The McGill Daily: Vol. 112, Issue 23

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Volume 112, Issue 23 | Monday, April 3, 2023 | Montreal I Love since 1911 Published by The Daily Publications Society, a tudent society of McGill University.
The McGill
is located on unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory.

Table of Contents

3. Editorial Airbnb Has No Home in Montreal

4. Food for Thought Traditional Food Tuesdays at Resilience Montreal

5. News SPHR Rally for Israeli Apartheid Week

Nursing Students for Divestment and Sustainability

New 2024 Academic Assessment Policy

8. Feature The Search for McGill’s New Principal Xylazine and Harm Reduction

12. Commentary Cracks in Canada’s K-12 Education System

13. Culture Review of Riceboy Sleeps Trans Performers on RuPaul’s Drag Race

Mexican Icon Cri-Cri

16. Compendium! Summer Horoscope

Statement from the Publisher

In the spring of 2020, the McGill Daily published two articles and a statement about an anonymous complaint levied against a McGill University student and the then-recently-elected VP Internal of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), Declan McCool.

The articles related to, and commented on, the following situation: shortly after the SSMU elections were completed in 2020, the McGill Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) received an anonymous complaint of sexual violence. The complaint identified McCool as the perpetrator. Under the Involvement Restriction Policy (IRP) – a then-newly-implemented process established to investigate and act on complaints of any inappropriate conduct, such as discrimination, harassment, or sexual violence – a hearing of the complaint was conducted.

An anonymous tip was submitted to the Daily, informing it that McCool had been found responsible and sanctioned under the IRP. The information was accompanied by a letter from the complainant, who did not disclose their name. The Daily, in


with its unwavering commitment to offer a voice and safe space for survivors, and finding the issue as accordant with public interest, published the information and the letter. The publication was followed by another published letter from the complainant, which, among other iterations, called on McCool to step down from his SSMU position.

The information appeared, at that time, to be factual. It was supported by the outcome of the hearing in question and accepted by the Daily without deeper investigation.

New facts have since come to light with respect to the case that warrant an update. Had these facts been known or foreseen at the time of first publication, they would have materially impacted the Daily’s decision to run the story or, at the least, affected its tone and content.

For one, the IRP hearing did not permit McCool to know what he was accused of or by whom. His sole participation in the process centered on questions put to him regarding his understanding of consent by a committee of students. No questions about the specific allegations were put to him

and the EUS committee charged with implementing the IRP barred McCool from participating in multi-day events involving alcohol for one year.

McCool appealed the decision of the EUS IRP Committee. The EUS mandated a seven-week independent inquiry by Latitude MNGMT, a law firm specialized in legal investigations. Latitude’s partner Maître Anaïs Lacroix spearheaded the investigation, which concluded in August 2020, with the reversal of the original IRP decision. It found that:

1. The EUS did not have jurisdiction to investigate and decide on the matter as the alleged incidents do not fall within the scope of the All-Faculty or EUS Policy as they were currently drafted, and because the original investigation prevented Mr. McCool from bringing a full defence.

2. Although there is no indication that the EUS Committee lacked impartiality or good faith and its members applied the IRP to the best of their knowledge, the investigation infringed on McCool’s right to be heard and to present a full defence by keeping pertinent and necessary information from him and by denying him the opportunity to

make a full answer.

3. Based on the evidentiary and testimonial evidence, it is more likely than not that McCool did not commit sexual violence against the complainant nor engage in improper conduct as per the IRP.

Specific to the third finding, the full investigation report, expanded that a) the complainant had the minimum capacity required to give continuous consent; b) the complainant and McCool were most likely equally intoxicated, decided to engage in sexual activities, and played similarly active roles in these activities; and c) the complainant communicated her consent affirmatively and continuously to Mr. McCool through her actions.

The Investigation Committee’s decision was set aside and the involvement restriction it placed on Mr. McCool was lifted. The Daily did not report the findings of the independent investigation. Lacroix’s full 27-page decision, including detailed and fulsome analysis of testimony and evidence, was not released to McCool or the public. The comprehensive report and exhibits were only released two years later, after McCool obtained

a Superior Court order unsealing the material, with witnesses’ names redacted.

The exhibits and full investigation report contained more facts previously unknown, shedding new light on the complaint.

The full Lacroix investigation report and its supporting exhibits are now public. McCool deserved fairness and was denied it. He deserved due process, a voice, and complete information so as to be able to make a full and complete defence. DPS regrets any distress this situation may have caused.

The Daily is committed to providing honest coverage of news events and fair commentary and, albeit a stranger to the proceedings which impacted McCool, recognises its role in the unraveling of his story. Public opinion is a powerful court, and as members of the media, we strive to adhere to principles of fairness and transparency — the staples of impartiality. The Daily is sensitive to the harms experienced by McCool. This is not a story due for repetition.

- The Daily Publications Society

2 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily table of Contents

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Mohamed, India Mosca, Robert Muroni, Frida Sofia Morales Mora, Maya Pack, Isabella Roberti, Eden Saley, Olivia Shan, Liz Singh, Clement Veysset, Genevieve Quinn

Airbnb Has No Home in Montreal

On March 16, a fatal fire broke out in a heritage building in Old Montreal, killing seven people. Although short-term rentals were banned in the area of Old Montreal where the building was located in 2018, several units of the building were illegally listed on Airbnb and occupied by guests at the time of the fire. Guests who had previously stayed in the building had reported or left comments about safety issues within the units to Airbnb, including no windows or windows that were glued shut, no emergency exit or outside access, and no fire extinguisher. However, these complaints were ignored by Airbnb, and no action was taken by the company to ensure that safety precautions were introduced to the units. The preventable deaths of seven people have spurred a broader conversation concerning the ramifications of short-term rentals such as Airbnb, which exacerbates the Montreal housing crisis while putting its customers’ lives at risk.

According to a report released by the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ) in 2023, 79 per cent of the 30,000 Airbnb listings in Quebec are illegal. These illegal rentals have been allowed to exist due to limited oversight and inspection by municipalities. In response to the fire, Airbnb is reportedly removing all unauthorized listings in Quebec and will require proof of a Corporation de l’industrie touristique du Québec (CITQ) permit to operate, although there has not been an indication as to when this will be completed. InsideAirbnb, a project that collects data on Airbnb properties and their effects on neighbourhoods, shows 57.7 per cent of short-term rentals across Montreal to be unlicensed as of March 31.

was attempting to evict tenants for Airbnb conversion. The UPGo report further claimed that “Airbnb growth is completely outpacing new constructions.” Ultimately, the report called for a response from the municipal governments of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver and their respective provinces; this response includes limiting the number of units a host is allowed to rent, restricting hosts from renting out their homes for a large portion of the year, and enforcing stricter regulation of the type of units on the market. Furthermore, following the fire, Mayor Valérie Plante acknowledged the need for the city of Montreal to do more to clamp down on illegal tourist accommodations. Plante additionally called on the provincial government and Revenu Québec to increase the number of its inspectors to investigate illegal Airbnb operators.

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Airbnbs, among other short-term rentals, have been proven to impact local housing markets by reducing housing affordability in neighbourhoods. As more units are turned into pseudo-hotels, there is less housing available to meet the demands of renters, resulting in rent increases. In 2017, McGill’s Urban Politics and Governance Lab (UPGo) published a report that examined how the growth of Airbnb has impacted the housing markets in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. According to the report, a number of neighbourhoods in Montreal “have seen two or three percent of their entire housing stock converted to de facto hotels.” Cédric Dussault, a co-spokesperson for RCLALQ, explained that vacancy rates in most regions in Quebec would be at three per cent or higher if units on Airbnb were put on the long-term rental market. Further, landlords have evicted residents or pressured them to move in order to convert units into short-term rentals because of their potential for a larger profit. For example, this past December, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve resident Jean-François Raymond received an eviction notice mandating that he leave his home of 22 years so that the apartment could be converted into an Airbnb. This incident is not unique; for example a former resident of the Old Montreal building reports that the landlord

Airbnb is exacerbating existing issues that have made housing increasingly scarce and unaffordable across Quebec. “Renovictions,” a catch-all word used to describe the practice of kicking out tenants, making renovations, and then jacking up rents for those who move in, has become increasingly common in recent years. Neighbourhoods across Montreal are undergoing sustained or rapid gentrification, including Parc-Extension, Saint-Henri, and PointeSainte-Charles. Displacement due to redevelopment – or, similarly, the conversion of long-term rentals into Airbnbs – disproportionately displaces BIPOC and low-income residents. In addition to displacement on a neighbourhood scale, individual tenants across Montreal consistently face renovictions and experience incidents where their rights are regularly infringed upon by landlords.

Airbnb has a long way to go to ensure the safety of its rental units – to prevent future tragedies from claiming the lives of renters – but there are things you can do to keep yourself and others safe should you choose to use the service. Report illegal listings if you encounter them on the site, and report any safety issues in a rental unit you have stayed in. If you are a tenant and your landlord is trying to evict you, contact RCLALQ. Their map provides a list of housing committees across Quebec and which one may be nearest to you. If you are a renter in Montreal, know your rights. You can consult the Comité logement du Plateau Mont-Royal, a neighbourhood-specific housing committee whose mission is to promote social housing and defend the rights of tenants in Plateau Mont-Royal by offering workshops and sharing information. SLAM-MATU is Montreal’s autonomous tenants union which uses direct action to fight landlords; you can join the union and attend weekly meetings through their Linktree. The Milton Parc Citizen’s Commitee holds general bi-weekly meetings with SLAM-MATU. Mobilizing for Milton Parc is another great resource; it is an accessible, student-led organization that offers mutual aid services alongside renter’s rights advocacy.


Volume 112 Issue 23
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All contents © 2018 Daily Publications Society. All rights reserved. The content of this newspaper is the responsibility of The McGill Daily and does not necessarily represent the views of McGill University. Products or companies advertised in this newspaper are not necessarily endorsed by Daily staff. Printed by Imprimerie Transcontinental Transmag. Anjou, Quebec. ISSN 1192-4608. EDITORIAL April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily
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Published by the Daily Publications Society, a student society of McGill University. The views and opinions expressed in the Daily are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of McGill University.The McGill Daily is not affiliated with McGill University. le délit Léonard Smith

Hot Meal Services in Montreal Meet Increasing Demand Resilience Montreal aims to “give people a sense of home and community”

Food for Thought is a new column investigating food services at McGill and documenting the conversations happening on campus around food affordability and accessibility.

Recently reported food insecurity on McGill’s campus reflects a city and nation-wide trend. Overall, the leading causes of food insecurity are poverty and an economic climate that has recently further exposed and entrenched people in poverty. Indeed, since 2019, food bank visits have skyrocketed, with the highest year-over-year increase in usage since the aftermath of the 2008 to 2009 recession. Stagnant provincial social assistance rates, end of pandemic-related benefits, and soaring inflation have all affected the ability of individuals in Canada to feed themselves and their families. Statistics Canada stated in January that Canada’s Consumer Price Index rose 6.3 per cent year-over-year in December 2022, fuelled by an 11 per cent jump in prices for food purchased from stores. Food inflation hovered around the 11 per cent mark during the last five months of 2022. To face this food crisis, various people and organisations are mobilising and trying to meet rising need. Among these, Resilience Montreal, created in 2019 by the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, is a communityled project to support the homeless population in the Cabot Square area.

The number of individuals experiencing food insecurity in Montreal has continued to increase since the onset of the pandemic.

According to Moisson Montreal’s Hunger Report, nearly 900,000 requests for food assistance were made to Moisson Montreal’s partner organizations in 2022 – an increase of 25.8 per cent from the previous year. Rising inflation and the pandemic have given way to this rapid rise in food insecurity. For context, Moisson Montreal reported 600,000 requests to food pantries made in 2019, which was a continuation of a downward trend in previous years.

Furthermore, food insecurity is a crucial issue in Montreal because it persists in circumstances of already existing crises regarding homelessness. In March 2020, the city of Montreal declared a state of emergency regarding the population of homeless people. Montreal has the

highest number of homeless people in Quebec. The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness estimated in 2018 that 3149 people were experiencing homelessness at the time. While the effects of COVID-19 cannot be fully measured yet, many experts believe this number could be multiplied five or ten times this year. According to a 2020 report from the MiltonParc Citizens Committee, out of these individuals, an Indigenous person is 27 times more likely to experience homelessness than a non-Indigenous person, and an Inuit person is 80 times more likely to experience homelessness. According to the Milton-Parc Citizens Committee, Indigenous people often find inadequate support systems in cities and discrimination in housing and job markets.

Organizations like Resilience Montreal have noticed an uptick in their number of clientele seeking food support and services. They provide access to sleeping areas, showers, computers, clothing, first aid, a host of intervention services, and notably, three meals a day. Resilience offers a hot breakfast, a hot lunch, and a takeaway dinner for after the shelter closes every day at 3 PM.

Margo Buchanan, Logistics, Community Program and Volunteer Coordinator, tells the Daily that Resilience’s food services have changed since the onset of the pandemic. When the organization started in 2019, they served three hot meals a day to roughly 60 to 80 people, Buchanan explains. Because of COVID-19, they had to begin providing their services outdoors in the park mid-2020. Individuals seeking meals went up to 100

per meal, as they were serving an open park and anyone could now get food. Consequently, they had to reduce their services to two hot meals a day and one takeaway meal.

In September 2020 they moved back inside, but the demand kept climbing. “When we moved back inside, [...] we started at 100 and then word got out that the food was good and we hired a lot of kitchen staff and then it went from 100 to 150, and then within three months, we were already up to 300,” says Buchanan. As of January 2021, Resilience serves around 300 people per meal.

Buchanan stresses the importance of ensuring their food is not only nourishing for their clientele, but also delicious. Once a week, Resilience Montreal has “Traditional Food Tuesdays,” where they provide traditional meals for Indigenous people. On these Tuesdays, they will serve seafood, often raw, and other traditionally Inuit cuisine, as that is the largest group of Indigenous peoples served by Resilience. She further explains that if there are First Nations clientele in the area, they will also serve a traditional First Nations meal – such as caribou, tacos with local meats, or moose burgers – alongside the Inuit meal. “The overall goal of providing traditional food Tuesdays is to give people a sense of home and community and make them feel seen and understood and highlight how important their culture is to us as well,” adds Buchanan. Meals from recent weeks include cold caribou, arctic char and hot caribou ribs with rice, and caribou heart stew with bannock, frozen caribou and arctic char.

Buchanan explains that it is

mostly the intervention workers at Resilience who coordinate and prepare the hot meal service. Because of the large clientele that they serve, Resilience mostly relies on big collectives – such as the Community Cooks Collective – to make individual elements of the meals for them to then be combined on site at Resilience. They also have networks of organizations and individuals throughout Montreal who donate baked goods for the takeaway lunches, Buchanan says, and the organization Bread and Beyond makes sandwiches for Resilience (which they need by the thousands every week). They also get a large amount of food every week from Moisson Montreal. “It’s a huge group effort [from] people across the city,” says Buchanan, “That’s the only reason we’re able to reach the numbers that we are.” Resilience does everything possible to ensure they provide the best quality food for every single person. Buchanan explains that Resilience “[tries] to do our best to remind them that they’re important despite their experience in the street every day.” Buchanan adds that for Traditional Food Tuesdays, because it’s often seafood they offer for

Inuit clientele, they will often buy ingredients in store if they don’t have the donations. “We take so much pride in the work that we do, which is why we spend so much money despite having this huge network of people that make us food, because we really do try to give them the best quality food,” she says, “and honestly, [the food] is great.”

Despite this large network of support, Resilience is always looking for more people to get involved. Buchanan stresses that donations from Bread and Beyond to Resilience often drop off over the summer in particular, as the organizations partners with elementary and high schools to make the sandwiches. She explains that a great way to help would be to volunteer for Bread and Beyond over the summer, or other organizations like the Community Cooks Collective, which also in turn help support the other shelters across the city. Beyond that, Buchanan says that they are always looking for volunteers at Resilience to help serve and make food, either on site or at home.

If you are interested in getting involved, you can email resilience.

Food for thought 4 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily
Clement Veysset |Illustrations Editor

SPHR Holds Rally for Montreal’s Israeli Apartheid Week

Students protest McGill’s ties to SASSI, among other initiatives

On Friday, March 24, students gathered on McGill’s campus for a rally against the university’s financial and academic ties to Israel. Organized by Students for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) McGill, the rally was the last in a series of events put on by SPHR McGill and other pro-Palestine groups for Montreal’s Israeli Apartheid Week. Activists from SPHR McGill, SPHR Concordia, and the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) spoke to the crowd and led students in chants of “free free Palestine,” “occupation isn’t funny, students over donor money,” and more.

Speakers drew attention to the Sylvan Adams Sports Science Institute (SASSI) project – made possible by the $29 million dollar donation of Sylvan Adams, an Israeli-Canadian billionaire and selfdescribed “ambassador-at-large for the State of Israel.”

“This initiative, painted as a commitment to the advancement of sports performance through academic research, constitutes a highly politicized attempt to systemically normalize colonial Zionist institutions,” said a speaker from SPHR McGill.

The speaker pointed to the SASSI project as an instance of “sportswashing” – the practice of an individual, company, or government funding or organizing sports to improve their reputation. They also condemned the planned collaboration between McGill and Tel Aviv University over SASSI, citing Tel Aviv University’s ties to Israeli weapons manufacturers and influence in shaping Israeli policy.

“We will not stand for collaboration with the university that is a core participant in Israel’s occupation mechanism,” said the speaker. “How can we trust that our administration will feel comfortable taking stances against Israel and for the Palestinian people? How can we believe that it will not impede on student activism against Israeli apartheid when it’s receiving $29 million from someone whose explicit and proclaimed objective is to paint Israel as peaceful?”

Multiple speakers drew attention to last years’ Palestine Solidarity Policy –which earned a 71 per cent “yes” vote in a SSMU referendum and over which McGill’s administration threatened to withdraw funding from SSMU. Speakers also called on McGill students to pressure the university to divest from Israeli companies, referencing the successful student movement for divestment from South African apartheid in the 1980s as a precedent.

“The PYM calls on the students at McGill University today to continue their fight against the administration and to continue advancing the struggle for Palestinian liberation,” said another speaker. “The divestment that happened in 1987 [...] was only possible because students organized, because they got together. They collectively got together to organize and pressure the administration. And we will do the same.”

“We need to ask ourselves what

allowed the occupation [...] to enact this violence from 1948 to 2023 with complete impunity,” said the speaker. “It’s because of the imperial allies, like Canada and the US, who bankroll the settlements and prop up the Zionist entities. From our pension funds, to our banks, to our schools, to our libraries, bookstores, and charities, every single industry in Canada is complicit in the occupation [...] McGill University is one of the many Canadian institutions that is actively normalizing and upholding the occupation’s war crimes.”

“I wish McGill would actually listen to the students rather than just think about money only – because money isn’t our future,” said Zeyna, a U0 student at McGill, to the Daily. “It’s just really unfortunate to see a big institution, in a country that prides itself on being democratic and pro-freedom, choose money over the lives of people.”

The rally marked the end of SPHR McGill’s Israeli Apartheid Week events, which included a film screening, a “Palestine 101” workshop in partnership with the PYM, and a talk by ex-Google employee Ariel Koren entitled “No Tech for Apartheid.”

“We really focus on the education aspect,” said a representative of SPHR McGill to the Daily, “but also at the same time really mobilizing and showing Palestinians on campus that we are here for them and that the fight is not over.

We’re not stopping even if McGill is standing in our way. [...] We’re here. We’re not going anywhere. We’re still as strong as we were last year with the Palestine Solidarity Policy. We’re not losing momentum.”

The representative encouraged concerned students to look out for SHPR tabling on campus and possible upcoming petitions against the SASSI project. They said students can get involved with SPHR by sharing their contact information in-person at tabling sessions and by following SPHR McGill on Instagram @sphrmcgill, where they

post about events. Future events include a film screening and iftars for Ramadan.

“Even if you don’t feel educated enough about the issue, please, come reach out to us,” said the SPHR representative. “We are more than happy to talk about it, really. One of the biggest myths about the genocide of Palestinians is that it’s a complicated issue. It’s really not. Come talk to us. We’re here. We also want a diversity of voices and opinions in the group. So it doesn’t matter if you’re Arab, it doesn’t matter if you’re Palestinian. There is a space for you here and we welcome you and we want you around.”

News 5 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily
Eve Cable | Illustrations Contributor
The rally marked the end of SPHR McGill’s Israeli Apartheid Week events, which included a film screening, a “Palestine 101” workshop in partnership with the PYM, and a talk by ex-Google employee Ariel Koren entitled “No Tech for Apartheid.”

Nursing Students Work Toward Divestment and Sustainability

Students say they finally see

momentum for sustainability building

Students from the Nursing Undergraduate Society (NUS) have written an open letter calling for McGill’s immediate and full divestment from the fossil fuel industry. The letter focuses on the unique perspective nursing students have on climate change as future health care professionals. It states: “We recognize the profound links between planetary and human health, and the urgent need to address the climate crisis that is already disrupting health and health care, deeping inequities, and causing unbearable suffering particularly to already marginalized populations around the globe.”

The Daily had the opportunity to discuss the letter with two of the students who spearheaded the project: Naomi Pastrana Mankovitz, VP Sustainability of NUS, and Sophie Zheng, Planetary Health Representative of NUS. Mankovitz and Zheng explained that nursing students are so driven to take action against climate change because they can clearly see the negative effects on health. The two told the Daily about a health care concept called “Whole Person Care,” which states that when treating a patient, you must consider the entirety of this person. For example, health care professionals consider questions such as “are they a refugee?,”

“are they living in a flood-prone area?,” and “how is this affecting their health?” Mankovitz and

students, “we want the pressure to keep building.” Many students have begun to take a stronger stance on divestment: the letter has now been endorsed by AUS and SSMU, who have called for their executives to work toward divestment.

Nursing students at McGill are working on more than just advocating for divestment. There are a number of projects that have been undertaken in recent years to make the Ingram School of Nursing (ISoN) more sustainable while considering the intersections of social and environmental justice. One focus for the students has been food insecurity and unsustainability.

for example: there are many layers, and it is crucial to work toward a community that truly understands these goals. They added that it is also important to take social responsibility and accountability and to acknowledge that everything affects health, including the environment and politics. One important goal ISoN worked to achieve was implementing Joyce’s Principle, honouring the late Joyce Echaquan, who died

Office of Sustainability. Mankovitz and Zheng said this project was very encouraging to them, and seeing the professors and staff undertake this project encouraged them to continue with their own. As to advice for other students, Zheng says: “Please don’t be cynical. Have hope.” She said it’s important to surround yourself with others who are also working toward something bigger than themselves. The students also

Zheng emphasized that everything is interconnected and that in order to provide adequate care, health care professionals must understand what is impacting the patient. Mankovitz explained, “you can’t have health without the environment, and you can’t maintain the environment without health.” She added that working toward divestment and sustainability is important not just from the climate change angle but also as a way to improve one of the many factors impacting health.

After over ten years of work by Divest McGill, the nursing students say it seems like the Board of Governors is finally taking notice, but they still have not taken concrete action. Mankovitz said she is uncertain if the university will divest soon but that, as nursing

To counter this, NUS applied for funding from the Office of Sustainability’s Sustainability Projects Fund. The funds allowed the NUS kitchenette to be equipped with a refrigerator and to be stocked with reusable dishes and utensils. This is more sustainable for students and staff, especially those with a busy schedule.

The McGill Nurses for Planetary Health also held an event in collaboration with the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance to raise awareness about food insecurity in Montreal. Free meals were offered from Black- and Indigenousowned restaurants to help educate professors and students. The focus of these events has been working toward intersectional sustainability. The students told the Daily that sustainability is not just about having recycling bins,

due to the health care system’s systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples.

In order to institutionally ingrain sustainability, a task force has been created to achieve Sustainable Workplace Certification from the

discussed having “eco-anxiety” and acknowledged the best way to combat this is to take action. Nursing students have been working hard to build a culture of hope and advocacy for various causes they are passionate about.

news 6 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily
Eden Saley News Contributor
“We recognize the profound links between planetary and human health, and the urgent need to address the climate crisis that is already disrupting health and health care, deeping inequalities, and causing unbearable suffering particularly to already marinalized populations around the globe.”
- NUS open letter
“You can’t have health without the environment, and you can’t maintain the environment without health.”
- Naomi Pastrana Mankovitz

A New Policy on Assessment of Student Learning Is Coming in 2024

McGill is seeking to adapt its grading procedures

The new Policy on Assessment of Student Learning (PASL), approved by McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG), will come into effect beginning Fall 2024. It will serve as the new guide for McGill instructors to assess student learning in both undergraduate and graduate courses across all faculties. The policy’s aim is to “promot[e] equity, consistency, effective learning experiences, a healthy learning environment, and academic integrity under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.”

The current University Student Assessment Policy (USAP) was initially approved in 2011 and was last amended in 2016. “The USAP was non-enforceable. So, essentially it was like a guideline which told instructors what to do in terms of their pedagogy and how to use assessments to teach [students],” VP University Affairs and member of the implementation committee Kerry Yang told the Daily. “So if a professor or course instructor were to break something in the USAP, it’s not like a student could be like, ‘well you broke this, you should change it.’”

The PASL, which was approved in May 2022, contains similar principles to the USAP, however its key differences reflect an evolution in the university’s academic objectives: “The principles shift how the university thinks about assessments and to have assessments be more in the mindset of testing students’ knowledge rather than be used to rank students and have students compete,”

Yang told the Daily

For the Desautels Faculty of Management which uses a bell curve grading policy, the new assessment policy implies changes to grade distribution and possibly the modes of assessment. Section 4.4 states that the distribution of grades and/or averages cannot be predetermined for any individual assessment or the course as a whole. Though this may have a more pronounced effect on the Faculty of Management, all McGill instructors will have to make changes to their courses to adhere to the new principles, inevitably evoking pushback. “It’s going to take some time because a lot of professors are resistant to the idea. [They] have this idea where you grade students based on which ones can sink and which ones can swim. [The policy] is about changing

that mentality to where professors understand ‘OK grading is actually not about that, it’s about students learning what they need to learn in this class,’” said Yang.

An additional change that comes with the new assessment policy is a detailed process for contesting assessment practices. The new Section 10: Process for Contesting Assessment explains that students can now report occurrences of instructors’ pedagogy not being in accordance with the PASL: “In cases where a student believes this Policy is not being respected, they are advised to make their concern known by contacting the instructor and/or Program Director/Chair of the Department in writing.” This differs from the current policy which fails to provide a course of action for students to seek recourse.

The PASL also mandates and specifies assessment feedback for students. Section 4.2d says that there will be support for instructors to develop “effective and meaningful assessment and feedback strategies.” Furthermore, section 5.3 notes that students “must have the opportunity to receive some formative feedback before the University’s official course withdrawal (without refund) deadline.”

Though the principles of the PASL are designed to create a “fair, meaningful, and effective assessment of a student’s learning,” some of them continue to weigh individual assessments heavily. According to section 9.6, ‘final assessments’ are mandated to be a minimum of 25 per cent and a maximum of 75 per cent of the final

grade. This mirrors the percentages in the current assessment policy, allowing instructors to continue to heavily weigh exams in their courses. These high-stakes exams can be harmful for many students’ learning, leading to consequences such as being forced to repeat a course.

When the Daily asked what this new policy means for the future of the university, Yang said, “[...] I think there’s a lot of realization that the older modes of thinking when it comes to assessments aren’t necessarily the best because it’s not the point of education. [...] So I think the university sector in general is shifting towards that direction, and McGill is very clearly shifting towards that direction.” The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many universities to turn to a

pass/fail grading system and eliminate required standardized test scores from their admission processes. However, since the pandemic, grade inflation has been increasingly prevalent at McGill as well as other Canadian universities. In terms of the new policy and the future of McGill’s academic reputation, Yang told the Daily,“It might affect [McGill’s] reputation, it might not, but time will tell in that regard.”

The new assessment policy will be reviewed by the Office of the Dean of Students and Teaching and Learning Services every five years, involving both students and instructors. The first review of the policy will happen in May 2027.

News 7 Aprill 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily
Zoe Lister
News Editor
“The principles shift how the university thinks about assessments and to have assessments be more in the mindset of testing students’ knowledge rather than be used to rank students and have students compete[.]”
-VP University Affairs Kerry Yang
We wish you a wonderful summer, and look forward to seeing you this fall!
The DPS thanks all its readers and advertisers for their support throughout 2022-23.
ns August 30th retur ns August 30th
“[...][The policy] is about changing that mentality to where professors understand ‘OK grading is actually not about that, it’s about students learning what they need to learn in this class,’”
-VP University Affairs Kerry Yang

Xylazine in Montreal’s Opiod Supply, according to Department of Public Health

Harm reduction with xylazine

In early March 2023, Montreal Public Health issued a warning about what some are referring to as a dangerous drug appearing in the city’s opioid supply: xylazine. Xylazine is a nervous system depressant that slows the user’s heart rate and breathing. Xylazine mixed with fentanyl, also known as “tranq dope,” is emerging as a major concern in the ongoing toxic drug supply crisis in North America. Montreal’s Department of Public

Health (DRSP) reached this conclusion through urinalysis results collected through a citywide study conducted in the Fall of 2022, where xylazine appeared in five per cent of all samples collected. Roughly two weeks later, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency issued a warning based on reports from across the country about xylazine in the opioid supply.

Xylazine is proof of the danger of supply side intervention or drug prohibition. As a result of prohibition, Canada’s opioid supply is becoming increasingly unpredictable and therefore

dangerous. Since the mid-2010s, when heroin and other opioids began to be diluted with fentanyl, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of opioidrelated overdoses in North America. This has led many to refer to the spike in overdoses as the “fentanyl crisis.” Fentanyl is a widely prescribed and highly effective painkiller, often given to people recovering from surgery. Since the beginning of the crisis, fentanyl has been the subject of much misinformation and law enforcement efforts, with some going so far as to (inappropriately) call it a

weapon of mass destruction. One of the most important protective factors for people who use opioids in recent years has been the increased availability of takehome naloxone kits. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids on the brain for a limited period of time, which can temporarily reverse an overdose.

Xylazine, like fentanyl, is a central nervous system depressant, meaning that too large of a dose will result in the same symptoms fentanyl can produce: lowered heart rate and decreased respiration. Unlike

fentanyl, xylazine is not an opioid, meaning that naloxone will not have any effect on a xylazine overdose. It is not, as some have said, “resistant” to naloxone – it is simply a different substance altogether. That said, in the case of tranq dope, the combination of fentanyl and xylazine, naloxone may mitigate an overdose by blocking the effects of fentanyl. People responding are advised to check whether the person is breathing, protect the head and airways, apply naloxone, and call for backup.

In addition to the risk of overdose, xylazine poses a

Features 8 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily
Clement Veysset | Illustrations Editor Liz Singh Features Contributor

Xylazine, like fentanyl, is a central nervous system depressant, meaning that too large of a dose will result in the same symptoms fentanyl can produce – lowered heart rate and decreased respiration. Unlike fentanyl, xylazine is not an opioid, meaning that naloxone will not have any effect on a xylazine overdose.

challenge because it causes painful and dangerous wounds, which can appear regardless of the method of consumption. Even in cases where the substance was injected, the wounds are not necessarily found at the site of injection, often appearing on the shins and forearms. The wounds lead to an eruption of eschar, a type of dead skin. If left untreated, eschars can be quite severe, with some cases leading to amputation. Research into xylazine’s effects on humans was discontinued early in its development, with the effect that very little is known about how it functions in the human body. The drug began to grow in popularity as a recreational substance in Puerto Rico in the mid-2000s, with researchers observing the risk of infection as early as 2011. Doctors remain unsure of what exactly causes the wounds, which resemble chemical burns or skin ulcers and which appear in nearly 40 per cent of people who use xylazine.

Xylazine was synthesized in the 1960s as a treatment for hypertension and is used extensively by veterinarians as a sedative or anaesthetic, often in conjunction with ketamine. It’s been used recreationally by

humans since the early 2000s, making it a relatively new addition to the recreational drug scene, with little research done to investigate its effects on the body. Xylazine was rejected by the FDA for use in humans because of the risk of hypotension, which has led to a dearth of information about its mechanism of action in the human body.

In the case of tranq dope, xylazine appears to be being used as a cutting agent. A cutting agent is a product used to dilute recreational drugs with something less expensive than the drug itself in order for the manufacturer to increase their profit margin. When a bar sells a mimosa instead of a glass of champagne, for instance, the orange juice is the cutting agent. If the government decided to crack down on mimosa consumption by banning the sale of orange juice, bartenders would be forced to innovate. Some speculate that this is what has led to tranq dope – as political leadership and law enforcement focus on fentanyl, manufacturers may be innovating by adding xylazine to their products in order to stretch their supply.

Illegal substances are impossible to regulate. While

Myriad examples demonstrate what decriminalization advocates refer to as the “Iron Law of Prohibition,” which states simply that: “the harder the enforcement, the harder the drugs.” As pressure from law enforcement increases, demand does not decrease. Instead, suppliers turn to more potent alternatives.

legal medications have to meet stringent requirements regarding ingredients, unregulated substances are held to no such standard. This is not unique to the illicit substance market. The nature of the unregulated global drug market often means that a product will pass through many hands before reaching the consumer. At each step of the supply chain, the person supplying has a financial incentive to cut the substance in order to increase their profit. The more links in the chain, and the more often the product has been cut or diluted, the more opportunities for a toxic interaction or undesired effect. Suppliers often improvise using products that are affordable, easily accessible, and that mimic the effects and physical properties of the substance being cut. When choosing a

sites as

cutting agent, the manufacturer usually tries to find a substance that is inexpensive, easy to get, relatively non-toxic, and copies the physical attributes of the drug to be adulterated, such as cutting cocaine with caffeine.

Supply side intervention is the practice of banning a psychoactive substance in order to discourage its use. In theory, banning the use of drugs will reduce the supply of a particular substance and force people to stop using it. However, the reality is more complex. A myriad of examples demonstrate what decriminalization advocates refer to as the “Iron Law of Prohibition,” which states simply that: “the harder the enforcement, the harder the drugs.” As pressure from law enforcement increases, demand does not decrease. Instead, suppliers turn to more potent alternatives. This is one of the ways that drug prohibition, despite its good intentions, actually increases the risk to public health associated with psychoactive substances.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, when opium was first banned, some suppliers

began selling heroin, which was both far more potent than opium and odorless, making it harder to detect. As law enforcement tightened border regulations and increased penalties associated with the sale and possession of heroin, suppliers turned to selling fentanyl, which is more potent and synthetic, meaning it can be conveniently produced in a lab. A potent cutting agent is especially attractive under prohibition because the more potent a substance is, the less volume is required to achieve the same effects. Less volume means it’s easier to transport undetected. Evidence suggests that xylazine potentiates the effects of opioids, meaning that less opioid is needed to achieve the desired effect.

The pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns have also contributed significantly to

Doubling down on supply side interventions is likely to keep producing the same results – more unpredictable and potentially risky innovations by suppliers leading to uncertainty and danger for consumers –and yet Western governments persist in their effort to scare users straight by allowing some of them to die unnecessarily. People who use opioids deserve access to a safe supply. People who use xylazine deserve knowledge and research to make using it safer. Prohibition is not keeping citizens safer. It makes using drugs more dangerous by preventing research and regulation and by making it more difficult for people who use drugs to seek information and support. If the goal of prohibition is public health and safety, then it has been a failure and we need to end it. If the goal of prohibition is to

disruptions in the supply chain for psychoactive substances as much as for anything else. Border closures considerably affected the stability of Montreal’s opioid market, contributing to a significant increase in fatal overdoses beginning in 2020.

Some might suggest that the answer is to make xylazine less readily available, but experts disagree. Dr. Kim Sue, Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Medicine, advocates supervised consumption sites as a response to the current crisis as well as an end to the stigma surrounding illicit substance use. Sue says, “What kills [her patients] is our society’s cruelly stigmatizing approach to substance use disorders and the lack of safe places they can use and receive immediate overdose supports.”

Maia Szalavitz, author of Undoing Drugs, has also spoken out against the use of law enforcement to respond to a public health crisis, as have many others. Locally, Francois Mary, director of Cactus Montreal, called on public health to share data promptly and invest further in drug screening to protect the public.

violently coerce the public into “good behaviour” and sobriety, then it has been a failure and we need to end it. If the goal of prohibition is to make the lives of vulnerable Canadians even more dangerous and precarious, then the proliferation of xylazine in the opioid supply is the latest example of its success.

Urgent action is necessary to protect the lives of people who use drugs in Montreal and elsewhere. It is clear that supply side interventions are endangering our communities. It is inaccurate to refer to this ongoing crisis as a fentanyl crisis – it is a toxic drug supply crisis, and its origin is not opioids but dangerously misguided drug policy. If anyone wishes to learn more or to get involved, AQPSUD – the Association Québécoise pour la promotion de la santé des personnes utilisatrices de drogues – will host an overdose awareness event in Montreal on April 6 at Place Émilie-Gamelin.

Features 9 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily
Some might suggest that the answer is to make xylazine less readily available, but experts disagree. Dr. Kim Sue, Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Medicine, advocates supervised consumption
a response to the current crisis as well as an end to the stigma surrounding illicit substance use. Sue says, “What kills [her patients] is our society’s cruelly stigmatizing approach to substance use disorders and the lack of safe places they can use and receive immediate overdose supports.”

The Search for McGill’s New Principal

A “deep” dive into the selection of Principal Saini

In January 2022, McGill’s then-Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier announced that she would be stepping down after serving in this position since 2013. In March of the same year, an Advisory Committee met to decide her replacement. In the following November, the Board of Governors selected former President of Dalhousie University Professor H. Deep Saini to take office on April 1 for a renewable five-year term ending on June 30, 2028. As

the McGill administration welcomes the new principal, the Daily looked into the selection process that brought him to this position.

The Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee for the Selection of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor is mandated to create a profile for the role and find qualified candidates to nominate to the Board of Governors (BoG), who ultimately make the hiring decision. The Advisory Committee of 2022 was chaired by Maryse Bertrand and included

representatives from the BoG, the Senate, the McGill Alumni Association, the McGill Association of University Teachers, the Administrative and Support Staff, and Student Associations, specifically SSMU and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS).

Within the Advisory Committee of 2022, graduate and undergraduate students were represented respectively by Kristi Kouchakji, Secretary General of the PGSS, and Kerry Yang, VP University Affairs at SSMU. Former VP University Affairs Claire Downie had originally been appointed to the committee, but left after resigning from her position in April 2022, leaving the committee without a SSMU representative until Yang took office in June 2022.

“In principle, all reps from all spheres of university life are to have equal input into the selection or reappointment of the position in question,” Kouchakji told the Daily. “In practice, the inequitable power dynamics that exist across the university are often replicated in these committees as they are anywhere else.” However, she added that “this specific committee is one of only four I have sat on in seven years at McGill that did legitimately hold space for student input.”

In conversation with the Daily, Yang agreed that everyone on the committee got a chance to speak and express their opinion. He said that the way Bertrand ran the committee was “very fair.” Kouchakji also believed that Bertand did a good job of managing the

committee, which she acknowledges is not an easy job. “If the chair is managing things effectively, then sooner or later you come to a point where people understand each other’s constituents’ needs a little bit better, and then the discussions and negotiations and reflections really start getting productive,” she explained.

The search was done in collaboration with Perrett Laver, an international firm specializing in leadership advising. This partnership was established through a “call to tender,” a process where companies bid for public service contracts worth over $100,000 required by Quebec legislation. Yang describes the firm’s role as a “headhunter,” explaining that they were largely responsible for sourcing qualified candidates.

Community Consultations

In order to get input from the McGill community, the Advisory Committee organized community consultation sessions in April and May 2022 to develop a profile for the new Principal and Vice-Chancellor, outlining ideal qualities, experience, and priorities for the candidate. According to documents obtained by the Daily, in these sessions participants were asked about the priorities and requirements that they found valuable in a potential candidate. Often, these characteristics relate to a candidates’ values, leadership skills, qualifications, and

features 10 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily
Saini’s history is also very concerning to MUNACA, especially given that he left his previous position mid-mandate following the aforementioned labour dispute. “There are many unions who will be negotiating new collective agreements soon or who are already negotiating,” they told the Daily. “Let us see how those go and how [Saini] reacts to them.”

experience. Some of the priorities identified in the final profile included deepening the university’s research capabilities, improving the quality of the student experience, attracting diverse staff, faculty and students, and increasing sources of funding to support projects such as the New Vic and the Fiat Lux projects. Selection criteria also included a commitment to “Indigenization” and reconciliation as well as being fully bilingual and having knowledge of the Frenchspeaking context of Quebec.

The Daily obtained summary notes from these consultations through an access to information (ATI) request. Specifically, the consultations identified many current challenges with regards to the relationship between the senior administration and the students, faculty, and staff. According to the notes, McGill is faced with a “new generation of students with different worldview[s] and expectations,” such as a need for greater mental health support. They recognized that the student body is more diverse than before, and many feel as if McGill doesn’t adequately prepare them for the workforce. The notes also identified a need to be more “faculty and staff-centric,” given an “us vs them” mentality emerging between staff and senior administration. This was demonstrated by staff unions going on strike due to their treatment by upper management, and consultations called for the new leadership to build a better relationship with the unions.

However, representatives from the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) told the Daily that they were concerned that “not enough weight was given to how a candidate interacts with labour unions and associations of the university.” They also added that the underlying issues identified in the consultations, such as “insufficient salaries and cost of living increases, lack of training, lack of sufficient staffing sustainability, and HR transparency and the high employee turnover McGill is currently experiencing,” still remain present.

Kouchakji said that public consultations had a good turnout, being well attended by staff, faculty, the Board, and senior admin. However, student participation was lower than the committee would have liked to see. She attributes this to suboptimal timing, as the sessions took place during the final exam period when many students would have been busy. In addition, consultations took place between Downie’s resignation and the beginning of Yang’s term, meaning that there was not a SSMU representative on the committee at the time to relay information to undergraduate students. Kouchakji said that the broader committee had no input on when the consultations took place, but assumed it was decided by the Chair and Secretary, who were also responsible for publicizing them.

“At a certain point, when you’ve organized these things to happen over finals and in the days leading up to the final grading deadline, and you’ve publicized them mostly by posting them on an obscure website no one visits and by lumping them in with newsletters no one really reads, no amount of retweeting, sharing, amplifying, [or] mobilizing from student societies is going to save them,” she said when explaining the low student turnout.

The Final Selection

As the McGill community found out in November 2022, the Advisory Committee ended up choosing H. Deep Saini as the new Principal and Vice-Chancellor. Although committee members aren’t allowed to reveal who the other candidates were, they were able to provide insight as to why Saini stood out compared to the rest.

“Saini was a very good candidate on

paper,” Yang explained. “Some of the other candidates did have more pronounced weaknesses [while] Saini didn’t really have any weaknesses [ …] in comparison to the criteria that we set up.”

Yang added that Saini’s knowledge of French was a large asset. As Saini was a professor at the University of Montreal for 18 years, he’s familiar and able to interact with the Quebec government, which is a key strength given the Advisory Committee’s position profile prioritizes maintaining strong relationships with the provincial government. Saini has worked at four of Canada’s U15 universities (Dalhousie, University of Waterloo, University of Toronto Mississauga, and University of Montreal), indicating that he has a good understanding of the funding infrastructure for research-heavy universities in Canada.

Yang said that the committee also considered Saini to be someone who was strong in the administrative aspect, able to make tough decisions, and had a good vision for McGill.

While Kouchakji couldn’t say much without breaking confidentiality, she acknowledged that “a legitimate consensus was reached based on the information the committee was provided during the process.”

“He exemplifies the rare mix of strong academic leadership with a wide-ranging and international perspective,” the McGill Media Relations office wrote in a statement to the Daily. “A collaborative and innovative thinker who sees challenges as opportunities and who has the ability to set a long-term vision for the University, Prof. Saini is the perfect choice for McGill as it embarks on its third century.”

Nevertheless, Yang acknowledged that he was aware that many students might have concerns about a situation that arose during Saini’s tenure at Dalhousie. In October 2022, teaching assistants, part-time instructors, and markers represented by the CUPE 3912 union at Dalhousie went on strike after negotiations with the university failed. The union claimed that the current wages for its members were less than at other major universities despite Dalhousie charging some of the highest tuition rates in the country. Saini also received criticism for raising Dalhousie’s tuition fees during the pandemic, despite student protests demanding a tuition freeze. That same year, Saini received a substantial increase in salary, going from $492,001 in 2020-2021 to $558,154 in 2021-2022. Yang said that he, along with other committee members, raised this issue, but the committee eventually came to the consensus that Saini did a good job managing the situation.

Saini’s history is also very concerning to MUNACA, especially given that he left his previous position mid-mandate following the aforementioned labour dispute. “There are many unions who will be negotiating new collective agreements soon or who are already negotiating,” they told the Daily. “Let us see how those go and how [Saini] reacts to them.”

While Yang and Kouchakji were both generally satisfied with the selection process, they both identified areas where it could’ve been improved. For Yang, the main challenge was stepping onto the committee in the middle of the process after Downie had resigned and the committee had been without an undergraduate representative for some time. He said that it would have helped if someone else had been able to step in temporarily to ensure that undergraduates were represented.

When asked about this dilemma, Kouchakji explained that these types of advisory committees “aren’t standing committees who regularly cycle members in and out and can bring new members up to speed with minimal friction; they’re

engaged in a specific, ideally linear process, and after a certain point it’s increasingly complicated and arguably detrimental to all to be swapping out members for interim reps.” She added that much of the content discussed in these committee meetings is confidential, making it more complicated to onboard additional members.

“In such scenarios [when one group is not represented], the best whoever is in the room can do is to think about what they’ve observed in their time interacting with the opposite group and what broader issues those observations might point to,” she said. Kouchakji also expressed a desire for more student and staff representation on the committee. She acknowledged that

given the demanding nature of the role, there should be incentives such as academic release, tuition rebates, and paid release time for workers to make participation more accessible. She added that the process should be more transparent to allow the broader McGill community to participate in the final decision. She suggested that they “require final-shortlisted candidates for senior admin roles to give job talks at Senate and on a widely-publicized (within McGill) livestream with an unvetted Q&A session after, and then let Senate vote on their preferred candidate(s) by electronic ballot over a week to give them time to take feedback from their constituents as well.”

Features 11 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily
[Kouchakji] suggested that they “require finalshortlisted candidates for senior admin roles to give job talks at Senate and on a widelypublicized (within McGill) livestream with an unvetted Q&A session after, and then let Senate vote on their preferred candidate(s) by electronic ballot over a week to give them time to take feedback from their constituents as well.”

Canadian Exceptionalism? Not in Education

Beneath a veil of “success” lies fundamental cracks in Canada’s K–12 education system

Amere 47 per cent of Grade 6 students met the Ontario provincial standard in mathematics in the 2021–2022 school year. That’s just one of many disturbing findings displayed in the province’s latest report on education, which was conducted by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) and released in October 2022. Just as startling, however, is just how little is being done about it.

Perhaps the reason why Canada lacks urgency in combating its education crisis is due to the Canadian media. Indeed, for years, media sources across the country and the world have been spinning an opposite narrative: that the state of Canadian K–12 education somehow deserves applause. As recently as 2016, for example, the CBC published an article calling 15-year-old Canadians “among the best global performers in science, math,” and such sentiment has subsequently been echoed by advocacy groups across the country. Fix My Schools, a parent-led nonpartisan advocacy group, even went as far as calling Ontario’s public education system “one of the best in the world.” The result? The birth of an international narrative that Canada is some

provincial standard in reading, while only 65 per cent of Grade 3 students met the provincial standard in writing, and a mere 59 per cent of students

sort of an education superpower. In reality, not only is such a narrative a complete illusion, but it is also a disservice, as millions of Canadians are being falsely led to believe the country is successfully producing the leaders of tomorrow.

Across the board, evidence shows that students are struggling at key educational skills, often deemed fundamental, beginning as early as Grade 3. There, the report found that just 73 per cent of Ontario students met the

met the provincial standard in mathematics. Unfortunately, these results are not limited to Ontario: data collected from 100 primary and 40 secondary schools in Quebec show that 20 per cent of students are failing French, with an additional 25 per cent of students failing math.

These are serious concerns that shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially when one considers the impact of education on students.

Studies show clearly that K–12 mathematical ability not only

has a direct impact on brain development but that it often dictates future achievement. Similar studies insist that the same can be said for writing and general literacy ability. But what makes education unique – at least when compared to most problems – is that we cannot just throw money at the problem and hope it corrects itself. Simply put, gaps in education tend to compound. By all accounts, “even at high-performing, wealthy high schools, students who have fallen far behind academically in 4th and 8th grade have less than a 1 in 3 chance of being ready for college or a career by the end of high school.” This means that for many of the students outlined above, it might already be too late: the gaps in knowledge might be insurmountable.

So what should be done? Many advocacy groups believe that Canada should simply spend more money to better fund its schools. Yet further investigation reveals that this is clearly not the case, as Canada ranks in the top quartile of expenditure on its schools. Rather, any solution should revolve around three key steps.

For one, Canada needs greater transparency in its reporting on K–12 student achievement.

As it currently stands, when reporting on improvements in student achievement, the country continues to group together students who use assistive technology (AT) on standardized tests with those who do not. While the rise of AT is positive for learning, its relatively recent adaptation means that samples of student test scores taken in 2005 (before AT) and 2019 are not only different but also incomparable. By ignoring this fact and persisting to group the two types of students together, the Canadian government is not only breaking a fundamental rule of statistics, but it is (perhaps unintentionally) inflating student achievement. For example, from 2005 to 2019, the number of “up to standard”

Grade 3 reading scores improved from 59 per cent to 74 per cent.

At least that’s what Canadians were told. In reality, only when adjusting for a similar sample is the true improvement seen: students only improved to 62 per cent proficiency. Even the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) Ontario was “surprised to learn the extent of the use of Assistive Technology/ Scribing is not reported in the annual EQAO Provincial Reports.”

Canada must simultaneously

double down on traditional student testing, like timed closed-book examinations. In recent years, provinces have moved away from traditional testing such as exams. While there are noted flaws in timed examinations, evidence clearly shows that continuous testing is often still the most accurate evaluator of student achievement: they inform a teacher where a class or individual is struggling, allowing them to tailor lessons and respond to student weaknesses. There is no reason why traditional and new styles of testing should be treated as mutually exclusive, and yet they often are. Canada should embrace more personalized assessments while also increasing the emphasis it places on timed closed-book examinations. Only then will students be properly equipped to tackle university-style assessment, which is mostly a combination of the two styles of assessment.

Finally, the country should look to follow the UK’s lead and introduce mandatory Grade 11 and 12 math courses. Promoting more math is not going to be a popular opinion, as just 53 per cent of Grade 9 students indicate that they like math. However, just because something is unpopular does not make it wrong. On math, too many students fixate on the concepts, deeming them useless, while failing to recognize that simply practicing problemsolving develops strong logical reasoning and analytical skills that they will use for life. All Canadians should want strong critical thinking skills, and mandating mathematics through Grade 12 would be a step toward making this a reality.

As it currently stands, education in Canada is at a critical point. While Canadian high schoolers still score well on standardized tests, the country is experiencing eroding levels of underlying student achievement as elementary school students continue to struggle. This means that while there is still time to change, the window is closing. Getting a proper education remains one of the greatest privileges anyone can receive, as its benefits are truly immeasurable. It should be Canadians’ number one priority to ensure we remain leaders in this field.

Commentary 12 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily
Just 73 per cent of Ontario [Grade 3] students met the provincial standard in reading, while only 65 percent of Grade 3 students met the provincial standard in writing, and a mere 59 per cent of students met the provincial standard in mathematics.
Clement Veysset | Illustrations Editor

Mothers and Sons A review of RiceboySleeps(2022)

There are some unavoidable keystone clichés in every Asian-American film. Does it feature borderline to outright toxic parental dynamics? Check. Is the lead feeling “caught between two worlds”? Check. Is there badly repressed intergenerational trauma? Check. The fact that this model for the quintessential Asian immigrant narrative has become its own tired trope doesn’t undermine the inherent importance of those classic Joy Luck Club-esque stories. But trust me, no one is more selfaware (and just slightly bored) of the dominant Asian-American narratives than actual AsianAmericans. Thankfully, in recent years, we’ve seen some stellar examples of Asian diasporic films which have found new ways to innovate and expand upon these tired formulas. Notably, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell , the Daniels’ Everything Everywhere all At Once (naturally), and most recently, Vancouver-based writer-director Anthony Shim’s Riceboy Sleeps , which was a hit at last year’s TIFF festival and has now been officially released in cinemas across Canada.

Set in the 1990s, Riceboy Sleeps follows the story of single mother So-Young (Choi Seung-

yoon) and her young son Donghyun (Dohyun Noel Hwang, Ethan Hwang) as they immigrate from their native South Korea to Canada in pursuit of a better life. At face value, Riceboy Sleeps seems to touch on many of the issues that feel all too familiar to those in the diaspora, yet Shim still manages to execute one of the most moving and cathartic meditations on diasporic identities that I have seen in a very long time.

Riceboy Sleeps has the feel and aesthetic of a lived-in memory; So-young and Donghyun’s apartment in Vancouver is small, brown, and poorly lit. The confinement of its many walls and narrow hallways are enhanced by a 4:3 aspect ratio. There is something ghost-like about the film’s unique cinematic style; edits are minimal, allowing the camera to linger on scenes in long, generous takes. Alongside the phenomenal acting of the movie’s leads, Riceboy Sleeps ’s unique cinematography is key to giving the film its naturalistic, documentary-like feel. Christopher Lew’s impressive camerawork languidly glides about set pieces, like a pair of eyes timidly observing the everyday adventures of small Dong-hyun and his mother. Does this represent the presence of an ancestral spirit – perhaps that of Dong-hyun’s deceased father –watching over its loved ones? Are these the discerning eyes of an adult Dong-hyun, recalling and recreating a past that only now exists within the faded pages of a photo album?

Most touching and complex of all is the actual mother-son bond between So-Young and DongHyun. I’ve often felt that many Asian diasporic narratives have the tendency to paint immigrant parents in overly reductive roles; they are grade-obsessed, emotionally constipated, conservative, abusive, tyrants – so the stereotypes say. Conveniently, they often serve as the perfect antagonistic force to contrast against the Westernized lead character’s individualism.

Shim rejects such cheap characterizations. So-young’s struggle as a single mother working in a factory is directly paralleled with Dong-Hyun’s difficulty fitting in among his peers at school; both face the casual racism and alienation of their respective predominantly white environments. While So-young eventually finds community and support amidst a group of other racialized female co-workers, DongHyun continues to struggle to reconcile his Canadian lifestyle

with his Korean roots as he grows into teenagehood. His efforts to assimilate – bleaching his hair blonde, wearing coloured contact lenses – prove futile and hollow.

Riceboy Sleeps’s breathtaking final sequence begins as So-Young and Dong-Hyun vacation back to South Korea. Andrew Yong Hoon Lee’s original instrumental soundtrack swells with gravitas as the film

culminates to its emotional climax; mother and son are finally able to come away with a renewed sense of what “home” means for both of them. Nothing is perfect, but perhaps simply being there together is enough.

There is something ghost-like about the film’s unique cinematic style; edits are minimal, allowing the camera to linger on scenes in long, generous takes. Alongside the phenomenal acting of the movie’s leads, Riceboy Sleeps’s unique cinematography is key to giving the film its naturalistic, documentary-like feel. Christopher Lew’s impressive camerawork languidly glides about set pieces, like a pair of eyes timidly observing the everyday adventures of small Donghyun and his mother.

Culture 13 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily
At face value, Riceboy Sleeps seems to touch on many of the issues which feel all too familiar to those in the diaspora, yet Shim still manages to execute one of the most moving and cathartic meditations on diasporic identities that I have seen in a very long time.

Sasha Colby: Your Favourite Drag Queen’s Favourite Drag Queen

Rupaul’s Drag Race’s reconciliation with trans drag queens

From the drab post-holiday depression of early January to the peril of April finals, the pop culture indulgence that gets me through these months is always a new season of Rupaul’s Drag Race — the show where drag performers compete in a variety of challenges for weeks on end until one reigns victorious as “America’s Next Drag Superstar.”

That being said, many fans of the show, myself included, do not let its uplifting queer atmosphere divert their attention from Drag Race’s problematic past of racist production tactics and perpetuating transphobia. However, when the cast of the show’s fifteenth season was announced in December 2022, queer jaws dropped at the announcement that drag legend Sasha Colby would be competing.

An absolute titan in the world of drag, Sasha Colby is a trans activist with decades of experience. She is both a former winner of the Miss Continental drag pageant and the mother of the Colby dynasty, a legendary and revered drag performance house. So, when she entered the werkroom with the arresting entrance line of “period!” it is unsurprising that the other queens howled with both admiration and intimidation. That “period!” has echoed throughout the season, with Sasha having bodied every challenge. But what makes Sasha’s presence on the show so impactful beyond her fierce resume and undeniable front-runner status is that she is entirely shifting the narrative of trans queens and their visibility on the show. Her transness is shown as a large part of her identity without reducing her to merely “the trans girl.” Sasha brings a previously repressed trans vocabulary to mainstream queer media.

Both Rupaul as an individual and Drag Race have had problematic attitudes toward the more marginalized sectors of the queer community in the past. In recent years, fans have begun calling out this harmful behaviour and demanding change. The show was heavily criticized for perpetuating racist stereotypes of sassy, angry Black women by giving queens of colour the “villain” edit, and the way

it treated trans queens followed suit. When the season nine cast was announced in 2018, Rupaul received uproarious — and deserved — backlash for declaring that contestant Peppermint, who identifies as a trans woman, was only able to compete because she had not begun medically transitioning, and even going so far as to compare trans queens on hormones to Olympic athletes on steroids.

It is difficult to count all the ways in which this statement is completely abhorrent coming from a drag queen. Ironically, it perpetuates the idea that gender is bodily, despite drag as an art form existing to subvert this notion.

These blatantly transphobic comments are also especially baffling considering Rupaul constantly references and co-opts language from the ballroom scene of Harlem in the ’80s — a scene led by Black trans women that he was immersed in himself. In addition to the backlash, this statement also sparked questions over how someone so prolific in the art of drag could forget its trans roots. Is trans visibility really visibility

Is trans visibility really visibility when it’s projected through a cisgender lens of production?

when it’s projected through a cisgender lens of production?

In the years following this incident, it seems as though Rupaul has received his muchneeded education on the importance of having trans representation on the show, even apologizing for his earlier upsetting comments. Yet medically-transitioned trans queens have only really appeared in spin-offs of the show, which don’t generate the same level of viewership or discourse. Last season, the show had two queens who were out as trans before the season aired, and three additional queens either came out as trans on the show itself or while it was airing, for a record of five total

trans contestants. However, the show was still guilty of reducing contestant Jasmine Kennedy’s arc on the show to her coming out, giving her the “sympathy edit” and making her transness the central, and arguably only, point of her personality.

Enter Sasha Colby. Sasha had already been name dropped on the show before — her drag daughter Kerri Colby, who appeared on season 14, previously announced that Sasha was in fact her drag mother. When it was Sasha’s turn herself to enter the werkroom, she did not disappoint — so far, she has won three challenges, has never been in the bottom two of the week, and is the heavy fan-favourite for the crown.

Sasha’s preceding reputation and incredible run on her season thus far are legendary by the show’s standards in general. But what really sets her apart is the space she is creating for future trans performers on the show.

With Sasha, the show is finally giving us a trans queen whose longevity is not dependent on how much sympathy the producers can squeeze out of her transness. She is able to tell her story and bring attention to trans issues, especially how they manifest in her native state of

Hawai’i. She has also referenced other trans performers from outside the mainstream such as Leiomy Maldonado, an AfroPuerto Rican trans ballroom performer known as the “Wonder Woman of Vogue.” Although she did not give much context

mean for the future of trans performers in the mainstream, and on Rupaul’s Drag Race in particular? Although the season is not even over, wild theories are already circulating that Sasha will win and then take over for Rupaul. Although this theory is

on Leiomy, it is important that Sasha acknowledged vanguards of current trans performance like her. Merely referencing the performer also encourages viewers to do their own research and not rely solely on mainstream programs for queer education.

Paradoxically, it is Sasha’s status as a trans icon that allows her to circumvent the narrative usually applied to trans queens, proving that they can have a powerful, multi-dimensional presence on the show. So what does this

pretty unfathomable, it indicates that there is a ubiquitous desire for people like Sasha to have the power in the industry to bring in a new, more inclusive era of queer media. Regardless of the outcome of the season, Sasha’s impact on the show is undeniable. Not only are we rooting for her but for a future full of people like her. Until the world is filled with incredible trans performers serving up all the talent they have to offer, let’s continue to spotlight trans trailblazers like Sasha Colby.

Culture 14 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily
Isabella Roberti Culture Contributor Clement Veysset | Illustrations Editor
With Sasha, the show is finally giving us a trans queen whose longevity is not dependent on how much sympathy the producers can squeeze out of her transness.

Cri-Cri, El Grillito Cantor: “The Singing Cricket”

Content warning: anti-black violence

Most of us are familiar with the beloved character Jiminy Cricket, from Disney’s 1940 animated classic, Pinocchio . A charming little cricket, full of cheer and song, who acts as the conscience for a little wooden boy. What is more iconic and most representative of Disney’s magic than Pinochio’s opening credit sequence, where we hear the sweet voice of Jiminy Cricket singing, “When You Wish Upon a Star”? However, many of you might be surprised to know that this singing cricket actually has a predecessor, one ten years his senior.

In 1934, the character of CriCri was created by one of Mexico’s greatest composers, Francisco Galibondo Soler, for his program on XEW, which is one of Mexico’s oldest radio stations. Soler would take on the persona of the singing cricket and sing fantastical, humorous, and cheerful stories. By the 1940s, his songs and stories grew so massively popular that Walt Disney approached Soler to buy the rights for the character. Disney wanted to bring Cri-Cri over to American audiences, and produce works featuring the singing cricket similar to the film The Three Caballeros . However, Soler famously refused his offer, as he was a firm believer that Cri-Cri’s legacy would be for Mexican children. But what is this legacy?

Francisco Galibondo Soler was born in 1907 in Orizaba, Veracruz. The stories he read in his youth from the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, and Aesop’s fables inspired many of his own stories. For instance, many of Soler’s stories often feature anthropomorphic animals.

It was on October 15, 1934 that Soler sang his fantastical songs on the radio for the first time. After his first few sessions, Soler created the character of Cri-Cri following a suggestion from his art director. Soler was originally granted a 15 minute program on XEW station that was only intended to last for a few weeks. Instead, it spread like wildfire, filling a previously untouched niche for children’s entertainment. It was such a hit that the program lasted for almost 27 years, and the name CriCri (which became synonymous with Soler) became a household name. Cri-Cri’s legacy has lasted beyond the end of the program in 1961, and even beyond Soler’s death in 1990.

When he sang, children listened. For a brief time, they could be transported to the whimsical world of Soler’s creation filled with lovable


legacy of beloved Mexican composer Francisco Galibondo Soler

characters and unforgettable songs. As a child growing up in Mexico, I distinctly remember doing one of my kindergarten shows to the Cri-Cri song “Caminito de la Escuela,” which tells of different animals making their way to school (one of my personal favourites). It was adorable! On road trips we would sometimes put on Cri-Cri DVDs and my whole family would sing his songs. To put it into perspective, my father was born in 1966, well after Soler’s program ended, and he can still sing his songs word for word. Cri-Cri has had a cricket-y grip on over four generations!

Soler wrote 228 songs, which varied greatly in style and genre, but all captured the essence of traditional Mexican music. Soler uses the Tango in “Che Araña”, polka in “El Ratón Vaquero,” the waltz in “La Muñeca Fea,” and Son Cubano in “Cucurumbé.” The song “Cucurumbé” pays homage to the place of his birth — the state of Veracruz. This state is one of great historical importance in Mexico, and is also a state with one of the highest Afro-Mexican and Afro-descendant populations in the country. My own grandfather and his side of the family are Afro-descendants from Veracruz, and I distinctly remember him singing and dancing to “Cucurumbé” and other Cri-Cri songs with his grandkids. It is very likely he sang these songs with my mom and her siblings too, and as he has been a teacher for most of his life, he would be familiar with the sounds of Cri-Cri around the classrooms.

However, it is important to note that like other media aimed at children at the time, such as the works of Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney, some of Soler’s works contained racist and classist imagery reminiscent of the time. This is evident in his songs “Negrito Sandia,” “Métete Teté”” and “Chinescas,” which contain blatant colourism, racist caricatures, and tragically normalized violence towards Black bodies that stems from Mexico’s history of colonialism. Old performances of songs like “Métete Teté” were often conduits for minstrelsy. These songs are often forgotten amongst Soler’s repertoire, or in the case of the generally wellknown“Negrito Sandia,” have not been recognized as harmful until recently, in the past decade or so.

However, Soler’s grandson Gabilondo Vizcaíno stated in a 2017 interview that he remembered his grandfather didn’t share the racial prejudices of the people of his time, and that his aforementioned song, “Cucurumbé” reflected this. The song tells us the story of Cucurumbé, a little girl who wished to lighten her skin with the ocean foam. But a

fish with a hat swims up to her and exclaims that there is no need for that, for she with her black skin, is beautiful the way she is. Gabilondo Vizcaíno recounts that Soler deeply loved Veracruz and its people. Soler is remembered fondly, by my family, by Veracruz, and by most of Mexico, as many of us have memories of family and childhood attached to his music. Although throughout his life’s work, Soler created a space for children to explore their imaginations, even great composers like him are not free from accountability. The impact of his harmful works should not be excused because of his positive contributions to musical traditions. It is important to face, recognize, teach, and remember the harmful works he created that helped perpetuate racism, regardless of Soler’s association with childhood innocence.

One thing remains true, and that is that Cri-Cri is part of Mexico’s cultural and musical history, as well as many of our personal stories. I, for one, will forever hold in my heart the

memory of laughing and pretending to howl with my jaded, Gen-X father, while we sing about a dog with a tooth ache in “El Perrito”. It is these moments of connection between generations that I cherish, and where Cri-Cri has carved his music into our memories. I don’t know if a decade

from now school children will still perform “Caminito de la Escuela” like I did. Or maybe they will. I do hope that if Soler’s music and legacy carries on, we would do right by history and not sweep his harmful works under the rug and remember Cri-Cri as he was.

cUlture 15 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily

relax those shoulders! let those worries wash away as you lay sunsoaked in the grass.


Taurus (Apr 20 - May 20)

you’re a worm, worming through a juicy apple- you’re serene, untroubled. a worm.

Cancer (Jun 21 - JUL 22)

internship shm-internship. look beyond what job you may have this summer. have fun WITH your little tasks in the sun.

Libra (Sept 23 - Oct 22)

make a delicious salad with those soon-to-be in season heirloom tomatoes. bonus if you get them from MSEG’s farm.

Capricorn (Dec 22 - Jan 19)

embrace the new people you meet this summer! whether its a buddy or more than that ;) be on the lookout.

Leo (Jul 23 - Aug 22)

freedom is on the horizon! plan a trip, explore the countryside! the universe is in your hands.

Scorpio (Oct 23 - Nov 21)

be wavvy baby. go to the beach, try surFing or swimming or even just FLoating. be with the water.


Gemini (May 21 - Jun 20)

hey cool guy. be those wicked sunglasses that the sun in drawings wear. now that’s a cool dude.

Virgo (Aug 23 - Sept 22)

you’re a parasol. gorgeous, twirly, protective. you’re absolutely lovely.

Sagittarius (Nov 22 - Dec 21)

feel the tickle of grass on your bare feet. be one with nature. run! jump! swim!

Aries (Mar 21 - Apr 19) (Feb 19 - Mar 20)

This summer you may try some new things but you’ll also be doing a lot of growing.

compendium! 16 April 3, 2023 | The McGill Daily