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Bill C-24 is an unjust policy

International students will be deprived of eligibility for citizenship

Bill C-24 is an unjust policy

Bill C-24 went into full effect earlier this summer, with its value being brought in to question in the political, journalistic, and legal communities. But what does it mean for students in particular?

The bill states that you must spend at least 183 days in Canada each year for a total of four years to qualify for citizenship. International students spend at least 240 days a year here; most international students are completing a four-year program. According to these numbers, international students should be eligible for citizenship by the end of their degrees.

However, Bill C-24 has decreed that the time that international students spend in Canada while in school no longer counts towards the time necessary for procuring citizenship.

This policy is clearly unfair. Being a student here is the best way to understand the rights and responsibilities of a Canadian citizen — at no other time in your life will you have the resources and freedom to explore and appreciate all that Canada has to offer.

This is not to mention that typically, someone in their twenties who is fresh out of school and living in Toronto wants to be able to travel easily, vote, be eligible for as many jobs as possible, and have access to government social services. However, those privileges are only granted along with citizenship. Due to Bill C-24, the wait will be well over eight years before international students have access to citizenship.

Bill C-24 has also introduced a provision called “intent to reside.” Under this provision, if after a student is granted citizenship it is implied that they do not intend to live in Canada, their citizenship can be stripped from them. “Intent to reside” will likely be measured by the time that new citizens spend outside of Canada, and as such, limits people’s liberties to study, work, or even travel abroad back to their country of origin, perhaps to visit family or friends after graduating. What’s more, keeping the unpredictable job market in mind, if someone is employed abroad, or wishes to study outside of Canada, it doesn’t suddenly make them less Canadian.

But perhaps most damning is that Bill C-24 gives the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship (or CIC) minister the authority to revoke the citizenship of dual-citizens or foreign-born citizens — who are referred to as “second-class” in the bill’s own language — if they are convicted of terrorism, treason, and spying-related offences in Canada or otherwise. It’s hard to imagine the CIC Minister deporting someone for no rational purpose, but the very fact that the minister now has the power to deport people is troubling for many reasons.

Deporting someone from the country they were born in echoes the racist “you don’t belong in this country” notion that many people of colour have heard their entire lives.

If the current government wanted to tarnish Canada’s reputation by putting forth a bill that is lazy and divisive, then they’ve achieved their goal. As for students, the best course of action right now is to be aware of all the ways that Bill C-24 is affecting you, and to plan ahead for the time you will spend here before you become a citizen.

UTM principal takes six-month leave

Saini to plan expansion, student retention

UTM principal takes six-month leave

After five years of service as vice president of the University of Toronto and principal of UTM, Deep Saini is taking an administrative leave. He officially left his position on July 1, 2015, and will resume work on January 1, 2016. Governing Council, U of T’s highest governing body, approved Saini’s reappointment to office where he will remain until December 31, 2020.

For every five years of service, university administrators can take up to one year of leave. Saini’s leave will last six months. His term began in July 2010 and ended on June 30 this year. With the fiftieth anniversary of UTM coming up in 2017, he plans to use the time to catch up on his research and set priorities for the next five years at UTM.

“I thought it was a good time with the anniversary coming up, for the senior person here to step back and do some thinking about what way we want to go,” Saini said in a phone interview with The Varsity. “One could do that while working, but it is so much better to do it when you do not have a daily grind of taking care of things.”

Over the years, UTM has grown into a midsize university, which has come with its own problems. Saini hopes to focus on two key points. “One of the areas that I will be working on is how to improve our retention of students — how to make sure those who start, continue, and that number is higher than yesterday,” Saini said. The other area is expanding programs to meet the university’s needs in the western GTA, especially with the talk of opening another university in Brampton.

In addition to planning for the next phase at UTM, Saini also aims to contribute to research projects on urban ecology and sustainable agriculture. Although he no longer teaches in the classroom, he has a background as a biology professor and plans to catch up on research while he is away.

Saini began his administrative career in 1996 at the University of Montréal. He then spent a few years as the dean of the faculty of environment at the University of Waterloo, which he called a watershed step in his life. According to Saini, the faculty was in some difficulty and is now probably the foremost place in Canada for environmental studies. “All of that turnaround happened under my watch and I just loved it — the idea of building an institution,” Saini said.

Reflecting on his experience, Saini is proud of what he has learned and is excited to share it when he returns. “It will be 20 years of experience in administration, where you have seen it all, or at least believe you have seen it all, because new things keep coming at you regardless of how much you know,” Saini says. “Administration at the senior level is not an entry level job — it is something that takes years of experience of having grappled with issues that come up and eventually you get good at it.”

There’s always room for change

Change Room Project comes to Hart House for Pan Am Games

There’s always room for change

In light of the Pan Am Games, the University of Toronto has launched a new initiative called the “Change Room Project.” Initiated by Bruce Kidd, former warden of Hart House and a former Olympian, this research project endeavors to provide a platform for students, especially those who identify as LGBTQ+, to discuss the barriers they face when it comes to participating in physical fitness and recreational activities.

Professor Caroline Fusco, from the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, worked with Day Milman, program coordinator at Hart House, to create various exhibitions on the locker room walls and facilities across all three U of T campuses. These displays exhibit textual excerpts from interviews with various LGBTQ+ students about their experiences with the social spaces offered by locker rooms and other similar facilities.

“It first started when I got students in my own course to interview each other about Pan Am locker rooms. They then signed consent forms allowing me to use excerpts from their conversations for this project,” said Fusco. Fusco and Milman then put out a call through various LGBTQ+-friendly club mailing lists, to which 12 students responded. Overall, more than 50 students contributed quotations to the project, detailing their own experiences and views on locker rooms.

Fusco and Milman found that anxiety regarding appearances was a recurring theme in the interviews. “One student mentioned that they don’t go to the gym unless it’s with a specific friend as they needed that friend to help them feel safe,” said Milman. They both agreed that the fear of being watched, judged, and commented on were among the most common issues mentioned, and that they disproportionately affected LGBTQ+ students.

Remi Long, member of the Varsity rugby team, said that locker rooms also function as social spaces. “Apart from simply being a place to change, it’s also a place we connect to each other outside of the specific activities of our sport and can talk not only as teammates, but as friends and peers. It’s a place where we get to talk about things other than our sport, and is thereby a space where we do form connections to each other,” she commented.

Stefan Gyocsi, captain of an intramural volleyball team and a regular user of U of T’s athletic facilities, believes that the university offers an inclusive and positive space for all students and supports the Change Room Project in its efforts to lend a voice to LGBTQ+ students. “Since U of T is such diverse hub of people, namely with ethnic background, sexual orientation, body types and lifestyles, each individual here needs to feel included and accepted by the community. The type of effect that this project could have is that it could show the university that its facilities, as inclusive as they are, can always be improved,” he said.

The response, so far, has been a mix of positive and negative; Milman mentioned that some of the negative reception was due to the fact that, for some people, locker rooms are a space where they can de-stress and in which they do not want to come into contact with triggering material; according to Milman, the textual excerpts written on the walls of their locker spaces made the project feel invasive to them.

Both Fusco and Milman hope that the project will shed some light on how people from all walks of life view various societal spaces, and further the university’s ability to act as a supportive, inclusive, and positive space for all students and community members. “We are hoping to turn this project into an academic publication that goes more in depth with the themes brought out through these exhibitions,” said Fusco.

Hey PRESTO

TTC phases out tokens and tickets in favour of reloadable card system

Hey PRESTO

On June 22, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) announced that tickets and tokens would be phased out by mid-2017. Instead, passengers will use a PRESTO card to access the city’s public transportation.

Currently, PRESTO holders can use their cards on the new streetcars and at 26 subway stations. This includes the four subway stations in the immediate vicinity of U of T’s St. George (UTSG) campus: Queen’s Park, Museum, St. George, and Spadina.

The TTC has plans to roll out PRESTO card readers throughout the rest of the transit system by the end of 2016. GO Transit implemented the system a number of years ago, as did many other transit systems across the GTA.

What this means for commuters

Commuter students who live outside the City of Toronto frequently need to carry tokens or tickets along with their PRESTO card.

“As a commuter student this would make life easier — having to buy tokens/tickets seems like no big deal, but it’s a real hassle considering that you have to buy them so often,” said Haris Raheel, a student who commutes to U of T from Oshawa.

Victoria Barbosa, a Toronto commuter student, acknowledged the advantages of PRESTO. “If I can just use a card [instead of using tokens], it would make things easier. Also, there would be no need for transfers and wasting all that paper.”

Tanzim Rashid, a commuter student and daily PRESTO user, recognizes the lack of PRESTO reload booths. “[Relying] so heavily on PRESTO would mean relying equally on PRESTO reload booths,” he explained. Rashid, however, described this move as “smart and pragmatic.”

“An improvement”

“We welcome any efforts to improve the commutes of commuter students. If the phasing-out of paper tickets and tokens in favour of PRESTO helps with this, then we welcome the change,” commented Benjamin Atkins and Gabriel Zoltan-Johan, co-presidents of the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) in a joint statement.

Atkins and Zoltan-Johan also expressed VUSAC’s commitment to improving commuter students’ experiences. Notably, the co-presidents worked with Jasmine Denike, University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) vp external, to push for the installation of PRESTO card readers at Museum station following a “multi-year endeavour.”

Denike praised this move as an improvement. “It should be more plausible to create a reloadable post-secondary student rate that could be lower than the $112 offered now,” she said.

She further expressed her desire to eliminate the post-secondary student ID card requirement when carrying a post-secondary student Metropass. She also hopes the transition to PRESTO cards will lead the way to a reduction in fares for university students.

Ryan Gomes, UTSU vp internal & services, anticipates that the UTSU’s TTC token-selling services would have to undergo the same change, and that it would be the responsibility of a future successor. “I would hope that the VP Internal at the time does pursue reloading PRESTO cards as a service that could be provided to the membership,” Gomes said.

The TTC has also expressed their desire to make Metropasses and day passes “a thing of the past.” However, there are no concrete plans on how Metropasses or day passes will fit into the PRESTO framework at the moment.

CFS seeks reinstatement of voter information cards

Injunction hearing held as federal election nears

CFS seeks reinstatement of voter information cards

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the Council of Canadians are continuing their opposition to the Fair Elections Act, which both organizations argue will create further barriers to voting for Canadian citizens. An injunction hearing was held on the second and third of July at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to overturn the provision in the act that eliminates voter information cards (VICs) as acceptable forms of identification.

The Fair Elections Act was granted Royal Assent in June 2014 and injunction was filed for in March 2015. The argument is that the provision will disenfranchise thousands of Canadians from voting, especially post-secondary students, Aboriginal people, seniors, and the homeless, as they are the least likely to have valid documentation of a current address.

62 per cent of students who had the option used voter information cards as official ID in the 2011 federal election.

Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, believes that without valid ID, people will be discouraged from taking part in the democratic process.

“In the 2011 election, only 39 per cent of people between 18 and 25 voted. I fear the level will continue to drop,” she states.

The Conservative government argued in court that the reinstatement of voter identification cards would increase the number of fraudulent voters or instances of fraudulent votes.

“Federal council relied on a very small number of cases to make the link between the VICs and voter fraud, however all of those instances cited a mistake in the system which has since been corrected by Elections Canada,” said Bilan Arte, national chairperson of the CFS.

“The lawyers for the government were unable to come up with any serious proof of voter abuse using VICs,” added Barlow. “Nor could they explain why, if there were indeed problems with VICs as identification and the former vouching rules, Elections Canada wanted to extend their use in the 2015 election.”

In order to implement the necessary changes, the CFS hopes to receive a decision by the judge on July 20. If approved in court, the use of VICs will only apply to the upcoming election.

Without VICs, students may prove their address by either providing two authorized pieces of identification and having a fellow elector vouch for their address, or by having a signed letter of residency if they are housed in a campus residence.

“That’s why we’re doing the work over the last two days because those systems are quite difficult to navigate and frankly unnecessary when you have a system that has worked and is proven to work in our last federal election,” explained Arte.

The CFS and the Council of Canadians will continue working together to fight additional provisions, including the restrictions Elections Canada has to informing the public, and stripping the Commissioner of Elections Canada of the ability to investigate electoral fraud.

“We intend to go ahead with a Charter challenge,” said Barlow. “The reason for this injunction request is that the case is not likely to come up before the next election and we want people to vote. But we fully intend to fight the larger set of concerns we have about this voter suppression legislation in court.”

Outside of the hearing, CFS’s campaign “It’s No Secret” hopes to make information about the electoral system relatable and accessible to students. “Regardless of what happens we’re working very closely with our members to ensure that that young people can be game changers and that we do see a high youth and student voter turnout and the re-prioritization of post-secondary issues and issues that affect youth in the upcoming election,” said Arte.

U of T talks “second class citizenship”

Bill C-24 comes into effect

U of T talks “second class citizenship”

The Strengthening Citizenship Act portion of Bill C-24 officially came into effect in late May, creating what some have derided as a “second-class citizenship” in Canada. Under the new law, people who have immigrated to Canada, or have dual citizenship, can have that citizenship revoked while the “first-class citizens,” or those born in Canada, and do not have another nationality, are safe from being stripped of their passports.

With this bill, the government aims to improve the efficiency of the Canadian citizenship program by reducing average processing time, and targeting citizenship fraud. The bill is designed to reflect Canada’s interests and values by strengthening the requirements needed for Canadian citizenship. Under the bill, automatic citizenship will be extended to “Lost Canadians,” those who were born before 1947, as well as to their children born in the first generation outside Canada.

When the intention to implement these reforms was first announced in February 2014, Chris Alexander, the minister of Citizenship and Immigration commented that the changes were intended to strengthen the values of Canadian citizenship. Alexander went on to justify this apparent need by stating that citizenship is not a privilege — it is a right. Critics and the public alike have debated Alexander’s statement, and the Act it defends in various forums, with many arguing that this act devalues Canadian citizenship by using citizenship as a punitive tool.

 

Effect on students

Currently, around 17.5 per cent of U of T’s 68,114 undergraduates are international students. The population of international graduate students is close at 15.3 per cent.
Ryan Gomes, UTSU vp, internal and services estimated that Bill C-24 could potentially affect about five to ten thousand U of T students, including international students pursuing Canadian citizenship. The bill not only affects those with dual citizenship, but also those who plan to apply for Canadian citizenship.

“The bill is a blatant attack on immigrants, specifically those who are a visible minority,” said Gomes in an interview with The Varsity. “More than anything, it makes me uncomfortable. Knowing that the government can revoke my citizenship even though I was born here is sickening,” said Gomes, reflecting on his own dual Canadian-Portuguese citizenship.

Jane You and Yeliz Beygo, vice-president external and social respectively for the International Student Association, believe that this bill could take a toll on the overall perception of Canada as a multicultural, accepting country.

“The reason why I love this country is because I feel accepted here, I feel that there is a place for me in its society”, said Beygo, “but this bill and the consequent creation of a second class citizenship creates this feeling that people who have a dual citizenship and were not born here are not wanted here, or at least are not wanted as much. While the bill might intend to strengthen the idea of Canadian citizenship, its effects might just end up being the opposite.”

You agreed, stressing on the importance of cultural heritage in Canadian society. “Given that Canada is not a very old country, I only know a handful of Canadians who have truly been here for generations; most of my friends have cultural origins from outside Canada, and are still in tune with their heritage. I’ve experienced a lot of people who are outraged by the bill, because they refuse to give up their dual citizenship,” she said.

When asked if this bill could affect future admission of international students, both You and Beygo agreed that while there might be an effect, it may not be too apparent, as many students will still apply to universities in Canada, such as U of T, based on their reputation.

“It depends on whether these students would plan on staying here after university,” said You. “I do feel that in this age of globalization, by making it harder for people to come and live here, you’re essentially draining potential talent from Canada. It’s like taking too many antibiotics; you will kill the bad bacteria, but you also kill the good bacteria.”

U of T professors weigh in

In her article, “Citizenship Revocation, the Privilege to have Rights and the Production of the Alien” U of T Law professor Audrey Macklin argues how this much too common exercise of citizenship revocation can be paralleled with the ‘arcane practices of exile and banishment’.

“Those subject to citizenship revocation are stripped of that aspect of human dignity that affirms the capacity and potential autonomy for reflection and change”, Macklin states in her article, later commenting: “if the principle of non-arbitrariness requires a nexus between offence and punishment, the fact that citizenship revocation applies only to dual citizens and not mono-citizens ruptures the link.”

Trudo Lemmens, also a professor at the Faculty of Law, has firsthand experience in enduring the complicated and lengthy citizenship application process. Although he ensured that his residency requirement was within government standards, he believes that the government obligated him to provide unnecessarily extensive details on his travels, extending the length of time until he received citizenship. He stressed that his experience was more of an annoyance, but that he has concerns for others.

“If I already have difficulties, what about people who may miss documents, who don’t necessarily have the same stable employment, who don’t have a Canadian wife and children? Imagine what some other people face with this opaque bureaucracy,” he said.

“Canada’s approach in some of these areas is nothing short of scandalous, and in violation of human rights,” said professor Lemmens, on Canadian immigration policy. He reflected on the manner with which the bill treats dual citizens and visible minorities: “You want to make people feel enthusiastic about Canadian citizenship, make them feel welcome…you want to treat new citizens with respect. Increasingly, our Canadian government is doing the opposite.”

Lemmens expressed how he believes the system should work: “You are a citizen or you are not.” “We should punish [those who have committed crimes] as Canadians…not conveniently punish them, then take away citizenship and ship the ‘problem’ cases to other countries.”

“The new act really reflects this growing mistrust of the Canadian government, of those who come to the country and want to build their lives here…it opens the door to governmental arbitrariness with respect to a crucial aspect of a person’s existence,” Lemmens said.

Waterloo student newspaper Imprint to be evicted

University’s Federation of Students decides to withdraw paper's space

This October, Imprint, the University of Waterloo’s independent student newspaper, will be evicted from their offices in the university’s Student Life Centre. The paper has leased the space from the university’s Federation of Students (Feds) for 37 years.

Carly McCready, Feds’ vice president operations and finance, offered no explanation for the decision. However, Jesse McGinnis, the chair of the Imprint Publications’ Board, alleged that the eviction aims to expand Feds’s own offices into the Student Centre, and to silence Imprint’s editorial coverage, which McGinnis says has, “occasionally, cast a bad light on Feds.”

After discussing other options, including doubled rent or outright expulsion from the building, Feds offered Imprint offices in the basement of the Student Life Centre, roughly half the size of their current space.

The University of Waterloo has expressed support for independent campus media, but is offering no assistance. However, McGinnis says: “I’m hopeful that should Feds not step up, the university will help us find a good home.”

— With files from Imprint.

Chartwells to remain UTM’s food service provider

Unpopular food services will continue until 2020

Chartwells to remain UTM’s food service provider

Once again, a contract for food services at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga (UTM) campus has been awarded to Chartwells. The company’s contract with the university extends to 2020.

The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) posted the announcement on their Facebook page, where students expressed their displeasure in the comments.

“I am not particularly optimistic,” said Siddharth Singh, president of UTM’s English and Drama Student Society. “[While] they have guaranteed a price freeze at 2014-2015 levels, the prices remain steep. Vegetarian options don’t seem to feature on their list of priorities. Also, ordering food on campus will still be enormously expensive for clubs and societies, forcing us to order from other caterers and host our events in the Student Centre only.”

“In spite of many students being unhappy with Chartwells, the university still chose to renew a contract with the company,” said Sugandha Bajaj, a student at UTM. Bajaj expressed her concerns that the new contract did not seem much improved from the old one: “barely any time increases were added to the schedule for food places despite many students complaining that there is a need for food places to be open later.”

The president of the UTMSU, Ebi Agbeyegbe, did not respond to requests for comment.

Andrea De Vito, assistant director of UTM’s Retail Services and Administration, expressed enthusiasm for the new contract. “Our new food service contract capitalizes on the Community’s calls for more diverse and healthy food options, improved customer service, and an increased focus on sustainability initiatives,” she wrote in an email to The Varsity. According to De Vito, the contract includes accountability measures which will ensure immediate, and decisive action should Chartwells waver in meeting their obligations.

“We look forward to partnering with Chartwells to deliver an exceptional food service program here at the UTM,” De Vito said.

Kaizen Foodservice Planning & Design Inc. renewed Chartwells’ contract for the next five years effective June 1, 2015 , after being tasked with a consulting project to determine if a self-operated food service was feasible at UTM and if not, to develop a food service contract for the successful bidder.

Once Kaizen’s development phase and evaluation process were complete, it was brought to the Food Service Advisory Committee for further authentication. After a 16-month process, the new services contract was granted to Chartwells.

The new contract expires on May 31, 2020, meaning this contract has a shorter period than the previous contract. Chartwells is bound to pay 17.5 per cent of its net sales to UTM monthly, and the revenue from food truck programs will be split evenly with UTM. Chartwells has also agreed to freeze the prices for the 2016–2017 contract year.