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Volume 98, Issue 34

February 12, 2009

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The McGill Daily, Thursday, February 12, 2009


VP pockets $760,000 in wages, severance Munroe-Blum defends top wages for top people Marguerite Bravay News Writer


-– was shocked by Johnston’s severance pay figure. “The school shouldn’t distribute so much money if it is telling us it’s having financial issues,” Ruocco said. “There seems to be a contradiction [here].” SSMU VP External, Devin Alfaro, was suspicious of the large severance pay given for so little time, citing it as out of the ordinary. “There’s something in there,” said Alfaro. “We just don’t know what.” Dowsett Johnston is, according to the Gazette, a close friend of President Munroe-Blum. Before coming to McGill, Dowsett Johnston worked for Maclean’s magazine, where she undertook the controversial ranking of the country’s universities in 1992, and established the Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities in 1996. Munroe-Blum has maintained that Dowsett Johnston underwent a standard hiring process. This is not the first severance scandal to affect underfunded Montreal universities. While high placed officials at the UQAM and Université de Montréal received considerable sums after stepping down from their respective positions, Concordia’s for-

o apologies are being made for the $321,471 severance package dolled out to Ann Dowsett Johnston, a former McGill Vice President of Development, Alumni and University Relations, who left her position after 19 months in September 2007. Johnston, who was intended to orchestrate McGill’s Capital Campaign – a five-year, $750-million fundraising surge to plug the University’s chronic underfunding – collected over $760,000 in wages and benefits by the time she stepped down from her portfolio. The University’s confidentiality clause has prevented the release of the details surrounding her departure. Principal Heather MunroeBlum defended the payments, and explained that attracting top people requires competitive salaries. “I’m not going to say it’s not a lot of money, [but] I won’t make apologies for paying top wages to get top people,” Munroe-Blum said, adding that the situation was quite rare. Yet on Monday, the Journal de Montreal learned that McGill is currently paying $507,000 annually to Richard Levin, Dean of Medicine Heather Munroe-Blum Principal, McGiill University and Vice-Principal (Health Affairs), making him Canada’s mer president, Claude Lajeunesse, is reported to have walked away with top-paid medical dean. Maria Ruocco, president of McGill over a million dollars in severance University Non-Academic Certified pay in 2007. Like Dowsett Johnston, Lajeunesse Association – a union that is currently on strike because McGill refuses to left in the middle of a five-year conmeet their salary increase demands tract.

“I’m not going to say it’s not a lot of money [but] I won’t make apologies for paying

top wages to get top people.”

The McGill Daily presents



& HENRY AUBIN of the Gazette Thursday, February12. Leacock 232. 5 p.m. Free.

Stephen Davis / The McGill Daily

Staff concerns brought to forefront at Town Hall Once-a-semester forum fills to capacity Courtney Graham The McGill Daily


cGill staff, who outnumbered students at Tuesday’s Town Hall were eager to ask Principal Heather Munroe-Blum about unions, severance packages, and student feedback. The event attracted over 100 people, filling the MBA lounge to capacity. McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), President Maria Ruocco’s first question was about university salaries, and why, if they come from public funds, there has been an apparent lack of transparency about accounting details. Ruocco’s question was particularly relevant, given the recent revelation of the hefty severance package received by one of McGill’s vice principals following an early departure – which caught the attention of mainstream media, who also attended the Town Hall. “We are completely transparent in our relations with the government of Quebec,” said Munroe-Blum. “We did not hesitate to respond to the requests from the press.” Ruocco was not the only person concerned with the apparent inequality in staff salary. A member of the Faculty of Medicine’s support staff brought up the issue of discrepancies in pay raises. He made note of the recent creation of eight administrative positions that pay over $100,000, while there has been no change in the pay of the support staff. Munroe-Blum reiterated that she did “not apologize” for the financial tactics McGill uses to attract highlevel talent, and that she is “proud of our administrative and support staff.”

Principal fields questions on contracts, professor evaluations Stephen Davis / The McGill Daily

She also added that “this is not a negotiating table,” and that McGill benchmarks differently for different groups on a local level, without national consideration. Another prominent concern was the issue of course and seminar evaluations by students each semester at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. After a PhD student in Islamic Studies expressed his distress over conflicts of interest with graduate supervisors and a lack of positive feedback, Adrian Kaats, a PhD in Biomedical Engineering and VP External of the Post-Graduate Students’ Society, approached the microphone with his own suggestions. For a graduate student, he explained, a positive relationship with a supervisor is key to completing one’s studies on time, and avoiding high dropout and distress rates. He also pointed to the lack of a feedback mechanism for graduate students, following a removal of formal professor evaluations after the dissolution of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. This is a symptom, according to Kaats, of a “general decentralization

at McGill.” “Every department and unit has its own way of doing things,” Kaats said. “The difficulty is figuring out how to implement it, given the nature of politics and policies at McGill.” Kaats suggested that students be allowed to sit on the tenure review board, especially for younger faculty members who have different attitudes toward their own research and the importance of facilitating a graduate student’s research. Lawrence Mysak, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, echoed Kaats in his call for professor evaluations that are anonymously handed to the professor immediately, at all levels of study, with results being publicly available. And while the handful of students who showed up appreciated the concept of Town Halls at which they can interact with the administration, more needs to be done to make students feel a part of the university community, according to Andreas Birkbak, an Arts Exchange student. “It’s easy to use the community rhetoric. [But] the administration needs to prove that they are receptive.”


2009 EDITION We want your thoughts on how we can make it easier to navigate McGill. From February 16th to 20th, the Red Tape Blog will be hosting discussions on advising and mentoring, Integrated Services Project, searching online resources, and general tools for success. Students, faculty, staff—everyone’s thoughts are welcome. Join the conversation at WWW.BLOGS.MCGILL.CA/REDTAPE and become eligible to win one of two daily $100 prizes.


The McGill Daily, Thursday, February 12, 2009


Filipino community centre suspends activity Working out of a new residential address, the group is no longer considered non-profit Erin Hale The McGill Daily

F Shu Jiang / The McGill Daily

Students ring in on Zimbabwean cholera epidemic Hayley Lapalme The McGill Daily


booming voice at the Roddick Gates Tuesday announced that 80,000 lobsters had been ordered to celebrate President Robert Mugabe’s 85th birthday, while his people die of cholera. The voice came from one of 50 students organized by Students Taking a Stand for Medicine and Peace, (STAMP) a grassroots organization of McGill medical students that arose spontaneously in the last two weeks. STAMP member and McGill medical student Myrill Solaski explained that the organization staged the protest in direct response to the recent cholera epidemic “Our focus is on medicine. It’s an awareness campaign to fight cholera, which is spreading through Zimbabwe and even across neighbouring borders.” Over 3,000 Zimbabweans have died from cholera in an outbreak that began six months ago, and infection rates are now approaching 70,000. Treatment costs roughly ten cents per person per day, and consists of oral rehydration therapy – a simple water and salt (or sugar) combination. In addition to raising awareness about the crisis and funds for Medecins Sans Frontieres’s immediate medical relief response, STAMP is also petitioning Stephen Harper to join the humanitarian response to the crisis. STAMP’s petition describes the cholera crisis as a Man-Made disaster, fallout from the Zimbabwean government’s failure to serve its most basic state functions for its citizens, according to a report released by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). In their petition, STAMP claims “endless political neglect” is fuelling the crisis. The list of collapsed systems in Zimbabwe is long: basic sanitation, clean water, and health services; the

monetary and economic systems; the system of food supply; a free media; and not least of all, an accountable system of democratic governance. Foreigners and Zimbabweans alike hope that a new government coalition will provoke response to the health crisis. Yesterday, Morgan Tsvangirai allied his political opponent, long-time President Mugabe, becoming Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, in a controversial and highly anticipated power-sharing arrangement. They have yet to settle the hotly contested ministerial divisions within the arrangement. Zuwa Matondo, a Zimbabwean and U3 McGill Political Science and International Development Studies student present at the rally, warned against simplifying the problem in his country by blaming only Mugabe. “The causal links are wrong or are incomplete. It is so frustrating as a young African to see what people here are told about Africa. It’s not as simple as pointing a finger at Mugabe.” Matondo exclaimed, “What does little Mugabe have to do with thirteen million people [who live in Zimbabwe]?” He insisted that Zimbabwe’s economic and health problems can not be unequivocally linked to just one man. President Mugabe has been in power since the nation declared independence from Britain in 1980. He has repeatedly been accused of corruption, thuggery, and violence. Mugabe has vowed not to leave power until the land was reclaimed from the white, European settlers and returned to the black majority. Drastic land reforms pursued, which forced white farmers off the land they cultivated. “There is no denying mismanagement,” Matondo explained, “But you cannot draw a simple causal line.” The spurious logic Matondo warned against says that if Mugabe vanished so too would the epidemic. Instead, Matondo pointed to geography climate, colonialism, and dictatorship, as factors in addition to the rule of

5.5 million:

The number of Zimbabweans facing starvation. Frequent droughts make farming in the dryland savanna ecosystems of Zimbabwe challenging.


Inflation in Zimbabwe is the world’s highest, officially reaching 231 million late last month. It hit a daily rate of 98% in 2008, when it took roughly one day for prices to double.

4.5 billion: The level of Zimbabwe’s debt. The International Monetary Fund provided massive loans to Zimbabwe in the 1990s, but compelled it to make massive cuts to social spending. Mugabe that have combined to create the cholera epidemic and poverty in Zimbabwe. STAMP co-founder Hannah Thomas admitted, “We are ignorant of the larger political issues. There are a lot of factors responsible for the suffering of Zimbabweans.”

ilipino community organization Kapit Bisig Centre never expected that moving from a commercial building to a residential space last summer would trigger a string of administrative headaches, forcing them to suspend their activity altogether. The volunteer-based umbrella group – which includes the Philippine Women Centre, the PhilippinesCanada Task Force on Human Rights, Kabataang Montreal (Filipino Youth of Montreal), and SIKLAB (Advance and Uphold the Rights and Welfare of Filipino Migrant Workers) – lost their non-profit status with their switch to a residential address, as stipulated under Côte-des-Neiges–NotreDame-de-Grâce (CDN) by-laws, causing them to incur new booking fees at a community centre where they have hosted events in the past, free of charge. At last Monday’s CDN borough meeting, Kapit Bisig asked the borough to help them find a new space and resolve their booking fee conflicts. According to Catherine Mourin, a member of the CDN’s Communications department, the borough will not be flexible due to Kapit Bisig’s residential status. “The permit was a bylaw, because it was located in a residential area. There is nothing that can be done about that,” Mourin said, adding that the borough may not be able to assist Kapit Bisig locate a new space, despite the group’s request. Kapit Bisig chair person, Joanne Vasquez, was disappointed with the borough’s response, and pointed to the South Asian Women’s Centre (SAWC), which has been provided space by the City since it was founded in 1981, as a model for Kapit Bisig. Yet Dolores Chu, a founding member and current treasurer of SAWC, doubted a new group would receive the same level of support. “In our case, a long time ago, we got space,” Chu said. “Since that time, there have been many more grassroots [organizations] coming up. There’s a greater demand for space,” Mourin confirmed that CDNs resources are spread thin. “There’s more than 150 partner organizations we are working with, and four of them are Filipino, [including] the Filipino Association of Montreal, the Federation of Canadian Filipinos of Quebec. It’s

just difficult to find them space,” Mourin said. In the meantime, Kapit Bisig is hoping that their $300 booking fees at the community centre 6767 will be waived – since their activities are non-profit in nature. According to Vasquez and Joy Alcaron, a founding member and current treasurer, before they moved to a residential space, they had never been charged for use of 6767. Returning to 6767 for another event, after they had staged a production of Panoyville free of charge, they were informed that the rules had changed. “[Suddenly], 6767 [was] saying we’re booking too many rooms, and they’re going to charge. We said we’re part of a community organization that always gets space for free, so why all the sudden do they want us to pay?” said Alarcon. “They said the problem was our address: we were [now] located in a residential area. They were telling me also they will charge us for the past activity.” Mourin again cited the group’s official status as a reality of the situation. “Because there’s lots of folks using the community centre, they have a certain fee to pay, there’s no exception,” said Mourin. “The centre has a rate list, and depending on what kind of activity, what kind of group, they all have a certain fee to pay.” Shutting down operations at Kapit Bisig Centre will have an impact on CDN, as they provide immigration counselling, fair employment information, and youth and women’s programs to the community, which is home to the largest Filipino population in Quebec – with approximately 60 per cent of the province’s population – and is the entry point for most immigrants into the province, according to Vasquez. “This is the only Little Manila we have in all of Canada. These Filipinos are a large constituency. The City has an obligation to them,” she said. Kapit Bisig will have another chance to meet with borough councillors on February 24, when CDN’s intercultural commission meets. It is likely, though, that the $300 fee charged by the community centre for use of its space will not be waived by the borough. For now, Kapit Bisig remains in limbo, though they may continue to organize an inter-college conference this spring that would bring together Filipino university students from all over the island.

The NEWS will change your life. To find out how, come to News meetings, Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the Shatner Cafeteria or e-mail


The McGill Daily, Thursday, February 12, 2009


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The McGill Daily, Thursday, February 12, 2009


Rapid HIV testing pilots for Valentine’s Health staff look to students for feedback on possibility of a permanent future for rapid HIV testing at McGill Nadja Popovich The McGill Daily


ree, non-nominal, rapid HIV testing will be offered to students this Friday as part of the “Love Yourself!” campaign put on by McGill Health Services, in collaboration with the McGill Global AIDS Coalition and the Shag Shop. The event, held partly in celebration of Valentine’s Day, will test the feasibility of offering rapid HIV testing on a permanent basis at McGill Health Services. “From speaking to students, what has come out as the biggest barrier of accessing HIV testing is the wait times at McGill Health Services,” said Jamie Lundine, director of the McGill Global AIDS Coalition. Rapid HIV tests – involving little more than a prick of the finger – would provide immediate results, since analysis is performed on-site. According to Dr. Pierre-Paul Tellier, director of McGill Student Health Services, the minimum two-week waiting times associated with the HIV test currently offered at the McGill clinic may be a deterrent for many students to get tested at all – on-the-spot results may provide the extra incentive to go in and get tested. “There’s no anxiety about waiting…and there’s also no anxiety, or even inconvenience, over coming back for results,” Tellier said. The “Love Yourself!” campaign will be the first time rapid HIV testing will be made available at McGill. They have not previously been offered, in

part because of financial constraints. “[The Quebec government doesn’t] cover anything that is done in a ‘private lab,’ which is what we’re equal to. Whether it’s HIV testing or a urine test, it’s the same,” Tellier said. “Up until now we’ve absorbed the cost for all tests, but this one is a little more costly, so we don’t particularly want to put it in our budget right now.” Friday’s free pilot program will be used, in part, to gauge the reaction of the student body to rapid HIV testing, as well as their willingness to pay $15 for the test if it were to be introduced permanently in the clinical setting. Though McGill is not licensed to give anonymous HIV testing, “Love Yourself!” will provide non-nominal testing, which will separate students’ results from their charts. “In the charts, all we [will] indicate is that a patient was seen, but not what for. There is no recording of the test or the results anywhere,” explained Allison-Joy Flynn, Health Promotion Officer for McGill Health Services. Tellier did, however, note one drawback to rapid HIV testing: such tests are more susceptible to false positive results – when a test reports HIV-positive but a patient is really HIV-negative – than regular tests. A second, longer, confirmatory test is strongly recommended for all HIVpositive results to determine if the result is a true or false positive. While regular HIV tests that report a false positive also should be followed by confirmatory tests, most labs will perform the second

test immediately after the first so that they are returned to the patient together, meaning that false positives are ruled out before the patient sees any results. The problem with rapid testing is that even though patients would receive counselling, they would be unsure of their status until the second round of test results were received, causing heightened worry for that period. Nonetheless, Tellier sees rapid testing as a big step for McGill Health in a positive direction. “Rapid testing would be another option to give people, and if more people end up coming, it gives us more of an opportunity for education,” Tellier said. “On campus, the primary focus of HIV testing is really educating people [about HIV as well as other sexually transmitted infections], because the actual HIV prevalence we’ve detected on campus is extremely low.” However, Tellier said that he has no specific expectations concerning turnout on Friday. He noted that the pilot project will hinge on the feedback of those who do come out and get tested, rather than on sheer numbers of participants. “It’s more about the way things go on that day – how the nurses feel about administering it and how the students feel about it. Was it a key factor in their decision-making? That’s the kind of factors we’re looking at,” Tellier said. “We just hope that the students can give us some usable feedback on Friday that can help us make our decision [in regards to rapid HIV testing].”

False positives outnumber true positives for rare diseases Even though HIV testing is about 99 per cent accurate, the low prevalence rate, estimated in Canada to be about 0.3 per cent of the population, means that a false positive is more likely than a true positive.

Expected result of testing 100,000 people for HIV, given a 99 per cent accurate test and that 0.3 per cent of the population has HIV

Actual condition Patient has HIV

Patient does not have HIV

Test shows HIV

297 True Positive

997 False Positive

Test shows no HIV

3 False Negative

98,703 True Negative

Test result

Given the above assumptions, while people whose test shows no HIV probably do not have HIV (98,703-to-3), people whose test shows HIV are actually three times less likely to have HIV than not (297to-997). This is because the overwhelming number of people in the “large” population – those who are HIV-negative – whose test results are inaccurate (false positive) is larger than the number of people in the “small” population – those who are HIV-positive – whose results are accurate (true positive). This becomes even more visible with just a slight change in the prevalence of the disease and the accuracy of the test. For example, if the prevalence is reduced to 0.006 per cent – the percentage the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has found through blood donations from those outside

high-risk HIV groups – there will be 500 false positives for every 3 true positives. If the accuracy is also reduced to a still-respectable 98 per cent, the false positives increase to 1,000 for every 3 true positives. However, given the original assumptions, if people who test positive the first time are tested a second time with a similarly-accurate test that uses a method independent from the first, those who test positive the second time have a 97 per cent chance of being HIVpositive, because a 99 per cent accurate test used on the much smaller group that tested positive the first time will only identify 10 doublyfalse positives, a small amount compared to the original 99,700 HIVnegative people. – Nicholas Smith

Sustainability Office opens its doors Showcasing student-administration collaboration, Office is many years in the making Max Halparin The McGill Daily


he McGill Office of Sustainability opened yesterday to a full house of administrators, faculty, and students eager to see the long-awaited space in action. Introductory speeches by Principal Heather Munroe-Blum and Associate Vice-Principal (University Services) Jim Nicell emphasized the importance of environmental, economic, and social sustainability at McGill, as well as the Office’s potential to help students and staff build on previous environmental initiatives and undergraduate research. “This will remain an individual and collaborative effort on all our parts,” said Nicell, an environmental engineer by training. SSMU VP University Affairs Nadya Wilkinson acknowledged the amount of progress needed to green McGill, but expressed optimism for the Office to facilitate this progress,

likening it to a potluck rather than a sit-down dinner. “No, we don’t have all the staff some think we need to get things done.... We don’t have a library, or a newsletter. But these aren’t just theoretical questions anymore, they’re questions for today,” said Wilkinson, who has been involved with the Sustainable McGill Project – the student group which originally proposed the office’s concept – since 2005. Sustainability Director Dennis Fortune explained many features around the Office, located in Ferrier 216, that incorporate some of the tenants of structural sustainability – such as waste diversion, energy reduction, and recycling – that could be implemented around campus. The furniture was recovered from elsewhere on campus, six of the original 19 light fixtures were removed, and the plywood around windows facing the hall meet Forest Stewardship Council standards. As well, materials such as the tiled floor made from recycled drywall, and the

carpet made of 72 per cent recycled material – one-third post-consumer carpet – were donated from various businesses. The Office also has two composters, in which students can place leftovers such as the baked goods and apples served at the event by Organic Campus. Nicell explained afterwards that none of the Office’s $200,000 budget to support investments and ideas came from the University operating budget; instead, the money was raised through two 15 per cent increases in on-campus parking fees over the past two years. Drivers were both informed and supportive of the reason for the increase. Nicell also praised the economic viability of sustainability initiatives, such as a $12,000 pilot project with light dimmers in the James Administration Building that will pay for itself in a year and a half. “It’s not a choice of hard times versus sustainability,” Nicell said, later adding, “We have a moral responsibility not to [delay sustainable initiatives to future generations].”

Powerhouse Supervisor Alain Fournier gave students who attended the opening several tours of McGill’s powerhouse, which supplies the majority of the University’s buildings with heating and electricity, totalling 25 megawatts. He also showcased a web site that displays and stores real-time data on different types of energy consumption, and easily creates daily, weekly, and monthly consumption profiles. “I think it’s important for students to have access [to the site], but it’s not my decision,” Fournier said. He said the University has expressed concerns over some sensitive information being available online. When asked about the future of the Office, many students and administrators focused on the Office’s role as a hub for students interested in environmental projects, to connect them with relevant staff and administrators. Master’s Geography student Alexandre Poisson – who worked on last year’s Sustainability Report Card

and sat on the Office of Sustainability Steering Committee with Wilkinson, Nicell, Fortune, and U2 Environment student Jonathan Glencross – stressed the Office’s place in making undergraduate coursework relevant and useful, and offering adequate guidance to volunteer efforts. “In the end, students need to assert leadership,” Poisson said. “There’s so much opportunity to use classes to do projects and solve problems.” During her opening speech, Munroe-Blum recalled the welcoming she received from the SSMU Environment Committee on her first day in office six years ago. “From the minute I arrived, students were leaders in sustainability,” Munroe-Blum said. In opening a sustainability centre, McGill follows a long list of other Canadian universities, such as University of British Colombia, the University of Toronto, and Queen’s University. “It’s a huge step toward our goal as a community to support tangible change,” Wilkinson added.


The McGill Daily, Thursday, February 12, 2009


Mirror, mirror, on the wall Katherine Gottli The Brock Press (CUP)


acebook tells me I’m fat almost everyday. Or at least, that is how it makes me feel. Call it lack of self-confidence or a distorted body image, but with the constant bombardment of advertising for “Oprah’s miracle acai diet” or ways to cut down the flab on my mid-section, I can’t help but feel like there’s something I need to improve. As a result, I end up spending altogether too much time scrutinizing myself in the mirror. According to the Wardenburg Health Centre at the University of Colorado, women overestimate the size of their hips by 16 per cent and their waists by 25 per cent, but the same women can correctly estimate the width of a box. Yet women are not the only ones who struggle with the way they look, or how society tells them to look. The same study from the Wardenburg Health Centre discovered that one out of four men is on a diet at any given time, compared to one in three women. Most people – both men and women – have things about themselves that they would change if they had the chance. Dr. Kim Gammage, Associate Professor of Physical Education and Kinesiology at Brock

University, said that this need to perfect ourselves relates to society’s normative gender ideals and how many of us strive to fulfil them. “There are a couple of major differences between men and women,” said Gammage. “First, the ideal is different: for women it is thin, toned, not too muscular, and young. For men, the ideal is muscular, with a V-shaped torso, broad shoulders, narrow waist. Women tend to be more concerned with the lower body – hips, thighs, buttocks – while men tend to be more concerned with the upper body – chest, arms, back.” Gammage added that the other major difference between men and women’s bodily self-perceptions is the direction of dissatisfaction. “Women pretty consistently want to be thinner than they are and often will overestimate their body size, while men are more equally divided between wanting to be thinner and wanting to be bigger, more muscular,” she said, noting that such differences impact the ways that men and women attempt to control their bodies. “Women are more likely to use diet – dietary restraint [or even] eating disorders – to achieve the ideal. Men are more likely to use exercise… [or] use steroids and supplements,” Gammage said. Women, as it seems, are fuelling the $40-billion diet industry, which


includes diet food, drugs, and special programs. I’ll admit it – I, too, have been guilty of trying fad diets in place of just eating healthier or exercising more. The problem is that for many students who juggle work, education, and a social life, it’s just easier to pop a fat burner after lunch than to go to the gym. As I can attest, the results are certainly faster than working out three times a week, but I quickly began to understand that I was doing damage to my body. Gammage argued that supplements and fad-diets can lead to a slew of physical and mental problems. “From a body image perspective, any extreme dieting can be dangerous, [but] from a physical perspective, [quick-fix products] don’t give the body all the nutrients it needs. From a more psychological perspective, it can lead to feelings of deprivation, which can lead to binging,” she said. “Also, if people attempt to diet to lose weight and fail, it can lead to poor body image, depression, anxiety, etcetera.” So why do we continue to purchase the latest diet aids or starve ourselves for months before a bikiniclad reading week? We all know how we should be living a healthy lifestyle, but many of us just can’t seem to follow through. For Gammage, it is not about education, but rather our own behaviours.

“I think in most health matters, education is not the problem. You would be hard-pressed to find people who didn’t know they should exercise, not smoke, eat lowfat, etcetera, and yet they still do not follow through with [healthy] behaviours,” she said, adding that people’s attitudes toward certain behaviours or the attitudes of friends and family are often more important than simply the knowledge of healthy habits. Dr. Brian Roy, also an Associate Professor of Physical Education and Kinesiology at Brock, believes the school system is implicated in creating the diet craze. “I feel that not enough attention is paid to health in both primary and secondary school. Much more time is spent on math, history, and English, as compared to the single largest expense of the provincial government: health,” he said. “If people were better educated in the area of health, perhaps the costs of health care would be reduced. Curricula should include more emphasis on health and healthy living.” While there is little that can be said or done to change the way people think of their bodies, Roy noted that there are small, relatively easy things that each of us can do to improve on a basic level of health. “Things such as sleep, diet, and physical activity are all very impor-

Sally Lin

The Daily wants to print your art. Submit to, with “exposure” as the subject line

Sasha Plotnikova / The McGill Daily

A critical look at our socially constructed physical ideals

tant in contributing to health,” Roy said. “Time management is [also] a key skill that is necessary to facilitate health, and allows for adequate amounts of sleep.” So, next time you log on to Facebook and Kim Kardashian is staring you in the face, promoting the latest celebrity diet, try to not to reach for the measuring tape. Turn off the computer and get some shuteye instead.




The McGill Daily, Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sasha Plotnikova / The McGill Daily

Divisive GAs should use clickers, not placards As I waited in line with hundreds of other students to enter Thursday’s General Assembly (GA), I was filled with enthusiasm. SSMU’s public stance on the Gaza conflict had appeared to bring students together in a seemingly democratic fashion to make their voice heard and cast their vote. Two and half hours later, I left the havoc of the SSMU cafeteria feeling more upset and uncomfortable in an educational facility than I ever have, and I have yet to talk to someone from either standpoint on the issue who is pleased with the outcome. What went wrong? Aside from the obvious problems that arise when holding a three-hour event for approximately 700 people with 100 chairs and little space, the entirely open voting system was very detrimental to SSMU’s idea of creating a tolerant debating environment on an ideological topic. In order to cast their votes, students were told to line up in rows on opposite sides of the room. What had started as a group of students standing amongst others with various backgrounds and opinions ended with a physical divide between two dominantly ethnic groups in opposition of each other, provoking cheers and boos reminiscent of a sporting event. The hostility in the room became most evident when the Speaker then requested that everyone mix together again before the debate started. Nobody budged. This left the brave debaters to face not a group of students together, but two opposing forces who were either with or against them. Should similarly personal or ideological debates surface at future GAs, SSMU should relocate to a larger venue like Leacock 132, where students can vote anonymously with clickers or to any other setting where students can vote on paper and not be physically divided. But, seeing the rush of frustrated students leaving the GA immediately after this motion, I would expect it would be difficult to achieve quorum again. The bottom line is that this meeting created a greater conflict on campus than had previously existed. And the problem lay just as much in the voting process as it did in the underlying issue itself. No student should have to face off and stand divided to get their vote counted. April Engelberg U2 Arts

Thank god we’re all united now I have to admit that, at first, the results of the General Assembly (GA) baffled and angered me. It wasn’t the fact that “my side” was in the minority – such is life in a democracy – but rather the fact that I took four hours of my day to cast a vote for a motion that had importance to me and was barred from voting on that motion, along with any other person who attended, regardless of their position. Ultimately, two things are clear from last Thursday’s events. As the opposition said, the issue of Israel/Palestine is very divisive (even the issue of Palestinians having any rights at all, apparently). It is also clear how the opposition wants divisive issues to be handled: they should be ignored. I wish governments and institutions around the world could pay attention to the fine example set by the opposition. Why bother discussing or legislating “divisive” issues like land reform or representation? That sort of thing really only causes conflict and makes people feel excluded.” We can’t have that. In the GA of the UN, this is exactly the kind of mindset we must stress. War in the Congo? Repression in Tibet? Inequality? Poverty? Human rights? Too divisive, I say. It’s much easier to forget about our problems and our differences and pretend like we all agree. It worked in the Soviet Union for over 70 years. I salute the People’s Commissars for keeping with the tradition of saving us from having to debate anything. Thanks to them, I can now get back to more cheerful things, like gardening and light reading, instead of having to worry about something as silly and inconsequential as human rights. After all, maybe if Israelis just don’t think about the “problem” of Palestine, it will just quietly “go away.” Eduardo Doryan U2 IDS and Economics

Hey Daily, support your artists I expected more from The Daily. Your paper positions itself as a publication that supports artists, thinkers, and people who want a safe place to say something different. That’s great. Too bad you can’t walk the talk. When it comes to advertising for your Art Supplement, you chose to use an artist’s work without giving any sort of credit. I love the piece of art that was used in your full-page colour promotion, and I was interested in contacting the artist about a collaboration. However, while I was able to see the work reproduced all over campus (and Facebook), it was impossible to find any mention of who might have created it. If McGill has hammered anything into the minds of its students, hasn’t it been the importance of citing sources and the ills of plagiarism? Written right on your web site, under your commenting policy, is the statement that “The Daily prohibits...any comment The McGill Daily knows to be plagiarized.” When you fail to credit the artists who contribute to your paper, the above rule sounds like a double standard to me. Annik Babinski U2 English

Running that GA wasn’t easy Re: “No gains in dividing McGill” | Commentary | February 9 Dear Yael Greenberg, I realize your time is very valuable, but do you actually think that SSMU Council could have just canceled two motions to make your evening more convenient? Should we have the power to cancel General Assembly (GA) motions as we see fit? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of direct democracy? Are you actually suggesting that the old GA motions wouldn’t have been on the agenda if we didn’t expect high turnout? Do you think it is easy for the Speaker to run a meeting with over 600 students when many of them are yelling obnoxious comments out of turn? There was a lot of disrespectful behaviour at the GA, but suggesting that Council or the Speaker should have cancelled two of the motions on the agenda is disrespectful to the people who gathered the signatures to bring those motions to the table. If you are concerned with the way SSMU conducts GAs, you have plenty of opportunities to provide your input. Anyone is welcome at Council, the GA committee created a survey which you can fill out to give us input, and we’re all generally open to new ideas. Stas Moroz U1 Economics and Political Science SSMU GA Committee member

Motion meant to divide Re: “Stifled discussion breeds division, not unity” | Commentary | February 9 The author of this article may be right in claiming that “if the motion did not involve the words Gaza and Israel, it would have passed with no debate.” In fact, SSMU already has legislation to this effect, the Motion Regarding Solidarity with Workers’ Struggles, which calls on SSMU to defend students’ rights when they are in jeopardy anywhere. Nobody on the “no” side of that room wanted to suppress the rights of Palestinian students to have an education. The thing is, we didn’t think condemning Israel was the way to go about obtaining educational rights. As implored, I’ve read that resolution, and I’ve noted two things: (1) The “Whereas” clauses are deliberately inflammatory and deligitimize Israel, and (2) the blame laid out in the “Be It

It’s “Gandhi,” assholes Re: “Religious Studies class was without a professor until yesterday” | News | February 5 For a newspaper that makes much noise about its commitment to social justice and equity, The Daily does an awful job of spelling the name of one of the foremost men in this field: Gandhi. That is G,A,N,D,H, and I, and the order isn’t negotiable. I gather from your advertisements that you have no copy editor, but come on, whatever happened to due diligence and spell-check? One or two is a typo, but four in the same article (including the proper name of a film) is sloppy,

Sustainability Office is McGill’s filet mignon Why, when we are facing a $10-million deficit, are we adding to it by opening a new Office of Sustainability? Does this bring us closer to or further from Principal Heather Monroe-Blum’s stated goal of eradicating the deficit? I could care less about the existence of the Office, but the fact of the matter is that it is a luxury. During difficult economic times, luxuries should be cut back. When you are strapped for cash, do you go out for a filet mignon dinner? Of course not. Why should the McGill administration be treated any differently? Adam Baginski U1 Engineering

Resolved” clauses is misallocated. The UN said last Thursday that the UN Relief and Works Agency school was not hit by Israel, and the circumstances surrounding the bombing of the Islamic University are pending investigation. If it turns out that Hamas was using the university for military operations, it would seem that, as a body that nearly kicked out Canadian military recruiters from our school, it is them we should be censuring. Let’s not pretend that this was an objective motion for students’ rights. If it was, the motion would not have condemned one country for acts it may not have even committed. And since the country in question is one to which the authors know many people hold strong emotional ties, demonizing it could do nothing but unleash torrid and divisive emotions. Mookie Kideckel U1 History ignorant, and disrespectful. This isn’t even “Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai” from the book 2001: A Space Odyssey (who had to become the boringly named “Langley” in the film). It’s “Gandhi,” with six letters and two syllables. I have a lingering feeling this would not happen with the name of a Western political figure. You probably wouldn’t even miss the cedilla in François or the umlaut in Schröder (or the accent on darling Ché’s name). Some care in watching what you type would be much, much appreciated. Manosij Majumdar U2 Chemical Engineering

Check your stereotypes Re: “Does sexuality age well?” | Features | February 9 I resent Scott Baker referring to my Nana and Papa’s coitus as “wrinkled, gray-haired, denture-laden grandparent sex.” First off, they make love not sex. Second, my grandparents have great original teeth (a genetic trait) and I do not appreciate the suggestion of fake dentures. Most importantly, their sex would be much better stereotyped as a “Viagra-charged, wheelchairladen, mothball-smelling, soupstained, creaky, early bird special.” I do appreciate, however, the assuredly intentional ironic ploy in the article to reinforce stereotypes while arguing for the abolition of the stigmas they create. Dave Schecter U3 Arts & Science


The McGill Daily, Thursday, February 12, 2009

No student should have to face off and stand divided to get their vote counted. April Engelberg Divisive GAs should use clickers, not placards

One side is right in the Middle East 1. The other day, I took out a loan to put down my two cents on the situation going on between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (a.k.a.: Tamil Tigers) but before I was able to send in my article, someone told me that only the Israel-Palestine geo-political debate is relevant in the world of academia right now. I only got a B in the Politics of Middle Eastern States so I won’t add anything that hasn’t already been said. Instead, I’ll just say that Israel is right. I’m also offering up my two cents to anyone – anyone – who can explain to me what’s going on in Sri Lanka. I’ll add a bonus if you’re a someone with no cultural ties to the region, because I’m sure that nothing eats at a university student more than studying an issue and being unable to talk about it because it’s not fashionable to care. 2. So the new $900-billion-plus Obama stimulus package has a controversial clause stating that any public works projects that require steel will be using American steel. In other words, the U.S. will be taking a shit on our economy to try and save their own, using protectionist policies that have been historically proven not to work (see: the Great Depression). It’d be easy for me to say that Canada should, in response, cut back on our oil, water, timber, and other exports, but I’m not petty. Plus, the last time the Canadian government showed that it had anything resembling a set of testicles was when Jean Chrétien had to, in the words of Wayne Brady, “choke a bitch.” This country, on an economic level, has never really aspired to be more than an economic colony to more powerful countries. All I can say to those Canadians disappointed in Obama is that you should really focus that disappointment on Canada’s post-World War II economic policies that have made us hostage to these sorts of things. 3. I was only kidding about the Israelis being right, it’s clearly the Palestinians. PS: Or are they?

Duong Pham U3 Economics

Close, but no taste

Why don’t you just do it inside?

Re: “I could hate the sin, but never the theatre” | Culture | February 5

Re: “Why don’t we do it in the road?” | Mind&Body | February 5

For the most part, Nicolas BoisvertNovak’s review of Never the Sinner was a good and informative critique, but calling nudity-free theatre “the cultural equivalent of non-alcoholic beer” was in very poor taste. Despite the generally positive tone of the review, that one sentence doesn’t only undermine and belittle the entire piece – it is also the type of comment that serves to reinforce the very same cultural apathy which the article would otherwise seem to lament. Further, it’s of particular embarrassment seeing as only a week ago, The Daily published a cover feature bemoaning the current state of support for the arts in our country. If the arts merit attention in The Daily, (and they do), then that attention should at least be respectful enough to encourage others to give a damn.

At the risk of being labeled homophobic or at the very least un-hip, we would like to bring forward some issues with Julie Alsop’s argument in her article “Why don’t we just do it in the road?” First, it is a simple fact that publicity invites viewership. Public space is public for a reason, and any actions taken in public are open for the scrutiny and attention of others. By going about your business in a public space, not only must you be willing to give up any assumption of privacy, you also must bear the attention, negative or otherwise, associated with your public activities. Alsop is right in saying that crude remarks or catcalling are more likely results of homosexual public makeouts. But this doesn’t mean that straight couples are completely immune or that public sex should be designated as “queer.” Further, this public attention is more likely due to the novelty of your PDA rather than homophobic hatred. Implying that this is hatred removes meaning from true homophobia and continuing homophobic violence. Our space can be “heteronormative” and also not homophobic – last time we checked the majority of the population is heterosexual. That said, the homosexual community has done a wonderful job at fighting for their inherent human rights; these just simply do not include a right to public sex, to which heterosexual couples also do not have a right. So with all due respect, Ms. Alsop, get a room.

Adam Stikuts U2 Linguistics, Translation, and Music Technology

OMG I can’t wait to read it! Re: Stifled discussion breeds division, not unity | Commentary | February 9 It is so great to see a student who cares about preventing a humanitarian crisis! You are completely right, the motion does serve to simply encourage the right to education. I look forward to hearing about your work on the situation in Darfur, where 400,000 Darfurians have been murdered; Iraq, where 10,000 citizens have been murdered, just in the past four years; Zimbabwe... and, I guess I shouldn’t continue listing the many humanitarian crises that you will be encouraging McGill to condemn, right? Please let me know when you write an article about the lack of education in Africa, where children are starving and dying – yes, without an education, and even in Montreal, with many children unable to access an education – I would love to read it. I’m proud that you do not want to remain quiet on all these issues. Thanks for standing up for “human rights.” Vicky Tobianah U1 Political Science and English Literature Daily Contributor

Stephanie Ränkin U1 Neuroscience Hillary Walker U1 Urban Systems

Academics against the Israel boycott Re: “Academics petition for Israel boycott” | News | February 5 The Daily describes a petition with 80 signatures from professors and employees at Quebec universities and colleges (about 30 from McGill), urging a complete program of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) directed at Israel, and indeed Israeli universities. (The full statement of that Quebec petition can be found on the website of the Global BDS Movement.) Writing in our capacity as individual professors, we oppose this proposal for several reasons: 1. We are in general opposed to academic boycotts, and believe that universities should be places that promote dialogue and debate. Specifically, Israeli universities are places where criticism of Israeli policies has long flourished. Boycotts would also include Israeli academics who were highly critical of their government’s policies. 2. We reject the facile analogies with South African apartheid. We sense that this drumbeat linking Israel and apartheid results primarily in the demonization of Israel. It is both misleading and pernicious. It certainly does nothing to foster any serious and credible peace process. 3. Academic boycott attempts

Excuses shmexcuses Re: “Literal Divisions over Gaza flare GA tensions” | News | February 9 So people think that the General Assembly (GA) should not be a forum for “external political issues” or a venue for the spread of divisive sentiments. Why not? The GA admirably chose to address an issue that is obviously of importance to a large number of students on campus – hence the cafeteria reaching its maximum capacity – and to dismiss this initiative as outside SSMU’s jurisdiction or as allowing division on campus is to insult what we’re at McGill for. Let’s face it: we are of the privileged elite in the world, receiving an education that will hopefully make us better people. With this in mind, shouldn’t education foster within us a sense of social consciousness and activism? A feeling of responsibility for issues that are outside our comfortable, mushy, McGill bubble?

in other jurisdictions, like Britain or Ontario, have either been found illegal or foundered, rightly, for lack of support. 4. The statement by BDS is sadly simplistic and one-sided, for a document signed by scholars that seeks to comment not only on the Gaza violence but on the entire and highly complex Israeli-Palestinian dispute. For example, there is no mention of Hamas missiles on Sderot (especially given that the document speaks of violations of international law), or for that matter Hezbollah, the Palestinian Authority, other Arab states, or Iran. 5. The statement singles out Israel as a target for economic sanctions. Yet there are other states in the region and the rest of the world where the case for sanctions is more compelling but who are apparently of no concern to the backers of BDS. Why are they obsessed with Israel? Richard Schultz Professor of Political Science Axel Van den Berg Professor of Sociology Harold Waller Professor of Political Science Morton Weinfeld Professor of Sociology

The condemnation of the bombing of educational institutions in Gaza was one such issue, an issue that obviously inspired enough people to withstand the heat and crowdedness for three hours in hopes of voting on the motion. Sitting awfully close to others in that cafeteria, I felt proud that SSMU sought to take a stance on an issue that has received so much international attention, but was disheartened with the outcome. Tensions will always be raised about things that matter in the world – and for those of you who have forgotten, McGill is a part of the world. But I guess some are satisfied with leaving the things that matter to our overqualified politicians – let them decide. We here at McGill have more important things to think about, like whether or not we should wear pants on Friday! Amanie Antar U4 Education

Even after printing two full pages of the things, The Daily received more letters for this issue than it could print. But don’t fret – they’ll appear soon. Send your non-offensive letters to at 300 words or less, and include your year and program. Please. Proofreading is also encouraged.


The McGill Daily, Thursday, February 12, 2009



Jonathan Glencross


ustainability is often regarded as a “buzzword,” which, according to some, tends to lose meaning with every additional utterance. But for my purposes, it remains a useful and relevant symbol of the long-term aspirations of any “successful” institution. I am writing this commentary to begin a new narrative for sustainability at McGill, and to clarify from whom we can expect it. Although the story of the Sustainability Office – from the student perspective – started before our time, I am going to focus on the progress made since last April. With a recent Sustainability Report Card in mind, the final proposal for a sustainability centre was submitted to relevant administrators, and a faculty forum was held to elaborate the vision we inherited from past students. Soon afterward, Jim Nicell, Associate Vice-Principal (University Services,) invited us to sit on a steering committee to develop the mission and direction of what is now called the McGill Office of Sustainability. This was a conscious effort to bring students into the decision making process. It continues to be very open and transparent, but has moved slower than we anticipated. Part of the Office’s coming should be to collect and disseminate the knowledge and information required to support long-term planning objectives and maintain institutional memory. This involves developing

sustainability performance indicators and sharing the results with the community, as a means to facilitate action and make more informed decisions. Anyone who has tried to do this in the past will tell you that in certain areas, we are missing the tools for detailed measurement, such as per building energy meters. In other cases, the existing data was not intended for our purposes and requires significant manipulation. Professor travel records are an obvious example of record-keeping that is financially thorough but often short on details, such as the city departure. It is difficult to accurately calculate the greenhouse gas emissions from employee travel without this, which forces any such calculations to make relatively large assumptions. Where these gaps in knowledge or information exist, however, they present opportunities for student projects or volunteers – in consult with relevant staff – to find creative ways to resolve these problems or develop entirely new methods of gauging our successes and failures. Obviously, the goal is not to measure performance, but to unite people and effect change in a measureable way. But why are metrics important? We want to change things, not measure them, right? Well, if they’re done properly, measurements will serve as the basis for the University’s decisions on what to do and how to do it. Influencing the measure of success inevitably influences the decisions we, as a community, are responsible for. However, if we want to pay more than lip service

to the popular staples of sustainability, such as recycling and energy conservation, we have to make a deliberate effort to coordinate amongst ourselves, and continue to increase McGill’s capacity to unite people. To this end, we are working with Jim Nicell to create a coordinating body that will address how we can do this. I have also asked to have the SSMU Green Fee spill over from yearto-year to increase their ability to contribute to a full-time position of Sustainability Coordinator, or at the very least a significant work-study in tandem with such a position. Every corner of the University would benefit from additional staffing, so it has to be made clear that this position will empower individuals across campus to accomplish more. And these are only the preliminary steps. But as a good friend of mine pointed out to me Tuesday morning, if universities fail to adapt to the demands placed upon them to become sustainable, they will cease to be relevant. If I had one recommendation for those of us seeking this kind of change, it would be to break the habit of referring to McGill as some entity outside oneself. Credibility is hard to establish when one picks and chooses which parts of the institution to identify with, while benefitting from one’s membership as a whole.

Gaza: the poverty would likely overwhelm, the overcrowding nauseate, and the endless security checkpoints add insult to injury. Meanwhile, Palestinians and their sympathizers must understand how isolated the Israelis are. The nation has no real friends except for the U.S. – and it can be debated whether America’s staunch defense of Israel is heartfelt. Naturally, such an environment will breed Palestinians who feel insulted and oppressed by their neighbours and Israelis that compensate for their insecurities by holding overly aggressive attitudes. Remember, defending one side in one instance and the other in another does not make you a hypocrite. The Arab-Israeli conflict is not a moral tennis match to see who has wronged more often, but a complicated clash stemming from a wide range of factors including Zionism, Anti-Arabism and Anti-Semitism, resource abundance, the militaryindustrial complex, and, let’s not forget, history. Though we can google our way to forming any argument our heart desires – and we do – the reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict is probably more intricate than anything a jumble of one-sided facts can tell us. Yet there is no need for despair. The human desire for peace is a

timeless one, a desire stronger than any government policy that has ever existed. People everywhere must establish that peace in the Middle East is not a luxury, but a necessity. Then all other progress will follow. After all, the fates of Israel and Palestinian territories are inexorably intertwined. What Palestinians need more urgently than even food or doctors is long-term peace. What Israel needs more than its highly advanced weapons is, again, peace. In conclusion, I have a suggestion. Maybe it’s a little cheesy, but if Barack Obama can cruise into the White House with “Yes We Can,” then I’ll take my shot at forging peace in the Middle East with my own slogan. In Hebrew, the word for peace, shalom, serves as a greeting. In Arabic, habibi is an affectionate colloquial term meaning something along the lines of “my dear.” Let’s put an end to the charged rhetoric on both sides and christen a new era in Israeli-Palestinian relations by welcoming one another and saying, “Shalom, Habibi.” It’s a step.

Shalom, Habibi!

Jeff Bishku-Aykul


hroughout the past few weeks, I have opened The Daily to be greeted by a wide variety of commentary regarding the ArabIsraeli conflict. Every week, the debate rages back and forth; some writers emphasize a more pro-Israeli perspective, others take on a decidedly pro-Palestinian tone. No column solves the problem, but many provide ammunition for the next week’s series of letters and commentary. When discussing the conflict, if you call the situation in Israel “apartheid,” you can be sure someone will pounce on your back. Likewise, if you start talking about the “right of Israel to exist,” there’s no doubt in my mind that someone will note disproportionate civilian deaths in Gaza. And if you bring up the Palestinian women and children who have died as a result of recent Israeli military action, rest assured that others will reference Hamas’s shady history of using human shields. How did we get here? For Israelis and Israel supporters, it may be a helpful to imagine living in


Palestinian human rights: indefinitely postponed Khaled Kteily

Jonathan Glencross is a U2 Environment student and the Chair of the Sustainable McGill project. Send questions, comments, and feedback to


How to fix the Middle East crisis in two words

Michelle Kwok / The McGill Daily

The Sustainability Office’s story

Jeff Bishku-Aykul is a U1 History student and long-time news writer, first time commentator. Send solutions to the conflict to


ver the last week or two, I’ve been inundated with questions – “Why are you asking SSMU to take a position on such a divisive topic?”, “What are you trying to achieve?”, “Why do you hate my people!?” I’d like to address some of these concerns. The first point I’d like to make is something that bears repeating – the resolution was, above all else, an issue of human rights. It was not meant to condemn Israel for being Israel, nor was it meant to ask SSMU to take a stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It was asking SSMU to speak up on behalf of the Palestinian right to education by condemning the bombing of educational institutions. Of course, it is impossible to completely extract just one issue from such a complex conflict. That said, the resolution was very clearly focused on the fact that there were and still are countless students who are being denied their right to pursue their education in Palestine. This fundamental human right to education is an inalienable right that every human being has, regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity. However, this right is being denied on a daily basis in Palestine. For example, two universities in Gaza were completely destroyed. 66 schools in Gaza, half of which were run by the UN, have been damaged far beyond the point of usability or even recognition. There are Fulbright scholars – recipients of one of the most exclusive scholarships across the world – that have been denied exit visas out of Palestine by Israel for the sole reason that they are Palestinian. As students, how can we stand

idly by when there are students just like us who do not have the opportunity to study? While we may complain about our classes and criticize our professors, we all know that our education here will shape our future, and we all know that our education here will certainly continue to impact our lives daily. It is our responsibility as students to speak up on behalf of our counterparts in Palestine who are being denied this fundamental human right. This was not a resolution condemning Israel as a political entity; rather, it was condemning Israel’s actions – an important distinction. This motion was submitted because the Israeli government has been systematically denying the Palestinians’ right to education, and because this has been going on for decades. I hoped to raise awareness about this matter, and at the very least engage students in debating the issue. After all, without education, how can we ever hope to end the vicious cycle of conflict in Israel and Palestine? There is no doubt in my mind that education, as part of a comprehensive respect for equality and human rights, is one of the keys to achieving true peace in a region with such a tumultuous history. And while such an approach requires both time and dedication, I believed that we at McGill would, at the very least, stand up and speak on behalf of the students in Palestine and Gaza. Clearly, I was mistaken. Khaled Kteily is a U3 BCom student, and wrote the motion calling on SSMU to condemn the bombings of educational institutions in Gaza for last Thursday’s GA. Feel free to reach Khaled at khaled.kteily@


The McGill Daily, Thursday, February 12, 2009

Not the same old V-Day Critical approach behind McGill’s 2009 production enhances its relevance

Aaron Vansintjan The McGill Daily


utting on The Vagina Monologues at McGill is hardly a novel idea – in fact, it’s done every year. Since The Monologues’ conception in 1996, it has inched its way from being a contested and controversial curiosity to an accepted, if not entirely established, slice of student life. So why would a McGill student such as yourself check out this year’s production? First of all, director Kara Fletcher’s production of monologues celebrating this year’s V-day is refreshing and provocative, transcending the piece’s original intent. And while The Vagina Monologues has been produced by thousands of universities around the world for years, the issues it raises are as relevant as ever. Eve Ensler, a celebrated women’s rights activist, wrote the piece to “celebrate the vagina,” but The Vagina Monologues has since developed into a movement that goes far beyond vagina-adulation. It stands at the forefront of the V-Day organization, which has now raised over $60-million and has been named one of the world’s “100 best charities.” The piece’s updated goal is to “stop violence against women and girls.” To highlight this, Ensler adds a new monologue every year; topics range from women in the Congo to suppressed women under Taliban rule. Before seeing The Monologues, I was skeptical. I was worried that I would be uncomfortable, and, like most people who hear about the play, I had presuppositions that weren’t all too kosher. I hoped that The Vagina Monologues wasn’t just a continuous chatter about female genitals, and I was worried that my masculinity would be compromised. My concerns proved unfounded. While it is a continuous stream of vagina-related

monologues, this year’s production is about much more than its title might suggest. Kara Fletcher’s approach is a critical one. She did not stage The Vagina Monologues in blind admiration, nor

mildly funny. But the decision to keep all of the actors involved during each monologue made me feel like a part of it all, so that a feeble joke was transformed into an uproarious knee-slapper. I appreciated the play so much

The production sparks anew the debate and conversation that The Vagina Monologues was intended for. did she adhere to its stereotypes. Throughout the play, she seemed to be saying, “bring it on” to potential criticism; the production sparks anew the debate and conversation that The Vagina Monologues was intended for. The cast was a true ensemble. While presenting each character with care and respect, the actors never failed to surprise and delight the audience. Each individual performer remained part of the whole; they all worked together as each monologue was performed. As Fletcher explained afterward, she wanted to “bring people out of their comfort zone.” I think that the actors did that and more; they constantly challenged the spectator, simultaneously working hard to ease away all presuppositions. I was brought out of my comfort zone, but I felt no resistance. The play, as it was originally written, is

more because it was clear how much the actors were enjoying it. The play, as rambunctious as it is, should not be over-estimated. Fletcher reminded me that Ensler did not write an objective report on the state of women around the world; it is still “one woman’s experience.” She added that at some points, it seems as though Ensler is “taking agency of these women’s choices” – she may have a sympathetic eye, but she still is a white woman appropriating

experiences that aren’t hers. I agree, and I think Fletcher did a good job of making clear that The Vagina Monologues is not the beall end-all of feminism; it is an honest attempt at raising issues that should be thought about. Personally, I thought that the play perpetuates certain stereotypes, and that it does not serve to abolish the dichotomies that remain at the forefront of the gender debate. What the play does address successfully is the relationship between peace and sexuality. Whereas in the past, first-world powers attempted to solve conflicts by appeasing both of the parties at war, Ensler has worked hard to bring the plight of the subjugated women under the public eye. In one of the monologues of this year’s production, a woman discusses the horrors that Congolese soldiers inflicted on her; the part calls attention to the abuse women faced in both civil wars. Ensler’s work greatly changes the way “peace” is thought of; instead of

concentrating on the male powers in the conflict, the UN now recognizes that the safety of women and children is the first order of importance. Ensler stresses the fact that we need to think of antagonisms between warring factions not just as a clash between multiple powers, but also as an issue of gender-conflict. The problems The Vagina Monologues addresses are far from solved, and the gender and sexuality debate is far from concluded. Students should do more than attend the play this weekend; they should think about their very own presuppositions that they carry around daily. The play challenges some of those presuppositions, but it still leaves questions unanswered.

The Vagina Monologues is running this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. in the Leacock Building, Room 132.

Jenna Gogen for The McGill Daily

CULTURE BRIEF Dancing in the psych ward When Montreal-based contemporary dance company O Vertigo first premiered La Chambre Blanche in 1992, the work was met with instant critical success and toured worldwide. Last year, choreographer Ginette Laurin, O Vertigo’s founder and Artistic

Director, decided to bring the piece back, but first overhauled the original before bringing it to theatres and festivals across Europe. The revival was again immediately successful, and now the 2008 version of La Chambre Blanche is finally coming home to Montreal, with a three-week engagement at the Cinquieme Salle at Place des Arts, beginning tonight. Centred on an exploration of violence and insanity, Laurin places her dancers in a frighteningly hemmed-in environment that evokes a psychiatric institution, and clothes them mainly in white undergarments, highlighting the sense of helplessness that

she works to create through movement. The feeling of confinement is palpable as the dancers wrestle with their surroundings. The audience is quietly pulled in and exposed to the heightened emotional state that La Chambre Blanche powerfully generates. The subject matter is weighty, but also timely, and O Vertigo’s dancers treat it with pitch-perfect honesty. – Amelia Schonbek La Chambre Blanche is at the Cinquieme Salle from February 12-28. For more information, visit


The McGill Daily, Thursday, February 12, 2009


Uncovering Canada’s history of slavery Author Lawrence Hill talks about identity, language, and the experience of the black loyalist


anadian author Lawrence Hill spoke with The Daily about language and race in the context of his most recent novel, The Book of Negroes. His novel was inspired by a handwritten ledger of the same name, listing the names of 3,000 black loyalists – both the slaves of white loyalists, and other slaves who chose to fight for the Crown during the American revolutionary war in exchange for the promise of freedom. The Book of Negroes is a work of fiction based on the relocation of these loyalists from America to Canada, and their eventual journey to Sierra Leone. When they arrived in Canada, Britain’s promises of land and liberty were unfulfilled. For a loyalist, though, recognizing one’s name in The Book of Negroes meant the ability to leave for Africa. Hill’s work tells the story of one woman’s cross-continental journey from Africa to the Americas and back, revealing Canada’s oft-overlooked history of slavery. Although the book was published in Canada under the same title as the ledger, its name was changed to Someone Knows My Name for its international release.

McGill Daily: The theme of 2009’s black history month is “Building a Canadian Identity.” Do you think that the reality of the treatment of blacks in Canada needs to be acknowledged by most Canadians before such an accurate Canadian identity can be constructed? Lawrence Hill: Our understanding and our interest in black history is abysmally low in Canada.... [My daughters] were asked to read one book in the course of their entire

high school careers that purported to tell them something of the black experience: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, which is written by a white American, about segregation and prejudice in the United States.... What I have an issue with is [that] Canada’s idea of introducing black history and black culture to Canadian high school students is to point a finger toward Americans. We are loath to discuss black history, segregation, slavery, and our own historical warts.

Most Canadians, I venture, still don’t know that slavery existed in Quebec, Ontario, P.E.I., New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. I think it reveals an underlying resistance to examine who we are honestly. Writing this book...I meant to address a void in our collective awareness of the black experience in Canada. MD: In the novel, the protagonist, Aminata, is able to learn many languages with ease. How is language related to a model of cultural interaction? LH: There is certainly a plurality of cultures and languages and ethnicities that she is part of. I’m quite interested in that when she comes to North America, she suddenly has to learn new languages.... I haven’t seen too much literature that explores language appropriation of captives in the Americas. All this time, [studying] 400 years of black history in North America, we haven’t stopped to imagine the huge mental gymnastics...these forced migrants had to do to stay alive, and so I was interested in dramatizing that process. I think that takes a great deal of intellectual prowess, but somehow we don’t chalk it up like that.

MD: How does language figure into issues of race today? For instance, the title couldn’t contain the word “negro” in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. LH: Trying to describe a person’s racial identity with a word is a losing proposition – and is fundamentally absurd because people can’t be defined by race biologically. Race is a social construct. We will always be dissatisfied with the racial terminology. Negro was the term you used in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s to refer respectfully to blacks, but it has changed meanings lately. Just as the word “nigger” has been re-appropriated by many in hip hop culture...the word “negro” has gone in the opposite direction. Inside black culture in urban America, “negro” means an inauthentic, spineless black person, an Uncle Tom, someone who has no inner pride, and so the title had to change for the American edition. MD: What do you think about terms being thrown around today such as “post-racial” and “colour blindness?” LH: I think they are absurd. I think that racial prejudice and racial

discrimination still mark many aspects of Canadian life, and to say we are in a post racial society, in my opinion, is to deny the reality of racism. I don’t like the term colour blindness either. Sometimes people say, “my kid comes home from school and Johnny doesn’t even see that his one friend is Asian and his other friend is black, isn’t that wonderful....” And that means in their eyes that such great progress has been made. I’m extremely cynical about comments like that. Of course, a child isn’t going to see it, but when they get to the age of 15 or 20, these issues are going to be front and centre in the subconscious processes of Canadians.... If you don’t believe it, just ask someone who at two o’clock in the morning is driving in a luxury vehicle, what it’s like to be pulled over because they’re black. I think it is a fantasy that is quintessentially Canadian to say that we live in a colour blind society. We don’t look honestly at ourselves, which again, is why I wrote the novel. I wanted to dramatize something we haven’t looked at, which is the experience of the black loyalist in Canada. – compiled by Whitney Mallett

Comedy stripped down Alex O'Brien Culture Writer


eAnne Smith has quickly become one of the Montreal stand-up scene’s most applauded comics. Her latest show, Stand Up / Strip Down, is a stimulating blend of neurosis and ribald. With it, she has delivered a delicious entertainment dish à la Montreal. Between each of the three comedy routines delivered by guest comics, the audience members were treated to five- to ten-minute burlesque-style strip shows. The comedic triumvirate included relative newcomer Chason Gordon, as well as two names more familiar to Montrealers: Heidi Foss (of This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes fame) and Ali Hassan. It was Smith who, throughout the night, captured the audience’s queer-friendly hearts. She was a terrific Masters of Ceremonies, getting the most laughs from her impromptu antics and engagement with audience members. She left the impression of someone who’d want to hug the world – but in doing so, klutz that she is, would likely squish a child or two in the process. Hers is a dynamic style of comedy that drifts effortlessly

from personal quirks and situational awkwardness, to the topical absurdities of (mostly) politics. What an entertainer! This reviewer wouldn’t hesitate to hug her back, no matter the risk involved. The strip show intermissions were rooted in parody; Smith organized her show around cheeky fun, and wanted to recreate the spirit and atmosphere of a bordello. Audience members were thus invited to play the parts of obsessive body-maniacs, as the strippers sauntered saucily across the stage – and out of their costumes. There was a foxy number in a black dress pearls, who expertly busted out of a red corset to reveal an electrifying pair of glittering booby tassels. A second dancer paid homage to Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” which culminated in acrobatics as she jumped and – horrifyingly, for this male reviewer – landed in a split. The third act was more circus than strip show, but after juggling bricks for a bit, the brave performer cast off his shirt and pants to reveal silver boxer shorts, which clung tantalizingly to his thighs and crotch. Finally, the last stripper introduced some exoticism to the evening with a spicy act, straight from the tropics. Stand Up / Strip Down tapped into

Sasha Plotnikova / The McGill Daily

DeAnne Smith’s self-deprecating comic burlesque show bares all

that part of Montreal’s ethos which combines the self-conscious with the sexually and sensually unapologetic. It’s entertainment for those who are

honest about both their insecurities and their appetites. Smith’s theme is universal, and her performance is original and skilled enough to make

her one of those great (and at $10 a ticket, still affordable) comedians who are definitely worth checking out.

18 Culture

The McGill Daily, Thursday, February 12, 2009

Environmentalism, as told by octopi Sally Lin / The McGill Daily

Though naive, George Ter-Stepanian’s 1989 sci-fi novel was ahead of its time Spencer Hill Culture Writer


he Green Revolution is a lie. In a revolution, people’s interests get hurt, great sacrifices are made, and by the end, things are vastly different than they were before. The Green Revolution isn’t going to happen as long as people think changing a few light bulbs and turning the lights off will do the job. Written in Armenia in 1989, before the fall of the Soviet Union – and well before the green movement became so popular – George Ter-Stepanian’s science fiction novel Wiser than Humans attempts to show how much it will take to avert environmental disaster. The novel tells the story of a group of environmental scientists, kidnapped over the Bermuda Triangle by a bunch of super-intelligent octopi called Dorils. The Dorils live at the bottom of the ocean and have witnessed the rise of the human species with increasing alarm, as humans wage war among themselves and on the planet. The Dorils kidnap the scientists to enlist their help in getting people to change their ways, before Earth becomes uninhabitable for both humans and Dorils alike. The English translation of Wiser than Humans was launched at McGill’s Redpath Museum on January 22 by translator Christine Mitchell, the author having died in 2006 in Montreal. Ter-Stepanian was a Soviet environmental scientist, whose efforts were crucial in preventing several environmentally destructive projects in his native Armenia from going through, including a nuclear waste

dump that would have poisoned the drinking water of 1.5-million people. He decided to write the novel to make environmental issues accessible beyond the scientific community – one of the few who took climate change seriously in the days before Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. The book was clearly written by a scientist, and contains a lot of specific, real-world, factual information about environmental degradation and detailed descriptions of how the mysterious technology of the Dorils would work. There are a few romantic plot threads, and even a subplot about a jewel robbery, but they come off as haphazard additions to the

book’s overall message. The Dorils themselves have a utopian, communist society where everyone works happily for the good of the greater underwater community. All ecological damage is attributed to greedy capitalists. Only with the incredible technology of the Dorils are the kidnapped scientists able to convince the world to work together to save the planet. While the book does a good job laying out the problems facing the early green movement, the prescriptions it offers are a little far-fetched, even for a science fiction novel. In radio addresses at the end of the novel, the scientists propose such

solutions as outlawing all pollution, outlawing war, outlawing hunting, and most spectacularly, rerouting every nation’s military budget toward environmental protection. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how naive – even dangerous – these solutions are. “Pollution” can mean just about anything, from coolants in refrigerators used to store food and medicine for impoverished countries, to car exhaust, to fuel burned for heat or cooking – and let’s not even get started on the ideas of outlawing war or taking away military budgets. Utopic as these solutions might sound, they’re simply not viable. If the green movement is going

to have a hope of succeeding, we need more than naive solutions that discredit the movement and make its ideals seem ridiculous. Wiser Than Humans conveys just how badly humans need to take responsibility for their environmental impact, and the huge obstacles that face those who try. While the book’s literary features won’t exactly qualify it as a work of art, and its suggested solutions are unrealistic at best, this 1989 work was well ahead of its time. And its precocious message needs to be understood now more than ever if humanity is to survive on this planet. It’s either that, or pray that a bunch of octopi will save us.

those I love if people didn’t like my film. In Mohawk Girls, we looked at sexual abuse and alcoholism. This wasn’t a glorious portrait of my great community. But I feel these are issues we need to talk about in order to get to a better place. Making Club Native, I didn’t have any fear for myself, because I think this is greater than me. But I did fear for the people in the film and that was crippling for me at some points....

but what are we going to have in terms of culture, language, and pride to hang on to? I feel we are really at a crossroads right now, and I am hoping that this film brings up these questions, gets people talking, and hopefully opens up their hearts. Waneek Horn-Miller: Our communities – Kahnawake is not the only one – are so focused on this idea of purity and image. We need to start thinking about community building. Our leaders...are stuck with this mentality that they should be like [they were]...hundreds of years ago when we were all really dark and really “native.” [It’s] a terrible thing to tell a young woman: “You know what? Just marry the right colour. It doesn’t matter how he treats you or what he’s like.” I think we should ask: “what is he willing to do for his community? How is he going to treat you? Is he willing to learn your culture?” Those should be the questions, not “Marry out, get out,” which is [the case] right now.

Does blood determine belonging? Tracey Deer’s Club Native reflects on Mohawk identity Pamela Fillion The McGill Daily


lub Native opens with shots of different people reflecting on and responding to the question, “What does it mean to be Mohawk?” The film discusses the lingering effects of blood quantum ideology, a product of the sexist Indian Act – a policy which until 1985 denied native women and their children native status if they married a nonnative, while allowing men to retain status for themselves and grant it to their family. While the federal government’s policy now permits both men and women to preserve their status regardless of whom they marry, the

residue of past legislation remains in native communities. The film focuses on the Kahnawake band, which denies membership to both men and women who marry out of the community. Interspersed with the four main storylines are interviews with several Kahnawake residents, on the topic of belonging and the consequences of marrying outside of the community. At the screening at McGill earlier this month, filmmaker Tracey Deer joined cast members Waneek HornMiller – also the director of McGill’s First People’s House – and her husband, Keith Morgan, to answer questions from the audience. Horn-Miller, an Olympian and an icon of the Oka Crisis in 1990, faced scrutiny from her community after marrying a nonnative. Here, a member of the audience reports on the panel’s responses. How was the film received by the community of Kahnawake, and how does the community agree

with and respond to the vision of the film? Tracey Deer: There was poor attendance and overall apathy. Discussion was minimal. I think, on the whole, the community doesn’t want to think about this. I think there is so much fear in our community of becoming a target for scrutiny by your own lineage. As a filmmaker, how was it different working on a project within your own community? How was it putting together these stories, that are from people in your community, without feeling that you were distorting their message? TD: This isn’t the first film I made about my community; the first film was Mohawk Girls. It was crazy. I thought it would be so easy, that it would be a breeze. Actually, I think it was the hardest film I’ve ever made. I was afraid about who would be upset because I made it – about my parents’ reaction, and the repercussions for

What did you hope to achieve with the making of Club Native? TD: Well I want it to spark reflection, thought, and conversation in our communities. [People think that] as long as we find the right blood quantum and have our kids with the right amount of [native] blood, then we don’t have to think about anything else: we’re “surviving.” I feel that if we continue on this path, we may have native people with the right amount of blood in them,


The McGill Daily, Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lies, half truths, and yellow

Margot Nossal /The McGill Daily

Angel Chen for The McGill Daily

Angel’s illustrations appear every other Thursday. Contact Ms. Peculiarity at

Sterling Street will be back next Thursday. Send celebratory ideas to

Corpus Christi – Lego men

Dan Hawkins / The McGill Daily

This original version, as well other deeply intellectual comics, can be found at

look at me I am a box of grey a box a colour which is lighter than this ink that is speaking to you but darker than the basic colour of this paper which is serving the interests of several on and off campus people because that’s where words go you know they like go around and what comes around hits you in the face if you’re not careful so where a helmet when you play guitar and watch out for your cat shitting in your bed and covering it with a pillow and don’t be scared that the roads will be icy nor that the thoughts won’t come to you because there is truth in this world of unreduceable uncertainty and once you make friends with it you’ll be able to solve the clues



McGill solves ceiling leaks with bins, garbage bags Photo by David Stefan Following the hospitalization of half a dozen McGill employees due to sick building syndrome last year, McGill took its maintenance responsibilities seriously by patching a ceiling leak in the Redpath library with blue bins, caution signs, and black bags. Somehow, the problem persisted, causing confusion among McGill staff. “It’s just common sense: when liquid leaks, you collect in bins of assorted sizes, like in the OutKast video for Ms. Jackson circa 2000,” an anonymous maintenance staff member said before dedicating the repairs to all the baby’s mamas, mamas mamas, mamas mamas.


McGill THE SMALL PRINT FEATURES 10+11 YET MORE VOICES DIVIDED OVER THE GA LETTERS 12+13 February 12, 2009 THE Volume 98, Issue 34 Our lips a...

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