Arts and Culture

Quebec government tuition hikes put Italian cultural hub at risk

Concordia’s Cineforum Italiano is grappling with budget cuts.

Concordia’s Department of Classics, Modern Languages, and Linguistics put out for the second year the Cineforum Italiano, a series of film screenings peppered throughout the semester followed by discussions of gender and sexuality in Italian film. 

The most recent on Feb. 23 was a screening of Una Giornata Particolare, attended by a small but dedicated group. The story tells of the friendship between a housewife and a gay man in fascist Italy. While everyone in their apartment block attends the historic meeting between Mussolini and Hitler, the two grow close despite stark political differences. The man is taken away by military police at the end of the day, leaving the housewife to continue living a dull life, forever changed. 

This film screening and many before it have been gathering places for Italian in Montreal. At the Cineforum, attendees converse in English, French and Italian alike. However, due to tuition hikes and budget cuts, the future of the initiative has become uncertain. 

Starting off last year with three winter screenings, the event’s popularity led to three more showings this fall term, and finally six this winter term. 

Cineforum Italiano has a distinctly Italian air. Most of the attendees come from Italian backgrounds, some with Italian parents and some first generation immigrants themselves. But due to the stagnating immigration rates from Italy and the passage of time, these Italian spaces are few and far between.

Lorena Serragli, a retiree with Italian parents, first took an Italian cinema class to reconnect with her roots, then began attending the screenings. She said that Italians in Montreal used to be concentrated in the east, but as the second generation grew up, they dispersed. 

“I don’t find there’s an area now that’s really remained predominantly Italian,” Serragli said.  

Due to this decentralization of the Italian community, many attendees only speak Italian and interact with Italian culture during the Cineforum Italiano. 

“I don’t really interact with the Italian community,” Serragli said. “My parents, my aunts have passed on and the cousins that I have now, we all interact in English. We’re all more Canadian than Italian. And so it just felt kind of nice. It’ll put me back in that atmosphere and that culture and that mode.”

Though it started out as an educational initiative about film, it also serves as a hub for the Italians of Montreal and is one of many small events in the city that keeps Italian culture alive. 

Additionally, Concordia university itself is a gathering place for second and third generation Italians. Through the university’s Italian language program, it is drawing in Canadians and Americans with Italian ancestry in order to connect with their heritage. 

As a teaching assistant, Meneghin has seen many students get engaged through Concordia’s Italian program and related initiatives. 

“I notice a lot of Italian surnames. The successors of those immigrants or those people that scattered all around the city, they kind of congregate here,” Meneghin said.

The film screenings and the Italian program welcome Italians and non-Italians alike. However, the film screenings are at risk of being another casualty of budget cuts born from tuition hikes. Since they are free, they rely entirely on the departmental budget, and they might not be able to continue, according to Elena Benelli, the director of the Italian program, due to an almost eight per cent cut to the university budget.

“I don’t think universities give enough space, resources and importance to the humanities in general,” Benelli said. “I think that the humanities have their place in this world.”


Libya’s flood: who bears the victims?

Graphic by Lily Cowper/@lilycowper

Storm Daniel meets Libya’s fractured infrastructures and political landscape, revealing a calamity molded by natural and unnatural causes.

Last September, flooding caused by Storm Daniel swept away entire communities and led to  over 10,000 people reported dead in Libya.  However, is the environment the only factor to blame? Libya’s tumultuous political landscape shows that this catastrophe was only partly due to the environment. The alarming death toll stems from the convergence of politics and climate change.

The heavy rain and flooding in the eastern part of Libya were brought by medicanes, which are a result of low pressure areas in the Mediterranean Sea that convert into tropical cyclones. While Storm Daniel set meteorological records in Africa, the collapse of two major dams only intensified the consequences of this natural disaster. These vital infrastructures had not been maintained since 2002.

Within those dam cracks lies the story of a state marked by a decade of civil war and NATO’s military intervention.  

Libya was once the most prosperous country in Africa, with complimentary healthcare and education to all, assured housing for every citizen and subsidized access to electricity, water and gasoline. Notably, the nation recorded the highest life expectancy across the continent. 

Dictator Muammar Gaddafi led a socialist regime until 2011 when protests broke out. Armed forces firing into the crowd sparked a national uprising, prompting the United Nations’ approval for “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. This support, including a NATO bombing campaign backing the rebels, led to the overthrow of Gaddafi’s regime. In the wake of power vacuums, internal conflicts gained international support resulting in an influx of foreign weapons and a sequence of proxy wars.

The socio-political history of Libya holds a lot of mixed emotions. During Gaddafi’s era, it began with acknowledgements from the United Nations Human Rights Council recognizing improvements in the country’s human rights practices. This initial optimism was soon overshadowed by citizens looking to emancipate themselves from a regime that had been in place for over 30 years. Backed by NATO’s militia, they traded an unelected and corrupt regime for two rival governments battling for power and control of the country. 

The dam collapses are a mere fragment of the chaos resulting from Western-initiated regime change and the broader disorder post-Gaddafi. Public Water Commission experts warned the central infrastructure agency about the aging dams. Unfortunately, these warnings were overseen by corrupt authorities under Gaddafi-regime at the time. Amid a civil war, the Turkish company hired to repair the dams left the country, pocketing millions of dollars for preliminary work and leaving behind the dangerous dams and Derna’s population.

Libyan citizens caught between regional fissures and international intervention were victims of a political stalemate that only contributed to the latest catastrophe. After Storm Daniel, the residents of Derna mourn thousands of lives and hold onto the hope that their grief can serve as a unifying force for their nation.  

Were the floods solely an outcome of the environment? While Mother Nature played a part, Libyan citizens must endure the consequences of this failed state.


The Check-In Podcast by Emily Pasquarelli #1 – “It wasn’t your fault”

Welcome to the Check-In Podcast, hosted by Emily Pasquarelli, a first year journalism student and a huge advocate for mental health. The Check-in Podcast will be a special series produced by The Concordian where Emily displays the importance of checking in with your close ones.

On this episode, Emily talks with Tyrelle Anasara-Diab about his experience with Quebec’s foster care system, and the effect it had on his mental health. He shares how he got through it, and the important people that helped him along the way…

Artwork by James Fay


What’s really happening in Chile?

The social unrest and constant riots beginning on Oct. 14 have really taken a toll on Chile, which appeared to be the most economically and politically stable country in South America, as reported by BBC.

This alleged reputation has proven to be just a façade when a significant amount of the population decided to protest against the numerous years of social injustice.

As a Chilean living abroad, it hurts to see my natal city in flames, but mostly it is sad to see how for years, hate, human rights violations, resentment and oppression have taken over the country, until the people couldn’t take it anymore.

On Oct. 18, the metro fares in Santiago were raised by 30 pesos (approximately $0.05 CAD). This increase was the straw that broke the camel’s back after many years of undignified living standards. A student collective spearheaded a movement that called for fare evasion, known on social media as #EvasionMasiva. The initial protests resulted in turmoil; supermarkets were sacked, thousands of people marched the streets, and the majority of Santiago’s metro stations were completely scorched, as mentioned by Vox. 

Eventually, it wasn’t just Santiago’s students anymore. The movement had reached other cities in Chile, and soon, millions supported the cause. Since the police force was unprepared to handle the situation, President Sebastián Piñera declared the country to be in a state of emergency. He sent the military on the streets and reintroduced a strict curfew that Chileans last experienced during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s.

Furthermore, Piñera went on national television to claim that the country was “at war” with its own people, a statement that infuriated the protesters even more. Piñera later rectified his claim by proposing an economic reform and cancelling the rise in the metro fares.  However, these measures did nothing to smooth things over.

By now you may be wondering, why is it that people continue to protest and refuse to go back to their routines? Chile has an enormous accumulation of wealth where one per cent of the population earns 33 per cent of the country’s wealth. The social inequality has continued to expand throughout the years to the point where the minimum wage is so low that people spend about 20 per cent of their salaries just on transport. They have unworthy pensions, a poor health system, high rates for student loans, a poor educational system, draughts, precarious jobs, collusions, capitalization of national resources, and so on. But most importantly, people are asking the government for a constitutional change. Chile’s constitution was changed by Pinochet in 1980, and still remains the same today – which epitomizes the extent of the dictator’s legacy and is key in understanding the people’s frustrations.

Today, the protests continue, and the movement has adopted the slogan “Chile has awoken!” Those who endure to march refuse to go back to their normal lives and resign to the degrading living conditions caused by Pinochet’s neoliberal economic model. According to The Guardian, 7,000 people have been arrested, at least 18 people have died, and the number of people who were abused by the security forces is high, yet unknown. Santiago’s metro damages go up to approximately $400 million and businesses have lost near $1.4 billion. Despite this, the majority of the people march in peace, they are out there hoping to achieve a dignified living and basic human rights. As stated by BBC news, on Oct. 24, protests broke the record for the biggest peaceful march since the 1990 when Chile returned to democracy. 

It is distressing to see Chile go through this situation, but it was also inevitable. The people can only take so much social injustice and poverty. The situation goes beyond choosing a side; the international, local and social media each portrays different fragments of reality. Nothing is black and white, there are many different shades in between. Chile needs to rise above its people’s differences, come together, heal by solving its embedded issues and invest in its future.

Graphic by @sundaeghost


Ignoring Islamophobia doesn’t make it go away

When an ostrich realizes they’re in danger and they can’t run away, they fall to the ground and remain still while laying their head and neck flat on the ground. That way, they can blend in with the colour of the soil and avoid their threat. This is often referred to as the “ostrich approach,” which Collins Dictionary defines as “a person who refuses to face reality or recognize the truth.”

Recently, we saw the Quebec premier, François Legault, doing exactly that. Near the end of January, he ruled out the idea of dedicating a day to anti-Islamophobia, saying, “I don’t think there is Islamophobia in Quebec, so I don’t see why there would be a day devoted to Islamophobia,” according to the Montreal Gazette. The National Council of Canadian Muslims’s (NCCM) Executive Director, Ihsaan Gardee, told Global News, “[…] taking the ostrich approach and putting your head in the sand is not going to solve a problem or make it go away.”

We at The Concordian wholeheartedly agree with the NCCM’s executive director’s statement. Islamophobia is a real and ongoing problem in Quebec. Denying its existence and prevalence is not only wrong, it’s promoting a lie. The Premier later “clarified” his statement by saying that “Islamophobia exists in Quebec […] but not a current of Islamophobia. Quebec is not Islamophobic or racist,” according to the Montreal Gazette.

A spokesperson for Legault later clarified, “there is no trend or culture of Islamophobia in Quebec. Quebecers are open and tolerant and they shall continue to exhibit these qualities.” How does it, in any way, make sense to say that Islamophobia does exist in Quebec, while simultaneously saying there is no “current” or “trend?” Does the government not analyze statistics or facts and figures? Do they not speak to the Muslim community in Quebec, who experience such acts firsthand? Do they not remember the root cause of the Jan. 29 2017 mosque shooting?

In 2018, a year after the Jan. 29 attack, the NCCM had created a proposal to devote the day to anti-Islamophobia. The CAQ spokesperson at the time said the anniversary should instead be dedicated to commemorating the victims’ memories, according to CBC. The Parti Québécois also rejected the proposal by saying the term Islamophobia is “too controversial” and there is already an international day that promotes eliminating racial discrimination, according to the same source.

We at The Concordian find it exhaustingly sad that the NCCM has been rejected twice in trying to promote anti-Islamophobia in Quebec. If the government was truly supportive of its Muslim community, it would have no trouble dedicating one day of the entire year to lend its voice to uplift Muslims and their struggles. The truth is, Quebec has always had a problem with Islam, from the 2013 Quebec Charter of Values that aimed to ban religious symbols and attire in the public sector (like the hijab), to white nationalist groups against Islam like PEGIDA that flourish in the province. And, just recently, Quebec’s Minister for the Status of Women, Isabelle Charest, said the hijab is oppressive. She said, “When a religion dictates clothing […] this is not freedom of choice […] it’s a sign of oppression,” according to the Montreal Gazette. Isn’t the government dictating what a woman can and cannot wear just as oppressive, if not more?

Anti-Muslim sentiments are higher in Quebec than in the rest of Canada, according to a 2018 study published in the Canadian Review of Sociology. CBC reported that the study found that Muslims are the least liked social group amongst Canadians. The study asked Canadians to assign certain groups a score from zero to 100 that demonstrated how much they approved of them and Muslims in Quebec received the lowest score of 56. The study also found that 70 per cent of respondents in Quebec expressed “significant” anti-Muslim sentiment and 57 per cent of Quebec respondents had more negative attitudes towards Muslims than other racial minorities.

The truth is, we can fill up an entire page in this week’s issue of The Concordian with facts and figures demonstrating just how prevalent Islamophobia is in Quebec. Perhaps government officials are putting too much emphasis on the “phobia” part of Islamophobia, when it encompasses more than just a fear of Muslims and Islam. Perhaps they believe Islamophobia only manifests itself in violent attacks, like the Jan. 29 shooting. But we at The Concordian believe Quebec officials, and citizens, need to understand that Islamophobia exists in more ways than just attacks and fear. It is disliking an entire group for what they believe in. It is scoffing at their struggles rather than acknowledging them. It is questioning whether or not they deserve basic human rights. Islamophobia is real and, using the Premier’s words, is a “trend” in our province. Let’s fight against it—but first, let’s acknowledge it instead of taking the ostrich approach.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


The U.S. government shutdown

Why we should care about the government shutdown in the U.S.

The U.S. government has shut down yet again, only this time it’s being regarded as the longest shutdown in U.S. history. It all started on Dec. 22, right before the holidays and unfortunately for the time being, there’s no end in sight. According to CBS News, this is the third government shutdown in 2018 alone. In order to gain a better understanding of the magnitude of the problem, there have only been three government shutdowns in the past 25 years up until 2018.

Government officials failed to come to an agreement concerning President Donald Trump’s decision to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump’s refusal to approve a federal budget unless it includes funding for a border wall is beyond absurd. Democrats have rejected Trump’s request to do so for $5.7 billion. This has affected nine federal departments, leaving about 800,000 federal workers without pay.

The shutdown has had an impact on all sorts of industries. Employees such as prison guards, FBI agents and airport staff have been working without pay. Flying is now deemed less safe than before due to a shortage of TSA workers. Airline companies such as Delta airlines will lose revenue of $25 million this month given that fewer government contractors are flying.

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, a federal judge in Washington denied the request to pay workers who are continuing their jobs during the shutdown, including the nation’s air traffic controllers. According to NBC News, the union that represents thousands of air traffic controllers filed a lawsuit on Friday. They’re searching for a temporary restraining order against the federal government for violating the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. constitution, given that they’re being denied “hard-earned compensation without the requisite due process.”

On Thursday, federal workers all over the country missed their first paychecks since the beginning of the shutdown. According to NBC News, air traffic controllers and TSA workers expressed their concerns surrounding passengers’s safety during the shutdown. The air traffic control system in this country is an economic engine. At this moment, we’re seeing this incredible strain on the system, which is unacceptable given that it’s negatively impacting thousands of people.

Meanwhile on Craigslist, listings from federal workers trying to sell their possessions have been flooding the site. These items varied from beds to old toys, which have been listed as “government shutdown specials.” According to the BBC, of the 800,000 federal employees going unpaid, approximately 350,000 are furloughed, which is a temporary lay-off, while the rest remain at work. This past weekend, one of the country’s major airports, Miami International, closed an entire terminal because too many employees have been calling in sick.

Both the House and Senate have passed a bill on Friday to guarantee that all government workers will be receiving retroactive pay once the shutdown is over. Trump is still expected to sign the legislation but for the moment he’s still demanding that Democrats approve funding for a border wall. People’s lifestyles have been placed on hold as a result of this shutdown. Some fear for the worst, wondering if they’ll have enough money to pay next month’s rent, or for their medication.

Even though the shutdown isn’t directly affecting Canadians, it is highly relevant. Thousands of American citizens are left wondering how they’re going to pay their rent and provide for their families as the shutdown perseveres. Trump has been directing all his attention towards building this border wall when in reality this shutdown isn’t a fight about security. It’s affecting thousands of communities and families across the nation and makes us question whether Republicans in the White House are living in the same reality as the rest of the country.

All we can do now is hope for this shutdown to end before more damage is done. Even though they’ll get their pay back once the government reopens, these federal employees aren’t receiving money as their costs of living keep piling up.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin



O Canada, home of the lucky ones

Oh, Canada. The land we often associate with tolerance, diversity and acceptance––especially when it comes to immigration and refugees. We’ve sold ourselves as a nation that loves rather than hates, while simultaneously comparing ourselves to the U.S. in order to highlight our exceptionalism. Sure, we’re better in the sense that our leader doesn’t expend his energy and time promoting hatred and ignorance. And yes, we haven’t been in the headlines because of a recent government shutdown over the construction of a wall. But we’re way over our heads if we really believe that we’re a standing example of what a great country should be. Take immigration and refugees for example. It seems like Canada has always been leading by a few points when it comes to accepting others. But is that really true?

Recently, Canada granted asylum to an 18-year-old Saudi Arabian woman named Rahaf Mohammed, who used social media to highlight the abuse she allegedly suffered from her family. She fled her home and is now in Toronto, considering herself one of the “lucky ones” according to CTV News. We at The Concordian celebrate this success for Mohammed and are proud of Canada for accepting her. Yet, we can’t help but notice the various media headlines that are emphasizing how great Canada is, and how we’re the world-heroes of accepting refugees and immigrants.

To be frank, that’s just not true. Canadians are really divisive when it comes to the issue of immigration. A 2018 Angus Reid survey found that half of Canadians want to see the number of immigrants arriving to Canada decrease, according to CBC News. Not only are Canadian citizens tough on immigration issues, but the actual government isn’t that open-hearted either. Immigrants who choose Canada have to wait for months or years before Canada lets them in, and over the past 20 years, only about 5 million immigrants have entered Canada, according to The Atlantic.

And while we’re berating the United States for their desire to build a wall, we need to remember that Canada has border walls too. Not only are there physical borders, but there’s the big, bureaucratic one: the government. According to The Atlantic, in 2012, Canada rejected 18 per cent of the more than one million foreigners who applied for a visitor’s visa. By 2017, that number had risen to 26 per cent, and in the first three months of 2018, it’s risen to 30 per cent.

According to a World Economic Forum survey, Canada is one of the worst countries for its restrictiveness of visitor visa requirements––it is placed 120th out of 136 countries. And according to Maclean’s, Canada quietly deports “many Haitians to the most impoverished country in the Americas, where more than one in five residents suffer hunger and chronic malnutrition.” In fact, Canada seems to have a problem with its transparency when it comes to immigration and refugee processes. Specifically, it has been criticized in the past for their lack of transparency over immigration detention. According to the Toronto Star, Canada’s practices of detaining vulnerable groups, like children and those with mental health conditions, is problematic. A report by the Global Detention Project highlighted that 371 children were detained over the last two years. There have been many deaths of migrants in these detention facilities, and at least 16 people have died in immigration detention since 2000. Does this treatment sound familiar?

We can’t forget about Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States either. Dating from 2004, the agreement claims that refugees who enter the U.S. or Canada first, must apply for refugee status in that country first. Essentially, a country can reject a refugee’s application if they’ve already been given protection by another country. We still have this agreement, even though it’s been made clear that the U.S. isn’t that safe of a country for those fleeing persecution.

A quick search on Google can prove to us that Canada isn’t the knight in shining armour we sometimes think it is. It isn’t the home of the free, and it certainly isn’t waiting with open arms for whoever chooses this country as their new home. It stings to see headlines celebrating Canada as a great nation, because it isn’t true. Our sense of exceptionalism is dangerous; it’s dangerous because it promotes false hope, false ideas and false expectations. We’re glad Rahaf Mohammed has a new home in Canada; we just can’t help but wonder about those who weren’t as lucky.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin



Francois Legault does not speak for a majority

How much of a mandate does Legault of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) party really have?

News media outlets have been clear since the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) won Quebec’s provincial election: they won by a stunning majority. No, no, actually, they “romped to victory,” they won a “commanding majority,” they “surged,” “swept to power” and “stormed to a majority,” according to various sources.

This rhetoric would make a person think the CAQ was elected by an overwhelming majority of Quebecers. Certainly, premier-designate François Legault would have you believe that.

At a press conference held the day after the election, Legault proposed using the notwithstanding clause to force through legislation that would ban public authority figures from wearing religious symbols. He said the “vast majority” of Quebecers agreed with his proposed ban and, therefore, it wasn’t a big deal to use the clause (and besides, Premier Doug Ford already did it in Ontario).

So, Legault wants to disregard a vital aspect of democratic society (the Constitution of Canada), but he cites a foundational democratic concept (that of “the majority”) as giving him the mandate to do so. It seems Legault is only interested in democracy when it suits him.

Besides, a closer look at the election results deflates the idea that Legault represents the will of a majority of Quebecers. The CAQ received approximately 38 per cent of the popular vote. That in itself is not an “absolute” majority, which would require more than 50 per cent of the vote in order to have more votes than the combined opposition.

However, in Canada, we operate by a plurality voting system, sometimes referred to as “first-past-the-post (FPTP),” where a party simply needs to get more votes than any other party to win. What this means is that a majority of the candidates who won seats for the CAQ did not get at least 50 per cent of the vote.

Moreover, voter turnout for the 2018 election was estimated at 63 per cent. There are about six million eligible voters in Quebec; a little over 3.7 million of them came out to vote. This adds up to the CAQ representing 38 per cent of just 63 per cent of eligible voters, so approximately 1.4 million people. Legault speaks for 1.4 million people in a province of more than eight million.

Legault’s majority is an electoral majority, and that’s a weak basis on which to claim one has a mandate to act for a ‘majority of quebecers.’ Pretty much anyone you ask right now agrees that the democratic election process needs reform. Elections keep resulting in situations where a small segment of voters can elect a “majority” government that doesn’t represent the true feelings of most people.

An alternative model to FPTP is proportional representation, which essentially means the number of seats a party gets in the legislature is equivalent to the percentage of the popular vote they received. In Quebec, that would mean the CAQ had 47 seats in the National Assembly, the Liberal Party would have 30, Parti Quebecois 22 and Quebec Solidaire 19.

In a situation like that, if the three opposition parties decided to put their differences aside and oppose the most egregious elements of the CAQ’s agenda, they could. That would be a truer representation of people’s will than the FPTP system.

When contemporary conservative politicians are criticised for their inhuman policies, they often smugly reply that they have the will of the people behind them. We need to remind them of the basic facts of electoral democracy. Rarely does any government under a FPTP system have a real claim to majority representation. If you want us to accept your proposals, you need to argue them on the merits. So, tell me, what are the merits of state harassment of religious minorities?

Graphic by @spooky_soda



The religious symbol ban is backwards

Ban. Forbid. Prohibit. Most would assume these words are associated with important issues like banning plastic bags, forbidding child marriage or prohibiting smoking in certain areas. Instead, Quebec is once again caught in a useless but ever-present debate about banning religious symbols.

The incoming Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government under François Legault is attempting to follow through on their campaign promise to ban religious symbols for civil servants in positions of authority. This includes preventing teachers, police officers and judges, among others, from wearing the Muslim hijab, the Sikh turban or the Jewish kippah. This isn’t the first time Quebec politicians have tried to forbid people from wearing religious symbols. In fact, it was only a year ago that the provincial government was debating Bill 62, which would have prevented civil servants from covering their faces when accessing public services. Initially, the CAQ said government employees who didn’t comply with the ban would be choosing between having a job and wearing a religious symbol. Following criticism from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and protests from others in Quebec, the CAQ has now stated that they are willing to compromise and only apply the ban to newly hired employees, according to The Globe and Mail. Frankly, this is appalling and downright frustrating.

Our schools and teachers must be diverse in order to reflect reality. When you walk down the streets of Montreal, you inevitably come across diversity. Why should walking down Quebec school hallways be any different? Preventing people from expressing their religious beliefs is oppressive and destructive to society’s progression. Having children taught by teachers who wear the Sikh turban helps to normalize religious diversity. A police officer who wears the hijab can help enforce the idea that your religious beliefs don’t hinder your ability to do your job well.

We at The Concordian wholeheartedly reject this atrocious ban; but more importantly, we reject the rhetoric behind it. While the CAQ and the ban’s supporters insist the ban is solely intended to achieve religious neutrality, it’s important to note where the ban is coming from. Simply put, it’s coming from a place of ignorance and intolerance.

It encourages the idea that people must be one and the same, that diversity and differences weaken our society rather than strengthen it. This is hateful, wrong and offensive to many. This ban is flawed in so many ways, and is hypocritical at its core. When asked if the crucifix in the National Assembly will stay, Legault replied that it’s not a religious symbol but rather part of Quebec’s heritage. “We have a cross on our flag,” he said, according to Global News. “I think that we have to understand our past. In our past we had Protestants, Catholics, they built the values we have in Quebec. It’s part of our history.”

How can a religious symbol—the crucifix—not be religious? It’s clear to us that this ban is based on senseless intolerance rather than actual facts and concrete arguments. It seems the CAQ wants to preserve one faith: Christianity. If the ban were truly applied to all facets of public civil service, it should be applied to the National Assembly as well. That’s only fair, right?

Although Christianity certainly played a historic role in establishing Quebec, it’s wrong to single out this one belief system as superior to other religions in Quebec. This logic is a product of the abuse and erasure of Indigenous peoples and culture. It is a result of what happened when colonialism, exploitation and racism collided and created chaos for a group of people.

Quebec’s past was forcefully Christian—other faiths were trampled upon and completely disregarded. Quebec’s present, however, is a multitude of faiths, belief systems and religious identities. Its future is in the hands of many people from different backgrounds who believe in different things. Banning their religious symbols and their ability to freely express themselves is not only oppressive, it’s regressive. We at The Concordian strongly encourage our fellow citizens to stand firm in rejecting this hypocritical, backwards, oppressive ban. Let’s fight for a future where diversity is celebrated, rather than forbidden.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


How many migrants can the world manage?

Considering the concrete facts about migration, the United States’s actions don’t line up

In most of our lives, the topic of migration is usually accompanied by the word “crisis.” There is no denying that a growing number of environmental, political and economic factors are pressuring more people to displace themselves. However, I believe the world is entirely capable of supporting an increase in human movement. The reason why the current migration situation is labeled as a crisis is because of countless nations’s inability to manage their borders and have proper systems in place to effectively and safely regulate human movement.

Currently, the planet hosts about 7.4 billion people, of which only 245 million people are considered migrants, making up only 3.3 per cent of the world’s total population, according to the Pew Research Center. The current United States’s population is about 325 million, including more than 43 million immigrants, who account for 13.5 per cent of the country’s total population, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

The policies and institutional frameworks that allow immigrants to re-establish their lives elsewhere are easily controlled by a state’s regime and judicial system. A state that does not accommodate migrants directly affects the dire situation these people face, especially in terms of human rights. The current border crisis between the United States and Mexico is a pressing case that demonstrates systematic institutional failures.

I believe there is a pressing problem with a regime that consistently produces discourse about the threat immigrants pose to national security, job security and the national budget. It normalizes sentiments of hate and discrimination. It also allows for such norms to be condoned through actions, leading to a lack of recognition of inherent human rights.

Take, for example, the case of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unconstitutionally separating children from their parents. This was done without a proper framework in place to document adult migrants who were being detained. It led to an inability to reunite separated families. Additionally, there was no system to establish where these unaccompanied minors would be kept, and in most cases, the initial intent was to send the minors to foster care. Between April and May alone, almost 2,000 children were separated from their families, according to Vox, likely leading to intense emotional trauma for those separated.

The American justice system is also at the forefront of neglecting human rights, especially with regard to immigration. Immigration courts allow children, sometimes as young as three, to appear unaccompanied at their immigration proceedings. Let that sink in. Given the age of these children, it is certain they don’t have a basic comprehension of immigration law.

Given that the United States’s current immigration laws and systems are not only harmful but also clearly not supporting international human rights, the question that must be considered is: Why has this been allowed to evolve? A common response would be that the American people resent immigrants. However, many recent polls disprove this. Even in the midst of such harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric stemming from the current administration, multiple statistics show it has not affected Americans’ support of immigrants.

A recent Gallup poll found that fears of immigrants bringing crime, taking jobs from native-born citizens and damaging a country’s budget and overall economy are at an all-time low. Over 75 per cent of the respondents in 2018 believed immigration was a good thing for a country. The same poll also found that an overwhelming number of respondents believe immigrants are absolutely beneficial to the American economy. If this is the case and American citizens truly support immigrants, then why is the government not acting in the interests of its constituents?

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


The importance of independent newspapers

All levels of student government should support student news media at Concordia

I think most people would agree that a free and independent press is important. This is true in national, provincial and municipal contexts, but it is also true at our university. Concordia is fortunate to have two strong student news publications. They provide us with a platform to express ourselves, and they hold the university administration accountable. Most importantly, they keep our student organizations honest.

I have sat on committees and council meetings for the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA), and I can say firsthand that the Concordia community is better for the existence of The Link and The Concordian. Yet, our student governance organizations don’t always seem to recognize the important role the student news media plays.

During the polling period of the most recent Concordia Student Union (CSU) elections, The Link published an editorial endorsing Speak Up, one of three slates running for the CSU executive. The Link is not affiliated with the CSU, and it is well within their right to publish whatever they want, whenever they want, so long as it abides by their code of ethics. Even so, in light of the editorial’s publication, CSU chief electoral officer Nicholas Roberts disqualified the entire Speak Up slate. He claims the editorial qualifies as campaigning during the polling period. By disqualifying Speak Up on that basis, Roberts is implying candidates have control over what The Link publishes. That implication directly contradicts the principle of free press.

This incident with the CSU and The Link is just the latest in a long line of infringements by student organizations. Last February, the ASFA executive cut ties with The Link because of a disagreement with the paper’s editorial slant and practices. The Commerce and Administration Students’ Association (CASAJMSB) considered following suit. These actions are inappropriate to say the least. ASFA has since apologized and reversed their decision, but none of it should have happened in the first place. To withhold access and demand changes from the student news media is an imposition on the media’s ability to report freely and accurately. Their ability to do so is always important, but it’s particularly important when the organizations involved are in charge of large amounts of student money.

The CSU and faculty organizations need to take a stronger stand on press independence. Article 425 of the CSU’s Standing Regulations states that the CSU “respects the role and independence of student media and believes that they play an essential role in the University community.” However, that stance is incompatible with other CSU regulations, including Article 316 which seeks to limit what our student news media can and cannot publish during elections.

ASFA is no better. Its governing documents make no mention of press independence or freedom. This has led to confusion over what role the student press plays during ASFA’s elections.

It’s well within the student body’s right to criticize the student news media. We are free to comment and hold it accountable. But, it needs to be made clear that, from a legal standpoint, the student press is free to publish what it pleases, within reasonable ethical standards. It’s not the role of any external organization to dictate what those standards are. Student group candidates cannot—and should not—control what is published, and organizations should not act as if they can.

All levels of student government need to enshrine a commitment to the independence of student news media in their governing documents. They also need to ensure that other regulations, like those governing elections, are in line with that stance, both in writing and in practice.

As a current ASFA executive, I will be working to implement these changes within the federation. I am now calling on my counterparts in other organizations, including the CSU, to do the same. We all benefit from a free press; it’s about time we support them.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


The pot-ential of legalization in Canada

Industry regulations, police resources among factors to consider before July 2018 legislation

The legalization of marijuana in Canada is a major step in the country’s history. This is an issue that impacts society on a fundamental level. In my opinion, how each province handles and adapts to the changes resulting from this legislation will be an important part of the transition.

In July 2018, the Quebec government will officially recognize Bill 172. This bill introduces the legalization of marijuana, along with several key points. Firstly, the legal age to purchase and consume marijuana will be 18 in Quebec, according to CBC News. Secondly, the bill prohibits the growing of marijuana for personal use or growing it for commercial use if it is conducted outside the laws established by the provincial government.

Additionally, under the bill, marijuana can be smoked in areas permitting tobacco smoking, but it will be strictly forbidden to smoke on the property of an educational institution, according to the same source. And, of course, driving under the influence will still be against the law. Anyone caught driving while under the influence, or suspected of being under the influence, could have their license suspended for 90 days or even face jail time, according to CBC News.

Concerned citizens and several Quebec officials are still hesitant about the idea of legalizing marijuana. Some believe that by legalizing it, younger citizens could be influenced to pick up the habit, according to the Montreal Gazette. I believe these concerns are justified.

Even though marijuana will be legalized, the long-time criminal element associated with it remains, and law enforcement officials are striving to postpone its legalization date. They are insistent that the bill must allow for stricter regulations when it comes to managing this new industry. This includes making sure companies and the health ministry have stricter security clearances for employees to avoid introducing organized crime into the legalized marijuana industry, according to the National Post. Many law enforcement officials also believe police require additional training and resources—besides the saliva test, which has yet to be federally regulated—in order to identify and handle impaired drivers, according to CBC News.

While valid points, I believe it’s also important to see the good that this legalization can bring. One major example is that, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, medical marijuana could help combat the opioid crisis. Since 2015, the opioid crisis has become a dangerous problem for Canadians. In 2016, there were over 2,800 reported fatalities in connection to opioid overdoses in Canada, according to The Globe and Mail.

Portugal is one example of successful marijuana legalization. Since 2001, the country has legalized all drugs up to a certain amount, including marijuana, and each legal limit varies per drug. According to Sensi Seeds, a cannabis seed marketing company, carrying up to 2.5 grams of marijuana is legal in Portugal. However, trafficking and cultivating marijuana is still illegal and could result in jail time, according to the same source. Portugal has seen several advantages, including a decline in drug overdoses. Within the European Union, Portugal has the second lowest rate of fatal overdoses, according to the Washington Post.

Make no mistake—I am not saying we should be legalizing all drugs. I am saying that legalizing marijuana may have the potential to do some good within certain communities. By following and adapting our policies to the examples set by the legislations in other countries, Quebec can create policies that provide strict safety and security regulations for marijuana. There is also a potential benefit to people’s health, especially when considering the opioid crisis.

However, such a sensitive issue requires patience. While I wouldn’t say no to the idea, I am saying that we need more time to finalize all the details and appeal to all the groups involved. In my opinion, if we rush this process, the consequences could result in severe social backlash.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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