Five students attend UTSU town hall on anti-Blackness

BLC slams union for poor organization, low turnout

Five students attend UTSU town hall on anti-Blackness

The Black Liberation Collective (BLC) has criticized the UTSU for the low attendance at its “Town Hall to Confront Antiblackness Within the UTSU,” which took place last Thursday.

Among the 13 people who were present, there were five attendees; UTSU executives and staff made up more than half of the people in the room.

Jean Samuel, an anti-oppressive facilitator who had worked in child welfare for over 20 years, led the discussion. The town hall was originally organized as a forum for Black students to share their grievances against the UTSU, but Samuel reframed it as a forum for “understanding allyship in confronting anti-Blackness at UTSU” due to the lack of Black students in attendance.

Halfway through the event, Yusra Khogali, who is one of the organizers of the BLC, walked in and expressed her disappointment at the turnout of the event.

“This town hall was an opportunity to actually come and open up a space to really mend the relations with Black students on campus. This was the opportunity,” she told Samuel. “But they failed once again, because they treat black students like they don’t matter.”

One of the two Black students who attended the town hall was Ifrah Farah, a Woodsworth College student who was a member of the UTSU Board of Directors last year.

“Well, I had only found out about I think four hours prior, so it was pretty last minute,” she told The Varsity. “I [kind of]… expected what had happened to happen just because I did notice that the outreach was not the best and I was disappointed in that, but I did have some things to say.”

In a statement posted on Facebook, the BLC called the town hall “useless.”

“We see this town hall for what it is, which is nothing more than the UTSU pretending to address their antiblackness for good PR,” a portion of the statement reads. “This does not meet our demand in any way, and if the UTSU is serious about taking up this work then they need to invest time and effort into the needs of the Black student membership.”

The BLC’s statement also says that their group, along with other Black student groups, were not consulted during the planning of the town hall: “If UTSU claims to be holding space for their Black membership, then Black students need to be reached out to and consulted with.”

UTSU President Jasmine Wong Denike acknowledged that the town hall “was poorly executed.”

“We organized the town hall for our Black members, in order to give them an opportunity to voice their concerns,” she told The Varsity. “We’re still committed to those members, and to working with them to serve them better.”

Denike also said that the union did consult with Black student leaders prior to the town hall. “Obviously there’s something wrong, and the UTSU needs to step up. Communicating and repairing these relationships is a top priority,” she stated.

More consultation was something that Samuel also emphasized, and she encouraged the union executives to sit down with the leaders of every single Black student group on campus.

“Hopefully going forward, when [the UTSU is] accused of anti-Black racism, they’re going to take it more seriously and all work towards making sure they reach out to the proper organizations that they should reach out to,” Farah said.

The UTSU Social Justice & Equity Commission is also holding a town hall on anti-Blackness at U of T on November 17; Denike did not respond to inquiries regarding how this town hall will be different from the last one.

The BLC told The Varsity that the group has not had communications with communications with the UTSU since the town hall.

The group launched a boycott of the UTSU last month and claims to have received over 300 signatures in support. In addition to a town hall, the group’s demands to the union include increased funding for Black student clubs and dropping the lawsuit against former Executive Director Sandy Hudson.

Editors’ Note: This article has been updated to include comments from the Black Liberation Collective.

Inquiry into Campus Police underway following violence at October 11 rally

UTSU statement on alleged police inaction prompts formal review by university

Inquiry into Campus Police underway following violence at October 11 rally

A review into U of T Campus Police following the October 11 “U of T Rally for Free Speech” has commenced under the purview of Alexis Archbold, Assistant Dean at the Faculty of Law. It is set to be completed by the end of the semester.

The inquiry was launched by the university following a statement made by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) on October 16, claiming “the Campus Police refused to intervene when they knew of and saw trans folks being assaulted” at the rally. The review began soon after the UTSU’s statement was released.

In an interview with The Varsity, U of T Media Relations Director Althea Blackburn-Evans confirmed that the review was “well underway,” it would be “examining all aspects of the rally,” and that “the goal is to have the report completed this term.”

The UTSU’s demands for “a full, public inquiry” of Campus Police emphasized the importance of student participation in the investigation, stating that an inquiry devoid of student participation “will not be sufficient.” Blackburn-Evans highlighted the involvement of many stakeholders in the review of Campus Police, stating that Archbold had been “conducting interviews, looking at video footage, any reports related to [the rally], and then also reviewing any relevant U of T policies.”

When asked about the importance of student involvement in the review process, UTSU President Jasmine Wong Denike emphasized in a statement to The Varsity that the Campus Police “are the people hired to serve and protect” students, which “is why the investigation should be public.”

Blackburn-Evans stated that the university was “very disappointed that the event on October 11 devolved in the way it did” and aims to “ensure that topics can be discussed and debated openly and with respect… in a way that’s safe for the community.”

She emphasized the importance of the review into the Campus Police’s conduct at the rally in order to “examine how things unfolded and see what could perhaps be addressed in different ways next time around.”

Denike’s statement to The Varsity also expressed the union’s desire for “an investigation not only into what happened on Tuesday, October 11, but into what Campus Police has and hasn’t been doing in regards to student safety on campus,” by thoroughly examining the “treatment of marginalized students” on campus in general.

In a previous statement to The Varsity, Denike spoke of a need for more proactive, preventative measures, such as “training in gender identity and the barriers facing trans and non-binary students” for all U of T staff members, in addition to the public inquiry into the Campus Police’s alleged failure to protect trans and non-binary students at the rally.

When asked whether the university was taking steps to implement such a training program, Blackburn-Evans stated that “informal communication has taken place now between UTSU and the Sexual and Gender Diversity Office, which is connected to the Office of the Vice-President HR & Equity. The university is in the process of determining how widely the equity and gender training might be given.”

Blackburn-Evans continued: “U of T is very, very proud of our diverse campuses and we are continually looking at proactive ways to support equity and diversity across the University.”

Jordan Peterson announces details of debate

CUPE 3902 Queer Caucus issues call to boycott university-hosted free speech forum

Jordan Peterson announces details of debate

Details for the upcoming U of T-hosted debate on free speech and Bill C-16 featuring Psychology Professor Jordan Peterson have been determined.

Peterson posted on Twitter that on November 19 at 9:30 am he will be debating Brenda Cossman, U of T Law Professor and Director of the Bonham Centre of Sexual Diversity at University College, and Mary Bryson, Senior Associate Dean, Administration, Faculty Affairs & Innovation, and Professor at the Department of Language and Literacy, and Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia. Trinity College Provost and U of T Law Professor Mayo Moran will moderate.

Peterson also tweeted that he will be livestreaming the debate through his personal YouTube channel. The location of the debate was not announced by the time of publishing.

The Queer Caucus of CUPE 3902, the union representing “7,000 sessional lecturers, TAs, and other contract instructional staff at U of T,” released an open letter on November 4 calling for a boycott of the upcoming debate.

The letter states that “human rights are not up for debate.”

The letter also says that there is no room for discussion regarding some of Peterson’s statements about gender. “Neither Peterson’s views about race and gender nor his understandings of the Canadian Human Rights Act and Bill C-16 constitute valid forms of academic debate. Transgender people are not, as he claims, ‘a coterie of left-wing ideologues.’ We are human beings who seek fair opportunities,” a portion of the letter reads.

Official information about the debate is forthcoming but as a release from the university says, “It is expected that speakers at the forum, to be hosted by the Faculty of Arts & Science, would include Professor Jordan Peterson.”

Peterson has risen to public notoriety following the release of a number of YouTube lectures where he challenges ‘political correctness’, which he views as a threat to free speech. One of Peterson’s lectures focused on his opposition Bill C-16, which would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and expression. Another lecture criticized the University of Toronto’s undertaking for anti-racism training.

In a U of T News interview, David Cameron, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, clarifies the need for a discussion. He says, “In such polarized circumstances, it is appropriate that the university sponsor a forum, which aims to permit — in an academic setting — the rational examination of the various views raised by this controversy.”

Peterson addressed the details of a forum in a November 5 YouTube video. Peterson reveals that the university was not going to allow the debate to go forward if he would not use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to people if asked to do so.

In the video, Peterson said the request was “perverse in some sense that, in this debate, the debate would begin with a significant restriction on what [he was] allowed to say.”

“Make no mistake about it, this is what’s happened: the university has drawn the lines, and they have decided that if they have to support political correctness/social justice Neo-Marxism, or freedom of speech, then they are going to pick the former, and not the latter,” he said in the video.

The 3902 Queer Caucus’ letter also questions whether such a forum could be safely held, “given the disastrous outcome of the October 11 ‘free speech rally’ held by Peterson and his supporters.” It urges members of the community to stand in solidarity by boycotting the debate and express their disappointment with David Cameron via email.

The university was unable to give comment on the status of the free speech forum. U of T Director of Media Relations Althea Blackburn-Evans told The Varsity that “the details have yet to be fully finalized; I’m hoping we can announce Monday.”

Neither Peterson nor the CUPE 3902 Queer Caucus responded to The Varsity’s request for comment.

U of T, Toronto protest Dakota Access Pipeline

ASSU, Trinity College Chaplain among pipeline opponents

U of T, Toronto protest Dakota Access Pipeline

On November 5, thousands peacefully protested the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project in downtown Toronto. Support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has galvanized across the continent in a number of related protests over the past couple of weeks. The crowd that assembled in front of Queen’s Park last weekend was diverse and spirited.

Recently, opposition to DAPL has focused on police crackdown on protesters and the fact that the pipeline is set to run beneath the Missouri River — the Standing Rock Sioux’s main source of drinking water.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the proposed project, purports that the $3.7 billion 1,172-mile long pipeline will create 8,000–12,000 local jobs, translating into an estimated $156 million in sales and income taxes and $55 million annually in property taxes. “The pipeline will enable domestically produced light sweet crude oil from North Dakota to reach major refining markets in a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner,” the company says on its website.

According to the Standing Rock Sioux, the DAPL project has negatively affected some of the tribe’s burial grounds along with other areas of cultural relevance. The tribe fears that should the pipeline rupture, it would contaminate their freshwater supply.

Saturday’s proceedings began with a drum chant and a series of Indigenous speakers. Chief R. Stacey LaForme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation was among those who spoke, and he began his address by acknowledging “the heart and courage of those at Standing Rock.” His speech included a passionate plea for the violence at Standing Rock to stop.

LaForme also called for a larger shift in perspective: “When you see Indigenous people stand to defend the land, don’t question why they do it. They do it for all of us and for the future of the human race. Don’t ask why they are standing up to corporate development in defense of the lands and the waters, instead ask, ‘Why are they standing alone?’”

“Let’s show everyone that we remember our responsibility to the Earth… To Standing Rock, four simple words: we stand with you,” LaForme continued, to cheers of approval.

After the speakers finished, the march started. The crowd grew as it made its way south down University Avenue to emphatic chants of “We stand with Standing Rock” and “Water is life,” while passing drivers honked in support. Accompanied by a police escort, the crowd was led by elder Pauline Shirt of the Plains Cree, Red-Tail Hawk Clan, and it passed by the US Consulate General on its way to Nathan Phillips Square. The proceedings wrapped up around sunset in front of City Hall with some drumming, singing, and a great deal of dancing, during which everyone came together and held hands.

U of T’s Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) also took part in the demonstration and issued a statement in support of the Standing Rock Sioux.

“We, the Arts and Science Students’ Union stand in solidarity with the Chairman David Archambault, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and protestors against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and will continue to stand with them until this pipeline construction is stopped,” ASSU’s statement reads.

On November 3, another protest took place outside TD’s Head Office in Toronto. Trinity College Humphrys Chaplain Andrea Budgey participated in a sit-in, along with Anglican Minister Maggie Helwig and activist Taylor Flook. Flook and Budgey were arrested under charges of trespass and mischief under $5,000 for interfering with the bank’s lawful enjoyment of its property. They were released on bail later that night.

The three locked themselves to the railing in the business accounts line-up with bike-locks and asked to speak to Bob Dorrance, Chairman, CEO, and President of TD Securities, regarding why he had yet to condemn the attacks on protesters by police in Standing Rock. Their aim was to draw attention to the fact that TD Securities is the seventh-largest investor in the DAPL, with $360 million dollars invested in the project.

Budgey considers the action “a logical extension of her spiritual and ethical responsibilities.” She believes that “all these financial institutions need their investments seriously examined.”

She thinks that “most of our banks are investing Canadians’ money in things that Canadians would be shocked about, in North America and around the world — in industries that are complicit in human rights abuses and that are extremely problematic in environmental terms.” Budgey states that as “many people are too busy trying to survive to research that sort of thing on their own, so any sort of attention that can be drawn to it is important.”

Budget continues, “I’ve been really encouraged since I’ve been a Chaplain at U of T at the level of student activism around fossil fuel divestment and environmentalism and social justice and human rights causes in general. It’s one of the things that actually gives me some hope, so a real shout-out to the students that are doing this work.”

Budgey also mentions the protests in Ottawa against the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, where U of T student Amanda Harvey-Sánchez was arrested: “That’s really significant work, and I’m happy to be able to support that as a Chaplain,” said Budgey.

On November 1, President Barack Obama announced that the US Army Corps of Engineers was considering the viability of alternative routes for the DAPL.

Folks, you have the floor

Two perspectives on the 2016 UTSU Annual General Meeting

Folks, you have the floor

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) hosted its 2016 Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday, October 27. Here is what two of our contributors thought of the event. 

Accountability on the agenda

In retrospect, it appears that the most exciting thing about the UTSU’s 2016 AGM was the presence of samosas. In light of the tension surrounding the on campus protests and rallies of the last few weeks, this year’s AGM was astonishingly civil.

Like many others, I expected protests or at least some antagonism during the presidential address and Q&A period. However — save for one odd question from a member about President Jasmine Wong Denike’s and Vice-President Internal and Services Mathias Memmel’s preferred pronouns — questions were kept mostly substantive. Much to my dismay, many of the squares on my The Varsity bingo card went unfilled.

One member raised the issue of alleged anti-Black racism in the UTSU and what the union will be doing to combat this aside from holding a town hall on November 10, which was clearly in response to protests held by the Black Liberation Collective (BLC) at the UTSU office on October 11. Why the union continues to self-flagellate when it comes to certain campus groups is beyond me; as a recent comment article by Haseeb Hassaan makes clear, the BLC’s demands are irrational and “devoid of context.”

With that said, accountability, both financial and otherwise, was a theme of the meeting. It was clear that the UTSU Executive Committee, perhaps inspired by the recent failed referendum for increased clubs funding, does not feel that students are yet assured of the union’s financial transparency. The UTSU’s open acknowledgement of this was refreshing.

Printouts of the UTSU’s audited financial statements were distributed, which raised some debate over the union’s expenses, especially its human resources costs. This is also the point where I must get up on my soapbox and inform you that, troublingly, the UTSU paid $802,976 to the Canadian Federation of Students last year. If this is of concern to you, I suggest you check out a little campaign called You Decide UofT.

In line with discussions on accountability, debate over the package of proposed bylaw amendments was spurious, albeit wonky at times. The fact that these amendments passed deserves some attention. Most notable among them is the establishment of the Appellate Board, which is essentially a body that can overrule existing review processes like the grievance officer, the Elections and Referenda Committee, and the Executive Review Committee.

I went through the formal grievance process last year and can testify to the fact that it was an embarrassment. I actually received a formal apology on behalf of the UTSU for its failure. The new Appellate Board is encouraging, especially because it explicitly precludes students who have previously sought held positions in the UTSU from participating. One of the stranger things about student politics is that some characters stick around for much longer than the length of a typical university career. Consequently, this provision drastically reduces the chances of the board being corrupted by so-called ‘career’ student politicians.

The Appellate Board also uses the knowledge of students enroled in the Faculty of Law and has well-defined deadlines. A student board issuing a decision in under 12 hours is almost unfathomable, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

Reut Cohen is a second-year student at Trinity College studying International Relations.

Eerily uneventful

A sense of dread and unease permeated the atmosphere for those waiting in line to enter the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education auditorium. This was perhaps aggravated by droves of engineers serenading the anxious crowd with trumpets, drums, and cries of “free speech.”

Yet, for all the gloom and speculation, the boogeyman did not show up. The meeting may have started 45 minutes late, but as a whole, it was conducted efficiently — which was unusual, considering both the anticipated drama of this year and historically onerous meeting procedures.

The sluggish shouting matches of the past did not occur. Voting processes for all the motions, which were painfully excruciating in previous sessions, were smooth. In fact, the whole affair lasted only two hours, prompting Vice-President Professional Faculties Ryan Gomes to declare that this AGM was more “civil” than those of the past. With all the drama the UTSU has had to deal with — from disqualifications in the April UTSU elections to recent disagreements regarding free speech on campus — this event provided precious breathing space for its depleted executives.

Alongside being efficient, this year’s AGM was one of the more productive ones as well. All three motions were passed with thoughtful discussions; much of the debate revolved around financial arrangements, with questions concerning accountants and regulatory policies. Bylaws were also featured prominently in discussions, and in general, debates conformed remarkably with decorum. Financial arrangements on the student commons and a town hall for anti-black racism, both of which had been recurring issues, were put into place without major opposition.

The technicalities of the AGM’s motions could be one of the main reasons behind this year’s relative efficiency. Some of the audience members I spoke to were looking forward to discussing controversies, as opposed to funding plans and financial statements. In fact, the UTSU’s auditor frequently intervened in the middle of debate in order to clear up some misinterpretations. The relative complexity of these articles and statements could have paved the way for audiences to simply follow other people.

The tranquility of this year’s AGM can also be attributed to a lack of opposition. Unexpectedly, there were no shouts and cries from the BLC, nor protests of any kind — in fact nearly half of the auditorium was empty.

Yet, for all this relative calm and peace, the fact that relatively few people participated in this year’s meeting is rather concerning. Democratic systems are dependent on vivid participation by the electorate, which in this case is the student body.

Adding to the fact that there was already a low turnout rate for the UTSU spring elections, the massive opposition against the clubs levy — which, when it went to referendum, garnered a “no” vote of approximately 74.5 per cent — can spell trouble for future UTSU actions. Even if the vote was compromised by those who fiercely oppose the UTSU, the fact that this happened speaks to the lack of concern that most of the student population have with the UTSU.

With a mountain of tasks ahead of them, the UTSU must seize the opportunity to reach out and engage with the wider student population. Having emphasized balance and accountability, let’s hope Denike and her cohorts can deliver on their objectives.

Arnold Yung is a fourth-year student at St. Michael’s College studying History.

Op-ed: Creating meaningful equality

Oxfam’s Shortchanged campaign pushes for policy changes that benefit working women

Op-ed: Creating meaningful equality

Today’s expanding globalized world is resulting in an extreme increase in various types of inequality. Not only is the wealthiest one per cent richer than the remaining 99 per cent, but as of 2015 figures, the richest 62 people on earth hold more wealth than the poorest 50 per cent. Since the economic recession, wealth has quickly shifted into the hands of the wealthier few due to economic policies that attempt to expand wealth rather than incomes.

Social inequality is also still a major concern, and actions that attempt to minimize the work of women in comparison to men are proving to be good for corporate profits. Income inequality must be observed through a gendered lens; the concentration of men and women in different disciplines of work, as well as the increased ‘value’ of men’s work over women’s work can be observed through the fact that men are offered higher salary and promotion rates, holding all other factors constant.

Women in the poorest countries are openly seen as the cheapest form of labour. The working women in these countries lack protection through labour laws and are not afforded the comfort of income security. Furthermore, the lack of government-subsidized day care has resulted in the limited ability of women to choose and prioritize a set career path.

Canadian women in particular have less access to healthcare insurance than men due to less hours spent working because of family obligations. Indigenous and immigrant Canadian women are further disadvantaged in terms of income and government policies. Employment rates for immigrant women are seven per cent less than for Canadian-born women and 14 per cent less than immigrant men, while the employment of Indigenous women lags five per cent behind that of Indigenous men and 11 per cent behind non-Indigenous women.

To take this from a broader perspective, full-time working women in Canada earn 72 per cent of what men earn. Therefore, certain government solutions must be implemented in order to ensure the closing of the income and employment gap between genders and reduce social inequality within specific groups.

Oxfam’s Shortchanged campaign recommends that the government review their financial and social safety policies in order to ensure recognition of unequal gender roles in terms of employment.

Furthermore, by adopting a more progressive fiscal policy, the government should ensure that tax cuts are reallocated towards the poorest sectors rather than the wealthy ones. Tax avoidance must also be addressed. Joint taxation policies that disincentivize lower-earning individuals, usually women, from returning to the workforce should be improved. All countries that have introduced such joint taxation policies have experienced a stable male workforce but also a decrease in women’s participation in the workforce. This causes a weakened economy due to a less flexible and diverse labour supply.

Governments must also work to fundamentally transform policies through the reallocation of federal and provincial budgets towards public services that provide women with choice. More specifically, providing more financing towards government-subsidized day care is a necessity to allow the choice to pursue a full-time career.

Finally, governments should take a more active role in the protection of workers. They can do this by ensuring that all workers have equal access to safe employment opportunities, promoting non-discrimination in work environments, and protecting women’s rights to organize.

The inequality between and among genders is often overlooked in the twenty-first century, as we are led to believe that we live in a progressive world. However, we are facing a crisis that can only be resolved through both changes in policy and our state of mind.

Toufiq Shakhshir is a second-year Rotman Commerce student studying Finance and Economics. Alok Herath is a second-year student studying Political Science and Global Health. They are both active members of Oxfam U of T’s event-planning committee.

Lest we forget

Why Remembrance Day must become a legal statutory holiday

Lest we forget

On November 11, Canadians collectively paused to pay tribute to citizens who have defended this country. However, Remembrance Day is a statutory holiday for only some parts of Canada, as not all provinces recognize the day as a ‘day off.’ Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia all have policies surrounding the observance of Remembrance Day, but they have not recognized it as a full statutory holiday.

This is not good enough — it is time for Canada to act as a unified nation, make Remembrance Day a legal statutory holiday across all provinces, and equate it in status to holidays like Canada Day.

This idea is not new. In 2014, New Democratic Party member Dan Harris introduced Bill C-597, which was designed to specifically amend the Holidays Act and make Remembrance Day a legal national holiday. At a second reading of the bill in 2015, it was all but supported unanimously by the usually divided House of Commons. Unfortunately, a triggered election dissolved this bill in August 2015.

However, a similar amendment to the Holidays Act has been brought forward by Liberal Member of Parliament Colin Fraser, with its first reading having occurred in late September. While Bill C-311 does not make Remembrance Day a full statutory holiday, it places it on the same importance as Canada Day. This bill may also make provinces revisit the notion of making Remembrance Day a statutory holiday. Passing this bill would be productive for national unity and for honouring our veterans.

The significance of Remembrance Day is marked by what happened on November 11, 1918. This day denoted the end of hostilities in World War I (WWI). Over 650,000 soldiers from Canada and Newfoundland served, with 68,000 lives lost. It was a tumultuous period for our country and for the world at large.

Canada’s display in WWI marked a significant turning point for Canada as a nation. At the beginning of the war, Canada was just another contingent of the British Empire, led by British generals. The sheer number of Canadians who served as well as the courageous actions of Canadian servicemen and women during battles such as Vimy Ridge were recognized by the international community during WWI. As a result, Canada was given its own independent signing on the Treaty of Versailles, signifying the end of the war and the beginning of greater Canadian independence from Britain.

This significant moment in Canadian history warrants the designation of a full day of national respect, regardless of differences in provincial legislation. At the same time, the significance of Remembrance Day traverses the historical context of WWI. By recognizing Canadian veterans, it symbolically marks the significance of all subsequent wars, including the great sacrifices in World War II, the Korean War, the South African War, and the War in Afghanistan.

I believe this country respects those who have fallen. We have reputable institutions across this country, such as the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, that pay homage to the soldiers who served. There are memorial services held across the country on November 11, which are largely attended by current Canadian Forces members, civic officials, and veterans. The playing of “Last Post” touches Canadians everywhere that it is heard. The poem “In Flanders Fields” personifies the unknown soldier who sacrificed their own life for the wellbeing of the nation.

These feelings are indiscriminate of provincial Remembrance Day policies. When our soldiers, sailors, and airmen assaulted Juno Beach in Normandy, they did so on behalf of Canada not their specific province.

Making Remembrance Day a holiday should not be a provincial issue. Provinces do not afford the day consistent recognition and respect. For instance, Nova Scotia specifies that most grocery stores and retail locations must be closed on November 11, but it remains another regular business day for farming and the foresting industry.

Whatever the details of respective provincial policies, Canada must become unified as a country for this day. A more unified federal approach to a statutory Remembrance Day removes the ambiguity of the respect of individual provinces towards the Canadians that have served and fallen for our country.

[pullquote-features]It is sobering to think that it was people of our age who gave up the opportunities of youth, the safety of home, the comfort of friends, and the promise of tomorrow to become soldiers, sailors, and airmen.[/pullquote-features]

Making Remembrance Day a statutory holiday is not just an excuse for another day off. While there is the economic argument that there is reduced productivity for a full day off, we should not put a price on national pride and gratitude.

It is sobering to think that it was people of our age who gave up the opportunities of youth, the safety of home, the comfort of friends, and the promise of tomorrow to become soldiers, sailors, and airmen. They were paid little. They followed orders, which sometimes led to their deaths, all for the idea of a country and a world that should not be ruled by fear and tyrants.

Consequently, there is more we can do to give thanks. Winston Churchill famously said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” These wars helped shape the freedom we enjoy today in Canada — the freedom I am given to even craft this editorial.

All that we cherish in Canada today is the result of those who volunteered to defend our values. A brief pause in the business and activity of this country in order to pay a small debt of thanks is not too much to ask.

Ian T. D. Thomson is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the School of Public Policy and Governance. He holds an Honours Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Manitoba. 

Durant for CEO

Is the NBA about brand or basketball?

Durant for CEO

It’s over. The 2016 NBA season, which is only three weeks old, should be officially declared dead.

The idea of competitive basketball itself has been on life support for almost three months, ever since last season’s contentious NBA Finals: Kevin Durant swiftly smothered competitive basketball when he decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors, only sixteen days after their game 7 loss in the finals. As a result, Durant’s decision ended a pivotal era of basketball.

At least this is what the mainstream media would lead you to believe. They have developed an annoying habit for hyperbole, whether talking about sports or business and technology — the unfortunate product of the media’s efforts to maximize traffic.

The media’s treatment of Durant was vitriolic, but despite this treatment, Durant’s decision was the clear and right choice. It was a well thought out execution of free market principles or, in sports vernacular, ‘free agency’ — albeit free agency with strict salary cap restrictions.

Durant even offered the courtesy of a 350-word open letter explaining his choice to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder, in which he explained: “The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth.”

Durant’s offseason move was motivated by more than just a desire to play alongside his friends. His choice reflected the ever-present role of finance and capitalism in professional sports. Durant plays in an era when star professional athletes are faced with similar types of decisions as Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of multinational corporations, and they are often spoken of in the same way by the media.

While being a part of a larger team and organization at Golden State, Durant still maintains the primary responsibility as the CEO of his own brand. Durant, his agents, his financial advisors, and the rest of his crew are responsible for making decisions that better his brand. Off the court, Durant is a walking endorsement for Nike, Beats By Dre, American Family Insurance, BBVA, Sonic, and Panini. He takes home an estimated $36 million a year in endorsements, all of which are linked to his on-court presence and performance.

Durant’s decision to join Golden State is similar to a financial merger. Teaming up with Stephen Curry, he’s playing alongside a fellow multi-brand ambassador and reigning two-time MVP on arguably the best organization in all of professional sports.

In many ways Durant is comparable to Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!. Mayer and Durant made high-impact career decisions; they both left their respective organizations behind for another, and they both received a stream of media backlash for their choices.

Formerly a Stanford prodigy and an executive at Google, Mayer was tasked with the nearly impossible job of saving Yahoo! when she was hired as the CEO in 2012. She’s known around the world as the de facto face of female CEOs.

Despite the effort and focus she puts into her work, Mayer is regularly lambasted by the media for Yahoo!’s failures under her tenure. Her name is the subject of headlines like, “The Pregnant CEO: Should You Hate Marissa Mayer,” “Marissa Mayer spends money like Marie Antoinette,” and “Off with her head? The last days of Marissa Mayer, as investors increase pressure on Yahoo CEO to step down.”

The negative discourse surrounding Mayer is emblematic of the way today’s media vehemently ridicules the failures of society’s exceptional individuals, a cruel fate Durant will endure if he fails in his less than impossible task — winning an NBA championship with the Warriors.

Big business and its marriage to the NBA goes far beyond the obvious fact that the NBA is a big business. The players themselves are creating brands for themselves by signing contracts for themselves in much the same way that business executives do — for their own personal benefit. At the end of the day, who else is going to do it for them?