From truce to truth: Insights on conflict reporting from General Roméo Dallaire

General Roméo Dallaire explored the importance of contextualizing conflicts from their prelude to their aftermath.

On Feb. 8, retired Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire gave a talk at the Loyola Campus about the role of journalism in relation to complex conflicts. Dallaire is a former Canadian Senator as well as a former government and United Nations advisor. He served as a force commander of the United Nations assistance mission in Rwanda and witnessed the 1994 genocide first-hand. 

Walking into the room with his brown briefcase in hand, Dallaire made his way to the whiteboard to map out the three parts of any given conflict: the “pre,” the “during,” and the “after.” He said the “after” category has demonstrated to be one of the most temporary periods of the whole process: “We’ve never, ever, achieved peace.” 

“The best we’ve done is establish truces. Over the last 20 years, of the nearly 15 truces and agreements that are happening in the world, the longest one lasted seven years,” Dallaire said. He added that since solutions in the “after” stage are so temporary, conflicts often go right back to the “pre,” and there is never any lasting peace.

The general also spoke about his time in Rwanda in the 90s. During the genocide, over 800,000 people died (excluding all the untold deaths in refugee camps), over 500,000 were orphaned, and four million people were displaced or became refugees. This all occurred over the span of only 100 days, and tensions between the two ethnic groups, the Tutsis and the Hutus, remain today. 

“This is a crisis. So where do you fit? Where does journalism fit?” Dallaire asked. He explained that more often than not, journalists and the media decide to start their reporting amid the “during” stage of a conflict. If the “pre” stage of a conflict was reported on, a deeper understanding of the existing frictions and build up could be understood. 

Dallaire also spoke about how he treated journalists not as the enemy in Rwanda, but as individuals with whom he could exchange information and have an open dialogue. This allowed for optimal broadcasting. “The media ultimately ended up, during this period, as the only weapon I had as a peacekeeper,” Dallaire said. He noted, however, that little to no journalists were there from the beginning to understand the “fundamental premises and debate behind why this [conflict] has blown up.”

Dallaire emphasized the importance of separating reporting from sensationalism to the room filled with future journalists. Situating a conflict and presenting it to the audience as a culmination of social elements rather than a spontaneous explosion or a re-assault of frictions is key. Dallaire also discussed the reality of the business side of journalism and how certain stories end up on editors’ chopping blocks.

After a question about seeing children growing up in war-torn countries and generational wars, a point the general had brought up during his presentation, Dallaire said that love had a big part to play as to why he didn’t take his own life after everything he’s lived through. “True love, not convenience—not temporary like our truces,” Dallaire joked. 

A student asked him how a journalist can recognize a crisis before it happens when reporting in a foreign country, and how to act accordingly. Dallaire said journalists should strive to remain cultured, open, curious, and want to know more about systemic frameworks. With those skills, one can then gather information on what is evolving in those countries in order to paint a picture of what is going on.

A student later asked Dallaire: “As somebody who has seen genocide with his own eyes, do you believe the war on Gaza is a genocide?” The general recalled that many major nations and the UN took six weeks to call the Rwanda conflict a genocide, subsequently sent the troops he’d been asking for. It was too late. “And what did [calling it a genocide] do? Absolutely nothing,” he said. 

Dallaire said it is far more important to consider how nations are reacting instead of being hung over the word. “You can articulate the term ‘genocide,’ but it has no power, because the national bodies that are governing us are not using it, don’t want to use it, and don’t want to read the convention that says that they’re supposed to commit to that.”

Dallaire also believes it is essential to integrate the powers of both men and women to restructure the institutions that govern and have been built by men. “[If not] we will continue to respond to these very powerful male-dominated institutions, and women—too many women—simply adapt into it versus fighting it,” Dallaire added. “Let’s put an end to this male-dominated misogynist egocentric paternalistic masculinity that has created the state of humanity and bring the women in full force.”

His new book, The Peace, is set to come out this April, and argues that people are often still unable to acknowledge crises and make decisions that could prevent or resolve them before it’s too late.


Optimista kicks off

An exhibition about having courage against all odds

Saturday, Oct. 15. marked the launch of the Optimista Conferences organized by Yellow Pad sessions. Each conference has a specific theme: courage, compassion, love, and community.

The Concordian had the chance to speak with Grace Sebeh Byrne, one of the co-founders of the series of cine conferences, to get a better understanding of the idea behind the event.

“Optimista is a response to what happened during the pandemic. Before Optimista we used to put on more traditional film festivals. But then we have kids in our twenties, we mentor a lot of young people and it’s very clear that there is a sense of hopelessness and despair and mostly isolation. That’s a big horrible thing, to experience isolation,” Byrne explained.

During a time when we all felt isolated during the pandemic, Byrne wanted to come up with something that would bring back hope into the community. 

“We are very passionate about the arts. Art we know is a powerful tool for social change. We asked ourselves, what are we going to create, a nice and safe and welcoming immersive experience. People can come in and enjoy the arts and at the same time explore themes,” Byrne said.

Over the course of four cine conferences, art lovers can gather and experience various keynote speakers, performers, and photo galleries grouped together for every themed night.

On the opening night of Optimista, there was the visual artist Augustina Pedrocca exhibited her photographs entitled, Happy and Beautiful out of Spite.


Pedrocca presented an evocative series of portraits that clearly documented the loves, pleasures, hardships, and heartaches of Montreal’s Queer Community.

During the main portion of the night Diana León, a performing artist,  put on a beautiful choreographed performance. The main idea behind her performance was to put forth the idea of self-love despite the times that we live in. 

Two documentaries were shown during the inaugural night. The first was a short film entitled The Black Cop by Gamal “G” Tuwara.

Tuwara flew all the way from England just to be a part of the conference and give a talk about his documentary. 

The Black Cop follows Tuwara’s journey in the British police force. He explored his earliest memories of racial profiling and harassment in the force, as well as the homophobia he endured.

The second film of the night featured a longer documentary entitled Writing with Fire which followed the story of India’s only women-run newspaper. It was directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh.

The Concordian had the honour of getting to chat with Tuwara right after the screening of the film. Tuwara, or G as he prefers to be called, gave The Concordian truly inspiring advice for individuals that face adversity in their chosen career field. 

“First of all, I would say to build up your network around you and find people that you can talk to and trust. Talking and sharing the story is what makes it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know it could be scary asking for help because in your head you think that you might be failing. It’s quite the contrary, asking for help makes you stronger,” G explained.

If you can take anything away from the inaugural event, it is the following; don’t be afraid to be yourself in dark times and pursue what you believe in.

Photographs by Dalia Nardolillo/The Concordian


Climate emergency themed conference to be postponed until next year

Concordia University’s fourth annual Sustainability Across Disciplines Conference, “Sustainability and Climate Crisis,” has been postponed amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Following Premier Francois Legault’s announcement on March 13, all schools, universities, and CEGEPs will be closed for the coming two weeks.

The event was to be hosted by the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre and the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability, from March 16-18.

“The conference [usually brings] together student and faculty researchers across disciplines at Concordia to discuss their work on sustainability in general and the climate crisis in particular,” said Rebecca Tittler, Ph.D., Coordinator of the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability and the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre.

The conference was to be held in Concordia’s John Molson School of Business (JMSB) for the first two days and at the Jesuit Hall & Conference Centre on Loyola Campus for the final day. The conference was to include keynote speakers, panels, a poster session, workshops, a student film festival, and even “Climate Geopardy”—an interactive presentation designed to teach players about the climate crisis in a fun and engaging way.

“I think that conferences like these are important because they allow people to share ideas and discuss possible changes,” said Mai Pradhan, a communications student at Concordia who was looking forward to the event.

Moreover, the many topics to be discussed ranged from climate change and its effect on biodiversity, individuals’ carbon footprint, careers in sustainability, and much more. “The goal is to foster conversation and collaboration across disciplines on these issues,” Tittler told The Concordian.

Although the conference has been cancelled, students can still read up on the various subjects on this website. They remain relevant, as the effects of global warming are being seen across the globe.

“It is everyone’s duty, the administration just as much as the students, to raise awareness on our climate crisis,” said Alexis Deleon, a journalism student who was planning to attend the event.

Loyola Sustainability Research Centre and the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability hope to revisit this theme at next year’s conference, in March 2021.


Graphic by Sasha Axenova

Student Life

AIESEC at Concordia

Volunteering abroad is only a few steps away

If volunteering abroad is something you’re interested in, AIESEC (pronounced eye-sek) is an organization to look into. A non-profit international youth-led organization offering global internships, AIESEC aims to take young adults out of their comfort zones and into a world where their help can make a difference.

On Friday, Nov. 23, AIESEC held a conference at the John Molson School of Business where volunteers, who now work with the organization, spoke about their experiences abroad.

AIESEC has three main sectors for its internship programs: Global Talent, Global Entrepreneur, and Global Volunteer. All three revolve around an exchange system where young adults from different parts of the world travel to share their talents, entrepreneurial skills, and volunteer. The projects they organize are based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) created by the UN, as well as the #Envision2030 17 goals for persons with disabilities.

“I wanted to go somewhere completely different from what I knew,” said Stéphan-Thomas Trembley, who went to Indonesia last summer. He worked with consultants on a project aimed to help the economic growth and development aspect of the SDGs. “I think about it all the time, and I wish I could live it again. It’s inspired me to want to travel more, talk to people, and get to know their side of the story,” Trembley said.

Harnessing leadership and communication skills is only part of what is gained from going abroad. Students also learn about different cultures, different day-to-day routines, and even find similarities where they thought would be none. One of the things Trembley found most inspiring is that “people are the same.”

From beginning to end, AIESEC ensures their trips are safe. The Outgoing Global Exchange sector’s purpose is helping students with their exchange process—from airport pickups, to transportation, to accommodation, everything is planned carefully. Volunteers stay with assigned host-families while they’re overseas, and these families are often also volunteers. Depending on the project the student chooses, the time varies from six weeks to three months.

“I went to Romania to develop leadership skills and ended up meeting wonderful people and really creating a network of people all over the world that made this experience the best it could ever be,” said Ève Provencher-Dagenais, Local Branch Manager of AIESEC Canada. “I promised myself I’d go back to Romania, and I also want to go to a different country to learn a new culture.”

According to its website, AIESEC is the largest youth-run organization and is present in 126 countries with over 80,000 members.

“I’m originally from Sri Lanka, and over there AIESEC is a big movement,” said AIESEC Concordia Outgoing Global Exchange Vice President Sathsala Perera. “I was really inspired by what they do with youth development.”

The application process is done online using a step-by-step guide. First, you need to create a profile. According to Perera, the reason for this is that the organization is highly selective of their applicants in order to ensure the best possible outcome for all parties involved. The plane ticket is covered by applicants themselves, and there is a fee of $570 that goes towards the individual’s accommodations, food and basic care while they’re abroad.

“I joined AIESEC for empowerment,” said Perez. “I stayed with AIESEC because I saw this as a platform. A lot of people at Concordia don’t know about it, but it’s an important organization. Come and use us, use the resources we have here.”

Feature graphic by Ana Bilokin


Montreal hosts Canada’s annual HIV/AIDS conference

Canada’s leading scientists discuss issues and future progress surrounding HIV/AIDS

More than 900 of Canada’s top scientists, physicians and community leaders joined Canada’s largest HIV/AIDS conference in Montreal from April 6 to 9.

According to the Canadian Association for HIV Research, in 2017, more than 70,000 Canadians live with HIV, and every year an estimated 2,300 to 43,000 new infections are reported.

Canada’s annual HIV/AIDS conference was held at the Hotel Bonaventure in Montreal. The Canadian Association for HIV Research is Canada’s leading organization for research on the disease. The organization includes more than 1,000 researchers, scientists and physicians committed to finding ways to prevent and cure HIV.

The 26th edition of the conference addressed how HIV remains a pressing issue that still requires more resources and research to prevent its spread and find a cure. This year’s theme was “We’re Not Done Yet,” in reference to the need for more research and resources to help eradicate HIV/AIDS.

Five presentations were given, focusing on issues related to HIV/AIDS, protection and preventative measures.

“Tremendous successes have been achieved in the fight against HIV-AIDS,” said Dr. Alexandra de Pokomandy, a faculty member at McGill University and a renowned HIV researcher, during her presentation. “However, people living with HIV, health care workers, community members and researchers in Canada and elsewhere around the world also agree that many challenges remain, and HIV continues to kill.”

More than 800 people attended the event and stopped by specialized kiosks to learn about HIV research and resources.

Realize Canada, one of the organizations with a kiosk, is a national charitable organization that works with schools, employers, insurance companies and other associations to help improve the daily lives of people living with HIV and other episodic disabilities, such as depression, Hepatitis C and chronic fatigue syndrome. “Realize is geared towards postsecondary students,” said Puju Ahluwalia, Realize Canada’s project coordinator.

“When someone has an episodic disability like HIV, there is little predictability as to when these episodes will occur or for how long,” Ahluwalia said. “Realize Canada works with schools and student disability offices to help raise awareness and offer assistance for students living with an episodic disability.”

Students who have a test or an assignment due on a specific date might not be able to meet the deadline if they are affected by an episodic disability like HIV. Realize Canada will guide these students to different resources on their campuses and help work with their schools. Realize Canada works as a rehabilitation resource to help provide students with the health care and psychological support they need, Ahluwalia said in an interview with The Concordian.

During the conference, the PrEP pill was a point of discussion during a presentation by Dr. Peter A. Newman, a researcher at University of Toronto. The PrEP pill was legalized in Canada in February 2016. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Canada, PrEP-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a pill that reduces the risks of contracting HIV from sex by more than 90 per cent. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70 per cent. The risk of contracting HIV from sex can be lowered further if you combine PrEP with condoms and other safe-sex methods.

Photo by Ana Hernandez.

PrEP can stop HIV from spreading throughout your body and is most effective in preventing HIV when taken daily, states Canada’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. PrEP should only be used by people who are HIV negative and who are at high risk for HIV infection. People interested in using PrEP should talk to their health care provider and meet with a doctor to receive a prescription. Depending on one’s insurance policy, or work insurance the price for PrEP can be covered in full.

However, Newman addressed how stigmas have begun to emerge within the LGBTQ+  communities on whether or not someone is on the PrEP pill, and whether or not they could have sex without a condom. “When dating, some men who are on the PrEP pill might receive pressure to not use a condom when having sex, or might be judged for using a condom,” Newman said during his presentation.

Another presenter, Allison Carter, who is a PhD student at Simon Fraser University, focused on the feminist approach to women living with HIV.  Carter’s study revealed that “women who are HIV positive can be happy and enjoy emotional and intimate relationships,” she said.

Among the 1,300 HIV-positive women involved in the study, those who claimed they were happy were involved in long-term sexual relationships. “We want women to know that they can have sex and have pleasure,” Carter said.

Student Life

Businesses love your mean reviews

JMSB hosted a talk on social media’s role for innovation in businesses

Concordia’s Luc Beauregard Centre of Excellence in Communications Research organized an event on social media’s role in business innovation on Oct. 4.

Professors, students and businesspeople attended the morning conference to listen to Frank T. Piller, associate dean, professor and chair of Technology & Innovation Management at RWTH Aachen University’s school of business and economics in Germany.

The event, hosted by Concordia’s John Molson School of Business, explored social media as a useful tool to improve the ways companies and individuals innovate.

Piller said that many of “the ideas that we get nowadays come from social media, and this leads to a better discipline for the communications profession.” He explained many big companies are now using innovative strategies to incite consumers to buy their products.  Piller used the drugstore brand Nivea as an example, to explain why their deodorant is successful.

“If you were the product manager of Nivea and wanted to innovate your business, what would you do?” Piller asked.

He said he would advise product managers to visit online forums where people discuss, for example, deodorants and their unwanted effectssuch as a yellow stain on a white fabric.  “Agencies then dive-in, and look into these user communities to fix the problem by creating better products,” said Piller. “When it comes to innovations, it’s all about functionality.”  Companies also consider how factors such as the product’s shape or organic ingredients might excite users into buying the product, he said.

Piller added that, as a result, Nivea is one of the cheapest, most successful and popular brands in drugstores around the world, especially in Europe.

Innovation often starts on the periphery of the organization, he said. When companies are creating or improving a product, they look beyond product management—they look at online forums, for example. According to recent studies conducted by the Social Media Examiner, there has been a slight increase in forum participation in recent years.

Photo by Alex Hutchins

Piller said that frustrated customers often provide useful critiques or reviews about products in online forums. Companies just have to visit these websites and take the comments seriously, in order to find ways to improve their product and the consumer’s experience.

According to Piller, there are two main ways to innovate: with the help of frustrated users or dedicated firm activity.

He said there are three ways to profit from lead user inventions.  The online Business Dictionary defines a lead user as a “specific type of user of a product or service that is on the leading edge of significant market trends.”  Therefore, a lead user reflects and finds a way to make something better, before the mainstream has found that way.  They are able to think about how that product or service can work better to reach its full potential.

The first way to profit from a lead user is to search for lead user inventions either online or through contacts.  The second way is to observe users in online communities such as Facebook and Twitter, which is also known as “netnography.” The third way is to provide infrastructure for users to co-create. Co-creating involves developing collaborative skills, learning to engage, selecting the right participants and using creative problem-solving techniques.

“Our emphasis is to absorb the innovation that is out there in the market,” Piller said.

Piller said innovation revolves around customer co-creation and creating an interaction space for lead users, product managers and companies— where they can engage, use creative problem-solving techniques and give feedback.

He said that the ultimate goal is to have a more balanced approach when it comes to innovation—since there is not just one social media platform.


INDIGNEZ-VOUS! conference billed as alternative to government agenda

Canadian author and activist Maude Barlow is National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest citizens’ organization.

The upcoming INDIGNEZ-VOUS! HOPE IN RESISTANCE conference is focused on providing an alternative to the Conservative government’s agenda, according to Maude Barlow, the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.
“We are very keen to build a closer working relationship between progressive forces in Quebec and the rest of Canada, so that together we can move forward with an alternative vision for all,” she said. “The people of Quebec clearly identified themselves as progressive in the last election and we need to build on this momentum together.”
The council hopes to address the social injustices and inequalities Canadians face on a daily basis at the conference taking place on Oct. 21-22 at the Marriott Chateau Champlain Hotel.
Held in collaboration with several Quebec and First Nations organizations, as well as student and labour groups, the two-day event is slated to tackle various issues that affect Canadians and Quebecers alike with an emphasis put on building solutions through a progressive movement.
Panels will focus on protecting democracy, equality, the environment, public services and civil liberties with social change on national and provincial levels. One of the many issues emphasized is the growing gap between the rich and poor, which goes hand in hand with the Occupy movement currently in motion.
The council has officially declared their support for the demonstrations, which has people across the world rallying to voice concerns over issues such as corporate greed and financial inequality.
“I am thrilled that our conference is taking place so soon after the launch of the Occupy World movement and we will be marching to the Montreal site several times and providing support and solidarity there,” explained Barlow. “We join this movement in saying that workers, students, retired people and the unemployed should not have to carry the burden and pay the price for a crisis made by the private sector, for the benefit of the private sector and aided and abetted by most governments around the world.”
Barlow extended the invitation to Concordia University students, emphasizing that all students are welcome to attend the conference. 

A free public forum will take place Friday, Oct. 21 from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
For more information about the conference, visit

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