Briefs Concordia Student Union News

CSU hopeful for a successful by-election

The Concordia Student Union starts its campaigning phase aiming for a significant turnout at the polls.

On Oct. 30, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) started its campaign period for its fall by-elections. The by-elections serve to vote on referendum questions and fill empty seats on the CSU’s council of representatives. This year, the CSU has 22 seats available on the council. The campaigning period will last until Nov. 6.

According to Simply Voting, the online platform that hosts the CSU elections, the turnout in 2022 was only 5.7 per cent. CSU Loyola coordinator Talya Diner blames COVID-19 for last year’s low participation. She is hopeful that more people will be interested in casting their ballot this year. 

There are two referendum questions being presented to the committees in the fall by-elections. They are about whether or not to increase the student services fee by $0.85 per credit, and to propose the introduction of an anti-islamophobia policy to CSU’s Section 5 by-law entitled Anti-Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion. 

“The by-elections are super significant. This is the best time to get involved in the CSU,” said CSU student life coordinator Tanou Bah.

A public debate is scheduled for Nov. 1. This event will allow candidates and referendum committees the chance to introduce themselves to students and present their ideas concerning Concordia University and the CSU. The public debate will take place at 6 p.m. on the 7th floor of the Hall building.

“Being on the council is a way for students to get directly involved in the democratic process that governs how the CSU spends the money that students give to the union. It’s really important that students get involved so that the CSU can represent students honourably,” said Diner.

The polling phase will start on Nov. 7 and end on Nov. 9. Students will receive an email from the CSU encouraging them to vote. The CSU will also have polling stations at the Loyola campus on Nov. 7 in the SP building, and at the SGW campus on Nov. 7 through Nov. 9 at the Hall building mezzanine to help guide students through the online voting process.


Quebec elections: CAQ wins a majority government

Graphic by Carleen Loney

The votes are in. Coalition Avenir Québec will remain in power until 2026

François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) has been elected for a second mandate as the Quebec premier with a majority government and will remain in power until 2026. 

The CAQ won 41 per cent of the vote and 90 seats in the National Assembly, the most seats any party has ever won in Quebec since 1989. This marked an increase of 16 seats since the 2018 elections. 

“We had a clear message. Quebecers sent a powerful message. Quebecers told us: let’s continue!” shouted Legault during his victory speech. 

The voter turnout was also slightly lower than in 2018. 66.07 per cent of Quebecers voted this year, compared to 66.45 per cent in 2018. 

Here’s what you need to know about the CAQ’s promises for its second mandate: 


  • Reduce the annual threshold of immigrants from 70,000 to 50,000 for the next four years
  • Invest  $130 million to make it easier for immigrants to have their professional skills acquired abroad recognized


  • Additional $2 billion over four years to renovate and update schools, besides
  • Investment of $348 million in vocational training to help address the labour shortage

Climate change: 

  • Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37.5 per cent below 1990 levels 
  • Wants to reach carbon neutrality by 2050

Health care:

  • Open two private clinics in underserviced areas of Montreal’s east end and Quebec city
  • Investment of $400 million to train and recruit 660 more physicians and 5,000 other health professionals

Cost of living: 

  • $600 will be given to Quebecers making less than $50,000 annually
  • $400 to those earning between $50,000 and $100,000
  • Annual allowance up to $2,000 to people aged 70 and up

Concordia For Dummies: Voting on Campus

Here’s what you need to know for the upcoming provincial elections

The elections are coming up! Quebec has general elections at least every 4 years, on the first Monday of October, where candidates across Quebec compete to become one of the 125 deputies elected. Polling stations will be open on Oct. 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Concordian has compiled all you need to know to vote on Monday.

Bloc Montreal candidates urge Concordia students to vote

Candidates from Quebec’s newest political party discuss the issues facing Concordia students

For some Concordia students, provincial politics tend to be an afterthought to the constant pressures of student life. Whether it’s catching up on assignments or finding classrooms in the Hall building, most students don’t have the time to remain informed or even have a conclusive opinion on Quebec politics. 

This is why it may surprise some to learn that Concordia alumnus Rizwan Rajput is running in his first ever election at the age of 38. This fall, he’s the candidate for Bloc Montreal in the Saint-Laurent district. 

If you’re unfamiliar, Bloc Montreal is a newly-formed political party led by Balarama Holness — a former CFL football player and Montreal native — whose goal is to ensure that Montreal’s needs are represented and respected in Quebec’s National Assembly. 

After graduating from Concordia with a Bachelor’s of Commerce in 2009,  Rajput was inspired to become a CPA after seeing how vital a role they played in helping small businesses in his neighborhood. 

“My dad actually opened the first halal food store in St. Laurent beside ICQ Mosque in the ’90s, catering to the needs of the community seven days a week,” said Rajput.

Rajput, whose family immigrated from Pakistan, recognized the innate challenges that English speaking immigrants like himself face throughout the province.

“There was this one time when I was on the bus with my mom while I was younger,” Rajput recalled. “A lady was saying something to her in French and my mom and I didn’t speak French at the time. I remember looking up and instinctively knowing it was disrespectful.” 

He was motivated to enter politics after seeing how little emphasis other parties and candidates were putting on the city of Montreal and immigrants.

“Bill 21 especially affects my family,” said Rajput. “My wife who wears a hijab won’t be allowed to find employment in some public sectors. Also, Bill 96 forces all home sale contracts to be written in French. This makes it hard for Anglophone Montrealers to understand the papers they are signing.” 

Rajput is hoping that his campaign, if nothing else, brings attention to the issues facing his community. “I want to be a part of the rebirth of Montreal,” he said.

Now, 12 years since he graduated from Concordia, Rajput is looking to his alma mater for support in his endeavor. He is hoping to help end the stigma that surrounds young people getting involved and caring about politics and social injustice. 

“As a student, I often didn’t vote with the assumption that my vote wouldn’t make a difference,” said Rajput. “However, every vote counts. This is our democracy and if we don’t vote we are allowed to be taken advantage of. We need to educate ourselves on how our voting can impact our lives when we vote for a leader that listens to our needs, visions, well-being and rights, versus one that does not support them.”

This opinion is shared by Bloc Montreal leader Balarama Holness, newly minted politician, who recently ran for office in Montreal’s city election for the first time.  

“It’s not good enough in this day and age to bow to the Coca Cola politics of the Liberal party, the Pepsi politics of the CAQ and the Crush politics of Québec solidaire,” said Holness. “It’s about going to that fresh-pressed juice. That new political party that’s actually going to fight for you and that’s authentic. That cares about your issues, that you could even be a candidate for.”

Holness did not shy away from asserting the importance of Quebec’s English language educational institutions, such as Concordia. 

“People should certainly be concerned about the future, not scared,” said Holness. “But if there is a concern, it shouldn’t be about voting. It’s about going to engage your democracy at the highest level. As a party, we are from a grassroots movement that was founded on fighting systemic racism and discrimination across all anomalous lines. Whether that’s citizenship, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation. We are at the forefront of the fight for human rights and civil rights.”

The pre-voting for this year’s election begins on Friday Sept. 23 and runs until Election Day on Oct. 3.


Mayor Valérie Plante wins re-election

Plante enters her second mayoral term with majority support

Valérie Plante won a second term in Montreal’s mayoral race on Nov. 7, earning 52 per cent of the vote. The mayor surpassed her main opponent Denis Coderre by nearly 60,000 votes, and 11 out of 19 boroughs in Montreal will now be governed by Plante’s Projet Montréal party.

In the next four years, the returning mayor promises to improve housing affordability, increase funding for the SPVM, develop more cycling infrastructure and public transit, and also revitalize Montreal’s downtown core.

“We will put all the effort in the world to continue making Montreal a city that we are proud of, where we can raise our children, study, work, and live out our retirement in an active way,” said Plante with a smile during her victory speech.

It was a difficult loss for former mayor Denis Coderre and his Ensemble Montréal party. In late October, the two frontrunners were within one percentage point of each other in the polls, but there was a clear winner on election night as Coderre lost by a 14-point margin.

“The results are clear: you win some, you lose some. But I am very, very pleased I was pushing ideas,” said Coderre at the Ensemble Montréal event on election night. “[…] And I was focusing on the people, because I love the people, I love Montreal and that’s what’s most important — to bring people together!” he exclaimed.

Meanwhile, Movement Montréal’s Balarama Holness, who promised to make Montreal an officially bilingual city-state, came in a distant third place with seven per cent of the vote.

Montrealers, however, did not have a strong showing at the polls, as the 2021 municipal election had a voter turnout of just 38 per cent. The participation rate was four per cent lower than in 2017, despite a larger number of polling stations, mail-in ballots, and the four-day advanced voting.

Michel Bissonnet, mayor of the Saint-Leonard borough, told The Concordian that voting was especially difficult for the elderly population.

“When you’re older and you have to go to vote and you have four [candidates] to vote for, they have four ballots at the same time. It’s easy when it’s a federal or provincial election, it’s one person. But when you get four people, you have to put a picture of the man they recognize — they can’t read, they are not happy,” explained Bissonnet, referencing the fact that voters need to pick the mayor of Montreal, their borough mayor, and city councillors separately.

Unlike the Plante-Coderre race, several boroughs had a very close election that resulted in premature celebrations and recount requests. In Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Ensemble Montréal’s Lionel Perez declared victory over Projet Montréal’s Gracia Kasoki Katahwa on Sunday night, as he was leading in the vote count on Nov. 7. The next morning, however, Katahwa stunned Perez by pulling nearly 200 votes ahead of her opponent by the time all votes had been counted.

In Quebec City, the mayoral race was even more controversial as media outlets made false projections and declared Marie-Josée Savard as the new mayor. Two hours after delivering a heartfelt speech thanking all of her supporters, Savard ended up losing to Bruno Marchand by just 834 votes. TVA Nouvelles and Radio-Canada have since apologized for their decision to call the election prematurely.

As for Montreal, the Plante administration promised its citizens a safer city in its second mayoral term. Projet Montréal is committed to investing an additional $110 million to reduce gun violence, increase the police force by 250 officers, and install body cameras on SPVM agents by 2022.

The mayor also plans to expand Montreal’s blue metro line towards Anjou and build a new line from Montreal-Nord to Lachine — though this promise dates back to Plante’s 2017 campaign and has yet to be fulfilled. Moreover, seniors may be able to ride the STM network free of charge in the coming years.

Other campaign promises include the creation of 60,000 new units of affordable housing, extended operating hours for downtown bars and restaurants, more green spaces, and free parking on evenings and weekends downtown to encourage commercial activities during the holiday season.


Photograph by Bogdan Lytvynenko

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


Parlez-vous français? Concordia students reflect on the potential outcomes of Bill 96

How Bill 96 is sparking a fiery debate in the city of Montreal

The November municipal elections are fast approaching and, more than ever, young people are motivated to vote in response to the effects of life during the pandemic. After a year stuck indoors, forced to take classes online, worried about future employment prospects, Montreal’s younger demographic is also now faced with a choice: do they stay or do they go?

Bill 96 is a reform proposed by the Quebec government in which the Canadian Constitution will recognize the province as a nation, with French as its official language. The reform is expected to include over 200 amendments, equipped with the primary goal of strengthening the status of the French language in Quebec.

Roxanne Tesar, a 22-year-old biochemistry student at Concordia, was born and raised in Montreal. She said that her knowledge of French remains limited, making her part of the population who will be most affected by the bill, if it comes to fruition. “French is not the only language here, we are bilingual. So if we start introducing bills that don’t reflect the population’s interests, conflict will arise,” said Tesar.

In Montreal, just over 65 per cent of the population’s mother tongue is French. So, why is this bill so pressing, given that French is the dominant language?

According to a 2019 study made by the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), workplace usage of the French language has dropped from 60 to 56 per cent since 2015. Workers aged 18 to 34 were those most prominently reflected in this data.

“It’s all about respect […] by creating this bill, the French language will be validated and francophones will feel heard,” says Sruthi Matta, 26, a journalism student at Concordia from India.

Omar Kanjou Agha, a 20-year-old mechanical engineering student from Syria, thinks some parts of the bill are positive, such as the offer of financial aid for studying the French language. He still thinks there are downsides.

“Capping the amount of places in anglophone schools completely violates fundamental rights and freedoms that Quebecers enjoy,” he said. “The bill wants to protect the French language, but they are doing it in ways that I don’t support and that I feel are illegal.”

These feelings of injustice are shared by several Concordia students. Kailee Reid, 18, a liberal arts student at Concordia, remembers the anxiety she felt during her first weeks in Montreal, after moving from Toronto. “When I first came here, I was so nervous to check out at a store,” she said. “I didn’t know how to manoeuvre around the city, not knowing who speaks English and who speaks French. It was quite isolating.”

Despite apprehensions and fears of not being understood or excluded from the city, Montreal still welcomes thousands of international students every year. Nearly 35,000 foreign students studied in the city in 2015.

“My first impression of Montreal was that it was very welcoming and diverse, so when I heard about this law I became very worried,” said Olenka Yuen, a 21-year-old computational arts student at Concordia, when asked about her thoughts on the city.

Agha also shared Yuen’s concerns. “I see Montreal as a multiethnic diverse city and this bill is trying to eliminate these components,” he said. “This worries me because I am part of the minority.”

International students, many of whom fall into the minority of non-french speakers, now face uncertainty in the job market after completing their studies in university. If Bill 96 becomes official, many employers would be faced with tougher hiring policies and many students who do not have a proficient level of French would be excluded. The Bill would implement a limit on the number of places at English schools and a limit on the amount of English-speaking jobs, making life for the non-french-speaking minority harder than it already is.

“I’ve been worried about jobs before this bill was even introduced,” said Tesar.

Saddened by the possibility of being excluded from Montreal life due to her limited French-speaking abilities, Tesar feels that she has no choice but to consider other living options. “This is a good reason for me to move to another province because it’s unfair.”

“I am worried as an anglophone about finding a job as I have in the past and this bill would only make it harder,” said Agha. He has worked part-time as a delivery driver, because he says that it’s one of the only jobs that does not require employees to speak French.

However, it isn’t just the non-francophone speakers who recognize the constraints Bill 96 would create for Montrealers. Delphine Belzile, a 23-year-old francophone journalism student at Concordia, acknowledges the fear that the bill has instilled in young non-francophones living in city.

“I don’t worry about my prospects of jobs, but I worry for other people who are non-francophone because I’m worried about how the government will handle the transition if the bill comes into effect,” said Belzile.

“You can’t ask a whole population to suddenly speak French,” she continued. “You need to account for a plan and make the language free and accessible to learn for all, or else you’re discriminating against non-French speakers.”

Another francophone student at Concordia from Montreal, Véronique Morin, 23, appreciates that she’s been able to attend an English-speaking university in a predominantly French-speaking city. “I am grateful to be able to study in English because for me, it has broadened my perspectives and allowed me to become more diversified,” she said. “But French is more threatened in Montreal than in Quebec.”

Morin further explained that when interacting in shops, she’s more likely to speak English than French to guarantee she is understood.

“As a francophone, we need to protect the French language and make it a real official language with laws that encourage people to speak and share it,” said Morin. “[But if] someone is working to get to know the language or making the effort to learn it, for me, that’s enough.”

Many non-French-speaking Concordia students do not refute the notion of French being a language in need of protection. In fact, several students said they celebrate the uniqueness of having this language in Quebec.

“The French language is Quebec’s identity,” said Agha. “It makes the province a distinct society compared to the rest of North America.” In a similar vein, Matta also agreed that “French should be cherished and made equally important in Quebec.”

The importance of the French language is a feeling shared by many politicians running in the municipal elections. However, not all of them agree with the many components that this bill would instate. Joe Ortona, who is a chair of the English Montreal School board and running as an independent city councillor in the Loyola district, shares this sentiment. A previous member of Denis Coderre’s Ensemble Montréal, he was ousted from the party after taking a stance against Bill 96.

Ortona received an overwhelming amount of support after his exit from the Loyola district and throughout Quebec.

“I felt that ultimately I was chosen because I am a defender of anglophone rights and English institutions,” said Ortona. “The banner may have changed, but my values haven’t.”

However, Ortona was quick to mention that although his stance is against Bill 96 and the many problems he sees with it, he is not against the French language. “I recognize that the French language is important in Quebec, and it’s worthy of being protected,” he said. “My issue is that Bill 96 is tackling a problem with inappropriate solutions,” he emphasized.

When pressed on what he means by “inappropriate solutions,” he replied, “To suspend one’s civil liberties in order to allow for this law to give government agents broad powers that can allow them to come into a place of business unannounced and confiscate computers without a warrant. All on the basis of an anonymous tip that states that an employee is communicating in English.”

Ortona argues that Bill 96 is actually aimed at the English language and English Quebecers in particular. While the idea that English-speaking Quebecers are those who have failed to adopt Quebec customs is a popular perception held by some, he argues that “they are actually the most bilingual people in Canada who not only recognize the French language as important but adopt it as a second or third language to their own.”

“We don’t reject French at all, we embrace it,” said Ortona. “We see bilingualism as an asset, an advantage. If this bill does come into effect, then the message you’re sending is that anyone who doesn’t speak French is not welcome here; whether they realize it or not, that’s the message it’s sending.”

Overseas students are already flagging the potential effects of Bill 96.

“Getting into the country is already hard enough as an international student, with the CAQ [Certificat d’acceptation du Québec] and study permit I can’t imagine how much more difficult it will be if the bill is passed,” shared Matta, who recalls the gruelling admission process for her studies when applying from India.

Tesar believes the bill will negatively impact those students who might have stayed in Canada, contributing to its economy. “I don’t think the young people of today will easily allow themselves to be repressed,” she said. “We know we have options to leave, so if this bill and all its components are put into effect, we will.”

The subject of Bill 96 has become the centre of a fierce debate in Montreal. However, the effect the policy might have on the city’s international population is perhaps an unperceived consequence. Not only do students feel like the bill is a threat to English-speaking Montrealers, but they also feel like they will be left out in a city that they have come to know as their home. If implemented, the bill runs the risk of driving those targeted to look elsewhere for studies and work.


Graphic by James Fay


Political pariah finds a new party line

Former staffer Annalisa Harris resets her political career as Loyola’s newest candidate

Caught in a public scandal, Annalisa Harris, former chief of staff to Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough mayor, Sue Montgomery, emerges as a candidate in the Loyola riding for the upcoming Municipal elections on Nov. 7.

Harris was accused of workplace harassment in a report by Montreal’s comptroller general, Alain Bond. However, no formal complaints were ever filed, and the names were kept confidential. In his report, Bond urged for Harris’ immediate dismissal.

Despite pressure from her party, Projet Montréal, Montgomery refused to fire Harris without allowing her the chance to defend herself, claiming the accusations were unfounded. In retaliation, the city released a statement in January 2020 effectively ousting Montgomery for failing to fire Harris.

Harris expressed her disappointment in how Projet Montréal handled the allegations.

“The problem is that Valérie Plante chose to side with the bureaucracy instead of siding with, at the time, what was her own teammate, Sue Montgomery, and in protecting me as a worker,” said Harris.

By April 2020, the city launched an injunction against Montgomery, citing her refusal to obey the directives to cut Harris from her team.

As revealed in a report from the Quebec Municipal Commission (CMQ), Montgomery promptly wrote to long-time borough director, Stéphane Plante, informing him that she would allow Harris to continue her duties as chief of staff.

“In Canada we have the rule of law, where everyone has the right to a defense. My chief of staff has not had that,” said Montgomery during a borough council meeting in February 2020, defending her position to keep Harris on.

Mayor Plante expected Montgomery to fire Harris, in line with the comptroller general’s recommendation.  Unwilling to dismiss Harris, Montgomery stood by her second-in-command.  She defended that the report had been purposely withheld from her, and she had yet to see the accusations against Harris.

In December 2020, the initial verdict was overturned in Montgomery and Harris’ favour. The presiding Judge Synnott ruled that the comptroller general not only overstepped his bounds in demanding Harris’ dismissal, but also unnecessarily interfered with borough politics. The judge ultimately ordered Alain Bond to release the report to Sue Montgomery. 

Harris has since filed a lawsuit against Mayor Plante and the City of Montreal, seeking over $180,000 in defamatory damages.

Following this, Harris and Montgomery were strong in their conviction to continue in politics. Soon, the two hatched a plan to form their own political party— Courage – Équipe Sue Montgomery.

“Ultimately it strengthened my resolve to say the governance here is so broken. We have such a need for better leadership in the city of Montreal,” said Harris.

In deciding values and instilling a positive culture within their party, the two worked together to recruit four other candidates and released a broad and comprehensive platform focused on local governance, environmental action, and community support. This includes affordable social housing projects and the creation of unarmed service teams to work alongside the police.

Harris revealed that while she initially joined the team administratively, she soon realized she could translate her years of studying political science into a successful campaign in the Loyola district.

“I didn’t really think of running until probably six months after we founded the party. For me, it really was a vehicle for the neighbourhood, and I didn’t see myself running until January 2021,” said Harris.

While recognizing the many challenges she has faced over the past year and the emotional toll it has taken on her, Harris hopes to influence change in her riding.  “That’s been the biggest challenge, the toll it’s taken on me personally,” Harris admitted.

“Campaigning has actually been positive in a lot of ways, as someone who went through such a public scandal, because for me, it’s an opportunity to tell my story,” said Harris.


* Correction: October 26, 2021

This article has been updated to correct the details of legal proceedings. When it comes to Sue Montgomery’s actions, “Mayor Plante expected Montgomery to fire Harris, in line with the comptroller general’s recommendation.  Unwilling to dismiss Harris, Montgomery stood by her second-in-command.  She defended that the report had been purposely withheld from her, and she had yet to see the accusations against Harris.” Furthermore, it has been clarified that “the judge ultimately ordered Alain Bond to release the report to Sue Montgomery.”


Photograph courtesy of Annalisa Harris


“It’s about time”: Historic municipal debate takes place in Montreal’s Chinatown

On Saturday, municipal candidates go head-to-head in Montreal’s famous and neglected neighbourhood

This past Saturday, Montreal’s Chinese community had their voices heard in the first-ever municipal debate in Chinatown. With the municipal election coming up on Nov. 7, participants and candidates discussed solutions to protect the last Chinatown in Quebec.

On Oct. 16, the Progressive Chinese of Quebec (CPQ), Chinese Family Service of the Greater Montreal Area (CFS) and the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) hosted the debate in the Chinese Community & Cultural Centre of Montreal on Clark St. at 11:30 a.m. Almost 100 community members of all ages poured into the conference room, with media organizations interviewing them at every corner.

The goal of the debate was to hold the municipal government accountable for the responsibility of Chinatown. CWG member and event organizer May Chiu expressed her excitement for this historical debate. “We’re hoping that community members will come out and ask questions to the candidates and get them to commit to their promises,” she said.

Community members were overwhelmed with emotion as they felt recognized by the municipal government. “It’s about time,”* activist Janet Lumb told The Concordian. “We’ve been fighting for many years to have the recognition and acknowledgement [from the municipal government] of the fact there are some serious issues that need to be confronted and dealt with,” she explained.

Candidates who were present include Mouvement Montréal’s mayoral candidate Balarama Holness, Ensemble Montréal’s candidate councillor Aref Salem, Projet Montréal’s Robert Beaudry, and Action Montréal’s candidate councillor Robert Sévigny along with Jean-Christophe Trottier, who left the debate before it started, due to his refusal to comply with health safety guidelines.

Throughout the pandemic, Montreal’s Chinese and other Asian communities experienced a rise in hate crimes, ranging from vandalism, robbery and physical assaults. In addition, most of Chinatown’s properties are at risk of gentrification and businesses are struggling to make ends meet. Around 108,000 Montrealers claim Chinese ancestry, with many more a part of the general Asian community.

Last year, Mayor Valérie Plante proposed an action plan to help preserve and improve the cultural integrity of Chinatown by adding more green spaces in the area, increasing pedestrian access to the neighbourhood and building social and affordable housing units.

The debate began at 12 p.m. with words of appreciation by May Chiu and the Tiohtià:ke land acknowledgement in French and English, followed by the Mandarin and Cantonese translations.

The two-hour debate covered five topics:

  • Protecting Chinatown’s heritage
  • Social and racial justice
  • Arts and culture
  • Climate justice
  • Economic development

In Holness’ introduction speech, he discussed his familiarity with the neighbourhood and his appreciation of Chinese culture by retelling his memories of visiting Chinatown as a child and living in China. He also threw in a couple of words of Mandarin, which took the audience by surprise.

Holness said Movement Montréal would establish a registry in the neighbourhood where businesses receive wage subsidies and tax breaks for their rent to protect Chinatown’s roughly 150 businesses, emulating similar initiatives used in San Francisco for its Chinatown and other heritage sites, he argued. 

Ultimately, Holness concluded that the debate helps people “collectively improve the lives and livelihoods of Chinatown.”

Projet Montréal’s Beaudry said Valérie Plante’s party has close relations with arts and cultural organizations to help boost financing BIPOC art programs in the neighbourhood, as communities continue to face funding disparity from the provincial government. This initiative supports the cultural integrity of the neighbourhood.

He said the decisions made in Chinatown should go through the Chinese community first. “We want you to show us what you want to happen in Chinatown. It’s not a top-down situation, it’s a bottom-up situation.”

Salem said Ensemble Montréal will implement social housing for the homeless shelter near Chinatown, as well as provide social resource centres throughout the neighbourhood. “We need social housing [to] bring more people to this part of the city and we need to have some cultural events in the city so people can visit, and live, here in peace and harmony,” he added.

Action Montreal’s Sévigny mentioned protecting the environment, regarding the neighbourhood’s demand for green spaces in public and private areas. Before being required to leave the debate, Trottier said they will demand the provincial government to grant Chinatown as a heritage site, improve the infrastructure of Chinatown and impose stricter bylaws to prevent further construction, as well as creating a better dynamic with the Chinese community.


Photograph by Mohammed Khan


A bilingual city-state? Mayoral candidate proposes major language changes in Montreal

Balarama Holness aims to recognize English as the city’s second official language

Mouvement Montréal party leader Balarama Holness will recognize the city as officially bilingual, if elected mayor in the municipal election on Nov. 6 and 7. This proposal has emerged as Quebec prepares for Bill 96 to strengthen the role of French across the province.

Holness’ plan would ensure that all services on the island of Montreal are provided in both French and English. This includes the city’s commercial and tourism sectors, as well as official documentation from the municipality.

“When people arrive in Montreal, whether they’re speaking English or French, we want them to feel comfortable and don’t want them to struggle,” said Matthew Kerr, Mouvement Montréal’s mayoral candidate for the CDN/NDG borough.

Kerr added that his borough would benefit economically from recognized bilingualism. He expects the locals to open more businesses as it would be more convenient to acquire permits and deal with paperwork, as well as cater to a community that is already bilingual.

Fifty-five per cent of Montreal’s population speaks both English and French according to the 2016 census, with nearly 850,000 residents knowing at least three languages. Despite the city’s linguistic diversity, however, French remains the most dominant language in the city with two-thirds of Montrealers calling it their mother tongue.

Still, many francophone and Quebec-oriented organizations perceive bilingualism as a threat to Montreal’s cultural identity, fearing that French may become vulnerable if English gains the same legal status.

“French is already lacking protection at the legislative level,” said Marie-Anne Alepin, president of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal (SSJB), in an interview with The Concordian. “We see the numbers, French is declining — and [Montrealers] can see this with their own eyes. When they shop downtown, half the time they will be served solely in English,” Alepin added.

To further solidify the role of French in the province, the Quebec National Assembly presented Bill 96 in May, which is set to affirm on a constitutional level that French is the only official language of the province.

Expected to become law by the end of 2021, Bill 96 will now require businesses with 25 to 49 employees to operate in French — a rule that only applies to companies with over 50 employees as of now. Government agencies will be required to use French exclusively in both oral and written communication, which also includes newly-arrived immigrants after the first six months of their stay in Quebec.

The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) is expected to gain more power, which already enforces the language law in Montreal’s food service and retail sectors. Earlier this year, two Montreal businesses were fined $1,500 for the lack of French on their websites, while a restaurant in Mile End received the same penalty in 2020 for having an English-only outdoor sign.

“But even the best law in the world won’t get around the fact that English is an appealing language, especially for the younger generation. […] With all the TV series and digital platforms, the interest for English is immense,” said Alepin.

The SSJB president specified that, while American culture is beautiful, it does not represent the culture of Quebec. As a solution to the linguistic challenge, Alepin proposes a mass investment in awareness campaigns as well as in French-language cultural projects and entertainment, which would make the language of Molière more attractive and competitive.

When it comes to investments, Holness argues that Montreal needs to gain a special city-state status as the city does not fully benefit from the revenue it generates.

“That $200 billion GDP has to come back to actually invest here in Montreal, whether it’s [in] infrastructure, small businesses and any other area of public life,” the candidate said in September after filing his application for the mayoral race.

With the annual municipal budget being just under $6.2 billion in 2021, Holness hopes to make use of taxation powers and create a more Montreal-oriented economy, following the example of Washington D.C. or Berlin.

In the municipal race, Holness currently stands in third place with 10 per cent of Montrealers supporting his candidacy, according to the most recent poll from Léger. The incumbent Valérie Plante of Projet Montréal is leading the race with 36 per cent of the vote, while Denis Coderre from Ensemble Montréal stays just one point behind.


Graphic by James Fay.


Liberal Party wins the federal election: results unchanged since 2019

Meanwhile, Concordia University witnessed a rather smooth voting procedure on both campuses

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue to lead the country with a minority government, as the Liberal Party won 159 seats on Sept. 20, coming 11 short of a majority. The Conservative Party, led by Erin O’Toole, remains the official opposition with a total of 119 seats.

Costing Canadians an estimated $610 million, the 2021 federal election ended up more expensive than any other in Canadian history, surpassing the 2019 election costs by $100 million. Despite winning two additional seats, the Liberal Party was unable to reach a majority — an objective that pushed Trudeau to call a snap election just two years into his term.

“You are sending us back to work with a clear mandate to get Canada through this pandemic, and to the brighter days ahead, and my friends, that’s exactly what we are ready to do,” stated Trudeau in his victory speech at the end of the election night.

Going forward, the Trudeau government promises to develop a national childcare program, increase the supply of affordable housing, enforce vaccine mandates for federal workers, make clean water more accessible for Indigenous communities, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030.

Although voter turnout dropped to 59 per cent this year, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands still took part in the election on the Island of Montreal.

Home to the Loyola campus, the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount borough reelected its Liberal MP Marc Garneau with 54 per cent of the vote. In the same riding, Concordia graduate Mathew Kaminski came in third place as a Conservative candidate with 14 per cent of the vote.

Voting at the Loyola Chapel has been an overall success with almost no queues on election day, according to the station’s central poll supervisor (CPS) Nevena Jeric. She told The Concordian there were many efforts to inform all students of the voting rules on campus, especially when it comes to their residential address.

“Many students received an email that, as long as they lived in the riding, they could vote on campus. […] We had maybe one or two people who were turned away, but they weren’t surprised either since they were on campus anyway and tried to vote with their friends just in case,” said Jeric.

The supervisor added that, although the younger generation did not have as strong of a showing as expected on election day, many students had likely cast their ballots during the four days of advanced polling. Nationwide, Canadians set a new record for early voting: nearly 5.8 million citizens selected their candidate before election day, representing an 18 per cent increase since 2019.

However, the voting situation was slightly different at the SGW campus downtown.

Charles*, serving as the supervisor of two polling stations in the EV and LB buildings, noted that there was an impressive engagement from young voters. Having supervised federal and provincial elections at McGill University in the past, he observed “a much stronger participation” from the student population at Concordia’s downtown polling stations compared to those at McGill.

During advanced polling, some students had to wait for as long as two hours to cast their ballots due to a high volume of participating citizens. Experiencing major delays was the most common complaint addressed by downtown voters.

To improve the voting process, Charles said that out-of-province students were allowed to leave their mail-in ballots in a designated box at the downtown station. This additional measure was implemented for the first time on campus, making the election process more convenient for those who recently moved to Montreal.

Polling stations closed at 9:30 p.m. on both campuses, and CBC News announced the projected winner of the federal election just an hour later.

Montrealers showed strong support for the Liberal Party, which won 16 out of 18 ridings on the island. One of them is the Dorval-Lachine-LaSalle borough, where Fabiola Ngamaleu Teumeni — a 20-year-old Concordia student representing the NDP — managed to place third with 13 per cent of the vote.

In Quebec, more voters supported the sovereignist Bloc Québécois (32.6 per cent) than the Liberal Party (31.9 per cent). With 33 seats in the House of Commons, the Bloc has achieved its best results since the 2008 federal election.

Nationwide, the Conservative Party won the popular vote by nearly 200,000 ballots. However, since Canada’s electoral system works on a first-past-the-post basis, the winning party was determined by the number of ridings — and therefore, seats — it has won.

This election’s outcome was almost identical to that of 2019, when the Liberal Party also earned over 155 seats and secured a minority government. As the voting took place in the middle of the fourth wave of COVID-19 and broke records for government expenses, many have questioned the urgency and timing of this snap election.

Nevertheless, Justin Trudeau now begins his third term as Canada’s 23rd prime minister.

*Charles requested his last name not be disclosed.


Graphic courtesy of Maddy Schmidt.



14 ASFA executive candidates compete for election

One ASFA candidate accused competitors of campaign ads that look like Turning Point USA content, in an otherwise smooth election campaign

This year’s Arts and Sciences Federation of Associations (ASFA) elections are underway. In an election year like no other, candidates have put the online campaigning environment to use.

Hope and Reliability is a slate that focuses on improving student mental health and improving transparency for students regarding financial endeavors. There are seven members running under these promises, and they are the only complete slate in this election.

Student Interested, not Self Interested is a slate focused on bringing attention back to students and organizations that are important to them. The three members on the slate are all currently a part of student government, and hope to bring new ideas to the table.

On March 17, Payton-Rose Mitchell, a mobilization coordinator candidate for the Student Interested, not Self Interested slate, tweeted that posters from a “slate I’m running against legit look like they could be ads for Turning Point USA (TPUSA),” a right-wing student group that is accused of propagating anti-immigration and homophobic views. Hope and Reliability and Student Interested, not Self Interested are the only slates running in the ASFA elections.

In an interview with The Concordian, Sean Smith, who is running for executive coordinator of the Hope and Reliability slate, said “We are not a right-wing group,” adding that members of his slate who are part of the LGBTQ community and who are children of immigrants were “sad and frustrated” by the comments.

Mitchell apologized for the comments in a public post. She also released a statement to The Concordian which said she “did not anticipate [the post] would cause any controversy,” because she had not identified ASFA, the Hope and Reliability Slate or Concordia in the tweet, and that her Twitter was a personal account, and not used for campaigning.

“TPUSA is infamous in meme-culture and because of this, I could not avoid recognizing the resemblance in their graphic … That being said, I should not have tweeted about it on my personal account … It was not my intention to link the opposing slate to the problematic views upheld by Turning Point USA,” reads the statement.

ASFA elections are open from March 23 to March 26 at 5:00 p.m.


Running for executive coordinator is Sean Smith, who decided to run this year after seeing several controversies and issues at the ASFA over the years, saying, “We need to restore the soul of ASFA.”

His platform includes increasing mental health services for students, including one-on-one sessions to help decrease the long waitlist, and helping marginalized students with special bursaries and scholarships.

To increase transparency, Smith plans on publishing ASFA’s budget, minutes, and motions. Also, he plans on better collaborating with member associations (MAs).

Nigel Jonathan Ochieng is running to be the next student life coordinator at ASFA, with the goal to establish a closer connection between the students and the association itself.

Ochieng, who is a Political Science major, plans to organize a variety of social events for Concordia students, including trivia and karaoke nights, as well as online game sessions. He believes this would be a great opportunity for students to socialize and develop their critical thinking skills.

“One thing I noticed amongst the student body is that no one actually knows what ASFA is,” said Ochieng.

As someone who has organized events for Model UN in high school, the candidate hopes to “bridge the gap between the students and their representatives,” with the help of his social activities.

Sadegh Sheikhnezhad is an Economics student, and is the current academic coordinator for ASFA. While he has achieved quite a bit in his last term, he hopes to continue in the role for another year.

Excited to be running with Hope and Reliability, Sheikhnezhad is passionate about the slate’s message. “Our promises as a slate: we want to improve the mental health services, reimagine the academic resources, and also enhance the transparency.”

He is adamant about his time not being over, and his work with ASFA not being over. He managed to help fill the positions for various ASFA committees that had been vacant for a while. “We never had the chance to actually have those individuals to sit on those committees, like the curriculum committee,” he said.

Saruul Bazarsuren is majoring in Political Science at Concordia and grew up in Mongolia. When she moved to Montreal two years ago, Concordia became her new home.

A part of the Hope and Reliability slate, Bazarsuren is running to become the next mobilization coordinator at the ASFA, and hopes to concentrate on students’ mental health if elected.

She said, “I’m sure almost everyone has been dealing with mental health issues because of all the isolation and rules and online classes. So I really wanted to make the voices of students heard and also focus on the mental health of students.”

She vows to give students better access to mental health services, create a safe space for students to communicate and support each other, and work as an advocate for students that are a part of ASFA.

Sabrina Morena is running for communications coordinator. She is in her second year in Human Relations. Her team is promising to bring back the integrity of the ASFA and increase student involvement.

She aims to, “be open and honest with the students, [be as] transparent as we can be, increase academic and mental health resources for students,” said Morena, explaining the goals of Hope and Reliability.

Morena has experience with increasing student engagement, as she worked with the Applied Human Sciences Student Association. There she learned the value of social media marketing, and how it impacts students.

Morena hopes her experience will help her have a positive impact on students as communications coordinator, ensuring that students are aware of things that are available to them, such as loans, bursaries, and scholarships.

“We pay for education, and they [students] should take advantage of everything that we have, whether it’s initiatives or workshops or events,” she said.

Noor Coll is a third-year Economics student, and is excited to be supporting the Hope and Reliability slate this coming year. Similarly to her peers, she is eager to improve mental health services for students among other ambitious goals. She said, “The most important [goal] is improving mental health for students.”

Running for internal coordinator, she believes she is uniquely qualified for the position. She said, “As somebody who’s lived in so many countries, I think that I’m really good at putting myself in other people’s shoes. And with that being said, I wanted to do something about the situation that we’re all in.”

She moved to the U.S from Iran, and came to Canada after high school.  Coll says she is ready to face any challenge. “That’s why I feel confident about running for internal coordinator — because I moved here all on my own. I’m independent. I’m responsible. I’ve lived in so many places, and speak several languages. And I just feel like I’ve had so many experiences throughout my life that I feel like I’m up for any challenge, you know, and just helping out.”

Amine Ben Arous is running for the finance coordinator position at ASFA, aiming to develop a student grant program and to increase financial literacy among Concordia students.

“We’re going to do workshops on how to [fill out] your tax forms, how to create a budget for a trip, how to manage your personal finances,” said Ben Arous, an Actuarial Mathematics major.

Besides focusing on one’s personal budget, Ben Arous also plans to increase Concordia’s overall budget by seeking sponsors and partnerships with the appropriate companies and institutions.

Finally, Ben Arous is currently “looking into a structured student grant program to help marginalized students,” as he believes that more financial support should be provided to students experiencing economic hardship.

While mostly focusing on financial matters at ASFA, he also promises to fight for transparency within the association.


A day before elections, Alexandre Boigontier joined the slate and is running for executive coordinator; this last minute change will not be reflected on the ballots. For his campaign, Boigontier said he wants students to have a say in the issues he will tackle throughout the year.

His first campaign promise is to begin weekly meetings with associations and students, where they would be able to tell ASFA what they feel it should do. One of issues brought up on a recent poll he made for students, was for ASFA to better provide support for racism and sexual violence on campus, which he plans on addressing with input from students.

He would like to support students with mental health issues and those who are struggling with isolation with more engaging online events. Overall, Boigontier plans to “Give the students a voice and to give them hope, and also to help them have a better student life.”

In several of his campaign posts, Boigontier targeted the Economic Student Society, which caused some confusion. However, he addressed this in a later Facebook post saying he does seek to represent “all students.”

Running for re-election as mobilization coordinator is Payton-Rose Mitchell, who is looking to better invest and provide training against anti-oppression at the ASFA.

According to Mitchell, ASFA has received two human rights complaints in the last five years, which resulted in the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) being mandated to develop oppression training for ASFA and MA executives.

“Over the past few years, AFSA has really lost the faith of a lot of students,” said Mitchell. She says a recent fee levy will fund a $10,000 project to pay five BIPOC students to consult on “building an ASFA specific anti-oppression training.”

Additionally, Mitchell would also hire a part-time, neutral third party to deal with allegations of harassment, discrimination, and violence against ASFA executives. She says the position would replace the current committee, which according to Mitchell is chaired by ASFA councillors and executives, and has produced a “massive conflict of interest.”

Sarah Bubenheimer is running to be the next internal coordinator of the ASFA, hoping to strengthen its bond with other MAs.

While studying Philosophy, Law and Society, and Liberal Arts, Bubenheimer wants to make sure that Concordia students have strong leadership roles at ASFA.

“I’m running for students who are not self-interested. We’re a slate of former ASFA staff and executives, we’re committed to making structural changes to make sure ASFA is student-led,” she explained.

Bubenheimer’s priority is to establish leadership training, specifically for students holding lead positions at the MAs. She hopes it will bring out more confidence and organization skills from students, thus helping them to have a larger say in student affairs.

Alexandre Wolski is running for finance coordinator. He is in his third year studying Honours Philosophy. Last year Wolski was elected as chairman executive coordinator at the Students of Philosophy Association.

Wolski is running on three main points, the first of which is to make dedicated student funds for projects. He stated he wants students to immediately think of getting funding from ASFA when they have a project.

The second is to streamline the reimbursement process for all ASFA-related expenditures. Wolski aims to change the current way project reimbursement works, creating a shorter waiting period for students.

His third point is creating stricter policy to stop the chance of embezzlement.

“If students are looking for reliability, they should go for people who have mainly been involved with ASFA, because we’re not just hoping that we can be good at our positions, we know that we will be able to make these changes happen,” said Wolski.


Andrew McLeod is running for finance coordinator and is a mature student who has been studying Statistics for a year and a half. McLeod is from Toronto and a former military member.

According to McLeod, his slate is titled Freedom to Finance, as he believes that Concordia students should not have to finance groups they may or may not agree with. McLeod’s goal as finance coordinator is to democratize finances, essentially letting students choose where their student fees go.

He clarified that students could not choose individual organizations, but choose packages to finance with their tuition fees.

The reason McLeod decided to run for finance coordinator was because he hated seeing his tuition fees going to groups and programs he didn’t agree with.

Jasmine Ramcharitar-Brown is running for academic coordinator. She is in the last year of her Bachelor of History, and she went to Vanier college for Special Care Counselling. Ramcharitar-Brown stated she had a rough childhood and wants to help students that are struggling.

Ramcharitar said the main reason she is running is because she wanted to be in a helping position, and she would like to offer better mental health and financial support for students.

She stated that she understands the difficulty students with jobs face, as it’s hard to focus on academics while also juggling employment responsibilities. She aims to create events or workshops that can help students improve their academics or find coping methods.

As it is her last year, Ramcharitar wants to make an impact before graduating, and her end goal is to support students.

Candidate for student life coordinator, Chelsea Fares, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Fares wrote in her candidacy, “I wish to continue exciting the lives of students through fun activities and entertaining events. Since we couldn’t do much last year, let’s double the excitement this time around!”

Logo courtesy of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA)

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