Climate activists and students unite: Rage Climatique week culminates in protests across Quebec

Furious youths, students and activists joined forces to protest against climate injustice. The week-long events invited militants to engage in direct actions.

Over a thousand protesters voiced their anger against climate injustice in the streets of Montreal on Sept. 29. Eighteen student unions from colleges and universities in Sherbrooke, Rimouski and Quebec striked and protested the same day. 

This demonstration happened two weeks after similar marches in New York and Vancouver which echoed one of Quebec’s largest marches in 2019, during which Greta Thunberg inspired approximately half a million Montrealers to fight against global warming.

But with 1,500 protesters according to the SPVM, many participants weren’t satisfied with this mobilization. Sexagenarian Monica Schweizer admired the loud crowd, holding her “Act Now!” sign. “I wish there were more people,” she said. “I wish there were more of our generation.”

Next to her, her friend Raman Kashylp agreed: “Grand-parents should be out here. This is the legacy that we’re leaving behind. And that will be remembered only by the destruction that it caused.”

The fury of Rage Climatique’s anti-capitalist organizers captivated the crowd. “We need to take over the streets, we need to take over the sidewalks, we need to take over the city and destroy those who are destroying us!” Covered by a mask, the speaker accused the government of continuing to invest in luxury companies like Bombardier private jets, while asking the public to recycle and compost. A single private jet emits five to 14 times more CO² than an airliner.

One day before the march, Prime Minister Trudeau and Quebec Premier Legault announced the construction of a $7 billion electric vehicle battery factory by Northvolt, co-founded by former Tesla directors. The government’s investments in green technology and innovation clashes with Rage Climatique’s call to shut down the capitalist system in order to preserve life on Earth.

The marches and protests across Quebec were the culmination of the Rage Climatique week.

“People are looking for ways to get organized, to get into this eco-anger to have a better capacity to act,” said organizer Olivier, who uses a pseudonym to protect his identity.

Rage Climatique held a week-long series of workshops, lectures, discussions and documentary screenings to engage individuals in the climate cause beyond a day’s march.

Some anonymous non-violent actions claimed by Rage Climatique have been reported during the week, such as green paint sprayed on the HEC Montreal building, accusing the business school of greenwashing. 

Protests also targeted the Royal Bank of Canada highlighting its leading role in fossil fuel investment. Some activists deflated SUV tires, leaving messages on the windshield similar to report of offense forms, mentioning “the driving of a vehicle emitting excess CO2 endangering human, animal and plant life.”

To prepare for the protest, over eighty young adults gathered at Parc La Fontaine on Wednesday, Sept. 26. The Rage Climatique group and attendees openly exchanged safety and legal tips. “There is strength in numbers,” Rage Climatique speaker Mims said. 

The anti-capitalist group stressed the importance of direct action with strong symbolism, while giving advice on protection from arrests and repression. “I don’t want to scare you,” said Mims while explaining the SPVM’s repression tools. “But I want you to be well informed.”

Marielle Loson-Poitier, experienced climate activist, voiced her concern about extreme actions that could discourage participation. “If we say from the start that there’s a chance of arrests, I’m sorry, but the vast majority will say ‘I don’t want to be arrested,’” she said. “We’d like it to remain a peaceful demonstration so that people feel safe wanting to take part.”

With firm kindness, Rage Climatique replied: “There are different types of protests with different levels of risk, so that everyone, with what they’re prepared to do or not, can choose the protest that suits them.”

The Queer anti-capitalist collective P!nk Bloc held a workshop exploring the links between LGTBQ communities, feminism, the exploitation of nature and minorities. Seated in a circle on the grass, the attendees discussed capitalist, scientific and religious ideologies, and their roles in current social norms.

P!nk Bloc led the march along with Rage Climatique, which peacefully ended on Saint-Laurent boulevard at the corner of Boulevard René Levesque with music and dance. Protestors sat down blocking the two streets, hoping that the government would respond to their week-long efforts.


Protesters at McGill cancel talk by law professor with ties to the LGB Alliance

The incident sparked debates between the balance of free speech and hate speech on University Campuses

On Tuesday Jan. 10, the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP) from McGill University hosted a talk called “The Sex vs. Gender (Identity) Debate in the United Kingdom and the Divorce of LGB from T.” 

The event was disrupted by more than 100 protesters due to the presence of controversial guest speaker and McGill alumni Robert Wintemute. Wintemute is a Human Rights Law Professor at King’s College London and a trustee of the LGB Alliance — an advocacy group funded in the UK that opposes certain policies for transgender rights on the grounds that they undermine those of lesbians, bisexuals and gay men and cisgender women.

The protestors occupied the first floor of Chancellor Day Hall and interrupted the professor’s talk by unplugging the projector, which then led to him being escorted out by McGill staff. 

Celeste Trianon, a law student at Université de Montréal and trans rights activist, helped organize the campaign against Wintemute’s seminar.

According to Trianon and other queer advocacy groups, one of the LGB Alliance’s main goals is to oppose policies that aim at protecting and advancing trans rights. 

Trianon explained that the organization had, among other things, lobbied against the “legal recognition of gender identity in the British and Scottish contexts” and works “in collaboration with other anti-trans organizations in the United States.”

She added that, in Canada, the LGB Alliance opposed the inclusion of transgender people in Bill C-4, which prohibited conversion therapy.

“Their whole idea is based on a far-right concept called ‘drop the T’ which is a strategy to divide the queer community by separating transgender people from the rest of the community,” said Trianon. “It is an organization that disguises itself as a pro-women’s rights and pro-gay and lesbian organization.”

Trianon is worried about the international scope that the Alliance is gaining, including in Canada. 

“This is reflected in the fact that all the hate I received after the demonstration came from all over the world and not only from Quebec,”

Said Trianon.

Trianon went on to elaborate on the hate messages and death threats she received via email and social media.

In an interview with The Concordian, Wintemute said that part of his talk was to argue that trans people’s rights, particularly those of trans women, sometimes infringe on cis women’s rights and that legislation against discrimination was “full of contradictions.” He asserted the belief that many cis women agreed with his position but were too afraid or intimidated to speak up against pro-trans rights policies.

“What I was doing was no hate speech at all. Freedom of expression covers even ideas that can offend or disturb. There’s a tendency today that says disagreement equals hatred, but it doesn’t,”

Said Wintemute.

Wintemute argued that the protestors had no right to disturb his talk, comparing the event to “a mini version of the US Congress in Jan. 2021 or the Brazilian capital in Jan. 2023.”

McGill University declined to comment on the incident. A spokesperson from the CHRLP sent out an email saying, “Every year, the CHRLP organizes a range of events on a variety of human rights issues […] They are not an endorsement of any speaker’s views. McGill recognizes and supports the rights of its students to peaceful protest on campus.”

“This defense of academic freedom as an absolute concept is used to defend hate speech,” said Trianon. “We really have to ask ourselves who was really violent? Was it the protesters or this speech that puts trans people in danger? How do we define violence?”


The unrest in Iran seen from across the ocean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protesters march in Montreal MARIEKE GLORIEUX-STRYCKAMN/ The Concordian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How it feels to be a Cuban-Canadian right now

Greater governments have fallen, but this one has its heels dug deep

Perpetual struggle. This is the most accurate way to describe the life of an average person in Cuba. As the child of immigrants, it was a slap in the face to hear non-Cubans rave about their vacations in Cuba and how beautiful the country was. To this day, there are still crumbling buildings, starving families, and a continually declining economy — all of which has become exacerbated by the pandemic.

After 62 years under the same government, this past July, Cubans took to the streets in protest. They were chanting for “libertad” (freedom) and “patria y vida,” (homeland and life). To understand this is to go back to the days when Fidel Castro held power, a time when nationalist propaganda read as, “patria o muerte,” (homeland or death). The slogan was spray-painted all over Cuba, and emblazoned on our coins. However, pride has since fallen away, and “patria y vida” is now being used as a play on archaic propaganda. While it hasn’t found its way onto the coins yet, the phrase is now a token of rebellion and an anthem for the right to liberty.

In response to this, Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel called a division into Cuban society by declaring that the streets of Cuba belonged to the revolutionaries (people who support the current government). Through this, he has created a more visible polarization between Cubans, something I have observed in my own life. Arguments of right and wrong have taken shape between family and friends — and at the end of the day there is one truth: the struggle continues for those on the island.

For most Cubans and expatriates, it is clear that the time has come for the communist regime to come to an end. People are tired of having to scrape by for basic necessities through illicit dealings in the black market, or as we like to say, “por la izquierda.” Moreover, they are tired of not being able to say anything critical about it. This is what the protests have been about at their core: the right to speak up about what citizens are unhappy with, the right to affiliate with a party that represents their values, and most importantly, the right to life.

The fight for change is like sledding uphill. Leaders of organizations in favour of democracy and overthrowing the current government have been detained, leading to some trials, but often ending in sentences. Cuban police have been walking through neighbourhoods in plainclothes, actively stalking, assaulting, and detaining anyone they hold in suspicion of conspiring to organize opposition. As a result, there are countless Cubans in jail for expressing their right to protest as outlined in the Cuban constitution.

Growing up in Canada, most of what I was told about Cuba came in the shape of horror stories — empty stomachs, silenced opinions, and tales of friends and family who fled to Miami on rafts. All of this manifested itself in my parents sitting me down prior to a visit to Cuba and telling me that I was not to repeat any of the anti-Fidel talk that I was hearing in our house. I didn’t get it then, but as the years went on I grew to understand the sentiment. Cubans live under an unspoken gag order — if they speak out against the communist establishment, they will be dragged to prison for treason.

In recent news, the Cuban government has imposed new censorship laws to prohibit stories of what is occurring on the island finding their way into western media. This policy aims to prevent expression of dissent through social media, marking these acts as cyberterrorism. It is because of this gag order and the censorship laws that expats have spurred such passionate outcries for the liberation of Cubans. Countless people in the Cuban-Canadian community have taken to platforms like Facebook and Instagram to voice their support for the fall of the current government in favour of one that repeals decades and decades of suffering and starvation.

When I decided to enter the field of journalism, the core of the decision was based on giving a voice to those who have theirs stifled, like Cubans. The article you’re reading is no more than a general picture of something that is ugly at its heart. There are many people who I could have reached out to, but I did not want to put them on the record speaking out about Cuba because they may not be able to return to Cuba, or worse. By no means is this how every Cuban feels. Those who have benefitted under the 62-year regime may feel outraged that a change is no longer a matter of “if,” but “when.”

The fact is that even the Roman empire collapsed. The present organization of Cuban society is one day going to fall, and the freedom of expression, of press, and the people as a whole will one day run through Cuba.


Graphic by James Fay


Anti-Asian hate crimes spike in Canada

Following a mass shooting in Atlanta that targeted Asian businesses, Canada reckons with its own anti-Asian racism problem

Spikes in anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported all around the world, including here in Canada. Anti-Asian racism has been present throughout the nation’s history, and this year, the Asian community reports racial violence is becoming increasingly aggressive, especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent study outlined that over 1,150 incidents of anti-Asian racism were reported in Canada between March 2020 and February 2021. According to a report published by The Chinese Canadian National Council’s Toronto chapter (CCNCTO) and Fight COVID Racism, Vancouver has experienced up to a 700 per cent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes. 

In Montreal, there were 30 hate crimes reported between March and December of 2020, up from just six reported in 2019. Last May, a man of Korean descent was stabbed in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

In September, two victims of Asian descent were killed in a double hit-and-run in Brossard. A 30-year-old man has since been arrested and charged with second degree murder.

Police insisted the hit-and-runs were not hate crimes, but failed to explain why. Both victims were of East Asian descent; Huiping Ding, 45, was Chinese, and Gérard Chong Soon Yuen, 50, was Korean.

This year on March 11, a man of Korean descent was walking in the Plateau when he was attacked with pepper spray in broad daylight. Initially, police were not investigating the incident as a hate crime, although the victim considered the incident to be one. However, following media coverage, the hate crimes squad was brought in to investigate. The victim, a man identified as Nicolas, detailed that while he was carrying “the latest iPhone, the latest Apple Watch, the latest iPad and MacBook Pro,” but his attackers made no effort to rob him.

Days later on March 16, breaking news of a mass shooting in Georgia reported eight dead, six of whom were Asian women. A 21-year-old white gunman targeted three separate Asian-owned spas in Acworth and Atlanta. The shootings sparked outrage among Asian communities across the U.S., with protests held in Atlanta and New York the same weekend.

In the wake of that tragedy, Montreal community leaders organized a march against anti-Asian racism on March 21. Organizers led thousands of supporters on a three kilometre march from Cabot Square to Chinatown, stopping at Quebec Premier François Legault’s office on Sherbrooke Street. Activists demanded acknowledgement of the sharp rise in anti-Asian sentiment within Quebec. Premier Legault continues to deny the existence of systemic racism in the province.

Speeches made by leaders of Montreal’s Asian community outlined Canada and Quebec’s own colonial and historically racist treatment of Asians. Cathy Wong, councillor of the Peter-McGill district, spoke passionately of the racist history that the Asian community has endured.

“We march in remembrance of our history, as racism against Asians did not begin yesterday. It was not born from the pandemic. We march in remembrance of our history because our history is coloured by racist laws that excluded the Chinese — targeting our great grandparents, despite building railroads in exchange for dreams of a new life,” Wong said to the crowd in French.

Among the speakers was part-time Concordia professor Jinyoung Kim, who identifies as Korean-Canadian. Four of the six Asian women who were killed in Atlanta were of Korean descent.

“[It became] an immediate reality for me and for my friends, my parents, and everyone I know with Asian bodies in North America,” she said, before describing the threat of violence against Asians in the last year. “It’s been a year of fighting for justice, and it feels like nothing has gotten better.”

“I feel deeply the traumas that my BIPOC students go through,” Kim said, speaking of her Studio Arts students at Concordia. “I have heard stories from my students.”

The Atlanta shootings have sparked conversations about the fetishization of Asian women, with many activists citing the gendered violence and racism that Asian women face. In a press conference held shortly after the shootings, law enforcement officials said that the gunman confessed to the shootings, but denied racial motivations behind the attacks. Instead, the shooter saw Asian women as “temptations that he had to eliminate,” that he had a “sex addiction,” and that it was a “bad day.”

Following the Atlanta shootings, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement saying, “While we have made progress toward a more just and equal society, more still needs to be done, and the Government of Canada remains committed to this work.”

On March 22, New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh introduced the Anti-Asian Hate motion, which passed in the House of Commons. The motion called for the federal government to “properly fund” hate crime units across Canada, and make efforts to “identify best practices in countering this trend.”

But Singh echoed the sentiments of many, tweeting in response, “Justin Trudeau needs to do more than offer words, he needs to act,” in order to combat anti-Asian violence.  


Photographs by Christine Beaudoin


A Nunavut iron ore mine’s expansion faces backlash from the Inuit community

Hundreds of Mary River Mine employees were unable to return home as Inuit hunters fought for wildlife protection

The proposed expansion of the Mary River Mine in Nunavut was interrupted by a week-long Inuit protest earlier this month. A group of seven hunters barricaded its main road and airstrip, which left 700 mine employees stranded at the facility.

Inuit land defenders were outraged by the planned construction of a 110-kilometre railway, which would connect Mary River Mine to the nearest port in Milne Inlet. While the expansion allows the mine to double its output and ship 12 million tonnes of iron ore annually, it also raises serious environmental concerns.

The Inuit hunters, also known as the Nuluujaat Land Guardians, believe this expansion will disrupt the local caribou and narwhal habitats. To this day, these animals play a significant role in Inuit life, as hunting is a necessity rather than a hobby in the isolated communities of the north.

Mary River Mine is located almost 1,000 kilometres away from Iqaluit, the only town with a population of over 5,000 in the territory. As the hunters saw a potential threat to the traditional way of Inuit life, they physically blocked the mine’s operations for an entire week, until Feb. 11.

Donat Milortuk, an Inuit activist from the town of Naujaat, organized a local protest in his community in support of the hunters’ actions.

“We are thinking about our younger generations. We want a clean environment and healthy food. This is everyone’s responsibility,” he said in an interview with the CBC. “We don’t want our wildlife and land contaminated.”

However, as a result of the barricade, the mine workers had no access to fresh food and supplies while being trapped in the facility. The land defenders refused to free the airstrip that would allow the employees to return home, only making an exception for one bus carrying medical equipment.

“It’s unfortunate that they felt they had to go to those extremes to be heard,” said Udloriak Hanson in an interview with CBC, the vice-president of community and strategic development at Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation.

Mary River Mine lost an estimated $14 million due to the week-long blockade. As the business was at a standstill during the protests, the Inuit resistance ended up costing the company over $2 million per day.

When the mine corporation’s lawyers took this matter to court, Justice Susan Cooper issued an order to the Inuit hunters on Feb. 10, requiring them to free the airstrip and to allow the workers to come back home. The land defenders peacefully agreed to end the blockade, following the order from Nunavut’s Court of Justice.

In return, Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation announced that the company is open to adjusting the mine’s expansion plan, which includes scaling back its planned increases in shipping. The potential expansion will also undergo an environmental and socio-economic review in Iqaluit, during a series of public hearings set to begin on April 12.

After the hearings, the Nunavut Impact Review Board will advise the territorial government whether this controversial project should become a reality on the land of Inuit people.


Graphic by Lily Cowper


Coup d’état in Myanmar

The Southeast Asian nation faces major threat to its democracy

On Feb. 1, a military coup took place in Myanmar following alleged voter fraud in last November’s general election. The army has detained former President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, thus taking full control of the government.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party formed a majority government after winning more than 60 per cent of the seats in Myanmar’s parliament last November. However, the military accused the party of voter fraud and refused to accept the results.

Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing managed to reverse Myanmar’s transition towards democracy. His army severely limited telecommunications and shut down the internet across the country for 24 hours on Feb. 6.

A state of emergency was declared for a whole year as soon as the coup began. The official announcement was transmitted by military-owned television network Myawaddy TV.

Expecting a wave of mass protests, the new government banned all gatherings of more than five people in Myanmar’s two largest cities and imposed an overnight curfew.

Still, thousands of protesters — particularly monks, school teachers and students — took to the streets of Yangon in demanding for Suu Kyi’s release. Doctors, nurses, and government workers have also contributed to this resistance by engaging in civil disobedience, which continues to this day.

Since Feb. 1, the military has arrested at least 241 peaceful demonstrators and activists, including senior government officials. The Burmese police force also fired water cannons at the protesters to control the opposition movement in the capital city Naypyidaw.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned the actions of Myanmar’s military, calling on the self-declared government to immediately release everyone who has been detained and to respect the democratic process in the nation.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden issued sanctions against Myanmar, freezing all American assets of military coup leaders, denying them entry into the United States, and restricting many Burmese exports until the military steps down.

As of now, Suu Kyi may be sentenced to two years in prison for possessing “illegal” walkie-talkies. In fact, this is not the first time that the state counsellor has been targeted for representing democracy in the nation. She has already spent 15 years under house arrest throughout her political career.

In 1991, Suu Kyi received a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to establish democracy in the country. She continues to strive for justice in Myanmar by calling on the nation to protest against the army’s takeover to prevent “a military dictatorship.”

However, the military coup leader announced that only cooperating with his government will help Myanmar achieve “the successful realization of democracy.” Despite the mass protests and international attention, the military is not willing to step down from its position of power anytime soon.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab


Canada imposes sanctions on “Europe’s last dictator”

The President of Belarus is barred from entering Canada following election fraud and violence against protesters

The people of Belarus have been protesting against their authoritarian leader for 57 straight days, ever since presidential elections took place on Aug. 9. At least seven protesters have been killed since election day, while over 12,000 have been detained for fighting for democracy.

Often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, Alexander Lukashenko has been the leader of Belarus since 1994 and was reelected for his sixth consecutive term with 80.1 per cent of the vote, according to the official results.

As soon as exit polls revealed the winner of the election, an enormous wave of protests spread across the country in support of the opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

In the first few days of demonstrations, peaceful protesters faced aggressive police brutality: torture, tear-gassing, stun grenades, and ruthless beatings of women, students and seniors. In response to such atrocities, almost 400,000 protesters marched down the streets of Minsk on Aug. 16, making it the largest protest in all of Belarus’ history.

Pavel Chuduk, a 30-year-old English teacher and activist, described his experience as a detained protester.

“The police repeatedly hit my kidneys with an electric baton. Because of the shock, I couldn’t stand up, and my lower jaw was paralyzed … About 50-60 people were with me in a tiny room, all screaming from pain and begging for mercy,” Chuduk said in an interview with DW.

In response to such human rights violations, Canada showed its support towards the Belarusian people, together with the European Union and the United States.

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne announced that Canada does not accept the results of the “fraudulent presidential election” and sent a clear message to the regime on Aug. 17.

“Canada will continue to stand with the people of Belarus, and we will work with our international partners to ensure that their voices are heard and that those responsible for undermining democracy and for brutal actions against protesters are held to account.”

However, the Government of Belarus continued to ignore the democratic rights of its citizens. On Aug. 23, Lukashenko himself was seen hovering in a helicopter over the nation’s capital, with an AK-47 over his shoulder. It was the president’s strategy to intimidate tens of thousands of protesters, whom he referred to as “rats.”

As Lukashenko continued to defy the will of his nation, Canada imposed sanctions on Belarus in coordination with the United Kingdom on Sept. 29.

Under Canada’s Special Economic Measures Act, Lukashenko is now subject to an immediate travel ban and asset freezes, along with his eldest son Viktor and nine other top officials.

“Canada will not stand by silently as the Government of Belarus continues to commit systematic human rights violations and shows no indication of being genuinely committed to finding a negotiated solution with opposition groups,” said Champagne.

Canada and the U.K. are the first Western nations to have imposed sanctions on the Belarusian government. Russia, on the other hand, is willing to send its military support to ensure that Lukashenko stays in power.

Despite facing an almost impenetrable authoritarian regime, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya continues to fight for the nation’s freedom. In fact, three months before the election, the President of Belarus jailed his main opponent Sergei Tikhanovsky for “organization or preparation for a grave breach of public order,” while he was gaining popularity before the Belarusian elections. Then, his wife, a former teacher and stay-at-home mother, found the courage to run for president on behalf of her husband and thus became the new opposition leader.

Although Tikhanovskaya was forced to flee to Lithuania for the safety of herself and her children, she still manages to motivate Belarusians to peacefully protest against the dictatorship. As Canada and the U.K. demonstrate their active support for the opposition, Tikhanovskaya continues to be the symbol of a new and democratic Belarus.

Belarusian pro-democracy protesters still gather in tens of thousands and march down the streets of all major cities, especially in the capital city of Minsk. Their relentless fighting spirit sends one clear message to Lukashenko: his 26-year-old reign is coming to an end.


Visuals by @the.beta.lab


Solidarity for Lebanese protests reached Montreal on Friday

Protesters gathered in front of the Lebanese consulate in Montreal last Friday in solidarity with the uprising that started on Thursday in Lebanon.

Montreal joined many other cities like New York and London in this solidarity movement, where protesters chanted anti-government chants in Arabic like “Montreal to Beirut, we want to kick out every jerk.”

“We’re trying to show Lebanese people that we are with them and we stand by them and we are all against the government and what it’s doing,” said Dhalia Nazha, the event organizer in Montreal.

The small 10,500 square kilometer country has entered its biggest protest since the garbage crisis in 2015. Citizens are denouncing corruption among government officials and calling for the government’s resignation.

The protest sparked up after the government announced new taxes including one on the use of messaging apps during a major economic crisis. However, the decision was quickly retracted by officials amid the reaction of the population.

But it’s not all about Viber and WhatsApp. The regional turmoil in the Middle East has been affecting Lebanon’s economy for decades. The country now ranks third in debt levels worldwide at $113 billion US or 150 per cent of its GDP according to Trading Economics.

“They steal from the taxes, they steal all the money and they don’t renovate and don’t do any construction in Lebanon,” said Nazha about the current government. “We don’t have any recycling facilities, there’s a lot of pollution and they don’t try to tackle it in what way whatsoever.”

The country struggles to this day for better infrastructure even after billions invested since the end of the civil war in 1990. Citizens deal with daily electricity cuts, trash piling on the streets and limited water supplies from the state-owned water company, according to the Associated Press.

Many Lebanese chose to flee those conditions in search of a better alternative. Some that chose Montreal as their new home took part in the protest.

“I didn’t have a job or education, because education is really expensive in Lebanon, so I was forced to move here for better life conditions,” said Najib Issa, a 20-year-old mechanical engineering student at Polytechnique.

Job shortages and poor salaries also pushed Chantal Stephan to flee her home country. Stephan said she moved to Canada in 2004 to raise her three children who were there with her, all waving small Lebanese flags and chanting along with the crowd.

“I graduated in Lebanon and I didn’t manage to find a decent job, so I decided to move here to work and be well paid,” said Stephan. “Even with my master’s degree, I couldn’t find a decent job [in Lebanon].”

But there is a feeling of hope for the future of the small Middle Eastern country. This is one of the first apolitical, non-religious movements in Lebanon. The Lebanese population has been divided by political and religious affiliations for the past decades.

“We need to unite all together and stop to follow politicians that are controlling us by the tip of our noses,” said Stephan. “It’s important to stay all united because after all, we all want is the good of the country.”

Nazha, Issa and Stephan think this protest is the beginning of a big change that will enable them to reunite with their roots.

“I’m here tonight for my brothers, sisters, parents and every Lebanese that are still in Lebanon,” said Issa. “We’re only defending and reclaiming our rights. And now, we finally have a chance to  come back to our country.”


Feature photo by Jad Abukasm


Editorial // Standing in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people

We often hear the word “reconciliation” and think of positive connotations: restoring relationships between people, or trying to make certain views more compatible.

But it seems that this word is losing its power and its positivity, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau uses it as a buzzword when speaking about the relationship between the government and Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Of course, we have to realize that this word comes up so often because of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Yet, Trudeau very cunningly uses the word to satisfy settlers who don’t follow Indigenous issues too closely, but vaguely know that some compensation is in order.

We believe that, in the background, reconciliation is low on the Canadian government’s list of priorities. At least, it is below economic gain. This has been evident in abundant clarity by the government’s response to recent protests by the Wet’suwet’en people and allies in British Columbia against the TransCanada Pipeline. We at The Concordian strongly stand with the Wet’suwet’en people and their protest against the pipeline being built on their territory.

A court order from Dec. 14, 2018 granted TransCanada an injunction that allows them access to the construction site and to remove the blockade, according to The Guardian. Dozens of protestors gathered on Jan. 7 to block the construction of the Coastal GasLink, a natural gas pipeline, which is a $40 billion project by TransCanada, according to CBC. The RCMP arrested 14 protestors at the pipeline blockade last week.

TransCanada has said that they have the support of Indigenous leaders along the proposed route. On Thursday, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs came to an agreement, after three days of meetings with the RCMP, but this is not a decision that reflects their true wishes. “We are adamantly opposed to this proposed project and that will never change, but we are here to ensure the safety of our people,” said Chief Na’Moks, who was present at the meetings, according to CBC.

We at The Concordian think it’s clear that this is another case of Indigenous Peoples’s voices being ignored. It’s another occurrence of Indigenous land being taken, despite laws and agreements being put in place to protect that very land. Trudeau himself stated multiple times during his campaign that he would not allow projects on Indigenous Peoples’s land without their explicit consent.

When we hear Trudeau bring up reconciliation and partnership between Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian government, we can’t help but feel skeptical. Constructing a massive pipeline on stolen land in the first place is wrong––how can our leader “work alongside” Indigenous Peoples while simultaneously taking what is rightfully theirs? It’s evident that there is not a clear and honest dialogue taking place. In fact, these recent events that have transpired highlight just how far we have left in order to truly reach reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Oftentimes, when we think of reconciliation, we only focus on the context of past colonial violence. These events are showing us that that is not enough––injustice towards Indigenous Peoples is not isolated to the past; it is ongoing.

Enforcing the submission of Indigenous Peoples to the interests of colonisers is in fact the reason that the RCMP was created in the first place. John A. MacDonald established the then-named North-West Mounted Police in 1873 to enforce laws created by the Department of Indian Affairs, such as confining Indigenous Peoples to reserves or outlawing their religious ceremonies. The RCMP’s website says their origins lie in “implementing the law in Canada’s newly acquired western territories.” Obviously, that’s not the whole story. In fact, one of the earliest tasks of the mounties was to help negotiate treaties with Indigenous Chiefs, getting them to sign by promising only good will––a promise that Indigenous Peoples soon saw was not, in fact, made in good will.

It’s no surprise that today, Indigenous Peoples are being coerced out of their land rights by our government in favour of highly valued (and highly toxic) construction projects. It would be foolish to trust the government to respect Indigenous rights—and beyond foolish to trust their supposed desire for reconciliation. This is why we at The Concordian commend the many protestors that are opposing the pipeline, and encourage you to stay informed about Indigenous issues and rights, and participate in direct action as much as possible.

Graphic by @spooky_soda



Whether or not violence can affect positive change

Understanding the place of violence and its usefulness in North American politics

Is violence an effective way of achieving systemic change in our society? This question has been one of particular interest to anyone involved in current North American politics.

The discourse of far-right and even mainstream media outlets have demonized the radical left for some of its recent approaches to political protests. Take for example Donald Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protest, in which he condemned the violence of Nazis and those who protested against them in the same breath.

For the record, violent leftist protestors are a much smaller group than the media would have us believe. According to The Atlantic, “of the 372 politically-motivated murders recorded in the United States between 2007 and 2016, left-wing extremists committed less than two per cent […] right-wing extremists committed 74 per cent.”

However, there is a valuable conversation to be had about the effectiveness of violence—ranging from the destruction of property to the physical harm of individuals—as a response to hateful groups on the extreme right. This article will mostly leave out the question of morality because I believe that pacifism under a state that supports systemic violence is at least as immoral as taking up arms against it. I will instead consider whether violence is an effective means of dismantling the oppressive systems and groups in society.

One positive effect of violence from the left is that it sends a message to hateful ideologies that they are unwelcome in society. This was seen on the UC Berkeley campus where student protesters prevented Milo Yiannopoulos, a British political commentator for the extreme-right, from speaking in February, and again only a month ago, led to the cancellation of a right-wing event.

The cancellation of extreme-right gatherings for fear of counter-protesters has become a trend in American politics lately, which, in my opinion, is likely sending an unwelcome message to both supporters and anyone susceptible to these ideologies.

In a foreword to political activist Ward Churchill’s essay, Pacifism as Pathology, Dylan Rodriguez, an author and political activist himself, pointed out that violence against “a toxic social order has life-affirming possibilities for disempowered people.” It has the power to show these people that the social order can indeed be challenged and that they have the power to do so.

Consider what is being asked of the dominant class in society, when we say that we want to “change the system,” or “overthrow the social order.” It’s calling for an end to systemic oppression and inequality, which would require those powerful groups to give up their dominance over disenfranchised groups. Rodríguez has claimed the goal of these powerful groups is to preserve their own power. In the contradiction between their goal to maintain all of their power, and activists’ goal of redistributing the power in society lies the need for violence. Pacifism only represents tolerance of the current social order.

There are, however, convincing arguments against the left’s tactical use of violence. First, it could cause others to associate the left with violence, resulting in a loss of support among the more mainstream, less radical public who are turned off by such behavior. Right-wing news sources love when the left acts violently, because they can use it to discredit the morals—and thus the politics—of the entire group.

Violence is a chaotic force, and it can be difficult to control and use productively. It is my opinion that violence, when it is excessive and not properly thought out, does more harm than good. It should be reserved for times when it will positively benefit political goals—as an exclamation point to political rhetoric that won’t be heard or properly addressed through other tactics.

Violence may also prove tactically effective when openly hateful groups are preaching their ideologies. In these instances, violence will positively associate the left with an ideology that will not tolerate racism. I think that if no one is listening to a particular political group, then violence can be the only way to be heard, thus it would be unwise to completely rule it out as a method.

The challenge lies in using violence infrequently enough that it continues to be taken seriously, doesn’t spiral out of control and doesn’t soil the reputation of the left. For me, the question of violence is not whether we should use it or not, but rather when.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


The right to learn comes before the right to free speech

Why universities should encourage developing knowledge-based opinions

I believe freedom of speech on college and university campuses should be limited when it jeopardizes academic endeavours. Academic institutions were originally intended to provide a wide understanding of the world through the lenses of the fields students were interested in. Research was mostly done to be able to understand certain phenomena, rather than to prove a certain ideology right or wrong.

This is where programs such as gender studies, First Peoples studies and exchange programs can be beneficial. When completed with academic rigor, they shed light on issues and perspectives that are unknown to those who don’t experience them firsthand.

As learners of the world, students should be exposed to as much knowledge as possible in order to take informed stances and develop thoughtful perspectives on various issues. I believe that advocates for free speech on university campuses often skip over another important right: the right to know as much as possible about a topic. The right to access information as free from censorship, bias and prioritization as possible before forming an opinion on a subject. However, the atmosphere of higher education has shifted to a more active and socially involved mindset which leads people to skip this first step that is necessary for them to form accurate and truthful opinions.

Universities have become a place where students can be more active about social issues and take on more significant roles inside the learning institution. For instance, the student strike in 2012 and the much earlier Concordia computer riots of 1969 proved it’s possible to apply physical force to disrupt classes and stop people from learning in order to demonstrate one’s political beliefs.

I fondly remember the first few times I entered the Hall building in the winter of 2016 and saw the big red and black CSU banners decrying tuition hikes and advocating for fossil fuel divestment. I was a new student at the time, and I felt intellectually too young to take a side. I needed to learn more about what was going on before I could jump on the bandwagon and express myself with words and slogans I’d feel comfortable standing by.

This is where the shift has occurred on college and university campuses. Students today form arguments on matters prior to considering all of the existing arguments and facts on the topic. I don’t think this is a positive change, as it makes it easier to disrupt people’s learning by creating tensions between those who hold opposite views. We must consider the possibility that many students advocate for ideas they hold as truths before they even fully understand what their message entails.

Most of us don’t take enough time to wonder why we hold certain opinions, as it just seems “obvious” that it’s the right one. Freedom of speech allows you to say what you believe, but what many forget is you first need to know whether what you want to say is, in fact, true.

This is where the rigor and methodology of academia comes in handy. In class, you need to cite evidence, formulate sound and logical arguments that stand together and, more importantly, you have to understand the opposite view.

I hope this won’t be forgotten as many more students use their freedom of speech to become involved in activism of all sorts. A new academic year is beginning at Concordia, and I know that many students will jump in the ring to advocate for certain issues that resonate with them.

I hope they won’t forget that Concordia means “harmony” in Latin. Even though no one will ever be satisfied with the level of free speech they are given on campus, hopefully we’ll all strive to create a harmonious place of learning with a safe and self-improving mindset.

Graphics by Alexa Hawksworth

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