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How would less international students affect Concordia’s student associations?

With international students under attack by tuition increases, international student associations have mixed reactions.

International students have long been an integral part of the academic appeal of Concordia, contributing not only to the university’s global outlook but also to the local economy. 

International student associations, such as the African Student Association of Concordia (ASAC) and the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), are key organizations representing the interests of students from around the world. Through outreach initiatives, support networks, and collaborative efforts with university administrations, the associations seek to empower their members and amplify their voices. 

Iman Kande, the communications executive for ASAC, said: “We try with the resources that we have […] to make people’s voices heard.” Kande said that since ASAC is not an official group, it is difficult for them to help students in every capacity. However, if someone comes to them with a problem, they will be able to point them in the right direction.

According to Kande, ASAC sees a lot of African students approaching the association and encourages others to come to their events even if they are not African themselves. 

“It’s our way to spread our culture, […] we were taught that a stranger becomes family and that’s kind of our goal,” Kande said. 

With approximately 11,000 students coming from outside of Canada, Concordia has a lot of international students, many of which contribute to their respective international student groups. Now with the implementation of the tuition increases for international students, many are wondering how international student groups will survive?

“In terms of social media, in September we had 1,900 followers and today we have 2,400, in the span of like 6-7 months,” Kande said.”For example, when we host events, there’s more people than there were last year and every year, it just grows and grows.” 

She attributes the growth of the association to the exposure that international students are receiving due to the tuition increases. 

There still is a large negative aspect to the tuition increases for international students. Mathieu Gonzales, president of LASO, said: “It’s scary to know that maybe LASO was going to cease to exist further down the line, or it’s not going to be as important as it is now.” 

“I do know certain people that are still debating whether or not it’s the right decision for them,” he added. Gonzales mentioned that members of LASO know that loved ones back home are looking more into options like the U.S. for their education “now that the tuition is going to increase” in Canada.  

Gonzales said that it is difficult for people to afford to come to Canada to study since the cost of living is so high. Adding higher tuition on top of that would be a huge barrier for a lot of students coming from Latin America. 

But with Concordia’s other student associations striking and picketing classrooms against tuition increases, some international students have felt ostracized from their in-province peers who pay a lot less per class. 

International student associations like ASAC and LASO want to see more international student groups included in the discussions surrounding striking. 

“It would have been nice to be included in that because it affects international students especially. So obviously, if they wanted to have a better result with the strike, it would have been smart for them to contact us,” Gonzales said. 

Gonzales stressed that if students were part of the strikes, the associations cannot help them if they got into any trouble: “LASO cannot be responsible or can’t protect anyone, even if it’s the good cause.”

Kande from ASAC also wished the strike organizers had reached out to international student groups such as theirs.  “If our voices were more heard, I think more impacts would or could have been made,” Kande continued.  

Kande said that individually, ASAC supports the movement against the tuition fee increases, but ASAC has not adopted the stance officially. With more strikes set to happen in March, and Concordia taking the Quebec government to the Superior Court, international students will be paying attention. The next strike dates are March 11 to the 15.

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Concordia is on strike, but what do international students think?

International students speak up on the tuition hike, current strike, and their concern for what’s to come.

Nearly 11 thousand of Concordia’s students went on strike last week to protest the government’s increase of tuition costs for out-of-province and international students, but the decision to picket classrooms left some international students feeling left out of the discussion.

Last October, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) announced that it would be raising tuition for out-of-province and international students. After back and forth between the universities and the tabling of a petition with over 33,000 signatures, the CAQ lowered the proposed tuition increase for out-of-province students from $17,000 to $12,000. Yet, the decision to maintain the doubling of tuition for international students remains firm. Further, 80 per cent of students from outside Quebec must achieve Level 5 French by the time they graduate. 

Thirteen student associations from Concordia picketed the entrance to classes from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.. The three-day strike polarized the student body, with some students  remaining unaware that their Member Associations (MA) even had a General Assembly (GA) to decide on striking and picketing terms. 

Stikes get voted on by the MAs for specific programs during their GAs. At these GAs, there is a minimum threshold of members, called a quorum, that is required to be present in order to pass motions. For example, the Political Science Student Association’s Constitution states: “Quorum is twenty-five (25) or 1.5 per cent of members, whichever is higher.” 

“As much as I agree with what the strike stands for, I can’t give myself the luxury to not go to class,” said Catalina Abello, a third-year international student from Colombia. “For me, one lecture costs almost $300.” 

For full-time international students such as Abello, , this winter semester amounted to $11,000, and for international students in JMSB, up to $14,000. This means that while, at the moment, average yearly tuition is between $20,000 to $30,000, it is estimated to rise up to roughly $60,000 under the new policy. 

According to several announcements by Concordia, the tuition hikes will not affect current students, but it will affect any student applying for fall 2024 or any student who switches majors or minors, “I´ve fallen in love with Montreal, I’m almost fluent in my French, and I was really looking forward to doing a graduate degree [in Montreal], but now I’m not sure what I’m gonna do,” said Abello. 

Another international student, who wishes to remain anonymous, emphasized the importance of solidarity and dialogue in addressing the underlying issues driving the strike.

“I just find it ironic,” they said. “I completely agree that the rise in tuition is devastating and students have the right to speak up, but no one is putting into consideration my opinion as an international student.” 

They suggested that for something this concerning, protesting outside of the university would’ve gotten more attention from the government. “Striking wouldn’t be my choice of action because I’m losing all that money that I’m fighting for at the end of the day,” they said. 

Vannina Maestracci, Concordia’s official spokesperson, gave the The Concordian the following statement when asked about the strike: 

“While we respect the freedom of students to peacefully protest and to express their views, we made clear before and during the strike that students who wanted to attend class should be able to do so.”

Maestracci showed her concerns about how this will affect the university. “We were saddened that the strike took place in our buildings, affecting the university, which has not made the decisions regarding tuition fees that were being protested but, instead, has clearly stated throughout the fall its disapproval of the tuition measures and has worked, and continues to work, hard to reverse them,” she said.

Despite the efforts, on Feb.2, the government announced that the tuition hike is still going forward. As the situation develops, the international student community in Concordia will be closely watching the impact of the strike and the ongoing discussions surrounding the laws proposed by Premier François Legault. The outcome will not only affect these students’ immediate academic futures, but it may also impact future immigrants arriving in Montreal in hopes of receiving better education. 

The next strike being planned by ASFA against the tuition hikes will be a five-day strike taking place from March 11 to 15.

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News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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News

What the CAQ’s tuition increase will mean for prospective out-of-province students

One Toronto high-schooler is reconsidering his choice of university after the Legault government’s latest announcement.

The Legault government’s announced tuition rate hikes are causing much debate amongst students and university officials. As undergraduate tuition is set to nearly double next year, those looking for a future education in Montreal might start looking elsewhere.

“It’s pretty disheartening,” said Gaven Niron, a senior high school student from Toronto. “I think several of my friends saw ourselves in Montreal. Now, the future doesn’t look so promising.” 

For some time, Niron has been eyeing Concordia’s journalism and art history programs. He practises music and writing in his spare time, which he believes might be inspired by Montreal’s culture following his multiple visits to the city.

Not long after the Coalition Avenir Quebec’s (CAQ) initial announcement, Niron was informed of the tuition raise, coming just in time for his first semester at Concordia. “It would be a very tough pill to swallow to put aside school in Quebec,” he said. 

The tuition raise was announced by Quebec’s Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry, on Oct. 13. Following this information, Concordia posted an informational guide regarding the announcement. By fall of 2024, out-of-province students will be required to pay about $17,000, almost double the previous average of $8,992. International students will have to pay a “minimum rate” of $20,000, although this may be subject to change depending on the university, according to Déry. 

Déry explained that the new rates will more closely reflect what non-Quebec students would be paying outside of Quebec. She also claimed the change would rectify a trend of out-of-province students taking advantage of Quebec’s decreased rates only to find work elsewhere after graduation.

The additional cost generated by this change will go directly into funding “the French-speaking network,” Déry said in an interview with the Journal de Québec.

Although his understanding of Quebec’s politics is sparse, Niron views the policy change as disruptive to Quebec’s growing diversity. He believes international students might not feel welcome after hearing the news, and hopes Quebec’s student population will come together in protest of the CAQ’s announcement. 

Two university students have already started planning a first major protest in opposition to the tuition hikes. Titled the “Bluefall Protest,” this project first took root on social media, garnering support from major university institutions, even the francophone ones.

The protest is headed by Noah Sparrow, a third-year creative writing student at Concordia University, and Alex O’Neill, a second-year McGill political science student.

“Our goal for this protest is to showcase to the Quebec government that we are united in our cause, and we’re not going to be silent about it,” Sparrow said. 

Sparrow and O’Neill believe the change is rooted in larger issues of discrimination against English-speaking minorities. They believe the CAQ’s decision was undemocratic, as students and professors were not consulted over such a large change in the status quo.

The Concordia Student Association (CSU) and the Student Society of McGill (SSMU) have also condemned the hike by releasing a joint statement on their social media accounts. 

The Bluefall Protest organisers have a history in rousing collective action, and have high hopes for their new undertaking. “We can use the [protest] to show that the province has moved past language politics,” O’Neill said. The university-joint strike is expected to take place on Oct. 30 near Dorchester Square. 

Lorraine O’Donnell, Senior Research Associate at the Quebec English-Speaking Communities Research Network (QUESCREN), believes the recent hikes were foreshadowed by previous moves like Bill 101 and Bill 96. She worries this will have a negative effect on enrollment and teacher employment.

O’Donnell sympathised with out-of-province students who will miss the opportunity to attend university at an affordable rate, which would eventually widen the class divide between anglophones and francophones. 

As for Niron, he plans to gain residency in Quebec by taking a gap year in the province, which will allow him to pay the Quebec student tuition rate.

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News

Concordia’s Indian international students forgotten in India-Canada Crisis

As diplomatic tensions rise, the largest demographic of international students in Canada are caught in the crosshairs

The recent rift between India and Canada has brought uncertainty and chaos for both Indian international students at Concordia and the university’s Sikh community.

On Sept. 18, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Indian government of involvement in the assassination of Canadian citizen and Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Since then, diplomatic relations between the two countries have rapidly deteriorated, and India has halted visa applications for Canadian nationals in retaliation. 

Angad Singh Malhotra, president of Concordia’s Sikh Student Association (SSA), said that over the last two weeks, a number of students have reached out to the SSA for help and advice regarding the situation.

“Yesterday somebody was telling me about how their parents got their visa refused because of the issues that are going on,” said Malhotra. “And they fear that a lot of them who are engaged with the community, if they are vocal, will get the refusal to go back to India.”

These concerns come as Indian government officials and media outlets portray Canada as a breeding ground for the Khalistani movement, which strives to establish a sovereign state for the Sikh population in northern India. While militant factions within the Khalistani movement exist in South Asia, the overwhelming majority of Khalistani activists adhere to non-violent principles.

For Sikh Canadians, like Singh, a Concordia graduate who asked his firstname not to be disclosed, the effects of these allegations are having deep reaching impacts into their personal lives. Following Trudeau’s announcement, Singh said he’s getting calls from his family back in India concerned about his well-being, owing to the spread of misinformation by the Indian media.

“They tell me that [based on] what Indian news channels show us, you guys are in deep trouble,” he said. “The Canadian government is kicking out all Indians or the Canadian government is kicking out all Sikhs.” 

According to Julian Spencer-Churchill, associate professor in Concordia’s political science department, the proliferation of fake news stems from the consolidation of Indian media under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. These developments stem from a rise in the far right Hindu nationalism in the country over the last decade.

Indian students comprise over 40 per cent of international students studying in Canada, making the group the largest demographic of international students in the country. Nevertheless, the group suffers a lack of representation in both countries, according to Spencer-Churchill. 

“Indian international students in Canada are victims here,” said Spencer-Churchill. 

Concordia has made no formal announcement regarding the ongoing India-Canada crisis. As far as Malhotra knows, no one from the university’s administration has reached out to the SSA.

Spencer-Churchill recommended that the Indian and Sikh students lobby Concordia’s administration to allow for special accommodations, such as being able to attend classes remotely, until visa restrictions are lifted. However, he predicts that any visa complications that Indian international students are facing will be short-lived, due to the economic impact that these policies will have on educational institutions.

“The universities want money,” he said. “These people [Indian international students] are bringing their own money in many cases, […] and where they’re not like PhD students, industry is going to probably sponsor them. So there’s no advantage for Canada to keep the system stuck.”

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News

Seeking news in times of crisis: People in Canada can’t see this content

As an earthquake shook Morocco, Moroccan students were faced by the difficulty of finding news and support.

Yasmina May Hafiz, a Concordia third-year international student from Morocco, vividly recalls the moment she received the delayed news from her home country nearly four hours after the earthquake hit on the night of Sept. 8.

“I received a call, so I’m thinking my friend just wants to chat, and they immediately say: ‘Hey, have you called your family? Have you contacted anyone that’s in Morocco right now? There was just an earthquake,’” Hafiz said.

Taken aback, she quickly hung up the phone, entering an immediate state of panic. “I didn’t know the magnitude. I didn’t know what city it hit. I didn’t know any details,” she said.

On Sept. 8, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Morocco’s Atlas Mountains before midnight, killing nearly 3,000 people and injuring thousands more. 

Canada’s recent implementation of Bill C-18, which has resulted in news content being blocked on social media, has made times of crisis even harder after Morocco’s earthquake. 

It took almost 40 minutes for Hafiz to reach her family in Casablanca, as her mother’s phone died and local cell towers were down. Her father happened to pick up while out of town in Algeria, reassuring her that her family was safe.

“I just had to calm myself down and be like, ‘Okay, I’ve talked to everyone. They’re okay. Like repeating to myself I’ve heard their voices,’” Hafiz said.

Hafiz spent the majority of her life in Casablanca, alongside her parents and younger brother. 

In 2021, at 18 years old, she moved to Montreal to study communications and cultural studies at Concordia. While this opened a new chapter in her life, it took her some time to navigate her lifestyle in the city. Part of this change required her to find a way to stay up to date with local news from her hometown.

She found herself relying on local Moroccan news outlets’ social media pages. To her, this was a perfect way to passively consume information with limited effort.

This routine didn’t last too long.

In June, Canada introduced Bill C-18, which requires big tech companies, such as Google and Meta, to compensate Canadian media organizations for using their social platforms. On Aug. 1, Meta responded to the bill by blocking most news content on Facebook and Instagram across Canada. 

For those like Hafiz, who depended on social media as her primary source of local news outside of the country, Bill C-18 created barriers that became most noticeable in times of crisis.  

Matthew Johnson is the Director of Education at MediaSmarts, a digital media literacy non-profit organization based in Ottawa. MediaSmarts defines digital media literacy as “the ability to critically, effectively and responsibly access, use, understand and engage with media of all kinds.” 

He referred to the obstacles faced by wildfire evacuees in Yellowknife this summer, who had limited access to emergency news updates on Meta’s platforms.

“That made it very difficult for many people to share what was happening to them. And in parts of Canada, where there’s limited access, in some cases to TV or radio news, it does seem as though it did have a significant impact,” Johnson said. 

These limitations may also impact those who rely on news from outside of Canada, with limited access to broadcast or print from other countries. “The real question is, what’s going to happen when and if Google starts doing the same thing?” Johnson asked. 

Johnson emphasized the importance of not putting all of one’s informational eggs in the same basket. He advised readers to curate their news sources from outside of social media platforms, ensuring to list those that they can rely on, especially in times of crisis. 

Despite Concordia students facing limited access to news on social media, they still found ways to spread information on Instagram. 

Selma Idrissi Kaitouni was raised in Casablanca and moved to Montreal last year to pursue her studies at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business. The student was in Montreal with her mother when the earthquake hit, but her father was in Marrakesh. Her family hasn’t been affected.

A few days after the earthquake, Idrissi Kaitouni and her friends came together to form a social club called the Moroccan Student Union (MSU), to advocate for those affected by the crisis. 

The club aims to become an official student group by completing the university’s registration process. “We really want to start embracing Moroccan culture at Concordia, whether it’s during Ramadan or it’s just having a safe place to be when you’re very far from home,” Idrissi Kaitouni said. 

Idrissi Kaitouni also mentioned Bill C-18’s influence on spreading awareness. When attempting to post a Canadian news article covering resources available to help those affected by the earthquake, her post was blocked by Instagram. The MSU reverted to posting donation links instead, which has been successful.

Emphasizing the importance of donating to international initiatives such as Banque Alimentaire, Idrissi Kaitouni added their link to MSU’s Instagram bio.

“I know as time will pass, less people will be talking about [the earthquake]…But Morocco will need lots of time to heal from it,” she said. 

Hafiz searched for a Morocco student club prior to the earthquake. She is grateful to see the MSU forming in support of her community.

“It’s incredible because everybody is rallying behind [us]. We saw it with the World Cup and now we saw it when it really mattered, when people needed it. I feel very, very proud to be from a country that can do that any day,” said Hafiz.

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Two Concordia Students claim they were violently arrested for Jaywalking

The students will file complaints against the officers for excessive use of force

One night at the end of July, at almost 3 a.m., Concordia PhD students Amaechi Okafor and Wade Paul were walking on Saint-Jacques street, heading towards Okafor’s apartment in NDG. 

As they walked, they saw police cruisers and officers gathered around an individual wrapped in a blanket. Not wanting to interfere with the situation, Okafor and Paul stepped into the street to go around the cruiser, then returned to the sidewalk. 

“We didn’t even cross the road,” said Okafor. “I actually told him: ‘Let’s step on the road and avoid these cars and step back on the sidewalk,’ which we did for a split second. And all of a sudden, we just hear yelling.”

“Next thing I kind of remember, there was a police car coming up onto the sidewalk,” recalled Paul. Okafor said the intervention was “very, very aggressive.”

The officers were speaking French, and while Okafor speaks French, neither student could understand the officers’ accent—Okafor is an international student from Nigeria, and Paul is from St. Mary’s First Nation in New Brunswick. When told this, the officers switched to English and requested to see Okafor’s ID. 

Okafor and Paul asked why they needed his ID, and the officers said that it was because they had been jaywalking. The students asked for clarification, at which point the officers asked to see Paul’s ID as well. 

“They said […] that we were under arrest,” said Paul. “I had my arm kind of twisted, I was thrown up against a fence. I had my rights started to be read to me. I was in full panic mode.”

“The way the arrest went was really strange for me because it’s something I’d never experienced,” said Okafor. He recalls being put to the fence, handcuffed from the back and searched from top to bottom.

He was then put against the cruiser, where the officers spread out his legs so far that his pants ripped and searched him again, he said. This also affected his old knee injuries, and he is still suffering from knee pain a month after the arrest. He said the pain makes it hard for him to walk and work.

“I felt abused. I think that was the word to use. Because I didn’t give them the right to touch me all over where they touched me,” said Okafor.

The students said they were put in separate police cruisers, where they were left alone for 20 minutes. Officers went through their belongings and wallets, and did not explain what was happening. Okafor said they never read him his rights.

Both were fined $49 for jaywalking and $499 for refusing to show their ID. 

Since the incident, Okafor’s family has joined him in Canada. He waited two years before bringing them here, wanting to make sure it was a safe place for them. Now, he fears what happened to him might happen to his three children.

“If my son is 16-17, what would happen if a cop were to stop him like that?” he asks. “I don’t want to lose my son because I’m ambitious.” 

The students have pleaded not guilty to their fine. With the help of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) and its executive director Fo Niemi, they are planning on filing complaints with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission for Racial Profiling and with the Quebec Police Ethics Commissioner.

“The only down thing is that the law, as it stands right now, will allow these officers not to cooperate with the Police Ethics Commissioner investigation,” explained Niemi. “Because they have the so-called constitutional right to silence. Not to incriminate oneself.”

Niemi is hopeful that the misconduct charges for excessive use of force will go far. “Just the fact that they were handcuffed, that’s a form of force that was used excessively,” he said.

“It all goes far to speak on how unsafe international students should feel,” he said. “Because if that could happen to me, it could happen to any other person.”

After hearing his story, other international students told him that they were worried about their own safety.

Niemi stressed the importance of speaking out about these situations. “Just because you’re international students, it doesn’t mean you have less rights when it comes to this.”

The SPVM declined to comment on the intervention.

Infographic by Carleen Loney / The Concordian
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Briefs News

International students say goodbye to 20-hour work week limit — for now 

The federal government is looking to lean on international students to help address Canada’s labour shortage

On Oct. 7, the federal government announced its plan to temporarily lift the limit on the number of hours international students can work. 

Under the previous policy, international students studying in Canada were permitted to work a maximum of 20 hours per week off-campus. However, there is no such limit for on-campus work.

According to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, this policy will come into effect on Nov. 15 and will remain in place until the end of 2023, allowing international students to work additional hours.

Clément Lechat, an international student at Concordia University, shared his thoughts on this implementation:

“I don’t really understand the 20-hours-a-week limit,” said Lechat. He explained that many international students struggle to support themselves. For the students who can take on the extra hours, he said, “This change is a great opportunity for them.”

Lechat added, “I think it would be a good idea for the government to keep this policy long term.”

Fraser claimed that even as the Canadian economy bounces back following the pandemic, the  country faces an ongoing labour shortage. With over 500,000 international students currently in Canada, Fraser believes they’re important for addressing this issue.

“By allowing international students to work more while they study, we can help ease pressing needs in many sectors,” he said. 

Besides lifting the limit on work hours, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will launch a pilot program to automate the process for international students looking to extend their study permits. This will also be accompanied by the opportunity to extend expired or expiring work permits by an additional 18 months.

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News

Did international students want to strike?

A week after the end of the strike, international students reflect on its effects

With the reading week strike now passed, Concordia students can look back on its organization and results. International students are uniquely situated in their opinions on the strike.

From immigration requirements, to living far from their families, these students have many boxes to check in order to study at Concordia. Many international students had to take all this into consideration as the reading week strike approached. 

The Concordian spoke with a first-year Armenian-Lebanese psychology student who wished to stay anonymous. She recalled first learning about the strike while on Instagram the weekend before it was supposed to happen. 

“I was basically thinking, why?” she said. “Even though they had their reasons listed out, I wasn’t really relating, I didn’t understand.” 

Having to pay 12 thousand dollars per semester, she wanted to get as much out of her time in university as possible. “I was worried that the teachers would actually cancel their classes; I didn’t want to miss anything,” she said. 

The picketing, however, did not worry her. “When it’s a soft picket, they don’t actually get in the way if you go into class, and the class I was going to was like that, so I thought, ‘I can go.’” She decided to keep showing up to class that week. None of her classes were cancelled, although she did notice they were emptier than usual. “The two days I had to attend class, there was really nothing going on,” she said.

Looking back on the strike, she said: “Overall, I get it […] They should find different ways to get [mental health] services, because that’s really important.” On the other hand, she added: “I don’t agree with the way they’re doing it. It all seems a bit immature.” 

The Concordian also spoke with Adanna, a Nigerian third-year communications studies major who did not wish for her full name to be disclosed. She expressed mixed feelings about the strike: “Personally, I felt a bit of relief, in the sense that students are speaking out about mental health,” she said. She had hoped that a fall reading week would be implemented this year but was disappointed to see only a reading day on the school calendar. 

That being said, Adanna still went to most of her classes during the strike. Both finances and academic performance were on her mind: “Missing out on that class might just impact my grades and my understanding of what the class is about. Every single day, every single class is important.”

However, Adanna was impressed by the effectiveness of the strike. All the classes for her minor, women’s studies, were either cancelled or held online. In one of her in-person classes, only six out of 25 students showed up.

Carla Jamet-Lange, the mobilization coordinator for the Women’s and Sexuality Studies Student Association (WSSSA), has been involved in planning for the strike since this summer.

Jamet-Lange, a French-German international student, organized most of the strike for her association and is very happy with the results. “It went well,” said Jamet-Lange. “We did a hard picket, and all the classes were cancelled [for the week].”

Despite her support for the strike, Jamet-Lange understands the apprehension many international students might have for legal and monetary reasons. She knows that many international students want to go to class and get their money’s worth, which was made possible by most student associations using soft picketing.

Jamet-Lange says that the question of legality was also considered in preparation for the strike. “Every international student thinks about legal implications when doing something legally grey,” she said. Jamet-Lange accused the University of wanting to sow fear of legal consequences by advising students to call campus security if protesters physically blocked the access to classes, which she says kept some international students from mobilizing. 

“That is just what the University wants,” she said, “[to make] people afraid and not participate in the strike.”

Jamet-Lange made sure to stress the point that “students cannot get into trouble for striking, because striking is a legal right.” She found the University’s response to the strike disappointing. 

“They were just pitting students against each other.”

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Opinions

Will I “make it” as a foreign journalist?

We need to talk more about representation and diversity in journalism

Any thoughts about this issue?” Professor Z asks in class on a Monday morning. I look around me and a few hands raise, but I think twice (maybe three times), if I should join the conversation or not. “What if I make a fool of myself? What if nobody understands me?” These doubts come to me immediately. I lock eyes with the professor for just a second, he knows I want to speak, but I look away and say nothing. The class continues once again with me fading into the background.

I am a graduate student in Digital Innovation in Journalism, so I’m best friends with anxiety, stress, and an imposter syndrome at its peak, which is something very relatable among newcomers to the discipline, according to Leila El Shennawy from The Pigeon. However, I am also a Mexican person of color, without a journalistic background, who hopes to communicate well enough in a foreign language to “make it” through the program. So, there are times when I can’t help but think, “Why did I do this to myself?” And in my head, I fear these “extra layers” will eventually affect my chances to practice journalism here in Canada.

Well, in class we are encouraged to call ourselves journalists even though we are also students, so I might be a rookie, but a journalist, nonetheless. Maybe as a foreigner, I will face different obstacles than my local peers, but instead of continuing to pity myself, I have decided to write about it. The question is, “Where do I begin? 21.4 % of Concordia University’s enrolled students come from abroad, so I decided to ask those in my master program how they see each other as international journalism students and if they feel confident about practicing journalism.

When I approached a Lebanon-born classmate, she expressed some concerns given her feelings of starting from scratch, as she does not know the rules of the industry well here nor does she have any professional contacts. I can relate to that because we are not only students but immigrants as well. We must overcome an adaptation process to a new life while also putting ourselves out there even though we must compete against more experienced, self-confident people for a place in an industry that is going through an identity crisis that jeopardizes its own existence. Is journalism still valuable?” Some wonder.

The clock is ticking, and sometimes even cultural changes play an important role in how we perceive our chance to succeed. Another classmate who comes from India mentioned to me that journalists should feel comfortable in their environment and have a sense of belonging, but she fears facing more obstacles when knocking on the doors of professional newsrooms to ask for a shot, given that her professional knowledge is only in Indian media. We all have insecurities, but my colleagues and I deal with this “not so invisible wall” that challenges us constantly. “Are we part of this society yet?” “Are we going to be able to practice journalism in Montreal, Quebec, or Canada in general?” “Is there something we could reflect on as students to address this issue?” Well, among the critical approaches to journalism that we have studied so far, there is one that resonates with me the most.

Scholar Irene Costera Meijer explores three types of experiences the audience needs to consider the work of a journalist “valuable”: a piece that makes them learn something new, that manages to acknowledge diversity within society, and that understands and portrays this diversity accurately. There is value when you can see a mutual conversation and understanding between the journalists and the public. 

I think this approach could also apply to the overall academic training of journalists, that is, throughout journalism programs, we could incentivize more conversations and studies about how diversity, inclusiveness, and representation among journalists themselves bring value to the discipline. This critical approach could allow the variable of “diversity” to play a much more important role in our training. How could we have more chances to make it as journalists when we are so different from each other? Some of us feel far behind from the rest due to certain circumstances that, in any case, shouldn’t matter that much in egalitarian conditions.

I am a foreign journalist going through a learning curve in Canadian media, for sure, but I know I could provide a third perspective or a different angle about current phenomena thanks to my international experiences. In the end, we are all valuable for journalism, and while I understand it is our responsibility to work on ourselves and, if applicable, overcome our imposter syndrome, I believe it would be very helpful to see more diverse and international people represented in the readings we learn from. There is valuable journalism all around the world, and this is an interdisciplinary profession, so it would be enriching to study contemporary journalists, scholars, and academics from Lebanon, India, Mexico, and any other country in a much more organic way throughout journalism programs. Feeling represented is important, and while I know we all can make it, an extra reminder does not hurt anyone, but it can make a difference. In the meantime, I will try to join the conversation next class. I will try to raise my hand too.

 

Feature graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

What having a hybrid system should mean

Welcome back Concordians!

It’s the start of a new academic year; one where we’ve renewed our STM cards, met our classmates face-to-face, and switched out our pyjamas for real pants to go to class. We’re nudging towards what once was, but with masks, sanitization, and a passport on our phones. We’re finally experiencing what was promised for adhering to health regulations, such as vaccination and quarantining for the last several months .

Which is to say, it’s the start of what we’ve all heard so many times that it’s already worn out its appeal: the “new normal.” Beyond the fact it’s been overused to placate our general anxiety of the future and justify ever-changing health safety regulations, it’s not the right term, le mot juste, to describe our collective, health and safety future.

Normal is a standard; the status quo. It implies what we find typical in our day-to-day life. But that’s impossible to define in a time when our foundation is unstable: we’re riding through, and responsibly obeying, ever changing measures based on irregular swells of COVID infections. It’s been dizzying to say the least.

Last year, isolation and Zoom fatigue took a toll on us. Our home environment molted together to form a bedroom/classroom/workplace all-inclusive space in the same quality of an infomercial gadget we’ve never wanted. For many, schoolwork piled on as teachers assigned extra video lectures and projects; we dealt with unstable internet connections and studying in different time zones. The Concordia Reddit feed was saturated with students’ comments describing suffering from increased anxiety and poor mental health.

Back then, as a solution, students demanded the option for pass/fail to return, and during the 2021 winter semester, we got it. It didn’t fix everything, but for many it was a load off our shoulders — except it only came after CSU representatives and the student community advocated for this change. However, as we return to hybrid in-person instruction, we call on the university to proactively better support students who need it most.

A few weeks ago, Concordia began increasingly executing the new hybrid learning environment to an online/in-person schedule decided by the university. While most students can adhere to this cautious approach, many international students who have moved to Montreal and students with disabilities were taken by surprise right before the semester began.

How can the university claim to adequately support students with disabilities while not enforcing any policy that would allow them to solely access classes online to protect their health?

Students who are immunocompromised must advocate for themselves and be at the mercy of different departments and professors’ willingness to help them access class material. International students who are unable to come to Canada right away are told to pick online classes; that is the extent of a “hybrid” semester. Some are paying rent in two cities, stretching their budget to pay for both the life they built in their home country and in Montreal. The total extent of a hybrid system promised to Concordians in the fall is to simply pick from the limited classes offered online.

Exercising health safety practices while overlooking students who are exponentially affected by a pandemic, both financially and physically, is failing the students who need help. That isn’t a “new normal” reality we live in; it’s an unacceptable policy failure that has to be changed.

After a year of online classes, providing a robust online alternative for students should be a given; Concordia has the capability to make education accessible for all students.

In our inaugural issue, we call on Concordia University to better support our student population who deserve a normal where they can better succeed, and survive in this pandemic.

 

Photograph by Alex Hutchins

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News

International students struggle with hybrid system

Concordia’s hybrid school system leaves international students frustrated

As students return to Concordia with a new hybrid system of online and in-person classes, international students are feeling like they have been left in the dust.

In March, the university sent an email encouraging international students to return to school for September. It was anticipated that the provincial government would want students to be physically in Quebec for the new semester.

“It really felt like Concordia just completely left us behind in the equation,” said Jane Doe*, an international student from Kentucky who is majoring in environmental geography. “They were just so eager to be back in person, whether it was Concordia or Quebec, I don’t know. But we were totally left out.”

Doe explained that because of border closures, many international students are unable to fly to Canada in time for the start of the fall semester. Concordia University told international students that they have until Nov. 8 to arrive in the country. The Concordia website states that if an international student does not have their visa approved by Nov. 8, which is the DISC deadline, their registration will be removed and tuition refunded.

According to the Government of Canada’s website, international travel into Canada is now allowed only if the person is symptom free and has received the full series of an accepted vaccine. But International students from Morocco and India won’t be able to fly into Canada until Sept. 29, with possibility for a renewal of the ban.

“I was so pissed because I thought for sure that they [Concordia] wouldn’t do that so soon,” Doe said. She explained that she assumed Concordia would continue online school into the new school year. During the past year online Doe moved back to the U.S., got an apartment, a job and expected that her last semester at Concordia would be online.

Doe is currently paying for rent for her apartment in Kentucky and in Montreal, and had to quit her job in Kentucky. According to her, international students, specifically from the U.S., cannot apply for a loan if they are attending online school.

“I had slowly moved into my own place, totally moved on from this part of my life [in Montreal] and then I was told I had to come back,” said Doe.

Doe is currently not in Canada as a student but is in the country on a tourist visa, which means in three months she will have to return to the U.S. and return again to Canada as a tourist. Doe said that she applied for her study permit extension five months ago, but has received no update even though the process is supposed to take six to eight weeks. Despite calling, she still hasn’t received a response. She explained that this is caused by the massive amount of international students also applying for a permit extension.

“There’s a lot of students that I’ve heard from that are really concerned about this because they might not get their documents in time,” said Hannah Jamet-Lange, a French international student and the Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) academic & advocacy coordinator.

Jamet-Lange explained that if international students are unable to get their documents in before Nov. 8 they are disenrolled and the student can take a leave of absence for the semester. But Jamet-Lange stated that taking semesters off can impact an international student’s visa and work permits.

“We’ve been advocating a lot for a hybrid system just because it will make it easier for students that are still abroad to still access their classes,” Jamet-Lange said, who explained that the CSU released an open letter to Concordia in August, which laid out concerns about the unclear reopening plan, and gave recommendations on how to best accommodate students.

One of the recommendations was recordings of all classes, both those held in-person and those held online to ensure accessibility. The letter further stated that this includes but is not limited to, “students who are self-isolating and international students who are unable to enter Montreal due to travel bans and/or delays in immigration procedures.”

Vannina Maestracci, Concordia university spokesperson, stated that all universities have to follow eligibility criteria and regulations for study permits.

“The request to be in Montreal is linked to their study permit and immigration status, not to the delivery format of their courses,” stated Maestracci, who explained that the provincial and federal government are allowing international students who are having difficulties traveling to Canada the ability to start their semester online.

She explained that Concordia has offered international students until the beginning of November to travel to Canada while letting them start their classes remotely.

 

Graphic courtesy of James Fay

*Granted temporary anonymity for external circumstances.

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