This back to normal is… weird, right?

Going back to normal isn’t going to go as we expected

Is it just me, or does being back on campus feel weird to anyone else? Eighteen months of online school came to an end in the span of a week with little more than a new access card to mark the occasion. I don’t know what I was expecting; certainly not a marching band to parade down Sherbrooke St. to raise the Concordia flag over the Loyola campus, but a bit more than my professors saying “wow, Zoom sucked… anyway here’s the syllabus.”

It was the perpetual promise of this “back to normal” that helped me through some of the toughest moments of the pandemic. Now that I am living the life that was interrupted, it feels like at any moment I could look down and find the pen that I lost on the last day of in-person classes before Montreal entered its first lockdown — slightly dusty but otherwise in the same place I left it.

The influenza pandemic of 1918 was dubbed the “forgotten plague” because of how quickly it disappeared from public discourse afterwards. Historians aren’t certain as to the reason why people stopped talking about it. Possibly, pandemics were more common back then or news coverage focused more on the war than the flu. Maybe after living through four years of chaos caused by a world at war, they too were desperate for a return to normalcy.

100 years later, as the COVID-19 outbreak surpasses the 1918 influenza epidemic as North America’s deadliest pandemic, I catch myself slipping into this new collective form of self-induced amnesia. On a video call with my family, my mother asked me how many Concordians died from COVID-19 and I had to say that I didn’t know if any Concordians died. I doubted that Concordia would have the authority to disclose that information, but I checked their website regardless and couldn’t find anything.

It’s only with those closest to me in our most private and intimate conversations that keeps the pandemic from fading into memory. While on a walk, a friend grieved for her “lost year” and the experiences she missed out on and could never get back. Another, who had lost multiple family members in the second wave, cried over feeling guilty that he wanted the lockdown to end. After returning to the last place I saw the girl I was dating before the lockdown, I realized how angry and jaded this pandemic had left me.

I have heard this pandemic be compared to war, natural disaster, even religious reckoning. In my opinion, the best comparison is to the fable of the frog and the pot of boiling water. The fable states that if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water it will immediately jump out; but if you put it in cool water and then bring the pot to a boil, the frog doesn’t feel the changing temperature and boils alive.

Inversely, this pandemic threw us into a pot of boiling water and made us wait until it cooled. A lot of people died very quickly, and then gradually slightly fewer people died as time went on. Life moved forward with online classes and remote summer jobs. The curfew got pushed back and was eventually lifted. Social bubbles got bigger without us noticing. And along the way we forgot what it was like not to be boiling alive.


Photograph by Christine Beaudoin


Community groups demand release of migrant detainees following a COVID-19 outbreak at the Laval Immigration Holding Centre

One of the migrants at the centre has begun a hunger strike to protest inadequate health measures

Multiple migrant detainees at the Immigration Holding Centre (IHC) in Laval have contracted COVID-19, spurring community groups to call on the immediate release of all detainees for the migrants’ safety.

Due to the outbreak, one of the migrants who tested positive for COVID-19 began a hunger strike on Feb. 15 to protest against the conditions at the centre, according to Solidarity Across Borders (SAB), a community group in contact with multiple detainees at the centre.

Unsanitary conditions, inadequate COVID-19 protocol, and refusal to give proper healthcare to detainees — these are some of the allegations weighed against the IHC by SAB and one of the detainees, Marlon, who used a pseudonym to protect his identity.

While the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) spokesperson Rebecca Purdy said detainees who have tested positive are being held in solitary confinement, SAB member of the detention committee Simone Lucas claims all detainees on the men’s side are being held in solitary as a containment measure.

SAB receives all of their information through phone calls with detainees who are in isolation and cannot properly communicate with one another, which Lucas said is the reason why some of their figures are different from the CBSA. In a press release, SAB claimed four positive COVID-19 cases at the centre, while the CBSA claimed three cases since Feb. 15. To date, there are 15 migrants held in the Laval IHC, according to the CBSA.

Back in the spring of 2020, detainees organized a group hunger strike during the first wave of the pandemic, to protest being held in a closed environment, which made them more susceptible to contracting the virus. Some migrants were released following the eight-day hunger strike, and a media campaign by SAB.

“If the CBSA was able to release detainees in the spring we don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to release detainees this time around,” said Tanya Rowell Katzemba, a member of the detention committee at SAB.

During the first wave of the pandemic, the only confirmed COVID-19 case at the centre was a security guard. Rowell Katzemba thinks the situation now, with multiple migrants getting sick, means there is an even greater risk to their safety and wellbeing.

The higher risk of exposure to the virus comes from the staff who work at the centre, who regularly come and go, while migrants are detained in closed environments, according to the press release by SAB. Marlon agrees, and he says the situation at the centre is dire.

“In my experience, the worst thing that has happened to me in my life is to have fallen sick with COVID-19,” said Marlon in an interview with The Concordian. He said the precautions and care he has received at the Laval IHC are insufficient.

Marlon said that after testing positive, he was moved to a smaller room to quarantine, where the walls appeared to have spit spread on them, the bed was dirty, and the curtains were stained with blood. He successfully demanded to be moved, saying the centre’s cleaning measures were inadequate.

According to Marlon, deep cleaning at the centre amounts to surfaces being wiped down with a rag, with high-traffic touchable services like vending machines and water foundations rarely being cleaned. In the washroom detainees use, blood is smeared on the door from the inside, and mold grows on the shower curtains.

Marlon continued to state that multiple guards have taken off their masks while working at the centre, sometimes coughing and sneezing without a face covering. Staff do not socially distance, and instead have various points of contact between each other throughout their work day and during breaks, for example,  Marlon said he witnessed guards sharing cigarette lighters.

Personnel at the centre work in eight hour shifts, with around 12 to 20 employees coming and going from the IHC at a time, said Marlon. In the first week of February, he noticed one of the guards in the shared communal space exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms; they were coughing, had dark bags under their eyes, and appeared to have trouble breathing. 

Less than two weeks later, Marlon also tested positive for COVID-19, during which time he was scheduled to be deported from Canada. Due to his positive result, his deportation was postponed, conditional on a negative test result for COVID-19. In Canada, deportations resumed on Nov. 30, 2020, after having been paused due to the pandemic in March 2020.

The CBSA did not respond to questions regarding whether any personnel at the centre had contracted COVID-19.

The CBSA released a statement pertaining to cleaning measures at the centre.

“Since February 2020, several additional measures have been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the Laval IHC. These have been taken in response to directives put forward by health authorities and are reviewed several times a week as the situation continues to evolve.”

One of these measures was also to stop all visitations from the public. Marlon has not seen his wife and son who live in Montreal and whose refugee applications have been approved, since he was detained for lack of identification papers on Nov. 16, 2020.

At the centre, Marlon finds it ironic the guards are “treating them like lepers and keeping their distance,” while it was those very personnel who brought COVID-19 into the detention centre. While some of his symptoms have improved, Marlon said he has many headaches, and can only sleep facing up, for three hours at night.

Marlon has refused to be tested for COVID-19, saying if he tests negative, they will immediately deport him. Instead, he wants to make sure COVID-19 has left no long-lasting health issues, and has asked for a medical evaluation.

Since he became sick at the centre, he feels it is the responsibility of the health workers there to care for him.

“They don’t care how my body is doing or the state of my lungs,” he said. ”They just want me out of the way.”

While Montreal opened their first post-COVID-19 clinic earlier this month, Marlon said detainees at the holding centre are being denied follow-up care. He said he would not refuse deportation, but wants to know he has fully recovered from COVID-19, citing that this is now a human rights demand in the context of the pandemic.

He feels since the shelter cannot treat detainees humanely, it should be closed down. In the meantime, SAB will continue to pressure the government to release detainees at the Laval IHC.

“Treat us like humans,” said Marlon.


Translation for the interview with Marlon provided by SAB member Alonso Gamarra.

Graphic by @the.beta.lab


Montreal musicians share their ups and downs during this peculiar year

Most musicians feel constant pressure to be creative and make music. Montreal being in a red zone for almost two months now only adds more stress to the everyday lives of our local artists.

With performing not being an option, Montreal artists have been focusing on different goals during the pandemic. Taking care of themselves was necessary for them to later get back to creating music.

While this year hasn’t been a treat for everyone, it held many surprises for some artists who were able to get creative.

Minoe, a singer who has been living in Montreal for four years, experienced what she called a “huge shift” for her art, this year.

“I’ve been working on a lot of music,” Minoe said. “I started working with my favourite producer I ever worked with, Philippe Dionne, and I am making an album. So, I’m very excited.”

No dates have been set for her album’s release so far. But she released “SUEDE,” a collaboration with Fk Dame, last month.

Princelou Faragama, originally from Namibia, moved to Montreal in January. He has been focusing on creating music and gaining a fan base in Montreal.

With 2020 being something no one had expected, the 21-year-old said that when it comes to music, he follows a hunch and doesn’t like to do much planning.

“Planning is something that needs to be done sometimes,” said Faragama. “But other times, you just need to go with the flow and let things happen.”

Since his time in Montreal began, he has released five songs, including two with music videos. He said he will also be releasing an EP soon, titled BeforeTheFlexx.

On the contrary, Ariel Engle, also known as La Force, has been trying to savour this pause. Before the city was declared a red zone, she performed at POP Montreal, where a crowd of around 20 spaced out people were sitting and watching.

“It was very safe … but it was also hard to feel people,” she said. La Force is outgoing and social, which only makes it harder for her to feel like she can’t engage with people.

Although some artists are now releasing new music, it took some time to get over writer’s block. The pandemic has also taken a big toll on Montrealers’ mental health, which affected their everyday lives and creativity.

“Honestly, throughout the majority of the [first lockdown], I couldn’t write anything,” Minoe admitted. “I just didn’t feel inspired. I was also kind of frustrated with myself for not being creative because I felt like I had to be.”

Faragama also went through a similar period.

“I was feeling uninspired and disappointed in myself,” he said. “I had the feeling of just quitting music.” But, he said that when he listened to the “Myself” beat, it reminded him of how far he had gotten.

La Force explained that she’s been trying to make a record since November 2019 but had to delay it a few times because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“There’s been a lot of starting and stopping,” she said. “But it’s coming.”

While it can’t be denied that 2020 has been a difficult year, it still taught everyone something. Whether it’s how to be alone, as Minoe said, or how to be confined with family, it taught everyone to be grateful for what they have.

Minoe said she’s most grateful for her friends and for meeting Dionne, her producer. She’s also grateful for her cat, whom she called her “little emotional support animal.”

Faragama is grateful for everyone around him, especially his friend and producer, Thomas Quinn, also known as DESOLATEXISTENCE.

“So far, he’s the only one who’s helped me out,” he said. “He helped me get to know the country and to record my music. I’m grateful for every moment, every second of every day.”

La Force thinks this year is an interesting time to experience life without feeling everything is immediate. “There’s this parallel version of life right now, where everything is actually really slow and out of time,” she said. “I’m trying to savor this pause as much as possible because I’m fortunate enough to be able to pause.”

This year allowed artists to take a break from music and from life as they knew it, and to take care of themselves.

“I feel like I needed that break, to recuperate and figure out how I felt about it, and now I have an album on the way,” Minoe concluded. “So, I think I just needed a little bit more time.”


Graphic by @the.beta.lab

News Uncategorized

Montreal back in “orange zone” as COVID-19 cases climb

After a spike in COVID-19 cases, Montreal takes precautions

On Sunday, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced that due to the rise in COVID-19 cases — 462 on Sunday, the highest number since May — Montreal, Quebec City and other surrounding “orange zones” are being asked to respect stricter COVID restrictions.

“The number of cases is increasing, outbreaks are multiplying and our capacity to treat the sick is decreasing,” said Dubé in a press conference Sunday. This means many things for the day-to-day operations of Montrealers:

  • Indoor gatherings are limited to six people at a time, down from 10. More than six people may gather if they come from two families or less.
  • Bars and restaurants are to stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. rather than 12 a.m., and must close at 12 a.m. rather than 1 a.m. A maximum of six people may be seated at the same table, also down from 10.
  • Outdoor gatherings are down from 250 to 50 people across most of the province. Orange zones, like Montreal, are down to 25 people.

What this means: stay home! Now is not the time for going out and catching up. Social distancing is more important now than ever if we want to avoid confinement.

Horacia Arruda, a Quebec health public officer, added at the press conference, “I don’t want to be in a bad situation (at) Christmastime because we haven’t done what we’re supposed to do.”

Graphic by @sundaeghost


Concordia Stingers still unsure about what the next year will bring

Coaches and players remain positive that sports will be played in 2020-21

Concordia University announced earlier this month that the upcoming fall semester will be online. The official statement from the university specified that exceptions will be made for activities requiring  hands-on practice, but didn’t discuss the future of their sports teams for the 2020-21 seasons.

It’s not clear if university sports will be played in the fall, as many questions are still unanswered. Even though the fall semester will be online for many students in the province, university sports could still be played depending on the decisions of U SPORTS and the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ).

However, a scenario where U SPORTS and the RSEQ would let the play go on wouldn’t automatically mean that the Concordia Stingers would play at Concordia Gym, Concordia Stadium or the Ed Meagher Arena. Montreal is currently Canada’s hot spot for confirmed COVID-19 cases, which could force the Stingers to play elsewhere during the pandemic.

Stingers coaches and players haven’t received more information since last week’s statement, but are still confident there will be a 2020-21 season. Tenicha Gittens, head coach for the women’s basketball team, believes having classes online in the fall will help ensure sports can be played during the next school year.

“Our players are in constant contact, as they go to class, travel from one place to the other, and play basketball,” Gittens said. “By having classes online, it eliminates many of those physical contacts between our players and other people.”

On the men’s side, head basketball coach Rastko Popovic said sports will need to follow what experts say.

We might have a full season, or perhaps a shortened season,” Popovic said. “I think it will also depend on what other provinces or schools do. It sometimes takes one school to do something, and the others follow.”

On the women’s hockey team, forwards Audrey Belzile and Emmy Fecteau said the hockey equipment used, such as the full visor for the women, should help avoid skin-to-skin contact.

“We probably won’t start in September as usual, but I think it’s still possible,” Belzile said. “It will be my last season, so it’s tough and sad to think I might have [already] played my last university game without knowing it. Yet, there are still many months before the start of the season, so I’m optimistic.”

Fecteau said it’s been hard to conclude last season without the traditional galas and team gatherings. She explained that players didn’t have time to say goodbye to each other.

“It would be too sad if the players couldn’t play their final year, and finish their university career that way,” Fecteau said.

Basketball player Olivier Simon is among those playing their last season in 2020-21. The veteran forward, who graduated at the end of the winter semester in 2019, said that with the current COVID-19 situation, he’s considering skipping next season, if there is one, and coming back for 2021-22.

“I’d have the chance to play a full season, with preseasons, tournaments and possibly nationals,” Simon said. “It’s a big decision I’ll have to make because I don’t want to end my career with a half-season and without tournaments. Yet, it’s also a tough one, as we don’t know what’s the future going to be like right now. On the academic side, I have to look at the best options. I might look for a master’s degree or something more concrete.”

The Stingers are using what many students and teachers have been using since confinement: Zoom. Coaches and players are using the communication platform each week for their meetings.

With Zoom, the ‘share screen’ button allows you to show other people in your chat what’s on your computer or cellphone screen. Popovic said his staff shares training videos to help their players stay active the best way they can from home.

We have players elsewhere in Canada and the world,” Popovic said. “We understand that some are having tougher times than others, and we are simply doing our best to help them during this difficult time.”

For men’s basketball player Sami Jahan, who recorded 147 points in his first season with the Stingers in 2019-20, it’s frustrating to look forward to a season that may not happen. However, he said that on the whole, there are things so much worse than not playing sports right now.

“For me, it’s just [important] to be patient, and to keep working on my basketball,” Jahan said. “Even as you’re training, it’s about continuing to be positive, and believing that good things will come.”

Rugby, soccer and football teams are the Stingers teams that normally play exclusively in the fall, while hockey and basketball have calendars covering both semesters. Due to the current situation, sports played in the fall could end up playing their full 2020-21 season in the winter, while those with longer calendars could be forced to play shortened seasons.






Photo from archive – by Andrej Ivanov (2015)


Take a nap, we’ll deal with this tomorrow

As a collective society, we are not used to moving slowly. Productivity is often linked to our self worth, and why wouldn’t it be? After all, economic gain and capitalist success relies on constant production and consumption.

This being said, it should be no surprise that when an obnoxiously large stop sign has halted the world, it causes stress and panic. Many think, I can’t go to work? My dentist appointment is cancelled? Well, I better start training for a marathon. I won’t let this quarantine be the thing to slow me down.

Between workout videos, working from home and non-essentials being closed, lies a lot of uneasiness. The solution to this feeling is not necessarily to start a new project, publish that research paper you never had time to finish, or get to your push-up max.

Let me assure you that taking time to feel your angst is not wasted time. We are so scared to sit with our feelings, because we have never taken the time to do it before.

That’s why tools like meditation and mindfulness have found themselves to be so useful in the westernized world in 2020. They bring about clarity if we let them, which is not easy. In the podcast Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris, Meditation teacher, Dt. Jay Michaelson says that medication, “can help you be free-er from panic, more able to protect yourself, and more in touch with your own inner wisdom and resilience.”

Now, I can sit here in front of my laptop, and tell you that I haven’t felt guilty skipping my run today, shortening an online yoga class and eating a chocolate bar. I can tell you that I am fully embracing my own stresses and have learned to feel my feelings in my body, but I’d be lying.

We are all operating at least a ten percent higher stress level than normal. There is a constant strain on our energy that wasn’t there before. We have to understand that this makes our bodies tired, and we can’t expect to be 100 per cent ourselves.

Psychologist Dr. Luana Marques also adds on the podcast, “Anxiety has an inverse relationship with performance. Up to a point, the more anxious you get, the more performance you have. There is a point, a tilting point, though, that too much anxiety affects anything that we’re doing. So we can’t think critically. We get stuck. We start to get more anxious.”

We need to work together and find a balance between distracting ourselves from the upsetting world events, and feeling the stress. The space between panic and numbness might be a big part of the solution.

This is a process. We have to rewire our capitalistic brains to understand that it’s okay to be still and it’s also okay to not be productive.

Now excuse me while I finish my art project, wash my dishes, over-water my plants and lay on the floor, I’m very busy. 


Graphic by Sasha Axenova


COVID-19: reality or over-exaggeration?

It seems as though most people want to know what is happening where they live concerning COVID-19.

In times like these, the media plays a major role in keeping citizens informed.  However, some people, often ones who believe in irrational conspiracy theories, claim the media is exaggerating to scare the public. Others take advantage of this time of crisis to share false information and create more panic.

Journalists have been, and always will be, judged no matter what they do. If they report on COVID-19, they’re only making things worse and contributing to the panic. But if they don’t, they’re hiding something.

A journalist’s main purpose is to share the truth. And while some people might argue that what the media is saying is false, I would say that as long as they have enough proof to back up their claims, it’s the truth—at least for now. For example, there have been claims that COVID-19 was designed in either the United States or in China. There is no proof verifying the claims. We should only be trusting fact-checked information.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier François Legault hold daily press conferences to keep the public up to date on the COVID-19 situation, both in terms of its spread and in terms of measures to slow it. In my opinion, if they are doing this it’s because this is what citizens want. Besides, even if you don’t want to trust the media, don’t you think you should at least trust your government?

This is a rhetorical question, as I know some would say no.

Take my father as an example. My whole life, I have never seen him watch Canadian news as much as he does now. Every day, he turns on the TV and watches Trudeau and Legault live, then watches Radio-Canada in the evening, because he wants to know how the situation is evolving. It’s during these times of crisis that people need the media the most.

A Concordia University student, Hershey Blackman, created a public Facebook group called MTL Coronavirus on March 13, the day Legault announced that schools, CEGEPs and universities would be closing for at least two weeks.

Blackman explained that he thought it was important for people to have a place to “connect with each other,” and share information about the coronavirus, their feelings, as well as memes, to stay entertained. Every day, there are around 50 new posts, which shows that people on social media want to talk about the virus, whether it’s by discussing their concerns or posting funny memes.

This is another reason why we absolutely need to be careful with the information we see and share. Most people want to know what’s happening, and some are even willing to click on any link including the word “coronavirus” and share it. Always check the source’s credibility.

There have been many cases of false information circulating in reference to the virus—such as a French man who posted a 25-minute video explaining how he thinks COVID-19 was created back in 2004. Radio-Canada confirmed that what he published was false information.

A family doctor from New York City, Mikhail Varshavski, discussed on his YouTube channel how some news outlets and television networks are presenting facts in a manner that scares people. For example, National Geographic published an article titled “Here’s what coronavirus does to the body,” in which, as Varshavski noted, the writer tends to use scary sentences followed by more rationalized explanations.

For this reason, I think people should trust the media, as journalists continue to work hard to report on the situation. Some people will listen and some won’t, it’s that simple. Just like some people have been taking all the possible precautions, staying in quarantine and respecting social distancing, while others are still gathering in groups and leaving their homes unnecessarily.

I think the Montreal Gazette has been doing a very good job of presenting unbiased facts without inflicting anxiety and panic.

While it is a time of fear and anxiety, we must stay cautious about where we get information from. So in the meantime, stay home if you can, FaceTime your friends and family and get your news from credible sources.


Student Life

The art of being single: Being okay with being alone

You know when you see family or family friends literally at any time of year and they ask if you have a significant other? And you always tell them no, you do not? How about when you use the fact that you’re busy and growing your career to mask the possibility that you might end up single forever? What about when they finally stop asking because, like you, they also probably came to that same conclusion or they noticed that their questions drove you mad?

Great, glad we’ve all suffered through the same experiences. 

I have come to terms with the fact I will probably only find the love of my life when I’m 32-years-old and thriving in my career, with a nice place to live and plenty of plant and fur babies. I have also come to terms with the fact that, in the meantime, I will probably go through many MANY more failed talking stages, a bunch of heartbreaking “seeing each other” stages and likely a few “I thought this would be it” relationships. 

But the thing I have come to terms with the most is all the intermediary moments where I’ll be alone. 

How many of you, of us, can fully say we’re happy and alright with being alone? With living our lives alone for however long that may be? With not being dependent on someone else? With enjoying our own company and doing things for us and us only, for personal, creative, career growth? While I don’t consider myself perfect in this regard, I’m proud of the growth I’ve had in the last year. I’ve definitely become more comfortable being by myself and I genuinely enjoy it most days.

If that’s not you, there’s nothing like a global pandemic requiring us to practice social distancing and self-isolation with our thoughts for days—weeks!—on end to teach you how to be okay with being alone if you aren’t already. During this quarantine time, practice being okay with being alone. Don’t think of the potential next person you could date once we get out of this situation; don’t try to flirt with every Twitter mutual in hopes of landing one of them as your significant other; don’t search on dating apps for the love of your life.

Practice social distancing and practice emotional stability ON YOUR OWN. 


Graphic by Loreanna Lastoria

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