C/O Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities

After a statement of apology, the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities promises to develop new policies and procedures

cw: Mention of sexual violence

On Feb. 19, the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities released an apology for engaging with Member of Parliament Kevin Vuong.

For those who don’t know, UCRU is a union of different university student groups across Canada who come together to advocate for better undergraduate university education. The McMaster Students Union is one of UCRU’s members.

Every year, UCRU carries out a federal lobby week to meet with a number of MPs and have discussions about student issues. These lobby weeks allow UCRU to present concerns to the federal government and seek support from the MPs.

This year, UCRU’s lobby week took place in the last week of January. On Jan. 25, UCRU met with MP Kevin Vuong.

Vuong serves as the MP for the Spadina—Fort York constituency and originally ran as a Liberal candidate in the 2021 federal election. When news broke that Vuong was charged with a sexual assault in 2019, that had since been withdrawn, the Liberal party disavowed Vuong. As a result, Vuong now sits in the House of Commons without any party affiliation.

Vuong’s election was not well received and many have condemned associations with Vuong.

Following the lobby week, on Feb. 18, UCRU posted an Instagram story containing Vuong.

UCRU has now apologized for engaging with Vuong and said they will cease engagement with Vuong.

Denver Della-Vedova, current President of the MSU and chair of UCRU, said that UCRU unfortunately did not have any vetting procedures in place this year.

However, UCRU has now begun developing policies and procedures to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again.

“We are committed to ensuring we have a better vetting process and have some steps that we can take in advance to ensure that we are not supporting any individuals that are unscrupulous,” said Della-Vedova.

C/O Enokson, Flickr

McMaster athletics kirks off their events and awareness campaigns to honour black history month

Every February in Canada, people participate in Black History Month events and festivities to celebrate and honor the legacy of Black Canadians and their communities. McMaster also took the time to partake in these activities, as did the Marauders.  

The Marauders organized many different events and initiatives, including a basketball game dedicated to the cause and advocacy posts on social media.  

The Marauders posted quotes from Black Canadian leaders, such as Masai Ujiri, the President of Toronto Raptors and Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected in parliament.  

Additionally, the McMaster Black Student Athlete Council organized a special panel that is dedicated to the Black community in which Hamilton legends shared their experiences within sport and the way they navigated throughout their careers.  

Given past reports of anti-Black racism in McMaster athletics, it is an important step for the Marauders to honour Black athletes that have inspired and influenced the sporting community.  

C/O Don Craig

True advocacy entails more than just empty words

By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor

cw: abuse, neglect

Given the increased attention on human rights issues and the overall mistreatment of the Indigenous population, reconciliation has gained an increase in discussion in many institutions. 

Professors and leaders are now acknowledging the ownership of the land they work and live on. The orange shirt has become a symbol of support for victims of the residential school system. Political leaders are making promises to address the issue of water advisories in Indigenous communities and inequities in education and housing. 

While these symbolic actions exemplify desires to make positive changes, they are still only symbolic acts. Whether these intentions lead to actual change is contingent on whether leaders and members of society translate their intentions and words into tangible action.

Advocacy may very well begin with words, promises and acknowledging mistakes and atrocities of the past. However, as it pertains to the issues that many marginalized and oppressed groups such as the Indigenous population of so-called Canada experience, words represent only the preliminary step in building a better world.

Both Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau have given formal apologies to the Indigenous community in regards to the residential school system. In 2021, Canadian catholic bishops also communicated their remorse for the role of religious bodies in the residential school system. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church and Pope have not followed suit. Calls for the church to take accountability for its role in the residential school system became widespread this past year given the many bodies of Indigenous children found in unmarked graves across Canada in what used to be residential schools. 

Some action has been taken on the part of the Canadian federal government to follow up on their apologies and address the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For example, the government has budgeted for their intent to address the lack of access to clean drinking water, develop better health and social services on and near reserves and contribute to preserving Indigenous languages. 

Moreover, Sept. 30, 2021 marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day sought to commemorate the victims of the residential school system and entailed memorials and other events held across the nation. 

There are also calls for institutions to remove statues and names of people who were involved in the residential school system. For example, Ryerson University will be changing its name, given its eponym, Egerton Ryerson, was an important architecture in designing the residential school system. However, changing an institution’s name is only a symbolic act and must be followed by more tangible action to support reconciliation and contribute to social progress. 

When Stephen Harper apologized to Indigenous communities years ago, he failed to fund significant projects like the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Justin Trudeau’s follow up was equally as inadequate, as the campaign promises he made to Indigenous communities during his 2015 election campaign have still not been fulfilled as of publication. 

There are still water advisories in place and the presence of inadequate infrastructure and services across Indigenous communities despite promises to address these issues. In fact, government funding for awards that serve to honour leaders in Indigenous communities has decreased. It is clear the government wants to take accountability of its past actions and do its work in laying the foundation for reconciliation, but this is not followed by proper, tangible action.

Only when tangible actions are taken after communicating an intent to do so will greater equity become a possibility. It is time Canadian society and its government follow suit on their promises and intents and invest more towards showing accountability and working towards reconciliation. 

In sum, symbolic reconciliation is communication of an intention to right the wrongs of the past. However, this needs to be followed up by real action in order for true societal change to occur.

Student Sustainability Ambassador Program connects sustainability student leaders to provide support and resources during COVID-19

C/O Bram Naus

The 2020-21 academic year was like none other, given the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and online classes at McMaster University. Despite the challenges, one program that helped students stay connected and build community during lockdown was the Student Sustainability Ambassador Program.  

The program launched in October 2020 after discussions between McMaster Hospitality Services and the academic sustainability programs office recognized a need for greater collaboration between sustainability-minded student leaders.

“We noticed that student groups seemed to be running similar events, pursuing similar goals and tackling similar problems as other groups. We scanned campus and found more than 30 clubs focused on sustainability efforts . . . We saw an opportunity to support these groups in having an even bigger impact through collaboration,” explained Abbie Little, the community relations coordinator and experiential learning for the academic sustainability programs office.

"We noticed that student groups seemed to be running similar events, pursuing similar goals and tackling similar problems as other groups. We scanned campus and found more than 30 clubs focused on sustainability efforts."

Abbie Little, academic sustainability programs office

The program was implemented and run by hospitality services along with facility services and the McMaster Students Union. It was started with funding support from the McMaster Okanagan Special Charter program.

This funding was awarded in 2020 to SSAP as it focused on improving the health and well-being of the community, specifically by creating new engagement opportunities for students and empowering their leadership.

The SSAP’s mission is to support student leadership experiential learning while promoting personal and professional development in sustainability initiatives. SSAP outlined three objectives to achieve this mission: increase student awareness on academic sustainability, empower students to be leaders in sustainability through active learning and provide support in their projects and plans of action.

Since its launch, SSAP has gained over 115 members in its private Facebook group, which allowed students to learn, collaborate and support each other’s sustainability initiatives.

The SSAP’s mission is to support student leadership experiential learning, while promoting personal and professional development in sustainability initiatives.

“Everyone that runs the program, as well on the faculty side, is very passionate and very supportive of everyone . . . It's been great meeting with them even throughout being online all the time,” explained Callum Hales. Hales is a member of this Facebook group and a sustainability minor student currently in SUSTAIN 3S03 working on a solitary bees project.

Crystal Zhang, another member of the SSAP Facebook group and sustainability minor student echoed Hales’ sentiments.

“I'm part of the Facebook group and I really enjoyed [it] because there are so many different initiatives and so much information . . . they always have a way [for students] to get involved and I really like that about the sustainability department and community,” explained Zhang. 

“Everyone that runs the program, as well on the faculty side, is very passionate and very supportive of everyone . . . It's been great meeting with them even throughout being online all the time,” explained Callum Hales.

This year, Zhang was a part of a tree planting project in collaboration with local Hamilton organizations and with support from the sustainability department.

“They really helped us out a lot. [They] showed us the whole tree planting process, even without us actually being there,” explained Zhang, who was able to plant over 100 trees on campus with her team.

“I'm part of the Facebook group and I really enjoyed [it] because there are so many different initiatives and so much information . . . they always have a way [for students] to get involved and I really like that about the sustainability department and community.” 

Crystal Zhang

Hales described SSAP and the sustainability courses in general to be insightful in broadening your perspective. 

“It’s a very good way of bringing together a bunch of different disciplines [to see sustainability] from a multi-faceted view instead of like through a single lens,” explained Hales.

The SSAP is also open to all students across all disciplines and Hales believed that the SSAP program could be applied anywhere across campus.

Hales also encouraged all students to take part in sustainability groups. The student plans on incorporating sustainability in his future career because of the positive impact the student projects have had on him.

Zhang explained that sustainability projects have allowed her to develop critical thinking and writing skills. 

“We are going through the climate crisis and I feel like what I’ve learned is really critically thinking about the decisions being made by people in power and where our world is going in terms of sustainability right now,” explained Zhang.

SSAP also hosted monthly Coffee and Collaboration Chats where students shared their ongoing ideas and connected each other to useful resources.

“Students in clubs share their plans and resources and have a discussion board [where they] can post about local and global sustainability topics and event opportunities which helps to form a sense of community. We also offer special project funding to individuals or groups looking for financial support to launch their sustainable projects in their own community,” said Little.

The Sustainability Student Ambassadors Program (SSAP) is offering up to $300 for in Special Project Funding for McMaster...

Posted by McMaster Academic Sustainability Programs Office on Thursday, February 18, 2021

“We have several goals we aim to achieve with the program and one of them is to provide educational workshops on topics that students want to learn more about . . . We heard from students that during the pandemic, they wanted to learn about ways they could be active members of their community from the safety of their homes,” explained Little.

Alongside these chats, SSAP provided educational workshops to help build students’ leadership skills. 

One such event was the advocacy letter writing workshop held in February 2021, which was developed in collaboration with McMaster graduate Jamie Stuckless, who is an expert policy consultant, writer and transportation professional.

McMaster's Student Sustainability Ambassador Program (SSAP), McMaster's Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability...

Posted by McMaster Academic Sustainability Programs Office on Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The workshop included an overview of how students should structure their letters, what specific factors about the audience they should consider, what they should ask for in a letter and the differences between writing on behalf of an individual or a group.

“We looked through a few examples of advocacy letters and then put attendees in a few breakout rooms to practice writing their own advocacy letter on a given topic . . . The workshop was well attended and participants reported in a survey that they found it to be informative, fun and engaging,” emphasized Little.

Throughout the year, SSAP has been a place of community and collaboration for students, despite the pandemic.

“We hope that the impact of providing students with resources and tools will empower them to create positive change in their communities that will reach far and wide. The program itself is an example of what can be accomplished through collaboration, even when collaborating remotely,” said Little.

“We hope that the impact of providing students with resources and tools will empower them to create positive change in their communities that will reach far and wide. The program itself is an example of what can be accomplished through collaboration, even when collaborating remotely.”

ABBIE LITTLE, ACADEMIC SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAMS OFFICE

The plight of the Uyghurs must be recognized as genocide by the international community and students have a responsibility to advocate for their human rights

cw: genocide

What is happening to the Uyghurs? Depending on who you ask, you will receive helpfully pedantic descriptions such as: “education,” “vocational training,” “repression,” “violent suppression,” “cultural genocide,” “postmodern genocide” and “demographic genocide.” The first two, offered as explanations by the Chinese state are fictitious to the point of absurdity. Similarly, the finger-wagging condemnations of “repression” and even “violent suppression,” while ostensibly denouncing the treatment of Uyghurs evade more significant criticisms.

Rather incomprehensibly, most accusations of genocide invariably insert a qualifier — “demographic,” “cultural” and “postmodern” — perhaps to make the charges more palatable, less alarming and less meaningful.  The fundamental question remains: is this a genocide, in the true sense of the word?

Unfortunately, previous experiences with the matter furnish us with the answer. The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was signed by China in 1948, lists the actions that qualify as genocidal when they are inflicted with the intent to destroy, entirely or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. One such condition is the infliction of severe physical or mental harm on members of the group.

Since 2014, the Chinese government has routinely and arbitrarily imprisoned Uyghurs in “re-education camps” — essentially concentration camps where detainees are tortured, starved and beaten, subjected to waterboarding and electric shocks and psychologically tortured. Testimony from escaped detainees and their families can hardly fail to convince even the most dispassionate judge that such actions constitute serious physical and mental harm. This is genocide.

Under said UN convention, that should be enough to constitute genocide. However, we are fortunate enough to be supplied with enough evidence so as to be excessive in our exposition. Another condition for genocide is the undertaking of activities to prevent births within the group.

An investigation by the Associated Press revealed that Uyghur women were: forcibly implanted with an intrauterine device; underwent unwanted sterilization, abortions and pregnancy checks; were force-fed birth control pills and injected with unknown fluids; had their children removed and placed in orphanages; and were sent to camps for giving birth to multiple children.

Between 2015 and 2018, the birth rate in some ethnically Uyghur areas had plummeted more than 60 per cent. To all appearances, these actions can only be aimed at dramatically decreasing the Uyghur birth rate and ultimately reducing the size of the group until it is easily assimilable. This is genocide.

This is not to say that the charges of, say, cultural genocide are any less morally repugnant; they are simply not enough. An article first published in the Financial Times argues that our society has “fetishized” genocide as the ultimate, virtually uncommittable horror — historical memory has set the bar too high. Such a view of genocide makes possible only retrospective acknowledgment, thereby obstructing efforts at prevention.

Shall we then settle for milder, qualified accusations and hope for an equally mild response? Certainly not. What is needed now is the civic and political courage to stand behind that coda to one of humanity’s greatest failings, “Never Again,” and ensure that the genocide of the Uyghurs is recognized, terminated and prosecuted. 

University students have a long and venerable tradition as progressive champions of human rights. From the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley campus to climate change advocacy, university students have a unique cohesion and shared experience that makes organization and protest against injustices a successful weapon of change.

As the Canadian government moves towards recognizing the Chinese government’s policy as genocide, the McMaster University student body, along with other groups in Canada, have the responsibility to advocate for oppressed peoples around the globe. Letter writing campaigns, opinion pieces, protests, raising social awareness — these are all actions we can and must undertake to stop the Uyghur genocide and ensure that the “Never Again” does not happen again.

Universities across Canada advocate for greater financial aid

In 2020-2021, the average tuition for full-time undergraduate programs across Canada is $6,580 per year. 52 per cent of students graduate with student debt and an average student has a total of $28,000 in debt when they graduate. 

52 per cent of students graduate with student debt and an average student has a total of $28,000 in debt when they graduate.

Student debt in Canada has been deemed a crisis by many. In 2018, Canadian students collectively owed over $28 billion in student debt. 

The McMaster Students Union is one of the student unions that have joined in to work on the Debt Free Degree campaign, advocating for more accessible and affordable post-secondary education in Canada. 

This campaign is led by the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities and the University Students’ Council at Western University. 

Other student unions that are also taking part in the campaign include the University of Toronto Students’ Union, Students’ Society of McGill University, Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association and more

These nine student unions represent students of the U15 group of Canadian research intensive universities. Collectively, the student unions represent over 250,000 students.

The campaign is calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough to take action.

Mackenzy Metcalfe, vice president of external affairs at Western’s University Students Council and chair of UCRU, said that this would put grants at a total increase of $1200 per student for the 2020-2021 federal budget.

Policy recommendations from the campaign include doubling of investments in Canada Student Grants from what was provided in 2019. Mackenzy Metcalfe, vice president of external affairs at Western’s University Students Council and chair of UCRU, said that this would put grants at a total increase of $1200 per student for the 2020-2021 federal budget.

This amounts to roughly $1 billion from the government. Metcalfe also noted that this was one of the promises made by the Liberal party during the 2019 election. This increase in grants would apply to all students eligible for financial aid.

“Investments in students are investments in the future. Students are really going to make up the workforce of tomorrow and increasing funding for student financial aid will undoubtedly see exponential return in the next couple of years,” said Metcalfe. 

“Investments in students are investments in the future. Students are really going to make up the workforce of tomorrow and increasing funding for student financial aid will undoubtedly see exponential return in the next couple of years,” said Metcalfe. 

MSU Vice President (Education) Ryan Tse declined an interview but wrote in an email statement that the MSU is excited to work on this campaign.

“The Debt Free Campaign [gives] students the opportunity to share their stories and call on the government to help make postsecondary education more accessible and affordable,” wrote Tse.

In previous years, UCRU had advocated for the transfer of federal tuition tax credits to student grants. Currently, the recommendation for the federal government to transfer tuition tax credit funds to upfront grants is also an MSU policy. 

However, the Debt Free Degree campaign had decided not to specify federal tuition tax credits as a source of funding for student grants, but simply advocate for an increase in grants.

“UCRU still believes that tax credits from tuition should be relocated to upfront grants for students, however, during our past few lobby weeks, UCRU received feedback from the government about the proposal. We heard from multiple sources in government that they were not interested in making this change to the tax credit system. However, we did hear that they were interested in supporting students through student financial aid,” Metcalfe explained. 

Although recommendations from the campaign ultimately do not eliminate student debt, Metcalfe said that having a larger proportion of financial aid as grants rather than loans will help decrease the amount of accumulated debt.

Aside from an increase in student grants, the campaign also recommends a two-year grace period on all federal student loans. Currently, federal student loans have a grace period of six months

In other words, students have six months following their study period with no accumulation of interest on their federal student loans. Aside from finishing their final school term, students are also required to repay loans six months after they leave school, take time off school, or transfer from full-time to part-time studies. After those six months, students are expected to begin payment and interests will accumulate. 

In Ontario, financial aid for students is regulated by the Ontario Student Assistance Program. OSAP incorporates both federal and provincial student loans and grants. 

On a provincial level, student loan requirements differ depending on the province. Students in Ontario are not expected to start repaying their provincial student loans until after the first six months, but their loans do accumulate interest during that period of time. 

Across social media, the campaign shares various infographics comparing the average amount of student debt to other various items of the same monetary value such as 112 pairs of AirPods, a Honda Civic, 233 years worth of Netflix subscriptions and 9 million cups of coffee. 

$28,000. That's the amount of debt an average student has when they graduate. You can buy a lot with $28,000. Paying off student debt shouldn't be one of those things. It's time for a change - alongside @UCRU_Can, we're pushing @JustinTrudeau & @CQualtro to take action. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/FbeJu13B5J

— McMaster Students Union (MSU) (@MSU_McMaster) November 6, 2020

Students were encouraged to join the movement by writing a postcard to their local member of parliament. A Google form at www.debtfreedegree.ca was available for students to fill out and UCRU will send the postcard on the student’s behalf. 

Students were also asked to spread the word by sharing posts with the hashtag #DebtFreeDegree on their social media and provide UCRU with feedback by emailing info@ucru.ca

The MSU is working alongside @UCRU_Can and Student Unions across the country to advocate for accessible, affordable post-secondary education in Canada, and a #DebtFreeDegree. Learn more about our fight for Debt Free Degrees at https://t.co/t0I4CFpbCP. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/5o9GvsngPy

— McMaster Students Union (MSU) (@MSU_McMaster) November 3, 2020

The campaign ended on Nov. 16 and Metcalfe stated that over 200 students had shared their feedback. These student concerns will be presented to federal policy makers during UCRU’s annual Federal Lobby Week. This year, the federal lobby week is scheduled from Nov. 23-27.

Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

Historically, McMaster Students Union presidential candidates often have big dreams to tackle issues concerning marginalized communities. Topics that reappear every year include accessibility, reducing financial barriers and sexual violence support. While these platform points can be well-intentioned, they can often be examples of poor allyship instead. Using people of colour, the 2SLGBTQ+ community, disabled people and survivors as talking points for campaigning can be insensitive if candidates are unable to follow through with their platform points.

There are clear examples of platforms that have done this. In 2018, past MSU president Ikram Farah campaigned on reducing financial barriers by re-evaluating the Ontario Student Assistance Program’s structure and reworking it to accurately reflect tuition cost discrepancies between different programs. This would mean that two students who paid different tuition amounts, and who previously qualified for the same amount of financial aid, would instead receive aid that was proportional to their costs. Although Farah completed her presidential term in April 2019, any advocacy done surrounding OSAP hasn’t had a huge impact on OSAP’s structure.

In 2019, current MSU president Josh Marando promised to hire an additional sexual violence response coordinator to address the lack of support for survivors of sexual violence. Marando still has three months left in his term, but the efforts into hiring a new sexual violence response coordinator seem to be lacking. So far, an additional sexual violence response coordinator has yet to be hired.

In addition to an absence of follow-through, candidates also often fail to consult adequately. This year, MSU presidential candidate Krystina Koc aimed to address student safety due to the Westdale and Thorndale break-ins that occurred last year, and to increase support to Maccess. However, Koc’s consultations about student safety were limited and she failed to consult Maccess regarding how to best improve support.

Incoming MSU President Giancarlo Da-Ré’s plans to improve accessibility by making the MSU website compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and increasing the number of courses that use Echo360 to record lectures. He also wants to implement consent culture modules that would be mandatory for welcome week representatives. Although Da-Ré states he has done 100 consultations and has platform points surrounding accessibility and consent, he did not consult Maccess or the Women and Gender Equity Network prior to campaigning.

Evidently, solidarity with low-income students, people of colour, survivors and disabled people have been a large topic of discussion within presidential platforms. However, these campaign points are rarely acted upon or are executed poorly. This leaves me and many others with questions: if these points don’t result in any visible change, why have them in your platform at all?

During campaign season, presidential candidates are trying to win students’ votes. Therefore, it’s usually important to maintain a good public image. Nothing looks better than advocating for a marginalized population. Regardless of whether these candidates actually care for the marginalized populations they’re advocating for, if they’re coming from a place of privilege and put us into their platforms, it can seem like they’re trying to win brownie points for being good people.

Additionally, this allyship quickly becomes performative if the candidates don’t follow through when it comes to supporting marginalized communities — which they often don’t. Even if you have the best intentions to help others, it is hard to change systemic oppression in a one-year term because these structures have been in place for centuries.

Typically, advocacy movements are initiated by marginalized communities themselves, not presidents. This can be seen with the WGEN, which was created to provide a safe space for women and trans people, as well as students that face sexual violence. WGEN was approved by the Student Representative Assembly because of a community survey that provided statistics of students who faced assaults, misogyny and sexism on campus. Although the SRA did come into play with the creation of this service, consultations and surveys were important in its creation, which is what the presidential candidates have been failing to do. In addition, WGEN was spearheaded by women, trans people and survivors advocating for its existence, proving that marginalized communities have always been at the forefront of these movements — not the MSU president. If the MSU president is serious about advocating for marginalized communities, then they need to consult with the groups who represent the needs of these students.

Despite Koc and Da-Ré’s well-intentioned platforms for improving peer support services and consent education respectively, they failed to consult the communities that are directly affected: Maccess and WGEN. How will you help improve support and remove systemic barriers if you do not talk to those that are directly affected?

Becoming the MSU president doesn’t mean that you suddenly have the ability to support marginalized people. Anyone and everyone can support movements to dismantle oppressive barriers — instead of campaigning on the idea that you will support marginalized people during your presidential term, start by supporting them in your everyday lives. Talk to the people you know and ask them how you can support them. Actually consult the marginalized communities you hope to support, not the institutions that oppress us. Even if you can’t make a huge change during your one-year term, you can still make meaningful change through your individual actions as a person. But if you’re not willing to commit to your platform and actually support marginalized students, please leave us out of it.

 

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Photos by Matty Flader / Photo Reporter

Recently, Hamilton has seen an influx of craft breweries establishing themselves around the city. With craft beer on the rise, MERIT Brewing Company is one of the industry leaders, brewing locally in their space on 107 James St. North. 

Co-founder of MERIT and McMaster alumnus, Tej Sandhu, wanted to create a communal, welcoming space by combining a tap room, brewery, kitchen and bottle shop. 

“Really what we hope it is, is a space for community around [MERIT]. So much of what we built this place to be is to facilitate conversation, facilitate our community, and facilitate a great experience for people around these things that we love producing . . . in a space that is easy to get to, that is accessible, that’s inclusive, that is open and that is friendly and warm. Those are things that we had as our goal for what we wanted the space to be but for what we keep as our goals for everything we do as well,” said Sandhu.

MERIT Brewing Company on James Street North.

On Oct. 1, the Ontario Craft Brewers, a membership trade association that represents local breweries in Ontario, participated in a government roundtable in the Niagara region. The OCB represents the voices of approximately 30 per cent of craft breweries around Ontario

“We participated in the roundtable to provide our perspective and make sure the voice of local brewers is heard on potential changes to the alcohol system, which are critical to our future growth and success,” said the OCB via their Twitter account

(1/2) The Ontario Government is currently consulting on potential reforms to Ontario’s beverage alcohol sector. As Niagara is home to many craft producers, the govt hosted a series of roundtables this weekend w/ reps from craft wineries, distillers, cideries, and breweries.

— Ontario Craft Brewers (@OntCraftBrewers) September 29, 2019

(2/2) We participated in the roundtable to provide our perspective and make sure the voice of local brewers is heard on potential changes to the alcohol system, which are critical to our future growth and success.

— Ontario Craft Brewers (@OntCraftBrewers) September 29, 2019

The association also shared photos with Sam Oosterhoff, a Progressive Conservative member of provincial parliament from the Niagara-West riding. Oosterhoff has claimed that he wants to remove abortion rights. Additionally, he has actively opposed Bill 128 — the All Families Are Equal act, a piece of legislation that removes the words "mother" and "father" in favour of gender-neutral terms allowing all parents to be treated equally. He continues to defend his socio-political beliefs when confronted by the media. The tweets promoting Oosterhoff with the OCB were taken down after being posted.

The original tweets posted by Ontario Craft Brewers following an event with Sam Oosterhoof and Ontario breweries. This tweet has since been removed off of the OCB Twitter account.

 

Ontario Craft Brewers tweeted this photo with Sam Oosterhoff at a roundtable event. The photo has since been removed off of the OCB Twitter account.

Although not an OCB member, MERIT Brewing Company released a statement about the OCB’s event via their Facebook page on Oct. 1. 

“MERIT was not part of this discussion, nor are we members of the OCB, but we would like to say that we are unequivocally against the views of MPP Oosterhoff and outraged over the OCB’s decision to promote their work with him as some sort of gain for the industry or brushed off as part of their responsibility to work with the government,” said the statement.

MERIT turned their attention to the community that was being affected by the OCB’s statement.  The team reflected on their values of creating a welcoming, diverse space but found that the industry association that indirectly represents them was doing the opposite.

“While working together with the government is a good thing — when there's someone whose beliefs, outside of beer . . . are directly attacking not only owners of the businesses but staff members, people who are our guests and our consumers, that really strikes a chord as something that . . . the OCB did without thinking [about] what the implications are,” said Sandhu. “. . . We were angry because even if you're not an OCB member, the OCB indirectly represents our industry. They are the only association that we have. Their stance [on] promotion and their communication is reflective of our entire industry in Ontario.”

The OCB has issued an apology on Twitter

pic.twitter.com/g7kOYq48PY

— Ontario Craft Brewers (@OntCraftBrewers) October 1, 2019

Sandhu emphasized that MERIT, and all members of the OCB, had the responsibility to hold higher organizations accountable for their actions. 

While MERIT had voiced their concerns on an industry level, Sandhu also reflected on local level concerns in Hamilton. 

On Oct. 1, as a part of Hamilton’s “Fast 40” initiative, local and fast-growing businesses were recognized for contributing to the city’s economic development. MERIT Brewing Company was one business amongst many to receive the award given by mayor Fred Eisenberger.  In light of tensions between Eisenberger and the LGBTQA2S+ community, while MERIT claimed their reward, they left shortly before a photo opportunity with Eisenberger.

Merit Brewing Company has recently been recognized by the City of Hamilton for contributing to the city’s economic development. 

“There has been a ton of conversation internally about the handling of the LGBT community, the mayor’s response to the concerns that have been raised and the threat to our staff that are part of the community as well. [Our] action wasn’t meant to be a massive ‘F-U’ to the mayor, it was a way we could ask for accountability. It was something that was small that we thought would have, at the very least, an impact on showing our staff and our guests that we are standing up for them and not standing with someone who isn’t protecting them,” said Sandhu.

MERIT Brewing Company does not see themselves as a voice for marginalized communities, but rather as a microphone that allows their voices be heard. MERIT felt that their action was a step towards greater accountability among local leaders.

Regardless, you don't take a picture of brewery owners smiling and raising a glass with this guy. It's horrible PR. pic.twitter.com/W7njlY6jMu

— Robin LeBlanc, from work (@TheThirstyWench) September 30, 2019

Eisenberger has asked to sit down and meet with MERIT. While the company did not confirm a meeting before this article was released, Sandhu hopes to open a door for members of the community to start communicating with the mayor.

“Conversation is not enough; action needs to follow a conversation . . . You still need to have conversations to get to action . . . We’re trying to do our part. It’s inherent and embedded in what MERIT’s about, from why we are called “MERIT” to what we strive to do here and have be our experience. This is something that we feel is not only our responsibility, it’s our privilege to be able to speak out on these things and it’s something that we are doing because we’re passionate about it,” said Sandu.

Local businesses like MERIT Brewing Company are lending their voice to members of marginalized communities in hopes of not only starting a conversation but also demanding action. 

The Silhouette has reached out via email to Ontario Craft Brewers and the office of MPP Sam Oosterhoff for comment; however, we have not received a response.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

By: Drew Simpson

The Division of Labour exhibit portrays sustainable ways of creating art while also looking at the difficulties of creating a sustainable art career. Housed in the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre’s main gallery space until April 20 and accompanied by a panel discussion, Division of Labour warns of the scarcity of resources, labour rights and living wages of artists.

Division of Labour also serves as an educational tool to communicate and start discourse around the issues regarding sustainability. The Socio-Economic Status of Artists in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area discussion, which was facilitated by Divisions of Labour curator, Suzanne Carte, and included panelists Sally Lee, Michael Maranda and Angela Orasch, encouraged artists to be vocal and seek action.

“People want to be around artists, but they really don’t. If they were living in the reality that a lot of artists are living in, it would not be favourable. What they want is the pseudo creative lifestyle. They want to be around beautiful things and smart people, but they don’t really want to be assisting with making sure artists are making a living wage and that artists are being supported financially,” explained Carte.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id="257" gal_title="Division of Labour Exhibit 1"]

For emerging artists, this exhibits presents a valuable learning experience as it informs them of community issues. This topic is particularly important since emerging artists are often asked to work for free, often under a pretense that the work will add to their portfolios or lead to exposure. However, Carte argues that asking artists to work for free devalues the work they do.  

“Because you are emerging, and because you’re new to the practice does not mean that any institution, organization or individual business, whatever it might be, can take advantage of you and use it as exposure… it’s not about gaining experience — I can gain experience on the job. I can gain experience while being compensated for what I do,” explained Carte.

While Carte encourages individuals to stand up for themselves, she understands that many artists may not be in a position to be able to reject sparse opportunities. She, alongside the panelists at the discussions, further discussed ways emerging and established artists can fight for their rights.

Lee gave an overview of organizations and advocacy groups that focus on bettering labour and housing situations and are making communities aware of gentrification and the living experiences of artists in Hamilton and Toronto.

Maranda added that lobbying for bigger grants or funding is not enough. The community also needs to be advocating for the improvement of artists’ economic status through establishing a basic or minimum hourly wage, affordable rent and transportation.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id="258" gal_title="Division of Labour Exhibit 2"]

Recently, Maranda was a quantitative researcher for the Waging Culture survey. The survey investigated home ownership in Hamilton compared to Toronto. Maranda concluded that Hamilton artists are less reliant on the private market and contribute more to the public art community.  

The survey also suggested an artist migration from Toronto to Hamilton due to Hamilton’s lower rent and higher artist home ownership. This leads to a domino effect as real estate agents and developers follow the migration and aid gentrification.

Orasch stated that real estate agents and developers have secretly attended similar panel discussions. The panelists speculated they do so to learn how to market housing to artists. However, the overall sentiment was that they crossed into an artist-designated space to further exploit artists.

“Developers are taking advantage of the language that we have been able to construct for ourselves, to be able to be attractive to other artists or other individuals who feel as though they want an “artsy” experience out of life,” explained Carte.

Lee emphasized how all these surveys and discussions need to reach key decision makers. The Division of Labour exhibit and the panelists at the discussion have repeatedly stressed that talk is merely educational, the true goal is action and change.  

 

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Photos by Kyle West

 

On Jan. 17, the McMaster Students’ Union hosted a debate featuring the 2019 MSU presidentials candidates four candidates. Here are some of the highlights.

The first question of the debate concerned whether the candidates are more focused on advocacy or student life.

Josh Marando said he would be more focused on advocacy.

Jeffery Campana explained that the limited one-year term of a president would mean smaller initiatives are more important to him.

A1: Campana: Platform aims to engage students to get them more involved; focuses on both advocacy points and student engagement. "I am more out for student engagement, but I don't sacrifice advocacy"

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) January 17, 2019

The debate quickly turned to Ontario government’s decision to restrict Ontario Student Assistance Program grants and make some student fees optional, a move that was announced the morning of the debate.

Madison Wesley pointed to the announcement as proof of why advocacy is central to the MSU president’s role. Justin Lee and the other candidates were also quick to condemn the new changes.

Q10: Campana - "The PC government is not for students like us". The option to opt out of student fees will cause a reduction of funding to services that the MSU needs in order to thrive.

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) January 17, 2019

When the topic reasserted itself later in the debate, Marando noted the need for students to be “prepared to mobilize.”

When candidates were asked to outline their main platform priority areas, Wesley pointed to the need for improved mental and physical health support systems, while Lee chose his “HSR Drivers Accountability” platform point.

Marando said he is focused on making students feel welcome, and Campana spoke about his plan to place free menstrual products in all-gender bathrooms.

On the subject of off-campus housing, all the candidates said they were in favour of the new MSU landlord rating system.

Marando pushed the need to continue supporting landlord licensing, while Wesley and Lee talked about continuing housing education programs for students.

The discussion became more heated when candidates were asked to critique an opponent’s platform point.

Marando pointed to the logistics of Campana’s on-campus ice rink proposal.

Campana, Lee and Wesley criticized Marando’s proposed increase of the maintenance budget and various advocacy goals.

A6: Wesley - Most critical of Marando's point on lobbying to freeze tuition. Previously, OSAP is a provincial legislation issue, problem is that there are entire groups of lobbyists that dedicate time to this and they haven't gotten very far.

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) January 17, 2019

One audience member asked how the candidates would increase campus safety.

Ideas ranged from Wesley’s call for improved police response to the need to upgrade lighting and fix emergency poles on campus, put forth by Campana and Lee, respectively.

A7: Wesley - Student safety big concern. Main issue is that Hamilton police have not been involved, advocating for students to Hamilton police important. If we have concrete advocacy coming from the school, we may be able to change a lot for the better.

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) January 17, 2019

When asked about sexual violence on campus, all of the candidates agreed that training for students, Welcome Week reps and staff needs improvement.

Marando pointed out that none of the other candidates’ platforms addressed sexual violence.

Campana countered by saying that the issue could not be fixed in a one-year term.

A11 Rebuttal: Campana - Didn't address the issue in his platform because it is not a problem that one president can fix. Several different groups across campus must be involved; it is not enough to put a "bandaid solution" on a platform

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) January 17, 2019

The candidates were also given the opportunity to explain what made them unique.

Marando cited his comprehensive MSU experience. Campana did the same while stressing his experiences outside the MSU.

While acknowledging their relative inexperience, Lee and Wesley stressed the creativity of their platform and noted that they represent the only ethnic minority candidate and only female candidate, respectively.

The full debate can be found on the MSU Facebook page.

 

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