Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs to strike against tuition hikes

Strike planned on the anniversary of the Maple Spring student strikes which prevented tuition hikes in Quebec in 2012

At a special assembly on Wednesday, March 16, Concordia University’s School of Community and Public Affairs Students’ Association (SCPASA) voted to strike. The demonstration will take place on March 22 – the ten year anniversary of the Maple Spring student strikes, one of the largest student walkouts in history, which saw thousands of students protest tuition hikes.

Today the SCPASA is striking for many of the same causes which students walked out for in 2012. Their primary concern is ongoing tuition hikes, although specific numbers regarding hikes were not shared in the motion.

“We continue the concerns about the ongoing privatization of education and the increasing tuition,” said Ellie Hamilton, a co-chair of the SCPASA Strike Readiness Committee and third year student at the School of Community and Public Affairs. The SCPASA is also striking for reasons that students in 2012 could never have seen coming – a lack of what they believe to be adequate health and safety measures provided by Concordia to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Concordia Student Union (CSU) published an open letter in February requesting the university implement a number of additional health and safety measures to accompany the return to campus, however Concordia has yet to comply with many of these requests such as providing K95 and KN95 masks to students.

“COVID exposed weaknesses. It didn’t create them, and they don’t go away just because we’re pretending the pandemic is over. So primarily tuition, secondarily health and safety and accessibility on campus.”

According to the SCPASA, 30 per cent of students at Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs voted in favor of the student association at the special general assembly where the strike was voted on. The School of Community and Public Affairs is an interdisciplinary program which integrates public policy, advocacy, and community development.

“For our first vote we had 76 per cent in favor, which is a very strong start. And again, we’re emphasizing over and over this is the first step, not the last.” said Hamilton.

The SCPASA will be planning other strikes in the near future with one set to take place on March 25, in order to line up with a future climate strike.

On March 22, the SCPASA will send representatives to the Large Protest for Free Education, an event organized by many Quebec student associations including the CSU, which will take place at Place Du Canada. Those involved will also be walking out of classes and engaging in friendly picketing on campus.

“In the short term, we want students to get experience with these types of mobilizations and we also want them to see that this is part of a bigger moment,” said Hamilton who explained that one of the main goals of this strike is “To help people place themselves within history. Understanding that this is the first step that builds us towards that point we saw with Maple Spring, where students were actually at the negotiating table directly with the government and not trying to do it by proxy through the provincial legislature.”

To Hamilton, organization, mobilization, and strikes like these are important because they have yielded very real and tangible results in the past, as was the case with the Maple Spring.

“This is what democracy looks like at its strongest; it’s when the people are able to get to the negotiating table and have a much more active voice informing policy than just casting a ballot through party machinery that they’ve never touched in their life,” said Hamilton.

Furthermore, to Hamilton fostering this democratic involvement is an essential role of education, which is hindered when universities become further privatized by increasing tuition costs.

“It’s important to protect education, because this is a necessary component to democracy,” said Hamilton.

“We want people to get good work from their university degrees. But if that’s all a university education is to people, we’re losing sight of that second piece that we need to be democratically engaged citizens.”

Photo by Caroline Fabre


Broken Promises, Closed Community Organizations

Quebec community organizations have gone on strike across the province this past week as a result of intense pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers say they lack the funding needed to deal with the massive growth in the need for their services to house, feed, and provide care for vulnerable populations.

Video Editor Anthony-James Armstrong spoke with community sector workers at a massive demonstration near downtown Montreal on Tuesday, Feb. 22.


TRAC and CSU band together to give students free N95 masks

As Concordia refuses to give out N95 masks due to public health guidelines, student organizations scramble to get students these masks

As students returned to class on Feb. 3, the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) teamed up with the Concordia Student Union (CSU) to hand out N95 masks on the second floor of the Hall building. They also asked students to sign their petition asking the university for a safe return to class. 

The petition asks for the university to supply all students and staff with free N95 masks, as recommended by the CDC for best dealing with the variant Omicron. The TRAC petition also asks for a two week delay to in-person class, contact tracing for students and staff, and reinstating social distancing. 

“We’re not just giving the masks out to our membership, we’re giving out to the community because we want everyone to be safe,” said Bree Stuart, TRAC president. She explained that the university told her students are allowed to wear N95 or KN95 masks instead of the blue medical masks provided by the university. 

Stuart said that in a meeting with the university last week, the administration said they did not want to supply students with N95 masks as it created a false sense of security, and the university would continue to follow public health guidelines.

Concordia’s spokesperson Vannina Maestracci told CBC that “The very large majority of activities that take place on campuses do not require N95 respirators according to Public Health and in educational sectors, procedural masks are being used to help mitigate transmission risks along with other preventative measures in place.” 

Sofia Marina, a Concordia engineering student, said that as long as she is able to maintain her personal space, in-person class does not affect her. 

“But it’s not fair that the university isn’t supplying us with N95s,” said Marina. “A lot of people seem to be asking for it, and it doesn’t seem to be that big of a demand.”

The CSU has released two open letters, the most recent letter condemning the university for its lack of leadership during the pandemic. The letter also asks the university for things like a hybrid semester, moving all exams online, eliminating all participation grades, and to bring back the pass/fail option.

“Now that contact tracing is no longer mandated through Public Health, and the scarcity of PCR tests, we can only imagine the immense implications this will have for campus safety,” reads the letter.

Other institutions are protesting the return to in-person class, as multiple McGill faculties have had walk-outs and strikes throughout January, according to Emma McKay, an organizer on the McGill strike committee. 

When asked if they had advice for students that wanted direct action, McKay said “Talk to everybody, that’s the best thing a person can do,there are a lot of students who are scared and feel like they don’t have anybody to talk to about this, or who feel like action is not possible.”

Photo by Catherine Reynolds


‘They’re not listening to us’: students express concerns over Concordia’s winter plans

Concordia students express that Concordia’s plans for the winter semester prioritize those who can physically return to campus, while neglecting others

As Concordia plans for a primarily in-person winter semester, some students feel like the university is moving forward while leaving others behind.

According to a public statement released by Concordia Provost and Vice-President Anne Whitelaw, students can expect most of their courses to be in-person or a blend of in-person with online components.

With the exception of eConcordia courses — classes specifically designed for online delivery — students will need to be on campus to take their courses for the winter semester.

The administration’s decision has sparked feelings of neglect among Concordia students for whom making it to Canada in January is not yet a reliable and safe option they can count on.

“With COVID-19 and Delta variants, I don’t feel safe going to campus,” said second-year commerce student Aditi Baldowa.

As a result of health issues she did not want to disclose, Baldowa has been attending her fall courses remotely from her home in Mauritius. On Nov. 8, she was de-registered from her fall classes.

Although Baldowa said she has submitted proof of receiving her study permit, she shared that Concordia’s International Students Office (ISO) has continuously denied her the chance to continue her fall courses, on the premise that she has not physically collected her permit in Canada.

“I don’t see why I should be there,” said Baldowa.

The ISO website states, “All International Students will need upload their immigration documents (CAQ, Study Permit, Passport) through their MyConcordia as soon as they arrive to Canada or as soon as the documents are issued.”

Although her fall courses were on eConcordia did not require her to be physically on campus, she said that this was not enough to keep her enrolled.

“I have tried telling [the ISO] that I have health issues and that I’m not fit to travel for the moment,” she said. “They don’t understand that and only tell me that I need to be there or else they will deregister me.”

After losing one semester, she must retake her fall semester courses this winter. Despite the fact that most of her winter courses are set to be delivered through eConcordia, Baldowa fears the consequences she will face if she does not make her way to Montreal in January.

“I worked so hard for the whole semester, and now all my classes are cancelled,” she said. “If I don’t come, they will deregister me again from my winter term, and that will have a really bad impact on my study permit renewal. I might not get it again after it expires in 2023.”

Baldowa expressed that the university’s actions neglect students’ potential health concerns, such as her own.

“They’re not being supportive at all,” she said. “They are telling us that we can’t have online classes but aren’t considering the fact that some students can’t be there.”

As the countdown to the winter semester continues, Baldowa said she feels restrained by the potentially negative consequences of not coming to Canada in January. With growing concerns for her health, Baldowa feels excluded from the university’s vision for an in-person winter.

When asked how the university’s plans to respond to health and safety protocols concerning their winter semester plans with regard to students with health concerns, University Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci responded that it is “too early to tell” in a statement to The Concordian.

“We are constantly assessing the  evolving pandemic situation and adjusting as needed,” stated Maestracci. “Any change to measures would also be in line with guidelines provided by Public Health with whom we talk regularly. Right now, the existing measures remain in place.”

Another student who has expressed concerns is Jane, who wishes to remain anonymous. As someone with pre-existing health conditions, she feels the university is not doing enough to accommodate the concerns of students like herself, who are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of the virus.

“They’re not asking the students what they want,” she said. “If they’d actually take the time and listen to the students, they would provide those that can’t be here with another option.”

Jane is diabetic, asthmatic, and suffers from anxiety. She said she has not felt safe to take a bus since the start of the pandemic and is just now beginning to leave her house for walks and trips to the grocery store.

“It’s step by step,” she said. “Being among a whole lot of people raises the anxiety factor to a whole other level.”

Making her way to school where not everyone may be fully vaccinated is a daunting thought for Jane. Coupled with the fear of catching the virus, she feels that the university is treating the winter semester as a pandemic-free slate.

“It’s still the pandemic; we’re not finished,” she said. “If you have a bunch of people that aren’t vaccinated, you’re going to end up with a lot of people externally sick if it [COVID] gets passed around.”

Concordia does not presently have a vaccine policy for attending classes. However, Concordia Health Services strongly recommends getting vaccinated.

Although Jane has been able to attend her courses online this semester thanks to accommodations provided by her professors, she fears that her health issues will force her to delay the completion of her degree.

Maestracci has shared with The Concordian that such concerns should be “addressed by departments — since it is impossible to have a one size fits all approach as there will be variations across departments as well as differences depending on the course.”

The extent of how the university’s current health and safety protocols will carry out this winter is another concern for students. Some say Concordia’s COVID-19 prevention policies have not been adhered to enough this fall.

“I see how many people don’t wear masks properly or don’t wear masks at all when they’re supposed to be,” said Lauren Friesen, a first-year history student at Concordia. “If people aren’t really abiding by the rules now, then come January, it’s just going to get a lot worse.”

Friesen worries about the unexpected consequences of students returning from winter break. “I just fear that there’s going to be another breakout, especially over winter and Christmas time,” she said. “I feel like they should be prepping for the worst case rather than the absolute best case scenario.”

While Friesen does not consider herself at any particular health risk, she recognizes the frustration that students with health concerns are facing.

“I feel like moving almost everything in-person is kind of ignoring those students,” she said.

Despite some of the challenges that certain students are facing, the move to an in-person winter semester comes as a much-needed change of pace for others.

“It’s been so long,” said Anika Michalko, a first-year behavioural neuroscience student. “I’m very excited to be able to do more in-class projects and exchange ideas with people a lot more.”

While Michalko doesn’t consider themselves touched by health and travel issues, they agree on Concordia’s responsibility to help accommodate students impacted by such obstacles.

“Having recorded lectures is super essential,” said Michalko. “I think that would help out people a lot.”

The winter 2022 class schedule is expected to be finalized later in November. Once published, current and prospective students will be given the chance to enroll in their designated classes, set to begin on Jan. 6.


Photograph by Lily Cowper

A previous version of this article stated that “We are constantly evolving the pandemic and adjusting as needed,” stated Maestracci. An edit has been made to the article to reflect the original quote, which said “We are constantly assessing the evolving pandemic situation and adjusting as needed.”


Thousands Dance Together in Protest of Legault’s COVID-19 Nightlife Restrictions

Employees of Montreal’s nightlife scene gathered at Mount Royal to protest the Quebec government’s continuing tight grip on the industry

On Saturday, Oct. 23, thousands of Montrealers danced the day away to protest Quebec Premier François Legault’s handling of the city’s nightclubs. The event was hosted by The Social Dance Coalition, welcoming frustrated nightlife employees and local party lovers alike.

As stadiums, restaurants, and bars see their restrictions loosened by the government, employees of Montreal’s famous nightlife scene are not seeing the same prosperity. On Nov. 1, bars and restaurants will have their capacity restrictions lifted, and alcohol will be sold until 3:00 a.m. The Bell Centre has also been permitted to reopen at full capacity. However, nightclubs have not been given the same grace, leading workers to take to the streets.

The Social Dance Coalition had originally planned the event to span from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., but Montreal police made the group shorten it by two hours. The protest took place in Jeanne-Mance Park, right by the Monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier, where the primary objective was to dance free of any restrictions.

Several DJ booths were set up, swarmed by crowds of sweaty dancers looking to have the time of their lives. Out of hundreds of protesters, only a few wore masks. While there were barely any surgical-style masks visible, several protesters dawned Guy Fawkes masks instead; they are popular symbols of anarchism and government defiance. Signs saying “Laissez-Moi Danser (Let Me Dance)” were all over the park, and some dancers brought a selection of raised fist and anarchist flags. The protesters were crammed into mosh pits like sardines, chanting to the beat of early 2010s electronic dance music. The smell of sickeningly sweet liquor and cannabis filled the air as partygoers blew smoke into each others’ faces, while the temperature stood at around 9 C.

“Before the pandemic, I worked in a couple clubs downtown,” said protester Sara, who requested to not disclose her last name. “Now they really suck! If you can even get in, you’re forced to stick to your table. It’s like we can’t have fun anymore. I feel like we’re in Footloose.”

Another protester, Karl, who refused to share his last name as well, had some more colourful words for the premier: “You know what? F*ck Legault. All we want to do is go out and party like normal people, but he won’t let us. We’re vaccinated, just let us in the f*cking clubs already, my God.”

A fully masked SPVM Officer, who remained anonymous, was one of many police officers surveilling the event:

“We’re about twenty officers patrolling the protest. The party is supposed to end soon, but the park officially closes at 11:00 p.m. A lot of these guys are out of the job, so they might stay. We’ll make sure that they won’t be here past closing.”

When asked whether or not they thought this protest would affect policy decisions in Quebec City, about five officers began chuckling.

As of late October, the fourth wave of coronavirus continues to make its way across Quebec. Although it may be less dire than in other provinces, numbers are swiftly on the rise. The number of hospitalizations is increasing ever so slowly as well. The provincial government’s explanation for its hesitancy surrounding reopening the nightclubs and karaoke bars is that it is waiting for COVID-19 numbers to drop significantly. Many of the protesters who have worked in the nightlife industry remain unemployed, seeing as the industry’s drastic reduction resulted in an equally reduced workforce. The economic factors pushing many workers to take to the streets and dance in defiance of restrictions are hitting them hard.

While the debate still rages regarding the balance between a return to nightlife normalcy and security concerns, the rager in the park went on for hours —  with dancing protesters having the time of their lives.

Photos courtesy of Robyn Bell

On Concordia’s update: 22 reported COVID cases

There is no evidence there is no on-campus transmission at this time

Well, it finally happened. On Sept. 23, Concordia let us know that there are 22 reported COVID cases from people who “may have been on campus while they were contagious. For many, this update was expected; others, like students who have health concerns and lack a proper hybrid educational system at Concordia, feared it.

To appease our concern, the university reassured us in the manner expected by an educational institution. In bold, the email read, “There is no evidence of on-campus transmission at this time.”

“Clearly,” the email continued, “everyone’s vigilance in respecting the health and safety measures we  put in place as part of Concordia’s Return-to-Campus plan has had an impact.” After patting themselves on the back, they informed us that for every potential or certain COVID case on campus, the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) team would conduct a contact tracing plan based on public health authority criteria.

The announcement left many at the university confused and inquisitive about Concordia’s contact tracing plan. After all, absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence, meaning just because there’s no evidence COVID was transmitted on campus, doesn’t mean it’s proof it has not happened.

Members of the Concordia community attending in-person lectures and events are inevitably more susceptible to contracting COVID. So, how do you go about reporting if you think you have COVID?

According to Concordia’s official procedure for a suspected or confirmed COVID case, if a student feels any symptoms off-campus, they must call the COVID-19 information Line* at 1-877-644-4545 (toll free) or 514-644-4545 and follow their instructions. If instructed to quarantine, students must fill out the COVID-19 self-isolation form on the MyConcordia website. If a student was on campus 48 hours prior to developing COVID-19 symptoms, the EHS will initiate the suspected COVID-19 investigation.

Similarly, if a student feels symptoms on campus, they must call security at 514-848-3717, and security will transfer the call to the EHS, which will begin the suspected COVID-19 investigation.

The investigation includes the EHS collecting details from the person who has potentially contracted COVID, such as locations visited and names of individuals they came in contact with on campus.

Those individuals will be told to call the Public Health COVID Line for instructions; their case may be subject to an investigation by the Direction régionale de santé publique — and it is them who will make the ultimate determination if the individual who came in contact should self-isolate, get tested, or may return to campus.

It’s important to know the process in which COVID cases are reported on campus, because students not knowing how to properly report when they think they may have COVID, may very well be the reason why Concordia has no evidence there was COVID transmission on campus.

The truth is campus transmission is not only possible — it’s highly probable. Let’s give Concordia the data they need to better protect our community.

*The Public Health COVID Line is available from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Outside these hours, call Info-Santé 8-1-1 (24/7)


Photograph by Alex Hutchins


Concordia businesses express their thoughts on the vaccine passport

Concordia’s on-campus businesses call on the university to take a more active and efficient approach to the vaccine passport

Many people have voiced their anger and frustration with the vaccine passport since the Quebec government announced it on Aug. 10. Thousands took to the streets to protest, claiming that this enforcement is discriminatory and an infringement of a person’s rights.

The vaccine passport was first introduced on Sept.1 with a two-week grace period before implementing fines to business owners who refuse to comply. Since Sept. 15, the Quebec government has officially enforced a proof of vaccination for Quebecers aged 13 and over in order to access non-essential businesses such as restaurants, bars, cafés, and gyms — even those located on school campuses.

Calvin Clarke, the general coordinator at the Hive Café Solidarity Co-op, feels like checking every customer’s vaccination passport is an unwarranted responsibility for him and his employees.

Clarke points out that dining places are one of the few areas where the vaccine passports are being checked on campus.

Vannina Maestracci, Concordia University spokesperson, has stated that the use of the vaccine passport on campus is to mirror its larger use in Quebec.

“Going to any restaurant in Quebec requires the use of the passport, and on campuses, this translates to a passport requirement for dining places; similarly, team sports in Quebec require a vaccination passport and so sports on campus also require the passport.”

However, the university indicates that classes, labs, studios, libraries and other course-related places do not require a passport because they are considered essential activities.

When asked how the vaccine passport has affected their clientele, Clarke said, “It’s been about 95 per cent of the people have been fine with it, but it’s definitely slowed us down business-wise, because it is an extra step we have to do.”

Clarke acknowledges that the vaccine passport is very important for everyone’s safety, but nonetheless still believes that imposing the responsibility of checking every student’s passport is a burden.

“I think it’s a very good thing to have. I do think that the university should take a more active approach, rather than relying on businesses within the campus having to deal with that because that puts a lot of strain on us.”

He urges the university to take better action in implementing stricter rules and says that Concordia could take a more supportive and active role without relying on on-campus businesses.

Sham Rahman, a member of the board at Reggies, agrees with Clarke and says that the vaccination passport hasn’t affected their clientele as much. Like Clarke, Rahman agrees that this extra step has made things slower for their employees.

“It takes a little toll because I have to have an extra person on each door to check the passports because I can’t have my bartenders or waitresses check all the time,“ Rahman said.

Rahman believes that this extra step is necessary for everyone’s safety; however, he does not think it’s efficient.

He suggested alternative methods the university could implement. Instead of scanning phones and asking for IDs, Rahman thinks a possible solution would be having an ID provided by the school, indicating that the student has been fully vaccinated.

So far these businesses both reported that they have yet to encounter problems with students refusing to show their vaccine passports.


Graphic by James Fay


Concordia students share their thoughts about being back on campus during the pandemic

Many Concordia students agree that a vaccine mandate would make them feel safer about going to campus.

Concordia students are officially back on campus for the first time in 18 months. While some students are more comfortable than others to return to in-person classes, there is a consensus about having everyone vaccinated to have a safer environment on campus.

The vaccine passport was implemented on Sept. 1 for all non-essential activities in Quebec — covering restaurants, bars, gyms, as well as music and sports venues. This means students will need to show proof of vaccination to eat at cafés and cafeterias on campus, and attend some events, such as sports games. However, no proof of vaccination is required to attend classes in any university, CEGEP, or school.

“The government doesn’t define education as non-essential, which is true. Education is an essential component,” said Dr. Simon Bacon, co-director of the Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre.

Students are required to wear procedural masks at all times on campus, except outside when a one metre distance can be maintained, or in labs, meeting rooms and offices with proper ventilation, when people are two metres apart from others or if there is a physical barrier like plexiglass between them. Masks are also not required in eating areas or “spaces with activities requiring significant movement or interaction” (such as performance-based courses) when there is a two-metre distance between people. Professors are allowed to remove their masks in classrooms when students are seated and a distance of two metres between them is guaranteed.

Concordia has a mask mandate for students in classrooms, but physical distancing isn’t required. Dr. Bacon said that every measure that can be taken is an added layer of protection, and there’s a hierarchy.

“If you’re a hockey team, think of COVID as someone trying to score a goal on you,” Bacon said. “Your first line of defence is your goalie, the most effective way of stopping someone scoring a goal. So number one, get vaccinated. After your goalie, next thing is your defence. So what’s the best next thing? Masks. And then the third line of defence starts with the forwards. The chances the other team can score are lower. That is social distancing.”

This helps to break down why some Concordia students said they would feel safer if vaccines were mandatory for in-person classes.

Orisha Mitchell, a second-year student from Alberta, moved to Montreal a few weeks ago after doing a year of online learning at Concordia. She said she is looking forward to in-person classes and likes it more than remote learning.

Mitchell has two classes online, one hybrid class (where she has the option to choose between remote or in-person learning), and has yet to hear about her fourth class.

“I think it’s understandable to have some classes, like lectures, be online, especially for international students or students with health issues,” Mitchell said.

“But, personally, I’m very comfortable in person because I came here from a province with virtually no protective mandates,” Mitchell said. “I’m fully vaccinated, I think anyone who can get vaccinated should be, but, it’s a rough legal area for schools to mandate, so I understand why Concordia maybe hasn’t done that yet.”

Laurence Lai is a Ph.D. candidate in Concordia’s clinical psychology program. While he doesn’t have any classes, he is required to go to campus two to three times a week to conduct clinical work and do research. Lai has been going to campus for about four months now, but more frequently for the past two months.

He said he feels “pretty safe” going to campus and that until recently, the check-in process was “quite stringent.”

Just like Mitchell, Lai also thinks that everyone going to campus should be vaccinated, “unless they have medical reasons.”

Dr. Bacon said that students are “100 per cent right” to feel safer knowing everyone is vaccinated.

“There’s a couple of things tied to that as well,” he said. “Not only is it the issue of being vaccinated, but obviously as a certain perspective, you’re conscientious enough to be doubly vaccinated, it probably means you’re also conscientious enough to be wearing masks constantly in the right situations.

Dr. Bacon said that this demographic is “probably less likely to be taking risks around COVID.”

While universities in Quebec are not implementing vaccine mandates, Ontario is implementing vaccine mandates for all post-secondary schools starting Sept. 7.

Sebastian High, originally from Montreal, will be moving to Ottawa to attend Carleton University this fall. “I for one am super relieved about [the vaccine mandate],” he said. “It will allow me to feel safe on campus and ensure that I’m not constantly stressing out about spreading the virus.”

Dr. Bacon said “what gets lost in a lot of the communication around vaccine passports is what they’re really there for.”

“What a vaccine passport actually does is protect the unvaccinated,” he said. “That’s really their safety that’s paramount in that situation, because if they get sick with the delta variant, they’re 22 times more likely to end up in a hospital.”

He explained that if someone is fully vaccinated, they can still catch COVID and transmit it. Their probability of catching and transmitting it are lower, but anytime people are put in high-risk situations, there’s a risk of spread.

“This is the issue we have at the moment, both in terms of schools and universities. We know that they are higher-risk situations. That being said, if the majority of people are vaccinated and everyone is wearing a mask and doing what they’re supposed to do […] it really reduces the risk of transmission. On the flip side of that, we have the Delta variant, which is now the dominant strain in Canada, and is much more contagious and infectious than the original Wuhan strain of the virus.”

Dr. Bacon added that part of the issue that we have is that not everyone is vaccinated.

“Relying solely on the masks is trying to say that we’re going to play hockey without a goalie. But we’re still going to try to stop the scoring. That’s not going to be very effective, or as effective as it could be.”


Photographs by Catherine Reynolds


How did athletes feel about returning to gyms?

We caught up with gym members as Quebec fitness centers close again

On March 26, the perseverance of fitness enthusiasts was finally rewarded when gyms were given the green light to reopen in Quebec red zones. A little over a week later, people were already feeling the physical and mental benefits of training before the province announced gyms would close once more to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants on April 8.

We spoke to Brossard residents Sufyan Mirza and Dean Wu about their personal experiences at fitness institutions before the latest provincial announcement. They discussed the scene in their respective gyms and how their training experience changed since they last set foot in a gym.

The Concordian (TC): What gym do you train at right now? 

Sufyan Mirza (SM): Lately, I’ve been going to Bloc Shop, a bouldering centre in Montreal. I’ve been looking forward to getting back to climbing, but so far I’ve only had the chance to go twice.

Dean Wu (DW): Before gyms closed, I trained at World Gym, which is the newest gym in Brossard. I thought that place would be too busy, so for the last week and a half I’ve been going to my old gym, Buzzfit.

TC: How busy has it been? Is it more or less than you imagined?

SM: In terms of climbing, I don’t feel like much has changed. Bloc Shop has a reservation system where they always control the number of people in there. It feels like everyone is glad that the gym is finally open, and since we want to keep it that way, people have been following the rules with little to no complaints.

DW: It’s been pretty busy, but I honestly expected it to be worse. I think it depends on the gym, so I can only speak for Buzzfit. Before the pandemic, most people moved to World Gym, so the previously popular gyms were way less occupied.

TC: Had health protocols in gyms changed in any way? 

SM: Not much has changed because the previous system worked. Everybody comes in with their masks and sanitizes their hands regularly between sets. People try to keep distanced from each other, but sometimes that gets tricky when it’s really crowded.

DW: In general, protocols are similar to before but they’re stricter. They emphasize checking temperature and scanning cards now more than before. Also, masks are always required even when you are working out, which I’m not sure I agree with. From personal experience, I feel like I’m suffocating with the mask when I’m doing a heavy squat or anything that requires all my strength.

TC: How important has it been for you to have gyms back open? 

SM: Climbing has been my way of escaping from the buildup of stress from COVID-19, quarantine, schoolwork, and family drama. Obviously, I want to get back in shape and regrow my finger strength that I lost from the time off, but more than anything I just appreciate being there now more than I did before. I know there are still health risks involved, but I still plan on going regularly because it’s been essential for my mental sanity.

DW: I’m enjoying it a lot. I missed it more than I realized, and it makes me feel more energetic, and time passes faster. Before the pandemic, I used to pretty much just work and workout. Now, at least half of it is back.




Photo by Kit Mergaert


Flara K: Montreal’s couple-turned-pop-powerhouse

Montreal duo Flara K spoke to us about their latest EP and touring in a pandemic

Sam Martel and Collin Steinz’s love story began over a decade ago when they met in a coffee shop. While Sam was working, Collin spilled his coffee order all over the floor and, as they put it, “The rest is history.”

Sam and Collin make up two musically-inclined halves of Flara K. Both of them born and raised in Montreal’s South Shore, their history in making music dates back to when they were just 18-years-old and going on tours with their respective projects at the time.

Now having been married for four years, and together for over 10, they have created Flara K, a duo that brings a variety of cards to the table. The name of their band draws on a variety of inspirations such as Kurt Vonnegut and the place where they got engaged. Between the two of them and their stories, music has always been in the fold. Collin’s swagger on bass sets the tone for Sam’s commanding vocals as they produce soulful music that has funk at heart.

Having debuted as Flara K over the past two years by releasing a handful of singles including “Me and You” and “Offline,” they recently released their debut EP: Anxious, Irrational, Fashionable

The EP comes in at a quick 15-minute runtime and includes features from artists Mike Clay and Milo Gore on the tracks “Devotion” and “Pink & Blue,” respectively. Anxious, Irrational, Fashionable builds from their initial releases both lyrically and sonically as Sam and Collin continue to refine their sound of R&B-infused music.

Most recently, Flara K just wrapped up their Cruiser Conversations tour. At the end of this past September, Sam and Collin embarked on a month-long tour across Canada in Sam’s parents’ RV. The tour was done to raise funds and awareness for the Unison Benevolent Fund, a non-profit that provides emergency relief and mental health services to the Canadian music community, one of many communities that has been negatively affected by the pandemic.

With COVID-19 restrictions varying across the country, the shows were performed in a COVID-safe fashion with the performances and collabs being broadcasted live on the band’s Instagram page.  The tour included stops in a variety of Canadian cities including Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver. With their variety of stops on tour, Flara K was able to collaborate with music communities such as Manitoba Music and BreakOut West.

As 2020 is drawing to a close, the duo is looking forward to what the new year has in store for them and continuing to make music that they love.

We spoke to Sam and Collin about their band and their future plans.

VV: Tell me about Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard, what’s behind your band name?

Collin: We wanted a name for this project that would speak to us, and also be entirely unique so that we could feel comfortable growing and evolving with it. We got Flara from the Florian Gate in Krakow, Poland, where Sam and I got engaged, and the K is in reference to our favourite authors. Franz Kafta used K as the main character for many of his works, and Kurt Vonnegut is probably our favourite author. We settled on the idea of using “K” in the name after re-reading Bluebeard. I don’t want to spoil the book, but near the end the main character reveals this very powerful painting of his experience at the end of World War II and when asked what it was called he replied, “now it’s the women’s turn.”

VV: Your new EP Anxious, Irrational, Fashionable came out last month, what’s one song you think captures your sound the best for new listeners and why?

Sam: Ouu, that’s a tough question. I feel like all of them definitely represent our sound in different ways. I think that it depends on the listener’s mood really. If they’re looking for something upbeat and dancey, I’d probably recommend “If I Can’t Have You” or “Devotion,” but if they’re looking for something more moody I’d say “Pink And Blue.”

VV: As two French-speaking Montrealers would you ever put out music that is lyrically French?

Sam: That’s something we’ve actually done in previous projects we had, and it was definitely interesting to explore. I wouldn’t say we have anything planned at the moment, but if it comes together naturally we’re definitely open to exploring it further.

VV: The Cruiser Conversation Tour raised money for the Unison Benevolent fund, what does that mean to you?

Sam: I think for us it was important that we gave back to our community in some way. We were privileged enough to be able to do this tour because my parents had their RV just sitting in their driveway not being used, and that’s something we will never take for granted. The music industry is already such a difficult place to make consistent money as a musician and now with COVID it kinda feels like it just imploded and everything is a big mess, so this was our way of giving back what we could to help our community in these crazy times.

VV: From idea to finished song, what does your artistic process look like?

Collin: It really depends on the song, but most times I’ll have an idea for a beat or a bass line and then we’ll sit down and put together the basics of the track and then the melodies and lyrics follow.

VV: Will we ever hear Collin leading on the vocals someday?

Collin: Maybe not leading, but I might try some harmonies one day, who knows. It’s just that with vocals like Sam’s, I’d really have to bring my A-game to make it worthwhile.

VV: Now that your Cruiser Conversation Tour has ended, what does the future hold for Flara K?

Sam: This tour really got us inspired so I can say that there will definitely be a lot of new music coming in the new year, and until then we have some really fun stuff coming to kind of wrap up the EP so we’re very excited about that!

Collin: Yeah, after being on the road for almost a month it was like our minds hit a hard reset and we’re excited to continue writing and exploring collabs with the people we met (virtually) on the road. We’re also going to keep the conversation going every Wednesday on Instagram live. It was so fun to connect and chat with other artists and we really want to continue with it.

Feature photos by Philippe Thibault

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