Photo C/O @djnontario

By: Donna Nadeem

The Disability Justice Network of Ontario is a Hamilton-based organization launched in September by McMaster alumni Sarah Jama and Eminet Dagnachew and McMaster student Shanthiya Baheerathan.

The co-founders initially got together because of their aligning interests. For instance, Jama was working with the McMaster Students Union Diversity Services as an access coordinator, trying to push the university to create a service for people with disabilities.

“I always think that there is more that could be done, that the institution doesn’t do a good job of supporting people with disabilities in terms of responding to professors who don’t want to accommodate. There is still a lot from what I’m seeing as a person who has graduated,” said Jama.

Last year, the co-founders received an Ontario Trillium grant over 36 months to create and run the organization. The basis of DJNO is to pose questions to the community of people with disabilities to see what it is they want to work on and how DJNO can use their resources to support the community it serves.

One of DJNO’s larger goals is to politically activate and mobilize people with disabilities who consistently get left out of conversations that affect their lives.

“Our goal is to politically activate and mobilize people with disabilities across the city and the province over time and to be able to hold the institutions and places and people accountable for the spaces that they create,” said Jama.

The research committee for DJNO has recently been working on data collection for a study on issues for racialized people with disabilities.

According to Jama, there is a lack of data collection on this subject.

The DJNO also has a youth advisory council that teaches people with disabilities how to politically organize.

In just a few months of being in operation, the DJNO has hosted several events, such as a community conversation event about the Hamilton light rail transit project, a film screening and panel discussion about Justice For Soli, a movement seeking justice for the death of Soleiman Faqiri, who was killed in prison after being beaten by guards.

The film screening and panel discussion was organized alongside McMaster Muslims For Peace and Justice and the McMaster Womanists.

On March 26, the DJNO will be hosting an event called “Race and Disability: Beyond a One Dimensional Framework” in Celebration Hall at McMaster.

This discussion, being organized in collaboration with the MSU Maccess and the MSU Women and Gender Equity Network, will tackle “the intersections of race/racialization, disability, and gender for all McMaster Community Members.”

Next week, the DJNO will also be organizing a rally with Justice for Soli in order to speak out against violence against people with disabilities.

The Justice for Soli team has been tirelessly advocating for justice, accountability, sounding the alarm of deeply systemic issues in the prison system, namely the violence that it inflicts on racialized peoples, and people with disabilities,” reads part of the event page.

For McMaster students interested in getting involved with the organization, DJNO has some open committees and is looking for individuals to help identify major community issues.

The campaign committee meets at the Hamilton Public Library monthly. Students can email info@djno.ca for more information.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

Students entering university are faced with many new things: new classes, new friends and sometimes even new living arrangements. But students living in on-campus residences should not have to worry about their safety.

To help students transition into living away from home, and to enforce the rules of residence life, McMaster University community advisors live with first-year students in their residences. Their purpose is to “develop and maintain an environment that is conducive to learning and personal growth.”

To be a CA, one must fulfill many qualifications including maintaining a minimum sessional average of 6.0, being a full-time McMaster University student, demonstrating responsibility and leadership abilities and have a working knowledge or building community within students.

But for all the listed requirements, CAs are not required to complete any sort of police background check, including a very important vulnerable sector check.

VS checks are a collection of offence information that is restricted to applicants seeking employment or volunteering in a position of authority or trust over vulnerable persons in Canada. They can be obtained easily from the police service in your residing jurisdiction.

The lack of VS checks for CAs is problematic for many reasons. For one, many incoming students are under 18-years-old. In these cases, it is evident that these students are considered vulnerable persons and subsequently require additional protection from those in positions of authority and trust like CAs.

But even for incoming students who are legally adults, their role as a first-year student inherently places them in a lower position of power relative to their CAs. This power dynamic can be harmful if the CAs have a history of offensive behaviour.

CAs have a lot of influence over the first-year students under their supervision. CAs are oftentimes students’ first interaction with upper-year students and are meant to be the go-to person for questions about campus and residence life. To not conduct a proper background check on them is negligent of the university in ensuring that students are protected.

The lack of VS checks is not an exclusive issue of CAs. In addition to CAs, residence-affiliated positions such as the residence orientation representative are not required to complete VS checks.

In fact, part-time managers, the board of directors and other McMaster Students Union positions do not require the completion of a VS check.

Considering that almost all of these roles involve interaction with and power over a vulnerable population of students, it makes no sense why these roles do not require VS checks. If anything, the lack of VS checks puts students in avoidable danger.

In addition to VS checks, McMaster University should do a more thorough job of ensuring that individuals hired for their positions are positive reflections of the university. This includes ensuring that these individuals have not been reported to university administration or asked to withdraw from their positions previously.

The lack of sufficient and necessary screening of individuals in positions of power within the university is alarming. For McMaster University to truly commit to ensuring student safety, they must create better hiring policies that begin with implementation of VS checks.

 

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Photo C/O Women’s Adventure Film Tour

The Women’s Adventure Film Tour first premiered to a sold-out crowd in Sydney, Australia in May 2017. Since then, the film tour has left its home country and toured across Asia, Europe and North America. This spring, it is coming to Eastern Canada with a stop at Hamilton’s historic Playhouse Cinema on March 21.

The tour celebrates the extraordinary adventures of women by putting on a selection of short films. It is the result of a partnership between Australian company Adventure Film Tours and women-centred outdoors community She Went Wild. The Hamilton screening is open to all and will be two hours long with a short intermission. There will be also be raffle and door prizes offered.

Eastern Canada tour organizer, Benoit Brunet-Poirier got involved with the tour when he met Adventure Film Tours owner Toby Ryston-Pratt on a trip to Australia last year. At the time, Ryston-Pratt had been thinking about expanding to Canada. Brunet-Poirier discussed the opportunity with his partner Jamie Stewart and the two decided to take on the challenge of bringing the film tour home.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9HXWDFs4WM[/embedyt]

Adventure is important for the couple, who met while rock-climbing. The tour also combines their respective industries as Brunet-Poirier works in the entertainment industry and Stewart works for an outdoors retailer.

By showing women-centred films, the tour is helping break down barriers in the outdoors industry. Brunet-Poirier noted that women are historically thought of as individuals to be protected and this series of short films challenges that notion.

“So I really like the idea of having a woman-focused film tour just because… although women are starting to be represented more in adventure stores and in the media and in film, I do think that there still is a misrepresentation or underrepresentation of women. And so this film tour is just putting… the spotlight on women,” Stewart said.

The couple did their first screening for the film tour in Ottawa last fall. They are taking the feedback from that event on the road by increasing the number of films in order to show a few shorter ones and playing well-received flicks.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DE3F336tVQ[/embedyt]

One such film, titled Finding the Line, follows professional skiers and sisters Anna and Nat Segal across Canada, France and the United States. While the film’s humour and thrilling 80 degree slopes make it an exciting watch, it is one of Stewart’s personal favourites because of its narratives of overcoming fear and sisterly bonding. It is these narratives that Stewart and Brunet-Poirier feel will resonate with audiences.

“We let go of some films that were focused on physical achievement to give room to films that are focused on the psychological or social achievement of other women. So there are films about BASE jumping and extreme sports, but there are also films that are more accessible,” said Brunet-Poirier.

In this way, the films should provide something that appeals to everyone, regardless of activity level or interest in extreme sports. The couple hopes that the pictures inspire audiences of all ages to attempt new things or take on a challenge that frightens them.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcWXn_Ydxuc[/embedyt]

Stewart and Brunet-Poirier also focused on ensuring that the films showcases diversity. From a film about an older, blind woman learning to swim for the first time to another about the challenges a lesbian couple faces in a mountain biking community when they open a pizza shop, the films capture a range of identities.

The films were selected from Adventure Films Tours’ global database. While the couple chose some films based in North America in order to be more local, their priority on diversity led them to select films from around the world.

“I am a Chinese woman here in Canada and… we really wanted to showcase diversity and acceptance of everyone… [T]hat's the root of our cause. [We] really try to reach as many people as we can and showing representation in adventure sports of all types of people,” said Stewart.

By centring the diversity of women, Women’s Adventure Film Tour pushes back against the perception of the outdoors community as male-dominated or predominantly white. The films aim to be a comprehensive show of the physical and mental strength of women.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

By: Neda Pirouzmand

Being a student should involve learning about global issues. I have only recently become aware of the opportunities that McMaster University has to offer for global education beyond the tutorial rooms, lab spaces and lecture halls.

On Nov. 2, the film “I am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts” was screened at the Concert Hall in L.R. Wilson Hall. When a close friend told me about the screening, I did not think much of it. It was only afterwards when I talked to her about the film that I realized what I had missed.

The documentary was a heart-wrenching production that showed the story of the Rohingya people against the ongoing escalation of military violence in their homeland of Burma. Fourteen young Rohingya refugees act in the film to retell their families’ oppressive experiences in Burma which include brutal beatings, kidnappings and killings that have impacted over half a million individuals within the community.

Following the screening, there was a panel discussion with the director Yusuf Zine, the producer and cast members. The impact of this event cannot be understated. Not only did McMaster promote a film that provides insight into global affairs, but it also gave students a chance to hear a first-person account of the vision and process of executing such a film.

In partnership with McMaster’s Office of International Affairs, Zine’s special film screening was part of MacGlobal. MacGlobal, which took place from Oct. 22 to Nov. 9, showcased three weeks work of programming to shine light on international perspectives.

One can only imagine how much work went into planning and executing this amazing three-week initiative. MacGlobal was created by the university in support of McMaster’s Global Engagement Strategy, as outlined in the 2016 document “The McMaster Model for Global Engagement: A Strategy Document”.

Back in 2016, the university had set a priority to develop a strategy that would increase its integration of internationally-inspired programming. This document continues to be a key player in the progression of said strategy, and will hopefully inspire more initiatives like MacGlobal.

A key quote in this document is that there must be a call to action for the transformation of the university on its own ground, whereby […] our approach to any problem is informed by a global awareness.” This is the kind of perspective that we should be seeking from all of our degrees, and it should be made possible for students from any faculty to achieve.

The unfortunate thing is that you have to actively seek opportunities like MacGlobal or know someone involved in them, as they are otherwise difficult to find. Part of this issue is because we lack streamlined communication of events occurring on campus on any given day. The monitors across campus can only show so much, OSCARplus offers a select niche of events and our Twitter accounts are just as selective.

This is something our student leaders should consider addressing. What can be done to create a central hub for daily opportunities, events and special programming to be accessible to all students and faculty members? Questions like this are worth considering so that events like MacGlobal do not go unnoticed by a large proportion of the McMaster community.

This is what we need more of. We need it because this is the kind of stimulation and education that is missing from many of our courses. The kind of learning that comes from MacGlobal is the kind that makes you a more informed global citizen. It sheds light on things that we can become oblivious to in our student bubbles. With this new insight comes a greater ability to learn and apply knowledge.

Without a doubt, I have learned an extensive amount of information and developed a variety of skills thanks to my classes. However, what I believe I still lack in my current undergraduate education is an integration of course material with current and relevant global issues or contexts. Until this can be achieved in-class, initiatives like MacGlobal should be made known to more students on campus.

 

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