Photo C/O Will Erskine

By Trisha Gregorio, Contributor

On June 15, 2019, the annual Hamilton Pride event was disrupted by groups of homophobic and white supremacist protesters, resulting in a violent confrontation between them and some of the Pride attendees. The police had not been invited to the event due to the fraught history between them and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and complaints that the Hamilton Police Services took too long to respond to the Pride altercation soon followed.

Nearly a year later, Scott Bergman — a lawyer with the Toronto firm Cooper, Sandler, Shime and Bergman — has published an independent review into the Pride 2019 incident. The firm was hired by the Hamilton Police Services last fall after the police services board voted unanimously for an examination of police conduct in the Pride 2019 event.

Bergman’s 125-page review looks at whether the HPS was slow to respond to the violence at Pride or whether they deliberately did not get involved as the violence continued. It brings into question the HPS’ actions during the Pride celebration, citing the police’s lack of preparation as the foundation for their failure to adequately respond to the public’s safety needs.

“[The] activities could reasonably have been anticipated by the police, but they weren’t. As a result, the police response was inadequate — before, during and after the event,” wrote Bergman.

“[The] activities could reasonably have been anticipated by the police, but they weren’t. As a result, the police response was inadequate — before, during and after the event,” wrote Bergman.

According to the review, the four police officers assigned to Pride 2019 did not consult with the organizers regarding the event. Furthermore, they did not have an operational plan until two days before the event, only for that plan to be found lacking details and failing to take into account the potential presence of agitators or any legal mechanisms that might be relevant.

These findings are in contrast to a similar report conducted by an HPS staff sergeant and submitted to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director. According to CBC, the OIPRD report claims that the police had a proper operational plan in place and that they did not stand to watch the violence unfurl without intervening.

"This investigation has discovered that the policies and procedures were followed in this instance and that there were no identified issues," read the 110-page report, which was signed by Det. Sgt. Gary Heron.

https://www.facebook.com/pridehamilton/posts/2627397237514278

 

In Bergman’s report, on the other hand, he highlights comments made by Police Chief Eric Girt four days after the Pride incident, which he believes demonstrated a lack of understanding of what  2SLGBTQIA+ Hamiltonians were feeling in response to the violence at the Pride 2019 event.

“We were not invited to the event. We were asked not to be at the event and we remained on the perimeter. We have to respect the requests, too. It’s kind of a no-win situation where you’re asked not to be there, and then when you’re not there, how come you weren’t there?” Girt had said in a local radio show.

Bergman’s review emphasizes the damage that has been done to the relationship between the HPS and the Hamilton 2SLGBTQIA+ community. He is now calling for several key actions to help repair this damaged relationship; among many others, this includes an apology from the HPS, more detailed operational plans for the annual Pride events to come and careful consideration of a potential diversity audit. He also calls for better communication between the police and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, which would entail experiential training and public acknowledgement of the HPS’ intent to build mutual trust.

At the same time, some members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community feel this is not enough.

“[Y]ou didn’t need to spend [$600,000] to find out the things the community was saying. You didn’t need two lawyers outside the Hamilton community and outside of two-spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities to come into Hamilton and then write down everything that community said. The community already said that everywhere” said Cameron Kroetsch, a Pride Hamilton board member. “This the process for this very austere board as part of a very broken police system to try and understand what happened at an event they didn’t attend.”

From page 69 of the report, "This sentiment was magnified by the fact that the first three people arrested in connection with the Gage Park events were Pride Defenders. 1/3 #HamOnt pic.twitter.com/jnbx9n3deC

— Pride Hamilton (@HamiltonPride) June 18, 2020

Youth programs such as speqtrum Hamilton have also expressed their dissatisfaction that they will not be able to afford an 2SLGBTQIA+ liaison officer — one of the recommendations to the HPS presented by Bergman’s report.

On June 11, the organization tweeted, “The cost of a [full-time] LGBTQ+ liaison officer is more than our current operating budget. We receive no funding from the City of Hamilton . . . Apologies feel so hollow when you are still struggling with broken bootstraps.”

Bergman nevertheless remains optimistic that the HPS can still repair their relationship with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Hamilton. He believes that his discussions with the HPS during the independent review indicate their desire to work towards more trust, cooperation and transparency.

In his report’s conclusion, Bergman writes, “Much can be done by the HPS that will help foster a stronger relationship with the Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities in Hamilton … It requires a concerted effort on the part of all parties, but as a public institution, the onus rests first and foremost with the HPS.”

 

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Photos by Andrew Mrozowski / A&C Editor 

On Nov. 21, the Ontario Divisional Court struck down the Student Choice Initiative, a controversial directive introduced by the provincial government which required universities and colleges to allow students to opt-out of student fees deemed “non-essential.” Three judges unanimously ruled that the government did not have the legal authority to interfere with the autonomous and democratic decision-making process between universities and student unions. 

On Jan. 17, 2019, Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities publicly announced the SCI alongside a series of changes to post secondary funding, including cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program. When students were given the opportunity to opt-out in September 2019, services deemed non-essential such as food banks, student societies and campus media became vulnerable to funding cuts.   

On May 24, the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario and the York Federation of Students launched a joint legal challenge against the provincial government’s SCI directive, claiming that the SCI was unlawful, proposed in bad faith and carried out in a way that was procedurally unfair. On the basis of the legality of the SCI, the Divisional Court of Ontario ruled in favour of CFS-O and YFS on Nov. 21.

The legal document explaining the judges’ decision cites previous Supreme Court rulings, which concluded that, while universities are regulated and funded by the government, “it by no means follows, however, that universities are organs of government … The fact is that each of the universities has its own governing body … The government thus has no legal power to control the universities even if it wished to do so.”  

"Student unions can confidently budget again ... For students to access the services of their student unions" - CFSO Rep https://t.co/c3XO2R6LOZ

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) November 22, 2019

The Ontario government attempted to defend themselves by arguing that the SCI was a “core policy decision” not subject to judicial review, and that they were exercising their prerogative power over spending decisions. However, the Court’s legal documents state that, “with the exception of narrowly defined powers in the MTCU [Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities] Act, policy-making and governance authority over a university is vested in its [university’s] Boards of Governors and Senates.”

 

THE DECISION

The Divisional Court found that by interfering with the agreement between student unions and universities, the SCI posed a threat to universities’ autonomy from the government.

Louis Century, an associate at Goldblatt Partners and lawyer for the CFS-O, sees the decision as proof of the importance of student unions.

“I would hope that student unions would read this decision as an affirmation of the central role that they play on campuses. That was a core part of the Court’s decision, is recognizing that . . .  they’re actually core to what happens on campuses at universities, so much so that the government overriding their affairs is overriding the autonomy of the university generally,” he said.

“I would hope that student unions would read this decision as an affirmation of the central role that they play on campuses. That was a core part of the Court’s decision, is recognizing that . . .  they’re actually core to what happens on campuses at universities, so much so that the government overriding their affairs is overriding the autonomy of the university generally,” said Louis Century, an associate at Goldblatt Partners and lawyer for the CFS-O. 

The YFS and CFS-O also argued that the government had implemented the SCI in bad faith, on the basis of a politically-motivated attack on student unions. While the Court heard this evidence, it did not end up being a factor in determining the legality of the SCI.

In a fundraising email sent to the Conservative party in February, Premier Doug Ford wrote, “Students were forced into unions and forced to pay for those unions. I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to. So, we fixed that. Student union fees are now opt-in.”

Kayla Weiler, the National Executive Representative of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, believes that the SCI was about silencing the organizations critical of the Ford government that advocate on behalf of students.

“This was never about choice. It was always about the Ford government trying to silence the exact bodies that hold them accountable and challenge them to do better,” Weiler stated during a press conference on Nov. 22.

“This was never about choice. It was always about the Ford government trying to silence the exact bodies that hold them accountable and challenge them to do better,” Weiler stated during a press conference on Nov. 22.

Since its introduction, the SCI has been widely criticized. Student union representatives have argued that, while the purpose of the SCI was to allow students to decide where their money would go, student unions already have democratic procedures in place that allow students to decide which services to fund. At McMaster, for example, undergraduate students have the opportunity to vote on fees during annual general meetings, referenda and other processes.

Weiler believes that the implementation of the SCI was to question the validity of student unions as valid democracies and valid organizations. 

“It’s about time for the government to recognize us as autonomous organizations. . .What we want is to be recognized as autonomous organizations that fight for student rights, and we don’t want to have government interference into our budgets or the work that we do and we don’t want the Premier to comment on the fact that we are crazy Marxists. What we want is legislation that protects us and not hurt us,” said Weiler. 

“It’s important for these conversations to be held in a particular campus because Doug Ford is not a student in 2019. The Minister of Colleges and Universities is not a student in 2019 at Algoma University or the University of Windsor or George Brown College, so why are they making decisions for the students on these campuses?” 

 

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

Unless the decision is successfully appealed, the fee structure for student unions will return to normal.

“Any legal requirements that existed before this case was brought are now restored,” said Century. 

The MSU, however, will not implement the results of the Court’s decision until the appeal period closes.

“Until we have the appeal period, and until we have that final decision, we do need to operate in the most financially stable way, which is assuming that those agreements are still in place,” said MSU president Josh Marando.

“Until we have the appeal period, and until we have that final decision, we do need to operate in the most financially stable way, which is assuming that those agreements are still in place,” said MSU president Josh Marando.

If the decision is upheld in Court, the results of the SCI will still be felt at universities and colleges across the province. Some Ontario student unions had to cut entire jobs and services this year as a result of SCI.

MSU general manager John McGowan pointed out that McMaster was lucky to be able to rely on reserve funds this year. However, student services have still felt the impact. With their budgets uncertain, services have had to hold off on hiring and long-term planning. 

Furthermore, the MSU dedicated resources towards implementing the SCI and educating students about the process.

“There has been quite a bit of time and energy put into creating the fees, educating students on what those fees look like, as well as making sure that we're compliant with the framework and the new tuition and ancillary fee framework,” said Marando.

If the SCI decision is upheld in court, it will mean that an unlawful directive caused harm to campus services and student unions. Chris Glover, the MPP for Spadina–Fort York and the Ontario New Democratic Party’s postsecondary critic, noted that many campus services are currently struggling financially as a result of the SCI. Glover called on Ford to reimburse student services for the losses they incurred under SCI.

“I really think that the government should step up …  Their actions were unlawful and now students are suffering, campus services are suffering, and the government should make up for this shortfall, Doug Ford should make up for this shortfall,” said Glover during a press conference. 

If the student fee structure that existed before the SCI is restored, it is unclear how services and clubs whose funds have been negatively impacted may be compensated, if at all. Both CFS-O and YFS representatives emphasized that, at the very least, the Court’s decision should be a lesson as to the importance of engaging with and protecting the democratic processes at all universities and colleges. 

 

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Photos C/O Kyle West

The McMaster Students Union recognizes over 350 clubs. According to the MSU Clubs page, the purpose of these clubs is to “provide an insightful and meaningful contribution to the McMaster and Hamilton community.”

Being a MSU recognized club affords certain privileges including being eligible for funding from the MSU. This funding comes directly from the MSU organizational fee, a $130.26 fee that all full-time undergraduate students pay. Within this fee, $8.02 are collected per student to support MSU clubs.

As students are paying for the operations of these clubs, the MSU has a responsibility to ensure that these clubs are not deliberately sharing and promoting misinformation that can be harmful to students.

McMaster Lifeline is the pro-life group on campus. Their mission statement is “to advocate with loving care the legal rights and social support of pregnant women and their unborn children.”

While the presence of a pro-life group on campus is already cause for controversy, the issue at hand is not solely the groups’ existence but that they use student space and resources to share information that is factually incorrect.

The group can often be found at a table in the McMaster University Student Centre, a privilege of being a MSU club, spreading scientifically false information on abortions and reproductive health. In addition to misinformation, the group is known for distributing graphic and potentially triggering images.

Groups like McMaster Lifeline should not be given a platform by the MSU to disseminate false information about individuals’ health.

Namely, the group fails to state that abortions are safe, medical procedures that are fully legal in Canada. Instead, they spread the false rhetoric that “abortions are never medically necessary”, which is simply a lie.  

In fact, any student-run group on campus does not really have the credentials to provide healthcare information or advice to students. Abortion is a serious topic that should be discussed with a healthcare professional who can provide factual, non-judgemental information, not with students who some of which have “no experience engaging with people on the topic.”

The MSU should be cautious in ratifying clubs that provide this type of information, as the results can be extremely harmful to students.

With over 350 clubs, it can be difficult for the MSU to ensure that operations of each of their clubs are aligned with the core goal of supporting students. However, that is not an excuse for allowing this behaviour to occur.

Multiple students have on many occasions voiced their concerns against these clubs’ actions. The MSU failing to take action blatantly goes against their responsibility towards their student constituents.

The MSU Clubs Operating Policy states that the MSU “will not attempt to censor, control or interfere with any existing MSU club on the basis of its philosophy, beliefs, interests or opinions expressed until these lead to activities which are illegal or which infringe upon the rights and freedoms of others”.

Due to this policy, on March 22, pro-choice students who were protesting McMaster Lifeline’s table in MUSC were removed and not allowed to distribute pro-choice pamphlets. A claimed “victory for free speech on campus” by the MSU only served to help promote the misinformation on campus.

While the actions of McMaster Lifeline may not be illegal, they certainly are harmful to students and may actually be violating the Clubs Judicial Policy, stated under the MSU Clubs Operating Policy.

Specifically, their actions may be considered to “unnecessarily cause a significant nuisance for an individual or group” (5.1.1.3), have “conduct unbecoming of an MSU club” (5.1.2.7) and most importantly, actions that “unnecessarily jeopardize the safety or security of any person or property” (5.1.3.3).

If the MSU truly wishes to provide a meaningful contribution to the McMaster and Hamilton community, it can begin with properly investigating clubs that may be found guilty of any offences described by the Clubs Judicial Policy. Only then can they truly ensure that their clubs support and protect McMaster students.

If students do wish to learn about their options with respect to their reproductive health, the Student Wellness Centre offers birth control counselling. If a student wishes to speak in a more informal setting, the MSU Student Health Education Centre offers relevant literature, referrals and peer support.

 

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Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives

Over the last two years, Halima Al-Hatimy, a former McMaster University public health grad student, has launched multiple Ontario human rights complaints against McMaster and Hamilton Health Sciences.

She also has legal proceedings against McMaster officials Patrick Deane, Wanda McKenna, Sarah Dickson, Glenn De Caire, Joseph Zubek and constables Tyler Rogers and Peter Broz.

Al-Hatimy’s issues with the university first materialized in 2017, before her anticipated departure to Ghana with “Waters Without Borders,” a program facilitated through a partnership between McMaster and the United Nations University.

Photo C/O Halima Al-Hatimy

The day before Al-Hatimy was expected to leave, the university informed her that she had been taken out of the program’s trip as a result of her presumed plan to bring medicinal marijuana overseas.

Thirteen days later, Al-Hatimy filed a human rights complaint against McMaster and the UNU.

“The administration asked me to sign an affidavit saying that I wouldn’t take medicinal cannabis with me illegally. It was riddled with criminalizing language, telling me that I had to promise I wasn’t going to traffic, import, export or illegally purchase illicit drugs or substances. I was traumatized by the experience,” she said.

Al-Hatimy is firmly convinced the university discriminated against her on the basis of “race, age, disability and use of medicinal cannabis.”

Thus far into the proceedings, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has affirmed Sarah Dickson’s involvement in the case but cut out the UNU and David Wilkinson, McMaster provost and vice-president (Academic).

Al-Hatimy said the university has been “extremely aggressive and uncooperative” over the past year.

In particular, according to Al-Hatimy, McMaster’s campus-wide smoking ban instituted in 2017 directly tore away her demand that the university construct a medical cannabis policy to protect users on campus.

Since launching her complaint, Al-Hatimy also filed for reprisal and organized two anti-smoking ban protests, one off-campus and the other in the Health Sciences Building.

“Both times, I was racially carded. The police showed up and walked straight to me. The guy beside me was white and smoking his medical cannabis. At the time, they didn’t know he was a licensed user. They just saw an older man and a younger student with a megaphone. You’d think they’d card him first, but they carded me,” she said.

When walking in the McMaster University Student Centre on another occasion, she said she was harassed by Joseph Zubek, the senior manager of McMaster security services.

“He showed me pictures that he had of me on his phone. He said they started an investigative police file on me,” she said.

In addition to lodging human rights complaints, Al-Hatimy has launched an application for reprisal for three counts of racial profiling, intimidation and harassment.

Upon entering the impending proceedings, Al-Hatimy said she feels hopeful.

“I have a strong case, I have evidence in my favour. I have witnesses. I’ve connected with other students who have also been bullied by the university and I have evidence of their stories that I’ll be presenting to the tribunal,” she said.

Gord Arbeau, the communications director at McMaster University, told the Silhouette that McMaster is committed to being inclusive, respectful and harassment-free.  

“The university’s policies and procedures support this commitment, including providing medical accommodations to members of the community,” said Arbeau, on behalf of the university’s respondents in the proceedings.

On March 29, Al-Hatimy and McMaster officials will attend a case management conference that will consolidate her applications. From there, cases will be combined and a hearing will be scheduled.

 

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Photo C/O Catherine Goce

It’s that time of the year where everyone is looking for a place to rent. Searching for off-campus housing is a source of headache for many students. But what students shouldn’t have to worry about is invasions of their privacy.  

As of now, my landlord could text me saying he has a viewing for the house within the next hour and he’d be allowed to enter the property. Why? According to Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act, once tenants have given notice to terminate their tenancy, landlords are allowed to show prospective tenants the property so long as they make a “reasonable effort to inform the current tenants of their intentions to do so”.  

The ambiguity of “reasonable effort” allows landlords to barely give any notice that they will enter the property. It even states in Section 26 that this “reasonable effort” does not have to be within 24 hours’ notice. Though this is technically legal, it serves as a major inconvenience to tenants who cannot be expected to schedule their day around frequent and inconsistent house showings.

Beyond a mere inconvenience, allowing landlords to enter student-rented property essentially whenever they wish to do so can be seen as a threat to student safety. Without adequate notice, students may have not have time to secure their valuables or ensure that they are not in compromising positions.  

Students are in especially vulnerable positions, many of whom are not well-versed in their rights and may even be minors.

Although it may very well be in the best interest of students to allow their landlord to show the property to prospective tenants — as the sooner the new lease is signed, the sooner the invasions of privacy can stop — it does not excuse the blatant disrespect that students have to endure when their landlords appear at odd hours of the day with little notice.

The only requirement of landlords when showing the property to prospective tenants, besides “reasonable effort to inform”, is that they must enter between the times of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. This should barely be considered a requirement as that timeframe basically cover the entirety of waking hours.

Realistically, appointments for house showings are made well in advance of 24 hours. As such, landlords should be mandated to inform tenants at least 24 hours in advance prior to entering the property, as they are required to in almost any other situation.

In fact, as it stands, landlords can only enter the property without giving 24-hour notice in cases of emergency, under the tenant’s consent, where the tenancy agreement allows for the landlord to enter the property within specified times to clean or during property showings.

While the other situations make sense, as with the exception of an emergency, they require the tenant’s consent, there is no reason to not give tenant’s 24-hour notice before property showings.

Beyond such a requirement being in the best interests for the tenants, giving adequate notice can benefit the landlord as it gives the tenants time to clean the property and make it look presentable.

The government should seriously consider revisiting their tenancies act in order to make these changes. This not only affects students, but tenants across Ontario.

 

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The title and kicker for the physical edition of this article were accidentally changed from what was originally planned for publication and do not represent the work of the author.

By: Humza Khan

Stephan Paddock’s actions of firing into a crowd of 22,000 concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, carrying out the most devastating shooting in US history has traumatized the world.

In addition, the media’s refusal to dub Paddock as a terrorist has ignited an important debate regarding the definition of terrorism.   

My goal in writing this is to shed light on the debate surrounding the definition of terrorism and to suggest that there is a major problem of inconsistency in the labeling of individuals as terrorists.

Additionally, I aim to show the importance of debate in formulating a clear definition of what constitutes an act of terrorism and a terrorist.

If you Google the names Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza and now Stephan Paddock, and compare these with names with names like Omar Siddiqui Mateen, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Rizwan Farook, you will quickly realize that all of these men committed similar atrocious crimes intended at targeting and terrorizing the civilian population.

Where you will see an apparent difference, however, is how the media insisted on referring to Roof, Lanza and Paddock, and many others like them, as “lone wolves” or “shooters” while referring to the latter group of Muslims as “terrorists” and “jihadists”. This discrepancy has led me to question the definition of terrorism and to show the importance of labeling both groups of people the same.

Referring to the actions of Muslim men as “terroristic”, while simultaneously referring to same actions of westerners as “acts of pure evil” (as quoted by Donald Trump in the immediate aftermath of the Las Vegas Attack) is highly problematic.

The statements largely made by the media and by governmental officials directly and wrongfully reinforce the “us versus them” dichotomy by wrongfully reserving only the actions of Muslims as terroristic.

I distinctively remember going to McDonald’s the day after the Las Vegas attack and looking at the front page of the Toronto Sun with the heading “Act of pure evil”.

The same evening, I came across the heading “Terrorist attack in Edmonton”, referring to the stabbing of a police constable by Somalian refugee, Abdulahi Hasan.

My goal is not to suggest that Omar Siddiqui Mateen and others alike are not terrorists, but rather to suggest that the similar actions of Paddock should also have earned him the title of a terrorist because failing to do so strengthens the “us versus them” dichotomy and clouds the definition of terrorism.

The statements largely made by the media and by governmental officials directly and wrongfully reinforce the “us versus them” dichotomy by wrongfully reserving only the actions of Muslims as terroristic.

What I find rather interesting about the Las Vegas case is that the State of Nevada under the sections 202.4415 and 202.4439 of the Nevada Revised Statutes explicitly define terrorism as and terrorist as the following:

Terrorism: “any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to:

(a) Cause great bodily harm or death to the general population; or

(b) Cause substantial destruction, contamination or impairment of…”

Terrorist: “A person who intentionally commits, causes, aids, furthers or conceals an act of terrorism or attempts to commit, cause, aid, further or conceal an act of terrorism”.

From a legal standpoint, it is quite evident that Paddock’s actions of firing 281 rounds in 30 seconds in a crowd of 22,000 civilians earn him the title of a terrorist.

More importantly, however, is that even if we chose to call Paddock a lone wolf it is imperative that we also label Omar Siddiqui and others alike with the same label to ensure legitimacy and consistency.

As a graduate from the Justice, Political Philosophy and Law program at McMaster, one of the more valuable things I learned in my program was to critically evaluate information and arguments instead of taking them at face value.

It is this message that I leave you in reading this, to evaluate and analyze complex information and arguments that you see before blindly accepting them.

As informed McMaster students, and the leaders of tomorrow, it is our duty and responsibility to ask hard questions and debate complex issues and only then come to conclusions.

I urge you to critique and evaluate my opinions above, to debate openly with other students, because it is only through such discourse we can come to understand the complexity of these problems and become more informed in our opinions.

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