Editorial: STM inspectors don’t need more power

You’ve all probably heard the running joke about STM inspectors being failed police officers. It’s hard not to believe this when we see some of them strolling around metro stations, holding their batons and glaring at innocent travellers intimidatingly. Even though this joke implies that STM inspectors hold powers similar to SPVM officers, it’s important to note they don’t. And we at The Concordian think they shouldn’t be given more power than they already have.

On April 3, the STM board of directors passed a resolution saying it wants STM inspectors to be special constables, according to CBC. This means they’d need more than their current 14-week training. They’d also be allowed to access data that is kept for police officers, and they would become accountable to the Bureau of Independent Investigations.

As of now, STM inspectors have the power to ask for identification, issue fines for not paying the metro fare and restrain those who break the law until police officers arrive, according to the same source. But, funnily enough, one of the powers they don’t have is the power to use brutal violence to subdue someone who’s allegedly broken the law. We’d think otherwise, though, by looking at some STM inspectors’ history of unnecessary violence against alleged law-breakers.

Just last month, a video circulated in which two STM inspectors aggressively attempted to detain a black man, 21-year-old Juliano Gray, who didn’t pay his metro fare. The video shows the inspectors on top of Gray at the Villa-Maria station. They swing their metal batons several times while Gray screams, “That hurts!” and “I stop!” in French. At one point, Gray’s head is near the oncoming train, and the officers still don’t let him get up. Gray eventually ran away from the inspectors and is now seeking justice with Montreal’s Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR).

Because of the violent incident, Gray said he sustained injuries that stopped him from continuing his job as a part-time dishwasher, and that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress, according to the same source. CRARR is calling for an independent external inquiry into the situation, and for officials to possibly press charges against the inspectors.

We at The Concordian are shocked and disturbed by the STM inspectors’ use of violence to detain Gray. Just because someone doesn’t pay a $3.25 metro fare, doesn’t mean they deserve to be brutally beaten. It was unnecessary, excessive and damaging. We believe the inspectors must be held accountable for their actions.

There is already a history of abuse of power when it comes to STM inspectors—this video just proves how dangerous it could be to grant STM inspectors more police-like powers.

The STM Chairman of the Board of Directors Philippe Schnobb has said the goal of giving inspectors more power is to provide a “better customer experience” according to CBC. While the board doesn’t want to arm the inspectors, giving them more power would let them intervene when people complain about bothersome passengers.

We at The Concordian don’t think STM inspectors need to be given more power to provide a “better customer experience”—the metro is not a shopping mall, nor are we there for the sake of the experience. We just want to know that we are safe, and that our metro rides won’t be hindered by unnecessarily dangerous situations.

If one takes a look at other cases where STM inspectors have abused their authority, it’s hard to support the idea of giving them more power. Instead, perhaps their 14-week training should be extended, and the idea of de-escalating dangerous situations should be promoted. We at The Concordian support the idea of STM inspectors using their voices before violence when it comes to dealing with problems.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee



Student Life

Black History Month: Black money and activism

Exercising your economic power to put your money where your culture is

Black History Month is upon us and I’ve got one question for you, dear reader: where is your money going? Black people all over North America spend this month bringing light to the horrible atrocities that were faced in the name of “building a republic.” In order to carve a better future, one must never forget their past; and in the case of black Canadians, they stand on the shoulders of giants. Men and women who persevered throughout the most unimaginable situations are now revered and fondly remembered.

When one thinks of slavery and Canada, it’s easy to think about how this country was the final destination of the Underground Railroad—the escape route many American slaves used, led by the fearless Harriet Tubman. However, allow me to shatter this perception of Canada.

In an article written by Joshua Ostroff published in the Huffington Post, historian Afua Cooper is quoted saying, “slavery was the dominant condition of life for black people in this country for well over 200 years. We’ve been enslaved for longer than we’ve been free.” Although slavery was abolished in Canada in 1834, so many black Canadians are still in bondage when it comes to their finances. So again, dear reader, I ask: where is your money going?

What was once regarded as trivial and inconsequential has grown to influence economic markets worldwide. The present-day black consumer has more power and influence with their $1 bill today than ever before—but this same consumer may be more ignorant about said influence.

Pioneers of the Civil Rights and Black Panther movements were aware of their influence, as evident through their actions. Robert E. Weems, in his article “The Trillion Dollar African American Consumer Market: Economic Empowerment or Economic Dependency?,” writes: “The Montgomery (Alabama) Bus Boycott of 1955-1956 remains the model instance of organized black consumer activism. One cannot overemphasize the resolve demonstrated by Montgomery’s black community during this action. The widespread publicity given black Montgomery’s ultimately successful campaign for respect and dignity subsequently emboldened blacks throughout the South to follow New York Congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.’s advice to ‘withhold the dollar to make the white man holler.’” Black consumers put their money where their mouths were, and it paid off.

During this month where we take the time to remember our past, I implore you to support black businesses and ensure our future presence within the economic scene. It makes no sense that the majority of hair product stores in Montreal—where, in my experience, most of the shoppers are black people—are owned by East Asians; and hair is just the tip of the iceberg of products black people consume that others have a monopoly over.

Support black businesses. Put your money back into black businesses. Small ones, big ones, Mom & Pop’s, and everything in between. A quick Google search will give you a list of black-owned businesses in Montreal, in Canada, and online.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda


Delving into queer experiences

Dane Stewart debuts a self-written, directed and produced endeavour

While reflecting on the intent behind writing his newest theatrical piece, Dane Stewart expressed that he wanted “to combine Foucauldian, feminist, queer theorists and their texts with lived experiences of people in Montreal.”

As one of Concordia’s recent graduates of the individualized master’s program, Stewart is set to debut his play at the MainLine Theatre on Sept. 21. The production, titled The History of Sexuality, explores themes of power, sex and queerness in the context of student life in Montreal. The plot follows five graduate students who are enrolled in a seminar studying the philosophy of French intellectual Michel Foucault. Stewart said he had studied Foucault’s work at Concordia himself and became particularly inspired by the philosopher’s book, also titled The History of Sexuality.

Foucault’s philosophy, along with a number of theatrical pieces using a technique called verbatim theatre prompted Stewart to start writing his own play. Verbatim theatre involves the playwright conducting a series of interviews, transcribing the interviews and using the direct quotes to script the play. So, as Stewart explained, the actors in a verbatim theatre piece would speak the words of the interviewees.

Dane Stewart wrote the play as part of his thesis for his master’s degree. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Typically, this method is used in documentary-style plays so actors portray the real-life people whose words they are speaking. Stewart, however, decided to use the verbatim theatre technique in order to adapt real-life experiences into the lives of fictional characters. He conducted interviews with several people within Montreal’s queer community about their experiences. Then, Stewart extracted sections of these interviews to be spoken by the characters in his play. By doing so, the playwright added, he was able to include a variety of perspectives outside of his own without needing to speak for anyone.

Stewart called this technique “fictionalized verbatim theatre,” although he recognizes that he may not be the only playwright using it. He developed this method while working on his thesis for his master’s degree, and received a grant from CALQ (Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec) to further improve it himself. The grant allowed him and his team to hold workshops in order to explore and develop this writing technique. With this help, they were able to write several drafts and spend time perfecting Stewart’s work.

After finishing his thesis and graduating from the master’s program where he studied theatre, communications, and gender and sexuality studies through an interdisciplinary program, Stewart began working towards showing his play at the MainLine Theatre. He worked alongside Michelle Soicher, a fourth-year undergraduate theatre student who took on the role of assistant director and stage manager to gain experience as well as academic credits.

“Queerness, non-normative sexual identity and sexual practice have been a big part of my life. It’s also been a very challenging part at times,” Stewart said.

Although drawing upon his own experience as someone who identifies as queer was extremely useful, Stewart said he wanted to capture the realities of other people in Montreal’s queer community as well. Through conducting a number of interviews and refining his writing technique with the workshops funded by CALQ, Stewart is finally left with a piece that he said he believes tells the stories of the individuals featured “very well.”

The playwright also recognized that the stories explored in his play are just a small portion of the diverse experiences that make up the queer community as a whole. He added, “I also am a believer in intersectionality and striving—as someone who takes up a lot of space or has the capacity to take up a lot of space in life and in society—to subscribe to the mandate of ‘take space to make space.’”

According to Stewart, The History of Sexuality is very much based in reality. The setting is a replication of what attending graduate school in Montreal is like today. It was important to Stewart to not only acknowledge the diversity within the queer community in Montreal, but also to represent the characters in his play as real people living real lives.

“One of my goals with the piece,” he said, “is to present queerness—to present non-normative sexual practices, sexual identities and expressions of gender—as just intimate and honest and real.”

“A lot of media and a lot of art that’s surrounding queerness and queer sexualities and genders these days, I feel is quite sensational,” he added. “[The characters in the play] are just people going through their daily lives. I think it’s important for us to see that.”

The History of Sexuality will be playing at the MainLine Theatre, at 3997 Boul. St-Laurent, from Sept. 21 to 30. Showtime is at 8 p.m. with additional showings at 2 p.m. on Sept. 23 and 30. Tickets are available through the Facebook event and the MainLine Theatre’s website. Prices can vary depending on your financial situation.

Feature photo courtesy of Erika Rosenbaum Photography


Does hard work actually get you anywhere?

Exploring the science behind luck, success and hard work in North America

There’s no way to achieve your financial goals without working hard. North Americans understand this fairly well—I think our economic system reward the hardest of the hardest-working individuals, which is partly legitimate.

However, luck and privilege are too often left behind when thinking about financial success. This shows when people approve right-wing economic policies such as austerity and major investments in the corporate sector. It seems absurd to me that in an already competitive society full of social inequalities, we want to advantage privileged people even more.

If we truly acknowledged external factors to financial success in Quebec, for instance, the Government of Quebec would not have invested billions of dollars in Bombardier while cutting in education. The year 2012 reminds us that protesting can turn things around. But the silent majority speaks volumes right now.

Although I am opposed to economic inequalities, I will define financial success, for the purpose of this piece, as earning significantly more money than the average Canadian or American person. This is not an easy project for everyone to undertake. The reason I think hard work is not enough is because no one can truly control his or her financial future.

The American Dream, the term coined by James Truslow Adams in 1931, proclaims: “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

In this definition lies the tacit assumption that hard work can get anyone anywhere. However, whether it is in the US or in Canada, attending the right schools and having the right friends, just to name a few, are likely to get someone further than just working hard.

What happens to those who also work hard but don’t have the same opportunities? They suffer from right-wing economic policies. With austerity and investment of tax money in the private sector, they end up living in world in which they cannot even afford basic necessities. Education and health services become market values, which increases already existing inequalities.

Social environment, education and the events that occur during our life—whether they’re positive and negative—shape how we manage our life. Additionally, many people contribute to our personal developmentteachers, parents and friends have an enormous impact on us. Thus it enables some to get where they want, while it disables others.

This is not even considering the fact that what most people want to do with their lives just pays average, if not less. Therefore, shaping our economic policies as if individuals were the sole determiners in their financial success is completely unfair.

It’s like giving all the credit to a chef for an extraordinary meal, never mentioning the farmer’s effort for delivering impeccably fresh produce. I believe we should take this into account when we position ourselves on the political spectrum.

We can afford to provide everyone who works hard with equal chances to be financially successful. Or at least we can make sure the lives of people who haven’t had great opportunities don’t get harder because of right-wing economic policies.

Being a Canadian or American citizen is a privilege in itself. It is unreasonable that one can have succeeded financially without the help of anyone, whether it is speaking about economic situation, social environment, and so forth.

People who struggle in life cannot be the sole responsible of their condition, just as the ones who are financially satisfied. If we acknowledge privilege factors, by opposing right-wing policies that just make rich people richer, then we will enable more hard-workers to reach financial success.

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