CFS-Québec self-destructs in election fiasco

A feud between combative factions of the Canadian Federation of Students- Quebec has blown into a full-scale legal battle, resulting in impeachment, political scandal, jealousy, and thousands of dollars in legal fees, paid with students’ money.

The dispute began over the summer, when the Dawson Student Union and the Students’ Society of McGill University were allowed to run candidates in the June elections. Both are prospective members of CFS-Q, whose bylaws are unclear as to whether prospective members are allowed to elect executives.

The Concordia Students’ Union initially accepted Mehdi Al-Talibi from the DSU and Nina Amrov from the SSMU as executives on CFS-Q. A few weeks later, however, CSU execs realized that Al-Talibi and Amrov’s undergraduate unions don’t pay fees to the CFS-Q, which disqualifies them from holding office, and called for their removal from office.

In an interview, Al-Talibi expressed suspicions that CSU was simply upset because one of their candidates for CFS-Q failed to win a position in June.

“They had a candidate who didn’t get his position in the end, and it took them a couple of weeks after that to find a flaw and point it out.”

A meeting between McGill, Concordia, and Dawson on Aug. 3 reportedly exploded into a shouting match full of racial slurs, dividing the DSU. Emma Boma-Savas, VP external of the DSU, was sent to defend Amrov and Al-Talibi, while other representatives demanded their impeachment. Brent Farrington went on to chair an ad hoc special general meeting of the remaining unions, and the leadership of the CFS-Q was subsequently impeached.

“There was nothing legitimate about it,” said Al-Talibi regarding the SMG. Al-Talibi questioned Farrington’s right to chair a CFS-Q meeting, as Farrington is a member of the national CFS caucus, not the Quebecois.

Over the next few weeks, the locks to CFS-Q’s office were changed multiple times as the two sides battled for control over the group’s bank account. The CFS-Q account was then frozen and an injunction was sent to the bank, prompting the Quebec Superior Court to take notice. Lack of access to their office and money has been a serious blow to the general day-to-day operations of CFS-Q. “For now the organization is really crippled and we’re working from outside the office, trying to get as much as we can done” Al-Talibi said.

Amanda Aziz, chairperson of CFS-National, informed DSU and SSMU that they could run for CFSQ executive positions even though they were prospective members. Justice Mark Peacock, however, suggested that the opposite was the case and that prospective members are not allowed to run for office, a recommendation Aziz will not challenge.

Will CFS-Q get its act together to challenge the lifting of the tuition fee freeze?

“In my opinion, it’s already too ate,” said Farrington. “The real victory would’ve been to prevent this implementation.” Farrington estimated that by September of next year, it will be impossible to do anything about the defreeze of Quebec tuition without 80% public support. “There’s a lot of divide, my hope is that students will remain united,” Farrington added.

In addition to leaving students without a representative voice, the feud is also costing students thousands of dollars. A trial will be held in Quebec Superior Court on Dec. 14 to decide the legitimate executives of CFS-Q. Patrice Blais, lawyer and executive director for the Concordia Graduate Students’ Association, estimated that the combined legal fees for both sides will top $100,000.

Can-Con 2007: Part I

It’s Christmas in September as NHL teams take to the ice.

Yup, it’s that time of year again: NHL training camps are underway. We’re getting our first glimpse of pre-season highlights and soon the puck will drop on a brand new season. Here’s a look at what at the Canadian teams in the Eastern Conference have been up to over the summer and what you can expect from them this season. Stay tuned to the Varsity for a preview of Canada’s western teams.

Montreal Canadiens

This summer, Canadiens captain Saku Koivu was quoted as saying that the Habs would likely not be a Cup contender this season.While it is ill-advised for a captain to say such a thing from a PR standpoint, only the most optimistic Habs fans would disagree with his appraisal. GM Bob Gainey was reportedly pursuing free agents Daniel Brière and Ryan Smyth but came up empty in the bigname free agent sweepstakes. The Habs had the best power play in the league last year but with the departure of blue-liner Sheldon Souray who scored a Conference-best 19 goals with the man-advantage, their power play production is likely to drop off significantly. On the plus side (literally), newly-acquired defenseman Roman Hamrlik’s plus-22 plus/minus rating is a significant improvement over Souray’s abysmal minus-28, and should help the team’s even strength play, which was among the worst in the league. Gainey cleared cap space by shipping Sergei Samsonov and his $3.525 million contract to Chicago and added scoring depth by signing free agent forwards Tom Kostopoulos and Bryan Smolinski. The team is still short on elite-level scoring, and will need right winger Michael Ryder to have another 30-goal campaign and the underachieving Alex Kovalev to step up in a big way. Goaltending will be solid as long as Cristobal Huet can stay healthy. Montreal barely missed the playoffs last year, and given improvements in other Eastern Confer- ence teams, the Habs seem likely to miss the playoffs by a wider margin this year.

Ottawa Senators

After making it to the Stanley Cup Finals last season and (possibly) shedding their reputation as perennial chokers, the Ottawa Senators kept their core intact and made only minor adjustments to their lineup in the off season. Head coach Bryan Murray replaced John Muckler as GM and promoted assistant coach John Paddock to his place behind the Ottawa bench. Paddock worked with a number of the Sens’ current players while head coach of Ottawa’s AHL affiliate, the Binghamton Senators, making the transition from assistant to head coach hopefully go fairly smoothly. As for on-ice changes, the loss of free agent defenseman Tom Preissing and his plus-40 rating – -fourth-best in the league – will hurt, as defenseman/ winger Christoph Schubert is likely to be called upon to fill the hole. As one of Murray’s first acts as GM, he dealt second-line forward Peter Schaefer to Boston for speedy forechecking winger Shean Donovan to give the Sens a little more room under the salary cap. While the roster changes might be a slight downgrade, the experience the team gained during their Cup run could help, and fans are hoping it’ll be enough to take them one final step further this year. Look for Murray to upgrade his team during the season, using the almost four million in cap space he has remaining. So with the Buffalo Sabres loss of co-captains Daniel Brière and Chris Drury, the Sens are likely the team to beat in the Northeast division.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Last year, newly minted head coach Paul Maurice frankly stated that his team would be in a dog fight to make the playoffs. That prediction turned out to be accurate, with the Leafs falling just one point out of eighth place in the east. With a more optimistic Maurice predicting that his team will “make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup” this season, Leafs nation is hoping Maurice’s words will ring true once again. GM John Ferguson signed speedy 34-year-old winger Jason Blake to a five-year, twenty million dollar contract, a risky deal in the long term with a chance to improve the team for the upcomming season. Blake is coming off an impressive 40-goal campaign and is expected to play top line with Mats Sundin and Nik Antropov, who the team hopes will finally shed his injury troubles and play a full season. The Leafs’ only off season trade brought in goaltender Vesa Toskala and troubled forward Mark Bell from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for three draft picks. Toskala could prove to be the most significant addition to this year’s team if he lives up to expectations. He has not played a full season as a number one goalie, sharing time with Evgeni Nabokov in San Jose, but has shown flashes of brilliance. Toronto was tied for sixth in the league in goals for but 25th in goals against after Andrew Raycroft failed to return to his Calder Trophy-winning form in his first season between the pipes for the Leafs, and Toskala is the Leafs’ best chance at changing those stats. Bell who was suspended after pleading no contest to drunk driving and hit-and-run charges will be forced to miss the first 15 games of the season.. Maurice is also counting on improved off season training regimen to help some of the team’s young players. While expecting the Leafs to be contenders this season might be a bit of a stretch, the team seems likely to take the spot in the playoffs the New York Islanders held last year.

Campus crash

The corner of Morningside and Ellesmere was the scene of a bloody, gunshot-riddled car crash Wednesday morning. The crime scene was one block away from UTSC directly across from the Centennial College HP Campus, meaning that many students living near campus, like Chris Smith, a fifth-year political science student at UTSC who heard the shots firsthand.

“All I heard was gunshots—bang, bang, bang—like that. And not long after I heard a lot of sirens… it was pretty intense. Normally you only see a couple of cop cars, not 15 or 20.” Early that morning over a dozen police cars were still lined up along the street next to a crashed compact car—the result of a late-night highspeed chase involving gunshots, a helicopter scan and a call for help to cruisers from multiple divisions.

The chase began after a man was shot near Wellesley and Parliament and two suspects were seen attempting to make a getaway in a small green vehicle. It quickly escalated into a multi-car chase for more than 40 kilometers, finally ending when the vehicle lost control and swerved into a guardrail on the side of the road. One suspect fled the vehicle into nearby Morningside Park, while the other refused to get out of the car. An Emergency Task Force and K-9 Unit were both brought in to subdue the uncooperative suspect, and eventually escorted him out of the vehicle. Police quickly surrounded the area of the park and soon found the fleeing suspect hiding in a ravine.

While two individual patients were taken to Sunnybrook hospital, it is uncertain whether the injuries sustained were from the car accident or shots fired by police.

As of early yesterday morning, more than a dozen white bullet casing markers littered the ground around the suspect vehicle, which was lying across the sidewalk of the opposite lane with the trunk and driver side door open. The green compact sustained extensive damage, with both headlights smashed in, a broken window, and bullet holes across the driver’s-side door. The police cruiser closest to the suspect vehicle had its driver’s side window shot out.

Price to play

The NFL season opener for the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos on September 9 was a game that many would like to file away in the category of unforgettable. Not only because of the last second field goal that gave the Broncos the victory but more so because of the life-threatening injury that Bills tight-end Kevin Everett sustained during the opening of the second half. Everett fell lifelessly to the field after attempting to tackle Broncos player Domenik Hixon. Players huddled together to say a prayer for Everett as medical personnel prepared him to be taken away in an ambulance.

Everett underwent successful surgery and was sedated with the assistance of a respirator in the immediate days following the procedure. Doctors characterized the trauma as a cervical spine injury that had the possible effect of leaving the player paralyzed for the remainder of his life. Most recently, Everett has regained feeling and movement in some parts of his body and doctor’s now believe that the 25 year old may be able to walk again due to his remarkable progress thus far.

The fact that Everett may fully recuperate is a great piece of news. More importantly this event has allowed athletes to question whether their profession of choice is worth taking part in. Many would define the worthiness of a profession by various standards such as compensation and liesure time. But in the realm of professional sports one has various other concerns that are not considered by those in “regular” occupations. For example, an athlete that is asked to make high risk plays only a few times a game, may have to rethink his career options because of the unlikely possibility of earning more playing time and overall exposure. On the other hand, it can be argued that the risk of bodily injury is worthwhile for players that are able to showcase their talents more prominently on the field for greater compensation and media exposure. Oddly, those that get more playing time are at a greater statistical risk of serious injury but are less likely to consider this possibility due to their overarching responsibilities on and off the field.

Cliché or not, the intangible factor of passion for the game may be a valid reason to the risk injury in athletics. Everett for example, struggled with injuries from the very start of his career and was primarily a special teams player in 2006. The fact that he was on his way to more playing time provides some insight to his continued dedication to the game even when he faced impediments earlier on. At the end of the day, professional athletes embark on career paths that provide for lucrative opportunities must understand that with every snap of the ball they may have to fight for their lives in the very next moment.

It appears that Kevin Everett has won the battle for his life and can now focus on the goal of learning to walk again one day. Let this be a lesson to others.

Veni, vidi, Vaccharino

When he was hanging out at the Blind Duck as an undergraduate at U of T’s Erindale campus, Franco Vaccarino never thought he’d end up in charge.

But following his official installation ceremony on Monday, the 51-year-old psychologist is the ninth principal to lead the Scarborough campus in its 40-year history.

In one sense, not much has changed in the two decades since he first set foot on UTSC as an assistant professor in 1984.

“I think we only had two buildings there at the time…what was interesting is that we had a real sense of energy and passion at UTSC back then, and that’s continued over the years,” said Vaccarino, who was slotted early in the year for the position vacated by Professor Kwong-loi Shun.

A slew of new buildings and unique co-op programs have defined UTSC’s development since Vaccarino took the reins. A new emphasis on graduate programs will also continue to be developed under his watch.

“Traditionally UTSC has been more of an undergraduate-focused campus and that’s still the case, but you’re now seeing the emergence of more emphasis on graduate training. In many sectors the masters degree is quickly becoming the educational credential of demand,” he said.

To balance the needs of a large undergraduate population with the emphasis on post-grad studies, Vaccarino plans to feel out “the pulse of the community” and get a sense of direction by the end of the year through consultations with students and faculty: “We need to be thinking not only about the present and the kinds of needs that have emerged, but we also have to be anticipating the future.”

Vaccarino’s vision for his five-year term at the campus will be influenced by his view on how modern economy is changing in its “unprecedented interconnectivity between peoples and nations.”

“I think in some ways UTSC is a reflection of the world at large,” said Vaccarino, who points to courses such as City Studies, which can’t be pinned down to one specific discipline.

“When campuses are smaller you also have more of an opportunity to connect with people, but I think there’s something to be said for a campus on the one hand being small enough to maintain a sense of community, but at the same time also large enough to have an impact and be recognized beyond the local community,” Vaccarino said.

“I see us building on these kinds of strengths.”

Freshly pressed

The Tough Alliance – New Waves (Summer Lovers Unlimited)

The Tough Alliance is a tough alliance. This Swedish electro-pop duo have been busy stomping all over Europe’s burgeoning indie-dance scene since 2004, but have only recently been making waves on this side of the Atlantic. On New Waves, Henning Furst and Eric Berglund showcase a four-song snapshot of what the Alliance is truly capable of. Think of it as a taste of what’s to come. As the disjointed cover shot of a cresting wave suggests, there is a slightly tropical feel to this EP, which makes it picture-perfect beach music or, alternately, great music for imagining you’re at the beach (when you’re really getting ready to endure another cold, cruel, Canadian winter). Their equatorial touch is most evident on the EP’s insta-hit “Silly Crimes”—which starts off with a mind-blowingly cool synth riff—and on the equally intricate “25 Years And Runnin.’” While comparable with Swedish comrades Lo-Fi Fnk, TTA’s music is more lyrically complex (with a slight, non-douchy political slant), yet proves just as pleasing to pop-addicted dance-floor crashers everywhere.—JB

Rating:

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals – Lifeline (EMI)

With today’s pop scene coughing up nothing but multiple overdoses, sweaty girls in bikinis, and catchy songs about umbrellas, it is reassuring to hear an album that stays true to its musical roots. Ben Harper and his naturally-gifted band, the Innocent Criminals (Oliver Charles, Leon Mobley, Juan Nelson, Michael Ward, and Jason Yates) recorded the soul-infused acoustic album, Lifeline, in seven days after months of touring across the globe. Its sweet simplicity can be attributed to Harper’s choice of an old-school 16-track analog tape machine as opposed to the computer and pro-tools setup commonly used by artists today. Recorded in Paris, Lifeline poses as the perfect rainy day companion with bluesy tracks like “Needed You Tonight” and “Heart of Matters,” to the more poignant “Having Wings” and “Younger than Today.” With these, Harper and his band keep the album’s overall tone refl ective and thoughtful, but by no means boring. Kicking up the rhythm with tracks like “Say You Will” and “Put it On Me,” Harper pulls inspiration from the R&B greats. The “shoo-wop” of the ladies’ background vocals in “Say You Will” lends a gospel-inflected nod to the girl group days of Phil Spector and the Supremes, while Harper’s startlingly high range in “Put it On Me” is reminiscent of a time when Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder ruled the airwaves. Harper and the Criminals finish off the album with two introspective tracks, leaving the listener more than satisfied. “Paris Sunrise #7” leads as an instrumental track with a raga-inspired guitar solo, followed by the sheer sincerity of “Lifeline,” in a finale nothing short of perfection.—CK

Rating:

Usra Leedham – The Architect’s Wound (Bad Reputation)

Nowhere near an expert on indie music, I wasn’t sure what to expect of Canadian artist Usra Leedham’s album, The Architect’s Wound. In all honesty, the moment the soft and café-like mood of the piano introduction began, I was relieved and enchanted. Through the ten tracks that followed, a whole new world was opened up to me: one that mixes the distinct talent of a classical vocalist and pianist with the personality and past of a remarkable human being. Dubbed “urban soul” by some, Leedham’s jazzy style is rough yet elegant, and overflowing in beautiful instrumental passages. Even the fact that her lyrics are often not understandable becomes overshadowed by her passion for creating music and her will to distance herself from the world of success-by-numbers. Regardless of style or appeal, an artist who believes that “music as an art will always win out” is sure to bring quality to content, a characteristic decidedly greater than mass approval. —BK

Rating:

Tegan and Sara – The Con (Sire)

Tegan and Sara, two spiky-haired lesbianic twins from Vancouver, BC (if you can believe it), have an incredible knack for making the lovelorn sound catchy as hell. The Con, the sisters’ fourth full-length, hot off their noteworthy appearance on the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack, follows their A-HA meets Wilson Phillips aesthetic, coupling strumming electrics and just enough Casio to sound punchy and jarring, with perfectly coordinated harmonies. Title track “The Con” features bursts of synth with the twin’s quavery pleas, while “Nineteen” places infatuated lyrics like “I felt you in my legs before I even met you” on the shelf with half-hearted, sludgy drums. However it’s “Back In Your Head” that will cripple you— like every Tegan and Sara single, you’ll spend your time wishing you could forget its hooky deception and hoping it appears each time you turn on the radio. Nothing especially new here, but let’s hope the Grey’s exposure gives the girls a chance to foray onto larger screens.—CL

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Pride Tiger – The Lucky Ones (EMI)

On their major label debut, Vancouver rockers Pride Tiger seem determined to bring back a wide variety of 70s rock clichés, including the singing drummer, which is one that we the listening public really could live without. Ripping solos all over the place just aren’t enough to make up for the countless worn out phrases (“Sweet Dreams,” “Let ’Em Go,” etc.) that populate every track. While the album’s highlight, “Fill Me In,” has got all the right hooks and guitar frills in the right places, the other songs sound like simple deviations from this formula. Overall, Pride Tiger display a complete lack of originality, failing to come up with any interesting elements that could breathe life back into the sound of a bygone era. At least Wolfmother have cool hair.—RD

Rating:

Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (Sony)

The fourth album from Idaho singer-songwriter Josh Ritter has been described as “his most freewheeling work to date.” This may or may not be a direct Dylan reference, but such a comparison wouldn’t be out of place, as Ritter places himself firmly in the folk rock tradition by crafting an album of tunes that tips its cap to those who have come before him. The Dylan influence is inescapable, as opener “To the Dogs or Whoever” is so reminiscent of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” that you can almost see the white cards dropping before your eyes. If you’re looking for something groundbreaking that you haven’t heard before, look elsewhere, but be mindful that there’s a fine line between derivative and traditional. Ritter’s work is not a cheap imitation of his influences, as he furthers the folk rock genre in an artful and interesting way. “The Temptation of Adam” is a fine example, as it proves that there will always be a place in the world for a gorgeous country ballad, no matter what decade it is. —RD

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Artists bawl at City Hall

Toronto mayor David Miller eschewed the microphone Wednesday afternoon as he climbed atop a picnic bench to address a 200-strong crowd at Nathan Phillips Square. The rally invited artists and any interested parties to express support for the upcoming Oct. 22 vote on proposed land transfer and vehicle registration taxes.

“Unlike other major cities in North America and around the world, we don’t fund cities properly in Canada,” said Miller, who opened the rally. The mayor recounted Harrris-era “downloading”, which held the city responsible for health and social services. According to www.fairtaxes.ca, the mayor’s web site, property taxes make up only 18 per cent of the top 35 U.S. cities’ revenue but account for 42 per cent of Toronto’s revenue.

Miller hoped to pass two taxes, which would provide an estimated $360 million per year, in July, but narrowly lost a council vote that saw the issue pushed to October. Service cuts-closed community centres, the TTC fare hike, public libraries closed on Sunday—have already taken place, and if the taxes aren’t passed, Miller warned, the services will either be severely reduced or be paid for by a massive increase in property taxes.

The dozen speakers who followed were given two minutes each—though no one timed them–to address the crowd. Though funding for the arts, always one of the first to be cut in a budget deficit, was important to those gathered, speakers expressed concern at the reduction of social services.

“Unlike the Toronto Real Estate Board, we can’t afford to buy a fullpage ad in the Toronto Star,” said Claire Hopkinson, executive director of the Toronto Arts Council. “But we can afford to gather here and let our voices be heard.”

Many speakers—and protestors (“Fuck the Toronto Real Estate Board!”) criticized the TREB, who opposes the proposed taxes.

The TREB web site, www.nohomebuyingtax. com, said that “a 100% increase in land transfer taxes is not the right solution to the city’s financial challenges.”

Speakers argued that services such as art programs, community centres, and the public library make the city a great place to live—and raise property values.

Desmond Cole, last year’s candidate for Ward 20, quoted the TREB web site’s address to councillors: “Get your houses in order so we have a decent city to live in without taxing a handful of tax payers.”

Cole said in response, “Renters like myself, who have to pay these punishing fees, will never be homeowners.”

Kat Cizek, Filmmaker-in-Residence at the National Film Board, spoke about homelessness: “6,500 beds are in service every night, and people still get turned away. The city has really inflated real estate prices, so to tax that seems fair.”

“Let’s tax the profiteers,” she said, a sentiment echoed by the last speaker, Adam Vaughn, councillor for Trinity- Spadina.

“That’s what real estate companies do. They follow artists into neighbourhood after neighbourhood. They capitalize on your city-building.” Vaughn told the audience that the real estate board called his office and threatened to make sure he lost the next election unless he changed his vote.

“We are not afraid,” he declared, urging Torontonians to attend the vote on Oct. 22. “Fill the chamber, so it’s the real estate board that’s going down in flame and the city that’s rising from the ashes.”

Spam’s not a sham?

People clicking through spam emails offering prescription drugs at crazy prices don’t usually think twice before clicking “delete.” But a U of T researcher has found that, a surprising amount of the time, these offers actually work.

Dr. Alejandro R. Jadad, professor of medicine and information studies at U of T, began researching the spam mail hawking human health products to online buyers last year with his former student, Peter Gernburd.

“The internet is really being crippled by spam. We discovered that 82 per cent of e-mails circulating through the world are spam,” said Jadad.

Dr. Jadad bravely clicked through—and documented—the segment of that 82 per cent made up of offers for prescription drugs such as Viagra, Valium, and penis-enlargement pills.

“I wanted to figure out how to handle spam myself, and I was shocked to realize that there was nothing published on the behaviour of spammers. So I said that if there’s nothing on that, I’m not going to wait for that to happen because spam has been around for 20 years or so, and it’s getting worse,” he said

Jadad and Gernburd then began their study by creating three unfiltered e-mail accounts to see how many spam messages they would receive in the month of November 2006.

“We collected over 4,000 e-mail messages from those three accounts from spam, and by spam we mean unsolicited, commercial offers,” said Dr. Jadad.

They found that one third of the spam was health-related.

Over a week-long period, they responded to every such ad that gave identifiable information about the seller.

Their spam contained 27 unique offers. Using a credit card and a post office box, they bought one product from each of these alleged internet hucksters.

One third of the products ordered resulted in deliveries to Jadad and Gernburd, who received five prescription drugs and four natural health products. Furthermore, the credit card was only billed for items Jadad actually received.

Jadad added that he does not know if the drugs he got online are authentic, warning that they could be useless or contain dangerous substances.

“The first thing we want to show is the magnitude of the issue,” said Jadad.

“People are putting themselves at risk. One out of four messages on the internet is health-related spam and if you order drugs, you get them one out three times. These [spammers] are gone in two weeks and can’t be held accountable if something goes wrong. It’s very important for people to know so that they can make an informed decision.”

With the first stage of their study complete, JAadad and Gernburd are currently working on determining the legitimacy of the drugs they received and looking at what agencies such as Health Canada, INTERPOL, and the RCMP are doing, or can do, to help the general public against potential, poorly understood dangers of spam.