Volume 103, Issue 17 Monday, January 27, 2014
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Stateless: Deepan Budlakoti tells his story Page 5
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January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
McGill settles access to information suit
McGill drops access to information suit Strike at University of New Brunswick Stateless: Deepan Budlakoti tells his story McGill appoints 19th Chancellor
University will release files on military research, fossil fuel investments
Associations struggle to get out of Canadian Federation of Students
08 COMMENTARY The potential of food banks to be a community resource Protests against Bill 60 require more nuance
Defining sex work in the legal gap left by Bedford v. Canada
Direct-to-consumer genetic testing The science of sugar
Is the “War on Drugs” really helping us? On the toxins we ingest
The return of the Montreal Expos?
Etched in granite Postmodern fences Skewering the American dream Staging purgatory
22 COMPENDIUM! New Chancellor a “beast” at flip cup Crossword fairies return
23 EDITORIAL Students must stand up to anti-strike rhetoric
James Administration building Molly Korab The McGill Daily
s of this January, McGill’s ongoing access to information (ATI) lawsuit has finally come to a settlement, with the University agreeing to release longstanding ATI requests that it has been fighting in court, and respondents agreeing to drop or modify various requests. Starting in late February, McGill will respond to a variety of longstanding requests. The requests pertain to, among other things, the University’s contracts in military research, internal policies regarding sexual assault complaints, and university research contracts with fossil fuel extraction and mining companies. Some of the requests that were dropped include those pertaining to the Winter 2012 occupation of the James Administration building. The settlement comes after an appeal motion filed by the University in December after the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec – the provincial body overseeing ATI appeals – decided against McGill in October. Along with withdrawing certain ATI requests the University was contesting, the new settlement also required that certain ATIs to be answered be redrafted and updated, and that respondents withdraw official complaints regarding the University’s
Tamim Sujat | The McGill Daily conduct regarding ATIs. Notably, the University will also be prohibited from designating requests as systematic or abusive in nature. Prior to the settlement, McGill’s legal argument stated that the various requests it was fighting were “abusive because of their systematic nature,” and requested that the Commission grant the University the power to deny future ATI requests at its discretion. The respondents’ lawyer called the request legally unprecedented in a hearing in September – a fact that some respondents saw as part of the reason behind the recent settlement. “In my view, today’s settlement does not represent a fundamental change in direction on the part of McGill, but rather a decision to cut its losses. I do not believe that any court would have accepted either its factual claims or its demand to pre-emptively deny information requests,” said Kevin Paul, one of the respondents, in a press release sent to The Daily. The University and respondents also released a joint statement outlining the details of the settlement. “The University does not see this as a ‘win-lose’ situation,” McGill’s secretary-general, Stephen Strople, told The Daily by email. “We want to respect the law, and that is what we do. In this case, the requests for access were too broad, too general, and asking for too much consider-
“I think it’s important to avoid defining victory through the terms of a legal dispute. I would consider an important victory not only the actual disclosure of information but the freedom to act on that information in ways that challenge McGill’s authority [...]” Kevin Paul ing the time within which disclosure had to happen.” One of the respondents, Isaac Stethem, said that part of the reason behind the settlement may have
been the University’s legal standing in its request to preemptively deny ATIs, which the Commission rejected last October. Stethem also added that the length of the legal battle could be due to the legal efforts on the part of the respondents. “I think it may also have been the case that, originally, the University didn’t expect this level of effort on the part of the respondents in the case,” he told The Daily. Paul also spoke to the broader importance of the information to be released later this year, in the context of the recent settlement. “I think it’s important to avoid defining victory through the terms of a legal dispute. I would consider an important victory not only the actual disclosure of information but the freedom to act on that information in ways that challenge McGill’s authority to conduct research that helps militaries kill more efficiently,” he told The Daily. The outstanding ATIs will be released from February 28 to August 15. “I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in [the ATIs],” said Stethem. “The one thing that we do have to be on the lookout for is that, especially in some recent cases, the University does have a history of very heavily redacting some of the documents it releases when it does actually release ATI information. So definitely we’re not all the way there yet.”
January 27, 2014 The McGill Daily | www.mcgilldaily.com
Strike at the University of New Brunswick Professors, librarians picket over low salaries
Dana Wray The McGill Daily
ince January 13, full-time professors and library staff belonging to the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT) have been on strike. With the exception of some courses that are online, all classes at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) have been suspended until the strike ends. The AUNBT has been without a contract since March 2013. Currently, strikers rotate on threehour shifts, and collect around $100 per day for picketing from strike support funding. As of press time, no date has been set to resume negotiations – and AUNBT President Miriam Jones isn’t optimistic. “We are getting signals from UNB management that they intend to take a hard line and drag things out then ask the government to
legislate us back to work.” The relationship between the AUNBT and the UNB has deteriorated in recent years, according to Jones. “[The relationship] has become less collegial as UNB administration has embraced corporatestyle management practices.” UNB locked out strikers on January 14. UNB has also hired a private security firm, AFIMAC, that specializes in providing security for “image conscious” companies during strikes. “It’s appalling,” Jones said about AFIMAC in an email to The Daily. “They are a multinational firm that openly advertises a series of services that we see as heavyhanded and anti-union.” One of the main issues in the negotiations involves full-time salaries. Annual salaries for UNB professors are thousands of dollars less than the average of professors at 14 similar universities across Canada, such as
Queens, McMaster, and Concordia. In an interview with the New Brunswick Media Co-Op in December, AUNBT Jones said the university has lost 48 teaching positions over the last decade, and yet has added 84 non-academic jobs in the same period. UNB has maintained that there is not enough money to meet the union’s demands. However, undergraduate student Cody Jack – who is also a member of the Fredericton General Membership Branch of Industrial Workers of the World, which is supporting the strike – disagreed. “[As] with the government, there is always money. It is just where you decide to put the money,” said Jack in an email to The Daily. Jones agreed. “Academic employees could achieve competitive wages without affecting tuition or other employee groups if the UNB management changed its practices.” AUNBT has seen mixed mes-
The foundations of an integrated ethical system 2013 was marked by a serious confidence crisis that hurt the reputation of the consulting engineering industry andÊ municipal bodies, but also significantly undermined the public’s trust in your future profession. This crisis concerns us directly at the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ). It is forcing us to come up with ways to keep from going off track again and propose solutions to make Québec, your future workplace, a recognized leader in integrity.
M. Daniel Lebel, ing., FIC, PMPÊ Président
Determined to restore this bond of trust that needs to exist between the engineering profession and the public, the OIQ is doing everything it can to carry out its mission of supervising the profession and protecting the public. To achieve this, we are focusing on professional development by offering courses on ethics and professional conduct that are firmly rooted in the professional realities of engineers. In addition, we are investing all of the resources required to bring offenders before the Disciplinary Council. There are over 60,000 engineers in Québec, and we must remember that only a small group of them have displayed problematic conduct. But this small group has nevertheless tarnished the image of the profession and should be punished. That is why a team of expert investigators is now working on nearly 550 cases involving collusion, corruption and illegal political party contributions. Their goal is to quickly complete the inquiries and lodge more complaints with the Disciplinary Committee, if necessary.
sages from students. The UNB Student Union (UNBSU) voted at a January 12 council meeting to stay neutral during the strike, but expressed its disappointment with both AUNBT and UNB on their website on January 13. On January 24, the Brunswickan reported that around 120 UNB students protested as part of the “Get Back to the Table” campaign organized by the UNBSU. However, there is still support for the strikers from some students, as seen on Facebook pages supporting the AUNBT. “Students have been visiting the picket lines, bringing coffee and food to students [but] a small minority has been choosing the path of yelling obscenities at strikers,” Jack wrote to The Daily. “Students are getting a string of messages from the administration and they don’t know what to think,” Jones added.
AUNBT has seen support from other unions, including a $1 million donation from the Canadian Association of University Teachers Defence Fund. “AUNBT has found tremendous solidarity from other academic unions across the country, McGill included,” Jones wrote. “Support from other unions gives our members encouragement in what is a very stressful period.” At McGill, professors are not unionized, and so would not be able to strike in a situation similar to the one in New Brunswick, but they are still represented by the McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT). MAUT President Ken Hastings said that there are benefits to not being unionized. “A benefit of not being unionized is the flexibility to deal with issues one by one instead of in a single collective agreement that must cover everything.”
Furthermore, the OIQ is proactively pushing the boundaries of Québec’s professional system by expanding its scope of action to include employers in the consulting engineering industry. To that end, we announced that an audit program would be set up to assist consulting engineering firms in their efforts to use ethical business practices. By participating in this program, firms will agree to follow the rules and practice standards established by the OIQ and to submit to impromptu audits. The OIQ also wants to better equip public contract providers. In this regard, we recently recommended that the Québec government create an independent integrity institute to provide public contract providers with the expertise and information they need to soundly manage engineering and construction contracts. By further researching, monitoring and disseminating current best practices around the world, this institute would enable Québec to stand out and become a world leader in managing infrastructure projects. The goal targeted by the OIQ’s activities is to help build an integrated ethical system in which better trained, more aware engineers can work, companies are better supervised and public contract providers are better equipped. The OIQ is making all of these efforts so that your future profession comes out on top of the current crisis. With that in mind, you should know that as engineering students and future ambassadors of the engineering profession, you can also help change things and restore the bond of trust with the public by practicing this very exciting profession irreproachably. Daniel Lebel, ing., FIC, PMP
January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Canadian government denies citizenship to Ottawa-born man Deepan Budlakoti finds himself in bureaucratic limbo Carla Green The McGill Daily
n May 2010, Deepan Budlakoti officially became stateless. Although he was born in Canada and held a Canadian passport, the government claimed that the passport had been issued in error, and that he had never been a Canadian citizen to begin with. Budlakoti’s immigration troubles began when he was in prison for five months in late 2009 and was put into solitary confinement. “I had an altercation with a guard, I was thrown in the hole, and a guard came up to me and asked me, while I was in the hole, if I was a citizen or not,” he said. After providing his birth certificate and passport as proof of his Canadian citizenship, Budlakoti was informed that he was nonetheless not a citizen. The government’s claim was based on the sole exception to the act granting Canadian citizenship to babies born on Canadian soil. The exception denies automatic citizenship to children born in Canada to diplomats without Canadian status. Although Budlakoti’s parents did work for the Indian High Commissioner in 1989, according the family diplomatic status in Canada, they stopped work there several months before Budlakoti’s birth. After a series of hearings and investigations by the Canadian government, he was served with a deportation order in 2011 while serving a second prison sentence in Ottawa. Doubly punished The term “double punishment” is used to describe the phenome-
non of non-citizens being deported in addition to serving time in prison for a crime. Double punishment is enshrined in a provision of the Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which states that a “foreign national” can be deemed inadmissible on the grounds of “criminality” or “serious criminality” if they are convicted of a crime in Canada landing them with a sentence of over six months in prison. “[Double punishment] is racist, because it’s highly racialized in terms of who gets criminalized and how people get criminalized. There are certain communities that are disproportionately affected by double punishment, and that happens to completely coincide and completely correlate with those communities that are racially profiled,” said Jaggi Singh, No One Is Illegal activist, during a panel on double punishment cohosted by CKUT and The Daily. A stateless man A person is considered stateless when, as in the case of Budlakoti, they no longer have citizenship in any nation of the world. The implications of statelessness are far-reaching and complex; when a person has no official citizenship they have no status where they are, but also no papers to cross any borders and go elsewhere. The 1961 United Nations (UN) Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness entered into force in 1975. The convention pronounced it “desirable to reduce statelessness by international agreement.” It is unclear how many people in Canada are currently stateless. Many of them are likely living in detention centres, something mandated by Ca-
Hera Chan | The McGill Daily
Budlakoti speaking at panel discussion nadian law if they are judged to be a flight risk or a risk to society, or if their identity is in question according to the IRPA. (This is also the policy for refugee claimants and other people without status in Canada.) Budlakoti himself was detained for several months at the Toronto West Detention Centre, but was released after Peter Stieda, his lawyer, successfully made the case that he did not fulfill the conditions for detention under the IRPA. According to a document obtained by The Daily, Budlakoti found himself under many restrictions as a condition for his release, including a curfew and an order to “keep the peace and be on good behaviour.” The restrictions were later lightened, but only slightly. He also found himself bound by his newfound statelessness and lack of Canadian status: everything became a struggle. “I had to apply for a work permit, I had to apply to get my [driver’s] license back, I had to apply for a social insurance card. Everything was a challenge,” he said at a talk on his case in Montreal on January 21. Justice for Deepan “It doesn’t matter what I think, but Deepan will stay. There’s no way they can let [him be deported], there would be an uproar,” offered Singh during the panel.
Robert Smith | The McGill Daily
Budlakoti and his supporters haven’t always been so sure. In December 2012, just before he was released from prison, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Budlakoti was “resigned to the fact that his life outside prison will begin in India.” The situation took a turn once he found out through an access to information request that India was refusing to accord him status and wouldn’t accept him if the Canadian government attempted to deport him there. Now, Budlakoti has thrown himself entirely into a campaign for his case and against his deportation. The Justice for Deepan campaign has social media support, and several high-profile human rights associations have written letters of support for the campaign, including Amnesty International and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. As part of his campaign, Budlakoti is currently on a speaking tour through several cities in Canada. When he passed through Montreal on January 21 and 22, he paid a visit to Justin Trudeau’s office with supporters from Solidarity Across Borders (SAB). According to Budlakoti and SAB, Trudeau had pledged his support to Budlakoti’s case in 2011. Trudeau, who was elected as the leader of the Liberal party in April 2013, now remains silent on Budlakoti’s case. In response
to Budlakoti’s campaign’s repeated requests that Trudeau take a stand, his assistant recently wrote, “I am very sorry to have to inform you that unfortunately Mr. Trudeau will not be able to intervene in this file.” When Budlakoti and his support team arrived at Trudeau’s Montreal riding on January 22, they were met by Max Roy, the office manager. Once they had passed over a prepared letter and made prepared statements on Budlakoti’s situation, they found that Roy wasn’t willing to set up an appointment with Trudeau, the real goal of their visit. When the group insisted, Roy escorted them out of the office, punctuated by different permutations of a request to “please leave the office now.” They left empty-handed. “Some [politicians] have been [supportive], some neutral, and some don’t respond. Thomas Mulcair’s [the leader of the New Democratic Party] office, in general, [has been supportive],” said Budlakoti, standing outside Trudeau’s office’s glass double-doors after the visit. Mary Foster, an activist with SAB, jumped in. “But [Mulcair] has refused to take a public position [...] when we’ve asked him to speak out actually where it counts on the public scene, it’s been zero,” she said, adding, “The hypocrisy of these people…”
January 27, 2014 The McGill Daily | www.mcgilldaily.com
Board of Governors approves 19th Chancellor of McGill Role will not have direct impact on student body Joelle Dahm The McGill Daily
cGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) has approved Michael Meighen as McGill’s 19th Chancellor. Meighen will succeed the current Chancellor, Arnold Steinberg, whose term ends in June 2014. This will mark the first time that a non-Montreal resident has occupied the position. Meighen acquired a bachelor’s degree from McGill and later pursued a career as a lawyer before becoming a senator for the Conservative Party. According to McGill’s Statutes, the Chancellor is an ex-officio member of the BoG, and is the titular head of McGill University. The position, which according to BoG Chair Stuart ‘Kip’ Cobbett “is appointed by the Board of Directors on the recommendation and nomination of the governors of ethics committee,” has been almost exclusively held by white, male successors, with the exception of Gretta Chambers, who was Chancellor
from 1991 to 1999. Meighen, the grandson of former Canadian Prime Minister Arthur Meighen, served as a senator on the National Security and Defence committee for six years, until he was asked to resign in 2007. According to CTV News, some viewed this as a forcing out of independent-minded senators by the Conservative government. “I don’t think [my political affiliation] has any effect on my work at all, in the sense that my active involvement in public political life is over,” Meighen told The Daily. “I stepped down from the Senate after 25 years voluntarily, and I certainly have no intention of running in an election. [...] My having been involved in politics, I hope, will help me understand issues, have an appreciation for other people’s points of view [and do] a little more listening than talking. Meighen’s previous engagement at McGill was as a co-chair at Campaign McGill, an eightyear fundraising campaign that raised over $1 billion. Meighen
told The Daily that he wanted to continue such work. “As far as change is concerned, anything can always be improved. [...] McGill does attract people from all over the country and all over the world. It’s pretty daunting [...] when you perhaps came from an environment where there was on many occasions counselling, and guidance, and hands-on support, there you are, for the first time on your own. So I think it is very important that students have access to counsellors and guidance. After all, they are the customers of the university. And the customer is always right, so I think that [we’ve] got to bend over backwards to be nice to customers.” Katie Larson, President of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), told The Daily that the Chancellor does not actually affect the lives of the student body, “unless you have a Chancellor who does something really crazy. The Chancellor usually works with upper-level administration and represents the University.
Irmak Taner | The McGill Daily The student interaction with the Chancellor isn’t very high. You see them when you graduate and that’s about it.” Meighen agreed with Larson that his role would be fairly removed from the students. “University affairs are the primary responsibility of the chair of the BoG, the other governors, and the principal, and the administra-
tion of the University, so I’m not running the place. I’m there to be a cheerleader for McGill and to, I hope, bring some productive or positive judgement to bear on the passing scene and make suggestions. I expect to be at most of the BoG meetings, where I will listen, learn and perhaps intervene from time to time, if I think that I can be helpful.”
Student unions struggle to leave student federation Canadian Federation of Students sues member associations Emma Noradounkian The McGill Daily
fter years of legal battles with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), members of Quebec student associations affiliated with the Rassemblement des Associations Étudiantes (RAE) are still awaiting the judgement of November’s four-day trial between the CFS and RAE. The judgement may have important implications for the individual associations’ lawsuits with the CFS. The CFS was formed in 1981 when two now-defunct organizations, the Association of Student Councils and the National Union of Students Canada, officially merged. The creation of the CFS aimed to provide accessible post-secondary education and to politically repre-
sent students nationwide. Since 2009, 16 student associations across Canada have decided to sever ties with the CFS. McGill’s PostGraduate Students’ Society (PGSS), the Concordia Student Union (CSU), and the Concordia Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), tried to cut ties in 2010 after voting in referenda. However, the CFS has refused to recognize the votes. “Across Canada, students are still trying to leave the CFS because they have seen how CFS uses student money to fund lawsuits in an effort to prevent its own members from leaving and they do not want to see student money wasted this way,” said Jonathan Mooney, Secretary-General of PGSS, in an email to The Daily. Following the referenda in 2010, the CFS claimed that PGSS, CSU, and GSA remained members, and
that they owe it annual dues. Disputes regarding the dues and the membership of these three student organizations are still being settled in lawsuits before the Superior Court of Quebec. Only two student associations from British Columbia, Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) and the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS), have successfully withdrawn from the CFS after winning their cases in court. According to Mooney, there are multiple reasons for PGSS withdrawing from CFS, “including the fact that CFS has sued its own members several times and does not respect the rights of its members to leave.” When PGSS, CSU, and GSA tried to leave the CFS in 2010, “the CFS essentially disowned CFS-Quebec and has tried to keep the CFS-Que-
bec dues for itself,” Mooney stated. The RAE – formerly CFS-Quebec – launched a trial against the CFS in 2010, alleging that they were owed these fees. In response to the RAE’s allegation, “the CFS in return said that [it doesn’t] recognize CFS-Quebec as the provincial component of CFS in Quebec,” said Mathieu Bouchard, the lawyer representing RAE as the plaintiff in the trial. The trial was held last year from November 18 to 22, with the judgement expected in spring of this year. According to Mooney, the outcome of the trial between the RAE and CFS will have significant consequences for student associations. CFS is demanding that CSU and GSA pay it $1 million, which CFS alleges the two associations owe due to underpayment in the last decades.
“We don’t believe this will actually happen, but let’s say […] CFS were able to prove that there was some amount of underpayment, even a lot less. So if [the] RAE [and the CFS] trial succeeds, something like half of that money would actually go to RAE instead of CFS,” said Mooney. As for the implications of the RAE’s possible win in court for other student organizations in Quebec, Mooney said, “It can be very helpful for the movement against CFS if [the RAE is] able to succeed because that’ll just expose, in a very legal and sound way by an expert, exactly what’s happening with CFS.” “There’s a lot of money at stake, and [it’s about] being able to choose our own destiny, and not being trapped in some organization we don’t want to be part of,” he added.
January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Untitled Eleanor Milman
Have art you want to see published? Email them to illustrations@ mcgilldaily.com Alice Shen
January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
The potential of food banks A glimpse of a food revolution Aaron Vansintjan A Bite of Food Justice
ood banks are places where surplus food is donated, mostly from supermarkets, and then redistributed to those who need it. While many people volunteer at food banks out of a desire to help the poor, an article in the Tyee titled “The problem with food banks” argued that food banks are ineffective in addressing society’s problems in the long run, so people’s energy would be better spent advocating for a better welfare system. In 1998, Janet Poppendieck wrote along the same lines, arguing that food banks came about as a symptom of a failing welfare state and that they take the responsibility of ending hunger away from the government. To Poppendieck, food banks are like a doctor with only a first aid kit: sometimes band-aids just aren’t enough for an ailing society. Even this argument isn’t new. In Oscar Wilde’s 1891 essay The Soul of Man under Socialism, he famously argued that “the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good.” In other words, charity does not help the poor, it merely preserves the status quo, making sure that the root of society’s problems are not addressed. Wilde was likely thinking of the Dickensian soup kitchens that proliferated throughout London’s East End at the time, where thousands lined up to receive a bowl of soup every day. To Wilde, the alternative to these band-aid remedies is socialism: going to the root of the problem and restructuring society so that poverty and hunger are no longer possible. To Poppendieck, the alternative is to reinstitute welfare, strengthening the social safety nets of a society that has become more and more unequal. These sentiments of moving from private property to collectivism, from charity to solidarity, are central to leftist ideology. Along with this line of thinking comes automatic disdain for hand-outs, particularly in the form of food aid. It’s clear that food banks are problematic. Not only do they help keep a system of inequality alive without challenging it, but they also rely on the very system that is killing many people slowly: industrialized and highly processed food. But – and there’s always a but – food banks also carry promise. In Canada, those showing up
Kristian Picon | The McGill Daily to food banks are often migrants, Indigenous people, single mothers, and seniors. It’s no accident, as they are also the people who are most affected by institutionalized racism, sexism, and broken healthcare and welfare systems. One of the ways by which the Black Panther party is most remembered is their free breakfast program: there, they provided food to underprivileged children every morning, while also handing out pamphlets, offering reading groups, and hosting workshops. Those most affected by racism in the U.S. were also the ones who most needed a free meal. The Black Panthers saw this and created the program as its primary mode of recruitment. This strategy was so effective that, not only did the U.S. government copy it soon after with its own free breakfast program at public schools, they were also called “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” by J. Edgar Hoover, then-director of the FBI. The threat of revolution was quickly neutralized by the FBI through widespread persecution, arrest, and assassination of their leaders.
Like the free breakfast program, food banks have the potential to be revolutionary places where those most affected by society’s problems gather and find ways to fight against them. Food is the universal social glue, and the most impoverished, who are often the most isolated, need as much social glue as they can get. These places aren’t just theory, they exist. The Stop is a food bank turned community centre in Toronto. While they do hand out food, they also host community kitchens – many directed at migrants – programs for single mothers, a ‘good food’ market, a greenhouse, and many other activities. In doing so, they bring together those most affected by racism, ageism, and sexism, as well as those interested in farmers’ markets or urban agriculture. “In eating with others,” said Nick Saul, the director of The Stop Community Food Centre, in a recent article in the Montreal Gazette, “You can build community and you can express your background and culture. It’s a good way to do community organizing, a good way to get at big issues.” My own Masters research
centres around a food bank in south-west Montreal, the Réseau d’Entraide de Verdun. There, food distribution is partnered with workshops, community kitchen programs, and an at-cost grocery store. The Réseau also tries to provide all their services in a dignified and inclusive manner. As one staff member told me, “We’ve always strived to provide a festive ambiance. A more cooperative base as opposed to a more paternalistic, Dickensian atmosphere that makes people hesitate to come in.” What interests me about the Réseau is not just that they provide food to the needy and have diverse activities. Despite being a charity, which by law must refrain from being political, they show that politics can be done differently. They work with local political groups, providing them material support in the form of food. If any organization, such as the local Inuit centre, the women’s centre, and the organization Solidarity Across Borders, needs a meal cooked for an event, the Réseau can help them out. Likewise, they’ve partnered with local groups, establishing what they call a ‘broad front’ of neighbourhood
solidarity, which, combined, has more power to challenge state policies than just one group acting by itself. They also work with regional networks, such as the Table de la Faim, to pressure the government to do something about rising hunger and inequality. The Réseau, while being a charity and handing out food, challenges the state, advocates for better welfare, and helps support local community and activist groups with material resources. In short, they’re living proof that something like the free breakfast program is still possible, and still radical – not radical as in fanatical, but radical as in basic, essential, and far-reaching. Why am I interested in food banks? In the long run, we need to shift from an economy predated on violence, dispossession, and overextraction. To get there, some advocate degrowth or the solidarity economy, yet others prefer anarchism. Such economies wouldn’t be possible without places that provide essential resources to those most in need. I think some food banks – by offering those resources, helping to (Continued on page 9)
January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Not just a change of clothes Challenging Bill 60 requires more nuanced protest Mona Luxion The McGill Daily
n January 13, the eve of Quebec City’s hearings on the proposed Charter of Values (Bill 60), a number of McGill professors and staff donned ‘ostentatious‘ religious symbols as part of a day of action called Support Another. Three Muslim women started the province-wide campaign from Montreal when one of them, Sama Al-Obaidy, was physically attacked in the metro for wearing a hijab. According to the Support Another website, the organizers called for allies to “walk a day in the shoes of a visible minority” in order to “combat exclusion.” Although numbers are unavailable, the action seems to have been popular, with news reports full of enthusiastic first-time hijab or kippa-wearers. As could be expected, the Bill 60 hearings rapidly disintegrated into a spectacle of unexamined privilege that is as grim as it is farcical. See, for example, Minister Bernard Drainville’s claim that accusations of racism do not belong in the hearing room, when the primary opposition to the bill lies specifically in disproportionate targeting of communities of colour. With little opportunity for meaningful debate and education within the official process, it is obvious that other actions are needed. But is wearing another religion’s headgear the best form for resistance to take? Professor Catherine Lu, one of the McGill professors who participated in Support Another this month, had proposed a similar action in September of last year, prompting a response in The Daily denouncing the potential for cultural appropriation (“Take it off,” Commentary, September 18). Indeed, treating religious items as costumes divorced from cultural meaning supports the logic underlying Bill 60. For both the bill and the protest, religious clothing is treated as a removable symbol, rather than elements of cultural practice and identity which a person
(Continued from page 8) break isolation, and providing collective solutions to individualized problems – give a glimpse of the kinds of institutions we’d want in this new economy. In the short run, it’s imperative that activism is accountable to the people who are most directly affected, and that we start working toward new ways of managing ma-
cannot simply cease to be between nine and five. The framing of this issue as one of free expression erases the fact that Bill 60 is a concrete manifestation of a particular sense of entitlement. Namely, it further institutionalizes the belief that white, Christian (whether culturally or practicing) people are full citizens entitled to, for example, a state made to fit them and in their image. The corollary is that Others are equal only to the extent that they adjust to fit in. When people who enjoy that full citizenship dress up in the clothing of those excluded, it does little to challenge the paradigm. Ironically, since it is not the hijab itself that will be banned, but rather objects which “overtly indicate a religious affiliation,” a Christian woman’s headscarf could be protected political speech while her Muslim co-worker’s garb worn indoors could be considered a sign of religiosity. In other words: is it not problematic that the most popular form of protest against Bill 60 by definition cannot be practiced by those directly affected? Professor Arash Abizadeh presented a different take on the notion of donning a religious symbol on January 13. According to a Global TV report, Abizadeh spent the day walking around with a giant picture of the Mount Royal cross hung around his neck. Unlike appropriating a hijab or turban, this action made visible the way in which some symbols are prosecuted while others are not. Indeed, the text of Bill 60 repeatedly insists on exceptions for the preservation of Quebec’s presumably-Christian “cultural heritage,” erasing the longstanding presence of non-Christian communities in this province, including most notably the area’s Indigenous population. Still, even Abizadeh’s gesture is a purely symbolic step against a very real threat. Assuming the bill is passed, it will be up to public institutions to develop policies for its implementation. Although McGill’s adminis-
tration has spoken out against the bill so far, their approach if it passes remains to be seen. It seems unlikely that we’ll see the across-the-board crackdown that these protests are designed to make impossible to implement. More probably, regulations on wearing religious symbols will be deployed on an individual basis, a threat to keep troublemakers in line. Ultimately, the University’s inter-
ests are not that different from those of the government. Both McGill and the Government of Quebec are colonial institutions invested in the preservation and perpetuation of a mindset that places the knowledge and values produced by white, ChristianEuropean culture and people above all else. Dismantling the racist and variously oppressive structures that govern our University – from hiring
practices to curriculum design to investment priorities and now, potentially, to employee dress codes – is an urgent and deeply important project. But it will take more than a few borrowed headscarves to do it.
terial resources; either locally, nonhierarchically, and toward access for all. Specifically, activism should be inclusive and address people’s actual material needs. If we really want to change things, we need to go to the spaces where people already are, and work with them on their terms. As another staff member at the Réseau, who prefered to remain anonymous, recently told me, “In
the last political demonstrations, we made food for other groups. Our people are not young and they might not see the point in demonstrating. However, they prefer making food for other people and that makes sense for them.” Protesting on the streets is not for everyone, but most people can cook together. Sharing meals doesn’t require knowing anyone beforehand. It also saves money and time.
It’s understandable that people who want a radical change in society would simply dismiss food banks as charities. But work has been done at some food banks that has challenged the status quo more strongly than food co-ops, infoshops, lobby groups, or even many NGOs. This is because they provide something that everyone needs – food – and do so in ways that are dignified, inclusive, and political.
That’s what food justice is: working with those most affected by an unjust food system, rather than creating spaces outside of it only accessible to the privileged.
Tanbin Rafee and Alice Shen | The McGill Daily
Mona Luxion is a PhD student in the School of Urban Planning. They can be reached at m.luxion@ gmail.com.
A Bite of Food Justice is a column discussing inequity in the food system while critiquing contemporary ideals of sustainability. Aaron Vansintjan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
A LEGAL VOID ON SAFETY AND STIGMA IN SEX WORK Written by Janna Bryson Illustration by Mimmy Shen
n December 20, 2014 the lives of sex workers in Canada will change dramatically, but there isn’t a sex worker, lawyer, or politician who knows exactly what this change will look like. After the landmark Supreme Court decision that struck down three provisions of the Criminal Code’s sex work legislation, all that’s sure is that one year from the date of the ruling the provisions will lapse, regardless of whether or not new viable legislation has been drafted. This unanimous ruling was the outcome of the Bedford v. Canada case. The case was brought forward by former and current sex workers Terri-Jean Bedford, Valerie Scott, and Amy Lebovitch, on the grounds that Canadian sex work legislation needlessly endangers sex workers and violates their rights under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court’s decision gives the federal government one year to draft new legislation if it wishes, leaving a range of possible outcomes from complete decriminalization to outright re-criminalization. The case and its supporters The case challenged three provisions of the Canadian Criminal Code. The first, section 210, is the “bawdy house law,” which prevents the owning, managing, or occupying of a “brothel.” This provision makes it illegal for a sex worker or a third party to own or rent premises used for prostitution. For sex workers, that means it is illegal to work from home or from another fixed location, and often means working on the street – in isolation – or in an unsafe location. The second law challenged is section 212(1) ( j), ‘living on the avails.’ Otherwise known as ‘the
pimping law,’ this provision prevents any third party from profiting off of another person’s sex work. Intuitively this law may seem to be in a sex worker’s best interest as it prevents a ‘pimp’ from taking an unfair cut of the sex worker’s earnings; however, it also makes it illegal for a sex worker to hire any sort of staff, including body guards or drivers. The third challenged law is section 213(1)(c), the “communication law.” This provision prohibits any communication for the purpose of sexual services for money in public, and makes it illegal for a sex worker to negotiate the terms of service, such as condom use, or to consent to specific sexual acts. Lebovitch, a current sex worker and Executive Director at Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC), was a primary participant in the Bedford v. Canada case. I spoke to Lebovitch by phone about her reaction to the decision and her hopes moving forward. “Ideally there wouldn’t be new legislation,” she said. According to Lebovitch, letting the laws in question lapse would increase the ability of sex workers to work safely. “We would be able to work in groups, we could work inside or on the streets, we could hire drivers,” she explained. Quebec Trans Health Action (ASTT(e)Q) is a Montreal-based organization that helps connect trans* people with healthcare, social services, and other resources. I went to their office near BerriUQAM to interview Peer Project Manager Betty Iglesias about how the Bedford ruling could impact the organization’s work. “Sex workers eliminating these [legal] barriers can improve their safety,” explained Iglesias. She added that many sex workers prefer to work from the safety of their homes or hotels, which is illegal under the “bawdy house law.”
There is a diverse narrative surrounding sex work and prostitution. For some, it is an occupation like any other; for others, always a form of violence against women. According to Lebovitch, absolutist ideas about the impact of sex work cover up the voices of sex workers themselves. “[Calling prostitution violence against women] names the experience for us without asking us,” she said. Iglesias agreed with Lebovitch that not all sex workers are victimized by the industry. “Some sex workers […] love what they do. They make their own independent business, and that helps them feel more confident, and [raises their self-esteem].” Iglesias also noted that the discourse around sex work should not be limited to women as sex workers and men as clients. “We should understand that sex work is not only for women.” Opposition to the ruling Those who see sex work as violence against women, however, feel that the path most women take to working in the industry makes their argument impossible to ignore. I spoke on the phone with Yuly Chan of the Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution (AWCEP), an organization that intervened in the Bedford case, about the coalition’s perspective on the sex industry and the ruling. “There are certainly women who do enter prostitution by choice, but I think it’s actually a very small amount of people. To have such a small minority of women in prostitution represent the majority who are […] forced into prostitution is unfair.” Chan also highlighted the role of the sex industry in
“Aboriginal women will mostly remain on the street because racism and poverty selects them for the most exploitative forms of prostitution.” Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC)
January 27, 2014 The McGill Daily | www.mcgilldaily.com
perpetuating racial stereotypes and inequality. “Prostitution is very profoundly racist and sexist and it impedes not only Asian women but all women of colour, and Aboriginal women in particular. It really […] prevents us from living a full and meaningful public life.” According to online information by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), Aboriginal women are disproportionately involved in sex work and experience extreme levels of violent assault and murder in the industry. The association’s official position on sex work reads, “Aboriginal women will mostly remain on the street because racism and poverty select them for the most exploitative forms of prostitution.” In a press release following the ruling, NWAC expressed a similar view to AWCEP regarding the impact of sex work on racialized groups. “The NWAC is very disappointed with [the Supreme Court decision] as it fails to protect Aboriginal women and girls who are among the most vulnerable population in Canada […] The state has pushed Aboriginal women from one institution to another – residential schools, foster homes, group homes, and prisons, to name a few. NWAC refuses to accept brothels as the new official institution for Aboriginal women and girls, and we refuse to accept that prostitution is the solution to addressing women’s poverty.” When I contacted the Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada and, they did not comment on the implications of the Bedford v. Canada case specifically, but did express concern about the way Inuit women can find themselves working in the sex industry. “We hear many women who are engaged in the sex trade do not do so voluntarily. Rather, many women come to urban areas to escape poverty, violence, and other personal circumstances and far too often find themselves isolated and marginalized, which puts them at great risk of and vulnerability to exploitation,” the organization said in an email. Chan explained that AWCEP uses specific terminology to reflect their views. “We don’t actually use the term sex worker […] because we don’t think that prostitution should be considered a valid occupation at all,” explained Chan. “If it really was a job, then the highest earner in this so-called occupation would be the more experienced women. In Canada, it’s actually the 12- to 13-year-olds who are making the most money. That just shows you the inequality that is inherent in prostitution.” With organizations that are concerned for the safety of sex workers both supporting and opposing the outcome of the Bedford v. Canada case, is it possible for the government of Canada to draft legislation that respects the rights of sex workers to work safely and openly while still addressing concerns about vulnerable populations in the sex industry? The Nordic model While it is hard to predict what the next year will entail in terms of sex work legislation, one option has received a significant amount of attention and discussion: the Nordic model. Currently in place in Sweden, it is illegal under this model to purchase sexual services, but it is not illegal to be a sex worker. The Nordic model is the favourite of many groups who see sex work as violence against women, including the NWAC and AWCEP.
In the interview, Chan advocated for the Nordic model, citing recent improvements in Sweden. “Ten years after they implemented the Nordic model […] about half [of street prostitution] was cut,” she said. “They had fewer men report the purchase of sexual services. It not only criminalizes the men but it also minimizes the invisibility […] and more importantly it doesn’t criminalize women at all.” AWCEP’s reasons for supporting the Nordic model are popular ideas in the current discussion about sex work legislation. It sounds appealing to have a system that doesn’t criminalize sex workers, where sex
“When you set up this really antagonistic relationship between the police and sex workers, then trafficking just gets driven underground. [The Nordic model] is not actually a way to expose it,” Sandra Ka Hon Chu workers are off the street, and where the popularity of the ‘victimizing’ sex industry is waning; however, research shows that faith in the Nordic model is likely misplaced. I reached out to Sandra Ka Hon Chu, CoDirector of Research and Advocacy at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, to find out more about her research on sex work legislation. The Network intervened in the Bedford v. Canada case, relying in part on Chu’s work. In a phone interview, Chu explained that there are many common misconceptions about the effectiveness of the Nordic model. “The research has shown that the Nordic model actually replicates all the harms that the current framework produces.” She argued that the decrease in visible street prostitution can be explained by clients’ fear of arrest. “Even though [only] clients are reportedly criminalized, sex workers are moving to isolated locations with clients because that’s where [sex workers] have to go to find them. There’s fewer clients that are safe, [and] there’s less time to negotiate what services you want to provide upfront.” “The research has actually shown that, since the passage of the Nordic model – because prior to [the implementation of the Nordic model] in Sweden sex workers were not criminalized – they are less able to go to the police because the police might want to use them in a criminal case against their clients,” said Chu. “So sex workers are not going to go to the police under the Nordic model, even if they’re not directly criminalized.” When I asked Lebovitch for her take on the Nordic model, she had similar concerns. “I think people really need to look into the Nordic model and what’s happening in Sweden and other countries where it’s been implemented,” she said. “When people criminalize our clients, they are criminalizing us.”
Chu and Lebovitch’s comments allude to the possible reasons why fewer clients would report using sexual services under the Nordic model, as Chan suggested. A reduction in reports of an activity after it becomes illegal does not necessarily mean a reduction in the activity itself. Chu’s research suggests that, while the Nordic model may be superficially appealing to those who wish to keep sex workers safe by abolishing the sex industry, it does not actually serve the interests of sex workers, whether they are in the industry by their own choice or through coercive circumstances. Decriminalization “In New Zealand sex work has been decriminalized for over tenyears now and the sky hasn’t fallen in,” said Chu. “Sex workers feel more safe to work, they feel more of a sense of empowerment, [and] they’re able to go to the police [...] [It] works really well, yet there’s less discussion of it [in Canada].” Chu argues that the acceptance of sex work as a profession under occupational health and safety regulations has been successful. “Rates of HIV [in New Zealand among sex workers] are lower than the general population because sex workers are experts on their sexual health.” When asked about her views on the legislative future for sex work in Canada, Lebovitch agreed with Chu. “Ideally, there wouldn’t be new legislation,” she said. Given that NWAC and AWCEP do not support the decriminalization of sex work because of the coercive ways many end up in the industry, I asked Chu about the possibility of bridging the legislative gap between sex workers who enjoy and want to continue their work, and those who are there due to force or necessity. “We have strong anti-trafficking provisions in the Criminal Code that no one was trying to repeal. I think what sex workers have argued – and they’re right – is that it’s better decriminalized. Sex workers are able to go to the police if they notice someone [they suspect is being] trafficked,” she said. “Prior to the Nordic model, clients [in Sweden] would even go to the police and report trafficked sex workers, and now they don’t do that because they could get thrown in jail.”
“When people criminalize our clients, they are criminalizing us.” Amy Lebovitch “When you set up this really antagonistic relationship between the police and sex workers, then trafficking just gets driven underground. [The Nordic model] is not actually a way to expose it,” she added. Ultimately, in order to create a system that best serves the needs of sex workers, the voices of sex workers must be at the forefront. “Sex workers needed to be consulted in law reform,” argued Chu. “They are the experts in their health, safety, and what’s important for their human rights.” Beyond legislation Even if sex work and related actions
end up completely decriminalized, we have a long way to go if we want to ensure that Canadian sex workers have safety and respect. Poverty, unemployment, stigma, and police violence are issues that are not directly addressed by sex work legislation (or lack thereof ). As mentioned by the NWAC, AWCEP, and Pauktuutit, certain populations within Canada are especially vulnerable to being pushed into sex work for reasons other than personal choice. When I sat down with Iglesias at ATT(e)Q, she explained the ways that sex work intersects with the struggles of trans* people, immigrants, and people of colour. “Most of the population of trans women are unemploy[ed] or underemploy[ed].” She argued that workplace ignorance makes it difficult to maintain work while transitioning, explaining, “I haven’t known somebody who has finished [their] transition, and during this time not been fired.” Iglesias also maintained that immigrants and refugees, too, may face hardships that make traditional employment difficult. “We have people from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, [and] African countries who come [to Montreal and the rest of Canada]. Sometimes, they [have] difficulties getting a job. Why? Because of their language, because they’re trans*, [because] they’re a woman or a man of colour.” Although outreach groups can provide support and materials to trans* sex workers, “we cannot keep them safe from the violence,” added Iglesias. Regardless of the legislative changes that will occur in the next year, the relationship between sex workers and the police remains critical. When discussing how Canada should move forward after the ruling, Lebovitch argued that trust in the police is important to the safety of sex workers. “There has been a lot of oppression [of sex workers] at the hands of the police in the past, and still today […] Ideally, we would feel safe contacting the police if a situation were to arise where we needed them.” Iglesias explained that in order for trans* sex workers to be comfortable going to the police, we need to deal with the structural violence and stigma they face both as trans women and sex workers. “[Sex workers who are trans women] find violence from their partners, some clients and often police […] A woman identifies as trans* but [the police officers] use male pronouns, they are violent, they don’t respect them. Trans women – what they face is trauma, what they face is low self esteem, after they are arrested for sex work.” Moreover, said Iglesias, immigrant sex workers who do go to the police with issues are at risk of deportation. These people may be persecuted in their original countries for being trans*. “Sometimes, we receive bad news when they go back to their origin countries,” she said. That being said, Iglesias does not think the challenges ahead should detract from the meaningful achievements embodied by the ruling. She felt optimistic when she went to a recent conference about the Bedford v. Canada case. “When you see people fighting for their rights for 30 years and never being heard […] when they start demonstrating and demonstrating […] to finally come to this moment – it is changing the lives of many people,” she said with a tentative smile.
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January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Written in your genes Direct-to-consumer genetic testing – fad or here to stay? Vasanth Ramamurthy Sci+Tech Writer
s a scientist curious about the possibilities of personalized medicine, I began toying with the idea of discovering what could be predicted about my own genes with a direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic test. Three months ago, I decided to find out. I ordered the personal genome kit from 23andMe, which, at the time, consisted of a saliva collection kit and a personal genome service that assesses health reports on diseases and conditions including carrier risks, health risks, and drug response. The idea of genetic testing is not new. Traditionally, only healthcare providers were responsible for the administration and interpretation of genetic tests. A number of companies have popped up as of late to provide DTC genetic tests without the involvement of healthcare providers. Among them, 23andMe is one that has gained media attention for its “one million customers” goal and investments from Google. Since the human genome was sequenced back in 2000, genetic testing has been touted as the precursor to the ‘holy grail’ that is personalized medicine; however, whether these tests will live up to the hype is uncertain. While certain diagnostic genetic tests can be very informative, it is unclear whether sequencing the entire genome can provide additional useful information. Furthermore, the accuracy of these tests has been questioned, as illustrated by a recent New York Times article entitled “I Had My DNA Picture Taken, With Varying Results,” that examined genetic tests offered by three different companies (23and Me, Pathway Genomics, and Genetic Testing Laboratories) and found that results varied and were at times contradictory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also started to take notice. Concerned about marketing a product claiming to provide accurate genetic testing, the FDA served 23andMe with a letter demanding the company to immediately stop marketing its product and work with them to prove the validity and medical accuracy of its personal genome service. The FDA letter raises the question of what happens when test results are not accurate. A false positive result (receiving incorrect information that you have a high risk of developing a certain disease), can lead to unnecessary burden on the
Emma Noradounkian | The McGill Daily medical system and the individual. Similarly, a false negative result (receiving information that you are not at risk of developing a disease that you actually are predisposed to), could stop individuals from taking required preventative measures. Commenting on the marketing aspect of 23andMe and the FDA letter, Nicholas King, a professor at McGill who studies the effects of new medical technologies at the societal level, brought up two important issues related to genetic testing in an interview with The Daily. “First, companies sometimes use the genetic test as a means of marketing therapies or other products that are of questionable efficacy. Second, DTC genetic testing may encourage a more general idea that genetics is destiny, and attendant promises that the results of genetic tests can be used to prevent a disease, without necessarily having the required scientific grounds to make such claims. In both cases, the contribution of behavioural and environmental factors to health is downplayed or ignored.” Genelink Biosciences, another direct-to-consumer genomics company, is advertising personalized nutritional supplements based on a person’s genetic profile to treat conditions such as diabetes, insomnia, and heart disease. The company was charged with false advertising by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) due to the lack of scientific evidence
to back up claims that its personalized supplements regimen could help the targeted medical problems. Jennifer Fishman, an assistant professor in the Biomedical Ethics Unit at McGill – who has extensively studied and published on DTC genetic testing – thinks that the FDA may have involved micro-politics in this move. “The FDA is not necessarily concerned about the medical rigour of the tests as much as their medical utility. For a long time, 23andMe was able to skirt this FDA requirement by claiming they were providing recreational information. 23andMe then decided to change their tune, so to speak, and started marketing it as medical information and also went silent with the FDA.” In fact, the FDA’s warning letter points out that 23andMe had regularly communicated with the FDA since its early years, but had recently stopped responding to its requests. Fishman believes that 23andMe is playing a tug of war with the FDA, stating the company claims that “new regulations and standards are needed because companies, like [23andMe], are offering a new kind of product, and they, therefore, believe that they shouldn’t be held to the current standards.” The medical utility of the data provided by personal genetic tests continues to be ambiguous, and the question remains as to whether any of this data is actionable. Many companies offer-
ing similar services have come and gone, but 23andMe has held out. In its current state, the company does not provide any medical and health information. At best, it provides information about potential risks related to a person’s ancestry – yet new research is published every day that can change these risk scores. “The general public receiving genetic test results is not necessarily in a position to critically assess the data. A person may be better served by having the information interpreted by trained physicians, much as they already analyze family history and a number of other factors. And, beyond this point, even if you know you have an elevated risk for a condition, will it lead to a change in your behaviour?” added Jonathan Kimmelman, professor in the Biomedical Ethics unit at McGill. Research from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, suggests that results don’t always affect behavioural changes. In a sample size of 2,037 people who took a personal genetics test, 74 per cent failed to make changes in their exercise or diet regimens three months later, even if the results suggested a change would be needed. This is not surprising considering that even though risk scores and percentages are individualized, the suggested routes to better health are not. It is important to point out that genetics is not destiny. While we
know of approximately 2,000 actionable and highly predictive genetic associations, they are still considered to be rare. In most cases, a genetic screen can identify a mutation, which indicates an elevated risk for a disease within a given population. This does not mean possessing the mutation is deterministic; many individuals who possess never contract the disease. The FDA’s action on 23andMe has raised interesting questions about the DTC genetic testing field. At times, companies such as 23andMe are needed to push regulators into looking more deeply into a certain matter. After receiving the letter, 23andMe promptly complied with the FDA and stopped marketing its product. The company also states that it is committed to working with the FDA to get its personal genetic test approved and to become a pioneer in the genetic revolution. A similar action by the FDA forced another player in the market, Pathway Genomics, to shift its model from DTC to marketing to physicians. It remains to be seen whether DTC tests will continue to exist and if the genetic revolution will catch up to the hype. As genetics research progresses, it is possible that these tests will start to play a larger role within healthcare. For the moment, though they may not provide indepth medical information, these tests can continue to be entertaining for those with a curious mind.
January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
A not so sugar-coated truth The science behind sugar consumption
Jasmine Wang | Illustrator Leanne Louie Sci+Tech Writer
n hunter-gatherer societies, food could be scarce. Each meal was a question mark. Thus, it was adaptive to seek out sugary, calorie-dense foods whenever possible; however, in many parts of today’s world, food is readily available, which has led to excess consumption, especially when it comes to sugar. Our sweet tooth, which many scientists are terming an “evolutionary hangover,” is slowly killing us. This isn’t to say that all sugars are bad. In fact, we need sugar to survive. Glucose is a form of sugar that acts as the primary source of energy for our cells and fuel for our brains. Lack of glucose can be detrimental, and people can lapse into comas if their blood glucose levels fall too low. The sugar that’s causing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease
rates to skyrocket is fructose. Unlike glucose, which is processed throughout the body, fructose is primarily processed by the liver, producing triglycerides – the main form of fat in the human body. Some of these stay in the liver, which can lead to liver dysfunction, while others enter the blood stream, which can cause higher blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes in the long term. Fructose also causes your brain to resist the effects of leptin, a molecule that is central in regulating consumption. As a result, regardless of your caloric intake, individuals may not feel full and continue to eat, which can lead to weight gain and even more sugar consumption. Our bodies simply aren’t designed to process so much sugar. Sugar was a scarce commodity in the ancient past, and even considered a luxury in recent history. We only started eating so much of it in the last 100 years, which isn’t
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enough time to undo millions of years of evolution. The simple solution to these not so sugar-coated problems is just to stop eating so much sugar; however, this may be harder than it sounds. Sugar is an additive in most processed goods, even in foods most would think to be healthy choices, like whole-wheat bread and low-fat yogurt. In addition, research is emerging that suggests excess sugar consumption may lead to addictive tendencies. There may be more to a ‘sugar high’ than just energy. A recent study by faculty and students at Connecticut College found that the brain regions associated with pleasure were activated more strongly when rats were exposed to Oreos than cocaine. In 2011, Harvard Medical School conducted research that found that some people’s brains react to junk food in the same way that the brains of people with drug addiction react to drugs; yet there is
much speculation about the condition of sugar addiction. Sugar falls under the category of primary rewards – those involved in survival and reproduction. Lesley Fellows, of the Montreal Neurological Institute, expressed her view on sugar addiction, stating that, “Addiction is generally considered to follow pharmacological doses of drugs that ‘hijack’ the normal reward system. Sugar just drives the normal reward system, it doesn’t ‘hijack’ it. So the effects of sugar versus cocaine on behaviour engage the same brain systems, but to very different degrees.” Whether we’re addicted to it or not, we’re certainly eating way too much of it. Some scientists are suggesting drastic action. Paul van der Velpen, the head of Amsterdam’s health service, wants cigarette-style warnings on sweets and soft drinks telling consumers that “sugar is addic-
Thursday, January 30 at 6 p.m. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
tive and bad for the health.” Additionally, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to ban the sale of sugared drinks larger than 16 ounces. The true power to make a change lies in our hands. It is up to us to choose a healthier lifestyle. This doesn’t have to mean cutting sugar out entirely. The health problems lie in the dosage. In the average person’s diet, the top sources of sugar are processed food, cereal, juice, canned products, bread, flavoured dairy products, fast food, and soda. If you want to reduce your sugar intake, cutting down on some or all of these is a good first step. Learning to recognize some of the aliases that sugar hides behind is another useful skill. If you see a product with any type of syrup (especially high-fructose corn syrup), corn sweetener, maltose, molasses, or dextrose in the top three ingredients, it’s best to avoid it.
January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
The war that can’t be won The political and economic depravity of the war on drugs Davide Mastracci The McGill Daily
very war effort is sustained by propaganda. The war on drugs is no exception. The propaganda that motivates the war on drugs, especially in the U.S., rests on the idea that illegal drugs are unhealthy, and that therefore people must be prevented from using them. The influence of this conception of health in relation to drugs manifests in their prohibition, state attempts to deter people from violating the prohibition, and punishments given to those who violate the prohibition. Yet despite the idea’s popularity, it has led to a disastrous war on drugs that targets the wrong enemy with faulty weapons. Each component of the strategy against drugs (prohibition, deterrence, punishment) has led to disastrous consequences. The prohibition of a wide range of drugs is the most well-funded manifestation of the idea that people must be prevented from using drugs. For example, the U.S. has spent at least $1 trillion over the last 40 years in an attempt to destroy the supply of drugs that millions of their citizens demand. This effort has failed, as the U.S. leads the world in drug use, with an increasing rate of illegal consumption. The next step in most states’ anti-drug strategy is deterrence. Since state efforts to destroy drugs have been tremendous failures, states should determine that they need to attempt to convince their citizens not to experiment. Providing accurate information regarding the negative effects of drugs is extremely important, yet most information the government relies upon grossly exaggerates the negative effects of drugs in an attempt to make the deterrent factor more effective. This is prevalent in numerous examples of television anti-drug campaigns and the scientific studies they rely upon, such as one by Dr. George Ricaurte, published in 2002, which claimed that one hit of MDMA could cause Parkinson’s or death in primates. The study was retracted shortly after publication as it turned out the scientists had used extremely high doses of methamphetamine in their tests instead of MDMA. Despite this, Congress members quoted the study extensively, leading Marsha Rosenbaum, di-
rector of the Safety First Project of the Drug Policy Alliance, to claim that “[this] study looks like high-class ‘Reefer Madness.’ The government’s trying to scare the kids out of experimentation and into abstinence, and it just doesn’t work.” Finally, the state drafts and enforces punishments for those who decide to do drugs regardless of all the deterrent efforts. These punishments are deeply flawed in three ways. Primarily, the logical basis of these punishments is that taking a substance that only harms you means you deserve to be punished so that you will stop doing said substance. These laws impede on an individual’s agency but are also tremendously ineffective at aiding individuals who may have addictions as a result of their drug use. Additionally, these punishments disproportionately affect the most marginalized within society in numerous ways. For example, black people make up 13 per cent of the U.S. population, but 56 per cent of those incarcerated for drug-related crimes (and this has nothing to do with drug usage rates, as white people are more likely to use drugs and develop addictions than black people, according to a 2011 study from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.) These ineffective and racist punishments also create a costly cycle that does nothing to stop the drug problem, but only adds to the prison problem. From 1973 (three years after the agreed-upon start of the “War on Drugs” in the U.S.) to 2009, the prison population has grown by 705 per cent. These typically unjust prison sentences are funded by tax payer dollars and have destroyed families and communities from the inside out. Essentially, the policies that have emerged from the notion that people must be prevented from doing drugs are clearly ineffective. So, despite all of the ‘tough on drugs for your benefit’ rhetoric, it is astonishingly clear that drug-prohibiting states do not actually care about their citizens’ health as it pertains to drug use. If they did, they would drastically alter their anti-drug strategy instead of spending more money on the same things to get worse results. Future drug policies should start from a refined conception of health in relation to drugs which seeks to ensure that people purchase and
Tanjiha Mahmud | Illustrator use drugs in the safest way possible, instead of banning them from doing so. This conception would treat citizens like autonomous adults instead of like children who are told what to do. This means that current policies regarding prohibition, deterrence, and punishment must be turned on their head. Rather than prohibiting drugs, drugs should be legalized and distributed by the state to ensure that drugs are not dangerously laced; this would simultaneously destroy the income source criminal networks rely upon. Then, rather than harshly punishing those who use drugs, the state should offer rehabilitation and support to those
who desire it. This has been the model in Portugal since all drugs were decriminalized in 2001, and it has resulted in reduced drug use and reduced rates of addiction to hard drugs, which have dropped by 50 per cent. Finally, rather than seeking to use exaggerated health effects to scare people away from using drugs, states should properly fund areas where people can learn how to use drugs safely. For example, safe injection sites in Vancouver have aided local drug users tremendously, as there have been no deaths on the site even though over 2 million people have used it in the last ten years. While these examples are steps
forward, it will take much more than a few minor reforms in a broken drug system to solve the everexpanding problem. The way drugs are dealt with in society needs to be revolutionized. This must begin by reconceptualizing how policies should deal with health in relation to drugs. For more information on the drug war’s destructive results watch the documentary The House I Live In, which “examines how political and economic corruption have fueled the war [on drugs in the U.S.] for 40 years, despite persistent evidence of its moral, economic, and practical failures.”
January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
The poison in our food On the omnipresence of pesticides and their health implications Andrea Saliba Health&Education Writer
he omnipresence of chemicals in our society is undeniable. We touch them, breathe them in, and ingest them on a daily basis. In 2006, National Geographic reporter David Duncan let scientists check his body for an experiment. The results were shocking: Duncan tested positive for a multitude of chemicals, including flame retardants, chemical pesticides, heavy metals, and DDT (a form of insecticide). There is a very high probability that these chemicals cause harm to the body and upset hormonal cycles – especially pesticides, which many of us might have tried to circumvent by spending more money on organic food. According to a CBC News analysis of data supplied by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), almost half of the organic produce controlled in Canada in the last two years tested positive for chemical residues. This is surprising, considering the high standards of food production Canada usually showcases (see: the Canada Agricultural Products Act and the Fertilizers Act on www.inspection.qc.ca). Most developed countries use modern technology in order to minimize direct contact with pesticides; however, due to their use in agriculture, contact can never be completely eliminated. Farming communities tend to be present in areas contaminated by pesticides affecting their longterm health (water is the most likely source of contamination). Furthermore, the residues on chemically treated foods will affect people who don’t live in rural areas, as it stays on the produce. While pesticides can protect the food that we eat from diseases and insects, a small amount of pesticide residue might be able to get into our system by consumption. In Canada, this amount is regulated by maximum residue limits (MRL), which indicate a concentration of pesticides that does not affect human health. In 2006 and 2007, Health Canada tested over 99 per cent of Canadian fruits, vegetables, and imported foods, and found that
all were below Canada’s MRL. Although limited contact with pesticides is usually not fatal, the negative health effects are tremendous. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that pesticides can cause a number of health problems such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other diseases. The effects depend on the pesticides used, and on their level of toxicity – some pesticides can toxify your body right after you ingest them. The main purpose of pesticides is killing any predator threatening the plants they are applied on. Since their mode of action is not specific to one species, they can also harm humans, especially children in their developing age. Other pesticides create diseases in the long term, including cancer. It is clear that pesticides can pose a threat to our health, so why do we continue using them? From an economic point of view, pesticides are seen as beneficial, as they prevent the premature fall of fruit, deterioration during storage, and ensure that the produce ripens more slowly, assuring a higher amount of profit. Our consumer society is used to a yield high enough to sustain the population. By stopping the use of pesticides, the total yield will decrease, leading to a price inflation for food. These economical disturbances would increase the gap between rich and poor, since people with less income will be even less able to purchase produce needed for survival. The use of modern technology in food production allows the yields to be high enough to make food accessible to most people, yet the dilemma is obvious. People with less income cannot stop buying products that have been affected by pesticides, as they are often in a more accessible price range. As long as people consume those goods though, they will be produced. Pesticides were created to benefit mankind and establish food security; however it cannot be ignored that those same substances bring undesirable effects. One alternative to pesticideinfected food is organic produce. The major issue with organic food
Nadia Boachie | The McGill Daily is that the yield in the short term is comparatively low to that of fields farmed with industrial agriculture. This leads to a very high price as opposed to more affordable conventionally grown food, making it inaccessible to many populations. As long as the common consumer is not willing to spend more of their income on organic food, and the government does not reinforce organic over conventional agriculture,
the cost will be a problem that many are not willing nor able to bear. Furthermore, organic food is not as clean as most of us think it is. A CBC News investigation this month found that as much as 5 per cent of organic food in Canada tested in the past two years has traces of pesticide residues higher than the MRL allowed for organic food, while half of all the produce had at least some traces of chemical resi-
dues. The companies producing organic food have been accused of deliberately putting pesticide on the food to enhance growth. This leads to the conclusion that even organic food might not be the right option in order to keep chemicals out of your system. Unless you have a crop in your garden, and you grow your own food, buying food from the market will never be 100 per cent safe.
Interested in writing about food, sex, mental health, and oppressive power structures? Write for Health&Ed! Weekly meetings Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. in Shatner B-24
January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Return of the Expos may be closer than we think Feasibility study: baseball in Montreal is viable Lewis Krashinsky Sports Writer
ew sports are as enamoured with marking milestones and dates as baseball; every home run is one closer to that magic number of 500, every hit is one closer to that rare number of 3,000, and every winter day passed is one closer to the fresh start of April. But for the remaining Montreal Expos fans, the most important upcoming date is March 28, 2014. On that day, baseball will return to Olympic Stadium for the first time since the Montreal Expos were infamously moved to Washington, D.C. in 2004, based on the idea that Washington could financially support a baseball team better than Montreal had. The only remaining Canadian team in Major League Baseball (MLB), the Toronto Blue Jays, will face the New York Mets in Montreal for their final two spring training games. Since the loss of the Expos franchise nearly a decade ago, there have been consistent calls for the team’s return, all to no avail. Yet, now the potential return of the team seems closer than ever. Just one month ago the Montreal Baseball Project, in collaboration with Ernst & Young and the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, produced a feasibility study of the return of baseball to Montreal. The study concluded that the city could financially support a team and mapped out exactly what would be required to land one. It estimated that a total sum of $1.025 billion would be needed with roughly $350 million of it coming from government funding and the rest from a private investor. Half of that total would be put toward purchasing the team, and the other half would go to building a new stadium in downtown Montreal. According to the study, the construction of a new stadium would be a necessity if baseball were to return. The Olympic Stadium was not an ideal location. It was too far from downtown, featured poor facilities, and lacked an authentic baseball atmosphere. Many believe that the lack of a passable stadium – leading to low attendance figures – was the primary reason why the team left in the first place. Shortly following the release of the feasibility study, The Sports Network (TSN) 690 Radio released a speculative design for a new stadium. Their imagined stadium is located just outside the downtown core, bordering the St. Lawrence. It’s an open ballpark
Alice Shen | The McGill Daily with no more than 36,000 seats, and the home plate faces out toward the river, meaning a long home run could conceivably land in the river (San Francisco-style) and that games could potentially be played in an April, or even hopefully October, snowfall. Pictures of the proposed stadium evoke a strong similarity to the beautiful PNC Park in Pittsburgh. At first sight, the large amount of public money may appear problematic as many public stadium deals have not returned their investments, but the study estimates that the government would recover the amount spent after eight years, mostly through sales and income tax paid by players. The study also adds that over 22 years the government would stand to gross another $1 billion in tax revenue from the team. Not to mention the overall boost that the economy would receive from hosting 81 baseball games a year. This would go a long way toward justifying the initial sum that would be required from the taxpayer. The biggest hurdle to jump in the project is a private firm stepping up with the remaining $675 million. No firm has committed to getting the process rolling, despite a reported 81 per cent of companies in the Montreal area supporting the idea of the team’s return.
One possibility however, and this is purely hypothetical, could be Montreal-based communications giant Bell Media. They are the largest communications firm in the country, and were ranked as Canada’s eighth most profitable publically traded company by The Globe and Mail last June. But, as the owner of TSN, Bell has seen its prospects for competitiveness in sports media substantially challenged since losing the Canadian broadcast rights to most National Hockey League (NHL) games. TSN is now left with the majority of National Basketball Association (NBA) games and the Canadian Football League (CFL), which are much less popular in Canada. Rogers’ Sportsnet also owns all the rights to the Blue Jays and the majority of other MLB games, but if Bell purchased a new baseball franchise for Montreal, it would give them exclusive rights to 162 games a year, a move that makes sense because it might become a necessary one to save TSN, and could keep them competitive with Rogers in the sports media field. In a press release, president and founder of the Montreal Baseball Project Warren Cromartie said, “Baseball’s return to Montreal is definitely feasible […] keep in mind that Montreal is currently the larg-
est market in North America without a Major League Baseball team.” Despite forgetting that Mexico is part of North America, which has two cities substantially larger than Montreal, Cromartie’s point about size should be considered. Montreal is the largest market between the U.S. and Canada that does not have a baseball team, and this is in the day and age of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have been a perennial playoff contender since 2008, even with a tiny payroll, thanks in large part to their brilliant General Manager Andrew Friedman, but the team still sees incredibly low attendance figures year after year. In 2013, the Rays finished with a record of 9271, made it to the American League Divisional Series, and still finished dead last in the majors in attendance. They averaged 1,000 fewer fans per game than the next lowest team. When a team is winning and the market isn’t responding, there appears to be a clear problem. If the Rays were moved to Montreal it would not only replace a poor market with a larger, albeit still uncertain, one, but would also mean the creation of a new Toronto-Montreal rivalry by putting the Expos in the American League East with the Blue Jays. This rivalry was minimal before the Expos moved. The two
teams were in different leagues and played only 43 total regular season games against one another over seven seasons, each one of those generally providing a strong boost to attendance. As some of the pieces to the puzzle seemingly come together, the question of fan support remains prevalent. Would fans come out and support a new baseball team in Montreal? Early signs thus far have been positive. In a poll taken by Leger Marketing, 69 per cent of Quebecers said they were in favour of the Expos returning, and in September, just ten days after going on sale, 45,000 tickets to the spring training games in Montreal had been sold. Attendance at the two Blue Jays games here will be a major factor for whether a return of the Expos takes the step from ‘theoretically practical’ to ‘in progress.’ If the majority of fans attending are just travelling Blue Jays fans eager for spring ball, it will not look good. But if a boisterous crowd of local Montrealers cram the seats for two meaningless March games played by two visiting teams in an old and run-down stadium, who knows. A great deal of things still have to happen, but many can be comforted in the realization that the return of the Expos may no longer be just a pipe dream.
January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Geometry, granite, distorted bodies Valérie Blass is the puppeteer in “Théâtre d’objets” Rosie Long Decter The McGill Daily
ontreal-born Valérie Blass is well-known for recycling old objects into her eclectic sculptures. Her new exhibit, “Théâtre d’objets,” lives up to her reputation for innovation, spanning the three floors of Montreal’s Parisian Laundry (including its basement bunker) with sculptures and prints that simultaneously intrigue, amuse, and disturb. The exhibit is a combination of new pieces and previously displayed work from commissions at the MetroTech Center in Brooklyn. Blass plays with new technology while retaining a raw, crafted feel, with material ranging from print on granite to wooden sticks. “Théâtre d’objets” is a thought-provoking exploration of the effects of perspective and distortion on everyday objects, exposing the ability of the artist to manipulate how the objects are displayed. Upon entry on the main floor, the first sculpture in sight is Sculpture Bidon, an upright granite slab with a laser image printed on each side. Both images feature a woman bent over with her legs propped on a stool and a chair, her body decorated with geometric forms. On one side of the granite, there is a hammer on her head. On the other, what looks like a bag sits on her back. While somewhat comical at first glance, the print seems to grow heavier the longer it is looked at, as the ham-
mer and bag seem to weigh down this hunched, stretched woman. Sculpture Bidon introduces many integral aspects of the show, such as the prominence of angular geometric designs, the motif of the hammer, and the use of chairs as props. It is a perfect welcome to the world of Blass, featuring seemingly random inanimate objects in an absurd and humorous, yet also unsettling, way. Many of the pieces in the show come in pairs or trios, which allows Blass to nicely demonstrate the effect of subtle differences in material or shape. Accompanying Sculpture Bidon is Orca Gladiator, a large sculpture of a female figure in the same position as the woman in Bidon. The lines on the woman’s body become stripes of white and black, lined with copper, in an almost mesmerizing array of patterns. The most striking part of the piece is the head, a giant black oval mass without features that hangs off the neck, dragging down the figure. On the same floor as these pieces is the series Portrait de pont à poutre en porte à faux, (loosely translated as “portrait of truss bridge in an awkward position”) which features the same print of a contorted truss bridge displayed in three different ways. The print is lasered onto two different, equally distorted sculptures of plaster (one in black and white, the other colour) and shown a third time as a patron, or template, broken up into pieces and mounted on a wall. Each of these installments
offers a different way of further twisting the already tangled bridge: however, the pieces themselves reach such a level of distortion that it is easy to get caught in their angles. The series of prints in the basement bunker are also a study in perspective, depicting the hooded, hidden figures of puppeteers as they make shapes and scenes out of otherwise plain objects. Through these pieces Blass interestingly comments on the extent to which the puppeteers in a ‘theatre of objects’ can differently represent and warp the ordinary. The sculptures on the second floor of the gallery, while smaller, leave a more lasting impression than the somewhat overwhelming pieces of the main floor. Prête pour le pire (“Ready for the worst”) and Se tirer dans le pied (“Shooting yourself in the foot”) are made of wooden sticks assembled into a heavy web that sits atop two long, skinny twigs, culminating in feet. The heaviness is reminiscent of the weighed-down woman in Orca Gladiator, but is more effective here, due to the fragility and simplicity of these wooden warriors. I See Your Nose Grow is another laser print on granite, an image of wooden frames with chains and a hammer set on top, oddly similar to a human body, with the handle of the hammer acting as a nose – a perfect example of Blass’ ability to create images both comedic and unsettling. The most striking piece in the exhibit makes use of this
Tamim Sujat | The McGill Daily
Blass’ Orca Gladiator
Tamim Sujat | The McGill Daily
dark amusement. She’s a Nympho, I’m a Therapist is a relatively small porcelain, polystyrene, and plaster sculpture evocative of building bricks. Protruding from the bricks is a hand holding on to a coastersized picture of the bottom half of a woman’s body, clad only in underwear, and a gloved hand reaching forward toward her. The piece is not only the most beautiful example of the geometric contortions in Blass’ work, but also, in terms of content, has by far the most engaging and striking voice. Blass reimagines everyday objects, taking the pieces she needs to create something new, and inviting viewers to take a deeper look at seemingly ordinary objects and materials by adding unexpected layers. The exhibit retains a commonality and cohesiveness through themes of weight, distortion, and animation of the inanimate, as well as a generally rustic and frayed aesthetic, yet each piece possesses its own individual character. Blass’ work is playfully thoughtful. While
she turns ordinary objects into art, it is very much up to the public to interpret the role of the objects in her artwork. The distortions Blass creates, though sometimes overwhelmingly complex, make interesting and provocative use of shape and space. Indeed, it is sometimes the empty spaces between the sticks or shapes of the sculptures that are the most fascinating. Blass’ work with image and material distortion couples nicely with the everyday objects, such as hot dogs and hammers, the pre-existing meanings of which she incorporates into her work. The intricate yet familiar and open nature of “Théâtre d’objets” allows it to be enjoyed by many, and interpreted in many different ways. It is certainly well worth a visit to Parisian Laundry, the stage where Blass exposes her puppets and puppeteers, and invites us to get lost amongst their strings. “Théâtre d’objets” runs until February 15 at Parisian Laundry (3550 St. Antoine W.).
January 27, 2014 The McGill Daily | www.mcgilldaily.com
Making art out of barriers Vessna Perunovich’s “Seamless Crossings” exposes boundaries Kyle Shaw-Müller Culture Writer
pon entering the gallery, visitors are greeted with a face off between a man and woman. The two are staring each other down from either side of a delicate wall of white string made to look like bricks. A moment passes, and the woman – Vessna Perunovich, the artist herself – parts ways with her male counterpart. The artist wasn’t actually performing: this was a projection of a recent performance piece, Borderless. Perunovich’s work explores this standoff motif and themes of selffabricated barriers as well as femininities, which are exemplified by Borderless, throughout her exhibit. The exhibit, on show at MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels), seems to have an undeniably clear focus in its selection of performance and multimedia art, with pieces spanning roughly a decade of Perunovich’s career. This is her first exhibit composed solely of these media forms, and the MAI explains it is centred on physical barriers. More precisely, borders take precedence as they relate to the Serbian artist’s struggle with the dissolution of Yugoslavia. As Canadian Art points out, Perunovich implicitly challenges gender norms through her unconventional use of
traditionally female activities. This is reflected in her construction of the string bricks in Infinite Wall, a centrepiece of the exhibit and the setting for the aforementioned Borderless. In a sense, these two pieces set a discernible tone for the exhibit, in which, through one’s own actions or through oppressive norms and power structures, “barriers” are unwittingly constructed and maintained. In Infinite Wall, the artist uses weaving, which she notes is a stereotypically feminine skill; in Borderless, she is separated from an archetypal man by virtue of this work, which is assigned to her by society’s prescribed gender roles. Inevitability and repetition are just as ubiquitous as these constructed borders themselves in “Seamless Crossings.” For instance, Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie no.3” plays in a loop, like the pieces’ projections. When asked about her choice of ambient music, Perunovich stated that it gives an impression of “walking,” of slow, steady movement. This pace corroborates a few of her other performances which are screened. In these, she walks, carrying a huge bundle of pink balloons or weighed down by a puffy white mattress in the streets of New York City. Here, the movement is relentless, just as gravity is in one of the exhibit’s photo series (in which she
Tamim Sujat | The McGill Daily is suspended by red ribbons), or as the undulation between destruction and peace is in her bombastic piece (W)hole House of Exile. The repetition quietly beckons you into an uncanny sense of comfort, like the soothing “I love you” you can listen to through earphones in a far corner of the room; yet the undercurrent aggression between the man and the woman in Borderless and the seemingly out-of-place nuclear blast of (W)hole House utterly perturb. This comfort/discomfort, this unending insecurity-on-the-cuspof-safety echoes the broader theme of borderlessness or dissolution of
one’s home, which Perunovich said she partly intends to convey during a Q&A at the vernissage. Well into this question period, she addressed an anecdote concerning (W)hole House of Exile, saying that “the house is an important metaphor for us: it is everything. It can be a place of safety but can also be a place of ruin.” Here, the theme of familiarity through boundaries was explicitly addressed. The roles foisted upon her by involuntary circumstance, whether gender stereotypes or political instability, are instituted by default, so we often tend to mindlessly continue walking and carrying that mattress, or build-
ing a wall out of embroidery – the gender roles become self-fulfilling prophecies, reinforcing themselves over time and through repetition. “Sometimes [borders] can be very subtle and invisible,” said Perunovich. It is in this way that they are upheld, through uninformed consent. “Seamless Crossings,” then, viscerally reveals this lack of information, showing us that any border is artificial and is ours to notice and change. “Seamless Crossings” runs until February 15 at MAI (3680 JeanneMance, #103).
Shattering the American dream Players’ Theatre presents Arthur Miller’s All My Sons Isobel van Hagen Culture Writer
rthur Miller’s All My Sons, directed by Matthieu Labaudinière, a mechanical engineering major, recently opened at Players’ Theatre. In the director’s note at the beginning of the playbill, he states frankly, “[…] my plea to you is to not ask questions, to not read the reviews, and to simply go. Go, especially if someone says you should. Art will always make you think.” Despite Labaudinière’s suggestion that everyone should form their own interpretation of All My Sons, Miller’s classic-but-still-relevant critique of the ‘American dream’ is hard to miss. Labaudinière plays with Miller’s original critique admirably, crafting ambiguous characters that keep audiences enthralled in the struggle to determine where guilt lies.
All My Sons allows the audience to peer over the perfect white picket fence into the seemingly normal, peaceful lives of the Keller family. Joe Keller, the patriarch, is a selfmade businessman who has provided his family with a comfortable living and a respectable name. Despite this front, the family is actually quite dysfunctional. Not only has one of Keller’s sons gone missing in World War II, but past complexities hidden in the depths of the family’s shame find their way out of the darkness with plenty of twists and turns along the way. The intricate yet strangely inviting set instantly set the tone for the play, featuring a nice white house, with a swing, a pretty garden and a rocking chair on the porch: a representation of “undisturbed normality” according to Labaudinière. The first act was mostly uneventful,
portraying the life of a mildly-shakybut-moderately-comical family in the 1940s in an almost nostalgic way. The supposedly ‘perfect’ family, in their ‘perfect’ neighbourhood, wearing charming outfits and smoking pipes, are straight out of a retro sitcom. But something seems rather shallow and disconcerting. Labaudinière later explained, “I wanted to put the audience on edge, I was just setting the scene for what was to come.” The point of the first act is to show the ‘poster family’ unravelling at the seams. Throughout this first act, the actors subtly showed the dark underbelly beneath the superficiality of their ‘lovely’ family, making the audience mildly uneasy, but then would instantly return to their polite and ‘happy’ ways. Labaudinière noted that he tried to show that these characters are “real people, with real contradictions [in
their character].” The second act opens with an entire new outlook on the family, and ‘normal life’ in general. Changes in the characters’ relationships, outlooks, actions, and decisions become evident. Every ten minutes or so, my heart would start to beat with anxiety; not because of the characters’ actions per se but because it wasn’t obvious what was driving them to act this way. Labaudinière describes it as “the fine line between what is understandable and what is acceptable.” Or in other words, what we as an audience can be empathetic to is not always acceptable social behaviour. Sometimes it is impossible to see where that line is drawn. Miller’s plays, of which Death of a Salesman is probably the most famous, focus on the tragedy of everyday people. Rather than showcasing the fall of a powerful ruler, Miller
chooses instead to find the tragic in the everyday. All My Sons is so unsettling because the family’s happiness acts as a front. All My Sons leads the audience to exploration but does not provide the answer. But the point is that there is no answer: there is no perfect white picket fence nuclear family, there is no tidy way to find where guilt lies or where to place our trust. The cast’s grasp on their characters’ ambiguity feeds into Labaudinière’s convincing portrayal of the disintegrating ‘American dream,’ and All My Sons leaves audiences with lingering doubts on the ideal of perfect conformity we still strive for today. All My Sons will be running from January 29 to February 1 at 8 p.m. at Players’ Theatre (3480 McTavish, 3rd floor). Tickets are $6 for students.
January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Deepali Productions presents Wake, Butterfly Louis Denizet Culture Writer
hursday, January 23 marked the opening night for Deepali Productions’ Wake, Butterfly. Sincere, emotional, and eye-opening, Wake, Butterfly is a play about surmounting trauma and finding beauty in life when such a task seems impossible. Bain St. Michel is an emptied swimming pool turned into an in situ space of creation that occasionally serves as an improvised theatre. The building is a little eerie and seems to be perpetually threatening guests to break apart at any time. Its narrow width forces spectators to sit tightly next to one another, making for a slighty claustrophobic feel. While this unconventional setting heightened the visible apprehension in the room, it certainly created an interesting and unique viewing experience. The two-act play focuses on Laura, a young Canadian adult whose life is burdened with questions of selfconsciousness, disrespectful sexual partners, and poor life decisions. A nameless girl from Bombay’s red light district recounts her lifelong battle against sexual abuse and her longing for freedom. A striking element from the script stemmed from this character’s anonymity. While names are usually seen as central to shaping our identity in our own lives, they are always highly symbolic in fiction. The Bombay-born character stands out as the centerpiece of the play, with Laura acting as a direct foil. This makes the decision not to name her slightly baffling, as it makes her more difficult to relate to. The two women, who we are introduced to after they have died, meet in a purgatory where they are told that only one of them will have the opportunity to return to the world of the living. After recounting their life stories and traumatic experiences to one another, both women initially agree that their lives are not worth returning to. Deepali Lindblom, portraying the Bombay-born girl, truly brought the play to life with her excellent acting and dancing skills. Indeed, the Mon-
Robert Smith | The McGill Daily treal-based actress and dancer, who founded Deepali Productions in 2010 and is renowned for her hit show Poutine Masala, graced the audience with a visually pleasing and inventive choreography representing the blissful feeling of freedom and happiness – one of the show’s high points. Kristina Sandev, in the role of Laura, a character many spectators probably have less trouble identifying with, seemed to take pleasure in performing her role with a sardonic edge. Wake, Butterfly, written by the young and emerging playwright Vishesh Abeyratne, struck an excellent balance between comedy and drama, which must have been a challenge due to the complex and sensitive nature of the play. Additionally, the dialogue between both women from completely different backgrounds juxtaposed their problems
in a subtle yet revealing manner. This technique permitted the author to articulate his views in favour of feminism, open-mindedness, acceptance, and obstructed spectators from judging any one character. The set, stripped of any unnecessary artifice, was merely composed of an immaculate white sheet used for shadow play in the middle of two additional panels on which diverse lighting effects were projected. A low pedestal on the right hand side of the stage served as a safe space of confession. Both women took turns recounting their lives, while standing atop this pedestal, inciting spectators to empathize with them equally and to view their experiences of trauma as equally worthy of attention. The playwright did his best to depict the difficulty of navigating the gap between these two sets of prob-
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lems in an egalitarian fashion. Still, it was still too easy for audiences to feel the urge to pity Laura for her inability to see that her problems were mainly self-inflicted, while the nameless Bombay-born girl was affected by her environment. There’s also the issue of whether it’s in any way productive to attempt to compare the experiences of these two characters, since it invites the audience to see a false equivalency. While the juxtaposition of these two women’s lives offered audiences perspective on the experience of being a woman in the 21st century, Laura’s character would have benefited from seeming less comedic and naïve. The play as a whole could also have benefited from some discussion of race and oppression. Why, for instance, in the cosmology of the play, is it considered acceptable to lay the problems of two
people next to each other and judge which one is more worthy of life? During the discussion following the play, the audience learned that the play had taken four years to write. While Lindblom’s character was rapidly confected, Sandev’s character was more laborious to develop, which was clear from the beginning of the play. The effectiveness of this play on the lives of two women from different backgrounds with shared traumatic experiences does not lie in its minimalist set design, dim lighting, or occasional sound effects, but in the quality of its script and the subtlety of its performers’ acting skills. Wake, Butterfly is essentially about seeing the beauty of life when all seems to be going wrong, and will certainly force audiences to find a way to appreciate their own lives.
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January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Lies, half-truths, and indecipherable jargon
New Chancellor rises from raucous ranks Conclave emerges from secluded cabin for walk of shame Dame Jurus Lee The McGall Weekly
wo weeks ago, the Board of Coveters (BoC) retreated into its secret conclave to name a new Chancellor for McGall University. Although the BoC’s secret conclave is, well, secret, The Weekly obtained some unsubstantiated information from an anonymous source about the selection process of the conclave. The primary criterion for the selection of a Chancellor is a deep abiding love for McGall University. During the conclave’s gathering, the candidates retreated with the BoC to a secret cabin in the Lahrentian Mountains. The candidates were divided into teams and given matching full body suits. The teams then named themselves after various humorous puns. This year’s teams were allegedly the Flying Fartlets, the Bedmen, and Tasteless Pun about James McGall’s Genitals. Following division into teams, each team competed in challenges for points. These challenges included chanting obscenities, trivia contests about minutia from McGall’s history, and drinking games. Although no public or press
is allowed on the grounds of the cabin during conclave, chants of “McGall once, McGall twice, holy fracking Jesu Crisp” were loud enough to disturb locals and flocks of migrating birds. Many of the locals near the cabin refused to comment and several had left the area for the duration of the conclave. Houses near the cabin were boarded up and many locals refused to venture out alone for fear of drunken hoards of BoC members and Chancellor hopefuls. “When they come to town, it is a dark day. No sir we don’t want to talk about the conclave, no we don’t,” said a local from behind a locked and boarded door. “I moved away to northern Quebec from the Pilton-Marc area of Muntreal to escape drunken McGall students, now they follow me!” said another resident. After a spirited round of flip cup, the only team that remained was the Flying Fartlets headed by Mikal Meghan, long-time friend of McGall. Meghan is a McGall alumnus who was long a favourite contender to win the position of Chancellor. During his political career he became well known for being in favour of both same-sex marriage
The team logo of the Flying Fartlets and different-sex marriage, which was bewildering to his Conservative constituents. “Not only was he chill with same-sex marriage and progressive enough to look good (but not too progressive), Mikal Meghan is a beast at flip cup and an animal at pong,” said an unnamed source close to the Board of Coveters. “It’s
no surprise that his team made it to the finals.” The Flying Fartlets then engaged in feats of strength amongst themselves for a winner to be selected. These feats include handshaking, smiling during photos, and caber tossing McGall undergraduates. Mikal Meghan rose victorious after a particularly firm yet gentle
E.k. EK | The McGall Weekly handshake, solidifying his place as the historic 18th male Chancellor of McGill University. The day following the conclave, the BoC and candidates all quietly left their cabin with pulsating headaches and sunglasses on their faces, allowing the locals to resume their lives until the next conclave.
Inaccessible crossword of the week:
To the left, to the left DOWN 1. Feminist theorist; does not hate on Peter Pan despite name 2. British Simba (human version) 3. NDP moustache 4. 15 + 15 stone comedian 7. Furry friend of QC protesters 8. Not Muhammad Ali 9. Assassinated by the Soviet secret service in Mexico 11. Italian Marxist. Wrote notebooks from prison, didn’t join a gang 12. Last name means manservant, but she’s not the type to have one 15. Universally grammatical
ACROSS 5. Hikaru Sulu 6. French for ‘gold’ + English for ‘water-hole’ 10. Master’s tools and master’s house 13. Collectivist anarchist; name kinda rhymes with Kropotkin 14. Inaccessible 20th century theory. Too cool for you. 16. “Fisking” was coined for him 17. Pro-transparency activist; almost a Montreal metro stop 18. Objectivist; object of left wing hate
volume 103 number 17
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January 27, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Students and staff in solidarity
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ull time professors and library staff at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) have been on strike since January 13, after months-long negotiations between the university and the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT) failed to reach an agreement by the strike deadline. The UNB faculty’s salary levels and salary increase rates are lower than those at comparable Canadian universities, and have pushed the union to demand a 7 per cent increase in salary each year for the next two years. Classes have been cancelled for the duration of the strike, and the university has hired a private security firm – a company that markets itself as “strike security” – to be stationed at the campus entrances where strikers are picketing. Meanwhile, students have expressed concern for classes missed and a possible cancellation of their semester. The parallels to the general strike of non-academic staff at McGill in Fall 2011 are many, but none more evident than the apparent student-centricity of the university campus during times of labour action. In the same way that many UNB students bemoan the possible loss of their semester (though strike action has never led to the loss of a semester at any Canadian university), so too did McGill students denounce the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) strike for threatening their ‘right’ to go to class. The lack of student support for striking university workers is premised on a rhetoric of students as the centre of the university, and as the group whose needs must be prioritized at the expense of others’ – a rhetoric that is wildly untrue, but that the university is glad to buy into at times of strike. It is imperative that students recognize the professional and financial needs of those who provide the services that help keep the university running, and that
these needs do not undermine students’ interests. This is the only way that students are able to refuse the university the opportunity to pit them against staff and faculty. The anti-strike rhetoric that comes from university administrations at UNB and McGill alike seeks to undercut the validity of strike action, and the demands of workers by extension, especially in the eyes of students. At UNB, the rhetoric of “structural deficit” was criticized by departmental chairs as an excuse for the downsizing of academic positions while money was re-allocated to administrative or other non-academic positions and expenses. Another highly visible form of discreditation is based on the portrayal of strikers as violent, disruptive, and potentially dangerous. At UNB, this has taken the form of stationing private security close to picketing workers; at McGill, this took the form of an injunction against MUNACA. In both cases, the administration has chosen to portray striking workers as threats to the campus community, and reject them as the necessary members of the community that they are. These attempts at isolation seek to paint a picture of competing interests between workers and the campus at large, thereby threatening support for workers from the community to which they belong. Much of an administration’s anti-strike rhetoric is predicated on the false assertion that striking workers’ interests run counter to those of the campus community at large. The success of this rhetoric in generating the disunity the university desires depends on students’ engagement with, and sympathy for, the issues affecting others at the university. Students must educate themselves on labour issues at play within their community, and refuse to allow their interests to be co-opted by the administration to delegitimize workers’ drive for fair compensation. —The McGill Daily Editorial Board
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In the article “New residence model gets mixed reviews” (January 20, News, page 3), The Daily referred to Allen Scholl as Allen School. In addition, The Daily referred to Scholl as a Hall Director; in fact, Scholl is a floor fellow at New Residence Hall. The Daily regrets the error.
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