Breaking: Concordia files lawsuit against the Government of Quebec

Concordia and McGill file lawsuits for the Quebec Government’s implementation of damaging tuition increases for out-of-province students.

Concordia University is taking on the Attorney General of Quebec in the Superior Court over the tuition increases for international and out-of-province students. 

On Feb. 23, Concordia University filed a lawsuit where it aims to “quash the decision of the Minister of Higher Education” to significantly raise tuition rates of students living outside Quebec, regulate tuition fees of international students and require francization of non-resident students

In the 47-page lawsuit, Concordia calls out Pascale Déry, the Minister of Higher Education of Quebec, for basing the “decision on stereotypes and false assumptions about the English-speaking community of Québec and its institutions.” 

The lawsuit also calls out the “underlying mobility rights of Canadians,” according to Michael N. Bergman, the lawyer for the Task Force on Linguistic Policy.

“All Canadians are equal. All Canadians have mobility rights, meaning all Canadians can travel without restriction,” Bergman said. 

Limiting mobility rights directly goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to the lawsuit, the tuition increase directly “engages the [Charter] values underlying equality rights, in particular, as they relate to discrimination based on language.”

Bergman believes that Concordia has “a very reasonable chance in succeeding in their lawsuit.” Since this directly contradicts the Charter, they have a strong case but the results of which remain to be seen.

As it currently stands, McGill University is asking for an immediate injunction, which is a court order to suspend the tuition increases. If the injunction is granted, the tuition increases will be lifted until further examination through the courts, Bergman said.

Along with Concordia, McGill also filed a lawsuit against the Quebec Government for their tuition increase for students living outside of Quebec. 

More to come on this developing story.


  • In a previous version of this article, in the second to last paragraph “As it currently stands, Concordia is asking for an immediate injunction, which is a court order to suspend the tuition increases,” we indicated that Concordia asked for an injunction. This is not correct. McGill is the university asking for an injunction. We acknowledge the mistake and apologize to our readers.

Tuition increases loom over English Universities; Legault stands firm

English universities struggle to see what their future will be without diversity in registration.

Montreal is the diversity hub of Quebec, and the provincial government’s latest blow to its universities has led to uproar from all sides of the city.

“It feels terrible. Very like… have your cake and eat it too,” said Dyan Solomon, renowned restaurant owner in Montreal and once out-of-province student, on the topic of the tuition increases set by the government of Quebec. 

On Oct. 13, the Quebec government implemented measures beginning at the start of the next fall term to “rebalance” the university network in Quebec and protect the French language. To do so, the Quebec government will be increasing tuition for out-of-province students from $9,000 to $17,000 and charging universities $20,000 for every international student. This move would make Quebec universities the most expensive in Canada for out-of-province students.

Students who are currently enrolled in an English university in Quebec will be grandfathered in at their current tuition rate. 

“I’ve been paraded around a lot by the Quebec media,” she added. “It’s very charming, the anglophone who learned how to speak French.” Her overall experience with  francophone Quebec media has been positive, but she questions why she is being used for tourism in Montreal while supposedly being a threat to the culture.

Graphics by Carleen Loney / The Concordian

Solomon hails from Kingston, Ontario. She moved to Montreal to study English literature at McGill. Now, Solomon has gone on to open up three renowned restaurants; Olive & Gourmando, Un Po’ Di Più, and Foxy. She employs over 100 people and is a massive contributor to the culinary culture of Montreal. Her cafe/restaurant Olive & Gourmando was the first business to breathe life back into Montreal’s Old Port. So, being described as a threat to the French language did not sit right with her. 

She also spoke about many of her colleagues in the restaurant industry who have come from away and forged a life here in Quebec navigating the difficult life of entrepreneurship here as an Anglophone.

Since the tuition hikes were announced, she has been using her platform as an influential Montrealer on Instagram to share her story as a former out-of-province student. She quickly accumulated a lot of responses from other remarkable Montrealers who have come from away and decided to gouge out a life in Quebec. 

Being here during the referendum of 1997, Solomon felt the high  expectation of learning French as an out-of-province student in the 90s. “When you came here you had the responsibility to speak French,” she said. “This is what you do–get with the program.” 

Students who are currently enrolled in an English university in Quebec will be grandfathered in at their current tuition rate. 

In a press conference, Jean François-Roberge, minister of the French language, and Pascale Déry, higher education minister, presented the new tuition framework as a way to promote the French language in Montreal as well as redistribute funds in the under-funded Quebec university system. 

When asked if there is too much English being spoken on the streets of Montreal, Jean François-Roberge said: “Of course.” This has sent Quebec’s three English universities, McGill, Concordia and Bishops, into a frenzy, as they account for the largest population of students from outside of Quebec.

In the same press conference Pascale Déry stated that they are looking to “put an end to funding Canadians” by introducing this tarification model. She said that most of these students leave after their studies, and asked why the Quebec tax payer should foot the more than $110 million a year bill for these students. This number has yet to be proven in documents from the government.

Bishops University, with a student population of just 2,500 students, 30 per cent of which are out-of-province and 15 per cent international, will feel the biggest impact of the tuition increase. This new framework threatens to force the closure of the small liberal arts college in the Eastern Townships. 

As an out-of-province student from Alberta, Bishops’ student body president Sofia Stacey believes the measure will make out-of-province students feel unwelcome in Quebec. “Students are fearful, stressed, frustrated, but most of all angry, because they feel that they’ve been told whether they won’t be affected or not, that they don’t belong here,” she said and continued by saying that maybe there just isn’t a place for them in Quebec anyways. 

Stacey fear the news of the proposed tuition hikes will steer incoming students away from Quebec. “That’s heartbreaking for those who have contributed, not just to the economy, but to Quebec society and the culture,” she added. 

On Nov. 6, Quebec Premier Francois Legault refused a historic proposal put forth by English universities to significantly increase their French language education for students. This proposal included plans to help out-of-province students integrate into the French job market after they graduate.

After the announcement of the measure in October, Concordia University spokesperson Vannina Maestracci said in an interview that Concordia was not consulted on the new framework, but was notified two days before the announcement. 

She added that Concordia was looking into what the total effects of the tuition increase will be on smaller programs like creative arts with a large affected population of almost 50 per cent of out-of-province students. 

Graham Carr, president of Concordia University, shared the financial ramifications of the new framework in a letter to the Concordia community. With the added effects of the tuition increases on out-of-province and international students, the university will see a $62 million loss in four years, when the grandfathered tuition wears out. 

Quebec Liberal education critic Marwah Rizqy has been the loudest MNA against the tuition hikes and said Minister Dery needs to “find some common sense” when it comes to the new tuition increases. 

Many out-of-province students come here to learn French and experience the vast and diverse cultures of Montreal. Concordia student Semira Kosciuk from Toronto said she came here for the “culture and for the opportunity to learn more French by immersing myself in it.” Even if she did not speak enough French to complete a degree at a French university, Concordia was the next best thing to learn the language.

ASFA academic coordinator Angelica Antonakopoulos spoke after the Blue Fall Protest on Oct. 30, encouraging students to sign the petition sponsored by the Quebec Liberal Party to force the issue to be debated in Parliament. 

ASFA is currently working on other demonstrations in partnership with other institutions to bring out more students later in November. 


The unrest in Iran seen from across the ocean

Protests continue in Iran, and Iranians in Montreal struggle to be so far from their homeland

McGill University’s Islamic Studies Library is a quiet and inviting place. From the outside, it looks like any other McGill building, and a passerby may not realize the beauty it holds. It’s filled with rows of leather-bound books, large windows, spiral staircases, and students studying for their finals.

Above the library, the Islamic Studies lounge is not so quiet. People talk, laugh, and eat together. There, Sonia Nouri and Sheida Mousavi, second-year Iranian political science students at McGill University, are animatedly speaking Farsi with a friend. They bid him farewell before finding a quieter room to discuss their homeland and the turmoil it faces since the death of Mahsa Amini in September.

“Being Iranian is a lot more than the government, it’s a lot more than the hijab, it’s a lot more than being restricted every day,” said Mousavi. 

“A lot of it is that. But, when I talk to my [family], we talk about poetry, and Iranian food, and that’s also what it means to me,” she added. But right now, both students are having a hard time cherishing their Iranian identity.

Nouri and Mousavi both immigrated to Canada from Iran when they were young. They are co-founders of the Coalition for Iranian Human Rights McGill (CIHRM), a group they created to bring McGill’s Iranian community together and to hold a vigil for Mahsa Amini in October.

Last September, Amini died in custody after Iran’s “morality police,” the force tasked with enforcing Iran’s dress code, arrested her for wearing her hijab incorrectly. The Iranian government said that she died of a heart attack, but witnesses claimed that she was beaten by the officers.

Her death led to an uproar against the Islamic Republic of Iran, in which women filmed themselves removing and sometimes burning their hijabs in protest. According to Amnesty International, 15,000 protesters have been arrested, and 21 people are at risk of receiving the death penalty for the offenses of “enmity against God” or “corruption on earth.” The organization Iranian Human Rights states that security forces have killed at least 448 people since the beginning of the protests.

Protesters march in Montreal MARIEKE GLORIEUX-STRYCKAMN/ The Concordian

Nouri and Mousavi have watched these headlines from afar. “Being here has, in the most obvious way, been very difficult and upsetting,” explained Mousavi.

“The protests [in Iran] are only getting worse,” added Nouri, “and we don’t want the conversation to die down in McGill and in Montreal.”

Nouri was a year old when her family moved to Canada, and Mousavi was five. They grew up seeing their families in Iran facing oppression and developed an antagonistic view of the country’s regime. Despite all this, they also grew up with the Iranian culture, surrounded by its religions and traditions.

“Though I grew up here, I never felt really Canadian,” said Nouri. “I always identified more with being Iranian. I was raised grieving a country I never got to live in.”

Mousavi had a different experience. She tried to push away her Iranian heritage, and only in recent years has found a way to unite that heritage with her Canadian identity. “Being a migrant,” she said, “you do feel a constant loss about a lot of things, whether it’s a loss of culture or loss of language.”

In the last few weeks, they have struggled to stay proud of their Iranian identity.  “The ways people are describing this country that we consider our homeland, the language that’s being used around this, it’s very conflicting,” said Nouri. “Though we agree that the regime is horrible, it’s hard to see so much of it be generalized.”

These feelings are echoed by the Iranian Student Association of Concordia University (ISACU), and by the organization Woman-Life-Freedom Montreal (WLFM). Fora Fereydouni is a volunteer for ISACU and the co-founder of WLFM. She emigrated from Iran six years ago and is now studying psychology at Concordia University.

Fereydouni explained that the unrest in Iran has made her anxious and depressed. “My family is in the street. My friends are in the street,” she said. “We can just be their voice. We can’t do anything else. It is really exhausting.”

“It has given us a very strong survivor’s guilt,” added Darya Almasi, a volunteer for ISACU and WLFM. Almasi immigrated five years ago to pursue her PhD in sociology at Concordia. “I came here in search of freedom and liberty,” she said. “But the idea that I moved here, so I’m free, I’m on my own and living my life, it never came true. We were always tied to our roots back home. Now that our country is going through a revolution, with mass murder and unbelievable violations of human rights, we’re again finding ourselves in the middle of a war zone.”

Shayan Asgharian, president of ISACU and native Montrealer, experienced many of the same feelings as his colleagues. Asgharian studies political science and Iranian studies, and he grew up intertwined with Iranian culture and still has loved ones in Iran.

“I’ve been worried sick,” he said. “Thursday of last week, I stayed up all night. I called one of my friends 21 times, and he didn’t answer at all, because they didn’t have any connection to the internet.”

According to Asgharian, students are at the center of the crisis in Iran. “When universities are getting blown up, it directly affects us. When someone who is our age gets murdered, it directly affects us. For example, Zhina [Mahsa] Amini, she could’ve been a student. She could’ve been here, talking with us about a completely different subject.”

He is not the only Iranian student losing sleep these days. Pooya is an international student pursuing a master’s in computer science at Concordia, who withheld his last name for security reasons. He moved to Montreal in the winter of 2021. His friends and family are still in Iran, and many of them are in the streets, protesting.

“A couple of my best friends are going out there,” he said. “The first few days, the government were killing brutally, and every night, I was sleeping, and I was just hoping ‘God, just save them tomorrow.’”

Pooya misses his family, but if he goes back to Iran, he will have to do military service. His plan is to get permanent resident status in Canada before returning to his home country.

“It’s hard,” he said. “You cannot forget your hometown easily. But once your home is at war, you need to save yourself first.”

Nevertheless, he shared his hopes that the protests would be successful, and that the government would be replaced. “Only then we can say, now we survived. We can say, now we can provide opportunities for people to work, and live together, and thrive together. Only then we can decide.”

In the classroom above the Islamic studies library, Nouri called on people outside the Iranian community to keep up to date on the news and to offer solidarity for the Iranian community.

“Seeing increased frustration with our generation, seeing these women risk their lives, it’s really empowering,” added Mousavi. “I think that the times will change.”


McGill 2, Concordia 1: Stingers drop Theresa Humes Cup opener

Concordia loses in overtime thriller versus McGill

On Friday, the Concordia Stingers welcomed the McGill Martlets at the Ed Meagher Arena for the opening game of the Theresa Humes Cup. This year’s edition of the preseason tournament is hosting four teams, as Bishop’s University, University of Montreal, McGill, and Concordia face off against each other over the weekend.

The Stingers fought a tough battle, but lost to McGill 2-1. Stingers head coach Julie Chu said that with time the team will improve on their mistakes, particularly on special teams, but Chu is not worried as the season progresses. 

“We’re going to get better,” Chu said. “Our special teams were a factor and are going to be a factor all year long, so we’ll keep on looking at areas we did a good job and areas we need to get better.”

In the first period, McGill forward Marika Labrecque and defensewoman Jaime Kastelic both went to the box, giving the Stingers two power play opportunities. Though Concordia created many scoring chances, the Stingers couldn’t capitalize.

In the second period, the forecheck from Concordia’s captain Audrey Belzile resulted in a defensive zone turnover from Martlets defensewoman Lydia MacLellan. Stingers rookie Émilie Lavoie had an open lane in the middle of the zone and sniped it past goaltender Tricia Deguire.  

Later in the period, it was the Stingers’ turn to head to the penalty box. Despite the fact that McGill spent the majority of the power plays in Concordia’s zone, the Martlets couldn’t take advantage. The closing score after the second period was 1-0 Concordia.

The last period was where the pace picked up. Both teams went back and forth with one another. The turning point was when Labrecque racked up her second penalty, resulting in a disadvantage for McGill going into the final 10 minutes in the game. 

Though the Stingers looked solid on all their power play advantages this game and seemed poised and relaxed when settling in the zone, things changed when forward Léonie Philbert coughed the puck up at the blue line leading to a shorthanded breakaway goal from McGill forward Emma Piers, tying up the score 1-1.

At the start of the overtime period, Lavoie collided with a McGill player and received a four-minute major hit-to-the-head penalty. The penalty resulted in the Stingers suffering a 4 on 3 disadvantage for the rest of the five-minute overtime period. McGill’s special teams took over from that point on as captain Jade Downie-Landry, Katie Rankin, Labrecque, and Laura Jardin went to work.  

With 1:35 left in overtime, Downie-Landry came down the wing and passed it through traffic to an open Jardin who tucked it into the net for a McGill win 2-1. 

Not being able to capitalize on chances seemed to be the running theme for both teams. Concordia was great at applying pressure (especially on the forecheck) and blocking shots during the penalty kill, or blocking passing lanes towards the net. The only thing that could not be done was the most important objective in hockey: to score. Chu acknowledges that one goal won’t be enough to win games.

“We’re a team that can score goals so we want to be able to get more than one in regulation,” Chu said.


Photograph by Catherine Reynolds


Saying ‘yes’ to student press

Some of you may have heard about the recent existence referendum held at McGill University to decide whether or not The McGill Daily and Le Délit—McGill’s only francophone newspaper—should continue to publish on campus.

McGill students could cast their vote between Nov. 13 and 16. According to Inori Roy, the coordinating editor at The McGill Daily, just over 64 per cent of the university’s undergraduate and graduate students voted in favour of keeping the newspapers running. Just under 36 per cent voted “no.”

Needless to say, we at The Concordian were very pleased to learn that these newspapers will be staying on campus. We would like to take it as a sign that the student press is still valued. In an interview with Roy, we learned more about the referendum and the power of the student press.

According to Roy, the existence referendum is a normal occurrence that happens every five years. The process indicates to the administration that the newspapers still have the student body’s support before the university renegotiates its agreement with the publications to allow them to collect fees from students, rent space on campus and distribute newspapers at McGill.

The two newspapers that were part of the referendum are published under the Daily Publications Society (DPS), a student-run organization at McGill. “The DPS wanted to keep us alive,” Roy said. “Besides the ‘No’ campaign, there was no one who particularly wanted us to shut down.” According to Roy, many of the issues put forward by the ‘No’ campaign “were founded on misinformation and lies, and so they had issues with our editorial line.”

The McGill Daily, which has existed since 1911, has a mandate to publish anti-oppression and anti-racist articles that might not be covered by mainstream media, Roy said. By publishing such pieces, the publication’s staff hope to give a voice to marginalized students on campus.

Despite the referendum result and high voter turnout, there is still work to be done to increase student engagement and interest in on-campus publications. It is important to remember that the student press not only informs readers about campus news and gives students a space to freely express themselves—it also holds universities accountable.
Our thoughts are mirrored by Roy. “We often write stories about things that are happening in student governments that otherwise wouldn’t get out,” she said. “I think we provide a better service in openly criticizing and being aware of the mistakes the administration is making and trying to provide them with this insight on what students need. So I think the integrity of student governments and administrative action would be severely compromised if we ceased to exist.”

As McGill’s existence referendum also highlights, student engagement is the driving force behind the student press. We at The Concordian strive to continuously publish stories that are interesting and important, to keep our readers informed and involved in campus life, and to help students improve their writing skills and express themselves. We are also grateful to every student, faculty and staff member who take the time to pick up a copy of our newspaper. Thank you for reading.

We at The Concordian would like to congratulate The McGill Daily and Le Délit for being able to continue doing what they do best for the next five years. We hope they continue to shed light on the stories that deserve to be told and encourage the students who want to write them.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Concordia students react to McGill union vote

Student group executives comment on decision not to ratify McGill university student Noah Lew

McGill University launched an investigation on Oct. 27 after one of its students, Noah Lew, claimed he was targeted for being Jewish. In a message posted on his Facebook page on Oct. 24, Lew wrote that he was “blocked from participating in student government because of [his] Jewish identity and [his]affiliations with Jewish organizations.”

Lew, a member of the board of directors of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU)—the university’s student union—explained in his Facebook post that “over 100 students” opposed his assent as a director at the SSMU general assembly on Oct. 23.

The McGill student said the reason for the opposition was his support for the ratification of a decision by the SSMU judicial board that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel violated the SSMU constitution.

“I think it’s very sad that a person is discriminated [against] because of his cultural or religious identity,” Amina Chemssy, the Israel on Campus (IOC) Concordia president, told The Concordian.

The BDS movement calls for banks, local councils and other institutions “to withdraw investments from all Israeli companies,” according to the movement’s official website. The movement also calls on governments to “fulfill their legal obligation to hold Israel to account by ending military trade [and] free-trade agreements” and for people and organizations to “withdraw support for Israel and Israeli and international companies that are involved in the violation of Palestinian human rights.”

In December 2014, Concordia Student Union (CSU) members voted in favour of endorsing the BDS movement against Israel. While the CSU’s membership totals approximately 35,000 undergraduate students, only 2,343 students cast a vote.

Following the vote, Concordia president Alan Shepard wrote that the “result of the vote [was independent] of the university.”

Chemssy—a friend of Lew—and her colleague, IOC Concordia vice-president of finance Jonathan Mamane, have been following the situation at McGill closely.

Mamane, who was part of the “Vote no to BDS” campaign at Concordia in 2014, said he was not surprised Lew was not ratified.

At IOC Concordia meetings following the SSMU general assembly’s decision not to ratify Lew, Chemssy said people were shocked. “We thought Concordia was the most turbulent [of the two] campuses,” admitted Chemssy, who ran for an elected position in the March 2017 CSU elections.

“We thought, ‘Oh my God, this is happening next door. How are we supposed to react now?’” she said. According to Chemssy, she and IOC McGill president Grace Miller-Day are currently planning a “fun and non-political” event to bring people from both universities together.

According to Mamane, “there isn’t much of a working relationship” at the moment between IOC Concordia and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Concordia—which supported the 2014 BDS vote. “However, some of us interact and engage other members in civil dialogue,” Mamane said.

The Concordian reached out to SPHR president Mustafa Bokesmati who wrote in a text message that his organization “would like to avoid discussing [the situation at McGill] publicly.”

“We have tried to do things with some organizations in the past and I’ll be honest with you, it doesn’t usually work out,” Mamane said.

“There are values on both sides and, if both groups can’t agree to some things, then it doesn’t end up working out so well and sometimes it’s better to just not do things together,” Mamane told The Concordian.

Photo by Kirubel Mehari

A clarification has been added to this article regarding how many CSU members voted in favour of endorsing the BDS movement. The Concordian regrets the misunderstanding.

Student Life

The issue of over-diagnosing in psychiatry

McGill’s Dr. Joel Paris discussed the line between pathology and normalcy

While the leaves fell and the seasonal blues kicked in, Dr. Joel Paris, a professor of psychiatry at McGill University, gave a lecture on Oct. 30 about the dangers and consequences of over-diagnosing in psychiatry.

According to Paris, there is no rule of thumb when it comes to differentiating between being sad and experiencing depression. “What is the difference between being unhappy and having a mental disorder? This is not so easy,” he said to those gathered at McGill’s Robert Palmer Howard Amphitheatre. “It is difficult to establish any clear boundary between pathology and normality.”

Over-diagnosis is when an illness or disorder is diagnosed more often than is actually present in patients, Paris explained. Along with under-diagnosis, it is the biggest issue in psychiatry at the moment, according to Paris. “Either you miss something or claim that something is there when it isn’t there,” he said.

Paris told lecture attendees that most psychiatrists tend to favour over-diagnosis when in doubt. Disorders such as schizophrenia are easier to diagnose due to specific symptoms that arise in those affected with the illness, he explained. However, symptoms for disorders such as classical bipolar disorder can be similar to other illnesses, increasing the likelihood of misdiagnosis or over-diagnosis.

“Over-diagnosis leads to overtreatment,” Paris said. “Antibiotics are the classic example, where people with colds get antibiotics. This creates an antibiotic resistance in the population.”

According to Paris, about 11 per cent of Canadians are currently on antidepressants. He said this number demonstrates that antidepressants are being over-prescribed, which is a consequence of over-diagnosis. “People in my field are handing out prescriptions like it’s nobody’s business when it comes to antidepressants, and antipsychotics too,” he said.

According to Paris, over-diagnosis and over-prescribing in psychology and psychiatry has affected the way society views diagnoses of mental illness. He called it a diagnostic epidemic. As he explained, the problem lies in people discussing symptoms as if they were professionally-made diagnoses. “The media picks this up and feeds these epidemics. People talk about these things, even socialize it,” Paris said. The fact that it is common for people to declare, “I think I have ADHD” or “my father is bipolar” without a diagnosis exemplifies this, he added.

In looking at mental disorders and the degree to which they are over-diagnosed, Paris said he has found some common mistakes in the diagnosis of everything from depression and bipolar disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and personality disorders. For example, some professionals are likely to diagnose a highly introverted person with Asperger’s syndrome, Paris explained. “People who are highly-introverted just like to be alone,” he said, adding that this does not necessarily mean they fit the diagnostic criteria of the autism spectrum.

According to Paris there needs to be change in the field of psychiatry and in the way our healthcare system addresses mental health. “If everyone in the population received 20 sessions of psychotherapy, the government health system would save a lot of money,” he said as an example.

Mental health services, such as psychotherapy, also receive less funding compared to treatments for physical conditions because of the stigma around mental illness and a common fear in society of being diagnosed with a mental disorder, Paris explained. “I think people hate people with mental disorders because they are afraid to have one themselves,” he said.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


How to diagnose concussions earlier

Emerging technology aims to prevent athletes returning to the field too soon

“On average, there are eight concussions per team per year,” according to Dr. Alain Ptito,  a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at McGill University.

Those eight concussions per team refer to both the McGill varsity football and hockey teams. He has worked with them in his research to help determine a way to diagnose concussions more efficiently.

Emerging technology is improving the way researchers analyze injured athletes in sports such as hockey, football, soccer, basketball and rugby. According to a 2007 study by Ptito, concussions had become such a problem that “improved approaches to diagnosis, investigation and management are urgent.”

In an interview with The Concordian, Ptito talked about the introduction of new technologies being used in the diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injuries, otherwise known as concussions. He said he hopes more sports teams, both professional and collegiate, will begin using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to provide a baseline brain scan to test athletes who may have a concussion.

“We’ve been interested in concussions for a while,” he said. Despite the presence of a concussion, some brain imaging technology cannot accurately diagnose the injury. “When you do a conventional test of imaging, such as a CT [computed tomography], or an MRI, almost 100 per cent of the time, they come up normal [despite the presence of a concussion].”

Ptito noted that an fMRI is significantly more accurate at diagnosing concussions than MRI or CT scans. The fMRI is able to detect activation in targeted areas of the brain when the subject is carrying out a task that will stimulate the specific region of the brain.

According to Ptito, when a certain region of the brain is stimulated, it requires more oxygen and blood. That stimulation of blood and oxygen is what the fMRI picks up, and is known as brain activation. The fMRI can capture a concussion by scanning certain regions of the brain to see how much they activate. When symptoms are severe, targeted regions of the brain will activate less or not at all.

In his research, Ptito worked with the McGill varsity football and hockey teams. Before the season began, he tested the athletes using the fMRI to get baseline results. During the season, if an athlete suspected they had concussion, they would go see Ptito to retake the test within 72 hours of the head trauma. Ptito would then compare their results to their baseline results to diagnose whether the athlete has a concussion.

Ptito explained how comparing athletes to a general baseline result is the “second-best option,” while the best option is using an athlete’s own baseline test to diagnose concussions.

“It’s great when you can compare to an athlete’s own baseline test,” he said.

Concordia’s own PERFORM Centre, located on the Loyola campus, has been conducting similar baseline testing. The centre works closely with Concordia athletes from the football, hockey and rugby teams, and has implemented its own concussion research.

In an interview with The Concordian, Deborah Cross, the manager of community and education programs, and Lee Ann Papula, the head athletic therapy internship instructor, explained some of their concussion diagnosis methods.

“We use the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing),” Papula said. “On the field, the athletic therapists use a Standardized Concussion Assessment Test (SCAT). That’s the major tool used in on-field scenarios. The ImPACT test was developed more clinically.”

This test is much like a computer game, with participants receiving a numerical score at the end. The athletes come in at the beginning of the season in order to obtain a baseline score. The athletes are asked questions that assess non-verbal problem solving, reaction time, memory and attention span.

“It’s known, in North America, if not the world, as one of the top tests. It’s backed by a ton of research,” Papula said. “I can say that 99.9 per cent of schools that have a certified athletic therapist go through SCAT and follow the protocols from the consensus of SCAT.”

“Do all the schools do ImPACT testing? We were probably one of the first. We started about four years ago,” she said. “More and more schools are using it, but I definitely don’t think all of them are.”

Stingers athletes who have been diagnosed with a concussion using the on-field SCAT test will go to the PERFORM Centre to retake an ImPACT test. Papula said they may take the ImPACT test multiple times after a concussion, and must return to their baseline results before being cleared to play.

The PERFORM Centre boasts an impressive array of top-of-the-line technology, and Cross discussed another reliable way of diagnosing concussions.

“We’ve just started using the NeuroCom, which is a balance assessment tool for, obviously balance, but also to look at any kind of vestibular disturbances (inner ear imbalances) if you had had a concussion,” she said.

The machine was accurately described by Cross as resembling a climbing wall. The subject is placed on a metal balance board and strapped into a harness attached to the ceiling while facing the colourful wall of the machine. The technician will then instruct the subject on whether or not to keep their eyes open or closed. While the subject’s eyes are either open or closed, the machine will begin to move and sway, and the subject will attempt to stay balanced.

According to the developer, Natus Medical Incorporated, a medical device and software provider, the NeuroCom uses the “vertical force exerted through the patient’s feet to measure centre of gravity and postural control.” Cross added that the PERFORM Centre was one of the first university centres to use the NeuroCom test.

Cross and Papula both explained how this, combined with eye-tracking technology, can accurately diagnose a concussion. As well, the NeuroCom can theoretically be used as a training mechanism for those recovering from concussions as a way to work on regaining balance.

With the ImPACT test, as well as the addition of the NeuroCom balance test, it’s difficult for athletes to conceal their symptoms in order to return to the field quicker. The on-field SCAT test alone leaves the possibility open for athletes to hide symptoms, according to both Cross and Ptito.

“Athletes have a tendency to minimize their symptoms,” Ptito said.

Cross and Papula agreed the fMRI is even more accurate than the ImPACT, SCAT or NeuroCom, but the cost of the fMRI is simply too high for many universities. For reference, Canadian Magnetic Imaging in Vancouver charges $1,245 for scans of mild traumatic brain injuries, while the ImPACT test provided at the PERFORM Centre costs only $25.

The PERFORM Centre’s technology and medical capabilities have drawn interest outside of the Concordia Stingers as well. The centre is currently working with French soccer powerhouse Paris St-Germain’s Canadian academy, as well as Collège Montmorency’s basketball team, to provide baseline concussion testing.

Despite the progress in concussion testing, Ptito said there are still many questions about the injury that he wonders about. “Eighty per cent of athletes recovered in three months. For 20 per cent, symptoms linger,” he said. “We’re asking ourselves now: are there genetic aspects that we haven’t found yet?”

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Concordia and McGill students build energy-efficient rowhouse

TeamMTL gets financial support from Hydro-Québec, will participate in 2018 Solar Decathlon

TeamMTL, a group of students from Concordia and McGill, received $250,000 in funding from Hydro-Québec on Aug. 29 to go towards building an energy-efficient, solar-powered house. The company’s contribution and expertise will help the students finish their project in time for the 2018 Solar Decathlon.

It was TeamMTL’s originality that allowed them to join the competition. The students from Montreal universities built a home with a style typical to the city’s architecture: a row house, where adjacent homes share a common wall. The construction of the house began on June 1 at Concordia’s Loyola campus.

The Solar Decathlon, which was launched by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2002, had never seen a similar project and made an exception for the team to join the competition. Houses in the Solar Decathlon, according to Bruno Lee, an assistant professor in Concordia’s faculty of engineering, are usually single-detached.

Lee, who is responsible for overseeing the engineering side of the project, told The Concordian that TeamMTL’s first design was presented to the organizers last January, and they were “very open and liked the idea.”

Despite deciding on a row house, the students still managed to build a net-zero home, meaning it will be self-sufficient, using as much energy as it creates.

Lee said row houses are energy-efficient because they allow neighbours to share heating and cooling with one another. “For some people, it’s quite cold today,” he said. “They might need heating, but for some people, they still need cooling. [With a row house], I can shift around the heat.”

Lee said he believes the concept of energy shifting—extracting energy from one area to move it to another—can apply to a row of houses but can also happen within the same building.

The Concordia professor said TeamMTL was able to accomplish energy-efficiency by moving energy from the side of the house facing the sun, where there’s a heat gain, to the colder north side, because of the row house’s two thermo tanks.

Energy shifting, according to Lee, would allow Hydro-Québec to better manage its supply. He explained the crown corporation has a peak in energy use during winter and can’t keep up with the demand, whereas they have a surplus of energy in other parts of the year.

The 2018 edition of the Solar Decathlon will take place between July and October in Dezhou, China where engineers built the largest solar structure in the world in 2012: the Sun-Moon Mansion.

TeamMTL is currently composed of students from Concordia’s engineering and fine arts programs, as well as students from McGill’s architecture program, led by McGill associate professor Michael Jemtrud. There were 90 students on the team when it was first formed last September but, according to Lee, that number has since dropped to 30 active members.

Like Olympic decathlons, there are 10 different aspects on which teams will be evaluated in this solar challenge. Some aspects, such as the house’s architecture, market potential and engineering, will be assessed by professionals. Other features, such as the building’s energy consumption and its use of water, will be evaluated based on specific criteria. Each aspect allots a team a maximum of 100 points.

Last April, the Montreal-based team also received a $50,000 grant from Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

Photo courtesy of TeamMTL


Climate change as reported in the media

Journalists analyze how the media talks about climate change at McGill University

Canadian social activists gathered at McGill University on Thursday evening to discuss how climate change is reported on in the Canadian media and whether the coverage is effective. The six guests, who all work in the media, answered questions from the audience.

The panelists included Candis Callison, a media professor at the University of British Columbia; Mike De Souza, the managing editor at the National Observer; Martin Lukacs, an investigative journalist for The Guardian; Kai Nagata, the communications director at Dogwood Initiative; Laure Waridel, the executive director of CIRODD, and Linda Solomon Wood, editor-in-chief of the National Observer.

To introduce the evening’s discussion, moderator Darin Barney explained how every day last year, half a million solar panels were installed, putting emphasis on the shift to renewable energies worldwide. However, Barney added, 80 per cent of global energy consumption still remains in fossil fuels, according to NASA.

A McGill graduate student opened the floor for questions by asking if the success of the media in conveying the message of climate change could be measured and how Canada is doing in such measure. Callison pointed out that it’s hard to find a way to measure it because, “for many, climate change is a background issue.”

“We have failed. Despite the knowledge and numbers, we fail to communicate,” Waridel added.

The following question was directed at De Souza and inquired about the responsibility of journalists to communicate information about climate change.

Audience members in the Frank Adams Auditorium on McGill University. Photo by Elisa Barbier.

“We have huge responsibilities,” De Souza replied. “It is a two-way street, both the media and the public. Journalists have covered climate change in Canada extensively.” However, he added that many investigate stories on climate change cannot be done due to the budget cuts news corporations are faced with.

Solomon Wood answered a question concerning the need for journalists as professionals, explaining that new types of media are bringing news to the public from new and diversified perspectives in a way that traditional media outlets are not able to. However, she said, “We still need people to dig into stories that some may not care [about].”

It was pointed out by Waridel that the traditional way of reporting on climate change in media leads to a current stagnant situation where “nobody wants to feel like the bad guy.’’ Therefore, calling out companies and people who have had a negative impact on climate is complex. Nagata added that presenting one clear message to the public is a difficult task—different people have different news sources, and often stick to the ones that reinforce their ideas about climate change, whether they’re accurate or not.

Waridel also defined climate change as “a dysfunction of the economy.” She said that, because many of us define ourselves by what we consume, “we need to be aware of what goes against climate change and switch it. It will not change if the citizens are not pushing for a change.”

“We are hoping that there is this leader that will save us,” she said. “[But] we all need to take action.”


Edward Snowden gives a virtual conference at McGill University

Former NSA employee talks surveillance, privacy and US elections

It was crowded at McGill University on Wednesday night, with thousands of people waiting outside the Leacock building to attend the Edward Snowden video conference.

Although the conference was scheduled to start at 7 p.m., it was delayed due to a protest by the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE), whose 1,500 members are on strike for better working conditions, from wage increases to employment stability. They formed a picket line in front of the huge crowd of people waiting outside, which prevented people from entering the building of the university. Eventually, people found their way inside, pushing each other through the picket line while screaming “Let us in!”

Due to the amount of people who turned up to hear Snowden speak, organizers had to set up a second room where people could watch a livestream version of the event. The conference began around 8 p.m.

Gabriella Coleman, an academic and author whose work focuses on hacker culture and online activism, gave the introduction to Snowden’s talk. Snowden, a former NSA contractor, is best known for leaking documents in 2013 about NSA surveillance activities.

Snowden, who’s currently in Moscow, Russia, appeared on a large screen at the front of the auditorium. He received a round of applause from the public as soon as he appeared.

He started the conference by saying he did not want the audience to hold a grudge against the AMUSE protesters, since they were practicing democracy.

Snowden’s main topics of the night were surveillance and privacy.

“We are all being watched, and it doesn’t matter if we do something wrong or right,” he said. With the rise of the Internet, computers and shared networks, he added, security and privacy is at risk. He explained prior to the digital age, surveillance was an expensive tool and it would take a large group of people to catch one individual. Nowadays, however, it is “financially and technologically possible for one person to watch over a full group of people without them knowing,” he said.

Snowden questioned the legitimacy of democracy when a government, which is elected by the public and is accountable to the public, does not need permission from the public to invade their privacy.

Snowden also weighed in on the recent revelation that Montreal police have been spying on journalists, including La Presse’s Patrick Lagacé. La Presse reported Monday, Oct. 31, that at least 24 surveillance warrants were issued for Lagacé’s iPhone this year at the request of the police special investigations unit. These warrants were used to track the journalist’s whereabouts using the GPS chip in his iPhone. The goal was to track his sources.

He described the controversy as a  “non-radical attack on freedom.”

“The government has built in so many loops in the law, so if the police don’t like a journalist, it’s great for them because he can go to a justice of the peace and this judge will let them into this guy’s phone.”

Snowden said there is a lack of public understanding about how government organizations operate, which is why, in 2013, he felt it would be of the public’s interest for him to reveal the realities of the NSA’s operations.

After his 15-minute talk, there was a question period. An attendee of the conference asked how we can ensure that security agencies go back to following the law in a reasonable way. Snowden’s answer: we can’t. He said the only way we possibly could get those agencies back on track with the law would be to appoint a judicial body that is mandated to perform a case by case review of these intelligence agencies’ use of powers to ensure that no illegalities occurred.

Snowden was asked to discuss the upcoming elections in the United States. He said if someone has to ask someone else who they’re voting for, they are not appreciating the value of their own opinion. “Don’t look to others to tell you who to vote for, look to you—read, listen to the conversation.” He also expressed his disappointment in the campaign’s focus on the candidates’ personalities rather than on the constitution. “We all need to recognize [and] be extremely cautious about putting all of our hopes in the candidates,” he said. “Well, you may appreciate one candidate above the other… we cannot rely on others to do the things that we must do for ourselves. Ultimately, if you want to build a better country, you’re going to have to build it yourself.”

When asked if mass surveillance is acceptable, Snowden explained that there is a lot of evidence suggesting that it is not very effective when it comes to terrorism. For example, in the wake of Snowden’s release of NSA’s surveillance practices, there was an independent review which concluded that the NSA’s phone data program was illegal and should end.

“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,” the report concluded.

“But what if it had made a difference?” Snowden asked. “It still wouldn’t have made it right,” he said. “We have human rights for a reason, and we protect them. Do we want to live in a world without them?”

Snowden was then asked about students and our generation’s role in this complex fight for privacy and freedom of speech. “Your generation is doing what people aren’t doing,” he said, giving the example of the very protest that had delayed the conference. He said he believes the new generation has to fight for privacy. “Privacy is not having something to hide—it’s about something to protect,” he said. “Saying you don’t care because you have nothing to hide is like saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

He said our generation has the ability to make a change when it comes to maintaining privacy. “You have the obligation and the rights to change the game, it is the decision of your generation,” he said. “It is not my decision, not the government’s decision but your generation’s decision.”

“Hope to see you all next year in person,” Snowden concluded.


Massive flood forces evacuation, cancellation of classes

Photo by Erin Hudson

Instead of trudging knee-deep through snow, McGill students were wading knee-deep through fast-moving flood waters when their campus flooded last week.

Water from the McTavish Reservoir, located just uphill from McGill University, flowed unabated into campus — and into university buildings — for four hours after the burst of a 48-inch diameter water main on Jan. 28.

Approximately 80 classes were cancelled, 24 classes were relocated and 10 laboratories evacuated due to the flood, McGill Vice-Principal Michael Di Grappa told the media on Jan. 29.

Di Grappa confirmed that McGill had incurred major damages and estimated the time frame for repairs ranging anywhere from a few days to a few months.

“We don’t yet know what the dollar amount is but we believe it will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair these damages,” he said. “Right now we’re focusing on reviewing and renewing our normal activities as soon as possible.”

To a question on whether McGill would be prepared to sue the party ultimately responsible for the flood, he responded that, “Those would be questions we’ll look at another day.”

Doug Sweet, director of media relations, confirmed that the university intends to file an insurance claim to cover the cost of damages.

Though one student was filmed being swept downhill in flood waters, no injuries were reported. The McGill Daily reported that a group of engineering students constructed a dam to protect the entrance of one of the engineering buildings.

Since last Monday night, the heart of McGill’s campus has been cordoned off as response teams worked all night to clear away ice and debris and pump water out of affected buildings.

Major events like McGill’s SSMUfest, a start-of-term networking event where students go to gather information on extracurricular student groups and clubs, were forced to reschedule as was the election for a new candidate to succeed current Principal Heather Munroe-Blum.

Though forced to reschedule SSMUfest, Josh Redel, president of the Student Society of McGill University, knows the student union was fortunate with no damages to the building, located in one of Monday’s main floodways.

“There’s undergraduate labs that have been flooded […] the Service Point is shut down as well as the James Admin building, which are core to the functioning of services for students at the university,” he said.

He also noted that this is not the first time the reservoir flooded campus. This is third time in the past four years that breakages from the reservoir’s water mains have caused flooding. In 2009, a 42-inch main burst followed by a 16-inch main in September 2011.

“We can’t keep having repeat [flooding] — it damages everything. It’s dangerous for people, it impacts the services the SSMU can offer, it impacts the services the university can offer,” Redel said. “I sit on space committees at all levels of the university and I’d imagine this is going to come up very soon.”

“The flood theoretically shouldn’t have taken place if there were proper infrastructures in place around the reservoir area,” he added.

The reservoir holds 37 million gallons of drinking water and has been undergoing a $16.4 million renovation since October to update its tank and water mains, which are reported to be over a century old.

With files from Laurent Bastien Corbeil (The McGill Daily).

Exit mobile version