Texas abortion bill is anti-woman, not pro-life

How abortion punishment contradicts pro-life claims

Republican Texas state representative Tony Tinderholt has reintroduced a bill that, if passed, would criminalize women who seek out abortions, as well as open up the possibility for those women to be convicted of homicide. In Texas, this means that women who choose abortion could face the ultimate form of punishment: the death penalty.

The basic value held by those who are anti-abortion, also known as “pro-lifers”or at least the value they claim to upholdis that an unborn fetus has the right to develop fully and be born into the world. What’s strange is that, rather than focusing their efforts on this simple idea, a number of those who are involved with the extremist anti-abortion movement use violence to get their point across and make a statement.

There is a long and unfortunate history of anti-abortion extremist violence in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Vandalism, arson, assault, abductions, bombings, and shootings—abortion clinics across these countries have seen the worst. Sadly, this is far from being an issue of the past. In 2015 alone, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Claremont, New Hampshire was vandalized; a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman, Washington was intentionally set on fire; and three people were killed (along with several others injured) in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

If extreme pro-lifers really are pro-life, then why do they use such violent—and sometimes fatal— methods in their attempts to make themselves heard? If one is truly pro-life, should they not value all lives, rather than only the lives of unborn fetuses? What about all the lives lost in these brutal anti-abortion attacks? Moreover, what about the lives of the women seeking out abortions in those clinics themselves?

When it comes to the concept of punishing a woman by death penalty for her choice to have an abortion, the same line of questioning should be used to critique this bill. If someone is against abortion for the sake of the sanctity of human life, but they are fine with implementing the death penalty as punishment for abortion, can their arguments really be taken seriously?

No part of the term “pro-life” seems to track with the concept of imprisoning a woman for life or sentencing her to death for making reproductive choices for her own body. In fact, a belief in the death penalty could be considered extremely “anti-life”.

The proposal of these cruel, sexist bills under the guise of a “pro-life” mindset is misleading at best and—at worst—utterly inhumane. Tinderholt is using this abortion bill as a mirage to veil the truth of the matter: that the extreme end of the anti-abortion movement was never about protecting human life. It is, and always has been, about stripping women of their reproductive and human rights.

Archive Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Trans rights will not be erased

People in past years probably envisioned 2018 as a time where people fly spaceships, could teleport or, at the very least, print food—all of which could be considered as quite progressive. But we at The Concordian are sad to remind our readers that our current society is seemingly becoming more regressive than progressive. Just last week, our editorial challenged the CAQ’s religious symbol ban––a ban that prohibits freedom of religion, a basic human right under the Canadian and the Quebec Charters of Rights and Freedoms.

This week, we were stunned to learn that the Trump administration is restricting and stripping away the rights of transgender and nonbinary people. According to a report by The New York Times, Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is considering major changes to Title IX, “the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.” These major changes include defining gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable,” according to the same article.

The Obama administration took concrete steps in extending the rights and protections granted to transgender and nonbinary people in terms of education and health care, by allowing them to serve in the military and recognizing that gender is an individual’s choice rather than something strictly assigned at birth. The HHS’s policy wants to completely destroy this. It aims to define gender as binary, something that is unchangeable and assigned by the genitals one is born with. We at The Concordian believe these policies are transphobic and aim to erase the existence of transgender and nonbinary people in the U.S. This could have a catastrophic impact not only on those living in the U.S., but also others around the world.

The HHS’s policy also stated that anyone with disputes about their gender must use genetic testing to clarify any misconceptions. Using science, a field that has always been progressive and innovative, as a way to reinforce a backwards policy is ironic in its entirety. The memo detailing the policy also states that a person’s sex as listed on their original birth certificate is the one they must identify with, “unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

Almost 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender––these new policies would undo the rights they have been granted through the Obama administration, and would be another step towards erasing trans and nonbinary voices. The Human Rights Campaign—which is the U.S.’s largest civil rights organization advocating for LGBTQ+ equality—has demanded that the Trump administration not go forward with the proposal, as it will harm transgender people and put them in serious danger. It is integral to recognize trans and nonbinary people as those who deserve basic civil rights, equality and protection.

As we’ve seen throughout history, when an entire group of people are not given equal rights or are stripped of what little rights they do have, unrest ensues. We at The Concordian hope that everyone is as outraged at the Trump administration’s attempt to suppress transgender and nonbinary people as we are. We must remain vigilant in calling out the administration’s blatant disrespect for human rights.

In the past, the U.S. might’ve been seen as a progressive nation that boasted innovative leaders and creative thinkers. But the country’s recent actions prove this is not true; in fact, they go vehemently against the concept of progressiveness by creating policies that aim to disregard and oppress an entire group of people. While we may marvel at how far technology has come over the years and how innovative the Western world may seem, we cannot celebrate progression until our social policies also mirror this way of thinking.

Archive graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


How many migrants can the world manage?

Considering the concrete facts about migration, the United States’s actions don’t line up

In most of our lives, the topic of migration is usually accompanied by the word “crisis.” There is no denying that a growing number of environmental, political and economic factors are pressuring more people to displace themselves. However, I believe the world is entirely capable of supporting an increase in human movement. The reason why the current migration situation is labeled as a crisis is because of countless nations’s inability to manage their borders and have proper systems in place to effectively and safely regulate human movement.

Currently, the planet hosts about 7.4 billion people, of which only 245 million people are considered migrants, making up only 3.3 per cent of the world’s total population, according to the Pew Research Center. The current United States’s population is about 325 million, including more than 43 million immigrants, who account for 13.5 per cent of the country’s total population, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

The policies and institutional frameworks that allow immigrants to re-establish their lives elsewhere are easily controlled by a state’s regime and judicial system. A state that does not accommodate migrants directly affects the dire situation these people face, especially in terms of human rights. The current border crisis between the United States and Mexico is a pressing case that demonstrates systematic institutional failures.

I believe there is a pressing problem with a regime that consistently produces discourse about the threat immigrants pose to national security, job security and the national budget. It normalizes sentiments of hate and discrimination. It also allows for such norms to be condoned through actions, leading to a lack of recognition of inherent human rights.

Take, for example, the case of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unconstitutionally separating children from their parents. This was done without a proper framework in place to document adult migrants who were being detained. It led to an inability to reunite separated families. Additionally, there was no system to establish where these unaccompanied minors would be kept, and in most cases, the initial intent was to send the minors to foster care. Between April and May alone, almost 2,000 children were separated from their families, according to Vox, likely leading to intense emotional trauma for those separated.

The American justice system is also at the forefront of neglecting human rights, especially with regard to immigration. Immigration courts allow children, sometimes as young as three, to appear unaccompanied at their immigration proceedings. Let that sink in. Given the age of these children, it is certain they don’t have a basic comprehension of immigration law.

Given that the United States’s current immigration laws and systems are not only harmful but also clearly not supporting international human rights, the question that must be considered is: Why has this been allowed to evolve? A common response would be that the American people resent immigrants. However, many recent polls disprove this. Even in the midst of such harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric stemming from the current administration, multiple statistics show it has not affected Americans’ support of immigrants.

A recent Gallup poll found that fears of immigrants bringing crime, taking jobs from native-born citizens and damaging a country’s budget and overall economy are at an all-time low. Over 75 per cent of the respondents in 2018 believed immigration was a good thing for a country. The same poll also found that an overwhelming number of respondents believe immigrants are absolutely beneficial to the American economy. If this is the case and American citizens truly support immigrants, then why is the government not acting in the interests of its constituents?

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


Speaking your mind in the spotlight

Kanye West’s support for Donald Trump highlights a larger conversation about famous people’s opinions

We all have a right to voice our opinions. In fact, I’ll be voicing mine throughout this article. It doesn’t mean you need to agree with it, but it’s always nice to open our minds to a different perspective. Oftentimes, I think people say things without expecting repercussions. But if your words were more powerful than other people’s, would you be more careful about what you said?

In my opinion, a celebrity’s words have a big impact on their fans. People can be easily influenced by their role models and, therefore, swayed to agree with something solely because of the person who said it. Or, people can also completely disagree with any statements made by celebrities and withdraw their support as a result.

When rapper Kanye West tweeted a picture of his “Make America Great Again” cap in April, people did not react well. West later tweeted, “You don’t have to agree with Trump, but the mob can’t make me not love him.” Although West has the right to be a Trump supporter, there are obvious reasons why so many people do not support the President and were so shocked when West revealed he did. I believe Trump is blatantly racist, sexist and quite childish. It’s obvious to me that this isn’t someone who should be spoken highly of by other famous people.

Although West said on Twitter that he wants to be open about his opinions and thoughts rather than be controlled by the popular opinion, it can be argued that he should be more cautious about the things he says because of his influence on the public. If he openly states that he supports Trump or supports a specific statement Trump has made, this may sway West supporters to think something that’s problematic is not so bad if West supports it.

Things can often be misread or taken out of context, so celebrities should be used to thinking twice about anything they say. We all have a right to express our opinions, but when your words have a larger impact on the public, that right needs to be exercised with more caution. I’m not saying things should be purposely left unsaid, but words travel fast, and with the popularity of social media nowadays, it’s easy for something to be seen or read by many more people than anticipated and for its impact to be far-reaching.

Kanye also argued in a tweet, “I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.” Though this is true, being a celebrity does come with the responsibility of keeping in mind how your words influence your fans. Explanations must often be given to justify words and actions. If you give your opinion with no justification, it can be taken the wrong way. With an explanation, people can at least understand the reasoning behind your thinking and be considerate of it.

We do not have to agree with everything a person says, but we can respect their words. Or, if we do not want to accept them, we can at least acknowledge the fact that there is a reasonable explanation behind their opinions. Whether our words will be heard by one person or thousands, we should always be aware of the possible repercussions. Everyone can disagree with something or be disagreed with.

Everyone has a right to their opinion, and to speak it, no matter the size of their audience. However, those in the public eye should always be more conscious of how their words and actions will be received.

Graphic by Wednesday Laplante



A first step in the march for change

Most people are familiar with the phrase: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” On March 24, that change manifested itself in the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of other cities across the United States. Although the march was organized by American students to protest against weak American gun laws following a lengthy streak of shootings in American schools, thousands of Canadians marched in solidarity on Saturday. The ability of a group of Florida teenagers to spark a transnational demonstration is courageous, inspiring and a major step toward effecting real change.

We live in an age where mass shootings are normalized in the United States—or at least they were until about six weeks ago. So far this year, there has been an average of more than one school shooting every week in the United States, or a total of 17 shootings in 12 weeks, according to CNN. While Canadians should be proud to support our neighbours to the south in their fight to improve gun control, it’s important to remember we are not immune to the problem in our own country.

There were 13 shootings—two of which were fatal—in Ottawa alone in January 2018, reported CBC News. This equals to 40 per cent of the shootings recorded in the city in all of 2013. Of the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries, Canada has the fourth highest rate of death by firearm, according to The Globe and Mail. The rate in Canada is more than twice that of Australia and 10 times the rate in Britain.

Effective gun control has been terminated at the federal level, and gun circulation in Canada has amplified. According to The Globe and Mail, the Harper government overruled the RCMP’s ban on military assault weapons, and eliminated the legal requirement that the sale of shotguns and rifles be tracked. Today, people with gun licenses in Canada can buy an unlimited number of unrestricted guns (i.e. shotguns and rifles, among others), and there is no record kept about any of these purchases. Gun owners in Canada can also avoid background checks because of automatic six-month license extensions that kick in if they fail to renew their license on time. Additionally, from 2012 to 2016, the importation of guns to Canada almost doubled compared to the previous four years—increasing from more than one million to just under two million, according to The Globe and Mail.

So while most of the news media turns its attention to the overwhelming number of massacres in the United States, it is undeniable that gun violence and a lack of gun control are problems in Canada as well.

As Canadians, we should be proud to stand against the people who deem corporate greed and political gain more valuable than the innocent lives of children. We should be proud to support anyone who tries to effect positive, peaceful change in a world that seems increasingly polarized and violent. Canadians should take inspiration from the brave voices and powerful words of young Americans, and make sure our own government understands that weak gun control will no longer be tolerated here either. We should all be determined to end gun violence and school shootings.

A school should be a safe space for everyone. It’s where we go to learn, to flourish and to create a future for ourselves. It is outrageous that shooting drills have become as commonplace in schools as fire drills. Parents should not drop their children off at school fearing they’ll never see them again.

Change comes slowly, but we at The Concordian believe it will come. Children are the future, and Saturday’s march was just a taste of the future these courageous young people will build for themselves. The people in charge can not be relied on to protect that future, nor should it be solely their responsibility. As the students of Parkland high school continue to show us, we must become the change we wish to see in our world.

Graphic Alexa Hawksworth


Focusing on the problems in front of us

We’ve all heard the comments about Canada being a safe haven for Americans. We’ve seen Americans flee their country after electing President Donald Trump to avoid the heated political climate or deportation. Given our close proximity, comparisons are continuously made between the United States and Canada in terms of our politics, economy, healthcare, news industry and even entertainment. In most cases these days, Canada seems to come out on top.

Statistically speaking, Canada seems better than the United States on many fronts. According to Maclean’s, Canadians live 2.5 years longer than Americans; we’re also six times less likely to be incarcerated. In the United States, 46 per cent of the population obtains a college degree, whereas 59 per cent of Canadians have one.
The World Economic Forum ranks Canadians as the sixth happiest people in the world, whereas Americans rank 13th. The Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index claims Canadians to be the sixth freest people in the world, and Americans are 23rd—even though they boast being the “land of the free.”

When considering these factors, it’s hard not to argue that Canadians are living a better life than their southern neighbours. Yet this mentality can often result in Canada’s problems—of which there are many—being taken less seriously or even ignored.

Take Indigenous issues for example. Canadians and Americans alike closely followed coverage of the Standing Rock protests against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatened Indigenous land and water supplies. Yet when was the last time we checked up on the progress of Canada’s national public inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls? How often do we read news stories about the numerous Indigenous communities in Canada living without access to clean drinking water, adequate healthcare or accessible education?

Similarly, from the Ferguson riots in 2014 to the recent comments made by President Donald Trump about “shithole” countries, news stories about racism seem to pour out of the United States, diluting any incidents happening here in Canada. This does not mean the treatment of marginalized groups in our country is any better.

As journalist Desmond Cole once said, “People in Canada generally will do anything to avoid talking about race.” But we need to talk about the fact that, between 2005 and 2015, the number of black inmates in Canadian prisons jumped by 69 per cent, according to The Guardian. In Toronto, 41 per cent of youth in the child welfare services are black, despite representing only eight per cent of the city’s youth population. In 2015, Canadian police recorded 159 hate crimes against Muslims, according to Global News. This was up from 45 in 2012—a 253 per cent increase.

So while Canada may seem better than the United States by comparison, that in no way absolves us of our many shortcomings as a progressive society. We must peel our eyes away from the car crash on the other side of the border, and focus on the road in front of us. We are so caught up in what’s happening on the other side of the highway that we’re creating traffic in our own lane.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth 


Mass shootings: Why does this keep happening?

Las Vegas massacre highlights the deeper problem of gun control in the U.S.

Fifty-eight people lost their lives when Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor in his Mandalay Bay hotel room in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. This was the 273rd mass shooting of 2017—also the deadliest in modern American history, according to Time.

Various conservative news sources have reported that no one could have seen this tragedy coming. It was totally out of the blue. That’s strange given the fact that Paddock bought a total of 33 guns in the last year, according to CNN. In February, President Donald Trump signed a bill into law that forbade the U.S. Social Security Administration from submitting the names of people with mental illnesses to the national background check system. I believe this has no other purpose than to get more guns into the hands of more people.

When a man like Paddock can amass nearly 50 guns throughout his lifetime, the main problem isn’t mental illness or hotel security. The real culprits are the gun laws (or lack thereof) currently in effect in the United States, and the people unwilling to change them.

Even though assault rifles are illegal in the United States, Paddock had bump stocks—small pieces of hardware attached to his guns that help semi-automatic rifles fire nearly as quickly as full automatic ones. The kicker? They were purchased legally. Why are they legal?

The answer is the NRA (National Rifle Association). The answer is always the NRA. For decades, they have pushed for increased deregulation of firearms and even opposed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. The group has so much power through campaign contributions and lobbying efforts that it’s literally undemocratic. They have spent over $200 million in the last 20 years promoting their agenda, according to the U.S. Federal Election Commission, and that somehow seems to drown out the fact that nearly eight out of 10 Americans are in favour of implementing the most basic gun control laws, according to the Pew Research Center.

Even the majority of Republicans (82 per cent) advocate for barring people on the no-fly list from getting guns. More than half of Republicans (54 per cent) approve of background checks for private sales or gun shows and a database that will track gun sales across the country, according to Pew Research Center.

Many Americans will argue that it is their constitutional right to protect themselves. In reality, nowhere in the American Constitution does it say people have the unalienable right to own a gun just because they are American. Word-for-word, the Second Amendment reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Notice a very curious group of three words that is often left out of the NRA’s and many Republican’s speeches: Well. Regulated. Militia. That means if the freedom of the United States is under threat and militias are brought into action, their right to have arms will not be infringed. It does not say anything about private citizens. I imagine the beginning of the Second Amendment is often left out because “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” sounds a whole lot better for gun advocates.

In my opinion, the NRA has ignited this pro-gun fervor by convincing millions of people there is a secret, totalitarian super-government hell-bent on taking away their guns and freedom. Truthfully, what gun control advocates are trying to do is simply make sure gun owners don’t misuse them or put anyone in harm’s way. Like, you know, the nearly 100,000 people who have died in the United States since 2014 from gunshots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Right-wing media and politicians have a go-to tactic when a mass shooting they can’t politicize occurs. They avoid talking about the real problem at hand. Take Fox News’ Sean Hannity, for example. He spent more time talking about how he would have been able to help the people of Las Vegas had he been there, rather than discuss the serious ramifications of the lack of gun control. These commentators and politicians give their thoughts and their prayers, and that’s it. However, they had no problem politicizing shootings when they happened in San Bernardino, Fort Lauderdale, Brussels or any other instance of violence that fit their anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Every time we say “never again,” people seem to think doing nothing will solve the problem. What really needs to happen is a significant overhaul of the current legislation and a bipartisan effort to limit who can obtain firearms to avoid more senseless deaths.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Being Canadian rather than ‘not American’

A reflection on Canada’s national identity and why we should just be ourselves

The celebration of 150 years since Canada’s Confederation does not come without a few controversial questions. Amid the festivities, people from across the country have been denouncing the treatment of Indigenous peoples. As well, some people in Quebec—citizens and politicians alike—have reiterated the need for the province to be part of the constitution or to become a sovereign state.

While reconciliation and constitutional issues are of the utmost importance, I’d like to bring forward an aspect of Canada’s identity that’s often omitted. It’s an aspect that is crucial to what we’ve become in the century and a half since Confederation.

I’ve always been interested in the different political ideologies in Canada. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I realized there is a hidden one. One that pervades and homogenizes other ideologies so well that all lines are blurred, making us oblivious to it.

Indeed, I think there are not two but three main ideologies in today’s Canada: Quebec nationalism, Canada’s British roots and American exceptionalism. The latter proposes that the American economic system, political culture and democracy are uniquely rightful, thus making them the default model to follow. This ideology is certainly the most entrenched in our public discourse, as we see Canada becoming more similar to the United States.

American exceptionalism has positive and negative sides, depending on one’s position. For many Maritimers, the ideology is a denial of their deeply-rooted identity, while for some Québécois, it may reinforce republicanism and the sovereigntist sentiment, stemming from a shared sense of British oppression. But for both groups, it entails the takeover of their culture by mass consumption as sold by large media and corporations. That said, the Americanization of Canada likely serves neither Québécois nationalists nor Maritime loyalists.

The United States is currently walking down the road of isolationism and protectionism, a road that none of Canada’s identity groups are fond of. This is why I believe uniting to assert our right to political independence is the best thing we can do. In many ways, the current U.S. president has proven his values conflict with those of our country, and yet it is very difficult to stand up against our closest ally and neighbour.

Most of the time, when I ask someone what it means to be Canadian, the answer either has to do with multiculturalism or not being American. But to what extent is the latter true?

Our economies are integrated to the extent that we can’t foresee a future without a trade partnership with the United States. From NAFTA to Netflix, we are annexed now more than ever––the result of decades of neighbour-friendly policy making. I think this is concerning, given the political polarization in the United States and the looming threat of a war with North Korea. No matter how different we Canadians think we are, we may one day begin to see the downsides of such a close link with our southern neighbour.

I’m not here to tell anyone what kind of Canada they should strive for, nor am I here to lecture the United States. What I’m here for is to claim that we don’t have to be like Americans to be more favourable as a world power. We can make our own path, we can be ourselves and we can stand for what we want.

Our government should be more receptive to different identity groups in Canada than to the United States’s influence. It should take Canada for what it is: a politically and geographically complex place rather than an attempted replica of the United States. But the first step is for the population to read and learn about the past, and realize how Americanized Canada has become.

Graphic by ZeZe Le Lin


Montreal inauguration protesters resist Trump

Protesters disperse with the remains of a burning paper-mâché Trump left in front of the U.S. consulate

As Donald Trump was sworn into office on Friday, repeating his promise to “Make America Great Again” during his inaugural speech,  protesters in Montreal were mobilizing to express their outrage, proclaiming “America Was Never Great.”

Hundreds gathered at the corner of Jeanne-Mance and de Maisonneuve for the Resist Trump and the Far-Right rally, where organizer Eamon Toohey delivered an opening speech shortly after 11 a.m.

“The days of polite protest, of waiting for the next Jon Stewart sketch to limply chastise an emboldened enemy—those days are far gone,” he said.

Photo by Kirubel Mehari.

“To those clamoring for love, [saying] that love trumps hate—resistance is the greatest act of love that you can muster. We need to continue to resist, to take disruptive, direct action until we’ve resigned fascism to the annals of history.”

The march was organized by the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at Concordia (QPIRG Concordia), a left-wing organization with a nearly 40-year history of supporting social and environmental causes. According to QPIRG Concordia’s website, it has previously coordinated demonstrations against apartheid, climate change and the nuclear arms race.

This protest was organized in solidarity with similar, much larger protests in Washington D.C. and throughout the United States, and was followed by another demonstration later that evening.

Protest signs read, “No legitimacy for fascists” and “Trump is evil, Trump is nuts. People hate his fucking guts.” The latter was designed by Kerry McElroy.

Photo by Kirubel Mehari.

“My biggest concern is that he’s going to bring down the country and bring down the institutions and bring about civil war,” she said. “I think he’s an authoritarian and I think he’s a fascist and I think he’ll take whatever power he can.”

One protester, Jonathan Ouzariman, brought a paper-mâché effigy of the new president. When asked if he would burn it, he replied, “Absolutely.”

Journalist Ian Down interviewing protester Jonathan Ouzariman, who made paper-mâché effigy of President Trump. Photo by Kirubel Mehari.

Protesters marched east on de Maisonneuve, and then back west on René Levesque. Order was kept, but the threat of violence was ever-present. Police circled the crowd on bikes. Others formed a blockade in front of the U.S. Consulate as protesters marched by. Shopkeepers watched warily as the crowd poured into the Eaton Centre, their final destination. A small marching band, instruments adorned with political slogans, accompanied them.

“The demo has two aims,” said organizer Nicole Leblanc. “One: A show of solidarity with folks in the United States who will be directly affected by Trump’s policies. Two: To call attention to the fact that what Trump represents is a larger, far-right ideology that advocates a set of racist, islamophobic, sexist, transphobic and anti-immigrant policies that absolutely must be opposed and resisted everywhere it occurs.”

Photo by Kirubel Mehari.

When asked if racists should be afraid to express their opinions, Toohey replied, “Honestly? Yes.”

“We want racists and right-wing extremists to fear and to expect repercussions and backlash if and when they openly express such ideas,” said Leblanc.

By 1 p.m., the crowd had dispersed completely. All that lay in their wake was a smoldering figure dumped in front of the U.S. Consulate—the charred paper-mâché effigy of the American president.


Why I think America needs Hillary Clinton

Exploring the possibility of electing Mrs. Clinton

While I was watching the third and final presidential debate in a downtown Montreal bar, one of my friends texted me: “Who’s winning?” I responded that the ultimate winner was cynicism. Although I am not enthusiastic about the Democratic nominee, I believe America needs to elect Hillary Clinton.

Most Canadians care about American politics as much as they care about their own. “Geography has made us neighbours, history has made us friends, economics has made us partners, necessity has made us allies,” John F. Kennedy once said in a speech. It seems, this year more than ever, as election day closes in, many Canadians are most interested in knowing how this reality TV-like campaign will end.

The two candidates’ personalities and past actions have undeniably stolen the show away from party policies. It is evident to me that we need to think of nominees as leaders of their own movement before leaders of their party. In fact, many Republican members of Congress have said they will vote against their nominee, Donald Trump, according to a report published by the American news outlet, The Daily Beast.

For the last month or so, we’ve been preoccupied with the three presidential debates. Although it allows candidates to expand on their values and ideas, I believe its main purpose is to reveal their demeanours their attitudes toward opposition. From this perspective, Trump proved to be downright unfit to be president. His condescending tone, his odious claims and his constant attempts to interrupt both his rival and the mediator spoke volumes about the kind of leader he would be.

The question I always ask myself when analyzing political ideas is fairly straightforward: does the candidate, or the party, advocate for equal treatment of every individual? Trump, for instance, claims that America needs his kind of thinking, which allowed him to turn the money inherited from his father into an enterprise worth billions of dollars. Reaganomics—economic policies introduced by President Ronald Reagan—proved marginal tax reductions to be successful for improving the middle-class quality of life.

However, I don’t believe that being lenient with corporations and the wealthiest citizens, banking on them to make it rain on the middle-class, is the right thing to do for a fairer country. Trump is offering a short-term solution, whereas Clinton aims to attack the loopholes in the corporate tax system and to implement regulations that ensure multi-billionaires pay not only a reasonable share, but also fair surcharges. Given that some corporations and individuals make more money than they spend, while some other are unable to live a decent life, there’s no way to make America a better place if there is no will to ease the greed.

Although Clinton is only a mild progressive, she appeals to me because Bernie Sanders’s ghost constantly follows her. The former Democratic candidate said in a video interview for NowThisNews, that he believes in about 80 per cent of Clinton’s platform. He encourages everyone who took part in his movement to stand up and ensure Clinton realizes this 80 per cent of the platform. I’m confident Sanders’ supporters won’t give up their cause.

Personal attacks between the two candidates have gotten slightly out of hand lately. Both of them have been involved in multiple scandals. I do not hold either of them in such high regards for that matter, though I’m aware there are wild manipulations from both parties’ establishments.

To be frank though, if I were American, I would rather have a president who does “politics as usual” and hides things from the population than a president who’s a complete misogynist. We tend to forget that there’s a large structure behind the president who, although it is theoretical, will ensure the transparency of a possible Clinton government. Because the president is America’s face, I worry more about Trump’s perpetuation of rape culture than Clinton’s little secrets.

My position pro-Clinton ultimately lies in her apparent perception of the American Way and the American Dream. Unlike Trump, who believes in equal opportunities for everyone to stamp on their fellows to get rich, Clinton claims she’ll advocate for equal opportunities for everyone to live a decent life, no matter where you come from. My trust in her has, of course, diminished, especially the since the Clinton Foundation donations, which question her ethic. Yet, I can’t not support her, given that Trump goes against everything I stand for in terms of fairness.

Moreover, The Democratic Party Platform plans to fight for women’s, LGBT and disabled people’s rights. Republicans have this frustrating propensity to want to impose their beliefs on everyone, especially when it comes to LGBT and abortion rights. Donald Trump has not held a consistent discourse regarding his views on same-sex marriage, according to the Human Rights Campaign. From this perspective, it would be no accident that he chose Mike Pence for Vice President running mate. Pence “has been an outspoken opponent of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens,” according to a report from the Washington Post.

Hillary Clinton is far from being an ideal candidate. But given the other option, I do think she needs to be the next president of the United States. As I consider the polarization of voters that will lead to an inevitable dissatisfaction, I hope to see a government that will be concerned with economic fairness and social justice.


Obama vs. Romney: Cracking down on the presidential debates

Graphic by Phil Waheed.

In a democracy, one would hope that an election debate would serve to further enlighten and inform the electorate.

Unfortunately, the U.S. presidential debates served more as populist entertainment than as a crash-course for undecided voters.

The second debate between Democratic and Republican presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took place at Hofstra University in New York.

In an interesting twist the debate was modeled on a “town hall” meeting with the audience asking the presidential candidates questions. The questions were all pre-approved by moderator Candy Crowley of CNN, making it a bit more controlled than an actual town hall meeting.

During the debate promises were made, fingers were pointed and the undecided voters who participated in the event were repeatedly thanked for their “important” and “great” questions.

Both candidates did well in the debate with neither making any particularly damaging mistakes.

Obama, whose lackluster performance in the first debate shocked many pundits and supporters, was back to his old self in this one. He was more confrontational with Romney, accusing him repeatedly of saying things that were “not true.”

According to USA Today, Obama claimed Romney was lying so many times during the debate, that Taggart Romney (eldest son of the Republican candidate) wanted to “rush down to the debate stage and take a swing at him.” If this contemplation of violence doesn’t demonstrate the excessively hyper-partisan nature of American politics, I don’t know what does.

Romney held his own without his son coming to his defense. As in the first debate, the former governor of Massachusetts looked confident and spoke with conviction. He scored political points by attacking Obama’s record on job creation and his management of the economy.

Needless to say, the fiery debate made for good political theatre.

Ultimately the biggest winners in last Tuesday’s debate were the fact-checkers, who were gainfully employed dispelling the many half-truths being spewed out by the presidential candidates. If viewers thought they would be more informed by the end of the night, they were sorely mistaken.

Obama claimed he could spend more on social programs by cutting military expenditures on wars in the Middle East. Unless Obama can multiply $100 bills like magic, there’s no way that cutbacks can save money. The United States has been borrowing money in order to finance the military; ending overseas conflict will not necessarily mean more money to spend on Medicare and public schools.

Romney tried to score points among women voters by saying he led one of the most gender-diverse cabinets in his state’s history. The presidential candidate said he wanted more women in his cabinet and had looked through “whole binders full of women” for female candidates to appoint to various positions. While he was patting himself on the back, The Christian Science Monitor was reporting that it was the nonpartisan Massachusetts Government Appointments Project that instigated this process in order to finally end the underrepresentation of women in government.

Questions also remain about the viability of Romney’s plan to cut taxes, which the Republican candidate touted during the debate. The Washington-based Tax Policy Center essentially said in a study that his numbers don’t add up.

That’s not to say that there weren’t ounces of truth mixed in with the doublespeak, but there was still an incredible amount of untruths and half-truths in the debate.

It’s disappointing that third-party candidates don’t receive nearly any coverage in the mainstream press. The main third party running is the Green Party run by Dr. Jill Stein. As long as mainstream debates do not allow third-party candidates in, voters will have fewer choices and American democracy will suffer for it.

Even though the American electoral process has its flaws, there is still one thing from the U.S. debates that Canada should strive to emulate in its own leaders’ debates next election. It quickly becomes apparent, after watching the presidential debates, that Canada should have multiple election debates like the United States has.

During the 2011 federal election campaign, we only had two leaders’ debates, and because one was in English and the other was in French, they covered many of the same topics just in different languages. Neither debate managed to get past general questions about governance or the economy to inquire about specific issues.

In Canadian debates, we’d probably never see questions about women’s issues or about how a leader would differentiate himself or herself from another. (Romney was asked, “how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?”)

While there are some things we, as Canadians, can learn from the U.S. presidential debates, we should also count ourselves lucky for the vibrancy of our democracy and for the diversity of voices present in our political landscape.

As for Americans, they need to wake up and realize that there’s a wealth of other options out there beyond the confines of the two major parties.

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