“Make Racists Afraid Again” protest

An SPVM window was smashed, anti-Trump protesters were cleared with tear gas

Approximately 300 demonstrators protesting the inauguration of President Donald Trump marched down Ste-Catherine Street West in downtown Montreal on Friday evening.

The protest, called “Make Racists Afraid Again,” started peacefully in Phillips Square, but as demonstrators marched against the flow of traffic on Ste-Catherine, windows of commercial stores were vandalized. Montreal police, dressed in riot gear, used tear gas and shields to disperse the protesters after several people started throwing stones, smashing a window at the SPVM station on the corner of Ste-Catherine and Bishop Street.

Protesters mobilize against Trump as he was sworn in as the new president of the United States. Photo by Ana Hernandez.

The protest was organized by the Anti-Racist Resistance Collective of Montreal (CRAM) and Resist Trump Montreal, in partnership with DisruptJ20—a group that organized many large protests throughout the United States on Friday.

Protesters held banners denouncing Trump, the United States and fascism. Organizers used megaphones to chant ‘No more Trump, no more hate, America was never great!,’ as the march moved along the downtown thoroughfare.

Activist and organizer Eamon Toohey said the protest—meant to be “a show of solidarity with protesters in Washington”—was a success.

“We wanted to show that the rise of the far-right as represented by Trump isn’t welcome in the States and it isn’t welcome in Canada,” said Toohey.

When asked about the vandalism that took place during the march, Toohey said he didn’t have sympathy for the SPVM or businesses like American Apparel, which were targeted during the protest.

“I’m not going to condemn protesters smashing the window of the police station,” said Toohey. “The police are the armed wing of the state and serve [to] enforce the policies that place people in jeopardy. No condemnation there.”

According to The Montreal Gazette, Montreal SPVM said they did not ticket or arrest anyone.

However, Concordia student Maidina Kadeer said she was arrested while waiting with her friends following the protests. “[The police] grabbed me and slammed me against the window and began handcuffing me,” Kadeer said.

Police officers are seen in front of the broken glass. Photo by Adrian Knowler

“They, at no point, told me if I was being arrested, for what—[they gave] no reason as to why I was being handcuffed and arrested,” said Kadeer. Her other friend began filming the scene, but the officers then pushed him, threw his phone out of his hands and stomped on it, she said. “They held me like that with no explanation.”

Student Stéphane Krims came directly from McGill’s music school to march, carrying his double bass the entire way. Krims said he is worried Trump’s election has made hate more widely tolerable in America, adding that he was alarmed by “the [racist] behaviour that some people exhibited when they found out that Trump was going to be president.”

Blake Hawley, an American citizen at the Montreal protest, said he was embarrassed by the message Trump’s election sent to the rest of the world.

“[The United States] already didn’t have a great image, but it’s definitely worse now for sure,” said Hawley. He said he’s afraid American-Canadian relations may suffer during the Trump years.

“The whole idea of the American government isn’t taken seriously anymore,” said Hawley. “The U.S. is going to lose allies as we go into this administration. [Trump] might be as bad as everyone thinks. If he is, the U.S. will lose a lot more respect than it already has.”

Toohey said he is concerned that Canadians are not taking the election of Donald Trump seriously enough. “There’s a sense here in Canada of, ‘Oh, we’re not America,’” Toohey said. “But injustices and abuse of police power are happening in Canada too.”

“Things are going to get as bad [here in Canada] unless they’re challenged,” he added. “It’s not just the United States, it’s not just Trump. It’s what he represents and what he was elected on.”

Be sure to check out an audio piece on this protest on The Concordian Radio Show on CJLO 1690 AM on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.


Concordia introduces new smoking regulations on campus

As per new regulations imposed by the Quebec government, those who disobey regulations can be fined up to $750

Concordia has introduced new smoking regulations on campus as of Nov. 26 in response to the Quebec government’s Tobacco Control Act. Failure to abide by regulations may result in a fine between $250 to $750.

“Concordia’s previous smoking regulations stated that smoking or the use of an electronic cigarette was prohibited in any exterior space within a nine-meter radius of the entrances of buildings, athletic facilities, tents and bus shelters,” said university spokesperson Chris Mota.

However, the nine-meter regulation now encompasses windows that open and building air intakes, either on the ground or upper levels, she said. “If the ground floor-level windows do not open but the second floor windows do open, you are required to stand nine meters away from the upper levels,” said Mota.

Mota said building air intakes refer to ventilation systems that provide an intake of fresh air into campus buildings. While these air intakes may be tricky to identify, Mota said they typically look like grates on the outside of a building.

Mota said to identify new non-smoking zones, stickers have been placed on the ground around buildings and building air intakes. They are light grey and six by 12 inches long. “Sandwich boards will also be out in areas where we see a lot of smokers congregate, such as outside the Hall building,” said Mota.

Concordia president Alan Shepard told The Concordian at a student media briefing on Nov. 25 he believes the new regulations are valid. “If somebody is smoking right outside the air vent, it sucks the pollutants all through the whole building,” he said.

There has been a casual discussion within Concordia administration if the university should be a smoke-free campus completely, said Shepard.

“We have not taken that step, I think it would be difficult with the urban nature of our campus,” said Shepard. “I think it would be difficult to enforce anyway and I’m not really in favour of rules that look great on paper, but nobody is actually going to abide by them.”

For students interested in quitting smoking, as detailed in the press release, Concordia Health Services provides free one-on-one smoking cessation counselling with a health promotion specialist for students, faculty and staff.

Graphic by Florence Yee


Students vote YES to divest

Divest Concordia receives a green light from students to push university away from fossil fuels

Student group Divest Concordia had a positive outcome to their referendum questions to push Concordia to divest its holdings from fossil fuel industries. Both questions received support from the majority of voters. The campaign officially started on Nov. 1, and ended Nov. 14. Students voted between Nov 15 and 17.

The first referendum question focused on the university’s investments currently tied to fossil fuel industries. They asked undergraduate students whether or not they agreed with Divest Concordia’s demand for the university to remove all its investments from these industries, and to reinvest this money in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

The second referendum question focused on the divest campaign itself. It asked undergraduates if they believe the Concordia Student Union should actively support the divest campaign until the university commits to full divestment from fossil fuels and related industries.

Eighty per cent of voters supported the first question and 70 per cent of voters supported the Divest campaign, said Aloyse Muller, CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator. Only Concordia undergraduate students were able to vote on the matter since this was a CSU referendum, Muller said.

Over the last weeks, Divest Concordia held various meetings to organize the campaign. Tabea Vischer, chair of the referendum committee told The Concordian they created a “social media stunt” where the group posted photos on social media where people from the Concordia community depicted why Concordia should support divest.

“It’s important that we keep the momentum that was built up during the campaign going,” said Vischer. Their next event will be a visioning workshop, where next semester’s projects, such as general student outreach and possibilities for collaborations will be discussed.

The Concordia University Foundation (CUF) currently has $10 million in funding to spend in the “energy sector.” On the “Vote YES to Fossil Fuel Divestment” Facebook page set up to promote the referendum, Divest Concordia wrote “the university’s active investment in the fossil fuel industry represents a commitment to a failing system that misrepresents our community’s real intentions and values.”

“Anyone who wants to get involved with Divest is welcome to join our general meetings to get an idea of what we do and how they can get involved,” Vischer said. Information about the meetings can be found on the Divest Facebook page.


Homa Hoodfar shares her story

Retired Concordia professor who was incarcerated for 112 days talks feminism, Evin Prison and Concordia’s support

Homa Hoodfar, a retired Concordia University professor and researcher, sat down with The Concordian  to discuss her 112-day experience in Evin prison in Iran. The Iranian-Canadian anthropology professor was arrested while on a personal and research visit to Iran. The 65-year-old suffers from a rare neurological disease that causes severe muscle weakness. She spent some time hospitalized before being brought back to her cell where she could barely walk or talk.  Hoodfar has been back in Montreal since Sept. 26.

The Concordian: In an interview with CBC, you said the guards arrested you because they thought you were trying to meddle in an Iranian parliamentary election and bring your feminism work and research into politics. Can you expand on that?

Homa Hoodfar: In Iran, there’s less than three per cent women in the Parliament. When I was there, which was during this election, women in Iran were questioning why there were so few of them in the parliament. In an interview I held on an earlier trip there, I said that the question is not that there are too few women but too many men in the parliament. During this trip to Iran, there were women who were organizing to change the face of the parliament and make it more female-oriented. Somehow the guards said I had something to do with that campaign. I knew of the campaign, but I didn’t know a single one of these women. Yet, for the government, feminism is a form of soft revolution which tends to change the Islamic culture. My argument to them was that any culture that doesn’t change is a dead culture. Our culture has changed and women are trying to voice their opinions like any oppressed group, but the guards want to believe that these ideas are coming from outside of Iran. For them, I’m a self-declared feminist and it was enough for them to arrest me.

TC: Can you speak about the research you’ve done related to Middle Eastern countries?

Hoodfar: My academic work has implications into the contemporary situation in the Middle East. I don’t only work on Iran’s situation. I’ve also been working on [research in] Egypt, Pakistan and even Indonesia. Although, the guards weren’t interested in my work elsewhere, they were just interested in my work in Iran. I had been working on family laws, women reproductive rights and refugees. Also, in 2011, with one of my PhD students, we did write a book on the debate of women in the parliament. Yet, this book doesn’t even mention Iran and somehow they believed that I changed my field of research to interfere with the current elections.

TC: What came to your mind when they came to arrest you?

Hoodfar: They actually came to raid my apartment on the night before I was supposed to leave for Canada. They took my computer, my telephone, my iPad and a lot of books and folders with all my research. There were six big bags of everything that they took. They asked me to go to an interrogation the next day and to go to court within the next five days. At the time, there were no charges or files. Although, as a social scientist, we always say that social science is considered to be a criminal activity, because a lot of people who do research are called in by the police to investigate the research. If the government doesn’t like the results, the researcher usually will go to jail for five or six years. So I was not surprised when this happened to me but I wasn’t expecting to be put in jail. Usually they ban you from travelling and call you in for interrogations a few times.

Different student protests happened to pressure the release of Hoodfar. Photo Alex Hutchins

TC: What do you remember from the Evin prison?

Hoodfar: I was in a very tiny cell which was about two meters by a metre and a half. There was nothing except a carpet and three military blankets they give you. One you sleep on, one you use as a pillow and the other one to cover you. I was on my own for a few days, but then they moved me to a room with three other women because of a prison inspection and so I suppose they didn’t want me to be in a solitary cell. After that, they brought me back with another woman to stay in the tiny cell. There were no windows in this room, and lights were on all day and night. With the light, I was not able to sleep so they gave me sleeping pills. I would also receive my medication from my family, which was very important because my health wasn’t very good. I would also demand that they give me newspapers or something to read because there was nothing to do besides going to the interrogations. Until they brought the young woman to stay with me, there was also no one to talk to. Most of them were sex workers who were only 21 or 22 years old. I ended up chatting with them and collecting their life history. Then, I started to write on my wall with my toothbrush, treating it like field research, which made the time there easier. Whenever I would go to the interrogations, I would take mental notes and when I couldn’t sleep at night, I would write on the wall. Young women thoughtI was crazy but just the action of writing helped my mind stay active. I collected the data and hopefully, when the time is right, I will start writing them down. I had at least 45 sessions of interrogations, some of which would last all day. I also would hear when the guards were interrogating other people. They used different methods for the sex workers than they used for me.

TC: Was there a method of interrogation they used which was difficult for you?

Hoodfar: I knew of their methods. They kept on telling me that I was nothing, but I knew it wasn’t true. I also accepted the fact I would stay in the prison for a long time and, because I did, there was nothing that they could do to really bring me down. What angered me the most was when they played the song used at my spouse’s funeral, which they found on my iPad. In contrast, young women were very frightened and cried a lot because they thought when the guards saw them crying, they might be more lenient towards them. Of course, for me, the interrogators were younger than me, which in the Iranian culture, it gave me an upper hand. Initially, they were playing on the fact that I was the old woman, but I took their method and reversed it and used it against them. I was thinking to myself that I lived for 65 years the way that I wanted and reached my goals. Therefore, I told them it didn’t matter if I had to stay in the Evin prison for the rest of my life. I had no regrets at all. I also told them that if the rest of my life has to be there, so be it. With all that being said to them, they didn’t have anything to frighten me with. This is when they played the music and I asked them to stop it. Which they didn’t want to until I asked them if this was part of the Islamic human rights, because yes, our culture has different human rights. They did everything to make me cry and the fact that they couldn’t break me was a victory.

TC: How long were you in contact with your family?

Hoodfar: Before I was taken to Evin, I would go to interrogations but then would go home and I was able to chat, Skype, or go on Facebook. The problem was that they were listening to the conversations I had on my phone, but at least I was in touch with my family. I was also very overwhelmed with the support that came with my release. The support came from a lot of scholars from the left or right wing, from Islamic scholars and also from people from very diverse backgrounds. I received letters of support from Indonesia, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Turkey and many more countries. It was also very heartwarming to see all the support coming from Canada. Iran wanted me to stop my research but now more people know about my research than if they didn’t arrested me.

TC: What was the process for them to release you?

Hoodfar: The day I was released was actually a very interesting one. Two nights before the release, they took me where the interrogation took place and taped me for about five to six hours. They wanted me to say that I regret what I’ve done, to which I told them that I haven’t done anything illegal and therefore I don’t regret anything. Then they told me there were three conditions on which they could release me on diplomatic ground. I had to say that I regret what I’ve done, that I won’t be doing networking in Iran and that I won’t do any research on women in politics anymore. I told them I don’t regret and, if I’m released, I will continue to do the same thing because I’m a researcher. I have never done networking in Iran anyway and doing research on women or women in politics is part of my work. I was very touched when I learned about the student campaign and the demonstration happening. I only got to see the pictures when I got back to Montreal.

Hoodfar reunites with her niece after her time in Evin prison. Photo by Alex Hutchins

TC: After a terrifying and tireful experience, how are you feeling?

Hoodfar: Physically, my lungs are still not very well and I still get tired when I talk for a long time. I am hoping that, in a month or two, I get my energy back and start working more. Mentally, I still get upset about how the academic freedom is curtailed in Iran and how people can’t express themselves. Overall, I think I’m good. It was great to know that so many people went out of their way to support me and secure my release—especially the Canadian government, my colleagues, the academic scholars and my students from many years ago. I try to focus on the positive things rather than thinking negatively. I hope the situation in Iran changes. There is a lot to be done, and I hope social science gets more space to be discussed.

I especially want to thank the students. I don’t know everybody, but I appreciate what everyone did. I was very touched to see the videos and pictures from the demonstrations, which was a very nice surprise for me. Sometimes, when I get a little sad, I go on my computer and watch the Free Homa pictures and signs. Students at Concordia did a lot, and I’m very thankful for them.

Check out our interview with Homa Hoodfar below.


Mobilization against the DAPL strengthens in Montreal

Three demonstrations have been held in Montreal in opposition of the DAPL

The sound of drums and singing filled Phillips Square in downtown Montreal on Nov. 13 as participants held hands and walked in a criss-cross formation along the square to raise awareness about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The gathering sought to shed light on the violence directed at protesters in the Standing Rock reserve in North and South Dakota and the threat the proposed DAPL project poses to the environmental state of the land.

This was the third event this week in downtown Montreal in opposition of the DAPL and the lack of human rights extended to protesters in Standing Rock. The previous events were held on Nov. 7 in Victoria Square in downtown Montreal and on Nov. 10 in the Hall building of Concordia’s downtown campus.

“It’s not just only in support of Standing Rock, but the first idea is to bring awareness,” said Jesse Achneepineskum, a participant at the event in Phillips Square. He said there has been a lack of media coverage in Standing Rock, a reoccurring trend for issues concerning indigenous communities.

Jesse Achneepineskum marches towards the banks on Nov. 7. Photo by Savanna Craig,

“I first heard of it through Facebook only,” said Achneepineskum, referring to the treatment of  protesters in Standing Rock. “On Facebook it tends to be shared—news of native people amongst native people.” He said the wave of organized protests in different cities is due to the constant sharing of information on social media platforms such as Facebook.

“People around here started organizing marches and protests to force CBC and CTV to send people to cover the events and to bring awareness to the general public,” said Achneepineskum, adding that in the U.S., the rising tensions in Standing Rock were not adequately covered by American media outlets such as CNN and MSNBC.

The flag referred to as the “Mohawk Warrior Flag” or either the “Unity Flag.” displayed at the DAPL protest on Nov. 7. Photo by Savanna Craig.

Craig Blacksmith, a participant of the Montreal protest on Nov. 13 and member of the Dakota tribe, said if the Indian Act was abolished and indigenous people had control over their land, corporations would not be threatening their land with pipeline projects.

“If we focus on this Indian Act and we get it abolished, it’s going to open up a whole new dialogue,” said Blacksmith. He said this is because removing the Indian Act will enable Indigenous communities to have authority over their land, as opposed to the government. This would result in giving them the power to decide whether or not the pipelines will be allowed to go through their land.

Blacksmith is from Manitoba, however his Dakota tribe is one of the tribes which make up the Sioux Nation—many of whom reside in the Standing Rock reservation. The Dakota tribe is spread across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Nebraska.

Participants show support for Standing Rock protesters at Nov. 13 event. Photo by Savanna Craig.

According to Jean-Philippe Warren, a Concordia professor from the department of sociology and anthropology, the DAPL has struck a strong reaction from Montrealers because it ties in with an issue close to home.

“The [DAPL] project is immediately conflated with the TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline,” said Warren. Keystone XL is the official name for the pipeline proposal that includes the DAPL. “Opposing one is opposing the other.”

Warren said people in Quebec are more likely to be against the expanded use of crude oil, regardless of whether they use a car or not. “Quebecers are much more opposed [to] the oil energy because they believe that everything should be electric,” said Warren. “Hydro-Quebec convinced them that hydro-electricity is the best source of energy.”

“In the case of the TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline, Alberta’s or the rest of Canada’s interests do not seem to serve Quebecers’ interests,” said Warren.

On Monday, Nov. 7, Concordia First Peoples studies professor Louellyn White spoke out against the DAPL at a demonstration in Victoria Square, downtown Montreal.

Concordia professor Louellyn White at the Nov. 7 event. Photo by Savanna Craig.

The purpose of the demonstration was to encourage participants to close their accounts with RBC, TD or Scotiabank until these banks remove their investments in the DAPL.

White said the DAPL raises the issue of sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, whose land the pipelines are proposed to run through. She added that, for centuries, their sovereignty has been ignored by governments, states and individuals.

White discussed the Fort Larry Treaty of 1851, an agreement between settlers and people of the Sioux Nation which gave settlers ownership of their land in exchange for protection, food and education for the Sioux people.

White said this treaty has repeatedly been broken. She said none of these promises to the Sioux people were kept. “That land was further and further diminished.”

A separate protest against the DAPL took place in Concordia’s Hall building on the downtown campus on the evening of Nov. 10. Participants chanted “water is life” to express concern for the effects the DAPL will have on the environment, as well as the issues the DAPL pose to indigenous rights.

First Peoples Studies elective class and Indigenous Students Association mobilize in the Hall building on Nov. 10. Photo by Savanna Craig.

This initiative was brought forth by Concordia First Peoples studies professor Donna Goodleaf, the students in her elective class, “Haudenosaunee Peoples” and Concordia’s Indigenous Student Association.

The events  on Nov. 7 and Nov. 10 informed people on how to help protesters involved in the Standing Rock protests. Students in the Indigenous Student Association and Goodleaf’s elective class handed out pamphlets on how you can financially aid protesters in this initiative.

Donations in aid towards the Standing Rock protesters are being accepted to the following address: Sacred Stone Camp, P.O. Box 1011, Fort Yates, N.D. 58538. These donations will be used for food, propane, water, blankets and other supplies.

Climate Justice Montreal shared forms which state the problems with banks investing in the DAPL. The forms indicate how people can close their accounts with their bank as a way to encourage them not to invest in the DAPL.


Exposing Montrealers to science

Concordia students present projects at Exposcience in Pointe-Claire

People of all ages packed Pointe-Claire’s Stewart Hall for the 33rd annual Exposcience fair, where Concordia students enlightened and entertained visitors with a variety of interactive exhibits.

On Nov.12 and 13, guests flocked to the fair to try virtual reality headsets, watch a 3D printer in action and play with a tesla coil.

Medical biology student Muhammad Zayed demonstrating his work. Photo by Alex Hutchins

Held every year since 1983, the event is presented by volunteers from Concordia’s faculties of Arts and Science as well as Engineering and Computer Science, who are given a great degree of creative freedom over their presentations. An ice cream-making station was serving visitors in the Marie Curie chemistry room. At the psychology table, visitors could track and learn about the motion of their eyes by playing a game of “Where’s Waldo?”

The event showed the different ways children and adults relate to science. According to many presenters, adults were more interested in the practical side of science.

In the Charles Darwin biology room, children scrambled to reassemble medical biology student Muhammad Zayed’s model of the human anatomy. “Kids usually ask about what the kidney does in our body,” he said. “Parents usually ask about surgery and how they do surgery for the kidneys.”

In Concordia microbiology researcher Yun Zheng’s exhibit on vegetables, there was a section for children and a section for adults. Children learned about where different vegetables come from, while the adults explored their nutritional content.

At the heart rate monitoring station, children asked about the many moving lines representing their heartbeat on screen, whereas their parents were interested to learn what these graphs meant for their health.

It was a learning experience for both children and adults. “I didn’t know there were different colors of blood—I thought there was only red,” said Sangeeta Patel, a visitor, referring to an exhibit on animal blood in the Darwin room.

Presenters made it easier for children to relate to and understand science. “You can relate [static electricity] to rubbing a balloon on their hair or when they take off their hat in the middle of the winter and there’s static electricity,” said physics student Amanda Dinitto.

While participating in such exhibitions can look good on a student’s CV, most of this year’s presenters were simply eager to take part and educate visitors. “It’s actually pretty cool just to show kids how science works,” said chemistry student Rejean Sivakumar, whose exhibit discussed fingerprints. “They’re at a young age, so they find it really interesting. It might even help their career choices eventually.”

“You feel happy when you are with kids and you deliver some new information,” said Zayed. “When you see their smile and you hear their questions, you feel happy and satisfied.”

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