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Blues women’s hockey team loses 3–2 decision to the Ryerson Rams, wins next game to advance to finals

Recapping first Blues loss in OUA semifinals

Blues women’s hockey team loses 3–2 decision to the Ryerson Rams, wins next game to advance to finals

The Varsity Blues women’s hockey team dropped their first game of the Ontario University Athletic (OUA) semifinal series on February 26, losing a narrow 3–2 decision on their home rink to their crosstown rivals, the Ryerson University Rams. 

On March 1, the Blues won against the Rams in  overtime, thus advancing to the OUA cup final.

Toronto appeared to be in control of the game early on in the first period, but it was Ryerson who drew first blood, notching a top-corner goal that left little chance for Blues’ goaltender Erica Fryer to defend. Rookie Lauren Macdonnell had a good chance to tie it up right after, but her shot barely missed the Ryerson net. However, strong passing plays from Natasha Athanasakos and Cristine Chao eventually led the Blues to a tying goal.

Gabrielle De Serres capitalized on the Blues’ power-play and rifled a shot from the point past the Rams’ goaltender. The goal energized the Blues, but Ryerson snuck in a second goal off a rebound in the dying seconds of the first period to take a 2–1 lead.

Ryerson kept up their momentum heading into the second period, when a lone Ryerson player managed to get by Toronto’s defense and snipe it past Fryer. Despite the three goals against her team, Fryer put on a goalkeeping clinic, making numerous saves to keep the Blues from falling further behind. Ryerson continued to dominate the Blues, but impressive saves from Fryer and relentless effort from Blues players Jana Headrick and Jessica Robichaud prevented any further goals in the second period.

Taylor Trussler scored a beautiful goal in the opening minutes of the third period, but it was too little, too late for the Blues. Ryerson swarmed Toronto in the final frame, and despite Toronto’s best efforts, they weren’t able to find another goal. Fryer continued her impressive play, notching numerous saves in the waning minutes of the game to keep the Blues’ hopes alive.

Women’s volleyball win quarterfinal match against Waterloo

The OUA champs look to defend their title

Women’s volleyball win quarterfinal match against Waterloo

On Saturday, February 29 at 1:00 pm, the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team took on the University of Waterloo Warriors at the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport in the quarterfinal of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs. Star players Alina Dormann, Hope Kotun, and Caleigh Cruickshank lead the Blues to a swift victory, blowing out the Warriors in a 3-0 sweep.

The Warriors started the game strong, taking an early 4–0 lead in the first set, catching the Blues team off-guard with their strong attacking and blocking skills by attackers Serena Otshudi and Karen Fan. Despite the energetic start from the Warriors, the Blues quickly rallied back with several great serves and hits by their fourth-year star, Dormann. The Blues consistently controlled the tempo during the set, and ultimately ran away with it by a score of 25–18.

During the second set, however, Waterloo came out strong, fighting to get back into the game. They took another quick 6–2 lead before the first timeout of the set. The Warriors kept a tight lead and did not let it slip away from them. Just when they were looking to close things out and tie the game, the Blues’ Cruickshank came up with a huge block that gave the team and the crowd some momentum. This is what ultimately led Toronto to tie the game, and eventually close out the game in the final moments. The Blues took a tough second set 25–22.

In the third and final set of the game, despite being down two sets, the Warriors persevered, trying to climb back into the game. They once again started strong, taking a slim lead going into the timeout period. However, the Blues were not looking to go into a fourth set. Jenna Woock came up with a massive block which gave the Blues a comfortable lead of 16–11, and they did not look back. Toronto went on to win the set 25–18, and the game on a final serve that led to celebration and cheer from the team and the crowd.

The Blues advance to the final four of the OUA playoffs, which will take place between March 6–7, hosted at the Goldring Centre. The Blues will take on the Western University Western Mustangs in the semifinals on Friday at 4:00 pm. The two semifinal winners will play for the OUA Quigley Cup, and will also go on to play at the 2020 U SPORTS championship on March 13–15 at the University of Calgary.

Professor Trevor Young appointed acting Vice-President and Provost

Cheryl Regehr on leave for research until September

Professor Trevor Young appointed acting Vice-President and Provost

On Friday, U of T President Meric Gertler announced that Professor Trevor Young will be filling in for Cheryl Regehr as acting Vice-President and Provost for a six-month term. Regehr, who was reappointed to serve another four-year term earlier this year, will be on leave to further her research on the effects of workplace stress and trauma on professional decision-making.

Young was on administrative leave from his position as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Vice-Provost Relations with Health Care Institutions until June 30; this leave will be interrupted to allow him to fill Regehr’s position until September. In his letter, Gertler also announced that the acting terms for Young’s positions of dean of the Faculty of Medicine and vice-provost relations with health care institutions, held by Professors Sal Spadafora and Lynn Wilson, respectively, have both been extended until December 31.

During his time as both dean and vice-provost, Young chaired the Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health, which recently released its findings following months-long consultations, which were met with mixed reviews. In his announcement letter, Gertler also lauded Young’s work in promoting equity and diversity within the Faculty of Medicine through the Diversity Mentorship Program and the Black Student Application Program.

U of T professors, students sign petition in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders

30 U of T faculty members condemn Canadian government’s actions

U of T professors, students sign petition in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders

U of T professors and students have signed onto two petitions circulated by the U of T Department of Geography & Planning and a group of lawyers and legal academics to express solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders. The petitions condemn the Canadian government for violating Indigenous rights on unceded territory.

The Department of Geography & Planning’s petition features the signatures of 33 faculty members, 9 staff, and 78 students. Signatories include Emily Gilbert, Director of Canadian Studies; Monika Havelka, Director of Programs in Environment at UTM; and Ron Buliung, Graduate Chair of the department.

“We stand in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs who are protecting their traditional territories from oil and gas development,” the petition reads. It goes on to cite the 1997 Delgamuukw court case, which confirmed that the hereditary chiefs are the title holders of Wet’suwet’en traditional territories, meaning that they never ceded control of their land.

Since 2012, the Wet’suwet’en have been engaged in struggle against a proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline that would run through their territory. Since the Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided a Wet’suwet’en camp on February 6, people across the country have been participating in rail blockades in support of the Wet’suwet’en.

On March 1, a proposed agreement between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and government ministers was announced by Hereditary Chief Woos and Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett. The agreement still has to be reviewed by the Wet’suwet’en people before the details are released, reported CBC News.

A second petition signed by lawyers and legal academics across the country, including two current and one former University of Toronto professors, outlines further violations of the Canadian government in regard to Wet’suwet’en land defenders.

The drafters of the petition, four members of the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor and one independent legal academic, explain that forcibly removing Indigenous peoples from their lands is in violation of the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the BC legislature passed in November 2019.

Highlighting further injustice, the petition cites a Ryerson University study, emphasizing that while “76% of injunctions filed by corporations against First Nations were granted, over 80% of injunctions sought by First Nations against corporations and the government were denied.”

In an email to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson wrote: “As a university, we are committed to playing a leadership role in addressing climate change through our research, our teaching and by taking action to reduce the carbon footprint of our campuses, including the Low-Carbon Action Plan released last fall and new efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of our endowment and pension funds.”

“We support the ability of our faculty members to engage in issues that they feel strongly about,” U of T wrote in response to the petitions. “That is in line with the University’s policies on academic freedom and free speech, and in keeping with our long-standing tradition of fostering global citizens.”

U of T students learn about the Wet’suwet’en protests from those on the front lines

“I have to let the people know”: Eve Saint speaks at New College event

U of T students learn about the Wet’suwet’en protests from those on the front lines

Eve Saint, land defender and daughter of Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Woos, spoke at a U of T event on February 25 about her arrest after protesting the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline set to be built through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.

Protests took place around the GTA that same night, including a blockade organized by Rising Tide Toronto, an environmental justice group, between Bloor and Kipling GO stations. Protestors were demonstrating in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en action, including demands to stop the construction of the CGL pipeline. The Wet’suwet’en Nation announced on March 1 that they had reached a proposed deal with the British Columbia and federal governments, the details of which are yet to be released as they are awaiting approval from the hereditary chiefs.

Saint was arrested after leaving school and her life in Toronto to help her father, Hereditary Chief Woos, and others in their efforts to halt the construction of the pipeline in Wet’suwet’en territory. Hereditary chiefs’ titles are passed down through generations — Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have authority over the unceded territory, according to pre-colonial Wet’suwet’en law. This is territory which the Supreme Court of Canada recognized as unceded in 1997, meaning that they never gave up control of the land.

While the Elected Band Councils, created under the colonial Indian Act, are in favour of the pipeline, these groups only have jurisdiction over reserves and not the unceded territory that the pipeline would pass through.

In conversation with Eve Saint

Saint said she feared for her life when she was being removed from Wet’suwet’en territory and recalled police pointing sniper rifles at her and her fellow land defenders. “My main goal was to let [the police] know that we are unarmed,” said Saint during her talk.

The Varsity caught up with Saint afterward to hear her thoughts on how people can show their support for Wet’suwet’en land defenders like herself. Saint emphasized the importance of educating oneself on Indigenous history, donating to Indigenous-led movements, and participating in blockade efforts.

According to Saint, going back to Wet’suwet’en territory is difficult due to her earlier detention at Gidimt’en, one of two checkpoints set up by the Wet’suwet’en people to stop the CGL pipeline from being built on their unceded lands.

“So because of… the injustice of the RCMP and the Canadian government, I have to tell that story. I have to let the people know,” said Saint. “And also, because of the uprising, I have to show my love to people who are there taking action. It’s just really leading from my heart.”

Saint hopes to continue her efforts in protesting for her people: “We do need an Indigenous lens and Indigenous voice to tell those stories and not the mainstream media, because the mainstream media obviously misconstrues and bends the story in favour of the industry and the government, and pits mainstream Canadians against us.”

“Everyone here benefits off Indigenous people,” Saint said, arguing that Canadians, in solidarity with protestors, should educate themselves on Indigenous tradition and history. “Everybody who has come and lived here is benefitting, because [the land and resources are] all stolen.”

U of T students, faculty join the cause

Michael*, a fourth-year U of T student, attended the Rising Tide Toronto rail blockade the night of Saint’s talk.

“I attended because I feel that it is a responsibility for white settlers like myself to stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples, especially when they are at risk of police violence,” Michael explained.

What struck Michael at the blockade was the over 100-officer police presence. At one point he describes an Indigenous woman asking the crowd of police “where these resources were when Indigenous women went and go missing.”

Michael also noticed that the majority of protestors were marginalized people, and he was disappointed, but not surprised, that individuals with the most privilege declined to attend.

The event where Eve Saint spoke also featured spoken word artists, musicians, and jingle dancers, and was organized by Professor Chandni Desai from the Equity Studies program.

Desai believes that it’s important for students to see how concepts such as militarism, imperialism, and surveillance play out in the real world, including in the Wet’suwet’en protests.

In addition to having Saint tell her story, Desai hoped that students would take away a “lesson of how to act” from the speaker. Desai also noted that she learned specific details surrounding the events in the Wet’suwet’en territory that she said the media has not adequately addressed.

Abigail Hill is a student in the Political Science program who attended Saint’s talk. As an Indigenous person from Ontario, Hill was interested in hearing an Indigenous point of view on the Wet’suwet’en protests from the other side of the country. “It’s nice to see… a different perspective from across Canada,” said Hill.

*Name has been changed due to fear of retribution.

TTC increases fares by 10 cents, $5.70 increase for postsecondary monthly pass

Fare increase “considered a last resort”: TTC spokesperson

TTC increases fares by 10 cents, $5.70 increase for postsecondary monthly pass

Toronto City Council approved a fare increase for TTC fares in its 2020 budget, which went into effect as of March 1. The cost of a postsecondary monthly metropass will rise from $122.45 to $128.15 — an increase of $5.70. In comparison, the cost of an adult monthly metropass will see an increase of $4.85. The fare increases have raised concerns among some student leaders and city councillors as to whether they are perpetuating the problems of an already unaffordable system, especially for students. The only fare category that will remain the same is the adult cash fare, which costs $3.25 — all Presto fares will see a 10-cent increase, bringing the adult fare up to $3.20, the youth Presto fare to $2.25, and the youth cash fare to $2.30.

Before the most recent changes, Toronto City Council passed a motion on October 2 that asked the TTC Board to explore options to make transit more affordable for students. The motion followed the provincial government’s changes to postsecondary funding in January 2019, which drastically reduced student financial support through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

The original motion asked that the TTC explore options and “report back in the 2020 Budget process on revisions to the system.” However, it does not appear that the October 2 motion influenced the 2020 budget that raised fares.

When the TTC adopted the motion, it modified the wording to say that it would refer the matter to staff and that it would be reviewed in the TTC’s five-year fare policy review, if necessary.

University of Toronto Students’ Union Vice-President External Lucas Granger wrote to The Varsity that the increases were “unfortunate,” and that the changes to the adult fare and the postsecondary monthly pass “specifically will impact students as they attend classes, extracurriculars, and their jobs.”

City Councillor Josh Matlow, who represents the Toronto–St. Paul’s ward, also expressed concern that the price increase for a postsecondary monthly pass was disproportionate. “It’s already too expensive,” said Matlow about the pass in an interview with The Varsity.

Matlow created a petition on his website to reverse the fee increase for the postsecondary monthly metropass after being approached by students who were concerned about the changes. He said that the motivation behind the petition was “to demonstrate to my colleagues that students had concerns” and “to raise awareness about the issue.”

He ultimately put forward a motion at City Council to amend the changes by removing the fare increase for the postsecondary monthly pass. The motion failed with a vote of 10 in favour to 15 against. Matlow reflected on the failure of the motion, saying that “the lack of care just astounded me.”

Going forward, Matlow said he would be interested in exploring either a means-based fare system, where low-income riders can get discounted transit, or have the fare structure reflect that certain demographics, such as students, are often of lower income.

In an email to The Varsity, Stuart Green, Senior Communications Specialist for the TTC, wrote, “We know fare increases are not popular and they are always considered a last resort.” He noted that the TTC is more reliant on customer fares than other North American transit systems.

How students use transit in Toronto

Research by Student Move TO in 2015 found that a majority of U of T students use public transit to get to school across all three campuses.

At the St. George campus, 51 per cent of school-to-home trips were taken by public transit, as opposed to walking, biking, or driving. At the Scarborough campus, that number was 64 per cent, and 66 per cent at the Mississauga campus. The median one-way travel time for these transit trips ranged from 40 minutes for students commuting to UTM, to 55 minutes to get to the St. George campus.

A survey conducted by the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union found that 64.3 per cent of graduate students surveyed relied on public transit to get to school, with the TTC alone accounting for 97 per cent of those trips.

More fare increases “will encourage students to either skip transit altogether, or in some cases not to pay for their fares entirely,” wrote Granger.

A report by the TTC found the use of child Presto cards, which allows the user to ride for free, was used 89 per cent of the time for fraudulent travel. The stations at which child Presto cards were most used were Dundas Station — which is the closest station to Ryerson University — and York University Station.

Raha Salarzaie, a third-year student and one of Woodsworth College’s off-campus representatives, told The Varsity that she commutes daily from North York, which takes her about 45 minutes to an hour.

She said that the fare increases will not affect how she uses transit, as she “[doesn’t] have any other option” but to continue buying monthly passes. Salarzaie expressed frustration at the expenses that come with being a student in Toronto, noting that she pays higher fees as an international student as well.

“It puts more pressure… you have to work more, it’s going to both impact your academics, and financially,” said Salarzaie. “I’m definitely not happy about it.”

U of T keeps students abroad as U of Calgary, US schools pull students over COVID-19 fears

“No plans at this time” to recall students, university says

U of T keeps students abroad as U of Calgary, US schools pull students over COVID-19 fears

As US institutions began pulling students from countries with the highest number of reported cases of COVID-19, a coronavirus strain which the World Health Organization classified as a “very high” global risk, U of T wrote to The Varsity that it is keeping its students abroad and is in contact with students in affected areas.

“The University will offer as much flexibility as possible to minimize any impact on students. We are in regular contact with partner organizations who host our students,” wrote a U of T spokesperson in response to news that US universities and the University of Calgary have begun to implement travel advisories for students, faculty, and staff abroad.

On the possibility of its own recall of students, the university wrote: “There are no plans at this time to recall students from areas outside of China, which has emerged as the epicentre of the outbreak.” The university also declined to provide the number and location of students abroad due to the “range of activities and individual travel plans.”

Since the first case of COVID-19 in December, originating from Wuhan, China, the worldwide number of cases has reached more than 88,300 and 2,993 deaths, with South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan reporting the highest number of cases outside of China.

On February 26, The Washington Post reported that both Stanford University and New York University have recalled students abroad in Florence; Florida International University has pulled students from South Korea, Italy, Japan, and Singapore; while others like Syracuse University and the University of California have issued travel advisories for affected countries.

In Canada, on February 28, the University of Calgary announced that it would be suspending university-related travel for students and non-academic staff to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Iran, Italy, South Korea, and Singapore until September. This includes the recall of students, faculty, and staff in these countries with “the university’s support and assistance.”

Academic staff are encouraged to avoid travel to these countries, the University of Calgary wrote on its website, adding: “This decision was made following careful consideration of the risks to the campus community from travel to countries experiencing community transmission of COVID-19.”

Japan shut down all primary and secondary schools to halt the spread of the virus and Italy implemented lockdown quarantines in the affected regions.

Three of the 15 confirmed cases of the virus in Ontario have been resolved, and Ontario health officials maintain that the risk of infection is still low. However, they are prepared for the number of cases to escalate. “It is important for all Ontarians to know we are prepared. Our hospitals are prepared,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott during the announcement of the eighth case of COVID-19.

Runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever, and a malaise are all symptoms of coronavirus infections, according to Health Canada, which also recommends that anyone showing symptoms stay home and consult a health care provider, particularly after travel to regions where severe cases of COVID-19 have occurred.

Criticisms of executives, approval of new $19 per hour salary dominate UTSU February meeting

Comments against VP Equity Michael Junior Samakayi by directors make for a tumultuous meeting

Criticisms of executives, approval of new $19 per hour salary dominate UTSU February meeting

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held its February Board of Directors meeting last Thursday, during which University College Director Lina Maragha laid out grievances that she had about the low number of hours that UTSU executives worked over the recent reading week, and about the vice-president equity’s ability to follow through on projects. The board also discussed the passing of a new higher hourly salary of $19 for UTSU executives, and the hiring of directors to carry out the opening of the Student Commons, which is set for April.

Increase in pay for executives

A motion passed during the meeting to increase UTSU executives’ hourly pay from the current $16 per hour to $19. The increase would take effect on May 1, meaning that those elected to executive positions for the next school year would secure this rate, instead of current executives.

The proposal received support from numerous executives and board members. UTSU President Joshua Bowman identified that the main motivation for the pay increase was making the UTSU more accessible and equitable. Many board members asserted that the new pay rate would incentivize those who need to work while carrying out their education to participate in the union.

Executives also discussed the importance of paying students a higher wage, and cited the current living wage in Toronto, which the Ontario Living Wage Network has calculated as $22.08.

President Bowman also discussed the increased net pay for executives that the UTSU has to consider. He identified that this year, the net pay for the seven executive positions was $176,000. Next year, with the wage increase and six executives instead of seven, the net pay will be $177,840, meaning a total increase of $1,840. Executives currently have hours capped at 40 hours per week.

In an interview with The Varsity, Bowman said, “I believe that it’s a great change now, that students will know that we are paying them what they are due. We are respecting the price of living in Toronto. We are respecting the different lived experiences of students [who] want to come and try out the UTSU.”

Criticisms of executives

A topic discussed at length at the meeting were criticisms made by Director Lina Maragha about the general amount of work being put in by the executives. She also brought up specific criticisms aimed at Vice-President Equity Michael Junior Samakayi.

Maragha’s criticisms of executives as a whole included their low number of hours worked, especially over the reading week, as well as what she perceived to be a lack of accountability among executives.

She specifically said that executives failed to alert the president that they were planning on taking reduced hours over reading week, which she alleges many of the executives did. Furthermore, she called for a better attendance system to ensure that executives are being held accountable for their attendance and other aspects of their jobs, while also acknowledging that putting in more hours does not necessarily mean doing a greater amount of work.

Bowman apologized, and called for a culture shift within the UTSU. He agreed that it is often difficult for directors to speak out against executives or meet with them in person to air their grievances. He also said that there is an implicit hierarchy in which directors are placed far below executives in terms of both power and the standards they are held to. Of his time as a director, Bowman said he “felt like there was an environment where directors were always taken to task whenever they had a criticism of an executive.”

For her criticisms on Samakayi, Maragha cited many instances in which she felt he had failed to meet expectations for events. Specifically, she mentioned his work on eXpression Against Oppression (XAO), which in the past has been a series of events that aim to bring awareness to marginalized students on campus, but only consisted of two events this year.

Samakayi sent a response to the Board of Directors, in which he wrote  that, as a Deaf student who works with an American Sign Language interpreter to complete his work, he has to take reduced working hours. On the criticisms of his work on XAO, he wrote that Maragha’s criticism “lacks merit. Last year we only hosted a single event. Unlike last year, this year will be hosting a lot of events.” The Varsity could not independently verify his statement.

Student Commons updates

Bowman gave updates on the upcoming opening of the Student Commons, which has been repeatedly delayed since its approval more than a decade ago. The UTSU plans to move into the Student Commons at the end of the year.

The union has worked to expand the staff apparatus for the commons. The three biggest new staff positions are the new project manager, training developer, and director of operations. The project manager will work to ensure that the commons is opened by the end of the year as projected. The training developer will work to transition UTSU staff, such as front desk and full-time staff, to the Student Commons, which means working with many more students with more diverse needs. Finally, the new director of operations will work with the general manager to find more opportunities for revenue generation for the UTSU.

Bowman said that the union needs to create new methods of revenue generation that are separate from the money the union receives in student levies, which the Student Commons has the potential to do. This could be especially important given recent cuts to education by Ontario Premier Doug Ford that have affected the UTSU, such as the Student Choice Initiative, which was struck down by the Divisional Court of Ontario in November.