Briefs News

Violent protests erupt in Concordia’s Hall Building

Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protests broke out, requiring police intervention.

At around 12 p.m. on Wednesday, pro-Palestine and pro-Israel gatherings were held in the Hall building. The Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) were holding a keffiyeh sale to raise money for the humanitarian crisis in Palestine Jewish students from Hillel and Start-up Nation arrived soon after to their Shabbat dinner event “to honor and bring awareness to over 240 innocent civilians help captive by Hamas in Gaza.”

Both groups were unaware that they would simultaneously be tabling at the exact same time, as they planned their respective events. For context, SPHR had announced the keffiyeh sale on their Instagram account on Nov. 5. According to an Instagram post by Concordia’s Israeli club, the StartUp Nation, the table for the vigil for Israelis kidnapped by Hamas was booked on Nov. 3. The gatherings at Hall Building soon escalated into protests as members that were not a part of the Concordia community arrived on scene to support their respective groups.

Campus security took action and created a barrier between the two groups, only for about 20 SPVM officers to arrive and diffuse the situation. 

One witness, a Concordia student who wished to remain anonymous, said they saw the police officers create a barrier behind a pro-Israeli activist after they saw this person hit a pro-Palestinian activist with a sign.

The same witness also added that “when the police arrived on scene, they were pretty violent with the pro-Palestinian activists, one officer shoved many protestors and brandished a baton.”

“In my view,” the witness said, “the protest centred on calls for ceasefire and an end to apartheid—there was a statement from an [palestinian] organizer that denounced antisemitism and stated that the fight is with the state of Israel and not Jews.” 

Protesters were seen ripping flags, and throwing water bottles and punches. Two pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested and several other protesters from both sides were injured.

“I’d like it to be known that the protest was not one of hatred towards Jews, but a denouncement of the crimes of the Israeli state,” the witness said about the pro-Palestinian protest. “I believe that is an incredibly important distinction to make.”

Following the events, SPHR released a statement yesterday morning saying “they would like to remind everyone that we, the students, will NOT allow this to deter us from our continued advocacy for the freedom of the Palestinian people.” 

More to come on this developing story.

Briefs News

A union referendum for Concordia’s TAs and RAs

A secret ballot, open until Nov. 13, opposes TRAC and CREW.

Graphic by Carleen Loney / The Concordian

After a months-long battle in the courts and on social media, TRAC and CREW have gone silent to allow Concordia’s teaching and research assistants to vote, determining once and for all which union they want to be represented by. 

Between Oct. 23 and Nov. 13 at 8 a.m., some of Concordia’s teaching assistants (TAs) and research assistants (RAs) will have access to an online ballot in which they can decide which union will represent them. 

The battle between the two unions started last March, when the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia Union’s (TRAC) executive team resigned to form the Concordia Research and Education Workers Union (CREW). They claimed that TRAC’s parent union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), made it impossible for them to get the gains they wanted in their negotiations with Concordia University.

By April 3, the end of the campaigning period determined by a legal deadline established in TRAC’s Collective Agreement, CREW had gathered 1,700 memberships out of Concordia’s 2,100 TAs and RAs, according to court documents. 

However, it turned out that TRAC’s Collective Agreement had never been filed to the Tribunal Administratif du Travail (TAT). This gave TRAC the chance to re-file their membership list over the summer, allowing it to remain the standing union for TAs and RAs. 

Instead of turning to a lengthy legal proceeding to entangle the validity of these memberships, TRAC and CREW are moving to a secret ballot to act as a tie-breaker between the unions. The vote will end on Nov. 13 at 8 a.m., after which the chosen union will be able to negotiate with Concordia for a new collective agreement. 

The eligible TAs and RAs have received an email from TAT with instructions on how to vote for their preferred union. 

For more information on TRAC and CREW’s legal battle this summer, read our article here

To find out more about each union, you can visit TRAC’s website and CREW’s website

Briefs Concordia Student Union News

CSU hopeful for a successful by-election

The Concordia Student Union starts its campaigning phase aiming for a significant turnout at the polls.

On Oct. 30, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) started its campaign period for its fall by-elections. The by-elections serve to vote on referendum questions and fill empty seats on the CSU’s council of representatives. This year, the CSU has 22 seats available on the council. The campaigning period will last until Nov. 6.

According to Simply Voting, the online platform that hosts the CSU elections, the turnout in 2022 was only 5.7 per cent. CSU Loyola coordinator Talya Diner blames COVID-19 for last year’s low participation. She is hopeful that more people will be interested in casting their ballot this year. 

There are two referendum questions being presented to the committees in the fall by-elections. They are about whether or not to increase the student services fee by $0.85 per credit, and to propose the introduction of an anti-islamophobia policy to CSU’s Section 5 by-law entitled Anti-Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion. 

“The by-elections are super significant. This is the best time to get involved in the CSU,” said CSU student life coordinator Tanou Bah.

A public debate is scheduled for Nov. 1. This event will allow candidates and referendum committees the chance to introduce themselves to students and present their ideas concerning Concordia University and the CSU. The public debate will take place at 6 p.m. on the 7th floor of the Hall building.

“Being on the council is a way for students to get directly involved in the democratic process that governs how the CSU spends the money that students give to the union. It’s really important that students get involved so that the CSU can represent students honourably,” said Diner.

The polling phase will start on Nov. 7 and end on Nov. 9. Students will receive an email from the CSU encouraging them to vote. The CSU will also have polling stations at the Loyola campus on Nov. 7 in the SP building, and at the SGW campus on Nov. 7 through Nov. 9 at the Hall building mezzanine to help guide students through the online voting process.

Briefs News

Concordia students walk out in support of Palestinians

Last week, Concordia students left class for a sit-in to denounce the war in Gaza.

Around 500 students gathered in Concordia’s Hall building last week for a walk-out in support of Palestinians in Gaza and around the world. Similar actions were held at McGill University, Dawson College, UQAM and Université de Montréal. 

The event was organized by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), a Montreal-based group advocating for the liberation of Palestine. 

According to Noor, a representative of SPHR who did not disclose their last name for security reasons, the action had two goals: promoting “BDS,” which stands for “boycott, divestment, and sanction,” and condemning the normalisation of violence against Palestinians. 

Noor explained that SPHR is asking Concordia to stop investing in initiatives that support Israel.

“I think that we need to put our money where our mouth is, and the students are all speaking and they’re all saying that we stand for human rights,” Noor said. “And in this context, human rights are on the side of the Palestinians.”

Noor was happy with the number of people who showed up to the event and said that SPHR received supportive messages online from students who wanted to come but couldn’t make it.

“I am beyond hopeful for the future of our cause. Today was so inspiring,” Noor said. “Not only did we put this together in less than a week, but we did it in peak midterm season. The turnout was by far beyond anything that we could have expected.” 

They were glad that Concordia students were ready to show support for the Palestinian community. “We’ve got to keep building this community, not only in order to spread awareness and fight for our cause, but also to strengthen ourselves,” Noor said, “because as a Palestinian, the diaspora existing and taking care of ourselves is an act of resistance in and of itself.” 

Photos by Kaitlynn Rodney / The Concordian
Briefs News

Helping students feel safe while dealing with their mental health

The Access Centre for Students with Disabilities offers workshops to give students the tools they deserve on their journey

On Sept. 19, the Access Center for Student with Disabilities (ACSD) held the third part of their Coping with Anxiety online workshop, focusing on our thoughts and how to build a healthier relationship with them. The workshops are a four-part series offered to students registered in the ACSD. 

Moire Stevenson, the lead for disability accommodations at the ACSD, started doing these workshops at the university last year to help students with severe anxiety. 

She explained that a lot of students suffer from double down anxiety. This phenomenon happens when something triggers one’s anxiety and they start experiencing physical symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, heavy breathing, sweaty palms and weakness in the body. They then ask themselves why they’re getting anxious in the first place. The trigger, the physical response and the questioning topple on top of each other, causing double down anxiety. 

While the compilation of factors happening at once may be scary, Stevenson reassured students that anxiety itself doesn’t need to be scary.

“I think it’s really important for people to understand, especially if they’re struggling with [double down anxiety], that anxiety is natural and it protects us. So, that first trigger when the anxiety goes up, that’s supposed to happen,” Stevenson said. “It’s how we interpret all of that that starts to create more and more anxiety and we go from a functional level of anxiety to a less functional level of anxiety.”

Students begin the workshop by understanding the basics of anxiety and mindfulness: the present moment. Stevenson explains that the level and impact that anxiety has on students can influence change in their own life to remind them they are safe.

“What I’m really trying to do is to give tools and skills that we can continue to use for life.” Stevenson said.

“One of the main things I wanted to tackle going in is that sensation of not being able to do something because of the anxiety,” Stevenson said. “When I started here at the Access Center, that was something that concerned me, because I know we have a very high population of students with anxiety. I wanted to see, what is something I can do that will help these students not further feed that loop.”

Stevenson plans to restart this series for the Winter semester as a recurring workshop.

Briefs News

Concordia Unveils Master Plan for Campus Development

Loyola campus’ future expansion sparks concerns for residents, faculty, and students

On Feb. 23, a panel of Concordia representatives and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough councillors gathered at the Loyola Jesuit Hall and Conference Centre to reveal their master plan for the expansion of Concordia’s Loyola Campus to residents of the area, faculty members, and students alike. 

This long-term project is aimed at enhancing campus infrastructure, interior, and exterior environments, as well as increasing mobility and the amount of green space available. 

“We are back [in-person] and need more classrooms, labs, and spaces,” said Dominique Dumont, director of strategic planning and development at Concordia. She clarified that while the team working on this project “cannot [yet] provide answers about when and where” these additional spaces will be added, the master plan is intended to serve as a guide for future endeavours. 

The master plan project first began in August 2020. “It’s been three years that we are in consultation with the city of Montreal,” said Marie-Claude Lavoie, associate vice-president of the facilities management department.  

In the first stage, the team assessed the needs for the Loyola campus and reviewed municipal regulations. The second stage focused on outlining the project’s guidelines to preserve key heritage sites across campus. Currently, the team is halfway through the third phase. At this time, they are seeking feedback for their current campus development plans. The fourth and final stage will release a finalized development plan and outline the steps moving forward to enact the plan. 

According to Rocio Carvajo Lucena, the project’s architect, the team aims to incorporate an indoor parking space for students, outdoor classrooms and fitness equipment, as well as more entry walkways for bikes and pedestrians. Project leaders are also working with key community members and upholding the University’s Indigenous Directions Action Plan by incorporating inclusive signage and planting Indigenous plants, as well as its Sustainability Action Plan through the inclusion of more green spaces, said Carvajo Lucena . 

Nonetheless, NDG residents, Concordia students, and faculty members alike have expressed their criticisms of the project. During the question period, several residents raised their concerns about the expansion of the campus. Some were concerned that the expansion could potentially reduce street parking spots. Others were concerned about the potential for noise pollution caused by the construction in an otherwise quiet neighbourhood. 

Others expressed their worries about the plan’s neglect for the Loyola daycare Centre de la Petite Enfance P’tits Profs. While the panel clarified that the daycare would not be expropriated, former Concordia student and communications advisor for the University Elena Raznovan expressed her disappointment for the lack of consultation with the daycare prior to the conference. The panel encourages all community members to provide their input via a survey they set up to complete the last part of phase three, which will remain open until March 31.

Briefs News

Roméo Dallaire to deliver speech at Loyola Campus

Dallaire will talk about his experience dealing with the Rwandan Genocide and his humanitarian work

Roméo Dallaire is coming to Concordia’s Loyola Campus to give a speech on Feb. 22 at 10 a.m. 

The humanitarian and order of Canada recipient will speak and answer questions from Concordia students about his experiences in Rwanda and his humanitarian work.

Dallaire is best known for his role as the force commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) from 1993 to 1994. During this period, Dallaire witnessed the Rwandan genocide, one of the deadliest genocides in history. The inability of the UNAMIR to mitigate the death toll had severe consequences on Dallaire’s mental health, leading him to eventually being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

In 2004, he appeared before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to testify in the trial of Théoneste Bagosora, the organizer of the Rwandan genocide. Dallaire’s testimony was critical to obtaining a guilty verdict in that trial. In 2005, he decided to get involved in Canadian politics by becoming a senator.

Since returning from Rwanda, Dallaire has dedicated his time to advocating for military veterans and raising awareness on mental health in his book, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. There is also a documentary version of the book, and it’s available online for all Concordia students.

In 2007, the former lieutenant general founded the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative. The organization works with Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. They try to end the recruitment of children for war. In order to do so, they work with governments by giving them the proper training to prevent the use of a child as a soldier.

Since its inception, the initiative has changed its name to the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace, and Security. 

The conference will be held in the CJ building at Concordia’s Loyola campus on Feb. 22, 2023. Students who want to attend the conference must register with Concordia’s journalism department online.

Briefs News

Students are buzzing for the new Hive Café

The Hive Café has finally opened its doors on the Loyola campus with a fully affordable vegetarian menu

The new location of the Hive Café finally opened on Jan. 23 on the second floor of the CJ building at Loyola Campus. 

The café, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., mirrors the same menu as the downtown location with a selection of sandwiches, soups, salads and sweets, as well as coffee and cold drinks. 

The Hive Café strives to be as sustainable as possible by offering only vegetarian and vegan options and by prioritizing locally sourced ingredients. 

“We work closely with our local suppliers and producers, so we can maintain affordable food for students while keeping our costs low,” said Calvin Clarke, the café’s manager. “Within the competitive environment of restoration, that can be difficult sometimes, but that is a priority for us.” 

“They also strive to be allergen friendly,” said Clarke. “We have a nut-free kitchen both for the Hive and also the Hive free lunch.”

The Hive Café Co-op offers a membership program for users. Students can purchase a ten-dollar membership card which gives them access to ten per cent off on all products sold at the café for life. 

The café was supposed to open last semester, but did not. According to Clarke, the main reason for the delay was due to lengthy negotiations with the administration for the signing of the lease. 

“It was kind of a difficult situation for us,” he said. “We figured that the best thing was to say we’re going to open up in the winter semester, and we’ll be true to our word for that.” 

The Hive is a cooperative that strives to provide fair labour, according to Clarke. “That’s always a priority for us, and within our board of directors we do have worker member seats, right now five seats available for worker members.”

The Hive invites all of its members to an annual general meeting (AGM), which is usually in October or November. An AGM is a meeting where the status of a company or Co-op is shared with all members and they make decisions on its future.

Briefs News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read more about the MFSC here.

Briefs News

Canada removes interest on federal student loan payments 

Employment and Social Development Canada announced updates to help students repay their loans

On Nov. 1, Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion announced changes to the Canada Student Financial Assistance (CSFA) Program’s Repayment Assistance Plan to support young Canadians in better starting their careers. The changes are as follows: 

The zero-payment income threshold for Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans will increase from $25,000  to $40,000. 

Payment is not expected until borrowers are earning an annual income of at least $40,000. 

The threshold will vary based on household size. 

The cap on monthly affordable payments will be lowered from 20 per cent to 10 per cent of a borrower’s household income.

Monthly affordable payments will be reduced to ensure that nobody “has to pay more than they can reasonably afford.”

These changes are expected to affect approximately 180,000 students each year. However, these updates will not be implemented in Quebec, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut since they do not participate in the CSFA Program. However, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia will also introduce the same changes to their Repayment Assistance Plans.

Photo by Lily Cowper

Briefs News

International students say goodbye to 20-hour work week limit — for now 

The federal government is looking to lean on international students to help address Canada’s labour shortage

On Oct. 7, the federal government announced its plan to temporarily lift the limit on the number of hours international students can work. 

Under the previous policy, international students studying in Canada were permitted to work a maximum of 20 hours per week off-campus. However, there is no such limit for on-campus work.

According to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, this policy will come into effect on Nov. 15 and will remain in place until the end of 2023, allowing international students to work additional hours.

Clément Lechat, an international student at Concordia University, shared his thoughts on this implementation:

“I don’t really understand the 20-hours-a-week limit,” said Lechat. He explained that many international students struggle to support themselves. For the students who can take on the extra hours, he said, “This change is a great opportunity for them.”

Lechat added, “I think it would be a good idea for the government to keep this policy long term.”

Fraser claimed that even as the Canadian economy bounces back following the pandemic, the  country faces an ongoing labour shortage. With over 500,000 international students currently in Canada, Fraser believes they’re important for addressing this issue.

“By allowing international students to work more while they study, we can help ease pressing needs in many sectors,” he said. 

Besides lifting the limit on work hours, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will launch a pilot program to automate the process for international students looking to extend their study permits. This will also be accompanied by the opportunity to extend expired or expiring work permits by an additional 18 months.

Briefs News

CSU byelections pushed back to late November

Haya Bitar appointed as CSU internal affairs coordinator at last week’s RCM 

On Wednesday Oct. 26, the Concordia Student Union convened for the third regular council meeting (RCM) of the fall semester. The major motions discussed at last week’s RCM are as follows:

CSU byelection postponed to late November as election process is already underway 

The CSU passed a motion in favour of rescheduling the upcoming CSU byelection dates from early to late November. The election period will now begin roughly three weeks after the original election dates presented to the CSU earlier this semester. 

The nomination period will occur between Monday, Oct. 31 and Friday, Nov. 18. The campaign phase will then begin the following week on Monday, Nov. 21 and last until Friday, Nov. 28. Polling is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 29, until Thursday, Dec. 1.

Academic and advocacy coordinator Asli Isaaq presented the motion at last week’s RCM on behalf of CSU CEO Ijkot Singh. Singh proposed extending the byelection period to ensure the CSU’s election policies are followed and to allow for additional candidates to come forward.

Singh also assured the CSU that the financial impact of the decision was minimal, since, according to Singh: “most of the prep work [still] needed to be done”.

Former CSU councilor Haya Bitar appointed as internal affairs coordinator of the CSU executive team

Bitar was interviewed alongside two additional candidates for the position during a closed session at last week’s RCM. Bitar’s appointment as internal affairs coordinator was to be announced in the days following last week’s RCM; however, the newly-appointed executive accidentally revealed the decision shortly after council returned to open session. 

Bitar is the third person to serve as internal affairs coordinator during the 2022-23 mandate. Both of her predecessors, Fawaz Halloum and Temmy Mthethwa, resigned within months of being appointed to the position, with the former being elected as general coordinator of the CSU and the latter departing from the executive team after experiencing issues with their employment visas. 

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