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November 2017


Dayna Weststeyn student spotlight

truth & reconciliation / international student: more than a label / the virtual democracy / homeless to novelist

3700 Willingdon Ave. SE2 Building, 3rd Floor Burnaby, BC  V5G 3H2



Lest We Forget 3 Introduction 4 Good News 26 Financial Advice 28 VIFF Reviews 30 Photo Walk

6 Student Spotlight

Twila Amato talks photography, inside and out, with student sonographer Dayna Weststeyn.

10 International: My Identity, Not My Label Tanushree Pillai unpacks the complexities and challenges facing newcomers to Canada and BCIT.

16 Truth & Reconciliation Emily Vance inspires us to learn more about what it means, where we’re headed, and what more we all can do.

Tanushree Pillai Ryan Judd Braeden Frew Emily Vance Michael White Max Huang

Guest Editor: Twila Amato Guest Designer: Janael McConkey

annual sponsors:

24 Homeless to Novelist Daniel Mountain sits down with Michael Jesmer to talk about the journey that brought him to BCIT, and what drove him to publish his first novel.



Selenna Ho Managing Editor

Dan Post Publisher


Madeline Adams Assistant Publisher

Lili Motaghedi Promotions

LINK is published 8 times annually and proudly printed on campus by Campus Print & Copy. Copies are distributed to all 5 BCIT campuses

LINK is a proud member of the Magazine Association of BC.

Featured Contributors Braeden Frew

Electrical Foundations

20 @Identity Take a social media detox while Selenna Ho examines the pros and cons of building a life online.

Natalie Fox Twila Amato Daniel Mountain Srushti Gangev Graham Cox Eda Aktas


Braeden is an 18 year-old photographer from Langley British Columbia. He is currently studying in the Electrical Foundations program at BCIT. He has been taking photos for four years and is inspired by travel, music and people.

Michael White

Electrical Engineering

Michael graduated from BCIT’s Mechatronics and Robotics program, and returned to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering. When he is not occupied with his studies, you can find him taking pictures of rocks and trees, drinking a dram of whisky, reading a book, or building the next automated tool for his home.

Intro November 2017

On the cover: Dayna Weststeyn Sonogram Tech photo: Braeden Frew


y chafed Nike-clad feet pounded hard against the bike pedals, creating a cacophonous symphony with my staggered breaths. One more push and finally I surmounted the hill for the last time that summer. I laughed bashfully and cycled up towards a train racing by. I scouted for a stranger’s face in the passenger compartment, postioning myself as an outsider looking in. They were probably wondering what a young girl was doing all alone in the dead of night, with nothing but a bag and a neighbour’s tattered bike. But no one was there. This entire part of my life was a solo experience. And I relished every moment of it. We all encounter moments in our lives where we feel like the outsider. Sometimes it’s a literal experience, like being outside of a passing train while the cozy people inside watch you staring back at them. Other times it’s an emotional sensation, such as feeling isolated and lonely. Take for example the hundreds of thousands of international students currently studying in Canada (p10), many of whom made significant sacrifices for a chance at a better life. Now imagine arriving to school on day one and encountering a classroom of blank stares, or worse, stereotypes. Sometimes being an outsider is complicated. How, for instance, can a writer begin to unpack the stories of pain felt by the Aboriginal community, when she herself is not Indigenous? Carefully, collaboratively, and with respect towards the

process of Reconciliation (p16). This is by far the best way forward. With overlapping themes of ‘the outsider’ in this issue, our student spotlight had us thinking about how capturing an experience through the lense of a camera automatically predisposes the photographer as the moment’s outsider, despite their personal narrative in the storytelling (p6). Maybe you’re feeling like an outsider right now reading this, not able to fully relate to some of these issues. Try then to think about the concept of the outsider in a space all of us are meant to share as equals: the virtual world of social media. Social media is meant to be the great new democracy of our time, where everyone has a voice and a chance to fit in. But is your online identity really who you are, or are you no less of an outsider looking in at a life you barely recognize? (p20) Ironically, the more we notice the ways that the outsider experience manifests itself, the more we realize how we’re all connected. We look for others to relate to our experiences, but in their own parallel lives. It’s that parallel that somehow draws us together, and an instantaneous click goes off. You did that to; intentionally or accidentally, it almost doesn’t matter. You felt that way too; you wanted things to be different, or maybe the same. Well here we are, exchanging stories for that very same connection. — Selenna Ho Managing Editor 3

(photo courtesy graham cox)

Weekly Massage from BCITSA Come relax and unwind with a free 30 minute massage at BCITSA’s Zen Lounge. Every Friday from 10am to 2pm (1:30pm being the last appointment) the SA offers appointments with wonderful Registered Massage Therapy students. Contact with your interest and availability. Students are welcome to access this service twice per term. Hope to see you there! - The Wellness Team

Gucci Goes Fur-Less Animal lovers rejoice! Fashion powerhouse Gucci has announced that they will be going fur-free starting in 2018. President and CEO Marco Bizzarri said that all remaining fur items owned by the company will be auctioned off, and the proceeds will be donated to animal rights organizations. Gucci joins 40 organizations as the newest member of the Fur Free Alliance, campaigning for animal welfare and promoting fashion-friendly alternatives to fur. Gucci’s decision reflects consumer trends that increasingly support animal rights and welfare. They are just one of many high-fashion brands following suit. Fellow Italian icon Giorgio Armani announced his brand’s decision to stop using fur, and Stella McCartney described fur as “old-fashioned” in a 2015 interview with CNN:

“It’s not relevant, it’s not sexy, it’s not fashionable, and it’s not cool.”


United Way Pancake Breakfast Those who came knocking at BCIT’s doors this Halloween were greeted with a plateful of pancakes! BCIT’s School of Construction and the Environment and United Way hosted their annual pancake fundraiser at the carpentry courtyard, where ghouls and ghosts rushing between classes were able to grab a quick breakfast while donating to a bigger cause. This year, we raised $4,450, beating last year’s total of $3,200! United Way is a nonprofit organization that works to improve communities through various programs. With events like the pancake breakfast, United Way is able to provide children in the Lower Mainland with initiatives such as after school sports, nutritious snacks, and homework mentorship. We’re sure the impact we’ll make this upcoming year will be nothing short of the spine-tingling sweetness those maple syrup drizzled bites added to your day!

Good News Good News ______________________ words srushti gangdev

Tesla Turns Power Back On At Children’s Hospital In Puerto Rico

Mingle of the Jingles The happiest holiday show in the Lower Mainland is back for another year. North Shore ConneXions hosts local and professional performers with developmental disabilities take to the stage to entertain. Get ready for musical numbers and dance performances from Vanleena Dance Academy, Harbour Dance Centre, Victory Arts Foundation and more. North Shore ConneXions is an organization that supports people with intellectual disabilities and their families. They provide community based services and programs for children, adults and families that encourage development, independence and empowerment, such as employment services and life-skills training. Mingle of the Jingles takes the stage at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver on November 28 at 6:30pm. It will feature a silent auction and all proceeds go back to North Shore ConneXions.

The lights are back on at a children’s hospital in San Juan thanks to tech company Tesla. This happened just weeks after Hurricane Maria knocked out power across Puerto Rico. Tesla installed solar panels and batteries and restored reliable electricity in the hospital, in what company founder Elon Musk called, “the first of many solar and battery Tesla projects going live in Puerto Rico.” According to Puerto Rico based newspaper El Nuevo Dia, the new system means that Hospital Del Niño can generate all the power it needs to care for approximately 3,000 young children, including 35 permanent residents who have chronic conditions. Tesla set up the system as a donation to the hospital, and the hospital says that once normal power is restored to Puerto Rico, they could make a deal to make it permanent.

For tickets and more information, visit:


Dayna Weststeyn: a snapshot.


To Dayna Weststeyn, sonography and photography are both forms of art and science. As a fashion photographer and a student in BCIT’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography program, Dayna’s lifestyle is solid proof that two seemingly opposite interests are just two sides of the same coin. Here she reveals her connection to both types of images, and how she balances both practices.

words twila amato portraits braeden frew

Student Spotlight Dayna Weststeyn

When did you get into photography and what first interested you in it? Just over two years ago. My dad has done photography for many years. He does a lot of nature photography. I went with him a lot and he started teaching me how to take photos. Around the same time, my boyfriend Tor purchased a used camera and began doing nature photography as well. I learned from both of them and did a lot of landscape and scenic photography. I really fell in love with it and began doing it as a hobby. I love the creative process involved with photography. My post-secondary education is very science focused and everything is structured. Photography is quite relaxing for me and is a great mental break from studying. Why fashion photography? It was something my boyfriend and I could do together, so we had a lot of fun with it. He’d bring his camera and I’d bring my dad’s. I would take photos of him whenever we went out and I discovered I loved portrait-style photography. Like me, he likes being on the other side of the camera, so I looked for ways to find people to photograph. I found an online Facebook group where photographers, models, make-up artist and designers could post shoot ideas and castings. I posted a casting of my own and got a great response. I watched retouching videos online and practiced creating more dramatic images. Eventually, I started incorporating make-up artists and local Vancouver designers. I loved getting to come up with my own ideas and create unique editorials with local creatives. My boyfriend started taking an interest as well. We do all our shoots together now. As we met more people in the industry, we started attending fashion events, being published in magazines, and being recognized by local modelling agencies. Fashion is such

a crazy industry - there are always bizarre trends and runway looks. We get to come up with artsy concepts and capture some of these trends through our photos. Tell me a bit about your photography process. I find inspiration for shoots in many ways. Often through reading print and online fashion magazines, meeting different creatives and watching various fashion events. Sometimes Tor and I will be driving by a new location and the location will inspire me to come up with a corresponding editorial. Lately, Tor and I have been doing more paid work, so I structure my ideas around a concept or series of inspiration images provided by the client. For a fashion editorial, the next step is figuring out whether to use local designers or source clothing from my current wardrobe. For simple shoots or paid work, I do the wardrobe styling myself with input from the client. I have a few make-up artists I work with quite frequently. Once I’ve determined the location, clothing, and have a reference photo of the model, I ask the artist I feel is most suited for the shoot. We then set up a time to meet and complete the shoot. Beauty is much simpler to organize because the shoots are generally done in the studio and require a makeup artist, but no fashion styling. For the editing process, I use Photoshop. This makes a significant difference in the final images. It is very time consuming to edit in a way that keeps the photos looking as natural as possible. I remove blemishes, but maintain as much skin texture as possible. I find that many photographers change the appearance of certain features of their models in post processing. This is not something I do in my images; I like people to look the way they are in their photos. I don’t feel the need to change their appearance. Once the editing process is complete and I’m happy with the images, I’ll send them out to the team and often will submit them for publication.

like people to look the way they are “inItheir photos. I don’t feel the need to change their appearance. ”


You did your undergrad in Biomedical physiology at SFU. What was that experience like? SFU was a great school, though the environment was very different. I did twelve semesters in a row to finish my degree in four years. I took an average of four classes each semester, and one to two per summer semester. Most of the students in this major call it the “pre-med” degree because they plan on attending med-school after graduating and this degree encompasses all of the requirements. That was my original

couple of hospitals and clinics. I found ultrasound was a field I really connected with. Everything about it seemed like the perfect fit for me — the people, work environment, individual and team aspects, real time visualization of human anatomy, and being able to apply the physiology and anatomy knowledge from my degree. One of the techs I shadowed recommended I take the intro to ultrasound course through the Burwin Institute. I went home and signed up for the course right away. I loved everything I had learned about the field and decided that I would apply to the program at BCIT.

“I loved working with people and I knew that was something I’d like to incorporate into my career.” plan as well. Around the end of my second year, I realized I no longer wanted this career path. I wanted more time to do things I love as well and not just focus all my attention on school. I also didn’t want such a high-pressure job. I still did my best to maintain high grades and left it open as a “just in case I change my mind” option but decided to explore other career paths. So why sonography? After deciding I no longer wanted to go to med school, I explored other career paths. I worked and volunteered in different fields to see what I liked. I loved working with people and knew that was something I’d like to incorporate into my career. I was lucky enough to shadow X-ray and ultrasound techs at a


Do you see a connection between art and science, between your photography and sonography studies? Definitely! In sonography, we are looking at human anatomy in real time. The main portion of the exam is assessing and looking for normal function or for any pathology that may be present. Once we are happy with what we have assessed, we will image the anatomy and present the findings to the doctor. I get to do imaging of anatomy for ultrasound and imaging of nature, people, and things for my photography! Our professors say that sonography is an art as well. You’re applying the science but being able to do the actual scanning and assessing takes time and practice. I get to learn how to incorporate these two together throughout the next two years or so

How do you balance your work and art with your school life? Over the summer, I worked extra to save up for school. I worked at the Children’s Hospital for Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) for the first month and a half, while working my Physio assistant job as well. I worked part time throughout high school and undergrad to help pay tuition. The ultrasound program is really demanding and they recommend you don’t work at the same time. I received a scholarship from BCIT that covers some of my costs and I have some money saved up so I don’t need to work while I complete the program. I’ve had to cut down on the amount of photography I do and restrict it to about one paid shoot per week. I am already booked up every weekend until the end of November, when I’ll have to study for finals. I have some awesome shoots lined up. I love having the shoots lined up on the weekends — it gives me something fun to look forward to and forces me to stay up to date on homework and studying to make time for it.

This is only a small selection of Dayna’s amazing photography. To see more visit her online at:

instagram @daynamariah

Do you have tips for any aspiring photographers? I would recommend trying out a variety of styles and taking lots and lots of pictures. Being creative and practicing your skills is such a great way to learn. I am self-taught, and I found constructive criticism from retouchers or professional photographers is also a great way to improve on your current images.


International. words tanushree pillai portraits braeden frew

“Let’s see how many languages we can speak amongst ourselves.” The air around our group begins to hum like a United Nations assembly. But this is not some important roundtable, rather a group of 10 international students sharing anecdotes over pizza at the BCIT orientation this fall.


Feature International Student POV


sat across from a Brazilian student named Victor Starzynski. Around us, diversity was our tablemate, with students from countries such as Qatar, Bangladesh and Myanmar to name a few. We regaled each other with funny stories of our foreign encounters here. Most of us hadn’t known each other until now, but the shared status as “International” was enough for us to bond over.

Back at Orientation, BCIT was preparing to welcome around 350400 new international students, but even that was an incomplete picture, as there were many more students who couldn’t make it due to visa issues. This number astonished most of us at the table, though I wasn’t completely surprised; a five-minute stroll around BCIT campuses is enough to know the vast spectrum of student nationalities here.

International students come to Canada to upgrade their educational skills even though it’s hard for us (more on this later). They bring in billions of dollars to the local economy via tuition fees, living expenses, tourism and tax revenues, just to name a few avenues. Which is why both federal and provincial governments show international students the proverbial red carpet. However, international students do face a lot of stigma and even racism in their educational journey. By providing them a safe and welcoming environment to study, local students can help end this behavior and support our journey. Domestic students can offer so much help and support to international students that will make them feel at home. For one, stay away from the typical notions that surround us – we are so much more than what we are made out to be.

As Victor and I continued talking, a common thread appeared in our personal stories: a desire for a better life for ourselves. It takes a strong will to leave our motherland. I knew I wanted to leave because I did not want my son to grow up in the current political, social and economic climates of India. Victor came to Canada with his girlfriend Tamara, admitting that leaving home was the change they both needed. Victor spoke of life in Brazil where political corruption and lack of basic education were creating major social disparities. Crime, sexism and lack of systemic infrastructure were major reasons that contributed to him leaving: “I wanted a safer environment for my girlfriend, even if I needed to step back and start my career from scratch.” The heart of so many of our stories is sacrifice.

This year, BCIT welcomed a record number of international students. Canada as a whole has always been a leader in this trend; efforts are always being made to attract more and that trend isn’t stopping. It’s not just the economic benefits that international students bring to the country; culturally, international students add color to Canada’s multicultural fabric. Think of all the languages, food and ways of living one learns from being in such a group! Needless to say, not everyone sees it that way; there are a lot of misconceptions and outright racist stereotypes around international students, primarily that we take away local seats from domestic students, or take away jobs. So why then do so many international people want to study here? The Canadian standard of education is considered par excellence. This means we learn more. At the same time, we are exposed such a vast expanse of culture which in itself is a learning experience. This education makes us better suited to find jobs here and becomes an automatic pathway to immigration and permanent residency.

This fall, Canadian universities welcomed a record number of international student applications with a sharp spike in applicants from the U.S. The latest figures suggest that there are 353,000 international students in Canada. For a number of reasons I will get into later, Canada has long been a desired destination for international students, which is why there continues to be a steady rise in enrolment numbers at post secondary institutions across the country. British Columbia represents about 30% of the overall national figure, and at BCIT alone, enrolment of international students has increased by 200% since 2005. There over 2,400 students from 85 countries in full-time and part-time programs at BCIT. Over the past decade, BCIT has partnered with more than 150 institutions across the globe, in which more than 20 delivered international diploma programs overseas to over 5,000 international students. BCIT currently has international collaborations with Brazil, China, Chile, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Trinidad, the UAE, Ukraine, Vietnam and the European Union. For me, this is great news —


more people to bond with over shared experiences — sadly, some Canadian-born citizens don’t share my enthusiasm, which translates to damaging misconception and creating a culture that is hostile to people like Victor and I.


erhaps no stereotype around “Internationals” is more prevalent than the notion that we take more than we give back. In reality, students from other countries bring with them a wealth of social, economic and cultural benefits to com-

According to Statistics Canada, the average age of international students is 23, which makes a great pool of human resource for the federal and provincial government workforce. Additionally, the amount of overall annual spending by international students translates to 122,700 jobs supported in the Canadian economy. We create more jobs than we fill given our contributions to the GDP through tuition fees, living expenses, tourism, taxes and tax revenues, just to name a few. For more information I spoke to Christopher McNair, an immigration consultant who came to Canada as an international student from the Netherlands nearly 15 years ago. McNair was the one who opened my eyes to the great benefit to the economy and the flow of cash that comes with international students. Government agencies recognize this, which is why people like McNair are working alongside a new Express Entry program that helps international students adapt and integrate in the community. This allows them to be more competitive on the international market and subsequently a great resource to try and keep in the country. I personally feel that international students bring far more to the table than just money. The money is for the province, but the diverse experiences and unique perspectives that people like Victor bring to Canada, add far more to the cultural milieu of the country as a whole. In my class, I’m the go-to person when it comes to Indian culture, from food suggestions to questions about Bollywood-inspired clothing and language. Us international students fill in the gaps in the social fabric of our peer groups. Vancouver’s iconic Chinatown is a prime example of celebrating immigrant culture. When my classmates go all the way to Commercial Drive to sample Italian food, or to Surrey for the Diwali festival, it speaks volumes of how special and diverse our cultural landscape is thanks to immigrants and international students.

WHO SAID IT WAS EASY? Despite the stereotypes, it’s plain to see the multitude of things that international students give back to their communities, which is why it hurts so much when people say it’s too easy to come to Canada and they let too many immigrants in. Moving to a foreign country is never easy. International students often sacrifice a great deal to be here, investing more than just their personal savings into a good education; We’re also investing our hearts. Immigrating to Canada as an international student is not only expensive, it is also a time-consuming process. The perception is that coming here to study is easy, but even international students who have as much experience and education as I do have to prove that they deserve to study here.

munities, schools and institutions in B.C. In 2015, 130,053 international students attended public and private post-secondary institutions and K-12 schools in B.C to the tune of $3.5 billion in tuition, accommodation and other living expenses going back into local economy. This amount helped the province in supporting and creating 29,300 jobs. In tandem with that, there are many vacant jobs in Canada that international students are perfectly suited to fill, undermining the notion that immigrants steal jobs.


First we have to sit for an official academic English language test before we apply for a study permit. Just booking a date for an exam takes four months if you live in a big city because of the sheer number of applicants. The academic component of the test is extremely difficult, with one of the key aspects being able to speak for five minutes in front of a native English speaker to prove that you can adapt to life in Canada. The highest possible score is 9 and it takes months of practice to achieve that score. I made some of my classmates go through mock versions and many of them gave up after awhile. You would too if you had to read five or six pages of academic research on topics like blue whales, and then answer more than 100 questions on the topic. It took me four months of practice that lasted five hours each day and I managed 8.5 (the next level is 9). While the Immigration Board insists on a level 7 requirement. Most post-secondary institutions that offer higher education expect a score of 8 and above. English is just the tip of the iceberg. Financially, it’s a massive strain to study here. Although studying in Canada is often cheaper than anywhere else in the world, it is still expensive given the currency exchange difference. According to one education consultancy IEC Abroad, tuition fees range from $5,000 – $20,000 per year for undergraduate courses in Canada. I pay nearly $40,000 for a two-year

program here at BCIT. Then, when you factor in my living expenses and rent, it means that the savings my husband and I accumulated in 30 years will be drained. Investments aside, applying for a study permit becomes a time-consuming overly bureaucratic process, especially in my case and other students from India. We need to have a signed and notarized letter from our parents that states they “allow” their child to go abroad for higher education. In my case, because I’m married and we have a child, my husband had to sign two — one for myself and one to give me permission for me to travel with “his child.” These documents are then presented to the local police for a clearance certificate, where in my case I had to put up with misogynistic comments about why a 35-year-old stay-at-home-mom would want to study. International students from India then have to undergo a medical exam from a doctor recommended by the Immigration and Refugee Board in Canada. Even my then 2-year-old son had to undergo one. However, my classmate from the U.S. (also considered an international student) did not have to go through this process. By the time all these documents arrive, it’s been 3-4 months. I remember when my classes started and I was still awaiting my visa, fixating on my fate being in the hands of some clerk or policeman who might just laugh at my audacity and stamp “No.” Now imagine the hundreds of thousands of students who invest more than 1.5 years of their life into planning for this, only to have their visa declined because they couldn’t satisfy a visa officer for any number of reasons.

Immigration experts like McNair say that international students have a lot of advantages over other immigrants. “They enter Canada at a relatively young age, have Canadian educational qualifications and are extremely proficient in English, along with their native language.” Moreover, given the number of years international students study here, they have a far greater understanding of the Canadian labour market, local economy and provincial rules and regulations. The advent of social media also means a greater network of resources that may facilitate job searches. Given all these advantages, in the late 2000s Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) added measures to attract more highly educated international students and ease their transition to eventual immigration. International students are now allowed to work on and off campus (20 hours per week) and are eligible to participate in coop and internship programs. Their spouses are allowed to enter the country with an open work permit, which means they don’t need a job offer letter from an employer (compared to the conventional work permit where that is the first requirement). My husband doesn’t live here, but he visits us from time to time and this visa flexibility allows him to pick up off freelance jobs here to support our family.

When someone says it’s too easy to come and study in Canada, they don’t understand how much it costs, both financially and emotionally. “What people don’t realize,” says McNair, “is that immigrating to a new country is far more than tuition and living expenses. The emotional tax that you pay - the fragile relationships - that is the ultimate test in this journey.” To live away from your parents, your family, your spouse and friends, to leave everything behind, your home, your belongings; all of this takes a huge emotional toll on people, myself included. I miss out on holidays, festivities, all the family get-togethers and the drama that goes with it, the familiar smell of my favourite food, the sound and cacophony of my mother tongue. But in the end, it’s worth it for a better life.

WHY DO IT? International students come to Canada for a whole range of personal reasons, and there is never just one. Those who were surveyed by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) said they chose Canada as their education destination because of the quality of the Canada’s education system, reputation as a tolerant and non-discriminatory society, and overall safety. More than half of international students continue living in Canada after completing their studies and go on to apply for permanent residency, once again confronting the misconception that international students only come to Canada to reap the rewards of our education system and then leave. People who earn a Canadian education have a huge advantage in the job search and immigration application process. I know many professionals who did not study here, but moved instead under a Permanent Residency status, only have to make do with working at grocery stores because our Indian education isn’t recognized here. The Indian education consists of 16 years compared to 17 years in the Western world, thereby making our education inadequate, even for someone studying medicine or technology. So while international students don’t have the same status as those with PR, they have a bigger advantage in the long run.


For someone like my new friend Victor, who spends hours on campus studying Computer Systems Technology, it means his family can have a double income. While Victor works at the BCIT IT Service Department, his girlfriend Tamara works at the Tim Hortons, both on campus. Victor says having a working partner is a great asset because it certainly reduces the pressure of paying rent and bills: “We are not from a rich family and without her effort, the dream of moving to Canada would never be possible.” International students who graduate from a recognized Canadian post-secondary institution can also apply for a work permit under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program to acquire the skilled work experience required to apply for permanent residence. “Studying in Canada is the key factor for getting a stable job and living in Canada,” McNair reminds me. “To show to future employees that you can adapt and be productive in different environments.” So, once students like Victor and myself graduate, we have a small time window to apply to work here. After one year of work experience, we will be eligible to apply for permanent residency that will give us the freedom to eventually buy a home. Of course, with all the potential opportunity that lies before us, there are still many


challenges facing newcomers to Canada. Language barriers are one thing, but the misconceptions and stereotypes we face every day, often inside our own classrooms, are the greatest and most painful challenge of all. I personally feel I have had the hardest time overcoming the belief that we take away local jobs, or worse, that we don’t deserve any of this because of some preconceived notions around our nationalities, races and religions. Ignorance is a really tough and complex problem to face. I’ve had so many people express shock when they hear me speak English. Obviously they didn’t know that a large part of the urban Indian population is educated in English medium and it’s almost a first language. It’s stifling to be honest, this constant battling against boilerplate information that people have of the average Indian; it’s archaic and holds no value in 2017. Back at our table, Victor and I discuss my worries and he offers his own interesting take on the discrimination: “I try to understand their position. It’s hard for a local, who is struggling to find a job, to see the big picture and realize how hard we are working for a chance to live in Canada.” He adds, “[Stereotypes] are not a nice thing to hear, but life goes on.” I agree. In the end, given all the struggles, the tears we shed when leaving our families and homeland,

everything is worth it. The journey itself is worth the struggle. Victor nods and says it’s the experience that counts. “It means a lot, not only because we are living in a great country, but also because I’m proud of what my girlfriend and I are accomplishing. Living, working and studying in a different culture, away from our family and old friends is an incredible challenge, and in my opinion, we are doing a great job so far.” At this stage, Victor is confident in his decision to come to Canada as both he and his girlfriend are happy here. Canada is working out equally for both of them. As I go back home, McNair’s words continue to resound in me. To see the exponential emotional, mental and educational growth curve in myself, and most importantly my child, I would do all of this again in a heartbeat. So the next time you find yourself doing group work with an International student, or you catch yourself repeating any of the numerous misconceptions about us, think about the stereotypes you hold of us and balance those with our struggle based on our desire to have a second chance at life. We may be international, but our idenitities are so much more than a label.

Braeden Frew photographed a handful of international students and immigrant students who work with LINK and make our magazine great. See more pieces of the portrait series online at


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& words emily vance artwork eda aktas






’m standing on a patchwork of blankets with about 40 strangers

Reconciliation and Aboriginal Rights

in the middle of an event tent on a hot day in September in Strathcona Park. We are at the end point of that morning’s Walk for Reconciliation, taking part in the Blanket Exercise, an interactive learning experience about settlers and the Indigenous experience since their arrival, held by KAIROS (an organization focused on human injustices). Over the course of the next hour, Elders and volunteers tell the story of first contact with the Indigenous peoples of the land we call Canada. Some of us receive numbered scrolls to read from in sequence, as we participate in telling this shared history of over 500 years which ends in present day. With every loss of land described, the blankets are folded smaller and smaller. Some blankets are taken away completely, pushing the participants on to ever-shrinking plots of blanket. With the stories of disease and forced assimilation, some people are handed coloured cards. They leave to sit on the sidelines, signifying the lives lost. We watch in silence as our population and landmass, which had been so plentiful at the beginning, is lost. Tears stream down the faces of many as the stories reverberate in the stillness of the tent and the heat of the day, augmented by the sounds of music and rousing speeches that bleed in from the larger event. The day began with a speech from Tsleil-Waututh Elder and residential school survivor, Amy George. More than 50,000 participants stood in absolute, pindrop silence in the crisp morning, listening to Amy speak about her 10 years of suffering abuse at the hands of those who were meant to care for her. Instead, they had stripped her and so many others of their culture, dignity, and basic human rights. The emotion in the air was palpable. Namwayut was the word of the day. It means “We are all one” in the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation language. It felt that way as we all walked in solidarity across the Georgia viaduct; people of all ages, races, and affiliations marching together. At the end point in Strathcona Park, during Vancouver’s first-ever Reconciliation Expo, participants gave speeches, including an inspiring address by National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations. He told the crowd that it is, “people who will heal the wounds of the past, who will make a difference.” He said that together, we can do away with stereotypes, put legacies of assimilation and cultural genocide behind us, and work towards the future. The Walk for Reconciliation is in its fourth year, hosted by Reconciliation Canada as a part of their initiative Reconciliation in Action: A National Engagement Strategy. They aim to “build a national narrative on reconciliation and catalyze action.” They also host National Reconciliation Gatherings across the country and have gathered data from Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to create a National Narrative Report on Reconciliation, among other initiatives. Reconciliation Canada is an Indigenous-led organization founded by Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, a Gwawaenuk Elder, in 2012.

the Canadian context generally means What is Reconciliationtheinreturn to and renewal of nation-tonation relations between Indigenous peoples Reconciliation? and Canadians. It often focuses on federal

governmental relations and Indigenous leaders, but is a concept with great power and application on the individual level as well.

Shared Conceptions of Reconciliation: a) Creating greater equality between both populations; b) Working together to create opportunities and reduce barriers; c) Moving beyond the past and away from a dependency on government. From Reconciliation Canada’s document “The Canadian Reconciliation Landscape,” which surveyed both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians

Instrumental in working towards Canadian reconciliation are the reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC was founded in


2012 to examine the impact of residential schooling on Indigenous people in Canada. The findings of Canada’s TRC were published in 2015, and span six volumes. The TRC’s final report summary, “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future,” includes 94 Calls to Action that outline the concrete steps that the Canadian government and Indigenous leaders must take in order to bridge the gap between idealistic language and meaningful action. The 94 Calls to Action are separated into two categories. The first is Legacy, which makes recommendations on the basis of eradicating the legacy of residential schools in the areas of child welfare, education, language and culture, health, and justice. The second is Reconciliation, which includes guidelines to address this legacy. It tackles issues such as: equity for Indigenous people in the legal system, professional development and training for public servants, youth programs, church apologies, and education for reconciliation, among other things. Murray Sinclair, chair of the TRC, cautions that the process will not happen overnight. Generations of systemic abuses towards Indigenous cultures mean that, “it’s going to take us at least a few generations to be able to say that we are making progress.”

Part of the solution To unpack the issue of colonialism and the settler’s ongoing legacy on Canada’s Indigenous people, we must first shed light on this dark chapter of Canadian history. The scope of public misunderstanding around Indigenous issues is vast, and education is the first step towards healing. Hence the “Truth” which comes before “Reconciliation.” I’m sure most of us have heard ignorant remarks aimed at or 18

about Indigenous peoples, often based on stereotypes and inherited prejudices. What I’ve found to be equally chilling are the blank stares that often meet me when I mention Reconciliation. Many are unable to define what it is; others simply have nothing to say. Indigenous Rights issues in Canada encompass such a vast territory — the legacy of residential schools and the ‘60s scoop (see sidebar), missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, Saskatoon’s “starlight tours,” treaty rights, disproportionately high incarceration and homelessness rates, suicide among Indigenous youth, living conditions on reserves, food and water sovereignty, pipeline debates… It’s daunting to list, let alone live. While writing this article, I had to confront what it means for a white woman to write about Indigenous people. Was this a further extension of colonialism? It’s a sensitive and complex issue, but I felt compelled to relay the message. Every uninformed remark I encounter by my fellow Canadians is a reminder that more eyes need to be opened. Turns out there is a word for those who want to join in and spread the conversation of reconciliation by challenging the historical, cultural, and racial injustices: allies. I came across the framework for allyship in my readings as I prepared this article. The “Ally Bill of Responsibilities,” penned by Dr. Lynn Gehl, an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe woman and long time Indigenous rights advocate, establishes the guidelines for acting as a responsible ally to Indigenous people. Allies are defined on the website as: “people who recognize the unearned privilege they receive from society’s patterns of injustice and take responsibility for changing these patterns.” Dr. Gehl’s first principle states that responsible allies “do not act out of guilt, but rather out of a genuine interest in challenging the larger oppressive

power structures.” If you feel guilty about your culture’s complicity in wrongdoing, acknowledge that feeling, understand it, but don’t let it rule your decisions. You will tire of your work and grow to resent that which you are trying to uphold. Meaningful change must come from a foundation of positivity, from the heart. Another key principle in becoming a responsible ally is to be aware of one’s own privilege, and be open to discussing it. I am a daughter of settlers: Ninth generation mixed European. I come from a long line of white farmers. I wonder about what reactions my ancestors had to the cultural genocide that was going on in their backyards, hand-in-hand with their churches. I wonder whether my greatgrandmothers ever experienced a pang of shared pain with the Indigenous mothers whose children were torn away from them. If they ever held their children closer, imagining life in their shoes. I wonder about the stories they told themselves to justify this disconnect. But even in wondering this, I still stand in privilege — to know my ancestry, to be free to practice my culture, to speak the language of my people, to know the values of my parents and grandparents, to have been taught directly by them — unlike so many generations of Indigenous children. It is a privilege I can not imagine living without, and yet so many do.

BCIT’s role I wanted to know more about how our campus facilitates and empowers the Indigenous portion of our student body, so I met up with a Métis student, Justin Perry, to talk about his work with the Indigenous Services Centre (aka The Aboriginal Gathering Place) at BCIT. Justin is Métis: Ojibway on his grandmother’s side. Yet, Justin never experienced his own culture first-hand until he came to BCIT and got involved in The Gathering Place. He is now

fully absorbed by his work, spending almost all of his free time there, five days a week. He works as an Aboriginal Student Councillor, helps run the Aboriginal Culture Club, is a peer mentor, and also a fire keeper at BCIT’s monthly sweat lodge ceremonies. He spoke of the importance of having a space for Indigenous students to call their own within the busy atmosphere of BCIT. In Justin’s view, the biggest goal of The Gathering Place is to connect people together. The space is welcoming and the people are wonderful: the first time I dropped by to chat, I accidentally wandered into an awards ceremony and was greeted with smiles and a seat in the circle, as well as offers of food and friendship. At the Walk for Reconciliation this past September, one of the Elders-InResidence at The Gathering Place, Alf Dumont, told me that reconciliation is also about Indigenous people learning and re-learning their own history: so much of it was stripped away with disempowerment of Indigenous culture throughout Canada’s history. Justin’s work through the Culture Club does exactly that. They plan workshops that allow students to experience their culture in a way they may have had no opportunity to before. Past events include drum-making and song workshops. In the spring, the club will be hosting a traditional medicine workshop, and networking with Elders of local communities to participate and help pass on their teachings. All BCIT students are welcome to participate in the Culture Club, as well as in the monthly sweat lodges that The Gathering Place hosts. Of course, we also spoke about reconciliation directly. Justin stressed just how important this multifaceted topic is, and how its meaning differs depending on one’s perspective. “If you are a resident of Canada, I think you need to take the time, as dark as it is, to learn about reconciliation. Whether that’s coming to Orange Shirt Day, watching the news, seeing what the Walk [for Reconciliation] is about, or attending, it is very important. We need to look the truth in the face and prevent this from happening again.” When asked about how individuals can put words into action, Justin spoke of the importance of attending events and staying educated, or simply taking the time to listen to what Indigenous people have to say. Put yourself in their shoes, and remain humble in your approach. He adds that if you, your family, or an affiliated organization were complicit in residential schooling, to confront that within yourself, and apologize. And it doesn’t all have to be bleak. “It comes back to the First Nations philosophy,” Justin reminds me, “that we’re all connected in one way or another, we can always learn and develop together.” Back at the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, Bridget (a Métis woman and one of the volunteers) said something similar when I asked her how individuals can put reconciliation into action on a daily basis. She said the most important thing is, “getting to know Indigenous people [and] welcoming them into your lives.” The City of Vancouver declared themselves as the world’s first City of Reconciliation in 2014. They rolled out a City of Reconciliation Framework in the same year, with the long-term goals of strengthening local and urban Indigenous relations (including the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations), promoting arts, culture, awareness and understanding of Indigenous peoples, and incorporating Indigenous perspectives to create effective City services. Like most reconciliation initiatives, the process will be slow, but these steps forward are important.

“The ‘60s Scoop’ refers to the former Canadian government policy of taking Indigenous children from their homes and placing them in foster care, where they primarily ended up living with white, middle-class families and losing their language and cultural identity in the process. This continued well into the 1980s, and it is estimated that over 20,000 children were taken during this time. Canada has recently settled almost all of its 18 related lawsuits with an $800 million settlement for survivors. The money will never buy back the loss of culture and the pain of separation, but it is an important and very necessary acknowledgement of egregious wrongdoing on the federal level.” (From Reconciliation Canada’s document “The Canadian Reconciliation Landscape.”)

In order for Reconciliation to be effective, it needs to be more than just lip service. Communities and individuals need to embrace Indigenous peoples and cultures as equals to their own. Attend Indigenous rights events and celebrations. Take the time to educate yourself about the trials that Indigenous people have been through in Canada’s history. If you are interested in humanitarian work abroad, take a deep look within our country first. Coming from a place of humility and respect to understand one another will be crucial as we make this journey forward, together. Namwayut we are all one. Learn more about Reconciliation and connect with the Indigenous community by visiting the Aboriginal Gathering Place located on the BCIT Burnaby Campus (SW1 - #1521)



@Identity words selenna ho



photos ryan judd


“I’m going on a social media detox.” It’s the umpteenth time my friend has made this announcement. “It takes up too much of my time. Besides,” her eyes fell to her lap, “it makes me feel insecure.” I hugged her and watched as she selectively uninstalled several apps from her phone then sighed heavily. “That feels better.”





elcome to the life of a typical Millennial, where our fastest growing addiction is social media and our fastest depreciating asset is our self-worth. A survey of almost 2,000 college students found that we spend an average of 500 minutes a day (that’s almost 8 hours) on our phones, scrolling through our Facebook accounts, texting, looking up miscellaneous items, and various other activities like games or e-mails1. We’re living in the virtual world more than ever before, and to some extent, it makes a lot of sense. Our phones have become information gateways between us and the world around us, from map apps to reviews of the latest coffee shop. We want information fast and in a variety of forms, so it’s no surprise that a data-rich platform like the smartphone creates a technologically dependent reality. It’s almost impossible to navigate our day-to-day lives without picking up our phones. Humans are also natural storytellers, so when we get new information, we want to share it with everyone in our lives including our virtual communities, thereby adding more layers of information to the technological realm. The physical world, or our primary reality, has the benefit of thousands of year’s worth of critical thinking in philosophy, psychology and a multitude of behavioural sciences to try and make sense of who we are, but also why we are. Social media and virtual realities on the other hand are a relatively new phenomenon, so we’re still trying to understand its potential, and identify ways we can use it to enhance our society as a whole. As it is at the outset of any new technology, the negatives are far more apparent than the positives. Take the telephone for example, which when first invented spread fears that the sounds from the telephone would make people go insane or even deaf. Now the telephone is an essential part of our everyday lives, with little-to-no skepticism around it. Social media is the new telephone and we’re still grasping the initial conflicts that come with it. We’re all creating these virtual identities that in many ways look nothing like our “real” ones. We’re experiencing new addictions to screen time and “likes,” plus a multitude of other yet-articulated psychological effects. Between hate groups and powerful people using it to their advantage, and our parents’ generation telling us that we’re too selfinvolved, it’s difficult for some to acknowledge the power of innovation that social media represents. But many of us are starting to understand that social media can be more than just selfies of you and your lunch, but rather a tool to leverage the power of social connection in strengthening the voices of the online democracy. Perhaps in time the major benefits of social media will become textbook knowledge, just like the telephone. Roberts, James, Chris Pullig, and Chris Manolis. (2015). I need my smartphone: A hierarchical model of personality and cell-phone addiction. Personality and Individual Differences, 79, 13-19.



o, who are you? Honestly, Social Media an unbiased observer combing through your social media accounts might have a tough time answering that question. Are you the savvy professional on Linkedin, or the aesthetic tastemaker on Instagram? Are you the compassionate animal lover on Facebook, or the acerbic political pundit on Twitter? The answer is a combination of all of the above, plus the human beings attached to the fingers continuously typing, snapping and posting. We are both the person we see in the mirror, and the one we see on our social media accounts. The concept of identity can be traced back across thousands of years of human history, with religion, race, and nationality being leading factors in how we conceive our identity. Now we’ve got a whole new platform for complicating the big question of “Who am I?” and in many of the same ways as the physical you, your virtual identity is constructed, configured and filtered to match the environment in which you are living. What seems to be causing the most friction however, is that unlike our primary identities which are often formed subconsciously, these newer virtual versions of ourselves are constructed with purpose and awareness. We spend hours at a time editing how we are perceived online, because we want to present a temporary part of ourselves in a more permanent way. After all, that upbeat person you present online will just stay there on permanent record, whereas our emotions and appearances in the outside world are too fluid to solidify any one moment in time. It’s fascinating to see how humans have constructed an entirely new world just to enhance, complement, and possibly outpace the world outside our phones. And with this new world comes a whole new you. Is there any other period in a person’s life when they are more vulnerable to identity shift than in their youth? According to recent studies, young people are drawn to social media platforms as a means to construct and express their desired self-presentations to themselves and their virtual community without adult supervision. You become your own parental surgeon, dissecting and perfecting your profiles to better suit the person you want to exhibit to the entire virtual community. Before long, you’ve perfectly crafted your second identity. While it may be rewarding to do, having another identity is also extremely taxing on energy levels. Your virtual identity must navigate a whole other realm with a new set of social cues and mannerisms. If you want to react to



something, there are limited response values — like, reply, or share. When you start designing your profile, you have to filter and maintain it in order to adequately fit into that niche community. And when you post something, either independently or in response to someone else, you edit your speech for certain feedback from the community. We already perform all of these codes of conduct in our in-person interactions, however the rules and regulations online and offline are significantly different. In person, physical appearances, past experiences, and social groupings have already established who we are inside certain communities. Those surrounding us read into that and respond accordingly. Online however, we have the freedom to craft whoever we want to be, in a filtered context. But all that extra opportunity available to us can leave us feeling mentally drained. It’s far too early to tell if this consequence is ‘normal’ or not normal, and the best we can do right now to understand it is to look at similarities from the material world.

All of this research seems to correlate with the cynical feedback from the older generations who have little-to-no firsthand experience with this phenomenon. They say the “Selfie Generation” is becoming increasingly narcissistic, isolated, and emotionally stagnated, but I argue: haven’t we always questioned, rebelled and revolutionized our identities during adolescence and early adulthood? The major difference now is that our generation has a more accessible, connected platform to publicly perform our pubescent — and dare I say – normal emotions. We’re still learning to adjust to such openness, which can result in these negative reactions. At the same time, using social media as an outlet and to form a community can create long lasting positive effects; a lot of youth also reflect, learn and grow from these experiences. From there, we can leverage our online identities into something beyond the virtual realm and into

“Likes” equal popularity and deliver a strong hit that temporarily boosts your self-esteem.”


ocial media is the addiction of our generation. When we compare it to other addictions, like substance abuse, social media seems no different when it’s used as a means to try and manipulate our emotions. Youth who experience higher levels of mental illness and psychological distress are typically more frequent users of social media2. Research has found that for girls, feeling depressed tends to trigger higher social media use, while the same course of action is correlated with boys experiencing anxiety3. Much like in our peer-topeer interactions where humans crave connections and validation, social media then becomes a proxy for approval and acceptance, complete with its own unit of comparison. “Likes” equal popularity and deliver a strong hit that temporarily boosts your self-esteem. Many times, the desire to obtain this recognition pressures youth into posting up items that they would otherwise be uncomfortable doing. The three main online activities that youth do to cope with negative emotions include: posting when stressed, oversharing, and posting triggering content. The response from their followers can have the opposite effect from relief, which becomes more problemtaic when cyberbullying, unwanted attention from others, and losing confidentiality is the by-product4. Radovic, Ana, Theresa Gmelin, Bradley D. Stein, and Elizabeth Miller. (2016, June). Depressed adolescents’ positive and negative use of social media. Journal of Adolescence, 55, 5-15. 2


our everyday realities. In other words, social media is a great place to make mistakes and learn from them, to build communities and social skills, and to essentially discover yourself in a multitude of ways. Everything we do in the virtual realm is a direct reflection of who we are and what we support. The things we ‘like’ become our show of support for the messages, trends, and causes we believe in. When we comment, we are simply expressing our innate desire to have our voices heard. By participating in the virtual world through actions that echo our values, we are, in many ways, creating our own new democracy. Democracy is defined as a system of government by the population, where the majority of power lies in the vested interests of its people. Sure, even today “real world” democracy continues to be challenged as the ultimate form of social organization, but one thing is clear: this new social media democracy is far more powerful. It allows people to voice Oberst, Ursula, Elisa Wegmann, Benjamin Stodt, Matthias Brand, and Andres Chamarro. (2017). Negative consequences from heavy social networking in adolescents: the mediating role of fear of missing out. Journal of Adolescence 4 Radovic, Ana, Theresa Gmelin, Bradley D. Stein, and Elizabeth Miller. 3

their opinions in a more direct and timely manner than in generations past. Campaigns such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo are circulated faster and people can show their support immediately, and often with far less risk to personal safety. As a result, change happens much faster than it would in the material world, where systemic barriers, violent opposition, and bureaucracy can impede revolutions. When I’m on social media, I notice that I’m a lot more conscious of my actions and how I want them to affect the people around me. I’m naturally drawn to movements that resonate with my passions, and I immerse myself in a community of like-minded peers. There is real opportunity here to use social media to voice our concerns, and leverage the platform to create real change outside of the virtual realm. This opportunity is evidenced by increased awarness of social gatherings, the ease in circulating new ideologies, and the rise of public figures who better reflect our core values.

to hold these public figures accountable for their words and actions. Never before have the voices of so many come together on one platform to choose leaders that resonate with us the most. In essence, we can enforce change with a click of a button. For every negative analysis of young people and social media, there is equal evidence for it becoming the major platform for democratic change. As we progress with social media, we’ll only continue to better understand and catalyze real change. Like most of my friends, I also took a social media detox. This allowed me to better evaluate the negative environment from an objective stance, and afforded me the mental space to appreciate the enormous possibility that social media represents. Social media is an entirely new world that we’re still learning to adapt to and harness. The overlap and differences between our virtual worlds and our lived realities are complex and confusing, especially as we navigate our dual identities. But ultimately, social media does have the potential to take us further as a society. Like most innovations, there’s usually negative feedback and resistance to newness. And like most innovations, we need to experiment with them first before we build a solid foundation of understanding and leverage it into something better. Social media is a new phenomenon that’s outpacing our ability to consciously adapt. But once we’ve established that online and offline infrastructure with our dual identities and pass the knowledge down to the generations to come, we’ll recognize the potential to its full extent and mobilize accordingly. The social media democracy is our virtual realm to advance a better world, and as citizens of the social media democracy, we’re responsible for our courses of virtual and real-life action.

“There is real opportunity here to use social media to voice our concerns, and leverage the platform to create real change.”

With social media, we can create and discover workshops, events, rallies — all types of social gatherings that are dedicated to igniting and delivering social change. Moreover, even when it seems like these campaigns aren’t successful, the circulation of knowledge is, at the very least, advancing our critical thinking. The major successes of the campaigns #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter demonstrate the strength that social media has in circulating ideologies on both a local and global scale. With the sheer number of people participating in those discussions, those ideologies become common knowledge. As a result, those in positions of power are better equipped to take the necessary steps to ensure change. Lastly, public leaders are no longer restricted to the confines of Hollywood celebrity status; we now hold more power to choose our own icons and propel them with our likes and direct interactions. What’s more, we also have the power



to Novelist


ichael Jesmer is a 25-year-old Broadcast Journalism student at BCIT. He was born in Red Deer Alberta and enjoys writing/filmmaking. What you wouldn’t know about Mike from just meeting him, is that he used to be homeless. Having battled alcoholism and poverty, Mike’s experiences over the last six years tell a unique tale that can be found in his soonto-be released novel Scarves & Spaceboots: A Hobo Story. In a novel based on true events and real people, Mike’s survival story about overcoming poverty can be an inspiration to us all. In the book you talk about struggling with alcohol and finding your best friend dead on the side of the road while you were young. How did this experience affect your relationship with alcohol? My friend Logan was found dead when I was 18; he was 17. It was a month after graduation and to this day still no one knows what happened. That caused a lot of stress for me and it definitely affected my alcohol consumption. I started isolating myself from others that September. Every


words & images daniel mountain

once in a while, my close friends would check up on me but I started drinking by myself. Anyone who struggles with addiction knows that using by yourself is the most lethal thing you can do to feed your addiction. The prologue to your book mentions a business you started. What was your business and what happened to it? My business was a video production company. I planned to make documentaries and short films, but what I ended up doing for money was music videos and weddings. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to run a business or how much to charge for production costs, so within three months I was more or less broke and I was in the habit of pawning all of my equipment to pay rent. Eventually I was faced with going homeless. Can you tell me about some of the people you’ve met on your journey? A lot of the people at the DI [Drop-in and Rehabilitation Center in Calgary] were a lot nicer than I was expecting. I was very ignorant going into the homeless

condition. I thought people were going to try and take my stuff or be anti-social, but it was kind of the opposite. Not everyone there was struggling with addiction. Two of the people I got to know there were there as a result of the Alberta floods, which had happened earlier that year. They just found themselves in a position where they had no home, and they had no insurance, so they ended up living at the DI. As far as people who were there struggling with addiction, at the other end of the poverty spectrum, they were still very nice. I find in a lot of cases, both there and here in Vancouver, homeless people have each other’s backs. It doesn’t matter what kind of walk of life you come from, because you’re in the same position and they’re more often than not going to help you out. What do you think the biggest misconception people have about the people who are on the street? A common misconception people have is: all homeless people are drug addicts. That’s the biggest one that I found, and not everyone is. Even in the youth spectrum, a lot of them were hardworking

Student Feature or between houses and I saw a lot of people come and go off the street and leave successfully. But I also saw a lot of people go from being in a good situation to dying. There’s that, and the criminal stigma attached to homelessness. I found that a lot of homeless people were the victims of crimes rather than the perpetrators. It’s hard to say, but the point of my book was to try and show all sides of homelessness as well as I can. A lot of people I came across were good people and I learned a lot from them.

You titled your Michael Jesmer book Scarves and Spaceboots. What is the significance of those words? My book is inspired by the book A Man’s Search for Meaning which was written by a Jewish psychologist during WW2. He was deported to Auschwitz and was a prisoner who snuck in a journal and took on a study of the way the Jewish prisoners were adapting to concentration camps and the phases of acceptance/denial that they went through. I wanted to pay homage to that. My book is based on the theory that both acceptance and denial can carry you through a hopeless situation. My term for denial is “spaceboots” and my term for acceptance is “scarves.” It’s more of a metaphor. I don’t have a psychology background, so I made up my own terms to speak about acceptance, denial and homelessness in my own way.

What was the experience like getting off the streets? There’s a fine balance between being dependent on services and accessing Scarves & Spaceboots will be available on the services when you need them, Amazon in early December. as opposed to using them because (cover art by: Camara Swap) they’re there. For a lot of people, it’s income assistance that helps them The tagline of the book is “A Hobo’s Story.” get off [the street], but a lot of people Why did you use the word “hobo”? get stuck on income assistance as The reason I chose to use the word hobo as well. From what I noticed, what worked for a lot of people in much as I did is because there was a homeless person I was getting off the street was they found something to hold onto. talking to when I first went homeless and I told him I was For someone like me, it was school. writing a book about the homeless and he said: “don’t call me homeless, that’s fucking insulting.” And I said, “What should I Why BCIT? What brought you to this program? call you then?” He said, “Hobos. Call us hobos.” So I kind of I participated in the re-write of a play last year called “Death in ran with that, and now that part is in the book. I really wanted a Dumpster,” which was a play about homelessness. The entire to spark a conversation. Some people may be politically correct cast was homeless. Some people came to put us on the news and drill into me for that and to them I’d have to ask: “How and I thought it was so cool that they were giving us a chance to can you really judge me for using the word ‘hobo’ when I was a get some coverage on this because that was something I wasn’t hobo?” expecting. I had the presence of mind to ask, “Hey what news organization do you work for?” And they said they were secondWhat is the best term then to call someone without a home, year BCIT students in the Broadcast and Online Journalism in your opinion? Program. [Since] I got to feel what it’s like to come from a place A person. Just call them people. where you don’t have a voice, and then to have one, I thought: that’s what I want to be doing, to give someone else a voice. I’m a strong believer that any negative experience can be How are you doing now compared to a year ago? turned into something positive. Michael Jesmer has had some This time last year I was homeless. I was coming out of a extremely negative and difficult times in his life, which I believe single room occupancy unit. It’s a work in progress if we’re only gives him more potential to bring positivity into the world. talking about my mental health and my physical health and Surely one person cannot fix homelessness alone. If there’s one my addiction – I still have to go to counselling all the time. I’m thing we can learn about Mike, it’s that he’s a person just like the happy to be here at BCIT; it gives me a lot of purpose. rest of us. Perhaps if all of our cards were dealt a little differently, who knows how we would have ended up. Maybe Mike can What’s it like publishing for the first time? teach us that the best thing we can do is to stop viewing those It’s exciting. When I submitted the book (for publication), it’s without homes as “homeless people” and to simply begin like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders because the book viewing them as people. has been finished for a long time and I’ve been really nervous about going public about being homeless. The roots of the story and almost every aspect of the story, except for the names of the people, are true. Having my name be synonymous with If you or someone you know are dealing with homelessness, homelessness… You’re never gonna be ready for that. But after here are a few resources that may help out: I clicked “send” and my book was in the hands of Amazon, I knew that I solidified my decision to live with that. There’s no Directions Youth Services sense in pretending that’s not a huge aspect of my life. I was Provides free meals for youth under the age of 25. homeless for almost three years and still am involved in that scene. And I think that I’m probably always gonna keep my roots in that situation. I was raised in Red Deer, but I feel like I BC211 Redbook grew up on the streets. I’m really thankful that it happened and A database of shelter and resources across the province. it’s a really important part of my life.


words and image michael white


ost Canadians currently hold a credit card, but many do not understand how a credit card can be used safely and effectively. One of my friends is badly in debt, much of his debt was accumulated on credit cards. This article will explore what a credit card is, and explore some of the key terms surrounding credit cards.

We enter into credit agreements more frequently than most of us probably realize, for example: A friend buys a drink for you, in return, you offer to buy theirs next time. Essentially your friend has extended you credit by buying you a drink, the expectation is that you will repay him later. A credit card offers the a very similar ‘receive it now, pay for it later’ service.

Types of Credit Cards:

There are three main types of credit cards we will explore here, the first is the most common. Unsecured Credit Card: This is the most common type of card. A creditor will lend you money based on your credit rating. Secured Credit Card: A secured credit card operates in a very similar way to an unsecured credit card, but you have to put forward money as collateral. This kind of credit card is usually accessible even if you have very poor credit, and will still let you build your credit rating if you are consistent in paying the balance owing. 26

Prepaid Credit Card: A prepaid credit card is a lot more like carrying cash. You choose the amount of money that you would like to transfer to the card, and then you can use that pre-loaded balance until it is gone, unlike Secured and Unsecured Credit Cards, a prepaid card will not help you build your credit rating. Credit Debit Card: A credit-debit card, is not actually a credit card at all. This card is directly tied to your bank account, but is tied to a credit-network, so that you can make purchases online, something you can’t do directly with a normal debit card.

Finance Credit Cards

What is a Credit Card?

A credit card allows someone to take a short-term loan from the bank whenever they need to, the bank agrees to loan you this money provided you promise to pay back the initial amount you borrowed (called ‘the principle’), and that you agree to pay back any interest that accumulates.

Understanding Credit Cards:

When you make a purchase on a credit card you are borrowing money from a bank, or more generally a ‘lending institution.’ When you do this you also agree to pay the money back later. The amount of money that you can borrow will depend on your something called a ‘credit limit’ which we discuss next.

Credit Limit and Credit Score:

A credit limit represents the maximum amount of money that an institution is willing to lend you. For a credit card, the credit limit will be based on your credit score, which is a representation of how likely you are to pay back your loan. Your credit score is important when applying for credit cards, mortgages, and other loans. Things that can negatively affect your credit score include: Missing loan, or credit card payments, applying for too many credit cards, or using too much of your available credit. These may represent an increase in the risk that you will completely fail to pay back your loans.

Interest rates:

If you maintain a balance on your credit card, you will have to pay back the amount you borrowed initially, additionally you will also be required to pay back the interest owing. How much interest you owe will depend on how much money you leave on your credit card from month-to-month. Interest rates can vary, however the interest rate for a student credit card is normally around 20%/ year. Interest payments are typically calculated monthly and due monthly, even though the interest rate is given a percentage per-year.

How to stay on top of payments:

Credit cards can be used very effectively by paying the full amount owing on your credit card routinely. You will avoid paying interest. You can keep on top of your payments by collecting all the receipts for payments made with your credit card, and then paying the credit card off at the end of each day. If you prefer a more relaxed schedule, you can review and pay off your credit card balance routinely, I suggest at the end of each week.

Cashing Out.

With careful planning and thought, a credit card can be an effective and useful tool for building credit and making purchases. Remember to spend only money that you have. A credit card is a deferred payment and is not free money. Make sure keep your spending reasonable. Do not use a credit card to fund the next party. Finally, if you find you are not disciplined to use a credit card effectively, switch to a cash budget and get a ‘credit-debit’ card or prepaid credit card for online purchases.


MOTHERLAND Bayang Ina Mo Director: Ramona Diaz Run Time: 102 mins


years ago, my mother was born in the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in the heart of Manila. It wasn’t very crowded, but it certainly was starting to be. My grandmother had to share a bed with another woman but still, there were ample space and resources; she didn’t feel like she had to fight to get proper care and assistance. Built in 1920, the hospital started out as a small maternity clinic. It is now a public hospital, serving hundreds and hundreds of women who primarily come from low-income households. It isn’t the only maternity ward in Metro Manila, but it seems like it is with the huge number of babies born in the hospital. In Motherland, Director Ramona Diaz takes the audience for a heart-breaking ride to the overcrowded hospital. There is no narration; everything is shown and told by the hospital workers, the mothers, their families (or lack thereof), and even their newborn children. The hospital is so crowded that there’s barely room for anyone, which manifests itself both physically and emotionally.

“The women lay their stories bare for everyone to see, raw and unfiltered.” Physically, women have to share beds. One would be in labour, while the other just gave birth. In the recovery ward, the beds are put side by side to create one big bed where mothers sleep together, their babies in between them. Emotionally, mothers and babies – whatever state they’re in – are treated with little to no compassion. This is highlighted in the hurried tones nurses speak to each other regarding their patients, and the way they carry newborns: holding them like express packages to be mailed off. The documentary follows three mothers, all of whom gave birth to premature babies. The hospital is so full that there aren’t enough incubators in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, so staff developed


an alternative way to deal with the influx of premature births. Called Kangaroo Mother Care (or KMC), the mothers themselves act as the child’s incubator by wearing a tube top and putting the child in it, close to her chest so as to have constant skin to skin contact. It’s much like wearing a baby sling, except during KMC, the mother can’t take off the tube top or take her baby out of it, unless she or the baby has to bathe. One mother says that it feels like prison, having the baby stuck to her and being unable to do anything about it. There are no interviews in the film. Instead, Diaz takes us along as several mothers speak with nurses who advise them to think about family planning. The audience watches as the onus is put on the mother: She has to think about family planning, she has to think about contraception, and she has to think about her family’s beliefs and uphold them. Coming from a primarily Catholic country, Filipino women generally don’t have access to birth control. Even when it is available, many can’t afford it. But even when they’re offered contraception for free, many women refuse it because of lack of education about its benefits. What makes this documentary effective is the fact that all the women tell their own stories – for better or for worse. The women lay their stories bare for everyone to see, raw and unfiltered. Footage of births, recuperation, and even still births are punctuated by the mothers, their children, and the staff. The Philippines has an overpopulation crisis, and Diaz’s microscopic take on this maternity ward highlights this vividly. She effectively shows how the lack of education, culture, and religion are factors to poor family planning, which lead to overcrowding at the hospital and overpopulation in the long term. Motherland paints a grim picture, but also a hopeful one: women are strong, especially when their children are at stake. No matter how overwhelmed they are by their disadvantages, they will do whatever they can to raise their families.

— Twila Amato


King of Peking Director: Sam Voutaas

Run Time: 88 mins

Since I was a kid, I’ve spent summers in China with my family, sipping iced milk teas under the Eastern sun, going to family meals at restaurants an hour away, and swimming under the moon’s glow. But the most intricate details I can recollect are the gritty and high-pitched vocals that project struggles and tips along the rice paddies and concrete streets. The owners of such local tongues are typically villagers or vagrants with a distant gaze. I always find myself at a loss when describing my memory’s dialect to those who have never visited the area and walked along the dusty paths that so many locals have shaped. So when I sat down and opened my eyes to the experience of King of Peking, I was delighted to find how accurately the film captured my memory’s eyes. The film opens up with a father-son dynamic duo, preparing fresh popcorn and a reel to project Western films for villagers to watch. Big Wong (Jun Zhao) is proud of his role as a self-taught projectionist, charming entrepreneur, and most of all, a dedicated dad. The son, Little Wong (Qing Han) is a talented child, whose quick wit and even quicker limbs make him the perfect apprentice for the projectionist trade. The strength of those two characters drew me into the movie and kept me hooked the entire duration. In particular, the dad reminded me a lot of my own dad; the idiosyncratic Chinese father traits paralleled to an exact science. That’s no accident. I could feel the entire crowd relate and empathize with the dad as he threw around clean scripts to his messy life, all the while slurping noodles and concocting new schemes.

2017 VIFF Highlights

Director Sam Voutas connected the most with Big Wong and the culture that comes with parental upbringing: “I was becoming a dad when I was writing the screenplay, which is something the film explores a lot. He wants the people he loves to see things from his perspective. But he wants it so much it’s the one thing he can’t have. He feels he knows he’s right, it’s just that in his mind, other people don’t see it yet. It’s something I think a lot of people can relate to.”

“No matter how absurd the plot, it was also so believable.” Little Wong loves spending time with his father, but finds that his skills and childhood are getting more and more exploited for monetary gain. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the ridiculousness of the entire plot. For the far-fetched endeavours through which the father was willing to go for wallet expansion; for the glares and tricks the little one would pull to get his way; and for the sheer realism of the entire film, that no matter how absurd the plot, it was also so believable in an impoverished Chinese household! And so, I laughed and cheered with the rest of the crowd that grew up in similar household dynamics as I chewed on my popcorn but craved to slurp noodles. For all those who wish to experience the hysterically erratic Chinese 80s era life of a penniless parent consistently rebuilding his life for his son, I would definitely recommend King of Peking. — Selenna Ho


Photo Feature

Michael White

Max Huang

Michael White

Michael White Max Huang 30

Natalie Fox

For our drizzly October Photo Walk, we had two models come along for the shoot. We practiced creative portraiture and lifestyle photography. Here are some favourites that were snapped by our students. Shoutout to newly enagaged Lili and Jurie for being great models.

Max Huang

See you on November 24th for our next get-together!

turn your diploma into a degree Athabasca University has thousands of agreements with other colleges and universities. We accept many college diplomas and other credentials as blocks of transfer credit towards AU programs. You may be closer than you think!

Natalie Fox


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November 2017  

Student Spotlight: Dayna Weststeyn; Truth & Reconciliation; International Student Perspective; Social Media and the Virtual Democracy; Homel...