Photos by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

On Sept. 26, the Canadian Union of Public Employees 3906 made history as 87 per cent of its Unit 1 members voted to authorize a strike mandate. Unit 1 represents graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants and research assistants at McMaster. This will allow for strike action, if deemed necessary. 

The vote came after a series of labour negotiations between CUPE 3906 and McMaster University. Beginning in June, CUPE had presented a list of proposed changes to the collective agreement that supervises McMaster’s academic employees. The list included paid training for teaching assistants, equitable wages between undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants, an increase to the minimum number of hours on a contract, protection against tuition increases and better representation for Indigenous members. 

McMaster had planned to conduct negotiations with CUPE 3906 in accordance with Bill 124, which, if passed, would nullify collective agreements and limit the annual increase of compensation and wages to one per cent. Since the bill was yet to be legally binding at the time of negotiations, CUPE 3906 disagreed with McMaster’s choice to bargain under Bill 124.

After the first reading of Bill 124, which occurred on June 5, 2019, 64 Legislative Assembly members were in favour of passing the bill and 40 members voted against it. In the end, the motion was carried forward. In order to become law, Bill 124 will need to pass additional readings. 

By the beginning of September, CUPE 3906 and McMaster had failed to arrive at an agreement. When the bargaining process reached an impasse on Sept. 11, the teaching and research assistants of CUPE 3906’s Unit 1 filed for conciliation and scheduled a strike vote for Sept. 26. 

According to an update from CUPE 3906, after four days of voting, a record-breaking majority voted in favour of a strike in the event that CUPE 3906 deems a strike necessary. Most of the members are unwilling to accept the conditions offered by McMaster. 

CUPE 3906 represents 3,500 workers at McMaster each year. This makes it one of the largest unions in Hamilton and the largest on campus. Unit 1 alone represents about 2,700 McMaster employees, including all teaching assistants, some research assistants, markers, demonstrators and tutors. 

“The bargaining team is not releasing total numbers right now but it is by far the highest amount of people we’ve ever seen. We had more people vote ‘yes’ than have ever voted total,” said Nathan Todd, president of CUPE 3906 and a graduate student in McMaster’s philosophy department. 

A statement on CUPE 3906’s website adds that the strike mandate vote illustrates the members’ commitment to the needs that the union is representing. 

Despite a landmark vote, however, CUPE 3906 remains unsure as to how the timeline will look following the strike authorization. The union has not been able to return to the bargaining table; they have not been afforded the chance to change their position and they are advocating for the same changes as when negotiations first began.

At the moment, the rest of the negotiating process is in a standstill as CUPE 3906 waits for news from their provincially appointed conciliation officer. The union is aware that the conciliator has contacted McMaster but does not know how the university has responded, if at all. 

“I’m not sure if [McMaster] has returned [the conciliator]’s calls or given her any updates but last I spoke with the conciliator this week, she wasn’t able to confirm any further dates … We’ve offered a number of dates this month. We’re waiting to hear back. That’s kind of holding back the timeline at this point,” said Todd. 

Chantal Mancini, a PhD candidate in the department of labour studies and a delegate to the Hamilton and District Labour Council for CUPE 3906, states that McMaster has not demonstrated their support for their graduate students in this round of bargaining. 

It’s interesting that a major focus of researchers in labour studies is the increase of precarious work and the negative impact this has on the well-being of workers. Yet, in direct contrast to this research, McMaster has presented a proposal to our union that will increase the precariousness of the work that I and my Unit 1 colleagues perform,” she said. 

Mancini says that the university’s proposal does not support the well-being of graduate students. She notes that although students will benefit from the priorities requested of McMaster, the university has nevertheless rejected the union’s demands.  

Maybe the coolest thing while working the voting booth, was having undergrads come up and ask how they could help. Felt awesome to be supported by the whole student family. https://t.co/NEr2xyREMx

— Adam Fortais (@AdamFortais) September 27, 2019

Regardless of the administration’s silence, other bodies on campus have shown their support for CUPE 3906. The McMaster Graduate Student Association released a letter of support on Oct. 2, declaring that the GSA’s priorities align with those of CUPE 3906’s. The day after, the Department of Political Science at McMaster also announced their support for better working conditions and compensation for teaching and research assistants, hoping for a fair agreement between the union and the university.

“We’re considering reaching out to other departments as well … It seems like, in the departments we’ve spoken to, there is a good level of support,” said Mollie McGuire, vice-president of CUPE 3906. 

On Oct. 6, CUPE Ontario, which represents 55,000 educators across the province, averted a strike after the provincial government made concessions in a collective agreement. This renders them the first of several unions to arrive at a deal with the Ford government since public school employee contracts expired in September. While the deal did not involve them, CUPE 3906 has stated that they stand in solidarity with CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions.

“[We are] immensely proud of their accomplishments at the bargaining table and beyond. The OBSCU, CUPE, their allies and their communities stood firm in resistance to authority politics and the devaluation of their work. Their accomplishments were possible due to the direct action by their members and their community and their success is a testament to the value of mobilization and the power of the labour movement,” said Todd. 

Teaching and research assistants at McMaster are hoping for a similar accomplishment, referring to the strong strike vote mandate provided to CUPE 3906 as an indication of their resolve to seek a fair contract. 

“It is my hope that McMaster has taken notice and is committed to negotiating a fair deal that reflects the value of the work we do for the university. Reaching a deal is ultimately the best outcome for everyone,” said Mancini. 

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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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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.

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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.

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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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On Feb. 20, the McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice and the McMaster Muslim Students Association sent a letter to Canadian ministers Chrystia Freeland and Ralph Goodalech, asking the government to investigate the Chinese government’s role in directing students to silence human rights activists on campus.

The letter follows an event organized by MMPJ and McMaster MSA on Feb. 11 where Rukiye Turdush, a Uighur Muslim activist, spoke about the Chinese internment of Uighur Muslims.

According to the Washington Post, a group of students created a WeChat group chat to oppose the event.

During the event, a student filmed Turdush and cursed at her. After the talk, the students say that they contacted the Chinese Embassy in Canada, which directed them to investigate whether university officials or Chinese students attended the event.

https://twitter.com/BethanyAllenEbr/status/1096159156061589504

A few days later, five Chinese student groups, including the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, released a statement condemning the event and stating they contacted the Chinese consulate in Toronto.  

https://twitter.com/BethanyAllenEbr/status/1096090275666108416

The internment of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China has been confirmed by multiple news outlets and the international community.

Approximately one million Uighur Muslims have been detained by the Chinese government, according to the British government.

The Chinese government has denied any wrongdoing, suggesting the camps are constructed for counter-terrorism purposes.

On Feb 16, the Chinese Embassy released a statement defending the actions of the Chinese students on the principle of free speech and dismissing any accusations of misconduct as ‘groundless accusations’ and ‘anti-China sentiment.’

Representatives from McMaster MSA and MMPJ say this is not a free speech issue.

“I do not think this was ever a conversation about freedom of speech. I think it always has been a conversation about human rights violation and speaking up against that,” said representatives from the McMaster MSA and MMPJ. “It’s blatantly obvious that the government is supporting these attempts to quell discussion about these human rights violations.”

The CSSA did not respond to multiple emails from The Silhouette about the situation.

McMaster MSA and MMPJ said the government acknowledged their letter but has yet to engage in any formal action on the matter.  

“It’s important that we help people understand the university’s commitment to free speech and to the sharing of views and opinions, even those that might be controversial,” said Gord Arbeau, McMaster’s director of communications.

It is worth noting that these events come amid growing concerns about Chinese government involvement in Canadian universities to oppose any criticism against the Chinese Communist Party.

Following the protest at Turdush’s talk, an unnamed McMaster student created a Change.org petition in hopes of removing the CSSA from the MSU. As of March 2, the petition has amassed 461 signatures.

McMaster MSA and MMPJ said they did not start the petition.

“We definitely have mixed feelings about this petition simply because I think we somewhat recognize that these students these Chinese students are also victims of surveillance and they are victims of a form of control,” McMaster MSA and MMPJ representatives said. “It has never been a priority for either of our organizations to go and attack them, to take revenge.”

The MSU clubs department is aware of the situation but will not take any action without instruction from the government and/or university administration.

"As the clubs department is not a formal investigative body, its governing policies state clearly that any punitive action taken towards a club or individuals inside a club are done so after federal, provincial, municipal and/or University judicial bodies (as appropriate) render opinion and/or action. Therefore, the Department would certainly act on the advice of investigative professionals in this matter," said Josephine Liauw, the MSU clubs department administrator.

This article was clarified on March 12, 2019 to include a direct quotation from Liauw.

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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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By: Jack Leila

We all know our rights and freedoms. We have the freedom of the press, freedom of religion and freedom to our own political ideologies based on section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Those few rights are just the beginning of what our rights and freedoms entail. So why are certain people silenced? Why are human rights groups at McMaster marginalized? Why do they have to be careful of who they offend when they should be worried about the people they are fighting for?

Protests at McMaster are rarely ever covered by the media. When they are, the articles are not about the positive effects of the protest, but rather police intervention and the different ways the groups were forced to leave campus.

This not only threatens the fundamental freedom of expression given to all Canadians by the Canadian government, but also what McMaster calls the freedom of expression it gives to its students.

Political correctness is important but only to a certain level. If someone is afraid to fight for a marginalized group, what kind of freedom is that?

McMaster University is made up of students with diverse voices and opinions. It is meant to support freedom of expression, but there can’t be expression without allowing students to speak out against the inequalities occurring at McMaster and around the world?

McMaster advocates equality and a good education for all students but when it comes down to it, lines blur between the school and organizations who just want to advocate equality.

This not only threatens the fundamental freedom of expression given to all Canadians by the Canadian government, but also what McMaster calls the freedom of expression it gives to its students.

Where freedom of speech is taken away from human rights groups, it is given somewhere else, perhaps in a place where it should never be.

Recently, McMaster put out freedom of expression guidelines saying, “there are very narrow grounds under which McMaster should restrict or stop a speaker or an event”.

This may have been a reuslt of the Jordan Peterson incident, where a controversial psychology professor for the University of Toronto was invited to speak at McMaster, who has claimed that he “does not recognize another person’s right to determine what pronouns he uses to address them.

For marginalized communities who have struggled to have their right to identifying themselves, allowing someone like Peterson to speak on campus is oppressive.

Given that choosing to identify yourself as you please is a legal right in Canada, it should definitely be supported on campus.

Though there are a number of student-run groups that do so, McMaster as a university should be more considerate of this in terms of indirect associations and possible interference.

I’m not in any way condoning violence. I am questioning why a person who violates the McMaster values was invited to speak at an event.

Nothing about Peterson emulates what McMaster is supposed to stand for. What he advocated for in his lecture at McMaster was despicable, rude and politically incorrect. There is a line between types of protest: protest for human rights and protests that do not support human rights activism. McMaster needs to decide where it stands and what it supports.

The protests surrounding Peterson’s visit would have never happened if he was not allowed to speak at our university.

I hope that McMaster changes the way it approaches student protests because we, the students, are those who should represent McMaster.

Does our university want to be known as the one who encourages the silencing of student voices?

McMaster needs to reconsider what it places importance on. What is more important, the press rights of someone who speaks of traditional, politically incorrect ways or the press rights of someone who wants to change our campus into a safe environment, where students can express themselves freely?

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By: Kaiwen Song

Television programs, with their widespread reach and exposure, can have many beneficial impacts on individuals and society. TV not only provides entertainment, but can also help generate societal acceptance of minority groups such as the LGBTQ community through positive representation. Looking back we can see the impact that TV shows featuring LGBTQ characters, such as Will & Grace and Glee had on the increasing acceptance of queer people in North America. These shows had a snowball effect, with many others beginning to feature LGBTQ characters. Indeed, 2015 saw a plethora of attempts at positive representation. Unfortunately, they often left much to be desired. Here are three major ways in which we could improve LGBTQ representation on television in 2016.

First, give LGBTQ characters enough screen time to fully develop. Creating a character that only says a few inconsequential words every episode — or worse, flashes by on screen for mere seconds — is not enough to leave a lasting impression. One example is Captain David Singh in The Flash. While the show is theoretically highly inclusive, Singh, the gay police captain is only featured in 16 of the 23 total episodes with a total screen time of less than two minutes. Similarly, Teen Wolf featured the token gay lacrosse player Danny for less than five minutes throughout its first three seasons before the character disappeared altogether with no explanation. These token LGBTQ characters are extremely disappointing. How can an audience enjoy or relate to a character they don’t get the chance to know?

Secondly, ensure that your attempts at positive representation don’t end up doing more harm than good. Quantico, one of the most anticipated shows of 2015, had commercials that highlighted the inclusion of a major gay character named Simon — the show held extra promise as it was created by Joshua Safran, who is openly gay. This promise was shattered almost immediately when it was revealed that Simon was only pretending to be gay, meaning that TV was robbed of some potentially fantastic queer representation. Safran didn’t stop there; the other minor gay character on Quantico was depicted as cowardly, running away from a bomb while others stayed behind to defuse it, later committing suicide at the prospect of facing imprisonment after being caught for a crime. Both actions perpetuated the negative stereotype of the cowardly or incapable gay man. Needless to say, LGBTQ characters do not, and should not, have to be perfect human beings, however, with so few representations of queer characters on TV, we must take care that the few rare portrayals of LGBTQ characters on TV don’t buy into pre-existing negative stereotypes.

Thirdly, do not be afraid to show LGBTQ characters engaged in romantic and sexual relationships. Modern Family, a comedy series with several LGBTQ writer-producers, is a success on many fronts: it features a gay couple in major roles and allows them to be both good and bad, nuanced just like the rest of the characters. However, Modern Family has long been criticized for glossing over displays of physical intimacy between its gay character. According to the American Sociological Review’s 2014 study, although people may support civil rights for the LGBTQ community, many are still be uncomfortable seeing same-sex public displays of affection. Thus, it is important for TV shows such as Modern Family to play a role in normalizing same-sex physical intimacy. Seeing characters at their most affectionate and intimate is an important part of seeing them as human.

2015 saw a plethora of attempts at positive representation. Unfortunately, they often left much to be desired. 

Fulfilling all three criteria, all the while maintaining critical and commercial success, is not impossible: take a look at How To Get Away With Murder. The show features a lead bisexual character and a major gay character, each with individual strengths and weaknesses, who are part of romantic relationships that are depicted with as much explicitness as their straight counterparts. By taking the time and effort to portray members of the LGBTQ community in a meaningful way, TV shows can be elevated from being simply entertaining to being influential and important. Writers and producers — straight and LGBTQ alike — take note!

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The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance recently published a report publicized as the largest-ever survey of LGBTQ+ university students in Ontario.

The report, which based its findings on a public survey from November 2014, identified both the positive progress and areas of improvement for post-secondary institutions to evaluate as well as improve upon.

The survey received 311 official responses over a one-week period, and was open to any student enrolled in a post-secondary institution in Ontario at the time. MSU VP (Education) and OUSA President Nestico-Semianiw noted that with the uncertain number of how many students specifically identify as LGBTQ+ in our communities, the amount of feedback they received was particularly valuable.

“[We wanted students] to describe their own personal experiences, because although one person's experience isn't going to be representative of everyone … I think it's important to be able to make sure that we're actually representing what those students would like to see in post-secondary education,” he said.

The overall culture and environment at universities had the most encouraging feedback from those surveyed, where 80 percent of respondents indicated that they felt comfortable and included on campus, and 81 percent also indicated that they felt welcome at large university events or activities.

However, 38 percent of respondents also reported that they sometimes were made uncomfortable in class by comments or assumptions regarding their orientation or gender by their professor. One in five respondents also noted that healthcare providers on campuses were not respectful or professional and “lacked the knowledge necessary to provide good care.”

While the majority of respondents who accessed on-campus services did not report having poor experiences, a general theme amongst the negative reports indicated that healthcare professionals were uncomfortable with the needs of LGBTQ+ students.

In addition, although the press release on the OUSA website touts the survey’s success, the report itself acknowledges the significant limitations in sample size as well as the bias inherent in the type of students who choose to participate in such a survey.

The survey results come on the heels of a recent Maclean’s article that ranked McMaster University number one in Canada for its mental health services. Although positive steps have been made on campus, Nestico-Semianiw reiterated the room for improvement in the way that the university provides a safe space for its marginalized students.

“I'm someone who likes to celebrate the progress we've made . . . but that being said, our number one designation [for mental health services] does not mean we are finished the race,” he explained.

Zachary Rose, Executive Director with OUSA, echoed many of Nestico-Semianiw's sentiments in an email to The Silhouette.

“Overall we were very pleased with the level of engagement in the survey,” he said.

“Our methodology means we have to be quite cautious about the claims we can make, but I'm pretty confident that the results give us good indications of where administrators and policy-makers can make improvements to increase inclusion on campus.”

Rose went on to say, “I think the results really demonstrate how broader problems like ignorance can make so many things difficult in so many different ways, that those of us who don't live through it would never be able to guess.”

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By: Victoria Marks

“I’m bisexual,” I said to my high school friend. “Really? I don’t think you are,” was her reaction. This was the first in a series of frustrating responses I’ve had since I started coming out to friends and family. Ten years later and I’m still bi, but unfortunately the rude comments I’ve gotten on the subject haven’t changed. “Do you prefer men or women?” “How many girls have you slept with?” “Are you doing this for attention?” “Are you sure?” or, the memorable “can I watch?”

Since these rude and invasive questions seem destined to follow me for the foreseeable bisexual future, let’s start by debunking some myths: bisexuality is not — contrary to popular belief — simply the sexual or romantic interest in two genders equally. It is the attraction to your own and other genders (plural), not necessarily in the same way or at the same time. It is fluid and complicated, and not always easy to explain. Bisexuality is not inherently transphobic; I’m not interested in my partners based purely on the status of their genitals, nor am I concerned with their gender identities. I’m no less selective or more promiscuous because of my orientation, and I’m certainly not bisexual for the attention or because it is “convenient.” If I’m in a heterosexual relationship I’m still just as bisexual as I was before it. If I’m in a queer relationship, I’m still, I assure you, very bi. Just because I am bisexual doesn’t mean I am more likely to cheat on you. No matter who I am dating, I am still me.

While definitions and identities may vary depending on the individual, the majority of the bisexuals I know have all experienced similar stigma; we are often pressured to “prove” ourselves. The first girl I dated didn’t think I was queer until I asked her out. “You just look so straight!” was the explanation. Years later, my crush was perplexed when I expressed an interest in him, because he was “sure I was a lesbian.” I have yet to figure out exactly what a “bisexual aesthetic” looks like — and if someone figures it out, please let me know — but the result of these interactions has been that I constantly feel the need to confirm my identity.

If I mention past girlfriends or boyfriends in conversation I almost always have to throw in the B-word to reassure the object of my attention that I am indeed still interested in them. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief after I had my first serious relationship with a woman, because it meant that I would finally have an answer to the question “how many girls have you dated?” that didn’t make me feel like a fraud. Almost every interaction that I have concerning my sexuality is an exhausting balancing act, but I don’t feel like I have another option.

Reactions from the queer community tend to be mixed. The ever-hateful Dan Savage — a supposed ambassador of gay people — has stated that he does not think that bisexuality exists, and that we are all either confused or partially closeted. It is therefore unsurprising that I feel the most welcome in LGBTQ+ circles only when I am in a queer relationship. I’ve had friends high-five or congratulate me for dating women, which makes me wonder what they think of me when I date men. The question that bounces around my head is “at what point am I queer enough to be considered a bonafide bisexual?” At what point am I unconditionally welcomed the way someone who identifies as gay or lesbian would be?

So for Pride on campus this week I have a simple request for the McMaster community: let bisexuals dictate their own identities. Don’t test us, or ask us to prove ourselves. Please stop asking us invasive personal questions about our sex lives — be inclusive of the B in LGBTQ+. And for god’s sake, stop asking us to take part in your threesomes.

Photo Credit: Amanda Watkins/Editor-in-Chief

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By: Suzy Flader

As of July 1, Canadians no longer have to pay federal tax on menstrual hygiene products. This decision came in response to an online petition titled “No Tax for Tampons,” which received over 75,000 signatures.

While items like wedding cakes and cocktail cherries had gone untaxed in Canada, necessary menstrual hygiene products have been unfairly subjected to a five percent “luxury” tax.

By removing the luxury tax from menstrual hygiene products, the Canadian government took a significant step forward, but there is still more that needs to be done. The issue of menstrual health tends to not be discussed in our society, due to our discomfort discussing topics typically considered ‘disgusting’ (eg. blood) or ‘feminine’ (eg. vaginas). When it is brought up it is often in shameful or humiliating ways. Hygiene products play a crucial role in the overall health of many women, trans people, and other “menstruators”. In order to respect the human rights of menstruators in Canada, our government should be doing more to publically support us.

Menstrual health is often overlooked as an important aspect of overall health. Many menstruators are forced to wear pads or tampons for extended periods of time due to limited supply. This puts them at risk of contracting life-threatening infections or Toxic Shock Syndrome. While these physical risks alone justify menstrual hygiene as a health concern, there are psychological factors that must also be considered. From a young age, we menstruators are taught to hide our periods from others at all costs. I remember carrying my tampons around in a glasses case, out of fear that my classmates would figure out I needed them. For one week every month, I felt like a victim to my own body. I was ashamed of my periods, even though there was nothing I could do to stop them. Later, I was introduced to the reality of “Post-Menstrual Syndrome shaming.” To this day I get told to stop “PMS-ing” whenever I convey feelings of anger or sadness, even when I am weeks away from my period. It is hard not to feel frustrated about menstruating when it subjects me to this sort of treatment. It is no wonder I have felt the need to keep this aspect of my life private.

I am not the only menstruator who has felt this sort of shame and humiliation. Our societal norms validate the lack of empathy that those who do not menstruate often demonstrate towards those who do. Menstruators are forced to act and speak in certain ways in order to appease everyone’s discomfort. Both discussing and displaying menstrual blood is no exception to this rule. Those who are forced to show their blood to others, due to a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products, face social rejection and mental scarring.

While it might not resolve the issue entirely, the Canadian government must help protect the psychological security of those who menstruate within this country. Proper access to menstrual hygiene products should be defined as a human right, and they must be provided to Canadians either cheaply, or free of charge. While all public washrooms supply courtesy toilet paper, soap and seat covers, it is rare to see free tampons or pads. For some reason, the line was drawn at a necessary — but sex-specific — hygiene product. There are places such as women’s shelters and university health centres that provide free menstrual health products to those who need them, but these places are often forced to ration their supplies due to limited donations or funding. Our government should be playing a role in subsidizing menstrual hygiene products, the fact that they do not speaks to their discomfort discussing anything perceived to be related to women’s health.

It is true that the Canadian government has taken an important stand for menstruators by removing the tampon “luxury” tax, but just because an issue has been formally recognized does not mean it is time for the discussion end. There is still a great deal of discomfort surrounding menstruation. For many, it is more painful to put a box of tampons in a shopping basket than it is to recognize the high price that must be paid for them. For others, the cost of menstrual hygiene products is a serious barrier to both their mental and physical health. We as a society need to keep talking openly about menstruation, in order to remove the shame associated with it. Complete subsidization of menstrual hygiene products may be a stretch, but we should at least be taking more baby steps towards resolving this issue. Menstrual health rights are human rights, and they need to be treated as such. Period.

Photo Credit: The Independent

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