Montreal’s three major universities come together for the second annual inter-university Parkinson’s awareness symposium

This years Parkinson’s Awareness Month kicked off with the first in-person iteration of the Parkinson’s Awareness Symposium

On Friday, March 25 student representatives from Concordia University, McGill University, and The Université de Montréal gathered at the Montreal Neurological Institute for the second annual McGill x Concordia X Udem 2022 Parkinson’s Awareness Symposium.

The Parkinson’s Awareness symposium is an annual collaboration between Concordia Students for Parkinson’s (CSP), McGil Students for Parkinson’s Awareness and Parkinson UdeM, aimed at promoting awareness for Parkinson’s disease across the three universities

The three-hour long event featured presentations from a variety of guest speakers relating to the study and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. One other highlight of the event was a charity prize raffle, with the proceeds going directly to Parkinson’s Quebec.

Aymée Bray, third-year Concordia student and VP External for CSP, said “The goal for tonight was to get people out we wanted to get researchers out to talk about their work, to get the perspective of our presenters that are living with Parkinsons, and also to get students out in order to give hope to the patients that are also in attendance.”

As the first in-person iteration of the conference, the theme of this year’s symposium was dedicated to demystifying Parkinson’s disease within the general public. Each presentation by the event’s keynote speakers was devoted to examining a unique perspective relating to Parkinson’s disease.

One of the headliners of last week’s symposium was Sarah Humphrey, Parkinson’s activist and cofounder of the Montreal-based organisation Parkinson en Mouvement. Humphrey’s approach to the symposium was based on her experience living with Parkinson’s disease. These experiences led her to organise dance classes as a form of treatment.

Dr. Dalla Bella, Co-Director from the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research (BRAM) at the University of Montreal, presented cutting edge research on the effectiveness of rhythm-based games, as a form of treatment for motor-based diseases like Parkinson’s.

The symposium also gave those who have been personally affected by the disease the opportunity to find a sense of belonging within a larger community.

“I was motivated to get involved with the club [CSP] because my grandfather passed away from Parkinsons,” Bray said. “I thought that getting involved would be the best way to give back to the Parkinson’s community.”

Bray’s experience was one shared by many organisers and attendees of last week’s symposium, including McGill faculty member Dr. John Gillard.

“My dad developed Parkinson’s disease later in life,” said Dr. Gillard. “It was very hard to understand in the beginning and I just had to watch it, unfortunately, progress over a period of two years until his demise.”

However, Dr. Gillard remains impressed by the ability for Montreal’s student groups to unite across language barriers and university rivalries in the fight against Parkinson’s.

“The fact that we have three universities in Montreal coming together, and see the enthusiasm of the students, then to realise they are undergraduates, and then to have the dynamism to bring together these exceptional speakers is exceptional!”

Photos provided by Lucas Marsh

Student Life

Talking global feminism at Université de Montréal

The French university hosts its first-ever conference on intersectional feminism

The Regroupement des étudiants de l’Université de Montréal en soutien de l’ONU Femme hosted its first-ever event on Feb. 6—a conference dedicated to international feminism called “Le féminisme autour du monde: orient et occident.”

The conference coincided with the Semaine interculturelle de l’UdeM, a week dedicated to promoting the plethora of cultures that exist in and outside the university through conferences and activities. The conference featured two speakers: Ryoa Chung, a professor of philosophy at UdeM, and Khaloua Zoghlami, a doctoral candidate in communications at UdeM.

The bulk of the conference focused on international feminism and the many problems that arise when trying to apply feminist theories to women in varying cultural situations. Chung, the first speaker to address the crowd in the lecture hall, outlined many of the theoretical problems associated with using liberal feminism as the ideal way for women to emancipate themselves in other countries. Liberal feminism is assumed to be the most objective feminist theory because it pulls from the Liberal political theory, but it can impose Western values onto different cultures.

The conference on international feminism was the first of its kind at the University. Photo by Alex Hutchins

Chung warned that, while laced with good intentions, liberal feminism easily veers into this type of imperialism when proponents of this type of feminism do not make themselves aware of the particular struggles women in underdeveloped countries face.

“When we want to speak in solidarity for another person, there are pitfalls that we need to avoid, and one of these pitfalls we need to avoid is positioning ourselves as the saviour who knows how to save the other woman from herself,” Chung said.

She cited many examples where the epistemology and the basic theoretical constructs of some branches of feminism already put specific groups at a disadvantage. For example, sometimes the perspective of a religious or racial group cannot even be recognized by the majority, therefore any specific challenges they face are not represented in any actions taken.

Zoghlami brought to light many of the theories presented by Chung during her discussion, using her own experiences as a Tunisian-born woman as a springboard into talking about intersectional feminism. She said the type of liberal feminism women ascribed to in Tunisia was very confining.

“You had to be a specific type of woman to truly benefit from the rights allocated to women, because if you were a women who wore a veil, was attached to your religious practice, came from an underprivileged area, were black or were a collection of all that, these privileges did not concern you or were not concretely applied to you,” Zoghlami said.

She said one of the oldest and most influential feminist associations in Tunisia, L’Association Tunisiennes des Femmes Démocrates, supported the government’s measures to dissuade women from wearing their veil. At that same time, the government was already enforcing bans that blocked women who wore a veil from getting a job or an education. The liberal feminism these women borrowed from their French counterparts, she said, was derived from an imperialistic mindset and left no room for some women to practice their religion if they so chose to.

Zoghlami added that this was not a type of feminism she could identify with, because, in her view, it only fought for a small portion of women. She said she struggled to consolidate her identities as a woman and as a Muslim.

Only recently was Zoghlami introduced to the idea of intersectional feminism. Intersectional feminism argues that there are specific challenges associated with women who associate to more than one group, such as religion, race or sexual orientation. It states these specific challenges should be fought in tandem with one another, not separately. For Zoghlami, this means being able to fight for her rights as a Muslim woman, not as a Muslim and a woman.

Lia Ferranti, the president of the Regroupement des étudiants de l’Université de Montréal en soutien de l’ONU Femme, said the group really wanted to host an event in relation to the very popular Semaine interculturelle de UdeM.

“We asked ourselves how we could talk about feminism and interculturality, and we told ourselves, well why not talk about feminism around the world?” Ferranti said.

With 600 people interested in their Facebook event, Ferranti was surprised by how easily the conference came together. She said both Chung and Zoghlami were extremely open to speaking at the conference. “We realized that their two subjects really corresponded to the Occident and the Orient, and we set it up in a way to try to touch on everything, and it all came together,” Ferranti said.

She said the university was there to help and support them along the way.

“We are the first feminist organization recognized by UdeM,” Ferranti said. “The executive committee is practically all the founding members.”

The group is currently awaiting official recognition from the UN headquarters in New York in order to be named UN Women UdeM, but Ferranti said it will still take a while.


Students arrested at UQAM and U de M

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

The first week of classes at universities which suspended their winter semesters due to the student strike movement saw clashes between protesters in opposition of the tuition fee increase and Law 12 with administration, security, and Montreal Police.

Hundreds of classes were cancelled at both Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal as students blocked access to classes in both French-language universities.

Under Law 12, the emergency legislation passed by the Charest Liberals in May aimed to curb protests and allow students to attend class, the winter semester was cancelled at post-secondary institutions paralyzed by the student movement.

The protests at the universities last week forced classes to be cancelled as students physically blocked access to classrooms where confrontations between demonstrators and security, staff and students wishing to attend class ensued.

On the first day of classes at UQAM, a group of masked students roamed the hallways with lists of departments that voted in favour of the student strike in order to empty the classes where the strike was not respected. The students managed to disrupt many courses resulting in professors ending the class early.

At U de M, Montreal Police detained 19 individuals on Monday, Aug. 27 for allegedly violating provisions of the back-to-school legislation Administration of the university asked Montreal Police to intervene after dozens staged protests within the school where a standoff between students and security occurred.

“These people have been released with no conditions,” police Commander Ian Lafreniere told the press last week.

“They received a paper mentioning they are under investigation with Law 12.”

This is the first time Law 12, or Bill 78, has been applied in Montreal.

On Aug. 10, the Montreal Police announced that enforcement of the emergency legislation would only be applied if universities request it. By Tuesday, Aug. 28, more than 30 arrests had been made with regards to Law 12 or general violations of the criminal code.

At UQAM, administration decided to handle the disruptions without the help of the police, in fear of creating more tension at the university. The school’s spokesperson Jenny Desrochers told The Gazette that UQAM did not want to exacerbate the situation by bringing in police officers.

On Wednesday, Aug. 29, U de M decided to cancel classes for the rest of the week for the six faculties that voted to continue their strike. That same day, approximately 100 demonstrators flooded the downtown core.

Marielle Villeneuve, a first-year student at UQAM slated to start school in October, is not worried that protests will stop her from attending her courses.

“I think everyone is annoyed with the student strike,” said Villeneuve. “I don’t think my department will be on strike but I know my courses will be more intense due to time constraints.”

However Villeneuve says she’s awaiting the outcome of the upcoming provincial election to see how the university is affected.

“It’s UQAM, so you don’t really know what’s going to happen,” explained Villeneuve. “I think if Liberals are still in power, there will surely be protests.”

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