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The Varsity reader survey 2018

The Varsity reader survey 2018

You hear from us all the time, but rarely do we get to hear from you. To start 2018 right, we’ve compiled a series of questions in order to give our readers the opportunity to give us feedback. What can we improve? If you ran this place, what would you do differently? What have you been wanting to yell at us for?

Tell us in the survey below.

A year in review: U of T scientific discoveries

Looking back at 2017’s major discoveries and steps forward

A year in review: U of T scientific discoveries

The year 2017 marked a turning point in Canadian science. After years of lagging innovation and discovery, U of T set precedent by penning the Naylor Report, which outlined federal recommendations for accelerating research in Canada. The U of T-led #SupportTheReport campaign also brought attention to efforts to reclaim Canada as a global research and innovation hub.

Policy-related developments aside, U of T made significant strides at the forefront of scientific research. Below are some of the top stories of 2017.

January

Rare childhood brain cancer demystified by U of T research

U of T scientist Dr. Daniel De Carvalho and his team classified the atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumour into subgroups and discovered ways to treat the stubborn brain cancer.

Scientists sequenced the beaver genome

Dr. Stephen Scherer, a U of T professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics, and his team were the first to sequence the beaver genome. In doing so, they helped develop ‘de novo sequencing,’ which allowed scientists to compare and analyze DNA of different species and eventually develop targeted diagnostic tools.

February

Machine learning accelerated drug discovery

In a collaborative study, a team of U of T researchers under Professor David Fleet, Chair of the Computer and Mathematical Sciences department at UTSC, developed algorithms to determine the 3D structure of a protein structure. These machine learning algorithms were able to compute a protein’s structure in mere minutes, and they can aid in drug discovery and biological research.

Researcher examined how athletes use pain to create social bonds

Kristina Smith, a graduate student in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at U of T, theorized that mixed martial artists linked their ability to control their emotional pain as an indicator of masculinity. Smith’s findings encouraged open communication to facilitate a supportive community among athletes and coaches.

March

New ways of measuring biodiversity loss

In a study led by Dr. Xingfeng Si, researchers at UTSC found that many of the smaller islands of China’s Thousand Island Lake had a smaller functional diversity than larger lakes. When functional similarity was considered, the degree of biodiversity declined, including the number of functional niches.

Correlation found between baldness and risk of prostate cancer

Male pattern baldness is a sign of being at risk for prostate cancer. Although the mechanism is unclear, Dr. Neil Fleshner, Head of U of T’s Division of Urology at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, suggested that fluctuations in androgen levels could explain the link between baldness and prostate cancer risk.

Largest genomic analysis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) uncovered new genes

In a collaboration between U of T and Google, a team led by Drs. Ryan Yuen and Stephen Scherer analyzed over 5,000 samples from families and determined 61 genes linked to an increased chance of ASD development, confirming the genetic basis for ASD. In addition, the researchers found 80 per cent of these genes could be targets for future drug treatments.

April

Tim Hortons found to be the best location for AED placement

Professor Timothy Chan, a U of T Mechanical and Industrial Engineering professor, and Christopher Sun, a PhD candidate, analyzed the most accessible locations for AED placement in the event of a cardiac emergency. They concluded that Tim Hortons ranked the highest, with over 300 locations in Toronto alone.

May

Raquel Urtasun joined Uber research team in developing self-driving cars

Urtasun, a U of T Department of Computer Science associate professor, joined Uber as the head of the first Advanced Technologies Group outside of the US. Her team plans to build on autonomous driving by developing inexpensive sensors that would allow cars to visualize surroundings and safely navigate roads.

June

U of T undergraduate student contributed to machine learning study at Google

Fifth-year Aidan Gomez co-authored a paper that explored the ability of neural networks to multitask and apply learned knowledge to new tasks in a process known as ‘transfer learning.’

July

Hand cleansing found to shift your goals

Physical cleansing, specifically of the hands, was found to have psychological implications. A study led by PhD student Ping Dong and Assistant Professor Spike WS Lee found that this process removed psychological separation of past events and made it easier for subjects to switch to a task that required a different mindset.

Facial cues were found to be linked to social class

People can likely determine others’ social class through facial cues like attractiveness and warmth. A study by PhD candidate Thora Bjornsdottir and U of T Associate Professor of Psychology Nicholas Rule suggested a link between prejudice and visual perception.

August

Dunlap Institute hosted a solar eclipse viewing at CNE

On August 21, 2017, at approximately 2:32 pm, a partial solar eclipse could be seen in Toronto. Torontonians saw about 70 per cent of sun coverage; the full eclipse could be seen in the US.

September

Researchers found potential cure to type 1 diabetes in pancreatic cell transplants

A study led by Alexander Vlahos, a PhD candidate at U of T’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, discovered injecting healthy pancreatic cells under the skin can produce insulin and help maintain normal blood sugar levels.

October

Professor’s startup received funding to develop cancer therapies

Patrick Gunning, UTM Professor and Canada Research Chair in Medicinal Chemistry, co-founded Janpix. Janpix has received $22 million in venture capital to accelerate research in oncology treatments. Gunning’s therapies, which inhibit STAT proteins identified in some human cancers, are expected to proceed to clinical trials within the next two years.

U of T researchers contributed to the Nobel prize-winning search for gravitational waves

Drs. Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish, and Kip Thorne were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their pioneering contributions to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the confirmation of gravitational waves. U of T researchers, including a team led by Dr. Harald Pfeiffer of U of T’s Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics and graduate student Heather Fong, were among the 1,167 researchers in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration that brought these discoveries to light.

November

Lipoxin molecules found to hold potential glaucoma treatment

A team of researchers led by Dr. Jeremy Sivak, the Glaucoma Research Chair at the Krembil Research Institute in Toronto, found that lipoxin molecules secreted by astrocyte cells in the retina can protect optic neuronal cells, which can be used in the treatment of glaucoma.

U of T professor named Ontario’s first Chief Scientist

Molly Shoichet, a U of T professor in Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and a director at the Institute for Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering, was named Ontario’s Chief Scientist. In an effort to boost innovation in Ontario, the position was created to advise the provincial government on science-related policies and issues.

December

U of T researcher found Earth-like conditions on exoplanet and discovered new planet

Ryan Cloutier, a PhD student at the Centre of Planetary Science at UTSC, found K2-18b, an Earth-like planet orbiting a red-dwarf star, by taking measurements of its mass and radius. It is now “one of the best targets for atmospheric study.” In the process, Cloutier also discovered an exoplanet in the same solar system.

Live at Lee’s Palace

Winterfest's Battle of the Bands to take place January 10

Live at Lee’s Palace

Winterfest’s annual Battle of the Bands takes place this Wednesday, with four bands competing for $500 and a gig at University College’s Fireball dance. Each boasting a diverse set of influences from funk and blues to classic rock and indie folk, this year’s lineup promises enough energy to give the new semester a proper kickoff.

The 19+ event takes place at the legendary Lee’s Palace at 8:00 pm and, as usual, cover is free for U of T students who are of age. For non-U of T attendees, cover is $5.

Here’s a look at the groups competing for the grand prize this year.

STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

Newcomer

Appropriately named for the youngest band competing, Newcomer’s four members all met at U of T and started playing as a full band together last September. Lucas Ratigan and Matias Gutierrez both play guitar, with Gutierrez also on vocals, while Joshua Sofian plays bass and Marty Camara plays drums.

Despite their relative newness, Newcomer has already signed onto Mississauga-based record label Coin Records. They describe their sound as similar to alternative rock, citing The Strokes as a major influence, but they describe their writing processes as feeling “for the vibe.” They love performing, but their standout trait is their dedication to producing music they love.

“Whenever I feel like the rest of the guys are really vibing to the song, when we’re all vibing together, that’s a good Newcomer song,” said Gutierrez.

“We understand each other musically,” explained Camara. The band said that the audience can expect to “definitely connect” to their lyrics because they are widely interpretable. So far, they have two singles out, “Maternity Leave” and “Zeitgeist,” but all agreed that they are currently the most hyped about their unreleased songs. Be sure to come on time to hear a preview of their upcoming album.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ROCKET BOMB

Rocket Bomb

Rocket Bomb’s guitarist and lead singer Jagger Cleeves and guitarist Josh Papa are childhood friends who moved to Toronto about two years ago. They began recording an unreleased EP in November 2016, which helped them recruit their drummer, Daniel Kiss, and bass player, Jerry de la Cruz, last summer.

Although they are all alternative rock fans, the band aims to produce pop music with a funk edge. It is refreshing to hear from a band so ready to entertain yet still focused on writing solid tracks, citing DNCE and Bruno Mars as influences for their collective sound.

“It’s kind of an effort to write pop music, but it’s so much more fun and more satisfying because it leads to people who are surprised by it,” said Cleeves. “In the end, they are like, ‘Whoa, you really went out on a limb here and made something cool.’”

If you are not a fan of pop, don’t worry. According to the band, their performances are an experience, comprised of not only visuals, sound, and the feel of the show, but also the natural chemistry of the musicians. In other words, you don’t have to love their songs to love their shows.

Photo by TIM LEYES PHOTOGRAPHY Courtesy of BASSET

Basset

Previously called Sheepishly Yours, the almost year-old Victoria College band comprised of Yasmine Shelton, Sam Clark, and brothers Aaron and Noah Philipp-Muller is now Basset. Primarily an indie folk band, their collective classical training gives them a unique grasp of technical musicality, as seen through their diverse instrumentation and three-part harmonies.

For Wednesday’s performance, they will most likely stick to strings, with Clark switching between the mandolin and violin, Aaron on guitar, and Noah on cello — but each member plays multiple instruments. All of them offer vocals on one track or another. Shelton’s lead vocals are especially versatile, easily adapting to different styles.

“Especially in Toronto, there aren’t a whole lot of bands that use mandolin and then have a cello as their bass instrument — that’s kind of unusual,” said Aaron. Unsurprisingly, they noted The Punch Brothers as a major influence on their sound.

While their acoustic instruments might not line up with the rockability of Lee’s Palace, the chemistry between the four and the effort they put into workshopping each song should make for a tight show. Expect to be pleasantly surprised by unique rearrangements of popular songs and to hear some original tracks.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DORVAL

Dorval

Those who attended last year’s Battle of the Bands should remember veteran band Dorval’s stunts and theatrics, which they promise will continue at this year’s show. The band formed at the end of 2014, but now bass player James Yoannou joins the original duo of guitarist Daniel Lewycky and drummer Adam Moffatt, allowing them to produce a fuller sound. Yoannou and Moffat are U of T alumni, while Lewycky is still a U of T student.

Moffatt described the band as “alternative experimental blues.” Although they have rock and roll similarities, Lewycky emphasizes the climax of a song as much as possible, which he said is “a very bluesy thing to do.” Despite the clear blues influence, they pride themselves on the uniqueness of each of their songs.

“It’s when the three of us come together; we start making the songs more progressively interesting than one of us could have done alone, which I really like,” explained Yoannou.

They are currently working on a second EP and will play some of their new songs at the show. Their first EP, A Match Made in Toronto, was released last March. Live shows are one of their greatest strengths, and their blues-inspired tracks are “more danceable than you might think,” so prepare to get up and groove.

Sexual Violence Centre sees structural changes in leadership

Executive director portfolio split up to increase efficiency

Sexual Violence Centre sees structural changes in leadership

U of T’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre recently adopted changes to its leadership structure in an attempt to increase efficiency and efficacy. The change, which is effective immediately, will entail giving part of the portfolio of the Executive Director to the Director of the Office of Safety & High Risk.

The change is being made in order to “rationalize workloads, streamline workflows, and ensure the highest level of service,” according to the memo released on the subject by Vice-President & Provost, Cheryl Regehr, and Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity, Kelly Hannah-Moffat.

Executive Director Terry McQuaid, who has been serving in the role since the office was created a year ago, will continue to lead the university’s response to sexual violence, including developing policies, procedures, and training.

Director of the Office of Safety & High Risk Laura Bradbury, who has also been in the role for a year, will be given the task of identifying and managing individuals at high risk of sexual violence, a job which was previously under the portfolio of the Executive Director.

“If people have been affected by sexual violence, then they will continue to go to the Sexual Violence Centre that is overseen by Terry [McQuaid]. If students are worried about other forms of safety, or ongoing safety issues, then they would go to the Community Safety Office that is overseen by [Bradbury]’s people,” explained Regehr in an interview with The Varsity.

According to the memo, “the impact on members of our community and those who access these services as clients will be minimal.”

Regehr explains that this is because the changes are being made to high level leadership and that “any student who was going to the centre… would see the exact same staff you would see before.”

“Now that we’re a year into it,” Regehr said, “we really want to invest more resources in our sexual violence work. So we just pulled two portfolios apart… so that we have more resources to be able to focus on sexual violence.”

The centre was established in early 2017 in response to calls to action from the community as well as requirements from new provincial legislation.

“We continue to have prevention and responding to sexual violence as a really major priority of the university, so we want to ensure that we have resources to make that happen,” said Regehr.

“We hope that we will continue to really focus on making this a safe place for students and helping students who have been affected by violence of various kinds.”

Shooter of renowned criminal lawyer sentenced to 12 years in prison

Grayson Delong will serve less than 10 years after pleading guilty to 2016 shooting of Randall Barrs near St. George campus

Shooter of renowned criminal lawyer sentenced to 12 years in prison

More than a year after shooting renowned criminal lawyer Randall Barrs on Bedford Street near the St. George campus, Grayson Delong was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to four charges in connection to the shooting.

Barrs was shot in the leg twice while leaving his office at 23 Bedford Street on September 20, 2016. In an interview that he gave two months after the shooting, Barrs called the shooter “a coward” and said that he tried to run after him on one leg but then changed his mind. He was rushed to the hospital, and says he’s “95 per cent recovered now.”

At the time of the shooting, Delong was out of prison on bail and was being investigated by undercover officers from Halton Police Services. After Delong shot Barrs, the officers shot Delong in the neck. Delong survived, and was rushed to the hospital for recovery. Barrs has criticized the Halton Police for not acting sooner, and expressed his disappointment that it has yet to be revealed why Delong was under police surveillance.

According to Sergeant Dana Nicholas, the media relations officer from Halton Police Services, the police officers who had Delong under surveillance were involved in an investigation of non-violent property crime offences. “There was never any reason to expect that anyone was at risk of violence on the day of the incident,” she wrote in an email to The Varsity.

Justice John McMahon of the Ontario Superior Court was in charge of the sentencing and stated that the maximum sentence for aggravated assault, which is 14 years, would have been applied if it weren’t for Delong’s guilty plea. He was sentenced to 12 years in a federal penitentiary, but was given credit for the time he had already served in prison, so will serve nine years and seven months in prison.

Barrs refused to participate in the hearing and believed the sentencing was a miscarriage of justice. “What went down today would not have gone down if it was a Crown attorney that was shot or a judge or a police officer. This case would have been fully investigated,” Barrs told CBC.

No connection was found between Barrs and Delong. In September 2017, Barrs offered a $50,000 reward for information about the shooting, believing that someone had ordered the attack on him. Barrs also told CBC that the officers investigating Delong shouldn’t have allowed him to be present in a public area in the first place.

After the shooting, another criminal lawyer, James Morton, spoke to CBC about attacks on criminal lawyers. He helped write a safety manual for lawyers to protect them for workplace incidents, and said that threats to criminal lawyers aren’t uncommon.

OPSEU, CEC claim success with arbitration agreement following college strike

Agreement settles wage increase, academic freedom

OPSEU, CEC claim success with arbitration agreement following college strike

On December 20, one month after the Ontario government ended last fall’s college faculty strike with back-to-work legislation, the two sides have completed a binding arbitration agreement mandated in the legislation to settle all outstanding issues. Both the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which initiated the strike, and the College Employer Council (CEC) say they are satisfied with the conclusion of the agreement, which was brought together by arbitrator William Kaplan.

The main components of the Kaplan award, as the agreement is called, are a wage increase of 7.75 per cent over the course of four years, a payment of $900 to full-time staff and $450 to part-time staff to satisfy claims and grievances filed as a result of the strike, academic freedom in terms of curriculum and research, and a government-mandated task force to look into the lack of full-time positions and excess of contract-workers.

Both parties acknowledged the impact the strike and arbitration had on students, who lost five weeks of learning. Jonathan Singer, professor and president of the faculty union at Seneca College, said, “I’d like to express my tremendous thanks for the support that we received from union locals at the University of Toronto and also from college and university students province-wide.”

Both parties are claiming success through the arbitration after some of the more controversial matters were settled. OPSEU cited the establishment of academic freedom as a success; the CEC consider the retention of control over academic programming a win.

“We are happy to have gained academic freedom as a consequence of the strike,” Singer said.

Pat Kennedy, president of the faculty union at Algonquin College, agrees that the result is a success for OPSEU, but says he is “perplexed” as to why the CEC also viewed the agreement as a victory.

“They’re just trying to save face,” said Kennedy. “I have yet to hear any articulation from any management as to what they got [from the arbitration].”

Don Sinclair, Chief Executive Officer of the CEC and member of the bargaining team, said that although Kaplan awarded OPSEU the academic freedom it wanted, “he did not award… academic control. So the issue of programming, academic programming, remains in the hands of the institution.”

Looking forward, Singer said that they are “very hopeful that the province-wide task force… will be addressing issues of full-time versus part-time complement and academic governance at Ontario’s colleges.” The use of part-time faculty was a matter of contention during the strike that has yet to be solved.

“We wish that we had been negotiating with an employer who was willing to address issues at the bargaining table rather than one that was committed to stonewalling until the government legislated us back to work,” said Singer.

Sinclair says he is aware of the impact the arbitration agreement has on relations between the CEC and the faculty.

“I think it’s been a tough strike for everyone. I think with the award it will help put to rest some of the issues, and that we [will] all just move forward and try to [rebuild] our positive relationships,” Sinclair said.

TTC board votes unanimously in favour of U-Pass

U-Pass seeks to make public transit affordable for students

TTC board votes unanimously in favour of U-Pass

More affordable transit may become a reality for students on the St. George campus after the TTC Board unanimously voted in favour of the U-Pass Initiative during a meeting on December 11, 2017.

The Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass), advocated by representatives from the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), Student Association of George Brown College (SAGBC), and the Ontario College of Art and Design Student Union, aims to provide an affordable means of transportation apart from the postsecondary metro pass offered by the TTC.

A staff report from the Chief Executive Officer of the TTC states that the U-Pass offers greater savings than the 20 per cent discount offered by the postsecondary student metropass, priced at $116.75.

Moreover, the initiative also proposes fare integration between several public transit systems in the Greater Toronto Area, such as Brampton Transit and York Region Transit. According to the report, it is estimated that more than 15 percent per cent of commutes by postsecondary students involve more than one transit system in addition to the TTC.

“The TTC is eager to make the U-Pass program work, everyone is in agreement on this,” said TTC Senior Communications Specialist Stuart Green. “A report is being prepared for our board in the first quarter of this year that would outline the specifics of the pass in terms of price and availability. If it is agreed to, it would be introduced in September.”

Anne Boucher, Vice-President External of the UTSU, spoke of an increased ridership during the TTC board meeting as a result of a U-Pass and how it will improve off-peak travel times.

“Creating a long-term transit reliance is key to the sustainability of transit into the future. By securing the student ridership now, students are more likely to be committed users leading into their professional lives,” said Boucher.

“A U-Pass encourages students to travel at off-peak times. Currently 76.6 per cent of our students say their commute affects how they schedule classes. They’re compressing their schedules into two to three compact days to avoid paying fares, which means they’re travelling in the morning rush and the evening rush,” continued Boucher.

In a survey administered by the students’ unions in late August, 95 per cent of commuter students voted in favour of the U-Pass. Students cited financial burdens as a reason, saying they spend upwards of $100 per month on transportation alone.

“U of T is a commuter school, so most students will benefit if this comes to fruition. Currently, I spend nearly $1,400 on transit. The blow was softened a bit by the tax deduction for Metropass, but since that is no longer in effect, I think more affordable transit is all the more necessary,” said Mayar Sashin, a commuter student at Victoria College.

“Other Canadian universities and cities are ahead of us in terms of providing transportation to students,” said Avneet Sharma, a student at Trinity College. “Though I don’t necessarily have the longest commute, the U-Pass would definitely be beneficial for all commuters at U of T.”

However, not all commuter students can depend on a U-Pass for their daily commute, using other methods of transportation besides public transit.

“Frankly, the UPass won’t be very helpful to me, since I bike to school everyday, so the increase in tuition will negatively impact me, personally,” said Benjamin Liao-Gormley, a commuter student from Victoria College. “Nonetheless, I support it, as it will save many of my friends some money, especially since commuting isn’t cheap if you don’t live in the downtown core.”

In an email to The Varsity, Gabriel Calderon, Co-Chair of the Victoria College Off-Campus Association and Commuter Commissioner on the Victoria University’s Students’ Administrative Council, wrote on how a U-Pass would counter the prohibitive costs of commuting, saying the U-Pass would provide an opportunity for students to come to university when they otherwise wouldn’t.

“I mean this in the context of extracurricular involvement,” Calderon said. “Often, a student will want to attend some sort of club/student society meeting, or go to office hours, etc., but they will choose not to because the cost of commuting will be prohibitive.”

In review: Brother and The Boat People

The Canadian novels depict the experiences of displaced, marginalized groups

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Brothers

The world is currently seeing unprecedentedly high numbers of displaced peoples. Domestically, Canada faces growing tensions around immigration, race, discrimination, and systemic violence. It’s increasingly easy to forget the faces behind the numbers; human lives often get boiled down to statistics or identity politics.

A new novel published by Penguin Random House, David Chariandy’s Brother, aims to address this. It focuses on those living in marginalized communities.

Brother is set in Chariandy’s native Scarborough suburbs. Set in the early nineties, Brother follows the lives of two second-generation, mixed-heritage Trinidadian-Canadian brothers, Michael and Francis, as they navigate the violent, stifling fringes of the city and grow up understanding that almost everybody, by default, underestimates them because of the colour of their skin.

As the narrator, Michael is quiet and reflective, a natural observer. Francis, the older brother, is magnetic and strong-willed; he hopes to carve out a space for himself in the music industry. Meanwhile, their mother — single and perpetually exhausted — works multiple jobs, tireless in her ambition to provide ‘opportunity’ for her sons.

However, facing the hostile realities of being Black in a prejudiced community, Michael and Francis collide directly with the fear-driven forces of a single bullet.

Throughout Brother, Chariandy offers a sincere meditation on grief in the aftermath of careless brutality, the bonds that hold families together, and the corrosive despair of being stuck in one place and tied down by poverty. The book is longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and is a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and rightly so.

The book is a jewel. I found that along with its blatant and honest portrayal of inequality, it’s filled with moments of grit, pride, courage, and hope. Although barely longer than a novella, Brother dazzles and devastates. It’s brutal, poetic, and palpable, all at once.

The Boat People

Palpability is the strength of The Boat People too, the beating of a human pulse that readers will feel within the pages. Bala successfully weaves distinct stories together, transitioning between three perspectives: those of Mahindan, a Sri Lankan refugee and the father of six-year-old Sellian; Priya, his second-generation Sri Lankan-Canadian lawyer; and Grace, a third-generation Japanese-Canadian adjudicator assigned with the task of deciding Mahindan’s future.

Bala’s tale opens up with the quotidian sounds, sights, and smells of a refugee boat, where all sense of time is lost. When Mahindan first sees the approaching horizon of a strip of land — Canada — a singular thought floods his mind: “We are safe.” And if, as readers, we’re unable to relate to his feeling of relief, we can certainly recognize the moment the refugees are met with protest: “Send the illegals back! Go home terrorists!”

Despite representing an accepting and tolerant sanctuary to Mahindan, he soon discovers that the country is full of fear and resentment. He’s separated from his son and placed in a prison cell as he waits to be granted asylum.

In our current global climate, many refugees and immigrants are treated with the same indignation and aggressive pushback. Where The Boat People excels is in its depiction of the politics and bureaucracy surrounding refugee status, and the organization of refugees’ lives.

According to Anita Chong, Senior Editor at McClelland & Stewart and editor of The Boat People, Bala’s poignant novel “asks us to reflect on the often too-cozy image that we have of Canada as a welcoming nation, an image that many Canadians have been especially proud to burnish in 2017 in comparison to what is happening in the United States. It asks us to remember that we have never been immune to the forces of fear and xenophobia.”

“Now that the worldwide refugee crisis has begun to push against Canada’s borders, Canadians are being asked to consider who should be allowed safe haven and who should be turned away,” added Chong.

One thing can be said for sure: both Brother and The Boat People are very timely additions to Canadian literature. They show how fiction is the antidote to hate and divisiveness, because of its ability to foster empathy for other ways of life and to recognize the universality of others’ struggles and joys.

Brother and The Boat People demand self-reflection. When we sing “O Canada” and pride ourselves in being “the True North strong and free,” we must ask ourselves a few questions: is freedom in Canada an exclusive term? If so, for whom is it reserved? Through the stories of Michael and Francis, and Mahindan and Sellian, we can learn to examine the powers of the institutions that are allowed to distribute or confiscate it.