Student Life

Canada’s void: A talk on our indigenous peoples

Missing Justice organized a discussion on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada

Missing Justice hosted a teach-in on Sept. 27 to shed light and engage Montrealers on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.

The event, facilitated by Missing Justice members Chantel Henderson and Chelsea Obodoechina, explored the past as a cause, the present as a time for action, and the future as hope for the conversation of the issues surrounding indigenous peoples.

A diverse crowd of students and community members, both indigenous and non-indigenous, gathered at Concordia’s Centre for Gender Advocacy for the evening discussion.

Obodoechina (left), Henderson (right). Photo by Danielle Gasher

Missing Justice is a fee-levy organization that operates under the Centre for Gender Advocacy’s umbrella. According to the organization’s website, Missing Justice’s mandate is “to promote community awareness and political action through popular education, direct action, and coalition-building, all of these in consultation with and in support of First Nations families, activists, communities and organizations.”

Henderson has been a member of Missing Justice since January 2015. She got involved with the organization when she moved to Montreal from Winnipeg for school, two years ago. As a Master’s student in community economic development at Concordia, Henderson explained she had to find an organization to get involved with as part of her program.  Henderson knew she wanted to get involved with a centre or organization that focused on missing and murdered indigenous women.

As an indigenous person herself, Henderson wanted to join Missing Justice because she said she feels personally impacted by the issue.

Photo by Danielle Gasher

“I went missing when I was 16. I went missing when I was 20. And yeah, I’m here to tell you my story, to tell you why this issue is important,” she said. “Being from Winnipeg, it’s hard to be native and to not know somebody who has gone missing or who has been murdered,” said Henderson.

Obodoechina joined Missing Justice four months ago. “I kept hearing about missing and murdered indigenous women, and I just wanted to get involved any way I could, as a non-Indigenous person,” said Obodoechina.

According to the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), aboriginal women are almost three times more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-aboriginal women are. Additionally, the NWAC found that between 2000 and 2008, aboriginal women represented approximately 10 per cent of all female homicides in Canada, even though they only make up three per cent of Canada’s female population.

Last year’s scandal surrounding allegations of sexual and physical abuse of indigenous women by Sûreté Québec officers in Val d’Or caused an uproar in the province, and sparked pressure on the federal government to launch an independent investigation into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. The Canadian government announced the launch of an independent national inquiry into the affair on December 8, 2015, according to the CBC.

The facilitators discussed indigenous peoples’ history in Canada, going back to colonization, the Indian Act and the more recent residential school system.

“It all comes back to that. Colonization. The loss of land. The patriarch. And of course, the Indian Act, where indigenous women lost their status. [The women] married non-indigenous men, and therefore that affected generations of indigenous peoples that were, you know, not Indian anymore,” said Henderson. “So it was a slow genocide, and it continues to this day.”

Photo by Danielle Gasher

Until Bill C-31, or the Bill to Amend the Indian Act, revised the laws on Indian status under the Indian Act in 1985, indigenous women who married to non-indigenous men would lose their Indian status. Additionally, according to Indigenous Foundations, under Section 12(1)(a)(iv) of the Indian Act, an indigenous child would lose status if both their mother and grandmother acquired status from their husbands.

Henderson and Obodoechina also discussed the negative impacts the residential school system had on indigenous children, mothers and fathers, and generations that followed. They also discussed the lack of representation and misrepresentation of indigenous peoples in mainstream media and Hollywood.

Jonel Beauvais, an attendee of the event, introduced an activity after the first half of the talk.  Beauvais is a community outreach worker from Seven Dancer’s Coalition—an indigenous coalition of workers from Haudenosaunee and other areas of the state of New York that seek to educate and support indigenous communities. She had attendees stand in the middle of the room and form a circle that would represent an indigenous community. The “children” sat in the middle, the “mothers” placed themselves behind, and the “fathers” behind them—each row supporting the other with a hand placed on someone’s shoulder.

Beauvais wanted to show that when a member of that community is not there, the community is not complete—the link is broken. “Now you have missing mothers, missing women, missing grandmothers, missing men. If we took at least one person from each level, our circle, our community, is very much deprived now. That’s the kind of state in which we’re in,” said Beauvais, her tone strong, but her voice shaky.

Student Life

Raising trans awareness on campus

A workshop hosted by QPIRG dedicated to trans terminology and acceptance

A trans awareness workshop, organized as part of the Quebec Public Interest Group’s (QPIRG) “Disorientation Week,” took place on Sep. 20 for students and other individuals interested in gaining more knowledge on issues surrounding today’s transgender population.

Gabrielle Bouchard, peer support and trans advocacy coordinator for Concordia’s Centre for Gender Advocacy, hosted the workshop and introduced the participants to the vast world of transgender identity.

Transgender is a term used to describe a male or a female who identifies with a gender that does not correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth, she said.  Bouchard added that the prefix trans- means “from one thing to another.”  In the case of “transgender,” it would mean from one gender to another.  As for the difference between transgender and transsexual, Bouchard explained that transsexual is a term that was first invented by medical practitioners to identify trans-individuals who had undergone a sex reassignment surgery or other medical interventions, such as hormonal replacement therapy.  

Bouchard also touched on the misconceptions that exist for transgender individuals. According to Bouchard, today, many experts and medical professionals still believe that transgender people suffer from a mental illness and that “you need to be cured from it.” She provided the example of certain medical professionals at the Montreal General Hospital who still participate in “conversion therapy.” She explained that these professionals believe these “therapies” are the best solution to “cure” transgender individuals.  

Bouchard said she hopes the next step in the trans conversation would be to ban “conversion therapy” for trans patients. She highlighted the importance of education and understanding since there are still people who express transphobic beliefs.

Photo by Ana Hernandez

“The trans 101 workshop is hugely important because we do have trans students here at Concordia. [The Centre for Gender Advocacy] is a queer magnet for students who come to Concordia … they might have a better [chance of] acceptance for who they are than in other spaces. By giving this workshop, we are giving safer spaces for students who are part of marginalized communities,” said Bouchard.

Bouchard mentioned that not all individuals who come to the Centre for Gender Advocacy are students—many non-students who are also part of the trans community come to the centre to seek help.

Bouchard emphasized the importance of respecting a person’s chosen name and pronoun as part of their identity. “Don’t presume gender [and] don’t be a passive bystander when you see transphobic stuff around campus. Be the voice of these identities,” she said. Respecting someone’s identity is the foundation to accepting trans people. If someone prefers to be called by a different name or pronoun, Bouchard said it is important to support them. “That is the one thing that is always denied for trans people. Just respect that and you will do a world of difference.”

If you are a transgender or non-binary individual looking for support, feel free to contact the Centre for Gender Advocacy, located at 2110 MacKay street near Concordia’s downtown campus, or Queer Concordia, located at 2020 MacKay street.



Love Doesn’t Hurt takes flight

Press photo by Katie Brioux

A newly launched campaign, Love Doesn’t Hurt, was put into motion to raise awareness about healthy relationships, teach students about abuse and assault, and to promote the need for a sexual assault centre on campus.

For two years, the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy and the Women’s Studies Student Association at Concordia have been pressuring the university to create a sexual assault centre. Now, due to the lack of relevant resources on campus, Concordia Student Union Councillor Melissa Kate Wheeler began Love Doesn’t Hurt.

“We’re trying to start a conversation, to get students to understand abuse and assault with two main goals,” Wheeler said.

The first goal is to help people who are dealing with abuse to find resources and support them throughout the healing process, which can be difficult. Through posters, social media and workshops, Wheeler hopes to create awareness of the signs of abuse, help students identify disrespectful behaviour and point them in the right direction.

“Statistically, in post secondary environment, students experience a higher rate of sexual assault than the general population,” said 2110 centre Administrative Co-ordinator, Julie Michaud. “There are many reasons, but a few can be that they’re away from their support system and haven’t been taught about what consent is.”

Michaud wants to have an open conversation with students to discuss what is consent and how sometimes people can turn a “no” to a “yes” which still doesn’t classify under consent.

“It’s a huge journey moving forward and there’s nothing to help people with that process,” said Wheeler. “Moving on is the hardest part and there’s nothing that caters to that specifically, and there should be.”

Counselling and Development services at Concordia is an option but according to Wheeler, students must wait six weeks to secure an appointment because the department is “strapped” and overwhelmed.

The second goal is to let students know about 2110’s sexual assault centre campaign and rally support for the project. Wheeler explained that the two initiatives collaborated their efforts to advocate that would address different forms of abuse.

“Ideally, a sexual assault centre would be equipped to handle lots of different kinds of crisis, including instances of assault both on and off campus,” Wheeler said.

According the to Sexual Assault Centre Campaign, one in three women and one in six men worldwide will at some point in their lives be a victim of sexual violence. The campaign hopes to reach 1000 signatures but as to date has 272 signatures so far.

Michaud states that they’ve been in contact with the university and although they haven’t made any formal announcement, Michaud believes things are really moving forward. “I’m under the impression they … have some space lined up or a few options, so something will be happening, in the not long distant future,” she said.

The CSU unanimously voted in favour of supporting the public awareness campaign and initiative during a regular council meeting last Wednesday.

First-year John Molson School of Business student Darlene Waskiw said she believes that Concordia should have a centre on campus, so that more services are available for any situation.

“These services should be available no matter what and we shouldn’t wait for a situation to occur to finally think there should be one,” she said.

First-year English literature student Frankie Johnston also believes that students should realize how important it is to have services offered on campus.

“It’s hard for people to go out of their comfort zone and look for help, but I feel that if the opportunity is right there then they will go for it,” Johnston said.

The 2110 Centre is actively participating in the Love Doesn’t Hurt campaign, who Wheeler claims are “very happy with the initiative.” Representatives from both Love Doesn’t Hurt and the 2110 Centre attend one another’s meetings to collaborate on ideas.

Wheeler states that more specifics of the campaign will be made public soon.

“Statements like “don’t walk alone at night,” “watch your drink,” “don’t dress like sluts”; those are very nonsensical pieces of information. Nothing we do causes someone to behave a certain way,” Michaud said. “It’s such a ridiculous idea, an idea that is commonly held in this society, but one we have to break down and put the responsibility where it belongs.”

For students in need or for those who want to get involved, they can email:


Taking back the night one step at a time

Photo by Celia Ste Croix

Take Back the Night! is an annual tradition taking place in multiple major cities around the world. About 60 protesters gathered at Norman Bethune square last Friday to condemn gender violence, sexual assault and what organizers call the “rape culture” in which we live.

Organized this year by Concordia University’s 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, the Take Back the Night! event started with a succession of speeches and performances from various Montreal-based associations.

“We live in a culture where rape and sexual assault are normalized and expected,” said Julie Michaud, administrative co-ordinator at the 2110 Centre. Michaud explained that the notion of women attracting predators by wearing short skirts or revealing clothes when walking alone at night reinforces the idea that sexual assault is expected.

Associations touched upon a range of topics but the nature of the message stayed strong from one speaker to another. Québec Trans Health Action, a group for the rights of transgendered people, condemned the dynamic of fear and exclusion in which certain individuals, especially sex workers, are forced to live in. The Action des Femmes Handicapées described the violent nature of the “circle of dependence” in which physically disabled women live.

Finally, the pro-choice Reproductive Justice League performed a chorus enumerating the many ways a person can say “no” to sex, from “I’m tired” to “I’m not sure” to simple silence.

The march started around 7:45 p.m. and carried on for an hour through the main arteries of downtown Montreal.

“It’s something I’ll never understand as well as [women] do, but marching in an event like this one gives me a better understanding,” said protester Andrew Hogg. “The problems of sexual assault are usually hidden and are personal things that often people don’t talk about. I also don’t think most men talk enough about sexual assault.”

On the way back to Concordia a seemingly confused bystander exclaimed, “Is that really a protest against sexual assault?”

The bystander, Peter — who declined to give his last name — was on a cigarette break outside the restaurant he works at when he saw the march passing on De Maisonneuve Blvd.

“Everybody is against rape,” Peter told The Concordian. “I don’t see the point for a protest and blocking the street for something everyone agrees on.”

This type of argument is common in today’s society and translates a misunderstanding about the nature of sexual assault, according to Felix Chu, a volunteer at the 2110 Centre.

“The problem is people don’t know what sexual assault is,” said Chu. “We have such a pervasive rape culture where saying a verbal no is the only thing that [will make] people … take no for an answer. But there are some people that will coerce and emotionally blackmail, especially in university settings where there is so much date rape. People won’t call it rape. That’s what we’re trying to change.”

The 2110 Centre has been campaigning for a number of years to have Concordia follow the example of McGill and the University of Alberta and create a sexual assault centre in order to welcome and help victims of sexual assault, as well as educate students on what consent is.

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