More than just a budget cut

The Quebec government’s decision to abruptly cut the $100 million worth of funding once promised to Dawson College raises questions, especially for what they had planned on doing with the funding

The Coalition Avenir Québec’s (CAQ) sudden change of heart to cancel the Dawson funding project has left many in the English community scratching their heads as to why the once-promised $100 million project to expand the institution is no more.

Over seven years in the making, the long-term project supposedly guaranteed Quebec’s largest English CEGEP funding to expand its medical technology department. According to Dawson’s Communications Coordinator Donna Varrica, the funding would have improved upon the current lack of adequate space to comfortably host all of the CEGEP’s students, all while providing a medical clinic in the area that would serve the community and train their students.

 “Over the past two years, we’ve been hearing about the lack of skilled labour in those areas”, Varrica said when referring to Quebec’s healthcare system. “The fact that it’s overburdened, the fact that there’s a burnout because they’re understaffed, the timing couldn’t have been any worse. Here we were providing a solution for the healthcare system and had the rug pulled from under us,” Varrica said.

Former Dawson alumni, lawyer, and Quebec Community Groups Network secretary Matt Aronson said the sudden budget cut emits “a feeling of betrayal, disappointment and outrage,” among many in the English-speaking community. “The funds that have been previously committed for a shovel-ready project that met the needs of not only the community, but of the healthcare system were being withdrawn so that they can prioritize French institutions.”

The decision makes less sense when put into context. Last November, the CAQ unveiled a new $3.9 billion investment plan to attract 170,000 students interested in enrolling in essential sectors like health and social services. The decision to cut funding seemed entirely propelled by language as Quebec’s Minister of Higher Education Danielle McCann advised Dawson that the decision to scrap the expansion project was based to prioritize francophone institutions and students. 

For many, the swift motion to pull funding from Dawson not only seems like a political chess move with an upcoming election on the horizon but also felt like the government was picking sides, choosing to favour francophones. “There really is no two ways about it, it’s clearly the case that the decision was made entirely arbitrarily because, had Dawson College been a francophone institution, they’d be getting the money,” Aronson said. 

“They have an election coming in October, and in the event that they fulfill their obligations as good government they would allow for the possibility that they would be pillory in some very nationalist French press for doing anything to assist an English-speaking community to thrive.”

 More than a matter of space

 Though all students have experienced the same space issue over the past 20 years, students studying in health programs especially need the extra room for the machines that they operate. “Because our programs are technologically advanced, we had to invest in some big and expensive equipment,” Varrica said. “The entire nurse simulation room is an old closet.” Though Dawson’s students are still getting their education, the infrastructure in which they’re receiving it is too small to accommodate both students and equipment.

 “Even to this day if you walk through our halls, you’ll see a student on the floor with their laptop plugged into a wall socket because that’s the only place where they could sit,” Varrica explained.

 “We’re not looking to get more students; we have a cap of 7900 students and that’s what we’re sticking to. But even at that we’re still short of space,” described Varrica.

Dawson has been trying to find alternatives to comfortably accommodate the ones currently enrolled. Legault and the CAQ have already acknowledged the need of over 11,000 square metres of added space despite Parti Quebecois pushback. The decision to pull back in the final hour raises questions regarding why now the government saw fit to cancel the project, especially when they’ve defended it in the past.

The budgetary decision may affect francophone students enrolled at Dawson, the students the government has intended to protect. Dawson Student Union President Alexandrah Cardona said the students she represents aren’t exclusively anglophone, and the narrative from the government that Dawson is exclusively for English speakers is far from the truth. “In the day-to-day lives of Dawson students, we are francophone, we are anglophone, we are bilingual, we’re allophones, we speak all types of languages and so that’s where the confusion comes from.”

Photo by Kaitlynn Rodney


Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Happening in and around the White Cube this week…


Re: Reclamation and Reconciliation Through Art

In Reclamation and Reconciliation Through Art, students, artists, curators, writers and scholars come together to discuss how injustice, abuse and marginalization are portrayed in art. Saba Heravi, Adrienne R. Johnson and Soukayna Z. will lead a discussion about how their identities and art practices intersect in a “white male-centered field.”

When: Nov. 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: The Yellow Door, 3625 Aylmer St.
Admission is free


Inuit Art in International Perspective

The annual Carol Sprachman Lecture presents Dr. Heather Igloliorte, a curator, scholar and associate professor of art history at Concordia. Following the end of Among All These Tundras, exhibited at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery in Concordia’s LB building, Igloliorte will discuss new developments in the world of Inuit art and examine past Canadian works produced within the circumpolar arctic.

When: Nov. 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium, 1379-A Sherbrooke St. W.
Admission is free


VIBE workshop series: Inclusive Dance

Hosted by the Critical Disability Studies Working Group at Concordia, this workshop is part of the VIBE workshop series, which explores ableism and audism through accessible art practices. Inclusive Dance will feature live music and is concentrated on creative forms of contemporary solo and group dance, listening and connections with music.

When: Nov. 8 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: EV Building, Le Gym Studio C S3.215
Space is limited. RSVP at



Andres Manniste is an artist and teacher at Dawson College. He is heavily inspired by the role of the internet in today’s society, especially how artists use the internet to create works of art. Ensevelir or “to cover up, as in to bury,” is a collection of Manniste’s larger body of work that captures mundane moments in contemporary life. Most of his imagery is reproduced from an old television in his studio, its pixelated quality captured in his pointillist approach to painting.


A place where true expression can happen

Dawson College Peace Centre hosts a month of programming dedicated to LGBTQ+ activism

The Dawson College Peace Centre is a relatively new addition to the CEGEP’s academic and community programs. The centre offers students the opportunity to complete a certificate in peace studies, and also hosts events for the Dawson community that everyone can participate in. This year, Diana Rice, the centre’s director, in collaboration with the Dawson Student Union and the Warren G. Flowers Gallery, organized the month-long series Queer & Peace. For the next few weeks, Dawson will be hosting a series of panels and workshops, all tied to the exhibition of professional and student artwork.

“Having an exhibition allows students to walk through the space, taking in a new perspective while reflecting and interpreting the work in their own way,” Rice said. “I think that, in talking about these kinds of issues, to ignore reconciliation and social change is shortsighted […] Art has always been tied to politics.”

Kent Monkman’s sketches (far right), are accompanied by the work of Dawson College students. Photo by Mackenzie Lad

Rice explained that, over the course of the year, the Dawson Peace Centre organizes events that offer an alternative perspective on a selected theme. The choice to base an exhibition around what it means to be queer enables people to start a dialogue.

“You don’t have to know about gender/identity politics to participate. Art allows you to interact with these ideas without prior knowledge,” Rice said. “Art allows for a unique kind of space where people have the opportunity to express themselves freely without worrying about boundaries, which is so important for the LGBTQ+ community.”

According to Rice, these various conversations are explored in Queer & Peace by juxtaposing the work of students with the work of well-known, professional artists like Kent Monkman, Dayna Danger and Catherine Opie.

The LGBTQ+ community is very diverse—a white trans person will have different experiences than a trans person of colour, for example. Each artist expresses different experiences in their work. Each piece tells a story, demanding attention and acknowledgement of the injustice and inequality the LGBTQ+ community faces on a daily basis.

Monkman and Danger are Canadian artists whose works focus on Indigenous identity. Monkman explores this by including his drag alter-ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, in most of his work, while Danger aims to change the way we see Indigenous women.

Also featured in Queer & Peace is Montreal-based multimedia artist Ben Liu. His work is whimsical, embracing both femininity and international diversity.

A painting by Dawson student Yue Feng Jiang (above) is displayed across from Catherine Opie’s photographs. Photo by Mackenzie Lad

Catherine Opie is an American photographer based in Los Angeles, and is interested in how identities are formed in response to one’s socio-cultural environment. In the exhibition, Opie’s work is displayed directly across from a piece painted by Dawson student Yue Feng Jiang.

According to Rice, one of the biggest problems institutions have is caused by the separation of professional and amateur work. “You can’t have a true conversation and true dialogue if you aren’t willing to break down these barriers,” Rice said. “Even in the art world, we often get caught up in these oppressing structures.”

On Jan. 23, the Peace Centre will be hosting an LGBTQ+ activists panel. The Queer & Peace vernissage is at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 25, and the exhibition will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays until Feb. 8. The coming weeks will also feature intersectional panel discussions, a film screening and a performance by local drag queens. To find out more, check out the Dawson Peace Centre’s event page on Facebook.

Photos by Mackenzie Lad


A Nigerian artist’s perspective of life in Montreal

Emmanuel Ayo Akintade explores vulnerability and femininity through stunning portraiture

Emmanuel Ayo Akintade, with his tall frame and arresting style peppered with vibrant colours like canary yellow, seems imposing at first. Underneath, however, is a genuine, humble and talented artist who just wants his “paintings to do the talking” about a message he holds close to his heart—respect for women.

The recent studio arts graduate from Dawson College has kept busy this past summer. Akintade had his first solo exhibition at Studio 303, where he was grateful to have an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience.

“It was blessed,” Akintade said. “Students from Concordia and McGill invited me to an event promoting young entrepreneurs afterwards. It gave me more experience about what it is to be an artist and someone who creates art that involves an audience.”

Akintade’s oil paintings are unique in that almost all of them feature black women. When asked about his choice of subject, Akintade replied that he would like to paint women of all ethnicities. He said the message he wants to transmit with his paintings is not just in support of black women, but rather all women, young and old alike.

The reason he hasn’t painted a more ethnically-diverse set of women: laziness.

“I call myself the lazy artist because I don’t like blending paint and making colours. I found my technique and I continued using it,” he said.

His reason for using oil paint also relates to his dislike of the preparatory work that must be done before painting. Acrylic paint, for example, dries too quickly for Akintade’s liking and renders the process of preparing paint on a palette much more difficult than it is with oil paint.

Although most of his practice has been focused on portraying women of colour, Akintade said that in the future, he hopes to paint people of all ethnicities. Photo by Mackenzie Lad

Akintade’s inspiration for his paintings stems from the dichotomy between attitudes towards women in Nigeria—where he lived as a young boy—and the attitudes he has witnessed in Montreal as a teenager and young adult.

“Where I come from, ladies are respected,” the artist said. “Here, there’s so much disrespect of the female character. They tend to be judged by what they do. Back home, there was so much respect.”

Akintade, who has been painting for about three years, said he is surprised by how much his art has evolved, and by how much attention and appreciation his paintings receive. He began painting for fun at home and initially never intended for his paintings to be displayed. After his first exhibition this summer, Akintade said he is still quite shocked by how much of a positive response he got.

“The first time I got my art out, people got really involved with the message right away,” he said. “People started talking about [elements in my work] I wasn’t even planning to paint intentionally.”

Though the so-called “artist gene” does not run in his family, Akintade said his parents are very supportive of his work. His mother often helps him advertise his paintings and occasionally purchases some of his artwork.

Akintade is trilingual, speaking French, English and Yoruba, a dialect spoken in Nigeria. He doesn’t always find it easy to express the thought process behind his paintings, especially in English, which is not his mother tongue.

“As an artist, my goal is to let my paintings do all the talking,” he said.

Though he is not one for many words, Akintade did share a bit of the creative process behind his work. He said he noticed that women in Montreal tend not to talk about the hurtful and disrespectful things they experience on a daily basis. They tend to keep these experiences to themselves, he said.

“That’s why in my paintings they seem so quiet,” Akintade said. “They have their eyes closed. They’re not engaging with their surroundings. They’re just in themselves. The idea is that through their quietness, they are speaking.”

The blossoming artist has a new project in mind for the future. He wants to paint a series of male portraits. He said he feels men are often put into a box and are constantly labeled based on their appearance.

“The new project is about guys,” Akintade said. “I don’t like this idea of labelling guys [by the] way they dress. They should be free.”

Photo by Mackenzie Lad


A comedy that will leave you thinking

Press photo for You Can’t Take It With You

Despite the fact that You Can’t Take It With You is set in 1936, the production put together by this batch of third year students from Dawson’s theatre program still manages to strike a very modern chord with its audience.

The play, which was written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart and won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama at the time of its release, revolves around the story of Ms. Alice Sycamore’s amorous endeavors. When the play starts out, Alice is being called upon by a fine gentleman, Mr. Anthony Kirby, the vice-president of the prestigious firm where she is currently working. Despite being overjoyed by this prospect, Alice can’t help but voice one major concern: how will her beau, whose family affairs have everything to do with Wall Street, contend with the likes of her family’s eccentricity.

The Sycamores of Manhattan are, to say the least, unconventional for their time and the audience will know it right off the bat. A fascination for fireworks, an outspoken playwright, a forlorn dancer: this eccentric family is a puzzle of characters with each one more comical than the next. The Kirbys are parodied as bland, conservative characters which serve the purpose of reminding us of the need for passion in our everyday lives.

A series of unfortunate events has the Kirbys showing up early for dinner and things are thrown, quite literally, into chaos. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.

The play presents audiences with themes and questions which are still very relevant today: What do we prioritize looking to the future? Do we opt for the job that will make us happy, or simply the one that will most likely bring us success?

The cast of the play is made up of young talented actors, lead by Julia Borsellino in the role of Alice. Zachary Guttman also deserves a particular shout-out, playing the vastly entertaining patriarch of the Sycamore clan.

The costumes were well-done in that they helped make the remarkably young crowd of actors seem quite a few decades older than they actually are. This is a considerable challenge considering that half of the characters range from 50 years and older. The choice of music, a jazzy, swing-like soundtrack that lingers in the background, also helped create a dreamy atmosphere.

There was an unmistakable enthusiasm present throughout the production. Cheers to a production that leaves spectators with both food for thought and a heartwarming sense of being at home.

You Can’t Take It With You runs Jan. 31 – 12:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.



‘We stand by our decision’: Dawson College

Image via Flickr

Dawson College is under scrutiny over the expulsion of a 20-year-old computer science student following his discovery of a defect in a province-wide computer software system used by the school and by most Quebec CÉGEPs.

In an article published Jan. 21 by The National Post, it was reported that the student, Ahmed Al-Khabaz, informed Dawson administration in September that the software system Omnivox was dangerous when it comes to the personal security of students. Al-Khabaz claims he found it by accident while working on a mobile application for students to be able to access their college accounts more easily.

After informing the school’s director of Information Services and Technology, François Paradis, about the problem, Al-Khabaz attended a meeting on Oct. 24 where he was congratulated along with colleague Ovidiu Mija, for their work. Paradis said that he and Skytech, the makers of Omnivox, would fix the problem immediately.

Two days later, Al-Khabaz ran a software program called Acunetix, made to test websites for their weaknesses, to verify that the issues he had discovered were fixed. The phone rang moments later. It was Edouard Taza the president of Skytech.

“The first thing I was thinking when they called was that I […] was doing something right, since I found a vulnerability in their website,” Al-Khabaz told The Concordian. “But the moment he called my home, he told me something very shocking.”

Dawson College’s administration proceeded to expel him for his actions.

“We stand by our decision,” said Donna Varrica, the college’s communications co-ordinator.

Varrica explained that Al-Khabaz demonstrated a “complete violation of code of conduct” and that this was a case beyond the administration’s control. Varrica explained that the institution cannot legally discuss the case.

There is currently a petition being circulated across social media outlets titled “Hamed Helped” which advocates that Al-Khabaz be reinstated as a Dawson student. As of press time, close to 4,000 people have signed the petition.

“The petition is awesome and I’m happy, but the message wasn’t just about me going back to college, but to let people know what’s going on with our systems,” Al-Khabaz said. “Companies like Skytech should be more secure.”

The letter Al-Khabaz received from administration explaining his expulsion was released online by CBC Monday. The letter states that “following a thorough analysis of the serious professional conduct issue,” Al-Khabaz was expelled based on several factors, including attempting to gain access to the college and external information systems — a clear violation of Dawson’s IT policy.

However, at the end of the letter, it states that Al-Khabaz has the right to appeal to the academic dean within 10 working days, but when he appealed to both the academic dean and the director-general, both denied his request.

Ethan Cox, the journalist who wrote the story for The National Post explained that the issue lies in whether or not the expulsion “fits the crime.”

In a non-disclosure agreement Al-Khabaz agreed to sign in order to avoid charges from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and potentially facing six to 12 months jail time, he was prohibited from discussing confidential or proprietary information he found on Skytech servers or any information relating to it.

“I was really scared, I thought the best thing to do was just to obey,” Al-Khabaz said. “I think after all the events, they completely misunderstood my intentions.”

The agreement also prevented him from discussing the existence of the non-disclosure itself, which kept him from explaining his side of the story when the computer science program voted in a 14-1 vote to have him expelled.

“I didn’t think Dawson would do that. When I signed the disclosure, I told [Taza,] since we collaborated, ‘how about you tell Dawson to calm down, since we’re collaborating and no harm is done’,” Al-Khabaz said. “He told me he would do it, but [I] had no confirmation that he actually did.”

Moments before the interview with Al-Khabaz Monday night, he confirmed that Skytech sent out a press release stating that they were willing to put Al-Khabaz in a private CÉGEP and give him a part-time job at Skytech. There was also a formal apology included within it.

Exit mobile version