Trans rights will not be erased

People in past years probably envisioned 2018 as a time where people fly spaceships, could teleport or, at the very least, print food—all of which could be considered as quite progressive. But we at The Concordian are sad to remind our readers that our current society is seemingly becoming more regressive than progressive. Just last week, our editorial challenged the CAQ’s religious symbol ban––a ban that prohibits freedom of religion, a basic human right under the Canadian and the Quebec Charters of Rights and Freedoms.

This week, we were stunned to learn that the Trump administration is restricting and stripping away the rights of transgender and nonbinary people. According to a report by The New York Times, Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is considering major changes to Title IX, “the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.” These major changes include defining gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable,” according to the same article.

The Obama administration took concrete steps in extending the rights and protections granted to transgender and nonbinary people in terms of education and health care, by allowing them to serve in the military and recognizing that gender is an individual’s choice rather than something strictly assigned at birth. The HHS’s policy wants to completely destroy this. It aims to define gender as binary, something that is unchangeable and assigned by the genitals one is born with. We at The Concordian believe these policies are transphobic and aim to erase the existence of transgender and nonbinary people in the U.S. This could have a catastrophic impact not only on those living in the U.S., but also others around the world.

The HHS’s policy also stated that anyone with disputes about their gender must use genetic testing to clarify any misconceptions. Using science, a field that has always been progressive and innovative, as a way to reinforce a backwards policy is ironic in its entirety. The memo detailing the policy also states that a person’s sex as listed on their original birth certificate is the one they must identify with, “unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

Almost 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender––these new policies would undo the rights they have been granted through the Obama administration, and would be another step towards erasing trans and nonbinary voices. The Human Rights Campaign—which is the U.S.’s largest civil rights organization advocating for LGBTQ+ equality—has demanded that the Trump administration not go forward with the proposal, as it will harm transgender people and put them in serious danger. It is integral to recognize trans and nonbinary people as those who deserve basic civil rights, equality and protection.

As we’ve seen throughout history, when an entire group of people are not given equal rights or are stripped of what little rights they do have, unrest ensues. We at The Concordian hope that everyone is as outraged at the Trump administration’s attempt to suppress transgender and nonbinary people as we are. We must remain vigilant in calling out the administration’s blatant disrespect for human rights.

In the past, the U.S. might’ve been seen as a progressive nation that boasted innovative leaders and creative thinkers. But the country’s recent actions prove this is not true; in fact, they go vehemently against the concept of progressiveness by creating policies that aim to disregard and oppress an entire group of people. While we may marvel at how far technology has come over the years and how innovative the Western world may seem, we cannot celebrate progression until our social policies also mirror this way of thinking.

Archive graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


How many migrants can the world manage?

Considering the concrete facts about migration, the United States’s actions don’t line up

In most of our lives, the topic of migration is usually accompanied by the word “crisis.” There is no denying that a growing number of environmental, political and economic factors are pressuring more people to displace themselves. However, I believe the world is entirely capable of supporting an increase in human movement. The reason why the current migration situation is labeled as a crisis is because of countless nations’s inability to manage their borders and have proper systems in place to effectively and safely regulate human movement.

Currently, the planet hosts about 7.4 billion people, of which only 245 million people are considered migrants, making up only 3.3 per cent of the world’s total population, according to the Pew Research Center. The current United States’s population is about 325 million, including more than 43 million immigrants, who account for 13.5 per cent of the country’s total population, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

The policies and institutional frameworks that allow immigrants to re-establish their lives elsewhere are easily controlled by a state’s regime and judicial system. A state that does not accommodate migrants directly affects the dire situation these people face, especially in terms of human rights. The current border crisis between the United States and Mexico is a pressing case that demonstrates systematic institutional failures.

I believe there is a pressing problem with a regime that consistently produces discourse about the threat immigrants pose to national security, job security and the national budget. It normalizes sentiments of hate and discrimination. It also allows for such norms to be condoned through actions, leading to a lack of recognition of inherent human rights.

Take, for example, the case of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unconstitutionally separating children from their parents. This was done without a proper framework in place to document adult migrants who were being detained. It led to an inability to reunite separated families. Additionally, there was no system to establish where these unaccompanied minors would be kept, and in most cases, the initial intent was to send the minors to foster care. Between April and May alone, almost 2,000 children were separated from their families, according to Vox, likely leading to intense emotional trauma for those separated.

The American justice system is also at the forefront of neglecting human rights, especially with regard to immigration. Immigration courts allow children, sometimes as young as three, to appear unaccompanied at their immigration proceedings. Let that sink in. Given the age of these children, it is certain they don’t have a basic comprehension of immigration law.

Given that the United States’s current immigration laws and systems are not only harmful but also clearly not supporting international human rights, the question that must be considered is: Why has this been allowed to evolve? A common response would be that the American people resent immigrants. However, many recent polls disprove this. Even in the midst of such harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric stemming from the current administration, multiple statistics show it has not affected Americans’ support of immigrants.

A recent Gallup poll found that fears of immigrants bringing crime, taking jobs from native-born citizens and damaging a country’s budget and overall economy are at an all-time low. Over 75 per cent of the respondents in 2018 believed immigration was a good thing for a country. The same poll also found that an overwhelming number of respondents believe immigrants are absolutely beneficial to the American economy. If this is the case and American citizens truly support immigrants, then why is the government not acting in the interests of its constituents?

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


Safety first? Our condom conundrum

Should student journalists be treated like any other professionals at a national conference?

Over the weekend, six delegates from The Concordian made their way to NASH: an annual conference for student journalists. Boasting speakers such as Peter Mansbridge, Lisa LaFlamme, Terry Milewski, Laurie Graham, Chris Jones and more, the conference—and subsequent JHM Awards—could be seen as a formal, professional event.

The black-tie formal wear of the gala would seem to say so, as would the long list of prestigious journalists. However, at its core, NASH is a conference for students: specifically, university students. With that in mind, can a “young professional” conference truly be professional at all?

The schedule included bar nights, and drinks were offered at all the meals and keynote addresses. The hashtag on Twitter (#nash77) seemed to hint more at tomfoolery than any kind of gravitas.

The deciding factor may have been hidden at the bottom of our welcome bags: two bright red, solitary condoms. These were also included in last year’s gift bags, paired with a few dental dams.

We readily admit that our masthead is divided. Was it appropriate to give condoms to university students at a “professional” conference?

On one hand, the conference was not intended for professionals; it was a student conference. And if you get a large gathering of university students together, at an event that has billed social events at bars, where everyone will be staying in one hotel, doesn’t it make sense to provide condoms? At best it’s a preventative measure, at worst, a tongue-in-cheek joke about the nature of college events.

At the same time, it could undermine the image of those who are attending the conference, and the conference itself. How can one expect the conference to be taken seriously if it includes sex items in loot-bags? Are these really young professionals ready to enter the workplace, or party-obsessed teenagers who still need a lesson on safe sex? Why would professional speakers come to a conference that is billed as the “hook-up” event of journalism—especially when organizers acknowledge that aspect so blatantly?

At what point are we students, doing what students naturally do, or young, professional journalists, deserving to be treated as such? There may not be a perfect middle ground; especially where sex is concerned.


Be prepared by knowing your rights

CSU’s legal information clinic organizes student information workshop

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) legal clinic organized a free know your rights event on Monday, Jan. 12, at The Hive Café situated on the downtown campus. The workshop was put in place to give students basic and necessary information about the rights of the average citizen vis-à-vis the police.

Subjects such as when to say no the police, what to do if detained and other general tips were addressed by the hosts of the event.

David Rovics opened the two hour long event with an intimate concert. Rovics is an internationally known indie musician known for the controversial topics he addresses in his songs.

Here’s a few basic principles shared at the event that could always be useful:

  • You don’t need to identify yourself. Only if you are arrested by the police (by the way, they should clearly state so, and if they don’t, you are strongly encouraged to ask if you are and why) should you give the following information: your full name, your complete address and your date of birth. Everything else is out of bounds.
  • Police can briefly detain you, but not for long. You should regularly ask them if you are still detained since they can’t hold you indefinitely.
  • You have the right to stay silent. It may seem a basic tip, but a lot of people rationalize that if you did not do anything bad, you should cooperate with the police. The thing is, you don’t need to and sometimes, just stating that you have nothing to tell them may make you avoid some unnecessary complications or further interrogations.
  • Film it! If you are involved in a police altercation, as the accused party or a witness, you should always try to film it or ask around to see if someone else did. The police may be frustrated by this practice, but it may also restrain them from doing certain things. You are supposed to have the right to film the police, even if they don’t like it.
  • They can’t go through your things. Police may ask you to look through your belongings, and may do so even if you don’t want them to. Still, in those cases you should be clear and state to the police that you don’t give them the right to do so. Even if they do search you, and hypothetically find something incriminating, further down the road you may be able to get out of trouble by showing that this was an illegal search.
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