Photos by Catherine Goce

On Feb 1, the Hamilton Student Mobilization Network, a local activist group, hosted a rally at Gore Park in downtown Hamilton to protest the government’s proposed changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

The event featured various speakers including Angie Perez, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees 3096, and Sandy Hudson, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto.

“Students have gone to strike for less,” HSMN organizers said at the event.

Following a brief performance from Mother Tareka, @sandela, one of the founders of @BLM_TO, and @SarahJama_, a Hamilton organizer, are up.

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) February 1, 2019

Beyond the issue of OSAP, various speakers advocated for completely free tuition. All stressed the need to support grassroots student activism.

The protest downtown followed a protest in the McMaster University Student Centre on Jan. 31, where the HSMN called out the McMaster Students Union for failing to advocate for the student body effectively.

Multiple musicians and poets were also featured at the two-hour long rally, performing pieces on the issues of capitalism and gentrification.

Hudson stresses the power of students, pointing to the success of Quebec student organizers.

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) February 1, 2019

“It is a strong sense of solidarity, a strong sense of agitation, and a strong sense of annoyance,” one protester said when asked why he attended the rally.

After an hour of speakers and performers, the protest took to marching on the streets, stopping traffic around the downtown area.

The HSMN was launched in the first few weeks following the government’s announcement on Jan 17.

The organization strives to equip activists to mobilize against shared struggles and is mostly run by students and workers from McMaster University and Mohawk College who had already been organizing separately.

“We started having conversations about what it would look like if we came together on campus across campuses across the city and really bolstered a more cohesive body of resistance,” a HSMN organizer and McMaster student said.

Though the rally was centred on the changes to OSAP, the HSMN is also focused on the adverse effects that cutting tuition and student fees will have.

The student organizer pointed out that McMaster is set to lose $22 million in funding next year, with no additional funding from the government to offset the loss.

“We are looking at suffering quality of education given that there will probably be increases of class sizes. We are looking at part-time staff, faculty associate professors being made vulnerable, anyone that really does not have security or stability of tenure or status in the organization,” they said.

“There are a lot of communities being affected by this, not just students on OSAP,” they added.

Nonetheless, changes to OSAP will not make it easier to afford tuition anyway, according to the student organizer.

“The tuition cuts are very misleading,” they said. “If you cannot afford the tuition even with it reduced, you are still taking out higher loans, which means higher debts, higher interest rates, and in the long run, it is going to cost more.”

The HSMN is also very concerned that the option for students to opt-out of certain student fees will jeopardize some student services.

“We need to really come together as a community and realize that services we do not use today we might need tomorrow. We need to support services for each other and recognize that student fees help build a stronger, healthier community,” the student organizer said.

For the HSMN, the rally represents only the first step in what they hope will be sustained student mobilization and advocacy.

“It represents an entry point for a lot of students to mobilize around these changes and we are going to be having a sustained campaign,” they said.

The HSMN has not released any other planned actions to the public at this point.


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By: Michal Coret

You look in the mirror and go through your list of things to improve about your body. Flatter stomach, perhaps? Thinner arms? Or more muscular arms? Maybe “nicer” legs? Regardless of your favourite target for scrutiny, you are not alone in this attitude. According to a 2011 study by Wade et al., body image disturbances and eating disorders affect over 30 million Americans at some point in their lifetime. That’s an unfortunately high number, and the situation isn’t much better in Canada.

We all know body image affects self-esteem and confidence. These factors, in turn, have been studied and shown to negatively affect academic performance, and are correlated with increased drug and alcohol use, as well as increased risks of depression and anxiety.

What can you do to improve your self-esteem? Maybe you aren’t comfortable going to see a (free) counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre in the basement of MUSC. Maybe you haven’t yet heard that SHEC has (free) peer support in MUSC 202, or that there is an anonymous (free) Peer Support Line provided by McMaster students. I can go on promoting other (free) services, but they might not be the best answer for you. It can be difficult to walk into a counsellor’s office and openly admit that you are having trouble with your body image. It can be difficult to call a support line and tell them your story. Asking for help can be incredibly challenging and will be perceived differently by each person. So if the above services do not work for you at this moment, there are ways you can help yourself.

The beneficial effects of daily yoga and meditation have been a hot media topic recently. To people new to the idea, all the benefits that are advertised can be hard to believe but most are actually supported by solid research. A new and uprising area of study focuses on the effects of mindfulness on body image. The researcher Jennifer J. Daubenmier said in a press release about her study on how yoga benefits body awareness and reduces self-objectification: “This study suggests that women may have intuitively discovered a way to buffer themselves against messages that tell them that only a thin and ‘beautiful’ body will lead to happiness and success.” Yoga was found to reduce self-objectification due to its focus on body awareness and responsiveness. Although that specific study focused on the effect of yoga in women, it is important to acknowledge that body image certainly affects men as well, and the effects of yoga are likely not limited to one gender.

DBAC offers yoga classes as well as free mindfulness meditation classes. There are also plenty of apps, books, videos, and classes off-campus that teach yoga or meditation.  The benefits of yoga extend beyond improving self-esteem and include improving sleep quality, bone strengthening, increasing your focus, and boosting your immune system. We are fortunate to have these opportunities around us. Join SHEC in this challenge to benefit from these options and become more self-aware and develop a healthy (or healthier) attitude towards your own body, one breath at a time.

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

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