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January 26, 2009
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The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Students camp out for literacy Participants hope to raise $40,000 for libraries in India Daniel Lametti The McGill Daily
harone Daniel awoke at 4 a.m. last week to find a floor buffing machine inches from her face. Daniel, who had been sleeping In Concordia University’s Webster Library for the past five days, simply rolled over and tried to get back to sleep while the janitor operating the buffer apologized. “It’s called Live-in for Literacy,” explained Daniel, a fourth-year Human Relations and Religion student at Concordia. Students live in a university library for ten days to raise money for education in developing countries. Since the fundraiser began at Queen’s University four years ago, Live-in for Literacy has raised $50,000. The money has gone toward building computer labs in Cambodia and libraries in Nepal. This year, seven Canadian university libraries are housing two students each until the end of the fundraiser today at 1 p.m. The students hope to raise $40,000 for the construction of nine libraries in India. Daniel started by sharing a tent in the library foyer with third-year Concordia student Neeka Fedyshyn, but she soon decided to sleep on an adjacent couch because it was more comfortable. “It was impossible to sleep on the floor,” she said, looking a little tired. Fedyshyn, who had brought in a cot from home, stayed in the tent. Beside the tent, two large suitcases overflowed with clothes and schoolwork, while a rope barrier just in front of the suitcases doubled as a clothesline. As the Concordia team explained,
Stephen Davis / The McGill Daily
Neeka Fedyshyn (left) and Sharone Daniel are living at Concordia’s Webster Library for ten days. despite the positive reaction to the fundraiser, there were a few misunderstandings. “One girl walked past, like, ten times,” said Daniel. The hardest challenge, however, was missing a week’s worth of classes. “The constant interruption makes
it difficult to study,” said Daniel. “But one of my professors stopped by and donated $20 and said, ‘Don’t worry about your assignments.’” According to the event’s rules, participants are only allowed to leave the library for five minutes each hour, but are allowed to accumulate unused breaks, leaving enough free
time to run to the gym in the morning and shower. The library allowed them to bring in a small fridge to hold food – most of which had been donated by friends. In the evening, when the building was closed, they got their exercise. “Yesterday we were running up
and down the stairs and doing sprints around the stacks,” said Daniel. Still, the students didn’t find it that tough. “I would do this week after week,” said Fedyshyn. Donations can still be made at liveinforliteracy.com.
Trans group talks out the space between [M] and [F] Group focuses on support, safe space, and life beyond the gender dichotomy Kartiga Thiyagarajah The McGill Daily
ender Construction Zone, a new anglophone group, wants to give Montreal youth a chance to explore their gender identity outside of the predominant male-female dichotomy. The group will provide peer support, resource sharing, and discussion groups for trans-questioning and gender-questioning this week – services that Canada lacks, according to organizers. Most trans/gender support groups in this country are run out of gender clinics that offer hormones and surgery as solutions to gender-questioning individuals. But Telyn Kusalik, a
facilitator for Gender Construction Zone, felt such groups are closedminded and may alienate those who do not want surgery. “Many gender clinics are concerned mainly with those who identify 100 per cent as one gender. However, there are a lot of people who don’t identify as either men or women,” Kusalik said. Kusalik added that the extra stress and pressure faced by young trans individuals makes the presence of Gender Construction Zone even more important. It offers individuals the space to discuss issues concerning their gender identity and build a community with those experiencing similar doubts, based on mutual support. “There is a demand in our culture
to be the gender one was assigned at birth,” said Kusalik. “Those who question their gender are liable to be laughed at, harassed, or even subjected to violence.” Kusalik hopes to create a nonjudgmental environment. “I became aware of a need for a place where individuals could talk about their gender doubts without coming out to their loved ones,” explained Kusalik. “The process of coming out is difficult, and there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed before one can take that big step.” For other services, Kusalik refers individuals to the Head and Hands Clinic, whose approach is compatible with the Gender Construction Zone’s philosophy. At Head and Hands, young trans people can seek
the help of doctors and counsellors, and access free services, such as peer counselling and legal services. “Head and Hands has a nonjudgmental mandate and provides a comfortable, less clinical atmosphere for patients,” said Jocelyn, the clinic’s Health Animator. “We take patients from wherever they’re coming from and make no assumptions about where they’ve been.” McGill’s Student Health Services also offers individuals a place to ask their questions to medical professionals. “We have a nurse on staff who is always available to sit down with students and answer any pressing questions they might have,” said Eva Adomako, the interim Clinic Manager of Student Health. “We also have a
Mental Health Clinic available to students with similar concerns.” Kusalik added that the Gender Construction Zone hopes to complement and fill the gap in this specialised service. “Most people don’t question their gender. Most go through life 100 per cent okay with the gender they were given at birth,” said Kusalik. “But for those who don’t, Gender Construction Zone provides a confidential, safe place to gain peer support and assistance.” Gender Construction Zone, to which a fair number of people have shown interest, hopes to hold its first meeting next week. For more information about the group and its meeting times, email email@example.com.
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The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Charkaoui trial exposes feds’ smoke and mirrors Max Halparin The McGill Daily
fter four days of public hearings in the federal case of Montrealer Adil Charkaoui last week, supporters of the Moroccan-born French teacher were confident that the lack of evidence against him could release the government’s control over him and his family. Following the hearings Wednesday, Charkaoui was frustrated with the government’s failure to present a single witness throughout the hearings. “They don’t do anything, [they] just sit back while we present all the evidence. But in the end they can present secret evidence to convince the judge I’m not innocent,” Charkaoui said. Charkaoui’s lawyers brought Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Assistant Director of Intelligence Ted Flanigan to the stand Monday. He stated that Charkaoui fit the “profile of a sleeper agent,” despite being unable to define the term, and also acknowledged that a report describing Charkaoui as a sleeper agent was incorrect, according to a Federal Court Watch report of the day’s proceedings. At an October 27 presentation at McGill Culture Shock, Charkaoui explained that in the first public summary of evidence against him in 2003, he had such a profile because he was a young, Arab, Muslim, married, internationally-travelled, university student and business owner, with a black belt in karate. “These are the eight characteristics of ‘sleeper agents,’” he told the audience. Last week, Charkaoui was also vexed with the inclusion of Moroccan prisoner Nourredine Nafiaa and Guantanamo inmate Abu Zubaydah in public summaries of evidence against him. Nafiaa wrote to Radio-Canada in 2005, explaining that he had never met Charkaoui, but was forced to sign a confession while blindfolded and under torture in Morocco. In December 2007, retired CIA agent John Kiriakou admitted Zubaydah had been tortured at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “What’s really disturbing [is that we] recognized part of the evidence was obtained from Guantanamo,” Charkaoui said, “On the same day that Obama announced [Guantanamo] will be closing, it’s a shame for Canada to be using evidence obtained under torture.” Despite having signed off on the February 2008 public summary of evidence against Charkaoui – in which Nafiaa was referenced – Flanigan said he didn’t remember Nafiaa’s name being included in the report. In 2003, the Ministry of Immigration found that Charkaoui would likely face torture if deported to Morocco, but Flanigan said he
was unaware of these risks. Following the court proceedings Wednesday, Charkaoui’s father echoed his sentiments regarding the vagueness of evidence. “All this...it has to stop. They have nothing. Nothing,” he said. Flanigan, who claimed to have conducted a thorough review of Charkaoui’s file last February before naming Charkaoui under a new security certificate, deflected many questions while on the stand. “It was a lot of, ‘I don’t recall,’ ‘I wasn’t in a position to know,’ or ‘[because of] National Security,’” said Mary Foster, a member of the Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui, which has worked on clearing Charkaoui’s name since he was first detained under a security certificate in 2003. Foster added that Flanigan’s testimony confirmed many of the suspicions the Coalition has had regarding the secret evidence in the case. “The government’s position seems to be that without a trial, under a law that’s been declared unconstitutional, without any information of substance being shown publicly, it’s normal for someone to be [under those conditions],” she said. Security certificates introduce a two-tier system of justice whereby the government uses secret evidence to detain and deport non-citizens. In February 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Charkaoui’s favour, agreeing that security certificate law is unconstitutional, but delayed its decision by one year. The Harper government pushed through new security certificate legislation, Bill C-3, in February 2008, which patched some loopholes and added the provision of a special advocate. Legal critics have maintained that this addition does not satisfy the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Quebec Bar Association has released detailed arguments outlining C-3’s unconstitutionality. That same year, the Supreme Court ruled that CSIS can no longer destroy evidence, and that they must provide the Ministers who sign the security certificate and the Judge who reviews it with original evidence, not just their interpretations and opinions. After being detained under a security certificate in 2003, Charkaoui spent nearly two years in prison, and has since lived under strict conditions of house arrest. He cannot use the Internet, fax machines, or any phone but his home phone, must respect a curfew, and cannot leave the island of Montreal. He must also wear a GPS tracking bracelet at all times, and one of his parents must accompany him whenever he leaves his home. During the testimony, Charkaoui’s mother, Latifa, explained that after four years, these conditions have financially crippled her family. She added that her husband can no lon-
ger hold employment in his field as a machinist because of the time-consuming supervision requirements. Charkaoui agreed with his mother after her testimony. “The conditions have a huge impact on my life and my family – they have to stop,” he said. Four other Arab Muslim men named under security certificates – none of whom, including Charkaoui, have ever been charged with a crime under the Criminal Code – live under similar conditions in Ontario. Foster said she was surprised that the government asked witnesses how the conditions, including the GPS tracking bracelet, infringed on Charkaoui’s liberty. “It was really shocking the way they asked that question – [the government’s lawyer] was just stunned by a request to have the conditions abolished,” Foster said. “That mentality is really anti-democratic – frighteningly so.” Charkaoui’s mother testified that her son had never broken the conditions, since doing so would break the trust of his family and his community. She became hysterical when asked what the consequences would be if her son were to deported. “I know [my son] better than anyone; he’s not dangerous,” she said. “He’s against any form of violence – he’s a humourist, the kind who makes you laugh, tells us jokes. I’m don’t understand why he has the ‘profile of a sleeper agent’ – it’s another person.” These sentiments appeared in court earlier that day with the testimony of a family friend and supervisor of Charkaoui. The last witness to appear on Wednesday, the principal of the school where Charkaoui taught from 2006 to November 2008, explained that she had to reluctantly let Charkaoui go after the Ministry of Education denied his teaching permit, citing his ongoing case with the federal government. The principal said Charkaoui is an excellent teacher, and that students were sad to see him go. She added that her decision was influenced by the risk of losing a government subsidy if Charkaoui remained employed at the school. Foster was hopeful that the Judge will abolish the strict conditions imposed upon him after the legal arguments are made next week. “I’m very optimistic...because the government didn’t present anything, in a non-biased court you’d hope that would be something that the judge would [recognize].” Foster also encouraged McGill students, especially those in Law, to attend the hearings themselves. “People who came down to court would observe the requirement of being innocent until proven guilty not being represented,” Foster said. The hearings will resume on Wednesday, February 4, at 9:30 a.m. at the Federal Court, 30 McGill St.
2009 Public proceedings of Charkaoui’s case continue, with he and his lawyers arguing for the abolition of the conditions imposed on him for the past four years. CSIS agent Ted Flanigan testifies that Charkaoui has the “profile of a sleeper agent” – which he distinguishes from “being a sleeper agent” – but cannot define the term.
2007 In February, the Supreme Court rules security certificate law unconstitutional, but postpones the effect of their decision for one year. In October, the Harper government introduces the “new” security certificate legislation, Bill C-3.
2005 Still without any charges laid, Charkaoui is released from prison under strict conditions of house arrest. Among many other restrictions, these require him to wear a GPS tracking bracelet and for one of his parents to accompany him at all times outside his home.
2003 In May, Charkaoui is detained under a security certificate and sent to prison. The public summary of Charkaoui’s file points to, among other things, his religion, marriage, and black belt in Karate as reasons for having a “profile of a sleeper agent.” Realizing the impossibility of mounting a defense against secret evidence, Charkaoui and his lawyers choose to challenge the constitutionality of the law.
2008 C-3 passes, despite constitutional objections from many MPs, community members, and the Canadian Bar Association. New certificates are issued for Charkaoui and the others under the new law, but they remain under conditions imposed under the old law. Charkaoui has a second victory in the Supreme Court, and CSIS asks the judge for six months to put together some evidence. Charkaoui loses his job as a French teacher after the Ministry of Education refuses to grant him a teaching permit, citing his ongoing issues with the federal government.
2006 Charkaoui completes his Master’s degree in French despite not having access to the Internet.
2004 Charkaoui and his lawyers learn of a Pre-Risk Assessment completed the previous year by the Ministry of Immigration which found that Charkaoui would likely face torture, cruel and unusual punishment, or death if deported to Morocco.
2001 FBI agents remove Charkaoui from a plane returning from Morocco to New York. Following an eight-hour interrogation, an agent states that the FBI has nothing against him, they are acting on the request of CSIS.
2000 RCMP officers surround and search Charkaoui, his mother, and wife at the Trudeau airport en route to Morocco for a family visit.
1995 The Charkaoui family arrives in Montreal as Permanent Residents.
1999 Adil Charkaoui and his wife apply for citizenship.
Source: Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui. For a more comprehensive timeline, see adilinfo.org/en/timeline. Compiled by Max Halparin with the permission of the original author.
Josh Champan / The McGill Daily archives
Montrealer Adil Charkaoui is pursuing his PhD part-time.
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Police seek to unmask protesters Opponents rally around freedom of speech and expression Josh Nobleman News Writer
onning hoods, masks, or other face-coverings at public demonstrations in Montreal will be prohibited when the City Council passes a proposed antimask bylaw. “Certain protests have a high risk for innocent people to be injured. The key here is criminal intent,” explained Chief Inspector Paul Chablo, the Director of Communications for the Montreal police department. Chablo pointed to the violent rioting following the city’s last Stanley Cup Final in April. “What’s the logic of wearing a ski mask in May?” Chablo asked. Police proposed the idea over two months ago with the goal of identifying participants in violent demonstrations, but many people have criticized the proposal for infringing on citizens’ basic rights and for granting police excessive power. While Claude Dauphin, the Executive Committee member in charge of public safety, has insisted that the law will allow exceptions for religious reasons or cold weather, many, including Sana Saeed, VP External for the McGill Muslim Student Association and Daily columnist, questioned how police will monitor who covers their face and for what reason. “At [one of the rallies for Gaza], many people had their faces covered
with a keffiyeh – some for solidarity as a political statement, some against the cold, some to protect their identities in front of all the rolling cameras,” Saeed said. “Some people have a fear that maybe if their co-worker, boss, or professor sees them, it can have an effect on the way they are treated, especially if those people have different political views.” Julius Grey, a Montreal lawyer who specializes in civil rights issues, also supported the right to wear masks at protest for the privacy that they provide. “When an issue is very emotional, and employers are on the other side,” said Grey, “you can imagine the risk inherent in public demonstration.” A United Nations report on civil and political rights from 2005 criticized Montreal’s long-standing mass-arrest strategy, citing it as having the highest numbers in Canada. The report also urged authorities to ensure the right of people to peacefully participate in social protests. Canada’s Criminal Code already makes it illegal to wear a disguise while committing a serious crime, noted Gabrielle Provost, who participates in many rallies for the Coalition Against Police Brutality. “If the city decides to adopt this law, it will give another opportunity for Montreal police to arrest people who have done nothing wrong,” Provost said. Grey noted that the bylaw could be unconstitutional, especially if the
Charles Mostoller / The McGill Daily
At a recent pro-Palestine rally, demonstrators hide their faces behind masks and the Hezbollah flag. wording is not explicit. Defending demonstrators’ right to wear masks, he also asserted that political statements are a combination of both the content and form of what is expressed. “Putting on a costume, or a mask, in this case, is part of that expression,” Grey said. Historically, mask-sporting protesters have commonly been asso-
ciated with the political left or with anarchist movements. Many marchers at peaceful gatherings wear masks that make fun of the individuals against whom they protest. Jaggi Singh, an active member of migrant justice organization Solidarity Across Borders, also noted that masks are not worn solely for anonymity. “[Mask-wearers] stand in unity
with other members, many of whom are non-status or illegal people facing deportation orders, who can’t attend demonstrations to express their political views.” Concealment laws already exist in Quebec City and Trois-Rivières, and New York City has had a ban on disguising or masking one’s face in public since 1945.
Unpacking the Jewish cultural identity crisis Some young diaspora Jews have strong cultural and spiritual ties to Israel, making carte blanche criticism challenging Sarina Isenberg News Writer
n light of the recent escalation of violence in Gaza, many members of the Jewish community feel torn between their political views and their cultural identity. Rabbi Leibish Hundert of the Ghetto Shul explained that certain young diaspora Jews feel disconnected from Israel because of the current political and military situation in the Middle East. “There is a moral and ethical dilemma that is facing Israel. This has caused some alienation and some mixed feelings,” Hundert said, adding that few demonstrators at pro-Israel rallies are 100 per cent supportive of Israel’s actions. “There would be a small percentage of people at a pro-Israel rally who would say they are happy with every single thing. People feel a deep unsettledness about the millions of Palestinians who are living a very difficult life.” Dr. Eric Caplan, Chair of the Jewish Studies Department at McGill,
explained that Israel is significant to Judaism for many reasons, one being a cultural connection. “Jewish civilization formed in Israel…. It goes back…to the time of Abraham in 14th or 15th century B.C.E,” said Caplan. “In the two millennia where Jews were in exile, the security of the Jews was often called into question. Jewish life has often been precarious, predating the Holocaust.” Caplan added that in the 60 years since its formation, Israel has accepted a large Jewish population fleeing from persecution. Yael Smiley, Israel Affairs Chair for Hillel McGill, also explained the importance of the country. “It is the one state that will always grant asylum to any Jew at any time,” said Smiley. The spiritual connection to Israel that many Jews feel is very important, said Hundert. “[Israel is] the manifestation of the collective soul of the Jewish people,” he said. “It is a tribal connection [sharing] the same symbols, families, [and] experiences.” Caplan echoed the importance of
Israel to Jews. “A personal connection to Israel is very enriching for Jewish identity,” said Caplan, “and those who do not have it are missing an opportunity.” Smiley pointed out that Israel’s
but more important than criticism is education.” With the recent mass of hate crimes against Jews around the world, it can be challenging for Jewish people to criticize a country
“The thing is that the language of the opposition is so often so total, so completely rejecting, that it creates a survival instinct in people.” Rabbi Leibish Hundert Spiritual leader of Ghetto Shul
controversial military actions can complicate diaspora connections to the country. “I don’t think there is an inherent connection between a cultural bond and support of the military,” said Smiley. “There is room for criticism,
that means so much to their identity. “The thing is that the language of the opposition is so often so total, so completely rejecting, that it creates a survival instinct in people,” Hundert continued.
Caplan drew a distinction between criticizing Israel and attending a proPalestine rally, where some participants may question Israel’s right to exist. “I do not think that [pro-Palestine rallies are] a great venue for someone who believes there should be a state but is merely unhappy with some of its actions.” Caplan also said that non-Jewish critiques of Israel are not necessarily anti-Semitic. “It is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel’s military action as long as the criticism that you give is one that you would apply equally toward all conflicts,” said Caplan. “People are angry at the U.S. for the Iraq war; people are angry at the Sudanese government for the genocide in Darfur, but no one questions the right for these countries to exist. Israel is unique in having its existence questioned when some people have trouble with what it does.” Independent Jewish Voices, Young Jews for Social Justice, and Chabad McGill were unavailable for comment.
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Police shootings connected to racial profiling Deeper legislative structures trigger discrimination at a national level Aquil Virani for The McGill Daily
Lucy Mair and Caitlin Manicom The McGill Daily
recent surge of community groups dedicated to fighting racial profiling and brutality conducted by the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and reinforced by the Montreal Police Brotherhood (MPB) is sending signals that community tolerance is running out. Many have tried to obtain justice for the 2005 and 2008 deaths of two men of visible minorities – Anas Bennis and Freddy Villaneuva – at the hands of Montreal police officers. Some members of both affected communities feel they have yet to recieve restitution.
Three years in waiting On Januray 29, Justice for Anas coalition will organize a display of courtroom solidarity as the Superior Court hears the how the MPB is blocking a coroner’s inquiry into the December 1, 2005 shooting of Anas Bennis, a 25-year-old Canadian of Moroccan origin. According to Samir Shaheen-Hussain, a member of coalition, Bennis was innocently exiting a mosque in Côte-des-Neiges when he was shot. “The day Anas was killed there was extra police presence in CôteDes-Neiges. Officers were there to bust a credit card fraud ring that was thought to have links to terrorism,” said Samir Shaheen-Hussain. “Coming out of a mosque, bearded, and wearing a skullcap and djellabah, Anas was an obvious racial target.” According to police reports, Bennis allegedly tried to attack the police officers with a knife, but no concrete evidence has ever been produced in support of this allegation. In June 2008, Quebec’s chief coroner, Louise Nolet, ordered an inquest to be carried out by Catherine Rudel-Tessier, originally set for September 29, 2008. But a month before it was set to begin, the MPB filed a legal motion to prevent the inquest, arguing that past investigations had made the necessary information public. Bennis’s family remains unsatisfied, and is demanding that all reports and evidence be made public, along with an independent, public inquiry.
of racial discrimination. “This is a clear case of racial profiling,” said Prosper. “Freddy Villanueva wasn’t doing anything wrong, he was just peacefully playing a game of dice with his friends in the park when they were harassed by the police.” In December 2008, the results from the case investigation exonerated both Constable Lapointe and his college Stéphanie Pilotte, declaring that Lapointe legitimately fired his weapon in self-defence. The report, undertaken by prosecutor François Brière on behalf of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), a province-wide police force, was the only document made public, as details from witnesses and other victims remained confidential. With Lapointe acquited, immigrant and refugee collective, No-One is Illegal, and the Coalition Against Police Repression and Abuse questioned the credibility of the investigation. They claimed that the investigation process had not been transparent, as promised by Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis in August.
Public Inquest Acquitted officers Community organizations were highly active following the death of Freddy Villanueva, an 18-year-old shot and killed by Constable JeanLoup Lapointe on August 9, 2008, while playing a game of dice in Montreal North – illegal under a local by-law. A series of protests in the following weeks triggered a sharper police response and more security presence in the area. According to Will Prosper, a spokesperson for Montreal Nord Republik (MNR), an organization formed in response to Villanueva’s death, the incident was another case
While Bennis’s case remains at an impasse, Dupuis has announced a public inquest into Villanueva’s case, slated for February 16. The inquiry will only provide details on the circumstances that led to Villaneuva’s death and make recommendations on how future incidents may be avoided. Yet Prosper was excited about the rare opportunity to look at issues like racial profiling. “The public inquiry that will be held in February is a big step for us; it is the first time in 24 years that a public inquest has been granted,” he said.
According to his mandate, the Quebec Court judge presiding over the inquest, Robert Sansfaçon, will not be able to press charges. “The police are not going to admit that racial profiling exists, but all you need to do is look at the community and how it is affected to know that it exists,” said Prosper. He explained that one of the greatest challenges that organizations like MNR face is bringing the accountable police officers to justice.
Deeper trends While the deaths of Anas and Villanueva have received the most media attention, Montreal police have killed a total of 43 people since 1987, according to No One is Illegal, and allegedly mistreated hundreds more. An International Woman’s Day demonstration in March of last year was violently broken up by police and other cases have been decried by groups such as the Black Community Association of Côte-desNeiges, and Kabataang Montreal, a Filipino youth activist group part of the Canadian-Filipino Youth Alliance. Canada’s immigration legislature is also a source of contention, as some argue it has been used to target Muslims. After an earlier Security Certificate law was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, a new law, Bill C-3, was passed in 2008, allowing the Canadian government to detain or deport non-citizens without granting them an official charge or trial. There are currently five Arab men – four of whom are refugees to Canada– being held under security certificates. This practice directly violates an official statement on racial profiling published by the Commision des droits de la personne et de la jeu-
nesse, which reads “it is particularly pertinent to consider racial profiling in the policies of a nation that is deeply concerned with anti-terrorist legislature.” According to Shaheen-Hussain, these two separate issues point to larger racist structures at work in Canadian society. “They stem from the same fountainhead of racial intolerance, xenophobia, and Islamophobia,” said Shaheen-Hussain . “ One, the security certificate law, is legislated while the other evokes popular institutionalization of the same racist perceptions that inform a legislated process. Two white men firing on a young Muslim man coming out of a mosque – it is hard to see this as anything but racist.” Prosper added that the larger issue of racial profiling in Montreal was often ignored by the government, even though it’s recognized as an infringement of the right to equality under both the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights. “In Montreal Nord, 40 per cent of families live below the poverty line, the unemployment rate of 16-24 -year-olds has grown by 61 per cent in the last couple of years, but the city isn’t doing anything to address these problems,” said Prosper. He criticized knee-jerk reactions to crime that resulted in an increase in police presence in certain neighbourhoods.
Institutionalizing street safety In 2008, an increased police presence was institutionalized when Montreal police introduced the new ÉCLIPSE squad – a special team of police officers primarily designated to combat street gang violence. According to Neil Castro, Secretary General of Kabataang, add-
ing more gun-wielding officers to the streets has no positive impact on the lives of citizens. “Instead of addressing the cultural needs, economic marginalization, and community issues that are driving young people onto the streets, the authorities just increase the police presence in the struggling neighbourhoods,” Castro said. “[It] causes direct and indirect harassment, random checks, and cases of actual brutality.” Castro emphasized that these interactions are biased against youth. “This kind of harassment and discrimination seriously affects its victims and it criminalizes our youth, especially those who are struggling to adjust to a new society and often have problems in education, with their families, the immigration process, and financial difficulties,” said Castro. François du Canal, a spokesperson for the Collective Against Police Brutality (COBP) – a group that has mobilized various community groups, demonstrations, and awareness campaigns – explained that COBP is careful to identify various types of cultural profiling according to ethnicity and class. “In the downtown area there is serious social profiling and cleansing. The police try to remove street people by giving them tons of tickets and, if they don’t comply, they are beaten,” Canal said, adding that political profiling of punks or anticapitalist activists also comes into effect. “The first thing to combatting police brutality and cultural profiling is to know your rights,” Canal said. “The police and the state comprise a very large system– if we fight as a collective we are stronger.”
University of Ottawa
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LEADERSHIP TRAINING PROGRAM
Leadership Skills Development Workshops
attn: ALL COPY EDITERS elections are scheduled for February 9+10.
If you are a student involved in campus activities as an executive, organizer or event planner, you qualify for the Leadership Training Programâ€™s FREE Skills Development Workshops. Develop and build your leadership skills. Attend a minimum of five workshops throughout 08/09 academic year and receive a certificate of completion. Upcoming Workshops:
Troubleshooting Communication Breakdowns Thursday, January 29, 5:30-7:30pm Become a better communicator and leader by making the messages you send and receive clearer. Youâ€™ll see the difference it makes in your volunteer positions and in your career!
Passing the Torch: Succession Planning
applications are due by midnight February 6.
Tuesday, February 3, 5:30-7:30pm Make sure next yearâ€™s executives donâ€™t have to start from square one! Plan, prepare and organize yourselves so that next yearâ€™s members will be able to learn from your experiences. Registration for workshops: In person, one week in advance, on a first-come, first-served basis, in the First-Year Office. For more info, drop by the First-Year Office in the Brown Building, Suite 2100, or call 514-398-6913
reasons to visit mcgilldaily.com:
a) read all those nifty blogs b) itâ€™s got extra audio content c) comments are plentiful d) all of the above
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Giuseppe Valiante CUP Quebec Bureau Chief
n open letter to Governor General Michaëlle Jean signed by 35 academic constitutional experts is calling on Her Excellency to request that the leader of the opposition form a government should Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative minority be defeated in a vote of confidence. Citing displays from a majority of Members of Parliament to support a government led by the Official Leader of the Opposition that began last December and continue today, the experts recommend that the Queen’s representative take action. “It is our opinion that in the event of a non-confidence vote or a request for dissolution of Parliament after only 13 sitting days of the House of Commons, the Governor General would be well-advised to call the leader of the opposition to
attempt to form a government,” read the letter. Three of the signatories met at a Université de Montreal (U de M) panel last week to discuss the events that led up to Jean’s prorogation of Parliament at Harper’s request on December 4, since he was facing a vote on a non-confidence motion over the country’s economic strategy. All three francophone panelists agreed that Harper’s actions lacked legitimacy, and their arguments offered a glimpse into the psyche of Quebec society, which, according to polls, favoured a coalition government more than any other province. Stéphane Beaulac, UdeM law professor, said Harper’s decision to ask for a prorogation of Parliament was an “abuse of procedure,” because it effectively closed what he called the most democratic of our institutions. “He did indirectly what he couldn’t directly do: hold on to power,” said
Administrators, students present sustainable food programs Will Vanderbilt The McGill Daily
he recently formed McGill Food Systems Project (MFSP) presented its mandate Thursday at a meeting that also included a presentation by McGill Food and Dining services of its sustainability projects. The MFSP aims to unite disparate campus research in order to maximize the ecological, social, and economic sustainability of McGill’s food systems, according to Dana Lahey, one of the group’s organizers. “We’re trying to engage the McGill community, get research done on campus, and help that research drive change,” Lahey said. Lahey lamented that much student research never makes it out of the classroom. He hoped that the MFSP can bridge the gap between classes like “social context of business” and campus decision-makers. “With a structure like this we can help fit all of the little pieces together,” he said. “If we can get research done through classes that are already happening, then we can put that information together and make concrete recommendations for changing things.” At the meeting, Bill Pageau, director of McGill Food and Dining Services also highlighted his “Martlet social respon-
sibility” program, which includes multiple sustainability projects. Pageau pointed to successful initiatives, such as the adoption of fair trade coffee in most outlets and the implementation of a wet waste filtration system, as examples of sustainable solutions that succeeded because they were supported by strong economic drivers. “I think that the ends have to justify the means when we’re looking at the environment,” Pageau said. “When asked, students support the environmental initiatives, but when asked if they’ll support them financially, the support isn’t there.” Pageau also heralded the success of the McGill Farmer’s market, making note of the abnormally fast pace at which the project cleared regulatory hurdles with the administration. “It really showed for once how administrators and student groups can really work together to achieve a common goal,” he said. In closing, Pageau suggested that students get involved in groups such as the MFSP and the McGill University Student Dining Advisory Committee, and take an active role in bringing sustainable change. “People have to legislate less and participate more,” he said. Contact the MFSP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
North East West South Write for us. Email email@example.com
Beaulac. Worse, Beaulac said, was that instead of using his authority during this parliamentary hiatus to preside over a “caretaker government” that wouldn’t make any serious decisions, Harper decided to appoint 18 senators and confirm a Supreme Court judge. Beaulac worried that by granting Harper a prorogation without publicizing her rationale, the Governor General set a precedent binding all Governor Generals to the word of the Prime Minister, when constitutionally this isn’t the case, something panelist Hugo Cyr, a law professor at Université de Québec à Montreal, agreed with. “Without a majority support, he has absolutely no authority to govern, because the people of this country didn’t vote for him directly,” said Cyr, adding that the Conservatives cannot consider the results of last election as a “win.” “Harper has to look at it as if he
now has the right to try and get the support of Parliament,” he said. The third panelist, Maxime St-Hilaire, who is pursuing his PhD in law at the University of Laval, compared Canada’s system with other parliamentary and semi-presidential systems in Europe. St-Hilaire described what he considers the ideal parliamentary system – one in which Parliament would govern, the head of state would be apolitical and have the sole authority to dissolve Parliament according to clearly defined rules. The panelists all expressed hope the Governor General’s reasoning will be made public when she opens the second session of the 40th Parliament today at 1:30 p.m with a Speech from the Throne. The budget will be introduced Tuesday, but any votes on the budget or the reply to the throne speech, which will be confidence motions, will likely not take place until next week at the earliest.
Firing deals another blow to First Nations University Censure on FNU makes collaboration with Canadian professors impossible Taylor Bendig The Carillon (CUP)
irst Nations University of Canada (FNU) students are calling the unexplained January 7 firing of their Vice President of Academics the last straw in the institution’s troubled administrative history. “[VP Academics] Dr. Shauneen Pete’s firing is basically the last we can take,” said Thomas Roussin, the FNU Students’ Association’s (FNSA) VP Communications. “It seems like we’re firing the most visible leader at our university. The students feel alone now. We don’t know what to do; we lost our beacon of hope,” he said. Roussin says Pete wrote her PhD – the only one held by FNU’s senior administration – in aboriginal higher education policy, making her a role model for students. No official reason has been given for Pete’s dismissal, and Roussin says he can’t speculate publicly on the issue. While FNU’s communications department did not reply to the Carillon’s interview requests, university sources have previously declined to discuss the firing, calling it a matter of privacy. Pete herself, who has since stopped speaking to media, told CBC News on January 9 that her dismissal was unsurprising given the high degree of tension between her and the FNU administration during her 18-month tenure.
“I came in, I sat down. [FNU President Charles Pratt] said: ‘This isn’t working. You are terminated without cause,’” she told CBC News. Pete’s firing is the latest in a long line of controversial departures of FNU staff and faculty. According to information gathered by the University of Regina Women’s Studies Department, over one-third of the school’s faculty, and roughly half of the its support and administrative staff – including one president, two vice presidents, and two deans – have resigned, retired, or been dismissed since 2005. Staffing problems are not the only difficulty the university has faced recently. On December 1, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) censured FNU because of its “ongoing failure to resolve the serious problems with the governance of the university,” according to a CAUT press release. “In most cases, university and college administrations...look for ways to resolve problems before censure is imposed,” said CAUT Executive Director James Turk. “Unfortunately, while the FNU administration and board were given every opportunity, they refused to show any serious willingness to address the concerns.” The censure – the first imposed since 1979 – means that academic staff, especially CAUT’s 60,000 plus members, will be asked not to accept jobs or speaking engagements at FNU, or to attend conferences that it hosts.
WHAT’S THE HAPS
Law profs mull over constitution
Cinema Politica Tuesday, January 27, 8 p.m. Arts W-215, 853 Sherbrooke 0. Cinema Politica is screening Manda Bala (Send a Bullet), a documentary that examines corruption, class warfare, and frog farming in Brazil. PGSS Green Month drinks gettogether Tuesday, January 27, 5 p.m. Thomson House Restaurant, 3650 McTavish Lynn Miller, cofounder of Le Nichoir, will speak on “Wild Bird Rehabilitation.” Free Refreshments. PGSS Green Month Thursday, January 29, 4:30 p.m. Macdonald College Room R3-048 Sevag Pogharian will give a talk on “The Net Zero Energy House,” followed by a talk by Jonathan Bruderlein and Isabelle Larocque on “Toward a Net-Zero Energy Lifestyle: Integrating Home-Scale Food Production.” All are welcome. McGill Business Conference Sustainability Fair Friday, January 30, 3-5 p.m. Shatner Ballroom, 3480 McTavish Student groups from all universities are welcome to setup a table free of charge, at this event hosted by the McGill Business Conference on Sustainability. This is a great opportunity to gain exposure for your club or group, as the fair will be open to all members of the public. SynesthASIA Saturday, January 31, 10:30 p.m. Metropolis, 59 Ste. Catherine E. SynesthASIA is a contemporary fusion of artistic Asian influences and fashion, showcasing local designers, performers, and models. Tickets will be sold through Friday in the Bronfman Lobby, $16 in advance, $30 for VIP (reserved best seats + gift bag). All proceeds go toward helping the Ashraya Initiative for Children purchase a permanent home for street children in Pune, India. Submit to the Women’s Study Interdisciplinary Journal! Academic submissions should be six to 15 pages, related (but not limited to) gender, sexuality, race, class mobility. Include the course name and number, and on a separate paper, the grade you received. Creative submissions should be four to 15 pages, while poems should not exceed six. Format can include photography, paintings and digital art. E-mail wisij.mcgill@ gmail.com, or bring a hard copy to the McGill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women, on the second floor of 3487 Peel. The deadline is Monday, February 9. Send not-for-profit haps to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Re: January 15 issue
I doubt The Daily would ever put a picture of an Israeli flag on the cover or have a two-page foldout on the Israeli side of the conflict, and truthfully, that saddens me. Vicky Tobianah “Tell me more, tell me more”
Censorship a sign of desperation? Re: Human rights, genocide, and the children of Hamas | Commentary | January 22 Attending the January 14 lecture by Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper, I learned that McGill authorities had only hours before suddenly threatened to ban the talk unless organisers paid for extra security guards. This, after Halper’s scheduled speech of the following day had to be moved elsewhere when the original venue – the Jewish Gelber Centre – abruptly shut its doors. What gives? True, Jeff Halper is a harsh critic of Israel. He lambasts its fourdecadelong policy of West Bank settlement expansion, deliberately designed to thwart the creation of that Palestinian state Israel likes to claim it supports. He documents the transformation of Gaza into a vast and caged laboratory, where Israel can with total impunity test the latest counter-insurgency tools on a captive population of 1.5-million human guinea pigs. He exposes the charade of Israeli “democracy,” where Arab political parties must sign pledges to uphold the Jewish character of the state, and can still be arbitrarily disqualified – as two of them recently were. This is indeed a damning indictment, but no harsher than the customary denunciations by the now-revered prophets and visionar-
A brief history of Sderot, formerly known as Najd Re: Human rights, genocide, and the children of Hamas | Commentary | January 22 Perhaps had you revisited a bit of the history of Sderot in your article, it would have had a very different tone, and possibly you would have learned a thing or two about human rights law, and last but not least, why individuals choose to defend the human rights of Gazans. The city of Sderot has only existed since 1951. What was it before that? Well, it was an Arab village known as Najd. A village that on May 3, 1948 was bombarded and occupied by Jewish soldiers of the Negev Brigade. The inhabitants were all expelled from their village while it was being demolished, and eventually flattened beyond any recognition. The former residents, now refugees, escaped to Gaza, and now there they remain 60 years later, only to have their new homes flattened. Perhaps had you visited Sderot on May 3, 1948, or Najd as it was known then, you would see this a bit differently.
ies of Biblical times who vociferously decried their people’s transgressions – and who were consequently exiled by the official temple priesthood whose role was to serve the established order while safeguarding their own privileged positions. Unable to banish dissidents to the desert, contemporary state apologists today resort to censorship and smears. With clockwork predictability, the Zionist lobby group named “Canadian Institute for Jewish Research” accused Halper of wanting Israel’s “annihilation” in a letter prominantly displayed by its ideological soulmate, the Asper-owned Montreal Gazette. How sad that the self-anointed “leaders” of today’s organized Jewish community choose to assume the role of temple priests, rather than emulate the far nobler prophetic spirit of Judaism. History will judge these commissars with the contempt they deserve. They are as distant in spirit to that prophetic tradition as they are in chronological time. Israel’s stomach-turning carnage in Gaza has provoked unprecedented public outrage. Could the frantic surge by Israel-worshippers of their intimidation campaign perhaps reflect their growing realization that the emperor not only stands naked, but increasingly ugly as well? Shirley Groves 281 Westcroft, Beaconsfield
UN Resolution 194 and Article 13 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights gives Palestinians the right to choose to return to their towns and villages, most of which were demolished, or receive compensation for their destroyed properties. The current blockade of the Gaza Strip violates international law, as well as human rights law, and is in violation of UN Resolution 194, as well as Article 13 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It is for this reason that “individuals profess to be defending the human rights of Gazans.” It is still possible for one to profess to be defending the human rights of Gazans while not abiding by or supporting the principles espoused by groups such as Hamas. One can, if they choose, support human rights, because they recognize that regardless of race, religion, or creed, human rights must be upheld for all. Nadim Roberts U3 Political Science
Evan Newton / The McGill Daily
I want my bottled water
Tell me more, tell me more Re: January 15 issue
McGill Residence Food Services has stopped including bottled water as part of its bag lunch and dinner options, making a vague claim to greenness. Oh, please! Your mandate is to provide a service for the gazillion dollars McGill charges for residence meal plans, and the least you could do is to not make it increasingly less convenient for students so McGill can earn PR brownies. First of all, those bottles are polyethylene terephthalate, which is completely recyclable. It’s literally the archetype for recyclable plastics, bearing the recycling number “1.” And this province does recycle up to 70 per cent of its bottles. We don’t drink bottled water as an alternative to tap water, but more as an alternative to any other liquid that would be simple to carry into a class. That would be the endless cans of pop that have now become the dominant drink for the bag meal user. Tell me, how is this healthier for caf students than plain old water – and isn’t our health one of your stated primary concerns? (A secondary concern being, by the way, choices.) Instead of plain old water in a recyclable plastic bottle, you’re encouraging us to drink carbonated drinks in a recyclable aluminium can. I don’t see what major planetsaving this is doing. Do the decent thing. Bring the water back. Manosij Majumdar U2 Chemical Engineering
The McGill Daily has been “printing the whole picture since 1911.” It’s a shame they had to end this custom in 2009. When I saw the front page of The Daily this week, I felt disgusted by my so-called non-biased educational institute. I had prided myself in believing that McGill was a place of learning and not a place for political propaganda. It’s a shame that I can no longer hold these beliefs. I have no problem whatsoever with The Daily printing articles on the recent anti-Israel rallies nor on the situation in Gaza. However, they could have easily balanced these articles and vivid pictures with information from the other side as well. I doubt The Daily would ever put a picture of an Israeli flag on the cover or have a two-page foldout on the Israeli side of the conflict, and truthfully, that saddens me. When an educational institute picks a political side, I begin to question the education I am receiving and those that are in control of my education. What else is it that they are not telling me?
Come on, we all know that’s ridiguluss Re: “Smashing one piñata at a time” | Commentary | January 15 I’m a regular Daily reader, so by this point I’m pretty desensitized to the extremes of political sentiment present in its pages. But I have to ask Mr. Sprague one thing: was he being serious? When examining the idea of bringing a lasting peace to the Holy Land, does he really believe that a revolution of the proletariat in Israel is the answer? I hope this was satire. I know this is The Daily, but seriously, we all know that’s one of the most laughable things ever said about the Middle East. Jeff Vavasour-Williams U2 History & Religious Studies
Vicky Tobianah U1 Political Science and English Literature Daily contributor
Send letters from your McGill email to email@example.com, and tell us your year and program. The Daily does not print letters are racist, sexist, homophobic, sexist, or otherwise hateful. Basically, we accept all non-hateful letters, especially ones from U2 Chemical Engineering students still eating at Rez.
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Bad breath treatment sparks answers Probiotics more complicated than previously understood Rebecca Tebrake The Ubyssey (CUP)
Sally Lin / The McGill Daily
Inequities in med school Canadian aboriginals and rural people under-represented: report Alexander Mehta Sci+Tech Writer
boriginal people and people born into rural communities are under-represented in Canadian medical schools, finds a report published by the Canadian Council on Learning. The paper cites the results of a 2001 survey which found that only 10.8 per cent of firstyear medical students were from rural areas despite the fact that 22.4 per cent of the country’s population lives in rural areas. Among aboriginal people, the under-representation appears to be even more pronounced. While aboriginal people make up 4.5 percent of the population, only 0.7 per cent of the survey’s respondents identified themselves as such. For rural aboriginals, who account for half of all Canadian aboriginals, enrollment numbers are even lower, with only one-third of all aboriginal medical students being from rural areas. The report draws a connection between under-representation in Canadian medical schools, and the severe healthcare crises faced by Canada’s rural and aboriginal communities. According to the report, under-representation of these communities is particularly detrimental, as patients treated by a physician from a similar background are more likely to heed prevention advice, comply with treatment recommendations, and seek medical care. Though the report does not delve into reasons for aboriginal underrepresentation in Canadian medical schools, Ronald Niezen, a profes-
sor of Anthropology at McGill who has worked on public health issues among the Cree of Northern Quebec and Manitoba, suggests that it may be a product of marginalization and lack of professional role models “I know from talking to young people, if you say, ‘How do you imagine yourself in the future?’ you won’t very often get people saying, ‘I see myself doing this professional degree,’” Niezen said. “It simply doesn’t occur to people because there are so many obstacles, and it’s also that it isn’t something that is encouraged as a life ambition.” What might be done to help correct for these social inequalities? Research out of Australia has shown that building medical schools with a focus on medicine in rural communities is a promising possibility. A Canadian example of such a school is the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), founded in 2005. The school has campuses in Thunder Bay and Sudbury, as well as a number of research and teaching centers in more remote locations. Dr. Roger Strasser, the school’s founding Dean, discussed how NOSM is helping to correct inequalities through its curricula. “The academic programs that we put in place, particularly the education training programs, are based on research evidence that shows that the three factors most strongly associated with going into rural practice after training are, first of all, a rural background. Second, positive clinical and educational experiences in the rural setting as part of the undergraduate education program. Third, is training at the postgraduate level, in the
residency program, that prepares the residents to practice in rural areas,” Strasser said. NOSM also has a selection and admissions process that favours applicants who come from Northern Ontario or from northern, rural, remote, aboriginal, or francophone communities elsewhere, and maintains academic standards similar to those required for admission to other Canadian medical schools. Initiatives at other Canadian universities to encourage rural and aboriginal student enrollment include programs that help students cope with the culture shock of moving from a small, close-knit community to an urban centre. Other solutions proposed in the paper include modifying certain admissions criteria for rural and aboriginal students, and supporting programs aimed at encouraging elementary school students to pursue careers in healthcare. Neizen mentioned, however, that though there may not be large numbers of aboriginal students in medical schools, many people do practice traditional medicine. “We shouldn’t look at education narrowly either, or professional qualifications, or healing, because there are very effective healers that I have met in aboriginal communities who are not professionals,” he said. “Where they excel is in counselling and spiritual practices and working with people through addiction problems. And, that [traditional practice] is something that some people do see themselves doing quite clearly, and do it effectively in practice.”
team of researchers at the University of British Columbia has begun to answer one of the most pressing questions in the study of human immunity by analyzing a probiotic cure for bad breath. “How come we are absolutely full of bacteria, but somehow we manage to recognize bad bugs, kill them, and prevent them from infecting us?” asked Professor Robert Hancock, director of the Centre for Microbial Diseases and Immunity Research. In search of the answer, Hancock’s team launched a two-year study on a probiotic called BLIS K-12, which is used in lozenges to treat bad breath. Probiotics are live micro-organisms containing potentially beneficial bacteria or yeasts. Common uses of different probiotics include managing lactose intolerance, calming upset stomachs, treating irritable bowel syndrome, and preventing bad breath. The team chose to study BLIS K-12 because it has been used extensively on human subjects in health food studies and is widely available online for consumer use. Their findings challenged the conventional belief about how probiotics provide immunity. “It was thought that if a good bug binds to your tissues, the bad bugs can’t bind. That was the simple idea of probiotics,” said Hancock. “It was basically . . .competition.” Bad bacteria contain surface molecules that cause inflammation, which
is the cause of pain and discomfort. The study revealed BLIS’s effectiveness was based on more than simple competition. BLIS actually produces aggressive peptides, which Hancock describes as “killing agents.” Moreover, although it shares some of the same disruptive molecules as bad bacteria, it can also suppress inflammation. Basically, its innate inflammatory molecules are neutralized, and this allows BLIS to fight bad bacteria without causing harm. Hancock calls this process immune modulation. It explains, in part, why bacteria can be used to treat pathogenic bacteria and avoid causing inflammation and pain – what Hancock called “tipping the apple cart.” The implications of this discovery reach far beyond bad breath. “It provides a scientific basis for the use of probiotics for treating painful conditions,” said Hancock. “Having said that, this has to be studied for the specific probiotic people utilize.” It also provides clarification for consumers considering using BLIS K–12. Frutarom USA, the sole distributor of BLIS K–12, has taken the opportunity to share this new data with existing and potential consumers through a press release. Hancock noted that the research was not funded by Frutarom or done as part of a commercial project. Rather, it was an academic collaboration with researchers at the University of Leeds and the University of Otago. “We weren’t interested, to tell the truth, in whether [BLIS K–12] works against bad breath,” said Hancock. “We were interested in the question of why this bacteria can be introduced in mass quantities without tipping the apple cart.”
Are you excited for Darwin’s 200th Birthday? Me too. Write for Sci+Tech. Please? Email scitech@ mcgilldaily.com.
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Nadja Popovich / The McGill Daily
A you-centric search Nadja Popovich The McGill Daily
oogle has dominated the world of Internet searching for a while now. It has become so ubiquitous that it is no longer just the name of a search engine, but a full-fledged verb in its own right; when was the last time someone asked you to “Yahoo” a term, or, better yet, to “Rushmore Drive” it? Though most of us are probably unfamiliar with web sites such as Rushmore Drive – a black-centric search engine started in April of 2008 – such identity-specific searching is slowly carving its own niche in the wide world of the world wide web, and looking to challenge Google’s hegemony. According to Kevin McFall, representative for Rushmore Drive and Vice President of products for its parent company, Black Web Enterprises, Rushmore Drive provides search results that are more relevant to the black community by blending mainstream searching with a heavier weighting on historically black-selected URLs. The web site also includes a black-centric job-search engine, as well as a social networking application. Dr. Vivek Venkatesh, assistant professor of educational technology
at Concordia University, whose work focuses on the shift from algorithmbased searches to more humanized forms of information gathering on the web, sees the development of identity-specific web searching as a natural course for Internet searching to take. “I think it’s a natural progression or an evolutionary progression of how people are reacting to the growth of the Internet,” Venkatesh said. According to Venkatesh, the impetus for more personalized search engines – whether geared toward a specific racial, ethnic, or personalinterest group – comes from a need to aggregate the information most pertinent to a group with particular searching preferences in the evergrowing field of information that is the Internet. “Regardless of why people are searching…I think that [they] are looking to find more efficient results as quickly as possible,” Venkatesh noted.
ne criticism levied against race- or identity-specific search engines is that they have the potential to be divisive, undermining the idea of the Internet as a differenceeliminating, unifying force – one that allows users to remain anonymous from their racial, ethnic, or group affiliations.
McFall rebutted this divisive take on identity-specific search engines. He noted that the Internet may be unifying in its basic nature, but that it is also quite fragmented – it does not necessarily fulfill the promise of immediate access to information for all groups. Rushmore Drive fills the needs of a niche audience who may be looking for different results than the average search engine, like Google, might provide. “What [Rushmore Drive] does, is that it helps people who are specifically looking for a black perspective understand what the black experience is about,” McFall said. “You don’t have to be black to use Rushmore Drive; you can be any nationality [and use it] if you want to gain that additional perspective.” While Rushmore Drive allows a specific cultural community to sift through the burgeoning landscape of the Internet more efficiently, McFall contended that it does not bias its results in a way which excludes other important information. Instead, Rushmore Drive looks to unify a black perspective with a mainstream one. “It provides a bit of a laser focus. We provide a very vertical experience for people trying to access information, [just like any interest or identity-based search option]. The example I like to use is that if you’re a fan of baseball,
you’re probably going to go to mlb. com to get your information about baseball,” McFall said, implying that if you’re looking for a black perspective, you’ll go to Rushmore Drive.
hough Rushmore Drive seems to be the most prominent example, many other niche-market search engines are available to address the needs of diverse groups – whether they are defined by race, nationality, interest, or any other unifying traits. Ask.com, partner company to Rushmore Drive, has recently launched Nascar.com, a new – you guessed it – Nascar-based search engine geared toward those interested specifically in all things Nascar. Closer to home, there’s Canuckster. com, a Canadian-centric search site. For Vinkatesh, the key issue of more personalized searching is selfidentification. The goal is to make finding information relevant to each individual’s identity as efficient as possible. “I identify a lot more with my hobbies; they define me more than my race [does]. So, hobby-specific searches are more necessary for me. But this isn’t the case for everyone,” Vinkatesh said. “[Where you search] really depends on the individual – how they self-identify and what they need from their searches.”
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
We the people
Waiting for the groundswell The Daily’s Braden Goyette asks why today’s students are apathetic, and considers the motivations for political action on campus
t’s been over 40 years since the student movement’s 1960s heyday, and the image of a small core of student activists fighting ever-increasing apathy on our campuses has started to become a well-worn cliché. Why are students apathetic in the first place? For a number of reasons – out of distrust for ideology, a lack of incentive to follow politics, a high sense of risk, and a low sense of urgency. The stakes either seem too low – particularly in a country as developed and relatively prosperous as Canada – or too high to begin to tackle, in the case of larger structural issues or international trends. We’re in debt and have to focus on positioning ourselves to get jobs, at a time when most job markets are looking disconcertingly unpromising. Perhaps most significantly, the individual issues around which student activists rally often don’t seem like such a big deal on their own, out of context of the underlying, systematic problems that connect them.
A generational question The federal and provincial elections raised little excitement among students at McGill, with low turn-outs at both Gert’s on election night and minimal attendance at a meet-andgreet with representatives from the provincial parties at Thomson House – unsurprising outcomes, given the low voter participation among Canadian youth in recent years. It’s reflective of a trend that doesn’t bode well for the nation as a whole, according to Ilona Dougherty. She is one of the founding members of Apathy is Boring, a Montreal-based non-partisan organization that tries to get young people more involved in the democratic process, making use of art, concerts, and social events to attract those who wouldn’t otherwise be politically inclined. If young people don’t get politically involved when they’re 18, it’s increasingly unlikely that they’ll become involved later on in life. “In Canada we’re looking at 36 per cent of the country voting in 20 years,” Dougherty says. “So that’s something to really think about and get concerned about.” Apathy is Boring, founded in 2004, conducted research into potential reasons for student apathy. “I think there are a lot of different reasons, and it’s pretty complex,” Dougherty says. They found that individuals worry their contribution to the political process doesn’t make a difference, sometimes because the political process is too large and bureaucratic for their efforts to register, and that it will carry on
regardless of their input. “Part of it is generational,” she says. “Our generation hasn’t thus far really understood why it’s important to get involved in traditional decision making.” Students are even more skeptical about more direct forms of voicing their concerns outside of the traditional democratic process. Patrick Imbeau, a sociology Master’s student at Université Laurentienne in Sudbury, Ontario, noticed palpable distrust among students of protest as a political tool. “It’s seen as rebellious and really radical; it’s portrayed as being really left-wing, like the brick-throwers at protests.” It’s also difficult to get students to identify with the movement. “[They’re] frustrated about social issues, but feel like the idea of the student movement is exterior to them,” Imbeau notes. So what happened to the sixties – those romanticized images of school occupations in France, of real, collective action? Jean-Marc Piotte, professor emeritus in Political Science at l’Université du Québec à Montréal, was active in the Quebec student movement since the time of the Quiet Revolution, and continued to be involved in union activism long after graduation. He contends that it was easier to rally an earlier generation in Quebec because everyone’s attention was concentrated on just a few media outlets, and this did, for better or for worse, make for a more collective experience. Everyone watched the same few TV channels, heard about the same news events, read the same journals. The society was restricted enough then, in large part under the oppressive influence of the Catholic Church, that being exposed to outside thought could cause a substantial youth reaction. When Piotte and a few of his compatriots founded the radical publication Parti pris in 1963, conditions were right for it to amass a large following. Today, our attention is more diffused. Our generation is also more individualistic – though not necessarily in the sense of egotism, as Piotte said in a plenary discussion at a unionist’s conference in 2003, now transcribed online. We conceive of ourselves differently than members of his generation did, in part as a result of the battles for personal freedoms that they fought. When Piotte was young, people were often defined by the neighbourhood they came from and who their family was. Today identity is seen more as something you assert as you go along, through all the particular choices that make up your life – especially con-
sumer choices. In 1994, Paul Loeb published Generation at the Crossroads, the culmination of several years’ worth of interviews with students at colleges around the U.S. about their attitudes on politics and civic engagement. For many of the students he interviewed, not seeing themselves as fitting a certain activist “type” – something they associated with images of hippies from the sixties – barred them from taking the idea of participating in something like a demonstration seriously.
The two solitudes and cultural memory There’s a common perception that Quebeckers are more politically active than their English-Canadian counterparts. Imbeau took on this assumption in his thesis on the perceived lack of student political involvement in his province. “I’ve been working in the student movement for the last six years in Ontario, and it’s always been frustrating when I look over to Quebec and see students on strike or the large-scale protests that’ve been going on, and then looking in Ontario and not seeing anything remotely similar,” he says. Dougherty observes a similar trend. “I think when you are a ‘minority’ in Canada the reality is that there’s more of a sense of something to fight for.... It’s a cultural thing,” she explained. During his Master’s research, Imbeau interviewed a man from a school in southern Ontario who said to him, “It’s hard to fight the man when you’re the man.” “He explained that franco-Ontarians are taught to fight for the survival of their heritage and language from a young age,” Imbeau wrote in an email, “where they’ve had a constant reminder that protesting and fighting for the franco-Ontarian community can get results.” McGill, in particular, has a track record for low student engagement in politics. “Effectively, McGill is the least militant of the [universities in Montreal],” Piotte says, “and that was also true in the sixties and seventies.” In part, it’s because a lot of McGill students don’t have much invested in the surrounding community. Fred Burrill, a U3 History student participating in the McGill class on student movements, points out that the low tuition fees in Quebec can create a student experience that’s structured differently, leaving more room for university to develop into a politically-engaged experience. Students often take much longer to
finish degrees than those paying higher tuition fees. “They take a few courses and then work for a few years; they get the opportunity to develop political sensibilities, develop a sense of how to organize. It’s a completely different sensibility,” he says. Given the province’s recent history – even reaching as far back as the Quiet Revolution – student strikes remain fresh in the collective consciousness as effective means of weighing in politically. Most recently, the 2005 strike sent the message to the government that if it wants to make cuts indiscriminately, there will be a backlash – students will abandon their classes, make a lot of noise, take to the streets, and keep commerce from happening until student voices are heard. “It was kind of like a lightbulb moment,” Devin Alfaro, SSMU VP External Affairs says. “A lot of people saw students becoming relevant political actors and shaping the discussion and pushing the discussion.”
Tips of the iceberg But why does the student movement focus in on campus in particular? Why the focus on tuition, and not on broader issues? It’s not necessarily that a university campus is special as a location, but more that it’s the community we’re part of right now, and the most immediate entry point from which to address larger trends. Alfaro describes the recent Reclaim Your Campus (RYC) initiative as a local campaign that addressed manifestations of broader issues found close to home. “There’s the broader Canada-wide, Quebecwide context of lack of investment in public institutions, that’s the fundamental problem. In the mid-nineties the federal government decided it was going to cut taxes, balance the budget, and pay down the national debt at the same time...so they started giving less money to the provinces for education, giving less money to the provinces for healthcare. They also did other things at the same time; they tightened up the employment insurance system,” Alfaro explains. The lack of funding for public institutions – and the resulting increased corporatization of institutions of higher learning – come to bear on campus in the form of seemingly isolated phenomena, from increasingly privatized food services to crumbling buildings and strained labour relations. “Most of the food services on campuses were
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
at one point run by student groups, and now because McGill is underfunded, they’ve decided they’re going to extract as much money out of campus as possible, and that’s one way to do it,” Alfaro explains. Because they’re underfunded, “one of their strategies is to push down the costs as far as possible,” leading to more aggressive dealings with students and staff. “Anything that happens that could possibly cause them more money, they’ll fight, even if it means pushing students around or damaging the quality of education.” These are the kind of events that RYC was trying to rally students around, before it got temporarily shelved toward the end of last semester due to lack of student participation. Protests on campus can be a means of letting the administration know that students are paying attention to these changes. “Reclaim Your Campus is mostly focused on the local level – the McGill admin needs to know people are noticing these problems and that there will be a push-back,” Alfaro asserts.
Too much ideology, not enough vision? Student groups have also had trouble recruiting broad support bases like they did in 2005, and this isn’t just the fault of apathetic students. The student movements in both Ontario and Quebec suffer from a general split within their ranks, between lobbying groups and those who want to take more direct forms of action. 2007-2008 was a particularly bad year for the student movement. It was as if “all the nastiness of the student movement [were] coalescing in one semester,” says Burrill, who recently completed an independent study project on the movement in Quebec. A general strike was proposed for the fall and failed, dissolving under the combined strain of police repression, infighting, and the suspected sabotage of general assemblies by young péquistes. Burrill describes how student groups over the past decades have had limited life spans. “The freshness of ideology, related to the specific material circumstance that forms a generation of activists – that wears out. They start talking about consolidating their membership rather than about the movement.” He concluded that the student movement is “really only a solid force in the Quebec left and Quebec society in general when it has a solid consensus around syndicalist tactics.” It’s only once they’ve gotten past infighting that they
can connect with other movements around the province. Piotte cites the lack of a larger vision as a potential problem. “Perhaps what’s missing today is une grande utopie, t’vois?” Piotte speculates. “We need a new utopia, a new vision of the world. Because when you look at the situation [today] – maybe what we’re missing is this vision of a new world.” But it’s hard to believe in, let alone strive for, utopian ideals today, particularly with some knowledge of 20th-century history in mind. “I think what we need today are more paths for action and concrete ideas of what will and won’t work,” says Joël Pedneault, coordinator of the independent study class on student movements at McGill this term. One of the goals of the class is to get a better understanding of which tactics have worked and which haven’t.
Apathy and other myths “I’m not sure it’s steadily getting worse,” Imbeau says. He cites the wave of optimism around Barack Obama’s election campaign this past year. “I don’t think he’s a saint by any means,” he says, “but the whole organization behind him, the rallies for change for whatever else, the idea of hope...I feel a bit less cynical about where we’re heading.” Dougherty agrees. “Charisma can’t help but get people excited and involved, so it’ll be really interesting to see what happens when reality sets in,” she says. The question, for her, is really, “How do we keep that [enthusiasm] going when there’s not a charismatic leader? How do we sustain that and keep it going?” The answer seems to be: by making larger issues relevant to the immediate realities students face. RYC, for its part, still hasn’t been done away with completely, and some of the organizers are optimistic about trying to give it another push. Hariyanto Darmawan, Post-Graduate Students’ Society representative on QPIRG’s board of directors and an active member of RYC, stresses that gaining a broad base of support is a problem of logistics – not one of chronic apathy among students. “I think it’s a myth,” he says. “I think it’s a question of the movement itself being able to become relevant to the day-to-day needs of the students,” Darmawan continues. “To unite all the personal concerns into one mass action. I don’t think it’s apathy. I think it’s a question of the leadership in the movement making it relevant.”
Evan Newton / The McGill Daily
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Honouring francophone McGill An open letter to the Principal regarding her support for the celebration of 40 years of the “Mouvement McGill Français” La Commission des Affaires francophones (CAF)
ear Madame Principal, On March 28, 1969, our downtown campus was home to a demonstration of over 5,000 people seeking to make McGill more sensitive to the fact that it is situated in the heart of Canada’s only francophone province. In many ways, this event acted as a catalyst in making the University more open toward the French language. While the movement may have ultimately envisioned McGill as a francophone institution, in hindsight, its effects were much different. Today, the desire to make McGill a French institution has faded. Improving the place of French, however, remains a central concern. Clearly, many individuals and groups have contributed to making McGill a more bilingual University: the “Mouvement McGill Français” was, however, among the most significant. Shortly after the demonstration in March of 1969, the University took concrete measures to become more bilingual. Starting in the Fall Semester of 1969, the administration sought to implement a quinquennial plan in order to improve the balance of English and French at the University. Among other features, the plan envisioned a fully bilingual administration and that at least 20 per cent of registered students be francophone. Over time, the positive steps taken by the University served many needs of the McGill’s francophone commu-
nity. Today, for example, there is an assistant for Francophone students in the First-Year Office, and language courses are offered for staff who wish to improve their French. Further, anticipated Senate amendments to Article 15 of the Charter of Student Rights will allow students to submit any written work in either English or French, where acquiring proficiency in a language is not the purpose of the course. An additional amendment proposed by Dean Everett, as Chair of the Senate Committee on Student Affairs, would have this article appear on all future course syllabuses. While these are all positive steps, work remains to be done. Bilingualism at McGill still requires nurturing and strengthening. During the December 2006 meeting of Senate, in response to questions concerning the state of French at McGill, Morton Mendelson, the Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning), demonstrated a willingness on the part of the administration to continue to work toward this strengthening. It is comforting to know that the University’s representatives are keenly aware of the importance of strengthening bilingualism. Anything to the contrary would be surprising given that French is a great asset, helping McGill earn prestige on the international level, and featuring in the recruitment of new students and professors. It is also important to be mindful of the fact that McGill is situated in Quebec, where the official language is French and the overwhelming majority of the population is francophone. In light of this, the Commission des
Affaires francophones (CAF) is organising an event in March, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “Mouvement McGill Français.” Through you, we would like to engage the administration in a constructive dialogue on the place of French at McGill. The celebration will be an ideal moment to recognize the improvements already made at McGill, as well as an opportunity to renew our commitment in support of bilingualism. Your presence, therefore, is of utmost importance and will be interpreted by many as a concrete gesture of partnership for a stronger McGill. Ultimately, our central goal is to commemorate a movement that had positive effects for McGill and its community. Madame Principal, we ask you to respond to the following questions in order for us to better understand your position on this topic: First, in light of the positive consequences that the movement had on the University, does the administration support the idea of celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Mouvement McGill Français? Second, does the administration view this anniversary to be a source of motivation, in order to support and improve bilingualism at McGill? We eagerly await your responses to these questions and other sentiments on bilingualism at McGill. We look forward to engaging in a constructive dialogue with you in this regard. CAF is Hugues Doré-Bergeron, Alana Boileau, Amélie T. Gouin, and Faizel Gulamhussein. You can reach them at Caf@ssmu.mcgill.ca.
A call for unity of the have-nots Ted Sprague
couple days before Obama’s Inauguration, a good friend of mine was laid off. The factory he worked at works exclusively with aluminum provided by the Alcan smelter, which, not coincidentally, just closed down one of its Quebec smelters. This happened on the same day Obama told us that “our economy is badly weakened” because of “our collective failure to make hard choices.” Which hard choices has my friend failed to make? Paying rent, or skipping a meal? Or paying off one credit card and not the other? To assure all those weak-hearted liberals that this is not a racist rant, I will have to establish my race credential and that of my friend. For simplicity’s sake, I am a yellow and a landed immigrant, and my friend is a brown. But losing your only job has nothing to do with the colour of your
skin. We immigrants and coloured people have always been at the bottom of the barrel, doubly-oppressed and invisible despite being a visible minority. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say we’ll be hit first and hardest by this economic crisis. Castro’s brother said that Obama “seems like a good man.” I hope that’s true, because hope seems like the only thing we have left. We used to have our sweat to sell, but bosses aren’t interested anymore. Why? Because we have too much of everything: too many cars in the GM parking lot because none of us can afford to buy them, so the factories are closing; too many houses from which millions were evicted because they couldn’t pay their mortgages. When people are starving and wanting in this world of plenty, the world is truly upside down. Promises have been made, but my gut tells me they’ll be broken. A first step forward has been taken but the rug will be pulled from under
our feet from the very man who laid it for us. Because now it takes a face of hope to break any hope left in humanity. Now, as my dear friend told me, it takes “a black face to tell white lies.” However, I believe humanity will triumph, not through a unity but through a division, that of between the haves and the have-nots. The have-nots will unite amongst themselves breaking loose the truth. We’ve seen a glimpse of this truth on the picket line, on the street fighting injustice, and whenever we wonder how billions are made while we stand as starving outcasts. When that day comes, for the first time the have-nots, black and white, yellow and brown, will be able to join hands and sing that old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” Ted Sprague is a Master’s II student in Chemistry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Introducing SSMU to the wild world of email Yahel Carmon
s I write this, I’m sitting on the National Mall in D.C., surrounded by countless young Americans, and the techie in me knows that this assembly was made possible by the Obama campaign’s astute use of technology to mobilize enthusiasm by the millions. The most prominent, simple, and sophisticated of these tools is email. In contrast to the way that President Obama was so deftly able to do, SSMU faces a perennial problem of finding itself unable to engage large-scale grassroots involvement, most prominently displayed during past failed General Assemblies (GAs). Certainly, many student politicos are interested in emulating President Obama, but the most important lesson that student politicos should learn from the campaign is not in rhetoric, but in the use of technology to interact with and energize constituents. SSMU spends many thousands of dollars every year on advertising costs, most often when it advertises various events like GAs and SnowAP in full- and half-page ads in The Daily. I would know; I myself last year spent over $5,000 advertising on its behalf on three different General Assemblies in three papers. And that money didn’t even get us full, sustained quorum at any of the three (GAs). SSMU would have been better off not advertising at all, and paying individual students $10 each to attend. We would have saved money and made quorum. The unfortunate thing is that the single most effective tool SSMU has at its disposal generates $0 per year, and is thus wildly ineffective: listservs. This misuse results in emails that are overloaded with too much information, leading many students, constrained for time and attention, to ignore the emails, and then complain when they belatedly find out about things they would have been interested in. SSMU, and every other faculty I’ve encountered, sends its listserv
emails with zero targetting from the “Compose” function of Outlook. This is an extraordinarily wasteful and poorly executed method of sending out emails. There is no more efficient means of reaching 20,000 undergraduates, and their various subdivisions, than email. The problem is getting people the content they want and implementing stronger microtargetting. As it is, SSMU cannot even track any usage data that would improve its email system. Nor does SSMU effectively utilize its listserv for its various political mobilizations, besides the simple announcement emails or Facebook messages. The listserv could be used for the distribution of petitions or letter-writing campaigns to administrators and provincial leaders. Email can be used as a twoway street, to engage students rather than just broadcasting to them. Last year, SSMU hired a communications coordinator to work on this front, but it has been mostly a bandaid on what is not just a staff problem, but also an “equipment” problem. An improved email system should allow students to choose what they’re interested in; some interested in mobilization and protests might not be interested in SnowAP, or vice-versa. This is not to target this year’s SSMU executive, nor the faculty association executives who are similarly constrained. This problem is a sum of the inertia and lack of commitment to forward progress on technology at SSMU and faculty associations in the executives year after year. The best way to communicate with students is to tell them about the things they care about. The current method of sending out book-length emails is broken, and SSMU should fix it. Yahel Carmon was the Technology and Online Assistant for J Street, and is the founder of Overheard at McGill as well as the forthcoming McGillBlogs.com. He is taking a year off from McGill, though he loved being the Speaker of SSMU Council last year. Contribute to the downfall of snail mail at yahel.carmon@ mail.mcgill.ca.
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Bring tampon machines back to Shatner Sarah Mortimer
Sally Lin / The McGill Daily
‘m not the girl you might think would write this sort of article. I don’t stand in front of Oxford Dictionary offices picketing in the name of womyn’s rights or throw my used tampon into crowds while screaming about “pretty girls.” I am a proud humanist and a proud feminist, but I’m not militant in my beliefs, and I consider both men and razors my friends. That said, I’d like to bring McGill’s attention to an issue on campus that affects exclusively women, in particular, those who inhabit the Shatner building on a regular basis. Several months ago, tampon machines were removed from the bathrooms in the Shatner building and were replaced with new phone charging devices. I know that I am not alone in my belief that a phone charger is a poor substitute for a tampon. An attempt to exchange one object for the other would result in electric shock to the fertile female, and a dead phone to the deadbeat idiot who attempted to charge her blackberry with a Playtex. In addition to its janitorial staff and food service workers, the William Shatner building houses over 60 student groups, and three campus media outlets. Those administrators responsible for removing tampon machines from the Shatner washrooms fail to show even basic consideration for the needs of those who help to sustain McGill’s reputation, student governance, and cultural life. The late nights of work dedicated by these students have literally been
“Alright, we’re gonna take back the place! Fuck those phone chargers – we can’t afford to let them electrocute someone!” “Yeah!” Yeah!” met with an appreciation that can be measured in peanuts. As with all arguments, mine can be met with some counterpoints. One is the suggestion to BYOT to school. That can be said for condoms too and yet, they seem to still be provided in men’s bathrooms across campus. I would argue that condom dispensers are an excess, for the desire of men and women to copulate on campus can be restrained, while shedding one’s uterine lining every month past the age of 15 cannot.
Neither can predicting when this will occur, or how much said lining will be shed. We as women can estimate this, but there are limits to our accuracy. Another argument might be that bathrooms just across the way in McLennan Library are equipped with some sort of lady-product dispenser. Any girl knows that every step counts when you’ve had an unexpected visit. The point of having an amenity of this available at all is to reduce the amount of discomfort a women
experiences while searching for a temporary solution to nature’s surprise. Therefore, regardless of how unprofitable these tampon machines may have been for McGill in the past (I assume this is that this is the only reason administration would decide to remove them, for they are of no spacial offence) that tampon machines, like toilets, are an essential service to society’s standards of good hygiene. Thus, I suggest that we use the building’s payphones in the case of
a cell phone emergency, and bring back tampon machines to Shatner. Profits would be made since the tampons in these machines are overpriced anyway – $1 each as opposed to $6 for 16 at the drugstore – and McGill can again call itself one of the first class academic institutions of the so-called first world.
is in the middle of publishing the second tome of Ampersand, a journal of bachelor’s students’ handwriting worrying about subjects that integrate the arts and the sciences. [...] The texts must be interesting, clearly written, well-cited, they must have earned a grade of A or A-, and they must be available to those who don’t know deeply the domain about which they act on themselves. [...] ARAB COFFEE BREAK. [...] [Encore une partie qu’on n’a pas traduite ! Et pourquoi ? Parce qu’il y avait un jeu de mots ? On ne se sentait pas à la hauteur de rendre cette blague en français ?] […] Are you looking to get published? Dorot, the jewish Studies journal for Bachelor’s students is looking for texts for its 2009 edition.
register in a course, kindly email [...] “Féminisme et le Au-delà” is the bulletin of the International Day of Women, creates by the borderless women. [...] We’re on the look-out for your submissions basing in the problems of feminism (max. 500 words) [...]. The submissions we’d like to receive could be guided by the following questions: 1) How do we (evil) interpret feminism in the public domain? 2) How have feminist initiatives collaborateds with in our worldwide society? 3) Your experience, some ideas, the initiatives! Women in Parliament is a trip entirely subsidized to Ottawa. Participants will have the chance to [...] make contact with interested or implicated in politics women. [...] Leave us to know that you come!
Sarah Mortimer is a U2 Cultural Studies & History student. Send your new and/or used tampons to email@example.com.
A cumpilation of re-translation William Burton
ust before last break, the Arts Undergraduate Society advertised a free breakfast. What you might have missed if you were an anglophone student is the promise that the breakfast would make you cum: “Enjoy a free breakfast” was woefully translated as “Jouissez d’un déjeuner gratuit.” Though the pressure has mounted, AUS’s VP Communications Adil Kattrak has not changed translators, has not further explained the qualifications of the one he has chosen, and has not told us why this translator, who so clearly does not understand what his or her job is, deserves our money. In order to make Mr. Kattrak understand, I have undertaken an experiment in re-translation. Taking this week’s listserv as my base material, I have re-translated from the French back into English AUS’s weekly message, reproducing as much as possible the same kinds of errors made in French in this second English version. For example, if there
was a major spelling error, I reproduced one in English; a major error in grammar yielded a similarly large error in English. Some less tangible mistakes (switching between nous and on in the same paragraph, for example) led me to more creative English faults. You get the picture. Hi Everyone! Happy Year! At SSMU, we are all very enthusiast on the subject of this new year and we believe it’ll be full of fantastic events and agreeable moments. Here are some good ways to begin the year and to familiarize yourself anew with your friends. We hopes to see you there! AUS Announcements Are you passionated by what you study? [...] Become a tutor! [...] If tat interests you, kindly contact Claudette van Zyl [...]. Are you interesting in getting hired at McGill? Would you like to make all the difference? Join the Academic Affairs Committee! [...]
If tat interests you, kindly contact Claudette van Zyl [...]. Stumble across Montreal in an epic tour of the bus led by SSMU and AÉFG! Are you in a musical group? Do you perform? Does you or your group do something artistic or creatif? If the answer to a of these questions is “yes,” your club should get involved in one of the creative, fantastic, most interactive events of the year! [...] If tat interests you, or if you’d love to know more, kindly send an email to [...]. Departmental Announcements On n’a même pas traduit le titre de cette annonce! [...] Come listen to your favourite political sciences professors, economy, geography, history, sociology, and much more, to tell some interesting or amusing anecdotes about their working or a studies in the domain. It’s a good opportunity to familiarize yourself with your profs and their research interests. [...] Be over there – Thursday 16 january 5:30 Leacock 232. The Committee Integrating the Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASiC)
Other announcements [...] Are you interesting in learning first aid or CPR? The competencies can be very useful and might touch your CV nicely! [...] The courses cost 85,00$ per person, which includes a manual of CPR and Red Cross Canadian. [...] If you would love to
William Burton is a U3 Lettres et traduction françaises student, and a member of AGELF (Association générale des étudiantes et étudiants de langue et littérature françaises). Write well to william.burton2@ mail.mcgill.ca.
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Young children joined many spectators from all walks of life celebrate Barrack Obama become the 44th president of the U.S.
Arjun Kumar for The McGill Daily
Bits of America One student fills in details on the president’s inauguration Camille Holden The McGill Daily
was at Obama’s inauguration. I was at Obama’s inauguration! I’m finding myself repeating this sentence aloud in complete disbelief. Let me stop you right now if you think you’re going to read another generic account of how historic, momentous, and unprecedented this day was. Yes, he is our first black president. Yes, the D.C. metro broke its traffic record. Yes, it was a remarkably peaceful day. And yes, at last we have a president who makes us willing to acknowledge we’re Americans. But you never hear about the small stories that complete the picture. So let me tell you mine. On Sunday morning, my friends and I rented a sedan from a company I will never use again and refuse to name (it starts with “D” and rhymes with viscount). I’ll spare you the full account of our many car disasters, which culminated in running into a snow bank and getting a speeding ticket.
Overall, the 11-hour drive down through five states and nine different tolls (thank you, Delaware Turnpike!), was a blur of music blasting through the iPod speakers, the munching on crackers with brie and hummus, and squeals of excitement from our Kiwi friend every time we passed a “Welcome to ...” state sign. Though the city was bustling, nothing could have prepared us for Tuesday’s crowds. The next morning, we made our way to the metro, where we joined the throngs of people waiting to get onto the train. Though the hour was early, the lines long, and the cars packed, everyone around us was jubilant. Even the train driver felt our eagerness to get downtown. “We’re almost there everyone. I can see the platform,” he announced to a laughing audience. Walking out of the metro and onto the streets toward the Mall was like entering a disaster movie (like Cloverfield, where the streets are crowded with people fleeing), except that it was all smiles and laughter, and cheers of “Oba-ma!” The city had parked big
buses in the middle of the road to block off streets designated for the parade, adding to the chaos. But there was no panic or fear, just excitement and the awareness that we were all partaking in something monumental. And everyone wanted in. On every street corner there were people capitalizing on Obama’s image. One man was selling mini basketballs, chanting to the crowds: “Get your balls of hope, balls of change, it’s a slam dunk people!” Two guys were even selling condoms, like the McCain one that read “Old but not expired.” If it hadn’t been so funny, it would just have been creepy. Also taking advantage of the crowds and media attention were all kinds of activists and crazies intent on spreading their respective messages. We saw cool anti-fur advocates dressed in furry animal costumes, anti-war extremists claiming that Obama was going to take us all to Afghanistan, as well as those “crazy Jesus guys” that seem to pop up at every large gathering, yelling at you with their megaphones about how Obama is taking us all to hell.
But there were also civic-minded people offering whatever assistance they could. Girl and Boy Scout volunteers were directing people, helping the elderly climb steps, and wishing everyone a wonderful day. And then there was everyone else. Those just like us, coming from all corners of the world, here in the same spirit of unity, hope, and joy. I’m not exaggerating when I say that strangers were hugging in the streets and sharing their food with one another. A woman named Anne-Marie Champ had joined a stranger in holding up a poster that read “From Slavery to History!!! Obama Baby.” A naturalized American from Trinidad, Champ captured the spirit of the day: “I’m so happy to see this in America. This is beautiful, this is what’s supposed to be.” What made the experience so remarkable wasn’t hearing our new president’s voice or seeing the sheer amount of people gathered for this event, but the collective spirit. It was the people – those who had travelled from far and wide, and who had their own stories to tell.
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Black and white, and political all over Deconstructing the upper-middle-class myth of a post-racial society Tiana Reid Culture Writer
oga, snowboarding, Apple products, the Sunday New York Times, Mos Def, sushi, vintage clothing, and coffee. All stuff that I, daughter of a white mother and a black Jamaican father, like. Incidentally, it’s all stuff that white people like, according to Christian Lander, McGill grad, in his flippant blog “Stuff White People Like.” My first glance at the blog made me feel uneasy, as it does for many, because we tend to get huffy when stereotypes are kicked around, even in a comedic manner. Lander is addressing the meaning that society attaches to the things on the list – they are deemed white. My uneasiness quickly turned to queasiness; do my love for raw fish and my MacBook make me white? Or less black? The blog hit home because, being biracial, I have struggled with internal conflicts of race, culture, and self-identity since I was old enough to be aware. When I was 12, I started to snowboard and for a couple of years, I never mentioned to my black (and white) friends where I was each and every Saturday, thinking that they would disapprove, discredit me, and label me whitewashed. After a few deep yoga breaths, I calmed down and realized that the list is not hateful and was meant to be, and is, humourous. The bright satirical critique includes “knowing what’s best for poor people,” “being the only white person around,” “having gay friends,” “unpaid internships,” and “Asian girls.” After hundreds of years of minorities being turned into a punchline, Lander is flipping the
script and playing on stereotypes of the upper-middle class, white or not – with their consumerist narcissism coupled with a search for authenticity. While some people, like Lander, are openly discussing issues concerning race and identity, others – particularly, upper-middle class liberals – have begun to sweep race issues under the rug. The term post-racial emerged in the mainstream media as a reaction to the enthusiasm surrounding Barack Obama’s campaign in the Democratic Party presidential primaries in 2008. The idea that we are living in a post-race society, where race has little or no significance, is a fallacy as many whites still claim to have moral, economic, political, and social ascendancy. The tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina proves that race and class seem to matter not only in terms of social race relations, but also in governmental reaction (or non-reaction). Other issues such as the Jena Six assault and the controversy surrounding affirmative action substantiate that our society is not beyond race. As the United States inaugurated its 44th President on Tuesday, a mood of change continues to swoop over the entire world, somewhat owing to the colour of Obama’s skin and the barriers that have been crossed as a result. The Atlantic magazine’s cover story for its January/February 2009 issue was entitled: “The End of White America” featuring a heroic close-up of half of Obama’s face. The author, Hua Hsu, postulates the end of “white America” and a demographic shift that will bring those who are today racial minorities, to be a majority of the population by 2042. More interestingly, Hsu affirms that
“whiteness is no longer a precondition for entry into the highest levels of public office.” This bold statement is misleading. Case in point is Jesse Jackson, who was twice a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1980s, and was deemed “too black” by American society and thus has had limited mainstream political success. With Obama as President, the public is looking beyond skin colour and toward personal character, which is a positive step. Yet it can be argued that Obama’s skin colour was easier to look past than Jackson’s in-your-face “black and proud” character. Jackson himself once criticized Obama for “acting like he’s white” when referring to Obama’s lack of attention to the case of the Jena Six. In terms of Obama’s campaign, whether constructed deliberately or constructed by society and the media, race was used as an instrument rather than a liability in the political sphere, in which Obama transcended the negative stereotypes that blackness so often tends to encompass. Western society may be taking race less seriously. Nevertheless, the New York Times article, “Poll Finds Obama Isn’t Closing Divide on Race” reveals that 60 per cent of blacks find race relations to be generally poor, compared to 34 per cent of whites. It seems clear that the notion of postraciality is mostly a white concoction. Race matters, even if it matters in different ways than it did decades ago. Social and political discussion, balanced dialogue, and most importantly racial awareness, not ignorance disguised as post-raciality, will give rise to racial progress. Colour-blindness should never be equated with racial equality nor racial harmony.
Alison Withers / The McGill Daily
When outsiders settle in Christoph Hein’s novel Settlement probes questions of place, identity, and divided history Janina Grabs Culture Writer
he original title of this book, “Landnahme,” means the taking of the land. But whose land is taken, and by whom? This question reflects the profound complexity of the oeuvre. Many have claimed it to be the long-awaited “Germany-novel” that summarizes and comments on 50 years of separation, diverging history, and a tedious re-unification. Unfortunately, the novel cannot fully live up to those expectations; however, Christoph Hein does offer an interesting perspective on German identity and the difficulty of integrating and accepting people of different backgrounds within one nation. The main character, Bernard Haber, and his father arrive in Guldenberg, Eastern Germany, after having been displaced from Silesia
in the late 1940s. Quiet and often hostile, but tenacious and oddly selfconfident, Bernard lives through discrimination, hate crimes, and distrust of the locals, never complying with their expectations, but always getting by. As the years go by, he sets up a small business as an alibi, whilst illegally smuggling fugitives into West Berlin until the Wall is built. After 1989, Bernard is amongst those businessmen who benefit from the re-unification, while others lose their belief systems, jobs and ways of life. This is Bernard’s story; yet, he never expresses himself directly in Landnahme. Hein prefers to let five acquaintances describe their relationship with, and memories of him, thus painting a blurred, but fascinating picture of this character. Bernard’s childhood friend, Thomas, recalls classmate bullying, the murder of Bernard’s beloved dog,
and finally the death of his father. Bernard’s first girlfriend Marion, who never fully understood him, focuses on her constant uncertainty and distance in the relationship, rather than remembering affectionate moments. His friend Peter regrets engaging in illegal activities with Bernard; Peter has ended up in jail, while Bernard has garnered wealth and influence. His sister-in-law describes how she exploited his vulnerability in more than one sense, and finally, Bernard’s business partner Sigurd exposes his audacity and perseverance in an era of change. The memories and anecdotes create a psychological profile of Bernard, and offer insight into his actions and motivations. Regrettably, the tone remains surprisingly flat – Hein doesn’t seem to exploit the possibility of diversifying five narrative voices. Yet, the novel taken in its entirety does have several redeeming quali-
ties. For one thing, the novel’s form reflects the root of many of Bernard’s prblems: the tendency to categorize strangers and acquaintances based on prejudice and generalization. We want to get to know Bernhard, but all we learn is how others perceive him. Hein’s refusal to give Bernard a voice mimics the behaviour of citizens who reject outsiders on principle, effectively silencing them before they are even given the chance to settle into the community. This principle of exlclusion and rejection might also help us to understand German identity a little better. Confronted with overwhelming change, the citizens of Guldenberg seek refuge in their old traditions and refuse to adapt or admit outsiders. When in doubt, self-identification through exclusion seems to be the popular option. Finding common ground with a neighbour often consists of confronting a shared enemy
– even if he is technically from your own country. Finally, there is the question of “Landnahme” to bear in mind. After the Second World War, Poland acquired parts of the Silesian territory – but did the displaced people take land from the locals? Did the locals in turn, in denying the newcomers a true home, also take away some of their homeland? And what about the re-unification, when Eastern Germany was essentially annexed and Western institutions, practices and ideologies took over? This book emphasizes that these questions of territory and identity are as salient today as they were in the 1940s – and not only in Germany.
The English translation of Hein’s novel, Settlement, is available in hardcover from Metropolitan Books for $27.
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
En ces lieux, vous faites quoi? One family’s experience amongst northern Ontario’s forgotten francophonies A treasured photo from Hayley Lapalme’s family album.
Hayley Lapalme The McGill Daily
uand j’étais un tout petit garçon / Je me sauvais de la maison / Je partais sans le dire à maman / Pour aller jouer dans l’étang…” Sung-spoken in the soft, deep voice of my dad, these words lulled me to sleep during my childhood. This Christmas, on a frozen lake in the northern Ontario bush, I struggled to recall these once-familiar words. The children and grandchildren of my Grand-Papa Jean-Louis and Grand-Maman Réjeanne are all gathered around the makeshift double-table at my Matante Julie’s home. Tortière, a traditional French Canadian meat pie, is settling in our bellies. In happy disorder, my dad and his four sisters launch into song with their parents. They are searching for the music of their childhood. They catch threads of old French folk tunes mid-verse, stringing them together like patchwork. With the exception of during the “chansons à répondre” songs, in which I echo my Grand-Papa’s voice, I am rarely able to sing along. I haven’t learned as
many of these songs as my cousins, who remained around Sudbury. Like much of my franco-Ontarian identity, familiar words dissolve into a nostalgic fog. At 22 in Quebec, my francophone identity feels weaker now than it did when I was running around the playground of my French elementary school in southern Ontario. My sister Kate and I are the tenth generation to follow the son of a Parisian couple, Barthélémie Janson and Jeanne du Voisin, to find a home in Canada. My grand-grand-grandgrand-grand-grand-grand-papa (that is seven generations of grandpas), Pierre Janson, arrived in Quebec in the 1680s. A mysterious name change and a few generations of craftsmen later, the family moved west to settle in the bilingual, nickel-mining villages surrounding Sudbury. There is still a strong francophone presence that extends west of Quebec, populating the northern parts of Ontario and Manitoba. These pockets of “francophonie” outside of Ottawa, nestled amid the blueberries, barns, and wood-burning stoves of the north, are often forgotten, I suspect. They become vivid to me only a few times a year – usually, when some occasion to celebrate gathers our family to my dad’s child-
hood home: the massive and myriad weddings of my Dad’s fifty-odd cousins; or the holidays that are marked by infinite quarts of wild blueberries Grand-Papa Jean-Louis picks from his backyard bush, as well as the 100th anniversary of La Grange Lapalme, the barn built by my arrière-arrièrePépère Israel and his second wife Luména Desgroseilliers in 1901. Of their 12 children, it is my father’s Pépère Adéa and Memère Éva who took over the farm where my own Grand-Papa Jean-Louis was raised. Raised in southwestern Ontario as the daughter of a bilingual father and English mother, I sometimes feel distanced from my roots. The francophone community in Waterloo is not very audible. My bilingual home does not mix languages in the “franglais” style of immersion programs so much as through regular battles between the two tongues. My mom encourages us to preserve our second language, but becomes justifiably frustrated when we speak in French while she’s in the room. My dad objects to his daughters’ lazy reversion to English if the alternative is to flounder in French. This linguistic struggle became more pronounced when I graduated from a unilingual francophone elemen-
tary school into an immersion high school. Subsequently, the bilingual fluency of my stroller days was lost to too-complicated ideas that flourished more quickly than did my slowly maturing French vocabulary. My decision to come to Montreal is an obvious attempt to renew this fluency. In Quebec, however, I am defensive of my franco Ontarian identity. I admit that my grammar would make my Grand-Maman Réjeanne cringe if she wasn’t such a good Catholic, but still, I’ll never shy from a debate with a separatist. Neither the Quebecois cashier at the dépanneur, nor my Parisian neighbour recognize my accent. Both insist on switching to English to relieve me of what they perceive as a feeble attempt at their language. “Temiskaming, Algoma, Sudbury, Cochrane… là aussi ils parlent français!” I want to remind them of Ontario’s vibrant francophone communities. They respond with a correction, “En ces lieux, vous faites quoi [avec votre langue]?” Nevertheless, I am happy to continue butchering the language with my dirty dialect and garbled grammar. I may be an ordinary white protestant anglophone – but I am also
Courtesy of Hayley Lapalme
the daughter of a long line of brave and rugged craftsmen, lumberjacks, and Kings’ Daughters who make me fiercely grateful to claim French as a language of my own. Sometimes I romanticize that there was enough magic in the northern bush to grant me ties to all three of our country’s founding fathers. Our cultural diversity is precious, and I cling to mine with growing curiosity, searching for a sense of self. Above all, no matter who was born to whom or who touched what first, this is what makes me Canadian: the ability to celebrate the folk songs, the meat pies, and the barn parties of every people, in a country that is shared. I am afraid that until recently, I have undervalued my own identity while admiring the exotic ones of Pakistani, Kenyan, Bajan, and Chinese friends. I will never turn down an invitation to dance to Salam-E-Ishq at Khushali, but it is about time I sort out the lyrics that fill the lungs of my northen Ontarian relatives with breath and song. I have asked my dad for Christmases consecutive to record the lullabies he sang to me as a girl. So far, he refuses. But I am French – I will persist.
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
We built this city on theft ’n’ fraud The moral ramifications of cultural re-appropriation in pop music Nicolas Boisvert-Novak The McGill Daily
ommercial break: we see a lonely Jaguar S-Type, calmly cruising the desert highway to the sounds of Algerian Raï chants, when – out of fucking nowhere – comes a shot of ex-Police bassist Sting, blankly staring out the window, singing about a movie he made in the eighties. Quickly, the Jag commercial ends. You register the song as “Desert Rose,” and God knows what did it but you’re sick to your stomach and feel the violent urge to piss off law enforcement. Rest assured, this seething contempt for Sting – shared by all those currently above drinking age – is nothing but a biological response to one of the most glaring instances of cultural appropriation in pop music history. That said, I regret to tell you that if the perpetrators of such crimes were always this ham-fisted, the entirety of pop music would likely drive us into a murderous frenzy. The long and the short of it is: modern music is an edifice built from the un-credited violation of cultural boundaries, often with exploitative intent. But the theft goes both ways: while old colonial powers serve themselves to the developing world’s musical innovations, minority groups re-appropriate the resulting genres. Rock was appropriated from AfricanAmerica in the fifties; Brazilian tropicalia, from Great-Britain in the sixties; techno, from Germany in the seventies. No nation on Earth has successfully kept its cultural traditions free of foreign footprints – not even seven-year-old East Timor. But wait: surely I can’t be equating the mere enjoyment of a pop song –
a gut pleasure if there ever was one – to Cecil Rhodes-ing all over Africa, Latin Amerca, and possibly even the Mississippi. After all, pop music – more than any other art form – functions as a common language; how could something as vague and arbitrary as one’s cultural identity tread all over humanity’s shared pleasure? If anything, pop music’s power as a uniting force actually hinges on this cultural inbreeding. But I’d drive the point even further: had our ancestors been any more timid about pillaging each others’ cultures, we’d be left clubbing to the stilted sounds of modern classical. So let’s thank our lucky stars that morality rarely gets in the way of art; our music certainly stands richer because of it. Still, there’s something intuitively wrong about Presley and McCartney making millions off the AfricanAmerican invention of the boogiewoogie. Worse yet, it’s no isolated incident. Dominant cultures have repeatedly exploited minority groups’ musical innovations, sanding off their sharp edges, hiding them behind familiar faces, and running them into the ground. Elvis is one example, Sting is another, and – God almighty – so is Vampire Weekend. But further complicating the issue is the fact that, for each act of exploitation, there are dozens more of genuine artistic (and occasionally humanitarian) impulses. It’s a long list, one in which we find Paul Simon, Brian Eno, the Beastie Boys, Eminem, and countless others. Peter Gabriel, love him or hate him, is almost single-handedly
responsible for all our parents’ obsession with “world music.” So are we to indict all of them the same way we’d condemn the King of Memphis? Of course not! And therein lies the middle ground: there’s nothing wrong with the crossing of boundaries in itself. By no means does my lack of African heritage determine whether it is right for me to dance to Afrobeat rhythms. By that same token, in no way is it wrong for an artist to appropriate cultural traditions whose meaning he cannot properly understand. The fact is, as art outlives artists – along with the culture that birthed it – these meanings dissipate, along with questions of cultural appropriateness.
The issue only becomes morally loaded as we begin to consider the artist’s intent. And when the latter consists of exploitation for commercial purposes – as can be said of Sting – then we can’t blame our gag reflexes for acting up. Put simply, it indicates a thorough lack of respect, and serves only to obscure where the real credit is due. But don’t feel bad if the sight of white men getting jiggy with it fails to get your dander
up. Artistic intent is a vague, muddled thing, forcing us to withhold judgment in most cases. And evil as artistic exploitation is, there’s very little we can do to stop it. If our unwitting enjoyment of exploitative acts breeds moral reprobation, so be it. If Missy Elliott’s irresistible, bhangra-aping hit “Get Ur Freak On” proved anything – and it certainly hasn’t – it’s that we’re quite better off sinning than living as saints.
Vincent Bezault / The McGill Daily
A tale of two identities Coming to terms with being a Lebanese Jew Vicky Tobianah Culture Writer
’ve never questioned my Jewish identity. I’ve gone to Jewish schools and summer camps. I have been to Israel and spent my whole life learning about the Holocaust. Observant or not, my life has been surrounded with Judaism. My Jewish identity, like an arm or a leg, was always present, never questioned. There is another aspect of my identity – which could put my Jewish identity into question. My parents were born in Beirut, Lebanon. They too went to Jewish schools and camps, but in addition to learning about the Holocaust, they learned about Jewish refugees from Arab countries. That is, until they became ones. In the mid-1950s, approximately 7,000 Jews lived in Beirut. My par-
ents stayed until the 1975 MuslimChristian civil war. Although the Jews were not directly involved, the tension from the war damaged relations between them and other Lebanese citizens. Much of the fighting occurred in the Jewish quarter in Beirut, damaging homes and synagogues. The street my parents lived on no longer exists. My father’s sister stayed in Lebanon, and he has not seen her or heard from her since. Being raised in Toronto as a Lebanese Jew did not strike me as odd. Still, I spoke Hebrew, Arabic, and French and my friends only spoke English. Once when I was eight, I was at my friend’s house and she ordered pizza and when she asked what I wanted on my pizza, I replied “zeitoune,” not realizing that it was the Arabic word for olives, and not an English one. During the Second Lebanon war
with Israel in 2006, one of my Jewish friends jokingly asked me, whose side I was on. I was shocked by the question – I supported the Israeli army’s desire to eliminate their terrorist threat, even though it sadly meant that civilians were killed. But it forced me to delve into the question – did being Lebanese mean anything to me? I cannot reject my Lebanese roots: they’re an inherent part of who I am. Arabic is more frequently spoken in my house than Hebrew, and we cook Lebanese foods more often than Jewish dishes. But to me, being Lebanese is part of my cultural identity, not my religious one: I will always be Jewish. These identities were never contradictory. As part of my Jewish upbringing, I was taught to show compassion toward other cultures; to avoid discriminating others just as I never would want to be discrimi-
nated against due to an aspect of my identity. I was raised to care, not just about Jews, but about everyone. My high school taught me to always have a social conscience – we must always remain aware of the plight of others and work to fight it. Our educators spent countless hours teaching us about the persecution of Jews in the past and present. Through this, we learned to foster our own identities, to strengthen them so they can never be destroyed. I was never taught to try and separate Zionism and Judaism because my school saw Israel as a their homeland, and a necessary part of the Jewish religion. Many of my teachers were Israelis – they lived in Israel, risking their lives to ensure that Jews around the world were safe and always had a home to go to. It does not bother me that these two identities are so linked, because my Judaism cannot
exist without my Zionism. I’ve always dreamed of going to Beirut one day. I want to see the graves of my great-grandparents. I want to see the store my father used to go to every day after school, where he says they sold the “best icecream in the world.” Unfortunately, it looks like this may never happen. Until Lebanon’s conflict with Israel is resolved, I will never be allowed to enter the country of my parents’ birth. I wonder what it would be like to be Jewish and not Lebanese. It’s a world I cannot imagine, for both are dear to me. But I’ve begun to choose which one is more important to me, and I believe that’s okay – we all have different identities in our lives, and we must choose which ones construct the core of our identity. Nonetheless, after questioning my identity, I’ve decided I’ll stick with being both Jewish and Lebanese.
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Ex-cinema Ex-centris Curtains to close on Montreal’s art house theatre; a blow to the alternative film community Maeve Clougherty Culture Writer
he Ex-Centris Cinema, one of the hippest art house theatres in Montreal, has unfortunately decided to stop showing films as of March. The Ex-Centris has been a haven for Indie film enthusiasts since 1999, providing an assortment of experimental films that are otherwise unavailable in larger theatres. Despite its popularity as a theatre, the Ex-Centris has chosen to use its space for other types of multimedia, such as dance and performance art. I visited a few of my film professors to get their take on the end of the Ex-Centris. I was particularly curious to see if they feel art cinema still generates enough interest to gain a substantial fan base. I sat down with Professor Derek Nystrom, who is distraught at the loss of his favourite theatre, and Professor Michael Crochetière, a Canadian filmmaker as well as a member of the McGill staff.
Both share a similar sentiment about alternative cinema: though never as popular as its reigning counterpart, Hollywood, it is an essential force in shaping the cultural terrain. As a student with a budding interest in film, I can understand how alternative film may not be appealing to everyone. They’re what Crochetière politely calls, “an acquired taste.” Unlike conventional narrative cinema, which allows us to easily read the elements of a movie, experimental film stubbornly refuses to be as straightforward. And without any background knowledge of film theory, some experimental cinema can be virtually inaccessible. However, these films often provide a more compelling perspective than the formulaic crowd-pleasers, and rarely shy away from controversial subject matter. And because film is such an excellent medium for social and political exchange, maintaining marginalized voices ensures a healthy dose of counter-cultural critique. Unfortunately, the dominion of
its patrons to keep its doors open.” Other small theatres are feeling the economic pinch and risk losing business to their larger competitors. Cinéma du Parc, a student favourite for its friendly discount, was forced
the motion picture industry, as filmmakers and theatres alike must pander to the demands of the market. Unfortunately, this often leaves alternative films in the dust. As an independent Canadian filmmaker,
Crochetière is painfully aware of this fact. He tells me, “Even if you look for a Canadian film at Blockbuster, you have to look for it in the foreign film section. It’s quite ironic.” For local filmmakers in particular, the end of the Ex-Centris is a dramatic loss as it is one of the few theatres that screen amateur films. Without the help of art house cinemas, aspiring artists have little hope of achieving a theatrical release of their work. In a city that is overflowing with creativity, it would be a shame to lose such talent. Montreal film lovers are hoping that the president of the Ex-Centris, Daniel Langlois, will change his decision to cease film screenings. The Facebook group “Sauvons le cinéma à l’Ex-Centris” has garnered well over 6,000 members, proving a significant protest to the loss of the theatre. Unless Langlois changes his mind, the Montreal film community – and the social and political dialogue it fosters – will have to find refuge elsewhere.
during his last week at Unyama, he learned things that were impossible to glean from the day trips they took there for the majority of the trip, while staying at a hotel four kilometres away. “When I slept in the [camp], I got a full understanding of the breadth of people’s situation at night. Everyone is drunk, but the women get up early and go to bed early,” he said. Hood and Wells are aware of the politics of the camera, of the way
their photos can tell certain stories and keep others silent. Shooting on digital, Hood tried to take his camera out of the equation completely, hoping to capture pure moments of action. “I took the fly on the wall approach…. I feel like they are doing what they’d be doing if I wasn’t there. There is no presence of the camera,” Hood said. Wells, who used film while at Unyama, took a different approach. “My approach is to try and create a
relationship, I am present as a photographer. I want to have the intimacy to let them present themselves as who they are,” Wells said. The vernissage features photos of men watching European soccer games in makeshift video halls and women who were mutilated in the conflict – blown up to almost lifesize. The title, “Limbo,” channels the sense of stagnancy in the transition between conflict and peace, village, and camp.
mainstream cinema frequently works to relegate alternative viewpoints to the fringes of popular culture. The key to sustaining unconventional film is allowing for maximum exposure. And small venues like the Ex-Centris play a critical role in maintaining its cultural viability. However, as Nystrom reminded me, “Art cinema rarely succeeds as a business model. It’s forced to rely on
to temporarily close a few years ago. Though they are back in business, their movie selection is growing increasingly mainstream. While this move may be financially necessary, it seems absurd for these small theatres to show conventional films given their main appeal as an alternative cinematic experience. The delicate balance of revenue and creative freedom dominates
Without the help of art house theatres, aspiring artists have little hope of a theatrical release
Unyama through the lens Concordia students photograph a northern Ugandan refugee camp
Shannon Kiely The McGill Daily
hen I heard that two Concordia students were putting on “Limbo,” a vernissage of photos they took in a northern Ugandan refugee camp, I made a snap judgment. The 18-to-27 set – confident and optimistic – seems to adore going to far-off places that have problems to fix. Voluntourism has become an institution. There’s an entire Lonely Planet guide dedicated to helping readers find an organization well suited to their talents and budget. 3.7 million Americans volunteered abroad in 2007, according to Corporation for National & Community Service. But Matthew Hood and Devin Wells, the two photographers behind “Limbo,” know that not all volunteer abroad organizations are created equal, and some can help more than others. Hood and Wells think Unyama, the camp they photographed, could benefit from a local approach that capitalizes on residents’ expertise and energy – aspects that are lacking in the work of the many organizations who try to address overarching problems in the community. Proceeds from a silent auction at
“Limbo” will be directed to Wells’s and Hood’s brain child: a community development program for Unyama that would work with camp residents on solutions to disease, violence, and malnutrition. They are inspired by projects in other camps in the region that focus on community farming coops, daycare, sports, and dance. “The huts [in the camp] literally touch each other. Privacy is given up. You can’t fend for yourself; you can’t farm. You can’t go back home to farm. There are 20,000 people and half a dozen wells,” Hood said. The residents of Unyama camp are Ugandans who have been internally displaced by the civil war between the rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the government. The LRA raids villages to build up its army, prompting the government to coral citizens to camps to minimize the risk of abduction. Wells and Hood approached the Concordia Volunteer Abroad Program with the idea to shoot documentary photographs at Unyama. Pairing their photos with narratives about the faces captured, they hope the vernissage will awaken their audience to the reality facing internally displaced people in Uganda. The two worry that short Western news stories fail to communicate the human side of conflict. “We read things in the news and it’s another earthquake, another tornado. What am I supposed to do? But if you really get into the person’s story, and relate to it, people can see themselves in it, and people’s minds can change hopefully for the better,” said Wells. When Wells slept in the camp
Courtesy of Matthew Hood
One of the faces captured in “Limbo,” on at McConnell Library Atrium, 1400 de Maisonneuve O.
The McGill Daily, Monday, January 26, 2009
Lies, half-truths, and porta-potties
When the shit overloads the can David Groves delves into the murky underside of Inauguration Day
he inauguration ceremony of President Barack Obama last week was a major event, and it received an utter deluge of media coverage. Much was made of its historic nature, the crowds of tearful and joyful Americans, the eloquence and magnitude of Obama’s speech, and how the symbolism of the moment would affect foreign and domestic politics. I was there, and looking over the various fawning press reports, articles, and videos of the event. I have to say I’m shocked – the biggest story of the day has been completely overlooked, lost in a flurry of adulatory puff pieces and empty-headed chatter. I am talking, of course, about the porta-potty situation, the crisis that simmered just under the surface of the inauguration, constantly threatening to spill over and do irreparable, disgusting harm to this otherwise proud moment in American history. In preparation for the millions of spectators, bladders, and intestines, hundreds and hundreds of portapotties were set-up along the outside edges of the Washington Mall. Some porta-potties, such as those near the Reflecting Pool, were spacious, featured water-free soap dispensers, and even had urinals. Others, closer to the Capitol Building, were more austere, sporting only a sit-down toilet and enough room to take off a coat. Like their patrons, they came from around the country, from Delaware, Virginia, or Pennsylvania, sporting names like “Bobby’s Potties,” “King John’s,” or, my personal favourite, “KGL – We’re #1 in the #2 Business.” In order to guar-
antee freshness, many were closed until the big day, in some extreme cases with massive chains and padlocks. While they remained largely unusable until the inauguration, they sent a clear, comforting message to the gathering masses, one that was reiterated in Obama’s speech: a lot of shit is about to go down, America, but we’re ready for it. Unfortunately, just as some economists have warned that Obama’s upcoming economic stimulus package may not be large enough to fix the financial markets, all the portapotties in Washington were insufficient for the load that the American people needed lightened. About an hour before the Reverend Rick Warren gave his invocation, I got in line behind ten or so other people to use one of “John’s Johns,” and was pleasantly surprised by the speed with which the line was moving. I then noticed that all the lines were moving quickly, almost as if no one was going to the bathroom at all. It was only when I got to the front that I learned why this was the case. The woman ahead of me, bedecked in hundreds of Obama pins, opened the door of the porta-potty, glanced in, and jumped back in horror. “Oh no no no! No way honey, I ain’t going in there!” She then ran off, her pins clicking together loudly, and disappeared in a nearby crowd. My curiosity piqued, and my bladder bulging, I ventured in. What I saw was a frightening yet powerful testament to the intestinal industriousness and stick-to-it attitude of the American people.
Big men on campus Regina Phelangi 1
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Evan Newton / The McGill Daily
Someone, probably many someones, had overloaded the toilet. How? I have no idea, and I don’t want to get any more specific than I need to, but suffice to say it was one of the worst things I have ever witnessed. As I stepped out, slowly, like in a horror film, I noticed that I was not alone in my revulsion. All down the line of porta-potties, people were screaming out in pure, unadulterated terror – not only had they seen something they could never un-see, but they
had realized that they were trapped, washroom-less, in a crowd of twomillion people. Briefly, I glimpsed a possible future, one where desperate denizens of the mall rushed the Capitol building, driven into a frenzy by their bodily needs. America, in its proudest moment, beaten by its own bowels. Somehow, I knew, Dick Cheney had planned this. Blessedly, a descent into pure chaos was halted by a crowd-wide summoning of incredible self-
restraint. I am not American, but if I were, I would have felt deeply patriotic as I looked over the multitudes of wincing faces, holding it down by holding it in. It was this, this great summoning of resilience that spoke volumes to me about the American spirit in the face of crisis. The economy may be going to shit, the war may be going to shit, the environment may be going to shit, but the people sure aren’t. Mostly because they couldn’t, but still.
Across 1. Water or alpine 4. Rare banana-like fruit (var.) 9. Family group 13. Spend time (with) 15. Blink-182 album, of the State 16. Burrow 17. Medicinal plant 18. Scottish village 19. Biology lab supply 20. Physics major founds car company? 23. Teen hang-out spot 24. Durocher, for one 25. Parrots, maybe 28. Artemis 30. Anguish 33. Soon, to a bard 34. Cocoon dwellers 35. -Wan Kenobi 36. New kid goes to med school? 40. Aged 41. Golf clubs 42. Tear down (var.) 43. Hi or lo 44. Contradict 45. German composer 47. “Much About Nothing” 48. The Bee Gees, for one 49. Great American actor studies cells? 57. Chocolatey berry
58. Exudes 59. Bit 60. Balance parts 61. Fades 62. Tilt 63. A long, long time 64. Cheer up 65. Archaic pronoun
32. Downy duck 34. Subatomic particle 37. Big test, slangily 38. Harmful chemical 39. Relating to fungus 45. Coral reef fish 46. Balloon filler 47. Awry 48. Canary’s call 49. Practical joke 50. UN aviation agency 51. Aimee 52. Work hard 53. Better Than 54. Sack 55. Allergic reaction 56. Wine adjective
Down 1. Persian monarch 2. Winter green 3. Knowing, as a secret 4. Oyster products 5. Cancel 6. Confined, with “up” 7. Asian nurse 8. River or canal, for example 9. Rub 10. Apple’s apple, e.g. 11. Wing-like 12. Schoolish one 14. European country 21. Move unsteadily 22. King or queen 25. What a first-year must decide 26. One part of a Habs game song 27. Female students 28. Odd 29. Chooses, with “for” 30. 1990 movie, “Pretty ” 31. Corpulent
Solution to “The Bush Years” A R M S
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This year, The Daily will be hosting an art show to accompany its annual Art Supplement. So if you want to see your work in print, or hung up alongside some of the best of McGill’s artists, submit your original works electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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