Part of the wolf pack

A look into one of the only wolfdog sanctuaries in North America

Over March break, I visited Banff, Alberta. During my time there, I went to an interesting place called the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary.

Over the past summer, I had been seeing a lot of friends of mine travel to Banff and it was always at the back of my mind. So, I proposed we go there and Anthony, my boyfriend, was completely on board with the idea.

During my research for activities to do in Banff, I came across the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary visit, a center where you can learn exactly what wolfdogs are and what the sanctuary does. This trip was the first one I’ve ever planned on my own and I wanted to use it as a learning experience.

I was immediately enticed and bought two tickets for our first full day in Banff.

We left for our trip on Feb. 26, and waking up to our first day in Banff the day after was amazing; I was so excited to be there. It was a beautiful sunny day in the Canadian Rockies.

Upon arrival we were greeted by a scenic sanctuary entrance, accented by these huge gates that have outlines of wolfdogs on them. Wolfdogs, in a nutshell, are the result of mixing canine and wolf breeds together.

Alyx Harris, the operations manager at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, explained the sanctuary was started by founder Georgina De Caigny back in 2011. Harris said, “Essentially she got inspiration when she got a wolfdog of her own and she saw how challenging they are.”

According to the Yamnuska website, when De Caigny noticed a rise in wolfdog breeding, she felt the need to make a safe place for the wolfdogs to have a forever home.

In the intro tour, we were introduced to one of the packs. It featured a sibling trio: Grizz, Aspen, and Quinn.

The tour guide began to explain that the packs in the sanctuary are usually composed of two wolfdogs, or three at the most.

“The wolfdogs tend to have a lot of same-sex aggression and territorial behaviors. It is easiest for us to pair a male and a female together. Once we have that male and female pair it is very unlikely that we will have a new member join that pack,” Harris said.

An interesting fact that the tour guide told us was the three different types of wolfdogs that you can find living at the sanctuary.

“When we discuss wolfdogs, we always say it depends on the wolf content. […] So essentially, a low content, a mid content, and a high content wolfdog,”  Harris explained.

What these categories mean in a nutshell is how much wolf there is in a wolfdog. A high content wolfdog has more wolf characteristics than a dog, while a low content wolfdog has a higher percentage of canine characteristics than their higher wolf content counterparts.

After our very informative intro tour, we were free to walk around the sanctuary and visit the different wolfdog enclosures. It got me thinking: where exactly do all of these wolfdogs come from?

“We do have wolfdogs from essentially all around North America. The wolfdogs come from different situations. Most of the time, the owners surrender them, they come from transfers from other organizations, and sometimes cruelty situations like backyard breeding,” said Harris.

According to the International Wolf Center, people that own hybrids [wolfdogs] often have a difficult time caring for them. Due to their genetic composition, it leads to their behavior to be more inconsitent.

Visiting this sanctuary was one of the highlights of my trip and it was very surreal for me while I was there. There was a moment when all the wolves in the sanctuary started to howl and you could hear the howling sweeping through the sanctuary.

With the wolfdogs coming from all kinds of backgrounds, the sanctuary has future goals of becoming a resource for the conservation of wolves in the wild. I recommend visiting the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary if you are in the Cochrane, Alberta area.

 

Photo by Dalia Nardolillo

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A home for sustainability, community and all things green

Since 1966, the Concordia Greenhouse has offered sanctuary and education to students

On the 13th floor of the Hall building lies a hidden rooftop oasis. The peaceful, plant-filled haven is a place of refuge and stillness in the busy city. It’s a space where the community can gather to study, socialize, sip a cup of tea and connect with nature. This student sanctuary is a strong component of Montreal’s urban agriculture scene and one of the university’s best-kept secrets: the Concordia Greenhouse.

Concordia student Shakti Langlois Ortega said she wishes she visited the greenhouse more often, as “it’s such an amazing environment.”

“When it’s cold outside, it’s a nice way to be with nature,” she added. “I love the plants and the care they give them.”

According to their website, the greenhouse’s mission is “to provide a welcoming, organic green space that fosters community by providing experiential learning opportunities within a year-round growing environment.” The non-profit also prides itself on a green space that encourages organic, sustainable horticulture students can enjoy.

Photo by Alex Hutchins

“Everyone loves a sunny, plant-filled space,” said Sheena Swirlz, the greenhouse’s services coordinator.

The greenhouse is largely supported by a fee levy, the annual collection of $0.24 per undergraduate student per credit. For a typical bachelor’s degree of 90 credits, a student contributes a total of $21.60 to the greenhouse through student fees over course of their studies. While students can choose to opt out, the greenhouse uses these funds to complete more projects, organize more events and make changes where they are needed.

Another major source of funding for the greenhouse is plant sales. While large selling days are held several times per year, the greenhouse continuously offers a variety of products to students and the community, such as sprouting kits, terrariums, houseplants, honey and medicinal herbs.

Originally built in 1966, the greenhouse was always intended to be part of the Hall building’s infrastructure. Since then, it has developed into the go-to campus hub for everything environmentally-friendly. It provides a variety of resources that promote education and research on topics of sustainability, such as food security.

The People’s Potato, a collectively-run soup kitchen at Concordia offering vegan meals to students and community members on a pay-what-you-can basis, has long been partnered with the greenhouse, especially when it comes to sourcing sustainable food. According to a testimonial by the People’s Potato on the Concordia Greenhouse website, the greenhouse “fulfills a key role in this community by providing accessible services around environmental sustainability, permaculture, composting and many others.”

In addition to providing Concordia with easy access to ecological, wallet-friendly food on campus, the greenhouse also hosts a number of sustainability-oriented events every week. Workshops, film screenings as well as community projects and gatherings are just some of the ways the greenhouse contributes to a more sustainable Concordia.

“Upcoming events and workshops are posted on our Facebook and website,” Swirlz said. “Macrame hanging planters, terrariums and indoor mushroom cultivation are our most popular recurring workshops.”

This year, the greenhouse is gearing up for a slew of new activities and old favourites. Until Oct. 31, their very own City Farm School market stand will continue to be featured at the Loyola campus urban farm every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Their stand offers fresh, organic produce, such as vegetables, fruits and herbs.

Photo by Alex Hutchins

Until Dec. 4, the greenhouse will also be offering a weekly Microgreen Community-Supported Agriculture Program (CSA). Students interested in the program would pay a discounted amount for a weekly sprout order and receive a 200 gram bag of sprouts—a “great way to save money” and “[guarantee] you receive a supply of [their] super-popular and super-local sprouts each week,” according to the greenhouse’s Facebook page.

For students interested in getting involved in the greenhouse, there are countless opportunities to learn and gain experience through workshops, internships and volunteer sessions. This year, the greenhouse is recruiting new board of directors members at their annual general meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. They are also recruiting candidates for weekly volunteer sessions and longer internships.

The best part about working at the greenhouse “is watching people’s eyes widen in delight,” Swirlz said. “They are so excited to learn about this gem of urban agriculture right in the heart of downtown.”

The Concordia Greenhouse is open to visitors on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Photos by Alex Hutchins

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Then and now: Concordia’s history of supporting immigrants

Recent CSU election referendum question shows students support creating sanctuary campus

Concordia students voted in favour of recognizing the university as a sanctuary campus, based on a referendum question asked during the Concordia Student Union (CSU) elections held between March 28 and 30.

While the vote expressed student support by students for Concordia becoming a sanctuary campus, the final decision to become one rests with the university.

As a sanctuary campus, the university would be prohibited from disclosing information about current or past students, faculty or staff to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), protecting them from deportation. The vote follows Montreal’s decision to become a sanctuary city in a unanimous vote by the city council on Feb. 20.

While these votes represent a recent surge in support for protecting immigrants, Concordia has a long history of providing a safe space to immigrants and fighting to end oppression on campus.

Before receiving its university charter in 1948 and merging with Loyola College in 1974 to become Concordia, Sir George Williams College was first known as the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The YMCA opened in Montreal on Nov. 25, 1851, and was located at the intersection of des Récollets Street and Sainte-Hélène Street in Old Montreal. The school would move to Drummond Street in 1912 before moving again to its current location—the Hall building, which is the oldest building of Concordia’s downtown campus, opened in 1966.

Although the institution was initially a university solely for Canadian men, in 1870 the school began offering night classes open to women and immigrants, according to the YMCA.

As an influx of Jewish immigrants came to Canada between the 1920s and 1950s, McGill University had implemented a quota for the admittance of Jewish students, limiting this demographic to a certain number of spots, according to The Globe and Mail. As a result, many students who were turned away from McGill between the 1920s and 1950s ended up attending Sir George Williams College.

The fact that Sir George Williams College also offered night classes allowed mature students who worked during the day a chance to receive an education. In addition to the increase in Jewish students, the 1940s and 1950s saw an influx of veterans and immigrants attending Sir George Williams College.

In the 1960s, Canada altered its immigration policies, removing brazen racist immigration policies. In addition, changes in views on immigration led to the Quebec government taking the issue into their own hands during this decade by establishing a provincial immigration department.

These more reasonable policies allowed immigrants to enter Canada more easily, and Canada saw another influx of immigrants, particularly from the Caribbean. Although Sir George Williams University accepted many of these immigrants, a lot of these students faced systemic racism.

The Henry F. Hall building, opened on 1966. Photo courtesy of Records Management and Archives at Concordia.

For example, in the spring of 1969, students held a 14-day sit-in on the ninth floor of the Hall building in response to a lack of action on the part of the university with regards to a professor, Perry Anderson, allegedly giving black students low grades based on their race. The sit-in was initiated by Caribbean students who faced oppression and resulted in 400 students gathering in the computer lab in the Hall building to protest.

Aftermath of Sir George Williams Affair. Photo courtesy of Records Management and Archives at Concordia.

The sit-in ended in a riot, an unexplained fire in the Hall building and millions of computer cards and documents fluttering from the windows onto de Maisonneuve Boulevard and nearby streets. According to the CBC, 97 people were arrested and estimates at the time placed the total damages at about $2 million. The accused professor was found not guilty of racism in the summer of 1969. However, following this incident, the university amended its procedures and policies, implementing the Ombuds office—which provides aid and a informal resolution of concerns and complaints in regards to the application of university policies, rules and procedures—and a code of conduct, according to the CBC.

These events, known as the Computer Riots or the Sir George Williams Affair, was remembered at the time as the largest student occupation in Canada.

As Concordia has a long history of standing against forms of oppression, the CSU hopes the university will listen to the desires of the student body and become a sanctuary campus.

Photo courtesy of Records Management and Archives at Concordia.

“We need to remember our roots,” said Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis, the CSU’s general coordinator. “One of the major parts of Concordia is the Sir George Williams campus.”

“It was … an institution for students who could not access something like McGill,” she added. [They] could still get an education that fit within their lives, their financial and time-based limitations and family obligations.”

Concordia being recognized as a sanctuary campus would be in keeping with the university’s history of supporting all of its students. “We have a mandate from students—this is something they want to see as a priority. Any team that comes forward is beholden to show that they advocate for that,” Marshall-Kiparissis said.

Aloyse Muller, the CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator, is the one who proposed the idea, and was the main representative from the CSU pushing for its adoption. However, he said the sanctuary campus was a collective discussion and decision.

“A number of students and community members were involved in the process. We also consulted several times with Solidarity Across Borders,” he said. Solidarity Across Borders is a migrant justice network which originated in Montreal in 2003, that provides aid to individuals facing refugee systems and unjust immigration policies.

“The sanctuary campus referendum question was in line with previous positions adopted by the Council of Representatives,” Muller said. This includes the CSU’s position to oppose the CBSA on campus, to promote Concordia’s refusal to collaborate with the CBSA and the CSU’s endorsement of the right for all to move freely and unrestricted by borders.

“However, the executive felt that, for this kind of position, the student body needed to be consulted and this is why we sent it to referendum,” he added.

The Norris building, opened in 1956. Photo courtesy of Records Management and Archives at Concordia.

According to Muller, making Concordia a sanctuary campus will allow immigrant students to “frequent this university free from worry on these premises, and [know] that Concordia will not disclose any information it has about them to immigration services.”

In the fall, two CBSA agents visited campus to meet with Concordia security to collect information on a student, according to Muller and Marshall-Kiparissis.

“Concordia security has refused to disclose any information about their meeting and its purpose, but the CSU has filed an access to information request, and we hope to learn more about what happened,” Muller said. Marshall-Kiparissis said the university has postponed responding to the access to information request.

“I want to underline though that this vote did not make Concordia a sanctuary campus [yet], and that much work is left to implement these measures,” Muller said.

In order for Concordia to be officially recognized as a sanctuary campus, the demands voted on by students in the CSU election must be implemented by the university—this includes not allowing the CBSA on Concordia premises and not sharing any information about its past and current students, faculty and staff with immigration services.

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