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Anti-war groups protest US military aggression against North Korea

Protesters picket on St. George in the first of a series of planned rallies

Anti-war groups protest US military aggression against North Korea

On the evening on Wednesday, September 27, members of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) and the Korean Federation of Canada held a rally on the corner of Harbord Street and St. George Street to protest what they viewed as American war preparations and aggression against North Korea.

In a pamphlet distributed to passers by, the groups denounced United Nations Security Council Resolution 2375, which imposed sanctions on North Korea due to its active nuclear weapons program. The two organizations called the United States the “aggressor” in the region and the “most dangerous imperialist force in the history of the world.” They also claimed that North Korea has “sought a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the political crisis.”

The statement also called out the “warmongers in the Trudeau Liberal government,” calling recent assertions from the Prime Minister “a provocation and an act of aggression against the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].”

The Wednesday picket is the first in a series of eight weekly rallies, slated to end November 15. Events are planned across major locations in Toronto, including Ryerson University, George Brown College, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s constituency office, and the US Consulate.

The Varsity has reached out to the Korean Federation of Canada for comment.

Michael Marrus resigns Massey post in wake of racist remark

Incident led to demands from students and faculty for reform at Massey College

Michael Marrus resigns Massey post in wake of racist remark

Michael Marrus has resigned his Senior Fellowship at the elite U of T-affiliated Massey College. His resignation came on October 1, six days after an incident where he used an anti-Black racial slur towards a Black Junior Fellow.

“I am so sorry for what I said, in a poor effort at jocular humour at lunch last Tuesday,” reads Marrus’ resignation letter, addressed to Head of Massey College Hugh Segal Segal. “What I said was both foolish and, I understood immediately, hurtful, and I want, first and foremost, to convey my deepest regrets to all whom I may have harmed.”

On September 26, Segal had approached a table at a lunch attended by Michael Marrus and three Junior Fellows. Marrus, a Holocaust Historian and Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto, allegedly turned to a Black Junior Fellow, and in reference to Segal’s arrival, said: “You know this is your master, eh? Do you feel the lash?”

Until the unofficial name change that occurred in the wake of the incident, the Head of Massey College’s title was “Master.”

Marrus notes that, in the wake of his actions, his continued presence at Massey may injure the reputation of the college, and potentially be a matter of continuing offense. His resignation comes in consequence and “as an expression of loyalty to the college.” He announced that he will leave his office as soon as the appropriate arrangements are made.

“To say that I regret the event that created the need for your letter would be a serious understatement,” wrote Segal in response to Marrus’ resignation. This is the only reference to the incident itself in Segal’s response, which thanks Marrus for his long-term support for the college.

“The presence of distinguished senior scholars such as yourself and others at Massey is of huge value to the mix of generations, disciplines and life skills that enrich the very nature of the Massey experience at its best.”

The events of September 26 saw an outpouring of condemnation, with a group of Junior Fellows issuing five demands to Segal, supported by an open letter with almost 200 signatures from faculty and students.

In response to the incident, Segal has informally changed his title to “Head of College,” as well as noting in a September 29 statement that the Massey administration will work with the Equity Secretariat, made up of Junior Fellows, to organize a town hall on racism. Dovetailing this is Segal’s promise to involve U of T’s Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office to lead anti-racist education for all members of the college.

The Lucas Brothers appreciate the little things

“People want to grow up so soon… just live and embrace the world”

The Lucas Brothers appreciate the little things

While in town for Just For Laughs, The Lucas Brothers, a duo of identical twin brothers, spoke to The Varsity about why they dropped out of law school and lived underneath a Brooklyn bridge. The twins also discussed adulthood, appeasing the haters, and avoiding stage fright.

The Varsity: When did the both of you decide to be stand-up comedians? As well as decide to do it together, but not separately?

Kenny Lucas: I think I realized I wanted to be a stand-up comedian when I was in law school class. We were talking about some absurd legal concept, and I said, “Fuck this shit, I don’t want to do this anymore, I want to be a comedian.” So I called Keith up.

Keith Lucas: I was already on the edge of quitting when he called me up, thinking about the prospect of being a lawyer. He called me up at the right time and persuaded me.

Kenny: I used my power of persuasion, and I think it took me 15 minutes to decide that I wanted to drop out. We knew that comedy was going to be a struggle, that there was no guarantees in comedy, but if we have a degree or passed the bar, we would have that safety net.

Keith: I think we both agree that we don’t want to have a safety net, we just want to take the risk.

TV: What’s the best memory you have had so far as actors and comedians?

Keith: We were filming our special last year, few of our family were there, it was pretty dope — first time we did [The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon]. Honestly, the whole experience has been remarkable for me, it’s not one thing that I can point to that is the best. The journey has been spiritual and philosophical and I have learned a lot and grown a lot from it.

Kenny: It’s been fun, even when we slept under a bridge in Brooklyn and had no money. I remember those moments fondly because we decided on something and we stuck with it. The whole journey has been remarkable.

TV: I know there must have been a lot of good things that have happened to both of you, but there must have been some horrible experiences too. How do you guys deal with haters?

Kenny: I think in life, when we put ourselves out there in a public form, the diversity of opinion, there are always haters. Some of the greatest people on earth have haters and critics. We are not great, so of course there are haters too. I just take it as part of the game; it used to affect me because it’s just weird to see people be upset or angry at jokes.

Keith: I don’t think about it. As a person, you can either focus on the people who hate you, or appreciate those that love you — I just think about them more; I want to make them happy.

TV: Do you guys have any advice for the young people out there who are still trying to figure out what’s going on in their lives?

Keith: I would say keep your options open, don’t commit too soon. Try different experiences, travel around the world, take new jobs, talk to different people.

Kenny: Experiment, try new things, don’t commit to something just because you think you would make a lot of money because there’s prestige involved. Do something you truly love doing, what makes you happy when you do it.

Keith: Because that’s what’s going to keep you through the tough days. It’s okay to be happy with what you do. I think a lot of people say that they want to be doctors or lawyers, but they don’t think about whether it will make them happy, they only think it will make them a lot of money. I think the basic thing is whether what you are doing will make you happy for 30 years.

Kenny: Just live. I think in this day and age, people want to grow up so soon. They want to be adults by 23 or 24. Just live and embrace the world.

TV: Super easy question, maybe, but what makes you guys happy? What do you guys do during your free time?

Keith: You think that’s an easy question? That’s the hard question. As I get older, it’s the simple things that make me happy. Waking up in the morning, talking to my brother, walking around, hiking — real simple things.

Kenny: It’s like walking in the forest, things that nature sort of gives you, those are the things I find the most enjoyable. I’ve gone to parties with famous people, purchased expensive things.

Keith: I got money, achieved some level of celebrity, none of that brings the amount of happiness compared to the little things, like hiking in the morning, discovering a new song.

Kenny: Even a good apple, just like simple things. Go with the flow, be happy, and be you.

Keith: As you get older and get closer and closer to death, you start to move away from the superficials and start to appreciate what’s around [you].

TV: Do you get nervous every time you go on stage? How do you deal with it? Any suggestions on how to stand in front of a huge crowd and be confident?

Kenny: I would get nervous early on, but now I still get a little doubt in the stomach when I step on stage, but as soon as I’m there and they laugh at my first joke, I am already connected.

Keith: Now we go in there with a lot of ammunition, we have our jokes and our acts, which gives us a little comfort when we go on stage. Meditation helps, we smoke a little bit of weed — which diffuses the tension — and actually talk to people. I guess the more you talk to people, you feel more and more comfortable.

TV: Any good qualities you think a good comedian should have?

Keith: An open mind, committed to the process, and a love for jokes. Also, the willingness to be vulnerable. Put yourself out there, [don’t worry] about what people think, what Hollywood thinks. Be truthful to process and be authentic.www

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

A year at the Citizen Lab

The lab’s major research in 2017 looks at spyware and cybersecurity around the world

A year at the Citizen Lab

The Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto institute based out of the Munk School of Global Affairs, has been making headlines this past year due to the rise of increasingly complex cybersecurity issues in countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China, and Mexico. The lab, which investigates both domestic and foreign affairs, aims to ensure that cybersecurity issues overseas do not taint the comparatively secure hold Canadians have on their own rights.

Canada, however, is not immune from the tempting prospect of spying on its own citizens. A Citizen Lab report by Christopher Parsons and Tamir Israel explains how various legislative initiatives were proposed by the government to allow warrantless disclosure of digital identifiers, such as IP addresses, for national security reasons.

The authors reject the principle upon which the proposals were founded –  primarily, the idea that you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide. Their research indicates that online privacy from the government actively allows users to honestly explore and express ideas without fear of consequence.

Another concern within this realm is the use of spyware. Cyber warfare companies that sell government-exclusive spyware have become infamous for selling their products to human rights abusers. This spyware is often used to quell government dissent and freedom of expression.

Ron Deibert, the director of the Citizen Lab, says that concerns like these require serious accountability. On his blog, he describes the mission of the Citizen Lab as using “mixed methods research to highlight digital security issues that arise out of human rights concerns, and then […] try to mitigate the problem.”

The following review details some of the Citizen Lab’s major findings over the course of the past year, and explains how these findings relate to, and shed light on, issues concerning cyberspace.

ELHAM NUMAN/THE VARSITY

Abuse of Spyware by the UAE

One regime that regularly targets its citizens with spyware is the UAE. The Citizen Lab broke the story of Ahmed Mansoor, an internationally recognized human rights advocate who was targeted by multiple government hacking attempts. One suspicious SMS link that Mansoor received on his iPhone 6 was sent to Citizen Lab researchers to test its source. It was discovered as belonging to a company called NSO Group, an Israel-based cyber warfare company that specializes in a government-exclusive spyware product called Pegasus.

Had Mansoor clicked on the link, it would have activated a ‘zero-day’ exploit and jailbroken his phone, installing spyware without his knowledge. Once installed, it would have logged all his calls and messages, relaying them back to the spyware’s customer.

The value of zero-days is that they give software developers zero days to patch the malware before it becomes active. In other words, it is an unknown vulnerability that has high value when used successfully against dissident voices, which Mansoor clearly represented in the UAE. The Citizen Lab’s response was to report the iOS vulnerability directly to Apple, which patched it immediately with a software update.

ELHAM NUMAN/THE VARSITY

Liu Xiaobo and Chinese censorship

Online censorship is another strategy the Citizen Lab frequently finds to be effectively used in suppressing populations. In July, The New York Times published an article on the death of Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident who won a Nobel prize while in jail for his activist work. Immediately following his death, Citizen Lab research discovered “a ‘significant shift’ in censorship techniques” in China; this included blocking keywords relating to his name in direct messaging applications.

Notably, WeChat, one of the main platforms censored by the Chinese government, did not indicate to users when certain messages were blocked. The Citizen Lab also uncovered that the degree of censorship varied depending on whether a WeChat account was linked to mainland China or outside of the country. China holds a tight rein on its internet companies, penalizing all who fail to censor ‘sensitive’ content.

Censorship is a broad weapon to use against civilians; however, as seen with Mansoor, targeting through spyware like Pegasus is far more effective when attempting to portray the illusion of freedom. NSO Group is an interesting company: alongside Pegasus, it was virtually unknown to the public sphere until Hacking Team, NSO’s competitor, had sensitive information leaked about the companies.

Citizen Lab research identified various themes that NSO operators used to bait its targets into clicking on its exploit links; these included fake news, taunts, and threats.

However, the Citizen Lab’s largest case study of civilian targeting in the last year came not from the UAE or China, but from Mexico.

ELHAM NUMAN/THE VARSITY

NSO and the Targeting of Mexican Civil Society

Mexico, an admitted customer of NSO, has allegedly used its spyware to target vast swaths of civil society. These have included scientists, journalists, politicians, foreign investigators, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This blatant assault on freedom of expression allows a corrupt government to act with impunity and must be condemned on democratic grounds.

In Theory, Pegasus, as with all government-exclusive spyware, is meant to aid law enforcement in fighting criminal enterprise and terrorism. However, when Citizen Lab was contacted by Access Now, an organization committed to defending digital rights, they stumbled onto the first of many instances in which civilians were improperly targeted with NSO spyware.

Scientists: In Mexico, an obesity epidemic prompted the government to introduce a “soda tax” to pursue healthier alternatives. The implementation of the tax lead to a decrease in obesity. The fast food industry, displeased with the negative effects on their profit margins, soon began placing political pressure on the Mexican government, with companies such as Coca-Cola begging the President to oppose the tax.

Soon after, supporters of the soda tax began a campaign to promote it. Some of the scientists involved in the campaign started receiving suspicious SMS links aiming to disrupt their campaign. Citizen Lab research determined that they were analogous to the messages Ahmed Mansoor received in the UAE, concluding they were NSO infiltration attempts.

Journalists: Even before the wide availability of spyware, Mexico was considered one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to work. Some estimates place half of the acts of intimidation and violence against journalists from government agencies.

One way freedom of the press has been suppressed is through digital surveillance that hinders the ability of journalists to investigate instances of corruption against their own government. Eleven Mexican journalists were targeted with NSO exploit links.

One of the most heavily targeted investigative journalists that the Citizen Lab found in the NSO targeting campaign was Carmen Aristegui, who, alongside her son Emilio, was sent SMS exploit links. The intensive targeting campaign happened to coincide with the investigation of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s “Casa Blanca” scandal.

The Casa Blanca scandal was a defining moment of Peña Nieto’s tenure, centred upon the purchase of a mansion by his wife that was interpreted as being paid for with taxpayers’ money. The breaking of Aristegui’s story battered the President’s credibility, which led to Aristegui’s employer, Noticias MVS, firing her and her team for publishing the story.

Other journalists were then targeted after they found evidence of government involvement in suspicious events, such as massacres, disappearances, and mysterious murders. Though the Citizen Lab discovered many of the same NSO targeting techniques in Mexico as in the UAE, the tactics used in Mexico were far more extreme.

Mexican governmental deceptions also included fake AMBER alerts and set an alarming precedent by impersonating the United States Embassy, claiming that clicking on a link would help their visa status. The latter was used against Emilio Aristegui, a minor, while he was on US soil to gain information about his mother.

Politicians: In an effort to control the Mexican population, the operators of Pegasus likely broke US law and certainly broke diplomatic norms. Interestingly, Citizen Lab researchers never came across NSO operators targeting Peña Nieto’s party, but they did target high-ranking opposition politicians. The leaders of the National Action Party (PAN), which includes the President of the Mexican Senate, received exploit links while anti-corruption legislation was being discussed by the government.

Foreign Investigators: In 2014, 43 students disappeared while on route to Mexico City in what has since been dubbed the Iguala Mass Disappearance. Due to the relatively nonchalant reaction the Mexican authorities had concerning the incident, a group of foreign, independent experts came in to investigate the details of the case to ensure that the government was not involved.

The investigators were soon targeted with NSO infection attempts after casting doubt about the degree of government involvement in the disappearance. Citizen Lab research believes, through circumstantial evidence, that the Office of the Prosecutor (PGR) was one of the government branches responsible for the infiltration attempts in an effort to control the official narrative.

Non-governmental organizations: The final case that the Citizen Lab investigated regarding targeting Mexican civil society involved Claudio González, the director of Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad (MCCI). MCCI is an anti-corruption organization whose director was targeted with NSO infection attempts while he was investigating government corruption and advocating for anti-corruption legislation. According to the Citizen Lab, this is the 22nd known target of spyware abuse in Mexico.

The Citizen Lab found that a pattern has emerged in Mexico demonstrating that a new weapon is being used against anti-corruption advocates: targeting via government-exclusive spyware. It appears that those who question official government narratives are liable to be targeted by NSO spyware. As Deibert puts it, “Should it come as any surprise that these powerful surveillance technologies would end up being deployed against those who aim to expose corrupt Mexican officials?”

Though no direct links of NSO abuse have been attributed to the Mexican government, it is known that government agencies possess the spyware and have the ability to use it. The circumstantial evidence gathered through the help of the Citizen Lab strongly indicates that unless a massive breach in security has occurred, a nation at peace should not allow its own citizens to be harassed in such a manner.

NSO Group, has not ensured that its spyware will not target civilians. Selling to states that have reputations for human rights abuses clearly demonstrates a lack of consideration for freedom and security.

Although the Israel-based group was recently courted by the US company Blackstone Group for a 40 per cent stake in NSO, the failure of the deal is thought to have resulted from an awareness campaign by groups such as Citizen Lab.

Implications

The lessons of the UAE, China, and Mexico clearly demonstrate the potential for abuse when countries without strong accountability measures are given incredibly powerful weapons.

Such weapons bring into question a citizen’s freedom — whether it be of speech, expression, or thought — even in a country that claims to be a liberal democracy. “Freedom of speech is the antithesis to one-party rule,” Deibert writes, “[Authoritarian censorship] underscores why careful evidence-based research is so essential to the progress of human rights.”

In conversation with Mathias Memmel

The UTSU President talks Hudson lawsuit, the decision behind service cuts, and personal ambitions

In conversation with Mathias Memmel

Mathias Memmel is the President of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), a student society that represents 50,000 students and whose total assets tend to hover roughly around $7 million each year. Having previously served as the President of the Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association and Vice-President Internal at the UTSU, Memmel is no stranger to student politics. The Varsity spoke to him about the job so far and the year ahead.

The Varsity: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Mathias Memmel: So, both my parents immigrated to Canada: my dad when he was a kid, my mother as an adult. I have parents who definitely supported me a lot. My time was very music focused. My high school had about 500 kids, and those are students who were bussed in from a geographical area of about half an hour in all directions, so not a large place. Rural southwestern Ontario. Near Goderich, north of London, which is a fantastic place to grow up.

Then I applied to university. I could not actually figure out what I was going to do so I applied for commerce here, political science at a bunch of places, also music schools — and then I got into U of T with a pretty generous scholarship. So my parents were like, ‘Oh yeah you should go to music school,’ which is the opposite thing of what every parent ever says, so that was fantastic.

The Faculty of Music was very small. My program was the voice performance stream. I actually missed doing math. So I started taking computer science classes as my electives, but I could never get enough priority in my enrollment category to actually progress and take upper year computer science classes. I eventually started another degree in computer science and political science and pursued them simultaneously, so I’ve since graduated from music and I still have like seven credits left for the other degree.

TV: When did you start at the UTSU?

MM: 2015. It was my third year. I was president that year at the Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association. That year was the last year where the [CFS-backed slate] won at the UTSU. That year there was an attempt to do a restructuring of the board, which would’ve essentially eliminated the principle of proportional representation at the board level. The only reason why I picked up on it was because the UTSU at the time had said that they’d consulted the Faculty of Music undergrads about it and so that’s when I lost my temper. So, that’s why I got involved.

I came to the [Annual General Meeting]. I got up there and probably yelled, and probably looked ridiculous, and that was my first encounter with the UTSU. Then at that point I had decided I was running for the UTSU Director seat at Music. I wound up running on the Brighter slate.

TV: What did you do after that? How did you end up being President?

MM: I ran [for election]; I was actually uncontested, so I didn’t actually have to run in the election because no one at the Faculty of Music had interest in the UTSU, [at least] at the time. I was on the board for a year. Then I ran for VP Internal. I came onto the Hello slate. I was involved in the planning early on.

It was a very frustrating election in terms of the team dynamic, and that spilled over into the year, but I think we learned a lot about how to organize ourselves. It was a year where there was no agreement on core principles amongst the executives about how we would come to decisions. I had really no intention of running again. I basically fought the whole thing until about November.

TV: What changed your mind?

MM: Daman, [the current VP Internal], spent a lot of time convincing me. I think that’s what actually did it in the end. In part, it was the Student Commons, because that project is so indicative of people not making decisions for principled reasons. The idea of starting to build a student centre without having gone to survey the members to see if it’s something they actually want. It’s offensive that someone would conceive of a project like that at the time. I felt like I potentially had the skills and the energy to fix that building and that project and that’s what got me around.

TV: What are your top three priorities for this year?

MM: I think on a very high level, we have to fix the Commons project. We’ve got an operating business plan that is nearing completion. We’re going to do some student engagement. We started out last year but the piece that we’re missing right now is, what do students actually want from a student centre?

After fixing the Commons comes a 10 year strategy. So, we have to look at what the UTSU is on a 10-year timeline. What do our levy increases look like? Where are the points where potentially new services can be introduced?

We’re starting a service called the Help Desk, and the idea is that it acts like a U of T concierge. [If] you don’t know where to go, you talk to the help desk. It’s online, it’s got a chat function, it intersects with the social media, and there’s a physical version here. It’s basically a customer management system and I think the outcome is going to be really positive.

TV: Regarding the Student Commons, what do you believe are its main problems?

MM: The biggest problem with the Student Commons agreement is that essentially we’re billed for the utility cost, and we’re also billed for additional rent. If it had been me doing the negotiations, I would’ve wanted rent and utility costs to be covered by the capital cost levy as opposed to the operating cost levy.

TV: How are you planning on funding it?

MM: There’s quite a significant shortfall. We’re going to be pulling some money from the operating budget and the UTSU profit. We do need funding relief from the university itself. We’ve redesigned some of the plans to have greater rental [value] to external partners. We’re also looking at the university providing tutorial spaces and class spaces or potentially even having a university office or department within the building.

TV: Regarding the Hudson lawsuit, why did you decide to propose and eventually pass a motion to rescind [a second legal opinion]?

MM: Strictly as fiduciaries, our responsibility is to seek legal opinions when we don’t have enough information to guide our course of action and so, with our current [attorney] who is very good, I certainly didn’t feel — and the board obviously didn’t feel ­­— that there was a lack of information that would require an additional legal perspective in order for them to make a decision about the case.

TV: Why did the motion to seek a second legal opinion pass initially?

MM: I think essentially members of the board were uninformed about the case, and rightfully so, because they had just become directors that day and weren’t given the opportunity to hear from the legal councils.

TV: Were they pressured by the Black Liberation Collective?

MM: I think that’s how the members of the board felt.

TV: In your opinion, what mistakes did the 2014–15 executives do that led to the Hudson lawsuit?

MM: We talked a lot about this in the campaign, about the importance of the student union being actually run by students, and that presents itself. The decision-making power, the authority, and the ability to become informed must rely on students, and I think that the thing with the 2014–15 executives was that at the time, the UTSU was really not run by the executives. The UTSU in its current state is very much run by the executives. I’m not saying that there aren’t avoidable mistakes that come with that, but I think that fundamentally the UTSU is no longer treated as anyone’s pet project who’s not a student. If you’re not in a position to question people who are older than you and have been around the institution for longer, and [if] the culture in which you can do that isn’t there, then that’s when mistakes like this happen because you’re disempowered.

TV: What do you think of the CFS?

MM: It’s terrible. It’s an organization that has no interest in partnerships or present policy alternatives, and all they want to do is stand outside of buildings and scream through megaphones without any dialogue or conversation. That’s been our experience with them. We know that they have interfered with the UTSU election; we have proof of it, and so, the sooner we can get out of there, the better.

TV: What steps have you taken toward discontinuing the UTSU’s membership?

MM: My understanding is that YouDecide is continuing this year. They’re doing well with their signature collection.

TV: Is Daman Singh’s prior affiliation to YouDecide a conflict of interest at all?

MM: No, not in my opinion. I mean Daman was heavily involved with the campaign last year when he was a member and a non-executive, but he didn’t benefit financially from YouDecide, so there’s no conflict of interest.

TV: Why did you [choose to lay-off full-time UTSU staff] Vita Carlino and Maria Galvez?

MM: The Board approved a reduction in services based on a recommendation that the executives put forward related to the Student Commons and the UTSU’s financial position more broadly.

TV: How are you planning to replace the services provided by Clubs and Service Groups Coordinator and Health and Dental Plan Coordinator who were laid off?

MM: The services aren’t going to be replaced. Students had five options before to contact someone about the health and dental plan. We have an online chat service, we have a call center, there’s an email service, they can stop by the front desk here, and then they could also email [email protected] We just eliminated the [email protected] So, there’s five ways people could previously interact with the plan and now there are four. Instead of contacting the VP Campus Life or the Coordinator, they can just contact the VP Campus Life now.

TV: What was the most enjoyable course you’ve taken at U of T?

MM: I took a course with Victor Falkenheim. It’s POL215, Politics and Transformations of the Asia-Pacific. He’s one of those professors who are so old school, but at the same time he’s so adoring of the fact that he’s teaching. I think that in the context of it being such a small lecture, I really enjoyed that course.

TV: What would you say to someone who wants to run for President of the UTSU?

MM: The one thing that I would like people running for UTSU to know is that, while it looks like you’re doing advocacy work all the time, the idea that everything you do is student-facing is a myth. The distance between the perception of what this is and what it actually is [is] quite far. Most of this is managerial, so if you’re going to run, or when people are voting, they should vote for someone who has managerial experience.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

UTSU board meeting considers new bylaw, collective bargaining, vacant positions

Agenda for October 30 Annual General Meeting confirmed

UTSU board meeting considers new bylaw, collective bargaining, vacant positions

The UTSU held its monthly Board of Directors meeting on the afternoon of September 28. Topics on the agenda included the confirmation of the agenda for the Annual General Meeting (AGM), as well as the establishment of a shortlist committee to find a replacement Vice-President University Affairs.

VP University Affairs

Discussions about finding a replacement VP University Affairs, following the resignation of Carina Zhang in early September, have coincided with the UTSU moving forward with conversations that could lead to the dissolution of both the VP University Affairs and VP External roles and create a new VP Advocacy position.

UTSU President Mathias Memmel stressed that, while the reform talks coincide with finding a replacement for Zhang, the idea to combine the two positions into one was part of the platform of his Demand Better slate, which all of the executives save Zhang and VP External Anne Boucher ran with. Memmel said that the decision is a response to how each executive position’s responsibilities have changed over the years.

If the VP Advocacy position is created, it will be instituted in the next academic year. In the meantime, a committee has been formed to develop a shortlist of candidates to apply for the VP University Affairs position through an appointment process. Board members were selected to help with the decision, in line with a procedural structure that Memmel says has been used since the 2015–2016 academic year.

The union has also accepted the resignations of General Equity Director Ted Williamson and Faculty of Engineering Director Danja Papajani.

Bylaw XIX and the AGM

Notably, the board meeting touched on the addition of Bylaw XIX to the union, which will go before a vote at the AGM in late October. The proposed bylaw, in support of keeping the union autonomous, would prevent the UTSU from joining any group, or making any decision, where they would be unable to withdraw with a board vote. The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which UTSU Executives have been highly critical of, are one of these groups that can not be left with a simple board vote. According to Memmel, the bylaw is simply meant to ensure that “the UTSU’s autonomy isn’t taken lightly.” Memmel said that the UTSU is also not the first to take these precautions: he claimed the Dalhousie Student’s Union have done the same in their bylaws.

The meeting ended with a confirmation the agenda for the AGM to be held on October 30, 2017. Topics on the agenda include the presidential address as well as the review of the year’s audited financial statements. As for Memmel’s hopes for the meeting, he would like it to be “civil.”

New committee formed

Another committee formed at the meeting was the Collective Bargaining Oversight Committee, whose job it will be to assist the Management Committee. The newly created committee will have directors participating in “the collective bargaining process,” said Memmel, given that human resources are the UTSU’s largest expense.

CUPE Local 1281, which represents UTSU staff, will enter collective bargaining with the UTSU this academic year; their collective agreement expires in January.

Editor’s Note (October 3): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a by-election will be held to fill the currently vacant VP University Affairs seat. The seat will actually be an appointed position. 

New UTM shuttle buses to hit the road

Four shuttle buses with WiFi capabilities to be added

New UTM shuttle buses to hit the road

During the first Quality Service to Students (QSS) meeting in the new academic year, the council announced that four new shuttle busses with WiFi capabilities will be added to service the routes at UTM.

The QSS is a council of students and administrators that works on issues concerning the student experience at UTM. The council discusses the improvement of services like the career centre and the shuttle service.

There are 11 student voting members of the council who come from the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), the University of Toronto Mississauga Association of Graduate Students (UTMAGS), the University of Toronto Athletic Council, and the University of Toronto Mississauga Residence Council.

There are also six staff voting members, which include the Student Affairs Dean, the Career Centre Dean, the Department of Physical Education, Athletics, and Recreation Director, the Health and Counselling Director, the Principal of UTM, and the Chief Administrative Officer.

According to Salma Fakhry, the President of the UTMSU and a voting member on the QSS, “The UTMSU and UTMAGS have been lobbying for better shuttle busses with the administration for a number of years through QSS and the transportation advisory committee.”

All four shuttle busses will provide WiFi; however, the WiFi will not be fully accessible immediately. The busses are also equipped with shock-proof technology.

Fakhry stated that students who regularly use the shuttle bus service had expressed explicit desire for these capabilities over the years. “We’re excited to finally see it happen,” Fakhry continued.

UTM students can ride the shuttle busses for free, provided that they are registered and have paid their fees. Non-UTM students can also use the shuttle service. However, non-UTM students must buy tickets at specific locations. The regular, one-way fare is $6.

The shuttle service currently offers three routes that are available for students to take. The St. George route runs between UTM and UTSG, the Sheridan route between UTM and Sheridan College, and the last route between UTM, the Mississauga Hospital, and the Credit Valley Hospital. However, only students registered in the Mississauga Academy of Medicine are permitted to take the last route.

YouDecide provincial petition fails to meet required signatures, must reset

National petition for referendum continues as UTSU executives take hard stance on defederation from CFS

YouDecide provincial petition fails to meet required signatures, must reset

The YouDecide campaign, which is promoting a petition to hold a referendum on the UTSU’s membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), has had to reset its provincial petition due to a lack of signatures needed by the designated deadline.

Headed by Adrian Huntelar, the YouDecide campaign is a student-run endeavour to collect a sufficient number of signatures on a petition to initiate a referendum on the UTSU’s membership with both the national CFS and its Ontario chapter. The campaign has garnered over 1,000 signatories since the start of orientation week.

“So far [the campaign] has been very grassroots,” Huntelar said. “It’s been very much just a collection of individuals who are interested in the idea of having this referendum as soon as possible.”

YouDecide was formed in September 2016. According to Huntelar, the objective of the YouDecide campaign is to garner enough signatures to initiate a referendum by the end of this year. In order to accomplish this, the campaign must collect signatures from 15 per cent of the UTSU membership on the St. George campus. Of the 43,000 students represented, YouDecide must obtain approximately 7,000 signatures.

The campaign is complicated by the existence of two petitions, one regarding the national CFS and one regarding the provincial chapter, CFS-Ontario. While the signatures collected last year for the national petition carried over, the expiratory clause in the provincial petition required restarting from the beginning. According to CFS-Ontario bylaws, a petition for a referendum on membership must include the exact dates of the proposed vote. The YouDecide petition for CFS-Ontario included dates that have passed this point, which requries them to begin a new petition entirely.

Despite this, Huntelar remains hopeful for the campaign’s efforts.

“So far I’ve seen a great amount of interest,” Huntelar said. “When we talk to students and when we make our case for why they should be able to make this decision for themselves, the vast majority of them agree and the vast majority of them who we talk to do sign the petition and are very enthusiastic about having a referendum.”

YouDecide and the UTSU

While Huntelar said there is no official relationship between the YouDecide campaign and the UTSU, and that the campaign itself remains a disinterested actor with regard to the outcome of the possible referendum, UTSU executives are unequivocal in decrying the CFS.

“The CFS wants every local to do the same thing at the same time, and that’s a barrier to effective advocacy,” UTSU President Mathias Memmel wrote in an email to The Varsity. “Campaigns are developed centrally by CFS staff and then shipped across the country. It doesn’t work. There’s no single student experience, and there’s no single set of student needs.”

In an email to The Varsity, CFS Chairperson Coty Zachariah confirmed that “a decision on continued membership rests with students through a democratic vote.” He reiterated that membership in the federation “allows U of T students to benefit from being part of an organization that, in the last few years, has won a 50% increase to the Canada Student Grants program, $90 million in new funding for Indigenous students, and legislation requiring universities in Ontario to implement standalone sexual violence policies.”

Current UTSU Vice-President Internal Daman Singh shared Memmel’s criticism in a separate email, saying that “the CFS shuts out the voices of members who suggest different priorities than those decreed by the National Executive. There are frequent, demonstrable instances of corruption, ranging from serious concerns such as the secret bank account… to simpler issues such as the disclosure of documents and financials to member locals.”

Singh played a major role in the YouDecide campaign last year, but neither he nor Huntelar believes Singh’s past involvement with the campaign constitutes a conflict of interest.

The CFS did not comment on the matter. “The CFS is a hindrance, not a help,” Singh wrote to The Varsity. “The UTSU has no reason to stay. I have complete confidence in the You Decide campaign. There’s no conflict between my role in the campaign and my role as an executive. I’ve always been completely transparent about my position on this issue.”