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The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010


UdeM lecturers to vote on strike Union appears internally divided, university releases final offer Eric Andrew-Gee The McGill Daily


group of Université de Montréal (UdeM) lecturers are moving to end the strike that has frozen the university in its tracks for the past three weeks. The strike for better working conditions is being waged by over 2,000 of the lecturers colleagues. Le Devoir reported Tuesday that a vote to renew the Syndicat des chargées et des chargés de cours de l’Université de Montréal (SCCCUM) mandate to strike will take place at its general assembly tomorrow. The meeting was called in the wake of a 200-signature petition requesting a vote to reconsider the current strike, which began on February 24. Francis Legacé, president of SCCCUM, was dismissive of reports of a petition. He said he wasn’t sure how many people really supported ending the strike. “We didn’t receive any signatures,” he said in French. “We received a list of names. It has no legal value.” Legacé said he was confident the general assembly would vote to continue the strike. The same day that news of the union’s internal friction came to light, the UdeM’s administration publicly released its “final offer” in the negotiations. The bargaining offer includes a wage increase of 3.8 per cent, less than half of the 7.7 per cent increase the union is demanding. A UdeM press release from Tuesday points out that the salary for teaching a 45-hour, three-credit course will now be $7,789.95, up nearly $300 from the previous wage. The new deal would also put UdeM lecturers’ pay on par with their counterparts at Université du Québec à Montréal, according to the press release – a claim corroborated by statistics published in Le Journal de Montréal on Monday. SCCCUM denounced the plan officially at their “conseil syndicale” yesterday. The union objected to what they saw as the university’s refusal to address key bargaining issues. In a strongly worded address to its members that was posted online Tuesday, the union wrote in French that, “the university continues, with its ‘offer,’ to ignore lecturers’ priorities and persists in attempting to weaken their professional standing.” The union memo does not refer

to wage issues until its seventh paragraph. The authors focused on the “employer’s” refusal to acknowledge “vocal coaches and accompanists” as full-fledged lecturers, a point on which SCCCUM has insisted in negotiations. The union is also objecting to the university reserving the right to cancel classes up to two weeks before they begin, “without any penalty to the university.” Class size reductions have also been a point of contention since the negotiation’s early stages. The lecturers’ wage demands centre on pay parity with the professors at their own university, in contrast with the administration’s position of granting the lecturers the same pay as lecturers at other Quebec schools. Legacé told The Daily that although 7.7 per cent was the current demand, he was open to changes during negotiation. “We are not dogmatic,” he said in French. “In a negotiation things can always change if something interesting is offered by the other side.” Legacé also speculated that the university’s offer would not be as “final” as advertised. He said that in the past, the university has tabled “final” offers, only to revoke or change them. “I don’t think this is the end for the university,” Legacé said. The strike has already affected some 30,000 students, with classes cancelled and an extension of the winter semester looming. Maclean’s reported that about 20 per cent of classes have been completely cancelled. Science and education faculties have been hit especially hard. UdeM student Christine Thibeault, whose lecturers are on strike, commented that she is not worried about the semester being extended, having already participated in “lots of student strikes at CEGEP and UQAM.” Thibeault thought that students should strike in solidarity with the lecturers. “The aim of the strike is to diminish the number of students per class, so it’s in the interest of the students,” she said in French, adding, “The more the administration is perturbed the sooner the strike will finish.” Legacé called on students to write to the administration to demand a solution. He insisted that responsibility for the strike lies with the university. “It’s hard for students. But the university has put us in this position. It’s hard to advance in negotiations with someone who has nothing to say,” he said.

More news everyday @

Humera Jabir | The McGill Daily

Michael Ignatieff spoke at Centre Lajeunesse Sunday in support of the Native Women’s Shelter.

Aboriginal non-profit loses funding Community programs cut despite $65.9 million in federal budget for aboriginal health Humera Jabir The McGill Daily


he 2010 federal budget has cancelled funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF), a national nonprofit that finances 134 aboriginal support services across the country. Funding for the community-based programs will come to an end on March 31, when available funds are expected to run out. On Sunday, the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) held a policy meeting with Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff to call on the federal government to reinstate its support for the AHF. The shelter depends on the AHF for funding. “We have been receiving funds from the AHF for the last 10 years, and it goes toward our healing program, and the basics, a roof over the head and food to eat…A lot of people [are] out of work, and we are going to be grasping at straws now to try to meet the needs of the women,” said Nakuset, the shelter’s executive director. Nakuset also said that the shelter will now have to cut the positions of sexual assault counsellor, program coordinator, and clinical supervisor. “It is quite devastating; we have an art therapist that comes in on a weekly basis, a psychologist, and psychotherapist who is Mohawk. People over the last decade have come to depend on our services for more than just the basics,” Nakuset added. Women community leaders from across Montreal, Ignatieff, and Liberal MP Justin Trudeau attended the policy meeting to express their

support for the shelter and AHF. “At the moment when aboriginal women and aboriginal families are under maximum pressure, increased pressure in an economic downturn, it is the worst possible time to cut funding to these healing centres that provide so much good,” said Ignatieff. He added that working with the Conservative government is extremely different, and that cooperation on its part is the exception, not the rule. “These groups depend on public money. We don’t think it’s appropriate for them to have to go begging to private sources…. We think these institutions perform public services; they protect women, they shelter women, they help women, and they deserve public support,” added Ignatieff. According to Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs spokesperson Margot Geduld, the federal government has allocated $65.9 million over two years for aboriginal health programs to be distributed by Health Canada. The federal budget also allocates $199 million for the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The federal program provides former residential school students with a lump sum payment of $10,000 for the first school year plus $3,000 for each subsequent year they spent in the residential school system. Students who suffered serious physical and sexual abuses may apply for additional compensation. Geduld would not comment on why funding to the AHF was not renewed this year, though she thanked the foundation for providing support to aboriginal peoples and said that officials had met with

the AHF to discuss moving forward. Terri Normandin, the shelter’s sexual assault counsellor, said that the federal budget did not specify how the allocated funds would be distributed, and that it remained unclear whether existing programs would receive any support. She added that she was surprised that the funding was cut considering the magnitude of the trauma caused by the residential school system. “It may be from the past, but when you look at the social issues we are dealing with, we have a loss of cultural identity, poor self esteem, a lot of health issues, addiction, a lot of domestic violence. The whole thing is inter-generational trauma…years and years of habits that we were starting to help with, issues that are not laid to rest,” said Normandin. The NWSM sent an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper Tuesday to demand the renewal of funds for the AHF. AHF communications director Wayne Spear said the foundation is prepared to support the transition of 11 healing centres and other programs. “We will continue to inform the government of the work we are doing and our research and experience. We’ve been clear that there is five years of truth and reconciliation work, mental health counselling, and support for survivors that are needed. We’ve also said that there are a lot of unreached communities, and that communities with service are still early on in this work,” said Spear.

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The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010


Post-grads fail to reach AGM quorum Society members remain in the dark about election Kartiga Thiyagarajah The McGill Daily


he Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) Tuesday evening in the Thomson Hall ballroom. With only 42 PGSS members in attendance, the Society failed to meet its quorum of 76, or one per cent of regular members of the Society, and was forced to hold an informal meeting. The meeting’s main focus was the electoral debate for executive candidates. Although all positions were acclaimed, candidates discussed their platforms for three minutes each and answered questions posed by the audience. Incoming president Alexandra Bishop addressed three key areas of concern, the first being how to improve the services available to PGSS members. “PGSS services are the first form of contact students have with the Society, making them a key priority of mine,” she said. Bishop said that while she was satisfied with programs such as family care, she promised to try to gather more student feedback to improve all services. “When making improvements, we need to look at where the greatest need is and what students want,” said Bishop. “As for other issues, such as increasing office and lab space for students, we’ll have to discuss matters with the University and see what money is available.” One thing Bishop focused on was a widely discussed issue for the Society: improving communications with students. Audience members agreed that most PGSS members are not even aware of the election currently tak-

NEWS BULLETIN SSMU and Milton-Parc work together An information session for a new initiative to improve ties between students and residents of the Milton-Parc neighbourhood was held in the Notre Dame Church Tuesday. The McGill administration, SSMU, and the Milton-Parc Citizens Committee (MPCC) have together coordinated the Community Action

Tyler Ye | The McGill Daily Archives

Thomson House was the scene of Tuesday’s failed PGSS Annual General Meeting. ing place and that an endless slew of emails is no help. “Each time I send out an email, I can feel it being deleted,” said one departmental councillor. Others felt that it is the responsibility of students to make themselves aware of PGSS proceedings and to take part in the process, though everyone agreed that there was a fundamental flaw in the PGSS’s communications strategy. Ryan Hughes, the VP (External) candidate, highlighted accountability as one primary part of his platform. “Executive evaluations have not been done and I hope to create a system to evaluate executives properly,” he said. VP (Internal) candidate Magnus Bein mentioned plans to hold new events for PGSS members in

Thomson House and off-campus. One audience member mentioned the lack of initiative in getting students from the Macdonald campus involved – an issue Bein said will be addressed. There was a brief discussion of PGSS’s upcoming referendum to de-federate from the Canadian Federation of Students. In addition, both CKUT Radio and QPIRG-McGill will be asking for fee increases at the referendum. “We’re asking for the fee increase because we need to balance our budget,” explained Erin Weisgerber, CKUT’s funding coordinator. “We’ve cut back as much as we can but without a fee increase, we’re looking at more deficit years in the future.” According to Weisgerber, CKUT has not had a PGSS fee increase

since 1987 when the community radio station first established itself. Since then, what the station receives from the PGSS has gone down by 60 per cent, after adjusting for inflation. QPIRG-McGill has also not had a PGSS fee increase since it joined the Society in 1988. “We are hopeful that we will be granted the fee increase,” said Andrea Figueroa, QPIRG’s external coordinator. “Students have been receptive and I feel it’s going to happen.” Weisgerber, however, had some concerns. “Since I am not a member of the PGSS, I cannot campaign for the fee increase. Unfortunately, many people will not be informed about the fee increase when they see it listed on their ballot.”

and Relations Endeavor (CARE), and seek to provide a basis for collaborations and consultations between the three groups in the future. MPCC member Helene Brissone, who made the evening’s opening remarks, emphasized the issues of alcohol consumption and McGill’s orientation week. It was a matter that dominated dialogue at the meeting. SSMU VP (External) Sebastian Ronderos-Morgan, who helped organize CARE, stressed the importance of first-year students’ attitudes. “Frosh Week is so important because it is the biggest event that happens all year, but it’s also the

first impression for thousands of freshmen who are coming in,” he said. CARE’s framework document, presented at the session, suggested an annual schedule of meetings and recreational activities – including a barbeque and a fair – to increase contact between students and residents. RonderosMorgan also introduced the concept of “Frosh street teams,” which he explained might involve pairs of students and willing residents present on neighbourhood intersections to offer Frosh participants directions and water, as well as encourage good behaviour.

SSMU VP (Internal) A lex Brown remarked that it was important to teach upper-year students about showing respect to the community so that younger students might follow their example. She also noted that she was working with the University’s First-Year Office so that new workshops might teach students about the Milton-Parc community and its history. “It’s going to be a slow education process,” Brown said. “It’s about creating a new culture, not just in the first week, but throughout the year, throughout the community.” —Jeff Bishku-Aykul


Thai protesters spill blood In a symbolic protest against the government, red-shirted opposition supporters have spilled bottles of their own blood outside the entrance to the home of Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Thai prime minister. Police said more than 10,000 protesters remained in Bangkok on Wednesday, a far lower number than the 100,000 estimated to have been there when it began at the weekend. The protest is led by the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister, who was deposed in a 2006 military coup. —Al Jazeera Nigerian cabinet dissolved Nigeria’s acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, has dissolved the country’s cabinet. Jonathan became acting president in February amid the continuing illness of President Umaru Yar’Adua. It was only on February 9 that the assembly appointed Jonathan as acting president, allowing him to sign legislation, chair cabinet meetings, reshuffle ministers, and release oil funds. Since Jonathan assumed power he has been faced with serious violence between Muslim and Christian groups near the city of Jos that has left hundreds dead. On Wednesday, at least 10 people were killed in an attack on a mainly Christian village near Jos. —BBC Slum population up 55 million Nearly a quarter of a billion people escaped life in slums over the past decade, the United Nations says. The improvement was thanks largely to housing efforts in China and India, which made “giant strides,” according to a report by the UN Habitat agency. But the housing efforts were more than countered by world population growth and the rural exodus to cities. Overall, the total number of slum dwellers increased from 776.7 million to 827.6 million, during the years 2000-2010. In the past decade, China made improvements to the daily conditions of 65.3 million urban residents without shelter, while India lifted 59.7 million citizens out of poor quality housing. —BBC —compiled by Erin Hale

6 News

The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010

Top: Participants chanted slogans in both French and English throughout the protest. Above: Protesters had their mugshots taken in front of a police van. Left: The demonstration spilled into the street shortly before police rounded up protesters, passersby, and journalists.


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010


Police and Montrealers face to face Protesters march through Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood to resist systemic violence

All photos Stephen Davis | The McGill Daily

Rana Encol and Sam Neylon The McGill Daily


he 14th annual march marking the International Day Against Police Brutality culminated in the arrests of dozens of protesters, journalists, and bystanders in the east end HochelagaMaisonneuve neighbourhood on Monday. The protest left Pie-IX metro station at 5:45, where hundreds had gathered with police supervising and a helicopter hovering overhead. The Collective Against Police Brutality (COPB), which organized the march, chose the location for its significance as a target of systemic social profiling. “For the past several years, police repression has increased in Hochelaga,” read a COPB press release. “Not content with chasing the homeless, street youth, and sex workers from downtown, the police has also increased their operations in those neighbourhoods where the marginalized have been displaced.” Demonstrators carried signs demanding justice for Fredy Villanueva, the 18-year old Montreal North resident who was shot by police officer Jean-Loup Lapointe in 2008. The coroner’s inquest into Villanueva’s death is ongoing.

“La police, assassins / justice pour les victims,” the crowd chanted. According to Sergeant Ian Lafrenière of the Service de police de la ville de Montréal (SPVM), the protest was declared an illegal assembly at 6:05 after confrontation with black bloc demonstrators who hurled fireworks at police and horses and were later found to have rocks in their backpacks. The police then declared the protest illegal over megaphone. Hasan Zemboe, a youth concealing most of his face with a handkerchief, identified himself as a victim of police brutality. “I was unfairly arrested, and they hit me several times with their batons,” he said. “I found a lawyer, but he didn’t press charges. I am here because I want the SPVM to be accountable.” At 6:20, officers in riot gear broke up the main body of the protest and encircled a large group of people against a building on Prefontaine, where dozens were arrested and loaded onto three City buses over the next hour. Local journalist and activist Stefan Christoff, who was arrested at the same demonstration in 2002, argued that the police use this tactic to stifle criticism. “We were encircled simply just for protesting. If we can’t protest, what kind of society are we living in?” said Christoff.

“My feeling, just seeing the police everywhere [is that] they’re on the offensive, to intimidate people from critiquing publicly, from rejection of [police] violence and shooting deaths that are totally unacceptable.” Seventeen demonstrators were charged with criminal offenses including mischief, assaulting police, gun possession, and possession of Molotov cocktails. Arrests took place at other locations as well. Manon Goulet, an older woman from Montreal, stood by as her sister was put into a police van at the Pie-IX metro station around 8 p.m. “She never did anything. We were walking down the street and they grabbed her,” Goulet said. Squatter Andy, a Montreal activist and squatter who helped found CKUT’s Homelessness Marathon, explained that any groups protesting for social change in Montreal would encounter police action. “I manifest more for social, decent affordable homes than I do for anything else...but don’t forget there have been many, many arrests fighting for land, fighting for homes, low-cost decent affordable housing,” said Andy. “So no matter what action that we do, whether it’s this action today or a homelessness marathon

action, there’s always police there. Sometimes they provoke us, and there ends up being a lot of arrests. By doing this, we’re voicing our opinions.” COPB organizers have accused officers of sabotage and of instigating violence while undercover. Sophie Sénécal, a spokesperson for the COPB, told the CBC that police arrested the group’s communications coordinator in a deliberate move to interfere with their plans. “That deprived us of our main means of communication with protesters.... I was called a bloody organizer, and police called some protesters ‘dirty punks,’” she told the CBC. Lafrenière defended the tactics used by the SPVM to subdue the protest. “We have a planned strategy that does not exclude undercover officers. Our goal is to make sure everything goes fine and nobody is hurt,” he said. Sonia, a protester who participated in the march, said that she thought the focus on property damage was missing the point. “Violence being the language that’s used in the system, why are some people allowed to use it and others not?” Tenor sax player “J-S” of the Chaotic Insurrection Ensemble

remained in Parc RaymondPrefontaine after some of his bandmates had fled in fear of arrest since many of them do not have Canadian citizenship. “When dealing with police brutality, you don’t choose which day you’ll be a victim. Today is the one day we gather in protest,” said J-S. Christoff explained that the marchers were protesting what they see as systemic problems. “I think, broadly, in Montreal, there’s a rejection of the idea of police impunity, the reality of police impunity. It’s not only Fredy Villanueva, it was also Mohammed Bennis, who was shot in the morning outside of a mosque in Côtedes-Neiges.” The United Nations Human Rights Commission has criticized the use of arbitrary mass arrests, which has been used specifically at this protest for many years. A 2005 UN report noted that Montreal police have arrested almost 2,000 protestors since 1999 – more than any other Canadian police force. “The State party should ensure that the right of persons to peacefully participate in social protests is respected, and ensure that only those committing criminal offences during demonstrations are arrested,” the report says. —with files from Dan Smith

8 Commentary

The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010

In the final analysis Activist communities must be less all-or-nothing in their judgments

Aristotle’s lackey Sana Saeed


recent “policy paper,” written in part by McGill history professor Gil Troy, has been aggressively circulating around the Internet. Supposedly to be presented at a meeting of Jewish scholars and activists in Israel, it condemns the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement as a “full-blown political, economic, cultural, ideological struggle against the...existence of Israel” and provides several recommendations for a strategic attack campaign to undermine BDS. While questionable, the paper highlights a striking characteristic of BDS. The authors claim the campaign draws a “line in the sand” in which “progressives, no matter how critical of Israel, who condemn the BDS movement, prove their proIsrael bona fides.” The “line in the sand” characterization brings to light an extremely prevalent weakness in the general international Palestinian solidarity movement: the litmus test. The litmus test is a non-verbal, non-written test given to virtually all active members of any solidarity movement that tests an individual’s “actual” commitment to the cause, whatever it may be. The BDS campaign as a grassroots movement which also seeks a top-down approach (sanctions)

is the best route. And we know it works: history is our greatest testament. There are, of course, problems with the campaign. There is no real leadership; there is a failure to sufficiently provide required materials and clear approaches to understand or explain the movement. BDS is not boycotting Indigo or Victoria’s Secret – it is a holistic strategy that aims to both economically and symbolically undermine the government of Israel by placing upon it the sort of pressure our governments have failed to provide. And then there is the issue of the academic boycott. Even some of the most fervent BDS supporters have problems reconciling themselves to this. But what hurts BDS the most, just as it hurts the general solidarity movement, is the litmus test. Much like the one-state/two-state divide which has pierced the movement, the BDS campaign has come to either verify or question one’s “commitment” to the “cause.” Disagreement on these two issues should not serve a source of division within the movement. As soon as litmus tests are administered for activists and their commitment to the cause, we begin dismantling the support base. Thus, this division only advantages one group: the

Sally Lin | The McGill Daily

No more activism litmus tests! Israel apologists. The litmus test is indicative of an old and now growing problem within activism, where essentialism, dogmatism, and ideology reign supreme. We no longer just feel compelled to act but we feel compelled to achieve. We focus on the “right answer” without ever really questioning the way we arrive at that answer and its implications. A sort of essentialist approach grows; any dissent puts one outside the community. For instance, the one-state solution is the right and just solution to the 60 years of oppression of the Palestinians. But that is easier believed than done: South Africa, post-apartheid, is still shaking with inequalities and antagonisms. The potential implications of the one-

state solution, such as civil war, strife, and political despotism, are not often addressed, usually due to dogmatic and essentialist reasons. We shouldn’t step down from the “right” answers, but we also shouldn’t avoid any discussion of possible negative and perhaps inevitable implications. It helps us realize that no solution is ever really a solution. To err is, after all, to be human. Ghassan Kanafani once wrote that “in the final analysis, man is the cause.” We create the momentum required for change, for the “effect,” whatever that “effect” may be. Activism for Palestine is not about one-state/two-state or BDS or the origins of hummus. It is about a commitment to justice. It is about patience. Our control is, ultimately,

over ourselves as the cause. The 15 minutes Nelson Mandela spent leaving the gates of his prison, heralded as a heroic moment, only held their importance because Mandela waited for three decades, with patience, with a commitment to justice – knowing that his freedom had no guarantee. And this is what activism is: it is not about a goal or a solution; it is not about dividing ourselves in the face of disagreements and dissent; it is about a commitment to justice regardless of whether its deliverance is guaranteed. Sana Saeed writes in this space every other week. But not for long. Don’t question her activist cred:


Our ways of using water must change Dana Holtby & Rosie Simms


hink back to your first introduction to the hydrological cycle. It seemed so simple, right? We were all assured that this cycle would unfailingly provide us with the fresh drinkable water we needed. Our identity as Canadians is built on the assumption that we are among the most water-rich nations in the world. Although Canadian environmental policies still reflect this assumption, it is far from the reality faced by many communities across Canada today. Canada’s fragmented water policies and high per capita consumption are misinformed by the perpetuation of this myth of water abundance. Canada is commonly cited as being endowed with roughly one-fifth of the world’s freshwater supply. We have the Great Lakes,

right? What this figure hides is the distinction between freshwater and renewable freshwater resources. Canada in fact only has 6.5 per cent of the world’s renewable freshwater resources. Furthermore, 60 per cent of this renewable freshwater flows north, away from where the Canadian population is concentrated. Turns out we’re not as waterrich as we like to think. Truth be told, our knowledge of Canada’s water is hazy at best. Since the ’90s, the Canadian government has systematically cut back its funding of research and data collection on water resources. There is little monitoring of actual water consumption: on the island of Montreal, for instance, less than 50 per cent of homes have meters. Industrial and agricultural sectors, both major water users with considerable political clout, have had few restrictions placed on their

water consumption. Compounding these major gaps in our knowledge of water resources, jurisdictional fragmentation between the federal and provincial governments has rendered unclear who is ultimately responsible for water governance. The shortcomings of this patchwork approach to water governance is perhaps best exemplified through the deplorable management of freshwater resources in Canadian First Nations communities. The history of governmental marginalization of First Nations populations has resulted in these communities carrying a disproportionate burden of environmental degradation. An assessment performed by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada in 2001 found a significant risk to the quality of drinking water in threequarters of First Nations water provisioning systems. As of February 2008, 93 reserves are on boil-water

advisories; some of these advisories have lasted years. Landsdowne House in Ontario, for example, has been on a boil water advisory for 13 years. We don’t have to look much further to see how poor water governance in Canada has had devastating consequences for communities and ecosystems. Large-scale hydroelectric projects have resulted in the impoundment (damming) and diversion of most of Quebec’s major rivers; vast quantities of toxic water produced through tar sands extraction sit just metres from the mouth of the Athabasca river. Add to this the projected impacts of climate change, and it seems as though these issues are too large to tackle. The good news is that there is a strong community seeking water justice within Canada. It’s important that we acknowledge these issues are a reality, but we must move for-

ward and focus on innovative and meaningful modes of change. One means of working toward a soft-path water future – toward a global reevaluation of our way of using water – is to create a space for dialogue between students, researchers, and activists. In an attempt to transition from knowledge to action, we invite you to participate in “Uncharted Waters,” a three-day interactive and interdisciplinary conference from March 26-28 that seeks to bridge the gap between academia and activism on water issues. Visit for more information. Dana Holtby is a U2 Environment and IDS student. Rosie Simms is a U2 Environment student. They are the coordinators for the Uncharted Waters conference. Send them a wave of support at dana.holtby@


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010



Muslim women don’t need saving from themselves

Sally Lin | The McGill Daily

Sheetal Pathak


ccommodation is a word with baggage in Quebec. In 2007, the public sphere was overtaken by debates about what accounts for reasonable and unreasonable accommodation. Who were we afraid of accommodating too much? Generally speaking, immigrants and their children, people of different faiths and customs whose demands were, some felt, unreasonable. The most recent incarnation of this debate centres around Naïma Amed. After her school’s administration called for intervention by Quebec’s immigration ministry, Amed was expelled from her French-language class at CEGEP St. Laurent because she would not take off her niqab, an Islamic face-covering. When she found herself another program at the Centre d’Appui aux Communautés Immigrantes, where school officials had no problem with her niqab, the immigration ministry intervened again; Amed was again expelled. Julius Grey, the civil rights lawyer who defended Sikh students’ right to wear a ceremonial dagger, said that Amed’s request to wear a niqab was unreasonable. Grey is effectively comparing a type of clothing to a dagger, a potential weapon, and deciding that the former is more unreasonable and more threatening than the latter. Yolande James, Quebec’s immigration minister, even suggested future legislation banning the niqab in Quebec. Many don’t feel that this is an overreaction. Now, I will agree that there are situations where a woman in a niqab should legitimately be required to lower

her veil, such as when voting or in a court of law. But a complete ban on the garment, a piece of clothing, seems to be a waste of our tax dollars. Similarly, provincial officials tracking her down to expel her from French classes, seems to be an equally gratuitous use of public money. Imagine the cost of campaigning for and implementing this legislation. Is it worth it?

Why do we want to ban the niqab? It is at least partly because many consider it a symbol of patriarchy. Apparently we think we live in a post-feminist utopia where only the niqab and practices of “other” cultures are symbols of patriarchy. Marriage is a symbol of patriarchy. You know the part where the father gives away the bride, because she used to belong to her father, but now she belongs to the groom? It’s a symbol of an ancient and current practice of what Gayle Rubin called the traffic in women. So, let’s ban marriage! Any takers? No? Hmm. Furthermore, feminism and women’s liberation is about choice. Empowerment is about choice. Let’s say it again, folks, CHOICE. It is her body, and her choice how to dress it. In no way is it legitimate for anyone to question her decisions. She should not have to explain her reasons. Amed’s case got a lot of media attention. She was accused of being a religious fundamentalist. She was pulled out of class in the middle of an exam. She was repeatedly picked on in class with frequent requests to lower her veil, having to justify her choice over and over. In the end,

she was denied education. Quebec officials and politicians, the people who speak for us, refused to allow her to participate in Quebec society – all because of an over-politicized piece of cloth. All in all, wearing a niqab seems to be a tough gig. La Presse published an article, “La vie en noir” (March 6), describing the experiences of a journalist who wore a niqab in public for two days. While most tried to ignore her, some people screamed at her (that she looked Afghani), glared at her, asked her whether she was deliberately trying to provoke them, and asked her to go back to her country. Now, let us imagine a hypothetical situation of a woman who wears a niqab because she is forced to. She puts it on and it is not her choice to do so. But when she leaves her house, she finds herself attacked everywhere she goes. Public services are denied to her, and this piece of cloth, which she wears to make her life easier, turns out to be highly politicized and prompts people to view her with contempt. She is effectively in a double bind: there is nothing she can do that will not result in some kind of punishment and some kind of loss. In what way is this empowering women and supporting women’s choices?

Many newspapers, when talking about Amed’s case, questioned whether Quebec should accommodate Islamic fundamentalism (the Post’s “A tale of two burkas” and the Globe’s “Beyond the pale on the veil” are two examples). The niqab is seen as an extreme expression

of religious faith and so the wearer must be a religious fundamentalist. The question then became: should we really be accommodating fundamentalism? This is where Islamophobia comes in, since there is absolutely no reason to believe that the niqab is a symbol of religious fundamentalism. Amed did not try to impose the niqab on anyone else and she did not preach her religion to others. There is no evidence that she advocates violence or extremism. All she expresses when she chooses to wear a niqab is that she is a woman who wears a niqab. Additionally, there seems to be a fear that women in niqabs threaten secularism. This is again unfounded since Amed was not in a position of authority, she was not employed in public service, and she was not representing the government in any way to anyone. She is a civilian, hopefully a future citizen, who is dressed differently and engaging in public participation. Adding her voice to the vox populi does not make us any less secular as a province, as a nation. Then there is the question of integration; many argue that a woman who wears a niqab cannot possibly integrate. I ask you then, what is integration anyway? Does it imply that one cannot express their cultural and ethnic identity? Would anyone argue that men clad in Hasidic attire cannot integrate? That veiled Catholic nuns are unable to fully participate in Quebec society? That turban-clad Sikh men are isolated? Amed was a pharmacist in Egypt and she expressed a desire to learn French with the hope that she could pursue a similar career in Montreal. After being expelled from CEGEP

St. Laurent, she did not give up; she found herself another French class in which to enrol. Subsequently, when denied again, she filed a human rights complaint against the province. These are not the actions of someone who is isolated or unwilling to integrate in Quebec society. According to the Montreal Muslim Council, there are a couple dozen women in Quebec who wear the niqab. Accommodating these women does not seem excessive or costly: they could simply be told to lower their veil to identify themselves to institutions, and then be free to put it back up while enjoying the public service of their choice. Did the media, the politicians, and the state officials really have nothing better to do than to fixate on this for the last two weeks? Even Jean Charest found time to say that Amed was asking for too much accommodation. The Muslim community itself is also divided on the issue of the niqab. Some suggest that a ban is necessary and others insist that wearing a niqab is a personal choice. I would personally like to hear more Muslim voices on this controversy. There is something deeply disconcerting about the majority deciding what is acceptable attire for a minority. It seems that this case has brought out a lot of fear in everyone. I will leave you today with a few thoughts on tolerance. When it comes to a practice that does not violate anyone else’s rights, is there really such a thing as too much tolerance? And when it comes to Naïma Amed, were we, as a host society, really too tolerant of her? Sheetal Pathak is a U3 IDS student. Write her at sheetal.pthk@gmail. com.


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010


Sally Lin | The McGill Daily

Are we complicit in marginalization? The Daily’s Ian Beattie challenges the paper’s response to opponents of pro-life groups


hen Choose Life first appeared on campus last year, a significant portion of the student body reacted strongly against their application for club status. In a Hyde Park that appeared in The Daily in November 2008, the Union for Gender Empowerment Collective wrote that “by condemning abortion as an option, pro-life propaganda is targeting, alienating, and shaming a minority group within the student body – those who have had or are considering abortion” (“Pro-life education will endanger students”). When Choose Life gained club status and they revealed themselves as everything we were afraid they’d be, some students demanded the revocation of their club status – others even called for a ban against all future pro-life groups. The basic argument has stayed the same: that all pro-life groups, not just Choose Life, endanger the safety of certain students. Over the past few months, The Daily’s editorial board has said little on the topic, but has quietly opposed this movement in the student body. Sadly, we have done so in a disingenuous and inadequate fashion. We’ve either ignored or set up sham arguments in response to the anti-Choose Lifers’ concerns, and it’s been easy for us, since we hold the more widely accepted opinion. Take, for example, our condemnation of the Anti-Discriminatory Groups general assembly (GA) motion in November. According to The Daily, “this motion makes the faulty leap of logic that all pro-life groups are the same” (“The Daily’s GA Recommendations,” February 7). It is true that this generalization

was made in the resolution. But we ignored the essence of this generalization – that pro-life groups aren’t just all “the same,” but are inherently discriminatory and hateful. As Liam Olson-Mayes, who co-wrote the motion, told me, “The term ‘pro-life’ is seriously rooted in this historical, political context, which has very much occupied itself with legal struggles and efforts to criminalize abortion.” By ignoring this premise and the varying implications of the term “pro-life,” we gave ourselves the freedom to speak in patronizing tones about “leaps in logic,” without engaging with the argument behind these connections. If The Daily doesn’t believe that pro-life groups are inherently dangerous to students, we need to explain why. More importantly though, this is an argument which ignores and thereby silences the anti-Choose Lifers. By opposing their positions but not engaging with any of their arguments, we eliminate them from the discourse. All along, anti-Choose Lifers have argued that pro-life groups are unacceptable on campus, not just for their actions, but for the very premise of their existence – that women should “choose life.” “I think that there shouldn’t be any organization [at McGill] that can advocate for this change in social conditions that would lead to the widespread death of women. I think that that’s totally inappropriate, and is not up for discussion,” Olson-Mayes said. “By having this organization, which is legitimated as it exists as a SSMU club, to me that’s just totally bizarre and totally wrong – that what we’re actually going to represent one side of the

The Daily’s unsigned editorial content The topics of The Daily’s editorials are chosen by the editorial board on Mondays, written by one editor, and then revised collectively by the whole board on production nights. Because we’re a consensusbased body, we try to make sure as many of us as possible agree with what’s written – but obviously that’s not always feasible. debate which is advocating for social conditions under which women are going to die en masse.” No matter your politics, if a group engages in a politics of hate, it’s not okay for our student society to be giving them a home – even if they’re quiet about it. The Daily has yet to come up with a meaningful response to this argument. We said in our GA endorsements that “a pro-life group could exist on campus that respects students’ safety and provides beneficial medical services.” That’s not the point. According to anti-Choose Lifers, the problem isn’t just what pro-life groups do – it’s what they are. The very premise of their existence is hateful. Now, three months later, we’re making the same mistakes. This past week, in our referendum endorsements (Editorial, March 8), we again wallowed in the comfort of representing the status quo, instead of engaging with those who say we are wrong. Without qualification, we wrote that “if approved by students, [the motion on body sovereignty] should not be used as a way to categorically ban either prolife or pro-choice groups.” Such a

connection would likely be controversial and unpopular on campus. But why would it be illegitimate? We have to start providing the other side with some answers, not just telling them to shut up. As an editor with nearly three years of experience with The Daily and having seen the paper go through some nasty political scraps, I have found our handling of this issue especially disappointing. We usually find ourselves strongly on one side of an issue, not, as we are now, standing in a position of political moderation, lecturing the fringes. Dailyites know better than anybody that there is nothing more stifling or frustrating in political discourse than coming up against the blank, indifferent wall of majority opinion. Yet as soon as The Daily has found itself in a moderate position, we’ve engaged in the exact same tactics that we always rail against. I did not write this article with the intention of advocating a ban of pro-life groups. I’m writing because I feel that regardless of the issues, my paper has engaged in institutional cowardice. The Daily’s moderate position may be tenable – but we have yet to justify it. We all know that abortion is a political minefield, and the easiest thing to do in debates surrounding it is to disengage or play the middle ground. But if students on campus are saying, loudly and clearly, that they feel they are being endangered and that marginalized groups are being discriminated against, we’d better have some pretty serious answers for them if we’re not going to back them up. Our response to this issue is not only a matter of abortion politics, it’s

a matter of rhetorical domination and political suppression. The antiChoose Lifers are advocating a marginalized and apparently unpopular opinion. By glossing over their concerns and failing to respond to the questions they have raised, The Daily has not only disagreed with them, we’ve silenced them. Although The Daily often advocates for marginalized groups, we occupy a position of considerable power on campus. It’s absolutely crucial that we don’t use this position to rob the less powerful of their dissenting voices by not entering into dialogue with their concerns. Maddie Ritts, who wrote the GA motion with Olson-Mayes, told me that she found The Daily’s impact on the discourse around pro-life groups this year “really scary.” Having spent close to 40 hours a week with them since the beginning of the year, I can’t overstate my respect for this year’s editorial staff. But I do feel that in this instance, we’ve behaved irresponsibly and ignored the effects of our actions. I hope the anti-Choose Lifers continue to make their voices heard in our paper, and I hope that when they do, we as an editorial board will have the courage to engage with them. I can’t help but feel that doing so would make us change our position. At the very least, though, we have to stop making members of our paper feel like they’re yelling at a wall.

Ian Beattie is a U2 English literature student. He’s also one of The Daily’s Culture editors. Engage with his views in a way that doesn’t marginalize or silence them at ian.


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010



Quotas for women won’t fix anything Gender and class struggle are inseparable Benjamin Heller


Sally Lin | The McGill Daily


The fight to end racism isn’t over Ryan Birks


his coming March 21 will ring in the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD). For many skeptics, the day is nothing but another cliché, feel-good event that does little to correct or address injustices in a substantive way. For ordinary Canadians and recent converts like myself, however, it is an important day to reflect on the progress that has been made in a civil-rights context over the last 50 years, as well as the work that remains largely unaccomplished. It’s hard to believe that as recently as 50 years ago, segregation was a widespread policy in the land down south, otherwise known as the United States. Whether it was separate entrances, drinking fountains, or anything else, segregation was a routine part of life. It was taken as self-evident that people should be subject to differentiated treatment on the basis of their race. It was only thanks to trailblazers like the Little Rock Nine, Martin Luther King, Junior, and Rosa Parks that full suffrage was extended to all black voters and that legislated forms of discrimination were gradually repealed in the United States. Perhaps the best example of institutionalized racism is the apartheid regime in South Africa, which lasted for nearly five decades. The system, which came to colour so deeply South Africa’s identity on

the world stage, had its foundation in the notion of white racial superiority. Black South Africans were forced to live in segregated, selfgoverning areas and stripped of any meaningful political power. Those who dared to speak out against the regime, like Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned, or worse still, murdered, like Stephen Biko. Uprisings were brutally suppressed by the government. It was, in fact, the government’s shooting of black protesters, in what came to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre, that led to the UN’s creation of the IDERD. And yet, one does not have to look as far as South Africa and its legacy of apartheid to find the vestiges and current expressions of racism – the reality is that it happens right here. Recent cases, including the fatal police shooting of Fredy Villanueva in Montreal North and racial profiling in the public transit system, serve as a powerful reminder that racism is still alive. It reveals itself in the continued discrepancies in local home ownership, poverty, unemployment, incarceration, and education between minorities and the rest of the population. Tellingly, a Consultation Document on Racial Profiling released March 10 by the Quebec human rights commission shows that the unemployment rate for individuals born in Canada with a secondary degree is 14.7 per cent among black people and 19.2 per cent among Arab people, compared to 6.6 per cent for nonracialized persons. The sum of these findings should

not be taken as a denial of the real progress that has been made in the civil rights arena and more generally the extension of political power to formerly disenfranchised groups. After all, at the very least, there is now a degree of transparency and dialogue about racial inequality – something that just a few decades ago would have seemed impossible. The most recent data on social and economic inequality are, however, an important indication that we must continue to fight racism in all its forms, especially as the public debate on religion and reasonable accommodation in Quebec has given rise to a growing us versus them sentiment. We cannot afford to become complacent about an issue that is very much alive. Visionaries and dreamers are still needed to combat racism. Accordingly, to celebrate the first IDERD of the new decade, the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), in cooperation with 15 other groups, will hold an interfaith commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre this Saturday, March 20 at the St. James United Church (463 Ste. Catherine O.). The event starts at 7 p.m. and will run just over two hours; it will include speeches from South African High Commissioner in Canada Abraham Nkomo and Justin Trudeau, MP. For more information, visit crarr. org or call 514-939-3342. Ryan Birks works in the CRARR Communication Office. Write him at

here is yet much to be said, but able tongues lie still, for the women of India have not the voice to speak. So imply the proponents of the bill recently passed by the upper house of parliament. It is a bill which would reserve one-third of the seats in India’s national and state legislative bodies for women. Backed by a coalition, it faces opposition from various minority groups who question its ability to solve the problems of women in India. Yet the fact remains – women are woefully underrepresented in Indian politics. What is the solution? I spoke with Narendra Subramanian, a political science professor at McGill. “There isn’t gender inequality in every society,” he said. “By usual standards, India is not at the bottom,” though he added that it was below several comparable countries. This gender inequality is built into the society, and does not simply find expression in the political realm. In that light, the good that a purely political reform could do is unclear. “No sober defender of this bill says that it will solve all of women’s problems,” Subramanian emphasized. He added, however, that it is a progressive step. The bill would provide for a “political presence in a representative government,” which would in turn lead to previously unheard viewpoints being voiced. Furthermore, by providing a stable arena for public discourse, the policy would ideally encourage greater political participation among women – a group that at present is not only underrepresented, but unmotivated to join politics due to the overwhelming factors discouraging political activity by women. However, establishing a quota for women has its critics. Various members of the opposition contend that while the reserved seats might give women a greater voice in government, the women who would get involved are more likely to be members of upper castes. “Middle and lower-caste Muslim women are

not that mobilized,” Subramanian said. “This would lower the Muslim share of representation and transfer power to upper-caste Hindus.” “Caste-based quotas were introduced after independence,” Subramanian points out. However, this bill would introduce a quota ostensibly separate from economic position – which leaves various minority groups underrepresented further by not receiving a quota of their own. Even if the fraction of seats reserved for women are not exploited by already-dominant political groups, the simple competition between underrepresented groups invariably leaves certain interests unheard. Reforming a parliament to be more representative of women is a progressive step: it increases participation and has the potential to embolden political feelings – although Subramanian did not hesitate to point out that countries with the greatest political participation of women (in northern Europe, in particular) do not owe that fact exclusively, or even predominantly, to any form of quota. Thus the mandate is important not for sake of equity, but for the political empowering of the spirit of women. Yet the problem of gender inequity cannot be solved as long as any inequity exists. Does a woman cease to be oppressed simply when another is elevated? As long as oppression and exploitation exist, can women be liberated – politically, socially, economically? Can anyone? The idea that equality for women can be separate from the dissolution of classes and thus of inequality in general is absurd. For as long as disparity exists – in whatever form – what does it mean to say “equality for women?” Equal to whom? If one has less and another more, I cannot be equal to both, and so the fight for the liberty of women cannot be separated from the fight for liberty for us all. Benjamin Heller is a U2 Classics student. Solidarity forever at

Errata The illustration for the article “Protecting the blindside” (Sports, March 11) was attributed to Lukas Theinhaus. The artist’s last name is actually Thienhaus. Several paragraphs of the article “Speaking out against military research since the ’80s” (Sci+Tech, March 15) were missing. The complete version is available at In the masthead of the March 15 issue, the photo editor was listed as Stephen Davis. In fact, at the time the Photo editor was Dominic Popowich. The Daily regrets the errors.


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010


Have your chocolate two ways More baked goods from the Budget Bon-Vivant

Budget Bon-Vivant Justin Scherer


thought I’d send you all some chocolate love this week. Enjoy!

1. Gluten-Free Chocolate Banana Bread Ingredients: 4 very ripe bananas (mashed), 1/3 cup melted butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 egg (beaten), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (add a 1/2 tsp if using artificial vanilla), 1 tsp baking soda, 1 pinch of salt, 1 1/2 cups of gluten-free all-purpose f lour (e.g. Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free f lour), 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips Method: Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit. When your butter is finished melting, add it to the mashed bananas with a wooden spoon in a large mixing bowl.

Slowly mix in the sugar, sprinkle in the baking soda and salt, add flour, and mix until well combined. Add the chocolate chips and combine. Pour mixture into a greased 4 by 8 inch pan. Bake for 1 hour and allow to cool before serving.

2. S’More Squares Ingredients: 1 cup butter (softened to room temperature), 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 2 large eggs, 2 1/2 teaspoons artificial vanilla extract, 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 large Hershey-style chocolate bars, 3 cups of fluffernutter (a.k.a. Fluff, the weird marshmallow spread) Method:

Preheat the oven

Mel Mok | The McGill Daily

to 350 Fahrenheit and grease a square 8-inch baking pan. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a second, smaller bowl, mix together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt. Add the two mixtures together gradually and mix at

a slow speed until well combined. Divide the mixture in two, grease a spoon with butter, and use it to press one half of the mixture into the bottom of the greased baking pan. Lay your chocolate bars on top of the mixture (they should fit almost perfectly). Add a layer of fluffernutter on top of the choco-

late and spread the remaining mixture on top of the Fluff. Bake for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned. You’re not supposed to cut the bars until they’re cooled, but I don’t think you’ll be able to wait. My self-control was no match for the smell of melting chocolate and marshmallow.

down: the wine was that acidic, that astringent. And then I looked over at my friend and co-taster and realized that his teeth were black: not off-white or tinted or slightly purple. They were the deepest of all purples. Drinking the wine without giving it time to breathe, to open up, was a mistake. In a move of desperation and brilliance, one reviewer decided that nothing could make this wine taste any worse, so he decided to invent a cocktail using the wine as a base. “Cocktail” might be a term used a little liberally here, and so too might “invent.” He poured some beer into the dregs of his Caballero and called it “street sangria.” It improved the flavour profile signifi-

cantly. After a round of Sangrias we had some unstreeted Caballero still decanting in the pitcher and I decided to give it another shot. I found an untainted mug (wine paraphernalia isn’t dirty, it’s tainted) and poured the last glass in: decanting brought this wine from “oven cleaner” to “acceptable,” which, for a Sour Grapes vintage, means it’s pretty damn good. The back label calls the Caballero a “top quality wine with an irresistible bouquet.” I would call it “drinkable, eventually” but tomay-to, tom-ah-to, right? Pair with: aspirin*. The hangover is a killer. *Read all labels before using any medications.

McGill Ghetto? Try some “street sangria”

Sour grapes Max Campbell

Tasting 3: Caballero De Chile Red ($12.99/litre), 3/5 Stars


irst sip: gross. Second sip: really gross. Second glass: more than drinkable. The third meeting of the Sour Grapes tasting committee discov-

ered, for the first time, the power and importance of decanting. We had decanted all of the previous bottles of wine in our very official and very notable Boreal pitcher, but the Caballero De Chile is the first one whose flavour profile improved after sitting in the pitcher.

Decanting, according to Wikipedia, is meant mostly to aerate the wine and to smooth its harsher aspects such as tannins (those goddamned tannins again!) and mercaptans (I refuse to acknowledge the existence of something called a “mercaptan”). The Caballero was so tanniny you could see those tannins pour out into the pitcher. The first whiff of the wine makes you sit upright: it’s strong smelling. And it’s not strong-good; it’s not even strong-okay. It’s strong like huffing oven cleaner is strong. I graded it down to a single star as soon as I got that first whiff. The first sip was even worse than the smell. After two sips, it felt like the enamel on my teeth was wearing

Getting an education? Want to stay healthy? Run for Health&Education editor.

Statements due March 21 Rundown March 24 Elections March 25


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010


Let’s talk about sex, baby Early sexual education (or lack thereof ) gives us a limiting idea of the three-letter word

Sex talks Maddie Guerlain and Amanda Unruh


hen we were in middle school, the word sex was usually spoken in hushed tones between friends, accompanied with giggles. Often we weren’t quite sure exactly what “sex” referred to, but we knew it deserved a quiet, reverent tone – or that it wasn’t supposed to be talked about at all. Up until that age, sex had been explained to many of us as something a man and a woman who love each other (or who are married, depending on your upbringing) do to make a baby. Maybe your experience was different, and your knowledge was more comprehensive than ours. But this experience mirrors millions of children’s – it’s the way sex is explained to future generations of sexually active people. Whether parents avoid the topic, or make it explicitly clear that it’s a taboo subject, it leaves teens and young adults trying to make their way through a sexual landscape, piecing together what they know and experience as “sex.” But what does “having sex” mean to most people? According to a study done in 2003, university students still believe the childhood explanation of sex, that it involves some kind of

penetration, most often involving a penis and a vagina. This seems limiting to us on many levels. What about oral sex or hand sex? Only 20 per cent of students in this study identified oral-genital contact as sex, and 10 per cent of people considered sex to be touching the genitals as leading to orgasm. These assumptions of “having sex” can create problems and confusion on many levels, from understanding what a partner wants when stating “let’s have sex” – a more obvious statement than most seduction innuendos – to knowing the kinds of sexual health risks you are taking depending on your activity. Professionals who work in sexual health (educators, nurses, doctors, et cetera) will discuss various sexual activities including penetrative, oral, and hand sex, rather than make a sweeping assumption of what being “sexually active” means, as activities have differing levels of risk associated with them for pregnancy or contraction of STIs. These distinctions, however, are not often made by the general public, as we often forget these concerns and group oral and hand sex into the foreplay category, separating it from something related to “sex,” something that has no risk. This divide

Zara Meerza | The McGill Daily

creates a hierarchy of what “sex” can include, as though everything is just warm up for the “main event” – penetration. For many, penetration may be pleasurable, but for others, “sex” includes a lot more. Here are some other definitions of what sex can be, as asked to ran-

dom McGill students. Sex is: anything that ends in an orgasm; slow, soft touching; sweaty; an expression of a natural human need; emotionally intimate. As you can see, there are many definitions of what sex is. The most important is the one which you

and your partner(s) have. By communicating with your partner about what you include in your definition and your goals of “having sex” (To orgasm? To have fun? To get a good workout?), your sexy time will be more pleasurable, enjoyable, and safe.

Of hard-ons and cultural taboos Owning sexual awakening can be tougher for women: a personal narrative Tiegan Hobbs Health & Education Writer


hen I was in the eighth grade there was this guy in my class that could not control his erections. Even though my friends and I giggled about it a lot it was a pretty unfortunate situation for the poor guy. He couldn’t have wanted to get hard during math class. I’ve been using this as an example of why I think puberty for men is so much more embarrassing than for women for a long time since. A lined bra is all we need to hide most traces of sexual arousal during those awkward teen years. I used to think this was great. Now I think maybe it was ultimately detrimental. At 12 I didn’t want to be sexually involved. I wanted to be wanted and I knew that being sexy made you wanted. I wanted boys to want to date me but I was terrified of being expected to do anything more than

kiss. A few times I tried to masturbate but I couldn’t make it work. Honestly? I was a little uncomfortable about spending time around my vagina. As a young girl the first introduction I had to my private parts was when I was instructed how to deal with menstruation – a very gross idea. On a personal level there was no sex going on in me, but I knew about sex outside of myself. It was staring lecherously at me from underneath that guy’s track pants. It was sailing around on the edge of my friend’s low-cut shirt. Sometimes I could even lure it in with an exposed bit of midriff or pair of short shorts. Like I said, I wanted to be wanted without actually having to touch or see genitals. From talking to guys now I get a very different impression of what pre-adolescence was like for them. A friend of mine says he started masturbating at the same time he started getting those awkward erections. And though he was embar-

rassed, he also says that starting to masturbate was the best thing that ever happened to him. It seems like at some point these boys got sex thrown at them. Suddenly their dicks were trying to break through their pants for attention. And the girls were giggling because everyone could see. It was so overt and totally undeniable. They said they didn’t even have to be thinking about sex for it to happen. At the same point in our lives, my male friends and I were having such radically different experiences. And upon reflection I feel that these differences have stayed with me much longer than I would’ve supposed. I know now that the poor boy in my class was probably getting hard without wanting to. And that he, as well as several of my other penisbearing sources, figured out that if they rubbed their cocks, even over their pants, it felt good. They figured out self-pleasuring. By 12. I certainly didn’t get that memo at 12. Sexual pleasure start-

ed, for me, in my connection with the person I was sexually involved with. And when, in my own bedroom, I did figure out what made me reach orgasm, I felt a little bit of guilt and a lot of shame that I was enjoying such a dirty place on my body. I felt especially wretched at the thought that my friends might find out. This summer I was visiting some close pals from high school. One night over the course of a few drinks and a lot of truth-or-dare Jenga I learned a lot about them I didn’t know. For instance, they were all touching themselves during high school. Even better, they wished they could have talked about it with someone. We never expressed that, though, and it never expressed itself. It appeared, interestingly, that certain characters (of potent phallic desire and closeted muliebrous desire) are in our bedrooms in roughly the same form they took when we were 12. Even though it was embarrassing

at the time, my boyfriends have more or less grown up with this assurance that erections are unavoidable, sexuality is natural, and masturbation is an understandable cure, (as well as being really awesome). This was something I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t figured it out on my own. It wasn’t until my first boyfriend that I learned how to masturbate effectively. And it took me until the summer after my first year at university that I truly understood that sexual desire and personal gratification are normal, natural, and acceptable. Even though we both hit puberty at roughly the same time, roughly, it took me an extra seven years to decide my orgasms were valid – something I believe might’ve been different if my clit had some way of letting me know about itself sooner. Just sayin’. Tiegan Hobbs blogs about sex online. Read about her continued sexual awakening at


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010


Re: “Locking the doors of the Knesset” | Commentary | March 11

So, McGill Daily, you have the opportunity to end this marginalization of an entire religion. Don’t fuck it up. Jamie Berk U2 IDS

Daily marginalizes Jewish students again

Kudos to Miatello for owning up to being radically rich

At last, with this letter, the admin will listen to reason

Re: “Locking the doors of the Knesset” | Commentary | March 11

Re: “Downwardly mobile and loving it” | Commentary | March 11

Re: “Paging Doctor Cornett” | Commentary | October 8

I get it. You’re a liberal alternative newspaper. You’ve always been “struggling under siege,” since 1911. My dad attended McGill in the ’70s and recalls that you fought the battles for union, francophone, and abortion rights that no other newspaper would go near. And I can dig that. But I’m concerned by your recent outcropping of anti-Israel coverage. In his letter published last week (“Wait, I thought she wanted to sign the abstention...,” Letters, March 11), Mookie Kideckel focused on what it means to be an Israel-supporter trying to wade through the sea of backlash unleashed by McGill Daily contributors. In mine, I want to focus on a broader topic, what it means to be a Jew on a campus whose most popular newspaper is indirectly discriminating against her. Already, you have had problems using the phrases Zionist and Jewish interchangeably. In his commentary of the conflict (“Locking the doors of the Knesset,” Commentary, March 11), Ben Foldy called himself a “self-hating Jew.” His religion was not mentioned once in the article, and he did what I feared was inevitable: he made Zionism and Judaism interchangeable. Many Jews may not identify with Israel or the Zionist movement. Yet far too many of their peers don’t know that. I have been told by one of my classmates that Jews shouldn’t take any classes offered in the Islamic studies department because of their bias against Israel. I have also seen the Star of David desecrated in relation to the IsraeliPalestinian conflict far too many times here. Yes, the Jewish star may be the focal point of the Israeli flag, but it is also the symbol of my religion. McGill Daily, you’re not under siege; you have become the siege itself. There was already one major Jewish exodus because of the Quiet Revolution; we don’t need another from McGill. So, McGill Daily, you have the opportunity to end this marginalization of an entire religion. Don’t fuck it up.

Lisa Miatello’s “Downwardly mobile and loving it” really struck home with me, as someone who finds it increasingly difficult to identify with the student-oriented left. Her commentary on the middle class’ fascination with poor culture reflects a need to distinguish between those who are working class and those who are mistakenly labelled as such. Fringe groups and middle-class subculture often claim to be committed to the project of social democracy, but they continue to alienate and disengage from those who stand to benefit most from its aims. A genuine effort to represent the interests of the working class is a gritty undertaking that goes beyond recycled fashion and self-imposed poverty. It requires painstaking organization, agreeable policy preferences, and a consultative process that respects the dignity of all those affected. Miatello’s call for “owning up” to one’s class privilege is more than welcome but certainly an uphill challenge. Mainstream academia tells us that class consciousness factors very little in our elections. This is erroneously attributed to a classless image of Canadian society. But for those of us who’ve lived through the struggle, by the roll of the dice and less by choice, there is no denying the distinct worldview that emerges when we’re constantly looking up and never down at the forces that structure our lives. To believe in the myth of our classless society is to be neglectful of real inequality and experience. Indeed, class privilege enables the middle class to participate in mainstream politics, nurture civil society, and even write radical columns for student newspapers. Unfortunately, such privilege – however declared or denied – is all too often used to reinforce a system that is more limiting than most of us would care to admit. The old-fashioned Marxist bleakly envisions the middle class as the up-and-coming bourgeoisie. Let’s hope there are more radical thinkers like Miatello who understand their privilege and use it for more constructive aims.

I am writing you regarding a former McGill faculty member, Norman Cornett. I have been following Cornett’s case at McGill from afar ever since, after 15 years of teaching, he was removed from his teaching position there a few years ago. I must admit to being rather befuddled at the manner in which the University handled his case. As one who has known Cornett for over 40 years, and as one who has been an educator at the university level for nearly 30 years myself, I am deeply troubled by the damage that the handling of his case by McGill has caused to a former faculty member – a faculty member who raised the profile of the University to international attention due to his unique and dynamic manner of engaging students directly with prominent figures in Canadian and international politics and culture. What is especially disturbing in this case is that I can see no evidence that “due cause” has been stated by the University as a basis for his release. It occurs to me that, at least in the U.S., among the fundamental rights of higher educators are both academic freedom

Jamie Berk U2 IDS Board member, Ghetto Shul House of Prayer The views expressed here are her own.

Andrew Seo U3 Political Science and Sociology

and receiving a clear statement of “due cause” in the case of release. Without “due cause” being identified, the professor is left floating with an unstated “black mark” against them (Was it an egregious or immoral act? A gross violation of classroom demeanour? Or what?). This lack of clarity produces an environment for Cornett in which the potential of obtaining of another position elsewhere is virtually impossible. In this case, Cornett and his family are left to suffer and bear the entire brunt of this decision. Yet it seems that McGill University has never bothered to identify the cause for his dismissal, leaving the academic community in the dark and wondering. Some wonder about Cornett (perhaps quite unfairly?) while others wonder about McGill (perhaps unfairly?). But why remain silent? Silence only results in suspicions directed one way or the other. It certainly would be, at the very least, the kind thing to do to disclose the reasons for such actions against Cornett. Unless, of course, such reasons do not merit such a drastic action in the eyes of the academic world. Rex A. Koivisto Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, Multnomah University Portland, OR

No, this letter is the one to make them listen to reason Re: “Paging Doctor Cornett” | Commentary | October 8 You can always tell when an institution is in the wrong. It clams up and refuses to face public scrutiny. Unacceptable acts such as the unexplained dismissal of extraordinary educators such as Norman Cornett are the type of acts that require an institution to hide. Apparently, the opinions of his colleagues and students, who have nothing but high praise for Cornett, matter little to McGill University. Its leaders know better. That being the case, I would kindly request that they impart this profound knowledge to a curious public who cannot understand why professors who inspire – and I rarely use the word – their students are fired and not promoted. Conversely, does this mean that McGill rewards mediocre or uninspiring teachers? Or so they simply want obedient staff members who will do things the way they’ve always done them because, well, that’s the way things have always been done? For a university that unceasingly prides itself as being a world-class institution, that would be a very odd policy. Then again, it’s hard to know what McGill’s enlightened leaders are thinking. They are apparently above the codes of conduct to which they hold their own staff and students. Shame on McGill for this world-class embarrassment. Darren Ell Montreal

I’ll think about it Re: Every letters page ever

The Daily received more letters than it could print this issue. The rest will appear in the next issue with a letters section. Send your letters to letters@ from your McGill email address, and keep them to 300 words. The Daily does not print letters that are racist, homophobic, or otherwise hateful.

Could you please stop using the titles in your letters section as a way for the editorial staff to respond to, criticize, and/or make fun of the comments below? It is demeaning to the author and shows a lack of respect for their viewpoint. Keep your titles to a summary of what is contained in the letter and leave it as that. People with interesting opinions to share won’t want to send them to you if you’re just going to make fun of them. Daniel Keresteci EUS rep to SSMU Council EUS President-elect


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010

A meditation on fighting Daily columnist pontificates on his thirst for bloodsport

Puttin’ on the foil Ben Foldy


llow me to make a not-sobold prediction. Human beings will never tire of watching people get hurt, particularly at the hands of other human beings. Some mainstream sports reluctantly embrace this schadenfreude – auto racing and hockey come to mind – but most associations never make this aspect of their sport’s appeal explicit. And then there are boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA), institutions that cut out the pretexts of civility and get right to giving people what they want – two people beating each other up. Sure, there’s a ref, rules, judges, and even points. But at the end of the day, I doubt most viewers want a fight to end in a decision. They want blood, cuts, broken noses, and punch-drunkards fighting the basic instinct to either flee or lose consciousness. On June 5, boxing premiers at the new Yankee Stadium with a top light-middleweight billing between Miguel Cotto – probably best known recently for losing to current golden boy Manny Pacquiao – and Yuri Foreman – probably best known for being undefeated and un-ironically fighting from an orthodox (right-handed) stance while training to be a rabbi. I graduate a day or two before, and have been thinking about rewarding myself for my studies with a trip down to New York and a ticket to the fight. In a tip of the hat to Adam Smith, I’ve been trying to figure out what it is that drives me to want to pay a minimum of 50 of my hardearned (read: student loan) dollars to watch the fight in person. I’m reminded of the time a neighbour-

hood kid ran over to tell me that a house was on fire. I grabbed my coat, hurried down the block to join my friends, and got exactly what I expected: human suffering, some good old macho “just another day’s work” firefighting, and the intoxicating scent of danger mingled with melting roof. That’s not a slight to boxers (or firefighters). It’s a tough job. My boxing experiences came in a friend’s basement. He and another friend trained and fought at a Hispanic community centre on the south side of Milwaukee. We would spar in the carpeted basement, cutting off an imaginary ring to avoid backing anyone into the sharp corners of a ping-pong table. I would inevitably end up playing the part of Glass Joe in NES Punch-Out, taking head shots and body blows for a few minutes until I either gave up or a stop-watch went off and I would go to my corner to wash the blood out of my mouth and drink sugar water. These were the days of Oscar De La Hoya, whom we all idolized. We used to get together with our fathers to watch the pay-per-view feeds for his fights. Even my diminutive, intellectual, pacifistic dad would come sometimes. Back in those days, there were no significant Jewish fighters to identify with and I internalized my friends’ infatuation with certain Latino fighters. Red, white, and green silk boxers with “La Raza” emblazoned on them meant something more than pants. They meant standing up, pride in language and culture, commanding respect, and embracing social mobility – they were like an updated zoot suit. I wouldn’t say I was ever a real boxing fan. I was more a fan of

Lukas Thienhaus | The McGill Daily

boxers. The greats always seemed to transcend the ring to represent ethnicities, religions, cities, and so on. In this, fighting is timeless and universal. It evokes cultural memories passed through generations of immigrants of “our” fighters, those who fought not for money but for aspects of our identities with the fists we wish we had and felt somewhat responsible for. In these histories, we drew our strength from them, and they draw their strength from us. These stories are integral to our culture. The human tragedies of structural inequality and agency in the boxing world are nostalgic even while rued – On the Waterfront and Raging Bull in cinema, Tyson and Ali in recent history. Boxing lends itself to a certain type of intellectualism as Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, George Plimpton, and Norman Mailer come to mind. They knew that nothing had the aesthetic appeal of the lone fighter. Think matadors, boxers, Christ, Tony Montana, Ralph Nader, and so on. MMA has been taking identities a step further into the ring, err, cage. Avowedly neo-Nazi fighters might

someday be lined up to fight Left Coast anarchists or law students from the University of Minnesota (examples of all three are currently in the ranks). Who wouldn’t want to watch that? And let’s not forget about the rise in popularity of MMA women’s fighting that has no real equivalent in boxing history. As identity is expanding far beyond the immigrant communities that rallied behind Jewish Barney Ross or Italian Jake LaMotta, MMA appears to embrace its role as the quilt through which the newer fabrics of identity are lovingly woven together in order to beat each other up. Kimbo Slice – a man who owes his fame to YouTube videos of backyard bareknuckle fights – attained televised stardom only to have it taken away in one round by Seth Petruzelli, a pink-haired, occasionally cross-dressing, underweight replacement fighter. I don’t have the adjectives to properly describe how amazing that is. Why? Because I think it’s incredible that whether we define ourselves as intellectual, brutish, radically feminist, Zoroastrian, racist, whatever, there is likely someone like us who draws

on the same symbols and experiences and uses them to fight. We like to imagine that these fighters represent us, and that it’s more than just two people hurting each other for money. And in some ways it is. Amir Khan, a British Pakistani Muslim, fights in Union Jack emblazoned shorts, spitting (punching?) in the face of both white British ethno-nationalists and anti-integration sentiments in immigrant communities. He recently defeated Dmitry Salita – an Orthodox Jewish, Russian-immigrant, previously undefeated Brooklynite – in 76 seconds. Could I have really rooted against either of them? Maybe that’s the fight I’d want to end in a decision, after all the imagined connections of collective identification have collapsed into contradiction. When that happens, all we are watching is two people beating each other up for money. Which is what it is. And there’s nothing wrong with that either. Ben Foldy is The Daily’s Sports columnist. He writes every other week. Email him at

I’m bad – been choppin’ trees! I done somethin’ new for this fight. I done wrestled with an alligator, tussled with a whale. Just last week, I handcuffed lightning, throw’d thunder in jail. That’s bad. Only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean I make medicine sick. That’s bad. —Muhammad Ali That’s bad.


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010


Where have all the fans gone? Students aim to re-conjure the magic Aquil Virani The McGill Daily


f you’ve ever been to the average McGill varsity sporting event, you’ll know that attendance in every sport is usually on the embarrassing side. McGill’s school spirit seems to be confined to red hoodies and Mike Babcock’s lucky tie. Even with the success of many of the teams – such as Martlets hockey and their 86 straight victories – the seats are empty and the venues almost cavernous. Frankly, it’s unacceptable. With this in mind, some students have taken initiative. McGill ’09 alumnus Ted Smith decided to start the McGill Fight Band in the fall of 2006. It started with three members and a vision to support athletics. “The word ‘pep’ seemed too wussy,” said Smith, “so we chose to go with the stronger and more invigorating ‘fight.’” To him, Fight Band is “the soundtrack to the live drama going on out on the field, ice, and hardwood.” Smith served as the brigade leader of the band, which he created to infuse McGill with some sports culture. The Fight Band family uses boisterous cheers, short jingles, and longer songs to support the home team. The Red Thunder, brainchild of current student Tom Fabian, is the first McGill varsity fan club, started to focus on improving McGill school spirit and attendance at sporting events. Members get access to all home games through a membership fee, as well as Red Thunder tailgates and after parties. “I created Red Thunder after sitting through one of our Redmen basketball games at home last year,” explained Fabian. “The crowd was half Concordia and we lost by a buzzer-beater – Concordia went nuts in our gym.” This phenomenon is common when McGill plays other Quebec teams as our events are sometimes hijacked by visiting fans. Despite the persistent efforts of dedicated students, some factors at McGill contribute to persistent athletic apathy. First and foremost, McGill is an institution that attracts students mostly for its prestige and emphasis on academics above all else. As Fabian puts it, “People are here to study, not cheer.” Student athletes must also compete with the plethora of events in the dynamic city that is Montreal. “It doesn’t help that McGill has to compete with the St. Laurent bar circuit,” adds Smith. This factor, in comparison

Jerry Gu | The McGill Daily

Enthusiastic support is hard to find at McGill sporting events. to small-town universities with few other options for entertainment, contributes to the absence of athletic support in the culture of the University. The sporting events here, as a result, are somewhat invisible to most students at McGill. Attendance is a hard sell when some teams have a reputation for losing that often unfairly spreads to those that enjoy phenomenal and consistent success. The major events are not always well advertised. Posters for events seldom extend beyond the walls of the gym and Facebook invitations are confined to small groups of friends, providing little opportunity to reach new audiences. Collaboration and efforts to reach

larger groups of potential attendees have worked in the past and they are needed now. When sporting events find their way onto University event programs, like Management Carnival or Science Carnival, spectators enjoy the bliss of cheering for the home team and the powerful ability of sports to inspire and unite. For the final home game of the Redmen hockey season on March 5, for example, the Inter-Residence Council of McGill packed the soldout McConnell arena to its full 1,046-person capacity. Needless to say, the atmosphere was electric, as the team won 7-4 and advanced to the Canadian Interuniversiy Sport Championship on a memorable

night for all. The triumphant feeling when a three-pointer is made to win the game where fans “experience something transient and beautiful,” as Smith describes, provides plenty of incentive to make the short trek. Games are within a fiveminute walk of the ghetto (either at the Currie gym or McConnell arena) and are usually in the evening, providing great settings for students to kick off their partying escapades. Supporting the school’s athletic teams, however, is about more than that. These aren’t just any sporting events – these are McGill sporting events. Our peers dedicate countless hours to their sport, make courageous sacrifices,

and deserve the support of their fellow students. Smith’s motivation for creating Fight Band, he explains, is “as much for the athletes as for the fans.” Both Fight Band and Red Thunder are growing and have ambitious goals for the future. Smith dreams of a full-size band that can fill any venue with its sound and energy, while Fabian has similar goals. “I want Red Thunder to grow to over 1,000 fans,” he said. There’s plenty of reason to be optimistic. At such a large school with students proud to be here, there is very little preventing students from enjoying some of the best competition in the country.



ach year for the past 28 years, the Festival International du Film sur l’Art (FIFA) has brought hundreds of films about the arts to Montreal. The festival’s aim is to foster knowledge and love of art through film, and to urge the international film industry to increase its production of art films. The festival includes movies on topics ranging from art history to literature to print media. From March 18-28, films will be screening all over the city; the breadth of the programming this year is really incredible. We’ve selected some of our favourite of the festival’s offerings below, but the full schedule can be found at For extended FIFA coverage, visit

The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010

Let There Be Light March 20 at 6:30 / Concordia University – Cinéma J.A. De Sève (1400 Maisonneuve O.) March 21 at 6:30 / Musée d’art contemporain (185 Sainte-Catherine O.) “Light is the essence of art. But tonight, light is the subject of art.” So proclaims narrator Alan Yentob at the outset of Tim Kirby’s Let There Be Light. He goes on to profile six artists who have taken light as their work’s medium and inspiration. They attempt to transform the elusive energy into something substantial and to bring into focus “light’s relationship to the material world,” as sculptor Liliane Lijn puts it.


The narration never becomes any less cheesy, but the spectacle of the film more than compensates: dazzling images of flickering columns of LEDs at a United Visual Artists installation, a glimpse of the earth’s curvature preserved in Charles Ross’s “solar burns,” and, in the film’s most triumphant moment, a radically new view of the sky, captured and shaped by artist James Turrell. You inevitably leave Kirby’s film with a new appreciation for light, unable to avoid noticing the way it falls over the room and plays across the f loor. In that sense, Let There Be Light is successful, though it’s more a result of the sheer innovation of the artists Kirby highlights than of the blurred close-ups and distracting narration he’s chosen as their cinematic frame. —Sheehan Moore

They Are Giants March 19 at 6:30 / Cinematheque Quebecois, Salle Claude-Jutra (335 Maisonneuve E.)

Zara Meerza | The McGill Daily

Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies March 20 at 4:00 / Musée des Beaux Arts (1380 Sherbrooke O.)

March 25 at 9:00 / Musée des Beaux Arts (1380 Sherbrooke O.) How did the invention of movies influence art? Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies is an hour-long documentary that examines the relationship between the first moving pictures and the two painters’ cubism. Producer and narrator Martin Scorsese wisely chooses to avoid montages or the sort of sentimental melodrama that fuels most

Lukas Thienhaus | The McGill Daily

March 23 at 3:30 / Musée des Beaux Arts (1380 Sherbrooke O.)

documentaries, and lets experts talk instead. The film features commentary from the likes of Chuck Close and Adam Gopnik to argue its thesis, summed up by Scorsese: “Cubism is not an art; it is a revolution that instigated a profoundly radical change of artistic form – a radical change in vision itself.” Film was the first art form that mirrored movement and time. Fractured space, multiple perspectives – the moving picture tore down conventions of representations. And its effect on cubism was striking. Dark and blurred corners in Picasso and Braque’s artwork, for example, directly mirror those of the first screens. Critics even began to characterize cubism in cinematic terms without realizing it. By restricting its scope and length, Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies presents an enlightening portrait of cinema’s influence on art, as wielded by the medium’s early masters. —Gavin Thomson

The lights come up on the quintessential Old Library: furnished with mahogany, accented with leather, light slanting onto richly-carpeted floors. And the books, oh the books! Walls lined with them, from floor to ceiling, volumes so beautiful that at first you’re too involved in them to notice the giant hand reaching in to select a tome no bigger than its thumb. The camera pulls back and you realize you’ve spent the last few moments in Guus Thurkow’s miniature library, the Bibliotheca Thurkowiana Minor. Beginning as just a secondary source of income in the days when they managed an antique bookstore in the Netherlands, the Thurkows’ dream of one day owning a complete little library is now a reality. Their Bibliotheca is now home to over 2,000 books, many made by Thurkow himself, and none standing more than 76 millimetres high. At only 12 minutes, director Koert Davidse’s They Are Giants offers a tantalizing snapshot of the library and the world of miniature books. There’s little elaboration on the why or how of the unique hobby. It’s just enough to whet your appetite for a dish you didn’t even know you were craving. —S.M.


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010

Faust: Path of the Moment March 21 at 6:30 / Goethe-Institut (418 Sherbrooke E.) As a haunting industrial melody plays, a red-dressed woman drags a well-suited Faust across a stage, beneath the banshee screams of bungee-roped actresses bouncing up and down, suspended in the air, while actors dressed as pigs swarm the audience. Laurentiu Damian’s film, Faust: Path of the Moment, captures the eccentric and grandiose production of a Romanian adaptation of Goethe’s Faust by the director Silviu Purc rete. The film is stitched from clips of rehearsals and performances, as well as the increasingly pathetic and futile attempts of Damian to contact Purc rete

Germany’s Cold War Cultures March 28 at 6:30 / Concordia University – Cinéma J.A. De Sève (1400 Maisonneuve O.) Director Michael Blackwood sticks to his documentarian roots in Germany’s Cold War Cultures, a film that takes an in-depth look at “Art of Two Germanys: Cold War Cultures,” a 2009 exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The film follows Stephanie Barron and Sabine Eickmann, the exhibit’s curators, as they walk through the gallery and discuss the ways in which the exhibit traces the chronological dichotomy of East and West Germany, starting with the ideological and aesthetic battle of the 50’s between the West’s

for an interview. The film suffers from its stylistic choices, however, making Faust an ineffective documentary about a terrific production. The play itself looks amazing – harrowing devils, a massive cast, and an ever-transforming stage production that forces the audience out of their seats and walks them through Hell. But where the play succeeds, the film falls remarkably short. Most successful when it lets the play speak for itself, the film dedicates an inordinately large portion of its running length to details, such as inane aspects of the rehearsal, all gift-wrapped to the harmonics of Muzak. Instead of seeing this shrivelled, watereddown depiction of what appears like a great work of art, you’d be better off learning Romanian and booking flights for mid2000s Bucharest. —Ryan Healey

abstract expressionist art and East Germany’s “Soviet realism” influenced propaganda. Arguably, West German art dominates the exhibition. This can be traced back to the onset of the West’s “Economic Miracle” – a period that led to both artistic valorizations and critiques of newfound consumer culture, and that led to a flourishing of various artistic movements within West Germany. Cold War Cultures continues to trace the two country’s respective movements toward increasing experimentation up until the 80’s, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, with work by well-known contemporary artists such as Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, and Gerhard Richter. Blackwood’s film allows the lineage of German art to speak for itself, and effectively “[re-thinks] the art history of a politically divided country.” —Joseph Henry

The Photographer March 20 at 4:00 / Cinéma ONF (1564 St. Denis) March 28 at 9:00 / Cinéma ONF (1564 St. Denis) At the centre of the film The Photographer is Evgeny Kashirin, the late Russian artist famous for his portrayals of central Russia. Through music, film, and the photographs themselves, directors Thomas Lahusen, Tracy McDonald, and Alexander Gershstein explore the power of the image to tell both a story and a history. The history at hand is that of the Riazan, a city in central Russia that Kashirin called home. Kashirin’s photographs create a sizable

March 20 at 1:30 / Concordia University – Cinéma J.A. De Sève (1400 Maisonneuve O.)

Zara Meerza | The McGill Daily

To Be and Not to Be is not a question, but a bold statement about listening to one’s inner music. Or, at least that’s what it means in the context of To Be and Not to Be: The Tehran Philharmonic Orchestra – a film that tells the story of Iranian composer Nader Mashayekhi and his dream to organize a symphony orchestra in his home country. The film explores lesser-known aspects of Iranian culture that arose under the country’s current conservative political regime. As Mashayekhi asks, “How can one develop creativity and expression in a world that does not allow them to be original?” The composer has an answer, though: create a new musical genre that applies the complex timbre of traditional Persian music to Western forms. Director Frank Scheffer follows Mashayekhi from rehearsals and performances to his family home and back again. The film is most effective when Scheffer focuses on the stories of Mashayekhi’s students and their struggle to find meaning in music; it features interviews with Iranian musicians who play Latin music in their parents’ basement, who reject playing the tar in favour of the trumpet, and who daringly perform Bach’s Passion According to St. John. To Mashayekhi and his students, making music is clearly a valuable means of expression. —Talitha Calder

archive of the people and places in Riazan, but one of the city’s inhabitants was careful to note that Kashirin “was not a factual photographer. He fantasizes.” The stories the photographs tell are those of the everyday people of Riazan – like Baba Frosia and Baba Klava, two women with whom Kashirin kept in touch with over a long period of time – forming a formidable album he expressly wished to share with the world. The Photographer tells the unique tale of one photographer’s inspiration. The combination of photographs, talking heads, Kashirin’s own blank verse, and original guitar music by Russian Oleg Timofeyev, come together to showcase a moving sociocultural history. —Hillary Amann

Lukas Thienhaus | The McGill Daily

Expansive Grounds March 24 at 6:30 / Cinquieme Salle at Place des Arts (175 Ste. Catherine O.)

To Be and Not To Be


March 28 at 6:30 / Concordia University – Cinéma J.A. De Sève (1400 Maisonneuve O.) In September 2003, construction started on the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. The structure features huge slabs of concrete, each cut to unique and precise angles, that create a vast sea of grey that covers almost five acres in downtown Berlin. In Expansive Grounds, director Gerburg Rohde-Dahl focuses her camera not only on the memorial’s striking architecture, but also on the spectators watching the construction, as well as on Rohde-Dahl’s own family. Many of the interviews capture the voices of older Germans, who lived through World War II as children under the care of their Nazi parents.

As Rohde-Dahl portrays it, the mere aesthetics of the project challenge Germany with questions of guilt, shame, and memory. While Rohde-Dahl argues with her sister about the potential sins of their father, younger Germans at the site quietly talk about whether the memorial properly represents the loss, the sorrow, and the overwhelming guilt of a new German generation. Together, their confessions of doubt express a voice that feels surprisingly personal, especially when spoken next to the structure meant to represent such feelings. Unlike other Holocaust films, there is literally no Jewish presence in Expansive Grounds. Jews are barely mentioned. This absence is, in a way, more moving than many of the big-budget Holocaust films that feature fictional recreations of true stories. While some Holocaust films can seem repetitive or numbing, Expansive Grounds feels original, relevant, and appropriately unsettling. —Sarah E. Adams

For more FIFA coverage, visit us online at


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010

Photographing her roots Nance Ackerman’s “Wathahine” put her in touch with her heritage Zoë Robertson The McGill Daily


athahine” means “long journey” in Mohawk. Nance Ackerman’s documentary photography exhibit aptly bears the name, considering both the physical and mental journeys its completion required of her. Physically, Ackerman travelled from the Atlantic coast in Halifax to locales as far as the freezing Canadian Arctic and the Pacific in British Columbia. Mentally, the photographer attempted to tackle a long-standing disjunction between her First Nations heritage and her non-native upbringing, while highlighting female leaders in aboriginal society. The result is an all-encompassing journey that illustrated the lives and accomplishments of First Nations women across a vast country. The culmination of Ackerman’s project is an exhibit of visual profiles of contemporary First Nations women who are prominent and active within their community. Subjects range from activists, teachers, social workers, and elders, to healers, midwives, artists, and hunters, even including a film maker and a poet laureate. In an artist’s statement in the exhibit, Ackerman describes an urge to explore her native heritage. As the offspring of a Mohawk father, who was not himself acquainted with his First Nations heritage, the photographer muses whether “maybe things like this skip gen-

CULTURE BRIEF Philosophy is phun

“Wathahine” features portraits of prominent native women. erations,” referring to the desire to form some type of cohesion between her paternal ethnic background and her present-day disassociation with it. What she ended up doing was “forging a new connection with [her] ancestry.” Ackerman, a documentary photographer based in Halifax, adds the “Wathahine” portrait series to an already extensive repertoire. In addition to other photographic series, Ackerman has produced

temporary feminism are equally drool-worthy, and talks like “The Emotional Education of Reality TV,” “The Twitter Test,” and “Logic, Evolution, and Windows,” will bring philosophy to contemporary platforms. Talks on aboriginal and Islamic philosophy present ideas that challenge Western philosophy, and the seminar on the university’s role in the accessibility of medicine brings a largely ignored issue to the fore. Another exciting aspect is the weekend-long philosophy marathon’s half-English, half-French content. Francophone students and professors will be presenting interesting talks on topics like “Global Justice,” “History of the Critique of Sociobiology,” and “The Islamic Head Scarf, Sign of a Will to Live Together.” A presentation on Sunday titled “Salon Philosophique” sounds both mysterious and inviting. So, instead of looking for wisdom in unexpected places, expect to receive it this weekend from discussions, presentations, and workshops. Students and professors alike will engage you theoretically and practically, and you’ll be sure to get something out of it.

Wisdom can be obtained from random strangers. The tiniest details can cause shifts in perspective. Understanding can occur after accidental, unexpected epiphanies. We experience these sparks of truth daily, but can never predict when they will happen. A hypothesis: average incidence of epiphanies will increase this weekend at Philopolis, a conference organized by students from four of Montreal’s universities. The event aims to supply Montreal with a healthy dose of philosophy, presented in a palatable and relaxed setting. For two days straight, Philopolis will deliver a barrage of workshops, panel discussions, and lectures that will attest to philosophy’s relevance today. The vast selection of talks on philosophy and neuroscience looks fascinating, with mouthwatering titles like “Intersecting Religion, Philosophy, and Neuroscience,” and “Chaotic Music and Fractal Art: A Glimpse into the The full schedule of events is Neurophysiology of Aesthetics.” The introductory lectures available at —Aaron Vansintjan on Buddhism, Sufism, and con-

documentary films in collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada, many of which focus on marginalized Canadian groups. Occupying a mid-sized room, the “Wathahine” exhibit is comprised of photographs of some 20 aboriginal women. The black and white portraits line all four walls, facing inward as though the viewer had stumbled into the middle of some monochromatic ceremony. A video is projected in the

Zara Meerza for The McGill Daily

middle of the room, narrated by Katsi Cook. A midwife and healer, her level-toned voice follows you through the exhibit, describing a dream she had of a corn field, and the significance the crop has within the First Nations community – especially to women and childbirth. The resonance of Cook’s testimony lies within the connection that she feels with all women, all native people, and by extension, all the characters portrayed in the room, despite their

spatial distances. It implies a linking spirituality that by no wonder would incite the latent cultural spirit within native people who have never expressed curiosity at their heritage. Some portraits offer a look into the everyday for these women, the photographer capturing them at work or at home, while others focus solely on the women’s faces, in stoic contemplation or caught amid an emotional outflow, whether gleeful or forlorn. The subjects’ “strong and compelling testimonials” promised on the museum’s web site, however, were ultimately only a succinct description of the women’s place within or contribution to First Nations society – a few words or a line or two accompanying each portrait. While some elaboration of the subjects’ backgrounds or accomplishments would have added a deeper value to the portraits, in most cases, Ackerman’s photographs speak for themselves. Talking of her experience photographing the prominent women of Canada’s First Nations communities, Ackerman says she is “left in awe of the resiliency and strength. It was the thread that held these very different women together. This exhibition is a tribute to that strength.” “Wathahine – Photographs of Aboriginal Women by Nance Ackerman” runs from March 10th to May 15th at the McCord Museum of Canadian History (690 Sherbrooke Ouest). Admission is $13 for adults and $7 for students, which grants entry to the entire museum.

With one more dollar we can: -Continue to offer you three papers in two languages each week. -Expand our capacity as a teaching organization (McGill’s unofficial journalism school for anglophone and francophone students), through initiatives like Student Journalism Week. -Restructure our operations to become a solid online, multimedia presence and still remain accessible to any students who want to get involved regardless of prior experience.

>> Vote YES to The Daily and Le Délit’s fee increase referendum and help us stay ahead of the curve for years to come.

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The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010


Sweet and bitter sweets The world of artisanal chocolate in Montreal Lena Camara The McGill Daily


love chocolate. You probably love chocolate. And since the demand is firmly established, it only makes sense that there be a large supply. Within this supply exists the subsection of artisanal chocolate – that is, chocolate made by hand, and not produced by the giants of the industry like Nestlé, Cadbury, and Hershey. Montreal is home to quite a few of these artisanal chocolatiers and, thanks to the growing market for artisanal chocolate, continues to attract new talent. The word talent brings about a few interesting questions: just who are these chocolatiers? And what should we call them? “Artisan, definitely,” said Chloé Germain-Fredette. “I don’t consider myself an artist at all.” Germain-Fredette owns her own shop, Les Chocolats de Chloé, in the Plateau. Nada Fares of Le Maitre Chocolatier considers herself an artisan too. While these women do not consider themselves artists, it certainly takes a kind of creativity and intuition to put together so many different chocolates. Not everyone would think to combine masala spices and milk chocolate, let alone mix chocolate with balsamic vinegar. A large part of the artisanal chocolate industry involves this kind of experimentation; in fact, it’s one of the things that separates it from the larger, mass-manufactured chocolate industry. Chocolatiers are not afraid to try new things and push the envelope when it comes to combining flavours. Suite 88, which has two stores in Montreal, is not completely artisanal in its chocolate production, but handmakes its truffles in small batches. The shop’s selection is constantly updated with rarities like lycheeginger that are only available for limited periods of time. The chocolate industry, much like any other, is not impermeable to trends. There are two principal schools of chocolate-making. The Belgian school relies heavily on milk chocolate and cream, which creates a sweet taste; the French school prefers to use darker, richer chocolate, and maintain a more bitter flavour. Les Chocolats de Chloé and Le Maître Chocolatier adhere to the latter, while Divine Chocolatier on Crescent, and most of Montreal’s other chocolate shops, are committed to the Belgian school. “The Belgian chocolates are sweeter and appeal to more people,” Fares said in French, “so there are fewer French chocolate shops.” Most people tend to prefer milk chocolate, which is a

large part of the reason why the Belgian method has grown rapidly and gained popularity. Dark chocolate, however, tends to appeal to an older crowd, not just connoisseurs. In the last few years it has gained popularity in North America, due mostly to the cancer-fighting antioxidants it holds, and the fact that its fats are vegetable fats instead of milk fats. In fact, Business Week quotes the increase in dark chocolate sales as just over 200 per cent between 2007-2008. During the recent recession, chocolate was one of the few industries to avoid catastrophe. It helps, too, that it is said to fight depression. Being a chocolatier is not as easy a job as one might think. Germain-Fredette says that most people give up relatively early in their careers as chocolate-makers because “they don’t realize that it’s hard work – it’s a lot of manual work.” Artisanal chocolate makers spend long hours working with their chocolate, whether by experimenting with new flavours, which can take up to one year to perfect, or simply hand-dipping and decorating every single truffle. “Each kind of chocolate has its difficulty,” Germain-Fredette said, “but dipping especially takes a lot of skill and patience.” According to Germain-Fredette, the chocolate industry in Montreal has grown considerably in recent years, maybe starting five to 10 years ago. “I think in Quebec our interest in food in general grew as well, but also a lot of people are realizing that this is something they can do,” she said. And it’s true – being a chocolatier is gaining credibility. She points out, however, that it is unlikely the chocolate industry will ever be as prominent here in Quebec as it is in France, where chocolate is part of the cultural heritage. Fares agreed, saying that “Montrealers are very receptive to new food,” but was not as adamant about the chocolate industry growing, so much as the population’s palette refining. “They know more about chocolate now and can see the difference between artisanal chocolate and the chocolate they buy at a dépanneur, as well as the difference between real artisanal chocolate and those that are sold by resellers,” Fares explained. Thanks to a more discerning public, it is now harder to open a chocolate shop or become a chocolatier that does not sell quality artisanal chocolate. But few people think of chocolate-making as a viable career. “It took me a long time to figure out that’s what I wanted to do,” Germain-Fredette explained. She went to university, but soon realized that she needed to do “some-

Shu Jiang | The McGill Daily

In recent years, Montreal’s receptiveness to new foods has lead to innovation in artisanal chocolate. thing more manual.” After meeting pastry chefs as she tried to find her calling, Germain-Fredette realized that it would be possible to make a living from her hobby, and enrolled in a course for pastry chefs. Upon graduating, she worked in pastry for a little while before returning to her first love: chocolate. From beginning to end, it took Germain-Fredette seven years to finally open her own shop. Fares said that for her, however, chocolate had always been the plan. Her decision to open a

shop was influenced by the fact that there was little French chocolate in Montreal. “No one was really doing what I wanted – there was a lot of extravagant chocolate, a lot of new flavours, but no one was making simple French chocolate,” she said. Her French chocolate was well received in Montreal, thanks to the population’s enthusiasm for food, and also the rarity of that kind of chocolate. While we are not all cut out to be artisanal chocolatiers, there is more and more of an industry waiting to welcome those who are.

Quebec has yet to open a school or a chef course specifically dedicated to chocolate-making and lags behind Europe in its chocolate production, but the industry here is gaining a reputation. As for the rest of us, we can do our best to keep the demand for artisanal chocolate high. Les Chocolats de Chloé is located at 546 Duluth E. Le Maître Chocolatier is located at 1612 Sherbrooke O. Suite 88 is located at 3957 St. Denis. Divine Chocolatier is located at 2158 Crescent.


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cutting edge feminism

Festival highlights Public Photo Booth - Apparently Perverse Pics March 20 at Mainline Theatre; 10 p.m. On March 20, Montreal photographer Nikol Mikus will be presenting an interactive and innovative performance piece that invites audience members to create their own photo session, complete with costumes and accessories. Organized by Mikus and performance artist Alyson Wishnousky, the event is part of the Edgy Women festival’s Edgy Party, a night of interactive performances. The installation encourages participants to set their “perversions, peculiarities, eccentricities, and weirdnesses loose” in a “Public Photo Booth” and is set to culminate in the projection of some of these photographs on the walls of the Mainline Theatre, which will be hosting the Edgy Party this Saturday. This second aspect of Mikus’s piece allows the subjects of the photographs to become active participants in the Edgy Party, bringing them closer to the festival and to the artists themselves. Public Photo Booth will take place alongside other performances and video projections, creating a visually stimulating backdrop for the Edgy Party’s festivities. —Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite

Edgy Challenge / Interdisciplinary Cabaret Jenny Lu for The McGill Daily

March 20 at Mainline; 8 p.m.


he Edgy Women festival is organized by Studio 303, a Montreal resource centre aimed at stimulating artistic exchange between artists and the public through workshops, performance, and affordable studio space. Now in its 17th year, Edgy Women aims to explore the “complexity of contemporary feminism” and strike up a dialogue about the issue through art. Miriam Ginestier, the festival’s curator, spoke to The Daily via email. The McGill Daily: How long have you been involved with Studio 303 and the Edgy Women festival? Miriam Ginestier: A really, really, really, long time! Nearly 20 years at 303, and about 15 for Edgy, which started in 1995. MD: What are the aims and goals of the Edgy Women festival this year? Are you hoping to achieve something new or different with this festival as opposed to previous editions? MG: The goal is always the same, to show audiences intelligent and provocative work, and to create a sense of community. This year, I did try to program fewer artists in order to be able to offer them better presenting conditions. Some years, a theme does emerge, but this year, what stands out is that the two full-length works are English-language works from Toronto [the Scandelles and Jess Dobkin]. It’s rare for me to present text-based work, but these two artists are exceptional and quintessentially edgy, so I couldn’t say no.

MD: How important are politics in a festival like Edgy Women? MG: Politics are important, but it’s not what drives the festival. I am looking for work that provokes and inspires through its creativity versus work that proselytizes. I don’t require that every artist selfdefine as feminist or for feminism to be explicit in their work. Edgy Women is a feminist event because it presents work which is transgressive in terms of its subject matter (sex work, motherhood, gender identity) or form (visceral physicality). While I value the need to support art that does not reflect dominant culture, it is very important to me that the spirit of this festival remain unbridled [as opposed to] politically correct. I hope that the programming helps dispel negative preconceptions some people have about feminism – that it’s stale, dated, not fun. At Edgy, I like to mix politics and frivolity, high and low art, emerging and established artists, pushing artists and audiences alike a little past their comfort zones. MD: The Edgy Women festival is based in Montreal. How does the city influence the make-up and direction of the festival? MG: Montreal has had a tremendous influence on the way I program. Because of language issues, perhaps, I do prioritize non-verbal or bilingual projects. And venues also affect the programming. There is a lot of freedom here. MD: What Edgy Women events are you looking forward to this

year? MG: I am very, very excited about the whole festival of course but when artists are here for their third, fourth, or fifth Edgy festival, it means they are consistently interesting and that I really want to support the development of their work. Returning artists Nathalie Claude and Dayna McLeod are completely insanely creative, and their collaborative emceeing blows my mind – they are hosting the Edgy Challenge). Other returning artists are the Scandelles, Jess Dobkin, and Karen Sherman. I’m also really excited about Shannon Cochrane’s performance. MD: Does Studio 303 hope to expand the Edgy Women festival in the coming years? MG: There are no plans to expand per se. I like keeping it intimate. I’d like Edgy Women to be less anglo and white. That’s something I need to work on. And that’s a challenge. I really want to develop Edgy’s relationship with universities, have more student involvement, conferences, artist talks, networking opportunities, et cetera.... For 2011, I’m really excited about bringing in Japanese performance artist anticool with her amazing piece that references McDonald’s, and I’m planning to present Jess Dobkin’s “Lactation Station,” so there may be a bit of a food/nourishment theme. —compiled by Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite

The Edgy Challenge, an “interdisciplinary cabaret,” gives seven performers the task of creating short pieces in a limited amount of time. The artists were given an audio track, a prop, and one month to come up with a piece. The seven artists involved in the challenge include Montrealer Sophie Castonguay, Toronto-based writer Mariko Tamaki, and Montreal musician Jackie Gallant. The Edgy Challenge will be hosted by performers and MCs Dayna McLeod and Nathalie Claude. McLeod, a writer and performance artist whose work has been performed around the world, explores concepts like girl culture and anti-feminist backlash in her artistic and theoretical research. Claude, a Montreal-based performer, dancer, and writer, is an artistic coach at Cirque du Soleil who has worked in the Montreal arts community for over 20 years. In combination with the multilayered and innovative performances by the talented Edgy Challenge artists, Claude and McLeod will undoubtedly bring a dynamic presence to the festivities. —M.A-S.

Everything I’ve Got - Jess Dobkin March 24 at Tangente; 7:30 p.m Toronto-based performance artist Jess Dobkin presents her newest piece, “Everything I’ve Got,” as part of Edgy Women’s second week of events at Tangente. The work, a “raw and intimate examination of creativity and mortality,” takes the viewer on a journey through Dobkin’s repertoire of artistic work and ideas. Dobkin employs humour and drama to illustrate her “vulnerability” and “urgency,” as she works through her relationship with time, space, and her own performance techniques. A veteran performance artist, Dobkin’s latest performance promises to be an enlightening and entertaining look into the way in which performers interact with their work. Dobkin is also participating in the Edgy Women festival as a workshop facilitator, leading a series of workshops called “Performing Intimacy.” In these workshops, participants are invited to discuss “practical strategies and conceptual possibilities for working with narrative and use of the body” in performance. Dobkin often focuses on the use of the body in performance and artistic expression, and between her solo performance in “Everything I’ve Got” and “Performing Intimacy,” her multifaceted approach to artistic expression is sure to be both entertaining and educational. —M.A-S. The festival runs March 17-20 at Mainline Theatre (3997 St. Laurent) and March 24-28 at Tangente (840 Cherrier). For a full schedule, view


The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010


Mentana montage Documentary photographer’s latest project combines art and community organization Naomi Endicott The McGill Daily


ntering the basement of the Habitations de Mentana (HLM) social housing block at St. André and Rachel last Thursday was rather like interrupting a birthday party for a well-loved greataunt: balloons pinned to the door, a table hidden beneath bowls of carrot sticks and chips, and family photos covering the walls. Except these photos weren’t the beloved snapshots of a proud household; rather, they were the result of months of work by photographer Jacinthe Robillard. The event was, in fact, the vernissage for Robillard’s most recent exhibition, entitled “Les Jardins Mentana.” In creating the work, which was a collaboration with the Place aux familles project and the Centre local de services communautaires (CLSC) Plateau-Mont-Royal, Robillard went into a Montreal housing project (in Quebec called habitations à loyer modique, or HLMs) and took photographs, with the aim of exploring the way that identity is linked to the domestic environment. Unusually, the exhibit is almost exclusively viewable online. Besides the practical side to this – DAREDARE, the organization that facilitated the project, does not have an exhibition space – Robillard said that making the work available online opens the project up to the community, “because people are at home and they can watch whenever they please.” However, “the vernissage was very important to me,” she continued. “It’s important the families are there, the kids, so you can ask them questions.” Having the subjects of the art running around you, as was the case during the vernissage, does provide, as Robillard emphasized, “another relationship” – a very different form of involvement with the subjects than the somewhat detached experience of seeing them in a gallery. Robillard started work on the project with four families last September. To get on such intimate terms with the families obviously took time, and Robillard “wanted to focus on families as a whole, even if they have moments of solitude.” She emphasized the importance of using natural light in her work, and with the shorter days in fall, she had to start using flash equipment, “bringing some sort of a distance.... You can feel that [in the early photos].” But her subjects changed along with the light, becoming more personal and confident – “they’re not posing for me as a photographer,

Courtesy of Jacinthe Robillard

Robillard aimed to explore the way that identity is linked to the domestic environment. but for me just looking at them.” With an exhibition like “Les Jardins Mentana,” the question of voyeurism is bound to come up. But that word conjures connotations of objectification that simply don’t apply to Robillard’s work. “My work is not about the voyeurism at all, because there’s this desire of just showing how people live,” she noted. This inclination came to her strongly in her childhood – Robillard recollected growing up in a typical bland suburb in Laval, and the suicide of a young friend when she was 12. “That day my dad said we might live in houses that are all the same, but behind closed doors we don’t know what’s going on,” she remembered. And it was this desire to show people’s lives through photography that drove her to a project similar to “Les Jardins Mentana” that Robillard did previously in the HLM Habitations Jeanne-Mance. “I wondered if [the] people living there were happy.... I wanted to see who lived there,” she explained. “I have

this interest for other people’s lives.” This interest is evident in every shot. “I want to show them as they are,” she said. Her own voice is paramount in achieving this purpose. Though many people associate the term “documentary photography” with objectivity, Robillard pointed out that “as soon as you frame the world there’s no objectivity, because it’s your eyes seeing.” And seeing these people through Robillard’s eyes is the beauty of the project. “I find the pictures are coming out beautiful,” she said, “but at the same time when you really pay can see where sometimes it’s less pretty. I’m there to make them feel beautiful; that’s how I see them.” Robillard didn’t plan to choose HLMs for her projects, “it just turned out that way.” The HLM environments are fascinating to her because they embody a social class that is distinct from mainstream Montreal culture. Habitations de Mentana is in the heart of the Plateau – a couple of blocks west of Parc La Fontaine

between Duluth and Rachel – but the families living there rarely integrate with the local community. Robillard mentioned factors of cost: for example, the Villanueva family, with whom she worked most extensively, takes monthly trips to wholesale grocers in Plattsburgh, N.Y., to stock up for the month. The attitudes of the children are surprising – many were worried about people knowing where they live and stealing them from their parents. She talked of the trouble getting many families to participate – noticeably her photos of the O’Neill family are all placed outside, rather than in their home, as the other participants’ are, and many other families were unwilling to get involved. But the project has had a positive effect on the families featured. “They were very proud and I was very happy [with that],” Robillard said. The children got fully involved, and their excitement was tangible during the vernissage – talking with Robillard was tricky when she

was constantly being caught up in bear-hugs, and many declared their experience “Fantastique!” The CLSC organized this project with the participation of DAREDARE, who selected Robillard from a pool of candidates. Well-meaning social work projects of this sort are always trying to integrate art with societal reform. In this case, though, Robillard has succeeded. The photos produced are at once art – satisfying our basic curiosity to see other people’s lives beautifully portrayed – and a community project – enabling subjects to feel part of something. But it seems clear that the real way these photos improve lives is by affecting the lives of others: opening the eyes of other Montrealers – including most McGill students – to a life so foreign to their own.

See the exhibit online at, where Robillard continues to post new photos.



The McGill Daily, Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lies, half-truths, and modern art

Wednesday celebration brings out beer, general douchebaggery Harriet Rocco The McGill Daily


he annual Third Wednesday of March Day celebrations saw McGillans of all stripes finally not feeling bad about drinking too much alcohol throughout the day while dressed like EcoWarriors. “It’s really heartening that McGill students are showing their support for sustainability issues so long after the Sustainability Projects Fund passed,” one U1 Enviro-Advocacy student said, before realizing that he was completely wrong. Once the rush of embarrassment passed over the student’s face, he turned violent, yelping, “Hey! You stole my fucking colour!” Those accusations of theft sparked a heightened police presence in the McGill Ghetto – which continues to be confusingly affluent – with some cops taking to the streets on horseback, apparently in an effort to engage in a “proportionate response” to the students’ maturity levels. “Look, if you gon’ act like youn-

gins, we gon’ whip out dem ho’ses,” a Montreal police officer said in French. “Sorry did you say ‘horses’ or ‘hoses’?” one linguistics student asked calmly. “Sheeeeeeiiitt, ’dem horse mothafuckas don’ never get no chance to walk aroun’,” he added, before launching into a list of his favourite seasons of HBO’s critically acclaimed crime/everything drama, The Wire. “I mean, I loved the fact that the second season was such a departure from the first, yet still tied in so well – and really nailed the critique of the institution. Like a neat little network television bow. Do you concur?” he asked, before his attention shifted to all the commotion and goings-on at the recently de-appostrophe’d Gerts. “Yeah dude, come to Gerts, there’s like, a bunch of fourth-year chicks but in like high school. You gotta come – just study later!” said one student, before resuming his celebration of a made-up holiday that barely anyone has any real attachment to. Merry Christmas.

Campus Eye

University erects new sculpture Photo by Jacques-Cartier Pompidou In an effort to “push boundaries,” the University has repurposed found materials into a post-postpost-modern sculptural masterpiece. —Cliodhna Ó hAonghusa

John Johnson for The McGill Daily

Meather Bonroe-Hlum, tear this wall down! Télésphore Sansouci The McGill Daily


rotesters amassed around the Great Green Wall keeping students off of the area known only as the Beach (but also known as Lower Field) today. They chanted slogans demanding that the Hooverist dictator of McGill University finally tear down the wall that has been separating a snowy field from students’ feet for months and months and months. The students’ demands are simple: given the enormous amount of sunshine, their incredible desire to get baked on campus, and/or tan bodies grown flabby with wintery turpitude, the Bonroe-Hlum administration should “tear down that wall.” Local student Dylan MerleauPonty commented: “I want to pull fatty bong rips while checking out hot mamacitas tanning on the Beach, man.” The administration refused to comment on the protests, but referred to Merleau-Ponty’s remarks as “heteronormative” and “kinda hedonistic.”


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