the people win at SITE 41 By Daniel Vandervoort
When I first learned about the proposal of putting a garbage dump in Simcoe County at a location known as Site 41, it was barely a blip in the media landscape outside of local press and community channels. After the politico-administrative regime of Simcoe County refused to listen to their concerns pressing forward with plans to prepare the location to accept consumer waste, and without even approaching those whose traditional land this site sits, Aboriginal women found it necessary to occupy space around the site and form a blockade at the entrances. They were soon joined by Aboriginal men who lit and maintained a sacred fire, then local farmers, seniors and other area residents who saw how ludicrous the idea was to put garbage on drinking water came and the camp had grown rapidly. The issue began to draw attention from various organizations and the mainstream media picked up on this conflict. Then came an injunction from the court to end the blockade. People were charged and two women in particular were targeted for reprisal from the authorities, Vicki Monague of the Beausoleil Island First Nation and local farmer Anne Ritchie Nahuis. They were charged criminally and the only ones sued by the County. CESAR organized a busload of Greater Toronto Area post-secondary students to a courthouse in Barrie where just outside near the street we brought some noise. People driving by slowed to read our signs and hear our concerns and most were only too ready to give us a honk in support. Others joined us, including the women who were being charged inside and their supporters. Students spoke to the gathered crowd about the need to protect the water as well as our collective right to peaceful protest. We then hopped on the bus to the blockade and spoke to the seniors, farmers, and Aboriginal people gathered there. We let them know how much we appreciated their efforts to stop the dump and they thanked us for our support too. We were fed at the camp kitchen and invited to the sacred fire. There, an elder told us about the importance of keeping the fire going as well as the power that was drawn from keeping it pure and constantly burning until the end. Women’s power is revered by holding a special space for them during menstruation slightly at a distance from the fire. We were also told how it was men’s role to keep the fire and women’s to protect water and that’s why the women had come to protect the water from the dump. Around the circle, we shared a drink of sacred water one of the women offered us.
After visiting people at the blockade entrances, including a senior employing her knitting skills alongside her soft spoken 82 year old husband we made are way back to the city. Soon after we had arrived back, we heard how the police were now acting on the injunction and charging more people. First on the hit list, was that menacing elderly couple I just mentioned and others soon followed. It was time to organize another trip and it had to be the Magic Bus Company again because our driver was more than that. She’s also keenly interested in environmental issues and this trip was more to her than another gig and so Jen would have to be the one to take us back. By this time, Simcoe County Council was ready to meet and had the issue on their agenda. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day but we, student and community activists from Toronto and Simcoe County, were there to put political heat on the Council members. They spent a long time inside in front of a packed gallery and hundreds more people outside the Council meeting discussing the issue. One of the first items decided on was to drop the charges against Vicki and Anne. There was a joyful eruption of cheering and clapping. But after many hours of debate about the dump site itself, and having already made an extension on the time we had booked with the bus and still no decision seemingly on the horizon, Toronto area students and activists boarded the bus and started on our way back to Ryerson to await any news from people who were able to stay. It was on our way back that I got the text that we had won a key demand from Site 41 activists that a moratorium on further development of the site be observed for at least a year so fresh research could be done to investigate the safety of the site and potential alternatives be explored such as efforts to reduce waste. It was an important victory and we could spend the rest of the trip only concerned about the daily traffic congestion that plagues Toronto highways in which we found ourselves unfortunately snagged. In case some of you are still wondering why students from the GTA were concerned with this matter, the affected aquifer directly affects some of our members as it encompasses
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a large area of the region directly north of Toronto reaching as far south as York region. But beyond this responsibility to our members as well as future students, this is an issue that is of provincial, national and international importance as are most issues of ecological sustainability. It drew the attention of the David Suzuki Foundation and the Council of Canadians (who also brought the issue to the U.N. through Maude Barlow in her role of fresh water advisor to the U.N. and that got the attention of U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader). Beyond the intuitive reasons not to put the dump on top of such an integral and limited natural resource as drinking water, it was also because of the questionable and dated data that was used to justify putting the site on top of the pristine Alliston Aquifer. The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario also recognized the importance of this issue, passing an emergency motion at its recent general meeting. Finally, the conflict at Site 41 begs questions about Toronto’s trash contract with Michigan coming to a close in 2010 [and state or federal law to prohibit cross border free trade in trash?]. There may be an opportunity here noticed by some at Simcoe County Council to put a bid in to deal with the shitload of garbage we produce. I recently watched a documentary called, Garbage: The Revolution Starts at Home, that detailed how pleasant it is to live in the Michigan town surrounded by dump sites where the constant roar of Toronto and other garbage trucks can be heard as they speed through a main corridor of town, not to mention the putrid odour from the sites, which have helped both the property values and general living conditions deteriorate. This film and this experience has brought home the issue (once again) of work we have to do in this city to try to reduce the waste we generate. These trips to Site 41 have clearly demonstrated an instance where students could express solidarity with Aboriginal people, women, farmers, seniors and the community some of whom put their lives on hold, risked arrest and criminal charges to ensure the health of our ecosystem. I hope these issues help us understand the intersection of rural and urban issues. We have a collective responsibility to consider the impacts of our consumer society and the need to take action when the environment is threatened. Now that we have curbside compost and a five-cent surcharge on plastic bags In Toronto, this is no excuse to become complacent.
News Editor James burrows
Features and Opinions Editor James Clark
Layout Editor Andrea Yeomans
Culture Editor amanda connon-unda
Photo Editor Dan Rios
Contributors Max Arambulo Alexandra Bosanac James Burrows Stephen Carlick Adrian Cheung James Clark Amanada Connon-Unda Katia Dmitrieva Otiena Ellwand Jessica Finch Kaitlin Fowlie Salmaan Abdul Hamid Khan Jon Lockyer Nora Loreto Amanda Perri Adriana Rolston Arti Patel Sachin Seth David Thurton Daniel Vandervoort Angela Walcott Kevin Young
Cover Photo DAN RIOS Publisher CESAR The opinions expressed in the Ryerson Free Press are not necessarily those of the editors or publisher. Advertising Ryerson Free Press’ advertising rates are as follows. All prices are for single insertions. Discounts apply for Ryerson groups and departments. Full page—$750 Half page—$375 Quarter page—$195 Eighth page—$95
Ryerson Free Press september 2009 3
SUAAD HAGI MOHAMUD Fights Back By Sachin Seth
On May 21, Suaad Hagi Mohamud was accused of impersonating - Suaad Hagi Mohamud. As she tried to board a flight to Toronto from Kenya, Mohamud was told her facial features did not match those on her four-year-old Canadian passport’s photo. Apparently, her lips were not the same. After being detained by Kenyan authorities and despite proving in a variety of ways the validity and truth of her identity, Mohamud’s passport was voided by the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi. She was thrown in jail. “This issue should have come to a close when [Mohamud] was able to corroborate her identity by producing her Canadian driver’s license, fingerprints and other documents. The fact that it was not and that she was prosecuted is reprehensible and weakens the confidence in our Canadian government,” said Digal Haio, founding Director of the Canadian Somali Congress and a law student at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. Unfortunately, Mohamud’s ordeal had just barely begun. After spending eight days in a Kenyan jail, she was charged with identity fraud. The High Commission of Canada said it had “proved” she was an impostor impersonating, well, herself. For the next two and a half months, Mohamud was forced to live in a variety of Nairobi slums. Canada’s Federal government was indifferent. This devilmay-care attitude lit a fire under Somali-Canadians who have, since May, lambasted Ottawa and the Canadian government for leaving one of their own to fend for herself. “We know this kind of corruption happens in Kenya, but the ugliest part is that the Canadian government enforced it,” said Mohamed Subiye, editor of the GTA-based Somali Press Newspaper. According to Mohamud, corruption did play a significant role. She alleges the officers who refused to let her on the plane
were pushing her to offer bribe money so that she could board. Mohamud claims she was detained after she refused. But corruption is not the only suspected foul play. Many Somali-Canadians argue that had Mohamud been Caucasian, this drama would not have ensued. This accusation has given new life to the oft-argued issue of whether Muslims are checked more vigorously and carefully at airports. Haio believes corruption played a larger role than ethnicity. “I don’t necessarily know if [Mohamud] was targeted because she is Muslim. A more plausible answer could simply be the corruption.” Suibye has no doubt Mohamud’s race played a role, especially with the Canadian government. “No one, surely, would have disputed her identity if she were not Muslim and Somali. The [Canadian] government should be held accountable for its actions, for, in this case, causing unnecessary hardship to one of its own.” Not until late August was Canada’s government satisfied to accept Mohamud’s testimony, only after DNA tests proved she was who she claimed to be – herself. She arrived back in Toronto on August 15, found to be suffering from a respiratory illness and appetite loss caused by the stress of the whole situation. The respiratory problems have yet to be diagnosed, however. The Federal government, since her return, has been quiet and unresponsive, much like a scolded child. On August 21, Mohamud launched her own attack, issuing a lawsuit against the government for $2.5 million. Still, not a peep from Ottawa. “[Mohamud] has undergone a great deal of emotional and psychological trauma due to her detainment and the fear that she may never be allowed to return to Canada and be reunited with her family. This type of intangible damage is incalculable and I don’t think any amount of money will be able to fully heal
the pain she and her family have had to endure,” said Haio, when asked whether the sum of $2.5 million was a justified amount. Haio and Subiye believe it necessary Ottawa, above all else, issue a public apology to Mohamud for doubting her identity and turning their back on her. Haio believes Mohamud will only get the “sorry” if the media continues to put pressure on Ottawa by reporting on the progress of the ordeal regularly. “Much of her bitter sweet happy ending is due in large part to the public outcry and media spotlight that has been on this story. So as long as that does not go unabated Ottawa may be willing to issue a public apology,” she said. Her tone, however, revealed a whiff of wishful thinking. Heroically, the Somali-Canadian community has not only been vocal about Mohamud’s case. They’ve also criticized Ottawa’s treatment of other stranded “citizens” like Bashir Makhtal, another Somali-Canadian who was illegally sent to Ethiopia after being detained in Kenya. The list goes on to include the infamous case of Omar Khadr, the young boy arrested and detained in Guantanamo Bay by U.S. authorities who claim he threw a grenade that killed an American soldier when he was 15, and Maher Arar, who was sent to Syria by American authorities and was questioned and tortured for a year before being brought back home to Canada. Mohamud’s case against the Federal government was not filed for the sole purpose of seeking compensation for the mental, physical and monetary losses she compiled while abroad, but also to ensure no other Canadian should, in the future, be subjected to such treatment by its own government. “I don’t care about money,” she said to reporters at a Toronto news conference, CBC reports. “I only go to court so this never happen[s] to another Canadian citizen.”
Financial mismanagement at OUSA By James Burrows, News Editor AT THE END of July, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance’s (OUSA) VP Finance, Rob Lanteigne, posted a report on a Brock University Students’ Union blog that stated that financial irregularities had been occurring at OUSA and noted that an audit had not been done since 2007. OUSA represents seven university students’ associations in Ontario. In the blog, Lanteigne stated that “in previous years, financial controls have significantly lapsed, and [OUSA] has gone two years without an audit. In addition, a lack of knowledge and policies around our finances have led to significant mis-postings, and budgets that look nothing like the actual expenditures.” Lanteigne added “I have been leading a complete budget line-item overhaul, and
the beginnings of developing strong financial controls and procedures for the organization. It’s easy to sum that up in a sentence or two, but it’s been a solid week of work so far, and will take a significant chunk of time moving forward this summer.” When asked for further clarification Lanteigne downplayed the seriousness of his original blog claim, stating that none of the mistakes were too serious but were simply “a number of small” clerical errors. “If a staff travel [expense] was [inputted] maybe that item was actually posted in the wrong place. Mid-year analysis might be off but not the end of year balance sheet.” Lanteigne blames the missing audit and the financial confusion on the transition period
in early 2008 and the fact that many of those elected do not have a financial background, despite the fact that an audit had not been completed since before 2008. “Our elected student people don’t have a strong financial background,” noted Lanteigne, “and, so, as account lines have been re-worded over the years, some things have slipped through the cracks and tended to go through a general account instead of the specific account.” Having an audits allows for an external review of a particular organization’s financial
practices. “[Audits] give a degree of assurance to users,” said Lane Rasmussen, an auditor with the firm Yale and Partners in Toronto. “An objective third-party looking at financial statements will be more objective than an internal person,” he said. While many student organizations are audited yearly, audits can be waived by the people who pay into the organization. This is less common for larger organizations said Rasmussen. At Ryerson, the Eyeopener, the Ryerson Students’ Union and the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) are all funded through student funds like OUSA, and are all annually audited. Their audited financial statements are presented to a meeting of each organisation’s general members to be accepted. This is in order to comply with the Ontario Corporations Act. The need for an audit, according to Lanteigne, probably “slipped the transition process and it wasn’t mentioned that the audit had to occur.” The realization that an audit needed to occur was not made until mid-fall of last year. When questioned how this could happen at such a large student association, Lanteigne responded by noting that OUSA actually only retains three full-time staff positions (Executive director, Director of Communications and a Director of Research and Policy Analysis) and blamed the problem on high turnover of staff, resulting in “little institutional memory.” “The nature of the organization is about a two-and-a-half year turnover at the maximum,” stated Lanteigne, and OUSA “Can’t afford the salary that one would need to retain staff for 10 years and many have the capability to move on to higher paying jobs.” OUSA is currently being audited for the previous two years and is expected to present the findings of these audits to their assembly on Sunday October 25. paulo.barcellos/FLICKR
Students get no jobs, satisfaction Youth unemployment passes 20 per cent By David Thurton A banner clamped to a Gould Street light pole broadcasts these words: “Back on Campus! Have a great year.” That might not be the case for many students returning to Ryerson after statistically one of the worst summers for students since youth job numbers were first published. July’s labour numbers said youth employment declined by 38, 000 jobs and a total of 205 000 since October. Student summer unemployment soared to 20.9 per cent, the highest in 32 years since government started recording. Across the province, more students were also borrowing money for tertiary education. OSAP applications are up 5.7 per cent and 4.6 per cent for universities compared to last year. Ryerson’s OSAP applicants are higher too, 10 per cent more than last year. “This has been one of the worst summer job markets in decades,” said Bank of Montreal senior economist Sal Guatieri. “Clearly, those with the least experience
and seniority have borne the brunt of the recession,” Guatieri said. Not surprising, job applications flooded the Ryerson Students’ Union and the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR.) For five summer job postings the Ryerson Students’ Union received thousands of applications. At Cesar, President Mohammed Ali Aumeer said, “We’ve seen a lot of people applying. There’s been a real sharp increase both in terms of quality and quantity.” Ali Aumeer, who’s on the committee awarding bursaries, also noticed a difference in applications “There’s a lot of people making comments that ‘I lost my job,’ or ‘I’m not able to find work.’ Also that ‘I’m coming back for retraining and looking for work’ or ‘I’ve been just been laid off.’” No need to ask why 2009 has been statistically the worst year for summer jobs.
Economic recession, economic slowdown, economic downturn, negative growth have been this year’s buzz words. But why are the highest job losses among young people? Especially when Canada’s economy remained solid and the Bank of Canada said the recession is over and recovery has begun. It’s because student jobs have been the sacrificial lambs to the recession says, Guatieri. “Young people have really borne the brunt of this downturn. Tourism for example has really taken a hammering because Americans are staying home. They’re rebuilding their savings. The canadian dollar has further discouraged Americans from coming to Canada. So tourism, which provides a lot of jobs for young people has been really hit hard,” Guatieri said. The senior economist also said declines in the construction, manufacturing and auto sectors haven’t welcomed as many students as usually. Meanwhile professional, technical services and government administration have faired well. But these, Guatieri said, tend not to employ large numbers of students. Despite all this bad news, University of Toronto Career Counsellor Maria Kapakos hasn’t seen a significant difference in summer or parttime employment. Nor have students been rushing to their career centre. “There wasn’t a surge or a rush of students saying I can’t find summer work. I can’t say that nobody came in. But it wasn’t outside the norm we typically see.” In January, the university hosted it’s annual summer job fair. “And that fair was absolutely packed not only with students but also with employers,” Kapakos said. Accountants, bloggers, architects, customer service rep-
resentatives and summer camp counsellors, employers were hiring, Kapakos said. But, how many students earned jobs? And, can they afford their educational expenses? The career counsellor cannot say for sure. Back at Ryerson, one graduate has surely secured a job in this recession. Alicia Omand is now the marketing specialist for BMW Toronto. But she only got the job seven months after she graduated with her marketing management degree in December 2008. She’s not alone. Omand said few of her colleagues have found jobs. “A lot of people have just gone away and taken this opportunity to travel for a few months and then look when the economy has re-adjusted itself.” After a month’s vacation herself, Omand got a part-time job as a service co-ordinator at a Toyota dealership and received a paid internship at the advertising agency MacLaren McCann. That, lasted three months before cost cutting reduced the internship’s length. Her full-time position at BMW meant first Omand scavenging through Craig’s List and other websites, applying even when no positions were advertised and in spite of previous rejections. “On the website it said motivated and talented person may apply. There were actually no job listings. So, I sent an e-mail with an exciting cover letter. And I got a call back from the owner saying he’d like to meet.” Omand said having an interesting cover letter was the key. In her other applications that meant being unique. “So I even started putting out resumes in gift boxes or in CD cases. Or anything that would really stand out and someone would think ‘Hey, that’s really cool. That’s very creative,’” she said. She said she only did this for jobs in the advertising field. She also put a face to her application by handing it in person and following up on applications, especially those where no positions were listed. So...what will the fall job market look like? Youth unemployment will likely drift higher in the coming months even as a healthier Canadian economy emerges, said Guatieri. “The initial economic recovery should be too soft to satisfy all the new entrants into the labour force,” the senior economist said. But, Guatieri does forecasts that by year’s end and into 2010, businesses will begin hiring younger workers again. “I think that next year’s summer job market will be much stronger than this years,” Guatieri said.
Ryerson Free Press september 2009 5
Shawn Brant Arrested for Role in Akwesasne Solidarity Blockade By Jon Lockyer
On July 22, Mohawk activist Shawn Brant was sentenced to five months in jail on charges of mischief and failure to comply charges stemming from his role in the blockade of the Skyway Bridge, which connects the communities of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and Desoronto with neighboring Prince Edward County. On the evening June 7, Brant along with members of the Tyendinaga community erected a blockade of the bridge in solidarity with the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne’s dispute focused on the arming of Canadian Border Service Agency guards. The community of Akwesasne, divided by the Canada-U.S. border, effectively shut down island border crossings in nearby Cornwall, after talks with the CBSA broke down during the final weekend in May. By midnight on Sunday the 31, border authorities ordered the border to be officially closed, as several hundred residents of the Akwesasne community set up protest campsites at the border crossing. Members of the Akwesasne community cite the arming of border guards as a violation of Mohawk people’s sovereignty. Community leaders also fear that the presence of firearms in the community will increase the likelihood of violent conflict between border guards and community members. Sakoietah, a representative of the Akwesasne Men’s Traditional Council, sites a history of physical abuse by border guards. As well, he feels the basic rights and freedoms of the Mohawk people, outlined by the Jay Treaty signed between the United States and Britain and ensuring the safe and free passage of Akwesasne community members through the international border, are continually challenged, the arming of border guards being the latest. Sakoietah said, “Article 3 allows for us to pass through our own country, unhindered. This goes way back before the construction of the border. The physical building and officers came into effect in the early 1950s. That’s the reason our people fight, because we don’t actually believe that there is a border here. This physical thing that sits here is not for us, it’s for the Canadian public and the U.S. public.” On June 7, with no resolution to the Akwesasne border dispute in site, residents of the Tyen-
ANTIRACISM TASK FORCE at Ryerson
By Salmaan Abdul Hamid Khan Have you experienced any discrimination because of your race/gender/ethnicity/religion/sexual orientation? Have you witnessed incidences of racism or discrimination on campus? Do you feel Ryerson University is inclusive enough? Do you feel any of your professors are culturally insensitive? Do you find your curriculum biased or one-sided? Do you think race is an issue at this university? These are just some of the questions being asked by the Taskforce on Anti-Racism at Ryerson. The Taskforce was formed as a response to various incidences of racism and discrimination on campus, as well as a growing concern as to the inclusiveness of our institution. The goal of the Task Force on Anti-Racism is to identify and examine systemic racism at our university, and to make recommendations to encourage a campus environment that provides everyone an equal opportunity to study, teach, and work. With the help of students, staff, and faculty, the Taskforce hopes to gather more information and continue its work into the coming months. We want to hear from you! As well, a newly formed Students Against Racism Coalition has come together in the struggle to create a more equal and inclusive community for Ryerson Students. Although a separate coalition, both groups hope to work together, with the Ryerson community, to break down barriers and create an environment free of hate and discrimination. Keep your eyes and ears open because both groups plan to hold more discussions and forums where everyone is invited. For any questions and concerns, contact the Taskforce on Anti-Racism at Ryerson: firstname.lastname@example.org
dinaga community began their blockade of the Skyway Bridge, joining a host of other First Nations communities across the country who staged protests as a sign of solidarity with the people of Akwesasne. The Skyway Bridge blockade was met with strong police opposition, and by June 10, in a joint effort between the Ontario Provincial Police and Tyendinaga Mohawk Police, ended the blockade and resulted in the arrest of 13 individuals, Brant being one of them. Brant was charged with mischief and breach of conditions, stemming from an incident in October of 2006 when he and a number of Tyendinaga residents blocked the delivery of a new police station to the community. Brant’s actions at the Skyway Bridge stem from the larger issues faced by the Tyendinaga community, notably the access to safe drinking water. During his trial, Brant explained that, “There comes a point when the indignity of the daily lives of our people just explodes. A lot of it is based on simple things like water.” For the first time in recent memory, Brant will face no restrictions following his release in late October of this year. Justice Steven Hunter, who presided over Brant’s trial in July, stated that he is empathetic to Brant’s social activism, and realizes the extreme inequalities faced by the people of Tyendinaga and many other First Nations communities in Canada. He did, however, state that he is required to ensure that the laws of the country are upheld in his sentencing of Brant. With his most recent incarceration, Brant has now begun to consider his future options as a social activist. His activist work with First Nations communities throughout Ontario and Quebec, as well as work with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty has brought with it its share of conflict with both non-Aboriginal community members and law enforcement. With a young family at home, the possibility of walking away from a cause that has been so close to Brant for almost twenty years becomes more of a possibility. “I can’t say it is entirely over for me when it comes to my involvement in the cause. All I can say is that I will give the next one, the next protest, a lot of thought. I am 45 now. I have been doing this for 19 years. Maybe it is time for someone younger to step up.”
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Don’t let Harper extend the mission By James Clark, Features and Opinions Editor
Canada’s mission in Afghanistan is now almost eight years old. By the end of August, 127 Canadian soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan since 2001—the largest death toll for a Canadian mission since the Korean War. A growing majority of Canadians oppose the mission, and want the troops to come home. A recent Angus Reid poll shows that 84 per cent of Canadians believe the mission should end on or before the 2011 end date. Despite this opposition, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is considering extending the mission past 2011. During the last federal election, Harper was forced to concede that Canadian troops would come home by 2011—an attempt to win votes in Quebec where anti-war sentiment is higher than anywhere else in Canada. But now the federal government and its backers are floating the idea of another extension, with high-profile editorials and on-air commentaries making the case for a longer engagement in Afghanistan. Most of these arguments talk about the importance of “Canadian leadership” and the need to secure Canada’s place on the world stage. What they ignore, however, is the fact that the US-led mission in Afghanistan has been a complete disaster, and that Canada has its own interests in the region that drive its enthusiasm for the war. By far, the people of Afghanistan have suffered the most as a result of the war. No firm count is available, but likely tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed since the war began. The civilian death toll gets worse as each year passes. The situation on the ground is now worse for ordinary Afghans than it was in 2001. Fewer Afghans have access to clean water and electricity, as the country’s infrastructure crumbles. There is less security, especially for women and girls. Hundreds of millions of dollars of aid money has either disappeared into the pockets of corrupt government leaders or enriched Western-based corporations. Many aid and humanitarian groups have fled Afghanistan, as foreign troops have made their work unsafe. And Canadian troops are helping to prop up a government that is dominated by warlords and drug lords, whose human rights abuses are widely reported. As the recent Afghan election shows, the Afghan government is rife with corruption. Western leaders are desperate to see Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai returned to power, even though NATO military leaders readily admit he controls only a small portion of the country. Opposition forces, led by the Taliban, now control over 70 per cent of Afghanistan. Missing from the debate is Canada’s political and economic interests in the region. Since Jimmy Carter’s administration, US foreign policy has been preoccupied with the construction of oil and gas pipelines in Central Asia. Those concerns continue today, as the US competes for regional influence with Russia, China and Iran. The US is keen to deny its competitors any access to the region’s resources, and to assert its dominance. Similarly, Canada has pursued its own interests, by securing contracts for Canadian corporations to exploit the rich oil, gas and mineral deposits of Central Asia. Former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien—who made the decision to send Canadian troops to Afghanistan in the first place—has helped ink these contracts with a number of Central Asian republics. These interests drive Canadian foreign policy much more than any government claims about democracy, development or women’s rights in Afghanistan—which makes the case for the removal of Canadian troops even more compelling. In the weeks ahead, pro-war pundits will continue to push hard for Canada to extend its mission. The Obama Administration in the US has already made its overtures for an extension. New NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen has been much more explicit in asking Canadian troops to stay. That’s why ordinary people in Canada must push back against these arguments, and make an even stronger case for Canadian troops to come home. Public opinion is firmly on our side. We need to ensure that all Members of Parliament—and not just Harper’s Conservatives—feel the pressure to end the war. Don’t wait till 2011: bring the troops home now! For more information, visit the Canadian Peace Alliance: http://www. acp-cpa.ca This article originally appeared in the premiere issue of the Immigrant Post: http://www.immigrantpost.ca PHOTO COURTESY OF THE U.S. MILITARY
Ryerson Free Press september 2009 7
With the start of the Toronto International Film Festival looming, filmmaker and York University professor John Greyson withdrew his film Covered from the festival in protest, to bring attention to the human rights abuses in Palestine, and to remind all of the importance of progressive filmmaking as a central purpose of film. The Brand Israel campaign was tested in Toronto this past year, and was meant to draw attention away from the human rights abuses committed against Palestinians. Brand Israel campaign organizers are planning to launch the campaign in other cities worldwide. August 27, 2009 Piers Handling, Cameron Bailey, Noah Cowan Toronto International Film Festival 2 Carlton St., 13th floor Toronto Canada M5B 1J3 Dear Piers, Cameron, Noah: I’ve come to a very difficult decision -- I’m withdrawing my film Covered from TIFF, in protest against your inaugural City-to-City Spotlight on Tel Aviv. In the Canadian Jewish News, Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin described how this Spotlight is the culmination of his year-long Brand Israel campaign, which includes bus/radio/TV ads, the ROM’s notorious Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, and “a major Israeli presence at next year’s Toronto International Film Festival, with numerous Israeli, Hollywood and Canadian entertainment luminaries on hand.” Gissen said Toronto was chosen as a testcity for Brand Israel by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and thanked Astral, MIJO and Canwest for donating the million-dollar budget. (Astral is of course a long-time TIFF sponsor, and Canwest owners’ Asper Foundation donated $500,000 to TIFF). “We’ve got a real product to sell to Canadians... The lessons learned from Toronto will inform the worldwide launch of Brand Israel in the coming years, Gissin said.” This past year has also seen: the devastating Gaza massacre of eight months ago, resulting in over 1000 civilian deaths; the election of a Prime Minister accused of war crimes; the aggressive extension of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands; the accelerated destruction of Palestinian homes and orchards; the viral growth of the totalitarian security wall, and the further enshrining of the check-point system. Such state policies have led diverse figures such as John Berger, Jimmy Carter, and Bishop Desmond Tutu to characterize this ‘brand’ as apartheid. Your TIFF program book may describe Tel Aviv as a “vibrant young city... of beaches, cafes and cultural ferment... that celebrates its diversity,” but it’s also been called “a kind of alter-Gaza, the smiling face of Israeli apartheid” (Naomi Klein) and “the only city in the west without Arab residents” (Tel Aviv filmmaker Udi Aloni). To my mind, this isn’t the right year to celebrate Brand Israel, or to demonstrate an ostrich-like indifference to the realities (cinematic and otherwise) of the region, or to pointedly ignore the international economic boycott campaign against Israel. Launched by Palestinian NGO’s in 2005, and since joined by thousands inside and outside Israel, the campaign is seen as the last hope for forcing Israel to comply with international law. By ignoring this boycott, TIFF has emphatically taken sides -- and in the process, forced every filmmaker and audience member who opposes the occupation to cross a type of picket line. Let’s be clear: my protest isn’t against the films or filmmakers you’ve chosen. I’ve seen brilliant works of Israeli and Palestinian cinema at past TIFFs, and will again in coming years. My protest is against the Spotlight itself, and the smug business-as-usual aura it promotes of a “vibrant metropolis [and] dynamic young city... commemorating its centennial”, seemingly untroubled by other anniversaries, such as the 42nd anniversary of the occupation. Isn’t such an uncritical celebration of Tel Aviv right now akin to celebrating Montgomery buses in 1963, California grapes in 1969, Chilean wines in 1973, Nestles infant formula in 1984, or South African fruit in 1991? You’re probably groaning right now -- “inflammatory rhetoric!” -- but I mention these boycott campaigns because they were specific and strategic to their historic moments, and certainly complex. Like these others, the Israel boycott has been the subject of much debate, with many of us struggling with difficult questions of censorship, constructive engagement and free speech. In our meeting, for instance, you said you supported economic boycotts like South Africa’s, but not cultural boycotts. Three points: South Africa was also a cultural boycott (asking singers not to play Sun City); culture is one of Canada’s (and Israel’s) largest economic sectors (this spot-
light is funded by a Canadian Ministry of Industry tourism grant, after all); and the Israel rebrand campaign explicitly targets culture as a priority sector. Many will still say a boycott prevents much needed dialogue between possible allies. That’s why, like Chile, like Nestles, the strategic and specific nature of each case needs to be considered. For instance, I’m helping organize a screening in September for the Toronto Palestinian Film Festival, co-sponsored by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and the Inside Out Festival. It’s a doc that profiles Ezra Nawi, the queer Israeli activist jailed for blocking army bulldozers from destroying Palestinian homes. Technically, the film probably qualifies as meeting the technical criteria of boycott -- not because it was directed by an Israeli filmmaker, but because it received Israeli state funding. Yet all concerned have decided that this film should be seen by Toronto audiences, especially Jews and Palestinians -- a strategic, specific choice, and one that has triggered many productive discussions. I’m sorry I can’t feel the same way about your Tel Aviv spotlight. Despite this past month of emails and meetings, many questions remain for me about its origins, its funding, its programming, its sponsors. You say it was initiated in November 2008... but then why would Gissen seem to be claiming it as part of his campaign four months earlier? You’ve told me that TIFF isn’t officially a part of Brand Israel -- okay – but why haven’t you clarified this publicly? Why are only Jewish Israeli filmmakers included? Why are there no voices from the refugee camps and Gaza (or Toronto for that matter), where Tel Aviv’s displaced Palestinians now live? Why only big budget Israeli state-funded features -- why not a program of shorts/docs/indie works by underground Israeli and Palestinian artists? Why is TIFF accepting and/or encouraging the support of the Israeli government and consulate, a direct flaunting of the boycott, with filmmaker plane tickets, receptions, parties and evidently the Mayor of Tel Aviv opening the spotlight? Why does this feel like a propaganda campaign? This decision was very tough. For thirty years, TIFF has been my film school and my community, an annual immersion in the best of world cinema. You’ve helped rewrite the canon through your pioneering support of new voices and difficult ideas, of avant-garde visions and global stories. You’ve opened many doors and many minds, and made me think critically and politically about cinema, about how film can speak out and make a difference. In particular, you’ve been extraordinarily supportive of my own work, often presenting the hometown premieres of my films to your legendary audiences. You are three of the smartest, sharpest, skillful and most thoughtful festival heads anywhere -- this isn’t hyperbole, with all of you I speak from two decades worth of friendship and deep respect -- which makes this all the more inexplicable and troubling. What eventually determined my decision to pull out was the subject of Covered itself. It’s a doc about the 2008 Sarajevo Queer Festival, which was cancelled due to brutal anti-gay violence. The film focuses on the bravery of the organizers and their supporters, and equally, on the ostriches, on those who remained silent, who refused to speak out: most notoriously, the Sarajevo International Film Festival and the Canadian Ambassador in Sarajevo. To stand in judgment of these ostriches before a TIFF audience, but then say nothing about this Tel Aviv spotlight -- finally, I realized that that was a brand I couldn’t stomach. Peace, John Greyson
FEATURES canaDa SlaMS DooR on vUlneRaBle ReFUGeeS New visa policy hurts Roma asylum seekers By Alexandra Bosanac a pOlIcy reQuIrInG visitors to Canada from the Czech Republic and Mexico to carry tourist visas went into effect on July 14, causing an international uproar in the Roma community. The Roma, who are of eastern European descent and make up the largest minority group in Europe, face widespread discrimination in the Czech Republic, according to the Roma Rights Network (RRN). The visa policy has evolved into a very contentious policy issue. In August, Amnesty International sent a letter to Immigration Minister Jason kenney, urging the federal government to drop the tourist visa requirement. Paul St. Clair, Executive director of the Roma Community Centre (RCC) in Toronto, says that the Roma live separately from the Czech; demarcated by their appearance, their own set of traditions and their history, they reside in squalid living conditions in modernized Czech cities. They are frequently described as a “social problem” and are blamed for their own marginalization. William Bila, vice-president of the RCC, recalls a recent incident of ethnic violence where a Molotov cocktail was thrown into a family’s house, burning several family members. No one has been prosecuted for the crime and it is assumed that the perpetrators will evade prosecution, since many such crimes emanate from the authorities themselves. The Immigration Revue Board of Canada says that most refugee claims originate from the Czech Republic and Mexico, and that targeting the two countries is essential to repairing what Minister kenney calls a “soft” immigration system, which allows many “bogus” claimants to enter Canada. The number of refugee claims from the Czech Republic went up to about 800 people in 2008 from less than a hundred a year earlier. The total rose to 1,000 people in the first four months of 2009. There are approximately 300,000 Roma citizens in the Czech Republic. “For Roma who do not pass as white, unemployment is over 80 to 90 per cent, when the national average is closer to 10 per cent. Many are forced into schools for the [developmentally delayed], hindering their chances for future employment by receiving a sub-standard education. Access to public services like medical care and housing are also hindered. A cycle of poverty was created by the Czechs when they actively recruited Roma to come live in the Sudetenland in the 1940s from Slovakia,” says Bila. This is also not the first time Canada imposed visa requirements for Czechs. The liberals under Jean Chrétien removed and then re-introduced visa requirements for Czech travelers in the 1990s. The liberals made similar claims about so-called “bogus” refugees. Bila argues that the visa policy grants an unfair advantage to Canada: the Czech Republic, being part of the Eu, lacks the agency to impose similar restrictions on Canadian travelers. Activists and critics oppose the policy because it singles out the Czech Republic and Mexico, which, as dáša van der horst, head of the Czech branch of Amnesty International, says, “makes various states unequal within the same system.” Bila and other Roma activists stress that the visa policy will not be an effective measure to distinguish bogus refugee claims from legitimate ones, despite the minister’s claims. For
them, this policy is akin to using a blunt instrument for a precision job. A fair course of action, says Bila, would require Canada to apply more pressure on the Czech government to deal with persecution of Roma. “[This] is a rather cowardly approach. It is clear there are issues of security in Mexico and in the Czech Republic that are not being addressed. These governments need to do a better job protecting their own citizens so that they don’t feel the need to flee to Canada. Canada should be asking, ‘What are you doing to address this?’ publicly.” To lessen the backlog of refugee claims, the harper government wants to lower the number of refugees to a level where claimants can be properly vetted, singling out desirable candidates. Bila thinks the visa requirement will not change anything, except reduce the number of people coming to Canada to claim asylum. Minister kenney defends the policy, stating that the current intake of refugees from the Czech Republic is financially untenable in the long-term and that the financial cost of handling the asylum claims was “spiraling”—it costs the Canadian government about $29,000 to shelter and care for a single asylum seeker. Reports are now emerging of over-crowding in shelters in southern-Ontario cities like london, where there are many pockets of Roma refugees. St. Clair contends that the Canadian government overlooks its own sloppiness on processing these claims, which contributes to the waste of public funds. Minister kenney’s argument also perpetuates the unfounded claim that the economic value of refugees is extremely limited. “look at the Czech citizens who came here in 1996 and 1997. how well have they integrated? how many are on welfare? how many have good jobs, pay taxes and are setting a good example? It is because of their success that a second wave has come,” says Bila. “The numbers are down from 46,000 claims per year on average for the past decade to about 36,000 this year. Canada still has a labour shortage, despite the current recession. Complaining about foreigners during a time of recession is just populist xenophobia with no economic basis for argument.” Tough financial times can foster narratives in the media and in the political arena that have isolationist overtones. Anonymous internet commentators, like one on the Globe and Mail’s website, have written myopic slogans like “Canada is not a homeless shelter.” Bila believes that the harper government is seizing the opportunity to win votes from a shaken middle-class and that refugees are simply a convenient scapegoat. “The harper government has acted as a charity by accepting refugees from the Czech Republic and Mexico without reprimanding the governments of these countries for failing to do their jobs. We are giving charity to the Czech and Mexican governments, letting them get away with dumping their problems on us. It is not Canada’s job to fix these countries’ problems. What is wrong with this statement is that it does not force other players with clout on the world stage to do something to help Canada address this injustice.” For more information, visit the Roma Rights Network: www.romarights.net
ryerson free press
How safe is the food we eat? By Kaitlin Fowlie
As we press forth into a world of advancing chemicals, it is not enough to be diligent about reading food labels. Secrecy in the marketing and labelling of food is highly detrimental to public health, and being a conscious consumer might not be enough to avoid the synthetic chemicals that permeate so much of what we eat. In reality, an entire economy has been built on the existence of this invisible world that so often leaves the consumer in the dark. Processed food companies have fostered a belief that is generally accepted. This belief promotes synthetics as harmless, even superior to the products of nature traditionally relied on to nourish and heal us. Synthetics have become an all encompassing part of our world to the point that a visitor from the past might liken our state of life to a chemistry experiment in which we humans are guinea pigs. Our innovations are becoming more and more advanced every day, and they may end up killing us. Back in 1935, only one case of cancer was reported among the Inuit of Alaska over the course of the previous 50 years. From this date until the 1970s, their cancer rate swelled until it was enough to rival that of Americans and Canadians. The significant change in cancer rates among the Inuit occurred alongside the adoption of a processed food diet. The Western world, which has consumed a diet of primarily processed foods since the birth of Heinz and Campbell’s companies in 1900, also continues to see a rise in cancer rates. About 171,000 new cases of cancer and 75,300 deaths from cancer are estimated to occur in Canada this year. This figure represents an increase of 4,600 newly diagnosed cases and 1,500 more deaths than 2008. The explosive rates
of this deadly disease aren’t the only statistics on the rise. Diabetes, endometriosis, and early signs of puberty are among the escalating conditions thought to be toxic reactions to diet. Industry leaders haven’t made it easy for us to determine which food additives are harmful. In the United States, up to 99 per cent of ingredients in any product can be exempt from labels on the basis of trade secrecy laws if they are classified as “inert” (non active) or “other”. This goes for household cleaning products, pesticides, cosmetics, food and drinks. Usually inert additives lend themselves to prolonging the shelf life of products, making it easier to apply, etc. Fragrances, for example, would be an example of an inert ingredient. When it comes to food packaging, what is made evident to consumers on the surface is the fact that our diet pop has only one calorie, is sugar free, and is deliciously refreshing. This might sound appealing to someone who has never Googled aspartame, the artificial sweetener connected with birth defects, depression, chronic fatigue, brain tumours and epilepsy—so the product won’t make you fat, but it might give you cancer. The popularity of this sweetener, used in a variety of chewing gum, cereals, and drinks increased alongside a 10 per cent increase of brain cancer among Americans. Safe alternatives to this sweetener do exist, but unfortunately, the US-based Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t want any part of it. A natural, calorie-free sweetener called Stevia, used in South Africa since the 1970s, and widely tested in labs in Japan, hasn’t displayed any reason to be deemed unfit for human consumption. Still, it was banned by the FDA in 1994. The potential for competition between Stevia and Aspartame was suppressed by the FDA perhaps to maintain market monopolies. The food industry, like any other competitive market, is driven by economic principles. The path of least resistance often involves synthesized foods. This fact is evident in any average grocery store, where an estimated 70 per cent of the processed foods contain at least one genetically engineered ingredient that has never been tested for harm, and labels say nothing about those additives. Ingredients may be protected from imitation by competitors simply by not listing them on the label as a way to hide their special chemical ingredients from view. But even if all ingredients were listed,
how would consumers know which chemicals are safe? Furthermore, how would we know how the chemicals would react with the ones already inside us? The safety of a food additive isn’t something we can personally check. It requires an extensive scientific process. The conditions that make life in the Western world so profitable for the food industry are evident in the cycle of inadequate nutrition and synthetic solutions. It starts with a weakening of the immune system, combined with the employment of synthetic chemical additives designed to “remedy” the problem. Marketing a disease is the best way to market a drug—in the form of an antioxidant rich tea to cleanse our systems, or omega3 induced eggs to make us stronger. The list of fortified foods on the market is too extensive to even begin to name. The technological advancements of our culture are incredibly effective at helping us feel better in the short term, but we fail when it comes to attacking the root cause of illness. “Fortified” foods exist in abundance, with the aim of boosting up the body with the vitamins it needs. But enriched white bread, for example, using flour that has been robbed of over 20 nutrients in the refinement process, can call itself enriched when manufacturers throw a few of them back in afterwards. In truth, processed foods like white bread begin losing essential nutrients right from the soil the moment they are sprayed with pesticides. Synthetic vitamin supplements in the form of are also a popular way of attaining the essential nutrients. But do our bodies notice the difference between a synthesized vitamin and a naturally occurring one? Synthetic vitamin C is primarily ascorbic acid, made from cornstarch, corn sugar and volatile acids mixed and fermented. There is more to a vitamin than just these substances. In addition to ascorbic acid, real Vitamin C must contain a series of naturally occurring compounds like bioflavonoids (pigments), tannins, rutin, and others. The body is designed to absorb the compounds of the natural vitamin, and it does respond more actively to it. The nutritional information on any packaged food label reveals our technical perception of food. We have broken it down entirely into numbers and percentages. But food is much more than the sum of its nutrient parts, and a diet is more than the sum of its nutrient foods. Our preoccupation with breaking up chemical compounds demonstrates the fact that our food ideology ignores any attempt at holistic health. Regardless of calories, daily activity, how much or how little we eat, we can’t consume chemicals if we want to be healthy. And we can’t rely solely on the FDA or the government to protect us. The modern Western food industry has engineered a cycle of poor health that, if we are not careful, could be the end of us.
RYERSON Whether you are new or returning, the Ryerson Free Press has compiled our Top Five Top Fives to help ease your transition from summer fun to fall depression
top 5 frEE plaCES By Nora Loreto, Editor in Chief
#5 lESlIE SpIt ACTIVITy: Walk or bike the leslie Street Spit lOCATION: East end of Toronto, South of Queen Street on leslie Street WhAT’S FuN ABOuT IT: For everyone who grew up playing in fields, forests or industrial parks grown over by nature, the leslie Street Spit can provide a similar experience. This five kilometre stretch is perfect to walk, bike or ride while catching a great view of the downtown. Cars aren’t allowed on the Spit, which alone makes it stand out for Toronto attractions. The Spit is home to hundreds of species of birds, plants, reptiles and other animals that you wont find at Moss Park. WhAT’S NOT: Because of it’s location at the end of the Queen St. streetcar line, east of the downtown, few Ryerson students venture out to the Spit. ONlINE: check out www.trca.on.ca for the City of Toronto conservation site or www.friendsofthespit.ca for a site made and for people who love going there.
#4 KEnSIngton marKEt ACTIVITy: Take an afternoon and explore kensington Market lOCATION: Between dundas and College Streets, just west of Spadina (behind Chinatown) WhAT’S FuN ABOuT IT: There is no other market like kensington in Toronto. Perfect for people watching, window shopping, or exploring shops for unique items, kensington reminds pedestrians of a time before Toronto was dominated by malls and transnational corporations. kensington Market is perfect for anyone who is looking to get lost in a crowd for a few hours. Take your time as you stroll through vintage clothing stores, organic food shops and army surplus stores. On many Sundays throughout the year, the streets are closed to car traffic and pedestrians are free to walk on the streets without fear of cars zipping by. Take in the rich history of Toronto’s working class by observing the remaining examples of Jewish, Portugese, Carribbean and East Asian life in the Market, over its century of existence. WhAT’S NOT: Many of the shops cater to a clientele with lots of money to spend. Before sitting down to eat, check the menu to ensure the cost is within your budget. ONlINE: www.kensington-market.ca
#3 YorK UnIVErSItY oBSErVatorY ACTIVITy: Watch the stars from the york Observatory lOCATION: Fourth floor, Petrie building at york university (keele and Steeles) WhAT’S FuN ABOuT IT: For all Ryerson students who cannot be bothered to travel downtown when it’s not for class, the york Observatory offers a unique way to spend a Monday night. At the york Observatory, visitors can look at the stars through a powerful telescope, learn about stars and other celestial bodies, and even set up their own camera to capture photos of the moon through the telescope. Visitors will leave with a powerful reminder of how Toronto’s light pollution has obscured the night-sky, and how beautiful stars still are. Be sure to check the schedule as visitor times change with every season, to move with seasonal patterns. WhAT’S NOT: The Observatory is located at york university. ONlINE: http://astronomy.blog.yorku.ca/public-viewing/
#2 natIonal fIlm Board SCrEEnIngS ACTIVITy: Free movies produced by the NFB lOCATION: 150 John Street at Richmond WhAT’S FuN ABOuT IT: If you like to catch a movie once in a while, but are tired of shilling out tons of money to Cineplex and AMC, the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada is the place to go. The NFB provides free access to documentaries, short films and animations through their website. Just search the film’s name, director or by keyword to find and download a unique film that will likely make you think. If you’re looking to head out, go to the NFB Mediatheque, located at 150 John Street at Richmond. For $2, you can watch any of the 5,000 films available. Can’t agree with your friends? There are group and individual viewing areas available. Be sure to watch out for classic childhood animations, like the Log Driver’s Waltz. WhAT’S NOT: Make sure to double check hours before heading down and finding that they’re closed. ONlINE: www.nfb.ca
#1 toronto ISland ACTIVITy: Spend the day away from the city lOCATION: head south down any street in Toronto, you’ll eventually hit it. The end of Bay Street is where you can catch a ferry. WhAT’S FuN ABOuT IT: For anyone who needs to be reminded what a group of trees looks like, the island is a perfect destination. While getting to the island is likely not free (unless you have an uncle who owns a canoe that you can borrow), the activities on the island certainly are. Pack a lunch and your bathing suit and you can spend a beautiful day on a sunny beach. Or, bring a book and sit at one of the many secluded picnic benches that face the city’s skyline. The Toronto Island is also a great spot to watch airplanes come in and go from the Island Airport, or the sun set over lake Ontario. The island is also a great place to bike, with many paths that will take you around the island. WhAT’S NOT: While the island is free, the ferry ticket costs money. Once there, don’t miss the last one. Also, watch out for hanlan’s Point: unless you want to find a nude beach, I say avoid it. ONlINE: http://www.toronto.ca/parks/island/
PhOTO TAkEN FROM TORONTO ISlANdS: MEdMOISEllE T/FlICkR
top 5 CHEap EatS Where to ﬁll your belly without breaking the bank By Arti Patel
#5 Hot dog StandS on CampUS lOCATION: On campus, Gould Street, Victoria Street and Church Street MOST POPulAR ITEMS: All beef hot dogs, chicken dogs, sausages and veggie dogs PRICE RANGE: less than $5 for an entire meal Why WE lIkE IT: “The one in front of the library has cheese, which is very special,” said Joshua Ary, 19, a second-year film student at Ryerson. Why WE dON’T: Consider the smell of your breath after eating an overload of onions.
#4 alI BaBa’S mIddlE EaStErn CUISInE lOCATION: 229 Church Street MOST POPulAR ITEMS: Everyday of the week specials including “two-for-one” and “buy one, get one 50% off ” PRICE RANGE: On a weekday get two menu items for under $9 Why WE lIkE IT: “I used to go there at least two times a week. It’s hot and fresh, and there’s good customer service. They will always give you extra,” said Ali khan, a fourthyear business management student. Why WE dON’T: you might not always have another person to share the “two-forone” deal with. And there’s sometimes a line-up, especially on Monday and Wednesday when two shawarmas sell for $7.99.
#3 SUBWaY lOCATION: 78 dundas Street East MOST POPulAR ITEMS: Pizza subs, cold-cut subs, turkey, baked cookies and refillable drinks PRICE RANGE: $5 to $7 for a foot-long sub, six-inch sub or a combo Why WE lIkE IT: you never will feel guilty eating a sub, customized exactly the way you want it, including all toppings. “It’s cheap and healthy. I am always there during the school year,” said Raj Ramgobin, a third-year civil engineering student. you can also find Subway coupons, including “two-for-one” deals inside the 2009 Ryerson Student Guide. Why WE dON’T: The choices can seem repetitive, especially if you’re a vegetarian or don’t eat certain types of meats.
#2 Salad KIng lOCATION: 335 yonge Street MOST POPulAR ITEMS: Pad Thai, green chicken curry, spicy tofu with rice, rainbow chicken PRICE RANGE: less than $9 for a full meal Why WE lIkE IT: It’s right on campus, literally two steps away from the library Building. The portion sizes are reasonable and you can choose how spicy you want your dish, through Salad king’s chillies scale. Why WE dON’T: It gets crowded and very busy during rush hour times. you may even have to wait in line.
#1 mamma’S pIZZa lOCATION: 334 yonge Street MOST POPulAR ITEMS: devil’s delight, pepperoni, vegetarian and pastas PRICE RANGE: Pizza starts at $3 Why WE lIkE IT: Every Ryerson student can receive a free pop if they show their One Card. “The pizza size is very sufficient,” said Muna Misarwala, a fourth-year student in business management. Why WE dON’T: There really is no room to eat. The pizza store is tiny; only about two people can order at once.
PhOTO: dAN RIOS
top 5 StUdY ZonES Find the peace and quiet you need to ace your next mid-term By Arti Patel
#5 rYErSon lIBrarY, EIgHtH floor lOCATION: library Building, 350 Victoria Street PEOPlE yOu MIGhT BuMP INTO: Focused students who will not even tolerate whispering Why WE lIkE IT: “I usually have a spot behind the pillars, so I can’t see anyone. Students there don’t let you make noise,” said Muneeb Fariq, 22, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student. Why WE dON’T: Good luck trying to find seats during exam time, or sneaking in a snack.
#4 SallY HorSfall Eaton (SHE) CEntrE, SIXtH floor loBBY lOCATION: 99 Gerrard Street East PEOPlE yOu MIGhT BuMP INTO: Early childhood education students Why WE lIkE IT: The ShE building includes both tables and comfy seats, and features a floor-to-ceiling view of the city. Why WE dON’T: When it’s sunny, the room is very bright. Be prepared for the noise of a lot of traffic in the hallways.
#3 rYErSon SCHool of BUSInESS BUIldIng, SECond floor (EIgHtH floor) lOCATION: 575 Bay Street PEOPlE yOu MIGhT BuMP INTO: Very quiet business management students who will not tolerate any noise, including cell phones Why WE lIkE IT: “There are seats and tables and a great view of the busy street intersections,” said second-year business management student Shaker Ahmed. This study spot is tucked behind the hallway, allowing you to study away from the busy lobby. Why WE dON’T: It can get crowded during exam time, and the sun may not be in everyone’s favour.
#2 StUdEnt CEntrE, BaSEmEnt lOCATION: Student Campus Centre, basement floor, under the stairs PEOPlE yOu MIGhT BuMP INTO: Not many people using this spot to study. Why WE lIkE IT: “It’s really quiet at times and people don’t bother you. Many don’t even know about it. I even hang out there,” said Marcia Rodrigues, 19, a second-year student at Ryerson. Why WE dON’T: There can be distractions from the printing zones and the used Book Room across from the couches.
#1 rYErSon arCHItECtUrE BUIldIng StUdIo lOCATION: 325 Church Street People you might bump into: Students who are willing to chat and study, and architecture students, of course. Why we like it: “It’s easy to find people and to study in groups. you can also sleep there once in a while,” said Jimmy Tang, a third-year architecture student. Why we don’t: It might not be ideal if you want to study in a quiet environment, or alone for that matter.
PhOTO OF ARChITECTuRE BuIldING STudIO: dAN RIOS
top 5 Hot ISSUES Ryerson is at the heart of all kinds of political movements and progressive struggles. Get involved, and show your support for social justice! By James Clark, Features and Opinions Editor
#5 tamIl SolIdarItY Why IT MATTERS: Currently, over 300,000 Tamils remain detained by the Sri lankan government in concentration camps following the recent war. human rights groups are calling for the camps to be shut down, and for aid organizations and journalists to be given access to all those detained. hOW TO GET INVOlVEd: On campus, contact the Ryerson Tamil Students’ Association (RyeTSA). Or join CanadianhART, the humanitarian Appeal for the Relief of Tamils. ONlINE: firstname.lastname@example.org and http://www.tamilidpcrisis.org/ (CanadianhART) RECENT VICTORIES: Toronto’s Tamil community recently put itself—and the issue of Tamil oppression—on the map, following massive city-wide demonstrations, including the historic occupation of the Gardiner Expressway on May 10, 2009.
#4 BoYCott, dIVEStmEnt and SanCtIonS (BdS) CampaIgn agaInSt ISraElI apartHEId Why IT MATTERS: This international, non-violent movement has fast been winning support all over the world, drawing attention to Israel’s violations of international law and standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people. hOW TO GET INVOlVEd: Join Ryerson’s Solidarity for Palestinian human Rights (SPhR) or Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA). ONlINE: email@example.com and http://www.caiaweb.org/campuscommittee RECENT VICTORIES: Student unions across Canada have passed resolutions to support the “Right to Education Campaign in Palestine”—to protest Israel’s war on Gaza.
#3 CoUntEr-rECrUItmEnt on CampUS Why IT MATTERS: As tuition fees continue to skyrocket, the Canadian Armed Forces is trying to entice students into the military—with the promise of cash for education. This campaign alerts students to the risks of joining the Army, and why it’s no answer to declining funding for post-secondary education. hOW TO GET INVOlVEd: Contact Ryerson Students Against War: ryesaw@gmail. com. ONlINE: http://operationobjection.org/ (Operation Objection) RECENT VICTORIES: The last time the Army came to campus to recruit, its representatives were met by dozens of students who organized a counter-protest. No one signed up to join, and most passers-by expressed their opposition to the war in Afghanistan.
#2 ClImatE CHangE Why IT MATTERS: Even Stephen harper admits that climate change is a problem, and students have a big part to play in fighting it. From developing green technologies in their research to helping the university reduce its carbon footprint, Ryerson students are already shifting the campus to a cleaner, greener way of student-life. hOW TO GET INVOlVEd: On campus, join student-led initiatives to reduce students’ carbon footprint, or to fight for a closed Gould Street. Both RSu and CESAR have sustainability committees that are open for students to join. ONlINE: www.studentsforsustainability.ca RECENT VICTORIES: Many campuses have succeeded in banning bottled water and having more waterfountains built on campus. Students at Ryerson are cloer than ever before in their fight to close Gould Street.
#1 CampaIgn for a poVErtY-frEE ontarIo Why IT MATTERS: It’s not just students who have been affected by the economic crisis, although students have been among the hardest hit. led by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), this campaign seeks to unite students with broader forces off campus— social justice groups, trade unions, anti-poverty organizations—into a province-wide movement to make Ontario poverty-free. hOW TO GET INVOlVEd: Join the city-wide drop Fees campaign, led by Ryerson students and students from campuses across the city. Regular meetings take place at Ryerson. ONlINE: http://www.dropfees.ca RECENT VICTORIES: Over 6,000 students demonstrated in last year’s drop Fees mobilization in Toronto, and occupied the intersection of College and university, to protest rising tuition fees and to demand increased access to high quality post-secondary education.
top 5 CampUS groUpS From defending students’ rights to throwing the best parties on campus, these groups will maximize your student experience at Ryerson. By James Clark, Features and Opinions Editor
#5 tHE rSU EVEntS and EntErtaInmEnt CommIttEE WhAT ThEy dO: This open committee of the Ryerson Students’ union allows all students to participate in planning and executing RSu events. While members of the RSu Board have voting rights, all Ryerson students can come and make suggestions for new events that RSu can organize. The RSu organizes large scale events, like the Parade and Picnic, and smaller events, like weekly pub nights at the Ram in the Rye. WhERE TO FINd ThEM: lise de Montbrun, the vice-president of student life and events is your best connection to this committee. you can find her office on the third floor of the Student Centre, room 311. Tell her the Ryerson Free Press sent you. If you can’t find lise, Sean Carson is the Events and Entertainment Commissioner and can normally be found in Pitman hall. ONlINE: www.rsuonline.ca and go to events. kEy CAMPAIGNS: The E&E Committee exists to make your time at Ryerson more fun. The annual Parade and Picnic on Friday Sept. 11 is the largest event for the committee, but just one of many events that are held throughtout the year.
#4 rYErSon StUdEntS agaInSt War (rYESaW) WhAT ThEy dO: RyeSAW is part of Toronto’s anti-war movement, and works closely with the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War on all peace-related issues—from the “war on terror” to Palestine solidarity to redirecting military funding for education. drop fees, not bombs! WhERE TO FINd ThEM: RyeSAW meets every month, usually at the CESAR office, Student Centre, third floor ONlINE: firstname.lastname@example.org kEy CAMPAIGNS: Ending Canada’s war in Afghanistan, supporting uS Iraq War resisters seeking refuge in Canada, and keeping military recruiters off campus
#3 YoUr CoUrSE UnIon WhAT ThEy dO: Ok, so this is kind of a cop out, as there exists a course union for every single program at Ryerson. Not sure who your program representatives are? Go to your program administrator and ask. Course unions provide students with the chance to meet other students in the same program, events that are specific to your field of study, and a program-specific advocate to make changes to your program that better meet students’ needs. If it doesn’t look as if your program has a course union, contact RSu or CESAR and ask. If you find out that your program doesn’t have a course union, start one! WhERE TO FINd ThEM: Course union offices are located all over campus, and some course unions don’t have offices. If your program assistant doesn’t know where your course union is located, contact either the RSu or CESAR. ONlINE: depends on your program. Start by Googling it. kEy CAMPAIGNS: Many course unions work to raise awareness of issues that affect students in their programs. Students have been able to win more student space, changes to program curricula and other issues that are identified by students within a program.
#2 tHE ContInUIng EdUCatIon StUdEntS’ aSSoCIatIon of rYErSon (CESar) or tHE rYErSon StUdEntS’ UnIon (rSU) WhAT ThEy dO: CESAR and RSu together represent all full-time, part-time, undergraduate and graduate students at Ryerson university, and are both member locals of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). CESAR and RSu fight for accessible, high quality post-secondary education in Ontario and across Canada, and defend students’ rights on campus. WhERE TO FINd ThEM: Student Campus Centre (SCC), 55 Gould Street, third floor ONlINE: http://mycesar.org (CESAR) and http://www.rsuonline.ca (RSu) kEy CAMPAIGNS: drop Fees (http://www.dropfees.ca) and the Task Force on Campus Racism (http://www. noracism.ca)
#1 tHE rYErSon frEE prESS WhAT ThEy dO: Well, considering that we’re ranking the best groups on campus, we think it makes sense to promote this paper as our top pick! The Ryerson Free Press is a monthly student newspaper that has been around for 20 years. We gather stories that are written by students and non-students alike about issues that matter to them. We try to promote human rights and believe that students need to have a forum to voice opinions that they cannot find in the mainstream media or other campus press. unsure if you want to become a writer? We can help you through writing a story, no matter what your experience has been. WhERE TO FINd ThEM: Third floor of the Student Centre, room 301. ONlINE: www.ryersonfreepress.ca/site or email us at email@example.com kEy CAMPAIGNS: Produce a quality monthly newspaper that engages Ryerson students.
PhOTO: dAN RIOS
fInd tHE WHolE World In toronto’S nEIgHBoUrHoodS The Ryerson Free Press proﬁles three Toronto neighbourhoods near the Ryerson campus: Kensington Market, Cabbagetown and the Annex By Kevin Young
f you can’t afford a flight to Europe, don’t worry. you can walk there from Ryerson! Well, at least you’ll get a taste of it once you take a stroll through kensington Market. This European-feel marketplace, located right off Spadina Avenue in Chinatown, is home to more than just bohemians and funky hipsters. Graffiti is visible in many parts of the Market, but don’t let that be your only impression. This unique tourist attraction and its narrow streets are packed with tiny cafés, vintage clothing boutiques, fresh produce stands and even an unused car that’s been transformed into a garden with green life sprouting from its windows and soil-filled trunk. Now that’s something you don’t see everyday. The aroma of spices and baked goods wafts through the air as you wander the one-way streets. The neighbourhood’s trademark reggae music reverberates throughout the market and can be heard from afar. This distinctive multicultural community is home to ethnic groups from all over the world, whose presence is visible to any visitor. The Market is one of Toronto’s oldest neighbourhoods, where waves of immigrants have come and gone throughout the years. For some time, kensington Market was known as the “Jewish Market” as many Jewish immigrants settled in and around the area in the beginning of the 20th century. The Minsk Congregation Synagogue, built in 1930, is a lasting reminder of the community’s contribution to the Market’s striking diversity. The area remains home to many immigrants and working-class families. The mixture of cultures in the neighbourhood is a reflection of the city as a whole, which is sometimes seen as a miniature Toronto. Many notable figures have emerged from the Market. Toronto’s former mayor, Mel lastman, was born and raised there, along with beloved Canadian actor Al Waxman who immortalized the Market in the CBC series The King of Kensington. Artists and musicians remain a popular part of the Market, and are always visible performing on its small streets. On “Pedestrian Sunday,” a car-free festival celebrated on the last Sunday of the month, the Market’s roads are closed to traffic, allowing residents and visitors to take over the streets, enjoy live music and street performances, and share eclectic food.
n the other side of Toronto’s downtown is the Annex, where you can live large, literally. But living in massive sized Victorian- and Edwardian-style homes built between the late 1800s and early 1900s comes with a hefty price. here, homes are among the most expensive in Toronto. This affluent part of Toronto is considered home for much of the city’s elite, both past and present. located on the west side of downtown, the Annex is framed by dupont Street to the north, Bathurst Street to the west, Bloor Street to the south and Avenue Road to the east. The Annex is mostly a residential neighbourhood with many one-way streets that are surrounded by mansion-like homes and towering trees. here, like Cabbagetown, homeowners are sitting on pots of gold: homes sell on average at the $1 million-mark. located near the university of Toronto, many of these enormous homes are subdivided into smaller rooms for students that attend the nearby institution. The main artery of this neighbourhood, Bloor Street, is where many pubs, bookstores and late night sushi restaurants call home. yorkville, situated east of the Annex and Seaton village (to its west), is also considered part of the neighbourhood. The stretch on Bloor Street going west is where many notable stores such as honest Ed’s reside. Further west and you’ll arrive in what is also known as “little korea” or “koreatown”. Many korean cafés, restaurants and food markets make this area of town home. To the east on Bloor Street toward yorkville, many upscale restaurants and brand-name boutiques are favourite shopping spots for Torontonians. despite today’s high-end feel in yorkville, this part of town used to be a run-down hippie haven back in the 1960s. Considered the birthplace of bohemian culture and the one-time Canadian capital of the hippie movement, yorkville was once the place where famous figures like Neil young and Margaret Atwood kick-started their careers.
nother eclectic downtown neighbourhood is Cabbagetown. Just east of the Ryerson campus, Cabbagetown has many faces. And those who live there should know. here, local residents share a not-so-pretty Parliament Street with the gorgeous and expensive homes tucked away just off the bustling main road. Bittersweet you may say. But once you venture off Parliament Street, the beauty in the architecture of 19th century Victorian homes is an instant eye-catcher. The beautifully well-kept gardens, black iron gates and oversized trees line the quiet residential streets as if it were a shiny red carpet. In 2004, much of Cabbagetown was designated a heritage Conservation district where homeowners must limit any major alterations to the exterior of their homes. So if you’re planning to renovate and spice up the curb appeal here, good luck: chances of doing so are slim. As a consequence, residents live in double-faced homes: renovations are permitted at the back of the house, but not at the front, which is protected under its “heritage” designation. Cabbagetown was once a slum to many Irish immigrant inhabitants in the late 19th century. local legend has it that Cabbagetown derived its name from these inhabitants who were so poor that they grew cabbages to eat in their front yards. Although Cabbagetown is no longer considered a slum, it’s still home to many of Toronto’s poor. This might be the result of Cabbagetown’s location next to the infamous neighbourhood of Regent Park, a public housing community, along with the housing complexes of St. James Town. The area is one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in Canada. In the late 1940s, parts of Cabbagetown were razed to make room for Regent Park, which again, is getting another facelift almost 60 years later. This neighbourhood is also home to Wellesley Park, Riverdale Farm, Necropolis and St. James Cemetery. A real hidden gem is Wellesley Park, just east off Parliament Street. here, residents have the best of both worlds. This undiscovered park is surrounded by leafy greens that shut out the city’s blaring sounds, and sits just down the street from the big hectic city. Cabbagetown attracts people from well outside the neighbourhood. The annual Cabbagetown Festival, hosted in September, and regular walking tours of the neighbourhood are just a couple of the popular events that draw people to the area year after year.
he bright morning rays shoot through the window of the diner and into the dark brown eyes of Jermaine Bagnall. As he considers a question put forth to him by a reporter during an early breakfast, he runs his large palms over the top of his closely shorn hair. A deep one-line wrinkle on his forehead sinks in, as it often does when he weighs his thoughts before he speaks. Without warning, his slumped, lanky body stretches out, showing off his bright yellow sneakers, nudging towards the table, holding a steady gaze all the while. “It’s going to be a tough juggle, with this new job and finishing my thesis. So it’s going to be pretty intense.” Decked out in a slate grey sweater with a lime green dress shirt peeking out at the collar, his long arm reaches out and strokes the back of his head once more. A short pause fills the air before he speaks again. “Now I just need to find a way to get sponsored by Red Bull.” Without missing a beat, a big grin flashes across his face, with big dimples imprinted on his hazel brown skin. Jermaine Bagnall sure has a lot to do nowadays, but he hasn’t let the best of it get to him—yet. The “new job” that Bagnall, 27, is referring to is president of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), a job that carries the responsibility of working with the university to achieve its ambitious goals, but also of making sure that the students’ interests are, first and foremost, protected. The election of Bagnall during February’s student union elections marks a groundbreaking moment in Ryerson history. He is the first graduate student and the first Black student to be elected as president of the RSU. He quickly dispels comparisons that have been made between him and another Black male recently elected president. “It’s something to be proud about but there’s a huge difference in what we’re doing. I’m president of the RSU. Barack Obama? President of the United States of America! No comparison!” Bagnall says. And that’s Bagnall. At turns self-deprecating, he quips that following him around for a day “is really not all that exciting.” A particular moment of embarrassment that Bagnall recalls from the campaign was seeing his face splashed across the face of t-shirts. “I definitely did not approve of that campaign move,” Bagnall says, shaking his head as he rubs the side of his stubble-strewn cheek. Sitting over a plate of pancakes, trading quips, Bagnall, a self-professed “bookworm,” is loose and friendly, fully at ease with himself, easily blending into the surroundings, no matter the age, race or gender. Hard work for a guy that stands six-foot-seven! Nowhere is that more clear than from the number of students and professors he meets and greets on the way to class. He treats each exchange with attention (“I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to the play. But I bet you did awesome!” he tells one student), giving handshakes and even fist bumps. And to make as big an impact as he has, that’s impressive, to say the least—especially on a campus that is notorious for its apathy toward student politics. “I think what distinguishes him is that—for most of us—when we’re getting from point A to B, most of us don’t care about the other people walking around. But Jermaine is legitimately empathetic. And when he sees people, he actually wants to interact with them,” says Mike Sage, a friend and fellow classmate in the Documentary Media graduate program. Sage also says that Bagnall wants to achieve real change for the university, instead of “just padding his C.V.” Listening to Bagnall, you can feel the energy and determination he has for the job, which he took up officially on May 1 this year. His administration has many goals. The most important one, he says, is splitting tuition fees per semester, a campaign that has already been successful. But there also
other aims, such as closing off Gould Street to cars, keeping the library open 24 hours, and getting students more involved in school activities. “You have to aim high. Because if you’re not aiming for it all, what are you doing then?” One of the more interesting storylines may not even be what Bagnall does as president next year, or how he goes about doing it. The question may be whether or not Bagnall can now separate the public persona he has to take on as “Jermaine the President”—speaking in non-committal phrases, showing some reserve—from the real Jermaine—the engaging, hardworking and eloquent guy that he is. American author Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote: “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.” So which face is Bagnall going to wear? “I’ve never juggled multiple personalities, where you’re one way with one set of people, different with another group of people. That, to me, is just too confusing. So I will continue to just be me. And hopefully that’s enough,” he says. He also brushes off any concerns that friends may have of him changing from who he is now, saying, “People always change. I know I’m not going to be the same person a year from now. So I’m not worried about it.”
While some are surprised that Bagnall has risen so quickly through Ryerson’s political ranks, Professor Michal Conford, who teaches in Bagnall’s documentary thesis class, is not. “You can see the ambition in him. For his thesis film, he chose to cover what’s going on in New Orleans after [Hurricane] Katrina. He could’ve copped out and done something a lot easier. But he is a serious, dedicated student. “He wants to engage with the larger world. But with this presidential job, it will be a difficult balance. It will be challenging, let’s put it that way,” Conford said. Bagnall says that he eventually wants to work on documentaries full-time after graduation, the dream job being at CBC’s Fifth Estate program. But at the moment, he is thinking about little else other than the huge task ahead. For any leader, part of the job is to manage the egos and opinions that will come left, right and centre—from advisors and from the opposition. But whenever there has been a storm that has started brewing, Bagnall exudes a calming presence that lets cooler heads prevail. “People are going to disagree and that’s fine. But where I have an issue is where people start personalizing it. ‘You don’t agree on politics? Cool.’ But don’t turn around and disrespect someone. And I’ve called people out on it in meetings before. “But it’s not to agitate [others]. I want a working environment where we can agree to disagree,” Bagnall says. That’s part of the reason that Bagnall ran for office to begin with. Last year, he attended a board of directors meeting and was shocked by the shouting matches that occurred. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ … I feel like we haven’t even tapped into a sliver of the potential of the things we could’ve done this past year. So I’m really hoping we can do amazing things next year.” He’s now the face of the RSU, and that has its perks and detractions. While the going is good, praise will be heaped upon you. But in tougher times, it’s your head that’s on the chopping block. Bagnall experienced early on some criticism by the campus media—and that was before he even took office! While waiting for any sign that Bagnall would blow his cool-headed demeanor when the subject of attacks by Ryerson’s newspapers is brought up, I see none—not even an uncomfortable shift in his seat, say, or an impatient frown. “A big part of my job is to listen to what the students say, keeping my ear to the ground. And I will listen because I’m going to make mistakes. But if people have to make up stuff to attack what we’re doing, then that definitely means we’re doing good work.” Using his disarming wit to make the situation lighter, he says that he may even start a scrapbook collection for all the potshots that will be taken. And while Bagnall may have all the tools and the support system to become a great president for the RSU and all its students, perhaps the most encouraging sign is that he keeps it all in perspective. He doesn’t stroke the back of his head, and the deep wrinkle in his forehead doesn’t form this time around. This time, he is absolutely certain about what he is saying. This job isn’t really about him. “The president doesn’t need the big corner office. He just needs to do the work.” Visit Jermaine’s profile on the RSU website: http://www. rsuonline.ca/
Jermaine Bagnall, RSU president By Adrian Cheung
PHOTO: DAN RIOS
My aDventURe aBRoaD with canaDa woRlD yoUth
By Otiena Ellwand
I aM a celebrity in Indonesia. Sweaty, tired and red, and surrounded by a huge mass of dancers, kids waving flags, reporters, cameras flashing in my face and a language I don’t understand coming at me from all directions. I just got off an airplane. But I’m no celebrity. I’m just an average Canadian who’s taken the plunge, a huge exhilarating leap into the unknown. Since the 1970s, more than 31,000 young people from 67 different countries have participated in this program, called Canada World youth (CWy). The founder, former Canadian Senator Jacques hébert, hoped to offer young people the chance to expand their understanding of the world and its people as a way of promoting world peace. last October, far from Toronto, I found myself in the small town of Truro, Nova Scotia, living on a farm with 13 other people. For the next three months, I’d be living with this unconventional family and volunteering at a work placement in town, becoming best friends with a group of complete strangers— nine Canadians age 17 to 25 and nine young people from the partner country— all my fellow CWy participants. I was paired up with an Indonesian counterpart five years my senior and male; our first challenges. We would be living together for a total of six months, three in Canada and three overseas, learning and helping each other navi-
gate a foreign environment. With our Canadian host family, we were not guests but members, and expected to participate as such. up at 6:30 every morning to catch the school bus—our only way into town to get us to our work placements—the high school kids couldn’t figure us out: “Are they new?” they whispered. On Sundays, we went to church, a first for my Muslim counterpart, as was Thanksgiving with a 35-pound turkey that barely fit into the oven. Then there was the snow… Just when the Indonesian participants thought it couldn’t get any colder, we were airborne, and on the other side of the world. It was the Canadians’ turn to be shocked: “It’s sooooo hot here!” We embarked on the second phase of our program in a remote village, on a tiny island, off of the northern coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. As soon as my feet touched the ground, I’d reached celebrity status— they’d never seen a Caucasian person before—let alone one who could sing along to a couple Indonesian pop songs. Three months living with a new host family and volunteering in a new host community began—bringing with it a whole lot of surprises: a pineapple for 40 cents, how the dominant religion of Islam seemed to dictate the daily schedule, and how all of the politicians, as if it were criteria for getting the job, seemed to be good karaoke singers. (Could you imagine harper doing that?)
We kept ourselves busy by teaching English classes, building a solar oven, and organizing events such as a waste management program and an anti-smoking campaign, among other endeavors. how the East and West exist at the same time on the same sphere sometimes seems baffling. They are two very different places. But as I got to know the people and communities around me better, I was reminded that we are all human with many of the same needs, desires and values. I gained an understanding, respect and love for a culture that is not my native one and, at the same time, I felt a renewed appreciation and pride for where I come from. I feel extremely lucky to have experienced what I did, most of which I can barely begin to describe here. If you want to see two parts of the world and meet incredible people whom you could never imagine existed, if you want your life to be stretched in ways it has never been before, if you want to meet 17 new best friends, and learn the workings of a new language, I challenge you to type this into your address bar: www.canadaworldyouth.org. To paraphrase the words of uS President John F. kennedy, ask not what the world can do for you, but what you can do for the world. For more information about Canada World Youth, visit http://www.canadaworldyouth.org
ryerson free press
CULTURE Cameron Bailey reveals how TIFF connects with audiences Toronto International Film Festival takes place from September 10 – 19 By Angela Walcott
Cameron Bailey, co-director of TIFF.
Cameron Bailey started programming for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) back in 1990 and today, as the co-director of TIFF he is at the fore of deciding what audiences will see at the annual festival. Cameron has to narrow down the film selection from 3000 entries to 300 finalists. His work is especially significant since TIFF attracts audiences that bring millions of dollars to the city each year. And Torontonians get so see their city as the backdrop to Hollywood stars and filmmakers. Apart from this, Bailey and the team at TIFF provide both veteran filmmakers and up-and-coming talent a place where stories can be told in new ways. The film selection process involves 21 programmers that fan out across the world. Programmers must keep their ear to the ground and track films while they are in production. With the tracking list, programmers attend major festivals in cities from Dubai to Asia. But it isn’t until the Cannes Film Festival that things begin to heat up. After a 10-year run, TIFF continues to evolve. Thanks to emerging technologies, TIFF fans can keep abreast of behind-the-scenes activities via Cameron Bailey’s Twitter updates. A peak at Bailey’s twitter page reveals the hectic rigor of his job, minute-by-minute, leading up to festival day. With more than 300 films screening at this year’s festival, it is still too early to tell which films will be crowd favorites. In one tweet, Bailey mentioned Phantom Pain, The Disappearance of Alice Creed and Les Derniers Jours du Monde as some of the must see films among this year’s line-up.
The Antichrist is one of the most controversial films in this year’s line-up. It’s the story of a woman who comes to terms with the loss of her baby. In an effort to help her recover her psychologist husband takes her to a secluded cabin to deal with her grief. Bailey examined this film from the critical eye of a film reviewer and as the TIFF co-director. “It is a tough film to watch, but it is audacious film-making,” explained Bailey. “It is a personal vision that reflects the director’s own fears. He is a great artist who is digging deep. It is daring of him to explore male/female relationships and religion as well,” said Bailey. The global economic decline has had a direct impact on TIFF this year, particularly when it came to securing sponsors. Audiences are also spending less, and in response the festival is offering many freebies including free screening events at Yonge-Dundas Square. The economy was also the subject of several films, in particular Michael Moore’s documentary which analyzes the horrors of capitalism. On the other side, Up in the Air, a film by Jason Reichman, shows the values of corporate America and the affects on the soul. Bailey said that TIFF is all about connecting with the audience. “It is what sets TIFF apart from other festivals around the world.” Toronto is the only festival in a big city where the audience is key. It was the audience who awarded the best film prize to Slumdog Millionaire last year and it went on to win several Academy awards. Film is about escapism from a world of oppression and disappointment. The success of the festival comes from the power of filmmakers who dare to express their ideas and as Bailey so aptly puts it, “films will get people talking.”
Comic-Con’s 40th Anniversary By Jessica Finch
Every year in San Diego, California, thousands of comic fans, film lovers and gamers flock to one of the city’s biggest events: Comic-Con. The convention celebrates everything from books to television, and gives attendees the inside scoop on their favorite media. For first time ComicConers the event can prove overwhelming as masses of people and extremely long lines may disorient those unfamiliar with the San Diego Convention Centre. Even with the Comic-Con guidebook, given out on the first night of the event, getting to specific film panels or finding that piece of Star Trek memorabilia in the exhibition hall can be tough. The film/tv panels and exhibition hall are, without a doubt, the most popular parts of the Con. At the panels, directors and cast discuss the inner workings of their film or tv series and present clips to tantalize fans. While in the exhibition hall, high priced sci-fi toys, t-shirts and comics from a range of artists can be found. Comic-Con is four days of nerdish mayhem, bringing enthusiasts from around the world together to share their love of sci-fi. The event has come a long way since its start in the basement of San Diego’s U.S. Grant Hotel back in 1970. Slight changes have been made over the years, but the Con’s level of quality remains consistent, particularly in the panels. Each film or tv series panel at the Con gives attendees a first hand look at footage from the upcoming projects, but also allows audience feedback via mediated Q&A. The film Twilight was, by far, the most popular panel at the con. Presented in a large hall, that was full to bursting, people got a chance to see a preview of New Moon, the next film in the Twilight saga, and fawn unabashedly over the series’ star Robert Pattinson. Apart from Twilight mania, one of the most intriguing
panels was for Terry Gilliam’s film The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. The film is a fantastical journey into the world of Dr. Parnassus, an old man who runs a traveling side show and sells his daughter’s soul for immortality. On hand to discuss the film were director Terry Gilliam and cast member, Verne Troyer, of Austin Powers fame. The film also stars Christopher Plummer, Colin Farrell and Heath Ledger, in his last performance. As Gilliam described, Heath’s interest in this film was his own, “We didn’t write it with Heath in mind, [Heath] was working on the Joker at the time, but he [read the script], and asked ‘can I play [the character] Tony?’” Gilliam and Ledger had worked together on 2005’s The Brothers Grimm, so they were already familiar with each other’s on set style; “[Heath] was an exceptional actor…he was very old, he always seemed wise beyond his years” states Gilliam. Gilliam said that making this film was certainly a struggle, but with careful maneuvering and a re-write of Heath’s ‘Tony’ character, the film was pulled out of its slump. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus will be in theatres later this year, but the sneak peek gave great insight into the project and the weird mind behind it. Meanwhile in the exhibition hall, comic book artists pedal their latest creations to the teeming masses.
Comic-Con for the novice fan is an experience in itself, but being a comic book writer at the convention is slightly different. For Ben Paddon, web comic writer and first time con exhibitor, the event was the chance of a lifetime. “I love it, [the Con] is great for networking,” he explained. At his small booth near the commemorative t-shirt stand, Paddon talked with interested readers and flipped through his space-themed comic called Jump Start. Currently readers can go to his site www.jump-leads.com for the comic, but Paddon said he hopes to break into TV, with a sitcom that he and a friend are currently writing. And Comic-Coners who plan to attend the convention in 2010, may see Paddon at another booth again, next year with more witty material. As an exhibitor, he doesn’t get time to explore the rest of the convention, but from his booth he made a keen observation about the crowds, “Whoever said geeks are unattractive has never been to a comic convention, because there are some good looking women wearing tight costumes [here], good looking men too.” For those who do plan on going back in July 2010, be prepared. Explore the Con’s website prior to the trip. Prices for next year have already gone up, but, no matter the cost, there will always be immense crowds at this event. Many attendees dress up as their favorite super heroes, so be sure to bring a camera. Comic-con in San Diego is quite an experience, but there is also a similar convention occurring annually in Toronto. The Fan Expo is just as fun and exciting as its San Diego counterpart. For information on Comic-Con in San Diego visit www.comic-con.org, or for Toronto dates and info: www.hobbystar.com/fanexpo.
PHOTO of cameron bailey from twitter.com/CAMERON_TIFF
The Dodos: On song writing, touring and democracy By Stephen Carlick
It took San Francisco trio the Dodos only three years of existence before their second full-length record, Visiter, blew up in 2008, hitting top ten lists in publications across North America. Their third record, Time to Die, will be released on September 15, almost exactly a month before the Dodos roll through Toronto on their 2009 tour. On October 17, you can catch them at Lee’s Palace. In the meantime Dodos singer, Meric Long spoke with the Ryerson Free Press about how the band started, the recording of their new album, and what the future holds for the Dodos. Ryerson Free Press (RFP): Can you pinpoint the moment you knew that you wanted to pursue music? Meric Long (ML): I had a this high school band and we were this weird jazz funk instrumental thing. We had a sax player for a singer and we basically performed at a pep rally in front of the entire school, and afterwards.....people were nice to me and I was like “okay I guess I should keep doing this.” RFP: So last year, when Visiter came out, did you feel kind of vindicated, like “Wow we’re really getting somewhere here, this is coming out like I hoped it would”? ML: The only vindication is that after being told that you can’t play music for a living, you’ve gotten to the point where you’re making a living off of it and you’re still doing what you love and staying true to what you’re doing. It just felt like a mixture of being lucky and vindicated - Being able to silence the doubters by saying “Haha, I had a feeling I’d win the lottery.” RFP: That’s interesting you should mention that – there seems to be a lyrical bent on the album. You question the establishment and talk about doing what seems right, even when it isn’t socially acceptable. Is that something you were thinking about when you were recording Time to Die? ML: Yeah, I would say so, although I didn’t feel as desperate writing this record (as I did with other albums). Since I’d achieved some success with Visiter, I felt like there was a huge weight lifted, and there was more freedom. I could say what I wanted to say. RFP: That shows on the record. It feels looser than Visiter, like you’ve given yourself more space to let the songs play out. ML: Yeah... there wasn’t such hastiness in writing this record and so there isn’t such a feeling of hastiness to the songs. They aren’t necessarily slower, but they feel mellower and more natural. RFP: Was the sound on the album affected by (producer) Phil Ek (Built to Spill, the Shins, etc.) at all? ML: It was both a challenge and a learning experience. We knew for a long time (since 2007) that we were going to be doing this record with him. We gathered from his records
and people that have worked with him that we couldn’t record another album like Visiter with him. We needed to come in more prepared than we had in the past, with finished songs rather than with song ideas that we could flesh out in the studio. This time we came in with songs we were happy with that just needed a little polish. RFP: Which is sort of Phil Ek’s area of expertise... ML: Yeah, you don’t write an experimental album with Phil Ek. We were sort of intimidated, which was good for us because it forced us to step up musically. I had never focused so much on singing as I did before recording with him. RFP: So now that Time to Die is done, are you looking forward to touring, or to maybe writing more songs... Maybe you’ve even thought about the next record? ML: Yeah, I mean... we haven’t played the songs too many times yet, since we’ve only done a handful of festivals over the summer. So I’m very excited to start touring because we have a headlining club tour where we can develop the songs for a live setting. Even in our few summer shows, we’ve gone from just playing the songs and trying to get through them to really performing them and giving them new life. On top of that I’m also excited about getting some new material into the set, because in our latest rehearsals we’ve been writing new songs and figuring out how to use this new third person (Keaton Snider, added to the band in spring of 2009). He’s a great musician, and now (post-Time to Die) we’re doing even more with percussion. We are really excited about the possibilities of what’s happening musically right now between the three of us. We said “this tour let’s not be lazy, let’s write and play new material so that by the end of the tour, we have a whole new record’s worth that we could record right away.” RFP: So does that mean the next record will be the product of a more democratic song-writing process? ML: Yeah, Keaton will be a part of the process. He picked up a lot of technical rhythms and skills from his classes at the music conservatory, so I feel like he’ll be integral to the next batch of songs. So yeah, I guess it’ll be more of a democracy.
David Martel keeps you on your toes On the inspirations behind his album I Hardly Knew Me By Adriana Rolston When folk-rock artist David Martel casually asked, “Do I need to put my pants on?” at the onset of our phone interview it was a bit tricky to decipher if he was joking. But that’s Martel’s style, keeping you on your toes with strange quips on or off stage. The musician with his roots planted in Quebec released his first album, I Hardly Knew Me with Kindling Music in 2008. With it, he received the applause of the Canadian indie music scene for his self-dubbed “epic-folk-pop” style that resembles a mixture of Jeff Buckley and Iron and Wine. When asked how to describe the album’s sound Martel replied, “Well it’s pretty much the fulfillment of all your hopes and dreams, I guess,” with a chuckle. What Martel does well in I Hardly Knew Me is tell stories through his songs, with slow melodic build ups that swell into epic moments of layered instrumentation and then dwindle down again to mere vocals and guitar. It’s the raw force of his voice that leaves you shell-shocked. After producer David A. Sturton heard his voice in 2006 they decided to work on an album together at his studio in Montreal. Martel was able to enlist a variety of musicians to accompany him on his first solo project and had the freedom to handpick a particular style of accordion, keys, or guitar for each individual track. A year and three months later the result was a stew of soft lullaby-like melodies and passionate rock ballads. Now Martel performs at the helm of The Friend Ship, his band of six, which includes the haunting siren voice of Natasha Lou-Landry. He began collaborating with Lou-Landry after meeting her at one of his solo shows. When he’s not playing with the band the pair often performs together. On August 14 at The Rivoli the duo performed and their voices intermingled like a boisterous thunderstorm followed closely by a calm, sweet rain shower in the song, “Be all, end all.” It’s these moments, in his pink button up shirt, jeans and signature grey hat that Martel transforms from the quirky performer to the musician who commands your absolute attention on the stage. “Stop waiting for the sun to rise” he sings, dark eyebrows furrowed in concentration, bearded jaw tight, teeth clenched, as the climax of the song erupts and a fit of sounds halfway between a hum and a moan burst from his lips.
The song dwindles as he repeats, “It’s like a cancer inside,” teetering around the stage like a wind up toy, bending over as his strumming slows and then fast, jarringly. He wrote his first song at the age of 15, a couple years after his mother handed him a classical guitar. “I always knew music was a way I could communicate and I wanted to. You never had to stick a gun to my head to sit in my room and play my guitar and write a song, it’s just something that I did.” Martel’s father is French but he grew up attending English schools. He’s bilingual and likes to reconnect with his French roots in his music. He said when he hits a wall writing in English, then writing in French just seems to work. “I get a lot of crap from people because the grammar is really horrible in what I write, but that’s fine. I tell them that if I corrected it that would be hypocritical because my grammar is terrible,” he said. I Hardly Knew Me was written from past experiences of pain and heartbreak for Martel, but there have been times when creating music has saved his life. “You feel like you’re in a dark room everywhere you go when you’re walking in the street because you just had your heart ripped out. It’s really hard to cope with even the simplest parts of your day. I didn’t know what to do and I grabbed my guitar and I sang my heart out. I’d do that for hours and I’d feel really refreshed. I would get everything out and that was the best way that I had to release and that’s where some of my favourite songs have come out of.” Despite bleak moments Martel has faith in God and wants to leave his stories with an element of hope. Lately his song writing has revolved around the recent pain his family has struggled with. He also said he has reflected a lot on how what we take for granted becomes obvious when we’re tested. He wants his next album to be more joyful and he’ll be touring across Canada in October looking for experiences to fill it with. On stage he often oscillates between the minstrel and the comedian, telling his audience at The Rivoli, “This song is about a man who had love and laughter and then HE LOST IT!” he yells, his pink guitar strap slung over his shoulder. Martel admits to liking attention and being flamboyant in a crowd. But he said when he first started performing he got so nervous that his throat dried up. One day he realized that he wanted to bring something that he wears while playing guitar alone, on stage with him. “I like to wear slippers at home so I tried that out and the first time I did it felt a lot more comfortable, and it was a really great night. I’m very free on stage with my slippers,” he said.
Ryerson Free Press september 2009 21
MUSIC Weirdo, pseudo-hip-hop bands goes pop, sacrifices nothing Why? – Eskimo Snow
came across Why? last year when their album Alopecia alienated me so much that I nearly gave up on the album. I nearly consigned it to my laptop’s recycle bin, where it would never be heard again. But I didn’t. There was something that called me back to it. It was partly the laid-back, cool timbre of Yoni Wolf ’s distinct voice. It was partly the infectiousness of his subtle melodies, but mostly, it was the shocking honesty that Wolf imbued his lyrics with. His lyrics had so much sincerely that you believed that he really was the depraved characters his lyrics detailed so thoroughly. Eskimo Snow is far more accessible than Alopecia; there is less of Wolf ’s sing-speak rapping and more upbeat, melodic songs, but most importantly, Wolf remains genuine and aloof,
Nothing new except disappointment from indie stalwarts Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs
Branching out” is hard to do when you’ve been a band for longer than a decade. So it’s safe to say that after twenty years, Yo La Tengo have musically speaking turned over every leaf (pardon the pun) they’re ever going to. Popular Songs finds Yo La Tengo continuing from where 2006’s I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass left off, with its relative muscularity, decreased eccentricity, and higher fidelity than their previous output. Though whether or not these can be considered accolades is debatable, as a large portion of Yo La Tengo’s success can be attributed to the spontaneity found on prior releases. This same musical charm is largely absent from their more recent
catalogue, Popular Songs. New listeners will find plenty to enjoy here, as even at their worst, Yo La Tengo can still write a decent pop song. However, casual listeners and even long-time fans may be put off by the lack of ideas and quirkiness that once defined the band; I’d be surprised to see even the most hardcore devotee stick around for the last three songs which, at a whopping 37 minutes of mostly jamming, account for over half of the entire album’s length. Popular Songs is a collection of fey melodies that lack the passion, musical focus, and complexity to differentiate them from the mushy pile of twee bands that Yo La Tengo themselves inspired. Rating: C+ —SC
Emotionless self-indulgent bootlegs from Jack and Meg White of the White Stripes Dead Weather – Horehound
he popular phrase goes that you can either see the glass at half full or half empty. But even if you think it’s half full, you’ve admitted that only 50 percent of your glass is full, and that’s pretty pathetic. If water was effort and commitment, saying the Dead Weather’s glass was half full would be an overstatement. Advocates will boast that the album was written and recorded in just less than three weeks, but that should hardly come as a surprise: the songs are meandering, lazy and emotionless, half-baked quasi-songs that sound like they were recorded by the White Stripes while drunk. Even the lyrics feel tacked-on and meaningless (“I like
bonding with the listener through his engaging and convincing firstperson narratives. Musically, the album is simultaneously epic and understated. The songs are arranged sparsely, never being overcrowded by too many ideas, meaning that Wolf ’s voice can take centre stage even when the songs’ baroque instrumentation reaches epic pinnacles, such as on album highlight “Against Me.” However, it is perhaps during the ballad “This Blackest Purse” that Wolf himself encapsulates the beauty of Eskimo Snow most aptly. He puts the “sharpened steel of truth in every word,” even when he’s only speaking at an “intimate decibel,” only enough for the listener to hear what he’s saying. Rating: A- —Stephen Carlick
to grab you by the hair and drag you down to the devil”), products of spontaneity that might have been fun to participate in but to listen to are alienating and boring to anybody but the most dedicated Jack White fan. The White Stripes are successful because of the passion and dedication to their music that Jack and Meg White show. Horehound, by contrast, feels emotionless and self-indulgent, as if Jack were saying that even when noodling around with friends in his spare time he’s worth recording. It wasn’t, and unless you’re the head of the Jack White fan club, you probably won’t think it was, either. Rating: C- —SC
AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL In only its third year, Toronto’s After Dark Film Festival wrapped up eight nights of new horror, sci-fi, action and cult cinema last month. The festival attracted over 9,000 viewers to Bloor Cinema. Max Arambulo reviews two films from this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival (www.torontoafterdark.com).
he Children is a vicious little British film that follows several young families to rural England for their Christmas celebrations. The parents are good-looking thirty-somethings, each of their grown-up conversations – sex, work, drink – interrupted by an acting-up toddler. One-byone, the children contract a strange virus that makes them murderous towards adults, i.e. their parents. In this context, a simple Christmas dinner scene, each child crying and picking up stray forks and butter knives, is tense and portentous. Here, the young actors are just kids being kids. It’s this naturalism that makes each instance of escalating violence – a mother shoved off an icy jungle gym, a pencil crayon through the eye – truly scary. Horror movies don’t often explore patricide, matricide, and infanticide. These are true taboos. The film, however, doesn’t cross the line. We only get to see the violence in quick, close-up glimpses before a quick cut away. As a result, The Children isn’t just a simple exploitation film, but an allegory about the emotional brutality that exists side-by-side with love in every parent-child relationship.
ichael Jai White is a macho Black action star working in the Will Smith era, where a last man on earth sheds tears for his dead dog. Hollywood isn’t as macho as it used to be. White is an anachronism, best known for playing a sociopathic boxer (HBO’s Tyson) and a soldier-turned-undead superhero (Spawn). He’s a modern-day Fred Williamson, but with a black belt and a sour disposition. Too bad, for him, that they don’t make blaxploitation films like they used to. So White made his own, penning the script for and starring as the titular character in Black Dynamite. Black Dynamite is, director Scott Sanders explained to the Toronto After Dark festival audience, “a powder keg of black fury and if you choose to lose, light the fuse.” When his brother is killed during a drug deal gone wrong, Black Dynamite vows vengeance. But, the murder is just a small part of a conspiracy that leads all the way to the White House. A conspiracy to circulate tainted malt liquor that shrinks the penises of America’s Black men. With its ludicrous plot, a clever mash-up of a hun-
dred blaxploitation films, and ham-it-up performances, the film plays less as a straight action film and more as a tongue-in-cheek homage. Everything that’s exaggerated and larger-than-life in the genre is playfully stretched to absurdity. Think Black Belt Jones is an ass kicker? Black Dynamite kicks through chain-locked apartment doors, sending old women flying. You think Dolemite satisfies the ladies? Black Dynamite puts them to sleep by the half-dozen. Despite the comedy, Sanders and White clearly love the source material. Formally, with its grainy film and bass-line driven soundtrack, the film is a replica of those 70s classics. Of course, the genre isn’t really about formal achievements. They’re about swag. Think Pam Grier in Coffy and Richard Roundtree in Shaft. A blaxploitation film is only as good as its lead actor is bad. And if Michael Jai White is anything, with his deadpan delivery (“I thought I told you honkies from the CIA that Black Dynamite was out of the game”) and beady-eyed stare, he’s a bad mutha.
Ryerson Free Press september 2009 23
Electrifying folk-pop with Au Revoir Simone Q & A with Heather D’Angelo By Adriana Rolston
The electric folk-pop all-women power trio known as Au Revoir Simone has been making sweet music together for six years. Upon first listen to their latest studio album it becomes clear that their instrument of choice – the keyboard – is their unifying forte. Working together, the trio has been steering their own ship of dreamy synth-laden melodies, even while they’ve managed to helm their own record label called Our Secret Record Company. The ladies from this Brooklyn band, Erika Forster (on keyboard and vocals), Annie Hart (also on keyboard and vocals) and Heather D’Angelo (on drum machine, keyboard and vocals) are currently touring in Europe after the release in May of their newest album, Still Night, Still Light. They’re working on a new music video with a director whose name they would not reveal and will be touring a lot more. This year alone the band’s album went on to garner much acclaim, from the likes of The Observer who said it was “An unassuming delight,” to The Times who said the album’s “charms multiply with every listen.” And, CBC Radio’s national arts program, Q, said the album was full of “melody laden loveliness.” In July the band also made an interview spot on BBC 6’s The Hub with George Lamb in London, England. In between shows during their busy last month, D’Angelo, the blogger of the band, was able to thoughtfully answer some of our questions. Ryerson Free Press: How would you describe the sound of Still Night, Still Light? Heather D’Angelo: It’s hard to describe the sound for this album. The three of us don’t re-
first song I heard that really inspired me to learn how to play was Richard Marx’s Wherever You Go, which is kind of (completely) embarrassing. But it had a gorgeous piano melody! RFP: What kinds of things inspire you? HD: Science, discovery, innovative music, and the company of my boyfriend.
ally think that way--we speak more abstractly, and more in visual terms. We throw out words and images instead of stringing together full explanations. Some of those words included: stillness, introspection, dreaming, meditating, and hope. I think our producer, Thom Monahan, played a big part in shaping the sound of this album. We listened to a lot of Suicide to better understand how beautiful minimalism could be; how simple beats can be so much more compelling than complicated ones; and how the feeling of space can sound so much more full than layers. By stripping our sound down we came up with something more full and warm sounding than we had been able to achieve on previous recordings. RFP: Have you introduced any new instruments to your latest album? HD: We played a shruti box as well as a myriad of keyboards we hadn’t played with before. We experimented with lots of different sounds. RFP: Why did you choose the keyboard as your instrument of choice? HD: I’ve been interested in the piano since I was a kid, but never really played until we started this band. I liked the keyboard because it was percussive and easy. I remember the
RFP: How have your lives changed since you started your own record company? HD: There are more emails to answer! It’s nice to have the freedom to be able to do anything we want with our music, and the control to work with who want to work with, release whatever we want, tour whenever we want. We don’t have to answer to anyone but ourselves. RFP: What is your favourite thing about touring? HD: What I imagine most people would like about touring: Seeing new places, meeting new people. It’s not a bad life. RFP: What is your most hilarious memory of touring? HD: There are many hilarious memories
from touring, too many to name. And most of the things that seem hilarious to me now were actually pretty horrible when they were happening. RFP: How has your fanbase changed over the years? HD: It hasn’t! We continue to have the nicest, sweetest fans ever. We’re so lucky. RFP: If you could use the power of your music to change one thing what would it be? HD: I’d like to see more girls getting into music. And science too, but that’s another thing. RFP: What sort of stigmas, if any, do you face being an all woman group? HD: I didn’t think there were any until I read somewhere online that we obviously must have someone telling us what to do because we’re too helpless to have figured out all this stuff by ourselves. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve co-produced all of our albums, and we’ve hired everyone from video directors, website designers, press agents and CD manufacturers, to name a few. There isn’t even one aspect of this band that we don’t have our hands in. The three of us make all the decisions as a group and we’ve worked our asses off to build our band, our record label and our aesthetic from the ground up… We don’t face any external pressures. Any changes in our band have been a result of our own desire to grow. RFP: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music together? HD: I’m getting my second undergraduate degree, so I’d be in school. I’ll be returning in the spring and I’m looking forward to it.
Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People’s Dinosaur Power By Amanda Perri
“What inspires you to create music” I asked Rich, the lead member of Brampton’s own indie rock band Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People. It was a Sunday evening and we were outside on the patio in front of Sneaky Dee’s on College Street. It was a perfect night, and the amount of jittery and exuberant people led me to assume that the moon was full. Rich replied: “I used to play the classical guitar, and it just kind of went wrong,” he said. Wrong? Well, that depends on how you look at it. Friendly Rich, born Richard Marsella, was passionate about creating music ever since he was a young boy. He completed his masters degree in music at the University of Toronto and since 1994, Friendly Rich has been recording music on his own record label called The Pumpkin Pie Corporation.
His music has been featured in several eclectic genres. He has produced music for MTV’s The Tom Green show and his music was used for the hit Russian children’s TV series The King Stanlislav Show. Rich also founded and directed the Brampton Indie Arts festival in 2000, a place where both young and old can come out to show off their own unique style. Rich said the festival was a place “for underdog suburban basement rage bands who just want to make music and a chance to play on stage.” In 2005 he got together with his orchestra “The Lollipop People” and they toured Germany after signing a deal with Hazelwood Records. They have also produced nine full-length CDs. Their latest record is titled Dinosaur Power. Rich says his involvement with Hazelwood records happened on a whim. “I wrote a letter to them through a ra-
dio station that I used to work for… I didn’t really know what to expect, but they wrote back saying they really liked our sound,” said Rich. His advice to young Canadian artists based on his own experience is “Take chances.” His own band follows this advice. Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People is composed of twelve musicians mixing instruments of all types together. Amongst the instruments are a harpsichord, bassoon, and banjo. Together, the sound they create blends classical influences like Verdi with a twist, anything from video games to children’s cartoons. If that doesn’t get your attention (which it will) it might be what they’re singing about, which ranges from topics like Canadian boxing legend George Chuvalo, to libraries and miscarriage. Through their ability and willingness to mix the foundations of music with pure fun, Friendly Rich and The Lollipop People produce a sound that is catchy yet sophisticated, and truly unique. Not to mention, their live show, like no other. It turns out that the moon really wasn’t full, it was simply Friendly Rich being, well
Friendly Rich. After watching his show, you certainly see that he takes his exuberance with him when he performs. Just talking to him and a few of the Lollipop People, I learned that they like to diversify the topics of conversation. Talking about his music led to brief conversations about clay animated pornography, foul juice, and librarians. Rich’s performance is quite the same – picture animated characters in vintage suits, perhaps, making music, making you laugh, or making you feel very disturbed. Fearless would be a good word here. Rich has no problem inviting an old man to dance with him on stage. Rich has invited those on stage who light a certain body part on fire, or brought along a blender, and who knows what else. Rich’s self-proclaimed “weirdo art” has absolutely no boundaries. Wrong? Sounds about right to me.
Enlighten Up! takes on secular yoga Q&A with director Kate Churchill By Amanda Connon-Unda When experienced documentary filmmaker Kate Churchill set out on her latest project, Enlighten Up!, she was determined to prove that yoga can transform anyone. Fortunately for her audience, the result was a lot more realistic and less definitive than any kind of film objective can be. Yoga, as it is portrayed, turns out to be something a lot more complex and multifaceted than many yoga enthusiasts may have at first thought. Churchill began working in TV for the PBS series, Nova, and in 2001 she founded her own company, Nama Productions. From there she went on to produce and direct a reality-based TV special for PBS and another for the National Geographic which went on to win the Genesis Award for Outstanding PBS Documentary. Before diving into documentaries, she also worked at Disney and Universal Pictures in Los Angeles. As such, Enlighten Up! is her first feature documentary. Enlighten Up! is a very personal film, and yoga, Kate Churchill and Nick Rosen, a skeptical New York-based journalist, are its three main characters. As film subject and guinea pig, Rosen agrees to immerse himself in an extensive yoga practice and he follows Churchill around the world as he examines the philosophical and practical effects of yoga. Along the way tension rises between Churchill and Rosen. With the meeting of each celebrity yogi, true believer, kook and worldrenowned guru Rosen seems to become less trusting of the film’s objective and starts to question what kind transformation can occur. Churchill’s film rapidly unveils that yoga is a million dollar industry and she is quick to reveal some of the main contrasts between Western society and yoga practice there. A preliminary tour of yoga studios through Boston reveals that many of the yogis and teachers do not even know how old the prac-
tice is or why it started. But they are firm believers in yoga’s transformational power and they know it feels good. Still the duo encounters other yogis who say that they see yoga as nothing more than a workout. The film nicely highlights the visual and spiritual contrast between the East and West, as it takes the pair from overcast Boston, to busy New York, then relaxed Hawaii, and finally to colourful India. Viewers can witness a collective spiritual awareness versus an intense individualism on the other hand. And yet, yoga remains consistently a space in both East and West where people come to find peace and calm the mind. This film does not find any answer to the initial question about whether yoga can be spiritually transformative, but it does reveal an interesting journey of two personalities coming together in the journey of a lifetime. It also reveals the tenderness of the human heart and psyche and some personally touching details about both Rosen and Churchill’s lives. It turns out that these two seekers have some things in common. Ryerson Free Press (RFP): Can you explain more about why you wanted to know whether yoga could lead a person to spiritual transformation? Kate Churchill (KC): Well, in the beginning I would have used the word enlightenment, which could mean spiritual transformation, but what I was intrigued with was more what happens when a person focuses on yoga. I wanted to know what changes? How could one become more aware? What changes could occur by solely focusing on yoga? RFP: Had you considered going to India for your own spiritual discovery or was it more justifiable while you were making this film? KC: It was my first trip to India. I’ve working in a lot of different places. …South America. Brazil, Nepal, Alaska , Iceland – while pro-
PHOTO COURTESY enlightenupthefilm.com
ducing and directing For PBS and National Geographic. So, I had a lot of curiosity about it and when you decide to make a film it behooves you to have curiosity on your subject on all different levels. The film took five years and eventually you may get sick of it. Some of the most peaceful moments of my life happened through intense practice of yoga. I thought ‘Wow – six months and go anywhere in the world and meet teachers,’ and I was really intrigued by the idea. RFP: It struck me that you and Nick had some things in common – both seeking information (he as a journalist and you as a filmmaker). At what point if ever were you aware of the similar challenges or view points you both shared? KC: From the outset I was aware of our similarities. If anything our dissimilarities emerged through the journey. Our conflicts were unexpected. I never intended to include that in the film. One reason I picked him was because he was seeking information as a journalist and he was curious about yoga and change. Even though skeptical he still had a level of curiosity that I found quite hopeful.
All day long we met amazing yoga teachers and then we would go and interview about it, and I would ask him “How is it going to change you?” The tension got to be so much and then we just both let go of everything. The point where I say I am tired of yoga – would normally never be included. But, part of it was to show was that we were on the wrong journey. It’s a turning point in the film when we both let go of the other person and the tone of the film shifts and we are two people each on our own journey. That is what ultimately leads both of us to learn a lot. Enlighten Up! Opens on Friday August 28th at Cumberland 4 Cinemas in Toronto.
RFP: What was the most challenging thing about making this film? KC: It was the editing which took three years. RFP: There were a few pieces in the film where you mentioned getting tired of yoga. Can you explain what you felt more? KC: We wanted to shift the focus from Nick to include me as a character in the film. There were three characters: yoga, Nick and me. Going into the filmmaking process my expectations were so high and that put pressure on Nick. That got him to dig in his heels and to resist. We ended up in a different place. We lost sight of what we were doing.
Nick Rosen with Shyamdas on the banks of the sacred Yamuna River in Northern India. Still from the film Enlighten Up!
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A Summer in Palestine By Katia Dmitrieva
N asser, a child at the Jahalin Bedouin Camp, peers from behind the leaves of a tree. He is eagerly awaiting the opening of the new school, along with more than 50 other bedouin children here between the ages of three and 14. They have not had formal education for the past year because an Israeli government bulldozer destroyed their cement school a year ago. Five children were killed trying to walk to the next nearest school, since the only path is alongside a major highway.
Men from the Jahalin Bedouin build a schoolhouse for children of their camp. The summer temperature here in the Judean Desert can reach 45 degrees Celsius, so they wear Kuffiyehs to keep the sun and heat off their heads. They are making the schoolhouse from mud and tires, with a top coating of falafel oil to repel water and wear. Their previous schoolhouse was destroyed by the IDF, and they have been forced to move their community more than twice already because of the Ma’ale Adumin settlement expansion.
Children from the Kalandia Refugee camp in the West Bank stand near an abandoned building and look towards the Jewish settlements. The field they are looking across originally belonged to Palestinian families but is now a no-man’s land of dry earth. Every year, the settlements encroach further and further onto this land, whereas the Palestinians who live nearby can not obtain permission to build on their own land from the Israeli government. This lose-lose situation for the Palestinians happens all across the West Bank, which is why construction and expansion, or “natural growth,” is key in any future peace negotiations.
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A graffiti image of the cartoon Handala, now synonymous with the Palestinian struggle for peace and freedom. Handala was first created by Naji Al-Ali, a famous Palestinian cartoonist who spoke for the Palestinian people through his often emotionally-charged and simple images. This is one of his most famous creations, and it can be seen all over the West bank graffitied on walls, stickered onto cars, and even painted on the Separation wall.
A boy looks up from his bicycle to the martyr posters hung outside of the cemetery at Balata refugee camp in Nablus, West Bank. This refugee camp is the largest in the West Bank, with over 23,000 residents. It has also been the sight of many Israeli military invasions. On February 18, 2006, the Israeli military entered the camp. On the 23, the military left the camp having shot at, and killed, several children, youth, and foreign medical workers. These posters can be seen all around the camp, and serve as a reminder of the tragedies here. They are also seen as a symbol of strength, since the people depicted died fighting for freedom from a devastating occupation.
A little girl looks from the bars in Kalandia checkpoint. People hoping to cross into Jerusalem must cross checkpoints like this one, sometimes every day. It is made difficult by indifferent and sometimes violent Israeli soldiers (who guard the checkpoints), long lineups due to delays and closures, and the layout of the checkpoints themselves. At Kalandia CP, people on foot must enter a warehouse-style building and are herded into a single file with the use of metal bar “cells” like the one pictured here, which are topped with barbed wire. At the end, a turnstile blinks green to allow you through into the main holding area. Here, more lines form in cue for the next turnstile. It is often packed with people here, since the next step is to show documentation, drop belongings onto an x-ray belt, and walk through a metal detector. Palestinians with a green card can not pass. Many passers-by are hassled by the Israeli guards. A red door leads to an area of “further inspection,” which could be your next stop for the next few hours. You could wait for ten minutes or for ten hours at Kalandia checkpoint, depending on the day and the soldiers on duty that day.
“ Free Palestine” is graffitied over an Israeli flag in the occupied city of Hebron, West Bank. This scene is in area H2, or the area of the city designated for settlers and the Israeli military. This space used to be the centre of commerce and life in Hebron, but now the streets are deserted. Palestinian shops and homes have been looted, systematically destroyed, and claimed by extremist settlers. Many Palestinians have had to abandon their homes, due to the violence and prejudice they encountered every day from the settlers and military forces. The families who remained here are forced to construct wire nets over their windows and balconies, and barbed wire on their roofs for safety purposes. It is common to have rocks, debris, and other projectiles thrown into their homes. In other cases, settlers climb the closely joined roofs and attack Palestinian families in their own homes. There is no justice here; Palestinians can only file claims against settlers through the Israeli courts, and this is both expensive and rarely rewarded with appropriate legal action for them.
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