Concordia Student Union News

BREAKING: Graduate Students Association proposes referendum against Legal Information Clinic

As graduate students prepare to vote in upcoming elections, questions remain about the LIC’s accessibility.

The Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) Legal Information Clinic (LIC) was informed today of the Graduate Students Association’s (GSA) proposed referendum to eliminate the clinic’s fee levy of $2.75. 

The LIC said in an email that the announcement comes at a frustrating time, especially when the CSU recently stated that they’re reviewing their initial decision to remove the clinic. Now, the CSU is reviewing the LIC’s services “in accordance with the resolution adopted, which was to keep the LIC open, by the CSU Student Council on Feb. 14,” as said in an email. The CSU’s final decision is still pending.

The LIC was not made aware of the GSA’s proposal prior to the announcement. If the referendum passes, the current graduate students who use the LIC services for their needs will no longer be able to, affecting the future of the clinic and the graduate students who need it. 

Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), is currently working with two graduate students who need representation for their respective cases. He told The Concordian that preventing graduate students’ access to legal services will affect student protection and guidance during their legal issues and processes.

“If the GSA cuts off funding to the Legal Information Clinic, that means that the clinic cannot fund for the legal representation. If they go on their own to defend against these charges, it could be a very difficult experience for them,” Niemi said.

Niemi believes that fee levies are a “major source of financial support for graduate students who need legal representation.” Since many graduate students are international, they need the LIC’s help with immigration, cases involving racism or sexual assault, and employment, among others. 

Even language barriers can cause difficulties to some graduate students as they undergo the judicial process during their case. Niemi feels that by keeping the LIC open, these graduate students will be able to access services that respect their language barriers, something that other legal services on university campuses may not provide.

“Once the graduate students access Quebec common agencies in charge of human rights—especially if your French is not good and you go there as an English speaker—you may need more than just lawyers and may need a lot of other support that the Legal Information Clinic can provide,” Niemi said. “That’s a very valuable and important support for these students.”

The LIC is urging graduate students to vote on the matter during the GSA elections on April 15 and 16.

Concordia Student Union News

Concordia Student Union divests $10M from Scotiabank over defense ties

The motion was passed unanimously and will go in effect in late June.

In a significant pivot towards ethical banking, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) has decided to withdraw its investments from Scotiabank, citing the bank’s financial entanglement with Elbit Systems, a noted defense electronics company supplying the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

This decision aligns the CSU with the broader Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement, aiming to pressure entities involved in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

At the heart of the divestment is Dave Plant, a CSU council member, who introduced the motion during a union meeting. “Our funds and where we place them can influence corporations […]. It’s about making a stand,” Plant said.

The CSU’s financial shift will move away from Scotiabank by the end of June, redirecting $10M to Desjardins, a banking institution noted for its adherence to ethical investment guidelines. This move was unanimously agreed upon by the council, consisting of elected representatives from all faculties. 

Plant’s motivation stemmed from Scotiabank’s investments in Elbit Systems, but also in Vanguard and Blackrock, both of which are heavily invested in arms manufacturing and the North American housing market crisis. 

Concordia University’s Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Coordinator Zeyad Abisaab shed light on the organization’s strategic involvement in the BDS movement and its historical roots within the context of Palestinian advocacy in the West.

Abisaab is also a history student at Concordia. He emphasized the role of economic sanctions used to enact change. “Economic pressure has been the tactic used by every single country on earth,” Abisaab said.

Detailing the BDS movement’s objectives, this approach seeks to dismantle the economic structures supporting Israel’s military and colonial endeavors through targeted boycotts and divestments.

“BDS, just like the foundation of all of these human rights organizations, like SPHR for instance, aims to address [Israel’s actions] and combat them or fight them in a way that isn’t violent,” Abisaab explained. 

Highlighting the incremental impact of these actions, Abisaab drew parallels with the significant economic repercussions experienced by companies like Starbucks, which faced backlash for their ties to funding Israel’s military actions.

Abisaab hopes for increased student mobilization and engagement with BDS efforts, emphasizing the importance of collective action in achieving tangible results. Abisaab encouraged students who want to make a similar impact to join the student walkout and rally on April 11. The rally will have Concordia students as well as those from McGill and Dawson. 

“Considering moving billions of dollars from one bank to another, there’s a lot of intricacies to be expected,” explained Kareem Rahaman, the CSU’s finance coordinator.

Addressing the divestment’s rationale, Rahaman concurred with the sentiment that the move aligns with broader divestment principles, particularly in protest against investments that indirectly fund conflicts in the Middle East. 

He described the switch as “more of a moral and ethical switch,” emphasizing Desjardins’ cooperative nature and its closer alignment with CSU values than Scotiabank. Rahaman assured that future planning would ensure seamless operations.

“It’s $10M divested from Scotiabank, which will be probably put into Desjardins, a not-for-profit bank that focuses on the Quebec economy above all else, which is good,” Plant said.

Plant further highlighted the alignment with the BDS movement. “In our current capitalist system, I think we should be voting with our money as a means of enacting change we want to see,” he said. 
Plant believes the move by the CSU may inspire other students to scrutinize other institutions for their unethical investments.

“It sets a precedent,” Plant said.

Concordia Student Union News

Concordia students’ access to legal services on campus threatened

Without notice, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) executive team motioned to terminate Concordia University’s Legal Information Clinic (LIC) and replace it with a private plan provided by the Alliance pour la Santé Étudiante au Québec (AESQ) insurance association on Jan. 26. This decision will drastically affect students’ access to legal information and support, creating significant barriers for women, English-speakers, immigrants, racialized individuals, and people living with disabilities.

“I think this is one of the worst ideas I’ve seen coming out of the CSU. Students will be losers if this proposal goes forward,” said John Hutton, the former CSU Finance Coordinator of 2018-2019.

The weeks following the CSU’s decision were met with intense backlash from supporters of the clinic from organizations such as the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) and Concordia University’s International Student’s Office (ISO), along with lawyers, volunteers, and students. 

The LIC put forth their counter-motion on Feb. 14 to be voted on and a settlement was not met. A resolution putting the clinic in a state of limbo was put into place and the CSU has yet to publicly release its response, leaving the clinic’s fate up in the air.

According to Ken Downe, who represents the Concordia Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) on the CSU’s council of representatives, the CSU executives were asked on Feb. 14 why they decided to opt for a privatized plan and quickly brushed concerns and questions aside.

“They didn’t ever answer what their intention was, originally. They hadn’t prepared anything official,” they said. “The CSU isn’t acting in good faith, there’s no transparency and we don’t know what their exact proposal was going to be. We don’t know their reasoning for that.”

Many holistic services provided by the current LIC won’t be included in the new ASEQ insurance. This will make it more difficult for students to navigate their legal issues, especially for non-French speakers. CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi says that people who file claims to immigration or the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) without the LIC’s help could be rejected due to poorly drafted complaints.

“A lot of students don’t understand the language, structure, law, system, and worse than that, there’s a lot of pressure to get a quick settlement,” Niemi said. “Under this new plan, students won’t be properly advised. They won’t get much out of these processes.” 

The LIC has helped and referred students to CRARR several times over the past 15 years, such as in the race and gender-based discrimination, and sexual harassment case of Mei Ling, a former ASFA vice-president. In the ASEQ plan, sexual harassment cases aren’t covered. This furthers CRARR’s concern about society’s trend of the increased industry takeover of privatizing public services.

“It has an impact on who gets access to justice,” Niemi said.

The LIC is a free service that gives students access to legal information, referrals, and accompaniment in both French and English. Their team strives to provide students with the best possible resources and options that will aid individuals in making the most suitable decision regarding legal issues. The LIC’s goal is to inform students on how to get the fairest treatment available under the law.

“The LIC doesn’t offer representation, that’s not our mandate. It’s to offer information and support to empower students as legal actors. When we are being asked to compare ourselves to a private insurance plan, it’s false equivalency and it’s not fair to what we do,” said Hannah Deegan, a lawyer who supervises the law student volunteers on a part-time basis at the clinic.

“The clinic is about helping students in the moment and taking the time to help them develop better reflexes about how the legal system works because nobody teaches you how to do that,” Deegan said.

Esther Chu was one of the many students that the LIC empowered. Last September, the LIC reached out to inform her that she wouldn’t be eligible to apply for a permanent residency anymore via the Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ) due to the National Assembly of Quebec’s drastic language requirement changes to the program.

The LIC took swift action, gathered students to contest the Quebec government’s decision and invited Chu to testify. Because of this, students like Chu who were part of the PEQ program and didn’t meet the new language requirements, remained eligible until November 2024. 

“I was very touched by the LIC’s proactive solution-oriented support to the international student community in Concordia. If the LIC closes, it will be a devastating loss,” Chu said.

Downe says that due to the ambiguous nature of CSU’s policies, the CSU executives thought it was in their power to make this kind of decision. However, to remove the fee levy that funds the LIC, there would have to be a referendum to remove the clinic. 

“Within the CSU policy it’s unclear whether the executives can change the services without removing the fee levy and holding a referendum, and there are gaps in the policy that allow things like this to happen,” Downe said. “The bureaucracy of the CSU is its downfall. It’s not well connected to students and direct democracy isn’t there.”

The current fee levy for the LIC is $0.28 per credit or about $8.40 per academic year per undergrad student. The ASEQ Studentcare Legal Care Program’s first proposal to Concordia, which was rejected in March 2021, had a price of $25.00 per academic year per student. Former CSU Executive John Hutton believes that if the ASEQ plan is adopted, the LIC won’t be the only non-profit service to go. 

“Students will be paying more, get less and be very poorly served because community non-profit legal clinics have fundamentally different approaches than for-profit insurance companies. I see this threatening all the service centers,” Hutton said. “The ASEQ’s proposal mentions things like supporting students who face tenant issues. That’s the HOJO’s [Housing and Job Resource Centre] territory. Why wouldn’t ASEQ be like ‘Hey, we can do the work of HOJO too’?”

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.

Concordia Student Union News

A night of glitz and glamour

Concordia’s inaugural drag night brings sparkles, queens and excitement to Reggie’s Bar.

Colourful lighting, cheers of anticipation, and not a single empty seat created the atmosphere of the first-ever Drag Night at Concordia. 

On Friday, Jan. 26, queens and queers took over Concordia’s on-campus bar, Reggie’s, for Queer Concordia’s first event of 2024. The night was a collaboration between the LGBTQ+ student group and the Concordia Student Union (CSU). 

Tickets could be purchased online for $20-25, depending on the tier. All tickets included a free food or drink item.

The show featured five queens who demonstrated the diversity and excitement of drag performance. The numbers were packed with costume changes, stunts and crowd interaction. Each queen brought something different to the stage, and they all received outstanding praise from the audience. 

Concordia alum, Kiara, both hosted and performed at the show. Kiara was featured on the first season of Canada’s Drag Race in 2020. Now, she has returned to campus as a performer rather than a fine arts student.

“I’m finally coming back to Concordia for the good reasons,” read Kiara’s text message to Christian Taboada, Internal Affairs Coordinator for the CSU. Taboada assisted Queer Concordia’s event coordinator, Joyce Osagie, with organizing the event and booking the queens. 

Kiara hosts the event and chats with the crowd. Photo by Hannah Bell / The Concordian

Alongside Kiara were artists Lulu Shade and Giselle Crown. Lulu—a staple of Montreal’s Village, previously known as the Gay Village—combined humour, beauty, and outrageousness in her performance. Reigning from Sherbrooke, Giselle Crown brought looks and stunts galore to the stage.

The show also featured more alternative performances (if you consider a Crazy Frog lip-sync in a spandex frog suit alternative). Queef Latina is a non-binary Chilean performer who moved to Montreal a few years ago and brought their unique drag style with them. 

Lastly, there was Miss Dupré Latour—trans queen, CEO of DupréLatour Cosmetics and podcast host. She graced the stage with a presence and smile that could illuminate the entire room, no spotlights required. 

After the show, the CSU’s Taboada spoke with the performers, who told him they had “a blast performing because the people were very engaging and respectful.” 

Around 150 tickets were sold, according to Queer Concordia’s marketing coordinator Alicia Kla. She also gave a shout out to Reggie’s staff for being extremely kind and helpful throughout the night.

“We try to diversify our events so that every type of student or person can come,” Kla explained. She highlighted that many attendees at Queer Concordia events are international students who might not have a queer community like this in their home country.  

Queer Concordia is a student group that provides resources and hosts events for Concordia’s student body. Taboada explained that Queer Concordia is funded through student fees. They receive two cents per credit per student per semester. He pointed out that the group’s levy fees are not tied to inflation, so as costs continue to rise, it could become difficult for Queer Concordia to keep up financially.

Taboada said he wanted to collaborate with Queer Concordia and lend a hand because “they are an important community that is very often under-represented.”

Concordia Student Union News

A week long celebration of gender health

The CSU introduced their new Gender Health Hub with a week of workshops and events.

Last week, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) kicked off their new Gender Health Hub initiative with a Health Hub fair.

The Gender Health Hub is a network of Concordia groups and services that “connects students to holistic, feminist and trans-inclusive health and wellness services.”  It provides all students with free and easy-to-access gender related healthcare. 

The fair last week was a way for students to discover the services offered by the Hub. The week- long festivities took a community focus with workshops that were discussion and storytelling based. 

Some of the services offered include free menstrual and sexual health products, trans-patient support and advocacy, an abortion support hotline, as well as workshops and clinics on a variety of topics planned throughout the year.

The first workshop, conducted on Oct. 23, was on hormone literacy and discussed the role of hormones in menstruation, menopause, as well as hormonal replacement therapy. The CSU also provided goodie bags with menstrual products for those who stopped by. 

The second workshop on the following day focused on surviving the healthcare system as a transgender patient. Jacob Williams, a member of the Trans Patient Union at McGill, discussed his experiences in the system while opening the floor up to others to share as well.

Anthony, a student at Concordia, was happy to learn from these workshops and collect resources.

“I came here to help understand how to support my friend during his transition,” he said, “and after sitting through [the workshop] and hearing everyone’s experiences and how they had to do their own research and, in some cases, educate the doctors and fight for their health that intensely—it’s mind-blowing.” 

The Hub also showcased some of the other services the students have access to. They offered two more workshops that focused on mental health: an art therapy session that included coping techniques such as a body scan, and a mentoring workshop to create a safe space where students could share their experiences. 

For students who missed the workshops, the Hub presented its network at a health services table fair. Some of the groups participating in the event included the Centre for Gender Advocacy, Sex and Self Concordia, Woman on Web and a few others. 

To wrap up the week, students were invited to a party at Studio 414 on Saturday night, in celebration of this new project 

Hannah Jackson, external affairs and mobilization coordinator at the CSU, explained that this is just the beginning for the Gender Health Hub. More events will be held throughout the semester—like workshops on massages for scarwork, and other programs to help trans-patients navigate the bureaucracy of the healthcare system.

Concordia Student Union News

CSU holds its fall by-elections debate

The CSU’s fall by-elections debate focused on tuition hikes and student engagement.

On Wednesday, Nov. 1, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) held its fall by-elections debate on the seventh floor of the Hall building, where referendum committees and CSU council seat candidates were given the chance to present their platforms to students.

Students will be able to vote for campaigns such as Dave Plant’s advocacy of not renewing Concordia’s 2026 contract with Aramark, Kendra Downe’s promotion of anti-colonial solidarity with Palestine, and the Kahnistensera Mohawk Mothers, Giancarlo Laurieri’s pledge of enhancing student accessibility to CSU services, and Ryan Assaker’s intention of establishing a solid push back against tuition hikes.

These four council seat candidates were in attendance along with one referendum committee member. The candidates discussed issues such as the Coalition Avenir Québec’s (CAQ) tuition hike for out-of-province students and the disconnect between the CSU and Concordia’s student body during the debate.

“The CSU is looked upon as this demagogical society that exists above the student body when, in reality, the CSU is the representation of the students’ thoughts as a unified thought,” said Laurieri.

Laurieri proposed that the council get more involved in student media so that students could be more informed about what the CSU is doing. He also suggested that the union establish public Q&A events to give students more opportunities to bring up their concerns to the council. 

“A lot of people don’t know that the CSU is reaching out to fight against the tuition hikes, or that this source is available for students to use,” he said.

Concordia President Graham Carr stated on Tuesday that the university could lose up to 90 per cent of its out-of-province enrollment due to the tuition hikes. As the policy threatens implementation, the CAQ maintains that it’s aimed at protecting the French language by limiting the number of anglophone students in Quebec.

Students, however, feel differently. “It’s not a question about protecting the language, it’s a question about abusing the students. There are better ways of protecting the French language” said Assaker.

At the debate, referendum committee member The Link’s editor-in-chief Zachary Fortier, presented The Link’s fee levy increase campaign to increase funding to the student newspaper. The campaign asks to raise the current fee of 19 cents per credit to 40 cents, in order to meet inflation.

“Investing in The Link is investing into student life, and making sure there’s a dynamic and prospering community that gets amplified to the -nth degree,” said Fortier. “We’re a necessary presence on campus. I have a deep fear that we’ll cease to exist if we cannot make enough money to pay people a livable wage.”

Fortier highlighted the importance of the student newspaper’s coverage history, like giving Palestinian students a voice during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2002 visit to Montreal. “The Link has always been a place of advocacy for underrepresented students to have a voice,” he said. 

The CSU by-elections campaigning phase will end on Nov. 6, and students can cast their ballot from Nov. 7 to Nov. 9.

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.

Concordia Student Union News

CSU’s Transitional Housing Project’s second phase unanimously passed

Concordia Student Union continues its program to help students and community members transition out of homelessness.

In their last meeting, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) successfully greenlit the continuing development of the CSU’s Transitional Housing Program. This project was intended to last only until Nov. 2. However, due to its success, it has been prolonged into a phase two until Aug. 2024. The second phase is the continuation of the first phase but with a bigger budget to assist more people.

The Transitional Housing Program gives struggling unhoused students and community members the opportunity to have temporary housing for up to three months while looking for a permanent place to live. 

CSU sustainability coordinator Maria Chitoroaga, who ran for her position because of this project, proposed this program’s second phase in the council meeting. The motion was passed unanimously. 

“This project is very close to my heart. It’s one of those projects that directly impact students’ lives,” Chitoroaga said.

The Transitional Housing Program’s first phase had a high success rate. Half of the people who have been housed have already found a permanent place to live and have graduated from the program. Several people did not need the full allotted three months to find permanent housing. The remaining individuals who need help just recently started the program.

“Our projection was that people would stay for three months, but one person stayed for just under three months, and another only stayed for half a month,” said Chitoroaga.

These people exceeded the CSU’s expectations and became independent faster than expected. However, the CSU’s Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO), anticipates an increased demand in the upcoming months because of the housing crisis.

“I would like to keep seeing ways in how we can enshrine this project so that it is permanent,” said CSU External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator Hannah Jackson.

The CSU owns three furnished apartment units located close to Concordia’s Sir George Williams campus. Since the start of the program seven people have benefitted from the project’s help. These people either lacked stable social networks and were faced with dangerous sleeping spaces or relied on friends, where they could only stay for a few weeks.

“What has been done with the Transitional Housing Project is pretty exciting and unique in terms of what student unions are doing to substantially make a difference with students in precarious housing, which we know is getting worse,” Jackson said.

Students who wish to apply for this program can book an appointment at the HOJO to explain their situation. HOJO’s housing search director then interviews candidates on their situation. Those who do not qualify for temporary housing can still request additional help.

Phase two’s approved budget is $30,000. This will be funded through the Student Space, Accessible Education and Legal Contingency Fund. The proceeds go to funding the housing search director’s salary, furnishing, operating and groceries for the apartment units.

Towards the end of the meeting, the council touched upon a student-led class lawsuit against Concordia University. This issue is regarding the transfer of information for the purpose of administering Concordia University’s student health and dental insurance plan. This case is still ongoing and has yet to be resolved. 

Concordia Student Union News

Student speaks on Experience with University Insurance as opt-out Period begins

Students must soon disclose if they choose to keep their University insurance.

On Sept. 25, Concordia students will have their final chance to declare if they choose to stay with their student health and dental plan for the fall semester.

Offered through the Concordia Students Union (CSU), the insurance plan is included in each semester’s tuition, a fact Dom Doesburg, a third-year student in computer science, wished he knew earlier.

“Having it cover my therapy, quite literally, saved my life,” said Doesburg. “I wouldn’t have been able to stay in school, or get the support that I needed.”

For almost two years, Doesburg has been taking advantage of the CSU’s health and dental plan. Seeking mental health support, Doesburg initially paid for therapy out of pocket, something he said quickly became unsustainable as a full-time student living on his own.

The health plan covers a wide array of services, with varying amounts  upwards of $10,000 in total. For Doesburg, this primarily meant psychiatry, which the Studentcare plan covered 80 per cent of each session. 

Doesburg added that he didn’t want to miss any opportunity, as he’d later use his coverage for vaccinations and dental services. 

Despite the help he receives regularly, Doesburg explained that his journey to finding resources through the CSU was not simple.

“I did it all by myself, which was not fun,” Doesburg said. “I’ve talked to other people and they are really confused, so I’ve been helping. I think on the Concordia website, it needs to be way clearer somehow.”

Doesburg added that initial research into student health care yielded poor results, with only brief explanations on Concordia’s website. Eventually, he accessed the Studentcare website, the insurance broker associated with the CSU, where he found the information to get him started.

Brooks Reid-Constantin, a linguistics student and Concordia Student’s Nightline’s president, agreed that accessibility to professional mental health may not be within reach for every student.

“I think that it’s crazy how difficult it is to get in touch with a psychiatrist,” Reid-Constantin said. 

She explained that the student health services aided her life as a student, despite any limitations to the health plan.

Nightline operates during evening hours between Wednesday and Saturday, providing active listening to callers. According to Reid-Constantin, this allows callers, often anxious students, to feel heard and relieve them of certain stressors.

Working with Nightline, Reid-Constantin said she gained a perspective into matters of mental health, despite not being a professional. She believed that students should have more options than Nightline, and should seek professional help if accessible and medication if needed.

It’s only ever one leg of the chair. You have to do a bunch of the work yourself,” Reid-Constantin added. “Giving anybody a head start and trying to take some of that financial burden off can be really helpful.”

The CSU operates mostly as a mediator between student and insurance broker. Often, a student is navigating the ins-and-outs of insurance for the first time, so they can definitely use the help. According to Hannah Jackson, the CSU’s external and mobilization coordinator, this is for the best.

“Concordia is a business. It is a for-profit corporation. We’re a union. We aren’t trying to make a profit every year and we aren’t trying to cut costs,” Jackson said. “We have a greater incentive to make it comprehensive and affordable, as opposed to the university administration.”

Jackson explained that the insurance coverage offered by the CSU is considered additional to that of the Régie de l’Assurance Maladie (RAMQ) including eye care and physiotherapy.

International and part-time students are exceptions, as they are not directly covered by the Studentcare. 

For the former, they must go through the university’s administration, to both Jackson and the CSU’s dismay. However, Jackson added that international students are eligible for dental care through which they may also receive the CSU’s newly established gender-affirming healthcare. 

Part-time students, although covered by the same insurance, must declare if they opt-in for coverage. As such, they must pay the yearly amount of $185 separate from their tuition.

“[Studentcare] can be bureaucratic. They can be very arbitrary in their rules,” Jackson said. “But I encourage people to explore what’s covered under their plan and to really claim it, because that money is there.”

A previous version of this article identified Brooks Reid-Constantin as external vice-president of the Nightline. Reid-Constantin is president of the Nightline.

Concordia Student Union News

New school year, new CSU: Harley Martin as General Coordinator

How a political science student is creating a fair and engaging CSU for Concordia students.

In the wake of a new school year, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) is starting fresh with new members on their team. Harley Martin may not be one of them since he knows his way around the CSU, but now he has a new opportunity in his hands.

Harley Martin is a history and political science student and the CSU’s new General Coordinator (GC). Last year, he was formerly the Student Life Coordinator of the CSU, until he was later appointed as the GC.

“I feel every day I’m learning new things that I wasn’t aware of before, but having a year of experience to kind of see how things work, know people, know where to look for the answers all that is really helpful,” said Martin.

Following a scandal last year with the former GC, Martin has his eyes on having a steady communication between the members, making sure no idea or issue is ignored.

“We cannot have any silos of information, so I just try and share everything with everyone like on the team,” he told The Concordian.

Martin sees a more engaging and interconnected CSU staff this year. As the GC, he makes sure that everyone on the team is doing their work, is comfortable in their environment, and has all of the information they need for their projects. It is one of the most important tasks of his job and it helps him create deeper relationships with the team.

“Everyone is really fun and does their work, but also it’s fun to hang out when we have free time and we’re sitting here for a minute. So, it has a nice feel to it which is good because you need your environment to be pleasant,” said Martin.

Hannah Jackson is an art education student and the CSU’s External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator. She is responsible for Concordia’s external connections for the CSU’s campaigns throughout the year. During COVID-19, she did not have the chance to be as involved in Concordia life as she had thought. With school being in-person again, she can now flourish in her passion for activism at the CSU and share her craft fiercely with her supportive colleagues.

“I found myself very supported not just by [my team] signing off on what I do, but also wanting to talk to me about and giving me their ideas, so that’s been really positive so far,” said Jackson.

Tanou Bah is a sociology student and the CSU’s new Student Life Coordinator. She was previously the Social Media Coordinator and she worked alongside Martin last year. Bah admires Martin’s perseverance to have a reliable team in the new year and she continues to see that in his work ethic.

“You’re only here for a year and then you’re gone and so a lot of the projects that were started can sometimes fall through. That’s why it’s great to have Harley because he knew what was happening last year and we can continue to push for that,” said Bah.

Harley Martin has one year left at Concordia and wants to continue his involvement one last time with the CSU by doing it right. He is hoping for more student involvement this year through tabling at the Loyola and downtown campuses next week, as well as by creating a safe environment at the CSU.

Arts Concordia Student Union Exhibit

Shams: Uplifting the voices of Arab artists

The vernissage of FASA’s new exhibition took place last Saturday, March 11, at the Eastern Bloc in Ahuntsic-Cartierville, displaying works in varying mediums from 10 different artists

Shams, the Arabic word for “sun,” seems like the perfect word to describe this exhibition, because it shines the light on the unheard voices of proudly Arabic artists. 

Nesreen Galal is the curator of FASA’s new exhibition. She is FASA’s outreach coordinator and a fourth-year Concordia student double majoring in studio and computation arts.

Galal conceived the idea for Shams after having co-organized many shows for artists of different ethnicities through the CSU. She found that there wasn’t enough representation for Arab people.

“I thought it would be cool to have an opportunity to have fine arts and non fine arts students who identify as Arab to have a space, and focus on marginalized voices as well such as women, queer [people], immigrants, disabled people, and refugees,” she said.

Galal drew initial inspiration from American-Palestinian author Edward Said’s book Orientalism, which explores the west’s depiction of eastern culture. 

“Arabs are perceived in a western-dominant perspective, especially in Canada where its perception is affected by America’s dominant perspective. We’re defined as barbaric or as terrorists or even stereotyped as people in fantasy lands like in Aladdin,” said Galal. 

For this reason, it was necessary to provide Shams as a safe space for the attributed artists. 

Co-creator of furniture workshop Atelier Bon Train Rafaël Khoury displayed an installation in the exhibition, called A lesson between two sculptures. It’s composed of three pedestals: the middle one holds a couple of notebooks containing Arabic and English scribbles, while the other two pedestals each hold a strange sculpture resembling uneven bookshelves composed of shattered marble and walnut wood.

“They are explorations in self-compassion, one of the primary themes of the installation are the exploring of self, reorienting of self, and being allowed to do so,” said Khoury. “The sculptures are a divergence of traditional furniture, and the script is also me trying to get in touch with part of my story, as a child of immigrants, but in my own way.” 

Similar to Khoury, communications alumnus and musician Amira Faradj grew up out of touch with Arab culture despite being raised by Algerian parents. “Because it was always in my household, I felt disdain towards it for some reason. Maybe it was because I wanted to fit in with my peers who were not from that area,” said the musician. “It’s only recently that I’ve come around to explore my identity in a way that feels like mine. I’ve never felt a connection to my country of origin until I realised that I can make that thing my own.” 

Faradj, who DJs as a hobby, presented egypt91 at the expo, which is a 35-minute mix of drum and bass/house music blended with sounds of what the west perceives Arabic music to be. This was accompanied by old footage of Faradj’s father’s trip to Egypt in 1991, collaged with other flamboyant visuals.

Ranime El Morry, a third-year studio arts major, presented the second portrait in their series called Just A Lookalike. The acrylic on canvas is of a mask made of some sort of malleable paper. It represents the unconscious social strategy of autistic masking. 

According to El Morry, who has been diagnosed with medium support needs on the spectrum, autistic masking is a unique process through which people with autism assume a different personality to each person they interact with. 

“It’s very hard to mix different groups of people in the same room, because we’re very different, and a lot of people diagnosed with autism don’t notice that they are masking,” explained El Morry, referring to their artwork. “You wear this paper and it moulds [metaphorically], and it can easily change but it can easily unmold, but it feels heavy.”

Dona Maria Mouaness, who immigrated from Lebanon a year ago in pursuit of studio arts studies at Concordia, created a terracotta bust of an unknown woman with tribal Bedouin face tattoos. “It started out as a self portrait. I wanted it to be more than that, I wanted it to represent women who identify with it or feel any kind of connection to her. She represents the resistant Arab womanhood.” 

The sense of unity is strong in this exhibition. Every artist has a different story and relation with their culture, yet they take strong pride in their identity, regardless of how prevalent it is in their lives.

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