A holiday dinner table divided

Do religion and politics have a place at the holiday dinner table?

Growing up, I was always told there are two things you never discuss with family or friends: religion and politics. I took that as, for lack of a better word, gospel, and I never engaged in those types of conversations. I was always told that these were bad conversations and that in order to keep the peace, these topics were off-limits.

Now, when I was younger that all made sense. Why wouldn’t I want to keep the peace? After all, family is the cornerstone of who we are, so why go out of my way to upset them? 

Fast forward to now, many years later, I started to think about this adage again. Has our stance toward this taboo topic changed?

Generally, from my experience, this is still one of the number one rules set up for holiday gatherings. Especially given how religiously and politically divided our society seems to be in our current reality. 

I asked myself last week, should politics and religion be off the table this year for the holidays? And for the first time in a while, I thought, no, these two topics should be welcomed at the table with family.

Last Christmas Eve the topic of the political motivation for mask mandates and vaccines came up. Typically, I would avoid the subject altogether, and I think that some of my family was trying to change the subject. I decided to take the conversation head-on. 

I firmly believe that in order to be a well-rounded person you need to engage in conversations that might make you uncomfortable. I think that sometimes our relationships with family members are treated as these precious pieces of glass that we just can’t shatter. However, I think to have a healthy family group, controversial topics must be brought up. 

Talking for the millionth time about how much the Christmas decorations cost gets boring, and there is some fun to be had with tough conversations. Also, why not know where the people closest to you stand on political issues and religious ideas? The foundation of boundaries and understanding where you stand within the family is incredibly important and religion and politics is where someone, myself included, can really find their voice. 

Now, I understand the fear behind it, because I have been scared for a long time. I know that some might feel it is not worth risking whatever arguments or tensions may arise. I can see the argument that the holidays are supposed to be a peaceful time, and a time to enjoy being with family. I can see the fear of being shunned from the family, or feeling attacked if your views differ from those around you. However, when we hide behind difficult conversations we are not doing anyone any favours. 

When I chose to not hide behind a difficult conversation, it ultimately ended in an argument. Other people around us perhaps felt uncomfortable, but it still felt really good to not shy away from such a topic. 

Now, would I recommend going about the conversation in the way I did? No. However, I still stand by the idea that politics and religion absolutely have a place at the holiday table.


Concordia For Dummies: The Provincial Elections

Welcome to The Podcast. Cedric Gallant will produce and host this podcast alongside our Section Editors every week. The shows will rotate weekly to cover topics from each section of our newspaper!

This week’s show, Concordia for Dummies, was produced by Cedric Gallant, Gabriel Guindi, alongside our News Editors, Hannah Tiongson, Lucas Marsh, and Staff Writer Mareike Glorieux-Stryckman. Tune in for future episodes of Concordia for Dummies, where we explore topics on students minds throughout the school year.

In this episode:

Cedric Gallant covers this week’s headlines and shares interviews with First Nations leaders around Montreal reflecting on Truth and Reconciliation Day (Sept. 30).

For our Concordia for Dummies segment this week, we decided to host a discussion between a few members of our staff, all of whom came to Concordia with different backgrounds, cultures, nationhood, and native languages. Listen in for a roundtable discussion on the various Quebec party platforms as we head into our Provincial Election Day tomorrow, Oct. 2.

Thanks for listening and make sure to tune in next week!


Mayor Valérie Plante wins re-election

Plante enters her second mayoral term with majority support

Valérie Plante won a second term in Montreal’s mayoral race on Nov. 7, earning 52 per cent of the vote. The mayor surpassed her main opponent Denis Coderre by nearly 60,000 votes, and 11 out of 19 boroughs in Montreal will now be governed by Plante’s Projet Montréal party.

In the next four years, the returning mayor promises to improve housing affordability, increase funding for the SPVM, develop more cycling infrastructure and public transit, and also revitalize Montreal’s downtown core.

“We will put all the effort in the world to continue making Montreal a city that we are proud of, where we can raise our children, study, work, and live out our retirement in an active way,” said Plante with a smile during her victory speech.

It was a difficult loss for former mayor Denis Coderre and his Ensemble Montréal party. In late October, the two frontrunners were within one percentage point of each other in the polls, but there was a clear winner on election night as Coderre lost by a 14-point margin.

“The results are clear: you win some, you lose some. But I am very, very pleased I was pushing ideas,” said Coderre at the Ensemble Montréal event on election night. “[…] And I was focusing on the people, because I love the people, I love Montreal and that’s what’s most important — to bring people together!” he exclaimed.

Meanwhile, Movement Montréal’s Balarama Holness, who promised to make Montreal an officially bilingual city-state, came in a distant third place with seven per cent of the vote.

Montrealers, however, did not have a strong showing at the polls, as the 2021 municipal election had a voter turnout of just 38 per cent. The participation rate was four per cent lower than in 2017, despite a larger number of polling stations, mail-in ballots, and the four-day advanced voting.

Michel Bissonnet, mayor of the Saint-Leonard borough, told The Concordian that voting was especially difficult for the elderly population.

“When you’re older and you have to go to vote and you have four [candidates] to vote for, they have four ballots at the same time. It’s easy when it’s a federal or provincial election, it’s one person. But when you get four people, you have to put a picture of the man they recognize — they can’t read, they are not happy,” explained Bissonnet, referencing the fact that voters need to pick the mayor of Montreal, their borough mayor, and city councillors separately.

Unlike the Plante-Coderre race, several boroughs had a very close election that resulted in premature celebrations and recount requests. In Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Ensemble Montréal’s Lionel Perez declared victory over Projet Montréal’s Gracia Kasoki Katahwa on Sunday night, as he was leading in the vote count on Nov. 7. The next morning, however, Katahwa stunned Perez by pulling nearly 200 votes ahead of her opponent by the time all votes had been counted.

In Quebec City, the mayoral race was even more controversial as media outlets made false projections and declared Marie-Josée Savard as the new mayor. Two hours after delivering a heartfelt speech thanking all of her supporters, Savard ended up losing to Bruno Marchand by just 834 votes. TVA Nouvelles and Radio-Canada have since apologized for their decision to call the election prematurely.

As for Montreal, the Plante administration promised its citizens a safer city in its second mayoral term. Projet Montréal is committed to investing an additional $110 million to reduce gun violence, increase the police force by 250 officers, and install body cameras on SPVM agents by 2022.

The mayor also plans to expand Montreal’s blue metro line towards Anjou and build a new line from Montreal-Nord to Lachine — though this promise dates back to Plante’s 2017 campaign and has yet to be fulfilled. Moreover, seniors may be able to ride the STM network free of charge in the coming years.

Other campaign promises include the creation of 60,000 new units of affordable housing, extended operating hours for downtown bars and restaurants, more green spaces, and free parking on evenings and weekends downtown to encourage commercial activities during the holiday season.


Photograph by Bogdan Lytvynenko


Parlez-vous français? Concordia students reflect on the potential outcomes of Bill 96

How Bill 96 is sparking a fiery debate in the city of Montreal

The November municipal elections are fast approaching and, more than ever, young people are motivated to vote in response to the effects of life during the pandemic. After a year stuck indoors, forced to take classes online, worried about future employment prospects, Montreal’s younger demographic is also now faced with a choice: do they stay or do they go?

Bill 96 is a reform proposed by the Quebec government in which the Canadian Constitution will recognize the province as a nation, with French as its official language. The reform is expected to include over 200 amendments, equipped with the primary goal of strengthening the status of the French language in Quebec.

Roxanne Tesar, a 22-year-old biochemistry student at Concordia, was born and raised in Montreal. She said that her knowledge of French remains limited, making her part of the population who will be most affected by the bill, if it comes to fruition. “French is not the only language here, we are bilingual. So if we start introducing bills that don’t reflect the population’s interests, conflict will arise,” said Tesar.

In Montreal, just over 65 per cent of the population’s mother tongue is French. So, why is this bill so pressing, given that French is the dominant language?

According to a 2019 study made by the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), workplace usage of the French language has dropped from 60 to 56 per cent since 2015. Workers aged 18 to 34 were those most prominently reflected in this data.

“It’s all about respect […] by creating this bill, the French language will be validated and francophones will feel heard,” says Sruthi Matta, 26, a journalism student at Concordia from India.

Omar Kanjou Agha, a 20-year-old mechanical engineering student from Syria, thinks some parts of the bill are positive, such as the offer of financial aid for studying the French language. He still thinks there are downsides.

“Capping the amount of places in anglophone schools completely violates fundamental rights and freedoms that Quebecers enjoy,” he said. “The bill wants to protect the French language, but they are doing it in ways that I don’t support and that I feel are illegal.”

These feelings of injustice are shared by several Concordia students. Kailee Reid, 18, a liberal arts student at Concordia, remembers the anxiety she felt during her first weeks in Montreal, after moving from Toronto. “When I first came here, I was so nervous to check out at a store,” she said. “I didn’t know how to manoeuvre around the city, not knowing who speaks English and who speaks French. It was quite isolating.”

Despite apprehensions and fears of not being understood or excluded from the city, Montreal still welcomes thousands of international students every year. Nearly 35,000 foreign students studied in the city in 2015.

“My first impression of Montreal was that it was very welcoming and diverse, so when I heard about this law I became very worried,” said Olenka Yuen, a 21-year-old computational arts student at Concordia, when asked about her thoughts on the city.

Agha also shared Yuen’s concerns. “I see Montreal as a multiethnic diverse city and this bill is trying to eliminate these components,” he said. “This worries me because I am part of the minority.”

International students, many of whom fall into the minority of non-french speakers, now face uncertainty in the job market after completing their studies in university. If Bill 96 becomes official, many employers would be faced with tougher hiring policies and many students who do not have a proficient level of French would be excluded. The Bill would implement a limit on the number of places at English schools and a limit on the amount of English-speaking jobs, making life for the non-french-speaking minority harder than it already is.

“I’ve been worried about jobs before this bill was even introduced,” said Tesar.

Saddened by the possibility of being excluded from Montreal life due to her limited French-speaking abilities, Tesar feels that she has no choice but to consider other living options. “This is a good reason for me to move to another province because it’s unfair.”

“I am worried as an anglophone about finding a job as I have in the past and this bill would only make it harder,” said Agha. He has worked part-time as a delivery driver, because he says that it’s one of the only jobs that does not require employees to speak French.

However, it isn’t just the non-francophone speakers who recognize the constraints Bill 96 would create for Montrealers. Delphine Belzile, a 23-year-old francophone journalism student at Concordia, acknowledges the fear that the bill has instilled in young non-francophones living in city.

“I don’t worry about my prospects of jobs, but I worry for other people who are non-francophone because I’m worried about how the government will handle the transition if the bill comes into effect,” said Belzile.

“You can’t ask a whole population to suddenly speak French,” she continued. “You need to account for a plan and make the language free and accessible to learn for all, or else you’re discriminating against non-French speakers.”

Another francophone student at Concordia from Montreal, Véronique Morin, 23, appreciates that she’s been able to attend an English-speaking university in a predominantly French-speaking city. “I am grateful to be able to study in English because for me, it has broadened my perspectives and allowed me to become more diversified,” she said. “But French is more threatened in Montreal than in Quebec.”

Morin further explained that when interacting in shops, she’s more likely to speak English than French to guarantee she is understood.

“As a francophone, we need to protect the French language and make it a real official language with laws that encourage people to speak and share it,” said Morin. “[But if] someone is working to get to know the language or making the effort to learn it, for me, that’s enough.”

Many non-French-speaking Concordia students do not refute the notion of French being a language in need of protection. In fact, several students said they celebrate the uniqueness of having this language in Quebec.

“The French language is Quebec’s identity,” said Agha. “It makes the province a distinct society compared to the rest of North America.” In a similar vein, Matta also agreed that “French should be cherished and made equally important in Quebec.”

The importance of the French language is a feeling shared by many politicians running in the municipal elections. However, not all of them agree with the many components that this bill would instate. Joe Ortona, who is a chair of the English Montreal School board and running as an independent city councillor in the Loyola district, shares this sentiment. A previous member of Denis Coderre’s Ensemble Montréal, he was ousted from the party after taking a stance against Bill 96.

Ortona received an overwhelming amount of support after his exit from the Loyola district and throughout Quebec.

“I felt that ultimately I was chosen because I am a defender of anglophone rights and English institutions,” said Ortona. “The banner may have changed, but my values haven’t.”

However, Ortona was quick to mention that although his stance is against Bill 96 and the many problems he sees with it, he is not against the French language. “I recognize that the French language is important in Quebec, and it’s worthy of being protected,” he said. “My issue is that Bill 96 is tackling a problem with inappropriate solutions,” he emphasized.

When pressed on what he means by “inappropriate solutions,” he replied, “To suspend one’s civil liberties in order to allow for this law to give government agents broad powers that can allow them to come into a place of business unannounced and confiscate computers without a warrant. All on the basis of an anonymous tip that states that an employee is communicating in English.”

Ortona argues that Bill 96 is actually aimed at the English language and English Quebecers in particular. While the idea that English-speaking Quebecers are those who have failed to adopt Quebec customs is a popular perception held by some, he argues that “they are actually the most bilingual people in Canada who not only recognize the French language as important but adopt it as a second or third language to their own.”

“We don’t reject French at all, we embrace it,” said Ortona. “We see bilingualism as an asset, an advantage. If this bill does come into effect, then the message you’re sending is that anyone who doesn’t speak French is not welcome here; whether they realize it or not, that’s the message it’s sending.”

Overseas students are already flagging the potential effects of Bill 96.

“Getting into the country is already hard enough as an international student, with the CAQ [Certificat d’acceptation du Québec] and study permit I can’t imagine how much more difficult it will be if the bill is passed,” shared Matta, who recalls the gruelling admission process for her studies when applying from India.

Tesar believes the bill will negatively impact those students who might have stayed in Canada, contributing to its economy. “I don’t think the young people of today will easily allow themselves to be repressed,” she said. “We know we have options to leave, so if this bill and all its components are put into effect, we will.”

The subject of Bill 96 has become the centre of a fierce debate in Montreal. However, the effect the policy might have on the city’s international population is perhaps an unperceived consequence. Not only do students feel like the bill is a threat to English-speaking Montrealers, but they also feel like they will be left out in a city that they have come to know as their home. If implemented, the bill runs the risk of driving those targeted to look elsewhere for studies and work.


Graphic by James Fay


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


Municipal elections are coming up, but will students be heading to the polls?

Concordia students spoke with The Concordian about the upcoming municipal elections, and whether or not they will be casting their votes

With Montreal’s municipal elections right around the corner, some Concordia students say that casting their vote on Nov. 6 and 7 has never felt more critical.

In the past, first-year Concordia student Roxanne Tesar, 22, did not consider herself as someone interested in municipal politics. This year, she headed to the polls.

Tesar says that she wants to see change when it comes to municipal politicians’ priorities in Montreal.

Questions surrounding Bill 96 — a bill looking to recognize Quebec as a nation with French as its official language — and systemic racism in Montreal are issues that feature prominently on Tesar’s mind this election season. 

“I’m connected because I’m not bilingual, I’m anglophone and I’m a person of colour,” said Tesar. “Issues regarding racism and language affect me.”

Issues concerning language rights and inclusion, public safety, and systemic racism were among those tackled during Montreal’s English-language mayoral debate on Oct. 28.

While Tesar is participating in this year’s municipal elections, she says that she understands why some students may not feel as inclined to do so.

“It’s harder to get involved when you feel like you’re in the dark,” said Tesar. “If you think that it’s pointless and then stop becoming informed, you’re not going to want to be involved.”

Julia Lecompte-Robbins, 20, said that she does not feel invested in the upcoming elections. “I’m not very involved in it I guess,” she said. “I’m not very political, that’s pretty much it.”

Driving past vibrant posters of different councillors in her riding of Beaconsfield is the limit of her awareness of municipal politics this election season, she said. While Lecompte-Robbins voted in the recent federal elections in September, she felt that the scale of Montreal’s elections has impacted her willingness to vote.

“[The municipal election] is very small,” she said. “I don’t find that it has that big of an impact as it would if it was provincial or federal.”

For Lecompte-Robbins, encouraging young people in particular to vote in this election and being politically aware feels unnecessary.

“We’re young and it’s not like we own a house, most of us live with our parents,” said Lecompte-Robbins. “It’s mostly our parents that deal with the stuff that happens, so it’s not much of a concern for ourselves.”

Béatrice Soucy, 23, a political science and human relations student at Concordia, said that she feels discouraged by the low number of young voters in her age group.

“Our generation is the future,” said Soucy. “It’s sad to see young people losing faith in politics.”

Concordia graduate journalism student, Duncan Elliott, 25, believes that participating in the municipal elections is important now more than ever.

“The municipal decisions directly affect your street, your home, your community,” said Elliott. “I see that a lot of people don’t vote in their municipal elections, but I think it’s the one people should vote for the most.”

Municipalities are responsible for close to 60 per cent of Montreal’s public infrastructure. From bike paths and community centres to road signage and the police department, the City Hall plays a critical role in managing key services of everyday life. Municipal elections historically have low voter turnout. In 2017, only 43 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot. During Canada’s federal election later in September of this year, 62 per cent voted. 

“The fact that not a lot of people vote in [municipal elections], I think is where younger people can really have their voices heard in the community,” said Elliott. “A lot of people complain, but not a lot of people do anything about the complaints that they’re issuing. Now is the time to do something about it.”

Lack of voter participation among young people is nothing new to overall voting trends. There is a significant gap in voter turnout between younger and older age groups in Canada. Half of Montrealers aged 56 or older cast their ballot in the 2017 municipal elections, compared to only 29 per cent of those aged between 18 and 35.

According to the 2015 National Youth Survey from Elections Canada, a lack of motivation and access are the two key barriers preventing young people from voting.

“I think it’s because they don’t think they can effect change,” said Elliott. “Not only do I think that it’s important for people to have their voices heard, they should try to be more involved in the community so they can make more well-rounded decisions.”


Graphic by Madeline Schmidt


Pro-democracy protests turn deadly in the Kingdom of Eswatini

At least 29 killed, hundreds wounded in the nation’s fight against monarchy

Since June 2021, the southern African nation of Eswatini has been fighting for democracy and economic justice while King Mswati III deploys lethal force against protesters. Having been in power since 1986, the king refuses to step down as the country experiences one of the most violent unrests in its history.

Officially known as Swaziland until 2018, the citizens of Africa’s last absolute monarchy are rallying for major government reforms. These include a democratic selection process of Eswatini’s prime minister and the release of two members of Parliament, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, who were detained when the protests began.

The Swazi police have fatally shot over 29 demonstrators this year, seized personal belongings, and brutally interrogated journalists in an attempt to silence the pro-democratic movement, according to Swazi journalist Cebelihle Mbuyisa. The protesters also responded with violence, looting grocery stores and committing arson in the country’s two largest cities.

Tracey Dlamini, a 19-year-old university student in the capital Mbabane, described the gravity of the unrest to The Concordian, having witnessed these events unfold first-hand.

“I was really shocked, I’ve never seen anything like this in Swaziland in my entire life,” she explained. “The police were shooting the whole night, using tear gas, throwing protesters in vans like they were animals. I couldn’t even sleep hearing those gunshots. […] They shot even those who didn’t carry a weapon: small kids, mothers, fathers — everyone. All because we want one man to step down.”

On Oct. 21, the kingdom shut down internet access nationwide amid the new wave of protests, while also restricting movement under the current curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Mswati III continues to rule with an iron grip, attempting to monopolize Eswatini’s economy for the royalty.

“King Mswati is the law himself, he can’t be arrested. People are dying of hunger, some regions have no water, […] and if you start a business and it’s successful, then the king will take it from you. He sees you as competition if you try to become rich,” Dlamini added.

In 2019, the Swazi monarch purchased 19 luxury Rolls-Royce cars for his 15 wives, which amounted to $30 million. While Mswati III continues his lavish lifestyle, 63 per cent of Swazis live under the poverty line with an alarming 41 percent of the population being unemployed.

The king himself referred to the protests as “satanic,” saying they are turning the country backwards. Still, the manifestations show no signs of slowing down, notably among high school and university students, while the path towards democracy remains complex for Eswatini.

“We’re fighting for a democracy that has been deemed futile in so many African countries, like the neighbouring Lesotho,” said Georgia*, a Concordia student who grew up in Swaziland. “We need a system for ourselves which encompasses both the current system and a somewhat democratic one, and it’s intangible right now since emotions are high.”

The student added that Eswatini’s humanitarian crises have often been overlooked by the United Nations and the West, causing the landlocked country of 1.2 million people to deal with rampant poverty on its own.

“We need external forces to help, we need more awareness from the western world. They are the only ones who can actually bring democracy to reality in a country such as ours,” said Georgia.

Earlier in June, Canada expressed its commitment to strengthen democratic institutions throughout the world at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, England. However, the Trudeau government has yet to address Eswatini’s ongoing violence or provide support for the fellow Commonwealth member.

*To protect the subject’s identity, we are using their preferred pseudonym.


Graphic by Lily Cowper


“My body, my choice”, an ironic juxtaposition

How the use of this controversial slogan has shifted

Growing up, I heard the phrase “My body, my choice” often, whether it was in the context of a history class, in the news, or from a speech my mom once gave me. And then, in the mid 2010s, I discovered the ongoing feminism, womanism, and intersectional feminism movement, and the fight towards the right to decide what’s best for our bodies.

In today’s context, the phrase has been co-opted by a new movement – anti-vaxx – that intrudes upon the safety of many. 

The disease we shall not speak of has created a faction of society that has a fundamental problem with wearing a small piece of cloth over their mouths, getting a vaccine to protect themselves and others from stronger, more contagious variants of the virus, and the use of vaccine passports.

So now, here we are, at a crossroads between the right to choose and the right to… choose, I guess?

It is important to acknowledge that traditional feminism has a long and continued history of excluding Black women and women of colour. In the 1970s, women fought for the right to work outside the home and to ensure their reproductive rights, specifically in the United States Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade, which made abortion services legal, though not nessesarily accessible.

Women everywhere were fighting for the right to choose, but white women mostly ignored important issues that mainly impacted women of colour. This resulted in the start of the womanism movement, which focuses specifically on the everyday concerns related to the Black female experience. It takes a focus on the deeper issues and the intersectionality between being a woman and a person of colour, ultimately addressing concerns that white folks were not interested in.

The phrase “My body, my choice” used to represent a movement that — although flawed — had an overarching goal to give power back to women, specifically when it came to our reproductive freedom. It’s ironic now to hear the slogan chanted by some of the same people who would yell “GOD LOVES YOU” as you walk into a Planned Parenthood clinic.

There are obviously some good reasons to not get vaccinated, such as if you have a health condition that is recognized as having a negative reaction to the vaccine.

Additionally, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 49 per cent of Black Americans stated their lack of trust in the institutions that provide vaccines. There is a documented history of mistreatment of marginalized peoples in the era of eugenics, such as Black Americans, people of Asian and Pacific descent, Indigenous persons, and disabled people. Non-consensual medical experimentation, which goes along with medical professionals having a disregard for the pain and suffering of their patients, has led to a continued lack of trust in western medical institutions for many marginalized people.

Other reasons, such as the side effects of the vaccine or thinking COVID-19 isn’t a real threat seem like a bad joke to me. I can believe some Trump constituents were brainwashed into believing the pandemic wasn’t a real threat, I just cannot get over the hypocrisy in that belief. For decades, women have been fighting for freedom and independence for their reproductive rights, but that has always been outrageous to white conservative Americans, who are composed of 85 per cent Christians. They expect us to just sit down and listen to the Bible whether or not we believe what it says. But today, when the entire world is collectively enduring a pandemic, these same people cannot handle being told what to do.

For decades, people with uterus’s have had to put up and deal with inaccessible healthcare and old white men making the decisions about our vaginas and sex lives, but as soon as those same people experience one hundredth of what it is to have your body regulated, all I hear is whining.

And the fact that the so-called injustice of today is as simple as wearing a mask, in comparison to taking any method of contraception, highly gatekept abortions, the realities of having to live with those decisions, the external judgment, your body and your choices being debated every election, and plain old birth control side effects, whether it’s an IUD and your gyno has to crawl up your cervix every five years, or you have a pill to take everyday — a pill that could make you gain weight, lose weight, have acne, mood swings, painful period cramps, and the list goes on and on.  Keep in mind, I just had to think of my own experiences to make this list… which does not even scratch the surface.

But now, this same person is angry their president didn’t get elected, mad that there’s a hoax of a virus the elite Liberals have created, and that they blew it out of proportion to control us.

Instead of being mad, I’m just going to laugh at the irony of today. It’s everywhere you look, in each nook and cranny around us – from every social media post to every article.


Feature graphic by James Fay


Off with their heads…? It’s not that simple

Why abolishing the Canadian monarchy is easier said than done

If you haven’t heard from the landslide of articles, memes, and just general chatter on the streets, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry had a long interview with Oprah Winfrey on March 7, where they revealed all the juiciest gossip about the royal family.

Possibly one of the biggest bombshells that was dropped by Markle was the shocking revelation that her husband’s family is… racist.

You would think a family whose entire history is based on marriage with other rich, white royals and whose mandate for centuries was to conquer the lands of non-white people would be accepting and open to other cultures, right?

The other huge revelation was Markle admitting to having had suicidal thoughts because of the anxiety and pressures of royal life. No royal title had been discussed for her when she joined the royal family, her personal belongings were taken away, and her aides were forcing her to stay indoors at all costs — it’s no wonder she and Harry broke away from the family in early 2020.

This interview contributed to a massive decline in the Canadian public’s trust and loyalty to the British Crown. According to an online poll conducted right after the interview aired, 53 per cent of Canadians don’t think the royal family belongs in the makeup of Canadian politics.

That being said, a third of respondents said they think the monarchy should retain its symbolic place, and 26 per cent of Canadians sided with the Crown after hearing about the interview.

Over time, the British monarchy has become more a source of entertainment than a figure of authority in Canada, even though their place in our federal government is still very imposing. Although they’re only really there symbolically, the Governor General and Lieutenant Governors still constitutionally have the power to decide who our next Prime Minister or Premier is going to be, since they represent the Queen, our head of state.

But let’s talk numbers: our contributions to the royal family itself are minimal — it costs about $1.68 per Canadian annually to sustain the monarchy. However, the Privy Council Office, whose councillors are appointed by the Governor General, has a budget of over $140 million. Though its members advise the Prime Minister and help him make decisions, they aren’t democratically elected, and they are meant to represent the Queen in Canada.

The royal family is useless. It takes up a good chunk of our taxes that could go towards other severely underfunded federal activities, like Indigenous affairs or education; it represents an antiquated, classist system; and it doesn’t really have much political power except for its ceremonial roles.

But… the royal family is a whole industry of its own. It’s entertainment, and it generates a lot of revenue: in 2017 alone, it contributed over 1.8 billion pounds to the British economy.

Despite the increasing resentment towards the position the monarchy holds in our government, the truth is that it would be extremely difficult and costly for us to get rid of them. Almost everything in our constitution is tied to the monarchy, and abolishing it would require the Senate, House of Commons, and the governments of each province to vote unanimously on this decision.

Not to mention, it would require us to change our entire government system: instead of a constitutional monarchy, Canada would most likely transition to a republic like in the U.S.

I don’t know about you, but one of the few things I consider less compatible with modern Canadian culture than the monarchy is the implementation of an American political system.

We shouldn’t be constrained to keeping an antiquated and out-of-touch institution like the British monarchy simply because the politics of it would be too difficult. But we also need to be realistic about what can be passed and implemented successfully in a democratic way.

Abolishing the monarchy seems like a dream to many, but it’s a goal that stands so far away from us, even in 2021, that the most we can really wish for is to minimize its presence in our country.



Graphic by Taylor Reddam.


Liberals to move ahead with the introduction of assault weapons buy-back program

Bill C-21 invites controversy from all sides of the gun debate

Following the ban of 1,500 makes and models of firearms in May, the Liberals are proposing new gun restrictions under Bill C-21, which will grandfather out assault weapons currently in circulation with a voluntary buy-back program, should the bill pass.

“Gun violence has had devastating effects on communities across the country, and on too many Canadians who have lost loved ones. According to Statistics Canada, firearms were used in over 40 per cent of homicides in Canada in 2019. This violence must stop,” states a press release from February 16 on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s website.

A two-year amnesty period is in place, which began in May of 2020, to last until April 30, 2022. The goal of the amnesty period is to “protect lawful owners from criminal liability and to enable them to comply with the law,” according to the press release.

The buy-back program is voluntary; those in possession of weapons eligible for buy-back will be able to keep them past the amnesty period but they won’t be able to fire, transport, or pass them on to a new owner. Canadians could hope a new administration will reverse the ban and allow them to retain possession of their firearms.

If Bill C-21 cannot be passed before the next election, it will have to be dropped and reintroduced after the election by the new administration. Trudeau campaigned on stricter gun control in 2019.

“One Canadian killed by gun violence is one too many. The tragedies we have seen in Sainte-Foy and Portapique, and more recently in Toronto and Montreal, should never happen. This is why our government has taken some of the strongest action in our country’s history against gun violence,” Trudeau stated in a press release in February.

But some are questioning whether this current policy is a genuine attempt to achieve stronger gun control, and whether the Liberals intend to pass it before the next election.

One such person is James Hanna, one of the founders and president of the Concordia University Sports Shooting Association (CUSSA) and a Concordia Student Union (CSU) councillor. He is opposed to the buy-back program and the May 1 ban.

“They’re basically doing a giant PR stunt before the election. That’s my personal theory … it allows them to claim victory without actually doing anything on the ground,” said Hanna.

Many people on both sides of the gun debate see the buy-back program as a policy that will be ineffective and simply a piece of electioneering. For anti-gun advocates, the policy allows too many firearms to remain in circulation.

Meaghan Hennegan was injured in a shooting at Dawson College in 2006. She was recently quoted in a press release by PolySeSouvient, “The reason we applauded the Liberals during the last election and told Canadians they are the best party for gun control is because their promise included a total ban. That is why we endorsed them. […] We were used and betrayed.”

Even if the guns can’t be operated legally, the concern on both sides of the issue has always been to crack down on illegal gun use. Some people on the pro-gun side think the best way to do this is to turn the issue to gangs and gang violence rather than gun control.

“We want to look at the source of all this gun violence, which is gang violence, and if we’re targeting gang violence … this is going to have much more holistic positive effects,” said Hanna.

Bill C-21 will also allow municipalities to regulate handgun usage as they see fit, which is another controversial part of the legislation. Those living in areas where handguns are banned could simply travel to somewhere with looser regulations, purchase a gun and return home with it.

“They’re jettisoning responsibility off to the municipalities. So if gun crime continues to rise, the government can just say, ‘Well, we gave municipalities the power to fix it. They’re not using it, it’s not our fault’ and just absolve themselves of responsibility for any issues,” said Hanna.

Bill C-21 will also increase the maximum penalties for firearms trafficking, and provide $250 million over five years to anti-gang programming in municipalities and Indigenous communities throughout Canada.


Graphic by Lily Cowper


Genocide in Xinjiang with silence from Canada

The Canadian government’s silence about ongoing genocide speaks volumes

In a mountainous region thousands of miles from the glittering lights of Beijing, a people face cultural extinction. Within the remote and sparsely populated region of Xinjiang, a tremendous evil is at hand while the world watches with an indifferent gaze. The inhabitants of the region, the Uyghur people, with a history spanning thousands of years, face a genocide of epic proportions.

The Uyghurs sit at the eastern edge of the Turkic world. Unlike other Turkic groups, the Uyghurs’ national aspirations suffered following the Qing Dynasty’s 18th-century conquest. Subjugated and deprived of a nation, the Uyghurs were left powerless over their collective future. In the subsequent decades, a series of clashes between various political groups culminated in the 1949 absorption of the Uyghurs into the People’s Republic of China.

Under the new regime, Beijing began a rapid assimilation program bent on enacting conformity across the budding communist nation. The Uyghur language, religion, and culture faced a ferocious onslaught as the Chinese government fought to maintain control over the northwestern region. In the 1950s, the Chinese government ordered the migration of thousands of Han Chinese — China’s largest ethnic group — in the first of many policies promoting assimilation. Consider a report released from Arizona State University indicating the Han population rose from 220,000 (6.9 per cent) in 1949 to 8.4 million (40 per cent) in 2008.

The demographic shift is no coincidence or product of the natural migration of peoples between areas. Instead, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to actively dilute the Uyghurs into a subservient people deprived of their national identity. Under the guise of economic development, Chinese organizations such as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), moved at least hundreds of thousands of Han Chinese into Xinjiang, dramatically shifting the region’s demographics.

In 2014, Xi Jinping, the CCP general secretary and president of China began interning Uyghurs in concentration camps with the “Strike Hard Against Violent Terrorism” campaign. Under the guise of “vocational training” and “re-education,” the Chinese government began the largest internment of people since the Second World War with as many as three million Uyghurs detained.

Today, the campaign is worsening with reports of torture, compulsory sterilization, rape and brainwashing. Forced to recite slogans in Mandarin pledging loyalty to the CCP, beaten for praying, and tortured at the whim of the Chinese authorities, the Uyghurs face individual bodily harm and collective cultural annihilation.

Concurrently, the world continues to grovel to the Chinese government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent Canadian troops to a military parade where they saluted Xi Jinping. Furthermore, the Trudeau government, unlike the other Five Eyes, welcomed Huawei to build a 5G network, despite the company’s role in surveilling Uyghurs.

In the fading days of the Trump administration, American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rightfully declared the situation in Xinjiang a genocide. Last week, Parliament unanimously passed a Conservative motion calling on the Liberal Government to recognize China’s atrocities against the Uyghurs as a genocide. Additionally, MPs also passed an amendment introduced by the Bloc Quebecois calling on a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games should the genocide continue.

However, hope of Canada following the United States in holding China accountable collapsed when Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau abstained on behalf of the “Government of Canada.” The abstention ought to shock Canadians as their government chose to ignore the will of Parliament. In doing so, Garneau revealed the dark underbelly of the Trudeau administration — one that claims to cherish and protect minorities while remaining silent in the face of their cultural destruction.

Regardless of the genocide’s progression, the Olympics and all economic activities benefiting China ought to cease. Doing business with a country that utilizes de facto slavery against its own people, imprisons political dissidents, and executes thousands annually is not only an act of complicity, but support.

The lights of the internment camps only remain illuminated because of the world’s economic relations with Beijing. However, concerned Canadians, organizations, universities, and governments can take action through reevaluating engagements with complicit Chinese institutions. In doing so, Canada can proudly defend human rights and perhaps change history. The alternative is a red Maple Leaf affixed to the death certificate of the Uyghur people.


 Graphic by Chloë Lalonde  @ihooqstudios


Poli Savvy: Keystone pipeline project stopped in its tracks

Biden administration revokes Keystone XL project permit despite consequences in Canada

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, a long-standing friend to the oil and gas industry, has spoken out in anger against the U.S. government’s decision to halt the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline project.

Alberta’s premier called upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a press conference on Jan. 20 to impose economic and trade sanctions on the United States.

“Discuss this decision in the context of a way forward between Canada and the U.S. on environmental policy, climate policy and energy security. Surely that is the least that our closest friends and ally owes Canada,” Kenney said.

Trudeau simply said in a subsequent press conference, “While [Canadians] welcome the [U.S.] president’s commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the president’s decision to fulfill his election campaign promise on Keystone XL.”

Furthermore, Kenny mentioned the impact that this is having on Canadian jobs, with 1,000 construction jobs already held up by the news, and 58,000 more at risk.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday Jan. 20, President Biden made his decision, stating in the executive order found on the White House website that “The United States must prioritize the development of a clean energy economy, which will in turn create good jobs.”

Kenny failed to mention the dozens of Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States that are delighted to hear this news. There has been lots of controversy following the Keystone pipeline project, previously known as the TMX pipeline project.

Not only will the construction damage the Indigenous land that they build through, but the pipeline in turn can damage marine life and the water supply.

Cooper Price, an organizer with Climate Strike Canada, said in a statement to the Concordian, “The cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline was an environmental and political necessity. The Trudeau government must use the money saved by not building this frivolous pipeline to invest in renewable energy, a just transition for oil and gas industry workers, and support for Indigenous communities.”

This executive order will surely have some lasting effects on the Canada-U.S. relationship, as this exploit will surely not die with the end of the Trump administration. However, it also highlights the beginning of a new relationship between Canada and the U.S.: one that is more politically aligned with the new Biden administration, despite the consequent economic impact.

On the contrary, some Canadians may be ready to take the economic plunge that drifts alongside the need for new sources of renewable energy.

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