Features News

A space for cultural nomads

The Concordia Canadian Asian Society is a home in-between cultures.

Concordia University counts a little over 35,000 undergraduate students, a number that can make even the most sociable feel lost. The Concordia Canadian Asian Society (CCAS) immerses students in a multicultural hub through various Asian traditions that bring comfort and remind many students of home.

The club comprises over 30 executives and has over 3000 members on their Facebook group. They host around five events a semester, but hold daily office hours, and meet up regularly. The club enlivens students’ semesters with different events, like the Lunar New Year, bake sales, Halloween gatherings, and opens their event to anyone interested.  “We had a lot of people who come out to support who are not necessarily Asian and are just interested in learning,” said Anthony Lum, the club’s senior advisor.

The club values any form of cultural exchange and encourages non-Asian people to appreciate and learn about aspects of Asian culture. However, on recent occasions, members felt an urgent need to reinforce the safe environment they promised their members.   

While this engagement from open-minded students is an excellent support system for the CCAS, it has also been a source of concern for the members. Lum refers to instances when individuals attending club events made people uncomfortable. He recalled a Halloween event hosted by the club, where certain attendees behaved inappropriately. “It turns more into appropriation versus appreciation,” Lum said. 

Discomfort arose when unwanted romantic advances were persistently made toward club members. “People were trying to talk to and get girls’ numbers, to the point that it made many of our members express discomfort. They are not trying to talk to everyone; they are specifically aiming for Asians,” Lum said.

Lum explained how they’ve encountered instances involving “creepier, older, non-Asian individuals who aren’t necessarily students, trying to attend our events.”

These negative interactions have pushed the CCAS to take safety precautions in organizing events that are open to the public by increasing security, designating safe rooms and monitoring their events attentively. 

Worried, the society is adamant about protecting their space, as it provides a crucial space for those feeling lost between cultures to express themselves and find community. The club remains committed to safeguarding a place many call home.

The yearning for a place to call home is more complex than the nostalgia of a location, as most CCAS members were raised in the province and have never left their place of birth. “Many of us feel the sentiment that if you’re born here and you are the visible minority, we feel like we don’t fully belong here,” Lum said.

Lum himself feels like he stands out. “Around the West Island, I was the only Asian in the area. And then I go to Asia and visit where my family is from. I still don’t belong because I’m Canadian. I don’t speak the language; I’m not from there,” Lum said. 

Lum encounters challenges in fully understanding both cultures and recognizing the existence of a middle ground where individuals like him can develop a sense of belonging. This feeling has influenced his involvement with CCAS, as the club strives to reconcile the feeling of cultural disconnect.

“A significant number of our members are from international locations outside of Canada or Quebec,” said William Tan, CCAS co-president. Many have expressed how the club creates a space where they can forge connections with anyone who shares their interests, regardless of nationality.

This feeling is shared by member Yanh Lee, the CCAS’s photographer and videographer. 

“I grew up here in Montreal. I never really learned Vietnamese; I had to self-learn it. People that are native to my own origins tend to make fun of how I speak in my own dialect,” Lee said. 

Lee explained that the CCAS goes beyond language barriers and allows him to feel comfortable with the shared experiences of the group. The connection he shares with fellow members goes beyond shared cultural backgrounds; he feels seen as an individual, allowing for deeper conversations and relationships. 

“CCAS embraces me and understands who I am as a person,” he said. He has found that the connection the society offers has given him a place to be truly creative.

Often understood as a homogeneous entity, the diversity of Asian traditions, languages, and customs creates many opportunities for cultural exchange among the society’s members. CCAS embodies the common value of sharing collective experiences brought by each unique culture within the Asian diaspora. 

The CCAS embodies an exploration of the ways differences in Asian cultures contribute to feelings of comfort among members. “The way you make dumplings across Asian cultures is slightly different, but also slightly the same,” Lum noted during a recent dumpling-making event. The event was a series of exchanges that compared techniques and preferences when making dumplings, revealing the differences in each culture. 

“It’s really cool to see the differences through the things that we have in common,” he said, capturing the essence of CCAS’s fundamental goal to facilitate exchanges within the diversity of Asian cultures in a safe and united environment.


Concordia students are evolving religious perspectives

Concordia’s Multi-Faith Fair hosted an event for students to learn more about different religious groups on campus.

For Concordia student Chresley Bazel, practicing Christianity made all the difference in helping him stay motivated and maintain self-esteem during his struggles with his studies.

“School was kind of hard [for me], so I had to find faith toward my goal,” said Bazel. “Having faith in God and his plan really helped me finding motivation.”

Concordia University’s Multi-Faith Fair brought together approximately 50 students on Feb. 8 who were eager to learn about faith and community. The event gave students the opportunity to connect with others and contribute to a more understanding and inclusive environment.

The fair featured a variety of activity stations, including a spiritual tic-tac-toe, as well as tables where students could speak with representatives from various religious organizations, including the Sikh Student Association and the Thaqalayn Muslim Association.

“I think this kind of event is really significant and important, especially for students to know that we, as different religions, represent this diversity that Concordia has,” said Mohamad Abdallah, a 22-year-old Concordia student and a member of the Thaqalayn Muslim Association.

A 2024 Gitnux report on religious trends among Gen Z observed that this generation of students is changing the perspective on religion, making them the most ethnically and religiously diverse generation. 

Based on their findings, increased acceptance and understanding of various faiths and beliefs distinguish this generation from previous generations. This creates an approach of openness to the beliefs of others and encourages spiritual exploration and education.

Khelifi Samy, a Concordia student who also attended the fair, said that the younger generation can improve acceptance and understanding of others regardless of their differences through communication, allowing for more diverse perspectives on life and religion. Samy said that events like these allow him to connect, discuss, and learn from others in the community.

“I think on my own part because of […] events here I’m able to connect with many other people and to understand their point of view, and have discussions open to each other. ‘What do you think of this?’ ‘What do you think of different and various topics?,’’ said Samy.

Abdallah has his own perspective on generational differences in religion, pointing out that older generations tend to be more conservative while younger generations lean towards more liberal beliefs.

“I think the younger generation emphasizes more on unorthodox stuff, like untraditional stuff in religion, and maybe they want to liberalize and reform religion in some way […] which is not wrong, but older generations are more focused on conserving values and traditions, and I think we should have something in between,” said Abdallah.

Springtide Research Institute, a non-profit American organization that studies generational trends, calls this new approach to religious and spiritual practice “Faith Unbundled.” This means that younger generations are starting to follow multiple beliefs and practices that they prefer without formal commitment, overall changing the traditional approach to these practices.

With each generation, the perception of religion changes, often with a greater emphasis on spiritual exploration and diversity. As younger generations become more open-minded, their approach to religion reflects a desire to reinterpret and reform traditional values, bridging the gap between preserving traditions and embracing modern perspectives.


Students in protest: Blue Falls protest takes to the streets of Montreal

University students from across Quebec gather in protest against the doubling of tuition for out-of-province students.

Hundreds of Quebec university students took to the streets of Montreal last week to protest against the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ)  tuition increases for out-of-province and international students studying in anglophone universities.

Tuition at Quebec’s English universities for Canadian students outside of Quebec will almost double from $9,000 to $17,000 dollars starting in September 2024. The CAQ also raised the minimum tuition for international students outside of France or Belgium to $20,000. The proposed framework came as a surprise to everyone especially the English universities administration as they were not consulted. 

This will not apply to currently enrolled students, who will be able to finish their enrolled degrees at their current tuition rate, but if they make changes to your degree, they might not be grandfathered into their current rate. If they take longer than a five-year period to complete their degree, like many students enrolled part-time, their tuition will increase.

The protest started at Dorchester square and traveled past Concordia’s Hall building, ending at the Rodrick gates in front of McGill, where speakers of various backgrounds addressed the crowd across the street from Premier Francois Legault’s office.

Concordia University English professor Nathan Brown was one of the speakers. Brown approved of the protest in an open letter saying that this is an opportunity for students, faculty, staff and administration to resist together against the egregious policies of the provincial government. 

The protest organisers Noah Sparrow and Alex O’Neill, an out-of-province student from McGill, and other Concordia professors displeased with the provincial government’s actions against English higher education in Quebec also gave speeches.

The protest organisers, McGill political science student Alex O’Neill and Concordia creative writing student Noah Sparrow, put the event together in 12 days.

“We are trying to maintain access to education and we’re trying to preserve Montreal’s diverse student body and culture,” Sparrow said.

“An attack on one is an attack on all in regards to that,” O’Neill added. “We’ve received support from the unions at UQAM, Concordia and McGill, and we are working together to make sure that the student body is enfranchised.” 

Graham Carr, the president of Concordia University, said in an internal message to Concordia University community that the tuition hikes for out-of-province and international students will cost Concordia around $62 million. This number makes up around 10 per cent of the school budget. He also stated to the Canadian Press that this new measure could potentially cut out-of-province enrollment by 90 per cent.

Many non-student anglophone Montrealers were in attendance, along with several other professors and members of Parliament, denouncing the new tuition framework. They urged Quebecers to sign the petition that would force the issue to be debated in Quebec parliament.  Despite the backlash, the CAQ has yet to make a comment on the changes. On Oct. 25, the five French language universities in the province wrote an open letter that was published in La Presse to denounce the government’s actions against Quebec’s English universities.


Concordia offers gender-affirming Care Services to Students

Discover how Concordia is diversifying services and healthcare for every student

Concordia offers several gender-affirming care services for students who need it. Now, the university is expanding their different services, making it more accessible to every student. 

On Sept. 1, Studentcare, the insurance offered to students through the Concordia Student Union (CSU), added gender-affirming care to their list of services. Students born in Canada are automatically eligible to access Studentcare’s services, whereas part-time and international students must opt-in to the insurance. 

Hannah Jackson is the External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator at the CSU. She has been working on this project to allow every student the coverage they need for procedures such as laser/electrolysis removal, vocal surgery, chest-contouring/chest masculinization and more that can be accessed through their gender-affirming care page

The insurance covers surgical procedures that aren’t covered by other provinces, which is something students hopefully will take advantage of. 

“I’m hoping that people find out that [the service] is happening, because a lot of people—a lot of trans people—are heavily discriminated against in professional workplaces, and for that reason, trans-affirming insurance coverage is very rare in company insurance plans,” Jackson explained.

Jackson clarifies that gender-affirming care is more than adding or removing breasts and genitalia. She believes that hair removal will be a service in high demand, since people are strongly affected by facial dysphoria. Jackson wants every person who accesses these services to feel safe in their body. 

“We have to be careful thinking about what we think is the order that people are going to want to get things done,” Jackson said. “We also have to be realistic about students and understand that many students are quite young. This is an age where people are often just figuring out their identities.” 

Jessica Winton is one of the event planners at Queer Concordia. She went through her transition using resources outside of the university. While she didn’t use gender-affirming care, it did take a lot of work for her to learn to deal with her gender dysphoria. Hence the resources. She was finally able to look at herself in the mirror after her transition. She couldn’t help but admire and be proud of who she is.

“I have been waiting to feel happy about looking at myself for so long that once it finally clicked, it’s really nice. Just feeling that was like a big relief,” Winton said.

There are resources available to students through organizations and health services on campus, each of them dedicated to everyone’s needs. 

The Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) is an independant, student-funded organization that promotes gender equality and empowerment, especially in marginalized communities. The centre offers peer support, drop-in and mental health wellness programming, gender-affirming gear, legal name change services, while also encouraging bodily sovereignty, self-love and confidence. 

Gender-affirming gear available through the CGA are trans tape, breast forms, binders—compressions for the chest to flatten the upper body—and more.

Jordyn River is the CGA’s Administrative Coordinator. They want to make the CGA as accessible to students as possible. If a student cannot afford to purchase something, it doesn’t matter—everyone deserves to be taken care of, according to River.

“No one is turned away for lack of funds,” River said “That’s the beautiful thing about being able to be supported as a fee levy by students. We are able to provide all kinds of materials and resources to the entire student community.”

Political handlings of trans rights is still an issue, where the government is placing restrictions on trans rights, preventing them from receiving the support they need. River said that the fight is not over, as trans rights are still juggled around by politicians. “We’re fighting not for existence, but for joy,” River said. 

Mischa Dempsey is a part-time student in Interdisciplinary Sexuality Studies, who accessed Concordia Health Services to see a doctor about birth control, and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). They have been following up with their doctor since Nov. 2021 and continue to have a positive experience with them. 

“She’s been making sure that I know I’m in control of making choices and that she’s just there to support me and give me the information and make sure that I’m healthy,” Dempsey said.

Alongside River, Dempsey believes that this is a turning point for trans rights, where the government and society must understand that surface-level support is not enough. 

“It’s not enough to just passively support by not being against [trans rights]. I think it is really important to be explicit and to let students know they can be cared for and they deserve to be cared for,” Dempsey said. 

The CSU is organizing a gender health hub at the end of October. Be sure to visit their website and Instagram for further details on the event, which will be announced soon. The CGA also welcomes all students to take advantage of their services for the new school year.

Concordia Student Union News

CSU Election Ballot to Include Question on Diversity

During the general elections, Concordians will choose whether to open a service centre for BIPOC students

From Nov. 16 to 18, students will vote on whether to open a diversity office in the CSU Elections.

This office will advocate for marginalized students and staff. It will also advocate for the inclusion of these students in the CSU. The point is to make the CSU hospitable for students with disabilities, who are a part of the BIPOC or 2SLGBTQA+ communities, or who are migrants/refugees.

A diversity office, which will operate independently from the CSU, will promote inclusivity regardless of the elected council. To fund the office, the union will ask each undergraduate student to pay $0.20 per credit in their student association fees each semester, starting winter 2022.

The BIPOC Committee’s executive team came-up with this idea. This committee hosts fundraisers and events that support local charities. They also offer grants to BIPOC students who start and run clubs or initiatives.

Committee chairs Camina Harrison-Chéry, Shivaane Subash, and Faye Sun believe BIPOC students must overcome barriers at Concordia.

To counter these problems, the diversity office will encourage students to speak their minds,  find community, and offer resources such as “mental health support, student advocacy, and other resources that are often not accessible to them given their identity and circumstances,” according to Sun.

“[Students of marginalized identities] don’t often see the point in reporting or talking about their experiences because they know that the people who read [their complaints] are also a part of the problem.”

In 2019, the CSU surveyed 1023 students about their on-campus experiences. The survey revealed a discrimination problem at Concordia, where nine per cent of students felt discriminated against by professors, staff, or peers. Also, 12 per cent of students witnessed another student who experienced discrimination at Concordia. According to the survey, discrimination includes harmful jokes, unwanted physical contact, hateful remarks, and the display of hateful messages or images. 

More recently, a report revealed that Concordia students and staff filed 20 official complaints about instances of racist discrimination during the 2019-2020 school year.

Harrison-Chéry believes the diversity office can improve the experience of BIPOC students.

“Our motion responds to years of recurring systemic issues,” said Harrison-Chéry. “So, there is a clear need for this service.”

The diversity office will comprise of an equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) advisor, who is currently being onboarded. Community directors will also be hired if the fee-levy passes in the coming weeks.

“Black and Indigenous peoples have a very specific history of being enslaved or genocided on this land,” said Subash. So, the CSU wants to put more energy into those groups. Once they see what these community directors are able to accomplish, they will create community advisor positions for other minority groups on campus.

The EDI Advisor will ensure that the CSU adheres to inclusive policies. The advisor will also recommend ways to improve diversity within the CSU which will help to foster a more welcoming environment for marginalized students. The selected advisor is Sandra Mouafo, who also works with Concordia’s Anti-Racist Pedagogy Project.

Subash said that marginalized council members often feel undervalued. These council members are compelled to address BIPOC issues on top of their studies and regular councillor work. According to Sun, these members, “are forced into situations where they have to experience discrimination.”

“It can feel like you’re being stretched in a thousand different directions with everyday microaggression and the institution itself being unsafe,” said Subash.

Harrison-Chéry believes that the CSU can only function if it welcomes diversity.

“It’s about promoting effective leadership. If we do not address the problems in our institution then we cannot help students. So, we need to improve our governing culture and policies,” she said.

“Diversity work often gets offloaded onto the few BIPOC employees in a work space. […] I think it’s unfair to have a small group of people do this work,” said Sun.

According to Sun, diversity work is emotionally laborious, especially for those who are marginalized. “So, having many people doing this kind of work together spreads out the workload and it’s more fair,” she said.

Meanwhile, the community directors at the office will focus on student issues. They will help BIPOC students embrace leadership opportunities. They will also work to foster a community where students feel at ease.


Photograph by Hannah Sabourin

Student Life

It’s a sign of the times: how Canadian universities struggle to adapt to changing times

Universities aren’t keeping up with evolving technologies and calls for diversity

Following my graduation from high school, I was very vocal about how the education I received was too workplace-driven, with a small proportion of material geared towards self-improvement and general culture. I felt that the growing societal awareness of our lack of diversity had fallen on my school administration’s deaf ears.

But in the few months preceding my graduation from Concordia, I’m noticing quite the opposite effect. I find that a divide has been growing between the university’s disconnected attempts at promoting diversity and better inclusion, and its ability to properly prepare us for post-graduation life in a rapidly evolving world.

A friend of mine who studies Design at Concordia recently told me about her frustration with the disconnect between the program’s advocacy for a more diverse design industry and its lack of professors of colour. In many of her classes, she also felt the expectations for her work weren’t on par with the demands of the design market, and that it would be difficult to compete in the arts scene with the portfolio she was building through class assignments.

It seems to be a pattern, from hearing other people’s experiences in the arts programs at this school, that the training it provides focuses on a dissociated idea of the knowledge we will need once we enter the job market.

In my three years studying Journalism, some of the most important topics — how to find work as a freelancer, or writing an invoice, for example — have been presented to us under the form of optional extracurricular talks to leave space for mandatory courses about the basics of photography and writing local crime stories. Furthermore, despite being promised a course on Indigenous reporting since our first semester in Journalism, it still hasn’t been offered three years later.

Throughout the past year, many of my peers have anecdotally told me about their struggles with keeping up with the department’s expectations because we’ve never learned to produce quality content without using expensive softwares and equipment or $2,000 iMacs. In fact, using an iPhone camera was grounds for docking marks in pretty much every photography class we had to take; our professors preferring we borrowed the 2008 DSLRs provided by the school.

Don’t get me wrong, I cherish a lot of the information I took away from my time in both programs I’m enrolled in. But the truth is, Concordia, just like many other Canadian universities, falls short when it comes to adapting fast enough to rapidly changing times.

In 2015, McGill’s School of Medicine was put on probation for, in part, failing to provide their students with proper instruction on women’s health and domestic violence issues. This was despite the fact that there were calls to bring the curriculum up to date with the status of social issues in Canada for years prior to the decision. Yet, even after the faculty went off probation in 2017, many reported an ongoing lack of diversity within the program.

Last semester, Concordia Film Production students wrote a statement demanding their department to address the lack of diversity, and to be held accountable for their responsibility to raise the voices of underrepresented groups.

And just this week, the students at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism issued a public letter calling out its failure to “represent and support its students who identify as Black, Indigenous, people of colour (BIPOC) and LGBTQ2IA+,” a letter which led to the resignations of the chair and associate chair of the program, Janice Neil and Lisa Taylor.

It’s not a coincidence, it’s a pattern. Canadian universities aren’t equipped to adapt their teaching to the needs of the modern world, just like they aren’t prepared to make the structural changes required by society’s increased sensibility to diversity and social issues.

It’s unbecoming of our schools, which we so often brag about being among the best in the country, to forget about currency and adaptability as part of their commitment to high quality education. Being unable to compete in a technology-reliant, socially aware society isn’t what we thought we were paying tuition for.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab


There’s an elephant in the newsroom, and here’s what we can do about it

Canadian Media has a problem with the representation of minority groups

According to Brent Cunningham in Re-thinking Objectivity, “[the] understanding of ‘the other’ has always been – and will always be – a central challenge of journalism.”

The media in Canada at large creates a world of reductive, selective or idealized images of “the other” that misrepresent them by using the experiences of a few people and allowing them to speak for a whole group.

Also, the rhetoric used in Canadian media often makes distinctions between majority and minority groups by establishing a sense of ‘us and them,’ which makes minority groups largely invisible and communicates the message that they are not full participants in Canadian society.

While newsrooms need to invest more time and effort in digging deeper and understanding these minority groups’ issues, most media producers are doing the opposite: content production  choices are mainly made by journalists who come from the same majority-group of the Canadian population. At the same time, most media producers rarely make the effort to change  their hiring processes or news story choices. And the outcomes of this state of denial are  catastrophic.

Hal Niedzvieki wrote in his controversial The cultural appropriation prize editorial – where he denied that cultural appropriation exists – that writers need to break the ‘write what you know rule’ by writing about people who live beyond their own worlds.

While I appreciate Niedzvieki’s creative endeavour to represent other worlds that exist alongside that of white middle class people, I think Indigenous and racialized writers have more competent authority by way of their lived experiences to write about their own culture and community.

Across television and radio platforms in Quebec, experiences of marginalized communities are whittled down not even to trauma or fables of defying the odds, but rather worse, to delusional thinking. “What systemic racism?” cried La Joute’s hosts Luc Lavoie, Paul Larocque and Bernard Drainville as a comment on the Quebec government’s final release of a consultation about systemic racism in September. The rhetorical question makes light of what members of minority groups go through in Quebec and treats it as something that has never existed.

What adds insult to injury is the fact that Canadian media is anything but diverse. A 2010 survey by the Ryerson DiverseCity Counts project found that members of visible minority groups were vastly underrepresented in newsrooms, where they held only 3.2% of decision-making positions in print media in Toronto.

In 2016, a survey by Canadaland showed that 90% of CBC’s staff were white. Another questionnaire was conducted by CBC/Radio-Canada in April 2018. It collected race and identity based data from its employees who participated voluntarily. The questionnaire showed that 15.4% of CBC staff were from visible minorities, only one percent more than the year before.

There is a tendency to not be open about sharing race-based demographics of the people working in these newsrooms.  Another Ryerson study analyzed over twenty years of columns in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and the National Post to gather data about the demographics of all journalists who worked there.

It was quite a challenge to get this information – newsroom management in Canada admitted that they do not collect race-based data on newsroom staff. Likewise, mainstream Canadian media outlets often refrain from responding to surveys of the same nature, and hardly react to any calls to action.

Without this data, how can we approach who is telling these stories? Getting a clearer picture in this regard can go a long way in solving this dilemma.

In his Re-thinking Objectivity, Cunningham also comments on how reporters tend to lean more on “existing narratives because they are safe and easy.” This is where the danger lies.

In her Ted Talk The Danger of a Single Story, Nigerian storyteller Chimamanda Ngozi said “show a people as one thing over and over again, and that is what they become.”

Hence, relying on existing popular media narratives about minority groups will take us back to square one: inferiorizing and excluding  “the other,” simply because they are consistently told  through the lens of a detached, misinformed narrator.

And then we find ourselves entangled in a vicious circle: first the media others its minority citizens by sticking with one representation of them; next, the idea becomes a culture; then, hiring practices start to embrace that culture; after that, newsrooms lacking in diversity  tell the same “us versus them” single stories. And so on.

Overlooking the importance of a diverse Canadian media reveals a troubling double standard, and a gap between what it preaches and what it practices.

A big part of solving a problem lies in acknowledging that there is one.

Newsrooms are still refusing  to take part in surveys that investigate media diversity: mainstream newspapers are not reacting to calls for action such as the one raised by the Canadian Journalists of Colour (CJC), white talk show hosts are discussing systemic racism without seeing the need to invite a racialized guest and many white writers still find themselves entitled to rob the voices of others in pursuit of creative genius and literary recognition.

Sadly, more journalists of color are just leaving the newsroom and the whole industry behind, as in the case of Sunny Dhillon, a Globe and Mail reporter who quit because of a disagreement about a story that involved race.

Activists have already done the research and the data is revealed: there is a problem, and it should no longer be overlooked. The gap between the theories of journalism and the practices of newsrooms should not exist.

We clearly need more interactive multi-dimensional reporting methods and less one-way flow reports told by certain gatekeepers or power structures.

Change needs to be top-down: news managers, producers and leaders should take action. Newsrooms should self-report diversity statistics on a regular basis in the interest of transparency and equal opportunity employment. Representation needs to be increased in Canadian media, with more training and mentoring for novice journalists. 

In a nutshell, the work of diversity and inclusion in Canadian media should start from its newsrooms. 


Graphic by @sundaeghost


How a young Montrealer is fighting toxic masculinity and sexism at school

Colin Renaud wore a skirt to school to protest against “sexist dress code”

Don’t be surprised if you saw high school boys in skirts Tuesday. It was part of a student movement led by Colin Renaud, after his own experience of wearing a skirt to school went viral on Instagram last week.

Renaud, a 15-year-old Villa Maria High School student, wore a skirt to school last week as a protest against their sexist dress code and the hyper-sexualization of women.

“I got a lot of negative comments, just not to my face,” Renaud, who recently started grade 10 and is a member of the student council, told The Concordian. “One of my first projects with the student committee was to make our school uniform unisex,” said Renaud.

His first project was a successful one, as Villa Maria implemented the unisex dress code a couple of years ago, allowing every student to wear whichever pieces of the student uniform they prefer. At least, that is what Renaud thought when he decided to put the new rule to the test by showing up to his class in a skirt.

“I thought that it would be easy, that my school had already approved a rule implying a unisex dress code, but it was the opposite.”

As Renaud walked to his class, he was followed by a school staff member and, during his second period, was summoned to the school secretary’s office, escorted by two faculty members.

What followed still shocks Renaud today.

“They said a lot of degrading comments about me,” said Renaud. What the school administration reprimanded Renaud for doing included wearing a skirt, wearing nail polish and not being a good model for younger students.

Renaud finds it disappointing that his school, which promotes itself as very inclusive, would have such a bad reaction to his choice of attire.

“Diversity is one of their fundamental values,” said Renaud.

He is happy to say, however, that the following day, he had another discussion with the administration, and that they seemed open and ready to hear what the students had to say.

Renaud said the fight is not over as the students’ association has been trying for three years to abolish another dress code rule: mandatory knee-high socks that girls have to wear in combination with their skirt.

“When I wore the skirt, I did not get reprimanded for not wearing knee-high socks but all the girls around me did,” explained Renaud. According to him and his classmates, this account of events shows the sexist nature of this rule.

Renaud is hopeful, however, that his actions will have the impact necessary to make a difference as he compares his situation to other students who imitated him at different institutions.

“There are certain schools that did worse, they sent the boys back home, telling them they can either wear pants or stay home,” said Renaud.

Seeing the movement move across the province in different schools makes him proud, but also uncomfortable.

“At the beginning I was happy … but I felt that it wasn’t my place to be the face of this movement,” said Renaud.

“I like getting feedback, whether it be positive or negative,” said Renaud as he recalled getting a lot of messages from disappointed women. “They believe it is sad that a movement like this one started getting media attention when boys were involved, which I totally understand,” said Renaud.

He prefers to see himself as an ally to the feminist movement, saying, “That’s something I want to change because I don’t want to be at the center of it all, I want to educate people so that we can live in a just place but I don’t want to steal the attention and have the spotlight on me.”

Renaud did just that when he created the movement Le Cercle Mauve, which has the objective to fight against the hypersexualization of women, toxic masculinity and sexism in school dress codes. He is hoping the movement will be a catalyst in changing how students of all genders feel about their school uniform.

“I am still waiting for excuses from the administration,” said Renaud, although he feels the administration owes an apology to all students.

“I’m not attached to that skirt, it is not a skirt I want to wear every day, but if a boy would want to wear it every day, he should not have to go through the experience I went through in order to feel more comfortable at school.”


University removes deadline for community feedback on their Equity, Diversity and Inclusion plan after pushback from the CSU

The CSU criticized the university’s limited deadline and consultation process with student associations

Concordia University removed the due date for community feedback on their Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) plan after a Concordia Student Union (CSU) press release deplored the university’s limited time span for outsider input.

The EDI plan is a three-phase process that is aimed at implementing equitable hiring practices, increasing diversity, and fostering an inclusive environment on campus.

Phase two of the EDI plan ran from Sept. 2019 to Oct. 2020, culminating in a 32-page report recommending how the plan should be implemented. The report was published by the EDI Working Group, a group mostly consisting of Concordia staff members.

The Working Group released the report for community input on Sept. 10, as part of the last step in phase two before proceeding to the third phase in November.

Initially the university gave a 10-day limit for community input on the recommendations made by the Working Group. This was planned to run from Sept. 10 to 20, which the CSU called an “exclusionary and flawed process.”

“There has been little publicity on this important process,” read the release, published on Sept. 16.

According to Concordia University spokesperson Vannina Maestracci, the deadline was removed around Sept. 17.

Following the press release, the CSU met with Lisa Ostiguy, Chair of the Advisory Group on EDI and Special Advisor to the Provost on Campus Life.

Ostiguy said the intention behind the limited deadline was not to limit feedback, but had to do with the pre-set due date of the EDI’s plan, which is next month.

She said she heard the CSU’s concerns with the EDI plan and process during their meeting together. She said, “we would continue to welcome any feedback, and if the Working Group finalizes their work, it doesn’t mean that the feedback would be lost.”

Any input on the EDI made after the report is complete would be passed along to the third-phase steering committee.

Ostiguy said the university did include student associations’ input throughout the EDI process.

During the second phase, over 40 student groups were contacted by the Working Group and invited to a three-step consultation process in August, which included a video-call information session, a questionnaire, and small group consultation sessions from Aug. 13 to 26.

She also mentioned that Kajol Pasha, a CSU student representative, was a part of the EDI phase one’s Advisory Group and phase two’s Working Group. Both groups had other students in the members list as well.

But according to the CSU and the CSU Legal Information Clinic, more needed to be done to include feedback from student associations.

General Coordinator of the CSU Isaiah Joyner told The Concordian he felt it was problematic that the CSU and other student associations were not heavily involved in the consultation process for the EDI plan.

Joyner said the Working Group did not reach out in a substantial way to centres like the CSU Student Advocacy Centre and the Legal Information Clinic, which “deal with these issues [of racism and discrimination] on the front lines.”

Walter Chi-yan Tom, manager at the Legal Information Clinic, said he is a “frontline worker” in helping students and faculty with issues relating to racism and discrimination.

Tom told The Concordian that the majority of the discrimination complaints he deals with are made by university employees on issues they face in the university workplace.

“Thousands of files we have gone through over the past ten years, they don’t even see that we are important enough to be interviewed as a stakeholder?”

The Legal Information Clinic was not included in the list of 40 student groups that were invited to the three-step consultation process in August.

He says throughout the entire EDI process there was minimal contact to get his input, or for any student associations’ input, compared to the input faculty had on the plan.

Last year’s Advisory Group report states that student associations were “contacted” for input; Tom said what the Advisory Group’s report means by “contacted” is that an email was sent.

“Bottom line, there wasn’t any real consultation or communication,” said Tom.

As the EDI moves into its third-phase — implementation — Tom questioned the report’s general recommendations.

“They are more recommendations on the principles, not necessarily the specific measure[s] for implementation.”

The CSU’s press release listed what they see as “serious flaws” in the Working Group’s report, including no reference to Quebec’s Act of respecting equal access to employment in public bodies, “which requires, among other things, Concordia, like all other universities, to identify and remove systemic barriers to equitable representation of women, Indigenous people, visible minorities, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities in different job categories.”

The press release also stated “that a quick search of the term ‘systemic racism’ or ‘systemic discrimination’ in the report produces no results.”

However, on the report it does state, “We commit to dismantling systemic historic and continued discrimination and inequities at Concordia University.”

In a statement to The Concordian, Maestracci said, “Over the two years, the extensive community consultation opportunities included a survey completed by 700 students, information sessions and six days of consultations in small groups as recently as this August and which included students.”

“The opportunities to take part in the EDI conversation were communicated widely to the Concordia community,” said Maestracci. 



Visuals courtesy of Concordia University


What the Academy’s new eligibility standards say about Hollywood

This attempt to inspire inclusivity doesn’t strike the root of the diversity problem

On Sept. 8, 2020, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a new series of eligibility standards for the category of Best Picture. As expected, this caused a storm of conflicting emotions.

Personally, it led me through a wave of frustrating questions.

Here’s a brief summary of the new eligibility rules: there are four standards, and a film must meet at least two to be considered. These rules won’t be imposed until 2024.

Standard A has to do with representation on-screen, meaning either one lead actor must be from an underrepresented group, OR 30 percent of the ensemble cast must be from an underrepresented group, OR the main subject matter of the film must concern an underrepresented group.

Although the Academy has a different definition of “underrepresented group” for each standard, it is generally defined as anyone from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group, women, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities.

Standard B concerns creative leadership and project teams. So, at least two creative leadership positions or department heads must be minorities (director, writer, editor, casting director, costume designer, set, director, cinematographer, VFX supervisor, etc), OR six people in technical crew positions must be minorities (gaffer, first assistant director, script supervisor, etc), OR at least 30 percent of the crew must be minorities.

Standard C concerns industry access and opportunities, which requires the film’s distribution or financing company to provide paid apprenticeships and/or internships for underrepresented groups. Also, there must be training opportunities and skill development for crew members of a minority group.

Standard D concerns audience development. The film studio must have multiple in-house senior executives from underrepresented groups.

Realistically, it wouldn’t be hard for a film to reach these standards — the issue is the fact that they had to be made in the first place. According to Variety, some Academy voters, who consist of people who work within the film industry, skimmed through the rules and assumed it would be the end of their creative dreams; people felt that they were being told what to do with their art. Actor Viggo Mortensen said that he felt it was “exclusion, which is discrimination” and said that films like 1917, which is about two British soldiers during WWI, wouldn’t be eligible. Neither of these statements are true.

The Oscars is the most widely known and respected film awards ceremony, and these rules may encourage major studios to produce films that are more inclusive to women, people of colour, disabled, and LGBTQ+ people, on and off-screen. However, it only highlights Hollywood’s failures even more.

In the last few days, a year-old video of Viola Davis came to my attention, where she expressed her frustration with “inclusion riders,” which is a term in a filmmaker’s contract that requires a specific level of diversity in the cast and crew. Davis says, “I don’t want to be a part of any piece of paper that has to force people to see me,” explaining that if you’re not putting minorities in positions of power while also having an inclusion rider, then all of the minorities will continue to be sidelined.

“You’re saying ‘accept the bone,’” she continues. “Why is there a resistance to inclusion and diversity?”

Even though this video is a year old, Davis is absolutely right. Why can’t major studios support films that are authentic and good, that also happen to be inclusive? Why were they so resistant to the idea, that other organizations had to set new policies?

I believe that these new rules, although made with good intent, are only a quick fix that don’t solve the root issue of systemic racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism present in Hollywood. We might be getting more representation, sure, but there won’t be any real change until minorities have the chance to be in positions of power, such as presidents of major studios. It also reduces POC, the LGBTQ+ community and disabled people to a checklist, numbers on an inclusion standard form rather than creative, strong individuals who are wanted.

This brings us back to Davis’ question: why is there a resistance to inclusion and diversity?

The likely answer is that those in positions of power wouldn’t benefit from it. Presidents of large corporations only benefit from inclusion when it makes them money. Why do you think Disney made 17 Marvel films before they made Black Panther?

The Academy has no control over what movies are made, but they do have control over which movies are praised at their awards show, which ultimately garners that film more views and more money. Audiences have been fighting for representation, but Hollywood isn’t changing fast enough, so the Academy implemented rules to encourage that change.

This is only the first step, and this won’t magically make Hollywood care about women, POC, the LGBTQ+ community, nor disabled people. I believe they came from a good place, but it doesn’t feel good to be reduced to a checkmark on a list in some executive’s hands. Are minorities only in Hollywood to meet a quota, or do you really want us to be there?


Graphic  by @the.beta.lab


What the Oscars diversity issue says about Hollywood and its moviegoers

So, you’ve likely heard the news about the Oscars.

There were no female directors nominated and only one person of colour was named for an acting category. The thing is, I’m less angry about the nominations themselves, and more frustrated at what this perpetuates about films and their relation to women and people of colour (POC). There was no lack of films starring and directed by women and POC this year, but it wouldn’t seem that way based on Oscar nominations alone.

The issue in Hollywood is that white men are seen as the standard. A male director is just a director, but a female director is a female director. A movie starring a mostly-male cast is simply just a movie. A movie with a mostly-female cast is suddenly a female film. This creates a distinct separation between films helmed by women and films helmed by men. When a director or movie has the adjective “female” in front of it, it somehow loses credibility in the eyes of many male moviegoers and Academy voters. When it comes to characters on screen, white, male characters are considered to be more relatable than films about other groups of people; thus the nearly all-white acting nominees at the Oscars this year.

People want to be represented in the stories they consume, and are naturally drawn to those stories. The nominations by the Academy definitely reflects this, considering in 2018 the Academy was only 31 percent female and 16 percent non-white. Perhaps voters don’t connect to certain films, so they don’t interact with them. Moreover, according to Variety, one Academy member noted that there is “a bias even in what people choose to watch,” and later said that if nothing is done about this, then “we’re awarding awards to the best performance within films that Academy members are predisposed to watching, not the best acting performance in a given year.”

Hollywood could easily change and diversify the films it produces and the Academy could change the films in recognizes as prestigious, but they don’t.

When everything is taken into account, it seems as though there’s no real consideration for films about and by women and POCs—like movies that aren’t helmed by white men don’t matter as much. We’re taught to value the lives and struggles of white men while disregarding the lives and struggles of minorities. I’m not saying that the Academy should just give out awards to a film just as long as it is directed by a woman or POC. Artistic merit still matters. I’m saying they need to give those films a fighting chance, that they should be open to the stories of people that are different than they are.

A film doesn’t necessarily have to pass the Bechdel test to be a good movie, and most of the Best Picture nominees prove this since most of the films don’t pass but are still great films. But, I can still watch a film like 1917 or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, connect to its characters, be emotionally invested in them and the picture regardless of the fact that the leads are white men. By that token, white men can then get themselves to the theatre to see films about women and POC and feel something for those characters. I’ve been able to find small ways to see myself in these roles all my life, so they can do it too.

We may not be Academy members, but we can choose which films to give our money to. Go and support films led by women. Go support films led and directed by people of colour. It’s not difficult, it’s just a matter of empathy. 


Collage by Laurence BD

Student Life

Oscars (still) so white (and male)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is trying to save itself from another #OscarsSoWhite fiasco that’s been plaguing the award show since 2015.

That year, April Reign tweeted out the infamous hashtag after the Academy Awards nominations failed to include people of colour in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. Granted, Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu won Best Director, but that didn’t make up for the exclusion of other minorities in the biggest categories.

Fast-forward to the 2020 Academy Award nominations: people of colour are nominated, but their inclusion feels more like tokenism than genuine inclusivity.

The Best Actress category includes Scarlett Johansson, Saoirse Ronan, Charlize Theron, Renée Zellweger. Finally, Cynthia Erivo is the only person of colour on the list and, ever so coincidentally, she played Harriet Tubman, a slave. This wouldn’t be such a cause for concern if the movie was, well, good. The movie received mixed reviews and was far from a box office smash, yet the Academy decided Erivo’s performance was Oscar-worthy. It wasn’t––it was simply fine.

Erivo’s inclusion in the category isn’t worth rioting over considering she did do a decent job. The problem lies in who the Academy chose to include versus who was excluded. Sure Charlize Theron and Renée Zellweger are fine actresses, but their performances in their respective movies (Bombshell and Judy) aren’t notable.

Instead, nominations could have gone to Awkwafina, who knocked her performance out of the park in The Farewell or Lupita Nyong’o with her performance in Us, where she took on two polar opposite roles in the same film. Neither actress is white: Awkwafina is Chinese-Korean-American and Lupita Nyong’o is Kenyan, and born in Mexico.

Like every year, a powerful performance will be forgotten. With limited selections, it makes sense that someone we thought was deserving of a nomination would get snubbed—that’s the business. However, this year, Awkwafina and Nyong’o’s exclusion doesn’t seem to be about talent and merit.

Obviously, the Oscars shouldn’t be about forcing inclusion to please non-whites. Quality should be the driving factor as to who is or isn’t nominated. But when movies like Harriet, Richard Jewell and Bombshell take up precious nominations, at what point do we ask ourselves whether the Academy is actually choosing good movies or if they’re making choices to please simple moviegoers?

Stephen King tweeted an ideal scenario where films should be judged on their quality and that diversity should not be a factor when the films are being vetted for award shows. He’s right to a certain extent that art should be judged on quality. However, watch Bombshell and The Farewell, and tell me that the former was the better movie. I’ll wait.

The Oscars exist as a vehicle for white male art to take the forefront; and when you have powerful white males defending that stance, it makes this whole situation that much worse.

With every step forward the Academy takes, it seems they also always take two steps back. Moonlight, a film that follows the life of a gay Black man growing up in the U.S., took home the award for Best Picture in 2018. Mahershala Ali and Regina King won Oscars for their performances in Green Book and If Beale Street Could Talk in 2019. After the 2020 nominations, it seems more plausible that those wins were just crowd-pleasers to shut the #OscarsSoWhite crew up.

It’s no secret the biggest film award show in the U.S. favours white films. In February 2019, Indiewire ran a story showing that less than 200 Black people—out of almost 10,000 slots—were nominated across all categories since its inception. For context: four Black men won Best Actor in a Leading Role; one Black actress won Best Actress in a Leading Role; five Black men won Best Actor in a Supporting Role; eight Black women took home awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Not a single Black director won Best Director, out of only six nominations.

Racism isn’t the only problem the Oscars face. There is blatant sexism in certain categories like Best Director, in which only one woman has ever won: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009. This year, Greta Gerwig was snubbed after directing Little Women, one of the year’s finest films that required the utmost care to make.

Conversely, the Oscars did do something right this year by adding the Korean sleeper hit of the year, Parasite. Never has a Korean film or director been nominated for Best Picture or Best Director respectively and given the outstanding reception of the film; it would have been criminal to exclude it from the award show.

Unfortunately, that alone does not make up for the rest. Women and people of colour have always been overlooked at film award shows. Even when we try to make things better, things stay the same.



Graphic by @sundaeghost

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