Counter-protesters defend trans rights amid outcry of opposing protest

Trans rights groups and anti-trans groups debate what is best for children’s education about gender identity

Five hundred counter-protesters took to the streets of Downtown Montreal on Sept. 20, fighting for trans people’s rights against the opposing protest “1 Million March 4 Children,” that seeks to advocate the “elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.”

Both protests took place nationwide, accompanied by 61 counter-protests. 

Anti-trans protesters chanted “Leave our children alone” and “Parents know best” in the direction of counter-protesters, who they believe are trying to “indoctrinate their children with sexualization” according to their website. 

Celeste Trianon is a trans jurist, organizer of the “No Space for Hate” protest and one of the two national coordinators of the same campaign. She has dedicated her life to standing up for trans rights and creating an environment where they feel safe and accepted.

“There is no space for hate across Canada, and we’ve historically been one of the safest countries for 2SLGBTQ+ people across the world and we want to make sure that continues,” Trianon said. 

“Remember, our Canadian Charter has protected us [the 2SLGBTQ+ community] since the 80s. Where have all those values gone? Let’s not dismantle our Charter and the very things that make us Canadian.”

Corey Kutner, a trans person studying at Concordia, attended the counter-protest. They do not agree with the way the trans community is being presented to children. 

“A lot of people are falsely equating being trans and educating children about what it means to be trans with really awful things like being a pedophile, a groomer. I just want to do my part of combating that misinformation and standing up for trans people everywhere,” Kutner said. 

Caroline Raraujo moved from Brazil to protect her and her sons rights to be a part of the LGBTQIA+, she shares that she thinks it’s ridiculous she still has to do this in Canada as well. Kaitlynn Rodney/ The Concordian

Trans rights protesters walked down Sainte-Catherine holding signs such as “Protect Trans Kids,” “We Were Always Proud,” and “Trans people have always existed,” while chanting “Trans Rights are Human Rights.” While there were 750 anti-trans protesters, they were drowned out by the trans rights protesters, who made sure their message of solidarity was clear. 

“I’m hoping that everyone will just be able to get a better idea of just how many people there are out here who want to fight for transliteration and that it is a loud minority that is in opposition,” Kutner said.

Caroline Raraujo, a mother from Brazil, came to support the fight on behalf of her son, who came out as trans at the age of 16. She was actively involved in the 2SLGBTQ+ fight in Brazil and moved to Canada for a better life for the two of them. 

“Since he came out as a trans boy, I’m acting like a shield and I’m going to protect him. I’m going to protect him wherever they try to remove his rights or attack him. And not just him, but all the trans community,” Raraujo said.

Trianon ended her interview by addressing the public:

“To our queer and trans teens, kids, adults, and elders: you are seen, you are welcome. You are welcome here in Canada, and for us, as long as we can continue making sure that you are safe here, we’re going to do everything we can in our power to make sure you are not just welcomed, but loved.”


Malek Yalaoui: ASFA’s newest anti-oppressor educator

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) moves forward in educating and representing marginalized communities by providing a new anti-oppressor educator

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA), representing all Concordia undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science, recently hired Malek Yalaoui based on a recommendation by Nadia Chaney, another facilitator. Yalaoui is a Montreal-based writer, advocate, and public speaker who works to support marginalized communities at the university.

Yalaoui has previously worked at McGill for the Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) Office, supporting and advocating for racialized and ethnic students. She uses her work to highlight both her own voice and the voices of people of colour.

Additionally, she’s co-founder of SistersInMotion, an organization that welcomes BIPOC women and provides them with a platform to express themselves through art and other creative forms during annual shows.

“I was actually doing spoken word poetry,” Yalaoui said. “I went to a lot of poetry slams and competitions and I found the same thing there that exists, in every other sector of our society, which is, who was being lauded and lifted up and so often I felt like the voices of women of colour in particular weren’t getting the due that they deserved. And so I began this organization with a good friend of mine.”

Since leaving McGill in 2018, Yalaoui has been working as a facilitator for different small businesses and non-profit organizations working to help workplaces be more equitable.

Yalaoui said her work experience has helped her be more equipped for her current position in the ASFA as the new Care, Culture and Equity Commissioner (CCEC), through her previous work.

Part of her job is to ensure the implementation of ASFA’s policy on harassment, discrimination and violence, which was first adopted in 2018. This will require her to support and train the investigative committee, a group of AFSA councillors and members at large in charge of harassment complaints and other issues.

ASFA’s Mobilization Coordinator Payton-Rose Mitchell said prior to hiring Yalaoui, students used to report harassment complaints to the mobilization coordinator. Now, Yalaoui, “is the point of entry for students wishing to discuss their experiences of harassment, discrimination and violence within ASFA.” If an investigation is called, Yalaoui is responsible for participating in the role of a chair.

Her job also requires her to work with a task force of primarily students of colour, which would look at racialized sexual violence and discrimination. Mitchell said ASFA inaugurated the task force in compliance with a settlement agreement made between ASFA and two different  former executives who faced sexual violence and racism during their time on the executive team.

According to Mitchell, ASFA’s fee-levy raise in 2020 allowed the organization to begin to pay task force members $300 a month, “to share and discuss their experiences with of harassment and  Discrimination within the ASFA community, and make recomonations to the ASFA Council.” Prior to 2021, members of the task force participated on a volunteer basis.

“ASFA has recognized that a toxic culture of competition among past executives and a lack of institutional support has forced marginalized members out of the federation. The focus of the task force  is to shift ASFA’s culture by making informed changes to policy and procedure, as well as by building and delivering workshops on anti-oppression to ASFA and MA executives. This is also really cool because it’s an opportunity to provide paid work for BIPOC members to influence change within our student associations,” said Mitchell.

Yalaoui will also work with students who are well trained and equipped to work with the members of the faculty to offer anti-oppressive and anti-racism resources.

She has emphasized the importance of working to break down and understand microaggressions, implicit biases, and other racist patterns within the university. 

“We don’t want to look at these [student complaints] as an isolated incident. We want to understand the context in which they’re happening, and see what we can do to address that context,” said Yalaoui.

Moving forward, Yalaoui plans to examine policies and improve them. She believes in addressing barriers in systemic perspectives.

One example is the harassment policy. Where traditionally two people are involved, Yalaoui wishes to broaden this policy to consider everyone involved, including the bystanders.

“When [these incidents] happen, a whole community of people is actually getting involved,” she said.

Another plan which is currently being worked on, is to change the culture of harassment that can often be implicitly or explicitly prevalent among people.

Yalaoui hopes to see more training about harassment, especially regarding how to recognize it in the first place and ensure that such instances don’t happen again.

“The goal is not punishment. The goal is change.”


Photograph by Kaitlynn Rodney


Trans rights activists lead march against Bill 2

A march in solidarity with the transgender community precedes Nov. 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance

Kicking off a weekend of events for the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20, Aide aux Trans du Québec (ATQ) held a solidarty march for the gender plurality community of Quebec in front of the Montreal Courthouse on Nov. 19.

The march, which saw over 50 people in attendance, was held to so show support for the trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming community, as well as to protest the proposed Bill 2. Notably, Manon Massé, one of the leaders for Québec solidaire, was present at the march.

Bill 2 would make it a requirement for people to undergo gender-affirming surgery if they want to change their assigned sex on their birth certificate. The bill would also make it so there is a new section for gender on birth certificates, with the possibility of a third non-male or female gender. Another aspect of the bill is that intersex people would have to apply for a change of designated sex as soon as possible.

“This really is a place for the whole trans community and allies to just to pour out our grievances against the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government for proposing the most transphobic bill ever introduced in Quebec and Canada,” said Celeste Trianon, a trans rights advocate at the Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) and a speaker at the march.

The CGA is a Concordia fee-levy group that promotes gender equality and empowerment, specifically as it relates to marginalized communities. The centre does various programming, campaigns, advocacy, and has resources and services open to Concordia and the LGBTQIA2+ community.

“[Bill 2] would lead to so much harm for trans people,” said Trianon, who explained that not all trans people would want genital surgery, and that the wait times for such a surgery could be up to five years.

They explained that without a recognized photo ID, people will struggle to apply for employment and housing.

“It’s like another coming out for people, and we don’t want that,” said Trianon.

Jason Noël, the treasurer, secretary, and event planner for ATQ, explained that the on the weekend of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, there were multiple events planned throughout the day, such as conferences and brunches.

“We are going to have a moment of silence,” said Noël, who explained that Nov. 20 is to remember the trans people that have disappeared and raise awareness of the violence against the trans community. “It’s a very special thing, I would say it is one of the most important parts of trans pride.”

“We are hoping that for the night, people will be able to forget everything that’s happening in the world right now,” said Noël, who stated that because of COVID-19 they had to delay trans pride three times, and the weekend would mark the first time since the pandemic began that the trans community of Montreal would be able to come together and party.

“We’re just gonna dedicate the dance floor to the people who are not with us anymore, who disappeared because of violence,” said Noël. “And then the next morning […] we will go to brunch and that will be super fun.”

According to Noël, multiple organizations will be going to court to try and reform the bill on Nov. 29, but it may be delayed until December or later in 2022. 

“It’s a bill that’s bringing us back like 15 years,” said Noël, who criticized Canada and Quebec for appearing to be supportive of trans rights while allowing this bill to be proposed.

According to an article by the CBC, this bill is being presented as a victory for transgender people by the Quebec government, but could actually put trans people in a dangerous situation by outing them every time they show their ID.

“Get involved, be at protests, denounce the CAQ, hold your friends and entourage to do the same.” said Trianon. “We need more people to speak out against this bill.”


Photograph by Catherine Reynolds


The World March of Women’s fifth action concluded this Sunday

Marchers chanted “Equity is Possible through Diversity” as this year’s focus was on the rights of Indigenous and marginalized women

Montreal’s Coalition of the World March of Women (WMW) held a march this Sunday Oct.17, concluding the fifth international action which, this year, emphasized the rights of Indigenous women.

Marchers wore red, a symbol that shows solidarity for missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Red scarves were given out by event organizers at Cabot Square Park before the march departed at 1 p.m.. The crowd chanted “Equity is possible through diversity” during the speeches, right before taking off for the march.

Protesters of all ages, backgrounds and genders chanted and marched down Saint-Catherine Street to the beat of hand-held drums.

The WMW was a feminist movement that initiated in Quebec after the Bread and Roses march in 1995 to combat the growing impoverishment and violence against women.

The movement was “born of the desire to unite women of the world around a common project,” as stated on the official WMW website, and grew to “an international feminist action movement connecting grass-roots groups and organizations working to eliminate the causes at the root of poverty and violence against women.”

The first international action happened in 2000 and has since occurred every five years. Beginning on March 8, International Women’s Day, and closing on Oct. 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the WMW holds a series of events to put forward and raise awareness for their demands.

The fifth action was projected to take place in 2020, but the Coordination du Québec de la March mondiale des femmes (CQMMF) decided to postpone it due to the pandemic.

The WMW regroups activists and women’s groups in Montreal. But, it is also just one part of a global movement. Diana Lombardi, coordinator for Réseau d’action des femmes en santé et services sociaux, an umbrella group for women’s groups in Montreal, explained: “When we sit down and think about what themes to bring up for the march, we ask ourselves: how can what we are doing in Montreal support and make space for women’s voices who are less heard?”

Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, highlighted why the WMW is fighting for Indigenous women’s rights. “We’re still facing no clean water in Iqaluit, we’re still facing missing and murdered Indigenous women, we’re still facing poverty, we’re still facing homelessness, we’re still facing our children being apprehended in youth protection.”

“We learned this summer that there are over 6500 children in mass graves, therefore we need your help,” she said.

This year’s march was organized around five major themes: a strong sense of solidarity and the demands of indigenous women, poverty, violence against women, climate justice, and the rights of immigrant, racialized, and migrant women.

Lombardi was also on Montreal’s WMW coordinating team for this year’s actions. “Our goal is to speak more to the population that it is possible to make changes […] and what we are suggesting is good for all communities, not just a few. We are thinking of a society with less violence, cleaner spaces, less poverty, and a place for all people” said Lombardi. “How can we not fight for that?”

The poverty theme assesses the growing impoverishment of women by asking decent livable wages. “The housing crisis in Montreal is making it harder for women to come out of poverty, which makes accessing clean and affordable housing more difficult,” said Lombardi.

Montreal’s Rental Market Report for 2020 highlighted that the average rental prices on the Island of Montreal went up 4.2 per cent in 2020, which has been the largest increase since 2003.

The WMW is also demanding more recognition of violence against women. Femicide has been discussed by Quebec media more than ever since the start of the pandemic. In 2021, 16 women in the province of Quebec were reported murdered through acts of domestic violence, with an alleged 17th case on Monday.

Lombardi adds, “the housing crisis in Montreal is not helping women who are experiencing domestic or interpersonal violence looking for a safe place to be.”

She also notes that immigrant, racialized, and migrant women “who might not have high status” and “who are trying to be included in Montreal and in Montreal’s society” are failing to be noticed by the city.

“Can we recognize that we have a problem with systemic racism?” she asked.


Photograph by Lou Neveux-Pardijon


Justice and Equality, Now

Some things are bigger than sports

On Aug. 23, a Black man named Jacob Blake was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Blake was shot seven times, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

After this event, much of the sports world and its high-profile athletes used their platforms to speak out against systemic racism.

On Aug. 26, in the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Milwaukee Bucks were scheduled to play Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Orlando Magic at 4 p.m. In response to Blake being shot several times, the Bucks didn’t emerge from their locker room, calling for justice for Blake. It was announced by 5 p.m. that all NBA playoff games were postponed indefinitely.

The Bucks then released an official statement explaining their decision not to play, outlining their inability to focus on basketball when change is needed. The strike sparked a chain reaction in sports, as people from all disciplines showed their support. Kenny Smith, former NBA player and co-host of Inside the NBA on TNT walked off the set of the show on-air, in solidarity with player protests.

In keeping with this idea, on Aug. 26, three Major League Baseball (MLB) games were cancelled in order to draw attention to systemic racism, while seven more were cancelled the following day. In the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), fourth-seeded Naomi Osaka won her quarterfinal matchup at the Western and Southern Open, but withdrew shortly after to fight for racial justice. The tournament responded to her courageous act by postponing all of Thursday’s scheduled matches. On Aug. 27 and 28, all NHL games were also postponed, and multiple football teams cancelled their practices as well.

We all can do our part to help make this world a better place, especially in 2020, where we have the tools and the technology to share our message and learn from each other. For example, a group of former and current NHL players started the Hockey Diversity Alliance in order to inspire the new generation of players and fans. By providing resources to the young generation, the Hockey Diversity Alliance is showing it wants to do more than just support a cause. Their ultimate goal is to eliminate racism and intolerance in the game.

The Concordian wants to support and follow the movement taken in the sports world. That’s why this article is the only one that will be published in the sports section for our first issue of the semester. Some things are bigger than sports, and we should never ignore them.

We stand for racial justice and equality. Black Lives Matter.


Graphic by Chloë Lalonde


The feminism we are exposed to

One student’s experience with being told “no,” and how that led to an epiphany

A few weeks ago, I was at my aunt’s house with my parents, my cousins, my great-aunts and uncles for Saturday supper. It’s a tradition that after our family’s Sunday supper together, the men go to a local Italian bar to have coffee. Every time, not one of the women is asked to go, simply because it’s not customary.

Recently, I’ve been super busy and, although I had brought my laptop to supper to work on assignments, I decided I wanted to take a break and get a coffee. I was looking forward to a freshly brewed espresso and some down time with my cousins away from my laptop. That is, until I was met with a sentence I’ve never been told in my life: “No, because women aren’t allowed to come.”

I immediately got defensive. I told my great-uncle I just really wanted to get a coffee; it’s not like I was intruding on anything. To no one’s surprise, I guess, arguing with an old Italian man and getting around being told “no” was futile. I got upset and emotional, struggling to hold back tears.

You may think I was being dramatic and that my reaction, while not unwarranted, was not necessary. But this experience made me realize a plethora of things I hadn’t really put too much thought into before.

My entire life, my parents—my mother, in particular—have raised me to be able to do anything and everything. As a small child, I knew how to use a hammer and a screwdriver; I could paint a wall, install pavé-uni (yes, even that), do basic plumbing, change a lightbulb, and maintain the pool. In our house, being a girl was never a factor for discrimination. I knew how to do all of these chores because they were the tasks that needed to get done.

My mom passed that mentality on from her childhood when she and her three sisters were taught how to do everything and pull their weight too. That was passed down from my grandparents. My nonna knew how to paint and fix things around the house, and my nonno would cook, do groceries and even the laundry, which was super uncommon at that time. Likewise, my 70-year-old aunt is and has always been the one who does the gardening, mows the lawn, all while being the one who cooks and cleans up after 15 people at family gatherings.

She and my great-uncle are of the same baby-boomer generation. Since the incident, I struggled to understand how two people of about the same age, especially from that generation, could have such different values. Then I realized that even within my own generation, which is supposedly “woke” and informed about social constructs, there is disparity. I have come to the conclusion that it all comes down to what you were and continue to be exposed to.

Luckily for me, I come from a few generations of feminists (I use the term lightly here, although it’s applicable nonetheless) even if they didn’t know it. My nonno raised four strong daughters; my mom went on to teach me the same values and, along with my dad, instilled in me that I don’t need a man and I should never take “no” for an answer.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin



A proud moment for Concordia engineering

Well, it finally happened folks. Concordia University made history.

Not for the most suit-wearing students in the John Molson School of Business; not for the longest line-up at People’s Potato. For something infinitely more important. Concordia is the first university in Canada to name an engineering school after a woman.

The Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science is named after Gina Parvaneh Cody, the former executive chair of CCI Group, an engineering firm in Toronto. Cody was also the first woman at Concordia to receive a PhD in building engineering. She graciously donated $15 million to Concordia recently, and according to CBC News, the university will be using part of the money to create a fund for equity, diversity and inclusion programming.

According to CBC News, Cody made the donation because university is a place for “women, people of colour, Indigenous populations and other minorities to pursue their dreams.” These positive words uplift our spirits here at The Concordian, and we are proud to be witnessing such a powerful moment.

Naming an engineering school after a woman is a huge step in the STEM field, as 12.8 per cent of practicing licensed engineers in Canada are women, according to Engineers Canada. The same source highlights that women only account for 20 per cent of total enrolment in undergraduate engineering programs at Canadian universities. According to the Toronto Star, Concordia exceeded that number last year, by having 23 per cent of women in the engineering and computer science programs. While these numbers are staggeringly low, we at The Concordian believe naming an engineering school after a woman is a key step in changing these figures.

In a society that has cultivated a certain image of women and men, things have remained static. But today, we must acknowledge different truths about genders and the societal constructs surrounding them. Women can and do excel in male-dominated industries, and we need to celebrate that narrative. Cody said, “I think it will break that fear that engineering and computer science is for boys. I’m hoping kids at school, when they hear [the school’s name], they will say, ‘Oh, it’s a woman’s name!’ and it will matter,” according to Toronto Star.

We at The Concordian also hope for that effect. The programs at our universities should be as diverse as possible, in order to properly reflect our realities. Women make up half of the population in Canada—isn’t it about time that all fields, especially STEM fields, reflect that?

We also believe it’s worth noting that Cody came to Canada in 1979 from Iran with just $2,000, according to CBC News. While some people believe where you’re going matters more than where you came from, we think roots are important. It’s necessary to stress that, as an immigrant, Cody has made an incredible life in Canada for herself and for the next generation of engineering students at Concordia. In a political climate that often rejects the acceptance of immigrants and worries about their contribution to society, Cody represents what can happen when Canada chooses to be an accepting nation.

We at The Concordian are proud to be at a university where the first woman who received a PhD in building engineering is the same woman whose name graces the first female-named engineering school in Canada. We hope the fight for gender equity and diversity in engineering doesn’t end here.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


What does feminism look like in French?

Why gender-neutral language could be a step toward an equal and inclusive society

Language and thought are intrinsically linked. Our thoughts are informed by the words we use to describe them in ways that are difficult to measure and are easy to take for granted. The ways language fails to accurately describe reality has been a topic of interest for artists and philosophers for centuries. In English, there are certain linguistic norms and terms that have been criticized by new social movements.

Contemporary feminists question the use of male pronouns as supposedly gender-neutral. In writing and speech, hypothetical people are usually referred to as ‘he’; a group of people—regardless of gender identity—are referred to as ‘guys’; and when speaking literally of all of humanity it is common to use the word ‘man.’ According to the Stanford University website, using male pronouns in a neutral way contributes to establishing men as the norm, and makes women seem out of place or even invisible in various contexts.

Another problem in the English language is in the connotations the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ conjure up. In her book The Man of Reason, Genevieve Lloyd points out that chaos and danger tend to be associated with femininity, while order and reason tend to be associated with masculinity. Such representations of gender permeate contemporary media (think of detective films, where a femme fatale character threatens to undo their reasonable male counterpart), and they work their way into our language and thought in discreet and insidious ways.

There are many more ways that feminists are concerned with faults in the English language (for a comprehensive outline of various arguments in the field, I recommend checking out the “Feminist Philosophy of Language” page on Stanford University’s website, which I quoted earlier). But what does feminism look like in other languages—particularly gendered ones? I spoke to Christine Delmar, a councillor on female empowerment for the company Les 7 Directions in France, to hear about her perspective on feminism and the French language.

In French, the verbs, adjectives and adverbs used are dependant on the gender of the noun that they are applied to. Delmar noted in our conversation that one of the first things children learn when they are learning how to speak French is that “masculine wins over feminine.” This is like the ‘masculine pronouns as neutral’ problem in English I mentioned earlier, in that it obscures women and strongly implies that they are inferior or subordinate to men. “Learning of masculine dominance in school has a significant impact on the subconscious,” Delmar said.

Delmar spoke on the gendering of job titles in the French language during our conversation, and told the story of a French explorer named Alexandra David-Neel to showcase a problematic fault in the French language. She said that although David-Neel might be considered one of the greatest French explorers, there is no way to say that in French without using the male noun. Instead—since she is female—she is called the ‘plus grande exploratrice,’ which translates directly to the ‘best woman explorer.’

For certain job titles, it is more common to refer to them in the feminine or the masculine, depending on the type of work and the gender they are traditionally associated with. When gender is unknown, doctor is masculine (docteur) whereas nurse is feminine (infirmière), which reflects and reinforces gender stereotypes. This makes anomalies in these fields stand out even more, and works to maintain rigid gender norms and stereotypes.

In the fall of 2017, a French textbook advocating for gender-neutrality in language was released, according to The Atlantic. It has sparked a lot of heated debate, as many fear that a move towards making French gender-neutral would ruin the beauty of the language. However, the reality is that language is constantly changing, and we should try to make it change in a way that can more accurately represent society by including minorities and marginalized groups.

Gender-neutral language would be a step closer to a fair society, and I think that is well worth the effort it will take to achieve it. Perhaps English—a language that is naturally more gender-neutral—can purge itself of unnecessary and arbitrary gendered words or concepts to be more inclusive. This could act as a model for other languages in the global advancement towards inclusive language.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Montreal women march towards social justice

Montrealers join forces in support of inclusive, intersectional feminism

Hundreds of Montrealers gathered outside Place-des-Arts at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 20 for the second annual Montreal Women’s March. Organizations like the Centre des Femmes de l’UQÀM, a feminist group from the Université du Québec à Montréal, helped organize the event alongside many diverse groups and volunteers.

People from all across the city joined dozens of other marches taking place across the country, and more throughout the United States, demonstrating for much more than just gender equality. Demonstrators and representatives from various organizations showed their support for several social justice issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQ+ community.

Claire McLeish (left) and Samantha Skallar hold up their signs at the Montreal Women’s March on Sunday. Photo by Alex Hutchins

At the rally, women from all backgrounds cheered loudly, wore pink “pussyhats” and brandished poster-board signs that featured phrases like, “We love, support and fight for our trans friends,” “Talk to boys about toxic masculinity” and “Respect existence or expect resistance.”

The largest sign, held up on the steps at the Esplanade, read the hashtag of the day, “#ÇaPassePu,” which roughly translates to, “This doesn’t work for us anymore.”

The march took place exactly one year after Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States and the first Women’s March on Washington, when hundreds of thousands gathered in their respective cities to protest his proposed policies.

A demonstrator brandishes a poster-board sign that reads, “GIRL POWER.” Photo by Alex Hutchins

One year later, the rally was now about much more, specifically amplifying the voices of marginalized communities, including sex workers, transgender people, those with disabilities and victims of sexual assault.

Many of the women who spoke at the rally highlighted the #MeToo movement, which has become internationally popular for denouncing sexual violence and harassment, as well as voicing support for survivors. Several speakers in Montreal shared their personal stories of sexual assault and harassment.

Those attending the Montreal rally demanded inclusivity and intersectionality. One speaker announced to the crowd: “If we do not have an intersectional perspective, we will fail some of our sisters.”

The rally came to a deeply moving and emotional peak when one of the speakers instructed everyone in the crowd to hold hands and chant, “I am on fire, I am powerful,” in reference to Alicia Keys’ song “Girl On Fire” and her speech from last year’s Women’s March on Washington.

Another notable speech came from Nathalie Provost, one of the survivors of the December 1989 École Polytechnique massacre, where 14 women were killed in an anti-feminist mass shooting at the hands of gunman Marc Lépine. Provost survived the shooting after being shot in the forehead, both legs and a foot, according to Maclean’s.

In her speech, Provost looked back on the tragedy, telling the crowd about how, at the time, she had said she was not a feminist. She mentioned that her daughters were in attendance with her at the rally to support women’s rights.

Demonstrators Anastasia Katsoulis, 14, and Edgar Jose Becerra Granados, 16, told The Concordian they decided to attend this year’s rally because they believe everyone should have equal rights.

A man at the rally holds a sign that reads, “Men of quality do not fear equality.” Photo by Alex Hutchins

“That’s what feminism is. It isn’t just for women,” Katsoulis said. “It’s for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s for people of colour. It’s for everyone.”

Becerra Granados stressed the importance of actively demonstrating for movements you believe in.

“It’s important to go to these kinds of things if you consider yourself a feminist, especially nowadays with social media,” they said. “It’s easy to just say you support something, but you really have to go out and do stuff like this to show that you do.”


Photos by Alex Hutchins


Humans of la Manifestation

An exploration of why people protest against gender inequality

On Saturday, Jan. 21, I attended the annual Women’s March in Montreal at Place des Arts, where many speakers gave a voice to issues of gender inequality through an array of critical lenses. I asked several people why they thought these protests are important and how it felt to be part of a public gathering with so many people fighting for different forms of equality. This is what they had to say.

“I think it’s important because we need to raise public awareness on issues that have the tendency to be silenced. I think it’s the perfect moment, now, to be a woman, because I recognize the shift, and I’m just so happy to be a part of it,” she said, smiling at her mother. I asked Gurnagul what she personally drew from being at the protest. She replied: “Just complete empowerment. Just pure ecstasy. Like, I’m so ready to march. We’re all here with similar values, and it feels great. It feels like I’m part of a movement.”

Erin Strumpf was sporting a hot pink feather boa, a shiny gold cape, a fairy wand and a “pussyhat.”

“[The march is] a reminder that those of us who are fighting to make change and a better world are still here, and we’re not going anywhere. I think it’s an important opportunity, as a community, to come together and feel the power of being together and to be sort of reinvigorated and re-energized,” she said. “It’s empowering at an individual level, and I think you feel that exchange with other people, and it sort of builds into something bigger than just yourself.”

Dalia Robidoux proudly displays her hand-made sign while protesting in favour of feminism and gender equality.

“I feel like it’s really empowering for you and for other people because […] when you see your neighbours coming out and protesting, it makes you see the whole movement and you see the community, because this is a community,” she said. Robidoux told me what she personally took away from the protest. “I feel so much more powerful,” she said with a smile. “[Coming] to this protest, I don’t know, I feel like I can do anything, like I can say anything and I’ll be listened to.”

Fatou Ndiaye was supporting Democrats Abroad Montreal, an organization that allows American citizens living abroad to mobilize and participate in electoral processes, according to their website.

“This is important because it is a symbol of the fight and the continuation of the resistance, and being able to say that this is more than just a one-time thing. We’re not swayed by what […] seems to be most important in the general stream of popular culture. It’s about a genuine passion for equality. It’s honestly beautiful,” she said.

I asked Ndiaye how she felt people could be more politically active beyond gathering in physical spaces. She answered, “I think this comes in two-folds; the first being on just the individual level, to reach out to your [community] to try to get more people mobilized on a regular basis.” She said the second fold is about organizations continuously engaging with more communities, even if only briefly. “I think it’s just about making that awareness known and being more proactive in diffusing that awareness.”

A previous version of this article used the headline “Women of la Manifestation.” The headline has been changed to more accurately represent the diversity of people who attended the event. The Concordian regrets the error.


Safety first? Our condom conundrum

Should student journalists be treated like any other professionals at a national conference?

Over the weekend, six delegates from The Concordian made their way to NASH: an annual conference for student journalists. Boasting speakers such as Peter Mansbridge, Lisa LaFlamme, Terry Milewski, Laurie Graham, Chris Jones and more, the conference—and subsequent JHM Awards—could be seen as a formal, professional event.

The black-tie formal wear of the gala would seem to say so, as would the long list of prestigious journalists. However, at its core, NASH is a conference for students: specifically, university students. With that in mind, can a “young professional” conference truly be professional at all?

The schedule included bar nights, and drinks were offered at all the meals and keynote addresses. The hashtag on Twitter (#nash77) seemed to hint more at tomfoolery than any kind of gravitas.

The deciding factor may have been hidden at the bottom of our welcome bags: two bright red, solitary condoms. These were also included in last year’s gift bags, paired with a few dental dams.

We readily admit that our masthead is divided. Was it appropriate to give condoms to university students at a “professional” conference?

On one hand, the conference was not intended for professionals; it was a student conference. And if you get a large gathering of university students together, at an event that has billed social events at bars, where everyone will be staying in one hotel, doesn’t it make sense to provide condoms? At best it’s a preventative measure, at worst, a tongue-in-cheek joke about the nature of college events.

At the same time, it could undermine the image of those who are attending the conference, and the conference itself. How can one expect the conference to be taken seriously if it includes sex items in loot-bags? Are these really young professionals ready to enter the workplace, or party-obsessed teenagers who still need a lesson on safe sex? Why would professional speakers come to a conference that is billed as the “hook-up” event of journalism—especially when organizers acknowledge that aspect so blatantly?

At what point are we students, doing what students naturally do, or young, professional journalists, deserving to be treated as such? There may not be a perfect middle ground; especially where sex is concerned.


Flagging down a cab at night? Hail No!

Montreal Police need to show more drive

Threaten to take away their pensions, and Montreal Police will storm City Hall. When women are being raped, well — that’s another issue entirely, apparently.

In recent weeks, many women have come out to talk about their experiences in Montreal’s taxis. There have been numerous complaints of sexual assault, and many more who chose not to file a formal report are speaking out.

Montreal taxis are not required to have GPS or cameras, and although legally obligated, background checks on drivers are never done. Women out late must often choose between risking public transportation or taxis. (Louis Duchesne / Flickr)

What was the SPVM’s response? Was it promising to finally introduce the cameras that were proposed for cabs back in April? Or the GPS trackers to watch which cabs pick up which customers? More police presence after dark? No, no wait — how about actually implementing the background checks that are mandated by law, but are not enforced due to bureaucratic confusion?

Nope! Better tell women not to hail a cab. Problem solved.

I’m outraged, but not surprised. It’s not the first time that the police has decided that it is up to women not to get raped. In 2011, a Toronto police officer famously said that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” to keep themselves safe from sexual assault.

Let’s run down the master list of how not to get sexually assaulted, shall we?

Don’t dress like a “slut” — but geez, try to pretty yourself up, will ya? You’ll never get a man like that! Now then, don’t go around tempting him, you know that boys will be boys (and yes, eye contact counts). Don’t drink to excess, but come on, darling, just take a sip! What are you, some prude? Oh, you got drunk? Well, of course he’s going to bring you home with him.

Want to go home alone instead? Yeesh, talk about cold. Well, if you insist — but don’t walk home, that’s dangerous! You want to take a bus? Do you know what kind of people are on those things after dark? Better take a cab (hope you can afford it) — but make sure you call one, don’t hail it! (But remember, standing outside on the city street is dangerous.) Once you’re inside, make sure you take the identification number down! And call someone to tell them where you are! Of course, if you feel unsafe, better just ask him to stop and let you back out. Back at square one? Tough luck. Be lucky he even stopped in the first place.

There is simply no way to win if you’re a woman in Montreal at night. No wonder so many women didn’t report to the police: when you’re expected to follow so many unspoken rules, who knows what will happen when you try to tell your side of the story?

After all, no one has asked if a murder victim was asking for it. No one bothers questioning if the robbed knew the robber. The “pleasure” of being constantly called into question, scrutinized and demeaned is one entitled to victims of sexual assault alone.

I always was under the impression that Montreal’s police would be both available and willing to help me if something were to happen. However, in recent months — starting with the standing-by of officers as protesters broke into our biggest civil institution, and now with the lackluster response to the numerous sexual assaults taking place in the city — my trust is, simply put, non-existent.

In the meantime, does anyone know how to sign up for Uber?

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