Pop-up vaccine clinic at Concordia

The CIUSSS West-Central Montreal is having two pop-up vaccinations clinics on campus

Despite Montreal’s 80 per cent vaccination rate of those who have received one dose, the vaccination effort is still going strong in the city. As part of the efforts, Concordia has partnered with the Centres intégrés universitaires de santé et de services sociaux (CIUSSS) West-Central Montreal to host two pop-up vaccination clinics.

The first pop-up clinic was held on Sept. 14 in the EV building. According to Barry Morgan, a media relations specialist for the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, over 67 people got either their first or second vaccine shot.

“We decided to establish pop-up clinics in various areas of our territory for the purpose of convenience, making it easier for people to get their vaccines,” said Morgan, explaining that they extended the hours of the majority of pop-up clinics outside of regular business hours, to be more accessible for people. “We go to them instead of them having to come to us.”

According to Morgan, the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal has set up pop-up vaccination clinics at schools, daycares and religious institutions in their area, with more than 10,000 vaccines administered to date.

“Over the past months, we have been actively promoting vaccines to our community,” said Vannina Maestracci, a Concordia University spokesperson. She stated that Concordia is keen to join the CIUSSS West-Central in promoting vaccinations on campus.

According to Santé Montréal, approximately 80 per cent of Montrealers have their first vaccine shot, and 74 per cent are adequately vaccinated. Over 3,194,727 vaccinations have been administered in the city.

In Montreal, 91 per cent of people who are 18-29 years old have their first vaccination, and 79 per cent have both vaccinations. 

In the whole of Quebec, 77 per cent of people have their first dose, with 72 per cent being fully vaccinated — compared to Ontario, where 74 per cent of the population has their first dose, and only 69 per cent are considered fully vaccinated.

According to a press release by the Canadian government in July, Canada is one of the world leaders in vaccinations, with over 80 per cent of the population having received their first vaccination.

The next clinic will be held at Concordia on Sept. 21 at the Loyola Campus in the FC building. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. an appointment is needed, but from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. no appointment is necessary. Concordia students will need their Quebec health card, or photo identification if not from Quebec. 

If students get their first vaccine, an appointment will be automatically made for their second vaccination.


Photo by Catherine Reynolds

Sorry to burst your bubble — the “COVID talk”

These are some points to hit when you have the COVID talk

As the Quebec government extends the province-wide curfew to curtail the COVID-19 transmission rates, it’s become increasingly important that we start engaging in the difficult conversations with ourselves and our loved ones.

“Are you being safe?” and “Did you see anyone?” isn’t enough. We need to have frank, honest and clear communication as a matter of public health and common sense.

Certain people experience a higher risk of exposure to the virus simply from their job, their household, or their context. It’s important to turn up the compassion, turn up the curiosity, and turn down the judgment. It’s your business to know the facts so you can assess what risk you’re comfortable exposing yourself to, but that’s not a free pass to look down on other people’s risk assessment.

To get a sense of safe contact, let’s talk geometry. In terms of COVID contact, the safest shape is a circle, not a line. I’ll explain.

A “COVID bubble” is a closed circle. Meaning, if you are in a bubble of three with you and your two roommates, you see each other exclusively. Otherwise, it would no longer be a closed circle, but instead a chain.

It’s also important to communicate clearly and honestly when choosing a person to bubble with. That way everyone can make an informed decision.

For example, if I live alone, and plan to see my “one person” who also lives alone, before going to see them, we need to have a conversation about exposure to make sure we’re both on the same page.

To start the discussion, try and lead with setting your goals and intentions for having this hard conversation. Something like, “I know it’s awkward, but I appreciate that we can have these hard talks. I’m hoping to get clarity about our contact levels recently so that we can make sure that it’s safe and responsible to see each other. I completely respect your decisions, and I hope you respect mine, even if it means we can’t see each other at this time. ”

Then ask questions. Keep it short and simple. Be honest.

Asking if someone is “low risk” or “being safe” is perception-based, and relies on assumptions and personal opinions. This leaves room for miscommunication as folks may define “risk” or “safety” differently.

Replace “Are you being careful?” with “Who have you seen in the last two weeks?”, “Were you wearing masks the whole time?”, “Were you 2 metres apart?”, and “Were you outside?”

Replace “Do you trust the person you saw?” with “Did you have a conversation with the person you saw?”, “What questions did you ask?”, and “What was their reply?”

Replace “Are you taking risks?” with “What is your job?”, “Do you see children who go to school?”, and “Do you see people who have children in school?”

It’s about eliminating mystery and assumption from the conversation, and normalizing the conversation. This isn’t personal, it’s practical.

This is the kind of situation that forces change, and ultimately growth. Bestselling author and therapist Lori Gottlieb says, “Change and loss travel together. We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.”

In this time, we are acquiring the skills to advocate for our own health and safety and that of others as well. We’re learning how we best receive feedback and how best to deliver it. We’re deepening our relationships with loved ones, and forging new ones as we endure this strange and complex hardship together.

This situation is forcing loss on everyone. It’s also forcing change. It’s uncomfortable, it’s scary, and it hurts. But we can choose to change for the better.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam


Why we closed restaurants during the pandemic

Experts say this is a necessary sacrifice to fight the pandemic

Walking in through the glass door off Beaubien Street, Café l’Étincelle offers a warm respite from the cold November air. Edison bulbs hanging from industrial light fixtures, colourful orange walls, and the smell of freshly brewed pumpkin-spice lattes billowing from behind the counter are what draws in the hip local Rosepatrian crowd.

Rémy Deloume opened the cafe in 2016 with his father and brother. They wanted to create a welcoming space where people could come to work, socialize and feel at home.

But the tables that once were filled with self-employed workers and university students now instead lay host to rows of bags of Nicaraguan blends and ceramic tumbler take-out cups.

On Oct.1, provincial measures forced Deloume to shut his dining area for the second time in six months. The restrictions were further extended on Nov. 13, now going until at least Jan. 11. These rules mean the only way he can create revenue is by selling take-out coffees and merchandise.

“We haven’t had a single case of Covid since we reopened,” said Deloume, adding he felt confident he could reopen his booths and still offer a safe environment for his customers.

Yet most experts are not in agreement. Dr. Colin Furness, an epidemiologist and infection control specialist and professor at the University of Toronto, said that restaurants are “a perfect storm” for the spread of COVID-19. He said that a combination of environmental, scientific and social factors make restaurants particularly dangerous.

“What [COVID-19] really likes is spreading by fine droplets in situations where people are together, sharing air, with poor ventilation and no masks,” said Furness. These factors make restaurants a perfect environment for the virus, as they are often cramped, poorly ventilated places where people generally spend long hours socializing.

Furness said there was a common misconception that closures are in place to protect patrons, when in fact they are there more so to protect staff.

“Their exposure time to the aerosols in the air is much higher,” said Furness, adding that staff are openly interacting with hundreds of unmasked customers every day.

Given the measures that were put in place over the summer to protect customers, like plexiglass dividers and obligatory mask-wearing when moving around, patrons are at a lower risk of contracting the virus in a restaurant or bar than the workers.

The problem arises when a staff member gets sick.

“The virus moves from the waiter to other waiters to family members,” said Furness, demonstrating how outbreaks can stem from restaurants.

Hospitality workers are generally younger, meaning contagion often goes undetected as many cases are asymptomatic. The spread is also further compounded when considering the active social lives of young restaurant workers.

But many restaurant owners, including Deloume, feel the government is not being transparent enough in sharing the data that links restaurants to the spread of COVID-19.

In October, a group of business owners in the industry co-authored an open letter demanding the government to share its data to justify its policy.

According to David Lefebvre, vice-president of Restaurants Canada and co-signatory of the letter, increased data sharing would be a benefit for all involved.

“It would give a better explanation, and people would probably buy in a little bit more,” he said, adding that business owners would feel more involved in the decision-making process.

But Furness said it is difficult to achieve this, as much of the data the industry is asking for still doesn’t exist.

“It’s very hard to find an epidemiological link to a restaurant event,” he said, as many cases go unreported and little formal research exists.

Regardless, Furness said the link was obvious when comparing the similar conditions between super-spreader events.

“It’s invisible, but it’s there, much like the force of gravity,” he said.

Because of these factors, government officials and experts say restaurants cannot reopen until the pandemic is under control, suggesting instead that these businesses stick to take-out, catering and alcohol sales.

“If there were a way for people to be in a restaurant, eating and drinking, and still be wearing masks, I would change my story, but there isn’t,” said Furness. He concluded by saying it was the government’s responsibility to better communicate these facts and help all business owners get through this period.

Yet, Deloume still feels this will not be enough. It has now been two months since the initial closures, and he said it would not have been possible to stay in business if it weren’t for the time his family has put in.

“We work one-hundred-hour weeks,” said Deloume.

He understands the reasons behind the closures and believes protecting lives is the number one priority, but still wishes the government would include stakeholders in its decision-making process.

“We want to feel like we’re all in the same boat, but not that our future depends on a government decision,” Deloume said.

In the meantime, Deloume said he would continue to respect public health orders, serving take-out coffee and food. He also hopes that everyone’s efforts pay off and that restaurants will be able to reopen soon. Deloume said he hopes to soon return to the motto of his café, Ralentir, S’ennuyer, Rêver, and fully reopen so his patrons will be able to once again slow down, disconnect and daydream.

Graphic by Taylor Reddam

COVID’s silent toll on mental health

Are we equipped to address the mental health crises brought on by the virus?

The day before Montreal entered “code-rouge” I found myself running errands with my roommate in preparation for the lockdown. Under the overcast sky of a Wednesday evening, we trekked from one business to another, preparing for the looming uncertainty. From the bakery, to the kosher butcher and fish market — the mundane task of collecting groceries became a mission, not entirely unpleasant. In fact, after a few purchases we developed a system: from outside I monitored our accumulating groceries as my roommate ventured forth into each business.

But, in a quiet moment outside a fish market with a collection of purchased meats as my companion, an unfamiliar feeling crept into my psyche. As I watched the denizens of Montreal go from one place to another, some into stores, others in the metro, a devastating despair intensified.

As the gloomy clouds passed the sky, an anxiety reminiscent of the night before grade school swirled and enveloped me. The anticipation, insecurity, and recognition of a looming drastic change in daily life grew into a miserable and melancholic force with distressing fortitude. A completely foreign anxiety grew in my chest as the world around me contracted into a sea of looming and dystopian doubt.

Yet the anxiety soon shifted into a deep shame. After all, how could I complain? I live with amicable roommates and am financially stable. It felt wrong to grieve for the world before the coronavirus from my fortunate perch outside a grocery store full of food many could no longer afford. I considered my grandmother alone in her New York apartment waiting for a phone call, or the loneliness of those suffering from mental illness or trapped in the brutal cycle of substance abuse. Compared to those who lost jobs, homes, or even loved ones, I hated myself for wallowing in misery.

On a greater scale before COVID-19, suicide plagued Canada. According to Statistics Canada, over the last five years, the second leading cause of death among 20-24-year-olds is suicide — and the trend is increasing. In 2014, 267 Canadians killed themselves, and in 2018, the number increased to 336. Such disturbing figures reflect a national mental-health crisis that existed before the pandemic, and unsurprisingly, COVID-19 is exasperating the crisis.

Last June, the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 25.5 per cent of Americans between the ages of 18-24 had seriously contemplated suicide within the preceding 30 days — an increase from 8 per cent the year prior. Likewise, the study revealed that 24.7 of respondents started or increased abusing substances due to COVID-19.

I refer to the 18-24 age-range because it captures the demographic of the majority of Concordia students. Although the study is from the United States, the data is beyond troubling. The isolation and mental impacts of Montreal entering code-red coupled with the looming winter ought to concern students, faculty, and the administration.

But, the mental health impacts of COVID-19 go far beyond Concordia students. Administrators and professors face similar challenges from this new world dominated by Zoom fatigue and the limitations of distance learning. Nothing could prepare our university for the barrage of health and governmental restrictions. When the computers close at the end of class, who knows what inner turmoil torments a professor or peer?

Although we can count the suicides — assign a number to each tragedy brought on by the virus — there is no system to compare the suffering of living in this new world. Undoubtedly, future historians will quantify certain aspects of our collective experiences such as the number of deaths, suicides, or days under lockdown. Yet comparing the mental toll of one individual to another is impossible.

And in this realization, a sort of comfort emerges as I reflect on that unforgettable eve of the lockdown. Grief and anxiety about the differences between the way we lived and how we operate today is not a shameful reaction. It is possible to remain grateful while remaining cognizant of the issues of our neighbours who face unique challenges. Through this balance, an inspiring possibility of compassion for the other and our own experiences comes into focus.

So, the coronavirus becomes the great equalizer. I yearn for our collective emergence from this crisis with a society built on greater compassion and understanding than before. No matter how distant, the possibility for a silver lining of a better world forged in historic and trying times, could unlock a marvelous societal bond. Losing hope for a brighter future, no matter how tempting, obscures the light of a better tomorrow, a day of a united and shared victory.


Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam


Exploring the pressures of “Being Your Best Self” during the pandemic

Trying to navigate the challenges of the pandemic, while also trying to avoid being sucked into Multi-Level Marketing companies

I have heard that if you don’t learn a new skill during the pandemic, then it isn’t time you lacked, it’s the discipline you lack so many times since this period of isolation began. The notion is that just because we have extra time, we should be jumping into learning something new. Shame and guilt are felt by those, myself included, who choose to sleep more or watch a full season of a show on Netflix in one day. I don’t think it is fair to be shamed for the decisions we make in our homes to get through this stressful time. I think many factors play into people not wanting to learn something new, and that is perfectly fine.

Both celebrities and people I know personally have been posting this “perfect” pandemic lifestyle on their social media profiles. I have seen home workouts, makeshift cooking shows, and flaunting of stuff they were doing before the pandemic even began. There is a sense of bragging that tends to come with these videos and posts as well. While they seem to be trying to spread positive messages, something gets lost in translation. This message of “be your best self” or starting a new journey amid a pandemic may not be the best information to be spreading.

Financial matters have been a tough subject for many people during COVID-19 due to employment issues. In my case, I am pregnant, so I would not be working regardless. However, I know people who have been affected by job layoffs, company closures, and salary instability. Many people have lost their work and do not know how they are going to survive during this time. My husband works for an essential service, and the toll that it has taken on us mentally has been hard.

People are in very vulnerable states, and rather than showing them sympathy and offering help, many use Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) as a way to take advantage of those who are struggling.  MLMs are direct-selling companies in which people are expected to recruit members to their teams, and are usually pushing a type of product. The product, however, is typically overpriced, or not of great quality. Some examples of MLMs are Beach Body and Monat. I have seen many YouTube videos telling girls to become “boss babes” and that now is the time to start their own business. The “business owners” get on social media and brag about how much money they get to keep making during this time. What they do not disclose is that people will probably be worse off financially, especially in a COVID-19 world, where money is much tighter than it may have been before. An example of how MLMs put people in a worse off position is 19 Amazing MLM Statistics You Should Read in 2020.

Recently, someone approached me with a supposed business opportunity. I had left a comment on a Facebook post about The Masked Singer, a show about masked celebrities who sing, and the audience and judges guess who’s under the mask. Moments later I had a direct message from someone I had never spoken to before. She mentioned the pandemic and how her business is booming, and wanted to know if I wanted to join. Her message had zero to do with my comment. It frustrated me that she thought since we shared an interest in a show that she could weasel me into joining her. I reflected on this, and realized just how fortunate I am to have a steady flow of income that I wasn’t tempted to fall into the MLM game. For people who are in positions where they don’t know where their next meal is coming from, there might be temptation to join in. What might not be realized is that the people in the MLMs are using the vulnerability that the pandemic provides as a means of preying on others. Most people who try to recruit are either up at the top, and are part of that successful 1 per cent, or they are being told by their uplines that if they do not try to recruit they can never achieve success. Sadly, most people know that the person they are recruiting will fail at the MLM business they believe they are starting.

When I found out about the restrictions around COVID-19, I fell into the trap of trying to cram my days with new things. I let the external voices try and shame me into being productive. I didn’t give myself time to adjust to this new reality. However, now months later, I realized that other people should not dictate the way I live my life during this time. I allowed their perfectly performed lives to nearly completely deter me from putting my mental health first. I have been able to read more and write more stories and poems, which I am happy about., I allow myself not to focus on what other people are doing during the pandemic. I think that people should make the choices that work best for them.

I sympathize with those who are struggling and have come to better understand that each person has their own way of dealing with the virus, and how they manage during this pandemic.  COVID-19 is emotionally taxing for everyone, and how others manage it, shouldn’t dictate how we manage it.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab

Student Life

Wedding on a diet: getting married during COVID-19

When the pandemic strips milestones to the bone

Oct. 3rd, 2:30 p.m.: Six people are standing in room 2.17 of Quebec’s courthouse. The first is a court clerk, the second and the third stand before the first, the fourth and fifth are witnesses and the last is a member of the audience. The occasion: my wedding.

I have never really been the type of person to spend time with my head in the clouds about what my wedding would look like, but I certainly never pictured it like this.

If anything, I thought the guest count would be beyond one. Even though I haven’t been bathing in wedding fantasies since my childhood, when my partner proposed to me on New Year’s Eve, we knew we had a big party to plan.

Fast-forward to March. It seemed to us like we already had it all: a large expanse of land in Rimouski lent to us for free, a lake, space to camp and nearby accommodation, many talented artist friends to set the mood with music and decorations, family members to serve  as amazing cooks, near limitless access to alcohol, and many, many cherished guests. Set for Aug. 15, 2020, our celebration was going to be a banger.

Then came the big, the bad, the-still-ongoing COVID-19.

April 10: The Legault government announces that all public events are to be cancelled until Aug. 31. On the Facebook event for our wedding, our guests are notified that the celebration is pushed to 2021, or at least until it becomes safe to party again.

We decided that in the meantime, we would still get the legal ceremony done. In response to COVID-19, Quebec’s courthouse allowed for a total of only seven guests in addition to the two mandatory witnesses. This was just enough to accommodate the core of our families, except for my brother and his girlfriend who have been avoiding all human contact since the pandemic hit.

Instead of a proper honeymoon, my partner and I planned for a week of relaxing celebration in Mont-Tremblant with some of the family that had attended the wedding. For the time being, it was the least we could do to underline the milestone.

In late September, as the second wave hit, our nine guests withdrew themselves from the wedding, one by one. Coming from out of town, entering Montreal which was turning into a red zone represented a risk they were not willing to take, even to witness our union before law in-person. Only via Zoom would they join the ceremony.

Sept. 27: Following a difficult phone call with my mother concerning Montreal’s official red zoning, my partner and I decided to forego our stay in Mont-Tremblant for the safety of our family.

Less than a week from our wedding, we were stripped of our guests, our “honeymoon’’ and our witnesses.

Even though we knew a big celebration would eventually come, and that our relationship would survive these relatively soft hardships, a hollow feeling of despair started to creep up on me. Sure, we would find new witnesses fairly easily. Sure we would get married. Sure, we would still have a good time drinking champagne. But, there was a but.

Thursday, Oct. 1: My phone buzzes. Bota Bota, the famous travelling ferry spa in the Old Port of Montreal, is on the line: they are informing me that my reservation for Saturday will be refunded due to their baths needing to be closed, following Legault’s latest announcements. As such, my latest attempt at making a celebration out of my marriage got thrown out the window. Out on a long walk to breathe it out, I took a break to sit on the sidewalk and let my tears flow.

But, at least we have each other. That is what weddings are about, right?

Friday, Oct. 2, 10 p.m.: My partner and I are writing our Goldschläger-induced vows when, all of a sudden, his computer screen lights up. Familiar faces are all over it. Confused but only for a short time, I soon recognize that what I have before me is a surprise bachelor/bachelorette Zoom party — and what will become a nasty hangover on my wedding day.

Saturday, Oct. 3: My husband and I are on the rooftop of the hotel, spending the night drinking prosecco with the witnesses and an extra friend.

Although I could count the number of people present on one hand, I was tremendously grateful for all the little things we had been able to do to celebrate. It was as though the Draconian diet on which our celebration was put on made for every little bit of time spent in good company the most savoury bite of my existence.

I can only imagine the blast of flavours that will bring the big wedding celebration, whenever that may be.


Photo by Christine Beaudoin


Mandatory mask laws: Make caring about people normal again

Hot take: Public health has no place in identity politics, and comparing public health measures to the Holocaust won’t prove your point.

Since early March, when the WHO officially declared the novel coronavirus disease a pandemic, public opinion evolved drastically. Most notably, the issue has found its way into identity politics.

Leonard Cohen best said it: “There is a war between the ones who say there is a war, and the ones who say there isn’t.”

At this point in time, we’re somehow in dispute about whether there is a virus, and whether that virus is as dangerous as our government and health officials say it is. To that end, we’re in dispute about the unprecedented measures our government is taking to protect the health of its citizens by balancing the health of the economy and the health of the people.

Here’s a hot take: mandatory mask laws are actually not political, they’re medical. A mandatory mask regulation is not the mark of a political coup. It’s akin to banning smoking indoors or a “No shoes, no service” sign.

Meanwhile, our economic system continues to plunder the lower classes of our society, pushing them to more and more dire living conditions, while the elite few make a casual $8 billion earnings in one day.

It comes as no surprise that, with such a disparity in wealth ever growing, discouraged people experiencing exploitation are at their wits end, and are not about to take one more assault on their liberty. In this cultural landscape, I understand that a mandatory mask is just one more thing you have to do, while you risk your life in order to afford your life. But it’s also a low hanging fruit, and it doesn’t reach the actual issue at hand.

Compounded with a government that’s inconsistently transparent, and cases continuing to climb in Quebec, it really does feel like our democracy is in crisis.

We, like Nelly, have a dilemma, and it’s getting undermined when we centre mask regulations as a human rights violation.

Despite what the old man yelling at the clouds would have you believe, it is incomparable to relate mandatory masks with the forced branding of Jewish people during the Holocaust. It also acts to undermine a very real issue in our society by misplacing the focus of people’s fears.

I first noticed this comparison in June during the internationally covered Palm Beach County commission meeting on a mandatory mask order.

At this meeting, one resident, Theresa Roberts said, “I’m also the daughter of somebody who lived through Germany. I know a lot of stories. And this is sounding very familiar to me. You’re forcing people to wear masks. They were forced to wear a star.”

Another resident and Republican candidate for Congress, Reba Sherrill, said at the meeting, “Discriminating against certain groups of people while exempting others is a violation of our civil rights. Following World War II, we Jews said ‘Never again.’” She continued, “We were forced to wear a gold star. Told to get [in] a box car to be taken to a safe place. In reality, what happened?”

I know there is a lot of fear, especially for people in the Jewish community. Throughout history, Jewish people trying to assimilate to new societies have been met with violence, and I understand that the fear of history repeating itself is very real. We also lose credibility when we make leaps like this.

We have genuine cause for concern about the safety, privacy, and freedom of people in North America. In Quebec, the Legault government passed a law that entitles police officers to obtain search warrants via the telephone, enabling quick legal access to private residences, for the intended purpose of enforcing COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings.

In my opinion, this law poses greater issues for human rights violations and discriminatory policing than a mandatory mask law. We have to be smart about where we cast our attention and criticism.

“There is a war between the ones who say there is a war, and the ones who say there isn’t.” Lately, I wonder whether there is a war between those of us who say chaos is a conduit of war and those who say a mask is.


Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam


The rise and rise of pay-per-view nudes

“On that Demon Time, she might start an OnlyFans”

The moment I realized that OnlyFans had officially become a widespread mainstream topic was when I first heard these lyrics sung by Beyoncé on Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage Remix” while mindlessly scrolling through TikTok. Before then, I knew it as a somewhat niche platform used mostly by the people I follow on Twitter. Like, “one of my friends’ friends has one!”, “this girl I follow on Instagram has been promoting her,” and so on.

“Should I start an OnlyFans?” has become our generation’s “screw this, I’ll just become a stripper.” With the same connotation of sex work being young women’s kind of shameful ace-in-the-hole, this slogan also mirthlessly shows how the sex industry has followed young people’s increasingly web-connected lives, as well as their heavily exploited desire for personalized experiences. In an online world where personalized ads, emojis, Google search suggestions, and YouTube recommendations have thrived, personalized sexual content was sure to follow.

Coupled with the gradual integration of feminism in the porn industry, we can see how despite seeing increases in traffic, oligopolist brands like PornHub and RedTube haven’t been able to compete with the practice of subscription-based services, which offer even more specific content options and, of course, the possibility of communicating directly with the actors themselves. These companies have also been under fire recently for profiting off videos of assault, abuse, and even child pornography, and for the discrepancy between actors’ pay and the sites’ revenues. The announcement that famous ex-adult film star Mia Khalifa’s total reported earnings were of $12,000 during the three months she worked with PornHub over five years ago became viral, as Internet users acknowledged the much larger amount that the site has made with her videos over the years. With Premium memberships unable to compete with some of OnlyFans’ prices—the lowest monthly fee being $4.99, versus $9.99 on PornHub and a whopping $29.99 on Brazzers — OnlyFans becomes a preferable and seemingly more democratic choice.

The coronavirus can be partially credited for gradually building up the trend of online nude content creation: when the pandemic hit and many lost their sources of income, they had to turn to the only accessible — and the most lucrative — option that every “How to Make Money from Home” article omits. It’s estimated that during quarantine, creator enrolment increased five-fold compared to last year, and the site’s audience grew by 80 per cent.

A few weeks ago, social media erupted at the consequences of popular singer and actress Bella Thorne’s joining the platform. She was accused of gentrifying it in cheating her fans of money they had paid for nude photos, taking clients away from content creators who need them to pay rent, and for causing the site to tighten its policies on how much creators could get paid and when.

Anything that enters the mainstream — whether it’s an artist, a new Netflix show, an app — will suffer in some way from all the attention and popularity, but there is usually a strong community trying to preserve its integrity. OnlyFans, on the other hand, is a platform whose creators were already facing many challenges, and who had little support from, well, anyone. Frequently leaked content was a problem well before the pandemic hit, and many creators were victims of extortion. Though we are experiencing a more liberated sexual culture than in previous generations, the stigma around sex work remains heavy in our society.

Even with a larger client base, only a minority of creators manage to make the exorbitant amounts shown off in viral social media posts. Because the internet doesn’t sleep, those who commit to making money online from sex-related content also take on longer work weeks: some have reported working anywhere from 50 to 80 hours a week, compared with the average person’s 35 to 40.

“What about your future career?” is the age-old burning question for anyone who joins the sex industry. Our parents all warned us that anything uploaded to the internet stays there forever. We can’t predict the opinions of future employers on OnlyFans accounts, and I may be naive in thinking this, but I can’t help but see mainstreaming the platform as a way to tame down the negative reactions to sex work. Stigma is broken by normalizing concepts, and by the time we have to apply for the positions that hold reputation to a high regard, I have hope that the taboo surrounding sex work will be much less felt in offices and social settings. The people around us right now, whose “friend of a friend” is entering the sex industry, are ultimately the ones who will decide whether sex work should continue to be a professional setback, or if it’s time we understand it like it is: a way of making a living just like any other.


Graphic by Lily Cowper

Student Life

Concordia, I love you, but you’re bringing me down

Concordia’s new online system glosses over student needs

Concordia is asking students to invest in a community which has largely abandoned lofty goals of equitable access, in favour of a new remote model which fails to meet student needs.

When the pandemic began, I didn’t have a lot of time on my hands, and I certainly didn’t have a lot of resources to manage my mental health. I was working part-time as a barista near campus, attending school full-time, and struggling to balance a relationship and extracurriculars on top of it all. I honestly hadn’t heard about COVID-19 until it came up in a class discussion about whether we would be transitioning to online classes. To say it was a wake-up call is an understatement.

In the months that followed, I would lose my barista job, end my relationship, my internship would be cancelled, and plans for a summer directed study with my favourite professor would disappear with the melting snow. My life, previously entirely defined by school, my work, and my relationships with my peers and mentors, has completely changed; and I’m not the only one. COVID-19 has had far reaching impacts on every aspect of life, including the mental health of staff and students alike.

Concordia has made a lot of promises since the pandemic hit, jumping into action with a public relations response that has left many feeling disappointed with the reality of online classes as the fall semester begins. Access has become a positive buzzword that many universities have been utilizing to frame this transition to digital learning — but what is access, really?

Access can be understood as the absence of barriers; it is active in its commitment to enabling success through resolving conflicts with diverse strategies. What does access look like in an academic institution? This is a question universities have been struggling to address since long before the pandemic began.

Concordia has always had issues with creating access. Concordia’s Access Centre for Students with Disabilities (ACSD) is designed to aid this problem, but there are barriers to the average student’s ability to become registered with the centre. The ACSD requires official documentation for medical conditions, mental health conditions, attention deficit disorder, and learning disabilities. Many Concordia students come from outside of the province or country, and do not have access to their family doctor. Students are encouraged to use Health Services, but wait times create barriers to getting the assistance and support they need. In an emergency, students can pay out of pocket to visit a local doctor, but that creates an additional financial barrier to getting the support needed.

I am lucky to have had a diagnosis for my mental illnesses before coming to Concordia, and registering with the ACSD was relatively easy. The ACSD guarantees a certain level of support and protection, but the process of registering, on top of struggling with school work and the additional stress of being in crisis can create additional inhibitors to success. While the university continues to pilot programs intended to support students, they do not have the capacity to support the sheer number of students that require assistance. I fear for the possibility of how students will be impacted by this lack of mental health resources, and the ways in which remote learning will absolve Concordia’s responsibility to student’s mental health.

Administrative response to the rising pressure to reduce tuition fees and address issues of fiscal access was the introduction of Concordia’s COVID-19 Student Emergency Relief Fund. Concordia invested $1 million to create this fund, though, given the university had 46,000 students in the 2019-2020 annual year, this would be equivalent to roughly $21.74 per student. The school is encouraging donations from the community to support this fund, while the university president receives a salary equivalent to the Prime Minister of Canada.

The official administrative response to general inquiry into the preservation of regular tuition fees is that remote courses are being designed to “the highest possible pedagogical standards” and that students will have access to academic advising and one-on-one mentoring, resources which were available prior to COVID-19.

Remote access is theoretically liberating, but the reality of virtual learning is much more complex than what the university administration is addressing. How are students with inadequate access to wifi supposed to access course materials? How is Concordia supporting the many students who cannot afford rent and no longer have a designated learning space? What about parents struggling to manage the responsibilities of their own education while homeschooling their children? What is Concordia doing to incorporate these access needs into the university’s “high pedagogical standards?”

Myself, like a number of other students, considered not returning to school this year. I considered the possibility of taking time off from school, focusing on work, but unfortunately this is not a reality I can afford; I do not have a choice. Concordia is reliant on students like me to continue enrolling so that the school can pay its necessary fees and salaries. I’d be happy to continue contributing to supporting my community, if only I felt more valued rather than a resentful prisoner to the new order of things. It’s possible to have successful remote learning, but the plans put forward by Concordia do not warrant the claim of “accessibility” that the administration is purporting.


Graphic by Rose-Marie Dion @the.beta.lab

Back to school: How to trick your brain into being okay

In case you’re waking from a mirage, we’re in a global pandemic. Here are some tips to train your brain into navigating this new semester.

Welcome new and returning students to all of the hopeful back-to-school energy, the seasonal start-of-term jitters, and the wonderful opportunity to learn!

Reflecting on my life, I feel deeply grateful in this moment, for the millions of instances of good luck and hard work that have led me to pursuing my degree, where I’m learning skills and life lessons that will fulfill and nourish me. All is well and I am safe.

This sentiment may feel like a bit of bullshit considering everything that’s going on — a literal pandemic, remote learning, social distancing and isolation, in case you forgot  —  but it’s a useful bit of bullshit. Repeat an affirmation of gratitude to yourself, like the one you just read, and you will slowly trick your brain into being happier, according to neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hansen. The technique is called “hardwiring happiness” and it operates by undermining the negative bias that our brains create, where the brain remembers negative experiences more readily than positive ones. You can counteract this negative bias by developing a “gratitude practice” like doing meditations grounded in all of the things going right in your life, or keeping a journal of the things you’re grateful for.

Coming back to school, things are going to be “different if not difficult,” according to Dr. Yaniv Elharrar, psychologist at the West Island Therapy & Wellness Centre. “Different if not difficult” sounds like 2020 summed up in a jingle.

If you want some more tips on how to “get your shit together, Carol,” read on.

According to Dr. Elharrar, if you want to combat anxiety, depression, distraction, isolation, and create a home advantage to learning remotely, make a plan. Give yourself a period of trial and error, and don’t get down on yourself for messing up. It’s about getting to know yourself  —  how you work best, where you work best, when you work best — and organizing your schedule to suit your needs.

Everyone’s different, so you need to do what works for you. However, generally speaking, while the portions may vary person-to-person, the ingredients in your routine should include consistent exercise, healthy eating, an early bedtime, and a social life.

I know it’s nothing less than cliché, but exercise! It will trick your body into all types of good feelings.

“Exercising in the morning actually kick starts your body so it helps you get earlier rest,” says Dr. Jade-Isis Lefebvre, psychologist and yoga instructor at Concordia University.

“Cardio exercise is good for long-term health,” adds Dr. Lefebvre. “After a cardio-based exercise, your focus actually increases.” To sum it up, students can focus better in their windowless apartment that smells like hot sushi if they just do a bit of cardio first.

Plus, if you want to improve focus and concentration long-term, yoga and breathing exercises will help practice the “mind skill that can transition to your daily life,” says Dr. Lefebvre.

So, in case you need a cue card summary of this information, yoga equals long-term focus. Cardio equals short-term focus. Love it. Next.

If you’re looking for a quick fix, there are some subtle cues you can give your body to focus, according to Dr. Lefebvre. “Just pressing your hands on your knees and extending your arms straight,” will ground you in the moment and keep you activated in class.

Now that focus is covered, how can students trick the stress away, too?

“Breath (sic) can help you deactivate the stress response in your body,” says Dr. Lefebvre. You can do it while you’re at your desk. “Inhale bringing your shoulders up towards your ears and then roll them back and down. That’s a really good way to open up your chest and get into your body and remind you that you’re here in the moment.”

Anxiety is a survival-based stress response. In order to reduce your stress, you need to communicate to your body that you’re not under attack, because your body is listening. This next tip will teach you how to speak the language of the body.

Techniques called soothing breath and soothing touch are great ways to disarm your stress response and speak to your body.

“Soothing touch is when you put your hands on a specific spot on your body. You can hold your hands on your cheeks, put your hands in a hug around you, put your hands on your heart,” says Dr. Lefebvre. “One of the ways that is less obvious is if you just cross your hands together and lay them on your lap.”

Soothing breath is when you bring a conscious attention to your breath and just slow it down and deepen it. My personal favourite mantra to support a soothing breath is “in deep, out slow.” These cues subconsciously tell your body you are not under attack. By consistently practicing this, you give your body the sense that it is safe on a biological level.

Now, as long as I’m living, I’m breathing all day every day. Might as well mix in some slow breaths, maybe even a deep one for kicks, sure. With all that said and done, if I don’t plan my schedule so that it’s both flexible and disciplined, I’m just not maximizing my potential to learn and achieve. The thing about a plan is that it needs goals, and goals need to be informed by your personal values. This is as good a time as any to take a look at the values presently dictating your goals.

Research shows that you are more likely to stick to your daily routine if it is realistic, fun, and something you look forward to. It will unlikely be any of these things if you don’t consider what your values are, and what motivates you. Start by identifying what is “really meaningful to you,” says Dr. Lefebvre. Ask yourself what matters most, then orient your goals in this direction.

But with all these tricks down pat, the thing we have to keep in mind is that we’re in this together. Hold on, we got this. Also go outside. Your place smells like hot sushi.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam

The unplanned lessons of historical tragedies

“World War II started on a Sunday afternoon when I was on my way to the movies.” -Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Masks, social distancing and self-isolation have all become mundane, even exasperating words in our daily vocabularies. Nightly newscasts religiously report new positive cases and updated death tolls, the weather isn’t the main subject of small talk anymore, and even the smell of cheap alcohol from grocery store hand sanitizer is a bother we have become accustomed to.

Every day when I take the crowded metro home and come across a child no taller than my waist clad with an oversized face covering, I wonder what kind of world the coronavirus will create for them. The new generation is currently navigating through hyper-vigilant and germaphobic circumstances, and I doubt many will remember the days before daily STM cleanings — a frequency which most preferred to stay blind to.

The post-COVID world is going to be a lot more different than we anticipated, though. For one, the structure of the 9-5 job and mandatory class attendance has been shattered. We’ve suddenly been introduced to the unfamiliar idea that people can still be just as productive without the added stresses of day-to-day life, like long commutes and cramped cubicles. In another sense, this crisis has been a breakthrough in regards to our use of technology; new social rules have made many tools a necessity rather than a luxury. Contactless payment, online banking, smartphones, computers, working Wi-Fi connections, and, of course, Zoom, all became indispensable tools as we witnessed the exodus of in-person working, schooling, and shopping. The coronavirus has fast forwarded the world’s dependence on technology by years.

We use the hopeful phrase “once Corona is over” as if the pandemic hasn’t already changed our values, habits, and traditions. No one thought quarantine would last so long, that it would bring back the advent of hobby culture—most have reconnected with their affinity for hiking, knitting, reading, etc.—or that many would suddenly catch up on years of neglecting their New Year’s resolutions to be healthier. Having said that, the aggravation of substance addiction and the hike in cases of domestic abuse have also been distressing side-effects of self-isolation. But it seems that throughout generations, global tragedies have always changed the lives of ordinary people in unexpected ways.

Everyone from my generation either has (or knows someone who has) an extraordinary story about what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001. My father was a firefighter. My fourth grade teacher turned on the TV to a live image of the Pentagon being hit. These stories transcend borders; the Earth kept turning, but the whole world stopped to remember what they were doing during the few seconds after the breaking news broadcasted.

Innumerable articles and research papers documenting the aftermath of 9/11 denote the sharp rise of Islamophobic ideas. With “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” as the Western world’s new favorite dictum, division and otherization became common defense mechanisms.

The union of the media and the image through the recent accessibility of television quickly made the Vietnam war an international concern. From the sight of a Vietnamese girl crying as she ran from a napalm attack, and from nightly broadcasts showing the true face of American liberty, erupted a global anti-war movement. With protests in Tokyo, Amsterdam, and Auckland, the public was slowly recognizing how technology could become a tool for connecting with our world. During 9/11, this same idea went even further as millions turned to the Internet to communicate with their loved ones, to find out about the newest updates, to share their thoughts and prayers. In the era of COVID, society can’t do without digital.

Nuclear power built a reputation for itself in 1986, when a faulty reactor in Chernobyl exploded, directly killing an estimated 30 to 50 people. Radiation became an entertaining comic book character backstory, but in the years following the disaster, just as we had seen after US troops left Vietnam, it also became a lesson not to mess with chemicals. This isn’t the scientific development we would’ve wished to see.

It’s not very uplifting to look back on atrocities that happened barely a century ago and that have left wounds still open today. But in the present, I think it can be grounding to think of history as something that happens to individual people, one day at a time. Maybe that’s just me.

I’m too young to remember the voice on the radio announcing terror attacks south of our border, but I can describe exactly what I was doing and where I was on the day I first heard of the “Wuhan virus.” History is made up of the stories we remember, and I hope that my memory can conjure up something positive, for a change—once Corona is over.


Photo Collage by Christine Beaudoin

Student Life

How one university student traveled Southeast Asia in the midst of a pandemic

My coronavirus experience, live from my Singapore dorm

Stuck inside drawing rainbows and perfecting the way I’m going to write “Ça va bien aller” for my neighbours to see, I have to admit I’m quite envious of how most East Asian governments handled the COVID-19 crisis and kept the number of cases to fractions of those in Canada, despite dealing with it for over four months.

As early as the first week of January, when I first landed in Singapore with a passport in one hand and a flyer about the “Wuhan pneumonia” in the other, the country where I would be spending my exchange semester was preparing for the worst. Upon receiving my student ID on my second day here, I was also given a card with important phone numbers on it and a digital thermometer. “Use this thermometer to monitor your health status,” the note in our welcome pack read, along with an invitation to visit the campus clinic if we felt unwell.

At the time, I think it’s safe to say most of us brushed it off. Most exchangers I met were still giddy about arriving and making new friends. My paranoid roommate was the only person who seemed genuinely worried about crossing paths with anyone who had come from Wuhan or Hubei (it seems you were right, Sarah).

The news of the first four cases of the virus in Singapore scared everyone: on January 27, my school announced that they were turning one of the residence halls into a Government Quarantine Facility. An estimated 400 students—neither the school nor the media gave an accurate number—were given less than 10 hours to pack up their stuff and apply for housing elsewhere.

Around 80 per cent of Singaporeans are ethnically Chinese, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when the Chinese New Year period rolled around and people started traveling in and out of China to visit family, quickly making Singapore the country with the second highest number of cases recorded. About a week later, on February 7, the government announced it was raising the risk level of the disease to DORSCON Orange; that’s the way Singapore assesses diseases and how dangerous they are. Created as a preventive measure after the devastating SARS outbreak in 2003, DORSCON literally just stands for Disease Outbreak Response System Condition.

By this point, with 29 recorded cases, three of the four classes I was taking moved online because they had more than 50 students. My professors were quick to announce changes in the syllabus to accommodate for online midterms and final exams. We were asked to check our temperature twice a day and to register it in the university’s online system; temperature-checking stations were set up in each dining hall, and faculties handed out free thermometers to students who didn’t own any. We were also asked to declare all recent travel online, including the flight numbers and arrival times.

At this point, it became impossible to find hand sanitizer and surgical masks anywhere. Contrary to Canada, though, supermarkets ran out of ramen packets before they did toilet paper.

Outside of school, temperature-checking and contact tracing became more and more rigorous: I couldn’t enter a mall or library unless it was confirmed I didn’t have a fever. Everywhere I went, I had to scan a QR code and enter my information in case I came into contact with someone who was infected and needed to be tested.

Despite—or rather because of—all these new regulations, I never felt unsafe going about my days in Singapore. I didn’t become weary of anyone who coughed (most people were wearing masks anyway), I didn’t feel the need to use hand sanitizer every minute (though it was distributed absolutely everywhere), and I wasn’t anxious about entering crowded stores or restaurants. The most ludicrous measure I encountered was the routine temperature checks they started performing before I entered a bar or club, right after they had checked my ID.

To any diehard Westerner, these seem like incredibly intrusive procedures. But they were implemented so seamlessly that it really felt, and still feels, like they were necessary in order to maintain a relatively normal life. I think they were necessary to preserve everyone’s freedom and to keep the country running.

Singapore’s economy never tanked as a result of these measures: their currency, which used to almost be up to par with the Canadian dollar, even surpassed it for a little while.

It pains me to see how fast the virus has spread in the West, and how quickly the cases add up every day. I’m thankful for everything the federal and provincial governments in Canada are doing to contain it, but there have been so many unnecessary deaths as a result of careless preventive measures. After one of my friends came to visit me during spring break, no one in Canada checked her symptoms or her travels. She could have walked in with a fever and customs still would have greeted her with a simple “welcome home, Lorenza.”

I wrote this piece on my last day in quarantine. I had gone on a weekend trip to Ho Chi Minh City in mid-March, right as my university and the government announced stricter quarantine rules for those coming back into the country. The virus was thought to have reached its peak in Singapore a long time ago, but it’s fair that they wanted to prevent it from coming back into the country. I could complain as much as I want about having to be stuck in my room for 14 days, and about the terribly bland food they brought me twice a day to keep me inside. But at the end of the day, I understand why I’m the one who had to quarantine: it’s so that everyone else doesn’t.

Update: About two and a half weeks after I got out of quarantine in early April, the government finally put a “circuit breaker” into place. Short of calling it a full lockdown, it’s been a shutdown of non-essential businesses and a ban on public social gatherings with advice (read: threat of heavy fines and jail time) to stay home. Though it was set to last until May 4, an extension until June 1 was approved shortly after I left Singapore. The reason for this sudden change? A surge in unlinked cases after weeks of having the outbreak under control. To Singapore, these cases are the most dangerous because they make it difficult to track the disease and keep it under control. I guess this really is a new normal for everyone in the world, so stay safe and healthy!






Feature graphic and doodles by Rose-Marie Dion.

Footer graphic by Taylor Reddam.

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