Quebecers unite in solidarity for the fifth annual Muslim Awareness Week

Six years after the mosque shooting in Quebec, the Muslim community is still fighting for change

On Jan. 29, six years after the Quebec City mosque shooting, a vigil to commemorate the victims took place at Parc station in Montreal. During the speeches, a man passed behind the crowd and shouted, “Islamophobia doesn’t exist in Quebec!” But is that true?

Hawraa Dbouk, a Concordia student who majors in biology, shared her own experiences: “I once was told, ‘If you want to work there, you might have to take off your hijab, at least at work.’” 

“I think we all take hijab in the wrong way, because we don’t actually know what Islam is about. Islam is all about loving, caring, sharing and tolerance,” 

said Dbouk.

On the evening of Jan. 29, 2017, gunfire interrupted the prayers in the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City. The shooter killed six people and injured 19, which prompted the public debate on Islamophobia.

With the adoption of Bill 21 on June 16, 2019, the Canadian Muslim community has faced even more challenges. This secularism law prohibits public services and public sector workers from wearing religious symbols like hijabs.

“We can’t neglect how many women are getting fired or not even allowed to get employed because of their hijab,” Dbouk said. “I don’t think any religion should be included in work or should be forbidden. We should raise awareness about Islamophobia and biases. Work with me because I am your co-worker, but not because I am wearing a hijab.”

Ghadir Elsayed, who works as an administrator of Integrated Health and Social Services Centres (CISSS), was one of the volunteers in the Jan. 29 vigil. However, she was one of the only two hijabis in the CISSS healthcare system building. 

“When I observed that, it was heartbreaking,”

said Elsayed. 

She also talked about her friend who works as a teacher: “They have to find a job in a school in another province, or in Ontario, and it’s even hard for the student to be appreciated by their act and representation of their own religion.”

Elsayed pointed out the fact that there are no specific resources for Muslim people who are affected by the secularism legislation. “Because of Bill 21, we should have a system built up, federally or provincially, to help teachers, students and other workers who are affected by this law to find a job,” she said. “And they don’t have social workers or psychologists that are more available to them than to other communities.”

Elsayed was encouraged by her friends to find jobs in locations that do not accept hijabi workers. “I didn’t want to go straight to my salary,” Elsayed continued, “I just want to make sure that I am represented, and my community is represented[…]”


Town Hall on Anti-Black Racism: Why there is nothing wrong about Black-only spaces

 This event was done in part to value and protect spaces for Black students to share their experiences and voice their opinions freely

Concordia’s President’s Task Force on Anti⁠-⁠Black Racism held an online Town Hall on Anti-Black Racism on Feb. 10 during which students and alumni gathered to discuss the preliminary recommendations put out by the Task Force in Nov. 2021.

The online event was exclusively open to Black Concordia students and alumni with the goal of creating a safe space and prioritizing Black voices.

The event gathered about 30 individuals from different departments and was coordinated by three members of the Task Force’s leadership committee — Camina Harrison-Chéry, Alysha Maxwell-Sarasua, and Isaiah Joyner.

“In terms of interactions, people were very vocal, Concordia students are always ready to share their experiences,” said Harrison-Chéry, communications student and external affairs and mobilization coordinator at the Concordia Student Union (CSU).

“We had some really great discussions, and it made me recognize that we need these spaces more often — spaces where we can prioritize Black voices being heard,” said Maxwell-Sarasua, political science student and intern for the Black Perspectives Office.

“There’s a sense of safety in terms of being in a group that understands you and shares the same experiences as you,”  said Maxwell-Sarasua.

“This was to prioritize our safety essentially because unfortunately, despite people’s best efforts and best intentions, they might not understand how they continue to perpetuate the harm that we’re trying to stop,” said Maxwell-Sarasua.

The event was exclusive to Black students and alumni in an additional goal of protecting their privacy and encouraging participants to speak freely, without any judgment.

“On the sensitivity issue, we [organizers of the event] signed up for this to act as representatives, but they [other participants] did not sign up to be the display,” said Isaiah Joyner, former general coordinator of the CSU

“Right now, we’re in brainstorming mode, but there’s going to be a time for allyship, there’s going to be a time for when people want to support the Black community,” added Joyner.

Main Feedback from participants

The Task Force offered 12 preliminary recommendations detailed in their report, as part of their two-year mandate to address systemic anti-Black racism at Concordia.

In getting students and alumni to register for the Town Hall, individuals were asked to fill a form indicating which recommendations they wished to prioritize during the meeting.

The following three are the recommendations that were the focus of this Town Hall.

  1.       Create a certificate and minor program in the short term that focus on Black and African diaspora studies in the Canadian context and commit to the ultimate creation of a major program.

Participants had two main strands of thought regarding this recommendation, says Maxwell-Sarasua.

“One was that it can’t just be an isolated certificate or course that you can opt into — it should be part of a core-curriculum within all faculties.”

“The other strand was to see how to corporate a diverse view of Black and African diaspora in terms of the curriculum and having an intersectional approach to building these programs while recognizing that we’re not all a monolith — we don’t all come from the same places or have the same experiences.”

  1.       Implement a mandatory and continuous university-wide training program on anti-racism that includes a specific chapter on anti-Black racism.

“The main points for that one was mainly to offer Concordia students a kind ground line and basis of information about microaggressions,” says Maxwell-Sarasua.

However, participants during the Town Hall said they were skeptical about a one-off training that many would forget shortly after completing it, according to Maxwell-Sarasua.

“I think the main focus was that there should be lived, and practical experiences implemented into the training,” says Maxwell-Sarasua, “it shouldn’t just be given by someone with a PowerPoint, rather it should be offered by local community members who can give more of a practical base rather than just generalized theories of microaggressions.”

  1.       Create a permanent student centre servicing Black students.

“Now that we have the Black Perspectives Office, it’s kind of growing itself and has the potential to become this Black student center where you’ll have an office space and more social space for students,” says Harrison-Chéry.

Participants shared how important they felt it is to have these dedicated spaces on both campuses, which are often predominantly white spaces, adds Harrison-Chéry.

Another goal of this centre would be to reflect the diversity of students and understand different perspectives, including those of Black students who live in residences, or international students.

“The goal is really to have a Black students center that revolves around all those different needs that Black students have across campus,” says Harrison-Chéry.

Forced to repeat messages 

Despite this being the first time the Task Force opened up its floor to hear from  Black students and alumni about its preliminary recommendations, many sub-committees and the CSU have previously held similar student consultations regarding anti-Black racism.

“The CSU had a town hall specifically related to the Black Lives Matter campaign and we noticed a lot of things overlap and similar discussions,” said Harrison-Chéry.

“It’s important to acknowledge that these aren’t new ideas that we’re communicating,” she added.

As part of the sub-committee that deals with history, Harrison-Chéry said she often comes across documents from the ’60s and the ’70s of Black students voicing similar opinions as today.

“Black students say the exact same things and the exact same demands so hopefully this institutional push means that there’s no need for town halls like these in the future,” she adds.

More work needs to be done

“Even though this work won’t affect us right now in the short term, we know in the long run this is what needs to get done,” said Maxwell-Sarasua.

“I find that there’s this sense of erasure — that this has been done by many people before us, so there’s this sense of ‘how much longer do we have to yell for us to be heard.’”

Maxwell-Sarasua added that though we are far from the 1968 computer centre incident era, “we still have a lot of work to do.” The 2015 documentary Ninth Floor depicts the events also known as the Sir George Williams Riot, where Montreal students occupied the university’s computer room for 13 days to protest discrimination — one of the most important student protests in Canadian history.

“It’s not being told to Concordia students even though it’s part of Concordia history,” said Maxwell-Sarasua.

Similar to this Town Hall event, the Task Force is hosting a Roundtable on Campus Safety and Security on Feb. 17 for Black students and alumni to share their ideas on making safer and more welcoming and supportive spaces.

Visuals by Alex Hawksworth


Concordia Task Force on Anti-Black Racism releases first report

The President’s Task Force has published its preliminary recommendations for ending anti-Black racism within the university.

First commissioned in 2020, the President’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism has published its first report of preliminary recommendations. It includes a panoply of findings surrounding anti-Blackness at Concordia, as well as a dozen recommendations for the institution itself and for stakeholders, specifically Black students and faculty.

The report’s findings

The first section of the report is dedicated to the specific findings unearthed by the Task Force in the past year. Initially, it was challenging to determine the total number of Black students and faculty at Concordia. There has been a lack of infrastructure to uncover statistics and data on this issue. Looking into hiring discrepancies, the report revealed that there were very few Black faculty members, and that there was an issue in the turnover rate, however no numbers were shared in the report. The report also found gaps in curriculum and anti-racism training, and  that there is a lack of funding towards projects by and for Black Concordians. Several other pertinent findings were identified as well.

Institution-based recommendations

In the second section of the report, the commission broke down its six primary recommendations on the institutional level: this means anti-racist policies that would be integrated directly into the university. The first of these recommendations is to involve the Office of the Vice-Provost,  Faculty Development and Inclusion, the Equity Office, and the Office of Institutional Planning and Analysis, among others, in the process of accurate data collection. The second is to hire more Black faculty members so that Concordia’s population would be better represented in its faculty — this would also mean finding ways to diminish turnover. The third recommendation concerns the creation of anti-Black racism training and workshops for both students and staff, which would become mandatory. The next recommendation is the creation of certificates and minors in Black history, Black Canadian studies, and African diaspora studies. The last two institution-based recommendations are about making resources on Black perspectives permanent at the university and widening library resources by Black authors and scholars. By ingraining pro-Black policies into the system at Concordia, the commission believes the university could see more racial equality.

Stakeholder-based recommendations

The third section of the report contains six more recommendations to fight anti-Blackness. Where these differ from the last six is that they are directly and explicitly focused on the primary stakeholders in this issue: Black students and faculty members. The first recommendation is to implement changes within campus security, which would prioritize de-escalation. The second is the development of mental health services specifically tailored for Black students. The third and fourth recommendations are the creation of a permanent centre for Black Concordians and the implementation of culturally specific mentorship programs respectively. The fifth is the development of a concrete plan for increasing financial support for Black students, both local and international, as well as for the development of Black studies courses and programs. The final recommendation made by the committee is to “provide public recognition of the presence and contributions of Black Concordians over the course of Concordia’s history.” This would be done via the implementation of permanent monuments to the university’s long-standing Black history.

The Task Force has spent the past year developing solutions by speaking with Black student groups and faculty members. The full report will be made available by the summer of 2022. Near the end of the report, Task Force members explained why the implementation of these recommendations is so crucial.

“Ongoing exchanges with all university stakeholders must continue to facilitate implementation, provide a structure for long-term ally support and offer a clear framework for Black excellence among faculty, staff and students, allowing them to be fully invested in their futures at Concordia.”


Photograph by Catherine Reynolds 

Concordia Student Union

CSU Positions Book expiry

A referendum question was passed for the points in the position book to expire after four years

A referendum question was put on the ballot at the Concordia Student Union (CSU) meeting on Jan. 27 to remove the recent expiry date on positions in the CSU’s Positions Book.

Back in February 2020, a different referendum question passed, giving all positions in the book a four-year expiry date. This referendum question caused a lot of controversy, including a campaign against it, called Vote NO to ‘Democratise’ Positions Book.

A positions book is a common practice in student unions: it is an outline of the unions’ position on political, social, and student-life issues. The CSU’s positions book varies from points such as the CSU being against unpaid internships to the CSU being against racism in all forms. 

Referendums are held throughout the year, and students can add questions to the ballot as long as they gain more than 500 signatures from other Concordia students and present the question to the CSU. Then, it is voted on during the student election, and if it passes, the CSU is mandated to implement it. The next referendum is from March 16 to 18.

The four-year expiry date was brought to referendum by former councilor Danielle Vandolder-Beaudin, who tried to have a similar motion passed in 2019. According to an article in The Link, it would have revoked over 50 positions in the book, such as freedom of expression and Indigenous solidarity.

“This document represents our political beliefs, and this represents our student body. In 10 years, maybe that won’t be a general statement. We can’t assume things like that,” said Vandolder-Beaudin in the 2020 meeting.

Other counselors did not agree with the referendum question, such as former councilor Hannah Jamet-Lange, who said she did not believe that issues such as feminism and Indigenous solidarity should be regularly voted on.

During the recent CSU meeting, there was a similar divide in reference to the new referendum question that would stop the four-year expiry date. 

Many councilors saw the four-year expiry date as a way to keep the position book updated and focused. While others, such as Harrison Kirshner and S Shivaane who presented the motion, saw this as a way to undermine minority groups in Concordia.

In the general election this past fall, students voted on 19 referendum questions, several being for the positions book: Indigenous rights, Anti-racism/Diversity and inclusion, and Antisemitism/Holocaust denial positions. All position questions passed with an overwhelming majority vote.

“We have heard this is a problem from many, many students,” said Kirshner at the CSU meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 27, explaining that many students were surprised the CSU didn’t already support these positions.

“It’s not a good look to say we’re fighting for Indigenous issues every four years,” said Academic and Advocacy Coordinator Sarah Mazhero, agreeing with Kirshner that constantly voting on positions can imply the CSU is questioning their legitimacy.

Councillor James Hanna believes that he has a way to please both sides when it comes to the four-year expiry date.

“I’d much rather prefer the position book to be transformed into something that is binding so the CSU can actually accomplish it,” said Hanna.

He explained that his current idea is to have open-ended headers, such as Indigenous solidarity and climate change. These headers would be permanent, creating an outline of how the CSU should take action.

Under these headers would be things such as actions that should be taken by the university, and organizations to support. These positions would expire after four years, as they change in relevance to the overarching issue.

While the policy committee will work on potentially implementing Hanna’s idea, students will vote on the positions book question during the spring election in March.


Logo courtesy of the Concordia Student Union.

Looking to anarchism for a police free world

How we can embrace community-driven approaches to safety

Since the eruption of international protests in response to the murder of Black man George Floyd at the hands of the police, the discussion of either defunding or abolishing police forces has taken centre stage. Yet, many still have concerns as to what a world with a radically diminished police presence would actually look like.

While there is no simple answer to the question of what abolishing or defunding the police would consist of, there are a lot of helpful tools we can take from anarchist mentalities that show how to build community-driven approaches to safety. It all starts with an acknowledgement that government institutions do not work for the benefit of marginalized people. With that, communities should keep an eye out for each other as much as possible and not rely on those institutions, because our reliance gives them power.

One main tenet of anarchism is the concept of mutual aid. Simply put, mutual aid is the practice of voluntarily exchanging goods and services for overall community benefit. The thrust of mutual aid efforts center on the idea that when communities can pull together to provide for themselves, they are less dependent on often oppressive institutions and become more tightly knit.

Mutual aid has become somewhat of a buzzword since the COVID-19 outbreak— and for good reason. In countless cities around the world, neighbours have come together in order to share extra food and supplies, give social support, offer delivery services, and more. One Facebook group for Montreal mutual aid now has over 17,000 members, where posters continue to help others who are sick or out of work. However, in the past week, many of the posts have pivoted to sharing resources for how to help Black people and protesters in the Montreal community.

It would be difficult to deny that mutual aid is necessary for people thrust into precarity due to a global pandemic; however, for Black communities, mutual aid has been a lifeline for decades. For example, in the 1960s, The Black Panther Party offered a free breakfast program to children in their community. These kids were overlooked by the government as they were redlined and ghettoed into impoverished neighbourhoods, often going hungry during the school day. The Panthers saw the hunger and inequality that was forced upon their community by an actively white supremacist government, and took power into their own hands. The breakfast program was a major success, but a few years after it was enacted, the FBI cracked down due to the government’s phoney labelling of the Panthers as a hate group. Ironically, the U.S. federal government ended up implementing their own school breakfast program just a few years later.

The turn away from reliance on government can be applied to more than just food programs and facemasks—we can look to these anarchist concepts for guidance on what a world would look like without institutionalized police.

Another useful concept within mutual aid is community self-defense— the notion that civilians should be in charge of their own safety rather than relying on cops. For many communities, most notably Black and Indigenous people, the police are a blatantly violent and aggressive force, who do more intimidating than protecting. Community self-defense may answer the following question: ‘when the cops are the ones committing the crimes, who are you supposed to call?’

It is not that the policing system is broken—  it was never designed to work for the benefit of marginalized people. Across Canada, the demographic makeup of police departments are overwhelmingly more homogenous than the cities they’re sworn to protect. This disparity can lead to not only cultural misunderstandings but also higher rates of violence due to implicit racial bias. With this in mind, it only makes sense that those who protect a community should be from the community itself.

Community self-defense can come in many different forms. This could look like neighbourhood walking-patrols, trained social workers countering catcalling, watchdog groups monitoring white supremacists, sexual assault survivor networks, etc. The goal is to reroute funding that previously went towards police into groups that will support communities at the civilian level. Any group with power is susceptible to corruption, and there’s always the chance that people will join for nefarious reasons. However, those within a community have a vested interest in the betterment and safety of their group, as well as an added level of empathy towards those they’re protecting. This is because they won’t just see the offenders as criminals, but also as friends and neighbours.

The shift to a less police-focused state would not be simple, and it would likely require a lot more action on the civilian level. Yet, with a shift towards community-building in marginalized areas, it is not an impossible task. The status quo is structurally failing our Black neighbours and that should be enough to have everyone question the system as it is.

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Now what?

Now what? Changes we can make following George Floyd’s death

We ask for peace and it’s quiet. We scream for justice and we’re silenced. We go for a simple walk, yet we have to run and hide. We live in the same house, yet we’re treated like guests. We do nothing wrong, yet we get framed. We do the same things as everyone else, yet we’re not treated the same. We can’t breathe— we can’t even get some air. We have had enough, and not enough has changed. Now what?

The death of George Floyd seems to be the tipping point. It’s unfortunate that it was only reached in 2020, seeing that the same story has repeated itself every year. We’ve heard stories like Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Nicholas Gibbs, Breonna Taylor, Regis Korchinski-Paquet and many more way too many times. What’s different this time? It could be the fact that it isn’t just black people who’ve had enough. The faces seen, the fists thrown, and the voices heard all seem different this time. There’s more than just black people speaking out. This isn’t a black problem anymore, it’s everyone’s problem. So, people are starting to get it. We need more, but it’s a start. Now what?

Black screens and reposts are great, but it’s not worth much if you don’t know what you’re fighting for. You might know what’s going on, but do you know why it’s happening? Your repost helps, but did you ask yourself if it’s enough? You could list out all the campaigns to donate to, but did you contribute? Educating yourself is just as important as educating others. Education is free these days: it’s called Google. That goes for everyone, black or white. It’s a matter of talking and listening, communicating and understanding. Once everyone is on the same page, ask again: now what? 

It’s one thing to talk about racism at the dinner table, but government tables should be having the same conversations. From every small county to the federal level, systematic changes must be made. While racism is still very much present, a lot of it is amplified because of systematic realities. Government officials should have more knowledge of the subject, but many are incompetent in a lot of people’s eyes—but you didn’t hear that from me! The public should educate themselves and hold the people in positions of power accountable for a lot of the injustice and prejudice currently happening. Our good old friend Google can help with that! People who want a better understanding should probably look him up.

Racism won’t be fixed any time soon. It’s a long-term process. While we make strides as people towards improving the state of humanity, every step of the way, we should ask ourselves: now what?













Concordia statement on Black Lives and demandsfor an anti-racist pedagogy



Photo by Hadassah Alencar.


ASFA passes anti-racism motion, appoints new member

ASFA hires new vice president of communications and promotions and presents two motions

The Arts and Sciences Federation of Associations (ASFA) hired a new vice-president of communications and promotions during their first council meeting of the winter semester. The council also passed an anti-racism position motion and a motion to support those who menstruate.

The council meeting took place in the Hall building on Jan. 12. The ASFA vice-president of internal affairs, Julia Sutera Sardo, submitted and presented the anti-racism motion. It passed with supporting votes from all member associations (MAs).

“The anti-racist position motion requires ASFA to recognize the influence of colonialism, discrimination and systemic racism that has and continues to happen to this day to black, [and] indigenous people of color (POC),” said Sutera Sardo.

ASFA president Andrea Krasznai photographed on left. Photo by Ana Hernandez

In addition, the motion calls for ASFA to value the outlooks, experiences and identities of black and indigenous POC. “Be it further resolved that the ASFA condemn any and all forms of oppression, and be a voice for and an ally to individuals who experience marginalization,” said Sutera Sardo during council. The motion would require the association to support a safer, all-inclusive campus for those of any religion or culture—while holding Concordia administration to an equal standard, as written in the motion.

Furthermore, the motion acknowledges that ASFA currently commences council meetings by acknowledging Concordia University is located on Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) land. The motion encourages the association to continue this formal land recognition at the beginning of each meeting.

The second motion, the Support for Individuals that Menstruate Position Motion, was also submitted and presented by Sutera Sardo. It requests that ASFA finance and supply feminine products in all MA offices for students in need. Sutera Sardo said that ASFA, an organization which represents more than 20,000 students, many of whom experience menstruation, may not have the funds or means to acquire feminine hygiene products. She said this is especially prominent at the Loyola Campus, which is located in an area where it is not as easy to acquire these products, as pharmacies are not close by.

“Be it resolved that the ASFA recognize the experiences of individuals who menstruate and actively take actions to alleviate the barriers that they face,” said Sutera Sardo.

In Sutera Sardo’s motion, she requested that ASFA create a permanent “Feminine Hygiene Products” budget line within the Advocacy Committee budget, allocating $2,000 to the purchasing of a variety of feminine hygiene products for each school year.

“ASFA Advocacy Committee [would] be responsible for making a variety of feminine hygiene products available for free in continuity to its members on both campuses through its downtown and Loyola offices, as well as the offices of its member associations,” said Sutera Sardo.

Christina Massaro, the ASFA vice-president of finance, spoke against the motion. “If you go to Health Services, you can easily get a pack that comes with two tampons and a pad,” Massaro said during council. Those in need of feminine products will think of Health Services before they think to come to ASFA, said Massaro.

In response, Sutera Sardo said she has been approached by some students who said it was easier and more accessible to go to a MA office, rather than Health Services. “If you’re on the 12th floor of [the Hall building], it’s easier to go to either the Geography Undergraduate Student Society or the Political Science Students’ Association and get yourself a pad and tampon,” said Sutera Sardo. “You can’t necessarily run to Health Services.”

Sutera Sardo said Health Services has run out of these supplies before and for someone in need on the Loyola campus, it is harder to find feminine products close by.

The motion was not fully passed, but the motion was tweaked so that MAs, councillors and executives would agree that ASFA should recognize the barriers people who menstruate may face.

Sutera Sardo told The Concordian the $2,000 ASFA would be budgeting towards the initiative discussed will be on hold until the next ASFA council meeting in February. By then, a plan for how to distribute the supplies from MA offices will be determined.

Sutera Sardo told The Concordian ASFA appointed Georgios Simeonidis as an independant councillor during council.

ASFA went into closed session for the hiring of ASFA vice-president of communications and promotions, and the details of the deliberations were not disclosed. However, ASFA president Andrea Krasznai told The Concordian the position will be filled by Paula Monroy, an undergraduate from the urban studies program.

Krasznai mentioned that, during the closed session, there was a motion passed concerning the general elections. “All I know right now is that we’re going to have the general elections between March 1 and 31,” she said. The general elections will be held to choose the incoming ASFA executives and independent councillors for the 2017-2018 school year.

ASFA’s next council meeting will be held on Feb. 9 held in Hingston Hall, Wing HC, Room 155 on Loyola campus.

The Concordian has updated this article for accuracy purposes. We apologize and deeply regret the error.

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