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Reflecting on Saudi-Canada crossroads

The Saudi withdrawal of students from Canada demonstrates an urgent need to re-evaluate how we advance human rights in global politics

Reflecting on Saudi-Canada crossroads

In early August, Saudi Arabia called for the withdrawal of all Saudi students from Canadian postsecondary institutions, including the University of Toronto, by the end of the month, amidst a series of sanctions against Canada. This was in response to criticism tweeted by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland regarding the crackdown on dissidents in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh viewed Freeland’s human rights advocacy as “interference” in its domestic affairs.

Currently, many Saudi students are scrambling for asylum in Canada in order to continue their education. Some asylum seekers fear harassment, as the deadline to return has already passed; others fear imprisonment due to their links to Saudi dissident activists.

The Saudi call for withdrawal is gravely concerning. International studies are a key means of development for all parties involved. University education is not just important for employment; it enables scholars from a variety of backgrounds to share, challenge, and develop ideas and, ultimately, affect change in society.

International students, like the Saudis in Canada, contribute to the academic community and, in turn, gain knowledge, experience, and skills to benefit their own countries. With the withdrawal of these students, we not only lose the opportunity to learn a sliver of what exists beyond us, but we lose our ability to influence the ideas of those abroad, which may be essential in creating global change. Both Saudi Arabia and Canada stand to lose from the withdrawal. Saudi Arabia should reconsider this decision.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that Saudi Arabia is justified to defend its sovereignty. Defendants of Saudi Arabia’s decision have claimed that the harsh attitude toward dissidents is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s slow, but effective, plan to produce real reform through Vision 2030. Critical commentary from foreign governments only serves to complicate Prince Salman’s ability to realize these reforms.

Furthermore, while Saudi Arabia is notorious for inflicting violence and terror unto its opponents, the fact remains that human rights violations are not unique to Saudi Arabia. For Canada to single out Saudi Arabia reflects a selective foreign policy. Furthermore, Freeland’s comments contradict the fact that Canada enables Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations — after all, the very same Trudeau government recently backed a massive arms deal with the Saudis.

Perhaps Canada should re-evaluate its expectations of Saudi Arabia and other countries it criticizes for human rights violations. What we define as human rights is largely based on Western ideals and histories, and to impose our distinct experience onto other cultures is problematic.

We have spent decades, if not centuries, structuring and improving a culture of rights and freedoms. It is not fair, then, to expect the same reforms in countries like Saudi Arabia to occur immediately. In fact, we should not pretend that Canada is morally superior, as it continues to commit its own human rights violations, namely against Indigenous peoples.

While we should not condone what is morally reprehensible in Saudi Arabia, we need to restructure the ways in which we frame our interests and goals, and how we work with international bodies to address human rights concerns. Human rights law tends to be incredibly ambiguous, requiring the consent of states to function.

Indeed, we need a global, legal infrastructure that ensures accountability and outlines specific expectations. It is necessary for other countries and powers to speak out against Saudi Arabia’s tirades, and for our criticisms to include specific alternatives and practices that can take place, while at the same time acknowledging the vast differences in the cultural climates of such nations. At the very least, where the goal is to advance human rights abroad, we should recognize that Twitter diplomacy can be disrespectful and gravely counterproductive.

The advancement of our national interests and goals in the realm of international relations requires a combination of utopian ideals and pragmatism. It is unfortunate that Saudi students have fallen victim to the complexities of global politics and diplomacy. The Canadian government and universities should do their utmost to resolve the dispute, so as to ensure that Saudi students can resume their education.

Rehana Mushtaq is a third-year English and Religion student at University College.

The politics opposing the cap and trade plan are bad science

Ford’s climate change initiatives are damaging at best

The politics opposing the cap and trade plan are bad science

“We are getting Ontario out of the carbon tax business.”

One of Premier Doug Ford’s first moves was to scrap the cap and trade plan in Ontario and challenge the federal government. The cap and trade program rewards businesses and corporations for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to below the provincial government’s set threshold.

Now, the Ford government promises to eliminate the carbon tax as early as next month.

Environment and Climate Change Canada also scaled back its carbon tax plan, and Ford has used it as a political tool to divide Ontario from the federal government.

Starting in 2019, however, the federal government will tax Ontario companies $20 for every tonne of greenhouse gas emitted and up to $50 per tonne in 2022.

According to Matthew Hoffman, U of T political science professor, “The federal government will collect the carbon tax for the province and then funnel the tax back into the province” to aid companies and individuals with higher costs of living. However, the main issue with the federal government’s design is how exactly that will be achieved.

The carbon tax is meant to be revenue neutral, contrary to Ford’s claim that the tax is a business.

Climate change should be of greater concern to Ontarians, and scaling back the cap and trade program and rewarding corporations that pollute heavily should not be endorsed.

The Liberals had introduced the cap and trade system to Ontario, setting a long-term goal to reduce emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, as well as several interim objectives.

With Ontario under cap and trade, over three-quarters of Canadians would live in a province with some form of carbon pricing. However, Ford is erasing this progress.

Incidents like the Ford government’s scrapping of cap and trade are microcosms of a growing issue where climate change has become one of the most polarizing issues in Canadian politics.

Climate change is a unique issue in Canadian, American, and Australian politics, says Hoffmann, because in most places in the rest of world, it is not a partisan issue.

Unlike the rest of the world, where the political debate is about what should be done to stop climate change, the debate in Canadian politics is whether anything should be done at all, he says.

Despite this divide, the Progressive Conservatives have promised to unveil a climate change plan in the upcoming months.

Hoffmann believes that the Ford government’s promise to come up with an alternative climate change plan shows that Ontarians are concerned about climate change. In fact, voters have already been impacted by climate change. According to Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy, the 2013 ice storm in Southern Ontario inflicted approximately $1 billion in damages.

According to a 2011 report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, climate change could cost Canadians up to $91 billion by 2050.

“Ontario voters also expect that the government should have a climate plan,” says Hoffman. “You don’t see massive protests in Ontario that are against the environment.”

The growing story is whether Justin Trudeau’s federal government will impose a carbon tax on the Ontario government if the Ford government loses the battle.

This can already be seen in the Trudeau government’s recent action to ‘soften’ the carbon tax in order to keep businesses competitive in Canada. What will become of Ontario and Canada’s greenhouse emission initiatives may be determined by next year’s elections.

If the Liberals choose to impose the carbon tax on Ontario, it could set off a political battle that may not end anytime soon.

Study shows angelfish can discriminate quantities

Scientists develop a novel method to study how fish ‘count’ when foraging

Study shows angelfish can discriminate quantities

The ability to discriminate between different quantities is not a skill unique to humans. Different animals, including fish, may possess the ability to count.

UTM Professor Robert Gerlai of the Department of Psychology contributed to a study that examines whether and, if so, how Pterophyllum scalare, otherwise known as angelfish, discriminate quantities while foraging.

Scientific literature on quantity discrimination in a foraging context has predominantly focused on mammals and birds. Several of these studies have shown that when animals are tested in laboratory conditions, they are sensitive to quantitative differences and often choose larger sets of food items over smaller sets.

Previous studies have shown that fish have the ability to distinguish between quantities of conspecifics, or members of their species. Angelfish are a social species, so there is an evolutionary benefit to being able to distinguish between sizes of groups. Choosing the larger group of fish, or shoal, offers better protection and reduces the risk of predation.

There is a literature gap in quantity discrimination experiments in fish with food as the discriminant. Fish, especially those that live in shoals, are often negatively affected when tested in complete isolation in a laboratory setting. In addition to the frightening test environment, other complications like uneven odour cues have prevented scientists from focusing on quantity discrimination in foraging contexts in fish.

Gerlai and his colleagues devised a novel methodology that allowed for angelfish to be tested individually while in a shoal, and therefore mitigated stress on the fish. Their new procedure also reduced other variables. For example, by presenting the stimuli outside of the aquarium, chemical and olfactory cues were excluded. This novel setup opens the way for developing more methods to accurately test numerical abilities in fish.

When quantity discrimination in a foraging context is tested in animals, often a binary choice test is given. This is a test in which two options are given to the animal and the choice the animal makes is observed. In the context of fish, a picture of a single item of food is shown on one side of the tank. On the opposite side of the tank, a picture of multiple items of food is shown. The side in which the fish spends the longest amount of time can be taken as the choice that animal has made.

There are two predominant theories that are said to explain how animals have the ability to count. The first is called the object file system, which allows animals to differentiate based on the number of elements, such as food items, in different groups — it is therefore thought to be more precise. The object file system of discrimination is said to be limited to small number of food items, with a maximum of four elements.

The second theory, known as the approximate number discrimination system, is used when larger sets of elements are presented. The approximate number discrimination system depends on ratios, not the absolute numerical differences between the number of elements compared.

In this study, Gerlai and his colleagues found a significant increase in accuracy in choosing the larger number of food items as the numerical ratio between the contrasting sets of food items increased. Overall, their results point to evidence that activation of the approximate number system was being used to discriminate.

Fish may not be solving complex math problems any time soon, but studying decision-making in this species when a binary choice test is given in a foraging context may help understand more complex behaviours.

Scientists are still left with several questions about the extent to which quantity discrimination in a foraging context is learned and if it is a result of evolutionary fine-tuning of neural circuitry.

RNA silencing technology could be the future of medicine

Onpattro has Canadian roots and is the first FDA-approved RNAi treatment

RNA silencing technology could be the future of medicine

In August, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals released patisiran, trade name ONPATTRO, an injectable drug that treats hereditary transthyretin (ATTR) amyloidosis.

While this may seem like just another experimental drug release among tens and hundreds each year, this one is particularly notable: it’s the first RNA interference (RNAi) therapy approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

RNAi silences specific messenger RNAs (mRNA), transcribed from DNA, before they have a chance to be used for protein synthesis. As such, it can be used to prevent the translation of otherwise defective proteins.

Hereditary ATTR amyloidosis causes a buildup of a protein known as amyloid in the nervous system. When amyloid accumulates, it can cause debilitating damage to the nervous system and more serious cases can result in death.

The technology for patisiran was first developed in the laboratory of University of British Columbia (UBC) Professor Pieter Cullis in collaboration with UBC Professor Marco Ciufolini.

Patients in trials reported significant improvements in motor skills, reflexes, and other essential functions of the nervous system after 18 months of treatment.

Many therapies have sought to target DNA and RNA as a permanent treatment to various diseases and conditions, although this becomes more complicated, since there are several categories of RNA. It would be difficult to cast a net that is wide enough to target genetic abnormalities, but selective enough to not destroy pathways necessary for proper functioning.

This is where RNAi therapy comes in.

On their way to being translated into proteins, an enzyme known as Dicer typically intercepts sections of RNA and cuts them in two; one half is degraded immediately, while the other half is shuffled into a complex called the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC).

But during RNAi, specific messenger RNAs are silenced after DNA has been transcribed to RNA. Dicer selectively targets certain pieces of RNA. The RISC, now containing this small piece of RNA, can use it as a template to target and degrade similar pieces of RNA, which allows silencing of specific RNA sections throughout a cell — sometimes even an organism as a whole — and inhibits the production of disease-causing proteins.

RNAi technology is useful for pinpointing a gene’s function. In fact, U of T Professor Jason Moffat’s lab is working on identifying genes in human cancer cell lines using RNAi, among other methods. U of T Professor Andrew Fraser uses RNAi to ‘turn off’ genes in worms to identify potential mutations in the human genetic code.

RNAi can be manipulated for the treatment of genetic and hereditary diseases and, with the correct specificity, could revolutionize medicine.

Blazes across Canada break historic records

Wildfires in Ontario continue a concerning trend of climate-related patterns

Blazes across Canada break historic records

Close to 13,000 square kilometres of land were scorched, blistered, and branded in British Columbia in 2018, and this year has set a new record for the largest area burned by fire in a season.

Even in Ontario, over 1,200 fires have broken out as of August 30, double the 10-year average for the province.

The number of fires and the damage that they inflict can vary over different seasons. But recent trends point to a worrisome pattern.

U of T Faculty of Forestry Professor Emeritus David Martell points to the worrying increase in the length of the fire season, saying that the science predicts the fire season will only get longer.

In a 2013 study, Martell and his colleagues reviewed fire seasons — the length of time from the first day of a reported naturally ignited fire to the last day that a fire is reported in a given year — from 1960 to 2009 in Eastern Ontario and Western Ontario and from 1961 to 2003 in Alberta. The fire season in Alberta lasted approximately 55 days longer.

Though less drastic, the fire seasons in Eastern and Western Ontario lasted around 15 to 20 days longer by the end of the 50-year period.

This points to a growing body of evidence that worsening global warming leads to longer fires and more disastrous fire seasons. There are now larger portions of each year when a wildfire can occur.

Prolific wildfires are not only confined to Canada, but also across the western United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Longer fire seasons and related trends are attributed to drier soil conditions, which have been linked to global warming.

The fire triangle is a simplistic explanation of the requirements for a fire: heat to ignite, fuel, and oxygen. While lightning provides the ignition for a fire, the vegetation on the ground acts as fuel.

Temperatures are notably progressing past historical norms, and a profound impact has been observed in the global water cycle. Warmer conditions increase the amount of evaporation from the soil and the ocean. The atmosphere can hold an excess of water at these elevated temperatures that would otherwise return to the surface as rain or snow. For certain vulnerable regions, the extra evaporation can lead to drier soil conditions that require much lower heat to ignite and provide suitable fuel for a fiery outcome.

As fires continue to rage, there are fire management systems in place for the allocation of resources to protect people and limit the damage wrought by such disasters. Tools such as the Fire Danger Rating System and the Fine Fuel Moisture Code provide information to the public and fire managers on the likelihood of fires in forested areas. Provincial wildfires services, such as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in Ontario, monitor lands for and organize a response to observed fire events.

Martell, whose research focus is on forest fire management systems, notes that there are other programs being developed to improve the efficiency in the monitoring and management of wildfires.

However, management systems are analogous to a band-aid solution: they do not address the root of the problem.

As the effects of climate change worsen, the main concern is that there will be greater areas susceptible to wildfires. This increase will lead to the release of more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the positive feedback loop of warming, drying, and blazing will continue.

Safe injection sites save lives

The provincial government’s opposition to the sites is a poor response to the ongoing opioid crisis

Safe injection sites save lives

The first public health emergency of the twenty-first century was declared in March 2003, four months after the first outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). There were 438 cases of SARS and 44 related deaths in Canada.

The World Health Organization declared a global pandemic from June 2009–2010, one month after the first outbreak of H1N1 in Canada. There were 33,509 cases of this virus and 428 related deaths in 2009.

Three decades after the opioid crisis was presumed to have started, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to declare a public health emergency in April 2016.

In 2017, there were 3,987 suspected deaths from opioid use in Canada — almost twice the number of motor vehicle fatalities in 2016 and eight times the number of SARS and H1N1 related deaths combined.

These staggering statistics demonstrate the necessity for an immediate, comprehensive, and detailed plan to approach the opioid epidemic. However, with Minister for Health and Long–Term Care Christine Elliot’s decision to halt the introduction of new supervised consumption sites in Ontario and to pause ongoing activities in some existing sites, the lives of many drug users are at stake.

Elliot, who became Minister at the end of June, stated in a press release that Premier Doug Ford needs to examine the evidence and hear from experts before coming fully onboard with supervised injection sites.

However, the evidence regarding Supervised Consumption Sites (SCS) and Temporary Overdose Prevention Sites (TOPS) as harm reduction tools has been well established since the first site opened in 1986 in Switzerland.

SCS and TOPS provide safe spaces and access to sterile drug use equipment for pre-obtained illegal drugs, emergency medical care in response to overdoses, basic health care, and support from health professionals with the aim of reducing communicable diseases and saving lives.

According to Dr. Eileen de Villa, City of Toronto Medical Officer of Health and Adjunct Professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, “Experiences from other jurisdictions other than our own local ones have demonstrated that Supervised Injection Services and Overdose Prevention Sites provide many health benefits, including reversing overdoses and saving lives.”

“We believe that these health services continue to be part of a comprehensive approach to the overdose emergency, along with harm reduction, prevention and treatment services, in response to this very challenging and complex health issue affecting so many people in our community and beyond,” wrote de Villa.

In a 2006 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers found that the use of an SCS in Vancouver was associated with reduced syringe sharing, no significant increase in public drug dealing near the facility, and a reduction in public drug use.

In the three years that this study was carried out, there were no overdose-related deaths at the facility, and 60 per cent of overdoses were successfully managed by the facility without the need for external help. More than 2,400 referrals were made for addictions treatment between March 2004 and April 2005.

Similarly, a study published in the Journal of Public Health in 2007 found that SCS garnered positive changes in injecting practices, including less reuse of syringes, use of sterile water, swabbing injection sites, cooking or filtering drugs, less rushed injections, safe syringe disposal, and less public injecting.

“The people who claim that there is harm would claim that people are going to be more likely to inject drugs if they know that there is a safe place to do that,” said Barry Pakes, Professor of Public Health at U of T.

“In my personal opinion, I don’t think it’s very likely that [SCS and TOPS] increase drug use, but there are some people who would believe that the more society gives permission for this, the more prevalent it might be,” he continued.

“From a public health perspective, we don’t believe that’s the case and we prefer to reduce harm in those people.”

Despite Elliot’s insistence on evaluating the merit of SCS and TOPS, the evidence which suggests that these sites do not work or increase harm is unsubstantiated.

The potential fallout of this decision could be disastrous. Individuals from marginalized groups and those who have the least resources will be most affected by the withdrawal of services.

Cities across Canada can do little by themselves to aid drug users. For instance, Toronto Public Health operates a supervised injection service, but they can’t fund or approve funding for it or overdose prevention sites. Such decisions are made at the provincial level.

A recommendation from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s review on how to deal with overdoses is expected to be released in the coming months. Until actionable steps are taken, the fates of individuals and families of opioid users remain grim.

“There is no question that addictions care could be better… but improving care is a very small part of dealing with the opioid epidemic,” wrote Pakes in an email.

‘Fuck,’ ‘shit,’ ‘damn’

Exploring the history behind the English language’s most commonly used swear words

‘Fuck,’ ‘shit,’ ‘damn’

Language is unquestionably one of the most beautiful gifts known to humanity.

Over time, there have been significant developments in the English language, including the evolution from Old English, to Shakespearean English, to what is now modern English.

‘Fuck,’ ‘shit,’ and ‘damn’ — sound familiar? In society today, there are certain words that are automatically deemed as inappropriate and rude to say — we call them swear words or profanity.

These are three of the most heard profanities in the English language, and when we hear them, we are quickly caught up in the intonation, implication, and context of the words.

At their core, these funny sounding words are simply letters jumbled together that are laden with baggage and history. Popular culture has even merged ‘fuck shit damn’ together, with Urban Dictionary defining the expression as, “Expressive phrase used when one four-letter swear word just isn’t enough.”

However, what do we know about the actual origins and history of these bad words? And the real question is: how did they come to be in the first place?

‘Fuck’

Out of all the English words that begin with the letter F, this is the only word that is commonly referred to as the F-word. It is a versatile word that can describe almost every emotion — pain, happiness, love, hate, and many more.

It can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. A common myth about ‘fuck’ is that, it is an acronym for “Fornication Under Command of the King”: the population was so sparse that the king would order everyone to start having sex.

Supposedly, couples in the act would hang up a sign that said ‘F.U.C.K.’ Clearly, this story is false and has nothing to do with the actual origin. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘fuck’ did not come into existence until the fifteenth century.

‘Fuck,’ possibly derived from the German word ‘ficken,’ meant “to strike” in early contexts, and it frequently appeared as part of surnames with the literal meaning of hitting, rather than having any sexual connotations to it.

As time went on, ‘fuck’ took on a very different meaning. William Dunbar, a Scottish poet, wrote about a man sexually lusting for woman. Dunbar wrote: “By his feirris he would have fukkit,” suggesting the man’s desire to have sex with the woman.

Since then, ‘fuck’ has been gradually associated with sex, and over time, mass media has outright deemed this word to be inappropriate, rude, and offensive.

‘Shit’

Similar to ‘fuck,’ ‘shit’ can also be traced back in history.

Originally, it had a technical purpose, referring specifically to diarrhea in cattle. Essentially, ‘shit’ would be used in many words that had connections to cattle.

However, as time went on, it started to have more meanings than simply diarrhea in cattle; it is now associated with all kinds of feces and often used by people to replace ‘things’ or ‘stuff.’

‘Shit’ has developed from being a technical term to socially unacceptable vocabulary. The same poet who first committed to ‘fuck,’ Dunbar also wrote “schit but wit” in order to refer to an annoying person.

Ultimately, ‘shit’ would be used to describe trash or worthless things. Nowadays, not only can ‘shit’ be used to degrade others, but it can also ironically be used to mean the best if accompanied by ‘the.’ For example, saying something is ‘the shit’ suggests that one had a great time.

‘Damn’

Finally, ‘damn.’ The least offensive of the three ‘core’ swear words.

The origin of ‘damn’ goes back to the Old French word ‘damner,’ which means to condemn. This word was first adopted into the English language around the fourteenth century and would often be found in religious contexts; for instance, damnation referred to God’s punishment.

However, starting from the seventeenth to eighteenth century, ‘damn’ began to be used as a profanity in the context of ‘I don’t care’: ‘I don’t give a damn.’

Although it may not seem like ‘damn’ is the kind of swear word that would be taken seriously now, it was actually considered a serious profanity back in the 1700s up until about 1930; society at the time actively avoided this word because it was considered impolite and indecent.

A large portion of today’s generation rely on swearing in order to boost their self-esteem and ego. Effectively, swear words do have some sort of magical power over us — we learn and pick them up from others when we are young, even though they are taboo.

Then, as we grow older, swearing ultimately becomes a tool to emphasize points and heighten emotions. After all, what’s the first thing you typically say after you’ve stubbed your toe?

Learning the etymology of profanity, which a good amount of people are already attached to, definitely elevates one’s linguistical knowledge. And if you don’t fancy delving into the Oxford English Dictionary, I am confident that Urban Dictionary will amuse and educate you on the slightly more ‘expressive’ words that pop up in our vocabulary.

Scrutinizing the new TTC two-hour transfer policy

While the policy seemingly benefits low-income folks, the PRESTO-only condition threatens structural violence against homeless people

Scrutinizing the new TTC two-hour transfer policy

While riding on the TTC is fairly straightforward, it is not necessarily enjoyable. Compare our transit system, for example, with Vancouver’s aesthetically superior SkyTrain system, which is a joy to ride and affordable for University of British Columbia students at just $41 a month. Meanwhile, U of T students are stuck with failed U-Pass deals, unaffordable transit costs, and transit officers with multiple complaints filed against them.

With the arrival of the two-hour transfer policy, however, it may seem that the future is bright for the TTC. In fact, we are receiving a benefit that is long overdue, and according to the only comment about the policy in Rocket-Riding Memes for Toronto-Oriented Teens — a Facebook group of over 1,000 members dedicated to TTC memes — the TTC finally “joins the civilized world.”

Discussing the policy, Mayor John Tory comments, “You can get on five times if you want to make five different stops, as long as it’s within the two hour period.” On the one hand, my immediate response is to ask where one could possibly go to make it to five different stops in two hours. On the other hand, I understand how being able to go to multiple stops in one transfer will lower the cost of living for low-income folks and students.

In this way, the policy is clearly a good thing: we no longer have to pay for briefly leaving a transit vehicle. For students, the main advantage is being able to commute to and from a one-hour class while only paying one fare. The more adventurous students could add extra tasks to that journey.

However, I’m opposed to the fact that the policy requires the use of a PRESTO card and is embedded in a plan to get rid of tokens by the end of 2019. This is not only because I’m suspicious of the increasing domination of technology in our lives, but also because I worry that the dominance of PRESTO is a manifestation of structural violence towards the homeless.

Simply put, phasing out tokens results in phasing out easy access to warm places to sleep for the homeless during winter. Being forced to have a PRESTO card, with its $6 start-up cost plus a minimum $10 initial deposit, puts a hamper on homeless entry into the TTC. Compound that with the difficulty in registering and confirming lost PRESTO cards when homeless, and we begin to see the insidious ways structural violence functions.

The policy, with its PRESTO-exclusive benefit, will not be the cause of these problems, but uncritical support of PRESTO-focused policies will normalize the structural exclusion of the homeless under the mask of progress. Fundamentally, the transfer pushes an ideology of individualism. While tokens can be and are distributed to those in need, PRESTO cards are not shareable. We would not drop our PRESTO cards into the cups of the homeless.

While the arrival of the transfer and the growth of the PRESTO system indicate that we’ve gained entry into “the civilized world,” we have lost the opportunity to share that world with others. If two-hour transfers are here, why can’t they be here for everyone? PRESTO users and non-PRESTO users alike would benefit from two-hour transfers, so why exclude service to one group of people?

In one sense, it’s not the TTC’s responsibility to take care of the homeless, but in another, a fundamental part of being human is to care about others. The two-hour transfer expresses the ideology that we are only responsible for ourselves. Public transit is in danger of becoming less and less public. So while the two-hour transfer improves serviceability, whom exactly the TTC provides their services to remains a vital question.

Eddy Wang is a fourth-year Cinema Studies and Computer Science student at Innis College.