The McGill Daily Vol. 109 Issue 8

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Published by The Daily Publications Society, a student society of McGill University.

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Volume 109, Issue 7 | Monday, October 28, 2019 | Spoiled, reckless, insolent, extravagant since 1911




October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily

Table of Contents 3


10 • culture Putting the “Silly” in Resillyence




• Rad Media List!

• Support Chilean Protesters

• Standing with First Nations Youth • Students Call for Divestment • Tenth Annual Vigil Held for Victims of Police Violence • Involuntary Leave Policy Suspended • Legislative Council • Hikes and Strikes

9 • Commentary To the Countless People Who Were Not Counted


features • Banking on Our Bellies

sci+tech • Hey Siri, Make Me A Sandwich





McGill BOOK FAIR Redpath Hall

• Ally Reposts Tweet, Literally Solves Racism • Fuck yeah!

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Volume 109 Issue 7

October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily


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680 Sherbrooke Suite 724, Montreal, QC H3A 0B8 phone 514.398.6784 fax 514.398.8318

The McGill Daily is located on unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory. coordinating editor

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Support Chilean Protesters

Nelly Wat news editor

Yasna Khademian Emily Black commentary + compendium! editor

Rosa Sundar-Maccagno Michaela Keil culture editor

Kate Ellis

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Sneha Shinde science + technology editor

Willa Holt

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José Noé De Ita Zavala illustrations editor

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Phoebe Pannier contributors Eloise Albaret, Emily Black, Jose Noe De Ita Zavala, Kate Ellis, Kat Herhoeven, Willa Holt, Alex Karasick, Yasna Khademian, Claudine Loop, Kelsey McKeon, Phoebe Pannier, Abigail Popple, Shahriar Soltani, Nelly Wat le délit

Grégoire Collet

Published by the Daily Publications Society, a student society of McGill University. The views and opinions expressed in the Daily are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of McGill University. The McGill Daily is not affiliated with McGill University.

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content warning: police brutality


tudents in Chile began evading transit fares on Thursday, October 17 to protest a hike in ticket prices implemented by the federal government. As the student protest grew, the government deployed 20,000 soldiers, who used brutal force against nonviolent demonstrators. As of October 24, 18 people have died, over 200 have been wounded, and 5,000 have been arrested in one of the most violent governmental repressions in Chile’s recent history. According to the Chilean National Rights Institute, there have been a large number of allegations regarding the excessive use of force, torture, and human rights violations against unarmed protesters by the Chilean authorities. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera introduced a curfew on October 18 that remained in effect until October 23. Two days later, he declared, “we are at war,” describing protesters as a “powerful, relentless enemy, that does not respect anybody or anything.” The six-day curfew has been marked by police brutality against a population whose grievances extend far beyond an increase in transit fare. According to Julio Pinto, a history professor at the University of Santiago, the massive protest grew from an accumulation of unaddressed demands. He explained that Chileans are experiencing significant economic decline as well as frustrations over health, education, pensions, and other services. Boris Van Der Spek, founder of the independent news site Chile Today, told Al Jazeera that “the protests are more than just about fare increase. “It is about the cost of living and the level of inequality in the country,” he said, noting a great deal of discontent among the population. “This was always going to happen one way or another.” Cristián Castro, a department director at Universidad Diego Portales, echoed these statements to NPR. “The cost of living in Chile has no logic when related to the paychecks you receive at the end of the month – unless you’re part of the upper class,” he said. “The system has favoured too few for too long.” “Over the past decade, the Chilean state has lost touch with these problems,” writer Marco Antonio de la Parra told The Guardian. “The places that have been targeted [...] are deeply symbolic: transport and energy represent the success of the state and the model it upholds.” This isn’t the first time that a student protest of this scale has occurred under conservative billionaire Sebástian Piñera’s regime. One of the biggest protests in Chile’s contemporary history took place in 2011, one year Piñera

took office for the first time. Piñera’s election in 2010 represented the end of the centre-left political era that characterized Chile after the end of military rule in 1990. His second term, which began in 2017, was endorsed by the right-wing coalition Chile Vamos (Let’s Go Chile). Members of the government have denounced the actions of the student protesters as aggressive and unwarranted. “This desire to break everything is not a protest, it’s criminal,” President Piñera said in a radio interview. Government spokesperson Cecilia Pérez denounced “irresponsible, populist leaders,” whom she accused of inspiring violence. These remarks ignore the root of the problem and contribute to the collective public dissatisfaction with the government’s inaction. Piñera claimed to have listened “with humility” to “the voice of [his] compatriots.” However, his government’s responses to the protests – martial law and military violence – do not support these statements. International media sources continue to focus on the material destruction and react to the protests as if they were newly and exclusively spawned from the metro fare hikes. After six nights, the power of collective civil action forced President Piñera to give a public apology. “I truly recognize the social problems that have been accumulating in the last decades and that different administrations, including mine, were not able to tackle. I recognize that, and I apologize for that lack of vision.” In order to save face, he also presented a new public policy agenda, expected to cost 1.2 billion USD. This policy includes raising the minimum salary, reducing medication prices, maintaining electricity costs, and increasing taxes for the upper class by 40 per cent, among other social measures. Despite these concessions, we must remember that the issue is ongoing and that the administration must continue to be held accountable. We must support Chilean protesters and their message, spread awareness of the situation, and question the Chilean government’s characterization of the protesters as “criminals.” As students at a Canadian institution, we must also be cognizant of our positionality and uplift the voices of our Chilean peers in these conversations. Social mobilization, especially in Latin America, tends to be ignored and underestimated. The student movement in Chile is organized and effective in a way that we can – and should – learn from.

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October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily

Standing with First Nations Youth

Yasna Khademian News Editor

A Protest in Solidarity

content warning: colonial violence

On Saturday, October 19, Indigenous peoples and allies gathered in front of the Roddick Gates, protesting the Liberal government’s decision to appeal the ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The ruling in question would award $40,000 to each child forcibly removed from their home and put in federal care. In addition, some parents and grandparents would be eligible for compensation. The list of speakers included Tomas Jirousek, Jo Roy, Nakuset, Noah Favel, and Amy Edward.

Tomas Jirousek, a member of the Kainai First Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy and the SSMU Indigenous Affairs Commissioner, discussed the role that non-Indigenous allies must play in the movement. Specifically, he noted “the way this problem’s been created and the power that we each have as individual people, whether it’s ballot box, whether it’s volunteering at organizations, whether it’s looking at ways you can uplift Indigenous peoples in your own lives and act as an ally. Be ready to heed that call. Listen to indigneous students on campus for when we make calls for this type of allyship and activism.” Tomas Jirousek

Jo Roy, who is Abenaki and a McGill student in the School of Social Work, spoke on the impacts of residential schools and the Sixties Scoop. Roy told the protestors,“the harmful decisions of federal and provincial governments do not just impact faraway communities, but those around us here and now. It is a pain that is woven into the very fabric of our society and has cost the lives of too many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children. “So please, don’t think that the pain of Indigenous peoples is far removed from your lives here in the city – because it is not. It is experienced by those around you, and many that you see here. “This is why we are standing here together, because the pain must end. The damage being done must stop, and we are here because we know it is not right to challenge the collective right for First Nations children to have a future free of pain.”


Amy Edwards. who is Kanien’kehá:ka and a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, spoke to forms of intergenerational trauma that are not talked about often. “The systemic racism from our settler-colonial state has really broken down how we communicate with each other, how we talk about certain issues, and I really just want to bring that to light – that when we’re thinking about the actions of the Canadian government as they continue to perpetuate colonization through their legislations, through their denial of accountability for what they continue to do to Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, it is important to know how these systems not only permeate in these overt forms of discussions but also really influence the communications and discussions of individual families.”

Nakuset, who is a member of the Cree Nation on Treaty 6 territory and the Executive Director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, discussed the power of the youth to affect change. “The youth understand that the government doesn’t care about us. The fact that all these recommendations have been put forward and no one is doing anything about it speaks volumes. So, what are you going to do about it? “You have more power than you think. So, I challenge you to try to make a difference, to read the recommendations and to see which ones you think you could actually apply. [...] If there’s something around here that you think you could do, then do it – because it can be done.”

Jo Roy

Noah Favel

Amy Edwards

Noah Favel, a member of the Cree Nation on Treaty 6 territory, spoke on the decision of the Liberal government to appeal the Tribunal’s ruling. “What bothered me most about this decision was how it perpetuates a system of poverty for people who are already so impoverished,” Favel stated. “To place this battle, to place this severe trauma onto Indigenous children who are already grappling with so many other issues than finances – we’re people who are struggling to maintain our language, our heritage, our customs. [...] It really hurts me.” Yasna Khademian | Photographer

October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily



Students Call for Divestment

Emily Black News Editor


s approximately 7,000 prospective students and their parents arrived on campus for McGill’s Open House, a banner was dropped from the Leacock roof at 11:52 a.m., on October 20. Held in place by dozens of ballons, the banner read, “MCGILL INVESTS IN THE CLIMATE CRISIS + APARTHEID,” protesting McGill’s complicity in the climate crisis. Though the banner blew back onto roof soon after it was dropped, it was readjusted later in the day, and remained on display until dark. It is unclear when the banner was finally taken down by security – a stark contrast to the quick removal of the “CHANGE THE NAME” banner dropped earlier this year. Later that day, beginning at 1:00 p.m., a coalition of student groups gathered in front of the Arts Building, surrounding the site of James McGill’s reinterrment. The coalition, which included members of the BSN, ISA,

SPHR and was organized by C-JAM, held hands and circled the monument, displaying a banner reading “Here Lies James McGill, A Racist Slaveowner.” As prospective students passed the demonstration, they continuously repeated a speech speaking to the University’s “complicity in global conflicts for profit,” highlighting their investments in militarized weapons and real estate in occupied Palestine, as well as in the oil, gas, mining, and extraction industries. Interspersed between the speeches were chants of “divest now,” “free Palestine,” and “that’s bullshit, get off it, this land is not for profit.’’ According to student security facilitators Meg and Lucy, a member of McGill security was present for the entirety of the demonstration, but did not approach the students. The Event Coordinator for McGill’s Open House approached and questioned the students, inquiring about the motivations

behind the demonstration and why they were protesting instead of “engaging directly with the administration.” The weekend’s demonstrations were followed by a chalk and paint campaign run by McGill’s chapter of Greenpeace, covering the steps in front of the James Administration Building early on the morning of October 21. According to a press release by the chapter, the campaign was to “raise awareness on the intersectionality of the climate crisis,” timed to “greet the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) at their meeting on the Senate Resolution for the Divestment from Fossil Fuels.” Students who wish to learn more about where their tuition money is spent, and how McGill is implicated by its investments can visit

“McGill directly finances the exploitation of natural resources and the ongoing climate crisis, and maintains complicity in global conflicts for profit.” “As prospective students, you have a right to know how McGill spends your tuition money. McGill claims to be working towards sustainability but is funding climate destruction, they claim neutrality while being complicit in conflicts around the world.”

“As a historically colonial institution, founded on slave trade money, you would think that McGill would make a greater effort to disentangle itself from being complicit in futher infringements of both social and climate justice.” All quotes attributed to the speech given by the coalition of student groups at the demonstration.

Emily Black | Photographer


October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily

Tenth Annual Vigil Held For Victims Of Police Violence


content warning: police brutality Emily Black News Editor


ccurring annually since 2010, the Commemorative Vigil for Justice for Victims of Police Killings is organized by a coalition of relatives and loved ones affected by police violence. Like every year, this year’s vigil was held on October 22 – a date chosen to commemorate the National Day of Struggle for Victims of Police Killings in the United States since 1996. Honouring the lives of victims of police killings in Montreal, the families and friends of Gladys Tolley (killed by the SQ in Kitigan-Zibi in 2001), Ben Matson (killed by the Vancouver police in 2002), Mohamed Anas Bennis (killed by the Montreal police in 2005), Claudio Castagnetta (killed by the Quebec city police in 2007), Quillem Registre (killed by Montreal police in 2007) and Fredy Villanueva (killed by Montreal police in 2008) gathered outside the Montreal Police Pension Fund building. Attendees called for justice for victims and their loved ones, shared testimonies of brutality and violence at the hands of police, and “demand[ed] access to information for families, independent investigations, and an end to impunity.”

Yasna Khademian | The McGill Daily

“Ten years later, we’re still calling for the same thing: truth, justice, and accountability. It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse. Every year, there are more victims, there are more families. That’s why we’re here, we want justice in our investigations. It’s not going to end until we get justice from the police, from the federal and provincial governments.” — Bridget Tolley, daughter of Gladys Tolley (member of the Anishinabeg First Nation and co-founder of Families of Sisters in Spirit)

Yasna Khademian | The McGill Daily

“I want the cops to be accountable for their

“I was really hoping the police would be outside today, because I

actions, what they did to my son. They should

have a message for them. I think the police think that their unions,

be punished, they should go to prison for

their employers and their legislators are protecting them. The SPVM

the things they have done. For all the family

chief is surprised that there’s racism in his province – this is because

members who have lost their loved ones to

they don’t listen to us. Our children who have been killed, they’re

the police, we should come together as one.

victimized. They’re no longer people who were killed by the police,

We need to be strong, and not lose hope.

they’re a depressed teenager, they’re a drug addict, they’re a drunk.

Hope is the substance of all things. We are going to fight this battle, but we do not have

It’s always their fault that they got themselves killed. The Bureau of Independent Investigation is not giving us any transparency, I dont think

enough support, we need more support.”

they’re giving us any accountability or answers - so it’s up to us.”

— Trish Gibbs, mother of Nicholas Gibbs

— Tracy Wing, mother of Riley Fairholm

“The SPVM just released a report on the presence of systemic racism in Montreal’s police force. The police spokesperson said that “advocates have been telling us racism exists, but advocates have an agenda.” It’s true we do have an agenda, it’s called compassion and fairness. Until we have paperwork that proves there is racism, the police pretend that they don’t have to address it. In the government’s mind, they’re neutral: they’re the arbitror of right and wrong. We have a judicial system, we have a judge and jury. But our police force has become the judge, jury, and executioner.” — Dexter X, Montreal Activist

All quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

Yasna Khademian | The McGill Daily

October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily




Involuntary Leave Policy Suspended

Students Voice Views About Mental Health Support Abigail Popple News Contributor


n September 22, the Office of the Dean of Students announced its decision to suspend the draft Policy on Involuntary Leave – originally drafted in 2017. The policy’s stated intent was “to provide clear and fair protocol for supporting students in significant crisis,” and to expedite the student’s re-integration into McGill by “directing [the] student to the relevant resources” needed for their recovery. The draft policy included provisions for the University to effectively suspend students from campus, thereby barring their access to all University services – including housing, where applicable – except for Security Services. In those cases where “reasonable support by the University [had] been exhausted,” the administration presented the policy as a means to allow students to “get support external to McGill.” However, the draft only indicates that University-facilitated access to external support services “may be possible” in a transition period of fewer than 30 days, and must be before the beginning of the mandated leave. According to Christopher Buddle, Dean of Students, the policy was meant to protect students “under very exceptional circumstances,” who have posed a threat to themselves or others – he stressed that such occasions would be very rare. It is worth noting that in an email exchange on the subject of the policy between Buddle and Martine Gauthier, Executive Director of Services for Students, Gauthier mentions that McGill has a “very high threshold [sic]... for retaining students with behaviours related to severe mental illness,” which comes at a “very high cost resource wise,” citing the full-time employment of seven people in psychiatric services at the time. Buddle also stated that “[t]he concept of the draft policy” had been posed to

“various committees” during the 2018-19 academic year, and later underwent direct consultations with committees, including student societies. In reference to why the administration suspended work on the policy, Buddle pointed to the draft’s negative reaction upon its introduction to the general student body in September. Concerns raised during this period, which was presented as opportunities for ‘consultation’ with students, included worries over whether such a policy would discourage students from getting help, as well as how it might negatively impact a student already in crisis. Among those students who voiced opposition to the draft policy is Madeline Wilson, SSMU’s VP of University Affairs, who was consulted in the process of creating the policy. Wilson stated that one of the most concerning things about the draft policy is how it exhibits general trend away from providing long-term mental health care for students. She points to the establishment of the Rossy Student Wellness Hub as another indication of this trend. The Hub, which was constructed in May, consolidates students’ health needs into one service, resulting in generic, unspecialized treatment. Per Wilson, there are some glaring oversights in the policy: international students would not be able to access to their McGill health insurance if they were placed on involuntary leave, rendering them unable to receive the care needed to return to the university in compliance with the policy. This would mean that international students could not access the “support external to McGill” that the policy encouraged students to seek in the first place. University administration had no solution prepared to address this sort of scenario – the policy would function on an entirely case-bycase basis, so administration had little foresight when writing the policy, Wilson remarked. Billy Kawasaki, Vice-President

Phoebe Pannier | Illustrations Editor of Student Life, also labelled the policy as “ambiguous,” saying that “there were no clear details as to the timeline, and what kind of support a student would get,” should the policy be implemented. He was particularly concerned at the prospect of those living in residence being removed from their home: “the last thing someone who is going through a difficult time needs is to be evicted and lose their home.” One student who has utilized resources at the Hub echoed these concerns: “international students would be effectively deported, students lose access to healthcare, students lose access to services, students lose access to networks…” and that, furthermore, the policy would be a means of “effectively shutting down any talk of mental illness” among students on campus. Despite Wilson’s frustrations with the university’s initial lack of student engagement in creating the policy (she describes the process as including a “disproportionately small amount of time dedicated to

public consultation”) she remains cautiously optimistic about the growing power of student influence over university affairs. She notes that the university relies upon the support and consent of students: “the university literally and figuratively needs student buy-in in order to function, and the more we challenge the administration at large’s ability to take that for granted, the bigger impact we’ll have.” Dean Buddle and Gauthier have each stated that student involvement in mental health care has been and will continue to be important to the University administration, despite a rapid decline in the availability of counselling services and longterm support, as well as significant student dissatisfaction with these changes. Buddle hopes to hold brainstorming sessions with students and staff alike to “determine[…] whether we can cocreate an alternative approach to students in crisis,” while Gauthier makes an example of the students on the advisory boards within the Hub as a means of administration-

student cooperation. Dr. Gauthier also invites students to send feedback concerning the Student Wellness Hub on the Virtual Hub, where students can receive information about various health services on campus. As of now, Buddle and the administration assert that the draft policy will not be considered further in any official capacity. Should any changes be made to McGill’s mental health services, SSMU states it will inform students. It is also likely that communication of such changes will be conducted via its official listerv, according to Wilson. Wilson encourages students who would like to get involved with mental health services on campus to reach out to mentalhealth@ Students who would like to work on projects specific to the policy may contact her at ua@ Kawasaki also suggests contacting faculty representatives and participating in the mental health commission (reachable at, or contacting your faculty’s senator.


October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily

McGill Alex Karasick News Writer


n October 24, SSMU held its fourth Legislative Council, shortly after a Montreal health inspector found a number of health code violations at a club samosa sale just a few days prior. Undoubtedly, the so-called “samosa-gate” was a major focus of consideration. However, it was far from the only important discussion that took place during the council session. There were a number of motions brought forth, hard-hitting questions asked, presentations made, and important governance changes discussed. Presentations Three presentations took place at this Council meeting. Firstly, the Student Rights Commissioner, Adrienne Tessier, reported on their portfolio. In this presentation, Tessier noted some key findings, primarily regarding what could be done to get councillors and senators more involved in informing students of their rights. One method Tessier noted was the use of classroom announcements as a way of getting more students involved, interested, or aware of their rights as students. The second presentation came from the president of Drivesafe,



Legislative Council

Charles Choi, who discussed a motion that would be presented later in council to implement carbon-offsetting funding. (The motion was later approved by Council.) In addition, Choi mentioned a number of planned or ongoing changes to Drivesafe, such as going fully electric by 2030 and expanding service to the Greater Montreal Area and Macdonald campus. Professor Gregory Matthew Mikkelson, the president-elect of the McGill Association of University Teachers, also presented on University Senate governance reform. He then introduced a motion primarily focused on the appointment of deans, in order for all members of the McGill Community Council to be in unanimous support and thus have a better bargaining capability with the McGill administration. The vote passed unanimously. Motions In addition, there were a number of important motions presented, such as a Motion Regarding the Creation of an Affordable Student Housing Committee, a Motion Regarding the Adoption of an Events Management Policy, and a Motion

Regarding Amendments to the Internal Regulations Regarding of Elections and Referenda. Especially important was the Comprehensive Governance Review Committee Report, which prompted a significant amount of debate. Specifically, councillors debated the proposed removal of a number of seats from Council, such as that of the Arts and Science representative, two undergraduate Senate representatives, the residences representative, and the environment representative. There was also a proposal to add three non-voting members to Council: one of the equity commissioners, a member of the Indigenous affairs committee, and a member of MacDonald Campus Student Society. Another important proposed change was to allow students to bring motions to legislative council to be debated and voted on by councillors. Question Period Question period largely dealt with concerns regarding the sale of samosas on campus, with councillors asking what could be done in the future, as well as what should be done at the moment in response to the situation. The

fine in question ranges from $2,250 to $54,000, which SSMU has stated they will cover in full. President Buraga then announced that “SSMU has taken steps to prevent future samosa sales for the time being, until we’re able to put a process in place to ensure that we are able to follow these health and safety codes, while also maintaining financial accessibility for clubs and services who do wish to have samosa sales and other food sales on campus.” There was also discussion as to whether this plan could be done with the cooperation of other student groups such as AUS or SUS, in order to prevent similar situations from arising there. (It is worth noting that a councillor ordered a box of samosas at the meeting as a show of solidarity with Pushap, the restaurant that usually provides the samosas to student clubs.) In addition to this, a number of councillors asked questions regarding Indigenous student concerns about VP Internal Sanchi Bhalla. She referred to her later report which contained a statement on the issue, which is available online. (There will be a separate article discussing this issue in depth soon.)

Announcements Finally, a number of announcements were made. First of all, VP External Adam Gwiazda-Amsel stated that many unions on campus will be – or currently are – going into bargaining or conciliation, and asked that the SSMU show solidarity with them. In addition, he noted that the Association for Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) is looking to unionize non-unionized members of the academic staff such as undergraduate TAs. VP Internal Bhalla also noted the upcoming Halloween party on October 31, and encouraged everyone to purchase tickets. Councillor Platt made a note of a number of upcoming musical performance by Schulich School of Music students, such as a jazz chamber concert on October 28, and encouraged all to attend. It was also announced that the AUS Grad Fair will be held on November 6 at New Residence Hall, and the SUS Grad Fair will take place on November 5 at the same location. Finally, it was noted that the SSMU General Assembly will take place on October 28 at New Residence Hall at 6 p.m.

Hikes and Strikes

No Surplus for Public Sector Workers under the CAQ Kelsey McKeon News Writer


n estimated 1,200 employees from Quebec’s 23 provincial parks went on strike over Thanksgiving weekend. While all parks remained open for visitors, much of the their services and facility maintenance were affected. This walkout follows a series of strikes conducted by the workers’ union of Société des Établissements de Plein Air du Québec (SEPAQ) that began in June of 2019. SEPAQ is an agency under the government of Quebec that is tasked with overseeing Quebec’s provincial parks and nature reserves. SEPAQ employs some 3,400 workers, the majority of which are seasonal employees. In June, the workers’ union announced an unlimited strike

coinciding with Quebec’s construction holiday following five months of fruitless negotiations with the government. Reaching an “agreement-in-principle,” a negotiator acting on behalf of SEPAQ intervened, and the strike was called off before it began. This agreement fell through with employees rejecting 60 per cent of the proposed resolutions. Though negotiations continued, a stalemate ensued and a series of strikes began. The strikes over Thanksgiving were the latest effort by the union to push negotiations onwards. The Daily spoke to Jonathan Dupont, a maintenance repair worker at Oka National Park during the October 12-14 strikes. While Dupont is a full time employee, he described himself as “one of the lucky ones;” most employees there are seasonal workers, making $13-14 per

hour. Despite wages rising with minimum wage, the union says there has been no real increase in salary relative to inflation. Central to the union’s demands is an annual salary increase, relative to rises in the cost of living. Premier François Legault has made his position on salary increases for public sector workers clear in a September news conference. Despite a $4.4 billion surplus last year, Legault forewarned unions that the surplus is not theirs to have – indicating the state of negotiations between SEPAQ and the union. In the end, Dupont says that employees continue working here because they like it, not because they get high wages. This sentiment was echoed as protestors welcomed visitors to the park, wishing them well on their holiday weekend hikes.

Kelsey McKeon | Photographer

October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily



To the Countless People Who Were Not Counted

Erdoğan’s Victims in Northern Syria Deserve Justice Shahriar Soltani Commentary Contributor content warning: military violence


tate institutions count many things. They analyze and assess everything: how many books an average citizen reads in a year, how many cars are sold per year, or how many students graduate with straight A’s every year. But there is one thing they always seem to lose track of, perhaps because bureaucrats in their armchairs find it unpleasant: war casualties. If you were to ask them how many people have been killed, or forced to flee their homes since October 9 of this year, their numbers oracle would be silent. Perhaps some would explain the dispatch of their army with a vague reference to “state security.” Those grey men in their khaki uniforms who claim to want safety and happiness at home have ensured dread and blood abroad. This venture does not have much to do with security. It knows no passion, no glory and no prosperity. It merely knows death – the death of all hope. Shortly after US troops pulled out of northern Syria on October 7, a brutal offensive was launched, instigated by Turkish President Erdoğan. People have fled their homes in thousands, dozens have lost their lives, further immiserating an already ravaged country. It is a dire humanitarian crisis. Since bureaucrats have stopped counting numbers, perhaps only one country in the Middle East is in an even more desperate situation: Yemen. Next comes northern Syria – specifically the people there, the Kurds, alongside many others. One of their uncounted names is Hevrin Khalaf, Secretary General of the Future Syria Party, killed by the Turkishbacked militia Ahrar al-Sharghiya on October 12. On October 9, the Turkish Air Force launched multiple strikes on strategic border towns of Ras alAyn and Tell Abyad in Syria. Soon after, a land offensive was followed with the help of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – an non-uniform collection of different paramilitary groups, Syrian army defectors and mercenaries backed by Turkey since late 2017. The aim, stated by Erdoğan, was to create a buffer or “safe area” in northeastern Syria, 30 kilometers deep into Syrian territory and roughly 480 kilometers in length. An ambitious

plan indeed. Their adversaries are the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They came to life after the siege of Kobani by ISIL in 2014 where the Kurdish YPG (People’s Defense Units) allied with other local militias to spearhead a united SDF. Together with their compatriot allies, they succeeded in defeating ISIL and established a vast Autonomous Administration in Northern and Eastern Syria, referred to as Rojava, where they aspire to create an autonomous region within Syria. Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, more than three million Syrian refugees have settled in Turkey. Following the creation of a “safe area,” Erdoğan voiced his intention of moving a million refugees back to this safe zone. In his endeavor, no Syrian refugees returned home, but Turkish forces and the FSA managed to displace 130,000 people out of their homes. This figure is increasing by the day. What makes this fantasy of a “safe area” implausible are the facts on the ground: over two million people live in SDF administered territory, 300,000 of which could be displaced after the Turkish offensive, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC). “Many of these people have already been displaced multiple times and suffered horribly under the brutal rule of [ISIL], only to be facing yet another crisis.” said Misty Buswell, IRC Middle East policy director. “We expect to see an increase in deaths from what are usually preventable diseases because of this, as there simply are not enough facilities to support those who have been displaced.” Water supplies have also been damaged, meaning 400,000 people are at risk of unclean water, increasing the possibility of infectious diseases. Even before the offensive, thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) were living in the SDF-administered “Rojava.” In the Al-Hawl camp alone there are 70,000 IDPs – 94 per cent of whom are women and children. Particularly worrisome are Kurdish claims that in seven camps, 12,000 ISIL fighters and affiliates are being held as prisoners. This is a serious concern. Since the Turkish FSA led invasion is an existential crisis for SDF, Kurdish forces have shifted their focus to defend the border. “The SDF can barely maintain its

Phoebe Pannier | Illustrations Editor presence at the camps with [ISIL] detainees now, and a Turkish invasion of northeast Syria would make it impossible for the SDF to keep watch over them,” Nick Heras, a Middle East security fellow at the Centre for a New American Security notes. As such, when the Ayn Issa camp area came under Turkish artillery fire on Sunday, more than 800 suspected ISIL detainees managed to escape. This is clearly another step towards further instability. In addition, during the past two weeks, Turkish troops and their allies have advanced into north eastern towns and villages, clashing with Kurdish fighters over the 200-kilometer stretch. More than 100 civilians have been reported dead on both sides. Evidently, Ankara’s dream of a “safe area” has become as unsafe as anyone could imagine. The result is a dreadful humanitarian crisis coupled with freed ISIL prisoners. But it does not end here. The crisis brought

President Assad of Syria into the game. In turn, the SDF and Syrian government forces agreed to join forces to resist Turkey’s invasion on October 13. Fighting from a position of weakness, fearing for survival, it is very likely that the Kurds would grant concessions to the Syrian government, who are approaching from a position of strength and stability. I do not blame them. The Kurdish fighters had few alternatives when the US abandoned them. The arrival of Assad’s forces to the region where Syrian Kurds had built up autonomy is a major transformative event of the Syrian civil war: it will certainly strengthen Assad’s grip on power. The absence of US troops – which has been called a betrayal of Kurds – brings further mayhem to the chaos in Syria where it is already susceptible to Russian and Iranian influence, and their affiliated proxies in the region. What was going through the mind of Erdoğan and his friends when they made this decision? He

claimed it was to fight the Kurdish “terrorists” in northern Syria – incidentally the very Kurds who had been fighting ISIL for years to ultimately manage a pyrrhic victory against them. Ironically, not only the SDF, but also various other Kurdish groups are terrorists in Erdoğan’s eyes. The ones who are not “terrorists”, for instance the People’s Democratic Party, are being oppressed back home in Turkey, with their leader Selahattin Demirtaş currently spending his days in prison. Perhaps this decision was made with the intent of bringing peace and prosperity to the region, or of aiding refugees, but the facts and figures demonstrate the exact opposite has taken effect. What I am certain of is that the notion of an autonomous region of “Rojava” right by Erdoğan’s doorstep was an unpleasant sight for him and went so far as to displace 130,000 people from their homes to stop that from happening.


October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily


Putting the “Silly” in Resillyence New Comedy Shows Leaves Room for Growth

Claudine Loop Culture Contributor

content warning: mention of transphobia, mention of mental illness and trauma


n a cozy venue on St. Denis, several comedians – some first-timers, some Montreal comedy veterans, gathered for a brand new show, titled “Comedy Support Line: A Resillyence Benefit Show.” The show was set in a recently opened anti-café and co-working space, Club Insiders Plateau, which seemed perfectly suited to the fall weather, although I was told the appropriately-themed orange and black colour scheme was simply a happy accident. The audience lounged on velvet couches while passing around tea and cookies provided by the venue, creating a perfectly intimate ambience for a chilly autumn night.

The show, hosted by Alo Azimov and guest co-host Kaja de La Vie, featured a diverse array of performers, including women, people of colour, and trans and non-binary comedians, who tackled important subjects such as mental health and gender identity. Proceeds from the show went to Action Santé Transvesti(e)s et Transexue(le)s du Québec (ASSTeQ), a project which “aims to promote the health and well-being of trans people through peer support and advocacy, education and outreach, and community empowerment and mobilization.” ASSTeQ is part of CACTUS-Montréal, a nonprofit organization focused on the health and well-being of a variety of marginalized groups including trans people, sex workers, and drug users. They utilize

preventative strategies within a harm reduction framework to work on issues relating to sexually transmitted and blood borne infections (STBBIs). The donation was made in the name of Hayden Muller, a non-binary community activist who recently passed away from breast cancer, after having faced consistent discrimination at the hands of medical professionals. A highlight of the night was Inés Anaya’s performance, which recounted the hilarious twists and turns of her tragic sevenyear quest for a Quebec doctor, a tale all too relatable for those of us who have struggled to find adequate healthcare in a new city. Anaya can be found performing at venues across the city and is a host and co-producer of “Standup Story Slam.”

However, not all of the performances were as laughinducing; many performances included brutally honest depictions of mental illness resulting in long stretches of uncomfortable silence in which the jokes were few and far between, and a somber attitude not typically expected of a comedy show. While the de-stigmatization of mental illness is certainly an important cause, some performances didn’t quite put the “silly” in “resillyence,” an experience which could be quite jarring and possibly triggering for some. The hosts seemed to be aware of this, with Azimov offering me an unprompted apology after the show for the lack of content warning, an essential part of any event dealing with such sensitive topics. The comedians should certainly be applauded for their

Rad Media List!

bravery; however, the nature of the show could have been better reflected in the event branding and description in order to better prepare the audience. Despite this, “Comedy Support Line” definitely managed to distinguish itself as an important space for experimentation within comedy. The show embodied the phrase “pushing boundaries” in the truest sense of the phrase; not as a justification for pseudo-edginess, but as an honest acknowledgement that great comedy involves taking risks. A few wrinkles need to be worked out, but this isn’t outside the ordinary for a brand new show, particularly one with such a bold vision. It will certainly be exciting to see how this show evolves, as “Comedy Support Line” will be returning at some point within the next couple of months.

The McGill Daily Editorial Board Recommends... Zines Bitter Feels: A Non-Binary Femme Affirmation Zine by Billy Bitter content warning: mention of sexual violence, mention of trauma, gender dysphoria Bitter Feels is a rant in zine form, in which Billy discusses being misgendered, gender identity, transphobia, and how all of it relates to mental health and trauma. They created it to affirm their gender – and it might affirm yours, too. Palestine, BLM, & Boycott in the Arts by Decolonize This Place Decolonize This Place describes themselves as “an action-oriented movement centering around Indigenous struggle, Black liberation, free Palestine, global wage workers and de-gentrification.” In this zine, various authors discuss the importance of prioritizing pro-Palestine and pro-Black attitudes within the arts. It also provides tips for resisting the “art-washing” of occupation. It’s a must-read for everyone involved in the arts and can be accessed for free online!



ethnicity and culture, how they play out in our lives and communities, and “Fearing the Black Body” (an how all of this is shifting.” Featuring a team of talented journalists of colour, episode of The Nod) the podcast has explored topics content warning: fatphobia Hosted by Brittany Luse and Eric such as mass incarceration, voter Eddings, The Nod “tells the stories disenfranchisement, and cultural of Black life that don’t get told identities. anywhere else.” We’d like to highlight the episode “Fearing the Black Body,” “We Don’t Say That” (an episode which discusses how harmful trends of Rough Translation) like fitspo and fad diets are linked to content warning: racial slurs Rough Translation is a podcast that racist pseudoscience. Featured in the episode is Sabrina Stings, “sociologist examines how things are talked about and author of Fearing the Black Body: in different regions and by different The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia, whose communities. One of our favourite groundbreaking research parses the episodes is “We Don’t Say That,” which intersection of thinness, whiteness, discusses racial language in France, where “for decades you weren’t and beauty ideals.” supposed to talk about someone’s Blackness, unless you said it in English.” Code Switch With the tagline “race and identity, The episode follows a group of people remixed,” Code Switch explores who developed language surrounding “overlapping themes of race, Blackness in French.

The Miseducation of Cameron Fun Home, A Family Tragicomic Post by Emily M. Danforth content warning: homophobia by Alison Bechdel A quintessential lesbian content warning: suicide, coming-of-age story, The homophobia Fun Home is a beautiful memoir of Miseducation of Cameron Post Bechdel’s complex relationship with captures the realities of growing her father: a gay man whose sexuality up gay, facing homophobia, was only revealed after his suicide. and experiencing grief. Readers Through the graphic novel, Bechdel follow every step of Cam’s life, rediscovers her father through this laughing, crying, and aggressively new lens, simultaneously tracing her relating along the way. And after own path through her identity, her you finish, you can watch the movie for free on Kanopy! childhood, and her grief.


Phoebe Pannier | Illustrations Editor

captures queer life in a way that somehow just gets it. With lines like “we’re in a three-way lesbian centric seminon-sexual throuple with us and Miles,” you’ll be mad at Nanette by Hannah Gadsby how well Alvarez has captured the modern, city queer content warning: sexual violence, homophobia Nanette is a heart-wrenching, deeply personal comedy experience. And trust us – you’ll love Freckle. special by lesbian comic Hannah Gadsby. It’s not quite comedy – and not quite anything else. Gadsby keeps her Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu audience guessing, masterfully using discomfort to make content warning: homophobia, mentions of anxiety Written by Ngozi Ukazu, this sweet webcomic (which people laugh, cry, and think a little harder. If you have any complex feelings whatsoever about gayness, trauma, is ongoing!) follows the university days of Eric Bittle – a southern, pie-baking, vlogging, former-figure-skatingor confessional humour, this is the show for you. champion-turned-hockey-player. Also, he’s gay. Check, Please! features moments of hilarity and tears as Eric The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo Directed by Brian Jordan Alvarez, this web series, navigates new friendships and relationships, as well as with its snappy dialogue and surreal, absurdist framing, the overwhelming “bro” culture of college sports.


October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily



October 28. 2019 | The McGill Daily


Banking on Our Bellies

Midnight Kitchen and the Battle for Food Security Midnight Kitchen Collective What’s the deal with Midnight Kitchen? Most McGill students know Midnight Kitchen (MK) as a service that provides free vegan and nut-free lunches to students. Our daily lunch servings are comprised of hearty soups, refreshing salads, rice, and our infamous cake. For over 15 years, Midnight Kitchen has been a source of affordable food on campus for students. However, renovations to the SSMU building have forced MK to relocate and majorly scale back. On a typical day in our kitchen at the SSMU building, cooking would start at 9 a.m., as staff and volunteers sorted through vegetables, planned the menu for the day, and crafted a delicious meal. Around 12 p.m. a lineup of roughly 200 people would accrue in front of the serving tables, snaking out of the serving room, around the third floor hallway, and down the stairs. Tupperware in hand, students anticipated a delicious hot lunch. The menu of the day would be announced and serving would begin. Music would pump through the kitchen as students ate together, taking a much needed break from the stress of classes. Lunch was cooked with produce donated by Moisson Montreal, a non-profit food bank that distributes industry surplus to other non-profits for giveaway. In other words, most meals prepared by MK used food that would otherwise have been thrown away. Not only was our daily lunch service a sustainable source of healthy and affordable food for students, our kitchen created a special atmosphere where people could connect, learn new skills, and

decompress from the stresses of academic life. Since the closure of the SSMU building, we have been renting a kitchen off-campus and focusing on other components of our programming: a garden to grow produce for our weekly food bank, educational workshop keynotes, fulfilling catering requests for underfunded McGill groups and community organizations, and funding student and community groups through our discretionary fund. We have developed a new weekly meal pick-up program that operates on campus out of 3471 Peel, but we have shifted from serving about 1,000 meals a week to 300. (See our website to find out more and register for meal pick ups or the food bank.) MK’s mandate is grounded in an anti-oppressive, holistic approach to food justice. We acknowledge that food and environmental injustice are inextricable from issues of social justice. Canada’s food system is built on the theft of Indigenous peoples’ land and the exploitation of Black and Brown peoples’ labour. It is crucial to understand this history as we consider how to move forward in a time of mediatized environmental crisis. Let’s be real; the crisis is nothing new. It has existed since the formation of “Canada.” In order to address the climate crisis at its roots, we must fight the ongoing legacy of Canada’s colonial governance on Turtle Island and abroad, which exists hand in hand

with massive d e v a s t a t i o n caused by Canadian corporate enterprises that exploit the land and labour of the Global South to drive profits north.

A 2015 survey of over 1,300 McGill students revealed that 80 per cent of students felt food options on campus are unaffordable. MK opposes approaches to climate justice that are not rooted in intersectionality. We are critical of “zero waste” rhetoric that directs attention away from the systemic causes of food injustice to place responsibility in the hands of the individual consumer and how they can make “better choices” within capitalism. It is ironic when big corporations such as Compass Group promote “zero waste” in their cafeterias, yet contribute directly to environmental destruction by collaborating with infamous polluters such as Nestle, Pepsico, KraftHeinz, and Kelloggs. Food insecurity at McGill There is a myth that food security is not an issue at McGill; however, a 2015 survey of over 1,300 McGill students revealed that 80 per cent of students felt food options on campus are unaffordable. Five years later, the landscape at McGill has not changed. It is not uncommon for students to go hungry when trying to balance tuition payments and housing costs. The correlation between nutrition and mood is well documented. The financial aid office at McGill has a handy “Cheap Sheet” that lists cheap food options on campus. However, most of them aren’t healthy options. (Can one entirely subsist off samosas, hot dogs and ice cream cones?) Yellow Door, Snax, and Midnight Kitchen are the clear standouts in terms of healthy, on-campus meals. In researching for a Rad Frosh workshop this year, it was revealed that the Dean of Students’ office was unaware of the changes to Midnight Kitchen’s services since the SSMU building closure. With reports showing a direct correlation between

food insecurity and poor health, as well as ability to focus or excel in work or other activities, why is McGill neglecting to invest in food security initiatives? Shouldn’t a postsecondary institution help their students excel by providing them with resources for food security? Concordia University has both student groups and the administration working together to provide emergency food vouchers, two daily lunch programs, food banks, breakfasts, and lists of resources. Why don’t the most vulnerable McGill students have similar resources?

With reports showing a direct correlation between food security and poor health, as well as ability to focus and excel in work and other activities, why is McGill neglecting to invest in food security initiatives?

Midnight Kitchen has existed for over 15 years, trying to answer this question and feeding people along the way. We are a vital student service and have been attempting to meet student needs despite all of the challenges brought on by the construction. Since the closure of the SSMU building... The SSMU building has been closed for construction since March 2018. The repairs are a necessary evil; however, this has meant relocation of all student services and clubs. The SSMU building is sorely missed. Clubs and services such as MSERT, the Union for Gender Empowerment, the Flat Bike Collective, and

SACOMSS have faced hardships due to the construction. Cited are a lack of storage space, access to rooms for training, gender neutral washrooms, and accessible entrances for mobilityimpaired users, among others. This is unacceptable! The first time MK was informed of the building closure, we were told that the re-opening would happen in January 2019, with the possibility of accessing the second floor cafeteria early while the rest of the building remained closed. This was an imposition we felt capable of contending with; presumably, the unique needs of our service would be prioritized. They were not. Due to the closure, MK had to find a new location. Ideally, our temporary location would be a wheelchair-accessible industrial kitchen on campus with a room that we could serve meals out of. However, the search for an oncampus kitchen to accommodate us was unsuccessful. The new kitchen, located on St. Henri, has only one tenth of the fridge space, no freezer space, and one fifth of the dry storage space of the old kitchen. Additionally, we are currently paying upwards of $23,000 per year to rent this space. Since we are not on campus, we have to personally deliver to McGill for distribution or have groups venture to St. Henri, where our new location is, for pick up. Other inconveniences include the inability to host volunteers, hurried food deliveries with

October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily

features confused taxi drivers, endless trips to the grocery store to restock our tiny shelf, and various storage nightmares. All of our new programming has been developed with no clear end in sight. McGill has continually disrespected Midnight Kitchen, as well as all the other clubs and services in the Brown building, by giving “vague updates like ‘it’s not looking good,’” according to SSMU’s VP Student Life, Billy Kawasaki. Construction has been pushed until January 2020, a year from the planned reopening date.

McGill has continually disrespected Midnight Kitchen, as well as all the other clubs and services in the Brown building, by giving vague updates. Part of the problem is poor management and inconsistent communication, but we can’t help but feel that another (big) part of it is the de-prioritization of student wellness. In particular, given that there are so few services addressing food insecurity at McGill, leaving MK without an on-campus home creates a huge gap in support for students. We would argue that this is indicative of a broader pattern of the prioritization of profit over student wellness. There was a time when things were different... It is hard to imagine, but McGill once had numerous studentrun food services on campus. According to the Coalition for Action on Food Services (CAFS), until 2001, nearly every faculty had their own studentrun cafeteria or convenience store, the profits of which would help fund the faculty student association. In 2000, McGill made moves to consolidate food services under the control of the university administration. By 2001, cafeterias operated by AUS, SUS, MUSA, and EdUS were losing their right to exist. In early 2004, McGill was seeking a single food service provider that would monopolize all cafeterias and food services on campus. Students, staff and faculty organized to demand consultation throughout the process. CAFS

was formed to advocate for local businesses and studentrun operations on campus. To this end, they consulted with the administration, expressing concerns over possible monopolies on food services and demanding consultation and direct involvement in all related matters. They held round-table discussions, drafted petitions, and organized boycotts. Despite the efforts of CAFS, the administration ultimately signed an exclusivity agreement with the Chartwells brand, operated by Compass Group. Chartwells is a multimillion dollar corporation that dominates food services in postsecondary institutions across Canada and the US. It has a history of abusive labour practices (cited in concerns put forward by the Canadian Union of Public Employees) and investment in contracts with armed forces, prisons, and the oil drilling site Chevron. Student-run cafes were gradually shut down, culminating in the closure of the cooperatively-run Architecture Cafe in 2010. In the meantime, the five-year exclusivity contract has shifted from Chartwells to Aramark and back to Compass Group in 2014. The result of the privatization of McGill food services is a lack of diverse and affordable options on campus and loss of student autonomy over food services. The Midnight Kitchen Collective was formed in 2002, in the midst of the privatization. MK was an active supporter of CAFS and collaborated in organizing against the Chartwells contract. Our mandate continues to be rooted in a tangible anti-capitalist and anti-colonial approach to food justice. We secured control over our own kitchen, rent-free, at the SSMU building in 2006, and a fee levy through referendum to support hiring staff and expand the quality of our services in 2007. Our main service has been providing hot, vegan, nutfree lunches to between 200 and 300 hungry students daily, from Monday to Thursday in the


SSMU building. We have also hosted skillshares and workshops, welcomed dozens of volunteers, and catered to McGill groups and beyond with our solidarity servings. Forward movement What if there were more student-led food initiatives on campus – student-run cafes and cooperatives that offered affordable food and supported small businesses from the Montreal community, independently operated student spaces, supported by the university, where students could socialize and organize?

What if there were more student-led food initiatives on campus [...] independently operated student spaces, where students could socialize and organize? We are inspired to imagine the integration of student needs with a larger vision for a world without oppression and domination. In doing so, we draw inspiration from the revolutionary movements around us. We are inspired by past student organizing, most recently during the 2012 Quebec student strike; by the Concordia Food Coalition’s efforts to create a community food system at Concordia outside of the pursuit of financial profit; by life-giving projects like the Kahnawà:ke Environment Protection Office, whose mission is to foster environmental leadership within their community. The struggle continues, and we’re here to provide fuel for the fight!

Visuals by Phoebe Pannier | Illustrations Editor

Midnight Kitchen is a non-profit, worker and volunteer-run collective that operates out of Tio’tia:ke (unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory) dedicated to providing accessible food to as many people as possible. We aim to empower individuals and communities by providing a working alternative to current capitalist, profit-driven systems of food production and distribution. We oppose privatization, corporatization and other systemic processes that both cause and perpetuate marginalization of certain people. We will provide popular education on issues of social, environmental, and food (in)justice, both inside and outside the collective, and provide space for the exchange of ideas within the community. We oppose both violent, status-quo food systems as well as green-washed, individualized “lifestylist” approaches that direct attention away from the systemic causes of poverty, environmental destruction, and lack of access to food. By taking the initiative to produce and distribute food in our own communities, we act in the pursuit of social and environmental justice and will support others who share these goals. Our approach to food justice is grounded in anti-oppression with a mandate to center marginalized people.


October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily


Hey Siri, Make Me a Sandwich Sexism and the Gendering of Virtual Assistants

Kate Ellis and Willa Holt The McGill Daily


n your phone, your laptop, your smartwatch, even your father-in-law’s BMW – virtual assistants are everywhere, keeping track of meetings, answering questions, and more. Most, if not all, virtual assistants have women’s names and voices – they are coded feminine by default. Why is this the case? In the field of artificial intelligence (AI), a virtual assistant is a language recognition system that learns from human demands and actions. Also known as chatbots in some contexts, these programs and softwares go through a process of machine learning based on interactions, and their scripts and features constantly evolve as people interact with them. They can be found in a number of places: on smartphones, embedded as helpers in messaging apps, representing companies on apps and websites, and even in cars and on appliances. Popular examples include Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Apple’s Siri.

Machine Learning “A branch of artificial intelligence based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention.” from Statistical Analysis System (SAS)

respond calmly to even the rudest of remarks – including sexual harassment. This is embedded within the scripts of a number of virtual assistants. When Alexa is harassed, she goes into “disengage mode,” saying things like “I’m not sure what outcome you expected” or simply beeping, without any AI virtual assistants can do a words. This was seen as an number of things for the average person, including setting timers, marking dates in calendars, creating and maintaining grocery lists, and directing calls. In this way, they have begun to embody the role of a robot secretary. Secretaries fall within the role of “pink collar jobs:” a group of traditionally women’s jobs, often in the service industry, that require less academic training than white-collar roles. Other pink-collar jobs include flight attendants, nurses, hostesses, maids, and nannies. These are jobs reliant on a worker who is submissive, subservient, and often very friendly – traits that are considered feminine and often expected of women. Virtual assistants are developed with this gendering in mind; research has found that people prefer female improvement from past scripts, voices in assistive roles, as opposed which included statements like to men in authoritative positions. “well, thanks for the feedback.” As subservient women, pink- Siri responds similarly, saying collar workers are expected to “I’m not going to respond to

In a space where men are making decisions regarding the scripts of women-coded virtual assistants, it is not surprising that they don’t stand up for themselves against sexism.

Phoebe Pannier | Illustrations Editor that.” This is expected of the ideal pink-collar worker – upholding a positive representation of the company, even when one’s mental health or safety is at risk. This has resulted in people harassing virtual assistants. According to a writer for Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, “‘a good chunk of the volume of earlyon enquiries probe the assistant’s sex life.” It is telling that virtual assistant users, frequently male ones, treat their womancoded tech as if it is not just a piece of software, but a being with not only a personality, but a capacity for sexual behaviour. Female-sounding voices that do not cater to submissive, passive expectations for human women are criticized, and eventually modified. In 2015, UK grocery store chain Tesco switched their self-checkout voice to a male, as the former female one was deemed too “shouty.” The sexism apparent within the development of virtual assistants is a partial symptom of the underrepresentation of women in AI industries. Women make up only 12 per cent of AI researchers and 6 per cent of software developers. In a space where men are making decisions regarding the scripts of women-

coded virtual assistants, it is not surprising that they do not stand up for themselves against sexism. Virtual assistants may be objects, or “just a piece of tech,” but the way that we treat them, and the way that we expect them to respond to that treatment, reflects a larger culture. Here, that culture is one of gendered disrespect.

Virtual assistants may be objects, or “just a piece of tech,” but the way that we treat them, and the way that we expect them to respond to that treatment, reflects a larger culture. However, there are organizations and projects working toward changes in the field. Feminist Internet and Comuzi have developed F’xa, a feminist chatbot

whose purpose is to teach people about the bias in AI systems and provide advice on how to address it. F’xa, unlike other bots, doesn’t use personal pronouns like “I” – attempting to reinforce that virtual assistants are not people, and to dissuade users from developing humanlike connections with it. This bot is a small part of Feminist Internet’s greater project to “make the internet a more equal space for women and other marginalised groups through creative, critical practice.” F’xa was, in part, informed by the Feminist Chatbot Design Process, which was created by Josie Swords to guide AI developers in creating better, more equitable technologies. The guide consists of questions to be asked in the conceptual design phase of a bot to address what values will be embedded in it. Projects like these can stop unconsciously sexist ideologies from being written into the technologies we use every day, reminding us that technologies, despite their metallic exterior, come from a fundamentally human place. If you’re interested in exploring new approaches to artificial intelligence, consider writing for our dedicated column, Alternative Intelligence. Contact for more information.

October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily






(Mar 21 Apr 19)

(Apr 20 May 20)

(May 21 Jun 20)

Offer your lesbian girlfriend some baked goods.

Oh my god, take a goddamn break. Don’t overwork yourself.

And you were ROOMMATES..........




(Jun 21 Jul 22)

(Jul 23 Aug 22)

(Aug 23 Sept 22)

Offer your favourite scarf to an Aquarius.

Here’s a Halloween costume idea for you: a good wellrounded person.



(Sept 23 Oct 22)

(Oct 23 Nov 21)

Stay off Instagram, it’s for the best.

Capricorn (Dec 22 - Jan 19)

Treat yourself like a tender house plant. Drink one (1) glass of water. Bask in the sun.

No updates for ya this week buddy, sorry. The moon left me on read.

Give someone a chaste kiss.

Sagittarius (Nov 22 - Dec 21)

Please don’t download TikTok. You can find entertainment elsewhere. Like a crunchy leaf.



(Jan 20 Feb 18)

(Feb 19 - Mar 20)

Find two scarves. Knit them together to make a superscarf.



October 28, 2019 | The McGill Daily

compendium! Lies, half-truths, and intersectional (PWYC) brunch.

Irma Tüürd The McDill Gaily


Ally Reposts Tweet, Literally Solves Racism

n editor at The McDill Gaily recently had the chance to sit down with a white family member who, as of 7:09 pm Wednesday, had literally solved systemic racism in the United States. “Part of being an ally to people of colour is knowing what’s best for them and speaking on their behalf,” she told the Gaily. “I can’t believe no one was talking about racism before me.” But, being an ally can have its challenges too: “It really hurt me when people started criticizing my post supporting Ellen Degeneres’ friendship with George Bush,” she sighed. “If we all were just nicer to each other, racism wouldn’t be a thing.” She especially invokes this strategy of kindness towards her brother, an outspoken white supremacist. “He’s human just like us,” she explained. “I was proud to have him in my wedding, and it really hurt me when my Middle Eastern cousins said they wouldn’t feel safe around him,” she said, adding

that their concerns had made her feel uncomfortable.

“Part of being an ally to people of colour is knowing what’s best for them and speaking on their behalf.” “I mean, are they even thinking about how I feel in this situation?” she concluded. “If they keep saying things like this, they’re just going to drive kind-hearted people like myself away.” Shortly after the interview, the cousin in question shared a post about an Iranian girl who had just broken Einstein’s IQ record. “Yas queen middle eastern girls are

so smart” she commented above the post. (Except her cousins — they’re taking the situation way too seriously and making everyone uncomfortable.) She then made the difficult decision to add a smiley face emoji to her post, realizing that the emoji would really send the message of tolerance home to her brother. “He’s just going through a really hard time now with this whole equality thing, and my cousins aren’t making the situation any easier,” she sighed. “I just don’t understand how they don’t realize I’m on their side.”

“If we all were just nicer to each other, racism wouldn’t be a thing.” Palor Whytte | The McDill Gaily

Fuck McYeah The McDill Gaily

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