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Volume 107, Issue 8 | Monday, October 23, 2017 | mcgilldaily.com
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McGill professor publicly accused of sexual violence page 8
October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
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Solidarity with Ontario college teachers’ strike
Robin Maynard on ‘Policing Black Lives’
White supremacist posters in Milton-Parc
Islamic studies professor accused of sexual violence
An interview with Eileen Myles
letters to the editor
Screening: ‘Killing Gaza’
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Garbage in Milton-Parc
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Volume 107 Issue 8
October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
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t midnight on October 15, the Ontario Public Services Employee Union (OPSEU) went on strike after failing to reach an agreement with the College Employer Council in their collective bargaining process. OPSEU represents professors, counselors, instructors, and librarians across Ontario colleges. These 12,000 staff members from 24 colleges across the province are striking in opposition to job precarity and in support of academic freedom. Job precarity refers to the vulnerability or instability of part-time, contract, and seasonal jobs. Precarious workers are not offered secure, long-term contracts, are paid less for doing the same work as full-time or tenured employees, and are not protected from sudden termination of employment. OPSEU’s main demands include a 50:50 ratio of partial-load faculty to full-time faculty—currently, part-time contract instructors make up 70 per cent of the Ontario college professor workforce, meaning that colleges are paying more instructors less for the same amount of work. OPSEU has also demanded more academic freedom and decision-making power for faculty members in colleges. The Union argues that more secure and autonomous roles for professors, staff, and librarians will ensure a better education for their students. At this time, 12,000 employees lack assurance of when their employment will be secured, and 300,000 students have had their classes cancelled without administrative compensation. The Union has been criticized for taking away student opportunities due to cancelled classes. However, we must realize that the root cause of the strike is college administrators’ exploitative labour practices and lack of consideration for staff and students. Thus, blame should not be directed at picketers. Understanding that precarious work harms people in various sectors of labour across the country, employees and students at educational institutions across the country must stand in solidarity with OPSEU in their fight to ensure that workers’ rights are respected. The movement against job precarity also impacts the McGill community. Just last year, the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE), a union
representing student and non-student casual employees on campus, went on strike after failing to reach an agreement with McGill. Their demands included a living wage, improved transparency and efficiency in hiring, and access to resources such as health benefits and ID cards. AMUSE also decried job casualisation on campus, the process through which more jobs are designated to “casual” employees, thus forcing employees to take on more responsibility without increasing job security or pay. AMUSE’s strike resulted in an increase in wages. In the time since the strike, Floor Fellows have also been unionized and are now paid for their roles in McGill residences. There was, however, a notable lack of support for AMUSE during its strike last year, and the same hostility now colours conversations around the OPSEU strike. During the AMUSE strike, particularly during their soft picket of the Edward Snowden lecture, union members faced criticism and harassment from students claiming that the strike was an inconvenience for the McGill community. Similarly, the current OPSEU strike has elicited frustrated responses from students who are concerned about the ways in which their own lives have been put on hold. While this is understandable, those on the front lines of the picket are working towards a more equitable labour standard for themselves, students, and all future workers. The fight against job precarity and casualisation hopes to improve both today’s labour market and worker’s rights for future generations. Students and allies must recognise the sacrifices being made by picketers in order to ensure that OPSEU’s requests are met. Students should also make their allyship apparent through physical presence, statements of solidarity, and by raising awareness about job precarity and its impact on all of us. The McGill Daily editorial board would like to acknowledge that Inori Roy, Coordinating Editor, is also the President of AMUSE. However, the opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the entire editorial board. —The McGill Daily editiorial board
ERRATa “Mental health panel addresses power structures,” October 6, News, page 6, stated that the panel featured three speakers: Marianne Chivi, Florise Boyard, and Jessica Bleuer. In fact, a fourth panelist, Helen Ogundeji, also participated in the panel. The Daily regrets the error. 3480 McTavish St., Rm. B-26 Montreal, QC H3A 1G3 phone 514.398.6790 fax 514.398.8318 advertising & general manager Boris Shedov sales representative Letty Matteo ad layout & design Geneviève Robert
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“SSMU Council sees lengthy debate over AVEQ affiliation,” October 6, News, page 7, stated that Tre Mansdoerfer was mandated to support AVEQ affiliation by the Faculty of Engineering; in fact, he was mandated to support it by Senate Caucus. The Daily regrets the error.
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October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Trash in Milton-Parc Student littering disrupts residents
Claire Greneir The McGill Daily
Essay Writing Contest for Engineering Students Wattco, manufacturer of electric heating elements and controls, is looking for submissions of 2000word essays on the following topic: “Different Types of Industrial Electric Heaters in Industries and their effectiveness in their applications.” Papers should be submitted in Word file format (.docx) to firstname.lastname@example.org. The student who submits the most interesting and accurate paper will be eligible for an apprenticeship at Wattco in summer 2018. Submission Period: October 1, 2017 to May 1, 2018
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thank you 400 times! With your generous support, our used book fundraiser raised more than $400 to donate to the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. By popular demand, a second used book fundraiser is going to be held on Tuesday, October 31, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the entrance lobby of the University Centre (William Shatner) building.
ilton-Parc, the neighbourhood, located adjacent to McGill’s downtown campus encompasses the area between Sherbrooke and Pins (north/south) and University to St Laurent (west/ east). Often referred to as the “McGill Ghetto,” the neighbourhood was inhabited by an estimate of 1,500 McGill students in 2010, and continues to be occupied by students, who reside in the community as temporary residents. While most inhabitants of Milton-Parc are permanent residents, many of its historical locales have been dominated by student associations and groups, such as fraternity and sorority houses. These student associations, along with the plethora of individual student inhabitants, produce a problematic amount of waste in the Milton-Parc area. The community has struggled with waste management largely because of student negligence for years, especially during move out seasons. Permanent residents have expressed criticism over the poor handling of unwanted furniture and garbage, littered in disorganized piles on the streets. The issue is caused, in part, by students unaware of community regulations such as waste pick up times, and apathetic towards proper waste management the community. The community The Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) and the MiltonParc Citizens Community (MPCC) have had an agreement on acquiring and enacting “good neighbour” practices since 2009. This pact titled the C.A.R.E (Community Action and Relations Endeavours) agreement, details various activities and programs intended to improve the relationship between permanent residents and students. SSMU VP External Connor Spencer explained to The Daily, “There are two big ways that [respect] impacts [Milton-Parc]. It’s the relations between the community and the students during frosh and other large scale events, and it’s
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the respect when it comes to waste disposal. Those have been the two main concerns of the community when it comes to living next to a large student community.” Hélène Brisson, a Vice President of the MPCC, commented on how this lack of respect for proper waste disposal affects the quality of life in the community, such as “the physical safety of those who walk in them,” and “the public health issues raised by garbage left for days in streets”. Brisson mentioned how student “indifference to the cleanliness of streets” causes a strain the relationship between students and permanent residents, “generally speaking, the neighbours [permanent residents], shed the most unflattering light on how some students can be unpleasant neighbours,” said Brisson. Littering in the streets of MiltonParc is a recurring problem for the community, especially during movein and move-out seasons. Tristan Best, a fourth year student at the Schulich School of Music told the Daily, “there’s often broken glass all over the sidewalks, along with broken furniture and rotting garbage that gets in the way while walking and smells quite unpleasant students are living here only temporarily, but create enough of a mess to disrupt the lives of the residents of the Milton-Parc area. It’s extremely disrespectful, unsanitary, and reflects poorly on the university.” Best mentioned that students, including himself “do[es] not know the schedule [for waste collection],” leaving “the superintendent of [his] apartment takes care of [the] trash. Best believes that the lack of knowledge and action in the trash collection systems may be addressed with an intervention by SSMU, through a “campaign to make the garbage collection schedules better known, and to make students aware of proper places to dispose of waste” would be beneficial.
Students and SSMU SSMU’s Community Affairs Committee, is responsible addressing such issues as part of the VP external portfolio. Currently, SSMU VP External Connor Spencer and the Community Affairs Commissioner
Julien Tremblay-Gravel are working on creating a large scale waste management campaign. Spencer has engaged in conversations with Alex Norris, city councillor for Jean-Mance (the municipal district containing Milton-Parc), about getting more bins for the community, but he has yet to confirm any action. The campaign has two parts, education and refurbishment, both designed to reduce student waste. The first part will focus on educating the students living in the Milton-Parc community about the specifics of waste collection by giving them hard copy schedules of their building’s collection days and times in English, a service currently not offered by the city of Montreal. The second part is a larger refurbishment program. This specific program involves collecting unwanted houseware items during the move out period in late April, and reselling them in the fall. The first part of the campaign designed to educate students on proper waste disposal, is expected to be made public by the end of October. The refurbishment program will likely begin marketing in the winter, in time for the move out season in spring. CommunityAffairsCommissioner, Julien Tremblay-Gravel explained over an email statement that “[SSMU hopes these initiatives] will reduce the large amounts of waste that are observed during that peak period of the academic year, increase waste diversion from landfill as well as provide students with a more sustainable and affordable option from which to source the household items when they arrive at McGill”. Tremblay-Gerard elaborated on the importance of the initiatives, and their effect on the community, “I have lived in Milton-Parc for 3 of the 5 years I have been at McGill and have found it to be an extraordinarily vibrant community. I hope that these programs will decrease the negative footprint that is attributable to a minority of students in Milton-Parc and help demonstrate that students in general can be a force for good and behave as responsible citizens,” she continued, “my view is that garbage disposal, recycling, etc. is an issue that concerns all who live in Milton-Parc. [...] We must work together.”
October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
“Policing Black Lives” book launch Robin Maynard explores anti-Blackness and state violence
Zara Rehan News Writer
his week, critically acclaimed writer and activist Robyn Maynard launched her debut novel, Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present. The spirited book launch, hosted at the Grand Bibliotheque, opened with a poem written and performed by Black poet and activist Shanice Nicole. The 600 people attending then listened intently to the speech delivered by Maynard, and the following Q&A session where she discussed the details and nuances of her work. Robyn Maynard, a Black, Montreal-based feminist and Black rights activist, has spent the past decade working in frontline harmreduction outreach work, along with administering training sessions for health and social service providers on the harms created as a result of institutionalized racism. Her interest lies in racist and state-based violence, which she has been carefully documenting and reporting. “The criminalization of Black people’s lives has always been a major part of policing in Canada,” she explains. “Policing has always been extremely racialized.”
The criminalization of Black people’s lives has always been a major part of policing in Canada. Policing has always been extremely racialized. —Robin Maynard In her book, Maynard also discusses how anti-Blackness
Zara Rehan | The McGill Daily
Rachel Zellars interviews Robin Maynard. manifests across different institutions. “Today anti-Blackness, the surveillance and punishment of Black people of all ages and genders, is embedded within all major institutions.” Maynard describes Policing Black Lives as “unapologetically intersectional,” critically investigating how we decontextualize anti-Blackness and disconnect it from the network of factors which impact its manifestation. She insists that we look beyond anti-Blackness itself, at how it’s experienced differently by different Black people depending on gender, class, ability, and other overlapping factors of identity. She says that these components are often not taken into account and are not part of the narrative, hindering our ability to fully understand how individuals experience racism. Maynard explains what this lack of context means for her: “Being a young Black girl in Canada meant, for me, learning no context
about the harms that have been enacted since time immemorial on people who look like me, nor the important role that the government had played in this.” She goes on to say, “I was given no historical context that would help me understand what I was experiencing, nor to realize how many tough, subversive Black women before me had stood up to racism over the past 400 years.” In her 40-minute speech, Maynard addresses this deliberate erasure of the history of anti-Blackness. “How do we fight a problem that is widely believed not to exist?” She demonstrates how Black people are working and living in a climate that invalidates their experiences in Canadian society, presenting anti-Blackness as a problem that is foreign to Canada. “We’re educated within universities, and in our pop culture, to learn about racism through an American lens. There is a distinct impression that Canada will be a
more welcoming place for immigrants, that Canada, unlike the U.S., is a welcoming haven from Black terror. However, this is untrue. There are institutions of formal and informal anti-Blackness.” Maynard’s book details the implicit anti-Blackness in our governmental and societal framework, drawing attention to the manipulation of the education system and the absence of Black people’s narratives and histories. “There was no mention of the fact that slavery was practiced here for over 200 years. In fact, there was no acknowledgement that Black people had ever existed in Canada.” The lack of acknowledgement of both the struggles that Black people faced in Canada due to slavery and racism, as well as the ongoing state violence, is what drove Maynard to finally draw attention to the problem. She asserts that anti-Blackness is foundational to state violence: the rate at which Black people are
incarcerated, which is 3 times higher than white people, demonstrates the fundamental, inherent antiBlackness present in policing. “Black women, since slavery, have been subject to intense violence and policing of their movements; policing was fundamentally made for Black people”. She says that this broad dehumanization shows us the nature of anti-Black violence and the different ways that it manifests, from state-sanctioned surveillance, to disproportionate incarceration, to criminalization and racial-profiling. “There is this idea of crime being attached to certain people: Black criminality. It’s a racialized conception of who is a risk and who isn’t, allowing these ongoing horrors that continue to permeate Black people’s lives in Canada” Policing Black Lives is now available for purchase online, in paperback or digital format. Visit Fernwood Publishing or Robyn Maynard’s website to find out more.
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Ocotber 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
VP Finance suspended from SSMU Board of Directors Procedural legitimacy of decision questioned
Marina Cupido The McGill Daily
risha Khan, VP Finance of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has been suspended from her position on the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) for a period of two weeks, from October 15-29. Although the decision was never formally announced to the public, it eventually emerged that her suspension had been enacted in response to an alleged breach of confidentiality, as Khan had forwarded an email exchange between SSMU executives to a non-executive member of SSMU’s staff. The decision to suspend Khan was made during a BoD meeting on the night of October 15 which, though nominally public, occurred in a locked building without official notice given to either the press or the public. Moreover, although the minutes from the discussion pertaining to Khan’s suspension have now been made public, it initially took place during a confidential session of the BoD, meaning that no non-Directors were permitted to witness it. In addition to this, SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva, VP Internal Maya Koparkar, and VP Student Life Jemark Earle, all three of whom sit on the BoD, left the room for this discussion. It remains unclear why they did so; in an email to The Daily, Tojiboeva explained that “the Directors felt it [was] appropriate for executives to leave the room while a breach of confidentiality concerning executive members were discussed,” but this has no basis in SSMU procedure. Despite having left the room while the other Directors discussed the context behind Khan’s breach of confidentially, the executives concerned re-entered the meeting in order to vote on her suspension; all three reportedly abstained. Khan herself was absent, as she was in California attending a conference for improving access to education for youth from foster care. Tojiboeva told The Daily that “this [vote] was scheduled in advance, [...] meaning if Director Khan wished she could have participated even though she was out of the country,” but Khan maintains that, on the contrary, she was not notified ahead of the vote. “The Board had ample opportunity to provide me with notice that my standing was up for debate during the meeting,” she wrote in an email to The Daily, “and I of course would have made myself available in order to make a fair case for myself.”
Tojiboeva also claimed that Ryan Hughes, SSMU’s General Manager, notified Khan of her suspension on October 17; Tojiboeva did not offer The Daily any explanation of why this allegedly occurred two days after the decision was made. Khan, however, told The Daily that this too is untrue.
Khan herself was absent, as she was in California attending a conference for improving access to education for youth from foster care. “I still have not received an official notice,” said Khan on October 19. “As well, [notifying me] was [Tojiboeva’s] responsibility and when I called the General Manager [...] he was surprised that Muna had not informed me (I have this in an audio recording). I emailed the board 24 hours after the decision for an official notice but still have yet to receive one.” Tojiboeva has not responded to The Daily’s requests for proof that Khan was told in advance that her standing as a Director would be up for debate, and that she was notified of her suspension following the BoD meeting on Sunday night. At the SSMU Legislative Council meeting which occurred on October 19, the McGill Tribune asked why the BoD had decided that a two-week suspension was the optimal choice for SSMU in response to Khan’s breach of confidentiality, rather than, for example, a censure. In response, Isabella Anderson, a Senate Caucus Representative to Council who also sits on the Board of Directors, explained that she herself had brought up the possibility of a temporary suspension. “I suggested the suspension only because the other options that were being thrown around by other Directors made me extremely uncomfortable,” said Anderson. “I did make it clear at the time though that I was also uncomfortable suggesting a suspension, which is why I personally abstained from the vote. I will be honest, I felt like a minority voice, and uncomfortable for most of the time, and I do feel quite bad that I did not speak up at any time about the discomfort I felt with the process of that con-
versation and how it was handled. But I did make it clear that that suggestion, for a vote on suspension, was the lesser of several evils [...] that were being passed around. [...] But I did ask for input from the executives when they came back into the room, and no one spoke, no one asked about why or anything, which I found unsettling too.” With Earle, Koparkar, and Tojiboeva out of the room, Khan out of the country, and Director Ellen Chen absent from the meeting, the individuals who participated in the then-confidential discussion of Khan’s suspension were members-at-large Jonathan Glustein, Simon Shubbar, Noah Lew, Alexander Scheffel, Sophie Schaffer-Wood, Dany Morcos, and Anderson herself. All but Anderson voted in favour of the two-week suspension. Following her account of the discussion, Glustein, who had attended Thursday’s Council meeting as a member of the gallery, addressed the room. He described other options which had been considered, including temporarily suspending Khan from confidential sessions of the Board, setting up “an email-monitoring system or person put on the VP Finance’s account” until a given date, or the release of a public statement to the SSMU membership.
“I did make it clear at the time though that I was also uncomfortable suggesting a suspension, which is why I personally abstained from the vote.”
—Isabella Anderson, Senate Caucus Representative
Later on during the Council meeting, the Tribune asked whether an investigation is underway into allegations that confidential information from a BoD meeting was leaked to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). On September 17, the BoD ratified a reference from the SSMU Judicial Board which declared the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement unconstitu-
Kevin Tam | The McGill Daily tional; within an hour of the decision, the CIJA announced it in a statement, breaking the news before the SSMU executive team, the press, or the membership had been informed. While the minutes of the BoD meeting in question were retroactively made public days later, the discussion of BDS was confidential at the time, leading to concern among many students that a substantial breach of confidence had occurred. “Why was this leak not pursued with the same haste as the VP Finance’s leak?” asked a reporter from the Tribune. “The approval of the Judicial Board decision was done in public session, so there was no leak whatsoever,” responded Tojiboeva, “however in this situation, the VP Finance basically leaked information that was only available to executives. [...] So the difference between the two is that one of them was in public session and there was absolutely no need for confidentiality - this [CIJA statement] is just coverage that no one can control, however actually leaking information to outside sources that don’t usually have access to the information is why the Board was very concerned.” Tojiboeva did not elaborate on her assertion that the passing of information to an external advocacy organization such as the CIJA did not constitute leaking to outside sources. She also declined to respond to a question sent in by The Daily over email earlier in the week,
which asked why the sharing of an email exchange between executives, reportedly concerning BoD nomination timelines, constituted a serious threat to SSMU - particularly since the email exchange was shared with a long-time SSMU employee.
“The Board had ample opportunity to provide me with notice that my standing was up for debate during the meeting.” —Arisha Khan, SSMU VP Finance
“If we are regarding all correspondences between executives as confidential,” Khan told The Daily, “that could be very dangerous and all of us at some point would have been in breach of confidentiality per the Board’s decision. I will note that the [non-disclosure agreement executives are required to sign] does not specifically describe the nature of what could be confidential so this should be stated as an opinion on the Board’s part and not a clear violation of the [non-disclosure agreement] or any of the governing documents.”
October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
White supremacist posters found in Milton Parc
SSMU compiles list of far-right groups in Montreal to watch for on campus Nora McCready The McGill Daily Content warning: racism, white supremacy, colonization.
arly last week, white supremacist posters were put up around Milton Parc on behalf of a group called “Generation Identity.” The posters advertise a book called “Canada in Decay,” encouraging anti-immigration sentiments. The subtitle of the book references the “ethnocide of Euro-Canadians.” Similar posters were found in Milton Parc and on campus in September. These earlier posters also advertised Generation Identity and featured the slogan, “defend your freedom,” in the context of multiculturalism. Generation Identity is a group that started in France in 2002 and began organizing in Canada in 2014. They claim that ethnically European Canadians are “losing their identity” to immigration and diversity. On their Facebook page, they write, “Canada is a nation of conquerors and colonizers. […] We refuse to spit on the names of our ancestors and those who sacrificed everything to build this beautiful country only to protect the decaying ideals of political correctness and ‘diversity.’” In an interview with The Daily, the Students Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP External, Connor Spencer, discussed why the dissemination of these posters has been isolated to the area around McGill. Spencer stressed that while it is unlikely that these posters were put up by students, they are clearly meant to recruit the McGill population. Moreover, the posters haven’t been posted on Concordia’s campus, which implicitly reveals that the McGill campus was perceived as more tolerant to white supremacist ideals. This exposes flaws in the way in which McGill has addressed white supremacist organizing in Montreal.
She argued, “There aren’t really widespread tools or conversation platforms about these kind of ideologies being on our campus and around our campus. So I think one of the first things that we have to do is include ourselves in the conversation,” said Spencer. “Concordia is much farther ahead than we are in talking about the alt-right as it happens in Montreal. […] They have workshops, they have info-sessions, they have a much more active and mobilized network and they have student groups that are specifically about addressing that, which we don’t really have, or at least we don’t have visibly. […] McGill students are talking about it, but not at a platformed level.”
They have a much more active and mobilized network and have student groups that are specifically about addressing that , which we don’t have, or at least we don’t have visibly. –Connor Spencer, SSMU VP External In response to this lack of visibility, Spencer is organizing workshops in collaboration with the “Grande manifestation contre la haine et le racisme,” an anti-racist demonstration taking place on November 12. These workshops will focus on identifying the
language of white supremacists, and discussing ways to combat the spread of their movements. “There’s an alt-right toolbox, and you don’t necessarily need to be an alt-right group to use altright tools,” said Spencer. “I think that’s why it’s really important that we have those spaces where we can discuss that and teach each other what those tools are so that we can identify them, because things are a lot less scary when you can identify when someone is […] reworking arguments or using certain ways of coming at topics to confuse people or make them feel like they’re crazy.” Spencer also stressed the connection between white supremacist groups in Montreal and the recent passing of Bill 62, which denies public services to women who cover their faces. This law proports to further “religious neutrality,” while targeting Muslim women who wear niqabs and burqas. “There’s a lot of under-stirrings of the very Quebec mentality [that] neutrality is [synonymous with] white Christian, […] or white Catholic,” said Spencer. “The underlying racism within that sentiment is getting stirred all back up again with Bill 62.” “Those kinds of sentiments that we see get reoccurred, they’re always hashed out by legislation,” she continued, “It’s not that police are going to go onto buses and force every woman to unveil, but now it’s going to empower citizens to feel like they are able to confront women who wear veils on public transportation, […] that they have that within their right, and that’s what’s terrifying.” In response to this recent mobilization of white supremacist groups on both the local and provincial levels, Spencer is working with Matthew Savage, a SSMU Councilor from the Faculty of Social Work, to condemn harmful groups and ensure that they don’t have a platform on campus.
“The councilors gave me a mandate to bring this conversation up again and to prepare a list of the kind of alt-right, far-right groups that are active in the Montreal area to this council, which is tonight, and that’s exciting because hopefully we can actually address some of this,” said Spencer.
Now it’s going to citizens to feel like they are able to confront women who wear veils on public transportation [...] that they have that within their right, and that’s what’s terrifying. –Connor Spencer, SSMU VP External In an interview with The Daily, Savage raised concerns about these groups’ use of vague language, such as ethno-state, which allows them to disseminate dangerous ideas under the guise of free speech. “Anyone that says they believe in an ethno-state shouldn’t have the power to assemble,” said Savage. “Just because you’re giving hate speech politely, still makes it hate speech. When you use terms like ‘ethnocide’ or we want to ‘peacefully assemble to create an ethno-state’, what are you saying with that? You’re saying that anyone that isn’t of European descent has less claims to the land than
you. […] And then when you do achieve the power, what happens to people that have lived here for generations? What do you do with them then? Where does that question lead? You have two choices: you’re either going to have to force people out or you’re going to have to do something worse. Either way you’re using violence and just because you’re saying it politely doesn’t make it non-violent.” Spencer and Savage are compiling a list of white supremacist groups that are active in Montreal. The list includes groups such as La Meute, Quebec’s largest white supremacist group, and Atalante, a group that “advocates openly for a ‘renaissance of the neoFrench in Quebec,’” according to a January 2017 article in the CBC.
“Anyone that says they believe in an ethno-state shouldn’t have the power to assemble. Just because you’re giving hate speech politely, still makes it hate speech. –Matthew Savage, SSMU Councillor As of now, SSMU’s plan is to openly condemn these groups, making it difficult for them to assemble on campus. “If something isn’t said in policies, or in student conduct, or in any of those contracts between the faculty and students,” said Savage. “Then you can find a way in, and that’s why I really want to close these gaps.”
tear this paper apart.
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October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Abuse allegations against professor in Islamic Studies Case reveals institutional barriers to accountability for sexual violence at McGill
Marina Cupido The McGill Daily
urther information has emerged regarding the ongoing case of an Islamic Studies professor publicly accused of sexual violence. More students have spoken out condemning both his behaviour and the lack of a robust institutional response, as the situation feeds mounting criticism of McGill’s sexual violence policy. Allegations of abuse Roughly a month ago, stickers began appearing in washrooms across campus, alleging sexual violence perpetrated by a certain professor in McGill’s Institute of Islamic Studies, whom they explicitly named. Noting that the professor is up for tenure this semester, the stickers urged students to send testimonies of abusive behaviour on the part of faculty and staff to zerotolerance@ riseup.net. The professor in question agreed to make a statement to The Daily, on the condition that his name would not appear anywhere in our coverage. After consultation with affected parties, The Daily decided to comply with his request. In his statement, he called the allegations against him “categorically untrue,” adding, “I am deeply committed to doing my part to make every student feel safe in my classroom and on McGill’s campus.” He has not responded to further requests for comment from The Daily. This professor, whose behaviour was described as “predatory” by a former student in a statement to The Daily, was the subject of an open letter sent to Robert Wisnovsky, Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies, during the Winter 2017 semester. Written by the 2016-2017 executive team of the World Islamic and Middle East Studies Student Association (WIMESSA), the letter was signed by roughly fifty other students at the Institute. It accused the Institute of failing to take the situation seriously, stating that the professor had repeatedly “violated [the] student-professor contract” through his abusive behaviour. Institutional barriers to accountability Following an article published in The Daily on October 2, which reported the above facts, this year’s WIMESSA executive team posted a statement on Facebook. While refraining from naming
the professor concerned, they expressed solidarity with their constituents, and frustration at the institutional barriers which effectively shield the professor from public scrutiny. “We have taken steps to consult former executives, speak with legal experts, and meet with Institute administrators to discuss what actions we can take as students and student representatives to help address this ongoing situation,” read WIMESSA’s statement. “What we have been consistently met with, however, is nondisclosure agreements and red tape.” The statement also claimed that consent training had been provided for the Institute’s faculty in September. However, when The Daily tried to find out more, we drew a blank: Wisnovsky did not respond to requests for more information, and the McGill administration was unable to provide details, or even confirm that such training occurred. Isabelle Oke, VP University Affairs of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), said that she hadn’t been informed of the training either, and that such a thing would be highly unusual within the McGill context. “This situation is definitely an anomaly,” Oke told The Daily. “There aren’t any other faculties that I know of that have this training, and if ever a faculty is offered a training workshop, it is voluntary.” The Daily spoke with the WIMESSA executive team to clarify the situation, but they too proved unable to provide further details. In essence, it emerged that an administrator had suggested to the executives that consent training would occur at some point in August or September, without letting them know whether the training would be mandatory, who would facilitate it, what material it would cover, and when exactly it would occur. At the time of publication, The Daily has not received clarification from Wisnovsky or from any other departmental administrator on any of these points. Roughly two weeks ago, meanwhile, as the Institute reeled from the impact of the allegations on its community, WIMESSA’s former VP Finance Sarah Shamy resigned from her position. In an interview with The Daily, Shamy explained that her resignation had been largely a product of frustration over the handling of this professor’s behaviour, both by the rest of the WIMESSA executive and by the Institute. “I believe the administration’s refusal to address the issue directly
and their lack of transparency has inspired fear among the [WIMESSA executives],” she said. “The way they see it is [...] ‘if upper administration, people whose main duty and responsibility is to address students’ concerns, aren’t engaging in any thorough and effective actions, then why does the burden fall on us?’” Regarding the Institute’s actions, Shamy was sharply critical. “The Institute will only care insofar as their reputation is at stake,” she said. “As far as I know, in past years [...] the Institute did not respond appropriately [to complaints about the professor in question]. I would not even be able to characterize their efforts as minimal or ineffective because that would imply the presence of efforts when there are none. A few years ago, what we had was a professor who used his position of power in order to perpetuate abusive behaviour. Today, we still have the same professor who uses his position of power in order to perpetuate abusive behaviour. That is all that needs to be known.”
“The Institute will only care insofar as their reputation is at stake.”
—Sarah Shamy, former WIMESSA VP Finance
One factor in this perceived inaction on the part of McGill and the Institute is that the professor concerned has never been the subject of a formal complaint lodged through the University’s Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support, and Education. He has, however, reportedly been the subject of allegations brought to Institute administrators by at least one student. Given that the professor in question will be considered for tenure this semester, The Daily reached out to McGill’s administration to find out how students can participate in the tenure process. According to Angela Campbell, Deputy Provost (Policies, Procedures, and Equity), “student input usually finds its way into the tenure dossier through teaching/course evaluations, which are included as part of the teaching portfolio.” Disciplinary actions taken against a given professor are also included in their
tenure dossier, but “disciplinary investigations and sanctions are only possible through reports of misconduct which, by definition, cannot be anonymous.” In short, there is no way for students’ allegations of sexual violence to be included in a professor’s tenure dossier if they remain anonymous. This serves as a deterrent for many, who opt to remain silent rather than face potential reprisals should they put their names to accusations of abuse. A long-term problem In the course of The Daily’s investigation into this situation, in addition to receiving first-hand accounts of the professor’s predatory behaviour, we also heard from several students who were unsurprised by the public allegations against him. “I have known about [these allegations] for years and have managed to avoid taking a course with [the professor concerned], but most students do not have this information,” said Chantelle Schultz, a U3 WIMES and East Asian Studies student and former editor at The Daily. “Is this professor’s reputation and career more important to the administration than the safety of the young women who have made complaints? The fact that our university still has no policy stopping professors from having relationships with their students is not an accident.” Indeed, McGill’s recently created Sexual Violence Policy does not address professor-student relationships specifically; a student could use it to file a complaint of sexual violence against a professor should they wish to, but it does not define student-professor relationships as inherently non-consensual due to the inevitable imbalance of power between the two parties involved. McGill’s Conflict of Interest Policy does recognize such relationships as constituting a conflict of interest, but it doesn’t acknowledge them as nonconsensual and harmful, or set out any meaningful consequences for professors who engage in them. Niyousha Bastani, a former WIMESSA executive and editor at The Daily, explained that students within the Institute had been speaking out about this particular professor for years. “To my knowledge, WIMESSA executives were raising these concerns with the department as far back as the fall semester of 2015,” she said. “The University didn’t call for a meeting with WIMES students to address our very real concerns about safety until the very last day of exams in the April 2017.”
The meeting in question was advertised to all students within the Institute, and led by Campbell. She reportedly refrained from referring to the professor involved or specifics of his case, only citing McGill policy in general terms. “How are WIMES students supposed to trust the University when they are constantly pushed to secrecy, repeatedly reminded that naming the accused professor can be libelous?” continued Bastani. “When they can only look out for each other through informal channels?” Moving forward According to the current WIMESSA executive team, their main goal for the moment is to organize an event at which students from the Institute will be able to voice their concerns in an open and honest dialogue with administrators. Such an event would stand in contrast to the April 2017 meeting with Angela Campbell, which left students feeling frustrated and silenced. “Basically we’re planning an open forum [...] where students can directly communicate their thoughts to the administration,” said a member of the executive, “because from what we’ve seen, people have been voicing those concerns and there hasn’t been a response from the institution.” The Daily also reached out to Zero Tolerance, the anonymous group of students carrying out the stickering campaign which drew public awareness to this situation. According to the email we received in reply, Zero Tolerance is run by students from outside the WIMES program who wish to “stand in solidarity with [their] peers in the Institute.” “For over two years, students in the Islamic Studies department (primarily women of colour) have been trying to get McGill’s administration to hold [this professor] accountable for his unacceptable behaviour toward his students,” wrote Zero Tolerance. “We are calling on students to raise their concerns with [this professor] to the head of Islamic Studies Robert Wisnovsky, and the Dean of Arts, Antonia Maioni by email, phone, and in person.” In their email to The Daily, Zero Tolerance confirmed that they have received several student testimonies of abusive behaviour from faculty since beginning their campaign. They also included an uncompromising message for all McGill professors who engage in predatory behaviour towards their students: “We know your names. We are coming for you.”
October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
nora mccready | The McGill Daily
October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
In response to the Editorial on Haitian Asylum Seekers Submit your own: firstname.lastname@example.org
o the McGill Daily, While researching the status of Haitian refugees in Canada, I came across your editorial on September 18. The editorial is very commendable and I thank you for it. I very much support your call for Haitian refugees to be treated justly and fairly by the Canadian government. I particularly appreciated the historical context you provided: “In reality, Canada has both the capacity and the ethical imperative to welcome them [Haitian refugees], many of whom have risked death to escape unstable conditions. The Canadian government should also make reparations for their role in bringing down the democratically elected Aristide government in the 2000s, as well as for the increase in deportations after the lifting of the deportation ban in 2016, which has resulted in the deportation of more than 5,000 Haitian refugees in the first half of 2017 alone.” As some 9,000 Haitian migrants and refugees made their way to Canada this past summer following Donald Trump’s persona non grata warning, the crucial issue that struck me is why Haitian refugees are seeking to come to Canada (or the United States) in the first place. I know the answer to that puzzle because I’ve traveled twice to Haiti with solidarity delegations, once in 2007 and again in 2011. This was part of my ten years of advocacy for social justice and sovereignty for Haiti alongside others in the Canada Haiti Action Network. Haiti is a beautiful country with a rich and profound history and culture. It broke my heart to see firsthand how the country’s hopes and aspirations have been crushed by the imperialist North American and European powers. Why would so many Haitians wish to leave their beautiful homeland? Because the country is majorly underdeveloped, both economically and socially. This begs a repeat of the question:”why?” Haiti’s modern history may be described as a history of a country and people cruelly punished by the world’s imperialist countries for daring to rise up against colonialism and slavery 226 years ago, in 1791. Worse than that, from the imperialist viewpoint, the Haitian people succeeded in their uprising. They defeated the largest military power of the world at the time—the French ‘Emperor’ Napoleon Bonaparte—and gained independence on January 1, 1804. Haitians only opted for independence due to Napoleon’s betrayal of the historic decision taken by the revolutionary National Convention in France in 1794, one that would have abolished slavery in France’s territories. However, Napoleon quietly reversed that decision in 1802. When Haitians finally sorted fact from rumour months later, they realized that their dream (one that was shared by people in France as well) of a France truly guided by the revolutionary motto liberté, egalité, fraternité from the
1789 revolution was not going to be their reality. In the face of a French invasion by some 50,000 soldiers in 1802, the Haitian people mobilized for a revolutionary war of independence. (Today’s imperialist language would call that political movement ‘separatism’). France and French-language historiography have never forgiven Haitians for their bold war of independence, which succeeded less than two years after its inception. Haiti’s declaration of independence had reverberated around the world. Thus, in 1825, with warships at the ready should Haiti refuse, France imposed an odious payment for the ‘properties’ (including human beings) France had ‘lost’ through Haiti’s independence, as a condition for recognizing the new republic. Haiti’s ‘independence debt’ amounted to billions of dollars in today’s currency. The last payment was made in 1947. This leads us to believe that one reason why France assisted the 2004 paramilitary coup in Haiti was the Haitian government’s stated determination to recuperate those funds through international courts, led by JeanBertrand Aristide, the president at the time. The American ruling classes, too, never forgave the Haitian people for their ‘insolence’, recall that the U.S. was a slave republic for another sixty years following the Haitian Revolution. The U.S. had occupied Haiti for twenty years, beginning in 1915. That ended with a humiliating withdrawal in 1934, but the U.S. did succeed in implanting elements of a local military force loyal to U.S. interests. In 1957, the tyrannical, family dynasty of François Duvalier began a long, thirty year rule with vital U.S. support. Canada, once a slave-holding country of its own right and founded on the disenfranchisement of the original inhabitants, was a latecomer to Haiti, but its policy is just as firmly situated in the French and U.S. tradition of revenge and retribution. What does all of this have to do with Haitian refugees in the year 2017? That part of the story begins in 1986, when the Haitian people rose up and overthrew the Duvalier family dictatorship. The anti-Duvalier revolution opened up the possibility of a new path of development for Haiti founded on principles of social justice and national sovereignty. But the U.S. and France, with Canada’s increasing help, did everything in their power to prevent that. The imperialists feared the spectre of a new Cuba arising in the Caribbean, so they intervened and sabotaged Haiti’s opportunity to make progress. They backed the overthrow of the elected and progressive president Jean-Bertrand Aristide twice, once in 1991 and later in 2004. Their backing was particularly crucial to the paramilitary coup of 2004, as during his first term in office, Aristide had abolished the Haitian military! The imperialist powers introduced a UN Security Council military occupation regime
Want to try something new? Write for commentary! Email an editor at commentary@mcgilldaily. com to find out how to get involved.
known as ‘MINUSTAH’, which began in June 2004. (That regime has never left, though the formal name has been recently changed). Years later, along came the earthquake in January 2010 that levelled large areas of the Port au Prince region and killed tens of thousands. The two coups d’etat against Aristide had rendered the country all the more vulnerable to the earthquake disaster. ‘Reconstruction’ was promised by the imperialist powers, but that was cruelly blocked and sabotaged, sadly with the acquiescence of much of the international aid and charity industry. Most of that same industry was already deeply compromised by its support to the 2004 coup. (More information on the 2010 earthquake can be found in the book by author Tim Schwartz, The Great Haiti Humanitarian Aid Swindle.) Haiti has a tremendous potential for human development through developing agriculture, fishing, science, arts and culture, as well as historical tourism. But Haiti has been badly damaged by several centuries of foreign intervention, plunder and retribution. Their path to development is blocked by the exigencies of the world capitalist order. What else can many Haitians do except seek a better life in North America? With the Caribbean region being increasingly devastated by the consequences of globalized capitalism and global warming, many Haitians look longingly to Cuba as an alternative model of social and economic development from which they could craft their own national variant. If only Haitians were able to freely choose their destiny. I concur with your editorial on the fact that Canada should welcome Haitian refugees. The government in should cease Canada’s predatory intervention into Haiti and instead provide massive assistance for social and human development. Shamefully, not a single party or MP in Ottawa has spoken in favour of taking such a course. Haitians are truly the victims of a cruel and tyrannical world economic order. Modern day imperialism is destroying lives and destroying the very ecological foundation upon which human life rests. Defending those who are primarily affected by this order is a vital step along a path of societal salvation for all. In Solidarity, Roger Annis Roger Annis is an editor of the Canada Haiti Information Project (https://www.canadahaitiaction.ca/). His articles there include ‘Haiti’s promised rebuilding unrealized as Haitians challenge authoritarian rule’, Jan 12, 2015 (coauthored with Travis Ross).
Sci+Tech & FEATURES
October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
The science of oppression The (mis)use of ancestry DNA tests by white supremacists
By Broad Science Content warning: racism, anti-Semitism
Laura Brennan & Nelly Wat | The McGill Daily
Sci+Tech & FEATURES
October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
cience impacts all of us daily, but the significance of that impact varies based on people’s access to—and engagement with—the scientific process. The public’s current mistrust of scientific information is alarming—not only in the U.S., where said mistrust is explicitly fuelled by politicians, but in Canada as well. The overwhelming amount of misinformation makes it hard to detect what information is real, what is a little bit true, and what is flat-out quackery. Although the public supports research funding through taxes, they have limited access to most of this research. In the recent past, the Canadian government facilitated this lack of scientific translation by muzzling scientists for nine years. With extremely high journal subscription prices and unnecessarily technical language, it is understandable that many are disengaged from the scientific process and product. The public, and particularly those communities that have been historically marginalized and underrepresented in scientific narratives, should always have the opportunity to access and feel empowered by scientific knowledge.
This push for increased access to science also needs to occur in tandem with advocacy for diverse representation within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Marginalized groups, including people of colour and women, continue to be underrepresented in the STEM fields, and are less likely to be interviewed as scientific experts in the media. One of the reasons often cited for the necessity of diversity in STEM is the opportunity for better science that it presents; research benefits from heterogenous groups. But beyond the statistics, (in)visibility speaks volumes. It sends a powerful and frightening message to young women, youth of colour, and other underrepresented groups about the fictitious limits of their capabilities and curiosity. Simply put, this is wrong and needs to change. But how?
Broad Science is an initiative based out of radio station CKUT 90.3 FM that was created by neuroscience graduate students at McGill University in an attempt to make science more inclusive, engaging, and intersectional through podcasting. One effective way they do this is through the social currency of storytelling. Research indicates that storytelling is a useful tool for sharing scientific knowledge with non-experts, and should play an
important role in informing research itself. Broad Science therefore focuses on telling science stories from voices and perspectives which often get overlooked. The goal is to provide a platform that makes science accessible for everyone, highlights the voices of marginalized groups, and encourages socially-conscious scientific practices.
As part of its first official podcast season, Broad Science investigated the social aspects of DNA testing: what can DNA tell us about our identity? How has the rise of consumer DNA tests impacted different communities? This August, Broad Science interviewed Aaron Panofsky, a sociology professor at UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics. His research with Joan Donovan on the ways that white supremacists in the U.S. have used genetic ancestry tests was released on August 14 at the American Sociology Academy conference. This conference was just two days after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville which ended in the murder of a female protester. Broad Science feels it is important to address the ways systems of oppression operate within the framework of science, especially given how the discipline has been used as a colonialist tool in the past (e.g., eugenics, the “one drop rule”).
The goal is to provide a platform that makes science accessible for everyone, highlights the voices of marginalized groups, and encourages sociallyconscious scientific practices. Broad Science (Bsci): Your latest research has struck a major chord with many people, especially given the recent horrific events in Charlottesville and the current political climate. But can you take our listeners back to the beginning of your study, and how you and your colleagues started to analyze posts
from white nationalists talking about genetic ancestry tests? Aaron Panofsky (A.P.): Sure, we started actually almost two years ago. It was long before obviously the events of Charlottesville, but even longer before white nationalism had taken such a prominent role on the American political stage. What got us into it really was two things. I had been working with my colleague Christopher Kelty at UCLA on a longer-term project about public participation in science and how the internet could mediate that experience. A lot of the research and public commentary on this phenomenon of citizen science was all about how good this was for innovation and connecting the science to public interest. So we were actually kind of looking for a negative case, where the internet may be mediating or enabling public participation in science in ways that were less than fully salutary. At the same time a colleague had suggested looking at the StormFront website. This website, it’s basically a bulletin board for white nationalists to discuss their politics and identity issues. He suggested, “Hey, look at this website,” because he knew I was interested in issues of genetics, and he said, “You know there’s lots of genetics discussions on this website.” So that was about two years ago and really in a lot of ways, the ground of the American political scene has kind of moved under our feet. We were not thinking of this as something that was destined to capture so much public interest or to be so relevant to contemporary politics, but it has, unfortunately.
Bsci: Why were these white nationalists talking about genetic tests? What were they looking for? A.P.: Yeah, so if you go on this website, I don’t recommend it, but if one goes on this website, you’ll see that there’s actually a huge amount of discussion about science issues. There are entire sections of the discussion board that are linked to things like eugenics and social policy, racial realism, genetics, anthropology, and history. Science and the relationship between their ideology is a very urgent topic for a lot of white nationalists. I think they’re looking for ways to justify what they see as true. They’re looking for an alternative framework [through which] to receive public discourse and receive academic discourse about issues like history and genetics. They see StormFront as a place where they can sort of talk in what they see as brave and heterodox ways about what they believe to be the reality of race as a determining variable in history and in social order and life.
This website, it’s basically a bulletin board for white nationalists to discuss their politics and identity issues Aaron Panofsky Bsci: When a lot of these supremacists were taking genetic tests, they found something that might not have been in line with their ideology. Do you mind explaining that? A.P.: The way that we decided to sort of hone in on all these issues was to look at instances where StormFront users had posted the results of their genetic ancestry tests. So 23andMe is one of these direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies. What we found was 153 distinct times where someone said, “Here are my results,” and described those results, either by directly posting the quantitative results that the company gave or by describing those results in their own words. In about a third of those results, the users thought that those results gave them what they considered good news. Evidence that they were ‘fully white’ or ‘fully European’ or sometimes surprising evidence that they were ‘whiter’ than they thought. About a third of results were offered without commentary, so people would put up their results but they wouldn’t say what they believed about those results. Finally, a third of those results were presented as offering bad news or problematic news in some way. So they would sort of say, “Oh, this result seems to indicate that I’m not completely European. What should I make of it, community members?” or, “Oh, how do I make sense of this posting?”
Bsci: For that latter group, when they got these results that didn’t meet their expectations, rather than keep it to themselves they actually turned to this online community to be validated. They weren’t shunned and they weren’t turned away. Did you find that interesting at all? A.P.: Yeah, that was one of our first and most interesting findings. StormFront has stated all over its rules for membership that are something like, to be a white nationalist, to be a member of StormFront, you need to be 100% European, not Jewish, no exceptions. There’s a very public and promi-
nent absolute image about your background, your ancestry, your ability to be on the site, and despite that rule, a fairly large number of people, at least a third to two thirds, depending on how you interpret this, were willing to put up results that didn’t meet that definition. It’s interesting that despite this hard rule, they were willing to appeal to the community for how this should be interpreted. I guess the flip side of those folks being willing to put up their results was that the community typically did not respond to the problematic results by immediately trying to shun them. We counted the number of responses that were kind of like, “Hey, you’re not white,” or, “Hey, get out of StormFront,” and the kind of responses that were helping an individual repair what they believed to be bad news. The repair responses far outweighed, in 9 to 1 roughly, the “Get out of StormFront, you’re not white,” responses.
Bsci: In your research, you found that there were a few different types of arguments presented for these quote-unquote bad results. A.P.: Exactly. The kind of repair tactics grouped really into two. The first one is where a lot of people respond and say “Why did you take a genetic ancestry test in the first place? That’s false knowledge. It can’t really tell you anything true about your ancestry.” I guess they never used the phrase, as the phrase became popular afterwards, but the kind of ‘fake news’ interpretation of genetic ancestry tests. What they’ll say is a genetic ancestry test is inferior to the kind of knowledge you should just have as a white nationalist. So they talk about doing the mirror test, not the genetic ancestry test. Look into the mirror. Do you see someone not white looking back at you? If you do, get out of StormFront, if you don’t, you’re good. So they presume you should be able to see race or see Jewish ancestry. In another way, they reject these tests and will say, “Hey, look at who owns these companies, dot dot dot,” and what they’ll be presuming is that genetic ancestry testing companies are owned by Jews and that they’re part of the Jewish controlled media and that what Jews who run these companies are trying to do is confuse white people about their ancestry by sprinkling in non-white results so that white people will think they’re less pure than they are or that all humans are inherently from mixed backgrounds. So, for some posters this is another reason to reject these genetic ancestry tests.
Sci+Tech & FEATURES
Ocotober 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Laura Brennan & Nelly Wat | The McGill Daily
Genetic ancestry tests allow them to claim diversity without having to respect the inclusion of non-white people Aaron Panofsky Bsci: So you’ve previously said there were two-sided arguments presented, the second being more nuanced, can you explain that? A.P.: Yeah, I think the second strategy for them to reject these tests was not to reject the test, per se, or not to reject the science of genetics, per se, but to reject a particular interpretation or to reinterpret the test in ways that would make them less damaging to an individual’s identity. This set of interpretations was often very sophisticated and sort of science-based or related to a kind of scientific argument.
They would argue on the basis of statistical arguments, genetic arguments, historical or even anthropological arguments, that the particular result of this individual needed to be interpreted in a way that was not so dangerous. For example, if the results show that there might be a relatively low percentage of Native American ancestry, three or four per cent, or middle eastern ancestry, something they considered discrediting, they would often say well that might be within the sampling error of the test so they would talk about how these tests are constructed and how there are inherent error bars around all their estimates. That you can’t take seriously relatively small estimates, like the precision of the estimates is always subject to some uncertainty. Another kind of argument would be a version of correlation does not equal causation. They would say, for example, well, one reason why lots of white Americans get Native American ancestry on their test is that the reference group that the company sampled from to establish Native American DNA might actually have white ancestry in its past and so then your ancestry is being ascribed to Native Americans when it’s actually that the Native Ameri-
can group has some white ancestry in the past. Then, this kind of explanation was often accompanied with two kinds of alternative historical explanations: one was about the heroic conquest by white people of non-white people all around the world. Vikings going all around conquering people and therefore spreading their DNA or Aryans spreading their DNA around the world, or conversely that nonwhites had, through some sexual violence in the past, raped white women, and so this historical framing would be often wedded to kind of white nationalist views of history. On the one hand, heroic white populations conquering other populations and also sexually violent non-white populations infiltrating white population were arguments that were often very rational and logical up to a point, but then they interpreted the data in ways that made the white nationalist point of view come through.
Bsci: Does this make academics such as yourself and your colleagues uneasy, because it is partly a good understanding of science,
but then introducing a deviating narrative to validate their ideologies? A.P.: Yeah, I think that’s one of our most interesting findings. First of all there’s such a mix of different explanations and that, at least at the level of community, the sort of conspiratorial and the rational explanations can co-exist. Secondly, what’s interesting is that, as you say, there are that a lot of these criticisms of the tests, at least the rational criticisms, that are based on logic and knowledge about how statistics and science works. I like to think of them as kind of off-label interpretations. They’re interpretations that a population geneticist, or a biological anthropologist, or an academic historian, wouldn’t accept; they would say the evidence points other ways and that they’re emphasizing the wrong set of data. Emphasizing the sort of short end of the stick rather than the big part of the story, but they’re still using the tools and the styles of thinking of those disciplines to mobilize their argument. It’s a really interesting and complicated kind of public understanding of science. We often assume, when people are interpreting scientific findings the ways that scientists don’t like them,
that they’re doing so out of a kind of ignorance, a flat earth denialism of science. Then scientists say, oh, well, the answer is that we have to educate this public. But this case shows that the most vocal discussants in these groups are highly educated, highly intelligent, not at all ignorant about these issues, but they’re just interpreting it in ways that the scientists [whose work I engage with] wouldn’t prefer. So it’s not quite a matter of these guys just needing to be educated, and once they understand how genetics works, or how statistics works, or how history unfolded, they suddenly change their minds. They actually have an alternate framework of those very narratives and can deploy them very fluidly, so it presents a kind of challenge for how we should think about what to do about this.
Bsci: Another twisted idea that’s brought up in all of this, is that they’re using these DNA tests as a way of redefining what it means to be white by accepting these results and celebrating “white diversity.”
SCI+TECH & FEATURES
October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
their worldview, is an appropriation of the language of diversity and the idea of multiculturalism without people of colour. When you take this test, if you are a person of European ancestry, even if you are a person who the test algorithm will assign 100% European ancestry, usually it will show, 30% English, 20% Dutch, 15% French, 10% broadly southern or northern European. What that does, is say to an individual that a white person is already diverse within themselves. You see this in a white nationalist websites. For example, one poster on StormFront had a signature line that said, “White people are the true people of colour. Hair: white hair, black hair, brown hair, yellow hair; Eyes: brown eyes, blue eyes, hazel eyes; Skin: from very pale to a deep olive colour.” The idea is that white people have all of this colour and diversity within them and people of colour don’t need to be in the picture to have diversity. White nationalists don’t think of themselves as racists, they think of themselves as recovering for whiteness all the good identity stuff that has been taken by non-white people. Genetic ancestry tests allow them to claim diversity without having to respect the inclusion of non-white people. That’s another part of the picture.
A.P.: Yeah, I think that’s true. When they are talking about the collective, talking about white nationalism in general among those that accept genetic ancestry tests, they will often sort of say, we need to rethink what it means to be a white nationalist in the wake of these tests. They start to debate instead what percentage of non-white ancestry would be acceptable, and then they start to debate, “Is white nationalism really an identity where purity matters or is it a political movement where we’re going to have to make some compromises if we want to have the numbers to carry out our political program?” So there’s a lot of debates about that kind of thing. In addition to biological framing of ancestry, which appeals to
Bsci: They [white supremacists] bring up an understanding of migration patterns and geopolitical lines in some respects, but they also turn a blind eye to a country like Germany, which has no unique genetic heritage. It’s contradictory, but they don’t recognize that? A.P.: That, and also, we shouldn’t forget, part of this is about what genetic ancestry tests tell us. What these test are doing is statistically matching a person’s genetics to reference databases. Then it’s asserting the reason why you have connections to these reference databases is through some ancestral relationship to an ancient
But this case shows that the most vocal discussants in these groups are highly educated, highly intelligent, not at all ignorant about these issues, but they’re just interpreting it in ways that the scientists [whose work I engage with] wouldn’t prefer.
group. But it is making a whole bunch of arbitrary assumptions, that a biological anthropologist or population geneticist could explain much better than I could. They are ultimately arbitrary divisions and it’s the political groups that exist today that are being projected onto the DNA data. [...] So it presents a set of ambiguous information about our ancestry that then can be picked up by these narratives. I guess part of what I’m saying is, and where I’m moderately critical of the genetic ancestry testing companies, is the way they present the information they’re giving as the truth of ancestry, when it is merely one way to think about our ancestry, and it has all these assumptions built into it. These assumptions are not clearly communicated, and they could be what sociologists and cultural anthropologist called reified. It’s a set of arbitrary cultural distinctions that then look like they are given to us by DNA and biology. That’s one of the reasons why StormFront people find these test appealing, it’s because they seem to ground our contemporary political identity in our biology
The work of unravelling DNA in genetic testing turns into the work of unravelling a personal history As a result of the media coverage of this study, reporters tried to get quotes from 23andMe and ancestry.com, who are two of the biggest companies, to say, “Hey, do you realize that white nationalists are using your tests for their own devices?” Those companies where rightly alarmed, maybe knew about it a little bit and issued statements saying, “Our tests don’t support racism, they show that all humans
are biologically related, that we can’t use DNA to hate and that we should all love each other.” I’m paraphrasing, that was sort of the gist of the statement. I think that’s all well and good, but at the same time the kinds of information that these genetic ancestry test do promote sends a very different message than universal human brotherhood. It sends a message of we are all separate little groups and each individual has a mixture of these groups in their background, but these groups are all coherent real different things and that groupness is given to us by our biology. Which precisely fits into [white nationalists’] world view very well.
Unravelling stories Science remains relatively inaccessible to the general public, and DNA testing has provided an easy entry point for many people to engage with the complex worlds of genetics. It is worth questioning why DNA testing has been so enthusiastically seized on by the public as a tool to engage with one’s ancestral past and one’s own relation to race. As Alondra Nelson, author of “The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome,” voices in her interview with PBS, a lot of the value of requesting DNA testing is to discover one’s ancestral lineage and to build a narrative around that. In other words, to tell a story. Whether genetic testing is being used by people of colour to engage with a lost past, or by white nationalists to prove their “purity,” the results are taken up to tell a story about the individual. The work of unravelling DNA in genetic testing turns into the work of unravelling a personal history. It is also worth recognizing the ways in which science itself is about telling a story. As Karl Popper forcefully argued in his book “The Poverty of Historicism,” the philosophy of science has
take a deep dive
always been based on the understanding that science can never be proven, only disproven. Thus, science is an ever evolving discipline. Even the science of genetic testing as it relates to ancestry is forever evolving, with new papers being published on the topic every day. Scientific reasoning is based on the experimental methods employed, which are often error-prone and should be examined critically. So science is about debate; it is about connecting meaning to results; it is about storytelling. Broad Science’s podcast engages with the ways that science is storytelling, through conversation and discussion with scientists, by transforming scientific research into oral history, by critically engaging with the debates raging in the field scientific inquiry. Popular consumer DNA tests like 23andMe and ancestry.ca don’t engage with the ways that science has always been a debate. The way that genetic testing has been taken up by white nationalists needs to be challenged in order to encourage the story that science has to tell to be taken up in ways that promote anti-oppressive actions.
So science is about debate; it is about connecting meaning to results; it is about storytelling. This interview has been edited for clarity.
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October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
New season, new hope All you need to know about this year’s NHL
Michael Ziegler Sports Writer
Editor’s note: the Daily does not publish racist team names. The Chicago team’s name has been edited to reflect this policy.
ontreal is a hockey city, but approaching the sport can be daunting. The game is fast-paced, intense, and has a unique culture. Sports writer and avid Canadiens fan Michael Ziegler is here to help out. Check out his preview of the season, learn about the teams and players, and have something to say about the good ol’ hockey game: With the NHL season kicking off, there’s reason to get excited. A new season means a blank slate and fresh hope for fans around the league. Warning: your favourite team probably won’t win the cup. Previewing an NHL season is always tough. So much can happen, and the loss of one player could mean the end of all hope for some teams (see: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens). With that said, I’ll do my best. I’ll lay out which teams improved most in the offseason and which team took the biggest step back. Then, I’ll introduce the teams and players that I am paying close attention to this year. WHO TO WATCH The teams: Vegas Golden Knights: This should be fun. Despite some questionable moves at the expansion draft, Vegas added some nice pieces. Erik Haula, Vadim Shipachov, Shea Theodore and Nate Schmidt make up a very solid core and having a goalie like Marc-Andre Fleury helps. Veterans like James Neal and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare solidify the team, and I think they’ll end up doing a lot better than most people think. Are they a playoff team? No. But there are at least five teams worse than them right now. Chicago B********s: This team is interesting. Losing defender Nik Hjarmalsson is tough, but there are some young players in the system who will soften the blow. Winger Brandon Saad is off to a hot start, and the chemistry between him and Jonathan Toews is obvious. I don’t know if they will necessarily improved this offseason, but keep an eye out for them. Winnipeg Jets: Simple—their offense is elite, their defense is solid, and their goaltending sucks. If goalie Steve Mason can figure it out, they’ll be in the playoffs. If he falters, it’ll be a repeat of last year. The players: Auston Matthews: It must be nice to be a Leafs fan. This centre is an all-world talent, and I don’t see his game dropping off at all this year. He’ll be much more comfortable than last year, and playing with Nylander from the get-go should help. He could score 50 goals this year. Jonathan Drouin: It’ll take Drouin some time to get used to playing centre, but I think he could hit the 70-point plateau. He should be able to help Max Pacioretty hit the 40-goal mark for the first time as well. Matt Duchene: It’s wild that he’s still in Colorado, so we’ll see how motivated he’ll be. He’s a great player who needs a change of scenery. I’m curious to see where he ends up. John Tavares: His contract expires this year, and he’ll be seeking a considerable raise. He’s stated his desire to stay in New York, but I can see him being moved at some point. If he doesn’t commit, New York could deal him at the deadline. Should be interesting.
Illustrations by Mahaut Engerant
THE OFF-SEASON REVIEW The good: Dallas Stars: General Manager (GM) Jim Nill had one of the more impressive off-seasons in the league. He added ex-Hab Alex Radulov, 6’6 center Martin Hanzal, and goalie Ben Bishop in a matter of weeks. Radulov brings a level of competitiveness to Dallas that few other players have. His passion for the game was noticed by linemate Tyler Seguin during Radulov’s first practice. Dallas now has perhaps the most dynamic top line in the NHL, with Seguin playing centre between Radulov and captain Jamie Benn. The addition of Hanzal also brings a level of depth down the middle of the ice that most other teams cannot match. Cups are won in the middle of the ice, and Dallas has the depth necessary to make a run at the cup this year. Finally, in adding Ben Bishop, Dallas solidifies their goalie position after years of watching Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen struggle. Goaltending used to be Dallas’ Achilles heel, but with the addition of Bishop, it has become one of the team’s strengths. Other notable additions: Marc Methot, Ken Hitchcock. Tampa Bay Lightning: Aside from trading Jonathan Drouin to Montreal for Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay has had a rather quiet offseason. So why are they on this list? Because without having made a move, they’ve added one of the most dynamic goal scorers back into their lineup. After missing the entire season last year with a knee injury, captain Steven Stamkos is back. I look for the line of Stamkos, Kucherov, and Namestnikov to be one of the most productive lines in the NHL this season. Signing three-time Stanley Cup champion Chris Kunitz doesn’t hurt either. Other notable additions: Dan Girardi. Calgary Flames: Much like Dallas, the Flames’ off-season could not have gone much better. In adding goalie Mike Smith from Arizona, the Flames hope to have found a long-term solution in goal. Flames GM Brad Treliving then acquired defenseman Travis Hamonic from the New York Islanders. Hamonic rounds out what I believe to be the best defensive unit in the league alongside Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton. Other notable additions: Jaromir Jagr. The bad: Montreal Canadiens: As a die-hard Habs fan, this is tough to admit, but it’s true. The Drouin trade aside, this summer was a disaster for GM Marc Bergevin. Losing Radulov to Dallas was a massive blow, especially considering he took an identical deal to change teams. Bergevin’s hard-ball tactic with Radulov was a huge risk, and he got burned. On defense, losing Andrei Markov hurts just as bad, and Bergevin’s inability to replace him leaves a massive hole on the blue-line. While locking up Carey Price was necessary, it’s tough to sneak under the salary cap when your goalie makes $10.5M per year. The Habs have some good pieces, but if they don’t add help, their position in the playoffs is in serious doubt. It may be a quiet spring in Montreal. Notable losses: Alex Radulov, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin, Nathan Beaulieu, Mikhail Sergachev. Notable additions: Karl Alzner, Jonathan Drouin, David Schlemko.
PREDICTIONS Eastern Conference: 1. Tampa Bay (A1) 2. Pittsburgh (M1) 3. Washington (M2) 4. Toronto (A2) 5. Columbus (M3) 6. Montreal (A3) 7. New York Rangers (WC1) 8. Carolina (WC2) Western Conference: 1. Edmonton (P1) 2. Dallas (C1) 3. Minnesota (C2) 4. Anaheim (P2) 5. St. Louis (C3) 6. Calgary (P3) 7. Chicago (WC1) 8. Nashville (WC2) Eastern Conference Champ: Tampa Bay Western Conference Champ: Dallas
Follow Michael Ziegler on Twitter for more hockey updates: @Zignasty2point0
Stanley Cup Champs: Dallas Stars – depth at center, an elite offense, very solid defense, much improved goaltending, and one of the best coaches of all time.
October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
The World Series contenders
2017 edition of the baseball championship will begin October 24
Aidan Kearney-Fick Sports Writer
At the time of writing, the American League Champion was not yet determined. For updated finalist, visit the McGill Daily website.
National League American League Los Angeles Dodgers Houston Astros The Dodgers are one of the most established and historic franchises in the Major League Baseball (MLB), having enjoyed tremendous success throughout the years. Even though they have not won a world series since 1988, the franchise has always been competitive, with top players consistently wearing the blue and white. In recent years the Dodgers have been the National League’s best regular season team, with pitchers like Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill and great batters like Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, and Adrian Gonzalez helping them to dominate the regular season. Despite leading in the regular season, the Dodgers have not broken through to the World Series over their five consecutive playoff appearances, leading fans to scepticism. Has all the player spending been worth it? Will their dominance in the regular season finally translate to a World Series appearance—and perhaps win? Last World Series Appearance: Last World Series Victory: Reason to cheer for the Dodgers: Reason to not cheer for the Dodgers:
A few years ago, The Houston Astros were by consensus the worst team in the American League, reeling from back to back to back 100-loss seasons up until 2013. But with the high draft picks and time afforded by those disappointing seasons, the current Astros have many great young players surrounded by hungry veterans. Every night, it seems a different Astro will step up for their team: sometimes it’s Jose Altuve (Leading MVP Candidate), other times it’s the powerful George Springer or masterful Carlos Correa. The team’s veterans include Justin Verlander (MVP in 2011), the wily Brian McCann, and Hall of Fame-bound Carlos Beltran, all of whom contribute to the revitalization of this franchise. The Astros have united the shattered city of Houston behind this upstart team, battling against the all-consuming Yankees for a World Series berth. Will this team, born from the failure of past years, come full circle with a World Series win? Last World Series Appearance: Last World Series Victory: Reason to cheer for the Astros: Reason not to cheer for the Astros:
1988 1988 History and celebrity fans Biggest payroll
2005 None Worst to First Do they still count as an underdog?
New York Yankees The most hated team in North American sports is back in the limelight after a couple of bad years. But even during those years of mediocrity they won more than they lost. Great players contributed to the strong youth movement that now defines the Yankees. Last year it was the home run barrage of Gary Sanchez, which has tapered off this season. This year, Aaron Judge’s dominance has seized the spotlight, as an MVP-worthy rookie enlivening the Yankees. The Yankees have always been good; this is just another year where they have been able to assemble a fantastic team through a mix of savvy signings and crafty trades. Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka helm a great pitching staff, while Judge, Sanches, and Didi Gregorius (fresh off a dominant American League Division Series against Cleveland) have been hitting their way through the cream of the American League. Definitely a less exciting narrative than the droughts and tribulations faced by the other teams in the Championship Series. Can the Yankees add to their impressive collection of rings by beating less wealthy teams? Last World Series Appearance: Last World Series Victory: Reason to cheer for the Yankees: Reason not to cheer for the Yankees:
National League finalists.
2009 2009 Pinstripes look nice Everything else about the Yankees
Christopher Jeske | The McGill Daily
American League finalists. Christopher Jeske | The McGill Daily
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October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
The rage trapped in rubble Premiere of “Killing Gaza” at Concordia’s BDS week
Independent Jewish Voices Culture Writers
content warning: descriptions of violence
s part of this year’s Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) Week at Concordia, Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Concordia premiered the film Killing Gaza. Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal, the directors and producers of the film, presented their film with a warning that the content would be grim. They joked that they had just finished inserting the score an hour before the premiere, noting that we were their first audience. The two journalists also promised us we’d find relief through witnessing Palestinian youths’ artistic resistance against all odds. After grappling with the auditorium’s sound system, the lights went off and we were virtually inserted into Gaza, post-Operation “Protective Edge,” or Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza.
The two journalists also promised us we’d find relief upon witnessing Palestinian youths’ artistic resistance against all odds. Video journalism can record history and spread information across the globe in an accessible way. Dan Cohen, as an independent journalist, spoke to this modern tool but provided criticism regarding its sensationalist and artificial uses. Video reporting has captured the grim effects of war and catastrophe, but rarely does it capture what lives on after a newsworthy event, nor does
Emily Carroll | Illustrator it ever measure the dire effects of tragedy on different peoples. Max Blumenthal, another independent writer and journalist, joined forces with Cohen to record the Israeli terrorisation of Gaza. Blumenthal also sought to record the shrapnel of tragedy, the rubble of emotions, and the remains of a tortured people while other journalists fled to cover news items deemed more “relevant.” Cohen and Blumenthal did not lie—the film was incredibly bleak. Grandfathers told of their grandsons’ deaths at the hands of Israeli Defence Force soldiers, women cried as they suffered the heat of the sun, without shelter or electricity. Babies froze in Gaza’s harsh winter. The film nevertheless showed resistance in the form of civilians arming themselves to take on Israeli soldiers, children playing pretend in the remains of a shelled mosque, youth break dancing on rubble, and a young painter showing off her oeuvre.
Blumenthal sought to record the shrapnel of tragedy, the rubble of emotions, and the remains of a tortured people. The documentary is a testament to Palestinian’s polymorphous resistance and humanity in the face of terror, but also serves as evidence of Israel’s war crimes and the traumatic effects of these crimes on an entire people. My gut clenched when I heard the taunts of right-wing Israeli protesters calling for the death of “all Arabs.” I felt ill as I saw Israel Defence Force (Tsahal or IDF) soldiers, most of them my age, laugh and feast on sushi af-
ter watching the clouds of smoke from a bomb planted in Gaza blend with the sky’s texture. Every instance of Israeli brutality caught on camera was another reminder of how desensitised a people can become. This film transcribed the pain of individual Gazans and plunged viewers into the reality of unquantifiable agony. Cohen’s camera followed intimate, domestic tragedies, but also placed them into a larger context, underlining the continuities of Israeli horrors.
Every instance of Israeli brutality [...] was another reminder of how desensitised a people can become.
Through documentary filmmaking, the different layers of reality merged into a moralising and heart-wrenching call to action. Attacks cannot simply be tossed aside; they break communities. Beyond a lost life, a whole family and community grieve their loss and tragedy. The documentary immerses the viewer into a complex, dense truth. One cannot simply choose to look away or wander off onto the next ‘most important subject.’ In the age of catchphrase articles and minute-long news reports, Killing Gaza calls for us to take the time to consciously inform ourselves on current issues in a deeper, more diligent way. Despite the formal limits of filmmaking in fully communicating lived experience, the film reveals Gaza’s pain and encourages viewers to ponder which acts of solidarity have true impact. Follow the directors on Twitter at: @dancohen3000 and @MaxBlumenthal.
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October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Soft sounds from another planet Japanese Breakfast performs their fourth show at Bar le Ritz
Robyn Lee | Photographer Robyn Lee Culture Writer content warning: grief, dissociation
apanese Breakfast performed for the fourth time at Bar le Ritz on Sunday, October 8. As usual, their show cultivated an atmosphere of familiarity and comfort. While their debut record, Psychopomp, was steeped in childhood nostalgia, their latest release from the summer, Soft Sounds from Another Planet, represents an emotional and painful coming-of-age. Lead singer Michelle Zauner reflects on her personal grief over her mother’s death on both albums. After releasing two records about it, Japanese Breakfast has refined the presentation of a haunting sense of melancholy. The set began with the first track of Soft Sounds, “Diving Woman.” Zauner’s voice sounded like a whisper, breathy as if coming up for air, until she broke into the chorus. The crowd nodded along enthusiastically as the group weaved songs from both albums into their setlist. The band transitioned into an older favourite, “The Woman that Loves You.” The song’s chorus emphasized, “you should try to do as little harm as you can to the woman that loves you.” This song not only asked us to treat women with care, but
also to lovingly celebrate all of the women in our lives. They then performed another highlight from Soft Sounds, “The Body is a Blade,” which is lyrically heavier with stretches of animated, lighthearted keyboard in the background. Zauner described the song as learning how to “dissociate and rely on your body to physically keep pushing forward in an attempt to survive.” She reminded listeners: “you’re alive, you have to keep moving.” The music parallels this mindset as the keyboard melody flits back and forth frantically, building a mood of desperation. The bass floods into the chorus which swells into a full, shining melody that warrants nothing but a ridiculous full body sway.
“You should try to do as little harm as you can to the woman that loves you.” - Japanese Breakfast From Psychopomp they performed “Jane Cum,” which has a particularly acute rise and fall. The live performance had an added level of intensity as Zauner paused to take a breath before
shouting the lyrics, “Jane Cum, you swallow me whole,” into the mic. She has a high, piercing voice that echoed in the small, dimlylit venue. The synthesizer kept ringing at the end of a track, and I couldn’t help but feel deflated as Zauner sang the last note. Another highlight was “Boyish,” a track from Soft Sounds that Zauner told us was her dream slow dance song for an eighties romantic coming-of-age film. The soft, shoe-gazey guitar purrs as she sings, “your boyish reassurance is not reassuring.” She then proceeds to yearn for him in the chorus, singing, “I can’t get you off my mind / I can’t get you off in general.” Halfway through the set Zauner announced, “We’ll do the sad songs now and dance later.” There was a serious shift in tone as she sombrely transitioned into “This House.” The song introduced a series of questions: “And where are you? What if one day you leave?” Every line that Zauner cried created a sense of urgency, which intensified and gave way to a very intimate frustration that clawed at my chest. She ended by crying out, “my life was folded up in half.” The crowd was still as she elaborated on her experiences of grief with “Till Death,” which painfully describes the grieving process and its harrowing effects. She sang about life stages, from
birth until death, eventually pleading with her partner, “Sing me to sleep, soothe this insomnia / Haunted dreams, stages of grief / Repressed memories.” As promised, she ended with two high-energy songs, “Everybody Wants to Love You” and “Machinist.” “Everybody Wants to Love You” is a joyful, energetic track that makes me want to jump on clouds, frolic in fields, and do whatever else is shown on tampon commercials.
“Everybody Wants to Love You” is a joyful, energetic track that makes me want to jump on clouds, frolic in fields, and do whatever else is shown on tampon commercials. Zauner asked: “Will you make me breakfast in bed? / Ask me to
get married / And then make me breakfast again!” The lead single from Soft Sounds, “Machinist,” is a sci-fi dance number about falling in love with a robot. She precedes the chorus by softly asking, “Do you trust me? Can you feel it? It could be bliss,” before launching into the chorus where she sings, “Let go a piece of your heart / All the pleasure it gives / . . . I just wanted it all.” This got everyone dancing. Zauner consistently provided a warm and familiar presence throughout the show. At one point, she jumped down from the stage to dance with the audience, making her presence as familiar as a friend’s. She asked us if Canadian thanksgiving is similar to American thanksgiving, describing the latter only as a reason to drink with your family and childhood friends. She acknowledged the awful state of affairs in the United States, then lightly commented that everything, such as corner stores without the luxury of dep candy, is worse there. At one point, she asked whether folks had watched the latest Blade Runner movie. In response to the crowd’s mixed reaction she said, “so I heard a man yell, ‘IT KICKED ASS’ and a woman just do a meh hand gesture.” With this coy response, she reaffirmed much of what her music and presence says—please, listen to women.
October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Blurring the boundaries of genre Panayot Gaidov Culture Writer
An interview with Eileen Myles
content warning: discussion of rape in second part of the interview
y Saturday evening is consumed by a school paper which I finish around midnight. On my way to bed I grab a book to lull myself to sleep. Eileen Myles has written a memoir about their late dog Rosie, titled Afterglow. I am hardly twenty pages in when I forget it’s nighttime, and begin to mull over how the story resonates with me as a dog owner, literature student, and young person. The questions I asked Eileen largely arose from the gut reaction I got from reading Afterglow. Eileen Myles is a rock star in the American literary scene and an activist for women and LGBTQ+ rights. They boast an impressively versatile catalogue; a dog memoir being the most recent addition, and also the reason for their upcoming visit to Montreal. The McGill Daily (MD): This is your first memoir! What prompted you to write it and why now? Eileen Myles (EM): I was living in San Diego in 2006 as a college professor and I had this dog, Rosie, and she began dying. As a writer, my response to my situation is usually to document it, and so that’s what I did. I started doing an account of her dying moment by moment. It eventually turned into a memoir, but it took about ten years, counting from the first writing morning in September 2006 to 2017 when it was published. MD: How did writing the memoir change your perception of Rosie? Did it affect the way you remember her? EM: It both limited and expanded it. When you write about something, some memories have a way of covering others. That’s why I’m surprised when I see a video or hear someone else’s story of Rosie, because that’s not the dog I know. Now I largely know the dog I wrote about. But then there are fictional aspects to the memoir, too, for a number of reasons. One is that I was reading a lot of science-fiction around the time she was dying, so I decided to make it a fantastic account as well.
When you write about something, some memories have a way of covering others. MD: The fantastic makes itself most evident in the part called The Puppet’s Talk Show. It’s after Rosie’s death, and she becomes a talking character in this episode. Did you give her a
Jen Gahrns | Illustrator voice to have a conversation with her in the afterlife? EM: Yes. In the early drafts Rosie still wasn’t speaking, and people asked me if she would, which got me wondering about the conditions under which she would. Then I remembered I had these childhood puppets! I decided they would have a talk show and invite Rosie, and that would create the occasion. What’s great about this for me is that I could use the art context of my childhood to give my late adult dog a presence. I suppose that this was a way for my childhood and my adulthood to come together through the loss of this dog. That was the sweet experience. MD: A lot of the book is composed as a conversation, even though it is one sided, e.g. you talking to her [even though she is dead]. Then there is this moment in the book where you talk to an animal communicator [like a medium]. How are these things different? Did you feel differently? Is writing about her as therapeutic as talking to her?
EM: Like with anything you are enduring, you keep poking and touching it and looking for ways to deal with it until it stops. In this sense, in the duration of the book I was filling a wound, and I thought of animal communicators. I didn’t know anyone in particular back then, but my friend mentioned it at dinner once. When she created this accidental possibility, I eventually moved towards it. The experience was definitely akin to therapy. It was like going to a priest. It was interesting, too, because it was another way of getting information about Rosie, as well as of occupying myself during her death. Talking to her added a different dimension, which was definitely beneficial. MD: You refer to Rosie as “your teacher” several times in the book. Why? EM: Anything you let into your life changes the root of your existing—your dog, your parents. I always wanted a dog, but I didn’t get Rosie until well into my adult life. And she affected it more deeply than I thought she could. She
brought me to the ocean and to other places, uniting these disjointed parts of my life. My dad died when I was a kid, and back then it didn’t make sense to me, but being with Rosie in her dying gave me a way to understand [that]. I suppose I needed to see someone close to me die and not run or be too young to comprehend.
Like with anything you are enduring, you keep poking and touching it and looking for ways to deal with it until it stops. MD: There is an episode in the book where you imagine your father is there, reincarnated in Rosie. Is Afterglow memoir only to
your dog or is it symbolic of something else, too? EM: It is definitely an homage for Rosie. The book is what my idea of a dog monument looks like. But as with all projects, you inevitably bombard it with thoughts until it becomes its own being. Writing is a performance of having, knowing, and loving something, and it’s a hit-and-miss process of making that thing come alive again. When I first looked at Rosie, her eyes reminded me of my dad’s; their gaze was the same. The familiarity is uncanny to think about, and it may come from the fact it was just the first fit of intimacy. I certainly had a kind of intimacy with my father, too. So I ran with the idea of the two of them as one. MD: One of the issues that is more present and palpable than you might expect from a dog memoir is rape. You refer to it as “stealing someone’s envelope.” Can you elaborate on that? EM: It’s a metaphorical way of saying that we are protected by the boundaries of our body. I could walk into any public space, and when turning a corner, someone who feels like the space is theirs— usually a male—will lightly touch my hips to get around me. That touch is an intimate kind of touch which men feel entitled to. It’s cultural. As for its place in Afterglow, if rape turns up in a text where you wouldn’t expect to see it, then that moment is a metonym for what it feels like to be raped. MD: Do you mean that it literally invades the narrative? EM: Exactly. Rape is something you don’t expect will happen, and it’s something that’s not supposed to be there. It works the same way in a literary setting. MD: The fact that Afterglow is a dog memoir didn’t deter you from being outspoken about your views and pushing the envelope of political writing. How did you reconcile writing a memoir while also inviting a political discussion? EM: I am a part of a world of writers who like to mess things up and turn things on their head; in novels, I use my own name; in poems, I document and report; a memoir? - I make it half fiction. I love blurring the boundaries of genres. I enjoy the gender-genre resemblance, too, because I think that neither is ever what they are supposed to be. MD: As a university paper, we strive to represent young people. In that line of thought, do you have any advice for aspiring writers? EM: Yes! Find the books that excite and re-root you and read. Read widely! And just write in volumes instead of trying to write perfect things. Myles will be reading at the quaint comic bookstore Drawn and Quarterly on October 24.
October 23, 2017 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Lies, half-truths, and trips to Disneyland
Jay Van Put Official Crossword Wizard Across 1. “___ Karenina” 5. Shopping locale 9. Put a question forward 14. Indian bread 15. Sheltered, at sea 16. Woke 17. Nobel Peace Prize city 18. “In it for the ___ haul” 19. Pre-university in Quebec. 20. Beach goer’s fears 23. Space 24. Deceive 25. Crow’s call 28. Small pocket blade 33. The Spanish ______ (navy) 35. Genetic material 36. Friend in war 38. Spanish speaking man 39. Modify 41. Honest president 42. Standard 43. Shortened, as a fingernail 45. Close cousin to the frog 47. Allow 48. Smoothed 50. Pain caused by a jerk 53. Half of purple 54. Handful 56. “The Matrix” hero 57. Betta fish nickname 63. Eagle’s claw 66. Political helper 67. Dog in “The Wizard of Oz” 68. Where water meets land 69. Sinister look 70. And others, for short 71. Called, as a doctor 72. Time periods 73. Could be double or triple dog
“That’s a load of Bull***”
Down 1. Year in spanish (no accent) 2. “A Beautiful Mind” economist John 3. “The Lion King” lioness 4. Parka 5. Mosquitoes may carry it 6. Much (2 words) 7. Mardi Gras follower 8. Allowed by law 9. Green Bay football team 10. Has debts 11. Droop 12. Bard’s “before” 13. Montreal cornerstore, abbr. 21. Family members 22. Spy’s org. (US) 25. Kind of oil 26. Idolizes 27. Affection or kindness 28. Favor 29. Salad ingredient 30. Banged with a hammer 31. Type of soda or tire 32. Where the funny bone is located 34. Sign on a restroom door 37. “Hell ___!” (exclamation of agreement) 40. X 44. Explained the meanig of a word 46. The last meals of the day 49. B.A., e.g. 51. Type of leg 52. Threw in the air 55. Humpback, e.g. 57. Golfer’s cry 58. Level at a stadium 59. Brainchild 60. Minute amount 61. Shape on the Hollywood Walk of Fame 62. Puncture 63. Cooking meas. 64. “Take on Me” Band 65. Captain Kirk’s journal
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