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

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table of Contents

January 20, 2020 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily

Table of Contents 3

EDITORIAL

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NEWs

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• CAQ’s “Secular” Education Promotes Xenophobia

Commentary • Disability Discrimination

10 • Features Writing Justice

• Legislative Council • “Non à la loi 21” • Honouring Negar Borghei

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Sports and Letters • Olympic Politics • Letter

Culture • A Journey Through the Shared Human Experience

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EDITORIAL

Volume 109 Issue 14

January 20, 2020 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily

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CAQ’s “Secular” Education Promotes Xenophobia content warning: white nationalist violence

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he Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) government recently announced its plan to abolish the Ethics and Religious Culture (ECR) course, which has been compulsory in Quebec elementary and high schools since 2008. The CAQ seeks to replace the ECR course with a broader, non-religious course set to begin in Fall 2022. This is in line with the party’s wider vision of a “secular” Quebec, an ideology which led to the passing of the xenophobic Law 21 in June 2019. It is important to note that this sentiment was not formed in a vacuum – Quebec as a province has a long history of religious discrimination. Jewish people have continually been discriminated against in the province’s legislature and universities, including a quota on Jewish students at McGill University that was only removed in 1956. Even after a Quebecois white nationalist killed six Muslims in a mosque in Quebec City, CAQ Premier François Legault alleged that Islamophobia is not commonplace. The current immigration “values test” continues a legacy of racist and xenophobic restrictions in Quebec, which, contrary to common belief, existed prior to the rise of Islamophobic sentiments post-9/11. The Quebec secularist movement has long asserted that ethics should not be taught in association with religion, claiming that it may set a precedent that conflates the two. The Parti Québécois and the CAQ government have both supported abolishing the course in the past, on the grounds that it “promote[s] the federal vision of multiculturalism,” and over-accommodates other religions. According to the new curriculum, notable topics of this course will include “citizen participation, democracy, legal education, sexuality, interpersonal relationships, ethics, and eco- and digital-citizenship.” Quebec’s Education Minister Jean-François Roberge issued a statement to Radio-Canada on January 10, 2020, claiming that “the objective [of the course] is to make more room for 21st-century themes.” This loaded language places religious faith as a relic of the past – rhetoric which is often leveled against religious people of colour and those practicing non-Christian faiths, who are targeted by Law 21 and the racism that fuels it. The ECR course was originally established in 2008 by Jean Charest’s Liberal government to replace Catholic ethics education in Quebec, and claimed to promote “justice,

happiness, laws and regulations” while respecting “the freedom of conscience and religion of parents, students and teaching staff.” Some Catholic parents have felt that this mandatory curriculum violated their right to teach “their own moral and religious framework” to their children, a claim which was taken to the federal level twice. One of these instances was in 2012, when a group of Catholic parents in Drummondville appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the ECR curriculum infringed upon their religious freedoms. However, the claim was refuted by Marie Deschamps, the puisne justice at the time, who argued that “exposing children to [...] various religions without forcing the children to join them does not constitute an indoctrination of students that would infringe the freedom of religion.” In 2015, a Jesuit private school in Montreal, Loyola High School, approached the Supreme Court of Canada with a similar argument, asserting that the teachers should not have to cover religions that conflict with the Catholic teachings of their curriculum. Their claim was accepted under the condition that the school would submit an alternative curriculum for review. Clearly, the interpretation of what is considered “infringing on religious freedom” is inconsistent. The CAQ’s discriminatory “solution” for respectfully and comprehensively educating children about religion only serves to remove the possibility for crucial conversations about respect for non-Christian faiths. These conversations are often the foundation for combating the bigotry that is promoted by xenophobic groups such as the CAQ. Erasing religion from the curriculum entirely is a destructive move on the part of the CAQ. By refusing to educate Quebecois children on the existence and practices of other religious faiths, the CAQ is shaping a generation that will be unprepared to grapple with questions of personal freedom and religious freedom. In a predominantly white, Christian society, the absence of other religious education is not a neutral position. You can participate in an online consultation (in French only) over the ECR’s abolishment, or email the Ministry of Education at consultationsECR@education.gouv.qc.ca, both of which must be completed before February 21. You can also make your voice heard at the public consultation in Montreal on February 21, where education experts will be present to discuss the proposed reform.

Errata: An earlier version of the November 25, 2019 article, “Greenwashing at the McCord,” incorrectly stated that Upcycli is a business which sells used clothes. They are in fact a free app for individuals to sell used clothes. They were, however, selling clothes at the museum event. An earlier version of the November 25, 2019 article, “Concordia’s Online Opt-Outs,” incorrectly stated that Liane McLarty is the Editor-in-Chief of the Eyeopener. Her position is in fact the General Manager.

Boris Shedov

An earlier version of the January 13, 2020 article, “Quebec Weed Reform,” incorrectly stated that Section IV of provincial Bill 2 referred only to transport and possession of medical cannabis, implying that medical cannabis users have the right to smoke in public places. This is incorrect, and potentially dangerous misinformation.

Letty Matteo

The Daily sincerely regrets and apologizes for these errors.

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January 20, 2020 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily

NEWS: McGill

Happy SSMU Year!

Councillors Reconvene For the Year’s First Council Alex Karasick News Writer

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n January 16, SSMU Legislative Council reconvened for the first meeting of the Winter 2020 semester. On the agenda were several items that carried over from sessions prior to the break, as well as new business. Announcements During announcements, VP External Adam Gwiazda-Amsel mentioned the strikes taking place regarding Law 21, as well as the recent decision of McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) to implement a “decarbonization plan” rather than divest from fossil fuels. GwaizdaAmsel called upon councillors to keep their constituents aware of both of these changes, as well as the difference between decarbonization and divestment. Additionally,

he mentioned an upcoming series of information sessions in collaboration with Community Affairs on students moving into the Milton Park Community. Councillor Darshan Daryanani announced that the annual “Work Your BA” series, hosted by McGill’s Career Planning Service, will be taking place from January 20-31, related information can be found via Facebook. VP Internal Sanchi Bhalla announced that tickets to the Faculty Olympics “hype night” had opened up, and that further information could be found on the SSMU website. SSMU President Bryan Buraga noted that the Winter General Assembly will take place February 24 at 6 p.m. in the New Residence Hall Ballroom, as well as mentioning the upcoming McGill BoG Student Forum on January 30 at 4 p.m. Additionally, SSMU Speaker Husayn Jamal announced his resignation, effective

January 31, upon which a motion was introduced and passed unanimously, expressing gratitude to his three years of service. Finally, a moment of silence was observed to honour the 175 victims of the recent plane crash in Iran. Motions Regarding motions, there was a Motion to Endorse the Student Mobilization Against Bill 21, which passed unanimously; a Motion Regarding Plan on Clubs and Services as SSMU’s Highest Priority, which was committed to an ad-hoc committee composed of members of the clubs and finance committees; a Motion Regarding a Provincial Student Assembly that passed; and a Motion Regarding Changes to the Committee Terms of Reference that passed. Additionally, there were a number of notices of motions, including one Regarding Amendments to the

The VP External mentioned the strikes taking place regarding Law 21, as well as the recent decision of McGill’s BoG to implement a “decarbonization plan” rather than divest from fossil fuels. Internal Regulations of Student Groups, one Regarding Amendments to the Effective Committees Policy, one Regarding Adoption of the SSMU Mental Health Policy and Plan, and finally, one Regarding the Adoption of the Gendered and Sexual Violence Committee Terms of Reference. Discussions Finally, there were two additional discussions that took place which took a significant portion of the meeting.

Firstly, there was the Report of the Comprehensive Governance Review Committee, which involved changes to seat allocations. Councillors debated moving to one seat per faculty maximum, two seats maximum, or remaining at the default of four seats as a maximum. In addition, a generative discussion took place regarding SSMU’s Relationship with UTILE and Potential Financing Models, which pertained to future collaboration with UTILE to create affordable housing units for students.

“Non à la loi 21”

McGill, UQAM Students Demonstrate Against Law 21 Amanda Chiu News Contributor

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he brisk -20° Celsius weather did not quash a group of approximately 200 students participating in the Student Strike Against Law 21. On January 17, students and demonstrators gathered on McTavish Street at 12:00 p.m., demonstrating along Sherbrooke Street West to eventually reach the Ministry of Immigration on SaintLaurent Boulevard. Hosted by SSMU External Affairs, Association facultaire étudiante de science politique et droit de l’UQAM, Association des étudiants et étudiantes de la Faculté des sciences de l’éducation, Non à la loi 21, and the Education Undergraduate Society of McGill, the demonstration was in solidarity with those affected by Law 21. This mass demonstration acted as a rallying point to jumpstart a movement that opposes the Law, demanding “that the CAQ repeals [Law] 21 in its entirety and that university administrations take a more hardline stance against [Law] 21 and support their affected members.” Quebec’s Law 21 has been a site of controversy since it was first implemented in June 2019. The rightwing government has promoted it as legislation advancing secularism, as the third amendment of the Law states that “all persons have the right to parliamentary, governmental and

SSMU expressed that the restrictions of Law 21 “[show] that the government cares more about radical secularism than the freedom of workers from harassment” judicial services as well as public services that are secular.” Law 21, also known as “An Act respecting the laicity of the State,” prohibits public employees from wearing religious symbols. This includes a ban on wearing hijabs, turbans, kippahs, and crucifixes while working. Public employees that were already employed at the time the bill was passed into law can continue to remain in their current positions; however, they lose protection if they decide to accept a promotion or take on a different position of employment. In an email sent by SSMU on the morning of the 17th, the student union expressed that the restrictions of Law

21 “[show] that the government cares more about radical secularism than the freedom of workers from harassment by restricting their ability to transfer positions; that it cares more about imposing its view of what a Quebecker should look like than the current labour shortage of teachers; and that it does not realise, or perhaps does not care, that banning (visible) religious symbols does not affect everyone equally, but rather disproportionately affects racialized individuals such as Muslim women and people of the Jewish and Sikh faith.” Strikers and demonstrators were an equal mix of Francophone and Anglophone individuals, picketing in both languages. Signs read “Welcome Refugees,” “You Can’t Have Capitalism Without Racism,” “Thank God We’re Secular,” “Don’t be a Jerk,” and “Be Better,” to name a few. Interspersed between speeches, strikers and demonstrators chanted “long live diversity” and “no exclusion.” The crowd was in high spirits despite the harsh weather conditions, they marched from McTavish to SaintLaurent, where the group gathered outside the Ministry of Immigration and demanded that Law 21 be repealed. The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) closed off Saint-Laurent for the demonstration and were present for the duration of the protest. Following the student demonstration against Law 21,

Photos by José Noé De Ita Zavala | Photo Editor McGill’s Arts Undergraduate Society hosted a General Assembly (GA) in Leacock 132 at 4:30 p.m. to discuss and vote on a follow-up strike in conjunction with other mass demonstrations and McGill’s Education Undergraduate Society, the Law Students’ Association, and the Medical Students’ Society. The strike would take place on Monday, January 20. However,

with approximately 90 students in attendance, the strike GA did not reach quorum, and no motions could be put forward. VP-External Adam GwiazdaAmsel encouraged McGill students wishing to take a stand against Quebec’s Law 21 to support students striking in the Faculty of Education in their classroom picketing on January 20, 2020.


NEWS: MONTREAL

January 20, 2020 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily

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“As the protest went on and we got closer to the Ministry building, it seemed like the number of police surrounding us was increasing. It started with cars clearing the way but soon cops on bikes were on the sides and a large police van joined the cars following us. When a man began to harass protestors carrying a banner, the police didn’t seem to notice. We called out to them but were forced to deal with the man ourselves. It quickly became apparent that they weren’t there for our safety.” – Demonstrator


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NEWS: MCGill

January 20, 2020 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily

Honouring Negar Borghei

Memorial Held for McGill Master’s Student Yasna Khademian News Editor

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s colleagues, friends, and family filed into the faculty lounge of the Macdonald Stewart building on Macdonald campus last Thursday – all gathered to honour the life of Negar Borghei – the room swelled to capacity, with only standing room left. Ultimately, the approximately one-hundred attendees caused the ceremony to be moved to a bigger classroom, where it began at 10:10 am. Anonymous messages from those who knew her best flickered across the screen, paying tribute to Borghei’s kind, smart, and dedicated character. “Negar, I will always remember you for your bright smile, your optimism (even on early Monday mornings) and for the passion you had towards everything that you loved,” one statement read. “Not enough words can do your incredible self justice or describe our great loss.”

“She truly had a global, comprehensive, worldwide vision to improve life for people.” -Linda Wykes, director of the School of Human Nutrition The late 29-year-old was pursuing a masters of human nutrition at McGill, when, on her way back to Canada from Iran, she and 175 others died in a tragic plane crash. Borghei had been studying at McGill in order to gain her credentials in Canada, after having attained a masters degree in sports physiology in Iran and working as a practicing dietician. With a table set at the front of the room, showing a photo of Borghei and her late husband Alvand Sadeghi surrounded by candles and white flowers, members of the McGill community took turns memorializing Borghei’s life and recounting their memories of her. Anja Geitmann, dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, told attendees that she had spoken recently with Borghei’s brother. Recalling what he had told her, Geitmann stated, “she was more than a sister – she was his best friend.” Negar used to tutor him in math and physics, and her brother, in return, taught her about living and studying abroad. “What seems unfathomable is that she didn’t get the opportunity to build on these burgeoning relationships, on this network that she was establishing for herself here in Canada,” Geitmann told attendees. “She didn’t get the chance to enjoy the fruits of her

Yasna Khademian | News Editor daunting first months at MacDonald campus [...], to complete her degree, and to eventually become a proud and treasured member of the large McGill alumni community.” Geitmann also explained the media presence at the event. “Negar’s brother tells me that it has helped the family [to cope] with their loss by seeing how Canada in general, and McGill in particular, share their grief.” “We hope that those who joined us here today tolerate this intrusion into our privacy, in the hope that seeing the footage helps Negar’s family to see that she, Negar, was one of the loved ones here, on campus,” she concluded. A condolence book was placed next to the photo of Borghei, for friends and colleagues to write in and share memories of her. While the book will remain at Macdonald campus for the next few days to gather more personal stories of Negar, it will soon be sent to her family. McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier was also present at the memorial. “As we mourn the passing of Negar, let us take a moment to celebrate her life, albeit far too short,” she said. “Let’s hold those memories fondly. Never forget that she was a bright young woman, that she had many dreams and aspirations.” Some of Borghei’s colleagues at the School of Nutrition then spoke. “Our

Borghei had been studying at McGill in order to gain her credentials in Canada, after having attained a masters degree in sports physiology in Iran and working as a practicing dietician. hearts are broken, and no words can express our sadness for this terrible event,” one of Borghei’s peers stated. “Negar did her bachelor in the same university in Iran, Tehran as me. [...] As her close friends expressed to me so well, she was smart, very talented, and dedicated, who worked hard – like so many of us – to come to Canada [...], to build her life, and to have a better future.” Speaking on behalf of the Iranian-

“As her teammates and friends, we were lucky enough to work closely with her and get to know her, albeit for a short period of time,” Hiba Yousif told those in attendance. “[Negar] impacted each of us, greatly, in all positive ways.”

Canadian community, they stated, “my deepest condolence to Negar’s family, her parents, her brother, and to all other families and friends devastated in this period of tragedy. Their innocence will remain in history forever.” After they concluded, another colleague of Borghei’s in the School of Nutrition gave their condolences, but this time in Persian, for the family to hear. One more of Borghei’s colleagues then spoke on both the pain of losing a dear friend, and the hardships of immigrating to a new place. “It is painful for us who know how difficult it was for you to pass all the obstacles, to learn how to not miss home and loved ones, to learn how to plant your roots into the soil, and to develop your branches like a beautiful tree,” they stated of Negar. “I’m sorry to see all that we invested over the years is gone in a blink of an eye, leaving your families behind, who may never taste true happiness ever again. This tragedy should have never occurred.” Linda Wykes, director of the School of Human Nutrition, also had a few words to say of Borghei. “Her generosity opened doors, as people could see the person she was.” “She wanted her credential as a dietician in Canada,” Wykes continued, “to bring together her scientific knowledge, her clinical skills, to provide personalized nutrition approaches in preventive healthcare worldwide. She truly had a global, comprehensive, worldwide vision to improve life for people.” Hiba Yousif, a member of the tightknit group that Borghei was a part of, was one of the last to speak. “As her teammates and friends, we were lucky enough to work closely with her and get to know her, albeit for a short period of time,” Yousif told those in attendance. “[Negar] impacted each of us, greatly, in all positive ways.”

Calling Borghei “the sunshine of the team”, Yousif said she was “always smiling, optimistic, and ready to brighten our day.” As the ceremony wrapped up, attendees walked back to the faculty lounge, where tea, coffee, and sweets were waiting for them. While friends of Borghei waited in line to write their memories of her down in the condolence book, a slideshow of pictures continued to play on the screen. Alongside a smiling photo of Borghei was an anonymous statement from one of her friends. “Negar, wherever you are, you will be forever living in a piece of my heart,” it read. “Next time we meet, let’s have the unfinished tea party. Before that, rest in peace.”

“We hope that those who joined us here today tolerate this intrusion into our privacy, in the hope that seeing the footage helps Negar’s family to see that she, Negar, was one of the loved ones here, on campus.” -Anja Geitmann, dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences


Sports/ Letters

January 20, 2020 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily

Olympic Politics

New Rules Sterilize Field of Play Michaela Keil Commentary Editor

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ccording to official guidelines issued on Thursday, January 9, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided to ban protests from the Summer 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The President of the IOC, Thomas Bach, described this ban as a part of the IOC’s goal of “political neutrality,” explaining at the IOC session in Lausanne, Switzerland that, “We can accomplish our mission to unite the world only if the Olympic Games stand above and beyond any and all political differences. We can achieve this global solidarity and true universality only if the IOC and the Olympic Games are politically neutral.” Further, the new rules will ban athletes from protesting in any way at opening ceremonies, medal ceremonies, closing ceremonies, in the Olympic Village, and on the field of play. Athletes who defy these rules can be sanctioned by the IOC, their sport, and their national federation, meaning they can be prevented from competing for a team or a sport in international events. The new rules go so far as to give examples of such protests, which include: kneeling, hand symbols, and refusal to follow ceremony protocol.

Bach’s speech makes the assumption that unity can be achieved through ignorance. This decision has been called hypocritical by USAToday: “The truth is, it’s not the mixing of politics and sports that Bach and the IOC don’t like. It’s the mixing of politics they don’t like with sports.” President Bach elaborated in his opening speech at the recent IOC Session that, “Our mission [of unity] requires that we stand against this zeitgeist of division, of nationalism and of discrimination. In fact, it is in these troubled times that we need to stand up for the values that define us.” The hosts of Burn It All Down, a feminist sports podcast, pointed out that the new rules “stifles the very voices of athletes themselves who are using [their platform] to advance human dignity.” Some of these platforms comprise politics opposing different forms of oppression, including police brutality, racism, authoritarianism, and war, as well as promoting LGBTQ+ rights, equal pay, and civil rights.

Michaela Keil | Commentary Editor Bach’s speech makes the assumption that unity can be achieved through ignorance and “stand[ing] above and beyond” politics, a principle that the IOC guidelines hold as well. However, it is impossible to stand for unity without addressing political issues of oppression and inequality. Vox News described the decision as producing a “sufficiently sterilized environment” which “may violate the original spirit of the games.” Athletics and professional sports have a deep history of political statements and continue to be a battleground and a stage for political causes to this day. The Olympic playing field is no different. Bach claimed that “today, the Olympic Games are the only event that brings the entire world together in peaceful competition.” This idea of a peaceful comingtogether combined with a politically sterile environment is dangerous. In 2014, when Russia enacted a law criminalizing homosexuality before the Olympic Games in Sochi, protests erupted around the world, but at the games athletes remained mostly silent and protests did not make it onto the playing field. This silence created a sterile, non-political environment within the games, and as highlighted by former NBA player John Amaechi, “silence in the face of attendance in Sochi is complicity.” In response to global pressure, the IOC banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. “Our fandom is deeply irrational, [...] where those energies take us can’t possibly map neatly onto party affiliation and ideological preference,” The New Yorker’s Hua Hsu explained. Sports create unity through fan communities, often established without consideration for the politics of a team, and at a young age. Mark Leibovich, Chief National Correspondent at The New York Times elaborated on this saying, “Athletes often constitute our earliest objects of allegiance. Staying starstruck is an indulgence of our arrested developments.” As the role models, stars, and aspirations for young children, athletes are venerated in the mind of society. When an

athlete chooses to use the athletic space for protest, it’s because it means something to them, which affects the millions of fans who follow them. The Burn It All Down podcast elaborated on this, saying that “[sports] has been a platform for people who don’t have voices in many other places.”

It is impossible to stand for unity without addressing political issues of oppression and inequality. Politics in sports do not only apply to the professional playing field, but are influential and integral to university sports as well. Tomas Jirousek, a McGill Varsity athlete on the Men’s Rowing team, started the #ChangeTheName campaign to change the name of McGill Men’s Varsity teams, a name which comes with historical and cultural connotations as an Indigenous slur. Jirousek told the Daily that, “not only did the campaign overlap with the Rowing season, but I would take the time during road trips, or while at the basin, to take interviews or consult with my teammates as to how they felt the campaign was unfolding.” The campaign took off quickly. Jirousek had planned to wear “a medallion or other [Indigenous] regalia during medal ceremonies. Unfortunately, McGill’s Men’s crew didn’t win any medals, so I never had the opportunity.” The fraught history of politics in sports is not to be looked over, and political neutrality and sterilization on the field is not an option. The International Olympic Council’s ban is a slap in the face to athletes and causes worldwide. When an athlete chooses to use their platform for protest, it is because elsewhere they are being silenced.

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Letters

t is distressing as an Associate Dr. Noam Schimmel Fellow at the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism to see that in your recent commentary on Israel and Zionism you ignore international law and international human rights law, relying on your own and other subjective and highly tendentious and incomplete interpretations of historical texts that informed the movement for Israel’s creation to determine — in your mind — Israel’s legitimacy. International law and international human rights law both affirm Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign democracy, as it is currently constituted. That does not, however, make Israel immune to human rights critique — much like every UN member state — including all its democracies — merit such critique. Your commentary speaks of Zionism in a very essentialized way. This is inaccurate. Like most movements for national liberation — including anti-colonial ones — there were and are many streams of Zionism. These include socialist, social democrat, nationalist, national-religious, secular, humanistic, liberal, liberal-nationalist, and liberal religious. Your depiction of Zionism is not merely reductionist, it is profoundly pejorative. Your characterization of Zionism reflects that of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, equating Zionism with racism. Although not legally binding — and contradicting the legally binding UN Charter which guarantees respect for the sovereign rights of UN member states under international law — it reflected the same virulent animosity your newspaper shows to respecting the fundamental human rights of Jewish people, specifically their right to collective self-determination. That resolution also contradicted the legally binding International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which explicitly respect a universal right to self-determination as a cornerstone of the international human rights system. UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, which sought to deny Jews equal protection of international law and international human rights law and as such was intrinsically discriminatory, bigoted, and hateful was rescinded by the United Nations in 1991. The Daily ought to study why it was rescinded and reflect upon it, and educate itself more deeply as to how beliefs and attitudes that you have regarding Zionism which you feel to be anchored in principles of justice and equality are in fact hostile and discriminatory and constitute bigotry against Jews and denial of their human rights. The Daily can engage with Israel, Zionism, and any and all countries’ movements for national self-determination critically. But it should do so without malice and prejudice, with a commitment to diversity of perspectives and accurate history that is not reductive and essentializing, and without ignoring the place of international law and international human rights law in making judgments that can just as easily harm the prospects for justice and peace and undermine human rights as they can advance them. The letters that appear in our letters section do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Daily’s editorial board. The Daily’s Letters Policy can also be found on our website. Our letters section’s goal is to provide McGill students with a critical and constructive forum for the exchange of ideas relevant to the McGill community in accordance with article 10.2 of our MoA with McGill University.


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Commentary

January 20, 2020 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily

Disability Discrimination

Faculty of Education Fosters an Unsafe Environment

Maverick Medeiros Commentary Contributor content warning: ableist slurs

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fter insomnia wrought havoc on my studies, resulting in me taking a year off from school, I decided to enroll in the Faculty of Education in 2018. I had some misgivings about my program choice because I lacked the volunteering experience that many people in the faculty have. Despite my struggles with social interactions, I planned on trudging through my major because I viewed this degree as a means of teaching abroad in a Germanspeaking country or the United States. Unfortunately, the time I spent in the Faculty of Education was fraught with challenges and I could not accomplish what I set out to do. Initially, I enjoyed the time I spent in the Faculty of Education. However, as the semester progressed, I had to deal with a bevy of group projects, which made me feel isolated. I had a hard time finding anyone who wanted to work with me. Most students in my education classes would sit with their cliques and they would establish groups therefrom. Although this made group projects more difficult for me, I figured that this obstacle would not be insurmountable since most assignments were done individually. By the midway point of my first semester, I began to question whether I had the capacity to become a teacher. Two of my education classes contributed to the fostering of such a belief. In one of my classes that touched upon the psychology of teaching, the professor of this class used the term “mental retardation” to speak about students with severe learning disabilities. Students in this class were often rowdy and would speak among themselves during the lecture; however, when he uttered “retardation,” you could have heard a pin drop. This remark caught me by surprise as I found it very unbecoming of an institution such as McGill, which I assumed would not stand for such archaic terminology. Although I am typically not a stickler for words, this term deeply hurt me. As someone who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, (a disorder often characterized as a form of autism) I found it deeply offensive that a representative of the Faculty of Education referred to students with mental and physical disabilities as “mentally retarded.” Although Asperger’s may not be as debilitating as other disabilities, it did not stop administrators and teachers from making my scholastic experience difficult by reproaching me for my body language, social

skills, and shyness. The professor’s choice of words dredged up these memories and reinforced an archaic view of mental health. As a result, my deep distrust toward the Faculty of Education festered. I erroneously assumed, however, that my condition would not hinder me much in the Faculty of Education. A few weeks after the aforementioned incident, I decided to speak up in one of my other education classes despite the fact that I often find class participation to be uncomfortable. When I did so, the professor told me that if I wanted to become a teacher, I would have to learn how to project my voice. I assured her that I would find a way to make it all work out even if speaking aloud is not my strong suit. She was unsatisfied with my response, and consequently made me stand in front of the class to read out my answer, arguing that no one heard me when I initially answered. The first time this occurred, I brushed it off, figuring it was a one-off. However, the next time I raised my hand and answered, the professor made me stand in front of the class once again. After I finished reading out my answer, my peers who were sitting at the back of the classroom began to laugh and snicker at me. It was incredibly uncomfortable. I was the only student in the class who was called out for not projecting their voice. Whenever I finished speaking, my peers just stared at me blankly and I had to make an awkward trek back to my desk as they eyed me. Although the professor’s actions may have been well-intentioned, they left me feeling isolated and alone. By the end of my classes in November, I had become completely disillusioned with the Faculty of Education. I had a couple of days before the field experience began to come to an end and I could forget about these unfortunate experiences that I had. Leading up to my field experience, I had to fill out forms and provide them to my coordinating teacher (CT) and supervisor. The form asked for the typical information that one would expect of such a document. It also included a question concerning what we would like to accomplish during the field experience. I mentioned how I wanted to assess whether teaching would be the appropriate profession for me. Regrettably, members of the Faculty of Education would later wield this very response against me in justifying some of the actions they would take against me. The goal of the first field experience is to sit in the back of the classroom to observe the teaching methods that our CT uses and the

Daisy Sprenger | Illustrations Editor ways in which students respond thereto. Our CT wanted us to eventually go around the class and ask the students if they needed help. I did as instructed and asked them if they required additional assistance. Most students rejected my offers of help and opened themselves up to the other two student teachers that were present in the classroom. Moreover, the students, who were (for the most part) in grade 11, already had their minds set on trade school and showed little interest in using class time to complete the assignment. From what I gathered, many students had already finished the assignment and were merely granted additional time if they needed it. Thus, I decided to step

back since badgering students my body language. Earlier, I informed about their assignments would not my supervisor that I had misgivings about the faculty and the teaching accomplish anything. profession. My supervisor vowed to make contact with the Internship and Student Affairs Office (ISA), which, among other things, oversees conflicts that arise during field experiences. By the end of the week, she informed me that the Internship Office told her to fail me because it seemed likely that I intend on changing faculties. With two weeks remaining, I already knew that I was going to fail the class no matter what I did. The Internship Office made a concession That very same week, my by exempting my field experience supervisor pulled me out of class and grade from my GPA. Nevertheless, I told me that my CT complained about still had to trudge through two more my seemingly flippant attitude and weeks of my field experience.

I was the only student in the class who was called out for not projecting their voice.


Commentary

Daisy Sprenger | Illustrations Editor The three weeks that I spent at that high school were horrendous. My depression symptoms worsened, I could not get a good night’s rest, and I lost any motivation I had. I found it disappointing that I was called out for my body language. I made every effort to show up on time and be attentive; yet, it was not sufficient for the Faculty of Education. The complaint about my body language frustrated me because it is one of the most common difficulties that people with Asperger’s face. I did not feel comfortable revealing my condition to my supervisor based on the faculty’s stigma surrounding mental health and the supervisor’s advice of ‘’thinking happy and getting a good night’s sleep’’ as the keys to success. I did not have any doctor’s note at the time. As many know, it is epecially hard to schedule an appointment in Quebec with a doctor on short notice since clinics have to deal with a backlog of patients. I could not see my doctor in that time frame because the Internship Office maintains a strict policy on field experience attendance. In addition to this, my CT became sick midway through and did not have time to evaluate my teaching ability. Thus, I felt that the evaluation process used in my situation did not accurately gauge my skills. Near the end of my field experience, a representative from the ISA reached out to me and let me know that the director of the undergraduate program wanted to speak to me to discuss my future in the program and clarify any doubts I had about teaching. Before I met with the director, I held out hope that I could somehow have my grade reversed. Although I wanted to

change faculties, much uncertainty still lingered. My meeting with the director was brief, lasting around a minute or two. The director asked me about my thoughts on the faculty, and mentioned that if I wanted to remain in the Faculty of Education, I would have to speak to her again. The next thing I knew, the meeting concluded and the director handed me off to my academic advisor.

Instead of providing a safe and caring environment, my supervisor ostracized me and the Internship Office dealt with me as if I was some troublemaker wreaking havoc. The Winter 2019 semester frustrated me because I received a message from the Internship and Student Affairs Office, which warned me of being placed under academic probation. In my interactions with my field experience supervisor and the undergraduate director, I was not made aware that “failing a field

January 20, 2020 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily experience” would lead to academic probation. This angered me greatly because I had a 4.0 GPA at that point and I was being punished by the Faculty for a field experience grade that I believed to be unwarranted. I felt slighted by the Faculty of Education because all the hard work I put into my Education classes appeared to be for naught. A year later, I am still unable to sign up for a full course load even though the Arts Faculty, on their end, did not carry over the probationary status. By the time the Fall 2019 semester rolled around, I managed to successfully transfer to the Faculty of Arts. I had an unfortunate encounter with a representative of the Faculty of Arts who suggested that I should drop out of McGill if I do not enjoy it. Consequently, I went to the Internships Office to set up an appointment with an education career advisor, whereupon I was informed that the faculty no longer has one. After perusing the Faculty of Education’s website, I decided to launch an appeal in regard to the field experience grade. By the time the appeal deadline came around, I still did not have the proper medical documentation to prove my diagnosis and my first appointment with the OSD happened after the deadline. When I first met with the OSD, I was not granted any accommodations because they argued that I did not need accommodations based on the grades I received. I would only receive my accommodations in October of 2019, 7 months after the appeal deadline. If I wanted to be readmitted into the Faculty of Education, it seemed like the only course of action was to meet with the director of the undergraduate program. I approached the ISA twice about meeting with the director and on the second occasion I did so, the receptionist became annoyed at me, asking “What do you want now?’’ as soon as I approached the ISA desk. My run-ins with administrators from the Faculty of Education illustrate a general apathy toward students with disabilities. It appears that many representatives of the Faculty of Education just do not understand what mental health disorders entail. Instead of providing a safe and caring environment, my supervisor ostracized me and the Internship Office dealt with me as if I was some troublemaker wreaking havoc on the Faculty of Education. When I interacted with the director, she brushed off my concerns about the faculty. She was more eager to make jokes about the pile of paperwork on her desk than to listen to my concerns. If the director is so callous toward students, she should delegate her responsibilities to someone who can empathize with students’ struggles. When I was in the Faculty of Education, it seemed like their priority was to heavily advertise their newly created Pédagogie de l’Immersion Francais, with some teachers going as far as to name drop it in the middle of lectures. Trying

to increase enrollment in a new program is fine and dandy, but how about addressing some of the issues that plague the faculty as a whole? The creation of a Local Wellness Advisor for Education students is a welcome addition, but by the time of its implementation, I already had one foot out the door. When I was struggling in the faculty, I had no one to speak to. I am not calling for the teachers with whom I had negative experiences to lose their jobs, because I empathize with the struggle of losing one’s livelihood. However, I do believe that both the teachers and supervisors in the faculty should undergo some type of sensitivity training and perhaps the Local Wellness Advisor could help therewith.

My run-ins with administrators from the Faculty of Education illustrate a general apathy toward students with disabilities. For those who are unaware, the Faculty of Education has a restrictive readmission policy, which stipulates that any student who fails a field experience must be removed from the faculty. To gain readmission, the student must convince the undergraduate program director to be allowed back in the faculty. Considering my interactions with the Internships and Student Affairs Office, I do not feel comfortable belonging to such a faculty if such insensitive administrators are at the helm of the undergraduate program. What is stopping another supervisor from singling me out again? What types of measures can a student take if a supervisor or CT discriminates based on one’s mental health? I can no longer trust the Faculty of Education’s judgment after their egregious mishandling of my situation. The aim of my article is to beget drastic changes in regard to how the Faculty of Education deals with students with mental health

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disorders. I shared my experience with a professor of mine and she told me that she knows of other students who have felt mistreated by the Faculty of Education on the grounds of their mental health conditions. This shows me that the Faculty of Education promotes a culture based on a great misunderstanding of mental health. It is likely that other students from the Faculty of Education have experienced discrimination based on their mental health and have not shared their experiences because they feel that their concerns are not acknowledged by the administration. I encourage students who have suffered through similar situations in the Faculty of Education to share their experiences. This, I believe, is the first step in tackling the despicable behavior that those with mental health disorders are subjected to in the Faculty of Education. To the Faculty of Education and the Internship and Student Affairs Office, I always felt isolated and unwelcome in the Faculty of Education. When I was struggling through my first semester, I had no one to confide in because there was no one I could trust. It speaks poorly of your faculty that a professor felt emboldened to openly use terms such as “mental retardation.” Moreover, it was disappointing that I was often pulled from class during the field experience as if I were some mischiefmaker because a coordinating teacher misinterpreted my body language. People with Asperger’s struggle with body language and social interactions, but this does not infringe on their ability to teach effectively. I think that administrators, professors, and field experience supervisors of the Faculty of Education should undergo sensitivity training to address their prejudices against mental health conditions. Representatives of the Faculty of Education should be held accountable for their words and actions. especially if it leads to a mischaracterization of mental health. The Faculty of Education should not excuse the actions of the professors I mention in this article because of their tenure or past experience as Dean. You cannot feign ignorance when it comes to mental health because it invalidates your goal of providing an inclusive environment for all students of the Faculty of Education.

Although Asperger’s may not be as debilitating as other disabilities, it did not stop administrators and teachers from making my scholastic experience difficult by reproaching me for my body language, social skills, and shyness.


10

Features

January 20, 2020 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily

Writing Justice

Student Press Mobilizing Social Movements Kate Ellis Coordinating Editor

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tudent journalism is under attack. Although the Student Choice Initiative in Ontario was deemed unlawful, it has been reported that the Ford government is filing an appeal, threatening campus publications across the province. The online opt-out system at Concordia University is causing similar fears, as students now have the power to defund vital organizations, including the student papers, magazines, and radio stations that tell some of the community’s most important stories. It is a frightening time for the freedom of the press as publications lose funding, editorial control, and the ability to exist on campus.

Why does this matter? Student journalism is often the birthplace of and a significant outlet for the mobilization of social movements, particularly those which impact students. On-campus publications are not confined by the apolitical nature and the myth of objectivity associated with mainstream media; rather, student journalists have the ability to use their platforms to raise the voices of underrepresented groups and shed light on under-reported topics. Often, these articles lead to real, material change. Publications often release information that is crucial to a

student’s experience, but that cannot be accessed elsewhere. Through the power of a Freedom of Information request (FOI), student papers can reveal the hidden activities of university administrations, student governments, and other public bodies – information that can spark action to better the lives of members of the campus community. In 2013, The Ubyssey, a student paper at the University of British Columbia (UBC), filed an FOI to access the admissions rubric used by the university after the institution of a policy that required students to complete a personal profile in addition to submitting their grades. UBC refused, resulting in a four-year legal battle between the University and the paper. Although The Ubyssey did not win in the end, a whistleblower released the rubric, providing students with critical information about the University’s admissions process. In October 2016, Concordia voted for their student union to divest from companies involved with Israel, in connection with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement. This, among other student actions, was influenced by stories published by one of Concordia’s student publications: The Link. On March 7, 2016, Concordia student Rami Yahia published “Calling for the Implementation of BDS,” urging the Canadian government to stand behind the movement. In this case, reading about the issue at hand helped students make a well-informed decision regarding prioritizing social justice on their campus.

On-campus publications are not confined by the apolitical nature and the myth of objectivity associated with mainstream media; rather, student journalists have the ability to use their platforms to raise the voices of underrepresented groups and shed light on under-reported topics.

A key part of activism is education – and for a number of students, newspapers, radio shows, and magazines provide additional context that can’t always be found. Campus journalism also exists in a unique space between academia and entertainment. In an environment where students are constantly bombarded with information, these papers act as outlets where complex topics like quantum computing, menstrual health, and the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure can be broken down into smaller, more accessible pieces that can be understood by people from any field of study. A key part of activism is education – and for a number of students, newspapers, radio shows, and magazines provide additional context that can’t always be found. Student papers cover the issues that big media avoids, and we’re better off because of it. Think about an injustice that you have heard about on campus, like problems with campus health services or professors and the university engaging in harmful behaviour. Where did you hear about it? It was likely in a campus news outlet, whether that was an article, a radio broadcast, or a post that showed up on your Facebook feed. What’s more, you probably did something about it – whether it was sharing the article online, deciding to attend a demonstration, or signing an open letter. Journalism has the power to inform and empower large groups of people. We need to protect it.

ANGELA YU | The McGill Daily Archives Dana Wray examines McGill’s orientation activities in “Is Frosh Accessible?” The article particularly focused on the physical and financial accessibility of the event, and was followed by another news article titled “Sexism, Drinking Culture Still Prevalent at Frosh” on November 3, 2013. Conversations like the ones within the pages of the Daily have resulted in a greater examination of the culture surrounding frosh, including the implementation of new policies to create a safer environment for all students.

SEPTEMBER 2013

NOVEMBER 2014 Trent Eady writes “Everything Is Problematic,” a think piece highlighting several fundamental problems with leftist and activist communities. This piece became one of the Daily’s most popular articles, and has caused a number of people to reexamine how accessibility and inclusion plays out in radical spaces. Most recently, Kai Cheng Thom referenced this article in her book I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World. JONATHAN REID The McGill Daily Archives


Features

January 20, 2020 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily

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OCTOBER 1968 The Daily reports on a manifesto issued by the McGill Political Science Association calling for a “change in [the] political orientation of the University to one that is explicitly critical of the status quo.” This was a precursor to the November 1968 political science student strike, which resulted in greater student representation within curriculum and section committees, influencing their academic experiences.

The Daily publishes multiple letters calling for divestment from apartheid in South Africa, including one by Timothy Dickinson, a postdoctoral assistant in forestry. Due to student activism, the McGill Senate voted to fully divest in November 1985.

SEPTEMBER 1985 The Daily publishes a commentary piece titled “Vote to Strike,” urging McGill students to protest an upcoming 75 per cent increase in tuition throughout Quebec. This is just one of many events in the Quebec Student Protests, also known as the Maple Spring, which featured the famous 6Party occupation of the James Administration Building and saw over 250,000 students taking to the streets to protest.

MARCH 2000 The Daily publishes a full-page ad urging students to vote against the Cold Beverage Agreement with Coca-Cola in a SSMU referendum. The no campaign cited student concerns regarding the company’s mistreatment of workers, including human rights abuses in Guatemala and a racial pay gap in the United States. In April of that year, the referendum question failed, with 56.4 per cent of students voting no.

MARCH 2012

The piece was a vital part of the campus-wide conversation regarding student/teacher relationships [and] reforming McGill’s Sexual Violence Policy. The Daily publishes “Let’s Talk About Teacher,” a feature in which an anonymous McGill student discussed their affair with their professor, which lasted throughout their undergraduate career. The piece was a vital part of the campus-wide conversation regarding student/teacher relationships and contributes to the discussion reforming McGill’s Sexual Violence Policy (SVP).

VICTOR TANGERMANN The McGill Daily Archives

FEBRUARY 2017 SSMU VP External David Aird resigns in the wake of sexual assault allegations. Both the Daily and its sister paper Le Délit reported extensively on the issue to address the culture of sexual violence on campus.

PHOEBE PANNIER The McGill Daily Archives The McGill Daily publishes an article titled “SSMU, AUS, and SUS Leaders Offered Free Propaganda Trip by Pro-Israel Organization,” written by Independent Jewish Voices McGill and Students in Solidarity with Palestinian Human Rights, revealing that a number of student leaders had been offered free propaganda trips to Israel. This led to widespread discussion of the ethical responsibilities of student leaders, and the passing of a motion in the SSMU Legislative Council that required councillors to decline the offer of the trips.

NOVEMBER 2019

SEPTEMBER 2015 MAHANT ENGÉRANT | Le Délit Archives

timeline:

The Daily’s Role in Student Activism


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January 20, 2020 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily

Culture

A Journey Through the Shared Human Experience A Review of Aimee de Jongh’s Taxi! Stories from the Back Seat

Cathleen Ma Culture Writer

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imée de Jongh’s autobiographical graphic novel Taxi! Stories from the Backseat embodies the phrase “less is more.” True to its sliceof-life genre, Taxi! does not culminate in an action-packed finale or wondrous philosophical epiphany – instead, it reveals how the seemingly simple act of riding in a taxi can teach us lessons about our prejudices. In a series of vignettes, de Jongh interweaves stories of her taxi rides from 2014 to 2018 in four different cities: Los Angeles, Jakarta, Washington, D.C., and Paris.

From traffic jams to the concept of celebrating life rather than mourning death, her mirroring of themes and events across the globe shows that people of different cultures will always share experiences, despite outward differences. Taxi! is a story about getting to know strangers and going beyond first impressions. It explores how we move from surfacelevel small talk to sharing our vulnerabilities. In Los Angeles, de Jongh’s uncommunicative taxi driver turns out to be kinder than he appears. In Jakarta, she learns that her driver’s religion allows him to maintain a positive attitude towards personal tragedies. In Paris, she bonds with her driver over their shared experience of being secondgeneration immigrants, and in Washington, her driver – a bubbly

comic-book lover – reveals the difficulties that depression and anxiety have caused in his life. Through these experiences, de Jongh comes to recognize and dismantle her instinct to judge others by first appearances. Taxi! reminds readers to confront their prejudices, as nobody is exactly as they seem at first glance – and stereotypes are more prevalent in our judgement than we may think. De Jongh’s detailed black and white artwork is reminiscent of scratchy ink-sketches that, despite being drawn relatively thickly, manage to convey subtle facial expressions and the scenery outside of the taxis in great detail. She also utilizes panel spacing to draw the reader’s attention to important moments; although most of her panels are contained within boxes, scenes of high tension do not have these, and are spread across the entire page. The interwoven style of the four separate taxi rides also plays a role in her method of storytelling. By transitioning between each thread, de Jongh draws attention to similarities in situations. From traffic jams to the concept of celebrating life rather than mourning death, her mirroring of themes and events across the globe shows that people of different cultures will always share experiences, despite outward differences. A perfect blend of solemnity and humour effectively hooks the reader’s attention throughout the entire novel, despite the simple choice of setting. De Jongh asks her Jakartan driver, “Do you think we will ever see our dads again?” “I’m a Muslim,” he replies, “so… I believe we will.” The atmosphere created by these touching moments might seem opposite to the general positive mood throughout the graphic novel. The contrasting moments of levity and gravity do more than roll the story forward, however. De Jongh uses them to bring racial issues to light. In one memorable example, her driver tells her that, “it’s not easy being a Muslim… especially in Paris,” just as the taxi passes a sodden bouquet of flowers with a card reading #JeSuisCharlie on the corner of rue Nicolas-Appert. “You mean because of…” de Jongh trails off, staring back at the flowers on the street. “Yes. Because of [the temptation of food in Paris during] Ramadan!” her driver exclaims, surprising both the reader and de Jongh, and creating a moment of comic relief in an otherwise heavy scene.

Daisy Sprenger | Illustrations Editor De Jongh’s crowning achievement, however, is her ability to make the reader care about people she introduces for only a short time. Her characters and their flaws become so real to us that, despite only seeing a snapshot of their lives spread over a couple of pages, we become invested in their stories. Taxi! Stories from the Backseat provides Aimée de Jongh is a Dutch Netherlands. To see more of her work, a glimpse of humanity through a lens that is at once compelling, cartoonist, animator, and visit her website aimeedejongh.com funny, and profound. illustrator based in Rotterdam, The and her Twitter @aimeedejongh.

Taxi! Stories from the Backseat provides a glimpse of humanity through a lens that is at once compelling, funny, and profound.

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The McGill Daily Vol. 109 Issue 14  

The McGill Daily Vol. 109 Issue 14  

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