Categories
Community

The 2023 Annual Fishing Derby

How fishing brings the community of Kahnawake together

Alongside the marina of Kahnawake, community members are setting up for the annual ice fishing derby. Walking out on the ice, one can hear the sounds of chatter and whirling, drilling down as fishers try to get the best spots. On the marina, you could see six pop-up tents and two huts spaced out on the frozen river. 

For the organizer Kirby Joe Diabo, the ice fishing derby is much more than a competition. Diabo also owns the REEL UM’ IN bait shop that overlooks the marina, where the event takes place.

“This event is all about getting people out there to enjoy the outdoors. Family gatherings and the added element of competition is always fun,” Diabo said.  

Fishing has always been an integral part of the Kahnawake community. It’s not only a way to feed families, but it’s also a way to promote healthy family connections and activities. 

“Ice fishing is a lost part of our culture,” said David Fazio, a longtime fishing veteran, and friend of Diabo. “With [Diabo], we are trying to get the people back into it. We used to live off of this. But when the white man came through the seaway, it killed off our natural resources.”

Diabo grew up fishing with his father in the winter and summer. “When I was younger there were a lot of tournaments outside of Kahnawake that we went to,” Diabo said.

But as Diabo got older, he realized the tournaments had stopped due to a decline in interest in the event. As he got more involved in the community, Diabo was motivated to bring them back to Kahnawake.

“When we first started the ice fishing tournaments here, we had a turnout of around 150 people on the ice. Nowadays, it has kind of slowed down and we get a turnout of around 30 people, which is still a lot for a fishing tournament,” Diabo said.

Although this year’s tournament happened, the mild weather created some challenges for the organizers. According to Outdoor Canada, the ice needs to be at least 12 inches thick, or thick enough to support a medium-sized pickup truck for the ice fishing tournament to take place. 

Diabo also couldn’t move his ice huts on the ice in time. Instead, pop-up tents that have heaters in them were set up so people could be comfortable. All the fishing gear that was needed for the day was found in the tents, including bait, rods, and heaters. 

The pop-up tents and ice fishing huts on the morning of the derby. Photo by Dalia Nardolillo/The Concordian

Despite the challenges the event still happened, with temperatures as low as below 30 for a week or so leading up to it.

The cold weather didn’t stop the community from getting out on the ice on Feb. 25. 

For Landon Goodleaf, the marina’s owner, the ice fishing derby is linked to some of his favorite memories of growing up.

“I remember when I was a little kid… One of the marina members, who was a friend of the family’s, invited us to a fishing derby. I remember it being a blizzard and it was wicked cold,” Goodleaf recalled. 

Goodleaf went on to explain that the day was so cold he couldn’t bear staying out, so he ended up going home. The next day, the gentleman who brought him to the tournament came to his house with a trophy for the largest Pike fish caught. Goodleaf recalls that this made him extremely happy.

For Goodleaf, it’s not about winning; it’s about enjoying the moment with his community.

“No electronics for me, I am old school. I have a boat and I am familiar with the water levels, where the holes are,” Goodleaf explained. “I am not gunning out to win the tournament, I just come out and drill some holes and have fun.”

For others, it’s all about finding the most efficient fishing methods. Experienced fishing veterans like Fazio don’t let silly things like the weather get in the way.

At sunrise on the morning of the derby, Fazio got set up on the ice with a hut that he made himself. He acquired all the modern sonar equipment which was scattered around inside his hut. 

Near where he sits in the hut, he has a screen that emits live video from the underwater camera that he has set up. He also acquired a sonar sensor that emits a sonic signal that will bounce back when it encounters an object. Then, it determines the object’s distance and position based on the reflection time and wave pattern. Fazio’s sonar sensor is extremely useful for ice fishing because, on days when the visibility is poor, it helps him determine the distance of where the fish are.  

Fazio’s underwater camera. Photo by Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN

Fazio prefers his modern equipment in comparison to the traditional tip-ups that other community members like Goodleaf use for ice fishing. “I’m a cheater. I am 58 years old and I have had enough of this crap,” Fazio said jokingly. 

To optimize his chances of a good catch, Fazio also set up three fishing holes inside of his hut and five more outside. The five fishing holes had tip-ups stationed at each hole. Tip-ups are usually placed at the edge of the ice hole and are set at a specific depth without actively needing to be manned by an angler. When a fish comes around to bite, the tip-up flag goes up — that’s when Fazio knows he got a good catch. 

Tip-ups at the ice holes on the lake. Photo by Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN

The day prior to the fishing derby, Fazio had his hut set up in the “weeds” as he calls them because that’s where all the Pike were.

“It’s been pretty cold these past couple of days. I hope someone gets a decent catch. If it’s going to be anyone it’s going to be those guys out in the weeds over there,” Fazio said as he motioned to the window overlooking the other side of the lake.

However, since the fishing derby was offering a bonus prize for the biggest Walleye catch, Fazio moved his hut a little closer to where the marina entrance is located. 

Fazio with his first catch of the day, a Pike. Photo by Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN

“I’ll have a chance to catch Walleye here because they come in from the deep water to feed. The Pike, on the other hand, goes in to feed on the Perch,” Fazio explained. Pike fish have a more spotted look to their bodies and are naturally a little more slender, whereas the Walleyes are a bit longer in size and have a more striped pattern along their bodies. 

At the end of the event, many prizes were given to the community members for the longest Pike fish caught.

Ben Green was awarded first place for his 30 ¼ inch Pike catch, winning $100 and a $600 gift certificate.

Jaydence Beauvais won second and third place for a 29-inch Pike and a 28-inch Pike.

Finally, the Walleye bonus award was given to Dice Phillips for a 17 ½ inch Walleye.

Categories
Features

A local Quebec flower farm is leading the way in the Slow Flowers Movement

Learn about the secret to growing healthy cut flowers

During the month of August, Au Beau Pré is a sight to see. Over 300 varieties of Dahlias are in full bloom. They come in every shape, size, colour and texture that one could only dream about. This flower field gives visitors the option to come and cut their own flowers to take home. Walking through the rows of the field, it could be hard deciding which Dahlias to add to your bouquet. 

The methods of production for flowers have always involved the use of pesticides, which in turn harm the people that produce them. 2,000 Canadian farms are trying to find better solutions to produce them organically, without pesticides. The Slow Flower Movement (SFM) is one of those remedies in terms of how farms treat their soil.

According to Flowers Canada Growers, there are over 1,600 flower producers in Canada. Flower farms cover over 75 million square feet of land combined. Among these flower producers is Sarah Beaupré Quenneville, a young entrepreneur heading her family’s beloved flower farm. Au Beau Pré flower farm sits in Saint Anicet, also known as “Quebec Florida” for its higher humid temperatures than the rest of the province. Au Beau Pré implements the SFM.

The secret to success for this flower farm is in their soil. “For the soil, we put compost every year or every two years depending on the crop,” Quenneville explained. 

According to Architectural Digest, the Slow Flowers Movement refers to the methodical preparation of soil before a seed is even planted. Farms across Quebec are slowly adopting this movement, like The Enfants Sauvages, among others.

Before Quenneville took on her family’s farm, her parents Roger and Lilianne were in charge and adopted the SFM. They started the Au Beau Pré farm back in 2007. 

Lillian Quenneville cutting off the roots of the dahlia bulbs Dalia Nardolillo/ THE CONCORDIAN

“This is my parent’s project. They were selling Dahlia flower bulbs for years,” Quenneville said. “Before, they specialized in wheat production and made grain based products.”

Growing up, Quenneville had no interest in the agricultural sector and she didn’t want to be as involved in the farm.

“I saw my dad working hours and hours on end, with no days off,” Quenneville recalled.

With a family of her own, Quenneville explained that she didn’t want her children to experience the same memories she had as a child. 

Quenneville studied communications during her undergrad and worked in media for a couple of years.Though she would sometimes help, Quenneville never envisioned  the farm as a potential career opportunity.

“With each year that passed, my parents kept on asking me, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to do anything with the land?’” Quenneville recalled. “I proceeded to telling them, ‘No it’s not my thing, it’s maybe yours but not mine.’” 

However, one day her mother told her about the endless possibilities of utilizing cut flowers. A cut flower is a bud or a flower that is cut from its bearing plant. Customers usually opt to buy cut flowers solely for decorative purposes, such as a bouquet. 

According to Slow Living LDN, the SFM aims to not only have a better understanding of the soil before a flower is planted but also a more mindful consumption of how they’re cut.

Dahlia Flowers in the summer Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN

A TURNING POINT –

“We discovered I had a certain talent with selling flowers. I always helped my parents during the summer. My parents always said, ‘You’re good with the flowers,’” Quenneville recalled. During the times where she couldn’t be as involved in the field, she would help her parents with the website and the online selling of the products. “My parents are not really good with selling their stuff online, they’re good producers but not very good sellers.”

For newer flower producers like Quenneville, ressources and helpful guides are always available. At Flower Canada Growers in Toronto, Pest Control specialist Cary Gates explains that the SFM may work for some flower farms but not all. 

“I don’t know if I see a lot of farms embracing that kind of approach,” Gates explained. “I am supportive of it, I just don’t know logistically if it is super functional, I see it for smaller acreages as being very achievable.”

Smaller farms like Au Beau Pré implement the utmost care into the soil before the Dahlia flower bulbs are even planted. “I really like the focus that farmers put into soil health,” Gates said. The care that is put into the soil equates to better quality flowers.

Quality control is also very important to the family. Roger and Lilianne make sure that the Dahlia flower bulbs don’t have any illnesses; however, sometimes unpredictable things can happen.

“One year we lost 75 per cent of our bulbs, we didn’t know exactly what happened in the fridge but they all rotted. I tell our customers I am not selling ‘Post-Its,’ we are selling living things and sometimes things like that can happen,” Quenneville recalled.

With Quenneville taking the reins on her parent’s farm in 2019 came its problems. “The first challenge I really faced was that I didn’t know how to produce flowers,” Quenneville said.

As the years progressed, Quenneville took more of an interest in the cut flowers business and became  a project that she eventually took on. Quenneville explained that at Au Beau Pré, they sell flowers when they are cut from the stem itself. When guests come to visit the field in the month of August, they pay per flower stem. 

With the help of various workshops through an American cut flower guru called Floret Flowers, Quenneville learnt the ins and outs of how to produce cut flowers. 

Learning how to produce cut flowers with Floret Flowers also taught Quenneville another important lesson of the SFM: how to produce flowers at the most optimal time.

Au Beau Pré tries to keep up with business year-round. The winter season preparations start in October, right at the first freeze.

“We do some chores with an old tractor, but most of the time we work the soil manually. This way we don’t mess with the soil structure too much and we can start working in the field faster in the spring,” Quenneville said.

LOOKING AT OTHER PROVINCES – 

One of the ways floral producers band together is through flower associations to help each other learn about sustainable ways of production.The Flowers Canada Growers Association (FCGA) has members all over Canada, including Bailey Dueker, owner of The Boondock Flower Farm in Saskatoon. 

Dueker got into the business by accident, she recounted. “This will be my fourth season growing in 2023. In the spring of 2019 I was sick of Facebook so I joined Instagram. I wanted to see flowers in my recommended page, so I started to follow all these flower farmers,” Dueker said. 

Seeing the flower farmer feeds inspired her to get into the field and she did not return to her regular job following her maternity leave. During the fall of 2019, Dueker did what she called a “soft-launch.” She acquired all the sunflowers and zinnias from her garden. Over the winter she spent her time buying seeds. “You really don’t know how much you don’t know until you get into it,” Dueker explained. 

Across Canada, flower farms are underestimated in terms of the leg work that it takes to produce. According to a Chatelaine article on the subject flowers have brought in an estimated $158 million in profit in 2021. 

FCGA represents floral producers all over Canada. Their members across Canada include greenhouse growers, distributors and importers/exporters all dealing with cut flowers, potted plants, bedding plants, cut greens and specialty suppliers and services to the industry.

Dueker explained that the main goal of being a part of the FCGA is providing more knowledge about the floral industry to others in the country. When you have a question that needs to be answered, there’s always someone there to help. “Connecting and marketing with other growers is the main idea of the association,” Dueker said.

Dueker also explained that there is a Facebook group for the association where members can connect with a community of flower growers.

According to Deuker, the future of cut flowers lies with the grassroots movement, which has a similar idea to the Slow Flowers movement. “I see a lot of people getting out of it in a couple of years because they come to realize that you have to do quite a bit of an investment to make it a living,” Dueker explained. Dueker has seen within the industry that perhaps selling to florists is maybe the way to go. 

Roger Quenneville preparing the Dahlia flower bulbs for winter at Au
Beau Pré Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN

FUTURE OF THE AU BEAU PRÉ FLOWER FIELD – 

As the farm plans for the future, Quenneville explained that the future lies within the flowers themselves. “I really want to try to make products from the flowers themselves. We worked a lot from the dried flowers and we liked working with them.”

Working with the dried flowers over the past summer was a trial and error process. We weren’t quite there in terms of the final product with the dried flower bouquets,” Quenneville recounted.  

Before perfecting any sort of dried flower she wants to master the production of them. 

“We try different things, of course our Dahlia bulbs are our most popular product. We try to keep the cut flowers during the summer. This year was the first time that we tried the tulips but I don’t want to get into making my own seeds because that’s its own production.”

Quenneville believes that the future of her business lies with online sales through her website. While visitors travel to Saint Anicet during the summer to get the cut flowers from the farm, Quenneville wants to have flower-based products that she can sell year-round to customers.

The cut flower industry is always changing and florists are always trying to adapt, whether that is in the different dried flower products or brushing up on their knowledge of how to better treat their soil. Gates explained that the future of the cut flowers isn’t going anywhere for now.  “I see the cut flower industry as pretty stable, I don’t know if I see it expanding exponentially like other ornamental commodities grow.”

Categories
Community

The Family Store’s initiative to save Montreal residents in need

Amid soaring food prices, the Family Store is an oasis providing groceries at or below costs for those in need in the Jewish community.

Back in December 2008, Rabbi Yossi Kessler created The Family Store located on Courtrai avenue in Côte-des-Neiges. Kessler had the intent of helping lower-class Jewish residents obtain grocery items at a subsidized cost. 

What started as a small pantry has grown into a well-oiled machine with volunteers bustling at 11 a.m. on Sunday afternoons. 

TFS brings together volunteers from different cultural backgrounds. Volunteers can help on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Wednesdays from 5 to 9 p.m.

“One must qualify to be a member here. They must make below a certain income threshold or have a certain number of kids. What we sell here is all either at cost or slightly below. We are not giving it away for free,” said Joel Rashkovsky, a volunteer at TFS for almost nine years. 

Volunteers flood the warehouse on Sundays and Wednesdays. They do various tasks such as placing labels on cardboard boxes and they grab carts to fill orders for customers.

Customers can place their orders online using the “digital pantry”  including over 1,300 stock codes for each food item offered. Once the order is placed, the grocery items are listed the same way they are presented in the store, making the packing process more efficient.

On those two days, volunteers filled up their carts with an assortment of kosher groceries like matzo farfel, beef franks, and Gefen grape juice. In the back, the noise from the rumbling fridge full of two types of kosher chicken made its presence known.

The products at The Family Store. Photo by Jacqueline Lisbona/THE CONCORDIAN

As soon as the volunteers have finished shopping for the order, they pack the items in reusable cardboard boxes and a text message is sent saying “come pick up your order.” Their system is quick, efficient, and improves every year. 

According to The Family Store’s website, last month, they had one of their biggest fundraisers ever. While the initial goal was $872,000 on Thursday Dec. 15, 2022, it was announced that they surpassed it and raised $913,172.

As volunteering becomes an even more vital part in education, many high schools such as Bialik High School have made volunteering a requirement. 

“I’m doing a mitzvah [a good deed] while having a great time,” said Hailey Murad, a grade 9 student at Bialik High School.

“When I first started, I didn’t realize how many people in our community need basics like food. This experience has taught me to be grateful for what I have and thoughtful for those in need.”

“Volunteering with cousins and friends makes it even more enjoyable,” said Charlotte Stermer, another grade 9 student at Bialik. 

“On Sundays we have a lot of high school students who come and want to get their hours done,” said Michelle Moryoussef, another volunteer at The Family Store. Many student groups from universities like McGill help as well.  

Founder of TFS Rabbi Kessler exclaimed that over the past two years with COVID and inflation, “the prices were unbelievably high and far from what people could afford. These people are working very hard to make a living, and we decided that we had to do something to help these people,” he added.

A man is seen looking at the products of The Family Store. Photo by: Jacqueline Lisbona/THE CONCORDIAN
Categories
Student Life Uncategorized

Concordia needs to pay attention to graduate students with families

Graduate students with families struggle with finding suitable, affordable housing in Montreal

The lack of affordable housing near Concordia University’s two campuses disproportionally affects graduate students who have families. Rents increase exponentially each year, particularly as developers renovate and convert apartment complexes into high-end luxury condos and apartments.

An article in CBC News shows that, despite the increase in availability of rental apartments in the central part of Montreal in 2020, the average rent went up to $891, 4.2 per cent higher than in 2019. Graduate student families are affected because they cannot share residences, which help other students cut down on rent and other costs. The rising cost of rent in and near downtown has made it very difficult for student families to live there. They end up having to move farther away, thus adding commute time and other considerations.

In addition, most graduate student families, particularly those that are international students, are single-income households or living on financial aid and scholarships. Most international students’ spouses accompany them on a visitor permit or have to wait for work authorizations. Finding jobs is also a difficult task due to the language barrier and lack of access to employment networks and support that are provided to citizens and permanent residents.

Concordia needs to seriously consider providing options for students with families, particularly graduate students, as they are often here for the long-term. While undergraduate housing is available through Grey Nuns and other on-campus residences, there are no such options for graduate students.

Graduate family housing at universities such as the University of Toronto has been very advantageous. These provide opportunities for socialization; particularly important when arriving from a foreign country, for both students and their families. It helps build a social network wherein these families, who understand each other’s challenges, can share helpful advice to navigate everything from university life to healthcare and education for children.

Many newly-arrived graduate student families also lack the required credit checks to get many apartments and thus find themselves in apartments that may not be suitable. International students with families also often end up spending a large amount of money to rent short-term or live in Airbnbs before finding a suitable apartment, as it’s nearly impossible to rent an apartment before being physically present in the city.

Michelle LaSalle, a Concordia Fine Arts Masters student, struggled finding an apartment with a young child, when her son was just three months old. Most families, like LaSalle’s, have a hard time finding landlords who are willing to rent apartments to families with small children, due to noise and other issues, which is also not legally allowed under Quebec’s housing laws. The process of finding an apartment with children is extremely stressful, a point to which this author can also attest to. The process is not only competitive but also involves so much emotional labor with having to convince potential landlords to rent to a family.

I, myself, was declined from even viewing several potential apartments when I mentioned I had children.

Family housing also helps spouses and children who may be isolated to connect with similar families, and can also help facilitate child-care when needed. As both the Concordia subsidized daycares and the Concordia Student Union daycare are located within the university campuses, it helps parents to be located near the daycares. In addition, schools and daycares have very fixed pick-up schedules and require parents to be able to drop anything they are doing to pick up their child in case of an emergency, which necessitates a short commute.

Lindsay Pereira, a senior undergraduate student at Concordia, set to start her Masters in English this fall, has three children and lives in a rented 5 1/2 in LaSalle. She spoke about how the increasing rents are difficult to manage on a single income, especially after she made the decision to return to school after twenty years to complete her undergraduate studies and pursue a Masters.

Pereira says that even though she lives close to downtown, commuting on public transit used to take up so much of her time. With the pandemic and shift to online learning, it has also been more difficult to find a quiet space to study and take classes from home. She would welcome subsidized housing options, particularly near the Loyola campus, with its green, open spaces that are ideal for a family and  the shuttle service that provides an easy and fast commute to the downtown campus.

Pereira ended by saying, “I am grateful that I have a suitable place, but the truth is my reality as a student with children is very different from those who do not, and it is high-time Concordia starts thinking about students with families and their needs, particularly with the financial and other effects of the pandemic.”

 

Feature photo by Kit Mergaert

Children with special needs must not be neglected by our education system

Now almost a year into a pandemic, educators are giving their best to the students that need it most

While many students of all ages are struggling to adjust, students with learning and language disabilities are struggling even more.

With varying measures set into place regarding the introduction of elementary students back into schools across the country, there are discrepancies. Every school board is left to set things up their own way. Though many school boards have made it a priority to allow students with special needs to return to the classroom, other boards across the country have not even mentioned this aspect of schooling.

In the Ottawa Carleton District School board (OCDSB) for example, educators are giving their best efforts for these students, offering parents either in-class learning for specialized program classes, or a virtual version of the classes through Ottawa Carleton Virtual (OCV). Nick Jiminez, a speech language pathologist, has been working with the OCDSB for nearly three years.

“I don’t think anything special is happening for the kids with learning disabilities who are at home.”

Conversely, there are a variety of different situations that show these students to need to work from home, but as Connie Allen, Ottawa-based speech language pathologist, puts it, “Think about the child that’s four [years old], would you have them watch a PowerPoint?”

To that extent, for the children who do learn from home, “Ideally there is a parent at home or a caregiver in a daycare facility who is able to monitor one or more children while they receive remote learning,” said Jiminez.

While the ideal situation for these students is to have an adult with them to facilitate at-home learning, the reality is that this is not always possible. What works for one family may not apply to another.

Families are being forced to try and make choices between safety and education, and these are not always easy choices to make.

I think it’s okay for families to do what they can to make it work. We will do our best to make it successful, balancing that engagement with family stress,” said Allen. “We don’t want to cause our families stress.”

For many of these kids, the developmental assistance they get from these specialized program classes and systems are invaluable. These programs can range from learning literacy, to independence, to getting dressed, and even more. In many cases, it can be difficult to learn and interact with a laptop for these adapted curriculums.

“They are dealing with fatigue from looking at a screen all day,” said Jiminez.

What has become the norm for learning at home, having students spread across different households, may work for the average student. However, children with attention disorders or sensory needs are more susceptible to distraction while at home.

“The demands for self-control are greater when there are lots of distractions close by,” said Jiminez

In the past year, the debate on school closures has been tossed around for all students, yet there are some students for whom it is not feasible to learn at home. For students on the autism spectrum, nonverbal kids and those with cognitive disabilities, they benefit most from in-person learning where they are able to receive the attention they require.

Allowing these kids to learn in person ensures they are given the best attention, but safety concerns surrounding in-person learning have remained imminent throughout the pandemic. For many of these children, wearing a mask is not always possible, for reasons such as sensory difficulties , varying levels of cognitive development and the inability to comprehend why they need to wear it.

With the situation imperfect as it may be, educators and staff have all been learning on the fly, and trying to adapt as best as possible.

“[School] staff [are] doing absolutely everything they can both at school and online to make it successful. It’s a team effort,” said Allen. With the end of the 2021 school year on the horizon, hope can be held that safe and calculated returns can be made for these students, and the general population as well.

 

Graphic by @the.beta.lab

Categories
Opinions

Let’s stop policing whether or not women have children

Deciding whether or not to start a family is a personal decision, so why does it seem to be everyone’s business?

I have always wanted children, and a little over one month before this article was published, I had one. Having a baby was the greatest joy thus far in my life. I also, however, was prompted to think about the debates about whether or not people should be having children. This is a debate I have had with many different people, and each debate has a unique outcome.

One of the main arguments I have heard from women who do not want kids is that choosing to have kids makes you a product of the patriarchal society. I find this frustrating because it removes the agency of women who make the choice to have children willingly. I do understand that in certain situations, there is a lot of pressure on women to have biological children. I know that in some families if a woman doesn’t produce a child it causes a lot of conflicts. That being said, I don’t think it is fair to paint this with a broad stroke. I think each woman’s decision should be accepted, and we should embrace that women are in a position to be their own agents in decision making.

Overpopulation and the environment are two other reasons why women say they are opting to not have children and I can understand the concern. I have heard the conversations about there potentially not being enough food to feed everyone. So, I can see someone choosing a childless life in light of this concern. I can also see how someone who is environmentally cautious and wants to reduce their perceived negative contributions to the environment might feel that having no children would make the most sense.

I have wanted children since I was about 16 years old, and so ten years later, I chose to have a child. I remember even growing up that there were debates about this subject. I grew up with two siblings, and in an Italian family, so having children was kind of a rite of passage. However, my desire to have children wasn’t from my family directly. I wanted to have a child that I could take care of and see grow. I think this should be respected.

Something I think is missing from the debate is the fact that men aren’t questioned about this topic in the same way women are. Men don’t have to answer why they do or do not want to be a father. I think that in order to come to a solid conclusion, the debate needs to have more balance. The reason I say this is because the debate around having children seems to just be another way for women and their bodies to be policed and judged. I also think it is easier to ask women the question because they will be the ones who are carrying the baby.

The justification process for either decision is one that makes this debate so heated. It seems like women are pitted against each other for whichever decision they make. I think the justification process, which I have gone through, is what makes this debate the most challenging. It seems that no matter which choice a woman makes, there is something wrong with that choice. Whether or not a woman wants children should be respected. I don’t think it’s up to me, men, other women, or society at large to police whether women do or do not have children.

 

 Graphic by Lily Cowper

Categories
Arts

Intricacies of a morally-conflicted mind

Brotherhood showcases the struggling humanity of a war-torn family

There’s a lot that could be said about Concordia Alumna Meryam Joobeur’s Brotherhood. The short film was nominated for an Oscar in the live-action short-film category. In its simplicity, the film showcases the deep disturbance and shifting family dynamics caused by the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Centred around a distrusting and hardened father, Mohamed, the 25-minute short follows the story of his moral conflict upon the arrival of his eldest son, Malik, who had left to fight in Syria with ISIS. Malik returned a year later with a very young and pregnant wife, clad in a niqab— forcing the father into a deeper conflict within himself.

There are a couple of things about the North-African and Middle-Eastern cultures that are important to know. Family is a founding value in this culture; a father’s responsibility towards his family is heavy and permanent. This responsibility is emphasized in the dialogue between Mohamed and his wife, Salha, where he says “I have slaved away my life for these boys.”

Salha, the boy’s mother and Mohamed’s wife, is mostly passively present; not so much taking part in the moral conflict that is set throughout the whole story. In a way, it’s reflective of the passive role of mothers in dealing with life-changing decisions. Although her role is not active, her presence certainly is; she welcomes Malik back without a second thought, expressing “as long as he’s alive, I’ll stand by him and defend him.” There’s a word in Arabic that perfectly embodies what a mother represents: hanan. It means tenderness. A mother’s love is never distrusting, always loyal to her children, and never-fading.

Watching this film was like reading a book—there was a lot left for imagination, for your own understanding. Nothing is said explicitly, nothing is forced upon you. There are a myriad of ways to interpret the struggles of Mohamed’s family. The underlying pressures of societal family values combined with this family’s faith and morality are all challenged when Malik left for ISIS. As an Arab, I think of what must have been going through Mohamed’s mind when Malik returned: he is my son, but he brought shame upon us. He is my son, but he joined an immoral killing machine. He is my son, but he impregnated a child. 

Mohamed’s inner struggle to accept the moral wrongs of his son is the core of Joobeur’s short. There’s a never-ending battle between unconditional love for his flesh-and-bone and loyalty to his moral grounds, and what he believes his religion, also his son’s, actually stands for.

The film is raw, and not very easy to watch. The very opening scene sees Mohamed and his middle-child, Chaker, looking at a flock of sheep that had been attacked by a wolf—a sheep was bleeding profusely, and the father and son went to kill it. The togetherness of this act strengthens father-and-son narrative, while also highlighting the contrast between the two characters—the father as a hardened man, and the son, sensitive and hesitant to kill. This contrasts directly the idea of Malik killing with ISIS— something Mohamed accused him of in one of the scenes, even though Malik said he never killed anyone.

The soundtrack consisted of wild sounds, setting a rural and haunting environment for viewers, forcing them to listen to the tension that is almost palpable on screen. In a scene where Malik takes his two younger brothers to the beach, a moment of confession ensues: “I regret going to Syria,” Malik told Chaker. “Promise me you will never go.”

It’s reflective of how misconceptions and false propaganda hurts people. 

In parallel to Malik’s confession, Mohamed makes a call. An argument between him and Salha leads Malik’s young wife, Reem, to confess that the baby was not his—she was forced to “marry” many fighters. In other words, she was raped by ISIS terrorists and got pregnant, and Malik, while running away, chose to help her even though he knew it would only make things worse with his father. That call was to authorities to take Malik away, a deed Mohamed instantly regretted as he ran towards his sons at the beach, calling for Malik in breathless shouts—only to realize it was too late.

Something that stood out to me was the portrayal of different facets of Islam: Joobeur sets a clear and hard line between the supposed “Islam” of ISIS, and that of a normal, rural family. The Arabic language has a different name for ISIS that recognizes their work isn’t that of Islam—something that Western languages never did. It’s called Daesh. There is no mention of the religion of Islam in this title. This is significant for a simple reason: a name reflects the identity of what it is that you’re introducing, dubbing a terrorist group as an Islamic state automatically associates Islam to terrorism. No matter how many times someone can say “this is not representative of Islam,” there’s no way the stain of that title can ever be removed.

Brotherhood, in asserting the difference between the Tunisian-Muslim family and ISIS, very subtly says that ISIS is not Islam. I’ve read great reviews of the film, but none of them recognized this—most of them related the strain between Mohamed and Malik to the latter leaving family responsibilities, and none highlighted the fact that he left to join a terrorist group, and that was the source of Mohamed’s moral conflict.

ISIS shook the Middle-East and North-Africa. It shook the world of Islam and only fed Islamophobia further, it justified the West’s pre-existent bias and discrimination. Brotherhood depicts how torn families suffered the aftermath of such a phenomenon in the rawest and most simplistic way—strictly humanized, embellished in nature, and thriving in moral conflict.

 Brotherhood can be watched online, on vimeo.com.

 

 

 

Collage by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil.

Categories
Opinions

All I want for Christmas is sanity

I fall head first into the consumerism trap of the holiday season every year.

My heart jumps at the first sight of twinkly lights, snowflake decorations and Christmas specials. Poking my head around a decorated Indigo, I pretend I can afford a $67 light up travel mug while browsing Gwyneth Paltrow’s new collection on how to solve all of life’s problems through drinking a green smoothie. My heart quickens. The snow hits my face and I truly feel like I’m in wonderland. As I finish exams and head to Ottawa to see my lovely family, there’s one thing I always forget — I hate the holidays.

They are stressful and that’s coming from a Jew. Afterall, Hanukkah was just branded to compete with the hype of Christmas, but that could be a whole other article — let’s try to stay on track here. For me, the holidays consist of socializing every night, draining me of my emotional and physical energy. I am squeezing people into my schedule and unintentionally leaving people out — without a moment to relax. Why doesn’t Micheal Bublé or Mariah Carey remind me about this feeling?

Personally, as somewhat of an adult living in a different city from my parents, I feel like I exist as a 20-something-year-old experimenting with her independence most of the year. That being said, the moment my foot touches my parents’ carpet, I magically transform into a bratty 16-year-old in a Disney channel movie. Clearly this page of writing is not going to fix my immature behaviour or even help me with my much needed introspection, but I do hope that if you feel even an ounce similar during the holidays, then perhaps I can help you feel less alone.

Spoiler alert — Santa isn’t real and neither is Christmas magic, a concept I have clung on to for quite a while.

I’ve come to realize that the only way I can enjoy the holiday season is by accepting it’s not going to be perfect. My mental health fluctuates from good to not so good depending on the day.

I always forget that just because it’s snowy and bells are ringing, it doesn’t mean my day has to be filled with joy. My best advice (and I’m speaking mostly to myself here) is that just like any other day, try to do things that make you feel calm and make time for yourself in the holiday madness. If you need to miss an event, or even just take a walk to avoid a loud dinner guest, do what you need to do. Your time is still your time, even during the holidays.

So, finish your candy canes, stuff yourself with leftover chocolate and let’s take on the new year, where assignments are starting and no one is telling you be a good cheer. It’s January and there will be no more rhyming.

Oh, also, if you’re a member of my family reading this (mom), remember this is about me, not you. I love you all and I hope you had an enjoyable holiday season.

 

Graphic @sundaeghost

Categories
Opinions

The provincial government needs to fix the childcare system

While planning my move from Calgary to Montreal with a toddler last year, I was in a state of joy.

Not only is childcare largely subsidized in Quebec, but I had heard wonders about the CPE system. CPE stands for “centre de la petite enfance,” government-funded daycares where qualified educators follow Montessori-like pedagogical programs.

It turns out things were more complicated than I expected. 

First of all, the length of the CPEs waitlist is unfathomable.

According to the Québec Ministry of Family, as of March 2018, CPEs had a capacity of 96,000 spaces. Compare that to more than 115,000 in private daycares and some 90,000 in at-home private daycares. Most children, therefore, attend private facilities — subsidized and unsubsidized, the cost of the latter being alleviated by tax returns.

Licencing private daycares costs less than opening more CPEs, which is the avenue the past and present governments have embraced. While childcare in a CPE costs on average $60 of public funds per day per child, a day in a private daycare usually amounts to $22 in taxpayer money, say Le Soleil and L’Actualité.

Second, too many private daycares are of substandard quality.

The Observatoire des tout-petits, part of the Lucie et André Chagnon Foundation, said in a 2018 report that between 33 and 40 per cent of children placed in private daycares “are attending facilities of poor or very poor quality.” The proportion is below 3 per cent for CPEs. In a mirror effect, while 45 per cent of CPEs provide “good or excellent” care, less than 10 per cent of private facilities do.

In one private daycare I had put my child in, I found that kids aged between two and three were just put in front of the TV for several hours a day instead of taking part in the educational activities I was told they were doing. Some weeks, children did not go outside a single time, even when the weather allowed it.

Besides health and safety regulations, requirements to open a private daycare are minimal. In theory, two out of three educators should be ‘qualified,’ which is to say that they have a diploma in early childhood education. But a 2016 report of the Ministry of Family found that only 16 per cent of private daycares respect the two out of three qualified educators’ rule.

In an attempt to make childcare more affordable for families, the Legault government announced on Nov. 8 the reduction of fees in subsidized facilities, from up to $13.20 per day to $8.25 per day. And, according to La Presse, the government is working on subsidizing 3,000 spaces in private daycares.

These measures are beneficial to Quebec families. However, they do not solve one of the most pressing and worrisome issues of childcare in Quebec: the quality of care in private facilities.

Finally, Premier François Legault campaigned on the promise of developing the preschool system for kids of age four. But the educational support and equipment in preschools are poor as per the study by the Observatoire des tout-petits. Children in CPEs receive a better education than children in preschools.

Too many families struggle to find decent daycare. Low-income parents rarely have the time and money to invest in finding a good option and potentially commuting to get there. More CPEs have to be established to foster the needs of Québec children, especially in underprivileged neighbourhoods. And the bar needs to be raised with respect to the regulation of private daycares. The future of the next generation is at stake.

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Opinions

Same family, different political views

In the last few years, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my political views are very different from those of some of my closest family members. It’s a realization that slowly crept up on me around the time I became legal voting age. Now, five years later, it’s still a source of contention at the odd family dinner.

My mom’s side of the family comes from a long line of rural Ontarians who bleed blue, while I, on the other hand, have gone out of my way to meet Justin Trudeau on two occasions. I own a t-shirt with a photo of him and the word “Tru-Daddy” on it, just to give you an idea of where my allegiance lies.

This realization of the differences between myself and my relatives has been challenging not only for the obvious reason; we all want the rest of the world to agree with our political ideologies. But also because of the fact that it has actually driven a wedge between some of those relationships.

I have relatives who I once loved spending time with, but I now actively avoid them whenever possible. Our conversations always seem to shift into political mode, and I feel like I might not love them as much anymore if I hear them say “Liberal taxes” one more time.

You grow up thinking that the people – the adults – who are part of the village raising you are good, smart, and kind people. Then all of a sudden your aunts and uncles won’t stop sharing posts by Ontario Strong on Facebook, and your oldest cousins keep complaining about the rise in immigration. The worst part is, when you’re old enough to know and understand the implications of that, and thanks to the DNA you share with them, you’re too stubborn to keep your mouth shut about it.

In all seriousness, it isn’t my family’s conservatism that I take issue with. It’s the lack of empathy demonstrated by their ballot choices. During the 2018 Ontario provincial election campaign, Doug Ford promised cuts if elected (spoiler: he was), to the services that I knew would greatly affect vulnerable people in Ontario; myself and some relatives included.

These promises entailed cuts to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and to the Ontario Student Assistant Program (OSAP). The OHIP had previously covered almost all prescriptions for people aged 24 and under, and the OSAP gave students a six-month grace period after their graduation before charging interest on their student loans.

In the lead up to that election, I implored many members of my family, who I knew weren’t fond of the provincial Liberals at the time, to consider any option other than Doug Ford. I explained how I thought it would negatively impact the people who need provincial services the most – to no avail.

Those family members would complain about things like their hydro bills and their property taxes under the Liberals. They would say that they wanted to elect Ford because he promised to repeal the sex-ed curriculum which the Liberals updated in 2015 for the first time since 1998 (it included concepts such as LGBTQ rights, online bullying and consent). They thought that it taught things that were too complex for kids to think about, let alone understand. As someone who was taught the 1998 version, I can assure you I would have appreciated the modern information that it lacked.

All of these concerns of theirs are valid issues to consider when electing a new Premier. But to me, they are not nearly as important as things like low-income families getting free prescriptions when their kids get sick, post-graduates getting a moment to catch up before paying back tens of thousands of dollars of debt, and kids growing up in a province they feel accepted by.

My family and I may never agree on which party to vote for, and that’s hard for me to reconcile. All I can do is vote for what I believe in and hope that they begin to see things from a more outwardly compassionate perspective.

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Student Life

Broken Pencil: Gift-giving it your all

Tips and tricks for financially feasible gift-giving over the holidays

The holidays are always a fun time to spend with your closest friends and family. Each year, it brings us joy to surround ourselves with the ones we love most. However, when it comes to buying gifts for the whole family, budgeting and planning what to get and for who can be a daunting task.

Christmas shopping was never something I had to think about as a kid (Santa Claus didn’t allow me). When you’re young, money isn’t exactly the first thing on your mind.

Now that I’m older, the task has been passed on to me, but I never realized just how difficult and expensive Christmas shopping can be. For struggling students, some of whom may or may not have part-time jobs, finding the extra money to spend even twenty bucks on four or five people can feel next to impossible.

In the past, I have helped my parents with Christmas shopping, which was a huge challenge. In my family, we try to discreetly investigate what other members of the family want, but we tend to end up more confused than we were in the first place. As we grow older, I feel like it’s always a challenge to figure out what we want for Christmas; for the most part, we have everything we could ever wish for. From toys and video games, to a pair of headphones, gift ideas come much easier in your younger years.

As students, we have many obligations that require us to spend money, which can make it difficult to be able to provide everyone in our lives with the gifts they want. Now, you don’t want to overdraft your bank account just for the holidays. I’ve never bought gifts for the whole family or my entire friend group; I usually only buy gifts for a handful of people. For example, my closest friends and I throw a small Christmas party where we buy presents for just one other person. It’s a good way to spend a small amount of money and be able to give something special to a friend.

Remember, sometimes making a gift for someone, or just spending time with family can really show them how much you care more than a store-bought item. Try taking the time to create something by hand; make a card or put together a small scrapbook of memories. Maybe take your siblings out for an afternoon of skating, or treat your mom to dinner at her favorite restaurant. The list of possibilities is endless once you get creative and work within your budget.

I used to give my parents gift ideas for the family, and that was my contribution to the shopping. This year, I plan to start by getting presents for my siblings, then I’ll see if I can afford gifts for the rest of the family. But of course, the holidays aren’t all about material things and spending money. Budgeting has helped me combat holiday-induced stress, but at the end of the day, remember to spend as much time with loved ones as you do shopping for them.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Categories
News

JMSB to spend big on seeing if it’ll stay in the family

National Bank donates $1 million to family business research

Quebec is expected to see a pivotal shift in small business ownership as owners retire over the next few years without clear succession plans. Now, thanks to a generous $1 million donation from the National Bank, Concordia’s John Molson School of Business (JMSB) will be at the forefront of research and analysis on how small business perform their critical duties to the economy and what the shift will mean for Quebec.

The surprise announcement came at an event on Thursday, Nov. 13, and was attended by numerous university faculty, including the president and the dean of JMSB, local business figures, and bank representatives. It followed an earlier talk on family entrepreneurship by students. On hand to share their experiences in family business were Groupe Park Avenue Inc. President and CEO Norman E. Hébert jr., who is also on Concordia’s Board of Governors, and sports company Lanctôt President Diane Lanctôt.

The gift is going towards the creation of the National Bank Initiative in Entrepreneurship and Family Business. The initiative will bring in researchers and professors who will carry out their work on the topic, as well as mentor and provide support to students carrying out their studies in entrepreneurship and family business.

Undergraduate students will have the ability to apply for new bursaries through the program, while their graduate peers will be specifically eligible for awards. The other half will be reserved for researchers and their assistants.

“Out of all businesses, 70 to 80 per cent are family businesses. That’s the reality in Quebec and Canada and also around the world,” said Alexandra Dawson, associate professor in the department of management and the newly-appointed director of the initiative. She says CIBC predicted half of all business owners will cease running their operations over the next decade.

“This is the largest transfer of ownership that has ever happened in Canada, and it’s because all the baby boomers are retiring.”

For Dawson, this makes it a natural topic of focus for JMSB, banks, and other economic entities, all the more so when figures show only a quarter have clear succession plans.

“Transferring a business is not something you can do overnight.”

The academic research will be centred in Quebec, but due to the universality of the business experience it will be applicable to governments, other researchers, and think tanks.

Thursday’s announcement means it’s a bit too soon to be greenlighting specific projects, though a committee will soon be nominated to begin formulating criteria for researchers and their proposals. Dawson intends for operations to really begin at the start of next semester.

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