Kazakhstan uprisings: violence slows down amid hundreds of deaths

Following weeks of brutal crackdowns against protesters, the Central Asian nation is slowly letting the smoke clear

On Jan. 2, thousands of citizens in at least 19 cities across Kazakhstan began mass protests against the nation’s government. Authorities stated that 225 protesters were killed and 12 thousand have been arrested, but international experts are calling those numbers suspiciously low.

The movement began when Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev lifted all price caps for gasoline nationwide. This resulted in a massive spike in prices, infuriating millions of citizens, especially those in the working-class oil-producing regions.

What followed was a strong national dissent against Tokayev and his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government’s egregious human rights violations, crackdowns on freedoms, economic inequality, and corruption. 

In Almaty, the country’s largest city, government buildings have been stormed and set ablaze. Tokayev urged his armed forces to shoot and kill without warning on Jan. 7, labeling the protesters as “bandits and terrorists.”

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, issued a statement condemning the violence and calling for peace. 

“We emphasize the importance of upholding democratic values, respecting human rights, and refraining from violence and destruction,” said Joly. “Canada calls for restraint and de-escalation. We urge that the situation in Kazakhstan be resolved quickly and through peaceful dialogue.”

Kazakhstan is home to some of the world’s largest reserves of petroleum, natural gas, agricultural goods, and other precious resources vital to international trade. The nation is Canada’s largest trading partner in Central Asia, but diplomacy with the country since its independence in 1991 has always been somewhat tricky, due to the immediate dictatorship that took place after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

After the USSR’s collapse, the republic of Kazakhstan was established, and Nursultan Nazarbayev became the head of state. An already prominent Kazakh figure during the tail-end of the Soviet regime, Nazarbayev’s rule lasted for nearly 30 years. Under his regime, the private sector was developed, corruption skyrocketed, an oligarchy formed, and mass inequality became a cornerstone of the nation. 

After another movement of mass protests in 2019, Nazarbayev stepped down as president, but hand-picked his predecessor, Tokayev. The former president was still sitting as chairman of the country’s national security council until January 2022 as protests prompted him to leave his position.

A key player in the anti-government movement gripping Kazakhstan has been Vladimir Putin. The Russian government announced on Jan. 7 that it would be sending thousands of infantry and special operatives to Kazakhstan in order to place pressure on Tokayev. Russia has many important trade and security ties to the Kazakh government, including its Baikonur Cosmodrome, one of the primary sites for launching Russian spacecraft and missiles.

It was announced by the Kremlin that Russian troops would be leaving Kazakhstan relatively soon, seeing as the situation has begun calming down. After the arrival of troops, Tokayev announced that the caps on fuel prices would be reinstated for six months, giving time for the government to come up with better, less flame-fanning policies.

In a fight against social repression, economic disparity, and political brutality, thousands of Kazakh protesters remain imprisoned. Having burned and destroyed government buildings, including parts of the president’s home, the government has been clear that the punishment for the protesters will not be light.

Hundreds have passed away as a result of the fighting, but the situation slowly becomes more stable as the government reasserts its control and attempts to quell the desperate cries for change.


Graphics by James Fay


Partnering with 18-30-year-olds for climate change: Here’s how it can happen

Student Energy launches a report that shows what young people want for the environment

During this week’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), held in Glasgow and streamed online, Student Energy launched their outlook report. The report brought attention to a global commonality of how most governments lack engagement with their young people in battling climate change.

The Global Youth Energy Outlook report is a global initiative created by Student Energy, a Canadian-based youth-led organization that empowers young people to have a voice and get involved in research and conferences about sustainable energy and climate. They wanted to fill in the data gap that exists about what changes 18-30 year-olds wanted to see in the future to protect their environment, climate, and energy systems.

“Young people have identified government willpower as being both the biggest barrier and the biggest opportunity to change and transform our energy system,” said Helen Watts, Student Energy’s Toronto-based senior director of global partnerships, while introducing the report at the conference.

According to Watts, the data represents “the way to bridge the communications gap that exists right now between young people calling for more, and leaders who don’t seem to really be hearing what they are asking for.”

In the report, almost 70 per cent of young North Americans are incredibly concerned about the current type of energy systems in place, and the pollution they are causing. However, they are not given the space to engage in the dialogue around climate change.

“The majority of the global population are young people, yet there is a minority of young people feeling like their voices are being heard,” said Linette Knudsen, Student Energy’s regional coordinator for Europe. “Create representation,” she added while discussing the importance of creating councils for young people to feel heard in policy spaces.

In Montreal, young adults take on many initiatives to voice their opinions on climate change. For example, the Coalition étudiante pour un virage environnemental et social (CEVES), who helped organize the climate marches in 2019, have created a space for young voices to be heard, and put pressure on the government to listen to them. Blane Harvey, an associate member of the McGill School of Environment, thinks that young people should have practical, authentic experiences that give them a voice starting in school.

“We know that young people are going to bear some of the biggest brunt of the impact of climate change,” said Harvey. “We talk about future victims of climate change, but what about them as agents for designing what the future, under changing climate, will look like?”

Student Energy discussed how disconnected from decision-making young people are. Harvey explained that there are perceptions about young people being dismissive of politics and policy, but in his experience, that has not been the case. “There are some really good examples of youth being really powerful agents of change.” For instance, Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist, challenges world leaders to take the appropriate action to better our environment and has become known worldwide for her advocacy.

Canada’s minister of natural resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, addressed young people at the launch about the overall lack of engagement when battling environmental issues. “There’s two sides to that, one that’s on us as elective leaders, and one that’s on you,” he said.

Wilkinson explained that elected leaders need to create forums for younger people to be part of the conversation and that they want to hear about different changes, perspectives and views on these critical issues. However, he said that young people need to reach out.

Wilkinson was appointed as minister of natural resources in October after a few years of being the environmental minister. During the intergenerational dialogue, he explained that the conference has provided insight for him as he starts this new position and how he can include the voices of young people to better the fight against climate change. Wilkinson explained that he wants to keep the conversation going, to engage both the government and young people.

According to Watts, we can see a change in the engagement of youth in the conversation around climate change and over the last two years “millions of young people around the world [are] really advocating for more concrete actions from decision makers and people in power.”


Graphic by Wednesday LaPlante


Borough Mayor Wants to Split NDG from Côte-des-Neiges

Incumbent CDN-NDG Mayor Sue Montgomery says that now is the right time for the borough to be broken up.

On Nov. 7 hundreds of thousands of Montrealers head to the polls. In the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, incumbent mayor Sue Montgomery has pledged to “advocate for CDN and NDG to become distinct boroughs,” shaking up what is already likely to be a tight race to reelection.

Montgomery, now running under her own municipal party called Courage – Équipe Sue Montgomery, is advocating for the split on the basis of the “recognition of their size, geography and distinct characteristics,” as mentioned on her campaign website. In the eyes of some voters, what could be a compelling case for the split is the sheer size of the borough, which is one of the largest in Montreal. Montgomery’s proposal would result in the addition of new seats on the city council, aiding in the representation of the area’s citizens. Additionally, the breakup would mean easier access to services like recycling, snow removal, and garbage pickup, Montgomery stated at a campaign event in late October.

Gracia Kasoki Katahwa, who is running with Projet Montréal against Montgomery, has critiqued the incumbent mayor’s proposal. She said in an interview with Global News, that the plan would only cost residents more in fees at a time where that money is desperately needed in other sectors. Candidates from Mouvement Montreal and Ensemble Montréal, Matthew Kerr and Lionel Perez respectively, have been equally critical of Montgomery’s proposals, calling them divisive.

The current borough has layers of complex micro-issues. For instance, according to the 2016 census, there is a gap of about $7,000 in the median household income when comparing NDG to CDN. Generational wealth plays a factor in the development of both areas: CDN is home to a wider variety of more recent immigrant communities, and includes over one hundred different ethnic communities. While NDG is also quite diverse, it has a larger presence of European immigrant communities that arrived decades prior and have formed more generational wealth compared to CDN. Although Montgomery’s plan is to “ensure equitable investment between CDN & NDG,” a split could have, according to Katahwa, potential impacts on the boroughs’ municipal finances and the availability of services.

In 2017, Sue Montgomery won her election under the banner of Projet Montréal, Mayor Valérie Plante’s party. She won by less than 1,500 votes, or less than 4 per cent, in a borough with a population of over 160,000 residents. Now that she is running under her own party, she will be relying on her individual popularity and not the backing from a Montreal mayoral candidate at the top of the ticket as she did four years ago. Days before Montrealers head to the polls, Plante and former mayor Denis Coderre are neck and neck, and many other local races are becoming nail-biters.


Graphic by James Fay


AUKUS Pact: How Will Canada Be Impacted?

The military dealings of Canada’s allies in the Pacific Ocean might play a large role in the future of Chinese-Canadian diplomatic relations.

On Sept. 15, the heads of state of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States unveiled a trilateral security pact that will serve to expand the three nations’ military influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The pact is more commonly known by its acronym AUKUS.

This deal comes after years of Australia’s tiptoeing on a diplomatic tightrope between American and Chinese partnerships, cementing the nation’s relationship with the U.S. for the near future. The agreement will put into place the construction of tomahawk cruise missiles, extended range joint air-to-surface standoff missiles, long-range anti-ship missiles, and most notably, nuclear-powered submarines, which will all be sent to the Australian military.

According to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the country “received overwhelming support when it came to Australia moving ahead to establish a nuclear submarine fleet for Australia to ensure that we could contribute to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific.”

This deal will make use of British and American technologies and resources to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, vessels Australia has not acquired until now. The increase in size of Australia’s fleet will make patrolling the Pacific and Indian oceans easier as it looks out for what it perceives to be its biggest threat: China’s growing military presence in the region.

According to Dr. Julian Spencer-Churchill, Concordia political science professor and former Canadian Forces captain, “The issue AUKUS is attempting to solve revolves around power and values. Xi Jinping differs from his predecessors because he is dramatically more totalitarian: he’ll stop at very little to achieve some sense of greatness. Whether that’s the Spratly Islands, Taiwan, or the Uyghurs, he wants it all. These countries [involved in AUKUS] are trying to curtail his influence and get him to back down through military buildups.”

Due to the most prominent feature of AUKUS being Australia’s submarine program, many countries have reacted in a variety of ways, ranging from excitement to condemnation. For instance, the Indian government, which has been in heated armed disputes with China in the Himalayas, welcomed this partnership. The Japanese government has reacted with similar satisfaction due to its disputes with China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

On the other hand, one of the harshest critics of AUKUS has been France, which saw its nearly $66 billion contract with Australia for the construction of diesel-electric submarines scuttled with little notice before the new deal was announced. Another more obvious detractor of this deal is China, which views the trilateral agreement as an impediment to its influence in the Pacific.

On the day AUKUS was announced, many were quick to notice Canada’s absence in the deal. While the Conservative Party was eager to take a stance in favour of joining AUKUS and criticizing Trudeau for not signing on, the Prime Minister stated that Canada had no interest in acquiring nuclear submarines, and that the country had nothing to offer in this matter.

Canada remains a member of the Five Eyes partnership, meaning it will still receive tactical information from the three nations involved in the pact. Critics of the AUKUS deal view it as a stern finger-wag at China, but its long-term impact remains to be seen.

While the tension between the Chinese and Canadian governments is still present, all hope for diplomacy and civility is not lost. On Sept. 24, it was announced that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians trapped in China for over a thousand days, will be returning home. In return, Meng Wanzhou, a Huawei executive trapped in Canada for just as long, will also be returning to her home country. If the AUKUS nations and their allies choose to pursue a more diplomatic approach, much could be in store on the global political stage.


Graphic by James Fay

Montreal will push Canada to collect race-based COVID-19 data

Marginalized communities face some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates

Montreal city council voted on Feb. 23 to push the federal and provincial governments to collect and publish race-based COVID-19 data, which would entail registering ethnic and socioeconomic information from those who have tested positive for the virus.

Minority communities have faced increasingly higher COVID-19 case numbers across Canada, according to studies cited in the motion. The goal of the initiative is to better understand systemic disparities in marginalized communities and to develop effective health measures to address social inequalities.

Developed in cooperation with the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), the successful motion was proposed by Marvin Rotrand, independent city councillor for the district of Snowdon.

This initiative would be the first of its kind in the country, and for co-author of the motion and researcher at CRARR, Kathryn Nicassio, a necessary step to address inequalities among vulnerable communities.

“These groups tend to be racialized groups, people who are poor, or struggling in other ways,” said Nicassio.

In Montreal, Nicassio cites disproportionate COVID-19 infection rates in largely racialized communities, such as the Côte-des-Neiges and Ahuntsic boroughs, that have seen over 9,000 and 8,000 cases respectively. Comparatively, the affluent suburb of Westmount, with fewer racialized groups, saw just a little over 600 cases.

“We have some data, we know that this is happening, but [we] don’t know the extent of it, and we’re not collecting it at the scale we need to be collecting it,” said Nicassio.

This disproportionate impact on minority communities echoes the findings in the August 2020 SHERPA report cited in the press release, which found there was a greater impact of COVID-19 in racialized communities who faced an “intersection of multiple economic and social factors.”

These issues include poverty, racism, working in areas with higher exposure to COVID-19 (such as long-term care clinics), language barriers, lack of health insurance, and precarious immigration statuses. Ultimately, gathering race-based COVID-19 data would be integral to designing effective health policies that would account for these discrepancies.

“We need the hard data to be able to identify the root causes of system disparity … because we have to be able to inform our actions by addressing these root causes and to come up with more effective responses,” said Concordia Public Affairs and Policy student and CRARR intern Eva Rokakis, who also contributed to the motion.

Going forward, Rokakis said CRARR is working on a project to bring this initiative to the federal government.

“We have to keep fighting for it,” said Rokakis.

Graphic by @sundaeghost


Poli Savvy: What does the U.S election mean for the Safe Third Country Agreement?

The results of the election could determine whether the Canadian government wins an appeal to keep the agreement in place

The Federal Court of Canada has ruled that the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States is unconstitutional and will be scrapped at the end of January 2021.

In October 2020, the Federal Court of Appeal extended the agreement to the final appeal date, sometime in spring 2021.

A safe third country is a concept, also called the ‘first country of asylum’ concept,’ which comes from international cooperation where an asylum seeker (or their status) remains within the first country they sought protection in. Internationally, it’s used as a concept to limit refugee movements to a third country if they’ve already achieved protection elsewhere.

Canadian immigration and refugee rights organizations have called for an end to the agreement, stating the U.S. is no longer a safe third country. With a new president on the horizon – will the outcome of the agreement change?

What is the Safe Third Country Agreement? 

The agreement, which came to be in 2004, sets out that an individual may seek asylum in the first safe country they arrive in. A migrant who goes to the U.S. first and then subsequently tries to cross through Canada’s official borders will be sent back to the U.S., deemed a “safe” country, and vice versa. The agreement has some exceptions: those who have family members already living in Canada, for example.

There is one major loophole affecting Canada, however: those who cross illegally through unofficial or unmanned border crossings, like Roxham Road in Quebec, can be processed as asylum seekers.

Does a Joe Biden presidency change anything?

Joe Biden has made some promises: allowing refugees into the country at an average that is the same or equivalent to past presidencies, an end to the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy that separated thousands of families at the border, and a pledge to reunite the 545 children whose — according to International Rescue Committee — parents can’t be found.

Canadian immigration and refugee rights groups, however, are wary of declaring Biden’s win a victory for refugees. Member of the National Assembly of Québec Solidaire, Andrés Fontecilla, is responsible for immigration, interculturalism and housing. He thinks Biden’s administration will have a lot to prove.

“A Joe Biden victory could be good news for immigrants and asylum seekers, but we have to keep an eye on his administration,” he warned.

After all, Obama’s administration — of which Joe Biden was vice-president of — deported millions of people from the United States.

“It was to the point where [Obama] was nicknamed by groups, and particularly groups from the Hispanic community, as deporter-in-chief,” said Fontecilla.

In 1969, Canada signed on to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which declares that no state should return a claimant back to their country if their life or freedom is at risk through no fault of their own.

If claimants coming to Canada are turned back to the U.S as a “safe” country but are subsequently detained in horrifying conditions, this could violate the convention.

“It’s a big problem, because a huge portion of groups that defend immigration rights don’t think that the American administration guarantees that they’ll respect the fundamental rights and protections set out by the [Status of Refugees] convention,” Fontecilla explained.

“So we really need to judge him based on his actions.”


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Quebec’s budget update too optimistic?

Quebec’s Finance Minister plans to return to balanced budget in five years

Quebec’s new budget update presented on Nov.12 by Finance Minister Eric Girard did not convince the members of the Official Opposition, qualifying it as “extremely optimistic.”

Girard has made ambitious projections in his budget plan despite Quebec’s deficit of $15 billion in 2020-2021. He is expecting the province to “return to a balanced budget within five years without cutting services and without increasing income and other taxes.”

To reach that goal, $1.5 billion will be invested over three years to help Quebec’s economic recovery. Of that amount, $477 million will be awarded to stimulate economic growth in various sectors.

“We need to stimulate economic growth. Our companies must be more competitive, more productive,” said Girard while presenting his budget plan.

Moments after the finance minister finished presenting his plan, the opposition held a press briefing in which Dominique Anglade, leader of the Official Opposition, said her party had asked the CAQ to deliver three different scenarios from the budget update.

Yet, just one “optimistic” scenario was presented to the public, making it hard for the opposition to have faith in the budget’s achievement potential.

Girard’s goal to get back to a balanced budget within five years doesn’t seem realistic to the opposition.

During the opposition’s presser, Pontiac MNA André Fortin expressed his misgivings about Quebec’s new budget plan. He believes the projections proposed in the budget are based on a theoretical increase in the Canada Health Transfer of $6.2 billion annually from the federal government, and other non-factual information.

“He’s also banking on the fact that there is going to be a vaccine and that the economy is going to kickstart back again really quickly. We don’t know that. There’s too much uncertainty,” said Fortin during the question and answer period.

When asked if his ambition for Quebec was too big, Finance Minister Éric Girard simply responded that, although the next six months may be hard, Quebecers need to stay positive and should look ahead at the future as there will be an economic restart.

Moreover, the Official Opposition also considers it too early to think about an economic recovery when the province is still undergoing a recession.

“We can’t commit to a five-year balance when we don’t know when the recession will be over,” said Liberal MNA Carlos J. Leitão during the opposition’s press briefing. “A balanced budget can only come when the economy returns to a more normal situation,” he added.

Many small businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy and need more investment to keep their business running. According to Anglade, the budget didn’t include any additional measures to help them. She also expressed her worries of an economic recovery being almost impossible if too many of them close.

“The reason why it’s extremely optimistic is because they say, ‘the growth is going to pick up.’ But in order for the growth to pick up, you need the companies to pick up. If they’re closing … you won’t see the economy going up,” she said.

Last March, Girard presented his first version of his 2020-2021 budget, which was overshadowed by the first wave of COVID-19. This update shows a three-year financial framework, instead of the usual five-year projection, due to the high level of uncertainty of the pandemic.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Are satellites the future of the Internet in rural Canada?

Trudeau announces $600 million project to connect rural Canada to broadband

The federal government is offering telecommunication companies subsidized access to a network of low-orbit satellites in an effort to increase broadband availability across the country, but questions remain over whether this will be a sustainable solution for delivering Internet to Canada’s remote regions.

On Monday, the federal government announced that the government will spend $600 million to gain access to a group of low-orbit satellites run by Canadian company Telesat. The government will then offer satellite network access to Canadian internet service providers — or ISPs for short — at a reduced rate, who can then pass on the service to consumers at a reasonable price.

If granted access to the Telesat network of satellites, an ISP must pass on the service to consumers at 50 Mbps download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds. ISPs will also be “subject to reporting conditions,” according to an email sent to The Concordian from the Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development.

Questions remain over whether satellite Internet will be affordable for people in remote communities.

“It’s great to have rural broadband access,” said Daniel Paré, an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Ottawa.

“But if it’s priced at a level that doesn’t make it affordable for people, how much advantage does it really bring at that point?”

In the past, when the government offered companies subsidized access to telephone lines for rural communities, phone plan prices did not reduce significantly. This is partially due to the challenges associated with crossing Canada’s vast terrain. It is also because there is smaller demand in smaller communities, making it difficult for ISPs to justify reducing their prices.

Government officials say this is one of their main reasons for acquiring Telesat network access.

“Canada is a big country,” said Minister Navdeep Bains during a press conference on Nov. 9. “And our geography presents challenges to building networks.”

He said satellites will help overcome Canada’s difficult geography, but did not say whether ISPs will be required to cap their prices when offering satellite access to consumers.

Erin Knight is a spokesperson for OpenMedia, a non-profit based in Vancouver that advocates for changes to Canada’s Internet policies. She also expressed concern over the sustainability of satellites as a long-term solution. She said that, while a satellite network can be effective for covering a large amount of terrain, they tend to have a shorter lifespan than land-based infrastructure.

This study from 2016 suggests that a satellite’s lifespan can be hard to predict; it can change significantly based on its size and distance from the ground.

“Low Earth Orbit satellites can last for a few years, versus a fiber connection which can last for more than 70 years,” she said.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Poli Savvy: B.C. is facing a threat deadlier than COVID-19

Drug overdose has out-matched COVID-19 deaths in B.C.

What is happening?

According to the most recent B.C.’s Coroners Service report, there has been a drastic increase in drug overdoses. In September 2020 there were 127 deaths due to overdoses in B.C., which is a 112 per cent increase since 2019. This means that in September roughly 4.2 people died per day because of overdose, according to the report.

For the whole of 2020, the B.C. Coroners Service reports 1,202 people have died due to overdose.

In the context of COVID-19, B.C. has only seen 256 deaths for all of 2020.

So why are drug overdoses hitting harder than the virus? 

It seems the main reason for the high number in overdoses is actually because of COVID-19.

According to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, only doctors and nurses can prescribe drugs – which includes alternatives to the illicit drugs on the street, giving people suffering from addiction a safer option. Because of COVID-19 medical resources are limited, people struggling with addiction are forced to take unsafe drugs bought off the street, rather than cleaner drugs at a clinic.

Another reason, according to a CBC article, is that the flow of drugs coming into B.C. has slowed because of the border closure. This might seem like a positive thing, but because of the stagnation of higher quality drugs, people are turning to more toxic drugs such as Fentanyl.

What is Fentanyl?         

The Canadian Government defines Fentanyl as a “very potent opioid pain reliever. A few grains can be enough to kill you.”

It is 20 to 40 times more potent than heroin and is usually mixed with other drugs to increase the effects.

Because Fentanyl is odourless and tasteless, while there are ways of testing that can be bought in stores or online, the Canadian government warns these tests have limits.

What is being done?

Dr. Henry has issued an order for a temporary expansion to access safer prescription drugs, and has increased the availability of naloxone kits – an opioid overdose-reversing medication.

COVID-19 has put a strain on all social services, impacting vulnerable communities. The way COVID-19 has affected the drug problem in B.C. won’t be fully understood until the pandemic has ended.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Is celebrating Thanksgiving still relevant in today’s society?

Thanksgiving is a national holiday that highlights colonialism and the mistreatment of Indigenous people


Thanksgiving was almost canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was celebrated this Monday, Oct. 12. The federal government has made it clear that gatherings during Thanksgiving weren’t a good idea, and to limit contact.

“This coming weekend for Thanksgiving and for the weeks to come, we need people to do everything they can to prevent transmission of this virus,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in regards to the holiday, asking people to stay home.

But it wasn’t the first time the legitimacy of the holiday was questioned. For several years now there has been a moral debate regarding the celebration of Thanksgiving.

As Gilbert Mercier, a French journalist would illustrate, “In many ways, the … celebration of Thanksgiving is analogous to setting aside a day in Germany to celebrate the Holocaust.”


A genocide

Thanksgiving was established by a proclamation of the Canadian Parliament in 1957 as a statutory holiday. It is at first glance a chance to celebrate the good harvest and all the blessings received throughout the year. But beyond feasts and celebrations with family and friends, the holiday’s story is less joyful.

The first colonists had trouble surviving on the new continent, and some Indigenous people offered their knowledge of the territories to help them. It was the case of Martin Frobishor and other navigators who arrived in 1578 to the Baffin Island and to whom the Mi’kmaq men taught ice-fishing techniques.

It wasn’t long before the relations turned disastrous, and the colonists decided to take possession of the lands by violating treaties, and exterminating Indigenous peoples. A war exploded over Halifax because the Mi’kmaq never agreed to give away their territories to the British settlers. In response, Governor Edward Cornwallis, who established the Nova Scotia colony, offered a bonus for every Indigenous person killed.

For many, colonists did significant harm.

The media outlet Cut released a video in 2015 asking Native Americans to associate Christopher Columbus with one word. Their answers were among others, “evil,” “invader,” “ignorant,” “genocide”— words that could also describe Edward Cornwallis.


A Day of Mourning for Indigenous people

For many Indigenous people, Thanksgiving marks the starting point of the smothering of their culture  and the theft of their lands, and therefore many are not celebrating the arrival of the European settlers. Being aware of the history of the holiday, some non-indigenous people also choose to not celebrate it in solidarity.

It is a day some use to protest systematic racism and oppression.

Last Sunday, about 20 people met in downtown Montreal in regards to the upcoming holiday for Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage.

Indigenous people are still fighting today to recover their sovereignty and their rights to their lands, which have never been ceded.



Poli Savvy: How did an insect steal part of the spotlight

A fly that landed on Vice President’s Mike Pence’s head during Vice Presidential debates makes headlines

The hurricane of news erupting less than a month ahead of the U.S. presidential elections can leave anyone with a serious case of whiplash.

Some of the news circulating before and after the 2020 United States Vice Presidential debate: President Trump delayed an economic relief bill to help Americans until after the election; new revelations that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions requested that children be taken away from migrant families at the border in 2018; President Trump refused to participate in a virtual town hall to debate Biden; Trump changed his mind and requests an in-person debate…

But even with the incessant stream of must-read news flooding news feeds and timelines everywhere, this is what everyone seems to be talking about: a fly resting on Mike Pence’s head for two minutes during the Vice Presidential debate.

“The fly” was trending on Twitter before the debate had even finished, with hundreds of thousands of mentions and dozens of Twitter accounts created attempting to impersonate the insect. Etsy shops now sell Pence’s fly apparel, and Biden’s campaign issued a quickly sold-out “Truth over flies” fly swatter.

Why all the focus on such a small matter, compared to all the other much more serious matters that are being published?

During the debate, many more important news-worthy moments happened. For example, Pence discussed the Trump administration’s take on several hot topics, including the Rose Garden ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett.

According to Pence, “It was an outdoor event, which all of our scientists regularly routinely advise.”

This comes after Trump and 22 members of his administration tested positive for the virus following the meeting, described as a “super-spreader” White House event. Attendees did not wear masks nor social distance, and pictures show they also gathered indoors.

In the current climate, a situation like this just becomes a needle in a polluted haystack of controversies. There’s too much to keep up with. To focus on the fly isn’t about getting immune to corruption, or about having a short attention span.

It’s more about being fed up. It is a way to showcase the perfect visual for how some feel about the administration without having to air out all the grievances on a list.

Maybe that’s how the fly got so big.

Poli Savvy: The clock is TikToking

There’s trouble in paradise as Americans’ beloved entertainment app is threatened to be banned

It seems like every week, the U.S. government is threatening to ban TikTok, everyone’s favourite entertainment app.

Though the removal of the app was originally set to happen on Sept. 20, the confusing ebb and flow of Chinese-American politics has unsurprisingly decided against it, pushing it back to this Sunday.

Unsurprisingly though, after weeks of suspense, the ban was finally suppressed by a federal judge.

As of now, we don’t know if the Trump administration will go through with this decision, or if it will be pushed back (yet again).

But the restraints applied to TikTok go beyond preventing young Americans from watching and making viral videos: it has implications with censorship, data privacy, discrimination, and economic relations as well.

A quick 15 second recap

In recent months, the Trump administration has grown increasingly suspicious of TikTok’s soaring popularity, with members of each major party questioning the security of the app, especially after a long investigation into Russian involvement in the American elections.

Though its U.S. headquarters are in Los Angeles, TikTok’s mother company, ByteDance, is Chinese-owned. The same is true of multi-purpose app WeChat, which is owned by China-based Tencent.

Right now, TikTok has an estimated 100 million monthly American users, to WeChat’s more humble 3.3 million (though the latter has recorded around 1.2 billion monthly users across the world).

With a combined usership equating to a third of the US population — or almost three times the population of Canada — the proportions and allegations concerning this decision are huge.

What’s going on with the apps?

Legally, the government of China is entitled to all the data owned by Chinese companies.

For a while now, the U.S. government has been concerned about ByteDance sharing private information, including location and contacts with the Chinese government, which earned them a lawsuit last year.

This comes after other scandals involving TikTok in regards to censorship: leaked documents about their algorithm policies showed they removed videos that were considered “controversial,” including any post which referred to the liberation movement in Tibet, the camps of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province, or the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

On another occasion, some of the apps’ discriminatory policies were also exposed, showing that their algorithms tended to hide the content of “unattractive, disabled, or poor users.”

For some time, the only way for the Trump administration to let TikTok off the hook was to sell it to an American company, which would solve its information-sharing habit.

The top contenders have been Microsoft — but the deal fell through a few weeks ago — Walmart, and Oracle, who are now in talks to buy huge amounts of shares in TikTok, but not enough to please Trump, who won’t rule the ban off the table until the app cuts all ties with its Chinese owners.

Ultimately, prohibiting the operation of these apps seems to be a proxy for the friction in the U.S. and China’s relations.

With constant quarrels about trade, national security, and just the general values of each country’s leader, it is clear that TikTok and WeChat have found themselves at the forefront of yet another political conflict.


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