exit mobile version