Advocacy group’s open letter starts debate over security cameras in gender-neutral facilities on campus

Concordia’s gender advocacy group has garnered a lot of support online and is looking to make a tangible impact on campus

On Nov. 1, independent 2SLGBTQIA+ advocacy group, ConU Against Gender&Queer Violence (CAGQV), initiated an open letter to remove security cameras installed in gender-neutral washrooms across Concordia’s Sir George Williams campus. Multiple queer student organizations have since given their support to the CAGQV’s open letter. However, certain members are not in accordance with the removal of security cameras.

The group, which began as an Instagram page, believes that the presence of security cameras in gender-neutral washrooms compromises the safe environment these spaces could provide. In a statement released on their social media, the advocates argue that such surveillance perpetuates anti-trans rhetoric and violates student privacy. 

Steve Kalaydjian, Concordia student and member of CAGQV spoke on the inappropriateness of the measure. “The fact that people are, you know, surveying what could happen implies that some are assuming something inappropriate could happen, which is simply not the case.”

Clara Belzile, Concordia student and member of CAGQV, claimed that no empirical evidence supported the installation of security cameras in these washrooms. They believe the lack of cameras in gendered bathrooms are indicative of biases against certain users with queer identities. 

The advocacy group has proposed a list of demands pertaining to accessibility and usability of gender-neutral bathrooms and certain other facilities across campus. The demands include installing disposal bins for menstrual products in inclusive bathrooms, gender-neutral washroom signage and gender-neutral changing rooms. 

“When it comes to creating a safe space, other universities in the greater Montreal area have done it,” Kalaydijan said.

The open letter is currently posted on the group’s social media for those who wish to support their efforts. Kalaydjian said group members are willing to discuss matters further with student groups and Concordia’s administration.  

“The idea was that this could reassure certain people who may not be comfortable using that space [gender-neutral washrooms].” said Darren Dumoulin, director of Campus Safety and Prevention Services. “I don’t want to give people the impression that somebody’s sitting there and watching. That’s not what’s happening.”

Dumoulin sympathizes with members of CAGQV, he stated that the intention behind the cameras was rooted in prevention above anything else and isn’t meant to render certain groups on campus uncomfortable. He referred to an incident which occurred in a gender-neutral bathroom at the Hive Cafe involving a male student photographing students without their consent. This would set the precedent for the installation of security cameras in inclusive washrooms. 

However, there haven’t been any outstanding incidents since the construction of gender-neutral facilities. Dumoulin claimed that there is no assured way to say if the security cameras are in fact a preventative factor. 
According to Genevieve Leblanc, administrative coordinator of Queer Concordia, members of their group collectively agree with the CAGQV advocacy group’s demands, but not the removal of security cameras. Otherwise, member opinions are split.

“I fully believe it’s really a question of safety, to implement a balance since everyone can go in there,” Leblanc said. “I think the school put them there just to prevent something bad, not to hurt any student.”

If any student wishes to air their grievances with gender-neutral facilities, Dumoulin recommends attending meetings of the recently established Campus Safety Advisory Group. Group meetings are attended by members of various student associations along with the Concordia Student Union (CSU).

“If there’s anything to be said, we’re open to having a discussion around it. I don’t want people to think that it’s a done deal, or it’s closed. Seeing what can be done or explaining what and how it’s being used—it’s really important,” Dumoulin said.


What makes Molotov cocktails on a weekday night worthy for a journalist?

In the pursuit of finding the answer to journalistic woes, I was reminded why I am here

Patricia Mukhim, an investigative journalist and the editor of The Shillong Times was greeted with a gasoline-filled Molotov cocktail at her house on April 17, 2018 in Meghalaya, India. She had been reporting on illegal limestone mining in the northeastern hilly state with a fragile ecosystem.

Raman Kashyap, a freelance investigative journalist at Sadhana TV, Uttar Pradesh, India, was at first declared missing and later found dead on Oct. 4, 2021. He was covering the ongoing farmer protests where a vehicle of an official allegedly ran over protesters.

I could have brushed these examples off as anomalies in the vast profession that is journalism. But the stats didn’t support me either. In Reporters Without Borders’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index that ranks nations according to their press freedom and safe reporting laws, India ranked 142 among 180 countries. This calls out a crisis in Indian journalism, the very crisis I decided to be a part of.

These events and stats made it really hard for me to convince my dad to fund my journalistic interests. Like any Indian father, he too was religiously following the loud news debates, atrocious insensitive headlines, clickbait thumbnails and shameful coverage of what is now merely labelled news. He politely asked me to choose something else to pursue.

When I first shared my intentions to still pursue journalism, the immediate response was a shocking “Why?” followed by a big “No.” My loved ones were worried about my safety — and it was a valid fear. They knew I would be too ambitious to cover a mere puff piece instead of a scandal. Thankfully, I convinced them.

Once travel restrictions around the world were lifted, I flew thousands of kilometres from Hyderabad, India to Montreal to study journalism. I hoped that it would give me a global perspective on the respected profession.

Soon after arriving, I luckily came across an investigative article by Ricochet Media, which reported on police brutality in Montreal against student journalists during a protest. The Canadian Association of Journalists also published a press release condemning multiple attacks on journalists and reporters covering protests in Montreal and Quebec City. They requested police to take action against the attackers.

What I learned from instances like this is that the world views journalists and our profession as something to be restricted, disrespected, and controlled with an iron hand no matter the continent.

Why do these journalists keep going back to the field, back to their newsrooms, back to reporting and investigating just to be shoved around, arrested and even killed? Why am I still here writing for newspapers and looking for events to report on? It is because journalism is a powerful profession — one that I want to be a part of.

My presence as a media person suddenly made people around me self-aware of what they said and did. That was something to take pride in. It’s crazy to think that I, a student journalist who just started her classes, am already making people nervous. It was this power of journalism that still drives me and convinced my loved ones to support me.

Journalism is founded on the efforts made to seek the truth, and I believe that the profession derives its power from this truth.

Truth-seeking is also one of the founding pillars of freedom of the press. In the same way, the makers of the Indian Constitution included freedom of speech and expression as some of the fundamental rights for its citizens, with a few press or media exceptions.

But where do we draw the line in our reporting, when it doesn’t guarantee complete truth?

Some journalists get hit with death threats and “sedition” cases for digging deep or getting closer to a hidden truth. However, those who spread and propagate falsified truths remain unaffected.

The reason behind those who benefit from fabricating truth being unharmed is complex. When the truth is being weaponized, fabricated and projected from behind a shroud of imagined righteousness, those holding the weapon are not harmed, nor those who fixed the targets. I could be at the right place trying to debunk false news at the wrong time and become an easy target in this chaos. Now, I understand the collective concern and worry my friends and family had for me and my professional choices.

In the wake of all this, what is journalism fighting for? For the truth that is losing its sanctity? For righteousness that is constantly maligned? For an ultimate value that can never be achieved? No. Journalism fights for change.

Mukhim’s reporting moved the local government to make amendments to licensing limestone mining. This was a partial win as the illegal and environmentally harmful extraction of the locally abundant material hasn’t stopped. But neither will she.

Efforts of journalists like Kashyap, along with many local farmers, enabled change. They covered different angles of the farming laws, collected reasons for the dissent, debunked fake rumours for over a year, and finally led the government to annul the new farming laws.

Hope that change can be achieved, even in part, pushes journalists to keep going against the odds. It inspires young journalists like me to take up this profession so that in every article I write, I am able to push the wheel of change, one millimetre at a time.

It is great to witness journalism striving for noticeable changes and generating value for itself by overcoming the negative effects of the actions of some of its own, seeking truth, and hopefully being safe to practice. Until then, cheers to Molotov cocktails on weekday nights.


Photo by Christine Beaudoin

Student Life

Slice of Life: Peeing in peace

It shouldn’t be so hard to make washrooms gender-neutral on campus

Ah, gender-neutral washrooms: so controversial (sigh), yet so simple. News flash! Everyone has a gender-neutral washroom in their home, and everyone deserves access to a facility that suits their needs. But the call for more gender-neutral washrooms goes far beyond that. It’s about advocating for the right to feel safe in a washroom—a right cisgender people often don’t think about.

Many ideological and physical constructs of society, right down to the way washrooms are designed, exclude many LGBTQ+ members. Non-binary people having to choose between ticking off ‘male’ or ‘female’ on certain forms; trans people having to choose which washroom to use—or choose to not use the washroom altogether—are all examples of these exclusionary structures.

D.T, a trans advocate and public educator for the Centre for Gender Advocacy, said it’s hard to pinpoint the exact number and location of accessible gender-neutral washrooms across the Concordia campuses. “I also have a problem with ‘single-stalled’ washrooms in general,” said D.T. “Why do we have to exclude ourselves, and further isolate ourselves?”

Ella Webber, a trans student at Concordia, said they found a list of gender-neutral washrooms on the Centre for Gender Advocacy website. It also has information about other resources available to trans and non-binary students, both at Concordia and around Montreal. “Concordia never mentioned that in [the] orientation which I went to,” said Webber. D.T. explained that the list on the centre’s website hasn’t been updated since 2016 and doesn’t account for construction on campus that may bar accessibility. “I think at orientation we should be notified about Concordia’s queer facilities like [the centre] and their resources,” said Webber. “When I do find [gender-neutral washrooms] it’s super helpful, and so much more comfortable for me as a trans person.”

Personally, I know there are single-stalled gender-neutral washrooms on the Loyola campus on the second floor of the CC building, in the Hive Café, and in the basement of the CJ building. D.T. informed me that, in the H building on the downtown campus, Reggies bar, the other Hive Café, plus the 5th, 7th and 10th floors, all have gender-neutral washrooms as well (although, due to construction on the 7th floor, the washroom is currently inaccessible—same goes for the VA building).

D.T. and the centre described the H building as extremely problematic in terms of accessibility, one of the reasons being that many of the single-stalled gender-neutral washrooms in the building are shared with wheelchair users. This means they are only accessible with an access code or key provided by the security desk on the first floor (not where the washrooms are). Trans and non binary students not only have to locate the gender-neutral washrooms that are actually open on all of three floors in the Hall building (total number of floors is 12), and plan to get the necessary key or access code, but, after all that, once at the security desk, they may be asked to justify their needs to the security officer. “They run the risk of being outed and asked intensive questions,” she said. “It’s super shitty.”

D.T. met with Andrew Woodall, the Dean of Students, a few months ago to communicate the centre’s goals—both short and long-term—for the gender-neutral washrooms project. Short term, they would like to see three types of washrooms: an all-gender washroom available to everyone, trans or not, regardless of their gender identity and expression; a men’s washroom for men, male-identifying or transmasculine persons; and a women’s washroom for women, female-identifying or transfeminine persons, explained D. T.

Long term, the centre would like all washrooms to be gender-neutral, thus “respecting everyone’s right to choose the washroom that is appropriate for them.” While Woodall was very supportive of the centre’s project and their demands, he said these changes would take time. “The centre is not satisfied with this response,” said D.T. She also explained how something as simple as changing signage to actually indicate whether a washroom is gender-neutral helps increase accessibility and awareness. “We don’t want only promises,” she said. “We would like the university to put a concrete plan in place to get us to our goal.”

I’m a big fan of the ‘my rights end where your rights begin’ logic, so let’s talk privilege for a second. Do you navigate your days thinking about where the next available and safe washroom is? Do you mediate your liquid intake so you don’t have to go as frequently? If you answered ‘no’ to the above, I’d suggest rethinking the privilege—yes privilege—you have of simply using a washroom. Everyone should be able to pee in peace.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Updated on Jan. 9. 2024

In the original version of the article, one of the two sources was named fully. One of the sources has since requested to be left anonymous.


Pacioretty’s hit changed the NHL’s safety measures

Seven years after the infamous incident, hits to the head have decreased

On March 8, 2011, Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty lay motionless on the Bell Centre ice, as 21,000 fans in the arena and thousands more watching on television looked on in shock.

Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara slammed Pacioretty head-first into a metal stanchion separating the two benches, fracturing then-22-year-old Pacioretty’s fourth cervical vertebra and giving him a concussion. Even though Chara received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for interference, the National Hockey League (NHL) did not discipline Chara any further.

Following the league’s announcement not to suspend Chara—who went on to win the Stanley Cup that year, while Pacioretty didn’t play again for the rest of the season—many people began to question the NHL’s commitment to player safety. Just two days after the incident, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: “I am very concerned about the growing number of very serious injuries […] I don’t think that’s good for the game, and I think the league’s got to take a serious look at that for its own sake,” according to the CBC.

At the turn of the decade, the NHL was not a safe league for players. Former Bruins forward Marc Savard suffered a concussion when Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins hit him with a blind-side shoulder-to-head hit on March 7, 2010. Cooke was not suspended, while Savard missed the rest of the regular season and 23 games to start the 2010-11 season. Savard’s career ended when he suffered another concussion in January 2011.

Also in January 2011, superstar Sidney Crosby was a victim of a shoulder-to-head hit from David Steckel. Four days later, he received a hit-from-behind from Victor Hedman. Crosby missed the remaining 41 games of the season, and only played 22 games the following season.

The reaction to the Pacioretty-Chara incident was a culmination of multiple serious head injuries in the NHL. Fans and league sponsors had seen enough. According to the Toronto Star, Air Canada wrote a letter threatening to remove sponsorship, “unless the NHL takes immediate action with serious suspension to the players in question to curtail these life-threatening injuries.”

Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson was the first executive in the NHL who tried to implement action.

“Our organization believes that the players’ safety in hockey has become a major concern, and that this situation has reached a point of urgency,” Molson wrote in an open letter to fans on March 10, 2011. “Players’ safety in hockey must become the ultimate priority and the situation must be addressed immediately.”

Molson and the NHL implemented change soon after. Before the 2011-12 season, every arena in the league installed rounded glass near the benches, removing all stanchions like the one Pacioretty hit. At the Bell Centre, there used to be a pane of glass separating the benches, connected to glass on top of the boards. The corner of the two panes of glass was where Pacioretty got hit, and both panes were removed at the end of the season.

The NHL’s department of player safety started giving stricter suspensions for hits to the head, with 13 illegal head contact suspensions ranging from three to 25 games in the 2011-12 season. In the 2013-14 season, there were 14 head contact suspensions lasting between two and 10 games, with nine in 2014-15, seven in 2015-16 and five last season.

In October 2016, the NHL also implemented a concussion protocol. An independent spotter watches games and notifies the officials if a player is showing concussion-like symptoms. The player is then removed from the game to undergo an evaluation, and cannot return to play unless he passes the evaluation.

In the seven years since the Chara hit on Pacioretty, player safety in the NHL has changed quite a bit, and for the better. Sometimes, there has to be some bad before the good.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth.


How to stay safe, warm as a cyclist in the winter

The weather is changing, but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid bike paths

Now that stores have started playing Christmas music, the arrival of winter is inevitable. Don’t let cool temperatures and flurries signal the end of your cycling season. Pedalling around in the bitter cold and snow can actually be a good time.

Yet, before heading out into the great white north, there are a few factors to consider. A good way to ruin winter cycling for yourself is by being underdressed and underprepared. Following a few simple steps will help you avoid frosty misery.

Dressing properly is the foundation of winter fun on your bike. Fingers and toes are the first to freeze on a cold day, so pay particular attention to gloves and socks. A wind and waterproof glove with an insulated liner is the ideal choice but can be expensive. A frugal alternative is to wear nitrile or latex disposable gloves underneath any winter glove, as they provide a fairly resilient waterproof layer.

Thick socks are a no-brainer for staying warm, but don’t go overboard. A tight shoe will feel colder than one that doesn’t constrict your foot, regardless of how cozy the socks are. I have the best luck with a pair of regular socks underneath thick wool ones. The army surplus stores on St-Laurent Street sell the classic red-striped wool numbers at an affordable price.

Rosey red cheeks may be cute, but they hurt when pedaling around the city on your bike. So wrap up your face. A cycling balaclava is a good investment, as it is breathable and provides great coverage from wind and snow. A frugal alternative is to use a cheap neck gaiter that’s long enough to pull up over your ears and around your face. Whatever you wear, make sure it is thin so that the fit of your helmet is not compromised.

Layering keeps me comfiest on a chilly day. A bunch of thinner shirts and sweaters under a windproof jacket feels warmer than a big, puffy parka, especially on a bike. Also, the mobility of thinner layers is a huge plus when cycling in challenging conditions. By wearing multiple layers, you can regulate your warmth. As soon as you start sweating, it’s going to be really tough to stay warm. Having wet clothing in sub-zero temperatures means you’re going to get really cold. Layering is a great way to avoid this frosty fate, as you can remove certain pieces of clothing when you start getting warm.

When it comes to your bike, it’s best to make sure that it’s durable and comfortable. Buying a new set of brake pads is a great way to welcome the winter. While a wet chain lubricant might make a bit of a mess, it’s worth it because your chain will stay protected from salty road spray. It is also super helpful to spray your bike down with WD-40—a common and cheap penetrating oil—after every sloppy, winter ride as the spray displaces water and stops your bike from rusting.

Riding in the snow is challenging, but you can set your bike up for success. Lower your seat a little bit so it’s easier to put your feet down if you’re in deep snow. If you don’t have big, knobby winter tires, it doesn’t mean the snow is impassable. Take a little bit of air pressure out of your tires, especially the front one, for a little more grip. Lastly, pedal in an easy gear. Having your feet spin around with little resistance means your back wheel is less likely to slip.

Enjoy the snow and bundle up, because Montreal is a great city for cycling in the winter. The Maisonneuve bike lane is plowed daily, and most smaller lanes are sanded to keep the road’s grip. Make use of a city that supports winter cycling, and enjoy it.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth 


Cycling safely down busy city streets

Highlighting the ways cyclists can feel more comfortable riding in Montreal

It terrifies me to read about a cyclist getting killed in Montreal. I ride my bike everyday. Actively dodging car doors and avoiding vehicles turning right without signaling make it crystal clear how easily a daily ride could be my last.

Unfortunately, it all went wrong for a 61-year-old cyclist on Sept.14 when she was hit and killed by a school bus, according to CTV News. This tragedy reignited calls to increase the number of bike paths in Montreal, many of which were established after a series of fatal cycling accidents in the summer of 2016. News outlets like CBC ran stories highlighting the dangers of cycling in Montreal, citing studies showing rising cyclist fatality rates and running interviews bemoaning the current state of the city’s bike lanes.

Here’s what most outlets didn’t mention.

Over the past eight years, the number of cyclists in Montreal has increased by 50 per cent, according to Vélo Quebec, a non-profit organization that collects cycling information. One million Montrealers ride their bikes at least once a week, according to the same source. This spike in cyclists inevitably leads to more deaths and injuries, a correlation explained by an SPVM official in a CBC article covering the incidents during summer of 2016.

Blaming recent cyclist deaths on a lack of infrastructure is not fair or accurate. Since 2009, Montreal’s total kilometres of bike lanes has grown from 90 km to 750 km, according to City Lab, a digital news organization. Montreal has the most bike lanes separated by a median of any Canadian city, as well as the longest on and off road bike paths in the country, according to a report by the non-profit think tank, the Pembina Institute. As cycling infrastructure expands, so does the interest in cycling… and the frequency of cyclist accidents.

Instead of the cycling community focusing on what they don’t have, Montreal cyclists should make the most of current bike lanes to ensure they stay safe. The best person to ensure your safety is you. Riding a bike is a method of transportation, a way to socialize and a whole lot of fun. By choosing to cycle, you choose to better your health, see the world around you and usually get to your destination faster than you would using public transportation.

However, this choice involves accepting and addressing the risks of cycling in a metropolitan area. Not that these risks are particularly high: for every 100,000 cycling trips in Montreal, two result in an accident, according to the Pembina Institute report.

I’m not a perfect cyclist, but I’ve been cycling daily for seven years in both Toronto and Montreal and have yet to be involved in an accident. Below are some techniques I feel have kept me safe and happy on the roads.

Being able to ride with one hand allows me to signal turns and stops. Observing car wheels is important, as they most clearly show the vehicle’s speed and direction. Looking at a car’s sideview and rear-view windows helps me avoid getting doored—if you see a head moving inside a car or a face reflected in side-view mirror, slow down and give the car plenty of space. Passing right-turning cars on the left hand side keeps you out of their blind spot. The car can turn sooner and you won’t have to stop and wait. After passing the turning car safely, move back across the lane to the curb side.

Another important technique is to make the most of your space. According to Quebec’s Highway Safety Code, motorists are obliged to give cyclists 1.5 metres of space on roads where the speed limit is more than 50 km/h, or one metre if the speed limit is less—so make them do it. It’s better to be a bit in front of a car and get honked at than to get pinned between parked and moving vehicles. And last but not least, ride a lot. Practice makes perfect. Take different routes home, turn off your GPS and get lost on your bike for a while.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth 


Concordia emergency response team (CERT) seeks to expand

CERT aims to train more students during first official Campus Safety Awareness Week

With Concordia’s first official Campus Safety Awareness Week approaching, university officials are hoping to expand the Concordia Emergency Response Team (CERT), a group of student volunteers who are trained to assist emergency responders and Concordia’s security staff  during evacuations and other emergencies.

Students will have the opportunity to complete free CERT training sessions during the Safety Awareness Week, which will run from Sept. 25 to 29.

Although the CERT has offered a number of training sessions throughout the academic year in the past, the Safety Awareness Week is a pilot project. If it’s successful, Rachel Nielsen, Concordia’s emergency preparedness officer, is hoping it will become an annual event.

“For students, being prepared for emergencies is not always on the top of their mind,” Nielsen said. “We’re hoping that [the Safety Awareness Week and CERT training] will make sure people are aware of some of the hazards they face and be alert.”

Typical responsibilities of CERT members during emergency situations include leading evacuees to designated emergency exits, assisting disabled students and staff and, when possible, verifying that certain floors or buildings have been completely evacuated. While the group currently has 103 members, there are no set shifts or work schedules, leaving it impossible to know which students will be available to respond in an emergency situation.

In the past, the responsibilities of CERT members have mainly included assisting during fire drills and occasional power outages. Last March, the group faced a unique challenge: assisting with the emergency evacuation of several downtown campus buildings after a racially-charged bomb threat. Alison Rowley, a CERT member, said the incident was an important reminder of why CERT’s services are so vital.

“I think a core aspect of being human is the fact that we help each other,” she said. “The reality is that an emergency can happen anywhere, anytime, and that’s why it’s so incredibly important that we be prepared.”

Before attending Concordia, Rowley worked as an emergency medical technician (EMT) in Boston, where she was present for a number of emergency situations. In Rowley’s experience as both an EMT and CERT member, one of the most important aspects of being an emergency responder is minimizing the panic and fear of those she is trying to help.

“As soon as people start panicking, things can get dangerous,” Rowley said. “Even though it can be scary, just do your best to remain as calm as possible.”

Being a member of the CERT comes with a certain set of risks, but Nielsen insisted there is good reasoning behind recruiting student volunteers. If CERT members are already on campus during an emergency, they can often respond to the situation before emergency services arrive. They also have a better knowledge of particular rooms and buildings on campus.

According to Nielsen, the team communicates using a computer safety app called Alertus, which can be used to send an emergency alert faster than an e-mail or text message.

After attending the three-hour CERT training session, students looking to join the team are required to receive CPR, first aid and fire prevention training within one year, as well as fire extinguisher training. According to Nielsen, students can receive these trainings on campus throughout the year through the Environmental Health and Safety department, and the $90 fee is waived for CERT members.

Additionally, Concordia has recently introduced a pilot project offering a financial incentive to potential CERT recruits: all members will receive a special identification card that will grant them a 10 per cent discount on all apparel and school supplies at campus bookstores.

Despite the risks, CERT members, including Rowley, are confident that joining the team is worthwhile and that CERT is a valuable tool to help ensure Concordia is as safe as possible.

“At the end of the day, CERT members aren’t firefighters or police officers that have been trained for years to help others—we’re just humans with an armband and a vest, and yet we can make such a big difference because we’ve been taught how to help,” Rowley said. “Being a part of CERT means you can help others, and there’s no better feeling than that.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


The line between incautious confidence and paranoia

One student’s experience with harassment, and the steps she takes to stay safe

I enter the metro car to find it practically deserted. Despite the empty seats, I decide to stand. I look around, but there isn’t much to see. A woman staring pensively out the window, a young guy shouldering the burden of a school bag and a man sitting with his legs spread apart. He is sitting behind me, so I’m able to observe his behaviour in the reflection of the glass. That familiar, feminine voice announces the name of the next metro station, and I notice the man shift in his seat.

Suddenly, I can feel his gaze on my back. I take a step towards the door, pretending that I’m getting off at the next station. The man jolts up out of his seat, like this has suddenly become his stop too. Of course, when the doors open and I do not exit the train, neither does he. Instead, he drops right back into his seat and waits.

A minute passes before we arrive at the next stop. Now, it really is my turn to get off. I squeeze through a sea of faces on the platform and join the others waiting for the green line. And I wonder about the whereabouts of the peculiar man from the metro car.

That’s when I spot him just a few feet away from me. I notice details about him: his long, grey coat, his sunglasses, his ghostly skin with red patches. I start to worry the man is following me, so I decide to walk away from the platform. He follows me. My instincts propel my feet into action. I dart to the orange line with steps as fast as my racing thoughts—what are my options, where is the exit, who can I call, am I exaggerating, what is he planning to do, what was he wearing?

That’s when I spot the man, stomping furiously back in the direction of the green line.

In a recent report, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) received a rating of A+++, earning the title of best transit system among major Canadian regions, according to CBC News. Factors considered in the grading included the number of passenger trips per service hour, passenger trip intensity and operating cost. Unfortunately, safety was not taken into consideration. Perhaps all the flashing lights, slick screens and sophisticated sounds of the new Azur metro cars distracted these examiners from spotting the new danger of one endless train—potential predators are no longer cars away. They’re steps away, always.

At least the old, separate metro cars inherently minimized your chances of encountering a predator, or at least gave you the possibility of switching cars if you were uncomfortable. I admit the old cars need upgrading. And while improvements are being made, there are still too many issues to warrant top marks.

The Montreal transit system doesn’t need praise. It needs police. In fact, a more effective police presence is the only advantage I see to having one long car. Now, a single officer can monitor the safety of a whole train, rather than just one section. But until I actually see police roaming the new trains with vigor, I won’t feel any safer taking the metro.

When I finally got to class that day, after I was followed in the metro, I was so relieved I could have burst into tears. However, the city’s streets haven’t always been a sanctuary of safety for me either. After some window shopping between classes, I walked into the EV building to sit down and eat my lunch. My appetite was quickly spoiled, however, when a man plopped himself beside me and said he’d spotted me out on the street. “I followed you in here so that I could say hello,” he explained, waving his hand in the air innocently, as if that would shed years off his wrinkly face.

Recently, the Crime Scene Index evaluated the level of safety in 15 Canadian cities. Being followed in broad daylight is just one of many reasons why I’m not surprised Montreal came in 13th in that ranking. All too often, women disregard experiences like these as mere instances of discomfort. They console themselves with the fact that he walked away, or that nothing really “bad” happened. They convince themselves that they’re making it into something that it’s not, or that they’re just being dramatic.

They see men gallivanting through the streets alone at midnight, jamming with headphones on in the metro, wearing whatever clothes they please, and many women think they too can live with these same freedoms, without worry. I used to think that way too, until I realized this was an arrogant approach to take toward my own safety.

Women cannot live in constant paranoia because that is self-destructive and unhealthy. Yet, they cannot live with their head in the clouds either. Paranoia and incautious confidence are two extremes, and our solution is found in between. Do not become shy and reserved in an effort to avoid low-lifes and losers, but don’t live in denial that there are creepers lurking.

For me, being less arrogant about safety has prompted me to make very specific changes. I look up from my phone every once in awhile to observe those around me. I keep my music at a slightly lower volume than before, so that I’m more aware of my surroundings. I tie a sweater around my waist when I’m riding the metro in an effort to thwart at least a few strangers from unnecessarily lusting over my body. I carry a rape whistle.

Some of these tips might make sense to you, while others might not appeal to you in the slightest. The good news is that these are just a few amongst a plethora of options women have when it comes to taking a more proactive approach to their safety. At the end of the day, only you will know what works for you—what changes or sacrifices you are willing to make in the name of safety.

But options aside, I do urge you to choose proactivity over arrogance, because half the victory lies in acknowledging there is a battle to fight in the first place.

Graphics by Zeze Le Lin


Commuting without safety

Montrealers push for a better safety system for roads and bike paths within the city

Community members gathered at a panel to discuss issues cyclists and pedestrians face in Montréal with regards to inadequate safety while commuting in the city alongside cars—many demand for accessible and secure road measures.

The event, “Who Rules the Road?” was held on Oct.27 at the offices of Alternatives, a Quebec-based international solidarity group, on Parc Avenue. It was hosted by Building Community—a project of the Milton-Parc Citizens Committee which is dedicated to promoting community improvement via social action and education.

Four panelists were present, including Marc-André Gadoury, representing the district of Étienne-Desmarteau in the borough of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie; Alex Norris, a Projet Montréal city councilor; Magali Bébronne, a project manager at Vélo-Québec; and Michael Seth Wexler, a project manager and urban planner at Copenhagenize Design Company.

“We wanted to raise awareness surrounding the issue of cyclist and pedestrian safety because they’re the most vulnerable demographic on the streets at the moment,” event organizer and former Concordia student, Spiro Metaxas, told The Concordian. Another large factor that sparked interest for organizing the event, he said, was the incident this past summer where a woman was killed while cycling in Montreal.

Justine Charland St-Amour, 24, was killed at the intersection of Iberville Street and Rosemont Boulevard on Aug. 22 when a truck driver turned into Charland St-Amour’s path and hit her, having not seen her in his blind spot, reported CTV News. According to the same article, she was declared deceased at the scene, and Montreal police stated neither party was to blame.

For problems concerning intersections, Metaxas suggested having a light dedicated to cyclists, allowing them to go first before car traffic begins to circulate. He referenced an intersection in the McGill ghetto which effectively does this.

Metaxas said many issues addressed by the panel centred around non-compliance, referring to cyclists, cars or pedestrians who do not comply with road safety rules or traffic rules. Metaxas said he thinks people need to start taking responsibility for themselves as motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. “I think that’s where the crux of the problem is—non-compliance,” he said.

“We wanted to take the opportunity to, once again, shine a spotlight on this issue that’s becoming rather persistent and that we think is preventable,” said Metaxas. “Ideally, there would be no deaths—that’s what that Vision Zero plan is for.”

On Sept. 14, the City of Montreal released their plan of action, titled Vision Zero, aimed at improving road safety and reducing deaths, according to the City of Montreal website. Vision Zero introduced nine short-term concrete actions, including reducing speed in residential areas and school zones and equipping intersections with new pedestrian countdown signals or underpasses.

However, in regards to this plan, Metaxas said “there simply isn’t enough action being taken at the moment by either political party.”

Graham Latham, a Concordia student in Communications and Cultural Studies, travels to school by bike. “I’m commuting almost entirely by bike right now,” he said, adding while he enjoys traveling by bike, riding downtown is a nightmare. He said while the de Maisonneuve bike path is accessible for cyclists to use, he described it as very dangerous.

Latham said one of the biggest hazards for cyclists are cars. “People just turn left across the bike path so much without looking, which is scary,” he said. He has to be extra cautious between intersections, he said, ensuring that a car does not turn into his lane. He said he typically commutes via Sherbrooke Street to avoid the danger of the de Maisonneuve bike path, however, the construction around McGill has taken a large toll on accessibility for biking on that street.

“This fall has really sucked for getting to Concordia,” said Latham. He identified two of the most congested and difficult areas to bike around Concordia’s downtown campus are the intersection of Guy and de Maisonneuve, in front of the Guy-Concordia metro station, and the stretch along de Maisonneuve in front of the Hall building.

Many of the complaints Latham had were in connection to what Metaxas said the panel aimed to address.

Graphic by Florence Yee


Staying safe and having your drink, too

First-aid kit idea gets chilly reception

A suggestion by the Coms Guild for pubcrawl first-aid kits was met with a frosty reaction by Concordia Health Services, seemingly because of the event’s relation to alcohol.

Coms Guild Vice President Michele Burchiani came up with the idea after suffering a minor cut at an earlier event. “It was nothing big – [but] there wasn’t any means to treat it right away.”

After consulting with his fellow executives, he decided to approach Health Services with the idea of ‘mini first-aid kits’ that he said would contain things like Band-Aids, antiseptics, alcohol swabs and Q-tips and would be carried around on outings by team leaders.

Burchiani says Health Services representatives met his idea with apprehensiveness which only increased as his explanations continued. Intuiting the stumbling block, he asked and was told that Health Services does not associate itself with alcohol-related events. This surprised him somewhat, as he believed preventative measures were part of their mandate, and part of the reason he approached them. The other reason was as a way of spreading the costs.

“We thought we’d approach Concordia and see if they could help us out,” he said. “I explained to [them] that at events there’s the possibility of small injuries—not that they happen often. Just in case, we would like to be prepared.”

When approached, representatives from Health Services declined to comment. University Spokesperson Chris Mota stated that she was not aware of the incident but confirmed Health Services discourages events related to alcohol. Mota likewise stressed that there was no exclusionary policy in place that would deter Health Services from offering first aid kits.

She said Concordia has always supported activity initiatives from its student body by providing security and safety, and said the main impediments were the logistics of providing for off-campus activities.

“For events on campus we do what we can — but can [supplies] actually be supplied to anybody who’s having an event? They can’t,” Mota said.

Burchiani did not provide an estimate of how much the measure would have cost if covered by Coms Guild alone. He also says the matter has not been pursued after his first meeting with Health Services representatives.

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