WHAT IS IT

Gold Bars Dessert is a travelling dessert shop that opened in March 2020. From butter tart bars to brownies, the shop specializes in dessert bars. Gold Bars Dessert offers holiday-themed bars and uses seasonal ingredients.

They offered Easter egg brownies around Easter, peach cobbler bars during Ontario’s peach season in August, pumpkin spice bars in October and are currently selling holiday cranberry bars and candy crunch brownies for the holiday season.

Gold Bars Dessert has also partnered with the Hamilton-based specialty coffee company Detour Coffee to offer their whole beans. Gold Bars sells espresso and medium roast, which were handpicked to pair with their dessert bars.

The dessert business combines owner Germaine Collins’ love of adventure with her love of sweets. The adventure lover has created a business that allows her to travel and connect to people through food.

 

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HOW TO GET IT

While the shop doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location, they frequent farmers’ markets and host pop-up shops. In the summer and early fall of 2020, Gold Bars Desserts was a weekly vendor at Connon Nurseries Fall Farmers’ Market in Waterdown. They also did a Christmas pop-up at Connon Nurseries on Nov. 28. Check their website and social media to find out where they’ll be next.

When they are not at a market, Gold Bars dessert does local doorstep drop-offs. If you’re located in the Greater Hamilton area, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga or Toronto, you can order online for next-weekend delivery. The delivery days are announced on their website and on their social media.

 

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THE COST

At markets, you can buy individual bars for $3. For doorstep drop-offs, Gold Bars Desserts sells the boxes of bars on their website. A box of nine bars is $20 to $25 depending on the type. Each bar is about the size of a coaster. The delivery is an additional $5.

 

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WHAT TO GET

You really can’t go wrong with any of these dessert bars. They’re all decadent, filling and beautifully decorated. I would definitely recommend the OG brownie if you’re a chocolate fan because even after a couple of days, the brownie is still moist and rich inside. If you’re not a chocolate fan, I’d recommend the blondies or lemon bars.

If there is a seasonal dessert bar when you’re looking to purchase, definitely try that. I tried the cranberry holiday bars and it gave Starbucks’ cranberry bliss bars a run for its money.

 

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WHY IT'S GREAT

Gold Bars Desserts is perfect for the sweet tooth who adores a large, classic brownie or dessert bar. The variety of flavours and the seasonal creations make it an exciting business to visit month after month.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the perfect way to support a small business and satisfy your sweet tooth without having to leave your house. Having Collins visit my house on a Sunday afternoon to deliver me handmade sweets was the highlight of my weekend. With the pretty packaging and Collins’ handwritten notes, Gold Bars Dessert bars make the perfect gift for your loved ones.

 

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The Black student-athlete systemic review barely scratches the surface of issues at McMaster

By: Shae-Ashleigh Owen, Contributor

CW: anti-Black racism

On June 25, 2020, McMaster University President David Farrar published a letter promising to address systemic institutional racism and any obstacles to equity and inclusion at Mac. Alongside these promises, Farrar mentioned that the university's recently released Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and 2019-2020 Action Plan will challenge anti-Black racism and support Black students and students of colour at McMaster. The letter also stated that they will finally address the underrepresentation of Black faculty members at the university. 

Among their attempts to address anti-Black racism, McMaster announced a systemic review of the Black student-athlete experience, headed by Ivan Joseph. The university invited both past and present Black student-athletes to share their experiences in the athletics department. 

This review was officially launched July 27 when Fabian Foote, a McMaster football alumnus and Toronto Argonauts defensive lineman, tweeted about facing systemic racism during his time at Mac.

“We still have work to do” LOL. Y’all never started shit to begin with. Start by firing Mark Alfano. How about that? I’ve experienced a lot of systemic racism during my time at McMaster. Myself and other black student athletes brought it up to Mark & Glen and they brushed us off. https://t.co/W2F37z8sCL

— Fabion (@FabionFoote) June 28, 2020

The review, which was completed on Oct. 27, found that there was a history of systemic anti-Black racism in the Department of Athletics and Recreation. As a Black student, hearing about Black students’ experiences with racism was saddening, disappointing and traumatic. However, the results of the review did not surprise me. 

The review of the Black student-athlete experience in McMaster Athletics & Recreation is complete. Evidence collected during the review, which was conducted by @DrIvanJoseph of Wilfrid Laurier University, reveals a culture of systemic anti-Black racism within the department. 1/8

— McMaster University (@McMasterU) October 27, 2020

Experiences of those who participated in the review included: having a “jailbreak-themed” party where white students dressed up as criminals and wore cornrows in their hair; mentions of racial slurs used by alumni, fellow teammates and a coach; cancelling Black History Month celebrations; degrading comments based on race; there was even an accusation that a Black student-athlete was selling drugs.

In response to this, Farrar launched an Action Plan which aims to increase representation, implement advocacy roles and targeted supports and scholarships. On Oct. 29, the Department of Athletics and Recreation announced that 10 new athletic financial aid awards will be established for Black student-athletes each year. 

 

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I want to highlight the fact that Black students are singled out based on race regardless of scholarships. According to a census conducted in February 2020, 60 per cent of Black youth expect to gain at least a bachelor’s degree in comparison to 79 per cent of other youths. The census concludes that this gap is likely due to discrimination.

Experiencing systemic racism like this is not exclusive to Black student-athletes. This includes the McMaster Students Union and academia as a whole, as these areas of student life are not exempt from anti-Black behaviours and actions. Statistics, such as the census, show that we need more scholarships for Black students at McMaster, as Black youth are statistically less likely to gain a bachelor’s degree compared to the general population. By providing scholarship opportunities, Black students will have at least one less barrier to receiving a postsecondary education.

As a Black student, hearing about Black students’ experiences with racism was saddening, disappointing and traumatic. However, the results of the review did not surprise me.

Like many other Black students, I have faced anti-Black racism during my time at Mac. My own experiences include people shuffling their bags away from me because they seem to be afraid of stealing — no, I do not want your bag nor what’s in it, thank you. I have even heard, “Oh, you speak great English,” even though English is my first language.

In class, I feel like I have to work 10 times as hard as the non-Black students just to get the same amount of respect and acknowledgement. I often get labelled as the “angry Black woman” due to my dominant personality, which I can assume my non-Black classmates do not have to worry about. I’ve heard fellow Black students talk about the subtle racism they had to face in their classes, both by classmates and even professors.

I even had to face systemic racism from the MSU when the Pride Community Centre was closed down midway through the winter 2020 semester, right after their 2SLGBTQA+ BIPOC-focused campaign which mainly highlighted Black and Indigenous 2SLGBTQA+ folks. This decision made by the 2019-2020 executive board hurt members of the BIPOC community at McMaster. As the only Black volunteer of the PCC at that time, this deeply hurt me too. 

Statistics, such as the census, show that we need more scholarships for Black students at McMaster, as Black youth are statistically less likely to gain a bachelor’s degree compared to the general population.

I applaud the school community for recognizing the systemic issues that Black students face. This has resulted in clubs including the ratification of the Black Student Association and other Black-focused clubs. However, if Mac truly wants to help the Black student community, their actions need to be taken further. 

Reviews of racism and oppression need to be extended towards more areas of student life, including security, club life and especially education because although we pay the same tuition as everyone else, we face more barriers in getting our degree. I would even suggest that reviews need to be extended to other minority groups as well. This is a good and important start; however, there is so much more work to be done.

Photo C/O Kaz Ehara/Verity Creative Inc.

Four days, seven shows and one location. For the past five years, the Frost Bites theatre festival has created a space for non-traditional theatre in Hamilton. Frost Bites focuses on site-specific theatre, which means that the shows are created for a particular venue. Therefore, shows can only be performed in one space and at one time. 

This year the festival is taking place in and drawing inspiration from the Hamilton Waterfront Trust. Claire Calnan, the Executive Director of Hamilton Fringe, explains that before they begin writing, artists are taken on a tour of this venue and asked to write shows inspired by the space, challenging the typical process of writing the script first and finding the venue second. The festival is run by Hamilton Fringe and was created to add a dash of fun, bite-sized theatre to the cold winter months, and to challenge local artists to create something that transforms a space.

“Site-specific work is really interesting for me because it can transform a location for you, so that whenever you go by that location in the future you will think about it differently, because you’ve seen something happen there, or you’ve thought about it in a different way. It kind of transforms a landscape, and it can transform the landscape of a city,” said Calnan.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfUCjvIAxl8/

The festival also works with the Artistic Leadership and Entrepreneurial Training Program, a program run by Hamilton Fringe to develop new artistic leaders in the city. The youth that participate in the program assist with running Frost Bites, whether that be by helping to design the space or running the box office. In this way, Frost Bites not only fosters new theatre in the community, but paves the way for the future of the artistic community in the city.

One of the companies performing is DeVision, a collective of six McMaster Film and Theatre alumni: Adeline Okoyo, Maddie Krusto, Claudia Spadafora, Jamie Milay Kasiama, Brianna Seferiades and Yvonne Lu. Their show, Key Words Include, explores the complicated concept of femme bodies as marginalized and marginalizing. Krusto, now a Master of Arts student at McMaster in the gender studies and feminist program, says that the site-specific nature of the festival creates a unique opportunity to exercise their creativity.

“As an artist, it’s really interesting to not only have this mandate of ‘Make a show,’ but to be able to come in and be inspired by things in the room. For example, when we came in for the venue tour and came into the room, there’s a big glass case, and we walked in and we immediately were like, ‘We could put people in there!’ and, ‘What can we put in there?’ and we were climbing into it, and it’s just really fun to explore what that space offers . . . in some ways it’s very liberating to get to explore first, and to play in this space, and think about what we can do,” said Krusto.

“As an artist, it’s really interesting to not only have this mandate of ‘Make a show,’ but to be able to come in and be inspired by things in the room. For example, when we came in for the venue tour and came into the room, there’s a big glass case, and we walked in and we immediately were like, ‘We could put people in there!’ and, ‘What can we put in there?’ and we were climbing into it, and it’s just really fun to explore what that space offers . . . in some ways it’s very liberating to get to explore first, and to play in this space, and think about what we can do,” said Krusto.

Each group brings their own unique focus and ideas to their performances. DeVision knew that they wanted their work to examine ideas of subjection and consumption, but working in the building helped to mold and shape their ideas, evolving to fit the space that they are performing in.

“We already knew we wanted to do a show that was something about the consumption of femme bodies, and the way that we’re being consumed, and so now the show has evolved into what is our relationship to the land, both when us as subjects and bodies being consumed, but we’re also settlers and consuming the land and contributing to settler colonialism. So what is that relationship when you’re both marginalized, but also marginalizing,” said Krusto. 

Photo C/O Kaz Ehara/Verity Creative Inc.

Every show in the festival is performed in or around the same building, the Hamilton Waterfront Trust. But each show is dramatically different, offering different perspectives on the same building. Another performer is Annalee Flint, the creator of Flint and Steel Productions. She says that her show was entirely inspired by the venue.

“I specifically didn’t want to have anything in mind already, I really wanted to take advantage of the site-specific nature of it. So once I found out what the venue was I had kind of a little lightbulb about something that inspired me, and then once I actually got into the space I had that go further . . .  So it really has been created solely with Frost Bites in mind and solely with this particular venue in mind,” said Flint.

Flint’s show is entitled amo, amas, amat, and it examines the meaning of love. 

“It’s kind of an exploration of love, but using words and language, and maybe almost looking at what happens when you can have all of these beautiful, poetic words and declarations or statements about love, but you maybe can’t actually feel it or realize it for yourself . . . You spend your time focused on the beauty of language and the beauty of how love has been expressed by other people, but then you sort of neglect to figure out how to express it in your own world,” said Flint.

In order to fit multiple pieces into the same evening, shows are capped at 20 minutes, and are performed several times over the course of the evening. Amo, amas, amat has a run time of just 12 minutes. The multi-layered, complex meanings of the show are condensed down into bite-sized pieces, leaving the audience to construct interpretations of their own.

“[The show is] going to have all of [the meaning] behind it, but what actually is presented to the audience I think is something that everybody is going to take away a different meaning, or a different bit of wisdom, or a different emotion,” said Flint.

Frost Bites focuses on fostering relationships between different artists, encouraging artists to collaborate. Each night, audience members will be led into the main space, where there will be a special performance by Indigenous artist Rod Nettagog. On Saturday Feb. 1, choreographer Kyra Jean Green will be doing a dance collaboration with Nettagog. Audience members will not be the only ones seeing this for the first time, however; neither performer has ever met or worked with the other before — it will be an entirely unique and one-of-a-kind performance.

“It’s hard enough to create traditional theatre in the city and make it be successful, so then if you decide to create something a little bit off the beaten track, or a little bit unusual, or you want to put things in unusual places, it gets really hard to find an audience for that. I think that what I like about Frost Bites is that’s exactly what everybody that’s going to Frost Bites wants. They want something that’s a little bit different, a little bit weird perhaps, a little bit non-traditional; they know that that’s what the festival is about,” said Flint.

The Frost Bites festival happens in a new building every year, meaning that each performance is specific to its environment. The unique nature of the festival means that the artists have the opportunity to experiment and explore with different forms of theatre. Like the Hamilton Fringe Festival, artists that participate in Frost Bites are paid for their work. In this way, artists are able to hone their craft while still being supported by the community. 

Frost Bites runs from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 at the Hamilton Waterfront Trust (57 Discovery Drive). Adult tickets are $25 and grant you admission to as many shows as you can manage in one night. If that does not work with your budget, it is possible to see a 1-3 of the shows on Jan. 29 as part of the preview, for free. For more information or to pre-book, email info@hamiltonfringe.ca with “preview night RSVP” in the subject line.

 

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September 2019 marked the first of possibly many registration periods in which students could opt-out of student union fees deemed non-essential. This change, instituted by the Government of Ontario in January 2019, is part of the widely criticised Student Choice Initiative. In the past, McMaster’s student union fees for all clubs and services have been mandatory. Non-essential fees range from a few dollars, like the $1 fee for Mac Farmstands or $2 for Horizons, to $13.72 for CFMU 93.3FM or $17.50 for Campus Events. As early as  January, student groups have feared the worst and prepared for the inevitable cuts.

Nearly two months after the SCI was introduced, the impact on students and the MSU isn’t entirely clear. Despite other universities having already released comprehensive opt-out rates to their university’s student unions, McMaster’s registrar’s office still hasn’t released final numbers. According to Alex Johnston, the MSU’s vice-president (finance), an official breakdown won’t be released until registration is finalized. The final registration numbers have yet to be disclosed by the university. 

As a result of the Student Choice Initiative, many aspects of what the MSU offers to students will become financially optional between September. 12-20. The MSU encourages students to #ChooseStudentLife. Learn more about how your money is spent at: https://t.co/GdcabjjSMF. pic.twitter.com/EOvrhnB3bY

— McMaster Students Union (MSU) (@MSU_McMaster) September 10, 2019

What we do know is that students opted out of services at a rate of roughly 32 per cent of across non-essential fees. These fees include services such as campus events, Shinerama and Mac Farmstand. How this 32 per cent rate translates into absolute dollar losses for the MSU is unclear, and Johnston says it’s difficult to speculate. Throughout the opt-out period, Johnston states that the MSU prioritized transparency. For example, the MSU created a “Choose Student Life” page to encourage undergraduate students to learn about the MSU services and fee breakdown before opting out.

“We did communicate that this could lead to the potential for a pay-for-service model or a reduction of overall services or just reduction in service operations. So those are things we did communicate. Where we actually end up going right now, again I think it’s a little too soon to tell,” said Johnston.

Despite the MSU’s focus on transparency, some felt that the MSU could have done more. 

Ed, a part-time manager of a student service deemed non-essential that asked not to be identified, said that they were displeased with the MSU’s communication leading up to and throughout the SCI implementation.

“Communication has been fraught. Everytime I would bring it up I would receive a ‘we don’t know for sure yet’. And then no follow ups,” said Ed.

Daniel, another PTM who asked not to be identified, felt that work they had previously done to improve their service’s finances hadn’t been taken into consideration. They felt that the MSU should have encourage more discussion about SCI leading before the opt-out period. 

“I knew for the majority of my role finances are important … which is why I made a lot of changes … I don’t want to say they weren’t willing to have that conversation really early, but I kind of wish we had that conversation early,” said Daniel.

As for faculty societies, whose fees were also deemed non-essential, the SCI’s impact is unclear.

Madeleine Raad, the McMaster social sciences society president, said that the society is being careful about spending, although the alumni society has stepped up to fill their funding gaps. 

“From my understanding, the social sciences opt-out was not as high per say maybe other faculties I might have heard of. However our fee is one of the lower fees, our fee is $16,” said Raad.

Although it may be too soon to see the long term impact of the SCI, changes are already being made to non-essential services. 

To prepare for the possibility of high opt-out rates, all MSU services were asked by the executive board to make pre-emptive cuts to their operating budgets for the 2019-2020 school year

“[We] cut back on things most companies cut back on which is promotions … The last thing you want to cut back on are salaries and wages and actual staffing positions,” said Sandeep Bhandari, the campus radio station’s administrative director.  

In the Oct. 20, 2019 SRA meeting, Johnston gave a report on audited statements from the MSU’s 2018-2019 fiscal year. While optimistic, the numbers reflected deficits across the MSU. Johnson mentioned that the Underground, the Silhouette, and 1280 bar and grill all had large deficits and outlined plans for improving finances going forward. Johnston also said that the MSU is soliciting proposals from an external consultant to assist with financial changes the MSU will need to make going forward as the SCI becomes an annual affair. 

“If we continue the way we’re going, we’re going to deplete our operating funds in two years. So that’s obviously not sustainable so we need to make some changes going forward,” said Johnston.

Johnston also reported that the MSU’s executive board, comprised of full-time staff and SRA members, had also made decisions that impact part-time services. The Executive Board has decided to push back the hiring of PTMs for Macycle and Farmstand into 2020, although they are traditionally hired in the fall. Johnston said this decision was made to buy the MSU more time to figure out a financial plan going forward. While this is a temporary push-back, there are still worries that the PTMs will be expected to participate in the hiring process after their terms without pay or be cut out of the important process it entirely. 

“This is a discussion that happened in close session … but we did decide to delay the hiring for Farmstand and Macycle. Typically those part time managers are hired … but due to the fact that we don’t have final opt-in numbers yet we did decide to delay their hiring so we could re-evaluate then move onwards,” said Johnston.

The executive board also made the decision to pause all operations for the Creating Leadership Amongst Youth conference for the 2020 year. Typically CLAY happens in May, but this year will be the exception. 

“We did decide to put a hold on operations for CLAY 2020 just because we couldn’t delay the hiring and then have the part-time manager start later because the conference just couldn’t function,” said Johnston.

Johnston says these decisions are a part of the MSU’s efforts to develop a strategy to make the union more sustainable going forward. The long term impacts of the SCI are unclear, but the MSU is doing what it can to adapt, including expanding The Grind in an attempt to alleviate 1280’s running deficit and hiring a full complement of staff for the Underground so it can operate at full capacity.

A big concern for most non-essential service employees was job security. 

James Tennant, CFMU program director, and Bhandari stressed the importance of student radio, especially for student staff who can’t get these unique experiential learning opportunities elsewhere. 

“We do have a very small staff compared to some other services on campus. But it’s definitely a concern, and it’s the last thing we would want to do … Because they’re valuable to us and the experience they get in the positions is valuable to the students,” said Tennant.

Bhandari said, “It’s been said for many years it’s giving a voice to those who don’t otherwise have access to the airways. And that is the nature of campus community radio across the country.”

Daniel also reflected on the SCI. He expressed dismay that his efforts to improve his service’s financials weren’t headed leading up to the SCI implementation, despite clearly outlining ways the service could improve financially going forward in the wake of the SCI. 

Ed wished that there had been a bigger push over the months leading up to the opt-out period, not just during it. 

“SCI’s really bad but the MSU’s attitude of not talking about it makes everything worse,” said Ed.

Ed also had hoped for solidarity amongst all MSU services, not just advocacy from the ones impacted. He felt like nearly enough people weren’t talking about it. 

Indeed, when Sandy Shaw, MPP for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, visited campus in February 2019 to talk about the provincial policies impacting students, the MSU gave her a tour of the PCC, Maccess and WGEN—three services deemed essential and therefore not at risk of being impacted by the SCI.

Despite criticism of the SCI’s rollout and MSU advocacy efforts, many PTMs are are just worried for the future of their services. 

Daniel said, “Thats been the biggest impact of SCI: emotionally. The worry for the future of the service.”

Ed said, “If my service doesn’t run its going to affect the people who volunteer for me and it’s going to affect all those people who use my service regularly.”

“I’m sad because I don’t want my service to die,” said Ed.

With the SCI mandated for the next two years, with possibility for renewal, the long-term implications could be dire. Without a clear path forward, part-time student staff, volunteers and services users are left to worry for what is to come. MSU advocacy may have mitigated what could have been worse opt-out numbers, but future efforts will be essential to keep services afloat. 

 

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By: Lauren O'Donnell

‘A Two Piece’ consists of two separate and distinct dance pieces choreographed, respectively, by Georgi DiRocco and Jake Poloz. It is a part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival, and it runs until Sunday, July 28th. ‘A Two Piece’ is being put on at The Westdale Cinema, recently renovated and looking snazzier than ever. 

As the audience filters into the theatre, the dancers are warming up. There are brief flashes of the performance that is to come, interspersed with stretches and laughter. With dance performances it can be easy to feel out of place and confused, but that was not the case with this show. Every movement spoke directly to the heart of summer romance, however fleeting. The performers channelled every emotion from lovesick, to happy, to heartbroken, to disinterested in every boy on every dating app. Truly, the most relatable content.

The stage remained bare except for a small bin of props. The focus remains permanently on the performers. They command the stage. There are brief moments of slam poetry interwoven within the choreography, connecting the movements to the words in another kind of duet. The poetry is good, but the true strength of the performance lies in the dance. 

Each of the two pieces carries a different tone, as well as dramatically different music choices. In other words, if one of the pieces is not your other thing, the other one probably will be. Different as they may be, however, there is a cohesion and unity to the show that makes it feel whole and fulfilling. 

I give this show a solid 2/2 pieces. When you’re compiling your list of Fringe plays to go see, make sure to add this one in. And then go ahead and add in every other Fringe show.

For more information, visit http://hamiltonfringe.ca/shows/a-two-piece/

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Photo courtesy of Animal Show

By: Lauren O'Donnell

Animal Show is playing as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival, and is in the Staircase Theatre in the Bright Room. It runs until Sunday, July 28th

Over the course of its 55 minutes showtime, Katie Hood’s one-woman play takes you through the daring rescues and harrowing tales of her time as an animal rescuer on the West coast. It is a roller coaster of emotions; by turns hilarious, gut-wrenching, and uplifting. I laughed so hard that I cried, and then I just plain old cried.

Hood breathes life into every character and every situation. We’re right there with her as she saves bald eagles, seagulls, and cats alike.* We are taken through several different rescues, interspersed with Hood’s stories and dialogues with others. Each character is memorable and interesting, with unique and funny personalities and quirks. It’s hard to say what is more compelling: the daring rescue of a bald eagle stranded at sea, or speed dating gone disastrously wrong. 

This show is a masterclass in storytelling, chock full of memorable tails and delightfully funny jokes. Provided free of context, my favourite line from the show is: “Cat urine is like the British Empire; nothing is gonna stand in its way.”

You should see this show if you like laughing uproariously, hearing stories about animals, and questioning your existence.

10/10, would cackle maniacally again. 

For more information, visit  http://hamiltonfringe.ca/shows/animal-show/

 

 

 

*And, of course, she’s never held a cat before.

 

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Photo courtesy of HCA Teen Creative Collective

By: Lauren O'Donnell

“The voices of the youth should be heard.” 

The Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts is a beautiful building chock full of art and history which is itself worth the price of admission. “HCA Teen Creation Collective: Connection” is playing there until Saturday, July 27th.

As we entered the space, we were told that the designer of the building was a very short man whose girlfriend left him for someone much taller, and as vengeance he created the space so that all tall people were forced to bang their heads. Regretfully, this turned out to be false. As we trekked up several flights of stairs we were regaled with further tales of how the building was initially meant to be a stair factory, but when it fell through they decided to shove as many stairs into the building as possible. This too turned out to be false, much to my disappointment. 

As we got to the top of the stairs, we were treated to a series of sketches performed in alternating spaces. The scenes were funny, well written, and excellently performed. They were spaced out throughout the different time periods of the HCA, from music conservatory, to youth home, to derelict building, to the art conservatory that it is today. Through each scene you can truly tell how much the group cares about the building they are in. There are many jokes made about the number of stairs. Deprived of context, my favourite quote was, “cats are cool”. 

Each of the time periods blends seamlessly together to form narratives of connection across different social groups, and even across different decades. Indeed, the strongest impression that I got from this play was an overwhelming sense of community. The show was created through devised theatre, which is a form of collaborative and organic creation. As a result, the show was and is shaped by the experiences of the performers, both as individuals and a group. It was truly a delight to see these young artists shaping and creating their own show for the Fringe Festival, and I look forward to seeing what they do next. 

Rating: 5/5 Sta(i)rs.

 

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Photos by Catherine Goce

By: Nicolas Belliveau

The news in November 2018 that Doug Ford and his provincial government were ceasing the project to build a French-language university in Toronto and eliminating the position of the provincial commissioner for French language affairs was met with backlash.

However, situations like these aren’t novel. French education and culture have been the target of marginalization for hundreds of years. Ford adds to this long list of discriminatory acts, as his decision to cut services and protections to Franco-Ontarians has underlying anti-francophone sentiment and is a violation of minority language rights in Canada.

But why should we care about this? After all, with just over 620,000 people, the French-speaking community in Ontario makes up just 4.5 per cent of its total population.

Growing up French-Canadian in Ontario, practicing and maintaining the language my ancestors tirelessly fought to preserve has proven difficult. Additionally, the limited number of French secondary schools meant that I had to enroll at an English secondary school — adding to the challenge of keeping my mother tongue.

However, Francophones are still Canada’s largest minority with Ontario home to the most populous French-speaking community outside of Quebec. But most importantly, the French language is a right that is protected by the Constitution and language laws.

This didn’t come easily. Throughout all of Canada’s history, francophones have fought for the right to French education and with Ford’s new agenda, the battle appears to be ongoing.

Merely a century ago, the provincial government passed and enforced Regulation 17 throughout Ontario, which restricted the teachings in French beyond grade 2 and limited French teachings to one hour per day in primary schools. After 15 years of enforcement and prohibiting a whole generation from learning French, the law was finally repealed in 1927.

By ending the project for the development of a French university, Ford is reopening a door into the past that most French-Canadians thought was over. The ideology that once disregarded Franco-Ontarians’ identity and equality is now resurfacing, under the new disguise of Ford’s policies.

And what is Ford’s reasoning behind these radical changes? Although Ford has yet to comment on the matter, government officials have cited the province’s $15 billion deficit as being the motivation for these cost-cutting actions.

However, the cost for the French Language Services Commissioner and the university tally up to a total of just $15 million per year. And as of now, Ford’s government has yet to meet the targeted amount of savings, leaving experts to question whether a thorough program review was carried out.

When looking at these realities, it is hard to believe the government’s narrative of the provincial deficit being the sole incentive for premier Ford’s changes, and not worry about an anti-francophone sentiment underlying Ford’s fiscal agenda.

What’s more unsettling is that Ford’s new policy changes cuts into Canada’s Constitution and the protections and rights of French-Canadians.

The functions of a language commissioner prove to be essential in promoting and protecting a language. Not only do they monitor the government for any infringements upon minority language rights, the French language commissioner acts as a liaison between the provincial government and Franco-Ontarians.

By getting rid of the French Language Services Commissioner, Ford is destabilizing the rights and protections of minority francophones and undermining the institutions that promote one of the ‘supposed’ official languages of this country.

I acknowledge that Ontario is already home to three bilingual universities and that the francophone minorities account for just 4.5 per cent of Ontario’s population. Additionally, I acknowledged that the Ford government has created the position of senior policy adviser on francophone affairs following the elimination of the French Language Services Commissioner.

The realities of the mistreatment of francophones throughout history along with the benefits of the French services and protections that Ford is eliminating would make it illogical for one to not consider this as anti-francophone sentiment. To be idle while the government carelessly partakes in these divisive political tactics is a disservice to our ancestors and to all minorities.

 

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Photos C/O Kyle West

On the evening of Jan. 24, Josh Marando was voted in as the next unofficial president-elect of the McMaster Students Union.

Marando, a fourth year arts and science student, garnered over 600 first-choice votes compared to the second-place candidate Jeffrey Campana.

Overall, Marando received 40 per cent of the 2,654 first-place votes.

Marando’s platform consists of 12 pillars, touching on issues like mental health support, sexual violence and education costs.

 

Marando learned of the news of his victory via a phone call from the current MSU president Ikram Farah at 9:00 p.m. on Jan. 24.

He was surprised by how early he got the call.

“I was not expecting to hear as soon as we did. Last year, I knew that they heard at around 3:10 a.m, so when Ikram called me at 9:00 p.m., I was not really sure. I thought she was joking at first. I really expected her to say, ‘Just kidding,’” Marando said.

Marando was relieved to hear he won, admitting the last few days of the campaign were the most stressful ones. On the last day of polling, he went home in the afternoon to relax on his own before his campaign team gathered to await the results.

“We just invited the core team over because either way we just wanted to be happy because I think we did run a pretty good campaign and I think we are all pretty proud of the work that we did, regardless of what the outcome would have been,” said Marando.

After receiving word of his victory, Marando quickly sent a text to his parents.

“I sent a nice little text in our group chat just saying that I won,” Marando said. “I think my parents still don't fully understand what it is. They do not really know what the MSU does. There are obviously so supportive because they know it's something I have been working on for a very long time and they're just very, very excited.”

Looking ahead to the next few months, Marando said he will begin implementing smaller projects, like creating a student lounge in the McMaster University Student Centre, while continuing to consult different services on bigger projects, like academic accessibility and mental health support.

Marando is also focused on formulating a plan to advocate against the provincial government’s changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program and student fees.

“Something that I am trying to do is fully understand the changes, fully see what impact that will have on students and see what we could do differently than what we were doing before,” Marando said. “We have been advocating to this government for however many months now and we still saw this happen, so clearly something needs to change.”

Reflecting on his campaign, Marando believes he was successful because his message resonated with what students truly wanted.

“Something that we really try to do is just talk to students and see what exactly they wanted, and also some things that they would have wanted when they were in first year,” Marando said. “The people see the MSU president that shirt and jacket and suit and it feels very disconnected from students, but I think the real way that you can create meaningful change is by being one of the students and really connecting with them during this process.”

Slated to begin his term in May, Marando is excited and optimistic about the job in front of him.

 

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Photo C/O Haley Greene

President Ikram Farah

Ikram Farah has begun a series of initiatives over the first term and has mostly been on schedule with her year-plan thus far into the academic year.

Farah worked with Metrolinx to implement extended Go bus hours on the busiest nights of Welcome Week and throughout the year, a prominent platform point for her. There are now two added trip times at night for the 47 eastbound and the 15A Aldershot routes.

Farah has also pushed for more bus shelters on campus. Currently, three out of the planned four bus shelters have been installed at Sterling Street and Forsyth Avenue and at University Avenue and Forsyth Avenue. While the Sterling Street and Forsyth Avenue shelters have been completed, the University and Forsyth stop on the hospital side is still in progress.

Improving lighting on and off campus to increase student safety was also an important year-plan target for Ikram. A few lights have been upgraded, but these projects will mostly carry into 2019 as Farah is working with city and university staff to complete the improvements.

A successful initiative for Farah was the recent launch of the “Tax Free Tuesdays” pilot project, which allowed students to purchase food from La Piazza at a 13 per cent discount.

In addition, Farah had discussions with university stakeholders about changes to the McMaster student absence form policy and exam scheduling, including opting out of back-to-back exams, which she initially proposed. However, she now believes examining the current teaching methods and assessment structures at large will better address this issue in the long-term.

”We are looking at accommodations and we are looking at students’ well-being and a lot of the mental health concerns,” Farah said. “I don’t want to look at MSAFs in isolation with exams or teaching and learning and evaluations.”

Free speech has been another important issue that has come up during Farah’s term. Farah sought out student feedback via the Student Representative Assembly. In November, she helped organize a town hall discussion where students could ask questions in an open forum.

In 2019, Farah aims to focus on exam scheduling and MSAF policies, lighting and lobbying for an international student shuttle bus.

V.P. Finance Scott Robinson

Scott Robinson outlined 26 objectives in his year-plan and has stayed busy largely with revamping the McMaster Student Union-run restaurants.

Robinson has worked to update TwelvEighty’s menu and install new event centre flooring in the restaurant. Robinson has also helped introduce new TwelvEighty nightlife events such as trivia nights.

In addition, Robinson led efforts to rebrand and revitalize Union Market, which, according to Robinson, saw increased sales over the summer.

In partnership with the Student Activity Building ad-hoc committee, Robinson oversaw the interior design consultation campaign for the SAB, which is slated to open in 2020.

Robinson also helped implement an online loading system for the Hamilton Street Railway student presto card system through Mosaic.

In addition, Robinson is planning to release a video for the MSU in late November or early December to explain where exactly student fees go towards in the MSU. This is part of a larger effort to increase the union’s financial transparency.

Robinson has also helped improve the MSU’s social media strategy, creating video updates directly from the board.

Another one of Robinson’s projects entailed helping to implement a pilot project to use the $23,000 surplus from last year’s Welcome Week funding to buy essential items for reps and subsidize meals.

While Robinson has added more seating area to the McMaster University Student Centre, his objective of adding more moveable tables and different furniture has been more complicated than expected.

In January, Robinson will help run the “Life After Mac” program, which helps graduate students transition into the workforce.

Over the rest of his term Robinson will focus on developing the MSU’s long-term food and beverage strategy and looking at the effects of OHIP+ on the MSU health plan. He also aspires to improve new SRA members’ financial literacy before they approve the union’s 2019-2020 budget.

V.P. Education Stephanie Bertolo

Stephanie Bertolo and the education team have worked to promote student engagement in two elections and continue to cultivate relationships with politicians and student groups.

The provincial election in June and municipal election in October were two major focuses for Bertolo. She organized two respective MacVotes campaigns, which included the all-candidates Ward 1 debate before the October Hamilton election.

During the campaign period, Bertolo and Farah met with all 13 Ward 1 candidates. She is also planning to meet with newly elected Ward 1 councillor Maureen Wilson in the next few weeks.

In September, Bertolo helped lead the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance  #TextbookBroke campaign, which advocated for the adoption of open educational resources at the university.

Bertolo and her education team wrote the MSU's university budget submission, which included OERs, and increased funding for sexual violence response.

Over the past few weeks, the education team, led by Bertolo, wrote three policy papers for the MSU on on-campus infrastructure, student engagement and retention and tuition and student financing in post-secondary education.

Bertolo is also involved with OUSA and co-wrote their Tuition Paper, which calls for province-wide tuition freezes for all students, including international students.

As part of her “Unsettling Campus” year-plan initiative, Bertolo has begun discussions with the McMaster Indigenous Student Community Alliance and the Cooperative of Indigenous Studies Students and Alumni, two Indigenous student groups.

“I’m working with CISSA right now to set up a meeting with [McMaster president] Patrick Deane,” Bertolo said.

In January, Bertolo is planning to soft launch the landlord rating project for students. The rating system was originally planned for first semester, but it was pushed back.

The landlord licensing project is an ongoing city-wide initiative that Bertolo is hoping to work with Maureen Wilson and other city councillors to implement.

Over the rest of her term, Bertolo will help run the experiential education campaign in partnership with OUSA, finalize the municipal budget submission for Hamilton and further develop the unsettling campus project.

V.P. Administration Kristina Epifano

Kristina Epifano’s year-plan included thirteen objectives. Her other ongoing responsibilities entail supporting MSU part-time workers and reviewing Welcome Week and MSU hiring practices.

As promised in her year-plan, Epifano has scheduled bi-weekly or monthly meetings with each part-time manager and has held two feedback meetings for all the PTMs.  

Epifano has also updated job descriptions and required skills for each MSU job opening to aid the hiring board.

She also restructured the SRA training back in May, specifically by bringing in different full-time staff to speak. Epifano promises more changes for SRA training next May.

To support MSU staff and volunteers, Epifano has also renovated the committee room to provide a better space for students to work.

Epifano chaired the first strategic themes advisory committee, which prioritized four themes for Welcome Week: responsible drinking, sexual violence response and prevention, mental health and wellness and community engagement.

Throughout the year, Epifano, Bertolo and Farah have been in talks with McMaster sexual violence response coordinator Meaghan Ross to fulfill the objective of making campus safer.

“There was a survey that went out last year that we are still waiting to get the data from, and we want to advocate to the university to increase the support we have for Meaghan Ross and survivors of sexual assault on campus,” Epifano said.

Another priority for Epifano was increasing SRA transparency. The SRA bi-weekly meetings are now live-streamed on the new SRA Facebook page, which has resulted in significantly increased views.  

Epifano is currently creating Welcome Week planner job descriptions, which she hopes will better ensure that hired individuals are qualified. She has also been collecting feedback from first years and looking into the possibility of turning the welcome week planner role into a paid position.  

In January, Epifano will oversee the second round of hiring for PTMs, present her Welcome Week research findings and begin planning training for PTMs and the incoming SRA. Beyond that, she will begin planning the strategic themes for Welcome Week 2019 and continue her support of sexual violence education and response.

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